In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada

John Zada travels to the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia to investigate the extensive sightings of Sasquatch. As he meets with the people of the First Nations, Dear Reader learns much about their culture, history, and spiritual connection with such legendary creatures. This book is more than a collection of personal experiences; it’s a compendium of human nature and the desire to believe in something larger than oneself and how the inexplicable mysteries of life feed that desire. I was fortunate to received this well-researched and well-written book from the publisher Atlantic Monthly Press through NetGalley.

Secrets of the Chocolate House (Found Things #2) by Paula Brackston

In this second book of the series, Xanthe reluctantly succumbs again to time travel, this time to save her friend Samuel. A copper chocolate pot takes her to a 17th century chocolate house, run by a mysterious woman who seems to know all about her and desires to protect her. In this book, Xanthe learns more about her place in the time traveling world, receiving tools to learn how better to control her journeys. I received this wonderful story from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. This publisher informed NetGalley readers upfront that the first book was the beginning of a series, which I don’t normally read, but the premise sounded too fun to pass up, and this second book is also labeled part of a series. Kudos to St. Martin’s Press for their forthrightness. A big thank you to Paula Brackston for introducing Dear Readers to chocolate houses, where you got a steaming cup of creamy, homemade on the spot hot chocolate, so much better than beer.

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate

Zadie crushes on her best friend, the hero of the village, who has saved more than one person from the labyrinth that borders her village, a labyrinth full of booby traps and deadly creatures, including a boogeyman named Dex. When her friend disappears into the labyrinth and becomes history to the village, Zadie is the only one willing to risk the labyrinth to rescue him. Tate spins Dear Reader’s head with unlikely allies, exploding expectations, and astonishing revelations. YA fantasy fans will add this author to their list of favorites. I received this wonderful story from Flux through NetGalley.

The Best of Crimes by K.C. Maher

In a small town of apparently apathetic citizenry, 30-something Walter Mitchell, whose wife divorced him and moved to another state with their daughter, somehow ends up taking in the teenage daughter of his neighbor, a horridly neglectful mother. Maher carefully lays out Walter’s slippery slope of determining what he feels is best for this child on the cusp of womanhood. As young Amanda expresses her burgeoning awakening of sexuality, Walter supresses the natural physical response in himself, carefully talking himself and Amanda through the gauntlet to which he has inadvertently led them. In the end, he insists on the punishment he believes he deserves. Though not an ideal execution, the torment of the main character, his self-enforced isolation from support, and the self-control he exhibits, brilliantly portrays the dichotomy of nature versus civilization, the social mores that separate us from animals and their natural instinct. The only comparison to Lolita would have to consider this a retelling, but that would still belie the fact that the main characters are on opposite ends of the morality spectrum. I received this intriguing, controversial story from the publisher RedDoor publishing through NetGalley.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Fans of Elizabeth Strout can assuredly pick up a new novel by her without checking the summary, especially if it’s once again (see what I did there…) about her most interesting character Olive Kitteridge. Told from the perspectives of her fellow townspeople whose lives intersect with hers in a profound way, as well as from her own, it’s reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (way back in the day, but such a classic work), providing nuances not accessible from a single point of view, especially one as focused as Olive’s. Endearing she is not, but fascinating she is, so complex and surprisingly wise, even compassionate, in unexpected ways—Olive has her lovers and haters; no one is on the fence about this lady. This book could stand on its own, though it is definitely buttressed by its predecessor Olive Kitteridge. Unfortunately for OK’s fans, this may be her swan song. Dismayed at the fast forwarding of the latter half of the book, this Dear Reader saw the end coming too soon, losing Strout a precious star. I received a digital copy of this story from one of my favorite authors from the publisher Random House through NetGalley.

The Truth Behind the Lie by Sara Lövestam

Pernilla contacts private detective Kouplan, a political refugee from Iran hiding in the shadows until he can seek legal asylum, to find her daughter. Kouplan gathers information from various underground sources in his investigation, eventually concluding that Pernilla’s mental instability may actually be the mystery. His compassion for another human living in the shadows encourages Pernilla to seek the truth along with him. I received this wonderful story of humanity and those living delicately on the fringes of society from the publisher Minotaur Books through NetGalley.

A Matter of Will by Adam Mitzner

This is a classic tale of vulnerability leading an everyman to sell his soul for riches, until he reaches a point that he can no longer deny the evil to which he contributes. Of course the good-hearted girlfriend does her best to turn him around, and somehow her story intersects with his in a “small world” kind of way. Mitzner does a nice job of imbuing a modern take on this story, with graphic details of the unearned hedonistic life, and an interesting resolution for the everyman. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this well-written book from the publisher Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.

Ricochet by Kathryn Berla

Tati, Ana, Tatyana, and Tanya are the same girl, whose DNA was split to create them in multiverses by their father. This story had such potential, but the characters could have been more clearly differentiated from the beginning, the adoptive parents more credible (wealthy hippies?), and the ending less rushed to wrap it all up. Having said that, this is a unique perspective and Berla a good storyteller despite the flaws in execution. This book requires a good imagination and concentration. I received a digital copy from the publisher Flux through NetGalley.

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art by Michael Shnayerson

Follow the money as you read of the origins of art as a market in NYC and around the globe, begetting dealer, galleries, and collectors, and making celebrities of contemporary artists. Shnayerson takes Dear Reader through a timeline of the rise of art as investment, exposing the politics behind the scenes, and carefully rendering the oft tenuous dealer-artist relationships. It’s an interesting read for anyone if you can keep track of the names! I was fortunate to receive a copy from PublicAffairs through NetGalley.

Fu Ping by Wang Anyi, translated by Howard Goldblatt

Fu Ping was chosen by Nainai to marry her adopted grandson, but Fu Ping merely wanted to escape her aunt and uncle’s home. Her desire to avoid the inevitable takes her on adventures where she learns about the working class individuals in her neighborhood. Chapters are told from the perspectives of these individuals, leading back to their connection with Fu Ping, always changed by her encounters. Though a little disjointed at times due to the format, this tale enlightens Dear Reader to the insights of working class Chinese who may struggle financially and feel trapped at their social level, but remain hopeful in their relationships and futures. I received this unusual novel from the publisher Columbia University Press through NetGalley.