All posts by laelbr5_wp

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.

Where She Went by Kelly Simmons

Maggie feels something imminently dangerous coming to her daughter Emma, who just headed off on her first year of college. When police come to her door one evening, she knows her premonition has come to fruition. The widow of a police detective, Maggie conducts her own investigation into her daughter’s disappearance, with all new information obscuring who she believed her daughter to be. Simmons writes a good mystery, replete with complex family dynamics, secrets spilling out all over, and a storyline that builds until it bursts and everything makes sense. Fans of Liane Moriarty, Diane Chamberlain, and Kerry Anne King will appreciate Simmons’ writing style and storytelling brilliance. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of the book by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Sourcebook Landmark through NetGalley.

The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor

The Front de l’Indépendance is determined to print the truth free from Nazi control in 1943 Belgium. After being threatened by Gruppenfuhrer August Wolff, journalist Marc Aubrion and colleagues agree to put out a pro-Nazi issue of Nazi propaganda La Soir. Instead, they intend to put out an anti-Nazi satire issue, a “Faux” Soir, effectively condemning them to death. Based on a true story, this novel is told from the perspective of the street urchin chosen as gopher and pet by Aubrion, who gives Helene, a girl pretending to be a boy for safety sake, missions for her fellow street urchins to support their endeavor. Helene’s perspective oversteps her boundaries of knowledge throughout the book, making Dear Reader wonder why the author chose her as the 1st person narrator. Ramzipoor does brilliantly include a Nazi government official in the Faux Soir caper, with the inevitable question of where his loyalty lay, and credible gay characters, one of whom outshines the main character. The twist at the end feels delayed—it seems as though that information would have been given right up front, making the timing awkward and the twist a bit anti-climactic. Despite its flaws (unrealistic dialogue, over the top characters) in the craft, Ramzipoor is a natural storyteller, and in choosing a unique tale from the oft-drawn-from well of the WWII era, she has presented an unforgettable story of unexpected heroes where the lesbians survive. I was fortunate to receive this fascinating debut novel from the publisher Park Row through NetGalley.

The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

After disagreeing with their father over her interactions with a traveling gypsy family and his indiscretions, Luella disappears, so Effie finagles her way into the House of Mercy, a home for wayward girls, but doesn’t find Luella there. Instead she discovers that she is trapped there, because no one believes wayward girls. Born with a hole in her heart in the early 20th century, her family has considered Effie to be living on borrowed time her entire life. Now she struggles to breathe while working hard labor, since the nuns at House of Mercy are unaware of her condition. A girl with a vague past named Mable plots escape with her, and Mable’s heart-rending story then intertwines with Effie’s. Burdick carefully lays out the challenges in Effie’s family and the obstacles of a misogynistic society that conspired to place her in such an undesirable and dangerous situation. The author provides further information on these mislabeled prisons for girls whose sexuality or unwanted status placed them there, and she also addresses the controversial use of “gypsy” as a historical reference that people in that era would have been most familiar with and used themselves. I received a digital copy of this excellent historical fiction from the publisher Park Row through NetGalley.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Jesse Jameson Williams’ daughter and his lawyer inform Morgan, imprisoned for a crime her boyfriend committed, that his will states that she must restore the banner by Anna Dale, who won the right to create it for the Edenton post office in a nationwide art contest. To cut her prison time, she must learn the restoration process and complete the project within a limited time for his namesake gallery to open and his daughter to keep her family home. Morgan is stymied by the challenge, the time limit, the working relations with his daughter and colleagues, and the oddities she discovers in the mural itself. Told through alternating chapters, from Morgan’s in the present and Anna’s in the 1940s, pieces slowly come together to explain the oddities and the reason Morgan was chosen by the artist. Chamberlain’s ability to evoke emotion abounds in this heart-rending novel of artistic creativity, secrets held close, and the prejudices that run rampant in small towns. Her work continues to impress as she branches out again into historical ficiton set in her adopted state of NC. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story by one of my favorite authors from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

Pop star Moira takes advantage of the frenzy of another flu epidemic to escape her controlling father and reinvent herself as an everyday working girl about to get married. Her wedding planner Krista somehow gets hooked into babysitting Sunny, the daughter of Moira’s work colleague Rob. When Sunny goes missing, Moira and Krista follow Rob into the wastelands, through communes, and around police cordons to find her, Rob knowing that he must confess the truth about Sunny’s mother. Chen builds a credible post-apocalyptic world with a divided US population of those who continue to follow laws in hopes of normalization and those who no longer believe in them after the global flu pandemic. His characters are unique and interesting if not necessarily endearing, and even secondary characters (including the fiancee and his family) maintain their integrity and presence. Dear Readers who love character-driven sci-fi will appreciate Chen’s style. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this story by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.

Scattered Ashes: The Short Stories of Jack Rollins

The stories get better as you go deeper into this collection. The graphic depictions of sex and violence are just enough to give Dear Readers with active imaginations speculative ammo for tremors and terrors. Run, don’t walk, through these stories. Something always goes awry in the everyday worlds of Jack Rollins. A woman seeking sexual release exacts supernatural revenge on the shady service professional she hired for this purpose. An elderly couple become fungi. The ghost ship’s captain shows a very human sense of integrity. A young man cheating on his boyfriend discovers that not all legendary villains are fiction. A family man finds what appears to be evidence of a serial killer in the garage of their newly acquired home. Oh, and the lost god Mammon trips lightly through many of these tales—don’t turn around; keep running. Jack’s work is unique and his style feels personal, almost as though the characters are sharing too much, which works into a creepy crawly feeling under your skin. The only thing that popped me out of his stories is the common description of any man as tall, strong, and muscular. There are no wimps in Jack’s worlds. Despite that niggle, his work is solid and entertaining. I highly recommend this collection; really, anything by him. He’s so open and frank that his introductions to each story are nearly stories themselves; I thought the first one was the story!

Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce

The FBI visits Mrs. Ford, a middle-aged widow in a tony coastal neighborhood, to question her connection to a Chaldean gun-runner who happened to have her name and address on his person. Their story began with two young women—troubled Annie and her straight-laced friend Susan—working in a Detroit discotheque as cocktail waitresses in the late 70s. Naivete inadvertently placed them amidst the territory negotiations between the Chaldeans and the Italian brothers who owned the discotheque. Royce brilliantly juxtaposed their young lives upon the questionable atmosphere of the discotheque and the shady men who ran it and frequented it, the flashbacks graphically detailed and relevant to Mrs. Ford’s current incarnation as the widow of Jack Ford. I graciously received this intriguing thriller from the publisher Post Hill Press through NetGalley for an honest review.

Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by Heather Day Gilbert

In the second novel in this delightful cozy mystery series, Belinda allows herself to be talked into caring for wolves in a preserve. On her first day, she discovers one of the employees dead in an enclosure, enhancing her fears and doubts about the assignment. As the bodies fall, suspicions shift, and Belinda finds herself endangered by her own species. Gilbert deftly works into the mystery a little flirting, a little romantic possibility, a little sibling repartee, and humor galore. I received this fun story from the publisher Lyrical Press through NetGalley.

The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda

Betsy’s sister, the good sister, her parents’ favorite, died last year, and her mother has spiraled down into a deep depression, refusing help and alienating Betsy and her father. They struggle along until a revelation rips into the family. Rouda carefully extracts truth from underneath appearances and flays expectations. Fans of Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain will appreciate this story and Rouda’s style. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this wonderful story from Graydon House through NetGalley.