Category Archives: Books Books Books

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

I will read anything by Mary Kay Andrews. In her latest, Letty takes her niece from New York to a little motel in Florida after finding her sister murdered. Letty discovers her sister’s past and a potential romance that she cannot allow herself. Andrews tackles big subjects with a light touch, making this an easy beach read that’s hard to forget. I always recommend her work. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

I Thought You Said This Would Work by Ann Garvin

Estranged friends Sam and Holly go on a road trip to rescue their sick friend’s dog from her ex-husband across the country. Ann Garvin’s writing feels as though she’s telling you the story right there in person, with all the animation and emotion pouring forth as you sit rapt, laughing out loud, sighing, and crying along with her. Although the humor often feels deflective, it’s generally always relatable, since we all do it. The emotions can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t like to cry. The carefree Summer character comes off as a plot device to move the story forward, which makes her feel a bit ethereal, actually sort of suiting her character ironically, as though she might be Sam’s alter ego. Maybe she was! In any case, I will read anything by Ann Garvin, because she is a fabulous storyteller. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley.

When a Stranger Comes to Town by Michael Koryta

I love short story collections. Even if they aren’t all fabulous, there’s always a few that stand out. I feel like some of the stories were a bit reaching to be included in the concept of the title, but one that returns to my memory again and again is the tale of the stranger turning out to be family, and turning out to be just as dangerous as a stranger. If you like short story collections, then this is a good read. If you’re not overly fond of them, it seems like some of the big name authors phoned this one in, unfortunately. I received a digital copy from the publisher Hanover Square Press through NetGalley.

A Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser

Caroline and Sela are half-sisters, but only Sela knows this. Caroline finds out through a DNA test, and her life paradigm shifts. Sela needs her for a kidney transplant. Strawser is brilliant at portraying the harrowing unleashing of secrets, maintaining tension throughout the story, with a tiny cliffhanger at the end of each chapter that keeps the reader engaged. I highly recommend anything by her. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

Two White Queens and the One-Eyed Jack by Heidi von Palleske

This is a fascinating novel reminiscent of John Irving’s style. Von Palleske introduces us to history we didn’t know we interested in learning about, the art of making glass eyes. Her characters are unique, in appearance–albino twins, and their ability to interact in the world, or fail to interact, as in the main character’s inability to resolve his guilt, forcing him outside the mainstream of society. He feels connected to his childhood best friend for life through this guilt after urging him to climb a tree and the friend falls, losing his eye. There’s sexual ambiguity, unearthly music (the twins), and frenemies galore. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Dundurn through NetGalley.

Maniac: The Bath School Disaster and the Birth of the Modern Mass Killer by Harold Schechter

This is such a disturbing story about how even someone on the school board can harbor the darkest traits, fed by deep resentment, and culminating in mass murder including children. Schechter leads the reader through the childhood and early adulthood of Andrew Kehoe, making one wonder about anyone and everyone who might seem a little off, who might one day reveal himself to be a mass murderer, so prevalent in this day in this country. I was given a digital copy of this well-researched and well-written horrifying biography from the publisher Little A through NetGalley.

Black Coral (Underwater Investigation Unit #2) by Andrew Mayne

This is a nice thriller with flawed characters that keep you wanting to yell at them to stop being so careless. It felt like watching CSI or NCIS renegade agents. There are some excellent scenes, like Sloane getting almost eaten by Big Bill in the pond, but overall. I’d recommend it if you like crime series, though this one at least is a decent standalone. I received a digital copy from the publisher Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.

Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True

This is an amazing story, following Inga from Nazi Germany, where her mentally ill sister gets caught up in the eugenics scheme of the Nazis, to modern day America, where she fights the same demons for her mentally ill granddaughter. Based on a true story from the authors own family history, it’s filled with flawed characters whose quiet strength belie the horrid secrets they must keep, which sometimes hide their love beneath a harsh appearance. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Top Hat Books through NetGalley.

The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus by Allan Gurganus

I immediately became a fan of Allan Gurganus through this short story collection. A young, smart-aleck, entitled college kid is sent out to find outsider art, only to be sucked into a story told by an old woman in a small town, both of which he’d held in contempt, yet the story she tells changes the trajectory of his life. While the water rises to envelop his house, a retired gentleman takes his boat around his neighborhood picking up his neighbors, and ends up across town to rescue strangers. A tour guide continues her jubilant effervescent narrative even as she awaits the ambulance for her injury. Gurganus shows how seemingly tenuous connections can capture one’s soul and encompass the mind. The characters are superfluous to their circumstances, held aloft within their tales. I recommend this collection to anyone who is fascinated by people in general, or old white male writers who seem to get it. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Liveright through NetGalley.

Touched by Tom Jolly

This book started out so promising, with the concept of a perpetual afterlife where one can go anywhere, literally, even to the moon, but without being able to touch anything or anyone. Then it morphed into a 50s sci-fi movie, which is okay, but a little jolting from what I expected from the opening chapters. Other than that, it’s a super fun read, with lots of humor and interesting characters, including aggressive, greedy Martian ghosts. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy through NetGalley.