Category Archives: Book Books Books

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

On the night Cassie Hanwell received the Austin Fire Department’s Valor Award—the youngest and first female—for saving children from a sinking school bus, the unexpected presenter takes her back to the night that formed her opinion of love and family. Her award night again changes her life drastically, returning her reluctantly to family and more than one potential disaster. Center’s skills draw readers into the lives of her complex and deeply flawed characters, causing at least this reviewer to gasp out loud multiple times at wondrous and astonishing events. She brings tears with realistic emotional turmoil and unforeseen joy. Fans of Ann Garvin, Camille Pagan, and Liane Moriarty will appreciate Center’s writing style, sense of humor, and credible, relatable characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Random Acts of Kindness: Inspiring True Stories by Dete Meserve and Rachel Greco

A movie producer / author and a journalist collaborated to find uplifting stories of real life kindnesses, the author inspired by the journalist’s Good Sam story about a stranger buying a van for a single mom. The tales of compassion and giving are divided into thematic chapters: Kindness at Any Age, Finding Purpose Through Kindness, Connecting to Others Through Kindness, Unique Ways of Showing Kindness, and Kindness Movements. The Good Sams come in all ages, from children to seniors, answer requests or volunteer where needs are seen, and give from their hearts with no expectations, building unexpected relationships, businesses, and movements. From a 9-year-old inventor to a 100-year-old seamstress, from an interior designer to a farmer, from a veteran to a veterinarian, from bikers to a college student, individuals give back to their community. It’s a definite must-read book of heartwarming humanity. Those seeking the goodness in people will find it here. I was fortunate to receive this wonderful book of true-life stories of compassion in a giveaway.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Sylvie, Sam, and Jules are summoned, along with their boss Vincent, to a meeting in a remote office still under construction, with no explanation, and no knowledge of who the summoner might be. Following directions, they ride the elevator up, but it stops and the display gives clues to the summoner and instructions in riddle format to escape the elevator. The anonymous summoner has no idea the volatile emotions these four feel for each other. Goldin starts the story off a bit slowly, but builds tension quickly with integrated flashbacks in this scathing take on how corporate Wall Street destroys people. Filling in Dear Reader on their backgrounds invokes sympathy for these unlikable characters, and the end is a gasping surprise. Fans of Liane Moriarty will appreciate this story. I was fortunate to receive a copy from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz

After an old friend jumpstarts Lindsay’s imagination, she investigates what really happened the night her best friend Edie died. Her drunken blackouts had prevented her from questioning the official ruling of suicide, though inconsistencies niggled at her. As Edie’s friend, Lindsay had been a fifth wheel to her roommates, but partied hard along with them in their ramshackle rooming house filled with other 20-somethings, some of them musicians whose bands played there, where drugs flowed freely. Personalities clashed, emotions swelled, and friendships ebbed and flowed, until Edie was found dead by a roommate. Ten years later, Lindsay faces her fears to find out the truth. Bartz presents an unreliable narrator and unsympathetic character so well Dear Reader roots for her when she ends up in an impossible situation. Fans of The Wife Between Us, Something in the Water, and Bring Me Back will appreciate this suspense thriller. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

A simple DNA test taken just for fun rips bestselling author Dani Shapiro’s life apart, leaving her wondering who she is after discovering that her dad is not her biological father. She shares her journey to find her origins, understand her parents’ decisions, and come to terms with it all, delving deeply into the implications of the discovery for her faith, marriage, and son. It seems that almost every family has a secret. Learning that secret hits like a hammer, damaging relationships and rending familial bonds, especially when the parents who held that secret have passed and cannot explain why. Dear Reader follows Dani through heart-wrenching emotions, feeling unmoored by the inability to ask her parents why, while remaining hopeful in finding answers through her biological father. As riveting as the writing is, it’s hard to watch her struggle with the sense of betrayal and crisis of identity as she searches for a path to healing. Read this memoir if you’re a Dani Shapiro fan, are working through a family secret of your own, or just love learning how the process of life works. It’s worth your time. I was fortunate to receive a copy from the publisher for an honest review.

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

An unforgivable betrayal halts the wedding of Colleen Donohue, who immediately runs away to NYC, estranging herself from family. A decade later, a family crisis pulls her home, requiring collaboration with her betrayer, making forgiveness the only option left to her. In the midst of the crisis, a secret is revealed that changes her entire understanding of herself and family. Henry pulls Dear Reader into this beautiful story of complicated emotions and familial dynamics with down-to-earth descriptions and perfectly placed hints. Fans of Diane Chamberlain and Liane Moriarty will appreciate Henry’s style. I’m grateful to have received this wonderful story from through NetGalley.

Alexis vs. the Afterlife by Marcus Alexander Hart

Alexis goes on the biggest adventure of her life, and finds her true calling, right after she dies. She finds love, monsters, and opportunistic ghosts in her quest to save the world. This is a super silly story, but it’s Hart’s signature silly style reminding us to be ourselves no matter how different we might feel. The main character Alexis finds her tribe and fulfills her dream, albeit in an unorthodox way. Although explained by details in the story, the dialogue, with its repetitive references to bodily functions, reads more middle grade than YA, except for those swear words. The romance is credible, sweet, and written really well by an author who can never have that exact experience. Kudos, Marcus! And thanks for an early copy to review.

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Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam

Despite expectations, Professor Chandra is passed over for the Nobel Prize in Economics. Again. He brushes off condolences, determining that it had been his last chance to hope, for the world was moving on without him. As he drifts into auto pilot with a side of grumpiness, he wanders in front of a bicyclist, causing him serious injuries and a silent heart attack. At the hospital, the doctor tells him to cut back on everything and follow his bliss, which he decides to do in California as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at UC Bella Vista. He ends up going to a spiritual retreat offered by his wife’s second husband. Balasubramanyam brilliantly portrays a self-important man disconnected from others through self-sabotage stemming from his background and rigid personality. Dear Reader gets to see all that Dr. Chandra does not communicate, and how much more complicated he makes relationships that matter the most to him, building tension and engaging sympathy for a challenging character. Though reminiscent of Barbara Claypole White’s father in The Perfect Son in his inability to see others and clinging to his ideas that are not serving him, Dr. Chandra wouldn’t dare consider that he might have OCPD, as White’s character determines and enters therapy. He prefers to muddle through on his own, pleading for understanding. It’s intriguing and leads to revelatory confrontation. Fans of anti-heroes will appreciate Dr. Chandra and his struggles. I was fortunate to receive this complex and enlightening story of facing one’s mortality through life-altering paradigm-shifts from Dial Press / Random House by NetGalley.

Is’nana, the Werespider volumes 1&2 by Greg Anderson Elysee

Anansi’s son Is’nana rescues humans from Osebo the Leopard in volume 1, and in volume 2, dear readers learn how Is’nana accidentally opened the portal in the Mother Kingdom, unleashing horrors upon the human world, clevely setting up the storyline for future volumes. Blending African folklore into his storytelling, Elysee continues the tradition of passing down tales, through a thoroughly modern venue with gorgeously detailed graphics.

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All Those Things Revealed by Maureen O’Callaghan

In 19th century Ireland, Mrs. Moloney interrogates her daughter’s fiance Micheal to determine his ability to properly support them, debating fate of divine purpose versus consequences of actions, secrets of God and those revealed to man. She then relays stories passed down to her by her parents of how the fates of certain families were sealed, admonishing Michael to decide whether it was providential destiny or mere consequences of their actions. It is her story—the incident that changed her life’s trajectory and estranged her from her parents—her refusal to be a product of her time. O’Callaghan blends Irish folklore and Christian mythology with fiction, about the origins of Christianity in Ireland, specifically the Ceile De, or Companions of God, and their Cailin an Tsagairt, or Priest Women, who were threatened by Roman Papacy and Norman invaders. Though the daughter’s inexplicable ignorance (contrasted by her fiance’s knowledge) and sudden symbolism at the end are confusing, this is a beautiful story rich with legends, family, and mercy. I was fortunate to receive this wonderful novel through a Goodreads giveaway.

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