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.

Family Ship by Sonja Yoerg

Maeve and Arthur have the large family they always wanted. With foresight, Arthur began a team-building exercise before it was trendy, naming the old boat on their property USS Nepenthe and proclaiming eldest daughter Verity captain. This works well to keep them entertained and safe at home until eldest son leaves the family home in anger. Once things start unraveling, secrets come out, as well as true feelings, and the entire family must rally from tragedy. Yoerg writes beautifully about family dynamics, especially siblings’ love-hate relationships. Fans of Diane Chamberlain, Kelly Simmons, and / or Barbara Sissel will appreciate Yoerg’s style of storytelling. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the publisher Lake Union Publishing 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.

Second Revolution: Another Year of Flash Fiction by Jamie Lackey

This collection of stories veered from a little girl finding out that unicorns can be evil murderers to a young husband learning that his mother-in-law is a goddess. Some were barely holding together as a story, and others just completely unraveled, such as the Guided Meditation, which was maddening to read. All in all, the writing style is generally interesting, and the good stories are really good. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Jamie Lackey through NetGalley.

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

In this Agatha Christie-esque cozy mystery, two young women’s deaths set an unofficial investigation by the family into motion. Captain Jim wishes to help his friend, and maybe get closer to his sister, who demands to aid in finding out who killed her sisters-in-law. Though the romance feels a bit forced, and unrealistic (even Captain Jim knows it), the story is entertaining. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Minotaur Books through NetGalley.