Liberty Farm: A Family Portrait by Izai Amorim

Intertwined throughout Brazil’s history is this multi-generational story of strong familial obligation despite heartbreak over parental preferences. Amorim is a storytelling force, with his characters responding to historical events. I highly recommend this book for its nitty gritty perspective of Brazil and the dynamics of a family beset by tragedy. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the author through NetGalley.

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

There are a lot of twists and turns in this story of two missing women and a girl. My niggle is that the plot twist came out of nowhere, with no hints to back it up and provide the reader with that aha moment, so it didn’t come across as credible as it might have. Kubica is great at representing the messy, ambivalent, guilt-ridden emotions of human nature. I definitely like her work. I just wish she had led up to her climax more ambiguously, so that her red herring didn’t come across so clunky. I do recommend her for her storytelling talent. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Park Row through NetGalley.

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.

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.