This story opens with an omen of a village matriarch dreaming of an animal she’s only seen in photographs, setting everyone on edge, since this has always been followed by a death in the village. This is really her granddaughter Luise’s story, how she becomes a part of the larger world while staying in her village. Though foretold by the omen, the death comes as a shock to the entire village, tugging connections and shifting perspectives, grief overshadowing all. I love how the author infuses a little bit of magic into the story through the unusual perspectives, beliefs, and seemingly accurate superstitions. Leky’s characters are all laid out for the reader, since everyone seems to know everything about everyone else, and she lets us in on all the secrets. Though emotional, it’s easy to stand back from the story and see the whole picture. I was fortunate to receive this wonderful story from the publisher Farrar, Straus, and Giroux through NetGalley.
Coen decides to turn the wedding ceremony into a memorial for his groom when Elias dies in a plane crash the week they are to be celebrating. The cryptic last words of Elias haunt Coen, and he delves into Elias’ past to find out why he never spoke of his family. Tan’s tale of a past too hurtful to recall is heartwrenching as Coen learns more about Elias than Elias would ever have told him. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful story of a struggle to love from the publisher Dundurn through NetGalley.
Pia Lange watches the 1918 pandemic rage through her Philadelphia community, taking her mother while her father is at war. Succumbing herself, she loses her twin baby brothers to a neighbor whose baby died of the flu, and she ends up in an orphanage. She spends her life searching for her siblings. This is a heart-wrenching tale of a young immigrant facing obstacles she never expected, yet pursuing her truth to find her family. I was fortunate to receive this well-written and well-researched novel from the publisher Kensington Publishing Corp. through NetGalley. I highly recommend it, but maybe not just yet…maybe after our own pandemic is tailing off to its end.
Spouses Livia and Adam spend 24 hours building angst over not sharing their respective secrets regarding their children. Paris’ writing style saves her story here, as the heightening emotions of the couple not communicating draw the reader in despite the repetition, until finally the damn breaks and secrets are spilled, but dear reader was already aware of all the secrets. I received a digital copy from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.
Lottie investigates death and dead things after her mother’s death. Her father allows her scientific endeavor, but her strong-willed aunt thwarts her. Written in prose verse, this story flows in fits and starts, sort of like grief itself, giving the reader a sense of Lottie’s emotional state. The writing is beautiful, the story unique, the format intriguing. I confess that seeing the “n” word threw me, but it’s in context, and no matter how you feel about it, it is part of history, so that denying it is indeed whitewashing history. I was fortunate to receive this lovely, melancholy story from the publisher Text Publishing through NetGalley.
One tragic twist of fate destroyed Braden Healey’s hands, his musical career, and his family. Now, unable to play, adrift in an alcoholic daze, and with only fragmented memories of his past, all Braden wants is to escape the darkness of the last eleven years.
When his ex-wife and son are killed in car accident, Braden returns home hoping to forge a relationship with his troubled seventeen-year-old daughter, Allie. But how can he hope to rescue her from the curse that seems to be shadowing his family?
Ophelia “Phee” MacPhee, granddaughter of the eccentric old man who sold Braden his cello, believes the curse is real. She swore an oath to her dying grandfather that she would ensure that Braden plays the cello as long as he lives. But he can’t play, and as the shadows deepen and Phee finds herself falling for Braden, she’ll do anything to save him. It will take a miracle of forgiveness and love to bring all three of them back to the healing power of music.
Kerry Anne King lives with her Viking in a little house surrounded by trees, the perfect place for writing books and daylight dreaming. She spends her days working as an RN in a clinic, spinning her tales early in the morning and in the evenings after work. She believes passionately in the idea of the “whole self” and is ever in pursuit of balancing mind, body, and spirit. She also writes fantasy and mystery novels as Kerry Schafer and provides coaching services to creatives who are experiencing procrastination, overwhelm, and other blocks that get in the way of their important creative work.
A sleeping sickness befalls the little college town of Santa Lora, CA, starting with Mei’s roommate Kara, prompting a quarantine of their dorm. Quickly overwhelmed, the hospital sets up the children who succumb in the public library. The patients wake up in random order with time span and chronology confusion, or they never wake up—dying or coming to consciousness days, weeks, months after succumbing. Mei becomes part of the relief effort by those immune to the illness. Thompson Walker brilliantly moves in and out of the epidemic containment through cordon sanitaire and the sleepers’ astonishingly realistic dreams. Graphic descriptions of virtual long lives lived for decades and anomalies that persist after awakening draw the reader into the deep wells of grief and confusion of those who wake to a lesser reality. The frustrated anger and desperation of family and friends prevented from contacting loved ones is credibly shown by such irrational actions as climbing the quarantine fence and rushing the police. The author references other such unusual occurrences, and how conspiracy theories can easily form from a frightening epidemic never diagnosed by doctors. It brings to mind the sleepy sickness brought on by the Spanish flu epidemic of the early 20th century, whose victims remained catatonic for decades. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this well-written, wonderfully told novel from the publisher Random House through a Goodreads giveaway.
Their mother’s death sends Jazz and Olivia Moon on figurative and literal journeys of grief. Olivia, a synesthete with multiple sensory connections, sets off to see the ghost lights of the bog, an elusive dream of her mother’s for finishing her fantasy novel. Jazz grew up with a different mother, a colder mother, with misplaced expectations of being her sister’s keeper, this heightened sense of responsibility forcing her to “escort” Olivia on her quest. Secrets are exposed that rile and enlighten, urging them to look closer at each other, and determine what family means.
Walsh portrays a hidden trauma of a daughter, who passes on this pain to her own daughters, so well that dear reader readily sympathizes with all of the characters. Many real-life lessons are learned, on family, relationships, communication, expectations, and loss. This is a gorgeous story of living life differently, accepting others as they are, and being true to yourself. I was fortunate to receive this wonderful novel in an author giveaway, and I highly recommend it to fans of Heather Burch, Kristin Hannah, Diane Chamberlain, and Kerry Anne King.
Ana believes the only way to move past her sister’s murder is to find her real killer, the powerful figure behind the cartel’s low-level felons who went to prison for it. Feeling invincible, she joins the police force to clean up the streets, with the secret agenda of tracking down the mysterious murderer. In this endeavor, she misleads her family and oversteps her rookie authority with her new partner. Everyone has their own way of working through grief—Ana’s is exceptionally brutal and insular.
Again, the author partners with a field professional to ensure accuracy, so that the larger-than-life Ana stays within the boundaries of a law enforcement role, called on her maverick behavior by her partner and superior. Tension created by Ana’s personality elicits sympathy for her, even as her actions make the reader cringe. It is a bit of a stretch that she takes out three drug cartel criminals on her first day, but when it comes time to take down the leader, her superhero persona takes the reader beyond the realm of pragmatism. The story flows well, with writing sufficient to evoke imagery, but it could have gone another round with a more diligent proofreader. It’s a good read for fans of kickass heroines, and I was fortunate to receive a copy from the author for an honest review.
Before—she was Mackenzie Cooper, who had a loving husband and a beautiful daughter; After—she is Maggie Reid, a single woman with a secret past who lives with two cats and a dog and sells confidence through makeup artistry at her job in a resort spa. She can only move forward, away from her family, away from her “crime,” away from her former life…until her ex-husband arrives to manage the resort his business group just purchased, HER resort. At the same time, her friend and co-worker learns that her son hacked into his high school, their spa, and a prominent journalist’s computers, and her friend is terrified that her secret past—a powerful and dangerous man—finds her.
The two storylines, Maggie’s ex troubles and the crime of her friend’s son, seem more discrete than parallel, with Maggie spending considerable time repeatedly pushing and pulling the ex before remembering her friend’s distress. This makes scenes stand out every so often, instead of the story flowing. Though the novel reads well, the plan to bring down the influential man in the friend’s life doesn’t come across as quite credible, and it isn’t shown, but referenced after the fact, with the ending chapter summarizing the climax. Despite this, it is a fun read, and a peek into the different ways people process grief and trauma. I was fortunate to receive a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.