I am always on the lookout for something different, and so I
leapt at the chance to read this publication free and early. Thanks go to Net
Galley and Henry Holt. It’s for sale now.
The story is set in and around Chicago, back when the city
was first born. It tells a tale of shifting alliances and double crosses; yet
in other ways it is an old story, one in which a Caucasian interloper cannot
bear to see a Black man rise to a position of wealth and influence. It’s not an
Conceptually the story is strong, but the author tries to do
too much at once. Shifting points of view; development of disparate characters;
and an old time dialect that is challenging all by itself serve to render the
story muddy and confusing. Too much is lost, and at the halfway point, I gave
it up and commenced skimming.
Despite this, I believe Carr is a talented writer and I like
his ideas. I would read his work again.
Amy Whey has everything she has ever wanted: a successful marriage, a lovely home in Florida, an adorable baby and a stepdaughter she genuinely loves. Her roots in the neighborhood are deep and secure, and her dearest friend is right there as well. Then all of it—every last bit—is threatened by a newcomer with an agenda all her own.
Jackson has had a string of bestselling novels, most notably
Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia. She is among my favorite writers, and this is
her best book to date. My thanks go to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the
review copy; however, this is one novel I would have paid full jacket price for
if it had come down to it. This is the finest mystery you’ll see in 2019, and
it will be available to the public July 30, 2019.
It’s time for the monthly book club to meet, and although
Char is the host, the group has temporarily relocated to Amy’s for logistical
reasons. The members have gathered, but then there’s a rap on the door. Who in
the world…? It’s the newcomer, a renter
that has taken residence in “the Sprite house,” named for its unfortunate paint
color. She hasn’t been invited, but she’s come, just the same:
“She was the pretty
that’s on television: symmetrical features, matte skin, and the kind of long,
slim, yoga body that still made me feel self-conscious about my own. I hadn’t
been seriously overweight since I was a teenager, but looking at her I was
instantly aware of the little roll of baby weight still clinging to my middle…She
didn’t look like my own destruction to me. She looked…the world was ‘cool.’…An
odd thing to think. I was forty-two years old…I looked at the loaded gun on my doorstep,
and, stupid me, I hoped she had the right house.”
This new neighbor is Roux, and she is a darker, more adult
version of The Cat in the Hat. Instantly divisions are sowed, and old
established friendships are tested as she manipulates these women into
competing for her approval. She’s done
her homework, and she knows everyone’s darkest secrets, especially Amy’s. But
Roux hasn’t bargained for the kind of adversary she has chosen. Amy proves to
be a bad enemy.
This is a compelling thriller, the sort that takes over my
life until it’s done. I finished reading it months ago and have read dozens of
other books since, but something in me still stirs when I glimpse the book’s
cover. In fact, I wasn’t able to write this review until I had allowed myself
to read it a second time.
Part of Jackson’s magic is in addressing real parts of women’s
lives that seldom make it into our literature. It is gratifying to see her
address emotional overeating as a component of Amy’s story; yet I would love to
see her write another novel in which the protagonist is a good person with
heart and dignity, and yet is still obese (rather than formerly.) If anyone can
do that well, it’s this author.
Run along now; you’ve got a book to order. If you’re stone
cold broke, get on the library’s waiting list. Nothing else can take the place
of this story.
Sue Ellen Wright is a professor of Greek classics; she’s
headed for Greece to deliver lectures and reminisce about the experiences of
her youth. At the last minute, her philandering husband Dean and the couple’s
lovesick son Will decide to tag along. Grant Ginder has made a career of
writing hilarious prose about disastrous families, and Honestly, We Meant Well made me laugh out loud more than once. Thanks go to Net Galley and Flatiron Books for
the review copy. This book is for sale now.
The book opens as Sue Ellen is conferring with a freshman who’s come to her office to challenge his midterm exam score:
“’I’m pretty sure I got this one right.’
“Connor points to a picture on his midterm…it’s an artifact that he was meant to identify.
“’That’s not a bong, Connor. That’s a Corinthian urn from the fifth century B.C.E…’
“But can’t you see how it could have been a bong?’
“’No,’ Sue Ellen says, ‘Actually, I can’t.’”
Teachers, are you experiencing flashbacks here? And those of
you that aren’t teachers can appreciate that Sue Ellen needs a break, one that
takes her as far away as possible. Her bags are packed.
Dean is a professor as well, and he’s a celebrated one. As
the writer of a bestselling novel, The
Light of Our Shadows, he is permitted to cherry-pick which students may
enroll in his seminars. He knows he ought not to have sex with any of them, but
they’re so insistent; and why shouldn’t they be? He’s a genius. At the moment,
though, he’s a genius with writer’s block, and he thinks a Grecian holiday
might just be what he needs; it will strengthen his marriage and get his
creative juices flowing as well.
Will is a student, but who can chart a course, academic or
otherwise, when his heart has been shattered? His boyfriend broke up with him
and has instantly turned up on Instagram with kissy-face photos of himself with
his new squeeze. It’s humiliating. It’s horrifying. Worse: everyone is liking
those photos. Meanwhile, he has committed an unforgivable academic sin, one he’s
desperate to keep his parents from learning.
Ginny Polonsky works at the university, and she knows where
the bodies are buried. Readers know what Ginny knows—well, most of it anyway—and
as the family unknits itself and copes with one unforeseen event after another,
we are waiting for Ginny’s other shoe to drop on them. It’s immensely
satisfying when it does.
There’s not a lot of character development here, but not
much is needed. I believe each of these characters, which are written with
admirable consistency. The prose is tight and the resolution surprises me. I
would read this author again in a heartbeat.
The Wrights are Caucasian and middle class, and this is the
demographic most likely to enjoy this book. It’s just the thing to toss into
your suitcase or carry on when you’re headed on a trip of your own.
Deb Spera is a force; small wonder that Call Your Daughter Home is the book that bloggers have been talking
about. This barn burner of a debut goes on sale today. My thanks go to Net Galley and Harlequin for
the review copy. It curled its fingers
around me on page one, and by page ten I knew it wouldn’t let me go till it was
done with me. It ended as powerfully as it began.
The year is 1924. Gertrude Pardee lives with her four little
girls in a shack in the swamp in Third World conditions; they are nearly feral.
A storm is coming, but Gert has a job to do. Her brutal ass hat of a husband
lies dead in the swamp, dispatched by the bullet she blasted into his brainpan.
As the storm bears down, she peels off her only dress and strides naked into
the muck to deal with his corpse:
“Alligators feed once a week, and sometimes, if the prey is big enough, they don’t need to eat for almost a year. But I don’t know how long it takes a gator to eat big prey. Daddy never said nothing ‘bout that and I never asked.”
Our other two main characters are Retta, the first free
woman in her family, and Annie, Retta’s employer. Retta cares for Mary, Gert’s
youngest, when Gert is too sick and injured from the broken face she sustained
the last time Alvin beat her; Retta’s husband Odell and her neighbors all tell
her that it’s trouble to bring a white child into Shake Rag. “Don’t get messed
up with that white family. No good can come of it,” and she knows it’s true.
What if the girl dies? But Gert coaxed her into it, telling her it would be the
Christian thing to do, and Retta is moved by this sick, helpless five year old.
She assures everyone it’s just for three days.
Miss Annie is a Caucasian small businesswoman and wife of a
farmer, yet she has trouble of her own; there’s some dark family baggage she’s
been avoiding for a good, long while. As the storm bears down, evidence comes
to light and she is forced to see it. Not one of us would want to be Miss Annie;
Spera weaves a captivating tale, and we see the world from
the disparate points of view of all three women, each of them told alternately
in a first person narrative, and we’re also told how they see each other. The
setting is dead accurate, brooding and thick with dread, and it scaffolds the
development of each character more capably than anything I have read recently.
It is Retta that tells us that as we give birth, we must call
out to our child so that “whichever soul is at the gate will come through.” She
called out to her girl as she birthed her, but now she is gone. In fact, each
of these three women has lost a daughter, and this provides the central theme
of the story.
Feminists and those that love Southern fiction have to get
this book and read it. There’s nothing like it. Do it.
Clifford D. Simak was given the third Grand Master Award by
the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; he wrote short stories
proliferately for several decades in the last century. His work was generally published in
magazines, but with the digital age comes the release of his collected work in
twelve volumes. My thanks go to Net
Galley and Open Road, from whom I received a review copy…two years ago. Ouch.
As you might expect, this title is for sale now.
Here’s the thing about this collection as a whole: not all
of it is science fiction. Simak wrote a lot during the 1940s and 1950s, and
back then it was Western stories that sold big. For fans of science fiction,
then, these stories are definitely a mixed blessing. The Thing in the Stone and Other Stories is the twelfth and final
collection in the series.
The tltle story is excellent, and it shows why the editor
has not chosen to separate Simak’s sci fi and Western stories into separate
volumes: some of his stories—some of his best ones in fact—blend the two
genres. In this one, Daniels sits on his farmhouse porch and chats with the
sheriff; there are concerns about chicken thieves in the area. But even at the
outset, small references here and there tell us that this is no ordinary
Western story. For one thing, up North is an area casually referred to as “the
Canadian Shield.” And as the sheriff departs and the rest of the story unfolds,
Daniel learns that he is not alone, and his visitor is an unusual one indeed. This
story contains a beautifully written inner monologue, and I find myself
rereading passages out of admiration for the word smithery involved.
The next two stories are fun ones. “The World of the Red Sun”
is suspenseful, and “Skirmish”, which is a man-versus-machine tale with a
degree of prescience is laugh-out-loud funny in places. These stories, alas,
are followed by an interminable Western—not blended, just cowboys and more
cowboys—that I finally gave myself permission to skip. The rest of the stories
offered after it are good, but the first three are the ones I like best.
Should you buy this collection? I suggest that if you are
new to Simak’s writing, you purchase the first collection in the set, I Am Crying All Inside and Other Stories. It
doesn’t matter whether you read the collections sequentially, but this is a
solid short story collection and his best selling one also. I have read and
reviewed eight of the twelve volumes in the set, and although The Thing in the Stone and Other Stories is
well written and entertaining, there are five volumes, all reviewed here, that
I rate as five stars. Of course if you have the opportunity to buy the entire
set and have a serious love of old school sci fi, you won’t be disappointed.
Randy Susan Meyers wrote The
Murderer’s Daughters and The Widow of
Wall Street. Her new novel, Waisted is
a fiercely feminist story that skewers the weight loss industry and a society
that “treats fat people like out-of-control horrors” and the war against women
with its “intersectionality of misogyny, fat shaming, [and] faux health
concerns.” Thanks go to Atria and Net
Galley for the review copy. You should read this book.
Alice married Clancy when she was “break-up skinny,” not
knowing that he isn’t attracted to any woman that isn’t thin. Daphne is
tormented by her 108 pound mother, whose toxic monitoring and obsession with
Daphne’s eating have nearly driven her daughter over the edge. Alice and Daphne meet at Privation, a live-in weight loss program in rural
Vermont. They and five other women sign on because they are promised rapid
weight loss free of charge, with the caveat that they must agree to be filmed
24 hours a day for a documentary. The program is not only extreme; it is cruel
“Welcome to hell, ladies, where we recognize
that life is unfair, and you pay the price for every action you take…You’ve
eaten your way through pain, through loss, through happiness, and just for the
plain pleasure of crunching calories between your teeth. Not one of you knows
how to live with privation. So you landed here. The last stop.”
The women don’t know that there are no doctors here, or that
they are part of a nasty experiment to see what women will tolerate in order to
become thinner, even when it is obvious that such a program cannot be
sustained. Each time one or another of them considers decamping, there’s a
weigh-in that shows them to be even lighter than they were earlier in the week,
and with dreams of a new, sleek, lovable body ever nearer realization, they
The readers that will relate to this story best are also the
ones that will have a hard time getting through the first half of it. Meyers
drives home so many uncomfortable truths that overweight women like me have
trained ourselves not to think about most of the time because they are painful.
Do it anyway. It’s high time someone wrote this book.
Apart from its very real underpinnings, the story is
far-fetched and features an unlikely outcome, but that doesn’t matter. A more
nuanced or realistic version would fail to deliver the message in as brilliant
This is urgent, angry, and at times darkly funny prose. It
will be available Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Highly recommended.
Edwards is the author of This
I Know, and here, once again, she creates a powerful story based on a youthful
yearning for identity. My thanks go to the author and her publicist for the
printed galley, and to Kensington and Net Galley for the digital copy. It will be available May 28, 2019.
Our setting is a small commune in California in the early
1970s. Our protagonist, Clover Blue, sleeps in a tree house with some of the
other commune members. There’s no running water or electricity, but we don’t
miss what we don’t have, and California has a mild climate. Though decisions
are made collectively, with younger and older residents each having a vote,
Goji is the spiritual leader of the group. In place of formal education, young
commune members study with him. Blue can read as well as other children his
age, and he knows more about nature than most would because it’s part of his
everyday experience. He doesn’t remember living anywhere else; his life is
happy, and his bonds with his communal family are strong ones.
But everyone wants to know their origins, and Blue is no
different. As puberty approaches, he begins to ask questions. He gains the
sense that older members know things they won’t tell him, and it heightens his
desire to find out. Goji promises him that he will be told when he turns
twelve, but his twelfth birthday comes and goes, and still Goji evades his queries.
And so the story darkens just a bit as Blue undertakes
research on his own. He has a hunch as to who his biological parents might be,
and despite the communal culture that regards every older person as the mother
or father of every younger person, he wants the particulars and is determined
to get them. The things he learns are unsettling and produce further questions.
A large part of the problem the communal elders face is that
the State of California does not recognize the commune, and the living
conditions and educational process used there are not legally viable. Because of
these things, Goji discourages interaction with the outside world, and
sometimes essential services—such as medical care—are given short shrift
because of the risks they pose. Instead, naturopathic remedies are used, often
to good result.
Edwards builds resonant characters, and I believe Blue, the
sometimes-mysterious Goji, and Harmony, the member of the commune that is
closest to Blue. There is enough ambiguity within each of them to prevent them
from becoming caricatures; everyone holds various qualities within them, none
being wholly benign or malevolent. The way that we judge these characters isn’t
built upon their ability to do everything well, but in how they deal with their
mistakes when they make them. In addition, some writers of historical fiction—which
technically this isn’t, but it has that vibe—fall into the trap of establishing
time and place through the cheap shortcut of pop cultural references and well
known historical events. Edwards doesn’t do that, but she does use the speech
of the time period so effectively that at times, I feel transported back to my
own adolescence. There are aspects of the period I’d forgotten entirely that
surprise and delight me; if there are errors, I don’t see them.
Ultimately, the story takes a turn that harks back
(somewhat) to George Orwell’s classic, Animal
Farm, in that while everyone at the commune is said to be equal, some are “more
equal than others.” Cracks in the foundation of their once-idyllic lives form,
and we see who has strength of character, and who is lacking.
If I could change anything, I would make the ending less
rushed, and I’d also urge the author to be less afraid of letting the ugly
parts play themselves out as they most likely would in real life. In this novel
and her last, it seems like the tragic aspects that occur near or at the climax
are a hot stove, and we have to move away from them quickly. I’d like to see
Edwards let the stove burn a little more.
I do recommend this
book to you. In fact, it may be a five star read, but it’s almost impossible to
evaluate it without comparing it to what the author wrote earlier, and this
made the five star standard difficult to achieve here. Those that love
historical fiction should get it and read it.
Chris Pavone is the real deal. The Paris Diversion sees the return of CIA employee Kate Moore, the protagonist from his first novel, The Expats. This taut, intense thriller is his best to date, and that’s saying a good deal. Lucky me, I read it free thanks to Net Galley and Crown, but you can get it tomorrow, May 7, 2019.
Kate wears many hats, moving deftly from professional spy to
primary caretaker of two children, one of whom is medically fragile. Her
husband Dexter calls himself an investor, but he’s basically just a weasel. His
weak character comes into play in a big way in this story as he is tied to a
shady financial deal that in turn is tied–though he doesn’t know it– to a
terrifying terrorist event that takes place in the heart of France:
“She gasps. She is
surprised at her reaction, like an amateur. She has never before seen anything
like this. No one here has. What she sees:
a man is standing all alone in the middle of the vast open space,
looking tiny. He’s wearing a bulky vest, and a briefcase sits at his feet, the
sort of luggage that in action-adventure films follows around the president of
the United States, a shiny case lugged around by a tall square-jawed man
wearing a military uniform, a handsome extra with no speaking lines. The
nuclear codes…Yes, Dexter was right: that’s a suitcase bomb.”
Events unfold seen from the viewpoints of several different
characters. In addition to Kate, we have the bomb-wearer; his American driver; the
sniper assigned to take the bomb-wearer out; billionaire Hunter
Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am Forsyth; and a mysterious woman using the name Susanna. Points
of view change frequently, and the brief chapters become even briefer as the
story unfolds, creating even more suspense. Pavone (that’s three syllables—Puh-vo-KNEE)
has keen insight into the lies weak people tell themselves to justify their
poor choices, and at times he is wickedly funny. Favorites here are the
internal monologue of our ass hat billionaire; the moment Kate takes down the
security guard; and the exchange between Kate and Hunter’s assistant, Schuyler.
Because I spend several hours of every day reading, I can
almost always put a book down, even an excellent one. For the best books, I
reserve good-sized blocks of time when I won’t be interrupted, and these are
the ones I read with joy, rather than out of duty to the publisher. But it’s
been awhile since I stayed up late because I had to know how a book ended. The
prose here is so tightly woven that every word is important; in most books of
the genre, there’s a winding down period at the end of the book after the climax
has been reached and the problem resolved. In contrast, Pavone moves at warp
speed until almost the last word of the last chapter.
I have rarely seen a male writer that can craft a believable
female character, and Pavone does that. I appreciate his respect for women. In
addition, it appears that Kate may have met her own Moriarti, and so I suspect
both she and her nemesis will be back. I hope so.
To say more is to waste words, an unfair tribute to a bad
ass writer who wastes none. Get this book and read it. You won’t be sorry.
Best-selling author J.A. Jance is something of a legend here
in Seattle, and I came to her work as a huge fan of the J.P. Beaumont series. It
took me awhile to bond to the Ali Reynolds series—which is set in Not-Seattle–
but I am all in it now. Big thanks go to
Net Galley and Gallery Books for the review copy.
Our story commences inside a prison where a killer is
spending what’s left of his life and plotting vengeance. On his arm are
tattooed 5 initials which comprise his “A list” for the five people he wants
dead. He understands he’ll have to hire out the “wet work,” but that’s okay.
The voice Jance gives this character sends chills up and down my neck, and I
don’t get that way easily. We learn that Ali, our protagonist, is on that list.
Once the reader’s attention is secure, we go through a
complex but clear and necessary recap, which gets us through the essential
information that’s developed during the first 13 books of the series, which is
set in Arizona. So here, I have to tell you that I don’t recommend starting the
series with this book. I have read all or most of the series, but with a year
or so passing between each of these, I very much needed this recap to refresh
my memory. Young readers with sterling memories might be able to keep up with
it, but the audience that will love this story best are middle class Caucasian
women over 40. The reader doesn’t necessarily have to go all the way back to
the first book to begin reading, but I would urge you to go back to an earlier
book somewhere else in the series and work your way forward. The books fly by
quickly, and it’s definitely worth it. While some authors lose the urgency in
their prose when they get older, Jance just gets leaner and sharper, and this
story is among the very best I’ve seen her write, which says a lot.
The premise is centered around The Progeny Project, a
nonprofit organization that helps children born through artificial insemination
find their biological relatives for the purpose of learning about their own
medical background. It begins when one such young man, in desperate need of a
new kidney, makes a public plea for information on Ali’s television news
program. Results come in quickly and reveal that Dr. Eddie Gilchrist’s
fertility clinic did not use the donors he advertised, instead inseminating his
many female patients with his own sperm. Events unfold, and the doctor is
convicted of murder, and is sent away for life in prison. From there, he seeks
The plot is among the most original I have seen in many
years, and its execution requires tight organization, which Jance carries off
brilliantly. She could have written this mystery successfully without lending a
lot of attention to the characters, but she doesn’t do that. It’s the
combination of an intricate but clear plot and resonant characters that makes
this story exceptional.
In an earlier book we were introduced to Frigg, an AI entity
created by an IT guy that works for an internet security company owned by B.
Simpson, Ali’s husband. Frigg disregards what she considers to be unreasonable
laws against hacking, and attempts to take Frigg down completely have been
foiled by the AI herself. This scenario creates all sorts of vastly amusing
problems when Ali herself needs personal security; Frigg learns she is on the A
List, and her vigilance is both essential and illegal, at times.
The second and most fascinating character is Hannah
Gilchrist, the elderly, very wealthy mother of Dr. Eddie. When she learns that
her only son has decided to have everyone responsible for his ruin killed, she
decides she’s going to help him. She has terminal cancer and no other children,
and a sort of modern, rich Ma Barker personality emerges. Hannah is a dynamic
character and I absolutely love the way Jance develops her, laying waste to a
multitude of sexist stereotypes.
If I could change one thing, I would have Jance lose the
word “gangbanger,” a stereotype in itself, and include some positive Latino
characters in the Reynolds series.
Make no mistake, this mystery is brainy and complicated. You
don’t want to read it after you have taken your sleeping pill. But the
masterful way Jance braids the plot, the return of Frigg, and the development
of Hannah all make it well worth the reader’s effort. But again—don’t let this
be the first of the series for you. Climb aboard an earlier entry and work your
way into it. In fact, newbie readers will likely have an advantage over long
time readers, because you can read these mysteries in succession without having
to wait a year to come back to the series.
With that caveat, this mystery is highly recommended.
I was invited to read and review this title by Simon and
Schuster and Net Galley. It’s the story of Shane, an orphaned teen whose uncle
kicks him goodbye [with my apologies to Shrek] directly following high school
graduation. Shane sets off for the small town in Minnesota whence came his only
letter from his mother, who abandoned the family a long time ago. Since he
finds himself suddenly homeless, he figures he doesn’t have much to lose. Maybe
she’s still there.
His new home, however, is little more than a wide space in the road, and its residents haven’t received the memo about gender crossed individuals. His long hair and androgynous appearance are the trigger for some nasty behaviors on the part of the locals, and when you’re homeless, this is exponentially scarier because you don’t have a safe place into which you can rush and close the door.
On the one hand, the theme here is a timely one, combining the present-day increased problem of homelessness with other issues of the day. We see teen kids instantly unhomed by the government once they reach majority age; bullying and hate crimes against those with nontraditional sexual identification and orientation; and then, as the novel proceeds, substance abuse as a means of escape and a signal of dark, dark despair.
The despair. The despair the
despairthedespairthedespair. The challenge
in reading this is that we begin in a bleak place, we stay in a bleak place for
the most part, and then we end in a bleak place. The whole thing is punctuated
not only with alienation, of which there is understandably plenty, but also
that flat line ennui that accompanies depression, and who in her right mind
would read this thing cover to cover?
Hopefully it’s someone with rock solid mental health whose moods are not
terribly variable. As for me, I read the first half, and then I perused the
remainder in a skipping-and-scooting way I reserve for very few galleys. It was
that or commence building myself a noose, and self preservation won the day.
If the key issues in this novel are a particular passion of
yours, you may feel vindicated when you read it. I recommend reading it free or cheaply if you
will read it all, and keep a second, more uplifting novel ready to do duty as a
mood elevator when you sense your own frame of mind descending hell’s elevator.
hp printer setup, hp customer support number, hp printer drivers for mac, hp printer drivers, hp wireless printer setup, hp printer support number, hp printer support phone number, hp printer tech support phone number