The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan (3 out of 5)

•June 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’m not sure why I took this one, but I think the young punky kid probably had something to do with it. It certainly wasn’t the cover, because I don’t love it! The boy in the water doesn’t look like I imagine Briggs would look, but rather a Justin Bieber looking mofo mannequin. This book comes out in July, 2017, and those teens who like a quick and not very challenging read will eat this up like I eat tostadas. It’s brought to us by Dial Books, sometime next month. It is a pretty funny book. 

Briggs Henry is quite a fun character. I thought a lot of a younger Ferris Bueller while I was reading this. He’s just graduated and looking to ditch out on his boring and staid lifestyle and hit the beach. He’s got a job as an assistant to an old eccentric broad named Mrs. Bozic, in a huge mansion near the beach. What could go wrong??! The first thing his boss tells him is to get gussied up for her funeral. Although she is quite alive. Briggs has NO idea what to make of this broad, and no idea why his charm school tactics do not get him any high marks with next door object of his eye, Abagail. This is a hoot and holler. Try to get your teens to read it, especially if they just got done reading heavy material. This is the perfect antidote. 

(One to Watch For in 2018): The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (4 out of 5)

•June 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Holy hell. Another upcoming release (January, 2018) that will burn down some fields of corn husks in the winter of 2018. Scorched Earth, indeed. This really reminded me of Lauren Geoff’s “Fates and Furies”. The family dynamic is so real that there are moments when you have to set the book down and ponder. Deep, breath-robbing ponderances. On the tail end of 1969, four kids (Klara, Simon, Daniel, and Varya) from the same family pool their allowances together and sneak out to see the fortune teller in town. What makes the Gold children go and seek their fortunes? This seer can supposedly tell them their dates of death. Things don’t quite go as planned. Years later, family patriarch Saul passes away and the children react in varying degrees of grief. Klara yearns to be a magician and packs her bags for a quick escape to San Francisco, and she views her father’s death as her “get out of family jail free” card. She tells Simon this is his chance. Poor Simon, secretly hiding his sexuality, dreams of a life where he can be who he is, and he leaves his grieving mother behind and goes with Klara. Life for these two isn’t the basket of freedom and strawberries that they had hoped for. Simon begins dancing ballet in a gay bar, while Klara struggles to find a permanent job of sny kind, much less in her field. Back home, David tries to keep his shattered mom in one piece after the double barreled shotgun blast of her husband’s death and her youngest, most adored son’s abandonment. He tries to keep his dream of being a doctor alive while doing this. Sister Varya is the scientist bookworm who tries to find a way for humans to be immortal. Together, their lives change significantly as they grow older, and each one armed with that death date that the fortune teller set upon them. Does it become an actuality? And if it IS true and you don’t have a lot of time left, how would you spend your days left on this Earth? No small feat, this sweeping algorithm of family vs. fate, reality vs. hope. Dive into it with abandonment, but keep the tissues close by. And don’t kill Klara, although at moments you (me) may want to shake some sense into her. It’s a stunning book. The only thing that agitated yours truly was that I guessed what was going to happen to Simon, and sadly, I called it. That was the only thing that drive me nuts. Otherwise, you’d be a fool not yo put this on your reading radar for 2018. It will be out January 9, 2018, on G.P. Putnam (an imprint of Penguin Random House). 

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (3 out of 5)

•June 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I won this galley from Shelf Awareness. The book comes out next Tuesday, June 13, courtesy of G.P. Putnam, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It was coming on the heels of that incredible psychological mystery I just finished. I tore through Dionne’s book in a few hours last night when insomnia reared its head again. This is a quick read and keeps the reader engaged throughout. Definitely in the psychological suspense genre. Not a knockout read, but a perfectly engaging one. 

Helena has come a long way, from the scandal that shook and shaped her childhood years. She has a loving family, a stable homestead, and a job that she loves. Then, as life often does, she gets dealt a blow from which she has got to recover- and save those who may be in the danger she was once in. Her violent father kills two prison guards and escapes into the marshlands of the UP. No one harbors much hope of finding him, because these marshlands sound like the Midwest eqiuvalent of the Everglades. Except for Helena…who is, after all, her father’s daughter, and she knows how to navigate and survive those marshlands. Can Helena manage to outmanuever her father and bring him to justice, and somehow not have the secrets of her own buried past come rushing to the surface? You’ll have to read to find out. Again, a good, quick read. It’s not high on the adrenaline scale, but the characters in the novel truly bring the novel to its heights. I would and do definitely recommend it for a quick read. 

(ONE TO WATCH FOR): The Woman In the Window by A.J. Finn (5 out of 5)

•June 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Yeah, it can’t be paranoia if it’s really happening. In this case, the really happening part was referring to my exclamations at the end of every single chapter. I was nearing the end of it while on break at work yesterday, and I was trying to finish the last chapter. To those customers and my coworker Dan, I just have to apologize for all of the theatrics. Definitely necessary! I had to process the book for a day before I wrote this. I was- still am!- afraid to give something away. There are a multitude of twists that are stunning. I had no fucking idea what was going to happen next. I’m still stunned by the end. It really isn’t just using the Hitchcockian influence in the lead character’s favorite pastime, it IS a way of life in the garden of plot device. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. Instead, they went right. As far as the plot, that is. A shiny, happy book? Not by any imagination. Well written, meticulously thought out AND executed? Absolutely. The book isn’t out until January 18, 2018, and is being brought to us by William R. Morrow. The story behind the story is that this manuscript sparked the mother of all hot bids for the rights to the book. Morrow won, and yes, a movie is in the works as well. Everyone is excitedly awaiting this book. After reading it in less than a day, I see why. The anticipation is well worth the wait. 

Anna is a former child therapist living in a prison of her own making, inside a big and pretty empty house (she has a tenant, but he does his own thing). She’s separated from her husband and their daughter is living with him. Their contact is sporadic, and Anna isn’t doing too hot herself. She’s on all kinds of psychiatric meds and washing them down with sometimes entire bottles of Merlot. She spies on her neighbors and takes photos of them. One day she opens up her door to a young man named Ethan Russell, a seemingly shy but polite young man with whom she strikes up quite a rapport. Later on, the boy’s mother Jane comes by and she and Anna bond, drink a lot, play chess, and vow to meet up again soon. Her husband Alistair comes by and demands to know if his wife and/or son had visited. She tries to cover, but Alistair seems to not believe her. Later on, in a quiet moment, Anna hears a woman scream and looks over to see Jane stumbling through her living room, stabbed in the chest. She sees Jane collapse, and she calls the police, who take her word at first and then seem to discount her story completely when they call Alistair over and he discredits her story and produces a woman who is NOT the Jane that Anna struck up the friendship with. What the hell? Get ready, reader. You will cite that often. But again, not in a frustrated way. More in an inquisitive manner, as you try to figure out the different puzzles our author is throwing at us to decipher. There are things that I am still figuring out today! I think it will be one of those books where shit is still going to be creeping up your trellis weeks after you finish it. Just a strong hunch. This is definitely a high contender for best psychological suspense of 2018. Remember, kids. January 2018. Put it in your electronic calendar right now. 

Would Everybody Please Stop? Reflections on Life and Other Bad Ideas by Jenny Allen (4 out of 5)

•June 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I borrowed this one from work. Yesterday, in fact. In lieu of today’s most precious of days- a day off. I have ten million things to do today and at 11:11am, have managed to accomplish 2 million of them, and the worst of all- the elbow to the cup of coffee and Ms. Allen’s book was covered in coffee. So yes, I am buying this tomorrow when I go back to work. I don’t mind. I enjoyed it greatly. I just hate that I’m passing it on to my friend and it’s coffee-stained. Ah, well. Still an excellent collection. I ordered this in and enjoyed it. I especially loved the nod to nonsensical words and expressions that don’t make sense. She nailed a few of them. I could write a book based on some of the things I have heard coming from friends, family and co-workers in the past ten years. Elmer Fudd’s psychotherapy appointment was freaking fantastic. Her essay about being single after being part of a duo for over two decades struck a few chords (the matrimony tag attached to something doesn’t mean it can’t apply to single people. Think again!). Her essay about living with serious illness is something everyone should read, whether or not you are living with an illness. In short, the only thing that was missing in this collection is MORE awesome essays. Other than being too short (something I personally live with), it’s a great read to anyone with a lot of life’s silliness crowding up the plate of life. Have some more! Jenny’s book is available in hardback, brought to us by the folks at Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux (an affiliate of St. Martin’s Press). 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan (5 out of 5)

•June 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t quite know where this was going at ANY part of the book. You could call it a murder mystery centered around a suicide. You could call it a broken family dynamic, between the lead character and her father. You could call it the broken hearts club and look at various people on that pathway throughout the book. You could even call it a reawakening of two adults who lost an incredible friendship at the cost of tragic childhoods. You could call it lost chances at the hands of bad decisions to keep families intact. You can also call it (a little bit) a love of bookstores and those who frequent them (and work for  them). What you could also call it-and I do- is an incredible book. A bit darker than some bookstore fare I have read, but infinitely flawless. 

Lydia’s been at the Bright Ideas Bookstore for a long time. It helped her escape her nightmare childhood. Lydia’s single father couldn’t let her have her sleepover with her friend because he has to go work. Her friend’s father offers to host the sleepover instead. What happens next is beyond anything a kid should have to go through. Someone breaks in and murders her friend and her friend’s family while Lydia hides under the sink. Her father grows concerned when he can’t get ahold of the family the best day and goes to the house, finds the carnage, and takes his bloodied and psychologically scarred daughter out of there. The perpetrator- dubbed “The Hammerman” by the press- is never caught. Lydia’s father is a suspect, but he is never formally charged. He and Lydia leave town and move to Rio Vista, where her once docile librarian dad totally changes his appearance, personality, and begins working all hours as a prison guard. When Lydia is left alone, she hides under the sink to keep herself safe. She and her father continue to grow apart in their new existence. Flash forward to present day Lydia, working as a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. One of her favorite customers, Joey, hangs himself in the store. Lydia inherits what’s left of his belongings, including tons of books. The books are defaced, however, and Lydia finds herself in the middle of a puzzle around Joey’s suicide. Around this time, her long lost childhood friend Raj enters the picture. Lydia is thrilled to see him, and even more thrilled with his help trying to unravel the circumstances of the suicide. The problem is, once they begin poking around in the past, it has an errie and often frightening way of coming full circle in the present. This is a book that kept me guessing until the very end. It was a satisfying and not cliched ending to several stories going on. I highly recommend this book. It’s out on June 13, 2017, from our friend at Scribner Book Company (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).   

 

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (5 out of 5)

•June 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I found this when I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to read after the librarians of Timbuktu got through with me (see previous review). It was the perfect antidote after TMAQ (Too much Al Qaeda)! Remember the movie “The Royal Tennenbaums”? Think of that movie, but with English people and a little bit more lightheartedness, and that’s a fair idea of this book. This was a fun, heartwarming, FUNNY book. Family dysfunction was never as much fun as in this book! Don’t rush out to get it just yet, readers. It’s out October 17, 2017, from our friends at Berkeley (an imprint of Penguin Random House). But put it in your TBR list NOW, so you don’t forget about it down the road. 

Olivia Birch is going home to her family fir Christmas…reluctantly and about to be a major buzzkill as a result. Olivia is a relief worker who had been abroad treating a third world epidemic, Haag (think along the lines of the Ebola or Zika virus), and her partner (in the way you think, as well as in relief efforts) Sean is infected and quarantined. Olivia is forced to go into a week-long quarantine as well, with her somewhat estranged family. I say somewhat because her family has tried to break on through Olivia’s highly erected emotional walls for years, to no avail. She’s kind of a cold fish, to be honest. Her mother Emma is a wonderful maternal spark who just found out she has non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but she keeps it to herself so she doesn’t ruin Christmas and drive her family away. Her dad Andrew is a curmudgeon, known for his indifferent attitude toward everything that isn’t his well known food column and youngest daughter Phoebe. Emma and Andrew have that “comfortably numb” marriage that often happens after many years, and while both silently mourn the way they were, neither of them try to change it back to where it was. Phoebe is the life of the bunch, newly engaged to a guy her family doesn’t exactly love and with whom she has nothing in common with. And oh, he may be gay, as well. George is Phoebe’s snobby and self-absorbed fiance. And somewhere in LA, a young man named Jesse sends off an email that could change his life…to his biological father who probably doesn’t even know of his existence. He flies to England in his quest and ends up stumbling into this quarantine. Literally. What unfolds in those 7 days will have you laughing, shaking your head, laughing some more, and with that one final twist, crying. And thinking your family may just be sane after all! I highly recommend this one to anyone who needs a load taken off of their shoulders. It was wonderful.