Saturday, June 25, 2022

THE WOMAN IN THE LIBRARY (2022) - Review


The Woman in the LibraryThe Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On sale: June 7, 2022

And now for something completely different. Author Sulari Gentill has concocted an unexpected format for her mystery. It's a story within a story within a story. Similar to locked room puzzles, there seem to be only four possibilities for the murderer, but are there?

FIRST SENTENCE: "Dear Hannah, What are you writing?"

QUOTE: "And so we go to the Map Room to found a friendship, and I have my first coffee with a killer."

THE STORY: Hannah Tigone, an Australian author had planned to visit Boston to write her next book. When the pandemic puts a halt to her traveling, Leo, a colleague who lives there becomes her beta reader. Every chapter ends with a letter from Leo offering advice and details about Boston and American life.

Then there's the story of the book itself. Winifred better known as "Freddie" is writing "The Woman in the Library". She has won a Marriot Scholarship to enable her to write her mystery set in Boston. Working in the Boston Public Library, she is attempting to decide the plot for her mystery when a woman screams. Four other people seated nearby begin to talk about what might have just happened and they quickly become friends. When they discover the woman has been killed, they become sleuths.

WHAT I THOUGHT: The author has written a carefully written and plotted mystery adding humor as the story unfolds with its many twists and turns. Besides the puzzle the friends seek to solve, the story is about friendship and writing (every character is writing a book). It's always fun to recognize the current references to things we know that are scattered throughout.

More than once, especially in the beginning, I found myself wondering what story I was reading, but it's worth the struggle. Although you can listen to the audio book, I would expect it could add another level of confusion.

The book also includes A Reading Group Guide and ‘A Conversation with the Author’ about how she stumbled on her plot.

BOTTOM LINE: RECOMMENDED

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of "The Woman in the Library" by Sulari Gentill from NetGalley/Europa for my honest review.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

ALL THE LOVERS IN THE NIGHT (2022) - Review


All the Lovers in the Night

All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
On Sale: May 3, 2022

Not much happens and everything happens in "All the Lovers in the Night". Mieko Kawakami, the author of the internationally best-selling "Breasts and Eggs" has written an "unforgettable story about women, loneliness and relationships" beautifully translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd.

FIRST SENTENCE: "Why does the night have to be so beautiful?"

QUOTE: "The job that I was doing, the place where I was living, the fact that I was all alone and had no one to talk to. Could these have been the result of some decision I had made? I heard a crow crying somewhere in the distance and turned to the window. It occurred to me that maybe I was where I was today because I hadn't chosen anything."

THE STORY: There are long silences in Fuyuko Irie's day whether she is proof reading alone or is with another person. Small things in her quiet life loom large - light, darkness, weather. Two women befriend her and suggest ways she could interact with the world. Kyoko, an editor who owns her own business, has made sure Fuyuko has a way to support herself. Hijiri, Fuyuko's total opposite in temperament, shares opinions and her love of social life.

The day Fuyuko sees her reflection in a store window she recognizes how drab she has become. She reaches out to make connections finding courage in beer and vodka. After she meets Mitsutsuka, an older high school physics teacher, she joins him weekly at a coffee shop to talk about music and light.

WHAT I THOUGHT: A very intimate story, every reader will find something of themselves reflected as the author shares the differing choices women have made. Even though the men in Fuyuko's life are disappointments, exploring relationships with others helps her move forward with a sense of self-acceptance.

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of "All the Lovers in the Night" by Mieko Kawakami from NetGalley/Europa for my honest review.


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Monday, May 30, 2022

THE DISINVITED GUEST (2022) - Review


The Disinvited Guest

The Disinvited Guest by Carol Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On sale: July 12, 2022

A number of years back, I read "The Lake of Dead Languages" (2002), "The Seduction of Water" (2003), and "The Drowning Tree" (2004) all by the same author. When I got the chance to read "The Disinvited Guest", I was delighted. Remember the advice about writing the book you want to read? For me that would be a Carol Goodman story. Great escapist gothic, ghostly storytelling.

FIRST SENTENCE: "We're here."*

QUOTE: "But what if those of us who survived really were haunted by those who didn't?"

THE STORY: Ten years after the first pandemic, with a second one expected, six friends plan to retreat to an island three miles off the coast of Maine. Fever Island was used as a way station for the sick arriving from Ireland in the 1800s before they could enter the mainland. Later the island became the property of the wealthy Harper family. The story is told by Lucy who plans to spend her time writing about its Celtic rituals, ghosts, and lives lost. Even though everything has been carefully accounted for, things quickly go astray or missing.

WHAT I THOUGHT: There is so much tension and unpleasantness among the group that the reader knows there will be problems. Lucy is highly susceptible to suggestion. As she reads a journal left behind by a young doctor recounting his experiences on the island years ago, she becomes obsessed and begins imagining things.

While one might not want to read about a pandemic while living through one, here it is merely used as a conceit to isolate the deftly drawn characters. Although some suspension of disbelief may be necessary, the roller coaster ride is worth it.

Goodman's descriptions of the island and it's mysteries are alluring. It's a nice touch having a map of the island included.

BOTTOM LINE: RECOMMENDED Past college friendships, youthful indiscretions, secret histories and suggestions of ghosts combine to cause suspense and a sense of dread.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of "The Disinvited Guest" by Carol Goodman from NetGalley/William Morrow Paperbacks for my honest review.

*This is the shortest first sentence I can remember. Two books ago, "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus, was the longest, a whole paragraph!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

WHITE NIGHTS (2022) - Review


White Nights

White Nights by Deb Davies
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Author Deb Davies' debut mystery "Northern Lights" was published in 2020, the first book of a trilogy called A Coast to Coast Michigan Mystery. Make sure to read the first book before you pick up "White Nights". It is definitely not a standalone.

FIRST SENTENCE: "To Old friends", Charles proposed, raising his glass toward Claire, Arnie, and Laurel.

THE STORY: While on vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, friends Laurel and Arnie and Claire and Charles become involved with a suspicious death and an abandoned dog. Arnie, a policeman on leave, is asked to help the local constable who suspects the death is not a suicide. Unfortunately someone is not happy with the investigation and the four friends end up in grave danger.

WHAT I THOUGHT: This is an adult novel and like "Northern Lights", it reads like a literate mystery combined with a violent thriller. In some ways the story is less of a mystery and more of a picture of the people and places in Michigan. The author is "passionate about rescued animals and nature", so those topics find their way into the story as well as kidnapping, violence, sexual innuendoes, and cruelty. Michiganders will recognize places, products, and traditions the author weaves throughout the book. Some readers will enjoy the fact that the narrative veers off into subjects unrelated to the mystery. Some may not.

BOTTOM LINE: RECOMMENDED but start with "Northern Nights".

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of "White Nights" by Deb Davies from NetGalley/BHC Press for my honest review.

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Saturday, May 14, 2022

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY (2022) - Review


Lessons in ChemistryLessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
On sale: April 5, 2022

Every once in a great while, a book takes you by surprise. At first I found "Lessons in Chemistry" charming. Then I realized it wasn't the rom-com the cover seemed to suggest. Eventually I noted it wasn't just about chemistry. And finally I didn't want the story to end.

FIRST SENTENCE: "Back in 1961, when women wore shirtwaist dresses and joined garden clubs and drove legions of children around in seatbeltless cars without giving it a second thought; back before anyone knew there'd be a sixties movement, much less one that its participants would spend the next sixty years chronicling; back when the big wars were over and the secret wars had just begun and people were starting to think fresh and believe everything was possible, the thirty-year old mother of Madeline Zott rose before dawn every morning and felt certain of just one thing: her life was over." (The longest first sentence I have ever recorded.)

THE STORY: It's the 1960s again bringing back all the "outrageous sexism" women had to deal with as they began fighting for their equal rights. Our scientist heroine, Elizabeth Zott, meets Calvin Evans, a renowned scientist and avid rower. How this partnership changes them is the beginning of a story that touches and changes others.

Later when Elizabeth cannot find a position as a scientist, she improbably becomes the host of a television show called 'Supper at Six" where she uses chemistry to explain food preparation.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Having lived through the 1960s and experiencing much of what Bonnie Garmus describes, I realized how far we have come and how much farther we have to go. "Lessons in Chemistry" evokes a variety of responses and emotions ranging from constant laughing out loud to anger to tears and everything in between.

And Elizabeth is an amazingly kind, strong, stubborn, intelligent woman sometimes as irritating to the reader as she is to the people around her. All the characters (except for the villains) are people we want to have as friends too including Six-Thirty, "a really great dog".

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Reading this book is an experience you do not want to miss! April 25, 2022 issue of People Magazine had this as its Book of the Week

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus from NetGalley/Doubleday Books for my honest review.


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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

BUZZ BOOKS FALL/WINTER 2022 - Review


Buzz Books is always an exciting preview of the best of the new books for the season and it's FREE!

First introduced for the 2012 Book Expo America, the FREE digital Publishers Lunch Buzz Books has become the place for both industry professionals and book lovers in general to discover and read about the books expected to spark high demand BEFORE they are published!

The Fall/Winter 2022 has too many exciting new books from favorite authors to list here but includes Jeffrey Archer, Kate Atkinson, Russell Banks, David Baldacci, John Banville, John Irving, Cormac McCarthy, Nelson DeMille, Celest Ng, Jane smiley, Elizabeth Stout, and the list goes on. There are also excerpts from next season's best new titles.

I chose one title from each of the four broad categories for my reading list. Fiction: T. Greenwood's SUCH A PRETTY GIRL; Debut: CITY UNDER ONE ROOF (Iris Yamashita); Non-Fiction: MADLY, DEEPLY THE ALAN RICKMAN DIARIES Young Adult; DRIZZLE DREAMS, AND LOVESTRUCK THINGS (Maya Prasad).

Available for Kindle at Buzz Books on Amazon. Did I mention it's FREE!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR AVID BOOK READERS EVERYWHERE!


THE HIDDEN ONE: A KATE BURKHOLDER NOVEL (2022) - Review


The Hidden One (Kate Burkholder, #14)


The Hidden One by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On sale: July 5, 2022

Linda Castillo has her formula down pat. The storytelling is engaging, the writing is clear, and the author's inclusion of Amish language and customs is delightful. This time the story line moves to the Kishacoquillas Valley of Central Pennsylvania, which will send the curious reader researching the location.

FIRST LINE: "He'd always known this moment would come."

THE STORY: After a stunning prologue describing the murder of an Amish Bishop 18 years earlier, the story returns to the present life of Kate Burkholder. Kate left her Amish family when she was young becoming a police officer before returning to the resort town of Painters Mill, Ohio as Police Chief.

Amish elders from Pennsylvania visit Kate to ask her help in defending Jonas Bowman, jailed for the murder when the gun used shows up and he admits it is his. Although Kate has no official standing, she reluctantly agrees. She and Jonas spent a youthful and memorable summer together before being separated. She can't believe he is guilty.

WHAT I THOUGHT: The first Kate Burkholder story I discovered was Her Last Breath #5. I quickly devoured Sworn to Silence #1 and Pray for Silence #2. Then I stopped. I found the crimes against the Amish, especially the young women, too overwhelming. But because the series is so popular, I decided to try again. Although violence and death occur in The Outsider #12 there was more than enough life and happiness to balance the story. Fallen #13, on the other hand reverts to the ugly violence and lives destroyed. Although violence and death occur in The Hidden One #14, it is mostly in the past, a cold case.

All the characters are well-established so that you care what happens to them with, of course, the exception of the villains. Castillo does a nice job of catching the reader up if this is their first time reading the series. And it looks like Kate and John Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, will finally get married.

Written in the first person, the narrative sometimes shifts to third person when filling in the past, but it is done seamlessly. There were red herrings along the way that added to the tension.

Kate gets hurt more than once in this story and always loses to the attacker. It would be nice to see her win a fight.

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY RECOMMENDEDThis entry filled in some very personal details about Kate and how she left her Amish family. It's a quick read and an entertaining story.

Disclaimer: A copy of The Hidden One was provided to me by Minotaur Books/Net Galley for an honest review.


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