Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

Last Ferry Home

Finished Last Ferry Home by Kent Harrington. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“San Francisco police detective Michael O’Higgins has been paralyzed with grief since his wife’s tragic death at sea. Unable to care for their teenage daughter and barely keeping his head above water at work, O’Higgins finds his faith in humanity restored when he meets a charming Indian family on his ferry home. But when he is called to investigate a murder, and finds that the victim is the father he met on that ferry, Michael must solve a mystery that threatens to shatter his already broken life.

“No one writes about the heart of darkness like Kent Harrington” -Michael Connelly Since his wife’s death at sea, San Francisco Police Detective Michael O’Higgins has been paralyzed by grief and shame – unable to care for their teenaged daughter, who saw her mother swept away, and unable to deal with the daily requirements of his job. Almost a year after his wife’s death, O’Higgins takes a ferry ride as part of his therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. On the boat, he meets a charming Indian family: successful young husband, two lovely daughters, and a kind, beautiful wife and mother.

O’Higgins has no idea that he will meet this woman again on his first day back after bereavement leave, when he and his partner are called to a Nob Hill mansion to investigate a homicide. The victim is the handsome man O’Higgins met on the ferry, and his wife, Asha Chaundhry, is the obvious suspect.

Asha Chaundhry becomes the center of O’Higgins’ investigation. The victim’s father, a prominent Indian politician and business tycoon, is anxious to keep his son’s death out of the public eye, and to have the investigation resolved as quickly as possible. As O’Higgins digs into the Chaundhrys’ business and political dealings, he becomes convinced of Asha’s innocence, while her father-in-law seeks to isolate her from friends and defenders, even sending her children back to extended family in India. Increasingly desperate, Asha turns to O’Higgins for comfort, in a way that threatens both his recovery and his career.”

This is a hard book to classify. It’s part police procedural, your standard “whodunnit.” It’s part a guide on how to survive what you think you won’t ever be able to move past (Michael still isn’t over his wife’s sudden death, although that’s something you never really move past; he’s just starting to surface when he returns to work and immediately gets assigned this double murder case) and it’s part international intrigue. It’s a lot to pack into a book that’s under 300 pages, and Kent Harrington does a great job of making sure nothing feels rushed or thrown in.

In general, I’m someone who wants long books; shorter stories seem to be over way too soon. This book feels longer than it is (in the good way, in the Cormac McCarthy way).

I was fascinated by the international intrigue and the glimpse into Indian life and the Hindu religion. It’s not a culture I’m very familiar with, and I wish the book had gone a bit more deeply into that (although I understand that it wouldn’t really have fit in, so I understand why it was left out).

I definitely need to read some of Kent Harrington’s backlist; this book is good and I definitely want to read more.


In Sight of Stars

Finished In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner. I received a copy for review. This was originally published September 20.  

Klee (pronounced like clay) has been committed. We don’t know why, and this book goes back and forth in time, explaining how he got there and, more importantly, how he’ll find his way back.

I want to make my book club read this, because I have so many thoughts. I think teens will love this—this book really showcases the way that everything feels so viscerally important but never makes it feel silly or trivial, but I think it will also resonate with adults, because we actually really get the idea of having to decide whether to pursue your passion or to settle for a career you don’t love so you can manage to buy food and pay rent and all the other delights of adulthood. 

I’m not sure I can even express just how deeply this book has resonated with me. Every character, every theme, every nuance is absolutely perfect. Most of all, it’s about how art can save us temporarily while we become strong enough to save ourselves. And about how asking for help is not at all weak. The world is better with this book in it. 

Highly recommended. 

The Leading Edge of Now

Finished The Leading Edge of Now by Marci Lyn Curtis. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Just when Grace is beginning to get used to being an orphan, her estranged uncle suddenly comes forward to claim her. That might have been okay if he’d spoken to her even once since her father died. Or if moving in with Uncle Rusty didn’t mean returning to New Harbor.

Grace once spent the best summers of her life in New Harbor. Now the place just reminds her of all she’s lost: her best friend, her boyfriend and any memory of the night that changed her forever.

People say the truth will set you free, but Grace isn’t sure about that. Once she starts looking for it, the truth about that night is hard to find — and what happens when her healing hurts the people she cares about the most?

Marci Lyn Curtis, the critically acclaimed author of The One Thing, has crafted an honest and emotional story that will resonate with the wide range of readers impacted by sexual assault.

Sexual assault does not define this story, however, just as it does not define Grace. Wry humor and true love emerge as Grace, like many in the #MeToo era, seeks to find her truth, face her truth, and speak her truth.”

Holy crap, this book! I completely loved her first book and so I have been waiting impatiently for this one for years. It was a long and hard wait but it was so, so worth it. It’s smart and funny and heartbreaking. It’s pretty much a perfect book.

As the synopsis says, Grace has been sexually assaulted. She’s not dealing with it particularly well (she feels deeply ashamed and she blames herself) but you know what’s wonderful? Everyone she tells reacts the right way. They are so sad for what happened to her but they are so, SO full of complete rage for her rapist. They stick all the blame for what happened on his shoulders. And it’s so great to read the fact that there is no equivocation, no “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have…” And they kept telling it to Grace until she finally started believing it. I am so happy Grace had the greatest support system.

This is also a grieving book (her dad died two years before the story started) and it’s a great example of that. It’s old grief, which isn’t always dealt with in books. And it’s so right–once you get past the first year, you’re used to carrying the weight of grief. You don’t always notice it, the way it actually stoops your shoulders. Until something happens and it smacks you in the face.

This is such an amazing book and you need it. You can preorder it today, but I’ll be posting a giveaway on Wednesday.

Highly recommended.


Finished 806 by Cynthia Weil. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Sibling 1 throws blenders and plays guitar. Sibling 2 is allergic to everything and is into magic. Sibling 3 is a varsity swimmer with a group of female fans. Enough said. The only thing they have in common is their biological father, and the only thing they can agree on is that they all want to meet him. With the help of a broken-down, “borrowed” Jeep, KT, Jesse, and Gabe make their way across the country evading police, trying their luck on the slots, and meeting a life-changing pig, all to track down Donor 806, their father. Any hope of success requires smarts, luck, and ingenuity. Good thing they have each other…even if they don’t see it that way.”

One thing you should know going in: KT is awful. Like, I have never wanted to punch a teenager so much in my life awful. Like, I almost stopped reading awful. But I loved the premise and I liked Gabe and Jesse (siblings 2 and 3) and I thought, “Well, she’ll probably evolve, right?” (Spoiler: she did.)

I say all that to say that if you read this and you ALSO hate KT to the point where you want to stop reading, DO NOT STOP READING. She gets so much better.

This book is also a complete comedy of errors. Everything that could go wrong does, and every time they think they’ve found their dad, it turns out that they didn’t and so the hunt continues.

There is a bit more magic than I generally go for (by which I mean people being in the exact right place at the exact right time) but to be fair, I think we also have at least one story of things working out the exact right way because of a coincidence, right? So I can deal with it.

I ended up really liking this book and really rooting for the siblings (even KT). I think maybe you would, too.

If I Die Tonight

Finished If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Late one night in the quiet Hudson Valley town of Havenkill, a distraught woman stumbles into the police station—and lives are changed forever.

Aimee En, once a darling of the ’80s pop music scene, claims that a teenage boy stole her car, then ran over another young man who’d rushed to help.

As Liam Miller’s life hangs in the balance, the events of that fateful night begin to come into focus. But is everything as it seems?

The case quickly consumes social media, transforming Liam, a local high school football star, into a folk hero, and the suspect, a high school outcast named Wade Reed, into a depraved would-be killer. But is Wade really guilty? And if he isn’t, why won’t he talk?

Told from a kaleidoscope of viewpoints—Wade’s mother Jackie, his younger brother Connor, Aimee En and Pearl Maze, a young police officer with a tragic past, If I Die Tonight is a story of family ties and dark secrets—and the lengths we’ll go to protect ourselves.”

This is such a fascinating story. We’re kept in the dark about pretty much everything and the only thing that’s clear is that every single character has secrets. (Pretty much huge secrets, too.) Everyone has something that they desperately need to keep hidden, and so this makes everyone seem like they’re lying, even when they’re being completely truthful about one particular thing.

While obviously the story centers around what happened to Liam and who’s responsible, there are a bunch of little mysteries (WHAT IS EVERYONE HIDING AND ALSO WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS TOWN). This is such masterful writing, though; every subplot was fascinating and every character felt fully realized. (There are four narrators and each felt different and equally interesting.)

If you are in the mood for a book that won’t let you go, this is for you. Recommended.



Finished Indecent by Corinne Sullivan. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Shy, introverted Imogene Abney has always been fascinated by the elite world of prep schools, having secretly longed to attend one since she was a girl in Buffalo, New York. So, shortly after her college graduation, when she’s offered a teaching position at the Vandenberg School for Boys, an all-boys prep school in Westchester, New York, she immediately accepts, despite having little teaching experience—and very little experience with boys.

When Imogene meets handsome, popular Adam Kipling a few weeks into her tenure there, a student who exudes charm and status and ease, she’s immediately drawn to him. Who is this boy who flirts with her without fear of being caught? Who is this boy who seems immune to consequences and worry; a boy for whom the world will always provide?

As an obsessive, illicit affair begins between them, Imogene is so lost in the haze of first love that she’s unable to recognize the danger she’s in. The danger of losing her job. The danger of losing herself in the wrong person. The danger of being caught doing something possibly illegal and so indecent.

Exploring issues of class, sex, and gender, this smart, sexy debut by Corinne Sullivan shatters the black-and- white nature of victimhood, taking a close look at blame and moral ambiguity.”

When we read about female teachers who sleep with students, they all seem to be young and incredibly pretty and super confident—sort of like the “cool girl” rant from Gone Girl. Imogene is not that girl. She’s painfully shy and compulsively picks at her face. She’s not awful in any way, but she’s the complete definition of average.

When the relationship starts, Imogene basically initially is carried away by its momentum. Adam Kipling (“Kip”) pursues her, and she basically is very “This is not my fault; I tried to resist.” Except she really didn’t. Picture the world’s flattest delivery of “You should go; you can’t be here.”

Once things turn physical, it starts to switch. Kip isn’t super into her anymore (or, slightly more accurately, it’s the push-pull relationship that we’ve all had at least once) and she starts to get a little obsessive. Like repeatedly texting and occasionally showing up and just in general doing everything that girls know they’re not supposed to do but do anyway, especially when they’re young (as Imogene is).

There is a steadily increasing sense of dread as the novel continues. Initially, there are multiple ways it can end well and all of those options start slowly falling apart. I wouldn’t say I necessarily liked Imogene, but I felt horrible for her.

This book is incredibly thought-provoking and I think it’s a great choice for book clubs. Recommended.

The Beauty That Remains

Finished The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.”

This is a really hard book to read because it portrays grief in such a painful, immediate way. Three teenagers are dead, and the people closest to them are struggling to keep going. They are furious and devastated and they don’t have time for the usual pleasantries or to try and make other people feel better.

This is incredibly well-written and poignant (but never maudlin, which is probably incredibly easy to slip in to, given that it’s about grief). It’s maybe not a book that you’ll love reading (it’s so sad!) but it’s definitely the kind of book that will stay with you.


In Search of Us

Finished In Search of Us by Ava Dellaira. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The author of the beloved Love Letters to the Dead returns with a parallel story of a mother and daughter each at age seventeen. Marilyn’s tale recounts the summer she fell in love and set out on her own path. Angie’s story is about her search for her unknown father.

This sweeping multi-generational love story introduces readers to mother-and-daughter pair Marilyn and Angie. To seventeen-year-old Angie, who is mixed-race, Marilyn is her hardworking, devoted white single mother. But Marilyn was once young, too. When Marilyn was seventeen, she fell in love with Angie’s father, James, who was African-American. But Angie’s never met him, and Marilyn has always told her he died before she was born. When Angie discovers evidence of an uncle she’s never met she starts to wonder: What if her dad is still alive, too? So she sets off on a journey to find him, hitching a ride to LA from her home in New Mexico with her ex-boyfriend, Sam. Along the way, she uncovers some hard truths about herself, her mother, and what truly happened to her father.”

I loved Ava Dellaira’s debut novel, Love Letters to the Dead. I’ve been eagerly awaiting her next book, and the concept of this one made it an immediate must-read for me.

As amazing as it sounds, the actual book was even better than I had hoped. It’s smart and sweet and I loved both timelines. I think a lot of times, one tends to be more interesting or I like one of the characters more, but I loved Angie and her quest to find her uncle (and, hopefully, her dad) and also Marilyn and her relationship with James.

This is such a unique book, and also one of the best books I’ve read in ages. Ava Dellaira is definitely one of the best authors writing today and I can’t imagine how much better her future books will be.

Also if, like me, you’re around Marilyn’s age, her teenage chapters will seem very, very familiar. (The best kinds of nostalgic feelings!)

Highly recommended.

This Heart of Mine

Finished This Heart of Mine by CC Hunter. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A new heart saved her life—but will it help her find out what really happened to its donor?

Seventeen-year-old Leah MacKenzie is heartless. An artificial heart in a backpack is keeping her alive. However, this route only offers her a few years. And with her rare blood type, a transplant isn’t likely. Living like you are dying isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when a heart becomes available, she’s given a second chance at life. Except Leah discovers who the donor was — a boy from her school — and they’re saying he killed himself. Plagued with dreams since the transplant, she realizes she may hold the clues to what really happened.

Matt refuses to believe his twin killed himself. When Leah seeks him out, he learns they are both having similar dreams and he’s certain it means something. While unraveling the secrets of his brother’s final moments, Leah and Matt find each other, and a love they are terrified to lose. But life and even new hearts don’t come with guarantees. Who knew living took more courage than dying?”

This is such a fascinating book! There’s a little bit of a supernatural aspect (Leah has dreams of what happened to her donor, from his perspective, and her personality and tastebuds change) but it’s not at all a major part of this story.

There’s also a little bit of a mystery and, while I don’t think it’s necessarily hard to figure out who was responsible for Eric’s death, it’s still an engrossing storyline.

I think every YA reader can relate to Leah. Most of us, hopefully, haven’t spent time actively contemplating how short our lives will be, but I think we’re all overfond of books and the escape they can bring. (Team Blatant Book Geek!) Watching her slowly realize that she can actually start planning ahead for things was the most rewarding aspect of this book for me. I can’t imagine how scary it was, but it also makes a ton of sense. Of course after the initial relief wore off, you’d probably be waiting for the other shoe to drop. And of course there’d be guilt for living only because someone else died.

I’m an organ donor, and I love that this book is raising awareness of how valuable that is. It’s an important thing and while I know no one is particularly excited to think about their own mortality, it’s still a chance to save lives.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Finished I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.”

I’ve always said that the best journalism (whether print or on the air) is the one where the reporter is almost invisible, where the story at hand gets the entire focus. I still believe that’s true, but I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a notable exception. Michelle McNamara is all over this book, and the sections where we see her life and personality are my absolute favorites.

And on a related note, I think most readers would admit that when they read truly excellent books, they feel like they almost become friends with the characters. That happened to me in this case, only I felt like I had known Michelle for years and that we were great friends. I’m very sad that I’ll never get to meet her (she died in 2016).

She became obsessed with the man she dubbed the Golden State Killer (possibly more commonly known as the Original Night Stalker). He’s never been caught and no one even has any idea who he is. It’s not one of those cases where people are pretty sure it’s one of two or three people, only the evidence isn’t quite there to convict. There’s DNA evidence and it has exonerated most of the people where it’s like, “OMG I bet it’s [suspect name here].”

It reached the point where she remarked that she feels like there’s “a scream permanently lodged in my throat.” That’s accurate. Over the few days i spent reading this book, I felt incredibly freaked out. Noises outside made me jump. Normal noises inside made me jump. My skin actually crawled at one point (it’s a really unpleasant sensation; I do not recommend it).

Part of it is the writing style. It describes everything but holds back the worst parts…until it doesn’t. Every so often, there will be a sentence or paragraph that seems to punch you directly in the face, usually literally a breathtaking sentence. And then the narrative goes on.

This is an intense book, obviously, but it’s also a great one. Highly recommended.