Category Archives: Fiction

The Good Daughter

Finished The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. I received a copy for review. This is a mini-review because of spoilers. 

When they were young, Sam and Charlie were injured in an incident that left their mom dead. (The incident was due to their public defender dad, who wasn’t home at the time.) Sam was shot and buried alive; Charlie was injured but mostly psychologically scarred. Now adults (and both lawyers), they end up ensnared in a school shooting case. 

This book is INSANE. I was so proud of myself for solving the central mystery that I forgot to pay attention to other details and ended up punched in the face by a different revelation. That is some excellent story-telling. 

This isn’t my first Karin Slaughter novel but it’s close to it. Like the last time, I really need to read more of her books. (This time I really mean it.)

Recommended. 

Emma in the Night

Finished Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.”

Oh, you guys, this book.  It’s obviously full of twists and turns, and (as with all thriller novels) a question of whether the narrator is reliable.  (Or in this case, if either narrator is reliable.)

This novel is so clever and it’s hard not to be immediately sucked in.  I also immediately shared Cass’s frantic insistence that her sister needed to be found and saved…except, unfortunately, she can’t say exactly where her sister is.  (They were kept on an island away from other people, and she could describe the island and give a vague location but wasn’t able to say “We were on this exact island and here’s how you find it.”)

One interesting thing is that this was suspenseful despite feeling that no one in the novel was in immediate danger (except for Emma, obviously, but every character the reader interacted with was safe).

If you’re in the mood for suspense, pick this up now.  You won’t regret it.

Recommended.

Between Me and You

Finished Between Me and You by Allison Winn Scotch. I received a copy for review. This will be released on January 9. 

Depending on where you are in the book, Ben and Tatum are unhappy and divorcing or the best couple ever. That’s because Tatum’s narrative starts at the beginning and moves forward and Ben’s starts at the end and moves back. We get the full picture, but not right away. 

This masterpiece of a novel has elements of A Star is Born (pick your favorite version) and also reminds me of Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs, but is completely its own thing–it doesn’t read like a pale imitation of either. 

If you love love stories or Hollywood (Yes, they are a Hollywood power couple, though they take turns eclipsing each other) or smart stories told perfectly, this is for you. You need this book. 

I’ve been a fan of Allison Winn Scotch’s for years and this is her best book by far. (This is also an incredibly high bar. All of her books are excellent.)

Highly recommended. 

Parable of the Sower

Finished Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. 

Lauren lives with her dad, stepmom and little brothers in a scary world. The economy has collapsed; between that and global warming, it’s a hard existence. People are routinely robbed, assaulted (beaten, raped or both) and killed. Lauren wants to leave their community but there’s no guarantee that anyplace is better (and every likelihood that it will be worse). Soon, though, she’s got no choice. 

There’s a lot more going on than that, of course. Lauren has some unorthodox religious beliefs (a new religion, really; she calls it Earthseed) and an unusual illness (she can literally feel other people’s pain like it’s her own). 

This book is amazing. It feels so real (and it doesn’t help that it’s set in the near future—it begins in 2024—and while things are much different and worse, it also seems not too unlikely that we could get there from here. 

There is a sequel and I definitely want to read it. 

Highly recommended. 

Final Girls

Finished Final Girls by Riley Sager. I received a copy for review. 

Quincy is the only survivor of a mass murder that left all her friends dead. The press dub her a “Final Girl,” one of three survivors of somewhat similar mass murders (committed by different people and not connected). When one commits suicide (which, OF COURSE, turns out to be murder), the third finds Quincy. Safety in numbers, right?

As we know from horror movies, everyone is a suspect. And there are a LOT of potential suspects in Quincy’s life (including Sam, who may or may not be the friend she claims to be). But there’s also Quinn’s boyfriend, a reporter, the cop who saved her life and may be a little too close…at this point, she should literally trust no one. 

This book is incredibly fun, especially if you’re into horror movies. It’s also suspenseful, and I loved the “EVERYBODY’S A SUSPECT” feel, which is not unlike Scream. 

This is a great vacation read–toss it in your tote and hit the beach! Recommended. 

Hello Sunshine

Finished Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave. I received a copy for review. 

Sunshine is a Youtube sensation and is about to get her own cooking show…and then she’s hacked. The hacker reveals she’s a fraud. Her carefully curated backstory is a complete lie; she can’t cook at all. Not surprisingly, her life implodes. 

The majority of the story is how she puts it back together–the life she chooses to create. 

I love Laura Dave and this book is why. I love Sunshine. She’s not a great person but she tries to be (sometimes). And she’s selfish but not malicious. She wants things her way but she won’t run roughshod over people for it. 

And best of all, basically everything here is unexpected. There’s redemption but nothing else goes the way the reader would expect. This is a sweet surprise of a novel. 

Highly recommended. 

The Secrets She Keeps

Finished The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

With its brilliant rendering of the secrets some women hold close and a shocking act that cannot be undone, The Secrets She Keeps delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.”

Okay guys, this book is INSANE in the best way and I love it.  I had all these theories for how the book would go and they were all wrong.  If you’re in the mood for a twisty plot, this is the book for you.

I found both narrators fascinating but I definitely preferred Meghan to Agatha.  Agatha seems almost like a person who never got past middle school with her hero worship of the most popular girl.  And I very much liked Meghan much more than I liked Agatha.  My reactions to both women definitely affected my reading of the novel and the way that I perceived certain things, and probably made it more likely that I would be completely gobsmacked a bunch of times.

So basically just get this book before it gets spoiled for you.  You won’t regret it.  Highly recommended.

The Punch Escrow

Finished The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport—a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure… Arrival… Delight!

Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday twenty-fifth century guy. He spends his days training artificial intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980’s new wave—an extremely obscure genre, and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems—until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.

Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.”

This was compared to Ready Player One, and do not believe that; the two are incredibly different.  I really enjoyed this one, too; it’s just that Ready Player One was so much fun and I didn’t have that same experience with this.  It’s incredibly entertaining but in a different way.  (There are a few music references but it wasn’t the constant pop culture delight of RP1.) I just wanted to get that out of the way, because I was so excited for this because I’ve been waiting for something like that.  Instead, this is an incredibly scientific novel.  It’s so smart and it made me feel smarter for reading it.  And there are footnotes to explain the science.  (I eventually got lost and skipped them; it didn’t affect my enjoyment.)

I love Joel and he’s really funny and at the same time, just over his head in this insane scenario where pretty much everyone wants to use him for various reasons and at the same time, nobody would be too upset if he ended up dead.  (And there’s an existential element, too, because now that he’s got a clone, which of them is really Joel? Are either of them real?)

This book is fantastic and you should definitely read it. But it’s not like anything I’ve ever read and it’s probably going to be unique for you, too.  Recommended.

The Late Show

Finished The Late Show by Michael Connelly. I received a copy for review. 

This is the first in a new series about Detective Renee Ballard. She’s working “the late show,” or overnight shifts in the LAPD. Here, she’s investigating two different cases–and reluctant to turn them over to the day shift, which is what typically happens. 

This isn’t a departure from his usual series. Like his Harry Bosch novels, this is a police procedural. And, like Harry, Renee tends to maybe skirt acceptable cop behavior a tad in order to get results. Not like Dirty Harry or anything, but the ends definitely justify the means. 

October will see the release of a new Bosch novel, and I am very happy about that (he is my favorite). But I very much like Renee Ballard, too. I look forward to spending more time with her. 

Recommended. 

The Reason You’re Alive

Finished The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick. I received a copy for review. 

David is a Vietnam veteran. He has health issues (physical and mental) stemming from the war, and he decides to right a wrong he committed against a fellow soldier. 

That’s the vaguest possible description of the plot, I know. But this is more of a character-driven novel anyway. David is a hardcore conservative but at the same time, he’s very good friends with a bunch of minorities (including a gay couple). He contains multitudes. And he’s incredibly funny, though I hated myself for laughing at some of his lines. 

This is a super short novel (under 230 pages) and it’s mostly character-driven, like I said. But if you like clever, funny novels, you have to pick this up. It’s wonderful.