Category Archives: Fiction

Since We Fell

Finished Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. I received a copy for review. 

After an on-air breakdown, Rachel withdraws from life. In fairly short order, she loses her job and her husband. And then she meets (or, rather, re-meets) Brian. And he is smart and charming and incredibly sweet. They fall in love and marry and their life together is perfect…until she starts to suspect that he’s not who he says he is. 

Dennis Lehane’s books are amazing, and so it’s no suprise that this one will keep you guessing. If you can figure out every single place this book is going, you’re smarter than I am. 

It starts as a straight bio of Rachel; it’s very hard not to feel for her. Her childhood is not great and then she falls from grace so hard that it’s beyond heartbreaking. Her demons follow her everywhere and then Brian shows up and believes in her and helps her heal. The realization that he can’t necessarily be trusted is wrenching. And yet it gives her her own strength back, now that she can’t borrow his. 

I don’t want to say more but trust me—you need this. Highly recommended. 

The Red Hunter

Finished The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger. I received a copy for review. 

When she was a teenager, Zoey’s parents were murdered and she was tortured and left for dead. Now she’s an adult and tracking down the people responsible. Meanwhile, Claudia and her teenage daughter are starting over, living in a new house that’s a total fixer-upper. And there are rumors that her house is (a) haunted and (b) the place where a million dollars is hidden. You guessed it—they’re living in Zoey’s old house. 

This book is amazing and I absolutely dare you to stop reading it. There are a few twists but mostly it’s just insanely suspenseful. 

I love how this book basically exists in shades of gray. People are complicated and most of them are good and bad, although a few are all bad. It is a master class in creating real characters and in plotting. (Basically just get this book and read it. You won’t be sorry.)

I am a fairly recent Lisa Unger convert and this makes me wish I could skip all my current TBR and just read her backlist. 

Highly recommended. 

I Found You

Finished I Found You by Lisa Jewell. I received a copy for review. 

This takes place in two time periods (present day and 1993). The 1993 story centers around a family (mom, dad, teenage boy and girl) on vacation. The girl meets a charming boy who turns out to be less than charming, after all. In present day, Alice (single mom, three kids) meets a man with amnesia. Meanwhile, Lily’s a newlywed whose husband has gone missing. 

Yes, that’s a super vague synopsis. And yes, you’ve probably guessed how things fit together. (But do they?)

This is an incredibly fun novel, one that almost hinges more on its characters than on the plot itself. I didn’t love any of them, but I still cared about their outcomes. I wanted (most of) them to be OK and to get a happy ending. 

This is a total vacation novel, one that will hold your attention on an airplane. It’s not this year’s Must Read Thriller, but you’ll have fun. 

Beartown

Finished Beartown by Fredrik Backman. I received a copy for review. 

Beartown is a hockey town. Pretty much everyone who lived there played hockey when they were younger (or has a kid who plays now). Hockey is king and there is definitely a culture that a kid who plays hockey can get away with anything. This is their team’s year–the boys are in the semifinals and it’s believed they can go all the way. And then a crime is committed, one that throws everything into jeopardy. Sides are picked. Horrible things are said and done. 

This is about as different from A Man Called Ove as you can get. If you read this, be aware that it’s basically nothing but hockey for almost half the book. (It’s still interesting; I hate sports and I was still…well, not riveted, but invested enough to keep going.)

The second half is much better than the first. The first half is hockey and characters; the second is action and further character development—the reader learns just how decent these people are, and the happy answer is that most people do the best they can. (Some are still awful but they are the minority.)

Fredrik Backman is an amazing author. You really need to read this. Recommended. 

The Widow of Wall Street

Finished The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers. I received a copy for review. 

Phoebe and Jake have it all: a ton of money, healthy and happy grown kids, adorable grandkids. And then it turns out it’s all a lie—Jake’s investment acumen is really a Ponzi scheme. When it comes to light, he loses everything and Phoebe is caught in the middle. She’s just as disgusted and horrified as her children but she also can’t quite bring herself to completely forsake Jake. 

This story shows us their whole marriage, which makes it easier to understand why Phoebe would stay. (Although Jake also seems like a jerk for much of the time anyway.)

As you can imagine, this seems not unlike the Bernie Madoff story and it gives me so much sympathy for his family. It feels so plausible (which I think is one of Randy Susan Meyers’ strengths: amazing, ripped-from-the-headlines novels that are compelling but also well-written). 

Hopefully you’re already a huge fan but if not, this book will do it. Highly recommended. 

The Unprotected

Finished The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol. I received a copy for review. 

Lara never wanted children…until she did. She conceived easily but lost the baby. That began four years of trying—tracking ovulation up through and including IVF. She and her husband FINALLY have a baby but now Lara may be suffering from post-partum depression. 

This has been compared to Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, and that is certainly apt. Both books lull you in; you know something bad will happen but you don’t know what or when. And you don’t know how bad it will be. 

It’s hard not to feel empathy for Lara, even as I also wanted to shake her and yell that she needs to TELL SOMEONE. We all know about postpartum now; it’s not a shameful secret. 

This book is intense but so good. Recommended. 

Dangerous Ends

Finished Dangerous Ends by Alex Segura. I received a copy from the publisher for review. 

Pete and his friend/partner Kathy have been hired to investigate a murder case. A cop was convicted of brutally murdering his wife–but their daughter is convinced he didn’t do it. That’s about as much as I can tell you without ruining anything. 

This book is INSANE. There is danger everywhere and people keep turning up dead and everything seems so random until it all clicks into place. Alex Segura is an evil genius. 

It’s the third in a series but this functions as a standalone (I do want to get to his backlist though, and SOON).

Be warned: if you’re squeamish, this book is most emphatically not for you. Otherwise? Highly recommended. 

The Perfect Stranger

Finished The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda. I received a copy from the publisher. 

Leah’s roommate is missing and she’s not sure how long she’s been gone, because they are on opposite schedules. And even worse, someone who looks like Leah was attacked and seriously injured. Things couldn’t get worse—until the police start to think maybe the roommate isn’t actually real. 

This is a complicated book and hopefully readers will have the patience to go with it. I spent a goodly chunk of the book unsure about what was going on. So if you need a straightforward narrative, this is not your huckleberry. 

I loved her first mystery and this didn’t quite measure up. (It may be that the gimmick of telling the story in reverse was awesome and there was no gimmick here.) 

I did enjoy this but it wasn’t the must-read that her first one was. 

Fallout

Finished Fallout by Sara Paretsky. I received a copy for review. 

V.I. Warshawski leaves Chicago to head to Kansas to find a missing actress and the documentarian hired to film her “origin story,” growing up in Lawrence. The two have gone missing and the clannish locals don’t want to discuss it. And most of them take a near-immediate dislike of Vic. (It’s not a spoiler to say that there are a lot of moving pieces here, and that everything is connected.)

As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of Sara Paretsky’s and this book didn’t disappoint. The most interesting aspect is the fact that Vic is out of her comfort zone: everything and everyone she relies on is gone. (With one exception: her dog, Peppy. Her other dog, Mitch, is on vacation but Peppy is here.) It’s sad, in a way. Of course she’s more than capable of handling things on her own, but I feel better, in a way, with Lotty and Max and (of course!) Mr. Contreras nearby. 

It doesn’t help that these are also unfamiliar people and places. And, of course, things are far more dangerous than they initially appeared to be. 

Highly recommended. 

The Women in the Castle

Finished The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. I received a copy for review. 

Set during and after World War II, this tells the story of three German widows: Marianne, Benita and Ania. Their husbands were conspirators in a plot to kill Hitler. Marianne knew of the plot and promised to do all she could to take care of the other widows and their children if the plot failed (that was how some of the men were convinced to come aboard). It’s not a spoiler, obviously, that the plot did fail. 

This is such a complicated book. It raises at least one really tricky topic: how do you forgive Nazis? Should you? And would it matter how complicit they were? Like if you knew and were uneasy, does that make you better or worse than people who were more active but did their best to keep from really knowing? (I have my own opinions, and really want to pitch this to my book club because best discussions EVER.)

This is an absolutely stellar book and I’m kind of in love with Marianne. Recommended.