Category Archives: Fiction

The Assistants

Finished The Assistants by Camille Perri.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A wry and astute debut about a young Manhattanite whose embezzlement scam turns her into an unlikely advocate for the leagues of overeducated and underpaid assistants across the city.

Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all.

When a technical error with Robert’s travel-and-expenses report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her student loan debt with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she struggles with the decision: She’s always played by the rules. But it’s such a relatively small amount of money for the Titan Corporation—and for her it would be a life-changer . . .

The Assistants speaks directly to a new generation of women who feel stuck and unable to get ahead playing by the rules. It will appeal to all of those who have ever asked themselves, “How is it that after all these years, we are still assistants?”

This book is just delightful.  I wasn’t on vacation when I read it, but it made me feel like I was.  It’s light—effervescent might be a better word—and just incredibly fun.  It’s also a bit of a heist story (although not really, and not much time is spent on that aspect of it) but at the same time, incredibly tense just because the reader knows that it’s only a matter of time before the women involved get caught.

It’s also interesting to think that it would really be so easy to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars and how they got away with it for SO LONG before getting caught.  (How is that even possible?)

I very much enjoyed this fun story.  I’m excited to see what Camille Perri does next.

Wilde Lake

Finished Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The bestselling author of the acclaimed standalones After I’m Gone, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, challenges our notions of memory, loyalty, responsibility, and justice in this evocative and psychologically complex story about a long-ago death that still haunts a family.

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.”

I’ve been a fan of Laura Lippman’s for years now (I think about 13? But a while) and I have loved everything she’s ever written.  If you had pressed me before, my favorite would have been To the Power of Three or maybe What the Dead Know.

Now, my favorite is absolutely this one.  No contest.

It helps that there are some definite parallels to To Kill a Mockingbird but it’s also amazing just on its own merits.  It’s not something you need to have read to love Wilde Lake (though if you haven’t read TKaM, you need to get on that), though.

I don’t want to get into the plot because of potential spoilers, but there is so much going on with this novel.  Obviously you’ll get drawn into the dual mysteries (what happened with AJ when he was a teenager? And who killed the lady now? Is it the man that Lu is prosecuting? If not him, then who?) but there’s also so much going on with family and the ways that we deal with our relatives, the way that we resort to childhood roles and ways of dealing with things, even if we don’t want to and actively try not to.

This is an absolutely perfect book and, like I said, her best yet.  And if you’ve already read Laura Lippman, you know that’s saying a lot.

Highly recommended.

 

Rare Objects

Finished Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.”

I absolutely adored this book.  It’s set in the 1930s (a great time for historical fiction, I think) and it’s insanely well-written.

I had such a sense of unease while reading it.  I didn’t know what would go wrong, but I was sure that something horrible would happen to Mae or to Diana or to both.  I loved the two of them so much that I was so afraid that things would go wrong for them.  And in the 1930s, there are so many ways that things could go wrong for women (especially single women).

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but this is just a fantastic read.  You owe it to yourself to pick it up and get lost in this gorgeous world.

Recommended.

Fool Me Once

Finished Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

#1 New York Times bestseller Harlan Coben delivers his next impossible-to-put-down thriller.
 
In the course of eight consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, millions of readers have discovered Harlan Coben’s page-turning thrillers, filled with his trademark edge-of-your-seat suspense and gut-wrenching emotion. In Fool Me Once, Coben once again outdoes himself.

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.”

As you know if you’ve visited my blog for more than, say, a year, I am a huge fan of Harlan Coben.  His book releases are always among my literary highlights of the year (especially now that they’re so close to my birthday).  His novels’ basic premise always seem so outlandish, but when you read his book, they always seem so completely plausible, and it always freaks me out.  This time especially—what do you do when you see someone you think is dead?  Especially when you actually KNOW they’re dead because you were just at the funeral?

Which leads to more questions—what do you actually know? Who would hate you this much, because no matter what the explanation, it means someone hates you.  And who can you trust?

Basically so many questions.  And Harlan Coben always has the answers, and they are waiting at the end of a crazy-wild ride.

Highly recommended.

Two If By Sea

Finished Two If By Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, an epic story of courage and devotion that spans three continents and the entire map of the human heart.

Just hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, American expat and former police officer Frank Mercy goes out to join his volunteer rescue unit and pulls a little boy from a submerged car, saving the child’s life with only seconds to spare. In that moment, Frank’s own life is transformed. Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child. As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life—and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian’s gift a secret forever. Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank’s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm.

The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost. A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life.”

I have been a huge fan of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s since her debut novel, The Deep End of the Ocean.  This novel is incredibly different from that one (obviously, which you can tell from the synopsis) but one of her major strengths is writing families in crisis, and that is very evident here.

The novel opens with a tsunami and the action doesn’t stop.  There’s a lot going on in this novel, but the pacing is perfect.  It never drags, but at the same time, it doesn’t ever bombard the reader with info dumps.  It’s a very fine line to walk (especially since the book is almost 400 pages long).

And again, there’s a lot: tsunami, preternaturally gifted child, major villains, romance…

But Mitchard handles it all with ease (as well she should; this is her eleventh novel for adults, but she’s also written seven YA novels and four books for children) and if you haven’t read her before, this is an excellent one to start with.

Recommended.

Try Not to Breathe

Finished Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Lianne Moriarty, Paula Hawkins, and Tana French, an arresting debut novel of psychological suspense: a young journalist struggles to keep the demons of her alcoholism at bay as she finds her purpose again in tackling the mystery of a shocking headline-making crime, still unsolved after fifteen years.

Amy Stevenson was the biggest news story of 1995. Only fifteen years old, Amy disappeared walking home from school one day and was found in a coma three days later. Her attacker was never identified and her angelic face was plastered across every paper and nightly news segment.

Fifteen years later, Amy lies in the hospital, surrounded by 90’s Britpop posters, forgotten by the world until reporter Alex Dale stumbles across her while researching a routine story on vegetative patients.

Remembering Amy’s story like it was yesterday, she feels compelled to solve the long-cold case.

The only problem is, Alex is just as lost as Amy—her alcoholism has cost her everything including her marriage and her professional reputation.

In the hopes that finding Amy’s attacker will be her own salvation as well, Alex embarks on a dangerous investigation, suspecting someone close to Amy.

Told in the present by an increasingly fragile Alex and in dream-like flashbacks by Amy as she floats in a fog of memories, dreams, and music from 1995, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer to a breathtaking conclusion.”

Okay, good luck putting this book down after you start it.  It was all I did on my day off, and I don’t regret that decision.

I ended up really liking Alex (in the beginning, she’s a total train wreck, but there’s a lot going on that I wasn’t initially aware of—good lesson not to judge there, Holly Seddon) and I was so curious about what happened to Amy (or, more accurately, who happened to Amy) and I didn’t see the end coming.

This works as both an excellent mystery and a redemption story.  There is so much here for readers to love.

Highly recommended.

Squid’s Grief

Squid's-Grief-Cover

Finished Squid’s Grief by DK Mok.  I received a copy from the author for review.

Paperback

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Squids-Grief-DK-Mok/dp/0994431503

The paperback will also be available at Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository in the coming weeks.

Ebook

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01AYMHPQA

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/squids-grief-dk-mok/1123308255?ean=2940152775105

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/squid-s-grief

Goodreads

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27831609-squid-s-grief

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the seething metropolis of Baltus City, car-hacker Squid is desperate for a fresh start. She dreams of a normal life and a respectable job, where retirement comes with a pension plan, not an exit wound. Determined to break free from the criminal syndicate that commands her, she agrees to one last heist. But when she rescues a cheerful amnesiac from the trunk of a stolen car, her decision to help him sends her own plans into a tailspin.

Squid and the amnesiac–soon nicknamed Grief–rapidly find themselves caught between warring criminal factions, shadowy vigilantes, and Squid’s own hopes for a better future.

As she investigates deeper into the mystery of Grief’s true identity, Squid begins to uncover a past darker than her own, setting her on a collision course with the enigmatic crime lords who rule Baltus City.”

Excerpt:

Squid prayed for red.

A million crucial decisions and damning mistakes had brought her to this point, where her continued existence depended on the mercy of chaos theory. She could still dig herself out, somehow. All she needed was a miracle.

The ball whirred across the wooden dividers, jumping from slot to slot on the roulette wheel. Squid gripped the side of the table, broadcasting mental spam to every god, spirit or demon willing to cut her a deal.

Just make it red.

The wheel turned, the wheel slowed, and the ball settled on thirty-one. Black.

Squid stared as the croupier raked the tarnished silver watch across the felt. It seemed to tumble in slow motion into his battered wooden box, like a star sliding over the event horizon.

It had been a birthday present.

“You can always make more cash, Squid,” said the tousled croupier.

Squid gripped the table harder, concentrating on making time go backwards.

“Not anymore.”

“Trying to go straight again?” said the croupier.

Squid knew better than to reply. She knew better than to gamble, too, or borrow money from people called Kneecaps, but the past few weeks, months, years seemed like a chain reaction of decisions made between a rock and a hard place. It was a hell of a mess, but she could still fix it without resorting to what had started it all in the first place.

REVIEW:

Oh, you guys, this book.  This amazing, perfect book.  This book that I am going to make everyone I have ever met read.

Okay, yes, I love heist books and this is an amazing one.  It’s sort of Gone in 60 Seconds but set in a world not unlike The Godfather (crime syndicates run EVERYTHING) and there’s also the sweetest love story, but it’s also not at all sappy or eye-rolling.

I can’t even talk about it like a rational human being.  Just picture me brandishing it like the street preacher in Little Nicky.  And then get this book, which is something like $6 on Kindle.

You’ll thank me later.

Highly recommended.

ABOUT DK:

DK Mok is a fantasy and science fiction author whose novels include Squid’s Grief, Hunt for Valamon and The Other Tree. DK has been shortlisted for three Aurealis Awards, a Ditmar, and a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award. DK graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interests in both social justice and scientist humour. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale. Connect on Twitter @dk_mok or find more information at www.dkmok.com.

The Forgetting Time

Finished The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Noah wants to go home. A seemingly easy request from most four year olds. But as Noah’s single-mother, Janie, knows, nothing with Noah is ever easy. One day the pre-school office calls and says Janie needs to come in to talk about Noah, and no, not later, now – and life as she knows it stops.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has stopped. A deadly diagnosis has made him realize he is approaching the end of his life. His first thought – I’m not finished yet. Once a shining young star in academia, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw it all away because of an obsession. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he didn’t care – something had to be going on beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for that something else. And with Noah, he thinks he’s found it.

Soon Noah, Janie and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for seven years – and when that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Sharon Guskin has written a captivating, thought-provoking novel that explores what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between. In equal parts a mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, The Forgetting Time marks the debut of a major new talent.”

I was interested in this book because of the premise (because how amazing does that sound?) and it delivered.

I still don’t know if I beleive in reincarnation, but there are actual case studies listed in the book, and it’s hard to dispute that.

Either way, this is the kind of book that will make you think.  (And break your heart—can you imagine your child asking to go home to see their mom? That hurts me and I don’t even have kids.)

Recommended.

The Passenger

Finished The Passenger by Lisa Lutz.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.”

Oh, you guys, this book.  It’s everything I love about mysteries and thrillers.  It kept me guessing the entire time and it kept taking me by surprise.

I read Lisa Lutz’s first Spellman book and didn’t particularly love it, so I was skeptical about this one.  But then everyone I trust was like, no really, YOU NEED TO READ THIS and I am so glad I listened.

I can’t discuss plot, obviously, so just read this.

Highly recommended.

Missing Dixie

Finished Missing Dixie by Caisey Quinn.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fighting for redemption…

I’ve lived most of my life in darkness, beneath the shadows of secrets and addictions. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt the only girl I’d ever loved-the one who brought me into the light. In my entire life I’d made one promise-a promise I’d intended to keep. I’ve broken that promise and now I have to live with the fallout. Dixie Lark hates me, and I have to tell her that I love her. I also have to tell her a truth that might destroy us forever.

Can she love me even if she can’t forgive me?

Learning to move on…

Gavin Garrison broke his promise to my brother and he broke my heart in the process. I may never love anyone the way I’ve loved him, but at least I won’t spend my life wondering what if. We had our one night and he walked away. I’m finally beginning to move on when my brother’s wedding and a battle of the bands brings us back together.

Our band is getting a second chance, but I don’t know if I can give him one. How do you hand your heart back to the person who set it on fire once already?”

I have absolutely loved this entire series—so much so that I’ve almost deliberately held on to this book because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Gavin, Dixie, Dallas and Robyn.

I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d love this last book and how much it would break (and then fix) my heart.

I feel like it’s almost cliche to point out that something like “They’re not perfect but they’re perfect for each other” but it’s so true for Gavin and Dixie.  They seem to get each other to the point where they can communicate without words.  Their romantic relationship hasn’t lasted for very long but they’ve known each other for years—since they were kids—so it’s one of those things where you can have whole conversations without speaking.

When the book opens, of course, they’re not together.  And it’s a love story so obviously I knew it would change…but just how it does and what happens is a delight that I won’t ruin for you.

Highly recommended.