Category Archives: Fiction

Torch

Finished Torch by Cheryl Strayed. 

Teresa is a wife (in a commonlaw marriage) and mother to two kids (Claire is in college; Joshua is a senior in high school). After she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, her family starts to disintegrate. Once she’s dead, it happens even faster. 

This is apparently really loosely based on Cheryl Strayed’s life although only the grief is accurate. In a preface, she mentions that, for example, Joshua’s life doesn’t mimic her actual brother’s. (No spoiler here.) 

I think anyone who’s lost a parent will overidentify here, though. Even if you don’t react the way that Claire or Joshua do, the sense of the world being just WRONG will resonate. 

Recommended. 

The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Finished The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly. 

I love getting to spend time with Harry Bosch and I’m so happy that his retirement isn’t the end. 

Harry’s volunteering with a small police department, mostly working cold cases. It keeps him somewhat busy, and now he’s also trying to find any heirs that a billionaire may have. (He got a girl pregnant ages ago but doesn’t know if she had the baby.) Between that and a serial rapist, his hands are full. 

You probably already know that you want to read this but if you don’t already know my friend Harry, this is a good one to start with. 

Highly recommended. 

Claiming the Maverick’s Heart

Finished Claiming the Maverick’s Heart by Debra Holt. 

Macy has fought really hard to put her life back together since Trace left her with only a note ON THE DAY OF THEIR WEDDING. It helped that he also left town and the fact that it’s been years is also nice. Except now he’s back. 

Oh, guys, this book. It’s so sweet and fun! And I love Macy. (It took me some time but I like Trace, too.)

This book is an absolute delight. I’m a fan of Debra Holt’s anyway but this may be her best one yet. 

Highly recommended–especially if you like cowboys. 

Cruel Beautiful World

Finished Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt. I received a copy for review. 

It’s the late 1960s. The Vietnam War and the Manson murders are all over the news. Lucy and her older sister Charlotte live with Iris, an older relative who took them in after their parents died. And Lucy, who’s 16, is running off with her English teacher today. 

That’s all you should know going into this novel. 

Well, and this: it’s incredibly unexpected. Yes, some things you will see coming, but you still won’t see the way they occur, or the things that happen as a result. 

Cruel Beautiful World is absolutely stunning and yes, both cruel and beautiful. 

Don’t miss it. Recommended. 

Small Great Things

Finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I received a copy for review. This review was originally published in August. 
According to the author note in the back of the book, Jodi Picoult has been working on this book for 20 years. I’m sure that was frustrating but the end result was that this was released at the perfect time. This book is essential reading for this point in history. Small Great Things is the story of three people. Ruth is a nurse, and a great one. She works with newborn babies and loves her job. One day, though, a baby is born to white supremacist parents and they make it clear they don’t want a black nurse to care for or even touch their son. That’s gross but sure–until the baby has a medical emergency and Ruth is the only one there. She hesitates before helping and then gets charged with a crime for it. Her lawyer is a white woman named Kennedy. She is determined that race not be used in the defense. 
So obviously this is a novel about racism. We all recognize racism from someone like Turk (the white supremacist). But what we don’t always see is racism that’s more insidious. The racism that I’ve seen in Baltimore, where people express regret that Freddie Gray died in police custody and then, in literally the next breath, say, “But of course he was no saint…” 
The racism that leads people to eye groups of young black men suspiciously. The racism that leads to black children being labeled aggresssive even if they are doing the exact same thing that white children are doing. 
The racism we don’t recognize because it’s the racism we are all at least a little guilty of. 
Highly recommended. 

Cooking for Ghosts

Finished Cooking for Ghosts by Patricia V. Davis. I received a copy for review. 

World’s shortest, non-spoilery synopsis: four women open a restaurant on the Queen Mary. Each is dealing with secrets/major problems from their past. 

This is a compulsively readable novel with characters you’ll immediately fall in love with and root for. (I have so much more to say but again, spoilers.)

It’s very short but the good news is that it’s the first book in a series. I cannot wait to see what comes next. 

Recommended. 

A Man Called Ove (mini-review)

Finished A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. 

I read this for book club. I had heard that this book, and his others, are amazing but I hadn’t read them until now. I’m so glad I did. 

Ove lives alone since his wife died and all he wants now is to be with her again. Except he now has annoying new neighbors. And a cat. And people who seriously will not leave him alone, ever. 

This is just a lovely book. I don’t have enough words to do it justice. Read it now. 

Highly recommended. 

The Wonder

Finished The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. I received a copy for review. 

Lib is a nurse (trained by Florence Nightingale!) in England when she’s called to Ireland to investigate Anna. She’s 11 and hasn’t eaten in months. Rumor has it that it’s a miracle. 

There’s a lot more going on than that and this book deals with huge themes (not the least of which is faith) and I will give you my non-existent fortune if you see the things in this book coming. 

I’ve loved Emma Donoghue’s books for years (before Room!) and her books are all different but all excellent. 

Don’t miss this one. Highly recommended. 

A Night In With Audrey Hepburn

Finished A Night in with Audrey Hepburn by Lucy Holliday. I received a copy for review. 

Things aren’t going well for Libby Lomax. She’s about to make her major acting debut (relatively speaking–she’s in a hideous costume but she’s got a speaking line!) when she humiliates herself in front of the super cute lead actor by setting her hair on fire…which, of course, leads to the end of that particular role. Except when she gets to her new apartment, she learns she has a roommate: Audrey Hepburn. Ghost? Hallucination? Brain tumor?

I flew through this delightful book. I love Libby and I spent a lot of the book cringing for her as things kept going wrong. (Think Bridget Jones-level mishaps.)

And who doesn’t want Audrey Hepburn as a surprise visitor? (Subsequent books have Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly stopping by. I want to read them but given my choice, I’d probably opt for Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall.) 

Recommended. 

Only Daughter

Finished Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra. I received a copy for review. 

It’s been 11 years since Bec Winter vanished. She had been acting strangely before–claiming that there was a ghost or something in her house, saying that blood would appear in her room despite there being no obvious injuries. Now someone claiming to be Bec has come home. (She was arrested for shoplifting and she looked like Bec, so she knew it would work to get her off the hook.) Except Bec’s family is kind of weird. Now fake-Bec (we never know her name) wants to solve the mystery of what happened. 

This novel is just really, really unsettling. I spent most of the time viewing everyone as a suspect–poor Bec; there are a lot of potential killers in her life. And then we learn what happened and it is just both completely unexpected and completely obvious. Anna Snoekstra tells us everything; we just ignore what doesn’t fit our own preferred narrative of what happened to Bec. 

Highly recommended.