Category Archives: Fiction

By the Numbers

Finished By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster. I received a copy from the publisher for review. 

Penny’s life is currently stressful but is about to improve. Yes, her middle child is about to get married (and Kelsey is a handful and a half) and yes, that means her parents and her ex-husband (with his new, younger girlfriend) are in town. And yes, so are her other two children (Topher is awesome; her other daughter, Jessica, is basically the most acerbic creature ever). But once the wedding is over, the house is going on the market and life will be perfect. 

Except before it can sell, they all descend back on the house. And none of them show signs of leaving. 
I love Jen Lancaster’s novels (I still need to read her memoirs) and this was just delightful. It’s incredibly clever and laugh-out-loud funny. Penny is awesome and I kept wanting to swoop in and rescue her but you can’t save people from their families. 
Recommended. 

Falling

Finished Falling by Jane Green. I received a copy for review. 

Jane Green’s last few books (from, I think, Promises to Keep on) have been her best and this one continues that streak. 

Emma has recently moved to a small Connecticut town, escaping her New York life (she didn’t much care for banking and now she’s cashed out and is taking some time before deciding what to do next). What she didn’t count on: her hot landlord is also her next door neighbor and she’s also bonded with his young son. Of course, there are a ton of complications. 
I loved this book. It’s sweet and fun and just made me smile (for the most part). It’s just really good, guys. Recommended. 

I Am Leon

Finished I Am Leon by Kit De Waal. I received a copy for review. 

This book should come with a warning label because it will break your heart. 

Leon is the greatest big brother. His little brother Jake is a baby but Leon is almost nine. And when their mom won’t get out of bed, he takes care of Jake. 
But when people learn about this, the boys are separated. Jake’s a baby and gets adopted quickly; Leon’s older (and black) and doesn’t. He has a good foster mom but she’s also sick. 
Leon decides he needs to do what he needs to do to get back to Jake. 
It’s so good, guys. And so sad. (And also happy, at least in parts.) I love Leon and I won’t forget him. Highly recommended. 

Revolver

Finished Revolver by Duane Swierczynski.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Three generations torn apart–by bullets fired fifty years ago.

Philadelphia, 1965: Two street cops–one black, one white–are gunned down in a corner bar. One of the fallen officers, Stan Walczak, leaves behind a 12-year-old boy, Jimmy.

Philadelphia, 1995: Homicide detective Jim Walczak learns that his father’s alleged killer, Terrill Lee Stanton, has been sprung from prison. Jim stalks the ex-con, hoping to finally learn the truth.

Philadelphia, 2015: Jim’s daughter Audrey, a forensic science student, re-opens her grandfather’s murder for a research paper. But as Audrey digs deeper, she comes to realize that Stanton probably didn’t pull the trigger–and her father may have made a horrible mistake…”

This is the 150th book I’ve read this year, and it is by far the best I’ve read this year.  I’ve read a lot of fantastic books, but if you’re only going to read one, it should be this one.

As further backstory, I’ve loved Duane Swierczynski’s books for years and every time I get a chance to read a new one, I am very excited.  He’s one of the authors where I know that a five star read is guaranteed.  This is his best book yet.

This story covers three generations of the same family, and spans from the 1960s through today (well, technically last year).  There are a lot of parallels between the 1960s segments and now—riots and racial unrest—but even beyond that, this novel is…there are actually no words to do it justice.  “Gripping” doesn’t even come close.

To put it simply, if you like novels about family secrets, police investigations, racial unrest, deeply flawed people or even just amazing books, this is for you.

Highly recommended.

You Will Know Me

Finished You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott.  I received an ARC for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. From a writer with “exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl,” (Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.”

This book is about obsession.  That doesn’t really count as a spoiler because if you are one of the best at what you do (as Devon is with gymnastics), it’s your life.  It’s a weird combination of your job and your hobby, and it comes first.  And, as we learn quickly, it’s also what her entire family (parents and little brother) does, too.  Devon’s gymnastic career and her chance to make Senior Elites (which will lead inexorably to the Olympics) is basically the only thing going on with the family.  (Yes, the parents have jobs and yes, the brother is good at science but it’s basically filler between training and meets for Devon.)

When it all falls apart, it happens so fast that it’s almost dizzying (both for Katie and Eric and for me as a reader).  Everything shatters and it casts everything else into doubt.

(Good luck doing anything else between the start and close of the novel.)

Highly recommended.

In 20 Years (mini-review)

Finished In 20 Years by Allison Winn Scotch.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.

But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality.

Reunited in the place where so many dreams began, and bolstered by the hope of healing, each of them is forced to confront the past.”

This book reminded me of The Big Chill; it’s about a group of college friends who reunite due to a dead friend (simplifying). There are major revelations and minor ones and it’s also about how we don’t get the life we expected. 

First Comes Love (mini-review)

Finished First Comes Love by Emily Giffin.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads.

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.”

This is an incredibly fun novel, perfect for vacation. And yet, there’s also a lot of depth (it’s about a family, so OBVIOUSLY, right?). It’s told by the perspectives of Josie and Meredith, sisters who are very different. Meredith is married and has a daughter, but she’s not sure she should stay with her husband. Meanwhile, Josie loves her job but wonders if maybe she should have a baby—even though she’s not currently even dating someone. 

And their brother Daniel’s death looms large over everything, and there’s more to that than meets the eye. 
I always forget just how much I enjoy Emily Giffin’s books and this one is no exception. 

The Storyteller (mini-review)

Finished The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses… and then he confesses his darkest secret—he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all—if Sage even considers his request—is it murder, or justice?”

Really good, really powerful novel (as you would expect, seeing as how it deals with the Holocaust). Like all of Jodi Picoult’s novels, it is best as (a) getting readers to ask what they would do in a given situation and (b) writing characters so vivid you can see and hear them even when you’re not reading the book. 

Highly recommended. 

Perfect Fifths

Finished Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Old flames are reignited in the fifth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Jessica Darling series.

Captivated readers have followed Jessica through every step and misstep: from her life as a tormented, tart-tongued teenager to her years as a college grad stumbling toward adulthood. Now a young professional in her mid-twenties, Jess is off to a Caribbean wedding. As she rushes to her gate at the airport, she literally runs into her former boyfriend, Marcus Flutie. It’s the first time she’s seen him since she reluctantly turned down his marriage proposal three years earlier–and emotions run high.

Marcus and Jessica have both changed dramatically, yet their connection feels as familiar as ever. Is their reunion just a fluke or has fate orchestrated this collision of their lives once again?

Told partly from Marcus’s point of view, Perfect Fifths finally lets readers inside the mind of the one person who’s both troubled and titillated Jessica Darling for years. Expect nothing less than the satisfying conclusion fans have been waiting for, one perfect in its imperfection. . . ”

It’s the fifth (and, according to the author, final) book in the saga about Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie.

This is possibly the only series that I’ve been reading since the first book came out, and I’m really sad to see it end. (I am, however, pretty happy with the way it ended.)
Anyway, Jessica and Marcus (another couple in the tortured love category) run into each other–literally–in the airport. Much talking ensues. (Much anxiousness on my part also ensues. Will they finally, FINALLY! get it together?)
I can’t really explain (at least based on this book) why I love the Jessica Darling books so much. I think the best I can say (and it’s a blurb from someone else) is that it’s Judy Blume meets Dorothy Parker. And how can you not love that combination?
So yeah, I’m hoping that Megan McCafferty changes her mind.