Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Book Review: "The Echo Man" by Sam Holland

Wow. Just wow. This is one creepy serial killer novel!

This definitely was a #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt book. I kept seeing friends rave about how this was so great and it was their favorite book of the month or even one of their favorites of the year so far. And now I can definitely see why.

A series of brutal murders has rocked a town. As detectives Cara Elliott and Noah Deakin investigate, they realize that these crimes are connected—and seem to be replicating those of notorious serial killers from the past: Dahmer, Manson, the Zodiac Killer. They have no idea where he’ll strike next, or which killer he’ll pay homage to.

Meanwhile, Jessica Ambrose is on the run, accused of setting a house fire that killed her husband and injured her and her young daughter. She knows she’s innocent and doesn’t want to go to jail, and winds up connecting with Nate Griffin, a suspended detective with issues of his own. Together they realize the fire may be related to the other murders—but why would she be a target?

As the detectives draw closer to solving the case, no one is safe—not even them.

This was truly excellent. It’s creepy and violent and graphically brutal—plenty of triggers abound—but I couldn’t get through the book fast enough. It reminded me of Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB series. If you like crime novels and books about serial killers, this is one for you!!

Friday, April 15, 2022

Book Review: "Cover Story" by Susan Rigetti

When it seems too good to be true…it usually is.

Lora wants nothing more than to work at ELLE magazine. She dreams of being editor someday, but now she’ll settle for an internship. And although being assigned to the beauty closet isn’t quite the glamorous experience she had imagined, she’s still excited to be part of the magazine, and on her off days, is determined to write short stories worth publishing.

While interning, Lora meets Cat Wolff, a contributing editor to the magazine and the daughter of a clean-energy magnate. Cat is enigmatic, charismatic, and befriends Lora, seeking her help on some projects. And when her internship ends, Cat convinces Lora to drop out of NYU (she couldn’t afford to go anyway) and work full-time as her ghostwriter.

Lora spends nearly every day at Cat’s luxurious suite at The Plaza Hotel, where she’s been living for years. But Cat can’t pay Lora until they get an advance on a book deal, so she suggests Lora live with her in the hotel. It’s an exciting life yet Cat is mercurial, and there are secrets Lora can’t quite figure out. And little by little, she starts to discover that Cat isn’t quite who she said she was—but who is she, really?

This was a wild, twisty story about a young woman caught in the middle of a situation she doesn’t understand. The story is told in diary entries, emails, FBI correspondence, and news articles. I was totally hooked on this one!!

Book Review: "Sea of Tranquility" by Emily St. John Mandel

A slow burn, but a mesmerizing, powerful story about connection, regret, love, music, and time travel.

Did you ever read a book and wonder how you might review it? Not because you aren’t sure how you feel about it, but because it’s so hard to describe? That’s the way I felt while reading this. I loved it, but describing it won’t be easy.

In 1912, a young Englishman has been exiled to Canada by his family after an awkward and inappropriate rant at a dinner party. After many stops and starts, he winds up in a remote town surrounded by a forest. When exploring one day, he looks up into a tree and hears the notes of a violin with the sound of an airship taking off. He doesn’t know what the sounds are or what they mean, but they shake him to his core.

Nearly 300 years later, a writer is on tour of Earth when one of her books about a pandemic is being adapted into a movie. The book contains a scene in which a man plays the violin in an airship terminal while ships depart. At the same time, there are concerns another plague may affect Earth.

Meanwhile, in 2401, a bored hotel detective living in a colony on the moon becomes obsessed with the question of whether life is real or a simulation. He volunteers for time travel and meets a young Englishman who thinks he’s losing his mind, a writer away from her family at the start of a plague, and a friend he’s seen at different stages of his life. Can he simply observe or will he change the course of time?

This is a gorgeous, thought-provoking book but it definitely won’t be for everyone. I love time travel and I love the way Emily St. John Mandel writes, so I was completely hooked.

Book Review: "The No-Show" by Beth O'Leary

In The No-Show, three women deal with uncertainty regarding the man in their life.

It’s the worst day to be stood up: Valentine’s Day. But that’s what happens to Siobhan, an overworked life coach, Miranda, a tree surgeon who likes to be treated like one of the guys at work, and Jane, a timid charity shop volunteer who’s been running from her past. All three are upset about being stood up, but their date is effusively apologetic the following day and all is forgiven. Unbeknownst to the three of them, each of them was stood up by the same guy.

The deeper they get invested with him, questions arise. What was he doing on Valentine’s Day? Why does he refuse to talk about it? Is he seeing someone else?

This book flips the script on the cheating man/scorned women storyline I expected. Beth O’Leary draws you into this story and hooks you completely, and you don’t know much more than the characters do. It’s a romantic, funny, emotional book which definitely packs a powerful punch.

I love the way O’Leary writes. If you’ve not read her books, I’d definitely recommend The Flatshare and The Switch. This was so good!!

Book Review: "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus

In Bonnie Garmus' debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry, a female chemist confronts the realities of 1960s society.

⁣ ⁣ Elizabeth Zott is a chemist with a bright future. But not as a chemist, because as a woman in the 1960s, her intelligence and ambition aren’t appreciated or encouraged. She confronts indignity after indignity, and although she gets a position at the Hastings Research Institute, her contributions are not welcomed, even though she’s the only one who actually knows anything.⁣

⁣ At Hastings she encounters Calvin Evans, a brilliant, famous scientist known for holding grudges and his obsession with rowing. After an awkward (and messy) encounter at the opera, the two fall for each other. And although Calvin loves Elizabeth as much for her mind as everything else, their relationship only serves to further denigrate her in the minds of her colleagues.⁣

⁣ Somehow, a few years later, Elizabeth is now the host of a television cooking show, “Supper at Six.” (Cooking is chemistry, after all.) But despite the network’s wishes, she’s not quite the happy housewife on television—she’s telling women about covalent bonds and adding sodium chloride (salt) to their food. At the same time, she’s teaching women that they’re not JUST housewives, but they’re capable of so much more. And while that makes her popular, it also makes her a target.⁣

⁣ This was just absolutely fantastic. Elizabeth is a remarkable character—funny, stubborn, brash, and yet remarkably sensitive. This is a beautiful story about love and family and standing up for what is right, but it’s also about the unfairness of society towards anyone who doesn’t fit a specific mold, particularly in the 1960s. And Six-Thirty was the absolute best! (IYKYK)⁣

⁣ I won’t forget this book anytime soon.⁣

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Book Review: "Olympus, Texas" by Stacey Swann

In Olympus, Texas, the problems for a dysfunctional Texas family seem to multiply when one member returns home.

It’s been two years since March Briscoe has seen his family, as he left after his affair with his brother’s wife was discovered. His mother June is less than pleased to see him—she’s always found March hard to love. And as a woman whose husband has had multiple affairs through the years, she’s tired of standing by her man.

March’s arrival stirs up old wounds with his brother, Hap, and Hap’s wife, Vera, who is perhaps even more dissatisfied with her marriage since her affair. At the same time, March and Hap’s twin half-siblings, Artie and Arlo, face their own challenges, when Artie’s desire for a life of her own is tested by Arlo’s neediness.

In the span of a week, someone has been killed, relationships are in tatters, multiple punches have been thrown, and the Briscoes face scrutiny from all over the town of Olympus. Can they change the course of events around them? Can they change themselves? Do they want to?

This is a dark, brooding, dramatic book and I was completely hooked from start to finish. I love books about family dysfunction, and this family was seriously screwed up!! But for the most part, the characters were sympathetic, and I needed to know how Stacey Swann would resolve everything.

The description of the book talks about how elements of classic mythology are woven into the plot. I don’t know much about mythology so that passed me by, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story. So glad I finally read this!!

Book Review: "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow" by Gabrielle Zevin

One of the most beloved books of the year is this sweeping story of friendship, love, grief, recovery, and video games.

Sadie and Sam meet in the hospital when they are 11 years old in the late 1980s. Sadie is visiting her older sister and Sam is recovering from one of several surgeries to repair his foot, which was crushed in a car accident. She finds Sam in the hospital’s game room and she is impressed with his skill at Super Mario Bros.

Even though Sam hasn’t spoken to anyone since he came to the hospital, he and Sadie strike up a friendship, mostly bonding over video games. She even comes to the hospital to visit him after her sister is released, and they spend a great deal of time together until an argument ends their friendship.

Years later, Sam spots Sadie on a crowded subway platform in Boston. He knows she’s a student at MIT, while he attends Harvard, but they’ve not seen each other since they were 13. But quickly it’s as if no time has passed, and that encounter is the spark that leads to their partnering on developing a video game.

The story follows them over the next 15 or so years, as they become famous video game developers, and deal with personal and professional ups and downs. Their friendship is tested time and again, with jealousy, misunderstandings, ambition, and tragedy affecting them. It’s a powerful and emotional story, which meandered a bit too much for me, but it definitely kept me invested in the characters’ stories.

While you don’t have to know much about video games to read this, it would help. But I enjoyed the portrayal of their creativity and genius, as well as the commentary about video games’ effect on society.

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf for the complimentary advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review!