Many thanks to Diane Donovan of Midwest Book Review for this awesome write-up! (Check out the review on their website here. You'll have to scroll a bit!)
Original Thirteen Publications
Review by Diane Donovan for Midwest Book Review.
Jenny Goodnight tells of a tired missionary woman who becomes drawn into a town conflict between fiery newspaper reporter Uncle Matthew and the powerful founding family of the town of Legacy.
It doesn't help her case, when murder results, that she's an assertive woman known for packing a pistol and confronting violence, herself. When she becomes a suspect in the murder, Jenny is drawn into the investigation to save herself from hanging. Like her investigative uncle, she discovers even more layers to the town's politics and underlying connections, the more she pulls at the strings of possibilities and strange associations.
Killarney Traynor creates an involving, clever, assertive protagonist in the character of Jenny Goodnight. The plot follows her special form of frontier justice and confrontation beyond the confines of the usual Western female protagonist.
Jenny's uncle wants to reject her inclination to rescue him even as she uncovers truths about his relationship with Underwood and the secret that is being held over his head. More importantly, Jenny herself finds that her own future and capacity to survive and live in this town depends on her ability to unravel a very strange and deadly truth indeed.
From a missing letter to another act of violence that hits too close to home, Jenny perseveres against all odds, drawing readers into a Western scenario in which her strengths spill over into other lives to create new possibilities not just for Jenny, but those around her.
Another big plus to the story is the atmospheric descriptions that create strong images of countryside and purposes: "I followed him down the narrow path. The sun was descending, shafts of light gilding the rugged dark pines and bringing out the burnt orange of the landscape. We rode maybe half a mile under the arbor, then the trees gave way and the valley opened up before us. A low, squat building, weather-beaten and in need of work, was situated on the open plain, a barn just behind it. Beyond these, a creek wended its way through a corridor of earth-clutching trees. There were more trees staked out in an irregular pattern on the far side of the house. Cattle lowed from somewhere, and Danaher's nag whinnied in the paddock. It was a sweet piece of land, capable of supporting a small family, and I wondered if that would have suited the lovely Helen, had she not caught the eye of an Evans."
Readers who like blends of Western and mystery themes, powered by an exceptionally astute female protagonist, will relish the intrigue, atmosphere, and confrontational changes in Jenny Goodnight, which is highly recommended reading for Western novel fans looking for more than the usual male-centric focus.
Order Jennry Goodnight on Amazon.com or here on my website!
Book Review: You Are Not Alone
By Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better. Shay would die for them to like her. She may have to.
Hendricks and Pekkanen deliver another nail-biting, twisty mystery with a heavy dose of upper-class New York style for good measure. This thriller is fun, fast-paced, and absolutely riveting, but the back cover copy does the story little justice.
Shay is a data-minded loner who, while on her way to an job interview, witnesses a young woman's suicide. That's enough to ruin anyone's week, but Shay has also just lost her job, her crush, and her apartment. Desperate to find out more about the mysterious woman, she goes to her wake and discovers the Moore sisters and their tight group of friends. The Moores welcome the achingly lonely Shay into their circle... but not without an agenda. Soon, Shay finds herself caught in a web of intrigue, one that may cost her life - or more.
As I said, this is a fun thriller that's a lot lighter than these authors' previous outings (domestic violence is difficult to stomach and this book has none of that). The main character is a sympathetic mess, the main villains pleasingly calculating and clever, and the pacing is quick enough that you can read this in an afternoon or two. Will it rock your world? Probably not. Is it fun escapism? Absolutely. As such, its highly recommended.
Book Review: The Family Upstairs
By Lisa Jewell
As Libby investigates the story of her birth parents and the dark legacy of her new home, her missing siblings are headed her way to uncover, and possibly protect, secrets of their own. What really happened in that rambling Chelsea mansion when they were children? And are they still at risk?
Lisa Jewell's new book is another family trauma/thriller with enough creepy twists and discomfort to keep the reader engaged until the very end. Told from three different viewpoints, it's engaging, uncomfortable, and riveting. In the early nineties, a well-to-do family falls under the sway of a smooth-talking control-freak, who gradually isolates them from the outside world. It's this story that really got under my skin - to be so isolated in the middle of teeming London seems all-too-easy in Jewell's tale. The abuse that takes place behind these closed doors is akin to watching a car accident: agonizing to watch, yet impossible to look away.
In terms of surprise, some of the twists are easy to spot coming, but the narrative is spell-binding and pulls you along. The ending left me feeling uncertain and little unnerved - if there's a sequel, I'll be lining up for the first copy. That said, this is not a book for the squeamish or those looking for an easy escape. Think mature Lifetime movie and you'll have a pretty good idea of what's in store.
Book Review: This Tender Land
by William Kent Krueger
Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.
The story of four orphaned runaways, This Tender Land is a sweeping epic with heart, a truly American odyssey. Odie (short for Odysseus) is a yarn-spinner of the best kind, a brave if occasionally brash young man whose heart is as big as the American landscape. His brother, Albert, is the mechanical genius with a responsibility complex. Mose is the silent giant with a mysterious past and an uncertain future. Emmy is the hopeful, happy little girl whom they all adore - think Shirley Temple with second sight.
But the true joy of this novel isn't the characters or the landscape or the attention to historical detail: its the sense of adventure and hope that is imbued throughout the story. While the occasional heavy-handed moralizing is mildly distracting, the prose, pacing, and good-hearted nature of the story rivets you to the page. When asked by a friend of mine, the best comparison I could come up with was, if Mark Twain decided to write his own American version of the The Oddessy, it'd feel something like this. For all the darkness this novel unblinkingly faces, it's a hopeful story about home, family, and adventure.
By Monica Hess
On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman's frantic plea to find a person--a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.
Girl in the Blue Coat is a fast-paced, exciting adventure story that will grab you by the heart strings. Hanneke is a sympathetic lead, a young woman whose idealistic outlook has been severely damaged by the realities of war. Living in an occupied country means confronting small acts of treason every day, performed by friends, neighbors, relatives, even loved ones. But Hanneke's new-found cynicism doesn't account for the other side of the truth: that even in the midst of a great evil, great courage still exists. As she goes deeper into Amsterdam's resistance movement, she's forced to face not only great danger - but her own deeply buried guilt.
This is simply a great story, a roller-coaster ride full of intrigue, romance, and classic adventure, from stealing Nazi uniforms to infiltrating enemy offices and solving murder mysteries. Warning: once you get thirty pages in, you won't be able to stop reading, so set aside enough time.
By Richard Roper
From the back cover:
Andrew's been feeling stuck. For years he's worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that's what his coworkers believe. A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades. Could there be more to life than this?
But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it's time for him to start.
This book made me want to laugh, cry, and hug everyone I know - all at once! Mr. Roper's debut novel is a surprisingly moving story of loneliness and hope. Andrew is a lovable loner who spends his free time listening to Ella Fitzgerald records while building and adding to his train collection. His social circle is limited to his quirky co-workers and the anonymous forum of train enthusiasts that he interacts with online. His days are filled with death - his job is to bury the forgotten and the lonely. And that's his existence until a series of events, including the arrival of the irrepressible Peggy, shakes his world and leaves him wondering: could he had more?
The prose is both hilarious and heartbreaking and the characters a lively and easy to like. Told in a distinctly British style, Anglophiles will especially love this story. But what's best about How Not To Die Alone is the heart, humanity, and hope that it leaves the readers feeling. Death may be the end, but there's an awful lot of living to do in the meantime and that living can be rich and full of love. Highly recommended.
by Stephen Lomer
rom the book jacket:
The quest to find Anton Nym and his errorist army are put on hold as Typo Squad is called away to London to help one of their own confront a villain from his past — a mysterious foe known only as the Wordmonger.
Joining forces with Her Majesty’s Royal Typo Brigade, Typo Squad takes up residence in Buckingham Palace to try and draw out this dangerous madman.
With the lives of the royal family in their hands, will Typo Squad be up to the challenge of finding and capturing the Wordmonger? Or will history repeat itself?
In a world where typos kill, the one thing standing between civilization and chaos is Typo Squad, a crack team of specialists whose immunity to typos render them the only people able to battle Errorists.
A worthy follow-up to Lomer's first novel, Return of the Wordmonger takes the wise-cracking team of American misfits and drops them in the posh world of British etiquette. The Wordmonger, an old foe of Ewan Hoozami, has returned to threaten Princess Anne and the entire royal family. Invited to work with the Royal Typo Brigade, Typo Squad, led by the now-legendary Dick Shonnary, find themselves fishes out of water in a world run by rules of decorum. Shenanigans, faux pas, and puns abound as they hilariously try to bring the Wordmonger to justice while not jeopardizing Anglo-American relations. Too bad they had to bring Chris "Big" Whig along.
Fans of Mel Brooks and Monty Python will especially enjoy this outing. Hilarious, irreverent, and highly recommended.
BOTM Review: Lock Every Door
A Book of the Month Club Selection
By Riley Sager
FROM THE BACK COVER:
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story...until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
Lock Every Door is a carefully plotted, slow-burn thriller featuring little-lost-girl Jules, a young woman whose past is marred by tragedy. Lured by both the Bartholomew's mystique and her own financial hardship, she quickly becomes mired in a labyrinth of mystery and suspense, searching for a missing girl even while trying to keep her own sanity. Despite some well-placed flash-forwards, the first half of the novel can feel slow - I put the book down a few times before committing to finishing. I'm glad I did, because the last third of the book introduces a few truly surprising twists and one heck of a grand finale. In an era where the third act final twist is fairly dependable, this book is a stand-out. Highly recommended (though those with weak stomachs might wish to look else-where).
A Book of the Month Club Selection
From the Book Jacket:
Not all secrets are meant to be found.
Nolan Moore is a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the "real" experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists. Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.
Nolan's story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?
Rutger's novel is fast-paced, hilarious, and a nail-biting story of survival. His sharp-witted main character and narrator, Nolan Moore, is a delightfully sarcastic story teller, and the supporting cast is strong as well. The first half of the book is a strong adventure story with a touch of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's awe and wonder. The second half is still strong, but the plot twists and ultimate conclusion might be a little too far out there for some readers. But it's one heck of a fun ride and this reader is delighted to know that this is the first in a serious. Recommended.
A Book of the Month Club selection
From the Book Jacket (edited for brevity):
The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives and A Certain Age creates a dazzling epic of World War II-era Nassau—a hotbed of spies, traitors, and the most infamous couple of the age, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple
Ms. Williams weaves together two stories about two women who, on the surface, appear very different. Newly-widowed Lulu is a smart, sophisticated reporter during World War Two who finds herself caught up in international intrigue. Elfriede is the delicate, unhappy wife of a German aristocrat who finds herself falling in love with an irrepressible Englishman in the early 1900s. As politics, personal tragedy, and war swirl about them, the two women find themselves challenged both by love and circumstances - and grow to become women of strength and conviction. It's a fascinating, immersive read with lots of delicious detail and a heart-felt ending that feels as real as it is uplifting. Highly recommended.
Book Review: Fishing
By P. Gardner Goldsmith
Fishing is a riveting read - icy cold horror mixed with psychological realism, all wrapped up with a demented twist worthy of Richard Matheson. This is not for the faint of heart - those easily triggered by blood, violence, and assault should look elsewhere. But for readers looking for a fast-paced, chilling look into the heart of evil, this story is made to order!
From the book jacket:
Darmentraea became a prison, Galaseya a thriving utopia; Diraetus finally found peace, and Heirsha provided healing to all. Amber and her friends had adjusted to their new roles in life, when an unexpected surprise appeared on Heirsha—a secret truth. One that could shed light on the mysteries surrounding the immortal families.
Why so much bitterness? What happened between Jermiar and Huntinylar? What secrets does Marsacor conceal behind his course exterior? Who is the mysterious family member that no one seems to want to talk about? And why were both families plagued by constant tragedy? One answer—Khyra Crawford.
Amber Oak's story gets even more detailed in this imaginative prequel from author Ceara Comeau. Years before the events of Memories of Chronosalis, Kyhra Crawford rebels against her industrialist father's demanding ways and slip-shop production practices. Determined to stop the pollution that her father is producing, Khyra joins an underground research team, dedicated to saving the planet. When a deadly virus wipes out most of earth's population, it seems the human race is doomed - until Kyhra's old friend reappears with a bold - and risky - plan. But even if they save the human race, can Krhra and her rag-tag team of unlikely allies save humanity from an even more insidious evil? Remorse is a galaxy spanning adventure with a spunky lead - though listed as prequel, it is definitely best read after Memories of Chronosalis.
Book Review: Circe
by Madeline Miller
Released April 10, 2018
Born in the house of Helios, the sun god and leader of the Titans, Circe is an outsider. She isn't powerful like her father or seductive and manipulative like her mother. Instead, Circe has a mind of her own, the voice of a human... and the power of witchcraft. When one of her spells turns a cousin into the dreaded monster Scylla, Circe is banished by the Olympian Zeus to a deserted island and there begins an epic journey of self-discovery.
Alone on the island, she hones her skills, tames the wild nature around her, and meets some legendary characters: the Argonaut Jason and his witch-wife Medea, the tragic Daedalus and his son Icarus, the Minotaur, and the wily, unforgettable Odysseus. When Circe becomes a mother and unwittingly draws the full wrath of the gods down on her once-ignored island, it will require every trick in her book to protect what she loves... and choose, once and for all, where she truly belongs.
Ms. Miller weaves a tantalizing tale of love, power, and true strength, imbuing Circe with both terrible flaws and human-like weaknesses. Those familiar with the myths will enjoy encountering their heroes through Circe's eyes and with Ms. Miller's lucid and elegant prose, the reader will be hard pressed to put the book down. The story is at times brutal, grotesque, and bold, as all Greek and Roman myths are, but it's also beautiful, sad, and heartening, a true epic of a novel. It is surprisingly uplifting and refreshingly old-fashioned: through this wild tale of a rejected, marooned, and vengeful witch-goddess, the goodness and worth of simple humanity is beautifully celebrated. Highly recommended.
Book Review: Musing Off The Mat
By Joyce Poggi Hager
Musings off the Matt is a collection of warm, funny, sometimes heart-wrenching essays by New Jersey writer Joyce Poggi Hager. Ranging from family stories to recipes, they recount her Italian heritage, childhood, motherhood, and early empty nesting, Hager’s stories read like a conversation between two old friends over a cup of coffee – you’re barely a paragraph in when you find yourself feeling like you’ve known this person and her family forever.
Collected from the best of Hager's popular blog series (and featuring a story she'd written for Chicken Soup for the Soul), the essays allow you to meet the author at life's most intriguing, hilarious, and heartfelt moments: from fond childhood memories to mothering her own children, from discovering she has lime disease to helping her elderly and widowed father cope with loneliness and a move to a new city. Written with clean, tight prose, these cheery little stories are sure to provide a comforting escape and calm reassurance to anyone who’s ever dealt with family or found themselves searching for the perfect biscotti recipe. Recommended.
A World War 2 veteran reflects on his past one Christmas Eve. A suburban single-mom moves into a new neighborhood and finds herself dodging the attentions of the eccentric science teacher next door. A young boy takes his first flight in his mother's boyfriend's plane. An aspiring actress in 1950s New York finds help from an unusual source. A man who has everything finds himself in love with the one woman he can never have - or can he?
Uncommon Type is a collection of 17 short stories by Tom Hanks, all of which feature, in one way or another, a typewriter. Book-ended (see what I did there?) with stories of a tight-knit if eccentric group of friends, Hanks' stories are alternately tragic and hilarious, folksy and edgy, hopeful and heartbreaking, but always human. In fact, that's probably the best thing you can say about this book: you put it down feeling that, in some way, the world is a little warmer and a little more home. Not all of the stories come off perfectly - it feels in some that Hanks is stretching his literary muscles a little beyond their capacity - but that being said, its been a while since I've read a new book that made me feel like the human race was all right. I could use a few more books like this one.
(Note to clean-read enthusiasts like myself, there are a few adult scenarios in these stories.)