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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Fiction (page 1 of 15)

Tracking Game by Margaret Mizushima (Timber Creek K-9 #5)

Two brutal murders, a menacing band of poachers, and a fearsome creature on the loose in the mountains plunge Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo into a sinister vortex.
An explosion outside a community dance sends Mattie Cobb and Cole Walker reeling into the night, where they discover a burning van and beside it the body of outfitter Nate Fletcher. But the explosion didn’t kill Nate–it was two gunshots to the heart.
The investigation leads them to the home of rancher Doyle Redman, whose daughter is Nate’s widow, and the object of one of their suspect’s affection. But before they can make an arrest, they receive an emergency call from a man who’s been shot in the mountains. Mattie and Robo rush to the scene, only to be confronted by the ominous growl of a wild predator.

As new players emerge on the scene, Mattie begins to understand the true danger that’s enveloping Timber Creek. They journey into the cold, misty mountains to track the animal–but discover something even more deadly in Tracking Game, the fifth installment in Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 mysteries.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This is another winner for the author! I’m a big fan of the series about troubled cop Mattie Cobb and her K9 partner, Robo. The love and respect Cobb has for her dog shines through in each book and this one was no exception.

A twisty murder mystery is the setting for this latest installment, with the backdrop of the Colorado mountains looming large as usual. Unique to this story was a subplot of big game hunting and a ferocious big cat on the loose. Mattie must depend on Robo to keep her safe from both human and animal as they track a killer.

We learn a bit more about Mattie’s past – the author loves to peel back the layers bit by bit in each book, which helps develop the character, as well as adding to the reader’s kinship with Mattie. She is a troubled soul, fiercely independent and devoted to her canine companion Robo. The ways in which Mizushima describes their interactions is both heartwarming and jaw-dropping – this German Shepherd is such a smart dog!

I was also happy to see Mattie’s romance with veterinarian Cole Walker developing some more – there is a lot of chemistry between them and he is so good for Mattie’s wounded soul. In fact, there are a few ways that Mattie overcomes some of her fears in TRACKING GAME – I was proud of her for getting out of her comfort zone.

If you love backcountry mysteries, you will love the Timber Creek series. There is just enough fast-paced intrigue plus a little romance to keep nearly every reader interested. This book could be read as a stand-alone, but some of the references will go over the heads of readers. This will not detract from the plot or outcome, but it is always recommended to start with the first book and go from there. I am anxiously awaiting the next mystery from Mizushima; she is one of my favorite authors and I’m always ready to dive into her next work. Grab your copy here!

One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski

One sultry summer in the 1980s, a teenage girl arrived in the wealthy vacation town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. But before the summer was up, she vanished.
Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach, it seems like the perfect chance to regroup and start fresh after a messy divorce. It’s the off-season, after all, which means peace and quiet, and more importantly for Allison, safety.
But when Allison becomes drawn into the story of a girl who disappeared from town thirty years before, she begins to realize that Opal Beach isn’t as idyllic as it seems. Beyond the walls of the gorgeous homes hide dark secrets. And as Allison digs deeper into the mystery, she uncovers not only the shocking truth, but finds herself caught in the middle of a twisted plot.

Part electric coming-of-age story and part breathtaking mystery, One Night Gone is an atmospheric, suspenseful novel about power, privilege, and ultimately, sisterhood.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This dark story takes place in Opal Beach, a Jersey Shore-like town with authentic details such as the Boardwalk, carnivals, and winter residents (who hate the summer with a passion). These residents are insular and secretive with good reason – a girl went missing years ago and no one knows what happened to her.

When Allison, a disgraced meteorologist, scores a house-sitting job in Opal Beach she discovers just how insular the townfolk can be. The story is told from various points of view, with the main story being that of Allison and her demons. Maureen, the vanished girl, has demons of her own but has a youthful optimism that makes her more appealing than Allison. I was instantly on Maureen’s side and was hoping for a good outcome for her. Allison had her moments, but it seemed that she was slow to make a move due to past events. I understand how she was written, but I wanted her to have a little more backbone. Perhaps she was outshone by the brightness and promise of Maureen. I absolutely loved, loved, loved that Maureen considered herself a mermaid, with her tail flapping at times when she was most confident. It’s too bad that some of that confidence didn’t rub off on Allison.

Allison is befriended by a few friendly residents of Opal Beach and shunned by others. As the plotlines converge and we see characters commit actions in their youth, the reader will find out that what happens in the 80’s does not stay there. The author is skilled at creating the carefree attitude of summer down the shore, both in her character description and the environment. Laskowski is adept at setting a mood with weather; I wondered if that was a subtle nod to Allison. Maureen’s weather is mostly warm, sunny, and full of promise, while Allison’s is bleak and cold. There has been quite a lot of books written with converging multiple points of view, and I may be growing weary of that. However, the author managed to keep my interest going until the plot twists captured my attention – then I didn’t put the book down until it was finished.

The themes of sisterhood and betrayal illuminate just how brutal it can be when women turn on each other. Women grab onto their anger and never let go until the death, either literally or figuratively. ONE NIGHT GONE places the reader firmly in the middle of this anger and doesn’t let go.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Black & Blue by Andra Douglas

Growing up in Zephyrhills, Florida, Toady loves nothing more than playing football. It isn’t surprising, given that football is a religion in the small Southern town. Indeed, a winning team is a cure-all throughout the South. But for Toady, the love of football is bittersweet – because Toady’s given name is Christine. She’s a girl, and girls “can’t” play football. Christine’s story, and how she beats the odds to become the owner of – and player on – a championship women’s tackle football team, is told in Andra Douglas’s new novel, BLACK & BLUE: Love, Sports, and the Art of Empowerment (BookBaby, July 2019).

Loosely based on the author’s own story, BLACK & BLUE chronicles Christine’s struggle to “get a slice” of the “pigskin pie” of life. The youngest of three sisters, she chafes against what the South tells her she should be. From childhood on, she loves football and plays exceptionally well. But she is denied a spot on the high school team, and by senior year, she watches unhappily as her male classmates win college football scholarships – knowing that for her it cannot be. Reluctantly, she puts aside her football dreams and moves to New York City, never expecting to play the game she loves – but life is full of surprises.

Douglas, the former owner of the New York Sharks Women’s Pro Football team and a player herself, paints a compelling picture of Christine’s struggle. But more importantly, BLACK & BLUE lays bare the complexity of being a woman who wants to play what has essentially been a man’s sport since it was first created. Once in New York, Christine hears rumors about women playing flag football on Fire Island. She rides the ferry over, clutching her ball – and there she finds her people. The women who will one day be her teammates on the New York Sharks.

This quirky, tough, and diverse group is held together by their love of the game. When, after several years of successful flag competitions, the Women’s Professional Football Association is launched, Christine becomes part of this new tackle league – against her better judgment, because she senses that something isn’t quite right. Before long, she discovers the truth – the Association has no funding and the team needs money and an owner if they want to compete. To keep her dream alive, Christine haggles and scrapes together the cash to buy the franchise.

And that’s when the tension really heats up. In order to create a championship team, Christine must make countless personal and financial sacrifices. Finding a coach who isn’t abusive is a struggle. Rallying team spirit is an endless quest. Add to that the loss of her one true love, the devastation of the September 11 attacks, and the sudden death of one of her players, and Christine’s dream seems doomed. Does she have the guts and the stamina to spite the odds? Will her sacrifices pay off?

BLACK & BLUE not only challenges gender stereotypes, but takes readers behind the scenes of one of America’s least understood sports. Readers will cheer Christine as she doubles down to fight for the women who want nothing more than to be allowed to play the sport they love. This is a story of empowerment that will inspire anyone who is struggling to fulfill their dreams.

Thanks to Jane Wesman PR for this review copy!

BLACK & BLUE is truly like “A League of Their Own” but with football. There are personal struggles, foul-mouthed players, and a sometimes-dysfunctional team.

The author grew up in Florida in the pre-Title IX days, which meant that girls were not only second-class citizens, they were also looked down upon for wanting to play sports with the boys. Douglas’ own sister cautioned her that if she continued to partake in the rough-and-tumble world of football with the boys, she would never be able to “catch a husband”. Another cringe-inducing recollection involves a neighbor girl that goes missing one summer. As the author eats dinner at her girlfriend’s house, there is talk of the missing girl. One brother remarks that he doesn’t know why everyone is making a big deal of things, after all, it’s ONLY A GIRL that is missing. Needless to say, the girls are appalled, and the father passes his son a large helping of food to keep him strong.

This attitude frustrated and upset me, and I was gratified to see the author leave Florida to attend Pratt Institute in NYC. She becomes enamored of the bustling city, even more so when she discovers a bunch of women playing football in an old sandlot. She asks to join the game, and with that simple question she starts a brand-new life. She makes fast friends with the women and play impromptu games with other “teams” in the area. Eventually a semi-pro team is formed called the New York Sharks, and the women have to learn to play nice with their former rivals, since now they are on the same team. They need to unite and believe in each other, as well as combat the attitudes of the coaches (who persist in telling the “ladies” to “behave”).

Douglas goes through a lot of ups and downs with the team, some emotional, some monetary. She ends up buying the Sharks and is now the owner/manager of the dysfunctional but lovable team. This causes her parents and siblings to heartily disapprove of her actions; they tell her so in a disappointed tone. All her life Douglas has wanted to be involved with football and now that her dream is coming true, she is still not considered to be a true woman. Despite the fact that she is challenging societal norms to follow her dreams, she is shunned by her lover also.

After suffering losses both in her professional and personal life, the author slides into a deep depression. Despite her best efforts, her team is imploding. She is not sure if she wishes to continue following her dreams. One bright light on the horizon is the creation of the International Women’s Football League, which the Sharks join. In true shark fashion, the team keeps moving forward and keeps on fighting. They are seeking a win in the Championship game and need to pull together one last time – can they do it?

This book is gritty and authentic, with lots of hilarious trash talk from all the players. I got an excellent grasp of the trials and tribulations of what goes on behind the scenes of a football game. Unfortunately, I also got an excellent look at how the women are still considered to be second class citizens and how their teams were not financially backed as well as the pro men’s teams. I’m certain that the pros don’t need to come up with $40 to pay for their own jerseys.

Douglas also shares her struggle with depression, which takes courage and strength. I too, would become depressed after continually facing the setbacks in her life. One message that I take away from this book is that women are still not thought of as equals, and that is sad. Despite all the strides we have made since Title IX, there is still more to be accomplished. Please read Douglas’ story with not only entertainment, but enlightenment in mind. You can get your copy here.

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

A mother’s worst nightmare, a chance at redemption, and a deadly secret that haunts a family across the generations.
There’s only room for one mother in this family.
Claire Abrams’s dreams became a nightmare when she passed on a genetic mutation that killed her little boy. Now she wants a second chance to be a mother and finds it in Robert Nash, a maverick fertility doctor who works under the radar with Jillian Hendricks, a cunning young scientist bent on making her mark—and seducing her boss.

Claire, Robert, and Jillian work together to create the world’s first baby with three genetic parents—an unprecedented feat that could eliminate inherited disease. But when word of their illegal experiment leaks to the wrong person, Robert escapes into hiding with the now-pregnant Claire, leaving Jillian to serve out a prison sentence that destroys her future.

Ten years later, a spunky girl named Abigail begins to understand that all is not right with the reclusive man and woman she knows as her parents. But the family’s problems are only beginning. Jillian, hardened by a decade of jealousy and loss, has returned—and nothing will stop her from reuniting with the man and daughter who should have been hers. Past, present—and future converge in a mesmerizing psychological thriller from acclaimed bestselling author Kira Peikoff.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

There is science. There is suspense. There is drama. There is also an important element that makes this fiction seem closer to non-fiction.

Claire wants another baby and is willing to go to great lengths to make, I mean to have, one. Against her husband’s wishes, she goes to see fertility specialist Robert Nash. Using a top-secret plausible-in-real-life-sort-of technique, Claire becomes pregnant with Abby, who is considered a “frankenbaby” after Claire’s secret is uncovered. The story jumps back and forth from the POV of Claire, Abby, Nash, and Nash’s assistant Jillian. This technique lets us see each character’s perspective and motivation (be aware, not all of them are altruistic).

The mix of science and family dynamics was done perfectly, and the bad guys are eminently hateable. As I mentioned before, the procedure to create a baby using multiple people’s sperm/eggs seems within reach. This made the book dramatic without focusing on obviously fake science.

As the author shares the character’s flaws and desires, she illustrates the desire to have and protect a child in a poignant and accurate manner. She is adept at creating psychological suspense that appears real, not overly histrionic. Except for the science and the “three-parent creation”, each character’s emotions add to the plot and support the action. Abby behaves exactly the way a kid her age would, exploiting her computer savvy and using the Internet to find answers.

There were a couple of twists in the book, one that seemed obvious and another that was a shocker. I feel there is enough going on to get the reader hooked and wanting to get to the end to see how things turn out. Things get tied up kind of quickly in the end but it was satisfying. If the author continues with her science-backed plots I’ll definitely pick up her next novel.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Old Bones (Nora Kelly #1) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

 

The first in the groundbreaking Nora Kelly series from #1 bestselling authors Preston & Child blends the legend of the Donner party with a riveting suspense tale, taking the dynamic duo’s work to new heights.

Nora Kelly, a young but successful curator with a series of important excavations already under her belt, is approached by the handsome historian, Guy Porter, to lead an expedition unlike any other. Guy tells his story–one involving the ill-fated Donner Party, who became permanently lodged in the American consciousness in the winter of 1847, when the first skeletonized survivors of the party stumbled out of the California mountains, replete with tales of courage, resourcefulness, bad luck, murder, barbarism–and, finally, starvation and cannibalism.

Captivated by the Donner Party, Nora agrees and they venture into the Sierra Nevada in search of the camp. Quickly, they learn that the discovery of the missing starvation camp is just the tip of the iceberg–and that the real truth behind those long-dead pioneers is not only far more complex and surprising than they could have imagined…but it is one that puts them both in mortal danger from a very real, present-day threat in which the search for the lost party, and its fabled fortune in gold, are merely means to a horrifying end.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

OLD BONES is the first of the Nora Kelly series. As you may recall, Nora was the intrepid curator/archaeologist in some of the early Pendergast novels. The authors have decided to give Nora her own series, minus the usual Pendergast characters save one. Newly minted FBI agent Corrie Swanson is here also, investigating a murder.

Nora is on site excavating remains found of the famous Donner Party of 1847. What begins as a typical excavation turns into terror when members of their dig turn up dead. Corrie and the FBI are investigating these murders because they took place on Federal land, plus they tie in with another investigation involving grave robbing. Apparently, the robbed graves were descendants of a member of the Donner Party – but why the interest in them all of a sudden?

The premise sounds thrilling, but the telling of the tale is middling. Much of the action takes place on the dig and seems repetitive. Nora and Corrie butt heads during the course of the investigation and Corrie has to deal with the “good old boys” of law enforcement who mock her lack of experience.

The winning points of OLD BONES are the strong female characters – Nora, Corrie, and Nora’s boss Dr Fugit. It seems as though their characters are drawn well with good backstory, while the men are secondary. You won’t hear a complaint from me; I appreciate the authors giving Nora and Corrie their feisty personalities and strong work ethic.

Most of the book reads like a weak version of a Pendergast novel. I did keep expecting him to pop up somewhere to save the day. Final verdict – not the worst thing by far I’ve read, but just sort of dull. The best parts were the history, albeit gory, of the Donner Party and how they managed to survive.

Nora is a great character and I am looking forward to seeing her handle her next adventure. Perhaps the authors will hit their stride in the next book. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

A Pretty Woman tale turns toxic and deadly in this provocative and riveting thriller of sex, obsession, and murder from Robyn Harding, the “master of domestic suspense” (Kathleen Barber) and the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party and Her Pretty Face.

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

Emotionally powerful and packed with page-turning suspense, The Arrangement delves into the sordid, all-too-real world of shadowy relationships between wealthy, powerful men and the young women who are caught in their web.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Before I read this story, I had no idea what a “sugar baby” was. Now I know, thanks to this mostly forgettable story by the author of THE PARTY. Everyone is entitled to a flopper sometimes, and this one is Harding’s.

Struggling college student Natalie joins the over-the-top world of sugar daddies and babies when she is literally on her last dollar and has nowhere to turn. She is lacking self-confidence, but once she is dressed in designer duds and has a gorgeous older man on her arm, she becomes a sensual viper, living it up and loving every minute of it – even the intimacy. Then Daddy has a change of heart and decides to give all his attention to his beleaguered wife and hippie daughter, so Natalie loses her mind. The rest of the book is about Natalie boozing it up, complete with crying jags, stalking, and unhealthy behavior. Then there is a murder; Natalie is blamed and faces jail time.

At this point the book becomes interesting due to the plot twist and further development of Gabe’s wife. Natalie is a one-dimensional whiny girl who is in over her head, and it was hard to become invested in her future. Gabe was a typical narcissist rich guy, and I could see him dumping Natalie a mile away.

Harding’s writing style is great as usual, but there wasn’t the usual suspense that she is known for in this book. Even the ending with the twist seemed to sputter out and die with no lasting effects. I’m sure there will be lots of people who think I’m nuts for not loving it – but we are all entitled to our own opinion. You can pick up your copy here.

 

The Ministry of Truth by Dorian Lynskey

An authoritative, wide-ranging and incredibly timely history of 1984 — its literary sources, its composition by Orwell, its deep and lasting effect on the Cold War, and its vast influence throughout world culture at every level, from high to pop.

Nineteen Eighty Four isn’t just a novel; it’s a key to understanding the modern world. George Orwell’s final work is a treasure chest of ideas and memes — Big Brother, the Thought Police, Doublethink, Newspeak, 2+2=5 — that gain potency with every year. Particularly in 2016, when the election of Donald Trump made it a bestseller (“Ministry of Alternative Facts,” anyone?). Its influence has morphed endlessly into novels (The Handmaid’s Tale), films (Brazil), television shows (V for Vendetta), rock albums (Diamond Dogs), commercials (Apple), even reality TV (Big Brother). The Ministry of Truth is the first book that fully examines the epochal and cultural event that is 1984 in all its aspects: its roots in the utopian and dystopian literature that preceded it; the personal experiences in wartime Great Britain that Orwell drew upon as he struggled to finish his masterpiece in his dying days; and the political and cultural phenomenon that the novel ignited at once upon publication and which far from subsiding, has only grown over the decades. It explains how fiction history informs fiction and how fiction explains history.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Be advised – if you loved 1984 you will also love the many companion works cited in THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH. 1984 was well-known and influential, but it was just one among many dystopian/utopian works during Orwell’s life. The author has definitely done his research and it shows. The beginning is heavy with politics, then smooths out about 20% in with excellent compare and contrast of HG Wells, Orwell, and Aldous Huxley.

Orwell admired Brave New World, up to a point. He had fond memories of being taught by Huxley at Eton in 1918; a classmate claimed Huxley had given Orwell a “taste for words and their accurate and significant use”. However, [Orwell] was unconvinced by Brave New World’s tyranny of gratification. He notes that there was no “power-hunger, no sadism, no hardness of any kind. (E)veryone is happy in a vacuous way….it is difficult to believe that such a society could endure”.

The author goes on to note that 1984 and BNW overlap in one area: the status of the proles, then provides more compare/contrast dialogue. This is what makes the book shine – thoughtful and erudite treatment of multiple dystopian works and the ways they matter.

Other authors whose history is intermingled with Orwell’s are included in this book. We will learn more about Yevgeny Zamyatin (who Orwell was accused of plagiarizing), Ayn Rand, and Jimmy Burnham. The movie THX1138 and Animal Farm are also discussed at length. Each of these chapters add another layer explaining the genius of the tortured and driven Orwell. As the book progresses, the politics and descriptions of war-torn London do so as well. Finally,  as the tubercular Orwell languishes in bed, post-war London starts its progression forward.

The second portion of the book brings 1984 into pop culture, and how the book affected music, movies, stagflation, and politics. Author Anthony Burgess compares his own blockbuster novel, A Clockwork Orange, to 1984 and shares his thoughts about Orwell. Time moves forward into the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and ‘80’s, with politics continuing to be at the forefront. McCarthyism rears its ugly head, if only for a moment. It is amazing how the author is able to use 1984 as the center of everything – this novel was much more influential than anyone could guess.

Altogether, this book is layered with anecdotes, political views, comparison, and original thoughts. If you are a fan of Orwell, you will adore this book. I certainly gained a new view of both Animal Farm and 1984 and plan to go back to re-read both. You can pick up your copy of THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH here.

Rosalind by Judith Deborah

There’s everyone else in the world. And then there is you.

World-class heart surgeon Dr. Peter Sutter runs his life with the instinctive precision of a master of the universe. But when he leaves the operating room, the only living thing waiting for him is a golden retriever. Then a chance encounter with an enigmatic woman changes everything.

Exploring the depths of Rosalind’s intoxicating body and captivating spirit, Peter quickly falls under her spell. Miraculously, the feeling is mutual.  But fate is waiting just around the corner. And it might be carrying a lead pipe.

Rosalind is a sensual, witty, moving story about the joy of real love, the surprise and delight of unexpected passion, and the transcendent power of human connection.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for this ARC!

ROSALIND is a short, sweet story about emotions and life. The relationship between the main characters is heady and absorbing without being overly saccharine. I enjoyed reading about Peter and Rosalind so much that the ending really shocked me and made me think what I would do if I were in that position. The way the author presented the twist made it so much more anguishing than if she had done a great deal of foreshadowing. The book is so short that there isn’t much room for a lengthy buildup, but that is one of the more endearing qualities of ROSALIND.

The only fault I found with the book, necessary though it was to keep the plot captivating, was the fact that both Peter and Rosalind were two gorgeous, rich people with no care in the world. There were never any money issues, or instances of self-doubt (save in the beginning when Peter looks at himself with a critical eye as Rosalind goes off to the gym). The perfection was almost too perfect. However, perhaps that is what the author intended, to make the ending hit harder. If the characters had other struggles in their life, I may have thought the plot twist was par for the course. However, this could be a way of saying that despite money and looks, you never know what life is going to throw at you.

ROSALIND is a quick read with likeable characters and a thought-provoking ending. You can get your copy here.

 

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

YOU’VE NEVER READ A LOVE STORY AS TWISTED AS THIS.

Juliette loves Nate.
She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline so she can keep a closer eye on him. They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.
She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This book is so close to the diary of a stalker that you will be simultaneously appalled (jeez, that’s scary!), confused (why can’t she see that he doesn’t care for her?), and sympathetic (she really needs help, I hope she gets it). That combination of emotions didn’t work for me, as the feeling that overpowered everything was disgust. This woman just did not get it. The begging and pleading and duplicity were way too much for me to keep on going. That being said, I did finish the book despite my soul pleading for me to just DNF and move on. The author made a good showing, and I am sure there is a better second book in the works.

I will say the writing is good, the characters were mostly fleshed out and the twist at the end was something I didn’t see coming. The actual ending….meh. I felt that anyone who made it through the slog should have deserved better. The more I think about it, the more I call it a cop-out.

THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND is one of the few books that I regretted spending time reading, even as I turned the pages. Perhaps if Juliette was less clingy (would that have diluted the story?) or if the book was shorter (there was a lot of plans and wailing and gnashing of teeth). At times it seemed as if the plot consisted of Juliette just breaking into places (some of which seemed nigh impossible) then vacillating between love and hatred for Nate. At least seven instances of that could have been removed to make the book go faster.

I think this book is one you will either love or hate – which one will you be? You can pick up your copy here.

Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker

Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.

Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.

But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.

Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Fans of unreliable narrators – get ready to love this book. Each character looks out for himself (some more than others), tells lies, and behaves oddly, and they all desperately want to avoid punishment for the tragedy that happens in the latter half of the book. The author is generous with tropes (narcissism, infidelity, money, desperation) and it mostly works to create this sometimes fast-paced story. I was not sure if I hated or felt sorry for the main character, the eponymous Man of the Year.

The author is skilled at creating circumstances that change with perception. Each chapter is told in the point of view from each character, so the disconnect between perception is magnified. Some characters get to speak only once, which is jarring. I had to think for a moment or two when a minor character took over the narration. Some of these narrators are never heard from again; they tell their story just for the reader to see things from yet another angle.

Dr. Hart is a tragic figure, cuckolded by his son’s friend, who is staying with the family over the summer. The stereotypical “guest staying in the pool house” provides a convenient location for some activities that muddy the plot and/or provide tension. His wife Elizabeth seems self-centered and vacuous – I am not sure if that was what the author intended, or if she was written that way on purpose. I disliked her almost from the start and did not change my feelings when the book was finished.  However, I did end up disliking the rest of the characters towards the end, regardless of how the plot twisted. At that point, I was heartily sick of everyone’s machinations and drama and self-servitude.

I would give the book four and a half stars, for while the plot was engaging there were a few draggy spots and as mentioned above, some characters faded in and out. This fading caused me to disengage a bit when they reappeared since I thought they were on the fringe, not actually moving the story along.

You can get your own copy here.

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