His & Hers by Alice Feeney
My head is still spinning from this twisted and dark lesson about thinking that what happens in high school will stay buried for the rest of your life. Anna is a BBC reporter who comes back to the small town she ran from as a teen to cover a recent murder. Her ex-husband just happens to still live there as well as her mother and most of the high school friends she was so eager to escape. Her ex is a cop and he is not all that happy to see Anna covering the case because both of them knew the victim. The story only gets more intense and muddied from there. Chapters alternate between he said, she said and a mystery narrator but try as hard as you can to figure out who did it, Alice Feeney the master of twisty tales, throws you a curve ball. Intense and scary - cancel all your plans because once you start you won't stop til it is over.
4 1/2 stars
Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings
Bettina goes on a manhunt into the Australian bush with a couple of her friends she is not on the best terms with. They are searching for Bettina's missing brothers who like her father, have disappeared. Her mother is quite content to keep the household all female but Bettina receives a strange note. This is a very dark tale with a "don't go into the woods at night" feel about it. It is part fairy tale, part horror story and a journey into the rabbit hole of madness. This short novel had me turned around for the first half of the book but the second half catches you up and keeps you not wanting to turn off the lights. 3 1/2 stars
Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Imagine a world of almost totally women after a strange virus wipes out most of the male population. Cole is mom to a young son who survived and she won't see him sent to a detention camp to be locked away for experiments or as a stud for future generations. Miles becomes Mila and the two of them head out across the west one step ahead of the bad guys, one of whom is Cole's wild sister.
Cole and Mila find the perfect cover in an all female evangelical tribe who are traveling from town to town. The banter is witty, the situation absurd but funny , and the cast of characters are off the wall to say the least. This violent look at a new world after a pandemic crosses the lines between traditional female/male roles but at its heart is still about one mom's quest to save her son. Suddenly, this kind of book is becoming much more believable . If you love a book that scoffs at stereotypes, a bit of science fiction and bad ass women - this one is for you. 4 stars
A Star is Bored by Byron Lane
Charlie is a man with many hats - assistant, life coach, body guard, therapist, pharmacist, travel agent, publicist - the list goes on. He is the assistant to a mega star whose life borders on the insane.
There are two phrases that Charlie learns to love and fear, "acting? NO" and "what's next? I'm bored". Incredible trips are followed with manic highs and lows, outrageous shopping and plenty of name dropping. Everyone knows she's out of control but Charlie just wants to fix her. He will only realize after it is all behind him how much she changes his life. Byron Lane knows a little bit about this life because he used to be Carrie Fisher's assistant. My heart rate was dangerously high as I sped through the pages - equally mesmerized and terrified of what I read. This funny heart warming and heart breaking story shows us that trying to care for someone with a mental illness and addition is like trying to catch raindrops in a glass. Just what you need to break out of those quarantine blues. 4 stars
Historical fiction in the time of the great San Francisco earthquake with a gothic ghost story mixed in.
Violet had a rough start in life and suffers from strange spells where things happen that she doesn't remember doing afterward making her an unreliable witness, her friends at the orphanage and then boarding house are trying to protect her and the earthquake gives them the perfect cover for a fresh start making them our next unreliable witnesses. Violet gets her life in order meeting and falling for a wealthy widower whose housekeeper wants him all to her self making her another unreliable witness. Strange things are happening at the house leading Violet to believe that the first Mrs. Carlyle is also not happy with her moving in. Reputations ruined, dastardly deeds, false friends and madness all play a big role here. Fans of Lyndsay Faye and Francine River's REDEEMING LOVE will find much to love here. 4 stars
Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney
What if someone showed up on your doorstep one day and told you that your precious 2 year old isn't yours but the good news is that the babies were switched and they have your real son? Would you swap back or keep the toddler you have? Would you play nice if you didn't like the other couple's answer? J.P. Delaney excels in unexpected endings and this one will make your jaw drop. Fast paced, wickedly smart and exactly what we have come to expect in a Delaney thriller. I caught myself several times yelling at the characters to watch their back. 4 stars
Crossings by Alex Landragin
Crossings explores the swapping of souls over lifetimes and takes us on a journey over much of the world and over 150 years. It revolves around a secret manuscript, a society based on recovering it and those two souls that start the pendulum swinging. The fascinating part of this book is that it can be read in two ways - the conventional start on page one or almost as a "choose your own adventure" format with guidance. The time periods will interest all lovers of historical fiction, the crossings themselves will delight those readers of time travel and ancient secrets we do not understand and mystery lovers will enjoy the hunt for those who got away and for those who must be found to right a wrong. It is truly an unusual book and a good choice for fans of Kate Atkinson, Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Caleb Carr. 4 stars
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
The indigenous people of Canada follow the old ways- that you can't trust the white man who tells you the land they are moving you to is better, that anyone your elder is always right and that you don't mess around with the Rogarou meaning that young women don't go out alone and don't take the shortcut through the woods. Joan knows there is truth in these statements but little did she know she would be dealing with the Rogarou again when she went looking for her missing husband. She finds him in a traveling bible-thumping tent show and even though he doesn't recognize her she knows it is him and will do anything to bring him home. This debut has the perfect balance of a native people's fairy tale mixed with the violence and sad situation that they find themselves in today.
A scary version of Little Red Riding Hood, this will keep you up all night with the lights on. Fans of mystical stories told by new cultural voices will enjoy this. 4 stars
He Started It by Samantha Downing
Four siblings and their grandpa take a cross country road trip that gets out of control. Were they kidnapped? Why does Grandpa have a gun and who is really in control? Fast forward to the same siblings now grown on a repeat road trip with two extras, minus the oldest sibling and Grandpa in a box. They are following the first trip to the letter in order to collect millions from Grandpa's estate. As you read about the first road trip and how badly it went off the rails, you think it can't get worse but "surprise", it does. This is the most corrupt, vicious family ever. They make the family in SUCCESSION or THE GODFATHER look tame. The book moves at breakneck speed and you are never sure of who the bad guys are or what will happen next. A one sitting session with paper cuts from turning the pages quickly. 4 stars
1918 Ireland was in the midst of the end of a brutal war and an influenzas pandemic that was wiping out much of a country that had suffered much already. This story takes place at a hospital in Dublin, on a floor that handles maternity patients who are suffering from influenza and focuses on a few of these women and the nurses giving them care. Nurse Julia Power is 30, unwed and drowning in caring for her patients without relief. They are shadows of themselves these wed and unwed, soon to be mothers many of them struggling at home just as much as they are struggling to breathe in their hospital bed. Julia is struggling right along with them until the day that Bridie shows up to help and lifts all of them up. A horrific reminder of what many of us are going through now but also a beautiful love story of two women who feel like life and love has passed them over. Heartbreaking and full of wisdom peppered with some of the absolute idiocy of the way these women were treated.
Fans of Emma Donoghue, ANGELA'S ASHES and deadly pandemic books like A YEAR OF WONDER will enjoy. 4 stars
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