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I read mostly literary fiction, but I also enjoy mystery, fantasy, and science fiction.

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Gabrielle Zevin: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (Hardcover, 2022, Knopf) 4 stars

In this exhilarating novel, two friends--often in love, but never lovers--come together as creative partners …

Review of 'Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This is a beautifully told story about love and friendship, and how those two terms can both describe a single relationship. Love, work, and love of work are central themes.

The story focuses on Sam and Sadie, who meet as kids, by accident. They are a couple of brilliant introverts with a common interest in video games. Years later, they run into each other again, by chance, and it is Sam who is determined to stay in touch, with the specific hope of making games with Sadie. Eventually, they do just that, and by this time, there are other people in both of their lives, especially Marx, Sam’s college roommate, foil, and protector. Marx is an extroverted thespian into Shakespeare who coaxes Sam into bonding with him.

Sam has known trauma and adversity, is awkward socially, and is also self-conscious about a physical disability. Sadie must navigate the challenges of …

Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Hardcover, 2021, Henry Holt and Co.) 4 stars

Review of 'We Begin at the End' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This book has it all: the most fascinating young female protagonist ever, a mystery with a reveal that I did not see coming, and wonderful writing. In this intricate plot, there is sadness and tragedy, but also joy and redemption. We learn the history of the characters, who have the Dickensian names of Star, Duchess, Walk, King, Noble, and Darke, to name the major ones.

This novel is memorable, and I highly recommend it.

Review of 'Bombay Monsoon' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A novel that is both historical fiction and a mystery is very appealing, indeed.

I enjoyed experiencing a bit of India as it was in 1975, through Danny Jacob’s eyes. He’s a young journalist, attempting to cover the news from India at a critical time for its democracy, which lends this story some relevance to our own times. The story is written in a simple, straight forward way that seems most appropriate for a journalist.

Since this is a mystery, I will avoid any big reveals. Suffice it to say, Danny inadvertently puts himself in a couple or three dicey situations, depending on how one goes about counting. He’s got his job, social contacts, and a romantic entanglement. It turns out, all of them involve risks. Danny is definitely living dangerously.

Danny Jacobs is an extremely likable character, who has previously reported from Vietnam. That is, he is no stranger …

Gary Shteyngart: Our Country Friends (Hardcover, 2021, Random House) 4 stars

Review of 'Our Country Friends' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Our Country Friends is impressively rich with details and backstory, the kind of fascinating intricacy that I relish. Also, it’s a pandemic story, one in which a few old friends hunker down together at one friend’s country estate to catch up with each other while in lockdown.

Since this is a Gary Shteyngart novel, I’d expected a comedy, but I feel that this story is mostly a tragedy. When I did chuckle, I did so heartily, though, because groundhogs are always funny. That’s not to make anyone think of groundhog’s day–it’s never the same old same old with this cast.

It’s extremely important that these friends are not all alone; the landowner, Sasha, has invited a man we know only as The (famous) Actor. Therefore, this out of the way place gets some unwanted attention on social media, along with the ominous presence of an outsider.

Sasha and his wife …

Louise Erdrich: The Night Watchman (EBook, 2020, HarperCollins Canada, Limited) 5 stars

Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked …

Review of 'Night Watchman' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This historical novel by Louise Erdich is a gem. I liked the characters, the plot, and I liked the fact that I learned something, too! This is one of the few times I actually read the acknowledgements.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Egan: The Candy House (2022, Scribner) 4 stars

The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so …

Review of 'Candy House' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

As A Visit to the Goon Squad illustrated, our culture changes constantly, and it doesn’t take long for anyone to look around and think–how did we get here? Computers in our pockets are now a given. Social media has made it possible to communicate with millions of people, all at once, in seconds. We can now look up any information that comes to mind–except our own memories. But wait, what if a technology existed that allowed us to transfer all the memories in our minds to a device that showed us our lives, like a movie? The price? We’d have to share our memories to a collective. One more invasion of privacy.

Bix Bouton, of Mandala fame, has a new idea: Own Your Unconscious ™ . Many people will find this fascinating, then tempting. . Eventually, most people will happily accept this and their memories will become part of the …

Tana French: Broken Harbor (2012, Viking) 4 stars

The mesmerizing fourth novel of the Dublin murder squad by New York Times bestselling author …

Review of 'Broken Harbor' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

It was an exciting moment, realizing that there was a Tana French mystery that I'd somehow forgotten to read, and this did not disappoint.

This tale centers around Detective "Scorcher" Kennedy. Not only is there an intriguing murder to solve, but the concurrent challenges in Scorcher's personal life and in his dealings with colleagues make for a nice, dense read. And I think it ended at the right place.


Review of 'Telephone' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This was my first experience reading Percival Everett, and I'm impressed with his writing style. The protagonist is a self-described grumpy, blunt loner, but I found myself liking him, anyway. The main subject of the book is quite sad, and Zach Wells, the aforementioned grumpy protagonist and geology professor, has various coping mechanisms for facing what is happening in personal life, one of them quite daring.

There are three slightly different versions of this novel, which made it an interesting choice for our small book discussion group. Why did the author go with different ways to end this? Perhaps to see if it affected the way we felt about the story. Or perhaps it's an artistic device that is beyond me. Actually, I did get the feeling that I was missing things, but I still enjoyed the story, which was well-paced.

I would definitely read another Percival Everett book.

Review of 'Tiny Upward Shove' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A Tiny Upward Shove is a stunning debut novel by Melissa Chadburn, a rich tapestry that weaves together the stories of innocent lives and dreams torn apart, the disjointed threads of the child welfare system, and real life crime, along with some colorful Filipino folklore and tradition.

The story is told by an aswang, a shape-shifter being well-known in Filipino folklore, who is presently inhabiting the body of Marina Salles, an eighteen-year old young woman who has just been murdered by a pig farmer named Robert "Willy" Pickton. (He is a real person). The aswang gives us a flashback story into the life Marina started with, and how her life took such a devastating turn.

During her early childhood, Marina Salles lived with her mother, Mutya, and her loving Lola, or grandmother. Marina is very close to her Lola, and the two have a strong bond, but when Mutya decides …

Jessamine Chan: The School for Good Mothers (Paperback, 2022, Simon & Schuster) 4 stars

In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother …

Review of 'The School for Good Mothers' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

It's been hard for me to decide how to review this novel. It certainly was a page turner for me, and yet--I had some problems with the main character. For starters, Frida Liu had more than a "bad day." She left her toddler alone for over two hours, and she knew that she was doing it. That she refused to ask for help was overly proud, but that she chose not to take her child with her when she left the house is just inexplicable. So, right away, I felt that she deserved some consequences.

That said, the consequence she faces is bizarre. This is where the novel becomes dystopian. The dolls these parents had to use in training were the stuff of nightmares, and could easily be made into another story...meanwhile, the author did make an effective statement about the problems of child services: the racism, sexism, and classism …

Andy Weir: Project Hail Mary (Hardcover, 2021, Ballantine Books) 4 stars

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity …

Review of 'Project Hail Mary' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This is another epic journey facilitated by remarkable problem solving skills by Andy Weir. I especially enjoyed the protagonist's relationships in this one. I also liked the ending.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Fellowship of the Ring (Paperback, 1999) 4 stars

The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three volumes of the epic novel …

Review of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Dr. Nick Thesiger is a psychologist with a small practice in New York City, and is struggling with both finances and his marriage.

Nick is also the most unreliable narrator possible. As a psychologist, he has flashes of brilliance, but he can also be reprehensible. He is very smart, but is also afflicted with his own mental health issues.

In the beginning of this novel, Nick is sitting in a chair, in prison and shackled, having a conversation with his friend Bill, who is acting as his psychologist. Bill has asked Nick to write down the events of the last week, as he remembers them, hoping that this will help both of them get a better idea of the events in a more timely manner. During his encounter, Nick is obnoxious, argumentative, and arrogant. This is not stated directly, but at this point, the reader knows that Nick has been …

Review of 'Hammer' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Hammer, by Joe Mungo Reed, is a nicely written novel that is billed as a thriller, but reads more like a drama. It takes place mostly in London in the years 2013-14.

The first character we meet is Martin, an ambitious youngish man working at a London auction house. His backstory is meticulously drawn, including his eccentric parents and best friend James. Later, during an important auction, Martin reconnects with Marina, an old friend, who is now married to Oleg, a Russian oligarch. This connection with a rich oligarch is an exciting development in Martin's career, but while he is dazzled with dealing with Oleg, he is also drawn into an affair with Marina.

Oleg's story is partially shrouded in mystery--we know that many people in his native country consider him to be a crook, that he obviously took advantage of difficult, chaotic times in Russia to make his …

Susan Straight: Mecca (2022, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 5 stars

Review of 'Mecca' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Mecca is a novel that will stay with me for quite some time. Not only is the writing beautiful, but I got attached to the characters. Several stories come together to create this wonderful work by Susan Straight, and they show a diversity that is hidden from the eye and describe some of the presumptions and bigotry present in our society.

The title of this book is apt, since Mecca is both an actual place in California, and a mecca for some, for different reasons. Each character has an intricate, well-told story, some of them connected to each other in ways the characters themselves are often not aware. This makes these life stories, the types so seldom examined, all the more intriguing.

Straight is able to recreate the landscape for us, the beauty of the mountains and canyons, along with the wind, the dryness, and the heat. We are there …

Joshua Ferris: Calling for Charlie Barnes (2021, Little Brown & Company) 5 stars

Review of 'Calling for Charlie Barnes' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This clever novel starts out masquerading as pure comedy, before morphing into a more serious drama about an unusually fractured family. The narrator is Jake Barnes, who has his own particular origin story that the reader learns about in careful installments. Then, towards the end, Jake the writer looks upon what he has written, and the story becomes the story of the story of Charles Barnes, a metastory.

Let me back up, though. Charles Barnes has been married multiple times, tried on many lives, involving some hilarious get-rich-quick schemes. However, poor Chuck’s general direction, financially, is downward, owing to the funny, delusional choices he makes. At the age of sixty-eight, he has four children, with whom he has complicated relationships, owing to divorcing their mothers and finally settling down with a woman none of them like. Oh, I should mention that these wives have Dickensian last names. That’s a nice …