Fiction

Book 4 of 52: Lucky You by Carl Hiassen

About this time last year, I was reading a novel by Carl Hiaasen, the ultimate writer of Florida men, while lounging in the Florida sun. This week, I read a novel by Carl Hiassen while lying under multiple blankets on my couch in New Jersey, a state that feels like it has been stuck on permanent gray for the last six weeks. This photo, which I took in my bathroom, matches the general vibe (though after telling myself I wasn’t making my annual trek south this year, I cracked. Expect a Florida-themed photo on this site next month). This time around, the Hiaasen book of choice is Lucky You, a 1997 novel about two people who win the lottery. One is JoLayne Lucks, an animal lover who plans to use a portion of her winnings to buy and preserve a plot of undeveloped land so it won’t be paved over….

Read More

Book 2 of 52: Murder, She Wrote: The Maine Mutiny by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

And we’re back on the Murder, She Wrote boat! Or a lobster boat, as is the case with Murder, She Wrote: The Maine Mutiny. This 2005 entry into the Murder, She Wrote literary oeuvre opens with Fletcher stuck in an abandoned lobster boat with a dead body. She doesn’t remember how she got there, thanks to someone (she assumes the person who did the murdering) hitting her on the head. That’s the middle of this story, which then jumps back to what lead to be a controversy among lobstermen in the first place (and it is ALL men here), then to Fletcher being stuck on the boat, and of course unraveling the mystery of how she got there in the first place. It’s…fine, as were the other books I read in the series last year. They’re a fine way to pass the time without breaking your brain, especially if you’re…

Read More

Book 1 of 52: The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff

Happy New Year! With the turning of the calendar starts a new year of book reviews. Writing this blog last year was a joy, and a much needed kick in the pants to get me to think about writing for writing’s sake — and not writing just stuff I was being paid for (though I do have a tip jar, and I get a cut if you order any books from the links, just putting that out there!) So here I am again, ready to read another 52 books (or so), while matching my nail polish to the covers, and writing about it all here. First up for 2023 is The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff. She writes historical fiction surrounding World World II, with an informed point of view: before becoming a best selling author, she worked as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army and then for…

Read More

Book 66 of 52: Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath

And here we have it, the last book of the year: Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath. And it’s…fine. I wasn’t in much of a reading mood this week, despite being a person who always has a book. I started and stopped two books before I got to this one. Beauty Tames the Beast isn’t terrible, but it feels a bit like Heath ran out of gas. This is the sixth book in the “A Sins for All Seasons” season. There’s a out of nowhere plot twist in the last 100 pages. Of course our hero and heroine get together, but the “final” hurdle to them doing so feels low stakes. But it’s done and on the shelf of the books I read this year. Looking back on my reading in 2022, it feels…fine? I haven’t written this blog in a while, and it did force me to be…

Read More

Book 65 of 52: A Gentleman in Moscow

The funny thing about A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is that I’ve had this for almost three years, but avoided reading it because I assumed it would be a heavy book. It’s a Russian novel! But when I saw a friend write online that her blood pressure dropped every time she read it, I gave it a go. I’m glad I did. It’s about Count Alexander Rostov, who, at age 30, is sentenced to house arrest. The “house” in this case is the Metropol hotel in Moscow in 1922. A Bolshevik tribunal determined he was an unrepentant aristocrat, but spared his life because of a poem he wrote 1913. Instead, he is sent to live out his days in the belfry of this luxury hotel near the Kremlin. Alexander makes the most of it, living a full, often delightful life inside. My friend was right: I did feel…

Read More

Book 63 of 52: Baron by Joanna Shupe

In November, I reviewed a romance anthology for book 55 in this series: How the Dukes Stole Christmas, which included novellas by four different authors. I’d read books by three of the authors. The fourth, Joanna Shupe, was new to me, and I liked her novella enough that I bought Baron, which is part of her Knickerbocker Club series. The heroine is “Madam Zolikoff,” a medium who pretends to connect with the spirit world. It’s a job Ava Jones undertook because it was the best way to support herself and her three siblings, and to save money for her dream of moving them all out of New York City during the so-called Gilded Age, which left a lot of non-gilded people out in the cold. One of her clients is a man running for governor. He’s not the hero. Instead, it’s William Sloane, a railroad baron who will become his…

Read More

Book 61 of 52: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

When Inspector Chopra retires, he receives an unusual inheritance: a baby elephant. He can’t figure out why his uncle left him the animal, but he doesn’t have much time to figure it out. Despite the early retirement due to heart problems, he has one final case he can’t shake. What was initially ruled an accidental drowning doesn’t appear to be so, and in tracking down what really happened, Chopra uncovers a much bigger web of trouble running through the city of Mumbai. That’s the set up for The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan, but this cozy mystery didn’t do it for me. It doesn’t really come together until the last 50 pages. The separate stories of this case, what to do about the elephant, and the strain in Chopra’s marriage all feel like they’re plot lines floating around each other, to the point that I wondered why…

Read More

Book 60 of 52: Desert Star by Michael Connelly

The most distinct memory I have of reading a Michael Connelly book was in a Candlewood Suites in Grand Junction, Colo. on July 1, 2017. I was about six weeks into my “do you think a depressed person make this?!” trip to see the 18 states I hadn’t been to yet. I’d just driven across Utah while was sick with a head cold that hit me somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my flight back from Hawaii to Las Vegas. I’d planned to camp on public lands somewhere outside Arches National Park in Moab, but with temperatures still in the 90s at 5 p.m., I decided to skip it (and Arches entirely) and pay Fourth of July weekend hotel rates somewhere in Colorado. I was tired, physically sick, and homesick even though I didn’t have a home-as-a-structure to go back to. So I cried in the shower, turned up the…

Read More

Book 58 of 52: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

I’m getting ready to leave on a trip, so this will be a short post — which is apt as The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan is short! It’s a novella about the parents of characters in her The Brothers Sinister series (I’ve read most of these — recommended!) This story is about finding happiness after trauma and abuse. I don’t want to say exactly what happened to our hero and heroine because their stories unfold over the course of the novella, but it’s not a story I’ve often read in regency romance in exactly this way. Also if you’re coming here and still thinking romance writers and readers are a bunch of head in the cloud dodos, Milan is the pen name of  Heidi Bond, a Chinese-American lawyer who clerked for a Supreme Court Justice. She paved a way for herself in romance via self publishing, and then blew…

Read More

Book 57 of 52: Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

Signal Fires, a new novel by Dani Shapiro, starts with a death. Sarah Wilf, 17, is too drunk to drive, so she asks Theo, her 15-year-old brother, to drive for her. He ends up crashing into a tree in front of their home, which kills their friend Misty, who was a passenger. Signal Fires is about the after, and how secrets can be an acid that rips someone apart. The story focuses on the Wilfs, and also the Shamkmans, who move into the house across the street once Sarah and Theo have flown the nest. At the accident, Sarah lies and said she was driving, to protect Theo. Their father Ben, a doctor, rushes to the scene. He knows Theo wasn’t driving, but sticks to the story Sarah has made up. Even though she did it as an act of kindness to keep Theo out of trouble, it plants a…

Read More