Posted in ARC, Audio, Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction, Japan, Mystery

The Kimono Tattoo by Rebecca Copeland

Ruth Bennett is a translator working in Kyoto, Japan. Tall, redheaded Ruth is immediately recognizable as a foreigner, but she speaks impeccable Japanese and thoroughly embraces Japanese culture. She was born and raised in Japan while her parents worked as missionaries, although not the stereotypical sort. Her father was an obstetrician in a Christian hospital. Tragedy struck the family when her father was embroiled in a baseless malpractice case and her younger brother mysteriously vanished. Ruth’s parents returned to America, but Japan was home for Ruth.

Ruth’s current translation job is rather boring. She has no relatives nearby, few friends, and she’s not currently in a relationship. When a stranger knocks on her door offering her a chance to translate a novel by an author everyone assumed was dead, she gladly accepts the challenge. But as she reads the manuscript, she finds inconsistencies in writing style and the subject matter is about a dead woman’s body found naked on a nearby path. The body is covered in stunningly artistic tattoos that strongly resemble kimono fabric. After a very similar story appears on the television news, she knows the woman has been murdered.

Ruth slowly discovers she is the target of a very dangerous and powerful person. As she works to solve the puzzle of the manuscript and the tattooed woman, she discovers that she also has allies, friends and support from unexpected places.

In The Kimono Tattoo, kimonos are mentioned and observed in great detail so frequently, the reader can’t miss them. But as someone who knows very little about kimonos, I found this fascinating. The author also described the setting near Ruth’s home so well that I could picture myself walking those paths.

The mystery is just as complex as the dead woman’s tattoos. I listened to the audio version of this book and I was so engrossed in the story that I had to keep reminding myself to turn it off and go to sleep!

I looked up the author’s webpage and biography. Rebecca Copeland draws her main character’s history from her own life experiences. She is also an illustrious Japanese translator and literary critic. This is her first work of fiction.

Thank you NetGalley and Brother Mockingbird publishers for the opportunity to listen to the audio version of this book. The Kimono Tattoo is now available at your favorite print or audio book retailers.

My Rating: 5 Stars, Grade A

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, General Fiction, Humor

The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

Publication Info: Published April 14, 2020 by Berkley. I read the Kindle pre-pub edition courtesy of of the Berkley, Penguin Random House and NetGalley. Other editions now avaialble.

Summary: A troubled young woman climbs through the bedroom window of an assisted living home and changes everyone’s lives, including her own.

The bedroom is shared by two elderly men, Carl Upton and Duffy Sinclair. The young woman, Josie, is Carl’s granddaughter, whom he’s never met. In fact, he barely met his daughter, having run off after signing the baby’s birth certificate. The baby’s mother was his mistress and his wife never knew about the affair.

Josie’s arrival comes as a complete shock to Carl, but also to Duffy. Carl is his best friend and they shared everything about their lives…or at least he thought they did. As for Josie, her life is in tatters after the death of her mother. She is also an alcoholic. Duffy recognizes himself in the young woman and is drawn to her, despite his better judgement.

The assisted living home is run by woman whose bottom line is rules and money, not people. Everyone lives in fear of getting tossed out if they speak up or if their health fails. Duffy and Carl decide to let Josie stay there for a week, against all house rules. They try to keep Josie a secret, but Josie doesn’t cooperate and soon all of the residents are pitching in to help her.

Comments: The Big Finish was delightful. It felt joyous and full of life, despite the ever-present specter of illness and death that is part of assisted living. I particularly liked the voice of Duffy, who told most of the tale from his perspective. In my opinion, his wry humor and witty observations elevated this novel. All of the characters seemed true-to-life. I spent quite a bit of time visiting my mother-in-law in a combination nursing home/rehab center that felt much like this place, with its activities and schedules, so I could really picture it.

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Asian, Best Sellers, Contemporary Fiction, Cultural, Fiction

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Publication Info: Published September 12, 2017 by Penguin Press. I read the Book of the Month Club hardcover edition. Other editions available.

Summary: Elena Richardson’s guiding life principle is that everything will be just fine if you live by the rules. She grew up in Shaker Heights, a well-ordered town, went away to college briefly, and came right back with a new husband in tow. Of Elena’s four children, three of them more or less adhered to her guidelines for life, but the youngest, Izzy, rebelled from birth.

The Richardsons live in a large house in the most prosperous part of town, but they also own a rental duplex. Elena likes to make herself feel like she’s doing a good deed by renting it to people who seem like they need a boost in life. The bottom floor is occupied by a quiet school bus driver. The top floor is rented to an artist/photographer named Mia and her teenage daughter, Pearl. Elena thought they seemed like nice quiet people, but Elena would come to regret her choice of upstairs occupants.

Mia and Pearl lived an itinerant lifestyle until moving to Shaker Heights. Mia wandered the country, looking for artistic inspiration (as well as running from a deep secret in her past), dragging her daughter along with her. In Shaker Hights, Mia feels that her secret is far enough in the past to allow Pearl to make friends and live a semi-normal life.

But when Elena, who is a reporter for the local paper, gets on her high horse about events that are none of her business, it sets off a chain of events that change several families’ lives forever.

Comments: I’m not sure why I didn’t pick this book up when it first came out, but I’m very glad I finally did. Two things prompted me to take a closer look at Little Fires Everywhere. The first is that it is now a TV show on Hulu and I wanted to read the book before seeing the show. The second is that I had a free credit to use on my Book of the Month club subscription and this title was one of the options.

I have to say that the book exceeded my expectations. I was impressed with the depth and insight into the realistic characters. The issues of cultural identity were dealt with deftly, teaching me something about my own thinking in the process.

Highly recommended for readers of General Fiction and Multi-Cultural fiction.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Best Sellers, Contemporary Fiction, General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mid-Atlantic, USA, Murder Mystery, Realistic Fiction

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Publication Info: Published January 27 by Riverhead Books. I read the hardback edition through my Book of the Month membership. Other editions available.

Summary: Two sisters, Mickey and Kacey, live in a distressed neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were raised by their over-extended and emotionally distant grandmother after their mother died from drugs and their father vanished. As young children, the siblings were very close, sharing a single bed and whispered secrets. But as they grew up, they grew apart and those secrets turned into silences that came between them.

Mickey rose out of the depths of her childhood experiences to become a cop and a single mother. She worked in her neighborhood and knew its dark corners all too well. Kensington was the place to go if you wanted opioids and heroin. Kacey turned to drugs and the streets, working as a prostitute to feed her habit. Mickey knew where Kacey’s corner was and kept an eye on her, although they didn’t speak to each other.

After discovering the body of a woman, Kacey realized the deceased wasn’t just another overdose. The woman had been strangled. She tried to get more information from her department head, but kept getting the brush off. She began to worry about her sister, as she hadn’t seen her in over a month. When more women turned up murdered, Kacey risked her career to find her sister and discover the identity of the murderer.

Comments: I know it’s only February, but Long Bright River is already on my top 10 list of most memorable books for 2020. This vivid, poignant novel of how drugs impact one family affected me deeply. The author created realistic and complex characters.

I have a family member who was hooked on opioids and heroin, so have first hand experience with the tragedy that ravages through communities and families throughout the country. From this painful knowledge, I can attest to the realistic depiction of addiction in Liz Moore’s novel.

Very highly recommended for readers of Literary Fiction, General Fiction and those who like novels with deep, authentic characters. The novel also has elements of a murder mystery, but while that drives the plot, the novel transcends that genre.

My Rating: 5 STARS +

Posted in Apocalyptic Fiction, Beach Read, Best Sellers, Contemporary Fiction, Popular Fiction, Science Fiction

The Warehouse by Rob Hart

Publication Info: Published August 20, 2019 by Crown. Kindle pre-pub edition courtesy of NetGalley.

Summary: In the near future, global warming has turned much of the country into permanent desert conditions. Small towns are nearly abandoned and cities are hot and overcrowded. After the Black Friday Massacre, when thousands of people were shot while doing their holiday shopping, people are afraid to leave their homes for even routine errands. Most brick and mortar stores have gone out of business except for the very largest ones and a few determined mom-and-pop stores.

One man, Gibson Wells, is behind the solution. He created mega centers where people live and work. Deliveries to homes outside of Cloud are made with a well-designed drone system. When people work for MotherCloud aka Cloud, they have everything they need right on the climate controlled property, which is described as much like an oversized airport terminal.

As the story begins, Gibson Wells is dying from cancer. He is taking his last year to visit his MotherCloud centers and greet workers personally. He has yet to choose his successor.

At one of the centers, two new employees have different agendas. Paxton has an axe to grind with Gibson Wells. Paxton invented a device that cooked a perfect hard-boiled egg. Cloud purchased the product and then undercut the prices time after time, putting Paxton out of business. He wants to meet Gibson Wells and give him a piece of his mind. Zinnia is a corporate spy, sent to discover weaknesses and deceit in Cloud’s power systems.

Paxton and Zinna find themselves unexpectedly sucked into the Cloud mentality. It seems to not be quite as bad as they thought. But slowly, they discover things that put their very lives in danger.

Comments: This is a whiz-bang, first-rate page turner! I romped through it in a single day. The author has created a very believable world, in which things that actually exist today are just taken to the next horrific step. The characters are all very relatable and the alternating chapters in their voices gives the reader a well-rounded perspective.

A bit of an amusing personal aside on current delivery systems, I’m currently waiting for a package delivery. The package was apparently farmed out to an individual who does deliveries after work. The building I’m living in locks the doors at 5 pm. This package is going round and round trying to get here. I’ve tried to resolve this problem, but haven’t been able to yet. It definitely would be nice if a drone could drop it on my balcony!

Very highly recommended for readers of General Fiction, Science Fiction, Apocolyptic and Dystopian Fiction, and Contemporary Fiction. It would also make a great Beach or Travel read and I’d love to see it hit the best-seller lists.

Director Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment has already opted to adapt The Warehouse into a movie. I don’t watch many movies, but I’m already looking forward to this one!

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Police Procedural, Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers

Lying Next to Me by Gregg Olsen

Publication Info: Published May 21st 2019 by Thomas & Mercer. I read the Kindle edition through Amazon’s Prime Reading

Summary: Adam Warner is out on the lake with his three year old daughter, Aubrey, when they witness a shocking scene on shore. Adam’s wife, Sophie, is suddenly attacked and hauled off by a strange man. Panicked, Adam rows to shore as quickly as he can but by the time he gets there, the man is gone–and so is his wife. The only witness to the crime is a nearsighted old man. Sophie is soon found dead on the beach.

Besides the cottage Adam is in, there are two others rented out. In one is a grandmother, watching her two very active grandsons. She was busy inside at the time of the incident. The other is rented out by a married couple, Kristen and Connor. The woman says she didn’t hear anything and the man was sleeping off an alcoholic binge.

The police investigate and, of course, the suspicion falls on the husband, Adam. But, Lee, one of the officers knew him from childhood. Adam found her after a she was abducted as a young girl and she just knew he couldn’t have done it. Adam was one of the good guys.

As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that more than one person may have had a motive for killing Sophie Warner, and that the motive for the murder is far more complex than it first appears.

Comments: Lying Next to Me is an engrossing, rapid-fire tale of murder and deceit. The reader is led to a conclusion about the murderer and then just knows there is more to come. And there is — in a stunning conclusion.

There was one part at the end that didn’t quite ring true, but it was about a secondary character and not important to the overall plot.

Recommended for readers of Mysteries, Psychological Suspense, Thrillers, Suspense and those looking for something for a long flight or the beach.

My Goodreads rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, World Building

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

Publication Info: Expected publication date September 10, 2019 by Berkley. Pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley

Summary: Due to a rash of bombings and shootings that killed thousands of people, the government passed the congregation laws. Public gatherings of more than two or three people in an area are prohibited. This changed the way restaurants and hotels function. Large office buildings are sometimes completely abandoned. There are no more movie theaters or concert venues. Traditional stores can no longer operate and have been subsumed into a huge, automated center called Superwally, that provides drone delivery service for everything anyone could need.

Rosemary, a young woman, still lives with her parents on their family farm. She works for Superwally from her bedroom via “hoodie space”, a virtual reality conduit. She is a tech troubleshooter. She’s never seen anything beyond the farm, is very isolated and is too young to remember “before”.

One day, Rosemary does some troubleshooting for a representative of StageHolo. He offers her a chance to see a StageHolo concert and sends her an upgraded hoodie. Rosemary is suddenly introduced to the larger virtual reality world, where people meet in cyberspace to hear music, dance, drink and share experiences.

The flashy concert brings some excitement into Rosemary’s dull life. She decides to apply for a job with StageHolo and leaves home for the first time. She is now a recruiting agent, looking for bands in hiding, playing in private homes and illegal clubs around the country.

She soon realizes she’s made a deal with the devil and determines to help the musicians she finds in a very different way.

Comments: A Song for a New Day is an amazing book. It projects from the current situation in the US to a not too distant future, where people live in fear and isolation. The book also addresses the loneliness and falsehoods in social media. People project avatars in hoodie space that homogenize them. This is a place where mega-corporations rule and the government dictates behavior. In our current world, laws that separate us are being passed now. Not to this extreme, but the seeds are being planted. We are living in fear of shooters at malls, concerts and schools.

I related to this book on multiple levels. I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore, where some of this book takes place. I used to play guitar and sing in small venues and coffee houses in the area. I saw those struggle to stay in business.

But most of all, I have been a resident in virtual reality for thirteen years. I know how it feels to attend cyberspace concerts and clubs, to have coffee with friends that I never meet in person. I have experienced deep isolation with most of my friends being just contacts on social media.

Sarah Pinsker hits the mark on so many points. I’ve become an instant fan of her writing and hope she writes more novels!

My Goodreads rating– 5 stars

Posted in Beach Read, Best Sellers, British, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers, Women's Fiction

Twenty-Nine Seconds by T.M. Logan

Publication Info: Expected publication date Sept 10, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press. Pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley. Previously published in the U.K.: other editions available.

Summary: Dr. Sarah Haywood works hard at her job at the University. She really needs a promotion to a permanent position, as she is currently single mother. Her husband ran off with another woman to “find himself”, leaving her with two young children. Sarah works hard, keeps on top of her busy teaching schedule and even comes up with an idea for additional funding.

But all of this is threatened by one man, Professor Alan Hawthorne. Alan won’t let her — or any woman — get ahead unless they agree to his terms. At the university, Alan is untouchable. He has an impeccable public reputation on his BBC show. If a woman complains about his sexual harassment, she is disgraced and dismissed. When he steals Sarah’s ideas, she feels completely overwhelmed.

One fateful day, Sarah inadvertently does a good deed for a stranger. That stranger offers to make one person, any person, in her life disappear forever. Sarah must decide if the risks outweigh the consequences.

Comments: I couldn’t put this book down. I read until late in the evening, fell asleep, woke up and finished it. It absolutely had me gripping my Kindle until the very last few pages.

This is a very timely story of one man’s abuse of power and the fear he instills in others to keep his secrets. I know there are women out there who will relate to the situation, if not the solution.

Highly recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense and Thrillers. It would also make a terrific Beach Read and I’d love to see it on the best seller lists.

My Goodreads rating is 5 stars.

Posted in Apocalyptic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, General Fiction, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Thrillers

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Publication Info: Published June 11th 2019 by Crown. E-book kindle edition courtesy of Netgalley.

Summary: Helena Smith, a neuroscience researcher, feels disheartened. Her project is about to run out of money and she’s nowhere near a solution. Driven by her desire to help her mother who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, Helena is trying to discover a way to preserve and restore memories. She’s on the verge of giving up when a mysterious man offers to fund her project beyond her wildest dreams. Recursion Crouch

Barry Sutton, an NYPD detective tries to talk a despondent woman, Ann Voss Peters,  down off the ledge of a high-rise. After a brief conversation with her, he realizes she is a victim of false memory syndrome. In her mind, Ann lives two lives. In one set of memories–her real memories–she lives single life in New York. In another, she remembers a husband and young son. Her second set of memories are in black and white, yet the emotions associated with them are completely real. After listening to her story, he tries to talk her out of suicide, but fails.

In alternating chapters, Helena and Barry narrate their stories, unaware that they are destined to meet and change the world–over and over.

Comments: Recursion is a genre jumping look into the repercussions of fear and power. In a book that blurs the lines between science fiction, apocalyptic fiction and thrillers, it has potential to appeal to a broad audience. There is even a G rated love story tossed in for good measure. I can envision this book translating well to film.

Highly recommended for readers of sci-fi, speculative fiction, apocalyptic fiction, thrillers and anyone who likes general fiction with a twist.

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, General Fiction, Thrillers

Freefall by Jessica Barry

Publication Info: Hardcover, published January 8th 2019 by Harper. Other editions available.

A private plane crashes in the Rockies. The pilot is killed and the passenger is presumed dead by investigators. No second body is found, just a few artifacts, including a necklace belonging to the deceased. Freefall

Maggie Carpenter has been estranged from her daughter, Allison, for two years. Allison vanished after she witnessed her mother giving a terminal dose of morphine to her terminally ill father. Maggie felt too guilty to pursue Allison and let her live her life. But now that Allison has been declared dead, Maggie is determined to find out just how Allison ended up on that plane.

Allison, of course, is not dead (no spoilers here, we find that out in the first chapter), but she is running from her recent past. She knows that there is someone out to kill her. Can Allison get off the mountain and to safety before starvation and thirst or her pursuer catch up with her?

Told from both Allison’s and Maggie’s point of view, Freefall is a page-turner of a thriller. I read it cover to cover within 24 hours and it was perfect escapist literature. Nothing terribly original here — I knocked a few points off for the ubiquitous “evil corporation”– but there is a small twist at the end that I admit I didn’t see coming.

Recommended for readers of thrillers and popular fiction. Not recommended for reading on a plane while flying over the Rockies :).