Posted in Family Stories, Family Stories, General Fiction, Humor, Literary Fiction

Mr. Wizard by Jeff Wallach

Publication Info: Published April 2020, by Open Books. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition, courtesy of the Publisher. Also available in paperback.

Summary: Two brothers, now both financially successful adults, grew up thinking that their father died in Vietnam. But Mom was always cagey on the subject of their paternity. After her death, the two brothers take DNA tests. Phillip learns that his father was Irish; Spencer’s father was southern European.

The two brothers, who were raised thinking they were fully Jewish, react very differently to this unexpected news. Phillip goes into a tailspin, determined to find his Catholic birth father in Ireland. Spencer’s response, as is his answer to just about everything in life, is to throw his rapid-fire humor at the situation.

As the brothers explore themselves, their relationship to each other and their extended and various kin, they realize that family isn’t just who you’re related to.

Comments: I loved and appreciated Mr. Wizard on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin. The writing is deeply insightful, intelligent and witty. I laughed out loud in several places. I’m not typically a “laugh out loud while reading” kind of person, but I’m a sucker for smartly written humor.

While there is not a drop of Irish in me that I know of (although Dad tried to convince me that we had a Polish/Irish ancestor named O’Helska), I was raised Catholic. Very Catholic — at least on Mom’s side. Dad’s side was a bit more dubious. My sister took one of those DNA tests and confirmed what Dad had been dropping hints about for years — that we were part Ashkenazi Jewish. One Christmas, Dad slipped dreidels into my kids’ Christmas stockings. Mom had an absolute fit, screaming that she never wanted a mixed marriage. So yeah, I could totally relate to this book!

So far, I have two books firmly only top ten list for 2020 and Mr. Wizard sits jauntily perched at the top of that list.

Very highly recommended for readers who like stories about family, General Fiction, Literary Fiction and Humorous Fiction.

My Rating: 5 STARS

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 Beach Read, Humor, Popular Fiction, suspense, Thrillers

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

Publication Info: Published September 17, 2019 by Minotaur Books. Hardcover edition courtesy of my local library

Summary: Rose Dennis wakes up sitting outside in a hospital gown and doesn’t remember how she got there. A young boy finds her wandering around dazed and dehydrated. Soon two men in white coats come and take her back to a facility where she is sedated.

As Rose drifts in and out of consciousness, she becomes aware she is in a memory care unit for early onset Alzheimer’s patients. She hears two people talking about her in the hallway — one of them says that Rose isn’t expected to live out the week. Deep inside her addled mind, Rose knows something is very wrong and begins to plot her escape.

Once she gets out, she contacts the two people she trusts: her teenage grand daughter and her older sister. Her sister, Marion, is an agoraphobic computer nerd and her grand daughter, Mel, is extremely resourceful. With Mel’s help, Rose heads to her house, the home she shared briefly with her husband until he died suddenly. Still full of unpacked boxes, the house is a temporary haven at best. She knows someone will be looking for her. When a man breaks in and tries to kill her, she realizes she must figure out who is behind the plot to get her out of the way before it’s too late.

Comments: This book was a lot more fun to read than the synopsis would suggest. What Rose Forgot is a bright and witty book in the usually tense and gloomy thriller genre. There are lots of unexpected wryly humorous twists and turns. It is obvious very early in the novel that there is nothing wrong with Rose’s mind and she becomes a very likeable main character — I’d love to have her as a neighbor!

Many years ago I read several books in Nevada Barr’s “Anna Pigeon” mystery series. This is a standalone novel. It was so much fun to read that now I want to go back and read her series again. I should start at the beginning because I have no idea which ones I read.

Highly recommended for readers of Thrillers and Suspense novels who are looking for something a little different. Mystery readers and those familiar with her other books may enjoy this too. I sure did!

My Rating: 5 STARS