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 General Fiction, Mid-Atlantic, USA

Made to Break Your Heart by Richard Fellinger

Summary: It’s good to live in a community where people watch out for each other — except when they scrutinize you a bit too closely.

Nick Marhoffer and his wife, Marcy, live in Misty Hill, an upper middle-class suburb of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Nick is a journalist for the local newspaper and Marcy works for a big public relations firm. They have one all around average kid, their 7-year-old son, Wesley.

Nick signs Wesley up for Little League and agrees to coach a team. Nick figures he can handle some boys Wesley’s age, despite his own lack of baseball skills. Anyone familiar with team sports knows it’s not the kids who are the problem, it’s the parents. Nick is about to learn that lesson.

Nick finds himself under scrutiny and pressure from the other coaches, the parents and most of all, his wife. Marcy isn’t happy with the way he looks at one of the other team mothers, but Nick can’t seem to stay away from sexy Tess Sugarmeier. After Nick is laid off from his job, their marriage gets even rockier.  As if Nick isn’t doing a good enough job getting himself into hot water, the town gossips unjustly turn up the heat until his volunteer coaching job is in jeopardy.

Comments: One of the great things about doing book reviews for a publisher is reading books that are out of my normal comfort zone.  I never had to deal with Little League, but my son was on a soccer team one year when he was about 10 and my own first marriage was rocky, so I could relate to Made to Break Your Heart. I remember the hours in the sun battling insects, the gossipy, controlling parents and the horrid snack bar duties. I could also relate to the locale as I was born and raised in the Mid-Atlantic area. One section of the book takes place at Camden Yards in Baltimore. It was a chance to feel like I was back there with my own kids again.

The book kept my interest and I really wanted to see if Nick resolved his problems. I didn’t personally like every character, particularly Marcy, but they are all portrayed realistically. Finally, I think the book could benefit from a different title.

I give this one a solid 4 books.

4 out of 5 books

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Open Books.