Category Archives: Fiction

The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig

Reviewed by Teri Takle

How often do you think about your choices that you make every day? You have to decide if you plan to get out of bed, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, etc…

Nora Seed has choices about her life almost every second. Her choice of suicide brings her to another reality. Could you imagine every single possibility you could have taken in your life? Would life be different for you? Could you have had a happier and more fulfilling life, or were you doomed from the start?

What if there exists a book for every possibility you had chose not to take in your life? Endless opportunities for you that could have been your life?

Would you prefer to read about whether you had chosen to marry, have a family, marry someone else, move across the country, or to a different country? The possibilities are endless.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Reviewed by Teri Takle

New York City residents, Amanda and Clay, need a vacation. Life can be tedious with having a teenaged boy and a daughter. They lead the busy lives of a white middle-classed American family. Amanda selected the perfect vacation home on Long Island in a remote and luxurious area, renting a house with a pool for one week. The home is lovely and better than she had expected.

Their time on Long Island is enjoyable until there is a knock on the door. An older black couple is waiting to enter the house while claiming that this is their home and they want the family to leave.

They will even refund their week’s stay in cash, even doubling it. They claim that strange things are happening in the city, so they jointly decided to go back to their own home.
Wait! The week is not over. Do you leave? Do you demand a refund? Are they the actual owners? Is this some scam? Do they believe the couple? Are they criminals?
Would you? What would you do?

Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrick Backman

Reviewed by Teri Takle

If you ever read a book that was not what you expected, Anxious People could easily be the one.

You have a finite group of people: a bank robber, a real estate agent, an older couple looking for an apartment to flip into a profit, their hired person trying to help them purchase, a two-women couple with one expecting a baby soon looking for a home, an elderly neighbor, an overly-wealthy bank executive, a senior police officer, and his son, a newer police officer following in his dad’s footsteps; all deciding who should and shouldn’t buy the apartment. The exceptions are the policemen who are attempting to arrest the bank robber.

Being human, each person possesses secrets that can change how others perceive them, and no one wants their secrets revealed.

Are you confused yet?

Anxious People is funny with twists as the reader learns about each character, slowly revealing themselves to others. While always making you question what these people are doing and why.
Characterization is phenomenal in Anxious People. You quickly develop a visual person and their personality for each one allowing you to understand their motivations.

Araya by E. Detorres

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

An elite team of Gundogs has been trained by Ellis Fast to hunt down and kill Gluttons for their armor. Gluttons are the deadliest and most ferocious creatures in Hell’s Heart, a Black Forest filled with trees that can influence people through music and lyrics and cause them to lose their sanity. While on a mission, one of the team members is killed in a particularly heinous way by a Glutton. The remaining members make the trek out of the forest before they lose touch with reality. After returning to their mountain abode, they are hired to retrieve an asset that the military believes could change the tide of an ongoing war, and the secretive weapon is located deep in the Black Forest. Ellis along with team members Alex Bright and Smug embark on a mission fraught with threats from sadistic creatures that live in the forest, the trees that invade people’s minds and cause horrifying reactions in behavior against themselves and/or others, and soldiers from warring factions. Will the team find the asset and make it out of the forest to safety or will they succumb to the call of the trees and/or be killed by the minacious life forms before they can complete their mission?

Slip Out the Back, Jack: A bone-chilling gritty serial killer thriller (Jack Ryder Book 2) by Willow Rose

Reviewed by Allen Hott

An interesting but somewhat confusing book by one of the busiest writers in the marketplace right now. Willow Rose is a Scandinavian writer by birth but now resides in the United States and has had over 125 books published in this country. She writes Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Horror, Supernatural thrillers, and Fantasy.

Slip Out the Back, Jack is somewhat of a combination mystery thriller with some romance interspersed throughout. One of the first

chapters tells of a surprise gun attack in a crowded theater but it takes several more chapters before the reasons for that in this book to become apparent. Following the flow of the total story takes some work by the reader as there are several different occurrences that have to come together to make it a complete story.

But as these things happen Jack Ryder, a detective, is a major part of the entire book as he tries to live his life solving mostly murders while he raises his children, at least partially, as his separated wife also does her part in this job.

Ellipsis by Kristy McGinnis

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Ellipsis” by Kristy McGinnis is a wonderful piece of fiction that reads like real life. The novel tells the story of a girl becoming a woman. And through this not so out of the ordinary life are presented some of the horrors of ordinary life.

The novel opens up with the blossoming of Nell Sanger, a college student who has all her future mapped out. She took on some side jobs to help support herself, one of which was modeling for art students. That is where she met Narek, a gifted art student from Armenia. The two immediately felt connected by the many things they have in common and were intrigued by each-others cultural and personal differences.

But this is not a simple love story. It is a complex tale about the many forms love can take and the challenges that these bring. The love for and of a boyfriend, former lover, child, mentor, fellow women, the love of self. As you go through the pages of the book, there is an overwhelming sense that tragedy, loss is inescapable. Happiness, on the other hand, is harder to hold on to. Will Nell be able to experience joy, or will all her happiness end up being trapped somewhere in the past?

Forbidden Brownstones by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Author Clifford Browder, prolific in both his knowledge of New York history and its people, affords literary enthusiasts with another journey into historic New York with the fifth title in his Metropolis series, Forbidden Brownstones, a work which artfully portrays life from the perspective of its central character, Junius Fox.

As a young black male living in mid 1800s New York City, Junius Fox and his family, although free, faced political, cultural and social constraints of a society stuck in the throes of the system of slavery. Living in a world alive with rampant instances of overt racism and easily provoked violence towards blacks created an overall environment for blacks living in New York at the time a struggle to thrive in and very often dangerous to live in.

However, Junius witnessed something shining in the midst of his limited life sparking a deep desire within him for the seemingly unattainable, a Brownstone. For Junius his longing for owning a Brownstone became an obsession since the age of twelve, when he became initially entranced by the enticing visage and mystery of the buildings, fomenting a desire that continued to burn within him into his adulthood. However, Brownstones were not owned by black people at that time, not even those considered Black gentry. Instead, the sought-after homes were only owned and lived in by the white gentry in the city, who refused to sell to monied blacks. Blacks could only work in the buildings. For Junius to own a Brownstone as a black man was a fantasy that he wanted as a reality.

Meanwhile, determined Junius was not deterred from his desires by his station in life. Alternatively, he sought to be the best, as he makes his way into the world of gainful employment through jobs available at the time. Eventually, fate brings him closer to finally satisfying his Brownstone obsession with finally working and residing in a Brownstone not once but twice.

Twenty: A Jack Swyteck Novel by James Grippando

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Jack Swytek, one of Grippando’s favorite characters, is pulled into quite a tale in this one. Swytek, a defense attorney, gets the call to defend Xavier Khoury, an eighteen-year-old high school student who has been charged with a deadly shooting in a Florida school. Ironically, Jack’s wife, Andie who is an FBI agent was on the scene because she was taking their daughter to school. Neither Andie nor her daughter were hurt but twenty casualties did occur.

Xavier was immediately identified as the shooter because the gun found by his side had his dad’s name on it. Since Andie was friends with his mother, she was brought in to help on the arrest and detainment. Upon arrangement Xavier blurted out, “Mom, it’s ok..I did it”.

Andie stays with the mother to help her and Jack is called in immediately to serve as the defense lawyer for the boy. No one can figure out why he would do it even though his father is a devout Muslim. But the heart of the story now becomes the fact that Xavier refuses to talk to anyone. He won’t even talk with Jack who is trying to defend him. The only reason that Jack gets so tightly involved in the case is that the daughter of a close friend of his was killed in the shooting.

Murder on the Metro by Margaret Truman and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“You need to get somewhere safe,” one character tells another late in MURDER ON THE METRO, to which the other responds, “I don’t think there is such a place anymore.”

That should come as no surprise, given that Jon Land has picked up the writing duties in this 31st book in the New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series originally conceived by Margaret Truman. After all, Land is no stranger to high stakes thrillers in which the country, or entire world, hang in the balance. In MURDER ON THE METRO, those stakes include the United States government which is about to be overthrown.

Yes, you heard that right. Known for tearing his ideas from the headlines, Land actually writes his own this time out, having the prescience to pretty much predict what we all witnessed on January 6 when a mob descended on the Capitol. And the result, from an entertainment standpoint, is one of those rare literary sure things. A can’t-miss, can’t-put-it-down, can’t-believe-I’m-reading-this thriller that clicks on every level.

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery by Byron TD Smith

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery is a well-researched story interweaving real-world intrigue into a fictional tale full of questions. Windfall is not an over the top mystery thriller where every moment is filled with high suspense and the pressing need for action. Instead, it quietly tells a tale about an unassuming former banker, who is somewhat reluctantly drawn into the maze by a love for puzzles and at the urging of his precocious niece and captivating neighbor. The distraction might be exactly what our protagonist needs to pull him out of a dark period in his life – unless the danger catches up to him.

While the book may move at a more casual pace than many modern mysteries, which feel the need to fill every page with excitement, that does not mean it is lacking in tense moments of suspense. The first chapter of the book will hook you before the following chapters reel you into the world surrounding one of the most infamous unsolved crimes. Author Byron TD Smith does a terrific job of balancing these moments with wonderful character development, that leaves the reader feeling connected to those who live between the pages. All the characters feel real, and their actions are believable, which is not often something you find in the genre.

Mr. Smith’s writing flows smoothly across the pages and can make it difficult to find a place to pause your reading session. This can pose a hazard for late-night readers as they may find a short sleep ahead of them. Smith doesn’t rely on the high-octane world of sex, drugs, and rock & roll to sell the reader on his story, although all three do lurk around the edges. Instead, he relies on the compelling storylines and mildly eccentric characters he has created to keep readers engaged. He doesn’t attempt to write down to the reader to appeal to a larger audience, nor does he alienate readers with overembellished sentences.

After finishing the book, I was surprised to discover that Windfall was Mr. Smith’s first novel. The polished storytelling and literary presence read like an author who has honed his craft for years. I look forward to seeing what he will bring us next, and based on the subtitle am hoping to meet up with Henry and his friends again before too long.