These books were sent for review, and they appealed to me. What books do you like? Interested in reviewing one or two of them for us? Check our Guidelines box and contact us through the Contact button on the home page.
· Earth’s the Right Place for Love
· Written by Elizabeth Berg and Reviewed by Karin Cooper
· Pub Date: March 21, 2023
· ISBN: 9780593446799
· Publisher: Random House Page Count: 288
The Dynamics of Love
What is true love? Berg returns to the protagonist in her 2017 novel The Story of Arthur Truluv, for an understanding of love’s many conditions. Arthur Moses, a high school sophomore in 1947, Mason, Missouri, has a burning crush on classmate Nola McCollum. Nola also has a crush, but it is on senior Frank Moses. She asks Arthur to give her phone number to his perfect older brother. Arthur agrees to anything to keep contact with Nola and his flame alive.
Without revealing Nola’s intentions Arthur asks his older brother’s advice on love. After dispensing ideas appropriate for a highschooler’s first girlfriend, Frank reveals he’s in a serious relationship with the new young high school English teacher. The brother’s lifelong bond of sharing a room and secrets extends to helping each through rough family dynamics of an abusive father, a long-suffering mother, and financial hardships. Regardless of Nola’s expressed lack of romantic interest in Arthur, a friendship grows and he’s confident that Frank’s amorous advice will someday prevail with Nola.
An acknowledged love for trees and his hometown, interactions with equal kindness and respectful listening to family, neighbors, and friends helps Arthur develop a sense of the varied circumstances and fragility of love. The Moses household is devasted when a tragic accident claims Frank. Arthur’s innate tender nature suffers from wondering if he will ever feel happy again.
Arthur and Nola’s true love is finally solidified. The story ends with Arthur visiting his brother’s grave at the town cemetery, which will satisfy many readers first meeting Arthur in The Story of Arthur Truluv which opens in the town cemetery at Nola’s grave.
Berg’s writing is always at its best when showing us the deepest emotions of characters, albeit major or minor in the story. A poignant story of love, strength, and grief.
Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Story of Arthur Truluv, Open House (an Oprah’s Book Club selection), Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year. She is the founder of Writing Matters, a quality reading series dedicated to serving author, audience, and community. Discover more on her website, .
Guest reviewer Karin Cooper has taught college composition and English courses for over 20 years. She also is a freelance content copy editor. With a writing resume of plays and education essays, recent writing interests and challenges are developing middle-grade novel about a young Angolan boy rescuing a pangolin.
Where were you in ’72? If you were on a college campus or exploring your sexuality, you’ll be drawn into the world of the Vietnam War, hippie clothes, and social upheaval that Lynda Smith Hoggan revives and explores in her memoir Our Song. The details, relationships, and conversations are pitch-perfect, and the relationships will probably engage and frustrate you as much as they did the narrator regardless of when you were born.
Lynda was a free-spirited white woman with a father who distrusted Blacks, so of course she fell for JT, a skilled Black athlete from the inner city who helped his college win basketball games. The chemistry between the two was irresistible, but even so she didn’t often make his games.
Lynda faced an additional complication. Although she fell hard for JT, she’d promised herself to Will, another Black man spending the year in England. Will was reliable, but their chemistry was off. Readers can’t help caring about this truly loving relationship and its cost.
This is a story about race, sex, and loss that asks readers to examine what makes a partnership work. It’s about matches that meet the expectations of others and those fueled by passion. It’s about control, following your heart, and a unique time in our history, an era when we could not imagine what was to come.
Among other things, the tone of this story, created by the lyrics, JT’s notes, and the pre-cell phone/Internet lifestyle drew me in. The story is evocative and well-written, whether the narrator is describing the setting, her emotions, or her perceptions of those around her. “He put on a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young album, Hannah and I poured the wine into plastic cups, and Colleen pulled out a joint.” Can’t you imagine the “hippie chick” clothes and smell the incense? In case you’re not there yet, they rapped about “Politics, Tricky Dick, the Vietnam War.” This memoir rings true.
Hoggan took me back to my own college days, though my experience was different from hers. Instead of exploring life, I kept waiting for it to start. Fear of consequences shaped my life, but not hers, and Our Songallowed me to imagine how my world might have been both better or worse if I’d been more like Lynda.
This is a thoroughly satisfying read for anyone who’s ever looked back at who she was and who she has become.
- THE GOOD ONES
- Written by Polly Stewart
- ISBN-13 : 978-0063234154
- Harper (June 6, 2023)
When Curiosity Leads to Obsessions
In Polly Stewart’s The Good Ones, Nicola Bennett says, “Lately the past seemed to be coming at me from all angles.” I know that feeling and so many others that Nicola confronts in this contemporary Southern Gothic novel set in Appalachia. The setting is beautifully described, but it’s the friendships, the memories, and the narrator’s curiosity that are likely to hold reader.
When they were still in high school, Nicola saw Lauren Ballard scraping a key along the side of a new cherry-red Chevy Silverado. The next day Lauren disappeared, leaving a bloodstained washcloth, signs of a struggle and her family behind.
Twenty years later, Nicola is still haunted by the disappearance of her childhood friend. She returns to Tyndall County, where everything reminds her of Lauren even though the people she once knew have moved on.
Drawn to stories of missing girls, Nicola incessantly searches the internet for clues to Lauren’s fate. Why do such thoughts haunt us? It probably varies with every individual, but Nicola keeps seeking clues without considering what consequences she might incur. Maybe an intuitive part of her is convinced that the answers are tucked in the hollows and valleys of this small Blue Ridge County. Inquiring minds want to know.
Will Nicola finally break free of the past or lose herself completely to unanswered questions from her adolescence?
Author Polly Stewart grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, where she still lives. She graduated from Hollins University and has an MFA in fiction and a PhD in British literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Her short fiction has appeared in literary collections and journals, including Best New American Voices, The Best American Mystery Stories, Epoch, and the Alaska Quarterly Review. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, Crime Reads, and Poets & Writers, among other publications. She’s built a strong platform by probing the depths of what her characters want.
She’s a skilled writer creating strong, complex characters facing a challenging situation. If you are fascinated by women’s friendships and the ways that romance affects people, you should read this book.
- BETWEEN TWO STRANGERS
- Written by KATE WHITE
- ISBN-13 : 978-0063247369
- Harper Paperbacks (May 16, 2023)
Why Her? Repercussions From an Inheritance
What would you do with a sizeable inheritance? What would you do if the wife of the man who left you that inheritance was left out of the will, and she asked you to split it with her and her children? How would you cope with the guilt that surrounding you? Would you fear revenge? These are only some of the questions that Skyler Moore must deal with in Between Two Strangers by Kate White.
When artist Skyler Moore is told she’s inherited a large sum that will enable her to have invitro-fertilization and raise a child, she has no idea who her benefactor could be. Her parents are alive, she’s never been married, and there’s no long-lost uncle named Christopher Whaley. As it turns out, he was a one-night stand years ago. Not even a fling. They didn’t exchange phone numbers, so how did Chris find her and what secret did he take to his grave? And in the immediate moment who is breaking into her apartment and her studio and destroying her artwork?
This is a well-crafted novel filled with tension, flawed characters, suspense, greed, mystery, and surprises. What would you do to solve the mystery of why money was left to you? What would it take to give you peace of mind?
Kate White is an American author, former magazine editor, and speaker. From 1998 to 2012, she served as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and left to concentrate full time on writing suspense fiction. In her latest novel, the suspense is not about the money. It’s about the motive behind the gift and how it connects to an earlier, unresolved tragedy. The plot twists and turns in this well crafted and emotionally compelling thriller. Whether you’re rich or poor, if you’ve ever been confronted with a financial mystery or a life-changing loss, Between Two Strangers is likely to give you insights into your own situation. It’s not about the money. It’s about the motive behind the gift.
- Making Friends with Monsters
- Sandra L. Rostirolla
- ISBN#: 978-0999189184
- Pinkus Books (April 4, 2023)
Don’t Let Them Control You
Twelve-year-old Sam starts doing research on the habits and behaviors of monsters and he lists the facts: “Fact #1: Most people don’t know they exist.” Do we all have monsters living inside of us? If not monsters, are there bad angels or negativity gremlins interrupting us? If you said no, Sandra L. Rostirolla’s Making Friends with Monsters might change your mind.
Sam lives in Australia, where drought ravages the country, destroying his family’s farm. At the beginning of the story, six-year-old Abby fights to save the life of Lambert, a sick lamb who is supposed to be livestock and not a pet. She loses that battle. Things get much worse later when Sam fills in for his older brother, Ben, who refuses to help his dad on a neighbor’s ranch. A freak accident leaves him devastated, and he must find a way to cope.
With help from a biker named Cliff, who’s been through a similar tragedy, he gains perspective on both his accident and his monster. In fact, he discovers that everyone has one. It’s good to be able to name that gremlin living in all of us. Cliff’s monster has been tamed—more or less—and he helps Sam increase his coping and success skill. This story provides role models for those coping with grief, loss, stress, and dysfunctional environments.
By continuing to discover facts about his own monster and the monsters in his family, Sam starts to understand what is and is not within his control. Here are some of the facts he’s discovered:
- “If we let them get too hungry, they can swallow us whole.”
- “When it comes to age, they don’t discriminate.”
- “They can turn on you at a moment’s notice.
- “There’s usually a good reason why they break out of their cage.”
- “More often than not, their default emotion is anger.”
Ultimately, Sam realizes, “The only thing we can do is learn to live with them, and for that to happen, we need to make friends with them.” It’s a mature discovery, but during the year, he’s been through an excessive amount of tragedy.
Some of the best YA books look at adult problems through the eyes of a young person, and Making Friends with Monsters achieves this with skills and high stakes. This book offers hope to anyone who’s ever felt out of place or thought their family was dysfunctional. It’s also an outstanding book for anyone who’d rather find solutions than live with their problems. It carries a strong message for adults and teens troubled by anger, envy, depression, or fear or elevated by the joy of handling these issues. Pick up a copy and see for yourself.
Born in Sydney, Australia, Sandra L. Rostirolla graduated from the University of Sydney with a B.App.Sc (Physiotherapy). Recruited to work in Chicago, she began studying acting at Center Theater and dance at Joel Hall Studios. After moving to Los Angeles, she went on to study film & entertainment at UCLA, while completing her MBA at LaSierra University. While completing The Cecilia Series, Sandra wrote the YA/Coming of Age, Making Friends With Monsters, which will release in 2023.
- More Than You’ll Ever Know
- Written by Kate Gutierrez
- ISBN # 978-0063118454
- Published by William Morrow (June 7, 2022)
A Mystery Remains
In 1985, Delores (Lore), married Andres Russo in Mexico City, even though she was already married to Fabian Rivera in Laredo, Texas, and they shared twin sons. Her career allowed her to split her time between two countries and two families—until the truth comes out and one husband is arrested, tried, and convicted for murdering the other in Kate Gutierrez’s debut novel More Than You’ll Ever Know.
Flash forward to 2017 when struggling crime blogger Cassie Bowman wants to capture the story that has not been told. Lore is reticent, knowing the truth could destroy her life. The tension grows steadily and speedily as the story hurtles towards its unexpected conclusion. Along the way, the unfolding story plumbs the depths of each woman’s relationship.
Skillfully told in alternating timelines and points of view, this story examines motives, desires, happiness, passion, and acceptance as it applies both to Lore and Cassie. The questions they probe should make readers examine their own relationships. What is it that we may never know about the people we love and what will it cost if the whole truth comes out? Why does Lore seem to hold all the cards? Katie Gutierrez’s novel introduces a whole new point of view as Cassie seeks the truths that Lore holds close.
Author Kate Gutierrez has an MFA from Texas State University, and her writing has appeared in TIME, Harper’s Bazaar, the Washington Post, Longreads, and more. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and their two kids.
I can’t wait to see what she’ll write next. In the meantime, I encourage you to make time to read More Than You’ll Ever Know. It’s available online and at your local independent bookstore.