Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published: May 21, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Review copy from the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description: Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?

Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.

Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to. (publisher)

My take:  On the day that seventeen-year-old Raymond’s closest (and only) friend moves to California he meets Mrs. Gutermann in the hallway of their New York apartment building. She’s in her nineties and is blind. She’s been waiting for the man who helps her with errands, etc. for several weeks. He doesn’t answer his phone and she’s worried. She asks anyone who passes her in the building if they’ve seen Luis Velez. One thing leads to another and Raymond finds himself on a quest to find out what happened to Luis. Along the way he’ll find a new friend or two – especially in Mrs. G.  I loved their relationship – how it grew and the impact it had on both of them. Truly special. They have things to learn from each other. On a larger scale I liked how the novel (and all of the books I’ve read by this author) makes the point that if people would act out of kindness and empathy the world would be a better place. I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book.

There are discussion questions included.


About the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than thirty published and forthcoming books. An avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she has released her first book of photos, 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow Book List, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other journals and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories, California Shorts, and New York Times bestseller Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for the O. Henry Award and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories. She is the founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, spoken at Cornell University twice, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton. For more information and book club questions, please visit the author at http://www.catherineryanhyde.com.


 

Girl Most Likely by Max Allan Collins

Girl Most Likely by Max Allan Collins

Published:  April 2019 – Thomas & Mercer

Review galley courtesy of the publisher, NetGalley, Little Bird Publicity

Description:  It’s never too late for revenge in this thrilling novel by New York Times bestselling and award-winning crime master Max Allan Collins.

In a small Midwest town, twenty-eight-year-old Krista Larson has made her mark as the youngest female police chief in the country. She’s learned from the best: her father, Keith, a decorated former detective. But as accustomed as they are to the relative quiet of their idyllic tourist town, things quickly turn with Krista’s ten-year high school reunion.

With the out-of-towners holed up in a lakefront lodge, it doesn’t take long to stir up old grudges and resentments. Now a successful TV host, Astrid Lund, voted the “Girl Most Likely to Succeed”—and then some—is back in town. Her reputation as a dogged reporter has made the stunning blonde famous. Her reputation among her former classmates and rivals has made her infamous. Astrid’s list of enemies is a long one. And as the reunion begins, so does a triple murder investigation.

Krista and her father are following leads and opening long-locked doors from their hometown to the Florida suburbs to Chicago’s underworld. They just never imagined what would be revealed: the secrets and scandals of Krista’s own past. (publisher)

My take:  If you’ve attended a high school reunion you probably hope that people will remember only the good times. What happens when someone assumes some bad times might come to mind? Well, in the case of the Galena HS ten-year reunion someone is very worried and takes matters in hand to make sure certain events will not be topics of conversation. Before the reunion ends there will have been three murders for the new police chief, a reunion attendee herself, to solve.

While this genre isn’t my usual fare I like to dip into it occasionally. Girl Most Likely was especially interesting to me because I know the area where most of the novel takes place. I enjoyed the young female small town police chief’s perspective as well as her relationship with her recently widowed and retired detective father. I would read a series with those two as stars! Although I didn’t figure out the murderer I liked trying to sift through all the red herrings you’d expect to find at a high school reunion and I’m glad I gave this book a try.


About the author:

Max Allan Collins was named a Grand Master in 2017 by the Mystery Writers of America. He has earned an unprecedented twenty-three Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award nominations, winning two for his Nathan Heller novels. That series also earned Collins the PWA Hammer Award for making a major contribution to the private-eye genre. He received the PWA Eye Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. His other books include the New York Times bestseller Saving Private Ryan and the USA Today bestselling CSI series. His graphic novel Road to Perdition is the basis of the Academy Award–winning Tom Hanks film, and is followed by two acclaimed prose sequels and several more graphic novels in the same series. His other comics credits include the syndicated strip Dick Tracy, Wild Dog, Batman, and his own Ms. Tree. Collins is also a screenwriter, playwright, and a leading indie filmmaker in his native Iowa, where he lives with his wife, writer Barbara Collins; as “Barbara Allan,” they have collaborated on fourteen novels. For more information, visit http://www.maxallancollins.com.


 

The Cliff House by RaeAnne Thayne

The Cliff House by RaeAnne Thayne

Published: March 2019 – HQN

Review book courtesy of HQN, NetGalley and Little Bird Publicity

My take:  RaeAnne Thayne’s new stand-alone novel is about three women on the precipice of change. The events that transpired years earlier will determine their futures unless and until they find the courage to go after the future they desire.

When sisters Daisy and Beatriz were young girls, orphaned after their mother overdosed, they were taken in and cared for by their young aunt, Stella. Stella hadn’t even graduated from college at this point. Daisy and Beatriz were 11 and 9 years old. They all grew up together while their new family unit became strong.

Beatriz became a wife and mother while still in her teens. Her marriage may not have succeeded but she now had a lovely and smart daughter as well as an ex-husband who maintained a presence in his daughter’s life. Lately he seems interested in rekindling their relationship. She’s been there, done that and doesn’t want to move backward. She’d like to explore her feelings for her best friend since fifth grade!

As the novel opens Daisy meets a stranger in the toothpaste aisle of the grocery store and he’s convinced they’ve met before. She’s certain they haven’t. She’d remember meeting him. Daisy is the serious sister and has always taken on responsibility well beyond her years. That habit has proven hard to break – much to her detriment. It’s made her closed-off to expressing her emotions and that has made her life quite lackluster until her unexpected second meeting with ‘the stranger’. Will she open herself up to the possibility of experiencing more in her life?

Stella receives news on her 40th birthday that, while not a surprise, will definitely be life-changing. She also finds out that the only man she ever loved has moved to her town. Their lives become entwined from day one and give her hope for what she once thought an impossibility – a second chance.

I loved every minute I spent with the women in the gorgeous coastal setting of Cape Sanctuary, California. It’s a story of learning to trust and being open to new and second chances. Recommended to fans of Women’s Fiction and RaeAnne Thayne.


About the author:

RaeAnne Thayne is the author of more than 60 novels, including her beloved Haven Point series. Her books have won numerous honors, including four RITA® Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews. THE CLIFF HOUSE is her first-ever standalone hardcover novel, marking an exciting new chapter in her career.


 

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

Lake Union Publishing – February 2019

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  While World War I rages on the European continent, young Emily Bryce is getting restless under the thumb of her over-protective parents in Devonshire. Her best friend Clarissa is serving as a nurse at the front while Emily has been kept at home visiting wounded officers at a local convalescent hospital. There she meets a young rough-around-the-edges Australian pilot and falls in love with him, much to her parents’ chagrin. What’s more, Emily decides to finally set off on her own and contribute to the war effort, becoming a member of the Women’s Land Army, a post her mother finds most unsuitable. (publisher)

My take:  Emily Bryce has led a sheltered life. When she turns 21 she’s determined to do more to help her country which is in the midst of WWI. She joins the Women’s Land Army and learns to work with her hands. She meets a vast array of women who will become more family than acquaintances.

There’s a character who, near the end of the novel, says “We’ve no idea what we can do until we try.”  For me, that was the underlying tone of the novel. It’s a story about people who rose to the occasion. I loved Emily’s spirit and felt her emotional highs and lows throughout the story. She possessed an admirable strength of character.

Rhys Bowen’s novel explores the personal losses experienced during the war, new paths to travel in life, and a bit of a mystery to be solved. I loved learning about the Women’s Land Army. The Victory Garden is a satisfying work of historical fiction that I’m happy to recommend to fans of the genre and Rhys Bowen.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of 40 mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field and The Tuscan Child, both standalone novels about World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards, and In Farleigh Field was a 2018 Edgar Award nominee and Lefty Award winner. Rhys is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com


Praise for Rhys Bowen:

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart, and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries.”
Louise Penny, New York Times bestselling author


 

The Best of Us by Robyn Carr

The Best of Us by Robyn Carr

January 2019 – Mira

Review copy courtesy of Mira and LIttle Bird Publicity

Description:  In Sullivan’s Crossing, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr has created a place where good people, powerful emotions, great humor and a healthy dose of common sense are the key ingredients to a happy life. Sullivan’s Crossing brings out the best in people. It’s a place you’ll want to visit again and again.

Dr. Leigh Culver loves practicing medicine in Timberlake, Colorado. It is a much-needed change of pace from her stressful life in Chicago. The only drawback is she misses her aunt Helen, the woman who raised her. But it’s time that Leigh has her independence, and she hopes the beauty of the Colorado wilderness will entice her aunt to visit often.

Helen Culver is an independent woman who lovingly raised her sister’s orphaned child. Now, with Leigh grown, it’s time for her to live life for herself. The retired teacher has become a successful mystery writer who loves to travel and intends to never experience winter again.

When Helen visits Leigh, she is surprised to find her niece still needs her, especially when it comes to sorting out her love life. But the biggest surprise comes when Leigh takes Helen out to Sullivan’s Crossing and Helen finds herself falling for the place and one special person. Helen and Leigh will each have to decide if they can open themselves up to love neither expected to find and seize the opportunity to live their best lives. (publisher)

My take:The Best of Us is book 4 in the Sullivan’s Crossing series but can stand alone. There are brief appearances of former primary characters that give continuity to the series and made me smile remembering their particular books.

In The Best of Us we meet the new town doctor and she meets the town’s favorite pub owner. They hit it off from the start and enjoy their relationship until an unexpected surprise is found out. No spoiler here. If you’re a fan of Robyn Carr’s series you’ll want to read this latest book ASAP. I enjoyed it all, especially the supporting plot line involving the doctor’s aunt, a noted mystery author, and Sully. Lots of fun reading about their friendship!

If you like a novel about people learning to take their second chance when life offers, this should fit the bill.


Robyn Carr is the bestselling author of over 40 novels, which have sold over 27 million copies, been translated into 19 languages, and distributed in 30 countries. The 20-volume Virgin River series alone has netted more than 13 million copies. Eleven of her books have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, collectively spending 231 weeks on the list since A Virgin River made its debut there in 2008. In 2016, the Romance Writers of America recognized Robyn with the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award for her achievements in the genre. Robyn and her now-retired husband live in Las Vegas, Nevada, although they enjoy traveling and take frequent research trips together.

MORE PRAISE FOR ROBYN CARR

“Carr’s gift for writing lovably flawed heroes and heroines is evident on every page.”

–Publishers Weekly

“Robyn Carr is a master of the small-town romance.” –New York Journal of Books

“Understanding what women do and say and want is something Carr has considered hard over her long career…. [She] taps into female emotions over and over in her books.” -The Miami Herald


 

The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin

The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin

Pub. Date:  Dec. 1, 2018 – 47North

Book courtesy of 47North; NetGalley; Little Bird Publicity

Description:

By day she writes comic books. By night, she lives them.

MG Martin lives and breathes geek culture. She even works as a writer for the comic book company she idolized as a kid. But despite her love of hooded vigilantes, MG prefers her comics stay on the page.

But when someone in LA starts recreating crime scenes from her favorite comic book, MG is the LAPD’s best—and only—lead. She recognizes the golden arrow left at the scene as the calling card of her favorite comic book hero. The thing is…superheroes aren’t real. Are they?

When too-handsome-for-his-own-good Detective Kildaire asks for her comic book expertise, MG is more than up for the adventure. Unfortunately, MG has a teeny little tendency to not follow rules. And her off-the-books sleuthing may land her in a world of trouble.

Because for every superhero, there is a supervillain. And the villain of her story may be closer than she thinks… (publisher)

My take:  When MG (short for Michael-Grace), a comic book writer, meets detective Matteo Kildaire while waiting for her chai latte at her local coffee shop it could be the start of something interesting. And it is. They discuss a recent crime in the city and soon find themselves wrapped up in solving it.

I enjoyed how Meghan Scott Molin’s story combined the geek comic book world and the seemingly straight-laced police detective work. The repartee between MG and Det. Kildaire was fun and charming. There were many pop-culture references that mostly went over my head (and Matteo’s) but didn’t take me out of the story. I liked the colorful supporting characters and I thought the pace was perfect which all makes me look forward to the next installment of The Golden Arrow Mysteries.


About the author:

Meghan Scott Molin comes to writing by way of a Masters in Architecture, a minor in Opera, and a professional career as a barn manager, and three years’ crash course as a mother. She currently resides in Colorado with her fellow zookeeper (husband), two sons, two horses, cat, and corgi. She is an avid lover of everything nerdy from Wars to Trek, Hobbits to Who, and beyond. When she’s not writing, she’s cooking, dreaming of travel, coveting more corgis, and listening to audiobooks while hanging out at the barn. If you’d like to know more about Meghan, feel free to follow her on Twitter (@megfuzzle) or on her website http://www.meghanscottmolin.com