Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Real Michael Swann (Bryan Reardon)

I hadn't discovered Bryan Reardon until this year when a colleague recommended his novel Finding Jake to me.  I devoured that one, along with the advanced reader copy of The Real Michael Swann.  I was mesmerized by both novels, particularly his latest, a book where true love between a husband and wife really shines through.

One summer day, Julia Swann is talking to her husband Michael, who is at Penn Station waiting for a train home to Pennsylvania. She hears the phone go dead, and soon the tragic news comes from New York City: a bomb has gone off at the station, killing and wounding thousands. Julia begins a frantic search for her husband and is soon rocked by the news that, due to what is on a surveillance video, Michael is the #1 suspect in the bombing. She sets off on a quest not only to reunite with Michael, but also to prove that the government is dead wrong in their suspicion.

Alternating narrators and time periods add much depth to this well-written mystery. As readers, we come to care deeply for the characters and want to see Julia succeed just as much as she does. Reardon has crafted a terrific novel in The Real Michael Swann, one that will keep you up far past your bedtime reading away.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Only Child (Rhiannon Navin)

When people ask me advice about what they should read next, lately I've been telling them about Rhiannon Navin's debut novel Only Child.  You can see their eyes go up and heads shake when I tell them that it revolves around a school shooting, but to me, it's so much more than that.  It's about the hope and innocence that lives within a six-year-old boy.

The entire book is narrated by Zach Taylor, a little first grader.  We experience the shooting through his words: the beginning "Pop-Pop-Pop" sounds, the silence of his class hiding in a closet, the joy of a reunion with his mother, and finally, the agony of a hole in his family brought about by the tragic event.  What ensues is an emotional roller coaster, but what shines through is Zach trying to make everything better by bringing about forgiveness and compassion.  The ending is unforgettable and made my heart soar.

If you read and loved Room, you'll probably love Only Child.  Both have young, inspiring narrators that live through something most of us can only imagine.  But both also have the power to teach adults serious life lessons that real life can sometimes get in the way of.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

It's Always the Husband (Michele Campbell)

What's interesting about Michele Campbell's thrilling whodunit It's Always the Husband is that she gives you a huge hint about who the culprit is right on the cover.  Now whether to believe her or not -- that's an entirely different story.

Kate, Jenny, and Aubrey are three college roommates who, as roommates often do, go constantly back and forth between being friends and frenemies.  Kate has more money than she knows what to do with but is very troubled, taking drugs and sleeping around.  Aubrey is just the opposite financially -- she cannot afford much of anything. Jenny is the no-nonsense type.  A dangerous incident their freshman year threatens to derail not only their college careers but also their entire lives if anyone finds out.  The story effortlessly goes back and forth between that time and present day (when they are in their 40s).  Will that long-ago event come back to haunt them as they grapple with something even worse?

To me, many of the characters in this book are hard to care about.  Kate, in particular, is a prima donna and impossible to root for.  However, Campbell writes in such a way that she makes it very difficult to put this book down.  It's Always the Husband (or is it?) is a top-notch mystery.