Announcing our 2021 Award Winners and Top 20 Books of the Year

Reviews by techeditor

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Migrations: A Novel
by Charlotte McConaghy
Migrations (11/2/2021)
After reading MIGRATIONS, I understand why it has received so many good reviews. But, although it has a promising beginning, the bulk of the book is slow and depressing. It also seemed choppy to me until I got used to it’s going to and from various periods of time.

All is bleak, with nearly every animal species extinct and those not extinct close to being so. This is the world when Franny takes it upon herself to follow Arctic terns as they migrate from the Arctic Circle all the way to the Antarctic.

During her journey, we learn more and more about Franny through many flashbacks. They give the impression that she is a selfish person. But keep reading. As her secrets are divulged, your impression may change. And the secrets also make for a great ending.

As a matter of fact, I think those last few chapters are the reason for all the good reviews and high ratings, although it is true that Charlotte McConaghy’s writing is beautiful throughout the book. Plus, her descriptions of the Arctic and the Antarctic made me cold.

But the story never addressed to my satisfaction how nearly all animal species could be extinct while human beings are just fine. All species depend on other species for their lives, including the human species.
Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid
Excellent story even if end is rushed (10/26/2021)
I admit, I did not expect to like SUCH A FUN AGE. On the basis of its description on the book's flap, I thought it was a book that concentrated on racism, which every-other book seems to be about lately. So I would have passed it by if my book club hadn't chosen it.

Joke's on me. I shouldn't have read the book flap.

Emira is a 25-year-old black college graduate, part-time typist, part-time babysitter, who longs to be more adult with a job more like her friends' jobs. But she loves the little girl, Briar, she takes care of three days a week. The mother, though, is pretty hard to figure. (By the way, they're white.)

First of all, the mother calls herself Alix, which she pronounces "aa LEEKS," even though her name is actually Alex. After she hired Emira, their relationship was impersonal, limited to comments, questions, and instructions about Briar's care. That changes after a late-night incident in a grocery store. Emira is there with Briar when she is stopped by a security guard. He and another customer are suspicious that she has kidnapped Briar, a little white girl. This problem is soon straightened out, but Alix is now determined to become Emira's friend. I think that is probably because of a racist comment that her husband made on TV during a newscast. (Speaking of which, this is the reason Emira and Briar were in the grocery store. Some junior high school-age boys threw an egg at their window because of the comment, so Alix and her husband called the police. They didn't want Briar there when the police came. Why would someone call the police because boys threw an egg at their house? And why would they get their toddler from her bed at 11 p.m. so she could get out of the house? And why would they call their babysitter at 11 p.m. for such a ridiculous reason?)

While Alix is determined to be Emira's friend, Emira begins dating Kelley, another white customer in the grocery store that night. Kelley filmed the incident with his smartphone and wants to publicize it but doesn't. Emira doesn't want to and insists he delete the video from his phone.

As the story continues, we see more and more the kind of person Alix really is, especially after she meets Kelley.

I won't give away more of the story. I will say that SUCH A FUN AGE is excellent. It didn't offend me and shouldn't offend anyone, if that is your concern. The end, though, might be too rushed.
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle: UK Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton
Confusing (10/17/2021)
The confusion begins with the title. First, it implies that Evelyn Hardcastle is who this story is about. But it isn’t, really. Second, the title also implies that Evelyn Hardcastle will die 7 1/2 times. But no.

That’s OK. Titles are often mysteries. But even now that I’ve finished the book, I’m still not sure about those 7 1/2 deaths. I’m confused because I think there were more.

A man who we eventually learn is Aiden Bishop finds himself at a large estate that is in severe disrepair. He doesn’t know why he is there; he has no memories. He doesn’t even know who he is.

I don’t want to describe the story in much detail because different parts confused me throughout. I may describe something in one way, but you may read it and understand it in another way. It’s that confusing.

I know this, though. Bishop is tasked with solving the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. But who has given him this task? By the end of the book there will be a sort of answer. But even that person has superiors, and we are never told who they are.

Bishop inhabits the bodies of several guests at the estate. In this way, he sees Evelyn Hardcastle and the goings on of many other guests at the estate from many perspectives so he can solve the mystery of her murder. He even tries to prevent it.

This story contains so many characters it is difficult to keep track of them all. And it is especially difficult to remember who did what. If you are one of those fortunate people who can sit and read a book all day, I think you may have a chance at avoiding confusion. But if you have to put the book down to go to work or to go to sleep, you are bound to be confused. Thank goodness someone was thoughtful enough to include a list of characters near the front of the book.

I don’t know if this author reads reader reviews, but he should learn about a repeated editorial error that a good editor should have caught and corrected. Turton and his editor should learn the difference between "intended on" and “intended to.” "Intended on” is a mistake that is repeated throughout this book. No one intends on doing anything; they either intend to do it, or they plan on doing it.
Anatomy of a Scandal
by Sarah Vaughan
An analysis (9/28/2021)
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL really is what its title says it is: an anatomy, or analysis, of a scandal. The story is told from the viewpoints of the various people who are involved in the scandal, directly or indirectly, although the actual scandal is not dealt with until about page 200. You might say, then, up until that point is setup that goes too long. You would be only partially correct. If this is to be an anatomy of a scandal, analyses of these people are necessary.

James is a handsome, charismatic politician in England. His is the scandal to be analyzed. So we go back to his college days and those of his future wife, Sophie, and some of the people they went to school with. These are people in the 1990s who will be directly or indirectly involved in the scandal about 20 years later.

In 2016 James is accused of rape by a woman he had been having an affair with. The case goes to trial, and the viewpoints of various characters, including the prosecutor, Kate, are given postscandal as well.

I was surprised by Kate. I feel like I shouldn’t have been, though. You may catch it before I did.

I enjoyed this book, although perhaps the word really shouldn’t be “enjoyed.” The subject matter wasn’t exactly happy.

My only criticism of ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is its punctuation. Semicolons are misused all over the place. I am a retired editor, and these errors glared at me.
Morningside Heights: A Novel
by Joshua Henkin
Author somehow keeps this from becoming a bore (9/27/2021)
Not many authors could have written MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS as Joshua Henkin did. The story of Pru and Spence might have been a bore. But Henkin ensured, simply, that once you start this book, you'll want to finish. Although this story is not thrilling or suspenseful, it's a page turner just the same.

Part 1 of MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS is what I think of as introduction. Granted, for an introduction, it's long. But, again, Henkin ensured that it doesn't seem overly so, that it isn't a bore. He introduces us to Pru and Spence, who is Pru's college professor and, not much later, her husband. Spence is probably a genius, and the courses he teaches are so popular that students will camp out all night to be first in line to sign up for them.

In subsequent parts of MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, the reader sees Spence's downfall. When he is in his 50s, he is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. It began to creep up on him, Pru thinks, maybe as early as when he was still in his 40s. She deals with it alone at first, eventually hiring help when she can’t do it anymore. This gives her a little time for a life outside their apartment, especially for a job, but also including a short-lived affair.

Different parts of the book also concentrate on Sarah, Pru's and Spence's daughter, and Arlo, Spence's son from his first marriage. Arlo is also a genius and had a difficult relationship with his father. Although he later comes to his father’s rescue, there can be no relationship now, no mending it.

Somehow, Henkin makes MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS a story you will want to read. This is the first of his books I have read, and now I’m anxious to read his earlier books.
Magpie Murders
by Anthony Horowitz
Really Clever (9/21/2021)
What a clever book this is! Really, Magpie Murders is two books, a book within a book. And both books are Magpie Murders.

The narrator of Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders, Susan Ryeland, describes her experience with the book within the book, Magpie Murders, written by the fictitious author Alan Conway. Ryeland is an editor for the publisher of Conway's books. Magpie Murders is the ninth in his series of who-done-its, and, although Ryeland dislikes Conway, she likes his who-done-its.

Now we read what Ryeland reads, the Magpie Murders written by Conway. It feels like reading an Agatha Christie novel. If you own the Magpie Murders written by Horowitz, I suggest you do so with a highlighter nearby so you can mark the first occurrence of characters' names. There are so many! I needed to do that so I could leaf back to remind myself who characters were. And, speaking of names, I will never be able to read a book again without wondering whether the names of its characters have some significance. You will understand what I mean later.

Before the murders are solved in the copy of Magpie Murders that Ryeland is editing, the story ends. It is missing chapters, and Ryeland is determined to find them. But she can't just ask Conway for them. Her firm's biggest money maker, Alan Conway, is dead. It looks like he jumped from a tower, committed suicide. But, during Ryeland's search for the missing chapters, which takes her to various areas in England, she decides that he didn't jump but was pushed.

So Ryeland not only needs to find the missing chapters so that the murders in Conway's Magpie Murders are solved; she also feels she needs to solve Conway's murder.

Every bit of this book, of both books, really, is clever. I'm so anxious to see what PBS does with it in 2022.
The Searcher
by Tana French
A departure for Tana French (9/9/2021)
Reviews of Tana French books never deserve fewer than four stars, and I’m usually inclined to give them five. In this case I’ll stick with four, though.

THE SEARCHER is a bit of a departure for French. That is, the main character of this book isn’t Irish. Cal is American, a retired cop who has come to live in a small town in Ireland. He thought it would be a quiet place to live.

A 13-year-old, who Cal mistakes for a boy, has asked, practically demanded, that he look into the disappearance of her brother. This is what Cal thought he was leaving behind when he moved to Ireland. Even so, he does get involved in this case, just like old times.

Cal learns that small towns in Ireland can have the same trouble as big cities in the United States. There is no escaping it.

I don’t give this book five stars because I didn’t like the way Cal talked. Although French writes wonderful dialogue between Irish people, she doesn’t quite get it right with Cal. I understand that she wanted to make clear that he isn’t a big-city guy. But sometimes he talks stupid. There is a difference between sounding country and sounding stupid. He clearly is not stupid. So he does not sound authentic as the Irish people do.

I also was unhappy with the end.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
Delightful memoir (8/31/2021)
A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS is delightful. Dave Eggers has a writing style like I’ve never read before. What would otherwise be, for example, sad or serious, he lightens. My gosh, he even makes the copyright page enjoyable reading! And I'm glad I read a hardcover copy and could see the cover minus the dust jacket. Check it out if you can.

This is a memoir. Eggers explains that he wouldn’t really call A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS a true story because he made up the dialog. And sometimes that dialog is obviously his invention, such as when a 9-year-old boy talks with the maturity of a 30-year-old man or when he begins with his MTV interview that turns into something else. I sometimes had to re-read to understand what he was doing.

Before the beginning of A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS Eggers notes all the parts you can safely skip. But that made me want to read them all the more, and I didn’t skip anything. I admit, though, after 100 or so pages his style sometimes aggravated me, his constant repetition, so I did skim some paragraphs. Even though I could tell that those paragraphs represented his private thought processes, I sometimes found them disjointed and monotonous.

Most reviews of this book concentrate on only part of the story, he and his little brother. Yes, Eggers raises his much younger brother, Toph, after their parents died. And, of course, Toph is a big part of the story, occupying Eggers' thoughts most of the time.

But he also emphasizes all the energy he simultaneously expends on a startup magazine. Poor Eggers is always exhausted.

Also running throughout his story are his remembrances of his mother, beginning near her end. Yet he doesn't have much to say about his father, apparently an alcoholic.

Eggers' memoir has three main subjects, not just one. Probably most readers find his relationship with Toph to be the most touching.
The Glass Hotel
by Emily St. John Mandel
Good book once you get used to the writing style (8/23/2021)
In a comparison of Emily St. John Mandel's previous book, STATION ELEVEN, with THE GLASS HOTEL, the subject matter and the type of story differ but her writing style is the same. Although both books are good, I had to read a few chapters of them before I got used to her style. It came across at first as haphazard.

Right from the initial chapter of THE GLASS HOTEL, you know that Vincent (female) falls overboard and is drowning. Most of the rest of the book is flashback, starting when Vincent is 12 years old. It seems at first that her half-brother Paul will play a major role in her story. He is a drug addict/musician who needs her when she is in her early 20s. They work at the same hotel, but then he mostly disappears until much later.

Vincent is a bartender at the hotel. That's where she meets Jonathan, the owner of the hotel and a financial manager. Of course, he's wealthy, and gorgeous Vincent becomes his pretend wife. In the 3 years they are together, she never knows how he really comes by his wealth. She doesn't know because she doesn't want to know.

Now we also see how the lives of some of Jonathan's clients are changed when his secret is revealed. And we also see what happens to several of his employees who have been in on the scheme.

Obviously, Vincent drowns, and now we see how that comes about. She is working as a cook on a ship, where she went to escape land and the people she didn't want to see. Was her death accidental, or was she pushed?

You should know that this book has a lot of characters to keep track of. Pay attention to each, even those who don't seem to matter; their names will come up later. I find it easiest to mark each name with highlighter the first time it appears. That way I can more easily leaf back to find the name if I need a reminder of who is who. Unfortunately, my copy of THE GLASS HOTEL was a library book, and I only mark in books I own.
Every Fifteen Minutes
by Lisa Scottoline
One of Scottoline's Better Books (8/13/2021)
Lisa Scottoline is a popular author; many of you have read most her books. But if you haven't read her EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES, do. It's not her latest, but it's one of her better books.

Maybe the biggest reason for that is all Scottoline's careful research. For example, the main character, Eric, is a psychiatrist. His various cases were researched so their descriptions are according to real science. Not only that, but the psychiatrist himself was researched, how he thinks and acts. EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES is a novel, but so much of it, including the legalities of a hospital system, sociopathy, police procedures, and criminal law, is authentic.

Eric is the chief of the Psychiatric Unit at a hospital. More awful things happen to him than many people could deal with. His marriage has failed, the wife of a patient in his department has threatened to sue him, a medical student has accused him of sexual harassment, etc. But he also has another issue that has to do with one of his private patients, a teenage boy, Max, who Eric has met with only three times. Yet, throughout the book Eric acts as if he knows him and what he is capable of. This does not seem real to me. Especially unreal are the lengths Eric will go to for Max's sake, all based on knowing him for those three hours.

In spite of that, I truly enjoyed EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES. That's because of, as I said, Scottoline's research. But the other big reason is simply the way she writes dialog. First, as in all her books, this is full of dialog rather than one paragraph after another of description, a problem with so many other author's books. And I like the dialog in this book because Eric usually says just the right thing, his lawyer always says just the right thing, and I learned so much about all the characters through their dialog, alone.
Beyond Reach
by Karin Slaughter
Last of us series so good you can read it out of order (7/12/2021)
If you are familiar with Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series, then you know Lena Adams. She’s a police detective in Grant County. She’s in the small town where she grew up with her blind sister and her addict uncle. This is where most of the story takes place, not Grant County this time.

Jeffery Tolliver, the police chief of Grant County, has come to Lena’s rescue as she sits in a jail cell, suspected of murder. Jeffrey has brought Sarah, his wife, with him. You should also be familiar with these two characters, who have also been part of the Grant County series.

Of course, Jeffrey and Sarah get themselves involved in Lena‘s troubles. They begin with her uncle, who has been trying to clean himself up. But the meth business has been going on for too long in the small Georgia town. And they got him again.

Who has been involved with this awful business, and who is willing to murder to keep it going? Everyone in this town is suspect.

Again, Slaughter has written a thrilling story of secrets and lies and good guys and bad guys. This series is so well written that you’ll even enjoy it if you read it out of order.

I must admit, though, I had a little trouble, at first, understanding that Lena’s chapters occurred before Jeffrey’s and Sarah‘s. Don’t be confused. Lena's chapters explain how she came to be in jail.
The Lost Man
by Jane Harper
Mystery and suspense you won’t want to see End (7/2/2021)
Jane Harper’s THE LOST MAN is one of the best mystery/suspense novels I have ever read. If you read and loved THE DRY, one of her previous books, you’ll love THE LOST MAN. If you haven’t read THE DRY, you’ll want to after you read THE LOST MAN.

Nathan, the eldest of three brothers, discovers the body of Cameron, another one of the brothers, in the outback desert. There begins the mystery: how did he end up in this predicament when his car is loaded with supplies to sustain him? Was this suicide or was it murder? If murder, who had cause to hate him this much?

You would expect that a Harper book would take place in Australia. But her descriptions of the outback, in particular, where the brothers and the rest of the family live and work, made me actually see its vastness and feel the desolation, danger, and heat they dealt with.

Here is a book you won’t want to end. When I got there, it felt too soon.
In Five Years
by Rebecca Serle
Don’t believe all the great reviews (7/1/2021)
Although Rebecca Serle did not intend IN FIVE YEARS to be a young adult novel, it still has a YA feel to it. The main characters, although adults in their late 20s, early 30s, refer to each other in YA terms (e.g., "best friends,” "besties"), and their circumstances almost always concern their love lives (also very YAish). That may put off some adult readers.

The real problem with this book is what, at first, seems like a good thing because it sparks your interest and draws you in.

Dannie has a dream that seems very real. Probably nothing will come of it, but maybe it was a premonition. So the entire book leads up to that particular day. And for the entire book you will be expecting an explanation of the dream/premonition. If it is a premonition, how and why did it happen?

That, alone, kept me interested in this story. Otherwise, IN FIVE YEARS is just a typical live-with-her-boyfriend-for-five-years-and-look-forward-to-marrying-him YA book. But there is that dream/premonition that sets it apart.

In the end, though, the story is unsatisfying. I still have questions and don’t feel like anything was explained.
One Shot
by Lee Child
A good thriller (6/26/2021)
If you aren't familiar with Lee Child's books, as I wasn't, you should know that his stories involve Jack Reacher, a former army officer who went to West Point, a big man who now, apparently, doesn't own a home, a car, a cell phone, anything. Heck, he even buys clothes, wears them until they're dirty, then gets rid of them. He's a hard man to find, and he travels light.

But Jack Reacher is our hero.

In ONE SHOT Reacher comes to Indiana when he learns that a former soldier he knew in the army is accused of the mass murder of five people there who were leaving a DMV building. He finds out that all is not as simple as that, though, and he stays longer than he intended. (By the way, he wears the same $45 pants and shirt throughout the book.)

I had always avoided Lee Child's books just because I assumed they were cheap fiction, the kind I see dozens of at used book sales. So ONE SHOT was my first because I was curious and because I got the book for free.

Turns out, I enjoyed ONE SHOT. It's not literature, but it's a good thriller.
Dear Edward
by Ann Napolitano
The story of kindness (6/1/2021)
DEAR EDWARD refers to a boy who used to go by “Eddie.” He was Eddie before he was the lone survivor out of 191 passengers on a jet that crashed in Colorado. While he is in the hospital and after he comes to live with his aunt and uncle, he decides to go by ”Edward," instead. The accident is the dividing line: one life before, another after.

Ann Napolitano does a fabulous job describing how Edward deals with his new life. But I don’t think of this as a single story. Rather, this is many stories, all Edward’s.

Most of those stories involve Shay, the girl who lives next door to Edward‘s new home. Shay keeps him sane right from his first night there. And she helps him read and respond to all the letters that the other passengers‘ families send to him (thus the "dear” before “Edward" in the title).

In spite of its sad beginning, DEAR EDWARD turns out to be a story of kindness.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
by Daniel James Brown
Unlikely But True (5/28/2021)
Although its subtitle implies that THE BOYS IN THE BOAT is about the American eight-oar rowing crew in the 1936 Olympics, the book is more than that. It's mostly about what led to the formation of the crew. Also, the story is made personal by its concentration on one of the boys, Joe Rantz.

If THE BOYS IN THE BOAT was fiction, I wouldn't have enjoyed it. That's because the whole thing is so unlikely: Joe overcame such odds in his personal life. None of the boys came from money when they suddenly emerged from Seattle, a city few were familiar with then, to beat the prestigious Eastern schools (e.g., Yale and Harvard). The boat and the boys dealt with several disadvantages in Germany, both before and during their races, only to beat their competition. None of this story would be believable if I didn't know it was true.

Throughout this book, juxtaposed against Joe's and the boys' story, is Hitler's creation of the fictional Germany that he wanted to present to the world during the Olympics there. As he hides the real Germany, the US ignores him, and the boys and other athletes just work on getting there.

When the story was over, I didn't want it to be over. So I read the end notes. You'll probably do that, too.
Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom
by Yangzom Brauen
More Than One Story Here (5/28/2021)
ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS: A TIBETAN FAMILY'S EPIC JOURNEY FROM OPPRESSION TO FREEDOM by Yangzom Brauen is made up of descriptions of one Tibetan family’s progression through different cultures, beginning in Tibet before the Chinese invasion and ending in Switzerland until they do a complete circle and return to Tibet many years later after the Chinese allow them back in. Each culture the family moves to is more technologically advanced than the last. This book is about their ability to cope in each new culture and how they view Tibet on their return. At least, that’s what I thought Brauen intended.

Actually, only two members of the family, the mother and daughter, make it all the way. The daughter’s daughter, Brauen, did not make the journey as the title and cover picture imply. She was born and raised in Switzerland but likes to call both Switzerland and Tibet her countries. Although she did go to Tibet with her mother, brother, grandmother, and Swiss father many years later, their return wasn’t permanent.

But the book doesn’t end there. Maybe it ought to. Instead, it continues. Notice, I say the book continues, not the story. That is because my impression was that the continuation was another story, that of Brauen’s protests against oppression of Tibet and her hope that Tibet not be forgotten.

I have a problem with books that have no dialog, with unemotional, impersonal descriptions of people and things. That’s how this book is, especially in its first half. It contains so many details it drags. Details should enhance a story. But here they mostly don’t because the author tries to cover too much.

This is the risk I find in most nonfiction. Although I prefer nonfiction over fiction, most nonfiction fails for me because most authors don’t know how to write it other than to state the facts.

Although the second half of this book is better than the first, it, too, is made up of many impersonal descriptions. I was never made angry, sad, touched, or happy for anyone.

This book has received many favorable reviews on amazon.com and goodreads.com. Maybe you should believe them and not me. Maybe you will be able to manage to keep your mind from wandering. But I think that will be a trick.
Turn of Mind
by Alice LaPlante
This book is not happy, but it’s gold (5/27/2021)
After reading three undesirable books in a row, I hit gold with Alice LaPlante's TURN OF MIND. It's not a happy book. It may even break your heart. But it's well written, and its subject matter, at least some of it, hit home and should concern anyone who has a mother.

TURN OF MIND is such a unique literary thriller. It is told from the point of view of Dr. Jennifer White, a 64-year-old orthopedic doctor who specialized in hand surgery. White is now unlicensed because she is suffering from dementia. (Sixty-four seems like early onset to me, but what do I know?) Some days are better than others, but it's getting progressively worse, horrifyingly worse.

White's good friend and neighbor, Amanda, has been murdered. Also, for some reason, four of her fingers have been removed in a surgically precise way. Of course, this points to White. But two other members of White's family, her son Mark and daughter Fiona, both adults, also may have had reason to murder Amanda.

Throughout TURN OF MIND, we learn more and more, through White's sporadic remembrances, about Amanda, Mark, and Fiona. Who is guilty of Amanda's murder, and why did they do it? Why were her fingers removed? Does White ever remember?

More than that, the reader sees the story as a dementia victim, one who is getting progressively worse, would see it. White's remembrances are always confused, and she can never articulate them, at least not so they are understandable.

What will become of White?

My only criticism of this book is its lack of quotation marks. There is no good reason for this. LaPlante italicizes when someone other than White is speaking. It was sometimes difficult for me to tell whether White was speaking or thinking. In my opinion, quotation marks add to a book's readability, and it is rude for an
author not to use them.

TURN OF MIND is LaPlante's first. She wrote it a few years ago, so you may have already read it. If not, do.
We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel
by Lionel Shriver
Life with an evil child (5/8/2021)
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is not what I was expecting. I expected a book about a teenager who committed a mass school shooting. But WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is also about life with an evil child.

This is the mother’s tale told from the beginning—the very beginning—of that child. She writes it as a series of letters to her husband. So, throughout the book, the reader is kept guessing about where her husband is now.

But the mother’s story isn’t just descriptions of life with Kevin. Each of her letters is long on psychology and philosophy, too.

The mother’s big question: whose fault was it? Certainly, the reader has to wonder whether the mother’s own attitude contributed to Kevin’s evil nature. But it seems to me that the father was even more at fault. I think, as a matter of fact, he was a big part of the problem.

And then there’s Celia. She doesn’t appear until later in the book, but she serves to emphasize Kevin’s God-awful evil.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is probably a five-star book. I give it only four stars, though, because the evil is so difficult to read that I had to put the book down often.
The Law of Similars
by Chris Bohjalian
Unputdownable (5/7/2021)
Five stars again for Chris Bohjalian. I have read nearly all his books, and most are five-star, some four. This one, THE LAW OF SIMILARS, is a book he wrote nearly 20 years ago.

Leland is a deputy state prosecutor. He is also a widower with a four-year-old daughter. For what appears to me to be psychological reasons, he develops a sore throat that just won’t go away. This leads him to Carissa, a homeopath.

In short order (ridiculously short order, in my opinion), Leland falls in love with Carissa (or maybe mistakes sexual attraction for love). He is so overwhelmed by this love (attraction) that he ignores all ethics of his profession when she is investigated for the murder of one of her other patients.

For a book to merit five stars, it must be unputdownable, and this one is. Even though I say that Leland doesn’t think with his brain, it’s still a darn good read.
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