‘Dear Mr. M’ by Herman Koch

dear mr. m - kochIf you’ve ever read any books by Herman Koch, Dear Mr. M is simply another chapter in what has already been a breath taking, hilarious, and deeply disturbing compendium of work. Koch’s latest novel follows in the footsteps of all his novels that came before but somehow seems to go deeper and get more at who the characters are, while still maintaining the very traditional distanced and oddly removed perspective of his previous work.

Dear Mr. M meets at the intersection of crime and literary novels drawing elements from each genre to create a truly chilling and poetic work. When the novel first begins, it’s hard to tell what the story will even be about besides a creepy stalker writing a letter to a writer. Quickly, though, the relationships between characters build, and the reader starts to see that the characters’ connections go deeper than even they know. As the story develops, the reader, along with the characters, is dragged through the intricate and shocking plot that creates Dear Mr. M.

A murder that happened 40 years ago, a nearly washed up author, an affair between a young girl and her high school teacher, friendships, backstabbing, first love, and old love, are only a few of the plot points that are travelled throughout Dear Mr. M.  The shift in perspective that Koch uses further encourages distrust and unreliability among the characters and the plot as the reader tries to unravel the truth of what has happened and what is happening.

A truly thrilling read, Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch was published in paperback by Hogarth Press in June of 2017. You can purchase a copy of Dear Mr. M at your local bookstore.

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FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Kindred Spirits’ by Rainbow Rowell

kindred-spirits-rowellRainbow Rowell’s short story, Kindred Spirits, is one of the most laugh-out-loud, hilarious books of the year. Rowell tells the story of a teenage Star Wars fanatic who stands in line four days early for a seat at the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Kindred Spirits, though, is much more about the relationships that form during those four days than it is about Star Wars.

Elena is 18 and obsessed with Star Wars, mostly because of her dad’s obsession with Star Wars. And now, it’s 2014 and The Force Awakens is about to be released. Elena has heard of the lines that formed for Star Wars movies in the 1980s and even the 2000’s when the prequels were released, and she is ecstatic to be able to join in the comradery of this tradition. So, she has her mom drop her off at the theater four days early. And, there are two people in line…for the entire four days.

Throughout their four days together, Elena, Gabe, and Troy form something like a friendship. Elena, though, discovers more about herself and the unpredictability of life. Things might not always turn out like she imagines they will, but they often turn out in a way that still brings joy and unexpected life changes.

Released by St. Martin’s Press in 2016, a special release hardcover edition of Kindred Spirits was released for this year’s Independent Bookstore Day.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Girl in the Blue Coat’ by Monica Hesse

girl-in-the-blue-coat-hesse.jpgGirl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is a novel steeped in history, passion, and emotion. A coming of age book that tells the story of the main character, seventeen-year-old Hanneke’s experiences in Amsterdam during World War II. Hanneke is an angry citizen of Amsterdam during the German occupation in 1943, angered not only by the Germans’ presence, but mostly because her boyfriend died during the war and she feels responsible. Now, Hanneke works in dealings on the black market, delivering goods like coffee, chocolate, and cigarettes to her fellow citizens.

At the beginning of the novel, Hanneke is completing a routine drop off at Mrs. Janssen’s house, a woman Hanneke knows well and whose son and husband have also died at the hands of the Germans. When Mrs. Janssen invites Hanneke to stay for real coffee and pastries though, Hanneke is suspicious of what more Mrs. Janssen might want from her. After reluctantly agreeing to join the old woman, Hanneke begins to relax and wonders if perhaps Mrs. Janssen is merely lonely. And she is, though not exactly for the reasons Hanneke was thinking.

Mrs. Janssen reveals to Hanneke that she was hiding a young Jewish girl in her house, a girl she not only feels responsible for because the girl’s whole family is dead, but a girl she has also come to love as a daughter. Though Hanneke has never worked in dealing with contraband people, she decides to help Mrs. Janssen almost as a way to please Bas, her dead boyfriend. She knows he would help Mrs. Janssen if he were alive, so in an attempt to regain the trust she thinks Bas has lost in her, she decides that hunting for this girl is the right choice.

Along the twisting roads of mystery leading up and down Girl in the Blue Coat, Hanneke finds much more than and not at all what she was ever looking for. She finds unsuspecting friendships, passion for a cause, and more than one reason to keep living her life.

Though marketed as a young adult novel, Girl in the Blue Coat is an exhilarating and powerful read for any aged booklover.

The paperback version of Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse was published by Little Brown and Company in April of 2017. You can purchase a copy of the novel at your local bookstore.

Read more historical fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

 

‘The Original Ginny Moon’ by Benjamin Ludwig

the-original-ginny-moonWhat would it be like to be different? Truly different? What would it be like to be loved despite your differences? These questions are the very questions that set the foundation for The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig.

Ginny Moon, the main character is a teenager girl with autism, an adopted teenage girl with autism who is looking for her baby doll. Ginny was taken by social services from her mother when she was nine-years-old after the police stormed her mother Gloria’s apartment and found signs of drug use, abuse, and cat-slaughter. Now, Ginny is living with her Forever Mom and her Forever Dad in her Forever Home. The only problem is, she left her baby doll at Gloria’s.

For five years Ginny has been trying to get back to Gloria. Not really because she loves Gloria, she’s not even sure she knows how to fee love, and she knows that Gloria abused her and that she used to go hungry and get beat up. All the same, though, she has to get back to Gloria’s, because that’s where she left her baby doll when the police came to take her away. She hid her baby doll in a suitcase so it would be safe, but she doesn’t know if anyone ever found it, and she knows Gloria’s not taking care of it, because that was Ginny’s job, and now she’s not doing her job, so she has to go back.

The trouble is, her Forever Family is intent on not letting her get in touch with Gloria. So, years go by, and Ginny does her best to find Gloria, but it’s not until a friend in Room Five, where all the kids who are special go to class, gets on the internet for her and helps her track Gloria down. Now, Ginny is on a mission to get kidnapped by Gloria so she can find her baby doll and make sure it’s getting enough milk and that it’s diapers are getting changed.

A beautiful and soul moving book that shows the truth behind and beyond what it means to have an intellectual disability, The Original Ginny Moon is one of the most important books of our time. Told from Ginny’s perspective, the reader gets so close to Ginny that despite the complete absurdity of her thought process or the danger of her actions, the reader understands, the reader sees it her way, the reader wants her to succeed even though that’s not what the reader wants at all. Ludwig has an amazing ability to draw you in and show you what the world is like from Ginny’s eyes, and it’s so hard to get out, and you don’t want to get out because it’s so sad, and beautiful, and earth shaking.

Ludwig is a master of both language and form in The Original Ginny Moon, juxtaposing perfectly the terse, literalistic prose with an intense and interwoven story of love, betrayal, and redemption. The Original Ginny Moon is an absolute must read. It offers an opening into the world of disabilities that will be hard to ever match.

Slated for release by Park Row Books on May 2, 2017, The Original Ginny Moon is available for preorder at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Extraordinary Adventures’ by Daniel Wallace

extraordinary-adventures-wallaceExtraordinary Adventures is the forthcoming novel from Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish. Wallace brings all the wit, humor, and superb writing style from his former works to Extraordinary Adventures.

Wallace’s main character, Edsel Bronfman is a thirty-four-year-old recluse of sorts. Bronfman has a job, sure, and an apartment of his own, but he has virtually no friends besides his ailing mother. When Bronfman wins a trip to Destin, Florida, though, he begins to make a change, or at least to want to. The thing is that in order to cash in on his trip to Florida, he needs to bring a companion, a romantic companion.

Suddenly, extraordinary things begin happening to Bronfman: he speaks to a woman at the reception desk at his work, his house gets robbed and who appears but yet another woman, a police officer no less. Such out of the ordinary things continue to happen, and Bronfman sees them mostly as acts of destiny, not his own freewill.

The book continues in this manner weaving unforgettable characters in and out of the story. There’s Bronfman’s mother who is suffering from dementia, and who is perhaps the most spectacular character of all. She is a strong willed, oddity of a mother to say the least, her biggest concern always being that her son has fun, messes around with women, and lives his life. There’s also Thomas Edison, Bronfman’s criminal, next-door neighbor, and his cohort of vagabonds and drug addicts. Among them is Coco, a young Japanese girl who Bronfman befriends though he’s sure the woman and has stolen his hat. He’s seen her wear it.

Bronfman himself is often a loveable, pitiful character who the reader cheers for throughout. However, there are aspects of “typical” male behavior that detract from Bronfman’s appeal, especially because they seem so out of character for the kind and caring man. Things like instantly falling for any woman who is pretty. Things like his constant attraction to women even while dating someone else. Though these aspects of Bronfman can be frustrating, if you take a step back and realize the man has never had a serious relationship and thinks every new feeling of lust is love, it’s a bit easier to understand his thoughts and actions.

In sum, Extraordinary Adventures is a fun, fast-paced, and extremely well-written novel.

Slated for release by St. Martin’s Press in May of 2017, you can pre-order your copy of Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘The Best of Adam Sharp’ by Graeme Simsion

the-best-of-adam-sharp-simsionAmazing.

There’s a tendency to leave The Best of Adam Sharp simply there: amazing. Graeme Simsion’s forthcoming novel is more than amazing though. It is beautiful, heart wrenching, nostalgic, and absolutely enthralling.

The Best of Adam Sharp is a story of unrequited love that seems to always be moving in the expected direction until it’s suddenly not. Adam and Angelina found each other in their mid-twenties in Australia and lived out a love affair that only lasted the few months that Adam worked a temp job there. Things never really ended for Adam though, who has thought of Angelina ever since, despite his now twenty year relationship with Claire. Twenty-three years after his relationship with Angelina has ended though, an email message pops up out of the blue from his lost love, and Adam isn’t sure how to respond.

With characters so relatable and problems so palpable, it’s hard not to get drawn into The Best of Adam Sharp immediately. Simsion has a way of making the story more about the human condition than anything else. While not everyone has a lover they wish things would have gone differently with, everybody has regrets, and Simsion doesn’t let readers forget it.

To add to the allure of an already brimming novel, Simsion includes a musical component to The Best of Adam Sharp that adds an extra element of nostalgia. Not only is most of the music from the 1960’s through the 1980’s, but if readers are familiar with the songs that pervade the novel, The Best of Adam Sharp’s soundtrack becomes something that moves the book in an even more emotional direction. Each song that comes up not only fits its scene too perfectly, but if you play it in your mind’s background, the musicality, the movement of the music, fits the mood even more perfectly.

Simsion evokes so much in The Best of Adam Sharp that it’s a challenge to leave the book at the end. You’ll just want more.

Slated for release in May of 2017 by St. Martin’s Press, The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion is available for preorder at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘The Fallen Star’ by Tracey Hecht

the-fallen-star-hechtThe Fallen Star is the latest installment of the middle grade series The Nocturnals by Tracey Hecht. In this adventure, the Night Brigade, comprised of a pangolin named Tobin, a sugar glider named Bismark, and fox named Dawn have to work together to not only solve the mystery of who poisoned the pomelo fruits, but they have to save their forest friends who have eaten the poisoned pomelos.

As with her previous two books in the series, The Mysterious Abductions and The Ominous Eye, Hecht does her best to weave science facts, literary conventions, and a rich moral foundation into The Fallen Star. Readers learn not only the names of animals, but curious facts and oddities about them as well. Hecht also includes alliteration and vocabulary in her Nocturnals series as well.

As is always the case in The Nocturnals, messages of kindness and forgiveness are pervasive in The Fallen Star. While, Bismark the sugar glider can at times be a bit of a handful for the reader and often not be the kindest person, Hecht does her best to redeem him by the story’s end.

Slated for release by Fabled Films Press in May of 2017, you can preorder a copy of The Fallen Star by Tracey Hecht at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.