‘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.

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.

‘Lola’ by Melissa Scrivner Love

Lola-Scrivner-LoveWhat could a book about gangs, murder, drugs, and rape possible shed new light on in 2017? Besides death, heartbreak, and inequality, it seems like modern day gangster novels don’t tend to give much more. Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love, though is a whole new kind of gangster novel.

A book in a league all its own, Lola, the main character of the title novel is a character of a similar caliber. An underground gang leader, Lola heads the Crenshaw Six, a small gang in East L.A. that focuses mostly on drug trade and tends to lay pretty low. Until, the Crenshaw Six get a job that could change their entire trajectory and all of its members’ destinies, especially Lola’s.

The neighborhood of Huntington Park thinks that Garcia, Lola’s boyfriend, is the leader of the Crenshaw Six, and Lola struggles constantly to deal with both the perks and the frustration of leading a gang from behind the scenes. Lola is unintimidating, she can easily make her way into important places without being suspect, she can sit down with a man and make him feel like he’s in power simply by virtue of being a woman. It’s part of how Lola has made her way so high into the gang, but it’s also something that infuriates her. She wants to have an equal: someone who not only she sees that way, but that sees her as an equal as well. That seems an impossible feat when every other leader is a man and that somehow makes them more than her.

In fact, Lola itself is a feminist calling to reevaluate the way women are perceived in society: weak, small, and incapable of little else than cleaning floors. Lola does her best to defy these stereotypes while also constantly finding herself bogged down by them. Every time she cooks meal, cleans a floor, feels compassion, she chides the thought that she’s only doing it because she’s a woman, not because she’s a person. For every woman who finds serious issue with the gender norms of our time, Lola is a hero of sorts.

What makes Lola so magical and the reader feel so connected to her, despite her tendencies to cut off fingers and shoot people in the head, is that she leads from a moral compass, even if slightly skewed. She’s a feminist, she cares for the innocent people around her and for those who are loyal. She is disdainful of drug addicts, but adoring of children. Most of Lola’s morals make up the remaining themes and messages of Lola the book. Issues of race, inequality, injustices, parenting, and the meaning of love are just a few of the deeper themes that run through the pages of Lola.

Love’s only slip up comes in the form of her point of view. Mainly the book is told in a close third person point of view with Lola leading the way but the narration coming from an unknown third party. However, there are times where head hopping can throw the reader for a loop. Suddenly we are inside of another character’s head who we’ve potentially never even met, feeling what he feels and understanding his motives in a way we probably shouldn’t. Usually Love sticks with Lola and makes it clear that even evaluations of other characters are Lola’s, and that makes those evaluations even more valuable and interesting. Nevertheless, the slip ups can be a bit distracting for readings watching closely.

Overall, Lola is a fantastic and riveting book that will keep you reading all the way to the end. Just the right mixture of violence and terror, Lola is not overly graphic and though violent, it is never gratuitous.

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love is slated for release by Crown Publishing on March 21, 2017. You can preorder a copy from your local bookstore today.

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 House of Secrets’ by Brad Meltzer and Todd Goldberg

the-house-of-secrets-meltzerEvery mystery needs to be solved. That’s what Jack Nash told his daughter Hazel when she was a child, and that’s what sticks in Hazel’s head after she wakes up in a hospital with nearly no memory of her former life. Through Hazel, Jack and other characters, Brad Meltzer and Todd Goldberg take readers on a wild ride through a myriad of conspiracies and mysteries in their latest novel The House of Secrets.

Jack Nash was a reality TV superhero: the host of a conspiracy television show called House of Secrets. Now, Jack Nash is dead after the car accident that Hazel and her brother Skip were involved in too. But, not only is Jack dead, two other mysterious men, potentially involved with Hazel, Jack, and Skip are also dead, or so Agent Rabkin says. Strangest of all, the other two men were found with bibles in their chests…odd that Jack told Hazel a similar story in her youth: a story of a deceased man found with Benedict Arnold’s bible buried in his chest.

Hazel is compelled to live by her father’s rules and solve the many mysteries surrounding not only the death of her father, but of who she is, and if she had anything to do with the murders that have been committed. Who can Hazel trust? Who does she really know? Who was she? As Hazel delves further into her father’s past and her own, she begins to uncover things about her father and herself that she wishes she had never found, yet she can’t stop herself. She needs to solve the mysteries.

Meltzer and Goldberg create a fantastic and terrifying mystery that is driven not only by plot, but by the intimate characters woven within that plot as well. From The Bear, a terrifying (we think) bad guy, to Butchie, Hazel’s only friend and a sometimes criminal, the reader can’t help but become enthralled in each storyline, waiting for the moment when they all converge.

Meltzer and Goldberg also bring in deeper themes and questions revolving around ideas of being able to change oneself, the importance of family, and forgiveness.

An exhilarating and chilling read, Meltzer and Goldberg’s The House of Secrets is worth the 352 pages of reading, or 10 hours of listening.

The House of Secrets audio book was released by Hachette Book Group on June 7, 2016. You can find the hardcopy or audio version at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

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