Tag Archives: December book releases

Songs in the Key of Life

small-admissions

Small Admissions: A Novel by Amy Poeppel (Emily Bestler Books/Atria, $26.00, 358 pages)

I was anticipating this book to be a downsized version of The Admissions, an earlier-released novel by Meg Mitchell Moore about the pressures of getting a high school senior daughter – one living in Danville, California, into an elite college.  The Admissions was a funny and entertaining book, but it was also loaded with valuable information for real-life parents on how to attack the knotty college admissions process.

Small Admissions focuses on parents attempting to get their children admitted into a highly competitive pre-school/elementary school in New York City.  While it’s also humorous, I found it to be overly light – both in the manner in which it’s written and in the lack of substantive, useful information.  I expected more of the latter since the author previously “worked in the admissions office of a prestigious private school” in NYC.

On the plus side, this is a relaxing read – like watching a family comedy on network TV, or a film on Lifetime – and Poeppel occasionally gets off a good line: “Happiness is not a zero-sum game.  It’s the only case in which the resources are limitless.”  You may get better mileage and satisfaction than I did.  (Perhaps.)

i-liked-my-life-amazon

I Liked My Life: A Novel by Abby Fabiaschi (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 272 pages)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is an honest-to-goodness ghost story.  Madeline (Maddy) Starling is a happy housewife and mother.  She has a successful husband, Brady, and a great teenage daughter, Eve.  And then, suddenly, Maddy is gone – by suicide.  This might be the end of the story, but it’s just the beginning as Maddy sticks around as a ghost; one who can observe what goes on with Brady, Eve, and other formerly-important figures in her life.  She also has the power to implant thoughts in their heads – such as the notion that Brady needs to find a new spouse to take care of him and Eve.

Author Fabiaschi, in this debut novel, makes good use of the notion that people tend to feel the presence of a deceased person after his or her passing.  Yes, there’s a touch of the plot used in the 1990 film “Ghost,” but the overlap is minimal.  And she writes well in a ghostly voice:

“Everything in our house looked perfect, which was awesome when I thought everything was perfect, but disturbing now that I know the truth.  It’s like we lived on a stage.”

And:

“Perhaps we all offer what we can, until we can’t, and then our loved ones step up or have others step in.  Perhaps death exists to challenge the people left behind.”

In her ghostly existence, Maddy finds that she’s on a timetable.  There’s only so much time to complete what she needs to get done – via earthly creatures, before her powers erode and she heads for her final destination.

i-liked-my-life-back

Surprisingly, Fabiaschi sets up an ending that we can see coming from hundreds of pages away.  Except that the book does not end that way.  Well played!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

Small Admissions was published on December 27, 2016.

I Liked My Life was released on January 21, 2017.

early-decision

Note: Another novel that deals in a semi-factual way (“Based on a true frenzy!”) with the college admissions process is Early Decision by Lacy Crawford.

 

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Lying in Wait

marriage-lie

The Marriage Lie: A Novel by Kimberly Belle (Mira, $15.99, 334 pages)

Synopsis:

Iris and Will have been married for seven years, and life is as close to perfect as it can be. But on the morning Will flies out for a business trip to Florida, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt: another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers.

Grief stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding.

Review:

Iris Griffith always thought that her marriage to Will was secure. Together they are celebrating seven years of marriage and are trying to start a family. Will is a guest speaker in a business conference and leaves in the morning for Orlando. Later that afternoon, Iris is notified that her husband has been killed aboard a plane that crashed en route to Seattle. Iris refuses to believe that Will is dead and is adamant that he never boarded that flight.

As the days pass, Iris still cannot believe that Will would lie about his travel plans. She decides to investigate to find out the truth, Iris begins to uncover inconsistencies in Will’s past and feels betrayed. Along the way, she meets a friend of Will’s that he has never mentioned. As her journey continues, she learns much more about Will’s past.

This psychological thriller is an addictive read because of the gradual momentum that builds throughout the story. The characters introduced in this third novel by Belle are engaging. In fact, I was not sure who to trust. It was quite the page turner!

Well recommended.

Suzanne Leopold

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The Marriage Lie was released on December 27, 2016. Kimberly Belle’s prior novels were The Last Breath and The Ones We Trust.

You can read more reviews by Suzanne Leopold at Suzy Approved!:

https://suzyapproved.wordpress.com

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Revolver

The Bullet PB

The Bullet: A Novel (Gallery Books, $16.00, 357 pages)

Caroline Cashion, an attractive middle-aged Georgetown professor, is happy in her solitude until she begins having pain in one of her hands. Medical tests reveal that she has a bullet lodged in her neck, near her brain. It turns out that she was adopted at the age of three, and that her parents were murdered at the same time she was shot. The bullet that hit Cashion failed to kill her because it passed through her mother’s body first. Shocked, Cashion is determined to find out what happened almost four decades ago and why.

Mary Louise Kelley’s second novel (Anonymous Sources) is quite engaging and told in true cinematic fashion. The story is based in the D.C.-area, with stops in Atlanta and Paris. I will guess that most readers will enjoy the read until about four-fifths of the way through the novel. And then it becomes problematic as Kelly has created a conclusion that’s a bit too clever – in the mode of Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, and far too unlikely to occur in the real world. Cashion herself complains in the story about “…novels with bleak endings that drove you to despair.” The ending here drove me to a place called Disappointment. It’s not a pleasant stop.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released in trade paperback form on December 8, 2015.

A Thriller

Note: The hardbound release of The Bullet was labeled as A Thriller. The trade paper version is listed as A Novel, which appears to be more accurate.

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The Reflex

Lasers, Wi-Fi and Bribes, Oh my!

The Enemy Inside 2

The Enemy Inside: A Paul Madriani Novel by Steve Martini (William Morrow, $27.99, 384 pages)

Cars were stopped on the road ahead of her. Ana didn’t care. She drove up onto the sidewalk to get around them. She kept going, one eye on the bleeping signal still emitting on her laptop as she approached the location.

Steve Martini outdoes himself in this, the 16th Paul Madriani novel. Paul and his law partner, Harry Hinds, have been keeping a low profile in recent years. Running from a drug lord who they brought to justice was only half of the problem. Their client base of criminal defendants thinned out when the cops called Madriani and Hines crime fighting heroes. Paul’s daughter, Sarah, asks her dad to represent her friend, Alex Ives, is a seemingly odd DUI vehicular manslaughter case. Paul eagerly gets right to work.

Each time Alex tries to remember just what happened prior to waking up in the desert next to his parent’s burned out car and the wrecked car containing a dead mystery woman, another piece of the puzzle is revealed. Readers who enjoy high tech trickery mixed with politics and murder for hire will thoroughly enjoy this book. Author Martini includes ample background on how national political deals are made inside the Washington, D.C. beltway. When he adds the latest advances in weaponry and electronics, the mix is compelling.

Even long-time Madriani fans will not be able to figure out the twists and turns that lead to the very satisfying conclusion.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The Enemy Inside

The Enemy Inside will be released as a mass market paperback (William Morrow, $9.99, 515 pages) on December 29, 2015.

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All She Wants to Do is Dance

Tulip Loves Rex

Tulip Loves Rex by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Sarah Massini (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Children’s Books, 32 pages, $17.99)

“From the moment she was born, Tulip loved to dance.”

This colorful children’s book charms the reader with illustrations that beautifully capture the engaging text by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Illustrator Sarah Massini uses swaths of soft colors and sparingly-applied dark lines to bring to life the little girl Tulip and Rex – a doggie she meets in the park.

Tulip expresses her joy by twirling and whirling from early morning until bedtime. Her parents are amazed by their daughter. One day the three of them go for a walk to the park. In the park Tulip sees a big yellow dog with a red tag hanging from his collar announcing that his name is Rex and that he is not like other dogs.

Rex doesn’t respond when Tulip tries playing the usual games that dogs respond to like fetch and tag. She tells him that it’s fine if he is not like other dogs. Tulip then dances and twirls around the grass. Rex joins her with much enthusiasm, matching her moves with his own version of dancing.

Tulip Loves Rex 2

When it’s time to go home, Tulip makes a discovery. Rex needs a home. Can you guess what happens next?

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

This book – which will be released on December 23, 2013 – is recommended for children who are in preschool and up to 3rd grade. “Perfect for bedtime and for any child who dances through life or dreams of having a pet as a best friend.” Amazon

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