‘The Boy at the Door’

boyA contemporary setting and a modern cast gives a fresh face to an ageless topic of abandonment and circumstances in “The Boy at the Door” by Alex Dahl.

When a little boy is left at a community indoor swimming pool, a wealthy self-centered woman is the only one who can take him home. There is no home, however, and she and family are forced into taking this child into their home on a temporary basis. It turns out that he’s the child she gave up at his birth.

There’s so much depth to this story, which includes betrayal, blackmail, breakdowns and more. Dahl is put together a fascinating story that keeps readers guessing. And in the end, no one is quite as they first appear.

ARC provided by NetGalley

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‘Send Down the Rain’

sendCharles Martin is without a doubt an accomplished storyteller. First was “The Mountain Between Us” and “Where the River Ends,” a New York Times bestseller. Now he’s given readers “Send Down the Rain,” an emotional tale of redemption and salvation. His latest is a new addition to my list of personal favorites, which includes “Chasing Fireflies” and “Wrapped in Rain.”

“Send Down the Rain” is a tale of solitude, reconnection and doing the right thing for the right reasons. Those things may be violent and deadly, but there is a purpose for everything.

Joseph, a Vietnam veteran with nightmares and black clouds, just wants to be left alone, to lead a solitary life in a North Carolina mountain cabin. To escape his past rights, wrongs and post-Vietnam PTSD. It was a war he never wanted, but a war he couldn’t run from and now he can’t forget.

When a young mother and her two children show up at his cabin running for their lives, Joseph goes the extra mile to help them, even though it puts an end to his lonely lifestyle. To survive personally as well as collectively, they have to go back, recognizing where and how their lives veered so drastically. to be able to move forward.

Far away in south Florida, a truck driver’s death sends ripples that reach Joseph, bringing a tidal wave of regrets, remembrances and “what ifs.” He no longer can run from his past, his brother or his childhood sweetheart Allie. Can his violent past help him find peace in a simple setting? To enjoy a beer and watch the sunset with guests from Mississippi, Alabama and such on the porch of a coastline shrimp shack?

Joseph never meant for his life to take so many detours. He yearned for a simple life, but that’s not what fate, karma – whatever you call it – had in store. Who knew his life would wander so far from the innocent acts of playing on the beach with his brother and Allie? But, as an adult, Joseph and his fellow characters find that nothing is what it first appears to be.

This is a novel filled with violence, whether it’s a deadly fight on a snow-covered mountain, an assault on migrant farm workers or the gunfire and mayhem on a foreign shore. At the simplest, the violence is gruesome, yet not overplayed. The complexities could be seen as visual representation of the inner struggles of a man who seeks peace.

In this novel, Martin has brought to life fictional characters those stories tear at the heart. Just as Martin states about life in general, people come together for a purpose, often one that they don’t understand, but yet yields meaning. His deeply emotional writing isn’t sappy; it’s just powerful. Much like his other outstanding works, “Send Down the Rain” is a story of second chances, responsibility and consequences. It’s a story of faith and redemption for broken humans and scarred souls.

Settings feel real, especially those taking place in Florida, a place the author, who hails from Jacksonville, knows well. With the Florida gulf coastline as a frequent playground for Mississippians, it’s easy for readers to be drawn into this narrative.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘Mr. Flood’s Last Resort’

floodWhat an enjoyable novel!

Jess Kidd weaves a great tale about a caregiver named Maude and Mr. Flood, a grouchy, grumpy hoarding man with lots to hide. He lives in a run-down mansion, and Maude is tasked with caring for him and cleaning up the home so the state won’t take him away.

Throw in the back story about Flood’s son and wife, a missing child, a gay Tarot-reading neighbor, and you can see how the story quickly takes off idown entertaining, yet tender paths. Maude herself is haunted/comforted by saintly figures who silently help guide her way. On top of all that, there’s mystery and attempted murder!

What a fun read!

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘The Family Tabor’

the family taborCherise Wolas takes a close look at family relationships with “The Family Tabor,” a novel focusing on how secrets weigh heavy on even the closest families.

Harry Tabor, soon to be named Man of the Decade, is carrying the biggest secret, one that he’s mentally avoided until the weight becomes too heavy. The world he’s built supposedly built on philanthrophy and caring for others is about to crumble beneath his feet.

His wife and three adult children aren’t burden-free, though. Each is suffering in his or her own way, fighting demons that only they can see. When Harry disappears during the big celebration, the family is left to face personal truths.

Throughout the novel, the author weaves stories about Harry’s past, both recently and through past generations. It’s an interesting blend of perspective, a balance between strength and weakness as well as independence and reliance. Kudos to the author for an engaging piece of fiction.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘We are Gathered’

we are gatheredJamie Weisman tenderly crosses generational lines with “We are Gathered,” a novel about faith, family and relationships.

As friends and family gather at Elizabeth Gottlieb’s wedding in Atlanta, each person comes with his or her own personal baggage. For some, the load is light. For others, the weight is heavy with past hurts, grievances and circumstances.

As Weisman fleshes out each character (through first-person narratives), she gives readers insight into the Jewish community and its rich cultural and spiritual heritage. The author uses the present, past and “what could be” to create a highly relateable and entertaining story.

A review by The Jewish Book Council says it well with “Jamie Weisman adroitly constructs a community of characters, each created with a private network of thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams…a masterful portrait of both sharp and delicate beauty.”

“We are Gathered” is tenderly written with a nod to religious roots and personal development. High praises to the author and her debut novel.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘The Figgs’

figgsI want to invite the Figg family to dinner!

Ali Bryan has created such a colorful cast with this novel that you can’t help but laugh and cry with them as they cope with whatever comes their way. The characters seem so real with their responses to life in general, particularly when it harbors the unexpected. The Figg family – retired parents with three grown children living at home – is sarcastic, soulful and mostly tender, especially when the youngest son becomes an unexpected parent.

Bryan has captured what life can be like – unexpected, but not unappreciated – with “The Figgs.” By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this novel made into a movie. It’s easy to picture your favorite comedians as the various Figgs.

ARC provided by NetGalley

‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’

my yearOttessa Moshfegh has crossed over to the deep sleep state with this well-written explorative novel titled “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.”

Her novel about a young woman who tries to reset her brain through medically induced sleep is provocative and scary as hell. It’s frightening in regards to the character’s willingness to undergo active blackouts, uncontrolled behavior, sleep eating and more all in pursuit of escaping her own mental demons. Demons that would seem to most people to just be normal in our currently abnormal world.

Moshfegh’s supporting cast of characters are equally disturbed in their own ways, whether with the need to fit in or the need to “express” through so-called modern art.

In summary, this is a frighteningly grim look, although fictional, at desperation. With today’s reliance on pharmaceuticals, it wouldn’t be surprising to find a similar accounting in tomorrow’s news.

ARC provided by NetGalley