Dark in Death by JD Robb (2018)

Book #46, Eve Dallas In Death Series (Several of which are reviewed in this site, search tag “Nora Roberts” to see them all.)

Lt. Eve Dallas is back in her forty-sixth adventure, set in New York City of 2061, overseeing a murder investigation that has claimed the life of a up-and-coming Broadway star. The bizarre details of the young woman’s death strike a cord with a local mystery writer, who comes to Eve with her fears that the murderer may be committing “lethal plagiarism” by acting out the murders from her series of books called the Dark series.

Almost immediately Eve confirms that the murder of the young woman is almost an exact replica of the murder in book two of the Dark series. A short look into open cases in the city shows her that just a month prior another young woman was killed in a manner that imitated book one in the series. Now the team is scrambling to read all eight books in the series, quiz the author on her plots and motivations for the books, scour fan mail to the author, and follow the available forensic evidence; all in an attempt to stop the murderer from committing six more copy-cat murders.

A cast of strong women, led by Eve and Peabody, come together to dig deep into the damaged psyche of a murderer who went from super-fan to serial killer: to find out what happened and how he can be stopped.



Still Me by Jojo Moyes (2017)

This book is the third in the Louisa Clark series, which include Me Before You and After You, the later is reviewed here: https://wp.me/p6N6mT-1W

Please note both blog posts contain spoilers related to Me Before You…read no further if you plan to start the series from the beginning!

still me

Louisa Clark’s life is on the upswing. After several devastating years following the death of her first love, Will Traynor, and a life-threatening accident that left her emotionally unbalanced, things are finally looking up. Louisa has a promising new love, Sam, and a wildly exciting new job awaiting her in New York City.

Leaving London for NYC is both thrilling and terrifying for Louisa, but with her signature determination and spirit she dives into her new life with verve. Handsomely paid to be the personal assistant to a billionaire’s young new wife gives Louisa a posh address in the middle of Manhattan and a glimpse into the glittering world of the super-rich. Soon she is riding in limos, wearing designer gowns at balls, and rubbing elbows with celebrities; a far cry from her modest life waiting tables in London.

The woman whose daily life Louisa is tasked with managing is volatile and unhappy woman named Agnes. Agnes is a young Polish immigrant whose Cinderella-esque romance with her billionaire husband should bring her great joy. Instead, Agnes is constantly on the defensive with her husband’s first wife and their daughter, not to mention the social elite of NYC, who dismiss her as a classic gold-digging second wife.

Agnes befriends Louisa, the two bond over their newness to America and the world of the super wealthy. Louisa, a woman who cannot help but care for and fix the problems of everyone around her, is drawn into Agnes’ unhappy melodrama and soon the two woman are working together to hide secrets from Agnes’ husband…a man who could destroy Louisa’s new life if her disloyalty is discovered. Although Louisa grows more and more uncomfortable with Agnes’ deceptions, she feels powerless to stand up to the woman and, more importantly, is deeply sympathetic to her plight.

Meanwhile, long-distance is wreaking havoc on the brand new romance between Louisa and Sam, who remains back in London. Sam feels intimidated by Louisa amazing new life; Louisa feels intimated by Sam’s new (gorgeous) work partner. Soon the two are spiraling toward break-up and neither seems able to stop it.

When Louisa’s employer finds out that she has been helping his wife deceive him, she is fired and left homeless in NYC. Louisa, fearing no life awaits her back in London and determined not to return home disgraced, plucks up her courage and tries to find another way to build a life in the city.

Told with Moyes signature humor and heartache, Still Me gives readers a hundred more reasons to love Louisa Clark and her indefatigable spirit. A great conclusion to the series.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2017)

an american marriage

“But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch.” 4

Celestial Davenport and Roy Hamilton are newlyweds, living in Atlanta and on the cusp of an exciting life. Part of the city’s African-American upper-class, Celestial is an artist whose work is starting to get noticed, and Roy is an energetic, entrepreneurial man who believes he knows how to make her a success.  While their marriage is passionate, it is also not always solid: Roy struggles to let go of his playboy past, and Celestial resists starting a family, worried if Roy strays she will end up a single mother…a stereotype she refuses to become.

While traveling from Atlanta to Roy’s hometown in rural Louisiana, the couple — perhaps with a sense of supernatural premonition — fights about the differences in their upbringing and whether or not those differences are causing problems between them. Roy and his family fought long and hard to get him out of their small town and into Spelman. Roy sees his material success as fragile and feels compelled to demonstrate their wealth in order to make it seem real. Celestial was raised in Atlanta with professional parents who are millionaires; she does not feel she has as much to prove and often bristles at Roy’s need for “flash.”

While in Roy’s small Louisiana home town, Roy is accused of the rape of a white woman and thrown in jail. Celestial’s protests that she was with Roy the entire night and he is innocent fall of deaf ears. The police, judge, and jury see a black man and nothing else. His race, not his actions, determine his guilt. Roy is found guilty and sentenced to 12-years in prison.

Shocked and terrified, the couple clings to hope that this miscarriage of justice will be reversed, but they are wrong. Not one single person in the system cares if Roy is innocent.

“Sleeping by myself didn’t kill me then and will not kill me now. But this is what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn’t simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all of your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again. ” 41

In the early days of his incarceration, Celestial and Roy fight for his release and remain committed to saving him. Soon, however, their marriage begins to show cracks. Celestial is weighted down with this enormous grief and worries she cannot cope. “Their is still rice in my hair,” she laments. Roy needs so much from her — reassurance, love, money, attention, visits — and she is overwhelmed by the demands of this new reality. The magic and passion of their marriage fades from her mind, replaced only by the horrific reality of her husband being in jail.

“The chilly hindsight is what exposes the how and why of something that once seemed supernatural. It’s the magician’s manual that shows you how the tricks are done, not with sorcery but with careful cues and mysterious devices.” 111

As Roy’s life grows bleaker and bleaker, Celestial’s star rises. Her art begins to get noticed, her shop (which Roy once envisioned) thrives, and her heart strays to another man.

Then, in the days before Christmas, Roy’s appeal is granted, his conviction overturned and he is coming home. Stripped of everything: his future, his money, his career, his dignity, and five years of his life; Roy has only Celestial. But their marriage has been only one of fact for so long, the reality is that his wife has moved on without him and he is terrified that he will find their is no longer room for him in her life.

Jones has crafted a beautiful, haunting, complex tale that explores the challenges of modern African-American’s in America face as well as the challenges of a marriage tested before it is ready. A truly outstanding novel, as gorgeous as it is eye-opening.

“Yesterday I sat under the hickory tree in the front yard. It’s the only place where I find rest and just feel fine. I know fine isn’t a lot, but it’s rare for me these days. Even when I am happy, there is something in between me and whatever good news comes my way. It’s like eating a butterscotch still sealed in the wrapper. The tree is untouched by whatever worries we humans fret over. I think about how it was here before I was born and it will be here after we’re all gone. Maybe this should make me sad, but it doesn’t.” 80


The Wife Between Us (2017)

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

In this brand-new thriller, the authors create a complex tale about one woman’s desperate attempts to find security and happiness after a troubled adolescence. She deeply believes she has found the safety and love she craves when she marries Richard…but she is wrong.

Two different narrators lay out the story of Nellie and Richard. Neither of these narrators is telling readers the whole truth and so the picture of this not-so-perfect marriage takes quite a while to come into focus. Are they happy? Or are they not? Is his desire to control their relationship the problem? Or is her alcoholism and mental health to blame?

Alternating between past and present, our narrators try to show you what happened and why but it becomes clear that the story is very complicated and therefore the telling of it must be as well. Twists and turns populate nearly every chapter, right up until the very last page; making the reader feel on edge every step of the way.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963)

Inspired by the imminent release of the new A Wrinkle in Time film from Disney, one of my book clubs selected to read this children’s literature classic for our March book selection, followed by a of group viewing the movie. A Wrinkle in Time is a slim volume, book one in a quintet written by Madeleine L’Engle, and took just a few hours to read. The story follows high-schooler Meg Murry who goes on an intergalactic journey to find her missing father and attempts to lessen the power a dark force that is exerting its evil over the universe.

On Earth, Meg is awkward, angry, and quarrelsome; often in trouble in school and lacking close friends. Her social isolation is made worse by her longing for her father, whose work for the US Government has taken him away from his family for several years. One of her only consolations is her deep connection to her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace, whose startling intelligence and empathy are those of a much older boy and who has what at times seems like a supernatural power to read minds.

With the arrival in town of three very unusual women — Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit — Charles Wallace and Meg are launched on a journey into the far reaches of the universe, along with their neighbor, Calvin. Traveling along the fifth dimension, using a series of time travel short cuts or “wrinkles in time,” the children are taken to the outer edges of the universe to save their father from a planet whose residents have succumbed to the Dark Thing.

Using their own unique skills and gifts given to them by the Mrs., the children temporarily defeat the Dark Thing’s accomplish the IT and rescue their father, returning him home to reunite him with their mother and siblings. While this is a book loved by my sons, I find myself a bit underwhelmed by the story which fluctuates between too complex and too simplistic and which seems unsophisticated to today’s reader. I have no doubt, however, that the movie will be outstanding and more than make up for the book’s shortcomings.


Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (2017)


“Everything that I am seeing is all physically balanced on the cusp between the now of things and the big, incomprehensible change to come. If it is true that every living particle that I can see and not see, and all that is living and perhaps unliving too, is trimming its sails and coming about and heading back to port, what does that mean? Where are we bound? Is it any different, in fact, from where we were going in the first place?” 13

Louise Erdrich’s stunning new novel, Future Home of the Living God, is an ecstatic, psychedelic, feminist masterpiece: one that tells stories about the raw power of women, of mothers, of the continuance of life against all odds: and it is about the inevitable, horrific ways that men in power will dirty and corrupt change in an effort to control the uncontrollable.

A series of huge and irreversible environmental disasters have set into motion massive global changes; whether or not human-kind can survive those changes is unknown. Everything that is known, or even guessed, about the origins of life on planet Earth are being called into question and no one — neither scientist, politician, nor religious leader — can predict what will happen to those left on earth. The question that emerges as even more urgent to answer is: what will happen to those who are about to arrive on earth?

As governments crumble and people devolve into violence and chaos, the call to round up all pregnant women and detain them against their will is is growing louder. Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a young Ojibwe woman living in Minneapolis, sees the world crumbling and is unsure where to turn: towards her white, adoptive parents or to her biological Native parents on their reservation in Norther Minnesota? Who can best protect her during these uncertain times, and who can best protect her unborn baby from a government that wants to take it for their own experimentation?

” I know this: there is nothing one human being will not due to another. We need a god who sides with the wretched. One willing to share misery.” 153

The dystopic story that follows is riveting and horrifying, but expertly written by Erdrich. The author blends Native story-telling, Catholicism, New-Age spirituality, evolutionary biology, and her own unique visions of the future to tell Cedar’s tale. What will become of women, she asks, when men in power decided that they will seize complete control of human reproduction?  The answer, nothing good.

The future of the world is not a devastating and dramatic end but a complete reversal. Things begin to move backward, time reverses, and humans shed their civility in response. Women, as always, are simultaneously the key to the Future and  extraordinarily vulnerable to the ill-intent of science, religion, and men who want to claim their power to create life for their own.

This book is, I say again, a masterpiece of science fiction — of fiction! — and should not be missed.

“That my body is capable of building a container for the human spirit has inspired in me the will to survive. It has also shown me truths. Someone has been tortured on my behalf. Someone has been tortured on your behalf. Some in this world will always be suffering for your behalf. If it comes your time to suffer, just remember. Someone suffered for you. That is what taking on the cloak of human flesh is all about, the willingness to hurt for another human being.” 205


The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer (2010)

The women of Stellar Plains, New Jersey are preoccupied with sex: how much they are having, who they are having it with, whether they are enjoying it, and what to do to get more. From teenage girls who are just beginning their sexual lives to long-married women for whom sex is a distant memory; it is on the minds of the women of the entire town this December. (To be fair, sex is on the minds of the men in town too, but given that this is true most of the time, the thoughts the male residents of the town have about sex are less important in this story.)

The intimate lives of the women in town are heading for a shake-up, although in the opening pages of the book none of the female characters in The Uncoupling suspect what they are in for.  It is only when the high school drama teacher selects the Greek play, Lysistrata, that a cold wind begins to blow into the bedrooms of every woman in the story.

In the play, the women of ancient Greece are sick of the decades-long war that has stolen their husbands away, some forever, and decide they only have one weapon left: sex. They will withhold sex from all men until the war is brought to an end. In The Uncoupling, it is as if the ideas from the play begin to cast a spell one woman after another, causing each to inexplicably and irrevocably refuse to have sex.

It becomes clear that each woman’s refusal of sex has a deeply different cause from that of her neighbors. For sixteen year-old Willa, it is as if she is suddenly doubting whether love is real and whether she has let sex have too much power of her relationship. For Ruth, a mother of two toddlers and a newborn, the respite from her husband’s lackluster nightly sex sessions allows her time to set some guidelines for self-care which include stopping sex until her husband makes it worth her while. For Leanne, pausing all three sexual relationships she is in forces her to take a hard look at whether causal sex is really all she wants as she approaches 30. For forty-year-old Dory, it is the first time is more than 20-years of marriage that sex has not been at the center of her marriage and her sudden refusal shines a light on what the rest of her relationship with her husband brings to her life. For Bev, whose recent weight gain has led to conflict in the bedroom, the refusal to have sex is a demand to her husband: love me as I am (not as I was) or get out.

Wolitzer tells her tale with laugh-out loud humor as well as deep insight into the social forces that influence who a woman sleeps with and why. The book sheds a light on the various paths to sexual fulfillment women follow and attempts to remove the shame women feel about their bodies and their sexual appetites. A wonderful book that I highly recommend, even if you have found Wolitzer’s other works to be difficult to read.