Wednesday, February 28, 2024


Title: Everything Is Fine  

Author: Vince Granata

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 303

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐

Vince Granata was an only child until age 4 when the miracle of IVF gave him three siblings. Triplets Christopher, Timothy and Elizabeth looked up to him, had raucous playtime sessions with him and built many lovely memories together.


Twenty years later, Timothy became schizophrenic, and from there stemmed the biggest tragedy of their lives as a family when Tim stabbed their mother Claudia to death. While Christopher and Elizabeth cannot imagine someone they shared a womb with acting out as he did, their father continues to stand by Tim and his need for medical aid, while Vince takes it upon himself to understand schizophrenia in an attempt to make sense of their lives and so as not to lose sight of his own love for Tim.


The writing is moving and kind, as Vince throws light on the family dynamics, the love that bound them together and the illness that stabbed the core of the family. As Vince shares the happy memories of his family, we are given a glimpse into how Tim’s mind betrayed him, twisting those memories around.


At every step, Vince has taken his role seriously: as his parents’ deputy and as chronicler of the tragedy that has befallen them. Even as a grown man, he sees himself as his mother’s deputy, wanting to forgive and understand his brother.


Vince dips into his memories to remind himself of all that was good about Tim and how schizophrenia took it away.


The author gives us an understanding of schizophrenia, how the illness sneaks up not only on the affected person, but also on the family. The book fills you with compassion for those suffering from mental illness, which we all fear and look upon with distaste.


The book is both deeply personal and well researched. The author drowned himself in books and studies about schizophrenia. He tells us about the laws governing the treatment of schizophrenics in the US, about his fears that he failed his brother.


The research is not limited to reading alone. The author has spent time talking to family members of those affected by schizophrenia, doctors and social workers and patients living with schizophrenia.


To those of us who use the word, schizophrenia, as an insult or a slur, this book is an eye-opener. The author calls for more schizophrenia stories to widen our awareness of the illness.


The name of the book comes from the phrase, Everything is Fine, which Vince’s mom used to use to preface her texts to him, when giving him updates about Tim. Everything is Fine was a way of de-escalating the situation, preventing the buildup of stress, until the time when the word, but, needed to be appended to the phrase.


(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Book Review: THE PROGRAM #1

Title: The Program #1  

Author: Suzanne Young

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Pages: 416

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐

Ever since a strange epidemic caught hold of teenagers, causing them to give in to suicidal depression, the governments of some states in the US have launched the Program. This faceless entity is always watching and aware of what young people are up to.

The mandatory six-week treatment aims to cure depressed teens by wiping them clean of all their memories, happy and sad alike.

When Sloane Barstow’s brother Brady falls sick and kills himself, she and her boyfriend James Murphy, who was also Brady’s best friend, slowly begin to give in to depression and sorrow. James promises to keep Sloane strong and safe, but the suicide of Miller, their other friend, tips him over and he seeks to kill himself. He is taken away by the Program. Now Sloane is on her own. it’s getting harder to keep a grip on herself. It’s only a matter of time before she gives in, and when that happens, the Program will come for her.

This Program, Book 1 in the series, is written in the first person present tense PoV of Sloane. The book is divided into Part I Uncomfortably Numb, Part II The Program and Part III Wish You Weren’t Here.

We don’t get a sense of what is causing this epidemic of depressive tendencies in young people. All we are told is that teenagers, but not adults, are getting sick. What is this world in which grownups are well adjusted and adult suicide is a thing of the past?

The author’s focus is not on the epidemic, or on what it means to lose one’s memories, and therefore one’s sense of identity. I would have liked the book more if it had had more about the suicides, the grief of those left behind, the grief, mourning and closure.

I didn’t like any of the characters. Sloane was uninteresting. Her only qualities are that she is pretty and good at Maths, or certainly better than James is. And the other characters don’t get much space.

Also, while I am no expert on mental illness, the past that the teens traverse while they contemplate suicide is not as singular as it is portrayed here. In this book, QuikDeath provides a quick fix. Depressive people draw endless loops of spirals in their books.

The Program follows a flawed reasoning, taking from young people their right to grieve openly.

The author’s focus is unfortunately on the romance between Sloane and James. That some things are destined to happen is the conclusion the author wants us to draw.

This book had the makings of a good dystopian novel. Had I known it was a romance, I would not have read it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024


Title: Break the Glass  

Author: Olivia Swindler

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Pages: 295

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐

Nora Bennet’s boss, Sal Higgins, has been fired from his position as athletic director at Renton University. She’s interim AD now, and she knows that she has to work harder to prove herself. Sal is accused not only of an alcohol addiction but also of asking professors for favours to get the athletes to pass their subjects.

Anne is an intern in the sports department. Hired by Sal, she finds herself beginning work on the day that Sal is fired, when the department is beset with chaos.

Alexis is a teacher in the English department. Her boyfriend, Beau, is the assistant coach. She and Beau are both questioned by investigators from the NCAA.

Lauren Higgins is blamed by her husband, Sal, for all his indiscretions. She also finds herself under the scanner of the NCAA investigators.

Break the Glass refers to the glass ceiling broken by Nora as she works in sports as athletic director, a male-dominated world. It’s also the glass behind which the fire extinguisher is encased, a reminder of the resolution to be brought about when disaster strikes.

The first chapter of the story began on a high. It brought out the fact that women have to work twice as hard but don't receive the appreciation. But after that, this book was a letdown.

The story is written in the first person past tense PoV of Nora, Anne, Alexis and Lauren. Four PoVs is too many, and we don’t find ourselves caring for any of them. There is nothing of note in any of the PoVs, no action or plot development that takes the story forward.

It doesn’t help that all four PoVs sound exactly the same with not much of a voice distinguishing one from another. Even the vocabulary and expressions used are exactly the same.

The four characters are flat caricatures, who take themselves far too seriously. Even the manner in which the resolution is arrived at is bland. One of the characters has a brainwave that hints at a resolution.

There was no point to Anne telling us that she was of Moroccan origin. The detail made barely any impact on the story and felt forced.

All the characters, major and minor alike, are somehow linked. Nora’s husband, Nathan, is the dean of the English department where Alexis teaches. Alexis’s boyfriend, Beau, is the assistant football coach, where Nora is the AD. Alexis’s cousin, Mason Pont, is the journalist who breaks the story. Joel Bonne, the president of Renton University, is a very dear friend of Lauren. Also, Lauren’s nephew Graham works in the University’s compliance department. 

The narrative, more tell than show, is taken forward at various points throughout the day by the four PoV characters. It is interspersed with the occasional news report. There are grammatical errors which mar the reading experience further.

Even though this book was about football, the author didn’t describe a single game in a manner that would convey the excitement of watching a live match. It was all about the fans, the spectators, the buzz in the stadium.

I struggled with this book, wanting to set it aside several times. It was always more of the same. Nothing by way of plot progression, until very late in the book. For two-thirds of the book, it’s the slow investigation and how the characters react to it.  The dialogues are a repetition.

I finally gave up at the 75 percent mark and jumped to the end.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Monday, February 05, 2024


Title: The Snow Angel  

Author: Anki Edvinsson

Translator: Paul Norlen

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Pages: 330

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

Charlotte von Klint, a police officer with the Major Crimes Unit, has moved to Umea, a small town in Sweden, leaving behind the capital city of Stockholm and the rising crime rate there. She wants to keep herself and her daughter, Anna, safe. But now Tony Israelsson, a mafia don she sent to prison, is being released and he’s headed to Umea.

But Umea isn’t the safe haven Charlotte thought it would be. Crime, it turns out, is everywhere. Her very first case is that of the murder of a pharmacist, Unni Olofsson, who lived alone and was found dead in her bathroom.

Shortly afterwards, Anton, a teenage boy, jumps to his death off a high bridge. Packets of drugs are found at the place where he stood just before jumping.

At first there doesn’t seem to be a connection between these isolated incidents. But soon Charlotte realizes that drugs make up the common thread here. When a young girl, whose family is part of witness protection, goes missing, the police are under pressure to find and rescue her before it is too late.


The story is written in the 3rd person limited PoV in the past tense. The book raises issues about mental illness, the fake world of Instagram influencers, drug and opioid addiction, suicides among young people etc.

The way in which the author blends the weather and the description of Umea city into the narrative drew me in. The writing in the first chapter was beautiful. Not so much in subsequent chapters.

Chapters end on cliffhangers, but the thread isn’t always picked up later when we return to the same PoV. The story line goes all over the place, causing us to lose interest. Towards the end, the author resorted to coincidences to explain things.

The title was referenced only once in the story and it didn’t make much sense. It was the least important element of the plot.

I generally enjoy Scandinavian crime thrillers, but this one fell short by a mile. The dialogue was stilted and unnatural. I don’t know if the problem was related to translation.


(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Sunday, February 04, 2024


Title: Keep Your Friends Close 

Author: Joanne Ryan

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Pages: 234

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

Rich and privileged Mia Enderby allows best friend Carrie to live rent-free in her own apartment. Eight months ago, Mia killed her abusive boyfriend Marco in self-defence after a horrible altercation. Luckily for her, Carrie called some people from the Dark Web and made the body, and the problem, disappear. Mia has no idea how the body was disposed of. And all she needed to do was fork out 25,000 pounds.

Now Mia is exploring a relationship with Sebastian, her boss at the art gallery where she works to keep herself busy. When she begins to spot Marco almost everywhere she goes, and begins to experience strange delusions and hallucinations, she begins to question her sanity.

The book, written in the first person past tense PoV of Mia Enderby, is a quick read. But the writing wasn’t very exciting. The book needed better and more professional proofreading.

One quote that stood out for me”

Opposites may initially attract but they don’t work.

A lot of the action comes to us through Mia’s thoughts. Very little appears to be live action. This affects the pace and leads to a flagging of our interest. The internal monologue is definitely overdone.

All the usual tropes are here: a protagonist who drinks too much and loses time, large blocks of it, and thinks she is losing her mind.

None of the characters were even remotely likeable, except for Sebastian, but Mia doesn’t really care for him, and that affects us in turn. Mia herself is very entitled, taking pride in her wealth and beauty. She keeps stressing that she has so much money, she doesn’t need to work.  

The friendship between Mia and Carrie is a strange one. One wonders what to make of it. Between them, the characters appear to be like warnings to us, actors in a morality play, warning us about the consequences of wrong behaviour.

With a title like Keep Your Friends Close, you think you know what to expect. And, of course, the main premise is predictable. But the twist that follows goes a long way towards causing you to pause and think.



(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Book Review: LIZZIE

Title: Lizzie  

Author: Edward Rand

Publisher: Bloodchuckles Press

Pages: 594

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dan and Beth move with their four-year-old daughter, Lizzie, to a large house in a rural area. They get the house for a steal, and the plan is that Dan, a real estate guy, will spruce up the house and then sell it for a profit.

All is well for the first seven months until one day when Dan finds himself lured to a deserted graveyard on a cycling trip on his birthday. This is the first time he sees Barron Cemetery. This seemingly harmless event invites their worst nightmare into their lives.

A series of unprovoked, bizarre and increasingly horrible incidents begin to plague them. They realise that the cops aren’t going to protect them, that the police are in fact in the employ of the criminals. What’s more, all their friends and neighbours might be involved too.

The book is divided into five parts: Book 1 – Animosity, Book 2 – The First Rule, Book 3 – Things That Should Not Be, Book 4 – Back to the Cemetery, Book 5 – The Binding and Book 6 – The Reaping. It is written in the third person past tense PoV of Dan and Beth.

The author did a good job with the description of the countryside, slowly building an aura of isolation and alarm. He also helps us understand character motivation through the internal monologue of other characters as much as through the dialogue and setting.

What I liked about the plot is that the action doesn’t let up, continuing long after one thinks that peace has been restored.

In the beginning, I didn’t like Beth much. Dan calling her a tigress once too often didn’t help matters much. It was only after the plot progressed further and they faced their biggest challenge yet that I began to warm towards them. Despite the anger they hold against each other, we get a sense of the deep love they have for each other. Both of them have had difficult pasts. Both have secrets they have hidden from each other and from us.

Dan and Beth are both richly layered characters. Both have meaty roles in this book. Both tend to act impulsively, and not always wisely,

Dan referring to Arabic as “the flowing script used by Al Jazeera whenever Al-Qaeda issued a proclamation in the name of their bloodthirsty god, usually after slaughtering a batch of innocent people,” was in bad taste. This issue is not as problematic when a minor character, with major prejudice, refers to “Muslim heathens” because then it fits her character.

There is a lot of swearing and bad language in the book, that I found distasteful. There were lots of descriptions of sex, written primarily like a male fantasy.  “He couldn’t go any deeper. There wasn’t room” sounded puerile.

One error was when Abdulla was referred to as a Sikh. Abdulla is not a Sikh name. It is a Muslim name. Get your facts right before forcing diversity into your story.

It’s a long book, but also a long nightmare. Even so, the book could have been thinner. A lot of it was in the internal monologues of the two main characters, especially with both of them dancing around the main issue.

I liked the book, but was disappointed with the conclusion. The only way in which it might make sense is if the author were to announce a sequel. Also, what was the point in calling this book, Lizzie, when most of it was about Dan and Beth?


 (I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Friday, February 02, 2024


Title: The Devil and Mrs Davenport 

Author: Paulette Kennedy

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Pages: 347

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 (I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


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