REVIEW – The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Phew, what a premise! Our main character Chloe is married to her sister’s ex-husband, Adam, and is raising her nephew/stepson, Ethan. Got that straight? When Adam is murdered, suspicions quickly turn to Ethan and we follow a twisty narrative that includes family drama, secrets and a court case.

This story did not go in the direction that I expected, and I really enjoyed it! It gave me some Jodi Picoult vibes – a court battle, moral ambiguity, family secrets, etc. It really comes down to this – how far would you go to protect the people you love?

I think this is a great summer mystery for thriller lovers and newbies alike. Burke’s writing keeps the reader interested, and the short, punchy chapters made for an incredibly fast reading experience.

Thank you Harper Perennial/Harper Books for my copy of The Better Sister!

REVIEW – The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield

“The boy is my greatest joy. We strengthen each other. We are one, inseparable.”

This is probably one of the most incredible WWII stories I’ve ever read. I’ll admit, I was hesitant to pick this up – not because I didn’t want to read it, but because life is weird and difficult right now and I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive into something so heartbreaking. This book is nonfiction, but it reads like fiction most of the time – the writing flows easily and the people Dronfield writes about leap off of the page. I loved reading about each family member – while the story is primarily about Gustav and his son Fritz, we do get a glimpse into what life during the war was like for the rest of the family. They all end up on different paths, and some endings are horrific.

“It took strength and character to share and love in a world where selfishness and hate were common currency.”

I was right, this book is incredibly heartbreaking. But it’s also joyful. And hopeful. The love between Gustav and Fritz kept them going. Their resilience is inspiring and, at times, it’s almost unbelievable. Their bravery was just one small factor in their eventual survival – they also experienced incredible luck (which is so hard to say, given the circumstances) and they ended up building a small community of friends within the camps who lifted them up and pushed them through. This book examines the absolute worst of humanity but also highlights some of the best. The sacrifices people made (and were willing to make) for the good of the cause. The danger they put themselves in to save others.

“No matter what occurred in the world, no matter how near danger might be, life went on, and what could one do but live it?”

Something that I feel is glossed over sometimes when it comes to WWII books – nonfiction and fiction alike – is what the survivors experience once they are back home and safe. Even though Gustav and Fritz survived many years in unimaginable, cruel conditions, they still struggled when it came time to rejoin society and get “back to normal.” There truly was no normal after WWII for many survivors, and the trauma and pain of those years in the camps impacted the rest of their lives.

Thank you Harper Perennial/Harper Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Have You Seen Me? by Kate White

This has such a great premise – Ally shows up at work one morning, only to be told she hasn’t been employed there for five years. She spends the entire book piecing together the bits of her lost memory. There’s a cold case from her childhood that plays a role here, and overall I was interested to see where the story ended up.

However…it didn’t really end up anywhere. Do we figure out where she was? Yes. Do we find out what triggered her memory loss? Also, yes. (I don’t see these as spoilers, as it’s pretty much explained in the synopsis.) However, the tone of the book shifts in the last 100 or so pages and I found myself going “seriously?” during a few parts.

I think there’s an audience for this book – those who are new to the thriller genre or those who want to read a thriller without too much complexity or gore.

Thank you Harper/Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of this book!

REVIEW – When You Read This by Mary Adkins

“This whole time I thought my real life hadn’t started yet. Turns out that was my life. I have six months or so to make that okay, somehow.”

Oh, this book. I was intrigued by the premise initially, but I loved this book so much more than I would have anticipated. We follow our three main characters – Iris (recently deceased), her boss Smith and her sister Jade – through a series of emails, text messages and blog posts. The format of this novel made it a very quick and easy read – I flew through the majority of this book in a matter of a few hours.

“We are not special. We do not survive death. We only think we are, and do.”

This is an amazing portrayal of grief, presented in snippets. Smith is grieving the loss of his friend and coworker. Jade is grieving the loss of her sister. And through Iris’ blog posts, we witness her grieving the loss of “what could have been.” It’s sad and it’s funny (like, laugh out loud funny). It’s cliche to say “I laughed, I cried,” but, truly…I laughed. I cried. There are a few notable side characters, like Carl (you’ll hate him, then you’ll kind of love him).

“‘We die as we lived,’ some guy wrote. But how did I live?”

Thank you Harper Books/Harper Perennial for sending me a finished paperback copy of this book!

REVIEW – The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

If this book isn’t on your radar, it needs to be. From the absolutely brutal beginning to the chilling last chapter, The Chestnut Man holds on and does not let go.

The investigative part of the story is compelling, and keeps you guessing until all of the answers are revealed.

The story explores the worst of humanity, the depths of grief (and the different ways people cope), and the ripple effect that lies and secrets can have.

This book is DARK. It’s incredibly gruesome and can be jarring at times. It is not for the faint of heart. There is also a deep sadness that runs underneath the story (there’s a reveal that’s an absolute gut punch).

Although the book clocks in at just over 500 pages, it’s a relatively quick read with short chapters.