Review of “The Two-Family House” by Lynda Cohen Loigman


I must admit that The Two-Family House  surprised me in the end. It started off quite slowly. Initially, I found the writing to be clinical and I thought I knew just where it was going when I was 9% through. This all changed dramatically at about the 60% mark.

Rose and Helen are sisters-in-law living in the same Brooklyn brownstone. They have always been very close; more like sisters than in-laws. During a blizzard, while their husbands are out of town on a family business matter, they both go into labor. Travel to the hospital is impossible. Cab companies aren’t even answering the phone. Helen can’t persuade the ambulance to come for them. Luckily, there is a midwife who is only a few blocks away after having attended another delivery. She comes to their rescue and they each delivery a healthy baby; Helen’s 5th and Roses 4th.

As time passes, the close friendship between Rose and Helen shifts to a relationship full of jealousy and resentment. Rose has become somewhat unstable. Helen does everything she can to mend the relationship to no avail. Ultimately, I found it a little sad that this was so. After all, the decision that led to the breakdown of their relationship was made by both of them. At the same time, I thought this was one of the most realistic aspects of the book as it demonstrated how two people can react so differently to the same set of circumstances. At times I thought it was Rose’s character that made her behave in a way I didn’t care for. At other times, I thought it was some sort of response to guilt, depression, or other type of mental illness. Perhaps it was all of those. The bottom line is that we never really know exactly why people are the way there.

There were other themes running through this book as well. As we watch Rose’s husband, Mort, evolve through the years, we are reminded of the importance of our interactions with family and friends and keeping perspective on what’s really important in life.

While there are too many characters to comment on individually, Rose’s daughter Judith certainly deserves a mention. In her, Lynda Cohen Loigman gives us a girl, who turns into a woman, of substance. If I had to be one of the character’s in this book or choose one to be my best friend, I’d want it to be her.

Overall, I think this is a very solid first novel.

My rating: 3.75 stars

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Review of “On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light” by Cordelia Strube


This is one of the BEST books I have read in a very long time! I’m going to put it out there and say I believe this book will really put Cordelia Strube, who I was previously unfamiliar with, on the map in a BIG way. She certainly deserves any awards, accolades, screenplays, etc. that come her way as a result of writing this beautiful and meaningful book. I should stop gushing now. I rarely gush but I’m admittedly restraining myself even after that uncharacteristic outburst.

On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light is actually a very difficult book for me to give a thorough review to without adding spoilers but I don’t want to give even a hint away. It’s that good, original, and unexpected.

Harriet, our young heroine, is wise beyond her years. She’s smart and sarcastic, loving and spiteful, hardened and innocent. She’s had to deal with her parents divorce, her brother’s chronic illness, and her parent’s layabout, no-goodnick, and so-called intellectual less than ideal new partners, and social isolation because she’s just not your average eleven year old. She’s also quite enterprising and is amassing a small but respectable secret cache of (escape) money by tending to the needs of the elderly men and women that live in her apartment building. We learn so much about these characters I really found myself growing attached to most of them. Each of these characters came with their own little stories and I really enjoyed the way their lives and stories were perfectly woven into those of our main characters.

As for her brother, Irwin, I loved him more with each turn of the page. As I watched him grow from young boy to adolescence, I was increasingly awed by the author’s ability to portray the characters in such a way that’s so believable and honest.

This is one of those rare books that works much humor and lightheartedness into some really heavy subject matter in a completely appropriate and realistic way. Bravo, Cordelia Strube! I’m already looking forward to reading your next book.

My rating 5 stars

Thanks to ECW press via NetGalley for proving me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.



Review of “The Singing Bone” by Beth Hahn


The Singing Bone is the story of a group of teenagers in NY who become involved with Jack Wyck, a narcissistic pyschopath, in 1979. “Mr. Wyck” as he likes to be called, seems to have the ability to control everyone he comes into contact with his Mansonesque methods including fear, intimidation, and violence. It all falls apart one fateful evening as several horrific acts of murder bring about the end of their mind-controlled, drug-filled life with Jack Wyck. The story toggles back and forth between the events leading up to that night in 1979 and 20 years later when filmaker Hans Loomis decides to make a documentary about the case as new DNA evidence that threatens to clear Wyck is produced.

Our main character, Alice, was the smart one in high school prior to becoming acquainted with Mr. Wyck. I found her character, as well as a few of the others, to be one dimensional and somewhat stereotyped. As her character devolved into someone completely out of touch with reality,  I found the story becoming less and less believable. Her miraculous recovery (though she continued to have some convenient amnesia) and seamless transition into a professor of folklore was a package too neatly delivered for me.

There were also parts of the story I would have liked to hear more about. Where did all those clothes in the closet come from? Who did necklace did Alice found belong to? What was Wyck’s connection to all of the other missing teenagers? It would have been interesting if bodies connecting Wyck to those disappearances could have been found. The ending of the book left me generally unsatisfied and I feel that with a few more twists and turns it could have been quite good.

My rating: 2.75 stars

Thanks to Regan Arts via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.












Review of “Why We Came to the City” by Kristopher Jansma


After reading 36% of this book, I’ve made the decision to put it down and move on. This is not a decision made without careful consideration. It would have been an easy decision if there was something particularly objectionable or “wrong” with the book. Truthfully, I just couldn’t engage no matter how many times I put it down and picked it back up. I did feel there were a few instances where the author got a little off track and things felt a bit disjointed but that wasn’t the reason I chose not to continue. This issue was really my general lack of interest in the characters and the pace of the story’s progression. It’s very unusual for me to spend a week on a book of this length and only be 36% through. I finally had to acknowledge that I simply wasn’t enjoying it enough to continue.

While this book wasn’t for me, I would certainly be open to reading future books by Kristopher Jansma as I found his style of writing generally enjoyable.

Though I’m unable to give a glowing review, I would like to thank Penguin Group Viking via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.



Review of “Free Men” by Katy Simpson Smith


Though Free Men is the story of a slave, an orphan, and Creek Indian, it is not so much a story about being a slave, orphan, or Indian. At its essence, it’s really a very poignant story of relationships, injustice, loyalty, and how we perceive ourselves.

It’s 1788 and the unlikely trio of Bob (escaped slave), Cat (a misunderstood, fragile, and traumatized white man), and Istillicha (a Creek Indian who has been wronged by his tribe and his love interest) form a bond after their lives intersect by sheer coincidence. When what was supposed to be a robbery turns into the brutal murder of several men, the French tracker Le Clerc is dispatched to find them and bring them to justice.  As they travel along together with no clear plan, we learn so much about them and their previous lives that we gain a solid understanding of who they are and how they came to be that way.

The characters were very well-developed and  described in a way that had me thinking I knew and understood them well. As with any good story, however, there are some things one just doesn’t see coming.

Katy Simpson Smith gives us a beautifully written story to reminds us that friendships and loyalty are not always based on the things we have come to expect, sometimes the most permanent love is based on mutual respect and friendship rather than wild romantic notions, and justice is frequently imperfect.

My rating: 4 stars

Thanks to HarperCollins Publishers via Edelweiss for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.