The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes. Em Moore is half of the ghostwriting team T. E. Blakemore - the writing half, since she's agoraphobic. Teddy was the other half, the interviewer, the face and charm of the pseudonym. He had been Em's professor, and then became her lover, partner, and caregiver. But he dies in a car wreck halfway through Blakemore's latest project, a book about famous actor/director Garrett Malcolm. The book must be completed, so Em has to travel from Boston to Cape Cod to finish Teddy's work. She's been transcribing his tapes all along, but now it's her own voice she records asking the questions. She has Teddy's notes, but some of them are confusing, some of them seem like he was on the way to solving a mystery, but Em can't even figure out what the mystery was, much less what solution the notes are giving. This is a book where the narrator is barely a character, which actually worked in this case. Em is so passive and mousy, that you hardly realized she was the one telling the book. The main character was the story itself, multilayered and unfolding into something impossible to predict.
The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen. Pekkanen is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I read two of her books last month, and was not disappointed by her newest. Four college friends and their spouses go on a trip to Jamaica to celebrate one's 35th birthday. They're all going through different things in life, and the narrative effortlessly jumps from one point of view to another. Allie is facing a health scare, Tina is overwhelmed by her four children, Savannah is secretly separated from her husband, and Pauline is struggling with the secrets she's kept from her husband, including an abortion and a mentally handicapped sister. Along with all the troubles they bring to the island, even more predicaments crop up during their week together. As usual, Pekkanen discusses difficult life topics in a way that addresses each possible solution, then provides a realistic and satisfying resolution.
With or Without You by Domenica Ruta. A memoir of a young woman's addiction to drinking, drugs, and her mother. "Nikki" grew up as her drug addicted mother's only child and best friend. Their relationship was deep, yet often strained. Nikki pushed herself to do well in school, so she could go away to a boarding school and an out-of-state college and graduate program. Even then, she was still incredibly linked and devoted to her mother, even when it meant Nikki's own life was spiraling out of control under the pressure of her own addictions. The book is so well-written that Ruta's dry humor comes out to make you laugh, even when weighed down by such serious topics. It was a little emotionally distanced for the subject matter, though I understand the need to separate oneself from such a hurtful past. It was a very wise and inspirational book, one I couldn't put down once I started it.
Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany. An interesting book about families coming together into something new. Grace has dedicated herself to her job at a battered women's shelter, and never had much time for relationships, until she met Victor. Victor owns a restaurant and has custody of his two children on weekends, but doesn't want anymore - which is a relief to Grace, because she's never wanted kids. Kelli, Victor's ex-wife, keeps the kids during the week and desperately needs their affection, and even their help with remembering household chores like paying the bills. When Kelli is found dead, the kids come to live with Victor and Grace full-time, something neither adult is prepared for. On top of that, everyone is trying to figure out how Kelli died, without telling the others what they know. Told from the perspectives of Grace, Ava, and occasionally Kelli herself, this book will make you re-think your views on all things motherhood and family.
Deadbeat by Amy Sparling. An interesting book about a teenage pregnancy from the guy's point of view. It was very easy to get caught up in the drama of balancing such a major life change with the trivial day-to-day happenings in high school. I think the emotions involved with such a decision at a critical time when your emotions are bouncing around so drastically was really well done here.
Indiscretion by Charles Dubow. It is rare that a book can keep you so distanced from the characters while allowing you to become so entangled in their lives, but that is what happens with Indiscretion, and it works perfectly. It's hard to say too much about the plot without giving anything away - the blurb is fairly vague, and I think it is best to start reading without knowing what exactly will happen in the story. Although I might warn that the summary makes the book sound bland in comparison to how lively it really is - the drama draws you in and you don't realize how involved you are until the ending sends your heart soaring and then squeezes.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carla Rifka Brunt. This book was recommended to me, and I'm so glad it was. If you're looking for a book with great characters - this is it. They're all so real, so complex, and you never really know what they're going to do next. June is fourteen when her uncle/best friend Finn dies. She's having a hard time getting over it when a somewhat familiar man starts showing up in her life. June has to figure out who the man is, and how she can sneak him into her life. Things start to come unwound in some aspects of her life, while she feels more complete and is finding herself in others. The book is emotional without being overly sentimental, but most of all, I focused on the characters themselves. I wanted them in my life; I didn't want the book to end because I wanted to see what else would happen, even after the story was told.
How to Write a Great Book and Get It Published by Tom Evans. This book is more aimed towards the publishing and money side of writing, than the actual "telling a story" aspect. Some of the sentences were pretty ridiculous: "…a twelve chapter book will take 6 to 12 days of your time to write. You will need to find this time or engage a ghost writer." REALLY? The author plugs his own site a lot, which is fine, except it made the book less complete, because you have to go to his site and/or pay him to get further information (though it could more than likely be found on your own). On the about the author page, it was said that "He… has been called, by others, both a wizard and alchemist." Just a little ridiculous, no? That being said, it's a very short read, and there are a few good checklists of things you need for a query or if you're self-publishing, but overall, you could find that information elsewhere.
Once Upon a Gypsy Moon by Michael Hurley. This book was described as being a memoir by a man who was looking for perspective in his life after his 25 year marriage ended in divorce, pushing him to sail solo. I expected it to be very emotional, but instead there was a major distance between the writer and all that happened to him. I didn't expect him to air his dirty laundry, but I did expect to feel like I was going along on the voyage with him. The language was fairly formal, ex: "The matters of my departure from Beaufort and my ultimate destination were decisions yet to be made. I knew this in my heart to be true, even though I admitted it to no one…" A little stuffy. That, along with the book being more about the technical side of sailing than anything emotional, made it a difficult read. If you're looking for something introspective and inspirational, I'd recommend Swept by Torre DeRoche.
One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. I would compare this book to the movie "The Sixth Sense" - there is a major twist ending that hits you right in the gut, and if you go back and read it again, the clues are all there, you just didn't put them together properly. The book is incredibly entertaining, and well-paced to keep you hanging on and wanting more. Emily Coleman leaves her life behind to become Cat Brown, something she's thought about for many months, and knows will work because it's her maiden name. She leaves behind Ben and Charlie, and though she thinks of them often, she gets sucked into the city life of London. Though a few sections were confusingly vague in order to keep you guessing the truth, it was a great read.