Monthly Archives: June 2022

The Book Whisperer Discovers a Thriller


Allison Smith is living her dream, attending St. John’s College in Dublin, away from home for the first time and studying literature. Liz, her best friend, is also a student at St. John’s. Then Allison meets Will Hurley, a handsome freshman. They almost instantly become a couple; Allison has not had a boyfriend in high school, so all these experiences of being a college student, finding independence, and falling in love leave her breathless.

This review contains no spoilers. Readers learn immediately that Will has been incarcerated for ten years when the story opens.

Then students and the city of Dublin learn a serial killer is on the loose. And who does this killer attack? Young women attending St. John’s, of course. Four young women’s bodies are found in the canal near St. John’s. Allison is not afraid until her best friend, Liz, goes missing, and is then found in the canal as well.

Adding to her pain, Allison sees the Gardai, the Irish police, arrest Will, HER Will. She cannot believe what she hears. Then she learns that Will has confessed! Because he confesses, Will does not stand trial; he receives five life sentences. Instead of a prison, he is confined to the Central Psychiatric Hospital (CPH). He has been there ten years. During those years, Allison and Will have not been in any kind of communication.

Out of the blue, two Gardai, Shaw, the original detective on the case, and Malone, newly added to a new investigation, appear in the Netherlands where Allison works for Suncamp, a British company. They ask the impossible of Allison: that she go with them to CPH and talk with Will because he has asked for her and will speak to no one else.

The so-called canal killer has resumed his horrible ways and two bodies of young college women have been found in the canal. Does that mean the killer is a copycat or that Will is innocent?

Against her better judgment, Allison agrees to return to Dublin, the first time in ten years, and also agrees to speak to Will. What will she learn? What does she have to confess herself concerning Will’s case? If Will did not kill the girls, who did? And what will it take to discover the truth?

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard will take readers on a wild ride. Told in present-day and the past, WHEN the original killings were taking place, the story is gripping and will leave readers’ hearts pounding as they quickly turn the pages to learn what happens next.

Catherine Ryan Howard is a well-known crime writer. She also worked for a travel company in the Netherlands and at Walt Disney World, Florida. She has published six books, all described with words such as “twisty, ingenious plotting, chilling, unputdownable, and as good as suspense fiction gets.” I concur!


The Book Whisperer Highly Recommends Readers Discover Albert Entwistle


The American cover, the British cover, and author Matt Cain

I stumbled upon The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain. I am delighted that I read the story. Albert Entwistle is a postman, a postie, in a small English town. He rarely engages with the people on his route beyond a hello and “must get going; these letters won’t deliver themselves.” He is the same with his fellow workers at the postal station. He interacts with them as little as possible.

At home, Albert lives alone with his cat Gracie. His parents have passed away, leaving him the house where he grew up. Albert had cared for his mother in her illness until her death. She was not kind to him even as he cared for her. Now, turning 65, Albert receives a letter from the postal service telling him of the mandatory retirement at age 65. He knows there is no recourse, so he begins thinking about what his life will be like without his job.

His thoughts turn to George Atkinson, the love of his life. They were both 15 when they last saw each other and under very unfortunate circumstances. Life for gays in those days was painful. They could be arrested; they were bullied and beaten. As a result, when George moved away with his family, Albert simply shut down. He went about his days doing his job, but his life was terribly restricted.

Now, faced with mandatory retirement, Albert determines he will make changes in his life. To that end, he buys a smart phone and starts learning to use it. When he hits a snag, he decides to ask Nicole, a young single mom who is on his postal route for her help. This move turns out to be a good one for both of them. Nicole can help him with the technology and also with learning how to be a friend. Albert, in turn, helps Nicole by giving her some advice about holding on to a guy she loves. In the bargain, Albert becomes an uncle to Nicole’s young daughter, Rennie.

Because of his decision to find George, Albert determines that he will tell his co-workers about his sexuality. He also changes from his usual terse hello to conversing with the co-workers as well as customers on his route.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle is a feel-good story. It also depicts a theme I truly enjoy—the finding of family among people who need one another even though they are not blood-related. After spending many years closed off from others, Albert opens up to find friends and his life changes dramatically. This story is excellent for a book club. Discussions of what used to be and what can be will keep members discovering new ideas about the story.

The story focuses on today and the ways Albert is changing, but readers do get the back story of the times Albert and George spent together before George moved away. The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle is a delightful story.

The Book Whisperer Recommends a YA Novel


Being in a book club brings readers unexpected pleasures. Those include finding authors and books those readers might not choose on their own as well as the discussions with fellow readers that enlighten and provide additional insights. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo is a book for an upcoming book club to which I belong. I had never heard of “New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning title The Poet X.” So Elizabeth Acevedo is now on my radar.

With the Fire on High features Emoni Santiago who got pregnant at 15 and now has a two-year-old daughter, Emma. Emoni and Emma live with Emoni’s grandmother, or abuela. Sadly, Emoni’s own mother died soon after Emoni was born, and her heart-broken father left his tiny daughter with his own mother and fled to Puerto Rico. He is in intermittent contact.

The story centers on Emoni’s innate talent as a cook and her desire to take care of Emma, whom she repeatedly calls Babygirl. Emoni receives support from Emma’s father and his parents, but the grandmother is particularly harsh in her judgment of Emoni—as if her son is not as responsible for the child as Emoni is.

Emoni’s first high school class of the day is called Advisory which is another name for homeroom. However, Ms. Fuentes, the Advisory teacher, has all the students’ best interest at heart, particularly Emoni’s. Ms. Fuentes does her best to advise Emoni in the right direction and points out a newly adding culinary class that Emoni can take in this, her senior year. The class also involves a trip to Spain for additional cooking lessons there.

Emoni desperately wants to take the class and be able to make the trip as well. She is concerned about how she will be able to pay her way. Chef Amadi is a stickler for following the rules in cooking. Emoni likes taking a recipe and adding her own touches to it. Chef is not opposed to that, but he first wants everyone in the class to learn basics and be able to pass the test to work in a restaurant. Emoni’s innovations get her into trouble until she understands the Chef’s rules.

Emoni is a teenager and the new boy in her class has become interested in her. Malachi has transferred from Newark to Emoni’s school. After a rocky start, the two become friends and then more interested in each other. However, Emoni tells Malachi that Babygirl and school come first.

I enjoyed the story. I did become a little irritated with the frequent use of Babygirl instead of Emma’s name. I also expected to see more than two recipes in the book. Other than that, I recommend the story!

Elizabeth Acevedo has a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington U and an MFA in Creative Writing from the U of MD. In addition, Acevdeo is a National Poetry Slam Champion.

The Book Whisperer Enjoys a Beach Read


In reading The Beach Babes by Judith Keim, I stepped way out of my comfort zone. I was not familiar with Judith Keim. I quickly learned that she has a loyal following and has written a number of popular books. The Beach Babes is billed as “a seashell cottage book.” That simply means the books in the series are standalone novels all set in the same location, but each story features different characters and different dramas. As a reader, I can see the appeal to other readers when an author uses a familiar location, but changes up the story by writing completely new characters and situations.

Too, I chose The Beach Babes because of this description: “Catherine ‘Cate’ Tibbs, Brooke Ridley, and Amber Anderson, friends since they were awkward thirteen-year-olds who named themselves ‘The Beach Babes,’ are about to face their 40th birthdays.” Cate contacts Brooke and Amber to ask them to meet her at a beach resort to celebrate their birthdays. They have been out of touch for a time, though not estranged.

As one who graduated from a small high school, I have kept in touch with friends from childhood. Several of us get together as often as we can. Recently, five of us rented an Airbnb so we could spend a few days together. We were not celebrating a birthday, and we are well over 40 already! We just wanted to get together, so The Beach Babes appealed to me as a fun read.

Readers learn when Cate, Brooke, and Amber get together that each one is at a crisis. The three women will lean on each other as they renew their friendship. Keim is known for writing about women and the strength of their friendships. She also sets her stories in places she has lived or visited. She incorporates composites of people she has met, thus creating believable characters.

Clearly, book clubs will find discussion points after reading The Beach Babes. Women’s friendships, problems in marriages and work, and raising children are all valid topics.

The Book Whisperer Reviews a Book for Young Readers


On the left above is Rebecca Green, illustrator; on the far right above is Jacqueline K. Ogburn, writer

When a Kaye, a friend at my book club, brought The Unicorn in the Barn to the meeting at which we discuss other books we have read, I was immediately intrigued. I enjoy reading books for all ages. As a retired school librarian, Kaye enjoys reading good books for all ages as well. The Unicorn in the Barn is by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and illustrated with black and white drawings throughout the story by Rebecca Green.

Last year, another book club to which I belong read How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery and that book was illustrated by the talented Rebecca Green.

What makes The Unicorn in the Barn an intriguing story? Well, just suppose you spotted not a white horse in the woods near your home, but a sparkling unicorn? And what if other magical creatures also figure in the story, say a talking cat? Would you be interested in reading about these magical creatures? I found that I certainly was interested.

The Unicorn in the Barn is a book for ages 6 – 11. Adults will find it fun to read and discuss with children though. It is much more than a story about magical animals. It is about friendship, acceptance, love, loss, and growing up. I recommend that readers dip into that magical world.

The Book Whisperer Recommends a Book in Verse for Tweens

A sample page

Wave by Diana Farid is a book written in verse. It is a coming-of-age story that involves, prejudice, acceptance, friendship, loss, and love. Ava, the main character, is a Persian-American teenager growing up in Southern CA. Diana Farid has imbued her character with many of her own characteristics. Farid, too, grew up in Southern CA. She has become a physician just as Ava plans to do—even though Ava’s mother is pushing Ava to follow in the mom’s footsteps.

Farid explains that she “believes that story and art have the power to nurture, transform, and better us all.” Her belief will be evident to readers of Wave. The pages are spare and often accompanied by pen and ink drawings to illustrate a point. Spareness is necessary to create the sense of poetry that the story conveys.

Readers quickly learn that Ava loves Rumi’s poetry, so that sets a tone for the story. The summer that Ava volunteers at the hospital, she discovers a patient who also loves Rumi’s work. As Ava reads to the patient, he finds the poetry as useful to his recovery as the medicine he is receiving.

Part of the story involves Ava’s coming to terms with what her mother wants for Ava and what Ava wants for herself. Readers meet Ava’s friends Naz and Phoenix and later Claire of whom Ava is wary at first. As the story unfolds, readers find the connections within the network of friends, but Ava also makes connections with the hospital patients as she delivers their newspapers and later as she reads to the one particular patient. This branching out of friendships and relationships becomes paramount to the story.

The Book Whisperer HIGHLY Recommends The Nature of Fragile Things!


Four words I would use to describe The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner: addictive, memorable, heart-wrenching, and dynamic. Once I opened the book and began reading, I had a hard time putting the book down. Previously, I had read A Fall of Marigolds and The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner. I enjoyed both of those books and found them compelling as well.

Set against the backdrop of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, The Nature of Fragile Things takes readers on a journey through several women’s lives. Sophie, Belinda, and Candace are three women conned by a man who constantly changed his name and his back story. Martin Hocking is the man readers meet in the beginning only to learn that he has reinvented himself repeatedly by changing his name. He is a master criminal and can spin a story without a hint of it being false even though it most certainly is.

Without giving anything away, this review focuses on the bonds women forge to help one another, particularly in times of extreme crisis. Belinda, pregnant, and looking for her husband James, who is missing, shows up at Sophie’s door thinking that James is a friend of Martin, Sophie’s husband. The story instantly becomes complicated when both women learn valuable information about both James and Martin.

Sophie invites Belinda to stay overnight and the two of them and Martin’s young daughter Kat to whom Sophie has become a mother will seek help from the police early the next day. Just as they are prepared to leave the home, suitcases in hand, the earthquake hits with full force.

Now, the three are in a desperate race just to save themselves and find shelter. The rest of the story reveals what these women and other women whom they will discover have in common. They must deal with the aftermath of the earthquake, find safety, and ensure that Martin and James cannot find them.

Meissner has created a compelling story that keeps readers on the edge of their seats as they read. What will befall the women next? Will Sophie be able to keep Kat, the girl she has come to regard as her own daughter?

Susan Meissner will meet with my book club in August when we discuss The Nature of Fragile Things. We are truly looking forward to an exciting discussion. The Nature of Fragile Things has also been nominated for a possible book talk for the Friends of the Tulsa City-County Libraries this fall. The Friends’ committee will be voting on six selections later this summer.

For individual readers and for book clubs, The Nature of Fragile Things will provide a truly memorable read. The discussion can encompass a wide variety of topics: mail order brides, conmen, bigamy, and spousal abuse, along with the strength of women’s friendships and redemption.

The Book Whisperer Discovers a Winner in a Neurodiverse Character & Her Sister


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is one of my favorite books. Eleanor, the main character, is non-neurotypical or neurodivergent.  Neurodivergent “is used to describe a variety of conditions related to cognitive abilities. Neurodiverse is another term one could use. The terms apply “to conditions such as autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.” Neurodiverse individuals frequently have difficulty with “soft skills, especially ones that apply to social interactions.” What do these definitions mean about characters in a novel?

Readers should not let these definitions put them off from reading stories that feature such characters. In addition to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, my recent readings have included characters with those features described above: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth, The Maid by Nita Prose, and most recently The Frederick Sisters are Living the Dream by Jeannie Zusy. In each instance, the characters have their own quirks; they are not carbon copies of one another just as the stories are diverse.

The Frederick Sisters are Living the Dream will be published 20 September 2022, so I have been lucky enough to receive an advance copy. I hope as the Book Whisperer, I can entice my reading friends to give read about the Frederick sisters!

Betsy, Ginny, and Maggie are sisters. Betsy is about nine years older than Ginny and Ginny is about five years older than Maggie. When Betsy was 18, she left the family home in MD and went to CA where she has remained. She returns for brief visits. Ginny, who is the neurodiverse character, lives in her own home in the girls’ hometown. Maggie, separated from her husband Bill, lives in a small town north of NYC.

Ginny has been independent, holding down a job and caring for herself. However, when she lands in the ER, Maggie receives a call from the ER staff saying that Ginny needs help and cannot go home on her own. Maggie consults with Bets who says Ginny should stay in MD, but Maggie knows that is not an option, so she finds Ginny a place at Sunnyside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ossining, NY, just fifteen minutes away from Maggie’s home.

Since Ginny cannot walk, she cannot drive or take care of herself in her own home. She also has a wound that is not healing properly, so the rehab center is the next stop. Bets disapproves and so does Ginny, but Maggie feels she has no option because she certainly cannot let her sister go back to her own home on her own.

Thus, Maggie and Ginny begin a new chapter in their relationship. Ginny is recalcitrant and refuses to accept the changes. Still, Ginny has little choice since she needs help. Her inability to understand her own situation creates tension between the two sisters. Maggie does all she can to be cheerful and keep Ginny’s spirits up. Maggie tells Ginny that the stay at the rehab center will be like summer camp, a place Ginny always wanted to go.

Ginny does not fall for Maggie’s cheerful interpretation of the situation, however. Maggie will take Rascal, Ginny’s beloved dog, into her home where she lives with her younger son Leo, a high school junior, Cougar, her own dog, and Crazy Cat. Graham, Maggie and Bill’s older son, is at Syracuse in college. Maggie has asked the rehab center to allow Rascal to visit Ginny; that promise helps mollify Ginny somewhat.

Readers learn about family jokes and stories from Ginny’s and Maggie’s childhood as well as the jokes and stories from Maggie and Bill’s marriage. Ginny and Maggie struggle to help one another, especially Maggie who certainly wants to keep her sister safe despite the way Ginny fights her at each step along the way.

While Ginny and Maggie form the backbone of the story, The Frederick Sisters are Living the Dream also includes Maggie’s struggling business as a graphic artist and her difficulties with her two sons. Too, Maggie and Bill are separated, but not divorced, so what will happen with that relationship? Older sister Bets also figures into the story. In other words, family dynamics dominate.

Book clubs will find a great deal to discuss from reading The Frederick Sisters are Living the Dream. Sibling relationships, caring for a relative with challenges, raising sons, relationships between husband and wife, and finding reliable caregivers.

The Book Whisperer Finds Inspiration


Since January 2021, I have been keeping a gratitude journal. I made the rules for myself simple: write a few lines each day expressing my gratitude about whatever is relevant for that day. The gratitude can be large or small; that is not the point. The point is to record that gratitude each day. This modest goal has been beneficial to me.

When I read about Thank You! With Deepest Gratitude by Michael Floissac, I thought I should take a look at it. I have been faithful in keeping my journal except for a brief period after thumb surgery when I could not type or write. Still, I thought to myself that I could use some inspiration.

 In introducing his book, Floissac explains that he believes “everyone has a story worth telling.” To that end, Floissac provides “workbook style questions” at the end of each chapter. For example, on page 11, the title is “Mother Nature – What is Your Story?” The questions follow such as “What are some of your earliest adventures in Mother Nature?” These questions serve as quiet prompts for the reader/writer.

Floissac also includes an action item with each set of questions. That is a challenge for the reader/writer. The first challenge is to spend five minutes in nature each day. Another item worthy of note lies in the quotations Floissac has chosen to sprinkle throughout the book.  They are from a variety of well-known people such as Sylvia Plath, Leo Buscaglia, and Plato to people whose names I don’t recognize, but whose quotes are on target.

Readers will quickly find they can read Floissac’s book straight through, or they can dip into and out of chapters at will. It is also a book that will draw readers back for second and third readings.

Michael Floissac grew up in the Caribbean. He is now a Federal Government Attorney and lives in Washington, D.C. Readers will be happy to learn that Floissac is “a self-described book enthusiast.” He even converted the wine cellar in his home to a book cellar—a reader after my own heart!

I’m reluctant to recommend Thank You! With Deepest Gratitude for a book club’s discussion. However, perhaps paired with another book with gratitude at its core, it would work. Still, I highly recommend the book to anyone who wishes to write or continue writing a gratitude journal. Thank You! With Deepest Gratitude will provide inspiration.

The Book Whisperer Dislikes Malibu Rising


When a book receives accolades from The Washington Post, Time, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and PopSugar, to name a few, readers have great expectations when they open the book. Malibu Rising has even been called “one of the best books of the year.” Such is the case for Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid has several other high-profile books to her credit too: Daisy Jones and the Six, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. I have not read the previous books and most likely won’t.

I read Malibu Rising for a book club, chosen by the book club leader. I realize that readers belong to book clubs to be exposed to books they might not choose and I agree that it is a good idea. I also realize that we read books to gain new experiences, see how other people live, and for many other reasons.

The characters in Malibu Rising are so far out of my experience and interests that I had to remind myself to continue reading in order to be prepared for the book club discussion. Husbands who leave wives and children behind without a second thought don’t deserve my attention even if they are famous, internationally known singers. An acclaimed tennis player, who, after one year, abandons his wife, and then returns begging forgiveness also represents another character I cannot understand. The four surfing siblings who form the core of the characters in Malibu Rising also live far out of my experience.

Nina, the primary caregiver in the Riva family, has taken over raising her three younger siblings after their mother’s untimely death. Their famous, deadbeat father doesn’t even have the courtesy to send a condolence card when his ex-wife dies. He continues to ignore his children who live in near poverty while he lives with plenty. Nina does everything she can to keep the children together and finally becomes their legal guardian when she turns eighteen.

When Nina becomes a famous supermodel because of her surfing poses, the family finally has enough money to live comfortably. Jay, Hud, and Kit, Nina’s siblings, all aspire to be famous in the surfing world.

The wild party that Nina throws each year becomes the highlight of the novel and ends where the novel begins with fire. Once again, this party leaves me cold: drugs, alcohol, famous people, and hangers-on all assemble for the party.

Perhaps the story billed as “a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them … and what they will leave behind” is accurately described. It is not a story for me.