Tickle Me by Monica Bouvier is billed as a romance novel, but the reader may find it to be more of a coming-of-age tale than anything else. The focus of the story is Alice and her transformation from an insecure, gawky loner to a confident, engaged woman. The catalysis behind this transformation is an online affair, but Alice ultimately decides to change her own attitude.
Ever since her childhood, Alice felt ugly and unimportant. Coming from a dysfunctional family, she spent her time buried in tomes of Greek Mythology rather than dating or making friends. As a young adult, she had to care for her ailing parents, taking a job she did not want. At work, she seems to be the brunt of the joke, never getting credit for anything. She has a single friend in Patty, who is an outgoing, party animal.
Then Alice meets Erik through an online dating site and goes through a slow transformation. She starts being noticed at work for her efforts and begins making more friends and feeling more self-assured. The remainder of the novel follows Alice and Erik’s courtship and eventual meeting, as well as Patty’s reaction to the whole thing.
Tickle Me has a fantastic concept; the reader will enjoy watching Alice change and grow. It has the feel-good quality of shy girl meets attractive guy, who whisks her off her feet and they live happily ever after. However, some readers may find the book to be redundant in places, as emails between Alice and Erick fill up pages upon pages, most saying the same thing over and over. In order to get the meat of the story, the reader may find herself skipping Erik’s “stories” all together.
Length and redundancy aside, the reader will be surprised with the outcome of the novel. Bouvier writes an in-depth character study of individuals as well as relationships. She asks questions about love, reality, and self-image. The reader will find an interesting story, meant to explore life, with an unexpected ending and some twists and turns along the way.
The Publicist by Christina George follows the life and career of Katharine Mitchell. The reader meets Kate for the first time as she receives a call from the police—a woman is threatening to jump off a building and is asking for her. Kate is able to talk Haley off the ledge and everyone is curious as to the relationship between the two. Kate answers, “I’m the publicist.”
This scene sets the tone for the whole novel. As a publicist, Kate must deal with arrogant authors who think they have written the great American novel and bosses who care more about the bottom line than good writing. In her personal life, she deals with an unwanted attraction to a married co-worker. Mac has a Don Juan reputation, but he’s also one of the only people left in the publishing business who seems to care about quality books and genuine people.
The Publicist is full of realistic characters, poignant interactions, and tons of humorous situations. From the crises Kate has to deal with, one would think she is a psychologist or a social worker, but she is simply a publicist who is thrown some undesirable authors and frivolous projects. The reader will thoroughly enjoy commiserating with Kate as she tries to sort out her career and her love life. When this book ends, the reader will be counting down the days until the next one.
Divergent Lives by Minnie Lahongrais is an intense, gruesome study of human nature, genetics, and psychology. The tone for the novel is set with a quote from Marquis de Sade about people with “strange tastes.” This could not be any more appropriate because almost all of the main characters have “strange tastes.” The horror begins in the very first chapter and does not stop until the very end.
The reader is introduced to Adina Cruz as she is leaving work to meet her boyfriend Tommy Ortiz. Tonight they will reconcile after a year apart because of Adina’s unconventional sexual desires. After dinner and a tender reunion, Tommy returns to his apartment to collect his things and finally spend the night with her. Once Tommy’s gone, an intruder attacks Adina and kills her, all the while professing his love for her and feeling sorry that he cannot control his rage.
The story progresses by flashing back to forty years earlier as a pair of fraternal twins are born. With the nightmarish image of Adina’s murder always in the back of his mind, the reader is taken on a journey through the lives of two individuals as they are born, separated, and become adults. Adina is a beautiful, confident woman raised by strict parents. She escapes their tyranny after a tragedy, one that affects her throughout her entire life. Rhys was raised in a religious household with a dark secret that follows him everywhere.
Will Adina and Rhys realize their connection? Who murdered Adina? How is all of this drama related? Two people related, but raised apart. Similar, yet different. Lahongrais spins graphic, intricate tale of psychological terror. The reader who enjoys dark mysteries, in-depth character studies, and crime stories will be hooked from cover-to-cover.
Tylenol Man by Scott Bartz is a true crime story about the 1982 Tylenol murders. For thirty years, numerous branches of law enforcement have been trying to find the person who poisoned Tylenol capsules with cyanide, killing seven Chicago area residents. Bartz’s novel concentrates on one aspect of the case in particular—Jim Lewis, who was labeled “The Tylenol Man.”
Lewis became tied to the Tylenol murders in 1982 when he sent an extortion letter to Johnson & Johnson, asking them to deposit one million dollars into a bank account belonging to his wife’s ex-boss to “stop the killings.” Lewis admitted to writing the letter as a ploy to expose fraud in the company that swindled his wife, but denied actually committing the murders. Even so, for the next thirty years, law enforcement attempted to pin the murders on Lewis—causing him to be falsely accused of many things and be in and out of jail. They were using Lewis as a scapegoat, as they had no physical evidence to tie him to the murders.
Bartz writes an enthralling mystery. In the beginning, the reader thinks that maybe Lewis is the guilty party because of certain events that happen. However, Bartz makes it clear throughout the story that things do not add up and the whole process is suspicious. The investigation that unravels is fascinating and horrifying all at once—the reader will not know whom to believe at times.
At some points, the timeline may be a little hard to follow as Bartz jumps back and forth in an attempt to explain fully key figures and their roles. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of detail about the case is amazing. Bartz keeps the reader hooked until the very last page, and she will be compelled to read his other two novels on the subject. If the reader is expecting an answer to the mystery, however, she will be disappointed, as the case has not been solved to this day…
The Scent of Rain and the Road Home by Dan Solomon charts his life experiences and his spiritual journey up to the present time. He documents some of the traumatizing events in his early life to show that God’s love can help a person overcome and have a fulfilling existence.
Early on, Solomon’s life was full of pain, abuse, and heartache. One of his first memories is being at the funeral of his twin brother and sister. His father drank and gambled, making home life unhappy. His mother finally left when his father broke her arm. On top of all that, the teenage boys in the neighborhood were molesting Dan and all the latchet key kids because their parents had to work to support them and could not be there when they got home from school. Even though things started to get better once they began to attend church, Dan still struggled with anger issues, so much so that, at one point, he stabbed his brother with a knife.
The hardships in Dan’s life continued sporadically during his time in the Reserves and even after marriage, but after he truly gives his life over to God, he is able to deal with them more easily. Solomon tells the reader about his difficult life to illustrate that God’s love can heal all wounds.
Solomon’s memoir is both interesting and inspirational—even to the reader who does not believe in God to the extent that he does. After all of the abuse Dan suffered in his life, he could be bitter and abandon all others. Instead, he uses that hardship to spread love and acceptance. The reader will enjoy learning about how Solomon was able to overcome anger and make his life meaningful by helping others. The only thing lacking is detail and a sense of closure.
Mostly Madly by Patrick Fealey is a stream-of-consciousness novel about life, self, and relationships. It begins with Tommy Risk sitting on the beach grieving over a lost love, drinking scotch, and admiring a pretty girl. This sets the tone for the whole story as Tommy spends the course of the book bouncing between multiple women, jobs, and emotional states. He is a journalist who aspires to be a novelist, a man who enjoys having no responsibilities, longing for love, but settling for sex. This is his journey of self as he attempts to repair it in the freedom after a long-term relationship.
Fealey writes an interesting story with many twists and turns. Just when it seems as if Tommy is finally settling down, something else changes his mind. The reader will enjoy learning about the intricacies of the male’s perspective in relationships. The stream-of-consciousness allows the reader to live the story as Tommy, to know exactly what he is thinking at all times. Fealey’s prose is simply beautiful at times—the way he describes landscapes and intimate scenes is lovely.
Though the format of the novel allows the reader to be in the moment, it also has one drawback. There are times when the timeline makes little sense. One second, Tommy is thinking about a date with Felicia or Justine, and the next, the reader is back in time or forward in the future. There are points in the narrative where the reader may be unsure whether Tommy is talking about his past or his present. Moreover, as internal thought, the prose has a tendency to ramble on and the reader may find their mind wandering off as well.
There are benefits as well as drawbacks to the stream-of-consciousness format. In the end, however, Fealey spins a tale of love, loss, and self-awareness that is poignant and relevant.