Book review: Standard Deviation

A poignant, bittersweet examination of marriage, infidelity, and origami, tstandard-deviation-heiny-645x860his story is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking.

Audra is everything Graham Cavanaugh’s first wife wasn’t: warm, outgoing, and spontaneous. Audra’s only flaw is that she doesn’t have an off switch, and talks to anyone and everyone about the most inappropriate topics imaginable. While charming and undeniably entertaining, life with Audra can be downright exhausting. Their marriage now far beyond the honeymoon phase, Graham ponders life’s deeper questions, such as, is there such a thing as a ‘right’ way to live? Also, why must his wife bring up Rule 34 remarks at the most ill-judged times?

Heiny’s characters are flawed, funny and undeniably charming. You will see yourself and all of your acquaintance reflected in them.

About the author: Katherine Heiny is the author of Single, Carefree Mellow, a collection of short stories. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.


Book review: Knave’s Gambit


Kat Sinclair, a bright young PhD candidate recently recruited by the Department of Homeland Security, doesn’t know she’s about to get tangled up in a conspiracy that will change America forever. Terrorists are blamed when highways become crippled by a series of horrific tanker-truck explosions. The Vice President and Cabinet deem the President unfit to serve, declare martial law, and take Congress into Protective Custody.  Only Kat and a middle-aged veteran with PTSD stand between them and a political coup.

Who can resist a story that includes a President who cares more about the lyrics51DXfqZZgLL._SY346_ to Louie, Louie than steering the country? Tee shirt cannons, spontaneous combustion, and plenty of ‘obs-tickles’, this dark comedy will provide you with a plenty of laughs. Some characters are crazy like a fox, while others are just plain crazy. Only Day can create such a zany cast that you can’t help but love. Fantastic story, tension taut as a tight rope, and a satisfying conclusion. Highly recommend this political thriller.

“Torn from tomorrow’s headlines.” We have to hope not, unless it’s on the best seller list.

About the author: Deforest Day graduated from Yale University longer ago than he wishes to contemplate. After a lengthy career as vagabond journeyman and agent provocateur he retired to the safer craft of Novelist. He lives in an old gristmill with a young wife.

Day has written another excellent thriller called Blown Away, as well as several short stories involving a charming and intelligent police dog named Bugle Boy. A complete list of his stories can be found here.

Deforest Day is one of my favorite newly-discovered authors. I hope to see more from him soon, and a little birdie told me I just might be in luck.

Book review: The Misfortune of Marion Palm

33208830 I know the year is off to a good start when the first book I pick turns out to be a winner.

Marion Palm is an unfashionable, middle-aged Brooklynite who decides to go on the lam rather than risk getting caught for embezzling from her children’s school. Her panic only gets her as far as the train station before crippling doubt takes over. Because of her uncertainty about her next step, not to mention the raw deal she’s been handed in life, you can’t help but root for her.

This dark comedy is sharp, witty and incredibly spare. Most of the chapters aren’t more than a few pages long – perfect for the modern era’s Incredible Shrinking Attention Span. But this story will please more than just Twitter-era peeps. Anyone who likes a role reversal story with a surprising and satisfying conclusion will enjoy it.

About the author: It’s not just doctors and the people behind the steering wheels who keep getting younger. This disease is spreading to authors as well. Emily Culliton is a PhD candidate at the University of Denver. She says she is working on another novel about a woman behaving badly. Yay!

Book Review: Magpie Murders



I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, but that doesn’t mean much. Who doesn’t love A.C.? But, having run through her entire collection (twice), I was thrilled to find this gem.

41TDQZ5XDsL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_The story is actually two stories: a murder mystery written by a famous author who has suddenly passed away, and then his agent who discovers, much to her chagrin, that the final chapters in the book are missing. The story is a pastiche, which, thanks to the power of the internet, I learned means it’s like a parody, except it honors a style rather than pokes fun at it.

This was such a delightful read. I could hardly put it down, except sometimes I had to seeing as it is several hundred pages long and the kids start to complain when they don’t get fed on a regular basis. I don’t want to spoil it but there’s a story within a story and the one depends on the other and it’s just great, so go get this Easter egg of a book and savor every page.

About the author: After reading his bio, I feel like a complete slacker. Anthony Horowitz is quite a prolific person. According to his website, he has written over 40 books, as well as the successful TV series Foyle’s War and Misdomer Murders. He received an OBE for literature in 2014.

Book Review: Vinegar Girl

Another book review based on geography: very local geography in this case. Anne Tyler is a fellow Baltimor9780804141284ean and when I read her stories, I can’t help but hope I’ll run into her at the grocery store.

Vinegar Girl is the retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Tyler supposedly hated the story and was happy to get a chance to rewrite it.

Kate Battista is a brusque preschool assistant and college dropout. Her future is looking rather bleak when her father, a quirky scientist at Johns Hopkins, asks her to marry his Russian research assistant so he can stay in the country. She balks at first, but then starts to reconsider when she discovers that Pyotr – whose name gets mangled by just about everyone – is as rude and brash as she is.

It’s a quick, light read and the ending is anything but a surprise, but I enjoyed it very much. And I related to Kate more than I should probably admit.

About the author: Anne Tyler is the author of more than 20 books. She won a Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons, but my personal fave is The Accidental Tourist.

Book review: The Truth According to Us

It seems I’m on a geography-related reading kick lately. I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and so was excited to see Annie Barrows had a new story out. The Truth didn’t disappoint.

22551743It takes place during the 1930s in Macedonia, West Virginia. In other words, a place that was hit hard by the Depression.

The narration alternates between a young girl in the household of a former leading family in the small town, her aunt/caretaker, and a young socialite who boards with them. In defiance of a paternal order to marry a rich man she doesn’t love, the socialite is forced to go ‘on the dole,’ accepting a job with the WPA to write the history of the seemingly uninteresting small town.

Of course Macedonia is anything but, and the winding paths her research takes open a whole can of worms (and whup ass) many in the town would prefer she leave undisturbed, including and especially the family she is developing a relationship with.

A lazy, hazy day kind of book, but any time you have an hour to relax into another time and place, give this one a shot.

About the author: According to Barrows’ website, her aunt fell ill before she could finish Guernsey Literary and so Annie stepped in to finish it. Then she wanted to write a tribute to her aunt’s home town and wrote The Truth. She also claims to have a superpower of being invisible around young people, which is something we have in common, and an indispensable trait for a writer.

WILD ROOTS: Coming Alive in the French Amazon

Discover your own wild roots, or be an armchair traveler. Either way, Mulvenna’s stories make for a great read.

The Naked Reviewers


Donna Mulvenna had everything she wanted in her modern Australian life: a rewarding career, a spacious home, and an around-the-clock connection to mobile technology. But for all these comforts, she couldn’t shake the feeling something was missing.

So when a Frenchman entered her life and invited her to move to France, she instantly daydreamed of strolling through lavender fields and sipping espresso in Paris. How could she have known he had two tickets to an obscure, mosquito-infested French territory in South America: French Guiana?

After that life got a little crazy. Donna found herself hacking through a perilous jungle, canoeing along anaconda-infested rivers, and overcoming a tropical disease: in a place that became more hostile by the minute. Harrowing ordeals became just another pothole in the road as she battled with bureaucratic nightmares, befriended a bizarre assortment of lively characters, and encountered oddball creatures in a chocolate-colored sea.

Then it…

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