by Joshua Mohr
Two Dollar Radio – July 2010
180 pages; $16.00

There were days I felt like the bastard daughter of a ménage a trois between Fyodor Dostoevsky, Sylvia Plath,and Eeyore.

Days Pungent with Disappointment.

Days soiled and hoarding blame.

Allow me to offer some evidence: about 5 a.m. on the morning after my last birthday, I was on my knees in front of the toilet, leaning over it and looking down at the water, waiting to throw up again. I stared at my reflection and could see myself so clearly. My life in the toilet. I was right where I belonged.” -Mired

At its simplest Termite Parade (New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Award 2010) is the story of a seemingly doomed relationship. Mired (pronounced like the verb) is a 30 something borderline alcoholic, whose life is a mess. Her partner Derek is an equally troubled person, just going through the motions of a relationship that seems over long before the situation they find themselves in presently.

While attending a going away party for a former co-worker of Derek’s, Mired gets completely inebriated and proceeds to make quite a scene. Mired’s embarrassing and vulgar scene forces Derek to return home where the event that forever changes both of them takes place. This incident begins the story’s emotionally packed ride that doesn’t let up until the very last page.

Former Connecticut Poet Laureate Leo Cannellan (1928-2001) used to say that poetry simply “creates a scene and stops.” Mohr’s distinctive writing style is artistically poetic in this respect. Short action packed chapters quickly and completely engross the reader in this somewhat voyeuristic tale. A tale that tackles; love, trust, guilt, and emotion with razor-sharp clarity. The best part of Termite Parade is that the story itself, along with a cast of interesting characters, keeps the reader engaged in thought long after the final page.

Termite Parade truly lives up to its publisher’s (Two Dollar Radio) slogan of “books too loud to ignore.”

For more information on Termite Parade, please visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE.

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by Amy Hatvany
Washington Square Press – June 2011
352 pages; $15.00

I felt no real desire for my death. No part of me said, now suicide, there’s a good idea. I longed only for an absence of anguish, an end to self-loathing. Death seemed the only viable method of reaching this goal. At that point it seemed reasonable. I only wanted the pain to end.” -Cadence Sutter

When we first meet Cadence Sutter she is a single, fiercely independent, 20 something woman trying to make a name for herself as a freelance writer. While working a story Cadence meets her future husband Martin. Things progress and ultimately they marry and have a child named Charlie.

In an effort to better provide for his family Martin takes a new job with Microsoft.While Martin is working longer and longer hours, Cadence finds herself having to give up work to focus on raising Charlie. With the stress of Martin’s absence and Cadence’s growing unhappiness with her situation, Cadence begins to drink more and more heavily. After a series of poor parenting and alarming incidents, Martin leaves Cadence and begins the messy process of taking custody of their only child.

I see myself at the base of a deep, dark hole, shovel in hand, face blackened, exhausted. I’m prodding the soil, digging here and there, the ground literally falling out from under me, right along with my footing. But it’s me, I’m the one digging. I stop my jabbing movements and see myself lifting the shovel out of the dirt. I hold on to it still, unsure how to let go, where to put it, no clue as to what else I might use as a tool to find my way out of this deep well I’ve put myself in.” -Cadence Sutter

After a particularly bad episode, Cadence is forced to confront her problem with alcohol. Reluctantly she begins the process of recovery with the hopes of gaining custody of her son.

Hatvany gives the reader an incredibly intimate and heartfelt view of what a life of addiction is like. Especially with the social stigmas placed on women addicts. Drawing from her own personal struggles with addiction, Hatvany creates a story that is filled with emotion and ultimately hope and promise.

A thought-provoking, and at times, moving read, Best Kept Secret resonates with the reader long after the final page.

For more information on Best Kept Secret, please visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE.

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JOHNNY ONE-EYE – Jerome Charyn


by Jerome Charyn
W.W. Norton & Co. – February 2008
448 pages; $25.95

Where shall I begin my unremarkable life? My hands were bound with hangman’s rope. A rifle dug into my ribs. My accomplices were slobbering at my side…”

Johnny One-Eye is historical fiction that is anything but typical. Set in Manhattan during the years of the American Revolution, Johnny One-Eye is the story of a half blind, seventeen year old, double agent named John Stocking. The story begins with Stocking being captured for trying to poison George Washington; whom, as we learn, may be his illegitimate father.

The story, which is narrated by Johnny, is that of his self-admitted “unremarkable life.” The reader quickly learns Johnny’s life is anything but. From his love interest, one of the finest whores in New York City’s red light district, to a cast of famous characters (Washing, Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, etc.), to the various historical events that unfold in Manhattan during this time. Johnny is there lending his unique voice to it all.

Johnny’s story is told in a somewhat disjointed way. In any other book this would take away from the story, however it works here. Emblematic of Johnny’s distinct personality. Charyn does a remarkable job of weaving historical fact with seemingly possible fiction. Another enjoyable aspect to Charyn’s writing is consistent, authentic, and believable dialog. Throughout the book – whether it be gritty, humorous, or historical scenes – the vast cast of characters are continually versed in an authentic voice.

Part Forrest Gump and part Benjamin Franklin, John Stockton is a character the reader will surely fall in love with. Historical fiction fans interested in a gritty, bawdy, and satirical look at life during the Revolutionary War will no doubt enjoy this fun, page turner of a novel.

For more information on Johnny One-Eye, or Jerome Charyn, please visit the author’s website by clicking HERE.

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ALICE BLISS – Laura Harrington


by Laura Harrington
Pamela Dorman Books (Viking) – June 2011
320 pages; $25.95

Does everyone have a secret life, she wonders? Is everyone carrying an impossible, unbearable secret?” -Alice Bliss

The Bliss family is your typical American family. Mom, Dad and two daughters; Alice 15, and Ellie, a precocious 8, living in upstate New York. The story begins when the family learns that Matt Bliss, a New York Army Reservist, is being called to active duty to fight in Iraq. Emotions and fear understandably take hold, and the reader observers each family member deal with the situation in their unique way.

Once Matt ships off, the family tries to maintain some sense of normality. But, as hard as they try, the Bliss family finds themselves just going through the daily motions of life. School, work, and family/social life becomes infected with the stain of Matt’s absence. Communication is limited and mostly in the form of letters, that become ever more precious, to each family member, as time begins to draw on. Until the letters and calls stop.

She opens the door to a soldier in his twenties who immediately takes off his hat, revealing an extremely new haircut. He is flanked by another soldier twice his size. “I’m Sergeant Walker Ames. This is Army Chaplain McMurphy.”…He is eerily, almost creepily calm Alice thinks, as her mind races to take in all the possibilities of what his presence on her front stoop mean.”

In the midst of this tumultuous time the book’s main character, Alice, is at that awkward stage of beginning to grow into herself. Author Laura Harrington beautifully captures that delicate balance between young womanhood and the waning child with Alice. From discovering her body, learning to drive, love, and loss Alice’s experience will surely touch and move every reader.

Alice lifts her head and opens her eyes and looks at her father. Now she can’t get enough of looking at him. He is not the same; he is not the same at all. But what there is, what there still is, right here in front of her, close enough to touch, is this broken body, this man, this soldier. Her father. Hers.”

The beauty in Alice Bliss is Harrington’s ability to create a character that transcends the page and enters the reader’s heart. Keep the tissues nearby, but also know that this is a story of hope. Alice Bliss is one of those rare gems of a read that will remain with the reader for a long long time to come.

For more information on Alice Bliss, please visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE.

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by Bill Loehfelm
Sarah Crichton Books – May 2011
336 pages; $26.00

Because he’s scared of her. That gives him power over her. And they have a history. He’s the devil she knows. As far as she’s concerned, he’s a permanent fixture in her life. He can reach her anytime, anywhere…She doesn’t believe anyone can protect her. You. Me. Anyone.” -Det. Nat Waters

Twenty-nine year old Maureen Coughlin is a tough, young, woman living on Staten Island. Working long hours at The Narrows, a dive bar in a tough part of town, hustling tables to make ends meet. One night, after a particularly rough shift, Maureen awakes in a back room in the early dawn hours. While making her way out of the bar, she stumbles on a gay tryst involving a coworker and a powerful political hopeful named Frank Sebastian.

The next day, when arriving to work, Maureen learns that her coworker is dead – apparently the victim of suicide. Immediately recalling what she had witnessed, Maureen believes her coworker was murdered to keep quiet. This suspicion is only intensified when Maureen returns home to find her apartment has been broken into, and a clear message left for her. Turning to a friend for help, Maureen is introduced to Detective Nat Waters. A gruff homicide detective, on the cusp of burnout, Waters has a long history that becomes a central theme to the story.

An exciting compliment to the tense and gripping story is the transformation that Maureen takes. From scared naïve victim, to, mad as hell, do something about it powerhouse.

The Devil She Knows is filled with seedy characters and suspenseful action – making it a serious page turner. Loehfelm keeps the pace quick, with action and suspense that doesn’t quit. Crime fiction fans looking for memorable characters and an action packed read will surely find it in The Devil She Knows.

For more information on The Devil She Knows, please visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE.

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by S.J. Watson
Harper Books – June 2011
368 pages; $25.99

I cannot imagine how I will cope when I discover that my life is behind me, has already happened, and I have nothing to show for it. No treasure house of recollection, no wealth of experience, no accumulated wisdom to pass on. What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?”

Each day Christine Lucas wakes with no memory. The only details she can recall are scattered memories from her childhood and young adult life. She doesn’t know the man in the bed next to her, why she looks so old, or what’s happened to her to cause this situation. With no other choice, Christine must rely on the information provided to her by her husband as to who she is and how she got into the situation she finds herself. Each morning is the same, complete memory loss after awaking from sleep.

“The nineties. It was odd to hear summed up in two words a decade that I could not remember living through. I must have missed so much. So much music, so many films and books, so much news. Disasters, tragedies, wars. Whole countries might have fallen to pieces as I wandered, oblivious, from one day to the next.”

In an attempt to regain her memory, Christine begins working with a therapist. Christine begins to sense that what her husband has been telling her, about her past, isn’t exactly true. Memories begin to return sparsely; and in an effort to help remember more information, and to verify what she’s being told, Christine begins keeping a secret journal. While recording her returning memories, information learned from her therapy sessions, and things told to her by her husband – Christine begins to realize the story of her life doesn’t add up.

Watson alternates between journal entries and straight narrative dialog. Some of the story is rather repetitive, however that repetition is key to the story of what Christine is facing day-to-day. The real edge of your seat enjoyment comes from the climactic scene leading to the book’s end. One thing Watson does really well in Before I Go To Sleep is create characters that keep the reader guessing as to what their intentions are – good or bad? Fans of psychological thrillers will no doubt enjoy this book.

For more information on Before I Go To Sleep, please visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE.

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by Patrick deWitt
Ecco Books – May 2011
336 pages; $24.99

Brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters have a job to do. Their mission is to find and kill Hermann Kermit Warm. The year is 1851 and this job will take them from Oregon City, OR to Sacramento, CA. The Gold Rush is in full swing and Eli and Charlie are planning to attack Kermit at his claim.

“San Francisco. It’s a good place to kill someone, I have heard.When they are not busily burning the entire town down, they are distracted by its endless rebuilding.” -Charlie Sisters 

Setting off on their mission, the trip seems doomed from the start. Whether it be Eli’s less than perfect horse, Charlie’s taste for drink and quick temper, or Eli’s reflective and introspective self; deWitt has crafted many interesting, often funny, hindrances to their mission. Making this book so much more than a typical western. This story is, however, much more than just about a trip. It ultimately becomes a story about discovery.

A large part of the enjoyment to be had in The Sisters Brothers is deWitt’s authentic writing. The reader is effortlessly transported to the lawless 1850’s where mayhem ensues and the reading stays fun. This story has it all: from grit, whores, humor, emotion, death, and even a duel! There truly is something for everyone in this story. The Sisters Brothers is a highly recommended summer read!

For more information on The Sisters Brothers, please visit the publisher’s website at: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Sisters-Brothers-Patrick-Dewitt/?isbn=9780062041265


Thanks to the generous people at Ecco Books BCBR is giving away a signed, limited edition (1 of only 150) poster of the cover art to The Sisters Brothers done by the artist Dan Stiles.

Contest is open to US residents only. Contest ends June 5th at 11:59pm ET.


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