Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: Small Great Things

Summary: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game. -- Ballantine Books

One of my highlights from this year's SIBA was the dinner on Saturday night. Jodi Picoult was scheduled to speak about her new novel SMALL GREAT THINGS. This book deals with an extremely serious and relevant issue in America today -- race relations and prejudice; and her speech brought the audience to a standing ovation. She didn't hold back on the realities of what she learned while writing this book, and I can guarantee that every single person that was there went home that night and thought about what she said!

Most of us have probably read a Jodi Picoult novel, and we know that she's never been one to shy away from controversial topics, but she brings it to a new level with this novel. SMALL GREAT THINGS tells the story of two women -- one white and one black, whose lives are brought together when one is charged with a serious crime.

Ruth Jefferson, an African American woman, has been a labor and delivery nurse for over twenty years and is considered by everyone who has worked with her to be an extremely competent. One day, Ruth tends to a newborn only to discover later that the parents, who happen to be white supremacists, have requested that she not touch their child white child. Of course, the hospital complies. However, when the child goes into cardiac arrest and Ruth is alone with the baby, she faces a life or death decision that also could have major ramifications on her own life!

Normally, Ruth would immediately begin CPR; however, she hesitates because of the parent's orders. Ruth eventually tries to save the child but it's too late. The parents end up charging her with murder. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white woman who is certain that she's not prejudice, takes her case; and she offers some advice that rubs Ruth the wrong way. Kennedy does not thing Ruth should mention the "race card" during the trial. She's certain that it's not a way to win the case.

Ruth and Kennedy both have to learn to trust each other... and it's not easy for either of them. Kennedy learns some valuable lessons about race in our country as well as some meaningful things about her own beliefs, while Ruth is determined to keep her son's life as normal as possible. Can these two women find common ground and save Ruth from going to jail for murder?

I enjoyed SMALL GREAT THINGS and I will definitely say that it gave me a great deal to think about. I always say that if a book can teach me something or (even better) make me think, then it's a winner in my mind. SMALL GREAT THINGS is unlike any book about blacks and whites that I've ever read, and I think it's especially important during the current climate in our country. I walked away from this book questioning my own behavior and challenging myself to be a better person, and I suspect that almost every reader will have the exact same reaction.

That's all I'm going to say about my reaction to the novel; however, I do want to talk about the story... and what I appreciated. First of all, I loved the set-up -- a black nurse being charged for the murder of a white baby that she was told not to touch. Evidently, Ms. Picoult ripped this plot from the headlines, with some changes; and I thought it was extremely intriguing. The moral dilemma that Ruth faced is almost unimaginable to me, and I thought the Ms. Picoult did it justice in her writing.

I also really enjoyed how Ms. Picoult decided to tell this story. She wrote the story from the viewpoints of both Ruth and Kennedy; and I think by writing it this way, she gave additional insight into the characters' and their actions. While I appreciated Ruth's voice and I did understand her feelings, I really enjoyed Kennedy's chapters. As a white woman, I think I could better relate to Kennedy... and I absolutely loved how much she learned about herself throughout the course of the novel. It was in Kennedy's part of the story that I truly began to think about my own behavior.

Another important part of SMALL GREAT THINGS was how much insight I got into Ruth's life. By most accounts, she had many achievements. Despite losing her husband at a young age, she had a successful career and lived in a "nice" neighborhood. She also was a single mother of a teenage son who was a really good kid. I wrongly assumed that her life was pretty complete, and I never realized her fears about bringing up a black man in today's society. Even though she worked with and lived with whites, she never really felt accepted... and she exactly fit in with her family either. In many ways, she was living between two worlds.

Some of the most poignant scenes in the novel were when Ruth tried to explain to Kennedy how difficult it is being black. There is one scene in particular when Ruth and Kennedy go shopping, and Ruth is treated very differently because she's black. It was an a-ha moment for Kennedy... and me too; and it was a major game-changer for the direction that Kennedy was taking in the trial.

Finally, I appreciated that Ms. Picoult also explored the white supremacist side of the novel. It's unbelievable scary for me to think that people like this exist, but I know the reality. Ms. Picoult interviewed many people for this story, including some former white supremacists; and I thought it was extremely interesting to see where they are coming from. As much as I was disgusted by their beliefs, I was glad to see that Ms. Picoult showed that they, too, can change... although I'm not sure that actually happens all that much.

Needless to say, SMALL GREAT THINGS would make a fascinating book club pick with the right individuals. It won't be an easy discussion, but it will be an important one, especially in this day and age. There is a reading guide with fourteen thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include prejudice, race relations, privilege, friendship, family, guilt, change, redemption, self-awareness, and equity vs. equality.

Overall, SMALL GREAT THINGS is a powerful novel and one that could possibly change readers' lives. Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this novel at the 2016 SIBA Convention.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Among the Living

Summary: A moving novel about a Holocaust survivor’s unconventional journey back to a new normal in 1940s Savannah, Georgia

In late summer 1947, thirty-one-year-old Yitzhak Goldah, a camp survivor, arrives in Savannah to live with his only remaining relatives. They are Abe and Pearl Jesler, older, childless, and an integral part of the thriving Jewish community that has been in Georgia since the founding of the colony. There, Yitzhak discovers a fractured world, where Reform and Conservative Jews live separate lives–distinctions, to him, that are meaningless given what he has been through. He further complicates things when, much to the Jeslers’ dismay, he falls in love with Eva, a young widow within the Reform community. When a woman from Yitzhak’s past suddenly appears–one who is even more shattered by the war than he is–Yitzhak must choose between a dark and tortured familiarity and the promise of a bright new life.

Set amid the backdrop of America’s postwar south, Among the Living grapples with questions of identity and belonging, and steps beyond the Jewish experience as it situates Yitzhak’s story within the last gasp of the Jim Crow era. That he begins to find echoes of his recent past in the lives of the black family who work for the Jeslers–an affinity he does not share with the Jeslers themselves–both surprises and convinces Yitzhak that his choices are not as clear-cut as he might think. -- Other Press

After visiting Savannah for this year's SIBA convention, I knew I wanted to read AMONG THE LIVING by Jonathan Rabb. This novel takes place in Savannah in the late 1940s; and after falling in love with the city, I was curious to see how Savannah would be portrayed. In addition, the description of this novel was intriguing to say the least -- a Holocaust survivor immigrating to the United States.

AMONG THE LIVING tells the story of Yitzhak Goldah, a survivor of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Two years after his release, he moves to Savannah to live with Abe and Pearl Jesler, his only known relatives. Abe and Pearl are an older couple without children, and they are anxious to introduce Yitzhak into their closely knit Conservative Jewish community in Savannah.

Yitzhak has a bit of a culture shock to say the least when he arrives in Savannah. He quickly realizes that there is an interesting dynamic between the Reform and Conservative Jews -- basically they live entirely separate lives; and he doesn't really feel their differences are all that important considering what he's lived through in Germany.

In addition, Yitzhak's life is further complicated when he falls in love with Eva, a widow with a young son whose husband died in the war. Eva's family is part of the Reform community, and their relationship is quite controversial. And then a woman from Yitzhak's past shows up, one whom he thought was dead; and he is forced to decide whether he wants to go back to his past life or start a new one with Eva.

I am really torn about AMONG THE LIVING. Overall, I liked the book and found the writing to be pretty special. And for the most part, I appreciated the complexity of the novel (more on that later!) However, it was almost as if there was too much going on. There were a few storylines that I thought weren't exactly necessary, and maybe even took away from the quiet beauty of the novel.

My description of AMONG THE LIVING doesn't really encompass everything the book is about. There is a storyline concerning Abe Jesler and his shoe business that I didn't really enjoy. It has to do with an illegal business, and while I understand why it was in the story, I felt as if it was a bit of a departure from the rest of the story. Maybe it was because I so enjoyed the parts of Yitzhak's assimilation (or lack thereof in some cases) into Savannah's society, but I found myself wanting more of that rather than the Abe's business troubles.

I actually found Yitzhak's character to be incredibly well written. I loved seeing the challenges he faced when he arrived in the South. For example, one of the first things the Jeslers did was Americanize his name -- just think about that. In addition, the longtime Jewish community is Savannah was totally separated based on whether they were Reform and Conservative. Naturally, Yitzhak falls in love with someone outside of the Jeslers' community, and he's perplexed as to why these Jews should have such differences. Heck, he survived a concentration camp and these people can't socialize together because their religious views are different?

Another aspect of the story that I really, really liked was how the author juxtaposed what the Jews in Europe experienced with what the blacks in the South experienced. Granted, there are some major differences but there are quite a few similarities too. I found it particularly interesting that Yitzhak could relate more to the blacks in the story than the Jews. All in all, I thought these race issues provided a lot of food for thought.

This might sound a bit shallow in a book about such serious issues, but I loved that Savannah was the setting. I had no idea that there was such a prominent Jewish community in the city, one that had been there since the founding of the colony. What I found so much fun, though, was that the characters actually visited places that I went to during my trip to Savannah like Leopold's ice cream shop and the Crystal Beer Parlor.

I do think AMONG THE LIVING would make an interesting book club selection. I was happy to find a reading guide with eleven thought-provoking questions. There are so many huge issues to discuss including race, religion, and class; and I have no doubt that you could analyze Yitzhak's life and decisions for some time.

Overall, I enjoyed AMONG THE LIVING and found the character development and writing to be very good. It also delved into some very interesting concepts that will make you think long after finishing the book.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review: Paris for One

Summary: Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She’s never even been on a romantic weekend away—to anywhere—before. Traveling abroad isn’t really her thing. But when Nell’s boyfriend fails to show up for their mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone—including herself—wrong. Alone in Paris, Nell finds a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life? Funny, charming, and irresistible, Paris for One is quintessential Jojo Moyes—as are the other stories that round out the collection. -- Pamela Dorman Books

It sure seems like you can't go wrong with a book from the Pamela Dorman imprint. Maybe one of the reasons I'm so fond of her books is because she publishes Jojo Moyes! Ms. Moyes' latest book, PARIS FOR ONE & OTHER STORIES, is a little bit of a departure for her -- but not really! While it's a collection of stories instead of a full length novel, the main themes are still about women and love.

PARIS FOR ONE begins with a novella called... "Paris for One," and then is followed by eight short stories. "Paris for One" tells the story of Nell, a young woman who has never been to Paris but has always dreamed of having a romantic weekend there. She books a trip with her boyfriend (who we learn pretty early on is a bit of a jerk!), and he decides not to show up last minute -- last minute like Nell is already there! Instead of rushing home, Nell decides to prove to everyone that she can have a wonderful time without worrying about every little thing. She makes the best of Paris... and even meets a guy!

The following eight short stories have similar themes to "Paris for One." They are focus on women who aren't exactly content in their lives and searching for something more. There is a story about a woman who meets a former lover at a dinner party and learns that things weren't quite how she remembered. Another story tells about a husband and wife who go away for a much-needed long weekend, and the wife ends up discovering what's important to her. And there is one story (my favorite actually) that shows what happens when one woman wears another woman's shoes for the day!

I have to admit that I enjoyed the novella more than most of the stories. That could just be my bias because I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but I definitely liked it the most. I think the character of Nell just captured my heart... and it's possible that I could relate a bit to her. "Paris for One" was such a sweet story about a woman who discovered the potential of living and love. And it had all the trademarks of a Jojo Moyes love story -- romance, humor, and charm.

Overall, I think PARIS FOR ONE & OTHER STORIES is a fun read... and perfect for this time of year when you just need a little escape from the hectic nature of the season. I highly recommend this book for fans of Jojo Moyes and readers who enjoy sweet stories about love and women.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kid Konnection: Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes


Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a book that's sure to put you in the Christmas spirit!

Summary: Graphic-novel darling Babymouse makes her picture-book debut in a Christmas story . . . all about cupcakes! (Typical.)

Thank goodness Babymouse ate all of the Christmas cookies her mom made for Santa. Now she can make him something he really wants—CUPCAKES! But wait . . . what’s that rumbling in the other room? OH NO! A DRAGON!!!!! Can Sir Babymouse defeat her fiery foe and save Christmas?! Or at least save a cupcake or two? Maybe not. . . .

Jennifer and Matthew Holm bring us Babymouse’s very first full-color adventure! With signature Babymouse humor, comic book–style panels, and oodles of pink-frosted cupcakes, new readers and devoted fans alike will find plenty to love. -- Random House

It's officially the Christmas season and I thought it would be timely share with you the adorable picture book LITTLE BABYMOUSE AND THE CHRISTMAS CUPCAKES by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Many of you already know Babymouse from the terrific graphic novel series, but now little ones can "meet" Babymouse for themselves.

In LITTLE BABYMOUSE AND THE CHRISTMAS CUPCAKES, Babymouse is only four years old and she already has a vivid imagination. She has already eaten all of the Christmas cookies that her mother made for Santa, so Babymouse decides to make Santa cupcakes instead. She's so excited about the cupcakes that she can't even wait for her mom to help her, but then she hears a dragon in the other room! Babymouse takes on the dragon, and all that fighting makes her very hungry. Will there be any cupcakes left for Santa?

LITTLE BABYMOUSE AND THE CHRISTMAS CUPCAKES is so cute. It's a little departure for the author/illustrator team because it's a full color picture book instead of a graphic novel for early readers, but I think it's going to be a success with the younger crowd. The story is just the right amount of silliness and excitement, and the irresistible illustrations appear in a comic book-style panels.

I found LITTLE BABYMOUSE AND THE CHRISTMAS CUPCAKES to be a whole lot of fun, and   I'm certain new and old fans of Babymouse will not be disappointed!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Guest Review: Assassin's Silence

Summary: USA Today bestselling author Ward Larsen's celebrated protagonist, assassin David Slaton, returns for another breathless adventure in Assassin's Silence

Every so often, a great assassin novel comes along: Brad Meltzer's The Fifth Assassin, David Baldacci's The Hit, Daniel Silva's The Kill Artist. Now Ward Larsen brings us Assassin's Silence, featuring David Slaton, hero of Larsen's Assassin's Game and the award-winning The Perfect Assassin.

When it comes to disappearing, David Slaton has few equals. Police in three countries have written off trying to find him. His old employer, Mossad, keeps no forwarding address. Even his wife and son are convinced he is dead. So when an assault team strikes, Slaton is taken by surprise. He kills one man and manages to escape.

Half a world away, in the baleful heat of the Amazon, an obscure air cargo company purchases a derelict airliner. Teams of mechanics work feverishly to make the craft airworthy. On the first flight, the jet plunges toward the ocean.

The CIA assesses the two spectacles: a practiced killer leaving a trail of bodies across Europe, and a large airplane disappearing without a trace. The two affairs are increasingly seen to be intertwined. Langley realizes the killer is a man long thought to be dead, and the lost airliner has been highly modified into a tool of unimaginable terror.

When their worst fears are realized, Langley must trust the one man who can save them: David Slaton, the perfect assassin. -- Tor/Forge

I have to give my dad credit for picking up ASSASSIN'S SILENCE by Ward Larsen. It's the third novel in the series, and often times, it's difficult to pick up a book part-way through a series. However, it sounds like it worked as a stand-along. Here are his thoughts:

ASSASSIN’S SILENCE is author Ward Larsen’s third novel in his series featuring Israeli Mossad assassin David Slaton as the main character. The novel’s opening prologue describes a scene where radioactive material is discovered in the ruins of a bombed-out Syrian village. The story then moves to Slaton living a life as a stone mason on the island of Malta after faking his death to protect his wife and the child he’s never seen. Even his wife believes he is dead. Surprisingly, an enemy learns of his new identity and Slaton must escape from an attack on his life. Slaton’s training naturally puts him on a hunt to find the who and why of the attack. His search takes him to Europe and the Middle East where Slaton has left a trail of bodies. He also realizes his family could also be in danger and sets a plan in motion to project them. At the same time, an old airliner sitting at a remote airport in Brazil is quickly purchased, refurbished and then it mysteriously disappears off the coast of Brazil. Each of these events draws the attention of the CIA and the more they learn, the more they realize the events are not mutually exclusive. The CIA and David Slaton must work together to prevent a horrendous terror attack.

Ward Larsen has taken several different suspenseful storylines with an interesting cast of characters and skillfully pulls it all together in an exciting novel. The combination of the CIA, an ex-Mossad agent and his family, radioactive material and a mysterious plane crash mesh nicely into a first rate thriller. Among all the twists and turns, Larsen saves his best for last and closes this classic thriller with a great finish. Anyone who enjoys thrillers will like ASSASSIN’S SILENCE. Although the novel stands on its own I believe reading the prior David Slaton novel would only increase the enjoyment in reading ASSASSIN’S SILENCE.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap and the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review: I'll Take You There

Summary: In this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women, Wally Lamb—author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels including She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and We Are Water—weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer's life and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it.

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face. -- Harper

I'm going to preface this review by stating that I adore Wally Lamb. I have read all of his novels and loved them, and I also had the opportunity to meet him at a Harper Collins BEA party one year. I was a little out of sorts, but I remember him being extremely friendly and gracious... and pretty good at holding a conversation with a crazy fan!

So it goes without saying that I was extremely excited to get my hands on a copy of his latest novel I'LL TAKE YOU THERE. This book stars Felix Funicello  (remember him from WISHIN' AND HOPIN'?), and it is being released in tandem with an app version for the iPad and iPhone. I haven't seen the app -- I've only read about it on USA Today's website -- but the basic gist is that it will have "audio dramatization, soundtrack, film clips and 360-degree gallery."

It sounds a little crazy but I imagine it will work for I'LL TAKE YOU THERE because the background of this story (which is also a little crazy) takes place in an old vaudeville theater. Felix, who is preparing for the Monday night movie club that he hosts, is greeted by the spirit of Lois Weber. For those of you who don't know Ms. Weber (like me!), she was a female movie director from the silent film era who was way ahead of her time. Ms. Weber takes Felix on a film journey as scenes from his youth are presented on the theater's big screen. Other famous figures from the film industry show up to "talk with" Felix too!

As Felix watches some of the important movies from his past, he is able to see various women who had an impact on his life. He reflects on his relationship with his sisters, especially Frances who had some pretty major issues during her teen years. In addition, he "meets" Verna, a young woman who wanted to be the 1951 Miss Rheingold but ended up dying far too young. These scenes are interwoven with present day conversations between Felix and his adult daughter Aliza, a writer for a New York magazine who is conflicted between her views on women and her role at the magazine.

All in all, I enjoyed I'LL TAKE YOU THERE but it wasn't my favorite Wally Lamb novel. While I definitely appreciated that this novel explored the issues women have faced through the years, I didn't really understand why he used the ghosts and movies to convey these messages. I would have much preferred for Felix to just narrate these women's stories (although I'm not sure how he would have discovered the truth behind these women without the movies.) I guess what I'm saying is that I enjoyed the women's stories. I just didn't love the vehicle Mr. Lamb used to bring them to Felix's attention.

Maybe it's because the ghost and movie aspect just felt a little fake to me. These scenes had some silly aspects to them which didn't exactly jive with some of the more serious themes of the story. Mr. Lamb has never been one that shied away from painful issues, and this book was no exception. I don't want to give too much away, but there were some really important topics discussed in this novel including adoption, anorexia, mental illness, and unwanted pregnancy.

One interesting thing that was included in the novel was a magazine article written by Felix's daughter about the history of the Miss Rheingold contest. I guess I'm too young, but this marketing campaign was a pretty big deal back in the day. A Brooklyn based beer company had regular old people vote for a Miss Rheingold each year for over two decades. I found her article to be very interesting because of the history of the competition but also because it says a lot about how far women have come through the years. I also appreciated that Mr. Lamb used the Miss Rheingold story to link the present day with one of the past female characters.

Overall, I found I'LL TAKE YOU THERE to be a beautiful tribute to women and feminism by one of my very favorite authors. While I didn't love every single aspect of this book, I still think it's worth the read. I'm also very curious to check out how the app works with the story.

I received a copy of this novel at the 2016 SIBA trade show.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: Fidelity

Summary: A gripping debut novel from “the FBI’s First Lady” (Vanity Fair) Jan Fedarcyk, featuring a brilliant young Special Agent named Kay Malloy, whose assignment to the Counterintelligence Program in New York City has devastating consequences—both personal and professional.

Kay Malloy always knew hers would be a life of service. Following the tragic death of her humanitarian parents, Kay and her brother, Christopher, were raised in a world of wealth and culture by their godparents. With ambition and selflessness, Kay joins the FBI to honor her parent’s legacy, even while Christopher’s life grows increasingly aimless.

Paramilitary and male-dominated, the FBI could be an intimidating employer to anyone less confident, devoted, and insightful than Kay. But after early success in the Violent Crime Program in Baltimore she struggles working counterintelligence in New York. When Kay is assigned to investigate the loss of Russian government double agents, she sees this as her chance to prove herself. As pressure mounts and conflicting leads cloud the investigation, Kay discovers she must make the impossible choice between those she loves and the country she’s sworn to protect.

Filled with vivid detail from retired FBI Special Agent Jan Fedarcyk, Fidelity is both a thrilling, authentic look into the workings of the FBI and the gripping story of one woman’s fight to honor both love and duty. -- Simon & Schuster

I try to read a variety of mysteries/thrillers for Mystery Mondays, so I was excited to discover a debut author -- Jan Fedarcyk. Ms. Fedarcyk is a former FBI Special Agent and Former Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI'S New York Office, and her new novel is titled FIDELITY. I figured if nothing else, they book should be pretty authentic, right? FIDELITY is the first novel in the Kay Malloy series, and I think it's a pretty good beginning.

FIDELITY tells the story of Kay Malloy, a young officer who has recently been assigned to the Counterintelligence Program in New York City after having success and making a big bust in Baltimore's Violent Crime Program. She's very excited about her new assignment, but little does she know, that this job could have devastating effects on her career... and her life.

Kay is assigned to investigate Russian government double agents. It sounds kind of glamorous, but she quickly learns that her job involves a lot of research and drudgery. However, Kate is devoted and wants to prove herself. She's always the last one to leave the office. As Kate becomes more involved in the investigation, the lines become blurry; and Kate has to decide where her loyalty lies -- with her country or her family!

I enjoyed FIDELITY and think Ms. Fedarcyk is on to something with this series. Kay is a likable and interesting character, and I do look forward to seeing more of her crime-solving skills in the future. Since this is the first novel in the series, the author did spend some time establishing Kay's character. There was background information on Kay's childhood and the loss of her parents to a violent crime. As a result, Kay always wanted to work for the FBI and give back to her country. I definitely appreciated how the author wove the events from Kay's childhood into the present day story.... and that's all I can really say about that without giving away some spoilers.

Another aspect of FIDELITY that I really enjoyed was getting an inside look into the FBI. All to often, the FBI's mission is portrayed as a much more exciting than it really is. I have a feeling that the tedious work that Kay did in the novel is much more representative of reality. There is a tremendous amount of grunt work involved by agents before they can make a bust, and this novel certainly helped to increase my appreciation of their jobs.

Finally, I liked the overall mystery (or should I say mysteries?) in FIDELITY. There were a few twists, especially at the end, that I appreciated a great deal. While I did see one of the surprises coming, I thought the author did a terrific job of revealing the plot twists. Having said that, I do believe the last part of the novel was a bit rushed. I just think the pacing of the ending was a bit quicker than the rest of the story. But truly, that's a small issue -- it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Overall, FIDELITY is a strong start to a new series. I loved the strong female character of Kay, and I thought the author brought a credible voice to the novel.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.
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