A few more new books for your consideration…
Two Lumps of Sugar for Mr. Anxiety by Eli Wilde (release date: March 28, 2022)
When Jed’s mum dies, his world is turned upside down and his anxiety finds a new source of unease to feed upon. After the funeral, he leaves his job in England to start work in India. His anxiety only gets worse in his new role until he finds a new friend. A friend only he can see.
Aftab has a head shaped like an egg and small, dark eyes at the side of his face rather than the front. His nose is long and slim, beneath which is a narrow mouth, slightly wider than his nose. Perfectly bald, he has no facial hair or eyebrows either. Despite his mouth never moving, he speaks in the voice of Stephen Fry.
Jed’s new friend helps him sleep by using a vacuum cleaner to stop the anaconda sliding down Jed’s throat at night. And he makes him smile by playing jokes on people at work. He warns Jed, too, that something is wrong in his life. Something Jed can never make right.
My thoughts: This one is a little…weird. On the one hand, it deals with the issue of mental health in unique and insightful ways. On the other hand, the manifestation of our protagonist’s anxiety taking the form of an adorable little monster is so bizarre that it’s often distracting and difficult to reconcile with the book’s heavier themes. Still, the book is a fascinating psychological portrait of a man struggling with depression, highly effective in its depiction of a precarious psychological state held together by strength of will and denial. It all pays off in an ending that proves genuinely, and surprisingly, tragic.
The Finalists by David Bell (release date: July 5, 2022)
On a beautiful spring day, six college students with nothing in common besides a desperate inability to pay for school gather to compete for the prestigious Hyde Fellowship.
James–The rule follower.
Emily–The social justice warrior.
The six of them must surrender their devices when they enter Hyde House, an aging Victorian structure that sits in a secluded part of campus.
Once inside, the doors lock behind them. The students are not allowed to leave until they spend eight hours with a college administrator who will do almost anything to keep the school afloat and Nicholas Hyde, the privileged and notoriously irresponsible heir to the Hyde family fortune. If the students leave before time is up, they’ll be immediately disqualified.
But when one of the six finalists drops dead, the other students fear they’re being picked off one by one. With a violent protest raging outside and no way to escape, the survivors viciously turn on each other.
My thoughts: Many books require a suspension of disbelief in order to be truly enjoyed, a squint-eyed reading of the logic underpinning the premise or character motivations. This is one of those books. The set-up really doesn’t make any sense. Some of the character actions and reactions even less so. It’s all in service of a great hook that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. While the concept is intriguing, the execution feels very rushed. Stock characters, a tiresome dialogue-heavy narrative, and dollops of heavy-handed social commentary made this one a very tough read.
It left me utterly baffled, so I checked out some of the other reviews and noted that more than a few readers are fans of the author but were left cold by this latest novel. Not sure what happened here, but this one is a major miss.
Black Bear Lake by Leslie Liautaud (release date: September 13, 2022)
Adam Craig still has nightmares about the last summer he spent on the shores of northern Wisconsin’s Black Bear Lake.
The Chicago stock trader thinks he has it under control — until fallout from that explosive August in 1983 threatens his marriage. So Adam returns to remember that month-long family reunion, where he was busy wrestling with overwhelming hormones, dealing with a parent’s failing health, and watching his cousin Dannie’s desperate cries for help. At 14, Adam’s fear and anger were constantly threatening to pull him under while the current running through his family flowed inevitably toward tragedy.
It was too much to bear back then. But will reliving those painful memories hurt or help Adam as his adult life teeters on the edge of collapse?
Sand. A hostile world of burning sun.
Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins.
In the distance a group of people–a family–walks toward us.
Ahead lies shelter: a “shuck” the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death.
To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs.
It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia, when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life–except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she’s beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is …