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.

Milo–The front-runner.
Natalia–The brain.
James–The rule follower.
Sydney–The athlete.
Duffy–The cowboy.
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?

My thoughts: Wow.  This one packs an emotional wallop.  Our protagonist, Adam, is struggling in his marriage, emotionally burdened by events from his past.  He ends up making a trip back to Black Bear Lake, the site of a momentous family reunion  decades earlier, whose tragic ramifications have haunted him ever since.  The bulk of the novel is a flashback to that summer of 1983, a beautifully written story whose characters come alive on the page in ways elusive to most authors.  There’s a warmth and honesty to young Adam that draws you into his journey, his extended family, and makes you care about them.  On the surface, it seems like a simple task, getting the reader to fully invest in your characters, something every book seeks to accomplish but, as a voracious reader who averages about 100 books a year, I find that few fully succeed.  Black Bear Lake is a rare exception.  One of 2022’s best.
The Book of Sand by Mo Hayder (release date: July 19, 2022)

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 …

My thoughts: This book is purportedly the first in a fantasy series.  Written by writer Mo Hayder (under the pen name Theo Clare),  it is being published posthumously following the author’s passing in 2021.  It’s a story that shifts between two worlds – one, a dystopian desert world not all that removed from our own, where a nomadic family unit searches for an elusive object; the other, our world, where a young girl, McKenzie, begins to experience strange occurrences that would seem to suggest some sort of bleed between the two realities.  What is going on?  Unfortunately, since it was planned as the initial installment to a longer series, we don’t really get much in the way of answers.  It’s very interesting set-up, but ultimately feels unfinished and so, as a unique read, I found it unsatisfying.
So, what have YOU been reading?

11 thoughts on “April 18, 2022: Baron’s Book Club Blab Blog! Four new books reviewed!

  1. I’m almost done with The Dawn of Everything. It compares prehistories around the world. Topics like schismogenesis are important to study because “the creation of factions” isn’t going away. It also provides evidence-based updates to many common assumptions we have about prehistory and the origins of various social structures.

  2. I just finished The Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky. A very interesting take on the idea of advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. The story has two narrators. The first is the fourth daughter of a powerful Queen who has an obsession with the stories of demons and great wizards. The second narrator is the last of these great wizards, except he’s not actually a wizard. He’s the last remaining of some anthropologists from Earth and this planet is one of their distant colonies that has lost their knowledge of technology. I know Stargate tackled this concept several times but this is an interesting take on the idea, especially since the anthropologist is coping with his own mental health struggles brought on by long term isolation. It’s also a relatively short read.

  3. Its too bad The Book of Sand wont have a continuation. Sounds promising.
    Still I’ll definitely give this one a go when I can.

  4. Hey blog sibs. Hope everyone is doing ok.

    For those of you who missed my medical update April 2nd.

    If only I were a small dog that needs saving. Everyone would swoon in and do everything in their power to help me keep fighting. Alas, I’m just a human. And not even someone famous or celeb. A couple neighbors have been bringing me delicious homemade desserts, trying to help keep my spirits up. As lovely as that is and as fortunate as i feel to have even a few people in my life who genuinely care. At a time in my life when I’m struggling for even the most basic aspects of human survival while trying to beat cancer, lately I’ve been quietly thinking -If only I could find a way to pawn baked goods.

    I know everyone is on a much tighter budget these days and have their own worries to deal with,
    but I’m still coming up $165 short for transport cost north and I’m asking you
    to please find it in your heart to not ignore me.
    While it might not sound like alot, with only PonyTail & Chev and one local neighbor having contributed to the med fund this month, It’s going to mean the difference as to whether I spend my first 24 hours in a new city and state wandering the streets awake all night with no where safe, sanitary, to sleep. Or, safe, comfortable, and well rested in a b & b. At this point I’d have to cancel the two night b n b reservation the awesome ladies at the MA cancer charity secured for me at a major discount to have enough to pay Juanita for the long ride north.

    If you know of someone sane & nice who resides in the Newton, Newtonville, Waltham, or North Cambridge area who might be willing to give an aging breast cancer patient a safe place to stay for a night
    or you can make a small contribution to the med fund to help out… Please, Please, let me know as soon as possible.

    Venmo: dreacrysel @gmail.
    med fund link: https://fundrazr.com/81xyr6
    email: dreasmedfund@gmail.com

    Love to all, always.

  5. Hm, Black Bear seems like a good one. I’m not sure about the others.

    I’m reading a Gray Man book written by Mark Greaney. Mark needs to hurry up and finish book 8. (I’m on book 7 now). If you have any connections with Mr. Greaney, please put a bug in his ear. 😉

    I’m at my Mom’s house this week. My brother died after a short battle with lung cancer. He died in his sleep, so that’s a comfort. My mom’s house is a minor hoardfest. So, I’ll be spending my time (before funeral) cleaning and packing up garbage. My brother’s room is like Dr Who’s tardus. I’m not sure how he fit so much junk in there. It’s keep me busy. I’m hoping to be home by Friday. .🤞🏻🍀 Off to Walmart for cleaning supplies.

  6. Tam, So very sorry to hear about your brother.
    Glad you are there to help hold your mom up
    and help her take care of things.
    The world is a much better place because of people like you.

  7. It’s not scifi, but I found American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins to be compelling and eye opening, about why migrants make their way to the US southern border.

    I just ‘discovered’ Octavia Butler and read her Earthseed series. Fantastic imagining of a future that we have veered very close to in recent times, sadly.

      1. Yes, that’s the one! So dark! But there’s a president who runs on the slogan “Make America Great Again”!

    1. Oh, Octavia Butler is one of the greats! We were assigned “Parable of the Sower”, “Wild Seed” and “Blood Child and Other Stories” for class.

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