Book Review: Dear Edward

Inspired by a true story of one child’s incredible survival–riveting, uplifting, unforgettable.

After losing everything, a young boy discovers there are still reasons for hope in this luminous, life-affirming novel, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett.

In the face of tragedy, what does it take to find joy?

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery–one that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.


Let me just say that this is NOT the kind of book that you’ll find yourself reading during a flight.

“Dear Edward” by Ann Napolitano is a coming-of-age novel about Edward, a twelve-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 191 passengers on board including his parents and brother. As the story unfolds, we get a perspective on the meteoric changes in Edward’s life as he was suddenly placed under the care of his childless aunt and her husband to deal with the tragedy’s aftermath.

Merging alternating timelines is probably the best writing structure to hook the readers to the story. Switching off timelines from Edward’s journey–his struggles to contemplating life anew without his parents to the events leading up to the plane crash allowed a gradual suspension of disbelief and tension. This was skillfully accomplished by the author’s insertion of some of the passengers’ individual experiences, thoughts, faults, apprehensions, and plans for the unforeseeable future into Edward’s narrative.  It is a heartbreaking read all throughout as we would all know what would happen eventually despite what we have come to know of the passengers’ proclivity for a renewed life. It presents life’s ultimate irony: that death is life’s ultimatum.

At times too upsetting to read, yet it also filled me with a reaffirmed sense to value life by changing my course of plans. The compelling truth about fiction is how closely it resembles reality and that the power of storytelling reveals in us the ugly truth of how spontaneous choices could alter not just our lives but of others as well. The narrative’s message is clear: life is short and death is uncertain and what follows is how we choose to deal with it.  

“Dear Edward” has awakened parts of me I thought were already dead: the passion for life, and the need to live for selfless reasons. Napolitano has written a narrative portrait of loss and grief and the strength to overcome the struggles that came with dealing with death. The heavy burden that Edward had to shoulder was not just attributed to the loss of his own family but having to carry the torch that was asked of him by those who were left behind.  How can one boy deal with the burden of having survived a tragedy while others perished?  How can he face life knowing that in exchange for his existence were the deaths of so many?  How can he possibly comply with the demands of the surviving families who wanted him to live the lives of those who died?  What is to become of him now that everyone is watching? These are questions that “Dear Edward” will answer from the perspective of a young boy who knew so little yet had to swallow a big chunk of life’s adversities. Edward’s narrative is one that stings but repairs; breaks but mends. It allows the readers a first-hand experience of life at the clutches of death that is both real and surreal.  One will surely end the book’s final chapter with sentimental tears, a substantial smile, and a pronounced but profound understanding of life. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Ann Napolitano

Genre: Coming of Age Fiction / Literary Fiction / Family Life Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: The Dial Press (January 6, 2020)

ISBN-10: 198485478X

ISBN-13: 978-1984854780

Book Review: The Dutch House

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.


“The Dutch House” written by the award-winning author, Ann Patchett, tells the story about two siblings Maeve and Danny Conroy as they recount their lives living in the lavish Dutch House that their father purchased until they were banished from it by their own stepmother, Andrea Smith, whom the siblings suspected married their father only to have the Dutch House for herself.  

Written from Danny’s point of view, Patchett explores how Danny grew up not yearning for the love of his own mother, Elna Conroy, only acknowledging the fact that she left them when they were very young for reasons he could not comprehend.  Unlike Danny, Maeve’s painful longing their mother burdened her but somehow pushed her to become over-protective of her brother, acting more like a mother to him to which Danny was grateful for even though the path his sister wanted for him was not what he truly desired.  Agreeing to Maeve was Danny’s way of showing his appreciation for her tireless attention and love.  

But this is more a comparative narrative between two mothers: Danny and Maeve’s biological mother who left them without saying goodbye, and their stepmother who stripped them of their rights to their own house.  Who is to say which one is worse than the other when both women clearly left them to fend for themselves, to grow up without the guidance of a mother to tend to their needs, and for allowing themselves to feel unworthy of a mother’s love? I marvel at how Patchett presented the Dutch House as an object of desire for Andrea, but an object of disdain for Elna Conroy. Such desire and disdain ultimately ushered in the undoing of both Maeve’s and Danny’s lives.

Brilliant, touching and beautifully written, “The Dutch House” delivers an exceptional coming-of-age narrative of how two siblings longed for the opulent and majestic house that they have lived in as children plastered by the irony of its emptiness and bad memories.  I love how Patchett made Maeve and Danny visit the Dutch House, recounting their lives, the what-ifs, their hatred for their stepmother, and the countless ways they would have wanted to approach her, demanding their house back, while sitting in the car, eyeing the house. It is a moving tale of survival, sibling love, forgiveness, and what it truly means to move forward, leaving the past behind.  Just like any other piece of literary fiction, “The Dutch House” provides an insight into why people behave and act a certain way unknowingly setting off events that affect other people’s lives. How those whose lives were altered and broken were left with only hatred to hold on to and revenge to look forward to. But this novel somehow eased that burden. Patchett’s magnificent novel turns a somewhat ode to classic fairy tales about evil stepmothers and two siblings who have escaped a house made out of gingerbread from a wicked cannibalistic witch, into a work of fiction that proves things will turn out for the better in the end.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Ann Patchett

Genre: Literary Fiction / Historical Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: Berkley; Harper; 1st edition (September 24, 2019)

ISBN-10: 0062963678

ISBN-13: 978-0062963673

Book Review: The Wives

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

What follows is one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.

You’ll have to grab a copy to find out why.


It’s overwhelming how numerous domestic thriller novels have proliferated the book community over the course of the years.  With the increasing cases of domestic violence, divorce, and adultery, it’s no longer a surprise that female readers find themselves drawn to narratives that represent themselves within the context of marriage and relationships, abuse and the rightful justice they deserve.  The aphorism, “fiction as a reflection of reality” can never be truer than this case.

Tarry Fisher’s, “The Wives” presents an interesting premise about a wife who shares her husband with two other wives.  I have presumed the plot could go a hundred ways. From the outset, the novel started out strong, fast-paced, and unputdownable, emitting “The Girl on the Train” vibes.  But as the story progresses, I suddenly find myself navigating blindly, apparently lost in the story’s game of cat and mouse that the rising tension seems to fluctuate. I no longer felt the need to keep up with the plot and it didn’t help that I find the main character pathetically annoying and vulgar.  Whatever attempt at constructing an unreliable narrator to justify the plot, create a surprising plot twist, and to mislead the readers had been futile.

Overall, “The Wives” failed to grip me further on the basis of a seemingly forced plot with a lot of loose ends and loopholes.  There is not one character to root for. I felt the author was too focused on putting things into the story, meaning to progress in a specific way but the unlikely circumstances lack plausible and effective ways to create a somehow dependable thriller. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Author: Tarryn Fisher

Genre: Psychological Thriller / Domestic Thriller

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Berkley; Graydon House; Original edition (December 30, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1525805126

ISBN-13: 978-1525805127

Book Review: The Broken Girls

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced.


Where do I even begin?

I have always been fascinated by any piece of literature that involves horror or paranormal themes be it in films or novels.  There is something quite ghoulishly appealing in spine-tingling supernatural elements that no matter how much you dread watching or reading the scary parts, you just can’t seem to stop. 

Simone St. James’ novel, “The Broken Girls”, immediately hit the ranks reserved for novels I’ve mostly anticipated but did not disappoint.  I have known about this book when I began my search for horror-based genre novels and came across this gem highly recommended. There is more to this novel than just its brilliant interplay between Gothic elements and the mysterious trail of whodunit.  St. James was able to craft a narrative that depicts horror, mystery, history, and social injustices such as racism, corruption, the Nazi concentration camps, and unresolved murder cases. The result: a five-star novel that is hard to put down and even more difficult to part with.

The story unfolds with a prologue, establishing the plot’s context, setting off the dark and sinister atmosphere of the novel. It embarks on the usual trail of horror and mystery books plotted using dual timelines and alternating third-person POVs, meant to suspend and thrill the readers of what’s to happen next, perfectly dispersing out the clues until the puzzle is complete. St. James crafted this novel to combine a period piece and a modern-day setting, intelligently contrasting human behaviors in relation to the culture and environment at the time. The novel’s central plot may be about the mysteries surrounding two separate murders committed decades apart but St. James offers her readers a lot more to reflect on.  

I believe one of the reasons why readers are drawn to ghost stories is to dig into the infernal past of why such ghosts, eerie presence, and malevolent beings haunt the living, depicted in various origins since varying cultures first existed. Readers are drawn to the genre–to understand why ghosts exist–why they continue to haunt one’s dreams and feed on one’s fears–or if they are real or are simply the conjuring of the human mind. 

In her novel, “The Broken Girls”, St. James has masterfully created a suspense thriller fused with paranormal elements but these tropes are mere literary tools to expose the dangers of human faculties acting on pride, greed, and anger. It exposes human fragility and how brokenness either leads the way to redemption or toward self-destruction. The Idlewild Hall symbolizes an abyss where people can simply dump their sins away; where dark secrets are buried, left to rot and decay. It is a story of survival and the need to find closure when others seemed to have forgotten and laid to rest. Haunting and sad, but generously strengthened by the powerful force of love, friendship, and revenge, “The Broken Girls” is a masterfully written novel that encompasses varying fiction genres heralding Simone St. James as one of the greatest novelists of our time.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Simone St. James

Genre: Ghost Thriller/Horror Fiction

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Berkley; Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (March 20, 2018)

ISBN-10: 0451476204

ISBN-13: 978-0451476203

Book Review: The Glittering Hour

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, all while running from the life her parents would choose for her.

Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina’s orbit one night and can never let her go even while knowing someone of her stature could never end up with someone of his. Except Selina falls hard for Lawrence, envisioning a life of true happiness. But when tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what’s safe over what’s right.

Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, Iona Grey’s The Glittering Hour is an epic novel of passion, heartache, and loss.


“The Glittering Hour” by Iona Grey is a lush portrayal of the glamorous yet outrageous life of the “Bright Young Things” of the 1920s.  Selina Lennox, along with her friends Flick and Theo, were the son and daughters of the high society, aristocrats, and middle-class people: a generation too young to be sent into the battle of the Great War.  Hounded by the paparazzi who were every inch hungry to have a glimpse into the intriguing lives and imminent dissolution of these rebellious, promiscuous and carefree boys and girls, chased around London while notoriously reveling in extravagant parties and theatrics, enjoying treasure hunting in fast cars, and experimenting with drugs. 

Selina’s carefree disposition, embroidered with a carpe diem attitude, had been her family’s cause of concern and disapproval. Adored and favored by her brother Howard from when she was little, Selina’s high spirits were a result of her brother’s favor that she should enjoy life’s pleasures and live for the moment.  After Howard’s death, Selina cocooned her grief by throwing herself into lavish parties with her friends. But when her path unexpectedly crossed with Lawrence Weston, an impoverished artist who knew better than to mingle with someone of Selina’s stature, their lives were suddenly swept from a forbidden love affair to a tragedy that will make them choose between love and practicality.

This novel brought me to tears. Grey’s circuitous and poetic writing is impeccable as the way she has framed a time once loved and lost then brought back to life for her readers to acknowledge and understand. Selina’s narrative reminds me once again why historical novels have always captivated me: to fathom the extremes of human behavior set against the political, social, and cultural circumstances and struggles of a particular era. 

Enthralling, heartbreaking, and hauntingly beautiful, “The Glittering Hour” is a celebration of a generation catapulted into an ironic twist of the remnants of the Great War and the boisterous parade of the plummeting wealth of the once rich and powerful scarred by death and financial duties. A moving tale of love and sacrifice and of life and of death, Grey’s masterpiece of a novel disarms the readers of prejudices, instead ignites a discussion on ethical dilemmas.  The novel’s heartfelt finale proves that love will always find its way in the most glittering hour of our lives.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Iona Grey

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 480 pages

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (December 10, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1250066794

ISBN-13: 978-1250066794

Book Review: The Kill Club


Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.

Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.


Armed with an intriguing plot, “The Kill Club” by Wendy Heard depicts the true-crime scenario of murder-for-hire instigators.  Heard noted that none of the stories portrayed in her novel are fictional–that these contract killings are real and much more sinister than fiction.  

“The Kill Club” illustrates the provocation behind people who seek murder-for-hire running on lethal hate and desperation or frustrations from the social and judicial system.  These are people who have run out of options and have taken liberties to put an end to abuse or a lifetime of shame and suffering from fractured relationships. And then there are those motivated by greed, jealousy, or are just plain twisted.

As a thriller genre fanatic, I was immediately attracted to the book’s premise.  Armed with strong female leads, this book was a quick read from start to finish. It is the kind of story that makes you question how far can you go to protect someone or yourself from faulty individuals or from a defective society. Readers also get to inspect the motivation behind the novel’s antagonists who seem to justify creating the “Kill Club” as a solution, not an assassination, to a flawed judicial system. A chilling revelation nevertheless a truth that is as real as it is fictionalized.  

But the story is not all about murder.  Heard also tackled issues of social hierarchy–the demarcation between the rich and the poor, social injustices, religious fanaticism, and domestic abuse.   All of which pose bigger problems that almost always result in criminal acts. The novel is also a reflection of the fallibility of the social system that incessantly brings about violence deemed as the final refuge of the desperate, leaving crime problems insolvable.

A thriller that will keep you guessing until the end, “The Kill Club” is a social commentary novel that will appeal to the reader’s sense of justice, pondering upon concerns such as taking the law into one’s own hands and the justification of such acts.  

Save for the not-so-appealing aspects of the novel, the main premise is interesting enough and worthy of discussion.   Details such as the flimsy attempt to pass the novel as lesbian literature felt misplaced. The multiple twists and turns fell flat for me; the timeline was quite confusing, and the writing has been subpar at best.  The sudden emergence of more characters left no room for development. The motivation behind the Blackbird killings was a total letdown. I was expecting a grander scheme and a more believable and strategic discourse.  Now, what bothers me up to this point is the messy reasoning behind having someone do your dirty work only to return the favor. Isn’t the logic behind hiring someone to do the killing, is for you to be rid of blood in your hands?  As messed up as it is, “The Kill Club” may have failed to end on a high-octane note but it still had a good run from the onset.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Author: Wendy Heard

Genre: Mystery & Thriller / Women’s Psychological Fiction

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (December 17, 2019)

ISBN-10: 0778309037

ISBN-13: 978-0778309031

Book Review: This Is Not How It Ends


When Charlotte and Philip meet, the pair form a deep and instant connection. Soon they’re settled in the Florida Keys with plans to marry. But just as they should be getting closer, Charlotte feels Philip slipping away.

Second-guessing their love is something Charlotte never imagined, but with Philip’s excessive absences, she finds herself yearning for more. When she meets Ben, she ignores the pull, but the supportive single dad is there for her in ways she never knew she desired. Soon Charlotte finds herself torn between the love she thought she wanted and the one she knows she needs.

As a hurricane passes through Islamorada, stunning revelations challenge Charlotte’s loyalties and upend her life. Forced to reexamine the choices she’s made, and has yet to make, Charlotte embarks on an emotional journey of friendship, love, and sacrifice—knowing that forgiveness is a gift, and the best-laid plans can change in a heartbeat.


“This is Not How it Ends” by Rochelle B. Weinstein is a character-driven narrative on finding love while coping with grief and loss. The story centers on Charlotte who found love through some romantic twist of fate but finds tragedy almost always coinciding; tricking her into being hopeful only for that hope to be shattered once again. This is a story about culpability, forgiveness, and acceptance of how fate plays a neat trick on people’s lives.  

Told from the first-person point of view, executed with dual timelines, Weinstein’s writing style is characterized by her use of descriptive imagery, wordy prose, and emotional dialogues.  I fell in love with how Weinstein had beautifully described every emotion, every behavior, and perspective of her characters. One could feel the wisdom emanating from every word as well as the pain and irony from every discourse. It is hard not to love a novel written magically with nothing but palpable words to hold on to.

A somewhat predictable slow burn romance story but complemented with themes on alternative medicine, cancer, LGBT, and death, Weinstein’s novel not only narrates but informs and enlightens. I was easily drawn to this serendipitous-slash-forbidden type of love story despite my suspicions on how the story will likely end. While the plot screams the usual love triangle trope, what impelled me were the inner struggles brought about by the guilt of betraying someone you love.  How choices are restricted because of personal and external pressures acting on socially acceptable values and behaviors. Lessons on love and life proliferate this novel that while the story may be draggy at times, it doesn’t deviate from what compels readers to perpetually enjoy romance novels: believing in love amidst the blackest remnants of the past.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Author: Rochelle B. Weinstein

Genre: Romance Fiction / Friendship Fiction

Length: 351 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (January 1, 2020)

ISBN-10: 1542007674

ISBN-13: 978-1542007672

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing


For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.


This magnificent debut novel has captured the heart and soul of its readers while maintaining its rank as one of the bestselling novels of 2018. Written by Delia Owens, an American author, and zoologist,  “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a written declaration of how one woman’s’ desire for love and affection, from what appears a lifetime of solitude, brings about a tale of survival amidst prejudice and discrimination.

This is the story of Kya, abandoned by her parents and siblings at such a tender age with nothing but the marsh left to teach her how to survive and live her growing years.  Kya’s narrative is a picturesque tale of a lone white woman who had survived years living alone in a shack in the North Carolina marsh, her existence educated and nurtured by the natural world.  As Kya learns to deal with her loneliness, she finds herself longing to be with someone who would fill the gaps left by her own family. Just as mother nature offered her bosom to Kya, she, in turn, allowed herself to be drawn to two men enamored of her bewildering beauty.  Hopeful for the first time in years, Kya’s grip on normalcy ushered in another challenge–one that she was unable to face: a murder case charging her as the only viable suspect.

What made this novel utterly compelling is the way Owens applied her profession and knowledge of animals’ fundamental biological principles to human interaction. The symbiosis that marveled between humans and animals is remarkably described and portrayed. Mutualism and the adaptive collaboration between Kya and nature are the heart and soul of this novel.  

Owens’s debut novel is a work of art; a tour-de-force similar to the rave and success accomplished by “How to Kill a Mockingbird”.  This book tackled a nuance of themes ranging from prejudice, racism, abandonment, survival to love, murder trial, and forgiveness. The lush imagery and lyrical prose that Owens was able to craft interlaced with such a heartbreaking but inspiring plot are what impelled the readers to this book.  I don’t think there is anything left to say about this novel that has not yet been published. “Where the Crawdads Sing” combines imagery, poetry, and suspense interwoven into the fabric of social reality. Armed with multitudes of learning moments and valuable experiences, Kya’s narrative begs us to understand how human behavior acts independently of the values held by social hierarchies and cultures. A novel that is worth the wait and will be among the string of timeless classics: a wondrous tale, sad but beautiful; compelling yet insightful. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Delia Owens

Genre: Literary Fiction / Coming of Age Fiction

Length: 384 pages

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Later Printing edition (August 14, 2018)

ISBN-10: 0735219095

ISBN-13: 978-0735219090