I read a book: Left to You, by Daniel J. Volpe

I decided to expose my book group to more Daniel J. Volpe this month. Cool Ghouls hasn’t picked up much steam, but there are a few people who join every time and that’s enough motivation to keep doing it. If I can get one person to read something I like, I’m a happy camper. Speaking of books I liked…

There is so much to say about Left to You, by Daniel J. Volpe. It is haunting and intense, and that’s before you even get to any of the splatter parts.

A good chunk of the story is a Holocaust survivor recounting his days at Auschwitz in great horrifying detail. I knew this going into it. I also knew there was a splatter twist that would set it apart from the usual real world horror tales. I’ve read a lot of WWII stories from multiple perspectives. I’ve read first hand accounts of real survivors. I’ve read descriptions of the smells in the camps. But this was the first time I’ve seen the smell of the gas described, and I admit I thought about it when I opened my bottle of almond extract while baking this weekend. Little details like that can turn a generic fictional Holocaust story into something special, something that sticks with the reader. And it’s the big details, like figurative demons (Nazis) capturing literal demons and using them to grant their wishes, that turn a sad story into one that kicks the reader in the teeth. And that ending…wow.

In a way, the ending felt open. Will there be a sequel or spinoff? Who knows, but I know one thing. I’ll read that too.

This is my second Daniel J. Volpe read (Talia was the first). I loved both. I will eventually read my way through his entire catalog. Splatterpunk and indie horror can be a gamble. It’s a genre I enjoy and while most books I’ve read at least have good stories, some could benefit from a little editing finesse. Volpe’s books are just plain good though.

You can find Volpe’s books available on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and Godless. Borrow Left to You on KU or just buy it!

I read a book: The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis

I took a slightly different approach to choosing which books to add to the May book club selection poll. Usually I pick a bunch of books that I’ve accumulated through Amazon’s First Reads. I figured it’s a safe bet because lots of people have Amazon Prime, therefore have access to these books. And if they don’t have them, the kindle versions are always sold for $5 or less. Plus, libraries are a thing. Granted these books are not widely purchased by libraries, but I happen to know from my 20+ years of library work experience that libraries do take patron requests and if they aren’t in a position to purchase, they will try to find it via interlibrary loan. This month someone commented that she is unable to join book club because it isn’t available on Nook and I just shook my head. Come on. I’m doing my best to pick things that anyone can access. Fucking Nook…I bought one when they first came out, hated it, and returned it.

Anyway. This time I looked at bestseller lists and went as far as to make sure they were available at multiple libraries. Turns out that the one I added to my poll was also an Amazon First Reads from a while back. It isn’t one I own, but it is available on KU.

I’m rambling.

The book I chose was The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis. It is a cross between historical fiction and chick lit, two genres that are generally not my jam. A glance at my previous reviews or my Goodreads profile makes that pretty clear. But the book club loves this stuff, so here we are. I checked it out on KU and downloaded the Audible companion because when I’m reading genres that don’t usually keep my attention, I like to listen and follow along in the book. Keeps me focused. And boy did this one need the help in the beginning. Slow start. But when it picked up, it was so engaging that I didn’t want to put it down.

At first I didn’t care for the narration. This story is told from two different POVs, a young woman in the 1980s and an older French woman recollecting her work with the resistance and her lost love. The narrator for the latter chose to take on an accent and two different pitches to signify young Soline and current Soline. The accent was grating. The high pitched “youthful” voice was irritating. But the story was wonderful, so I sped up the audio to match my visual reading speed and plowed forward. I became so absorbed in the story that the things that bothered me about the narration no longer did.

I want to say that I figured out the twist fairy early on. The clues were there and I put it together as the story progressed. But it wasn’t so obvious that it ruined the journey. I went into this expecting happy endings and got them. Everything wrapped up in a neat little package, which usually annoys me, but in this case…I’m not mad. I loved it.

Maybe historical fiction/chick lit is my jam after all.

You can find The Keeper of Happy Endings on Amazon in print, ebook, and audio, all major retailers, or at one of many libraries in the country.