On the shelf: ‘Dead Ex’ by Harley Jane Kozak

By Laura Nawrot, Grand Rapids Public Library, Main


Sometimes it’s too difficult to select a single book to review. Dead Ex, Firefly Lane, and The Red Queen’s Daughter have nothing in common except for the fact that they’re my most recent reads and well worth recommending.


Dead Ex

I really enjoyed author Harley Jane Kozak’s pace and intrigue in Dead Ex, a mystery that could come from the script of a daytime soap opera and actually involves a cast of characters that are part of a fictitious soap whose producer turns up murdered. Set in California, the story takes the reader back and forth between locations while the bodies pile up and the main character, Wollie Shelley, tries to protect her best friend, Joey who only happens to be the main suspect.


Readers are introduced to Wollie as she muses over her living arrangements; she is currently between homes and living from a suitcase parked in the immaculate closet of her FBI boyfriend, Simon. Wollie’s state of disarray, the quirky humor and the numerous plot twists were just some of the things I really liked about the novel. I was only disappointed by the fact that it took me until page 145 to find out what “Wollie” was short for, something I should have figured out on my own.


Firefly Lane

It’s been a really long time since a book has brought me to tears, but I found Firefly Lane to be worth several tissues. This novel, by Kristin Hannah, follows the relationship of two girls who grow into that once-in-a-lifetime bond that makes them closer than sisters. Set in the Seattle area beginning in the 1970’s and moving to the present, the reader is drawn into the lives of Kate and Tully as they fumble along trying to grow into their respective places in the world. While the story line sounds kind of cliché, I could really feel the connection between two very different women, and that in itself is what made the book so successful for me. If you’re in the mood for a relationship story, Firefly Lane is a must read.


The Red Queen’s Daughter

And now for something completely different; The Red Queen’s Daughter, a historical novel by Jacqueline Kolosov, exploring what could have been the life of Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was King Henry the Eighth’s 6th wife. The author makes it clear in her notes that the story is merely speculation, but is historically accurate in capturing the era of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen of England. The reader gets a sense of what it must have been like to live in a time when social custom dictated the course of a young woman’s life typically directly into marriage and motherhood at about age sixteen. Even the sounds and smells of life at court are described well enough to give a sense of presence to the reader. The Red Queen’s Daughter is categorized as young adult fiction, but I think it could easily be placed in adult fiction as well. This novel is well written and successfully conveys the essence and mysticism of England during a period of religious upheaval and healing.