Cover Image: How Can I Help You

How Can I Help You

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Member Reviews

Margo is everyone's favorite small town circulation clerk at their local library.  She is kind, is capable of handling any situation or patron and is simply above suspicion.  That is, until the new reference librarian, Patricia shows up and finds that there is something a bit "off" about Margo.  Based upon small details of her past work life that she has shared, Patricia does what a reference librarian does best - research.  What she finds and suspects about her fellow library employee is shocking and when a death occurs in the library's restroom, Margo is suspiciously the first one on the scene.
  An entertaining look at a small town old-fashioned library, complete with local color characters and typical staff members. This quick read will be an entertaining read for those who work in or enjoy small town libraries.  One quibble is the title: "How Can I Help You?"  Librarians know that to ask"Can I?" refers to the librarian's ability to help--questioning if they are indeed capable.  "May I Help You?"  Offers your expertise and guidance through the library's collections to answer the patron's question and does not call into question the librarian's ability to offer expert assistance.
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A twisted thriller about two librarians. Intriguing, tense, and disturbing!

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!
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I was drawn into this chilling tense book told in dual narratives.A book about librarians a book that kept me on the edge of my seat will be recommending.#netgalley #putnambooks
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I really wanted to like this book, but it fell flat for me.

The story is about Margo aka Jane, a librarian who used to be a nurse. Then there’s Patricia, the new librarian who dreams of being a writer. The story is told from both POVs, so that was a positive for me! The story is a linear timeline, going back and forth between each woman’s perspective. Two deaths occur in this small town, which gets everyone talking. Patricia starts to unravel Margo’s past and Margo starts to suspect Patricia is on to her. 

The plot line was very unique, and I had high hopes. It felt as though as soon as the climax occurred, the book just ended.
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I received an ARC from Negalley and Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review. 

I truly wanted to love this book. A thriller that centered around a librarian?! Yes please! 

The story goes back and forth between Margo and Patricia’s perspectives as Margo attempts to escape her past while Patricia uses it as inspiration. The storyline had potential, but I was really disappointed in how it played how and especially in how it ended. 

None of the characters felt likeable or dislikable- they just existed, which is worse than not being likable, since that means they were forgettable. 

Overall,  this book was a disappointing journey through the lives of two women and their coworkers. I was tempted to DNF half way through and I really wish I had.
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I was lucky enough to win an e-ARC of HOW CAN I HELP YOU by Laura Sims through a Shelf Awareness giveaway. Thanks for the early look, and have a safe and happy weekend!
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of How Can I Help You.

I was intrigued by the premise and excited when my request was approved.

I had something different in mind when I began reading. I thought it was going to be more of a cat and mouse game between Margo and Patricia.

Instead, it was a tedious slog of perspectives between Margo and Patricia as they warily circle each other, trying to figure out if the other knows the secrets they're hiding.

Margo reminds me of Jane Toppan, the serial killer nurse from the early 20th century; her thoughts vary wildly from incandescent rage to mild calm, especially when she indulges in her favorite ritual, a bath.

Patricia is a failed novelist, doomed to take a boring day job to support herself and thinking about giving her equally dull boyfriend the heave-ho.

When she discovers Margo isn't who she claims to be, she's hit with a sudden burst of inspiration and begins writing again.

Despite Margo being a serial killer and doing serial killer-y things, the narrative lacks suspense and urgency.

The writing is fine, but the plot sounded repetitive since we're getting Margo and Patricia's reactions at events they're both experiencing.

I didn't really like or dislike Patricia. I did understand her desire and ambition to be a published writer and that she believed Margo's clandestine life was her ticket to achieving literary success.

I think if the author had worked that angle more, there would have been more suspense and drama.

The reader doesn't get to know Patricia or Margo; I was definitely interested in the latter. 

Why was she like this? Has she always felt murder-y? Does she ever get lonely? Think about all the people she's killed?

I wish I had liked this more but I do appreciate the opportunity to read it before publication.
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First off, the author has a lot of the general pace and lingo of a library DOWN! Weird patrons contrast with moments that make you very happy to be helping people. It's a hard thing to get right, but the author nails it.

Secondly, I disliked both the characters (which is a good thing!) From Margo's secrets to Patricia's haughtiness, these are two unlikeable characters playing a game of cat and mouse and a setting usually more reserved for cozy mysteries. Highly recommended!
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Not one, BUT TWO unreliable narrators? SIgn me up. I love a good unreliable narrator, keeps me on my toes. And having two of them felt new and fresh.
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Weirdly, I didn't really enjoy the thriller aspect of this book. There were definitely some similarities between Margo and Joe Goldberg from the You series, but she kind of felt like a Joe knockoff. However, I really loved the depiction of what it's actually like to work in a library. Margo's and Patricia's frustrations echoed frustrations I have had working as a circulation clerk and as a librarian. Most books I read that feature the inner workings of public libraries don't do it right, but Sims must either be a librarian or be close to one, because she really hit the nail on the head.
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A psychological thriller with two female leads. I had zero expectations for this book, but I was hooked from the first page. I especially loved the reference and connection to the 1962 novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Thank you to the publisher, GP Putnam’s Sons, the author, Laura Sims, and NetGalley for the advance ready copy. The publication date is July 18, 2023. It’s not too lengthy, which makes it the perfect beach read.
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A short fast read , two women , obsessive in their own ways and fascinated by the other, engage in a cat and mouse game with possible tragic ending.    Starts a little slow but builds up to a climax, that while expected in some ways, in other ways, surprising and disturbing.  Could there be room in this world for the two of them, is there a way for them to work together or will they destroy each other  4.5
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Thank you to Penguin Group Putnam and NetGalley for this ARC of How Can I Help You. 

A sociopath and an opportunist pair of librarians, books, and a library! What a delicious read! 

The author herself is a librarian and she perfectly characterized the public/private nature of a library. The magic, the secrets, the public exposure. 
How books, and some characters, can metamorphose a person into obsession.

I loved the intimate inner monologues of both murderess/liar Margo/Jane and the weak-willed, failed writer Patricia who found her muse, morals be damned.

I read author Laura Sims’ earlier book, Looker, and rated it five stars. I rate the same to How Can I Help You.
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This short little story is one of the best, most messed up, books I’ve read this year. I *loved* it. 

It brought memories of my time behind a circulation desk of my own library. The dust motes in the sun, the crinkle of a library book cover, helping patrons with things that were not entirely in my job description. But Margo takes that to the next level. 

This book was utterly diabolical and easily devoured. It was fun, it was wild. It packed a punch in its short time, and it truly left me wanting more.
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A library-centric story with a noir vibe, Laura Sims' sophomore novel How Can I Help You is a sinister tale of deadly obsession.  Taking place in a small town library, this book explores what happens when a former nurse with an insatiable blood lust for killing her patients takes a job at a public library and attempts to lead a relatively normal life in hiding until her world collides with a new reference librarian and aspiring novelist intent on using her deadly secrets for writing inspiration.

Sims, a reference librarian herself, perfectly captures the rural library aesthetic, turning the traditional buttoned up librarian stereotype onto its head.  You may never look at your local librarians the same again after reading this wholly unique and pithy novel!  Sims has crafted a curious, yet ominous story that deftly explores the theme of passion manifested in polar opposite coworkers.  Whether squeezing the life from a patient, patron, or the page, Sims' characters explore just how far they are willing to go in the name of obsession.

Despite its gristly subject matter, How Can I Help You is such a fun, gripping read.  Sims keeps the tone light and playful while shadowing her characters in dark overtones, keeping the most gruesome bits right on the periphery of readers' minds without fulling engaging in their consequences.  This is a book about the clever game two library workers play with each other, dancing in and out of reach in an attempt to uncover each other's truth.  If you vibe on noir films, workplace relationships, and of course, libraries, this book might just be for you.
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*****I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

When a killer nurse hides in a small town library will  her secret be safe? It all depends on who moves to town and what their motives are. Patricia could be Margo’s downfall. 

I LOVED this book!  It was written from the perspective of 2 main characters and how they interact together. It kept me interested from the first few pages!
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Thank you to @netgalley and @putnambooks for this early review copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Soooo…. About this book.  

I love unreliable narrators. I love thrillers.  I love slow-burn mysteries. Add in a murdering librarian? Yes, please!

But here’s the thing- 
This didn’t really deliver on any of that. 

The writing was decent, and the premise was intriguing. A new librarian who has a past where she was a nurse and patients died in her wake.  Another new librarian, failed at writing a book, and now is delving into Margo’s life.  Two narrators, neither likable, but sadly, neither all that interesting. 

This premise has been done before - sure, not maybe the murdering librarian, but the unreliable narrator who isn’t who they seem and is - more or less- a total creep. It’s been done, and done better, by many.  

The ending was unsatisfying and there were too many loose ends for me. 

Interesting idea, good writing, poor execution.  

This one releases July 18.
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As a librarian myself, I couldn't WAIT to get my hands on this read. I did not disappoint and I am ever so grateful to have been given an ARC. To not give any spoilers away, all I'll divulge is this: our protagonist may want to seek out a new line of work, as we all aren't best suited for what we do on the daily... sometimes we're better at something else. Way better!
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Call me old-fashioned if you like, but the style of entertainment that includes television shows like “Dexter” and “Breaking Bad,” content built around deeply flawed protagonists, just leaves me cold. In the same vein, I’m perfectly happy to say that if I don’t like the characters in a book, it’s a pretty safe bet I won’t like the book. That’s the reason Laura Sims’ How Can I Help You just didn’t click with me at first: I wouldn’t turn my back on either of the protagonists.	

There’s Margo, who used to be Jane, a librarian who used to be a nurse, living in a small midwestern town instead of the Northeast (where authorities are still looking for her). Jane was a wonderful nurse who helped a lot of people… into eternity, we gather. And then there’s Patricia, the bored research librarian who’d rather be writing the great American novel than cooling her heels in some downstate farm town. To that end, she has a half-written novel stashed in a drawer.

Margo’s well-ordered life hits the skids, however, when Patricia shows up in her library to fill the long-vacant research librarian slot; skids greased by the unexpected death of a patron in Margo’s arms. Watching the life leave the woman’s body awakens a longing in the one-time angel of mercy; an awakening to which the new hire is an unwitting witness. After that event, Patricia finds herself fascinated by her coworke;, so much so that she discards her unfinished novel in favor of a character study of the unnamed “M.”
Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game as the two women maneuver cautiously around each other. Patricia spends her days plotting a new novel featuring “M” even as Margo sheds her librarian persona and reverts to Jane under her watchful eye. It’s only a matter of time…

In her first novel, Looker, Sims developed a reputation for writing female characters with outsized egos and questionable character. Margo, especially, fits that bill (Charles Cullen, anyone?); but Patricia, too, has her moments. Though slow-paced, as perhaps befits a novel about librarians, How Can I Help You still manages a thrill or two and even a surprising twist.

I guess I liked it after all. But I still wouldn't want to meet either Margo or Patricia in a dark alley...
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Delicious, evocative, and addictive — this novel was a perfectly paced delight.

Laura Sims writes with precision and not a word is superfluous. Her characters are well-written, sharp, and complex. 

This angel-of-death style female killer intrigued me. She kills, despite the stereotype of that killer, not to bestow mercy (at least, not always) but sometimes for recompense, revenge, or even to quiet her rage. I know a bit about this topic as a forensic psychologist whose dissertation was on female serial killers and the need for a less sexist depiction and understanding of their kills. It turns out, women are just as capable of rage and violence as their male counterparts. I thought this character spoke to that female rage and urge to commit violence and was smartly done. 

As for things I wish were different (and why it is a 4 star read and not 5 for me): 
I felt it ended prematurely. Margo is a nuanced character that I desperately wanted to know more about. I also would have loved more development between Margo and Patricia (as friends? Confidantes? More? Maybe) - as the undertones of that relationship held weight and were, in some ways, just beginning to take shape by the end. 

This is one I will recommend far and wide. Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an ARC of this title. 

Look for How Can I Help You by Laura Sims when it is published on July 17, 2023.
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