Cover Image: How Can I Help You

How Can I Help You

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A quick read. Not sure how interesting it would be to someone outside the library profession. Decent suspense and I liked the alternating viewpoints.
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There is much to look forward with this book by “Laura Sims”.  Some reviews compare it too “Jane Doe” which is a banger of a book and it’s way under 300 pages so it should be All Killer No Filler.   Unfortunately, in the end, I couldn’t get use to the structure and prose the author was going for which I’m currently attempting to recreate with this review.    You should be getting really confused very soon.   We have Margo who is currently working as a librarian.   “But wasn’t she a nurse at one point?  Isn’t there a mysterious trail of premature deaths following her?”, Goodreads reader #16 asked.   “I’m not sure,”, I answered.   “I’m still trying to get use these super long paragraphs and unsplit conversational prose.”  But we do have Margo with the mysterious past and soon another employee: Patricia gets hired and soon becomes obsessed with her.   Soon we have a back and forth POV between those two after someone mysteriously dies in the bathroom of the library.   Is one of them a serial killer???  On a positive note I loved the dark vibe of this one.   And it is short and sweet.   But at the end of the day I can’t get over the artistic approach Laura Sims had with the book.   Are you confused yet?   This is how the book reads.   Although some may like it……

I really appreciate PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam’s Sons for giving me the opportunity to review this book for a honest review and it has a publication date of July 18, 2023
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How Can I Help You is coming out in mid-July. It's a quick read with two different points of view; librarians that came to their occupations under different, unusual circumstances.. I didn't like either of those characters, but that didn't stop me from reading this in a day. I will say that by the time the story really drew me in, the book was about over. The ending was fairly abrupt in my opinion and left me with questions. 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Thanks to NetGalley for early access!

*I'm back the next day with some additional thoughts. #1: I would have rather read the book that Patricia was writing. #2: This book needs an epilogue.
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A brilliant, fast- paced novel about a former nurse’s new life as a librarian after being on the run from the cops. Drama, mysterious deaths, and an east to follow story line,  this book brings you on a crazy journey to find the truth.
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A creepy 2 person POV novel that might be the quintessential beach read! This psychological tango between two librarians kept me up into the small hours. While neither character is inherently likable, it didn’t weigh down the narrative. I would highly recommend this for any librarian (or those who love them).
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Told from two vastly different points of view, this pychological story by Laura Sims rates high on the creepy scale.  First we meet Margo who has left her job as a nurse to become a library circulation worker.  Margo is not all there and through her inner voice we learn she feels the need to usher dying people into death.  Contrasting Margo is newly minted reference librarian Patricia who is a failed novelist and unsure of herself as a librarian.  In alternating chapters these two women circling  around each other like cats spoiling for a fight.   When an annoying patron dies in the library restroom, both Margo and Patricia are nearby but how did the patron die?  Sims creates a tene storyline as Margo and Patricia both suspect the other is not telling the complete truth.  Readers who work in libraries will love the realistic interaction with the public and the drudgery aspects of the job.
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That. Was. Creepy. This story picks up speed as you learn more about Margo and her past and as the new librarian Patricia gets to know her. At times, it felt a little repetitive because you see the same moments from both of their perspectives, but that method made sense for the story. I didn't quite guess the end, and it was a delicious one. Sims did a great job of building tension and writing a truly devious, sick character.
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In How Can I Help You, Laura Sims probes the darker side of human nature through the shifting POVs of Margo and Patricia, two library workers in the small town of Carlyle, IL, Margo, a former nurse, is running from her past as a nurse with a troubled psyche, work history, and legal problems. Patricia, a recent graduate and failed novelist, is running from a troubled relationship and an artistic drive to create that she cannot quash, though her lack of confidence and the harsh rebukes of her on again off again partner to grow up and get a real job haunt her abortive attempts at writing. After a disturbing death in the women's bathroom at the library where the two women work that is originally deemed a tragic, but unfortunately commonplace death, the unusually observant Patricia stumbles upon Margo's actual identity and secret past. Margo's secret ignites Patricia's imagination and her dormant writer's soul seizes control. Rather than turn her muse in to the authorities, Patricia undertakes a close observation of Margo/Jane, drawing her in close for observation. Margo/Jane for her part grows more and more uneasy under the watchful gaze of Patricia with her unnerving stare and constant and furious scribbling in her perpetually present notebook. But will Patricia fly too close to the sun and suffer the fate of Icarus as she answers the siren song of her artistic calling? Is Margo truly guilty of the heinous charges levied against her? And if Margo ever gets a look at Patricia's notebook and confirms that she is in fact writing about Margo and laying bare her secrets to the gaze of anyone who reads it, will she turn her violent impulses upon Patricia? When you play with fire, you are bound to get burned....

As it combines libraries and psychological thrillers, one of my favorite genres in one of my favorite settings, I really wanted to like this novel. Truly. And parts of it did capture me. But the pacing was a problem for me. I'm all for a slow burn, but the beginning of this book is just too slow, and I had to force myself to stick with it. As the author repeats several incidents from Patricia's POV after we see them first through Margo's eyes, it feels a bit tedious and repetitive. Then, as the novel nears its end, it feels like the author rushed to just hurry up and finish it. Rather than continuing to probe Margo's psyche with the sensitivity and insight the beginning of the book is so careful to demonstrate, the ending is hasty and rushed with little of the deft handling given to less significant events earlier in novel.  Without giving away any spoilers, the incongruity of the speed between the first and second phases of the book is so great that it jarred me right out of the story and made the characters suddenly feel less carefully portrayed than they otherwise might have been if handled with the deftness shown in other parts of the book. Sims shows promise in parts of How Can I Help You, so I will likely try another of her books, but this one is a pass for me. 

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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As a librarian, of course I had to read this.  A fun thriller that I read on vacation.  A little slow in the beginning, but definitely worth pushing through.  The story kept my attention with the protagonists just being nuts.  I laughed a lot even though it’s a dark tale.  But us librarians tend to be a little odd to begin with ;) 

3.5 stars
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“The ones that die are the lucky ones.”

Margo is a librarian at a small town library. However, that’s just her cover story to avoid being caught by the police for the suspicious deaths of patients at a nearby hospital. But that was two years ago, and she is no longer Jane the nurse. Can she shed her past life? 

Margo senses that the new Reference librarian, Patricia will be trouble. Patricia is a failed writer who moved from Chicago to a small town to escape her boring boyfriend and to try a new career. Will they become friends or foes?

When a patron is found dead in the library restroom, Margo exhibits very strange behavior. Patricia becomes fixated on her, finding a new research project, literary muse, and dangerous obsession. 

How Can I Help You is a short read at just 256 pages. This suspenseful and macabre tale ultimately exposes the dark side of human nature. It will appeal to readers who enjoy character driven plots, such as Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater and Mrs. March by Virginia Feito. 

Be prepared to suspend your belief! I imagined a very different ending for this book, and would have preferred it to have gone in that direction. This caused me to lower my rating from 4 to 3.75 stars. However, it is an engrossing read that I do recommend, especially to librarians.

3.75/5 stars rounded up

Expected publication date: 7/18/23

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for the ARC of How Can I Help You in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved the idea of two librarians, one a murderer the other a suspicious writer. However I felt this book didn't get really interesting until the very end. It's mostly about the two lives of these women who work together in a library. I would not consider this to be a thriller or a mystery so I was pretty disappointed. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in advance of publication.
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The premise behind this book almost felt like it was literally written to appeal to librarians - especially if it's been one of those days with a patron who is stomping on your last nerve. And the story lived up to the promise - it was a roller coaster of a ride of suspense, wondering if/when she would get caught. As a professional librarian, I also appreciated the nuanced bits about what does and does not make someone an actual librarian - a tension we deal with in this profession regularly. I wonder if this book will be a little inside-basebally for any non-librarians, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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How does a book lover like me read as many books as I do, while still being able to sleep and eat? 

I don’t 

Just kidding

I have always been a late nighter as well as an early riser. Im not much for TV or the garbage shows my husband puts on, so I read. I can sometimes read up to 3 books in a day. 

Then something like this happens and I have to nurture my blood sucking soul and tell myself, no more books until tomorrow or you’re going to cost yourself a lot in therapy . 

Books like “How Can I Help You” 

This is a book that’s so realistic you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. The terror you will feel will consume every thought you have. 

Don’t believe me, check it out for yourself : 

From the author of Looker comes this “compulsive and unforgettable novel” (Mona Awad) of razor-sharp suspense about two local librarians whose lives become dangerously intertwined.

No one knows Margo’s real name. Her colleagues and patrons at a small-town public library only know her middle-aged normalcy, congeniality, and charm. They have no reason to suspect that she is, in fact, a former nurse with a trail of countless premature deaths in her wake. She has turned a new page, so to speak, and the library is her sanctuary, a place to quell old urges.

That is, at least, until Patricia, a recent graduate and failed novelist, joins the library staff. Patricia quickly notices Margo’s subtly sinister edge, and watches her carefully. When a patron’s death in the library bathroom gives her a hint of Margo’s mysterious past, Patricia can’t resist digging deeper—even as this new fixation becomes all-consuming.

Taut and compelling, How Can I Help You explores the dark side of human nature and the dangerous pull of artistic obsession as these “transfixing dual female narrators” (Kimberly McCreight) hurtle toward a stunning climax.
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A book that mostly centers on the interior lives of two women that I didn't find particularly interesting.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group PUTTON for my advanced copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

In Laura Sims' "How Can I Help You" we follow Margo who is a Circulation Library Assistant at a small, Midwest library. What her coworkers don't know is that Margo is actually Jane, an angel of death nurse on the run from the authorities. For a handful of years (I think two?), Margo has lived in comfortable mystery until her library hires a Reference Desk Librarian, Patricia. And Patricia seems to be the only one who is curious about Margo's identity and Margo is not amused. 

As someone who works in a library AS a Circulation Desk Library Assistant in Illinois near Chicago, I thought I'd really enjoy this. For the most part, Sims gets the work experience down perfectly. The events with annoyed and entitled patrons, the creepy patrons, and the nice ones...Sims gets it. That said, that's about as much of the book that I enjoyed. I found this to REALLY drag. I mean, even for a slow burn thriller, the 256 pages seemed to stretch a lot. I thought this book was at least 300 pages until I doublechecked for this review. I do think that the slow burn could have worked had Sims chosen not to replay events from both Margo and Patricia's perspectives. We get dual narratives/perspectives from each woman and there are multiple times where Sims will retread scenes just to show how each woman reacted. This all led to a very boring, eye glaze-inducing reading experience. 

I also have to say that both Margo and Patricia were unlikable as hell. Sims did a great job with writing Margo but the momentum from that dies down, again, from the dual perspectives. Patricia though? So irritating and so self-pitying. I can't tell if Patricia was supposed to be likable but I couldn't stand her. I do think that the dual perspectives could have been more affective had Sims made the decision to retread scenes sparingly. I think that doing it every time just killed any momentum, even slow burn momentum, that she had built up prior to Patricia's arrival.

Ultimately I found this incredibly boring with unlikable lead characters but a pretty true to reality depiction of working in a small public library in Northern Illinois. I should also say that Sims is a competent writer, but some of her narrative choices just did not work for me. I also seem to be in the minority with my rating, so please feel free to take this with a grain of salt.
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I inhaled this book in a single afternoon. I don't know if it was because this was a needed break from romance novels, or because I'm also a librarian, but yeah. It's also shorter than I anticipated, so I'm sure that helped.

Margo used to be a nurse who would help her patients die, i.e. she murdered them. When she was caught one too many times, she abandoned her life of medicine, and became a librarian (side rant: why do books always make it seem so easy to become a full time librarian?! I have a Master's in this stuff! I know she faked the identity, but still. Sheesh.). All is well until the perfect storm of the library hires a new reference librarian, Patricia, who wants to be a writer, and is far too curious about her coworker, and the death of a patron in the library bathroom.

I did not see the twist coming, that's for sure. It starts slow and flips POV between Margo and Patricia, but once it picks up steam, it does not stop.
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This was an incredibly fast read. I'm typically a slow reader but I raced through this one in record time. Very fun and well-written. A perfect hand-sell for anyone looking for a good plane ride or beach read or who loves fast-paced thrillers. Now I want to read her first. Thanks to Netgalley and Putnam for the ARC!
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Okay what an interesting idea.  A black widow who has decided that she can’t escape her helping nature, but doesn’t want to be associated with her dark past.  So she comes up with a new persona one who has a background in working at libraries.  Then you have the down and out writer, who doesn’t really want to use their degree but they know that they can’t keep getting their stories rejected.  What happens when their paths cross?  A fantastic story!  This is just such a fun book, where there are so many different outcomes.  You know that someone is not going to make it out alive, but who will win the research librarian or the killer?  I think that readers are just going to love this story.  I can’t wait to recommend it.
	Thank you so much to Penguin Group Putnam, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of this title.
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This book felt like all of my customer service fantasies come to life.  Not 100% sure of the popular appeal, but as a librarian, this was a breath of fresh air in the genre of books featuring librarians.
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Margo and Patricia (pah-TREE-see-a (lol)) are the newest employees at a small town public library. Margo works the circulation desk with a bland friendliness, and Patricia is a recent library school graduate, failed novelist, and reference librarian. When a patron dies in the library, Margo's response is... VERY STRANGE so Patricia becomes fixated on Margo and learns she is really named Jane and is a wanted criminal/angel of death/super murdery nurse. (Who is clearly based on Jane Toppan, even sharing the nickname "Jolly Jane")

I pretty much never say this, but I wish this had been a little bit longer - I felt like there were some loose ends and the ending (while bananas and awesome) felt a bit abrupt. I loved the way the two women circled around each other, dipping their toes into each other's lives and then pulling back if the other got too close and seeing their interactions from both perspectives. They were both creepy and unlikeable in a way I truly enjoy. And this cover is the best.
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