Cover Image: How Can I Help You

How Can I Help You

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for the advanced reader copy!

This book was very much up my alley. I loved delving into Margo's past as well as the dual narrator dynamic. I would definitely recommend it!
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Thank you to NetGalley, Putnam Books, and Laura Sims for providing me with an eARC of this book. This is my honest review.
I'm going to start off this review by talking about another book by another author, but it's important I promise. Earlier this year I read Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater and I found it riveting. A wickedly captivating book about two not-so-good women at odds who somehow still manage to reel you in. I likened it to something grossly fascinating that you can't look away from. Told in two off-putting perspectives and exploring the darker side of the human psyche, How Can I Help You is similar in a lot of ways. Not story-wise, but in the themes they explore and emotions they illicit. Essence twins, mayhaps?
How Can I Help You is a big cat and mouse game, but you're never quite sure who's the cat and who's the mouse. Margo and Patricia are two nasty little peas in a pod. There's no good guy here, folks! Is this book super graphic horror? No. Will it keep you up at night? Probably not. But will you randomly think about it at 3pm on a Tuesday and wonder if the new librarian at your local library is capable of murder? Yeah, maybe!
How Can I Help You is available for purchase in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook format.
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Margo Finch has been a clerk at the public library in the small town of Carlyle for several years. She enjoys the work and the anonymity the job has given her.  When the library director hires Patricia as a reference librarian Margo’s world changes and nothing feels right. The new employee is also trying to reinvent herself and the two women’s lives collide.

This story is told from two points of view – Margo and Patricia. While I found the plot to be well-written, with some suspense and uncertainty, I found the two main characters very unappealing.  Margo is understandable, but Patricia has character flaws and a moral compass that I couldn’t sympathize with.  Meanwhile, the descriptions of the library, the type of work involved, and the library patrons added a realistic element that saved the story for me and that was the most enjoyable part of the book.

Because the writing is quite good I will give How Can I Help You three stars.  But the story itself was a miss for me. NetGalley provided an advance copy.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of “How Can I Help You” in exchange for an honest review. I loved the premise and I wasn’t disappointed. I really appreciated the alternating point of view. I would recommend this one!
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What the what?? This book was an insane ride, like a sprint to the last page to see how it's going to end adventure! The mind games between Margo and Patricia were deliciously off the charts and I held my breath as I read the last few pages to see who was going to end up victorious. And let's be honest--Margo was not sane!! Besides the fact that she liked to murder people in hospitals, the fact that she believed she was doing something good is just mind-blowing! This book was exactly what a thriller should be!
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Welcome to Crazytown!
So, our gal Jane skipped town after it was discovered she was a bit of a murdery nurse, and is now monitoring the goings-on in the stacks in her new job as a librarian named Margo. New employee Patricia (ahem, Pa-tree-see-ah) has her own failures in her rearview when she joins the staff and takes a special interest in Margo. When a suspicious death occurs in the library, Patricia begins to look at Margo in a new light...
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Margo Finch arrives at the Carlyle Public Library looking for a job at just the moment that a new librarian is needed. She says all the right things, has the right demeanor, and her resume looks good. She's hired on the spot and seems the ideal librarian, although she doesn't actually read anything herself. She has patience for the homeless and other odd characters who frequent the library and is able to manage them so well that the other librarians leave that job to her. She's prompt, neat, and spins stories that entertain the staff and patrons alike.

When she goes home at night, though, her thoughts are drawn back to her hidden previous life as a nurse who found ways to usher patients who were not quite ready into the hereafter. She found her own sort of solace in breathing in their last breaths, and she deeply misses that experience. Margo has developed means of subduing her longing for sharing those final breaths, and her job at the library helps her escape from her own compulsions.

Into this precarious balance arrives Patricia, a new library school graduate and failed writer, to fill the long-empty position of reference librarian. Patricia and Margo form a sort of friendship at first, which devolves into mutual obsession. Using clues from their conversations, Patricia uses her research skills to uncover Margo's secret past and suddenly, Patricia is feverishly writing again while Margo is being observed. Margo's compulsion to share those final breaths and Patricia's need to keep Margo safe so that she can continue writing about her combine to disastrous effect.

The deeply disturbed psyches of both Margo and Patricia are very well written and bring both characters to life. The remaining characters, librarians and patrons alike, fill necessary roles in the story rather than being fully developed. They are skillfully sketched, however, and allow the focus to remain upon the two librarians. The backwater locale that provides a hiding place for Margo and an escape from previous failure for Patricia is convincingly grim. The plot builds to a crescendo that pulls Margo and Patricia into a conflagration that decides ownership of the Margo/Patricia story.

A bit of suspension of disbelief is necessary to allow HOW CAN I HELP YOU the space to play out. Even a desperate library director is unlikely to have hired either Margo or Patricia, never mind both. It seems equally unlikely that two such deeply disturbed women would end up on the same small staff. Events throughout the book veer into the implausible, even given the compulsive, obsessive nature of these two women. Nonetheless, and perhaps even because of that implausibility, the book is highly entertaining.
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A low 3 star. I have conflicting feelings about this one. I like the library setting and the different patrons they encountered, although it focused on negative experiences. I liked the two perspectives and how some scenes overlapped between the two to show how each woman was piecing things together. What I didn't like was the characters. They were both very cold and calculating and I had a hard time rooting for anyone. It was very much a character study versus heavy with plot or exciting scenes. And some things got a bit weird and kind of gross at times. It wasn't really what I was expecting based on the synopsis and the ending was incredibly abrupt. I didn't didn't enjoy it as much as I was expecting.
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How Can I Help You
Author: Laura Sims

I requested a digital advanced readers copy from NetGalley and Penguin Group and providing my opinion voluntarily and unbiased.

Synopsis: 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.

My Thoughts: The tale of two librarians playing a very dangerous game of cat and mouse. This is a slow burn thriller. Margo, her made up name, is a former angel of death (nurse), is now working at a library when the heat was on her at her former hospital. Patricia, who dreams of writing a novel, and has been uninspired, just starting to work at the same library. Patricia has an eye for observing, her writing nature, and when she observes the care rendered to a dying patron by Margo, she becomes intrigued. This was a unique spin on a thriller, not one that I have read before. 

This story is divulged in five parts. The story is narrated by both Margo and Patricia, in alternating chapters, in a first person POV. While there is some repetition in the book, I not think it kills the overall vibe. Both of our MC protagonists are unreliable, dark, and diabolical. Even though they are both dark, they come across as likable. The characters were developed well with depth, mystery, disturbing, secretive, and creative. The author’s writing style was complex, twisty, suspenseful, and intriguing. The author does a good job with flow and pace, while in the beginning, it is a slow burn, once our MCs know the other has a secret, it starts to not only speed up but also intensify. The tension is built up well and the plot is delivered in twisty pieces and the ending is magnificent. 

This is a dark, disturbing, compelling psychological thriller. It is shorter at under 300 pages or 8 hours on audio (maybe closer to 7). I was behind on my reviews, so I did the audiobook on this one and devoured in under 48 hours. I would recommend picking up the book or the audiobook.
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A small-town library becomes the unexpected site of a cat-and-mouse game in this new thriller.  Margo seems like a model, unremarkable librarian at the library where she works.  None of her co-workers are aware that she had a completely different name and life before she arrived at the library, as a nurse with a series of unexplained deaths among her patients.  Then, Patricia, a new librarian and failed novelist, arrives.  Unlike the other staff, Patricia quickly senses that there is something dark beneath Margo's placid surface.  Soon, Patricia finds herself fixated on getting to the bottom of Margo's past, as Margo begins to suspect the new life she created for herself may be threatened.  

This is a well-crafted and well-written thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat through the last page.  

Highly recommended!
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I have no idea why I am in the minority for How Can I Help You by Laura Sims, but here we are. This book is based on true crime, and it seems when this happens, I don't always love the execution or the retelling of them. In this case, I was actually thinking about someone other than who the author based it on, but it felt like it had been done before, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead. I loved that the two women the story focuses on (Margo and Patricia) are librarians, and it was certainly an interesting setting for an ex-nurse that is trying to keep her proclivity for killing people hidden. Neither of these two women is likable which might be blasphemy for some, but for me, that just gave the story an extra layer.

How Can I Help You moves pretty slowly, even with the viewpoint changes, and I didn't find myself feeling in a rush to finish it. The thing that really kept me going was the audiobook, and Carlotta Brentan & Maggi-Meg Reed were my bright spots in an otherwise mostly lackluster novel. I was also a little disappointed in the climax, and there aren't any big surprises that happen until the very end. Even then I wasn't actually all that surprised by the way things ended, and I didn't really get any thriller vibes from the book as a whole. Overall, this was just a pretty meh read for me, but I do recommend it if you think it sounds good and I would certainly recommend listening to the audio.
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I thought this book was very boring. I was pulled into the book by one of the main character, Margo/Jane. As she was a lot unhinged and committed murders, but around page 50 I got extremely bored. I liked that the setting was a library and it showed exactly how working in one is. I used to volunteer at one for a year, and honestly the scenarios regarding patrons in this book were spot on. The killings that did happen throughout the book were very boring, predictable and underwhelming. I was not thrilled by this book. 
I recommend this book for readers who enjoy thrillers and love libraries.
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This book wanted to be 'You' by Caroline Kepnes so bad. You cannot tell me that Margot was not Joe Goldberg coded.

This book just felt pretty meh to me the whole way through. What I thought I was getting and what I ultimately ended up getting were two very different things. The dual POV didn't really work for me and even though it ended up serving the story, it felt forced in order to make the plot seem more intriguing? If we were purely going off of my enjoyment here, my rating would be a 2/5. HOWEVER, I could see why other people might vibe better with this one. Maybe it just wasn't as dark as I was expecting it be and/or I was hoping our main character would be much more volatile. With that being said, I will be settling on a 3/5.
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A fun and creepy thriller - a good read if you like dark characters and bleak settings. Definitely a nice book for a rainy day. A former nurse reinvents herself as a library clerk after fleeing her previous positions, and the new librarian, a failed novelist, finds her absolutely fascinating. Irredeemable, awful people who are somehow still fun to read about.
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This was a fun read! The ending was a bit disappointing but didn't take away from my overall enjoyment.
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A huge thank you to NetGalley and Putnam for this advance release copy of How Can I Help You by Laura Sims - this one came out last month and is available for purchase now! This is no way influenced my review of this title.

3.5 stars for this interesting take on two women and how leaving the past behind can take a turn. I wish I could rate this one higher, but the pacing was off - around the 70% mark, it started really taking off and all sorts of things were happening, and the final climax felt so rushed. For the first 3/4 of the book, it felt like a slow burn and I was dying to get more of Margo’s past - you knew she was a nurse, but aside from a small reference, it wasn’t brought up again. I think this one was going for focusing on the interactions between Margo and Patricia, but it just seemed like we didn’t need that so in depth for the large chunk of the book. I’m not totally sure how to classify this one, because it’s not a thriller, it’s more literary fiction with a hint of suspense maybe?

Thank you again to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC in exchange for this review. Publication date 7/18/23, out now!
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Margo and Patricia find themselves living in the same apartment complex and working at the same small-town library. Each woman is desperate to make a new start and leave their undesirable pasts behind. They are drawn to each other like moths to a flame--observing and wanting to know more about the other's former life. Revelations about the past put them on a collision course that will forever change their futures.

How Can I Help You is a compulsive read, brimming with secrets and an unexpected conclusion.
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One Sentence Summary: Margo and Patricia are librarians in a small town library who unexpectedly feel a push and pull with each other that could expose well-buried secrets, or fuel a clandestine obsession.

I’m not a big fan of books about bookish places or books, but I was drawn to the description that made it sound like a propulsive thriller and made me think of a frightened librarian running through the stacks. How Can I Help You turned out to be a bit slower and quieter, but, psychologically, I found it to be highly engaging and I was riveted by these two women. It might not be a heart pounding, fast-paced thriller, but I loved being caught up in the secrets Margo and Patricia held, and the lives they invented about each other.

The reader is first introduced to Margo, and I felt she got to tell most of the story. Her’s was also the more interesting one. Margo is an older woman with a fabricated past and life. Her previous life still pulls at her, but she’s become adept at hiding it and burying it under a boring life as an older single woman who devotes her weekdays to the library and her weekends to getting through until Monday. From the description, we already know Margo was involved in a string of premature deaths, and that’s slowly revealed. I loved reading her perspective because it was so well balanced between Margo the librarian and pre-Margo the possible murderer. Being in her head almost felt like a bit of a crazy experience because she was a bit of a crazy person with a perfectly normal and boring facade. It was fascinating, and I really liked when Patricia was introduced into her life because it upended her daily existence, and the back and forth between her despising and befriending Patricia was just shy of being chaotic.

Patricia entered the story a bit later than I would have liked, but I liked her as soon as she stepped on the scene. She’s younger, a recent graduate with her degree in library science. She comes from a big city, where her boyfriend still lives, and has reluctantly shelved her desire to be an author. I liked this veneer of disdain she had for the library and how she really felt like she didn’t want to be there, but it was a good excuse to get away from her boyfriend. Things got really interesting when she developed a friendship and then an obsession with Margo. It absolutely did not go in the direction I expected, and I loved that. There were so many scenes where I thought things would tip in a certain direction, and they just completely veered away. It was fantastic, and I just couldn’t wait to see how this would end.

How Can I Help You felt like a slow spiral where things were completely in control, and then they started to unravel as Margo and Patricia unraveled. Since the whole story is told from their perspectives, the reader gets a deep dive into what they each think of the other. Honestly, that was my favorite part of it, mostly because of how far off base their perceptions were. I loved how they both went back and forth on each other, sometimes disliking the other and sometimes desperately needing some kind of emotional connection with each other, but they didn’t often match up. I liked getting to see some of their interactions from both of their viewpoints because they could be so wildly different, and it made me wonder exactly how accurate our perceptions of other people actually are.

My favorite part, though, was Patricia and her obsession with writing. It completely takes over her life and she can’t stop thinking about it, and it really fuels her obsession with Margo. I liked how her whole existence seemed to revolve around a notebook, and how just completely oblivious Margo was. The one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was how easy it was for Patricia to piece things together when literally no one else could. Maybe it has to do with the fact that she was a big city girl and the local law enforcement is a small town sort, or maybe Margo was just that good of an actress, except when a writer came sniffing around and developed an obsession.

Set mostly in a musty old library, I felt the age of the library. It was in all the little details, and the rather sad lives of the patrons. The employees were interesting, if a bit one-dimensional, but they just leaned hard into how much of a small town library it is. Things are quite ordinary, until they’re not, and then it becomes fodder for gossip. I liked that there wasn’t actually a huge emphasis on books and didn’t title and author drop. Instead, it stuck to Margo and Patricia and the slow, strange dance they found themselves in.

How Can I Help You isn’t a fast-paced thriller, but it certainly kept my attention engaged. I loved watching Margo and Patricia and their wary, yet oddly obsessed dance. Getting the entire story from one or the other was a lot of fun, though it wasn’t always easy to keep up with what one knew and the other didn’t. The times that I did keep it straight, though, were amazing and just added that little bit more to the reading experience for me. By the end, I didn’t really care that the mystery was actually solved pretty early on, or that there wasn’t actually much of a mystery. It was just two women who couldn’t really settle on how they felt about each other and the secrets between them.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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This is one of the most odd books that I have ever read. I really liked that the bulk of the novel took place in the library, as I am a librarian myself. The two main characters, Margo and Patricia both work in the library. Margo is not a trained librarian, but Patricia is. As the story unfolds and switches back and forth between Margo and Patricia's perspectives, readers find out that Margo has quite a sordid past and that Patricia is keen to find a subject she can really sink her teeth into and write into a novel. They develop a working friendship and soon Patricia fears that she may have discovered more about Margo's past than she would like known. What happens at the end will completely leave readers reeling. I liked the book, but it took a long time to get to the propulsive ending with not a real lot happening in between.
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4.5 stars 
I was pleasantly surprised by the story of Margo, or Jane, the nurse turned library worker who has a hidden past. 

The characters of Margo and Patricia are extremely well written and drew me into the story. Their connection propelled the story along with Margo’s deeds. 

For anyone who has worked or spent much time in a public library, you can tell the author is a librarian because she nailed the interactions with the weird and/or entitled patrons, along with the unglamorous side of what we do on a daily basis. 

I’d recommend this for mystery lovers who enjoy strong female points of view, and literary play. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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