Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Monday, May 21, 2018

Every Note Played - Review

Every Note Played🎡🎡🎡🎡
by Lisa Genova
Published March 20 2018 by Scout Press

4+ stars.  I am a huge Lisa Genova fan, having read and loved every one of her books now (Still Alice is still my favorite).  I always learn so much in her books, and each is about a different disease or condition that someone outside of the medical community like me may not have heard much about--as in Still Alice and Love Anthony, or were completely unaware of-1as in The O'Briens and Left Neglected).  

One of my Utah cousins, when we first found each other 13 years ago as a result of our genealogical research, told me at that time that his wife had ALS, which I had only heard of as Lou Gehrigs disease, and I knew only that it was very bad.  My cousin gave me periodic updates on her deterioration (I never met her),  until death finally freed her from her misery. What I remember most is when she could no longer swallow.  How can your body fail you like that and yet you're still hanging on?  But it wasn't long after that.

In Every Last Note, Richard had been a famous classical pianist before ALS struck.  He was divorced and living alone when he lost the use of one arm and then the other.  Then one leg; then both.  His ex-wife didn't want to do it, but offered up her home, formerly his home,  where she would take care of him along with the home health aides Richard was already paying for.  Genova always gives us the big picture, not only how a disease strikes the victim but also the affects on the caregivers.  She makes us think about our resilience, adaptability, our ability to forgive, and how to move on.  The ending was a tear jerker but I can't see how it could go any other way.  

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.  

Sunday, May 6, 2018

American By Day - Review

American By Day   πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ
by Derek B. Miller
Published April 3 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  

Oh, Derek B. Miller, it's good to know you've still got it, that incredible ability to take serious, tough topics like suicide, cancer, depression,  grief and loneliness, politics and prejudice, and put  them into a story that is deep, yes, but lots of fun too.  Loved it!

I adored Norwegian By Night, so this sequel had a lot of expectations to live up to; and it managed to make me feel happy, sad, and even a little more intelligent because Miller's writing covers some heavy topics that make you really think.  These are all the same feelings I had with NBN, so this book met and surpassed my expectations.

We get to know Sigrid Odegard much better here, and the New York sheriff Irving Wylie who is trying to help her find her brother is a wonderful character.  Miller creates lonely, quirky souls who worm their way into your very heart.  

In this town in upstate New York, an African American boy named Jeffrey was shot by a policeman who believed Jeffrey's toy gun was real.  The cop was exonerated.  His Aunt Lydia is dating Sigrid's  brother Marcus, and Lydia is soon found dead outside a construction site, having fallen 6 floors.  Whether she was pushed by Marcus, now missing, and if there was any connection between the two deaths is what Sheriff Wylie wants to know; and Sigrid intends to find her brother before the authorities do.  She is much more wiley than Sheriff Wylie, but quite a pair they do make.  The ending might make you cry.

An ebook from NetGalley and the publisher.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Perfect Mother - A Review

The Perfect Mother  🌝🌝🌝🌜
by Aimee Molloy
Published May 1 2018 by Harper

A story bound to confuse even the sharpest reader for a little while, based on the mystery introduced in Chapter One. You'll follow a Mommy group, called the May Mothers because they are all due in May, as these progressive over-achievers share their pregnancy stories on line and then birthing sagas in person.  Five or six weeks into their momhood they decide it's time finally for a lady's night out at a local bar, a break from the craziness, and it goes horribly wrong when one of their babies is kidnapped while mommies are cavorting and getting drunk.  The police follow their leads, which I honestly could not follow at all, while the moms form their own theories and red herrings.  All the while they are bombarded with emails on where their kiddies are supposed to be in their development, which wore thin on me, probably because I have never given birth myself.  In the end I solved the crime just before the author revealed it, so the conclusion made perfect sense and wrapped up nicely, IMO.

It was a good read for me, and most likely readers who are mothers will have even more enthusiasm for the lactation and lack of sleep stories.

I just won a printed book from Book Riot (which hasn't yet arrived) and the audio version through, so I listened to this as soon as it was available.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Educated - Review

Educated    🌟🌟🌟1/2
by Tara Westover
Published 20 Feb 2018 by Random House 

I can't  help but admire and respect everything Tara Westover has been through in her difficult life.  I am so grateful to have received a copy of Educated from NetGalley and Random House so I could join my book - loving friends on the bandwagon for this book.  I am there, but sort of on the ledge, one foot on and one foot unsure of where to land.

The book felt repetitive and on the long side; and I know that some things that happened to her happened repeatedly, which is what made her early life so awful, so I should appreciate the many recounts and not be critical.   Also, I should judge memoirs differently than the novels I usually read, where one can wish for a certain outcome, a happy ending or some resolution.   Here I tried to hold a different mindset; but like in most nonfiction, my mind wanted it to wrap up quicker than it did.

What Tara endured and how she overcame it was incredible, unbelievable, although I do not doubt her account. Some of it was hard to read and some hard to fathom.  A psycho brother who wished her dead.  A bipolar father who forced the children to work for him under deplorable, dangerous conditions.  Difficult to understand how she would keep going back to her family for acceptance and validation, even after successfully turning her life around with an education any scholar would aspire to, and after that family spread vicious lies about her.  Even an educated person may need to learn how to permanently say goodbye to people who are bad news.  I fear her story is far from over.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Watch Me - Review

Watch Me  🌟🌟⭐
by Jody Gehrman
Published January 23rd 2018 by St  Martin's Griffin

Reading about Sam stalking Kate, his college writing instructor, I couldn't help but be reminded of Joe stalking Beck in You, a book I liked a lot.  Both books have unlikeable characters who are emotionally needy, and the males are creepy and disturbing.  My comparisons were endless.  Of course, You came first and created quite a sensation -- a stalker with a sense of humor; a killer who was at times sympathetic.  Sam has few good qualities.   Sam is smart and Kate is certain he could someday become an accomplished writer.  His character, a sociopath, provides the tension but also incredulity.   Kate at age 38 acts like a 20 year old school girl rather than the adult. Very frustrating.  

Like I said in my review of You, I'm usually able to enjoy reading about a variety of disturbed people as long as it's also an intriguing story. And I guess therein lies my problem.   Maybe Watch Me isn't trying to emulate You, and I hope it isn't, and maybe my comparisons are unfair or obtuse. These are simply my reactions.  2.5 stars, an OK read.

I received a free copy from St. Martin's Press Publicity through NetGalley.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Missing Isaac - Review

Missing Isaac  πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘
by Valerie Fraser Luesse 
Published January 2 2018 by Fleming H Revell Company

This was a win from for my honest (albeit late) review.  Missing Isaac takes place in Glory, Alabama, during the mid 1960s when the country was exploding with racial strife, war protests, and political assassinations.  Glory seems gloriously untouched by most of this news, which  may be what I  felt was missing from a book that is tagged as historical fiction (as well as Christian fiction). 

Pete McLean is the only child of a wealthy widowed farm wife, with Isaac being their black hired man and closest thing to best friend.  His grandfather Daddy Ballard is now his father figure.  Isaac goes missing following a card game and Pete takes it hard, but his efforts to find out what happened (since the authorities aren't doing anything) are eventually forbidden for his own safety.  After that it's up to Daddy Ballard to put his money to good use in trying to find Isaac.
The beginning of the book had me absorbed in the richly visual descriptions of the area, where the hired black folk and the poor live in harmony with the Ballard/McLean family on land owned by Daddy Ballard.  There are a couple of bad characters thrown into the mix.   As it progressed, I enjoyed Pete gaining a new unlikely friend named Dovey, and their relationship is sweet (but not overly so).  The main characters are all really nice people, and niceness can wear thin on me, but they were also likeable and interesting if not somewhat unbelievable.

I did not know this was Christian fiction going into it, but it actually was pretty good.  I liked it overall, but the first half grabbed me more than the second.  My main complaint would be that the Ballard money was the solution to almost every obstacle that presented itself, which seemed like an easy out whenever the plot thickened. Marginal thumbs up.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Flight Attendant - Review

The Flight Attendant  🌟🌟🌟🌟
By Chris Bohjalian 
Published March 13 2018 by Doubleday

Another addictive read from the talented Chris Bohjalian, and again, it's like none of his other books.  I would classify this one as an international spy thriller, but that doesn't become obvious until later.  At first it rivaled The Girl on the Train for most outlandish female alcoholic, only this time it's the girl on the plane.

Cassie seems to live a charmed jet-setting life as a flight attendant, getting her pick of international flights like Rome, Berlin, or Dubai, with NYC her home base.  Actually, though, she is quite a mess, picking up strange fellows at every hotel, and drinking until she either passes out or blacks out (there is a difference).  This is what ultimately gets her into trouble while in Dubai, and the trouble follows her home and everywhere else she ventures.  Despite the seriousness of her situation, she continues to act like a crazy teenager set loose for the first time in the big city.

Addictive, like I said, and very suspenseful.  I read it in two days time.  There's a great twist at the end that I never saw coming, and then the Epilogue, for me, seemed somewhat far fetched.  But who knows, maybe these things are more common than we know.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.