Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Last Ballad - Review

The Last Ballad  🌟🌟🌟
by Wiley Cash
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This would be my least favorite book from the Wiley Cash repertoire. I adored his others. I set this aside before after only one chapter, thinking I'd finish it another day. That day came when my book club made it our March selection. Then during this attempt at it, I swore at the 50% mark I could go no further. But for the sake of my book club, I skimmed a couple of chapters and it picked up again with about 150 pages remaining. Thankfully, those final pages were (for me) the best of the entire book, go figure. Action packed, emotional, and nicely wrapped up.

What I didn't love was that the chapters jumped around from new character to new character, and also from past to present. Just as I felt a rhythm in my reading, someone I never heard of would show up, interrupting the flow. This is something I find jarring in any book, and as I get older it becomes more difficult to adjust to. Also problematic is that I didn't particularly care for Ella May, the heroine of the book. I should have felt more empathy for her and her situation, I know. But instead, I felt Cash gave us someone emotionally distant and rather cold. She seemed to glide much too easily from struggling single working mother to activist, without a sense of any inner struggles or conflicted feelings.

These are solely my opinions, and unpopular ones at that, given the high ratings on goodreads. So if you are one who doesn't mind time shifts and changing points of view from too many characters to count, go for it. Especially if you're already a Cash fan, you owe it to yourself to give it a try

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Alternate Side - Review

Alternate Side    🌟🌟🌟
by Anna Quindlen  
Expected publication March 20 2018 by Random House

This will be a difficult review, because I love every one of Anna Quindlen's  books -- but I didn't love this one.  She writes about New York life and motherhood, neither of which have anything to do with me, yet I still find her stories and her storytelling flawless. 

However, I almost didn't finish this book because at first it was all about a parking lot on a dead end street.  And a husband who was obsessed with renting a spot and proud as a peacock when his wish was granted.  While I was struggling to maintain interest, a LOT  of neighbors in this upper middle class community were introduced, but most of their names escaped me as I was only half paying attention.

I did stick with it and was glad to know more about the characters and less about the parking lot finally, but I couldn't help wishing I'd chosen an alternate book to read.  There was a sorry incident in the parking lot (there we are again) that pretty much changed everything and everyone in some sad ways, but that wasn't enough to make me fully invested in the outcome.

An ARC from NetGalley and the publisher.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Boat Runner - Review

The Boat Runner 🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Devin Murphy  
Published September 2017 by Harper Perennial  

Jacob Koopman comes of age when the Nazis come to Holland, Rotterdam is flooded, and his brother is lost.  Soon he will lose others and be taken under his Uncle Martin's  wing, something both educational and dangerous.  Martin has to be my favorite character, after Jacob.  He runs his boat  through the North Sea to help the Germans, but with friends like Martin, the Germans won't  know what hit them.  A ruthless plotter against the enemy, his teachings and love for Jacob ultimately  help Jacob to not only survive but to help others survive as well.

My first WWII book from the Dutch perspective and it's  a good one.  I heartily recommend.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Fourth Monkey - Review

The Fourth Monkey  🌟🌟🌟🌟 1/2 stars
by J. D. Barker
Published June 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Reading this, I was surprised at myself and how much I enjoyed it as a thriller, which actually bordered on horror at times, in my opinion.  I usually can't take extremely graphic descriptions of pain, torture, and lopped off body parts; so, although I flinched and cringed a few times, I still eagerly read on.  Why was that, what made this more readable?

First, there is my curiosity about serial killers and what in their childhoods turns them into monsters.  Check that off the list -- the killer himself has written his own autobiography of sorts in the form of a "Diary", and those thus - named chapters alternate with the cops' stories while trying to find the killer's latest victim.  This portrayed a deranged set of parents knowingly raising their kid to become  a very damaged individual, and it was disturbing.  Also outrageous at times.

Second would be the cops involved, their close relationships, their humorous banter, and their commitment to find the abducted girl before it's too late.  The lead police officer Sam Porter is a great character and one I look forward to revisiting in the next book of this series.  He was only beginning to be drawn here so I'd  love to see more of him.

And then there's the setting - Chicago!  I always love any story set in good ole Chicago, even if this author does seem to think my collar county Northwest of the city is considered "Downstate."  Thinking J.D. surely doesn't know Chicago very well, I looked up his biography; and he actually used to live in my town as a child.  Small world.  But still I disagree (as do many in Illinois) over what constitutes Downstate.

Optioned for both TV and film rights, I think this would make a fabulous movie from an author with tremendous talent.  Watch out, Stephen King.  

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Let Me Lie -Review

Let Me Lie  🌝🌝🌝🌛
by Clare Mackintosh  
Expected Publication March 8, 2018

3.5 stars  

A year after her mother and father have both committed suicide, first her father, then her mother, both jumping off the same spot into high tide, Anne is still reeling over how much she misses them and how her life has changed.  On the anniversary of her mother's death, she receives an anonymous note making her think perhaps her parents were murdered, and then mysterious warnings that maybe she herself is in danger.  She solicits help from the local police, a retiree who should just pass it off to a detective taking special interest in her case.

If ever a book was built on lies, and there are so many such books these days, this one has lies from beginning to end.  So many lies... and twists!  I do love twists.  Some I saw coming, others not at all.  Some were a bit out of left field.  And the rotating points of view make the suspense build to the point where it took everything I had to refrain from reading ahead.   Overall it's  a read you can immerse yourself in and forget your own troubles for a bit.  Believe me, Anne's are worse than yours.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy.  

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Girls in the Picture - Review

The Girls in the Picture   🌟🌟🌟
by Melanie Benjamin
Published January 16 2018 by Delacorte Press

3.5 stars.

About a century ago, actress Mary Pickford and scenarist Frances Marion were best friends as their young careers were just taking off.  Together, they forged new paths for women in their industry, with Mary forming United Artist's studio with husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Frances being the best and highest paid female screenwriter.  With today's spotlight on Hollywood's  so-called casting couch, this story was quite timely in detailing how that term started, when these two women were in their thirties, their careers winding down.  Despite the strides made by these women, men still held the power and got away with pinching and feeling up whatever female body parts they desired.  Actresses who had babies, even those who were  married, risked outrage from their fans, while actors and studio heads could sire a dozen or more children with no such risks.  

Told in alternating chapters from each of the women's points of view, the book was certainly interesting, but not in a "can't wait to get back to that book" way.  It is honest and forthcoming, which makes for a likeable historical fiction tale.  It tells of two friends who grew estranged for different reasons, but were together courageous pioneers in their fields and impacted the film industry just as much as any of the studio heads of their time.  Unfortunately, I thought it a bit repetitive and on the longish side.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy.   

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Wife Between Us -Review

The Wife Between Us  🌟🌟🌟
by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen  
Publishing by St Martin's Press January 9 2018 

Wow, where to start?  I'm  reading along thinking the alternating points of view are leading down one road, and then BAM, nothing is as it seems and the path to the climax takes an entirely different course.  Some readers are going to hate this, some will love it.  Some will be sooooo confused.  You may need to go back and reread parts.

For me, I felt somewhat manipulated and kept asking myself if what happened really made any sense.  I kept with it, through more twists and turns, until the very end.  And then I started it over again.  And yes, it did make sense knowing now what I didn't know before.  So, touche and congrats to the author for pulling it off!
Absolutely not what I expected at all, from the title or from the first few chapters.  

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley.