Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Girl in Snow ~ Review

Girl in Snow    🌟🌟🌟
by Danya  Kukafka
Published August 1 2017 (today) by Simon & Schuster
Finished August 1 2017

2.5⭐, rounded up.  I was given an advanced copy of this book by the publisher through NetGalley. 

The girl in the title is dead, and I am a bit creeped out now by that eye (her eye?) looking at me from the cover.

A high school girl, Lucinda, has been found murdered, a layer of snow covering her body.  The background story and the reveal are told slowly through three perspectives:  Cameron, an odd boy who essentially was Lucinda's stalker; Jade, a girl who seemingly hated Lucinda but envied her life; and Russ, a policeman  with a dead end job and marriage.  Like I said, the story moved very slowly; and I did not care about or identify with any  of the characters.  We don't get to know the dead girl well enough to feel much sympathy for her.

 I think this was a good first effort that got lost in the quagmire of how to keep the reader interested in a story that lacked substance.   There were some nice word choices, and I saw the potential for better books in this author's future.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Secrets She Keeps - Review

The Secrets She Keeps  🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Michael Robotham  
Published July 11 2017
Finished July 24 2017

The story of a new friendship gone horribly wrong, between Agatha, single and pregnant, and Meghan, married with her third little bun in the oven.  Agatha would be exactly the reason why I don't have a public Facebook page, why I don't write a blog except for my book reviews where I really don't care if I have any followers, and why I don't have any curtain-free windows.  Agatha is more or less stalking Meghan, and her stalking is made way too easy by Meghan's blog, the internet, and no window coverings.   If things don't go easily for Agatha, she is very resourceful.  We're privy to just how bad things can become and how both Agatha and Meghan act under extreme pressure. The pressure cooker that is at first doing a slow simmer is about to blow.

Fantastic thrill ride of a thriller, one of the best I've read this year!  The writing is brilliant.  He really knows how to encapsulate the personalities of his characters and how to draw the reader into their minds and individual stories. 

This is a review of an advanced copy from NetGalley and the publisher.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

You'll Never Know, Dear - Review

You'll  Never Know, Dear
by Hallie Ephron
Published June 6 2017
Finished July 19 2017

3.5 stars and a thank you to LibraryThing.Com  for my review copy.

I was attracted to this book by the creepy doll on the cover, wondering if dolls can still get to me like they once did.  Well, this was not as creepy as I had expected (and hoped) -- no dolls displaying signs of life; no Twilight Zone flashbacks.  This has more of an underlying suspense running throughout.

Two friends/neighbors, Miss Sorrell and Evelyn, are retired from their business of making dolls. Miss Sorrell's daughter Janey went missing some forty years ago, along with the doll Miss Sorrell had made especially for her.  The older daughter Lis was supposed to be watching Janey so she's felt guilty all these years, and still lives with her mother. They place a yearly ad offering a reward for the missing doll and any information as to where it came from.  A young woman answers the ad with a very old, damaged doll, leaves in a huff without giving her contact information, and the story takes off as the family tries to pursue this very strong possibility of a connection to Janey.

The story is engaging and did keep me wanting to read on to see how the various mysteries would come out; to see if what I thought had happened to Janey came true (I had it pegged almost to the letter).  As in many suspense novels, this had its red herrings and  implausible coincidences.  A rather slow start for me and then it took off, with well-drawn characters and an interesting sleep study program as a side story.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Ill Will - Review

Ill Will   🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Dan Chaon  
Published March 7 2017 by Ballantine Books
Finished July 5 2017

This is one unique book.  I will first say that I had an ARC from NetGalley but chose to listen to the finished version on audio.   A few of the chapters end, just stop, right in the middle of a thought, of a sentence.  Why?  Being edgy, risky, gimmicky?   Mr. Chaon, I don't usually care for gimmicks or such distractions. (This IS at least explained later.) The narration switches between characters, between first, second, and third person, and between past and present.  Why all the jumping around in books these days?  I don't usually care for that either, and was one of the reasons I gave your book You Remind Me of Me only 2 stars.

But, again, this book is SO different, to put it mildly.  This book, gimmicks and all, hooked me by the neck and yanked me along its journey through no less than two gripping murder investigations, two cancer deaths, two estranged brothers, two sisters also estranged, hard drugs, and multiple versions of the past.  Our remembrances of our own pasts are called into question:  You think no one knows your past better than yourself, but Chaon takes you by the neck, again, looks you square in the eye, and says Hah!  That's what you think!  And when a traumatic event such as finding your parents, aunt, and uncle all dead is involved, and of course when buku drugs are being ingested, memories are even more sporadic or repressed.

The older I become, the more I am uncertain of my own memories.  This is a subject that always fascinates me, in books or in discussions.  So I was simply captivated by this book and wished I could get back to it every time I put it down.   It was chilling, and the author's choice to be a little out there worked for me this time, but may not for others because.... 

I did read parts of the ARC aside from listening to it.  I could not get into the printed book at all and can see why some low ratings. My reason is that the formatting in some chapters gives us two or three columns of narration side by side on the pages.  Not so unusual, but then I could not figure out for certain if I was supposed to read all 3 columns on a page before turning the page, or was I supposed to read all pages of the left-hand column first, followed by all pages of the middle column, and then the right-hand.  I really didn't spend too much time on that since in the audio, that decision was made for me. 

Thus, I for one would recommend the audio over other versions.  Plus, it was just excellent.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Story of Arthur Truluv - Review

The Story of Arthur Truluv   🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

by Elizabeth Berg
Published August 2017 by Random House
Read 6.24.2017

Some of my greatest reading pleasures have come from Elizabeth Berg, so I was very happy to receive an uncorrected proof on Kindle of her latest offering from NetGalley and Random House.  Now that I've  finished, I  wish I  had the actual  book so I  could give it a big bear hug.  I've  never hugged my tablet before, but I guess I could start now....
No, it's  just not the same but will suffice for now.

There seems to be a trend, as the population ages, for books about old folks, and I found myself comparing Arthur to A Man Called Ove, and Lucille's situation to that in Our Souls at Night.  But let me be clear -- this book is not a knock off.   Ms. Berg's characters and story are not only original, but unique, loving, and expertly crafted from her heart and soul.  I loved Ove, but Arthur is not the cantankerous geezer Ove was. Arthur is his own person, a man grieving and remembering his deceased wife by visiting her grave  every day, but also a man who still loves living.  He honors Nora and their memories, and has no one now but his neighbor, Lucille.  At the cemetery, he meets a troubled teen named Maddy and their friendship transforms both of their lives. 

This book has charm, warmth, and will bring back all the good memories of parents and grandparents now passed.  Home cooking, rose gardens, and family -- the one you were born to or the one you make.  It will tug at your heartstrings.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Breakdown - Review

The Breakdown   🌟🌟🌟
by B. A. Paris
Expected publication July 18 2017 by Martin's Press
Finished June 16 2017

I'd advise future readers not to read any reviews as there are spoilers everywhere!  I saw one early on, and they're called spoilers for good reason.  The book blurb will tell you all you want to know.

In B. A. Paris' first book I disliked the characters and didn't care for the writing either, but the ending was pretty good.  This book is not as psychologically disturbing as the first, but I am going to say pretty much the same thing here.  I hated everyone, wanted to slap Cass more than a few times, the dialog is simplistic as well as the execution of the mystery.  The fact that so much time was spent illustrating daily "silent  calls" and that Cass just kept falling for it. Every. Single. Day... is repetitive and tedious and shows a lack of creativity.  Maybe I have watched classic movies like Sorry, Wrong Number and Midnight Lace too many times.  Obviously Cass has not seen either but I'll  bet Paris has.   Also, Cass, did you know you can turn off the ringer and turn on the answering machine?

But the ending, if you can make it there, again saves the day and raises the likeability factor at least one star.  The author's talent lies in how her femme fatale exacts her revenge.  She just needs to work on putting more mystery into her mysteries.
At this point, I am not sure I would read this author again.  But I am grateful to have received ARC copies from both Goodreads firstreads and from NetGalley.  Can't  wait to see what my book club says.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Conclave - Review

Conclave  💖💖💖💖💕

by Robert Harris, narrated by Roy McMillan
Published September 22 2016 by Random House Audio
Finished June 15 2017

In my twenties I read every Andrew Greeley novel I could lay my hands on; and now listening to Conclave reminded me a lot of Greeley since he wrote so prolifically about Cardinals, Popes, celibacy, politics, etc.   Men of God, be they priests, Monsignors, Cardinals, or the Pope himself are, after all, men and by nature, not without sin.  In Conclave, as the name implies, 118 Cardinals have gathered to elect a new Pope.  One by one, their sins are disclosed  and the contender list shrinks.  Can anyone be found who is pure, worthy, capable, and qualified for the calling?  

The dear departed Pope sounded as if modeled after our current liberal-leaner, Frances, but probably more of a schemer--who knows.   It seemed as if this Conclave was taking place somewhere in the not too distant future.  Harris' view of the future might not be as we would imagine.  Or maybe so.  I figured out the new Pope's identity almost immediately, but that was about it.   The ending was just great--it made me whoop out loud.  I highly recommend this,  whether you're Catholic or not  (I'm  not and I still loved it).