Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Stolen Marriage - Review

The Stolen Marriage  🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Diane Chamberlain
Published October 3 2017 by St Martin's Press

Despite a rather slow beginning and a few flaws, this book, full of history from the 1944 era, eventually had my attention as the characters grew into themselves.  Set mostly in Hickory, NC, we are aware that there are men from town who have gone off to war, that this is a time when women and blacks were to know their places, and that polio was becoming  a force to be reckoned with.  While Tess' fiancΓ© is in Chicago treating polio, she makes an irreversible error in judgment and marries a virtual stranger with an unwelcoming matriarch of a mother and sister.  Soon she discovers that her new husband has many odd behaviors  and secrets.  Some of the reveals I saw coming, but only to a degree.

As a little girl growing up in a small town during the 50's, I knew a few people with polio (a friend's cousin two years older who was beautiful but nevertheless taunted by school children for her limp, a boy two blocks away who was my oldest brother's age, my 7th grade math teacher),  and we knew how lucky my family was to have been untouched.  We experienced the polio vaccines administered by shots and then on sugar cubes (Blech!  I actually spit mine out when no one was looking, which then worried me for years to come).  Diane Chamberlain is a fine teller of real historical events with her own twists  added, and the makeshift polio hospital they built in Hickory in a fifty-four hour time period was fascinating to read about, enough so that Life magazine visited soon after its opening.   The author's version of the story teaches how we adapt to our circumstances and overcome adversity.  I thought she did an admirable job, and I thank the publisher and NetGalley for my advance copy.  

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Other Girl - Review

The Other Girl   πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ
by Erica Spindler  
Published August 22 2017 by St. Martin's Press
Finished October 2 2017

When Randi was a rebellious fifteen year old, she one night hitched a ride with a guy and another girl.  It turned out to be the worst decision she ever made even though Randi managed to escape the guy's clutches before any physical harm was done.  But instead of the police taking her story seriously, they sent her to juvie for some weed found in her pocket. 

Cut to cop Miranda fourteen years later at a murder scene, and it's a gory one.  An old newspaper clipping is found there, and Miranda starts to flash back to that night years earlier when she was known as Randi.  The clipping and other strange things found at the scene cause her to wonder what ever happened to that guy and other girl all those years ago, and is Miranda strong enough to find out?

This one had me captivated all the way through.  It's a very interesting, well thought out story with not too many characters to clutter  it up.  Miranda is flawed (and somewhat messed up),  but not as much as most everyone else.  I did predict who the murderer was, but not until right before the book revealed it.  I am very grateful for being offered a pre-publication ebook, compliments of the publisher through NetGalley.  This is one I'll gladly recommend.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Malagash - Review

Malagash   🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Joey Comeau
Publishing October 3, 2017, by ECW Press
Finished September 25, 2017

Look at that cover!  It was the sole attraction for me, the only reason I requested this book, I will now admit.  I chose it even though the description made me a bit reluctant and I had no idea what a Malagash was.  Turns out, Malagash is a small town in Nova Scotia to where one man has moved his family so he can finish out his life in the place he grew up.   He's  dying of cancer in a hospital.  His wife and son and daughter visit him daily, as does his mother.  The dad tells his silly jokes, sings songs, and tells them all that he loves them.  His brother comes to make peace. 
The setting of Malagash is important, but the family is moreso, because his daughter Sunday is recording all of his conversations with family on her phone.  This way her father's voice  and his unique personality will live on forever.  So that not only will she and her family have access to these recordings, she plans to let them loose into the world as a computer virus, a good virus, she says, where her father's ghost will dwell.    

It's a wonder of a book that just gets better the farther you progress. A sweet story of familial love, with a young adult feel to it since Sunday is the narrator.  A thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a lovely experience.  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Love and Other Consolation Prizes - Review

Love and Other Consolation  Prizes   🌟🌟🌟
by Jamie Ford
Published September 12, 2017, by Ballantine Books
Finished 9/19/2017

The story starts with Ernest Young as a small boy after his Chinese   mother has sent him sailing for a better life in America, where he is auctioned off at the 1909 Seattle Exposition.*  That piece of history, that such a thing really happened, is a troubling one to be sure and was one of the more interesting aspects.  But this is one of those times when I felt that the concept of a story was lost in the execution of it.  The pace was uneven, slow to start, better in the middle, and an ending that seemed to  drag out over several chapters.  
Ernest as a boy falls in love with two girls, and is as an adult  recounting their adventures growing up in a brothel, while anticipating the 1962 Seattle World's  Fair with his wife, Gracie.  Early on we know that one of those young girls is Gracie, although that's not either of their names.   So you keep reading to figure out this odd puzzle.  

I really had high hopes for this one.  Ford's first book is one of my favorites, but the next and this one were lacking that certain something that puts you on edge and makes you excited to pick it back up again where you left off.  Ernest was such a sweet character but I think he deserved a better story with more interesting players on his team.  I saw many similarities with On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but this one didn't match up.  I do appreciate receiving an advanced copy from NetGalley and the publisher.

*(I just had to go to Wikipedia to learn more about the auction, and maybe the finished book includes this in the author's note, I don't  know:
"A month-old orphaned boy named Ernest was raffled away as a prize. Although a winning ticket was drawn, nobody claimed the prize. The ultimate destiny of the child was still being investigated in 2009."  I do hope that little Ernest had a great life, and not in a brothel.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Girl in Snow ~ Review

Girl in Snow    πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ
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  πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ
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.