Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Saturday, November 11, 2017

I Was Anastasia - Review

I Was Anastasia   πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ
by Ariel Lawhon  
Feb 2018 by Doubleday
Finished Nov 11, 2017

Remember the thriller recently written completely in a reverse timeline and readers either tolerated it or hated it?   I didn't mind it too much, once used to it.   Well, in this  book only half of it goes backwards in time, but it bothered me anyway.  The chapters alternate between Anna Anderson's story and Anastasia's.  The Anastasia chapters slowly lead up to when the Romanov family is executed in 1918,  and Anna's goes from 1970 to around the time of the executions.  Only at the end do we know how it all started.  

I have been wondering... why another book on Anastasia; doesn't everyone already know this story?  Have we not watched it played memorably by Ingrid Bergman in the great old film, Anastasia, and heard the countless rumors of a Romanov surviving?  I was curious what this author could offer that wasn't already done.  For me, a few more personal details, and a renewed curiosity about Anna Anderson.  This is historical fiction and the author says she fudged on some details but not much.
All in all, I am not certain I'd recommend this one unless you do not already know the story, and even then a non-fiction might deliver better.  I have enjoyed looking at some pictures of the two characters, and there was a definite facial resemblance.  If this had been my first time learning about the Romanovs, I am sure I  would have rated it much higher.  Knowing how it would end and failing to feel any real connection until the last couple of chapters sabotaged this experience for me, I'm afraid.  Even so, some parts will remain memorable, I'm sure.  

Than you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Seven Days of Us - Review

Seven Days of Us  🌟🌟🌟🌟 3.5 stars rounded up
by Francesca Hornak 
Published October 17 2017 by Berkley Books

Overall, this is a really good character driven debut.  A family is in quarantine the entire week of Christmas because their doctor daughter Olivia was exposed to the deadly Haag  virus while on a mission in Africa.  There's another sister, Phoebe, who is preoccupied being engaged to George, who shows up at the house during the week and is thus forced into the quarantine as well.   

Everyone except Phoebe has a secret or two under wraps, and all are very intriguing.  Well, even Phoebe is hiding something but she hasn't  yet realized it.  I think the fact that we know these secrets and are wondering anxiously what will happen in the end makes this a 4 star book.  The characters are interesting  enough, except I would have slapped Phoebe and George multiple times if I  could have, and if I was the slapping sort.  Emma, the mom, got on my nerves a bit because I've  been in her situation and handled it a little differently, but she was a good person.  Olivia and Jesse the long lost bastard son were great.  Dad was a bit boring with his lack of awareness or caring (he is still evolving in midlife but not sure you'd call it a midlife crisis). The characters were a good mixture of annoying and heartwarming,  with about a 3 on my likeability scale.  So a 3.5.  

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.