Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

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.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Poison - Review

Poison   🌟🌟🌟
by Galt Niederhoffer
To be published November 21, 2017, by St. Martin's Press 

Now, that's a good ending.  Quick, clean, and an I told you so.   

Loved the title's multiple implications, the relationship gone bad, the suspicions all around, substances with multiple uses and purposes.  I read this not trusting one single character.  Is Ryan trying to poison his wife Cass, or is she paranoid, delusional, and in need of psychological care?  

Liked less the writing in present tense, which seemed awkward to me and at times too much in the way of explanation.  But overall, an exciting and tense read. 

An unsolicited comp copy from St.  Martin's Press through  NetGalley.
3.5 stars.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

I Was Anastasia - Review

I Was Anastasia   🌟🌟🌟
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.