Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Summer That Melted Everything - Review

The Summer That Melted Everything     🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Tiffany McDaniel
Published by St. Martin's  Press

Finished  9/30/16

If someone has gone through hell,  does that make him the devil? 
It's 1984 in the small town of Breathed, Ohio, where "The bright bright stars could not save the dark dark sky."  Sal  comes to town after Autopsy Bliss places an ad inviting  the devil to show himself in Breathed. Sal appears, as nothing but a young black boy wanting some ice cream, a kid wise beyond his years who emits heat and sweat like a furnace, during that hot, sweltering summer.  Sal says he is indeed the devil and is answering the newspaper ad.
Slowly his story and that of the  Bliss family who takes him in are peeled back; and if bad luck and tragedy don't follow Sal, they seem to envelope many others who conclude that Sal is to blame for it all.

The writing was marvelous (a genuine marvel) and unusual,  as was Mark Bramhall's  narration (that man is everywhere!).  The phraseology and the story left me breathless in so many ways: sighing at the beauty the words formed, gasping at the twists, and the ending was a real punch in the gut--it knocked the wind out of me.  I really wonder if this has anything to do with how the author arrived at the fictional town's  name of Breathed.  I have no more to say, just read it.  This book and this author will go far, in my opinion. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Small Great Things - Review

Small Great Things     🌟🌟🌟🌟
By Jodi Picoult
Expected Publish Date 10/11/16 by Ballantine/Penguin Random  House  

Finished 9/24/16

I used to read everything Jodi Picoult offered up, and she was one of my favorite fiction writers.  I have other favorites now, but she can still get under my skin and into my head like the best of them.  Always timely, always controversial, her subjects are tackled with aplomb and proficiency.  

Now she's spun a tale of racial prejudice.  She knew how difficult this would be for a white privileged woman such as herself, and she was aware that she wous be setting many tongues a-wagging, from all peespectives.  She has woven a very complex story from three sides: 

  • Turk, a white supremicist.  Oh, he doesn't hate black people, he just thinks whites are so much better, so he says.  His newborn son dies shortly after a routine procedure, and he manages to bring a suit against the only black nurse in the hospital.
  • Ruth, the nurse, a widowed mother who must seek defense for her actions.
  • Kennedy, the public defender who takes on the case, who thought she knew herself and what's  what in the world, but learns so much more from Ruth.  Her feelings about racism I'm sure mimicked the author's and were quite evocative.  

At first, the Turk chapters made me so angry, I couldn't even read them.  I thought the descriptions of his hate-filled world  so appalling, I didn't want to think about it.  So I skimmed.  (Hiding head in sand.)  The later chapters, though, managed to hold my attention MUCH better.  Not that I liked him or his life or his story more than Ruth's or Kennedy's, but the resolution of his story was sort of genius.  Like Ms. Picoult.  Hell, like this book!

I strongly recommend.  Could make for quite a highly-charged book club discussion. A big thanks to NetGalley and to Ballantine/Penguin Random House for an Advanced Readers Copy.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd: A Flavia de Luce Novel (Flavia de Luce #8) - Review

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd: A Flavia de Luce Novel (Flavia de Luce #8) 🌟🌟🌟

Expected to be  Published 9/20/16 by Bantam
Finished 9/5/16

- I fear  our world  is  changing, Miss Flavia, and not necessarily  for  the  better.

Wise old Dogger utters these prophetic words  to Flavia  in the first  chapter, after she's  come home  from boarding school  to no reception, her pet chicken gone, and her father in hospital  with a bad case of pneumonia, no visitors allowed.   But for our Flavia, now twelve and shaken up by it all,  life goes on as usual mostly.  She's  pretty free to roam the countryside on her own, and one day discovers  a dead body while on an errand.  She performs her own investigation of the premises before calling in the authorities, and from then on is consumed in the case.  The case was rather complicated, but not for Flavia.  As usual, she seems to know all the  right  places to go and people to see, moreso than the official  investigator.

As I write this, it occurs to me that one could  write virtually the same blurb and the same review  for  every  one of these books (Flavia  discovers  a body,  Flavia  rides  her bike Clara through all  sorts  of weather sorting out clues, Flavia solves the case).  They certainly do follow  a pattern.  Yet the pattern never gets old!  It's  like visiting an old friend.  This time our friend is growing up, like it or not.

Many  thanks  to NetGalley  and the publisher.

Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House - Review

Glory Over Everything:  Beyond  The  Kitchen  House  🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Kathleen Grissom
Published by Simon & Schuster

Finished 9/5/16

Thank  you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an egalley.  I chose to listen to a finished audio copy.

Jamie Pike from The Kitchen House is now James Burton, wealthy silversmith and artist of Philadelphia.  I  think I liked this more than the original, even though I've given them both 4 stars.  There are some wonderful characters  that we get to know, and James, although very well formed  and sympathetic, was probably my least  favorite, when compared to the truly great (and not as well formed) Robert, Pan, Addy, and Sukie.  I greatly appreciated the ease in following the chapters (each told us what year it was and whose point of view was up).  Gradually I  was completely absorbed and taken by the story, which had some sad moments and heartbreak, some close calls, death as well as new life, and with the Underground Railroad perhaps some hope for the future.

I think the author could very well continue the story even more, but it sounds like that's  not in the cards, which is sadly our loss.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - Review

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Tom Franklin
Published by William Morris

Finished 9/14/16

M, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, crooked letter,  crooked letter,  i, humpback, humpback, i.
That spells Mississippi if you're  from the South, so they say. Not sure if I ever heard the humpback version before.  The Mississippians in this book are probably not much like most folks you know, with highly dysfunctional families, a mean or absent father in every one, kids that are oppressed and depressed. Then we have snakes in mailboxes, preteens playing with guns, in a town where blacks are in the majority and whites the minority.  Larry Ott, suspected in a girl's disappearance in his teenage years but never charged, grows up lonely and ostracized in their little town.  Silas was his friend at one time, but not since he moved away and came back as the Constable. Now Larry is friendless --and alone since his mother moved  into a nursing home.

Did I mention guns?  Guns everywhere, like the kudzu strangling the forest and everything in it.  To these people, "Gun control means hitting where you  aim."

This was a slow starter for me; took me a while to get used to the odd words used and the slow build up, and to the awfulness of Larry's father  and Cindy's  step-father.  Larry is a bit of a nerd who needs to grow on you.  Silas made some poor choices but was redeemed in my eyes.  The current-day mystery I figured out in no time; the other one I did not.  By the end it was unputdownable  (stole that word from someone, sorry).  Really good read!