Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Kitchens of the Great Midwest - Review

Kitchens of the Great Midwest    🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
by J. Ryan Stradal
Published July 28 2015 by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

Finished  1/21/17

Just as your first steaming cup of coffee of the morning, sweet butter melting on freshly baked bread, a brilliant red heirloom tomato,  a slice of carrot cake, and wine, great wine, are meant to be savored, so are these stories of Eva Thorvald.  Born to a woman who chose a sommelier  over her and a man who cherished her more than life itself, she grew up in our great Midwest learning about fresh food and family through osmosis.  The descriptions made me hungry for farm stand produce and Peanut Butter Bars from the Lutheran church's  bake sale.  I'm  craving bi-color corn and a huge juicy vine-ripened tomato picked fresh this morning, still warm from the bright sunshine so missing from this January day here near Chicago.  Food truly is a language  we can all speak, even when there are no words for what's  in our hearts.

It's a one of a kind 5🌟 story and a debut to boot.  You did an excellent job, J. Ryan Stradal.  Your mother taught you well.  Thanks for the memories.  This was a great experience I  won't  soon forget.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

End of Watch - Review

End of Watch    🌟🌟🌟
by  Stephen  King
Published June 7 2016 by Scribner

Finished 1.10.17

I  was a little taken aback  at the ending of book #2 in this series because  I was afraid it meant that book  #3 would be something like Carrie meets Doctor Sleep.  That just wouldn't  do  even with Stephen King's name on the cover.  And while it wasn't  quite like that, it was a bit over the top.  But, dang if King doesn't pull it off.  Still, it's my least fav of the series.

Mr. Mercedes ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Finders Keepers ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I'm so glad to have listened to it.  Will Patton, narrator extraordinaire,  is the man.

My Losing Season: A Memoir - Review

My Losing Season   🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Pat Conroy  
Published January 1 2002 by Doubleday

Finished 1.9.17

When Pat Conroy made his escape from an abusive ass of a father  to play the game he loved, basketball, at The Citadel, he had no idea the abuse  would continue in the form of (a.) his fellow classmates during Hell Night and then his entire plebe year, and (b.) his coach, who thrived on shaming his players in one way or another until they either collapsed in on their emotions or put on an "I'll  show him" performance when next out on the court.   Torn between his two loves, for the game and for developing himself as a writer, Conroy recalls his sad childhood and his time spent on the bball  court up  to  his senior "losing season."  His aim was to see if more is gained from losing than from winning.  For us readers, I'm  so glad that the turning of a phrase finally beat out the spinning of the basketball as his ultimate destination.

Even so, the prologue reveals that the writing and rehashing of his past was not so easy on him either:

"I have a history of cracking up at least once during the writing of each of my last five books. It has not provided the greatest incentive to head for the writing table each morning, but it's the reality I live with."

What a shame.  Kind of makes you wonder what drove him to continue on doing something that might break him.  It seems that writing about all of the near breakdowns during his formative  years, which should have been cathartic, instead caused a gloom to spread over him.  His own words, according  to

"Conroy lived in Beaufort with wife Cassandra until his death. In 2007, he commented that she was a much happier writer than he was: 'I'll hear her cackle with laughter at some funny line she's written. I've never cackled with laughter at a single line I've ever written. None of it has given me pleasure. She writes with pleasure and joy, and I sit there in gloom and darkness.'"

Wonderful writing with deep introspection and raw honesty.  Be warned, though, there is a lot of bball playing (the stories are wonderful, funny, sad and some long-winded) and a cast of characters to rival a phone book.  Interspersed is self-doubt at every turn, a man so humble he felt any awards or accolades he won were undeserved, and not a dishonest bone in his body.  A true Southern gentleman.  
RIP Pat Conroy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Winter in Anna - Review

The Winter in Anna
by Reed Karaim
Published January 17 2017 by W. W. Norton & Co.

Finished 1/5/2017

Two young adults Eric and Anna meet while working together at a small town newspaper, become fast friends, and maybe never before have two people known so much yet so little about each other.  Eric didn't stay long but spent his life thinking about the meaning of Anna,  the "winter in Anna" where she finds snowstorms  unbearable (one of her many mysteries), and the meaning of their relationship; the reasons for the different things Anna did and how to explain her to those still puzzled after her tragic death.

This is a quiet, contemplative story.  It is difficult to find words equal to its beauty.  If you want adventure and thrills, do not tread here amidst these tales of sadness and Badlands.  If you want a meaningful, impactful read, proceed slowly and prepare for a real treat.  You might not be able to put it down.  

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.