Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Friday, April 28, 2017

Marlena - Review

Marlena   🌟🌟🌟🌟
Julie Buntin 
Published April 4 2017 by Henry Holt and Company

Finished 4/28/2017

During our formative teen years, it's highly possible that one year out of all others will remain with us and shape our lives for better or worse.  Cat's year is her fifteenth, having just moved to Northern Michigan with her brother and divorced mom, when she meets the very intriguing, older (17 yo) neighbor girl Marlena.  From the outset we know that Marlena's homelife  is not typical -- her mother has left, her father is one you wish would go away too, and drug dealers are everywhere.  We also know from early on that Marlena's days are numbered, and Cat's narration will slowly reveal how one manages to drown in an inch of water.    Cat's loneliness and Marlena's neediness bring them together to form an odd couple-type friendship, but at Cat's young age she is vulnerable and easily immersed in Marlena's world.  

From those times in Michigan,  Cat moves to New York and is about to meet up with Marlena's  brother at his request after many years, sure to dredge up memories of the once vibrant and colorful Marlena.  But even without this memory prompt, however, you come to realize how Marlena's life and death are still haunting Cat all these years later. The story itself is haunting, very dark and pervaded with sadness. 

This author is one to watch.  Her talent is quite evident, and the dialogue and character development are exceptional.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Woman No. 17 - Review

Woman No. 17   🌟🌟🌟
by Edan Lepucki  
To be Published May 9 2017 by Hogarth  

Finished April 22, 2017

Writer Lady Daniels and artist S Fowler  (pseudonym for Esther Shapiro) share the spotlight of this story set in the Hollywood Hills.  Lady gives the first POV, and I  was struck at how bluntly honest and forthright she was with us readers.  She kept me engaged even though her life was extremely messed up, but I eventually realized that she is not as honest  as she pretends to be, unfortunately for her family.  

S, on the other  hand, is upfront about her trickery and deceipt, at least with us readers.  She, weirdly, has taken on the persona of her estranged mother, who, when S's  age, was an irresponsible  nanny and a drunk. S also matches hair color change and makeup choices to Mom circa 1985.  Weird that S would want to imitate such a phase  in her mother's  life, and that she actually knew so many details.  S is doing this for an  "art project."  I didn't get it.  When Lady hires S as nanny to her three-year old, Lady has no idea that S is playing a part (Who would do that, after all?) and no idea how her 18 year old son will react to the new live-in.   S goes on to another  art project, one that Lady is unwittingly swept into, and I started to get the why, but felt it still very strange indeed.   

These women are more alike  than initially apparent.  Mother issues on both their parts; their mothers even had mother issues.  Mother issues are a big factor. That I  got!  Complicated relationships and self-absorbed characters make this one that you have to occasionally stop and wonder about, sometimes asking, Who are these people?  Do I  care about what will happen to them?  The children, yes.  The adults, not so much.   I read an ARC provided by

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane   🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Lisa See
Published March 21 2017 by Scribner

Finished 4/13/2017

4.5 stars.

Lisa See has made me very happy.  She can always be trusted to provide historical pieces that both entertain and inform the reader.  So even though the only tea I care to drink is Arizona Zero Calorie Green with Ginseng, I now know more about making tea in China than I could ever imagine, and I loved reading about the ancient customs and superstitions of the  mountain people known as the Akha.  Li-Yan's Akha family spent their lives selling tea, her mother also using it for medicinal  purposes and hoping to pass her skills on to her only daughter. 

 Li-Yan was forced to leave her firstborn daughter with an orphanage, from which the baby was later adopted by white Americans.  Li-Yan was intent on making it as an educated tea seller, while always wondering about the baby she gave up.  Although most pages are dedicated to Li-Yan's  story, we also get to know the little girl as she matures into a young Chinese - American scholar, curious about her Chinese heritage and especially the tea cake  that accompanied her into the orphanage as a baby.  

I found many similarities between this book and Secret Daughter, which took place in India and America.  I thought that one had a disappointing  ending.  This book, though... The last chapter is sure to tug at your heartstrings.  A beautiful book!  Thank you to NetGalley  and the publisher.