Professional Reader 80% 25 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Story of Arthur Truluv - Review

The Story of Arthur Truluv   🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

by Elizabeth Berg
Published August 2017 by Random House
Read 6.24.2017

Some of my greatest reading pleasures have come from Elizabeth Berg, so I was very happy to receive an uncorrected proof on Kindle of her latest offering from NetGalley and Random House.  Now that I've  finished, I  wish I  had the actual  book so I  could give it a big bear hug.  I've  never hugged my tablet before, but I guess I could start now....
No, it's  just not the same but will suffice for now.

There seems to be a trend, as the population ages, for books about old folks, and I found myself comparing Arthur to A Man Called Ove, and Lucille's situation to that in Our Souls at Night.  But let me be clear -- this book is not a knock off.   Ms. Berg's characters and story are not only original, but unique, loving, and expertly crafted from her heart and soul.  I loved Ove, but Arthur is not the cantankerous geezer Ove was. Arthur is his own person, a man grieving and remembering his deceased wife by visiting her grave  every day, but also a man who still loves living.  He honors Nora and their memories, and has no one now but his neighbor, Lucille.  At the cemetery, he meets a troubled teen named Maddy and their friendship transforms both of their lives. 

This book has charm, warmth, and will bring back all the good memories of parents and grandparents now passed.  Home cooking, rose gardens, and family -- the one you were born to or the one you make.  It will tug at your heartstrings.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Breakdown - Review

The Breakdown   🌟🌟🌟
by B. A. Paris
Expected publication July 18 2017 by Martin's Press
Finished June 16 2017

I'd advise future readers not to read any reviews as there are spoilers everywhere!  I saw one early on, and they're called spoilers for good reason.  The book blurb will tell you all you want to know.

In B. A. Paris' first book I disliked the characters and didn't care for the writing either, but the ending was pretty good.  This book is not as psychologically disturbing as the first, but I am going to say pretty much the same thing here.  I hated everyone, wanted to slap Cass more than a few times, the dialog is simplistic as well as the execution of the mystery.  The fact that so much time was spent illustrating daily "silent  calls" and that Cass just kept falling for it. Every. Single. Day... is repetitive and tedious and shows a lack of creativity.  Maybe I have watched classic movies like Sorry, Wrong Number and Midnight Lace too many times.  Obviously Cass has not seen either but I'll  bet Paris has.   Also, Cass, did you know you can turn off the ringer and turn on the answering machine?

But the ending, if you can make it there, again saves the day and raises the likeability factor at least one star.  The author's talent lies in how her femme fatale exacts her revenge.  She just needs to work on putting more mystery into her mysteries.
At this point, I am not sure I would read this author again.  But I am grateful to have received ARC copies from both Goodreads firstreads and from NetGalley.  Can't  wait to see what my book club says.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Conclave - Review

Conclave  💖💖💖💖💕

by Robert Harris, narrated by Roy McMillan
Published September 22 2016 by Random House Audio
Finished June 15 2017

In my twenties I read every Andrew Greeley novel I could lay my hands on; and now listening to Conclave reminded me a lot of Greeley since he wrote so prolifically about Cardinals, Popes, celibacy, politics, etc.   Men of God, be they priests, Monsignors, Cardinals, or the Pope himself are, after all, men and by nature, not without sin.  In Conclave, as the name implies, 118 Cardinals have gathered to elect a new Pope.  One by one, their sins are disclosed  and the contender list shrinks.  Can anyone be found who is pure, worthy, capable, and qualified for the calling?  

The dear departed Pope sounded as if modeled after our current liberal-leaner, Frances, but probably more of a schemer--who knows.   It seemed as if this Conclave was taking place somewhere in the not too distant future.  Harris' view of the future might not be as we would imagine.  Or maybe so.  I figured out the new Pope's identity almost immediately, but that was about it.   The ending was just great--it made me whoop out loud.  I highly recommend this,  whether you're Catholic or not  (I'm  not and I still loved it).  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Stars Are Fire - Review

The Stars Are Fire  🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟  4.75 stars
by Anita Shreve
Published April 18 2017 by Knows Publishing Group
Read June 13 2017

Man, I didn't realize how much I have missed Anita Shreve until I started this book one morning and finished it that night.  It is that good. I enjoyed Grace's story tremendously. 

Grace is a thoughtful young woman feeling confused and trapped in what I would call an odd marriage, when the Maine coast is set ablaze one particularly dry autumn.  Wildfires wreak devastation for miles.  Everyone she knows is affected by the fires, by the huge losses, and by the kindness of strangers.  This is how Grace survives and comes into her own.  Her husband is missing and it gives her time to consider a different kind of future for herself and her children.  
Wonderful female characters make up most  of the cast -- women you just want to cheer on or give them a hug.  I was just a little disappointed by the Epilogue, but I definitely do recommend. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Women in the Castle - Review

The Women in the Castle   🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Jessica Shattuck
Published March 28 2017 by William Morrow
Read June 11 2017

I have read so many excellent stories of World War II, and after a while they seem to blend into one another with just a few of them remaining especially memorable.  Also just a few have brought real tears to my eyes as I don't easily cry over books.   This was one, and I already know it is going to be a story I remember and think back on for a long time to come.  The writing is so gorgeous and wrought with emotion, and the characters are so very real and sympathetic.

Marianne is the niece-in-law of a German countess, living in a castle in the woods of Bavaria in 1938, when her husband and best friend from childhood, both men in the German Resistance, fail in an attempt to assassinate Hitler and are themselves killed.  Marianne keeps her promise to her friend to find his wife Benita and son afterwards and keep them safe once the war is over.  Not only does she find them, but another widow named Ania and her children also come to live in the castle.  Ania is quiet and secretive but turns out to be a good housemate, and the three women form a type of life taking care of each other.

Marianne is one with a good heart, and good intentions that will end up going wrong.  The story takes many turns, some quite sad, some just heartbreaking.  Once Ania's true past is revealed about three-fourths into the book, I became glued to the pages.   And from there it just got better and better.  Very powerful and impactful, it delves into how the people who remained in Germany after the war were affected.  Those who were displaced, left with nothing, and those who cared enough to help their fellow citizens.  I also hadn't read many books on the German Resistance, so found that fascinating and relevant.   

I won an ARC copy from LibraryThings that never arrived so then was grateful to obtain a finished copy direct from the publisher.  

Saturday, June 3, 2017

If the Creek Don't Rise - Review

If the Creek Don't Rise  🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
by Leah Weiss
Expected publication August 8 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Finished 6.3.2017

I just can't resist sharing some of my favorite passages, minus quotation marks since they are from a pre-publication copy I obtained from the publisher via NetGalley.  

I don't smile. No sir. Life's too shitty. For a old woman, it's more shit than I can shovel. I can't remember if I ever had a choice but to put one foot in front of the other and walk the line on a rocky road to nowhere.

The first thing that struck me about this debut, aside from writing that is an absolute delight, was that this Appalachian tale tells mostly of the resident women folk and the smattering of simply good  people who live in Baines Creek, a remote mountain community.  It seems most stories that are set in Appalachia have only mean, nasty, law-breaking men as the main characters.  Here Sadie stands out among the crowd of narrators, beaten beyond recognition and redemption; beaten down but stronger and wiser for it, as was her grandmother  before  her.  These women aren't perfect by any means, but the mood of the story is such that we forgive them and understand.  Even the three darkest characters have their backgrounds revealed so that we understand them too.  Don't like them, but understand them, to an extent.

It is 1970 on the mountain, and the entire gamut of emotions is felt both there and in your heart as you read about this small town.  
Sometimes I feel this old mountain breathing weary. The high thin air gets sucked deep into her lungs, all the way back to the start of time.  I know her secrets and sins. This high place is hard on folks who give in or give up.  For those who stay, Baines Creek is enough.

It really was enough for me these past few days to take a short trip there and spend time getting to know everyone.  A real treat.