Wednesday, April 26, 2017

review: the shadow land by elizabeth kostova

Elizabeth Kostova sets up two primary mysteries (one in the past and one that is tied to the past) in The Shadow Land. Years after the disappearance of her brother, Alexandra leaves America for Bulgaria where she plans to teach English. But before she even gets settled in, she inadvertently takes an urn from a family she meets while waiting for taxi. This unexpected turn leads Alexandra and her taxi driver on an adventure through Bulgaria as they attempt to track down the family and learn about the man whose cremains they now possess.

Alexandra's Bulgarian adventure is a bit far-fetched, but it is an interesting one with vivid descriptions. Kostova divides the action by having chapters alternate between the past (initially Alexandra's past, then shifting to the life of the deceased man) and present. The past serves to inform the present day, but there were times when it felt the story of Stoyan Lazarov's life should be more at the forefront. By the time it was all through though, the ending felt quite implausible.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

review: lucky break by deborah coonts

Lucky’s personal life was going along well (she’s engaged!) until someone who was once very close to her becomes the prime suspect in a murder. Lucky feels compelled to investigate, of course, but that puts her life in danger as she realizes that a man from the past is out of prison and out for blood. The sixth book in the Lucky O’Toole series revisits an old nemesis (from Wanna Get Lucky?), but is missing Lucky’s amazing snark. It seems Lucky has both matured (she’s basically the stepmom to Jean Charles’s son which seems to have changed her) and been worn down by the stresses of her life. And stresses Lucky does have! Lucky Break sees her losing most of her worldly possessions as she tries to clear Teddie's name and capture the real killer. While the previous books in the series concluded each mystery, Lucky Break ends on a cliffhanger that leaves the reader wondering if Lucky can still come out on top.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, Kate Tilton.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

review: we are never meeting in real life. by samantha irby

With an opening dedication to the drug Klonopin, Samantha Irby kicks off We are Never Meeting in Real Life. in hilarious style with her answers to the application to be on The Bachelorette, a show she describes as her “guilty pleasure jam.” Whether musing on reality TV (which she watches a lot of) or reflecting on some of the hardships she’s faced (her father was an alcoholic and her mother had to go into a nursing when Irby was a teenager), Irby shares it all in a markedly funny, self-deprecating fashion. Although graphically detailed at times, this collection is thought-provoking as Irby discusses her various relationships. Irby’s voice shines through on every page.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

review: the enchantment of emma fletcher by l.d. crichton

Emma grew up splitting time between her father's house and that of her alcoholic mother. Now that she's an adult, Emma hasn't been to visit the town where her mom lives for a few years even though her best friend still lives there. After being horrifically attacked, Emma returns and immediately reconnects with her old friends. The Enchantment of Emma Fletcher is a tale of friendship, love, and empowerment. Although the plot unfolds exactly as one might expect, L.D. Crichton does an excellent job with the relationships--romantic, platonic, and familial.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Star Books.

Monday, April 10, 2017

review: the girl from yesterday by kathryn miller haines

Helen is three years sober, but her life is suddenly falling apart again. It all starts when a detective contacts her about the murder of her best friend from high school—someone Helen hasn’t heard from since Carrie and her family mysteriously took off when Helen was 16. Given her history, Helen becomes something of a suspect. This is compounded by Helen’s attempt to keep Carrie’s death and the investigation a secret from everyone in her life. Helen makes plenty of mistakes, but her determination to get to the bottom of her friend’s disappearance and eventual murder is admirable. The mystery unfolds slowly with Helen uncovering lies from the past while someone in her present continues to frame her. There are plenty of suspects and the twists are fantastic.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Star Books.

Friday, April 7, 2017

review: royally roma by teri wilson

Royally Roma is billed as an update to the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday; unfortunately, Teri Wilson’s take is not quite as fun. In this version, an American named Julia meets a prince while working as a tour guide. Julia has been emotionally hurt by men before—most notably her father—so she’s leery of the handsome man who went on her tour of Rome then had no money to pay. As Julia and the prince predictably fall for each other, Wilson asks the reader to overlook a few issues. First off, the tour transportation is Julia’s scooter, which would be unreasonable for a tour of more than one person (Julia immediately asks Prince Nico if someone else will join them which would create an issue with the transportation. The scooter's clearly jammed in to match the movie even if it doesn’t quite make sense.). Then when Julia receives word from her employer that the man she’s with likely isn’t the one who booked the tour, she simply shrugs off the loss of her job and the scam the man just pulled and declares he must remain with her until he can make payment. This includes sleeping at her apartment. A more reasonable reaction might be to alert the police and try to get her job back, especially given Julia’s established wariness of men. Sure it all works out because he’s royalty, but it was all too contrived.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Star Books.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

review: gentlemen of the shade by jen sookfong lee

Jen Sookfong Lee was 15 when she and a friend skipped school to see My Own Private Idaho in the theater. She'd just purchased her first pair of Doc Martens and was immersing herself in alternative music; this was basically my life in the early 90s as well, so I found her assessments highly relatable. Throughout Gentlemen of the Shade, Lee explores the culture of the time, the reaction to My Own Private Idaho, the life of the actors and director, and how the movie affected her as well as the movie's role now two decades later. Lee writes, "There was an abundance of hypocrisy in the world around us. Before My Own Private Idaho, I was only dimly aware that this was true and was still, at least partially, a believer in the prettiness of the culture I had grown up in. After My Own Private Idaho? That was a whole different story." Her examination is thought-provoking and the analysis of the period is excellent.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, ECW Press.