Monday, September 1, 2014

review: nowhere but home by liza palmer

Before I get to the details of Liza Palmer’s Nowhere but Home, I feel I should share a little background. While this is a great book, I think I had an appreciation for it that I wouldn’t have even a few months ago. After spending my entire life in the Pacific Northwest, I accepted a job in Texas which is the setting of Nowhere but Home. The setting plays such a large role in the novel that I definitely enjoyed the book more now that I’ve spent some time in Texas. There were plenty of moments when I thought, “That’s exactly how it is!” One of the biggest adjustments? Being called “ma’am.” And that’s just one of the things I related to in Nowhere but Home.

So what’s the book about and why did I love it so much (besides the setting)? Well, a woman named Queen Elizabeth Wake (yeah, she goes by Queenie) has been a bit of a wanderer ever since leaving her hometown—a place where she was always an outcast simply because she was a Wake. After being fired from yet another job, she decides to go home for a bit. Her sister still lives there and Queenie hasn’t seen her nephew, now a high school freshman and great football player, since he was a baby. Although she intended to make it a short visit, Queenie ends up staying far longer for a multitude of reasons.

Nowhere but Home has a fantastic family and small town dynamic to it. The growth that Queenie experiences, especially when working in the prison kitchen, over the course of the novel is quite the ride, but it’s a good one. Queenie learns a lot about herself and the life she fled. Palmer excellently inserts humor into what is, at times, a very emotional story so that it all comes together marvelously.
Review copy provided by the publisher, William Morrow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

review: wild within by melissa hart

After splitting from her husband, Melissa Hart starts taking her dogs to a dog park in Eugene, OR. That’s where she meets a man who works at a raptor rehabilitation center. Although Hart is a bit apprehensive around the owls and birds of prey housed at the center, she volunteers. Soon her entire life is consumed by Jonathan and the rehab center. In Wild Within, Hart documents their time together and how they eventually came to adopt a daughter. Hart spent an inordinate amount of time lamenting the long adoption process and the obsession the couple had with adopting a girl who would be just like Jonathan’s adopted niece. Although the couple experienced growth over the course of Wild Within, the initial obsession made them seem na├»ve and selfish which was a turn off.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

review: tuesday's gone by nicci french

The second in Nicci French’s Frieda Klein series has Frieda looking for the identity of a decomposing corpse found in the apartment of a mentally ill woman. Although the woman is initially a suspect, it soon becomes clear she brought the dead man back to her apartment in a misguided attempt to help him. It’s a fascinating plot, but the writing is a little clunky. The constant change in perspective and multitude of characters disrupted the action too frequently. Intriguingly, Tuesday’s Gone also brings in an underlying plot involving the happenings of Blue Monday—perhaps that first case isn’t yet over.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Penguin.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

review: dead float by warren c. easley

Cal Claxton is a lawyer who works on the side as a fishing guide for his friend’s company. Although he left the Los Angeles district attorney office for a small Oregon town, Cal still finds himself in the middle of all the action. This time around he’s the guide when someone on the trip is murdered. When the cops suspect Cal is the killer (he, whoopsie, once had an affair with the dead man’s wife), Cal and his friends set about proving Cal’s innocence and finding the real killer in what turns out to be a high stakes operation.

With a few chapters of set-up, Warren C. Easley establishes the story for those who haven’t read the first book in the series then gets right to the discovery of the body. From there the drama dies down a bit, but ramps back up for a big ending. Although Dead Float is not action-packed, it’s still a gripping mystery with excellent descriptions (particularly of the Deschutes River and surrounding area). Cal’s attachment to his dog and daughter (who has quite the tale as well in a subplot that throws off the pacing) makes the intelligent lawyer quickly relatable while his dalliance with a married woman becomes forgivable.
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.

Monday, August 25, 2014

review: follow me by joanna scott

After becoming pregnant by her cousin, the parents of teenaged Sally Werner try to make her marry him. Sally instead leaves her son with her parents and takes off for parts unknown. On her journey she’s spotted by two brothers who bring her back to their family who start calling her Sally Angel. Sally adopts the name and tries to make a life with these new people, but it’s long before she takes off again. She has another child and makes another name change all the while acting quite selfishly so that her daughter eventually decides to live with her father. Years later that daughter has a daughter named after Sally. It is that Sally who sets the narrative of Follow Me in motion—she wants to know the truth about her father, who has just gotten in contact after many years, and her grandmother’s secret past which is tied into the story of the younger Sally’s father. It took Joanna Scott a long time to finally reach that pay-off so that much of Follow Me is the story of the elder Sally’s troubled life. While parts of Follow Me are interesting, too much of it is Sally making herself out to be a wholly unsympathetic woman.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Back Bay Books.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

review: the curse of van gogh by paul hoppe

One of the blurbs for Paul Hoppe’s The Curse of Van Gogh says that the story features “a more credible character” than that of other stories featuring art theft. While this may be true, it also means the book is excruciatingly boring. Hoppe wastes more than 100 pages having Tyler simply meet with people. Sure, one of them vaguely implies a threat to Tyler’s family, but nothing happens in the first half of the book; it’s all setup.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

review: my last kiss by bethany neal

While celebrating her seventeenth birthday, Cassidy has a bit too much to drink. As a result, her ghost self can’t remember how she died. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but some don’t think Cassidy would’ve jumped from the bridge.

Although Cassidy seems to be in ghost form so she can solve the mystery of her own death, she doesn’t seem terribly concerned about actually doing that. Cassidy comes across as vapid as her main concerns are about boys and her friends rather than figuring out who she was on the bridge with and why. When she discovers that her boyfriend can hear her, they first discuss her being a ghost before she bothers to ask about the night she died. It’s a conversation that lasts six short sentences before the subject goes back to Cassidy haunting Ethan. Cassidy does so little to figure out how she died that My Last Kiss is less of a mystery than a trite story about underage drinking and bad freinds.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.