Thursday, June 25, 2015

review: summer secrets by jane green

After some semi-misses, Jane Green gets back on track with a British protagonist who has a drinking problem. Summer Secrets finds Cat, recently divorced and sober, working the steps in Alcoholics Anonymous and remembering the life that got her to this point. The scenes of the past unfold better than many of the present-day scenes which are a little too in Cat’s head. The action is in Cat’s drunken past and the first time she tried to get sober. That’s when Cat’s mother reveals that the man who raised Cat was not her father and that her biological father drank a lot as well. When Cat seeks him out, her fragile sobriety is compromised and Cat betrays her newfound family. When Cat regains her sobriety over a decade later, she knows she must make amends.

The family drama of Summer Secrets is excellent, but Green too frequently has Cat fall into a narcissistically whiny narrative, especially when she’s at AA meetings. Those scenes dragged and didn’t add to the overall plot. Fortunately much of Summer Secrets is about what occurred the first summer Cat visited Nantucket and the fallout from that first visit once she returns.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

review: how to be a good wife by emma chapman

It’s hard to write about How to Be a Good Wife without revealing too much. Emma Chapman’s debut is about a married woman who just might be crazy. She remembers nothing of her life before meeting her husband who says he rescued her from drowning when she was distraught over the loss of her parents. For years, Marta has taken medication, but she’s stopped now that her grown son has moved away. As a result, Marta thinks she is remembering things from her past, but those memories could also be hallucinations. How to Be a Good Wife has all the makings of a fantastic novel, but Chapman fails to deliver. To delve into how Chapman fails would spoil the ending, but trust that there are a multitude of plot holes and unanswered questions.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Picador.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

review: tiny pretty things by sona charaipotra & dhonielle clayton

Tiny Pretty Things focuses on three ballerinas competing first for roles in The Nutcracker and then for roles in Giselle. There’s Bette, the ice blonde who dates one of the male students; June who is part Korean and feels she doesn’t fit in; and Gigi, an African-American who has moved to New York from California and rooms with June. When Gigi is cast in the top roles over Bette, someone begins torturing Gigi in a fashion all too similar to what happened to another dancer the previous year. In a story that combines a cutthroat world of high school dancers (although it’s a bit light on actual dancing scenes) with cliffhanger mystery, no one in Tiny Pretty Things is safe from a fall (both literal and figurative). With the chapters alternating among the three girls, some of their secrets are made known to the reader, but it remains difficult to guess who is after Gigi. There’s no real resolution at the end; only a hint at what might have happened and the setup for the next book.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

review: thank you, goodnight by andy abramowitz

Teddy Tremble and his band had one hit, but then their second album bombed and they were dropped by the label. They have all since moved on from the band of their early 20s, but then a picture of Teddy titled Faded Glory ends up displayed at the Tate Modern. This leads Teddy to also discover a small European town where the band is still popular. It all triggers something so that soon Teddy is writing songs again and giving up his law career to get the band back together.

Although the ending leaves something to be desired, Teddy’s journey to becoming a rock star again is a great time. Teddy has some amusing comments about the music industry and which bands are actually worthy of liking that reveal much more about him than a basic description ever could. In Thank You, Goodnight, Andy Abramowitz creates a believable life trajectory for all of his characters while hitting all the right notes (until the end) in a story that has all the highs and lows of relationships both romantic and platonic.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

giveaway winner: blood ties by nicholas guild

Congratulations to Gabby who has won a copy of Nicholas Guild's Blood Ties.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

review: elders by ryan mcilvain

Written by a former member of the Mormon church, Elders provides an interesting glimpse into the life of a Mormon missionary living in a foreign country. In this case, Elder McLeod (all Mormon missionaries are called Elder) is in Brazil with a native Brazilian who was recently converted by another pair of missionaries. While Elder Passos is fully devoted to the church, McLeod has a number of doubts after growing up in the religion. The pair clash over this and other subjects such as the politics of the US. The story is very much slice-of-life and comes across like it may be a fictionalized account of the author’s own experiences which makes it a fascinating read although there is no resolution at the end.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Hogarth.