Thursday, August 27, 2015

review: wife 22 by melanie gideon

Alice spends a lot of time online. She’s married with two kids and teaches drama to elementary school students, but much of her life is spent online. Because of that Melanie Gideon intersperses Google searches, emails, and social media posts with the regular prose of Wife 22. The format works well here as it brings the reader more thoroughly into Alice’s life. It’s not a life many would aspire to though. Alice is quite neurotic. She obsesses about the sexuality of her preteen son, worries her teenage daughter has an eating disorder, and wonders about the happiness of her marriage. Does she approach her family about any of these things though? Not a chance. She just goes online and finds she has an email inviting her to participate in a marriage study. She readily agrees and Gideon spins the tale from there. Had the characters been less clich├ęd and the plot twist not so easily guessed, Wife 22 might have been a stand-out in women’s fiction; instead it is a glimpse into an uninspiring life.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Ballantine Books.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

review: lizard radio by pat schmatz

Kivali has grown up believing she was an abandoned baby wearing a shirt with a lizard on it when Sheila, Kivali’s guardian, found her. Sheila also told Kivali she wouldn’t have to go to CropCamp until she was 17, but now Kivali is 15 and Sheila is sending her away. Kivali is understandably confused, but figures out the truth of her life over the course of Pat Schmatz’s dystopian novel that raises a number of questions about identity.

The story captivates, particularly as Kivali unravels the secrets of her past, but the world-building was lacking. Schmatz didn’t make clear how this society came to be or even how the CropCamp, where the majority of Lizard Radio takes place, is supposed to churn out proper adults. Despite the failed world-building, Lizard Radio is a worthwhile read as Schmatz brings the characters to life in what becomes a thought-provoking plot.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

review: golden boy by abigail tarttelin

Just before turning 16, Max is raped by the son of close family friends. While some who experience that trauma choose not to make a police report, Max has very complicated reasons for making that decision. Max’s father is the crown prosecutor, who is about to campaign for Parliament. Furthermore, Max is intersex, which very few people know (his rapist is one of the few). From this startling beginning, Abigail Tarttelin forms a powerful family-oriented story full of emotion and hard decisions. While the subject matter is heart-wrenching at times, Tarttelin handles it with grace centered in realism.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Atria.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

review: the woman in the photograph by dana gynther

I went into The Woman in the Photograph knowing little about Lee Miller and Man Ray, whose lives Dana Gynther fictionalizes in her second novel, but feel I know them well thanks to Gynther’s elegant depiction that brings them to life. The Woman in the Photograph is full of romantic entanglements and professional jealousies, especially as Miller’s star rises and Ray takes credit for her work. Gynther draws upon the known history of the two artists and their associates to create animated scenes that explore the life of a woman with tremendous independence for her time.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

review: anchored by brigitte quinn

Drawing on her own background as a television news anchor, Brigitte Quinn crafts a noteworthy tale of a cable news anchor trying to balance family with work which includes dealing with a ladder-climbing producer. Too frequently novels about TV news (the industry I work in) are filled with inaccuracies and implausible situations, but Quinn tells it like it is. By setting Anchored in 2000-2001, she’s also able to incorporate actual events that affected America and the TV industry which makes the novel even more realistic. The affair plot, though, is where Quinn suffers some setbacks. Although Barbara and Jack are both attractive and charismatic, there is little else to explain their developing romance. Given that Quinn establishes both as long-time professionals who have never previously cheated on their spouses, more explanation was needed as to why Barbara and Jack would choose to pursue each other.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

review: pretty baby by mary kubica

Through shifting perspectives the story of a homeless teen with a baby befriended by a woman who works for a non-profit helping those living in poverty. Despite the objections of her husband, Heidi brings Willow and infant Ruby home. Heidi ignores her husband, daughter, and job to focus on her foundlings. As Chris grows suspicious of Willow and begins to investigate her, he knows her presence could cause problems for his family, but has no idea the scale of the problems coming. As with her debut novel, Mary Kubica builds suspense in Pretty Baby by having events from the past intertwined with the present and aftermath. Kubica also drops a twist worthy of this layered thriller.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, BookSparks PR.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

review: high country nocturne by jon talton

High Country Nocturne is the eighth book in a series centering on a cop/historian turned private investigator. Although Jon Talton makes numerous references to events taking place in previous books, it’s not entirely necessary to read the previous books before diving into High Country Nocturne which has an action-packed, intriguing plot. David Mapstone is attempting to clear the name of his partner in the private investigator business after he’s been accused of stealing diamonds. But there are others involved in the diamond heist and David’s life is now in danger. Although the plot occasionally gets sidetracked by Mapstone’s slips into historian, it was fun to learn a bit about Phoenix (where the novels are set) since the city and the divisions between the various law enforcement agencies in the metro area do have their places in the plot.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

review: the actor and the housewife by shannon hale

Inspired by the stories her family made up on road trips to pass the time, Becky Jack pens a screenplay that she somehow manages to sell. Having traveled from her Utah home to Los Angeles to seal the deal, Becky meets her movie star crush, Felix Callahan. It is best friendship at first sight. But Becky is a married Mormon housewife with four children while Felix is an atheist married to a fabulous French model. The difference is lifestyle is one complication, but so is the fact that no one believes they are just friends, including (initially at least) their respective spouses.

By hitting upon only the highs and lows of the friendship, Shannon Hale spans over a decade in The Actor and the Housewife, which also causes some of the book to be passively written. The emotion is there though when it needs to be. Although I take issue with some of the elements of the book (women giving up their careers, Becky asking permission from so many in order to continue her friendship with Felix), The Actor and the Housewife wouldn’t be realistic without those given Becky’s background. The plot wholly rests on those elements and Hale does the story justice by incorporating the trials of life and how people frequently jump to the wrong conclusions.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Bloomsbury.