Tuesday, February 27, 2018

review: the great alone by kristin hannah

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Leni has spent her life moving from one place to another as her dad struggles to hold it together, but her family has always been in the northwest until her dad's contacted by the father of one his deceased war buddies. It seems Bo, who died in Vietnam, wanted his friend to inherit his land in Alaska. Ernt immediately moves the family to the remote Alaska town. They are wholly unprepared. And not just for the living off the land aspect. For in the winter when the hours of darkness stretch on, Ernt's demons come on with a vengeance.

With its vivid descriptions, The Great Alone pulls the reader in all directions. It is the tragedy of undiagnosed PTSD from years as a POW, it is the story of community and a family trying to make it against all odds, and it is a coming of age with a sweet high school romance. Above all, it is how Leni becomes the strong young woman she needs to be when astonishing circumstances force her to face a life she never would've imagined. The characters are excellently fleshed out with a richness that makes their stories all the more heartbreaking.
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin's Press.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

review: watch me by jody gehrman

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Get ready to be creeped out with Jody Gehrman's engrossing Watch Me. It opens with the words, "After five years waiting for this moment, watching you for the first time still catches me off guard." That's right, Sam worked hard for five years so he could enroll in his favorite author's creative writing workshop. Sam's obsession is Kate, a professor who's struggling a bit at the moment. She's newly divorced and stressed about her writing as well as the looming decision about whether or not she'll get tenure. Gehrman alternates chapters between Sam and Kate which works particularly well when the scene continues (such as when Sam meets with Kate and her agent), but the perspective changes. Sam's character is brilliantly fleshed out which makes Watch Me all the more chilling. The ending is quite the shock too.
Review copy provided by the publicist, MM Book Publicity.

Monday, February 19, 2018

review: lucky now and then by deborah coonts

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Lucky Now and Then picks up where Lucky Bang left off with more details coming out about Lucky's father's past (including flashbacks to 1982). In this novella, Lucky must defend her father against potential murder charges when a skeleton is found at the site of his first hotel. As Lucky investigates (and questions if he might be guilty), she learns more about what really happened the night in 1982 she found dynamite in a club bathroom. Lucky Now and Then provides some interesting insights into Lucky's relationship with her father.
Review copy provided by the publicist, Kate Tilton.

Friday, February 16, 2018

review: apart in the dark by ania ahlborn

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Apart in the Dark contains two novellas previously released by Ania Ahlborn. The first is The Pretty Ones which takes place in New York City at the height of the Son of Sam killings. The women Nell works with are bleaching and cutting their hair in order to not fit the victim profile, but Nell is more concerned with things like paying rent and avoiding the bullying of some of her "mean girl" coworkers. When those coworkers start being murdered, it's initially assumed they're Son of Sam victims, but Nell knows they were targeted because of her. With this one, Ahlborn crafts an excellent story of revenge.

The second novella, I Call Upon Thee, is truly terrifying though it doesn't start that way. At first it seems to be the sad story of a family struck with a number of tragic deaths. But then Ahlborn incorporates some of Maggie's backstory. As children, Maggie and her sister Brynn (whose funeral Maggie is back home to attend) played in a cemetery and used a Ouija board to try to summon Kurt Cobain. Maggie knows they didn't talk to Kurt that night, but believes a dead child from the cemetery now haunts the house. This creepy tale will keep you up at night.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Friday, February 9, 2018

review: surprise me by sophie kinsella

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I once saw an interview with a soap opera actress who said one reason the couples on the show always divorced was that happy couples were boring; that sentiment applies to Sylvie and Dan from Surprise Me. Sylvie and Dan have been together for ten years (married seven) and have twin daughters. They are blissfully happy until a doctor flippantly mentions they likely have another 68 years together. Rattled by this news, Sylvie decides they should spice things up by planning surprises for each other. It immediately goes wrong (which often provides some comedy), but they're still a near perfect couple until Sylvie becomes suspicious Dan and her mother have a secret and that Dan is also having an affair. That’s when the story finally starts to get going. A significant amount of the preceding chapters could’ve been cut in order to get to the news that rocks Sylvie’s core. Hinting at the storyline in the prologue saved the early boring chapters. The plot does pay off, but those early chapters drag; fortunately, Sophie Kinsella’s trademark humor shines throughout Surprise Me.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

review: the book that made me edited by judith ridge

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The Book That Made Me is a collection of essays from primarily Australian authors on the subject of the book (or comic or magazine) that turned them into a reader or a writer. Series fiction like Sweet Valley High and "forbidden" novels like Flowers in the Attic are featured, but others have more poignant stories such as Emily Maguire who writes of the passage in Grand Days by Frank Moorhouse that changed her outlook. As with most anthologies, some of the works are stronger than others, but all provide some insight into what shaped the author.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

Monday, February 5, 2018

review: delia's crossing by v.c. andrews

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At 15, Delia loses both parents in a car accident and is sent from her small Mexico village to Palm Springs, CA to live with her wealthy aunt. This being a V.C. Andrews book, the aunt expects her to earn her keep as a servant and sets her up with a lecherous English tutor. But Delia is strong and reveals her identity to one of her cousins, who turns out to be a true friend.

The plot of Delia's Crossing moves swiftly and there's a good balance between the torment inflicted upon Delia and her working hard to be successful in her new circumstances. The author (these books have been ghostwritten for decades since the passing of Andrews) unfortunately tries to show how Mexican Delia is by constantly peppering in Spanish words like casa and abuela. There are also times when English conversations take place around Delia that move the plot forward in a way that doesn't really work given the first person narration and thus, Delia's lack of knowledge about what was said. Despite those issues, Delia's Crossing is a good read that touches on the very relevant matter of immigration.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

review: treasure me by robyn dehart

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Treasure Me, the final installment in the Legend Hunters trilogy, is full of intrigue as The Raven (the villain of the series) seeks the artifacts that legend holds will make him king. Graeme, one of the Legend Hunters, intends to stop him, but gets distracted from his quest when he inadvertently marries a woman who fled her cheating fiancé. The accidental marriage sets up the romance of Treasure Me, but the rapidness of the relationship felt a bit out of character for the pair especially since each had other priorities. Even so, the romance is hot and the two are well-matched. In addition to the romance, the intensity of the hunt for The Kingmaker stones and the danger that awaits Graeme and Vanessa make for an exciting plot.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.