Thursday, July 26, 2018

review: from the corner of the oval by beck dorey-stein

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Trying to make ends meet with five part-time jobs, Beck Dorey-Stein starts dreaming of a full-time job with benefits. That's how she ends up applying for a stenographer job on Craigslist which turns out not to be at a law firm like she thought, but at the White House. In From the Corner of the Oval, Dorey-Stein shares her experiences as a stenographer for the Obama administration from 2012 onward. It's not all politics though as Dorey-Stein fails to heed a colleague's advice of "stay with your boyfriend" to have a fling with one of the others who travels with the president. With the White House (and Air Force One) serving as a backdrop, Dorey-Stein's memoir is an entertaining look at the mistakes one makes in her (or his) twenties when everything still seems possible, but nights of too much drinking get in the way. While some may find it off-putting that she includes compliments of her writing (when a staffer leaves, she gifts the person with a personal essay), those incorporations serve as a explanation that this memoir was a work that hadn't really been meant to be shared when Dorey-Stein was journaling such personal details (plus, she really is a great writer).
Review copy provided by the publisher, Spiegel & Grau.

Friday, July 20, 2018

review: the cheerleaders by kara thomas

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Five years ago five cheerleaders died in three separate incidents within a month. Monica's sister was one of those cheerleaders. Now Monica is attending the same high school where a memorial is being organized. That reminder combined with other issues Monica's dealing with set her on a path to uncover if her sister's death really was a suicide. The Cheerleaders delves into some heavy subjects, but Kara Thomas handles it with a realism not always seen in a young adult mystery novel. It's difficult to state what makes The Cheerleaders great without getting into spoilers, but there are some excellent twists that tie together a few plot points.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

review: the devil's half mile by paddy hirsch

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In 1799, Justice "Justy" Flanagan returns to New York after studying law in Europe. He plans to use his newly acquired knowledge and skills to avenge his father's death. Justy believes his father didn't kill himself, but was murdered by a man who bilked people out of money during the Panic of 1792. Justy's vengeance tale should've been filled with intrigue as he uncovers the details of the scam his father fell in with, but Paddy Hirsch crafts a convoluted plot with The Devil's Half Mile. The scam has multiple players and a number of layers making it far too complicated. Plus, Justy can't help but insert himself into the lives of others, such as a childhood friend now surviving any way she can. All that combined with extensive use of the Irish slang of the era (there's a glossary in the back, but I didn't find that until I'd reached the end) makes The Devil's Half Mile a sluggish read.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forge.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

review: providence by caroline kepnes

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A bit of a social misfit, Jon always cuts through the woods on his way to middle school in order to avoid a bully. It should've kept him safe, but instead he's kidnapped by a substitute teacher. Four years later, the man allows Jon to awaken from a medically-induced coma leaving him with only the slightest hint as to the experiments that were conducted--the H.P. Lovecraft book The Dunwich Horror. This is where Providence gets confusing for someone not familiar with Lovecraft's work. Apparently there are parallels between Jon and the main character of The Dunwich Horror. Fortunately, Caroline Kepnes provides a plot that's enjoyable even without Lovecraft knowledge. Jon's struggle with his new power to kill without even touching a person is real and painful as he isolates himself. Kepnes also provides a satisfying conclusion to a story that has a great deal of sadness.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Lenny.