Tuesday, March 20, 2018

review: a lady's guide to selling out by sally franson

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A Lady's Guide to Selling Out is about a young woman who majored in English because of her love for books, but took a job in public relations because she wanted expensive clothing. Unfortunately, said young woman is vapid and the author tries far too hard to make her witty. But it's not just an unlikable lead (a number of authors expertly write an unlikable main character) that Sally Franson fails at, she also summarizes important scenes rather than letting them play out on the page. For example, Franson gives a brief description of what Casey says to her mother, then has the mother begin to cry and declare that Casey sounds just like her much-loathed father. It would be helpful for the reader to know just what Casey said to trigger such a response. With Casey's work on a sponsored social media campaign for authors and her open letter (which the reader never gets to read) on plagiarism and patriarchy, it seems Franson wanted a social commentary for her debut novel but Casey Pendergast was not the right character for the task.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

review: a deadly affair by tom henderson

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After returning home from a trip to the shooting range, Michael Fletcher dialed 911 to report his wife was dead of a gunshot wound. He said she’d shot herself, but one of the first officers on the scene immediately suspected Fletcher. The officer had just watched a program on the assassination of John F. Kennedy and was struck by the lack of blood on Fletcher’s clothing versus how much had been on Jackie Kennedy’s. Leann’s mother jumped to that conclusion too. Soon Fletcher would be on trial for murder and the secrets he’d been keeping became public knowledge.

A Deadly Affair by Tom Henderson recounts the details of Fletcher’s trial with monotonous transcription of the testimony that often repeats information found elsewhere in the book. Although a lot of research was clearly done, Henderson seems not to know what to edit out as the narrative of A Deadly Affair is frequently derailed by long tangents such as information about Dr. Kevorkian’s trial and racial profiling in the Detroit metro area (despite both the victim and the suspect being white). Furthermore, A Deadly Affair is not what one would call unbiased; Henderson attempts to present both sides, but the complimentary words for the defense reveal the agenda behind the book. And just in case one hadn’t caught on, the afterword, which includes Fletcher’s answers to questions Henderson sent him after the conviction, leaves no doubt that Henderson believes the fairly implausible accidental shooting scenario put forth by the defense.

About the audiobook: A Deadly Affair is read by Paul Michael Garcia. Garcia’s narration made the repetition of information not so excruciating, but his attempts at accents were unbearable. The audio version was published December 2017 by Blackstone Audio. It runs 15 hours.
Review copy provided Audiobook Jukebox.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

review: relative strangers by paula garner

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Relative Strangers ripped my heart out. It all starts with Jules needing a picture to use for the yearbook's senior baby photo spread. Her mom keeps stalling, so Jules goes digging on her own and discovers she spent those early years in foster care due to her mom's alcoholism. It rocks her world. With a little online sleuthing, Jules finds her former foster brother who is just a few years older and whose family has missed Jules terribly. Paula Garner's wonderfully crafted plot goes from uplifting to gut-wrenching as Jules immerses herself into life with her former foster family and develops a crush on the young man who thinks of her as a sister. The emotional twists of Relative Strangers are expertly executed and feel incredibly real.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

review: white fur by justine libaire

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Justine Libaire’s White Fur is a 1980s take on a Romeo and Juliet style story. Jamey is a Yale student from a well-known, wealthy family when he meets Elise who lives next door to the off-campus home Jamey and his best friend rent. Elise never finished high school and was homeless until Jamey’s neighbor took pity on her. Their attraction is primal and the relationship is fraught with issues, especially once Jamey’s family learns of Elise.

White Fur is told in snippets of Jamey and Elise’s life together. Some parts are the mundanity of living while others are life-altering bombshells. While the plotting is stellar, Libaire relies a little too much on stereotypes. It also seemed Elise’s white fur coat (that she got from a drug addicted woman in exchange for potato chips) was supposed to be a contrast of privilege, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. For as frequently as it’s brought up (and given that it’s where the title comes from), it seemed Libaire wanted the coat to have more significance than her storytelling gave it. Despite those faults, the novel is a great read. In the final chapters White Fur really comes into its own with a number of shocking developments that give Jamey and Elise their own tragic ending.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

review: unnatural causes by dawn eastman

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As the new doctor in town, Katie LeClair is still learning the quirks of the town and her patients (including a hilarious pair of best friends who signed HIPAA waivers because both insist on being seen when only one is sick) in this first book in a series from Dawn Eastman. So when one of her patients overdoses in what's deemed a suicide, Katie worries she hasn't gotten to know her patients as well as she'd hoped. But Katie's instincts are good and alarm bells go off when she discovers the dead woman was found with a pill bottle with Katie's name as the prescribing doctor. A search of the records shows that neither Katie or the staff wrote that prescription. And with the woman's daughter insisting her mother wouldn't have killed herself, Katie starts to wonder what secrets the town holds.

The first book in a series sometimes suffers from having to introduce so many characters, but Eastman handles it expertly. Each character stands out as an individual and it's easy to keep track of relationships because Katie is also learning how people are connected. The plot is absolutely captivating as Katie uncovers red herring secrets and the suspect list grows.

About the audiobook: Unnatural Causes by Dawn Eastman is read by Amanda Dolan. Dolan's performance is perfect for this one. It's easy to distinguish between the characters and her inflections are spot on. The audio version was released December 2017 by Blackstone Audio. It runs just over 7 hours.
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Monday, March 5, 2018

review: lucky flash by deborah coonts

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The secondary characters in the Lucky O'Toole series are all pretty memorable, but the aptly named Flash really stands out. In Lucky Flash, Flash gets to alternate narration with Lucky; it works well for the novella and reveals a lot more about Lucky's best friend. As an investigative reporter, Flash becomes interested in a theft ring that's replacing legit music memorabilia with phonies in order to cover up the crime. Lucky has a vested interest in the case because the prime piece is the ring Liberace gifted her father. This novella is a fun thrill-ride which easily incorporates Lucky's past love (Teddie) into the plot.
Review copy provided by the publicist, Kate Tilton.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

review: sophie someone by hayley long

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When Sophie's school asks for a birth certificate and her parents can't readily produce one, Sophie becomes suspicious. Her distrust turns out to be justified. After stumbling upon a Facebook profile for someone who is clearly her grandmother, Sophie learns the shocking secret her parents have been keeping.

It's a fantastic plot, but Sophie Someone is told using what the publisher calls a "memorable language all its own." In actuality it's confusing. While most of the words (or "worms" in the case of this book's language) can be discerned from the context, there were other times when I wasn't sure if the word used was the same as in English, a typo, or the memorable language word. The use of this confusing language seems to be done to cause the reader to be as confused as Sophie, but there are two issues with that. First off, it's enough of a turn off for a reader to put the book down before ever getting to the point of the story. Second, Sophie is never really confused. She's shocked to learn about the lie, but the revelation doesn't cause her any real difficulty (although surely it will with whatever will unfold after the book's conclusion).
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.