Thursday, January 30, 2020

Book Review: The Other Mrs., by Mary Kubica

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica book cover and review
I love a good twisted thriller, so I couldn't resist The Other Mrs. It was well worth my time.

Sadie, her husband Will, and their two children are leaving Chicago and starting a new life on an island off the coast of Maine. They need a new start--and the reasons are revealed as you read The Other Mrs. Sadie, however, is reluctant. Will's sister has committed suicide and left an old house and a seventeen-year-old daughter to Will. The daughter is the one who found her mother hanged in the attic of the house. She is an angry goth girl who wants nothing to do with her new guardians.

Sadie is a physician and has found a position at the clinic on the island. Will teaches part-time at a college and is home with the kids most of the time. Things take an even worst turn when a woman who lives in their neighborhood is murdered.

Another narrator is Camille, Will's mistress. And the third narrator is Mouse, a small child living in a house where she is abused by her stepmother while her father is out of town on business. There is actually a fourth narrator at the end, but I won't say who.

In fact, I don't want to say much more. I did figure out partly what was going on at about 25% through The Other Mrs., but it did not deter me from wanting to finish. I didn't have it all, and I wanted it!

The story is compelling, moves pretty quickly, and I didn't guess who the truly evil one was until the end. I can recommend The Other Mrs. to thriller fans, and I'm going to have to put The Good Girl on my list.

Published by Park Row, February 18, 2020
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Book Review: The Good Killer, by Harry Dolan

The Good Killer by Harry Dolan book cover and review
I've read a couple of books by Dolan, so when I saw The Good Killer, I happily signed up. I was a bit disappointed that is wasn't part of the series I had previously read, but I still enjoyed it very much.

Sean just happens to be in the wrong place (or right?) at the wrong time when he shoots and kills a man at a shopping mall who is on a shooting rampage. This makes Sean a hero, and notoriety is just what he doesn't need. He and his partner, Molly, have been living quietly under new identities to stay hidden from two men from Sean's past who definitely would like to find him--for a couple of reasons, none of them good.

As we follow Sean and Molly on the run, we slowly figure out the reasons. There are many points-of-view, but they are easy to follow because as each person is introduced, they join the list of POVs, but are dropped as they are no longer relevant to the story. We get the police who are trying to find Sean because they want to talk to him. We get the two men and their accomplices who are tracking Sean. And we get some people from the past who help our understanding of the situation.

It was an interesting way to tell a story, and I liked it very much. The tension builds nicely, and the ending had my heart pounding. All in all, just the kind of thriller I like. I highly recommend The Good Killer, as well as his other novels.

Published by Mysterious Press, February 4, 2020
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Book Review: A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende book cover and review
I've only read a couple of Isabel Allende's books, but I enjoy her style. A Long Petal of the Sea is well researched and taught me much about a period of history I knew virtually nothing about. Enjoyable -- as predicted.

The book begins in Spain, during the Civil War in the late 1930s. Victor Dalmau is a medic fighting for the Republican government, which ends up being overthrown by Francisco Franco and his Fascists.  Roser is pregnant with Victor's brother's child, and she flees over the mountains into France.

They end up on a ship bound for Chili which has agreed to take some Spanish refugees. The ship has been chartered by Pablo Neruda, the famous poet. In order for Victor and Roser to be included on the ship, they must be married. So they get married, vowing to get a divorce as soon as possible. Turns out divorce is illegal in Chile, and anyway, Victor has vowed to be a father to his nephew, Marcel.

The rest of the book, ending in 1994, covers Victor's and Roser's lives, through repression, separations, government uprisings, friendships, and romances. All the time they hoped they could return to their beloved Spain at some point. (Franco didn't die until 1975.) I won't tell you if they ever did.

I feel rather stupid, because as a high school student I hosted an exchange student from Chile in early 1980, and had no idea of the political climate of that country. I don't remember asking her a thing about it. Who cares when you are 17 years old??? She wanted to be a journalist, and I do remember that it was probably a very dangerous career to choose at that time. I heard from her in 1982, and then never again...

I find Allende's use of the third person to be effective. Often, I have difficulty getting into the story if it isn't in the first person. But somehow, even with many passages about history, I find myself fascinated.

A Long Petal of the Sea is a long book (it seemed longer than 336 pages), but if you are interested in history and an epic family story, you will surely enjoy it.

Published by Ballentine, January 21, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
336 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Book Review: The Stars We Steal, by Alexa Donne

The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne, book cover and review
The Stars We Steal takes place in a spaceship 170 years after Earth has become inhospitable. While steeped in luxury and intrigue, the story confronts some socioeconomic issues we see in the news today. 

Leo's family (father and a younger sister) is poor, but they can't afford to show it. They have docked their ship and are staying with Leo's aunt, Captain Lind, of the very large, luxurious ship The Scandinavian. While there, Leo must participate in The Valg, a weeks-long ritual with daily activities in which she has no interest, in order to find a rich husband and save the family. Leo has other ideas. She is determined to save her family by selling a water purification system that she has invented, rather than marrying. But to apply for the patent requires more money that Leo has. 

Since they are living on The Scandinavian, Leo has rented out her family's ship to make some money. She is surprised when one of the occupants is her ex-fiance, Elliot. They did not part on good terms, but feelings still exist. Elliot was the son of Leo's father's valet and was deemed much too low-class for Leo. So she abruptly dropped Elliot and hasn't seen him since. He now arrives having much improved his status, as well as his wealth.

During The Valg there are protests because the lower class is not getting enough supplies to survive, while the upper class is drowning in champagne and other luxuries. Leo suspects Elliot may have something to do with these protests. She is sympathetic but also appalled that he would jeopardize Leo's hospitality.

As the young people navigate their way through the various activities of The Valg, Captain Lind works to quash the rebellion. Leo is frightened for Elliott and must try to help--if only to save her own reputation. Leo is also trying to keep her younger sister in line, navigating through a host of inappropriate suitors, including Elliott!

The characters are sympathetic and the romance isn't overdone. My one hesitation for recommending The Stars We Steal is that the consumption of alcohol, mostly to excess, is presented as normal and a means to escape and is pervasive among these teens. Every event, whether formal or a casual get together, is accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol, and unfortunately, my recommendation would be for mature teens only.

The Stars We Steal is ultimately suspenseful, with surprising and devious twists and turns and life-threatening situations. Many of the characters are not what they seem, but the story eventually weaves to a satisfying conclusion. I'm wondering if this world is intriguing enough to support a sequel. I would be willing to give it a try.

Published by HMH BFYR, February 4, 2020
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
389 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Book Review: What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin

What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin book cover and review
I read about the big, surprising twists in What Remains of Me, so I was all in. I love to be surprised. I enjoyed the book but was a bit underwhelmed.

Kelly Lund was convicted of murdering her friend's father, John McFadden. Hew was a famous Hollywood director. She spent 25 years in jail and is now free. When Kelly was young, her twin sister, Catherine, committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. Catherine was running with the "in" crowd of teens around Hollywood.

Kelly's father worked in films directed by McFadden. Kelly begins to hang around people her sister associated with, in particular, Bellamy, who introduces her to McFadden's son, Vee. Vee was in love with Catherine.  Catherine's father, Sterling Marshall, is a famous actor who starred in McFadden's films.

As you read What Remains of Me, you find out that some of the above facts aren't really true. The perspective changes from 1980, when McFadden was murdered, to the present (2010.) We see what Kelly is going through since her release, and also begin to figure out the lead-up to McFadden's murder and what really happened.

So there were the promised twists, but maybe I've become too jaded about these thrillers because I just wasn't that surprised. Not that I predicted what had happened, but more like I knew it was a possibility.

What Remains of Me is well written and kept my interest. The characters are fully realized, but I still didn't feel much connection to them. While I was somewhat disappointed, I thought What Remains of Me was still a good book.

Published by William Morrow, 2016
eBook obtained from the library
384 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Happy New Year! and...a New Approach for the New Year

First of all, I feel like I just woke up from hibernation. I have never been so sick for so long in my life. It started on Christmas Eve, and I am just now starting to get some energy back. Needless to say, I haven't done any reading or blogging for the new year. My house is a mess, I've hosted three family holiday parties that I need to recover from, my decorations are still up, and I'm finally hungry -- so I need to start cooking too.

Last fall I decided 2020 was going to be different reading-wise. I have always loved receiving ARCs and being able to read books and review them as they are published. But in that process, I've also missed out on a lot of books that I really want to read. I follow a lot of blogs, read reviews, and keep adding to my list. But if I'm only reading ARCs, then I never have time to get to those books.

I actually started cutting way back on ARCs for the last part of 2019. I'm only taking the ones that are part of a series I want to continue or those that are from my favorite "not to be missed" authors. And I'm already behind because I have one book that is coming out soon that I haven't even started. Ugh....I hate being sick.

I've really enjoyed reading from my backlist, and hopefully, some of you will still find my reviews helpful. Even if they aren't for the latest and greatest.

I still need to post my year-end wrap-up and statistics.  Some day...(but not today.) Thanks for putting up with me.

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