Saturday, April 11, 2020

Summer Darlings

Summer Darlings
by Brooke Lea Foster

1962. Summer on Martha's Vineyard.

Heddy is a girl working as a summer nanny for a wealthy family in Martha's Vineyard. She is a college scholarship student at Wellesly who was raised by a single mother barely scraping by. Heddy is a very naive girl, embarrassed by her background, needing and wanting validation from the people she believes are so much more than she is.

She arrives in Martha's Vineyard starry eyed, ready to step into a world of beautiful people living idyllic lives. What she discovers is the ugly underbelly of this picture perfect world, starting with the very family she is a nanny for.

Heddy falls for two men on the island, Sullivan, the son of a wealthy family, and Ash, a land developer selling homes in his new development in Florida. She is also befriended by Gigi, a movie star who takes her under her wing and tries to gently educate her as to what she is up against.

Eventually, Heddy begins to realize she can absolutely trust no one but herself.  As insecure and unimportant as she believes she is, she nevertheless is a pawn to be used or disparaged by those around her. As the reader/observer I wanted to stand and cheer for her at the point she arrives at knowing that only she can take care of herself and does just that.

A happy ending?  Maybe so, maybe no. I think you should decide for yourself when you read this novel. I can see the possibility of a sequel. I would definitely read it should it happen.

Summer Darlings gets 4 of 5 shots from me.

Thank you Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book for my reading pleasure & review.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

When I Was You

When I Was You
by Amber Garza

I'd like to thank Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book prior to publication.

The psychological thriller is very popular right now with the main character having had a breakdown of some sort and questioning his or her own sanity, or believing in their sanity but being questioned by others. This book falls into that specific genre. And I am okay with that!

Kelly Medina is an empty-nester who's husband works in another city and only comes home on weekends. We are aware early on that she has experienced some sort of trauma, but the specifics are elusive. A misdirected phone call alerts her to the knowledge that there is another Kelly Medina in town, the mother of an infant. She becomes obsessed with finding out who this other Kelly is. Old Kelly arranges a 'chance meeting' with Young Kelly and inserts herself into Young Kelly's life.

The story is told in the first person, personal. Which is to say that more than just relating the story, we are privy to Old Kelly's inner dialog and thoughts as well. It's a little scary at times knowing/hearing what is going on in the mind of someone who might just be a little off kilter.

Of course any good psychological thriller is going to provide some twists and turns and this is no exception. I found myself re-reading about five or six pages at one point just because the twist at that point was so subtle I was afraid I had missed something. You may or may not decide you know what the twist is early on, but never fear, even if you get it right, there is more to come.

I enjoyed Ms. Garza's style of writing and it makes the book fun to read. I give her a 4 of 5 shots and suggest you pick this one up when it's available.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Anne Aletha

Anne Aletha 
by Camille N Wright


“Meet Anne Aletha, who fought for equality for all … in 1918. Amid World War I, the Spanish Influenza, and a re-emerging Ku Klux Klan, a young unconventional schoolteacher inherits her uncle’s farm in the Deep South with the intentions of opening a school to educate all children—rich or poor, black or white. Her ambitions and her courage to challenge the systematic racial injustice she witnesses daily plunge herself and those she loves into the violence of the Klan."

I was expecting a lot more depth from this story. Having read the description I guess I focused on the promised KKK aspect and thought I’d read more about that, but it was a small part of the story and basically consisted of Anne Aletha standing up and walking out of church when the Klu Klux Klan was welcomed in by the minister.

Overall, I found the story to be very superficial and I wasn’t very engaged with the heroine. She had high ideals that were not developed enough to feel realistic for the era. The violence she experienced was not written about in such a way as to make me tense and worry for her safety. I prefer a book that draws me in to the story. I did not feel that. 

The most engaging section of the story was the writing about the Spanish Influenza. This most likely hit home because I can relate to it during the current Coronavirus pandemic.

If not for the unnecessary “love” scenes, I would have thought this a book was written for a middle grade or perhaps a high school reader of historical fiction.

My score for Anne Aletha is 2 of 5 shots. 

Thank you, Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Mortician's Daughter

The Mortician’s Daughter
by Nan Higgins

First off I need to say that I should pay closer attention to what genre of book I am requesting from Netgalley. From it’s description I thought I was requesting a detective mystery/ghost story. Looking at my Netgalley bookshelf just now I realize I requested a LGBTQ+ Romance.  I am certainly not opposed to reading same, but it’s not what I was expecting.  

Ms. Higgins is apparently from my general neighborhood. I love reading local authors and I have to say that when I start a book and within the space of the first two paragraphs the main character is talking about a birthday dinner at my favorite pizza restaurant (Dewey’s!) I know I’m going to like it.  Afterall, I just celebrated MY birthday at Dewey’s.  If you ever eat there, you MUST have the Porky Fig Pizza. Seriously! 

So on with the story.  Aria has just found out that she comes from a family of “interpreters,” which is to say her father sees and talks to ghosts. In fact he is the head of an “Agency” started by her great-great-grandfather to help “priors” (aka dead people) wrap up their earthly responsibilities and cross over. Aria has her life planned out and to discover she is an interpreter completely disolves her future. She begins her education as an interpreter where she meets Sloane, who becomes her love interest.  Her first interaction with a ghost is an elderly Prior named Clara who insists Aria’s father is preventing her from crossing over. Together Aria and Sloane must find out how this could be possible and get Clara crossed over without dying themselves.

The book reads like a YA novel and I’m not completely sure it’s not meant to be. It was a fun read, although I felt a little let down at the end, like it was wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly after the build up. I think with a little more mature writing this could turn into a really fun series along the lines of the Stephanie Plum novels.

I’m giving the story 3.5 shots of 5. Based on not knowing if it was meant to be a YA novel and for the weak ending. But I do recommend this book and I hope that Higgins can evolve her characters into a series in which they have aged a bit.  I would come back to read more mystery stories involving these two women working the space between life and death.

Thank you Netgalley and Bold Strokes Books, Inc. for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Publication date April 14, 2020.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Little Disasters

Little Disasters
by Sarah Vaughan

Liz is a pediatric doctor. Her friend, Jess, presents at the ER with her sick baby. Liz is called in to examine the baby and discovers serious injuries that suggest possible abuse.

Liz has always looked at Jess as the perfect mother/wife/homemaker who makes it all look so  easy. She couldn't have possibly hurt her own child, could she? Liz has to make the impossible decision to report the injuries to the authorities.

This book deals with abuse, post natal depression, OCD, friendships, family relationships and the nightmare of being accused of hurting your own child.

After reading a 'meh' book immediately prior to this one, I was delighted to start a story that drew me in so quickly.  With several flashbacks, the story is primarily told in the present, day by day as the infant Betsey recovers in the hospital, her family is questioned, and Jess is required to be supervised with her older children.

The outcome of the investigation into Betsey's injuries is not entirely unexpected, which is to say... I saw it coming. But this is a book with a twist, and I have to say it's a satisfying twist. I love that although I predicted what was about to happen, Vaughan followed up with the unexpected.

Little Disasters was provided for my reading pleasure by Netgalley in exchange for my review. I'm pleased to give it four shots, which is very good on my scale. Little Disasters will be published on August 18, 2020.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Thing About Alice

The Thing About Alice
by Jean-Luke Swanepoel

From the synopsis: "Brimming with heart and gentle humor, and not wasting a single word, The Thing About Alice is a study in character no reader will easily forget."

I guess a study in character is how I would describe this book, even though none of the characters is very deeply examined.  I found it difficult to follow and confusing. To be honest, that could simply be due to my poor memory while trying to keep track of the characters and their relationship or relevance to Alice.  But honestly, it was like sitting and listening to a friend recount all that has happened in her neighborhood, while not being overly interested in all these people I don't really know. Some of it is very sad and I feel empathetic, but like the empathy you might feel while watching a news story on TV.  Just pour me another glass of wine, please. 

And I may have become a bit concerned about my friend who is telling me these stories, especially when she comes to the end, telling one last anecdote which I suspect ends unpleasantly, yet I am not quite certain. 

"The thing About Alice" left me wanting a real story but happy that it was over. I give it just 2 of 5 shots.  I had really hoped to award it more.  

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to preview The Thing About Alice, to be published May 21, 2020.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Love and Other Consolation Prizes

Love and Other Consolation Prizes
by Jamie Ford

"You deserve that more than anyone," she whispered as she hugged him again, clinging to him, and then letting him go. "I'm sorry, that's all I have to give."

A first kiss means everything.

This book was a joy to me in so many ways.  The story centers around three children in Seattle in the early 1900's.  Being from Seattle I loved this historical view of the city. Not to take away from the book, but I often found myself stopping to google something to determine if it was true or fictional.  Delightfully, I found everything I looked up to be true and enjoyed my new knowledge of my home town. 

The story starts in China where Yung Kun-ai, who is a mix of Chinese and Caucasian, is sent off to America by his ill and destitute mother for a 'better life.' He endures a horrific journey and eventually ends up in Seattle and becomes known as Ernest Young.  Although a benefactor sends him to a private school he is painfully aware that he is a second class citizen.  Wanting out of the situation, he becomes a 'prize' to be raffled off at the worlds fair. 

Wait! The Seattle Worlds Fair opened in 1962.  This is no longer historically accurate

or so I thought.  

History lesson: The Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition was a World's Fair that took place in the summer of 1909 on the grounds of the University of Washington in Seattle. My husband knew this (seriously?) but it blew me away. One of the attractions of this fair was the early invention of incubators that traveled from fair to fair and cradled living premature babies.  I have previously read about that, and as awful as it sounds, it lead to the current science that helps us keep prematurely born infants alive. Another attraction of this fair is that they were raffling off a month old orphaned baby.  


This is where Jamie Ford's inspiration for his story came from. 

12 year old Ernest is raffled off, 'won' by Madam Flora who runs The Tenderloin, a house for gentlemen's entertainment. Although he becomes one of their servants, for the first time in his life he is well cared for. Here he meets the slight older Fahn and Maisie who become his fast friends. A gentle and tender love story develops in this unlikely setting of the salon.  

The telling of the story is entirely through Ernest's eyes as we flash back and forth from his life and family at the time of the 1962 Worlds Fair to the 1909 AYP as he falls in love with both girls and what becomes of all of them. 

Jamie Ford also wrote Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which I must now read.  I give Love and Other Consolation Prizes four shots of five.  But even as I write this I consider adding that fifth shot....