MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Reviews by Sandi W.

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The French Girl
by Lexie Elliott
French holiday.... (12/27/2017)
Thank you to Berkley Books for this Advanced Reading Copy. Expected publication is February 20th 2018. My rating = 4 stars

On the last night of their stay in a French farmhouse Severine was killed. Six college friends were on holiday and Severine was from the neighboring farmhouse. It took 10 years for the cold case to be reopened and to bring everyone back together. Severine's body has been found. Everyone is a suspect. However it is Kate Channing who is visited by the memories of Severine and also appears to be the prime suspect for the murder. Does she have an alibi, does any of her 5 college friends? Once they are brought back together it is obvious what each of them have to lose. Will the murderer be found before they lose everything? To focus on one person and ignore the rest may be the biggest mistake.

I found Lexie Elliot to be an easy read. Having not read her before, I found the development of her characters to be very good. The story seemed to lurk just out of sight around a dark corner as you waited for answers that were just out of reach. Her writing allowed you to follow strings randomly crisscrossing, then starting to align so that they led to one point - but is it possible to predict that point? Elliot was good at worming her way into your subconscious, until the words said and unsaid, and the series of disclosures brought you to the things that were as they always had been.
The Chalk Man
by C. J. Tudor
A Tangled Story... (12/27/2017)
4.5 stars Thank you to Crown Publishing for this ARC. To publish Jan 9, 2018.

This story switched between 1986 and 2016. Our protagonist, Eddie, and his group of friends, Micky, Gav, Hoppo and the lone girl, Nicky were inseparable. The 12 year olds biked to the playground, river and woods during the heat of the summer in 1986. Their personalities and family lives were very different, but their bond was strong. Until that day. The day they found another friend mutilated in the woods.

In 2016 the death of Elise, the girl in the woods, still haunts Eddie. As the tangled story starts to unwind we see the actual involvement of each of the four friends, along with a teacher, a reverend, and the families of the four friends.

This was a very good mystery. It kept you guessing at each twist and turn. However you needed to place the correct blame at each twist to guess the identity of the person to blame. This book worked well switching between time frames, more so than the abundance of current books using this format. Tudor is a new author for me, but one I will watch in the future.
News of the World
by Paulette Jiles
Descriptive writing trumps author error (9/2/2017)
I don't like books that do not use quotation marks to indicate conversation! I took off .5 stars for no quotation marks. In my opinion, that shows laziness in an author.

3.5 stars

Now with that said -
Overall I did enjoy this book. It was just different enough from what I have been reading to be enjoyable. In addition the outcome was what I had wished for all along in the story.

An elderly traveling news reader in the year 1870. A friend asks him to return a 10 year old Kiowa captured girl to her German relatives just outside San Antonio. The story follows their treacherous trail down to and through Texas - full of warring Indians, everyday thieves, and disreputable Army troops. It also tells of the advancement of Johanna under the Captains tutelage.

Probably most noted in this novel is the wonderful descriptions and wordage of the author. Everything from Johanna's dress to the landscape is made visual by Jiles. You feel as if you are sitting right there watching this novel play out before your eyes. You smell the smells, you see the colors. For me, it was this visualization that made the book.
Little Nothing
by Marisa Silver
Fable/Folklore (8/23/2017)
Really hard for me to review this book. It was good - for me - because this is the type book-break I needed. However, at a different time and place I might not have liked this book as much as I did.

A fable, folklore, mystical - all apply, but really don't describe this book. It tells the story of a deformed girl, Pavla, who was scorned, even originally by her Mother, who ended up in a traveling circus side show. She meets Danilo - who is part of her act. He falls in love with her. Over time she morphs into a wolf and runs away. Danilo searches for her, finds her more than once, and saves her. By stories end, she has morphed back into a human - one imprisoned. Danilo finds her again. However Pavla is not done "becoming". The end of the book has another twist.

Left to determine your own story conclusion, I felt that I was left wanting. It would be nice to have a follow up story about Pavla, however I do not feel that is in the future. The writing was good, the story palatable, once you understand it's premise, and as I stated earlier, the book that I needed to interrupt my past reading collection.
The Heart's Invisible Furies: A Novel
by John Boyne
Another Boyne master piece.... (7/26/2017)
I have read a couple of John Boyne books before, so I was prepared for anything. Boyne takes on hard subjects and presents them relentlessly. I am aware that his themes and character development are beyond reproach. This particular book sucked me into its world. I found it to be a work far more subtle and powerful than the ordinary novel.

We followed Cyril Avery for 70 odd years - from the 1940s to 2015. The novel set in Ireland, Amsterdam and New York City covered man's nonacceptance of his fellow man, starting with the pregnancy of the unmarried woman in the 1940s and continuing through to gay bashing in the 1990s.

This book made me laugh, it made me cry, and most of all, it made me think. It read like a 300 page book, not the approximate 600 pages that it really is. Throughout there were strings randomly crisscrossing, and when they started to align, it lead to a very acceptable and well developed conclusion. Another great novel by Boyne.

Thank you Penguin Random House and BookBrowse for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Publication expected August 22, 2017. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 stars
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
by Fredrik Backman
Not my cup of tea... (6/29/2017)
Let me start by saying I have loved all the other books I have read by Fredrick Backman, because...
I am sure that my review of this book will go against the main stream....however....

Had this been the first book I read by Backman I would have stopped there. I really disliked this book. The absolute only redeeming quality that I felt it had was the cross over of characters from his other books. Luckily I had already read "A Man Called Ove" and "Britt-Marie".
I felt that there was way too much time and too many pages put into the fairy tales. A bit of back story was needed, but I was tired of the non-stop fairly tale descriptions long before Granny died.
I finished this book, but it took all I had to continue to pick it back up. I tried hard not to gladly tossed it aside.
This being his second book I would have thought it to be much better, having enjoyed his first and third books. Too much nonsensical idiotic fantasy descriptions for my liking. I could not even disguise this stuff as magical realism. Definitely not my cup of tea.
When She Woke: A Novel
by Hillary Jordan
Man's inhumanity to man (6/29/2017)
I enjoyed this book with its parallel to the Scarlet Letter. It shows what inhumanities our society is capable of. Altho Hannah would not have been my friend I could empathize with her.The writing made me push for a conclusion. 3.5 stars
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: A Novel
by Elizabeth L. Silver
The difference of a few chapters.... (6/29/2017)
Starting this book I had high expectations - the synopsis was good, the premise was wide open and I was ready for the best. The first quarter of the book was left to details of Noa's life , prior trial and prison. I did feel that this may have lasted a bit longer than was necessary ~~ background is good, but after a while you just want to move on with the story and get to the meat of the book. With that said, I do believe that this is Silver's first novel and all in all this was a minor flaw in an overall good book. The next half of the book dealt with Noa's crime and her imprisonment. This was never in question ~~ she was guilty ~~ and calmly awaiting her execution date. However in the last quarter of the book was when the plot thickened. This is the portion of the story that took me from 3 stars to 4 stars. For a new author I felt that the cause and effect elements and the number of surprises in this last portion were excellent. Things were not as they had appeared and twists just kept coming. Well worth the slow beginning to see it appear much differently as the story ends. This is an author that I will definitely read again.
The Stars Are Fire
by Anita Shreve
Not only surviving but prospering... (6/14/2017)
4.5 stars

Few people can write like Anita Shreve. Once she determines a topic she takes control.
This is the story of a woman not only surviving but prospering.
Due to a fast moving wild fire following a drought in Maine in 1947, many towns and cities were totally wiped out. Grace, pregnant, is alone with her two children to make her way to safety, her husband Gene has left to fight the fires. Nothing is saved. The small family is rescued, none to soon, and given shelter by a loving couple whose home skirted the fire. Gene is missing. Grace takes control and makes decisions that are best for her, her children and her Mother, who also survived. The next year is both heaven and hell for Grace. She goes through the best of times and the worst of times, until once again she is homeless. However her plight is not yet over.
This is a story of courage and sacrifice. It follows the ups and downs of both marriage and life in general; the deepest of valleys and brightest of days, turmoil and peace.
House of Names
by Colm Toibin
Greek Tragedy (6/14/2017)
I tell you this man can take a muddy puddle and make you think it is a fresh spring shower!!
I thought I was done with mythology back in college. I had two literature classes devoted to mythology and thought I had read and reviewed it all. However, with all the authors coming out with up to date revised books on the Bard and mythology I am thoroughly enjoying the stories.
This is not only one of my favorite authors, but it is his rendition of a Greek tragedy. Toibin's writing literally just takes me away.
This is the story of King Agamemnon and his betrayal of his family, as he focuses on the coming war. The death of one daughter, the loss of his son and then the revenge of his wife takes place. His wife having taken in an enemy of the kingdom, to help her plot her revenge, gets her remaining daughter to lie for her and in the name of protection, exiles her son at the hand of her accompanying accomplice. Years go by before the son finds his way home, but not until after the death of his father. The two remaining children must then put the kingdom back to it rights - however they can.
Written beautifully, Toibin carries you through the times and customs of this Greek tragedy as if you were reading a current day novel.
No One Is Coming to Save Us
by Stephanie Powell Watts
No connection... (4/30/2017)
Sorry to say I found no connection to this book. I did not connect with the characters or the story. I saw little to no resemblance to the classic The Great Gatsby. I was however able to make each character's association to this book title. They all had varying problems and were looking for a savior.
I think the author did a good job of making you visualize her characters. You could even see them through their speech, although there were parts of this story that for me just did not make any sense. One conversation between Jay and Sylvia, about Barack Obama, went from him saying he "missed his mother and they weren't making him president" to Sylvia saying, in the very next line, that she "had not changed her phone number. " I saw absolutely no connection there, nor in a couple of other instances where this separation of thought happened.
Other than a basic liking of Jay - aka J J - I did not like any other character. Sylvia was worn out and boring. She did not seem to have a very good grasp at times. She did things that the normal woman her age would never do - however desperate she was. Ava was a spoiled brat, too good for those around her. She had had her share of problems, but gave me the impression she expected others to clear them up for her as she whined about her life's position. Jay seemed to be the only smart one of the bunch, even though he was deceiving himself that what he originally ran from, would wait for him. Most of these characters make a shift towards the end of the book, but for me it was way too late by then.

I will try this author again, in hopes of relating better to a different book. Thank you to Book Browse for the book in exchange for an honest review.
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Dysfunctional... (4/23/2017)
2.5 stars
The story line in this novel was a great idea. It started out with a lot of potential. The authors prose was easy to read and I felt overall her words moved well. The problem stemmed from all the unneeded characters and extras that were thrown into this story. They were very confusing, drug the premise of the story down, parts were just plain boring, hard for any main character follow through, and just way too many characters. Although easy to read, page by page, this book was easy to put down and hard to pick back up.

This is the story of 4 siblings who expected to gain a sizeable inheritance from their deceased father, once the youngest turned 40 years old. However before that happened one of the siblings got into a bad car wreck and their mother, guardian of the inheritance, signed away all the money to keep that child out of litigation. The story tells of each siblings reason for needing the money and how the one who benefited from all the money planned to pay his sibling back.
Slade House
by David Mitchell
Every Nine Years (4/3/2017)
Slade House was built in 1930. It was razed in 1940. went on in Slade House - at least for one night every nine years.

I felt I was confused during the first 50 pages or so of this book. Then it all fell together. However, nothing was as I expected. The words I would use to describe this novel would give the story away, therefore I will list a few of the words used in the story, such as, aperture, orison and lacuna, and you can come to your own conclusions.
by Affinity Konar
A Sad and Difficult Story (4/3/2017)
Twist on a WWII theme. This book spoke to the Holocaust in 1944 and the imprisoning of twins, triplets and children with unusual defects into the pet project of Josef Mengele - Mengeles Zoo at Auschwitz. It focuses on one set of twins, Pearl and Sasha. How they survived, their friends, the differing experiments they were subjected to, the medical staff in Auschwitz, their eventual liberation and the events that followed.

The story was told in alternating chapters by Pearl and Sasha. You know going in that this book will be sad, heartbreaking, and at times very hard to read. It was all that and more. Not a lot has been written about Mengeles experiments in fiction form. This book does a good job of telling a sad and difficult story.
by Affinity Konar
A Sad and Difficult Story (4/3/2017)
Twist on a WWII theme. This book spoke to the Holocaust in 1944 and the imprisoning of twins, triplets and children with unusual defects into the pet project of Josef Mengele - Mengeles Zoo at Auschwitz. It focuses on one set of twins, Pearl and Sasha. How they survived, their friends, the differing experiments they were subjected to, the medical staff in Auschwitz, their eventual liberation and the events that followed.

The story was told in alternating chapters by Pearl and Sasha. You know going in that this book will be sad, heartbreaking, and at times very hard to read. It was all that and more. Not a lot has been written about Mengeles experiments in fiction form. This book does a good job of telling a sad and difficult story.
A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
Lifetime Exile (4/3/2017)
Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to life, a life lived in the Hotel Metropol - never to leave its doors. Then taken from his elegant suite and relegated to an attic room to spend his life.

It is through his various friends and acquaintances, Nina, Sophia, Anna, Osip, Mikhail and the staff at the hotel that Sasha survives this exile.

This book is breathtaking. The lyrical prose of this novel lulls you into the early 20th century as you image the sights and sounds of Russia. It flows so smoothly that the words just seem to melt away, leaving you with a contented feeling, a need to continue with this mellow hazy sensibility, eating in paragraph after paragraph and continually seeking more.
The Mothers
by Brit Bennett
Plethora of Human Issues (4/3/2017)
A debut book that hits on a plethora of human issues - teen pregnancy, suicide, and abortion among others. It was the intertwined stories of Aubrey, Nadia, and Luke, three black teens in San Diego, and how the choices they made, the secrets they kept and the regrets they had, shaped their destinies.
At times I felt like this novel was like moving puzzle pieces toward a completion that just never quite fit together. I felt the ending to this story was overly abrupt. This book just did not pull at my heart strings, as I had hoped it would.
With that said, Bennett is a new author and one I will watch and read again, in hopes of benefiting from her continued writing experience.
Girl in Disguise
by Greer Macallister
First Female Pinkerton (4/3/2017)
This novel was inspired by the real life of Kate Warne.
In the style of Amy Stewart's Girl Waits with Gun series or Emily McCabe's I Shall Be Near to You, Greer Macallister does a fine job of making you visualize the first female Pinkerton agent in 1856. Not only Allan Pinkerton, but Chicago has their hands full when it comes to Agent Kate Warne's detective sleuth. Unaccepted initially by her co-workers - all male - Warne is a force to be reckoned with. Through thick and thin she remains stoic, reliable and an excellent operative.
Macallister does an excellent job of research and recreating a factual person. With little known about Kate Warne, the author develops a great historical account of her life and her tenure with the Pinkerton, even though most records pertaining to Warne were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson
Karma (4/3/2017)
This novel grabbed me in the first few pages and I had trouble putting it down. Not only is Joshilyn Jackson an accomplished writer, she is entertaining and imaginative.

Written in first person, Attorney Paula Vauss, aka Kali Jai, leads us down a winding lane of chaos, intermingling sadness, happiness, loss, redemption, love and family transformation along the way. From the days of traveling with her wild eccentric Mother to the lonely days of state placement to the "love 'um and leave 'um" lifestyle she maintains as an adult, we meet the people who hold her interest and influence her along the way. Continually paying off her "debt" to her Mother, Paula suddenly finds herself a sibling. Not once, but twice.

"You know how Karma works", is the final piece of the puzzle her dying Hindu-mythology-loving Mother leaves for her, as it changes her life forever.
Underground Airlines
by Ben Winters
The Day of Difference (4/3/2017)
Victor/Jim/Brother is a contracted, owned bounty hunter, a tracker, by any and all names. He is a black man, forced into hunting black men. This is set in the present day. The catch is that our present day is not as we know it to be. The Civil War never took place, and even though slavery was finally abolished, there are still 4 states in the United States, called the Hard Four, that still condone and practice slavery.

This story relates one such case for Victor, tracking a run away slave, and then the twists begin.

The writing moved along very well as it describes our changed but present day. Under this new framework the characters are believable and the plot viable.

A new author for me, but one I hope to continue to read.

3.5 stars for the story and .5 star for the premise of the novel.

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