Reviews by Sandi W.

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The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
There were only 5 ways out ... (10/9/2020)
Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday books for a chance to read and review this ARC. Published Jul 16, 2019.

Another winner by Whitehead. Having read Underground Railroad I was excited to see this book. Although feeling that this book was somewhat milder than Underground Railroad, I did enjoy the twists and turns that this book provided.

Whitehead based this fictional book on the true to life experiences of boys incarcerated at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna Florida. In his acknowledgements he gives a number of other books and articles he used as reference for this book.

In the early 60's just as Martin Luther King started to become a household name, a young black boy hitched a ride and found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the while just trying to get to college. Having done nothing wrong, and just for the fact that he was black, Elwood was arrested and ended up being sent to the juvenile reformatory Nickel Academy.

Nickel Academy, where young boys were sent, and some never returned. With the White House and Black Beauty hanging over them, they became slaves to "The Man', whether they were Caucasian or Negro. There were only 5 ways out - age out, have the court intervene, have family remove you, accumulate the needed amount of merits, or disappear. Often boys disappeared at the hands of the Academy - Elwood chose to run.

There were some twists in this story that surprised me. Although a fictional story I believe for the most part Whitehead tried to tell the story of the Dozier School for Boys, then as is so like him, he added his own touch in the way of these twists and turns. Proving that is one of the reasons that Whitehead books are so worth the read.
Evvie Drake Starts Over: A Novel
by Linda Holmes
The Widow and the Man with the Widow Maker Arm! (10/9/2020)
3.5 stars Thank you to Linda Holmes and Ballantine Books for sending me this ARC and allowing me to read and review it. Published June 25, 2019.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I usually hold these books for a point that I need a palette cleanser, something easy going after a very deep or hefty book. However, with the publication date already past and someone else waiting to read this book I went ahead and started it. And not sorry that I did.

Nice easy plot about a new widow and a stranger she rents to, who is running away from a sports career that has fallen off track. Then we suffer the ups and downs of Evvie and Dean and everything life throws at them. We learn about their past - which they have mostly repressed - and about their plans for the future.

Delightful story of boy meets girl - while in their thirties - him a New York City native and her from a small town fishing village in Maine. Evvie and Dean, both sweet characters trying their best to make it work.
The Whisper Man
by Alex North
see this story unfold from a number of perspectives... (10/9/2020)
5 stars Thank you to Edelweiss and Celadon Books for allowing me to read and review this book. Published on August 20, 2019.

I don't often give a book over 4 stars - at the most. It takes an exceptional book to get more than that out of me. This was that book!

I have never read Alex North before - as far as I know. I know he publishes under another name - but not what that name is and all my research says that he wants to keep it that way!! Shoot!!

This book grabbed me early on. I came to understand that it is narrated by a multitude of people - Tom, Jake, Amanda, Pete, the villain. All major characters in the book. I usually don't like that, however it worked well in this book. North was able to guide me to the correct narrator within a few sentences and that allowed me to see this story unfold from a number of perspectives.

This book is a thriller. And as I expect in thrillers, it covers some unsavory issues. It delved just deep enough in it's subject matter, yet not overwhelmingly enough, to prevent me from turning pages. Not everything turned out as I would have liked by the ending. But the journey to get here was suburb!
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
by Olga Tokarczuk
take my review with a grain of salt... (10/9/2020)
3 stars Thanks to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books Publishing for the chance to read this ARC. Published August 13, 2019. This is a translated book. Originally written in Polish.
This book was so confusing for me. There were parts that I really liked and parts that frankly bored me. There were times I was happy with this book, and times I was unhappy with it. I often wonder what, if anything, gets lost in a translated book. There were no big gaps or quick turn-arounds in this book, as would be expected if the translation was not going well, so I guess it was just the varying ideas that the author put together. This book is billed as a ‘thriller cum fairy tale’. To me, that statement is confusing enough!

Another thing that I noticed early on in the book was that just from out of nowhere a word mid-sentence would be capitalized. At first that bothered me, then I just accepted it as bad editing (or poor translating) and ignored it. Sometime thereafter that practice stopped.

Janine loved astrology. (this is one place that I thought the author delved too deeply). It was obvious that Janine was a much bigger lover of animals than she was of humans. She also was the caretaker for some summer houses just outside Warsaw Poland. (‘summer houses’ being very kind – they sounded like shacks). She did however have a few permanent neighbors, who stayed year-round, that she renamed – Oddball, Dizzy and Big Foot – to match their appearances. Soon her neighbors start turning up dead and this strange little woman, who mostly keeps to herself, has a problem with getting anyone to listen to her. So, she becomes her own investigator, judge, jury and prosecutor.

I have never read this author before and am uncertain about reading another of her books. This story just seemed to come across as a poor monologue. Like it was being presented without inflection just a monotone, no change in pitch or tone. She struck one note and carried it throughout the whole book. Again, maybe a translation issue? This author is a highly regarded author in Poland and has been awarded for her translated books, so take my review with a grain of salt.
In West Mills
by De'Shawn Charles Winslow
how things are carried down thru generations... (10/9/2020)
3.75 stars Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for a chance to read and review this book. Published June 4, 2019.

This was a first time read of anything by Winslow and I am not sure exactly what is was about this book, but I loved it. I think it was a mixture of things.

I am always amazed by a man that can write a woman's part so well. Even if it was a character like 'Knot' - rough and tumble, mouthy and more often with a drink in her hand than not. I liked the southern aspect of this story and also the authentic speech. It was a good story about family relationships, how bad they can get, and how things are carried down thru generations.
Today We Go Home: A Novel
by Kelli Estes
the effects of war on a female soldier - past and present... (10/9/2020)
4 stars Thanks to BookBrowse and Sourcebooks Landmark for a chance to read this book. Published September 3, 2019

I really enjoyed this book. I had not read Estes before, but I know she had a prior book, that I will now secure and read.

In alternating chapters this book bounced back and forth between a current day, just discharged, female combat soldier having served in Afghanistan, and a young woman from the 1850's who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Civil War. The current veteran, Larkin, found the diary of the Civil War veteran, Emily, and read of all the horrific events that Emily went through, while still trying to maintain her own life, riddled with PTSD. Both women suffered devastating losses but yet took different routes to tame the elusive monster in their head.

Great story detailing the effects of war on a female soldier - past and present. How the female soldier is treated and her expected role, from both her surrounding military personnel and the general public's perception. Including what the female soldier expects from herself, while enlisted, in time of war and after discharge. Differences were acknowledged between the two women - 1850 to current day - however many similarities also remained.
Kopp Sisters on the March: A Kopp Sisters Novel #5
by Amy Stewart
plenty of story line for another book... (10/9/2020)
This is book #5 in the Kopp Sisters series. I enjoy this series because it is solidly based on the real lives of the Kopp sisters. Even in this book the author gave 7 pages to the historical facts - chapter by chapter - of the non fictional portion of the book.

However I did not care for this book as well as I have the past four in the series. I believe it may have been because so much of the book was dedicated to a new character - also a true to life character - but not a major character in the previous books. To me it appeared that too much time and story line was spent on this new character which took away from the Kopp sisters.

I believe that the story ended on a good note and left plenty of story line for another book - hopefully more dedicated to the Kopp sisters. This is a fun read with a lot of humor and entertainment, but still well grounded in the historical facts of the time and the lives of the sisters.
Miracle Creek
by Angie Kim
Will the real person come to light? (10/9/2020)
I realize that I am among those in the bottom quarter of overall ratings of this book. I did like the book - so gave it 3 stars = I liked it. However it just did not blow me away like it did so many others.

The story of a Miracle Submarine - aka a hyperbaric chamber - used for autism, infertility and a few other medical conditions. During one "dive" two people are killed due to a fire. In trying to solve how the fire started a number of people are looked at. There are protesters involved trying to shut the process down. There is a mother who for the first time did not accompany her son during the dive. There is the wife, of the only adult male in the chamber, who believes her husband is cheating on her. There are the owners of the operation who would stand to make a fortune in insurance money. One of these is put on trial - but is it the right person? Will the real person come to light? And if they do, will they admit to their wrong doing?

This was a debut novel. A good story for a debut and well thought out and written. For as many characters, and the way they each lead chapters, the author did a good job in their development. They all had a part to play in this novel. As I said, I liked the book, I just did not find it amazing. But I liked it well enough to pick up Kim's next book.
How to Walk Away
by Katherine Center
family, love and relationships... (10/9/2020)
First, I must admit that I am not much of a romance reader. I do enjoy a cozy or fluff book from time to time, but prefer they are mystery related, not romance related. However, I will admit that I did enjoy Katherine Center's style - even though there was more romance in this book than I enjoy. I think she developed her characters well and had a sufficient story line.

My reason for reading this book was that I plan to read her next book Things You Save in a Fire for a group. Not having read Things You Save in a Fire yet, I assume that some of the same characters will carry over. I came across a 'bridging' short story between the two books and decided reading How To Walk Away was probably advantageous.

This novel says a lot about family, love and relationships. It centers on Maggie, who has lost the use of her legs in an accident - which leads to the loss of everything important in her life. As she spends a month in the hospital she renews her relationship with her sister, finds out scathing news about her mother, and suffers through a scowling, barely talking physical therapist. By the time she is ready to leave the hospital, Maggie is looking at life differently. Things appear brighter, but is it enough to build a life on?
Call Your Daughter Home
by Deb Spera
The lives of three southern women... (10/9/2020)
3.5 stars Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for allowing me to read and review this book.

The lives of three southern women in the early 1920's. Unalike in class and standings, but with so many similar hardships. There was Anne, a wealthy aristocrat, blessed with all that money could buy. There was Rhetta, a black maid, a first generation free slave, still working for a white family. Then there was Gertrude, poor, white and beaten by her husband. This story is about how all three came to be connected, friends and in the end caregivers to each other.

Spera, a well known television producer, has now published her first, her debut novel. She admits to using many family stories and basing some of her characters off her own family members and also using some real life places and instances. This novel was developed from a short story that she wrote called 'Alligator'. We can only hope that she takes the rest of those short stories and make novels of each and every one.
The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes
Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky (10/9/2020)
Surprise, surprise! This is an author that I have not liked in any past book - I have not even been able to finish any of her past books - regardless of all the high reviews she has been given.


I have given this book 4 stars! I really did enjoy it. I felt it started out much like The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson which I had just read, and really liked, but once into the story it veered off into different territory, while still talking about the book women of Kentucky.

This story based on the true life beginning of the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky, tells not only that story, but is the story of hardships, spousal abuse, determination, sacrifice and ultimately love. It is the sisterhood in this story that carries it. Not taking into consideration the differences in race or social standing these women stood together and fought every battle, fought the town and fought the overly privileged men of that time.

The women are believable, the story is encouraging and the landscape presented is breath taking. Overall a really good novel.
The Night Before
by Wendy Walker
A real 'who-dun-it' mystery... (10/9/2020)
3.75 stars Thanks to NetGalley and St Martin's Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

At the center of Internet dating, Laura, never lucky in love, takes a chance - again. But upon meeting this new man, a blind date, she goes missing. Her sister, her brother in law and a childhood friend are all looking for her. They are scared for her life - but also scared of what SHE may have done.

A real 'who-dun-it' mystery. Many twists and turns coming to the final outcome. Just when you think you have it figured out another twist happens.
Red at the Bone
by Jacqueline Woodson
get in tune with Woodson... (10/9/2020)
It took me a minute to get in the rhythm of reading this book. Because that is what you have to do with a Jacqueline Woodson book. You need to be in tune with Woodson to get the most out of her writing. She writes differently than most authors - slower, with a defined pacing, and usually in a verbiage just south of the typical book. But once you have her rhythm down - her books explode with stories.

Ancestry and parenthood are top themes throughout this book. The differences in the generations and in the two families brought together due to a pregnancy. Reminiscing - what happened and what they wished had happened. Looking back - loves cherished and loves lost and looking forward - wondering what the future would bring
by Catherine Ryan Howard
'Rewind' tells you a lot... (10/9/2020)
I had such a hard time getting into this book. I started it three separate times and finally pushed my way through it. 'Rewind' tells you a lot! And I think that was my downfall. Every few pages the story would rewind. Trying to keep characters straight and then going back in time was confusing for me. The book did not start, then rewind and continue forward in one loop, it would rewind every few pages and take up at varying intervals. It took me half way through the book to even understand it was a murder mystery and which character was murdered.

I can say that the final 50 pages or so were good. The whole story was brought together in a very good way - understandable - and the real villain revealed.

I cannot recommend this book, but also do not want to discourage anyone from reading it. Just because this book did not click with me does not mean that others will not like it. I will pay attention to any other reviews that I see on this book, just to try to understand what it was that I missed that made this book so difficult for me.
Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds
POWERFUL (10/9/2020)
This story is pain. This story is trauma. This story takes place in one minute. This story takes place in an elevator. This story does not end as expected.

A young poverty grown teen is out to avenge the shooting death of his brother. Everything changes in the elevator on the way down.

I had both the printed book and the audio of this story. I first listened to the audio, read by the author. It was powerful. I liked it so much, I then read the book. This is a book like no other. This book is poetry. The story will remain with you
The World That We Knew
by Alice Hoffman
going against the flow on this book... (10/9/2020)
I am not sure if it was bad timing for me, the fact that I listened to an audio instead of reading the book, or I am just not an Alice Hoffman fan. But I struggled to give this a 3 star rating. I did not hear the wonderful prose that has been mentioned by others, nor the great mysticism and folklore that they say shined in this story. I found it to be confusing and fragmented. I did not think that the alternating chapters worked - at least not in the audio. It was very hard to follow.

I realize I am going against the flow on this book, but for me, it was a waste of my time.
The Good Girl
by Mary Kubica
Kubica is on a roll! (10/9/2020)
Story of a rich girls kidnapping due to her Daddys injustices. Mia(Chloe) was kidnapped by Colin (Owen) but instead of following the kidnapping plan Owen took her to an empty cabin in the woods.
Chloe ends up falling in love with Owen over the length of time they spent in the cabin.
The story held my interest and I kept listening to the audio book. There were 4 narrators of this story and each told it in their own way. Chloe, Owen, Eve -Chloes mother and Gabe - the detective on the case. The narration was very good.
There is a twist however. The twist is the story. Not something that I figured out before I read it and I can happily say I appreciate that fact. This was a debut book and after reading this one I am sure that I will read those that follow. Kubica is on a roll!
The Farm
by Joanne Ramos
the 'haves and the have nots'... (10/9/2020)
3.5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Random House for allowing me to read and review this book. Published May 2019.

This is a debut book. I had started it months ago and was unable to finish it in the time frame I had, so restarted it again from the beginning and quickly got through it. It was an easy book to read and the story carried you along.

Some of the major themes were related to the 'haves and the have nots', 'unfortunate situations', and 'greed'. A large corporation feeding off the need and the inability to succeed of immigrant women. Not only using immigrant women, holding them hostage, but adding pregnancy to their corrupt scheme.

In a baby for sale to the highest bidder, this farm preyed off foreign women. Women agreeing to carry babies to term, regardless of all else. And our protagonist, Jane, learned just how cruel that agreement could be. Betrayed by her own family, preyed upon by the farm, and heartbroken to learn of the mistreatment of her your daughter, Jane decides to change everyone's plans.

I did like the way this story ended, however it was a long sad trip to finally end up there.

I think that Ramos did a very good job on her debut book and I will look for more from this author in the future.
American Dirt: A Novel
by Jeanine Cummins
I would recommend this book ... (10/9/2020)
I stayed away from all the controversy about this book until after I had read it. I formed my own opinion about the book first. Keeping in mind that this book is fiction, my opinion is what I will refer to in this review.

I felt that the content of this book was very current, in time, and probably very accurate, in relevance. The plight of the immigrant, regardless of the nationality, is one of fear, confusion, bodily harm, and massively expensive. Our current government and administration only make it harder. I felt that Cummins did a good job in conveying the difficulties and fears that go along with trying to illegally immigrate into the United States.

The book opens with a mass murder. Sixteen people killed - two survive. Then it backs up and tells the story that leads to the killings. From there it focuses on a mother and son trying everything in their power to immigrate to the United States and at the same time stay hidden from a far reaching Cartel that wants them both dead.

I felt that Cummins wrote a good book. There may have been liberties taken, but that is acceptable in a fiction book. She developed good characters and went with a current and relevant plot. I had one objection to this book, however it is the same objection I have had with other books, so it is not singular to Cummins. My objection is the amount of Spanish she used in the text. Some things were translated, others were not. If you are writing to an English speaking audience, then write in English. If you want to write in Spanish, or any other language, then write the book in that language. I don't mind a foreign word here and there, but I think this was a bit overkill. I always take 1/2 star off my rating for this, as I did here also. With that said, I would recommend this book and I plan to read other books by Cummins.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
by Abbi Waxman
cute, funny, an easy to read and an enjoyable plot... (10/9/2020)
This was my second book by Abbi Waxman, and although I say I am not a romance reader, I did like this one. I thought it was cute, funny, an easy to read enjoyable plot, and actually reminded me of myself in places. We recluses have to stick!

Nina worked in a book store and preferred staying at home and reading with her cat, Phil, to any social commitments. She did however belong to trivia group as her once a month extra curricular entertainment. Her life was set...until...she received the news! The father she never knew has passed away and left her a full fledged family! Now, mix that will the accidental force feeding of a good looking trivia opponent and Nina's life is off the rails.

Definitely a chick-lit book, but one that is light and airy and moves quickly.

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