Review of “My Sweet Vidalia” by Deborah Mantella


Thanks to Turner Publishing Company via Edelweiss for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I learned that this book was told from the perspective of a baby that never drew breath but stayed by her mother’s side to help tell her story, I was pretty intrigued. It’s certainly a unique perspective and my initial reaction was that perhaps it might be something like The Lovely Bones. It was not. This is neither good nor bad. It’s simply written in another style all together. While the book was a very fast read and had some interesting plot twists, I felt that overall it was just okay. Though the characters were vividly drawn, I found that they were somewhat stereotyped and lacked some of the subtle nuances which may have rendered them a bit more believable/realistic. Though I’m unable to give this book an overwhelmingly positive review, I do think it was a solid first novel. I appreciated the author’s writing style enough that I would read her next work.

My rating: 3 stars

“Like Family” by Paolo Giordano


Thank you to Penguin Group Viking for providing me with a free ARC of this book.

Like Family is a beautifully written, complex but uncomplicated, story of a family and their beloved nanny. We understand from the outset that Mrs. A has died of cancer. The focus of this book is not a long, drawn-out account of her death, but rather the story of how her life has influenced the family she cared for. The characters are realistically drawn, well-developed, and all likable even in their eccentricities . I appreciated the emotional honesty and lack of gratuitous melodrama.

My rating: 4 stars

“Hanover House” by Brenda Novak


Thanks to the Author, Brenda Novak, for providing me with a free copy of this book via NetGalley.

Okay, I admit that Investigation Discovery is my favorite TV channel. I love true crime books and great crime fiction. I had really, really high hopes for this book. Sadly, they didn’t pan out. Reading previous reviews, I had come to expect some really heavy, psychologically thrilling content complete with gruesome details. The reality is that this is a very sickeningly-sweet romance-heavy novella about a woman who is kidnapped and tortured by her teenage boyfriend many years ago. (She is now 36.) She becomes a psychiatrist but is so haunted by her past that she has not had ONE intimate relationship since the incident. She is now moving to Alaska to study psychopaths at Hanover House, a unique facility built to study the worst criminals in the U.S. She meets a handsome Alaska State Trooper who, predictably, becomes her love interest inspiring her to consider a normal relationship. Unfortunately, the ex-boyfriend had never been captured and you can guess where this is going…

While I’m grateful for the opportunity that I had to review this book, it was just not for me.

My rating: 2 stars

“Coal River” by Ellen Marie Wiseman


I would like to thank Kensington Books via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.

Our heroine, Emma Malloy, finds herself orphaned after her parents die in a NYC fire. Her misanthropic Aunt Ida and Uncle Otis send her a train ticket so that she can move to their Coal River, PA home. She is haunted by the past as she arrives to the place where her younger brother drowned in the river years before. Before long, though, she becomes saddened and outraged by the working conditions of the breaker boys and the unfairness of the coal mining system. Emma, however, is not afraid to challenge the system and those running it at all costs. She risks everything to help the miners and their families and bring an end to the child labor and unfair and illegal conditions at the mine.

This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Though I found it to be well-written and a very quick read, there was something lacking in the story that I find it hard to put my finger on. Perhaps Emma was just a little too fearless. Unrealistically so. The ending was also a bit unrealistic. Things wrapped up in too convenient a package.

I did love learning about the history of mining and it seems the author did a very good job in researching the subject and being completely believable in terms of the living and working conditions of the miners.

I hadn’t read either of the author’s previous novels so I really had no expectations (other than having read the reviews, of course) when I started this one. Though I can’t give it a glowing review, I would certainly read other books by this author in the future.

My rating: 3 stars

“Pictures of the Past” by Deby Eisenberg


Thanks to Studio House Literary via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


The provenance of a painting is called into question when an elderly holocaust survivor visits the Chicago Institute of Art and identifies “Jeune Fille a la Plage” by Henri Lebasque as having belonged to her neighbors, the Bergers, back in Berlin in 1937. In order to exonerate Taylor Woodmere and Woodmere Foundation, truths must be brought to light which require the unravelling of many layers of family secrets. Two lives come full circle and help to unite a larger family of several generations.

My thoughts:

While the main story was a good one, this book left me disappointed in several ways. Parts of it seemed to drag on and on. Entirely too much time was spent in the “falling in love” of Taylor and Sarah in Paris and Berlin. Love at first sight stories (especially involving a character who is practically engaged to someone else) can be very cliche and unrealistic and this was the case here. In fact all of the love scenes seemed very saccharine to me, reminding me of a mail-order romance book from the 1980’s. They just seemed overly done and too mooshey gooshey for a serious work. The whole Rachel/Rusty story seemed implausibly coincidental and convenient. I was disappointed in the depth of some of the characters (Emily, Rachel) and questioned the role of other’s in the book at all (The Spinners).

I did appreciate the author’s incorporation of the voyage of the St. Louis as it is a piece of history that I had previously read little about. I was inspired to do some research and reading on my own which I found to be very sad and frustrating.

My rating: 2 stars

“Whistling Women” by Kelly Romo


Thanks to Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Whistling Women is the story of sisters Wavey and Addie, and how their lives are torn apart and finally reconciled after too many years estranged. The majority of the story takes places during the 1935 World’s Fair in San Diego, CA. Wavey has, with limited success, moved on with her life and has been raising her two daughters in San Diego for many years since the sisters have separated. Addie has been living in at The Sleepy Valley Nudist Colony, north of San Francisco for 15 years when she learns she must travel to San Diego to become part of the nudist exhibition at the Fair. There their lives become entwined once again, largely due to the determination of Rumor, one of Wavey’s teenage daughters, to reunite them.

My thoughts:

While I was expecting this book to be more typical historical fiction, I found that it read more like chic-lit than historical or literary fiction. I was hoping to learn more about nudist colonies in the 1930’s, 1930’s San Diego, etc., but there was no real focus on those areas making me wonder how much research had been done in writing this book. The story itself was quite predicable. Very early in the book, Addie is outed as a murderer, and within about a page of a certain character being introduced, it is readily apparent who will come to be her “victim”. The characters were also difficult for me to like/relate to. Addie wasn’t as strong a woman as I’d hoped. Wavey was unlikable on a number of levels. Mary was too wishy-washy. Rumor, the most likable, was bratty and self-centered. That I could understand as being part of the “troubled teen” package, but I lost all respect for her when she had the opportunity to be a strong young lady and “do the right thing” but chose to protect an evil person.  Some parts of the story lacked resolution all together, and other resolutions left me feeling frustrated or unsatisfied.

My rating: 2 stars

Book Review of “The Fall of Princes” by Robert Goolrick


I received a free copy of this book from Algonquin publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: The Fall of Princes tells the tale of one man’s rise and fall in the hedonistic world that was 1980’s Wall Street. Money, power, greed, love, lust, sex, drugs, and alcohol provide the all of the interest once could hope for in Goolrick’s latest novel. From the excess and decadence of top of the Street’s food chain to city’s underbelly filled with drugs, hookers, and the beginning of the AIDS crisis, we are spared nothing.

My thoughts:

I am a big fan of Goolrick’s and this book did not disappoint! He writes with such nostalgia you’d bet your first-born you were there, shared the experiences with him, and are also experiencing the longing to be back in the good ‘ole days.  He is able to provide us with protagonists that are so introspective you’ll wonder how anyone could be that in touch with their feelings. In a good way.

Though the experiences in this book provide insight into the extremes of life in 1980’s Manhattan, I felt that Goolrick was able to pull it off in a way that is both historically accurate and still manages to draw you in though you may have heard similar tales of the excesses before.

As for Rooney. our rarely named protagonist, I could relate to him though I share almost nothing in common with him. There is just something about the way his humanity is expressed that makes him likable. Perhaps it’s a perfect balance of good and evil in his actions and intentions mixed with a certain vulnerability that makes me want to see him content though I understand he is not destined to be “happy”. But I think that is the point.

My rating: 5 stars