Review of “Hidden Bodies” by Caroline Kepnes

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Thanks to Atria/Emily Bestler Books for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Hidden Bodiesby Caroline Kepnes, is the sequal to YouThough I hadn’t read You, I didn’t have any trouble getting pulled into this series about a really nice guy who is down on his luck in the love department  rare book dealer/murderer turned Hollywood writer/murderer. After all, poor Joe is really trying hard to avoid this messy, stressful business. “How things come together in this universe, how they don’t is unfair.”

Our Joe is not an unlikable guy as murderers go. He’s a complicated man full of contradicting qualities. He’s insecure and egotistical. He’s sensitive and cynical. He’s able to love without restraint though he seems to have a hard time sustaining his romantic relationships. They always end, well, you know… badly.

After moving to the west coast to find Amy, the woman who stole his heart and a few expensive books back in New York City, he meets an interesting cast of characters but does not immediately locate Amy. He does, however, meet Love, the daughter of wealthy grocery store owners. Will she be the one to save him from himself? Can he learn to trust again? Can he finally let go of Amy?

This book was a super-fast read. The author’s writing style was a nice change from many of the books I read lately and usually gravitate toward. The ending was one that left me looking forward to the next book in the series but I’m not sure how many books in a series such as this I could read. I could, however, see how this series could develop a very devoted fan base.

My rating: 4 stars

 

 

 

 

Review of “The Girl from the Train” by Irma Joubert

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The Girl from the Train provides something a bit different than many of the WWII novels I’ve read in the recent past. In terms of geography, the settings are primarily Poland and South Africa. While both lands are richly described, I felt I learned a lot about the terrain and culture of South Africa during the period. I appreciated the details that made it very obvious that the author had thoroughly researched the war as it related to the specific people and places described in the book. The story itself contains many smaller stories and themes that are seamlessly woven in throughout the book.

I found the characters to be likable enough but perhaps too perfect. Based on the description of the book, I hadn’t expected it to be so romance-heavy. I appreciate that there are lots of people out there who really love to read romance but it’s just not my thing. I think the book could have had the same good ending without quite as much love drama.

While I can say I’m glad I read this book, and I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite WWII novels. Two that come to mind that I’d recommend if you are interested in reading about that period are The Paris Architect and The True Story of Hansel and Gretel.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson via NetGalley for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 3 stars

 

 

 

Review of “The Portable Veblen” by Elizabeth McKenzie

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First, I would like to thank the author, Elizabeth McKenzie, for my now having added squirrels to the already long list of animals (including dogs, cats, cows, pigs and my 4 year old beta fish, Papa) I anthropomorphize upon sight or consideration.

Next, I would like to thank Penguin Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Portable Veblen is a fun read. While I found the first half of the book slow-moving, I enjoyed getting to know the strange and quirky characters,  Veblen and Paul, and their even stranger, quirkier families.

Paul and Veblen are about to get married. Their relationship is a little odd and I never quite got the feeling that Veblen was as excited about the prospect as I would expect. But then again, Veblen is odd. She has some seriously strange habits, including biting herself and typing on a phantom keyboard when she’s stressed, that make talking to squirrels seem pretty normal. Paul, an innovative young neurologist, is an interesting and well thought-out character. I found myself expecting him to be more “normal” than he actually was, however. I’m not sure if that’s because of his promising career or because his quirks were more subtly laid out (for the most part). The strength and depth of their relationship lies in their ability to understand their respective complicated family dynamics which include Veblen’s father’s institutionalization, her mother’s hypochondria and narcissism, and Paul’s difficult, intellectually disabled brother.

 

The story is told with enough humor and humanity to offset for the weight and seriousness of the issues and provide an enjoyable read.

My rating: 4 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of “What Was Mine” by Helen Klein Ross

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a book offered such an original idea and fresh perspective. What Was Mine had me up and reading at 4am. As a parent, reading a book about a baby’s kidnapping is always unsettling. Most of us have experienced at least one brief moment of terror when our eyes weren’t quick enough in their search for our children. Most of us are lucky enough to have feeling quickly replaced by an overwhelming sense of relief when, in short order, we realize he/she had been right there all along, just an arm’s length away. Marilyn was not that lucky.

Lucy had been trying for a baby for quite a while when she was married. Now she has a bit of an obsession with Ikea. There she finds a baby whose mother has turned her back for just a few seconds too many. She kidnaps said baby but deludes herself into thinking that at some point soon she’ll find a way to return her. She’s in denial of her actions and the severity of the consequences which I found to be a little infuriating. She is a woman we would expect to know better – professional, no other implied behavioral health issues or criminal tendencies… She raises Mia as her own for 21 years until Lucy learns the truth through a series of serendipitous coincidences and events.

One thing I loved about this book is that it’s not meant to be a mystery. There’s no whodunnit. We know right out the gate what’s happened. What we don’t know is where it leaves everyone in their relationships. Will Marilyn be able to forgive Lucy? Could she ever accept that Mia may feel anything other than hatred toward Lucy? Will Mia ever feel as though she belongs with her birth family? Can her siblings accept her? Will Mia ever be able to feel  secure in her sense of identity? The author really gets to the heart of the matter by telling us the story through the eyes of many of the characters including Lucy, Marilyn, Mia, Lucy’s sister, Mia’s nanny, and others. The pieces of the puzzle put themselves together perfectly through these narratives.

The only thing that prevents me from giving this book 5 stars is the ending. It was rather abrupt and didn’t give me a sense of being fully complete. I would be surprised if this book doesn’t become a very popular read, even a best-seller in 2016.

My rating: 4.5 stars

Many thanks to Gallery books via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

 

 

 

Review of “The Guest Room” by Chris Bohjalian

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

This book was disturbing and sickening on many levels but it did keep me turning the pages… It wasn’t just the subject of human sex trafficking that I found myself objecting to. That was, of course, difficult to read but it was more than that. I really disliked all of the male characters. Richard, the “good guy” host of the bachelor party gone awry, was a weak man in my opinion. I was upset by the way he could not stop thinking about Alexandra after she and Sonja had fled the scene of the crime. It’s difficult to put into words but I was continually unsure if he was thinking of her in a concerned, fatherly way (since there was a question of her age in his mind) or if he was continuing to truly lust after her. It just felt very icky to me. As for the his brother, the groom, and his friend Spencer, they were simply stereotyped scumbags.

I think the author did a good job in giving us Alexandra’s perspective although I actually feel that the reality of many girls and women who are being trafficked is likely even worse that Alexandra’s experience.

I was also surprised at how the book ended. I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll leave it at that. But I always appreciate an ending I didn’t anticipate even if it was exactly the ending I’d hoped for.

I had not read any of Chris Bohjalian’s previous books but I certainly would in the future.

My rating 3.5 stars

 

Review of “I’ll See You in Paris” by Michelle Gable

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Thanks to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Beginning at a their horse farm in Virginia, then alternating between 1970’s and 1990’s Paris and England, I’ll See You in Paris is the story of a mother and daughter reconciling the past with their present. Though it is narrated in alternating time periods, and there are many twists and turns in the plot, the author makes the transitions smooth and easy to follow.

Annie Haley is a young woman who is not going to let anything stop her from finding out the truth about the missing Duchess of Marlborough – or herself. Her mother Laurel has been hiding many things, including her paternity, from her. While in Banbury, England to settle an estate her mother recently revealed she had inherited, Annie sets out to link the missing pieces together. She finds help in Gus, a regular at the local pub. They strike up an unlikely friendship and that’s when things become very, very interesting.

The story is told with a nice balance of seriousness and humor. The characters are well-drawn and all likable in their own way. That goes for the fictional characters as well as the Duchess herself. Though I admittedly didn’t know was a ‘real’ person until the end of the book.But it makes perfect sense. Some of this stuff you really couldn’t make up…

Michelle Gable does an equally great job describing the setting and locations. Reading this book certainly made me want to get on the next flight to London so I could make my way to Banbury, bike to the George and Dragon, and have a pint with Gus! Followed by a trip to Paris, of course.

My rating: 4 stars