Sundays are for Writing #88

This has been a rather hectic writing week, as I crammed everything into four days instead of five. But: five book reviews, finished up the last four lessons in the Maggie Stiefvater class, and a bit on the Chasing Shadows revision, so I’m happy.

I’d like to give a bit of explanation for my ratings in the reviews I write. I probably should have done this when I started rating reviews…but it seemed self-explanatory. Except my ratings are more nuanced than five stars=a spectacular book. I read a lot. Like, a lot. But just because I loved a book, doesn’t mean you will. And just because something bothered me in a book, doesn’t mean it will bother a single other person on the planet. A review is an opinion, and we all know what they say about opinions.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a one- or two-star rating on a review here. Because if I think the writing is that bad, or I dislike the content that much, I won’t finish reading the book. (It took me years—most of my life—to embrace the freedom of not finishing a book that was a bad choice for me.) Writing is hard work, and I refuse to give a bad review to a book just because I don’t like it a bit. That’s disrespectful to the author and the work that went into creating the book. And, just because I don’t care for the book, doesn’t mean you won’t, either.

So, as a general guideline:
-5 stars means I loved the book. It might have a few issues, but I loved it anyway.
-4 stars means I liked the book, possibly loved parts of it. A solid read.
-3 stars means I thought it was good enough to finish—but there was something I
didn’t really care for (could have been a writing issued, could have been a character
I found annoying). The writing might have been superb—which I’ll mention—but if
the MC is whiny and annoying, that detracts enough that it knocked the rating
down.
-anything with a decimal number means it leaned towards the next number up (So,
the character was annoying, but not that annoying.).

Again, my reviews are my opinions. We don’t all have the same tastes or pet peeves or preferences. That’s what makes us individuals. If you think my 3-star rating is wrong on a book, please tell me why. Maybe your insight into the character I disliked will change my mind. Anything is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review:  The Guide, by Peter Heller

Image belongs to Knopf.

Title The Guide
AuthorPeter Heller
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  5 out of 5

Kingfisher Lodge, nestled in a canyon on a mile and a half of the most pristine river water on the planet, is known by locals as Billionaire’s Mile and is locked behind a heavy gate. Sandwiched between barbed wire and a meadow with a sign that reads Don’t Get Shot! the resort boasts boutique fishing at its finest. Safe from viruses that have plagued America for years, Kingfisher offers a respite for wealthy clients. Now it also promises a second chance for Jack, a return to normalcy after a young life filled with loss. When he is assigned to guide a well-known singer, his only job is to rig her line, carry her gear, and steer her to the best trout he can find.

But then a human scream pierces the night, and Jack soon realizes that this idyllic fishing lodge may be merely a cover for a far more sinister operation. A novel as gripping as it is lyrical, as frightening as it is moving, The Guide is another masterpiece from Peter Heller.

I don’t think I’ve ever read one of Heller’s novels before and reading The River before this wasn’t a necessity (to me, anyway). The writing here is stellar!  I’m usually not much for in-depth and lyrical description, but it absolutely worked here, bringing the scene to such evocative life I could almost taste it. I don’t know a thing about fly fishing, but I still felt right at home in this novel and with these characters. This was an excellent read!

Peter Heller is an award-winning adventure writer. The Guide is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Knopf in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Her Perfect Life, by Hank Phillippi Ryan 

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

Title:   Her Perfect Life
Author:   Hank Phillippi Ryan
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?

The basic plot of this was a bit hard for me to believe. I know Lily isn’t quite an investigative reporter, but she has done a little investigating and she has kept her own secret hidden for decades. (Side note, please tell me why Lily’s secret needs to stay a secret anyway? Seems to me it would make her far for likable, instead of into the social media pariah she believes it will make her.) So, why does she just believe her anonymous source when he shows up in person? She doesn’t bother to make a single phone call to find out if he really is who he says he is. That alone made the rest of the book not-quite-believable.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is an investigative reporter and a bestselling author. Her Perfect Life is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Children’s Secret, by Nina Monroe 

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   The Children’s Secret

Author:   Nina Monroe

Genre:   Mystery/thriller

Rating:  3 out of 5

Nothing ever happens in a sleepy town like Middlebrook. Until the residents are shaken to their core, when one hot Saturday afternoon, at a back-to-school party, nine children sneak into a barn…and only eight come out unharmed.

The press immediately starts asking questions. What type of parents let their children play unsupervised in a house with guns? What kind of child pulls the trigger on their friend? And most importantly: of the nine children who were present in that barn, which one actually pulled the trigger, and why are the others staying silent?

This was a well-written book, but most of the adult characters were barely tolerable—and Priscilla was horrible. I didn’t like the characters; I didn’t like that only one viewpoint was presented as “right”—that seems very narrow-minded for such a supposedly diverse community—and I didn’t appreciate the bias evident on every single page. Which is really too bad, as the basic plot was interesting, even if none of the supposed revelations were surprising in the least.

Nina Monroe was born in Germany, grew up in England, and now lives in New Hampshire. The Children’s Secret is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Requiem of Silence, by L. Penelope

Image belongs to St.Martin’s Press.

TitleRequiem of Silence

Author L. Penelope

Genre:  Fantasy

Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Civil unrest plagues the nation of Elsira as refugees from their old enemy Lagrimar seek new lives in their land. Queen Jasminda is determined to push the unification forward, against growing opposition and economic strife. But the True Father is not finished with Elsira and he may not be acting alone. He has built a powerful army. An army that cannot be killed. An army that can only be stopped by Nethersong and the help of friends and foes of Elsira alike.

Former assassin Kyara will discover that she is not the only Nethersinger. She will need to join the others to harness a power that can save or end Elsira. But time is of the essence and they may not be ready by the time the True Father strikes.

Sisterhood novitiate Zeli will go to the reaches of the Living World to unlock a secret that could save the kingdoms. When armies meet in the battlefield, a new world will be forged. Whether by the hands of gods or men, remains to be seen

I’ve really enjoyed the Earthsea Chronicles series, and I’m sad to see it end. I love how all the cultures are blended together and explore their differences as well as their commonalities. The characters and settings are vibrant and detailed, and the storyline has been wonderfully explored in-depth, making this a series I highly recommend.

Leslye Penelope lives in Maryland. Requiem of Silence is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  This Is Why We Lie, by Gabriella Lepore

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   This Is Why We Lie

Author:   Gabriella Lepore

Genre:   YA

Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Everyone in Gardiners Bay has a secret.

When Jenna Dallas and Adam Cole find Colleen O’Dell’s body floating off the shore of their coastal town, the community of Gardiners Bay is shaken. But even more shocking is the fact that her drowning was no accident.

Once Jenna’s best friend becomes a key suspect, Jenna starts to look for answers on her own. As she uncovers scandals inside Preston Prep School leading back to Rookwood reform school, she knows she needs Adam on her side.

As a student at Rookwood, Adam is used to getting judgmental looks, but now his friends are being investigated by the police. Adam will do whatever he can to keep them safe, even if that means trusting Jenna.

As lies unravel, the truth starts to blur. Only one thing is certain: somebody must take the fall.

This was a quick, enjoyable read—and I didn’t figure out who the killer was on my own. I liked Jenna a lot, and it was interesting watching her perspectives change over the course of the book. I liked Adam as a viewpoint character, too, with his experiences—so different from Jenna’s own—that shape his views and loyalty, almost to his own detriment. This was an engaging read without a big time commitment.

Gabriella Lepore is from South Wales. This is Why We Lie is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Living and the Lost, by Ellen Feldman

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.
  • Genre:   Fiction, historical
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Millie Mosbach and her brother David escaped to the United States just before Kristallnacht, leaving their parents and little sister in Berlin. Now they are both back in their former hometown, haunted by ghosts and hoping against hope to find their family. Millie works in the office responsible for rooting out the most dedicated Nazis from publishing. Like most of their German-born American colleagues, the siblings suffer from rage at Germany and guilt at their own good fortune. Only Millie’s boss, Major Harry Sutton, seems strangely eager to be fair to the Germans.

Living and working in bombed-out Berlin, a latter day Wild West where the desperate prey on the unsuspecting; spies ply their trade; black markets thrive, and forbidden fraternization is rampant, Millie must come to terms with a past decision made in a moment of crisis, and with the enigmatic sometimes infuriating Major Sutton who is mysteriously understanding of her demons. Atmospheric and page-turning, The Living and the Lost is a story of survival, love, and forgiveness, of others and of self.

Millie was hard and unlikable enough at the beginning that I almost stopped reading, but she grew on me. This was set in post-WWII Berlin and offered a different view of the war—from someone who escaped before it got very, very bad, but who nonetheless did not escape unscathed. Solid writing and characters, and I enjoyed how all of them had such different layers. They weren’t all just one thing. That made for a nuanced and complex read, perfect for savoring.

Ellen Feldman lives in New York. The living and the Lost is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Never Saw Me Coming, by Vera Kurian

Image belongs to Harlequin.
  • Genre:   Mystery/thriller
  • Rating:  DNF

Meet Chloe Sevre. She’s a freshman honor student, a leggings-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, frat parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.

Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study for psychopaths—students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements.

When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.

I read almost half of this before stopping reading. I thought the writing was solid and the characterization good, but I just couldn’t connect with the characters. I mean, they’re psychopaths, so it’s a bit hard to care what happens to them, honestly. And Chloe manipulates and lies to everyone, and those are both character traits that I can’t stand in real people, so I’m certainly not going to waste my team reading about them.

Vera Kurian lives in Washington, DC. Never Saw Me Coming is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)