Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: Before The War

Before The War Before The War by Fay Weldon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first book by Fay Weldon and it was excellent.
How shameful that I'd heard from her but had not got around to reading her. And when I found out she wrote the first episode of "Upstairs Downstair", one of my favorite series of all times I was hooked. She's 84 years old and still writing and publishing.

This is a book filled with main characters. We first meet Vivvie: tall, awkward, rich, single and pregnant. Then we have Sherwyn Sexton, aspiring novelist, penniless and short. How she manages to marry him is amazing. We also have Vivvie's parents, Sexton's mistress and his friend Mungo and the twins, Vivvie's daughters. All perfectly described characters and holding an important part of the plot.
If the first part of the book is mainly Vivvie, the second one is Adele, her beautiful (and small) mother who has the biggest appetite for everything in life.

We get a hint of what is going to happen, as from the first chapter we know Vivvie is to die, we just don't know exactly how or when, and so we keep on reading anxiously as to discover this mystery. And we will have all the answers, all the way from 1922 when the book starts, to 1939 (and a few scenes in 1947)

And there's to be a second part: "After the War". That just made my day!

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Cold Girl: A BC Blues crime novel

Cold Girl: A BC Blues crime novel Cold Girl: A BC Blues crime novel by R.M. Greenaway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is murder in a very cold climate.

Young girls are being killed. It's a serial killer know as The Pickup Killer.
So when Kiera Rilkoff, a local singer on her way to fame is also murdered, the first impression is that she is the new victim of The Pickup Killer.
But things are not what they seem, and the relationship between Keira and her band was beyond complicated.

Investigating these murders are the local police as well as Dion, Leith and Bosko, who are in the Hazeltons area to help solve the case.
Dion is a troubled man. He was involved in an accident and suffered brain damage. He has been demoted and is slowly returning to work, full of frustration and anger at his new situation.
Leith is also an angry man, but that is just the way he is. And Bosko, the highest ranking of them is an enigma to all.
There are also 2 women in the team: Renée Giroux, the local sergeant and Jayne Spacey, the local constable, each with her own agenda.

Don't expect a fast paced book. This is a slow read, worth every moment. The description of the land where it all takes place is incredible, the cold and the cold atmosphere get to you.

I always think I have the killer figured out, but in this case the motive for the killing were completely out of my league. The ending twists and then twists again. So good!

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Rejected Writers' Book Club

The Rejected Writers' Book Club The Rejected Writers' Book Club by Suzanne Kelman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a charming book!
A club that collects rejection letters from publishers. A bunch of crazy ladies that are null at writing.
Anyway, charming ladies in improbable but hilarious situations. Imagine someone traveling with all her cooking utensils and ingredients? That's the way it goes.

It's also a very beautiful story of friendship and helping one another, among all the disasters that can happen on a road trip from Washington State to California.

I have to confess I almost tossed the book after reading the first chapters. I'm glad I didn't, but I do think the book needed some more editing (I read a galley of this book). There is too much description: the town, the shops, the people, what they are wearing and there are many repetitive words and phrases.
Everybody is quaint and there doesn't seem to be a normal looking person at first.
Anyway, I'm so happy I finished it, as it was a very pleasant, light, hopeful books.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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What an amazing collection! Fiction (all kinds), non fiction, critic, essays, biography, Established authors, debut authors. The works!

I have a big problem here: Though I have already read a few of the books excerpted here (All things cease to appear, Jane Steele, which are excellent, by the way) and I have a few others courtesy of NetGalley (Maestra, All is not forgotten, Before the fall, Don't you cry, Christodora among others) I keep finding books that I'd like to read so I keep requesting and buying.
Thank you Buzz Feed Books!

You can request your free copy on Amazon.

Review: The Girl from the Train

The Girl from the Train The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book as I was on a WWII roll, and from the blurb it sounded as pretty good.

I'm afraid to say it was a big disappointment!
It does start very well: Sometime during WWII a little girl is thrown from a train in Poland. The train is headed for a concentration camp and her grandmother and mother try to save her and her sister.
Her sister is very ill and dies shortly after, but a young farmer "adopts" her and takes her into his family.
When the war is over, as he can't support her, he takes to Germany, from where she is sent to South Africa to be adopted there.

Gretl, the little girl, is lovely: smart, fearless, independent. Jakób, the Polish farmer is also smart, driven, a revolutionary. There is a part in the book, about Czechoslovakia in the 1950's and the political events happening that is extremely well researched and written.

When Jakób and Gretl reunite, many years later, she is the opposite of the little girl: a very uninteresting young woman whose favorite words are Mommy and Daddy.
There is much talk about religion (if I knew about it I wouldn't have requested this book to read), and what makes me more uncomfortable is the fact that Gretl is sent to South Africa as she appears to be pure Aryan. Also, no talk of Apartheid?

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: No Safe Secret

No Safe Secret No Safe Secret by Fern Michaels
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first Fern Michaels book, as she is mostly a romance writer, which is not a genre I read. So when I saw this book was tagged only as fiction, I thought it would be a good read as she is a very popular writer.

Maddy Carmichael is about to graduate high school. On the night of her prom, terrible things happen to her, and she flees her small Florida hometown.
She manages to get to Boston, changes her name and builds a new life for herself. she even marries a good looking, rich dentist, who also happens to be a terrible abuser.

The books takes us back and forth from when Maddie leaves Florida to Boston, 20 years before, to her actual life, which is not much better than it was before, even if she has money, a big house and a lovely daughter.

When somebody makes an anonymous call telling her he knows what happened on the night of her prom, she decides to go back to Florida and find out for herself the consequences of what happened that night.

The book is very fast paced, I couldn't wait to see how the plot developed, but (and a very big but!!!) I never really knew what happened on that fateful night, and the end develops in the last 10 pages or so. I felt as if I had missed something, as the tension built during the whole book and then it ended so fast.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Toronto, around 1910. Jem Watts and her friend Merinda Herringford are not your usual turn of the century girls. Instead of finding nice husbands and being domestic goddesses, they live on their own and try to be investigators, just like Sherlock Holmes.
Merinda is rich and her parents support her, but Jem has to work in a department stores as her own parents have disowned her.

When a young Irish girl (and then a second one) are found murdered, Merinda takes it upon herself to find out the killer. This is not as simple as it seems, as the Morality Squad is intent on "arresting women suspected of incorrigibility or vagrancy". That means not going out after dark alone among other things. There's also Dorothea Farfaix's Handbook to Bachelor Girlhood, which punctuates each chapter with what a girl should do to find herself a husband.

This book is a very entertaining read, but there are some lose ends that made me wonder if it needs more editing (I read a galley). Also, Jem is a very likable character but Merinda was for me the contrary. She's rude, bossy and not very interesting. And even though she really doesn't care about finding a husband, Jem does so it made me wonder about the point of the book, as at least half of the team is not a very willing bachelor.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Complete Alice in Wonderland

Complete Alice in Wonderland Complete Alice in Wonderland by Leah Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's not much I can say about Alice in Wonderland that hasn't been said before, so I'll just focus on this beautiful graphic novel.

First of all, the authors made an amazing job of translating the book into a graphic novel. I had the "written" edition with me and I checked each and every page of it against this book and you don't lose anything. What I mean is that some adaptations lose half the original text, and this was not the case. The title states it's the complete Alice and is certainly is.

As for the illustrations, they are amazing, full of detail! The colors come out as matte and subdued (I read the book on my computer), but it only makes them more beautiful and accord to the book.
But I have to say my least favorite character was Alice, as she is depicted in a very "anime" form: big eyes, turned up nose, little mouth and it seems like a completely different style from other characters, like the Queen of Hearts

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Betting Blind

Betting Blind Betting Blind by Lily Gardner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not a fan of reading books in a series where I haven't read the first book, but this was an exception. Book 2 of the Lennox Cooper series is worth it.

An ex police woman who was kicked out of the Portland force, Lennox is now a PI. In this book she has to work as hard as she can when one of her best friends and poker buddies is accused of murdering a young girl, who also happens to be one of his "clients" as he's a parole officer. And what's worse, he's been caught -on tape- of acts that will probably end his career even if the murder accusation doesn't. Lennox is an ace poker player and her friends are all she has, so when one of them is in trouble this serious, they will all do the impossible to help.

Add to this an ex-lover, who is also a very dirty police man and you have a very good thriller. It's fast paced and things keep happening.

Lennox is also a great female character, who doesn't apologize for what she is or for what she wants. She has made mistakes, many of them, and all she has is to learn from them.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Jane Steele

Jane Steele Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is perfect. Yes it is!

Jane Steele is a reader and fan, if you can call it that, of Jane Eyre, and though their lives have similarities, they also couldn't be more different. Our Jane is a murderer five times over, even if the people she kills are cruel and evil and not fit to be in this world. Her killing them is a survival necessity, not something she wants or takes pride in.

Narrated in the same style as Jane Eyre, and from Steele's POV, the author takes uson a journey that I wish didn't end: From young Jane's life with her mad mother to her suffering in boarding school to survival in London, and then back to the stately house where she grew up and where she meets her Mr. Rochester in the name of Charles Thornfield.

This book is historical fiction and a mystery and so much more. I was hooked from the first page and even if it's not a short book (more than 400 pages), it reads very easily. The characters are engaging: Jane herself, her friend Clarke, Thornfield, Sardar and little Sahjara. And there is a very important part that has to do with Thornfield and Sardar's life in India, which is IMHO impeccably researched and translated to fit into the book.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Beauty of the End

The Beauty of the End The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of the first chapter of this book in exchange for an honest review

After reading the first chapter, I'm definitely waiting anxiously for this book to be published. It's exactly the kind of book I love: big mystery in the form of a blast from the past. I'm intrigued by why broke her engagement with Noel and what lead to her being in a coma and accused of murder 16 years later. So many questions!

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Review: All In

All In All In by Simona Ahrnstedt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of the first chapter of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have to say I'm not much of a romance reader. But Sweden has given us such good writers (I'm a big fan of Nordic Noir books) that maybe i should go out of my bubble and engage in new genres?
I think I have to read some more to give a realistic opinion, as I only got a glimpse of what might happen: a ruthless entrepreneur about to take over one of Sweden's most important companies and the promise of a love story with the heiress of the family that owns it. Sounds good!

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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Review: The History of Love

The History of Love The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second book by author Nicole Krauss. As in the first one (Great House), we have several stories that are connected between them: A young boy during the war, who emigrates to New York, a Jewish writer in Chile, a young girl also in NY. And a book called "The History of Love"

The story is told in different voices: Leo Gursky, the old man who is waiting for death; Alma Singer, the young girl who is just starting to live; Alma's mother reading from the book.

This book is about life and death, of people that barely escaped it and how it made them stronger, but sadder. And of course it's about love: Leo's love for the woman he wrote his book, Alma's mother love for her husband, Alma's love for her family.


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Review: The Long Drop

The Long Drop The Long Drop by Denise Mina
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC (excerpt of first chapter) of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Denise Mina is one my favorite mystery writers, and given the chance to read (even if it was an excerpt of a chapter) of her new book, I was grateful for the opportunity.

Two men, William Watt and lawyer Laurence Dowdall head into a restaurant to talk with Peter Manuel, a criminal that says he has information about the Burnside Affair.

We've yet to know that Watt's family has been killed and that he is the prime suspect in the murders of of three members of his family, and also that his 17 year old daughter has been attacked.

Mina is a master with words and plot, wrapping the reader around them in each chapter. And this book won't be an exception. If the beginning is so good, this will be another exciting book by a great mystery writer

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Review: The Eloquence of the Dead

The Eloquence of the Dead by Conor Brady
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 2 in the Joe Swallow Series, but don't worry, you can read it first. But I'm sure after reading this book you'll want to read the first one asap. At least I do!

Dublin, 1887. Ambrose Pollock, a pawnbroker, is found murdered in his shop. His sister Phoebe has disappeared.
Sargent Joe Swallow, though one of the best policemen in the force, has not been promoted in a long time and is not happy with the situation.

While investigating the case he finds it is linked to a much bigger case of corruption, one that could make the government very uneasy and interrupt the precarious peace in the country.

Beautifully written and plotted, with an amazing description of characters and the historical period. I especially liked how Mr. Brady "introduces" Yeats into the story. Swallow is a very human and attractive character. The effort he puts into attending his Thursday afternoon painting class is endearing.

I hope we have a third book in the series soon. I like a love story too, and Swallow and Mrs. Walsh's has to have a happy ending.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Two-Family House

The Two-Family House The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two very different families share a house. In the upper floor, Helen, Abe and their four sons.
Downstairs, Abe's brother Mort, his wife Rose and their three daughters.

When two babies are born just minutes apart on a stormy night, the misguided decision that the mothers make will alter all of their lives forever.
Following the birth of the babies, the relationship between Rose and Helen starts to change. Mainly, it's Rose that has a complete change of character, and pushes everyone from her.
I can assume it was due to the pact she made with Helen, but I would have liked to see more depth in her, not just anger.

While the book is very well written, I felt that the outcome was too easy after all that the characters had been through.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: A Lady in the Smoke: A Victorian Mystery

A Lady in the Smoke: A Victorian Mystery A Lady in the Smoke: A Victorian Mystery by Karen Odden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A train accident pairs Lady Elizabeth Fraser and railway surgeon Paul Wilcox. This is Great Britain in the 1870's and their lives would be so different that their lives would not ever cross. But Paul saves their lives and brings them together.

When too many similar accidents happen, Wilcox and his friend, journalist Tom Flynn, start investigating. They never imagined their best ally would be Lady Elizabeth. Here is a main character that knows what she wants and won't let class or gender stop her, even if the consequences can be devastating for her reputation.

This is a lovely well written book, and there is an impressive amount of research, not only about railroads, but about class and lifestyle in Victorian times. Characters and plot are well developed but, for me, there was just too much information about railroads.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Arcadia

Arcadia by Iain Pears
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most interesting and beautiful books I've read lately.
It's part sci-fi, and part dystopian, and it also reads like a fairy tale.

Three parallel worlds: Oxford in the 60's, right in the middle of the cold war, Anterworld an idyllic almost primitive civilization, and a post apocalyptic Island of Mull sometime around the 23d. century.
There's love, murder, mystery, spies, a cat and time travel. Characters overlap from one universe to the other, but it's not as complicated as it seems. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy to find out who is in which world (although there a few surprises here also)

But can parallel worlds/universes exist at the same time? What if you go from one to the other and how can the actions of a character in one world affect others? And what if you'd rather be in a world that wasn't your original one?

Iain Pears makes the more than 500 pages of this book fly by.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Unforgotten

The Unforgotten The Unforgotten by Laura Powell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could give this book 6 stars, I would do it, or even 7, that's how good it is.

It starts with a serial killer in the little and calm town of St Steele, in Cornwall. When reporters from all around the UK descend massively to cover the story, they all room at Hotel Eden, where 15 year old Betty Broadbent and her crazy, alcoholic mother manage and live.
Betty becomes friends with John Gallagher, one of the reporters. This friendship will shape the rest of their lives. The promise Betty makes to Gallagher will still affect her 50 years on.

The story is narrated in 2 different time levels: one during the summer-autumn of 1956, when the killer struck, and another one 50 years later.

Even if this is a crime-mystery book, the story behind it, of the choices people make and how they define their lives (and of those around them) is more important. The book has an air of sadness and of lost love. Of decisions having been made against people's wills.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Friday, April 01, 2016

Review: Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I should have listened to friends that said you have to read book 1 in this series (You) before reading Hidden Bodies. There are many situations that happen in books 1 that lead directly to this book, so I was somewhat lost.

Joe Goldberg is looking for true love. When he thinks he has finally found it, he is betrayed once again, so he travels across the country, all the way from New York to California, to find the girl who has treated him badly and kill her. Seems every time he doesn't have his way he just decides to eliminate the problem, instead of fixing it.

Though he doesn't find her, he does meet Love, who seems to be the perfect woman for him. But that doesn't stop him from leaving a trail of dead people behind him. We have a very creative killer here.

Though I did like it, I didn't love it. I have seldom seen a cast of characters so shallow and full of themselves.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Birds

The Birds The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't really pay much attention to how others have rated the books I read until after I read them, as I don't want to be influenced by those ratings. It's happened that I completely love a book that other people have rated low and vice-versa.

In this case, I seem to be in the 20% that didn't rave about it, as I found the book very slow. Or maybe it just wasn't the book for me? I have to say that it is beautifully written and translated, and that is why for me, it is a 3 star read.

Mattis and Hege, brother and sister, have lived together all their lives. Mattis is mentally disabled and Hege works all day long to support both of them. Though he is physically fit, he struggles to find work and he never helps around the house either. Hege talks with the fewest possible words while Mattis talks and talks, his musings making her angry. When Jørgen, a lumberjack, arrives to their small town and boards with them, he and Hege fall in love, and Mattis is completely left out. While he understands nature, he can't understand this.

This seemed to me a book full and sadness and despair.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Madwoman Upstairs

The Madwoman Upstairs The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to start this review saying I absolutely loved this book. Sometimes I surprise myself because I think I don't like books that can be tagged as women's fiction, romance or chick-lit, but deep down I love them. And if you add that there's books and a mystery involved, it's so much better, right?

When Samantha Whipple arrives at Oxford to study Literature, she tries to forget she's the last of the Brontë's. Yes, Brontë as in Charlotte, Anne and Emily.
Lonely and a bit awkward, she makes few friends but does develop a serious crush with her tutor, who also happens to be a Brontë scholar.

Rumor says she has inherited the Brontë estate, but as far as she knows, that is just not true. She has never seen any part of it. But then, as in a scavenger hunt, clues start arriving at her doorstep and all she can do is follow them to solve the mystery of the mythical Brontë legacy. But it is not just a hunt for the legacy, as in the meantime she starts discovering so much about her father and also about herself.

The only part that I didn't like so much is the fact that Samantha seems like a cliché: tall, awkward American. Or maybe I have just read a few books where the main character is similar to her? On the other part she is a lovely bright woman, so that makes it even. And the romance part is good!!!

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: I'm Traveling Alone

I'm Traveling Alone I'm Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjørk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan/reader of Nordic-Noir, and it makes me very happy to see there are tons of authors from this genre that I haven't read yet.

Samuel Bjørk, from Norway is the case. Originally published in 2013, but just recently translated into English, "I'm Traveling Alone" is the first in the Holger Munch & Mia Kruger series. From what I've investigated, there's one more book in the series, which will also be published in English in a few months (can't wait!!!) and a third one only in Norwegian.

To cut a long story short, when little girls are kidnapped, murdered and dressed in strange doll-like clothes, Holger Munch is put in charge of a special homicide task force. He then has to convince his ex-colleague Mia Kruger to return to work, as she has serious personal problems. Things get even more dark when one of the little girls that go missing is Munch's own grand daughter.

Fast paced, thrilling and full of plot twists, this is a great book not only for fans of the Nordic-Noir genre, but for fans of mystery and thriller books.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Seven Good Years

The Seven Good Years The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Seven Good Years of the title refer to the years between when the author's son was born and when his father passed away. These are short essays that refer to his daily life and the struggles of living in a country that is mostly in a state of war.

Though I did find them interesting, I was expecting more depth, perhaps? It felt like they were written fast and easily, and not much more. I had read reviews about this book and author, and was certainly expecting something else.

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