Blake Crouch’s “Good Behavior” – A Review.

good-behavior-blake-crouchStory   ★★★★
Writing ★★★★
Cover  
Mystery ★★★★

PROS: Well structured 
      Emotional
      Suspenseful
      Real characters 

CONS: No real ending (what?)
      Author comments throw off the 
      reading cadence

Whoop whoop. Who doesn’t love to read a book that has been adapted for television? When I first received Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles, it was yet to be aired. Now, you can watch the first season on TNT (rather, catch up on the already completed first season) featuring the lovely Michelle Dockery (aka Downton Abbey’s own Lady Mary).

Anyway. Today I’ll tell you a bit about the book itself,since ahem, this is after all a book-review, and not a TV series, blog.

Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles by Blake Crouch is a collection of his three interlinked novellas (The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab), which follow the (mis)adventures of Letty Dobesh, a thief and drug junkie fresh out of the prison and who finds herself back on the market, stealing for hire. Because the book has been adapted for television, after the first story is over, we are offered a commentary from Blake Crouch on the idea behind the storyline, and what he envisions for Letty as the star of the new TV show. It is like watching behind the scenes of the show after you’ve finished an episode. A bit unusual in the book setting, but nonetheless interesting. I enjoyed the commentaries by Blake, but also found it to somewhat break the reading rhythm. The stories are well written, in a fast paced rhythm that are expected of a crime/mystery style novel. Letty Dobesh is pretty personable, and we often feel bad for her, as her  bad choices are really dictated by her desire to change and do good – hence the clever title Good Behavior.

By now you’ve guessed, I enjoyed this book. Although I understand these were novellas put together as a book, I still would have liked them to be rewritten to actually make one novel, and not a novel in three parts. The reason is that when all was said and done, there was no real ending, no real epilogue/conclusion for the reader to fall on. We can just assume that Letty’s Good Behavior was only temporary and that her desire to reunite with her son and be a good mom, is not as strong as being a world-class thief. I did enjoy however the cliffhangers that were presented to us in each storylines, leaving me completely shocked and mesmerized in the end. To find what will happen next to Letty, I, the reader, am only left with one solution: to watch the TV adaptation. Well done, Blake, well done. However, can we next time have an actual novel with a beginning and an end to satisfy the readers, please? That was my only grievance for this book, and that is why I gave it a 4 star.

That being said, if you love crime/mystery novels, and don’t mind them telling three different stories that build on each other til the end, and love interesting female characters, well, this book is for you. It can be devoured in a couple of hours over a cup or glass of your favorite beverage (Letty would approve).

Thank you to NetGalley, and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of  Good Behavior: The Letty Dobesh Chronicles by Blake Crouch, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound
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 Language: English
 Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thrillers
 ISBN-10:  1503940497
 Published: November 15, 2016
 Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Emma Cline’s “The Girls” – A Review.

the-girls-emma-clineStory   ★★★
Writing ★★★
Cover   
Mystery 

PROS: Well structured
      Emotional
 
CONS: A little slow beginning
      No strong characters
      No real plot twists

You have probably seen Emma Cline’s book all over the internet by now. It seemed at one point to be THE book you ought to read, if you were only going to read one book (after all it made it to the NY Times Bestsellers list!).

I really had high hopes for this book. And maybe that’s the problem. I am not sure it if was all the hype constructed around the book, or if it was my hope to read the next “Gone Girl” with an even bigger story twist. Instead… well. It was all but that.

The Girls is Emma Cline’s debut novel and it tells the story of Evie Boyd, a young privileged teenager, who finds herself drawn by a group of girls living in some sort of made-up boho camp ( really a run down ranch), and following an older man as their leader. It is very clear whose story Emma Cline is trying to tell: the infamous Manson clan. The story doesn’t get any more original from that point, instead, we are offered to relive the horrors of the past but it a very slow fashion. Where one would hope to see strong female characters and their take of what it must have been like to be part of a cult like Manson’s was, we are instead offered a pretty pale version. Evie is another stereotyped rich girl who finds herself sucked into something bigger than she had bargained for. We are supposed to feel bad for her, but instead I fell very annoyed by her character and disappointed by all the other female characters in  this book.

As you can imagine by now, I didn’t think much of this debut novel. Yes, it was well structured and well told, but the magic and the surprise elements were just lacking. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong inspiring ourselves from history (what would be do without a good historical fiction anyway?), but there must be something more compelling than just regurgitating facts and changing names. There must be an element of surprise for the reader, and the characters have to be compelling enough to lead us til the end. However, in my humble opinion, The Girls missed the mark.

I give the book a solid 3 stars, and that is mostly due to the fact that despite Emma Cline missing the ‘Thrill’-bandwagon, she was pretty good at describing scenes and translating how Evie felt and why she was drawn to the leader of the cult. We get it – she is lonely, feeling unloved, and desperate for attention. Emma Cline made me understand Evie’s struggle, and why Suzanne seemed so appealing to her. But like I said, besides that, there was nothing else to the story, and that is very sad.

I think Emma Cline has potential to write a good novel, and I hope that someday I will come across a much enticing novel that will really make me rate it 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Random House for an ARC of  The Girls by Emma Cline, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
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 Language: English
 Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age, Thriller
 ISBN-10:  0735208182
 Published: June 14, 2016
 Publisher: Random House Large Print

Katherine Arden’s “The Bear and the Nightingale” – A Review.

The photo shows a book cover illustratinga forest in the winter, a small wooden house and a feminine figure walking towards the lit house.Story   ★★ 
Writing ★★  
Cover   Mystery ★★

PROS: Captivating 
      Well written
      Beautiful characters 
      Vivid imagery and descriptions 

CONS: occasional over-use of adjectives


Well hello there! This year I am on a mission to read more and consequentially, review more books. I am always happy to receive a free advanced reader copy to review.

What drew me to Katherine Arden’s debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale was the reference to Russian Tales, which animated my childhood. I was excited to see how she would use them to tell a new tale. And I am so happy I got to read this book, which plunged me right as I had hoped, into my childhood and the magic world of Ded-Moroz (the Slavic equivalent of Santa Claus, call him Father Winter), Baba-Yaga (a witch who looks like a grandma), Russalka (a mermaid with magic powers) and so on. Words cannot describe how much pleasure I had reading this “new tale”.

The Bear and the Nightingale, a classic fairytale told in a new light, tells the story of Vasilisa (Vasya) Petrovna, youngest daughter of the grand lord of Lesnyaya Zemlia, Pyotr Vladimirovich, who is also brother-in-law to the grand Prince of Moscow, and of her family. Pyotr Vladimirovich was happily married with four children, Kolya, Olya, Sasha and Lyoshka when his wife Marina died in childbirth, bringing to this world his last born – Vasya. Vasya, her mother told Pyotr, would be like her mother was – gifted with the magical blood of her bloodline. As she dies, she begs her husband to take great care of her daughter. Vasya grows curious of mind and of a wandering nature. She strives to be like her brothers, especially Sasha whom is her favorite; she takes upon herself to dress like a boy, and go onto exploring the surrounding forest. She also befriends the house spirits the villagers all leave ritual offerings for, but which only she is able to see.  Seven years after Marina’s death, Pyotr decides to take a second wife. He goes to Moscow, to introduce his sons, Kolya and Sasha to their uncle and Prince of Moscow. The Prince himself has a daughter, Anna Dmitrievna, who is said to be crazy, as she sees demons everywhere. To kill two birds with one stone, and ensure his son’s successful succession to the throne, the Prince of Moscow strikes a deal with Pyotr: he will take his daughter as his second wife, and in return, Pyotr’s daughter Olya will get to wed a Prince herself. Sasha decides to join a monastery and serve God, meanwhile Kolya insults a man who turns out to be Morozko, the winter-king. Again, Pyotr finds himself striking a deal in Moscow: he promises to give a gift Morozco has intended for his youngest daughter, Vasya in return for the life of Kolya. As Pyotr returns to Lesnyaya Zemlya, he brings back with him a wind of change. A reluctant bride who will prohibit the villagers to continue to give offerings to the household spirits, through the influence of a new priest, Konstantin Nikonovich. With his arrival, and the promotion of Christianity, horrible things will start to happens, of which only Vasya will have the power to stop.

The book is packed with action, and with sub-story lines which indicate Katherine Arden’s plans for a sequel. Written in a lyrical format, The Bear and the Nightingale is evocative, vivid and rich in beautiful descriptions and imagery. It is a page-turner, with beautifully written scenes waiting at each corner. The introduction of so many characters never feels confusing or overwhelming; instead, each character builds the story and invites us to follow them in their journeys. Besides offering us a new re-tale of classic Russian fairy tales, Katherine Arden also takes inspiration in the transitional period of Medieval Rus’. She explores the slowly rising influence of Christianity on pagan societies, and its clash with the old Rus’ – worshipers of old gods and the traditions that embrace it. Throughout the novel we thus note the clash between old traditions and new ones, acts of bravery and fear, and of course good and evil. Overall, it is a tale beautifully told, and I cannot wait to read the sequel of The Bear and the Nightingale.

Thank you to NetGalley, and Random House Publishing Group – Ballatine and Del Rey for an ARC of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
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 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
 ISBN-10: 1101885939
 Published: January 10, 2017
 Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballatine

M.K. Harkins “The Reader” – A Review

the-reader-mk-harkinsStory   ★★ 
Writing   
Cover   Mystery 

PROS: Captivating
      Funny
      Wonderful characters
      Interesting story-line

CONS: The notion of Soul Mate 
is quite redundant

I finished this book a while ago, but didn’t get around to reviewing it until now. So without further ado, here we go.

I was a bit skeptical when I first began the reading of The Reader. I feared this would be another “Twilight” style melodrama, but I was wrong. Right from the first page, I got hooked. The book opens up with the protagonist, Ann, waking up on a beach without any recollection as to where she is and how she got there. Two young men – Archer and Devon, find her and from that moment on, the book picks up in pace. We learn that the world has always been populated to some extent by Readers, Seers and Hijackers, and that a war between the Readers and the Hijackers is going on, and the victory lies in the discovery of who the Lost One is. Ann slowly discovers this paranormal universe and her identity as a Reader, but furthermore her place as a Lost One and everything that it entails. Very quickly, Ann has to learn to distinguish who her friends are from her enemies, as her abilities will help tip off the balance between Good and Evil.

I loved the story-line, and the characters. When I thought I had all of them figured out, M.K.Harkins did a good job by throwing me off the loop with story spins waiting around the corner. The story is told beautifully, and Ann is quite a funny person. I couldn’t stop myself laughing. The paranormal world described is also well set up to compliment the real world in which we live. I loved that Ann is both strong and vulnerable, and witted. Every character was well developed which made the whole story more believable. I did however find a bit annoying the over use of the word Soul Mate throughout the book.

It’s been a long time since I was this thrilled by a paranormal novel, and I was very happy to devour The Reader, which M.K. Harkins did a wonderful job putting together. If you enjoy fast paced novels, paranormal/dystopian worlds, real characters, then you should definitely add The Reader to your next to be read pile of books.

Thank you to NetGalley, and author M.K. Harkins for an ARC of The Reader by M.K. Harkins, in exchange for an honest review.


BUY THE BOOK: Amazon
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 Language: English
 Genre:Science Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
 ASIN: B01IM9A6KY
 Published: August 17, 2016
 Publisher: MK Harkins

Time Travel with Melanie Gideon’s Valley of the Moon | A Book Review

valley-of-the-moon-book

Author ★★
Story ★★★★
Writing ★★
Cover ★★★PROS
Entertaining
Great narrative
Powerful charactersCONS

BUY THE BOOK

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MELANIE GIDEON

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Language: English
Genres:
Literary Fiction
Historical Fiction
Time Travel
Women’s Fiction
ISBN-10:0345539281
Published: July 26,2016
Publisher: Ballatine Books

As a NetGalley member, I often receive their newsletter informing me of the books that will soon be available/are available for request. When I saw the Valley of the Moon in one of these newsletters, I was not much impressed by its cover – it was a bit too messy in my opinion. However, its title – it was filled with mystery and with a promise of an interesting journey just waiting to be taken in between its pages.

And so I requested to read it in exchange for my honest opinion.

And I am glad I did.

Valley of the Moon is Melanie Gideon’s third book and second novel. It is also my very first introduction to Melanie as an author. Valley of the Moon is told from the perspective of two main characters – Lux and Joseph. I am not sure why, but I am a sucker for books told from different point of views. Maybe because they make you feel omnipresent and in a way god-like; always aware of the truth that either character ignores. Seeing how the novel was structured, reinforced my desire to dive into it.

Lux is a single mom struggling to make her way when she discovers an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley. It seems like a place from another time—until she realizes it actually is. Lux must keep one foot in her world, raising her son as well as she can with the odds stacked against her, but every day she is more strongly drawn in by the sweet simplicity of life in Greengage, and by the irresistible connection she feels with a man born decades before her. Soon she finds herself torn between her ties to the modern world—her adored son—and the first place she has ever felt truly at home.

The narrative takes us back and forth between the early 1900s and the 1980s. Joseph – trapped in 1908, and Lux mainly living in 1980 and finding her way back to 1908. As the story unveils, we learn from both characters their troubled pasts with their fathers, the lack of love they felt growing up, and the desire to build a future together, despite the unlikely circumstances. Both characters are relatable, and it is easy to root for them and become attached. Although Lux at first appears to be a mess – working at a restaurant and barely making ends meets for her and her son Benno, I loved discovering that she was more than her crappy job, and more than the poor life choices she had made up until her visit to Greengage. It is easy to feel empathetic toward her as she tries to better her life and her son’s while trying to maintain the relationship she is building with the people of Greengage, and Joseph in particular. Despite what appeared as her shortcomings, Lux proves to be a person of her word, and a fighter. She is someone one would love to have as a friend or a parent. It is also interesting to see that the all composed, well behaved Joseph is just a human like the rest of us, one that feels guilt, that tries to do and be better, and one who is always ready to lend a hand, and his ear.

Valley of the Moon is a beautiful story of love, hope, redemption and possibilities. It sucks you in the moment you open its pages, keeping you on your toes throughout the novel. It is packed with powerful (read emotional) paragraphs, offering a somewhat unexpected twist to the story that really took me by surprise. I couldn’t help myself from worrying for Lux, Benno, and Joseph, nor could I stop the tears from rolling down. Melanie Gideon created a masterpiece, a novel so powerful that you are left feeling all kinds of emotions at the same time: sad, happy, hopeful, and so much more. Valley of the Moon is a real page turner, and a book I think anyone into time travel, women’s fiction and touchy-feely narrative, will really enjoy this book. I am already looking forward to reading more from Melanie and maybe even see Valley of the Moon being someday adapted onto the big screen (wishful thinking?).

I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-4-36-57-pm

Book Review | Not Working by Lisa Owens

Book Review| Not Working by Lisa OwensDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Author

Story    ★★★

Writing ★★

Cover  

Humor ★★★★

 

PROS

Funny

Entertaining

 

CONS

No real resolution

 

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Language: English

Genres:

Humor & Satire

Literary Fiction

Contemporary Fiction

Women’s Fiction

          

ISBN-10: 0812988817

Published: May 3, 2016

Publisher: The Dial Press

DISCLAIMER

Not Working, debut novel of Lisa Owens, was kindly provided to me for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher The Dial Press. Read the full disclaimer here.

Twenty-something Londoner Claire has just resigned from her job without a plan–and although she is pleased, her family and friends can’t seem to understand. Before too long, she manages to push away both her safe, steady, brain-surgeon boyfriend and her difficult but loving mother.
Quirky, questioning Claire hilariously navigates and comments on the emotions and minutiae of day-to-day life as only someone without the distractions of a regular routine can.

 

I was in need of an easy read and was happy to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Not Working. The description promised a funny, laugh-out-laud novel, and I was ready for it.

The novel starts of in an unusual format – a conversation with a passing stranger, which threw me off a bit, but a few pages into the novel, I found my pace. Lisa Owen’s writing style is very catchy, and easy to read. Claire’s voice is so genuine, that I couldn’t help myself from relating to her, feeling compassionate for some of her everyday struggles, as she tries to find herself, and her raison d’être. After all, we’ve all been there at some point of our lives: asking ourselves what is our life purpose, and what type of job should we be doing.  Claire takes on to find it out with humor, and from the second page onto the last, I couldn’t help but smile at her (mis)happenings. Not Working is very Ernest in its genre, filled with fun, and real moments. How often did I find myself nodding, agreeing with Claire, because that is exactly what I would usually do, or how I would usually handle one situation? I think this novel will appeal to many, as everyone can relate to some degree to the protagonist.

Despite the great time I had reading the book, I was a bit left hanging at the end, with Claire still in search of herself, and her future still uncertain. I wish Lisa Owens would have brought some resolution to the story, offered some wisdom even, or left a hint as to what the character could look forward to. Instead we are left with just having to imagine what can come next, hoping that someday, just like in real life, Claire might finally find herself. Maybe, all along, that was the whole point of the story? To point out that just like in real life, Claire’s future was yet to be decided?

Overall, I truly enjoyed Not Working. If you are looking for something quick to pass the time, for something to make you laugh at times and make you smile, don’t hesitate to give this novel a chance. As for me, I am already looking forward to Lisa Owens’ next novel.

Book Review|Those Girls by Lauren Saft

Book Review of Those Girls by Lauren Saft

Originally when I saw this book, I judged it by its cover. The beautiful blue jacket over the girl’s shoulders, and this “mean girl” title. I knew this book would be about frenemies, à la Gossip Girls, but I had no idea how far this concept would be taken…

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Please refer to the Disclaimer page for more information.

 

Author

Story   

Writing

Cover  

Mystery

PROS

Captivating

Easy read

CONS

Use of sexual content,

drug and alcohol use,

and/or violence

Strong language

BUY THE BOOK*

Amazon

FOLLOW LAUREN SAFT

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MORE INFO

Language: English

Genre: 

Young & Adult

Fiction

Teen Fiction

          

ISBN-10:0316403660

Published: June 9, 2015

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

DISCLAIMER

Those Girls, debut novel of Lauren Saft, was kindly provided for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Read the full disclaimer here.

Lauren Saft’s debut novel, Those Girls is a story of three teenage girlfriends, Alex, Mollie and Veronica. They are are those girls: “they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

Those Girls is told from the point of view of each character, which I will admit is not always an easy thing to do, without stripping off their nature. I think Lauren Saft did a good job in keeping each character’s profile throughout the novel. I am not going to say that I loved the characters – no, they were all mean brats, who called each other names, lied, back stabbed one another, while still calling each other friends. Nonetheless, despite their vulgarity, as seen through the way they refer to one another, Lauren Saft did not bend and turn these girls into lovable characters by the end of the book. I found this refreshing, and it wasn’t so much of a sappy book as most Y&A books tend to be (considering their targeted audience).

However, classifying this book as a Young Adult novel was pushing it a bit. I think the book needs to be reclassified as New Adult. The reason being because of all the swearing and sex talks that are found within each page. Not to mention the use of drugs and alcohol. I don’t think this is a book appropriate for teenagers, and in no way does it set an example for young girls. That said, not being offended by these profanities, I was able to move through the book pretty quickly.

I found the book to be captivating, not because I thought it was the most entertaining and beautiful read, but because I was intrigued by these frenemies; I wanted to know whether or not their friendship would survive and whether or not they would have a moment of awakening.

Each character stirred different feelings in me, going from approval to strong dislike. If I liked that Alex did not care to be seen with the popular and most attractive guys of the school when compared to her best-friends, I also disliked how she lied and hurt those she cared about. If Veronica was despicable in her role of a sex-hoarder, she also appeared fragile and really in search of love. She always wanted to fit in, to be accepted for whom she was and to be seen as someone with more substance instead of the Barbie look her friends attributed her. Among the three however, I found Mollie to be the most despicable of them three. Despite that I also saw her as being scared to not count, to be in the shadows of Alex and Veronica. Despite some humanity in their actions, I found no real connection to the characters. When the story came to its end I was sad to see that neither character had grown and learned from this short time in their friendship life. I wish Lauren Saft had taken her time to explore each character in a more personal level. What made Alex, Mollie and Veronica be so mean? What had shaped them and their unhealthy behavior? It would have been nice to do without all the slut-shaming as well.

Is this book for everyone? Definitely not. It will not appeal to those looking for a Gossip Girl like novel, nor to those who get easily offended by strong language and graphic content. I think in order to enjoy the book for what it is is to take some distance from trying to compare it to any previous work that exist in this same genre. But it does make for an easy and quick read – if one is looking for something in that department. Lauren Saft has a clearly a lot more to learn in the department of storytelling, but her writing style is just as refreshing.