Book Review | Sourdough by Robin Sloan

sourdough coverLois Clary relocated from the midwest to San Francisco for a job at a tech company. For long hours, she writes code that will tell robotic arms how to work. Her lonely existence becomes more exciting after regular neighborhood food delivery brothers move away, leaving her with their precious sourdough starter. Lois builds a backyard oven and attempts mastery of the sourdough, getting herself involved in an underground farmer’s market along the way.

Though not as adventurous as Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour BookstoreSourdough is a quick and fun read. Sloan’s third tale is entertaining from the start and moves along at a decent pace. Protagonist Lois develops throughout the book as she interacts with a host of eccentric characters. Looking back, the plot seems slightly convoluted, but it works as you are reading. This novel is recommended for fans of the slightly surreal, those looking to kill time on a long plane trip, or fans of Sloan’s previous works. Beware of holds on this new release and check it out from a library near you.

*Fans of Sourdough, may be interested in Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun (2017).

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Book Review | Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Aki and Christa are high schoolers who fall in like at first sight when their church groups join up in a small town to help with the construction of a new church. The girls sneak off in the evenings to make out with each other and deal with trying to hide their relationship by day. The book mainly addresses a teen coming to terms with her (bi)sexuality while on a summer youth group trip to Mexico, but also includes broader social issues within the context.

Our Own Private Universe keeps a decent pace and tells a story that holds the reader’s intrest. Some sections, especially that narrator’s internal monologue, are a bit repetitive. As a YA novel, it’s successful in its inclusion of diversity, budding sexuality, and melodrama. Adult readers may be put off by all of the characters lying to each other or the narrator’s tendency to blow things out of proportion. The book could serve as a good introduction to teens trying to orient themselves on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

Book Review | Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

shelter in place coverA man in the Pacific Northwest falls in love with a woman. Over the years, they live in a hotel in Cannon Beach, OR, a rental house in White Pine, WA, an apartment in Seattle and a house they build in the country. Joey works in bars and deals with bipolar disorder, which he suspects his mother also has. Tess works with Joey and becomes passionate about taking a stand against violence directed at women. Sometimes Joey and Tess spend a few years apart, but they are together when he receives word that his mother has beaten a man to death with a hammer. Before too long, Tess and Joey have joined his father, in moving to the prison town where Mom is serving her sentence. Shelter in Place is a beautiful story of love and family.

I chose this book after having enjoyed Maksik’s previous novel, A Marker to Measure the Drift, and I found it even better. The characters are very realistic and the writing style is beautiful. Though the story is not told in a completely linear manner, I found the narrative choices enhancing and easily understandable. Maksik renders a touching story of love and life. Certainly one of my favorite reads this year. This novel would appeal to fans of epic love stories, those with bipolar disorder, or those hoping to better understand bipolar loved ones. Short chapters make the book fairly quick to read. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Shelter in Place, may be interested in Oola by Brittany Newell (2017).

Book Review | Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

lola cover.jpgLola heads up a small gang in South Central Los Angeles. From the outside, people think her boyfriend Garcia is in charge and she flies mostly under the radar. After a mid-level cartel boss demands the gang intervene in a two million dollar heroin deal, it becomes clear that Lola may be in over her head. Addicts, murders and kidnappings spice up this slow burning tale.

Lola is a clearly written debut novel. The plot is easy to follow and the characters can be kept straight with no issue. It’s billed as a crime thriller, with no shortage of crime, but may not be so thrilling for some readers. Sweeping generalizations and swearing are prevalent and some readers may find sensitive issues in the story, though they’re handled tastefully. While I did enjoy the book at times, I was mostly hoping to quickly finish it. Fans of crime fiction, “badass” women’s fiction, or drug/gang violence may appreciate this novel more. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of Lola, may be interested in Mexico : Stories by Josh Barkan (2017).

Book Review | The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello

beauty of the fall coverThings aren’t going well for protagonist Dan after the death of his ten year old son and the dissolution of his marriage. To cope, he throws himself into work at his tech start-up “baby” only to be let go by his partner and co-founder, a woman he thought was his best friend. While this seems like the bottom, Dan may have even further to fall. Fortunately, a new love and a new “baby” help him in getting back on track.

The Beauty of the Fall is a thought provoking read. The protagonist and his close relationships are developed enough for readers to be able to draw connections to their own lives. The text itself is clear and easy to follow, though more frequent chapter breaks would have been appreciated. Overall, I felt the book may have benefited from a few scene cuts, but faster readers may not agree. Readers who enjoy tech start up plots, characters suffering from broken relationships, or social justice will be pleased with this novel. Unfortunately, this book isn’t yet in libraries, so you’ll have to purchase a copy to read.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of The Beauty of the Fall, may be interested in Company by Max Barry (2007).

Book Review | The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

hanging girl cover.jpgDuring Skye’s senior year of high school, a fellow classmate is kidnapped. After popular Paige goes missing, no one suspects tarot card reader Skye could be involved, which makes her the perfect choice of accomplice. Skye’s role is to feed tips to the police under the guise that she’s having visions about the crime. Problems arise when Paige doesn’t stick to their plans and Skye realizes she is in over her head.

As a young adult suspense mystery, The Hanging Girl is successful. The story is easy to follow and has enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing until the very end. Chapter breaks are frequent enough and the book’s length is appropriate. That said, the characters are difficult, in that they are rather unlikable, and the narrator is self-deprecating. Similes are overused and the writing style, at times, is a challenge. Readers who enjoy a book for its story that can overlook the stylistic annoyances will have a winner here. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of The Hanging Girl, may be interested in The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault (2017).

Book Review | The King is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón

king is always above the people coverSet to be released this halloween, The King is Always Above the People is a well-written collection of ten short stories. They introduce the reader to various characters dealing with some sort of problem. One piece describes a man inheriting the house of his blind uncle upon his death from walking off a bridge. Another follows a boy who gets a job as a blind beggar’s assistant. A gang member is the focus of another story.

Alarcón’s voice and writing style are very appealing. Coupled with stories that flowed at a decent pace, they provided a readable book. On the other hand, I found some of the stories and/or characters to be somewhat average, flat and/or unmemorable. This said, I would certainly read more of Alarcón’s works because the writing itself was such a draw. The physical volume is also nice, with a smooth jacket and pages that stay open for you. Watch for this book to come out at a library near you!

I received an advance copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The King is Always Above the People, you may be interested in Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan (2017).