Book Review | Points North : Stories by Howard Frank Mosher

points north cover.jpgSet in Kingdom Common, an area in Vermont bordering Canada, Mosher’s Points North shares stories of the Kinneson family. These tales, taking place over the course of a century, focus on various family members at different points in their lives. Themes include men searching for their lost loves, relatives at odds, family business, religion and nature, among others.

Published posthumously, this final book by Mosher will be enjoyed by many fans. For those new to the Northeast Kingdom chronicles, this may not serve as the best introduction. New readers may have trouble keeping track of the many Kinneson family members. The first story is hard to break into, but the tales do improve as the book continues. These non-chronological stories amble along, with a relaxed pace making it easier to put the book down at points than to continue reading. Points North will appeal to those interested in small town slice of life stories, family sagas, and general Mosher fans. Check it out from a library near you.

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

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Book Review | The Futures by Anna Pitoniak

futures cover.jpgProtagonists Evan and Julia meet while attending Yale and then decide to move to New York City together after graduation. Previously a star on the hockey team, Evan has some adjustments to make to fit into his finance job at a prestigious hedge fund. Julia comes from a well-off family in Boston and with their connections lands a job as an assistant at a non-profit. She struggles to fill her time while Evan works increasingly long hours, and can’t quite manage to keep herself out of trouble.

Pitoniak’s first novel is quite impressive. The writing style fosters an intimate relationship between the reader and the protagonists. With chapters alternating point of view between Julia and Evan, it is easy to understand the how and why of what they are each feeling. Revealing scenes from alternating view points also help the story to flow successfully without bias. In addition to following on their relationship, another major focus of the book is the business deal that Evan negotiates in his hedge fund work. Fortunately, this is handled in an accessible manner that will allow all readers to remain interested, even those with no financial background or interests. Highly recommended for those interested in reading about interpersonal relationships of twenty-somethings in New York City. 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 in the giveaway.

Book Review | The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

impossible fortress cover.jpgReturn to the 1980’s for some of the first consumer computers to hit the market. The Impossible Fortress introduces a few teens not yet old enough to buy the Vanna White Playboy. As the boys try to figure out their best shot for getting a copy, Billy begins programming a computer game with Mary to submit in competition. Billy develops feelings for Mary, which causes a ripple effect influencing the ragtag heist.

A fast paced story with ample chapter breaks, this book can be read quickly. While it reads like a YA novel with emphasis on action and plot, many references to 1980’s things will be lost on someone born after 1980. For adults, the characters may not be relatable and their repeated stupid choices will be very frustrating. Rekulak incorporates some topics that make the book unique, but they aren’t fully played out. In summary, the book is a quick read with a decent story, but it’s value is decreased by the author’s seeming lack of choice between an adult novel and a YA piece. Recommended for outcast teens, those interested in 1980’s computer programming, and video game geeks. 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 in the giveaway.

Book Review | Watch Me by Jody Gehrman

watch me cover.jpgAt a small college in Ohio, Professor Kate Youngblood leads a writer’s workshop. Her student, Sam, creates a tension that makes her feel alive, but also sets off inner warning signals. As relations with a student are forbidden, Kate struggles to maintain ethical behavior. Sam quickly insinuates himself in Kate’s personal life and after a body turns up, she questions which warning sign will be enough to force her to extract Sam for good.

Watch Me is a good read. The book is inviting from the first chapter. Chapters alternate narrator between Kate and Sam, with Sam writing as if he is speaking to Kate using the second person. This stylistic choice works well. The writing itself was enjoyable, with certain sentences adroitly crafted. The story progresses quickly and tension builds. Check it out from a library near you!

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

*Fans of Watch Me, may be interested in The Book of You by Claire Kendal (2014).

Book Review | Shadow Man by Alan Drew

shadow man cover.jpgIt’s the mid 1980’s and there is a serial killer in the fancy planned communities just south of Los Angeles. The Night Prowler sneaks in through an unlocked door or cuts through the screen to find a victim he can overpower and then strangles her with his bare hands. Residents are instructed to keep their windows locked while the body count rises. Meanwhile, a high schooler is found dead in a field just outside town. The bullet hole means the MO is not a match for the serial, but is it a suicide? It seems darkness is hiding in more than one place in this community.

Shadow Man was definitely a good read. The story held my interest from beginning to end. The small cast of characters was easy to keep straight and I appreciated the way Drew alternated focus between the various plot lines and character perceptions. Though not as suspenseful as I had expected, there was appreciable tension. Highly recommended for fans of noir crime or literary crime fiction. 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 in the giveaway.

Best & Worst of the 46 Books I read in 2017

During 2017 I expanded my reading horizons to include many books I wouldn’t normally choose. The selection contained mostly novels, a few memoirs, other various non-fiction works, an art book and a screenplay. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books based on my overall enjoyment of the texts. Most, but not all of the books I read during 2017 were released in 2017. The overall selection was heavily influenced by copies I received freely from publishers through Goodreads giveaways. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My six favorite books:

Taduno’s Song – An African musician must find his lost voice in order to rescue his lover from a corrupt government.

The Clairvoyants– A Cornell student who sees spirits of the deceased unravels the mystery surrounding a missing persons case.

Songs of the Baka* – A writer and photographer share their travels to several uncommon destinations.

Spaceman of Bohemia* – A man on a solo mission in space is abandoned by his wife and encounters a strange creature aboard his ship.

Shelter in Place – A bipolar man falls in love with a woman who comes and goes after his mother is imprisoned for killing a man with a hammer.

The Fortunate Ones* – A painting stolen from a Jewish home by the Nazis during World War II resurfaces in Los Angeles decades later and brings together an unlikely pair of women.

After those six, my next nine top picks:

Under the Harrow – A suspense thriller involving the murder of a woman in England.

The One Eyed Man – After becoming a widower, a man lets his true self shine through resulting in his own reality TV show.

Brussels Noir* – Short stories, some bizarre, that take place in Brussels.

Soldier Boy* – Based on a true story, this YA book relays the stories of two boy soldiers in the Ugandan civil war.

Men without Women – Short stories from Japan focused on men without women.

Oola* – Thought-provoking story of boy meets girl and their hermetic existence.

Twig* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s America deals with life’s struggles.

A Fortune Foretold* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s Sweden deals with life’s struggles.

Sourdough – A tech industry workaholic is transformed into a breadmaker after being gifted a unique sourdough starter.

Four books that should have been better:

The King is Always Above the People* – Short stories involving Latinx characters.

O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – A collection art commissioned for the anniversary of San Francisco’s City Hall.

A Loving, Faithful Animal* – A girl in Australia comes of age in a broken home.

As Red as Blood* – Scandinavian teens find a bloody bag of money.

Four books I feel would be better to pass on:

We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – An Italian media mogul plots and schemes to hype an upcoming film failure.

Malafemmena – Short stories focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations.

Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – A memoir by a German major about her time abroad and PhD struggles.

A Life of Adventure and Delight* – Short stories of everyday life involving characters of Indian descent.

All titles appear below in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links above and below are to book reviews I’ve written. Carey, Currie, Maksik, Murakami and Sloan are the only authors I’ve read before this year. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you’ve particularly enjoyed.

So Much I Want to Tell You* – Anna Akana
The King is Always Above the People* – Daniel Alarcón
The Leaf Reader* – Emily Arsenault
Taduno’s Song – Odafe Atogun
Mexico Stories* – Josh Barkan
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Clairvoyants*- Karen Brown
Wrong about Japan – Peter Carey
The Hanging Girl*- Eileen Cook
We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – Pino Corrias
Book of Moon* – George Crowder
The One Eyed Man – Ron Currie Jr.
The Slave* – Anand Dilvar
Brussels Noir* – Michael Dufranne
Malafemmena – Louisa Ermelino
The Sunlight Pilgrims* – Jenni Fagan
O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – Jeremy Fish
Soldier Boy* – Keely Hutton
Songs of the Baka* – Dennis James
Spaceman of Bohemia* – Jaroslav Kalfar
White Fur* – Jardine Libaire
Bluebird, Bluebird* – Attica Locke
The Infinite* – Nicholas Mainieri
Shelter in Place – Alexander Maksik

The Beauty of the Fall* – Rich MarcelloBright, Precious Days* – Jay McInerney
Leopard at the Door* – Jennifer McVeigh
Men without Women – Haruki Murakami
Wolf Haven* – Annie Marie Musselman & Brenda Peterson
The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura
Oola* – Brittany Newell
Twig* – Madelon Phillips
A Fortune Foretold* – Agneta Pleijel
Rebels like Us* – Liz Reinhardt
A Loving, Faithful Animal* – Josephine Rowe
Fantastic Beasts Original Screen Play* – J.K. Rowling
Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – Rebecca Schuman
Lola* – Melissa Scrivner Love
A Life of Happiness and Delight* – Akhil Sharma
As Red as Blood* – Salla Simukka
Sourdough – Robin Sloan
Our Own Private Universe* – Robin Talley
A French Wedding* – Hannah Tunnicliffe
The Fortunate Ones* – Ellen Umansky
Fraulein M.* – Caroline Woods

*These titles were given to me through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review | We’ll Sleep When We’re Old by Pino Corrias

we'll sleep when we're old coverProtagonist Oscar Martello is a rich and corrupt Roman media producer. He’s named script writer Andrea Serrano as his best friend and shipped him off to an apartment in Paris with his leading actress, Jacaranda Rizzi. The main purpose of their hasty disappearance is to drum up public interest in their upcoming film release, but not everyone is in on the plan and things go unsurprisingly awry.

The Kirkus Review of this title is spot on. While the story flows at a decent pace, with details from the past woven in, some readers may take issue with the author’s use of commas. Many sentences contain such numerous examples that the reader is unable to even remember at the end what has been exemplified. The characters are unlikable, therefore making the book cold and devoid of emotion. A crass voice may also put some readers off. This novel is recommended for those interested in reading about corruption and scandal in European cinema and TV. Though just released yesterday, you probably won’t have to wait long to check it out from a library near you.

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