Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues by Nova Jacobs

Blurb from Goodreads:
The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this literary mystery about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, left behind a dangerous equation for her to track down—and protect—before others can get their hands on it.

Just days after mathematician and family patriarch Isaac Severy dies of an apparent suicide, his adopted granddaughter Hazel, owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore, receives a letter from him by mail. In it, Isaac alludes to a secretive organization that is after his final bombshell equation, and he charges Hazel with safely delivering it to a trusted colleague. But first, she must find where the equation is hidden.

While in Los Angeles for Isaac’s funeral, Hazel realizes she’s not the only one searching for his life’s work, and that the equation’s implications have potentially disastrous consequences for the extended Severy family, a group of dysfunctional geniuses unmoored by the sudden death of their patriarch.

As agents of an enigmatic company shadow Isaac’s favorite son—a theoretical physicist—and a long-lost cousin mysteriously reappears in Los Angeles, the equation slips further from Hazel’s grasp. She must unravel a series of maddening clues hidden by Isaac inside one of her favorite novels, drawing her ever closer to his mathematical treasure. But when her efforts fall short, she is forced to enlist the help of those with questionable motives.
My Review:
The simplest thing I can say is that I didn't enjoy reading this.  I kept just wanting it to be over.  It wasn't necessarily poorly written but it was also hard to capture my attention. This book also had way too much cousin on cousin love.  Not just one set of cousins either. 😑 . If you love math, maybe this one will be more interesting to you but I just felt like the characters were haphazard as well as supremely unlikeable.  None of them knew themselves and weren't written to be fully realized.  I'm kind of surprised this book has gotten so much attention because, for me, it was mediocre at best.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy came out earlier this month on March 6, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  
Hazel tried to ignore the burning sensation at the tips of her ears and a sudden desire to upend the tea table and kick her aunt's chair out form under her. There was also a brief clip of Hazel emptying the contents of the teapot on her head. "You've really thought it through, haven't you?" 
"Please, this isn't a Poe mystery; it hardly requires a C. Auguste Dupin level of detection. It took me a few seconds. Most people go around thinking that life if magical and mysterious, filled with all kinds of unknowns. Bullshit. Once you decide the universe is knowable, all kinds of answers become available to you."  
"I guess I don't go around thinking that way."  
"Of course you don't. Very few people are blessed with a methodical brain. Like everyone else, you probably stumble through life getting into trouble, debt, and heartbreak."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Memento Park by Mark Sarvas

Blurb from Goodreads:
A son learns more about his father than he ever could have imagined when a mysterious piece of art is unexpectedly restored to him

After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained relationship with his harshly judgmental father, uncover his family history, and restore his connection to his own Judaism. Along the way to illuminating the mysteries of his past, Matt is torn between his doting girlfriend, Tracy, and his alluring attorney, Rachel, with whom he travels to Budapest to unearth the truth about the painting and, in turn, his family.

As his journey progresses, Matt’s revelations are accompanied by equally consuming and imaginative meditations on the painting and the painter at the center of his personal drama, Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kálmán. By the time Memento Park reaches its conclusion, Matt’s narrative is as much about family history and father-son dynamics as it is about the nature of art itself, and the infinite ways we come to understand ourselves through it.

Of all the questions asked by Mark Sarvas’s Memento Park—about family and identity, about art and history—a central, unanswerable predicament lingers: How do we move forward when the past looms unreasonably large?

My Review:
So I probably would have liked this more had I not kept comparing it to one of the greatest books ever written, The Goldfinch.  Something about the fact that both books kind of center around an obsession with a single painting, albeit for far different reasons, made me yearn for Donna Tartt's effortless character study and insanely beautiful prose.  This book wasn't quite at that level but I was more engaged the more I read.  I liked it a lot.  Something about Matt was both off-putting and yet I was rooting for him.  Plus there was a legal aspect to it (without giving anything away), which always interests me, being an attorney.  The title particularly has left me thinking about the book in a different way than when I was reading it and I can't help but wonder about the characters still.

Memento Park comes out TODAY on March 13, 2018 and you can purchase HERE. This was an interesting intersection between religion and art told vaguely through family history; I enjoyed it and you might, too.
These are the things I associate with Rachel, with the first time I awoke beside her: dusk in the city as the streets downshift with evening traffic, taxicab headlights plangently illuminating the avenues; the tiny crooked streets of Pari's Jewish quarter; bundles of fresh vegetables overflowing the stands of a weekend farmers market, earth-covered mushrooms especially; bales of hay, warm and pungent under the midday sun.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Review: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

Blurb from Goodreads:
A powerful novel about a gutsy showgirl who tries to conquer her past amongst the glamour of 1960s Las Vegas--and finds unexpected fortune, friendship, and love.

It was unimaginable. When she was eight years old, Lily Decker somehow survived the auto accident that killed her parents and sister, but neither her emotionally distant aunt nor her all-too-attentive uncle could ease her grief. Dancing proves to be Lily's only solace, and eventually, she receives a "scholarship" to a local dance academy--courtesy of a mysterious benefactor.

Grown and ready to leave home for good, Lily changes her name to Ruby Wilde and heads to Las Vegas to be a troupe dancer, but her sensual beauty and voluptuous figure land her work instead as a showgirl performing everywhere from Les Folies Bergere at the Tropicana to the Stardust's Lido de Paris. Wearing costumes dripping with feathers and rhinestones, five-inch heels, and sky-high headdresses, Ruby may have all the looks of a Sin City success story, but she still must learn to navigate the world of men--and figure out what real love looks like.

With her uncanny knack for understanding the hidden lives of women, Elizabeth J. Church captures both the iconic extravagance of an era and the bravery of a young woman who dances through her sadness to find connection, freedom, and, most important, herself. 
My Review:
The first 70% of this was SO good but then it definitely petered off a bit in a weird direction and I really didn't like the ending.  I really liked Lily and I love love loved her descriptions and time being a showgirl.  It was so fascinating to read how that world was described and the author did a phenomenal job.  The character development overall was excellent.  There was definitely a feeling of un-putdownable-ness as well, which is so rare lately.  Even with the ending, I really liked it!

All the Beautiful Girls comes out soon on March 6, 2018 and you can purchase HERE. I definitely recommend this one for fans of historical fiction.
There was no place Lily wanted to be, to stay, other than home. This home. Her home. But, standing in the middle of her former life, Lily realized she didn't have a choice.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn

Blurb from Goodreads:
A chilling yet redemptive post-apocalyptic debut that examines community, motherhood, faith, and the importance of telling one's own story.

When 95 percent of the earth's population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can't afford to lose. She has everything under control. Almost. 

Four years after the Rending, Mira's best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first since everything changed and a new source of hope for Mira. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object--and other women of Zion follow suit--the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new life begins to fray. As the Zionites wrestle with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world beyond Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn't return, Mira must decide how much she's willing to let go in order to save her friend, her home, and her own fraught pregnancy.

Like California by Edan Lepucki and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Rending and the Nest uses a fantastical, post-apocalyptic landscape to ask decidedly human questions: How well do we know the people we love? What sustains us in the midst of suffering? How do we forgive the brokenness we find within others--and within ourselves?
My Review:
This wasn't bad but it also didn't feel particularly unique.  I haven't even read that many dystopians and this felt like it borrowed from them all in one way or another.  That being said, it was definitely atmospheric and well written.  I didn't fall in love with the characters but I also don't think that was the goal of the author.  The book represented something more, which I appreciated.  I don't know that I can say that I enjoyed reading this but, again, I'm not sure if I should have enjoyed it.  I ultimately felt that this wasn't unique enough to captivate me but also that there were a lot of questions unanswered. 

The Rending and the Nest comes out next week on February 20, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  This book definitely wasn't as good as either Gold Fame Citrus or Station Eleven but it has echoes of both as well as The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.
Chester leaned back and reached into the small pocket above the regular front pocket on his jeans. I'd always wondered what that tiny pocket was for and now I had the answer: that little pocket was for holding fortunes after the apocalypse.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato

Blurb from Goodreads:
Combining romance and humor with elements of the paranormal, this is a profound novel about one teenage girl’s decision to redefine her life in the wake of supernatural events.

Teddi Alder is just trying to figure out her life.

When she joins SUMMERTEENS, a library writing group, she’s only looking to keep herself busy, not go digging around in her subconscious. But as she writes, disturbing memories of her lost childhood friend Corey bubble to the surface, and Teddi begins to question everything: her friendship with her BFF Willa, how much her mom really knows, and even her own memories. Teddi fears she’s losing her grip on reality—as evidenced by that mysterious ghost-girl who emerges from the park pool one night, the one who won’t leave Teddi alone. To top it all off, she finds herself juggling two guys with potential, a quirky new boy named Joy and her handsome barista crush Aidan, who has some issues of his own.

As the summer unfolds, Teddi is determined to get to the bottom of everything—her feelings, the mysterious ghost-girl, and the memories of Corey that refuse to be ignored.
My Review:
I will say that this book had fantastic descriptions of moods, settings, people.  But the ending and the failure to wrap up a major plot point properly really harmed this.  The problem was that the entire book was drawing toward something major.  When it was revealed, the aftermath of it was glossed over to such a fine point that I had to re-read to make sure I hadn't missed something.  Don't spend that long on a major mystery only to skate over it after it's revealed.  This also definitely had some mature YA topics that I'm not sure were properly handled.  That being said, however, the writing was well done and I'll be curious to read more from this author.

The Precious Dreadful comes out TODAY on February 13, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.
Summer's my favorite. Partly because I have a late July birthday, but I also the heaviness, that sense you could bit the air. The dusk-whirr of insects. Sparklers. And I'm not the type to moan about humidity frizzing my hair (that's why God invented bucket hats), specially since there's currently no particular boy to impress.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Blurb from Goodreads:
New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

Inspired by James M. Cain’s masterpieces The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce, Sunburn is a tantalizing modern noir from the incomparable Laura Lippman.
My Review:
This was such a good slow burn mystery.  Definitely in the vein of film noir but the writing was so good, you never know what's what and who to trust.  I love that!  I love it when you can't immediately figure everything out.  The character development was so good in this one, too.  I've never read anything before by this author but now I know I need and want to - this was so refreshing.  It's hard to describe everything in this book but something about the language, pacing, setting and character development felt new and authentic.  Also, has anyone else been reading more books set in the early-mid 90s lately or is it just me?  It takes the cell phone out of the equation which ruins so many plot points that it makes sense but I've just seemed to notice it a lot lately!

Sunburn comes out later this month on February 20, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  I really loved this one and you will too, especially if you love film noir and mysteries.
Her shoulders are thing, pointy, hunched up so close to her ears that they make him think of wings. The front of her pink-and-yellow sundress is quite a contrast, full and round. She carries herself as if she doesn't want to attract any male attention, at least not tonight. On the front, he can't help noticing as he slides on a barstool she's not so pink. The little strip of skin showing above the relatively high-necked dress has only the faintest hint of color. Ditto, her cheeks. It is early June, with a breeze that makes it easy to forget how strong the sun is already. Clearly a modest type, she wears a one-piece, so there's probably a deep U of red to go with those shoulders. Yesterday, fingerprints would have left white marks if pressed on the flesh there.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Review: Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer

Blurb from Goodreads:
Flynn: At first we were almost strangers. But ever since I moved to New York, Amos was the one person I could count on. And together we were there for Poppy. (I mean, what kind of parents leave their kid to be raised by a nanny?) I just didn’t expect to fall for him—and I never expected him to leave us.

Amos: I thought I was the only one who felt it. I told myself it was because we were spending so much time together—taking care of Poppy and all. But that night, I could tell she felt it, too. And I freaked out—you’re not supposed to fall for your stepsister. So I ran away to boarding school. I should have told her why I was leaving, but every time I tried, it felt like a lie.

One missed flight was about to change their lives forever….
My Review:
This one started off okay.  I was a bit on the fence about the stepbrother/stepsister thing but it was described in the blurb.  Then they all land in LA with their younger special needs sister and I just was not happy about the direction.  I  know I need to be better and not always think that teens are so immature/irresponsible in YA.  That being said, I feel like a 16 or 17 year old with a special needs sister would just once think about that child's medication and would also not allow that child to consume alcohol? Maybe that is too harsh but it changed my perspective of the characters and that was kind of unforgivable for me with the book going forward.  I just didn't care for this one and I can't say I'd recommend this one.

Layover comes out next week on February 6, 2018, and you can purchase HERE. Hopefully you have better luck with this one than I did!
Maybe coming home was a bad idea. I've only been back a few hours, and already my brain just feels . . . crowded. That's another reason I went away. I needed space to think. To be somewhere else. You spend your whole life in this city, and you think it's normal to never see the stars. And just as I'm trying to remember why i decided on this detour to the city in the first place, she walks in.
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