Primrose Street – Marina L Reed

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Marina L Reed

Genre/category: General fiction

Release date: 30th Oct 2018

Review

Life on Primrose Street is busy – joys and sorrows, surprises and secrets, betrayal and new love all happen under the watch of the maple trees that line the street. A network of friends, family members and neighbours are relative strangers to each other, mostly living their own lives and not thinking much about each other – until they start to let each other in.

There is a particularly heartbreaking story line that sees the catastrophic effects in a family where the parents care more about their reputation than their children. In fact, lack of communication is something that the Maple trees see again and again.

Speaking of the trees – they’re presented as almost sentient, not able to communicate to the people, but certainly with each other, and they become their own character, watching the residents from above. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, of the trees, intensely connected to one another through their roots, alongside the people below, with their fractured relationships.

It’s a really interesting look at the complexities of human nature and the way we relate to each other – and very beautifully written. The only issue I had was keeping track of all the characters, as there were a lot of them – but other than that, I really enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more from Reed in the future.

primrosestreet4stars

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The Con Artist – Fred Van Lente

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Fred Van Lente

Genre/category: General fiction, mysteries and thrillers

Where can I buy it? Pre-order here

Release date: 10th July 2018

Review

The Con Artist appealed to me for two reasons:

a) The cover art. It’s adorable.

b) Its a murder mystery set at Comic-Con.

I mean really! How was I supposed to pass that one by?

It follows comic book artist Mike Mason, who arrives to find his rival murdered, and himself the main suspect. What follows is a slightly mad, thrilling adventure with Mike as he tries to clear his name and avoid getting into more trouble.

I feel like I’m on the fringe of nerd culture in some ways: I consider myself a geek, but if I went to Comic-Con I’d probably have a hard time figuring out some people’s costumes. That said, I thought I’d get enough of the references to make it enjoyable. And I was right! Kind of. Obviously some of them sailed over my head, but  the main story was enough to keep me going.

It didn’t surprise me at all to find that the author himself is a comic book artist – Mike’s experiences at the Con felt very authentic. I found out lots of things I didn’t know – about the way comic book artists make money, about the process of creating said art – and I found some interesting insights into fandom, rivalries in the industry, and Comic-Con itself.

(Also I now want to go at some point in my life. The murder in the story clearly wasn’t enough to put me off. It sounds awesome.)

I enjoyed the quick-witted writing style (it’s quippy-ness, and yes I know that’s not a real word, felt a little Whedon-esque to me) and the way the author integrated real people, movies and comic books alongside his own fictional characters. There is a crazy escape scene involving fake zombies that I loved. And it kept up the pace, with enough cliffhangers to keep me reading – I think I read it in a day and a half.

Mystery isn’t usually my genre (which is why I picked it!), but I really enjoyed it. I think I would have adored it if I got all the references, though. This would make an awesome gift for a Con-goer.

theconartist4stars

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The Biographies of Ordinary People Volume 2 – Nicole Dieker

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Nicole Dieker

Genre/category: General fiction

Where can I buy it? Here

Release date: 22nd May 2018

Review

If this looks familiar, it’s because it’s a sequel to (perhaps unsurprisingly) Biographies of Ordinary People Volume 1: 1989-2000, which I reviewed earlier this year. When I read Volume 1, I felt that the characters were interesting and realistic, but that it was very much a character-driven novel. As the title suggests, it is supposed to be about ordinary people – not people whose lives look like soap operas. It wasn’t full of dramatic twists, but it did feel very real.

Then the author kindly offered for me to read the second one, which I was really excited about. And I’ve been meaning to write this review for a while because – wow.

I loved it!

I thought I might miss the nostalgic feel of the first book – the Gruber girls grew up around the same time period that I did, and I liked that nineties vibe. As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about that. Volume 2 spans from 2004-2016, and it served as a reminder of how much of our culture changed in that short space of time. The girls are women now, and they’re navigating their world, moving away from home, figuring out relationships and careers, and just generally trying to find their place in the world. In that time, they see the explosion of social media. They see YouTube becoming a thing (particularly in Jackie’s case). And finally, they see the election of Trump, and the political landscape as they know it changing beyond recognition.

I’ll quickly sum up the three Gruber daughters and their respective journeys – Jackie, the youngest, follows her heart, comes to terms with her sexuality, and kind of stumbles into a very interesting career path. Natalie takes what is perhaps the most ‘traditional’ life choices of the three. And Meredith enters the relentless struggle that is the desire to make art vs. the need to make actual money. Helplessly creative and full of determination, it is Meredith’s story that struck me as the most interesting, and nuanced, and, well, real. And although she has her own, personal moments of happiness, to see a main character in a story genuinely grapple with how she can somehow make her creative pursuits a career was so refreshing. Nothing gets handed to her on a plate, and there are plenty of doors that get slammed in her face along the way.

Another interesting – and poignant – viewpoint was of Rosemary and Jack, the Gruber parents, still living in their small town in the Midwest, now with an empty nest. I felt so strongly for Rosemary as she watched her grown daughters and pondered her place in their lives, that it almost felt like an ache when I read her chapters.

I think I would have liked to have heard more from Natalie. I don’t remember as much of her story off the top of my head, and I remember thinking I wanted to know more about her. That is a small complaint though in an otherwise wonderful story, whose characters settled into my heart and stayed there. One of my favourite reads this year.

bios4stars

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