Sometimes we book reviewers have a few too many things to read. I know, I know – it’s hard to believe that. Publishers send Advance Readers Copies (ARC), both paper copies and e-galleys. Over the years I’ve gotten better at guessing if I’m going to be interested in a book or not. Occasionally there will be a title that I’m on the fence about. The description sounds promising but it’s from an author I don’t know, or it’s a ‘reimagining’ of a classic story (which usually have a 50/50 chance for me). In those cases, I generally accept an e-galley. I can easily download it to my iPad and read a few pages instantly. I can decide that way and save the publishers postage and the cost of a printed book. The trouble is, the books that were so-so are left to wallow on my tablet, and I can be bad about offering my thoughts. Every once in awhile I do a ‘clean sweep’ of my digital books with a brief round-up. Just because they didn’t strike my fancy, doesn’t mean someone else might not be interested.
The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
from the publisher: Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters—the Brontë sisters—learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.
The concept was interesting enough but the characterization of the girls was superficial. And the story took much too long to get going. Plus, the author’s pseudonym is too cute by half (Ellis Bell was Emily Bronte’s nom de plume).
The Man That Got Away by Lynne Truss
from the publisher: 1957: In the beach town of Brighton, music is playing and guests are sunning themselves, when a young man is found dead, dripping blood, in a deck chair. Constable Twitten of the Brighton Police Force has a hunch that the fiendish murder may be connected to a notorious nightspot, but his captain and his colleagues are-as ever-busy with other more important issues. Inspector Steine is being conned into paying for the honor of being featured at the Museum of Wax, and Sergeant Brunswick is trying (and failing) to get the attention of the distraught Brighton Belles who found the body.
The description sounds like something I’d love, and Lynne Truss is an amazing grammarian, so I’d thought I’d give a shot. Somehow the story, at least in the first couple of chapters, didn’t reflect the synopsis or the style I expected at all.
Trove by Sandra A. Miller
from the publisher: Trove is the story of a woman whose life is up-ended when she begins an armchair treasure hunt—a search for $10,000 worth of gold coins buried in New York City, of all places—with a man who, as she points out, is not her husband. In this eloquent, hilarious, sharply realized memoir, Sandra A. Miller grapples with the regret and confusion that so often accompanies middle age, and the shame of craving something more when she has so much already.
I was intrigued by this concept and excited to enjoy a quest story. Unfortunately the author made it much more of a navel-gazing exercise than a treasure hunt. Memoirs are inward-looking by nature but the best ones share some universal truth rather than recount daily life.
The Bourbon King by Bob Batchelor
from the publisher: Love, murder, political intrigue, mountains of cash, and rivers of bourbon . . . The tale of George Remus is a grand spectacle and a lens into the dark heart of Prohibition. Yes, Congress gave teeth to Prohibition in October 1919, but the law didn’t stop George Remus from amassing a fortune that would be worth billions of dollars today. As one Jazz Age journalist put it, “Remus was to bootlegging what Rockefeller was to oil.”
I’m always up for a good nonfiction book, especially one that introduces me to a new character from history. This one was simply poorly-written. Every time I started to find a groove it would jump and to another rut.
The Attempted Murder of Teddy Roosevelt by Burt Solomon
from the publisher: Theodore Roosevelt had been president for less than a year when on a tour in New England his horse-drawn carriage was broadsided by an electric trolley. TR was thrown clear but his Secret Service bodyguard was killed instantly. The trolley’s motorman pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the matter was quietly put to rest. But was it an accident or an assassination attempt…and would there be another “accident” soon?
I had high hopes for this one as well but it just didn’t hang together very well. The narrative was all over the place, with multiple points of view and none of them very clear. It seemed all bluff and bluster, and no real story.
I also wrote about The Pursuit of William Abbey, The Illness Lesson and The Library of the Unwritten in my “Books for Fall” post.
How do you feel about not finishing books?
How do you test out books before committing to them?