Book Reviews

image



Reader Review: "The Last Year of the War"

 

by Betty Taylor (Macon GA): Susan Meissner's newest book is about a German American teen girl who meets her best friend in an internment camp during World War II. We meet present day Elise Sontag Dove as an elderly lady who is battling Alzheimer's. She is determined to find her old friend Japanese American Mariko Inoue. The story then flashes back to 1943 when in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor Elise's father is labeled a Nazi sympathizer and her whole family is forced into an internment camp in Texas. Elise is alone and bored until she meets Mariko. After 18 months in the camp, the girls are suddenly torn apart as their parents are repatriated. While Elise was born in the US and doesn't even speak the German language, her parents were German immigrants. Elise and her family are shipped off to Germany in the last year of the war where they come face to face with the struggle to survive alongside other Germans who are continuing to face food shortages, bombings, destruction and death. Through all this turmoil, Elise hangs on to the dreams she and Mariko had as 18-year-olds to eventually move to New York City together to pursue careers.

But while Elise and Mariko's friendship is a big part of the story, it is not the primary storyline. That honor belongs to Elise who narrates the book and took me along on her journey as she sadly lost everything, as she painfully matured, and as she decisively took control of her life in an effort to regain what had been taken from her. I loved Elise as she was strong, independent, adaptable, level headed, and loyal.

This beautifully written story is about forever friendships, family bonds, adaptability, bravery, determination and even a little romance. But it also contains great historical information about the internment camps and the families forced into them and about the repatriation program, exchanging interned families for POWs held in Germany and Japan.

Reader Review: "After She's Gone"

 

by escapetothebookshelf: This was a mysterious and intriguing Swedish mystery that truly kept me gripped. It is the second book in a series but I read this without having read the first (The Ice Beneath Her) and it was completely fine as a stand alone read - although I have now ordered the first one too!

The story is told from the perspective of Malin, a police officer; Jake, a little boy who finds himself involved in the case; and later Hanne, a detective on the case who is suffering from dementia. The choice of perspectives worked really well to tell the story - you often found something out from one perspective that the other didn't yet know and so you eagerly wanted to find out what happened next.

There was so much mystery throughout the story, about various aspects of the plot. Although the story unfolded at a fairly slow pace, new evidence or events consistently arose that kept you guessing and wanting to know more. The ending of the book was brilliant - I did not suspect it at all. Even if you manage to guess who committed the crimes, I don't think you would be able to guess why - the why left me with chills. Although the story came to an end, I want to know how various character relationships progress and develop after the events in this book; I will definitely be buying the next in the series.

Grebe also dealt with some difficult themes, such as xenophobia, sexuality, alcoholism and dementia, really well in the crime context. It made the novel fairly original and enabled you to connect in different ways with various characters in the book which is normally difficult in a crime novel - Jake was one of my favourites.

One slight criticism I would have is that there were a few minor characters whom I struggled to remember and differentiate between. Grebe did try to subtly remind the reader who was who when their names popped up, but as they were typical Swedish names it was harder for an English reader to remember them. But, isn't that half the fun when you read a novel based in another country and originally written in another language! On that note, the translation was also very good - a couple of words stuck and didn't quite fit - but that's to be expected!

Overall I'd give this 5/5 - I haven't read anything like this before! It was mysterious and chilling but also thought provoking.

Reader Review: "Over the Edge of the World"

 

by Gary A Gault (Lincoln City): One of the best documented early expeditions in world discovery about Magellan's difficult and almost impossible voyage to circumnavigate the globe. Bergreen is an engaging author who mined many historic sources to give the reader an accurate view as possible about this difficult and trying voyage. Magellan had not only no maps to use, but also suffered from the political intrigues of his expedition captains. It is a look at the 15th Century whose people were not much different than those of our own time. This should be required reading for all historians and students of this period of European history.

Reader Review: "Dopesick"

 

by Evans (Rochester,NY): Dopesick should be read by every parent, educator, student and citizen. If you or you know someone within this opioid epidemic cycle, this book explains why. Why is you loved one addicted? Why can't he or she stop on their own? Why can't they get the rehab he or she needs? Who is truly responsible. This book answers all those questions and more. As a parent and teacher who also has friends and neighbors, no book has made me learn as much as this one on a topic we tend to want to avoid. Buy this book and read it, to make sense of this opioid epidemic.

Reader Review: "Becoming"

 

by Sandi W. (Illinois): I was very pleased with this book. I felt that Michelle (who made you feel like you were her friend) did a wonderful job of telling her truth. She told of her aspirations, along with her fears. She did not hesitate to spell out her doubts and concerns. By the end of the book you had the feeling of the dynamics of both her marriage and her family life, along with her childhood, education and employment past. Reading this book only furthered my admiration for Michelle.

One of the places that she mentioned in her book I have frequented. She said that she and the girls would sneak away while at Camp David and go to Liberty Mountain to ski. My daughter had a lake house directly across from Liberty Mountain and their ski slopes. Besides being at the resort, my daughter had a glass walled room that looked out over the lake and ski slopes. It was fun to sit there with a cup of coffee or drink in front of the fire and watch people come down the slopes - both day and night, since they lighted the ski slopes. Obviously, you could not distinguish one skiing person from another, and the Obama's were never at the resort when I was, but it gave me that little extra connection while reading the book.

I think the sentence that most vividly stood out to me in the whole books was in the Epilogue. The very last paragraph started with ~

"I'm an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey."

What a beautiful way to sum up her memoir.

Reader Review: "Uncommon Type"

 

by Rene M (North Carolina): It had been a long time since I read anyone's collection of short stories. I didn't have any expectations of this book, nor did I read any reviews prior, other than the ones printed on the book jacket. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed all the stories (well, except maybe the bowling one). Some stories took me back in time, forward to the future, and remained in the present. I laughed, pondered, and was touched differently by each of them. I found it amazing how a single object, the typewriter, inspired Mr. Hanks to create such interesting tales. Well done.

Reader Review: "Moloka'i"

 

by JHSiess (Lodi, California): Molokai is simply a beautiful story in which Alan Brennert features unforgettable characters. Brennert's love of Hawaii and meticulous research are fully on display throughout the rich tale of Rachel who, at the age of 7, is diagnosed with leprosy and torn from her family and happy life in Honolulu. Exiled to a leper colony on Molokai, Rachel is raised by the Catholic nuns who run the girls' home there. Rachel develops deep friendships with the other girls, as well as with, in particular, Sister Catherine. Rachel longs for her family back on Oahu and the prospect of returning to a normal life there, but as the years pass, and the disease remains active, thereby prohibiting her release, she draws upon the strength of those around her and the beautiful island of Molokai, as well as her Hawaiian heritage. Eventually, Rachel finds love and has a beautiful daughter with whom she is only allowed to spend a few hours before the child is cruelly taken from her lest she or her husband infect the child.

Rachel's story spans nearly 7 decades and is told with great compassion. Brennert educates readers on the beliefs and culture of the Hawaiian people, the sadly true history of Kalaupapa, the leper colony that is today a national park on Molokai, and the suffering of real Hawaiians who, like the fictional Rachel, were ripped from their homes and families when they displayed symptoms of the disease. But Brennert's focus is on his characters' strengths and resilience, not their suffering.

The result is a deeply moving story that will resonate with and haunt readers long after they finish reading the book. For readers who have never been to Hawaii or experienced its beauty, spirituality, and traditions, Molokai will permit them to understand the true meaning of "aloha" and precisely why Hawaii is commonly referred to simply as "paradise." Molokai gets my highest recommendation.

Reader Review: "Becoming"

 

by Pam Aylmer (Lacey): She is candid and talks about her struggles to protect her girls from papparazi, and surprisingly, to buffer them from the intrusive Secret Service. I'd never considered how it would feel to have SS men shadowing me everywhere--she was inventive and designed a few 'work-arounds'.

She manages to get them out of their black suits, shoes and ties to change into shorts, tees and tennies, and to swap out their black earpieces for white headsets, so the girls and their friends would feel more comfortable. I deeply admire her healthy agenda for children and believe that she's had a tremendous impact on our culture and awareness. I only wish that she liked politics more--perhaps she can use her significant influence in other constructive ways.

Reader Review: "The Lost for Words Bookshop"

 

by Djcminor (Broken Arrow, OK): I have been reading articles about Up Lit and books that fall into that category of uplifting, but not sugary sweet. The Lost for Words Bookshop fits into that mold. First, as a reviewer on Book Browse notes, what's not to love about a story set in a bookstore! Loveland's story is tragic and yet she comes out of a terrible situation and builds a life of her own. Over time, she learns about developing warm, loving relationships with a number of people. I thoroughly enjoyed The Lost for Words Bookshop!

Reader Review: "Once Upon a River"

 

by Sandi W. (Illinois): 4.5 stars

I loved this book. It not only attests to the excellent story telling of the author, but it held me in awe of it's mastery of detail and readability. I felt that the story was enthralling, but the attention to detail and story follow up, along with the touch of magical realism, was wonderful. Setterfield's style and technique is above most.

Wonderful folklore about the Thames River. Mostly set in the Swan Inn, where tales are told. Until that frightful night that an unknown man staggers in with a lifeless girl in his arms.

Splendid, charming story, told in an enchanting way, by an excellent story teller.

Reader Review: "Where the Crawdads Sing"

 

by Anl: Loved it. Easy to read. Original plot. Well developed characters came across as believable people. In the time frame set, all the discriminatory thoughts and acts are believable and realistic. Yet the book is not judgemental not does it try to form the reader's opinions, as I find in so much modern fiction. It also does not find "fault" or "blame" for the character's situation. How refreshing to have a book where folks are troubled, yet find satisfaction with their situations in life. Although justice is vigilante, the reader is held to keep reading to find out the conclusion.

Reader Review: "Meet Me at the Museum"

 

by Dorothy (Broken Arrow, OK): I am completely mesmerized by Meet me at the Museum. I could hardly put the book down--and not because it is a thriller that causes me to turn the pages breathlessly. I wanted to read the next letter and the next letter. The story is one of calm, yet it also details some of the writers' most tender and vulnerable moments. Read Meet me at the Museum!

Reader Review: "An American Marriage"

 

by Dorothy Minor (Broken Arrow, OK): An American Marriage has been on my TBR list for some time. The librarian who leads our local book club at my branch library chose An American Marriage for our Feb discussion. I already had a copy, so I began reading it following our last meeting. I was unable to put the book down. The characters tugged at my heart; they are well-drawn and they quickly became people I cared about. They find themselves in a terrible situation through no fault of their own. The story is heartbreaking and redemptive at the same time.

Reader Review: "Girl Waits with Gun"

 

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): Girl Waits With Gun is the first book in the Kopp Sisters series by NYT best-selling American author, Amy Stewart. When, on a fine July day in 1914, silk factory heir Henry Kaufman recklessly drives his motorcar into the buggy conveying Constance Kopp and her sisters to town, the ladies suffer minor injuries but the buggy, their only means of transport, is wrecked. Henry and his thuggish friends make to drive off, but Constance refuses to be intimidated, vociferously insisting that he accept responsibility for the damage, which astonishes onlookers and annoys Henry.

By November, the Kopp sisters have been the target of verbal abuse, written "Black Hand" threats, damage to their home and attempted arson, and Constance's sister Norma is convinced that withdrawal would have been a better course of action. Of course, sixteen-year-old Fleurette, so far protected from the world, just finds it all terribly exciting.

It's not just the demands for reparation that have attracted the ire of young Kaufman: Constance also seems to have involved herself in a possible kidnapping case in which Kaufman is implicated. And even with Sheriff Robert Heath allocating deputies to protect the sisters, they seem to be in dire straits when the latest threat arrives.

Readers new to the Kopp Sisters series may be surprised learn from Stewart's Historical Notes and Sources that Constance Kopp and her sisters were real people, much as described, as are quite a few of the other characters. Many of the events that form the plot also occurred, if not always when stated. Stewart takes the known historical facts and fleshes them out into a marvellous tale.

What won't amaze is the utter dependence and powerlessness of women at this time in history. Stewart effortlessly portrays the characteristics of everyday life of the early twentieth century and clearly demonstrates how different life was over a hundred years ago. Miss Kopp, however, is clever, resourceful and persistent, although not even these qualities can protect her from some adverse events. Her fierce protectiveness of her sisters adds to her appeal.

The print column headlines to which the sisters continuously draw each other's attention, or occasionally invent to suit their particular situation, are often a source of humour. There is some first-rate detective work done, and the last line will have readers eager for the next instalment, Lady Cop Makes Trouble. Excellent historical crime fiction.

Reader Review: "Becoming"

 

by Sheila Anthony: Having been there myself, I recommend this marvelous book to any spouse of a political or government worker, and to anyone who wants to know what it's like. The wind blows coldest at the top of the mountain, and Mrs. Obama tells it like it is. I enjoyed her honesty, wit, family love, intelligence, and observations. I am giving this book to all 5 of my granddaughters.

Reader Review: "Unmarriageable"

 

by Betty Taylor (Macon GA): "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal." – the opening sentence of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen

This delightful Pakistani re-telling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE starts out with ninth-grade teacher Alys Binat asking her female students to rewrite the opening sentence of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Their writings nakedly reveal their societal status and how they have been taught that marriage is their ultimate goal.

Alys' heart sinks each year as her students, with their brilliant minds, never consider exploring the world and paving their own ways through life instead of seeing "marrying young and well" as their only options. Yet each year she uses the reading of Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to show how the mother and the protagonist start out with similar views and goals and where and why they begin to separate in those views.

Alys Binat says she will never marry but, like Elizabeth Bennett, life just did not turn out that way when Darsee entered her life. Kamal manipulated the characters' names to somewhat match the name of the characters in the classic telling. Some of the nicknames were hilarious – Rum, Gin, Hammy, Dracula. I especially loved the characters of Sherry Looclus (Charlotte Lucas) and Farhat Kaleen (Mr. Collins). Sherry is the kind of friend you want by your side through good and bad. The story was utterly delightful and the writing impeccable.

Charming and funny with relatable characters, this unique re-telling of the classic story PRIDE AND PREJUDICE looks at love, sisterhood, class, and marriage with a fresh twist. Kamal provided awesome insight into human relationships, especially within the Binat family of five daughters and their parents. ("O'Connor, Austen, Alcott, Wharton. Characters' emotions and situations are universally applicable across cultures, whether you're wearing an empire dress, shalwar kurta, or kimono.") Some conversations are pretty much universal, heard in families whatever the culture may be. Example: "Both of you, shut up," Mrs. Binat said. "For God's sake, is this why I went through your pregnancies and labor pains and nursed you both and gave myself stretch marks and saggy breasts? So that you can grow up and be bad sisters? How many times must I tell you: Be nice to each other, love each other, for at the end of the day, siblings are all you have." Tell me you haven't heard some version of that from your own mother.

I enjoyed the historical tidbits about the partitioning of Pakistan and India and the involvement of the English empire. I suspect she used much farce in her descriptions of modern-day Pakistani culture. A truly delightful story. I end with a quote from the book that I think should be highlighted: "We know that friends can be made anywhere and everywhere, regardless of race or religion.".

Reader Review: "The Long Way Home"

 

by Evelyn Walker (IN): I am a huge L.P. fan and belong to a book club that has read all of her books in order and together attended an author appearance. That said, no one In our group liked this book.

The idea that the chief of Police would let 3 women with no police expertise lead a mission to find Peter was specious at best. And the journey, both theirs and Peters less than interesting. I was glad this was not the first book of hers I had read or I would have missed all the excellent others in her series.

Reader Review: "My Sister, the Serial Killer"

 

by Tammy Tudor: From the moment I heard the buzz that surrounds this book I had to read it to find out if it was really as good as almost everyone was saying that it was! I know you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover but it really drew me in and knew this would be a book that I would be hooked and oh was I right!

While it may be cliché to say I really believe that this story is a true page turner, I read it almost in one go which is very rare for me I have to say! I loved the style of the book with the short chapters, made me keep saying 'just one more' until I just couldn't stop I needed to know what happens next.

The depth of the story is beautiful, it is thrilling and exciting but also makes you think of the deeper issues such as family, loyalty and honesty.

Reader Review: "Where the Crawdads Sing"

 

by Becky H (Chicago): WOW! Just WOW! This is a great book. Murder, abandoned child, growing up alone, nature, young love, sex, ecology, love, poetry, betrayal, education, redemption, forgiveness, treachery -- it is all here. Well written with strong characters and even stronger biology, Owens debut novel is clearly a winner. The North Carolina coastal region and the animals, birds, flowers, grasses, etc. are as much a character as the human in this book. Kya, Chase, Jumpin', Mabel and Tate are the main humans in this beautiful elegy to nature and the human spirit. Saying too much more will spoil the "mystery" in the book, so just know that is a book that should not be missed. Book groups will find much to discuss and ponder. Biologists and sportsmen/women will appreciate the accuracy of the science.

Reader Review: "The Women in the Castle"

 

by Helena (Kentucky): This was an excellent book and portrayed the characters in this time era well. I didn't want to stop reading once I started. The story line made one think about that particular time in history and how it affected the characters lives and the lives of their children later in life.

 

Back To The Top Of The Page