Book Reviews

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Reader Review: "The Thirteenth Tale"

 

by Penny: I don't write a lot of reviews but this book is one I just can't stop thinking about. I listen to a lot of audiobooks because of my long commute and I had a hard time turning it off every day, and when the end was near I didn't want it to be over. Ms. Setterfield's writing is beautiful and the characters are well thought out and detailed. The ending was very satisfying and all the questions were wrapped up nicely. I highly recommend.

Reader Review: "The Electric Woman"

 

by Joe D.: The story of a young woman who runs away with the circus sounds a bit trite, but Fontaine tells the story of a year in her own life, and it is captivating. She joins The World of Wonders, America's last traveling side show. Fontaine weaves stories of her ailing mother and stories from her childhood into the story of her time with the sideshow. One of the quotes on the back cover says: "I have never read a book more tender or more true." This quote would never have prompted me to read the book, but having read the book, I can attest that it is apt. For readers who dislike memoirs, as I do, I urge you to make an exception. An unusual, highly readable book.

Reader Review: "Where the Crawdads Sing"

 

by Windsong22: No matter what else is written in 2019 this will always be among my top three fiction books of the year. Through the eyes of Kya Clark, an abandoned child. Delia Owens gives a new perspective to the lowlands and this almost uninhabitable portion of North Carolina. At times i felt as I were floating through the marshes with Kya and seeing for the first time the intricacies of the aquatic life in the marshes. I loved the way the author drew analogies between the behavior of the townspeople toward Kya and the behavior of the insects in their respective habitats. Ms Owens has created a mystery, a love story, and a brilliant environmental study of the beautiful marshes of North Carolina neatly packaged in about 360 pages.

Reader Review: "The Guest Book"

 

by Florrie Cooper (Midwest USA): The lives of three generations of Miltons spanning most of the 20th century on the Eastern Seaboard sometimes appalls, always intrigues, and never bores. Grappling with personal tragedies and triumphs set within the context of a cosmic shift in American societal attitudes, some of the Miltons do their best to embrace change, while others cling to a way of life embodied by their family island retreat that remains a constant though the decades.

The author, Sarah Blake, is a stunning writer and an extraordinary storyteller. Highly recommended for individual fans of family sagas and book clubs.

Reader Review: "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"

 

by Dhruv Kandhari (India): The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is a novel published in the year 2007 to unprecedented acclaim, and the novel turned to be a huge critical and popular success winning The National Book Critics Award and The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Junot Diaz published his debut, which was called Drown, a collection of short stories that also received high acclaim from multiple critics including Hermoine Lee, the great literary biographer of Penelope Fitzgerald; yet it was not until this first novel, this masterpiece of diasporic fiction that he shot his way up to the stars.

Reader Review: "Darius the Great Is Not Okay"

 

by Rebecca R (Western USA): This book has a teenage male protagonist but readers of all ages and genders will be able to relate to the difficulties he faces. Darius's Persian ancestry makes him a target of ignorant bullying at home in the USA, but a family trip to spend time with aging grandparents before it's too late to do so, is not entirely a warm and fuzzy reunion with one's maternal-side genetic roots. I found myself laughing out loud (a cliche but when it is true, there is no other way to describe one's reactions). At times, I think I even had a true guffaw. Other times, readers will likely have tears in their eyes. This really is a special book. I would be surprised if the movie rights have not already been purchased. Add it to your must-read list! In the summer of 2018 I read an ARC of this book and loved it from the start.

Reader Review: "Becoming"

 

by CarolT: By the time my name came up to get this from the library, I was more than a little burned out on political autobiographies, so started this half-heartedly. Boy was I wrong. This really is a page turner. I expected Obama to write well (yes, I know she had a ghost writer to help her) and she does. Her voice is so good that I had the feeling she was talking directly to me. I nearly cried with her at the tragedies of friends' deaths, her father's death, the Newtown shooting, and even the 2016 election results.

Reader Review: "The Red Tent"

 

by anne: This is not my usual choice, I happened across it at a duty free shop at an airport many years ago. I opened it and read the prologue and bawled my eyes out. I felt that I had found someone that been lost and without a voice for many, many lifetimes. It still moves me deeply, not being a religious person I do not know the Bible well and this for me was not about religion but a story of a woman lost to history with a story of her own to tell. Maybe it resonates how I have felt at times but more likely it reflects the experience of many women - lost to the bigger voices of men. I have not seen the film so don't know how it differs, my copy came into my hands a long time before that.

Reader Review: "Her Kind of Case"

 

by Sandi W. (Illinis): There are not many books that get a 5 star rating from me. However this book rose right to the top. I had to often remind myself that this book is fiction. In story and character it ranked right up there with the true crime books that I often read.

Lee Isaacs is a defense attorney. She takes on the case of one young man who is accused of helping skinheads kill a gay man. Her client, Jeremy refuses to talk to her, but he has confessed to the crime. Lee must use all her experience and vices to fester out what really happened, who is really to blame, and why her client refuses to help defend himself.

This is my first read by Winer, who is a retired criminal attorney herself. Writing to her own experience is indeed much to the readers delight. This novel was tight, succinct, and a definite page turner. There was belief in the characters, a couple of laugh out loud moments, and building suspense as the book developed. It is well worth the time to read.

Reader Review: "The Great Alone"

 

by Lynn M. Castro (Menifee, California): Kristin Hannah is a brilliant story teller. If life can be hard, life is harder in Alaska. Leni, the main character moves here from Washington with her mother and her father, a POW who is suffering from PTSD, and trying to escape the inner turmoil he feels and lead a more peaceful existence. It becomes anything but peaceful, setting off unprepared for the challenges ahead. So many tragedies throughout. I loved Big Marge. The women are hardworking and strong. There are some horrific parts to get through. Hanna doesn't want us to tread lightly through this book, but to experience the challenges and injustices that Leni, the main character, goes through, although no child should ever have to go through them. The ending is a bit bitter sweet, yet Leni can still find beauty and peace through it all. A rainbow lies ahead. There is so much more to say - Read the story.

Reader Review: "The Song of Achilles"

 

by Salama: One of the best books I've read in a while. The song of Achilles pulls you in and you kinda just keep flipping the pages, that before you know it, you're at the end and feeling so sad because you wanted it to go on forever. Madeline miller is truly an amazing author

Reader Review: "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine"

 

by Brenda M. (Reston): "These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don't want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted."

"If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night …"

At first, Eleanor Oliphant seemed to be similar to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion in that the story focused on a socially awkward person seeking love. However, it was so much more than that and very definitely worth the read. This novel focused on the themes of loneliness, particularly in the younger generation, social awkwardness, acceptance from others and of oneself, healing, and taking healthy risks. Prior to the start of the novel, Eleanor Oliphant had a horrific childhood and difficult adolescence. She was still dealing with those implications and fallout when the novel began.

This story is dark, funny, and ultimately endearing. Eleanor is a complex, deep, and well-crafted character. The traumatic events that happened to her, how she internalized them, and people's reactions to her were dark and difficult to read. However, Eleanor is a plucky character and her actions, opinions, and how she faced the world made me laugh out loud numerous times throughout the story. I can't imagine finishing this book and not loving Eleanor. She is a very unusual protagonist!

I wish this novel had been a book club read for me, as there is so much fodder for discussion here. I particularly liked how multi-layered the title of this novel was. There are so many ways to interpret it in light of the story. I loved Eleanor's observations about life, particularly about what it takes to socially fit-in and how that is so different between men and women. The way Eleanor gradually opens up to other people and life itself was also fascinating. I highly recommend this book and was very glad I read it.

Reader Review: "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness"

 

by peter carr (england): If you think you don't have enough work in your life, read this book. It feels like trying to sort out your attic. Obscure prose, hordes of dusty bits and pieces you have to wade through to get to the questionable moral in the far corner of the unlit room. Jumbles of unmemorable names, "clever " jumps back and forward in time, and a cast of grotesques that add nothing to the story. There's an old chest in one corner, stuffed with forced references to trans rights that feels as though it is crowbarred in to appeal to "modern" thinkers. only in the last quarter of the book does it start to feel like literature, and by then you will have lost the will to live.

Reader Review: "The Book Thief"

 

by Cathy: The book thief is a poignant and powerful tale a young girl named Liesel growing up in Nazi Germany. This is the kind of book which demands quite a few re-readings and I have discovered a number of microscopic details after each read. Highly recommendable for literature and history buffs alike, this is a timeless tale which is masterfully told. This masterfully crafted novel is sure to make the readers come back for more.

Reader Review: "The Night Tiger"

 

by Jennifer Shaw (Irving, TX): Gorgeous, descriptive writing. The characters are multi dimensional. I loved how the author mixed characters that were dealing with modern day problems while dealing with old superstitions and folklore, characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and the restrictions of the time from different gender perspectives. There are book to read for pleasure and books to read for discussion. This is one of those rare books that works for both.

Reader Review: "Saving Hamlet"

 

by Jacob Allen (Australia): Molly Booth has written an excellent debut novel. Saving Hamlet is a timeless classic that alternates between themes of romance, theatre and time travel effortlessly. After reading the first page I immediately thought 'This is a GOOD book' something I don't usually think, particularly about books by little known authors. Saving Hamlet however, is clearly an exception. I would highly recommend you read this, and that you read it now.

Reader Review: "The Five People You Meet In Heaven"

 

by Niamh (South West of England): This book was given to me as a gift at a time in my life in which I despised reading...And it was so good that here I am writing a review just to encourage others to pick it up! I have convinced so many of my friends, colleagues and family to read this novel; it provided guidance for me at a very difficult time and has transformed the way I look at the world. A beautiful story..worth reading all the way until the end and my goodness if you haven't already, pick up "The Next Person You Meet in Heaven" (the new sequel...It will blow your mind!) As well. Meeting Mitch Albom is now number one on my bucket list. This book is a blessing.

Reader Review: "The Crossing Places"

 

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): The Crossing Places is the first book in the Ruth Galloway series by award-winning British author, Elly Griffiths. Norfolk DCI Harry Nelson has been haunted by the unsolved case of little Lucy Downey's disappearance for ten years. When some human bones are discovered at the salt marshes near Kings Lynn, Harry calls on archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway to give an opinion on the bones. Ruth's cottage is quite close, and she is interested in anything to do with the marshes. The bones, and the accompanying Iron Age artefacts, turn out to be a noteworthy find for archaeology, but no resolution for the Downey family.

Nelson is impressed by Ruth's professionalism, and he makes an impression on her too: "He was an odd man, she thought, brusque and unfriendly, but it seemed as if he had really cared about that little girl." It's this caring, perhaps, that sees her ready to help.

Then another little girl goes missing, and Nelson asks for Ruth's input on the letters he has been regularly receiving, letters telling him in the vaguest terms where Lucy, and now young Scarlet, are. The letters are filled with a mixture of strange references: biblical, Norse legend, literary, Greek legend, pagan and archaeological, and successively take an increasingly exasperated, at times almost taunting, tone at Nelson's failure to find the missing girls.

This specialised knowledge means that, if the letters are actually from the killer, suspicion falls on certain people who were in the area ten years earlier: Ruth was on a dig with colleagues and volunteers, excavating a beach henge; a group of Druids were part of a protest against it. Could one of these seemingly gentle, nature-loving souls be a murderer? A grisly find on her doorstep then has Ruth wondering if she's being warned off.

Griffiths tells the story using Ruth and Harry as her main narrators, with occasional passages from the perspective of a captive girl. The plot is believable, the archaeology interesting and the characters are quite convincing for all their flaws and quirks. It is certainly refreshing to read a female protagonist who is not slim and gorgeous. There are twists and red herrings to keep the reader guessing right up to the final chapters, and little surprise that will ensure readers are eager for the second instalment, The Janus Stone. An outstanding debut novel.

Reader Review: "The Last Year of the War"

 

by Sandi W. (Illinois): This being my first read of a Susan Meissner book I have no past references for comparison. However, with that said, I found this book to be very enjoyable. I enjoyed the way she moved her characters back in time to tell their story. I was pleasantly surprised to see she used a town very familiar to me to base the life of one character's childhood. Everything she spoke about still exists and two spots, in particular, have recently been in the news. For me, that brought an extra layer to the novel.

My only problem with the story was I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked to have seen a few of the things that were bundled up for closure given a bit more time and detail.

Two elderly women, both with life-threatening illnesses, are brought back together for a final goodbye. After watching them grow up during WWI, both assigned to a detention camp by the United States and then sent back to their families homeland, they lost touch with each other. While following America born Elise, we see her return from a war-torn Germany and settle back into her life in America. Mariko, on the other hand, lived her life in Japan, until her later years of life, when she finally returned to America.

The story of not only war, of America's sad history of putting its own people into detention camps, but of the love and resilience of two young girls, as they navigated their lives as well as they could.

Reader Review: "Room"

 

by Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews: What hold could Old Nick have over Ma that would make that room her world? Why didn't she just leave? Or maybe she wasn't able to leave?

Jack's fifth birthday definitely wouldn't be what a normal five-year-old would be delighted with, but Jack was happy to spend the day with his Ma in their ordinary, same-as-always routine. They spent every day in the "room" with the food and clothing that Old Nick provided for them.

Ma doesn't allow Old Nick to see Jack but she never tells Jack why. Ma and Jack's days are creatively spent inventing things, measuring everything in the room that has been Ma's space for the past seven years, reading books and changing the characters to suit them, and watching the clock so they know when it is time to eat or sleep. They never leave their "room," and Jack really doesn't know any better or know anything about the outside world except what his Ma tells him when they read books.

As much as Ma tries to protect and shelter Jack, he begins to question what is beyond the walls they live in. Ma tries to divert Jack's attention to other things, but sometimes it is unavoidable......especially the night when Jack overheard a conversation between Ma and Old Nick about him and the life Old Nick provides for her.

One comment made by Old Nick that stuck in my mind was: "I don't think you appreciate how good you've got it here," "Do you?" Page 69 To me that would be highly questionable....how good could life be simply living in a room and never going outside?

I grew to hate Old Nick and how he treated both of them. When you find out the "whole" story, you won't want to stop reading.

This book is about fear, abuse, control, a mother's love, and wanting the best for your child. At first you may want to put the book down, but don't do it....you will share Ma's feelings of fear for Old Nick and her dependence on him and also the heartbreak of Jack's acceptance of the only life he has known. You will fall in love with sweet, innocent, literal Jack, and you will think about both characters and their experience long after you turn the last page.

To me this was actually a "creative" thriller...excellent storyline. I really liked the book. 5/5

 

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