Book Reviews

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Reader Review: "Your House Will Pay"

 

by Victoria: Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins for the ARC of this novel. I enjoyed this a lot. It paints a nuanced picture of the aftermath of a racially based set of tragedies, modeled on the killing of a black teenage girl by a Korean business owner in the early 90s. I remember the coverage of that crime, and much of this book brought back vivid and visceral memories for me. I recommend this book.

Reader Review: "The World That We Knew"

 

by Viola E. Walton (Ohio): There are a few cases when I would like to give a book 6 stars, but this is one of them. Having lived in Germany ten years after WWII, the book brought back memories of things I was told by people who lived there during the war. I think the author connected with the sadness of those memories. The people who survived, those that were lost, and the daily hardships. The characters were well rounded. The fantasy aspects with the addition of a golem (Ava) added a different aspect to the war story, but it made the story work when you ask. "What is life?" I have found a new favorite author.

Reader Review: "The Lost Man"

 

by Victoria: I read this book earlier in the year when it came out in hardback. I can't remember what caused me to be interested, but my records show I actually bought it on my Kindle. Something or someone's review must have convinced me to try it! I really do not like Westerns and I would at least partially classify this novel as a Western novel, albeit set in Australia. The mystery of the story was great, well-plotted and intense. I couldn't stop reading. And the descriptions of the landscape were amazing. I frequently found myself stopping to imagine the landscape and the vast distances described by comparing them to distances more familiar to me. Overall a great read and I'll be looking for more by this author.

Reader Review: "Everything Inside"

 

by Phyllis Stern: Edwige Danticat in these delicately told stories faces head on the lives of immigrants from Haiti facing hardship there and here, people between two cultures, the high price of compassion. She tells the hard stories we need to hear, without political lectures, giving life to the news we hear every day. There's also the beauty of connection and moments people come together. An amazing book.

Reader Review: "Where the Light Enters"

 

by J Young (Cabot, PA): I enjoyed this book, it is a great follow up to the Gilded Hour, and can't wait to read the 3rd book! At 600 pages, I was at first dubious on how the author could keep me interested in it. But she explains on her blog, how she sometimes does go into great detail about the time period, that she wants to bring the reader right into that time, which she does! This story line has a lot of twists/turns and I can see that a 3rd book might be able to clear up some of the loose ends. I read a review by Tara McNabb, who feels this book can be read as a stand alone, I disagree, without reading the 1st book, I feel a reader might be lost about the main characters, Anna & Sophia.

Reader Review: "The Stationery Shop"

 

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "Look, Zari, being in love is difficult to explain. When you know it's right, you just know. There's no avoiding it. It's like … it's like a tree has fallen on your head."

The Stationary Shop of Tehran is the second novel by Turkish-born author, Marjan Kamali. In 1953, Tehran is full of political unrest, but seventeen-year-old Roya Kayhani isn't interested in all that (she hears it from her father constantly). Roya just wants to read: Persian poetry, Rumi in particular, or translated novels, it doesn't matter which. That's why she's a regular visitor to the Stationery Shop opposite her school. It's a place to retreat to, a calm of quiet and learning; Mr Fakhri often has a volume of poetry all ready for her; she just loves the piles of writing tablets and pencils and fountain pens.

One Tuesday, while she's idly perusing the shelves, a young man strides in whistling, collects some papers, rushes out again, but not before directing at her a dazzling smile and saying "I am fortunate to meet you." Mr Fakhri tells her Bahman Aslan is "the boy who wants to change the world". That (or perhaps Bahman?) should be approached with "vigilance" and "severe caution". And yet, by the time they have met and chatted several Tuesdays in a row in his stationery shop, Mr Fakhri seems to need to check his inventory in the storeroom whenever they are there alone.

Walks and the Café Ghanadi and the cinema, and gatherings with her sister and their friends at home follow. Roya's father approves of this passionate young man, because he too believes fervently in their Prime Minister, Mohammad Massadegh, and his vision for the country. Roya worries a little about Bahman's overt activism, and the Shah's police, but he assures her all will be well.

Soon they are engaged. Roya endures the nasty remarks and glares from her prospective mother-in-law. Life is wonderful and their future is bright. Then Bahman disappears without a word. Through Mr Fakhri, they communicate by long loving letters, but their arranged meeting goes badly awry. Was the destiny that her mother assured her was invisibly written on her forehead not to be with Bahman? It will be sixty years before they encounter one another again…

What a wonderful cast of characters Kamali gives the reader: some are easy to love and others require sympathy and patience. Their emotions and feelings, so well conveyed, are many: love (of course!), jealousy, grief and guilt, pride, ambition and greed, courage and cowardice all feature. The narrative is carried principally by Roya, but Bahman's perspective is shown through letters he writes Roya, with Mr Fakhri's contribution filling in some important background.

Kamali's beautiful descriptive prose will easily evoke the fragrance of the Persian kitchen and that unique stationery shop smell. There are several incidents that will tug at the heart-strings so have the tissues ready. This is a beautiful book filled with lyrical prose and enclosed within a gorgeous cover. A wonderful read. This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Simon & Schuster Australia.

Reader Review: "The Secrets We Kept"

 

by Karen: Now a Reese's Book Club pick! Happy to see that this Cold War thriller with literature at its heart is generating so much interest. I had no idea of the controversy surrounding Pasternak's novel, the pain and heartbreak of those close to Pasternak - caused by the writing and publication of Doctor Zhivago, and how the CIA saw the book as a tool to use in their fight against communism. The reader will enjoy how Prescott weaves the two threads (East vs West) together as the story unfolds. Love the movie version and now can't wait to move on to the original.

Reader Review: "The Invention of Wings"

 

by Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews: Sarah Grimke and Handful were complete opposites in the society of the 1800's.

Sarah was the daughter of a plantation owner, and Handful was her maid. Both were strong women regardless of their station in life.

Sarah didn't want to have a maid, and Handful didn't want to be a maid. She wanted to sew just like her mother did. She wanted to be a seamstress, but in reality, she wanted to be free. Charlotte, Handful's mother, made all the clothes for the household including the slaves. She was a bit of of a handful herself.

Through the beautiful storytelling of Ms. Kidd, you will follow the Grimke family through the decades of life on the plantation. You will meet Missus who was the wife of the plantation owner and who was in charge of of the slaves. She was very cruel.

The main characters, Sarah, Handful, Charlotte, and Missus will keep you up late reading about the day's activities either covert or in plain sight and either cruel or humane. These characters and their bond as well as their differences will be pulling at your heartstrings.

Historical Fiction at its best will be yours when you pick up THE INVENTION OF WINGS. There is a lot of profound thinking and pondering in every paragraph. I wasn't aware of Sarah's role in the abolitionist movement, and was pleasantly surprised to find information about her and her sister, Angeline, as I did some research of my own.

The storyline of THE INVENTION OF WINGS flows easily and masterfully as Ms. Kidd brings to life Southern living, the horrors of slavery, and tells of the people who worked toward abolishing slavery.

Don't miss this well-written, researched book of Ms. Kidd. Ms. Kidd's notes at the end of the book were very helpful as she explained how she took the basis of history and fictionalized key parts of it for her book. THE INVENTION OF WINGS was incredible. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Reader Review: "Inland"

 

by GerrieB: Inland captivated me from the beginning. It is that rare story, one that once I reached the end I wanted to go back to the beginning and start again. There are so many pieces that Obreht provides that lay there waiting, and yet somehow are carried along within the writing, some barely noticed until almost silently they click one by one into place. The story is taut and I had the feeling as I was reading that I was watching a locomotive racing toward a herd of sheep on a track and no way to stop it. I couldn't wait to finish but was forced to read the last 40 pages in small fits and starts as the tension was crushing. Secrets play a role in the story and choices can have far reaching impacts. There is unleashed fury in the book and reality of the consequences of choice. This is a tightly written story with a small but very distinctive cast. The harsh landscape is a key player in the book and Obreht is such a skilled writer you can feel the parching of your throat and I found myself reading with a glass of water by my side. Nora, the frontierswoman and a key character is multi layered, in fact, there isn't a simplistic character in the entire book. Inland is a western but it is also a story about the search for and need for a home and the strength and courage within us to overcome even the worst days and move forward while carrying those horrible experiences with us.

Reader Review: "America for Beginners"

 

by Lifetime Learner & Ohio Librarian (Cleveland area): The voices of the characters were clear and strong. Each person from the widow, the owner of the travel agency, the tour guide, the companion and others offer dramatically different points of view. Malcolm Gladwell's, new book, Talking to Strangers is non-fiction; this book helps to walk in the shoes of each person, who is in totally different circumstances. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Look forward to reading more by this author!

Reader Review: "The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek"

 

by Mary (Altadena): This title would have been one of my beloved recommendations for my patrons at the library I worked at for 36 years. The government program instituted in the 1930s took books to the isolated hills of Kentucky and was a soul saving gift to the people. Books are a gift for all of us when the stories of those we know nothing about are told. We are enlightened, and learn that people who may appear different are no different than we are on the inside. I came away with a deeper understand of those who live a life of isolation and extreme poverty yet love the solace and connection to other worlds outside of their own by means of books. We appreciate each and everyone of us have value when reading a story unlike our own life between the pages of a book.

Reader Review: "The Nowhere Girls"

 

by Ella: Originally, I was apprehensive to read this as it was for school. I had selected it as the least appalling choice on the summer reading list going into ninth grade. Boy, am I glad I did. This not only became one of my favorite books, but one of my best friend's as well, for she had chosen this book to read over the summer, too. We discussed it a lot, would text back and forth about the events occurring in the story, as one would for a TV show. It was a purely addictive book and made the school work about it that followed much more bearable. The characters are all likable (aside from the ones whom you are not supposed to like), the plot is engaging, the writing style is brilliant, and the format of the book itself makes it all that more enjoyable. I strongly recommend this book for women and men of all ages (well, rather for women and men ages 13+ as this is a difficult novel that deals with difficult things).

Reader Review: "Ellie and the Harpmaker"

 

by Becky H (Chicago): This is a lovely book. Ellie, married to a controlling husband, meets Dan, who lives in solitary splendor meticulously carving exquisite harps.

The writing is detailed and engaging. Prior uses words to describe the woods and creatures surrounding the harp barn with great charm. Her characters grow and become clear as the story progresses. Although she never uses any words to indicate Dan is autistic (or at least on the spectrum), it is readily apparent through her word pictures. She writes with sympathy and tenderness about her characters allowing the reader to see them change and develop with her eyes.

As the tale unfolds danger and fear emerge, but the overriding feeling is always sympathy and gentleness.

A good book for groups interested in music, woodworking, nature, personality development, marriage, autism, forgiveness, family dynamics, and love.

Reader Review: "The Beekeeper of Aleppo"

 

by Betty Taylor (Macon GA): This is perhaps the most poignant book I have read thus far this year. Yet the book is filled with beauty and love.

Nuri is a beekeeper in Aleppo, Syria. His wife Afra is an artist. Amidst the Syrian Civil War Afra was left blind when she witnessed their young son killed by a bomb. Their nephew Mustafa fled Syria earlier and is now in England. Mustafa has bought some beehives and started his own business. He begs Nuri and Afra to join him, thus they set off, joining thousands of other refugees fleeing to what they hope is a better life, a safer life. It is a long and danger-filled trek to and through Turkey and then through Greece with no guarantee they will be granted asylum if and when they reach England.

Theirs is a journey of moving through their grief and rediscovering themselves, individually and as a couple. Along the way they meet people who will take advantage of them, some who will hurt them, and some who will give them the strength to continue their journey.

The author worked as a volunteer at a refugee center in Athens, Greece. The stories she heard and the people she met led her to writing this compassionate account of their stories.

Reader Review: "The Secrets of Mary Bowser"

 

by CarolT (Iowa): It's hard to believe The Secrets of Mary Bowser is Lois Leveen's debut novel. Or that it is a novel at all. Mary and all the other characters - and the period - are so real.

Reader Review: "Ellie and the Harpmaker"

 

by Veronica (Chesterton): What a wonderful story. I was so fascinated with the characters and how they reacted to life. The writing and the story just beautiful.

Reader Review: "The Beekeeper of Aleppo"

 

by Victoria: Thank you so much to Random House Ballantine and Netgalley for the advance reader copy of this book. Wow. What a novel. It's definitely given me a book hangover because I know the next thing I pick up will not compare. I have read a number of refugee novels over the past few years. None of them grabbed me and moved me like this. I feel like my eyes have been opened and I have an entirely different level of empathy and understanding (as much understanding as one can have sitting in my comfy couch in my middle class American life). The writing and descriptions are beautiful done, so vivid I could see everything. This is ironic based on the author's stated goal of the book, explained in an afterword. I would give this all the stars x 10. Please read this book.

Reader Review: "The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek"

 

by Anl (Park City, Utah): I cant say enough positive. What a great story - the blue folks and the mobile library are two parts of history I would not have known except for this book. Great characters, well written and presented, and pleasant to read. And no underlying agenda. I put this author on my list to read more of her works.

 

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