Book Reviews

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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.

Reader Review: "The Winemaker's Wife"

 

by SA (CT): Full disclosure: the members of my book club each received a free proof of this book through the galley match program ( #GalleyMatch or @gallerybooks ) before it's release in return for our honest feedback.

This well written historical novel is told from the point of view of three different women in alternating chapters. The first two are living in the Champagne making region of France during World War II,

Young and impulsive newlywed Inez is struggling to fit in at Maison Chauveau under the Nazi occupation. Born to a different life, champagne production is foreign to her. Having no family, the transition to her new life is made more difficult by the distance from her old friends, the isolation of the countryside, and the over-protectiveness of husband, Michel, who is secretly involved with the Résistance.

Also living at the maison is half-Jewish Celine, the wife of Theo, the Chauveau's chef de cave. She's a bit older than Inez and grew up making wine so the work there is second nature for her. She worries about her family as she struggles to remain under the radar of the Nazi occupiers. These two very different women struggle to form a friendship as they assist in the production of the champagne.

The third woman, newly divorced Liv, lives in the present (Summer 2019). Her elderly French grandmother, Edith, has arrived to whisk Liv off to France so she can move on with her life. But Edith has another motivation, secrets that she wants to reveal before it's too late. It's hard for Edith to share what's been deeply buried for so long and progress is slow. While Liv awaits each tidbit about her grandmother's past she explores the region on her own, finding some clues along the way.

The connection of Edith's life to each of these women drives the action forward. During the war danger grows when chances are taken and mistakes are made. In the current day, Liv is beginning to resume living her life as she waits for Edith to divulge more.

You won't want to put this novel set in World War II France down!

Reader Review: "The Guest Book"

 

by Darby (Davis, Ca): After reading the last page, I thought Wow! Great writing! Incredible characters. Full of life philosophy. The best description of inner racism and entitlement I've ever read. I couldn't put this book down. Others told me this book went back and forth between years and was confusing. I did not find that hard to follow and it enriched the story. As I read I could feel the story building like a huge wave to come crashing in at the end. How does Ms. Blake do that? Highly recommend that you read this book,

Reader Review: "Miracle Creek"

 

by Vivian H (Winchester, VA): This is a rare court room drama that caused me to feel empathy for all of its flawed characters- immigrants trying to give a daughter a chance for success in America, teen rebellion, the cultural strictures for Korean women, the mothers seeking experimental treatments for their disabled children, the guilt & hope they feel, even the protestors trying to shut the operation down. The story is told from multiple perspectives with each chapter peeling away another layer of onion. There is a lot of heartache. I thought this was an excellent first book.

Reader Review: "America for Beginners"

 

by Becky H (Chicago): This was a delightful book. A conservative Indian lady seeks closure with her son's death by taking a guided tour of America. Pival hires an Indian (she thinks) tour company that is really Bengali. Her "companion" is an erstwhile actress who is tired of life. Her tour guide has never led a tour before. These three mismatched characters, each with their own set of opinions and expectations find themselves and America as they travel. Pival's son, his chosen lifestyle, his companion, and his life's work become clear as the tour progresses. By turns hilarious and heartrending, America for Beginners presents an America like no other. The characters are interesting and well developed. The story line has great depth and insight. While reading, you might consider a tour of America you might arrange – especially the meals along the way. 5 of 5 stars

Reader Review: "Hunger"

 

by Leila: Hunger portrays, among other issues, how the invisible destructive social forces systematically form our view towards ourselves.

Reader Review: "Travelers"

 

by Lavonne Roberts (New York City): This is the most beautiful book I've read in years and one I couldn't put down. How often does that happen?

The author is a true storyteller--the kind who you'd want telling your life story because he sees the humanity in his characters in a way that leaves you changed. Or maybe it's just that he finds beauty in the cracks of life where people are the glue that repurpose the broken. From Germany to Switzerland to Italy to the UK, Habila's exploration of the migrant refugee's diaspora (from several African countries: Nigeria, Libya, Somalia, and Malawi) experience through the lens of a Nigerian-born scholar questions and explores the concept of home in the context of those who cannot return to theirs. Like many Americans, I was ignorant of many of the countries wars--beyond headlines. Travelers will make you cry, smile, and hug those you love--even more. It's about a Nigerian scholar who gives voice to many migrants and refugees stories that all come together in the end. It's a series of stories of disparate strangers that all become more human. Their suffering and joy become a tapestry.

Travelers is a series of love stories and so much more.

Travelers will make you feel grateful. Moreover, it will reinforce our belief in the connection to strangers, who are not strangers. They are you and me. They are everyone.

 

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