Showing posts from 2017

My Last Lament by James William Brown

Young Aliki is a witness to her own father's execution at the hands of the Nazis and lives the rest of her childhood with a local woman and her son, Takis.  When the woman hides a Jewish woman and her son, Stelios, Aliki and Takis are exposed to the world of puppetry by Stelios.  The Nazis that occupy the Greek village learn of the Jews in the basement and they kill the women and the children must fend for themselves.  The children earn money by performing puppet shows for a country that is trying to heal itself after the devastation of World War II and the fall of the Nazis.

I usually like historical novels about World War II and the holocaust but this book just didn't do it for me.  I enjoyed the first third of the book but after the Germans left Greece, the story wasn't as interesting.  I think the story would have been better if the story was centered around Stelios and his mother hiding in the basement of Aliki's home but after that point, there was too much goin…

I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly: A Review

Clinton Kelly's memoir I Hate Everyone, Except You had me laughing from the very first page to the very last!  I have to confess that I am not an avid viewer of What Not to Wear so I was able to approach this book as it was presented, without any pretenses.  I am so happy that this book found me!  His writing reminded me of reading a book by David Sedaris, another one of my favorite comedy writers.  Kelly can be a bit snarky when he wants to be but he is surprisingly kind to those he writes about.  His observations on life and society are insightful and relate-able.  I really enjoyed this book and I think anyone who enjoys funny, essay-style memoirs will enjoy this book.  It was a wonderful, light read to pick me up on a rainy day.    

Watch a video about Action Park, the amusement park that Kelly describes in his book:

My rating:

Books like this one:
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Sleepless Nights and Kisses For Breakfast: Reflections on F…

The Standard Grand by Jay Baron Nicorvo: A Review

Bellum has gone AWOL and left her husband and home in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  She is already suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from her past deployments and can't stomach the idea of another one.  She follows an older veteran that has set up a camp for homeless veterans called The Standard Grande.  Milt inherited The Standard Grande, an old resort in the Catskills, from his father-in-law and uses it to help veterans become more self-sufficient and acclimate to coming home from a war environment.  Milt is under water on the venture, though, and is being aggressively pursued by a company that wants to use the land for what they say is a golf resort.  The veterans aren't so sure that is the real purpose, though.

This book just didn't hit the spot for me.  Most of the story dragged.  I didn't find it humorous and the mystery wasn't enough to keep my attention.  I actually had to leave this book several times and come back to it while reading o…

Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer: A Review

Darcy and Boyz divorced due to his infidelity but they were never really compatible to begin with.  Boyz was a uber-successful real estate agent and Darcy is a bookish librarian.  After her divorce and the death of the grandmother who raised her, Darcy moves into her grandmother's old home on Nantucket and begins a peaceful life there as a children's librarian.  She has a new love interest, Nash, and a great group of friends.  The community is smaller during the off-season but now it is summer and the crowds have come to enjoy the great weather.  One of her neighbors happens to be Boyz and the woman he cheated on Darcy with and the other is an older woman with a handsome grandson that might be competition for Nash.

After reading the emotionally charged Human Acts by Han Kang, I wanted something a little lighter to read.  Secrets in Summer did just that.  What a great beach book!  I loved the descriptions of Nantucket and found myself envying the characters for their breezy is…

Human Acts by Han Kang: A Review

A while back, I read Han Kang's book The Vegetarian and was impressed with the unique style and story.  If I'm being honest, I enjoyed The Vegetarian a bit more than Human Acts but I think that Human Acts is a more important work.  The book centers around the shooting and death of middle-school student Dong-ho.  The young boy was shot by the military and his body was disposed of in an unmarked, mass grave.  The book follows Dong-ho, his family, friends and acquaintances and discusses the political turmoil that occurred in South Korea in 1980.  The description of the aftermath of the events puts the reader in the middle of the events.  The book was hard to read but not because of the writing or translation but because of the subject matter.  I think this is an important book for readers to experience because it teaches us about the horrors of political extremism and the military state.

My rating:

Reviews of books like this one:
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Exit West …

The Party by Robyn Harding: A Review

Kim and Jeff Sanders are throwing a party for Hannah, their daughter, on her sixteenth birthday.  Kim and Jeff are very hands on parents and Kim immediately lets the five girls know that the party will only consist of a sleepover, pizza and a movie and not any drugs, alcohol or boys.  Jeff thinks it might be time to let his little girl have a little bit of fun and gives the girls a bottle of champagne.  The girls have a different idea and don't think that is enough.  Each girl sneaks in their own alcohol and drugs and things quickly spiral out of control.  One of the girls gets so intoxicated that she falls into a glass table and ends up cutting her face and eye.  Life is about to change drastically for the girls and their families.

This is an amazing ride of a story!  There are tons of twists and turns and it was so exciting to read it.  There were elements in this book that I didn't expect.  There were also very important elements, as well, such as the lessons about a pare…

Coversations with Friends by Sally Rooney: A Review

Frances and Bobbi used to date and are now best friends who perform poetry together.  When they meet a writer, Melissa, and her actor husband, Nick, the four quickly form a tight friendship.  Frances soon falls in love with Nick and begins an affair with him.

I really didn't find this book too interesting.   It was actually boring for most of the book.  The only interesting part that I found, Frances' health scare, ended very anticlimactically.  The whole book was actually very anticlimactic.  The characters were all equally unlikable.  All of them were selfish, pretentious and uninteresting.  None of the characters had a unique voice or personality.  While the writing was very fluid, I just couldn't enjoy myself while reading this book because the story and the characters were so flat.

Sally Rooney, Lucy Caldwell, Peggy Hughes and Sara Baume discuss new Irish literature in this video:

My rating:

Reviews of books like this one:
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier: A Review

I first heard about the Hogarth Shakespeare project when I saw Margaret Atwood's retelling of The Tempest, Hag-Seedon the shelf at my local library.  Being that I am a fan of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, I immediately checked the book out and read it.  The project asks accomplished writers to retell the works of Shakespeare.  In New Boy, Tracy Chevalier retells the story of Othello with the characters being elementary school children.  It is the 1970s and Osei's father is a diplomat from Ghana.  His recent transfer has moved the family to a Washington, DC suburb.  Being the new kid, and the only black kid in his school, is never easy but he quickly befriends Dee, one of the most popular girls in the school.  Ian, the local bully, sets his targets on the new boy and begins his plans to harm the budding relationship Osei and Dee share.

This book imparts many lessons, including bullying, kindness and racism.  The bullying and racism aspects of the book were very realis…

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor: A Review

I was a big fan of The Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd so when Penguin offered to allow me to read an advanced copy of a book by the iconic author's daughter as a part of their First to Read program, I was ecstatic.  What I learned is that each author must be appreciated based on their own work and not be compared to authors that have come before them.  Ann Kidd Taylor's work is completely different from the southern fiction that I enjoyed from Sue Monk Kidd, but still just as fun.

The Shark Club takes place, primarily, in an island hotel in the Gulf of Mexico.  Maeve and her brother lost their parents when she was very young and moved into their grandmother's hotel.  The twins are friends with Daniel, a boy who is grieving the fact that his father left him and his mother unexpectedly.  When Maeve is bitten by a shark and saved by Daniel, she falls in love with both Daniel and sharks.  Soon after her engagement to Daniel, she travels to finish her dissertation so that she ca…

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

When I read Backman's A Man Called Ove, I fell in love with the author's smooth writing style and quotable lines.  And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a sweet little novel about a boy and his grandfather and a boy and his father as the grandfather/ father begins to suffer from dementia.  I appreciated how this book is, mostly, from the perspective of the grandfather.  So often, books are written with the family's pain and anguish at center-stage but we often fail to forget how isolating and frightening this diagnosis can be for the patient.  While we lose one family member, they lose everyone while their body is still here on Earth.  This book also contained some words of wisdom for all of us, such as how grandparents spoil their grandchildren to apologize to their children for not being able to spend as much time with them (and also a word of warning for workaholics).  I want to emphasize that this book was not the tearjerker that so many books on de…

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki: A Review

Lady recently asked for a trial separation from her husband, Karl, and is living with her two sons, Seth and Devin.  Seth is an 18-year-old selective mute and Devin is a very talkative toddler.  Lady has accepted a contract to write a book about her experiences with Seth and has hired S Fowler to watch him while she writes.  S is actually Esther Shapiro, an aspiring artist that had an art project that turned out badly.  She has decided to reinvent herself in the image of her alcoholic mom in order to begin a new art project.  Soon, all the lies of all the different characters begin to have an effect on their relationships.

I had mixed feelings about Woman No. 17.  Lepucki's writing style is beyond compare and it was a very easy read.  The story and the characters didn't do much for me, though.  I actually didn't like any of the characters.  Well, maybe with the exception of Devin but he is a toddler so how can I not?  I found Seth to be about as manipulative as S was and …

Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan: A Review

Julie is a single mother and struggling to come to terms with her part in the tragic death of her friend, Reba.  Sweet, innocent Reba's death was ruled a suicide but Julie believes that she may have killed her friend.  When Reba's old boyfriend, August, shows up with questions and tells her that Reba kept a diary, she travels back to home with August to find the diary and find out what really happened to Reba.

This book had a great beginning.  It takes place in a town full of racism and Reba and August were the star-crossed lovers there.  Julie was an orphan who lacked the love she needed from her new family and looked for it elsewhere.  In addition, there seemed to be an element of a mystery that was unfolding.  It lacked any kind of surprise and the ending was very predictable, though.  While the writing was fluid and kept me moving in the beginning, that lack of a complex story line made it difficult for me to enjoy the book towards the end.  The characters were very stere…

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith: A Review

Young Adult fiction is not my favorite.  I don't read very much of it and, when I do, there has to be something else about the book that intrigues me.  For Windfall, it was the idea of a young person winning a lot of money in the lottery and being a little bit lost as to what to do with it.  This book was also a bit of a teen romance, as well.

Alice has had her fair share of bad luck.  When she was nine, both of her parents passed away and she moved from San Francisco to Chicago to live with her uncle, aunt and cousin, Leo.  Leo and Alice have been best friends with Teddy since she moved in with her new family but, recently, Alice has started to have stronger feelings for him.  On the night of Teddy's eighteenth birthday, Alice buys him a lottery ticket as a gag gift, thinking it a long shot that anyone would ever win.  A surprise to both of them, Teddy does win and now has over 50 million dollars to spend.  For a young person who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his mot…

The Changeling by Victor LaValle: A Review

Apollo's father disappeared from his life when he was very young and this feeling of abandonment affected him throughout his childhood and into his adulthood.  When he meets a fiesty librarian, Emma, he falls in love with her and the couple marry.  For the first few weeks after the birth of their child, life seems perfect.  After Emma must return to work after her six week maternity leave, she begins to act strangely.  Her sister and Apollo chalk it up to postpartum depression and exhaustion but Emma swears that she is receiving photos taken of her baby, Brian, as texts that are then deleted when she tries to show them to others.  After she plans to have Brian baptized without notice to Apollo, Apollo refuses and locks Emma out of their apartment.  When he wakes up, Emma has tied up Apollo and is killing the baby.  Emma hits Apollo with a hammer and knocks him out and escapes by jumping through a window.  In his grief counseling, Apollo hears a story from another woman who claims…

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper: A Review

Lily is a forensic psychiatrist that has seen trauma of her own.  When a man without a name is admitted to the facility she works out after ripping a man's ear off, he tells Lily his name is Michael and that he was the inspiration of Dracula, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein's monster.  He also tells her that he is over 200 years old and her father.  He offers to tell her how her mother was killed when she was a child.  Lily finds herself questioning her scientific beliefs when she follows the man to Europe.

This book was scary in a supernatural kind of way.  It had my heart beating as I feared for Lily and was mesmerized by Michael.  Michael was a very interesting character.  I wish that more of the book centered around his origin story but he is a very scary character.  Lily was a bit of an unknown.  I wondered throughout the book if she was also insane as she often seemed to experience hallucinations.  The writing was very well done.  It was a bit slow for me at s…

The Heirs by Susan Rieger: A Review

When Rupert Falkes dies of cancer, his wife and children are devastated.  As they are mourning, a woman claiming to be a mistress of Rupert's encourages her sons to file a lawsuit against the family for a portion of the inheritance.  The family must decide whether they want to investigate the woman's claims, provide her money regardless of the circumstances or fight the claims.

When I put this book on my to-be-read list, I believed that it would be more about the claims of additional heirs.  Instead, it was really more of a saga of a family and their friends.  The stories of the lives of the various members of the family were interesting but I think I would have been more interested if the book centered more on the drama of the woman's claims of being the mother to Rupert's children.

Most of the characters were upper-class, old moneyed New Yorkers.  Eleanor was very likeable but the other characters seemed to complain too much.  At one point, one of her (millionaire…

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon: A Review

Cassie is living with her husband, Dan, in Amman while he works.  She has been looking forward to adding to her family with Dan but the couple have failed to conceive, thus far.  When Margaret and her husband move to the embassy, Cassie and Dan are asked to be their sponsors, showing them around and helping them adjust to life in a foreign country.  When Margaret gets into a fender-bender and must go to the police station to fill out paperwork, Cassie agrees to watch Margaret's baby, Mather.  After Margaret does not show up for hours, Cassie becomes worried and begins to read Margaret's journal to gain insight into the mind of her new friend.  Margaret is more of a mystery to Cassie than she realized.

Cassie is a bit annoying.  She is so cautious that she comes off as culturally insensitive.  She assumes that all of the men in Jordan wish her harm and all of the women are judging her for not being conservative enough.  Margaret is more open-minded and caring about others, reg…

The Windfall by Diksha Basu: A Review

Windfall is a classic story of keeping up with the Joneses.  The Jha's are hardworking parents to Rupak, living in a working class neighborhood in Delhi, when Mr. Jha creates and sells a website for millions of dollars.  The unexpected windfall it creates leads to the couple moving to a more upscale neighborhood and Mr. Jha struggles to show off his wealth.  All of the mothers from the old neighborhood vie for Mrs. Jha's time so that they can show off their eligible daughters, in hopes that Rupak will marry one of them.  Mrs. Ray, a widowed friend of Mrs. Jha, also has a life-changing experience from the windfall when she meets an eligible bachelor in the Jha's new neighborhood.

This was a very light, fun read.  It had a bit of comedy, a bit of romance and a bit of culture.  It also contained an important lesson on jealousy and being satisfied with what one has in life.  Mr. Jha spends so much time trying to impress Mr. Chopra that it is hard to imagine that he has any ti…

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck: A Review

Audra has been clean for awhile now but her abusive husband has convinced child services that she is not in order to gain custody of the children after Audra left him.  Audra is worried that her husband will be awarded custody in court so she decides to take the children to California after her friend offers her a place to stay.  As she is driving through Arizona, Audra is stopped by a police officer who finds marijuana in her car but there is something very fishy about the stop.  Audra hasn't smoked marijuana in years and doesn't know where it could have come from.  She is detained at the jail and her children are taken by another police officer but when she inquires where the children are taken to, the police refuse to give her answers.  The police state that they never saw any children in the car and accuse Audra of being the cause of the missing children.  Nobody seems to believe Audra except for Danny, a man who has experienced a similar fate.  Danny and Audra must work …

Tell Me How This Ends Well by David Samuel Levinson: A Review

In the not too distant future, after the fall of Israel, the Jacobson family is living in a time of intense antisemitism.  Jacob lives in Berlin with his partner and teaches English to displaced Israeli refugees, Mo is a washed-up actor who now has a reality show staring his children and Edith is a professor of Ethics that is facing questions about the ethics of her actions with a student.  The three siblings have come together to spend what is likely the last Passover with their mother and with a plan to kill their emotionally abusive father after learning that their mother is dying.

Levinson has written the most honest account of a dysfunctional family that I have read in a long time.  The satire is perfect but there isn't so much humor that it allows the reader to gloss over the true drama of a family in crisis or the horrors of antisemitism and racism.  There were some excellent one-liners, though; "You stupid motherf***er.  You got raspberry in my eye."

The book i…

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda: A Review

Journalist Leah has to leave Boston due to being accused of libel and harassment of a professor.  Emmy has recently returned from a Peace Corps trip and is seeking a new home, as well, due to problems in her most recent relationship.  The two women have decided to move together to rural Pennsylvania where they can start anew.  Leah takes a job as a teacher and Emmy cleans hotels and houses until she can find something that she is more interested in doing.  At the same time that a young woman that looks eerily similar to Leah is beaten into a coma and left for dead, Leah finds that Emmy is missing.  Emmy must use her former investigative skills to help local detective, Kyle, find her friend but soon finds that what she thought she knew about her friend may not be true.

This book was okay.  There were some twists and turns but the ending was pretty predictable.  It was easy and quick to read but there was a lack of excitement to the book.  There were times when I doubted my initial ins…