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Monday, February 27, 2017

Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin: A Review

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I enjoy reading history books but American history is not my favorite place to read about and the 1800s is not my favorite time period to read about.  When I read the synopsis for Dodge City, I was intrigued, despite my borderline apathy for 1800s American history because this is a subject that I know little about.  I had never heard of Dodge City or Bat Masterson and my only knowledge of Wyatt Earp was when Blake Shelton played him in Adam Sandler's "Ridiculous 6".  The movie is available on Netflix, it is hilarious (though not for the easily offended) and is completely inappropriate for teaching any history about the Wild West.  Suffice it to say, I don't know too much about this time period in American history.  Clavin's Dodge City changed all of that, though.  While I can't consider myself an expert, I can say that I know a bit more about the Wild West.

Dodge City is one of the most notorious cities in the Wild West.  Saloons and bordellos abound in the city and are a boon to the town's economy due to the large amount of visiting cowboys that stop off to spend their money on entertainment they couldn't get while moving cattle.  Shootouts over gambling disputes or between drunken men are not infrequent.  Neither are threats from neighboring Native American tribes who are still simmering from the recent theft of their land and the killing off of one of their most important resources, the buffalo.  Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp are employed as lawmen in the area to try to impart peace and they bring a new kind of justice to the American west.  Many lawmen before had a "shoot first, ask questions later" attitude and mob justice was the preferred way in which to handle suspects.  Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp shot to disarm, not to kill, and took suspects in to face the justice of a court instead of allowing angry mobs to hang whomever they pleased.  This doesn't imply that they weren't tough, though.  The men were some of the best shooters in the land and took down many high profile criminals.

Clavin is a wonderful writer.  While a non-fiction writer's first goal should be to disseminate information, many are unable to do so in a palatable way.  Not so with Dodge City.  This book has all of the excitement and fun that can be gleaned from reading a novel while still giving one an amazing amount of information that readers can use to impress their friends.  The amount of creative nicknames that some of the residents had, alone, will bring hours of entertainment.  The book is incredibly well researched, which was difficult because, as the author mentions in the book many times, much of the information surrounding Dodge City, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson is more legend than fact.  Any reader that enjoys history will likely enjoy this book and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to read the true stories about the Wild West.

Reviews of books similar to this one:
The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams (fiction)
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston (non-fiction)
The Travelers by Chris Pavone (fiction)

This book will be available on February 28, 2017 and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel: A Review


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I have a confession to make.  We have all been taught not to judge a book by its cover and I usually don't choose a book based on one but I actually picked up This Is How It Always Is without reading the synopsis.  I loved the orange background with the perfect, spiraled orange peel on the front.  It was beautiful and I wanted to open it up and see what beauty was inside.  When I saw that the book got great reviews from Liane Moriarty, Jamie Ford, Ruth Ozeki and Maria Semple, some of my favorite writers, I knew I had to read it.  Then I read the synopsis while walking out of the library with the book and thought, "I probably should have read the synopsis."  I didn't think that because of the book's potential "crunch" factor (the book may be a bit granola to some but it is not overpowering) but because I have seen how many authors and publishers have seemed to become obsessed with pumping out topic-of-the-day books without the accompanying substance.  I was then pleasantly surprised to find out that Frankel's account was nothing of the sort.

Since the death of her sister, emergency room physician Rosie has always wanted a daughter with long hair that she could brush and dress.  Instead, she and Penn were blessed with five boys.  Claude is their youngest and early in his life he expressed to his parents that he wanted to wear dresses and when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he always answered that he wanted to be a girl.  Rosie and Penn accept their child's wishes and Claude becomes Poppy.  When Rosie discovers that one of her late-night patients has been beaten and shot because it was discovered that she was transgendered, the family decides to move across the country to the more liberal community of Seattle.  On the first day there, they make a decision that will change the way that the family sees Poppy and the way that Poppy sees herself.

The characters were developed in this novel but not quite as complex as I would have liked.  Though Rosie and Penn believe themselves to be accepting of all of their children, regardless of whatever they choose to be, they quickly condemn the beliefs that they suspect are held by Roo, their oldest son, without an open dialogue.  Rosie's character very much followed the over-worked doctor character and Penn was the quintessential writer who tries so hard to finish the great American novel but just can't seem to do it.  That being said, there were a lot of discussions in this book about the "maybes" of gender and the children's characters reflect that.  None of the children are "typical" boys.  They are each individuals with varying  interests.  Some of them are more into sports, some are more into intellectual pursuits and some are just rambunctious boys most of the time but cuddly fairy tale listeners other times.  The kids were my favorite characters in this novel and not just Poppy/Claude.

This novel flows very well and is easy to read.  It was a fast-read and was very enjoyable.  This book is not a downer.  There is humor and honesty that will take you through to the end.  Frankel and her characters do not attempt to answer any questions for anyone about gender dysphoria and how it should be handled.  If you are looking for advice, this is not the book for you.  It is a great book for opening up a dialogue, though, and would be great for a book club.  Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to those looking for a novel about family.

Reviews of other books you may enjoy:
The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward
The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan
The Road to Enchantment by Kaya McLaren

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien: A Review

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I originally wanted to read Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien because I found out that it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for 2016.  While Do Not Say We Have Nothing did not go on to win the award (that honor went to The Sellout by Paul Beatty), Thien's novel about communist China is definitely worth picking up.

I am a recent reader of Man Booker Prize winners and nominees.  I heard about the prize for novels written in English and published in the UK when I heard that A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James won the prize.  I had previously read and enjoyed James' The Book of Night Women and wanted to read more by the author.  After reading A Brief History of Seven Killings, I wanted more of the Man Booker Prize.  Prize nominees do not have to be from the UK and, in fact, Thien lives in Canada and Beatty lives in the US.  Do Not Say We Have Nothing was the second Man Booker Prize book I have read but it definitely will not be my last.  It has been a blast going through the nominees and winners to find authors I have not heard of before but would be interested in reading.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing begins with young Marie and her mother finding part of a hand-written book that her deceased father has left behind.  A daughter of a friend of Marie's father, Ai-Ming, joins the shrinking family and begins to tell the story of the book and of a family that spans the generations from the very beginnings of Mao's revolution to the modern time.  The family is flung all over the world as they try to adapt to the changing politics of their country.  As Ai-Ming's father, Sparrow, is a composer, music and the love of music is interwoven into the story.  The family's fight to be able to listen to the music that they enjoy and the books that they feel are important is inspiring and makes one appreciate the access one has to libraries of books and music, and the freedom to consume them, that we do today, in the Western world.  I too often forget that the ability to express my own thoughts and agree or disagree with those of others is a gift but I was reminded of that fact while reading the the harsh consequences for a young family's possession of a secret library.

Thien's imagery is so realistic, I really thought that this novel was based on a true story.  Of course, it could be.  It is a novel but the stories that this book tells are very similar to other stories that I have read and heard from the time period in China.  Some of the scenes are not for the faint of heart but I think that they are supremely important.  As George Santayana warns us, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  I derived warnings from the stories in this book; not just warnings against totalitarianism but also about the costs of revolutions, of any kind.  Should the price of change really be blood?  In addition to the importance of this book, it was also very interesting.  While the book is well over 400 pages, I still finished it over the course of one day and night because it was difficult to put down.  I wanted to find out what happened to Ai-Ming, Sparrow and the rest of the extended family.

The characters were superb!  Just like the story, the characters were very realistic.  Marie's anger towards her father's suicide was one of the most honest portrayal of the survivors of a family member's suicide I have met in a novel, thus far.  Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more from Thien.  The only thing that I regret about this novel is that I waited so long to read it.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in a good book, period, but especially those readers who enjoy historical fiction that is a bit more on the modern side.


You may also enjoy my reviews on these related books:
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Patriots by Sana Krasikov
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads, Barnes and Noble or the Man Booker Prize in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams: A Review


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Beatriz Williams' novel The Wicked City is historical fiction that also includes a bit of crime, a bit of romance and even a bit of the supernatural.  When forensic accountant Elle discovers that her husband has been cheating on her, she moves into an apartment building with a rich past.  Through the music that can be heard through the walls, we learn that the apartment used to house a speakeasy during the time of prohibition.  Ginger is the bar's best customer.  She is originally from the Appalachian mountains in Maryland where her abusive step-father is a wealthy moon-runnner.  While she is okay with drinking the gin (also Ginger's nickname) that may have been brought into Manhattan by her step-father and his associates, she agrees to help law enforcement catch him.

The voices of the characters are completely unique.  When I read the first-person account of Ginger, I was immediately reminded of the kind of choppy speaking style that is featured in movies set during the era of prohibition.  It was interesting, and sometimes funny, to hear the interesting way in which the characters would speak to each other.  Ginger is very dynamic and free in her personality.

The story could be, at times, slow but the story was an interesting one with a little bit of everything to suit any kind of reader.  The era of prohibition as a setting was intriguing.  I enjoy historical fiction but I rarely read, or come across, novels set in that era.  I am interested in learning more about that time period.   

The Wicked City is very unique and I easily became absorbed in the story line.  Williams has a wonderful writing style and I look forward to discovering more of her novels in the future.  Even if you are not a fan of historical fiction, don't shy away from this book.  If you are interested in crime, romance or even ghost stories, I believe that you will like this book. 

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Travelers by Chris Pavone: A Review



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"Many people assume that spies, traitors, and double agents are all motivated by political convictions.  Not so.  The vast majority of espionage is committed for a very simple reason: money."  Will Rhodes is a man who is desperately in need of money.  His house in Brooklyn is falling apart as he writes for Travelers magazine, a magazine that also runs a luxury travel agency.  By working in a dying industry with an even more threatened niche, Will’s finances are not looking good.  That is until he meets Elle Hardwick while on assignment and succumbs to temptation when he sleeps with her.  Soon, the video of Will and Elle’s tryst is used to coerce him into working as a spy for the CIA.  Soon, Will begins to wonder if he is really working for the organizations he believes he is working for or if he is working for someone else.

The Travelers is a spy thriller that has a lot of twists and turns but can be somewhat predictable.  If you are looking for a quick read or an emotional novel, this isn’t it.  If you are looking for an easy-to-read, fun, mystery novel that is filled with espionage-related themes, this is the book for you.  This is a great book for a beach day or whenever you want some light reading.  

This book does not take place in one locale.  Will (and many of the other characters) travel the world and there are many beautiful descriptions of travel locations, both well-known and those that are not well-known.  The characters are well-developed and very interesting.  Even though we find out that Will cheated on his wife shortly after we meet him, he is still a likeable character.  Will’s boss, Malcolm, seems unlikeable in the beginning but he grows on you towards the end.

The author, Chris Pavone, has written two other books The Expats and The Accident.  You can read more about both of them, as well as more about The Travelers, on his website.

This book is currently available and can be purchased from major booksellers.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.  Visit the publisher, Penguin Random House, for booksellers and information about the book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am not associated with Goodreads in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 

I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.


                                          


Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward: A Review

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The Nearness of You is a novel that asks the question, "What makes one a mother?"  Suzette's marriage to Hyland is turned upside down when he springs it on her that he wants to have a child after they agreed for years that they would not have them.  Suzette is still healing from the memories of her mother's mental illness and does not want to pass the genes along to a child.  Suzette agrees to allow Hyland to have a child with a surrogate, Dorrie.  Once Dorrie becomes pregnant with Hyland and Suzette's child, she disappears.  While Suzette was not completely on board with the idea in the first place, she searches desperately for the child.

When I read the synopsis for this book, I believed that it had great potential.  Surrogacy, as a topic for a novel, is very current issue.  The book read very quickly; maybe too quickly.  The story felt rushed and did not leave enough time for the characters to develop and for any kind of suspense to build.  This would have been one story that would have benefited from a slower, more emotionally descriptive story.  There are some surprises at the end of the story but they are not as emotional as I have come to expect from a novel in the women’s literature genre.  

One thing I really liked about this book was the voice that the characters had.  Ward is very skilled in giving each character his or her own unique voice.  You can hear Dorrie’s southern accent and youth while you are reading the words.  Even though the characters of Jayne and Suzette are not told from the first person, you can still feel their different personalities come through on the page.

This book was great at making one think about motherhood and what it means.  Is a mother the one who conceived and gave birth to a child or does a child belong to the mother that has put in the time and energy?  It also makes one think about how family heredity is not always a determining factor in how a child will turn out and neither is a home filled with all of the “right” things.  As Eloise said, her mother spent time reading parenting books that she could have spent with her.  Sometimes, it is just better to be there than it is to do all of the right things.  Another really great book about motherhood and the complexity of mother-parent relationships is Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran.

Though this is not a book I would read again, I did enjoy reading some of it.  I would recommend it for fans that enjoy women's lit but who want a very quick read, one where the narrative and characters don't have to be as developed.

This book will be available on February 21, 2017 and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough: A Review

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Behind Her Eyes is a really hard book to review because it is difficult to say why I liked the book and compare it to other stories without including spoilers.  It is a thriller novel that has all of the twists and turns of a mystery novel with some creepiness thrown in, for good measure.  Louise is a bored single-mother to grade-school-aged Adam when she finds out that she has met her new boss previously when she kisses him in a bar.  Louise meets David's wife, Adele, and begins a friendship with the lonely housewife.  Soon, Louise is sharing David with Adele while acting as Adele's best friend.  When David and Adele's marriage does not seem to be all it's cracked up to be, Louise wonders about the couple's backstory and begins to investigate on her own. 

Behind Her Eyes is told from the perspective of a few different characters.  The characters were very interesting and were very complex but all of the characters seemed to speak in the same voice.  Perhaps I am being picky but when there are multiple first-person accounts in a novel, I like the voices to read as different people.  That is not to say that the characters were not interesting, though.  The characters were incredibly attention-grabbing.  Adele is a chameleon, if one if being kind, and manipulative, if one is being more honest.  Louise, who selfishly wants to have an affair with David while continuing to have a friendship with Adele, is not much better.  The characters are rich and entertaining and made the beginning of the book, as it built up to the ending, more enjoyable.

I didn't enjoy this book as much in the beginning and really didn't begin to love it until the very end, when it really began to take off for me.  The beginning of the book is pretty slow and, towards the middle, I was worried that it was going to become a bit science-fictiony.  The very end is what made this book a must-read for me.  There are so many twists and turns in the last 75 pages that I could not put it down.  The ending was a complete shock to me.  When you read this book, you will notice parallels between this story and many other books and movies.  If I were to mention them, though, I fear it would give away the ending and the ending made this book.  Just know that this is the perfect psychological thriller and one of the best ones you will ever read. 

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth: A Review


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Alice is mother to Zoe, a teenager with severe social anxiety disorder.  Being Zoe's only source of support and comfort, Alice has spent much of her time with Zoe and her home health care clients.  In addition, Alice's parents are deceased, her brother is an alcoholic and Zoe's father is not in the picture.  This has left Alice with no support system and no prospects of caring for Zoe when Alice is diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer.  Alice must form new friendships in order to find a suitable support system for Zoe in case she doesn't survive her illness.

Hepworth's writing is so fluid and easy to read.  It makes for a very fast reading book despite the uncomfortable topic.  I loved all of the characters but I especially loved Zoe.  Hepworth was able to describe the feelings of social anxiety disorder exactly without making the reader feel as if everyone with social anxiety disorder will have the same symptoms as Zoe.  The love between Alice and Zoe makes for a wonderful contrast to the sadness that comes with the territory in a book about a mother's cancer.  Alice finds ways of helping Zoe to have a full life even though she suffers from anxiety.  This book does have some twists and turns that will hold the interest of the reader but this book is more about the love of a mother.  Alice will sacrifice anything in order to protect Zoe.  This book was beautiful and touching.  I really enjoyed it and think that readers who enjoy stories about family relationships will enjoy it, as well.  Those who liked Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran will love this book. 

This book will be available on February 21, 2017 and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 

I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: A Review

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I've actually been waiting to read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah for a really long time.  I had seen a couple of his comedy specials on Netflix a while ago and enjoyed his refreshingly honest brand of comedy.  Born a Crime is written the same way.  Noah doesn't mince words and is honest throughout his book, even about embarrassing misunderstandings like bringing a dancer with the name of a famous dictator to perform at a school function.  This book is more of a memoir than a comedy but there are many parts that left me literally laughing out loud (don't you love it when you are reading something funny and laughing out loud and nobody knows whether you are reading something funny or are just a bit crazy?).   

Noah was born in South Africa during apartheid.  The very first thing that you read in the book is the law that prohibits interracial romance.  Noah’s religious mother, Patricia, meets a Swiss-German expat who abhors racism, Robert, and falls in love with him.  After a time, she asks him to conceive a child with her.  Just conceive the child with her- not marry her, not move in with her, not “have a baby together”- conceive a child with her and let her raise it with he having no responsibility, at all.  He finally agrees and that child is Trevor.  Noah’s father is not on the birth certificate because to put him on the birth certificate would be to admit to his father and mother’s crime but Robert does want to have some contact with his son.  Ultimately, Noah is raised primarily by his mother who drags him to three different churches each Sunday but from whom he inherits his mother’s magnificent sense of humor.  The story of Noah’s childhood, with all of its hilarity and heartbreak, ensues.

Noah being a comedian, this book has many stories that are incredibly funny but there are also some dark parts, as well.  This book is overall about hope and enduring, though.  Noah’s mother Patricia laughs because, as we say around here, if she didn’t laugh, she’d cry.  Patricia reminded me of my grandmother who was a Louisiana Creole who raised five children while on and off welfare.  Her life was not easy but she never stopped laughing.  My father told me that during one Thanksgiving, my grandmother made my aunt cry by putting a Cornish game hen inside of a turkey and screaming, “Oh my God, this turkey is pregnant” (but who can believe my father- he was quite the jokester himself).  Noah’s attempts at a relationship with his father may have been thwarted by the evils of apartheid and a jealous step-father but Noah keeps up his sense of humor and “created chaos” through the adversity.  Patricia continues to pray for Trevor, hoping that he will be successful despite the unhealthy relationship with her new husband and the limits that society has imposed on him.  I think almost anyone would find inspiration in this story and you don’t have to be a fan of Noah’s, or of comedy in general, in order to enjoy it.


This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.