Translate

Friday, March 31, 2017

Who You Think I Am by Camille Laurens: A Review

                        http://images.randomhouse.com/cover/m/9781590518328
I heard about Camille Laurens' novel Who You Think I Am from Shelf Awareness.  When I read what the book was about, I was intrigued because it sounded a lot like Catfish, the movie and television show about people who pretend to be someone they are not in order to seduce or harass people online.  When Claire Millecam, a teacher, is treated cruelly by her boyfriend, Joe, she creates a fake Facebook account as Claire Antunes and befriends Joe's friend, Chris.

I found this book very difficult and cumbersome to read.  Most of the book is told with only one side speaking so there are times when the narrator answers questions that we, as readers, are not privy to.  Reading a string of "Yes.  No.  Yes.  Yes." when I have no knowledge of the questions being asked is frustrating.  Most of the book was told from the perspective of a psychiatric patient and I believed that the author was trying to make this felt in the writing until the psychiatrist's point of view was also written like this.  It may be an interesting experimental writing style but it didn't appeal to me.  The story also moves so slowly that it becomes uninteresting to read.  It is too bad because this book touches on important themes, such as the worth of women as they age and honesty online, but the poor writing and slow story made this a very difficult and tedious read.  

Reviews of books like this one:
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Leave Me by Gayle Forman

This book is currently available 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.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: A Review

  undefined - Click here to close
Saeed and Nadia are lucky to be well-educated and from caring families that live in homes protected by the government.  This affords some amount of protection from the religious fundamentalists that threaten their city and homeland.  Unfortunately, the protection is not enough and the new lovers must find a way out of the country.  They must leave behind their families and communities and navigate the world of refugees while also kindling their relationship.

I heard about this book because it was one of the March Book of the Month Club selections.  While I loved the characters for the very beginning, the story moved too slowly for me for almost half of the book.  Then, it started to grow on me.  This book had a lot of different things going on.  There was the romance between Nadia and Saeed.  Saeed is a quiet, studious young man who lives with his parents but Nadia is a headstrong young woman who left her family's home despite their objections.  While they had very different personalities, I felt myself hoping that their relationship would work.  Refugees and migrants have been front and center in international news recently and the travels of Saeed and Nadia made one think about this very relevant and contemporary topic.  Through the couple's emigration, we also touch on how people change based upon the environment that they are in and how these changes in personality may have an effect on their relationships.  There is even a bit of fantasy which I usually stay away from but worked well in this book.

The characters in this book are really very interesting.  I love how they changed over time and their environments.  It was also refreshing to read an author show characters that can understand both sides of arguments like immigration and the treatment of refugees versus the rights of the native population.  I almost abandoned this book in the beginning because of the slow start but towards the middle, I really started enjoying it.  The story became more interesting and appealing.  Hamid is a wonderful writer and there were so many quotes and ideas that I believe would be relevant to a wide audience.  I enjoyed this book and I think that this book would be great for readers that enjoy novels that are rich in culture or that showcase the refugee experience.  I encourage anyone who is struggling with it at the beginning to stick with it as there are great rewards at the end.

Subscribe to Book of the Month Club to receive one of five titles each month.

Reviews of books like this one:
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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, March 30, 2017

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg: A Review

                           undefined - Click here to close


When I saw that All Grown Up was one of the March Book of the Month club selections, I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to read it.  The cover describes a funny account of an emerging adult who is trying to find her place in the world.  This is a coming-of-age novel but with a twist.  The growing up being done is the weird age between officially becoming an adult at the age of eighteen and when one reaches middle age and really feels like a grown up at around the age of forty.  Since I am actually in this age group, I thought that I may enjoy the book. 

This book follows Andrea from the time that she drops out of graduate school until she is forty.  She drinks too much, she dabbles in drugs, and she has too many unhealthy relationships with men.  She grew up in a dysfunctional family where her father died of a heroin overdose and her mother was only able to cope with her husband’s death by inviting random men into their home and dedicating her life to a myriad of social causes.  Andrea is then left ill-prepared when her passion of art doesn’t turn into a career and her brother and sister-in-law struggle after the birth of a terminally ill child. 

This book just didn’t work for me.  The reviews credited this book with being funny but I found it to be sad more than anything.  Andrea’s constant drinking, drug abuse and inability to connect with other people made reading this book feel dark and depressing.  While I don’t feel that an author must stick to a chronological order when telling a story, this story jumped all over the place and repeated parts of the story in a frustrating way.  Andrea was not likeable or complex.   In fact, most of the characters were not likable or complex.  My favorite character in the book was a supporting one-Greta.  Greta had varying emotions and seemed like a decent person, in addition to being interesting.  Too bad that the book wasn’t about Greta.  Andrea was obnoxious and immature.  Even though this novel spans quite a few years, I felt as if Andrea did not grow or develop, at all.  She was the same person at 39 that she was at 26 with the same voice and the same problems.  This was a fast read but I just didn’t enjoy it.  I think that a frequent reader of Young Adult fiction would like this novel better, even though most of the characters were post-college adults.  While the age of the characters and the theme of leaving school and trying to find a job would most likely put this in the New Adult fiction category, Andrea acted more like the characters in a YA novel would and, therefore, if I were to recommend this book to someone it would be someone who enjoys YA fiction.


Subscribe to Book of the Month Club to receive one of five titles each month.

Reviews of books like this one:
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Leave Me by Gayle Forman
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

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, March 26, 2017

Leave Me by Gayle Forman: A Review

                         undefined - Click here to close

Maribeth Klein is a busy woman.  She is so busy with work, her husband, and her young twins that she fails to notice that she is having a heart attack (which, according to the American Red Cross, is not that uncommon).  After having emergency bypass surgery, her husband asks her adoptive mother to come take care of her but her mother makes more of a mess than if she had just left her alone.  Her husband is less of a help than he believes himself to be and her twins are too young to understand that their Mommy is sick and refuse to accept that she can't be involved as she was before.  Maribeth can't heal while being a caretaker for everyone, but herself, so she decides to just leave.  She takes cash out of the bank, hops on a train to Pittsburgh and leaves all of her responsibilities behind.  After making friends with a new cardiologist, a couple of college students, and the woman who is helping her to find her birth mother, Maribeth learns to slow down and appreciate the people in her life.


I really enjoyed the topic that this book is about.  While the story of the overworked mom who badly needs a break is well-used in women's fiction, Forman did not allow it to become tired.  Including the topic of a mother who is overwhelmed, topics of adoption, feelings of abandonment, and heart disease are front and center.   It was, however, too slow for my tastes.  There were some parts that just seemed to drag.  The writing is very smooth and there is not a lot of medical jargon that will bog down the reader.  The characters were not typical and were complex.  The topics of adoption and how much mothers should be expected to handle are treated with dignity and a non-judgmental attitude.  Though I would never recommend that a mother just pick up and leave when she is feeling stressed, many mothers do fantasize about the idea (and an even smaller number of mothers actually do leave) and it was a good topic to explore.  It was just a bit lackluster for me because of the how slowly the story unfolded.  I think it would be a good book for lovers of women's fiction that don't mind slow moving stories. 

Click here for a reading group guide.

Reviews of books like this one:
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward

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, March 24, 2017

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh: A Review

                          http://images.randomhouse.com/cover/d/9781101987506
Since Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, so many authors and publicists have pushed to have their books compared to the hit thriller.  I Let You Go is one book that does actually remind me a lot of Flynn's novels.  There is the same slow build with a crazy twist halfway through.  It's not quite as dramatic and doesn't have the twists and turns that a lot of other mystery or thrillers do but there is plenty of suspense that builds nice and slow.  The ending shocked me.

Jacob is walking home with his mother from school when he runs in front of a car and is instantly killed after it hits him.  The driver leaves the scene of the accident and the case quickly goes cold as detectives Ray and Kate try to sift through evidence that doesn't seem to be there while having to deal with police bureaucracy and family matters.  Jenna tries to put the tragedy behind her by moving into a secluded cottage near the coast in Wales and tries to resist the temptation of a romantic relationship with friendly Patrick, the local veterinarian.  She misses her son immensely but tries to put that behind her as she starts a new career and spends time with her new dog.

It is hard to write about this book too much without giving away any spoilers.  Just know that there are some pretty shocking twists in this novel.  The suspense does build slowly and can get a bit tedious, but at around the halfway point, the real fun begins.  It was an absolute delight to read on as the psychological nuances of each character started to unfurl.  There is one character in particular that I am thinking about that was frightening in their deranged nature.  The writing is very easy-going and fun to read but there is a lot of police jargon that is hard to read through if one is not familiar with it.  Mackintosh is a wonderful storyteller and I look forward to reading more book of hers in the future.  I was very entertained as I read this book and I would recommend it to readers of thrillers and mysteries but also to fans of women's fiction because of the family and relationship matters that are addressed in this book.  This book could easily appeal to a wide variety of readers.

Reviews of books like this one:
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
Little Deaths by Emma Flint

 This book is currently available and can be purchased at booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read other reader's accounts of this book on Goodreads.

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, March 23, 2017

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See: A Review

                             http://d28hgpri8am2if.cloudfront.net/book_images/onix/cvr9781501154829/the-tea-girl-of-hummingbird-lane-9781501154829_hr.jpg
Lisa See is one of my favorite all-time authors.  I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan several years ago and was instantly hooked on See's exquisite storytelling.  Since then, I have read Peony in Love, Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, and China Dolls.  I always eagerly await See's next new tale about China and the everyday people that inhabit the country and read the book as soon as it is released.

See's most recent novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, follows Li-Yan, a young girl growing up among the Akha people, one of the minority groups that live in the Yunnan province of China.  Li-Yan and her family harvest tea and are one day visited by a businessman from Hong Kong, Mr. Huang, who wants to purchase tea for Pu'er, a fermented tea cake the is likely to contain a multitude of health benefits.  Thanks to her teacher's tutoring, Li-Yan is the most educated member of her community and the only one who can be counted on to negotiate with Mr. Huang.  Li-Yan is the heiress to a plot of tea trees that are very old and are used by her mother, who acts as the community's healer, as medicine.  Though her mother warns her never to bring a man to the plot, Li-Yan finds that selling a couple of the tea cakes to Mr. Huang will solve her problem of falling in love with a boy that her parents don't wish for her to marry.  Li-Yan believes that her and the boy will be able to run away together and could use the money on their journey.  Instead, selling the tea cakes brings misfortune for the couple in the form of an unwanted pregnancy.  Due to Akha custom, Li-Yan can't keep the baby and abandons the baby at an orphanage.  Soon after, the baby is adopted by an American couple who names her Haley.  Not a day goes by when Li-Yan or Haley do not think about reuniting.

There is so much to love about this book.  Through the story, we learn about a minority tribe that is rarely discussed and how they have influenced tea drinking around the world.  Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing about the Akha people, who have very different customs from the Han people, which are the majority ethnicity in China.  I loved the details about the tea and how it was woven into the story (but that may be because I love tea).  We also learn about adoption and how that can make children feel both grateful, but also angry.  The child may feel loved and wanted by their adoptive parents but can't understand why they were not loved and wanted enough by their birth parents to be kept.  Finally, the bond that Li-Yan and Haley have, despite not knowing anything about one another, is heartbreaking, in some moments, and amazingly touching, in others.  Just like See's previous novels, the story in The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane will not disappoint. 

See also has a special gift in crafting characters that are very unique.  Each character has his or her own voice and is complex.  Li-Yan's husband may drown his sorrows over his lost daughter by using opium but he makes sure that his last breath is one of kindness and sacrifice.  The complicated feelings that the adoptees have towards their adoptive and biological parents, and the effect that has on their lives and the lives of those around them, is interesting and a topic that is not often featured in literature.  The characters in this book are unique but also traditional enough to introduce readers to the culture of the characters.  There is a certain authenticity one can feel in the characters of this novel.

My only complaint about this book, and any books that I have read by See, is that they can sometimes be a bit slow in some parts and then rushed in others.  I don't think this takes away from the story but it is one issue that I found myself struggling with while reading.  I still think this was a wonderful story and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading books featuring characters from different cultures.  This would also be a great book for readers of historical fiction or for anyone who enjoys a wonderfully woven story that spans many years.

Watch a video of Lisa See talking about The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane:


Reviews of books like this one:
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth

This book is currently available 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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson: A Review

                                 http://images.randomhouse.com/cover/m/9780399547584
Tina, also known as Tiny, is a Goonda- a street thug.  Her and her mother are refugees from Congo that have moved to Kenya to escape the militias that have overrun the country.  Her mother worked as a maid for a wealthy business man, Mr. Greyhill, who has done shady business in the past, which her mother threatens to uncover.  When Tina's mother is found dead in Mr. Greyhill's office the very next day, Tina immediately believes that Mr. Greyhill is the one who killed her mother and seeks justice by attempting a heist to steal information from his home.  When Mr. Greyhill's son, Michael, catches Tina in the act, he asks for the chance to prove that his father was not the one who killed Tina's mother.  The two search for information about Tina's mother's past that will prove that Mr. Greyhill did kill her or exonerate him in Tina's mind.

Young Adult fiction is usually not for me.  I have read some YA books that I have really enjoyed (The Hunger Games trilogy comes to mind) but it is a genre that I don't usually connect with unless there is something else in the book that is interesting or meaningful to me.  City of Saints & Thieves was one such book.  It was both a mystery and a multicultural read in one, which really intrigued me and drew me in when I read what the book was about.  From the very first page, I knew this book would meet my expectations for a great book.  I loved Tina and the romantic love-hate relationship that she has with Michael.  There were just as many twists and turns as I would expect from any mystery novel.  There were many revelations at the end that I just didn't see coming.  The author does a very good job of painting a picture of both Kenya and Congo and explains how the conflicts in the area effect the everyday people without taking away from the story being developed.

One of the reasons why I don't usually like YA books is the over-simplistic writing style that YA authors like to use but this really wasn't the case with this book.  It was an easy and quick read that I finished in just a handful of sittings but it wasn't overly so.  Also common in a lot of YA fiction are very one dimensional characters.  The characters that Anderson has created are complex and interesting.  Tina may be a thief but she has a soft heart for her younger sister and feels for those around her.  Michael genuinely wants to find out who killed Tina's mom, even if that will lead to him realizing it really was his father who did so.  Tina's mother is not who Tina thought she was but is still, in some ways, the mother who loved her deeply.  I really enjoyed this book and think that readers of all ages will enjoy it, especially readers who enjoy fiction about contemporary Africa and mysteries.  


Reviews of books like this one:
Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia
Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

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, March 19, 2017

Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato: A Review

                               undefined - Click here to close

Eight-year-old albino Edgar, his mother, Lucy, and his grandmother, Florence, live together in the house that Florence's son, Frank, grew up and suffered a mental illness in.  Florence and Lucy are still grieving after the death of Frank and Lucy struggles to connect with Edgar as Florence treats him as her own.  After Florence's death, Lucy has to learn to care for Edgar but struggles to do so effectively.  When a man befriends Edgar, Edgar seeks his comfort about the death of his grandmother and the coldness of his mother, but the man's intentions with Edgar are not solely benevolent and Lucy is wrought with sadness after Edgar's disappearance.

I honestly chose to read this book because of the title.  Lucy is the name of my cat and with one of the main characters being named Lucy, I was immediately drawn to it.  When I read what it was about, it was a book I knew I had to read.  This book took me a bit longer to read than many other books; because it is 544 pages but also because it is not a fast-paced book.  It is a great literary novel, though.  This book touches on many different topics- bullying, missing and endangered children, loss of family members, and mental illness.  It can seem strange (and uncomfortable), at times, but I don't think that the strange parts overshadow the beautiful writing and the complex characters.  Lucy, especially, is a great character.  Lucy begins by being fairly unlikable.  She can't understand Florence and believes that the old woman only tolerates her for the sake of Frank, and later, Edgar.  When Edgar goes missing, Lucy understands the pain of losing a son and that Florence and Pio loved and supported her more than her own parents ever did.  Edgar is a very unique kid.  It is mentioned in the book that it was thought that Edgar might be autistic but that Lucy didn't wish to continue with testing.  Edgar is, at the very least, eccentric but he is so sensitive and sweet.  As the novel progresses, we really see Edgar grow up and find his voice.  I really enjoyed this novel even though it was a slower moving story than I would have liked.  I still felt myself wanting to go back and see what was happening to Edgar and Lucy.  I think anyone who enjoys literary fiction will like this book.

My Lucy:


Reviews of books like this one:
The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

This book is currently available 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.