Book Reviews

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Reader Review: "Oh William!"

 

by Susan W.: Elizabeth Strout has packed so much life and wisdom into this spare novel, it will take me more than one reading to digest all it contains. Her characters are so human, so flawed, so seeking. "When does a person actually 'choose' anything?" William asks Lucy. A succinct summary of the book, which is filled with deep examinations of what life contains for some people. William's adultery has a devastating effect on Lucy and her description of what she felt is faultless:

A tulip stem snapped inside me. This is what I felt. It has stayed snapped, it never grew back.

Amazing book, amazing writer. I have a few more of hers lined up to be read.

Reader Review: "Hamnet"

 

by BuffaloGirlKS: Achingly beautiful, grief-laden, resounding with love, and ultimately uplifting! Hamnet is by far the best, most beautiful book I have read this year and one of my 10 favorite books of my lifetime of reading. Maggie O'Farrell's writing is enchanting and captivated me from the first page. Her descriptions of illness and grief were perfectly nuanced and made me wonder how they could be so correct in portraying those things. I subsequently read that Ms. O'Farrell has written a memoir, "I Am, I Am, I Am" about near death experiences she has gone through which seemed to explain her understanding of illness and death.

Reader Review: "Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting"

 

by Gabi: When a myriad of events bring an unlikely group of train commuters into each other's lives, these strangers seemingly with little in common find precious friendship and new beginnings. The characters, relatable and likable, are a celebration of diversity in terms of life stages and circumstances. In particular, Iona, a 57 year old woman who is vibrant, smart and resilient with so much to contribute to society is a welcome stomp on ageism!

While contemporary fiction is not generally my genre of choice, this book was an entertaining, lighthearted read, yet importantly, not lacking substance. The pages found me cheering on the characters and left my heart happy.

"Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting" is a must-read for those looking for a delightful feel-good book!

Reader Review: "The Good Sister"

 

by Techeditor (Romeo, Michigan): THE GOOD SISTER was a pleasant surprise and my first Sally Hepworth novel, the reason for my surprise. The book met my number-one requirement of a good book: it must be one I don't want to put down, even to eat or sleep.

Rose and Fern are twin sisters. Fern has issues with sensory perception. She also takes everything said to her literally. Perhaps she has a high-functioning form of autism, although the book never says so. But, apparently, Rose has always taken it upon herself, even when they were children, to watch out for and protect Fern. We know this from a journal Rose is keeping now that they are adults.

In alternating chapters we see Fern's and Rose's lives from Fern's perspective. She feels indebted to Rose. So, because Rose wants a baby but can't have one, Fern decides to have one for her. Once she gets pregnant, though, we learn more and more about Fern's and Rose's lives, and it becomes more and more difficult to determine who is the good sister.

I've heard THE GOOD SISTER called "women's fiction." That term is such a turnoff for me! Please don't call it that. I just call it a really good book. And now I get to read Hepworth's backlist.

Reader Review: "News of the World"

 

by Tonyia Robinson: Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a veteran of 2 wars, now he makes his living traveling the small towns of the North Texas Territory reading the news of the world from the nations leading newspapers. He charges a dime a head, and the people flock to hear anything about the world outside their small communities. But then he is given the task, for a 50 dollar gold piece, to deliver a young girl to her relatives in San Antonio. A white girl, Susana, captured by the Kiowa Indians after they massacred her parents; she was 6 years old. Now at age 10, after having been rescued by the Army, she has no memory of her previous life; not family, nor language, culture or childhood behavior.

The author gives us insight and a fair representation of how the Texas (US) was evolving between the conflict of white newcomers/immigrants into this territory, changes for the lifestyle and culture (survival) of the Kiowa Indians after several battles/attacks; displacement to reservations, impact on their culture and lifestyle. Even the arrival of ex-slaves or slaves already residing in the territory learning their new rights after the Civil War, and dealing with many whites not accepting the new laws; Black slaves (Negroes) new freedoms and rights. So many dynamics and changes of the people who now reside in Texas, including the after math and impact of people who lived in the region before/after the Spanish-American war.

Given the results of these changes in the Territory of Texas and the republic, what transpires in this beautifully written novel is the story of the journey of Kidd's and Suzannas, to her relatives from Germany, The reader experiences the dangers and hardships that Kidd and the girl endures on their journey including the trust, respect, and friendship that they developed along the way. Two characters, so beautifully conceived and developed, and so likable, they make reading this book an absolute pleasure.

Reader Review: "The Ghosts of Rose Hill"

 

by Gabi: A one-of-a-kind coming of age story about a young Jewish teen sent off to spend her summer in Prague. Written in lyrical verse, this book enchanted me from the start. It is a love story and a ghost story intertwined by myth. Not usually one to read YA fiction or fantasy, I'm so glad I stumbled onto this exquisite and unique read.

Reader Review: "The Favor"

 

by Elizabeth@Silver's Reviews: I have seen that woman before, but where?

That is the question McKenna asked herself when she saw Leah shoot her husband.

Why would she do that? She did say she is the same as me, but what did that mean?

What it meant is that she was an abused wife too and was happy one of them was safe now, but how did Leah know McKenna was abused?

Leah just knew by the few times she passed her home and from what she saw. That still didn't explain why she would shoot a stranger.

McKenna was actually relieved and was most likely the prime suspect…the spouse always is.

Then something happens that brings these two women who didn't know each other together again. What could that be?

Ms. Murphy did an amazing job of keeping you guessing and writing a fantastic thriller.

I couldn't put the book down.

THE FAVOR vividly pictures domestic abuse that these two women are going through and the difficulties of staying in the marriage and the difficulties of leaving no matter what your social status was.

It also addresses to what extremes an abused wife would go to escape, but still keep what really goes on a secret.

Fantastic debut…this is a book thriller fans won't want to miss. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

Reader Review: "In Five Years"

 

by Phyllis E (Mill Valley): Thanks to Atria Paperback/Simon and Schuster Publishers for a gifted copy. All comments and opinions are my own.

This 3.5 star book had a lot of buzz when it first came out in 2020. I received a gifted copy from the publisher in 2021 but just recently read it in May 2022. I didn't intentionally put it off, but it took the suggestion from my friend Val that we both read it and then discuss together to make me pick it up. And it turned out to be a different type of book than I thought. No matter how others have labeled this novel, it is not a romance, but a story of friendship, best girlfriend friendship.

This is about two long-time best friends who live in New York City, both single but different in so many ways. Dannie is organized and has her life planned out – her career, her boyfriend and now fiancé, her budget, and her future – including where she will be in five years. Bella is the "poor little rich girl" – wild, whimsical, impulsive, and believes in fate.

After accepting her boyfriend's marriage proposal and receiving her dream job offer both on the same day, Dannie falls asleep. When she awakens she's with a totally different (and sexy) guy, a different apartment, a different engagement ring – and it's five years in the future. She tells herself it's a dream and files it away in the back of her mind.

But four-and-a-half years later she meets Bella's latest boyfriend, who is the very same guy from that long-ago premonition/vision/dream/alternate reality. That's the set-up but it isn't the story you're expecting. And you'll need tissues.

Even though there are aspects of the plot and the characters I would argue with, and some things I would have changed completely, I still found myself engrossed and emotionally caught up in the story. This would make a great book group read and I'm looking forward to discussing with my friend.

Reader Review: "Two Nights in Lisbon"

 

by Ann E Beman: Lisbon provides the perfect backdrop for this international thriller. From the moment Ariel Pryce wakes alone in her hotel room, her husband gone without warning, the action throttles without cease. Author Chris Pavone uses well the winding streets of this hilly Portuguese city, with its yellow trams, its chugging tuktuk scooters, its elevators, and its hidden staircases to climb and descend. Ariel navigates this intriguing setting as she navigates the crisis that is her husband's kidnapping. And as with Lisbon, there are secrets around every turn in Ariel's path. This is a gripping thriller in which twists abound. January Lavoy, as always, succeeds beautifully in performing the audio version of this unputdownable book. Thanks to Macmillan Audio for the opportunity to listen to an advanced audio copy in exchange for my opinion.

Reader Review: "Between a Rock and a Hard Place"

 

by erik chiapppa: I loved this book. When I say reading this book changed my outlook on life i would not be joking. This story has changed and motivated me to do stuff i would never think about doing prior to reading. Everyone needs to read this book, by far my favorite.

Reader Review: "The Book Woman's Daughter"

 

by BuffaloGirlKS (Kansas): I have a personal rating system I call the 4Es. Does the book engage my interest, educate and/or enlighten me, entertain me, and reach me emotionally? Very few books hit all four components. The Book Woman's Daughter did in spades. The characters were believable and well developed. The storyline was strong and well thought out. The descriptions of the geography, climate, and culture were perfect. As a reader, I felt I was there.

My maternal great grandparents came to Kansas from Hawkins County and Greene County, Tennessee in 1878. Greene County and Hawkins County are in Appalachia bordering Virginia and North Carolina respectively. My mother, aunt, and grandmother (Granny) brought my sister, my cousins, and me up on stories of our ancestors before, during, and after the Civil War and before and after their move to Kansas. Ms Richardson's writing resonated with me. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or learning about other parts of the USA.

Reader Review: "The Favor"

 

by Betty J Taylor (Macon GA): This book grabbed me from the very beginning and kept me on edge. I wanted to just escape someplace where I would have no interruptions while reading it. I could feel for myself the fear and hopelessness the main characters experienced. It is hard to believe that this is Murphy's debut novel.

In a liquor store, Leah crosses paths with McKenna and thinks "It was like looking at myself, nine months ago." Thus, their lives will both be changed.

This is a story of two women who supposedly have it all - husbands who are both handsome and wealthy, beautiful houses, all the trappings of a successful life. But no one knows what goes on behind their closed doors. No one knows about the controlling husbands and the abuse the husbands inflict upon Leah and McKenna.

Leah is compelled to find where McKenna lives and begins observing her from afar. Then one night she sees a violent act in McKenna's home, and she snaps. She takes matters into her own hands.

Written with compassion and an understanding of the emotional impact of spousal abuse, this story may make you wonder if someone you know is experiencing the same nightmare that Leah and McKenna experience.

I will be watching for future books by this author. Her writing is incredible.

I received an advance egalley from the publisher. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Reader Review: "Testimony"

 

by Roberta (Los Ranchos): I read a number of Anita Shrive books years ago, but hadn't read anything of hers recently. A friend lent me this book and now I want to read more of Shreve's work.

I thought this book was brilliant. The story takes place at a private school in New England and begins with the school master being given a videotape of some boys having sex with an underage girl. Alcohol was involved on the part of everyone involved.

After that the story is told by a chorus of characters, each of whom was affected by the event. It is an absolutely gripping read. As the story unfolds we learn more about how the event occurred and how lapses in judgment, on the part of the adults and the teenagers creates a ripple effect of tragedy and unforeseen results. What was especially thought-provoking for me was thinking about what was the actual cause of the events that took place.

I know some readers find the multiple characters' stories a bit confusing but I didn't find it that hard to follow.

Highly recommend!

Reader Review: "Two Nights in Lisbon"

 

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): Two Nights In Lisbon is the fifth novel by best-selling American author, Chris Pavone. When Ariel Pryce wakes up alone in a Lisbon hotel on a July Monday morning, she expects to find her (ten years younger) husband of three months in the dining room having breakfast. She doesn't. John Wright hasn't been seen by the staff; everything but his phone is still there; the phone goes to voicemail.

When Ariel takes her concern to the local police, they are almost dismissive: he hasn't been gone long enough for it to be a concern. But they do find her interesting enough to tail. From the smirks the smarmy fellow at the US Embassy gives her it's clear he is equally indifferent, although he does take some intriguing information about the couple to the CIA Chief of Station down the corridor. An American journalist hanging around the embassy offers help, which Ariel politely declines. No sign of John at the hospitals she contacts.

The hotel's CCTV shows him leaving early in the morning, not dressed for the client business meetings he has scheduled, and maybe getting into a car. The male cop is still sceptical: Ariel's ignorance of her husband's clients doesn't help. But his female colleague is a little more willing to make an effort. What happens next changes the complexion of his absence, but much more can't be said without spoilers.

The opening chapters are intriguing enough to draw the reader in, but it's not until things hot up that Ariel's steel is revealed. And how! With flashbacks to her recent past, and a bit of action with a tail, Ariel demonstrates just how self-sufficient she can be. And it's those scenes where she is fending for herself that provide plenty of dark humour.

It's soon clear that neither Ariel nor John is quite who they seem; nor do all those claiming to want to help find John have entirely benign intentions, but most of them definitely want to know what is behind Ariel's apparent power over a certain influential figure.

The main narrative is carried by Ariel, but many of the minor characters contribute, and the narrative often switches between them, relying only on context to denote whose perspective is being given. Rather than adding confusion, this seems to give the story an immediacy that keeps the reader engrossed.

While there are hints at espionage and the influence of foreign powers, the apparent immunity to prosecution of privileged white males who indulges in sexual harassment of the worst kind (and who closely resembles a certain president), is central to the story.

Very little suspension of disbelief is required in this tightly plotted story which has plenty of red herrings and enough twists to possibly necessitate a chiropractic consult. Pavone's latest is definitely a page-turner. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

 

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