Book Reviews

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Reader Review: "The Sweetness of Water"

 

by audrey geer (PA): This book is extraordinary! As one who often reads historical fiction, I can say that it is rare to have characters so fully drawn. The post-Civil War South was a brutal place and the lives of everyone were disrupted. This book allows you to see into the hearts and motives and losses of all the characters. This will challenge you while breaking your heart.

Reader Review: "My Broken Language"

 

by Juliana: My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes is a rich and complex text. A memoir written at the age of forty to record the years of learning that went into forging her identity, an identity including the multitudes in the Perez family. These are the years that went into finding the language that would do justice to her family's stories, to her story. It is growing up in her mother's Hispanic family, more and more estranged in time from her father's white one, that immerses Qui Qui into the family's traditions and the rich Puerto Rican culture. Observing and helping out mom with her activism for Latina women, being present for the many family get-togethers at her Abuela's, reading English classics but also books offered by her mom about Puerto Rican culture, listening to both Western classical music and music by Latino artists, learning about her family history of health struggles due to poverty and abuse (such as the birth control methods which had affected Puerto Rican women including her Abuela in the 50's) or prejudice and silence (the AIDS cases in her family), Quiara Alegría Hudes paints the portrait of a young age, adolescence as well as young womanhood marked by strong, loving, feisty, sometimes ailing Perez women and a few men related to them, whose battles, victories and losses in North Philly all come together and to light under the pen of the one of them who made it to Yale and then to Brown. The cultures in which she lives reveal themselves in ways that Quiara Alegría Hudes learns to understand, make her own and then unleash with toppling force into the world, including the language of music which, like any language, says more to those with background and instruction in it. This book cannot be gulped, it needs to be chewed and ruminated.

Reader Review: "Murder in Montparnasse"

 

by NGuillon (france): Let me first say that I do not read Phryne Fisher mysteries as crime novels but as entertaining stories that make me smile (and admire Phryne of course). Here the different mysteries are rather thin but most characters are - as always - interesting and well constructed, although some are schematic. The entourage and household turns and twists (Mr Butler, Lin, Jack, Hugh etc.) are rather fun. I enjoyed very much discovering Phryne in Montparnasse just after the war and learning on her upbringing there. But as I am French, there is the snag ! A lot of small details are absolutely wrong... Just three examples, but there is more of course : one does not say "vin DU table" but "vin DE table" (n.f.) and yes it's a current joke to say it is made of a real wooden table; the "chien qui fume" in Montparnasse did not exist before 1930 (but the "chien qui fume" in old Paris center, near Les Halles, did exist since 19th or even 18th century) ; it is impossible that Phryne coud see laundry drying on a line from window to window in rue Saint Honoré (where is supposed to be Hotel Magnifique): this street is elegant and rather posh... and only low classes did such etc. That makes reading sometimes irritating, winch is too bad. On the other hand, the novel is really pleasant.

Reader Review: "The Exiles"

 

by Berchie Holliday: Frank, Honest, Thoughtful.

Reader Review: "We Begin at the End"

 

by npreston (Rochester): This book got inside me. It became real. I laughed, I cried, I grieved. The twists fascinated me. I became compulsive about going back and uncovering the clues I'd missed. It's a masterpiece! Can't wait to meet those people waiting for me in your other books.

Reader Review: "Buses Are a Comin'"

 

by Juliana: Literally and metaphorically, Charles Person describes the road to and his actual involvement in the protest action of May 1961 called Freedom Riders. He manages to render the clear chronology and facts which led to the event while also reconstructing the lineage of people and actions which had preceded and then followed the Freedom Riders. A group of white and black people, under the guidance of CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality) and CORE leader James Farmer decide to force an awakening, that of the unjust, inhumane and not lastly illegal way blacks were discriminated against in everyday life. So, on the ride from Washington DC to New Orleans, while travelling by bus, the Greyhound or the Trailways, Charles Person and his fellows test time and again the forms of segregation blacks encountered when trying to use bus services and accommodations in the South of the US. They pay severely for the risk taken and demonstrate that America was not ready then to treat its citizens equally even if mandated by law, and even more, it would put black lives and white supporters' lives in danger. By also referring to later, current events, Charles Person points to the fact that inequality continues to plague the American society. The vivid memories gush from a depth of feeling, not at all blunted by the passing of time or the loss of the recording tool. Adding pervasive and eloquent rhetoric enhances the intensity of feeling and we, the readers, see in vivid images the hope and desolation, the inflicted cuts and blood, the fierceness and despair but all the while the non-violent determination of the Riders and of all their supporters and helpers along the way. The writing is an emotional piece as much as it is an accurate account of events. It is a captivating and illuminating read which is worth spending time with and reflecting upon, the more so since it challenges us all to activism for the abundant causes that arise in the present world.

Reader Review: "It Ends with Us"

 

by Kathi White (SEDALIA): Several months ago I read Verity. Didn't like it. I thought it bordered on soft porn. I had forgotten that Colleen Hoover was its author, but had inadvertently bought It Ends with Us. I found the first third of this book to be the same...kind of smutty. Only then did I realize that it, too, was written by Hoover. I was so tempted to toss it aside, but something about the consistent 5-star reviews compelled me to keep reading. I am so glad I did! It was gut-wrenching and so real. My mother, too, was thrown down a flight of stairs in 1951. She went immediately into labor - with me. She left my father when I was 9 months old, thank God! My mother is long gone, but I felt her presence while I was reading this book. She taught me to value myself back a a time when no one dared to whisper a word about the atrocities of domestic violence. Colleen Hoover wrote about MY mother, too.

Reader Review: "Beloved"

 

by Bedur Alshrif (Towson): While reading Beloved, I found myself enjoying Morrison's eloquence. Although the book is set in the 1800s, I found myself understanding it easily after I got the timelines. She drew me in and made my experience what the characters were going through. She made me judge Setha, Beloved and Paul D, which is weird since they all had different beliefs. I would like to analyze it in class and understand it better in terms of symbols and characterization.

I found it a little bit challenging because of the timelines and the flashbacks employed to discuss the character's past. However, as I progressed, it was easy to understand the order of events. I found Sethe's character to be fascinating because she was dealing with so much and it was not clear whether to blame her, understand her or empathize with her. Some archetypes in the novel are the mother archetype, rebirth and the child archetype.

Reader Review: "Inheritance"

 

by RSM (Naples, Florida): A fascinating memoir told in the personal and interesting voice of the author, Dani Shapiro. Its subject is very germaine to issues with adoption and ancestry problems in today's world. Thoroughly fascinating read.

Reader Review: "The Lighthouse"

 

by Katherine Pond (Post Mills): A most unusual read. The title brings to mind coastal beaches and sun-drenched romps in the surf. While there is some sandy beach and dunes and even a Lighthouse Festival, that is not the chief backdrop of this story at all. The Lighthouse does play a significant role in the telling but not at all in any usual way!

A young girl's mother has recently died and, not unexpectedly, she is devastated and unable to come to terms with her loss. Her father, too, has been thrown into the depths of grief. Their relationship has always been a bit strained, since he is a Detective in the State Police and has often been away either physically or emotionally from his family. Now, with both in such upheaval, there seems to be no way for them to connect and support each other. Her Uncle Jack, also a State Police Officer, convinces her father to take her to a small seashore town to help them to find a quiet place in which to work their way to peace.

And so Amy finds herself in a small hotel on Oregon's coast with a Lighthouse outside her window. While her father goes to the bar for a nightcap, she finds herself unable to sleep. Grabbing her father's sleeping pills she draws a bath and falls asleep as the tub fills. Suddenly, she is rudely awakened by a young man, who when passing her room, discovers the hall floor covered in water. He goes into the room to discover her. And so, the two central characters of the book meet for the first time.

Ryan, is the son of a ranch owner who lives about five miles outside town. He had come to the hotel bar for a drink as well. The Ranch is being foreclosed within days and his taking loans from the bank has brought this upon the family home. He hasn't told his father and so driven by guilt and anguish, he has tried to escape for a bit.

As Amy and Ryan get closer, sharing their secrets and their grief, it becomes apparent that Ryan has a bigger secret that even he is not fully aware of. What that secret is and how it will change the lives of both he and Amy as well as their fathers is an emotional ride of hope, love,despair and finally happiness.

And is totally unexpected and unlike any novel I've read before. Just wonderful.

Reader Review: "A Woman Is No Man"

 

by Denise: Culture is the invisible string that controls our behavior. This author illuminates that philosophy in the characters of this book. A Palestinian family seeking refuge in the United States settles in a New York City of like minded immigrants in a tight knit community of Arabs and attempts to bring their Middle Eastern lifestyle with them.The story centers around the life of Isra, the young woman who is brought from Palestine to the U.S. when marrying this family's oldest son, Adam. And woe is the life of an Arab woman whose first responsibility is to produce sons. Isra births four daughters. She is abused by her husband, becomes a slave to the family and lives a life devoid of pleasure and filled with acts of duty. She befriends her sister in law, Sarah, who fights against the arranged marriage her mother tries to force on her. The culture clash between the generations plays out as it pits the grandparent's wishes against those of their children and grandchildren. The book is well written and structured to keep the reader's attention as the story advances. It also delves into the story of Palestinian refugees and gives a broader appreciation of the challenges faced by immigrant communities, especially as they attempt to exist within American culture.

Reader Review: "Cloud Cuckoo Land"

 

by RDRA (Montreal): I am generally not a fan of books where there are multiple stories taking place in different time periods. I find that although the storylines eventually merge the journey is too disjointed and jumpy for my liking. This novel uses this format, and although I did not love that aspect, the writing and the stories made it worth the effort. This is a novel for lovers of books and libraries. It celebrates stories and the power of books to educate, comfort and transport us. The author gifts us with characters we rarely read about - my favourite being Omeir, a boy who farms with his team of massive oxen and who is forced to work, driving his team for the Sultan who is intent on invading Constantinople. In each story the attention to detail is astounding - I truly felt I understood the lives each character led - from minute personal details to larger issues of politics, religion, war, safety etc. The novel made me really think about our world and what we are creating and destroying. For me, when a story leaves me thinking for days about such issues it is worth reading!

Reader Review: "The Color of Air"

 

by Pat G. (Va): Having been to Hawaii, the storyline was so eye opener to the history of sugar cane and the life led by the multiple nationalities. There was spirituality and great respect shown for the land and for life. Well written and an easy read with excellent characterization.

Reader Review: "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox"

 

by Sharman Horwood: I found this book was deeply affecting. The different narrators brought their perspectives in, adding layers to the story that enhanced the tale. Also, while Iris is a very modern woman, Esme is also modern, just placed in a different age that wouldn't accept her.

 

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