When I read this book’s description, I thought: Wow! What a genuinely interesting, creative, and fresh idea for a novel. And Elle Magazine, my barometWhen I read this book’s description, I thought: Wow! What a genuinely interesting, creative, and fresh idea for a novel. And Elle Magazine, my barometer for books I’d probably enjoy, praised it. Yet I was disappointed.
The story is slow paced. It alternates between two points of view, the heroine (a white slave girl) and our antagonist (a black slave trader). But for some reason the heroine is dull at best, and the slave trader is witty making for a disturbing debate of whom to root for.
The author must be commended for creating an entirely new world. A world which is complete with made up words and places. Though the attempt is imaginative, the effect is irritating and confusing. I also couldn’t place a timeline for when these events take place…modern day or two hundred years ago? There are arguments for each both. Finally in order to turn slavery on its ear, the author throws every white and black stereotype I can think of at the reader. All of this treads to an abrupt and anticlimactic conclusion proclaiming a tried message; slavery is bad (well duh). ...more
I should disclose this was not only my first book on Iraq, but the first war memoir I have ever read. I’m not even exactly sure what made me pick it uI should disclose this was not only my first book on Iraq, but the first war memoir I have ever read. I’m not even exactly sure what made me pick it up or that I would make it through the first few chapters. As a housewife, I have as little in common with your typical marine as anyone. But this book is excellent. The consummately humble Campbell tells the story of his platoon, Joker One, from it’s inception through deployment to Iraqi city of Ramadi for a nine month peace keeping mission. The reader is presented with a straightforward and honest account of war from the men who fought it.
Campbell writes with grace and humor telling us of the platoon’s growing pains and mistakes as well as his short comings as a leader. He takes the time to walk the reader through military basics and the political setting of Ramadi making the story accessible without over politicizing or romanticizing his work. There is plenty of action, though nothing is gritty, and the book brims with poignant moments. I doubt it is possible to finish this book without renewed appreciation for the sacrifices our men make out of love for each other and our country. If you’ve ever wondered how service men keep their lives, faith and humanity—read this book. ...more
The Lost City of Z by David Grann is exceptional book that I can altogether recommend to every variety of reader. This well-rendered and deeply researThe Lost City of Z by David Grann is exceptional book that I can altogether recommend to every variety of reader. This well-rendered and deeply researched biography of Percy Fawcett, centers on his all consuming obsession with the Lost City of Z (evidence of a great but forgotten jungle civilization), the international fever that follows his mysterious disappearance and some of the more exciting tidbits of Grann’s journey to piece together Fawcett’s tale.
The book is unrelenting in its portrayal of everything Fawcett—you will find yourself deep in the Amazonian Jungle from the first page and racing through the subsequent pages to a surprising conclusion. It boasts unbelievably TRUE stories of savages, cannibalism, kidnappings, murder, torture, mutiny, starvation, massive hoaxes, madness and exotic deaths. Not only is this a astonishing biography, it’s also a fantastic adventure story. ...more
The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones is set in the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad’s harim and the plot consistsThe Jewel of Medina Sherry Jones
The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones is set in the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad’s harim and the plot consists of the battle to win his favor. The story is told entirely from the point of view of A’isha, Muhammad’s most beloved bride amongst a bevy of beautiful wives. Married at nine she is affectionately called “child bride”, and as such her position in the harim is constantly undermined. As she navigates the politics of Muhammad’s harim, she is embroiled in controversies, intrigues and betrayals. As she comes of age, A’isha tests the concepts of faith and love.
A book for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike, Jones’ subject matter is absorbing. A’isha is a strong central heroine who you can’t help but root for. For example, I’ve never rooted so hard for a pre-teen to consummate her marriage (as disturbing as that is). Jones’ admits some liberties, but also educates genuinely educates her reader about Muhammad’s times and the origins of Islam.
Though billed as historical fiction, the language leans a little flowery, and at times the story’s tension will remind you of a romance novel. And beware--some readers will find some of the subject matter offensive. But if you’re a fan of the “histomance” genre, this book is definitely recommended. But do be prepared for a cliff hanger ending, and the anticipation of Jones’ second book in the series. ...more
This book is a truly excellent memoir. If you’re looking for a memoir that details the struggles and censorship that modern Iranians (particularly womThis book is a truly excellent memoir. If you’re looking for a memoir that details the struggles and censorship that modern Iranians (particularly women) are facing, it delivers. It is chock full of complicated patriotism, scathing social observations and balanced political commentary. But if contemporary romance is your thing, it has that too. The novel spans two years as President Ahmadinejad rises to power, and the author meets the love of her life. I won’t spoil the ridiculous and creative ways in which she is oppressed and frankly harassed, but to say it isn’t easy to start a family in Tehran.
It’s obviously well-written, as Moaveni is an accomplished journalist and author. And for me, the best parts of Azadeh Moaveni’s Honeymoon in Tehran are when her journalistic approach to her tale slips, and we are treated to her voice as a woman and a mom delivering the story’s most powerful moments. Highly recommended! ...more
If you can get past the creepy cover art, you may enjoy this retelling of the Salem Witch Trials. The narrator is the young Sarah Carrier who has justIf you can get past the creepy cover art, you may enjoy this retelling of the Salem Witch Trials. The narrator is the young Sarah Carrier who has just moved to Salem, and is forced to contend with the witch terror gripping the town at the time. This harsh coming of age story is told in a time where family squabbles, neighborly disputes, and mild forms of fortune were causes for condemnation.
Using a child to try and make sense of what is happening is heart breaking and genius. The details framing the hysteria and the treatment of witches are vivid and obviously well researched. The characters are well developed and honestly flawed.
Kathleen Kent is a promising historical fiction writer. That said--the novel’s structure lacks continuity; it begins as a letter to a relative, but doesn’t finish that way. The telling also alludes to several historical incidents involving the Carrier Family which never sufficiently materialize.
This book Overall the book is more of a very good read, and less of an eye opener regarding the trials. The message is a little obvious—the Witch Trials were BAD, and unless you are almost completely devoid of knowledge on the subject, you won’t learn anything new. ...more
In Norah Vincent’s last book she describes disguising herself and living as a man in every way imaginable for six months. She concludes that book by cIn Norah Vincent’s last book she describes disguising herself and living as a man in every way imaginable for six months. She concludes that book by committing herself to a mental institution. Tough to top? Not for Vincent who turned that experience into the idea for this memoir. She would commit herself into three mental health facilities, and dish out all the dirty details of mental health facilities from the patient perspective.
She easily gets herself committed into her first public health facility and begins to recount colorful stories about her fellow mental patients and scathing criticisms about the hypocrisy of the system. Only Vincent is no stranger to mental demons. She is currently taking Prozac for a history of depression and medication to aide sleep. When she stops taking her medication, she falls into a depression. So before she can commit herself into her next facility, the book then takes a turn. While it still punches at mental health procedure, it mostly becomes the author’s personal internal struggle to heal herself. Although the author does make progress and delivers some jewels about modern treatment methods worth considering, the novel falls short of the salacious premise originally embarked upon. ...more
David Mozel Martin, distinguished and successful writer, acknowledges his life used to be great, in fact almost perfect. When his luck takes a turn, hDavid Mozel Martin, distinguished and successful writer, acknowledges his life used to be great, in fact almost perfect. When his luck takes a turn, he compounds his misfortunes with further bad decisions. He starts to lose the things he cares about and the life he loves piece by piece. With some perspective he narrates rather vividly how his life became hell, and how he put it back together. Martin peppers in some stories of his childhood as possible theories for his behavior, and some life lessons for good measure. As part of his style he also mentions what he should have done at most junctures. The story is a well-told brief cautionary tale that ends up advocating somewhat for personal responsibility without too much depth....more
Desperate and at times disturbing—Love Junkie is a memoir that is almost too honest. Resnick, a forty year old writer, is our junkie. The book recountDesperate and at times disturbing—Love Junkie is a memoir that is almost too honest. Resnick, a forty year old writer, is our junkie. The book recounts her relationships from childhood to middle age as evidence of her love addiction. An addiction she claims is as gripping as heroin. Resnick opens her story by describing scenes in which her mother threw herself at men while neglecting her children, and segues into history vividly repeating itself over a string of Resnick’s own failed relationships. She lives her life choosing one ill-suited mate after another in a frantic need to be loved. She pushes herself beyond her limits in a constant pursuit of an intimacy that evades her. When it comes to sex and love, she has absolutely no control over herself. She tirelessly pursues affection at any cost.
Resnick lays out her history for the reader to devour and judge in a completely straightforward way. The author at times is unlikable but her story is too well told to deny. Her memories range from heart wrenchingly sad to completely outrageous, and at times scarily relatable. The book ends without warning and with questionable hope for the author’s fate, but unnaturally haunts the reader long after the story’s completion. ...more
Sara Young’s debut novel opens in Occupied Holland. After her mother’s tragic death and her father and brother’s disappearance, halfMy Enemy’s Cradle
Sara Young’s debut novel opens in Occupied Holland. After her mother’s tragic death and her father and brother’s disappearance, half Jewish and blond Cryla, is passing as Dutch and living with her mother’s family. As the rules for Jews become increasingly stricter and the risk becomes too great, she finds a way into the exclusive Lebensborn program. Lebensborn, the cradle of life, is a German ran maternity house that breeds future soldiers for the glory of Germany. “The pram is mightier than the tank,” or so they say. In order to successfully navigate the program she will need to pose as her cousin, become pregnant, and hide her heritage. Everyday will be a fight to survive, and if she does she still has to escape… Though brave and determined Cyrla is left with very few people she can trust, many secrets, and certain death to her and her loved ones if she is caught.
The story is part historical romance and greater parts an uneasy reminder into one of history’s dark periods. Although the subject matter at time is unsettling, the novel is packed with suspense and surprises. ...more
The sweet and independent Dr. Megan Blair has her life under control. Or she did until she is nearly murdered. And it just gets worsPandora’s Daughter
The sweet and independent Dr. Megan Blair has her life under control. Or she did until she is nearly murdered. And it just gets worse…could the same monster that killed her mother years ago be after her? When a sexy stranger appears out of the blue to save her, Megan isn’t sure who she can trust. Then there’s the new physic ability she’s discovered and can’t yet control—only her life depends on it. Soon the stakes get direr still as the fates of the only people she loves are thrown into the mix. Megan sets out on an international chase deeper into her past to try and determine her future.
At times the plot veers a little predictable and formulaic, but it’s hard not to enjoy this fast paced suspense novel. Iris Johansen has delivered a nice amount of steam and intrigue that doesn’t disappoint. ...more
Because Wendell Stevenson not only hops manically between decade and circumstance, but she also assumes her audience knows a great deal of Iraqi cultuBecause Wendell Stevenson not only hops manically between decade and circumstance, but she also assumes her audience knows a great deal of Iraqi culture, military and political history. Because the ideas present here are not unbiased although Stevenson is a journalist. And finally because this book is as much about Kamel Sachet as any Iraqi Stevenson could interview. I’ll do you a favor and give you and sum up THE WEIGHT OF THE MUSTARD SEED
General Sachet was an important Iraqi general who ascended the ranks of power by slowly compromising his morality. He was the same as most Iraqi’s being that he either committed heinous crimes or witnessed such crimes being committed and did nothing. All those interviewed pushed the agenda of the regime and reaped the rewards did so not for political gain but because they were afraid for their families and their honor. Iraqis will be Iraqis, and they are very good at being duplicitous, so the rest of the world should simply let them handle it.
All in all, I had a tough time getting through this book. It was neither compelling nor particularly informative. ...more
Sometimes the end justifies the read; this ending for me was a good one. The Believers by Zoe Heller, is the tale of a family at a cross roads. When tSometimes the end justifies the read; this ending for me was a good one. The Believers by Zoe Heller, is the tale of a family at a cross roads. When the family’s patriarch collapses, the family starts to unravel quite quickly. The book presents a cross section of the things people believe in: marriage, religion, values, ourselves, family, etc… It also examines and tests the character’s faith in their beliefs during tumultuous times.
There were times I definitely wanted to put the book down. The biggest contention was one of the novel’s central characters, Audrey, who is horrid at times. She is awful to her children and hypo and hypercritical of everyone else. And due to the novel’s structure we are forced to feel her presence in every chapter.
My strong reaction to Audrey, is a good example of how well characterized the novel is. The Litvinoff family is alive. As a counterpoint to my dislike of Audrey, I quickly adored Karla her daughter. She’s a welcome breath of readability in a sea of self important brats. While some of the other plot lines don’t really take off for me, and the big surprise is a little expected, I can’t emphasize how the tie up is worth picking up the book. Even if Audrey can’t entirely redeem herself, you can at least see how it works out for Carla ...more
Upon his return to the Gold Coast, John Sutter is headed for a happy ending. After a scandalous affair that destroyedThe Gate House by Nelson DeMille
Upon his return to the Gold Coast, John Sutter is headed for a happy ending. After a scandalous affair that destroyed his marriage and way of life ten years ago, it seems he has reconnected with his ex-wife, Susan, the love of his life. He’s able to forgive her affair with a Mafia Don even though it led to her murdering her lover and plunging John into misery and humiliation. But he’s not the only person to resurface…his wife’s ex lover’s son is bent on revenge. And his ex-wife’s horrible parents want to thwart any chance of a reconciliation. As John battles for his life back, he learns there are still many secrets left to be revealed.
What’s Good: Be forewarned—this novel is instantly consuming. DeMille’s conversational style of narration captivates the reader. The novel is a cross genre success: part social commentary, part suspense novel, and with a fair amount of romance; this book is simply fun to read. You also won’t need to pick up the prequel The Gold Coast (though you may want to), as DeMille quickly sucks you into John Sutter’s world. I hope I’m not alone in the hopes of another sequel.
What’s Bad: Almost nothing, but the book does stretch on for 670+ pages. So be prepared to devote a good block of time and possible late nights to this worthy treasure. ...more
The title of this memoir/literary criticism hybrid delivers exactly what it promises. A teacher dares to chReading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
The title of this memoir/literary criticism hybrid delivers exactly what it promises. A teacher dares to challenge an unimaginably oppressive Muslin regime, by reading “Western” classical fiction at a time when all thing “Western” was either illegal or openly despised. As Azar Nafisi strives to educate her students, we get a unique perspective on some of our beloved novels. How do you teach Lolita about the disturbing rape and forced captivity of a 12 year old, when the legal age for marriage in Iran is nine? How do you approach Gatsby when adultery is a crime, western excess is shunned and of all things you have to be worried about your veil slipping off when your gestures become too animated?
Nafisi handles all this in stride. Finding courage in her favorite heroines, and instilling passion in her students as all great teachers become accustomed.
The literary criticism, moments and theories alone are enough to make the book a worthwhile read for fellow lit junkies. The book is full of relatable moments as the students grapple with the literature and characters. A standout scene involves a stringent Islamic Revolutionary using an EE Cummings poem to woo his unrequited lady love. This setting is Tehran however so not all scenes are so light, there are doses of executions, rape, and shameless brutality, but Nafisi masterfully balances the tone; keeping the reader enthralled through several genres of storytelling.
You’ll want to read this one as your favorite authors and novels inspire so many different women to pursue their own dreams even if at tremendous costs. In a word memorable. ...more