Smith's lengthy first novel is one of the most thought-provoking I've read in years. Each character brings unique perspective to the proceedings, butSmith's lengthy first novel is one of the most thought-provoking I've read in years. Each character brings unique perspective to the proceedings, but it is Irie who will steal your heart with her earnest commitment to finding the truth about both herself and the world around her. The others, at least for me, were off-putting in their rage and disconnectedness. Still, Smith's descriptive account of immigrant life is eye-opening and haunting. She weaves history into modern-day life to suggest we repeat our history as families, and she presents a compelling point of view that we need to understand these histories to understand ourselves. I can't say I loved this book, but this woman is a genius and deserves the attention she's received. I'd be very interested in reading her essays about society and culture.
It's not that I don't like warm stories where people find inner strength and purpose, and clearly Quindlen was aiming towards a specific audience, soIt's not that I don't like warm stories where people find inner strength and purpose, and clearly Quindlen was aiming towards a specific audience, so it's probably not fair to be disappointed when she achieves that. But I still found myself wishing for more. I saw every plot "twist" and found myself bored by every character. The author doesn't seem to have anything truly original to say or the ability to say it in an original way. It's basically well-written with nice people and a mildly interesting take on photography and what goes into taking a good picture. But I've already forgotten it two weeks later.
Summary: Moving to a small country cabin, a once world-famous photographer bonds with a local man and begins to see the world around her in new, deeper dimensions while evaluating second chances at love, career, and self-understanding....more
For those looking for the next Gone Girl, this would not be the book for you. In some respects, the advertising and reviews in general have been misleFor those looking for the next Gone Girl, this would not be the book for you. In some respects, the advertising and reviews in general have been misleading, as the pacing of Abbott's suspense tale is slow and deliberate, focused on characters and the larger social issues they inhabit. But it is this latter examination that got me. The author asks important questions about teenage sexuality, environmental contamination and social anxiety in the fear-based culture in which we live. Her characters are trapped and terrified for their lack of control: children grow up, people make mistakes and strange things happen that cannot be explained. Do we get caught up in the fever or make peace with what we cannot change? This modern-day Crucible is thought-provoking and profound as a concept, but never quite reaches the reader on a personal level, which is why I can't give it a higher rating. Still, I'm glad I read it and it has given me a lot to think about.
Summary: The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community. The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community. As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security...more
Having visited Vienna recently and toured the Belvedere Castle, this story of Gustav Klimt and the famous lady in gold was of great interest to me inhHaving visited Vienna recently and toured the Belvedere Castle, this story of Gustav Klimt and the famous lady in gold was of great interest to me inherently. Fortunately, O'Connor is also a fantastic writer. Her characters and places come alive thanks to her attention to detail, colorful phrasing and strong commitment to her story. I loved getting to know the intelligentsia of turn-of-the-century Vienna, from Klimt to Mahler, and I was fascinated in the progression of the city through World War II. The author reminded me of the importance of art, not just for itself but as a larger cultural symbol. If there is one critique I could make it is that there are too many characters to keep track of.
The spellbinding story, part fairy tale, part suspense, of Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer , one of the most emblematic portraits of its time; of the beautiful, seductive Viennese Jewish salon hostess who sat for it; the notorious artist who painted it; the now vanished turn-of-the-century Vienna that shaped it; and the strange twisted fate that befell it....more
It is probably inevitable that any book receiving this level of hype would wind up being slightly disappointing, but that's not to say it wasn't a higIt is probably inevitable that any book receiving this level of hype would wind up being slightly disappointing, but that's not to say it wasn't a highly enjoyable and well-crafted read. Waters continues her theme of lesbian relationships in historical settings without making either seem forced or unnecessary. Every aspect of the story is presented as a piece of its atmosphere: post-war, changing social order, British reserve. The author understands the place so well that the characters are able to live comfortably in it while straining at the barriers. And the characters themselves are fascinating. The narrative unfolds slowly and you really come to the know these people and what drives them. As reviewers have pointed out, it's the small moments that add up to the bigger picture. My main complaint would be the inevitable "big moment" that readers are waiting for and from which the real tension stems. Once that moment happens, the book seems to deflate and lose all energy. The last third of the book felt slow and drawn-out to me. But this is a fascinating author and the book itself is definitely worth exploring.
Summary: It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers....more
I wasn't familiar with Roz Chast (more's the pity). I warmed up to her and her style immediately reading this graphic memoir. I identified with her anI wasn't familiar with Roz Chast (more's the pity). I warmed up to her and her style immediately reading this graphic memoir. I identified with her anxiety, her guilt, her desire to do he right thing. Even though my parents aren't in this stage yet, it's a struggle I saw them go through this with their parents and I was really impressed with the way Chast tells the story. It's a subject that is far too hard for most of us to talk about and it needs to be talked about. To approach it with humor and pathos reaches an audience in the most effective way. I was very moved by this book but also very excited to explore Chast's cartoons and enjoy more of her brand of humor.
Summary: In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents...more
This is far and away the best book I have read in months, possibly years. Ng's tale is suspenseful, thought-provoking, heartbreaking. It is both fast-This is far and away the best book I have read in months, possibly years. Ng's tale is suspenseful, thought-provoking, heartbreaking. It is both fast-paced and character-driven--the author takes the time to develop the backstory, the painful prejudices that shaped the parents James and Marilyn would become, while also weaving a mystery you can't wait to finish. While the focal point of the book is racism, there is a surprising universality, as well. I felt genuine empathy for the parents and the children, all burdened by outside expectations. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Summary: Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio....more
Tana French is one of my favorite mystery writers. She allows a slow build in her lengthy novels, ensuring the reader cares as much about the detectivTana French is one of my favorite mystery writers. She allows a slow build in her lengthy novels, ensuring the reader cares as much about the detective and his/her own emotional and psychological story as the case itself. This style of writing has also guaranteed that in each story, the journey is ultimately more satisfying than the conclusion, although it's a fair trade-off most of the time. With her latest work, French comes up short as she lumbers back and forth between Detective Moran and teenager Holly and Holly's bitchy friends. What serves as tension and character-building in French's other novels fades into a run-on idea in this instance--I never found myself caring about these girls or in any way becoming fascinated with the culture of their prep school, which is meant to be the focal point of The Secret Place. Without that, the journey AND the pay-off were disappointing to me. Not a complete disaster, but it called to mind how superior Faithful Place and In the Woods really are.
Summary: Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin's Murder Squad--and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings it to him. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda's School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why....more
Stonich's Minnesota tale is engaging and leaves a lasting impression of her various characters, but there are too many stories to keep track of and heStonich's Minnesota tale is engaging and leaves a lasting impression of her various characters, but there are too many stories to keep track of and her somewhat edgy tone keeps the reader at bay. All in all, a good book, but not one of my favorites.
Summary: On a lake in northernmost Minnesota, you might find Naledi Lodge--only two cabins still standing, its pathways now trodden mostly by memories. And there you might meet Meg, or the ghost of the girl she was, growing up under her grandfather's care in a world apart and a lifetime ago. Now an artist, Meg paints images "reflected across the mirrors of memory and water," much as the linked stories of Vacationland cast shimmering spells across distance and time. Those whose paths have crossed at Naledi inhabit Vacationland : a man from nearby Hatchet Inlet who knew Meg back when, a Sarajevo refugee sponsored by two parishes who can't afford "their own refugee," aged sisters traveling to fulfill a fateful pact once made at the resort, a philandering ad man, a lonely Ojibwe stonemason, and a haiku-spouting girl rescued from a bog. ...more
For all the hype Penny's Gamache novels have received, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed. Her setting is idyllic and vibrant, but the mysterFor all the hype Penny's Gamache novels have received, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed. Her setting is idyllic and vibrant, but the mystery itself and the characters fell flat. None of the twists and turns interested me and the final reveal was bland and unsurprising. I would be willing to give these mysteries another shot, as the detective himself is enjoyable and I love the Montreal backdrop, but this particular book left me cold.
Summary: No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter -- and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary....more
After reading Gregory's lengthy, circuitous, highly-fictionalized account of one woman's experience during the War of the Roses, I admit I'm not conveAfter reading Gregory's lengthy, circuitous, highly-fictionalized account of one woman's experience during the War of the Roses, I admit I'm not converted to this author or her historical subject matters. While not an overly complex read, she fails to give the audience any meaningful context, either of the war or the times. She jumps right into the "adventure" involving one battle after the next, one betrayal after the next and for all the action, there's very little character development--the reader doesn't end up caring about any of these people. I thought it was a hollow historical fiction and one whose popularity is mystifying to me.
Summary: In this account of the wars of the Plantagenets, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition, Elizabeth Woodville, catches the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown.>...more