Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I finished this book but couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. Exit West is a beautiful love story with wonderfully developed characters.
The story is both realistic and torn from today’s headlines all while being somewhat mystical and even a bit “1984”.
As their city crumbles around them in war and political unrest two young people are thrown together and fall hard in love and lust. Escape becomes possible through a rumored system of “doors”. I couldn’t decide for myself if the doors were meant to be magical or more like an Underground Railroad. Hamid leaves it to your imagination.
But going through the doors is only the first step to building a new life in an unfamiliar country – one where the welcome mat is not out.
And in the end, drifting apart, finding new focus, but forever being grateful for each other during a tumultuous journey of survival.
Exit West will make you grateful for the things you have and the people you love.
Kitchen Confidential byAnthony Bourdain ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s surprising that I have never read this book. I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain’s travel and foodie shows. I like his take no prisoners attitude, even though you can see he has a soft heart.
But for whatever reason I had not read this book, THE book that really launched him. So finally I did. I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it.
I’ve read at least three books by Ruth Richle, former New York Times food critic and editor of Gourmet Magazine (among many other things) and I enjoyed her stories more. Much of Kitchen Confidential seemed a bit over the top, and yet Bourdain is writing from experience, and there is no doubt he has led a rough and somewhat crazed life – a bit over the top.
The real story I think is about survival. Bourdain is a survivor. Luckily for all of us.
Perhaps Bourdain’s more recent books show his more mature side- rightly so. His television work has also matured and he probably cringes a bit at some of the stories he tells in Kitchen Confidential.
So if you haven’t read it – it’s worth a read, and like Bourdain you’ll find it a bit rough, fowl and full of piss and vinegar.
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s been at least ten yeas since I read Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale” which went down in my list of favorite reads of all time. That very imaginative story, now getting renewed recognition because it is a TV Drama, made me look further into the list of Atwood novels. She has dozens.
Atwood is one of those authors who pumps out a book once or twice a year. Not all of them the quality of “A Handmaid’s Tale”. Last year I read a novel by Atwood for my book club that was a dud. A real dud. It was called “The Heart Goes Last.” I hated it.
My husband loved her book “A Blind Assassin”, I guess I should read that one – because I now have discovered another really excellent Atwood novel “Alias Grace”.
I will say one thing about Atwood – her stories are all over the map as far as topic, time and genre and that is a good sign of an innovative author. “Alias Grace” is based on a real character, Grace Marks, whose notoriety as a murderess in the 1870’s made her the tabloid queen of her time.
Atwood’s novel, uses both fact and fiction, real and fictional characters, history and creative manipulations to build a very compelling story about Grace Marks, her immigration to Canada from Ireland, her difficult childhood, her time as a servant and the fateful day of the murders of her employer and his housekeeper.
Did she do it? You will need to decide for yourself as the book leaves the question open for contemplation. Is she the first recorded schizophrenic? Was she possesed by another dead women? Was she a superb actress? Or just a very unfortunate young girl in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I recommend “Alias Grace”. Four stars.
Good Omens ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchette
My third Neil Gaiman book and this author is seriously brilliant and crazy at the same time. I don’t think this was his first book but it is surly one of his first, co-authored in 1990. From what I understand it has a cult following to this day.
For me, I enjoyed the raucous ride both hilarious and frightening as the story prepares for the coming of the end of the world. Armageddon never looked so entertaining with a Wild cast of characters from a witch who seems a bit “off” to angels and demons and motorcycle apocalyptic gang to an anti-Christ child.
Gaimen’s tendency toward fantasy stories is clear in Good Omens which reminded me often of the 1970’s movie The Omen while also having some similarities to Harry Potter. I enjoyed the book but enjoyed his more resent epic novel American Gods more.
Four stars for Good Omens.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The only reason this book is getting four stars instead of five is because of Gone Girl. My own star rating system is flawed I’ve decided. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012) was such a draw dropping story that I’m having trouble giving Sharp Objects (2006) a similar rating. And frankly it was nowhere near as good. But I still liked it and recommend it.
A strange story unravels in Sharp Objects where we follow the screwed up life of newspaper reporter Camille back to her home town in Missouri to cover an unfolding murder story.
Camille’s family history becomes the focus of Sharp Objects as we learn just how disturbed some people are and how in this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Small town gossip, money, politics, alcohol and drugs play into the tale which will keep you turning the page.
I want to believe this couldn’t really happen. I want to believe the characters Flynn has created in the story couldn’t possible exist and behave the way they do.
But, this is where Flynn is excellent. She leaves you wondering…and looking over your shoulder.
Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s been awhile since I read a book that made me guffaw out loud and laugh until tears rolled down my cheeks.
What a fun read Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy was. My friend Jan Hein recommended this book to me while we were in New Zealand because the story takes place in New Zealand. But I couldn’t find it at the library so finally purchasd it on Kindle to read here in the Seychelles.
The story is a rollicking recounting of how Antonia and her husband became unlikely farmers in the New Zealand bush. From California girl to Kiwi farmer Antonia’s writing style brings to life the sometimes sweet, often gross, and simultaneously hilarious life of dealing with livestock, children, disability, neighbors and husband in Purua New Zealand.
I loved it. I’ll be watching for more from Antonia Murphy.
Note – no book review next week I’m focused on my cross stitch this week. 😊
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I wasn’t a big fan of Room. I know, I know. Everyone thought it was great. I just didn’t. The movie either. I liked but didn’t love either.
And so when Emma Donoghue’s next book landed in the “next best thing” list I was kinda “ho-hum”. And I was wrong.
The Wonder is outstanding. I devoured it, in fact I read it entirely in one day.
The story is set in Ireland in the late 1800’s, after the potato famine. Having recently traveled to Ireland it was easy to conjure up the barren, wet, boggy and windswept landscape described so beautifully by Donoghue.
Focused on a pious eleven year old girl, the story brings together a wide range of characters dealing with perils of the period in a deeply Catholic community overflowing with superstition. Donoghue’s chapters are long but I loved her use of powerful singular words and their definition as the name of each chapter; nurse, watch, fast, vigil, shift. A unique and thoughtful way to present each chapter and create interest and anticipation for the reader.
“Agnes of God” came to mind as I read this book. A fragile story of penance, sorrow, hope and love.
The Wonder truly was.