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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Mbue, an immigrant from Limbe Cameroon, weaves a fictional tale of immigrants like herself, who make their way from Cameroon in search of the American Dream in New York. My book review Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is fiction but a near to true story of the hardship of immigrants in the USA.

    Both a love story and an American tragedy, Behold the Dreamers brings to life the incredible characters of Jenda Jonga and his wife Neni and their sweet and small children. The Jonga family has worked for years to make their way to New York City, land of dreams and opportunity.

    We are introduced to the Edward’s family. Husband Clark and wife Cindy with children Vince and Mighty. Clark is a high powered financial investor with the ill-fated Lehman Brothers. Cindy a New York socialite hiding and running from her past.

    These two families will collide in a sad but believable look at how two very different families navigate the financial collapse of 2008, the nearly impossible American immigration system as well as the challenges of race, class, substance abuse and marriage in America.

    A remarkable debut novel for Imbolo Mbue. Five stars for Behold the Dreamers.

    Read last week’s review of The Glass Castle

    Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I found this true story very similar to Tara Westover’s “Educated”. A deep and disturbing look at how children survive growing up in dysfunctional, often violent, and deeply impoverished family.

    Tracing Jeannette Walls climb out of poverty and neglect to her life today as a successful writer and contributor for the likes of Esquire and MSNBC. The Glass Castle is an astonishing look at an all to common and oft ignored American tragedy of childhood neglect.

    Jeannette Walls and her three siblings are raised by a brilliant father who is also a raging alcoholic. Her free-spirited mother has little interest in domestic life, leaves her children to fend for themselves, even when she has the financial opportunity to provide and pull them out of despair and poverty.

    The Walls children are forced to learn to take care of themselves and each other, nearly starving or freezing to death in the cold winters.

    Eventually making her way to New York, getting an education and a good job, Jeannette finds it impossible to talk about her upbringing or the fact that her parents are living homeless on the streets of New York. She is ashamed of them and the way they live. Until she is encouraged by those closest to her, to tell this real life story of surviving neglect and despair, even while still loving her parents.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Read last week’s review of My Sister’s Keeper.

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    The Glass Castle by Jodi Picoult
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I’m not a huge fan of Jodi Picoult. I’ve read a few of her novels, and her work reminds me of Lianne Moriarty and Anitia Shreve and probably some others I can’t think of. I have a personal bias, probably not justified, but there it is. The bias for me is how MANY books they pump out. Book after book after book. Wow. Like a machine.

    Alas I know though how loved these authors and others like them are for their easy reading and usually heartfelt characters and plots. And in Picoult’s case, often focused on topics torn from today’s news.

    So it is with My Sister’s Keeper, a paperback I found and enjoyed at our Airbnb on the island of Langkawi.

    My Sister’s Keeper brings us a family in turmoil. A family who has dealt with their daughters leukemia for a decade. A family who chose to have another baby – a genetically designed baby – to provide umbilical cord cells to the other sick daughter.

    When Anna is born, she is loved by her parents, but her entire life is spent trying to save their first daughter Kate. At age 13, Anna decides she has given enough of herself; cells, blood, and bone marrow and she makes the excruciating decision to say “no more”.

    This is a story of ethics, parenting, cancer and family. This is a story that no parent ever wants to find themselves in. Is one child’s life more important than another? How will the collision of genetics, ethics and rights of a child conclude?

    This book kept my attention and I felt sorry for all concerned in this story, but to be honest I hated the ending. I really hated it. I thought it was all too convenient the way it wrapped up, and would much rather have seen it end in a different, more expected way with less drama and tragedy.

    You will have to decide for yourself.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Read last week’s review of Elsewhere.

    My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Huntress by Kate Quinn

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    A couple of months ago I read Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network and I really enjoyed it. So I decided to tackle her new book The Huntress. And I loved it even more. Here is my book Review of The Huntress by Kate Quinn.

    Quinn introduces an intriguing cast of characters in The Huntress – a post World War Two novel built around the search for Nazi war criminals.

    Nina Markova, raised in Siberia, turned Russian fighter pilot known as the Night Witches. Witness to unthinkable atrocities and dealing with her own pain and loss, with deep and disturbing memories of hate and revenge.

    Ian Graham, British War Correspondent unable to let go of his own personal search for one particular war criminal, a woman known as The Huntress.

    Jordan McBride, Boston teenager and aspiring photographer, Jordan wants to forget the war, move forward and live a life of her choosing.

    Anneliese McBride, Jordan’s new step-mother, appears friendly and engaged in her new American life, but something underlies the perfect facade she allows.

    This book is tightly written, with a believable plot that develops a different side of oft overdone WWII story. Quinn’s attention to research and detail is apparent in the mix of fact and fiction from descriptive landscape passages to intense emotional drama of the characters’ past and present.

    In the end the reality is all of them are The Huntress. See for yourself if you agree.

    I really loved this book and highly recommend The Huntress by Kate Quinn.

    Five Stars for The Huntress. Read last week’s review of The Immortalists.

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    Book Review The Huntress by Kate Quinn
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Wow. This book. I’m not usually one to go for a “thriller” book, but this story sucked me in and I was riveted.

    Similar to novels like Gone Girl (but not as good), Pieces of Her develops a plot of twists and turns, whodunnit and “who the heck are you”, as Andrea Olive struggles to determine the true identity of her mother.

    When Andrea and her mother Laura find themselves the witnesses to a horrific crime, a crime that leads Laura to kill the perpetrator at the scene before he can murder more people, Andrea’s world comes tumbling down.

    A video tape of the terrorist and his demise at Laura’s hands circulates on the news, and with it Laura’s secret life unravels and her enemies catch up to her after decades of being on the run.

    Andrea is thrust into this mystery as she runs from the danger, finding a trail of a woman, her mother, whom she never knew. Who is this woman and why has she spent her life in hiding? Andrea begins to put the puzzle together bit by bit, finding herself in danger but determined to uncover the identity her mother walked away from decades before.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Read last week’s review of The Birth of Venus.

    Reading Wednesday

    The Birth of Venus (novel) by Sarah Durant

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is a beautifully rich tale of life and death, love and art in Florence Italy during the tumultuous 15th century. Told in first person from the viewpoint of a young Florentine girl, but told as her final life’s work as an old woman.

    The young girl, Alessandra Cecchi, daughter of a rich textile merchant in Florence, knows she isn’t like her sister or other girls around her. Her passion of art and learning overpowers her, and alienates her from the life of sewing and searching for a rich husband.

    Alessandra is also tall, awkward and not beautiful like her sister. Called a “giraffe” by her hateful sibling Tomaso, Allesandra searches for meaning to her life.

    Alessandra falls for “the painter” who has been commissioned to paint the ceiling of her families chapel. But she marries a chosen husband “Cristoforo” who turns out to only have married Alessandra to appear heterosexual, which he is not.

    During a terribly violent time in Florence as the church and the people battle for control, Alessandra lives a tumultuous life of her own not able to love the one she wants.

    After I finished the book I spent some time in a discussion group about the book, interested in what other readers theories were about if “the painter” in the story is supposed to be a real person from the era. Certainly the book weaves real characters with fictional ones, and towards the end of the book there is a reference to Michelangelo that made me think this is who it was supposed to be. In the discussion group there was a wide range of strong opinions, and nobody seemed to know for sure. Theories included Michelangelo, DaVinci and several other 15th century painters.

    Only Sarah Durant knows for sure.

    A beautiful story about a period in history I knew little about.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Four stars for The Birth of Venus by Sarah Durant.

    Read last week’s review of The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    It’s rare anymore that I read a real book I can hold in my hand. It’s a special treat and I always want it to be a book I love…one I can curl up and enjoy. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton was one of those books.

    This story travels across decades and is told in multiple voices, traversing time and characters with one anchor to it all – Birchwood Manor outside of London.

    From 1854 to 2017 we follow the house and the cast of characters who occupy it, own it, love it, go to school in it, visit it, stumble upon it, search it and haunt it.

    It’s a clever way to inspire a story that spans multiple generations. I really enjoyed the characters and the twists and turns Kate Morton was able to generate bringing her readers into the novel and easily navigating the 160 year span of time the book covers.

    A great read.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton.

    Read last week’s review of Fall of the Giants