Book Reviews

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boy in the snow

The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath

5 stars

The two-week 1,150-mile Iditarod dog sled race from near Wasilla to Nome, Alaska, forms the backdrop for McGrath’s outstanding second mystery featuring half-Caucasian, half-Inuit Edie Kiglatuk (after 2011’s White Heat). A native of Ellesmere Island, Edie comes to Alaska to help her ex-husband, Sammy Inukpuk, who’s trying to regain his self-respect by racing. In the forest outside Wasilla, Edie encounters a mysterious bear that leads her to the frozen body of a baby boy lying in the saddle of a snowmobile. Edie, a homesick, guilt-ridden “outsider in her own world,” seeks to untangle the disturbing truth behind the infant’s death, aided by her policeman friend, Derek Palliser, who’s also assisting Sammy in the race. McGrath has a firm grasp on a little known culture, its values and language, and excels at bringing to life such characters as conniving Anchorage mayor Chuck Hillingberg and his power-hungry wife, Marsha. This affecting novel should melt even the most frozen human hearts.  – Quote for Publishers Weekly review

 

 

City of Women

City of Women by David R. Gillham

5 stars

 

Excellent story, recommend it highly. The main protagonist was annoyingly bland for a large portion of the book, and a reluctant ‘supporter’ of the resistance. However, I came to think this was intentional, reflecting a realistic struggle for a person – a very ordinary, typical person – who would rather just do nothing and try to survive. A brilliant depiction of how extraordinary circumstances force morality, in one direction or another. Several complex characters, making decisions and acting under the most horrific circumstances. All about ‘What would you do?’

 

 

Everyonhe

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

4 stars

 

This novel is set in Britain at the time of WWII, from the declaration of war to the end. The narrator is the typical cute but plucky daughter of a high-ranking cabinet official, supporting characters are her best pal and 2 young men who are also close friends. Begins with young people struggling with ‘doing the right thing’ when the country goes to war. And then reality hits. This book captured me from page 1. Great character development, evocative on setting. I recommend other titles by this author as well.

 

 

No Easy Answers

No Easy Answers by Deanna Lueder.

4 stars

 

Written with a generous heart, these are closely linked short stories. Main character Lexie walks us through her long days as a child protection social worker. She deals with tragic cases involving child abuse and neglect with great sensitivity and no judgement. Lueder writes with great talent and honesty evoking compassion and empathy in the reader. I had tears in my eyes but came away at the end having the greatest respect for social workers and the knowledge that it is rewarding work.

 

 

dark-matter

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

5 stars

 

Easily the best book I’ve read in a long time. It’s science fiction for non-science fiction readers. It reads more like a thriller than sci-fi. The main character is  kidnapped and wakes up in another world. Confused and disoriented, he has to find his way back home to his wife and son. Fast paced and exciting. Definitely 5 stars!

 

road-ends

Road Ends by Mary Lawson

4 stars

 

Good but not great book. The author certainly captures the snowy environment of a small Ontario town and keeps the story moving as we move from character to character. I liked the way plot points developed through each point of view.

 

ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce

5 stars

 

I had to check excellent, because how could I not with a work that is considered the greatest work of modernist literature. But Ulysses is a slog. Joyce created several distinct sections of the story of a single day in Dublin….June 16, 1904. Fantastic word pictures throughout, and some observations that are so unique, and a web of characters that he manages to keep aloft… but it is not an easy read. Take your time to appreciate the literary genius of the man who veers into drama in one very long section, punctuationless stream of lascivious consciousness in Molly’s soliloquy, and a catholic mass-type call and response section that contains superlative language and a lot of humour, too.

 

little-life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

5 stars

 

Possibly one of the greatest books I have ever experienced. The story-line centers around the unspeakable childhood trauma of one of the main characters and how everyone around him has adjusted their lives to deal with it. I could not put this book down. Although many parts are not for the faint of heart, it is a book that will leave an impression on you long after the last page has been read. Beautifully written and achingly honest.

 

Garden of evening

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

5 stars

 

A wonderful read! It includes much of the 20th century history of Penang and detailed information on the complexity of Japanese gardening. It is an illusive mystery and is intriguing and informative.

 

 

man seeks

Man Seeks God by Eric Weiner

5 stars

 

Only book I have EVER laughed out loud! Highly intelligent, witty,hilarious, thought provoking, best-of-its-kind-ever book. Educational and every page highly entertaining.

 

 

Sarong

Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

2 and half stars

 

This is about a Singaporean woman named Jazzy and her desperate quest to find a white husband. I picked up this book because I thought it looked like fun. But the quote on the front also intrigued me. Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being, said that the author of this book was “saying something profound and insightful about the place of women in our globalized, capitalized, interconnected world.” When I started reading it, I found it funny and entertaining, yes. But I kept waiting for the depth and insight Ozeki seemed to have gotten out of this book…. I kept waiting for…. more. There must be more to it! This book has great reviews from Kirkus , National Book Award winners,  and celebrated authors such as Ozeki and Paul Theroux.  I was just expecting more from it. I was definitely left wanting.

 

Before the fallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley

4.5 Stars

 

Before The Fall is like a cross between the Goldfinch and Gone Girl. It’s tempting to call this a a literary thriller but it’s so much more. The perfect summer read.

 

 

homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

4.5 Stars

 

Amazing book! What a read! It starts in 18th century Ghana with 2 half sisters and follows the lives of their children and their children’s children up to present day. Each generation struggles, living in Africa and America – wars, slavery, the civil rights movement. You can see how the lives of each generation effected the next. Well written and constantly engaging the reader. I loved this book!

 

Red Notice

Red Notice by Bill Browder

4.5 Stars

 

A true story that was so compelling, I could not put it down.
Bill Browder was a real maverick, and fighting against Putin, well, he’s amazing!

 

 

Curious CharmsThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.

4 stars

 

Arthur Pepper, age 69, just lost his wife. Going through her things, he finds bracelet of hers that leads to clues about her former life before they met and fell in love. Arthur travels the world to discover more about his much-loved and missed wife. It’s a charming book about love, moving on and finding adventure and meaning after losing a love. He’s an endearing character.  Recommended.