The Best Recent Reader Reviews posted at Bookbrowse

The Best Recent Reader Reviews

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  • (07/28/14): The Tiger’s Wife is the first novel by Serbian-born American author, Tea Obrecht, and is the winner of the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction. Young doctor, Natalia Stefanovic is on an assignment with her life-long friend Zora to innoculate the children of a remote Balkan village orphanage when she learns of her grandfather’s death. Her grandmother believes he was on his way to meet Natalia, is distraught that he died alone in a town none of them recognises, and that his belongings are missing. As she tries to come to terms with the loss of a man who loomed large in her life, Natalia is distracted from her medical duties by memories of her grandfather and also by the strange digging activities in a nearby vineyard. Obrecht employs three narrative strands: Natalia relates what happens on her vaccination excursion; her grandfather, a well-respected doctor, tells of his three encounters with a deathless man; and Natalia chronicles the events of a certain winter in World War Two, when the village her grandfather grew up in was visited by a tiger. In each of the narrations, secondary characters are elegantly given backstories so that a collection of short stories is seamlessly woven into the whole. Obrecht’s characters are interesting and authentic and her descriptive prose is wonderfully evocative: “Pigeons, clustered thick enough to be visible from the hill, shuffled like cowled women up and down the street..” Against a backdrop of seemingly ever-present war, Obrecht explores superstitions and customs, secrets and lies, fears and rituals, history and folklore, myths and mysteries, love and revenge, and of course, death. This moving and thought-provoking novel is an amazing debut. Readers will look forward to more from Obrecht.

  • The Boys in the Boat
    Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
    by Daniel James Brown

    (07/25/14): If you are a junior or senior, male or female, sports enthusiast or history buff, a lover of ideas or action, or if you thrive on suspense, this book will capture your mind as well as your heart. Daniel Brown literally puts you into the time and the places that he describes by providing vivid details about everything he introduces. You taste the dust, and falter in the winds, and pull your sweater tighter around you to protect yourself from the driving rain. As the characters experience hope, pride, frustration and elation, so will you. This is a book where, even though you most likely know the outcome (the author tells you from the beginning), you hold your breath as you turn every page. The book contains enough material to inspire a hundred great sermons, but it is not sermonic. This is a truly great story that will make you care a lot about something you may have very little knowledge about, and attach you to real people you have likely never heard of. You don't just read this book, you experience it, and as a result of that experience, like with all significant experiences, you emerge enriched, invigorated, and maybe, even a little bit wiser. When I was a little girl and responded to everything that I was told to do by asking "Why?" The answer was frequently, "Because." In the unlikely probability that you might respond to my recommendation that you read "The Boys in the Boat" by asking, "Why?" My answer would be the same: Simply, "Because." (I promise, you won't be sorry!)


  • (07/16/14): I could not put this book down. I thoroughly enjoyed it from the first page to the ending. I loved how the author weaved very difficult time periods of history together, to unveil truths and half-truths that shaped not only the protagonist and her family and her children, but generations of families. From early South Africa, to WWII, Israel (before and after WWII) to Lithuania before and after WWII. Most importantly, hope and love prevails for the protagonist's family, despite their many travails and traumas. I would read this book again, just to make sure I didn't miss a little detail, for the history it gives is educational, as well as the hope that it springs, even in the most wretched of us. A great novel, my favorite since joining BookBrowse.


  • (07/10/14): Despite the setting, or perhaps because of it, this story was gripping. Tom Hawkins needed to solve the murder and fast. All the characters were believable. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse for Tom something else would happen. Interesting to see who he could trust and how that changed with each turning of the pages. I would recommend this book to everyone!


  • (07/10/14): This is the first time I can remember actually putting down a book so I didn't finish it. I wanted to make it last as long as possible. I have not been this taken with a book in a long time. Well thought out, well written, great story, great twists.


  • (07/09/14): From the opening sentence, I could tell this was going to be a somewhat difficult read. In the fifties, mixed marriages were frowned on, not just black and white, but in this case Chinese and white. Marilyn had long wanted to be a doctor at a time when woman were expect4d to marry, keep house, have children and not much else. Then she meets James, A Chinese professor and finds out she is having his child, her plans change and they marry. A story about expectations, about fitting in or not, being different from your classmates, a look at racial and gender prejudice, and a sensitive look at a family in crisis. As James and Marilyn foster their hopes and dreams on their daughter Lydia, they are blind to what is really happening in their family. After her death, they search for answers and quietly truths and secrets are revealed. The reader hears the thoughts and feelings of each member of the family and what they find is emotionally shattering. They must now, as a family, pick up the pieces and start again. In the face of tragedy it is natural to dwell on what is lost, instead of looking forward to what is left. This is the decision this family must make, and the author did a fantastic job of showing us that what led them here and how they can move forward. A well written, poignant and stirring novel by a debut author. A quiet story told with grace and wisdom.


  • (07/08/14): I am envious of Adam Johnson's great gift. He has managed to convey the "hell" of North Korea without rubbing your face in it. While the characters suffer immensely, they are not to be pitied. Their ability to accept their plight without losing hope is so inspirational. I can't imagine how the author managed such a complicated plot line and kept the readers hanging on at the same time.


  • (07/07/14): The Dinner is the sixth novel by Dutch actor, television and radio producer, newspaper columnist and author, Herman Koch, and the first book to be translated into English. Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner at an expensive restaurant to discuss the management of the recent, shocking activities of their teenaged sons. Serge Lohman is the charismatic leader of an opposition party poised to take power at the next election, a few months away, making him a strong candidate for the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands. His younger brother, Paul, has little respect for his brother’s position and posturing, instead being focussed on the happiness of his own small family. The events of the evening are narrated by Paul and are interspersed with flashbacks to incidents that occurred months or years previously. Koch is a master craftsman when it comes to building his main character: Paul starts out as a reasonable, upstanding citizen, although his antagonism towards his brother is immediately apparent. As the story progresses, a different person begins to be revealed by glimpses, at first fleeting but gradually more sustained, and the reader starts to wonder about Paul’s reliability as a narrator. In fact, none of the characters is quite what they first appear to be. Koch uses his novel to comment on Dutch tourists, pretentious restaurants, politics, marriage, parental control and adolescent right to privacy, youth violence and the internet, eugenics, and the instinct to protect one’s young. Koch manages to include blackmail, a hereditary disorder, You Tube clips, quite a bit of violence, some hilarious descriptions of restaurant practices, a plot twist that will leave readers gasping and a chilling climax. This compelling, thought-provoking novel is flawlessly translated by Sam Garrett.


  • (06/30/14): As a 68 year old grandmother, I highly recommend this book. Picoult describes the feelings and anger of a child living his entire life with bullying, day in and day out and the rage it leads him to. The sex scene, though explicit, also tells a story of a vulnerable young girl, trying desperately to fit in with the popular crowd and the popular boyfriend, as well as his aggression, sexual violence and possessiveness over her. Both stories are vital to understanding what goes on in our young people's lives.


  • (07/10/14): This is the first time I can remember actually putting down a book so I didn't finish it. I wanted to make it last as long as possible. I have not been this taken with a book in a long time. Well thought out, well written, great story, great twists.

  • A Fort of Nine Towers
    An Afghan Family Story
    by Qais Akbar Omar

    (06/23/14): “I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them.” Qais Akbar Omar Qasis shares his unforgettable story of a simple loving family and a country in endless turmoil and conflict. His family is torn apart by the destruction war brings as well as its hideous atrocities committed against its own people based on religious and tribal differences. Afghanistan is a country misunderstood and its culture is suffering at the hands of discord. Qasis writes with honesty and openness. His story is affecting as well as inspirational serving an example of resilience. A family among many impacted by the endless and long suffering of a country at odds. A must read for all to become aware of what is happening in this country often under a veil of intrigue.


  • (06/21/14): I love when a novel takes me places and I feel as if I am in another world. The Gates of the Alamo did just that. A vast epic novel that is simply engrossing. I loved the character development and at no time during the reading of this novel did I not feel entertained. Very few novels make me feel as I am there. Lonesome Dove, The Killer Angels, and Ride the Wind are three others that come to mind that carry the reader away from modern times and place you in the moment.


  • (07/10/14): This is the first time I can remember actually putting down a book so I didn't finish it. I wanted to make it last as long as possible. I have not been this taken with a book in a long time. Well thought out, well written, great story, great twists.


  • (06/16/14): I had put off reading any of Lisa See's books for a long time. I love reading about the Chinese culture but did not like any of Amy Tan's books. But I finally gave in and started reading Snow Flower. I was immediately grabbed by the beautiful writing. I learned quite a bit from this book -- foot binding, nu shu, laotongs, sworn sisters, etc. I loved it and now can't wait to read "Shanghai Girls" and "China Doll".


  • (06/16/14): The Invention of Wings is the third novel by bestselling American author, Sue Monk Kidd. In it, Kidd takes the bare facts surrounding Charleston’s famous (and infamous) 19th century abolitionist/emancipist sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, and, as she puts it, grafts fiction onto truth to weave a fascinating and inspirational account of early abolitionism in America. Kidd employs two narrators: Sarah Grimke, and the slave she is given by her mother (and attempts to free) on her eleventh birthday, Hetty Handful Grimke. From this starting point, the contrast in their lives as they grow up is starkly illustrated. Even at the tender age of eleven, Sarah knew slavery was wrong, but it was years later before she “…saw then what I hadn’t seen before, that I was very good at despising slavery in the abstract, in the removed and anonymous masses, but in the concrete, intimate flesh of the girl beside me, I’d lost the ability to be repulsed by it. I’d grown comfortable with the particulars of evil. There’s a frightful muteness that dwells at the center of all unspeakable things, and I had found my way into it.” Handful’s narration consistently brings things into perspective: “White folks think you care about everything in the world that happens to them, every time they stub their toe.” Kidd populates her novel with character both real and fictitious: Denmark Vesey, charismatic and seditious; Charlotte, loving and determined; Mary, cruel and unpredictable. Sewing and quilts, the spirit tree, stuttering, blackbirds and Quakers all have their part to play. Through all that life throws at them, the women somehow remain friends. Handful often has a perceptive take on the situation: “She was trapped same as me, but she was trapped by her mind, by the minds of people around her, not by the law……I tried to tell her that. I said, ‘my body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.’” and “This ain’t the same Sarah who left here. She had a firm look in her eye and her voice didn’t dither and hesitate like it used to. She’d been boiled down to a good, strong broth.” Kidd treats the reader to some marvellously descriptive prose: “Mother’s letter in response arrived in September. Her small, tight scrawl was thick with fury and ink.” and “It was the time of year when migrating crows wheeled across the sky, thunderous flocks that moved like a single veil, and I heard them, out there in the wild chirruping air. Turning to the window, I watched the birds fill the sky before disappearing, and when the air was still again, I watched the empty place where they had been” are just two examples. A powerful and moving novel.


  • (06/11/14): This was my first read from this author and I was really impressed. I couldn't put the book down once I got a feel for Ken's writing style. The characters are believable, and the twist and turns in this book are edge of your seat thrilling. I didn't think I would enjoy a book about the Resistance so much, but I was honestly disappointed when I finished the book because the story was over. Great book, one of the best I have ever read.

  • Half the Sky
    Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
    by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

    (06/11/14): I had to read this book for my anthropology class, and it seems like a good read at first. Though as you read you see some inconsistencies, such as the the girl from Nepal not considered as a trafficked victim cause she didn't cross the border, when in the introduction to her story it was said that she was kidnapped from her mother in nepal. Then the way the one of the authors talked to and indian official and a Chinese official. One any official of any nation is not allowed to say such things that he had written in the book. Two if u talk to an official like that u can get jailed. Many of the claims in this book seem to based on personal bias and have no support. One claim is that most chinese prostitutes are self made and were not forced. Its very hard to believe that since China has a scarcity of women now and there's bride kidnapping and a high rate of prostitution to in a way tame men's sexual needs, since they can't get any, because of the low female count. The authors also disregard the trafficking that's happening in the us too, claiming that there's pretty much none. I find this book to be very good in learning the struggles and the way of life of a victi. But tasteless and biased in the way the authors showed the cultures around the world


  • (06/06/14): It's 1938 in San Francisco, and Helen, Grace and ruby, three women from very different backgrounds meet while they are performing in the glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. The girls become very good friends. When their dark secrets are revealed, their friendship stumble, but it finds it footing again and they keep dancing. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, everything changes. The story alternates between their voice developing a multi-layered richness as it progresses. The characters are richly portrayed, although I had trouble differentiating who was speaking at certain times. It is a hard book to put down. China Dolls mines a fascinating part of our cultural history. Lisa See's prose is shining as she takes us through an unforgettable journey of 50 years. I was impressed by the vast amount of research that went into the book.


  • (06/06/14): When I first started this book I had some trouble getting into it. What kept me reading were the wonderful words and beautiful descriptions of scenery and wildlife and the compelling, but complicated persona that is the character Jim Stegner. This is a novel of contrasts, dark and gritty alongside beauty and peace. Jim is a haunted man, a man at war, not in some other country, but within his own self. He seeks peace in painting and fly fishing and there are many descriptions of both. He is haunted by his Mother's death when he was a teenager and before he had a chance to tell her he loved her and by his fifteen yr.old daughters murder. Now a painter whose paintings sell quite well, he is living the life of a recluse in Colorado. He paints and fished to forget and also to remember. He is a smart man, one who reads novels and quotes from his favorite poets. Yet within his psyche lives darkness and as once before an incident for which he served jail time, a situation will find him again losing control. Will the darkness once again control his life, or will he find peace and acceptance within himself? As the tension mounts and the new trouble threatens his peace, freedom and life, his paintings get better and better, come faster and faster. This will confront him with another moral dilemma. Told in a first person narrative, this is an amazing book about a man's quest for redemption. Using nature and painting to exercise his demons, a man wanting peace but his very nature makes this less than impossible. A book to be patient with and to feel the emotional impact of this character. He could be anyone of us.

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