Reviews by Diane S.

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The Underside of Joy: A Novel
by Sere Prince Halverson
The Underside of Joy (1/31/2012)
This book is just so real, at least for the most part. It is wonderfully written, alternately heart warming and heartbreaking. Tackles the timely subject of stepmothers and blended families, and how to be fair to all involved. Deals with grief, the secrets in a relationship and how past events can influence our present actions. Loved all the characters. If I have one little complaint, I thought the ending was a little to cliche, to pat, but it didn't keep me from enjoying the book.
The World We Found: A Novel
by Thrity Umrigar
The World We Found (1/27/2012)
What a terrifically engaging read. Covers so many different aspects of life, like friendship, political activism, how and why people change, how they lie to themselves to stay with something that is not working. This book could have easily been maudlin and sad, concerning a group of four women who had been great friends and had drifted apart yet come together again when one falls ill, but instead it is a poignant and interesting story. Taught me things I didn't know, about Bombay, India and the 1993 riots between the Hindus and the Muslims, about the Indian culture and how important the little things in life are. Now I need to go back and read previous books by this author because her writing has quite won me over.
The Healing: A Novel
by Jonathan Odell
The Healing by Jonathan Odell (1/20/2012)
What an amazing and magical read. I absolutely loved it and so did not want it to end. It is the eve of the Civil War, on a large plantation in Mississippi and the master pays a unprecedented sum of money for a woman slave said to be a healer. Things are not going well on the plantation, slaves are dying and the mistress is going insane after the death of her daughter. Enters Polly Shine, a character I will never forget. I read an interview by this author and he includes much in his afterword, on how he felt after being raised in white man's Mississippi he felt he was missing a great part of his history, he actually talked to former midwives and other blacks raised in that era for the information in his novel. Comparing it to The Help is doing this book a disservice, because though I did like that book, this book immerses the reader in the plantation system, it is told from the viewpoint of Polly Shine and Granada, a young house raised slave that she takes to train, because Polly Shine feels that she has the same gift as herself. He explains exactly what freedom meant to the slaves and how some were not able to move on. It is a fascinating, historical read and I highly recommend it.
The Whisperer
by Donato Carrisi
The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi (1/11/2012)
Creepy, dark, at times I felt the evil literally waft off the pages. Different characters, major twists, I honestly never saw them coming. Don't know where this novel takes place, but it doesn't seem to matter as if the author is telling the reader that the place doesn't really matter and that this type of evil exists everywhere and anywhere. Hopefully there will be a sequel.
The Odds: A Love Story
by Stewart O'Nan
The Odds by Stewart O'Nan (1/6/2012)
O'Nan has a singular knack of making the commonplace and mundane of vast interest and importance. Loved the odds statistics he gave at the start of each chapter. The hidden meanings he derives from everyday events, especially those that occur within a long marriage where each character has his or her own secrets, longings and expectations. Another very good read from this author.
The Lost Saints of Tennessee: A Novel
by Amy Franklin-Willis
The Lost Saints of Tennessee (12/27/2011)
This was an extremely bittersweet but memorable book. I became emotionally involved with this family, felt like I lived in this small town in Tennessee, suffered with them through their sorrows, and cheered for them when things went well. Felt so bad for Zeke, Carter and their mom, the choices they had to make, wished they could forgive each other and was happy when Zeke could finally forgive himself and learn to love again. Wonderfully written, heartfelt southern novel. Zeke and Carter are two characters I don't think I will ever forget.
Island of Wings: A Novel
by Karin Altenberg
Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (12/22/2011)
I had to give this book the highest rating because it is not very often one finds a writer who can paint pictures and emotions with words. In taking the real life minister Neal and his wife Lizzie and creating a fictionalized account of their lives on St. Kilda in the 1830's Altenberg has given the reader a novel that is historically interesting and emotionally rich. The isolation as well as the beautiful setting is flawlessly described so that the reader feels that they are actually on these islands as this story enfolds. Wonderful book! ARC provided by Net Galley.
The Invisible Ones: A Novel
by Stef Penney
The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney (12/18/2011)
This isn't a book that can be rushed through, but a book to slowly savor. Told in alternate chapters by two different narrators, one is a gypsy private detective hired to look for a missing person and the other is a thirteen year old boy who lives with the traveling gypsy family the girl had married in to.
As the book progresses layers are slowly peeled away and more is revealed about the girl, the gypsy culture and family and the narrators personalities and lives. The ending is a stunning reveal. Loved it! ARC provided by publisher.
Down the Darkest Road: Oak Knoll Series
by Tami Hoag
Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag (12/16/2011)
What would you do if your daughter had been missing for three years, the police think they know who did it but have no proof. The man is harassing you and the police don't believe you and soon they find you intrusive and hysterical? In her third Oak Knoll thriller, Hoag does a wonderful job portraying a woman at the end of her rope consumed by frustration and guilt, up against pure evil. She soon runs into Vince Leon, and Annie who do believe her and using the new techniques in forensics help her to find the answers she needs for closure. Top notch suspense with enough twists to keep thriller fans asking for more. This was an ARC provided by Net Galley.
The Bungalow: A Novel
by Sarah Jio
The Bungalow bu Sarah Jio (12/14/2011)
This is a nostalgic read with a lush tropical setting. In 1942 woman were merely expected to marry well, the war is a prominent factor in most lives and friendships mean everything. There is some suspense but most of the book focuses on the changes war, love and secrets have on a friendship. Nice easy read for those who liked her Violets of March and the books of Kristin Hannah and Luanne Rice.
Until Thy Wrath Be Past
by Asa Larsson
Until thy wrath be passed by Asa Larrson (12/12/2011)
More sentimental than most Nordic mysteries, yet I liked it. The characters were very different, the storyline with some history thrown in was great, Well written and definitely held my attention until the very end. The partial narration by the female murder victim was hard for me to get used to at first but even that worked in the books favor. Looking forward to the next in this series.
A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (12/4/2011)
What an absolutely incredible and heartfelt book. Connor and his monster are unforgettable. Highly recommend. Although this is classified as YA, all ages will find this book and Connor endearing.
Accidents of Providence
by Stacia Brown
Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown (12/1/2011)
It is the middle of the 1600's, and in Cromwell's Puritan England a law has been passed to prevent the Destroying and murdering of the children of unmarried woman. I have long been fascinated with the Puritans, their strange relationship with God, where everything pleasurable is a considered a sin, and woman on the fringes are looked on with suspicion. The character of Rachel, is one that will stay with me for a long time, she is so multifaceted and yet so human. It is not until the very end that we find out what happened to her child, among many twists and turns, an investigation and a trial. This book is very well researched, the writing very emotional and the politics of the day, the movement of the Levelers, adding much to the story line. Rachel's plight will touch the other characters in the book, changing many, in good and bad ways. As the investigator Bartwain comments while observing Rachel's trial, "We have decapitated our king and disbanded our House of Lords, and now there is no one left to restore reason and line and order." Life was extremely hard for all, but woman were so harshly judged and often had no recourse.
A Burial at Sea: A Charles Lenox Mystery
by Charles Finch
A burial at Sea by Charles Finch (11/30/2011)
Once again Charles Lennox finds himself solving a murder, or rather two murders. This time on the ship Lucy, en-route to Egypt. Love these atmospheric understated mysteries and in this one we learn quite a bit about the lives of sailors, the dangers and the camaraderie as well as the political dangers of the time. Mid 1870's and relations were extremely stressful between France and England with both sides spying on the other and it is this time period that is covered in this entertaining mystery.
Dead Man's Grip: A Detective Superintendent Roy Grace Novel
by Peter James
Dead Man's Grip by Peter James (11/17/2011)
Received this as a first read giveaway. I have read all the Roy Grace books and this one kept to the high standard set by his previous books. An accident involving a car, a truck and a white van that drives away after hitting a killing a cyclist sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Grace and his team investigating. Also set backs in his private life keep the novel swiftly moving. A fantastic twist at the end just add to this very good read.
Tides of War: A Novel
by Stella Tillyard
Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (11/4/2011)
I did the enjoy the historical portion of this novel having little knowledge on the Peninsular War and the war scenes are very powerful. Her depiction of the cruel Wellington was enlightening and I applaud the author for portraying the lives of the women left behind while all the men are off fighting. That said I found it at times difficult to keep track of all the characters and all the different story lines, I think there were at least seven, and in the conversations between the characters seemed forced and oftentimes stilted and awkward. I did like that she included a cast of characters in the back of the book.
The Marriage Plot: A Novel
by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (10/24/2011)
Didn't like this nearly as much as I thought I would. There was quite a lot of talking about literature and theory as well as criticism so one would think I would devour it. This was so not the case, it was rather dry and the characters were not very likable and did an awful lot of whining. So tired of the elusive Leonard and his deep intellectual thoughts and the pining, whining Madeline.
The Dovekeepers: A Novel
by Alice Hoffman
The DoveKeepers by Alice Hoffman (10/19/2011)
What an amazingly powerful novel about the fall of Jerusalem and Masada. This took Hoffman five years to write and it is said to be her masterpiece, which for me it was. Four women of uncommon strength of will, magic , love and their quest for survival. Her writing is flawless, one feels the barrenness and the struggle for life in the dessert, their torment as they watch their family members taken from them, yet find the will to go on. Trying to keep their faith in God intact and find a way to retain something of themselves and a future for their children. Wonderful!
A Trick of the Light: Armand Gamache Series #7
by Louise Penny
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (9/22/2011)
Three Pines is a village in Canada that can not be found n any map, yet reading her mysteries is like coming home and revisiting friends you have not seen for a while. Penny mixes regular people and their human failings with humor, love and insight. Her story lines explore the mystery needing to be solved with psychological insights into their motives and personalities. Just love her writing.
The Submission: A Novel
by Amy Waldman
The Submission by Amy Waldman (9/12/2011)
I recently saw the movie The Help and just finished reading The Dry Grass of August and was feeling very relieved that the 50's and the KKK were over. Than I read this book and realized that fear and hatred is never over. It just changes focus. A jury is picked to vote on anonymous entries for a 9/11 monument, a winner is chosen but before it is announced it is discovered that the architect is a Muslim. This well written book portrays a society that is not willing to let go of the hatred and controversy that having the first name of Mohammed entails.

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