Reviews by Diane S.

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Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories
by Karen Russell
Vampires in the Lemon Grove (2/17/2013)
Truly imaginative and so very well written. Some though were a little creepy even for me. Loved the first story, which is very unusual for me because even the word vampire will set me running, but in this case it did not. Open minded a bit, gave it a chance and was presently surprised. Must be the lemons. I would like to get a glimpse into this author's mind, must be such an interesting place. The writing is spectacular, the stories a little out there but they are different.
Out of The Easy
by Ruta Sepetys
Out of the Easy (2/12/2013)
The strength in Sepetys language is in her character development and that her characters are for the most part extremely likable. The French Quarter in the 1950,s and a story based on an actual madame, in fact the house she actually lived in is part of this book. Liked the atmosphere of this story and really like the fact that she has such strong young females in unusual circumstances as the main focus in both her books. This one is part mystery, part love story, part quest and the struggle in succeeding despite the cards one is dealt in life. Also a big part of this book is that family are those who care about you, not necessarily those who are related to one by blood. Wonder what this author will tackle next.
Schroder
by Amity Gaige
Schroder (2/10/2013)
Although this sounds like a simple tale, a father kidnapping his eight yr. old daughter, (not a spoiler as it clearly states this in the book description), this novel is anything but simple. When we hear on the news that a father has kidnapped one of his children, our first thought is to automatically condemn the father, feel sympathy with the mother. The main character in this book is compelling, his young daughter advanced for her age and absolutely charming. The plot unfolds in multiple layers, the father's past, his love for his wife and daughter, his confusion and his lies. The prose is simple but elegant, the book very readable, I found it so much so that I actually checked out one of her previous books when I was half finished with this one. If this book showed me anything it is that often my rush to judgement is very wrong, and reminds me that there are always more sides to the story than is apparent. By the end of the book I was absolutely heartbroken.
We Live in Water: Stories
by Jess Walter
We live in water (2/1/2013)
I loved this grouping of short stories. Not really sure why, his prose is not beautiful but rather plain, but boy can he put stories together. Absolutely loved that he took people that we tend to overlook and often condemn, the addicts, the prostitutes, the thieves, many of life's dispossessed people and he gave them a human face. Found a tiny chink of goodness that makes one want to take another look and keep reading to find out where he is going next. My two favorites were actually the first two stories but I also enjoyed his view of post apocalyptic fiction, which was actually a longer story. Will definitely read more from this author.
News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories
by Jennifer Haigh
News from Heaven (1/27/2013)
These are blue collared short stories, the lives of working men and woman, all set in the mining town of Bakerton. It is helpful but not necessary to have read book:Baker Towers|72876, many of the characters are here in these short stories. Stories that span the time frame of the beginning of the mines operations. the dying of the mines and the slow death of a town, which at one time had employed over nine-hundred men. It is the story of those who went away, some successful, others who were not and came back. A nostalgic look at a community long gone, who once lived in company housing and shopped in company stores. A community who married in VFW halls, and helped each other out, a community that knew each others neighbors, which was sometimes good and sometimes not. I loved this grouping of stories, they are real, they have life.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis
Twelve Tribes (1/26/2013)
The book opens with a heart rendering tragedy which quickly captures the reader's interest. The great migration, the early 1900's and a mother with her three daughters move to Philadelphia to escape the Jim Crow south. Things do not work out as planned, Hattie has a hard life but does manage to keep nine children alive with very little help. Hattie is a formidable character, she has a strength and resiliency that keeps her going, but this does not mean she does not carry hurts and scars. The structure of this novel was a bit difficult for me to get used to at first. It is divided and narrated in chapters by some of her children, her husband and Hattie herself. The ones narrated by Hattie were my favorite. This novel follows Hattie and her children for over a decade, and by the end of the book I really felt for Hattie and love the fact that even at the end of the book she never gives up hope. A well written first novel, told in very matter of fact prose, in somewhat of a different narrative style. Well worth reading.
Me Before You: A Novel
by Jojo Moyes
Me before you (1/22/2013)
Finishing this book on the 40th anniversary of the passing of Roe vs. Wade almost seems ironic. The heart of this novel also concerns a pressing moral issue, one I will not comment on nor state which side of the debate I would be on. Louisa and Will Traynor are memorable characters, fully developed wonderful characters dealing with things I hope I never have to. This type of book can easily verge on the maudlin and over dramatic and it is to this author s credit that it did neither. Their was humor, their was love, and almost every other emotion one could imagine. I was emotionally involved, though I could see both side of the issue and I am still not sure which side I would have fallen on. This was in all ways a wonderful book, a heartfelt and heartbreaking book, a book that should be read.
Above All Things
by Tanis Rideout
Above all things (1/21/2013)
I have read non fiction accounts of George Mallory and his attempts to climb Mt. Everest so I was already familiar with a basic knowledge of his story. Alternating chapters between the expedition and George's young wife at home with her three children added an additional element to the story. There were times when I was getting a little frustrated with the slow pace at various times in the novel, but than things would pick up and become interesting again. The author's strength in writing was most ably displayed in the scenes of the deprivations that the men experienced during the climb. I also enjoyed reading about how his wife was coping at home. I would have given this novel a higher rating except that I found a few historical inconsistencies that I could not overlook. This book will appeal to those who find adventure stories fascinating or to those who have an interest in climbing.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
Behind the Beautiful Forevers (1/4/2013)
It is very helpful if the reader reads the author's notes at the back of the book before reading the book. I think if I had done that it would have changed how I felt as I was reading the book. I really learned quite a bit from this book, things I never knew such as that 1/3rd of the impoverished live in India, this despite the fact that India is second in economic growth behind China. The slum that the author writes about is at the crossroads between the old India and the new India, virtually across the road from the airport. Three hundred and some shacks house over three thousand system, and I was amazed to learn that even here there is a caste system. I love that the author followed specific characters living here and while their living conditions are not what we would consider at all ideal, they still live with the hope that someday they can rise above their circumstances and be able to leave slum living. Actually one of the characters the author follows is the slums fist college graduate. The narrative style of writing makes this a very easy book to read, not the content of course which at times was appalling and at times horribly sad. The prose is simple and agile, the characters of many different types, and I did find myself rooting for a few that became my favorites. I don't think anyone reading this will be disappointed, though as with all books some will like it more than others. I am finding as I read these different books, non fiction and historical fiction, that my world view has increased while globally getting smaller.
The Round House: A Novel
by Louise Erdrich
The Round House (1/1/2013)
This story could be read for so many different themes, coming of age story, Indian culture, family, crimes and many more but no matter why one is reading this the story is compelling. Erdrich has a knack of telling stories, with vivid descriptions and wonderfully rounded characters. Her prose is both authentic and brutally honest at times. A horrid crime against a woman on the Ojibwa reservation in North Dakota, sets in motion a moral dilemma and causes a family including a thirteen yr. old boy to age prematurely. Yet her characters as always show determination and resilience, a hope that all will eventually change and turn out well. One of the things that I like most about her books are the way she always mentions someone who has been a prominent characters in one of her previous novels. That this book also points out the many ways the American Indian has been let down, the unfairness of the legal system and ways they can hopefully be fixed. For me this book was amazing, as usual for this writer.
The Dinner
by Herman Koch
The Dinner (12/26/2012)
First book that I have rated so highly even though I did not like any of the characters. This is a book of moral complexity narrated by an unreliable narrator, who at first seems to take the politeness and political correctness out of all conversations at dinner. He does this basically inside himself, not outside where any can hear but he is extremely skeptical of almost everything. From the beginning the reader knows this is not going to be a lighthearted dinner between siblings, the tension is felt almost immediately, but it is very hard to guess where exactly this will lead. So despite the fact that I did not like any of these people I still wanted to keep reading to find out what was going on. Psychological suspense for sure and I now know what Maureen's whoa meant. ARC from publisher.
The Painted Girls
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Painted Girls (12/19/2012)
Paris in 1873, but not the beautiful Paris filled with beautiful people, but the people trying to survive. The washerwomen, those who take in sewing, those who are hungry and those who will do anything to feed their families. Three sisters, a mother addicted to absinthe, and the girls using ballet as a means to make a little money and hopefully a way to better themselves. This was the part of the novel I liked best, the way the sisters tried to take care of each other. Marie, the middle girl, end up modeling for Degas, makes a little extra money and makes some very bad decisions. The sights, sounds and yes even the squalor of Paris are wonderfully emoted by the author. Degas, the arts, ballet, theater are all added bonuses. The tone is dark, this is the darkside of the glamour we think of when we think of dance,theater and art. There is a murder trial, many societal changes and we get a front row seat while reading this atmospheric novel. ARC from publisher.
The Malice of Fortune
by Michael Ennis
Malice of Fortune (12/6/2012)
Set in one of my favorite periods in history, the Renaissance, Ennis delivers a fascinating story. Full of historical figures, Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and the corruptible Borgia, the reader is treated to a novel that fully immerses them in this time period; the sights, sounds and full political machinations. What a fascinating time this was; the church all powerful and trying to stay that way, some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers are present and change is everywhere. This was a fantastic novel, very detailed and full of depth. Appreciated the afterword where much is explained. Highly recommend for historical fiction fans.
Open Heart
by Elie Wiesel
Open Heart (12/4/2012)
My daughter recently saw Elie Wiesel at the Civic Opera house in Chicago and said she cried through the whole thing. That he was just so honest, caring and sweet. This book definitely reflects all of that, his honesty shows through, his love for his son and wife, his faith and the coming to terms with his past. Facing death impels one to re-examine everything in their lives. He remembers his past, his father, all the trials he and his wife had faced together and knows their are still things he wants to do, while at the same time wondering if he has done enough. Short little book that says much.
The Imposter Bride
by Nancy Richler
The Imposter Bride (12/4/2012)
The title lends one to believe that this is a romance story, but I was very glad it was not. I found the closeness of the Canadian Jewish fascinating and felt that this author was at her best in her descriptive imagery. This is a novel about the after effects of war, relationships and new identities. Many of the characters were fascinating, Sol and Elka, Ida and Nathan himself. This was a pretty solid novel for lovers of historical fiction as well as those who just enjoy stories about family relationships.
The Aviator's Wife
by Melanie Benjamin
The Aviator's wife (11/28/2012)
Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne are the subject of this new novel by Benjamin. Have to say that she most definitely did not portray Charles in a positive light, in fact he was not a very nice man at all. Very full of himself and his fame. Anne, had always been the good and responsible daughter, when Charles asks her to marry him she thinks she is the luckiest person alive. I tried to remind myself that back then women were subject to the wants of their husbands and divorce in the upper circles was not readily accepted. Despite this I did not much like Anne either, though I did feel sorry for her. The kidnapping of her son was beyond horrific and the bungling of this situation by her husband even worse still. Despite that they go on to have a marriage and more children. The fact that she has made me feel all this while reading this book is to the author's credit. I do think in places the story dragged a bit but all in all this was an interesting story on the life of two famous and interesting people. Love that Benjamin brings to light characters not over written in history, by this I mean Anne not Charles. Looking forward to seeing what this author will tackle next. ARC by publisher.
The Art Forger
by B A. Shapiro
The Art Forger (11/27/2012)
This book is less a mystery, even though it is about the Gardiner museum heist, and more a journey through the art world. Buying, selling, reproducing, copying and acquiring, all of which are portrayed in this novel. A;though everything in the book is not historically accurate, as the author herself agrees, it is well researched as far as painters and techniques are concerned. Actually three different threads combine to feature each different part of the story. Liked meeting Degas, if only in this book as well as Gardner, Henry James and other notables. Art lovers will find much to like in this well written book and immerse themselves in the love and alternately greed that true art collectors display in their pursuit of famous art works. My favorite part was actually the character of Claire, she was so flawed but wanting to do right, yet always talking herself into things for various reasons, like many of us do.. Didn't like either of the two men she loved, neither of them had any admirable qualities that I could see. Will look forward to seeing what this new author writes next.
Married Love: And Other Stories
by Tessa Hadley
Married love (11/21/2012)
These are very literary stories, and Hadley does a great job of noticing even the minutiae in the lives of her characters. She brings the readers attention to their surroundings and follows their lives longer than many short story writers do. Of course I had favorites and a few I could not relate to, but as a whole I enjoyed these stories of relationships god and bad.
The Middlesteins
by Jami Attenberg
The Middlesteins (11/14/2012)
Food, everything it can and does mean to a person, from comfort, love, relaxation, well being, to in the case of this novel, a cause of death. The family in this novel is so very real and for all appearance not very likable. Yet beneath the core they are all so wanting, insecure and so very real, actually like most of us and probably our families. Narrated bu different characters, sometimes the reader learns back stories, oftentimes the future, but will it be real and the parts about Edie always have the subtitle of her weight. You see, Edie cannot stop, or maybe does not want to stop eating. Different family members react in different ways, her husband of forty years leaves her at last, but even that does not stop her quest for more and more food. The husbands struggle to reenter the dating scene, her twin grandchildren and their quest to learn a dance to perform for their important Jewish coming of age ceremony, her daughter in aw and daughter who feel that maybe it might be part of their responsibility to stop her eating. Well told, in a genuine voice, yet it takes looking beyond the top layers to get the true impact of this novel.
The Testament of Mary
by Colm Toibin
The Testament (11/12/2012)
First of course one has to suspend their belief and faith (if so inclined) and once that happens it is so incredibly easy to buy into this book. The writing is fantastic, the thoughts and feeling of Mary, the same as mother's everywhere. Looking back at when he was younger and needed her, her feelings of sadness as he left home, and lamenting the fact that he will not listen to her, not even to sane his life. Disliking his choice of friends and their influence over him .Actually quite amazing all that this little book encompasses. The poignancy and heartbreak of his crucifixion. But it is a line, one simple line at the end of the book that made this whole book a wonder to me. Not going to repeat it because I don't want to ruin it for other readers, if it even has the same impact for them. One of the quotes on the back of this book called it audacious, and I think that is a very apt description.

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