Reviews by Diane S.

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Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel
by Carol Rifka Brunt
Tell the Wolves I'm Home (5/25/2012)
June is such a wonderful character, a 14 yr. old trying to find her way and secure in the knowledge that she is loved by her Uncle Finn who dies of aids. This is a thought-provoking book about the complicated relationships in a family and how little we actually know abut those who are closest to us. It is a moving story that slowly peels away the secret faces and inner thoughts of those we think we know. The many different ways people handle grief. It is a marvelous debut by a talented new author. It was really quite stunning.
Beneath the Shadows
by Sara Foster
Beneath the shadows (5/24/2012)
Richly atmospheric, gothic undertones, the setting of the desolation of Yorkshire moors all set the tone for this mystery by Foster. When I first started reading it I didn't know if I was reading a ghost story or a regular mystery that needed solving. There are plenty of ghosts and haunting mentioned for sure and really either of the scenarios would have played out and been very believable. Secrets from the past, the slow unveiling of clues, and very interesting and well rounded characters kept me reading late into the night. And let me tell you reading this at night when the house was so quiet really ratcheted up the creepiness factor. Looking forward to seeing what this author writes next.
The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir
by Wenguang Huang
The Little Red Guard (5/22/2012)
Wen is a very likable and easy to relate to narrator. Living with a grandmother, who is from a time when they still bound woman's feet, he and is family try to navigate between the old customs and the new ways after Mao's cultural revolution. Burial is no longer an option, as Mao only endorses cremation, a fact that his grandmother finds horrible. The old customs dictate that she must be buried next to her husband so that they may be reunited. At the age of nine, as the oldest grandson, Wen is designated the coffin keeper and this coffin and the money needed to be saved for his grandmother's funeral plays an adverse effect on their lives. His writing style is very easy to follow and life under Mao is conveyed in ways that affected his family. When Mao dies, things change again and it is really difficult to imagine what the Chinese people have gone through in a relatively short period of time. Really found this book very interesting and showing the impact on one family made it all the more striking.
Drowned: A Novel
by Therese Bohman
Drowned (5/19/2012)
This was a very different and hard to process psychological novel. I actually read part of it and put it aside for a few days just to think about what I was reading. The writing is lush,the prose wonderful the descriptions are very visual and sensory, at times beautiful. So on one hand is this beautiful background and on the other little random clues that point to madness and violence in a relationship. Yet these are easy to dismiss and the woman in this story does so, almost as it probably is in real like when one is trying to justify staying in an abusive relationship. It is not until there is a death that this woman begins to questions the things she has experienced and witnessed, begins to re-evaluate what she thinks she wants. This novel has almost a dreamlike quality to it and I really can not decide if it was brilliant or just pedantic, in the end I decided that regardless the prose is superb and I wanted to see where it ended. .
The Lola Quartet
by Emily St. John Mandel
The Lola Quartet (5/16/2012)
Four friends, and a girl who is the girlfriend of one and the stepsister of the only female, start a jazz quartet in highschool. It is their last concert and their last year in high school and they all have bright plans for the future. I can relate to this because I remember being in that position, didn't like jazz much, but music was always around. Thought at 17 I was all grown up and the future was limitless. A decade passes and the group is brought together again by a picture, find out their lives didn't turn out the way they thought and that things that seemed transparent back than, were different than they thought. As the story progresses from one to the other, secrets are uncovered and things that were kept hidden are brought to light. Loved this book, it was wonderfully written and I could really identify with the characters, maybe not their exact problems, but their hopes and dreams as a whole.
Dead Scared
by S. J. Bolton
Dead Scared (5/13/2012)
Young women students are committing suicide in horrible ways in Cambridge and in this second book of the series, Flint goes under cover as a college student, to observe and try to ferret out information. Bolton is a fantastic writer at setting up a creepy atmosphere with brilliant writing and descriptions and deep psychological underpinnings. Dark, creepy with many twists and turns, this series will definitely appeal to those who are fans of Chelsea Cain, Sophie Hannah and Gillian Flinn. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
True Sisters: A Novel
by Sandra Dallas
Sister Wives (5/6/2012)
It is 1856 and Mormons from all over converge on Iowa City to start their journey on foot to Salt Lake City and the "Promised Land.' Another emotional read for me, the hardships, deaths, these amazingly strong people, was just heartbreaking. I became so enmeshed in these characters lives, their sorrows and joys, their hopes and fears, that it was hard to turn away from this book. I am so glad that I did not live back then, don't think I could blindly follow my husband , nor put aside myself in blind obedience. I loved the women and the way they helped each other and each others families but I am not sure I will ever understand the Mormon faith.
The Song of Achilles: A Novel
by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles (5/6/2012)
Miller has managed with her easy way of storytelling to make the Trojan War, the mythology behind it as well as the friendship between Achilles and Petronus, accessible to all readers. Putting her own spin on how this friendship became so strong and how this strength led to Achilles downfall she has written a novel that has beautiful prose and poignant scenes that let the reader keep following to the very end. Brilliant and a very likable book.
The Lifeboat: A Novel
by Charlotte Rogan
The Lifeboat (5/4/2012)
Thirty nine people in one lifeboat adrift for many weeks waiting for rescue, some strong some not. Rogan takes what is a relatively simple plot line and than fills it with moral ambiguities and decisions that keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. Not sure what I think of the main character and narrator Grace, we are filled in on her back story, except to say that I felt she was definitely an opportunist, but above all she is a survivor, not only of the ship sinking and subsequent trial, but in life itself. The language used is insightful and well in keeping in what was going on in the lifeboat. Couldn't help wondering how I would have acted if found in the same situation as these people. This will make an interesting book for discussion groups as there are many different aspects of this novel that can be discussed.
A Land More Kind Than Home: A Novel
by Wiley Cash
A Land More Kind Than Home (5/1/2012)
My goodness but this book was fantastic! His use of local color and dialect, his descriptions, his use of the weather to ratchet up the tension, and all this from a first time author. The town midwife, Adelaide, who sees it as her job to protect the children, the sheriff, who has plenty of tragedy in his own life, and the two young boys, Jess, who is in third grade, and his older but mute brother, Christopher. When evil comes to their small Appalachian town in the form of itinerant preacher, Chambliss, events are set in motion that will leave few unscathed. Two boys would pay for their natural curiosity in a way that is out of all proportion to their misdeed. I knew this story drew me in when I found myself wanting to grab one of the characters and tell them not to do it. I felt the tension in the pit of my stomach, like the way one feels before the big drop on a roller coaster. Yet in ends in a note of hope and a looking forward to that I would not have thought possible. Absolutely gripping!
Blue Asylum: A Novel
by Kathy Hepinstall
Blue Asylum (4/28/2012)
Set during the civil war, the wife of a slave owning plantation, is sentenced to the lunatic asylum on Sibella Island. There she meets many different characters, some sane some not, and Ambrose who is scarred by his own actions in the war. This novel is a quiet novel, almost ethereal in tone, because the reader learns what sent these people here in flashback and conversations from the characters instead of directly from the acts. Loved the doctor's son, a young boy who fears he himself in insane. The descriptions of the water, sea life and the island are beautifully rendered. As for the name Blue in the title, it does have meaning but you will have to read the book to find out what it is.
Perla
by Carolina De Robertis
Perla (4/22/2012)
This is a novel about Argentina, about the men and women who "disappeared"under their dictatorship and about the mothers and grandmothers who protested in the square demanding the return of their son, daughters and grandchildren. It is a novel about a young woman named Perla, the secrets in her house and the truths she does not want to face. I was first drawn to this novel by the cover and the title, before I even knew what this book was about. The prose is elegant and beautiful, even when at times the subject matter is horrific. The use of magic realism is seamless and blended into the novel in such a cohesive way I can't imagine the story without it. It is a novel where one savors the words, rereads and envies the writer's abilities. By the time I came to the story's end I found I was shivering. Absolutely astounding telling of a country's history and a young woman's search for herself.
The Truth of All Things: A Novel
by Kieran Shields
The Truth of All Things (4/21/2012)
Definitely held my interest, since I haven't stopped reading it since I picked it up. Set in 1892, in Portland, a prostitute is murdered and a newly appointed detective and a half Abenaki Indian profiler must team together to solve the case. New investigative techniques and a duo that slightly resemble Holmes and Watson, the Salem Witch hunts and an uncanny ability to make the reader actually feel that they are in this time period mark this series debut by a new author, nothing short of fascinating. Can't wait to see what this author comes up with next. Reminds me a little of the atmospheric novels of Cale Carr.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
Quiet: (4/16/2012)
What a fascinating and well written study on the differences between introverts and extroverts and what goes in to making them that way. I believe anyone managing people in any capacity should read this book as well as parents who are raising children, wondering why they are so different. Highly informative and the examples used are many well known people. I was surprised by quite a few that I thought were extroverts, were not and vice versa.
The Cove: A Novel
by Ron Rash
The Cove (4/16/2012)
There is no doubt that the strength of Ron Rash's writing lies in his use of regional color, his descriptions of the Appalachians are lush and elegant, just beautiful. This books highlights the superstitions of the mountain people, the loneliness of being an outcast, and how even at the end of the war patriotic fever is stirred up. The power of secrets and the damages they do all set to beautiful scenery with a very melancholy tone. Definitely not your happy ever after book.
Trapeze
by Simon Mawer
Trapeze (4/16/2012)
Hitler invades France and France becomes a place of tension and horror, food shortages although good wine can still be had. We know many of the names of the villains of World War II but few of the heroes, especially the regular people who stepped outside of their comfort level in an attempt to change a small part of history. For me the strength of this novel is that it made me think. A young woman of a privileged background joins the WAAF when England declares war on Germany. She is picked to join a covert unit and the reader follows her through her training and her mission as a courier in France. Paris is extremely dangerous and when she is sent there things start to go terribly wrong. This is the first novel I remember reading that features an ordinary person, who chooses to take on a mission she never thought she would have to face and does it with an amazing strength of will. Suspenseful and engaging reading. ARC from NetGalley.
The Gods of Gotham: A Novel
by Lyndsay Faye
Gods of Gotham (4/9/2012)
This was a fantastic historical mystery taking place in 1852 New York City. The potato famine has caused hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants to flock to New York, causing untoward problems between the protestants and the newly arrived Catholics. The Five Point area, 6th district is a poor violent area full of corruption and crime. A new police force, the predecessor to the NYPD is formed, the men wearing the badge are called Copper stars by the residents. Add to that a murderer of children and two very different but likable brothers, one a police captain and one a regular copper.This author has such a command of time and place that I felt most of the time that I was actually back living in this place. Could feel the fear, tension and the hatred of the residents. Very well written and atmospherically dark, I really liked this novel and I believe, or rather hope that it is the start of a new series.
The Gilly Salt Sisters
by Tiffany Baker
The Gilly Salt Sisters (3/31/2012)
I really enjoyed this book. The Tuners and the Gillys, old family residents of Prospect, a village in Cape Cod. The Gillys belong to the salt, salt is the magical element in this book that ties everything together, and the Turners want to own the whole town. Loved the character development in this novel, how they change with the circumstances and the trails they face. Shifting alliances, secrets revealed and tragedies, kept me reading to the end. Love magical realism when it is done well and this one certainly was. Will appeal to fans of Alice Hoffman, Aimee Bender and Sarah Addison Allen. Now I need to read Baker's first book.
Running the Rift: A Novel
by Naomi Benaron
Running the Rift (3/15/2012)
I remember hearing on the news and reading in the papers about the genocide in Rawanda, the racial strife between the Hutus and the Tutsis, but I really didn't understand what was going on and I forgot a very important thing. Until this courageous book with the wonderful characters of Jean Patrick and his family. I didn't think about the people living there, normal families with dreams and hopes, living during this terrible time just trying to exist, find love and take care of their own. Thanks to Benaron, I understand so much more, but the story within the telling was very well written and heartfelt, though horrible at times. Books like this make one think and that is a very good thing. As I read this I felt, angry, sad, appalled and at times even joyful and a writer that makes one feel all that is truly unique.
Cloudland: A Crime Novel
by Joseph Olshan
Cloudland by Joseph Olshan (3/10/2012)
I love books that are based on true events, which apparently this one was. This was more of a character based mystery than a plot based one, so I felt the story moved slowly. Loved the details in the setting, really got the feeling of how it was to be one of only three people living on a deserted road. Liked the character of Catherine, enjoyed reading about her life, problems with her daughter and career. Thought his writing style was a little different but once I became used to that I just kept reading away. This book really held my interest and I look forward to what the author will be writing next. Also liked the title and felt the cover really fit with the story.

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