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Reviews by Julie M. (Golden Valley, MN)

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Bad Animals: A Novel
by Sarah Braunstein
Who are these people? (1/16/2024)
I didn't care for this book. I thought the characters weren't relatable at all and very unlikeable. The disgraced Maeve started out strong, but she deteriorated fast. Also I thought the ending was unbelievable.
Becoming Madam Secretary
by Stephanie Dray
Historical Fiction (11/16/2023)
I enjoyed this book. This book will appeal to fans of Marie Benedict or anyone who loves historical fiction about strong women.
The Little Italian Hotel: A Novel
by Phaedra Patrick
Hallmark Movie, Anyone? (4/12/2023)
Reminded me of a Hallmark movie and I don't mean that as a bad thing because who doesn't love a Hallmark movie night once in awhile? Sweet characters in a predictable story, but I enjoyed it immensely.
The Lost English Girl
by Julia Kelly
World War II Story (3/6/2023)
This was a different take from the usual WWII books I've read. It focused on an evacuated little girl and her parents and how the war kept them apart. It may have been just a bit long, overall a good story.
Moonrise Over New Jessup
by Jamila Minnicks
Civil Rights/Relationships (12/30/2022)
This story brings us to the all black community of New Jessup which seems like Utopia at first, but we quickly find out that the civil rights movement is present here as well. It shows us the complexities of the civil rights movement where the tensions are not just black verses white, but even the residents of New Jessup cannot agree on whether to integrate or desegregate.
Will the people who love this town have to leave or will they find a way to remain where they have built their lives? Good character development and a good plot. Highly recommended!
The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise
by Colleen Oakley
Generational Sweet Read (10/21/2022)
I enjoyed this book as a sweet story of an older wiser woman taking a young woman under her wing and on an adventure. Both learn from each other. Pretty predictable, but a good vacation/escape read. Will appeal to young and old readers alike.
The Empire of Dirt: A Novel
by Francesca Manfredi
Lost in Translation? (6/21/2022)
I really struggled to grasp what the writer wanted me to get from this book. Maybe it had to do with the translation or perhaps just this reader's own shortcomings.
Peach Blossom Spring: A Novel
by Melissa Fu
Average Debut (3/10/2022)
I found the first third of this book good, but it was just an average war story. Henry's story drug on too long and I would have enjoyed knowing more about his daughter than him. His wife was also a minor character who could have been fleshed out more. With so many good books out there, I probably wouldn't have finished this one if I had not agreed to review it for this site.
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Umigar Does it Again (10/5/2021)
I forget what a great story teller Thrity Umigar is until I read her next book. She does not disappoint with Honor! This is a story of two women brought together by a tragedy. One living in present day India (Meena) and one who left as a young girl and returns as a journalist covering the crime (Smita). The compare and contrast of these two women is beautifully done and the memories of old India give way to hope for a new India.
Morningside Heights: A Novel
by Joshua Henkin
Morningside Heights (4/14/2021)
Spence Robin is a celebrated scholar who develops early onset Alzheimers disease. I felt this had the potential to explore what a family would go through in caring for a family member and their struggles which it did to a degree. The problem I had was that I didn't find any of these characters sympathetic at all. I didn't really care what happened to them and it made it difficult to finish it. I will not be recommending it to others.
The Widow Queen: The Bold #1
by Elzbieta Cherezinska
Historical Saga (12/4/2020)
In The Widow Queen we meet a Polish princess in the tenth century who is determined as a young girl to end the chain of women forgotten by history. It was refreshing to see a woman as the main character in a saga where the main players are usually men. Even though this book is just shy of 500 pages, I did not want it to end. Imagine how excited I was to find out at the end that there will be a sequel called The Last Crown. If readers enjoyed Ken Follet's Kingsbridge series or Linnea Hartsuyker's Viking series, The Widow Queen will not disappoint!
The Blind Light: A Novel
by Stuart Evers
A Blind Light (10/14/2020)
A Blind Light is a slow burn of a novel exploring the power struggles both in friendships and families. It follows two English friends and their families from the late 1930s into the twenty first century where the characters and their relationships were vividly drawn. This is not a "feel good" story and not everyone is cast in a favorable light which is what made it such a satisfying read for me.
Daughter of the Reich: A Novel
by Louise Fein
A German Perspective on WWII (3/24/2020)
There have been many stories about the atrocities of WWII, but Daughter of the Reich portrayed so vividly how one can be swayed by the opinions and beliefs of those you are close to or respect and how it happens so unconsciously. It takes a powerful experience to change one's beliefs, overcome fear and rejection in order to do the right thing. I think it's interesting that this is set in the 1930s leading up to WWII which makes it even more relevant as we see some of these same ideas and concepts starting to be leaking into the world again and how easy it could be with the technology we have to influence people without them even being aware until it's too late. Herta's experience could literally happen today as leader's use fear to manipulate people into being complacent.
The Prisoner's Wife
by Maggie Brookes
WWII Love Story (2/24/2020)
The Prisoner's Wife was a love story set against the harshness of WWII. The fact that the story was based on true events made it more enjoyable for me. I did feel that the "happy" ending was a bit too easy and that made it seem more like a fairy tale rather than how they were really reunited. Izabela was an amazing character choosing to pretend to be a male soldier in order to follow her new husband back to the labor camp. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical WWII fiction.
The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel
by Jennifer Rosner
A Mother's Love (12/10/2019)
Roza and her daughter Shira escape to the countryside when everyone they love is captured by the Germans. This is a moving story of their survival and the sacrifices a mother makes in the best interest of her child. I liked that the novel gave both Roza and Shira's perspectives. The ending may have seemed a bit contrived,but overall a worthwhile read especially if you like WWII historical fiction.
Women Rowing North: Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing As We Age
by Mary Pipher
Average Read (6/16/2019)
This was just average for me. There were some hard truths about getting older and some joys to be found as well. I didn't feel like it gave me a whole lot of new insights which I was hoping for from this author. Perhaps my expectations were too high.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
by Anissa Gray
Book Group Worthy (11/11/2018)
This novel explores what it means to be a mother, daughter, sister, or aunt. There are lots of issues to discuss here such as eating disorders, trust, love, forgiveness, abuse and second chances. I would suggest this book to any book group looking for a good discussion as there is some ambiguity as to what actually happened and why the characters act the way they do.
A Ladder to the Sky: A Novel
by John Boyne
New Favorite Author (9/6/2018)
This story may have been a bit predictable, but I couldn't stop reading it. Boyne develops his characters so well and tells an entertaining story to boot. He's becoming one of my favorite authors after only reading three of this books.
Thoroughly entertaining and fun read!
Our House
by Louise Candlish
Good Beach Read (6/20/2018)
I loved the premise of this story and did like the fact that we heard from both Bram and Fiona's perspectives. I thought the ending was a bit disappointing. I was wanting an unexpected twist which really never came.
The Devoted
by Blair Hurley
A Struggle (5/25/2018)
I struggled to finish this book and wanted to bail several times. I usually like a character trying to find their way and lots of family drama, but this one just didn't resonate with me.
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