Reviews by Mary S. (Hilton Head Island, SC)

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Never Have I Ever: A Novel
by Joshilyn Jackson
Wow!! (4/22/2019)
What a page turner! Yes, the story was a bit scattered at times, but I kept turning the pages to find out what came next. The narrative was interesting and easy to follow and identify with at many levels. A good "read in three hours" on a rainy day book. Also a good book club book.
The Last Romantics
by Tara Conklin
Good Story, Poor Presentation (11/27/2018)
I really wanted to like this book, however, the author kept interrupting a good story with fifty year "anecdotes". She ruined a good read by inserting unnecessary narrative that added nothing to the book. Even worse, we never learned who the character of Luna, introduced in the first few pages, really was. The air raids, climate change references, etc. added nothing to this work of fiction. " A good book spoiled"..
American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt
by Stephanie Marie Thornton
Wonderful!! (11/22/2018)
I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time. Well written, faithful to history and a believable narrative voice as well. The author's love of history is quite apparent as she makes excellent use of the historical situations and persons from the time of 1902 through the death of Alice Roosevelt Longworth. The fiction part of the story is realistic while keeping true to the historical record. I recommend this book as a must read!
Red, White, Blue
by Lea Carpenter
Missed The Mark (7/14/2018)
This could have been a good book , but was spoiled by the meandering, disorganized writing style of the author. It was hard to distinguish the narrative voices of the characters and at times, the writing style completely changed making it difficult to discern the author's intent or message. Was this a story with it's roots in the CIA or the story of a woman's quest to come to a resolution of the grief accompanying her father's death? To add to the confusion, the author even throws in the question of belief in a God or Gods!!

Back to the writing board on this one.
The Summer Wives
by Beatriz Williams
Good Beach Read (4/13/2018)
As our Summer approaches, I urge you to put Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams in your beach tote as you go on your beach vacation. While the story is predictable in many ways, the author puts in enough twists and turns to keep the reader wondering about how the story ends. Anyone who has spent repetitive Summers at the beach can identify with the characters and the class structure of an island colony. A perfect book for a rainy beach day or just to wile away beautiful Summer day.
Other People's Houses
by Abbi Waxman
Spoiled by the ending (11/29/2017)
The first 300 pages of this book were entertaining-- not great but very readable. It was easy to identify with the characters and situation. However the author, while setting up a believable situation, did not seem to know how to bring the story to an end. All of the characters were tied together in a convenient, but not entirely in keeping with the story, conclusion. I was left wanting more and disappointed in the quick "let's try to tie it all together" method the author used. A good quick read on a rainy afternoon, but nothing more.
Next Year in Havana
by Chanel Cleeton
Excellent History of Cuban revolution (10/16/2017)
The author has succeeded beyond expectation in relating the historic events surrounding the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro's rise to power along side a present day love story. She interweaves love of country and heritage and personal love of another human being in a believable compelling manner. At times predictable, her writing style is easy to read and understand. A must read for those who are interested in learning about the political forces between Cuba and the United States today.
The Almost Sisters
by Joshilyn Jackson
Another "To Kill A Mockingbird" (5/19/2017)
When I first started to read this book I thought it was another chick lit, beach read book-- how wrong I was!! Read past the first 50 pages and you find yourself in the world of Southern culture, family secrets, and a cast of characters who keep surprising you at every turn. Having lived in the South for 14 years, I can identify with the mores and habits of a small town with a lot of history to be proud of and much to hide. Don't put the book down until the very end or you will miss the entire story and all of its twists and turns. The ending was truly unexpected!
The Book of Summer
by Michelle Gable
Predictable (3/12/2017)
I enjoyed this book for its light, entertaining quality. The characters were well described and easily recognizable in real life. I didn't give it a 5 star rating as the story line was a bit dull and the ending was very predictable. It is the type of book I would classify as "chick lit". Good to take on vacation or enjoy on a lazy weekend at home.
The Weight of Ink
by Rachel Kadish
Not Worth The Read (2/6/2017)
Seldom will I not complete reading a book, however after plowing through 200 pages of this 500 page book, I decided to put it aside. The subject matter of the book, history, feminism, Jewish culture is appealing. The story gets lost in the flowery prose, long sentences and poorly edited manuscript. Before publication, I strongly suggest that the book length be edited to about 300 pages and extraneous material that does nothing to add to the essence of the work be eliminated. Sorry for the harsh words, but I felt I must be honest-- not fit for publication in its current form.
Frank & Ava: In Love and War
by John Brady
Age of Hollywood Glamour and Stars (8/10/2015)
If you are not a movie buff or interested in the golden age of Hollywood movies and glamorous stars, this book is not for you. However, if you enjoy the old movie classics and bigger than life movie stars, you will thoroughly enjoy how the author captures the era and personalities of the 1940s and 1950s in Hollywood. While the story revolves around the relationship of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra, the author delves into the societal mores of the time and brings many of the Hollywood legends to life once more. The middle of the book gets a bit too involved in unnecessary detail, but for the most part, the book is a quick, enjoyable read. .
The Shore: A Novel
by Sara Taylor
Bits And Pieces (5/29/2015)
Yet another book I wanted to like but gave up about halfway through the book. I did finish it, but only to find out where the author was taking me. I realize that this was a pre-publication copy, but the editing was poor, the grammar awful, and sentence structure lacking in form and basic noun, verb, etc. I got the impression that the author couldn't decide if she was writing in the style of "To Kill A Mockingbird" or trying to imitate "The Hunger Games.". One of the worst pre-pubs I have ever received from Bookbrowse.
Between the Tides
by Susannah Marren
Mystery in Disguise (3/30/2015)
When I first started to read this book I thought it was going to be a "quasi" romantic novel. However, I was surprised it turned out to be an unsolved mystery. What happened so long ago? Who was the good guy? Who was the bad? What really happened at the end and why?
Although the lesser character development was somewhat lacking, the major characters kept one guessing until the end. The storyline was a bit jumbled, but on the whole, good for a first novel. Also would be good for a book club discussion group.
The Well
by Catherine Chanter
Dangers of Self-Importance (2/28/2015)
he Well is thought provoking and keeps one guessing even though after reading the first fifty pages, one can guess at the probable ending. What is less apparent is what, I feel, is the author's real intent-- the message of the dangers of believing that we are more important than what reality tells us. Listening to false affirmations and interpreting the world as we want to see it to be keeps us from reaching our full potential as members of a common humanity-- this is the real message of The Well. The author's writing style is beautiful and mesmerizing much as the world of cults that she writes about in the telling of the story.
Whispering Shadows
by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Misses The Mark (12/23/2014)
I really wanted to give this book a 5 star review-- the descriptions of Hong Kong and environs, the history of contemporary China showed an in depth knowledge of the story's setting. However, the story itself fell apart half way through the book. It was as if the author suddenly wanted to tell more about the character's motivation to move the story forward. In doing so, he dropped the story line, explained the rationale of a character's behavior, then back to the story. The result of this style of writing was confusing and difficult to follow. Good book, but not anything special.
First Frost
by Sarah Addison Allen
Good, But Not Great (11/22/2014)
This was the first book I read by this author and while I enjoyed it, I found myself thinking that the book had more potential to be really great. Too many storylines muddied what would have been a good read about two sisters and the different paths their lives folowed. Still a good read if one can get by the first few chapters.
Last Train to Istanbul
by Ayse Kulin
Lost In Translation (9/27/2013)
The author may be one of the leading writers in Turkey, however this book leaves much to be desired in writing style and storyline. The characters were hard to follow as to the importance to the main theme and the narrative was simplistic and choppy. The saving grace of this work was the historical perspective of the role of Turkey in WWII and the impact politics had on its culture and society.
Lookaway, Lookaway
by Wilton Barnhardt
Contemporary History (6/28/2013)
I have lived in the Carolinas for nine years and the author of "Lookaway, Lookaway" has captured contemporary history of the Carolinas perfectly. The importance of family history, "the old boy network" and the transition of Charlotte from large city to medium metropolis are depicted with truth and historical honesty. In many ways the writing style and subject matter remind me a bit of Pat Conroy. However, the author spends too much time on unnecessary detail and by the time one gets to the end of a paragraph, the beginning of the passage is forgotten. He also seems to believe that most Southern history descends from out of wedlock children and illicit, immoral lifestyles. On the whole, the book was readable, but not exciting.
The Sisterhood
by Helen Bryan
Too Much, Too Little (4/30/2013)
As I read this book, I found myself wondering why so many present day authors feel that they have to cover a multitude of "issues" to tell an otherwise good story. In "The Sisterhood" by Helen Bryan, feminism, theology, politics, mythology and numerous other topics are discussed by way of the overriding story. None of the topics reflect good research. The women's issues reek of 1970 and early 1980s thinking. As a woman with a degree in Theology, I found both the historic and present day research flawed and poorly presented. What would have been a good, simple story is ruined by poor, unfocused writing. The worst book I have read in a long time.
Close My Eyes
by Sophie McKenzie
Best In A Long Time! (4/9/2013)
Just when I thought I was never going to find another novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, along came "Close My Eyes". I read this book in one sitting, captivated by the story line and characters. In the tradition of Ruth Rendell, the were twists and turns right to the last page. The author had a subtle way of drawing you into the story and then proceeded to destroy your preconceptions about where the story was leading. An excellent book which I plan on recommending to all of my friends.
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