Reviews by Dorothy L. (Manalapan, NJ)

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The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake
An Interesting but Imperfect Novel (4/26/2019)
I was debating whether to give this novel a rating of 3 or 4. I really wanted to give it 3.5 but that wasn't possible. There were good things about this novel--lovely writing and description, important subject matter, but this novel could have been much better! What I liked most was the depiction of the time period--especially the pre WWII period. I found this family saga way too long. It needed to be edited more. The middle part especially dragged. I agree with other readers that a family genealogy chart at the beginning would have been helpful and dates at the beginnings of the chapters were needed. There were stereotypes in the ways Jews and Blacks were depicted and I think the author's characterizations were an easier way out for the Milton family's views and actions. Too bad. My feeling at the end was that this novel could have been really special if there was another draft before publication. It was overlong, but yet sometimes lacked sufficient characterization and depth.
My Lovely Wife
by Samantha Downing
A Disturbing Read (11/8/2018)
I did not like this book. I found the whole premise totally unbelievable. Yes, I know it was meant to be a "different" kind of psychological thriller, but this was beyond the pale for me. It wasn't that I just disliked all the characters. I don't always have to like the central characters, but I have to at least like the story line. I found the first chapter intriguing, the last third of the book captured my interest, and the epilogue moved back to totally creepy and disturbing. I would not recommend it although it may turn out to be popular. Maybe it was the fact that there were children involved that disturbed me most and the very end did nothing to comfort me at all.
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
Good but not Great (7/26/2018)
I read this book for a book club discussion. I found it a little difficult to get into at first but then was caught up in the story. Our lives often seem to be following a plan, but one action, one moment, can change everything not only for the victim of injustice, but also for those around him. I thought the characters were well drawn, even the minor ones, but there were situations in the book that did not seem realistic to me (I am not being specific because of spoilers). I did, however, like the ending. That did seem realistic to me. I already know that some people in my book group did not like the book and others did so I expect an interesting discussion. And that is what book clubs are all about right?
Our House
by Louise Candlish
Great Ending (7/19/2018)
I was intrigued with the premise of this book. Scam and identity theft are prevalent today and it was clear from the beginning that this would be the book's focus. I felt like I was in the UK and thought the author did a good job describing the deterioration of a marriage. The house was described well and almost became another character.
I liked the beginning. I loved the end. I was not expecting the twists and turns in the last 30 or 40 pages and particularly the very end left me gasping. I did not give Our House a 5 rating because I think it was at least 50 pages too long and should have been edited better. The middle section was slow for me, but I am glad I read it and think it will be a bestseller.
by Christina Dalcher
Chilling Tale and Mesmerizing (5/12/2018)
I loved the premise of this book and it definitely was a page turner. If I could I would give it a 4.5 rating. I would have preferred that the author had not given away the ending in the first sentence. I did think the first half of the book was better than the second half. I found some of the medical/techno jargon at the end too complicated and the ending felt rushed. I agree with some of the other readers who felt that it would have been good to spend more time on how this scenario came to pass, more background on the events leading up to the election of the President. But I am very glad I read Vox. It makes you think and want to be more active politically, especially in our current climate. In the novel, I would have liked to know how the press was silenced. Today we see freedom of the press in great jeopardy.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep
by Beatrice Colin
An Interesting Read (11/7/2017)
On the whole I liked this book. I enjoyed reading about the time period and construction of the Eiffel Tower. The perspectives and opportunities for women of that time was an important focus of the book. I did find it slow at times especially at the beginning. It did sometimes drag and I thought OK get on with it. I didn't mind the slowness myself because I read it when I was recuperating from surgery and was able to enjoy a leisurely read but I do hesitate recommending it to my book club because of its pace.
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby
by Cherise Wolas
A Good Read (7/12/2017)
I really liked this book. It is extremely well written especially for a debut novel. I liked the stories within the story. I think it would be good for my book club but might take two meetings because there is so much to discuss. The only criticism I have is that I thought it might have been edited a bit better. It definitely could have been shorter especially if targeted for book club discussions. I would recommend it though because it is different and well written.
Close Enough to Touch
by Colleen Oakley
Close Enough to Touch (3/29/2017)
This is a good book. I enjoyed it and was moved by the story and characters almost from the beginning. The start is a bit slow but worth the reading. This book is unusual because of the situation the protagonist finds herself in and her journey to wholeness. The three most important characters are very damaged and isolated physically and/or emotionally. When I completed the book, I felt I had been on the journey with them. I will suggest it to my book club because I think the discussion will be very good.
The Stars Are Fire
by Anita Shreve
An Enjoyable Read (3/7/2017)
I liked this book. I thought the main characters, especially Grace, were developed well. Her transformation from a survivor to a strong independent woman was believable to me in the context of the plot. Sometimes we have to go through life altering events in order to find out who we really are. The setting was almost like another character in the book. It changed as the story evolved and provided the external conflict that permeated the novel, man vs. nature. I think there is a great deal to discuss in this novel and intend to recommend it to my book club.
The Girl Before
by JP Delaney
A Very Good Read (12/21/2016)
I was intrigued by this book from the opening page. I kept wanting to find out what was going to happen next. I think there were similarities with Fifty Shades of Grey with the controlling characters of Christian and Edward and their manipulation of women. But I think it was a better book in terms of writing and development. I think it is important to read it consistently and over a short period of time because if you don't, it is confusing when you resume reading after a gap. I liked the ending and I would definitely recommend this book.
by Jane Green
Light read for a plane ride or beach day but little substance (6/21/2016)
I read this book in a few days. It kept me interested briefly, but was somewhat predictable except for the ending which was rushed. I read it while I wasn't feeling well and this book was perfect for that situation. However, I wouldn't recommend it to my book club. There isn't much depth and not much to discuss. I can't imagine discussing it for more than about 15 minutes. Take it to the beach or on a plane for a quick read but it isn't all that memorable. For me, the question is always: Will I remember this book in six months?
If I Forget You
by Thomas Christopher Greene
Light read for a plane ride or beach day but little substance (4/26/2016)
I read The Headmaster's Wife and think it is a much better book than this one. It is more complex and memorable. This is a light read, a predictable love story that has been told many times before. The author writes fairly well and I liked the alternating chapters, but the story leaves much to be desired. It was disappointing and simplistic. We're all seen this tale in the movies and TV, as well as in books. Henry's character was developed much better than Margot's. She wasn't someone I admired. She lived a lie for 20 years. Her suddenly becoming a good artist at the end was almost an afterthought. It's an OK book for a quick read but doesn't have enough substance for my book club. I wouldn't recommend it.
The Paris Winter
by Imogen Robertson
An Enjoyable Read (2/21/2016)
I really liked this book! After a bit of a slow start, it kept me very engaged. I liked the plot line, setting of Paris, and thought the characters were well drawn and had depth. I enjoyed reading about this period in history and liked the depictions of women artists and the struggles they had. I would definitely recommend this book but probably only to people who enjoy reading about art and this period.
Maybe in Another Life
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Light Read (6/5/2015)
I was looking forward to reading this book because the premise sounded interesting. It was a pleasant enough light read that I could see as a book for the beach or plane trip. But it all seemed very predictable when I was two thirds of the way through. I think the author could have done more with the premise. The book lacked depth for me and I wouldn't choose it for my book club because there is very little to discuss with a group.
The Fortune Hunter
by Daisy Goodwin
A Good Read (5/17/2015)
I liked this book. After some prior heavy reading, it was nice to have a change of pace. I enjoy historical fiction and this book was accurate I believe with just the right blend of history and fiction. I liked Charlotte and the other characters, thought the introduction of early photography enhanced the novel, and liked the depiction of the milieu.
I found it especially interesting because my grandmother immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1913 and when she was four years old, Franz Joseph passed through her village and she always remembered it as a parade she viewed on her father's shoulders. He was well liked by the people of that time. I would definitely recommend this book!
Her Name Is Rose
by Christine Breen
OK Read but Lacks Depth (2/13/2015)
I found the opening pages of this book slow. The pace picked up but I felt the plot was predictable and the characters were sometimes wooden even though the author tried to make them likable. It is an easy read but there wasn't enough depth to the characters to always hold my interest. I liked the variety of settings and the gardening aspect was symbolic to me--Rose was a nurturing person. I did find far too many coincidences near the end for the outcome to be realistic. If you want a light book, this is fine but I wouldn't recommend it to my book club because I don't think there is enough substance to stimulate good discussion.
The Last Flight of Poxl West
by Daniel Torday
Disappointing Read (1/17/2015)
I didn't enjoy reading this book. I kept hoping it would get better. I found it slow in parts and disjointed. I really couldn't relate to any of the characters did not find it exceptional at all. I wouldn't recommend it.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
by Barbara Leaming
The Myth of Camelot (11/6/2014)
I became a young adult during the Kennedy era and shortly before JFK's election saw him in person. It seemed like a golden era--during his years in office and later in retrospect. Then, after the nightmare of his assassination and the subsequent murders of politicians in the 60's, there came the cracks in the Camelot myth. Their marriage was far from perfect, JFK had many health problems, and political mistakes were made. But somehow the myth endured. I found some new things in this book and some were disturbing. It was a political marriage of convenience on JFK's part from the beginning. I really was disturbed by the great friendship between Jackie and McNamara and her lack of interest in the Warren Commission's findings and the author's avoidance of how the PTSD affected Jackie's relationship with her children. I am wary when there is a thesis at the outset, in this case, PTSD, which seems viable but then everything in the person's life is seen only through that lens. No one in the book came off well. I think I had limited sympathy for Jackie because the author reiterated her PTSD thesis at every juncture. There are other factors which influenced her and were ignored.
Accidents of Marriage
by Randy Susan Meyers
Could Have Been Better (6/19/2014)
I found the book slow for the most part. I couldn't really identify with any of the characters that much. The premise was good but the execution could have been better. I was satisfied with the ending and got a sense of Maddy's emotional well as physical healing. I also liked the way Emma and Maddy's relationship evolved throughout the book. But there was something lacking in the way the story was told and for me, it was not an exceptional read. I thought her earlier book, The Comfort of Lies, was a better book and kept my interest more.
by Harriet Lane
Page Turner with Flaws (5/8/2014)
Her is a gripping read from the first page. I thought the characters were all fleshed out and there was a realistic sense of aspects of current London life. I liked the alternating chapters with different perspectives. Throughout the book I was wondering WHY and this was even when I wasn't reading the book. It kept me eager to return to the novel. There are two major flaws. One is the "leave it in the air" conclusion which made me feel cheated at the end. There was foreshadowing so I was not totally surprised but think a definitive statement might have been better. The author should have done the work. And the second flaw is the disappointment I felt at the end with the rationale for Nina's actions throughout. Her revenge I think was unrealistic and there could have been better motivation for her behavior. There is a sense of evil which permeates the book and a creepiness which is disturbing. It is one book I will remember.
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