Reviews by Sandi W.

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Slade House
by David Mitchell
Every Nine Years (4/3/2017)
Slade House was built in 1930. It was razed in 1940. But...life went on in Slade House - at least for one night every nine years.

I felt I was confused during the first 50 pages or so of this book. Then it all fell together. However, nothing was as I expected. The words I would use to describe this novel would give the story away, therefore I will list a few of the words used in the story, such as, aperture, orison and lacuna, and you can come to your own conclusions.
Mischling
by Affinity Konar
A Sad and Difficult Story (4/3/2017)
Twist on a WWII theme. This book spoke to the Holocaust in 1944 and the imprisoning of twins, triplets and children with unusual defects into the pet project of Josef Mengele - Mengeles Zoo at Auschwitz. It focuses on one set of twins, Pearl and Sasha. How they survived, their friends, the differing experiments they were subjected to, the medical staff in Auschwitz, their eventual liberation and the events that followed.

The story was told in alternating chapters by Pearl and Sasha. You know going in that this book will be sad, heartbreaking, and at times very hard to read. It was all that and more. Not a lot has been written about Mengeles experiments in fiction form. This book does a good job of telling a sad and difficult story.
Mischling
by Affinity Konar
A Sad and Difficult Story (4/3/2017)
Twist on a WWII theme. This book spoke to the Holocaust in 1944 and the imprisoning of twins, triplets and children with unusual defects into the pet project of Josef Mengele - Mengeles Zoo at Auschwitz. It focuses on one set of twins, Pearl and Sasha. How they survived, their friends, the differing experiments they were subjected to, the medical staff in Auschwitz, their eventual liberation and the events that followed.

The story was told in alternating chapters by Pearl and Sasha. You know going in that this book will be sad, heartbreaking, and at times very hard to read. It was all that and more. Not a lot has been written about Mengeles experiments in fiction form. This book does a good job of telling a sad and difficult story.
A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
Lifetime Exile (4/3/2017)
Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to life, a life lived in the Hotel Metropol - never to leave its doors. Then taken from his elegant suite and relegated to an attic room to spend his life.

It is through his various friends and acquaintances, Nina, Sophia, Anna, Osip, Mikhail and the staff at the hotel that Sasha survives this exile.

This book is breathtaking. The lyrical prose of this novel lulls you into the early 20th century as you image the sights and sounds of Russia. It flows so smoothly that the words just seem to melt away, leaving you with a contented feeling, a need to continue with this mellow hazy sensibility, eating in paragraph after paragraph and continually seeking more.
The Mothers
by Brit Bennett
Plethora of Human Issues (4/3/2017)
A debut book that hits on a plethora of human issues - teen pregnancy, suicide, and abortion among others. It was the intertwined stories of Aubrey, Nadia, and Luke, three black teens in San Diego, and how the choices they made, the secrets they kept and the regrets they had, shaped their destinies.
At times I felt like this novel was like moving puzzle pieces toward a completion that just never quite fit together. I felt the ending to this story was overly abrupt. This book just did not pull at my heart strings, as I had hoped it would.
With that said, Bennett is a new author and one I will watch and read again, in hopes of benefiting from her continued writing experience.
Girl in Disguise
by Greer Macallister
First Female Pinkerton (4/3/2017)
This novel was inspired by the real life of Kate Warne.
In the style of Amy Stewart's Girl Waits with Gun series or Emily McCabe's I Shall Be Near to You, Greer Macallister does a fine job of making you visualize the first female Pinkerton agent in 1856. Not only Allan Pinkerton, but Chicago has their hands full when it comes to Agent Kate Warne's detective sleuth. Unaccepted initially by her co-workers - all male - Warne is a force to be reckoned with. Through thick and thin she remains stoic, reliable and an excellent operative.
Macallister does an excellent job of research and recreating a factual person. With little known about Kate Warne, the author develops a great historical account of her life and her tenure with the Pinkerton, even though most records pertaining to Warne were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson
Karma (4/3/2017)
This novel grabbed me in the first few pages and I had trouble putting it down. Not only is Joshilyn Jackson an accomplished writer, she is entertaining and imaginative.

Written in first person, Attorney Paula Vauss, aka Kali Jai, leads us down a winding lane of chaos, intermingling sadness, happiness, loss, redemption, love and family transformation along the way. From the days of traveling with her wild eccentric Mother to the lonely days of state placement to the "love 'um and leave 'um" lifestyle she maintains as an adult, we meet the people who hold her interest and influence her along the way. Continually paying off her "debt" to her Mother, Paula suddenly finds herself a sibling. Not once, but twice.

"You know how Karma works", is the final piece of the puzzle her dying Hindu-mythology-loving Mother leaves for her, as it changes her life forever.
Underground Airlines
by Ben Winters
The Day of Difference (4/3/2017)
Victor/Jim/Brother is a contracted, owned bounty hunter, a tracker, by any and all names. He is a black man, forced into hunting black men. This is set in the present day. The catch is that our present day is not as we know it to be. The Civil War never took place, and even though slavery was finally abolished, there are still 4 states in the United States, called the Hard Four, that still condone and practice slavery.

This story relates one such case for Victor, tracking a run away slave, and then the twists begin.

The writing moved along very well as it describes our changed but present day. Under this new framework the characters are believable and the plot viable.

A new author for me, but one I hope to continue to read.

3.5 stars for the story and .5 star for the premise of the novel.
The One-in-a-Million Boy
by Monica Wood
Age is only a number.... (3/15/2017)
A fantastic and heartwarming story about an unlikely friendship between an 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant and a 11-year-old Boy Scout. The bond they share is uniquely special, and will definitely touch your heart.
It really was best not knowing too much of this story beforehand and letting it just unfold as it goes. You are in good hands as Monica Wood delivers a well written story that will make you think about life and those that you share it with. This book is heartbreaking, no doubt about it, but there is beauty too that alleviates the sadness and makes this a book about growth, personal discovery and how we view both ourselves and others.
I laughed and I cried. This book will take you by surprise.
The Underground Railroad: A Novel
by Colson Whitehead
Unconventional slant (3/15/2017)
An escape through the underground railroad. We may have read many novels in relation to this historical event, but none like Colson Whiteheads version.
During this pre-civil war saga, our protagonist Cora is determined to escape her owner and make it north to freedom. This will take more than one attempt and clearing numerous obstacles out of her way. She learns that she is very naive and true freedom is very hard to come by. With the help of both Caesar, a bound slave on the run, and Royal, a free black man, Cora slips the chains of the notorious slave catcher, Ridgeway. Always compared to her mother, the only slave to gain her freedom through escape into the swamp, Cora endures many hardships as she struggles to find freedom. With the help of Whiteheads unconventional underground railroad this story takes a novel twist.
Well researched, smooth writing, both likeable and despicable characters move this story right along. A small turn of magical realism slants this story in a novel way.
Underground Airlines
by Ben Winters
Suspend reality and just read.... (3/15/2017)
Victor/Jim/Brother is a contracted, owned bounty hunter, a tracker, by any and all names. He is a black man, forced into hunting black men. This is set in the present day. The catch is that our present day is not as we know it to be. The Civil War never took place, and even though slavery was finally abolished, there are still 4 states in the United States, called the Hard Four, that still condone and practice slavery.
This story relates one such case for Victor, tracking a run away slave, and then the twists begin.
The writing moved along very well as it describes our changed but present day. Under this new framework the characters are believable and the plot viable.
A new author for me, but one I hope to continue to read.
3.5 stars for the story and .5 star for the premise of the novel.
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson
How Karma Works... (3/15/2017)
This novel grabbed me in the first few pages and I had trouble putting it down. Not only is Joshilyn Jackson an accomplished writer, she is entertaining and imaginative.
Written in first person, Attorney Paula Vauss, aka Kali Jai, leads us down a winding lane of chaos, intermingling sadness, happiness, loss, redemption, love and family transformation along the way. From the days of traveling with her wild eccentric Mother to the lonely days of state placement to the "love 'um and leave 'um" lifestyle she maintains as an adult, we meet the people who hold her interest and influence her along the way. Continually paying off her "debt" to her Mother, Paula suddenly finds herself a sibling. Not once, but twice.
"You know how Karma works", is the final piece of the puzzle her dying Hindu-mythology-loving Mother leaves for her, as it changes her life forever.
Girl in Disguise
by Greer Macallister
Fiction based on Fact (3/15/2017)
This novel was inspired by the real life of Kate Warne.
In the style of Amy Stewart's Girl Waits with Gun series or Emily McCabe's I Shall Be Near to You, Greer Macallister does a fine job of making you visualize the first female Pinkerton agent in 1856. Not only Allan Pinkerton, but Chicago has their hands full when it comes to Agent Kate Warne's detective sleuth. Unaccepted initially by her co-workers - all male - Warne is a force to be reckoned with. Through thick and thin she remains stoic, reliable and an excellent operative.
Macallister does an excellent job of research and recreating a factual person. With little known about Kate Warne, the author develops a great historical account of her life and her tenure with the Pinkerton, even though most records pertaining to Warne were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
Circling the Sun: A Novel
by Paula McLain
Circling the Sun (9/12/2016)
I really liked this book. The characters were well written and came to life easily. Not having read anything else about Beryl Markham - however knowing who she was - this book did a great job of starting her life at a very young age and traversing all the changes she had to endure as she matured. In doing this, you are able to get a very clear picture of not only who Markham was, but also a great introduction to the people who shared her life. I felt that I got a great deal of information from this book, ended up knowing and liking Markham, and it also peaked my interest in some of the other members of her life - such as what happened to Jock Purvus, Ruta and his family, and a desire to know more about Denys Finch Hatton.
Paula McLain does a great job of research and story telling.
Lady Cop Makes Trouble: Girl Waits with Gun #2
by Amy Stewart
Lady Cop Makes Trouble (5/15/2016)
In this second book about Constance Kopp, following Girl Waits With Gun, we again are greeted with not only Constance, but her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, and the rugged Sheriff Robert Heath - Constance's boss. Constance has been unofficially named as the first female deputy sheriff of Hackensack, Bergen County New Jersey.

Constance inadvertently lets a criminal, Dr Herman Von Matthesius, escape from his hospital room during a power outage. Knowing that Sheriff Heath can be jailed for losing a prisoner, Constance is determined to recapture this man, single-handedly if need be - no holds barred.

This character, Constance Kopp, is based on a real person, who held newspaper headlines in 1912. Although the Kopp Sisters novels are fiction, they are based on the real first female sheriff in New Jersey. Many facts are taken from the newspapers printed at that time.

The character development is good. The teasing, abuse and ignorance of the male population, especially the male deputies of that time, is very well portrayed. The antics of Constance may be a bit frivolous at times, but very entertaining. That is not to say that Constance has it easy, or that she does not have her own difficult secrets, or a great responsibility in being the first woman in the deputy sheriffs office. She is defiantly a woman ahead of her time and doing her best to lay the road for those that follow her, both in the field of law enforcement and women's rights.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
by Phaedra Patrick
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (5/15/2016)
As Arthur Pepper tackles sorting through his deceased wife's belongings he comes across a hidden charm bracelet. A bracelet that he believes he has never seen or heard about, but definitely stirs his curiosity. And so the transformation begins...
This odyssey takes Arthur to India, Paris and London, as he searches for answers. Along the way he begins to doubt his 40 year marriage to Miriam. As he meets the people who correspond with the charms on the bracelet he sees another side of his wife ~ her life before him. He questions her love for him, he questions his acceptance by his grown children, and he questions why Miriam would stay with him and their uneventful routine life.
This book is the story of slow healing, better understanding those you love, and not only accepting the things you cannot change, but also changing with life's journey.
I really like the character development in this book. I started out not liking Arthur and ended up loving him. There were spots in the book that were very touching, that in fact, brought me to tears. Arthur's journey was realistic, as were most of the accompanying characters. The novel was a heartfelt, well written, easy read, in the manner of Elizabeth Berg or Anne Tyler, and one that you don't want to put down. This is the debut novel for this author, but I am sure not the last.

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