Reviews by BeckyH

Power Reviewer  Power Reviewer

Note: This page displays reviews using the email address you currently use to login to BookBrowse. If you have changed your email address during the time you have been a member your older reviews will not show. If that is the case, please email us with any older email addresses you have used for BookBrowse, and we will do our best to link these older reviews to your current profile.
Order Reviews by:
The Big Finish
by Brooke Fossey
sympathetic to the plight of older persons (10/4/2019)
Duffey, the unrepentant reprobate, and his side kick, Carl, are roommates at the "nice" assisted living home. They live in fear of being tossed out and forced to move to the "hellhole" of the only full nursing home in the area. Nora is the nurse who makes life bearable. Anderson is the aide who aids and abets Duffey and Carl and all the other inmates at the 20 bed Centennial Assisted Living Home.

The activities mentioned all ring true as do the shenanigans the inmates get up to. Told in spare and occasionally uncomfortable prose, the tale is filled with gentle humor and lots of empathetic sympathy. The senior citizens are never disparaged except by the home's kill joy and money mad proprietor. When 19 year old Josie enters their life needing a place to stay and help with her life choices, the fun begins and doesn't end until the Big Finish.

Lots to think about and discuss in book groups, especially ones that have a few older members or members with loved ones in assisted living or nursing homes. The importance of hope, honesty, friendship, and sympathetic attention is laid forth with good natured respect.
Thirteen
by Steve Cavanagh
A really good mystery (9/4/2019)
This one will keep you up far into the night. The plot is diabolical. So is the killer.
Eddie Flynn is the one person who believes the actor accused of killing his wife and her body guard is innocent. The bodies are falling fast and thick. The plot twists are delicious.

For a mystery with lots of deaths this one is free of sex, unwarranted violence and curse words. Just a really good story.
The Hundred-Year House
by Rebecca Makkai
I couldn't make it past 150 pages (8/30/2019)
I made it through 150 pages before deciding I didn’t really care about these people and their foibles and meandering progress through what passed for life. A failed writer, a failed artist, a failed mother, a failed son – who cares. The writing is lovely, the story failed.
A Better Man: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
by Louise Penny
A Better Man (8/26/2019)
I have only read one other Armand Gamache mystery. This one convinces me I should read more!

Armand is back at work, demoted and brushed aside for another – his son-in-law! A flood is happening and Three Pines is in the crosshairs. A woman is missing and her husband, who may be a murderer, is unconcerned. A new agent is pushing for Gamache to take over the case. The missing woman’s father is threatening to murder the husband. And then there is the dog.

Oh my – all these plot points and we are only in the first few pages. The tension doesn’t stop until the last page in this engrossing mystery. Penny keeps the tension alive with just enough red herrings and plot twists to compel reading far into the night.

A well written, engrossing mystery with a familiar character in a new and uncomfortable situation.
Ellie and the Harpmaker
by Hazel Prior
Ellie and the Harpmaker (8/26/2019)
This is a lovely book. Ellie, married to a controlling husband, meets Dan, who lives in solitary splendor meticulously carving exquisite harps.

The writing is detailed and engaging. Prior uses words to describe the woods and creatures surrounding the harp barn with great charm. Her characters grow and become clear as the story progresses. Although she never uses any words to indicate Dan is autistic (or at least on the spectrum), it is readily apparent through her word pictures. She writes with sympathy and tenderness about her characters allowing the reader to see them change and develop with her eyes.

As the tale unfolds danger and fear emerge, but the overriding feeling is always sympathy and gentleness.

A good book for groups interested in music, woodworking, nature, personality development, marriage, autism, forgiveness, family dynamics, and love.
You Were There Too
by Colleen Oakley
A different kind of love story (8/10/2019)
This was a different kind of love story. A happily married woman dreams about a man, not her husband, for years. Then she discovers he is a real person who has been dreaming about her! Love, desire, confusion, humor, guilt, forgiveness, and just plain weirdness ensues.
I liked it. Not the best book ever, but definitely an interesting take on human emotions. Well written, likeable characters who show real emotions, who grow and change in the development of the story. You will wonder while reading where this is all going and you will be surprised. Taken all together, this is a good read. I'm glad I read it.
Dumplin'
by Julie Murphy
a sensitive and empathetic tale (8/10/2019)
This book is not PC. A teenage girl is called Dumplin’ by her mother who constantly reminds her how fat she is and how pretty she would be if she just lost some weight.
Dumplin’ and her friends decide to enter the beauty contest Dumplin’s mother runs and had won many years before. Hilarity runs rampant as the young women (one fat, one disabled, one perhaps autistic and one gay) prepare their talent acts and wardrobes.
This could have been awful. It was not. It becomes a sensitive and empathetic tale of young women learning to love themselves and accept others. Oh, and there is also a gentle love story. This would be great book for a mother/parent book club.
4 of 5 stars
America for Beginners
by Leah Franqui
America for Beginners (8/10/2019)
This was a delightful book. A conservative Indian lady seeks closure with her son’s death by taking a guided tour of America.
Pival hires an Indian (she thinks) tour company that is really Bengali. Her “companion” is an erstwhile actress who is tired of life. Her tour guide has never led a tour before. These three mismatched characters, each with their own set of opinions and expectations find themselves and America as they travel. Pival’s son, his chosen lifestyle, his companion, and his life’s work become clear as the tour progresses.
By turns hilarious and heartrending, America for Beginners presents an America like no other. The characters are interesting and well developed. The story line has great depth and insight. While reading, you might consider a tour of America you might arrange – especially the meals along the way.
5 of 5 stars
Cherokee America
by Margaret Verble
A Cherokee family tale (6/28/2019)
Verble beautifully creates atmosphere in both culture and land in this prequel to her first (Pulitzer Prize nominated) novel, MAUD’S LINE. Cherokee America, known to all as Check, is the matriarch of a family still remembering the horrors of the Trail of Tears and now facing increasing pressure from Whites to sell, give or abandon their Cherokee Nation land.
Family is paramount to this extended family facing the death of Check’s husband, culture clashes with their white neighbors, disapproval of their employment of a former slave, their friendships across culture lines and family ties and, finally, the betrayal of family members by whites.
The first half of the novel introduces the various family, friends and enemies and establishes the ethnic and “national” background and clash points. The second half deals with the aftermath of betrayal and reads like an engrossing mystery. The cast of characters at the front is extremely helpful in keeping all of the players in this drama straight. The conflict and resolution are satisfying if unconventional.
My one hesitancy in highly recommending this novel is the emphasis on sexual behavior that pervades the entire book.
5 of 5 stars
I Still Dream About You: A Novel
by Fannie Flagg
A romp in Southern charm and skulduggery (5/30/2019)
This fun read still has an emotional punch. Flagg is an expert at creating characters one cares about – even the ones that are not very nice! In this outing Flagg joins a “fat” African American, a midget, an ex-beauty queen, and a thoroughly detestable real estate agent to tell a tale of what might have been, what is and what may yet be.
Pathos and hilarity join forces for a romp in Southern charm and dirty deals. Flagg manages to tell a good story without stooping to vulgar language or explicit sex. Written for the adult female audience I STILL DREAM can be enjoyed by all audiences including teens. There is enough here for an interesting book group discussion that might cover family dynamics, faith, integrity, racial harmony, interpersonal relations and much more.
Similar in feel to FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, this book would also make a good movie.
Death of a New American: A Jane Prescott Novel
by Mariah Fredericks
Death of a New American (5/25/2019)
Jane Prescott, lady’s maid and mystery solver, becomes embroiled in labor disputes, the Black Hand and murder in this entertaining novel set in 1912 New York.
Louise, Jane’s lady, is about to marry the son of a prestigious family. When the Tyler’s nursemaid is murdered and notes are found threatening the infant child of Louise’s soon to be in laws, Jane and newspaperman Michael Behan spring into action.
Between love and the criminal underworld, the tension is palpable. Well written, with interesting situation and characters, this novel will be a welcome addition to book groups and individual readers alike.
The Satapur Moonstone: A Perveen Mistry Novel
by Sujata Massey
Murder, tea and jewels (5/25/2019)
This the second mystery starring Purveen Mistry, a female Indian lawyer practicing in Bombay in 1921. (If you have not read the first, you might want to check it out first, so you know the backstory.) Purveen has been asked to determine if the children of a deceased Maharajah in princely India are being properly cared for and educated, and the royal succession maintained while the two remaining maharanis remain in purdah (seclusion).
Several mysterious incidents come to light as Purveen and an agent for the British Empire join forces to untangle the intricacies of Satapur’s royal aristocracy. Several deaths and more than several possible culprits appear along the way. Massey’s care with the cultural differences observed by the various religions, political entities, and Indian versus British desires become part of the mystery. A bit of romance may even be hinted at if this entertaining series continues – and I hope it does.
Well written with strong characters and intricate plotting make this novel a great addition to the genre.
Beirut Hellfire Society
by Rawi Hage
UNFLINCHINGLY DEPRESSING (5/15/2019)
This tale presents the raw outrage, fear, misery, and indelible sadness of a country at war. The writing is excellent. Unfortunately, it is so filled with sex and depravity that I can not recommend this book. After having to force myself to read past the first few chapters, the book did offer some moments of humor (of the black variety) and the final pages did offer some version of hope after the devastation of hopelessness that war engenders. The feelings of the outcast (religion, societal, employment, mental illness, etc) are clearly shown. I had hoped for a better read.
A Death of No Importance: A Mystery
by Mariah Fredericks
A good mystery with great characters (4/28/2019)
The backstairs folk always see more than the upper class folks think. Lady’s maid Jane sees and thinks. The writing is good with great characterization, good atmosphere, a realistic portrayal of time and place. Fredericks throws in some real people and real incidents to give breadth to her story.
This is the first of a series with Jane as the sleuth in a tightly crafted mystery. The death is pretty gruesome but, for the squeamish, not dwelled upon. Also, no foul language or steamy sex, just a really good mystery with fully fleshed out characters.
The Farm
by Joanne Ramos
Exploitation or a Godsend (4/25/2019)
An idea – pay poor women large sums to be the surrogate for busy, important, wealthy, lazy women who want their own child, but don’t want the bother, time commitment, inconvenience of actually bearing them.
Ramos has written a novel that presents that idea carried out to the fullest extent. The Farm is a lap of luxury prison for the surrogates. Reagan, an idealist asserting her independence from her father but controlling father, Jane, an impoverished Filipina eager for the large financial payout, and Lisa, a wild child with unknown needs, are the three surrogates.
The novel presents many topics for book groups to discuss and casual readers to ponder. Among them – attitudes toward money; styles of parenting; the poor; immigrants (legal or not); power vs weakness, education; exploitation by class, money, education, status, or race; crime and punishment; family; and of course, women.
A question that is not addressed in the novel but should be: What did Reagan do with her bonus and why? Although there is an epilogue, several questions remain of the final outcome for each of the women presented in the novel.

I received an ARC for my freely given opinion.
Maud's Line
by Margaret Verble
Absorbing and thought-provoking (4/6/2019)
Maud, her father and brother live on Maud’s mother’s allotment in the former Indian Territory. Her family is (mostly) Cherokee. Maud has a desire for better things. Electricity, a refrigerator, an inside toilet. It is 1928.
This tale of Cherokee families living in Oklahoma after enduring and surviving the Trail of Tears is filled with fully realized characters, Indian traits, hard scrabble lives on dirt farms, snakes galore, family and mean neighbors. Richly told, Verble has created a world complete. Maud is a captivating heroine. Her family is filled with abundant well-developed characters. The plot, while simple, is richly detailed.
An absorbing and thought-provoking novel, especially for a first novel. Very satisfying. 5 of 5 stars
Daughter of Moloka'i
by Alan Brennert
Daughter of Moloka'i is here! (3/14/2019)
The long awaited sequel to MOLOKA’I is here! Rachel’s daughter Ruth, taken from her the day Ruth was born, is the main character in this family tale that extends from Hawaii to California to Japanese internment camps and back to California.
Brennert excels in incorporating actual people and events into his stories. DAUGHTER OF MOLOKA’I is no exception. The discrimination against Japanese (Rachel is adopted by a Japanese couple) in the early part of the twentieth century, the difficult life of “foreign” farmers in the lush farmland of California and the internment of hapless Japanese during WWII make up the bulk of this novel. The final portion relates the difficulty of adoptees and their birth parents in locating each other and the repercussions that follow. Brennert’s empathy finds expression is his clearly drawn characters, skillful conversations and deft handling of conflict.
Book groups will love this historically accurate account of difficult episodes., especially those who have read and loved MOLOKA’I. Groups interested in immigration/emigration issues will find much to discuss.
D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II
by Sarah Rose
This is "real history" (3/12/2019)
I had to keep reminding myself that this was "real non-fiction" and keep reading. Unfortunately I had just read a fictionalized account of the resistance in France that covered many of the same women/events in this book.
D-DAY GIRLS is well researched and well written. It does jump from person to person and event to event with only a new chapter title to give warning. I found this disconcerting and jarring. The notes are wonderful and enlightening.
Odette, whose exploits begin in the early days of the "Firm" and continue to end of the war, was a fascinating woman. The angst of the old guard in deploying women to danger and possible death is a continuing story even today.
History buffs will love this book. The minutia, letters and intimate details will carry them through. A person wishing a lighter tale or more "plot" should find another book covering the same era.
4 of 5 stars
The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel
by Jeanne Mackin
Fascinating couture and politics (2/23/2019)
I was fascinated by the personalities of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli and the intricacies of Haute Couture and politics in Paris just before and during WWII. But I was also intrigued by the daily life of various classes of people (upper class, middle class, merchants, professionals, wage workers, spies, artists, military, etc.) during that same period. Even the Ritz Hotel and the various cafes became a part of the story.
I was so curious about the gowns being designed, constructed and worn that I looked them up on Google. Yes, they are all there! I hope the finished book has photographs of Lily’s first Schiaparelli dress and the “tree” costume.
At first I thought this would be just another mildly interesting romance with clothes. I was delightedly mistaken. THE LAST COLLECTION is well worth your reading time and would be a good choice for book groups.
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding
by Jennifer Robson
Rich details make this book come alive (2/20/2019)
The intimate details of every day life in 1947 England, still suffering from the austerity required by the devastation of WWII, are clearly rendered in the lives of two embroiderers working on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown. One woman will become world famous, the other will be lost in obscurity when she emigrates to Canada.

Richly detailed scenes in ordinary home life (rationed, food, clothing, housing), education, and the workplace make this tale of historical fiction come to life. The reader comes to care about Ann and Miriam as they toil day after day on the peculiarities of embroidered flowers and motifs at Hartnell, a haute couture house of fashion.

Robson has done the research. She ably and seamlessly weaves real events and real people into her story. Book groups and history buffs will both find much to love and discuss in this tale.

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Long Call
    The Long Call
    by Ann Cleeves
    Penning a great murder mystery seems like it would be particularly challenging. The story often fits...
  • Book Jacket: The Liar
    The Liar
    by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
    The Liar is a book that will make its readers uncomfortable by design; set in modern-day Israel, it ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dutch House
    The Dutch House
    by Ann Patchett

    There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you'd been standing on falls away ...

  • Book Jacket: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
    The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
    by Kim Michele Richardson
    A loyal animal companion, treks through gorgeous but forbidding wilderness, glimpses of larger ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Shadow King
    by Maaza Mengiste

    "A brilliant novel, lyrically lifting history towards myth. It's also compulsively readable."
    —Salman Rushdie
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Motherhood So White
    by Nefertiti Austin

    A heartwarming memoir of motherhood and adoption told through an African American lens.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Girl Who Reads on the Métro

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro

An enchanting story for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

L, Damn L, A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.