Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022

Reviews by Beverly D. (Palm Harbor, FL)

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One's Company: A Novel
by Ashley Hutson
huh ? (5/14/2022)
I always have an issue when I need to remind myself "suspension of disbelief". Although the author does address mental illness, loneliness and trauma compassionately this story just didn't resonate with me. Almost a dnf.
The Last Grand Duchess: A Novel of Olga Romanov, Imperial Russia, and Revolution
by Bryn Turnbull
A New Perspective (11/25/2021)
Finally an historical fiction that doesn't focus on Anastasia. Olga, the oldest daughter of the last Tsar of Russia is presented as more than just another "royal"; instead she is a thinking, wondering young woman whose expectations of a normal life will never happen. Based on multiple non-fiction sources, including the diaries of Olga, we are better able to examine and maybe understand how and why the Russian Revolution came about from a purely personal perspective. Easily read, highly recommended for any fan of historical fiction.
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Honor ? (9/15/2021)
Although I found the story engaging, sometimes the emotional impact was dulled by the prosaic, almost soap opera like writing. The two main characters were very well developed; however the "secondary" players (not so secondary in the actual story) were less developed making me wonder if this was the point all along: to point out the extreme differences between the haves and have-nots. Smita's rediscovery of home was completely foreseen almost from page one.
The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet: A Novel
by Maureen Gibbon
19 th century Paris !!! (6/23/2021)
A perfect book for Francophiles...especially with artistic leanings. Although fictional, I felt, based on the author's use of some exceptional sources, this read as an actual diary of the great artist's last years. The desperation due to his illness, his determination to continue his work and the intimacy he felt with his many muses truly read as a diary that he added to as he continued the inevitable downward spiral. I appreciated the author's casual style and how much of the Parisian "everyday" life found its way into the diary. An illuminating read into the life and processes of a true gift genius. Highly recommended!
Palace of the Drowned
by Christine Mangan
I have issues (2/23/2021)
Atmospheric and eerie thanks to the pitch perfect depiction of Venice off season. The barely likable main character, Frankie and her relationships with Jack, Leonard and, above all Gilly seem contrived to me. Her indecision regarding these friends changed with each new chapter. The pacing seemed to drag in the middle though I did finish to see how the story resolved...(not a surprise ending). My main issue however is I felt I had read this storyline before: young author befriends older author whose latest efforts failed to live up to expectations, "mayhem " ensues, young author's manuscript becomes latest offering of older author...
A disappointing read.
Migrations: A Novel
by Charlotte McConaghy
A Stunner! (4/11/2020)
Beautifully written, Migrations is a novel we need to read NOW. Our vulnerable planet, in the not too distant future, is losing species and a desperately broken woman is trying to help stem the tide. This is an adventure story, a love story and an examination of what means HOME and how and where we can find it. Relationships, with both nature and people are in the forefront of this story. The author keeps the parallel stories well defined and flowing so well that one never loses interest. I would highly recommend this book as a book club title....lots of important and timely topics for discussion.
The Paris Hours: A Novel
by Alex George
if you love Paris... (2/17/2020)
If you enjoyed the movie Midnight In Paris, you will love The Paris Hours. Early 20th century Paris, inhabited by Proust, Stein, Hemingway, Baker et al is viewed through the lens of four ordinary Parisians whose lives will intersect at the end of these 24 hours. Love, loss, memories of war and its impact on these lives is beautifully told as the author weaves current happenings with painful memories . Paris really comes alive as a character in its own right.
Father of Lions: One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo
by Louise Callaghan
eye-opening! (10/13/2019)
Trying to live a "normal" life in Mosul during the Daesh occupation, the main character, Abu Laith, focused on saving the animals in the Mosul zoo...his special friends...sometimes to the detriment of his family. The research and commitment of the author to take the reader to an unknown place was astonishing. To get this perspective on the Taliban occupation was educational as well as necessary. The families whose stories are told here bring us into their nightmare. Highly recommended for book clubs that enjoy non-fiction.
The Seine: The River that Made Paris
by Elaine Sciolino
LOVED! (9/11/2019)
This book is a gem for lovers of all things or most things, French. There is history old and new, art & architecture, personal anecdotes and a true appreciation of the story of the Seine. The author kept the narrative flowing and easily stitched the past and present into an easily read story. Highly recommended for readers of non-fiction/history.
Beirut Hellfire Society
by Rawi Hage
Not my cup of tea... (5/13/2019)
I wanted to like this book...guess I just wasn't ready for the author's loquacious/ outrageous style and his very dark humour. I found the subject matter interesting enough but could not hook into the story....
More News Tomorrow: A Novel
by Susan Richards Shreve
A Gem (4/9/2019)
I really liked this book. A generational murder mystery that needs to be solved for the 70 year old protagonist Georgie. But the drama surrounding the current generation almost overtakes the original murder. There were multiple narrators but I found it easy to follow and felt that Ms. Shreve's key characters were well developed. This is a GREAT book club title. I will suggest it to my reading friends.
Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir
by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
Best kind of memoir (1/8/2019)
What a captivating read! Glad the violin/Middle East thing didn't work out so well, for Ms Hindman is certainly a gifted writer. The non-linear telling of her story was well done from my perspective and the repetitive tour notes made it feel probably JUST like touring felt. Much of her self-discovery was spot on, reminding us what it was like to be a young woman trying to become self sufficient no matter what the cost. I highly recommend this book for book clubs both adult and young adult. Well done,
Golden Child
by Claire Adam
WOW. (10/8/2018)
A family surviving in poverty, betrayal of the worst kind, and impossible choices, this is the story of Golden Child. The writing in this novel is sublime...just enough description to put you in rural Trinidad and feel the oppressiveness of both the weather and a family life that will shatter. For a first effort I find this novel astonishing. Highly recommended for book clubs!
Vox
by Christina Dalcher
chick lit Handmaid's Tale... (4/25/2018)
So much potential....disappointing execution. A timely, possibly feasible cautionary tale for today's political climate; an easy provocative read but the writing is uneven and often awkward;( too much medical/techno jargon...we KNOW what an MRI is...) There are many disagreeable characters with little plot involvement. At times this story was dystopic, at times too much like chick-lit. I also had a difficult time with Jean's non-linear narration. Perhaps a SERIOUS edit could help...
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After
by Elizabeth Weil, Clemantine Wamariya
Powerful memoir...a MUST read! (2/17/2018)
We no longer need to imagine the horrors of the Rwandan genocide; Clementine Wamariya has set it out for us in an astonishingly brutal examination of a life in constant upheaval as a six year old. And all of these experiences formed the amazing woman she has become today, even as she fights with the conflicts she still keeps inside. The writing grabbed me from the first page there was an immediacy and flow to this story; the back and forth from Africa to the U.S. worked well here. The break from despair in Africa (although sometimes joy)melds well with the hope in Chicago (although sometimes despair). A perfect book club selection!
The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure
by Shoba Narayan
COWS !!! Who knew??? (12/13/2017)
What a delightful and "unexpected adventure". The author's return home after years in NYC offer a perfect opportunity to educate both her daughters, AND us on some of the more interesting customs and beliefs of the Hindu religion specifically and India in general. Cows are an integral part of everyday life and we learn why through Narayan's friendship with the milk lady, Sarala. Their daily interactions give an insight into the give and take that makes India...India. Highly recommended.
Never Coming Back
by Alison McGhee
Six stars! (9/5/2017)
This was the best book that I have read this year. I had tears streaming down my face more than once. Alison McGhee just "gets" the whole mother/daughter dynamic and has been able to put it down on paper without being overly cynical or overly sweet. Her writing evoked so many disparate emotions. Some of the passages were absolutely sublime. I highly recommend this book for adult readers as well as young adults...a perfect book club entry. Bravo!
A Piece of the World: A Novel
by Christina Baker Kline
A quiet gem (12/26/2016)
The quietly contemplative story of the inspiration for Christina's World. The lyrical writing invites us into her world, a hardscrabble farm life from which she never escapes.Kline's sense of place and the times makes her story memorable and moving. Highly recommended...excellent book club choice!
I Am No One
by Patrick Flanery
Too Close for Comfort. (7/27/2016)
The writing is chock full of descriptors, asides, but never overbearing; simply lyrical. The subject is one we ALL need to consider...how paranoid does one need to be in this age of hyper (if sub rosa) surveillance ? "He is a completely ordinary American whose life is no longer private"... and how would I react if this was my story? I found this book to be intelligent, yet unnerving ...read at your own risk.
North of Crazy: A Memoir
by Neltje
Neltje (6/13/2016)
Another poor little rich girl story...A seriously dysfunctional family forces Neltje to claim her own way in the world. Unfortunately, getting to her new life in Wyoming takes up a lot of the story and I found the writing to be uninteresting, "and then, and then"....Once established, her story and writing becomes more passionate and interesting; however I would find it difficult to recommend.
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