Reviews by Beth B. (New Wilmington, PA)

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The Covenant of Water
by Abraham Verghese
The Blessings of Connection (9/23/2023)
One of the best, if not THE best book I've ever read.
Devil Makes Three: A Novel
by Ben Fountain
Searching for the Devil (8/19/2023)
Fasten your seat belts as our skillful pilot, Ben Fountain, transports readers to Haiti. You'll meet memorable characters and be exposed to conspiracies in a search of truth and justice in an unsettled period of history. Who is being duped? Is this real or does it just appear to be?

Complexities, compromise, and complications are at the center of a search for truth and justice. Matt and Alix are confronted with events that highlight the eternal struggle between short-term pain or long-term gain. Lots of fodder for individual readers or a book club selection.
King of the Armadillos
by Wendy Chin-Tanner
How to Journey Through the Unknown (5/1/2023)
A masterpiece! Read this novel for its marvelous story as you soak in the beauty of the author's poetic descriptions. The characters are unforgettable -- we learn of their backgrounds and secrets bite by bite. Some embody guilt, shame, fear, discrimination, icy self-control, wisdom, compassion, generosity. The main character, Victor, learns that one can never go back to the way things once were. Although uprooted from his home at fifteen, he is blessed to have Mrs. Thorne, Herb Klein, and Ruth. He finds himself in music and through interaction with his peers, he discovers that he has self-worth. His introspection leads him to the conclusion that secrets are harmful and a positive attitude is crucial in sickness or in health.

I am grateful to Wendy Cin-Tanner for her skill and her thoughtful introduction to a difficult subject. Victor was indeed victorious.
The Long Ago: A Novel
by Michael McGarrity
Searching for the Past, Then the Future (2/24/2023)
The Long Ago by Michael McGarrity is a lovely novel --- not fine literature but enjoyable, none the less. Significance of the title is revealed at the end of chapter five as the cast of characters is being developed. Set mainly in Montana and California, with a foray into Vietnam, the reader is treated to a descriptive travelogue all within the theme of interconnectedness. My favorite character is Dean, a model of an ever-thoughtful and ever-thorough man. He wisely speaks of life's events as "consequence, coincidence, and circumstance."

I offer one piece of advice: Do not read this book when hungry as there are frequent refences to food --- scrambled eggs, bacon, steaks, and barbecue.

One criticism: some of the conversations are corny/schmaltzy, particularly those between Ray and Beth.
Iron Curtain: A Love Story
by Vesna Goldsworthy
The Iron Curtains of Our World (1/4/2023)
What are the iron curtains of your world? What restrains and governs you?

In "Iron Curtain" by Vesna Goldsworth, we have an opportunity to examine family dynamics and human relationships within a unique story. Milena, called a red princess, is a product of a privileged paternalistic society, one in which children are raised in a vise-like grip. Her first escape is through books and work in an effort to find herself and seek possible options.

I found the book's cover to be a precursor to the plot -- the two versions of the same female face portray Milena's compulsive need to look over her shoulder (top) and a pensive coming to grips with herself (bottom).

The author's style is in itself unique. Some sentences sang with her word usage and skill with sentence structure, often tongue in cheek.
The God of Endings: A Novel
by Jacqueline Holland
No End --- Just Endure (10/3/2022)
Jacqueline Holland has crafted a unique book that has an interesting premise with one important codicil: NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED. Richly stated world wisdom (biggest doesn't always win) and deeply felt truths are interwoven with paganism. Definitely not a book I could easily recommend.

That aside, I was impressed with the author's knowledge of the transitory nature of life, how young children's minds work, and her acquaintance with art and the materials with which to create it. I particularly was drawn to the main character's discovery of joy in nature's beauty and painting and the all-importance of love.
The Outcast
by Sadie Jones
Why An Outcast? (8/29/2022)
This is a knockout of a novel!!!! Difficult to review without any spoiler. Trust me on this. Don't miss reading this finely written book on family dynamics, abuse, and trying to rise above what's been dealt.
The Poet's House
by Jean Thompson
Poet = House of Many Rooms (6/11/2022)
I found this book to be sketchy, missing elements it's hard to define. Under the gaiety of house parties that are insular is a falseness, a searching for true meaning. The narrator, Carla, a landscaper, meets an enchanting poet who catches her fancy and puts into motion a journey of soul searching. Carla is needy who for a variety of reasons lacks little, if any, self-esteem. Relationships in the novel range from breaking to broken. In total, this is a sketchy, quirky, "tossed salad" of a novel.
The Lies I Tell: A Novel
by Julie Clark
A Tangled Web (3/23/2022)
Incredible!! A chilling ten-year plan of skillful revenge. Find a comfy chair, buckle your seat belt and delve into The Lives I Tell by Julia Clark. The author leads readers on a merry chase as crafty and resourceful Meg Williams plots a complicated con artist jigsaw.

This book won't be quiet!! Your mind will revisit the story time and again. I'll wager your next step will be identical to mine: I immediately ordered the writer's two previous novels and anticipate another memorable reading experience.
Activities of Daily Living: A Novel
by Lisa Hsiao Chen
LIFE, time, art, projects (1/1/2022)
Fellow readers, this is a UNIQUE novel, one that is extremely difficult to review, but one that I recommend to those who appreciate an author's skill with the interweaving of two stories. The research that led up to publication must have been grueling! How to combine Alice, her sister, and her father's decline into dementia with the far-fetched projects of Tehching Hsich is the task.

I can guarantee if you wish to see writing skill demonstrated, read this and do not miss the author's citations on the last page.
by Thrity Umrigar
Applause for Thrity Umrigar (8/27/2021)
A masterpiece! Lushly formed characters confronting the contrasts of two cultures. Opened my eyes to a country (India) I knew very little about.

We are privy to witness how Smita, main character, conquered her fears and her past. This alone is intriguing but there is MUCH more. Not until the very end do we discover why the author titled her book Honor, a novel so rich in descriptions of connectedness and interconnectedness.

Ponder these: What is life? What is love? --- as you savor each and every page.

I am hopeful you will find yourself applauding the author as I have done.
Morningside Heights: A Novel
by Joshua Henkin
Remniscences in Morningside Heights (3/25/2021)
Do not miss reading this novel! Its colorful cast of characters impart wisdom that is insightful and unforgettable. Issues span a wide range of topics from family interaction to education to illness and its effects on this family to caregivers and forever friends. The author, Joshua Henkin, addresses how we appear and disappear, fading in and out of vitality and purpose. It would be difficult to name a favorite character; all are rich in their own right. How rare to discover such texture and perspective in a novel! I look forward to reading it again immediately, this time making journal entries of favorite sections.
A Theater for Dreamers
by Polly Samson
Erica's Introspection and Intertwined Memories (3/2/2021)
First, if I may say, I anticipated reading this book due to the blurbs submitted by authors I respect. Sadly, that was not to be as the prologue was the high point; the following pages did not deliver what I had hoped for. A for vivid imagery of the beautiful island of Hydra where a colony of writers and artists float through days cooking, eating, drinking, having a plethora of sexual encounters. An underlying theme was being tied down vs. spinning out of control and free floating through life. This novel could have been so much better, perhaps with fewer wispy characters.
Of Women and Salt
by Gabriela Garcia
Familial Connections (1/1/2021)
I commend Gabriela Garcia on her first novel that is indeed unique and haunting. It is evident that she spent a hefty amount of time researching pertinent topics regarding immigration, holding facilities, laws, and the struggle to survive. Central to the book are the relationships of mothers and daughters and the manner in which they connect or disconnect. Oh, the secrets that abound, some better left untold and others that would have provided a healthy balance. There are heartwarming moments and disturbing ones as well. Why the title? I urge you to read and ponder. I look forward to reading more reviews of this novel.
The Prisoner's Wife
by Maggie Brookes
The Long March of The Prisoner's Wife (2/10/2020)
Reading The Prisoner's Wife was indeed a long march for me. Author Maggie Brookes has penned what might have been an engrossing novel. Sadly, this tale of risk, deception, and incredible hardships, lacked necessary ingredients to cause it to become a masterpiece. Inspired by a true story, the author researched the historic period and used first person narrative as the avenue for her writing. A bright spot was the depth of friendships formed and the threads of compassionate empathy that existed between the characters.
The Secrets of Love Story Bridge
by Phaedra Patrick
One Man's Evolution and Possibilities of Moving Forward (1/3/2020)
From an intriguing first sentence, the author grabs one's attention. Questions ensue: What did the violet envelope contain and why was it never opened? What is the cause of Mitchell's guilt? As the story unfolds, we glimpse the progression of a man thawing from a frozen state. Metaphors abound in the significance of bridges and padlocks. Humor is provided through the assembly of a vast assortment of characters (Barry, Carl, Graham, Rosie) who play vital roles in changing a buttoned-down, programmed man to ease into a new, happier life with his entrancing daughter, Poppy, who is wise beyond her young years. This is an easy, quick read --- much better than its title would indicate.
by Anne Enright
Not "Marvellous" (10/26/2019)
Anne Enright's novel, Actress, sparked my interest in the first pages, but, sadly that first impression was not sustained. The two main characters are mother, actress Katherine, and daughter, Norah. Memories concerning their relationship and circle of friends rambled all over creation. Katherine's favorite word, marvelous, definitely can not be used to describe this book. I could not recommend it.
The Big Finish
by Brooke Fossey
With Age Comes Wisdom and Surprises (9/27/2019)
Life is indeed a journey, easier for some than for others.
First, the author has a lively grip on the foibles of aging.and the importance of maintaining one's sense of humor as the days march on. Second, this is largely shallow in plot and characterization. Third, if one is in the mood for a romp through the Centennial assisted living facility, go for it. Not a huge investment of time is involved. Duffy Sinclair is the star of the show.
You Were There Too
by Colleen Oakley
Circles of Time and Love (8/4/2019)
A proverb: Dreams are wishes made by the heart.

I wish I had liked YOU WERE THERE TOO. The prologue was filled with copious sensory images and I was drawn in with the intriguing "It's Him." Sadly, the novel did not deliver all that I felt the author was aiming for. There were interesting statements and questions such as "Do you really know who someone is when you marry them? Unfortunately the story line rambled and was, at best, tepid and lackluster. It was definitely not a dream come true.
Nothing to See Here
by Kevin Wilson
Foundation Building for Beginners (6/4/2019)
KEVIN.WILSON.IS.AN.INGENIOUS.AUTHOR. Imagine the creativity involved in blending an implausible plot, ten characters (three children, six so-called adults), spontaneous combustion, and truth vs. sham into a wise and wonderful novel. Contrary to its title (Nothing to See Here), there is an enormous amount of wisdom and insight to see as the plot unfolds. Lillian and Madison are polar opposites who need each other to solve difficulties in their lives. Surrounded by the symbolism of a basketball and the power of wealth,a set of ten-year old twins and their inexperienced caregiver stumble upon the basics of parenting and loving and being loved. Complicated past relationships, seemingly always separate from one another, add a complexity that is ever so subtle. Count the number of times and the methods by which trust is given and gained. Lists compiled, problems solved, author Wilson throughout captures readers' hearts as he explores the connection between fire and love.
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