The Best Recent Reader Reviews posted at Bookbrowse

The Best Recent Reader Reviews

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  • (04/14/21): I was so sad to reach the end of this book …. sniff, sniff...I always feel like crying a little when this book ends. Especially, this one. I always want great reads to go on forever, but this one in particular is a story and it's telling that I will miss. Ann Patchett was telling me a wonderful, complex, deeply satisfying story. When it ended, it was like I stopped at a traffic light and Ann Patchett got out of the book and it just stopped, this was a wonderful story and I wanted to keep reading and beg Ann to keep writing this wonderful story; surely there must be more to the story that she just forgot to write? The story was nicely wrapped up, all the loose ends were tied, and the tale was deeply satisfying in a way many books just can't achieve.


  • (04/14/21): Loaded with suspense and action, this is a well-told, superb story. This author is becoming a top ten favorite of mine. Her words are sharp and palpable. Her stories are interesting and fresh. I always appreciate an author that can get to the story or describe something/one without being verbose. I love the author's ability to take historical fiction and enlighten the reader with real facts about real people, women in particular. I became a fan of Macallister with her first novel, The Magician's Lie. This 2nd book is leading the way for more fans like me.


  • (04/13/21): This thrilling first novel in a much wider series sets the reader off on a trail of laughs, mysteries and suspense. When I first read this I was slightly skeptical, because even though many of my friends had loved the series, all I saw was a funny looking skeleton in a suit with some fire in his hands. This will be . . . interesting I thought. I was oh so totally wrong. This book was the start of a great series that only gets better. I literally was staying up until midnight to read this, and the only reason I put it down was because I was so tired that I couldn't concentrate on the words anymore. A great read. Would definitely recommend to anyone, especially someone struggling to find something to read.


  • (04/11/21): The Rules of Magic is a prequel in Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series. It is June 1960 when the Owens siblings, Frances, Bridget and Vincent, leave New York to spend summer for the first time with their Aunt Isabelle in the Magnolia Street house in Massachusetts. Their parents are resigned to this, but neither is pleased. Susanna has done her utmost to steer her children towards a normal life, and away from all things magical, but prohibition has been ineffective. Even at fourteen years old, Vincent accepts that they are different, having sought out a copy of the banned Magus downtown. He freely shares his musical talents, but hides his clairvoyance, disturbed enough by it to resort to alcohol, and later ventures into the darker side of his craft. When April Owens, their eighteen-year-old, rebellious second (or third or fifth) cousin, turns up at Magnolia Street, the sisters are wary, but the connection with Vincent can’t be denied. It’s clear that his sisters have gifts too: seventeen-year-old Franny has an uncanny connection to birds; sixteen-year-old Jet can almost always tell what people are thinking. Vincent suggests his older sisters acknowledge what they are. Aunt Isabelle counsels that to deny who you are only brings unhappiness. By the time they leave Aunt Isabelle’s, Franny has read Mary Owens’s diary and knows about the curse that afflicts all members of the Owens family: Ruination for any man who fell in love with them. Each of the siblings starts out determined not to inflict this on anyone, but how can you control falling in love? Besides which, one of the rules of magic from Aunt Isabelle’s Grimoire said “Fall in love whenever you can.” Jet falls for Levi with tragic and far-reaching consequences, and life changes radically for the siblings. Vincent’s lover is someone who understands the curse and is ready to accept what fate throws their way. When Franny finally acquiesces to the love she has been denying for years, her lover has a clever plan to fool the curse. Set against the backdrop of the sixties: the Summer of Love, drugs, the Monterey Pop Festival, the draft, Hoffman tells the story of those amazing aunts who played such an important role in the lives of Sally and Gillian in Practical Magic. And what a marvellous tale it is: another enchanting story of family and love and magic. The characters are appealing and often a bit quirky, the romance is delightful and the magic fun. Hoffman gives her characters wise words and insightful observations about life. The prequel Magic Lessons, which tells Maria Owens story, is eagerly awaited. Another charming read.


  • (04/09/21): I enjoyed this book very much! It was like reading a Jane Austen novel! The language and characters were very much in Austen's style. That made it easier to get into Cassandra's mind set of not revealing her true thoughts and doing what society would demand of a single woman. That alone made it a bit unsatisfying for me. Single women of the time , had no rights but tons of expectations placed upon her! Her family totally controlled her daily life, from where she was allowed to live and go, how she could live and who she was beholden to. What a frustrating life!! It did make me grateful to be a woman in our times, but we women still want more! The relationship between the sisters was intense. Not having a sister made it harder for me to understand that , but in view of the entire Austen family, I know of few families that enjoy each other so much, almost to the exclusion of others! It was a simpler time, but the family was positive and negative in its influences. I asked myself several times how did Cassandra give up her own happiness for her family and her fiancé? English duty??


  • (04/08/21): I read this book in almost one sitting. The author presents the reader with so many thought provoking topics/issues we face in today's society: racism, sexism, discrimination, violence and sensitivity for the environment. Some readers may not like the book as it isn't "uplifting" but after you've finished, the stories told stay with you and make you question your own and others' values. I highly recommend this book if you're interested in a fast paced story set in a North Carolina residential neighborhood.


  • (04/09/21): I enjoyed this book very much! It was like reading a Jane Austen novel! The language and characters were very much in Austen's style. That made it easier to get into Cassandra's mind set of not revealing her true thoughts and doing what society would demand of a single woman. That alone made it a bit unsatisfying for me. Single women of the time , had no rights but tons of expectations placed upon her! Her family totally controlled her daily life, from where she was allowed to live and go, how she could live and who she was beholden to. What a frustrating life!! It did make me grateful to be a woman in our times, but we women still want more! The relationship between the sisters was intense. Not having a sister made it harder for me to understand that , but in view of the entire Austen family, I know of few families that enjoy each other so much, almost to the exclusion of others! It was a simpler time, but the family was positive and negative in its influences. I asked myself several times how did Cassandra give up her own happiness for her family and her fiancé? English duty??


  • (04/07/21): I must say, I hate books that make me cry, but my book club wanted to read this one so I resolutely slogged into it expecting a deluge. There were some tears but mostly amazement at the book's descriptions (and the character's experience) of a tidal environment with all its diversity. The main character was much like me--I enjoyed her survival story, her struggle to overcome loneliness and rejection, and eventual maturation into an accomplished writer and artist. There's much to be said for a solitary life immersed in nature, but we usually associate this with men such as Emerson, Muir, Thoreau, etc., and not with women. This book shatters the myth and reveals the mysteries that women alone in wilderness can experience. However, I'm always disconcerted that stories about women leading unusual lives always need an explanation of how their childhoods led them "astray." I wish Crawdads had just started with the main character stepping into her boat and motoring off into an incredible adventure and a rich life.


  • (04/07/21): An amazing book of natural rediscovery. I'm out in my yard awaiting spring so that I can follow the trails through my little aspen grove, smell the pines, and explore the soil at 9,000' in the Colorado Rockies. I'm on my third read and still discovering things that David Attenborough tried to show me in The Private Lives of Plants almost 25 years ago. The Overstory reawakened my perception of the "real" world outside my own door.


  • (04/06/21): I was left weeping and celebrating all at the same time. With the most tender kind of writing for a time in our history where the suffering was intensely exquisite, Kristin Hormel writes with delicacy and in such a warm way that this entire story leaves you breathless, closing the book grateful for knowing this part of history. When such raw beauty & awe resonates from the pages of a novel, it is because authors like Kristin Harmel can take a character like Eva and make her feel so real to us that we want to reach out and hug her in gratitude!


  • (04/09/21): I enjoyed this book very much! It was like reading a Jane Austen novel! The language and characters were very much in Austen's style. That made it easier to get into Cassandra's mind set of not revealing her true thoughts and doing what society would demand of a single woman. That alone made it a bit unsatisfying for me. Single women of the time , had no rights but tons of expectations placed upon her! Her family totally controlled her daily life, from where she was allowed to live and go, how she could live and who she was beholden to. What a frustrating life!! It did make me grateful to be a woman in our times, but we women still want more! The relationship between the sisters was intense. Not having a sister made it harder for me to understand that , but in view of the entire Austen family, I know of few families that enjoy each other so much, almost to the exclusion of others! It was a simpler time, but the family was positive and negative in its influences. I asked myself several times how did Cassandra give up her own happiness for her family and her fiancé? English duty??


  • (04/05/21): The cover and the title drew me in right away. However, I stayed for the story, writing, and inspiration. Beautifully written and evocatively plotted, this book uplifted and consoled me during this time of loss and worry. The writing is lyrical and pulls you into the story. I highly recommend it.


  • (03/30/21): “Libertie” was hard for me to get into. While the writing itself is beautiful, the story did not draw me in. While I enjoyed the first portion of the book, I lost interest after Libertie ran off to get married. It did have some very interesting aspects though. There were moments of beautifully lyrical writing. The book, inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States, was well researched. The book addresses several themes - complex mother-daughter relationships, feminism, and searching for what freedom means for a young female dark-skinned woman in the aftermath of the Civil War. It is also a look at life in Haiti, where women are still subservient to men. An eye-opener from the book, for me, was how much easier life was for light-skinned Blacks who could pass for White than for the dark-skinned. It was also interesting - shocking - reading of some of the experiments done to treat people. The sea horse one. early in the book. still has me shaking my head. A powerful portion of the book that applies to present days is how even when a person may be freed there is lasting emotional damage that can result in serious mental health issues. We see that today in some of our refugees. This is a good book for exploring another piece of American history that many of us were unaware of. Thank you to Algonquin Books for generously supplying me with a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


  • (03/24/21): Nguyen Phan Que Mai's novel, The Mountains Sing, is a masterful work: the writing is smooth, educational, and full of emotion. Although I was in college during the Vietnam War, I have to say that I knew very little about it. Fellow students were in an uproar, and members of the Chicago Seven were our new celebrities. Mai's book filled in multiple gaps in my background. She provides the political facts and the human information suffered by so many. I was completely enthralled with the story. Although many painful episodes were described, I could not ever stop reading. Mai's writing was so interesting, so factual, and the story she told was completely gripping. The intensely brave grandmother was one to whom tribute was owed; what a role model! At times, I did not necessarily want too many good things to happen (I do not like sweet stories); still I was glad that they occasionally did occur. I highly recommend this book--most of us do not know enough about the Vietnam saga. This book is first-rate!

  • The Splendid and the Vile
    A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
    by Erik Larson

    (03/21/21): As with all of his books, this is an outstanding read. Larson's writing is factual, but always keeps the reader's interest. I firmly believe that God sends us the right men to overcome evil and Churchill was one of those men. The injection of the daily lives of Churchill's family members, secretaries, etc. showed that life continues, with its grandness and pettiness, even during war. I read this while staying at home during the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown and it truly brought home to me how much those before us in history have overcome.


  • (03/15/21): This first-narrative story is about Tristan Sadler, a young man within his twenties who fought as a soldier during the Great War. At the front, he fought alongside Will Bancroft, who eventually declared himself an absolutist. This is the most extreme way to show objection against warfare and, during the aftermath of the First World War, a disgrace in the eyes of many English people. A year after the war, Tristan finds the courage to pay a visit to Will’s sister Marian in order to return a couple of letters. However, there is an underlying reason for his visit, a secret that has been dominating his life ever since. What events caused Tristan to suffer from this mental war? The Absolutist encourages you to think about the importance of acceptance. While I was carefully reading the last pages, it occurred to me that tears had started to appear in my eyes. The contempt towards people because of their convictions or sexuality had caused feelings of resentment and sadness. Although the author had been able to evoke these emotions, I think the ending was too superficial. As the story progresses, Tristan’s burden is carefully unraveled. If the author had also paid more attention to the conflicting ethics or opinions and mixed feelings this secret could have raised after being unburdened, the ending would have given more food for thought. To me, Marian’s reaction lacked complexity and compassion. One of the weaknesses of the novel’s weaknesses can be its style, which encompasses simple and direct sentences, as this description of warfare shows: “… the sudden bursts of electric sparks signify the dropping of bombs on the heads of German or English or French soldiers.” On the one hand, this adds fluency to the story. To readers who favour a more literary, poetic style, on the other hand, the novel may appear to lack detailed descriptions and a surprising and creative choice of words. Nonetheless, the novel also entails some strong points. One of The Absolutist’s great points is the way the under-exposed theme of conscientious objection and the modern theme of homophobia come together to an unpredictable climax and are clearly expressed in quotes such as “This man refused to fight during this evening’s attack. He will be shot tomorrow morning at six o’clock. That is how we punish cowards.” These quotes made me wonder what braveness actually looks like. Is refusing to fight an expression of braveness? And how should we judge this deed in comparison with the soldiers who did sacrifice their lives the very moment they entered No Man’s Land? At first I thought the straightforward style of this novel made the story lack complexity. Conversely, I soon realised the author had put much effort in thoughtfully building up the story towards an unforeseeable climax. Besides, Boyne has been able to combine two beautiful, to me, uncommon themes and express them clearly. Lastly, I am of the opinion that the end of the story would have been deeper if the author had paid more attention to the controversy the secret could evoke. All in all, I think The Absolutist is not a complicated, but rather intriguing and moving war story with a surprising and wonderful climax. Other recommendable novels within the same genre of historical fiction are The Ghost Road by Pat Barker and The Charioteer by Mary Renault.


  • (03/08/21): An amazing debut novel! I immediately became immersed in the story. Set in London England, 1791, Nella, a female apothecary, has been dispensing cures all her life. But after being abused by her husband, she now also dispenses poisons for women to get revenge on the men who have wronged them. “Vengeance is its own medicine.” She has two rules. Eliza, only 12 years old, is enthralled with what she considers magick and eagerly learns all she can from Nella. Present day - Caroline Parcewell had planned a trip to London to celebrate her 10-year wedding anniversary, but instead finds that her husband has been cheating on her. Having abandoned her dream of becoming a historian, she decides to go to London alone and immerse herself in its history. Her discovery of an old apothecary vial in the muck of the river sets her on the path of researching the unsolved “apothecary murders” over two centuries ago. Betrayal, grief, and revenge are core to this well plotted story. Some of the women’s stories were heartbreaking. I had to remind myself that in the 1790s women had no legal protection. The main characters were very well developed; I found myself really caring about them. I loved the suspense and was kept guessing as to what would happen to Nella and Eliza. While this is a dual storyline book and multiple (three - Caroline, Nella, and Eliza) narrators, I had absolutely no difficulty keeping the timelines and characters separate as I read. I will definitely be watching for future releases by this author. If you are a fan of historical fiction and/or thrillers, I highly recommend this book.


  • (03/08/21): Totally different than anything I’ve read in a long time. The story opens to fast moving dialogue and so many different characters that it’s sort of overwhelming. If you experience this, you just have to go with the flow, because somewhere along the way it all gels and clicks. I predict that this will be the most hopeful novel you will pick up in a long, long time, despite the fact that’s it’s about some of the most poverty stricken people living in the projects/public housing in South Brooklyn circa 1969. This book is both funny and moving and will refresh your faith in humanity. Highly recommended.


  • (03/24/21): Nguyen Phan Que Mai's novel, The Mountains Sing, is a masterful work: the writing is smooth, educational, and full of emotion. Although I was in college during the Vietnam War, I have to say that I knew very little about it. Fellow students were in an uproar, and members of the Chicago Seven were our new celebrities. Mai's book filled in multiple gaps in my background. She provides the political facts and the human information suffered by so many. I was completely enthralled with the story. Although many painful episodes were described, I could not ever stop reading. Mai's writing was so interesting, so factual, and the story she told was completely gripping. The intensely brave grandmother was one to whom tribute was owed; what a role model! At times, I did not necessarily want too many good things to happen (I do not like sweet stories); still I was glad that they occasionally did occur. I highly recommend this book--most of us do not know enough about the Vietnam saga. This book is first-rate!


  • (03/08/21): An amazing debut novel! I immediately became immersed in the story. Set in London England, 1791, Nella, a female apothecary, has been dispensing cures all her life. But after being abused by her husband, she now also dispenses poisons for women to get revenge on the men who have wronged them. “Vengeance is its own medicine.” She has two rules. Eliza, only 12 years old, is enthralled with what she considers magick and eagerly learns all she can from Nella. Present day - Caroline Parcewell had planned a trip to London to celebrate her 10-year wedding anniversary, but instead finds that her husband has been cheating on her. Having abandoned her dream of becoming a historian, she decides to go to London alone and immerse herself in its history. Her discovery of an old apothecary vial in the muck of the river sets her on the path of researching the unsolved “apothecary murders” over two centuries ago. Betrayal, grief, and revenge are core to this well plotted story. Some of the women’s stories were heartbreaking. I had to remind myself that in the 1790s women had no legal protection. The main characters were very well developed; I found myself really caring about them. I loved the suspense and was kept guessing as to what would happen to Nella and Eliza. While this is a dual storyline book and multiple (three - Caroline, Nella, and Eliza) narrators, I had absolutely no difficulty keeping the timelines and characters separate as I read. I will definitely be watching for future releases by this author. If you are a fan of historical fiction and/or thrillers, I highly recommend this book.

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