The Best Recent Reader Reviews posted at Bookbrowse

The Best Recent Reader Reviews

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  • (11/19/18): Reading this book brought a revelation. It also made me very sad that it was not available to read 70 years ago. I grew up in logging country and lived in Humboldt County during the 70s, 80s and 90s when all the timber wars took place. If I had had this book to read then, I would have joined the protestors and 'tree huggers' without reservation. What a mess we humans have made. We just never know when to let well enough alone!


  • (10/30/18): Jane Harper has done it again. Staying in the Australian vein, again engaging with Detective Aaron Falk, this second book of the series is another great who-done-it. Her first book, The Dry, was exceptionally good, both in story plot and writing. This second book is also outstanding. Five woman go on a weekend corporate retreat into a forest range. Four women come back out. While five men from the same corporation are also hiking, in their own direction, they have no lasting problems. Whereas the women find trouble every step of the way. What makes it worse is that none of the women really like each other - even though two are identical twins. This weekend trip is also marred by family problems, problems for one of the men and also one of the women. Having to surrender their cell phones is bad enough, but finding out that the one phone that was sneaked in cannot pick up a signal, ends up being a point of contention. Each chapter gives you a glimpse of the current day and also a time frame from the retreat. Aaron Falk, actually investigating the corporation for something totally different, is drawn into the missing persons case. Each chapter brings you closer to finding the missing person, but also explains how she became missing. Interesting double story process to carry all the way through the book, but Harper did a great job in pulling it off. Once you start this story it is hard to put it down.

  • I Contain Multitudes
    The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
    by Ed Yong

    (10/26/18): I listened to the audiobook version of I Contain Multitudes on my commute to and from school four days a week. I'm a biotechnology major so I have some background in some of the things Ed Yong was talking about which may have increased the enjoyment I got out of the book. It was detailed, expansive, and glorious. The reach of microbes outside of humans is also well discussed and truly fascinating. I admit to crying a little in my car at the end of the book at the miraculous nature of microbes. Sometimes I cry watching really sad commercials too so maybe don't put too much stock in that last bit. It's still an excellent book.


  • (10/21/18): The writing style of George Saunders is unlike any other author I have ever read. His words sear, touch your heart like few things ever have. He has captured a beloved son's thoughts and a father's grief, completely. Highly recommend. Beautifully executed, unforgettable.

  • A Well-Behaved Woman
    A Novel of the Vanderbilts
    by Therese Anne Fowler

    (10/12/18): Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont was anything but a well- behaved woman. Left near-penniless as she approached marriageable age in the 1870’s, she set her aim for a wealthy man. William Vanderbilt, a younger son in the ultra-wealthy but socially ignored family, caught her eye, as she caught his. This fictionalized account of her life as a philanthropist, suffragette activist, society hostess and intelligent, opinionated woman is a bit too long, but is vastly entertaining. Alva, her sisters, her children, her husbands, the Vanderbilts, the Astors and others of upper crust New York society are clearly, and unsparingly, drawn. The day to day life of Gilded Age society is the backdrop and conformingly repressive constraint her friends and “frenemies” endured. Told with clear eyed sympathy, the novel follows Alva from age 17 to her death in 1933. Book groups will enjoy discussing the differences between women today and the women who found themselves painted, pampered, polished, packaged and utterly controlled by their fathers and husbands. 4 ½ of 5 stars


  • (10/07/18): Many moons ago, when I was a junior in high school I read a book for my contemporary history class, called, Johnny got his gun. Several years back I read a novel called, Never let you go, and I had such a strong, visceral reaction to those two books that they haunt me to this day. This book will join that list. In this slim, relatively short book, Ackerman has penned a powerful narrative on the horrible cost of war. Centering this story, that I'm sure is a reality for some, on only a few people, and limiting the setting to only what is necessary, he has created an insular novel, from which it is hard to look away. The narrative voice, a friend of Edens, takes us back and forth, but only as far as what the reader needs to kno. How Eden got here, and how his wife and daughter, Tangled their lives together. We also hear the inner thoughts of Eden as he lays in his bed. Waiting, the many who wait, for news of their loved ones, for lives to restart, for healing, moments of grace, and of course waiting for death. The terribly, high costs of wars that seem to gain do little, but cost so much. The author also employed what I consider another masterful stroke, a repeating description of something that brings out the human side of Eden, making him personal and memorable to the reader. In the novel, She rides Shotgun, the author used a teddy bear that talked and emoted, I won't forget that detail and hence for me it made the book unforgettable. Here,the detail is not as innocuous or harmless as a teddy. I won't tell you what it is but it is equally if not more so memorable. This is not a happy, little book, but a necessary one. A wake up call, a shock if you will to those of us lucky enough not to be waiting, not to be personally involved in the horrible effects or after effects of war. Those of us who can sit on our couches and just watch various scenes play out on the television. I won't forget this incredibly powerful and moving story.


  • (10/17/18): When World War I breaks out, Lucius Krzelewski, only son of a Polish aristocrat, is a second year medical student. His father, a former cavalry man, wants to use his connections to get his son a glory-seeking position at the front, but Lucius instead enlists in the medical corps, hoping to gain some hands-on experience. He finds himself assigned to a remote village--as the only doctor on staff. The hospital is run by a young nun, Sister Margrete, whose practical education under the last doctor has taught her more than Lucius could imagine, including how to amputate limbs and drain pressure on the brain. Determined to help and protect injured men, he soon learns that his task is to heal them just enough to send them back to the front lines. Mason does a fine job of recreating the horrors of war and the physical and mental toll it takes on the soldiers. Lucius is particularly haunted by one man, a Hungarian named Horvath who produces beautiful drawings but can't speak; instead, he produces a loud, constant hum. The characters are very well developed, including the resourceful and independent Margrete, her orderlies, and the hospital cook, as well as Lucius and his patients. I was a bit put off by the love story that dominates the second half of the book. Then again, I can imagine that in such an environment, young men were happy to cling to any hope of a better world. Like many of them, Lucius is haunted by people and events from his war experience that he just cannot shake. Although I did enjoy this book, I feel that The Piano Tuner was better. Still, a recommended read for those interested in World War I from an Eastern European standpoint who are not too squeamish.


  • (11/01/18): I would not have finished this book except I am in a book club and I wanted to be able to discuss it with the group. I did not feel it was adequately researched for a historical fiction book. The author made Cathy out to be a weak woman by having her always fawning after a man. I bet the real Cathy wanted nothing of the sort in the Infantry. The author makes Cathy out to be the best marksman in the unit, even gets a medal for it, but never describes a situation where Cathy kills anyone to deserve that medal. That is because it would be politically incorrect because the Buffalo Soldiers were killing native American Indians and 4 million bison (to starve the Indians). She gave Cathy a modern day attitude that didn't fit the 1800's story. It could be a good middle school book, but it has an unnecessary female gay sex scene that comes out of no where, and talk of soldiers masturbating etc. I hope another author picks up this story and does Cathy justice, writing a more factual, true to the day narrative.


  • (10/02/18): First, the book is generally well written and informative. I read it at one sitting and do not begrudge the time required. Second, the major idea I drew from the book was Adiga’s metaphorical usage of the “rooster coop” to explain most of India’s socio-economic problems. Entending the metaphor I reviewed my own experiences and came to an unpleasant conclusion. The “rooster coop” phenomenon has in various guises, in differing circumstances, but fortunately with much less deadly consequences, made its own appearances within my own life, within my own family. My thanks to the author for the unintended reflection to which he has led me.


  • (10/17/18): When World War I breaks out, Lucius Krzelewski, only son of a Polish aristocrat, is a second year medical student. His father, a former cavalry man, wants to use his connections to get his son a glory-seeking position at the front, but Lucius instead enlists in the medical corps, hoping to gain some hands-on experience. He finds himself assigned to a remote village--as the only doctor on staff. The hospital is run by a young nun, Sister Margrete, whose practical education under the last doctor has taught her more than Lucius could imagine, including how to amputate limbs and drain pressure on the brain. Determined to help and protect injured men, he soon learns that his task is to heal them just enough to send them back to the front lines. Mason does a fine job of recreating the horrors of war and the physical and mental toll it takes on the soldiers. Lucius is particularly haunted by one man, a Hungarian named Horvath who produces beautiful drawings but can't speak; instead, he produces a loud, constant hum. The characters are very well developed, including the resourceful and independent Margrete, her orderlies, and the hospital cook, as well as Lucius and his patients. I was a bit put off by the love story that dominates the second half of the book. Then again, I can imagine that in such an environment, young men were happy to cling to any hope of a better world. Like many of them, Lucius is haunted by people and events from his war experience that he just cannot shake. Although I did enjoy this book, I feel that The Piano Tuner was better. Still, a recommended read for those interested in World War I from an Eastern European standpoint who are not too squeamish.


  • (10/07/18): Many moons ago, when I was a junior in high school I read a book for my contemporary history class, called, Johnny got his gun. Several years back I read a novel called, Never let you go, and I had such a strong, visceral reaction to those two books that they haunt me to this day. This book will join that list. In this slim, relatively short book, Ackerman has penned a powerful narrative on the horrible cost of war. Centering this story, that I'm sure is a reality for some, on only a few people, and limiting the setting to only what is necessary, he has created an insular novel, from which it is hard to look away. The narrative voice, a friend of Edens, takes us back and forth, but only as far as what the reader needs to kno. How Eden got here, and how his wife and daughter, Tangled their lives together. We also hear the inner thoughts of Eden as he lays in his bed. Waiting, the many who wait, for news of their loved ones, for lives to restart, for healing, moments of grace, and of course waiting for death. The terribly, high costs of wars that seem to gain do little, but cost so much. The author also employed what I consider another masterful stroke, a repeating description of something that brings out the human side of Eden, making him personal and memorable to the reader. In the novel, She rides Shotgun, the author used a teddy bear that talked and emoted, I won't forget that detail and hence for me it made the book unforgettable. Here,the detail is not as innocuous or harmless as a teddy. I won't tell you what it is but it is equally if not more so memorable. This is not a happy, little book, but a necessary one. A wake up call, a shock if you will to those of us lucky enough not to be waiting, not to be personally involved in the horrible effects or after effects of war. Those of us who can sit on our couches and just watch various scenes play out on the television. I won't forget this incredibly powerful and moving story.


  • (10/17/18): When World War I breaks out, Lucius Krzelewski, only son of a Polish aristocrat, is a second year medical student. His father, a former cavalry man, wants to use his connections to get his son a glory-seeking position at the front, but Lucius instead enlists in the medical corps, hoping to gain some hands-on experience. He finds himself assigned to a remote village--as the only doctor on staff. The hospital is run by a young nun, Sister Margrete, whose practical education under the last doctor has taught her more than Lucius could imagine, including how to amputate limbs and drain pressure on the brain. Determined to help and protect injured men, he soon learns that his task is to heal them just enough to send them back to the front lines. Mason does a fine job of recreating the horrors of war and the physical and mental toll it takes on the soldiers. Lucius is particularly haunted by one man, a Hungarian named Horvath who produces beautiful drawings but can't speak; instead, he produces a loud, constant hum. The characters are very well developed, including the resourceful and independent Margrete, her orderlies, and the hospital cook, as well as Lucius and his patients. I was a bit put off by the love story that dominates the second half of the book. Then again, I can imagine that in such an environment, young men were happy to cling to any hope of a better world. Like many of them, Lucius is haunted by people and events from his war experience that he just cannot shake. Although I did enjoy this book, I feel that The Piano Tuner was better. Still, a recommended read for those interested in World War I from an Eastern European standpoint who are not too squeamish.


  • (09/24/18): It doesn't get much better than this. Bookish books, lovely characters, the perfect plot, a book shop on a beautiful, lone island, and of course an aging and evolving character that is both crusty and cantankerous but which readers fall in love with anyway. Mr. A. J. Firky, that is. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with this novel, I truly wasn't. I usually find books about book stores a bit cliche to be candid, but this one here is one for the books. Pun intended. It has the perfect amount of everything you could want out of a novel. Like having just the right amount of baking ingredients for that perfect Lemon Pie. Some few hundred pages to the end made for quite an eloquent read, not too long not too short, again just right. Most of all, the quirky references to all time favorite titles, seemingly made in jest at the start, were impeccable. I certainly cannot stress how much I recommend this book. It has now become one of my all time faves. If you believe in book hangovers, well this one definitely left me in a deep state of one. Happy reading.


  • (09/19/18): The book cover gives you a hint of what might be if you are willing to commit to its story line and close your eyes and travel. I did just that and I awakened to be face to face with the infamous Pancho Villa. The rugged mountains of Mexico and the historic beginning of the great city of El Paso. As a 20 year old I actually lived on my own in this Texas beauty and I certainly envisioned it as the author described. Men and women who expanded the country westward are the real heroes of this book and of this time as the story unfolds. What a journey!!


  • (09/15/18): The Dry is the first book in the Aaron Falk series by award-winning Australian journalist and author, Jane Harper. After twenty years away, AFP agent Aaron Falk returns to drought-stricken rural Victoria for the funeral of his one-time best friend, Luke Hadler. All of Kiewarra is there to bury Luke, Karen and little Billy, but few of them are glad to see Falk. Falk’s field is financial crimes, so Luke’s mother asks him to look into a possible alternative to the foregone conclusion of murder-suicide that seems to have been reached by the detectives from Clyde. And neither is Kiewarra’s own cop, Sergeant Greg Raco, entirely convinced by this explanation. There are enough discrepancies in the facts that Falk decides to stay a few days, to see if he can cast light on this awful tragedy. He owes Luke’s memory and his parents at least that much. But Falk and his father left Kiewarra under a cloud when, at sixteen, his dear friend Ellie Deacon drowned in the Kiewarra River. While no one was ever charged, Falk had his suspicions then about who was responsible: are they affecting his impartiality now? Are there reasons to think the crimes are related? During his informal investigation, Falk connects with townsfolk, reconnects with old friends and old enemies, and it is soon apparent that the ill will from his teens has been comprehensively reawakened. Against the backdrop of a struggling country town, Harper gives the reader twin mysteries: a cold case and one still dominating the town’s consciousness. Multiple narrators give a variety of perspectives, eventually revealing the truth about both these wretched events. Harper’s characters are believably flawed: there are no saints here, and many of them harbour secrets. Falk’s loyalty to his friends is tinged with doubt and suspicion. Harper’s Kiewarra easily evokes the typical country town with its small mindedness, its secrets, its rumour mill and the lightning spread of gossip, and a lack of the anonymity often felt in cities. This is a tale that is fast-paced, with an exciting climax and twists and red herrings that will keep even the most astute reader guessing until the final chapters. Harper’s debut novel certainly lives up to the hype, so interest in Aaron Falk’s second outing, Force of Nature, is bound to be high.


  • (09/14/18): At first I thought this was a religious book but I feel it was about how you live your life. The nuns were all different so you could associate with them in your own life. The author writes great descriptions about everything. Phrases I liked. Truth finds the light. Lies never stay hidden. Love's a tonic, not a cure.


  • (09/12/18): I would classify this as a must-read for 2018! Darius is a unique teenage boy whose story will appeal to all ages, even though the book is categorized as YA. Darius has to deal with high school life where he isn't one of the supposedly cool, in-crowd boys along with the added difficulty of having a mother whose Middle Eastern heritage is viewed with suspicion. As the story progresses, he learns to appreciate so many things about his mother's side of the family. However, the learning process is realistic: neither side of the family is portrayed with rose colored glasses. This book has laugh-out-loud moments as well as those where the reader cringes in sympathy with Darius.


  • (09/03/18): What a dazzlingly yet wonderful cast of characters we meet in Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen. The one thing united them is grief and loss. A widow loses her husband to a sudden brain aneurysm, a husband loses his wife in a freak accident, and people all around this world wake up to loss and grief every day. Sometimes life is simply too hard. Here we have a magical story about finding yourself in the midst of despair and learning to let those we love go while simultaneously believing in the magic of a future. A future filled with love. The magical part is both metaphorical and literal in this story revolving around a little girl who believes her dead father is directing her future as a reincarnated winged bird, and her future hinges on a man falling for her widowed mother who climbs trees to restore his soul. Trees, after all, are powerful and have deep roots that make them strong and stable. Sometimes when all hope is lost…hope arrives and life begins anew. As one character states, “By its very nature, though, love is tragic. You can’t protect it.” because “That’s what life is, loving and letting go.” This is an enchanted story full of wit, wisdom, loss, and love. I also want you to know that this book made me cry and I rarely cry. I guarantee that you need to read this sweet novel; it is a book you can’t afford to pass by. Read it and weep.


  • (08/26/18): A friend recommended this mystery to me and said she had just discovered Norwegian author Karin Fossum. This book is in a series of Inspector Sejer mysteries. Now I'm hooked! Fossum creates a tension and feeling of dread in the very first chapter. Filled with psychological suspense, the book is about the murder investigation of a young woman. Inspector Sejer uncovers the secrets and hidden relationships in what appears to be an idyllic town. Lots of twists and turns. I recommend it! An excellent mystery and I want to read more of her work.


  • (08/23/18): Beautifully written !

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