The Best Recent Reader Reviews posted at Bookbrowse

The Best Recent Reader Reviews

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


  • (10/06/18): I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. I felt it read like a foreign dictionary. I was disappointed. I so liked Mason's book The Piano Tuner and was excited to get a chance to read this one. I had so much trouble starting this novel that I almost set it aside. I realize now that having done that would have been a loss for me. Lucius, dreams of being a surgeon. Much to his Mothers disappointment he enters the military during WW1. He ends up in an abandoned church being used as a field hospital in Lemnowice, in the Carpathian Mountains. He expects his training to continue, but instead finds himself as the only surgeon there, a surgeon unsure of himself and thoroughly inexperienced. Under deplorable conditions he finds Sister Margarete in charge. Under her tutelage, Lucius learns quickly and takes over his role as surgeon. Shattering presence, heart wrenching, unconscionable pain and suffering, all vivid for the reader to visualize. This story is plot-driven, is full of action, springs forth with brutal detail, and may not end as you desire. However, it truly has the mark of Mason, excellence.


  • (10/03/18): I started this book and could not put it down. The writing is so amazing and the descriptions keep you completely absorbed in the story. You actually feel that the writer is Cathy Williams and that you right there with her. Amazing story. Anyone interested in historical fiction or famous women I highly recommend this book.


  • (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.


  • (10/06/18): I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. I felt it read like a foreign dictionary. I was disappointed. I so liked Mason's book The Piano Tuner and was excited to get a chance to read this one. I had so much trouble starting this novel that I almost set it aside. I realize now that having done that would have been a loss for me. Lucius, dreams of being a surgeon. Much to his Mothers disappointment he enters the military during WW1. He ends up in an abandoned church being used as a field hospital in Lemnowice, in the Carpathian Mountains. He expects his training to continue, but instead finds himself as the only surgeon there, a surgeon unsure of himself and thoroughly inexperienced. Under deplorable conditions he finds Sister Margarete in charge. Under her tutelage, Lucius learns quickly and takes over his role as surgeon. Shattering presence, heart wrenching, unconscionable pain and suffering, all vivid for the reader to visualize. This story is plot-driven, is full of action, springs forth with brutal detail, and may not end as you desire. However, it truly has the mark of Mason, excellence.


  • (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.


  • (10/06/18): I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. I felt it read like a foreign dictionary. I was disappointed. I so liked Mason's book The Piano Tuner and was excited to get a chance to read this one. I had so much trouble starting this novel that I almost set it aside. I realize now that having done that would have been a loss for me. Lucius, dreams of being a surgeon. Much to his Mothers disappointment he enters the military during WW1. He ends up in an abandoned church being used as a field hospital in Lemnowice, in the Carpathian Mountains. He expects his training to continue, but instead finds himself as the only surgeon there, a surgeon unsure of himself and thoroughly inexperienced. Under deplorable conditions he finds Sister Margarete in charge. Under her tutelage, Lucius learns quickly and takes over his role as surgeon. Shattering presence, heart wrenching, unconscionable pain and suffering, all vivid for the reader to visualize. This story is plot-driven, is full of action, springs forth with brutal detail, and may not end as you desire. However, it truly has the mark of Mason, excellence.


  • (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 !


  • (08/07/18): A young woman living in Holland during the Nazi Occupation is forced into smuggling and utilizing the Black Market in order to feed her family and friends. One of her “regulars” asks her to find “the girl in the blue coat” and that is where the mystery begins. Secrets, betrayals, lost friendships, disappearances, dead lovers and danger on all sides makes this a compelling and tense read. Everyday life in an occupied city is made real and horrific. Although billed as Young Adult, this novel will appeal to anyone interested in WWII and the resistance, especially in Holland. 5 of 5 stars


  • (08/02/18): This book was such a surprise! Outside my usual genres of mystery or historical fiction, I was totally captivated, I did not want it to end! I plan to have my book club read it when it is my turn to pick! The warmth of the story and characters are deeply felt.


  • (08/25/18): Great book from Tayari Jones. The characters are well rounded. She's a great writer.


  • (07/22/18): Awesome, captivating book - don't pass it by !! I don't know where to start or what to say except maybe.... it is mind blowing! compelling and exciting! It keeps you going until the end. You are gasping for breath, dizzy, and in so deep you feel like you can't put this book down. This book was twisted, raw and at some points scary, it went back and forth between present day, (Amber in a coma) to a week prior, the build up to Amber being in a coma, and 1992, a series of diaries. The twists and turns this book takes was so entertaining and spooky, I found myself speeding up the reading just to see what happened next! Pages were flying I was dead to the world, It kept me guessing, and thinking and guessing the entire time: gasp! Breathe..... I loved every second! Wow! This has got to be a movie...

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