Book Review: An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

First line: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don’t.

Summary: Roy and Celestial are newlyweds. They are happy until one night Roy is arrested for a crime that he did not commit. He is sentenced to a twelve-year sentence. Celestial tries to hold onto the love for her husband but it becomes harder as the years pass by. She takes solace in her friend and the best man at their wedding, Andre. However, Roy is released after five years and plans to return to his life and his wife. Can they go back to the people they were before?

Highlights: This book is one that is relevant. It is a contemporary story about a couple who has to deal with odds that are out of their control. I enjoyed the correspondence between Celestial and Roy while he is in jail. It gives us an insight into the challenges of a couple who are separated by incarceration.

Lowlights: I felt like the climax (when Roy is released) was not as exciting or intriguing as I wanted it to be. I thought there would be more conflict.

FYI: Language and some adult content.

Book Review: The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

First line: Varya is thirteen.

Summary: Four siblings sneak out one night to find a local gypsy woman who is said to be able to tell their futures including their date of death. With these revelations, the siblings begin to live their lives with the knowledge hanging over them. Their stories span over fifty years from San Francisco to Las Vegas. The introduction of the AIDS virus to the war in Iraq. This story shows how knowledge of the future can shape our lives.

Highlights: I really enjoyed Simon’s story. I think he was my favorite character. I was sad when his story was over. However, the plotline for the book was very intriguing. Would I want to know when my death date was? I cannot imagine that I would. It would bring dread as each day passed. On the other hand, would this give me reason to enjoy each day? The author really gives the reader lots to think about while reading. A good author can do this and Chloe Benjamin did a great job.

Lowlights: Simon and Klara were the characters that kept my attention. However, I felt that the story slowed after that. Especially with Varya’s story. Varya had to deal with the loss of each of her siblings and wrapping the story up. I felt like she deserved more. There was a little twist for her but it was not as big as I would have hoped for.

FYI: There is some sexual content and language.

Early April new releases

Cover of The Female Persuasion by Meg WolitzerApril 3: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
From Goodreads: “Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Cover of Dread Nation by Justina IrelandApril 3: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (young adult)
Zombies, Gettysburg, and combat schools to put down the dead. What’s not to love? It’s the Civil War, and at the battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, the dead begin to walk, completely derailing the war and changing the country forever. The safety of the country’s citizens lies in the hands of a relatively few people. New laws require certain people to attend combat schools where they learn to put down the dead. And for Jane McKeene, this means more opportunity than she would have had otherwise as she studies to become an Attendant, and trains in weaponry and etiquette to prepare to protect the well-to-do.

Cover of A Necessary Evil by Abir MukherjeeApril 3: A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
In this followup to A Rising Man, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee are called upon to solve the mystery of the assassination of the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Sambalpore. Prince Adhir was a moderniser, but his attitudes and romantic relationship may have upset the religious elements of his country. But the new heir, Prince Adhir’s brother, appears to be an irresponsible playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee work to untangle the mystery of the murder, they find themselves in a race to find the murderer before the murderer finds them.

Cover of Macbeth by Jo NesboApril 5: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Famed crime writer Jo Nesbo tackles the classic story of Macbeth. From Goodreads: “Set in a dark, rainy northern town, Nesbo’s Macbeth pits the ambitions of a corrupt policeman against loyal colleagues, a drug-depraved underworld and the pull of childhood friendships. Get ready to helter-skelter through the darkest tunnels of human experience.

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerApril 10: Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is the daughter of a Titan, but without the powers of either her mother or her father. Because she is such a strange child, she turns to the mortal world for companionship, where she learns she is not powerless. She discovers that she possesses the power of witchcraft, which allows her to transform her rivals into monsters. Threatened by this discovery, Zeus banishes Circe to a deserted island, but this just allows Circe to hone her craft.

Cover of Love and Other Words by Christina LaurenApril 10: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
A then-and-now story of love. Macy is a pediatrics resident who is busy planning her wedding to a financially secure older man. She has a plan — keep her head down and her heart tucked away. Then she runs into Elliott, the love of her life, around whom her whole world used to revolve. From the teenage Elliott and Macy who grow from friends to much more, to the adult Elliott and Macy who have become strangers until their chance reunion, this story explores what happens when love gets a second chance.

 

Book Review: The Perfect Nanny

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

First line: The baby is dead.

Summary: When Myriam decides to go back to work she is tasked with finding someone to watch her two children. Along comes Louise. She is perfect. She works late, cleans the house and the kids love her. As time goes on the family and Louise become even more reliant on each other, which leads to jealousy and resentment.

Highlights: For such a short novel there is a lot of story. It was a slow burn. There are no twists and turns. There is just an underlying darkness to the novel. Louise has a past that haunts her but she seems to overcome it. As we delve deeper into the plot, it becomes apparent to Myriam that the perfect nanny is not quite so perfect. Little things begin to happen. Who is the woman that they let into their life? So much is packed into the pages. It is not the next Gone Girl but it is still worth the read.

Lowlights: It ended very quickly and abruptly.

FYI: Translated from its original French version.

Early February new releases

I’m having a hard time believing it’s already February! How did January go by so fast? I’d like to think that it’s all the reading I’m doing, but I’m afraid that’s not actually the case.

In the meantime, there are more great books being released every week. Here are four that we think look pretty appealing. If you decide to read any of them, please comment below and let us know what you thought of it.

Remember, click on the book’s title to go to the catalog where you can see if it’s available or put it on hold.

Feb. 6: As Bright as Heaven by Sarah Meissner
The 1918 Spanish flu epidemic is at the center of this book about family and relationships. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918, with the hope that they can give their three daughters better opportunities. Just a few months after they arrive in Philadelphia, where Thomas goes to work in his uncle’s funeral home, the Spanish flu hits the town. As the pandemic spreads and kills 12,000 people in the city, the members of the Bright family find the things they believe in challenged.

Feb. 6: The Glass Forest by Cynthia  Swanson
It’s autumn of 1960 and Angie is living her dream life with her husband, Paul, and new baby. Then a phone call shatters their comfortable world. Ruby calls her Uncle Paul to report that her father, Henry, has committed suicide and her mother, Silja, is missing. Angie and Paul immediately head to upstate New York to be there for Ruby, who is 17. As Angie learns more about her husband’s family, she begins to wonder about her own marriage.

Feb. 13: Miss Newman isn’t Human! (My Weirdest School #10) by Dan Gutman (juvenile chapter book)
From Goodreads: “In this tenth book in the new My Weirdest School series, Sprinkles Newman, the local TV meteorologist, is coming to Ella Mentry School! She’s going to teach A.J. and the gang all about the weather. But what happens when a real live (well, not live) hurricane comes to the school? Hold on to your umbrellas!

“Perfect for reluctant readers and word lovers alike, Dan Gutman’s hugely popular My Weird School chapter book series has something for everyone. Don’t miss the hilarious adventures of A.J. and the gang!”

Feb. 13: White Houses by Amy Bloom
Lorena Hickok grew up desperately poor in South Dakota, but in 1932 she met Eleanor Roosevelt during FDR’s first presidential campaign. Hick, as she was known to her family and friends, was able to rise above her circumstances and by 1932 had fashioned herself as the most prominent female journalist in America. Bloom’s novel explores the relationship between Eleanor and Hick, as Hick moves into the White House and her status as “first friend” is an open secret, along with FDR’s own lovers.

Book Review: Still Me

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

First line: It was the mustache that reminded me I was no longer in England: a solid, gray millipede firmly obscuring the man’s upper lip; a Village People mustache, a cowboy mustache, the miniature head of a broom that means business.

Summary: Louisa Clark is starting a new adventure. She is travelling to New York City to work as a personal assistant. However, the new job is not exactly what she had pictured. With a busy schedule of appointments and society events, she tries to balance work and her new relationship with Ambulance Sam, who is back in England. At one such social event, she runs into someone that reminds her of her past and changes her future.

Highlights: Jojo Moyes is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I have read several of her novels and enjoyed them all. She has a way of writing that makes you feel everything. I laughed at Louisa Skyping with Sam. I nearly cried at the end when she is deciding who she wants to be. I love the character of Louisa Clark. She is quirky. She is funny without always meaning to be. She is not afraid to be herself. She is kind, honest, and loyal. I loved her interactions with all the different people in the apartment building. She is a person I would like to be. A complete optimist. She may have a few sad times but she is always looking at the bright side. In addition, getting to know more about her family. This book gave so much more to the other two. It filled in spaces and brought closure to many of the plotlines.

Lowlights: The more I think about this while writing the more I realize how much I liked it. Nothing to complain about at all.

FYI: Must read Me Before You and After You before reading in order to understand the background and characters.  Also check out the movie, Me Before You, starring Emilia Clark and Sam Claflin.

Release Date: January 30, 2018

 

Book Review: The English Wife

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

First line: “They say he’s bankrupted himself rebuilding the house—all for her, of course.”

Summary: When Bayard Van Duyvil is found dead with a knife in his chest and his wife, Annabelle is missing, speculation starts around the happy couple. Did Annabelle kill her husband? Who is she anyway? The whirlwind romance and quick marriage to an English woman brings gossip and questions to the New York society. Janie, Bay’s sister, is determined to find out who killed her brother and clear her sister-in-law’s name.

Highlights: I am a huge fan of Lauren Willig and her books. She can write a good mystery with well-developed characters. I really liked the character of Georgie/Annabelle. She has a twisted past that is slowly revealed through the story. Her relationship with Bay was one of my favorite parts. I enjoyed their interactions and the way that their relationship changed. The rules and etiquette of society were so annoying but I believe very real for the time. Divorce and gossip were game changers for people of the upper classes. The old money hated the new money. There is a plenty of detail about the period making it easy for me as a reader to understand and be transported into the story. The ending shocked me. I was not expecting the story to wrap up the way it did but it was perfect. As I read another review, they compared it to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I think this is a great comparison.

Lowlights: The switching between 1899 and 1894 got a little confusing at different points. I am not always good about reading the little notes at the beginning of the chapter detailing when and where the story is taking place. It is very important in this book. In the middle, the story seemed to hit a lull. It was all about building up to the climax at the end.

FYI: Another win for Lauren Willig! If you like this, check out her Pink Carnation series. They are fantastic.

Book Review: The Girls in the Picture

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

First line: Lately, the line between real life and the movies has begun to blur.

Summary: Hollywood was not always the glamorous place it is today. At the dawn of the motion pictures were Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. Their friendship and collaboration created many of the earliest movies. Each took their careers in hand and made a name for themselves. Marion as a screenwriter and Mary as “America’s Sweetheart”. Through a duel narration, we see the changes of the movies, their lives and the nation.

Mary Pickford and Frances Marion

Highlights: Melanie Benjamin is becoming one of my favorite authors. She writes amazing stories of strong women. I am completely enamored with Mary Pickford and Frances Marion after reading this novel.  I really liked both characters. Each woman is independent but they have a strong friendship that they rely on as well. The history behind the beginning of the motion picture was fascinating to see through the eyes of women who actually experienced it when women were barely working outside the home.

I have inter-library loaned several of their movies as I read in order to watch the movies discussed in the story. Having never watched a silent film, it will be a fun experience. My first one will be Sparrows starring Mary Pickford.

Sparrows starring Mary Pickford

Lowlights: The middle of the plot was a little slow. Especially when Frances was in Europe during the First World War. It is an important point in her life but when the rest of the story is centered around Hollywood and the movies it was not as interesting.

FYI: If you like The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty then read this!

Release date: January 16, 2018

Early January new releases

It’s a shiny, brand new year and oh, the reading possibilities that brings! With the advent of a new year, we are getting into the seasons of many more new books being released! With that in mind, here are a few titles we are looking forward to in the first half of January. Click on the title of the book to go to our catalog to check availability.

Tell us in the comments what your reading goal is for 2018.

Jan. 2: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black—young adult
At 7, Jude lost her parents when they were murdered. At the same time her sisters were spirited away to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now 17, Jude desperately wants to join them, but to do so, she’ll have to defy Price Cardan, the youngest and most wicked of the sons of the High King.

Jan. 2: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox hasn’t left her home in 10 months. Over those months, she has sat at her window day after day watching her neighbors. When a new family moves in, she feels particularly drawn to what looks like a picture-perfect family living what used to be her life. Then she hears a scream rip the silence and sees something no one should ever have seen, but what should she do?  She’s not certain anyone will believe her, but she must get to the bottom of what happened.

Jan. 9: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
In 1986, Eddie and his friends spend their time biking around their English village, sharing information with each other via little chalk figures. One day, a figure leads them to a dismembered body and everything changes. Now, it’s 30 years later, and each of them gets a letter in the mail that contains a chalk stick figure. Then one of them turns up dead. Eddy figures it’s time he learns what really happened all those years ago.

Jan. 9: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
A traveling psychic shows up in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1969, a woman who claims to be able to foretell the day a person will die. Four teenagers, the Gold children, sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies they hear guide their stories for the next 50 years.

Jan. 16: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
From Goodreads: “In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and stunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.”

Jan. 16: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars are at the center of this book, which explores the friendship and creative partnership shared by Mary Pickford and Frances Marion. In 1914, Frances meets Mary, who is already making a name for herself. But together, these two women will hold much power in the movie industry and in Hollywood itself. Mary Pickford was knows as “Queen of the Movies” and Frances Marion is considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century.

 

Book Review: Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

First line: Anna said there was only one place to find a meaningful gift for MDash—the Antique Warehouse, not so much a place for old treasures as a permanent swap meet in what used to be the Lux Theater.

Summary: A collection of short stories written by Tom Hanks. Each story has its own feel and flow to it but in each he incorporates a typewriter. The stories span from time travel to a struggling actress to a bowler with a perfect score.

Highlights: I liked each and every story. They are all unique. I was excited to read this book because I am a big fan of Tom Hanks. He is very talented and once again proved it with this collection. The depth of the stories and the variety captured me. It was nice to have something I could pick up and put down without losing track of the storyline. I think my favorite was the story of the time traveling billionaire. The ending was sad but I completely enjoyed it.

Lowlights: I wanted more! I have never been drawn to short stories but I think this will be a gateway into trying more. I was always disappointed when the story ended.

FYI: Must read for all Tom Hanks fans!