"It is rare for me not to finish a book I start, but this was one of those cases. I thought the premise was fascinating--a man who can foretell tragedy for his family, but the execution failed for me. There were times I felt like I was reading a science textbook because there was so much about water and snow."
"Maggie O'Farrell's story was difficult to get into at first. Jumping time lines and points of view with little or no indication between paragraphs that the time line has changed. Patient readers will be rewarded by Part 2 when the story hits its stride. The story of Alice is about a wonderful love affair, a tragedy and a deceptive family history. Very emotional and satisfying read."
"This is a coming of age story authentically narrated by Julia, a middle school student living with her parents in California. The usual adolescent angst is there: first love, shifting friendship, first bra. The unusual part is that the story is set against the uncertainty of a world that is literally slowing down. There's more promise than greatness in the novel, but still a worthwhile read."
"The Art of Fielding is a baseball book that, of course, isn't merely about baseball. But there are so many baseball scenes and references that I do think a reader has to like baseball or know about baseball in order to enjoy the book. That being said, the Art of Fielding is about the lives of five intertwined people on a college campus located along the shore of Lake Michigan. The characters face defining moments, failure (errors) and self-doubt. There were times when this novel reminded me of A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Secret History. I liked The Art of Fielding, although I'm not convinced it merited its "one of the best books of the year" status bestowed by many outlets (Amazon, NY Times)."
"I was looking forward to reading The Ask by Sam Lipsyte, a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book of the Year. I work on the East Coast in higher education and know that the fundraising field is ripe for satire. I even like snarkiness. But The Ask wasn't my cup of tea. The main character, Milo Burke, is unlikeable. The story is unnecessarily vulgar and raunchy in places. I gave up after about a 100 pages. It is very rare for me not to finish a book, but life is too short to read a book you don't like."
"Sweet, albeit maybe too perfect, tale of people at a crossroads in their lives and how a stay at a Nantucket beach house changes the course of their lives. The characters are really interesting and the reader grows to care what happens to them. The only thing better would have been reading it on a beach in Nantucket!"
"I found the story in this award-winning book refreshingly different and unique. It is about a months-long hostage situation in a South American nation that involves citizens from different countries who speak different languages. The character Gen Watanabe is a multilingual translator who bridges the barriers between terrorist and hostage and hostage and fellow hostage. Music and song, specifically opera, also erase barriers. I thought at first the length of their hostage situation seem unrealistic until I learned it was inspired by a similar event in Peru in 1996-97. Some have criticized the ending, but while I found it jarring, it was realistic. What was unrealistic was continuing the life and relationships created in the mansion under seige."
"This book is a sequel to the book Love Walked In. I would highly recommend reading them in sequence so the reader can appreciate how Clare came into Cornelia's life and how Cornelia and Teo got together. That being said, it is a nice novel. Cornelia is a very likable character, someone you wish you were friends with in real life. The way the characters evolve into friends (Cornelia and Piper; Clare, Dev and Aidan,) is real and sweet. Some of the book's setup is a bit unbelievable and some of the subplots (Toby, Lyssa) are distracting and extraneous. Good, not excellent."
"In the Bright Forever, Katie, a sweet nine-year-old girl goes missing from her small town in Indiana. The story unfolds through different characters' voices. It is a successful device that really moves the novel along and makes it a page-turner. Katie's tutor, Mr. Dees, is a particularly memorable character--creepy yet sympathetic."
"Inspired by true events, The Butterfly Cabinet tells the haunting story of a young girl's death and her mother's subsequent imprisonment in 1890s Northern Ireland. The story is told in two voices--via the mother, through her prison diary, and the maid who, now in her old age, is the last surviving member of the family/household who lived in the mansion at the time of Charlotte's death. I will say that the big reveal that is hinted at throughout the book did not live up to the hype. The book did make me think about how limited the options were for women in 19th century. Harriet should never have been a mother. She loved riding horses and collecting butterflies, but she could not muster any affection for her children. If she were born today she could chose to not have children and have lived a happy, content life. This does not excuse her coldness and abuse of her children, but I can see her as a victim of her times."
"Celia, Bree, Sally and April meet as first year students at Smith College and become fast friends. The book covers their college years into their early to mid-20s. Though I am no longer twentysomething and my college experience was nothing likes theirs was at Smith, I found Commencement to be an interesting read. I did notice that there were virtually no redeeming men in the novel-- don't know whether that is a Smith thing or whether the author just doesn't like men."
"A well-written book part murder mystery and part coming of age story. The author smoothly transitions from present day to past to tell the story of Larry Ott, a man ostracized by his Mississippi town because of his connection to a missing persons case, and Silas Jones, his childhood friend who has returned to the town as constable. Though slow to start, I found this story of race, friendship and secrets gripping, sad and ultimately redemptive."
"Excellent, well-written book about what happens to a family when their teenage son/brother is murdered in their home and the killer is sentenced to death. Told from the perspectives of the family members and the man tasked with carrying out the execution. The story is about grief, hatred, forgiveness, and the harm of keeping secrets. I read the last 10 pages through tears. Highly recommended."
"This story started out very engaging but fell flat for me in the later chapters--including a very tedious passage about the main character's train ride to London. While a story featuring the voice of someone with Autism or Asperger's offers a unique perspective, there still must be an interesting story to tell at the heart of it. I thought the premise was better carried out in Jodi Picoult's House Rules and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."
"Wow! This legal thriller/family drama by William Landay is one of the best books I've read this year. Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber's life is turned upside down when evidence in a murder investigation he is in charge of points to his own 14-year-old son, Jacob. Can someone inherit a propensity for violence? Is "not guilty" the same as innocent? What is the responsibility of a parent? This novel is suspenseful, chilling and highly recommended."
"Great story! Loved Bohjalian's Midwives, and this book is just as good. The main character is a very damaged woman. The reader will be engrossed in her quest to unravel a mystery. The ending is mind-blowing! The book also gives the reader great insights into the world of the homeless."
"Oskar Schell is the unforgettable protagonist of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. What other nine-year-olds send fan mail to Stephen Hawking? Oskar is highly intelligent and quirky, but at heart is simply a young boy grieving the loss of his beloved dad. The reader learns through flashbacks of the very special relationship Oskar and his dad had. Oskar's quest brings him on a journey toward recovery and maybe the realization that the value of his relationship with his dad can be measured in things other than length of time. A parallel story of Oskar's grandparents, who lived through the bombing of Dresden, reminds readers that previous generations have faced cataclysmic events and been broken, but have survived. The author's unorthodox use of photographic and typographic elements, for me, did not distract or necessarily enhance the story, but I can see where others might feeling strongly about their use. Highly recommended, though you will left with "heavy boots.""
"Set in Boston, most of Haigh's riveting novel takes place during the clergy sex abuse crisis that exploded in 2002. A priest is accused of molesting a boy and the questions are not only did he do what he was accused of, but do his siblings, mother and parishioners still have faith in him? The story weaves back in forth through time, illuminating the priest's family history and circumstances that have let up to the charge. The language, traditions and practices of Boston's Irish Catholics are described nearly perfectly. The novel also interestingly examines different types of fathers: priests, absent fathers (Aidan's and Art's), stepfathers (Ted) and married, "traditional" fathers (Mike). Recommended."