Pat D. (pat0814) - Reviews

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Abide with Me
Abide with Me
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 90
Review Date: 11/23/2010
Helpful Score: 1


This is a novel that won't disappoint its readers. The prose is clear, the plot is believable and the characters have a strength and integrity that rings true. At the end of this book, I felt as if the main character were someone I liked very much and had known for a long time. His faith and fortitude in the face of very dire circustances were evident, and made his vulnerability all the more touching. I felt a sense of peace at the conclusion. Thank you, Ms. Strout, for a remarkably excellent book.


The Absence of Mercy
The Absence of Mercy
Author: John Burley
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 10/28/2013
Helpful Score: 1


It is difficult to review this book without disclosing the person responsible for the horribly sadistic murders in a small Ohio town. It is possible to relate that the person's identity adds further levels of complexity and pain to this novel. The suspense doesn't conclude when the perpetrator is eventually tracked because the apprehension is thwarted by a family member. The moral dilemma of the sociopath's family becomes the focus and thought-provoking conclusion of this debut novel.


The Absence of Nectar
The Absence of Nectar
Author: Kathy Hepinstall
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 79
Review Date: 7/3/2010
Helpful Score: 1


I'm not sure in what genre this book would be classified, perhaps fantasy. I eventually gave up - there were simply too many unlikely personalities and occurrences to assimilate.


An Absolute Gentleman
An Absolute Gentleman
Author: R. M. Kinder
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 8/8/2010
Helpful Score: 1


This is the chilling story of a serial killer told in the first-person by the murderer, who is outwardly a pleasant Creative Writing professor in a small midwestern college. His history with his mother is told in enough detail that we understand why he is both attracted to and repulsed by women. There is a haunting, vacant quality to his interactions with colleagues and students, and the suspense builds to a crescendo of violence that is unimaginably evil.

This character is based on a real-life serial murderer known to the author, which adds to the horrible knowledge that these damaged minds do truly exist and live among us in various guises. I was reminded of the dawning knowledge among Ted Bundy's friends when the range and depth of his murders were known.


Admission
Admission
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 7/20/2010


This book engaged me totally from the first chapter. I worked at a university in the same building as the admissions offfice, so I am familiar with the rigors and joys of that office. I also remember gaggles of prospective students on campus tours with anxious parents in tow. Admission captured all of the excitement, angst and hope of adolescents making application to Princeton. It is extremely well researched and written. Anyone who has ever applied to a college or university or had a child who made application will be immediately drawn into this fascinating novel. Paragraphs from fictional essays that head each chapter will make every reader remember his or her diffficult struggle to find just the right experience to capture the attention of the admissions office.

Portia is an admissions officer at Princeton sharing a home and a long-term relationship with an English professor. Her assignment is to cover the northeast to recruit students and answer their questions about Princeton. She is a fiercely independent and private person with the loneliness that often accompanies those personality characteristics. Her past and present collide on a recruiting trip to New Hampshire, and the novel evolves very cleverly from there.

I haven't read Korelitz's previous novels, but plan to do so. I haven't been this impressed with an author in a very long time.


After This
After This
Author: Alice McDermott
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 7/19/2012


McDermott is a master at evoking readers' understanding of the characters through a paucity of description of the truly meaningful events in this book. I found the same was true of Charming Billy. The chapters often begin with the event already accomplished that determines the responses and interactions of the characters that then lead to the next chapter. I really enjoy this prose. Ms. McDermott is well worth reading.


After You
After You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 12/6/2015


I was disappointed in this book because I have been a fan of Jojo Moyes for a long time. For me, the sequel detracted from Me Before You, which is a well-written, stand-alone novel with engaging characters. After You is a weak attempt to recreate what should have been left alone. The characters in After You are cliché-ridden and one-dimensional with implausible situations such as Louisa sharing marijuana with the teenager when the girl moves in with her. I hope that Ms. Moyes will now turn her talented hand to writing a book worthy of her time and ours.


After You'd Gone
After You'd Gone
Author: Maggie O'Farrell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 28
Review Date: 6/1/2013


Initially, I found this book somewhat difficult to follow. The time lines shift, as do the characters' ages and interactions. I am so very glad that I stayed with it to the point where I couldn't put it down. Maggie O'Farrell did an excellent job of developing the relationships to the point where they all converged. I found myself deeply moved by the portrayal of raw, real pain, which everyone who has lost someone irreplacable in their lives and hearts will recognize. The ending was, in my opinion, perfect. We are left knowing that hearts will mend with help and sharing memories with someone else who cared as much will provide mutual solace.


After You'd Gone
After You'd Gone
Author: Maggie O'Farrell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 8/4/2010


Initially, I found this book somewhat difficult to follow. The time lines shift, as do the characters' ages and interactions. I am so very glad that I stayed with it to the point where I couldn't put it down. Maggie O'Farrell did an excellent job of developing the relationships to the point where they all converged. I found myself deeply moved by the portrayal of raw, real pain, which everyone who has lost someone irreplacable in their lives and hearts will recognize. The ending was, in my opinion, perfect. We are left knowing that hearts will mend with help and sharing memories with someone else who cared as much will provide mutual solace.


The Age of Longing
The Age of Longing
Author: Richard B. Wright
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 10/10/2010
Helpful Score: 1


Richard B. Wright is a master at character development in his nine novels, and The Age of Longing is no exception. Howard Wheeler returns to his mother's home following her death to sell her house and its contents. As memories of his childhood unfold, his parents emerge for the reader as ordinary, flawed human beings. The magic of Richard B. Wright's writing is not the plots, but the way in which he depicts his characters leading unexceptional lives with insight and compassion. I think that he is one of Canada's finest authors.


Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer
Review Date: 10/2/2012


This book, set in mid-nineteenth century New England and inspired by Moby Dick, is a fascinating glimpse into the historical events and people of that era. I loved the main character, Una, for her adventurous spirit and unflinching spirit in the face of adversity. Naslund has created a memorable book that sets a high standard for heroines and the fictional history of antebellum America. That said, this book is truly a tome and requires some dedication to finish.


All Souls
All Souls
Author: Christine Schutt
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 10/27/2010


This is a brief glimpse into a girls' private high school in Manhattan with an assortment of senior girls, each of whom carries her own particular set of problems and aspirations. There are also several teachers whose lives we view with candor. At the center is a classmate diagnosed with cancer, who is the pivotal point for the book. I didn't feel any particular connection to anyone in this book, and found the format difficult to follow initially. There were too many characters to keep straight given the brief insight into one before another was followed. I also had no real sense of Astra as a person, just as a cancer victim.


All the Flowers in Shanghai
All the Flowers in Shanghai
Author: Duncan Jepson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 11/13/2011
Helpful Score: 1


Duncan Jepson shows promise as a writer in this debut novel; unfortunately, most of the material in this book has been done too often to make All The Flowers in Shanghai memorable. It is the story of Feng, who steps in as the reluctant bride in an arranged marriage when her older sister dies. Feng spends a lot of time pining for a young man she knew briefly before her marriage and life within a wealthy home dominated by her father-in-law. There are glimpses of Chinese history that make the story line more interesting, but ultimately the characters are stereotypical and without much substance.


All Things Cease to Appear
All Things Cease to Appear
Author: Elizabeth Brundage
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 4/26/2016
Helpful Score: 1


This is an absorbing novel. It is the story of a house where true evil has resided and still lingers when a young couple buys it during foreclosure proceedings. George Clare, a professor at a local college, knows the history of the house and chooses not to share that knowledge with his wife, Catherine. Catherine and their young daughter, Franny, bond with the Hale brothers who are all too familiar with the house. The plot lines in this book are well developed, as are the characters and their histories. I am avoidant of any book description that contains the word "ghosts;" however, there are believable spirits at work throughout this engrossing story that enhance the unfolding horrors. This is a novel that I won't easily forget.


All This Talk of Love: A Novel
All This Talk of Love: A Novel
Author: Christopher Castellani
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 12/31/2016


Apparently this is the third book in a trilogy. I read it as a stand-alone, and don't think I missed much by not reading the first two books. The Grassos are a first-generation Italian American family who own a successful restaurant. Their married daughter, Prima, has four sons and lives nearby and unmarried son, Frankie, is teaching at an academic setting. Their older son, Tony, died as a teenager.

I didn't find much to admire or like in any of these characters. There is a great deal of secrecy among the family in order to maintain the illusion of a happy Italian family, and is particularly sad given the circumstances surrounding Tony's death. The relationship between Frankie and his mother is often cloying, and Prima's actions toward her sons are odd and inappropriate. Frankie is the least likeable. His smug arrogance about an unimpressive role in academia and slavish devotion to a married woman are pathetic. The big plan posed by Prima for the entire family to return to Italy to reunite with the family there is the only plot development in an otherwise tedious read.


All Woman and Springtime
All Woman and Springtime
Author: Brandon W. Jones
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 4/12/2013
Helpful Score: 1


This is an amazing debut novel from my favorite publisher. Algonquin rarely disappoints readers of serious fiction, and this book is noteworthy for its prose and its subject matter. The insights into life in North Korea were obviously well researched and provide a chilling look at what is normal for people who have never known a different way of living. Sex trafficking is a harsh reality, and it is hoped that a heightened awareness of it will effect a change. I highly recommend this book and this very talented author.


American Rust
American Rust
Author: Philipp Meyer
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 10/7/2012


After finishing American Rust, I felt the same way I did after I'd read Grapes of Wrath. The rust in the title is applicable to the decaying mining town in western Pennsylvania and to the essential spirit of those who live there.

It is an astounding debut novel because it fully captures the motivations and broken dreams of the main characters by devoting alternating chapters to each one while being told in the third person. The plot is bleak, depressing and violent as it alternates from life in the mining town to incarceration to a young man trying to run away from his memories.

The aspect of this novel that saves it from utter hopelessness is the strength of the friendship between Issac and Poe. There is an honor in their unstated commitment to each other that transcends the boundaries of their lives.


And the Dark Sacred Night: A Novel
And the Dark Sacred Night: A Novel
Author: Julia Glass
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 3/30/2014


Kit Noonan, an unemployed academic in his early 40s, has settled too comfortably into a lazy lifestyle in his wife's opinion. Her solution to overcome his slothful existence is for Kit to uncover the truth about his biological father whose identity has never been revealed by his birth mother despite numerous attempts by Kit. This begins his journey to his former stepfather's home and the gradual revelation about the truth of his paternity.

Julia Glass' great strength as a writer seems to be character development. By the end of this novel, the reader is very familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of numerous members of several families. I have not read The Three Junes, so one of the characters, Fenno, seemed to add little to the overall story; however, those who remember him from The Three Junes are perhaps glad to know what has happened in his life subsequent to the end of that novel. It almost seems as if this book is a springboard to yet another novel involving some of the same cast.

There is a sluggish quality at the end of the book that emanates from too many details of the interactions and inner thoughts. I think a slightly abbreviated version would have made it more meaningful for me. I am grateful to Goodreads for the opportunity to review this advance edition.


Angels Crest : A Novel
Angels Crest : A Novel
Author: Leslie Schwartz
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/11/2012


For some reason, I simply couldn't engage with the characters in this book despite an interesting premise that should have touched my heart, but didn't. The author had an irritating - to me - way of retelling the same episode from the perspective of different characters with no authentic insights into any difference in perception. When I've read a book that touches my heart, I will reflect upon it for some time after finishing it. I closed this book and never thought about it again.


Annabel: A Novel
Annabel: A Novel
Author: Kathleen Winter
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 5/15/2011
Helpful Score: 1


This is a beautifully written novel about an unusually difficult medical condition. When Jacinta and Treadway's only child is born with hermaphroditism, they are compelled to make a difficult decision about the child's gender identity. The challenges that they and their child encounter are heartbreaking. There is a pervasive and haunting sense of sadness and loneliness in parts of this book, and a very poignant message about acceptance. I will remember this book for quite awhile.


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