Very well written and compelling novel

book

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Elena Richardson has always played by the rules. She has a beautiful home in Shaker Heights, a loving husband and four teenage children.  She also has an inherited house that she rents out to those she feels can use a helping hand.  The top floor of the house is currently being rented by Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl.  Mia is an artist and single mother whose nomadic life intrigues each of the Richardsons.

When friends of the Richardsons decide to adopt a Chinese-American baby, the resulting custody battle divides the Richardsons and the Warrens on opposite sides. Elena vows to unearth each and every one of Mia’s secrets.  Elena learns the hard way that playing by the rules doesn’t always ensure safety.

This is a very well-written novel and drew me in completely. I really felt a part of this story.  Each of the characters were alive in my mind and I cared about them.  The author has a wise view of the world and knows how to construct a great story.  I found the custody battle to be a very emotional one and couldn’t pull myself away until I found out how it ended.  The author expertly builds up the tension in the relationships between the Richardsons and the Warrens.  The book is absolutely riveting, the story complex and I loved it.  The only reason I couldn’t give it 5 stars was that I felt the reason for Izzy’s act at the end of the book to be unrealistic and her behavior overly dramatic.  It just didn’t feel right to me.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Advertisements

A realistically written holiday road trip

book

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star review

What would holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas be without family drama? This book covers one Thanksgiving Day in the lives of Adam and Melissa, two strangers who meet on this more-than-stressful-for-them day.

Adam is working in a bank and trying to live a sober life. He had been quite a successful musician but the life on the road and a broken love has led him to alcohol abuse.  He hasn’t spent a Thanksgiving with his family in years and although this is the year he really wants to try, he’s not sure he’s strong enough to get through the day without messing things up again.

Melissa is a flight attendant who has married into a rich family that she’s never felt a part of. She and her husband have had some recent difficulties and she knows a holiday with his family will be a stressful one.  Plus the secret she’s carrying is a difficult one to deal with.

I had my reservations about this book at first. I didn’t immediately connect with the characters and thought it was just going to be a road-trip book with two unlikeable characters trying to sort out their family issues.  And actually that’s what it is.  But it’s the mark of a talented author who can take that type of premise and turn it into such an emotional journey for the reader.  The author writes with a realism that is completely believable and human.  I realized that I didn’t have to like these characters or understand their decisions in life to connect with them. Their humanity touched me.   This author knows how to twist his characters around his readers’ hearts.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Moving and disturbing

book

The Child by Pascale Kramer

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Claude is a former gym teacher who is battling cancer and losing. He lives in a low-income neighborhood with his wife, Simone.  There has been rioting in their neighborhood with the constant sound of police sirens.  There isn’t much calm inside their home either as they each in their own way try to adjust to the end of Claude’s days.  It’s just the two of them until a young boy comes for a visit and throws everything into even more discord.

The author doesn’t flinch at describing the horrors of a death from cancer. That and the effects of his decline on those around him make for a very disturbing read.  But as in her book “Autopsy of a Father”, Ms. Kramer writes in such a poetical manner that her books are beautiful to read despite the subject matter.  This is an in depth look at the end of a marriage as a result of death that I know will stay with me for some time to come.  It’s a short book, only about 150 pages, and I hope to read it again one day, not so much as to know what happens in the book as I already know that but just to enjoy the writing again.

Recommended.

Fascinating portrayal of one day in a marriage that’s on the edge

book

Small hours by Jennifer Kitses

Book Review:  4 out of 5 stars

The entire book covers 24 hours in the marriage of Tom and Helen. They are the parents of three-year-old twins and have recently moved from Queens to a small town on the Hudson River.  Helen is working from home and is finding it stressful finding enough time to manage work, home and children.  Tom commutes to his job at a news wire service.  They have come into some financial difficulties and have been less than honest and upfront with each other so things start to unravel.

This is one of those books where everyday events can lead to a powerful punch. The author expertly rackets up the suspense as Tom and Helen’s day proceeds.  I’ve been trying not to rely too much on advertising blurbs and comparisons but I think the publisher’s comparisons to Richard Russo and Tom Perrotta are very close.  I cared about Tom and Helen and I kept wishing they would just sit down and talk things out instead of trying to handle their difficulties on their own.  It was obvious they cared about each other.  The suspense comes into play because you’re just not sure how far the author is going to take the story and you can only sit and watch in dread as the hours go by.  I found Tom and Helen’s story to be realistic and believable and I very much enjoyed the time spent with them.

I did find the section involving Tom’s work place to be a bit slow and that was my least favorite part of the book, though at times it was humorous. Maybe that’s because I’m retired and really don’t want to spend any time at “work”, even in a book.  I could certainly feel Tom’s frustration there.

This is the author’s debut novel and I’m very interested to see where she heads next.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Beautifully crafted story of the aftermath of a tragedy

book

Ash Falls by Warren Read

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Ernie Luntz is a convicted murderer and now he’s on the loose and is being hunted by the police. Back at home at Ash Falls, his family and all of the residents wonder if he’ll return there.  That’s where the murder happened and Ernie would be a fool to set foot in that town again.  But his ex-wife Bobbie and his son Patrick still live there and that may be enticement enough for Ernie to return.

I became completely immersed in this compelling tale. Not only is there the suspense of “will Ernie return and what will happen if he does” but there’s also the interconnecting stories of others living in Ash Falls.  This is a quiet book that slowly pulls you in.  The author masterfully tells the story of each of these people who have been touched by the same horrendous event in the past and presents their stories through their everyday lives.  These characters are real – Marcelle, the too-young-to-be-married wife of Eugene, Hank, the pot dealer, Patrick, the gay teenager who is struggling to deal with his father’s crime, and Bobbie, the single mom who feels to blame.  I grew to know and care for these people.  The ending brought me to tears.

For those animal lovers out there, there is quite a bit about mink farming though I felt the author was not a fan of it, which made it easier to read. Though personally I had to skip the part about the day the minks’ skins are harvested.

There were sections throughout this book that I had to stop and read again. This quote may not appear in the final edition but I’d like to share it so you can see this writer’s potential.  “The vista shifted quickly from wheat fields to a wide spread of stunted trees, perfect geometrical grids of them that stretched on forever, naked branches reaching up, shocked, as if crying out to be released from the roots that anchored them into the cold earth.”  This is the author’s first novel, though he did write a memoir, “The Lyncher in Me:   A Search for Redemption in the Face of History” about his discovery that his great-grandfather had incited the lynching of three black circus workers.  I’m looking forward to what he’ll come up with next.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Postpartum depression – the taboo illness

book

The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Lara James hadn’t thought she wanted a child. She had a successful career and a loving husband. But all of that changes when her father dies and her maternal instinct sets in. Now she longs for a child more than anything else but her body doesn’t agree. She and her husband go through years of fertility treatments until they’re almost ready to give up, but then they’re blessed with the birth of a daughter, Auden. But as they say, be careful what you wish for. Auden never stops crying and Lara is losing her mind.

This is a brutally raw, honest book about motherhood. In fact at times I thought it might indeed be too raw and might be very discouraging to a young woman looking forward to having a family. But not all women experience postpartum depression and, while the book never actually named what was happening to Lara, it was quite obvious that she was not well and that more than a crying baby was bringing her down and causing such desperation in her. Since there is great shame attached to not being able to “handle being a mother”, many women try to hide their anguish and difficulties, much as Lara did. She looked around at other mothers and felt like there was something lacking in her. This is a very necessary book that was a tough read but I hope will encourage women who find themselves in Lara’s position to seek help. The author has written an emotional, heart pounding and brave book.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Poignant heart breaker

book

 

5 star rating

 

Karen Neulander has raised her beloved son, Jacob, on her own. Jacob’s father, Dave, made it very clear to her that he had no interest in having children and responded negatively when he found out she was pregnant.  Jacob is now 6 years old and wants to meet his father.  Karen gives in to his request because she has cancer and a limited time left with Jacob.  She wants to end her life and motherhood in the best way that she can.  But can she give Jacob what he wants the most – the father who hadn’t wanted him to come into the world?  She attempts to write a book for Jacob to read when he turns 18 to help him understand and remember their history together as she prepares for his future without her.

The entire book is a mother’s letter to her son. I haven’t cried this much over a book in quite a long time.  This story just wrapped itself around my heart.  The book is very readable and engrossing, witty and compelling.  The author has fully brought the character of Karen Neulander to life.  I rejoiced with her, I suffered with her and I mourned for her upcoming loss with her.  It’s very true to life and painfully honest and not sappy in the least.  Within the main story is also an insightful look into Karen’s job as a political consultant and the moral crisis she goes through with her last client.

Highly recommended. This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Heartbreaking

book

 

This is a beautifully written novel about motherhood. Kavya is an Indian American woman who is married to Rishi.  Her deepest longing is to have a child.  She feels she’s failed at so many things in life and this is something else that she has failed at as she’s been unable to have a child.  She and her husband begin to talk about adopting.  Soli is a young woman living in Mexico who longs for a better life.  She manages to illegally immigrate to America but her high hopes fall apart when she learns of her pregnancy.

I loved each of the characters in this book and felt their desires and fears right along with them. The author has written a deeply compassionate novel about motherhood and parenting that truly touched my heart.  The book is a timely and eye-opening story, too, about immigration but the main heart of the book lies in the love these two women have for a little boy named Ignacio, known to one as Iggy and to the other as Nacho.  The story isn’t really a new or unique one as the struggle of adoption is a well-known topic but the author’s talent brings such insight into the minds and souls of these characters, which makes this a very special reading journey.   I found the book to be completely engrossing.  It’s quite a long book at almost 500 pages but it never dragged for me and I never tired of it for one minute.  I hated to part with the characters at the end of the book and would have loved to continue reading about them.

Highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.