Revenge is not always sweet

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Because of You I Am by Sandy Hogarth

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Alice hasn’t had an easy life.  But when she meets Jake, the world becomes a wonderful place for her.  And with the addition of their beloved son, Adam, she now knows complete happiness.  When that happiness is abruptly torn from her, her life spirals out of control.

I first was introduced to this author with her first book, “The Glass Girl”.  That was about six years ago and now her new book is available to her fans.  I described “The Glass Girl” as gorgeous writing and the same description applies even more so to her newest book.  Ms. Hogarth has a deep understanding of the human psyche and its frailty and brings that understanding to life through her words.   This story is a very dark one.  It fiercely gripped my heart and captured my full attention.  The effect of grief on this woman’s sanity is sometimes hard to read, especially since I cared so much about Alice and her family as if I knew them personally.  I wish I had this author’s talent with words so I could give this review the merit it deserves.  Ms. Hogarth’s talent deserves recognition.

Most highly recommended.

Failed to capture my heart

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The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Althea, Viola, Joe and Lillian were the Butler children.  The childhood was not the best as their mother died when they were young and their father was abusive but wasn’t around very much.  Althea was only 12 years old when she was left in charge of the family.  Their problems as children follow them into adulthood.  Althea is now middle age and is on trial, along with her husband Proctor, for food stamp fraud and taking money from their community members through their charitable works.  Althea and Proctor were highly regarded for all they did for the community so their fall from grace was difficult for them, their family and the entire community.  Their twin teenage daughters, Kim and Baby Vi, are living with Lillian, who has her hands full with them.  Viola is now a therapist but struggling with bulimia and is estranged from her wife.  And Joe – well, Joe has a lot to be regretful about.

This tale of a dysfunctional family and their demons and the effect of Althea and Proctor’s theft on the family and community failed to capture my heart.   I had absolutely no sympathy for Althea and Proctor and the mess they found themselves in.  While I did sympathize with the rest of the family, their plight seemed to be removed and I just read the book from a distance.  I just didn’t connect with the characters much at all.  I found some of the book repetitive and drawn out.  It wasn’t a terrible book and I kept reading to find out what happened.  There was one point towards the end of the book where I thought the book was finished but was surprised to see that it kept going.  I think it would have been a better ending a bit earlier on.  Maybe it was just me and from the reviews it does seem that I’m in the minority but I can’t give this book more than 3 stars nor can I recommend it.

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

A deeply satisfying, gripping tale

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The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

The Bright brothers are overseers of a vast amount of land in the Outback in Queensboro.  The land is extremely hot, unforgiving and dangerous and no one leaves home without a large amount of supplies.  When one of the Bright brothers, Cameron, doesn’t come home one day after supposedly going out for a repeater mast repair, an alert is put out.  He’s found dead at the foot of the stockman’s grave, which is a great source of legend in the area.  Cam’s brothers, Nathan and Bub, cannot understand why Cam would have left his car, which was fully stocked with emergency supplies, to walk 5.5 miles, which he knew would be a death warrant.  Cam has left behind their mother, Liz, his wife, Ilse, and two young daughters, all of who are devastated and confused.  This has all happened right before Christmas.  While the police and others believe this to be a suicide, doubts and suspicion abound among family members and threaten to tear them all apart.

I was completely glued to the pages of this book.  It’s a fascinating tale and the author is an expert at making her characters come alive.  Not only that, but what a forbidding area this took place in, one where your life depended on having enough water and air conditioning to survive.  It’s a land that could be hated but also loved for its stunning beauty.  The author has created a dark, suspenseful atmosphere that is completely riveting.   This is a slow burning, heart breaking book that blew me away.  It’s not only the mystery of Cam’s death that was fascinating but also the relationship of Nathan and his teenage son Xander and Nathan’s complicated history with Cam’s widow, Ilse.  And then there’s their mother, Liz, who loves them all so dearly.

A deeply satisfying, gripping tale that I most highly recommend.

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

 

Dig in and explore this literary work

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The Family Tabor by Cherise Wolas

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Harry Tabor is about to be honored as Man of the Decade for his charitable works.  His family are on their way to his home to join him and his wife, Roma, who is a child psychologist.  His son, Simon, is a lawyer and will be bringing with him his wife and two young daughters.  His daughter, Camille, is a social anthropologist and his daughter, Phoebe, is a lawyer.  They’re all so proud of Harry and each of them have their own reasons for wanting this occasion to be a family-bonding one.

But Harry’s mind seems to have been playing tricks with him and hiding some vital memories.  Those memories start to resurface, helped along by a voice in Harry’s mind and even a vision or two.   As the memories increase, Harry’s jubilation at his upcoming honor starts to crumble.  Is he the honorable man he thought he was?  His children, whose lives seemed all so perfect, are also struggling with their own demons.  Simon can’t sleep at nights and has discovered a desire for Judaism, Camille is having career setbacks and has taken a job at a hospice and Phoebe has an imaginary boyfriend as she can’t face her family with her loveless life.  None of them are being truthful with each other or their parents.  Poor Roma knows her husband and children are having problems but can’t get them to confide in her.

I was completely blown away by this author’s debut book, “The Resurrection of Joan Ashby”.  While I can’t say the same about her newest effort, I did enjoy it.  It took me awhile to become invested with the characters and the writing was sometimes a bit too ponderous for me.   But I grew to care for this family very much.  I think Simon’s story touched me the most.  He was a good father and husband and his new-found desire to explore his Jewish roots should never have had the outcome it did.  I felt so crushed for him.  Roma took on the troubles of each of her loved ones and was such a true-to-life character.  As for the Man of the Decade, Harry, his journey in this book is definitely a compelling one.

I think the book may not be to everyone’s taste and that’s a shame because there are such wonderful literary tidbits throughout.  There’s no fast paced plot here and the writing can be a bit heavy at times.  But to those who like a book that you can dig into and explore like an archaeological excavation, I do recommend this one.

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

 

A powerful, moving novel

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They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Joe Chayefski is a highly respected American neurologist. At the beginning of his career, he moved to Finland to marry the woman he loved.  They had a child, Samuel.  But Joe has difficulty adjusting to Finnish life and work.  When his marriage falls apart, he returns to the US, leaving his ex-wife and child in Finland.  His work flourishes in the US and at the present time, he’s married with two daughters.  Animal activists start targeting Joe and his family and it appears that his estranged son, Samuel, may be involved.

This is a many-layered novel which I can’t praise enough. There are all of the social issues it addresses – animal testing and activism, the dangers of social media and internet news and the futility of trying to fix the world but still the need that steps must be taken.  And then there are the in-depth characterizations that Mr. Valtonen has created.  He bares his characters’ hearts and souls to the world.  As Joe struggles to save his work reputation, to protect his family from the violence directed at them by animal activists and to protect his daughters from the internet dangers they’ve been exposed to, the author then turns his readers’ attention to Samuel and his mother, showing the other side of the coin.  To watch these characters’ actions that lead them deeper and deeper into misunderstanding is absolutely riveting.

Animal testing is an issue close to my heart and I find it hard to read bout. Thankfully, this novel, while it delves deeply into both sides of the issue, doesn’t go into specifics about the testing being done.

This is the first of Mr. Valtonen’s novels to be translated into English and I am now longing for his others to be translated.

Most highly recommended. This may well be my top read of the year that has been filled with wonderful books.

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

A beautiful story of loss and family bonds

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Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

I loved this short, profound book about grieving and the bond of family. Simran is a wife and mother who has recently lost her mother.  While she’s struggling with her grief, she’s also struggling to make sense of her family’s past and her present life.  The author fluidly flows between several story and time lines.  There’s the story of a young Amrita, Simran’s mother, and Amrita’s tragic love for Pyara.  There’s the story of a young Simran and her brother Diwa and sister Jyoti and the mystery of why young Diwa is sent to live with his Aunt Bibi Jeet.  And there’s the present-day story of Simran and her disillusionment with her marriage to Raj.

This book was compared to the work of Jhumpa Lahiri, which is what brought it to my attention as I’m a huge fan of Lahiri’s books. Jhumpa Lahiri is a Pulitzer Prize winner so that’s quite a comparison to make.  I feel the comparison is a just one.  I’m confused as to why the publisher is only releasing a paperback and Kindle edition of this magnificent book.  I think it deserves better and I hope they decide to also release it in hardcover.  The author is very talented and has written a book that takes an in-depth look into the heart and soul of a family, their loves, desires and fears and deep bond with each other.  She also touches on reincarnation and the thin line between life and death.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. It is due to be released in November, 2017.  I now will have to get my hands on the author’s first book, “Everything Was Good-Bye”.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway and am under no obligation to write a review.

A mother’s gift of a bonding road trip to her child

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The Lauras by Sara Taylor

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

13-year-old Alex’s mother is getting restless and tired of the endless arguments with Alex’s father. When she decides to take a road trip into her past, she takes Alex with her.  As they travel together, the mother begins to share stories of her past.  This is the first time that Alex feels the start of knowing anything about her.

I was very impressed by this author’s use of language in her first novel, “The Shore”, for which she won the Baileys Women’s Prize. She has again impressed me with her newest book, although I don’t feel it was quite as good as her first.  That’s not to say that I don’t recommend it because I most definitely do recommend it.  I just enjoyed the subject matter of “The Shore” a bit more.  The author is very talented.  This book is basically just a trip through the mother’s past that she opens up to her child as she tries to set right some past wrongs, visit old friends and find some healing.  While there’s not a very complicated plot, the author makes it such an interesting read.  I felt like I was sitting in the back seat and taking this road trip right along with them.

There was an interesting take on Alex. Alex could be a boy or Alex could be a girl.  Alex isn’t telling.  Alex doesn’t believe in gender and hasn’t quite decided which direction he/she will be headed.  The sexual awakening of this young person is handled in a very realistic manner and yet quite sensitively.

Here’s an example of one of the literary finds in this book, though keep in mind that I read an ARC of the book and this may be changed in the final edition. “We were caught on the thin, hungry edge of the morning, before the sun sliced itself open on the horizon and bled out across the sky.”  I really enjoy the writing style of this author and am already looking forward to her next book, which I hope will be soon.

Recommended.

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

Sad, emotional immigration tale

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Border Child by Michel Stone

Book Review – 4 out of 5 star rating

Hector and Lilia are parents of an infant daughter, Alejandra, when Hector immigrates to the United States with the hope of establishing a better life for his family. Lilia foolishly decides not to wait until Hector finds a job and home in the US and makes her own plans to immigrate.  Tragically, she is separated from Alejandra at the border.  They are unable to find Alejandra who has disappeared with no trace.

The book picks up four years later when they are back in Mexico. Lilia and Hector now have a young son and Lilia is expecting their third child.  They have never given up the hope of finding Alejandra.  When they learn of a tip that may lead to finding their daughter, Hector leaves his family to try to find Alejandra.

The author does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the lives of this fragile family. Lilia carries so much guilt over her decision to immigrate on her own.  The grief, guilt, blame and worry that she and Hector endure over the loss of Alejandra have put a wedge between them but you can still see their love for each other.  As Hector searches for Alejandra, he takes on illegal jobs to pay for his travels.  He appears completely naïve about these jobs, which I found a bit unbelievable, but I could understand his desperation.  The end of the book wasn’t unexpected but it still brought tears to my eyes.

One thing that I didn’t expect was the reaction of Lilia and Hector’s neighbors and friends when they return to Mexico. Hector and Lilia were shunned by the Mexican people as they believed that Hector and Lilia thought they were better than the other Mexicans and were too good to stay in Mexico and even that they had deserted their country.  I would have thought that the people who stayed behind would have understood Hector and Lilia’s desire to make a better life for themselves but they seemed to feel betrayed.

Recommended.

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