Friday, January 29, 2021

The Children's Blizzard: A NovelThe Children's Blizzard: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been excited about this one ever since last fall when I learned it was on the way, so I was happy when my turn came up on the holds list. I really enjoyed this book, though I almost gave up on it. The book got off to a very slow start for me, and I really didn’t like either sister, at least at the beginning of the story. Both were self-centered which led to bad, and even unforgivable choices. I also didn’t like ‘Mother Pedersen’. She was embittered about being dragged out to the prairie and took it out on a child! And the child’s mother was even worse! That said, I did feel that as the story picked up, it was hard to put down, and many of the characters redeemed themselves. I knew that there would be a lot of death in this story, and while it made me sad when some of the characters I liked did not survive the storm, I was prepared for it. It is hard to imagine being lost just yards from your home, but this book really let me feel what that was like—how cold it felt, how hopeless it seemed. This book did what good historical fiction must do for me—it caused me to read more! One character was a reported for the Omaha Daily Bee, so when I got done with the book, I spent a couple of hours perusing stories from the Omaha Daily Bee from January 1888. (You can find this online as NewspaperArchive.com, which may be available through your local library’s website).

Overall, I was satisfied with the end. I would have liked a little more detail about the lives of those who survived the storm, though. We know vaguely where the reporter went, and some general ideas about Raina and her parents, and even Gerda. But I wanted more! And I had questions, particularly about the Pedersen family! This would make for a great book club discussion! There are discussion questions on the author’s website.

My rating: ✭✭✭✭

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Review: The Paris Children

The Paris Children: A Novel of World War 2The Paris Children: A Novel of World War 2 by Gloria Goldreich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won this book through a Fall Preview giveaway at bookreporter.com. 

I enjoy WWII fiction so it was a good bet that I would enjoy this one. A plus is that it is based on the stories of real people. I felt like a got a good look into the lives of the French people, and especially the French Jews, during the Nazi occupation. I also felt like a got a better appreciation for what those that joined the Resistance went through — the planning, the dedication, the risks of daily life as a member of the Resistance. This book met one of my key wants in historical fiction; it inspired me to read and learn more. I spent time on Wikipedia reading about Madeleine Levy’s grandfather, Alfred Dreyfus, and his trials. Sadly, there is at this time no entry for Madeleine Levy.

While I enjoyed this story and found it very readable, I also found it repetitive at times. The fact that they were living in dangerous times and that Madeleine and Claude might not survive the war to have a future was mentioned every time they got together. There were similar repetitive lines. I wish some of this could have been cut. The book would have been shorter and the story flowed a little more quickly without the repetition.

I also felt that the story didn’t have the emotional impact it might have, had the author not included a spoiler in her author notes on the very first page—before the story even started!. Once she did, I read between the lines and knew what was going to happen. The only questions were when and how. But the time it did happen, I was resigned to it. My suggestion is that you save the author notes for the end!

I did enjoy the book and learned some history from it. I think readers of WWII historical fiction, and particularly fans of Kristin Hannah’s ‘The Nightingale’ will enjoy this one!

My rating: ✭✭✭½

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 2, 2021

What Could Be SavedWhat Could Be Saved by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won this book from Simon & Schuster on the Book Club Favorites Facebook page. 

It is a long book, over 400 pages, but the writing flowed well, and after the first couple of chapters the book was hard to put down. While I sped right through the book, I am sitting here not sure what I thought of it. I liked it, of course, but I didn’t like everything about it. Most of the characters were not very likable, for one thing. There was also subject matter that was not easy to read; drug use, sex trafficking, poverty.

The story is told in 2 time lines. The first is in the early 1970s in Bangkok, where Robert Preston works undercover, and has brought his family along—a wife and 3 children. After being there almost 4 years, the son disappears without a trace. The 2nd timeline takes place nearly 50 years later, in 2019, when a man claiming to be Philip, the missing son, makes contact with the younger sister. While there are some current day family issues—the mother has Alzheimers, the younger sister has commitment issues, and the older sister is ‘bossy’—much of the story revolves around Philip. Is this man really Philip? What happened to Philip?

While I didn’t really bond to any character, I did want to know what happened to Philip. I also enjoyed reading about 1970s Bangkok, and the arrangement of household servants. The one character I really did like was Noi, the ‘number 3’ servant. I would have liked to have known more about her after the family left Bangkok. I also felt that the final chapter did not need to be there. It didn’t really add anything that I (or Laura) needed to know, and I’m not sure what the point was.

Overall, I liked this book a lot. It will make a great selection for book clubs and for readers who enjoy historical fiction and want to learn a little about the living conditions in Southeast Asia in the early 1970s. 

My rating: ✭✭✭✭

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Review: Something In The Water

Something In The WaterSomething In The Water by Catherine Steadman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book—It took me only 2 days to read it! I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick it up. It’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time. (Long enough that I don’t remember where I won it!). The synopsis is intriguing, and I know it hooked me when I requested the book (from wherever I got it!). But then when I got it, it didn’t sound so intriguing after all, and I put the book aside for a long time. Luckily, it was a good read and I sailed through it.

I enjoyed the writing—the author was descriptive without being wordy—and the story moved right along. We know from the first chapter that the wife, Erin, is burying the body of her husband, Mark, and doesn’t want to get caught, but how and why he died is a mystery. The synopsis is a little misleading when it talks about ‘something in the water’ found on their honeymoon, because it led me to believe this discovery happened early on in the story, when in truth I was almost halfway through the book before they were married. But that is a minor quibble, because the first half of the book was an interesting and important build-up to the discovery. The events after the discovery were suspenseful and kept me reading! There were some pretty bad characters in the book, but I found myself drawn even to some of them!

I think this would make a great book club discussion. The book is an easy read and the story keeps you engaged. More importantly for book clubs, the book lends itself to discussion! All of the main characters are flawed, and there is plenty of ‘woulda shoulda coulda’ to discuss—how would you react in the same circumstance; what could a character have done differently; how did the character’s actions lead to the result. Whether you are looking for engaging read for yourself, or a book with discussion potential for your bookclub, this one is a great choice! 

My rating: ✭✭✭✭

View all my reviews