Reviews

Review: Nine Perfect Strangers

Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story of nine very different people attending a luxury health retreat that turns a bit sinister is often quite funny but the narrative isn’t as taut as the only other novel of Moriarty’s I’ve read so far – Big Little Lies. There was, for me, a lack of urgency in learning all of the secrets of all of the characters through at least the first half of the book. Instead, the time is spent introducing the characters – usually through the eyes of the other characters- and lulling the reader and Tranquillium’s guests into a false sense of security. Romance writer Frances Welty is the heart, soul, and wit of the book. It was Frances and her unique world view that kept the book entertaining enough to keep me reading when I didn’t particularly care about finding out what would come later. I often wished, especially early on in the novel, that the Frances chapters weren’t interrupted in favor of other points of view. By the end of Nine Perfect Strangers, though, I had come to care for at least most of the guests.

Nine Perfect Strangers can, at times, be a slow read, getting mired down in details but it is a fun read.  However, it doesn’t come close to being as well-written and thrilling as Big Little Lies so, if you haven’t already, I absolutely recommend reading that one.

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For the Love of Books, Reviews

Review: Harry’s Trees

Harry's TreesHarry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so thrilled to have received a copy of Jon Cohen’s novel, Harry’s Trees from Goodreads.com. This book will be hard to beat as my best read of 2018. It has so many wonderful qualities that it is difficult to figure out where to start gushing about it (which is why it has taken me over a week after finishing to write my review).
Harry’s Trees is the extraordinary story of how Harry and Amanda and Oriana learn to live again after two separate tragedies. As the novel explores how each person copes differently as they attempt to come to terms (or not) with their losses, it also shows that if we look hard enough we can find fairy tale elements in everyday life. At its heart, Harry’s Trees is a love letter to some of my favorite things – books, libraries, reading, and nature (For those who know me and know that I’m a major indoor cat, that last part may come as a surprise). Cohen’s writing lovingly, and with a devilish sense of humor, depicts the feelings evoked by reading and just being in among the trees while telling a darn good story that has everything you could want in a good read.
The book is packed with a lovable cast of three-dimensional, relatable, fun characters. I especially loved Oriana for her spunk, conviction, and fearlessness, and Olive for her strength, devotion, and her quirkiness. And now I long to live in a gorgeous treehouse in the middle of the woods with a stack of fairy tales and Sibley’s guides to keep me company.

If you enjoy Harry’s Trees (and I really think you will!) you’ll probably enjoy one of last year’s best reads, The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman with which it shares some thematic similarities.  Both also have a great sense of humor.

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Reviews

Review: In this Mountain

In This MountainIn This Mountain by Jan Karon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading my way slowly through Jan Karon’s delightful Mitford Years series so I don’t always recall Father Tim’s relationship with the many vivid characters that populate the series and I have a hard time remembering details from the previous books. I only know that each is heartwarming in its own way. In this Mountain, the seventh in the series is a little heavier in overall tone than its predecessors as Father Tim himself struggles with some very dark internal demons rather than helping others through their trials. But his reaction is real and familiar, I’m certain, to many readers, making this book an inspiring addition to the series.
My only real complaint about In this Mountain is that a few of the plot lines seemed to be left unfinished. I suppose that is meant to get me anxious to read the next installment but in a couple of cases it just felt like a loose thread – Father Tim and Hessie should’ve had an encounter about the gift she sent him!

My only recommendation is to read the entire series beginning with At Home in Mitford.

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Reviews, World Literature

Review: Gods in Alabama

3 Stars

GodsIt’s been nearly a week since I finished reading this book and I’m still undecided about how I feel about Joshilyn Jackson’s Gods in Alabama. While the novel is extremely well-written, I could never quite get comfortable with the main character/narrator or her story. And I’ve never been more uncomfortable reading anything as I was reading the *gags* roach scene. I seriously considered putting the book down then and there but my librarian friend loves Jackson’s books so I felt compelled to push through and find out why.
Like I said, Gods in Alabama is well-written. The author writes in such a way that the reader feels as if they are being “not” lied to by Arlene/Lena (even her name isn’t straightforward) along with the other characters. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot as the narrator tells and retells the story with strategic omissions. Even after it was all said and done, I’m still not sure I completely believe the truth.

If you enjoy Gods in Alabama perhaps you’ll also enjoy Elizabeth Joy Arnold’s The Book of Secrets, another novel full of twists and half-told tales.

Reviews

Review: Stargazey Point

Stargazey Point
Stargazey Point by Shelley Noble

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stargazey Point is a fairly typical feel-good story set in the American south complete with the strong but troubled heroine, the unique geography and climate of South Carolina, the love interest that starts out as a possible antagonist, a colorful cast of characters, some moments of humor, and plenty of redemption. Abbie’s horrific past experience and the plight of the town make a bit edgier than most of the genre. Yet I often felt that the events in the novel were just a means to an end. As tortured as Abbie is, she never actually deals with her demons as much as fills the space with her new project and – and maybe this is just me – but I didn’t feel that she and Cab really had that much chemistry. This is a story that needed time to develop and it just didn’t have that. I felt that it was trying too hard to fit into its subgenre and get to the happy ending. Sorry if I spoiled that but it really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

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