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Thursday, July 27, 2017

****Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship, by Michelle Kuo

An American Memoir, 2017 Early Reviewer

In Reading with Patrick the author speaks of a hard-learned lesson - that one cannot change the world, or even one person, permanently. Change, or the answer to change - from poverty, violence, drug-addiction and familial dysfunction to inept schools, etc. - is a multifaceted problem with no single solution. Helping to effect change is imperative, it is our expectations that can throw us off balance. Kuo, as a young adult, finds this out and shares her experiences along the way. A thought-provoking relevant read.

Friday, June 23, 2017

***The Windfall by Diksha Basu

LibraryThing.como Early Reviewer

The Windfall is a lighthearted comedic satire that has some fun portraying the social absurdities and ironies that can make up neighborly life – primarily the need to keep up with the Jones’, but in India. With technology manufacturing overnight millionaires, the protagonist being one of them, financial dreams are achieved, but unexpected –self-imposed - difficulties ensue and chaos dominates the family’s newly acquired moneyed life. Expectations are key to the family’s relative problems.  In the end, the impulse to compete and put on social airs is relatively overcome, moral and psychological truths are realized and life achieves some semblance of balance. The Windfall is a humorous story wrapped up in the comfort of familial and neighborly bonds.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

*****Aracoeli by Elsa Morante

•Translation Literature - Italian
•Translated from the Italian by William Weaver
•First published in 1982; 1985 published in English
•Author's final novel (1912-1985)

Complex dreamlike imagery fills this lovely novel, as does the author's beautiful use of language. Kudos, too, to the translator for capturing Morante's breathless narrative.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

*Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

With all the great writers in this world, one must ask how a book like this winds up being published.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

***The Leavers, a novel by Lisa Ko

  • Early Reviewer's
  • American Fiction, 2017
  • Pen America Literary Award Winner

The Leavers is a timely novel that deals with immigration, deportation and the need for familial and cultural identification. It portrays the difficulties faced when children are born as American citizens, but their parents are not.  The story unfolds using alternating perspectives between the protagonist, a Chinese American, and his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, as they try to resolve the conflict experienced when she is deported and he is adopted by a Caucasian family at the age of eleven.

The overall story is important, especially considering today’s political climate. Yet its telling is a bit underwhelming. It reads like a dry journalistic piece lacking passion and creativity. In addition, Ko focuses on the protagonist’s featureless attempt at a musical career in excess. She uses this narrative to reveal the process of a struggling youth trying to self-actualize, yet it falls flat and feels like an overplayed muse.

Ko’s writing is practiced and competent; she is not an unskilled author. However, her novel lacks depth. I never felt invested; I plowed through the book hoping for something more that it never delivered. Leavers is not a bad novel, poorly written without plot or character development, it simply lacks impact. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

*****A Strangeness In My Mind, A Novel, by Orhan Pamuk

  • Turkish Literature
  • 2015 Signed First Edition
A Strangeness in My Mind is a love letter to Istanbul. It is a beautifully composed work of art that brings to life the ever changing streets of Istanbul between 1954-2012 and the quiet, yet powerfully meditative life of its protagonist and boza seller, Mevlut.  Pamuk is a master of the written word. His writing hits all the senses and illuminates the soul. The insightful development of his characters, particularly Mevlut, is fraught with beauty, angst, depth and symbolism. His bird's-eye time-lapsed view of Istanbul, as it evolves from year to year, is played out magnificently through his cast of varied characters. They serve as distinct counterpoint to Mevlut’s stubborn and complex relationship with past and present. Pamuk’s love for his city rings out as melodiously as the boza seller’s voice on his nightly odyssey through the streets of Istanbul. A quiet, yet powerful novel. Once again, Pamuk fails to disappoint his besotted readers.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

***The Color of Our Sky: A Novel, by Amita Trasi

• Early Reviewer's Edition
•Indian author-debut novel

The Color of Our Sky is a fictionalized portrait of India’s devdasis servants of god. They are lower caste women who, from a prepubescent age, serve as prostitutes in the name of god.  Traditionally it was a revered position.  Today, these women are shunned by the culture that created them.  The plight of these women is fraught with abuse and murder, and is ripe with opportunities for child trafficking.

Trasi handles her subject matter with the care and passion it deserves and clearly has skill for her craft.  I liked her writing style, yet two things kept gnawing away at me as I read her novel.  First, she has the tendency to get carried away with her prose, rendering it overtly melodramatic.  Second, despite all thematic twists and turns, the ending was easy to predict.  How Trasi deals with this in her future work will ultimately define her writing as genre fiction or literary fiction, both valid forms of fiction.  A praiseworthy debut novel.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

****The Postman's Fiancé, by Denis Thériault

The Postman's Fiancé, by Denis Thériault, to be published 06/2017, translated from the French by John Cullen, French Canadian Literature. Early Reviewer's book

This was a delightful and original book; one you cannot put down until fully devoured. Theriault’s writing style is elegant, his characters opulent and his descriptions enticing. His work has depth and mystery with meaning and a little verve.  Reality is skillfully suspended as one follows the protagonists on their way to love. However, before you read The Postman’s Fiancé, reading its predecessor, The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, is a must.  They are so beautifully intertwined; I cannot imagine reading one without the other.  The Postman’s Fiancée completes the first novella and together, they are extraordinary. I highly recommend this creative Canadian-French author!

Post-note: This book and the movie, While You Were Sleeping, have nothing in common except a very basic concept. They are two very different tales. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

****The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

•Author was born in Ukraine and raised in the Soviet Republic of Georgia.  When she was eight years old, her family immigrated to the United States.

•ARC via

This story reveals a relatively unknown part of pre-WWII history, when thousands of Americans succumbed to the allure of the Soviet revolution and emigrated to Soviet Russia. By the time they understood the dangers they were facing, it was too late. Russia surreptitiously revoked their passports and made many automatic Soviet citizens, preventing them from leaving the country.  Surprisingly, Roosevelt knowingly turned a blind eye to their predicament and left thousands of US citizens without recourse.  They were forced to remain in Russia throughout WWII and beyond. Some never lived to return home, especially Jews.

In a story that spans almost eight decades, Krasikov weaves a painful saga illustrating how one decision can affect an entire lifetime. Themes of political idealism and naivete’, personal unrest and family relations fill the pages in this dark, but compelling novel.

Krasikov is a talented author. She writes seamlessly back and forth between decades. Her characters are well-developed and her story is interesting. I looked forward to reading each chapter and felt the ending was strong. I expect we will see more from this new author. Not only does she research her subject matter thoroughly, she is able to construct the elements in a creative and thoughtful manner. A powerful new novelist!

Friday, February 17, 2017

*****The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by DenisThéiault

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman depicts how loneliness can affect a person and lead to a variety of displaced - peculiar - actions. It is a lovely novella sheathed in a quiet drama of deception, apprehension, love, lust, and pain. Ironically, it renders the reader uncannily on the side of deception, such are the pathos of its protagonist, Bilodo the Postman. Add to that Haikus, philosophy and humor, and you have a delightfully dark and quirky story. Be prepared to devour this lovely, all-consuming tale in one sitting as it is impossible to put down.

Incidentally, a sequel to this novella, The Postman’s Fiancee, is due for publication this year. Will it bring a close to Bilodo‘s besotted journey, or will it add another layer to this curious and comic tale? I eagerly anticipate it's arrival!