Nothing But the Truth

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett is a great book for those who enjoy mysteries inlovett addition to Jane Austen novels. It has been decades since I read Austen in high school and this novel prompted me to reminisce not only those days, but also Austen’s exceptional literary works written so long ago.

The premise behind this novel is Jane Austen may have plagiarized Pride and Prejudice. Drifting back and forth, the story tells of an enduring friendship between Jane Austen and an elderly clergyman, and in current time, a young bibliophile named Sophie who is trying to determine if her beloved uncle fell to his death by accident or via a well-placed push.

Much like Lovett’s previous book, The Bookman’s Tale, I enjoyed the pace and creativity of this story. It held my interest and I recommend it to my followers.

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Distant Cousins

apesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler was recently short-listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. After motoring through the book, I understand why.

This is a very original story told in the first-person by a woman named Rosemary who was raised alongside a chimpanzee as a psychological experiment. What Rosemary was too young to understand was that the chimp was not her “sister”. When Fern, the chimpanzee abruptly disappears from her life, Rosemary spends the rest of hers wondering how and why her “sister” inexplicably vanished one day.

I think this is a great book because of the many layers of thought which have gone into it and the way in which they are presented. I’ve told more that I think I should have already about this story, but I hope it will entice my followers to read it. It really made me think about many issues beyond living with a chimpanzee.  Great story!

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sextetAs the title implies, Sextet by Judy Jackson is a novel with a cast of six characters with intertwined lives. Living in London are two married couples, one booking agent, and a baby.

This engrossing tale begins with a jolt as a driving instructor crashes into a pedestrian who seemingly came out of nowhere. From there, the story rolls forward unraveling the lives of its main characters: an Italian concert pianist and his pregnant wife, his booking agent, and a hotel decorator and his shopaholic wife.

I found this story engaging and relatable in many ways.  Its main themes are marriage, betrayal, and redemption.  The writing is tight and characters believable.  As in any tragedy, I felt sorry for the people in this book whose lives had spun out of control without their knowledge. I especially enjoyed the way the author chose to end the novel.  In real life situations such as these, when one is heartbroken, forgiveness is difficult, if not impossible to dispense, but Jackson successfully illustrates it can be done.

I recommend this book and am grateful the author contacted me requesting that I review it. I think it is well worth reading.

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Family Fodder

toastBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn is a recently published memoir which touched my heart.  In this novel, the Midwestern rooted author shares the stories of her family’s joys and sorrows.  Raised on a rural farm in Michigan, Flinn also reveals recipes of the loving relatives who shaped her life. I laughed and cried as I read this delightful book.  Flinn’s writing style is wonderful!

Writing this review reminds me of pep talks I have had with writing students and friends over the years.  So often we tend to view our lives as nothing out of the ordinary, when in fact, I believe each of us has a unique story worth telling.  Flinn has taken what to some might seem ordinary and made it extraordinary.  I applaud her for doing so and am inspired by her work.

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hundred year house, rebecca makkaiThe Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai is a novel told in reverse. Makkai begins with a cast of characters living in 1999 on a North Shore estate in Lake Forest, IL, which had formerly been an artist community. The story then reverts to previous inhabitants of the house in 1955. The third shift brings the reader to artists living in the estate in 1929. The novel ends with a prologue dated 1900.

I had a very difficult time reading this book. None of the characters were interesting, in fact, they were very confusing, as several were living under assumed names. I struggled through the book solely with hopes of it making sense in the end. I’m sorry to say, for me, it didn’t.

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Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto is a novel out of India recently published in em and the big hoompaperback in the U.S. This beautifully written, moving story is told in the first person by the son of a woman who suffers from mental illness. The son’s story is at times humorous, but always with the underlying sadness and confusion which comes when a loved one lives in a skewed reality which can change from one minute to the next.

I really enjoyed the book even though much of it made me sad. In telling the story through the eyes of the young man whose mother is mentally ill, Pinto brings the son’s heartache home to his readers. I highly recommend this book. It is very well-written.

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Who’s on First

cover_map_thiefThe Map Thief by Heather Terrell is a book I have been meaning to read for sometime. It was published in 2008. It is a fictional novel loosely based on actual historical people and events which have been altered to fit the story line.

The subject matter of the story interested me because it revolves around three people, a Chinese eunuch in 1400, a Portuguese map maker in the late 1400’s, and lastly, a young woman in modern times who searches for lost artifacts. The book is based on the supposition that the Chinese navigated the globe long before the Portuguese. The Chinese map which has recently been unearthed and stolen in China provides the proof of this fact. As in any mystery novel, there are good and bad guys and a race to discover the truth. There is an underlying theme of unrequited love; though I didn’t think it lent much to the story as a whole.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel. It took a while for me to get into the it, but all in all, it taught me something about early navigators and the history of China, Portugal and the Catholic Church. The book is not very long and I think it would be a good summer read for those of you who are looking for a mystery to whisk you away to foreign shores while on holiday.

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