Off the Radar

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a gut-wrenching memoir which came to my attention via an article I read in The Writer magazine. The author along with four siblings was raised by an alcoholic father and free-spirited, codependent mother.

Hopping from one place to another, Walls’ parents lived hand to mouth without concern for the welfare of their children. Throughout this heartbreaking autobiography, I couldn’t believe the authorities never caught up with these abusive parents who cared so much for themselves and their beliefs and so little for their children.

Reading about abused children does not make for an easy read. So many things in this biography made me gasp that I almost stopped reading it more than once. I admire Walls for having the courage to tell her story. She survived a tumultuous childhood beyond belief.

If you think you can take it, I recommend this book. It is upsetting at the very least, but masterfully written.

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Three’s a Crowd

Tin Man by Sarah Winman is a fictional novel about a man, a woman, and another man embroiled in an unusual relationship.

Ellis loves Michael, Ellis loves Annie, Annie loves Michael, then Ellis marries Annie – at best, it is confusing. That is what I thought while reading this new novel. The first half of the book was lyrical and pretty straightforward, but once Annie entered the plot, I lost my footing and questions I had remained unanswered by the end of the novel.

What is this story about? Bisexuality? HIV? Abandonment? Unconventional relationships? Art? Love? I am confused! The story told in the first-person, flip-flopped around way too much for my liking. The author’s ability to show not tell was admirable, but in order for me to comprehend the novel as a whole, I thought too much was left out. Although the novel may be appreciated by others, I was disappointed.

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This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff came to my attention thanks to an article in The Writer magazine. It is a memoir about the tumultuous early life of the author.

After being separated from his father and older brother, Tobias became the innocent victim of his divorced mother who dragged him across the country living hand to mouth. Easily attracted to toxic men, his mother’s poor relationship choices resulted in an unhappy life for her young son.

I was impressed with Wolf’s writing style. Told in the first-person, it is a powerful story. I completed the book wanting to know more about his mother’s early life and wished it had been told, but this memoir is narrated in the voice of a young man who is abused and unable to understand his plight. I recommend this memoir based mostly on the quality of the storytelling.

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Child of the Mountains

Sergeant York, An American Hero by David D. Lee has been on my list of books to read for years! Many of you may be familiar with the 1940’s movie based on the life of the highly decorated World War I hero. I have seen it several times and it peaked my curiosity about this man from Tennessee.

Alvin York, entered the war a conscientious objector and left it a hero. This well researched biography does a fine job of chronicling how that came about. It also tells of York’s life after the war and the many tribulations he encountered because of his fame. Poorly educated, but highly dedicated to improving the lives of others in the Appalachian mountains from which he came, York was ill-equipped in areas such as money management and school administration. However, this did not deter him from accomplishing some of his many goals.

This book interested me on many levels. It speaks of much to be considered. If you are a history buff, I think you will appreciate it.

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Sweet Revenge

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer is another novel I consumed during my latest obsession with Archer’s work.

The story begins with three people celebrating a recent engagement at a pub in London. Four unrelated bar patrons instigate a fight which ends in a man being murdered in the alley leading from the pub. The flawed investigation results in the conviction and incarceration of an innocent man. From there the story follows the man behind bars and his efforts to appeal his case. It also follows the lives of the four men whose secret pact put him there.

There are many twists and turns throughout the novel which kept me reading late into the night. I loved this novel which reinforced my zeal for Archer’s masterful storytelling ability. If you enjoy a good mystery and suspense story, I think you will admire Archer’s work as much as I do!

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What I Remember

Someone by Alice McDermott was such a good novel that I listened to it twice. In it, a woman named Marie looks back on her early life in Brooklyn in the years before and following World War Two. Her vivid recollections of the lives of her family, friends, and neighbors are extraordinary.

Young Marie writes about her Irish immigrant mother, her father with ill health, her brother destined for the priesthood, her best friend’s pregnant mother, and many more well-defined memorable neighbors. She has the eyes of an old soul; never missing the smallest nuance or gesture. McDermott has mastered the art of writing in the voice of a young girl who is curious yet baffled by people and events around her. As she grows older, joins the working force, and marries, Marie matures and her understanding and perspective become those of an adult.

Many thanks to fellow blogger Martie who led me to this novel. I think this is an amazing story and am grateful to have been led to it. I fully intend to read more of McDermott’s work. I love her writing style and ability to make fiction tangible.

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The Second Generation

Return to Robinson Island by TJ Hoisington is a fictional book which, as the title implies, is a continuation of the well-known 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson.

This exciting story takes place 15 years after the Robinsons have been living on a remote island in the Indian Ocean after being shipwrecked. As the tale begins, son Ernest is now a member of Her Majesty’s Navy and on his way back to the island to visit his parents and family members who chose to make their life there.

If you have never read the original book, or seen the movie, this new installment includes enough background information allowing newcomers with sufficient context to fill-in the gaps. Illustrations provide helpful visuals as well.

Perils abound in the adventurous story making it exciting and fast paced. There are treasure chests, tyrants, and turnabouts; all of which make for a delightful story.

Thank you TJ Hoisington for creating a fitting sequel to a fine old classic! It was too long in coming!

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