MY FAVORITE AUTHORS AND BOOKS
A few of my favorite authors and their books are Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees, The Invention of Wings); Kathryn Stockett (The Help); William Kent Krueger (Ordinary Grace, This Tender Land); Fredrik Backman (A Man Called Ove, Britt Marie Was Here); John Sanford (The Virgil Flowers series); anything Dennis LeHane, Peter Geye, Ann Patchett, Allen Eskens, or Nelson DeMille. (And numerous others!)
I’m a bit lazy about writing reviews because it takes time and effort, but it’s important to give authors the kudos they deserve. Here are a few I’ve written.
The ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline
I didn’t read the reviews on the Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline until after I completed the book. Seems people either loved it or not. The nay sayers’ biggest complaints were that it was predictable, read like a young adult novel poorly written, and had shallow, stereotypical characters and themes.
I judge a novel by my desire to keep reading it, and I wanted to get back to this one. I liked Vivian’s story more than Molly’s because I enjoy historical fiction and found the history around the orphan trains in the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries fascinating. It was clear Kline had done her research. I feel it important to shine a light on how many of the children in those years lived in dire conditions both on the streets of large cities like New York and in their new homes where they were treated as slaves. Although Vivian’s story could have effectively stood alone as a novel, the author chose to juxtapose the placement of the orphans long ago with children currently in foster care systems. As the author made clear, some children were placed in good homes with good people, too many were not and are not today in foster care.
The one thing which bothered me was how the novel was structured. It wasn’t clear to me how much of Vivian’s narrative was being disclosed to Molly. I think it would have been more effective to have the characters’ stories revealed through dialogue, as Vivian and Molly got to know each other. But, as stated earlier, I found the parallel stories compelling enough to keep reading to the satisfying ending.
DON’T TRY TO FIND ME by Holly Brown
I don’t remember who recommended this novel to me, but it had been on my library hold list for a while. Whatever the case, the story kept my interest; I wanted to return to reading it. It’s written in the voices of Rachel and her daughter, Marley. When Marley leaves a note on the whiteboard: Don’t try to find me, of course, her parents do just the opposite. The girl left her phone, cleaned her room, and it was clear this was a runaway situation. What I appreciated was the author’s ability to create the emotional experience for both mother and daughter in different traumatic situations. Rachel was not only dealing with the wretched situation of having a runaway child, she was also trying to cope with being suspected of harming her child and the public’s judgement. Marley makes her way across the country to meet with someone she met online…so you know how the story goes. It was a compelling read and I give it four stars, although I felt like skimming some of the mother’s parts.
THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica
THE TRESPASSER by Tana French
Tana French does it again with a riveting, twisty tale of intrigue in The Trespasser. She characterizes her protagonist, Detective Antoinette Conway, as a believable and realistic detective who is at odds with the men in the murder squad simply because she’s a woman in a man’s world. I love her scrappy personality and how she doesn’t let the hazing get the best of her in the end. The story, set in Ireland, is about a young woman found dead in her home from a head injury. Her new boyfriend is the number one suspect, as so often is the case in real life, but he says she never answered the door when he arrived for their planned date. Someone made an anonymous call to police. Who that person is and why they didn’t want to be made known is crucial to solving. The veteran detective who’s “helping” Conway and her partner, Steve, with the case believes the boyfriend should be arrested. But Conway and Steve aren’t so sure, and go against him to look outside the box to chase a few leads. When I got to the last half of the book, I couldn’t put it down.
I STAND WITH COURAGE, ONE WOMAN’S JOURNEY TO CONQUER PARALYSIS by Kathryn M Homes
Kathy Homes is a friend of mine. I met her at a WOW (Women of Words) meeting over two years ago. She said she wrote a book about her illness and how she proved the doctors wrong when they said she’d never walk again. I just recently purchased a copy from her. It’s a short little book; it took me a couple days to read it. Afterward, I just wanted to give her a hug. While Kathi’s husband was suffering from serious medical problems of his own, Kathi suffered a second bout with a rare autoimmune disease and because of the treatment she became paralyzed. This book showcases her strong character and determination to fight her medical conditions. Her amazing courage pushed her to work hard to walk again, even though doctors told her she never would. This book would be an inspirational gift for someone who has or is going through medical struggles of their own.
GOODNIGHT NOBODY by Jennifer Weiner
I’d read other novels by Jennifer Weiner and enjoyed them, but Goodnight Nobody was supposed to be a murder mystery. In my opinion, the lackadaisical tone didn’t jive with the seriousness of the crime. Kate stops at a neighbor’s house, finds her dead, blood everywhere, and she doesn’t seem to experience the severe reaction one would have. Her cavalier approach to solving the case appeared to be born of her boredom with suburban life, not with her shocking experience of finding the person who did this awful thing to someone she knew. If the novel was meant to be humorous, it had it’s moments. But I would have liked to have seen more realism in both how her husband would reacted to his wife’s erratic behavior, and in the conclusion when the police chief enters the “gun” scene. His training would have netted a much different result. If you enjoy Jennifer Weiner, you may love this book. I gave it three stars because although Weiner can spin a good tale, but this one lacked a sense of realism I expect in mysteries.
BEING A SUPER PET PARENT by Dona Chicone
Dona Chicone’s book Being a Super Pet Parent is an excellent and comprehensive guide for anyone either considering buying a dog or who has recently purchased one. She covers all aspects from ones motivation for a pet to what one should consider when doing so. She covers cost, food and nutrition, training, responsibilities, socialization, hygiene, exercise, activities, and even what to do if owning the pet doesn’t work out. Information like this is a must before one brings a pet into the family. I especially like the chapters on pet parent responsibilities and also how to think about the breed and kind of pet that would be suited for your family. Because different dog breeds have different characteristics and needs, one needs to be thoughtful about the proper selection. If you or someone you know is considering a new dog, this book would be a wonderful purchase.
SUPER COMMUTER COUPLES by Megan Bearce
Super Commuter Couples by Megan Bearce is a perfect resource for anyone who deals with super commuting: the commuter, the stay at home spouse, or family therapists. Megan interviewed several couples in different locals and situations; their stores are each unique and interesting. The chapters I felt most helpful were twelve and fourteen. The tips, insights, and mottos could be applied to any couple, not just the super commuters.
A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman
Jackman rolls out Ove’s story with the skill of a master story teller. At the beginning of the novel we learn Ove, aged 59, has been forced to retire, drives a Saab, is a man of routine, and a genuine curmudgeon. A Man Called Ove is a heartfelt story of what happens when Ove’s pregnant neighbor and a stray cat turn Ove’s life upside down and have a great impact on his future. Jackman’s realistic characters made me both laugh out loud and brought tears to my eyes. I’m not going to tell you anymore about the story, because you need to discover this charmer yourself.
TROUBLEMAKER by Leah Remini
Leah Remini’s voice came through loud and clear in Troublemaker. I applaud her bravery to have cut ties with Scientology and tell the world about her experience. The book went back and forth in time a bit, so that was a little confusing, but all in all, it was a fascinating read.
PLAINSONG by Kent Haruf is set in small fictional town of Holt, Colorado. High school teachers Tom Gutherie and Maggie Jones are friends and romantically involved, although Tom is legally married to a woman suffering from depression. Maggie sets out to help one of her female students Victoria Roubideaux who becomes pregnant and is kicked out of her mother’s home. She enlists a likely duo of bachelor farmers, Raymond and Harold McPheron, to help this young women. Tom’s raising two sons, Ike and Bobby, who are trying to adjust to an ill mother as they live their lives in a small community. Haruf weaves a marvelous tale of small town life accenting the peculiarities of the rich and realistic characters he builds. The only thing that took me aback at first was the lack of quotation marks and dialogue tags, but once I was hooked into the story my annoyance faded away.
THE LIGHTHOUSE ROAD by Peter Geye is a historical fiction novel set in Gunflint on the northern shore of Lake Superior in the late nineteen century into the twentieth. The compelling storyline revolves around the orphan Odd Einar born in the community of Gunflint. As the plot unfolds we learn the sordid circumstances of his birth and death of his mother, a young woman who found herself as a cook in the logging camp. We learn of the influence of his flawed caretakers and his struggles to find his way in the harsh world he was born into. The storyline is compelling in itself, then add the rich characters who influence his life both positively and negatively, as he faces the rugged realities of the times and the challenges of living through harsh winters on the North Shore. I was sorry when the book ended; it was that good.