Book Reviews


Reader Review: "The House of Broken Angels"


by michael haughton (jamaica kingston): How could a character like man be so touching. It brings tears to my eyes just to realize that sickness is no respect of h. Such a good soul Big Angel. In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel De La Cruz, known affectionately as Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies herself, leading to a farewell doubleheader.

Across one bittersweet weekend in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought them to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.

The story of the De La Cruzes is the American story. This indelible portrait of a complex family reminds us of what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border. Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and it cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.I rate this as 4 out of 5 a very good read.

Reader Review: "Sometimes I Lie"


by michael Haughton (jamaica, kingston): How could anyone not take notice of such brilliant writing? I find more and more that as I read each chapter my mind was filled with empathy and eagerness for the outcome.

I was captivated by the descriptions, such as when Amber Reynolds is trying to separate her dreams from her alleged reality, "I can smell my lost time." How great is that sentence?! Another example where I know the feeling too well is when she describes an uncomfortable atmosphere, "...the air in the room is thick with silence and remorse." This sentence transported me inside that room!

I believe the author successfully carries the voice of the unreliable narrator throughout the book. My attention did not wander and I did not have to suspend any belief to be completely wrapped up in the world of Amber Reynolds and the story she is telling us. The ending was satisfying and also left me hoping for another book by Alice Feeney. The ending can stand on its own, yet seems to hint that this story would be continued in a second novel. It is one of my true joys when a book captivates me and I think about it incessantly. I feel fortunate and grateful to BookBrowse for giving us readers the experience of being being able to read a book months before it is published. I am giving this book a rousing round of applause and yelling. Quite detailing on what suppose to be an imaginary a life that makes living a misery.

Reader Review: "The Great Alone"


by lalni: For those of you who have read Hannah's previous novel, do not expect a carbon copy of her work. This new book is, however, a wonderfully atmospheric and poignant look at the Alaska wilderness, PTSD, and fractured families. 13 year old old Lani Allbright is growing up in the 70's in the age of EST, Patty Hearst and Vietnam, where free love is all the rage. When her hippie parents decide to leave and move to land bestowed to them by a Vietnam buddy they hope getting away from the chaos of city life will be healing for the father and for the family as a whole. At first, it feels like this might be the answer to their prayers. With a colorful cast of characters, they plunge into a very rustic way of life yet awed by the majestic beauty of the state. However, the people keep warning them about the winter dangers and the people itself. As time goes on the winter darkness does takes hold but it becomes apparent that the real issue is not Alaska's winters but the darkness within the family. We watch Leni's growing awareness of the weakness within her family and her rising maturity regarding its dangers. Be warned-there is a lot of physical abuse in this book and for those who are sensitive to this issue, it may be a trigger. However, Hannah's beautiful prose portrays the splendor and ruggedness of a world we know too little about. It is easy to see how this world could unfurl difficulty for those running away from something. Note that this has already been optioned for film rights.

Reader Review: "The Girls in the Picture"


by Diane D. (NW NJ): This book kept giving me more surprises as it went on. I hadn't realized that Mary Pickford was the first star of silent pictures, nor that she carried that over into Talkies & was the first in so many things. I did know that she and Douglas Fairbanks were married, but their lives blew me away.

The relationship between Mary and her best friend, Frances Marion, surprised me with it's constancy & intensity, because I kept expecting it to fall apart. When it didn't, I was surprised at all the changes in their lives over the years. A lot of the things Mary did disappointed me, because I wasn't expecting them of her. Frances' life was more what I wanted to read; I guess she just felt more like a real person to me. I had to give her a lot of credit for trying to help Mary at the end, since I don't know if I'd have been able to do it.

The book was very well written, and I enjoyed reading it, though I wish there had been more at the end.

Reader Review: "Less"


by RobertaW (Albuquerque): My favorite thing about this book is that it made me laugh. Arthur Less is about to turn fifty and his longtime partner is going to marry another man. In order to avoid the wedding he decides to accept all the invitations he has been offered and travel around the world. With each stop we learn more and more about his past. The writing is wonderful and the book is witty, poignant and tender.

Reader Review: "An American Marriage"


by Betty Taylor (Macon GA): Tayari Jones does not sugar coat her stories. They are raw, they are real. In her latest book "An American Marriage" her characters deal with the realities of their place in this world.

The characters are well developed – all with flaws, all with positive qualities. There were times I wanted to embrace a character and then later I felt like asking the same character "What were you thinking?!!" No one was all good, nor all bad. They were real! I had no idea how I wanted the story to go. I kept changing my mind. And I was never sure how the author would end their story.

This is the story of Roy and Celestial Hamilton who met through her best friend Dre. Roy and Celestial married and were deeply in love when after only 18 months of marriage had their world turned upside down. Roy goes to prison for a crime he did not commit. While he is away Celestial turns to Dre for support. Then when he is released he returns to different life. Has his marriage survived? Love, race, trust, loyalty, honesty, family obligations are all explored. This is a heartfelt story, nothing flashy. Ms. Jones wrote in such a way that I could feel the pain the characters felt over the decisions they had to make. No one was going to escape untouched.

'An American Marriage" is perfect for book clubs. It lends itself to an amazing discussion of the choices made, the consequences, the interactions, race inequality, feminism, family definition.

Mistakes are made, loved ones are betrayed, the term family is redefined, and emotions are laid bare. This is real life.

Reader Review: "The Wife Between Us"


by Steph (Charlottesville): I want to avoid as much plot as possible because I don't want to ruin a single thing. There are some fantastic twisty bits to The Wife Between Us that genuinely run you over like a semi truck and I don't want to offer any hints. I did have to go back and reread some portions to try and suss out exactly what was going on. You'll need to use your brain a bit for this one.

Vanessa, ex-wife to Richard, is down on her luck and living in a small apartment with her aunt. Post divorce, she's gone from housewife to retail hell at Saks. She's an addict, alcohol being her drug of choice. I think that was one major thing that bothered me about The Wife Between Us. It's very en vogue these days to use alcohol issues as the perfect foil to create an unreliable narrator. It's been done several times and ways and every time I'm left feeling a little cold.

Nellie, Richard's soon to be new wife, is the anti-Vanessa. She's bright, teaches pre-school and is a genuinely happy and refreshing interval every other chapter. Where Vanessa is dark and brooding, Nellie is light and joyful… until Richard's ex starts to turn up. Or so it seems.

Initially I gave The Wife Between Us three stars. Then I thought about the book for a few days, always a good sign, and bumped it to 3.5. And then I sat down to review it today and thought "what the heck" and put it up to four. The fact that I'm still thinking about it even two weeks later means it has stuck with me, and with as many books as I read that's quite an accomplishment.

Reader Review: "The Great Alone"


by Susie J (Indiana): I so looked forward to this new book by Kristin Hannah because her previous title was so rewarding and satisfying. Unfortunately, this one is far from that - at least for me. The repetition in this book is unbelievable - how could an editor have allowed this to pass? In addition, many of the events in the book are simply too far-fetched to actually occur under the circumstances. Too much happens in too short a time or space. There are brief segments where the prose literally sings, and once I arrived at that point I took a deep breath and hoped I had passed the worst - only to be disappointed again and again. The publishing house fell far short on this one, I feel. Either that or I am asking myself who really wrote Kristin Hannah's great World War II novel of a short time ago.

Reader Review: "Only Child"


by Carole: Only Child is amazing! Once I started reading it I was unable to put it down. The writing flows and the characters are well-developed .It is intense, heartbreaking and uplifting. While it starts with a school shooting, that is not what it is about. There is so much more to this story. If you read one new book this year, make it this one. And really I rate it a 10.

Reader Review: "The Women in the Castle"


by Nancy: 'Commander of wives and children" is the title given to Marianne when she makes a promise to her husband and other German conspirators that plan to assassinate Hitler. When their plot fails, the men are executed. Committed to her promise, Marianne finds two other resistance wives, Benita and Ania, and brings them and their children to live in her decaying family castle.

This is not just another WWII story as the perspective is of three very different German women with very different experiences of loss, guilt, survival and recovery before, during and decades after the war.

Reader Review: "The Walking Dead"


by Dick Minim (Essex): Gerald Seymour sure knows how to cook up a tale but this gooey confection may be over-egged for even the hungriest of his fans, your reviewer included. A suicide bomber arrives in England from Saudi Arabia and the central plot involves the efforts to track him down before he causes carnage, a theme given more urgency by last year's shocking attack in Manchester. Mixed in with this are ingredients including the trial of two old-school cockney villains, complete with the most stupid (and unbelievable) juror ever and the incident-packed last days of an intelligence officer's career. Not Seymour at his best but a tasty treat all the same.

Reader Review: "Ginny Moon"


by Ellen F: I wasn't prepared to like this book or the main character. I thought it was going to be a very different type of book. The author brings the reader into Ginny's world as the story develops. I could empathize with all of the characters in her life and begin to understand how Ginny has invented ways to cope with the life she has been dealt. I found myself rooting for her dysfunctional mother despite what had gone before because the deep ties of family were apparent. I ended up loving the book and came away wiser having read Ginny's story.

Reader Review: "The Immortalists"


by Becky H (Chicago): THE IMMORTALISTS follows four children throughout their lives. The children visit a woman who tells them their death date. That knowledge compels each of the young people to follow a different pathway through life. A gay boy who is uncertain of his sexuality and self-worth, a girl who may be suffering from a mental illness and infatuated by magic, a girl who is intellectually brilliant but socially inept and a boy who is the family's "golden child" intent on doing everything perfectly make up this group of siblings.

Each one's story is told in succession with little interaction between the siblings until each one's death. Each story is compelling on its own. The characters are well developed. Each life story has a clear beginning, middle and end. The place and time each sibling's story covers is detailed and distinct.

An intriguing, well written, and aware novel delineating the difference between belief and science, reality and fantasy. The choices each sibling makes will resonate long after you finish reading.

Reader Review: "Ginny Moon"


by M. Kassapa (Minneapolis): Ginny Moon, fourteen years old with autism, is trying to make sense of her world and with her as the narrator we are on a wild adventure following in her footsteps, watching how her mind works in navigating the zigzag path of her life. From the very first moment of this roller coaster of confusion and her desire to be reunited with her birth mother we want her to succeed. Once you understand the parameters of the journey Ginny is on, there is no way you can put this book down until reaching its culmination. Though at times you feel her fear and desperation, you hang in there with her. She holds our attention, our empathy and compassion as we cheer her through the obstacles that confound reaching her goal. And maybe she's not the only one who doesn't understand what's going on.

Reader Review: "The Sellout"


by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): The Sellout is the fourth novel by award-winning American author, Paul Beatty. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2016. Our narrator is the son of a psychologist by the name of Mee (who has dropped the second "e"). Until his untimely and unfortunate death at the hands of the Los Angeles Police, his father was known as the Nigger Whisper for his ability to talk down coloured folk attempting suicide, a role that has been thrust upon the narrator by default.

Since his father's death, he manages their farm in a suburban area of LA once known as the City of Dickens. A talented farmer, he grows, among other cash crops, square watermelons and pot, and his uniquely delicious produce is very popular locally. In the prologue, we find him summoned to appear before the Supreme Court of USA on charges of racial segregation and slavery.

Although our narrator's name is never mentioned, he is referred to by one character as The Sellout, and bears the nickname Bonbon from his performance in a school spelling bee. Beatty gives the reader a cast of quirky characters that includes a former child-actor, the Assistant Principal of the Chaff Middle School, a female bus driver and a has-been TV personality who rewrites classic texts into blackly correct books. A former city is re-established via Freeway signs and a three-inch-wide white painted border. Meetings of the Dum Dum Donuts Intellectuals are the forum for black ideas and our protagonist employs a sort of reverse psychology that ends up in a resegregation push. He also provides novel take on blackface entertainment.

One World have produced editions of Beatty's four novel with themed covers and this one has a lawn jockey with a gas lamp on the cover, the significance of which becomes clear in the text. This satire has been described as brilliant, outrageous, demented, hilarious and profound, all succinct and accurate descriptors. Very entertaining.

Reader Review: "Slumberland"


by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "The Schwa ruffled the pages of the book over his pant seam, and the resulting sound rivaled that of the best Max Roach brushwork. I nearly fainted. He lifted the book to his mouth and played chapter seven like a diatonic harmonica; blowing and drawing on the pages like leaves of grass in the hands of Pan. Who knew a Signet paperback was in the key of D? For the more percussive sounds he rapped the spine on his elbow, thumb drummed page corners, pizzicatoed the preface, flutter tongued the denouement and bariolaged the blurbs."

Slumberland is the third novel by Man Booker Prize-winning American author, Paul Beatty. Ferguson W. Sowell, aka DJ Darky has a talent for DJing, and says "I compensate for a lack of skills and Negritude with a surfeit of good taste and a record collection that I like to think is to DJing what the Louvre is to painting." He has spent months trying to compose his perfect beat, and it's almost there: in the parlance, it is "presque parfait".

The Beard Scratchers, members of his record pool, agree. After much analysis, they hit upon the missing element: it needs to be ratified by their ultimate beat break, the elusive Charles Stone, aka the Schwa. Coincidentally (or perhaps not quite?), Ferguson comes across a porn tape sound-tracked with music certain to be the Schwa's. The trail leads to East Germany and, with some help from the Beard Scratchers, Ferguson finds himself engaged as a Jukebox-Sommelier at the Slumberland Bar in Berlin.

It is a Berlin about to tear down its Wall, and Ferguson is somewhat surprised to find that others share his love of the Schwa's music: he is assisted in his quest by a bartender, a journalist, a Stasi agent, a pair of German negro sisters, and, eventually, the clientele of the Slumberland. Through a number of quirky characters and some crazy, laugh-out-loud events, Beatty examines the experience of the negro in Germany.

One World have produced editions of Beatty's four novel with themed covers and this one has LP discs on the cover. A knowledge and appreciation of jazz is bound to enhance the enjoyment of this story, but is not essential, because the plot and characters are strong enough to draw the reader in. The musical descriptions certainly make the reader wish to hear the Schwa's music. There's plenty of wit and black humour in Beatty's lyrical prose. Original, incisive and funny.


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