The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

the night tiger

Printed Length: 384 pages
Published: February 12, 2019 by Flatiron Books

 

Book Blurb:

 

A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

 

My Thoughts:

I love historical fiction, and this book intrigued me because it is set in a time and area I’m not very familiar with -1930’s Malaysia.  There was so much in this book that I’m finding it hard to know how to review.

I really expected to fall in love with it like many others have, but that just didn’t happen for me.  I enjoyed it but felt there was just too much going on and too many characters coming in and out of the story.  Adding the mystery and Chinese folklore and magical realism and forbidden love also added to too much going on for me.  Besides, there were aspects of the book that got dropped without resolution.  I also didn’t really get drawn into the story right away.  It took a while for me to get into it.  I think that it is because there was just too much going on.  I also wish I came away feeling like I had learned more about the area and time.

I have not given up on this author, however, because I did enjoy it somewhat.  I do have her previous book, The Ghost Bride, that I will eventually read.

My Rating:  3 Stars

 

 

 

 

 

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

only child
Print Length: 304 pages
Published:  February 6, 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group

I listened to this audiobook, superbly narrated by Kivlighan de Montebello.  I don’t think I was really aware of the overall topic of the book or else I might not have picked it up.  I kept seeing that it was getting good reviews, though, so I gave it a try, and I’m glad I did.

This book involves a school shooting in a tight-knit community and the aftermath it creates.  The story is told entirely from the perspective of six-year-old, Zach Taylor.  When the beloved security guard, Charlie’s, son enters the school as a shooter, Zach’s class is forced to hide in a closet as they listened to the shots ring throughout the hall.  Zach fairly quickly realizes that this lockdown is not a drill.  Zach’s brother, Adam, was one of the unfortunate victims who died in the shooting  The shooter had been known to have some mental health issues.  In her grief and anger, Zach’s mother goes on a mission to go after the parents and hold them responsible for her child’s death.

This book is emotionally powerful, and although this is such a sad topic, I found the observations made by Zach fascinating and providing more insight into the fallout from a situation like this.  Although Zach often didn’t understand the circumstances he was seeing or overhearing with his parents, as an adult, we were privy to what was going on with his parents as well. It was interesting seeing how his mind worked and how he worked through his sadness, moving toward healing and understanding.  I often wonder how a person/family can cope after such an event, and I was drawn to the problems they all faced in handling the situation, each member of the family handling it in a different manner. I  often found Zach wise beyond his years, but not in an unrealistic way.

Please don’t be put off by the subject matter.  This is an excellent book, written in a compelling and fresh manner.  If you do decide to venture into this story, I highly recommend that you listen to the audiobook version.  The young man narrating the book is one of the best readers I’ve heard, mastering the skill as well if not better than many of the adults.

My Rating:  5 Stars

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

the flatshare

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books (May 28, 2019)

 

When I was at my last genre discussion at work, one of my colleagues mentioned that the best book she had read recently was Flatshare.  Since this was right before I was headed for London and it is set there, I decided that would be the perfect book for this trip.  I am SO GLAD that I chose this book.  It was perfect timing, and I adored the book.  It really hit the spot for me.

Tiffy works in the publishing business on craft books like crocheting and is currently working with a crochet author who is taking off in popularity.  She has recently broken up once again with her boyfriend, and when he tells her she has to move out, she finds a flat where the owner works nights and is looking for someone to share the flat with.  He is there to sleep during the days, but Tiffy has the flat in the evenings and on weekends Leon, the flat owner,  is at his girlfriend’s flat.  They share the same bed, although not at the same time, sleeping on different sides.

First of all, the idea of sharing a flat and never meeting the other person was intriguing to say the least.  You know they will eventually have to meet which kept me curious how it would happen.

What I loved was the way the author used post-it notes to develop the individual characters.  Tiffy and Leon would leave post-it notes around the flat to communicate, and their personalities really came through using that method, especially Tiffy’s.  The book is told in alternating chapters from Tiffy’s and Leon’s point of view, and the author excels at further developing the characters through the secondary characters that support the two main characters.  They are also well-developed, and I fell in love with all of them -except the bad boyfriend.

There also was a good amount of substance to the storyline with a brother who has been wrongly imprisoned, a couple of patients Leon tries to help, a stalker ex-boyfriend, Tiffy recovering from a bad relationship, and a realistically developing romance, although in a most unusual way.

This was a debut from this author, and I absolutely adored this book.  If you are looking for an original, heart-warming novel with a realistic romance, delightful characters, and a great storyline with substance, this is the book for you.  I will definitely be on the lookout for her next book.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a copy of this book for review.

My Rating:  5 Stars.

 

 

 

 

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

the favorite daugher

Printed Length: 368 pages
Expected publication: June 4, 2019 by Berkley Books

 

Book Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop at Water’s End, here is a lush, heart-wrenching novel about the power of memory, the meaning of family, and learning to forgive. 

Ten years ago, Lena Donohue experienced a wedding-day betrayal so painful that she fled the small town of Watersend, South Carolina, and reinvented herself in New York City. Though now a freelance travel writer, the one place she rarely goes is home–until she learns of her dad’s failing health.

Returning to Watersend means seeing the sister she has avoided for a decade and the brother who runs the family’s Irish pub and has borne the burden of his sisters’ rift. While Alzheimer’s slowly steals their father’s memories, the siblings rush to preserve his life in stories and in photographs. As his secret past brings Lena’s own childhood into focus, it sends her on a journey to discover the true meaning of home.

 

My Thoughts:

I love books about families, relationships, and working out differences, so this one fit that bill to a T.  It also had the bonus of being set in the South and a bit of a mystery, too. The two sisters in the book had been exceptionally close growing up, best friends in fact. But then Lena found her sister together with her fiancee moments before walking down the aisle. Lena left her home to get away from the pain and ended up working as a travel writer in New York.  Lena is forced to face the past when she returns home to Watersend, SC after her brother Shane’s plea to assist with their Dad who has declining health due to Alzheimer’s.

In this engaging novel, the author has vividly drawn characters.  They are well-drawn, imperfect people, struggling through the past while trying to take care of a problematic situation in the present.  My one small complaint and the only problem I had with the characters was in the sister, Hallie’s, attitude when Lena returned home.  Rather than being repentant, she was angry at her sister for staying away so long and couldn’t seem to understand why her sister wouldn’t want to be in contact with her. I had trouble buying into that.  The father Gavin was such a wonderful character and great Dad to Colleen, so it was hard to watch him losing his identity with his disease.

Memories play a large part of this book.  The importance of memories is highlighted in many ways from currently dealing with past memories as well as losing those memories through Alzheimer’s.  The author does an excellent job of shining a light on this horrible disease and how it affects the individual and their friends and family.

This is an author I have not read before, but I will be reading her future books as well as looking into her past books.  So if you are looking for a book about relationships, forgiveness, and strong family ties, pick this book up when it goes on sale in June.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book for review.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

How not to die alone

Print Length: 336 pages
Expected publication: May 28, 2019 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Book Blurb:

A darkly funny and life-affirming debut novel for readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine the story of one man who is offered a second chance at life and love when he develops an unexpected friendship–if he can expose the white lie he told years ago that grew into so much more.

Andrew’s day-to-day is a little grim, searching for next of kin for those who die alone. Thankfully, he has a loving family waiting for him when he gets home, to help wash the day’s cares away. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe.

Andrew didn’t mean for the misunderstanding to happen, yet he’s become trapped in his own white lie. The fantasy of his wife and two kids has become a pleasant escape from his lonely one bedroom with only his Ella Fitzgerald records for company. But when new employee Peggy breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air, Andrew is shaken out of his routine. She doesn’t notice the wall he’s been safely hiding behind and their friendship promises to break it down.

Andrew must choose: Does he tell the truth and start really living his life, but risk losing his friendship with Peggy? Or will he stay safe and alone, behind the façade? How Not to Die Alone is about the importance of taking a chance in those moments when we have the most to lose. Sharp and funny, warm and real, it’s the kind of big-hearted story we all need.”

My thoughts:

 

This was a totally charming book set in Britain.  The book has an unusual beginning where Andrew is attending the funeral for someone he doesn’t know.  He wants to make sure someone is there for that person at the end.  His job is to try to track down friends or family after someone dies and then take care of the burial.  He is quite the loner and spends most of his spare time listening to Ella Fitzgerald and playing with his trains.  When he applied for his job, he found himself lying about his life and then wasn’t sure how to get out of it.  When a new employee comes on board, they begin to form a friendship, and he feels like he needs to tell her.

I loved the development of his relationship with Peggy who is also going through struggles.  She has a child and a failing marriage.  Richard Roper does an excellent job of portraying their growth realistically.  Although the reason for their job is depressing, the book is also full of humor.

If you liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I think you will enjoy this heart-warming one as well.  I certainly did.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the Publisher for a copy for review.

My Rating:  4 Stars

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

the mother in law

Print Length: 340 pages
Published:  April 23, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press

Book Blurb:

” the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they’ll never have the closeness she’d been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something…”

My Thoughts:

I like psychological suspense books that keep you guessing, and this one certainly met that requirement, but I found this book to be a little different than most of the psychological suspense books I read which I liked.

The story is told in alternating points of view between Diana, the mother-in-law, and Lucy, the daughter-in-law.  What I found different was that in addition to the mystery of what happened to Diana and who might have been involved, there actually is some growth between the relationship between Diana and Lucy which added an unexpected and pleasant element to the story.  Diana was not a likable character, and it was hard to understand how she could be so removed and ungiving with her children, yet be so giving with her charity and the refugees.

There also are a couple of mysteries going on.  Did Diana commit suicide or not, and if so, why?  If she didn’t, then who murdered her?  There are multiple possibilities throughout the book that kept me guessing.  I also found this book a little different than others in this genre because there wasn’t this overriding foreboding atmosphere which propels the page turning. I still was compelled to quickly turn pages, however, to discover what was going on and making this an easy read.

This is my first Sally Hepworth book, but it won’t be my last.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a copy of the book for review.

My Rating:  4 Stars

 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less

Print Length:  273 pages
Published: July 18, 2017 by Lee Boudreaux Books

 

Book Blurb:

“You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.”

 

My Thoughts:

This was a book club selection and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, so I had high expectations for this one.  I also had read The Confession of Max Tivoli years ago and really enjoyed it. I’m sad to share, though, that this book fell short for me.  It has gotten high marks and great reviews from many, but I just don’t agree with a lot of the reviews I’ve read.

First of all, I really didn’t think that the writing was all that exceptional which puzzles me since it was an award winner.  I guess that even with award winners a lot comes down to taste.  I did listen to the book, too, so maybe that influenced my feelings.  Usually, though, if I feel a book was well-written, I can tell that in the listening. Often when I hear one exceptionally well-written, I think I should go back to actually read the book allowing me to devour the language more.  It was satirical, and I did find a few sections of the book humorous, but just not enough. The travels and story weren’t that compelling for me.

I also just didn’t connect with the main character, Arthur Less. There was nothing about his character that made me care about him or his situation.

On the plus side, the book was relatively short, so I appreciated that.

My Rating:  2.5-3 Stars

 

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

the age of light

Hardcover: 384 pages
Published:  February 5, 2019 by Little, Brown and Company

 

Book Blurb:

She went to Paris to start over, to make art instead of being made into it.

A captivating debut novel by Whitney Scharer, The Age of Lighttells the story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse.

“I’d rather take a photograph than be one,” she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and as they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever.

Lee’s journey takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents. Through it all, Lee must grapple with the question of whether it’s possible to reconcile romantic desire with artistic ambition-and what she will have to sacrifice to do so.

Told in interweaving timelines, this sensuous, richly detailed novel brings Lee Miller-a brilliant and pioneering artist-out of the shadows of a man’s legacy and into the light.She went to Paris to start over, to make art instead of being made into it.

A captivating debut novel by Whitney Scharer, The Age of Lighttells the story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse.

“I’d rather take a photograph than be one,” she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and as they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever.

Lee’s journey takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents. Through it all, Lee must grapple with the question of whether it’s possible to reconcile romantic desire with artistic ambition-and what she will have to sacrifice to do so.

Told in interweaving timelines, this sensuous, richly detailed novel brings Lee Miller-a brilliant and pioneering artist-out of the shadows of a man’s legacy and into the light.She went to Paris to start over, to make art instead of being made into it.

 

My Thoughts: 

I recently had the opportunity to hear this author speak at the annual Christamore Book and Author Luncheon.  At the time, I was about 80% through listening to the book.  I had hoped to finish it before I heard her speak, but that didn’t happen.  I wouldn’t have said anything different
to the author, though, had I been completely finished when I talked with her.

The author came across an exhibit of Man Ray and Lee Miller’s work and wanted to explore their story more.  One of the things I did enjoy about the book is that it featured a woman who pushed to achieve her dreams.  Although she forged forward,  she still was haunted by some experiences in her childhood which affected her adult life.   The characters were complex and fully developed. One of the things the author said she hoped to do is to put a spotlight on Lee Miller and make people look into her story more.  She accomplished that.  I found myself looking up her (and Man Ray) up on the internet.

One thing that was bothering me in the book was a couple of super short chapters that flashed onto a war scene during the time Lee was a war correspondent.  The author said she wanted to use that like shrapnel.  I really don’t think that worked.  I found it took away from the story and didn’t add anything.  In fact, they were a jarring interruption.  Fortunately, there were only a few of these. Her years as a war correspondent weren’t really written about except for that.

I think the portion of her story that was written about could have been condensed considerably without losing anything.  I wish she had done that and extended her story to the war years.  In my opinion, that would have made the book better.

A plus to this book for me was that it was narrated by Therese Plummer.  I always enjoy listening to books read by her and fortunately was able to tell the author how much I enjoyed her narrator, too.

My Rating:  4 Stars

 

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted

Print Length: 418 pages
Published: March 1, 2016 by Crown
Book Blurb:

“From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America

In this brilliant,heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.”

 

My Thoughts:

I had heard Matthew Desmond speak about this situation about a year ago.  He was a fabulous speaker and made me want to learn more about this situation.  His book follows 8 families in Milwaukee and their landlords.

The stories in the book are heartbreaking.  Most of the stories involved families that are living so close to the edge that all it takes is one event requiring additional income which makes them lose their housing.  It becomes a downhill spiral from there.  Once they are evicted, it is harder to find housing, and often the housing is worse than before.

One of the stories, though, was of a man who had been making a good living as a nurse until he had an accident one day and was given pain killers.  He became addicted to the painkillers, losing his job.

Sometimes the individuals just make poor choices, but who knows, I might make the same poor choices if I had had their experiences.  Often though, the system is stacked against them.

I did feel that he also pointed out the viewpoint of the landlords who also need to make a living, but often they didn’t play fair either.  If they allowed a tenant to work off their debt, the landlord often wasn’t giving them credit at a reasonable amount.

One of the members of the book group that read this, felt like they would have like to have more backstory and detail focus on some of the families because they didn’t feel particularly attached to the person.  I think this was a valid comment and would have made the stories even more impactful.

He does recommend some suggestions at the end of the book to help this situation.

I think this is an eye-opening informative book that I would encourage everyone to read.

My Rating:  4 Stars

T

Exposed by Lisa Scottoline

exposed

Print Length: 341 pages
Published: August 15, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Book Blurb:

In this New York Times bestselling novel, a battle for justice pits partner against partner…

Mary DiNunzio wants to represent her old friend Simon Pensiera, a sales rep who was wrongly fired by his company, but her partner Bennie Rosato represents the parent company. When she confronts Mary, explaining this is a conflict of interest, an epic battle of wills and legal strategy between the two ensues—ripping the law firm apart, forcing everyone to take sides and turning friend against friend

My Thoughts:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Lisa Scottoline book.  I’ve always enjoyed the ones I have read, so I was looking forward to this month’s mystery book group selection.  As usual, Lisa has written an entertaining mystery.

As our book group discussed, this book was almost like two different books.  The first 40% is like a legal fiction book.  The fascinating part of the first half of the book is that it brings up a lot of legal, ethical questions That Mary and Bennie have to work through, and it made me ask myself what would I do in a similar situation.  The second part is where the murder mystery finally takes place.  It takes a while before the murder, and I actually asked my husband around 40% if there was actually a murder in this book.  So if that is what you are waiting for, be patient.

The appeal factors to me about her books are that she has characters that you can relate to and are likable.  The strong family ties for Mary drew me in as well.  I also get tired of all the mystery novels where the main character has alcohol, failed marriage, etc. demons which make the books much darker.  Although the main characters also have personal struggles, they are dealt with more positively.

There are a few hard to believe scenarios, so if that really bothers you, you might not like the last half.  I read for entertainment, so that doesn’t really bother me although it does take some suspension of disbelief.

One of the members of our group mentioned that they had met Lisa at a conference where Lisa commented to one of the readers that her books always have a happy ending. This is probably another reason I like her books but had never thought of before.

My Rating:  4 Stars