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Preview: Bookbrowse - Best Recent Reader Reviews

Bookbrowse - Best Recent Reader Reviews



Feed of the ten most recent reader reviews recommended by Bookbrowse.



Published: Sun, 24 Sep 2017 14:46:21 -0400

Last Build Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

 



Reader Review: "Miss Jane"

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by AnnieP (South Carolina): A very unusual book! An interesting treatment of a problem a woman and her family has to deal with from her birth and through her entire life. Even though it is the cause of her way of life, it's handled reasonably without great and gory detail. The characters are alive and real, and although there are some "raw" scenes, it's part of Miss Jane's life, and well-presented. Even though it's not for everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, enough to get a couple of Watson's other stories as well.




Reader Review: "Being Mortal"

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Peggy (Morton Grove, Illinois): This book adds greatly to the conversation of aging, death, and quality of life issues. It goes further than most by flipping the discussion on its head by not defining a "good death" but rather the a "good life". One should always strive to define for themselves what they want to do-- not allowing the medical establishment to try to prolong life as long as it can. Autonomy, dignity, and personal choice can only be decided by the individual. Sometimes families lovingly get in the way of the dying.

My only criticism is that Dr Gawande's sharing of many anecdotal stories became somewhat redundant. His account of his fathers' death, however, was very moving! The book needed tighter editing in my opinion. Overall, I highly recommend. His list of source material is extensive and provides further investigation for those interested.




Reader Review: "Castle of Water"

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by lani: What looked like an ordinary novel of 2 castaways on a deserted island in French Polynesia turned out to be anything but. Barry Bleecker, a frustrated artist and former Wall Street financier has left NYC to follow the path of Gauguin and derive inspiration. Sophie Ducel, newly married, is flying with her new husband to visit the land of Jacques Brel for her honeymoon. However, their prop plane crashes way off course with no flight plan filed and thus begins the most amazing adventure. Part of the story is told from above as if a reporter was elucidating their life ; the other part is direct conversation between the participants. But oh the prose, oh the lessons learned of struggle, cooperation and love elevate this from a simple story to something divine. Poignant and thoughtful it elucidates the real meaning of home.




Reader Review: "News of the World"

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by S Hofsommer (Minnesota): Having lived in West Texas, studied Texas history and taught literature set in this country, I found the book a joy to read. Those who are familiar with the film "The Searchers" know about Indians capturing white settlers' children and bringing them up as their own. My book club members knew little about the history of this time or the setting, so we had a lively discussion. I strongly recommend a book with a good plot set in an accurately portrayed setting.




Reader Review: "Being Mortal"

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Gloria: Atul Gawande's "Being Mortal" actually made me feel better about growing older and, eventually, frailer. Just knowing that there are people like him that are trying to make longer lives better lives gives me great comfort. This book should be in every home. And now I want to read his other books, too.




Reader Review: "A Gentleman in Moscow"

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "Some might wonder that the two men should consider themselves to be old friends having only known each other for four years; but the tenure of friendships has never been governed by the passage of time. These two would have felt like old friends had they met just hours before. To some degree, this was because they were kindred spirits – finding ample evidence of common ground and cause for laughter in the midst of effortless conversation; but it was also almost certainly a matter of upbringing. Raised in grand homes in cosmopolitan cities, educated in the liberal arts, graced with idle hors, and exposed to the finest things, though the Count and the American had been born ten years and four thousand miles apart, they had more in common with each other than they had with the majority of their countrymen."

A Gentleman in Moscow is the second novel by American author, Amor Towles. At the age of thirty-two, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov finds himself under house arrest in Moscow's Hotel Metropol. It's 1922, and the Bolsheviks are in charge; as an aristocrat, Count Rostov becomes a Former Person. Rostov has been occupying a suite on the third floor; now he leaves behind for "The People" all that he cannot fit into a tiny attic room three floors up. A good friend states, much later "Who would have imagined, when you were sentenced to life in the Metropol all those years ago, that you had just become the luckiest man in all of Russia."

Towles drops his readers into Rostov's life every few years, bringing them up to date on significant events and people. If his detention is meant to be a punishment, Rostov is determined to make the best of it, and does so, despite some shaky times and one suicidal moment. Already well respected before his confinement, within a few years Count Rostov's role goes significantly beyond that of an involuntary guest held in great affection. For loved and respected he indeed is, by guests and all bar one member of the Metropol's staff.

This is not an action-packed page-turner, although there is a good dose of intrigue, some romance, plenty of humour and a rather exciting climax. This is a novel that meanders along at a gentle pace. Towles is a skilful storyteller: even seemingly unimportant details woven into the narrative prove their significance if the reader is patient. As well as exploring the philosophies of friendship and of politics, his setting facilitates a suitably nasty and vindictive petty bureaucrat, and a very fine example of communist equality policy at its silliest.

This is a novel with love and loyalty, compassion and quite a lot of wisdom, all wrapped is beautiful prose: "For if a room that exists under the governance, authority, and intent of others seems smaller than it is, then a room that exists in secret can, regardless of its dimensions, seem as vast as one cares to imagine". David Nicholls describes Towles's first novel as "terrific"; his fans might think this one is too. Simply wonderful!




Reader Review: "Who Is Rich?"

Wed, 6 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Lola425: Read this if you like male protagonists who have literally nothing to complain about but complain anyway. Rich is miserable because he makes bad choices, generally originating from between his legs instead of his ears. In trying to prove himself he proves nothing.

Klam is funny and he creates a world that is so self-involved and self-reverential and ridiculous that it is believable and recognizable. The characters are well-written and yet I felt zero empathy for Rich.

I like to read books where characters are struggling with who they are. I enjoy existential crisis. So even if I didn't like Rich, I did like the book.




Reader Review: "Less"

Wed, 6 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Lola425 (Ridgewood, NJ): Put this on your must read. I read this on vacation a week after turning fifty so I was ripe for Arthur Less' experiences, but on every page there is something to love. This is a book about the pull of nostalgia, of looking back, because the thought of moving forward is too painful or scary. This is a book about love and what makes a love affair, a marriage, a friendship a success (longevity? intensity?). It is a book about looking at who you are and deciding if you like who that person is and if you don't do you have it in you to become your best self? And it's a book where you make fictional friend and wish desperately for him to figure it out.

I loved Arthur from page one and soaked a sleeve of my sweatshirt with tears of sadness and frustration and joy and beauty. I also laughed. Which is how life goes, both tragedy and comedy, and hopefully we all end up like Arthur, with just enough of both.




Reader Review: "Our Souls at Night"

Sat, 26 Aug 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Judith Bates: This is a short book, only 179 pages, and it is Kent Haruf's last book before he passed away and, of course, it takes place in Holt, Colorado. I think this is the best of his books,, although they are all good! It is a story about two senior people who have been "sort of friend" for many years. She knew his wife, but they were not close friends. Both his wife and her husband have passed away. This is a story that will make you happy and sad! It is undoubtedly one of the best stories I have ever read! It is a story about two people who "find" each other; there is happiness and sadness! Read it you will like it! It is the perfect story!




Reader Review: "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness"

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "Their wounds were too old and too new, too different, and perhaps too deep, for healing. But for a fleeting moment, they were able to pool them like accumulated gambling debts and share the pain equally, without naming injuries or asking which was whose. For a fleeting moment they were able to repudiate the world they lived in and call forth another one, just as real."

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the second novel by Booker Prize winning author, Arundhati Roy. The story begins with Aftab, whose confusion about what he was found relief at the Khwabgah, among other hijra. He became Anjum, and eventually she ran the Jannat Guest House (in its highly unusual location), a refuge for the quirky, the oppressed, the different.

Integral to the tale is S. Tilottama, real and adopted daughter of Maryam Ipe. Tilo's story, and that of the three men who love her, is told not only by her, but by Dr Azad Bhartiya (fasting Free Indian), Biplab Desgupta (her ex-Intelligence Bureau landlord), and Musa Yeswi (elusive militant). Filling out the quirky cast are a paraven calling himself Saddam Hussain, Zainab the Bandicoot, Naga the journalist, a singing teacher, and an abandoned baby, to name just a few.

How all their lives intersect and how these lives are impacted upon by Government and policy, and in particular, the Kashmiri freedom struggles, is told using vignettes, anecdotes, loosely connected short stories, moral tales, memos, disjointed scraps, accounts that take detours and meander off on tangents. As with Rushdie, Seth and Mistry, this novel has that unmistakeable, essential Indian quality, in characters, in dialogue, in plot.

But here, moreso than in The God of Small Things, the fact that this is a novel by Arundhati Roy the social activist, is very much in evidence (as readers of her non-fiction works will attest) and thus includes illustrations of the many issues against which she rails. Some reviewers describe this novel as "preachy"; the causes are worthy, but readers may feel that is it is only a shade off being exactly that, and perhaps be forgiven for wishing that it was more novel, less moral tale.

Some of Roy's descriptive prose, as with in The God of Small Things, is staggeringly beautiful, poetic and profound: "They understood of course that it was a dirge for a fallen empire whose international borders had shrunk to a grimy ghetto circumscribed by the ruined walls of an old city. And yes, they realised that it was also a rueful comment on Mulaqat Ali's own straitened circumstances. What escaped them was that the couplet was a sly snack, a perfidious samosa, a warning wrapped in mourning, being offered with faux humility by an erudite man who had absolute faith in his listeners' ignorance of Udru, a language which, like most of those who spoke it, was gradually being ghettoized."

However, the vague and veiled references to certain personages, events and ideas which are, perhaps, obvious to those familiar with Indian current affairs, will go straight over the heads of other readers, the message will be lost or less than clear. There is humour, heartache, despair and hope, there is much cruelty but also abundant kindness, making it a moving and powerful read.




Reader Review: "Birdsong"

Mon, 7 Aug 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by mike speake: Quite simply the best book that I have ever read. A feast of intense story-line, history, love, horror, emotion, description, frailty. I read it ten years ago and am now re-reading it. I just cannot put it down.




Reader Review: "Beartown"

Fri, 4 Aug 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): The Scandal (also titled Beartown) is the fourth full-length novel by Swedish blogger, columnist and author, Fredrik Backman. It is translated from Swedish by Neil Smith. As remote as this place in the forest is, and barely surviving economic downturns, closures and redundancies, Beartown has one thing going for it: the Beartown Ice Hockey Club Juniors. While the A Team is pretty well hopeless, the Juniors have a star who might just get them to the Final in the big city. And that would bring the attention of sponsors and investors and governing bodies. A kick start for the town would be most welcome, as even those Beartown residents who don't like ice hockey will acknowledge.

But in the hubris of an interim win, someone steps beyond the bounds of the decency that could be expected, and that whole promising future is thrown into jeopardy.

Backman's opening sentence tantalises the reader: "Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's head and pulled the trigger." The mystery of who and how and why is gradually revealed, and involves some twists and a red herring or two, as well as a good dose of philosophising, quite a lot of social commentary and much ice hockey.

Backman is very skilled at the short vignette that describes his minor characters, and also certain important incidents in the lives of major characters. None of his characters is one-dimensional: all have flaws and most have a conscience; some disappoint and some surprise; many keep secrets and some act out of guilt or the hope to protect their loved ones from hurt.

In this tale, Backman touches on several topical themes: the behaviour of sporting team members off the field; peer pressure and bullying; "blame the victim" mentality; loyalty and responsibility; the tacit acceptance of the violence inherent in contact sport; and the sense of entitlement that often affects the privileged. Yes, there is a lot of Ice Hockey in this story, but it could actually be centred around any team sport in a remote town to the same effect. There is a very slow build-up to the climax, which may be frustrating for some readers, but patience is rewarded. Backman presents moral and ethical dilemmas in a realistic fashion, but is his formula wearing just a little thin? This is a very good read, but not a brilliant one.




Reader Review: "The Nightingale"

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by K.McBride (Louisiana): I used to teach high school English, so I have read more than my share of novels. I used to read them and make AR tests so the kids would have books to read that they liked. I preferred mysteries but could not help but read a novel with so many star reviews. I reluctantly bought it and for the next two days I cried, laughed, hoped, hurt, etc. It affected me profoundly. I cannot recommend this novel enough. Even if it is not your usual genre, read the sample and you will be hooked.




Reader Review: "Redemption Road"

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Becky H (Chicago): WOW. John Hart really knows how to write an engrossing, heart pounding, well plotted mystery…… and he can do it with a minimum of sex, blood and vulgar language. A disgraced cop, a damaged cop, a terrified girl and a bereft child all come together in this tale of violence and corruption. Greed and power fuel the bad guys. You will have to read the book to discover what motivates the good guys. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Who, or what, is redeemed? 5 of 5 stars




Reader Review: "News of the World"

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Gloria (Pa.): The first time I read "News of the World," I breezed through it because I couldn't wait to find out how the story ended. The second time I read it (which was immediately after the first), I slowed down to savor the details I had missed the first time and to luxuriate in Paulette Jiles' lush language. It's that good.




Reader Review: "The Almost Sisters"

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by SharonM: Set in a small southern town in Alabama, 'The Almost Sisters' is a timely contemporary piece about friendships, family secrets and bi-racial relationships.

The narrator Leia Birch Briggs is a successful writer/artist in the graphic novel industry who, after discovering some life changing news, decides that a visit to her grandmother in Birchville is long overdue. Things do not go quite as planned as her grandmother, suffering from a degenerative disease, has been displaying some unusually outrageous behaviour. Instead of announcing that she will be continuing the Birch's family lineage Leia finds herself taking care of her grandmother.

I loved the fun, quirkiness of Joshilyn Jackson's writing style, and depictions of her characters, all of whom have real presence, warm endearing qualities, and were totally believable. I especially loved the multi-sisterly connections, in particular the endearing relationship between the towns oldest residents, Leia's grandmother Miss Birchie and her lifelong friend and companion, Wattie.

Leia's relationships with her half-sister Rachel and thirteen year old niece Lavender are equally as compelling, as is the relationship between Violence and Violet, characters from Leia's comic novel whom she uses to mirror and work through, to an extent, her own disappointments and frustrations that life heaps on her.

'The Almost Sisters' is an intriguing, story with a touch of a southern gothic feel, about the prejudices and complexities of bi-racial families, and relationships in the modern day 'Second South'; of multi-sisterhood bonds; and witnessing the heartbreaking slow deterioration and loss of a loved one to a degenerative disease. Even though it raises some serious issues it is gently done without becoming sentimental or preachy, and It is ultimately an uplifting story of family loyalty, love and forgiveness.

This is my first encounter with Joshilyn Jackson and one which felt destined to receive a 4 star rating until the ending which didn't quite work for me. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am now looking forward to reading her earlier novels, in particular 'God's In Alabama'.

Highly recommended and would make a perfect book group choice and summer read.

Memorable scenes: Leia's drunken one night stand with 'African American Batman' from the Comic Convention...fabulously hilarious!




Reader Review: "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things"

Thu, 27 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): All The Ugly And Wonderful Things is the first novel by American author, Bryn Greenwood. Eight-year-old Wavonna Lee Quinn has seen more than her share of ugly things in her short life. Her father is a drug dealer with a meth lab just down the hill from the farmhouse where she lives with her mother. Valerie Quinn is drug-addled and self-absorbed, and Wavy spends her days trying to live something like a normal life while protecting her baby brother, Donal from Val's psychotic fluctuations.

In her life there are few wonderful things; one of those is lying in the nearby meadow looking up at the stars and naming the constellations. Which is what Wavy is doing when Jesse Joe Kellen, a mechanic on an errand for her father, comes riding along on his 1956 Panhead. Seeing ths blond angel at the side of the road causes Kellen to skid, wreck the bike and injure himself in the process. Wavy overcomes her usual reserve to help him.

From this accidental meeting, an unlikely friendship develops between these two. With her family's lifestyle, Wavy is exposed to violence, drugs and indiscriminate sex, so she has learned to keep a low profile, to eschew attachment to possessions, to trust no one. But Kellen, despite his appearance, despite his criminal history, despite his age (he's thirteen years older than her), earns her trust. In fact, he's the only person in her life who cares enough to see her nourished, schooled and protected from harm. But when Wavy reaches her teens, and the relationship changes tenor, it attracts unwelcome attention with tragic consequences.

Greenwood uses multiple narrators to present her story, and these give many points of view, but from Kellen and Wavy's perspectives, the relationship can be seen as genuine and pure. Greenwood portrays her characters skilfully, and she conveys the sense of time and place and the prevalent social attitudes with consummate ease. Her descriptive prose is often exquisite. This is a tale that is likely to polarise readers, emotional and thought-provoking. A brilliant debut.




Reader Review: "News of the World"

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Ruth H (Sebring, FL): What an amazing story. Could not put it down! Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd takes on a captured 10 year old girl for a most dangerous trip in 1870 through Texas. Could not imagine how difficult this must have been. Author Paulette Jiles has written so descriptively that one would imagine being right there. So enjoyed this book.




Reader Review: "Cruel Beautiful World"

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Becky H (Chicago): Lucy, 16 and naive, runs away with her High School teacher. Their life together in an isolated, and isolating, rural area is not what Lucy expected. Lucy is portrayed sympathetically. The reader gets to know her intimately through her thoughts and actions. William, the teacher, is not so well known. His back story is presented in back flashes. His life with Lucy is seen only through her eyes. Lucy's sister, a minor but very important character, never gives up searching for her sister. The reader is constantly aware that "this will not end well", but the actual ending is dramatic and terrifying. You will remember this book for a long time.




Reader Review: "Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine"

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 06:00:00 -0400

by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): "Even the circus freak side of my face – my damaged half – was better than the alternative, which would have meant death by fire. I didn't burn to ashes. I emerged from the flames like a little phoenix. I ran my fingers over the scar tissue, caressing the contours…. There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they're there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope."

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the first novel by British author, Gail Honeyman. At thirty years of age, and despite her degree in Classics, Eleanor Oliphant has worked a mundane office job in By Design, a graphic design company in Glasgow for nine years. She has no friends and the people she works with find her strange. But her life is well organised: completely fine, in her opinion, needing nothing. Until, that is, she casts eyes on musician Johnnie Lomond.

Eleanor sets out to attract the love of her life, undergoing several preparatory procedures to ready herself for a potential encounter (waxing, hair, nails, make-up), as well as acquiring the electronic means to do some research on the object of her attention. She is distracted from her task by Raymond Gibbons, the firm's (rather slovenly) IT consultant, who ropes her into helping an old man who has fallen in the street. Eleanor is sure he's drunk but "…Even alcoholics deserve help, I suppose, although they should get drunk at home, like I do, so that they don't cause anyone else any trouble. But then, not everyone is as sensible and considerate as me."

Honeyman gives the reader a moving tale that includes a good dose of humour. Eleanor is a complex character: socially inept but generally unaware of it, often remarking on the lack of manners that others display: "'You don't look like a social worker,' I said. She stared at me but said nothing. Not again! In every walk of life, I encounter people with underdeveloped social skills with alarming frequency. Why is it that client-facing jobs hold such allure for misanthropes…"

Yet Eleanor is often insightful, although she can also be naïve: "After all, how hard could it be? … If I could perform scansion on the Aeneid, if I could build a macro in an Excel spreadsheet, if I could spend the last nine birthdays and Christmases and New Year's Eves alone, then I'm sure I could manage to organize a delightful festive lunch for thirty people on a budget of ten pounds per capita"

Her literal interpretation of what people say often makes for laugh-out-loud moments, and her observations can be shrewd: "She had tried to steer me towards vertiginous heels again – why are these people so incredibly keen on crippling their female customers? I began to wonder if cobblers and chiropractors had established fiendish cartel."

This brilliant debut novel touches on childhood neglect, physical cruelty and emotional abuse, as well as repressed memories and survivor guilt. It highlights the value of a skilled counsellor and the importance of care and understanding, friendship and love. Recommended!