Finished Books: The Improbability of Love

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

  • Published: 2015
  • Pages: 408

Link to Goodreads summaryThe Improbability of Love

Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in 2016, this novel is full of rich descriptions without feeling pretentious.  Rothschild paints a portrait of a wide range of characters, giving many of them depth and meaning, despite how big or small their role in the novel is.  The painting, The Improbability of Love, has her own voice every few chapters, slowly revealing her history while also commenting on her current existence with a new owner.  It is a book that encourages the reader to research other paintings or artists.  

One of the main points of interest that emerges in this novel is the lost and stolen artwork during World War II.  For readers who want to know more about that time period and the men who tried to save the world’s great art, try The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter.

Rating: 3 stars

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Finished Books: Quick Recap

Ah, those times when life gets in the way and all you want to do is curl up with a comforting book rather than write any reviews about them.  Does that only happen to me?  Oh, well.

Here are a few quick reviews of some of the books I have finished recently (if by recently you accept anytime within the past month).  They are very brief reviews that will mainly give you a quick view of some appeal factors that might help you determine if this book is right for a certain reader.

Books Quick Review #1


Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 306

Link to Goodreads summary

A domestic suspense novel with unreliable narrators.  Told from multiple points of view in two different time periods (one is the past version of one of the main characters).  Reader will need to be able to suspend disbelief for some elements of this story, particularly in the end.


The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

  • Published: 2015
  • Pages: 500
  • Audio length: ~15 ½ hours
  • Narrator: Robin Miles
  • Series: The Broken Earth #1

Link to Goodreads summary

A genre-blending novel that walks the line between fantasy and science fiction.  Follows plotlines for multiple characters.  The world-building is slow and develops over the course of the entire book, leaving the reader confused at times due to unfamiliarity with the mechanics of the world.  Good narration; nice to listen to the names and places rather than struggling to determine pronunciation for the written words.


Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

  • Published: 2001
  • Pages: (376)
  • Audio: 5 hours, 45 minutes (Abridged)
  • Narrator: Paula Cale
  • Series: Cannie Shapiro #1

Link to Goodreads summary

A nice, light book that explores themes beyond the main character solely searching for the love of her life.  The audio book had a narrator who paced the narration well with the character’s emotions.  There wasn’t a lot of difference between the narrator’s characters, but overall it was easy to determine who was speaking.


Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 324
  • Audio: 8 hours, 43 minutes
  • Narrator: Kristen Bell
  • Series: Veronica Mars #1

Link to Goodreads summary

With Kristen Bell as the narrator, this audiobook felt just like an episode of Veronica Mars.  Bell created distinct characters in her narration, using accents as necessary to portray different people.  The book seemed like it would work well even for a reader who was not familiar with the television show.  However, there were references to plotlines from the show and the movie that would help delineate distinctive aspects of the characters in their current roles.  This book is great for fans of private investigator procedural books with snarky dialogue.


Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman

  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 498 (Large Print)

Link to Goodreads summary

Another fantastic character-driven book full of eccentric, quirky characters.  An adult coming-of-age story.  Open-ended and hopeful.  Backman really writes stories about real people with real struggles and makes you want their stories to continue far beyond the scope of his novels.


That’s all, folks!  Happy reading!


Edited to add: You can see how on top of things I am since I included a review of an audiobook I have already reviewed on this blog.

Finished Books: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 324
  • Audio: 8 hours, 43 minutes

Link to Goodreads summary

Title details for Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas - Wait listWith Kristen Bell as the narrator, this audiobook felt just like an episode of Veronica Mars.  Bell created distinct characters in her narration, using accents as necessary to portray different people.  The book seemed like it would work well even for a reader who was not familiar with the television show.  However, there were references to plotlines from the show and the movie that would help delineate distinctive aspects of the characters in their current roles.  This book is great for fans of private investigator procedural books with snarky dialogue.

 

 

Rating: 3 stars

Finished Books: Heartstone

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 352

Link to Goodreads summary

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Advertised as Pride and Prejudice with dragons, I felt I needed to read this book.  I am not a purist, nor have I read all of Jane Austen’s works, but as a late-comer to her stories (I only read Pride and Prejudice a few years ago), I feel being older really helped me understand and enjoy P&P with the wisdom that comes with a little bit of age.

With a playful nod to Jane Austen, White interweaves unmistakeable elements from the original into a fantasy world on the brink of war with giant monsters.  Many fundamental details remain intact, so fans of the original will follow along merrily, knowing approximately what is going to happen.  Yet there are enough differences that set the world apart (dragons, anyone?), that readers who have never read the original will feel drawn into the realm that White creates.

Rating: 3 stars

 

Finished Books: Let Me Die in His Footsteps

Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

  • Published: 2015
  • Pages: 327

Link to Goodreads summary

23398925I will admit to not having read enough mystery novels that were not part of a series.  I’m familiar with police procedurals, cozy mysteries, amateur detectives, and many of the typical tropes associated with the mystery genre in general.  Those books were all part of my comfort reads until recently.  So when I read Let Me Die in His Footsteps, the winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2016, I was perplexed.  Primarily by my own ignorance.  Why haven’t I read more stand-alone mystery novels?

The plot unfolded gradually, much like a slow summer afternoon in Kentucky, the setting of our story.  Roy’s descriptions of the atmosphere evoked images of dusty roads and hazy skies.  Switching back and forth a generation in time, the story emerges from Sarah’s and Annie’s narrations.  The reader finds out the intricacies of the relationships between characters through the eyes of those two girls: their sisters, their families, their friends, their neighbors, and the townsfolk.

While I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, gripped with terror or filled with suspense as the story climaxed, curiosity about the accuracy of my hunches kept me reading, wanting to find out how it ended.  Readers who like a deliberately paced story, and don’t mind shifting time frames, will enjoy discovering the family and neighbor dynamics of this sleepy Kentucky town.  Not solely for mystery fans, but perfect for fans of general fiction as well.

Rating: 3 stars

 

Finished Books: Delicious Foods

So, you might have to bear with me for awhile as I find my voice when reviewing books.  I want my reviews to be helpful for other librarians when providing suggestions to their patrons.  However, I also want the review to indicate my feelings on the book, too.  It will take time to reach a happy medium.  I also haven’t done much writing recently, so everything might be a little clunky while I search for the right words to describe my thoughts (and the books).

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

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  • Published: March 2015
  • Pages: 384

Summary from Goodreads: “Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie–left behind in a panic-stricken search for her.

Delicious Foods tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene’s haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham’s daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom.”

Winner of the Pen Faulkner award in 2015, Delicious Foods by James Hannaham is a dark, gritty book that is not ideal for a gentle reader.  The book opens with young Eddie escaping to Minnesota with recently amputated hands in a car the reader soon learns is not his.  Some readers might give up on the book at this point.  But if one forges ahead past the prologue, one will experience a beautiful and compelling story.

Toward the beginning of the book, the timeline shifts between times in Darlene’s past in college and early adulthood to times during Eddie’s childhood.  Most of the story comes when Eddie is 11 years old and Darlene disappears.  Readers will empathize with Eddie as he relentlessly searches for his mother, relying on school food and a concerned local baker to avoid starvation.  Darlene, whose experience with racism and grief drove her to drugs and prostitution, makes choices that has even “Scotty,” her drug of choice and narrator of her story, questioning her actions at times.  The relationship of these two characters is continually tested over the course of the book, but they don’t give up.  Although at times belated, they do everything they can to remain a family.

Life on the farm is not easy for anyone and Hannaham’s depictions of modern-day slavery will leave readers wondering if there are still places that operate like the “Delicious Foods” corporation.  The struggles of the characters in this book are brought to life with lyrical prose that elicits vivid images of the characters and their environment.  Some scenes in the book are quite violent, where people are being beaten for insubordination or disobedience or just because the foreman wants to beat someone.  Sometimes the character doing the beating seems to enjoy it perhaps a bit too much.

While there are definitely dark aspects to this book, there are points that are rather amusing, as well.  Charley the rat, whose fur is missing in places from too much scratching, comes to mind.  As does the couple of times when Scotty realizes that if he thinks something is a bad idea, it can’t be good.

The ending of the story bring hope for the characters.  It feels like a happy ending despite everything they have been through and the changes to their lives.  Things aren’t perfect, but they are looking up.

Rating: 3 stars

[A note about my ratings: I take the Goodreads suggestions for each of their stars at their word.  I liked this book, so it gets 3 stars.  I also rarely give 5-star ratings because I very infrequently love a book so very much that I would consider it “amazing.”  Plus, I typically only consider books 5 stars if I am willing to reread it.  If I don’t like a book, I probably won’t finish it, so there won’t be too many 1-star ratings, either.  Unless it was for book club.  Sometimes that will happen.]