March Book Reviews by Robin

IMG_2506Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. The ever popular writer and I have liked some of her work but I didn’t like this one. It was very stilted – the story of a couple who can’t conceive and then divorce. Picoult is preaching – he is a lecture on fanatic religion and she is a lecture on gay marriage/relationships. I never bonded with the characters or believed them and the whole story was very surface to me. As a reader I bounced around and felt like I was being “educated” by someone who had researched the topics but never lived them. Rate: 1.0

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This book came to my attention via an internet article about a group of parents “banning” the book as part of a high school curriculum. I wish I could find the link to the article I read, which told about a group of students who managed to get books donated which they passed out, just beyond the school boundaries. Anyway, I had to read this book after learning about that. As a retired educational psychologist I think it is CRAZY that parents wanted to ban this book for sexual content and bad language. Holy cow. These parents must be way out to lunch if they think tenth grade students find the very minimal references to sex (mostly masturbation) to be new information. There are stronger innuendoes, no make that outright references, on afternoon television programs. In fact, I see this book as more middle school appropriate (kids like to read up – know what’s coming in their future.) Rate: 4.0

Blind Side by Catherine Coulter. Published in 2003, this book came to me via a “bag of books” passed along by a friend. According to the fly leaf, Coulter has published a whole slew of FBI thriller novels. Yikes! I hope the others are more believable than this one. This is the story of the kidnapping of a former agent’s child, along with ultra weird religion and romance thrown in. The biggest problem I had with the story was how very stupid the police all were! I sure hope Coulter isn’t a former law enforcement officer. The child is endangered multiple times as over and over the police and FBI make rookie moves in protecting anyone. Add the marriage of our two heroes within TWO weeks of meeting each other, and it is just too unbelievable. Rate: 1 (because I finished it, or it would have been 0)

Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill. Okay, after several reading the disappointing books above I reached to my stash of Cotterill for some relief. When I first read his work I ordered a bunch of them. These are light, funny, serious books. I love how this author can take an important political matter and inform his readers without preaching, lecturing or expositing. Always part of the story and FUNNY, but enlightening. He has two character series that I am hooked on. One is Dr. Siri, the pathologist and the other is Jimm Juree. This story features the latter, a thirty-something woman with a string of failures behind her. She is back with her family, living in a defunct resort. What I love about Jimm is her persistence in the face of failure. She always gets her man, even if it is usually an accident of her stumbling ambitions. Rate: 4.0 for a light and fun read. Be sure to visit Cotterill’s website, it is fun.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. What is not to like about this book? Her first thriller? Amazing. This is the story of three women and the emotions, mystery, tension that ties them together. I don’t want to say any more than that because I don’t want any spoilers in my review. Hawkins uses all my favorite techniques – multiple POV by chapter, going back and forth in time, slipping the reader into each character’s head, sending us off in all directions re: the solution to the mystery…just loved it. Rate: 4.8

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. This book is in fullfillment of a FB post that had a challenge list of books to read. Such things as “book you can read in a day” “book published this year” and more. This is my book for “a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.” I was picking up some books and a patron was returning this one. She expressed disappointment and the two librarians and the patron engaged in a lively discussion. The start was good, but the ending disappointing, they all agreed. One of the librarians turned to me and said, “You should read this.” So I checked it out.

I really loved the beginning. And I liked the end as well. It is the story of a bookseller who is unique in many ways, not the least being his book store is a barge on the river in Paris and he views himself as an “apothecary” of sorts, prescribing specific books for what ails you. It is the story of human relationships and grief and loss and love. Nina George has a wonderful flair with language.

Now, about that ending. In my view the difficulty lies in the arc of the story. This is something that should be invisible to the reader, but the author must keep control of with a fine touch. It almost felt to me like Nina couldn’t decide on an ending for her story. She had three points she wanted to make (I won’t list them because that would be a spoiler). Instead of having a nice clean arc to the resolution of the character’s difficulties, she resolves things in stages. Thus, when the reader arrives at the first resolution there is a sense that the story should be complete. This happens about two thirds through the book. The remaining third leaves the reader with a “get on with it” sense, like what happens now is superfluous. I say, put those feelings aside and continue to read as if you are at the beginning of the story. Then you will continue to see the wonderful images and language. Rate: 4.5

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. I loved this story. Jewish and Spanish and Love and Family. The characters were so alive to me that I had dreams about them. Hoffman takes the reader through the complex intertwining of family relationships on the island of St. Thomas, starting in 1807. This story is based on the true, fictionalized, life of the parents of French Painter Pissaro. Rate: 4.5

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