Robin’s September Book Reviews

Key for my personal rating system: (I noticed Marlene and I differ on our ratings! I would recommend a 3.0 and she has cautioned…just be aware we are not on the same page with our star systems and yes, that was supposed to be funny)

5.0 – A book I will never forget, will quote, will tell everyone I know they MUST read it.

4.0 – An excellent book, but doesn’t quite make the best books of all time list.

3.0 – A recommendation, good read, decently written

2.0 – Some redeeming qualities, I finished it, but I’m not likely to seek out more by the author.

1.0 – Don’t wast your time.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. This book was a total page turner for me. I probably would have stayed up all night reading, but it was a bad time for me to do that so I closed it and tucked it away to read the next day. I couldn’t figure out why this book wasn’t a best seller until I got about three quarters of the way through. Then…sadly…though it was a seemingly small thing the characters found out some information and did not immediately act on it, something I found impossible to believe. I actually turned back a few pages to see if I missed something. They did follow up on the information in the next chapter, but without spoiling anything, it just wasn’t believable. It was too critical to the mystery for this waiting period. Needless to say this is a great book. Shapiro weaves several components of the life of Claire Roth, a young artist, into the life of the historical figures in the story. Claire makes her living painting reproductions, and of course, as you can guess from the title, is seduced into forgery. I loved the characters, the mystery and the story, with the exception of the glitch discussed above. Hard to rate: 4.0, with exception.

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye. This is a book that is hard to rate. It wasn’t a page turner, in fact it took me a while to read it. I could only read a chapter at a time and then I needed a break. Partially because of the huge amount of historical information presented, and maybe a bit because of the complex writing. This is the story told by Timothy Wilde, the first detective I. The newly formed New York City Police Department, in 1845. Based on many real historical events we see the graft, corruption and religious wars that were present. I learned a lot reading this novel. Rate: 3.5 because it was hard to get through, but 4.0 because I recommend you read it.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is one from Marlene and I will look up her review. When she handed me the book she told me it was a good one. I’m thinking we differ sometimes (a good thing) and I really struggled with this one. I imagine if I was more in tune with British history I might have been impacted by the implications of the “tale.” For that is what it appears to be…almost a parable, I think. Anyway, it was either over my head or I just wasn’t in the right mood. I did finish it, because Marlene gave it to me. But…..I can’t recommend it. Oh, yeah. The story takes place in post Arthur Britain, details the relations between the Saxons and the Britons. It has magical components and follows the journey of an elderly couple to visit their son, which I decided at the end, was they journey to death, but I could be wrong!

The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig. This was also from Marlene and it is a keeper. I found the characters engaging and the story unique. Told from the POV of the young “Rusty” we follow his search for his roots and his relationship with his father, who is the bartender. Enter a friend in the form of Zoe (at twelve years of age these two can be friends during the summer break but worry what will happen when school starts)…well I won’t say much more except that while this story takes place in 1960 don’t expect to be overwhelmed with political messages….just enough to satisfy. Rate: 3.5

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. A prolific writer this one is from 2007. The book is written in a strange style which bothered me initially. Discrete paragraphs, with an extra space in-between lend a confused air to the protagonist’s thoughts. As if she is disconnected in her descriptions as she tells the story. I thought maybe there would be some trick where this would decrease as Sydney, our twenty-nine year old, once divorced, once widowed character tries to get on with her life, but the style didn’t change. What changed was my ability to be comfortable with it. At page 132 I suddenly quit noticing because I was engaged in the story. This is one of those books I really liked, but I can’t put my finger on just why. Rate: 3.5

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. This historical fiction paints a detailed portrait of the life of Thomas Jefferson through the eyes of his daughter. The notes at the end are a good follow up to which parts are true (nearly everything) and which have been condensed or embellished. It is a long book and at times repetitive, but there is a trick to making a real life have the story arc needed to keep the piece moving forward and interesting. Rate: 3.5

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Another winner by one of my favorite authors. Always a clever twist to her novels. This is the story of a nearly forty year old woman who, because of an accident in the gym, loses all memories beyond age 29. Pre-children, pre-divorce, pre-fights with friends. For me it was the classic “do-over” that we all desire. Moriarty is the queen of character development…as a reader I always walk in the protagonist’s shoes. Rate: 4.5