April 2020 Book Reviews

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. This is a prolific author that more than one person told me they liked. She is a good writer, but something about this book was sluggish…it intertwines two sisters listening to the “fairy tales” told by their cold, distant mother. As adults, upon the death of their father, they convince their mother to finish the story—which is of a Russian peasant who falls in love with a prince. The ending isn’t too surprising, but is rushed and a tad unbelievable. I don’t know…I will give it a 3.0.

After The End by Clare Mackintosh. A tough read in many ways. First, the topic: parents must decide which route of medical treatment to pursue for their terminally ill three year old son. Second: Clare Mackintosh uses some writing tricks to take us on a confusing journey, kind of a fork in the road trip. But it was a good read. Rate: 3.5

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg. This was a recommend by Roberta, and although I wasn’t happy to read another book about someone dying of cancer, Berg is one of my favorite authors. She always manages to write a fresh story. This one has a character that is dear to my heart: a woman who has managed to live a life of isolation and loneliness which started with rejection in high school Myra Lipinsky lives with her dog, Frank, and works as a home health nurse. We get to meet the many characters who make up her client list. Enter Chip Reardon, golden boy from Myra’s high school days, who because he happens to have a terminal illness is added to her home visit list. Rate: 3.8

Verity by Colleen Hoover. Another psychological thriller for my research. Lowen Ashleigh is a moderately successful writer who is hired to finish a contracted series for an author who was injured in car accident and can’t write. She is down on her luck and the timeliness of the job is such that when evicted from her apartment she spends time at the author’s home, researching and reviewing notes. I won’t say much more, no spoilers. Rate: 3.0

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell. Russell is the author of Swamplandia!, an unusual book that I totally enjoyed. And since I love short stories when I spotted this book on the New Books table at the library I was super excited. When I started reading my thoughts were whoa,  then wow, then hmmmm, then I want to meet her. I will tell you straight up, these stories aren’t for everyone. Russell is a genius of the bizarre. Her mind and her imagination go, uh, mmm, let’s just say they go were no man has gone before. Although the book jacket blurb describes the stories as outlandish, that word doesn’t do it for me. Unreal, unexpected, and outright creative/crazy. Rate: 4.0, but only if you are like me and want to travel to slippery places.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger. Roberta recommended this one. I had mixed feelings. Initially there were way too many characters to keep straight. In fact, I skimmed the front and back of the book to see if the author had been kind enough to put in a chart. Especially since the characters are four women, friends with children the same ages who live in the same town. Eventually I could differentiate a bit and then suddenly we have yet another woman with a middle grade child! The maid! Anyway, the writing is good, not great. Each chapter does tell which character’s POV is coming up (but I actually found at least one instance where the POV within that chapter was NOT from that character). The story of these women, their husbands and their children as they all try to gain admittance to a new school for the gifted built with public funds in their town. At some points I stayed up to keep reading, at other points I felt I didn’t even care if I finished the book. Anyway, my mother really liked it so I’ll give it a 3.5

Key for my personal rating system:

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 waste your time.