Book Reviews March 2020

A Prayer For Travelers by Ruchika Tomar. This author is a Wallace Stegner Fellow (which means she participated in a two year crazy wonderful program at Stanford!) This novel was well written and showed her talent as a writer but it is NOT an easy read…what reviewers call “the complexity of a shifting timeline” means that the story changes timelines with each chapter. Now some books do this but give you a bit of a hint in the chapter heading or some such thing, and this one had the chapters numbered, but in a crazy order- 2, 31, 5, etc…but I didn’t notice this until I read about it on-line (my bad!)  Yes, it’s part of the emotional pull of the story, to put the reader into the same state of mind as the main character (Cale Lambert, raised by her grandfather) HOWEVER, that doesn’t make it a simple thing to follow along. I was a bit confused by the ending. So, it’s a recommend if you are up for the challenge. The story (for me) is about the changing perceptions concerning men as a young girl comes of age and suffers at the hands of men. 3.5

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. The description of this one is “a modern Indian Pride and Prejudice” but I would label it Genre Romance from an Canadian/ Indian perspective. Ayesha, a new teacher, has dreams, in contrast to her cousin, Hafsa, who just wants a husband. Enter Khaid, who thinks he’s fine with his mother arranging his marriage…misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and the dance of courtship fill this one. Rate: 3.0

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz. This is one of those stories that is hard to review. It is a story about the author writing the book. And he is writing about himself. So the underlying mystery is solid (although not anything special) and the premise is clever. Police consultant and former detective Hawthorne asks Horowitz to write his story. With trepidation Horowitz agrees. So far so good. But in my mind Horowitz spends way too much time writing about himself in a fairly conceited way. Granted, he is an accomplished novelist and screen writer. And at times what he is reflecting has something to do with the story. But too often it seems that his ego is shining through and he just wants the reader to know this great thing about him. I kept thinking of one of the rules of good writing: if it doesn’t move the story forward it doesn’t belong there. Rate: 2.5 for overall, 3.0 for the mystery part of the story.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz. I grabbed this on off the “new books” display at the library. The story takes place in the 60s, with the very young (fifteen) bride Ana Canción Ruiz, leaving her home in the Dominican countryside and traveling to New York. A love story, a political story, a coming of age story, all wrapped in one, I enjoyed this writer’s style. Rate: 3.8

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. This book was recommended by my wonderful Beta Reader, Alex Beldon. He has helped me in numerous ways with my writing and as I am currently completely stuck on a piece of work, he thought this might help. As mentioned, I am reading psychological thriller type fiction to build my skill in this area. These types of work are dependent on a surprising twist at the end. The trick being, it can’t come out of nowhere. So there must be foreshadow, but deeply hidden. I had a suspicion about the end of this one, the story of thirty year old Eleanor Oliphant. A bit of a recluse, we know she suffered a great childhood trauma. But her life is suddenly changing, after she meets Raymond, the bumbling tech guy a graphic artist at the company where she works in accounts. I won’t say more, because no spoilers allowed! Rate: 3.8

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.