February 2020 Book Reviews

Justice Denied by J.A. Jance. Yep, it was time for a genre detective story. Not sure, but I really need one once in a while (okay, often, I love them!) We’re back in Washington and I did enjoy the fact that detectives J.P. Beaumont and Mel Soames live in an area where a friend of mine used to live and I can visualize the references to buildings and areas. In this “episode” the two are involved in a confidential assignment, hush is the word from the big boss…and of course we know this means there might be trouble inside the police department. Rate: 3.5

An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao. I’m reading a lot of novels about India and this one was wonderful. Roa gave me a great idea for how to handle an issue I am having with a current piece of my own work. These short stories tie together…a minor character in one becomes the focus of the next. I love it! Plus, these stories of the brutal life for many during the Partition of India and Pakistan are emotional. Rao does an excellent job pulling the reader into the heart and life of all her characters. Rate: 4.5

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. Wow….this one was good too…emotional and really points out how woman are treated (and have been). Made me sad…but it was a great read. This is the story of two young women, Poornima and Savitha, with three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious and they are girls. Circumstances lead to journeys for both, told in alternating sections. Rate: 4.0

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan. This is a young readers book, but as it was about India I read it! I still like reading young readers books. I like to witness what adults believe is helpful to children and Whelan is very good at this. She takes us into the life of Rosalind, daughter of a British Officer who has lived all her life in India. The year is 1918 and Rosy and her friends get involved in Ghandi’s actions to free India from British rule. Rate: 4.0

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. This one was published in 2003 and I was sure I had read it, but as I read nothing was familiar, so I guess not. On the cover were the words “winner of the Pulitzer Prize” and as I read it, although it was a very good book, I just couldn’t figure out why it would win. Then I realized the AUTHOR was the winner and it was her book Interpreter of Maladies that won the prize. So I’m going to read that one. This one is the story of two generations of a family…the first migrates from India to USA, and the second born here. Lahiri does a great job taking the reader into the inner emotions and fears of the characters in this story about adjusting to cultural expectations of two countries. Rate: 4.0 This was made into a movie and I’m going to try to find it.

Evan and Elle by Rhys Bowen. I do like this author. This one is a detective series in Wales. Nothing complex, just a well written genre mystery. Constable Evans has to solve the recent string of arson attempts, as well as a murder and deal with his love life along the way. Rate: 3.5

Tangerine by Christine Mangan. For a first novel this one is pretty fantastic. It is suspenseful and the characters are well developed. I kept thinking I knew what the twist at the end was going to be (it’s kind of a psychological thriller) and I was WRONG! Well developed foreshadow. My only complaint is that the characters are somewhat similar and with the alternating chapters at times I lost track of who was speaking…totally MY fault and each chapter is labeled. Rate: 3.5

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. WOW! This is a great book and I actually had to stop and read during a road trip because I was so engaged. Very different kind of story. This is the tale of a young boy and his siblings raised by a father after his mother left. Living in poverty, the older boy commits a crime (which I felt was justified!) and when Davy flees, Rueben, his sister Swede and his father set out to find him. There is so much emotion, drama, intensity in this book, and yet it is a warm and comforting read. Rate: 4.0

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald. This is a LONG book, but I enjoyed it. I learned a lot about the Canadian Air Force, some NASA history I wasn’t aware of and some additional political aspects of the 60’s. The book is almost three books in one: the story of the local murder of a child, the coming of age story of young Madeline, and the story of her father Jack. Hence the 820 pages! Rate: 3.8

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yada Zgheib. When I started this I said “oh no, not another anorexia novel” having been inundated with them in the 1980’s and I looked to see when it was published. February of 2019! It is her first novel, but she is a Fulbright Scholar and it shows. Her style is unconventional and that is what carries this story along, in spite of the subject. Anna is a young Parisian who has relocated to the United States for her husband’s job. A former dancer she has traveled the path we have heard about before…dancers must be thin. There are some loose ends in the novel which I would have liked to have seen sewed up a bit in the end, but over all the book was captivating and enjoyable. Rate: 3.8

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. Another really good one, and happy to see it is on the New York Bestseller (I don’t usually agree with them). This is the story of young doctor, Natalia, in an unnamed Balken country. With flashbacks to times with her grandfather the reader learns about the reality of war, the reality of family and the magic of stories passed through the generations. Such a young author with so much talent! She weaves things in a mystical way to draw you through the story….this is one of those I could barely put down. Rate: 4.5

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.