Marlene’s April Book Reviews


Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Whew! What a ride through the eyes of 2 families in a 50-year spread.  Not a functional family in sight but kudos for the theme of “family is always family” and the development of the main characters. There did seem to be some characters thrown in without reason which is always disconcerting when they disappear quickly. This is not a plot-driven story but rather the interactions of family members and how one can still make mistakes and somehow come out okay.  Some people might be put off by Patchett’s jumps around in time and place but I think it’s okay to be confused for a short time when the setting and time reveal themselves.  A RECOMMEND


East of the Sun by Julie Gregson.  Whew!  What life was like for women in the 1920s!  This is the story of three English ladies, several  are part of the “Fishing Fleet” a group of women who sail to India each year in search of husbands.  But what awaits them in this new culture and the changes that are occurring in the country?  We have three very different women plus one crazy young man and we read along as their personalities develop while we roam from fancy yacht club activities to poverty stricken areas.  It’s a great look in to another time and culture and Gregson is a master of characterization.  A RECOMMEND

Perfect Little Family by Kevin Wilson.  What an entertaining read about a rather bizarre and unique parenting model.  It’s a great idea and I looked forward to following the characters throughout the experiment. But there are too many characters and the time span of 10 years is a lot of ground to cover. Our darling Izzy is a little too perfect while Dr. Grind does have some depth the other characters will leave little impression as there are too many characters to do much justice to many.  Still, I enjoyed reading it even with its flaws. A RECOMMEND

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen.  A while ago I recommended this author’s first novel The Sympathizer and now I have this to recommend. It is a series of short stories that will make your heart ache but also will give you keen understanding of the plight of immigrants. Oh, that we could spread these stories to those who need to hear how people have to make the hard decision to leave their native country and try to make a new life in a different one.  These stories are about Vietnam refugees but applies to all who deal with these hardships.  This book will not leave you the same. A RECOMMEND

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas llosa.  What a delightful story by one of the most popular Latin American novelists (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010).  You will be thrust into Peruvian life with all the quirks of government as well as the world of script writing with love and without! It’s the story of a would-be writer and his angst as such (auto-biographical???) and a soap opera scriptwriter who is eccentric (which is putting it mildly!). We learn of their challenges, successes and setbacks, all against the backdrop of Peruvian society. A RECOMMEND

The Appeal by John Grisham.  This is NOT the book for these depressing political times. It’s the story of how money can buy anything and everything from media sources to supreme courts. It’s not a pretty story and SPOILER….not a happy ending. Grisham has written some good page-turners but this isn’t one.  Parts of the book are downright boring and others are so awash in weak and superfluous characters that I found it hard to even remember I was reading it.  But long plane rides have to be endured somehow. This is the longest time it has taken me to finish a ho-hum story. Don’t you do the same!  NOT A RECOMMEND

Simple Truth by David Baldacci.  Where do authors get their ideas?  It’s scary to think this could even be close to the truth but it does seem a bit far-fetched. Usually Baldacci books are page-turners but I have a feeling he pumped this out just to make payments on his new yacht. Why do I say that?  I can’t remember how the story turns out and I did finish it. The characters were not memorable and the plot was weak.  NOT A RECOMMEND.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  I don’t know who turned me on to this marvelous writer (thank you!) but I have already reserved another on her novels. This will take you back to Texas of the 1970s.  It’s another heart-wrenching story but oh so beautiful of the relationship developing between a newsreader, a 71 old man who creaks when he gets up (physically and emotionally) and who travels around to small towns reading newspapers where there are no newspapers.  Enter a 10-year girl who was held captive by an Indian tribe and now “freed.”  Captain Kidd takes on the responsibility of taking her to relatives in San Antonio, some 400 miles of rough, dangerous territory.  It’s a fast paced read as you follow their trail, capturing your heart along the way.  A RECOMMEND


One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson.  I didn’t realize that this is a series about one of the characters but you don’t need the prior books to get into this one. It is an interesting collections of mysteries and characters that come in and out of each other’s lives. It did get a bit long and the plot did slow down some but then picked up and I had to listen to the end just to satisfy my curiosity. I have to admit I would have liked the very ending to be left out. It just doesn’t fit Gloria’s character but was a nice touch in bringing back in the first character introduced. I did like the character development with the different levels of their personalities. It’s not a smash hit, but I found it entertaining. A CAUTIOUS RECOMMEND

Solar by Ian McEwan.  I have long been a fan of McEwan but I was about to quit listening after a cd or 2 but then an accidental death occurs that breeds further depraved activities by the protagonist. It was an interesting insightful novel into human foibles but it was hard to plow through with such a despicable main character. I really was hoping he would get his just desserts much earlier and then the ending was a bit of ho-hum ending. Still McEwan can write satire with amusing vignettes but I was hard pressed to like the book when there wasn’t anyone in the book that I liked (well, the 5-yr old is charming).    Climate change and the damage we are doing to our planet is a real concern (and of course, with current administration’s actions is downright depressing) but McEwan injects humor into the story to relieve the seriousness of the subject.  Can you tell that I can’t make up my mind on whether to recommend or not?  McEwan is a talented writer and I did enjoy parts of the book and maybe because the protagonist is so despicable I won’t soon forget him so hats off to  McEwan for making him “real”.  Still a cautious RECOMMEND.



“Lion”  You gotta see this one!  It is a beautiful and moving film based on a true story about a boy who gets lost in India and ends up adopted by a couple in Australia. Your heart will ache but you will love the wonderful way the adoptive parents are portrayed as well as the support of friends of the main character.  As bonus, the scenery is fantastic.  A MUST SEE.  HIGH RECOMMENDATION

Happy reading, listening and viewing!


“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

― Anne Frank