Marlene’s August Book Reviews

Ratings: 1-5,

5 = must read

4= good read worth your time,  but not a blockbuster

3=it’s not great, but it’s not bad, cautious recommend

2= some merit but only if you have nothing else to read

1=don’t bother



The Readers of Broken Wheel by Katarina Bivald.  Delightful light read for book lovers, especially.  It becomes quite predictable but the characters are loveable.  It is interspersed with many titles and authors so it’s fun to read how Sara views them.  It’s a cool story too as two women who were pen pals finally plan a time for the Swedish gal to come to the very small town of Broken Wheel.  So you can see on those two fronts it was an enjoyable read (listen) for me.  4.0

The Year of the Runaways by Siunjeev Sahota.  Many times, reading can take us with joy to other adventures, lives, countries and transform us to another being.  But sometimes the story is not a happy story but takes you out of your ordinary life and transports you to other unimaginable lives and times.  This is such a story.  It is heart-breaking to read of the 3 young men and one woman, all from India, trying to make their lives meaningful in ways that are quite foreign to our comfy lives, to fulfill family duties our culture does not nurture and to forget horrors of a past we are so fortunate not to share.  Can you tell this book touched me deeply?   But caution is warranted when trying to keep the characters and their back stories straight.  The use of Hindi phrases wasn’t distracting as the meaning was discernible or in other cases, not important. A beautifully crafted and touching story. Maybe our lawmakers should read it so they will make the path to citizenship easier!   4.0

Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo.  It is very disconcerting to listen to a female voice for the male protagonist. I usually love Nesbo’s novels but this was disappointing.  The characters were flat and consequently acted unrealistic for the latter part of the novel.  It had none of Nesbo’s earmarks: good plot, well-developed characters and excellent writing.  Did Nesbo write this as a high schooler or did the publisher want a quick story?  Don’t read this as you will be turned off to a good writer.  If you do decide to read it, get the book not the audio as the reader and story (weak as it is) don’t match. 1.5

City of Veils by Zoé Ferraris,  I reviewed the first novel Finding Nouf and the characters are continuing their interactions in this one.  Although you don’t have to read the first, it does help the reader to understand the underlying currents to relationships to read the novels in order.  There seems to be an overriding platform for reform of Muslim restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia and conflicts that young people, especially religious young men are brought forth through the unraveling of the murder mystery.  It is a captivating story and Ferraris is a gifted writer. There is not only revelations about Muslim women in the society but also those of American women (although I must admit I didn’t like Miriam at all….she should have stayed home!). 4.0.


Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer.  A rather intense look into life in this small mid-western town in the 1870s told through the perceptions and misperceptions of a  young girl, struggling to make sense of her world and the crazy happenings in the world around her.   Women’s reproductive rights, vote for women and the importance of education are spotlighted (a bit disheartening to know we are still fighting some of these battles) as Volmer plunges into the landscape and the times. Volmer is a talented writer and sometimes I had to stop and just savor her prose. You can open the book at any page and find beautiful rendering of our language. There are many mini plots and some characters are a bit shallow but Maddy, Miss Rose and Mrs. French will make the read worthy. 4.5

The Novel by James Michener. Very interesting flow from writer to editor to critic to reader of a novel.  Those who have written novels or have been involved in the process (guess that’s all of us as readers!) will relate to many characters as they move through their processes.  And the novel tries to be both the sensational, therefore popular novel (gotta have a kicker in there to liven things up) and an uplifting but not necessarily popular novel that enlightens the reader.  It is definitely a different style than the usual Michener novel which would be of the first category.  This isn’t in the second either (literary fiction) but it was entertaining even if slow in parts.  3.5

One Day of Life  by Manlio Argueta.  This book was banned in El Salvador and it is quite evident why it was.  It tells of just one day in the life a poor peasant woman, trying to make sense of her life with the loss of her loved ones by the “authorities” while living in fear as civil war erupts in the country.  It is very innocent, full of human dignity and takes us to the crux of pain and beauty.  Your heart breaks with the cruelty of what we do to one another.  But your hope is restored by the feelings and thoughts of this woman who may be uneducated in schooling but is wise in her love of family and strength of character.  4.5

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty. I have read a number of books by this author and again find her writing to be captivating. She is good with character development and rounds out their personalities so that one can even like the “bad guy” or at least empathize with her.  We have a “goody two-shoes” who finally does have a few flaws but honestly, do you know anyone with such an understanding attitude?  There is always that urgency with Moriarty books to find out how it will all end.  This one is a happy if somewhat too tidy ending.  Patrick is the weakest character but perhaps that weakness comes from being the victim.  Oops, don’t want to put in a spoiler.  The story bogged down a bit about 2/3 through as it was getting boring reading again and again similar scenes but of course, I slogged on as I just had to know how Moriarty was going to make everyone behave! 4.0