Marlene’s August Book Reviews

IMG_1014Audio Books

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira, read well by Kimberly Farr.  Here is a gripping story of a woman who is a midwife with aspirations to become a surgeon which is a more poignant story as it takes place within the period of the American Civil War.  When 2/3 of the casualties of this war died from disease (the total number of casualties still exceeds the total of all other conflicts American soldiers have been engaged in) you are in for an intense read.  You will be saddened by the heartbreakingly well described medical scenes of the battlefields and then be incensed with ignorant politicians and incompetent generals (I tend to get spitting angry all over again with McLennan in particular).  It is equally sad to realize that many soldiers could have been saved by the simple act of washing hands. Oliveira presents thorough research so this isn’t for light summer reading!  A RECOMMEND.

The Spymistress by Jenifer Chiaverini.  I seem to be stuck in the American Civil War as here is another novel in that same time period but told from the view of a Unionist in Richmond, VA.  Usually I like historical novels as an enjoyable way to review history but this weighed heavily on the history part rather than the novel.  It is based on a real woman who actually was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.  The author’s notes were more interesting than the story itself. I craved more depth in the characters, e.g. Lizzie was all good and noble and sister-in-lay Mary was all negative.  Sometimes I felt the historical facts were just laid out to show off good research and thus presented rather dry reading (listening) while I would have liked to see more development of the actual act of spying for Union while living in the south and explanation of the intricacies of the task. NOT A RECOMMEND

The  Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri.  Ah, I have discovered another foreign detective with an quirky personality.  This one, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is from Italy and will give you entertainment while challenging you to figure out both mysteries. It’s not very hard (not one of the gripping suspense stories) but it is fun for the glimpse into Mafia antics and to follow Montalbano’s interesting lifestyle and mind machinations as he puts all the pieces together. This is my first in the series but I know I will want to read more and also hope that the other mysteries are exciting.  I do have to admit that I found it strange that the reader, Stephen Santarelli, used a very strong Brooklyn accent for one of the characters. A RECCOMEND

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult.  Another winner from this talented writer.  You will learn a wealth of information about elephants and the author makes a plea at the end for support in protecting them.  This story revolves around how to deal with grief.  It has great characters (albeit a bit quirky) that you will want to cheer along the way as well as an interesting twist to events.  I won’t spoil it for you but encourage to enjoy the read!.  A RECOMMEND

Day After Night by Anita Diamant.  Having read her other well-written novels, I was disappointed in this one.  It has a lot of potential and a fascinating opportunity to look at what happened after WWII ended with the displacement of Jews.  While the reader, Dagmara Dominczk does accents well and adds credence to the characters, there seemed to no difference in the voices except for the French Leonie. But that is small detail as the characters were not so developed fully by the author that it was difficult to keep them separate and to develop a relationship with them.  Their back stories slowly are revealed so there is that but perhaps it would have been better earlier so we had more feeling for them. Having read The Lemon Tree, An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan I read their ‘trials and tribulations” in a different life.  While Jews were building their new country, Arabs were being displaced. It’s not awful and I wasn’t sorry I read it so A CAUTIOUS RECOMMEND


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand  by Helen Simonson.  This story is delightfully set in the English countryside with differences of generations, social status, cultures and views of traditions bringing enjoyment to the unfolding of events.  We have Major Pettigrew, firmly entrenched in his tried and true “proper” way of living coming against present day events.  You will want to shake the mercenary members of the family but will fall in love with the Major and Mrs. Ali.  This is very light reading and certainly not a classic but still  a treat and a RECOMMEND

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  I had read the above novel last month but somehow missed reviewing it.  After that enjoyable read I was treated to another loan (Thanks S) of her second novel.  Simonson does a beautiful presentation of life in the English countryside but this became a ho-hum book and I often found other things to do than read the book which is very unusual for me.  It was so predictable (and frankly boring) that there is little suspense in looking forward to how things will turn out.  I ended up finishing it only because dear S loaned me the book and she loved it. NOT A RECOMMEND


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