November Book Reviews

blind cornerWhat Remains by Nicholas Delbanco

It took a while to get into this book. Each chapter represents a different characters point of view and a different time period. This is not a book of action or plot, this is a book of characters. Delbanco does a wonderful job with the voice of each, from the two year old Benjamin to the aging Elsa. Set in America and England, this is the story of displaced Jews, but not in in horrific manner of so many stories of the Nazis and the war. Instead one feels intimately the loss of one’s homeland, one’s youth and one’s dreams. Rate: 4 stars.

Nine Lives to Die by Rita Mae Brown

I plucked this book of the new book display at the library. I read something by Brown years back and needed a light read. Sadly, this book was very disappointing. Seems that Brown is riding on the success of previous books. I know she has thousands of loyal followers, but it felt like I was reading a first draft by a novice. This story wanders around and goes no where. Lines are poorly written, including some that barely meet standards of grammar. Worse yet is the political and nonsensical things thrown in, quite randomly. The reader hears about how a Ford dealership works, how hard it is to find a parking place, the correct use of products, with random aspects of political or veterinary information thrown in. (Why would a vet’s wife go to a farm supply to buy vet wrap for Christmas gifts when she can get it wholesale from her own husband?) The strange scenes of animals talking doesn’t add to the story in any way. This book contains repetitive scenes, over and over we are exposed to folks packing or delivering boxes for a holiday charity. When that scene doesn’t work, we go home with the characters and wrap Christmas presents, even New Years presents – a weak variation of the same theme. In this “who done it” there is little building of suspense around information of the actual victims or perpetrators of the crime. Sorry, Rita Mae Brown fans, I can’t even give this book one star.

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

Two books this month by Kasischke, I can’t remember why, but someone must have recommended them. Both are unusual. A style of writing different from any genre. While Mind of Winter does have a plot, it is much more character driven. The entire story takes place on Christmas day. A little slow at the start, I couldn’t help but wonder why we plodded through every detail of the main character’s morning. Flashbacks to the adoption of a Russian child are scattered through the story. It all comes together in the very end of the book. Rate: 3 stars

The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

Hard to talk about this book without any spoilers. It is also a movie, which I’ll probably watch. As the reader I knew there was a mystery, something was going to be not as it seems. The initial view point of the book – two girls at school as part of a shootout by an unhappy young man – doesn’t use names and so you know that whichever character Diane ends up being is a mystery. I had to read the end twice, because it is one of those, wait a minute? Did she . . . or did she . . . ? As in Mind of Winter, Kasischke draws out the thoughts of a house wife in almost excruciating detail. My attention span is too weak for this kind of writing and I found my self skimming to the more exciting parts. Still, I enjoyed this book. Rate 3 stars.

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