Book Review | Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

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Three generations of Lee women occupy Oyeyemi’s latest novel. Perdita is a high school girl in London. Her single mother Harriet teaches classes at a night school to support them. Grandma Margot is a strong willed interior designer of sorts. Gingerbread focuses on a brief retelling of Harriet’s childhood. Growing up in a sort of fantasy land, she is “rescued” from her poor crop farming family and whisked away to the big city where she becomes a “Gingerbread Girl” in a tourist attraction. From there she again needs rescuing and is brought with her mother Margot to London by their benefactors.

This is the straight forward part of the story. Talking dolls, semi-imaginary friends, and powders that allow travel between the real/non-real world are some of the aspects of fantasy Oyeyemi employs. There are also family quarrels, mysterious characters and a few loose ends. The text is well written, and the plot can be followed, but it may leave the reader wondering what the point really was. Probably best to judge for yourself, check it out from a library near you.

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Book Review | Family Trust by Kathy Wang

family trust book cover.jpgPerhaps rather than Family Trust this novel should be called Family Drama. Wang’s book centers on the Huang family in the Bay Area. Patriarch Stanley has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and his time is drawing near. His two children, Fred and Kate, from his first wife Linda are very interested in finding out about their inheritance as they have their own problems with which to deal. Mary, Stanley’s second wife and caretaker, has been told that she’ll be well taken care of. As chapters alternate focus among these central characters, their issues are revealed in detail.

This story could have been told in possibly half as many pages. There are many superfluous details included and few of the characters’ sub-plots are of much interest. This type of book may be appropriate for fans of soap operas who appreciate melodrama and self-absorbed characters. Maybe it would be a good book for women to read at the beach if they are trying to pass lots of time… You can see if it’s available from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

Book Review | The Address by Fiona Davis

address book cover.jpgWith the opening of The Dakota building next to Central Park in the 1880’s, Sara Smythe is brought over from England to work as the manageress by architect and resident Theo Camden. Their relationship blossoms and despite his family, she finds herself pregnant. In the alternating chapters, Camden’s heirs of the 1980’s are still involved in The Dakota and preparing for trust money to arrive. Bailey is an interior designer fresh out of rehab for alcoholism, seeking to establish her clouded family tree background. Sara and Bailey’s tales intertwine and unwind with unexpected consequences.

For fans of historical fiction looking for an involved piece with twists and turns, The Address will be a winner. Chapters vary in length and combined with clear writing make the book easy to pick up and put down. References to the time period are frequent enough to educate readers who are unfamiliar with the 1880’s. This book may hold particular appeal for those interested in reading about affairs or lifestyles of different classes in New York City during the 1880’s. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The Address, you may be interested in The Good Guy by Susan Beale (2017).

Book Review | The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

italian teacher book cover.jpgBeginning in the 1950’s in Rome, Italy when protagonist Pinch is just a boy, The Italian Teacher follows his life growing up and through adulthood. His father, Bear Bavinsky, an American painter has taken his third wife in Pinch’s mother Natalie and won’t be staying too long before moving on to begin his next family in New York. Pinch, as everyone, is exceedingly charmed by his father and wishes nothing more than to the be the apple of his eye. After Pinch tries his hand at painting and is discouraged by his father, he heads to study in Toronto where he meets his first girlfriend. They visit his father in the south of France. The story traces Bear’s aging through Pinch’s eyes while sharing Pinch’s own journey.

Rachman’s novel is a bit of a ramble that cannot easily be summarized in a few sentences. Pinch is not a very likable character, but his life journey is described in a believable manner. The book is art fiction in that it deals with an artist and touches on parts of the artistic process, incorporates galleries and exhibitions, and includes art criticism. Though art is a main pillar of the book, it is also has a strong focus on the theme of a broken family and consequences that may result. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of The Italian Teacher, may enjoy The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink (2017).

Book Review | The Good Guy by Susan Beale

good guy cover.jpgTwo women in 1960’s Boston are sleeping with the same man. Ted is married to Abigail and thinks of himself as a good guy. They’ve just moved into a new home in the suburbs with their infant daughter. Penny lives with roommates in the city and works for an insurance company. She’s able to go on dates with Ted as he feeds his wife lies about extra training at work. While Ted has no plans to leave his wife and daughter, he gives Penny a complicated train of excuses as to what’s really going on in his life. Obviously, Ted can’t keep control of everything and the pot begins to boil over.

For fans of historical fiction looking for a quick and entertaining read, The Good Guy is a winner. Short chapters and clear writing make the book easy to pick up and put down and the straight forward story keeps the reader engaged. References to the time period are frequent enough to educate readers who are unfamiliar with the 1960’s. While none of the characters are particularly likable, Beale provides enough context for them to be emotionally understood. This book may hold particular appeal for those interested in reading about affairs or pregnancy and motherhood in the 1960’s. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The Good Guy, you may be interested in Twig by Madelon Phillips (2016).

Book Review | Funeral Platter by Greg Ames

funeral platter book cover.jpgThis well-written collection of twenty short stories will make you laugh at least once. An eclectic collection that contains black humor and the absurd, Funeral Platter is a quick read. Stories are of varying lengths and Ames maintains a clear and inviting voice, which makes them very readable. Themes vary across the board, including matters from art, addiction and aging to dating, destruction and death.

The breath of topics makes it likely for a reader to enjoy several of the stories. The book is good way to pass the time more than a thought provoking, memorable read. It would be great for readers wanting a quick laugh or distraction in short story form. Check it out at a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Funeral Platter, you may be interested in Come West and See by Maxim Lokustoff (2018).

Book Review | Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

leave no trace cover.jpgA psychological thriller, Leave No Trace details the story of two traumatized young adults. Maya is in her early 20’s and works at a mental health facility. Upon emerging from the Boundary Waters after having been missing for ten years, 19 year old Lucas is committed to said facility. Maya and Lucas begin with rocky interactions, but forge a connection that allows them to help one another. As the book progresses, they deal with some dark secrets from their pasts.

This is a solidly average novel that begins with a bang and continues to simmer throughout. There was nothing spectacular in this book. Despite the characters dealing with difficult situations, the text did not evoke much emotion. The novel can be read quickly and may appeal to those who consider living off the grid or have a particular interest in the Boundary Waters. There may be holds at your local library since this title was just released in September.

*Fans of Leave No Trace, may enjoy Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent (2018).