Book Review | Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

killing commendatore book cover.jpgAt over 680 pages, this tome may be daunting, but the story is well worth your time. More like Murakami’s earlier writings, specifically The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the WorldKilling Commendatore is a real winner. The basis of the story is a painter who has recently separated with his wife, goes to live in the mountains as caretaker for the remote residence of another famous painter. Once a diverse cast of characters is introduced, the plot takes a surreal dive into a literal pit the painter is drawn to unearth in his back yard.

Murakami’s signature writing style will have fans smiling from the beginning of this book. The novel includes ample twists and turns, and the author does a fabulous job of weaving together many themes and plot lines. Magical realism works so well as a binding agent for these various subjects. While not all long-time Murakami fans may have enjoyed his last few publications as much as the oldies, this serves as more of a return to his writing roots and is sure to entertain the critics. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Killing Commendatore, may enjoy Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun (2017).

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Book Review | If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

This is an interesting collection of 11 short stories involving Indian Americans. Recurring topics include interpersonal relationships, family business, sexual relations, and cultural perceptions, among others. Most characters seem to be in their 20’s to 40’s and dealing with issues present in everyday life. While the narrators could be from any background and experiencing their issues, the stories are injected with an Indian flavor that makes the book stand apart from other similar works.

Easily digestible, each tale has a specific focus and voice. While none of the stories is particularly uplifting, each one does hold the reader’s interest and create a curiosity for what is to come. Clearly, many of Patel’s cultural insights come from personal experience, which he is able to share in a way that makes the characters relatable. This book is recommended for fans of ethnic fiction, realistic short stories, or those looking for a quick read while in transit. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating. *Fans of If you See me, Don’t Say Hi, may enjoy A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma (2017).

Book Review | The Story of a Marriage by Geir Gulliksen

story of a marraige cover.jpgOriginally published in Norway as Historie om et ektenskap, The Story of a Marriage introduces married couple Jon and Timmy, and focuses on the effect of Timmy’s extramarital relation with Gunnar. As neighbors, Timmy and Gunnar are able to frequently participate in physical activities like running and skiing together. At first Timmy denies any romantic interest in Gunnar, but as they spend increasingly more time together, she is unable to deny that her feelings have changed. Jon, as a stay at home dad and author, is left with too much time to reflect on their relationship and identify fears he has about their crumbling romantic future.

Gulliksen has created a searing portrait of an unbalanced marriage. As he tells the story from the husband’s perspective, it is made clear that this in not an entirely reliable narrative point of view. The imbalance in the couple’s thoughts and feelings is palpable and, as their relationship devolves, so is the emotional pain. Readers with a failed love story of their own should be able to relate to the text on multiple levels. (It does involve sex, so if that’s a trigger, maybe avoid.) Overall, well written book. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating. *Fans of The Story of a Marriage, may enjoy Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016) or The Only Story by Julian Barnes (2018).

Book Review | Damselfly by Chandra Prasad

damselfly cover.jpgReminiscent of Lord of the Flies, Prasad’s latest YA novel details the events of teens surviving a plane crash on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean. The high school fencing teams from an elite East Coast boarding school were in route to a competition in Japan when their private jet went down. As they learn to utilize the island’s resources to survive, they are simultaneously threatened by discord among themselves and an unknown enemy who wants them gone on threat of death.

Damselfly is an easy text to jump into. The story proceeds at a good clip, focusing mainly on the plot. While the cast of characters is not very likable, they aren’t off-putting enough to discourage the reader. Prasad includes social issues such as racism, eating disorders, mental health and environmentalism, perhaps making this text more relevant today than Golding’s classic. It could serve as a quick read for an adult seeking adventure, or be used in a teen book group to generate discussion. Check it out from a library near you!

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

Book Review | The Only Story by Julian Barnes

the only story cover.jpgAt home on summer leave from university, Paul joins the tennis club where he is paired with Susan for a mixed doubles tournament. Despite her being married and his mother’s age, the two hit it off and before long are involved in an affair. Recounted by Paul, the memories provided are pieces of their love story, which spans more than a few years. Of course, as many love relations do, this one has its thorns.

The Only Story is a great read. Paul’s tone is intimate and direct, drawing the reader in from the first page. The story flows quickly, delving into his relationship with Susan. Barnes’s choice to use the second person narrative style works well and serves to engage the reader mentally. Readers with a failed love story of their own should be able to relate to the text on multiple levels. This piece will be especially of interest to those whose partners have had addiction issues. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of The Only Story, may enjoy Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016).

Book Review | Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli

freedom's ring cover.jpgTwo women in Boston, centuries apart, are connected by a piece of jewelry. Anaya was running the Boston marathon at the time of the bombing and in addition to being injured physically, has suffered a familial rift after being torn apart by guilt from her sister and niece. Liberty was sexually assaulted while working in the house of British officers just preceding the Boston Massacre of 1770. Freedom’s Ring tells the stories of these two women and traces their connection through the ring and their faith.

This book started out strong. Both women were in the midst of life-changing events that drew the reader’s attention. About a third or halfway into the book, the stories slowed down and the focus on God and faith became prevalent. Some sections were repetitive and I once wondered if the book weren’t actually meant for young adults. It is possible my unedited edition may not have undergone all editing and corrections that the final copy received. All ends tied up conveniently, perhaps unrealistically. This book is recommended to fans of Christian, historical fiction with an emphasis on women’s issues. Check it out from a library near you!

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

Book Review | Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

our kind of cruelty cover.jpgAfter dating for nearly a decade, Mike and Verity have broken up and Verity has moved on. Mike’s poor decisions while living abroad are no longer relevant as the date of her marriage to Angus approaches. Mike is still trying to win Verity back while working a high paying job to afford her the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. Their communication, though, seems stilted and it’s not easy to decide the true meaning of things said and emotions felt.

Our Kind of Cruelty is a good read. Mike’s voice is inviting and catchy from the beginning. The story flows quite quickly and as small cracks appear in Mike’s character, the reader is invited to question his narrative. This choice works well and serves to involve the reader mentally. While the tension steadily builds in the first half of the novel, I found the second half to be less impressive. I felt as though I was waiting for a final twist that never came, which ultimately left me disappointed. Overall though, an entertaining piece. Check it out from a library near you!

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

*Fans of Our Kind of Cruelty, may enjoy Watch Me by Jody Gehrman (2018).