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.

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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).

Book Review | Out of Granada by Ben Fine

out of granada coverFocusing on protagonist Miguel, Out of Granada relays the story of a Jewish family, who despite their conversion to Catholicism, must flee Spain for their safety. The book details Miguel’s education in Italy and subsequent training and work in the Italian Wars. It follows as Miguel leads a party of converted families from Granada to Malaga and then over sea to the New World. Battles, pirates and a hint of romance keep the story interesting.

Readers interested in an immersive experience fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500’s will enjoy this accessible novel. There are frequent chapter breaks, making the text fairly quick reading. The author is repetitive at times and sometimes overly descriptive. It seems several edits were made and a final proofreading could have helped to eliminate some of the superfluous text. That said, the book is still a good read. Unfortunately, there are currently no library holdings for this book.

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.

Book Review | How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

how to stop time cover.jpgImagine living for hundreds of years, but aging very, very slowly. Haig’s most recent novel, How to Stop Time, presents a protagonist and members of the supporting cast with such a condition. Although the rule for people with ‘anageria’ is not to fall in love, Tom Hazard finds the love of his life and fathers a daughter who shares his condition. Forced to leave her behind in dangerous times, Tom then spends several lifetimes searching for her and reliving memories of interactions with Shakespeare, a witch hunter and Captain Cook to name a few.

This book is interesting from the beginning. Interwoven historical flashbacks are very entertaining and mesh well to tell a story that has been happening for centuries. This thought provoking read keeps a good clip going, with a surprisingly small cast. Recommended to fans of historical fiction and mild fantasy. 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 in the giveaway.

*Fans of How to Stop Time, may be interested in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

Book Review | The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum

coincidence makers cover.jpgSomewhat surreal, The Coincidence Makers is a fictional fantasy where what seems to be happening by chance is actually carefully planned. Protagonists Guy and Emily have gone through training together and work as coincidence makers who receive special projects that they must enact. Whether making a piano fall from a window unto a passerby or sparking the urge in an accountant to write poetry, the coincidences they create are often life altering. A romantic undercurrent helps drive the novel forward.

Blum has penned a quick and enjoyable read. His relatable characters and relaxed tone make the book easy to get into and maintain the reader’s interest. Some of the concepts he’s developed are a little complicated or convoluted, but the text flows well and the story comes out a winner. This book would be great for fans of surreal fiction or those interested in the inner workings of the universe. Check it out from a library near you.

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

*Fans of The Coincidence Makers, may be interested in The Room by Jonas Karlsson.