Book Review | Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

leopard at the door.jpgTaking place in 1950’s Kenya, Leopard at the Door focuses on a young lady’s return to the farm where she grew up. After the death of her mother, Rachel was sent to boarding school in England, far away from her father and home. In the six years she has been away, there have been some changes in Kenya. In addition to having to deal with her father’s new live-in paramour, the formation and actions of a political activist group, Mau Mau, threaten the family’s safety. Rachel finds herself in difficult situations as she attempts to rebuild her Kenyan life.

Excellent for fans of historical African fiction or women’s fiction, this novel moves at a relaxed pace, while still keeping the reader’s attention. Characters are developed enough for the reader to have strong feelings about them. The writing is clear and easy to follow, with chapters of varying lengths. McVeigh’s solidly researched text provides insight into Kenya as a British Colony at the time. Check it out from a library near you!

I received this uncorrected proof 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 Leopard at the Door, you may be interested in October by Zoë Wicomb (2014).

Book Review | Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

men without women.jpegIt’s always exciting when your favorite author comes out with a new book. Last month, Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men without Women, was released in the US. With seven stories included, this book was a quick read. Versions of some stories had previously been published by The New Yorker or Freeman’s. As the title suggests, these tales share a similar thread: men without women. The men are affected differently by their lack of women in each story, and Murakami uses the circumstances to share interesting insights about love, relationships and matters of the heart.

Though certainly not a happy, feel good book, it was an enjoyable read. Murakami’s signature style is evident and comforting, like an old friend. The stories jump right in and hold the reader’s attention. The characters are anonymous enough to be relatable for many readers, yet developed and well-rounded. Manageable section lengths make the book easy to pick up and put down. This book most reminded me of Murakami’s previous work South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is more of a return to the quality of the author’s earlier works than some more recent publications may have been. Highly recommended for long time Murakami fans, those who enjoy a short story, and those looking for insights into matters of the heart. It’s new now and there are likely to be several holds, but check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Men without Women, you may be interested in This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012).

Book Review | The Infinite by Nicholas Mainieri

infinite mainieriIn New Orleans, a few years after Hurricane Katrina, high schoolers Jonah and Luz are in love. Each with a troubled past, having dealt with parental deaths and other difficult events, Luz and Jonah continue to struggle when they become pregnant and Luz’s father demands she return to Mexico. Jonah decides he must follow her across the border, but all bets are off when Luz doesn’t show up at her Grandma’s on time.

The Infinite is Mainieri’s first novel. It maintains a casual tone, using colloquialisms and interjecting Spanish. The text is clear, with the storyline being mostly easy to follow. Chapters are very short, making the book easy to pick up and put down. The characters are developed enough, and descriptions allow the reader to envision settings described. While violence occurs, it is not overly graphic or drawn out. This novel would work well for somewhat hesitant high school or college age readers, or others with short attention spans. Mainieri has crafted a very digestible read that keeps up a decent pace throughout. Check it out from a library near you!

I received 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 The Infinite, you may be interested in Mexico by Josh Barkan (2017). 

Book Review | Oola by Brittany Newell

Focusing on the relationship between two young twenty-somethings, Oola is an interesting character study. Americans Oola and Leif meet each other at a friend’s party abroad and then bounce around the world house sitting for months before ending up in a cottage on the California coast. Their mostly solitary lifestyle is low key, with the story presenting different aspects of each character more actively than pursuing a plot. While there certainly is a plot, it does not seem to be as integral to the story as are the characters. Oola is a beautiful blonde Californian, while Leif is more loosely defined as he tries to find his identity in those closest to him.

I found it surprising that this novel was written by a college student, which shows again that age is not a determinant of good writing. The book kept my interest despite the plot’s sometimes slow nature. It was a realistic portrayal of a romantic boy meets girl and falls in love story, with oddities instead of being trite. The book would appeal to those recovering from a broken heart, those struggling with bisexuality or transgender issues, or those who enjoy reading of obsessive love. With the book just being released earlier this week, it should be arriving at your local library soon! I received an advance reader’s edition 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 Oola, you’ll likely enjoy White Fur by Jardine Libaire (2017). 

Book Reviw | The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie Jr.

one eyed man cover.jpegPublished last month, Currie’s newest novel, The One-Eyed Man, introduces 39 year old protagonist K. After the death of his wife, K’s life rapidly changes course. In attempts to find truth in language, he fully engages strangers in belabored conversations that set them on edge, ready to react with physical violence to K’s words. Consequently, K is offered his own reality TV show by a hopeful producer. With a sassy redhead in tow, K’s show blows up and he steps on loads of toes, rendering enemies in multiple spheres.

After really enjoying Currie’s previous novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, I was excited for this book’s release. I read this book entirely of my own volition with no review requests. I found the first half thoroughly enjoyable! I was often laughing out loud, or reacting facially to Currie’s words. Specifically, I appreciated how the narrative focused on people’s use of language and their speech inaccuracies and the focus on philosophical issues. However, as the story continued and refocused on a more active plot, I found myself losing interest. I wish the book had ended halfway through the story. This said, I highly praise the writing style and tone used here, and would try another Currie book in the future. Positively can be compared to, and enjoyed by fans of, Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut. See what you think, check it out from a library near you.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The One-Eyed Man, you’ll likely enjoy Lexicon by Max Barry (2013). 

Book Review | Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney

brightpreciousdays.jpegProtagonists Russell and Corrine have been married for years and are parents to school-aged twins. In New York City, he runs a publishing house and she works in the non-profit sector dealing with food redistribution. Both have, at times, strayed from their marriage, but they pride themselves in having weathered storms together. When a publishing faux pas lands Russell’s business upside down, and Corrine can’t keep her bloomers on, it’s a question of whether the storm will be too much for this couple to bear.

I was not aware until after reading this book that it was the third installment by the author about the protagonist couple. Bright, Precious Days works well as a standalone novel. Enough information about the couple’s history is woven into the text that they can be understood without further background. Mostly, I found this book to be an enjoyable read, though in some places I felt details or descriptions were overdone. The text would certainly be of interest to those wanting to read about the lifestyle of New York’s rich. Ultimately, the story made me contemplate people’s values and worth, leaving me with a somewhat hollow feeling. Check it out from a library near you.

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

Book Review | The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

nakamura gun.jpegTranslated from the Japanese, The Gun is a noir story following college student Toro. On a rainy night Toro discovers the scene of a suicide in his neighborhood while heading home. After short consideration, he decides to take off with the gun and not report the incident. The gun becomes his focus, a new companion whose affection he wishes to earn. This attention grows into an obsession as Toro convinces himself that he must use the gun as it was meant to be used.

Nakamura’s writing style in this text is very distinctive. He focuses on the plot above the development of characters, of which there are only a handful. The noir writing is concise and without much feeling, as are the events and characters. The book is a quick read, very easy to follow, with only a few repetitive instances. It would appeal to crime fiction, noir or Japanese literature fans. Ultimately, there seems to be a message the author wishes to convey with The Gun. Check it out from a library near you.

This text was originally published in Japan in 2003, but not translated into English until 2015 by Allison Markin Powell. It was the winner of the Shinchō Prize for debut fiction in Japan.