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 | Kids These Days : Human Capital and the Making of Millennials by Malcom Harris

kids these days book cover.jpgHarris has written a well researched piece about the woes of the economical and political environments in which millennials exist. The book gives an explanation for how and why millennials have turned out the way they have. Harris provides sound, well-backed arguments in a thought-provoking text. There are many footnotes and an extensive notes section at the end with source details. This said, a reader must be open to hearing new ideas and appreciate a non-fiction, research piece in order for this book to be a worth-while read.

The subtitle of Kids These Days was changed at some point from “The Making of Millennials” to “Human Capital and the Making of Millennials”. The description also changed slightly to emphasize the socio-economic focus of the text. Without this information originally, this book was not what I had been expecting, but I was able to appreciate it for what it was. There are similarities in reading this book for leisure and reading a research paper in grad school. 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.

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 | After the Winter by Guadalupe Nettel

after the winter cover.jpgAlternating focus between a male and female protagonist, After the Winter is a story of the human conditions of obsession, love and loneliness. The Cuban man lives alone in New York City with his OCD and gets together once a week with an older girlfriend. The Mexican post grad lives in Paris and loves her apartment’s view of the cemetery as she falls for an ill Italian neighbor. Both the man’s and woman’s stories are compelling, forcing the reader to question if and how they will intersect.

Nettel’s writing style is immediately inviting. Though not overly simplistic, her sentences are clear, evoke imagery and create dynamic characters. The book flows smoothly while still being easy to pick up and put down with frequent chapter breaks. Recommended for introspective romantics or those who appreciate a well written, quick read. After reading this text, I would be interested in reading other works by Nettel. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of After the Winter holidays, may enjoy The Story of a Brief Marriage by Geir Gulliksen (2018).

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).