Book Review | The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown

clairvoyants karen brown.jpgAfter growing up on the Connecticut coast, Martha moves to Ithaca to further her photography skills at Cornell. Before long, she is joined by her younger sister, Del, and they fall in with a group of gals from the neighboring town of Milton. Martha’s curiosity regarding the disappearance of one Milton girl grows after she sees the girl’s spirit outside her apartment. After thinking she’s found love, Martha is at a loss when she finds out she’s been courting the missing girl’s beau.

The Clairvoyants is an enjoyable and thought provoking read. Brown’s writing is clear, offering a plot that’s easy to get involved in. Though I didn’t particularly like any of the novel’s characters, their stories were interesting and kept me constantly engaged. The supernatural aspect of the plot, while ever-present, is not overdone. This book would appeal to fans of gothic or women’s fiction. Check it out from a library near you!

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 The Clairvoyants, you may be interested in An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman (2014).

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 | A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe

french wedding cover.jpegUsing chapters with alternating character focus, A French Wedding tells the story of a group of university friends from the UK who are reunited in France for one of their 40th birthday celebrations. Max, a musician, plans to propose to his friend Helen. They’ve always shared a close connection. Max’s chef and housekeeper Juliette is drawn into the group as events progress. Plans go awry as faults in the friends’ marriages and relationships are revealed and surprise events lead to a shift in the plot.

Well written and easy to follow, Tunnicliffe’s novel offers an entertaining read with enough depth to be thought-provoking. The story is more character driven than plot driven, and can be considered women’s fiction. Perhaps the cover image does not do justice in attracting all readers who may enjoy this book. Central themes include relationships, cooking and life challenges. Check it out from a library near youI received this bound galley 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 A French Wedding, you may be interested in Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (2014).

Book Review | Fräulein M. by Caroline Woods

Fräulein M coverStep into 1920’s Berlin to see protagonist sisters Grete and Berni growing up in an orphanage. Fräulein M. shares their story as one sister moves into a Jewish owned flat to work at bars and the other becomes involved in work for the reich. Interwoven chapters allow the novel to include a storyline in 1970’s South Carolina where a young lady is hoping to learn about her mother’s sealed war-time experience. Do not be fooled by the cover image, this book is not about sex.

In this well-written historical fiction piece, Woods presents the lives of multiple characters successfully by focusing on how their actions affect each other. The novel flowed well despite the changing character focus. Berni’s transgender best friend was tastefully incorporated, adding value to the text. Chapters were of appropriate lengths, which allowed for pauses during the reading. This book would appeal to fans of historical fiction or women’s fiction. 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 Fräulein M., you may be interested in The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky (2017). 

Book Review | The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

umansky.jpegUmansky has crafted an intriguing novel in The Fortunate OnesChapters alternate between present day and World War II times to tell the interconnected story of a Jewish girl escaped from Austria and the New York lawyer who befriends her while going through a sort of mid-life crisis. The bond between the two women is forged over a Soutine painting that has been stolen from each of them, and holds a significant sentimental attachment for both.

“This was a really good book,” I found myself saying after finishing. Though the disagreeable protagonists are not particularly likable, their stories are fascinating. Umansky’s rich details paint their own picture. It’s clear that a good deal of thought and research went into the writing. The book kept my interest throughout, though I often would have preferred shorter chapters. This novel could be considered historical, women’s, literary, and art fiction and would appeal to readers of any of those genres. Check it out from a library near you, keeping in mind that it is a new release. 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 in the giveaway.

Book Review | Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

under the harrow.jpegFeaturing a murder and hunt for the killer in a small town, Under the Harrow is a suspense novel reminiscent of Broadchurch. Nora is off to visit her sister Rachel for a weekend away from London. In place of a hug and a hot home-cooked meal she witnesses a bloody scene: Rachel stabbed to death in her own home. Not trusting the police to find the killer, Nora takes up residence in the town and begins her own search for her sister’s killer. Only this isn’t her first time playing detective for her sister…

Berry has penned a winner in her debut novel. Her writing style is concise and appealing for its easy to consume nature, some readers have referred to it as stream of consciousness. Characters are not exaggerated and UK slang is not overdone. Though I did not find any of the characters very appealing or relatable, their situations were understandable. This suspenseful read continues with plot twists that keep the reader speculating about possible endings. Check it out from a library near you. Disclaimer: I admit that I do not normally read mysteries, crime stories or women’s fiction. This said my opinion of the piece may be much different than a reader well-versed or generally looking to read a book in these genres. 

Book Review | October : a novel by Zoë Wicomb

october book coverTaking place in South Africa and Scotland, October shares pieces of two women’s lives. Protagonist Mercia grew up fairly well off as the daughter of a teacher in the town of Kliprand with her brother Jake. Wishing to leave racial tensions and other family and village business behind, she left for university and eventually became a respected professor in Glasgow. Though successful in her work, her personal life takes a major hit when her domestic partner abruptly leaves her for another woman. Soon after, a mysteriously terse postcard arrives in the mail from Jake demanding she return home. Mercia obliges and upon returning reaquaints herself with the village ways and Jake’s wife Sylvie and son Nicky. Mercia and Sylvie seem unable to understand each other, but as pieces of the past and present come together, a deeper connection is revealed.

I read Zoë Wicomb’s book You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town and enjoyed it, which influenced my choice of this title. Appropriately, I started it in October but found myself unable to finish it for nearly two months. The characters were imaginable, but unlikeable. The descriptions were precise and allowed the reader to envision scenes clearly, however, it was sometimes hard to ascertain the actual chronological order of events. Within a chapter Wicomb could jump a timespan of over 40 years with only minimal contextual clues. Slices of life were clearly presented, but in a way that made them hard to relate to. While reading I found myself disinterested in what would ultimately happen to each of the characters. This book may resonate better with recently separated women over 50 or those who have struggled with leaving behind their homeland. Check your local library for a copy of October.