The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – by Natasha Pulley – Book Review

Like the name suggests, this book hinges on gears and more intricate gears, all interconnecting as the novel moves along. The book follows Nathaniel (known as Thaniel) Steepleton, a British Civil in 1883 London. When a mysterious watch turns up in his flat and then saves him from a deadly bomb planted by the Irish group Clan na Gael, Thaniel’s life changes drastically from the mundane to the overly exciting; plunging him into the world of spying and danger.

The plot includes the watchmaker himself, Keita Mori, a Japanese nobleman, the creator of intricate watches, birds, fairies and a pet octopus. His gear-work is well advanced; but even more mysteriously he seems to have knowledge of many future events, or more accurately, future possibilities. As the novel advances, Thaniel becomes caught-up in relationships both complicated and unconventional, to the point that he is unsure where his loyalties lay.

The character and plot development are built slowly, but with the painstaking cleverness of a master watchmaker. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I appreciated Pulley’s attention to detail, building of suspense and the whole mysteriousness of the novel. I highly recommend this book!

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Re Jane by Patricia Park – Book Review

This is a glorious retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and I must say that I loved it. For one thing, in this version Jane is Korean; and I love it when I get a glimpse into another culture. Park draws such a wonderful story of intimate family life within both Jane’s family, and the family Jane works as a babysitter for.

This book is chock-full of many ideas to ponder. First, there is the “problem” of Jane being half-American and half-Korean. Then, Jane must continue being reverential to her Aunt and Uncle who have raised her; while at the same time she has to come to grips with the fact that her promised job after graduating from college has disappeared. Looking for a way out, Jane takes a job as an au pair for a college professor (Beth Mazer) and her much younger high school teacher husband (Ed Farley). Once Jane moves in, she is “educated” in Women’s Studies by Beth. These new ideas rattle around in Jane’s head while she is also dealing with the knowledge that she is attracted to Ed. Later on, we also get to tag along on a trip to Korea, where Jane finds out more about her late parents, a mystery that has plagued her all her life.  Many ideas have been covered in this book, and I must say that Park covered them well.

I won’t let the cat out of the bag, I’ll just tell you that the writing was excellent, the descriptions of Korean/American life are illuminating, and the story itself is interesting. I stayed up late finishing the book, eager to find out how it all ended and was not disappointed. I highly recommend this book!

Second Life by S.J. Watson – Book Review

This novel follows the life of Julia Plummer after the violent murder of her sister Kate. Added to the grief Julia feels, there is relief also, since Kate wanted her son Connor back, almost 13 years after giving him up to her.  Julia remains convinced that the Paris police haven’t done enough to find Kate’s murderer, so with the help of Kate’s roommate Anna she follows Kate into the seedy underworld of on-line hook-ups and fetish sex. As Julia’s life begins to unravel, she knows that she is in danger of losing all that she holds dear, but continues her downward path regardless.

I really enjoyed this book, as I was unable until almost the end to figure out “whodunit”. While I didn’t enjoy the way Watson left the ending up to the reader, I did enjoy the twists and turns of the story.  Also, the book brought up plenty of questions to think about. When do you know that you’ve crossed the line; how far are you willing to go to learn the truth; and how much are you willing to lose?

I recommend this book with the proviso that there is a lot of sex; so if you don’t want to read that, don’t read the book. I kept reading this book, because I was hooked on the story.  I wanted to understand what it was that made Julia tick, and how far she was willing to go in her search for the truth.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows – Book Review

This novel takes place in West Virginia, during the summer of 1938. It revolves around twelve year old Willa Romeyn, her family, and Layla Beck, the WPA writer who has come into their lives since she has been hired to write the history of their town and is boarding with her family.

At twelve years old, Willa is just beginning to realize that the adults in her life are lying to her.  Since she is a curious girl, she decides that she will “sneak” around and figure out what is really going on.  On the other hand, Layla has been turned out of her mansion by her Senator father because she refused to marry the man her father picked out for her.  As Layla had no skills and was unemployable at a time when so many were out of work, her father decided she would work for the government while “on the dole” and write for the WPA.  The novel chronicles both their struggles to become adult in an interesting and lively manner.  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, since there are many twists and turns that the story takes. I am however, going to tell you that I loved the book. Not only could I see the town of Macedonia in my mind, I could also feel the heat of the unbearable summer humidity.  There were so many characters that I really loved, Willa of course being the foremost, but Barrows’ writing had me enthralled with most of them. This was one book that I stayed up late to finish, as I was so caught up in the novel that I just needed to find out the “real” story. As the name of the book states, it is the truth according to the Romeyn family. As with all “histories” the people writing them get the last say.

I highly recommend this book. It was both enjoyable and fabulously written.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – Book Review

I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. It is the story of thirteen children who must come to terms with what to do with their parents’ house. The book takes place in Detroit, and of course the value of the house is now less than it’s mortgaged for. The best thing that they can do is to just sign it over to the bank. However, some of them don’t want to do that, since they are sure that in the future these homes will regain their value, and the bank will make money off of their loss.

The story is excellently told, with a compassion for this family and all its many members. I love how we’re brought into all their singular stories. The family that the older children grew up in is much different than the family the younger children grew up in. The differences were strongly written, and the family is still intact and communicating with either other over the years. The love that they have for each other is strong, if not always evident.

        A house in Detroit

I won’t ruin the book by telling the entire plot, just that I enjoyed it and feel that you will too. This is Flournoys’ first book, and is excellent.  I highly recommend that you read it.