The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen – Book Review

TheEmerald Circus

This is a collection of short stories by Yolen, mostly re-telling fairy tales.  I enjoyed these quite a lot since they were clever and fresh.  Yolen has previously published all but one of these stories, but this was the first time I’ve read any of them.  I loved how she went from fantasy to science fiction to “reality” from story to story.  It’s always fun to see how a tale we all know and love can be changed and told to us in a new way.  Yolen does this here, and the stories are always enjoyable.

I highly recommend this book, once again, well done, Yolen!

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen

 

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The Heart’s Invisible Furies – by John Boyne – Book Review

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This novel covers 70 years of one Irishman’s life.  Cyril’s life follows the “troubles” of Ireland, his own discovery of his sexual orientation, AIDS, and simply, his life and loves.  I absolutely loved this novel.  The storytelling was wonderful, and Cyril’s (and other characters) ability to simply “go on” after loss, was really uplifting.

Although it may sound dark, this novel actually had me laughing out loud, since Boyne certainly knows how to use humor, and see the utterly ridiculous in everyday life. I don’t want to give away too much, however, I must say that although there were a lot of highly depressing themes that run through this novel, the over-all takeaway was one of survival and strength.   I highly recommend it.  Well done, Boyne!

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John Boyne

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins – Book Review

Now That You Mention It

I really enjoyed this novel.  After leaving her small northern Maine island hometown and becoming a doctor with a practice in Boston, Nora Stuart returns to the island after a near-death experience.  While she is hoping to renew her relationships with both her mother and her niece, she realizes that she needs to confront the loss of her father, her life in high school, and the ways that she has chosen to live.

I found Nora to be a believable, character with all the foibles of a thirty-something women who has over-come many obstacles.  While this novel covers many aspects of what it means to be a woman (and a “nerd”) in the world today, it’s done with great understanding of both the laughable and the terror of life.

I don’t want to give anything away, just to reiterate that this was a wonderful novel.   I highly recommend it, well done, Higgins!

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Kristan Higgins

Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini – Book Review

Enchantress of Numbers

This is a fictionalized history of Ada Byron King, the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron.  Ada’s history is one of childhood neglect, an over-bearing mother and a father she never knew.  Through her own need to succeed in order to please her mother, Ada became an intelligent woman at a time when women were considered to be inferior to men in every way.

Once married, she used her influence to become friendly with the leading scientists of the day.  She contributed much to the world of mathematics, but has never been acknowledged for those contributions.

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Ada Byron King

I don’t want to give too much away, as I want you to read this novel.  However, the very fact that Ada managed to live a relatively normal life is a testament to her will to survive.  I loved this novel and found it to be extremely inspiring.  I highly recommend this book, and hope that when you read it you will let me know what you thought in the comments below.  Well done, Chiaverini!

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Jennifer Chiaverini

Three Daughters of Eve – by Elif Shafak – Book Review

Three Daughters of Eve

First of all, I must say that I love a novel that teaches me things about other parts of the world that I don’t know.  This is a fabulous novel, that not only taught me things that I didn’t know, but showed me part of the world in a way that I hadn’t seen before.  And, the best part was that the plot and characters were engaging and interesting.

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The novel covers just a few hours in Peri’s life, but within those few hours we are treated to her life “before”.  And what a treat it is.  Peri studied in Oxford, England for college, a change from her life in Turkey.  By bouncing from, Istanbul, to Oxford and back again, we get her family history, a sense of her culture-shock in Oxford, and also the circumstances that led her to where she is in the present day.

I will not give anything away.  Just know that this novel is definitely worth the read.  I really enjoyed learning more about the culture of Turkey and Muslim women.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Shafak!

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak

 

The Trust by Ronald H. Balson – Book Review

The Trust

Liam Taggert, a Chicago P.I., has been estranged from his family back in Belfast for years, when out of the blue he gets a phone call telling him his uncle has died, and the family would like to see him.  With all the angst associated with reuniting with his family, and leaving his wife and baby behind, Liam finds himself in the midst of both a mystery, and emotions that he thought he had left behind.

I really loved the way that Balson wove the threads of history (the Irish “Troubles”), family relationships and long-held secrets into this novel.  It kept me turning the pages.  The Irish “Troubles” may be officially over, but anger and hatred seldom get resolved. Just a note, if you haven’t read anything of the Irish “Troubles”, I suggest that you do so, it’s a history we should never forget.

Since I don’t want to give anything away I won’t say any more, except that I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Balson!

Ronald Balson

Ronald Balson

 

Unexpected Finds of 2017

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I just wanted to write about one of the most interesting and enjoyable “finds” in books that I made this year.  I often find myself looking for an interesting read that is not ‘issue”-leaden, or anything like that.  Sometimes I just want to be entertained.  So, my favorite simply entertaining novels this year have been the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters (actually the deceased novelist Barbara Mertz).  One of reasons that I’ve been enjoying these, is that my first “love” was all things ancient Egyptian.  I seriously wanted to become an Egyptologist when I was young, and spent a lot of time researching the various dynasties.  (And, yes, I’ve always been a card-carrying nerd.)

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Amelia Peabody is an unusual character for the time.   She is a feminist in Victorian England, a woman who believes whole-heartedly in women’s rights and equality.  She is also extremely intelligent, feisty and hysterically funny.  I am loving these novels, and am recommending them to those who haven’t read them.  The mysteries are convoluted, full of ancient Egyptian facts, interesting to the extreme, and funny.  I highly recommend this series!  Now, if only they were to make a series of movies from the novels…

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What were your unexpected book finds this year?  Share in the comments below so that the rest of us have more books to put on our to be read lists.  Happy reading!

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Elizabeth Peters