The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon – Book Review

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This is the story of Cass Hugo, a dissatisfied army wife stuck in Jordan for two years while her husband Dan is working at the U.S. Embassy.  While their marriage is in hell of not-conceiving; Cass is extremely bitter and lonely.  She feels that she doesn’t fit in with the younger childless wives, and has nothing in common with the older wives with children.  Into this mix, Dan decides that they will “sponsor” a new couple Crick and Margaret Brickshaw, along with their baby, Mather.

The novel is rife with each spouse assuming things about the other; Margaret not understanding the importance of following mores in Jordan; and Cass feeling that Margaret is refusing to follow the rules that have been established by the Embassy.

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This novel is exciting, frustrating and all-together too real.  The problems created by each person leads to the inevitable ending.  I really liked this book.  The characters were full of believable flaws, along with their natural hope in face of their problems.  Life is hard, and being a spouse of a deployed soldier in a foreign country simply adds to the usual stresses.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Fallon!

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Siobhan Fallon

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Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor – Book Review

Sycamore

In 1991, seventeen-year-old Jess Winters went out for a run and never came home.  The townspeople of Sycamore had varied reactions to this, and life went on for most of the town.  However, as we soon learn, many people in town were affected by this mystery in various ways.

In 2009, Laura Drennan, a new transplant to Sycamore, comes across human bones while hiking around the outskirts of Sycamore.  What follows the story of Jess, as well as a smattering of Laura’s new life in Sycamore.

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I really liked the way this novel was set up.  Both Jess and Laura have dealt with loss and the bewildering after effects of it.  Jess Winters is a well-developed, easily loved character.  Her story kept me reading this novel.  Laura’s story was definitely secondary to the novel, however, she also showed courage in the face of despair.  I really liked how the other inhabitants of the town were also made a part of the plot.

I highly recommend this book.  Well done, Chancellor!

Bryn Chancellor

Bryn Chancellor

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay – Book Review

The Witches of New York

Do you love a good novel, set in Victorian New York?  If so, you will love this novel.  This is a novel of magic, evil overtones, and female empowerment.  Tea and Sympathy is a small tea shop run by Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair.  While it is indeed a tea shop, they also provide other services which would be frowned upon if made widely known.

Into this clandestine shop comes newcomer Beatrice Dunn, who is looking to fulfill her destiny in New York.  Beatrice is a witch-in-training with a power unknown to herself. Into this mix we also have a fanatical “preacher” looking to “keep all woman in their place”, and a fear that is running rampant against all things to do with women gaining any rights whatsoever.

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I loved this novel.  The character development was very good, the plot was exciting and the characters were believable.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, McKay!

Ami McKay

Ami McKay

 

Girl Up by Laura Bates – Book Review

Girl Up by Laura Bates

This non-fiction book is actually aimed at teen girls, however I really found it informative, empowering, funny and irreverent.  I also feel that women of all ages should read this book, as well as men.  It presents feminism in a way that is both smart and funny.  As we all know, all people should be empowered, and this book does that for women.

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I really loved the chapters on consent, which gave great examples of exactly what consent is, and what it is NOT.  I feel that teenage boys should be reading this chapter in particular.  There is no “varied” way of saying “no”.  No is no, stop is stop.  There is no “getting around” that.  The explanations of the female body were informative and necessary, since there is a lot of misunderstanding out there regarding that.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s a real eye-opener, and I seriously wish that it had been around when I was young.  I hope that many, many women and young girls read it. Well done, Bates!

Laura Bates

Laura Bates

 

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

When I got this book from the library, I thought that it was a continuation of the Outlander series.  Of course, this was only because I jumped on the book when I saw it, grabbed it before anyone else could, and never looked at the front inside cover.  Grabby much?  However, although I was initially disappointed by the fact that it was not the next book, these stories more than made up for my first disappointment.

Suffice it to say that they add to the wonderful historical fiction that makes up the Outlander world.  While I have only read the Outlander series itself (as opposed to the books of the Lord John Grey series), all of these short novellas were new to me.  Apparently, all but two of the seven stories have been published before in various places.  I must say that I really liked them all, and of course the back-history is, as always fascinating.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I do highly recommend this compilation since it is well written, exciting and highly entertaining.  Well done, Gabaldon!

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Diana Gabaldon

 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss – Book Review

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

I really liked this novel.  The atmosphere, setting and underlying creepiness were just so delicious!  Who doesn’t love a Gothic novel done just right?  This novel gives us the orphaned Mary Jekyll, daughter of Dr. Jekyll, who due to money problems tries to collect the reward for information regarding the murderer Mr. Hyde.  In the process, she becomes associated with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

There is much murder, mystery and intriguing characters.  There are young ladies who have been experimented on by their “fathers”, including such luminaries as, Moreau, Frankenstein and Rappaccini.  Their individual stories are horribly fascinating.

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I won’t let any black cats out of the bag, but simply tell you that the novel is wonderful, and happily there is a sequel that will be out in about a year.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Goss!

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Theodora Goss

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor – Book Review

TheLostLetter by Cantor

This novel moves back and forth between Austria 1938 and California, 1989.  In 1938, Kristoff an 18-year-old apprentice finds a position with the Faber family as an engraver of stamps for the Austrian government.  This is Kristoff’s first experience living with a family, and it is one he enjoys whole-heartedly.

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Meanwhile in 1989, Katie Nelson decides to have her father’s extensive stamp collection appraised since her father is in the beginning stages of dementia, and he has always insisted that the stamps may one day be worth a lot of money.  The appraiser, Benjamin Grossman discovers a rare stamp which he doesn’t know anything about.  As Benjamin and Katie try to unravel the mystery of this highly unusual stamp, we are treated to the story of the stamp, Kristoff’s early life, and the Austrian underground.

Since I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll just say that this novel was well written and well researched.  I really loved this novel and highly recommend it.  Well done Cantor!

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Jillian Cantor