Thursday, August 06, 2015

What YOU are reading...

More reviews from the summer reading club for grownups...


Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
Reviewed by Leslie R.
Some Luck tells the story of three decades in the lives of the Langdons, an Iowa farm family. The book begins in 1920 and follows Rosanna and Walter Langdon as their family grows and they work their farm and fight to keep it. We follow the couple and each of their five children as both they and the times change. Some reviewers found the book slow-going in places, but I enjoyed it all and in fact it’s one of my favorite books of the year. Some Luck is the first of a planned trilogy, which will follow the family members up to the present.


A Nearly Perfect Copy, by Allison Amend
Reviewed by Fay P.

This book of fiction takes the reader into the world of art – the business of selling art through auction houses and galleries and the creation of art by artists.

Elm Tinsley-Howells works at the Tinsley Art Auction house as the Department Head of 17th- through 19th-century prints, an area in which she is recognized as an expert. There are branches of the Tinsley Art Auction house in New York, London, and Paris. In Elm’s personal life, she mourns the death of her eight-year old son, who died in a tsunami in Thailand.  It begins to affect her work and marriage as she loses focus and can only think of her loss.

Gabriel Connois is an artist in his 40s who lives in Paris in somewhat dire financial straits. His job at the Rosenzweig Gallery pays a low salary. As a student at art school many years ago, Gabriel showed great promise, but as the years roll by, Gabriel sees classmates doing well in their artistic endeavors while success and recognition elude him.  

The art forgery plot in this book surfaces and converges with these two characters: Elm and Gabriel.  When and why does this replacement art happen? Is it justified? Isn’t forged art also art? 

Allison Amend is gifted in creating real characters and emotions that draw the reader into the lives of the characters as they struggle to resolve personal and work issues. More information about Allison Amend can be found at www.allisonamend.com


A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
Reviewed by Michael B.

This book takes a bit to build, but once you get the hook (haha, used a musical term), it is very good. 

A Visit from the Goon Squad jumps through time and, as far as I can tell, each chapter is told from the perspective of a new narrator (as in, there aren't repeats). It finally hits its stride around the third chapter, when you can finally hear a unique voice in the writing which perfectly matches the speaker. 

My one suggestion to other readers is to read this more quickly than I did. I treated this as a casual novel, but the farther I got into it, the harder it was to remember all the other characters. I was often left wondering if the character one person was talking about was a character I had already met. This led me to flip through the pages to confirm my suspicion. 

It is easiest to compare this to Catch-22 in style, but it's less funny, more post-modern, and less plot-heavy. If anything, each chapter tends to have its own plot, and typically you join it in the middle of the story and leave before a real conclusion. This feels like a collection of short stories but more pointed, themed, and connected.

There is never a full understanding of "Goon Squad" and I can't say I've ever heard the term "life's a goon" (which is said in the book), but the theme is clear and well constructed: time passes and your life is often different then you planned.

I think my favorite chapter was the one from Alison's perspective as it was laid out like a Powerpoint presentation. It was so unique but so well constructed. It reminded me a bit of "Pale Fire," where there's a unique reading experience that still expresses a story.

Overall, a great book, but it's definitely not light summer reading.


The Paris Wife, by Paula McClain
Reviewed by Jeanne G.

This is a fictional account of Hadley Richardson Hemingway's life with Ernest Hemingway. One of my favorite books is The Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, so I didn't know if I would like this book, but I enjoyed it very much. The author researched the lives of the Hemingways and created an excellent read. Poor Hadley did not have an easy life with Ernest!




The Color of Secrets, by Lindsay Jane Ashford
Reviewed by Kat S.

A compelling read about the consequences of a relationship between a white British woman and an African-American soldier during World War II. The story doesn't go for the predictable fairy-tale ending but puts together a more realistic version of what could have happened. The characters are engaging, and while the plot isn't action-packed, it moves along at a steady clip, always keeping you wondering what is going to happen next. Definitely worth your time.


Dietland, by Sarai Walker
Reviewed by Valerie R.

My favorite book this year! Sarai Walker is a first-time author, I look forward to anything she writes next.

The book follows Plum Kettle as she has her consciousness raised through a series of unlikely events. How women are viewed and how they view themselves is examined. The diet, beauty and porn industries are excoriated. Halfway through the book, I began to fear that the ending wouldn't follow through in the same vein, but Walker didn't let me down, it finished strongly. I highly recommend this book as a must-read!


Editor's note: We at the library have enjoyed seeing your book reviews for a change! Keep in mind that many of these books are also available from the library in another format--sound recording, large print, or e-book!


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