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Aug 31, 2021
by Techeditor (Romeo, Michigan): A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS is delightful. Dave Eggers has a writing style like I've never read before. What would otherwise be, for example, sad or serious, he lightens. My gosh, he even makes the copyright page enjoyable reading! And I'm glad I read a hardcover copy and could see the cover minus the dust jacket. Check it out if you can.

This is a memoir. Eggers explains that he wouldn't really call A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS a true story because he made up the dialog. And sometimes that dialog is obviously his invention, such as when a 9-year-old boy talks with the maturity of a 30-year-old man or when he begins with his MTV interview that turns into something else. I sometimes had to re-read to understand what he was doing.

Before the beginning of A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS Eggers notes all the parts you can safely skip. But that made me want to read them all the more, and I didn't skip anything. I admit, though, after 100 or so pages his style sometimes aggravated me, his constant repetition, so I did skim some paragraphs. Even though I could tell that those paragraphs represented his private thought processes, I sometimes found them disjointed and monotonous.

Most reviews of this book concentrate on only part of the story, he and his little brother. Yes, Eggers raises his much younger brother, Toph, after their parents died. And, of course, Toph is a big part of the story, occupying Eggers' thoughts most of the time.

But he also emphasizes all the energy he simultaneously expends on a startup magazine. Poor Eggers is always exhausted.

Also running throughout his story are his remembrances of his mother, beginning near her end. Yet he doesn't have much to say about his father, apparently an alcoholic.

Eggers' memoir has three main subjects, not just one. Probably most readers find his relationship with Toph to be the most touching.

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Aug 18, 2021
by Kath (Bethany Beach): Terrific book for book clubs. Filled with memorable, fascinating characters. We see history revealed through the different lives and loves of three generations of one family of Russian women. Each was dealt a very different hand to play at birth. Through them we witness the human cost of the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and the challenges of developing or maintaining individual identity within a multi-generational emigre community in the U.S. My book club gave it a big thumbs up and found it to be an unusual and interesting book, one of our favorites in 2020.

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Aug 15, 2021
by Ma. Ellyne Machete (Abu Dhabi): This book was literally the first book I've ever tried to not finish in one day, which made me think before I fall asleep. From start to finish, it broke my heart in so many ways I can't describe. Even though it was just Griffin's point of view it made me hurt for every character (except for Remy, of course). Adam Silvera portrayed in this book that letting go is sometimes the right thing to do even though you don't want to, value your life because some were suddenly stolen or gone without warning, it's nice to want the person you love happy but don't forget or devalue yourself for that person and if you know that you should prioritize yourself, do so, because no one's gonna do that for you but yourself. Stop being self-destructive for someone else. Be open to changes because the only constant thing in this world is time. Within the allotted time we have, it's expected that there will be changes. Either it's good or bad, time won't stop for you. You may choose to be stuck in the same place you know isn't good for you while the time keeps going or continue going forward with time.

It's not confusing why this will be in my Favorite Comfort Cry shelve. This book made me go through a roller coaster I thought I was ready for but wasn't (trust me, I expected pain when I bought this; it just so happens it was beyond the pain I expected).

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Aug 05, 2021
by Donna Mc (Georgia): Franny is one with the sea and with birds. She lives in a world apart, deeply intense but also deeply damaged. This is a wonderful book, beautifully written. Its understanding and reverence of wildlife will resonate with any bird lover, and the obsessions that drive her speak to anyone who has been touched watching migrating birds depart.

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Aug 03, 2021
by John Otim (Uganda/Nigeria): In the last days as they prepared to evacuate and return home, as personified by Claude, a veteran senior CIA operative in Saigon, the Americans were as cool as can be. Outwardly that is. The atmosphere in the embassy told a different story. There tempers were raw and the scenes were ugly. Among the South Vietnamese officials still in Saigon, matters were even worse. You get all of these just in brief first chapter. Which was all I could get access to as a poor third world academic. Even from this obviously very limited sample, I can say without fear, that this is a really good story, skillfully crafted and told.

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Jul 31, 2021
by Gerrie (Carmel, IN): Reading Candlish's The Other Passenger is comparable to watching a long far off train making its way to a collapsed trestle over a 1,000 ft drop, you know disaster is coming but you are powerless to stop it. There are twists within twists and an ending worth the wait. There were times in the last two hundred pages where I stopped to catch my breath, wishing the end would come sooner, almost as if I just couldn't take the stress of the process anymore and I had to know the outcome that second. The pacing reminded me of the steady slow single drip from a rooftop after a lull in the rain, then proceeding to a faster drip as the rain picks up and culminating in a full torrent as the storm blows in. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys being held in suspense.

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Jul 30, 2021
by Gabi: As fate brings them together, a spirited thief and a straight-laced Major become unlikely allies in war-time England as they join forces to thwart an attempt to deliver critical documents into the Germans' hands. Intrigue, murder, and a sprinkling of romance, combined with engaging "good guys" and a handful of suspects, are the perfect ingredients for this entertaining WW2 mystery.

The first in a new series —- I am already eagerly anticipating the next Electra McDonnell series!!!

4.5 stars "light" read (easy straightforward read, not overly graphic violence)

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Jul 17, 2021
by Rebecca G (Havertown, pa): Ava Homa's book is one of the most important books I've read in a long time. Probably most people don't know the history of the Kurds. I didn't realize that their country was divided after World War I between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. The result of this was Kurdish men became second class citizens, oppressed, suppressed, often imprisoned and murdered at the whim of sadistic leaders. Women were considered subhuman, brutalized, often abandoned, often raped but always under extreme restrictions. Ms. Homa describes many of these brutalities and they are difficult to read. The story revolves around the family Samas, particularly their daughter, Leila. Her father is a broken man after being unjustly imprisoned, her mother lives in misery and commits acts that are unspeakable in their culture and her brother, Chia becomes more and more determined to do what he can to save his people. No matter what she does, Leila is unable to break free of her severe restrictions and spends her life despondent to the point of suicide. But when her brother is labeled a martyr she spreads his words and places her own life in danger. This is an incredible book about despair, brutality, hopelessness but it becomes a book of redemption and hopefulness.

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Jul 17, 2021
by Rebecca G (Havertown, pa): Ava Homa's book is one of the most important books I've read in a long time. Probably most people don't know the history of the Kurds. I didn't realize that their country was divided after World War I between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. The result of this was Kurdish men became second class citizens, oppressed, suppressed, often imprisoned and murdered at the whim of sadistic leaders. Women were considered subhuman, brutalized, often abandoned, often raped but always under extreme restrictions. Ms. Homa describes many of these brutalities and they are difficult to read. The story revolves around the family Samas, particularly their daughter, Leila. Her father is a broken man after being unjustly imprisoned, her mother lives in misery and commits acts that are unspeakable in their culture and her brother, Chia becomes more and more determined to do what he can to save his people. No matter what she does, Leila is unable to break free of her severe restrictions and spends her life despondent to the point of suicide. But when her brother is labeled a martyr she spreads his words and places her own life in danger. This is an incredible book about despair, brutality, hopelessness but it becomes a book of redemption and hopefulness.

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Jul 14, 2021
by Ann (Haw River, NC): I've now read this book 14 times since I discovered it. I keep going back again and again. The ice and cold give the setting such a sense of permanent isolation--nobody is coming for them-- that haunts me every time. The fact that the story is based on truth also gives it a haunting quality. Who knows what these men really went through? Simmons makes you feel as if you're aboard the ship itself. I also have such sympathy for Crozier. He had a difficult place among the English as an Irishman, and his alcoholism made him unapproachable and very misunderstood. The battle with his demons made him a better commander and a better man as well, and I think his men respected him more after his victory over the bottle. He truly had their best interests at heart. I just wanted to shake Sir John and the others when Crozier tried to warn them of the coming pack ice. Crozier's belief that King William Land was an island was also rebuffed, and Crozier was treated as if he didn't know what he was talking about. I think he was a much better captain than Sir John, and if they had listened to Crozier and acted, they would not have lost their ships and hence, their men and their own lives. This book is an excellent example of merging a true story with a fictional horror. I'm sure I will continue to enjoy it for many years to come. I recommend it to anyone who loves a thrilling story that is difficult to put down.

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Jul 10, 2021
by Tan Fan (New Brunswick Canada): Amy Tan is a master storyteller and wordsmith. The growing Cecil B. DeMille cast of characters inspired me to keep a Who's Who cheat sheet, which worked very well for me. The mixture of humour and brutal reality was deftly handled by the author, and was in complete harmony with the voice of the engaging narrator. I loved this book and highly recommend it.

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Jul 07, 2021
by Elizabeth@Silver'sReviews: Yona was kidnapped out of her crib at a very young age and forced to live in the forest with a woman named Jerusza. Jerusza felt it her duty to take Yona from her German parents.

Yona knew nothing other than living off the land, surviving in the forest, and stealing things from stores and people in the villages.

When Jerusza died at 102 years of age, Yona was alone but able to survive because of her skills.

When Yona meets a group of Jewish folks who had escaped the ghetto, she felt it her duty to help them survive.

THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS takes us with Yona through her years with Jerusza and her harrowing, frightening, and dangerous time with the group as we see them learn the ways of the forest, live with fear, hide from the Nazis, and learn to trust each other.

When she is betrayed by the group, she leaves them and has to again make decisions on her own.

Ms. Harmel again did meticulous research and portrayed the plight of the characters with such authenticity that you were right there with them suffering through all the horrible conditions they had to endure.

This book is a beautiful tribute to the human spirit, to perseverance, and to finding the qualities a person possesses for empathy, kindness, and making choices.

Another FIVE star but very heartbreaking gem from Kristin Harmel. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Jul 07, 2021
by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): Freeze Frame is the fourth book in the Enzo Macleod Investigation series by Scottish journalist, screenwriter and author, Peter May. When Enzo arrives on Ile de Grois to investigate a fourth cold case from Roger Raffin's book, he is dismayed to see that, due to a local press headline, the whole town is watching him. Thibaud Verjean, the man who was tried, and acquitted, of the murder of English tropical medicine professor, Adam Killian almost two decades earlier, accosts Enzo as he steps off the ferry, taunting him to try to prove his guilt where others have failed.

The gendarme in charge, Richard Gueguen warns Enzo that officially he isn't permitted to offer any assistance, but is just as eager as anyone else to see the case solved: he was a trainee in Grois at the time it happened. The only genuine welcome is from Jane Killian, who hopes he can resolve the matter. On Adam's instruction, given moments before her father-in-law was shot dead, she has ensured that nothing has been moved or removed from his study.

Adam's intention was for his son, Peter to interpret the instruction he left behind and complete the task he had begun, but Jane's husband died in Africa mere days later. As a forensic expert, this sort of case is right up his alley, but when Enzo examines the scene, what he finds is a diary entry, post-it notes, an inverted poem and a shopping list, all too cryptic to understand. Clearly, he needs to think like Peter. Puzzling, too, is why anyone would want to murder a dying man: Adam would soon have been dead of lung cancer.

At a loss with Killian's study, Enzo checks out significant spots on the island, talks to witnesses at Verjean's trial and Killian's physician. Apart from several nasty encounters with Verjean, though, he learns little. His scientific expertise is not helping, he is at a loss. Meanwhile, he is plagued by a black cat, freezing cold weather and a nightly strip-tease trying to tempt him.

When he (finally!) more closely examines the clues Killian left, he has a minor breakthrough that sends him off to Paris and Morocco. Before he manages to solve the case he is, however, distracted by what his erstwhile lover Charlotte Roux reveals. His paranoia sees him rolling in icy wet grass; poor judgement gets him beaten up, almost killed and his tires slashed.

Without doubt, this is the best of the Enzo books thus far. May lays a trail of clues for the astute reader to follow; some are very subtle, some quite blatant; enough that the reader will fix on the likely killer well before the reveal, only to find they are quite wrong. Addictive crime fiction.

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Jul 02, 2021
by Techeditor (Romeo, Michigan): Jane Harper's THE LOST MAN is one of the best mystery/suspense novels I have ever read. If you read and loved THE DRY, one of her previous books, you'll love THE LOST MAN. If you haven't read THE DRY, you'll want to after you read THE LOST MAN.

Nathan, the eldest of three brothers, discovers the body of Cameron, another one of the brothers, in the outback desert. There begins the mystery: how did he end up in this predicament when his car is loaded with supplies to sustain him? Was this suicide or was it murder? If murder, who had cause to hate him this much?

You would expect that a Harper book would take place in Australia. But her descriptions of the outback, in particular, where the brothers and the rest of the family live and work, made me actually see its vastness and feel the desolation, danger, and heat they dealt with.

Here is a book you won't want to end. When I got there, it felt too soon.

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Jun 30, 2021
by Sakshi Singh (Uttar Pradesh): Luck of the Titanic is the Titanic story I wish we all knew. Move over Rose and Jack, make way for Val and Jamie. Never once did I ever imagine to be able to see someone who looked like me in a historical fiction about the Titanic. I didn't even realize that people who looked like me were aboard in the first place! It was a whole new experience to see people like me exist at all before modern day. Historical fiction so often, especially about events we hear about often like the Titanic, has never felt relatable in the least to me. Until this. This book brought me that. It told me that even in historical fiction, we can see diversity. People who look like me.

Quick summary: Luck of the Titanic is a historical fiction that works to tell the story of the six Titanic survivors of Chinese descent. It follows twin siblings, Valora and Jamie Luck, two twin British-Chinese acrobats traveling aboard the Titanic's maiden voyage, which was the same time of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Determined to make it to America, Valora brews a plan that will allow them to get into America before the ship makes it across the Atlantic.

I can absolutely say right off the bat that my favorite part was that this book kept me guessing. I read this with Saima, and we both kept guessing what would happen wrong. I say that this is my favorite part because it was very impressive that a book about a major historical event, one that is so famous we all know the story, ends up being surprising at all. I was very impressed with that alone that made my experience of the book go up a ton!

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Jun 14, 2021
by Tanu Panwar (Ghaziabad): We Are Not From Here astonishes even as it conveys harsh realities. Torres Sanchez's prose alternately chills and sings as it brings primal human experiences—life and death, despair and hunger, fear and hope—to the page in brilliant relief. The choice to employ first-person narration, commonplace in young adult literature, is particularly effective here and adds immediacy to the threats that seem to lie in wait around every corner. Elements of magical realism elevate the teens' journey to epic, mythic heights. It all makes for a stunning, visceral and deeply moving read.

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Jun 10, 2021
by Margot P (Mandeville, LA): While Whereabouts is a novel in the technical sense, it's really just slices of life in a year of a floundering 40ish Italian woman in an unnamed city. The writing is gorgeous, especially considering it was translated from Italian to English by Lahiri. The intimate portrayal of the protagonist is very similar to those of Ferrante's characters in her last two novels: solitary, capable women who are unable to make lasting human connections largely in part as results from damages inflicted upon them by their parents. I especially enjoyed the chapter where she visits her mother and the final one on the train where her life is symbolically contrasted with those of a group of happy foreign travelers.

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May 31, 2021
by Abdul Salam Rain (I'm from Nepal): It's very good book.

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May 30, 2021
by Dorinne D: Another winning historical novel by Marie Benedict, this one takes place beginning in the early 1900's when Belle da Costa Greene is hired by wealthy financier J.P. Morgan to catalog, organize and assist in the acquisition of rare books and manuscripts for his personal library. With the Morgan fortune at her disposal, Belle becomes a very shrewd and successful negotiator in procuring the most sought-after items for the library. I found the book to be particularly interesting in the descriptions of the sumptuousness of the library, the fashions of the time, the paintings and other artifacts owned by the Morgans and their friends, and the preciousness of the manuscripts and tomes sought for the collection. Propelling the story throughout were Belle's secret and the tragedy of her romantic life. Truly a novel not to be missed. I had the pleasure of reading this as an "Advance Reader Copy" from BookBrowse; it will be on sale to the public on June 1, 2021.

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May 28, 2021
by techeditor (Romeo, Michigan): Although its subtitle implies that THE BOYS IN THE BOAT is about the American eight-oar rowing crew in the 1936 Olympics, the book is more than that. It's mostly about what led to the formation of the crew. Also, the story is made personal by its concentration on one of the boys, Joe Rantz.

If THE BOYS IN THE BOAT was fiction, I wouldn't have enjoyed it. That's because the whole thing is so unlikely: Joe overcame such odds in his personal life. None of the boys came from money when they suddenly emerged from Seattle, a city few were familiar with then, to beat the prestigious Eastern schools (e.g., Yale and Harvard). The boat and the boys dealt with several disadvantages in Germany, both before and during their races, only to beat their competition. None of this story would be believable if I didn't know it was true.

Throughout this book, juxtaposed against Joe's and the boys' story, is Hitler's creation of the fictional Germany that he wanted to present to the world during the Olympics there. As he hides the real Germany, the US ignores him, and the boys and other athletes just work on getting there.

When the story was over, I didn't want it to be over. So I read the end notes. You'll probably do that, too.

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May 27, 2021
by Techeditor (Romeo, Michigan): After reading three undesirable books in a row, I hit gold with Alice LaPlante's TURN OF MIND. It's not a happy book. It may even break your heart. But it's well written, and its subject matter, at least some of it, hit home and should concern anyone who has a mother.

TURN OF MIND is such a unique literary thriller. It is told from the point of view of Dr. Jennifer White, a 64-year-old orthopedic doctor who specialized in hand surgery. White is now unlicensed because she is suffering from dementia. (Sixty-four seems like early onset to me, but what do I know?) Some days are better than others, but it's getting progressively worse, horrifyingly worse.

White's good friend and neighbor, Amanda, has been murdered. Also, for some reason, four of her fingers have been removed in a surgically precise way. Of course, this points to White. But two other members of White's family, her son Mark and daughter Fiona, both adults, also may have had reason to murder Amanda.

Throughout TURN OF MIND, we learn more and more, through White's sporadic remembrances, about Amanda, Mark, and Fiona. Who is guilty of Amanda's murder, and why did they do it? Why were her fingers removed? Does White ever remember?

More than that, the reader sees the story as a dementia victim, one who is getting progressively worse, would see it. White's remembrances are always confused, and she can never articulate them, at least not so they are understandable.

What will become of White?

My only criticism of this book is its lack of quotation marks. There is no good reason for this. LaPlante italicizes when someone other than White is speaking. It was sometimes difficult for me to tell whether White was speaking or thinking. In my opinion, quotation marks add to a book's readability, and it is rude for an author not to use them.

TURN OF MIND is LaPlante's first. She wrote it a few years ago, so you may have already read it. If not, do.

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May 19, 2021
by RebeccaR (Western USA): "Grief will make you do crazy things...page211" and this novel proves that to be true.

This turned out to be one of my favorite books so far in 2021. It did not immediately start out that way; there are quite a few characters, and because I kept putting the book down, I would forget who was who. I urge all readers to not give up on this book. Also, do not start skimming since some of the little details come into play later in the book. Although the story begins with focus on the three adult children (daughters Ava and Naj; son Mimi) and their modern complications - faltering careers, faltering relationships, and faltering interest in the sale of the family home back in Lebanon, the real focus will become the parents Syrian mother Mazna and Lebanese father Idris. The parents grew up and went to school in the Middle East, then came to the USA later in life.

The relationship of the parents was complicated decades ago and remains so decades later. There are surprising twists, heartbreak, and hope as the author weaves together a very original story along with Ottoman history of "Greater Syria" and Lebanese independence.

Ultimately, this was a 5 star read.

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May 12, 2021
by Carolt (Iowa): I am surprised. I didn't expect to like this book nearly as much as I did. Really, fiction based on Greek myths? Most tellings have left me cold - I couldn't get past the first few pages of Circe. Even books with supposedly newer plot lines have left me cold. But something about Ariadne.... I was surprised when it ended. I'll be watching for more from Jennifer Saint.

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May 07, 2021
by techeditor (Romeo, Michigan): Five stars again for Chris Bohjalian. I have read nearly all his books, and most are five-star, some four. This one, THE LAW OF SIMILARS, is a book he wrote nearly 20 years ago.

Leland is a deputy state prosecutor. He is also a widower with a four-year-old daughter. For what appears to me to be psychological reasons, he develops a sore throat that just won't go away. This leads him to Carissa, a homeopath.

In short order (ridiculously short order, in my opinion), Leland falls in love with Carissa (or maybe mistakes sexual attraction for love). He is so overwhelmed by this love (attraction) that he ignores all ethics of his profession when she is investigated for the murder of one of her other patients.

For a book to merit five stars, it must be unputdownable, and this one is. Even though I say that Leland doesn't think with his brain, it's still a darn good read.

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May 06, 2021
by Abi: Beautifully written and impeccably researched, The Barbizon weaves together a tale that has, until now, never been told. It is both a vivid portrait of the lives of these young women who came to New York looking for something more, and an epic history of women's ambition. An amazing book. Very intriguing. You will want to read more!

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