Latest Reviews

a murder in time
marriage material
dark dark wood
our lady of ice
god in every stone

Book Review: The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

the nightingale kristin hannahTitle: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
ISBN: 9780312577223
Pages: 448
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

Two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, living in France in the 1930s; Vianne is responsible, caring for her husband, child, and younger sister, while Isabelle is flighty and selfish. But war is on their doorstep and when Vianne’s husband must leave for the front, life changes for the two sisters as they find their place in war-torn France.

Review

I’m not much of a fan of World War II-era novels. It takes a lot to convince me to pick one up; usually, it’s an author I trust not to lead me astray, which was the case with Kristin Hannah. The time period didn’t intrigue me, but I have enjoyed Hannah’s previous novels, and the fact that this was about sisters, a subject I do love? It was enough for me to give it a chance, and I’m so glad I did. The Nightingale drew me in from the very first pages, and I read it breathlessly and eagerly from cover to cover.

Vianne and Isabelle appear so different on the surface in The Nightingale, but they have so much in common that they don’t recognize. It’s the curse of sisters in many ways; you’re more alike than you are different, but often you can’t see those similarities that are right in front of you. Hannah writes them very well; they are each flawed, and they both think they’re weak. But wartime demands things we never would normally expect from ourselves, and it’s interesting to see how they each rise to the challenges before them, and how they succeed and fail in their own ways. The character development in this novel is really excellent.

If I had to pick one word to describe The Nightingale, it would be sweeping. It’s not that it covers a huge length of time (though the novel begins in the near-present and flashes back to reveal what happened and uncover the mystery of the past), but that these two women were heroes. That’s really what this novel is all about; the suffering people deal with in war is extraordinary, but ordinary in that everyone must undergo their own unique form of it. Everyone has an extraordinary story to tell; it’s ordinary people who were the heroes.

If you’re looking for a novel to really suck you in, especially if you’re coming off a reading slump or having difficulty finding something that captures your attention, give The Nightingale a try. Despite its 400+ page length, I read this cover to cover. I couldn’t put it down; I had to know what was going to happen to Vianne and Isabelle, to solve the mystery of the past and find out what was happening in the present. It’s very well done and is just another example of how great a storyteller Kristin Hannah is.

Other books by Kristin Hannah:

Firefly Lane
Home Front
Fly Away
Night Road
Winter Garden

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Book Review: A Murder in Time – Julie McElwain

a murder in timeTitle: A Murder in Time
Author: Julie McElwain
ISBN:9781605989747
Pages: 499
Release Date: April 11, 2016
Publisher: Pegasus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

Kendra Donovan might be young, but she’s making a name for herself at the FBI. That is, until something goes horribly wrong on a raid, and Kendra wakes up in the hospital. Set on revenge, Kendra strikes out on her own, determined to bring her own brand of vigilante justice to the person responsible for killing her team members. But just as she’s catching up with her man, something unexplainable happens: Kendra is thrown back in time, to the year 1815. Trapped in a world she doesn’t know or understand, Kendra must figure out how to get home…if a murderer in the past doesn’t find her first.

Review

A Murder in Time is a hard book to summarize, as you might be able to tell from the plot synopsis above; there’s so much going on in this book that it’s hard to do it justice in a few sentences. The bottom line is that the second I heard about this book, I knew it was for me. Lady main character? FBI? Murder? Time travel? This was 100% up my alley, even if I never expected a book combining all these themes. I was a little worried at how McElwain would handle it—if it would be too silly to really be enjoyable—but I shouldn’t have worried. I was hooked on this novel from beginning to end.

The novel starts off a little slow, as the reader gets to know Kendra and her place within the FBI; this is necessary background, but it doesn’t feel as though the story really starts taking off until Kendra sets out on her own. At this point, things start moving at a breakneck pace, and it doesn’t let off much over the course of the book. Kendra’s grappling with being out of her own time, unsure of how or if she’ll get home, trying to fit in, railing against how women are treated in this world, grappling with the class divides…and oh yeah, solving a murder that happens while she’s in the past. There’s a lot going on, and the author juggles it all very well.

You don’t expect a fun murder mystery to be especially thought provoking, and yet A Murder in Time is. By setting the bulk of the novel in the past, McElwain is able to discuss issues of class and feminism, providing a social commentary through Kendra on how much has changed, but more importantly, what hasn’t. The social undertones never get in the way of plot, as the author makes sure they’re such an integral part of Kendra’s character. This novel really does have it all.

The second I finished A Murder in Time, I was immediately on social media asking if there would be a sequel because I fell in love with this world that McElwain created. Kendra is such a great character—capable, smart, funny—but she isn’t perfect. I loved getting to know her, and I hope that we do see that sequel (in development, but no guarantees) soon!

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Book Review: Marriage Material – Sathnam Sanghera

marriage materialTitle: Marriage Material
Author: Sathnam Sanghera
ISBN: 9781609453077
Pages: 336
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Europa Editions
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

Arjun has returned home to help his mother out with their family’s convenience store after his father’s unexpected death, but he finds himself in limbo. Arjun’s torn between his identities—British and Punjabi—and isn’t really sure where his life is going or what he wants out of it. As he begins to drift away from his fiance and the life he once led, Arjun begins exploring his own family origins and is surprised at what he discovers.

Review

When it comes to books about Indians, they are often sad. Heartbreaking. Gutwrenching. Difficult. They’re often stories about struggling and about getting nowhere, about being up against a wall. It’s part of the reason I read less South Asian fiction than I used to; more often than not, it’s just so sad. It’s also why I inhale most South Asian fiction that isn’t about this type of tragedy, because I want to read all kinds of stories about South Asians, not just about The Struggle. And that’s why I loved Marriage Material so much.

I can’t count the number of times Marriage Material made me laugh out loud. Sanghera has a sharp wit, and he’s not afraid to turn his incisive eye towards Punjabi culture. But more than that, he writes beautifully and with great insight on what it is to be a South Asian man living in Britain; what it is to be subjected to stereotypes, to be a brown man in a sea of white faces.

“He could have been anyone. Or no one. That’s the thing, if you’re Asian and happen to run a shop, you are anyone. Or no one. There are few more stereotypical things you can do as an Asian man, few more profound ways of wiping out your character and individuality, short of becoming a doctor, that is. Or fixing computers for a living. Or writing a book about arranged marriages.”

Marriage Material is written primarily in two different time periods. Arjun is the primary narrator, but there’s also a secondary narrator from the past, and the novel jumps back and forth between them. At first, it’s difficult to see how these stories are connected. On the surface, it’s clear, but what is the point of telling the secondary story? But as Sangham fleshes the narrative out, and does an incredible job bringing these characters and the story to life, the reader sees all the disparate threads coming together beautifully to tell a moving tale that is, in so many ways, so refreshingly ordinary.

If you’re looking for a funny, smart, sharp story about one young man trying to figure out where he belongs in a world that doesn’t understand or cater to him, Marriage Material should absolutely be on your list. I was completely taken in by this novel, and I’m only sorry that it’s over and I’ll have to wait to read Sanghera’s next book.

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Giveaway: INTO THE BLACK by Rowland White

into the blackI haven’t reviewed Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Herby Rowland White on my blog because I talked about how much I loved the book (which is about the development of the space shuttle program) on Book Riot. Well, now I’m really excited to announce that Touchstone has been kind enough to provide 5 copies of the book to give away to lucky readers!

It’s perfectly timed, too, because it’s been a space week for me. Last week, I sent out the first issue of my space newsletter called Give Me Space, a newsletter aimed at people interested in what’s happening in space, but who don’t religiously follow it. The first issue, called “On the Current State of the American Space Program,” and you can read it here.

If you’re interested in being signed up for this newsletter (which is sent out weekly on Wednesday mornings), you can do so here, or simply check the box on the Google Form that indicates you’d like to be signed up for it. If not, you still can and should enter the giveaway. It’s open to U.S. mailing addresses only. To enter, fill out the form below in its entirety (I won’t follow up to ask for a full mailing address, but you can rest assured that I will delete the form containing your address once the giveaway is over. You will not be signed up for any newsletter without your consent, email or print) by Wednesday, April 27 at 11:59 PM ET. I’ll draw 5 winners on Thursday and will notify them via email. Make sure your mailing address details are correct, because that’s where your book will be going!

Good luck!

 

 

In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

dark dark wood

Title: In a Dark, Dark Wood Author: Ruth Ware ISBN: 9781501112331 Pages: 352 Release Date: April 19, 2016 Publisher: Gallery / Scout Press Genre: Psychological Thriller Source: Publisher Summary Leonora doesn’t understand why she’s been invited to her friend Clare’s bachelorette party. After all, they haven’t spoken in years and she certainly wasn’t invited to […]

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Book Review: Our Lady of the Ice – Cassandra Rose Clarke

our lady of ice

Title: Our Lady of the Ice Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke ISBN: 9781481444262 Pages: 432 Release Date: October 27, 2015 Publisher: Saga Press Genre: Science Fiction Source: Publisher Summary Private investigator Eliana Gomez wants nothing more than to escape from Hope City, Antarctica, but she has little hope of being able to afford a ticket out—that […]

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Book Review: A God in Every Stone – Kamila Shamsie

god in every stone

Title: A God in Every Stone Author: Kamila Shamsie ISBN: 9781632864154, Pages: 400 Release Date: February 9, 2016 Publisher: Bloomsbury Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction Source: Publisher Summary It’s the summer of 1914, and Vivian Rose Spencer is working on an archaeological dig in Turkey alongside Tahsin Bey, a friend of her father’s. When she […]

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Book Review: Living with Intent – Mallika Chopra

living with intent mallika chopra

Title: Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy Author: Mallika Chopra ISBN: 9780804139854 (Print) Run Time: 5 Hours, 34 Minutes Release Date: April 7, 2015 Publisher: Random House Audio Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Self-Help Source: Publisher Summary Mallika Chopra, daughter of famed wellness expert Deepak Chopra, tried to put her father’s […]

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