Thursday, September 3, 2015

Book Reviews - Fiction

Today I'm sharing reviews of some of the fiction books I've read in the past few months.

Never Said by Carol Lynch Williams is a young adult novel about teenage twin sisters. Annie is the pretty, outgoing twin who spent years competing in beauty pageants, while Sarah is quiet and tends to try to go unnoticed in social situations. Each chapter is written from the perspective of one of the twins, with Sarah's view written in more traditional chapter style while Annie's view is written in an unstructured poetry style with short phrases and sentence that hint at the secret shame that caused her to cut off her beautiful hair, gain weight, and quit participating in beauty pageants. The book deals with various issues including self-image, beauty, loneliness, bullying, social anxiety, and has a twist that was very predictable early in the book. I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the varying viewpoints and narrative style. The girls each find healing in the end, however I was disappointed that this book (which I received free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review) then ended so abruptly without addressing the fact that healing takes time.

I had very mixed feelings about reading Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee's "landmark new novel." Personally I can't imagine that Harper Lee, well-known author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, actually sanctioned publication of this novel after a lifetime of shunning public appearances and maintaining that she would not publish again. My understanding is that this book was written first, but was not accepted for publication. If this book had actually been published first, I think it would have diminished the acclaim that To Kill a Mockingbird garnered. I was disappointed in this story, which centers around 26-year-old Jean Louise Finch ("Scout") and her visit home to Maycomb (from New York).

[***Spoiler Alert - stop here if you don't want to know more!!***] Jean Louise discovers that her boyfriend and her father are both part of an local group that is against (!) racial integration. She struggles with this idea and finally confronts her father, but nothing is actually resolved. It was a terribly disappointing ending that simply went in circles and then everyone went back to things as normal. This novel brings into question Atticus's reason for working to have Tom Robinson found not guilty. (He was innocent versus all men are equal.) Honestly, I'm glad I read it because it was written by Harper Lee and it's bound to be talked about, but I found it a disappointing "landmark new novel."

These four books were quick, easy and enjoyable reads. The Hurricane Sisters is set in the South Carolina Lowcountry and primarily centers on Ashley, a twenty-something aspiring artist trying to figure out what her future holds. Her mother Liz and grandmother Maisie are also prominent characters in this story of love, abuse, troubled marriage, and finding true strength in the midst of it all. The Inn at Rose Harboris the first in a new series by Debbie Macomber and centers on Jo Marie Rose, the new owner of a beautiful bed and breakfast in the small northwestern town of Cedar Cove. Jo Marie's story of loss and finding peace in this new venture is interwoven with the stories of the first two guests at her inn. Beyond the Picket Fence: And Other Short Stories is a series of short stories from popular Christian fiction author Lori Wick, and The River by Beverly Lewis is the tale of two Amish sisters who return home for a visit after being out of the Amish community for many years.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was this month's selection at the library book club. A.J Fikry, a 39-year-old recent widower, owns and runs a bookstore on a small northeastern island. He plans to drink himself to death, but becomes mixed up in several situations (a very rare book is stolen from him, a baby is abandoned in his bookstore, a publisher's rep recommends a book he waits three years to read but which leads to a romance, etc) that create an interesting story. Each chapter of the book begins with A. J.'s notes/thoughts on a short story. These notes are written to his adopted daughter and foreshadow what's coming up in the next chapter. I enjoyed the story line, however I thought it was a little clunky as the point of view jumps around and large spans of time elapse between chapters. (This book also contains quite a bit of inappropriate language.) I did especially like this quote near the end of the book, which I think sums up the structure of the book as well.

We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works. 


And, of course, a couple of children's books. Robbie and I listened to the audio book of True (. . . Sort Of)on our road trip to Niagara Falls. It's the story of Delly Pattison, who is a delightful girl who often finds herself in trouble when she's simply trying to have FUN. She has a wonderful repertoire of made-up words like "surpresent", "hideawaysis", and "mysturiousity". Delly's story is mixed in with that of her new friend Ferris Boyd, who isn't like anyone Delly has met before. Robbie and I both had mixed feelings about this FUN story being mixed up with the discovery of Ferris's father's abuse, although there was a happy ending. A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620 is another great book in the Dear America series. This book follows Remember Patience Whipple as she sails to the New World on the Mayflower with her family.

Have you read any of these books? Are there any here you're adding to your to-read list? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. After reading several reviews and talking to my SIL who read Go Set a Watchman, I determined that I would not read it; you confirmed what I thought. Although I haven't read The River, I have a couple Beverly Lewis novels on my shelf yet to read.

    You're right, of course, about the container for the flowers, but I never think about it before we leave since I rarely purchase them. I switched them to a different vase tonight for dinner, and put the wine bottle on the shelf by the basement door, thinking that might remind me. However, it's unlikely we'll go again until the spring!

  2. I haven't read any of these but I always do enjoy reading your reviews because it gives me a chance to think about books I probably wouldn't see in our local bookshop. I love that quote and I'm glad you shared it

  3. I've read several. I especially love Debbie Macomber's Rose Harbor series. Just read the newest one (I think it is the fourth in the series).

  4. Thanks for the reviews. I've seen the same sort of reviews about Harper Lee's book. It's a shame. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorites, so I'll skip the latest release and continue to enjoy her classic.

  5. I always enjoy your reviews, thank for sharing your love of books. I haven't been reading for fun much, but reading alot about how to help my boys in school. But I do have some books waiting for me to start. ;)

  6. I've already decided not to read the 'new' Harper Lee book so thank you for your review. I like Debbie Macomber, just read her first ever book that was re-released recently. I've read the first and keep meaning to find the others in the library.

    Patience Whipple was one of the books we did during Sonlight, but I don't remember much about it!

  7. Wow...I love your book reviews! I think "Never Said" would be a great book for my 16 year old daughter to read. She reads more than anyone I know...she can pretty much read a book a day and is the top reader at her high school. I am going to tell her about this book.

    As for me, I rarely find time to read but I love Debbie Macomber movies and Cedar Cove...and I'm sure there is another series of hers that I like but can't think of it. Thank you so much for sharing these reviews :) Hugs...Janie


Thanks so much for your comment - it's like a ray of sunshine in my day!