Category: First Novels

Review: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

You’ll have heard of this book because of the awards it won in 2020, including the Booker Prize.  This story of a young boy growing up with an alcoholic mother in 1980s Glasgow is worth the read.  It’s dark, but once I finished it,… Continue Reading “Review: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart”

Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

This is my second book by O’Neill, and while it wasn’t nearly as powerful as Asking for It, it still kept me thinking well after I put it down.  O’Neill draws characters that feel very real, and her books leave an emotional impact.  Only… Continue Reading “Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill”

Review: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

This is a debut novel that’s received quite a bit of praise, but it was not quite as good as I hoped it would be.  Author Phillips is an American who decided to write about a very remote area in Siberia called Kamchatka.  Phillips… Continue Reading “Review: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips”

Review: Saint X by Alexis Schaitken

I had mixed feelings about this book, but I found the story and its characters really compelling.  Saint X is a fictional island in the Caribbean, a place where affluent white families go to soak up the sun and drink all day long.  The… Continue Reading “Review: Saint X by Alexis Schaitken”

Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

I didn’t know if I’d like this book, but I found myself listening to it at every opportunity and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  It’s the story of Vanessa, a fourteen year old in a boarding school in Maine who has a sexual relationship with her English teacher .  Years later, when other victims come forward and they look to her for support, she doesn’t know how to respond. This is her story, told over 17 years.

I’m finding it much harder to describe this book than I thought I would, because the words we use for sexual abuse (like rape, and victim, and power) are so important, and that’s what makes this book so interesting and so challenging.  Vanessa loves Strane and refuses to see herself as a victim — yet Strane is clearly manipulating her, and the effects on Vanessa as both a teen and an adult are absolutely devastating.  As are the many ways school authorities and even Vanessa’s parents fail her.

Review: The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah

This book about a Palestinian family in Chicago, Illinois begins with a school shooting.  Afaf, the principal of a school for Muslim girls, is praying when the gunman opens fire.  Then the book goes back to Afaf’s childhood.  Afaf is raised in Chicago in… Continue Reading “Review: The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah”

Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

I enjoyed and appreciated this character-driven family drama by Claire Lombardo.  I read it for my book club, which didn’t end up happening last month, and that was actually good because I never would have finished in time.  It’s a long one — but… Continue Reading “Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo”

Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I wasn’t expecting this book to suck me in as much as it did.  The office rom-com isn’t my usual type of book, but I was feeling the need for something lighter.  It starts out silly and a bit annoying — I didn’t like… Continue Reading “Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne”

Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

I wasn’t sure I’d like this book at first.  I don’t love science fiction that focuses too much on technology at the expense of character development, and this book features a high-tech robot as a main character. I read it because I needed a… Continue Reading “Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz”

Meeting Angie Kim, Author of Miracle Creek

Last week my book club had the opportunity to meet with Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek, a courtroom drama about a Korean-American family.  Kim was fantastic and spent a lot of time with our group.  She shared a lot of interesting details about how her… Continue Reading “Meeting Angie Kim, Author of Miracle Creek”

Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

I really enjoyed this debut novel that combines courtroom drama with a moving story about a Korean-American family.  Even better, the author is local and writes about a small town in Virginia that doesn’t exist but felt very real. The Yoo family runs a  a… Continue Reading “Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim”

Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos

I really liked this slow-burner of a novel about a program for the wealthy who want surrogate parents.  Ramos creates what I found to be a very believable scenario and raises a lot of really interesting issues regarding parenthood, wealth, immigration, race and class.  A… Continue Reading “Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos”

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