Category: Highly Recommended

Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I couldn’t be happier that Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet won this year’s Women’s Prize.  I love O’Farrell but I worried that this book couldn’t live up to my expectations, after all the rave reviews.  It absolutely did. Hamnet is about William Shakespeare, though he’s never actually named in the book. It’s 1596, and 11 year old Hamnet…

Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up finding it both fascinating and moving. I knew it was about a true-life group of people in the Appalachians with blue skin, and it was also about the historic Packhorse Librarians, women who delivered library books on horseback to families in the…

Review: Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

This was a fantastic historical novel about World War II that is even greater because it is nearly all true.  Author Lawhon gives us the story of real-life hero Nancy Wake, an Australian who serves as a British special operative in World War II, working with French resistance fighters. As with many historical novels, Lawhon…

Review: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

If you’re trying to avoid thinking about the pandemic, this will NOT be the book for you. Otherwise, it’s another fantastic novel from Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder. This is a historical novel set in Dublin in 1918 during World War I and the devastating influenza pandemic. Julia Power is a 30-year old nurse in…

Review: Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

To date, David Mitchell hasn’t written a book I didn’t like, and this one is no exception. In fact, it will be one of my favorites because of its subject matter.  I don’t always fully understand Mitchell’s work, especially the horology storyline that runs through his most recent books.  But I love the way he…

Mini-reviews: The Night Watchman, The Glass Hotel, and The Lost Man

You may know I’m not a huge fan of mini-reviews. All three of these books deserve a full review. But given limited time, all three were really great reads so I wanted to share my thoughts. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich I loved this book, which tells the story about the Turtle Mountain tribe…

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: No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder

I’m adding this book to my list of nonfiction books I wish everyone would read.  It addresses the many misconceptions about domestic violence, like: It’s a relationship issue, not a crime. It’s not that bad, or she would leave. He doesn’t seem like a violent guy. People are killed by domestic violence all the time,…