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Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Informative, Insightful
A superb story filled with lush imagery and deep emotional and psychological drama.

The Gift of Rain is the story of Philip Hutton. A 16 year old of half British/half Chinese parentage living in 1939 Penang (Malaysia). It appears Philip's inability to feel connected to either side of his heritage has resulted in him becoming a withdrawn, detached individual, It is while in this fragile psychological state he meets Hayato Endo a Japanese official who becomes his mentor/teacher in the ways of the Japanese culture and particularly in their style of fighting called aikido

What ensues from this meeting is Philip's story.

The reader is taken on a odyssey through Philip's life and relationship with his Sensei Endo-San and the Japanese invaders. Tan Twan Eng's writing is clear, concise and richly detailed. A story line is created that puts not only the protagonist but the reader on an emotional roller-coaster. Philip is thrust into an arena to battle conflicting emotions and values. The subjects of family, loyalty and most importantly duty are the many battles that Philip seems to neither win nor lose. On a deeper subtext is the concept of reincarnation and destiny and can our past mistakes be corrected.

A hypnotic read with a great story line, deep characterizations, and seductive prose. Mr. Eng's novel will leave you breathless, sorrowful, angry, contemplative, frustrated.

Why only 4 stars and not 5? The story was slow in the beginning but well worth the wait.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Difficult
Hated it but might be a good book club book

I believe I had the wrong impression of the book. I was expecting more of a dystopian, sci-fi fantasy read. What I got was a difficult to read (partly due to the use of Scottish slang), depressing narrative on the evils of the Scottish (or any countries)foster care system.

The novel\\\'s protagonist, Anais Hendricks, had no redeeming quality. I felt bad feeling that way because she is obviously a victim of an ill managed system in which she didn\\\'t really have any chance of coming out on top. The young girl is a drug addicted, potentially dangerous, apathetic teenager. Would she have turned out this way if she was in a stable, loving environment? Who knows and honestly I didn\\\'t care.

I was also put off by the amount of profanity in the novel. Without exaggeration every page I had read of the novel had at least 2 instances of the \\\"f\\\" word in it. I\\\'m no prude, but feel profanity should be used as a means of enhancing an emotional part of a dialogue. The author\\\'s liberal use of this type of language should give the reader an indication of the type of book they are reading.

The novel is infused with anger, violence and hopelessness. Yes Jenni Fagan creates a realistic, cautionary tale of the injustices suffered by these young victims. However, the subject matter just was not what I was looking for.

City of Hope: A Novel by Kate Kerrigan
 
Book Club Recommended
Not a likeable protagonist

Let me first state that I did not read Ellis Island so I had no history of Ellie prior to meeting her in this 2nd installment of a trilogy. The story is written in a straightforward prose with lots of historical background and many believable characters.

Kate Kerrigan's second novel revolves around Ellie's life back in the U.S. after the death of her husband. She has run away from her grief and hopes to lose herself in the glittery, fast-paced, life of New York City. Unfortunately, the depression has also come to New York.

Ellie is, as the back cover says, "a woman ahead of her time". She is smart, intelligent, and a shrewd business woman. Rather unheard of in late 1930's America. It's her capacity to find solutions to problems that gets Ellie back on her feet.

I didn't like her character very much. I found Ellie to be self-centered, demeaning and intolerant, especially towards men, even her husband. While in Ireland she seemed to value her work and businesses over her husband using the pretense of giving them a better life to justify her actions. She runs away because she can't deal with her grief and gives the impression that John was at fault for dying....how dare he!

So if Miss Kerrigan wanted to create a protagonist that left you wanting for more than what you got, she did an admirable job! I can't say I didn't like the story as much as I didn't like the main character.

 
Book Club Recommended
A protagonist you'd love to hate

This is Pramela Cory's debut novel. First in a trilogy.

I liked the novel because of its' mechanics. The writing was direct and the dialogue believable. Most main characters were clearly portrayed.

As for the story, this is bildungsroman, a classic story of a 17 YEAR OLD (I need to emphasize the age) who runs away from her small town home in Texas because her stepfather is abusing her and her mother does not believe her. She lands in Vegas....yes sin city. She's 17 years old and she heads out to Vegas to start a singing career. She hooks up with the owner of the Sands casino (who sounds to be almost twice her age) and lives the life of Riley with her lover while caught in the middle of a pissing contest between said lover and Frank Sinatra (who I figure had to be about 44 at the point in this story which would make him seem like a horny old man).

I had several problems with this story line and the protagonist Hassie Calhoun. First she's 17 but as you read the novel, she's whipping up drinks like a pro (as well as drinking like a pro), becomes assistant manager at the Copa Club and jet sets around with her controlling lover and she hasn't reached her 18th birthday. However, as unbelievable as her character may sound, upon deeper reflection you see that yes she is young and she makes all the mistakes someone of that young age would make.

Other reviewers found Hassie heroic, courageous, gutsy, but I found her tiresome. Here I applaud Ms. Cory's writing skills because she has created a character who makes you pull your hair out with all her wrong decisions and her blindness to all the warnings she receives from those who love her. Ironically, the first question in the book club questions in the back of the book is "How many times did you want to slap Hassie"? Ms. Cory knew the character she created was extremely flawed and she ran with the concept. I give her kudos for that!

Pamela Cory definitely has a great writing style and is able to subtly weave a story to showcase her skills.

Japantown: A Thriller by Barry Lancet
 
Book Club Recommended
A decent suspense/thriller

This is an ARC version.

I liked Japantown. It was a quick thriller with copious amounts of action and the evilest bad guys.

Barry Lancet's bonus to the story line was the international setting of Japan. Some reviewers felt the Japanese scenes were not always necessary and sometimes too long. I appreciated the historical aspects that Mr. Lancet shared in the story. To this reader, these informational pieces remade the typical suspense/thriller genre. Without the history, the story line would have no real basis.

I do think since the novel was written in a 7 day format, parts of the story were rushed and left under developed. Some characters also were victims of this haste and turned out flat. The ninjas were super-cool (although extremely evil and cold-hearted).

What I don't like about suspense/thrillers is the cliche of the evil guy spilling his guts before 'killing' the protagonist. It seems to be an inevitable part of the genre.

Overall a decent read.

No One Can Know by Adrienne LaCava
 
Some potential but falls flat

This novel had such potential however, it falls completely flat at the end.

There are several stories occurring simultaneously in No One Can Know, with the JFK assassination being the primary story line, or at least I think it is. I'm not sure but since it's his face on the cover I imagine I am correct in my assumption.

The story is as follows: ex-CIA guy, Haines, in Dallas when JFK gets shot -- goes to work for his best buddy, Tucker, on his ranch where he meets best buddy's mistress, Carla -- Carla also good friends with Vincent who is Tucker's brother -- Carla is Vincent's daughter's,godmother who also happens to be at Tucker's ranch. Now throw in Tucker's wife and teenage daughter into the mix. Consequently none of the characters are developed to their full potential (although I really did like Ivy Jean).

There were some believable elements here and Ms. LaCava had a good concept in the conspiracy portion of her story. This all gets neutralized with an ending that comes off hurried and lacking in creativity.

The Tilted World: A Novel by Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Adventurous
A good read

I won this ARC edition in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed this story of the great Mississippi flood in 1927 (I never even knew about that), prohibition, bootleggers, moonshiners and some romance. The story takes place within a 2 week span and Franklin gives the reader a wonderful portrayal of the lives of small town folks affected by prohibition, the law personnel whose job it is to enforce prohibition (or not enforce it) and the impending threat of levee breaks along the Mississippi.

Franklin and Fennelly were able to capture rural America with prose that flowed through the pages like the raging waters of the great river. The language is true leading to a fast paced read with no \\\'slow\\\' parts. Characters are believable and are further enhanced by their background stories. The romance portion of the story is downplayed making this a quasi romance novel.

Overall a very good read.

 
A decent adventure novel

I won this book in an exchange for an honest review.

The Forging is Tim Rose's debut novel into the fantasy genre. This novel contains the usual elements of dwarves, orcs, orgres, elves, magicians...you get the idea. The writing could be a bit more polished and I did find several type-o's.

Overall the story is quite simple; 4 friends on a quest. There's plenty of adventure and fighting with our protagonist getting their share of bumps and bruises.

I think what sets this story apart from typical fantasy novels is the fact that there are 4 of them working together. No one is stronger or smarter. Each brings his and her own strengths to the group. For a new writer in the field, Mr. Rose did an admirable job of meshing these 4 characters to make a cohesive and daunting adversary. On the flip side I would have liked to see more depth given to the characters, especially Breanna; perhaps have entire chapters devoted to just one character at a time. Mr. Rose does incorporate this concept but very fleetingly when he gives each character their moment of retrospection after a battle.

No Lord of the Rings or Hobbit, but a decent adventure story for someone who is trying his hand in a very hot genre right now.

 
Book Club Recommended
Boring, Pointless, Slow
Didn't finish

I was halfway into this novel and realized it was going nowhere. I did not feel anything for the characters and felt there was a whole lot of nothing going on.

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