Book Review: “Ghost Moth” by Michele Forbes

4 STARS

Written with insight, grace, and truth, this evocative novel does a wonderful job capturing the workings of this family, its time and place (Northern Ireland, deep in the midst of “The Troubles”, 1960s-later), and the past that haunts them. The change of pace at the end was unnecessarily dragging, in my opinion, and some of the secrets did not entirely convince me. But this is a fine and well-crafted book; well worth a read. I am happy I received this book free in exchange for review.

Recommended.

I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Here is a synopsis of the book with adjectives by the publisher.

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Book Review: “The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner

2 STARS

If I had not received a free copy in exchange for a LibraryThing review, I would not have finished this book, which frustrated and ultimately bored me. Kushner has the chops to be a spectacular writer and does much stylistic muscle-flexing but all the disparate components of this book remained just that. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. I wanted a fusion of pieces that would make the whole hang together. Instead, every time that story momentum started to build, or I started to get into a character or relationship, I got thrown out and had to slog through exposition for its own sake, and too many pontificating characters.

So much of the treatment is superficial. Kushner conveys the pompous narcissism of the Manhattan art scene, but not the charisma that draws us to the artists despite that. Her descriptions are very detailed – from motorcycle racing to student rebellions – but she never got me to care about any of it. I kept falling out of the narrative to wonder Why is she telling me all this now? Or at all?

Perhaps my negative reaction would have been less pronounced if the cover quote had not proclaimed her “one of the most brilliant writers of the new century.” That quote raised expectations that this book never remotely came close to meeting.

P.S. Here is a synopsis of the book, heavily embellished by the publisher.

Book Review: “The Healer” by Antti Tuomainen

4 STARS

A man searches for his missing wife as the world falls apart.

This is one time when an Early Reviewer program brought me a book I enjoyed without reservation.

I completely believed this dysfunctional, damaged world (here focussed on Finland), spiraling toward ecological apocalypse, and I got sucked into the story. The characters kept me at arm’s distance but it actually would have been out of sync with the tone if they had been more engaging. Overall there were too many coincidental connections among characters; that is my only complaint.

What most impressed me about this novel was how vivid and atmospheric it was, given the extremely spare writing style. Every word counted, every word needed to be there! I can’t think of many books that I can say that about – and reading Tuomainen has inspired me to go in and whack quite a few words from the novel that I am currently writing.

RECOMMENDED.

I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Here is a synopsis of the book, with some embellishments from the publisher.

Book Review: “Loyalty” by Ingrid Thoft

3 STARS

When I started this book I expected to give it 4 stars, maybe 5. The set up was strong and fun. The tangle of plot threads intrigued. The family dynamics entertained. And you really can’t have too many detectives with Attitude, so it was a pleasure to meet another one. Also, early on, there was an absolutely great line about how children are like NASA launches – you can invest lots of money and time in them only to see them go quickly off course. (Sorry I can’t provide the actual quote – i loaned my copy of the book to a friend.) But as the pages turned, my enthusiasm waned. The detective lost some appeal when she became preoccupied with wardrobe changes and when she turned out to be well nigh perfect (wealthy, smart, gorgeous, ballsy and more). The threats against the detective felt increasingly manufactured rather than intrinsic to the plot. The shocking family secret was telescoped waaay in advance. There were many references to real places and neighborhoods in the Boston area, yet overall the book was low on atmosphere. And by the end of the first book in this series, I am already tired of the family. Because I loved the first third of this, I would try another book in this series, to see whether the stuff that bothers me was tied to this particular book, or persists through the series.

I got this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Here is a synopsis of the book. The synopsis is from the publisher so expect extravagance.

Book Review: “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah

1 STAR

Clearly this is not my kind of book. It was a best seller and I cannot fathom why. I found it trite, tedious, and eventually, terribly manipulative in a movie-disease kind of way. The characters were incredibly cliched, the “history” was a shallow rehash of slogans and consumer product nostalgia. I am mad at myself for wasting the hours to finish it, which I only did because I had agreed to review it. I do not await the forthcoming sequel.

I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Here is a synopsis of the book. It comes from the publisher so expect extravagant claims.