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Posts from the ‘Jen’s Reviews’ Category

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

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Today it is president’s day in the United States and many of us had the day off of work. If you are looking for an appropriate novel to read on this day, I have the perfect book for you: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Read more

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

2017 is off to a good start for me, at least in terms of books. I’m participating in Litsy’s A to Z challenge (I’m admittedly obsessed with Litsy after finally discovering all the cool things over there) and since I’m mildly compulsive with respect to the order of how I complete challenges, I started off the year with “A.” Thus, The Association of Small Bombs by Mahajan was my first selection of the year.

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

 

dark matter

Shame on me but I’d never heard of Blake Crouch until I saw this book being promoted at Book Expo this year. I like speculative fiction (Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors) but I don’t typically read too many books that fall into the genre. I went into this book knowing little to nothing about it and here’s what I thought… Read more

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

queen of the night

I’ve been a bit of a slacker when it comes to this book. I received a galley a while ago (although to be fair I received it after the publication date) and have only just gotten around to reading it. Here’s what I thought… Read more

A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale

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A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale
First published: 2012 (most recent edition released 2016)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it/buy it here: A Perfectly Good Man

Set  in the heart of Cornwall, A Perfectly Good Man is a novel about faith, morality, and what it means to live a good life. The protagonist, Barnaby Johnson is a parish priest who is summoned to the home of a paralyzed young man named Lenny. When he arrives, he learns that he wasn’t called to provide comfort but rather to witness and provide last rites for Lenny who ingested poison while the priest was in his home. Barnaby witnesses the young man die, helpless to do anything other than pray for him. Lenny’s death has impacts for the whole community and Gale draws in various characters to highlight these far-reaching effects.

The novel is told in a nonlinear style with chapters centering around various stages of Barnaby’s life and the final chapter in the book takes place when Barnaby was a child. Barnaby is not a perfect man. He has moments of weakness, crisis, and doubt. Yet despite these moments, he is a good man (hence the title).  The nonlinear style is clever in building up suspense and providing a few moments of shock when the reader realizes how some of the pieces of his life come together. The emotional impact of various events only gain true meaning when certain facts are revealed in later chapters.

I had never read anything by Patrick Gale prior to this book. The publishing house contacted requesting a review stating that they thought I might like it because I had indicated preference for Colm Toibin’s work. There were definitely some similarities in style between the two authors and there is no question that Gale is a supremely talented writer. I enjoyed many things about the book including the writing style, the non-linear style, and the rich character development. The book is heavy on the religious themes — the main character is a priest after all. It’s certainly not heavy-handed or preachy and in fact the major conflict in the novel is a crisis of faith. However, the author has something to say about the power of prayer. I am not a religious person and I don’t particularly care for books with heavy Christian themes. In fact, I explicitly state (on our review page) that I won’t take requests for Christian fiction. I wouldn’t classify this as Christian fiction but it is an exploration of faith: faith tested and faith restored. So it’s a testament that I actually enjoyed it as much as I did.

This book will appeal to those who like beautifully constructed novels that tackle questions of faith. It is a heartfelt novel that is emotionally engaging and interesting. It will also appeal to those who enjoy reading books about ordinary people living in small towns.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Does it appeal to you? Why or why not? Have you read others by Patrick Gale?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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I just so happened to snag a signed copy of this book at book expo this year. This book is getting hyped all over the literary community. It comes out today in bookstores all across the U.S. Is it worth the hype? Read more

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

city of mirrors

The City of Mirrors may not seem like a book we would review on this blog, but it’s part of a trilogy that I have really enjoyed. I was thrilled to get an ARC of the final installment of Cronin’s Passage Trilogy. Here’s what I thought… Read more

The Pier Falls and Other Stories by Mark Haddon

pier falls

Out today, The Pier Falls is Mark Haddon’s latest book. Although I was cutting it down to the wire, I was able to finish and review the book before leaving for Book Expo America. Hope to see some of you there. Here’s what I thought of the book: Read more

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

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I’m finally back on track! After close to a month of reading very little literary fiction and too much “escapist” fare, I finally got around to reading a book that I can actually review for this blog. Today’s book has been sitting on my TBR shelf at home for a while so it’s about time. Keep reading to see what I thought, although those of you who know me well can probably guess. Read more

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

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The Madwoman Upstairs
by Catherine Lowell
Published: March 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Jen
Find it here:The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley and Simon and Shuster in exchange for an honest review.

The Madwoman Upstairs is Catherine Lowell’s debut novel and was released on March 1st by Simon and Shuster. It has been described as “a modern-day literary scavenger hunt” and centers on clues related to the Bröntes.

When Samantha Whipple’s father dies, she becomes the sole living relation of the Bröntes. Rumors surround Samantha about a mysterious Bronte estate. Many scholars speculated that her father had hidden away a vast fortune of unpublished works and Bronte memorabilia.  Five years after her father’s death, Samantha travels to Oxford to study literature. She is housed in an old tower and when copies of her father’s old books (books she had presumed destroyed in the fire that killed her father) start appearing in her room, she starts to wonder if there is any truth to rumors of vast estate. What ensues is a sort of literary scavenger hunt where Samantha uncovers clues to her father’s life and a potential literary treasure. Read more