Staff Reviews of New Releases
Nutshell by Ian McEwan (publication date: September 1)
Goodreads Description:Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb.
Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.
Jill's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) I could not connect with this story, even though it was certainly an original version of the love triangle and well written. It was still worth reading but if it would have been longer, I think I would have struggled to stay engaged.
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (publication date: September 27th)
Goodreads Description:What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.
As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.
Jill's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) I liked this book, but the setting in Switzerland and references to neutrality felt forced to me. My husband is Swiss, and we have lived there and I didn't feel like the setting or interactions were very "Swiss" other than mentioning a few Swiss cities and cheese. I also felt that there were several sexual incidents/references in there which were not important to the storyline which were there for shock value. It certainly had lovely sections and I did like it but 3 stars is all I can give it.
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart (publication date: September 27)
Goodreads Description:Eleven-year-old Reuben spends his days exploring, hiding, and practicing parkour among the abandoned buildings of the Lower Downs as a way to escape the rough times that have befallen him and his mom--but his discovery of an extraordinary antique pocket watch changes everything. When Reuben finds that the watch has the power to turn him invisible, he's propelled on the adventure of a lifetime.
Katherine's Review:(5 out of 5 stars) Trenton Lee Stewart did not let me down! I loved the Mysterious Benedict Society series and was very excited when I discovered he'd written a new book. The Secret Keepers is great fun and I fell in love with the characters. I did find the beginning a bit slow, but maybe that's because I couldn't wait for the adventure (and puzzles) to begin.
The Hidden Keys by André Alexis (publication date: October 11)
Goodreads Description:Although the Green Dolphin is a bar of ill repute, it is there that Tancred Palmieri, a thief with elegant and erudite tastes, meets Willow Azarian, an aging heroin addict. She reveals to Tancred that her very wealthy father has recently passed away, leaving each of his five children a mysterious object that provides one clue to the whereabouts of a large inheritance. Willow enlists Tancred to steal these objects from her siblings and solve the puzzle.
Katherine's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) There was a lot for me to love in this book. It's a puzzle book with a well-developed main character, it's setting is atmospheric, and the writing, for the most part, is very well done. However, I couldn't give it more than 3 stars because I just needed a little more. Mainly I was disappointed with how key plot points were revealed. Also, the ending of the book felt like it was quickly thrown together and didn't seem to have the same flow as the rest of the book. Overall it was an enjoyable read, but I was left feeling mildly dissatisfied.
Goodreads Description:The apocalypse will be asymmetrical.
In the aftermath of a plague that has decimated the world population, the unnamed midwife confronts a new reality in which there may be no place for her. Indeed, there may be no place for any woman except at the end of a chain. A radical rearrangement is underway. With one woman left for every ten men, the landscape that the midwife travels is fraught with danger. She must reach safety— but is it safer to go it alone or take a chance on humanity? The friends she makes along the way will force her to choose what’s more important. Civilization stirs from the ruins, taking new and experimental forms. The midwife must help a new world come into being, but birth is always dangerous… and what comes of it is beyond anyone’s control.
Katherine's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) Although the content of this book is not pleasant much of the time, this is a very easy-to-read book.. The interesting spin in this book is that the virus that kills so much of the population disproportionately kills females. This creates some interesting groups including hives - one woman who leads a group of many men. While reading it, I kept thinking that parts could have been tightened up with more editing. I also felt like there were some inconsistencies with the main character (the unnamed midwife) and I never ended up liking her very much.
The Years That Followed by Catherine Dunn (publication date: October 11)
Goodreads Description:Revenge is sweeter than regret…
Dublin. Calista is young, beautiful, and headstrong. When she falls in love with the charming, older Alexandros and moves to his native Cyprus, she could never imagine that her whirlwind courtship would lead to a dark and violent marriage. But Calista learns to survive. She knows she will find peace when she can finally seek retribution.
Madrid. Pilar grew up with very little means in rural Spain and finally escaped to a new life. Determined to leave poverty behind her, she plunges into a life of working hard and saving money. Enchanted by an older man, Pilar revels in their romance, her freedom, and accruing success. She’s on the road to achieving her dreams. Yet there is one thing that she is still searching for, the one thing she knows will make her truly happy.
Sweeping across the lush European backdrops of Spain, Greece, and Ireland, The Years That Followed is a gripping, modern telling of a classic story. As two wronged women plot for revenge, their intricately crafted schemes send shockwaves through their families that will echo for many generations to come.
Jill's Review:(4 out of 5 stars) The Years That Followed has been compared to Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, so I certainly had high expectations. I was not disappointed!
If I am comparing this to Ferrante I would say it is similar in that it tells the story of two interesting women over decades of their lives, but rather than their friendship being the central theme, the women's lives circle around each other and they only meet once. The writing style is also different, but the overall gritty feeling and the women's struggles to be true to themselves regardless of the societal constraints certainly reminded me of Ferrante.
For me it was a page turner, and I really enjoyed reading about Calista & Pilar. This was my first book by Catherine Dunne, and I will certainly read another! A solid 3.5 stars.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (publication date: October 11)MAN BOOKER SHORT LIST!
Goodreads Description:Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations--those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. With exquisite writing sharpened by a surprising vein of wit and sly humour, Thien has crafted unforgettable characters who are by turns flinty and headstrong, dreamy and tender, foolish and wise.
Jill's Review:(4 out of 5 stars)This is the type of book I think of when I hear "Man Booker Long List"!
Told from the present-day perspective by Marie, this saga spans decades and generations but is centered around the lives of 3 classical musicians in China, Sparrow (Bird of Quiet), Kai and Zhuli. I was completely captivated by the storyline which included these three characters. At other times, however, I felt like I was plodding through the book and am still not sure I followed all of the familial relationships in the story.
The musical references in the book added to the atmosphere and made this an even more time consuming book, because I felt compelled to listed to the music that was referenced. I especially enjoyed "Moon Reflected on Second Spring" (Ah Bing) and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at the Exhibition", which were both new to me. It was also amusing when the teenage Ai-ming tired of her father's obsession with music complains about the "agonized rumblings of Shostakovich" and the "uptight fugues of Bach".
All of the characters seemed on a search for their own identity and their own unique path in life. "I've been searching for myself but I didn't expect to find so many selves of mine." I agree with that statement 100%.
This book takes a bit of work and commitment to stick with in the weaker moments but I felt richly rewarded by the end!