Staff Review of New Releases
The Leavers by Lisa Ko (publication date: May 2, 2017)
Goodreads Description:One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.
With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away--and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
Katherine's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) While very intrigued by the premise of this book before reading it, I was slightly disappointed at the end of it. I didn't end up caring enough about the characters in this book. There are parts that I really liked and though it was heart-wrenching to read what so many immigrants go through, I feel like it's an important book for bringing these issues to light. 3.5 stars.
House of Names by Colm Tóibín (publication date: May 9, 2017)
Goodreads Description:On the day of his daughter's wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice.
His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory.
Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family - mother, brother, sister - on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace's dungeons and bedchambers. As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family's game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act.
House of Names is a story of intense longing and shocking betrayal. It is a work of great beauty, and daring, from one of our finest living writers.
Jill's Review:(4 out of 5 stars) The sections of this book told from Clytemnestra's viewpoint were powerful and fascinating. The scene of the death of her daughter took my breath away & I could feel the pain & the hatred welling up in her. He made her story very current while maintaining the mood of Greek tragedy.
When the narrative changes to Orestes' story, however, it lost some momentum for me. I expected the son of Agamemnon to be bold & fierce, so I could not help but feel disappointed in his meandering, but maybe that was the intention. Contrasting his voice to the fire & ice of Clytemnestra makes his story seem to plod along heavily and oh so slowly.
Sections of this book were impossible to put down, so I am rounding up my 3.5 stars to 4 for the ferocity of the passages with Clytemnestra. Although I am familiar with many of the titles he has written, for some reason this is the first book I have read by the author, but it will not be the last!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeycutt (publication date: May 9, 2017)
Goodreads Description:A stunning debut about a girl who has learned how to survive – but not how to live.
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is fine. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except sometimes, everything.
No-one’s ever told Eleanor life should be better than fine. But with a simple act of kindness she’s about to realise exactly how much better than fine life can be.
Katherine's Review:(5 out of 5 stars) I really enjoyed this one. It's an interesting mix of funny and sad but when I finished reading it, I felt hope. It gives the reader a great reminder to spend time getting to know people and not to assume or judge. I am amazed that this is Gail Honeyman's debut novel - it is so well done. I was sucked into the story immediately and could hardly put it down. I'm giving this 4.5 stars and rounding up!
Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (publication date: May 16, 2017)
Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.
A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.
Tirzah's Review:(3 out of 5 stars) After seven years, the fifth book of the Queen's Thief series is finally here! This time, we see it through Kamet’s eyes. For those who may not remember, Kamet is the slave of the annoying Mede ambassador Nahuseresh in the second book, The Queen of Attolia. Who would have guessed a minor character we met three books ago could be such an important part of the bigger picture? But that is classic Megan Whalen Turner for you and she again writes a story that is full of intricate details and surprises. Even her seasoned readers will have some surprises in store for them. There is one aspect of the story that I felt was a little stretched. This is probably my least favorite so far, because some of my favorite characters were either missing or little in the story. But it was still a pleasure reading another Queen's Thief book.
Evensong by Kate Southwood (publication date: May 16, 2017)
Goodreads Description:Margaret Maguire—a widow and grandmother, home from the hospital in time for Christmas—is no longer able to ignore the consequences of having married an imperious and arrogant man. Despite her efforts to be a good wife and mother in small-town Iowa, her adult children are now strangers to one another, past hope of reconciliation. Margaret’s granddaughter could be the one to break the cycle, but she can’t do it without Margaret’s help. It’s time to take stock, to examine the past—even time for Margaret to call herself to account.
Jill's Review:(4 out of 5 stars) Evensong is a quietly moving book about family life and love. There is not much happening outwardly in the book as far as plot, but rather it is all about what is happening internally and between the words that are spoken and the looks that are exchanged. I enjoyed reading it slowly, and I think the author did a tremendous job of expressing so much in between the lines.
". . . but he likely thought it a plain enough fact that the truths in our lives are all right there to be seen if we let ourselves see them, which makes my only real tragedy the fact that I never looked longer at myself."