Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In an unnamed country in the midst of civil unrest, two young people meet. Fiercely independent, modern and sensual, Nadia, and gentle, protective and reserved, Saeed.  Two people who are drawn to each other by the very things that are different about the other. Furtively they pursue this attraction, but even as their love blooms, the world around them is dissolving into the chaos of civil war, making it impossible to keep their love a secret any longer and prematurely forcing it into the open.

With the war surrounding them, Saeed and Nadia begin investigating the rumors of doors that open into lands far from the fighting- places where they can make a new life. They pay an agent and when the time comes, they step through the door full of expectations for a new life. But this is not the end, just the beginning of Saeed and Nadia’s story. For as Hamid so rightly points out:

Every time a couple moves they begin, if their attention is still drawn to each other, to see each other differently, for personalities are not a single immutable color, like white or blue, but rather illuminated screens, and the shades we reflect depend much on what is around us.

Hamid has taken the immigrant story and has given us new insights into what it takes to leave the only life you know, and to go somewhere new to start over again. It is a story of what you take with you and what becomes important to you once you get there. A story about what haunts you from the place you left behind and what you fully embrace in the present. Hamid explores all these questions and more, in his gentle but insightful prose. This is a gem of a book; shining with authenticity and deep insights into the human struggle to find a place to call home and reminding us that, “[w]e are all migrants through time.”

Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Keith, Marian, Lauren, Sharon and Ken

Book study Worthy? YES!!

Read in ebook format.


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The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Twenty eight years ago Charlie and Samantha Quinn had no bigger worries than learning how to pass the baton between them as they practiced for a relay race for a school track meet. Twenty eight years ago, their mother, Gamma, an accomplished scientist and mathematician who used to work at NASA and Fermilab in Chicago, and their father, Rusty, a criminal defense lawyer, who defended all the riffraff in the City of Pikeville, were integral to their lives and they were a family. Then in a moment of violence it was all gone.

Now, twenty eight years later, violence has come to Pikeville again. Charlie, the good daughter who became a lawyer like her father, is the first witness at the crime scene and the violence she sees unleashes the horrific memories she has tried so hard to bury. As the investigation into this new crime begins, Charlie reaches out to her sister Samantha, who still carries the scars from that awful day twenty eight years ago. Resentful, at first, Samantha reluctantly joins with Charlie to try and uncover who did it and why, and at the same time come to terms with the crime that affected their lives so radically twenty eight years ago.

Slaughter continues to be one of my favorite authors in the crime genre. Her plots, although complicated and often surprising, are grounded in reality and her characters are people you know and understand. But I think most of all it is her ear for dialogue and her sharp, clean writing style which keep me coming back!  If you haven’t read one of her books yet, this is a perfect one to start with!

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian and Keith

Book Study Worthy? Yes

Read in ebook format.

Posted in Detective novel, Fiction, Legal Procedural, Mystery, Psychological Mystery, Suspense | Leave a comment

Less by Andrew Greer

In the midst of all the wedding preparations and the onslaught of family descending, I still tried to sneak in time for reading.  It takes a pretty interesting book to stand up to that kind of competition but Less by Andrew Greer not only stood up to the challenge but took me away from my own problems and made me laugh out loud more than once. Greer is a gifted writer and well deserving of the Pulitzer Prize he received for this book.

Arthur Less is a struggling author who is about to turn fifty and he has a dilemma. He has just received an invitation to the wedding of his former lover of nine years to someone else.  To go to the wedding would be very awkward. To just not go would raise all kinds of questions in his social circle, all of whom would attend the wedding. As Arthur mulls over what to do he spots an invitation he had received to some literary event in Berlin, and suddenly it all clicks. If he is traviling to various events overseas it would give him the perfect excuse not to attend the wedding!  Galvanized by this plan, Arthur, who normally avoids traveling, begins to accept offers back to back, from Paris and Berlin to Morocco, Japan and India, giving him the perfect excuse to not attend the wedding.

Travel, as everyone knows, is full of glitches and adventures, and Less, as an inexperienced travler seems more prone to glitches and adventures than most. Lost baggage, almost falling to his death in Berlin, falling in love in Paris to mention just a few are what Less experiences on this fateful journey. In between these adventures we learn about Less’ life, his mediocre writing career, the loves he has lost and found and then lost again and most of all what it means to be human.

Although Greer has framed this story as a scintillating satire of an innocent abroad, it is much more that that. It is also an unconventional love story and a meditation on that inchoate midlife yearning to somehow matter to the world. Funny and heart breaking by turns, this is a fun book to savor and enjoy!

Brenda”s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Keith, Sharon, Ken and Marian

Book Study Worthy? Yes

Read in ebook format.

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After the Wedding!

I missed my regular posting day on Friday because we were decorating the church. Now that the wedding is over and I have a little bit of time, I thought I would update you with some pictures!

All those bins on the dining room table turned into this!  Those are origami cranes hanging from the ceiling.









The bouquet for the bride.


And now that the wedding is over, my dining table looks like this!



It was a joyous, lovely, amazing, wonderFULL, exhausting day. It may take me a few days to recover but I hope to have a regular book review posting this Friday.


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Wedding Central-Eight More Days to the Big Day!

Usually I try to get my book reviews done ahead of time when I know that I am going to be busy.  But this time,  preparing for the June 30 wedding of Daughter Number 2, things just got away from me and I realized I was just not going to be able to get my blog done for this week. Instead I simply offer you this photo, as proof of the vast amount of work that has been done thus far and is now sitting in my dining room waiting to be unleashed at the church where I hope to see many of you at the wedding in only 8 days! GASP!




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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

When you are in the hands of a master story teller you can feel it! You are able to relax into the story and trust that the author will guide you through even the most fantastical of  tales. Arden is such an author. Based on a Russian folktale, The Bear and the Nightingale is a story of a brave young woman with a gift who must use it to save her family and traditions from those who threaten their very existence.

Vasilisa lived with her family in a small village in the northern part of Rus. The winters were cold and treacherous and when the cold wind blew the family would stay warm by gathering around the massive oven in the kitchen. The huge oven was built of fired clay and was large and took up a huge part of the room. It even had a sleeping platform where they slept. During the winter this was the gathering place since various chores could be done in the light cast by the fire in the oven. There Dunya, their nurse, would often tell stories about the spirits who inhabited the woods and lakes and rivers, or the household spirits that protected them. Sometimes she would scare them with tales about the the demons, like Frost, the Winter King who wanted winter to last forever.

it was a comfortable if not quite idyllic childhood. But then their mother died of and when their father remarried, his new wife, who was extremely devout, wanted nothing to do with the the traditions and folktales of old. Claiming that these superstitions were in direct contradiction to the doctrines of the Church, she tried to suppress the stories and stop people from making the small offerings traditionally made to the house spirits. She also did not like the free and easy way Vasilisa had been brought up and vowed that she must get her married and out of the house or into a convent as soon as possible.

Vasilisa senses something strange and quite sinister beginning to happen soon after her stepmother arrival and even more so after the new priest arrives from St. Petersburg. The spirits whisper of danger and as much as Vasilisa tries she cannot stop the decline of the spirits who guard their home and land. Her father and brothers seem oblivious to what is happening until it is almost too late, and so Vasilisa must find her own inner strength to protect her family and the home she loves.

Arden has recreated that magical time, when the sprit world and the real world were intertwined. In Vasilisa, Arden has created a strong female character who has the gift of being able to stand between both worlds. Arden has made medieval Rus come alive and adds enormous detail about the way people lived which adds interest and a sense of reality to the story. This is the first book in the trilogy and I have already ordered the second book and look forward to continuing Vasilisa’s amazing journey!

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Marian, Lauren and Sharon

Book Study Worthy? yes

Read in ebook format.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Suspense, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Dry by Jane Harper

I have never lived in a small town, but my grandparents did. I remember asking my grandmother about the neighbors next door or the people we met on the street or in the little grocery store.  What fascinated me is that there was never a short answer to that question. First the genealogy was given and then their relationship to our family, if any, and then where they went to church and then some discussion of any success, scandal, or sorrow that they might have had. I was always amazed at how much my grandmother knew about everyone.  The Dry is about just such a small town and what happens when  of one of their own is murdered.

In the middle of a severe drought and soaring temperatures, Aaron Falk, a federal agent, returns to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend, Luke.  Aaron and his father left town decades ago, because the town was convinced that Aaron had something to do with the death of a high school friend. Luke had been his alibi then and Aaron had avoided being arrested, but the suspicion and the town gossip made it impossible to stay. Now Aaron is back, but he soon discovers that his friend’s death is not as straight forward as the local police want to make it seem. Reluctantly, after Luke’s parents beg him to stay, Aaron begins to look into his friend’s death,  He soon finds that in a small town the past is always present and that in order to solve Luke’s murder he must first confront the past with its buried secrets and unsolved mysteries in order to find the real motive for this present day crime. But small towns are reluctant to give up their secrets and Aaron soon finds that as he gets closer to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes.

Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Marian and Sharon

Book Study Worthy? Just enjoy!

Read in ebook format.

Posted in Detective novel, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense | Tagged , | Leave a comment