Review: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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I generally don’t read children’s fiction, but I wanted to read Nest to get an idea of the usefulness of a book about children grieving. I can report with confidence this: I believe Nest would be helpful for 10-14 year olds with a mentally unstable or absent parent. They would see they are not alone, people grieve and cope in myriad ways, and anger is natural. Young readers could see that maintaining connections — family ties, friendships, or even looser relationships — help distract as well as move a person through his or her bucketful of emotions. Moving forward is key.

That’s my opinion as a mother and a former schoolteacher.

My emotional response to Nest was pretty much bawling my eyes out. A child without two loving parents just kills me… though I know it is so, so common. I felt for Chirp and her sister, for Chirp’s friends Dawn and Joey… Why did they have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be upended?

Yet they found ways to cope. They found ways to hope. They found ways to stick together to fill up a little bit of what was missing.

Nest is well-written, from the sentence structure to the easy flow to the authentic characters. The only niggling detail was about prayer: the author had Chirp uncomfortable saying grace before a meal, or saying the name Jesus. But I’m pretty sure Jewish people say grace (to G-d, not Jesus) and they believe Jesus existed, just that he wasn’t the Messiah. Besides that, Nest was wonderful. The 1970s were portrayed just as I remember them, without being contrived or hokey. And though the ending was sad, I finished the book with the thought that those children were going to make it. They had hope, they had strength, and they had each other.

-Calliope
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Review: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

15251769_201403042048I love Karin Slaughter. She’s one of those authors whose new releases I always look forward to. Her Grant County series and Will Trent series exemplify crime writing at its finest. So it was with great anticipation that I began her latest novel, Cop Town.

The year is 1974. The place, Atlanta. The story revolves around two female police officers. There’s Maggie Lawson who’s been on the force for a few years and comes from a family of officers. Then there’s Kate Murphy, a rookie fresh out of training. Kate’s not prepared for the outright hostility aimed at females on the force, while Maggie has grown used to it. There’s unrest from every imaginable angle. Racism, sexism, religious bigotry are all at work. The “good ole boy” network is alive and well in Atlanta. Amidst all this turmoil a new danger lurks. Someone is killing Atlanta’s finest, execution style. When Maggie’s brother, Jimmy, almost becomes a victim, the danger hits too close to home.

Although the mystery/crime part of this book was good, it’s the character development and attention to detail that really carried the story for me. The author creates such a vivid, bleak picture of Atlanta during this time period, an era when civil rights and women’s rights were still freshly recognized. It’s hard for us to believe that these conditions ever existed but rationally we know it to be true. The characters are complex and go much deeper than first impressions imply. With the hand of an outstanding author, even some of the most unlikeable characters somehow redeem themselves by the end of the story.

Was this as good as Slaughter’s other books for me? No, but Will Trent and the gang set the bar exceptionally high. Still, it’s a good solid story with enough suspense to pull you in from the first couple of pages. I would love to see this one become the first in a new series.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Cop Town: A Novel

Review – The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam.

Review – The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam.

13129612This was a book that I went into blind. I read a vague description months ago, but when I read it this past week, I couldn’t remember what it was supposed to be about. I am glad that it turned out this way, as it gave me a pleasant surprise throughout my reading!
There are many well-known books that examine what it was like to be fighting in the Vietnam War, particularly from the American side. It is rare that we find a story that examines the war from the perspective of a Chinese immigrant living in Vietnam, and here, Lam has created a perfect cast of characters, all sharing similar experiences.
I’m not going to reveal any of the plot, as that would act as a disservice to the book. However, what I can say is that in The Headmaster’s Wager, Lam has created a world where nothing is perfect, and there is no right or wrong. Lam does not condemn, nor does he laud. Each character has their own faults, and yet their actions are all taken to survive in one way or another. An action that you may believe to be beneficial, may not end up being so, but yet out of that misstep, comes another result that may ultimately be successful. Lam expertly weaves together the idea that every action has a consequence, and no matter if it results in tragedy or happiness, life will go on.
The timeline jumps from various decades, beginning in the 30’s and ending in the late 1970’s. This could seem jarring in many books, but Lam presents in such a fashion that it becomes essential to character building. Like I said above, some of the actions the characters take can seem extreme and excruciating, however, just when we think we hate a character, or what they do seems unrealistic, we are transported back into another decade and some of the motive is explained.
Whilst this is ultimately a story of the human condition in a time of war, there is also an interesting historical element that Vietnam War enthusiasts, or even those with just a passing interest, may enjoy. I knew very little concerning the war before I started reading, and the story teaches you several different aspects to the war, the different people/countries involved, and first hand experiences of what life was like for the people in Vietnam (whilst this book is a fictional tale, Lam’s family emigrated from Vietnam, so some parts are based on recollections that he heard from his family), and so you come away feeling like you understand the time period a lot more.
I hate to make this comparison, but in a sense, it is like the film Titanic; you ultimately know what is going to happen due to hearing bits and pieces here and there about the true life events, but you end up hoping that events take a different course, and you learn about the minor players, the behind the scenes action, and all the cogs that make the motion. This suspense that Lam creates really is brilliant.
If you’re looking for a read that will fill you with the spectrum of emotions, a read that will pique an interest in the history behind the Vietnam War, a read that will make you question human motive, then this is the book for you. Take a leap of faith and jump into this book without reading the blurb, or any plot reviews.

~ Pegasus

Buy It Here: The Headmaster’s Wager