Tuesday, November 6, 2018


Layers. I loved reading Kate Atkinson’s novel titled, Transcription, for many reasons. Atkinson’s finely written prose will please those readers who enjoy literary fiction and the art of writing. The protagonist of this novel, Juliet Armstrong, starts out as a strong and complex character and by the novel’s ending, the layers of Juliet’s complexity attain greater richness. Recruited first as a transcriber of spy tapes, then as a spy for MI5 during World War II, Juliet has something about her that makes her stand out and blend in at the same time. Atkinson captures the time period with great skill and offers a plot that will please readers who enjoy a twist and turn. Finally, I loved the wit sprinkled throughout the novel, especially the ineptitude by so many characters that it became funny. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Transcription from amazon.com.

The Only Story

Affair. Having a love affair sounds elegant and secretive. When Paul at age 19 begins an affair with Susan, a forty-eight-year-old married woman, it started out as exciting and secretive. Julian Barnes structured his book titled, The Only Story, as a fictional memoir, and over the course of fewer than three hundred pages, we follow the relationship between Paul and Susan over decades. The excitement, secrecy and elegance turn into cold reality after not many pages, and we see the gritty reality of everyday life along with the ways in which love can overlook shortcomings. As expected, Barnes’ prose is finely written and his insight into human behavior carries many insights. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Only Story from amazon.com.

Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old

Purpose. Whether you are young, old, or old old, you can find lessons about living well in a book by John Leland titled, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. Journalist Leland spent a year tracking the lives of six people eighty-five years old and older. Here’s one spoiler: happiness has a lot to do with having a purpose in life. Leland listened to the stories of these people and conveys them to readers in ways that are lively and interesting. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Happiness Is a Choice You Make from amazon.com.

Who Is Very Kelly?

Character. It took me longer than usual to read a novel titled, Who Is Vera Kelly?, by Rosalie Knecht, and I think I know why. While the chapters are short, they shift between two time periods and locations. While I thought this was a spy novel, it is really a character study which, duh, I should have concluded from the title. By the time I finished the novel, I appreciated getting to know Vera Kelly, the spy and the person. Scenes in Buenos Aires and New York City were finely drawn. Now that I know something about Vera Kelly, I wonder if Knecht will reprise her in another novel. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Who Is Vera Kelly? from amazon.com.

The Order of Time

Mysterious. Every now and then I step out of my comfort zone and try to read something in the sciences that I find unfamiliar. Carlo Rovelli presents a view of modern physics for non-scientists in his book titled, The Order of Time. Using plain language, he updates us on the contemporary understanding of time, and explores how much mystery remains on the subject. As expected, I finished the book with some head scratching, some bewilderment and a little more understanding about a subject I know a little better now than before I read this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Order of Time from amazon.com.

Some Trick

Wit. I have advice on how to approach reading the thirteen short stories in a collection by Helen DeWitt titled, Some Trick. I suggest you surrender yourself to her wit and follow wherever she takes you. Stop trying to connect how she went from the last paragraph to the next one. Enjoy her wit and insight and let her take you along for an enjoyable ride in each of these stories. She will introduce you to interesting people and you will come away with a fresh and positive view of human nature. Readers who enjoy intelligent writing will find lots of that in these stories. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Some Trick from amazon.com.

Two Girls Down

Vega. You may forget to re-apply sunscreen if you’re reading Louisa Luna’s novel titled, Two Girls Down, at the beach. Two girls have gone missing, and a family member has called in Alice Vega to help find them. Vega isn’t warmly received by the local police, so she teams up with a local private eye, Max Caplan. Luna develops these characters and the whole cast with great skill, while maintaining a plot momentum that fits the thriller genre. Caplan’s relationship with his daughter, Nell, was another high point in the novel. I finished reading this novel quickly to great satisfaction and wondered if Luna will continue to write stories featuring Vega, Cap and Nell. I’m ready to read them if she does. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Two Girls Down from amazon.com.

A Place for Us

Family. It was a real pleasure to take an armchair vacation spent with an Indian American family while I read Fatima Farheen Mirza’s debut novel titled, A Place for Us. Mirza’s finely written prose guides us back and forth in time as she develops the depth and complexity of an interesting cast of characters. We spend our lives defining the place we call home, and each of us can struggle with identity and belonging. Mirza presents our story on the pages of this novel, and she does that with great skill. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase A Place for Us from amazon.com.

Bloody January

Glasgow. After I read a review of Alan Parks’ debut novel titled, Bloody January, I had to answer a key question. Should I read this detective novel set in Glasgow introducing Harry McCoy and risk that this will be a long series and I will end up reading every one? I took that chance. Set in the 1970s, there’s lots of violence and blood, quirky characters and wooden ones. The story kept me engaged, and McCoy is still employed by the end of the novel, despite coloring outside the lines of acceptable police work. I was entertained by this debut novel and am willing to consider reading the next in the series whenever it is released. Readers who like Tartan noir, or dark crime fiction of any fabric are those readers who should enjoy this novel. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Bloody January from amazon.com.

A Distant Center

Quiet. I wonder why I don’t read more poetry. After reading the collection of poems by Ha Jin titled, A Distant Center, I noticed how quiet my mind and surroundings became. I usually read poems slowly, more than once. I find the experience calming and thoughtful. This short collection is packed with memory, images and descriptions of home and places far from home. Any reader who enjoys poetry will find many finely written poems in this collection. Those readers who want to find a quiet place to think can use the opportunity of reading these poems to go to such a place, however near or far that place might be. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase A Distant Center from amazon.com.