Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Reviews post illness Part 2

Here is the second and final part of my book reviews post illness:

Divided Loyalties by Patricia Scanlan (4 stars)

You can always rely on Scanlan to write a balanced and enjoyable family saga, and this novel is no exception. The tale of two sisters, one brother and their various sets of relationships has more than enough meat to it to make the nearly 700 pages no chore to read at all. I also thought the difficulties of looking after an elderly parent - and whose responsibility it is - were well handled, and it had a nice resolution. Shauna was definitely my favourite sister, and her story was the most dramatic and the most gripping of the set. A good reliable read.

Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain (4 stars)

This novel is very like Jodi Picoult - which is no problem for me at all - but much less tied up in the legal ramifications than Picoult sometimes gets. So this leaves far more quality time with the family, their relationships and how they cope with the disasters facing them. Not to mention the shifting sands of their internal dynamic - which is very well portrayed indeed. I can recommend it.

Set in Stone by Catherine Dunne (5 stars)

Ooh now, this book is a definite cut above the rest. Full of mystery, hidden secrets and very effective suspense, I just had to keep reading to find out if our heroine Lynda could unravel the mystery and save those she loved before it was too late. The gradual unfolding of the various crimes that may - or may not - have been committed is excellently done, and the ending is a masterclass in thriller writing. Great stuff.

The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller (5 stars)

Sue Miller is another thoroughly reliable author, and this novel held me gripped throughout. The developing relationship between the two sets of neighbours - one newly married and one secretly separated - is very good indeed. I  thought the portrait of a new marriage (the result of a whirlwind relationship) was simply top-notch, though I also enjoyed how the two women neighbours gradually take over the scenes. In essence, it becomes a novel about what women hide and what they reveal, and that's no bad thing. The powerful and bitter end is almost perfect - though I would have liked to have had another scene or two with the older woman neighbour as that would have rounded it off more effectively. Still, Miller is always quietly brilliant and I can recommend this one for sure.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (4 stars)

This seems something of a departure for Picoult - focusing as it does on the horrors of war and how terrible experiences affect the families of those who come after. Sage Singer is a very strong character and beautifully placed as a vulnerable baker within her community. I enjoyed her story very much and would have preferred to have spent more time with her. However the bulk of the central sections focus on Sage's grandmother's experiences of war and her time in Auschwitz and how she survived. It's both horrific and absolutely perfectly written.

So in some ways it was a shock to be delivered back to Sage's story at the end - though it also makes sense as Sage is searching for clues about her grandmother's past, and for good reason. There is however a decision Sage makes at the very end which I felt was totally out of character for the woman I'd come to know - and which left me feeling very dissatisfied indeed. Without spoiling the plot of a book I can otherwise recommend, I'd say it would have been far more powerful and emotionally accurate if Sage's decision had actually been the opposite one, and this would also have more hopeful in terms of her developing relationship with the Nazi hunter. Still, it's a powerful read nonetheless.

Anne Brooke
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy

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