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Other Book Reviews

(Outside YA Genre)

Reviewed books rated on a scale of 1 (lousy) to 10 (fantastic)


The Echo Wife 8/10

by Sarah Gailey

A quick read that would be excellent for book club with interesting ethical questions about science, cloning, marriage/relationships, and murder. I'm still wondering how I feel about most of those topics!


The Dinner 8/10

by Herman Koch


To what length will parents go to protect and defend their children? As I read The Dinner, I kept thinking about how my older children constantly call me out for excusing their youngest brother's inappropriate behavior. My reasons mostly have to do with his being the youngest of four-I'm a more relaxed, understanding, and tired mother now then I was 8 years ago with my older children. But, would I do the same thing if his inappropriate behavior was something illegal rather than just refusing to take out the garbage or clean his room? I'm super disappointed that I didn't read this with one of my book clubs. I have so many thoughts and questions running through my mind that I need to find someone who wants to discuss it! 


The Bronze Horseman Series 9/10

by Paullina Simons


This trilogy is one of the most entertaining historical fiction books I have ever read! The love story of a Russian girl and a Red Army officer in Leningrad during WWII taught me more about the history of Eastern Europe than any history class I've taken. It is a romance novel, so if you don't like love stories and/or fairly extensive love scenes, this may not be for you!

Lilac Girls 10/10

by Martha Hall Kelly


Historical fiction based on the lives of Caroline Ferriday, a New York socialite, and Dr. Herta Oberheuser, a German physician working in a Nazi reeducation camp for women. Ms. Kelly's writing is beautiful and entertaining and kept me riveted.  

Mystic and Rider (Twelve Houses Series)  8/10

by Sharon Shinn


If you're looking for a adventure, put Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series on your list.  Kings, nobility, soldiers and mystics combine to make 


Luckiest Girl Alive  3/10

by Jessica Knoll (Fiction)


This book had potential, but I found the main character extremely unlikeable, so I was unable to get any enjoyment out of it.  I realize Ani (or whatever her nickname at the time) is an accomplished magazine writer living in New York, but hearing about every name brand dress, purse, or piece of jewelry was irritating and pretentious.  I would have probably been ok with with all the expensive labels, since Ani came from a middle class world and was trying to fit in with the extremely wealthy, if, by the end she had become a person who could see through that superficial existence, but that didn't happen. Yes, she made a step in the right direction, but she was still the mean, whinny, self-conscious wannabe up until the end.


A Thousand Splendid Suns 9/10

by Khaled Hosseini  (Fiction)


My daughter read Hosseini's novel for AP English and wanted me to read it, too so we could discuss it.  I was not excited. I had read The Kite Runner years before and had found it, while beautifully written, a bit disturbing.  I am so glad that she talked me into to it!  I loved it!  The story is sad and heart-breaking, but it has a silver lining and a happy ending and shows how goodness can prevail in a terrible world.

I definitely recommend it for high school age and older.

Thread and Other Stories  8/10

by Eric Halpenny  (Cross-Genre Fiction)

Historical fiction, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, fantasy -it's all in there! Eric Halpenny's collection of short stories crosses time, space, and genre, but sews itself together by asking the reader to question reality.  


I was impressed with Halpenny's knowledge in such a variety of subjects, but his writing is what really caught my attention.  I was pleasantly surprised at his ability to not only tell stories from multiple genres, but to also make them entertaining.  I enjoyed the thought-provoking dialogue and found myself trying to puzzle out what the author intended and what I believed the meaning to be.

I'm not a huge fan of short stories - I always find myself wanting more, but Halpenny's book is definitely worth a read.  With so many genres, you're bound to find one you love while definitely really liking the rest!




The One and Only Ivan  9/10

by Katherine Applegate  (Children's Fiction)

When Ivan the gorilla was first adopted as a pet, very few animal rights laws had been established.  Almost 30 years later, Ivan learns that a small cement cage is not the proper or humane habitat for any animal.  With the help and friendship of a stray dog and a young girl, Ivan sets out to rescue a baby elephant from falling victim to the same life he has lived in the mall circus.

I found this book delightful. It was sad and happy and depressing and wonderful!  A very quick, easy read for everyone who can spare an hour or two in exchange for a good-feeling story.

The Count of Monte Cristo  10/10

by Alexander Dumas  (Classic)

I just re-read Dumas's classic revenge story with my ninth grader who is reading it for English class.  I am very glad I did!  I had forgotten how it is the guideline for the definitive romantic adventure tale.

Edmond Dantes is wrongly accused of treason by jealous and greedy men.  After 14 years, he escapes his island prison and enacts his elaborate plan to avenge himself.  It's a wonder that Dumas could keep all the characters and intertwining relationships straight, but it makes the plot revelations all the more satisfying for the reader!  Read this book!

East of Eden 10/10

by John Steinbeck  (Classic)

A good friend gave me my first copy of East of Eden when I was in college. I will forever be in his debt for introducing me to one of the best books ever written!  The story, the characters, the scenery, and most especially the writing are a recipe for the perfect novel.  It has a little of everything - heartache, murder, sex, tragedy and redemption.  

If you've never read it, do so now!  If you've read it before, read it again!  After reading a lot of fluffy books (which I truly love), it's always good to rediscover what a wordsmith Steinbeck is!

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood  8/10

by Trevor Noah (Autobiography)


I learned quite a bit about South Africa, apartheid, and, obviously, Trevor Noah, in his autobiography.  I had no idea what Noah's backstory was before reading this book.  I have a new level of respect for someone who I thought was just a funny guy. I listened to the audiobook, which the author read himself (oh, that gorgeous voice and accent), making it even more entertaining and realistic - like he was talking to me and sharing his childhood memories. And, WOW! Listening to him speak many, many different South African languages is amazing! I think the two obstacles keeping me from rating this book higher were 1) high expectations and 2) disorganization.


1) I really enjoy Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, so I'm afraid I had high hopes.  This is unfair, I know, but true.  I expected to laugh more (he is a comedian).  Although, to be fair, a lot of the subject matter isn't necessarily funny, so maybe I'm being too critical.  

2) I thought the book jumped around too much.  I had a hard time keeping track of where he was living and with whom he was living, and to what school he was going, and with which friends he was hanging out.  I wish it had been a little more ordered.

Overall, I liked it. If you are looking for an entertaining way to learn about South African culture and tradition, this is for you.  Keep in mind, it is Trevor Noah, so be prepared for some language.

The Boy Next Door (The Boy Series) 7/10

by Meg Cabot (Romance)

If you want a super cute, fun read, look no further!  Each of the four books focuses on a new romance and is written in the form of emails, journal entries, ims, letters and phone messages.  The reader gets all the information through characters' descriptions or one-sided dialogue. Of course, the books follow the typical romance formula:

girl dislikes (rich, successful, gorgeous) boy

girl falls for boy

girl and boy have a conflict

girl and boy live happily ever after

but, the format of these books puts a different twist on the fairytale.  Definitely read these if you like adorable romance, although the first (The Boy Next Door) and fourth (The Boy Is Back) books are much better than the second (Boy Meets Girl) and third (Every Boy's Got One). And, there is some language (#2 uses the f-word a lot) and of course, descriptions of sex (although nothing too graphic)!

The Storied life of A.J. Fikry  9/10

Gabrielle Zevin (Adult Fiction)

A cantankerous bookstore owner discovers happiness through friendships, family and a new love.  Falls in my category of feel-good, but well-written novels along with A Man Called Ove and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Zevin created a nice blend of orignal characters and humorous situations. The literary references at the beginning of each chapter made it even more endearing. I'd like to recommend it to everyone, but I need to mention that there is some foul language (a number of f-bombs).

Blackthorn and Grim Series   9/10

Juliet Marillier (Adult Fantasy)

I absolutely love Juliet Marillier's books!  She weaves Irish folklore and fey myths into her stories that then become their own fairytales.  Plus, with characters that are strong, clever, and lovable the books are almost impossible to put down.  

In this series, Blackthorn escapes from wrongful imprisonment by agreeing to a fey bargain - she must help anyone who asks and travel north to live in Prince Oran's settlement for 7 years.  Grim (also an escapee) asks to join her in the journey north, and becomes her bodyguard and companion.  Together they solve many of the village problems, both magical and criminal, and become a valued and trusted part of the community.  They also build a unique friendship that helps them each heal from their tragic pasts.

With each book in the series, Blackthorn and Grim are introduced to new characters and mysteries that require their special talents and friendship to make for a happily ever after ending.

Although this is adult fantasy, Juliet Marillier writes beautiful stories for young adults as well.

The Girl Before  5/10

by J.P. Delaney (Mystery Thriller)   

I expected a little more from this book both knowing that Ron Howard is set to direct the movie version and that it has been compared to Gone Girl (almost a death blow for me - nothing comes close to Gone Girl), but even with those high expectations, I found myself on edge throughout the book.  It has an intensity that kept me reading to find out what twist would lead me to the killer.  At first a little confusing, the book jumps between two narratives, but soon enough the stories fall into place and the reader finds the connection between them. Red herrings, side stories, and supporting characters provide enough distractions that the truth isn't immediately evident.  

My primary complaint with the book is that it crosses the line between psychological thriller and Fifty Shades of Gray (not nearly as sexual, though). I like to be able to put books in categories, and unfortunately, I couldn't get a handle on what the author was trying to accomplish with this book.

Overall, a fast-paced, easy read, but not for everyone (graphic sex and explicit language).

​​A Pledge of Silence   8/10

by Flora J. Solomon (Historical Fiction)  

Set during WWII, A Pledge of Silence follows Margie, an army nurse, from a small town in Michigan to war time in the Philippines. She experiences love and happiness as well as tragedy and heartbreak.  She forms bonds and friendships she relies upon throughout her lifetime. She experiences horrors and nightmares she wants to forget ever happened in her lifetime. Margie survives the war only to be sent home and expected to live a normal life.  

A wonderfully written book about the atrocities of war and the after-effects on the people who survived.  Historical fiction that introduced me to another country's struggle during WWII.

A great book for book clubs - I highly recommend it.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon   10/10

by Grace Lin (Children's Lit) 

Minli, a young girl from a small village sets out on an adventure to change her family's fortune.  Although a typical fantasy/adventure formula, Grace Lin weaves an unforgettable tale of friendship, love and honor that is far from ordinary. Elegantly introduced throughout the story are other myths and legends that add even deeper meaning to Minli's journey.  A beautifully written tale that will help the reader remember the importance of gratitude, forgiveness, selflessness, family, and friendship.

I loved it!  I recommend this for everyone, but I think it is best when read to a child.

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