Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: La Isla Bajo el Mar

La isla bajo el marLa isla bajo el mar by Isabel Allende

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The poignant story of Zarité, a black slave in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) and later in New Orleans in the 18th Century.

I have read this book in the original language (Spanish), and Allende’s prose is simple and elegant, yet extremely vivid. The book is a mix of fairly detailed historical fiction and the slave Zarité’s voice, which brings an element of immediacy to the events. When she speaks for Zarité, Allende can shock us with the casual way the slave speaks of her treatment (e.g., her master extinguishing his cigar on her), and so gives us the utter helplessness of the slave.

But Allende shows us also the cost of becoming free–a fact that Haiti, in a way, has never recovered from–and, despite the inescapable disgust of slavery she creates in the reader, she also succeeds in making us see the slave owners’ point of view, in all its callousness, insensitivity, greed, and ignorance.

If I have one criticism it’s the slow pace of the book, maybe due to the detailed historical events she uses as parentheses to the story. It was sometimes a bit plodding, although it opened my eyes to the plight of the slaves at the inception of the slave trade.

Well worth the read.

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Book Review– Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska Looking for Alaska by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Move over Salinger, here comes John Green. This is a coming of age story that is truly contemporary and real, sans rose-coloured glasses. Green doesn’t skim over the concept that high-school teens know about -and often do- drugs, alcohol, and sex.

But Looking for Alaska is more than the “bad” things kids can get into. It’s about the search for self (Rabelais’ “Great Perhaps”) through being confronted with the realities of friendships, love, death, and the future.

A truly superb, daring novel.

Looking for Alaska has received many awards, including School Library Journal Best Book of the Year for 2005.
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Book Review: The Day the Falls Stood Still

The Day the Falls Stood Still The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Buchanan’s novel reads so well that it’s easy to think it’s written simply, but it’s in fact an elaborate, rich, and lush story filled with complex characters and historical details. These details –from World War I era– are what made the book for me. Buchanan made the setting vivid and real, and the characters who lived in it all the more well-grounded. Continue reading

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Book Review– Silent Thunder

Silent Thunder Silent Thunder by Iris Johansen

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Silent Thunder is one of the worst written books I’ve read in a long time, and greatly disappointing. The dialogue is trite and flat (“Son of a bitch. Bradworth was staring after him. “Bastard.”), the characters are unidimensional (the Russians are the bad guys), the story murky and at best cliche.

After 135 pages, I gave it up.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Marine architect Hannah Bryson has landed the assignment of a lifetime. The U.S. maritime museum has just acquired the former pride of the Soviet fleet, the legendary nuclear attack sub Silent Thunder, for public exhibition. It’s Hannah’s job to inspect every inch of the decommissioned vessel and make sure it’s safe for the thousands of expected visitors. Enlisting the aid of her brother, Connor, they delve into its long and lethal history.

Then, on a routine check, Connor discovers a cryptic message behind one of the ship’s panels. Before he can figure out what it means, there’s a deadly assault on Silent Thunder. Now, although the U.S. government warns her against it, Hannah will stop at nothing to unravel the truth about Silent Thunder. Even if it means coming face to face with the ruthless mastermind behind the plot—and joining forces with a mysterious and seductive mercenary who is willing to kill to make sure the secrets about Silent Thunder stay silent. . . .

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Book Review– The Resurrectionist

The Resurrectionist The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Resurrectionist is the story of Sweeny, a father who desperately wants to find a way to re-awaken his comatose son, Danny. To that end, he arrives at the “Peck,” a private clinic renown for its care of patients in a coma.

Interwoven into Sweeny’s journey is the comic book story of Limbo, the journey of a troupe of “freaks” in search of a place in the world.

This book is strangely fascinating in a Kafkaesque way, and although I found it plodding at times, I was prodded into finishing it. The emotions are intense, but, except for Sweeny’s, the characters’ affects are flat and puzzling. The reasons for their behaviours are most of the time a mystery and there are many loose ends left at the end of the book.

Although overall I found the book well written, the story is so alien and bizarre, the characters so strange, and the ending so unsatisfying that I would not read another of O’Connell’s books.

Note: The mention of comic book characters may make you think that this is a young adult novel. It is not. There are passages of explicit sex that gives this book an adult rating.

Here is the book blurb from Goodreads:

The Resurrectionist is a wild ride into a territory where nothing is as it appears. Part classic noir thriller, part fabulist fable, it is the story of Sweeney and his comatose son, Danny. Hoping for a miracle, Sweeney has brought Danny to the fortresslike Peck Clinic, whose doctors claim to have “resurrected” patients who were similarly lost in the void. but the real cure for his son’s condition may lie in Limbo, a comic book world beloved by Danny before he slipped into a coma.

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