Fiction

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Zumas imagines a world very similar to our world, except for a new amendment, called the Personhood Amendment, has been passed. It grants embryos constitutional protection and makes abortion and in-vitro fertilization illegal. We see how this change effects the lives of 4 women in different stages of life, with different struggles. Paralleling these women’s stories is the story of a 19th century female arctic explorer and researcher who made remarkable discoveries for which she never received credit because, being a woman, she was never given a voice. This book is about women’s voices being silenced, but it is also about the ways women express their voices despite being silenced. I think of this as similar to Naomi Alderman’s The Power, but where The Power is more driven by ideas and perspective, Red Clocks is more character driven, focusing on critical moments in the characters’ lives. This was an engaging book which I would recommend. Back to Book Reviews  

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Due to an environmental shift women have developed the ability to transmit electrical currents through their hands. This power gives them the upper hand, so to speak, and the ability to dominate men. Women are no longer susceptible the physical threat men represent. Men become vulnerable, the “weaker sex.” This change affects every aspect of society, and we see how deeply rooted gender structures are in every aspect of life, from the personal to the global. Everything is recast: interpersonal relations, political and economic dominance. Everything flips upside down and we are allowed to watch as the pieces fall. We get to see how men respond to emerging power structures, and how women react to the men’s responses. I love books that shift perspective, force me to rethink and re-examine, and this book accomplished that for me. Back to Book Reviews  

The Insides by Jeremy Bushnell

A psychic joins forces with a hitman named Pig who is working for an underground cult, and they chase a witch-turned-butcher who acquired a magic knife, which happens to be from a different dimension. Magic, Mafia and interdimensionality make this book a fun read and a wild adventure. It is a quirky thriller and may appeal to fans of Stranger Things due to its interdimensional elements. Maybe it is Stranger Things crossed with Enemy of the state, and a dash of Ghost Whisperer tossed in. Or, maybe not exactly that. Back to Book Reviews  

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

An entertaining Golden-Age style whodunit set within a contemporary mystery. Susan Ryeland, editor at Cloverleaf books is reading through the manuscript of the latest novel by bestselling mystery author Alan Conway. Unfortunately the last chapters are missing. When the author turns up dead, and the chapters are nowhere to be found, there are 2 mysteries to solve. Back to Book Reviews  

Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin

Beautifully written story about 74 year old Jules Latour, tormented by the deaths of his parents and wife. Now his grandson is seriously ill. Latour, a classical musician, has a shot at making a lot of money by writing a jingle for a huge insurance co. He sees it as his chance to redeem himself and use the money to save his grandson. A wonderful meditation on life and death, love and music. Back to Book Reviews  

Escape from Aleppo by N. H. Senzai

The Syrian civil war invades the calm and familiar lives of a young Syrian girl and her family in this novel. Bombs begin dropping nearby, and troops invade to turn their neighborhood into a battlefield and force them to flee their home. We experience the story from the young girl’s, Nadia’s, perspective as she survives a bomb’s near miss and becomes separated from her family. She must then find a way to survive the dangerous streets, the skirmish’s battlefield, to rejoin her family. While fleeing, she finds a mysterious old man and his donkey who guide her through the rubble and chaos, but as confusion rules the day, she is unsure whether she can completely trust him.  Is he protecting her and leading her to safety or using her as a human shield to protect himself? And how does he seem to know so many people? Nadia’s story brings to life the brutal circumstances from which the stream of Syrian are seeking refuge. Through her eyes we see the devastation and violence, we encounter the confusion of different factions of rebel groups, and, through her flashbacks, we learn about the events leading up to the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War. This is a great novel for anyone looking for a story about the current events in Syria. It is an engrossing read and would appeal to adults as well as children. Back to Book Reviews  

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

British MP James Whitehouse's affair with a coworker is not enough to create a scandal these days, but then she accuses him of rape. The trial that follows it told from two points of view - that of the prosecutor who is convinced of guilt, and that of his wife who believes him and stands by him but begins to wonder what really happened. He is a politician after all who knows how to bend the truth to suit his needs. The book explores not only the issue of consent and but also of privilege and power. The MP is a wealthy, handsome Oxford graduate, for whom success has always come easily, while his prosecutor is a woman who had to work hard to attain her position. Engaging and thought- provoking, with interesting characters. Back to Book Reviews  

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

It turns out, this is not a cookbook, nor is it really about food. It is, however, a riveting story. It is the age-old story of a crack addict mother and her handless son, separated from each other, trying to find each other again. The mother works on a farm called Delicious Foods (hence the title). Her labor pays for the crack her employer provides her, to which she is addicted. Her son, we discover very early on, has tragically had his hands cut off in an unknown event related to the Delicious Foods farm his mother works on. He wants to return to the farm and find his mother, but is it to rescue her or does he blame her for his injuries and want revenge? We slowly learn the back story leading up to the starting predicament, mother working at a crack house and son’s injury, as we follow the story. Did I mention that part of this story is narrated by crack cocaine? That in itself gives the book a dark, yet alluring feel from the start. I found it hard to pull myself away from the story and certainly recommend it for someone looking for an unusual, addicting and darkly humorous novel. Back to Book Reviews  

The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal

This book is translated from French, and done beautifully on top of beautiful writing. It is the Philomath Book Club choice for January 2018, and the type of book that is hard to put down. It touched my heart as a parent always aware of the unpredictability of life, and it roused my curiosity about the history of transplants and those artists whose lives are, amazingly, dedicated to the efficiency of life saving. It is an intelligent intense page turner! Back to Book Reviews  

The Obscene Bird of Night by Jose Donoso

This book had moments of clarity, or maybe I had moments of clarity while reading it, it was hard to tell. Most of it felt like slogging through a murky swamp, but not in a bad way. Swamps can be interesting. It took some time for me to follow the story with regular shifts in narrator, point of view, voice and even plot. Was I mistaken, or did characters’ names even change and were they in two places at once? A few tangents appear in the text that seemed hardly relevant, but ultimately set the backstory for the characters involved as well as the circumstances within which Don Jeronimo, the head of an aristocratic house, yearns to have an heir to his estate. Around page 200 the story seemed to stabilize and focus on the birth of his heir and his life growing up as a “monster” closed off in a rural estate surrounded by other “monsters.” I thought the novel would continue down this storyline, but twenty pages later it became clear I was back in the swamp. While a large house full of monstrous people can be quite a spectacle, wading through the swamp is sometimes preferable. Every time I thought I was getting a grasp on the story, something would change and make me question if I knew what was really happening. You might say this is a book you experience more than comprehend, which is often what great art is like. The writing itself was beautiful and fairly easy to follow, but any bigger picture of what was happening was always fleeting. In some ways, maybe this is truly representative of life, or at least life in the politically