Sunday, July 8, 2018

What's Val Reading? (June 2018)

Happy July! Well, more accurately, Happy 8th Day of July. I'm a little slow getting this posted this month ... but better late than never, right? Here's a look at what my sister read over the last month ...

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Goodreads)

In 1921, Perveen Mistry is 23 years old and the first female solicitor in Bombay, India.  Perveen works with her father at their law practice, Mistry Law.  A male client of the firm dies, and they need to contact the client’s three widows to ensure their wishes are respected and assets protected.  However, because the widows live in strict seclusion, they do not meet with men.  This means Perveen is the only one who can confirm their wellbeing and provide legal counsel, which becomes even more essential when a murder occurs in their home.

A second storyline is interwoven throughout the book.  This storyline begins in 1916 when Perveen was in college in Bombay.  She meets Cyrus, a handsome man from Calcutta.  Perveen falls fast, but is Cyrus too good to be true?

It took me until about the 100-page mark to really get into this one, but once I did, I was hooked!  Part of my issue was that there are some terms used throughout from other languages (Hindi and Urdu, among others). Mostly I could sort of guess from the context, but there were times I’m sure I didn’t get the full idea.  However, once I finished the book, I noticed that there’s a glossary at the end! So if you do read this one, be sure to utilize that.  I so wish I’d noticed it sooner!

The story is fascinating, the writing is great, and if you need a story to make you appreciate women’s rights today/to get you fired up about the limitations women lived with for centuries, this story will do the trick! 4 stars.

Content: Nothing objectionable

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (Goodreads)

In this book, Ariel Lawhon fictionalizes the last flight of the Hindenburg in 1937, beginning three days before the explosion and working toward the ultimate catastrophe.  While the book is a work of fiction, Lawhon did her research and created her characters from the actual passengers who were on the flight.

I loved this book.  I’m giving it 4.5 stars instead of 5 simply because it took me a little while to get into it, but once I did (maybe 60 pages in or so), I was HOOKED. Even though the reader knows what will happen (thanks, history), you don’t know HOW it will happen, or who will survive.

Content:  The f-word is used two or three times.  There were two spicy scenes, but they are both easy to skip and they occur between a married couple.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (Goodreads)

This is Kristin Hannah’s first novel since her huge hit The Nightingale (which I loved), so there was probably a lot of pressure for her to produce a great follow-up novel.  And did she ever! (Personally, I think this is even better than The Nightingale).

The year is 1974, and 13-year-old Leni Allbright is headed to rural Alaska with her parents Ernt and Cora to start a new life. Ernt fought in the Vietnam War and came back changed and broken.  When he discovers his friend left him a homestead in Alaska, it seems like just the fresh start the family needs.

The novel follows the Allbrights as they adjust to the wild and dangerous (yet breathtakingly beautiful) Alaskan frontier.  Love, hate, family, community, tragedy: this book has it all.  I loved the book, but there were a lot of sad and heavy themes throughout.  It’s not a “fun” read, but I thought it was absolutely worth it.  Just know that if you are looking for a light and breezy read, this isn’t it. 5 stars.

Content:  Domestic violence is a plot point, so take that into consideration.  There are a couple of non-descriptive sex scenes.

Still Life by Louise Penny (Goodreads)

A 76-year-old woman is found dead in Three Pines, a rural village near Montreal, Canada.  By all accounts, Jane was beloved.  Who would wish her harm, and why?

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team must investigate Jane’s death and determine if it was a hunting accident or something more sinister.

This is a murder mystery with a ton more character development than your typical thriller possesses. It’s the first book in Penny’s Armand Gamache series, and I enjoyed it very much.  It wasn’t gory or scary, but it had enough suspense to keep me riveted during my recent flight to Salt Lake City.  In fact, when we got off the plane, my husband was commenting on what a rough landing it had been, and I had no idea what he was talking about.  I’d been so engrossed in the mystery that I was oblivious to the world around me! I will definitely continue reading the series. 4 stars.

Content: No sex; there may have been some language, but I can’t recall for sure.

small great things by Jodi Picoult (Goodreads)

Technically I finished this book in July, but since my recap is late anyway, I thought I’d include it.

Ruth Jefferson is a Labor and Delivery nurse, and she’s unquestionably great at her job.  That is, until a white supremacist demands she be barred from caring for his newborn son.  When a medical emergency with the infant occurs, and Ruth is the only medical professional available, Ruth must make a split-second decision that could affect the rest of her life.

Like every other Jodi Picoult book I’ve read, this book was absolutely riveting.  In this story, Picoult tackles the difficult yet extremely timely theme of racism in the book.  While there is a white supremacist character/point of view portrayed, what Picoult is really trying to expose is the subconscious and institutional racism that isn’t always as easy to spot.

In her author’s note at the end, Picoult explains that she didn’t write the book for people of color – they already know their own experiences – but rather, she wrote the book for the well-meaning white lady who maybe hasn’t ever identified her own biases.  Personally, I had the light-bulb click on for me about white privilege while reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (I have very mixed feelings about that book, but it did open my eyes to white privilege in a big way), but small great things still gave me plenty of thinking points.  It’s uncomfortable, at times, but it’s supposed to be. I think this would make a great Book Club book, because this could be the starting point for some really needed conversations. 5 stars.

Content: One short (less than a paragraph) sex scene.  The f-word is used a few times.  Because there is a white supremacist storyline, the N-word is used throughout.

As always, thanks for sharing, Val! I haven't read any of these books; if you have, we'd both love to know what you think of them.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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