Book Reviews

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

By Keija Parssinen. Reviewed by Mary Vensel White

The Unraveling of Mercy LouisThe plot of Keija Parssinen’s debut novel, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, bears some striking resemblances to a release from last summer, The Fever by Megan Abbott. Both books are set in a smallish town and focus on a coterie of teenage girls afflicted, one by one, with a mysterious illness. In both towns, there is the question of an environmental pollutant and the intense reactions of the town’s inhabitants. Both novels attempt to submerge the reader into the stew of the anxiety… read more here…

Sisters of Shiloh

By Kathy Hepinstall and Becky Hepinstall Hilliker

Reviewed by Stefanie Kamerman

Sisters of ShilohSisters of Shiloh, co-authored by two sisters Kathy Hepinstall and Becky Hepinstall Hilliker, is a stunning new novel about the bonds of love and the bondage of sisterhood.

September 1862. Libby reads a letter from her husband, Arden, who enlisted in the Confederate army the year prior. A short time later, Libby discovers Arden fought in a… read more here…

Hausfrau

By Jill Alexander Essbaum, Book Review By Billie Hinton

The first line of Jill Alexander Essbaum’s stunning novel Hausfrau could describe any number of wives. None of us are perfect. But Anna Benz, Essbaum’s protagonist, spirals a dark trajectory from the first page.

Anna Benz is a 38-year old American expat hausfrau, married to Swiss banker Bruno Benz, mother of three young children, daughter-in-law to Ursula, Bruno’s mother who lives next door. It is clear from the beginning of the book that something has happened from which Anna has not quite recovered, and … read more here…

The Secrets of Midwives

By Sally Hepworth, Book Review By Linda Lindsey Davis

The Secrets of Midwives, Sally Hepworth’s first novel, focuses on women: their lives, their work, their cross-generational connections and conflicts, and their secrets.

The story is told in sequential chapters by three generations of women in one family: Neva, Grace and Floss. They have three things in common: They all are midwives by profession, they are all strong, independent women… Read more here…

A Memory of Violets

By Hazel Gaynor

Reviewed by Stefanie Kamerman

A Memory of VioletsFrom the bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home, Hazel Gaynor captures our hearts and minds again in her stunning new novel, A Memory of Violets.

Flora “Florrie” and Rosie Flynn are two Irish orphans struggling to stay alive on the streets as flower sellers in Victorian London, 1876. Florrie made a promise at her… read more here.

Rumours of Glory, A Memoir

By Bruce Cockburn and Greg King (HarperOne)

Reviewed by Brian Quincy Newcomb

The best reason to read a musician’s memoir has to start with some familiarity with the music, but it’s not the only reason. Canadian singer/songwriter, Bruce Cockburn has produced 31 albums of music while on a long and evocative musical journey from folk through jazz, rock and various ethnic influences, winning critical approval, modest commercial success and numerous honors in his homeland, including induction into the… Read more here.

Fields of Blood; Religion and the History of Violence

By Karen Armstrong
Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

In her latest book, Fields of Blood, religious historian Karen Armstrong, addresses a common claim in the current dialogue on the value of religious faith: that religious conviction is often a source of violence. Cases in point, 9/11 carried out by Islamic extremists, and in Christian history the easy targets are the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Troubles in Ireland… read more here

Neverhome, by Laird Hunt

Reviewed by Billie Hinton

Neverhome is the story of a young farmer’s wife, Constance, who recreates herself as a male Union soldier and travels from Indiana to Ohio to “defend the Republic.” She gives her name as Ash Thompson from Darke County, gets her uniform, and marches with her new regiment south to war. Laird Hunt’s lyrical novel is written in the voice of Constance/Ash, and it is her gritty, distinctive voice that drives the story as she quickly earns the nickname Gallant Ash, Read more here.

The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell

Reviewed by Linda Lindsey Davis

It is 1924. Prim, plain Rose Baker lives in a boarding house in Brooklyn. She spends her days typing police interrogation reports in a Lower East side precinct. While her work days are filled with stories of shootings, stabbings and robberies, the most exciting thing in her personal life is whether the boarding house stew will be beef or chicken tonight. Rose’s regimented, predictable life begins to fall apart when Odalie Lazar is hired for the precinct typing pool. more…

Turning on a Dime, by Maggie Dana

Reviewed by Carol Baldwin

Time travel. The Civil War. Multi-cultural. Horses. Romance. There aren’t many books that fit such a wide variety of categories—but Turning on a Dime by Maggie Dana does just that.

Samantha DeVries’ father is Lucas DeVries, a third-generation American of Dutch descent and master horseman; her mother, Gretchen, is an African-American and a history buff who has traced her family’s lineage back to 1875.

Caroline Chandler is the daughter of a plantation owner in Mississippi who prefers her brother’s… Read more.

Necessary Lies, By Diane Chamberlain

Reviewed by Linda Lindsey Davis

Ivy and Mary was here.

These five words are carved into the closet door of an old Raleigh North Carolina home. No one knows the origin of the words but each of the previous owners has been cautioned by their predecessor not to remove the words or cover them up.

Diane Chamberlain’s latest mystery is set in the South of the 1960s, when the social realities of … Read more here.

The Black Hour, by Lori Rader-Day

Reviewed by Rich Magahiz

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day is set up as a crime novel where the reader has no doubt as to who committed the crime in question or how. Still, the reader feels a lot of suspense as the main character, Amelia Emmet, tries to unravel various mysteries that her near-fatal shooting and the suicide of the shooter brings to the surface. Some of the mysteries are quite clear to her…

Citadel, By Kate Mosse

Reviewed by Robyn McIntyre

From the story of Sparta’s 300, the Maccabees, through to the lunch counter sit-ins of the Civil Rights movement, history has hundreds of thousands of stories of individuals who continued to fight their enemies, though outnumbered. Most of these stories are framed by what the people were fighting against—tyranny, religious persecution, manifest destiny, genocide. In Citadel, Kate Mosse writes about what the fight is for—love.

Chasing the Sun, By Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester will be guest host of #LitChat on June 11, 2014, from 4-5 p.m. E.D.T. Follow #LitChat in Twitter, or login to our direct channel at www.nurph.com/litchat.

Reviewed by Mary Vensel White

In Natalia Sylvester’s debut novel, Chasing the Sun, the curtain rises on a domestic drama involving Andres and Marabela, an upper-class Peruvian couple. Married for many years, they have grown apart and dispassionate. They sleep separately and spend most of their time in their own pursuits.

Book Review: Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

Reviewed by Kim Miner Litton

With some authors, you really have to wait for their next project. By then, you wonder if they’ll be able to recapture the magic of that first book, or if you’ll love them same way. In fact, you wonder if you really ever liked them in the first place or if you are just remembering them more fondly in retrospect. Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park exploded on the YA book scene in February of 2013; it was critically acclaimed and left many wondering what else we could expect from this new, exciting voice in realistic fiction.

Read More