CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To explore whether broken relationships can be restored.
FACTS: This book is written from the viewpoint of several different characters. That seems popular right now, but I find it annoying. Choices have long-reaching consequences. Sometimes those choices splinter relationships. What are we willing to risk for our children – or in what ways are we willing to expose our children to risk? “Ah the tales within a family that are never told.” Do we really even want to hear them? What secrets lurk in a family? What really makes a family? This is an interesting look and loss and reunion, though it was a little too predictable.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged.
CHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To explore whether secrets are better left alone or exposed.
FACTS: A brother disappears from his sister’s life. She assumes he is dead but is that so? How does a family adapt to their new reality? Ripples of this disappearance flow outward into all aspects of the family’s life. Can revelation of secrets bring healing, or should some things be left unknown? Family dynamics, abuse, and mental health all play a part in this rather improbable story.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): to explore the absence of a mother from a child’s life.
FACTS: Rachel, Viv, and Lorena are separated from their children for different reasons. They are drawn together by being absent parents. Through their experiences they work to resolve their separations and in doing so, learn about themselves and each other. The author, in describing the book, says: “Loss is as universal as love, the flipside of the coin, and it has its moments of both darkness and illumination – the light is always love, the only way to get through the dark bits.” In each case, the mother separated themselves from the child because they thought it was in the child’s best interest. But was it?
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged. The shifting chronology made it difficult to follow at times.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To explore friendship between very dissimilar people.
FACTS: If you enjoyed “A Man Called Ove” you will feel a strange sense of deja vu when you read this book. A grieving widower makes unexpected connection that lead to unexpected relationships. A connection with the dead, bullying, and baking all come together to bring new life in the middle of despair. It’s a very easy read. It doesn’t require your complete attention. A feel-good beach read.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged but rather contrived.
CHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To explore the Islamic worldview of honor and shame and their vital functions in our perceptions of Muslim women.
FACTS: Muslims live in a shame/honor culture. It is necessary to understand this culture in order to talk to Muslims about Christianity. Through brief glimpses into the lives of Muslim women, the author shows the influence they feel from their culture. The author also includes much of her personal memoir as well as Bible teachings. All of the information is good, but the presentation appears haphazard and disjointed. It was very difficult to follow the author’s train of thought. A different organizational theme would have been helpful. There is also probably enough information here for separate volumes, as it was hard to follow in this format.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Hung jury. The information was good but the format needs to be revamped.
CHARGE What was the author trying to say?) : “to explore questions of who we are, what we cherish, and how we see those who are different from ourselves.”
FACTS: Wealthy women don’t want to bother with the inconvenience of bearing their own children. A baby farm of Host mothers is created for the task. Preying on immigrant and lower-class women, Golden Oaks provides the perfect incubator for perfect babies. This book had so much potential but fell short of my expectations. Mired in identity politics, the plot line dragged on. The author made a point, but not much else. I had eagerly anticipated reading this book. I wish the author had explored more closely the motivations of all the parties involved. There was so much that went unexplored – leaving the surface barely scratched. The issue of surrogacy is very timely. So much could have been explored but the final product was very pedestrian.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Not guilty. Very disappointing.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): To explore how depression and mental illness even affect the right and famous as shown in the life of Isabella Blow.
FACTS: This is the story of Isabella Blow, an English fashionista, as told by her husband. Though not a designer herself, Blow is credited with discovering many who went on to be great designers. From her aristocratic lineage she inherited a hunger for power, money, and status that would never be satisfied in her lifetime. She always battled a fear that she would be left homeless. Her career began as Anna Wintour’s assistant and moved through stints as a fashion editor and fashion director. Her story is marred by depression. The book contains behind-the-scenes fashion gossip, tempered by pain, confusion, and excess. Her husband as narrator, often comes across as an uninteresting bystander rather than a loving spouse. Isabella was a fashion icon, after icons had gone out of style. She was a tortured genius.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged, but at times disturbing.
CHARGE (What was the author trying to say?): Just because we have always believed something, does that make it true?
FACTS: When Kit sees her dead sister on television 15 years after she was presumed dead in a terrorist attack on a train, things begin to spiral out of control. Secrets, grief, loss, and anger punctuate a story of trauma and redemption. Will the truth allow relationships to restored? How does the truth affect relationships predicated on lies? The author’s beautiful rose made this a story that is very readable and un-put-downable. This is a fascinating story told with a full gamut of emotions.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged. This is a story you won’t soon forget.
CHARGE What was the author trying to say?): To explore whether life gives second chances.
FACTS: Three women are trapped by the consequences of their choices. A promising Michelin-starred chef, a TV anchor, and a young girl come together in the Arizona desert. Drawn together by blood, yet straining for more – can they change what appears to be their destiny? Do they want to? This is an easy read, but rather predictable. It makes good entertainment without making intellectual demands.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged, but light fare.
CHARGE (What was the author trying say?): To explore individual choices made in Nazi-era Germany.
FACTS: Two childhood friends find themselves on opposite sides of the Nazi regime in Germany. Choices and circumstances separate the friends for over fifty years, but their lives are entwined in ways they can never foreseee. The shifting chronology made it difficult to follow at times. The grim reality of the times was often unbearable to read, and I found myself skimming much of that material. Though it is an historical novel, I was not interested in so many horrific details – which seemed to overwhelm the plot.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Guilty, as charged but often unreadable.