Mini-reviews: The I Am Way Too Far Behind Edition

I’m beyond behind on my reviews, so I thought I’d do another edition of mini-reviews in an attempt to catch up.  None of these books were sent to me for review, I acquired them all by the library, bookstore, or in one case through a giveaway.

First up is Children of God by Mary Doria Russell.  This is a reread for me, and I actually reviewed it years ago, so I won’t say too much here.  It is the sequel to The Sparrow, my all-time favorite book.  I like Children of God, although not nearly as much as its predecessor.  My biggest problem with Children of God is the fact that most of my favorite characters are absent, and I spend about the first half of the book missing them tremendously so I find it difficult to get to know and love the new characters.  But I do think that it completes the story set in motion in The Sparrow, and it is a must read for fans of the first book.  The Stuff That Never Happened

Next, The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson.  I picked up this novel based on the glowing reviews I’d read from several bloggers, and I’m glad I did.  This is a compelling and believable story about a marriage built upon deceit and years of covering up secrets.  From the outside, Annabelle and Grant have the perfect marriage and the perfect life, but what people don’t know is that after almost thirty years of marriage, Annabelle still harbors feelings of love for someone from her past.  When she leaves Grant to care for their pregnant daughter, all those feelings resurface and she has to honestly figure out what she wants and what she’s willing to do to get it.  The characters in this story made it excellent for me, they were so well drawn, so precise and flawed to the point of absolute believability.  I raced through this one and would absolutely recommend it.

Things I've Been Silent About Things I’ve Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi took me forever to finish, which is probably why I thought it was just okay.  I listened to this one on my iPod for what seemed like months, but was actually about four weeks, and although I enjoyed parts of it, I found myself distracted and bored throughout a lot of the narrative.  I really enjoyed the parts about the political situation in Iran throughout the years, but honestly Nafisi’s family drama got to be a little much after awhile.  By the time I was halfway done with it, I just wanted to move on to another book, so my own impatience probably had a lot to do with my feelings towards the book.  I’d be willing to read more from this author, but this book in particularly wasn’t one of my favorites.

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone, on the other hand, I definitely liked.  The story is told in alternating viewpoints from Becca and Buckley, both of whom survived being struck by lightning as children, and their stories are very different but have many elements in common.  And while they grew up in different times and in different parts of the country, you can probably guess that at some point throughout the story they meet and realize they have a lot in common.  The circumstances surrounding their meeting are just as quirky and interesting as the book itself.  This novel is sort of “out of the box” from my typical fare, but I really did enjoy it and am happy I gave this story and these excellent characters a chance.

I loved, LOVED The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecelia Galante.  This novel is about 14-year-old best friends Honey and Agnes, growing up in the Mount Blessings religious commune.  Agnes is completely indoctrinated in the lifestyle, to the point that she punishes herself for her sins by fasting and sleeping on rocks, while Honey is not sold on the religion and spends entire days dreaming up ways to escape.  When Agnes’ grandmother, who does not live among the community, learns of some of the atrocities going on at Mount Blessing she whisks the girls away, against Agnes’ wishes.  There comes a point in the story when each girl must decide for herself what to believe and how to live her own life.  I have to be honest, I could NOT put this book down.  These characters were so intricately drawn, so interesting and fantastic, I loved both Agnes and Honey in different ways.  And the story absolutely fascinated me – who isn’t fascinated by the idea of a religious commune?  I know I certainly am.  So, yes, this one is a total winner in my book.

Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon, on the other hand, I did not love.  I’ve had this book on my radar for a long time so when I saw the audio at the library I decided to pick it up.  Unfortunately, the story just did not click with me.  While I liked the main character, Kate, the mystery aspect of the book had a lot of strange elements and felt very contrived.  Basically the story is that when Kate was a child, a friend of hers was killed.  Twenty or so years later, she comes back to her hometown to care for her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother, and another young girl is killed in a similar way.  There was a supernatural element to the story and I don’t think that aspect was done very well.  The audio production wasn’t bad, Celeste Ciulla was the narrator and she did a pretty good job channeling the personality of Kate.  Just, overall, I didn’t fall in love with this book.

War on the Margins by Libby Cone is another book I’d been meaning to read for a while, and unfortunately I felt rather ambivalent about the experience when I finally got around to reading it.  The book focuses on the Nazi occupation of the channel islands, Jersey most specifically.  There were elements of the book I liked – I do enjoy reading about history, World War II in particular, and one character in particular, Marlene, I really connected with.  But overall I couldn’t get myself invested in the book.  I would pick it up and read only a chapter or two before finding myself disinterested and I’d have to put it down again.  I’m not sure if it was the structure of the story, or the pacing, or what, but something just did not work for me.  I want to point out, though, that the issues I had with this novel are specific to my reading experience and I do think it would be a worthwhile read for fans of historical fiction.  It just wasn’t the perfect book for me.

So, there you have it!  A few books I enjoyed, a few I did not.  Now I’m almost caught up on my reviews and it feels fantastic. 🙂


15 thoughts on “Mini-reviews: The I Am Way Too Far Behind Edition”

  1. The Patron Saint of Butterflies sounds really good, and I, too, really loved The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors! Too bad some of the others weren’t quite as good for you.

  2. I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran, and I thought I was going to feel the same about Things I’ve Been Silent About. But I just couldn’t get into it, for whatever reason. :/

    1. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in my feelings on it! I think I’ll try Reading Lolita in Tehran because I do like her writing style and her story is very interesting…. so thanks for urging me to read it. 🙂

  3. I love your mini-reviews…you get right to the heart of the book and why/why not you didn’t like it. Now I need to investigate The Sparrow. I’ve never heard of this one and want to learn more about it. Stuff That Never Happened and Patron Saint are now on my radar thanks to you!! Excellent and satisfying post Heather. 😀

    1. Staci, thank you so much for your sweet and thoughtful comments (which I always looove to receive!). I really do hope you get a chance to read The Sparrow, it truly is my favorite book of all time and I think you’d love it.

  4. Oh, I totally bought into “Promise Not To Tell.” Although the supernatural piece did not work as well for me. I felt like leaving that out would actually have made the story stronger.

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