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review 2018-01-12 03:40
The Refugees
The Refugees - Viet Thanh Nguyen

I read Nguyen's well-received first book, The Sympathizer, so I was eager to read this collection of short stories, and happy to see it available on NetGalley. When I initially selected Sympathizer, it was on my husband's recommendation, but that book easily sold me on Nguyen's ability to compel a reader, especially one who wasn't sure about the subject. Like Sympathizer, the characters here live difficult, often impossible lives. In some cases, I admit, I wasn't sorry the story was short; I was happy to escape to a different place, with new characters and challenges. Despite the slim volume, the characters are fully-realized, and their stories are crafted with care and compassion.

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review 2018-01-04 22:08
Letters to a Young Writer
Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice - Colum McCann

I can't believe it's been so long since I read this book, but I am behind on my reviews and yes, it's a new year, so I am trying to catch up. The lateness, however, has nothing to do with my love for this book; this was a highlight of the year for me.


I've enjoyed Colum McCann's novels, so when he wrote a book on writing, of course I wanted to read it. (And I wanted to enroll in his creative writing class at Hunter.) When I look at the book again now, I am kind of surprised I didn't highlight passages. So why didn't I highlight this one? It would have taken all of the pleasure out of reading, what with all that highlighting. There are so many inspiring words here, as evidenced by writers and non-writers alike who rave about this book.


I especially appreciated that McCann addresses older writers here as well, and that he credits a whole slew of others with his own writing education. If you are an aspiring writer, this is a book to treasure, and, something I say only rarely — one to read again and again.

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review 2017-12-06 04:13
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker - Shelley Johannes,Shelley Johannes

This book was a break from all the doom and gloom I seem to be reading lately. Another pick from NetGalley, but not really what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a middle grade reader (should have read the whole blurb), but Beatrice is just starting 3rd grade, so it's more of an early chapter book. In any case, it is a cute, quirky story, and Beatrice is the perfect character to represent those of us who like to think in an upside-down kind of way. Third grade is hard, and often, other girls can be thoughtless or mean; sadly, Beatrice learns this immediately. But she stays true to herself, something that is rare and inspiring. Wish this was around when my own daughters were in third grade, because truly, that year probably won't make the highlight reel. Grab a copy if your daughter is finishing second grade, and arm her with this; Beatrice's humor and spirit will provide the perfect encouragement if things do not go as well as planned.

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review 2017-11-21 04:44
Juliet's Answer
Juliet's Answer: One Man's Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak - Glenn Dixon

I found the premise of this book engaging—a High School English teacher from Canada takes a journey to heal his broken heart to a place famous for its literary romantic roots. But Dixon's real-life story of unrequited love did not feel genuine to me; the friendship so far from a romance that it almost seemed invented for the sake of the story. While I especially loved the idea that there are people who write letters from Juliet, I wondered why they would let someone so inept in a relationship offer advice to anyone. In contrast, the other letter writers seemed so thoughtful and sincere, their carefully crafted notes proved they were really just sounding boards for the letter writer, while Dixon seemed to revel in his own awkward responses. I kept thinking I would be disappointed if I took the time to write a letter and got a response back from him. The classroom scenes that are interspersed with the ones set in Italy follow the arc of Dixon's tale too neatly; honestly, I would have preferred the entire story told in Italy, since the people Dixon meets are lively and fun, and far more interesting than the bland woman he is pining for back home. His description of Verona, though, is terrific, the city came alive for me and truly made me want to experience it myself.

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review 2017-11-07 04:14
Little Heaven
Little Heaven: A Novel - Nick Cutter

Why, why, why, does someone like me, who is terrified of horror movies and books, keep choosing these books from NetGalley? To be fair, I have not chosen a lot of them, and they all have one commonality — they were all written by Nick Cutter (or Craig Davidson, who uses this name as a pseudonym.) I don't know what it is about these books, but I've said it before (here) and (here), I just find Cutter's writing completely compelling. This time, I didn't even tell my husband about it, I just went ahead and read it without the horror-shaming that usually comes first from him. And guess what? I loved this one too, more than The Deep, and a teensy-bit less than The Troop. Maybe next time I'll try a Davidson book, so I won't have to sleep with the lights on for a week after I finish.


Honestly, that's all I'm going to say about this, you don't need anything else from me. Get the book and read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed. Freaked out, confused and sleepless, but definitely not disappointed.

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