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Search tags: netgalley-books
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review 2017-10-17 05:00
To Capture What We Cannot Keep
To Capture What We Cannot Keep: A Novel - Beatrice Colin

I admit, I judge a book by its cover. As a graphic designer, it comes with the territory, and a habit it's too late to change at this point. Having said that, I will also say that this habit has only rarely let me down. This book had the tremendous advantage of 1. featuring the Eiffel tower on the cover (compelling for me after staying within feet of it in Paris last summer), and 2. bearing a remarkable resemblance to the cover of All the Light We Cannot See, a huge favorite of mine. While I don't condone knock-off covers, this one, with a similar type layout to Doerr's book, subliminally convinced me it was going to be good. Normally I might feel manipulated, but Colin was able to follow through on the promise I felt when I first laid eyes on this cover, so I'll forgive her (and the cover designer).

 

I am a fan of historical fiction, inspired by real events with larger than life characters and their creations. Before I visited the Eiffel Tower, I didn't know much about the controversy surrounding its creation, and the fear of it being an eyesore is surprising knowing what an icon it has become for the city, many years after it was supposed to be dismantled. There are a couple of plotlines going on here, and of course a little romance thrown in for good measure, but the true story does not require a whole lot of embellishment to make for an interesting tale. The politics of the drawing room and the social scene in Paris provide a backdrop for what becomes a compelling story with a surprisingly satisfying untidy ending.

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review 2017-10-17 04:28
Born a Crime
Born a Crime - Trevor Noah

I was not really familiar with Trevor Noah when this book became available on NetGalley, but the title stood out. Later, when it was still on my to-read pile, I got a "you should read this" note from my sister-in-law through Goodreads. Since this was unusual, I moved it to the top of my list.

 

I was at the University of Maryland during the height of the Anti-Apartheid protests, and I was a (very small!) part of the protests outside the South African embassy in DC. Nevertheless, my concept of life in South Africa was very limited. Noah's essays provide a unique perspective of a life on the fringes of so many different cultures. They are at turns heartbreaking and hilarious, for every outrageous thing Noah does there is an equally outlandish story about his mother. Mother and son are almost, as they say, two sides of the same coin. I agree with Noah when he describes the book as a love letter to his mother, it is all that and so much more. A must read, sure to move and inspire.

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review 2017-10-17 03:59
Faithful
Faithful: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

This, for me, was not a typical Alice Hoffman story. Having read several of her other books (including her middle grade novel), this one, ironically, seems lighter, despite the weight of serious, complex themes. I appreciated that Hoffman tackled a conventional subject from a new angle — the car crash described at the start of the novel does not take lives in the literal sense— but both of the girls involved, and their families, cope with the "life" they each have left. Shelby has been dealt what may seem like the better hand (her friend Helene is comatose), but her guilt for the circumstances related to the crash, her experiences in the hospital after, and the fact that she has managed to build a life beyond it, all overwhelm any relief she might feel.

 

Hoffman is at her best rendering the finer details of ordinary life; here, even the minor characters provide transcendent moments with simple acts of kindness and compelling stories of their own. At some point, I found I was almost more interested in them than with Shelby, but that is not a criticism, Hoffman's powerful writing ensures each character is a fully realized, compassionate individual, worthy of our time and attention.

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review 2017-10-03 02:53
The Girl from Venice
The Girl from Venice - Martin Cruz Smith

You might read the description of this book and think, oh, geez, yet another book about World War II. What is it about this particular war, in a long history of ugly wars, that drives people to keep exploring it from every possible angle? I've read about this war from every conceivable front and so many unique perspectives, but when I read a book like this I am stunned at an author's ability to bring something new to the conversation.

 

I was almost surprised to see this book described as a love story — but of course it is; it's just that calling it that seems to belittle it somehow, or diminish the horrors of the war. Instead, the occupied city is brought dramatically to life with breathtaking moments of tension, mitigated a bit with some light-hearted humor and, (ahem), romance, from the fisherman and the girl he "caught", late one night in the murky waters of the Venice lagoon.

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review 2017-09-20 03:21
Crossing the Horizon
Crossing the Horizon: A Novel - Laurie Notaro

I think I could fill a shelf with all these obscure true stories of accomplished women. Notaro captures a frenzied time before Amelia Earhart was a household name; when scores of people were literally racing to be the first to cross the Atlantic, and many were dying in the attempt. What I love about this book is the three unique women Notaro profiles: the bad girl daughter of an earl, the beauty queen with something to prove, and the glamorous scene-stealer who I kept imagining as Lina Lamont from Singing in the Rain, for some reason. (If you remember who she is, you will hear that screechy voice say all of her lines as you read, sorry!)

 

In any case, this is part thriller, part slapstick, and always riveting drama. Why have I not heard of any of these women before? Why does this keep happening? I feel like I literally learned "the history of men" in school, and people are just now realizing our mistake. Let's hope they keep making up for it with compelling stories like this one.

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