Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blanche on the Lam

Blanche on the Lam: A Blanche White MysteryBlanche on the Lam: A Blanche White Mystery by Barbara Neely
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would never have found this book, if not for one of my reading groups on It was first published in 1992, and first of a series of Blanche White mysteries. We're fortunate to have the series now available on Kindle, as the paperback and hardcover versions are out of print and available as used books.

Blanche is a feisty character who gets into legal trouble for writing bad checks, but manages to sneak out of the courthouse, escaping from a sentence of 30-days in jail. And that's just the first chapter. From then on she is "on the lam," as "the help" for a wealthy white family. While she watches a mystery unfolding in the household, she imparts tidbits of wisdom, survival skills for black people in the Jim Crow South, and how to maintain your dignity in spite of those who might put you down.

It's a great read, even in 2015.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I flipped back to find the last book I read by Kristin Hannah, and it was Winter Garden, and I see the similarities between that book and The Nightingale. Both are about two sisters who are as different as night and day. One stays home while the other chases her dreams.

The difference is that The Nightingale is historical fiction about the German invasion of France and the Holocaust. Two sisters who are always at odds with each other, while protecting their family. Vianne stays home in their small town while Isabelle joins the resistance against Germany, showing amazing daring and strength. Vianne plays it safe at first, but later discovers her own strength in protecting the children left behind in the war.

All the while I was reading this book, I kept thinking of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which also centers on the German invasion of France but from a different aspect.

Both books were often painful to read. I was thankful for the bit of parallel story in Nightingale, as it left me with an unexpected bittersweet ending.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Girl on the Train has been compared by many as being similar to Gone Girl. I read Gone Girl over two years ago, and I still remember it as being a tightly-crafted novel. The memory is probably fresher because I saw the movie. (I liked Ben Affleck more in Argo.)

But what makes the novels similar? They are both told by more than one voice, more than one Point of View. Usually we can trust the voice of the narrator, but in both of these we have an unreliable narrator or two or three. We have liars and alcoholics prone to blackout. In both we have some pathetic characters. (Can they get a life?)

I liked The Girl on the Train more because there was more positive character development at least in the case of Rachel, the girl on the train. I found the character development of Amy in Gone Girl to be creepy. Not someone I would want to be in the same room with.

I gave Gone Girl four stars because in spite of the well-crafted story, the ending was unsatisfying. I have to give Girl on the Train five stars for closure.

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