POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Book Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

Author: Joanne Harris
Title: The Gospel of Loki
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Saga (Simon and Schuster)
Number of Pages: 315
Narrator: Loki
Quality Rating: 84.5

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

What’s It About?

Loki is born in Chaos, a murky underworld lacking form and substance. Curious about Asgard, the world of the gods above, he wanders from his home and runs into the Allfather–Odin. Forming a pack with the Allfather, Loki agrees to use his dark magic and cleverness for Odin’s cause in exchange for a home among the gods.

The other gods are not so taken with Loki. And, when Loki gets himself into a pinch from a bargain he makes with a contractor, the gods wish to put him to death. Thus begins a series of exploits Loki pulls off to cunningly get himself back into the good graces of the gods.

Eventually, Loki realizes that he’s never going to be truly accepted among the gods. So, instead, he sets out to destroy them. One by one, he begins to seek out weaknesses to exploit in the gods–playing them against one another to his own end. Nevertheless, as he becomes increasingly entangled in the world of the gods, he wonders whether his mischief is only going to end in his own demise.

Should You Read It?

If you are a fan of Norse mythology, you’ll love this book. The tales of Loki incorporate many well-known legends–amending them slightly with cynical and capricious slants. If you enjoy the kind of story where the archetypal villain is cast as the victim, you’ll also enjoy this story. The narrative is written in a sarcastic and whimsical manner, so if you enjoy that sort of tone, you’ll be intrigued by Loki’s account. If these criteria sound appealing to you, you may want to give this book a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: The Guardian, The Independent, Kirkus Reviews, SFF World

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Joanne Harris: Runelight (2011), The French Maket (2005), Chocolat (1999), many others

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Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Author: Paula Hawkins
Title: The Girl on the Train
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Riverhead (Random House)
Number of Pages: 336
Narrators: Rachel, Megan, and Anna
Quality Rating: 81.34

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

What’s It About?

Everyday, Rachel takes the train into town so that her roommate thinks she still has her job. Ever since her husband cheated her and left her for another women, she has dissolved into a pitiful drunk. Eventually, her new slovenly manner had cost Rachel her job. Now, she rides the train everyday and makes up stories about the people she sees. One of these people just happens to be Megan.

Megan has grown restless in her marriage. She is tired of simply being a housewife. In an attempt to experience something new and exciting, she starts an affair with another man that has recently come into her life. One day, Rachel happens by on the train and sees her kissing a man who isn’t her husband.

Soon after Rachel sees her betraying her husband, Megan disappears. Trying to help, Rachel tells the police about the affair Megan was having. Given that she’s a drunk, though, her testimony is deemed unreliable. Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife, had recently hired Rachel as a babysitter. As the worlds of Rachel, Anna, and Megan collide, all three women must face a truth that neither of them are prepared to face.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy a good psychological thriller built around dark secrets and hidden relationships, you’ll love this book. It has rightly been likened to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and it also bares a resemblance to Kimberly McCreight’s Where They Found Her. Themes include drunkeness, adultery, abuse, female independence, and broken memory. While the story does contain a good bit of reflection and introspection, there are a large number of twists and turns that build mystery and keep the reader guessing until the end.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Paula Hawkins: The Girl on the Train is Paula Hawkins’s debut novel.

Book Review: Minor King by Jim Mitchem

Author: Jim Mitchem
Title: Minor King
Genre: General Fiction
Publication Date: December 14, 2014
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Number of Pages: 200
Narrator: Jim Christianson

Minor King by Jim Mitchem

What’s It About?

Jim Christianson has everything he ever wanted. Having risen from a dark and broken past, he now has a beautiful wife, two great kids, and a job that many would envy. Finally, he has joined the ranks of the elite. Hovering between the world of the middle class and the wealthy, though, he begins to wonder if this is the life he really wanted after all.

Jim is a writer. He works for a start-up and, with his slick marketing copy and branding expertise, the company has taken off in just a few years. Despite his unquestionable importance to the organization, Jim begins to feel increasingly undervalued by his boss–the founder and CEO. Moreover, he is tired of using his gift to feed the corporate machine and wants to write something that matters.

When Jim’s child is mistreated by the entitled child of a rich neighbor, something in him snaps. In a moment of righteous indignation, he publishes a lengthy and incendiary blog post about the wealthy elite. When the rant goes viral and catches the attention of his boss, Jim must move quickly to salvage what he can from a rapidly deteriorating situation.

Should You Read It?

If you’re interested in the kind of story that centers around a man searching for identity and purpose in a world that is foreign to him, you might enjoy this work. It is marketed as a thriller and, while there is some suspenseful build up to an explosive climax, I would consider it more literary in nature. There is much more reflection, introspection, and dialogue than there is action. Prevalent themes include wealth, family, purpose, and the American Dream. If you find these ideas appealing or interesting, you may want to give this novel a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Note: This novel was published in December of 2014. My rule is to only review books published from 2015 on, but I had already read it and decided to review it before I realized when it was published. And this is my blog. I make the rules; I can break the rules. So, deal with it.

Book Review: Love is Red by Sophie Jaff

Author: Sophie Jaff
Title: Love is Red
Genre: Suspense; Horror
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Katherine Emerson, The Sickle Man
Quality Rating: TBD

Love is Red by Sophie Jaff

What’s It About?

As the city of New York suffers from the fear of a relentless serial killer dubbed “The Sickle Man, Katherine begins a new relationship with pleasant and personable David. Her interest is rocked, however, when he introduces her to his best friend. The friend is sullen and aloof–everything David isn’t. And, still, Katherine finds herself drawn helplessly and erotically to this mysterious man.

Meanwhile, The Sickle Man strolls from victim to victim, recounting how he gains the trust of his prey just before slaying them and describing the peculiar way he sees the world. These victims are nothing to him, though. They are merely the build-up to the one who will fulfill his dark purpose. In the end, he will complete his sinister mission by taking the life of Katherine. It is, he believes, their destiny.

When The Sickle Man murders someone close to Katherine, she must fight for the one she has left. But, how can she protect him when her own life is in danger? If she is to escape the inhuman psychopath pursuing her, she may just have to lose some of her own humanity in the process.

Should You Read It?

It’s difficult to pin this book down to a particular kind–it’s fairly unique. First and foremost, it is a psychological thriller. The methods and descriptions of the serial killer are harsh and disturbing. There is also a trace of romance/erotica–with a few intense sex scenes and sexual imagery embedded throughout. Finally, and this really comes to fruition in the final chapters, there is a touch of the supernatural horror–complete with ghosts and dark prophecies. What really stands out about this novel, though, is the rich language of the serial killer. His metaphors are vibrant in texture, abundant in quantity, and utterly original. If you’re looking for a thriller written with a poetic flair, you should definitely give this a shot. If you’re sensitive to vulgar content, though, you may want to avoid it. This novel is intense.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, My Bookish Ways, Under My Apple Tree, Blog Critics

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sophie Jaff: Love is Red is Sophie Jaff’s debut novel.

The 10 Most Loved First Person Novels from Spring 2015

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you are interested in first person narration as a means of telling a story in fiction. Clearly, since I have an entire book review blog devoted to the first person point of view, I do as well. But, let’s face it–not all first person novels are created equal. There is more to a story than the way it’s told.

What you are really interested in reading, then, aren’t first person novels in and of themselves; you’re interested in the reading the best novels written in the first person point of view. What follows is the first in what I hope to be many seasonal recaps of the most admired first person novels in publication. So, how do I go about determining which are the “best” or “most admired?” Of all the books I review, how do I decide what makes the list? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Book Rating Methodology

So, to begin with, the books on this list aren’t necessarily my personal favorites. Some of the books that I found rather inspiring made the list, and some of the books I most appreciated didn’t quite cut it. Why? Because I’m not writing this for myself–I’m writing it for you, the reader. For the purpose of this blog, it isn’t important which books I enjoyed. My purpose is to create a list of novels you will likely enjoy.

Now, wait a second–how on earth would I know whether or not you would appreciate a novel? Well, I don’t. But, to venture a pretty reasonable guess, I’ve gone with the wisdom of the crowds. Popular opinion has proved to be a more accurate gauge of satisfaction than expert opinion. For example, Psychologist Daniel Gilbert and his fellow researchers found that satisfaction increased by 50% in speed dating when participants in a study were asked to predict their satisfaction using average ratings versus a photograph and bio. As much as we would all think we’re unique and special in our levels of discernment, the greatest way to predict our preferences is to look at how other people feel on average about the subject in consideration. I’m applying this principle to rating books.

So, here’s what I do. After at least 30 days from publication, I measure each book’s star ratings on Amazon.com. I then divide the average number of stars received by each book by 5 to get a percentage. If a book doesn’t have at least 30 reviews by the time I tally them up, I don’t consider it. The books with the ten highest percentages win.

Is it a perfect system? No. But it’s better than simply assuming you’ll like the books because I do. Skeptical that this methodology will work? Put it to the test: read something on the list…

Spring 2015 Top 10 Novels Written in the First Person

The ten best first person novels published from January through April of 2015–based on Amazon.com reader reviews.

#1) Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Category: General Fiction
Quality Rating: 96.67%
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
What It’s About: A young girl is abruptly taken by her father to live alone with him in the woods, left with the impression that a natural disaster has destroyed the rest of the world.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

This is a very quick, dark, and heart-wrenching read. Fuller’s prose is absolutely exquisite.

I was impressed by the writing style. The way the author dropped subtle hints that sparked the imagination without actually detailing what was occurring, was cleverly done.

Fuller’s descriptions of the forest are vivid and she lets her characters show themselves through small and big actions that bring them fully to life.

#2) Saint Odd by Dean Koontz

Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Category: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Quality Rating: 90.85%
Saint Odd by Dean Koontz
What It’s About: A young man who possesses the supernatural ability of seeing ghosts returns to his hometown as he senses something sinister is about to happen.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

This book is like a great meal. It needs to be savored and enjoyed. Not just taken down quickly. It may honestly be the greatest in the series, and potentially one of the highlights from the portfolio of work from Koontz.

This is an epic tale of good and evil, and throughout the book brings us back to places and people familiar to us.

All in all, SAINT ODD is an outstanding work, a fitting cap to this wonderful, endearing series. Of all the books written by this master author, this book might just be one of his best.

#3) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Category: Young Adult
Quality Rating: 88%
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
What It’s About: A red-blooded teenage girl is taken in by the royal family of “Silvers,” the superior ruling class that possesses superhuman abilities, and she soon discovers that she possesses special abilities of her own.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

Red Queen is a fast paced, breathless kind of read. A true edge-of-your-seat story. Intrigue filled, action packed, twisty and highly dramatic, it’s a real page turner. Impossible to put down.

With it’s thickened plot and revealed secrets, RED QUEEN was devastatingly wonderful to watch, as it unfolded into a disarray of deception and betrayals that shattered an explosive web of blood and murder, as it painted the way for the evil power that ruled this blood defined world, and brought it to it’s knees.

All the key characters were very well developed and even the villains were complex.

#4) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Category: Young Adult
Quality Rating: 87.98
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
What It’s About: As a graduate of the ruling class’s military academy seeks to avoid his cruel destiny, a slave girl seeks to infiltrate the academy in order to free her brother.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

I love the world building of An Ember In The Ashes; it is rich and full without being overcomplicated. The Trials remind me of Hunger Games or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And the relationship between Elias and Laia is not “oh my God, where have you been all my life, I love you forever.” It is more risky and nuanced.

Sabaa Tahir knows how to weave a good story, furnished with plenty of action and unexpected twists. My emotions went through the wringer as I read it.

This book is AMAZING. The hype is worth it. It’s brutal and brilliant, with a lot of twists and turns, constantly surprising you. It’s great, not just as YA fantasy, but as strictly high fantasy — wonderful world building (Ancient Rome with a Middle Eastern flair), a detailed hierarchy, supernatural elements (Jinn, ghuls, and a mystical class of oracles), the Masks themselves. Once it gets a hold of you, it doesn’t let go. Fantastic.

#5) The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Category: General Fiction
Quality Rating: 86.95%
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce
What It’s About: As the man she’s always loved walks across the country to see her, an aging woman in hospice care writes him a letter revealing a deep, dark secret.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

Rachel Joyce has a rare talent. She spins a wonderful story, in simple language, but beneath that she explores a whole range of philosophical issues with honesty and compassion. Truth, trust, love, integrity, loss, responsibility, lives used, lives wastedthis is, without doubt, one of the best books I’ve read and one I’ll recommend without hesitation.

If you enjoyed Harold Frye, you will appreciate this story. But, even if you didn’t read Joyce’s other book, I would still recommend this one to you if you’re in the mood for a moving and beautiful story about broken individuals striving for connection and love in the world.

The subject is a sad one but I found it heart-warming and a beautiful capture of end of life. The prose is also wonderful.

#6) The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Category: Historical Fiction
Quality Rating: 86.22%
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
What It’s About: A single woman who runs a bookstore with her best friend begins to have recurring dreams about an alternate life in which she is married with children.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

The Bookseller: A Novel is one of those rare books that has keeps you eagerly reading to the very end.

This book was a page turner. Kitty is a sympathetic (if not perfect) character, and she has puzzles enough in *both* timelines to keep me flipping to find out her solutions. Pacing and character development were solid, and the story was well-grounded in its time period. She not only reflected the period musically, artistically and stylistically, but philosophically. It’s a particularly artistic touch that this woman’s story – exploring the crux of identity – is set at a period where the identity of women was being rapidly redefined. It’s an understated detail, but one that makes Kitty’s story all the more resonant.

This engrossing and provocative novel impels us to recall Frost’s poem about the road not taken. How do we make the big choices that will change our lives? If we could rewrite history, would we? What role does destiny or luck play in who we become? In addition, the author takes us back to the cultural landscape of the sixties: She integrates the politics, culture, and social issues of the time into her imaginative plot.

#7) Little Black Lies by Sandra Block

Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Category: Mystery and Suspense
Quality Rating: 85.6%
Little Black Lies by Sandra Block
What It’s About: A psychiatrist seeks to understand the meaning behind recurring, vivid nightmares that she’s begun having again after returning to her hometown.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

It was a good read. A good page turner. Written in an engaging, easy to read manner. The medical and psychological information included as part of the story set it apart from other mystery books.

Little Black Lies is a great read! Sandra Block’s humor alone, which comes through the main characters thoughts and words, will keep you engaged.

This is a great read for anyone who loves fast paced and completely engrossing psychological thrillers. There are many dark twists and some unexpected turns, I honestly did not see the twist coming so I was blown away! It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel; it’s beautifully crafted and expertly written. Sandra Block does have a medical background and it’s clearly evident. The inner workings of the hospital and its psychiatric ward along with its cast of doctors and patients ring absolutely true and make this story that much more believable.

#8) Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

Publication Date: January 2, 2015
Category: General Fiction
Quality Rating: 85.15%
Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski
What It’s About: A man goes on the run after being accused of killing a police officer who was actually killed by the friends who turned him in.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

Watch Me Go is a book about sadness. When your last lent chips are on the table and your escape plan is only a delaying of consequences. Mark Wisniewski does an incredible job of crafting these characters around a false hope whether it be with Jan who thinks she has it all figured out but is kidding herself and forcing her perspective on the situation, or Deesh, the one who realizes he has no shot but tries anyway.

This fast-paced novel has undercurrents, like all of Wisniewski’s work, of compelling ideas that we’ll think about, and return to ponder, long after we’ve put this fine novel down. If we’ve never thought about racetrack life, we will now. If we’ve never thought about being an innocent man on the run from the law, taking refuge where we can, we will now. This is a suspenseful novel that delivers what it promises from page one to the end.

Perhaps the story is a bit more “literary” than many books, but to me the style and methods make it that much more exciting—because one truly does not know what to expect and is genuinely shocked by events as the pages rapidly are turned. It is emotionally absorbing–I actually yelled out loud in shock at a few events.

#9) Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Category: Mystery and Suspense
Quality Rating: 84.2%
Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
What It’s About: A woman recovering from a mental breakdown following a miscarriage becomes the reporter responsible for uncovering the secret behind the body of an infant found dead on the edge of a college campus.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

Most books have a definite peak in the storyline. Where I thought this book peaked, was only a blip on the map. Up until the last pages, the reader continues to be dealt final blows and final twists.

Where They Found Her is well planned out, the storylines are probable and the numerous characters tend to hit all the major emotions for the reader from compassion to utter disdain and they mystery surrounding the infant is quite intriguing. I truly enjoyed the book and think others who enjoy psychological thrillers and buried secrets come to light will enjoy Where They Found Her.

The author expertly wove the various story lines together using a variety of written works, including an old journal, a newer journal, online newspaper articles, and first and third person narratives. It didn’t take very long to understand the reason for the various sources as they started forming a single story. It was kind of like seeing a painting being painted from the outer edges in toward the middle.

#10) Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Category: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Quality Rating: 83.26%
Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova
What It’s About: A woman travels to Princeton on a music scholarship and becomes the instant obsession of a mysteriously alluring man, all the while discovering a dark secret about her dead sister who had attended Princeton years ago.
Why People Loved It: Excerpts from most helpful Amazon.com reader reviews

Zourkova gives fabulous descriptions of her native Bulgaria without spending long periods of time there. She introduces and explains her countries folklore and the stunning differences to our own. She then seamlessly weaves them into a tale in America in a way that makes the reader why they hadn’t looked at these things before. It’s truly engrossing.

The story is elevated by the use of poetry, music and mythology, making it an especially intelligent and engaging read.

Among the many things that I loved about this novel was the way in which Zourkova interweaves Greek and Bulgarian myth, finding the commonalities between the two and creating her own, unique brand of myth. It was wild and harsh and carried the story through its entirety.

Book Review: The Sound of Glass by Karen White

Author: Karen White
Title: The Sound of Glass
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: NAL (Random House)
Number of Pages: 432
Narrator: Merritt (first person), Edith and Loralee (third person)
Quality Rating: TBD

The Sound of Glass by Karen White

What’s It About?

A few years after the passing of her husband, Merritt discovers that she has received the inheritance of his estate following the passing of her deceased husband’s mother. As she makes the move from her home in Maine to Beaufort, South Carolina, she begins to discover a side of her husband that she’s never seen before.

But Merritt isn’t alone. Shortly after her arrival, she is joined at the estate by her young, widowed step-mother, Loralee, and ten year old half-brother, Owen. Loralee is everything Merritt is not–peppy, southern, and pretentiously elegant. But Merritt lets them stay, because she feels as if she needs to get to know her young brother.

As Merritt gets to know Loralee, though, she discovers there’s more to her than meets the eye. To her surprise, the unexpected companionship of her new family may be just what she needs to face her husband’s past and find closure for the future.

Should You Read It?

This story is all about the characters–three women and the way they influence one another across time. If you’re interested in the kind of story that digs into the lives of its characters and slowly reveal secrets that both harm and heal, you’ll love this book. The tone is at once heart breaking and at once uplifting, but ultimately redemptive. If you enjoy a story about a family finding healing, you should give this a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Chicks Dig Lit, Kathy Reads Fiction

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Karen White: A Long Time Gone (2014), The Time in Between (2013), Sea Change (2012)

Book Review: Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Author: Kimberly McCreight
Title: Where They Found Her
Genre: Literary; Suspense
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Number of Pages: 336
Narrator: Molly Sanderson
Quality Rating: 84.2

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

What’s It About?

Molly Sanderson is a new reporter for a small newspaper in Ridgedale–a university town in which her husband has gotten a job as an English Professor. As she seeks recovery from a recent mental breakdown, she wants to make the best of the job in order to become a better mother again for her young daughter. When a lead reporter takes a few days’ leave for minor operation, she receives the opportunity to cover a major story. There’s just one problem: the story involves an investigation into the discovery of an infant’s dead body–and Molly’s recent bout of depression had stemmed from the miscarriage of her second child.

As Molly investigates the story, despite her misgivings, she stumbles across a large cast of characters from a police chief, an overbearing mother, and the “town whore” to a university president, a campus security guard, and a school teacher–all who may or may not be connected to the baby. As she digs further into the case, she discovers a dark history buried for decades by some of Ridgedale’s most long-term and well-respected residents. As the truth slowly begins to come to light, Molly herself is drawn into the story in unexpected and heartbreaking ways.

Should You Read It?

If you like the kind of psychological mystery that climatically brings a slew of disconnected characters together in a web of dark secrets, you’ll love this book. The story is heavily character-driven, with the inclusion of perspectives from several other characters in addition to Molly’s first person account. But the mystery surrounding the identity of the baby and its parents also gives the story a suspenseful momentum that readers of authors such as Gillian Flynn would enjoy. Essentially, if you love a mystery built around the secrets of rich, fleshed-out characters, you may want to give this story a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, Books on the Table, Jen’s Book Thoughts

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Kimberly McCreight: Reconstructing Amelia (2013)

Book Review: Under the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Author: Pamela Schoenewaldt
Title: Under the Same Blue Sky
Genre: Historical; Literary
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Number of Pages: 352
Narrator: Hazel Renner
Quality Rating: TBD

Under the Same Blue Sky by Pam Schoenewaldt

What’s It About?

Hazel Renner is the daughter of German immigrants, living in Pittsburgh at the onset of the first World War. As she grows, her family realizes that she possesses a miraculous gift of healing. Although she denies the ability and brushes it off as coincidence, her parents believe she is destined to become a doctor.

As the war breaks out and lines are drawn, German-Americans fall under scrutiny. Hazel’s family becomes increasingly torn between their new home and their heritage across the sea. To escape the chaos of the discrimination in the city, Hazel tries to find solace working as a teacher in a small town miles away. When the situation doesn’t work out, she goes off in search of the truth about her past–hidden from her as a child.

Hazel ends up working for a baron in a castle. The baron, also a German immigrant, feels the same tensions from the war as the rest of her family. In the castle, Hazel finds love in a man she remembers vaguely from her childhood. As the story progresses, the problems of the war raging across the sea manifest themselves in Hazel’s everyday life. As Hazel loses more and more to the war, she clings to the hope of having something left of herself as it draws to an end.

Should You Read It?

If you like historical fiction of the World War 1 era, you might enjoy this story. The focus is less about the war than it is about its effects on civilians. In particular, the racial discrimination that arises during wars between nations is a prevalent theme throughout. The gift of healing possessed by Hazel is not a significant plot point and serves more as a symbol regarding the brokenness of war. The story and its tone reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre. It’s essentially about a woman’s struggle to grapple with circumstances that are beyond her control. If that sounds interesting to you, you might find this to be a moving story.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Magical Realism, Peeking Between the Pages

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Pamela Schoenewaldt: Swimming in the Moon (2013), When We Were Strangers (2011)

Book Review: At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Author: Sara Gruen
Title: At the Water’s Edge
Genre: Literary; Historical
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Random House)
Number of Pages: 368
Narrator: Maddie Hyde (Pennypacker)
Quality Rating: 76.94

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

What’s It About?

As the second World War wages in the world around her, Maddie spends much of her time hanging around with her husband Ellis and his best friend Hank–who have avoided service for medical reasons. When they get a little carried away and make a scene at a high society New Year’s Eve party, Ellis’s father cuts him off from the family fortune. To get back at his dad, he and Hank drag Maddie to Ireland in search of the fabled Lochness Monster. Years ago, Ellis’s father achieved infamy by faking a siting of the beast, and Ellis intends to show him up by capturing footage of the real thing.

Once thy arrive at their destination, a small hotel in a rural area near the Loch, Ellis and Hank begin searching for Nessie and visiting people who have seen the beast–often leaving Maddie by herself at the hotel. As Maddie spends more and more time with the hotel staff, she grows increasingly fond of them–to the disappointment of Ellis, who insists that they are beneath her class.

When he returns from his expeditions, Ellis is always drunk and proceeds to cruelly insult Maddie in a variety of ways. His mistreatment of Maddie leads to many confrontations with the hotel staff, including disagreements with a man who has become specially interested in Maddie. As the story unfolds, secrets come to light about Ellis’s true character, why he isn’t serving in the war, and what he really thinks of his wife. All of this latent tension leads to a dramatic to conclusion in which the monster is revealed–although perhaps not the one they were looking for.

Should You Read It?

If you like the sort of story that centers around a woman’s struggle to escape a bad marriage, this will be right up your alley. Also central to the story is the theme of social expectations and the class divisions they create. Although the novel is set in Europe at the height of World War 2, the war is a minor theme. The rich depictions of Ireland and its people are emphasized more than the time period. Also, be advised that this isn’t really about a search for the Lochness monster–that point is merely a vehicle for the development of the deep relationship conflict that fills the pages.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, NPR Interview

Book Reviews: Boston Globe, Kirkus Reviews, Chicago Tribune, That’s What She Read

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sara Gruen: Ape House (2010), Water for Elephants (2006), Flying Changes (2005)

Book Review: Vostok by Steve Alten

Author: Steve Alten
Title: Vostok
Genre: Science-Fiction
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: Rebel Press
Number of Pages: 416
Narrator: Zachary Wallace
Quality Rating: 71.12

Vostok by Steve Alten

What’s It About?

Zach is a marine biologist trying to fly under the radar and quietly regain some of the academic flair that he’s lost since publishing his memoir. The book, called The Loch, was about his discovery and eventual slaying of the legendary Lochness monster. Despite proving the existence of a creature once deemed a myth, Zach had lost many on his team–and the experience made him deathly afraid of water.

Now, Zach is being approached with another mission of exploration. This time, he is being asked to join a team of researchers to explore an underground lake in Antarctica–never before seen by human eyes. The leader of the team has reason to believe that some small life forms could have survived and adapted to the environment over the thousands of years that Lake Vostok has been undisturbed. Despite his reservations, Zach’s curiosity gets the best of him and he agrees to join the team.

As the team settles in near Lake Vostok, they begin to take dives in a submersible. To their surprise, they encounter a giant thirty foot eel swimming through the lake. Then, the surprise quickly turns to shock when they realize that the eel is prey being hunted by something much bigger. As Zach struggles to research these new creatures and survive while doing it, he discovers there’s more to the mission than what he was initially told.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the sort of fast-paced science-fiction that centers around the theme of “Man Vs Nature,” you might enjoy this book. It’s a lot like the work of Michael Chrichton, but less scientifically technical in nature. The story moves fast–with little introspection and several plot twists. If this sounds interesting to you, you might want to give it a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, FacebookGoodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: The Eloquent Page

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Steve Alten: This book is the sequel to The Loch, published in 2005. Steve Alten has also published several other science-fiction series, including Meg (1997) and Domain (2001).