POVone: The First Person Perspective

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

Tag Archives: Family

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: 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: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill (Random House)
Number of Pages: 464
Narrators: Laia and Elias
Quality Rating: 87.98

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

What’s It About?

Laia is a “Scholar,” the oppressed class in a world divided between masters and slaves. When the remainder of her family is slain by her oppressors and her one remaining brother is taken captive, she goes out in search of the only people she believes can help–The Resistance. This ruthless band of rebels agrees to help free her brother with one condition: she must become a spy for them. Secretly working for the Resistance, Laia must become a personal servant of the most feared woman in existence–the cruel and merciless commander of the oppressive regime that slaughtered her family.

Meanwhile, Elias is graduating from the military academy to become a “Mask,” the murderous infantry of the ruling class that oppresses, exploits, harasses the slaves of the land. Elias hates the violence and despairs over the blood which will inevitably fall on his hands. Not only is he destined to become the very thing he despises, but he also has the misfortune of being the son of a mother who hates him–the commander of the army. Despite risking torture and execution, he plans to desert the empire before they can make him a muderer.

Just as he is about the leave, he is persuaded to stay by an Augur–the empire’s class of wisemen, in order to fulfill an obscure destiny. Shortly after deciding to remain, Elias and several of his classmates are selected to perform in the Trials–a prophesied and long awaited event whose victor becomes the next emperor and losers are promptly executed. As the Trials begin and Elias’s world becomes interwoven with Laia’s, both characters must fight to overcome their bleak circumstances and attain their own forms of freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy darker young adult, dystopian fantasy, you will probably love this book. It’s a lot like Red Queen and The Fire Sermon in terms of class divisions, but the divisions are less on genetic lines and more simply on political lines. Although there is a vague semblance of a love triangle, the attraction between characters is less composed of flighty romance and more composed of shared identity and purpose. The story is told in alternating narration between the two protagonists–giving the reader insight into what it’s like to be both the oppressor and the oppressed. Themes include the interplays of betrayal and friendship, slavery and freedom, cruelty and mercy, and death and survival. While classified as YA, the realities of an oppressive regime are not hidden–and the resulting tone is somewhat dismal. And, while there are certainly dystopian and fantasy elements, the writing is layered and somewhat complex–so it would also be appealing to those interested in more literary works. If this sounds appealing to you, I would definitely pick this book up.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Redeye Chicago

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes is Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel.

Book Review: Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Author: Claire Fuller
Title: Our Endless Numbered Days
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Tin House (Bloomsbury)
Number of Pages: 382
Narrator: Peggy
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: A, Excellent; of the first 48 reviews, the average reader rating was 96.67%.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

What’s It About?

Peggy is an eight year old girl whose mother has gone off to work in Germany. After witnessing an argument he has on the telephone, she is abruptly taken from her home out into the wilderness to live alone with her temperamental father. After a torrential storm occurs shortly after their arrival at an abandoned cottage in the woods, Peggy’s father informs her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. The two of them are the only ones alive and, just over the hill across the forest, the world melts away into nothingness.

Peggy’s father teaches her to take care of herself in the wild, at times coming to the brink of starvation. To alleviate his anxiety and boredom, Peggy’s father comes up with endless projects–from creating a makeshift piano for Peggy to rebuilding the cottage they’ve come to call home.

Over time, Peggy’s father slowly loses his mind. To escape his violent and mercurial outbursts, Peggy begins to venture off into the woods by herself. Soon, she meets another man who has been living in the forest. As she develops a relationship with this mystery man, he becomes a refuge from her father. As she grows into her late teens, Peggy’s father reaches his wit’s end–leading to a dramatic showdown between Peggy, her father, and her new secret lover.

Should You Read It?

If you like a good psychological mystery, you’ll love this story. Told through the lens of a child, the author captures the world–not as it is–but as it is seen through damaged eyes. The narrative and tone leave the reader wondering what’s real and what’s imagined–all the way up to the dramatic and cathartic conclusion. If you enjoy a good survival story, you’ll probably like this book as well–as it is set in an isolated wilderness. While the writing style creates a strong sense of mystery and movement, the themes are darkly and deeply literary. So, whether your tastes tend more toward the high brow or the nitty gritty, this story will likely appeal to you if enjoy a good tale of mystery and madness.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: The Guardian, The Socratic Salon, The Chicago Tribune

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Claire Fuller: Our Endless Numbered Days is Claire Fuller’s debut novel.

Book Review: Still Waters by Ash Parsons

Author: Ash Parsons
Title: Still Waters
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Philomel (Random House)
Number of Pages: 320
Narrator: Jason

Still Waters by Ash Parsons

What’s It About?

As a senior, Jason is known by all as the tough guy from the wrong side of the tracks. He gets into a lot of fights and has a scary reputation among his peers. But, in his view, he doesn’t start trouble; he is simply very efficient at finishing it. Defending himself and his sister against the abusive tirades of his father, experience has taught him to stand and fight rather than to walk away.

Jason is a loner. He is guarded in his relationships and only has one friend that he really opens up to. So, when he is approached by the most popular kid in school with an odd proposition, he is naturally suspicious. Seeking to build his reputation for an undisclosed reason, this other boy offers to pay Jason to hang out with him. Reluctantly, Jason agrees–because the money may just give him and his sister their ticket to freedom.

As Jason begins to hang out with the popular crowd, he senses that something is off. The more time he spends with them, the more he feels like he’s being set up. As new people come into his life, he isn’t sure who he can trust. Suddenly, the lines aren’t so clear. Who will he need to fight? And who will he need to fight for?

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the kind of young adult story that centers on a kid dealing with a bad home life, you’ll probably really love this book. For a YA novel, it was really gritty and disturbing–so it’s not for the faint of heart. The focus on a disadvantaged kid trying to make the most of the situation reminded me a lot of Where All the Light Tends to Go. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue built up throughout, leading to a dramatic conclusion. Also, there’s a good balance of introspection and fast-paced action–so it would appeal to lovers of both literary and genre works.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Dee’s Reads, Bibliophile Gathering, Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Ash Parsons: Still Waters is Ash Parsons’s debut novel.

Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Author: Francesca Haig
Title: The Fire Sermon
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Gallery (Simon and Schuster)
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Cassandra

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

What’s It About?

Cassandra has been born into a post-apocalyptic world in which all people who procreate give birth to twins–one who is perfectly normal and another who is plagued with some sort of deformity. The parents keep the healthy offspring, called Alphas, and exile the unhealthy children, called Omegas to live in poverty and subjugation.

Omegas cannot procreate, but they do have one advantage that keeps the Alphas from getting rid of them altogether. The Omegas stay connected somehow to their Alpha counterparts such that when one twin dies, so does the other. The ruling party of the Alphas, called the Council, is on a perpetual search to understand how to exterminate Omegas without affecting their Alpha Twins.

Cassandra is an Omega–but a rare and special kind. Called a Seer, Cassandra receives premonitions about the future. Though her “deformity” gives her certain advantages, she is still cast out by the Alphas and even finds it difficult to be accepted among the Omegas. At the beginning of the novel, Cass is taken captive by her Alpha brother–who has risen to a position of influence in the Alpha Council.

After months in imprisonment , Cass finally receives the opportunity to escape. Freeing another prisoner as she flees, Cass ventures out in search of a fabled Island–in which Omegas are allowed to live in freedom and safety. As they travel from town to town, avoiding the Council, Cass and her companion begin to understand the political upheaval going on in the Council and the sinister role her brother is playing in the future of Alphas and Omegas.

Should You Read It?

If you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic dystopian genre, you will probably enjoy the book. The story takes place in the future after an alleged nuclear holocaust at some point in the distant past. In this dystopian future, people are divided into two classes–much like in the recent Red Queen. The storyline also has a genetic element–some akin to that of the movie Gattaca. The writing is straightforward, with a lot of movement and little introspection. If this sounds like an interesting read to you, I would try it out.

Links and References

Author Information: Author Page (Publisher), Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, That’s Normal, Civilian Reader

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Francesca Haig: The Fire Sermon is Francesca Haig’s debut novel, but she has written a collection of poetry called Bodies of Water (2006).

Book Review: The Given World by Marian Palaia

Author: Marian Palaia
Title: The Given World
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of Pages: 304
Narrator: Riley

The Given World by Marian Palaia

What’s It About?

Riley is a young girl living in rural Montana. As she enters her teenage years, her older brother–whom she cherishes dearly–goes off to the war in Vietnam. Upon receiving notification that he had died in combat, her life spirals out of control. Her parents grow cold and distant, and Riley gets into drugs to numb the pain.

When she’s seventeen, Riley becomes pregnant with the child of a man who goes off to the war in Vietnam and–like her brother–never returns. Unable to bear the loss, Riley leaves the baby with her parents and leaves Montana. Traveling as far west as she can go, she winds up settling in San Francisco.

Over the course of her adult life, Riley wonders around in search of herself and her place in the world. In her travels, she meets new friends and experiences new things. All along, the question looms heavily in her mind–will she have the courage to return home? Will she go back to Montana and face what she’s left behind?

Should You Read It?

The story is told in alternating first and third person perspective, with the former revealing Riley’s feelings about her circumstances and the latter shedding light on how Riley’s life fits in with the lives of those around her. The novel is largely character-driven, rather than plot-driven. Great emphasis is placed on how inescapable circumstances rule the lives of Riley and the cast of characters she encounters throughout her life. With the major theme built around the struggle to overcome tragedy and find meaning, the tone is one of aimless searching, grasping, and hoping. If all of this sounds interesting to you, I would give it a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, SF Gate, Meanderings and Musings

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Marian Palaia: The Given World is Marian Palaia’s debut novel.

Book Review: Making Nice by Matt Sumell

Author: Matt Sumell
Title: Making Nice
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt (Holtzbrinck)
Number of Pages: 240
Narrator: Alby
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: D+, Bad; of the first 48 reviews, the average reader rating was 69.17%.

Making Nice by Matt Sumell

What’s It About?

Alby is a crass and aggressive 30 year old man from a dysfunctional family. When his mother dies of cancer, he begins to reminisce on various instances in his life. He talks of fights he gets into with his siblings, conversations with his drunken father, and his awkward encounters with strangers.

Within each episode Alby recounts, the reader gets a sense of how complex Alby is–at once brutally honest and psychologically disturbed. Despite his vulgarity and inexplicable rage, a subtle undercurrent running through his narrative suggests he wants to do better–to “make nice” with those around him.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the sort of novel that consists more or less exclusively of the discursive ramblings of a mentally disturbed narrator, this book is for you. Think The Catcher in the Rye with a lot more F-words and crude sexual references. (Needless to say, if you’re sensitive to vulgar language, this is not for you). All of that being said, the tone of the novel–despite its graphic content–is surprisingly light and witty. The narrator’s non-sensical observations are laced with sarcasm that is quite comedic in all of its randomness.

Links and References

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

Book Reviews: The Guardian, The Rumpus, The Irish Times

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Matt Sumell: Making Nice is Matt Sumell’s debut novel.

Book Review: My Father’s Wives by Mike Greenberg

Author: Mike Greenberg
Title: My Father’s Wives
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Number of Pages: 240
Narrator: Jonathan Sweetwater
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: C, Average; of the first 98 reviews, the average reader rating was 77.35%.

My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg

What’s It About?

Wall Street executive Jonathan Sweetwater has the perfect life. He is moderately wealthy and happily married with two young children who adore him. Traveling frequently for work, he doesn’t get a chance to spend much time at home. But, when he is home, the Sweetwaters are one big happy family–that is, until Jonathan comes home from work early one day.

Meaning to surprise his wife, Claire, he instead ends up being surprised by her. Hearing a noise coming from the guest room, he approaches the door and peers through the keyhole. What he sees rocks his world–a man he doesn’t recognize is getting dressed and sitting on the bed is unmistakably the nude back of his wife. Claire is having an affair.

Rather than confronting her, Jonathan leaves and returns later. The man is gone, and the bed is made–like nothing ever happened. After attempting to subtly weasel a confession out of Claire to no avail, Jonathan resorts to hiring a private investigator at the suggestion of his boss–just to be sure.

As Jonathan waits for news on his wife’s affair, he begins to explore the life of his deceased father–who had been married to six other women besides his own mother. Meeting with each of his father’s wives, Jonathan seeks to understand more about him. What kind of man was he? Why did he marry so often? In understanding the life of his father, Jonathan hopes to gain some perspective on his own–and perhaps even save his fragile marriage.

Should You Read It?

If you are a fan of Mike Greenberg as a sportscaster, you will get a taste of the play-by-play action in Jonathan’s one-on-one game with Michael Jordan. But, aside from the passion for basketball shared between Jonathan and his boss, the novel has nothing to do with sports. If you enjoy a good literary work on mystery in relationships and past secrets that shape characters in the present, this novel will be right up your alley. There is a good bit of dialogue, but most of the story consists of Jonathan’s introspection about himself, his father, and the family he is trying to keep together despite being his father’s son.

Links and References

Author Information: Wikipedia, Mike and Mike, Twitter

Book Reviews: New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, BookNAround

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Mike Greenberg: All You Could Ask For (2013), Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot (2007)

Book Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Author: Cynthia Swanson
Title: The Bookseller
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Number of Pages: 352
Narrator: Kitty Miller
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: B, Very Good; of the first 119 reviews, the average reader rating was 86.22%.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

What’s It About?

Kitty Miller is a thirty-something year old bookseller from the 1950s working in a small Denver bookshop she owns with her best friend. As business starts to slow and the success of the bookstore is threatened, she begins having vivid dreams about another life–the life she would be living eight years in the future had she taken a different path.

In this other life, she is married to her dream guy and she has three children. She’s a family woman. Every night, when she goes to sleep, she enters into this dream life. When she wakes up, she’s back in the real world.

At first, everything seems perfect about her dream life–like it’s everything she ever wanted. As time goes by, though, she realizes that some things are missing from her dream life that would make it the perfect world. Soon, the dream even becomes somewhat of a nightmare.

As her dreams become more vivid, Kitty finds it increasingly more difficult to determine what’s real. She knows her brain is inventing one of her worlds, but which one? And why is she caught between these worlds?

Should You Read It?

This story is built around a psychological mystery with a touch of magical realism. While set in the 1950s and 1960s, the writing style, characterization, and dialogue are more or less contemporary. The theme involves the difficulty in coping with tragic circumstances and coming to terms with the way life works out. At its heart, The Bookseller is literary work dealing with the central character’s regrets and repressed memories, but the mystery through which these concepts are revealed to the reader make it an engaging read.

Links and References

Author Information: Integrity Modern (Author Website), Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Denver Post Interview

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, My Novel Opinion

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Cynthia Swanson: The Bookseller is Cynthia Swanson’s debut novel.