User Reviews

Reviews by Alisa S
Fascinating Historical Fiction
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is a straightforward historical novel based on real life events. I think many readers will enjoy this tale of a blue-skinned (due to a hereditary blood disorder) young Appalachian woman who becomes a pack horse librarian as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration. The plucky daughter of a dirt poor coal miner, Cussy Carter has been ostracized and isolated her entire life due to the color of her skin and her impoverished upbringing. Becoming a "book woman", travailing mule-back on hazardous mountainous trails to deliver reading materials to isolated and often suspicious customers, has given her life purpose and dignity. There is just enough danger and romantic intrigue to keep one turning the pages.
I listened to the audiobook version of the novel through Hoopla, and the narrator does an excellent job with the Kentucky accents and vernacular.
Moving Family Saga
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is a family saga that spans almost a century, starting in the not so distant future and looking backwards as famous poet Fiona Skinner reflects on her life. An environmental crisis has significantly altered life on earth, but this is not a dystopian novel. Instead, we spend most of our time with the four Skinner children, who first lose their father to a sudden heart attack, and then their mother to “the pause”, what the kids have dubbed her long period of severe depression that essentially leaves them parentless for several years. This rudderless childhood forges strong bonds between the siblings, but also impacts each of them in ways that will haunt them throughout their lives.
The Last Romantics does a beautiful job of conveying all the messiness, heartbreak, and beauty of what makes up a family, what constitutes love.
Riveting Outdoor Suspense
The River by Peter Heller is one of the best books I've read so far this year, but it is hard to classify. It is in parts a riveting suspense tale, an outdoor adventure, and an elegiac ode to nature. But mostly this novel is a beautiful, heartrending story of friendship between two young men. Best friends and avid outdoorsmen Wynn and Jack are on a canoe trip in Northern Canada when everything starts to go horribly wrong. They must call on all their survival skills and instincts as they are forced to outrun a vicious forest fire while simultaneously trying to save the life of a woman who has been brutally attacked. Facing constant danger from fellow men and nature, both Wynn and Jack must confront their deepest held values, revealing fault lines in their friendship. The River would make an awesome action film...I'm already casting the two main characters in my mind.
The Night Tiger
Murder,dance girls, killer tigers, missing fingers, and more! The Night Tiger by Yangze Choo is a beautifully written tale, part family drama mixed with mystery and folklore, set in 1930s Malaysia under British rule. Ji Lin is a young woman forced to moonlight as a dance hall girl to help pay off her mother's secret gambling debts, while her adored stepbrother Shin gets to go to medical school in Singapore. Meanwhile, an orphaned young houseboy named Ren is on a mission to recover a missing finger that belonged to his former master, a British doctor who has passed away. There is a magical thread that links together the main characters, putting them in grave danger as a man-eating tiger roams at night and people start
mysteriously dying around them. This novel is steeped in magical realism, pulling from Chinese and Malay folk tales, numerology, and superstitions.
Fans of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, another romance with plenty of magic, should also greatly enjoy The Night Tiger.
Another Great Mystery from Jane Harper
The first stand alone novel from down under author Jane Harper, The Lost Man is a slow simmering mystery that masterfully creates a sense of place.
In the remote and brutal Australian Outback, three brothers stand to inherit the vast cattle ranch where they were raised. But when the middle son, “golden boy” Cameron, is found dead under bizarre circumstances, everyone becomes a potential suspect. Harper gradually reveals the dark family secrets that may have lead to Cam’s death; abuse, grudges, jealousy, forbidden romance, and more.
The Lost Man is a character driven mystery, as the reader grows to understand what lies beneath the surface of each of the brothers, extended family members, and employees on the cattle station. But the overarching “character” is Australia itself...namely the enormous, harsh landscape of the Outback, where the closest neighbor might live three hours away. The enforced isolation creates a growing sense of dread.
I’m a big fan of Harper’s earlier thriller series, which follow detective Aaron Falk. But I believe The Lost Man is by far her best work yet.

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