05 November 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: A Trio of Reviews

Books to read this fallHow are you doing with that time change? I tend to adjust better in the fall than in the spring, but I sure hate how early it gets dark. The hardest part for me is to remember to take my walk at lunch, because it's too dark out to walk after work.

But not all is bad . . . season 4 of Outlander started on STARZ. (*insert usual rant about all the shows I like airing on Sundays*) So much action in the first episode . . . we meet new people in the New World, including that evil Stephen Bonnet. And sooooo happy that Rollo is included in the show. I'm not a fan of the actor who plays young Ian, but I'm still hoping he will grow on me.

Here's what I read last week.

Tinity by Louisa HallTinity by Louisa Hall (Ecco, September 2018): I have very mixed feelings about this look at J. Robert Oppenheimer, the head of the U.S. atomic bomb project. The novel is set up as a series of "testimonies" in which fictional characters talk about their relationship with or firsthand knowledge of Oppie in a variety of settings and at different points in his life. For example, we see the scientist through the eyes of a federal agent who trails Oppie when he makes an unauthorized visit to an old lover in Berkeley; a WAAC talks about her observations of Oppie at the Los Alamos research facility; both a secretary and a reporter catch up with the scientist at Princeton, where he taught and retired; and we hear from another agent in Washington, DC while Oppenheimer is being brutally interrogated during the McCarthy era. In the end, we are left with a picture of complex, conflicted man who was hero to some and vilified by others for his left-wing politics and his part in the development of nuclear weapons. An underlying theme of the book was how women coped with the limited choices they had in mid-twentieth century. I found the book to be only okay. It flitted around too much, and I wasn't entirely sure if the novel was supposed to be about Oppenheimer, the bomb, relationships, or feminism. The unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 9 hr, 9 min) was read by a full cast, with each narrator taking on a different testimonial (all of which are presented from a first-person point of view). I was impressed that there were no weak performances, but I was still not taken with the novel overall. (For more on the audiobook, see AudioFile magazine.)

The Latecomers by Helen Klein RossThe Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross (Little, Brown, November 6): I quite liked this story about a Irish girl who, in 1908, runs away to American with her boyfriend to start a new life full of opportunities. Things start to go wrong with Bridey even before she leaves her homeland, when the priest is unavailable to perform a quick marriage ceremony before she and Thom set sail. By the time she makes it through Ellis Island and arrives in New York, her situation looks bleak. With the help of friends, though, Bridey lands a position as live-in help for a well-off family in Connecticut, and we follow the fortunes of the girl and the family into the twenty-first century. I really liked the many period details: changing technology, medical practices, women's choices, social issues, the stock market crash, the wars, and even 9/11. At the heart of the book are a couple of family secrets, and my only complaint is that they weren't revealed to the characters in quite the way I wish they had been. Still, I was caught up in Bridey's story and how her life became intertwined with that of the family she worked for. I appreciated the family trees at the beginning of the book, so I could keep track of the characters, and loved the "Historical Notes" at the back, which adds background to the events, slang, and cultural references included in the novel. Oh, and don't miss the bibliography. I recommend The Latecomers to anyone who likes a good family or period saga. (Review copy provided by the publisher.)

Empire of Sand by Tasha SuriEmpire of Sand by Tasha Suri (Orbit, November 13): The first thing to know about this debut epic fantasy is that despite some familiar tropes (evil step-mother, for example), this is not your typical fantasy. This novel is founded in South Asian history and myths, and the magic part of the fantasy has to do with religious rights of the Amrithi, a particular sect who, through dance and gestures, can communicate with the Daiva (spirits in various manifestations) and appease the gods. This is the story of Mehr, the illegitimate daughter of a regional governor, whose mother is Amrithi. When the emperor learns of her existence and latent powers, the girl is taken from her home and life of privilege and forced into service for the empire. Mehr then must find a way to be true to herself while fulfilling her duties; one slip and she and her family will suffer the consequences. I loved the non-Western setting and thought Mehr was realistically portrayed. She is not always smart, she makes mistakes, she is scared, but she's also loyal and fights for the people she loves. There is a forced, political marriage, which was nicely handled and stayed cleared of most cliches. I'm not sure Empire of Sand will end up on my best of 2018 list, but I do recommend the book and look forward to more non-Western stories from Suri. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 17 hr) read by Soneela Nankani. Nankani is always great with the accents and pronunciations, but sometimes I find her delivery to be too earnest and a touch dramatic. Her work here was solid and kept my attention throughout. Unfortunately, near the end of the audiobook there is an annoying sound effect that pulled me out of the story and made it difficult to understand the words . . . and this happened at a very important moment. I had to listen to that section twice, and I'm still not sure I got it all. ARGH. So, you might want to read this one in print. (Audiobook review copy provided by the publisher.)

17 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 11/5/18, 6:57 AM  

I've gotten to the point where I wait for all parts of a trilogy to come out before starting!

Amanda 11/5/18, 7:02 AM  

Empire of Sand came up on my library's Wowbrary feed a few weeks back, and I immediately put myself on the hold list. Hopefully it won't take too long to get it after the book releases. I'll skip the audio, though - I couldn't get through Nankani's narration in just the sample of City of Brass, so I think she's just not my favorite reader. Between that and your critique, this sounds like a physical read to me.

Susie | Novel Visits 11/5/18, 8:09 AM  

Too bad Triunity wasn't better. It sounds like a really interesting premise and I really enjoy audiobooks read by a full cast.

Daryl 11/5/18, 9:19 AM  

i am SO excited Outlander is back ... and thanks for these reccos!

Laurel-Rain Snow 11/5/18, 9:22 AM  

I love the sound of The Latecomers...enjoy your reading, and thanks for visiting my blog. Have a great week!

bermudaonion 11/5/18, 9:29 AM  

I wonder if Trinity would be better in print. The Latecomers sounds like a winner to me.

Kathy Martin 11/5/18, 10:27 AM  

I like "falling back" better than "springing forward" too. Like you, I hate that it gets dark so early though. I don't see well enough to drive in the dark which makes me essentially housebound until it starts getting light again. Luckily, I have bunches of books to keep me company. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Vicki 11/5/18, 1:51 PM  

I might add The Latecomers to my list to read. And I agree about it getting dark so early, but I love it being daylight when I leave for work.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 11/5/18, 2:42 PM  

Nice diversity here! Here is my post: Here is my post: https://wordsandpeace.com/2018/11/05/mailbox-monday-november-5/

pussreboots 11/5/18, 4:50 PM  

Your books are new to me. Have a good week. My weekly updates

Sue Jackson 11/5/18, 5:43 PM  

Hmmm...Trinity sounds like a flawed novel but a good audio production!

The fantasy sounds like it might be a good one for my son, though I am wondering, with a female lead, if there are strong male characters as well - and of course, sword fighting!

Enjoy your books this week!

Sue

Book By Book

Greg 11/5/18, 9:07 PM  

I do better in the fall too with the time change, although it always seems to screw up my internal clock for some reason. You wouldn't think one little hour would be so disruptive to me lol, but it seems to be!

Hope Outlander's great this season. :)

Sherry Fundin 11/6/18, 1:50 AM  

I like the fall time change. I get up earlier and accomplish more.
sherry @ fundinmental

Mystica 11/6/18, 2:02 AM  

I read what I can get so I'd like anything within my reading likes. Enjoy them all.

Cleo Bannister 11/6/18, 3:25 PM  

I do like the sound of The Latecomers which sounds as though it has all the ingredients I most enjoy in a book.

Catherine BookClubLibrarian 11/6/18, 4:13 PM  

I like your eclectic reads, particularly The Latecomers.

thecuecard 11/11/18, 7:00 PM  

I was curious about Trinity so I'm glad for your review. The Latecomers sounds like quite the family saga, reminds me just a smidge of the story Brooklyn. hmm

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