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My Bookshelf 5 - My Last Half Dozen: They're All Winners!

It’s been such a good couple of months of reading. There isn’t a ‘dud’ in this bunch. Depending on what you like, whether it is drama, thrillers, racial issues, addictions, con artists, religious/cultural conflicts, or simply a good laugh, just pick one.

In order of reading, here are my latest six:

The Vanishing Half – Barack Obama likes it, and so did I. The main story line in The Vanishing Half is two fair-skinned people of colour (twin girls) choosing very different paths in life. One chooses to embrace her black identity while one chooses to “pass” as white ( traditionally meant to assimilate into white majority to escape discrimination.) Other themes in the book include racism, poverty, domestic violence, criminality, sexuality, and elitism. What really stood out for me is the concept of how far people will go, or what they will hide, to be perceived how they want to be perceived - in many ways, not just racial. Another thought is, do we find ourselves, or do we build ourselves as we choose? (Maybe we are all ‘passing’ in some way.) This book is an easy read. I like the writer’s style – little comments thrown in to summarize or emphasize a thought. There are lots of little bits of wisdom. It makes you think. The book is getting many good reviews and a few negative. Some think that it does not delve deeply enough into issues – but it is a novel, not a textbook. Rating 4.5/5

Hey, Good Luck Out There - This book was written by the daughter of a woman (Miriam Toews) who wrote one of my favourite books – Fight Night. Hey, Good Luck Out There is about a young woman in the throes of addiction. She attends rehab and then is discharged ‘out there’ to face the real world. The book is raw and emotional but manages to include some humour. This Canadian author knows, from experience, of what she writes. Her novel really gives insight into the struggle of ‘starting over’ and why it sometimes just seems ‘easier’ to return to the addiction. It portrays dysfunctional family dynamics, self-sabotage behaviour, and the ‘stinking thinking’ that can derail a person. But it also shows how one has to change their thinking patterns to be more helpful and to, maybe, have a chance. The book is an easy, insightful, fast read. Recommended. 4/5

More Than You’ll Ever Know - More Than You’ll Ever Know is a dramatic mystery/thriller/crime novel that will leave you thinking. It’s about a novice crime writer who investigates a woman who lives a dual life, being married to two very different men at one time, one in Laredo, Texas, and one in Mexico City. Of course, this set-up is doomed for tragedy. This book is a page-turner. Woven throughout are issues of a woman’s identity, family devotion, secrets, domestic abuse, financial recession, and alcoholism. This is an easy-read book. The author is so descriptive, you can imagine the heat of Laredo or the chaos of Mexico City. There are lots of Spanish phrases that you could look up, but it’s not necessary. I loved the foreshadowing and the many little hints of what is to come or what might be the truth. You’ll be left pondering morals and ethics (how far would YOU go?), and you’ll be left wondering what else you don’t know. This is the author’s first book, and it is great. 4.5/5

Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd. – Sometimes you need a book that is simply enjoyable. Jonas Jonasson, the Swedish writer known for his book The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, creates an unbelievable, convoluted plot with zany characters. The story line is two mismatched young people approach a ‘revenge company’ to get back at a horrible art dealer who has ‘shafted’ both of them. One of the main, and most enjoyable, characters is an African medicine man. With exaggeration and humour, the author shows the differences between a 'primitive' society and one completely dependent on technology and pokes fun at processes and establishments. There are sexual connotations thrown in. This book is so strange and quirky, you have to keep reading. The first part was a bit slow going for me, but once you start to make the connections between all the characters and continents, the book flowed fast. It won’t change your life. It’s all for fun. 3.5 out of 5

Counterfeit - Now and then, it’s good to throw a really fast, great little book into the mix. Just sit and read, maybe with a summer spritzer, or two! Counterfeit, on the surface, is a book about a couple of con artist/huckster friends involved in the fake designer purse world. Below the surface, though, it is about American greed and the need to be the ‘biggest’ in everything, the desire to be something you aren’t, wanting it ‘all’, the fakery of life in general, the traditional expectations on children of some cultures to act and achieve in a certain way, our insecurities that can get in the way of logic, and scamming the whole system. Again, how far would you go? This is an easy read, a page turner, mostly in the dialogue of a confession. A television show is in the works. Rating 4/5

These Impossible Things –At first glance, this book is about three very different 20-something young ladies (best friends) as they finish university in Cambridge, England, and make their way in life. But the story is much deeper. The three ladies are from traditional Muslim families with the accompanying large extended family and religious/cultural expectations that ‘go with’ and the story is about how they navigate or maneuver life within (or outside) the confines of their traditional beliefs. The book tackles romance (both same-faith and inter-faith), ethnicity, friendships, decisions, family loyalty, and guilt. It also tackles some tough subjects such as sexual and domestic violence. What I really liked about this book was the manner in which it portrayed how strong religious and cultural beliefs can put so much pressure on people to act in a certain way, to the point of self-destruction, and also the eventual realization that all is not what it seems. On the other hand, I wonder if the book is a bit too stereotypical in it’s portrayal of a faith (but I don’t know as I am not in it). This book does a great job of building the character of each of these women as they figure out life and what is important and stressing the bond of friendships. It’s an easy read that gets better as it goes, building up to a big ending. There is ample sexual talk and some moral issues, so beware. I loved this book. Rating 4/5

These are all good books, so it’s all about personal preference. Mine are: 1) More Than You’ll Ever Know 2) The Vanishing Half 3) These Impossible Things 4) Hey, Good Luck Out There 5) Counterfeit 6) Sweet Sweet Revenge

Which would you pick to read first?



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