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The Bookshelf 6 - My last half dozen - something for everyone

Summer has certainly gone by quickly, but it still left time for some good reading. My latest half dozen might not have been as good, overall, as my last half dozen but it does contain something for everyone. There's a family saga, a couple of romances, a couple of thrillers, and a historical fiction. Take your choice! Here they are in the order they were read:

The Latecomer – I purposefully do not read reviews on books before I buy them. I like to make my own judgement. I read The Latecomer and rated it 4.5. Then I read the reviews which ranged all the way from DNF (did not finish) to 4.5. That’s a wide spread. I get it, in a way. The book is a lengthy (400+ pages with fine print) and a long, slow go at first as you get to know the main characters in depth. The story is about three siblings growing up in eastern USA – triplets (two boys and a girl) - their emotionally detached parents, and their own detachment from each other from birth to the point of hatred as they grow older. You might not even like any of them. You don’t even know who the ‘latecomer’ is and why they are important until way late in the book. The story line weaves amidst unresolved trauma and it’s consequences through generations, excessive wealth and privilege, elitism, social standing, IVF, intellectualism, racism, the art world, religions, 'wokeness', and ultra-conservatism – and people choosing their own way in life. Wow! This book is not exciting. It’s more of a family saga that encompasses all the key issues of America. It’s more of a character-growth novel than an enticing plot, although it ends with lots of twists and turns that tie things together nicely. People can, and do, change. If you have patience and can hang in there for the first half (I’m glad I did), I give it 4.5/5. The cover, itself, is quite brilliant.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me - The Wall of Winnipeg and Me is a romance novel (I know, what was I thinking? It must have been the word 'Winnipeg'.) about a 26 year old personal assistant and a huge football star – huge in proportion and in status. He is the stereotypical professional athlete – aloof, unemotional, and narcissistic. In a very slow build-up (to the point you might get tired of her comments about how huge he is, her fantasizing, and her questioning his commitment), you end up really liking each of these characters. There is more to them than meets the eye. There is one scorching sex scene, but the book is more a slow development of a sincere and in-depth relationship based on respect, and that is why I am not just passing this book off as ‘fluff’. Be sure to read the Epilogue. Warning - the book brings up topics of domestic and family violence/dysfunction. This book definitely won’t change your life but it’s an easy read that will keep you occupied over a couple of slow summer days with a bottle of wine. I imagine the 20 to 30 year old ladies might like this one. Rating 3.5/5.

The Last Dress From Paris - This is just a really nice read. The premise of the book is a British grandmother sends her granddaughter on a mission to Paris to discover a lost designer Dior dress. In the process, the granddaughter discovers not one, but eight, Dior dresses and unravels many long-held secrets. Although some reviewers did not like the throwbacks to the 1950’s in Paris, I really liked that format. It tells a lot about designer fashion, the House of Dior, and the glamour of post-war Europe. In this respect, it is historical fiction tied in with 2017. Throw in loveless/abusive relationships, true love, family dysfunction, best friend bonds, difficult decisions, a bit of mystery, a bit of drama, and finding yourself, and this is just a great read for a couple of scorching summer days. If you’ve been to London and Paris, it’s even better! Rating 4/5.

Reputation - Wowsa! This drama/psychological thriller is a really fast, entertaining read. The main character is a female British member of parliament who finds a dead body in her apartment – or does she? What I really liked about this book is how it weaves in so many pertinent issues today – female power, jealousy, double standards, the abuse of 24/7 technology (revenge porn, stalking, threats, gaslighting/catfishing – look them up if you don’t know!), victimization, secrets, the abuse of power, the abuse of people in power, the lengths people go to ‘succeed’. It’s all there. Sadly, this stuff all happens today. So much of it has to do with the ‘freedom’ now to do and say whatever we want, with little concern for consequences. ‘Reputation’ has different meanings. This is another book where you might not like any of the characters, but to me, it is a reflection of the weaker aspects of today’s society and how people are driven to do what they do. Read it and think of some of the headlines in the past 10 years. Some people think the Courtroom scene went on too long but, really, people, just focus - I liked it as a key element to the story. So, wowsa! A strong 4/5 rating.

Part of Your World - This is a Hallmark romance movie waiting to happen. And if you like lots of sex talk and fairy tale love, this book is for you. Alexa is a big city, emergency room doctor from a long line of famous physicians with a large reputation to uphold. Daniel is a home grown, much younger, hunk of a guy from a very, very, rural community. Of course, they fall in love. The whole premise is whether or not they can form a lasting relationship given their very different lifestyles. The saving grace of this book is that it does look at the need to make your own way in life, see life outside the box, and not give in to the dysfunction and expectations of family. It also touches on domestic violence. There are some comical moments. It ends strong, but not really surprising – it is fairy tale romance, after all. It’s getting strong reviews which I imagine are from the 20 to 30 year old female crowd. It’s a very fast read, pure escapism. Rating 3/5

Two Nights In Lisbon - This lengthy thriller/mystery that travels between Portugal and America has more twists and turns and plots than a steep mountain highway. Ariel wakes up in a Lisbon, Portugal, hotel to find that her husband, John, has disappeared and quickly seeks assistance from the authorities. Between the Lisbon police, the US embassy, the CIA , and the media, and all the different characters involved, you might be left wondering right up to the end just what the heck is going on and just who to believe. This book addresses issues that are pertinent today - sexual assault (and the social and legal nuances involved including charges, convictions, people in power, the onus on victims, etc.), politics, shallow lifestyles and privilege of the rich and famous, and the damage that can be caused by 24/7 electronic connectivity and media looking for a front page story. Throw in some deceit, a bit of paranoia, revenge, and extortion, and this is a fast-paced, smooth, easy to read novel that will hold your interest (especially if you are holed up in a cabin without wifi in the west country). Be sure to read the Epilogue. Bottom line – decisions have consequences. Some reviewers think this book is too long and too preachy about major topics such as sexual assault and social media. I thought it was a solid 4/5.

My order of preference: 1) The Latecomer 2) Reputation 3) The Last Dress from Paris 4) Two Nights in Lisbon 5) The Wall of Winnipeg and Me and, finally, 6) Part of Your World

Which interests you?

On to my next six!

"Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else's shoes for a while" - Malorie Blackman


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