The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel


Like many, I’m still waiting for Mantel’s third book in her Cromwell series, which “Wolf Hall” began. These 10 short stories gave me an appetizer for her style and wit. She really can pack a lot into a sentence.

Gwenamon says: Well done

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber


Peter, a Christian minister,  goes where no missionary has gone before. He travels to a colony on a new planet as an employee of a rather mysterious, stock corporation called USIC. His work is to preach to the native population who had asked for a replacement minister. “The Book of Strange New Things” is what they call the Bible. Peter becomes obsessed with his mission, yet tries to stay in communication with his wife, Bea, who writes of increasingly worrying societal and environmental issues back home. This book has been called genre-defying. It’s like getting to read literature-worthy science fiction. I loved the writing, especially about the native language, and the communication between Peter and Bea.

Gwenamon says: Pretty incredible

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


Elena Richardson lives in a planned community that her grandparents helped start. But her plans are run amuck when Mia Warren, an artist, rents a house from Elena. Mia is also a single mom to Pearl, a teenager who hasn’t had enough roots to explore her autonomy. Ng tells a story that is absorbing, and quick to read. I also liked the exploration of motherhood. My best friend was shocked when I initially gave this book five stars. But I had to demote it – I found Elena to be a very unbelievable character.

Gwenamon says: A page-turner, but Elena is a poorly developed character

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Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk


Two things fuel Marjorie: she wants to be an actress and she’s in love with Noel Airman. Wouk is a master and he does an amazing job of drawing you into Marjorie’s life as a young, Jewish woman in the 1930’s. I got totally wrapped up in this book and the characters, even though their choices often infuriated me with my current-day lens.

Gwenamon says: I loved Wouk’s writing much more than the story

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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee


Sunja is born to loving and poor parents in a small Korean fishing village. As a teenager, she falls in lust with a married, Japanese yakuza. A minister offers her and her unborn child a new beginning in Japan as his wife. And what a beginning it is. Lee writes of the racism between Korea and Japan, and how it crept into the layers of everyday life. She also writes about love, war, regret, and history.

Gwenamon says: Yes!

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The Nix by Nathan Hill


Samuel Andresen-Anderson is a failing college professor who’s addicted to a video game. His mother deserted him when he was a pre-teen, but current events bring her back into his life. I liked a lot of things about the first half of this novel – his childhood, the mom’s stories, his twin friends, and his description of teaching (because Laura Potsdam is an amalgamation of quite a few students whom I’ve experienced). But I couldn’t bear the pace of this book — so much attention is given to the minutiae of a video game or Periwinkle’s favourite ad, yet hardly any is given to Samuel’s reunion with his mom or her next departure. Also, I really disliked and thought it was unnecessary to stick Allen Ginsberg into the second half. Seriously? It’s like too many ideas (or posturing) are jam-packed in and not enough is explored.

Gwenamon says: It has a couple of good moments

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Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers


Josie runs from her life as a dentist, and decides to drive with her young son and daughter through the Alaskan wilderness. On Goodreads, this novel is dubbed as “a powerful examination of contemporary life”. Really?! I say it’s about a mom making bad decisions, overthinking, meeting interesting characters, and seeking redemption. I think I read the whole book because I wanted to see if they all survive. And although I didn’t like Josie, I always like Eggers’ writing. However, I’ve seen reader reviews that talk of his inaccuracies regarding Alaska. My son was a preemie (like the novel’s daughter) and Eggers gets those details wrong too. Think he could stand to do better research.

Gwenamon says: OK

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