An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


This book is about how newlyweds Celestial and Roy are torn apart for a horrible reason out of their control. The story explores love, race, justice, and loyalty with some very good writing. But I really disliked this book’s pace and focus. Years unbelievably pass in a page or two, yet one day—no matter how pivotal—covers over a hundred pages. It felt fractured to me.

Gwenamon says: Interesting, but undeveloped

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Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal


Kerangal’s novel focuses on the 24 hours around a heart transplant and all of the people affected. I think her prose is beautiful and captures the waves of emotion and action, of tragedy and hope. My only criticism is that the writing felt just a tad inflated at times, but I’m sure it’s pitch-perfect for some.

Gwenamon says: Artful and poignant

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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn


This book is about Eve, a French spy for the Alice Network of World War I, and Charlie, an American socialite who wants to find her cousin after World War II. Charlie seeks out Eve’s help. The Eve portion of the novel is interesting and fairly readable, but the Charlie portion made me want to toss the book aside. It was banal, insipid, and predictable. I only finished this novel because it was chosen for the book club that I’m in.

Gwenamon says: Groan

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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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