What Karin is reading
A good book makes you want to live in the story. A great book gives you no choice.
Karin: One of my favorite heroines, Beryl Markam, comes to life in this vividly majestic story. McLain’s lush and descriptive writing of colonial Kenya is breathtaking and Beryl’s early life is craftily portrayed as well as the array of characters that intersect her early life. Beryl is fearless, independent and adventurous. I found this an amazing story and better than her previous novel, The Paris Wife.
Karin: Full of small-town southern charm The Truth According to Us is a wonderful story, perfect for a vacation lounge-around read. Barrows has well depicted characters - I loved Willa, and she's created a great sense of place - I could feel the heat and envision the depression-era town. It tells of family loyalty and the power of forgiveness. I found it sensitive and witty; great storytelling in an easy engaging read. Irresistible!
Karin: This has been in my pile of "to read" for a while - so glad I did. Girl Who Fell from the Sky is a search for identity told through the eyes of a bi-racial girl trying to overcome grief. I was sucked in with how Burrows created tension and mystery. The blue glass bottle is amazing and the analogy of Blues music is masterful; I found the bird metaphor haunting. This is an original and moving story and worthy of the Bellwether Prize which it won in 2008 (given to fiction books dealing with social issues).
Karin: I love the passion that Susan Vreeland depicts. I always feel as if I've had an art lesson after reading her descriptive novels. In Lisette's List, characters and place are so well drawn I would look up expecting to be in Provence. This is a story with more than just art. It is about life and death, love, strengths and bonds of people, and war and the resilience of humans. A book to savor if you are a "list-maker" or enjoy being drawn into another time and place.
Karin: I loved this! A pitch-perfect narrator voice who made me aware how perceptions change as we evolve and age. Walsh captures the angst of teenagers – the innocence, longing, heartache, sorrow and strife. I found this sincere and tender and loved how tension was created. A beautifully crafted tale.
Karin: Great teenage narrator! One of Bohjalian's best novels. A page turner dealing with serious issues - gives us a look at street life and the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. Great showing of teenage angst in a heart dwelling with possibility. Excellent read and suitable for mature young adults.
Karin: Well done southern gothic tale. I was riveted with the beautiful prose that is strong and direct - reads like a Greek tragedy. A chilling story that drew me into the rural south. Great book club choice and good if you like Ron Rash or Robert Goolrick.
Karin: Great for historical fiction fans. Two French sisters and how they respond in times of great challenge during the Nazis occupation in WWII. Based on fact and real characters The Nightingale is full of heart and strong character growth. Shows not only the ravages of war, but love and rebellious courage. Spoiler - tissues needed.
Karin: Traversing time in the 1960's this is a fun, satisfying read especially if you know Denver. Two stories, two realities - which is real? The Bookseller is slightly mysterious and thoroughly engrossing. Asks the age-old question of What If? Charming! Great if you like Anita Shreve or Anna Quindlin or Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
Karin: Like Ludlam or Follets spy novels? Try new Swedish author, Zander. Fast paced with twists and turns The Swimmer is a tight web of intrigue. One's person's actions can create ripples that span time and distance. The Swimmer is a well-structured, top-notch political thriller.
Karin: I loved this powerful coming-of-age debut. After a family tragedy Kevin moves to coal country in the 80’s, there he learns life lessons from his wise and wonderful grandfather and a crafty half-wild friend, Buzzy – all three GREAT characters. Lessons of courage and violence, beauty and danger, acceptance and identity, and the healing power of the Earth are explored within great storytelling. As meaningful and epic as Kill a Mockingbird, and good if you like Leif Enger or John Irving.
Karin: This book brings the natural world to Botswana to life. It shows the tragedy of apartheid and the bonds of love. Brutal and beautiful, tragic and triumphant this is an extraordinary novel of love, friendship and betrayal. Recommended if you like stories of Africa or Cutting for Stone. Superb!
Karin: A Shakespearean southern gothic tale of the finest order. This is an absorbing, haunting story about greed in Depression-era Appalachia. I found it thrilling and engrossing. Good if you liked A Reliable Wife. As thrilling as Gone Girl.
Karin: Best book of 2014! Doerr's prose is exquisite and the rich details are lush and livid. I cared about Marie-Laure, Werner, and other characters as soon as I met them. I loved that although this is a WWII story it is unsentimental - in the usual sense of war stories- just 2 extraordinary children thrown into a world of horror. The chapter titles are cause for amazement as well as the references to marine life, science, music, and past great literature. Doerr creates suspense by alternating stories and time - every back story reveals more just as in the intricate model-houses in the novel. The pacing is perfect and the many different threads of the story come together in such a satisfying way. Nothing short of a masterpiece.
Karin: Enger craftily uses historical events to weave conflicts between American soldiers & Plain Indians and the demise of the American Bison. Ulysses is haunted with his role as a Montana territories US soldier. He sets out on an Odyssey-type quest to redeem himself and his family follows in this beautifully crafted Western story. The parallel challenges between living in the harsh Montana plains in the 1880's and facing personal demons creates suspense and tension. I was hooked early on and liked that I couldn't predict how the story would end. High Divide is wide in scope yet intimate in detail.
Karin: Fourth of July Creek is not for the faint of heart. As poignant as it is frightening; it depicts the harsh realities of children born to parents with mental health and addiction issues. There are subjects of domestic terrorism, corrupted Christianity, disconnection from society and the rights of freedom. When does your ability to be free infringe on the rights of others? Pete, a social worker who has a big heart but who doesn't or can't do the right thing is likeable, but hopelessly flawed. Henderson has the feel of McCarthy, Proulx, and Franzen. I was disturbed and riveted at the same time. A triumphant novel despite its chilling subject matter.
Karin: A gripping true tale of the struggle between national security and environmental activists who are fighting to save whales from extinction. This is a story of passion and courage that reads like a good mystery novel. I found this thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time. Hard to put down.
Karin: Believe in soul mates? Like a bit of zaniness? This romantic off-beat novel is for you. I loved Netzer's first book and was excited for this her second. I found it fun, wacky, steamy and a great entertaining read which left me dreaming of stars and romantic interludes.
Karin: WOW - Great novel! Heller is a master at alternating between art and rage, good and evil, lyric descriptions and edge-of-your-seat action. I fond this a moving story of love, dark pasts, celebrity and the redeeming power of art. Highly recommended for both men and women.
Karin: Lisa See enthralled her audience recently at the Bookworm talking about China Dolls, her newest book. It covers an interesting slice of American history, following three friends through their careers as entertainers beginning in 1938. Impeccably researched I was most captivated by the compelling history of the young women. Great read from page one.
Karin: A winding multi-generation tale of family and the Virgin Islands. Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison this is a rich, lyrical, magical novel with a Latin/Caribbean feel. Yanique's writing has a lovely, rhythmic meandering style and her storytelling is wonderful.
Karin: Half sisters looking to make their way in a mixed-up world. Characters are dimensional - flawed, strong, unique and fully human. This is a coming-of-age story, a story of resilience and finding your "family". Bloom is a gifted writer who is both light and weighty. We the readers are the Lucky Ones.
Karin: I was in awe and full of admiration the whole time listening/reading this autobiography of this astonishing woman who has become a national icon. It is rare for a political memoir to exhibit such honesty, intimacy, and candor. Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself. Highly recommended!
Karin: This is a great debut novel set in New Orleans when civil rights are gaining momentum. It's a big-hearted coming-of-age story full of family, drama and secrets. In line with the poignant stories: The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, The Secret Life of Bees and The Help. Thoroughly southern and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A great choice for young adults as well.
Karin: This fictional romantic biography of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny Osbourne, skillfully blends researched history with Horan's praiseworthy writing. It is a love story that spans years and continents. It explores both characters equally well, their escape from family difficulties, their collaboration in Robert's writing and health and the complexities of their lives. It reads like truth only better.
Karin: I am loving the flavorful and unusual dishes in BOLD. Highly recommend so far: Beet hummus, Vegetable Tacos, Stuffed Peppers, and Buffalo Steaks. I'm also finding the many tidbits of information about origin, species, history and more entertaining reading.
Karin: I would highly recommend this to both men and women, to anyone interested in WWII, and to those who like stories of love, survival and sacrifice. This well-constructed story takes place during the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of mainland Alaska. I found it riveting and compelling and interesting that through most of the book the main characters were not together yet their love is powerful. It is reminiscent and as good as Cold Mountain. A great story about a little-known part of WWII.
Karin: This is a story of a community trying to rebuild after a civil war. The power of this tale is both the close-up heartbreaking struggle of its people as well as the beautiful lyrical African storytelling. (Reading the preface regarding Beah's choice of writing style is imperative.) I wanted to soak in every word. I was reminded of the resilience it takes to survive, how hope leads to rebirth, and the determination it takes to face the hardships the future may bring. Beah has a vision of a tomorrow without conflict. Good choice if you appreciated, What is the What, Running the Rift, The House at Sugar Beach, or Beah's excellent memoir A Long Way Gone.
Karin: This is an inspiring, enthralling narrative that covers the lives of two very different women who have a common goal: Freedom. It is a fictional account of a real life abolitionist and suffragist, Sarah Grimke and a house slave, Handful. The story follows the lives of the two in pre-civil war Charleston. It is a new perspective on slavery, the limited roles of women, injustice and it shows how an undeniable spirit can effect change. Good if you like The Help or Mudbound. Very moving - highly recommended.
Karin: This modern-day Dickensean novel immersed me in its astonishing power, prose, and brilliance from page one. This new classic is full of unforgettable characters, pitch-perfect dialogue and vivid descriptions. Goldfinch's themes are huge in scope: loss, trauma, longing, family, friendship, bullies, survival, love, drugs, philosophy and power. It is full of complicated characters - their situations and relationships are bleak yet loveliness shines through - much as it does in the painting that is central to the novel. I loved the references to literature, music, art, film, and antiques. One of the BEST books of the year and truly a masterpiece.
Karin: Using an unconventional structure of the five classic elements: Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, Winchester beautifully details acts of pioneering men that have brought us together as one united country. He goes beyond the national concept of ideals and constitutional freedom and shows the roles of familiar, forgotten, and unknown men and how each expedition or discovery created the United States. Excellent book for any history fan, but also great for those who are interested in fascinating snippets in an easy-to-read work.
Karin: Much more than a sports book! This is the story of nine working-class western boys who beat the odds - elite Eastern and British rivals and Hitlers crew in the '36 Olympics. I found it irrestible and inspiring, full of good character development, exceptional pacing and good parallel descriptions. It's a story of depression trials, collegiate crew, Leni Reinfenstahls role in the rise of the Nazis, the emergence of the Western States, finding hope in the most desperate of times, and the magic of a team when individuals give their best. Great writers generate interest in a subject and Brown does that here. Think Unbroken and Chariots of Fire.
Karin: This moving WWI debut novel is really a winner. Alternating between a father at war and a son at home this remarkable story explores duty and honor, obligation and love, and lessons and regret. The war action is impressively real - the imfamous Canadian battle of Vimy is so vivid I was on the edge of my seat. This haunting memorable and moving novel is on par with Birdsong, and one of the best war stories ever. Good for both men and women historical fiction lovers.
Karin: Occasionally when reading you know you are in the midst of greatness. That is how I felt when reading this gem of a story. It is a guiet, small book yet a great sentimental tale. It is a memorable story full of grace; a richly told story in poetic style. It is a timeless jewel which I will happily visit again. Reminiscent of The Alchemist.
Karin: This is an entertaining novel of a little-written about time - pre Revolutionary War Philadelphia and the American Colonies. Cabot does a fine job of drawing on real facts concerning Franklin's illegitimate child, William, and the surrounding circumstances of founding a new country. She makes Franklin human and I really appreciated the character of William's mother who is strong, wise, and interesting. Recommended for those who like women's historical fiction.
Karin: This is a big book exploring human emotions set against the backdrop of WWII. Award-winning screensriter Nicholson brings us this powerfully written sweeping tale of romance, human drama, and survival. It's simple staightforward cinematic style makes it a quick easy read. The graphic detail of the disastrous Raid of Rieppe is extremely well done. It is a love story with layers - good if you liked the movie Pearl Harbor, looking for fast-paced historical fiction or are a true romantic.
Karin: I found this to be the perfect blend of historical fiction, mystery and suspense. Bohjanlian masterfully develops his characters, the book's sense of place and time as well as creating a page turner. The novel explores the psychological aspects of war and the moral dilemmas of ordinary people trying to survive.
Karin: I couldn't wait to read this much anticipated novel by the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. This worldly book is filled with love, loss and the search for identity. A masterful storyteller, Hosseini, once again captured my attention. He took me inside the hearts and minds of his characters, exposed their flaws and vulnerabilities and I found the raw beauty in his writing amazing. There is sadness and joy and characters I will not easily forget. There is one subtle surprise - a recurring statement - which I found brilliant. Worth the Wait!
Karin: This is a smart, suspenseful, entertaining read. Ursula is doomed to die and be reborn again and again - sometimes with the knowledge of her previous lives. It's a masterpiece about how even the smallest choices can sometimes change the course of history. It's clever, bittersweet, funny, and unlike anything else you've ever read. This is an unique story - I was enthralled from the beginning. "History is all about what ifs." Great fun!
Karin: WOW - this is one of the best books I have ever read! It is an inventive, captivating novel about love, loss, resilience, and the unexpected ties that bind us together. The setting is war-torn Chechnya, but it is not a typical Russian novel. I was reminded of The English Patient, City of Thieves, and The Tiger's Wife. I found it brilliant and heartbreaking; gorgeous storytelling that shows the best and worst of humanity and the insanity of war. It takes place over 5 days yet spans 11 years - the foreshadowing was perfectly placed. This outstanding debut is why I LOVE novels and it exemplifies the power of literature. A must read!
Karin: Yeah - a new epic Western! Meyer's second novel has the grittiness of Cormac McCarthy and the scope and narrative power of Larry McMurtry. It follows generations of a Texan family from the Comanche raids through the oil boom. I found parts gruesome, parts fascinating, and the moral balance of the characters authentic. Conquer or be conquered is a recurring theme. The Son shows humans' insatiable greed and their fragility, and shows how a hero can be found in the unlikely.
Karin: Thrilling twists and turns in this fast-paced Le Carre type spy novel will keep you glued to the pages. Is anyone who they say they are? I listened to the audio and found myself at my destination waiting to get to a good stopping point. It is smartly executed, worldly, entertaining, and suspenseful. This is Pavone's first novel and I'm anxious for his next adventure.
Karin: Bean and Liz, semi-abandoned sisters, end up at their family mansion in a small southern town that is on the cusp of social change in the 1970's. Bean is strong and spunky, Liz a brilliant unconventional teen that runs into some adult troubles. I thought the complex and changing loyalties of the sisters and the strength of the girls were highlights as well as the satisfying ending. A good option for young adults that liked The Secret Life of Bees.
Karin: I loved this book! It is a must read for fans of historical fiction and those that love dance and Impressionist Art. (Who doesn’t love Degas Little Dancer?) The heart of the story is the poignant tale of sisters struggling to survive with dignity in Paris in the 1870’s, but it is a wonderful account of both working life and the artists taking Paris by storm. Buchanan does a masterful job of interweaving historical figures into her plot. This is a great book club choice!
Karin: I was pleasantly surprised at how GOOD Rowling's first adult novel is. It is a skillfully written, darkly comic tale of relationships and good vs. evil. Casual Vacancy is filled with GREAT character development. It's a big tale of a small town, the haves and the have-nots, and the sadly depressing side of humans. It is heartfelt, poignant and raw; Rowling expertly writes about the truth that exists between people in a community and more importantly the lies that tear them apart. There is no magic, but there is more in common with Harry than you'd think. A great book for discussion. I was very impressed!
Karin: I couldn't put down this powerful coming-of-age story that follows Rwandan Jean Patrick. Jean Patrick is both a scholar and a gifted middle-distance runner - a likeable and real character. His dreams of achieving Olympic glory seem assured, but he is Tutsi, and Rwanda's Hutu-Tutsi tensions are steadily increasing. In the violent explosion of 1994 what happens to Jean Patrick and his family reflect the collective experience of Rwanda's 800,000-plus genocide victims. Naomi Benaron renders friendships and families with tenderness and sincerity, and lingers on the goodwill of humankind even when they turn against each other. This is Benaron's first novel, and she won the 2010 Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for this unflinching and beautifully crafted account of a nation and the survival of hope in unimaginable events.
Karin: This Colorado post apocalyptic tale is gripping. All that Hig has left is his plane, his faithful dog, a fishing rod, survivor's guilt, an eccentric companion with a cache of weapons, and mostly hope. Heller's sparse but dynamic prose is very readable and surprisingly fitting for the world he has created - his detail of nature brings a sense of clarity and beauty.