Sunday, June 10, 2018

Before We Were Yours

by Lisa Wingate
May 17-June 7, 2018

I wanted to love this. I anticipated that I would rate it a seldom-given five stars. But it was only OK. I found many flaws, but I have ideas on how it would have been better.

It's no secret that I hate politics. (I'm also the first to admit that I am not educated enough to express any public opinion on political matters.) So the beginning of the book dragged for me. To the point where I wasn't sure I could continue on. I just didn't get the relevance. Then, when the author took the reader to the past on a riverboat, I failed to see the connection. Once the children were kidnapped, it started to make more sense.  I found it extremely difficult to read about the abuse the children suffered while in the orphanage. I also had doubts whether these tales were actually based on a true story. But because the author continued to refer to a place specifically, the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, I deducted that this must be based on facts.

I just don't think that the story benefited in having the connection to the present as far as the political "controversy" and the story of Avery, one of the adopted children's granddaughter. The present-day portions were shallow and sloppily told. It was too much. The novel would have been great on its own if it had just focused on the Foss children and what became of each of them. Avery was a selfish, self-absorbed, unlikeable character. I also failed to see why finding out your grandmother was a "river gypsy" and adopted was such a scandalous fact. So what?

Overall, good potential, poor execution.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Velvet Hours

by Alyson Richman
April 22-May 16, 2018

The first two words that came to me while I was reading this: gratuitous and indulgent. For as much as I love novels centered around Paris during WWII, this one was all over the place and eye-roll inducing. I didn't find the structure to be successful, nor did I find the characters to be well-developed or even likable. The author spent more time describing the art pieces than imagining the lives of the characters.

With alternating chapters told by Solange at the beginning of the war and her grandmother in the late 1800s, the changes in their POV was very distracting. The technique was unsuccessful and didn't succeed in building a better story. My quick takeaways from each character are this: Solange is selfish and oblivious. Marthe is an oblivious courtesan. I'm sure there is truth to the whole "kept woman" concept, but wow, is that hard to read in this day and age. And Solange, as the Nazis are about to occupy Paris, all she can think of is her stupid books and her boyfriend. The biggest eye roll of them all was how her boyfriend got "excused" from the draft. Then their escape to South America was rushed and lacking any sympathy that one would imagine was experienced during that time. From all the other historical fiction books I've read about this era, this one just isn't plausible.

The inspiration for this story came from a real-life event, where an apartment was discovered untouched after 70 years. In my opinion, the author missed the best opportunity to tell a really good story. It was a struggle to finish. Such a disappointment.

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