Five Sentence Reviews: Three 2018 Novels

I feel like my reading mojo is returning. I’ve been on a streak of four-star reads lately.

There There by Tommy Orange. This one made me cry. I’d never read a novel told from the perspectives of urban Native Americans before (Sherman Alexie’s reservation-centric stories 36692478were my only reference.) So many characters occasionally had me reaching back to the beginning to get my bearings. And the ways in which the characters all intersected in the end felt just a wee bit too tidy. But the passion and emotion of the writing kept me invested and makes me want to read Orange’s next book. ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

A sample: Only those who have lost as much as we have see the particularly nasty slice of smile on someone who thinks they’re winning when they say, “Get over it.” This is the thing: if you have the option to not think about or even consider history, whether you learned it right or not, or whether it even deserves consideration, that’s how you know you’re on board the ship that serves hors d’oeuvres and fluffs your pillows, while others are out at sea, swimming or drowning, or clinging to little inflatable rafts that they have to take turns keeping inflated, people short of breath, who’ve never even heard of the words hors d’oeuvres or fluff.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. What fun! This classic-style mystery with Gothic flare kept me turning pages so quickly I didn’t even take notes. You’ve got a crumbling, spooky estate, an inheritance at stake, family secrets and intrigue galore.51yGj5z3JtL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ Plus, a menacing, Mrs. Danvers-like housekeeper looming around every dark corner. Highly entertaining – Ruth Ware is becoming one of my go-to mystery writers.             ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

A sample: Then she turned the handle of the door and pushed.

Nothing happened.

Hal felt her breath catch in her throat, and her heart seemed suddenly to be beating painfully hard.

The bolts. The bolts on the outside.

But no – it wasn’t possible. She would have heard. Surely she would have heard? And who – why?

Transcription by Kate Atkinson. One of my very favorite authors, Kate Atkinson’s last two books utterly wowed me. This novel, a story of a young, inexperienced woman named Juliet who is recruited to be a spy for MI-5 in the early days of WWII Britain, 37946414wasn’t as magnificent in scope or in emotion as those. But it was typically Atkinsonian in that it was an entertaining mix of heavy and light, serious and witty. It reminded me a lot of one of her earliest novels, Human Croquet, in tone especially. Fans of Atkinson should definitely read this. ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

A sample: The brooding landscape they were currently traversing, the lowering sky above their heads and the rugged terrain beneath their feet, were all conspiring to make her feel like an unfortunate Brontë sister, traipsing endlessly across the moors after unobtainable fulfillment. Perry himself was not entirely without Heathcliffian qualities – the absence of levity, the ruthless disregard for a girl’s comfort, the way he had of scrutinizing you as if you were a puzzle to be solved. Would he solve her? Perhaps she wasn’t complicated enough for him. (On the other hand, perhaps she was too complicated.)

Thoughts on any of these? What makes the difference for you between a four-star read and a five-star read?

25 thoughts on “Five Sentence Reviews: Three 2018 Novels

  1. I think we’re on the same reading wavelength! I’m happy to hear that your reading mojo is returning and you’ve found some good reads lately!!

    I also loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway! I’m currently reading Transcription and am having a lot of fun with it. Juliet is so funny! I haven’t read the last two Atkinson novels, but since you loved them so much then I know that I have to.

    I returned There, There to the library unread and almost picked it up again on Saturday but decided against it. I will definitely try to snag it the next time I’m there.

    Thanks for these fun reviews! I miss you and hope all is well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so funny that we’ve been reading (or picking up) the same books! 🙂 I hope you do get a chance to read There There. I’m glad I read it. It broadened my awareness of what it means to be a Native American. And it was a moving story. Hope you’re doing well too and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh I’ve been seeing There There about and your review just makes me want to read it now! Thank you, I love the quite you share.
    I think a 5 star read there’s just no hesitation, it’s good all the way through, I’m usually left in awe and I want others to read it, or at least talk to others who read it. 4 stars there’s mild hesitation, just that really.


  3. I’m so glad to hear you’re getting your reading mojo back. It helps when you’re hit with a streak of good books!
    I haven’t read any of these, but would like to read all of them. I’m starting to think it’s about time to try out a Ruth Ware – they seem popular.
    For me, 4 stars means I loved it, but 5 stars means I loved it SO much, can’t stop thinking about it. I think the difference is emotional more than anything else. An imperfect book could get 5 stars from me if I really connect to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Naomi! I’m grateful for some good reads all in a row. Ruth Ware is so entertaining! Not deep, but just pure fun when you’re in the mood for that.

      And I’m the same way about 5 star reads – it doesn’t have to be perfect if it really emotionally connects with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great reviews! I enjoyed There There as well. For me it was a 4, not 5, star read because the last part was too neat. Just when all the storylines were coming to a head, the book ended.


  5. Ooh, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the Ruth Ware – one of my favourites from this year! I’d love to read Transcription too one of these days – I feel it’s been too long since I read any Kate Atkinson… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh I really want to read Tommy Orange, what a poignant section you included! I loved Mrs. Westaway too, the way you described it as ‘fun’ is so perfect. That didn’t occur to me when I read it, but you are 100% right! Glad to hear your reading mojo is returning 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello, Laila! So happy to see a blog post from you. 🙂 You know what I noticed? I believe all of your reads are up for Goodreads awards! Do you vote on there? They’re on the final round right now. I didn’t realize Tommy Orange was Native American, but I do know that now that Sherman Alexie has be outted as an utter creep, readers seem to be looking for other Native American writers. He pretty much had a monopoly on things, which isn’t good, especially since we now know he was abusing that power.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I did notice that they were all up for awards. I hate that we only seem to be able to have one “Native” author who can make it big at a time. I hope that more and more Native voices will get publicized by the big publishers and review outlets. This particular novel was a good one. I am so disappointed in Alexie. His writing is so beautiful and I adored his podcast a few years ago.


  8. Oh wow! all of these books are Goodreads finalists! I bet you didn’t have an idea that would happen when you picked them up. I’m glad to see that you have had a streak of luck with reads! Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westway has been showing up all over the place lately. I don’t read a lot of mystery, but you’re the first person to hook me with the words “gothic” and “Mrs. Danvers-like”. Sold. 🙂

    I’m glad to hear the reading mojo is coming back. I hope it stays with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jackie. No, I didn’t know they’d be finalists when I put them on hold initially – they just looked like books I’d like! 🙂 Atkinson is one of my must-buy authors. There are very few of those on my list since I am such a heavy library user.I know mystery isn’t really your favorite genre, but Death of Mrs. Westaway is a good one – it has a nice classic old-school feel to it and a suspenseful storyline.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel like I need to get into mystery. I’m certain there are going to be some mysteries which really appeal to me– I just haven’t found them yet, sadly. Or, I don’t know how to find them again. I *adore* The Unexpected Mrs. Polifax, but I couldn’t get into the second book. I’ll add The Death of Mrs. Westaway to my TBR. Perhaps this will be the book which brings me truly into mystery?! One can hope. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I liked Transcription a lot too — it’s the first time I’ve felt like I have a grasp on what’s characteristic of Kate Atkinson as an author, if that makes sense? I really liked her last two books but couldn’t quite get a handle on her. I’m also just fixing to read Human Croquet!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a great combination of reads! I’m glad you’re feeling like you can settle into a good story again (and even write about it too).

    I don’t rate my books with numbers/stars usually (I think I did for awhile on LibraryThing and they might still be rated – I can’t remember – but they allow half stars and I prefer that when it comes to rating) but I guess the difference would be that there is something that I think would have made the book stronger and that leaves it at a four-star read, whereas if I can’t think of anything at all (other than just wanting someone to have a better turn of events in their storyline heheh) it’s a perfect read for my taste and a five-star read. It’s great that you’re asking the question and wondering about it too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad too!

      Oh I like your answer! That makes perfect sense. A four-star read is perfectly enjoyable, something I’m likely to recommend to someone. But it may not linger in my mind for years. A five-star read is the best of the best, something that is just as close to a perfect read as possible. It’s one I’m likely to buy or read again.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. There There knocked me over. I felt the way you did- I knew nothing about this kind of history. The Prologue broke my heart and made me feel ashamed.

    I’ve loved Atkinson in the past, but I could not get into this book and finally gave up. I needed it to move faster.

    For me, 4 stars is a great book, but 5 stars is an amazing book. One where I cannot thing of a single thing I’d change. I’ve only had 8 of them this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, definitely, that prologue is a heartbreaker. We as a country remain so deeply ignorant of our history.

      I understand about the Atkinson. It wasn’t my favorite but I enjoyed it. I might have inflated the rating just because I love her so much.

      That’s a good definition of a five star book, not changing a single thing.


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