Lee's Book Reviews

Sankofa: A Novel By Chibundu Onuzo Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: January 20, 2022

It starts as a good personal story of searching for identity; then becomes an adventure tale; and finishes with a surprisingly emotional ending. Sankofa is very well written, like a clear ringing bell, with a narrative that progresses steadily and assuredly. Sankofa deals with many issues - of race, of heritage, of identity and belonging among others; Onuzo weaves it all into a great engrossing story.

In the Country of Others: A Novel By Leila Slimani, Sam Taylor (Translated by) Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: October 31, 2021

Slimani based this fictional story on the life of her grandmother, a French woman who marries a Moroccan and moves wtih him to an isolated farm in his homeland, Slimani presents this unique family in all of its specificity, paradoxes and contradictions. The story is by turns filled with pain and joy, but always with compassionate understanding of the intricacies of living in a "country of others". A compelling narrative, very well written.

Damnation Spring By Ash Davidson Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: August 19, 2021

In exquisite prose, Davidson layers finely observed details to create characters deeply rooted in the Northern CA redwoods. The slow-burning plot allow ample time to know these people, their spiderweb of relationships, and the difficult issues they face. This is a book to savor; to experience the pleasure of lingering on the subtle flavorings of its language; to love with these people for a spell. An astonishingly accomplished debut. 

The Dark Remains: A Laidlaw Investigation (Jack Laidlaw Novels Prequel) By William McIlvanney, Ian Rankin Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: August 19, 2021

The don of Tartan Noir with one of his terrific admirers finishing his work - what could be better? This is a prequel to McIlvanney's Laidlaw trilogy, and a wonderful introduction to that detective, operating in a gritty 70's Glasgow. Everyone is a bit shady and locally mobbed-up, but no one is evil...despite the deaths. The character is all McIlvanney, the writing is all Rankin; delicious!

Conviction By Denise Mina Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: August 19, 2021

This is a book about stories - telling stories and making them. Mina draws you right in, interested and curious about Anna, the narrator - who insists she is telling us the truth but is hiding things. Then the author starts juggling, gradually throwing more balls in the air, without dropping any. And all the while keeping up this wnderful patter from her brave, angry, and delightful narrator. What a marvel!

Crossroads: A Novel By Jonathan Franzen Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: August 19, 2021

Franzen pulls off his usual deep dive into his characters and their family relationships. His portrayal of each one from their own perspective is masterful. And in placing this family in the middle of a church - the father is a pastor - he also delivers a dive into matters of God, faith, responsibility and morality. Sound too heady? It's not. I couldn't put it down, so fully is the reader drawn into these lives and their dramas. 

The Missing American (An Emma Djan Investigation #1) By Kwei Quartey Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: March 22, 2021

Take a classic PI mystery, then overlay it onto a story about internet scammers in Ghana. Add to it that the PI is a woman, newly on the job, but with instincts honed by watching her father do his job as a police detective. Mix and shake! I felt fully dropped onto the streets of Accra, completely enjoyed Emma Djan, and delighted in the twists and turns of the plot. 

Morningside Heights: A Novel By Joshua Henkin Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: March 22, 2021

This is a family story of love and loss, and accommodation to the unexpected turns of life. The author is tender with these people - he is taking care of them, hearing them, allowing them their faults and foibles and humanity and love. We wander through their rooms, observing them as they navigate their lives. And then miss them when the story concludes. 

Writers & Lovers By Lily King Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: February 22, 2021

Euphoria was one of my favorite books in recent years. Although this has a less spectacular setting (what can match the setting of Euphoria?), it has character development in equal measure. It is a very personal read; you are very much inside the head of Casey, the main character. She is an introspective person, and it is a pleasure to live with her for a while, and to share her struggles with relationships and with her mother's death, and the insights that she gains through those struggles.

Monogamy: A Novel By Sue Miller Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: January 25, 2021

There are novels that take you into new geography, new dramas. And then there are novels that keep you close to home. Sue Miller knows how to illuminate relationships, to reflect deeply on how people navigate events that are in their everyday lives. And besides, there is a bookstore owner, and it’s Cambridge!

The Quaker By Liam McIlvanney Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: January 1, 2021

It is a wonderful experience to begin a new book and quickly find yourself immersed in it. It is an even greater experience to find that the author can write sentences that thrill in the mastery of the language. And the best experience of all to find that it sustains itself throughout the book. You will find all of this here, in Liam McIlvanney's masterful mystery. What a great discovery! I cannot wait for him to write more. 

Underland: A Deep Time Journey By Robert Macfarlane Cover Image
Reviewed by: Lee
Posted: August 23, 2020

Every chapter of this book travels to a different adventure below the earth, visiting scientists, going into the catacombs of Paris, discovering the underworld cities of Turkey and the ice caps of Greenland.  It is an epic travelogue, taking us to unexpected places and seeing them with the eyes of an explorer. The writing is extraordinary, well worth reading just for the craft of his descriptions; and the insightful wanderings of his mind.

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