Archive for the ‘Fiction Review’ Category

Review of A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik

Saturday, June 5th, 2021

A Deadly Education

Lesson One of the Scholomance

by Naomi Novik

Del Rey, 2020. 320 pages.
Review written May 21, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Oh, this book is wonderful. It’s the story of magical kids sent to wizard school – but this wizard school wants to kill the students.

Naomi Novik’s world-building in this new series is incredible. All kinds of details about this school for wizards, existing in the void, where maleficaria – monstrous creatures – come to feed on people who use magic. And the heroine of the story, Galadriel, daughter of a good witch who lives in a mundane commune and is loved by everyone – was born to balance that out, destined to be a powerful sorceress wielding death and destruction. And nobody likes her.

Here’s how the book begins:

I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life. I hadn’t really cared much about him before then one way or another, but I had limits. It would’ve been all right if he’d saved my life some really extraordinary number of times, ten or thirteen or so – thirteen is a number with distinction. Orion Lake, my personal bodyguard; I could have lived with that. But we’d been in the Scholomance almost three years by then, and he hadn’t shown any previous inclination to single me out for special treatment.

Selfish of me, you’ll say, to be contemplating with murderous intent the hero responsible for the continued survival of a quarter of our class. Well, too bad for the losers who couldn’t stay afloat without his help. We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.

Ah, but what about me, you ask, since I’d needed him to save me? Twice, even? And that’s exactly why he had to go. He set off the explosion in the alchemy lab last year, fighting that chimaera. I had to dig myself out of the rubble while he ran around in circles whacking at its fire-breathing tail. And that soul-eater hadn’t been in my room for five seconds before he came through the door: he must have been right on its heels, probably chasing it down the hall. The thing had only swerved in here looking to escape.

The whole elaborate world-building is fascinating and surprising. In that world, kids brought up in wizard enclaves have big advantages – being able to share power, and with automatic alliances. You need alliances to survive graduation – when the seniors on the bottom level of the school have to get out through the graduation hall, where maleficaria have been building up.

Those who aren’t in an enclave, like El, are at a disadvantage. It turns out she’s got amazing abilities – but her natural affinity is toward death and destruction, and she’s determined not to suck the life force out of any living creatures. Which makes things more difficult for her. And when Orion is anywhere near, anything dramatic she pulls off is assumed to be his work.

It’s hard to explain the charm of this book. If you like elaborate world-building at all, this one is amazing. And you’ll be pulled in by the grumpy witch trying not to become an evil sorceress, but trying to survive. And she might have to make some friends and kill some monsters to do so.

The book ends in a way that hints at a big conflict in the future. Nothing’s ever simple for El! I plan to preorder Book 2, coming out in September. I don’t even want to wait for a library copy.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laura Viera Rigler

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

by Laura Viera Rigler
read by Kate Reading

Tantor Audio, 2009. 9 hours.
Review written May 17, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

I’d already read and reviewed the companion to this book, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, where Courtney Stone from modern-day Los Angeles gets transferred to the body of Jane Mansfield, a young lady who lived in Regency England. This book gives us the flip side of that exchange, and tells us what it’s like for Jane Mansfield to wake up in modern-day Los Angeles, in Courtney’s body.

I enjoyed this story more. I’m sure it was partly that I’d gotten used to the premise and didn’t get bogged down on the fantasy of the mechanics and how it wouldn’t really work to switch bodies. I was used to the idea and just went with it.

And the challenges of a young lady from the past trying to deal with present-day technology are astounding! She didn’t even have the vocabulary to know what things were called. The author did make use of “cellular memory” – the body itself knew how to do things, just as Courtney was remarkably good at embroidery when she was in Jane’s body. So Jane in Courtney’s body could quickly navigate using a computer, once somebody showed her what it was. She used her concussion as a reason to need a lot of things explained to her.

It was a lot of fun seeing the modern world through a 200-year-old consciousness. When she arrives and Pride and Prejudice is playing on Courtney’s TV, Jane is astonished, wondering how the actors got into the box, and she definitely recognizes the scene, for she, too, is a Jane Austen addict – but didn’t even know the name of the author of Pride and Prejudice. She’s delighted that there are four more novels by this same author on the shelves of her modern-day apartment.

I still wasn’t exactly happy about how each woman was trying to straighten out the other’s love life. Because who is really in love with whom if it’s a different person in that body? And then the author fudged the ending a bit, so it didn’t end exactly as I expected it to. Did I misunderstand the ending of the other book? All the same, it seems everyone will live happily ever after. What more could you ask for?

This set of books is a lot of fun, and the more so the less you get bogged down in trying to figure out how it would work. Don’t try; just enjoy it. After all, it would take a little magic for someone to live and learn to thrive in a life 200 years in the future.

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Source: This review is based on a library eaudiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

by Abbi Waxman
read by Emily Rankin

Penguin Audio, 2019. 9 hours.
Review written May 10, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

This book was recommended by members of my Silent Book Club Facebook group as a feel-good read, and I was delighted with it.

Nina Hill lives alone with her cat and likes it that way. She has plenty of activities after her work day at a bookstore, but she’s careful to schedule one night per week for reading. She was raised by a nanny, as her international photographer mother was always traveling, and her mother told her she didn’t even know who Nina’s father was.

So Nina is surprised when a lawyer informs her that her father has died and she’s mentioned in the will. It turns out that her mother had told him to never contact Nina, but he was, in fact, her father. It also turns out that she now suddenly has a great big family of siblings and nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews who also live in the Los Angeles area. (When I say “great big,” it’s not anywhere near as big as my family. But going from zero to a dozen or so is a big change. So I’m talking big for a normal person.)

At the same time, her trivia team members are urging her to get to know the handsome man on an opposing quiz team – and his team members are urging the same thing. But can Nina have a good relationship with someone who doesn’t read?

Honestly, I took it a little personally that the book implied that Nina looking for a man who reads would be unrealistic. I couldn’t actually see that they have a whole lot in common and wonder what they will talk about after they stop spending all their time together having sex. (Though admittedly, it turns out that his occupation is perfect.)

On top of that, every new family member she got to know had something in common with Nina, many being avid readers, and it was easy to see she’ll become good friends with them. Shouldn’t she also have something in common with a romantic partner? (Bear in mind that I’m unduly sensitive, since I would like to find a man who reads. I suppose if he’s good-looking, smart, and kind, like this guy, that might be enough – but I’m reserving some skepticism.)

It’s a delightful book, though. I related to book-lover Nina so very much. I did keep wishing she’d discover Library Science, though! She could get a Master’s in Library Science, become a librarian, and do all the things in a library that she was doing in the bookstore – without having to make a profit and getting a little more respect for her prodigious knowledge. She could still run book clubs and activities, but instead of needing to sell books, she could simply encourage people to read books. And her encyclopedic knowledge of trivia would come in handy at the reference desk.

But that’s the book I wanted, not the book before me. And the book before me was wonderful!

If you’re a book-lover at all, there’s an excellent chance you’ll love this particular book – the story of one of us.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Jane Austen Project, by Kathleen A. Flynn

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

The Jane Austen Project

by Kathleen A. Flynn
performed by Saskia Maarleveld

HarperAudio, 2017. 11 hours on 9 CDs.
Review written May 3, 2021, from a library audiobook.
Starred Review

Here’s another book featuring time travel to Jane Austen’s time. My time listening to this audiobook in the car happened to overlap with listening to the eaudiobook Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. But this one meticulously explained how the purposeful and planned time travel happened – much more satisfying to the science fiction reader in me.

You see, in the future, after the “die-off,” time travel has been developed. Rachel Katzman, a doctor who has done work with disaster relief and happens to love Jane Austen novels, applied and was accepted to the Jane Austen Project, an undertaking of the Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics.

Her mission, together with Liam Finuca, an Austen scholar, is to go back in time to 1815, not long before Jane Austen’s death. They are posing as a brother and sister, Dr. William Ravenswood and his sister Mary. They arrive in 1815 with counterfeit money strapped to their bodies. They plan to ingratiate their way into the society of Jane’s brother Henry, and from there make the acquaintance of Jane. And they want to be good enough acquaintances to somehow get a copy of the complete version of The Watsons as well as find the missing letters, before those letters get burned by Jane’s sister Cassandra, and maybe diagnose the disease that killed Jane.

Can they do all this? They’ve got a letter of introduction from an Austen relative in Jamaica, so it would be difficult to check. But can they win Henry over, and then Jane? It helps when Henry gets sick and Liam becomes an attentive doctor friend checking on him. Henry doesn’t know that it’s “Mary” who’s the real doctor, telling her “brother” what questions to ask.

There begin to be signs that they’ve disturbed the “probability field,” so they have worries about what they’re changing by all their actions in their own past.

This book was delightful. I loved the way they had to know all about Jane Austen’s life and about customs of the time, so that gets conveyed to the reader (unlike the poor clueless heroine in Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict). The book pulls you in and helps the reader see all the difficulties one would face if you tried to be accepted into the society of 1815 without detection.

This book is like Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict in that part of the difficulty – and some of the humor – is a woman with more modern attitudes regarding sex trying to fit in during that time, when attitudes are very different. Fair warning to Jane Austen fans: This book has more sex scenes and sexual situations than Jane Austen’s books do.

I’m not completely satisfied with the ending, when it’s revealed, that yes, their time travel changed some things. (I think it’s not a spoiler if I don’t say what was changed, parts of which made me happy.) But then, I always have trouble with time travel paradoxes. I did appreciate that they attempted to explain the repercussions.

And the book is so much fun! You forget it’s fiction and feel like you’ve been immersed in Jane Austen’s time and Jane Austen’s society. A real treat for Jane Austen fans.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

by Laurie Viera Rigler
read by Orlagh Cassidy

Penguin Audio, 2007. 7 hours.
Review written April 25, 2021, from a library eaudiobook

I’m on a roll of reading Jane Austen take-offs, and this is one of the silliest, or I should probably say most light-hearted.

Courtney, a modern young woman who lives in Los Angeles, recently caught her fiancé cheating on her. As part of her healing process, she did her usual Jane Austen binge. But one morning she wakes up to find herself in the home of a young lady who lives in the English countryside during Jane Austen’s time, in the body of that young lady.

The young lady is named Jane Mansfield, and she has recently had a terrible fall from a horse. When Courtney tries to tell people that she is not, actually, Jane, they try to help by bleeding her (with dirty equipment!) and threaten to put her in an asylum. She has to go along with it. Surely it’s temporary, and she can just humor them, but it seems awfully realistic and she doesn’t want to live it out in an asylum.

The book never does adequately explain why this body-switching happened. There’s talk about the fluidity of time and a wish and trauma and… well, whatever it was, it’s fun that it happened. (I also wasn’t completely satisfied about what her “destiny” was that would take her back, but I won’t give that away.) For a fantasy fan like me, that aspect was awfully murky.

This book is also a lot more raunchy than most Jane Austen take-offs. Courtney had been sexually active with her fiancé and other people before him, and she appraises the men she meets with that in mind – which does not really fit with Jane Austen’s England. But now Jane’s mother very much wants her to marry Mr. Edgeworth – and Courtney can’t remember why Jane was opposed to that plan. But she gets flashes of Jane’s memories, and she’s afraid that even in a different body, she’s attracted to an unsuitable man.

Along the way, there’s lots of humor as Courtney’s modern sensibilities clash with life in Jane Austen’s England. And though some things appall her – such as having to use a chamber pot – she begins to make the best of the situation – and the reader (or listener) gets to enjoy it with her.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Longbourn, by Jo Baker

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

Longbourn

by Jo Baker
read by Emma Fielding

Random House Audio, 2013. 13.5 hours.
Review written April 9, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

A big thank you to my coworker Pam who told me about this book after I posted my new Austenalia page. Longbourn focuses on the home of Elizabeth Bennet during the events of Pride and Prejudice and tells us about the lives of the servants.

This isn’t the same flavor at all as Jane Austen’s books, dealing with ladies and gentlemen and polite society and appearances and sweetly and innocently finding husbands. Details are a little more sordid, and there are some unpleasant scenes and situations. The book begins on a wash day, and Sarah, a housemaid, has these thoughts about her employers:

The young ladies might behave like they were smooth and sealed as alabaster statues underneath their clothes, but then they would drop their soiled shifts on the bedchamber floor, to be whisked away and cleansed, and would thus reveal themselves to be the frail, leaking, forked bodily creatures that they really were. Perhaps that was why they spoke instructions at her from behind an embroidery hoop or over the top of a book: she had scrubbed away their sweat, their stains, their monthly blood; she knew they weren’t as rarefied as angels, and so they just couldn’t look her in the eye.

Longbourn is a small household, with the butler married to the housekeeper. Sarah is the older of the two housemaids, and she’s only a teen herself. At the start of the book, a stranger comes into town, and he quickly becomes their new footman. There are some questions as to why a young man would be available during a time of war.

Something fun about this book is that yes, the events of Pride and Prejudice play out among the young ladies, but those things aren’t nearly as interesting to the servants as what is going on in their own lives. The author has given them intriguing back stories.

So don’t think of this as a Jane Austen read-alike. It’s not. But it is a fascinating and absorbing account of what life was like for ordinary people in England during the Napoleonic Wars. It’s about making do and surviving, but also about finding love and finding opportunities. What would a servant dream of making of themselves during that era?

I will add that in revealing the back stories of the servants, Jo Baker gives us some surprising back stories of the main characters. Bingley’s family made their fortune in sugar, and there are some implications about one of his servants – but that’s only the beginning of the back story revelations.

I wasn’t too sure I’d enjoy it as the book began, since I’m used to thinking of only the pleasant side of Austen heroines. But the more I listened, the more caught up I was in the lives and situations of these people who began to feel like they knew a lot more about how the world really works than the fine ladies I was used to reading about.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library eaudiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

This Is How It Always Is

by Laurie Frankel
read by Gabra Zackman

Macmillan Audio, 2017. 11 hours.
Review written March 29, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

I heard about this book from my Facebook group of mothers of transgender kids. I have a transgender daughter, though she came out at 27 years old, when she had grown up and moved out long before. This is a book about a family with a young child who doesn’t follow gender norms, and how the whole family navigates that.

I tend to not like “issue” novels, because they can make things work out for their protagonists in ways the real world wouldn’t. But I loved this. In the featured family’s quirky particularity, we don’t feel like they’re trying to speak for every transgender child. But the author is telling us about this particular family, and how they in particular dealt with things when their youngest son told them he wanted to be a girl scientist when he grew up.

Rosie and Penn have an unusual family. She’s an ER doctor. He’s a writer who’s been working on his novel for a long time. They have five children, all boys – or so they thought. As the book begins, we’re told how much Rosie wanted that last child to be a girl. (I like that touch. A mom does wonder if there’s something about their pregnancy that “caused” their child to be transgender.) When she birthed a boy, they thought that at least they knew how to handle boys by now.

But Claude is not like the others.

Back when they were dating, writer Penn won Rosie over with a fairy tale. And as their boys grow, he continues the fairy tale in bedtime stories to them, stories of Grumwald, a prince. But their youngest, Claude, is tired of Grumwald and wants to hear about Princess Stephanie. The stories begin to change, and so does Claude.

After Claude is so clearly happier wearing dresses and growing his hair long and being called Poppy, the family lets it happen. But after some negative encounters, they decide to move somewhere more accepting – and then why bother telling anyone what is in Poppy’s pants? Why not simply present her as a girl?

But that decision, and that deception, gets bigger than the family can handle and leads to things blowing up. I won’t say more about how the big crisis is handled except to say that it’s believable and gracious, while hitting your emotions hard.

I love the perspectives. I love the way fairy tales shine light on their situation. I love the flawed humans in this tale. I love the way the older brothers love their youngest sibling but still have to deal with wanting their own needs met. I love the way this family loves each other, but doesn’t always know how best to show that.

True stories of bringing up a transgender child are valuable and have their own insights. I appreciated that in a novel, the author can let us know what all the different people in the family are thinking and feeling, rather than only what the writer of the memoir knows first hand. This book showed how the youngest child being gender nonconforming affected all the members of the big and quirky family.

This book doesn’t claim to have easy answers, and it does show the parents’ struggle to do what’s best for their child – and how even that brings some problems. This is a compassionate and nuanced look at a quirky and loving family trying to support their child and help that child be the person they were born to be.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

The Jane Austen Society

by Natalie Jenner
read by Richard Armitage

Macmillan Audio, 2020. 12 hours, 34 minutes.
Review written March 11, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

Oh, The Jane Austen Society is delightful in every way! I had recently discovered I can listen to eaudiobooks while pulling holds at the library and was finding myself making more lists of books to pull to get more time to listen to this book. I was surprised to learn the author is a debut novelists, and disappointed that I can’t immediately read more of her books.

The Jane Austen Society is set shortly after World War II, focusing on a disparate group of people from Chawton, the final home of Jane Austen. Tourists already came to Chawton looking for signs of Jane, but there was no place focusing their interest. The Knight family that owned the estate has no direct heir, so the things that Jane once lived among were in danger of getting lost. A group of people living in the village discover that they all love Jane Austen, and decide to do something about preserving her legacy.

A lot of the charm of the novel is discovering how the different people all develop their love for Jane Austen’s novels and are surprised to learn this love is shared. Yes, there are romances among the characters, and yes, some of them echo the situations from Jane Austen’s novels.

There are also problems with the inheritance of the estate, and personal problems as so many in the village are grieving losses from the war. There’s even a movie star who loves Jane Austen and has some money to bring to the project. Her fiancé is interested in pleasing her by helping to back the project, though it’s questionable how much his heart is in it.

A lot of the story is told from the perspective of the local widowed doctor, who knows everyone in the village and sees to everyone’s medical needs. Which also means he feels personally responsible when there are people he can’t save, especially when that included his own wife. Then there’s the farmer who does odd jobs for everyone in the village, and the maid on the estate who had to leave school early but is fascinated by the books in the family library, which once Jane Austen might have read.

In all, the author does a magnificent job of showing us a village of people in complicated relationships with one another – rather like Jane Austen herself would do.

And it’s all narrated with the marvelous deep voice of Richard Armitage, distinguishing between the characters enough to help us follow the large cast as they interact. (I am never very fond of how British folks do American accents, but all the lovely British accents made up for it.)

A special treat for me, a hardcore Jane Austen fan, was the many discussions among the characters of fine points in Jane Austen’s books, discussions of favorite characters, of blind spots in the characters, and this or that subtle point made. The delight of eavesdropping on these conversations added to my enjoyment of the book. And, yes, I knew all the references. Other hardcore Jane fans will enjoy that part, too, though it’s not a requirement to love the book.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Into the Water

by Paula Hawkins
read by Rachel Bavidge with a Full Cast

Penguin Audio, 2017. 12 hours.
Review written March 8, 2021, from a library eaudiobook

I decided I’d been reading too many children’s books and I was ready for a thriller, so I checked out this book by Paula Hawkins, who wrote the incredibly suspenseful The Girl on the Train. This one does have suspense, with danger and mysterious deaths.

The setting is an important part of the book. It all happens in Beckford, at the Drowning Pool part of the river that runs through town. Years ago, they used to use the pool to put accused witches through their ordeal and end up drowning them. In more recent years, it’s been the site of multiple suicides.

Nell Abbot has always been obsessed by the Drowning Pool and those who died there. She used to terrorize her little sister Jules with stories of the little boy who saw his mother jump to her death. She was working on a book about the “troublesome women” who died there. But now Nell Abbot is dead, having jumped off a cliff into the river. Or did she jump?

Her fifteen-year-old daughter Lena is convinced she did, and is devastated because of the argument they had shortly before. Jules has been called back to Beckford to care for Lena, and Jules has her own guilt because she’d refused to talk to her sister for years, and had been convinced the urgency in her voice on the phone recently was just a bid for attention.

All of Jules’ narrated sections are in the style of her talking to Nell. She thinks she hears Nell’s voice, and she sees Nell in everything, in all the memories of being in the same house where they grew up, and looking at Lena, who looks so much like Nell when they were young.

But it turns out that the little boy of of Nell’s old story is Sean Townsend, the detective in charge of her case. He didn’t actually see his mother jump into the river so many years ago, but he was at the river, and his mother’s death in the same way brings extra emotion to the case. And there was another death in the river only a few months before Nell, when Lena’s best friend Katie jumped to her death. Katie’s mother can’t forgive Lena for still being alive, and she couldn’t forgive Nell for being so obsessed with women drowning in the river that she surely gave Katie the idea.

But that’s just the beginning of this complicated story. We’ll find out more about all those recent deaths – from Sean’s mother to Katie to Nell. And to do it will take many perspectives. I wish I had paid attention and realized when I started listening that it was a full cast production. At first, I quickly lost track of who was who in the many voices I heard. It helped when I realized my eaudiobook showed the name of the current narrator on my phone screen, and I think if I’d read the book in print, that would have been easier to follow. There were so many characters, the different voices didn’t help me keep track of who was who.

It’s a sordid story. It seems like almost everyone in it was having sex with someone they really shouldn’t have had sex with. And I’m not talking merely adultery. There’s an awful lot of death, too – though we know that right from the start. Let me just say that not all the deaths in this book turn out to be suicide, which is also not a surprise. Who is responsible for different deaths is more of a surprise.

The characters also aren’t tremendously likable. Though by the end, I was especially rooting for Jules and Lena to make a family relationship with each other and find peace.

So it’s not exactly a pleasant story – but it’s certainly suspenseful and engaging. I stayed up an extra hour to finish it when I got to the end because I didn’t want to put off finding out what happened. Paula Hawkins does know how to weave a suspenseful story and feed us bits of what happened in a way that realization gradually dawns on us how much is at stake.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

The Lost Girls of Paris

by Pam Jenoff

performed by Candace Thaxton, Elizabeth Knowelden, and Henrietta Meire

Harlequin Audio, 2019. 12 hours on 9 CDs.
Review written February 16, 2021, from a library audiobook

I checked out the audiobook of The Lost Girls of Paris because I’ve discovered a new favorite female narrator in Elizabeth Knowelden, when I listened to her read The Guinevere Deception, after already being enchanted by her voice in Damsel. I was looking for an adult book to read after finishing my reading for the Cybils Awards at the end of 2020, and The Lost Girls of Paris was a lovely choice.

The main storyline of this book is set in New York just after World War II has finished. A young lady named Grace who lives and works in New York City discovers an abandoned suitcase in Grand Central Station and finds photographs inside of twelve young women. Then she discovers that the owner of the suitcase, Eleanor Trig, died that morning in a car accident. Grace wants to know who the girls are and what happened to them.

There are three narrators of this book. Grace gets one viewpoint, and the next narrator, the one read by Elizabeth Knowelden, tells Eleanor’s perspective, back during the war. She worked for Special Operations in London – and gets tasked with recruiting and deploying young women to go to occupied France to be radio operators.

The third perspective is that of Marie, who is one of Eleanor’s recruits. We see her train and then go to Paris.

It’s a good story, and gripping, and I like the way it’s told, going between the three perspectives and telling us things at different times. I’ll tell the reader right up front, though: Too many people I cared about died in this book.

Okay, it’s a book about war. It’s a lot more realistic to have people die. But I like a dose of triumph with death, and these deaths didn’t have that so much. If you want to read an amazing story about young women who worked in France for Special Operations during World War II, I’d rather refer you to the incredible Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.

That said, it was still a well-told story, with action, danger, and mystery. And I still love listening to anything Elizabeth Knowelden reads.

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