Mini Reviews


As per usual, all of these books deserve their own posts. But, as that is unlikely to happen for a good long while, if at all, mini-reviews will have to do.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Cloud AtlasRating: [rating:4]

This is an amazing and epic (lengthy!) novel. I read this one with my brother. It is composed of six interconnected stories told first in chronological order and then again in reverse chronological order like this: A B C D E F E D C B A. Each story is told from a different time from a different perspective and time period. It required some work, but I feel like it really paid off. I’d recommend reading this one with a buddy so you can discuss.

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in WhiteRating: [rating:5]

A book club pick, I thoroughly enjoyed this intriguing tale of many (mis)adventures. Walter Hartwright is an art instructor to young ladies. By fortune, he receives an excellent post at the Fairly home, where fate will toss about the two Fairly sisters, Laura and Marian, as well as Walter and a host of other characters. It is told in first person accounts from the people who witnessed the events of the story. I raced through this chunkster in one weekend, anxious to see how it would all play out.  I really loved it, but I did have some issues with the fact that Walter essentially ended up with the best of both worlds: pretty (and rather insipid and childlike) Laura for a wife and intelligent and strong Marian as a live-in support.

Something Blue, by Emily Giffin

Something BlueRating: [rating:3]

I enjoyed but didn’t love Something Borrowed. And I felt rather the same about this sequel. This one is told from the point of view of Darcy, the would-be-wife of Dex, previous best friend of Rachel. Pregnant and alone, she heads to London to find herself. Like the previous book, the writing was good, but I just never really warmed up to Darcy or her story.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlRating: [rating:4]

With both Gone Girl and Gillian Flynn receiving crazy incessant buzz throughout the summer and fall, I just had to have this book. And I devoured it as soon as I got my hands on it. It took me for a wild ride with twists and turns that I just couldn’t see coming (for the most part). The writing was good and believable. But, perhaps due to the unstable nature of the two main characters, there was just something about it that made me fall in like with it – not love. For one, I have my doubts about how it would hold up on a reread – without all of the twist surprises.

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

Number the StarsRating: [rating:5]

I reread this classic Newbery winner in anticipation of meeting Lois Lowry herself! It is much shorter (and simpler) than I remembered, but it definitely still packed a punch. It’s about two young girls living in Germany on the cusp of World War II – one Jewish, one not. They both must face dangers and find their own courage in these pages. It’s not to be missed.

The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho

The Witch of PortobelloRating: [rating:4]

I was reluctant to read this book for one of my book clubs, because I had not loved The Alchemist. Luckily, I found this one to be readable and extremely thought provoking. It is a collection of accounts of Sherine Khalil, aka Athena, who is eventually dubbed the witch of Portobello because of her unorthodox practices and beliefs. It deals with perception of the mystical, but it also explores belief systems and why we believe what we do. This one lead to a really good book club discussion.

Mrs. Mike, by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

Mrs. MikeRating: [rating:4]

Mrs. Mike is the story of Katherine Mary O’Fallon, who goes to live in the wilds of Canada in the hope that it will help her pleurisy. Immediately upon arrival, she meets Mike Flannigan – a sergeant in the Canadian Mounted Police – and they fall in love. Kathy follows Mike as he is stationed at various difficult localities, battling nature, building community and family, and finding her own strength. It is based on a true story, and it is told extremely well by the Freedmans. I experienced ups and downs with Kathy as she builds her character and finds her own limits. It was a good book club book.

The Mansion, by Henry Van Dyke

The MansionRating: [rating:3]

This is a short Christmas story in the vein of A Christmas Carol. It is about John Weightman, a wealthy man who his primarily concerned with his public perception. He has a dream about his mansion in heaven and awakes a changed man. I didn’t find as much to love or as much insight here as I did in A Christmas Carol, but it is a fine (and short) holiday read. I read this for book club too.

Have you read any of these books? Which was your favorite?

Categories: Fiction, Reviews


  • Jenni Elyse

    I probably would’ve understood Cloud Atlas (the movie) better if it had followed the way the book is outlined. The movie was just scattered stories everywhere and I was so confused, especially in the far future with Zachry because of the way they talked. I’m glad to hear the book is good. I may give it a try to make better sense of the story.

    • Jessica

      I’ve heard that the movie is a little hard to follow. But the book is too, even in the sequence. I want to see the movie at some point. Then we’ll have to compare notes. :)

  • Laurie C

    I didn’t love Gone Girl either, but did race through it. Cloud Atlas blew me away too. I haven’t read The Mansion, but I listened to A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor, which is a short humorous novel about a rich man who has lost the spirit of Christmas. It’s a secular book, more about family and generosity than spirituality. An enjoyable audio!

    • Jessica

      I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only who who did not love GONE GIRL. And CLOUD ATLAS is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. A CHRISTMAS BLIZZARD sounds fun; I’ll add it to my list for next year.

  • Jenny

    I have to admit I started laughing when I saw mini reviews and then Cloud Atlas on it. But maybe a mini review is the best for something that long. ;-) You read a lot more books than you talk about at book club.

    • Jessica

      I tried to write a CLOUD ATLAS review a number of times and just couldn’t come up with anything coherent. I think it’s a book you just have to experience. My mini-review was the best I could do. :)

      This year was a crazy reading year for me. I don’t want to bore you all with everything I’ve been reading. :)

  • Emily

    I feel the same way about Gone Girl. Very gripping story, but the characters just left a bad taste in my mouth. My book club is reading it next month, so I’m going to skim through it before we meet to refresh my memory. I wonder if I’ll like it as much the second time through?

    • Jessica

      Ooh. I’ll be very interested to hear how it fares on a reread (reskim?). ;) I feel like a lot of the plotting was extremely reliant on surprise.

  • Care

    I loved Gone Girl for the wild ride (and that I love Missouri so that was part of its charm for me) but your question about standing up to a re-read is a good one. Since I’m not much of a rereader, I wouldn’t have even thought to consider that.

    • Jessica

      I don’t reread things very often either, unless they are absolute favorites. But this one gave me pause on that side of things. I think it relied a little too heavily on shock and awe. But, then again, with all of the shocks out of the way, maybe there are more layers to be explored.

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