Book Reviews

The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the RoomThe Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“But I had stared the leaders of our enemies in the eyes and turned my ear to their voices, and I knew the terror they meant to wreak upon our world.”

The unbelievable story of Hedy Lamarr, Austrian starlet, and brilliant inventor. Who knew? I’d vaguely heard of Hedy as one of the 40s glam stars but really didn’t know anything about her life. After escaping her controlling husband in Austria, she ends up on the silver screen in America. She is admired for her beauty but is not taken seriously as an innovative inventor.

This well written historical fiction follows the younger part of her life and her contributions to the war effort. You will be rooting for her the entire way. Four stars.

To take a deeper peek into Hedy’s life, I recommend watching Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story on Netflix.

Mercy House

Mercy HouseMercy House by Alena Dillon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Catholic Church is at it again. This one was a mixed bag for me. Compelled to read this novel based on solid reviews in all of the lit journals, as well as being penned by a local author, I was destined to love it. Only I didn’t. Yes, the characters were great. The nuns were tough and spunky. The residents all had unique, interesting stories. The villainous priest was sinister. It should have all worked perfectly. But something was off. I guess it was just too ominous, too grim and threatening. It felt like falling into a well and knowing you can’t get out. Three stars.

American Dirt

American DirtAmerican Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Lydia is dubious at first, but if you can’t trust a librarian, who can you trust? She and Luca both get cards, and it’s miraculous, restorative, life-changing.”

In the midst of the controversy, I chose to read American Dirt. I have been reading reviews and listening to discussions of Latinx writers. I am sympathetic to their argument and there is so much truth in what they are saying. But as a work of fiction and a supporter of intellectual freedom, I do not believe in putting creative restrictions on works of literature based on the writer’s ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, etc. That, after all, is the slippery slope that leads to censorship.

While the book did have inconsistencies and may have not been “authentical enough”, I don’t think this book was racist and I don’t think Jeanine Cummins intentionally meant to be insensitive. I think there will always be credibility issues when an author tries to write from a perspective they don’t have first-hand knowledge of. I enjoyed the book for what it was, a fast-paced exciting thriller.

For me, the important thing that all of this did was bring to light the fact that middle-class America does not read the outstanding community of marginalized authors who have so much insight to add to stories like these. I, for one, am excited to open myself up to a world of incredible diverse authors who will give a genuine perspective on real-world issues such as the ones covered in this novel.

The Most Fun We Ever Had

The Most Fun We Ever HadThe Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?”
“It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.”

This one was a mixed bag for me. Dazzling? Not exactly. Well-written? Yes. Page-turner? Definitely not. This is a slow-burn family saga tells the tale of a long-married couple and their four very different daughters. The characters are rich and interesting. Their rivalries are valid. The relationships are super real. If that’s what you’re looking for, you will love this book. For me, it was just too long. And most of the time, too boring. What I did love about this book was the complicated relationships between the sisters, especially Wendy and Violet. If this book was shorter with a little more plot or drama, it would have been a winner. Three stars