Tag Archives: books

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace coverMy final book of the summer reading challenge and I am thrilled to have finished this one just under the wire! This is my third Margaret Atwood book I’ve read and it just might be my favorite one yet; earlier this summer I read The Blind Assassin and a few years ago I read The Handmaids Tale. While I greatly enjoyed the The Blind Assassin, I found myself getting slightly bored at times; it’s a brilliant novel and has a phenomenal ending, but a few sections in the middle tended to drag for me. With Alias Grace, however, I was hooked from the start and could not put the book down until I was finished.

The novel is based on an actual case of murder in the 1840s. It tells the story of Grace Marks, a beautiful, 16-year-old girl, who was convicted for her involvement in the murders of her employer and his housekeeper, who was also his mistress. Grace is serving a life sentence but claims to have no memory of the crimes. That is all true, and Margaret Atwood does not change any known historical facts. She says, “Where mere hints and outright gaps exist in the records, I have felt free to invent.” And what a brilliant writer and inventor she is. In the novel, a young doctor studying mental illness begins visiting Grace, hoping to tease out her memory and determine if she is a true amnesiac or a gifted liar and ruthless “murderess.” The chapters alternate between the doctor, Simon’s, experiences with Grace, as well as his own experiences in the small Canadian town where he is staying, along with chapters on Grace’s experiences in jail and her meetings with him. Chapters in-between also include letters from various key players in the novel, such as the doctor, a reverend petitioning for her release, and Grace herself, among others.

Because the narrative switches around from various characters, we learn a little something from each one. And Atwood loves to hide important details in the most minute of statements or fragments of a letter, to where you could easily miss an important clue if you are not reading carefully. I have also noticed from reading a few of Atwood’s novels that she likes to play with the idea of the unreliable narrator. Grace, when she is the narrator and also when Simon is the narrator yet talking to her, comes off so genuine and truthful. We as readers believe her, or at least want to. But then just as we start to believe her, she makes us question that. Just as Dr. Simon probably feels, never knowing if he can believe her or not. There are passages such as this, where the doctor has brought Grace a gift and in her inner monologue we hear: “I set to work willingly to tell my story, and to make it as interesting as I can, and rich in incident, as a sort of return gift to him.” Are we meant to take that as her embellishing her story, or simply divulging more of the truth than she ever has before because the good doctor has been kind to her?

This book will keep you guessing until the last and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly highly recommend. It is a fantastic murder mystery, a great period drama, and an in-depth character study, on both Grace and the doctor attempting to figure her out. It’s definitely one of those books that sticks with you long after you put it down.

Availability:  SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Kaylie Jasinski (class of ’14)
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Book to TV

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception by Nancy Martin

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My final pithy comments for the challenge! What a pity to end on such a bad book. Run, don’t walk, far away from this book. Vulgar, with a low-life main character. I won’t even set this book out for the Little Free Library in our neighborhood!

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating:  Not Recommended

Murder Melts in Your Mouth by Nancy Martin

cover artThis was a new author for me and the book started out interestingly enough. Sadly, though, it quickly showed its true self with “zany characters” (read: unrealistic, over-the-top, caricatures). A pity, since there was real promise in the writing and with the main character. The Blackbird sisters get involved in murder, mayhem, and mystery, with unbelievable subplots galore. The ending was a nice surprise, which saved this book from a Not Recommended score. Leave this one at the beach when you’re done reading it.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating: Recommended

Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand

cover artAn easy beach read for those looking to not use their brain, Summer of ‘69, is for you! This book features Creedence Clearwater Revival, JFK, Woodstock, and the Vietnam war all woven into a family of 6 and their 4 kids. Taking place in one summer (hence the title) the reader will identify with all members of the family as they each must go through a painful experience. Expect great song references and recommendations from this novel.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Emily Murphy
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2019

The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland

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The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland, is a unique perspective on the Arthurian cycle. The dichotomy of two disparate Arthurs in diverse time periods is a bit off-putting at first, but I was hooked by the concept of King Arthur’s voice transmitting through a ‘seeing stone’ to a younger Arthur from a later age. I would rate this recommended with reservations.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: M Denise Brace nee Lerch (’82)
Rating: Recommended with Reservations

The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld’s oldie but goodie, The Man of my Dreams, will strike a chord for all young women. Anyone hoping to find true love, let alone, a guy to date in a world of Tinder, Bumble, and slimeballs will identify with Hannah’s hopes to find a guy  she can relate too. Through falling in love with her cousin’s boyfriend, giving up the nice guys, and choosing the ones who use her, the reader will be sure to experience all moments of pain, embarrassment and the tumultuous trials of serious- growing pains along with Hannah.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI,
Review Submitted by:  Emily Murphy
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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For readers who enjoy reading World War I and World War II history, The Alice Network will be sure to keep you guessing. Anyone who enjoys fantasy mixed with a bit of history will enjoy meeting two women, on a quest to find out where their one missing friend is. Taken place over 30 years, this is a long read to discover where you belong and who is your real family.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI,
Review Submitted by:  Emily Murphy
Rating: Not Recommended