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FAW Book Reviews




Browsing: New Books by Young People's Past Winners 2011 - 2017

January, 2018


It is always fun to investigate what our past winners have been up to. Our Young People's Literature Winners have been busy writing new books. Here is a list of newer books from winners from 2011 - 2017, since their FAW award.   More...



Before We Were Yours: A Novel
By Lisa Wingate

352 pages, Ballantine Books (June, 2017)

Reviewed by Karen Baker
December, 2017


I was looking for a new book to read while traveling and opened the website Goodreads.com to see what was new and recommended. I was in a bit of a hurry and ultimately chose Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. It had lots of stars (recommended) and I liked the pretty cover featuring two adorable young girls sitting on a suitcase. I was looking for a light and warm family story. Well, don't judge a book by its cover, as the subject matter of this novel is not pretty fluff. Instead I was drawn into the lives of itinerant shanty-boat children that are unlawfully abducted and placed in a children's home to be brokered out for adoption and profit.   More...



Little Fires Everywhere
By Celeste Ng

Hardcover 352 pages, Penguin Press (September 2017)

Reviewed by Vivian Mortensen
November, 2017


In a perfect suburban community on a perfectly manicured lawn stands Elena Richardson watching her McMansion burn to the ground. She's stunned but not shocked. She knows the fire is arson and as the book unfolds, the reader too finds out what events triggered this drastic action. Celeste Ng, an FAW 2015 prize-winner, jumps back several months to when Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive. The time is 1997 in upscale Shaker Heights, a planned community which prides itself on stability and lack of change. Mia is an artist who values her work instead of money and who moves from place to place as the muse strikes her. They settle in a rented house owned by Elena Richardson and soon Pearl befriends the four Richardson teens. Pearl has never encountered such wealth and consumerism that's essential to the Richardsons and in turn, they have never met anyone, especially Mia, who cares so little for clothes, televisions, fancy houses and everything else they consider necessary....This is Celeste Ng's second novel and FAW can be proud to see that she has gone from an emerging author to a polished, insightful writer.   More...



A Gentleman in Moscow
By Amor Towles

Hardcover 480 pages, Viking (September, 2016)

Reviewed by Shirley Baugher
October, 2017


The year is 1922. The Emergency Committee of the People's Commissariat For Internal Affairs has just sentenced Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov to spend the rest of his life inside the luxurious Hotel Metropol in Moscow for writing the poem "Where Is It Now?", which dared to ask the question, "where is our purpose now?" In imposing the sentence, the prosecutor pronounced that the Count had succumbed irrevocably to the corruptions of his class - and now posed a threat to the very ideals he once espoused. While the committee's inclination would have been to have Rostov blindfolded and put before a ring squad - or more mercifully sent to Siberia, inexplicably, the Committee sentenced the Count to a lifetime of incarceration in the Metropol.  More...



The Devil's Highway
By Luis Alberto Urrea

Paperback, 272 page, Little Brown (2004)

Reviewed by Roberta Gates
September, 2017


The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea is a classic, which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 2005. Devil's Highway was not just a critical success, but a bestseller that readers applauded for its searing portrayal of what Mexican immigrants face when crossing the border into the United States. Regardless of your feelings about immigration, Urrea asks you to take a second look at the issue by telling the stories of 26 men and boys who, in May of 2001, attempted to enter the U.S. via the so-called Devil's Highway, a route which crosses the southern Arizona desert, one of the deadliest regions of the continent.  More...



Six Four
By Hideo Yokoyama

Hardcover,576 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First American Edition edition (February 7, 2017)

Reviewed by Shirley Baugher
April, 2017


Six Four is a book that succeeds on so many levels. It is a first rate detective story. It is a police procedural that informs readers of the painstaking steps that go into solving crimes-sometimes successful, sometimes not. It is an insight into the often-fractious relationship between the government and the press. It is an examination of the people's need to know versus the victim's right to privacy. It is study of family dynamics: how well do we really know those we love and how well do they know us? And, most importantly, it is a story of revenge.  More...



Lucky Boy
By Shanti Sekaran

Paperback, 496 pages, G.P. Putnam's Sons; Reprint edition (September 5, 2017)

Reviewed by Shirley Baugher
March, 2017


There could not be a more timely novel than Shanti Sekaran's "Lucky Boy." The author shows us the human consequences of the deportation of illegal immigrants-even those who have come to this country with hopes of a better life for themselves and their children and who have worked hard to make that possible. Solimar Castro Valdez (Soli) is such a person. Her father sold everything he had to get her out of the dying Mexican village in which she lived and which offered her no future. He wanted to get her to California and the promise of a good life. The unscrupulous relative to whom he gave his money abandons Soli and she falls in with a band of thugs who beat and rape her. Among them, however, is a gentle soul who becomes the love of her life. He impregnates her but is separated from her before they reach their destination. Soli manages to make her way to California and to the apartment of another undocumented woman, her cousin Silvia. At first, Soli is lucky. She gets a job with a kind-hearted, successful couple, the Cassidys, who take her in and care for her even after the birth of her child, Ignacio-or "Nacho" as she calls him-the "lucky boy" of the story.  More...



Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge
By Evan S. Connell Jr.

Paperback, 464 pages, Picador; New Ed edition (1991)

Reviewed by Roberta Gates
February, 2017


There are two sides to every story, and no one knows that better than Evan S. Connell, the author of Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge. These are not new books-Mrs. Bridge came out in 1959 and Mr. Bridge in 1969-but they've attained the status of classics and are well worth the read, especially by anyone who's ever wondered what's going on in the head of a spouse. Why? Because these dueling narratives show us that while the simple concerns of Mrs. Bridge appear insignificant to her husband, they're not-and vice versa.  More...



LaRose
By Louise Erdrich

Hardcover, 384 pages, Harper; First Edition edition (May 10, 2016)

Reviewed by Ida Hagman
January, 2017


"Our son is your son now." These words are spoken by Landreaux Iron, one of the main characters in LaRose, Louise Erdrich's most recent novel. The novel follows the consequences of an unthinkable tragedy. The best novels, such as LaRose, attempt to answer the difficult questions of life such as how do we transcend grief, how do we make reparations, when and how can we forgive and love again.  More...



The Trespasser
By Tana French

Hardcover, 464 pages, Viking (October 4, 2016)

Reviewed by Shirley Baugher
December, 2016


The Trespasser is first rate French. What begins as a routine "domestic" murder investigation, presumably the reason Antoinette Conway and her partner Stephen Moran are assigned the case, turns out to be anything but - and the reason that it falls into Conway's lap is likewise not routine. But that revelation comes late in the book. Conway and Moran are both part of the Dublin Murder Squad. Moran, a fresh-faced, like-able chap, is accepted by the other members of the squad. Conway is not, for a number of reasons. She is the only female on the group, she is black, and she is known for her hot temper and rash behavior. She is tormented mercilessly by the some of the detectives, none of whom will work with her, to the point of their stealing pages from her case files and urinating on the contents of her locker. They want her gone - and they are very close to getting their wish. She has been offered a job with a top notch security firm which she plans to accept once this case is closed. More...



Nutshell
By Ian McEwan

Hardcover, 208 pages, Nan A. Talese; 1 edition (September 13, 2016)

Reviewed by Christine Spatara
November, 2016


I read this book so quickly that I feel I should read it again. It grabbed me completely, and I was overwhelmed. Once I started, I could not stop reading. So, I binged until the early morning hours. This is one of those MUST READ books.  More...



Enchanted Islands
By Allison Amend

Hardcover,306 pages, Nan A. Talese, 2016

Reviewed by Shirley Baugher
September, 2016


Have you ever dreamed of spending time on a faraway island with the person of your dreams? Well, Frances Conway did just that, and later wrote about the experience in her memoirs. Midwestern author Allison Amend, inspired by Conway's recollections, framed a novel around them which she called Enchanted Islands, the story of an independent American woman whose path takes her far from her native Minnesota when she and her husband, an undercover intelligence officer, are sent to the Galápagos Islands at the brink of World War II.   More...



What's New with Our Past Award Authors?

by VIVIAN MORTENSON
March, 2016

As most of you know, FAW gives annual awards to emerging authors who have published no more than three books. Here are some of these authors' works published since they received our recognition.  More...



Memoir of the Sunday Brunch
By Julia Pandl

Paperback, 256pp., Algonquin Books (November 13, 2012)

Reviewed by Roberta Gates
November 27, 2012

A tender and amusing memoir. The author, the youngest of nine children, writes with humor and pathos about her father, a well-known Wisconsin chef. All nine of the Pandl kids got their first taste of (unpaid!) work helping out with their father's Sunday brunches.   More...



The Forgotten Soldier
By Guy Sajer

Hardcover, 508pp., Potomac Books Inc., 2000

Reviewed by Roberta Gates
Jan 15, 2012


I have a special interest in World War II and am always looking for diaries, letters or autobiographies that, I hope, will tell me the way it really was. Unfortunately, war stories are often boastful (we got those Japs) or just plain boring (pincer movements, etc.). But Guy Sajer's autobiography, entitled Forgotten Soldier, is neither. In fact, I would say it comes close to being a masterpiece in its closely observed moments, acute psychological insights and masterful writing.  More...