Monday, May 20, 2013

3 More Reviews - These of the Thumbnail Variety

I've got 3 reviews for you:

The Clover House - Henriette Lazaridis Power
The House at Tyneford - Natasha Solomons
Carter Beats the Devil - Glen David Gold

So that you don't have to devote a whole evening to reading this one blog post, I will only give a paragraph (or so) to each of these 3 books.  And, I will make every effort (and probably fail) to cut back on the cringe-inducing humor that I can't seem to avoid.  Here we go.

The Clover House is the 2nd of 2 books that Kathleen Zrelak, VP of Publicity, Goldberg McDuffie Communications, sent me a short while ago.  The 1st one, The Sisterhood, was really good.  I gave it a 3.5.  This one, although not quite as good, is still a solid 3.  Nothing wrong with that.  (This doesn't count as 1 of my 3 paragraphs)

The Clover House centers on a Greek-American woman, Calliope Notaris Brown, who is 30-something (remember that TV show?) and who lives in Boston in the year 2000.  She receives a phone call that her beloved Uncle Nestor, her mother's brother, has passed away in Patras, Greece.  She has to travel there because she is in her uncle's will.  Callie has her own angst at home to deal with.  She is recently engaged to Jonah but is having trouble with the commitment.  Now, she is leaving for Greece just when she really needs to be working on her relationship with Jonah.  And, when she gets to Greece, she discovers family history, especially about her mother, Clio, that changes her thinking and the lives of her Greek family.  (Sorry, one paragraph would have made it too long)

Callie has had a very rocky relationship with her mother all her life.  Now, we, the readers, get to go back to the 1930's and early 40's and see Callie's mother as a teenager and the oldest of 4 siblings.  WWII is coming to Greece, and we will get to see the defining moments in Clio's life.  What you're left with is 2 stories in 2 different time periods, going back and forth (just like The Sisterhood) and both of them compelling.  Nice job, Kathleen.  You gave me 2 good ones.  No pressure for the future, though!

The House at Tyneford was the April selection for the 4th Tuesday Book Club at Books, Inc., Palo Alto.  Unfortunately, even though Joni and I both read it, we weren't able to make the meeting.  Rats.  It was not a waste, though.  We both liked it, me more than her.  I give this one a 3 also.  We've all heard varying accounts of WWII as it relates to the Jews.  This story actually presents history that I was completely unaware of.  Elise is 19 years old in the Spring of 1938.  She lives in Vienna, and she and her family are at the center of Viennese culture.  Elise is used to attending formal parties and drinking champagne.  When her parents realize that it's no longer safe for Jews to be in Vienna, they ship Elise off to a small bayside town in England to be one servant of many in a large manor.  She has to get used to going from having servants to being one.  (I can't limit this book to one paragraph either - so sue me)

Much of the book is told by Elise as an old woman.  She chronicles her life as a servant at Tyneford House and her relationship with its master, Mr. Rivers, and his son, Kit.  The book does an excellent job, I think, of describing life in England during WWII among the privileged classes.  It also, as I mentioned earlier, gave me insight into an aspect of the Jews during the war that I just didn't know about.  Finally, it's just a well-written, well-told story.  Can't get enough of those.

SMALL SPOILER ALERT:  The ending has a feel very similar to Ann Patchett's Bel Canto.

Finally, and this will really be short, is Carter Beats the Devil.  The story centers on a magician, Charles Joseph Carter, back in the days of Harry Houdini and President Warren G. Harding.  Gold mixes in historical figures with a lot of magic.  This is the 2nd book that Stacy at Recycle has given me to read.  The 1st one, The Tender Bar, was in my top 11 last year.  This one - not so much.  I give this a 2.  It just never grabbed me.  The only really positive comment I can make is that the author, Gold, is married to Alice Sebold, she of The Lovely Bones fame.  And, by the way, Seybold's 1st book, Lucky, is a true account of a life-changing experience that she had in college.  It's a little rough in spots due to the subject matter but is a book definitely worth reading.  I recommend it.


  1. The House of Tyneford sounds good! I read another book by the same author and really enjoyed it - Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English.

  2. Although I gave The Clover House and The House at Tyneford the same rating, I think The Clover House is a little bit better. But you can't go wrong either way.


  3. No, no, no! To any books that ends similar to Bel Canto!

  4. I agree that Bel Canto was a very good book. BUT, don't you agree that the ending was pretty weak?