The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

It’s 1921 and gun moll Alice has run away from her life in New York, carrying very little with her apart from a bullet wound, and finds herself a guest at The Paragon Hotel, a black hotel in Portland, OR.

Faye explores the racial tensions of Oregon at the beginning of the 20th century, starting each chapter with a shocking quote from a variety of sources that she found during her research.  She takes a topic that we believe to be very Southern, the KKK, and explores what was happening in the Pacific Northwest.  Spoiler: it’s shocking and upsetting.  She flips between two story lines, exploring the mysteries in each.  I was sucked in right away and the crazy cast of characters kept me hooked.  Faye’s writing is just a joy to read.

4-stars

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

Bianca Marais has knocked it out of the park again with her new novel If You Want to Make God Laugh.  Taking place in South Africa from the day Nelson Mandela is elected onward, following three very different women as they deal with the changing world around them.  Race and class are explored, as well as tensions that came from the ending of apartheid.  The characters are strong, powerful women and I rooted for them on each and every page.  Marais left me picking up the pieces of my broken heart multiple times.
5-stars

The Storyteler by Pierre Jarawan

In The Storyteller, German-Lebanese author Pierre Jarawan has created a work of art that explores the importance of family and nationality in the creation of an identity.  Jarawan fills the book with stories of the Lebanese civil war, teaching the history of the country and the event without making it feel like you are learning anything or reading a history book.  Samir, the main character, is incredibly relatable in his search for understanding of himself even though his circumstances are not something even close to anything I have experienced.  Jarawan creates a cast of characters in which I cared about each and every one of them, despite their faults.  A definite must read.

4-stars

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

The Secret of Nightingale Wood is beautiful book that reminded me of classic children’s books.  In a world of extreme fantasy and adventure, this historical fiction was a breath of fresh air.  Strange beautifully discusses many difficult topics while creating an engaging mystery that kept me guessing until the end.  She deals with war and loss with grace and ease and reminds everyone that it is possible to get through horrible events.  I want more books like this one to come out.

4-stars

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This is an absolutely beautiful book that makes you laugh one moment and cry the next.  John Boyne tells the story of one man’s life as he grows up in Ireland and tries to move past his life there in order to fully be himself.

The main character of Cyril is so incredibly believable that I kept feeling like I could just run into him on the street on my way to work.  His story helped to explain many different eras of thought in multiple countries.  I learned a lot without feeling like I was being taught.

Boyne is a master of language and every word played a part in this book.  It is beautiful, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful.  An overall great book.

4-stars