Reviews: Multiple 2016 Releases

Happy New Year everyone!  I have some book reviews the share to wrap up 2016 and start off 2017.  All of these below received a great deal of publicity and I had the chance to review them.  However, they were not the best picks for me.  Still, I share because they may be right for one of you.

Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.  Hardcover, 416 pages.Cover: Bright Precious Days

Bright, Precious Days is novel set in modern New York that focuses on  the fictional Russell and Corrine Calloway, a couple who seem to have it all.  Russell works in the publishing world while Corrine devotes herself to helping the less fortunate.  Most nights involve attending a gala, event, or party.  It was at one of these events where their lives start to change when the man Corrine had an affair with in the wake of 9/11 reenters the picture.  Additionally, a late friend still seemed to play a part in their lives through a novel he once wrote whose main characters may have been based on Russell and Corrine.

This novel’s focus is a bit too-modern to be called historical fiction through there are times older events come into play.  The changes in the post 9/11 world are shown, including the election of President Obama and the economic troubles that have plagues America since the mid-2000s. I did not feel too connected to the main characters and the lack of this connection led me not to finish the novel, but as all readers are different I still felt it worth mentioning in case the novel fit one of my readers’ preferences.

Saffire by Sigmund Brouwer

Waterbrook, 2016.  Trade paperback, 336 pages.Cover: Saffire

Set during the building of the Panama Canal, this novel is the fictional story of how James Holt, a friend of Teddy Roosevelt, protects a young mulatto girl whose mother had recently gone missing.  Holt is lured to Panama from his home in the American West to assist with the effort.  The young girl, Saffire, is spunky and well-read.  However, all this said the story is basically a classic western with a hint of mystery but set in the tropics.

Overall, I was not thrilled with this novel. I felt the pace was too slow as it took nearly the first third of the book to even determine why Holt was asked to come to Panama.  And Holt’s attitude was classic cowboy.  Because of the slow plot, I stopped reading the novel and just flipped through the rest.  I do not think the pace or the plot would have gotten any better.  However, to someone who wants a typical western with an unusual setting, this may be a book for them.  After how much I enjoyed Brouwer’s Thief of Glory, I found this book to be the opposite but others may feel differently.

And upcoming in early 2017:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Random House, 2017.  Hardcover, 368 pages.Cover: Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo is Saunder’s first novel.  He previously penned short stories.  This novel focuses on the death of Willie Lincoln and the mourning of his famous father, Abraham.  Willie died of illness in the early days of the American Civil War and his family never stopped grieving his loss.  This novel focuses on the night Abraham Lincoln visits his son’s crypt to spend time alone with Willie’s body and does so using ghosts who observe.

I found this novel’s format to be unusual.  It alternated long passages from various “characters.”  While the majority of these passages were by fictional people, some were quotes borrowed from books and other items written by people in the era.  And the way these passages were formatted reminded me more of a script than a novel.

Have you read one of these novels?  If so, what did you think?

All of these reviews were based on advanced reader copies provided by the publishers.  In the case of Saffire, I received a copy from Blogging for Books program.


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