Book Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger


This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

450 pages

ISBN: 9781476749297 (Hardcover)

Published 9/3/19 by Atria Books

Genre: Historical Fiction (my library categorized it into the “Mystery” section?)

Rating: ★★★★★

*The cover photo is taken from Goodreads.*

B&N | Goodreads | Amazon


I would usually just put the Goodreads synopsis here, but I thought it was too big of a story to just give a brief rundown.

“Ask me, God’s right here. In the dirt, the rain, the sky, the trees, the apples, the stars in the cottonwoods. In you and me, too. It’s all connected and it’s all God. Sure this is hard work, but it’s good work, because it’s part of what connects us to this land, Buck. This beautiful, tender land.”

Trigger warnings: murder, mention of drugs, talk of alcoholism, child abuse—physical & mental, prostitution (brothel), and the hint at sexual abuse toward minors/children.

This does have a lot of The Odyssey references. The main character’s name is literally Odysseus. You learn why toward the end of the book.

You start out with a narrator who considers himself a storyteller. He lives along the banks of the Gilead River in a house shaded by a Sycamore tree.

He brings the reader back to 1932 during the midst of the Great Depression when he was a young boy. Odie O’Banion is the narrator’s name, and accompanying him is his older brother, Albert. They are two white boys in an all Indian school called The Lincoln Indian Training School—used to be a military outpost called Fort Sibley. Odie practically lives in the “quiet room” here. An old solitary confinement room that held warriors. Only a thin matting of straw layered the dirt floor, and a rusted iron door had a slot for food. He finds comfort in a rat named Faria, who he feeds when given the chance. Their aunt Julia forced Albert and Odie to go to Lincoln, where kids exhaust themselves physically and mentally, because of the death of their parents.

Running the school (hell hole) is Thelma “Black Witch” Brickman, and Clyde Brickman. Horrible people.

The reader also meets Herman Volz, who watches over the carpentry shop, and is the assistant boys’ advisor. He is missing half of his little finger on his right hand—a bandsaw accident. He watches over Odie and Albert. There is a kid named DiMarco, the groundskeeper who is violent toward the other kids, and Volz doesn’t take any crap from him.

This wouldn’t be This Tender Land without the rest of the vagabonds—Emmy Frost and Moses “Mose” Washington. Emmy is a little girl who lives with her mom, Cora Frost. Cora teaches homemaking skills. Emmy’s father dies in a farming equipment accident. Emmy was flung off the farm equipment, knocking her head, and ended up in a coma for a few days.

Mose isn’t deaf, he just doesn’t have a tongue—cut out of his head by people who also killed his mother. He uses sign language to communicate, but didn’t learn it until Albert and Odie arrived at Lincoln School.

There is a big storm that tears through the town and tragedy ensues—Cora Frost is killed by the tornado. This is the perfect opportunity for Thelma to take her in. No one really understands why she would want to.

Odie and DiMarco get into a fight, which also ends in “tragedy.” When Odie confesses what happens to his brother and Mose, they all take Mr. Frost’s canoe and run away. The plan—to get to Saint Louis to see Albert and Odie’s aunt Julia. Julia had been the one to put them in there. She didn’t realize just how horrible the school was. She had received letters every year telling her how great the kids have been. Julia even sent money to the school to give to Odie and Albert, but they selfishly held on to it.

There are so many other aspects to this story that I don’t even want to mention. I feel like I have already said too much!


Story | There are so many layers to this novel. I appreciated that the kids stayed long enough in each place to create relationships—good or bad—and moved on. It may have moved really fast at some point, but I didn’t mind it all that much. It was very easy to understand what was happening.The author did great at explaining each scene. I felt like there was more showing than telling.

There is a lot of talk about God and what He means to each character. Odie was on the fence about it. He explains that a lot of things happen that don’t make any sense if there is a God. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy that aspect of the story, but I found it really interesting. Last year I read The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord, which talked a lot about religion, but I gave that five-stars as well. It’s really weird how this reading thing works. I will not get into my views on religion here, but it surprises me what kind of books I end up loving.

It’s a moving story about friendship, family, and how the land connects us all.

“Of all that we’re asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer may be forgiveness.”

Writing | I will admit that the writing in this novel is quality fiction writing. I found nothing that blew me away, but sometimes simple is better. This isn’t even a critique. I’m just letting everyone know. Krueger has excellent word choice and phrasing. There were many beautiful quotes I found woven throughout the story.

Characters | The characters in this book are phenomenal. I honestly think the character development in this was my favorite part. You witness so much inner-turmoil that you wouldn’t expect a character to have. There is a lot of love and drama between everyone. They all end up knowing each other in some odd way, and I loved that.

You really get a front row seat to see how terrible the Brickmans actually are. They are so coniveing and ruthless. At first you think Clyde is going to be alright, but then you just learn he’s a tool.

Odie was a great protagonist! He goes through so many mental and physical obsticles. He is passionate about who he cares for. One of his flaws is poor judge of character. They managed to find their way into bad situations because of that. He only has good intentions.

“Love comes in so many forms, and pain is no different.”

Overall | Beautiful story. I think this would make a wonderful book club pick! I couldn’t recommend it enough. It is over 400 pages with a lot of words on one page, but I loved every every word. This will definitely make it into my top 5 favorite books of 2019. I can’t wait to buy it and put it on my shelves.

Have you read this yet? If so, let me know your thoughts!

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Book Review: The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Audio/Physical)

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

ISBN (Audio): 9780804190817 / (Physical): 9781402284311

Audio length: ~11 hrs / Physical length: 371 pages

Published October 8th, 2013 by Sourcebooks / Random House Audio

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads


This novel takes you all the way back to a Nazi–Occupied Paris. You follow an architect named Lucien Bernard, who doesn’t really have strong feelings toward Jews, until a business magnate, Manet, approaches him and offers him a large sum of money. The money comes with a risk—devising secret hiding places for Jews. Lucien cannot resist the challenge and starts creating ingenious designs—within a column, behind a fireplace, inside a drainpipe, etc,. Unfortunately, one of his creations fails, and the job becomes personal. It hits him harder than he imagined it would.

Bernard is in danger the whole time due to Colonel Schlegal and his minions. Schlegal will flush out every single Jew in Paris and send them to concentration camps.

To hide the fact that Lucien is helping Jews, he creates a design for a new factory that will produce clothing for Hitler’s Reich. He begins to bond with Officer Herzog, another lover of architecture. Herzog doesn’t like the Jews, but he doesn’t agree with how things are done. Eventually, Lucien is given an apprentice, Alain, who will be his alibi if caught. Now, this wouldn’t be a historical fiction novel without romance. Alain’s lover, Adele, becomes friends with Lucien, who is already married to a woman named Celeste. Celeste does eventually leave him later in the novel. She just doesn’t agree with the views she assumes he has. Come to find out that Alain and Adele are connected to the Gestapo.

Amidst all the hustle and bustle, Manet convinces Lucien to adopt an orphaned Jew named Pierre, who ends up having Lucien’s back the entire time. He doesn’t have a good feeling about Alain, so he follows him while Alain follows Lucien.

Lucien also meets a women named Bette Tullard, who takes in Jewish children for Mrs. Kaminsky, Bette’s neighbors. Mrs. Kaminsky claims that the French police are coming to arrest her family. Bette and Lucien do meet and they quickly become my favorite couple.

The novel ends with Lucien driving all the kids toward Switzerland. It is the only way that they could escape all of the horror. He realizes that this is his family now.


“It bothered Lucien that a German could value such beautiful things—like an ape appreciating a string of pearls or an ancient Grecian red-and-black vase. They were monsters without a shred of decency, yet they could hold the same things in high esteem as a Frenchman could. It didn’t seem right.”

I read the majority of this as an audio book, but I did switch it up with the physical. I enjoyed the narrator quite a bit. I found his voice to be very relaxing.

I noticed reviews have talked a lot about the characters. They mentioned that they were flat / there was a lot of sexism. I do agree to an extent, but the book is set in Nazi–Occupied Paris, and I don’t think sexism was the biggest issue. I’m sure women were treated like slabs of meat. That’s even one of my biggest issues with Lucien—he treats women like they should bow down to him. I know it’s probably difficult to read about in 2019, but I’m sure that was reality during that time. I just don’t want someone to go into this book and hate it because of the sexism aspect. Go into it understanding the time period.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. My one critique is that it does become drawn out in certain places. I will also say that the characters aren’t incredible. They fall a little flat, but it didn’t bother me too much.

The writing was well done and I thought the story was really interesting. I didn’t have a all-time favorite character because they were all in the morally gray zone. You could tell that some had good intentions, they just didn’t know how to apply those good intentions (if that makes any sense). Lucien was definitely a good example of that. Then you had characters who tried to act like they had good intentions when they really didn’t. I’m sure it was extremely difficult to live during that time period. I couldn’t imagine.

I could tell that the author did a lot of research, and he knew exactly what he was talking about. I would read more by this author, and I recommend this book if you are interested!

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Book Review: The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Published June 6, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

ISBN: 9780544866461

560 pages 

Genre: Historical Fiction

National Jewish Book Awards Winner

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads


This novel is set in two different time periods, 1660’s and the twenty-first century. Broken up into five parts, it follows two remarkable women, Helen Watt and Ester Velasquez. Helen is a 64-year old historian with a never-ending love for Jewish history, and Ester is a scribe for a blind Rabbi.

Ian and Bridgette Easton inherit a home from Bridgette’s aunt, and they are trying to renovate it as fast as they are able to. The house was built in 1661 by Portuguese Jews. It changed owners in 1698, 1704, and 1723. One wing of the house was torn down and rebuilt in in nineteenth-century. In 1910, the house was purchased by Bridgette’s family, and left to deteriorate, until it is passed down to Bridgette. When an electrician comes, he finds papers in this secret area that was blocked by a table. Unwilling to move or touch them, Ian decides to call his old, ailing professor, Helen Watt. Helen agrees and enlists an American grad student, Aaron Levy, to help her translate.

They are on the hunt to find out who “Aleph,” the scribe, actually is. It’s Helen’s last hurrah, but it ends up being a bigger deal than what was expected. Helen and Aaron end up butting heads quite a bit along the way.

This story is a historical fiction masterpiece, and unlike any book I have read. There are not a lot of historical fiction novels written about anything other than WWI or WWII. If you are looking to break free from that, this is your book next read.


“Never underestimate the passion of a lonely mind.”

Characters | 

Helen Watt – A 64-year old professor who taught 17th century history at a University. She has Parkinson’s disease, and she walks with a cane. Her commitment to these papers is indescribable. Her love for Jewish history is unlike any other character in the novel. She wants to retire with a bang, and this is her way of doing so.

You learn that she has an old, but not forgotten, love interest named Dror, whose duty was to manage the volunteer’s adaptation to the army base. Their relationship was a roller coaster, but you could still find, deep down, the love that they had for each other. You knew that it pained Helen to not be with Dror, even in the twenty-first century.

“There is a hole where my heart once was. In its place, your history.”

Helen is strong, determined, and willful. She doesn’t let anyone walk all over her, even when they think that she is crazy. *Cough Cough* Aaron Levy *Cough Cough* I loved the parts of the book where she stood up for herself. Her words came out clear, precise, and without hesitation. She is definitely a strong female protagonist. She is an old woman that I would love to sit down and have a chat with. I would say we could drink tea, but I don’t like tea.

Ester Velasquez – “Aleph.”

She becomes a scribe for Rabbi HaCoen Mendes after her brother decides to leave and work elsewhere.

Aaron Levy was a Jewish American grad student. When he is told to help Helen translate the papers found in the Easton’s house, he is in the middle of trying to write a dissertation. A dissertation that everyone told him was not a good idea to write. He finds out later that it has already been discovered. I’m going to refrain from explaining what the dissertation was about, and the specifics of what was discovered.

When Helen first sees Aaron he reminds her of Dror a little bit, and it brings back memories. Aaron is also in love with

Ian and Bridgette Easton – Ian is Helen’s old student, and Bridgette is his wife. Bridgette will easily become one of your least favorite characters, other than Jonathan Martin, in this novel. It’s her way or the highway. Ian isn’t very smart, and he is basically a tool in the relationship. Even Helen thought so when she had him in class.

Rabbi HaCoen Mendes was not born blind. He had gone blind from the Inquisition of Lisbon when he was young. He became one of the first Jewish teachers after coming out of hiding, and taught pupils in Amsterdam into his old age. He then decided to move to London. There was a piece of work published posthumously by him, and it was an argument against Sabbateanism.

I didn’t particularly have strong feelings for the Rabbi. He seemed to be a decent man, but it was the 1660’s after all. Men and women have different roles. That’s just how it was. He had a scribe, a young girl, who wanted to break through those stereotypes. He played along for as long as he could, but there were some things he just couldn’t do for her.

Isaac Velasquez – Ester’s brother. He has a guilty conscious because of the tragic incident with his parents. You could only sympathize with the poor kid. I don’t want to spoil what happened, exactly, but it truly breaks my heart. He gives Ester an uplifting speech about women, but depressing for men.

“You’re like a coin made out of stone instead of metal. Or a house made out of honeycombs or feathers or maybe glass – something no one else in all the world would think to make a house of, Ester- something strange, but sound too. You’ve been like that always. But no matter all that, you’re still a woman. A woman can recover. Women aren’t” -he hesitated- “they’re not set. Not like a man is. A man has to be a hero or a . . . villain.”

I want to give him a big hug, and tell him that men don’t have to decide. Men and women are human. Made out of the same material – flesh and bone. It’s heartbreaking what happens to him. I loved his relationship with Ester. It was honest, but staggeringly supportive.

Catherine da Costa Mendes was a great-niece of the Rabbi. Her mother is Mary da Costa Mendes. I wasn’t fond of either of them. Mary took Catherine to find Ester because she needed a companion. The issue is that they wanted her to dress a certain way. Why ask her to be a companion to your daughter, then turn around and tell her she has to dress a certain way if she wants to be seen with her? It made no sense, and it irked me. Ester didn’t really have a choice though.

Story | 

There are absolutely no holes in the story that Kadish didn’t already want there. If I were to become a writer, she would be one of my influences. I love historical fiction, and I think that this book is a masterpiece in that genre, and I’d consider it just a masterpiece, period. The only critique I have is that it dragged a bit in the middle, but I was participating in The Reading Rush at the time. I already had a TBR pile chosen, and I just didn’t find myself ever picking this up. I was reading faster paced novels, and I am sad that I didn’t give it the best chance. I will definitely buy this and read it again in the future.

You don’t read about a story like this very often. I loved that it was split between present day, and the 1600’s when the letters were written. I loved all of the passion in the story, and the

Writing | 

The writing in this is phenomenal! I can’t stress that enough. If you aren’t used to historical fiction, then this is probably quite intimidating. It gets easier as you start to understand Kadish’s writing style, and what a beautiful writing style it is. You can tell what the characters are feeling, and it almost feels like you’re there with them. There’s just something about it that makes me happy. It was such a breath of fresh air to not only read this beast of a book, but to witness this kind of writing. This deserves any award it can get.

Overall | 

This novel is incredible, and I’ve never read such a solid book quite like this one. It makes you think what else a person can do. I started out giving this four-stars, but it’s too good not to give five-stars. Parts of Ester’s story just didn’t do it for me. I understand how important she is to the novel, but I wasn’t connected to her as much. I found Helen to be more mysterious and unknown. There was also the situation with Aaron and Marisa that kept me interested. I eventually want to go back and read it at my own pace. I borrowed this from the library, so I didn’t have all the time in the world to slowly read through it. Whenever I buy this, which I most certainly will, I want to annotate the crap out of it. This is a novel you immerse yourself in. You just have to take a deep breath before going in, and let it out when you’re done. I promise it’s satisfying.

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Library Book Haul!

Hello, friends! I’m back with another library book haul. These are some of my favorite blog posts to write. I do have quite a few books so I can’t describe them all on here. I included the link to their Goodreads and their genre. I am very excited about all of these, but I don’t have enough time in the world to read all of them.

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke – Nonfiction | Memoir

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms – Contemporary Romance

A Woman is no Man by Etaf Rum – Contemporary | Historical Fiction

Transcription by Kate Atkinson – Historical Fiction

Recursion by Blake Crouch – Science Fiction

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish – Historical Fiction

Henry, Himself by Stewart O’nan – Contemporary Fiction | Literary Fiction

Inspection by Josh Malerman – Thriller | Horror

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas – Horror

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – Contemporary Romance

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simison – Contemporary Romance

The Dead Girl in 2A by Carter Wilson – Psychological Thriller

Trophy Life by Lea Geller – Women’s Fiction

The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks – Thriller

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – Contemporary Romance

Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Ginder – Contemporary Fiction

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – Historical Fiction

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim – Contemporary | Mystery

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey – Contemporary Romance

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren – Contemporary Romance

In Another Time by Jillian Cantor – Historical Fiction

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo – Historical Fiction | Magical Realism

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman – Historical Fiction

Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine – Mystery | Thriller

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – Literary Fiction

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay – Contemporary | Christian Fiction

The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz – Historical Fiction

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine – Mystery | Thriller

Wolfhunter River (Stillhouse Lake #3) by Rachel Caine – Mystery | Thriller

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister – Historical Fiction

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting – Contemporary Romance

My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates – Contemporary | Literary Fiction

We went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach – Contemporary Fiction

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – Thriller | Mystery

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover – New Adult | Contemporary Romance

Paper Girls (Vol. 2) by Brian K. Vaughan – Science Fiction (graphic novel)

Roomies by Christina Lauren – New Adult | Contemporary Romance

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