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Showing 11-20 of 1,475 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,709 reviews
on July 14, 2013
I loved The Glass Castle, Walls' memoir about growing up in her eccentric family, so I was excited to hear she was writing her first fiction novel. Sadly, The Silver Star is no Glass Castle. This one is actually a bit hard to write about because it was so middle of the road - I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. It's much easier to write about a book that I have strong feelings about one way or the other!

The story was a bit slow and obvious, and, after a strong start, it went downhill. The first two paragraphs made me stop and say "wow"...I was simultaneously horrified and impressed in an "OK, you win the 'listen to the horrible thing I did to my kid today' contest" kind of way. Then, I laughed because I could totally see myself doing what Charlotte Holladay did amidst frantically loading kids into the car.

Charlotte is a total flake (as the first two paragraphs so perfectly illustrate) and her oldest daughter (Liz) is the mature voice of reason - somewhat like the dynamic between Bernadette and her daughter, Bee, in Where'd You Go, Bernadette?. "Bean", the twelve year old, is a cute character, but weirdly seems so much younger than she is. She talks more like an eight year old and plays games that I would think a thirteen year old wouldn't find interesting anymore (i.e. she likes Cheetos because she "they come in all sorts of different shapes, so you could have fun trying to figure out what each one looked like").

The first part of the book focused more on Charlotte's eccentric parenting and how Liz and Bean fend for themselves to get by. To me, this was the best part, probably because it focused on Walls' bread and butter topic.

Once Bean and Liz arrive at Uncle Tinsley's in Virginia, the story gets a bit more of a real plot, but becomes far less entertaining reading. Bean and Liz get mixed up with a shady character in town, but the plot "twists" that come along with this are completely unsurprising. I think Walls used much to obvious foreshadowing, because I could pinpoint the one sentence that made it obvious what was going to happen in each plot string. Plus, the characters were too black and white - there was no question who the "good guys" and "bad guys" were.

I still really enjoyed Walls' writing, I just think the story and plot lacked in this book.

For more reviews, check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves.
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on June 27, 2013
Yes, this review contains spoilers, but if you don't guess what's about to happen many pages before it does, you are not good detective material or you weren't concentrating. First, the good stuff. This woman can write some dialogue, no doubt about it. She has a wonderful writing style and there is something sweet and nostalgic about this novel. Her narrator is a spunky young girl, a combination of Nancy Drew, Scout Finch and Flavia de Luce, the heroine of a wonderfully literate series written by Alan Bradley. Unfortunately, it is one dimensional and predictable in every way.

I agree with other reviewers who thought this book was better suited for a "young adult" audience. For one thing, it is doubtful that teens or even college age readers would have read The Glass Castle and, therefore, the book would not seem to be the novel version of that excellent memoir. If you have not read "The Glass Castle," get it and read it and forget this book. The Glass Castle was the real deal and this is the discount store version.

Two young girls, half sisters, in 6th and 9th grade when the book begins, have been dragged around the country by their mother who believes she is destined to become a success as a country singer. Narcissistic and probably schizophrenic, already in her mid-thirties and without any evidence to support her belief, she is undaunted in her quest. In a bungalow in the California desert, she leaves her children alone for days at a time as she goes off to Los Angeles in pursuit of her dream. Once, enough time goes by without their mother's return that the girls, who have been subsisting on chicken pot pies bought from a mini-mart, take all their remaining money and buy bus tickets to Virginia to visit their uncle, the only relative they know that actually exists as their mother is prone to fantasy. The bus trip begins in California and without missing a beat, the same bus arrives in New Orleans. They change buses once between eastern California and Virginia. And not much happens.

There is a bit where the girls outwit a "pervert" but otherwise, the trip is uneventful. The uncle is what one would expect: a hermit living in the family plantation house gone to ruin, surrounded by relics of ancestral glory days. Predictably, he is unhappy to see his nieces but they soon worm their way into his heart and are moved from sleeping in the barn to the "main house," where they take charge and clean the place up and generally act like responsible adults.

The girls now live in the home of the former first family of Tiny, Virginia (not its real name)and everyone knows about them. They meet extended family and the younger daughter locates her father's family who are the goodhearted locals you've heard tell about in other books. At about this point is where this book lost me... Their uncle is so lost in the past that he doesn't understand why the girls need money for new school clothes - and, they are so afraid to hurt his feelings that they try to find jobs. Now, remember, this town is so small that anything of interest that happens is known by every resident in about fifteen minutes. So... SPOILER...

Everyone in town turns them down except.... yes, you guessed it, the town villain. And, it's a big secret although the older sister is driving all over town with "the big villain" as his personal assistant. What happens then is so predictable I wanted to skip to the part where something actually happens. If you are waiting for a twist, a big reveal.. you won't get it. Every single thing one might assume would happen, does. Villain tries to molest daughter. Daughter resists. Driver for villain sees all and swears to tell all in court - but... and so on. It was a diversion for the couple of hours it took to read it but that's about it... so disappointing for a book so highly anticipated.

Again, this is not a bad book. It is a simple fairy tale, well told, but probably much more appealing to a teenage audience.
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VINE VOICEon September 9, 2013
The two girls in Jeannette Walls' novel, "Bean" and Liz Holladay, are extremely likable characters, and we cheer for them throughout. They've been stuck with a bad lot in life.

Their mother, Charlotte, who may be a manic-depressive, considers herself a singer songwriter and is prone to take off on a whim, a little "me time" as she would put it. At the beginning of the book they live in a small town in California and Charlotte leaves the girls with enough money to subsist on chicken pot pies, but when she doesn't show up in a reasonable amount of time, the girls decide to take a bus to Virginia and live with their uncle Tinsley, the former owner of a textile mill in another small town. He lives in a big house that's going to seed rapidly, and he's somewhat of a hoarder. He cares me about rocks and geneology than people, tut he soon grows attached to the girls.

THE SILVER STAR can be funny at times, especially when Liz teases "Bean," whose real name is Jean, which Liz couldn't pronounce as a little girl. When Beaner is sick; Liz refers to her as "green Bean," when she's really sick she calls her "greener Beaner." Liz also takes after her mother in that she writes poetry and eventually learns how to play guitar. She also writes "emu" poetry, which gets a little old. A farmer near her uncle's place owns a pair of emus, and Liz grows attached.

Okay, here's the plot. Liz and Bean's uncle was forced out of the mill by an efficiency expert-type foreman, Jerry Maddox, with absolutely no people skills. He rides the workers hard. Uncle Tinsley really doesn't have much money left from his share of the sale of the mill, and the girls need school clothes; they take a job working for the psychotic Maddox. He hires Liz as a right-hand girl, but he has ulterior motives. Bean is hired to help his wife Doris take care of the kids. Maddox isn't a very believable character. Even in rural Virginia he wouldn't get away with what he does, not matter how many people work for the mill.

Liz and Bean also have different fathers. Bean's father died in Vietnam and she has cousins in the area that she rapidly connects with. The mother eventually shows up, but when things get tough she usually runs for the hills.

The ending also seems a bit far-fetched. We want Jerry Maddox to get his comeuppance, but the way it happens is suspect, and the ramifications of the event are about as believable as Jerry Maddox's previous bullet-proof behavior.
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on June 24, 2013
Like most other reviewers, I will preface my review by stating that The Glass Castle is one of my all-time favorite books. I try to pass my copy onto anyone who will take it. I was so thrilled with GC that I purchased her follow-up Half Broke Horses, which I also thoroughly enjoyed and lent to my mother to read. Somehow last month, I stumbled upon a review of a new Jeannette Walls book and I was very excited to get my copy. It's an easy read for sure and a quick one. Overall, I liked it. It had the same feel as GC (Liz and Bean vs Lori and Jeannette, carefree Mother) and as I started to read I was excited for the adventure I was about to take part in, however it ended up feeling like I had ridden the kiddie Dragon Roller Coaster rather than the 200ft drop mega coaster, if you get what I mean. Although there are strong similarities between this book and GC, GC was more detailed and developed and really kept the reader drawn to the story. I can only guess it's because the author had so much more to go on because she had lived the story in GC, unlike this book. Each day when I picked the book up to read more about Bean & Liz's journey and then new life in Byler, I was waiting to get to the 'good part'; where the story would really take that turn into GreatBookLand, but it never did. Don't get me wrong, it's a good story and I will recommend it, but it was no sheer page turner. Level 1 Glass Castle if you will...a good starter book. One review I read said to think of The Silver Star as a prequel to what's to come and looking back at the story line and ending, I can see how this could be possible and I actually am hoping it will turn out that way. In the mean time, I will just reach over for my copy of GC when I want a good read.
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on March 6, 2015
When two young sisters are left alone by their flighty mother, they return by bus to their mother’s formally prominent provincial family fallen on hard times. Their mother’s almost reclusive brother reluctantly takes them into the family house which has fallen into a state of disrepair. The girls soon learn why their mother never wants to return to the place and people of her childhood. Walls’s book is a very easy read, uses dialogue that is not really dialogue by crafty use of first person writing that seems to be sometimes second and sometimes omniscient narrator. She never loses the reader. A character driven book where not much really happens, but she makes the girls and their family memorable. I found it interesting that she deftly wrote a book vastly different from her previous work, but still retained her voice.
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on June 16, 2013
Is it fair to expect an author to score a five star rating with every novel written? I think not! The Glass Castle was a spectular memoir and Half Broke Horses a tribute to a remarkable woman. Both exceptional novels.

Now,with The Silver Star, the gifted story-teller took me back in time to a new place, a small southern milltown when desegregation was happening and introduced me to people who, for the most part,I recognized and liked.Uncle Tinsley & Auntie Al are gems,exactly the supportive and sensible kinfolk two abandoned girls needed.

Most of us know women like the beaten-down Doris and men like her monster husband, Maddox, who gets what he deserves in a most surprising way.

I admired Bean's gritty determination and I worried over the vunerable and fragile Liz. Still do. I hope the girls opt to stay now and put down roots among folks who love them.

The Silver Star is a very well-written and riveting story. I enjoyed every minute of the reading and didn't want the story to end.
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VINE VOICEon July 8, 2013
Like Mary Karr, Mona Simpson and Geoffrey Wolfe, Jeannette Walls writes mesmerizing stories about bright children who find their way in spite of having stunningly dysfunctional parents. I couldn't put down her memoir The Glass Castle, and I loved this hopeful novel about two very different sisters who find family and make a life for themselves while their obviously ill mother keeps running away from them.

While the theme is reminiscent of her memoir, this fiction develops independently and with its own world. The Silver Star is set during the late sixties/early seventies while the Vietnam war drags on and Nixon is in the White House. The girls' mother, Charlotte, grew up pampered in a well-to-do rural Virginia family and long ago fled her hometown. But her daughters Liz and Bean find refuge with their now shabby uncle when their mother takes some time to "sort things out" after being dumped by an imaginary boyfriend.

Having lost his parents, sister and wife as well as the cotton mill the family started after the Civil War, Uncle Tinsley is at first startled by parental responsibility, but he rises to the occasion and the girls settle in. They attend the newly integrated high school with all its racial tensions, but real trouble arrives in the character of the town bully and mill supervisor who hires Liz and Bean as his personal assistants. Along the way, conservative rural life and its secrets are sympathetically revealed.
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on July 1, 2013
This talented author has scored another hit with The Silver Star. Excellent writing, especially the dialogue. Bean is like a breath of fresh air, and you can't help but smile while reading about her experiences. Liz's word games are entertaining, yet reveal so much of her soul. Similar to Walls' The Glass Castle, the children in this novel triumph over the neglect and confusion of the adults in their lives. Intend to read this story again!
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on March 15, 2015
I see many comparisons to The Glass Castle and I think that it the first and worst mistake someone can make coming in to this. TGC was essentially a memoir of how Ms Walls grew up. In all of our lives those are the most amazing and hard to believe. Reading The Sliver Star shows how the author can take another view point from a child, get you in to her head so you feel what is happening to her and take you along for the emotional journey.

In the novel, you feel the anxiety of how the girls lived and the decisions that they made as well as the consequences of those decisions. It has you guessing what you would do, especially if you have ever raised teen age girls. I think it is very appropriate to how we live today.

It is an excellent book and a 5 star follow-up to TGC.
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on March 26, 2017
Loved the book but seriously had no real ending. I was reading along and then it was abruptly the end. Left me disappointed wanting more. But overall the story is pretty good..
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