Mini-Reviews - Part 2
In my continuing efforts to cover some of the books I've read in the last few months that didn't make it onto the blog, here's another 10 mini-reviews to pique your interest. Let me know if you've read any of these and agree or disagree with my comments. Maybe even more importantly, leave me some suggestions for a book to read next....
The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2019, 324 pages
Though I'm not typically drawn to this type of storyline, I found this story of female friendship interesting. Three women - a 30-something, 40-something, and 50-something, come together to try to save a floundering small town bookshop. Each of them has a particular pound of baggage that many women can relate to in one way or another - the author did a good job of covering all the bases effectively. A high powered lawyer changing her perspective on what's important in life, a recently divorced woman trying to reconnect to her family, and a mom of teens who discovers she's lost herself and her family is crumbling. All this wrapped up in a bookshop and a tiny touch of romance.
Though the situations may seem trite, the way they're handled is very good and make them seem believable. And the bookshop just sounds charming & wonderful. I'd shop there for sure!! A quick read with good resolution.
An Equal Justice by Chad Zunker
Genre: Legal mystery
Published 2019, 217 pages
I found this to be a very average book and the plot was way too reminiscent of Grisham's The Firm. It's a book full of cliche' circumstances, uninspired dialog and instead of fast paced (which it is), it feels a little rushed.
It's certainly a quick read, there's plenty of action, but there are no surprises; the mystery component is pretty easy to figure out and the newby lawyer faced with a crisis of conscience is predictable. What
saves the book is the connection to the homeless problem and the (somewhat superficial) light shined on that situation. The Author's Note explains his connection to the homeless community and his life's work, which explains the way he describes those circumstances in the book.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2019, 288 pages
What a surprising story! A story about a couple of odd children that burst into fire when they're upset. Pretty odd concept. But, it's really about the personal growth of the woman hired to care for them. Briefly, an old friend asks for help caring for her new husband's unusual kids. Over the summer, Lillian figures out how to keep the kids "cool" and also begins to figure out her own life as she realizes how much she cares about them.
Hilarious/uproarious/funny, are usually words that send me the other way and while I didn't find the book hilarious, there were definitely moments of humor - mostly Lillian's snarky manner....very believable!
I listened to this book which I think made it more entertaining.....the voicing was great - Lillian, the disinterested, then snarky, then caring 20-something that cared for the kids, the kids voices were distinct and then Madison, the best friend was a haughty, monied voice. Well done.
Entertaining, unusual, some character growth, a nice resolution...... overall, a good book.
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published 2014, 284 pages
This was a very interesting story with 2 great characters. Set in London during WWII, a 10 yr old boy is living with his godmother who has dementia....but he loves her and takes care of her - until she dies and he's forced to relocate as an "evacutee" - all children were forced to leave London due to the bombing. Noel is an extremely smart, precocious little boy and the family he ends up with is a widow and her indolent adult son and mute mom. They're very poor and all the money-making falls to Vee (the widow), so soon Noel steps in to help. The pair become quite the con-men which helps Vee survive financially, and gives Noel a new lease on life.
This is a quietly heartwarming story of two very different people from very different backgrounds who are both lonely and a bit brokenhearted. Through bombings, disasters, earning and losing money, misunderstandings, and more, the two gradually form a bond. A quiet and impactful story.
The Broken Girls by Simone St James
Genre: Historical mystery
Published 2018, 336 pages
Earlier this year I picked this book for a Buddy Read with my sister. The story revolves around the murder of young girls - one in 1950, and one in 1996. Each of these murders was a young girl on the grounds of Idlewild, a private girls boarding school. So, you're probably picturing this rich kids' private school with cool uniforms, snooty rich girls, gorgeous grounds and state-of-art learning. You wouldn't be further from the truth.
In 1950, Idlewild is a Draconian place, grim and sad, filled with girls whose parents couldn't figure out what to do with them. Much of the story revolves around 4 of these girls as they become friends - until one goes missing.
"Sonia envied her, the way she could turn her brain off, think about absolutely nothing. It was a trick Sonia herself had never learned. That was what books did - they turned off your thinking for you, put their thoughts in your head so you wouldn't have your own.”
In 2014, a woman is researching her sister's death in 1996 at Idlewild and makes discoveries that shock the town. There is suspense, mystery, and a touch of the paranormal as the past and the present meet. A fascinating story, well told, with strong female characters. A good read for Halloween!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Published 2020, 442 pages
What a clever, enchanting, engrossing, detailed book. The writing is stellar, the character of Addie is delightful and ever-intriguing, Henry is an interesting opposite of Addie. In 1714, Addie doesn't want the "expected" life of marriage, children, etc. so she makes a deal for immortality and freedom with the condition that "no one will ever remember her". The book takes us on a journey with Addie that covers hundreds of years and many people she meets and tries to forge connections with. This bare bones plot description is only the vague outline, the beautiful writing and singular circumstances of Addie make this a book to savor.
Even if fantasy isn't a usual genre for you, I'd recommend giving this a try - it's really genre bending and tough to categorize. Except that it's excellent. Another terrific story by Schwab - she's fast becoming one of my "must read" authors!
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2019, 311 pages
I found the writing in this book astounding. The excellent, evocative, creative way she described smells and built mini-stories around the scents is extraordinary. In a way it sort of reminded me of Pale Morning Light With Violet Swan by Deborah Reed except that book was about an artist and so all the amazing descriptions were about color.
It's lightly a coming of age story as it follows the life of Emmaline as a child on a remote island through high school, and then as an adult. The book does a good job of depicting a girl trying to find her way to fit in with society and figure out how to live with/around people after her isolating childhood.
We all know how fragrances can evoke certain memories or events - this story expands on that and revolves around a father and daughter who make scents their life. Truly stunning writing.
City of the Lost #1 by Kelley Armstrong
Published 2016, 471 pages
This is an excellent start to a new (to me) detective series. Set in the remote wilds of Canada, a tiny town of 200 people have come together, each with a different reason to be "off the grid". There's no wi-fi, no electricity, etc....nothing that would allow the outside world to notice them. There are a couple of unexplained deaths so the sheriff recruits a new detective who also needs to relocate.
For some reason, this book really appealed to me - the writing is excellent, the characters are interesting and have depth, the setting offers lots of unusual opportunities for trouble. There's definitely a mystery, there are plenty of suspects, there's a bit of love story; the set up for the next book is great. I'm definitely going to keep reading - I hope she's not the kind of author that spends half of the next book retelling what happened in this one.
Without having read any more, it seems like this is one series where it would be REALLY helpful to start at the beginning to understand the set up of the town and how to get in, etc.
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published 2016, 304 pages
Recommended by a friend, I listened to this book. The narration seemed appropriate to the era, sort of a formal tone and phrasing. The book was interesting and I found myself irritated multiple times at the ways Mileva (Mrs. Einstein) is held back by Einstein and the general misogynistic attitudes of the time. In the little bit of googling I did about her to see how much of the book was based on fact, I see that there's lots of speculation and uncertainty about what she actually contributed to Einstein's efforts. The novel presents her as a long suffering wife with her own college physics degree but never recognized by Einstein or anyone else for her intelligence and contributions to his success. I wanted to strangle the man sometimes! Definitely an early feminism vibe throughout the book as she struggled to raise his children but also have a part of a career. The book is a decent imagining of how things might have gone. While I didn't find the story engrossing, it was generally interesting.
One For the Blackbird, One For the Crow by Olivia Hawker
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published 2019, 493 pages
Wyoming 1870. Two families on the prairie who rely on each other for survival. Then an event occurs that leaves both women and their kids alone, trying to survive the winter. As the oldest Beemis daughter and oldest Webber son form a connection against the wishes of their mothers, the two women realize that for the families to survive, they'll have to set aside their anger and bitterness and work together. Easier said than done.
This is a slow paced, not-much-happens-here, type of book and yet I couldn't put it down because the storytelling is just that good. The era, the hardships, the changes in the families, the wonderful descriptions, are all so well done. The daughter has a special connection to the land and animals and this adds a slightly magical note to an otherwise gritty, slightly grim story.
I hope one of these ten mini-reviews stir your interest about a book. Whether you prefer mysteries, historical fiction, or general fiction, there are some terrific stories here - let me know what you think. Also, be sure to share any suggestions for my reading pleasure!