Books

April Book Reviews

I have done a lot of reading for the last few weeks.  More than usual.  One of my job requirements as we sat at home was to read and write book reviews.  That is a job description I can get behind 100%!  For the most part, I read some really good stuff.  There were a few disappointments, here and there.  We are now offering curbside service, so I am able to work at the library several hours a week.  I won’t get as much reading in.  Honestly though, to be told to read and get paid for it fulfilled my lifetime goals.  Here is a list of what I was able to read while sheltering at home.

  1. The Boy From the Woods by Harlan CobenHarlan Coben never fails to impress with his mysteries that provide twists and turns throughout.  When 16 year old Naomi goes missing from her New Jersey home, Wild, the boy from the woods, is called on to help find her.  With help from an attorney, a police officer and a 16 year old boy, Wild sets out to find out what led up to Naomi’s disappearance.   What starts out as a missing person case, that seems to have a simple conclusion, actually turns out to be far deeper and darker than it appears.  Several members of the community are somehow linked to her disappearance, without even knowing it and all in ways you can’t see coming. Be prepared for a shocking end.  I didn’t see this one coming. It was also pretty clear to me, that a sequel is definitely in the works. Five stars. 
  2. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – If you liked Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, you will really like this book  as well. Like Little Fires Everywhere,  Such A Fun Age forces the reader to confront their biases on race and socioeconomic class.  Emira is a black woman who is the babysitter of young Briar, the daughter of Alix, a social influencer.   After an incident at a local, high end grocery store, Alix becomes strangely obsessed with Emira and Emira’s white boyfriend.  Alix becomes determined to help Emira, no matter what the cost is, thinking that she is somehow improving Emira’s life. Emira on the other hand is not interested in help, she has her own issues to deal with.  This book leads the reader to the conclusion that sometimes in our effort to be a good person, we reveal our true colors. In the case of Alix, that proves to be the case.
  3.  The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – I wasn’t sure about this book when I started it. It was not on my TBR list.  Since my list is so long, I was apprehensive about adding something I wasn’t already interested in.  However, I recently started a virtual book club in response to the safer at home order.  This was the first pick, so I was obligated to read it. I really liked the book, a lot in fact. It’s a series of short stories dating back to the rise of communism and ending with contemporary Russia. While the book is series of short stories, all of the characters somehow tie together.  The first story and the last story, bring the entire series full circle, leaving the reader satisfied. I am giving it a rave review.  But, I was the only one in the book club who liked it.  I gave it a strong 4 stars on Goodreads, everyone else either gave it 1 star or didn’t even finish it.  The rating on Goodreads seem to follow that pattern as well.  It seems to be a book that elicits strong emotion.
  4.  The Missing Sister by Elle Marr – I don’t think that I could recommend this book without letting the reader know that the ending is disappointing.  It is actually a fantastic idea for a story. She had all the elements.  A series of crimes, a missing identical twin sister, and string of suspects all in Paris.  But, the ending was ridiculous and getting there was somewhat painful. It did not flow. The main character was extremely unlikable so I found myself not caring about her or her Paris adventure at all. I think the author is a talented writer and like I said, the premise was good.  I read this book because it was free on kindle and once I committed, I really wanted to know how it was going to end.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
  5. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad is the story of Cora, a slave from Georgia.  Cora escapes one night with two other slaves and finds herself on the Underground Railroad.  The story is told as though the railroad was an actual railroad.   We follow Cora on her journey as she is pursued by a slave hunter determined to catch her.  This book is brutal and honest.  The American slaves lived a life of extreme horror and brutality that we have an obligation never to forget.  Five stars without question. 
  6. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by – Amy has been given the opportunity to live in New York City for the summer while her ex husband takes the kids.  This book is what I would call every mom’s fantasy (in my case I wouldn’t want the husband to be an ex, just willing to let me go for 3 months).  During that time, Amy learns a lot about herself.  I enjoyed this one, but wouldn’t give it more than 3.5 stars.
  7. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – A man goes to a baptism party, uninvited, and two families are torn apart. Commonwealth tells the story of Burt and Beverly and their six children. Their’s is a blended family that effects all six children, the spouses they abandoned and their marriage which was doomed from the beginning.  This is done with brilliant story telling and characters who are constantly evolving. I forget about female authors who have these wonderful stories to tell that are not just a series of mysterious twists and turns. This one did not disappoint.
  8. Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo – This one was both creepy and grisly. Not a book that I would normally enjoy due to the intense violence. But, the writing was very good and the story was compelling. The main character was likable, but had very real flaws. She made mistakes as a police officer that she acknowledged and paid for dearly throughout the book. I did figure out who the killer was just before the big reveal. Five stars without question. 
  9. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David GrannThe Osage tribe was the wealthiest group of people, per capita, then anyone else in the world in the 1920’s due to their oil rights. That kind of wealth brings out the absolute worst in people. Mix in the American government’s belief that Native Americans could not possibly handle their own finances. Add the extreme greed of the 1920’s and you have the ability to commit crimes against humanity with very little fear of punishment. This was the case in the Oklahoma until the FBI investigated. The case was finally resolved by Tom White, an agent who had morals and integrity. He saw the case to the end, or though he thought. An additional investigation in the 2000’s found that the horror the tribe endured was far vaster than originally believed. 
  10. The Wife by Alafair Burke – Another mystery that seems to follow the Gone Girl formula.  But it works! I was hooked from the start and found myself starting and finishing this book in one afternoon.   Angela is married to Economics professor, Jason.   A student accuses Jason of inappropriate behavior and what starts out as a misunderstanding, turns into a full-fledged scandal.  Meanwhile, Angela is dealing with a significant trauma from her teen years.  Angela has secrets of her own, which in retrospect, make Jason’s trouble seem insignificant.  This one is full of twists and turns throughout.  I was honestly shocked by the big reveal.  I  did not see it coming.  That says a lot for the authors story telling.  Five stars! 
  11. When I Was You by Minka Kent – I was really excited to get this book, as I really enjoyed Minka Kent’s book The Stillwater Girls. Unfortunately, this one was not a worthy encore to her previous work. I was very disappointed. Like Stillwater Girls, Kent is writing about a type of amnesia. It seems to be a part of her formula now, which could get old. Mix in identity theft and a handsome doctor, and you have no idea where the story is going to go. With this one, it didn’t go too far. To be honest, I thought the main character, Brienne, couldn’t realistically be as unaware as she was in this book. It was far-fetched at best.  The author did have a really good idea though. It was just taken in a really odd direction, that made no sense in the end. I really can’t recommend this one.
  12. The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – This is the first Elin Hilderbrand book that I have read. I really liked it! I had no idea that it was a mystery when I picked it out. For some reason, I thought that the majority of Elin Hilderbrand books were romances. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had the elements that I love in a good book. Those being a good plot, likable characters and a mystery with a lot of suspects. I am always so happy to find a new author that I can start to read. Elin Hilderbrand will be on my list for future reads.
  13. The Chain by Adrian McKinty – Wow, what a rollercoaster ride this one was! Imagine getting a phone call that your daughter has been kidnapped and the only way to get her back is to kidnap another child. That is exactly what happens to Rachel one morning when her daughter, Kylie, is kidnapped on her way to school. This starts a heart stopping quest to get Kylie back.  With the help of Kylie’s uncle, Pete, they find themselves as links in something known as The Chain. Once they are in, they can never get out. This was such a great idea for a story. Five stars!

That is 4 weeks worth of reading, the job requirement started on April 1st. No way May’s list will be this long.  Happy reading!

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