Last month Becky asked if I ever found a book so bad that I couldn't finish it. The answer to that is a resounding YES! I used to mention those books in my monthly review and stopped doing it for some reason. This month I'll bring back that feature but I'll only list them with maybe a one sentence comment without giving them a full review. Bad books just don't deserve that much attention.
Bad books of April:
Now, on with the list of better books.
What good books have you read this month?
by Catherine Ryan Howard, Read By a cast
This is the second book that I've read by Howard and I'm sure to read more.
Adam Dunne's girlfriend left for a business trip to Barcelona and never returned. The Dublin police are not interested in helping with a missing adult so Adam starts researching on his own. He eventually discovers that she wasn't in Barcelona, she was on a cruise ship and she wasn't alone.
After more research he fins out that another woman went missing from the same ship under similar circumstances a year earlier. It's full of twists and turns and will keep you guessing. I never wanted to take a cruise before but I doubly don't want to now. The cast narration worked fine.
Tear Me Apart
By J.T. Ellison, Read by a cast
Mindy Wright is 17 and a competitive skier. She's working her way up to qualify for the Olympic team when she has a ski accident and breaks her leg. During the surgery on her leg doctors discover that she has leukemia. Chemo is not working. She needs a stem cell transplant from a relative. It's a surprise to find out that none of her relatives are a match. She was adopted and the adoption was under strange circumstances.
It's clear early in the book that there's a reckoning coming and it's clear (to the reader) who did it, but it's fun to watch it all come together. Not a lot of mystery but a lot of action.
I don't know why there's such a trend for cast narration. I find it distracting. Sometimes it works, like in Distress Signals, and sometimes it doesn't. It doesn't work so well in this one. The narration is pretty flat.
The White Princess
By Philippa Gregory, Read By Bianca Amato
This is the 5th book in the Cousin's War Series. Gregory sure knows how to write compelling historical fiction. She clearly does a great deal of research and is meticulous about telling the story of the time. There's no overlay of current mores onto the past and I soooooo appreciate that.
The brilliant thing that she does is to tell the story of the time through the women. Since the information on women during this time period is scant, she can create really compelling characters as the heroines of her books.
This book picks up after the War of the Roses and the first Tudor king, Henry VII, has come into power. His mother broker's a marriage to Princess Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Edward IV. This was an attempt to bring together the York and Tudor factions. I really enjoy these books. The character development is so well done that you feel like you know them all.
The Light Over London
By Julia Kelly, Read by a cast
In 1941, Louise and her cousin leave their Cornish village to volunteer with the Army. This was precipitated by a blow up with her mother over a pilot that she has started dating. Louise becomes a gunner girl in the anti-aircraft unit.
Today, Cara Hargrave is fresh off a divorce and has a new job working with an antique dealer. While clearing out an estate she finds a diary in a tin. It becomes an obsession with her and her new neighbor to find out more about the diarist and to return the book to her family.
This is the second book I've read by Kelly and I've enjoyed both of them. I'll read more!
Feels Like Falling
By Kristy Woodson Harvey, Read by Kelsey Navarro and Amanda Ronconi
Summer beach read.
This is a great Southern summer beach read. It's set in a fictional coastal North Carolina town. Gray Howard and Diana Harrington couldn't be from more different worlds but their paths cross in a drugstore photo department. Gray accidentally gets Diana fired from her job and she feels some responsibility.
With Gray's help Diana started to get back on her feet. With Diana's help, Gray is able to redefine her life after divorce. I loved the characters and the dialogue is brilliant. It's lighthearted and fun and made me want to get to the beach soon. I should add a book like this on my reading list each month. It would be like book dessert.
The Truth About Melodie Browne
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Anotnia Beamish
I've become a huge Lisa Jewell fan over the last few years. This book was a surprise because it's not her typical mystery. Melody Browne can't remember any of her childhood and she's been estranged from her parents since she got pregnant at 15. Her son is about to turn 18 when she has a chance encounter with a hypnotist. Now she's getting flashbacks from her missing past. She not only finds out about her past but also finds out how she impacted the lives of others. I loved it.
The Right Side
By Spencer Quinn, Read By Susan Bennett
LeAnn Hogan is in Walter Reed hospital recovering from an attack in Afghanistan. She has lost her right eye, has damage to the right side of her face and a severe case of PTSD. She forms a friendship with her roommate, Marci. She is devastated when Marci suddenly dies. LeAnn leaves the hospital and eventually finds her way to Marci's hometown in Washington State. After arriving there she discovers that Marci's daughter is missing.
The book summary gives the impression that this book is about finding the missing daughter but none of that story line even starts until the book is halfway done and her involvement in the search is minimal (although important).
This book is about putting the reader in the mind of someone going through PTSD and as that, it's a good read. LeAnn is quite a sympathetic character. It isn't much of a mystery/suspense novel at all. There's also an awesome stray dog.
By William H. McRaven, Read by the author
You will remember McRaven. He's the Admiral who gave the commencement address that advised graduates to start each day by making their bed. He's was also the commanding officer over the successful raid to get Bin Laden. On the down side, he's the reason that we have to take our shoes off at the airport.
This book is a collection of stories from his career. It's very interesting but much like the contemporary autobiographies by Bob Iger and James Comey, it's probably incomplete. People write their autobiographies to set their own narratives and can leave bad decisions out. That's fine, but it's not complete. It came off a little smoothed out, if that makes sense.
That said. This man is TOUGH. We, as a nation, need to be very grateful that people like McRaven exist. He did have an amazing career.
The Wild One
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is #5 in the Peter Ash series. Peter Ash is a war veteran with a bad case of PTSD. It mostly manifests as intense claustrophobia.
A grieving grandmother contacts Peter to try to find her missing Grandson. She has lost her daughter and son and her Grandson is all that's left. She believes that the boy's father killed the mother and left with the boy for Iceland, his homeland.
When he reaches Iceland he's met at the airport by a representative from the US Embassy. It seems that his own government doesn't want him to find the boy. That's a sign to him that the boy is in danger and he needs to find him quickly.
Fast paced and fun, as always. Not quite as good as the first 4 books. I think it needed June and/or Louis in the mix. But that's just a quibble. I'm already looking forward to book 6.
The Four Winds
By Kristin hannah, Read By Julia Whelan
What to feel better about the times we are living in? Read this book. You will feel nothing but deep gratitude for this piddly pandemic that we are going through.
The Four Winds is set in the Great Depression and specifically in the Dust Bowl region of Texas. Hannah always researches her novels thoroughly, and I've read enough about that period, to know that this book could easily be a true account.
In 1921, Elsa Wolcott, is deemed too old, infirm and ugly to marry. She's treated like the Cinderella of her family. But one night she meets Rafe Martinelli and has a little too much fun. She ends up disowned by her family and married into his Italian Catholic farming family. It's a tough start but she finally finds "family".
Things are good until 1934. The Depressions had ravaged the country and drought has ravaged their farm. The Martinelli farm is dying and Elsa must decide what to do to save her family.
Jewell writes a good book but this one is a depressing. The characters never seem to get a break. There's a lot of disaster and hopelessness all set in an unforgiving landscape.
The House We Grew Up In
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Karina Fernandez
I've really enjoyed Lisa Jewell's books. Until now they have all had a mystery element to add to the family dynamics of the book. This one was a little weird for me. I did finish it because I wanted to see how it ended, but, I admit, I didn't much like any of the characters.
The central figure is Lorelei Bird, the matriarch of the family. There's also husband Colin, daughters Meg and Beth and twin sons Rhys and Rory. The book opens with family members gathering back at the family home after Lorelei's death. In typical Jewell fashion the story is told back and forth in time and the central theme is figuring out how the family got so torn apart and wondering if the bonds can be repaired. All of the stories revolve around Easter for some reason.
It's a fine story, except that the underlying problem is Lorelei's hoarding. I've watched a couple episodes of one of the hoarding shows on TV and they make me terribly uneasy. It's so clear that these people have severe mental illness and, mostly, the families are powerless to do anything about it. That's true in this story too. It affects everyone. There are some really messed up people and storylines in this book.
Lisa Jewell also seems to be kind of obsessed with body weight. She obsessively focuses on fat and skinny people. She probably should back off that a little. Having the hoarder deride the overweight daughter seems a little out of bounds.
By Andrew Raymond, Read By Adam Gold
Tom Novak (American) and Stella Mitchell (British) are journalists investigating the terrorist attack that murdered the British Primer Minister just as he was making a speech that supposedly contained a surprise confession. There's a "maverick" CIA agent and a British intelligence officer "helping". Their reasons for participating are the deaths of one's sister and the other's interrogation target. It's a good plot but there are so many characters and so many sub plots that I had a lot of trouble keeping up. It needed some serious editing. tThe characters were a bit one-dimensional so it was sometimes hard to tell who's who.
It could also be that the book was ruined by weak narration. This is clearly a British book and yet they picked an American narrator. It was a little surprising how that one decision affected the quality of the book in a big way. I spent enough time working in England to recognize a lot of mispronunciations. That has to be incredibly annoying to actual British people.
This is supposedly the first in a series but I'm not sure I'd be on board for a second installment.
Blackberry ad Wild Rose
By Sonia Velton, Read by Esther Wane and Shiromi Arserio
It's good to end the month with some historical fiction.
This one is set in the 18th century in the Spitalfields area of London. When I worked there I often wandered around in Spitalfields Market and you can really feel the history of the place when you are there.
IN the 18th century it was the center for silk weaving and was heavily populated by Hugenot weavers from France. Irish weavers were coming to the area also and merchants were starting to import cheaper calico from India. Wages were bottoming out in the weaving trade so tensions were high.
Esther Thorel is the wife of one of the master weavers. She is an artist and is interested in designing patterns for silk weaving but her husband will hear none of it. Sara Kemp was new to London several years before and was tricked into working in a brothel. Esther tries to save Sara by bringing her into her house as a maid.
The story weaves together the stories of Esther and Sara into the very real unrest among journeyman silk weavers as everything heads toward riots. It was an enjoyable read.
4/30/2021 11:20:18 am
the depression era book was depressing especially when you know it was all so true - how poor people were and how little they had to eat. I found the Official Secrets book available as a kindle unlimited book so just got that and saw there are 3 in the series all available as unlimited so got them all
4/30/2021 11:43:29 am
As always, great book reviews. There are always some that I would like to read. I recently finished reading Bad Blood, about the Theranos company, partly on your recommendation. What an incredible story. Good thing we have investigative journalists!
4/30/2021 01:03:58 pm
I just finished Feels Like Falling yesterday. That was a feel good light read.
4/30/2021 06:29:14 pm
Another great assortment Vicki, thank you. There are a few that have been added to my wish list.
5/1/2021 10:28:25 am
I always enjoy your book reviews. Cutting for Stone was one of my favorite reads. I so wanted it to turn out differently than it did and I was sorry to get to the last page. It rates up there with Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown).
5/1/2021 01:34:35 pm
Read Cutting for Stone some years ago and it is one of my all time favorite reads
5/2/2021 08:29:29 am
Two outstanding books I've recently read and will review soon on my blog - The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson, and The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. Thanks for the warning on the ones you didn't like!
5/2/2021 11:17:02 am
I so appreciate your book reviews, only a fraction are available at my library as audio though. My library doesn't have a single Catherine Howard in any format! I too like Philippa Gregory's books. I like Lisa Jewell as well and haven't read 'The house we grew up in' yet. Alas, the Sonia Velton is only available in book form and I'm too busy to sit and read a book. My win this month was a newish Michael Connelly, 'The law of innocence' it's a Mickey book. I hoard my Connellys for doing chores, gardening, that I don't want to do. I've been listening to some Robert Parker written by Ace Atkins for light, breezy banter of Spencer. I think Atkins over does it somewhat but, as stated, light.
5/3/2021 12:11:18 am
So glad you enjoyed Feels Like Falling!!! Thanks for listening!
5/3/2021 08:19:02 am
My goodness you went thru a lot of books last month!
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.