Friday, August 31, 2018

August 2018 in Books

A lot of books this month, but kind of mediocre. There weren't a ton of must reads, but certainly some good books a couple that I really enjoyed. Here's the lowdown:

The Coincidence Makers
- by Yoav Blum - fiction - three stars - So a really interesting premise in which there is a group of people who arrange events to bring people together, to effect an important historical event, creation, invention, etc. It was kind of interesting, but just didn't come together for me. I just didn't connect with the characters, and at the end of the day I didn't like the idea that there's this strange shadowing group of people controlled by who knows who that are essentially runnig the world.
The Astonishing Color of After - by Emily X.R. Pan - young adult - four stars - Leigh (half Asian, half white) loses her mother who was clinically depressed to suicide. Sh believes that her mother has turned into a bird and is trying to tell her something. This leads her to Taiwan to meet her estranged grandparents as well as work through feelings for her best friend who is becoming something more than that as well as her father. There is some of the fantastic and supernatural that I both enjoyed but left me puzzling a bit. Definitely worth the read.

The Saturday Night Supper Club (Supper Club #1) - Carla Laureano - fiction - four stars - Kind of a fluffy book, but an easy read. It reminded me a lot of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. The main character is a female chef who is a partner in her restaurant. Following a social media snafu, she's forced out by her partners. The guy who inadvertently caused the incident tries to make it up to her, they become romantically involved, etc. I liked the characters and it was a cute albeit mostly predictable story, although I'm not necessarily compelled to read additional books in the series.

Stalin's Meteorologist: One Man's Untold Story of Love, Life and Death - by Olivier Rolin - biography - three stars - The author comes across the story of Alexey Wangenheim a meteorologist honored by Stalin and then a year later exiled to the gulag where he eventually dies. Of course his family isn't told until years later, when he is officially rehabilitated. The author does a lot of research and is able to use letters and documentation to put the pieces together. It's good detective work, but this is another one where it's a great story, but so boring to read. 

The Atomic City Girls - by Janet Beard - historical fiction - four stars - About a girl who works at Oak Ridge Tennessee on the Manhattan Project during WWII. What I really loved about this one is how much I learned. I didn't realize that the whole city was basically built just for the project, the amount of secrecy, the jobs that the women/girls did, life in the town, the fact that it only took three days for most of those folks to get clearances. Just really interesting information. The story itself was so-so. It followed several individuals and their experiences. I wasn't really crazy with some of the decisions the characters made, one of them, the jerky conflicted scientist who I think they are hoping you feel sorry for at the end of the day is just a jerk. That part of it fell a bit flat for me, but again, there was so much information told in a really interesting way, definitely worth the read.

Samantha Spinner and the Super Secret Plans (Samantha Spinner #1) - by Russell Ginns - juvenile fiction - five stars - The only non-adult book I read this month, and it was a really cute one. I've been trying to find good chapter books for Carina. She is into action/adventure and graphic novels. This is about a girl whose uncle disappears/dies. Everyone else thinks he's dead, but she's convinced he is alive. He leaves a boatload of money for her older sister, gives the Yankees baseball team to her younger brother, and leaves her an umbrella. She's a bit peeved about this before she realizes it's actually a map and a clue. Adventure ensues. It's a really cute and clever book and there's little interesting clues that kids won't get, but adults will. For example, her uncle has a habit of giving rare items to her younger brother who promptly loses them. A stamp with an upside down airplane, rare baseball cards, etc. Adults will pick up those cues and have a chuckle while most kids will just keep reading. Loved it and Carina enjoyed it too.

Palace of Treason (Red Sparrow Trilogy, #2) - by Jason Matthews - fiction - five stars - The sequel to Red Sparrow, I think I actually liked this one better. I feel like there was a lot of set up, needed explanations regarding spycraft, etc. In this book that groundwork has all been laid and it's straight to the action. Katerina continues to work as a double agent in Russia while Nate cultivates a new source and they plan a complicated plan to prevent the Iranians from creating a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, the U.S. needs to unmask a mole before Katerina's cover is blown, and she must protect herself from her jealous lunatic superior. Really good, and I have the series conclusion in my pile of TBR books already.

The President's Hat - by Antoine Laurain - fiction - five stars - This is the second book I've read by Laurain (the first being The Red Notebook - also five stars), and I knew I wanted to read more.  Like the previous book, this is on the shorter side and just a sweet story. A man picks up President Mitterand's hat and good things start happening to him, through a series of circumstances it passes through a number of hands bringing luck and changing the trajectory of those who have it. I loved it as well as how it was wrapped up in the end. Laurain has several more books that I will definitely be reading.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library - by Sue Halpern - fiction - three stars - I almost stopped reading this after the first chapter, and frankly I was halfway through the book before I actually started really becoming interested or caring about any of the characters. It's the story of a struggling library in a struggling town and the people it brings together. At the end of the day the story just wasn't that compelling because most of the characters just aren't that likable. You feel bad for them, but you don't necessarily like them.  It finally came together and by the last third of the book I wanted to know what happened, but you really should have to wait that long.

What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home - by Mark Mazower - biography - three stars - The author traces his family's history. They were Jews who left Russia prior to WWII.  Mazower's grandfather was a Bundist (I've never heard of this group), but they were a leftist Jewish political group in Russia, they opposed the Tsar, but did not well align with the Bolsheviks either.  It was a bit of an education into the different political factions operating in Russia, and Mazower obviously did his homework using old letters from his grandparents/parents and locating and interviewing witnesses, but at the end of the day this was a really boring book and it shouldn't have been.  These folks had very interesting lives, it was educational, but not very interesting - took me a while to finish this one.

Hoping that September is a better reading month, and so far so good. I'm currently reading the autobiography of Rachel Jeffs (one of Warren Jeff's daughters who left the FLDS chruch), Untangled, The House Girl, White Chrysanthemum, and The Kremlin's Candidate (last in the Red Sparrow series). How about you guys.  Any must reads?


  1. I just love this ‘In Books’ series you do!! Thank you so much for posting your reads!!

  2. Echoing Tami: your reviews/ratings have set me on the path to new books/authors. Thank you!