Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 2019 in Books

March was not my favorite reading month.  There were a bunch of duds in there.  When that happens, I often go back to some favorite authors for solace.  Which is what I did this month and I was not disappointed.  There's also some great juvenile/YA reads this month - I think kids books tend to be more hit than miss for me.  All in all it was a really great month of reading.  Here's the rundown:

Little Broken Things - Nicole Baart - fiction - Quinn's sister Nora contacts her out of the blue asking her to meet.  At the meeting she asks Quinn to watch over a little girl and keep her safe, and then disappears.  As Quinn tries to unravel the mystery of the little girl her family's secrets are revealed.  This was a little predictable, but definitely held my attention and I liked how the story came together.

Night of Miracles (Arthur Truluv #2) - Elizabeth Berg - fiction - five stars - I was so excited when I saw this on the shelf at the library as I didn't realize that this had come out already.  It's a follow-up/companion to The Story of Arthur Truluv which I absolutely loved.  This book tells the story of Arthur's neighbor Lucille Howard whose in-house cooking school is flourishing, so she needs an assistant.  Enter Iris, who is running from her former life, and finds a new home in town.  Meanwhile, Lucille has new next door neighbors who need her as well.  Just as sweet and hopeful as the first book, I am very much hoping for more in this series!

The Shadows We Hide (Joe Talbert, #2) - Allen Eskens - mystery - five stars - I am a huge Eskens fan.  His books are so well put together and his characters so rich.  I love how this series of books are all tangentially related, but aren't necessarily a true series as the protagonist shifts from book to book.  This one focuses on Joe Talbert (who was also the focus of his first book, The Life We Bury) who has now graduated from college and is working as a journalist.  He is investigating the death of the father that he never met, who was apparently a wholly unlikeable individual, as well as additional family and secrets.

Coal River - Ellen Marie Wiseman - historical fiction - four stars - Wiseman is another of my favorite authors.  Her historical fiction novels are wonderful.  This one takes place in Pennsylvania and tackles issues of child labor and general exploitation in a coal mining town.  After the death of her parents, Emma Malloy returns to Coal River to be taken in by her aunt and uncle, who is the foreman of the mine.  She is expected to work in her aunt's home, and is appalled by the conditions she sees in the town, especially of the young 'breaker boys,' many of whom have lost limbs in the breaker.  She becomes involved in efforts to let the world know about the injustice in Coal River.  I really enjoyed the story, but I thought the ending was a little too pat which is why this got four stars.

Letters for Emily - Camron Wright - fiction - four stars - When Emily's grandfather dies, he leaves her a book of poems/stories.  She realizes that they are clues which when decoded reveal passwords that unlock letters on his computer.  The letters are words of wisdom that relate to not only his life, but also his hopes and dreams for her.  Her mother and father who are estranged work together with her aunt to uncover all the clues.  In doing so, relationships are repaired and the generational healing occurs also.  I really liked the book, although there were some things that I thought were extraneous that should have been edited out, and it kind of bothered me that the letters were for Emily, but the mom and dad kept solving them, but those were minor nits.

The Alice Network - Kate Quinn - Historical Fiction - five stars - Absolutely loved this one.  After WWII, Charlie St. Clair goes to France to look for her cousin Rose who disappeared during the war.  Her search leads her to Eve Gardiner a drunk who was part of a renowned spy network during WWI.  The two join forces to determine what became of Rose.  Just so good, this one makes me want to read more about these female run spy networks.  I need to read more from Quinn.

The Island of Sea Women - Lisa See - historical fiction - five stars - I love everything from Lisa See.  I was familiar with the Haenyeo (famale divers) of Jeju island after reading White Chrysanthemum last year, and enjoyed this book just as much as the other.  The story is told in a series of flashbacks, and is about two best friends, Mi-Ja and Young-Sook who became estranged following Young-Sook's marriage when they ended up on opposite sides during the Japanese occupation and later during the communist insurgency.  So well done, and so sad.

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1) - Elizabeth Wein - YA historical fiction - five stars - This was such a good book.  It tells the story of the friendship of Maddie and Julie, two pilots for the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) during WWII.  These were female pilots who couldn't fly combat missions, so they were essentially logistics pilots, moving completed planes to bases, taking planes that needed service elsewhere, etc.  Maddie and Julie both excel and end up participating in some clandestine missions, one of these ends in disaster when the plane crashes and Julie is caught.  The story is told in two parts, one in which Julie writes her confession and tells her story, the second narrated by Maddie which tells her side.  It is definitely surprising, and sad, and heartbreaking, but hopeful.  Highly recommended.

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James - mystery/detective - four stars - I picked this one up on a whim, it wasn't quite what I expected as it is a bit of a ghost story and I usually don't like those, but it was well done in terms of how it tied the 'real life' story in with the ghost story part.  Fiona Sheridan's sister was found murdered on the grounds of an old abandoned reform school for girls in 1994, and her boyfriend was convicted.  Twenty years later, Fiona is drawn back into the events of 1994 when she hears that someone has bought and is renovating the school.  The story jumps back and forth between present day and the 1950s when the school was in use, and you learn about a tight knit group of roommates, one of whom went missing.  It was really interesting to me how the story wove together and I thought it was quite well done and kept me reading to the end, and guessing too.

Circe - Madeline Miller - mythology - five stars - I have always been a huge fan of mythology, back to when I was in grade school, and this was a wonderful retelling of the story of Circe, who I always thought of as a minor figure in the story of Odysseus.  Miller traces Circe's origins, her family, and how she ended up on that island.  Really fantastic character development, explaining why she made the choices she did, how she came to be.  If you love mythology, I highly recommend this.

Adventures with Waffles - Maria Parr - juvenile fiction - five stars - I had recommended this one to Ellie last summer when we were on vacation.  She read it on her kindle, so I didn't read it then, but we were at the library the other day and saw it and she insisted I read it.  I'm so glad that I did.  The author is Norwegian, so it's translated into English, but it's just a sweet, fresh story about two best friends growing up in Norway who also happen to get into their fair share of trouble.  Their escapades made me laugh.  It was a light, airy, fun, read with an innocence that reminded me more of the books I read growing up than some of the more modern kids books.

Clock Dance - Anne Tyler - fiction - four stars - I read A Spool of Blue Thread from Tyler last year and really enjoyed it, so thought I would try another from her.  This one was good, but not as good as the other.  It follows the life of Willa Drake, you see snippets of her through the years as she progresses from child to adult, and how her choices affect her life.  The bulk of the story is present day when she receives a call that her son's ex-girlfriend has been shot and she needs to come watch her daughter.  It's a strange request since she is an ex and really didn't know the girlfriend, but she's compelled to go, and in doing so starts to make her own decisions and slowly establishes a new life of her own.  I found the situation a bit hard to believe, but I liked the transformation and how she developed.

Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks - historical fiction - four stars - This was a really interesting book.  I don't know that much about the plague, so it was quite fascinating.  Anna Frith is the main character, she is the widow of a miner with two small children when the plague comes to their small village.  She loses her sons, but survives, and works with her employers, the village priest and his wife to minister to the people of the town.  They eventually decide to go into quarantine for a year as a town, so that the effects of the plague will be contained.  It is in many ways a survivalist tale, and I learned a lot reading it.  I loved it right until the very end.  I was not a fan of how the story ended, it kind of lost me there, but definitely worth reading. 

The Night Diary - Veera Hiranandani - YA historical fiction - five stars - This one was so good, and again, it really gave me an education.  I never knew that India and Pakistan were formed when the British 'freed' India in 1947.  Hindus are to live in India and Muslims in Pakistan.  Nisha's family is Hindu, so they must leave their home and travel to the new India.  This turnover created much tension and there was a great deal of violence as well.  The trip is arduous and dangerous.  The entire story is told through Nisha's diary.  Highly recommend this one, I've passed it on to Ellie to read also.

Astrid the Unstoppable - Maria Parr - juvenile fiction - five stars - So I already raved a bit about Adventures with Waffles.  We picked this one up at the library at the same time that we borrowed the other and it was even better.  Just as sweet, and light, and funny!  Astrid is a combination of Ramona,  Pippi Longstocking, and Anne of Green Gables - high on good intentions and imagination, and low on results sometimes.  Astrid is the only child in her village and her best friend is an old man in his 70s name Gunnvald.  One day she spies other children in her village, and Gunnvald gets a letter that sends him into a funk.  Astrid has to reconcile her change in circumstances and does so admirably.  Such a good book.  I'm really hoping that someone out there is translating the rest of Parr's stories!

Rose Under Fire (Code Named Verity #2) - Elizabeth Wein - YA historical fiction - five stars - I loved Verity so much that I picked up the second book in the series.  I use the term series loosely because like the books from Eskens, they are only tangentially related.  Maddie from the first book plays a small part in the story as does Anna Engel, but the focus is Rose Justice, an ATA flyer from America.  She ends up being captured towards the end of the war, and is sent to Ravensbruck where she ends up being housed with the 'rabbits,' a group of Polish prisoners who were experimented on by doctors - cutting their legs open and inserting foreign material to see how they would heal, having parts of bone cut out, etc.  Wein likes to tell her stories through the characters writings, which is what occurs here as well.  I definitely plan to read the third book in this series.

My Wish List - Gregiore Delacourt - fiction - four stars - This is more of a novelette, translated from the French.  It's about Jocelyne, who lives a humdrum life, not anything she dreamed of growing up, just kind of plodding along.  But she is true, and honest, and faithful, and she cares for her husband and friends, and reaches and helps people through her small fabric shop for which she also has a blog.  One day, she wins the lottery, $18+ million.  She retrieves the check, but doesn't cash it.  She is afraid that if she does, her life will change, that the people around her will change and that she'll see their true colors.  So, she hides the check in an old shoe and dreams of what she might do if she cashes is, but of course she doesn't. More things happen, but I don't want to give the story away, but it is an interesting look and what money does to you. 

So many good books this month!  Currently I'm reading A Mango-Shaped Space, which is a kids book that Ellie demanded I read, and I'm enjoying it.  After that, I have The Song of Achilles - written by the same author as Circe - I loved that so much I needed another mythology fix, and then Song of the Captive Bird.  Would love to know what you have been reading this month, so please share!


  1. Thank you Miriam! I love, love reading your reviews! Some of these are already on my list of books to read (like Lisa See and Anne Tyler) but after reading this post I'm adding a few more!

  2. I also love and look forward to reading your monthly book reviews, along with the cards you create. Thank you for the time and energy you put forth to share both of those passions with us. I am currently reading The Lost Man by Jane Harper, and as always my reading list grows each month after reading your reviews. Thanks so much!