Monday, April 1, 2019

March 2019 in Books

Hi all!  This month was a bit of a mixed bag when it came to reading.  Some really good ones, but also some clear duds.  It was a pretty eclectic mix of genres too.  Here are the recaps:

Black Dove, White Raven - Elizabeth E. Wein - young adult historical fiction - five stars - This was such a great book.  It's the story of two kids, one black (Teo), one white (Emilia), whose mothers are best friends and comprise a airplane stunt team.  When Teo's mother Delia dies in an accident, Emilia's mother Rhoda is rudderless for a time until she decides to pursue Delia's dream, to go to Ethiopia to live/work.  The kids stay in the states for a time, but then go to join her.  They live there happily for a time, but it is on the cusp of WWII, and Italy is poised to invade.  When war does break out the family is scattered as Teo (who knows how to fly) is essentially drafted into the very small Ethiopian air force, and Emilia is essentially kidnapped by her Italian air force father.  It's a wonderful story told partly in prose and partly through the writings of the kids.  I learned a lot - about slavery in Ethiopia, about how U.S. pilots were in Ethiopia to help train their air force, even about the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia.  Highly recommend this one and am looking to read some more from this author.

The High Tide Club - Mary Kay Andrews - fiction - four stars - It's been a bit of a year, and at the beginning of the month I needed something light and easy and funny to read to get my mind off things.  Mary Kay Andrews always fits the bill there.  Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons lawyer Brooke Trappnell to her estate on Talisa Island.  She wants to leave it to the descendants of her closest friends (from whom she is estranged).  It turns out that one of them is Brooke's grandmother, and the book then unspools the back story, what happened to Josephine and her friends, and the secrets pulled them apart.  I really love how Andrews ties her stories together and this was no exception.

Codename Villanelle (Killing Eve, #1) - Luke Jennings - fiction - three stars - So I have never actually watched Killing Eve and didn't really actually know the premise of it, but I do love a good spy story, so I picked this one up not realizing that it's actually four short stories/episodes.  It was OK.  The first one was the most interesting because it's about how the spy Villanelle came to be, her training, etc.  The rest of it was mostly different assassinations she carried out, although they also introduce the detective, Eve, who is now  hunting her.  It was OK, but probably won't read any more in the series.  I found it unnecessarily graphic/gory.

The Girl They Left Behind - Roxanne Veletzos - historical fiction - five stars - Based on the story of the author's mother who is abandoned in Bucharest during WWII as a small child by her Jewish parents who are going into hiding.  They believe that it's the only want to save her, to give her a chance.  She ends up being adopted by a couple who haven't been able to have kids.  They are a happy family.  Meanwhile, her birth parents are able to escape and write to her adoptive parents wanting them to know that they made it out and while they don't want to disturb her new life, they would love to be in touch.  Her adoptive parents don't share the information with her, but many years later as communism strengthens it's grip on Romania, that connection becomes her way out.  Such a good story!

Nine Continents: A Memoir in and Out of China - Xiaolu Guo - memoir - two stars - This one was a disappointment.  Guo is a famous ex-pat Chinese writer, although honestly I had never actually heard of her before I picked up the book, I just like reading about folks who lived through the cultural revolution.  She was actually given away by her parents to a couple to raise after she was born, but they couldn't take care of her and then took to her grandparents who raised her for much of her life.  Eventually she ends up back with her parents, and goes on to university, etc.  The problem is she's really not at all likable.  I never formed any affinity for her and was basically annoyed by her and her attitude for most of the book.  If you are looking to read about the cultural revolution, there are lots of excellent biographies out there, this isn't one of them.

A Girl's Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America's Secret Desert - Karen Piper - memoir - two stars - I had high hopes for this one.  Working for DoD, the descriptions of growing up on base, working on base, etc. during the missile age were really interesting to me.  I wish that the book had focused on that.  Instead you got some of that in the beginning, although not all that in depth, and then a lot about her life after she left home which was not at all interesting to me.  I'd skip this one if given the change to read it again.

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton - Mystery - five stars - This was such an interesting premise.  A man is stuck in a never ending loop.  He is at a weekend party at an estate in England and must discover who killed Evelyn Hardcastle.  He has eight days in which to solve the murder - each day he inhabits the body of a different guest at the party donning their bodies as well as their temperaments.  There were lots of twists and turns in this one and I was thoroughly entertained by it.  Highly recommend!

Prisoner B-3087 - Alan Gratz - Juvenile Historical Fiction - four stars - This was Ellie's pick for me to read this month. She's a historical fiction junkie like me, and this is the story of Yanek Gruener a Polish Jewish boy who survives WWII, but not before being sent to ten different concentration camps.  It's a pretty miraculous story of survival and interesting to hear about his experiences at different camps.  I wish there had been a bit more about the different camps and experiences, some were pretty brief, but all in all a really good book.

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity - Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy - nonfiction - five stars - I heard about this book when George H. W. Bush passed away.  There were a couple articles I read which referenced it, and I jotted it down on my to be read list.  I really loved this one.  In today's highly charged political environment, it was a really refreshing read that gives me hope.  The book follows the relationships between presidents and former presidents beginning with Truman and Hoover and ending with Obama (the book was published in 2012).  It was a fascinating look at history, the grudges and the political maneuvering that occurs when one assumes the office, but then the respect and deference and the way presidents do or don't utilize their predecessors.  It was really interesting to me how often it was the presidents from differing parties that got along better than those from the same party, and there were some really great stories about how individuals placed the importance of the office over personal gain or a near term political win.  This is a dense read that takes time, but is well worth it.

Currently I'm reading Little Broken Things.  Next up are Americanah (several of you have mentioned this one to me so I'm finally getting around to it), Night of Miracles (the follow-up to Arthur Truluv which I am really excited about reading), Coal River, and The Shadows We Hide (the next Allen Eskens book which I am also REALLY excited about).

How about you guys?  Any must read or don't go near this book recommendations to share?

1 comment:

  1. I put The Girl They Left Behind on hold at the library while reading this. Sounds right up my alley. Looking forward to it! I just finished reading The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman, a historical fiction about Pearl Harbor written by a Hawaii native, which I did enjoy for the most part. Currently reading Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg, which I am loving. It's the sequel to Arthur Truluv, which I also loved.