book reviews

Top Reads from August

In my previous book review post, I talked about my favorite reads from July.  So here now are my top fiction titles from August:

Last One Home by Debbie Macomber – This is a new novel from the author of the popular Blossom Street and Cedar Cove series.  Cassie Carter is back in the state of Washington, with her daughter, after leaving an abusive marriage.  Her parents are both gone now, but it looks like she might have a chance to reconnect with her two sisters, Karen and Nichole.  Engaging novel about starting over and second chances.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – A well done remake of Pride and Prejudice by the author of Prep and American Wife, this novel is part of a series of Jane Austen tributes by various contemporary authors.  In this incarnation of the beloved classic, the Bennets are a (at least up til now) well-off family in Cincinnati, Ohio, and both Bingley and Darcy are doctors currently working and living there.  It has gotten mixed reviews on Amazon, but I enjoyed it.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – A debut novel by a Swedish author, this was given to me by a friend when I was in the hospital back in March. I had started reading it then but gotten distracted and didn’t come back to it for a few months.  Once I did get back into it, I was hooked.  It’s the story of Sara Lindqvist, who has come from Sweden to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to visit a pen pal and fellow book lover.  When she arrives, the older woman has passed away, but Sara is invited to stay in her house for a while anyway.  To pass the time, she decides to use her late friend’s massive book collection to start a bookstore in the small town.  I really came to appreciate this lovely book about books and the people who love them.

To See the Moon Again by Jamie Langston Turner – Turner is one of my absolute favorite writers; even when I pare down my book collection, I never get rid of hers because I know I will want to read them again.  There is just something about the way she writes that mesmerizes me, although I find it hard to explain.  This novel is the story of Julia and Carmen, an aunt and her niece, and how they connect when Carmen comes to visit and stays for a few months.  The characters are richly drawn and their stories are complex and wonderful.  I highly recommend this and all of her books.

 

 

 

 

Top Reads from July

I have posted recently about some young adult titles as well as some detective novels that I have read, but by far my largest genre of books read is regular fiction.  I am not going to try to cover all the books I have read in the last couple of months; instead, I am just going to mention the top books from each month.

Here are my top reads from July:

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova – Genova is a neuroscientist as well as an author and has written novels centering on Alzheimer’s, autism, and traumatic brain injury.  This story features main character Joe O’Brien, who is diagnosed with Huntington’s disease.  It follows him and his family as he progresses through the illness, especially focusing on the decision his four kids must make as to whether to get tested for the gene.  I have enjoyed all of her books, including this one, and would definitely recommend it.

Year of the Snake by Melissa Luznicky Garrett – This is a light romantic read from an author I have followed from her first book until now.  She writes both adult and young adult books and is a great storyteller.  In this novel, Amelia Harkins is a writer at a turning point in her career and, as it turns out, in her love life as well.  A great read from a solid writer!

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon – I had thought the Mitford series was over, so was pleasantly surprised to come across this installment.  It covers the time leading up to Dooley and Lace’s wedding, as Dooley is also establishing his veterinary practice.  The story had a lot of the familiar characters from the series, along with a couple of new additions, and reading it felt like coming home.

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig – This is the final book in the Pink Carnation series and provided a very satisfying ending to both the contemporary and historical stories.  This series focuses on graduate student Eloise Kelly, who has come from America to England to research the English spies of the Napoleonic era.  Each book flips back and forth between Eloise in the present day and the story her research is uncovering at that time.  Throughout the series, we have met a number of different spies, all with flower-related code names, and, in this final book, we see the pairing of the Moonflower (Jack Reid) and the Pink Carnation (Jane Wooliston).  This was a lot of fun, as all of the books have been, and I highly recommend the entire series.

In my next book review, I will share my top reads from August.  In the meantime, leave me a comment with your top suggestion(s) for me.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

4 Detective Novels To Check Out

I have read several mystery/detective novels in the last couple of months. They are definitely a pleasant diversion, so I wanted to share them with you.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde – Having enjoyed several of Fforde’s Thursday Next books, I was eager to get into this new series about Inspector Jack Spratt, head detective in the Nursery Crimes Division.  This book centers on the investigation into the death of Humpty Dumpty, who has fallen off his favorite place to sit and reflect, the wall in his garden.  But was it an accident, or were more nefarious forces at work?

I will leave that question unanswered so you can discover it on your own.  Suffice it to say, I appreciated the writing style and all of the nursery rhyme references.  However, I’m not sure I will be reading any of the others because, as my friend Melissa and I agreed, once you’ve gotten the joke, you’ve pretty much gotten it.  3 stars.

X by Sue Grafton – This is book #24 in the Kinsey Millhone/Alphabet series; the first one is A is for Alibi, so you can start there if you’re like me and want to read things in order.  Kinsey Millhone is a private investigator in Santa Teresa, California, and a no-nonsense, independent woman who values her few friends highly.  The books, which started coming out in 1982, continue one after the other without any jumps in time between them, so this story takes place in 1989.

I like Kinsey, so I liked this book, although it would have been nice to have something new happen in her personal life.  I won’t get into the plot other than to say it wasn’t the most exciting of her novels.  I’m still looking forward to the final two in the series, though.  3 stars.

Rough Country by John Sandford – This is #3 in the Virgil Flowers series – there are actually 9 out so far, so I still have some catching up to do.  The first book was Dark of the Moon, although Virgil Flowers was actually introduced in Sandford’s Prey series, featuring the character of Lucas Davenport.

In this story, Virgil is called away from his vacation by Lucas to investigate the murder of a woman at a women-only resort in northern Minnesota.  As he delves into the various angles of the case, he uncovers another murder that may be related and begins to think this is a much bigger case than it started out to be.  It was a good story, and I enjoyed the characters as well.  4 stars.

Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb –  This is #41 in one of my favorite series in any genre, the In Death series.  I love Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her charming, good-looking husband Roarke, along with the rest of their friends and associates, and I really enjoy the futuristic setting of mid 21st century New York as well.  Again, if you want to start from the beginning, the first book is Naked in Death.

Devoted begins with the introduction of the villains, who have come from Alabama, and flips between the investigation and their activities as the book continues.  By the time they hit New York, they have left a string of bodies behind them, and it’s only getting worse now that they have settled in to the big city.  But no matter how good they are at concealing themselves and not leaving a trail, they are still no match for Lieutenant Dallas and her gang.  5 stars.

3 Great YA Reads – Gabrielle Zevin

I have been reading up a storm in the last couple of months, including trying to catch up on some series that I had started previously but lost track of.  One of those was the Birthright series by Gabrielle Zevin, about the daughter of a crime boss dealing in illegal chocolate in the year 2083.

I had read the first two books quite a while ago but still wanted to find out what happened in the third book, In the Age of Love and Chocolate.  It wasn’t on the library shelf the first time I went, but I picked up two other books by the same author that looked interesting: Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.

I practically inhaled Elsewhere, starting and finishing it in the same afternoon that I checked it out of the library.  It was a charming and thought-provoking tale set in a world where, when you die, you go to Elsewhere and live your life again – backwards. Not so much fun when you die at age 15, like our main character Liz Hall, but at least she gets to meet her grandmother and learn how to drive, along with discovering a whole lot about the meaning of life…and death.  It’s a fun and clever book that also draws you in and makes you care about the characters.  I definitely give it 5 stars for its all-ages appeal.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is the perfect example of a book I would have loved when I was 16 and still enjoyed at 46.  It centers on Naomi, who has lost her memories from the last several years as the result of a fall, following her as she slowly regains them.  Along the way, she has to figure out how she feels about the boys in her life – her boyfriend, her best friend, and the new guy in town – and deal with their reactions when her current feelings don’t always match up with the past they remember. A solid 4 stars.

Imagine a world where chocolate is illegal?  That’s the case in the Birthright series, and the main character Anya Balanchine is the daughter of a powerful crime boss, i.e. illegal importer and distributor of chocolate.  To me, In the Age of Love and Chocolate is like the third season of a nighttime drama, when the characters’ stories have crossed and re-crossed each other until they resemble a spider’s web.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two books, although it did provide a satisfying wrap-up at the end.  3 stars.

Although I don’t read much Young Adult these days, it is nice to occasionally dip my toe in the water and see what is out there.  I’m always open to suggestions, so feel free to leave a comment with your recommendations!