Novel Ideas September 2020: 28 Quick book reviews
School is back in session and our reading is finally back on track. How are we reading so many books? AUDIO baby. We are big fans of libro.fm because a portion of each book’s proceeds goes directly to the local bookstore of your choosing, NOT to the pockets of Jeff Bezos. We’ve been using it for over a year now and we adore it. (Here’s 2-for-1 offer if you are interested.) So while we sit and monitor our kids schooling, we normally have headphones on as we listen to the latest book. It’s been a great way to keep our minds engaged while our bodies sit and wait for the next “Mom! I need help!.” Below is the Novel Ideas September 2020 round-up of the 27 books we read this month and a quick review for each.
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Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi
Silvered Serpents is the second book in the Guilded Wolves Trilogy. I loved the first book and was so excited to get a copy of it in advance. Thank you so much to St. Matin’s Press. Roshani Chokshi
is such a talented writer and this YA fantasy does not stop with imagination, action, and emotion. Chokshi said that “This is a book about love” and I have to say that I felt the pain of each character that can only come with love. The book follows Severin, Laila, and the team as they search for treasure once again. This time, they are far from Paris, in Russia. This is such a great YA fantasy and I’ve been yearning for one for months. 4 stars
Eli’s Promise by Ronald Balson
Eli’s Promise is another exemplary historical fiction by Ronald Balson. It’s a stand-alone that isn’t a part of the Liam and Katherine series. I was so curious to see how this book would differ. Balson is such a skilled writer and always finds a way to weave a story with suspense and capture a unique point of view.
The book moves between Nazi-occupied Poland, Post-war Germany, and Chicago during the Vietnam era. Eli Rosen is on a quest to find the man who betrayed his family and bring him to justice. The perspective of this book is unique and completely captivating. With characters that are so easy to love and hate, this is a must-read historical fiction. Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press and for my copy of this book! 4 stars
All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny
Thank you so much Macmillan Audio and Netgalley for my copy of this book. I listened to it in less than a day. I could not find a point to stop. Robert Bathurst is a brilliant narrator and is the voice of Gamache. So much so that I will not read this series, rather, I prefer to listen. This is my favorite book in the series so far. I absolutely loved this book that takes place in Paris rather than Three Pines. The story kept me on my toes every minute and had me guessing to the very end. I love that we get to know Daniel, Gamache’s son, in a way that we have not in previous books. If you are not familiar with the series, start and number one and pace yourself. I tried to slow down but now I have to wait a year between books! 5 stars
Nickel Boys by Coleson Whitehead
The 213 pages of this book will haunt me for a long time. Mr. Whitehead brings characters to life and holy crap can this man write. There is a reason he has won the Pulitzer Prize two times. I have had this book since the day it was released and needed to find the courage to read it. I’m so glad I did. All the stars
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I read How to Walk Away and enjoyed it but I did not feel as strongly about it as so many people did. This book is a romance that takes place in a very unlikely setting. Cassie is a firefighter who has spent her life doing what she loves while blocking out and personal relationships. When she decides to go live with her estranged mother to help her, her perspective on life starts to change. I really enjoyed this romance. 3.5 stars
Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs #4) by Jacqueline Winspear
I feel like this series gets better with each book. When a well-known artist dies and it is ruled an accident, his twin sister is convinced it is murder. Georgina asks Maisie to uncover the truth. Once again, Maisie uses her smarts and intuition to uncover more than a murder. The characters in this series become more believable to me with each book. I really enjoy this cozy mystery series. 3.5 stars
A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
I have mixed feelings about this book. If you know me, you know that I am all about the ending. And the ending of this series just didn’t sit right with me. There were too many contradictions that did not work for me. The more I think about it, the more questions I have. The relationship between Holmes and Watson is as complex as ever and the book is very readable. But, the ending upset me. Did you read this series? What do you think of the ending? 3 stars
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When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Sydney Green lives in Brooklyn where she has lived for almost her whole life. Her neighborhood is quickly changing as old neighbors move away. What starts off as fiction about gentrification and neighborhood dynamics, quickly becomes a fast-moving thriller. Is Sydney being paranoid or are people out to get her? To make matters worse, Sydney’s mother is sick and she does not want to put all her burdens on her best friend. The only person Sydney can turn to is Theo but can she trust him? How far will people go to get what they want? I loved this thriller and how plausible it could be. 4 stars
The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves
Are you a fan of Ann Cleeves, mystery authoress extraordinaire? There is a reason Ann Cleeves has been writing crime fiction since 1986 and has won awards for her writing. She is a master at her craft. And while Vera Stanhope is new to me in the past three years, she has been a character in Cleeve’s books since 1999! This series has also been made into a television show. Vera Stanhope is on her way home one stormy night when she finds a baby in an abandoned car. The car is near her estranged family’s house. In order to find the baby’s mom, she must to the family home. Cleeves is an excellent writer and this book does not disappoint! It’s the perfect fall read. Thank you St Martin’s Press and Minotaur Books for my copy of this book. 4 stars
This is the best romance I have read in a long time. What could be better than a romance about writers? January is a romance writer who no longer believes in love. Until she was 28, she led an idyllic life filled with the ideas of perfect love. Augustus Everett is a literary fiction writer who has never believed in love. They could not be more different. When they find themselves living next door to each other they decide to help each other overcome their writer’s block by challenging each other to a writer’s duel. I loved this book. 4 stars
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
I know that there has been some controversy surrounding this book but I wanted to read it anyway. I am so glad I did. I really loved this book about the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. When Alice Wright, an upper-class Englishwoman, marries Bennet Von Cleeve, an American businessman, she is excited to begin a life in the big city. What she finds is a small town in Kentucky living in a house with her overbearing father-in-law. To escape the feeling of suffocating in the house, she joins the packhorse librarians. 4 stars
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Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Thanks to Libro.Fm and Penguin Random House Audio for my copy of the book. All opinions are my own. Jenna Bush Hager chose an utterly addicting and thought-provoking story in Transcendent Kingdom. I read and listened to this book and it’s a total must-read.
Covering drug addiction, immigration, racism, and more, this story is as entertaining as it is stimulating. Its discussion of drug addiction’s impact on the larger family unit was reminiscent of Long Bright River. I also kept having to remind myself that it was a fictional story and not a memoir because the emotion and knowledge expressed in the book were so believable. 5 stars.
The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike
Thanks to Atria Books for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. I finished my copy of The Lost Queen and immediately yearned to read the next book in the series. The Forgotten Kingdom takes place immediately where The Lost Queen leaves off, right on the brink of war. We learn about warfare, religious discord, and the trials of the time period… and there are a few love stories in there too. This epic series is perfect for fans of Outlander and The Mists of Avalon. I HIGHLY recommend it on audio. The narrator is incredible and brings the whole story to life. 5 stars.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Thanks to Libro.Fm and Simon Books for my review copy. All opinions are my own. Jackie went on and on about Anxious People last month, so I knew I needed to give it a listen. I just adore Backman and his writing style. I was laughing at times, and choking up at others. If you liked A Man Called Ove or Beartown, you will once again love his latest work. Trigger warning for suicide and attempted suicide themes. 4.5 stars.
Well Played is the latest from Jen DeLuca and it’s another wonderful story set at the Willow Creek Renaissance Faire. I love that because of its setting, the book has a touch of the historical fiction vibe with all the best parts of a modern romance too. I also loved that this romance had a lot of texts and emails. Don’t you just love reading those sorts of communications in books? This is Stacey’s story, but we get to see a little of Simon and Emily’s love story too! Now I’m even more excited to read the third book in the series which is about April! 3.5 Stars
A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore
Thanks to Berkley and Netgalley for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. I didn’t love A Rogue of One’s own as much as I loved the first book in the series, Bringing Down the Duke, but it was still an enjoyable read. The fact that this series focuses on heroines that are fighting for the suffragette movement in the 1880s is really ground-breaking in my mind. It’s so nice to see women with a backbone and not simpering damsels in distress. I didn’t love this story of the newspaper owner as much, but I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. 3 stars.
All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny
Thanks to Macmillian Audio for my free review copy. All opinions are my own. I BOW DOWN TO THE QUEEN. All the Devils are Here is the 16th book in the Three Pines series and it is one of the best ones. How can a series be 16 books long and not be boring? Louise Penny is masterful in this latest rendition. Inspector Gamache is in Paris with his family and witnesses a hit-and-run that leaves his godfather in a coma. As he investigated the attempted murder, his own family ties begin to unravel. 5 stars.
We did an entire post about Sex and Vanity because it’s just such an escapist read! It’s lighthearted and fun which is perfect when you want to take your mind off the doom and gloom of the world we currently inhabit. Like Crazy Rich Asians, this book features the over-the-top world of the wealthiest 1%, but it also deals with harder topics like microaggressions and racism. 4 stars.
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Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
This narrative non-fiction is probably the best book I’ve read all year. It deals with the unbelievable, true story of the Galvin family. The family consisted of 12 kids, 10 of whom were boys, and 6 of those boys ended up with schizophrenia. The book discovers how each child’s illness immerged, what the dynamics were like in the hold, as well as the trauma many of the children experienced. The look into the changing landscape of psychiatry was also fascinated because it changed so much over the course of the boys’ lives. It’s such a great read for Mental Health Month because it addresses the stigmas the family faced after their diagnoses became public in a time when mental illness was still regarded with deep disgust. 5 stars.
The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan
The continuation of The Cafe by the Sea series features Flora, Joel, and the cast of characters on the Island of Mure. We see how their relationship is progressing and we get to dive into some of the other romances on the island. I really enjoy book series that immerse the reader into a community. I feel like the inhabitants of Mure are my personal friends at this point! I was happy for their successes and I cried once too. 3.5 stars.
Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan
The third book in The Cafe by the Sea series left me gutted. I cried so many times at the end of this book. It was very cathartic but so heartwrenching. I honestly felt for every character impacted by the many tragic storylines. I know the fourth book in the series is coming out soon, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it now. 4 stars.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Impactful is the first word that comes to mind as I think about Coates’s memoir. Written as a story for his son, the lessons he tries to instill from one black man to another, highlight the important issues our country is facing. It’s hard to grapple with the truths laid bare in this book as a white woman, to understand that I will never understand. But it left me energized and thinking about the work I need to do and the messages I want to send to my own boys. 5 stars.
This book’s premise had me a little skeptical, Greek Gods telling a love story set in WWI? I didn’t think it was up my alley. I must have had it recommended to me almost a dozen times now, and now I’m the one recommending it. It was two, sort of three, love stories in one book, but it touched on racism, PTSD, and the sacrifices of war. It was so well handled that I was sad to see it end. 4 stars.
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The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
I wanted to like this book, and I did like parts of it, but overall it just didn’t connect with me. It’s part mystery, part fiction, but the writing wasn’t great and I was never truly drawn into the world. I almost stopped reading it on numerous occasions. I wanted to learn more about the Korean immigrant experience, but sadly, this book was not cutting it. 2.5 stars.
Stevenson’s memoir about his early career is truly eye-opening. I had no idea about the scope of injustice towards black men in the criminal justice system. The stories of the inmates on death row who were falsely accused broke my heart. I can’t believe our country doesn’t have more reform in this area. Stevenson’s career is truly incredible and one that should be commended. I’m very interested in seeing the movie now. 5 stars.
Campaign Widows by Aimee Agresti
This month’s reading challenge focused on Women in Politics so I picked up campaign widows as a light-hearted look at the spouses left behind when political campaigns hit the road. It totally non-partisan, truly not identifying either political party, just making a commentary of the social politics of Washington D.C.’s elite. It was like a DC version of Sex and the City and I loved it! 4 stars.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Home Before Dark is Sager’s latest book and it’s a great one! I love a good thriller, especially this time of year, and Sager never disappoints. This time the author takes us into a literal haunted house. I loved reading Sager’s take on the traditional haunted house story. I was unable to figure out the various mysteries and I wasn’t able to read it late at night! It’s a great book to read for Halloween this year AND the cover glows in the dark! 4 stars.
I’ve had this book on my shelf for AGES and AGES. I’m a sucker for a Jane Austen adaptation so I was eager to read this story about the servants at Longbourn, home to the Bennett sisters. It was a love story that definitely focused on the people behind the scenes, without many appearances by the famed characters of Pride and Prejudice. I liked that we got a brief look into Elizabeth’s life as Mrs. Darcy, but I really did enjoy the servants’ stories. I’d recommend this one for fans of Downton Abbey for sure. 3 stars