Monday, May 23, 2022

Book Review: I Must Betray You, by Ruta Sepetys

I Must Betray you by Ruta Sepetys book cover and review
Sepetys usually writes about little-known aspects of war or politics, and I Must Betray You is no exception.

It's hard to read. The political situation in Romania in the 1970s and 1980s was so horrific -- and pretty much hidden from the rest of the world. Nicolae CeauČ™escu was a Communist dictator that ran the most isolated and oppressive nation in the world. People always stood in line for very little food. Coats were worn inside since little heat was available. Students were required to attend school six days a week. But the biggest issue was the fear.  People were afraid of each other. There was no place to talk, no one to trust. Not even within families.

Christian Florescu is a seventeen-year-old high school student who has been turned in to the secret police for supposed illegal activities, and they bribe him to become an informer. He's trying to navigate his teen years with the usual romantic endeavors. He wants to become a writer, but that seems impossible at this time.

The story starts in October of 1989, and if you know history (which I looked up), Ceaușescu is executed in December of 1989. Christian becomes involved in the resistance and is put in grave danger.

I Must Betray You is compulsively readable. The chapters are short and because of the conditions, the tension is constant. As usual, there are detailed notes at the end and an extensive bibliography. This was an eye-opening book for me, and teens, as well as adults, should consider I Must Betray You. 

Published by Philomel, February 1, 2022
Copy obtained from the library
336 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Book Review: The Book Woman's Daughter, by Kim Michele Richardson

The Book Woman's Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson book cover and review
If you enjoyed The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, then you definitely want to pick up The Book Woman's Daughter. If you are unfamiliar, you should click and go read my review of the first book.

The Book Woman's Daughter continues the story of the packhorse librarians of Kentucky in the 1950s. As the title indicates, this story is about Cussy's daughter, Honey. 

At the beginning of the book, Cussy and her husband are being arrested and taken to jail for miscegenation. The authorities are going to try to take Honey and put her in a workhouse for orphans. So, of course, she runs.

The story involves many old characters and several new ones. I didn't feel Daughter was quite as tense as the original book, but in the end, it ramps up quite nicely.

I highly recommend both books. This book, although a sequel, has been marketed as being a stand-alone, but I would not recommend reading The Book Woman's Daughter unless you have read the original. There is just too much back story in the first book that immediately attaches you to the characters in the sequel.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, May 3, 2022
eARC obtained from Edelweiss+
352 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Book Review: The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner book cover and review
I haven't read many Weiner novels, but I really enjoyed The Summer Place.

When I see a title like The Summer Place and a cover like this one, I usually think "sappy romance at the beach". And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but that isn't what this book is.

Sarah is one of the main characters. She has a stepdaughter who has just announced she's getting married. So the wedding and the planning are a big part of the story. Sarah's husband, Eli, is acting very weird. They've pretty much had a perfect marriage and have two little boys as well as the stepdaughter. But Eli has shut down. Sarah's mom is hosting the wedding at her beach house, and she's got several secrets. Eli's brother has had somewhat of a tragic past, and he has secrets.  The fiance's mom has secrets. Sarah has secrets, and she's so distraught about the state of her marriage, that she creates even more secrets to keep. And the house is a character, which is sort of cute, but not really necessary.

I'm not sure if I've covered it all, but there are a lot of secrets in The Summer Place. And it's really good when most of them are revealed. I think this is the third book in a row that I've read that features each chapter narrated by a different character. I didn't plan it this way, and they were good books, but I'm hoping for a different format for the next one!

If you are a Weiner fan, you'll want to pick up The Summer Place. Or if you want a summer read that's not just about people hooking up on the beach, this is it.

Published by Atria, May 10, 2022
eARC obtained from Edelweiss+
432 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Audiobook Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The Guest List by Lucy Foley, book cover and review
Once all the introductions were over, The Guest List got really interesting and kept me guessing until the end.

The celebrity wedding is on a remote island off the coast of Ireland and it is a stormy night, the lights go out, and when they come back on a young waitress is screaming about something bloody outside. There are bogs that you can sink into and cliffs to fall off. And it's dark and very windy.

The atmosphere is perfect. Then we flashback and get introduced to all the characters as they arrive on the island when the weather is beautiful the day before the wedding. It takes a long time to get back to the "now" during the wedding. I tell myself that the book slogged during this part, and it did, but maybe the detailed introductions of each of the main characters (the bride, the groom, the wedding planner, the plus-one, the bridesmaid, and the best man) were necessary. But once the book added back the "now" perspective, things got a lot more interesting.

We don't know who ends up dead. And we don't know who killed that person. But as the story unfolds and secrets are revealed, we realize that a lot of people could want this person dead. I was guessing until the end, not that it mattered. This victim was pretty evil.

You will enjoy how the story is revealed. And the atmosphere is perhaps another character, as it is so well described you will feel the wind and rain on your face.

The audiobook is full-cast, which I normally don't like. But in this case, it worked. If you enjoy atmospheric, locked-room mysteries, I recommend The Guest List.

Published by William Morrow, 2020
Audiobook obtained from
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, April 25, 2022

Book Review: Never Coming Back, by Tim Weaver

Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver book cover and review
Although it took a while to get going, Never Coming Back kept me guessing until the end.

If you read the blurb, you find out the premise--that a family has gone missing, and the sister has asked Raker (an ex-boyfriend) to look into it. Well, that doesn't happen until chapter 10, page 38. This is also the fourth book in the series, so you hear a lot about how Raker almost died and is recovering. And this character, Healy, who is Raker's friend is in this book -- but not really for any reason. I assume he's been featured in prior books, but in Never Coming Back, he didn't play much of a role.

Also, the first part of the book switched POVs from one that is first-person to third-person. It took me a while to figure out who "I" was for the first-person chapters. Soon the third-person perspective ends.

So, I got the bad stuff out of the way. The setting is on the coast of England. The story moves slowly, but it kind of needs to because it is a very tangled web. Not only has the family been missing for seven months, but a body has been found washed up on the rocks. Raker has come to England to escape his past and forget about finding missing people. But of course, that is not to be.

The villains are particularly brutal. And some are surprises. I liked that when it seems like Raker is getting things all sorted out there are still 100 pages left, so you know there's more figuring to do. I think I would have been more attached to the main characters if I had read earlier books, but I still enjoyed the story. Lots of twists and turns, and a bit of luck -- which always seems to happen in these kinds of books.

All in all, Never Coming Back is an entertaining read that kept my interest -- and kept me guessing.

Published by Plume, 2013
Copy obtained from a friend
372 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

AudioBook Review: The Plea, by Steve Cavanagh

The Plea by Steve Cavanagh book cover and review
I continue to be captivated by Cavanagh's Eddi Flynn books after having read the second, The Plea

Just like the first book, The Defense, the breakneck pace keeps your heart pounding. David Child, a multimillionaire, swears he didn't kill his girlfriend. But the evidence -- camera footage of him being the only one in the apartment, the gun found in his car, and gunshot residue found on his clothes -- makes it impossible to believe he didn't commit the crime. But Eddie Flynn believes him.

Eddie is being pushed by the FBI to force Child to take a plea, but Eddie can't do it. Even though Eddie's wife is going to be charged with a felony if he doesn't.

It all takes place in about 24 hours and ends with Eddie being shot. That isn't a spoiler, because that is the first thing that happens in the book.  Then we flashback. 

I really enjoy the audio version of this series, read by Adam Sims. I think there is a bit of over-the-top drama, but I can forgive it for the story.

If you like adrenaline-pumping, "how is he possibly going to get out of this" -type books, you need to check out this series. It isn't necessary to read them in order, but why not?

Published by Flatiron Books, 2018, Macmillan Audio
Audiobook obtained from
368 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Book Review: The Searcher, by Tana French

The Searcher by Tana French book cover and review
It is interesting how The Searcher grabbed me. I really didn't think I was liking it much, but I kept going back and soon couldn't put it down.

Cal is an ex-cop who moved from the United States to a remote Irish village after his career and his marriage ended. It isn't clear what happened, but details are slowly revealed throughout the story. He's purchased a fixer-upper, and the locals are taking bets on how long before Cal gives up and leaves. It isn't easy to build relationships in this tight-knit community, but Cal is working on it.

A local kid starts hanging around, and Cal very gently begins to let this very quiet and seemingly poor kid help him work on his projects. It turns out, the kid, Trey, is very good at this work. But Trey also has an ulterior motive, knowing that Cal is a cop. Trey's brother has disappeared, and Trey is convinced he is a victim of foul play. Because Trey's family has a reputation, the local authorities just assume Trey's brother has just left the family for other pursuits.

Cal begins to look into the disappearance and meets with resistance from his local pals. He's puzzled by this but slowly begins to uncover what he thinks happened. And it's dangerous. He tries to get Trey off the path by telling some made-up story. But that only makes things worse.

I don't want to say too much more. The small-town Irish moors atmosphere is intriguing. Cal's character is what kept me turning pages -- he's deep and reflective. The Searcher is a slow-burn, but compelling story.

Published by Viking, 2020
Copy obtained from my MIL
464 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Book Review: Bluebird, by Genevieve Graham

Bluebird, by Genevieve Graham book cover and review
Books about World War I are much less common than WWII, so Bluebird caught my interest.

In the present day, Cassie is interested in the history of her little Canadian town, where during prohibition, the rumrunners ferried illegal whiskey across the Detroit River into the United States. When bottles of Bailey Brothers' Best are found in an old home, she is eager to help the recent owner of the home. The home also happens to be her family home, the one in which Cassie grew up. I must admit, I lost interest during these parts of the book. Fortunately, this part took way fewer pages than the historical part.

In 1918, Adele, a "Bluebird" Canadian nurse is stationed in Belgium at a field hospital.  Jerry, a tunneler also from Canada, is brought in after a cave-in at the tunnel that he and his brother are helping to dig under enemy lines. He's badly wounded, and during his recovery, Adele and Jerry form a very close relationship. Turns out they live very close to each other back in Canada, near the Detroit River.

From that, you can probably figure out the storyline. They both return home and eventually meet up. Jerry becomes involved in whiskey production and rumrunning. The story is fascinating. We think we have it hard now, but when they came home from the war, the Spanish Flu was running rampant. And there was also prohibition.

Bluebird really kept my interest, and I love the historical aspect of both the horrible atrocities of war and the interesting manifestations of prohibition. Like I said, I didn't think the present-day story was really needed, but it was okay.

If you are interested in WWI, and/or prohibition, Bluebird is well worth your time.

Published by Simon & Schuster, April 5, 2022
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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