Sunday, May 21, 2023

Book Review: Small Mercies, by Dennis Lehane

Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane book cover and review
Small Mercies is a book that takes place in 1974 when Boston was trying to desegregate schools by bussing kids out of their neighborhoods. It's not really much about that, though.

Yes, there are protests, but mostly the book is about racism during this time and how being in the wrong place at the wrong time (and if you are the wrong color) can be deadly.

The book is well-written and kept my interest. The main characters are well developed, especially Mary Pat, who is looking for her daughter who has disappeared. I did get some of the supporting characters confused, as Mary Pat visits all sorts of people who might know what happened.

Small Mercies takes place during a tumultuous time that I knew little about. The history is interesting and inciteful. The book isn't a favorite, but if you are interested in this time period, Small Mercies is a good option.

Published by Harper, April 25, 2023
eARC obtained from Edelweiss+
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Audiobook Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston book cover and review
I wanted to read Their Eyes Were Watching God because it is somewhat of a classic now, and it was part of the English curriculum when I was a librarian.

And for those reasons, I'm glad I read it. I was impressed with the writing. The descriptions are vivid and detailed, if a bit drawn out. But that is the poetic aspect of the book.

I was glad I chose the audio version because I think the dialect would have been tedious to read. The narrator, Ruby Dee, does an excellent job with the dialect as well as the voices. I'm hoping the teachers used the audio version to help the students with it.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of Janie, a black woman in the 1930s. We learn a lot about black traditions, especially when it came to how women were treated. I would recommend -- the audio version -- if you are interested in the subject.

Published by J. B. Lippincott, 1937
Audiobook obtained from
297 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Book Review: The House of Wolves, James Patterson and Mike Lupica

The House of Wolves by Patterson and Lupica book cover and review
The House of Wolves is another book that I found good, not great.

The Wolf family is a San Francisco power family. They own the professional football team, as well as the prestigious San Francisco Tribune newspaper. When the patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances, the reading of his will brings many surprises. Thirty-six-year-old daughter, Jenny, has been given control of the newspaper and the football team. Her brothers are not happy. Jenny had been an outcast and had not had contact with the family. So all sorts of things are planned to wrestle away the football team from Jenny. You see, her brothers have planned to sell the team to make a huge profit.

Jenny also suspects her father's death was actually a murder, and she's out to prove it and avenge her father's death. Nasty family. Lots of deception and backstabbing.

I'm usually a fan of Patterson and have read a couple of Lupica's books. I found that I didn't care much for the characters. Most of them weren't very nice. And maybe the book went on a bit long, although it isn't that long of a book. I was interested enough, but life got in the way and it took me a long time to finish, so that may be part of it.

It has a nice little twist at the end, but I wish this character had been introduced earlier in the book. I think the ending would have had a bigger impact. So, as stated, I liked The House of Wolves by two very popular authors. If it sounds like something you would like, I would recommend it.

Published by Little, Brown & Co., January 9, 2023
eARC obtained from Edelweiss+
400 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Book Review: Stateless, by Elizabeth Wein

Stateless, by Elizabeth Wein book cover and review
As in some previous Wein books I have read, I found Stateless to be good, not great. As a matter of fact, I finished it weeks ago and just now realized I didn't review it. What better time than the day of the book's official release. 

As the Nazis are gaining power, an air race for European young people has been arranged in the hope that it will bring everyone together. Stella North is the only female participant, representing Great Britain. She feels a lot of pressure to represent well since no one believes in her abilities as a pilot.

She loves nothing more than flying, but it loses some of the fun when she witnesses what appears to be one plane driving another plane into a crash. Who can she trust? Tension mounts as other things start happening, and all the pilots are in danger even if they don't know it. 

The relationships among the pilots are interesting and the story is well told. I just thought it all a bit far-fetched. But true to young adult fiction, it is exciting and kept my interest.

If you enjoyed Wein's other stories, Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fireetc., you will most likely like Stateless.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR (March 14, 2023)
eArc obtained from Edelweiss+
400 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, March 2, 2023

Audiobook Review: Carrie Soto is Back, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid book cover and review
I'm a tennis nut. I love to watch tennis in any form. I often have The Tennis Channel on in the background. So I really enjoyed Carrie Soto is Back.

Carrie Soto is a 37-year-old retired tennis star. Her record for winning the most Grand Slam titles has just been tied by the young Nicki Chan and she has decided to come out of retirement and win another Grand Slam because she can't stand that someone else might break her record.

Her father, Javier, has agreed to once again coach her on this quest. She also decides to train with Bowe Huntly, her contemporary, who hasn't retired. There is a bit of bad blood between these two since he and Carrie went out and then he just never called her again. But he's the only person who will agree to hit with Carrie to get her in shape. You see, Carrie was never very liked on the tennis circuit, and no one thinks she has a chance in hell to win another slam.

The relationship between Carrie and her father is probably the best part of the book. Javier is so wise--and not just about tennis. There is a lot of tennis, so if you don't understand the game, Carrie Soto isn't the book for you.

It is cute and heartfelt, even if a bit over the top at times. You can't help but root for Carrie, and not necessarily to win. Mostly just for her to grow up and come to terms with her life as it is. 

An enjoyable read (or listen.) Stacy Gonzalez does a great job with the voices. There are parts of the book in Spanish, and not all of it is translated. You mostly can imagine what is being said because of the situation, but it still bothered me. It was also really cool that Patrick Mcenroe and Mary Carillo, two tennis icons, narrated parts of the book.

If you enjoy tennis, Carrie Soto is Back is worth it.

Published by Ballentine, 2022
Audiobook obtained from
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, February 11, 2023

Audiobook Review: The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman book cover and review
Despite the fact that The Thursday Murder Club isn't "my kind of book," I really enjoyed it.

The Thursday Murder Club is made up of residents of a community of retired people. They meet every Thursday to discuss old murder cases. But all of a sudden, they have a real murder to solve. Much to the chagrin of the local authorities. 

The characters are interesting and somewhat mysterious. There are many twists and turns, many dead people, and many red herrings. The pacing is fast enough to keep your interest. And, as I said, I was delighted. There are heartwarming relationships. Very witty exchanges. Even some of the bad guys are sympathetic.

As much as I liked The Thursday Murder Club, I won't be continuing the series. I've done this many times with many series. (#1 Woman's Detective Agency, Women's Murder Club, Rizzoli & Isles just to name a few.) I read the first book and enjoy it but never continue. I just don't like reading about the same characters over and over as they solve different cases.

Lesley Manville does a great job narrating the audio version, so I would recommend it. If you like these amateur sleuth books, you will certainly enjoy The Thursday Murder Club.

Published by Pamela Dorman, 2020
Audiobook obtained from the library.
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, January 30, 2023

Book Review: Just the Nicest Couple, by Mary Kubica

Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica book cover and review
Just the Nicest Couple is a domestic thriller that kept my interest and surprised me.

Our first narrator is Christian, whose wife, Lily confessed that she was accosted by a man while in the park, and she thinks she may have killed him. She knows she hit him several times in the head with a rock in order to escape.

The man, Jake, is the husband of Lily's colleague, Nina. They both teach at a high school and are friends. Nina is our other narrator. Since she and Jake had a bit of a fight, when he disappears she thinks Jake, a local doctor, has left her.

Lily doesn't go to the police (otherwise there wouldn't be a novel) and as she and Christian work to cover her tracks, you can just see a big trainwreck coming. It's one of those novels where you just want to scream "No! That's a really bad idea!"

And while Lily is covering her tracks, Nina is trying to convince herself that Jake will come back. She files a missing persons report after realizing that he hasn't been coming to a job to which he is totally dedicated.

After the cringe moments of the coverup, we begin to get some idea that maybe there are some more secrets yet to be revealed. And of course, there are. And a couple of red herrings. Love that. I thought I knew what the big reveal was gonna be, but I was wrong! 

So if you are in the mood, I would recommend Just the Nicest Couple. You are sure to be entertained. The only other Kubica book I've read is The Other Mrs., and I really enjoyed that too. I think I need to put some more of her books on my list.

Published by Park Row, January 10, 2023
eARC obtained from Edelweiss+
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Audiobook Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab book cover and review
I've wanted to read a book by V. E. Schwab for quite a while, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was a good first choice.

Addie is over 300 years old. At least for part of the story. It starts out when she is young and makes a deal with the devil. Of course, she doesn't understand the consequences. She will live forever (or until she chooses to let the devil take her soul) and never age. But, throughout her entire life, she will never be remembered by anyone. As soon as she walks out of sight, they will not remember her. Pretty difficult to build relationships. Or get and keep a job. 

Her life begins in the French countryside in the early 1700s, so after about 300 years, you can just take a moment and think about everything she's lived through. Wars, economic upheaval, changes in technology, slavery, environmental changes...

And then, all of a sudden, she meets a man in a bookstore, and he remembers her. How? Why? Well, those are questions that the second half of the book answers.

Schwab is a good writer, and I found the narrative interesting, if a bit lengthy. It takes a long time for Addie to meet Henry (when things get really interesting IMO.) The audio version of a story always makes me more patient, so that certainly helped.

Julia Whelan narrates the audiobook, and she is a favorite of mine (and of a lot of people). So if you are new to audiobooks, seek her out.

Even with the slow pace, I would still recommend The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. It's an interesting story and leaves you thinking about life. And what is important. And relationships.

Published by Tor, 2020.
Audiobook purchased from
448 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Book Review: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins book cover and review
It took me a while to get into The Villa, but it was entertaining enough.

Emily and Chess are lifelong friends who decide to spend a summer at a villa in Italy. The trials of adult life have caused them to drift apart, so they are looking forward to reconnecting.

This is the same villa where in 1974 a group of five people spend the summer at the same villa and one of them ends up dead. Out of this group, one was already a rock star. One records a best-selling album, another writes a book (suspiciously about a murder in a villa), and the other is convicted of the murder. These aren't spoilers, as this information is given fairly early. Part of the narrative is also passages from the book that was written during the summer of 1974 (which involves more characters!)

Emily, an author, gets interested in the history of the villa and begins to research what happened. Chess is also a self-help author and begins to press Emily to let her help write a book about it. Emily doesn't want Chess's help, tensions build, and things go south from there.

So it takes a while to sort it all. There are a lot of characters and two time periods. Hawkins is a good writer, so it all makes sense, but I thought it all went on a bit too long. I had read about the "twists," and was looking forward to them. But it takes about 80% of the book before anything twisty begins to happen.

Don't get me wrong--there are more twists than you realize. I suspected something of the sort...for a while, but it kept going farther than I ever imagined.  

I would recommend The Villa. The characters are interesting, even if the buildup goes on a bit too long. (and I just realized this book is less than 300 pages. Seemed longer...) The twists are clever and worth the wait.

Published by St. Martin's, January 3, 2023
eARC obtained from Edelweiss+
288 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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