Friday, October 8, 2021

Book Review: Camino Island by John Grisham

Camino Island by John Grisham book cover and review
I'm a Grisham fan, but I've missed quite a few of his books. I saw Camino Island in a stack my mother-in-law was getting rid of, so I grabbed it.

Camino Island isn't a courtroom saga, which is okay. It's more of a who-done-it. The well-planned and successful heist is to steal the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald's work from a library at Princeton University.

We then meet Bruce, a bookstore owner on Camino Island.  He's worked hard to become a success, and some of his success is from potentially shady dealings involving rare books.

Mercer is a struggling novelist with a severe case of writer's block. She is unemployed, and when a mysterious woman approaches her with an opportunity to do some undercover investigating involving Bruce and the stolen manuscripts, she can't pass up the money.

Soon she is in deep and learns more than she ever wanted to know. The twists and turns are entertaining, as expected. The story clips along and is well written, which is why I love Grisham. I read Camino Island in one day, but to be perfectly honest, I was on a camping trip, so there weren't many other pressing issues.

Apparently, there is a second book, Camino Winds, that I'll be interested in reading. If you are a Grisham fan, or even if you aren't, this is a fun read.

Published by Doubleday, 2017
Hardback copy given to me
304 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Book Review: Over My Dead Body, by Jeffrey Archer

Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer book cover and review
I've heard of Archer before, and when I saw Over My Dead Body available, I decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed.

William Warwick and his wife are on a much-needed holiday on a luxury cruise ship sailing to New York. But of course, there's a crime committed on board, and Warwick becomes involved. That's just the introductory crime, which doesn't take long but gets you involved in the story.

Back in London, there's a new task force that Warwick is in charge of that is working on cold cases. And just in time, it appears. Miles Faulkner, a millionaire art forger is supposed to be dead. But Warwick has his doubts, even though he attended the funeral. Faulkner's lawyer still has Faulkner as a client and Faulkner's widow is acting strange. So they begin investigating to see what they can find out.

I read this a week ago and really enjoyed it. I was on a trip and flew through it. But honestly, I can't remember much of what happened. I had to read the synopsis to jog my memory. The side characters are interesting and add to the story. There are some intriguing twists and surprises.

I recommend Over My Dead Body, whether you are an Archer fan or not. This is the fourth Warwick book, but it isn't necessary to have read the others. I would like to go back and read them. Just because a book doesn't leave a lasting impression doesn't mean it isn't good!

Published by HarperCollins, October 19, 2021
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
384 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, September 27, 2021

Audio Book Review: People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation book cover and review
I don't read many romcoms, but I decided I needed to shake things up a bit and found People We Meet on Vacation on libro.fm. I enjoyed listening.

Poppy and Alex have been friends since college. Even though she lives in New York City and he lives in Ohio, they always take a trip together each summer. That is until their last trip two years ago. Since then, they haven't spoken.

Poppy has her dream job reporting for a travel magazine, but she isn't happy. She decides to make contact with Alex and plan a trip. The story flashes back year by year and describes how they met and all the trips they have taken together until we finally discover what happened two years ago. It's not much of a surprise.

I enjoyed the "this summer" parts much more than the past. After a few trips, they all just seemed like more of the same, and I wanted to get on with the present story. I also would describe the banter and situations as "cute" rather than funny. I think I only chuckled one time. 

You know going in how this is going to turn out, but there were some interesting twists and turns before you actually get there. There is a nice build-up of tension. I liked the characters and was rooting for the eventual "happily ever after." 

The narrator, Julia Whelan, does a great job. I've listened to her before, and I think she's excellent. You don't think about the voices, you just listen to the story.

If the premise sounds good to you, I would recommend People We Meet on Vacation. It was a nice, quick, satisfying story.


Published by Berkley, May 11, 2021, Penguin Audio
Audiobook obtained from libro.fm
382 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Book Review: Pony by R. J. Palacio

Pony, by R. J. Palacio, book cover and review
I don't read much middle-grade fiction anymore, but when I saw Pony (and its author Palacio), I couldn't pass it up. I wasn't disappointed. Pony's appeal reaches much farther than the middle school population.

The book is magical and no specific time period is given that I could find, but it seems like it must be the mid-1800s, given the photography element. Silas and his father live an isolated life. His father, though uneducated, is very scientific and is working on a photographic process using chemicals beyond the common daguerreotype. Some mysterious men visit and want to take Silas and his father away so his father can help with some nefarious scheme requiring chemicals. His father negotiates with them to leave Silas, and he will come with them willingly. Silas is to stay put. 

But the next day, the pony that Silas was supposed to ride reappears, and Silas vows to find his father, even though it requires entering the deep, scary woods that aren't far from their home. Fortunately, he is always accompanied by his invisible friend, Mittenwool. Mittenwool has been with Silas for as long as he can remember, and he doesn't know why, but he provides a lot of comfort. 

Silas meets a U. S. Marshal in the woods who is hunting for some counterfeiters. Silas is convinced these are the men who took his father and convinces the Marshal to let him come along. So begins a big adventure, and Silas must be very brave. 

The best part for me is that once the part about Silas' father is over, there is still much more to the story. We learn about Silas in the future--and about his past. Somewhere I read that the crime you think happened isn't really the crime. Well, that's not entirely true, but there is much more to the story than just counterfeiting.

So I think that is all I'll say. The story is rich with details that I haven't mentioned, but given the author, I'm sure you can be confident in this selection. I recommend Pony to pretty much everyone. 

Published by Knopf BFYR, September 28, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley
304 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Book Review: The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustain

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustain book cover and review
The Girls in the Stilt House has been compared to Where the Crawdads Sing, and I agree. It's the reason I chose to read this.

In the 1920s, deep in the swamps of Mississippi, Ada returns home to the Trace, where she lives in a stilt house with her drunken, abusive father after a misguided adventure with a boy in Baton Rouge. Her father, as is common, is away for weeks before coming home and relegating Ada to live in the shed.

Matilda lives on the other side of the Trace, with her family who sharecrops. Both she and her father are working hard to raise money to get out of Mississippi and build a better life.

These two girls cross paths in a most violent way and end up living in the stilt house together. But Matilda has many secrets that she is unwilling to share, and Ada cannot seem to get the security she so desires.

I don't want to give too many details of the story, but they are doled out slowly, as we realize what a seemingly hopeless situation these girls are trying to muddle through. There are surprises and many secrets to discover. Any feelings of hopefulness seem to disappear on a whim.

I found The Girls in the Stilt House more exciting and fast-paced than Where the Crawdads Sing. I also would compare this to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.  So, if you enjoyed either of those books, I would definitely recommend The Girls in the Stilt House.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, April 6, 2021
eBook purchased 
384 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Monday, August 23, 2021

Audio Book Review: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee book cover and review The Downstairs Girl is an enjoyable story and it enlightened me about some historical issues I had not encountered previously. 

It is 1890 in Atlanta, and Jo Kuan feels fortunate to have a job as a milliner's assistant. She is very talented and has taken the new girl under her wing. She is stunned when the milliner fires her and decides to keep the new girl. Given Jo's heritage, she is used to being treated unfairly.

She and her adoptive father, Old Gin, live secretly in the basement underneath the building where an Atlanta newspaper is printed. She feels like she knows the publishing family very well since she can listen in on their conversations, but they have no idea people are living in their basement.

Jo is forced to become a ladies' maid for the daughter of one of the most wealthy Atlanta families, where she has worked previously. She hates the job but tries to get along with the spoiled brat.

Jo is so frustrated that she becomes "Miss Sweetie," an anonymous lady who writes controversial columns for the newspaper about the inequalities of society. She can't believe how popular her opinions become and is fearful as her identity comes very close to being revealed.

There are secrets and surprises all throughout The Downstairs Girl, and I'm glad I didn't read the Amazon blurb because it gives away a big one! The plight of the seemingly invisible Asian population is unique. They weren't treated quite as badly as the black population, but yet they were not entitled to any of the privileges of the white. 

The narrator, Emily Woo Zeller, does a great job narrating. I really thought her male voices were exceptional, given she is female. I would definitely recommend the audio version.

I found The Downstairs Girl compelling, even if the ending is a bit too good to be true. The book is written for young adults, and totally appropriate and informative for that audience. I would recommend The Downstairs Girl to teens and adults alike.

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR, 2019
Audiobook purchased from Libro.fm
384 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Book Review: The Therapist, by B. A. Paris

The Therapist, by B. A. Paris, book cover and review I've read a few novels by Paris and enjoyed them, and The Therapist was no exception.

Alice and Leo are taking a big step by moving into a new house. Leo has bought it in an exclusive gated community called The Circle. He's gotten a great deal. And there is a reason.

As Alice is getting to know her neighbors, she senses something is off. She's tried hosting a cocktail party and visiting for coffee, but she still feels like she hasn't been accepted. When she finds out the previous owner had been murdered in the very bedroom in which Alice is sleeping, she begins to understand. Leo had known about the house's past and had not told her.

Leo isn't the only one keeping secrets in this relationship. I never got any chemistry between these two, even before Alice found out about the murder. Maybe Paris didn't want there to be any. Alice becomes obsessed with the murder and potentially clearing the husband (who was charged with the murder and then committed suicide.)

I enjoyed the process that Alice went through. Plenty of red herrings. Although I did figure out who the real bad person was about 70% through, I still didn't understand all of the details. 

This was a worthwhile thriller, with a bit of suspense and danger that held my interest throughout. Recommended if you enjoy the premise.

Published by St. Martin's, July 13, 2021
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, July 19, 2021

Book Review: The Gilded Hour, by Sara Donati

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati book cover and review
I read Where the Light Enters and really enjoyed it. Only at the end of the book did I realize that it was the second book in a series. So The Gilded Hour went on my list, and I saw it on Libro.fm so I decided to purchase it. I ended up a bit disappointed. I'll not give much of a summary, you can click on the link to see the publisher's description.

The first problem is that The Gilded Hour is very bloated. At 742 pages it is very (very) descriptive and somewhat repetitious. I listened to this one in chunks, breaking it up with other books in between. I listen to audiobooks while exercising, and this one just couldn't get me through a workout.

Secondly, nothing is resolved after all that time. You have to wait for the second book to get closure about the orphans, the murdering of women, and the fate of Sophie and her husband. I feel like you can read the second book and get everything you need. The first book is just a very long introduction to several plots, and as I said in my review of Where the Light Enters, it isn't clear what the central plot of the story is.

I did enjoy the romance of Anna and Jack. It was nice to see how they ended up together. And you find out how the orphans came into their lives. But I can't honestly say this is worth over 700 pages of information.

I'm sure I wouldn't have finished The Gilded Hour if I were reading it. I tend to be very patient with audiobooks, especially those that I have paid for! So I was determined to finish it eventually. I'll let you decide whether you need the complete story, or whether the conclusion (Where the Light Enters) is good enough.

Published by Berkley, 2015
Audiobook obtained from Libro.fm
742 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Book Review: The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy

The Great Santini by Pat Conroy book cover and review
My sister-in-law has read a couple of Conroy's books and recommended him, so I found The Great Santini at the library and decided to give it a go. Loved the writing, not so much the story.

Basically, it's a story of the life of Colonel Bull Meecham, or The Great Santini, a name he has given himself. He's a Marine pilot with a wife and three kids. This takes place in the '60s, and the family is once again moving to a new place because Bull has been reassigned. He's a jerk. And the book goes through example after example of his physical and mental abuse. He's not nice to his family or his Marines. 

We see his son's struggles on the basketball team, and myriad other problems his kids have. There isn't really an overall story arc, something I found lacking. The story just meanders through Bull's life. There is a life-threatening event towards the end of the story. And then the dramatic ending. But that all happens very quickly.

The redeeming quality of The Great Santini is the writing. Conroy uses sophisticated vocabulary. I found myself having to look up a few words, which given my vocabulary, doesn't happen very often when I'm reading fiction.

The Great Santini has been made into a movie, which I haven't seen but may check out. Conroy has written many other bestsellers, and I may eventually give another one of his a go.

Published by Random House, 1976
eBook obtained from the library
512 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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