Time for some reviews of the latest books I’ve been reading. With more time at home, I’m getting more reading done than ever. Some I’ve had on my shelf for quite a while and just haven’t read yet, others I wanted to read so much I just got a copy at the library. Several of these are recommended, but three are in the ‘meh’ category. All are affiliate linked to Amazon for you to see the plot synopsis if you would like. For brevity, I have not included that here.
At Home on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball – Second in the series, a sweet confection of a novel, with likable characters. Easy reading, I finished it in just a couple of days. Adding in some of the history of the house in a few flashbacks added depth to the story. I have two more in this series on my shelf to read at home, and look forward to future visits to Ladybug Farm.
The Promise Girls by Marie Bostwick – I devoured this book in just a couple of days, finding it more impossible to put down as the story went on. It is a story of discovery, each sister raised as a prodigy in different artistic fields, yet all not meeting expectations of an overbearing mother. Each has to find her own truth, face the past, and become what they need to be, not what someone else wants them to be. As a filmmaker probes the past and uncovers a secret, it is up to the sisters to confront their mother and resolve the feelings that have kept them at odds for so many years. This is a wonderful read that will have the reader looking at what truly brings happiness and contentment. The deeper message of doing what brings you joy is important, particularly now as we have to look harder for it these days. Recommend.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – Climate change and its consequences are the central theme of this novel, a fictional story imagining a generation of monarch butterflies attempting to spend a winter in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee rather than Mexico. The novel starts out slowly, with a stream of consciousness meandering, then gets bogged down in the middle. Getting through it became a bit of a slog, and I found the ending really unsatisfying. As a metaphor for the protagonist’s choices, it was a bit heavy handed. Overall impression was kind of meh, in spite of an apparent wealth of real information and research.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – It is a rare book to get a five star review from me, but this one was exceptional. Not only did I learn about the Pack Horse Librarian, I learned about the genetic abnormality that causes blue tinged skin. Both fascinating subjects, blended into a powerful story of perseverance and prejudice, poverty and bravery, compassion and brutality. The story hooks you in quickly and the book becomes next to impossible to put down. Plus, the book sent me to the internet for more research on these fascinating subjects. Highly recommend.
Deep In the Green by Anne Raver – Finding this book is an interesting story. I have a special issue magazine from Woman’s Day called Traditions from Spring of 1990. In it is a wonderful essay titled House of Dreams by Anne Raver that I love so much I have kept this magazine for 30 years. I get this out from time to time just to re-read the lovely thoughts. She paints a picture of bliss with warm fireplaces, cozy self cleaning rooms, aroma of fresh baked bread and peach pie just ready for a meal, where there are no screens on the windows because all the bugs just know not to come in, and gentle breezes on perfect days not too warm or too cold.
I don’t know what took me so long to look up the author, Anne Raver, and see if she had written anything else. I found Deep in the Green, and got it from the library. I loved it so much that I bought a hard cover copy.
Deep in the Green is a collection of essays on gardening, all short reads when you only have a few minutes, perfect for a quick bedtime snack read. Beautifully and thoughtfully written, some give you food for thought, some will give you a laugh, and some will just let you escape for a moment.
The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman – This was a maddening book to read as the author switches from first person to third person and back again at a dizzying rate. The first person speaker is never revealed. Is it one of the kids? Is it a character yet not revealed? Is it different people in different chapters? It never makes sense. The plot is thin and predictable, and the author pads the book with long winded chapters of history in character development that make no difference to the plot. Pass it by, there are better books to read.
Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann – I enjoyed this book, although I have the feeling that I have read this plot before – two time periods, parallel lives, somewhat the same decisions for both characters. However, the writing was good, and I did find it hard to put down. Parts of the book were a bit dumb, a dream sequence near the end is a bit of a reach, but I get where the author was going with it. Still, it has the benefit of being mostly believable in the decisions the characters make. The stand out was the amount of research the author put in on vintage clothing, descriptions of marvelous department stores that no longer exist, and of the city itself in a historical context.
I had to get out some of my vintage things to place with the book for the photo, some of my collection of vintage gloves, and my mothers vintage jewelry travel case are sitting on a vintage lace dresser runner. A nice surprise in the book was finding several pages of historic photographs and postcards from the era. The descriptions of the elegant Wannamakers and Siegel-Cooper department stores were marvelous. It brought back memories of my mother and I going to the flagship Neiman Marcus store in downtown Dallas for Fortnight in the 70s, an annual event that featured a different country every year. They stopped doing this in 1986.
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse – This book was so forgettable, that I forgot I had read it three years ago! This is a short story that has been expanded into a novella. Although the main plot is interesting, there just isn’t enough here to fill a book. It reads a bit tediously, overly detailed and gets bogged in minutiae. Is this supposed to highlight the main character’s depression? Doesn’t work that well. I finished this in just a couple of hours total time reading. Overall impression, meh. Again.
The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie – Every so often you come across a book where the story and writing are so extraordinary that you want everyone you know to read the book. This is the case with The Sewing Machine. The story follows two families told in three timelines. Over the course of the story, the reader learns much of the historical context of the lives of women (and one man) who sewed on one particular machine, their hopes and hardships, celebrations and sorrows. The writing is compelling, drawing you into the context of the time, so much so that it becomes real. Imagery is well described, not too much, and the dialogue feels genuine. Five stars and highly recommend, I hope for more from this author.
What are you reading now?
PS – There are still a couple of spaces in the first Scrap Dancing class for individual sign up next Thursday, November 19th at 1 pm Eastern time. Class cost $10. Click on this Google form – Scrap Dancing Zoom Class – if you’d like to register for it. Details on the form. See my Zoom Class/Retreat Schedule page for a December class now open too, and future dates will be posted there.