November Book Reviews

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.

23 thoughts on “November Book Reviews

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed the Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I’m sure I read the review from another blogger who follows you too. Thanks for all the other reviews. Often times I am searching through the library website just hunting for something to read, so nice to refer to your list of recommendations.

  2. Julie

    I had the same impression you did of “Flight Behavior” but I loved imagining a valley filled with monarchs. As mentioned in another review, it’s good when a book leads you to look beyond the pages and research elements on your own. I enjoyed your tableau for “Astor Place”, such find memories of a different time.


      I have read the Sewing Machine and really liked. At the time, I looked for more books by Natalie but never found any. I see several of your recommendations that I like. Thank you

  3. I believe JoJo Moyes has a book on the pack horse library too, but I can’t recall the name. I read some Lippman years ago and wasn’t impressed; I pass her by now. I’m currently still working my way through the William Monk mystery series by Anne Perry, which I’m enjoying. Other books I’ve read between those have not been noteworthy.

  4. I will be looking for The Sewing Machine..Reading now the Cook and the Gardener by Amanda Hesser. While I don’t do much cooking these days I do ,or am trying to redo my garden. Also having fun reading Patrick Taylors fun series on the Irish country.

  5. Weird, I also tried to read The Promise Girls this month. You know that I listen instead of reading and the narrator of this book is so horrible that I couldn’t finish it. I’ll get it sometime for vacation when I read books with my eyes instead of ears.

  6. I loved The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – I thought the history behind it was fascinating! Your recommendation for The Sewing Machine caught my attention – unfortunately (and strangely!) my library doesn’t have it. I’ll keep looking! I recently finished The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, and loved it.

  7. Loris Mills

    I need to check some of these out. I love Marie Bostwick’s books. She also recommended The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay that I just finished. I loved it!

  8. Trish P

    Thank you so much for this list! Now I’ve got some titles to add to my winter reading. I love Marie Bostwick, so that will be at the top of my list. You are spot on about The Sewing Machine. I read it last year & it still crosses my mind from time to time – particularly when I’m sewing on my Featherweight 🙂

  9. kathyinozarks

    I enjoy your book reviews-will come back when I have more time
    another update-I deleted my last blog didn’t care for their new format and how it worked so back on my hummingbird blog-

  10. Susan Salo

    I ordered The Sewing Machine after reading yours and others’ reviews. It sounds like the kind of book a sewist would like! I’m reading some historical mystery books right now by Ann Swinfen. I enjoy reading books that take place in 1100s-1500s because the mystery must be solved without our modern techniques.

  11. So glad you enjoyed the Sewing Machine! I also just finished the Book Woman from Troublesome Creek, and loved it too. I’ll be checking out some of your other recommendations. It’s so nice to be able to share book ideas with people who enjoy similar titles!

  12. Jacomina de Regt

    We just read the Book Woman of Lost Creek book this month in our book group and I loved it. We all loved learning things that were new to us. Highly recommended.

  13. Rosemary B

    I have not read any of these books
    The only book I read by Barbara Kingsolver is Poisonwood Bible
    That was a decent story. I only read it bc my daughters had to read it for high school AP english
    So I read it.
    Someone mentioned to me about this Barbara Kingsolver book and said it was terrible: preachy and full of all of the latest grievances. haha
    That sewing machine book looks good

  14. Wendy

    Loved the Book Woman story and also checked out more info online. I have read a few other of your reads and have had The Sewing Machine on my waiting list at the library. It must be good because I haven’t been able to get it for months. Lately I have read the first 4 books of the Orphan Train Saga by Sherry A Burton. Excellent! Looking forward to the rest of them, hope she writes fast. I have also enjoyed several of the books by Susan Meissner.

  15. Interesting selection of books. I especially like that you truthfully tell us which not to bother with! I am do only very light reading now, the Witch PI series from Adele Abbot. They are enjoyable cozy mysteries.

  16. Mary

    I enjoy reading your comments about the books you have read. I was very interested in The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie and couldn’t resist looking up about her.
    At the time of the write-up on the Internet she owned 11 machines! I guess that by now she probably has increased her collection. This was also her first published book and she was in the process of writing her second book.
    I shall order this book (and a couple of others) from my local library because it does sound like a good read. There’s nothing like a good book to lose yourself in.
    Thanks Carole. :))

  17. Cathy Walker

    Thanks for the reviews. I made a list of the ones that interested me. I think I will consider some of them for Christmas gifts for my sewing friends and sisters. I enjoyed The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs. I would recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

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