It has been an eclectic month of reading, from non-fiction essays to really good historical fiction. I’ve saved the best for last, two wonderful books both set in England. Links are provided to Amazon if you’d like to read a synopsis of the story. Thank you for using my affiliate links when you can, as they help pay the costs of my blog. Some of these are free on Audible with the Free Trial offer.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – Quirky story with a provocative premise. If you could go back in time to spend just a few minutes with someone, knowing that the conversation in the past would not change the present, would you want to do it? Four patrons decide to take the chance to make amends, say what was left unsaid, or try to understand a decision. This is a character driven book, with little action, all taking place within the dark walls of a basement cafe. The easy reading prose is thought provoking, and may linger with the reader for a while.
A Stash of One’s Own Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting go of Yarn edited by Clara Parkes – Collection of essays about having a stash of supplies, written by knitters about yarn. Substitute fabric for yarn and it works for quilters too. Some of the essays will make you think, some may irritate you, some are just bland, and some touch the heart. As many of us believe, sometimes the stash is there just to be petted and inspire creativity, and there is nothing wrong with a well rounded ‘resource center’ as I like to call my fabric/thread/notions stash. Here is a book that will help you feel good about saving scraps. You are not alone.
Outbound Train by Renea Winchester – This book focuses on small town poverty, with the characters stuck in a cycle of generational destitution. It could have been a depressing book, and certainly the first part gives the reader a gritty look at the oppression of those at the bottom of the economic strata. But, the characters are forced to make different choices when the main employer in town lays off most of its workers. Hope arrives near the end. My problem with this book is the ending. After all the suffering and work, the last chapter jumps three years into the future and gives a quick synopsis of the events in just two and a half pages. Very disappointing after the well written story up to then. This novel should have been 50 pages longer, and told that part of the story as well as the rest. Either that, or leave the last chapter for the next book.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis – Interesting mystery novel without anyone ending up dead, the book centers on a series of thefts from the New York Public Library. One theft occurs during the time when the library was first opened, and revolve around the superintendent’s wife and family in 1913. The second timeline centers on her granddaughter’s job as a curator at the library, when more books are stolen. I found it well written, and and enjoyable read. Although as in many novels, the final mystery question is easily guessed, I don’t consider that too much of a big deal. It was nice to find another mystery that didn’t revolve around murder.
The last two books are must reads, highly recommend!!
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – Historical fiction at its best, The Rose Code will grab your imagination and run with it. Based on real people, doing real work during World War II at Bletchley Park, three women’s lives are changed when they become friends. The pace gets faster as the book progresses with writing that draws the reader into the time and place. The real problems of secrecy and oppressiveness of the period in time are well depicted. My only annoyance is the jumping back and forth in time, as part of the novel takes place during the war, and then in 1947. Over the course of the story, the timelines get closer together as the 1947 timeline remains but the war years advance. As the time lines get closer, the reader finally finds out the cause of the rift between the characters. But the shifting timelines just aren’t necessary and I think the flow would have been better in a linear construct. Going back then forward multiple times didn’t add to the tension or to the story. Still, this is a thriller that gets more compelling as it gets near the end, as the women have to work together to free one from a false institutionalization and find a traitor. I enjoyed it overall, and highly recommend. Don’t miss the author’s notes at the end!! I was surprised at the historic facts and the real people the characters on whom the characters were based. Worth the extra time, and made me want to read more about them and their work.
The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly – Completely engrossing novel centered around the lives of five women, in three time periods, who all have a connection to a garden. In 1907, Venetia Smith designs the garden. In 1944, a land girl, Beth, helps tend the garden as a place for her to draw and recovering soldiers to rest. During the war years, estate owner Diana finds her own voice after tragedy, and cook Stella is pulled into a situation for which she is not equipped to handle. In present day 2021, Emma is tasked with bringing it back to its original glory after years of neglect. The women of the past are constrained by the social mores of their times, some more than others. In the present day, Emma has to find her own voice as well to follow her own path. Easy reading, and garden centered, the reader can almost smell the flowers and see the concepts of the different garden rooms. Delightful if somewhat predictable read, with a happy ending.
One thing that I am getting a bit tired of are books written in multiple timelines. This was a novel idea some years ago, but it seems like more and more writers are doing this kind of format. Frankly, in some instances, it just doesn’t add anything to the story, and at times actually takes away from it like in The Rose Code. I was deciding on a couple of books to get at the library for my next read, and the first three I picked up from my list were all multiple timeline books. Geez. So, I moved on to something else. We’ll see if my choices this next month are good ones or not.
What are you reading now?
20 thoughts on “June Book Reviews”
I loved both of the WWII books and just finished the Rose Code and read The Last Garden in England last month – I agree this hopping between era’s can get irritating though and do not always add anything but confusion to the story. I wish they would think twice before they do that.
I might have to check out the last two books. I’ve heard several talking about The Rose Code and how much they enjoyed it. My last few books have been so-so, and I currently have about 5 going, reading them according to my mood. Thanks for sharing!
I am reading A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick. Good book about friendship and quilting. I have The Rose Code on my shelf, maybe that will be my next read. Let me recommend West With Giraffes, historical fiction based on a true account of Giraffes being driven across country in 1930s. A very good read.
I just finished The Vanishing Half. It was a very interesting concept but the ending was too abrupt and it felt like there were too many loose ends. The main premise of the book is twin girls run away from their small town in Louisiana. One decides to start living as a white woman and leaves the other sister behind. It then delves into the differences in their lives as well as their daughters’ lives.
I am reading Beach Music by Pat Conroe. We have been watching a mystery series Bletchley Circle. I will be reading the Rose Code.
AH…The Lion of Fifth Avenue may well have been based on fact. I remember reading about theft of very valuable pages from a famous library. Took place over years by the man in charge,.
The storylines with multiple time periods seem to be a historical fiction *thing* right now, as I notice them in a lot of the books I read! I do like to see how the author brings them together in the end. Interestingly, Before the Coffee Gets Cold is my book club’s July book, so I have it ready to go. I’ll have to put the Last Garden book on my list – sounds like one I would like! I’m taking a break from historical fiction right now and reading an Elin Hilderbrand book, The Identicals, that takes place on both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. A beach read!
It’s interesting to observe “fads” in writing, such as the multiple timelines you mention. (Ditto with book cover art — I’ve seen library displays showing a dozen or more covers with women walking away. “Run, don’t walk to get these books!”) I’ve enjoyed all of Fiona Davis’s books based on iconic New York buildings. I also enjoyed The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and appreciate your reminder about her new book. Last Garden looks interesting……You might enjoy The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan, also WWII. Currently I’m reading The Mystic’s Accomplice, a mystery set in 1920’s Chicago. [P.S. I include a book review on my Monday blog post.]
Carole, the last two books you reviewed will be added to my list. I am somewhat bothered by multiple time periods, but some writers do it well.
This time-jumping is occurring in films too! Several shows we have watched lately, most on PBS, jump back and forth without any warning. It confuses my husband greatly, and it is irritating to have to watch for clues to see where you are in time. Then when you are there, time switches again!
Thanks for your book reviews Carole. I will watch for the last two especially. I am currently reading “I’ll Be Your Blue Sky” and wondering if it is worth the time. I am a slow reader and hate wasting those periods on books that give me nothing. I recently finished “State of Wonder “by Ann Patchett. What a surprising book….she is an amazing author.
And I have recently discovered Flosstube….probably the last person in the world to do so! It is addictive!
Good Morning. I look forward to your blog and enjoy your “ musings”. I agree with you about plot timelines. I am reading a much advertised novel called the Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead and it’s back and forth as well. The characters are well formed and I will finish it.
This is the 2nd reference I’ve read to the Rose Code this week. I think the author has several other novels set in WWII. Is the Rose Code a stand alone title or part of a series? I’m currently reading All Adults Here by Emma Straub which is okay. I’ve been having trouble finding titles that really grab me and many of the mystery series I usually read are getting repetitious and boring.
Thanks for the reviews. I always add your selections to my library list for audio books. In May I discovered Daniel Silva and have started on a series totally out of order. So far I have had “The English Girl”, “The New Girl”, “The English Assassin”, “The Order”, “A Death in Vienna”. I loved them all, and yet, burnt out from too much Gabriel for a time. Switched to a nice romance novel for the next book, a Julia Quinn book “The Viscount who loved me”. Seems I’ve had it before, but it is light and easy. I am an audio book listener, and usually when I am sewing I have my headphones on. 🙂
Just finished Light on Snow, by Anita Shreve – for the second time! Was clearing out for Garage Sale & didn’t recall reading. Realized right away that I’d read it & enjoyed it again to the end. Donated to our Sr. Center’s Little Free Library. Different plot with believable characters you can’t help but like. Have read Jeanine Cummins’ books so far – American Dirt, Outside Boy, A Rip in Heaven. All so well written, but INTENSE circumstances. Can’t quite get into The Crooked Branch – because of timeline switches from 1847 Irish Famine to “now”, tho well marked at each chapter. Saw the movie The Father @ our local Sr. Center recently, & boy was it dark scenery & hard to follow. Very confusing, tho I believe it was to depict what is going on in the minds of Alzheimer’s victims, so well done for that facet. Not a feel-good movie though.
I agree with you about the multiple timelines. I hate them! Makes things more confusing and doesn’t really add to the story IMHO. A book that I just read for book club was called This Tender Land and I really enjoyed it, especially since it didn’t involve back and forth timelines!!
I am a Kate Quinn fan, and The Last Garden sounds like a nice read too! I am currently reading The Sun Also Rises, but I’m not seeing what make it such a classic yet. I’m only on Chapter 5, so maybe it gets better. I have two others checked out, no clue if they are any good yet. One is The Other Bennett Sister, about Mary Bennett, which could be fun, and the other is called The Shearer’s Wife, set in Australia. The intro sounded interesting. I did finish reading all the Outlander books, enjoyed them, but not enough to buy the set I think!
I’m putting the last three books you reviewed on my wishlist! I appreciate your take on the books and highlighting the must reads.
I am especially looking forward to the Lions of Fifth Avenue. I’ve always wanted to explore the New York Public Library and it’s on my list to do on my next trip to the city.
I just finished Out of Many, One by George W. Bush. The book tells the stories of immigrants and how they came to call the U.S. home. A wee bit formula but I’d give it a thumbs up for being very heart warming and informative.
I just finished reading West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, and it was absolutely wonderful! The author is an amazing storyteller. Definitely give it a try.
Some of those sound very appealing, thanks! I just finished the latest Charles Todd Ian Rutledge mystery. I can NEVER guess who done it!
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson I think you would enjoy very much. Anything to do with the personal lives of those affected by WWI or II are favorites of mine and I agree with you: timeline jumping is very unappealing. As far as fads in writing, that could very well be, considering the constant quest for something new and refreshing on the fictional landscape. You might try Hornet Flight by Ken Follett as well. A predictable ending in a book is like a smooth landing, but more fun is an ending you never saw coming!
I love your book reviews and look forward to more!
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