August Books

Once again, it has been a month of good and not-so-much books. These days I am trying to concentrate on ones I’ve been looking for that had good reviews, along with some recently published to keep up with the times. But sometimes a book with good reviews and lots of stars isn’t for me, and I don’t rate it as highly as others. Still, it is someplace to start with all the books available. Library holds for the recently published ones are taking a while, as I usually am far down a long list. Others I either had on my shelf, or picked up at the used bookstore where some of the library books are sent when they are removed from the shelves. Links for Amazon provided for your shopping, or if you like to see the book synopsis. Some of these are also available on Audible, and free with a trial membership. Kindle versions also available.

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag. Overall a bit disappointing, as I was really looking forward to another magical book from this author. However, the magic isn’t as prominent as it was in House on Hope Street. The dresses are only given a nod to their habit of choosing the wearer instead of the other way around. The music changes as a patron enters the store, and that was fun, but there wasn’t enough of that. The story went along fine, until the last quarter of the book where characters have a series of misunderstandings and it just seemed to get stupid and tedious from there. Add to that a accident turns out to be murder, and the culprit is just left to live with his guilt, and I almost wall banged it at that point. As it turned out, I could have, as the ending was completely predictable. Happy ending, everybody ends up in the right relationship. I didn’t mind the switching of point of view that other reviewers disliked as it was told in third person. That only bugs me when you have multiple voices in first person.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber – Beautifully written and heartfelt novel about the aftermath of grief with healing coming in unexpected ways. The magic in the story is subtle and fun, in the genre of magical realism, very much like Sarah Addison Allen’s novels. Ms Webber writes a wonderful story that is more about the power of love to heal wounds than the gentle magical nudges, and even though the final outcome is predictable, there are some surprises along the way. I’ll be looking for more from this author, highly recommend!!

The Bishop’s Pawn by Steve Berry – Wallbanged less than 1/3 of the way through. This was just too much, with three different factions all after the same guy for something he has. It is peril, escape, then into someone else’s hands for more peril at end of every chapter. After a few chapters, I’d had enough, and I really didn’t care.

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson – Beautifully written, this is a haunting story told in a series of remembrances. The protagonist seeks to analyze what was going on in the past from the vantage point of time. It is a study of events in the past, and the choices made that shaped the future, beginning with an accident and moving through the consequences. It became more difficult to put down as it went along, and as the narrator comes to realize her assumptions may have been wrong, she is able to come to terms with the past and have hope of moving forward in the future. Highly recommend.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand the story is inventive, with a tiny island bookstore in a remote area as the setting, and lots of literary references. Between the chapters are letters written about books from the owner of the bookstore to his daughter. The story starts out with the 38-year old, grumpy proprietor in a process of grief. With the arrival of a toddler whom he decides to adopt, his life begins to improve and have meaning. Great idea, but the execution is in young adult writing and lacks depth. On the other hand, the characters are shallow, and there are jarring jumps in time when a chapter ends and the next one begins that have no segue, so the reader doesn’t realize two years or more have gone by. The whole life of the protagonist is told in 258 pages. Plot twists in the last third of the book, and a convoluted resolution of a stolen rare and valuable book seem contrived and convoluted. The dialogue of the child is too adult for realistic writing. Toddlers and young children do not have that kind of thought process, even ones deemed precocious. So, a charming idea, with only passable prose. The literary references are entertaining but not enough to carry the book. Okay if you like YA, but if you are looking for character development and depth, this isn’t it. It baffles me how this one could be a bestseller for so long, but I guess YA sells well. Recommend with reservations.

So, that was my reading for the past few weeks. What are you reading now?

17 thoughts on “August Books

  1. Martha Franks

    Thank you for these reviews! I don’t waste time with books it takes too long to get into. Life is too short! Can’t wait to get Heather Webber’s book. I love Sarah Addison Allen and miss her magic. 💕

  2. sbpurvis

    Oh my goodness! I had already read several of the books you had – and felt the exact same way about them!!! I haven’t read the Steve Berry book, so that will definitely be skipped. I’ll keep an eye out for the book by Mary Lawson. Keep on reading and sharing your reviews!!!!!

  3. I’m always interested in your book reviews and put several on my “want to read” list! I just finished The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave, and could not put it down. I literally read the whole book in about 24 hours! Now reading The Paris Library. Did you recommend that one? It’s starting out good, too. Oh, and we watched Penguin Town on Netflix the last few nights – thanks for that recommendation. It was a fun way to make a documentary!

  4. Tina Witherell

    I’ve really enjoyed your book reviews and recommendations. I’ve been able to listen to several of them during the day. Not sure if you recommended these but I just finished The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin, The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel and The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis.

  5. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe was a very enjoyable read. I’m positive I’ve read A.J. Fikry, but for the life of me I can’t recall the book! After reading your synopsis, maybe that’s why – it just didn’t do anything for me? Who knows! Thanks for the reviews.

  6. Carol in Texas

    I read Fikry several years ago and loved it. What I recall were all the wonderful literary references…..old English major! It was not grouped with the YA books at our library, so I never put it in that category. I do not look there for a new read. I went over the description card I keep for each book I read and I loved that book at the time. So did my good friend Paula, who reads more than I do. So it is an individual outlook and the timing too I think. I will look for two of your books from this blog entry….Midnight and Crow Lake. I check out Berry books for my husband, who is a big reader of political intrigue. He never enjoys his books as much as those of Baldacci or Connelly or Rosenberg. He loves CJ Box. I am starting Anxious People by Backman today on the very positive recommendation of a good friend. Hope I like it! I do enjoy your book columns.

  7. Thanks, Carole, for your continuing book reviews. I enjoy reading the synopsis of what you’ve recently read and how you feel about the author’s work. You mentioned YA and that brought to mind an author who wrote for that age group and perhaps even a bit younger – Patricia Beatty. I discovered her at our local library when my two were in grade school – both in their 30’s now – and for our summer reading, I chose several of her books. All three of us enjoyed each book that the kids chose – it gave history a new perspective for them and an enjoyable viewpoint for me. Admittedly, nothing deep or thought provoking, but good story writing and good characters kept my interest along with the kids. Highly recommend!
    Barb in Tucson

  8. Oh, I loved Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. I’m just surprised that I didn’t first learn about it from one of your book reports in the past! I also plan to seek out more of that author’s books. Right now I’m reading a sweet book called Little Wishes by Michelle Adams, that I borrowed from our little lending library in the tree where I live, It takes place on the Cornish Coast and in London. I seem to end up reading a lot of British, Irish and Scottish novels. Must jibe with my heritage, although I think that I’m attracted to the quiet pace of many of those books. I like the shows on BritBox for the same reason.

    I’m also reading the book Decluttering at the Speed of Light which offers a humorous go at decluttering. I’m actually very good at keeping clutter at bay, except for my fabric and knitting supplies, but since the book only cost me $1.99 on my kindle, I thought I would see if I could find a few more hints as I go about the difficult act of purging some of my fabrics and yarns and patterns. I did find a great new place where I live in Santa Fe, called Resourceful, that will take just about anything of creative value. It’s a creative reuse center for anyone looking for stuff that can be reused in their creative endeavors and the ‘stuff’ that I have is on their list of items that they take. Sounds like a perfect landing place for me to donate what I know I will never end up sewing or knitting. I have too many containers that have spilled out of the vast walk in closet in my studio room. My goal is to not have more than what fits in that closet. And then I can’t add to my collections unless there is an empty container available.

    I have added Crow Lake to my list of books to get, based on your review. It looks like a good read.

  9. Joan Sheppard

    Wallbanged! Never heard that before but sure fits some of the books (and movies) I’ve seen recently. I do like some of the YA books, Harry Potter is housed there, because there is generally less sex and violence. So Blackbird Café has been ordered. Finishing up “Rescuing Penny Jane” – nonfiction about dog rescue and humane societies. Very factual with less “drama and tears” than usual. As always your guide is very helpful. Thanks.

  10. What a productive reading period! I’m especially interested in “Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe.” I’ll be posting the July reading list probably next week. Right now I’m into an Elly Griffiths “Ruth Galloway” mode. But I might dig into Anne Lindbergh’s diaries or a bio of Julia Child soon!

  11. lv2bquilting2

    Hi Carole,
    I’ve just finished a wonderful book by Laura Dave, titled, The Last Thing he Said to me, and it was one of those that you really don’t want to end.
    Another book I thought was very good was, The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, set in the 18th. century as well as current-day London.
    Hope you will find them as enjoyable as I did.
    Sylvia

  12. Christy

    The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins is along the same lines as Heather Webber and Sarah Addison Allen and is truly a “charmer” of a read! I’ve also recently read Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman, The Sight of You by Holly Miller, and The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano. Three very different books all within the fiction genre – the last one under Christian fiction – but all three very well written with engaging storylines.

  13. Just finished a Nora Roberts book “Legacy” which was intriguing. I’m sure there are reviews out there, but basically a mother-daughter story. Mother has a fling with her college professor and when she finds out he is still married, breaks it off. Daughter is the result. Mother goes on to make a successful career, and daughter grows up and follows in her footsteps….but that professor lurks in the background. My other “read” (Audio books while sewing/unsewing) have been by Daniel Silva. He has a series I have been listening to, and quite enjoying. The revolve around espionage and intrigue and hit men and retribution. They are quite interesting and take place in Europe, the Middle East and around Israel and the Arab worlds. My last “read” has been a series by Julia Quinn….historical romance fiction. They get a little “spicy” in the romance department, but the series is quite typical British aristocracy romance.

  14. Sue H

    I’m currently reading “If It Bleeds” by Stephen King. It’s a collection of four short stories. I’m on the 3rd story and am enjoying is so far. This story picks up more on Holly Gibney from his previous novel “Mr. Mercedes”. I’m reading this while waiting for my name to come up for “Fallen” by Linda Castillo and “The Disappearing Act” by Catherine Steadman. So many books, so little time! Ha!

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