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?