Book Reviews – Two Great Ones, Two OK Beach Reads.

For your Labor Day enjoyment, I have a few book reviews from the past few weeks worth of reading. Two books in a row were just OK, not the stellar reads I thought they might be based on other reviews. Then, two books that were so good, they made up for the mediocre ones. One was beyond excellent, and I’ll save it for last. I had to go ahead and post with only four books because you have to know about the last one now. Links to Amazon provided for you to see the publisher’s synopsis if you like.

Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – As with most books that are character studies, this one didn’t move very fast. The story is mainly told through flashbacks of Flora’s life with her husband and best friend. In the very beginning of the book, she finds out her husband has been keeping a short lived affair secret for thirteen years. The rest of the book is Flora trying to figure out how she feels about it. When she then finds out her best friend knew and didn’t tell her, she has more flashbacks regarding that relationship. At times it became a bit tedious, and didn’t hold my interest as I had hoped. Overall, OK. Not great.

The Night The Lights Went Out by Karen White – This book had a very interesting premise, but was so easy to figure out that it was just OK to read. The revenge motive was a bit reminiscent of Gone Girl in the planning and execution, but the motive for our heroine to do the things asked of her was weak. **Spoiler Alert** The reader knows early on what is happening, and the things like a borrowed lipstick and an easy to break password on a phone become too obvious. Really, how many people would take off their shoes, then leave them on the stairs to a basement? Who would go to a dark dock after a party alone, on the strength of a rumor that her shoes were there? These are just a few examples of the weaknesses in the plot. Add to that the thinly veiled secrets of the characters, like the identity of the blogger, and the novel is just too predictable. Not terrible, but not great. Pretty much a beach read.

Now, to the really good ones!! It is interesting to note that both of these are written from a man’s point of view.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – A haunting story, beautifully written, and easy to see why it was nominated for the Pulitzer prize for fiction. The story explores the lives of a brother and sister, wronged as teenagers, and their inability to let go of the that past. Told from the point of view of a mature man looking back on moments in his life, the events are overshadowed by the memories of the Dutch House, and what might have been, along with the enduring animosity towards the woman who sent them into poverty. The conversational style is easy to read, becoming next to impossible to put down. It is the story of a brother and sister’s life journey, without a distinct peak, but nonetheless compelling. Highly recommend!

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb – An extraordinary novel, if you only read one book this year, make it this one! Written by a black music educator and performer, Mr. Slocumb shares his extensive knowledge of the music world in an interesting mystery story that involves theft. He adeptly writes of the difficulties of young black men in dealing with prejudice and racism in a realistic way, at times difficult but important to read. When an old violin given to him by his grandmother turns out to be a priceless Stradivarius, and then is stolen, the stage is set for a compelling mystery novel that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. Highly recommend!! I will eagerly await Mr. Slocumb’s next novel.

Read anything recently that you would recommend?

25 thoughts on “Book Reviews – Two Great Ones, Two OK Beach Reads.

    1. Rheanna

      I have had the Dutch House on my to read list for a while. I may have to bump it up higher on my list. I had seen the Violin Conspiracy but had not heard any reviews on it so I am looking forward to that one too.
      I just finished The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart. I really enjoyed it and found it hard to put down. It is set in the south during the depression and is told from the perspective of two protagonists. Del is a man with a past full of poor choices. Rae Lynn has a good life until an accident happens that changes everything. Both go searching for a new start and end up at Swallow Hill, a turpentine camp run by cruel bosses.

    1. I agree with Marsha’s comment about The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles; it is simply the best novel that I have read in the last ten years. I kept thinking that Sam Clemens himself would have approved of this journey.

  1. Teri

    I highly recommend The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. It’s a beautifully written story about a man who lost someone and something so he collects lost items. The reader learns about each person who lost their item. Hogan ties it all together with a love story and character study.

  2. Z

    My favourite book this year is The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe. All your emotions are drawn out as you learn the life of a farm girl from Nova Scotia, Canada through her memoirs.

  3. Jill McCaughey

    Carole, I will plug a new first-time author who also happens to be my daughter! Her book, And So I Roam, by Kate Bothner, is about a young woman and her father who leave Philadelphia in the late 1890’s to homestead in what is now Alberta, Canada. Dahlia, the main character, deals with her own insecurities and develops strengths as she learns about the land that she comes to love. Her writing style is that of the time and place in which she lives, and the people she meets and growth she makes add up to a wonderful description of a young woman finding herself. Her respect for the land and people, especially Indigenous Haida Gwaii (on Vancouver Island, B.C.) gives us a rare insight into a world many of us know nothing about. It is available on Amazon, both in paper form and Kindle unlimited. Hope you read it and enjoy it. Thanks, Jill in Calgary/Phoenix

  4. Julie

    Starbucks @Barnes & Nobel had a book on the counter for a bargain. So I took a chance. It turned out to be a Young Adult novel, The Paper Girls of Paris by Jordyn Taylor. Although targeted at a younger audience it wove an interesting story as the protagonist investgates a family mystery in WWII Paris. It also dealt with the impact clinical depression has on a family. Not a deep read but a sweet end for the unofficial last week of summer. While I was immersed in the WWII timeframe I also read The Hollywood Spy, a Maggie Hope mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal. The author included copious references in the endnotes should the reader wish to look further into incidents in the book. Factual events are intermingled throughout the series.

  5. Putting both of your recommendations on my library hold list! I just finished Lessons in Chemistry (which you know about!) and am now reading book 5 in the Ruth Galloway mystery series by Elly Griffiths, A Dying Fall. I like a good series to go back to every now and then. Ruth is a forensic archeologist in England, so lots of interesting archeology and history in these.

  6. Cindy

    I love your book recommendations. Thanks. But, I have to tell you I made your tomato pie – even for company yesterday. OMG It was (is) soooo good. I just had a piece and I think it’s better today! I used heirloom tomatoes, very meaty. Saved the seeds for next year. Thank you for passing on your cooking experiments. You are more patient than I – but, I’m so glad to bet your end result!!!

  7. feliciahamlin

    Happy Labor Day, Carole! I read the Dutch House a few years back and I really liked it! It is a cautionary tale about second marriages. I don’t know if I could be so forgiving, though. Enjoy the day!

    Sent from my iPad


  8. Joan

    Thank you for the book recommendations – I always enjoy them! The latest one I read is “Book Lovers” by Emily Henry. A good beach read with laugh out loud humor and witty banter.

  9. I loved “The Dutch House.” And yes, “The Violin Conspiracy” MUST be on my list. Thank you for this recommendation! I enjoyed Edward Rutherfurd’s “New York” this summer, among many others!

  10. Carol in Texas

    The Dutch House was the first book I’d ever read by Ann Patchett. I loved it and recommended it to many others to read. Since, I’ve read several other of her books, and her writing is just wonderful. Most of the books have very unusual subjects and settings. Her writing makes them engaging. Right now I’m reading for our book club Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. It is very interesting and her writing is witty and funny and most informative. Listening to her read this book is a real treat!

  11. Thank you so much for the reviews…I’ve read and loved the Dutch House, and will definitely get the Violin Conspiracy. Always looking for great books to read so adding quite a few of the ones recommended by the others, too. Lidy

  12. jseccurrtwcnyrrcom

    I agree that the Dutch House is an excellent book!

    A couple of books I’ve read were a head above the rest. Eternal by Lisa Scottoline is well researched historical fiction. Scottoline shares a love triangle story that illustrates the characters experience of WWII in Italy. Thanks for the heads up on Lessons in Chemistry…thoroughly enjoyed it! The authors in both Eternal and Lessons in Chemistry studied the language of the era and brought that authentic touch into their novels.

    I’m putting the Violin Conspiracy on my list to read. I love books and appreciate the reviews!

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