Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Book Reviews - the February Edition

My February books were a mixed bag. I know you’ll be relieved to know that even I (the queen of the 4 star rating), can admit when I don’t love a book.

1. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. ★★★★★ In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. 

The Bug Says: Oh my goodness, I LOVED this book! I had no idea what to expect, but it was compelling, and funny, and thoughtful, and an inside view of the Russian revolution. I’m not really into historical fiction, but this is a story about a man and it is wonderful!

2. Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral, by Kris Radish. ★★ For Katherine Givens and the four women about to become her best friends, the adventure begins with a UPS package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with ashes and a note that will forever change their lives. Katherine’s oldest and dearest friend, the irrepressible Annie Freeman, left one final request—a traveling funeral—and she wants the most important women in her life as “pallbearers.”

The Bug Says: I thought the premise of this book was great – the Annie Freeman wanted her women friends to scatter her ashes in places that meant something to her. However, every chapter contained what I would consider a book-ending narrative summing up how fabulous it all was (every. chapter.), and the “voice” of each of the women was exactly the same. The author was apparently unable to give all of these women their own personalities. There were a couple of scenes that I enjoyed, but otherwise I was skimming through as fast as I could.

3. Golden in Death (In Death, #50), by J. D. Robb. ★★★★ Pediatrician Kent Abner received the package on a beautiful April morning. Inside was a cheap trinket, a golden egg that could be opened into two halves. When he pried it apart, highly toxic airborne fumes entered his body and killed him.

The Bug Says: I can’t believe that we’re now on book 50 of this series! Of course I loved it – it was like hanging out with familiar old friends. One little quibble – at the end of the book I was expecting a confrontation with one of the “bad guys,” but instead we just heard about what happened elsewhere.

4. Belong to Me (Love Walked In #2) , by Marisa de los Santos. ★★★★ Marisa de los Santos's literary talents shine in the complex interactions she creates between three women. She deftly explores the life-altering roller coaster of emotions Piper faces as she cares for two households, her own and that of her cancer-stricken best friend, Elizabeth. Skillfully, de los Santos creates an enigmatic and beguiling character in Lake, who draws Cornelia closer even as she harbors a shocking secret. And from the first page until the exhilarating conclusion, de los Santos engages readers with Cornelia, who, while trying to adapt to her new surroundings, must remain true to herself. As their individual stories unfold, the women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined, and that ultimately teaches them what it means for one human being to belong to another.

The Bug Says: Oh what a lovely book! I had read the first book in the series a while back and forgot that there were any sequels. I really hated the Piper character in the beginning (think, Nellie Oelson), but she is redeemed in the end. Although still true to her nature, so still annoying. But even though the description up there reads like a soap opera, it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like life.

5. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #12) , by Alexander McCall Smith. ★★★★ At a remote cattle post south of Gaborone two cows have been killed, and Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s No. 1 Lady Detective, is hired by fearful client, himself a suspect. She and secretary Grace Makutsi, wooed by Phuti Radiphuti, both see her old white van. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentice runs away under pressure to wed. Violet Sephotho runs for the Botswana Parliament.

The Bug Says: Another fine installment in this series. I was kind of sad that I couldn’t get the audio version (the narrator for this series is really good), but I enjoyed it nonetheless. However, here is one quibble: Mma. Makutsi was almost a caricature of herself in this book (which is saying something because she’s pretty much a caricature all the time). It was still fun.

6. I’ll be Your Blue Sky (Love Walked In #3), by Marisa de los Santos. ★★★★ On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming, yet overly possessive, fiancé. Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House…

The Bug Says: This one was even better than the 2nd book in the series. It was just so very satisfactory, even though it dealt, in part, with another difficult subject (domestic violence). There’s one more book in the series – don’t be surprised if that one shows up on March’s book review.

I’m surprised that I ended up getting 6 books read in February – must have been all that skimming in that second book up there. Well, and I do tend to devour the In Death books. I know it’s only been a couple of weeks since I last asked, but have you read anything interesting lately?


  1. I've heard good things about "A Gentleman in Moscow" -- it's on my list! I read a mystery by Tana French that I really liked, "In the Woods."

  2. I read "A Gentleman in Moscow" a couple of years ago and completely share your enthusiasm for it.

  3. I might have to try the Love Walked In series.

  4. I'll have to read A Gentleman in Moscow. My wife just finished it last month and still has the book.


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