Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Book Reviews – the June Edition

I apparently spent the entire month of June with my nose in a book. I read seven books! What the heck! I was spurred a little bit because I had several library books I’d waited on forever that became available at the same time.

1. Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You, by Jen Hatmaker. ★★★★★ The author says: In this book, I break it down into five self-reflective categories—who I am, what I need, what I want, what I believe, and how I connect—and by working your way through them, you will learn to: own your space, ground, and gifts (they are YOURS, sister); be strong in your relationships and lay down passive aggression, resentment, drama, and compliance; say GUILT-FREE what you want and what you need; and welcome spiritual curiosity and all the fantastic change that doing so creates.

You with me, beloveds? If we do this work on our own selves now, not only will we discover a life truly worth living, but we will free our daughters to rise up behind us, with spines straight, heads up, and coated in our strength.

The Bug Says: That description reads like a typical self-help book, but it doesn’t feel like one. While the writing style is worlds away from Glennon Doyle’s book, the message is similar and just as electrifying: you are allowed to be yourself no matter what boxes your world erects around you. I’ve always chafed at boxes, but I also REALLY dislike any kind of conflict. This gave me a little boost to see if I can break free from some of my confining spaces.

2. Hideaway, by Nora Roberts. ★★★★ Caitlyn Sullivan had come from a long line of Hollywood royalty, stretching back to her Irish immigrant great-grandfather. At nine, she was already a star—yet still an innocent child who loved to play hide and seek with her cousins at the family home in Big Sur. It was during one of those games that she disappeared. Some may have considered her a pampered princess, but Cate was in fact a smart, scrappy fighter, and she managed to escape her abductors. Dillon Cooper was shocked to find the bloodied, exhausted girl huddled in his house—but when the teenager and his family heard her story they provided refuge, reuniting her with her loved ones.

Cate’s ordeal, though, was far from over. First came the discovery of a shocking betrayal that would send someone she’d trusted to prison. Then there were years spent away in western Ireland, peaceful and protected but with restlessness growing in her soul. Finally, she would return to Los Angeles, gathering the courage to act again and get past the trauma that had derailed her life. What she didn’t yet know was that two seeds had been planted that long-ago night—one of a great love, and one of a terrible vengeance.

The Bug Says: This is another fine novel by one of my favorite authors. She writes the best dialogue, and most of her heroines aren’t stupid. I hardly ever yell at them, so you know she does a good job of writing strong women. Ha!

3. Necessary as Blood, (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #13), by Deborah Crombie ★★★★ Once the haunt of Jack the Ripper, London's East End is a vibrant mix of history and the avant-garde, where elegant Georgian town houses exist side by side with colorful street markets and the hippest clubs. But here races and cultures still clash, and the trendy galleries and glamorous nightlife of Whitechapel disguise a violent and seedy underside, where unthinkable crimes bring terror to the innocent.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in mid May, a young mother, Sandra Gilles, leaves her daughter with a friend at the Columbia Road Flower Market and disappears. A few months later, her husband, a Pakistani lawyer, is killed.

The Bug Says: I love this series (obviously, since I’m on book 13). This is no cozy British mystery, but even so there is something comforting about reading a Scotland Yard murder mystery. Maybe it’s because I listened to the audiobook and I love the British accent? (This is also true of the next book, although it’s set in the London of the WWII blitz instead of present day).

4. The American Agent, (Maisie Dobbs #15) by Jacqueline Winspear. ★★★★ Beloved heroine Maisie Dobbs, “one of the great fictional heroines” (Parade), investigates the mysterious murder of an American war correspondent in London during the Blitz in a page-turning tale of love and war, terror and survival.

As the Germans unleash the full terror of their blitzkrieg upon the British Isles, raining death and destruction from the skies, Maisie must balance the demands of solving this dangerous case with her need to protect Anna, the young evacuee she has grown to love and wants to adopt. Entangled in an investigation linked to the power of wartime propaganda and American political intrigue being played out in Britain, Maisie will face losing her dearest friend—and the possibility that she might be falling in love again.

The Bug Says: This is another series that I love. She reminds me a bit of Sherlock Holmes because she gathers all kinds of seemingly innocuous information & then uses it in the end to find the killer (or rather, usually she’s just naming the killer who has been there all along). This one was just as interesting as the previous ones. And I really had no idea until the end whodunit!

5. The Daughters of Erietown, by Connie Schultz. ★★★★ Hidden desires and long-held secrets, the sacrifices people make for family and to realize their dreams, are at the heart of this powerful first novel about working class people in a small town. By the popular Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

In the 1950s, Ellie and Brick are teenagers in love. As a basketball star, Brick has the chance to escape his abusive father and become the first person in his blue-collar family to attend college. But after Ellie learns that she is pregnant, they get married, she gives up her dream of nursing school, and Brick gets a union card instead.

This riveting novel tells the story of Brick, Ellie, and their daughter Samantha, as the frustrations of unmet desire for sex, love, identity, and meaningful work explode their lives. The evolution of women's lives over decades of the second half of the 20th century is explored, in a story that richly portrays how much people know about each other and pretend not to--the secrets at the heart of a family. 

The Bug Says: I read this book because I follow Connie Schultz on Facebook. She is an award winning journalist who lives in Cleveland, but she’s also the wife of Senator Sherrod Brown. I was prepared to be kind while reading it, but it is actually a very good book! I don’t often willingly read novels about generations of families (see British mysteries, above), but this one was engaging and left me afterword wondering how Sam was doing. I missed her & Ellie! I highly recommend picking this one up!

6. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides. ★★★ Promising to be the debut novel of the season, The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive…

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him...

The Bug Says: I got very behind on book club books. I think this was the book for May? It’s because I didn’t want to purchase the book (and the next one, below), so I had to wait until they were available at the library. This book was pretty good. The writing style sort of reminded me of somebody reading someone else’s notes from the file. Kind of dry? I don’t know – it was hard for me to get into it in the beginning, but it did pick up momentum, and there is a twist at the end that had me reflexively giving it 4 stars. Such a great twist! But in the end I backed it down because of how hard it was for me to stay engaged until the last third of the book. HOWEVER, I still recommend that you read it & tell me what you thought of the end.

7. No Exit, by Taylor Adams. ★★★ A brilliant, edgy thriller about four strangers, a blizzard, a kidnapped child, and a determined young woman desperate to unmask and outwit a vicious psychopath.

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers. Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

The Bug Says: This is another one where I wavered between a 3 and a 4. It was a romp to read (in a gory, sadistic, evil villain matching wits with an intrepid heroine sort of way), but there were so many little things that drove me crazy (whose iPhone hovers at less than 10% power for that many hours?). Also, by the end, I was like, come on – another plot twist? However, it was fast paced and very satisfactory despite the fact that not all of the good guys lived.  

On my shelf now: The One-in-a-Million Boy, by Monica Wood and I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown. They are both excellent and I already know I’m going to want to recommend them to you. What are you reading?



  1. OK - I just added several books to my "future reading" list.

  2. We sold a lot of Nora Roberts' books back when we had our bookstore. (And J.D. Robb.)

  3. Glad you like Jen Hatmaker's book too - it really has stuck with me.

  4. #6 and #7 look interesting. I'll have to put them on my book list.

  5. All great books! I'll have to give The American Agent a look when I run low on books I'm reading now.


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