Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Book Reviews – the April Edition

Well I slowed down quite a bit in April – I only read three books (four if you count the one I reread – I needed something familiar). Part of my problem is that, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not reading as much, but also I’m losing an hour and a half of book listening time on Sundays since I’m not going anywhere. Ah well, I’m halfway through two books that will go on May’s list, so maybe I’ll have a bigger list next month.

1. The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern.  ★★★★★ A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary Ezra Rawlins to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea. 

The Bug Says: This is by the same author as The Night Circus, which I also loved. And it’s just as weird. Maybe weirder? I’m not even sure what exactly I was reading – it was like some sort of gamer world centered on books and stories and set deep in the earth. I think it might have contained some sort of hallucinogens as well because I was mesmerized. I have no idea why. You would probably hate it. But I think I might have to read it again.

2. Varina, by Charles Frazier. ★★★★ With her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects a life of security as a Mississippi landowner. He instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history—culpable regardless of her intentions.

The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with “bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit.”

Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman’s tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences. 

The Bug Says: I love Charles Frazier’s writing (Cold Mountain was so beautifully written), and this book did not disappoint. I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own, but someone recommended it to me and I’m so glad! The premise of the book is that, many years after the war is over, a black man discovers that he was one of the fugitives who was with Varina when she left Richmond. He tracks her down and asks her questions about that time. I have no idea how historically accurate the book is, but the storytelling was really good.

3. Alace Sweets, by MariaLisa deMora. ★★★ At seventeen, Alace Sweets turned a corner in her life, taking the wrong shortcut home from school. Resisting the harsh knowledge her attackers will never be made to pay for their actions, Alace takes a stand. Justice must be served, and if fate’s scales are out of balance, she’s determined to set things right as best she can. When the laws of men fail, the rules of Alace prevail.

The Bug Says: This was an Amazon freebie that I read for book club (you may recall that we sometimes choose a number & then have the read the book in that place on the list of 100 free Amazon titles). It was surprisingly good for a freebie. Alace is basically a vigilante serial killer after having been raped at 17. She takes care of her attackers first, and then, using an alias that starts with a new letter of the alphabet she seeks out other people who need to be brought to justice (she was on P when the book started). It was a bit graphic, and also had some pretty explicit sex, but if you like books where people who “had it coming” get it, then this one is for you.

So that’s it for this month. Next month I’ll be reviewing Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. At 79% and 58% read thus far I’m at 5 stars and 4 stars. We’ll see if the remainder of the books changes those ratings. Did you read anything interesting?


  1. Like you, I have been doing some re-reading. Probably much more than you have It's like comfort food for the mind and soul. Just did THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, one of my all time favorites and started A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. I have also been listening to the first Louise Penny books about Chief Inspector Gamache that I read years ago. The characters are like old friends and the descriptions of the food are wonderful. If the mysteries were not so interesting the audiobook would put me to sleep in no time. And that's all right. I know the books so well I can pick up again mid-stream.

  2. The first two sound interesting with Varina #1 on my "look for" list. Thanks!

  3. I loved The Night Circus so I'll definitely be looking for A Starless Sea.

  4. Do you "read" or are these books on disc that are read *to* you?

  5. Varina sounds interesting. I'm off to Amazon to learn more.

  6. Interesting stories, been trying to make time to read during the workweek but I'm pretty much crashing around 7:00pm because of the pandemic. I'm getting to work around 4:00am now.

  7. Those first two sound very promising. I didn't realize either one existed, so -- thanks for the tipoff!

  8. I have finished all my library books and the couple I had at home ready to read but then I realised our city library does audiobooks you can get online (onto the phone). So now I am listening to the book of 'Still Alice' by Lisa Genova.


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