What I’ve Been Reading: Spring Edition (Part II)

Yesterday, I posted about all of the books that I read February-Present that were part of a series or multiple books from the same author.

Today, I am going to review the rest of the books that I that I read. I hope that this organization of reviews is helpful to everyone who is interested in my thoughts on books. Again, don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads, so that you can get real-time reviews. I’ve been told that they help people when choosing between which books to read next 🙂

 

A Portrait of Emily Price

Review: 3 Stars

The beginning was super rushed, which made me think that the whole book was going to be bad. Any book where a woman meets a man who is very similar to herself, but “hits it off,” with someone with her absolute opposite makes it seem like things will go awry, but instead the book had a greater moral message. I was glad that I stuck with it, though, because the end came together well.

However, I wouldn’t recommend this to my friends, unless I knew they had a very specific taste in books and a ton of time.

 

Abide with Me

Review: 5 Stars

After I picked up Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, I knew that my reading life wouldn’t be the same. Somehow, though, I let her other books fall through the crack until I saw her 2017 publication on the shelves. While I was waiting on Anything is Possible to come in from the library, I decided to pick up with the rest of Strout’s cannon.
Abide with Me was the first novel by Strout, other than My Name is Lucy Barton that I picked up. Her insight into the human character, which she displays masterfully in the short, fictional memoir of Lucy Barton is also evident in Abide with Me. Additionally, the story, which follows the pastor of a small church in New England during the time when people began to turn from the church to psychology, gave the women of the story full, wonderful inner lives full of struggle, individuality, and even sexuality during an era when women were meant to be conform and be chaste.
For such a short novel, Strout uses her characters to touch on the topics of the meaning of life and death, the possibility of an afterlife, class differences, the complexity of marriages and families, and how to love, among so many other strong topics even though the community in which the story takes place is incredibly conservative and restrained.
I simply can’t get over Strout’s masterful, for lack of another better word, ability to bring complex characters to life through their inner lives, rather than dialogue.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Review: 5 Stars

This was a great re-read. I decided to read it again after I read a book about how the movie was made. I read this book again so that I can watch the movie and see the differences, especially since I watched the movie before I read the novella.

Every Secret Thing

Rating: 4 Stars

When Every Secret Thing was originally published, Susanna Kearsley used a pseudonym, Emma Cole. I am guessing it was because the novel is a departure from her usual time travel type novels. Every Secret Thing was even titled Book #1 of a series, but it has been enough years that it is clear that Kearsley isn’t going to follow up.

Honestly, I would have loved it if Kate Murray became the central figure in a series. Most of Kearsley’s other novels are very formulaic (not that it keeps me from reading them), but this mystery series took the journalist on a world-wide search for information to keep herself alive. Also, the body count was kind of high, so it would have made sense to give her more novels where people weren’t dropping like flies.

Anyway, it was really great. I would recommend it, if you like mysteries and WWII.

Every Wild Heart

Rating: 5 Stars

I read this in one day. I wasn’t sure if it was chick lit or a psychological thriller. I loved it, overall, but thought that maybe the author wasn’t sure what genre she was writing.

Another reader compared the mom in this novel to Lorelei Gilmore, which I totally see. The daughter wasn’t exactly a Rory, but there was overlap. There was a total Luke. However, there was an active father, etc.

I was surprised that this was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide when I’ve read other great books that have already been released this summer that were better. I guess it does have mass appeal.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman

Rating: 4 Stars

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but this was a fascinating look at how a highly censored Hollywood took a very racy novella and turned it into an iconic movie with the classy Audrey Hepburn. Because, in all honesty, what Capote wrote has very little to do with what we see on the screen.

Additionally, the novel also talked about how Hollywood whitewashed other books or plays that were made into movies in order to get them around the censors, which was really interesting. There were a lot of censorship rules at the time that I wasn’t aware of! Also, the movie broke a lot of rules/pushed a lot of boundaries, even with things as small as using a little black dress.

The novel was really short, but I learned a lot about Audrey Hepburn, how the movie was made, how movies were made during that time period, and how much power the censors had over what people saw at the theaters!

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II

Rating: 5 Stars

I love Rhys Bowen. Her series are some of my favorite. They are generally very light hearted; however this book felt much more substantial than previous novels.

The novel begins by introducing us to an obvious love triangle. Then, of course, a mystery during the beginning of WWII ensues! I absolutely adored every character. The main character, unlike Bowen’s two most prominent series, has a man for the main character. Her other novels show that women are capable of doing what men do, and there is a young woman in this novel doing that, also, but I liked the switch in perspectives because the main character wasn’t quite the cad that the love interests her main characters usually fall for.

While there is nothing to indicate that this novel was the first in a series, it ended in such a way that there is more than enough material to make it one. And it was so wonderful that in my greed, I hope it becomes one!

Jane Steele

Rating: 2.5 Stars

This one was a bit weird. I really don’t know how to review it.

It’s like Jane Eyre except… no. She’s a murder? Maybe? It’s very morally ambiguous. I don’t recommend it.

However, if you would like something more to go on, here is the synopsis/review that Book Riot Community left on Goodreads:

This Victorian novel follows Jane Steele, an orphan whose life mirrors that of her favorite literary heroine, Jane Eyre. Their paths diverge at this one fine point, however: Jane Steele is a serial killer. She uses her wit, nerves, and slight sociopathy to off abusive men, all the while wondering what would Jane Eyre think? This book scratched all my favorite itches: Victoriana, feminist rage, and excellent, gut-punch sentences. You’ll love this Jane just as much as you love the original.

 

I highly recommend following Book Riot Community on GoodReads. They never leave a number of stars on their reviews, but someone from their team always writes a good synopsis that lets you know if it would be if is a book that you would like. That being said, I liked that synopsis, but the book was weird AF.

The Dry

Rating: 4 Stars

I will begin by saying that I picked this one up because it was part of MMD’s Summer Reading Guide. I am a member of her online book club. I read it in a day, so I could participate in the live chat with the author. So, fun news if you like the book: Reese Witherspoon has purchased the rights to the book!

It is also the first book in a series. If you’ve read this, let me know what you think: would you prefer for the second book to take place in the same small, farming town or would you prefer for it to take place back in the city where Falk is now working? I have a definite opinion. I would love to know what other people think.

If you haven’t read it, you can probably tell that I did like it. It’s a strong 4 stars. I hadn’t read a thriller in a long time until I picked this up. It really pulled me into the story because there are two separate mysteries–one from the present and one from the past. Falk, who is a detective in a big city, returns home for the funeral of a possible current victim. He looks into what has been going on in the town to see if a crime occurred and how they are connected.

It was particularly interesting because it takes place in a rural farming town that is experiencing a drought. In Australia! So, the setting and culture are just different enough from what I’m used to reading to make it fascinating.

The Night the Lights Went Out

Rating: 4 Stars

Wow. Awesome novel. I would recommend this to all of my friends. I really didn’t know anything about it when I started the novel, other than I liked the cover. Yes, I judged the book by the cover.

I also wanted to read a novel by Karen White because she cowrote a novel with two other authors who I enjoy. Fortunately, this was a good place to start. And now, I want to read more of her novels!

One reason this is not 5 stars is because it isn’t really about revealing universal truths about the human character. It doesn’t explore anything thought provoking. It’s just highly entertaining. And some highly entertaining books are 5 star worthy, but this was not one of those.

Also, White tried to pack a lot of different writing techniques and even genres into the novel, which is why it was on the lengthy side. There were blog posts, which gave it the Gossip-Girl-esque feel and flashbacks to the landlord’s childhood and adolescence, which gave a hint of Kate Morton’s influence, since crimes were committed on the land and connected to the present day.

It was definitely a Southern novel because place was important. The land was incredibly important to the novel. It may have even had Southern Gothic elements, specifically in the flashbacks, which took place during the Great Depression and some could argue that the cottage that the main character rented was a character.

There was a romance throughout the novel. And White even threw in a bit of a psychological thriller there at the end (which I would have known about, if I had read what the book was about).

Overall, the characters were endearing. I rooted for them. It was nice to see the layers of the main characters unfold. 

Aside from the novel being a bit of soup made from everything in the fridge, which oddly worked, it was good. I found it a bit slow at the start because the blog posts were confusing, even though I think they were there for comedic effect. Once I committed to it, though, I REALLY couldn’t put it down. I was listening to it in the car, when I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep, etc.

The Story of a Brief Marriage

Rating: How do you rate this?

I barely know how to rate this, much less review it. I think that every person who reads this novel will take away something different. At it’s core, it’s about humanity.

The novel isn’t plot driven. It’s more about memories and living in the moment. It’s gut-wrenching when you think about the fact that people are actually living in these conditions. This isn’t a book to read for entertainment. It’s a book to challenge yourself.

I really didn’t know what this book was about when I picked it up. Someone mentioned it on the What Should I Read Next podcast, so I thought it would be a good read. It was. But I don’t feel comfortable assigning value to it. Just read a synopsis:

In the last months of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Dinesh’s world has contracted to an evacuee camp, where he measures his days by shells that fall like clockwork. Alienated from language, home, and family, he is brought back to life by an unexpected proposal from an old man in the camp: that he marry his daughter, Ganga. In the hours they spend together, Dinesh and Ganga attempt to awaken to one another, to reclaim their humanity.

Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage is a feat of stunning imaginative empathy, a meditation on the bare elements of human existence that give life its pulse and purpose, even in the face of atrocity.

Abide with Me

The Dry

Every Wild Heart

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman

The Night the Lights Went Out

The Story of a Brief Marriage

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II

Jane Steele

A Portrait of Emily Price

Yesterday, I posted reviews of the other books (books in a series) that I read since January. Don’t forget to check those out. You can also read reviews of everything that I read in January here. Then you can get my take on everything that I’ve been reading so far this year. The year is basically half over!

Come back tomorrow for a full review on Katherine Reay’s newest book, The Austen Escape, which I received from NetGalley! You’ll be able to pick it up this fall.

And let me know what you’re planning on reading this summer in the comments because I have a long list that I don’t mind making it longer!

 

Categories: Book Review, What I Read Last Month | Tags: , , |
  • 5th Avenue sounds like a book I would love. I read a book about Audrey last year and was really intrigued by her.

    • Since the beginning of the book focuses a lot of Hepburn herself (to give historical context about why she made the Holly Golightly role acceptable) at the beginning, it made me really interested to pick up a full length biography about her.
      I need to spend some time researching which one is worth my time, since there are so many! Do you remember the name of the one that you read?

      • It was Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden by Edward Z. Epstein. It wasn’t stellar but it made me interested in her. I wouldn’t really recommend the book because it’s not as advertised but it did shed some light on her life enough to make me want to read more.

  • Veronica Hobbs

    Thanks for these insights very helpful