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Books Let You Travel

“Books let you travel without moving your feet.”

So, where I have traveled with the books in this month’s selections?

With This Tender Land I traveled from Minnesota to St. Louis, with trains and on foot, camping and living in tents. With When We Believed in Mermaids I went to New Zealand and explored the ocean’s beauty while surfing. With A Perfect Match I was in a courtroom. With Ask Again, Yes I was in a small community outside New York City exploring the small neighborhood. With The Giver of Stars I was in Kentucky riding a horse through mountains so steep and cold it makes your eyes water.

What a fabulous journey these books have brought!

Book reviews of five amazing books. All are recommended and descriptions are included.

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that with your purchase of items Amazon will pass on small percentages to me. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This book will be in my best books of 2020- I am reasonably certain. It was amazing.

It is 1932, in Minnesota. Odie O’Banion, age 12, and his brother, Albert, are sent to the Lincoln School. This is a place for orphans, mostly Native American children. Most of the Native American children have been forcibly moved into the “orphanage”.

Odie and Albert befriend one of the boys, named Mose. Mose is mute and the two boys teach him sign language in order to communicate.

The boys decide to escape the orphanage and travel to St. Louis where the boys have an aunt. They take a four-year-old named Emmy with them (for reasons I will not reveal). The children take off and travel down the Mississippi meeting lively characters along the way.

This includes Sister Eve and her traveling ministry and the people of a shantytown called Hopersville. There are so many stories woven into the journey of these children and you will hold your breath as they encounter the good and bad. There are rattlesnakes, injuries, broken hearts, lots of running, dishonesty, stolen money, and four wonderful resourceful children that somehow stay true to each other with the goal of a better life always in the forefront.

“The tale I’m going to tell is of a summer long ago. Of killing and kidnapping and children pursued by demons of a thousand names. There will be courage in this story and cowardice. There will be love and betrayal. And, of course, there will be hope. In the end, isn’t that what every good story is about?” 

I doubt you will make it through without tears. 5+ stars for this one. I listened to this book and highly recommend that you do. The narrator was superb!

When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

What an interesting book this was. Kit is an ER doctor whose sister, Josie, was killed 15 years prior. And then suddenly, Kit sees Josie on a news report, alive. So, of course, she travels across the world to see if this woman is really her sister.

It is Josie, now living as Mari.

She is married and has children and the two sisters reunite and begin to get to know one another. In recalling their younger days, which is told as flashbacks, it is revealed that their family life was dysfunctional and included the presence of a teenage boy named Dylan that just turned up mysteriously one day.

There are several back-stories that take over the latter part of the book. This includes Kit meeting Javier. He is a Spanish singer that is quite famous, but she has no clue. They fall for one another- with Kit insisting this is just a fling. So, the book does take a little chick-lit turn (just warning you). I found myself wondering about a few things:

  • How do you can recognize someone from 15 years ago? People change a lot over that many years. 
  • I also wished that the “mystery” about Dylan was concluded more quickly. It just seemed to be hinted at for too long. 
  • I did not care for the descriptions of Mari and a house she was renovating. The house has a mystery that took up space in this book that had nothing to do with the story.

I did enjoy this book! I would give it 4 stars! I especially loved the passages about surfing. These were beautiful and made me want to enjoy swimming and surfing in the ocean! (I don’t do the ocean ever!)

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

If you have read anything by this author you know she creates her books right out of the headlines. I have loved most of her books. This is an earlier writing of hers, but I enjoyed it.

Nina Frost is an attorney that prosecutes child-molestation cases. She has seen many alleged perpetrators go free on technicalities, specifically when the young victims must testify.

Often, the victims are so young their stories are not believed. She is career-driven, yet a mom that has typical “guilt” over being away from her five-year-old son, Nathaniel.

Caleb Frost is a construction worker/builder and everything between the Frosts and the son seems perfect. Until Nina discovers that her son has been molested. She sets out to find out who the rapist is and what follows is an emotional roller coaster. It seems that Nina will break all the rules herself to find her son’s molester. How far will she go? Now, I will repeat, I enjoyed this book. It was suspenseful and a page-turner, but I did have a couple of problems with it.

  • The five-year-old behaves more like a young 4-year-old. I thought his scenes were very immature.
  • Nina is not always a nice person. She was not entirely likable and did behave out of character a few times. I didn’t feel sympathetic towards her at all.

I would say 4 stars for this one! This author’s books are always a great read for me!

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

This is the story of two families that live next door to one another and a great tragedy that occurs that changes all of them. To be honest I had misgivings about starting this book, as a sad book is the last thing I want to read. It was highly recommended so I decided to try it.

The book is well written but does have a tinge of sorrow throughout.

Francis and Brian are police officers in New York City and they buy homes next door to one another outside the city. Francis is married to Lena, and Peter is married to Anne.

Francis and Lena have three daughters. One of the daughters, Kate, is the same age as the child of Brian and Lena. The boy, named Peter, and Kate are friends and eventually have a romantic involvement. Anne, however, is not friends with anyone. She is unstable, volatile, and unpredictable. The evening of the tragedy between the two families changes everyone. Can the friendship between Peter and Kate survive? How about the adults? What changes do they go through and how do they relate to one another afterward?

“You are on a journey- it’s your life. You are enmeshed in your family and lucky to be there.”

Your family is your family no matter what. You make the decision to forgive and move on or not. Ultimately, your happiness will depend on those choices. The focus on mental health becomes part of this story but the underlying theme of love is strong, too. The book spans a 30-year time period for the two families.

You will grow to love them! I especially loved Lena and her total devotion to her husband over the many years he needed her help (which I cannot explain without giving away too much). I give the book 5 stars.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

This is another book I listened to- the narrator is my favorite (Julia Whelan). The book was awesome, too!

The setting is the Depression-era in the hills and mountains of Kentucky. Enter Alice Wright, an English woman that has married Bennett Van Cleve. Alice has managed to escape her stifling life in England only to find herself living with a very cruel and domineering father-in-law.

Alice and Bennett move into his house which is overly decorated with items collected by the now-deceased mother-in-law. This includes a creepy collection of porcelain dolls. Alice’s life is utter boredom since the Van Cleves have a cook and housekeeper until she meets Margery O’Hare and begins to deliver library books to the local people.

The traveling library program was begun by Eleanor Roosevelt and women are the riders that deliver the books. This notion of working outside the home is contrary to the beliefs of Mr. Van Cleve, but Alice is determined to make her own decisions and defies him. Margery is a free-thinking woman that always speaks her mind and Alice becomes a good friend to her.

The traveling library riders encounter all sorts of dangerous situations as their horses make the precarious trek in the mountain areas. Margery herself is threatened by one of the mountain men and when he is found dead the women of the library must band together to support Margery and the program.

I enjoyed this book and can give it 5 stars! I will also let you know that there is some controversy about the novel. Another popular book covers the same topic and the two books have been compared. This one was published second and some of the scenes are very similar to the first book.

I have read the second book called The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and you can read my review of it on this blog post- How to Find the Perfect Book

Have a great time deciding which book you want to read from this selection. I am linking Audible below for you in case you want to try listening to a book!

My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it – usually the way it ended stupidly. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.