Another month, another selection of good reads and maybe some advice.
I wish I had an easy answer to finding the perfect book. I don’t! But, I can share the criteria I use when searching for a book.
In the meantime, my quote for this month seems very appropriate!
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!
The last two months, in particular, have been filled with reading for me. Staying at home due to COVID-19 has been hard, but books make it easy. They really do offer a way to escape, don’t they?
I have five books to share with you and with each one I will give a tip (that works for me) to help choose the perfect book.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
It is 1982 when Viv runs away from her home with a plan to go to New York City. She finds herself needing a job. She wanders into Fell, New York and takes the night clerk position at the Sun Down Motel. It doesn’t take long for her to find that there are odd people that appear and disappear, weird sounds, doors that open and close, and the smell of cigarettes or perfume.
She also begins to hear from the locals that several young woman mysteriously disappeared or were killed. Viv begins to investigate some of these weird occurrences herself. She suspects someone of being the serial killer. Then she also disappears.
In 2017 Carly treks to Fell, New York in search of clues about Viv’s disappearance. Carly is Viv’s niece. Carly also takes a job at the Sun Down Motel. Oddly enough, she begins to see the same wanderers at the hotel and smell the same odors. The hotel has not changed at all. She gets the help of a worker at the local library and one of the people staying at the hotel. She also begins to suspect someone as being the serial killer, but will she ever find out what happened to her Aunt Viv?
Carly finds herself ensnared in the mystery of all the other young girls and her aunt. Will Carly also disappear?
This book kept me glued to the pages as it was coming to a close. There was certainly a “Stephen King” quality to the book. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, another surprising clue would pop up. If you like thrillers and don’t mind the “ghosts” you will love this book. 4.5 stars from me!
TIP: Look for bestsellers. I scan the lists at Amazon and Goodreads. I also follow some bloggers that post book reviews. Find someone that you can trust! Some book reviews are written to sell the book. Mine are not. I only post about books that were fabulous. I promise, I read plenty of stinkers or books that were just ho-hum. I almost never mention those here!
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
The children’s father is a senator and married to Madison. They have a small child, Timothy. The Senator is also likely going to be asked to become the Secretary of State of the US. So, Madison needs a way to control the two fire children. Enter Lillian.
Lillian is a high school friend of Madison’s. She decides to try being the governess for these two children. Now, c’mon, you say.
Seriously, it is totally believable. And so funny. And yet, you feel the humanity from Lillian with every interaction she has with these two children. She is unbelievably kind and empathetic to them. Her main goal is to care for them and control or eliminate the fire starting.
I listened to this book and hope you do, too. The narrator was amazing. I give this one 4.5 stars!
TIP: If you decide to choose a book to listen to, do your homework. Listen to the samples and know this- the books from your library may have different narrators than Audible. Listen to the samples and decide if you can bear the tone of the narrator and their acting ability. Some of them really do show excitement and drama as they are reading.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
What a remarkable premise this book has! The story of Oona begins on New Year’s Eve in 1982 when Oona is about to turn 19. She has big plans for the next few years including traveling and deciding to pursue a career in music. Instead, she begins to feel faint, passes out, and wakes up to find that she is now 51. Her mother helps her understand that this happens every New Year’s Eve. Every year she wakes up at a different age.
She is literally living her life out of order. She also discovers she is quite wealthy and reasons for that will be revealed in the book. Of course, the world has changed. It is 2015 and there are computers, the internet, and cell phones. Just as Ooona is getting used to all these changes the year is over and she wakes up at a new age.
At every wake up she remembers things from the year before, but she is also faced with new challenges. There are friends she doesn’t know and situations she must learn about. I cannot tell you much more about this book without revealing all the things that are revealed from year to year!
This was quite a fun book. I also did not want it to end. I wanted her to keep leaping from year to year to find out all everything turned out. I give this one 4.5 stars because I wanted it to continue! I am wondering if there will be a sequel!
TIP: Trust the reviews, but don’t trust the reviews. This book was recommended on many book lists and I found the reviews to be quite a mixture. People either hated this book or loved it. I thought the premise sounded fun and I loved it! When in doubt read the middle scoring section of reviews. Those scores are likely to tell the truth and list reasons for it!
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Tiffy has just broken up with her boyfriend, Justin, and needs a place to stay. She finds a flat that she can share with another person, who happens to be a man. Leon needs a roommate to share the cost of his flat. He works at night and the arrangement is that she will have the flat from 5 pm to the morning and on weekends. He will have the flat during the day. It seems to be the perfect solution for both. So, Tiffy moves in – without ever meeting Leon. His girlfriend arranges everything.
From the very first day of Tiffy’s use of the flat, she begins to leave notes for Leon- on scraps of paper or post-its. He responds and they carry on for quite a while by only note-writing. She learns a lot about him, including that he has an incarcerated brother. By chance, she speaks to his brother one day and finds that his claims of being innocent could be proven. Tiffy speaks with a friend of hers, Gertie, who happens to be a lawyer, and she takes his case.
In the meantime, Tiffy’s old boyfriend has begun to stalk her. What is he up to? Will Tiffy and Leon ever meet? What about Leon’s girlfriend? Don’t you just love these chick-lit books!
Normally, I do not read books like this, but this one sounded promising. I am glad I tried it- it was very entertaining. Also, I listened to this one and it might be a good idea for you, too. The chapters alternate from Tiffy as the narrator to Leon. Tiffy’s sections are written well and have a spontaneous free-spirit feel to them. Leon’s chapters are to the point and with a very chopped manner. Meaning short sentences. Listening to it was alright, but I think reading those chapters would have made my eyes hurt! I give this one 4 stars. Listen to it on your commute- you will enjoy it!
TIP: Try even the genres you typically don’t dive into. For me, that is chick-lit and science fiction. I usually don’t like the books that seem to be a Hallmark Christmas movie style. This one was charming, however, and I am glad I strayed outside by normal genres and grabbed it.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson
The setting for this book is Appalachian Kentucky in the 1930’s. In the hill country an organization of librarians began a delivery service. They rode mules and horses to deliver books to families that needed something brought into their lives they would not have had otherwise. The Pack Horse Project hired single women and they became known as Book Women.
The book woman in this book is Cussy Mary Carter who is also called Bluet. The name was given to her because of a condition she has causing her skin to be blue. This is a congenital disease called methemoglobinemia. The disorder creates the blue skin coloring due to a loss of oxygen in the blood. In the community where Cussy lives she and her family are outcasts and are considered “colored”. They are treated badly and shunned, but Cussy Mary gets a job to deliver books because she loves to read herself.
The stories of the hill people will break your heart. Families with small children struggle to feed them and many starve to death. When one boy at the school gifts Cussy Mary with a single life-saver candy, tears rolled down my cheeks. The boy was starving but loved getting books so much that he gave this tiny bit of sustenance to the book woman.
Cussy Mary encounters many dilemmas, including forced marriage. Her father wanted her to marry so she would be looked after when he died and she did marry. The results of that create a problem for Cussy Mary and her father and scary visits by the town’s preacher.
I enjoyed this book and felt, many times, like screaming at the treatment of the colored people and the extreme poverty everyone suffered. Cussy Mary’s father was a night-shift miner and the working conditions were appalling. So many things about the lives of the people in this book are just horrendous and yet, the book women kept riding over the hills to deliver books.
Now, let’s go back to another book I read about the same subject. You might know that there was a controversy between these two authors. The books are similar. They both have strong female leads and the book women face controversial things. There is racial bias in both books and cover-ups of people that were killed. But, in my opinion, the books are very different. They are both well written. I loved them both. I do prefer one over the other, but that I will not reveal. Your best bet- read them both!
TIP: The perfect book is out there waiting for you to pick it up. Try a few pages. Give yourself 50 pages to ‘get into’ the story. Give up and try another if it doesn’t suit you!
I hope you find the perfect book soon!
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.