My favorite books of August are interesting. Two involve airplanes, and most of them involve some kind of traveling. Two are about immigrants and one is a delicious gossipy family drama. And, I also will reveal my most disappointing book of the month.
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Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
A hauntingly beautiful story with a tinge of sadness all the way through. Yet, it is very compelling. It’s a story of survival.
Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons. It is 1979 and the setting is New Orleans. Huong is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam after she and the older son evacuated. The second was born before reaching America. Huong is sent to a settlement area in New Orleans where she is to be sponsored by a family. She cannot abide her treatment in this home and escapes to live on her own in a community of other refugees. The book deals with Huong speaking very little English, trying to survive with her culture intact, raising two boys alone, and constantly worrying about her husband and his whereabouts.
As the boys grow they encounter racism and mistreatment at school and eventually take very different paths as teenagers and adults. The theme of ‘water’ resonates throughout the book. It culminates with an event in 2005- Hurricane Katrina.
The book is beautifully written, sad (as I said), but uplifting eventually. Five stars for this one! It is worth your time and one of those books you will remember.
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland
For 60 years the Golden Hotel was the place to go in the Catskills. A much-beloved vacation destination.
The Goldman and Weingold families are best friends and business partners. They have presided over the care of the hotel for a long time. But now, the hotel is not making money. It does not appeal to new generations who prefer dazzling vacations rather than shuffle-board by the pool. The hotel has fallen into disrepair and it seems it might close.
So, the families meet for one last summer. Mostly, they meet to decide the fate of their hotel.
And then, the fun begins. These two families have some really juicy secrets that you will love reading about. I listened to this book and it was a hoot. The narrator is Julia Whelan and I will listen to anything she reads. 4 stars for this fun little book!
November Road by Lou Berney
It is 1963 and John F. Kennedy has just been killed. Frank Guidry gets a phone call that sets everything in motion. Guidry is tied to a mob boss in New Orleans and is asked to do something with a car that may or may not have been involved in the president’s assassination.
Guidry knows that if he continues to follow orders he is risking his life. Of course, not following the mob’s orders is also a way to end his life. So, what does he do?
He runs. He takes off to escape the mob and any potential involvement in the killing of the president.
Then we meet a sweet housewife named Charlotte. Remember, it is the early 1960s, a time when women stayed home and rarely bucked the system. However, Charlotte is so tired of an abusive relationship she takes her two young girls and heads west. And, of course, her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.
As chance would have it. Guidry comes upon the young mother and two precocious children. The rest I will leave for you to read.
Fabulous book- I loved the narration and the characters. I give 4.5 stars for this book. I do advise you to listen to it- if you like that format.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
My favorite book of this month. This story is told in prose and it is perfection. I loved every second of it- despite the sadness of the story.
This is the story of Camino Rios, a young girl in the Dominican Republic. Camino only sees her father in the summers. It’s also the story of Yahaira Rios, a young girl living in New York who does not see her father in the summer.
You know where this is going. The girls have the same father. And then tragedy strikes. As the father is traveling by plane an accident happens. There are no survivors.
The beautiful verse form of this book is mesmerizing. I read and re-read passages. You will love it. I cannot tell you any more of the story without spoiling it for you and I want you to read this one! 5 stars for this amazing book!
Falling by T. J. Newman
My goodness, the hype for this book prior to its release was really something! I pre-ordered it and started reading it the second it came out!
So, did it live up to its pre-release marketing? Yes! The story begins on a Coastal Airlines flight with Captain Bill Hoffman transporting 144 passengers. As the plane is cruising along the captain gets a message that he must crash the plane or his family will be killed.
Meanwhile, on the ground, his wife and children have been kidnapped and the FBI has gotten involved. A very crafty fast-thinking flight attendant is a major part of the story.
And that is all I can tell you without spoiling the book for you. It is a wild ride with plenty of drama. I only gave it 4 stars because there are some wildly coincidental things that happen and one scene that involves baseball that was just stupid.
Least Favorite Book of the Month
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
It is August of 1983. The Rivas are having their annual party. The four Rivas are Nina, a talented surfer and model, Jay, a championship surfer, Hudson, a photographer, and their younger sister, Kit.
Throughout the day and evening of the party, you learn more about each sibling. The book alternates between the day of the party and the history of the family. The children are the offspring of the famous singer, Mick Riva. It is all quite a story with secrets that come roaring into the party and change everything.
Why is this my least favorite? You will likely love this book. It is getting great reviews and it’s on several bestseller lists. To be honest, it had some good moments. I liked the alternating style of the chapters and I loved Kit.
But, again, honestly, I think this author’s writing style is lacking in the richness of detail and language that keeps me mesmerized with a book. She writes in a list style. One event leads to another and then this happens and next…the writing makes me think of a newspaper or magazine article of something that has happened, not the story of what happened. The book also has a lot of filler in it- very short chapters that add nothing to the story. There were also characters that suddenly showed up out of the blue and they were not necessary to the book.
The party itself, which is the focus of the book, became more than absurd. Events that happened are not believable and just got more outlandish. It felt contrived. And, if all of this was not enough to make me cringe the last few pages were…just bad.
I give the book 2 stars and will tell you that in two more days I will not remember what this book was about. That is why it is the most disappointing book of this month!
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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. This might include the way it ended. 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.