Reviews were easy this month because I read so many great books. They are all very different and one of them is truly amazing. I am featuring the top 3!
Most months I read 8-10 books. Some are stinkers and hard to get through. Some are just awful and I abandon them. The 8-10 I read (and finish) are almost always fabulous. This month I read three that were amazing!
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The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
Ray McMillian loves playing the violin and pursues his dream of becoming a professional musician.
At every step, he is met with resistance. And trauma. And the joy of music.
At school, Ray faces racism and mistreatment because of his skin color. Others are chosen for musical parts or events when he feels he deserves the honor. At home, his mother berates him for choosing music over a “real job”.
As a young boy, Ray played the violin provided by his school and was told stories by his grandmother about the violin his grandfather owned. She promises he can have it – if he can just find it in the attic.
And then he finds his grandfather’s violin.
He has it repaired and plays it for a time and then discovers something amazing about it. It is a valuable violin, worth millions. This will change his life forever but his family fully intends that the riches should come to them as well. In fact, they ask for an equal share of the money declaring Ray must sell the violin.
And now let’s add another family that also declares the violin belongs to them. Ray’s grandfather was once a slave owned by the family and they sue to get the violin back.
In the midst of all this drama, Ray prepares for competing in the Tchaikovsky Competition until he discovers one morning that his violin case is empty. His violin has disappeared.
Who stole it? There are plenty of suspects but none of them make sense. And I will leave you to read this delicious book to find out what happened to the instrument! 5 stars for this one! I loved it!
The Measure by Nikki Erlick
One morning every household in the world opens its door to find a mysterious box for every person over the age of 22.
Inside the box is a string whose length represents the measure of your life. A short string means a short life span.
Although this book is science-fiction the story does not focus on that aspect. It does not delve into how and why these boxes arrived. The focus is on how people are affected by the strings.
If you’re a short stringer (as people came to be called) would you live your life differently? Would you marry? Would you or should you run for office? Should you have children?
What happens if you do not open the box? Can you simply throw it away?
There are so many questions. People discover discrimination in the workforce. Short-stringers cannot be hired or join the armed forces. Short stringers cannot find treatment for diseases and what would be the point anyway? Long-stringers have no fear of dying and are more apt to take risks.
The book follows the lives of several people as they tackle this new world. I could not help but think of how Covid has affected the world. The parallels with this book were startling. I listened to this book read by my favorite narrator and loved the way the characters were brought together at the end. 4 stars for this one!
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
I must tell you upfront that this book is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. The writing style is mesmerizing and I read and reread parts of it.
It begins with the last days of the Civil War when slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. This includes brothers Prentiss and Landry.
After leaving the plantation where they had always lived, the boys seek shelter and care from a neighboring homestead with George and Isabelle Walker. The Walkers have just had news they cannot bear and in their grief, they help the brothers.
George pays them to help him work on his farm. They intend to save enough money to leave the state and perhaps find their mother, sold when they were young boys. Prentiss and Landry quietly live each day. Quietly because Landry does not speak.
After their mother was sold, “Prentiss cried nightly until the seasons changed, but all of Landry’s tears had been used up already. Besides, he thought, there was more freedom in silence.”
Both young men are hard workers and soon live in the barn. The community is not pleased with this and the former owner of the brothers is angry George has given them shelter.
Much later two young men are discovered having a tryst in the woods near George’s farm. The discovery leads to a murder, an arrest, and the disarray of the entire community. So much happens quickly as the murderer is not accused but innocent men are. Eventually, these actions will devastate the town.
And yet, there are moments of pure joy in every person, George, Isabelle, Prentiss, and Landry.
Near the end of this book, I reached the bottom of a page and thought for a second that the words were the ending. And I was stunned because I did not want the story to be over. That page would have been a fine ending but I wanted the story to go on.
It did for one more chapter and it ended on a note of hope. The tears I cried were real. For the beauty of this story, for the writing of this author, and for the characters I loved. And this is why we read books.
I cannot give this book enough stars. You must read it.
There you friends, the best books of May. I found some that I could not put down and didn’t want to end! A fabulous month of reading!