March 2020–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   (Reminder: the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.)  I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (Length: 349 pages).  I really enjoyed this psychological thriller that is set in an elite gymnastics gym/social circle.  This novel is surprisingly well-written, with a plot twist at the end, but a not-very satisfying wrap up of the plot.  I think the author was trying to be shocking and it works, in a way.  I would recommend if you enjoy this genre as it’s way better written than most!  (The Girl on the Train, I’m looking at you!)

From the publisher:

How far will you go to achieve a dream? That’s the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits — until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.

As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers — about her daughter’s fears, her own marriage, and herself — forces Katie to consider whether there’s any price she isn’t willing to pay to achieve Devon’s dream.

From a writer with “exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl” (Janet Maslin), You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of parental sacrifice, furtive desire, and the staggering force of ambition.

Book #2:

WhiteoutWhiteout by Adriana Anders (Length: 512 pages).  I’m not sure why I own this book, but I found it to be surprisingly well-written and an excellent action/thriller plot for a “romance novel”. (The love scenes are a bit too intense, in my opinion, but since I rarely read romance novels, maybe this is normal?)  Set in Antarctica, a killer virus is drilled out of the permafrost and is possibly going to be used as a biological warfare weapon (this part isn’t very clear).  While there is decent character development, I will say this isn’t relaxing COVID-19 reading given the killer virus topic. I do hope there is a sequel because of the cliffhanger ending.  

From the publisher:

With a storm coming and a killer on the loose, every step could be their last…

Angel Smith is finally ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her last day, the remote research station she’s been calling home is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and irritatingly gorgeous glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there’s nowhere left to run.

Isolated with no power, no way to contact the outside world, and a madman on their heels, Angel and Ford must fight to survive in the most inhospitable—and beautiful—place on earth. But what starts as a partnership born of necessity quickly turns into an urgent connection that burns bright and hot. They both know there’s little chance of making it out alive, and yet they are determined to weather the coming storm—no matter the cost.

Book #3:

The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekThe Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (Length: 322 pages).  I first became aware of this novel when I read about the plagiarism controversy involving the author JoJo Moyes whose novel “The Giver of the Stars” is alleged to be lifted from this one, with many similar scenes and characters.  I have no opinion on this controversy but I did choose to read this particular book instead, and I’m glad I did!  This is such an interesting account of the Pack Horse Librarian project started by FDR as part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration), which ran from 1935-1943.  The joy people had/have in treasured books and reading material, the extreme poverty of Appalachian Kentucky, and very well-drawn characters make this book hard to put down.  There are some very dark and sad parts of this novel, but it’s an important and worthwhile read.  

From the publisher:

The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome’s got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy’s not only a book woman, however, she’s also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy’s family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she’s going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.

Book #4:

American DirtAmerican Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Length: 387 pages).  This very controversial novel is my book club’s pick for the month of April.  I will say that, in a vacuum, I did enjoy this book.  It’s a very, very fast read, as it’s primarily plot driven (ie, will the two main characters, Lydia and Luca, a mother and son escaping cartel violence in their hometown of Acapulco, make it safely across the border of the United States).  The two main characters are the most well-developed, with many of the other secondary characters drawn pretty stereotypically.  There are several pulse-pounding moments of their journey which are written very descriptively and the author does do a good job of invoking empathy from her (very privileged) readers for the migrant experience, which is especially needed in these times.  The main issue of the controversy behind this book is that the author is a white citizen of this country who uses her husband’s immigration experience as one reason she’s empathetic to the migrant struggle.  One problem:  he’s Irish and white.   Excellent choice for a book club! 

From the publisher:

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Already being hailed as “a Grapes of Wrath for our times” and “a new American classic,” Jeanine Cummins’s American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.

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