Sunday, October 29, 2017

Catching Up - (5) short book reviews

My reading has picked up a bit but my reviewing, not so much, so I thought I'd try and play "catch up" with a few mini-book reviews.

The Almost Sisters; Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow and Harper Audio - 2017 
(narrated by author)

Leia Birch Briggs illustrate graphic novels and, at the age of 38, she finds herself pregnant.  The father is a groupie that she met at a convention and, the fact that Leia is white and the baby's father is black is sure to cause more than a little commotion with her southern Alabama family.

In addition to Leia's troubles, her step sister's marriage is in trouble, and her 90 year old grandmother Birchie has dementia.  To complicate things, it seems Birchie, has more than a few secrets of her own she has been hiding. As Leia returns home to help get her grandmother's affairs in order we begin to learn more about her past.

A fun, multi generational novel, complete with a witty protagonist.  Some of the story seemed a bit over the top at times, but, overall, a fun listen/read.

3.5/5 stars

The Deep Dark Descending; Allen Eskens 
Seventh Street Books - 2017

A follow-up to The Heavens May Fall, The Deep Dark Descending is a book that I'd hesitate to recommend if you haven't read the previous book first. (There are some references to that story contained in this novel, but not enough background info IMO).

In this installment, Detective Max Rupert is back and this time he seems determined to settle the score with person he believes was responsible for the death of his wife, Jenni, in a hit and run accident 5 years earlier.

Set in MN in a bleak, frigid winter, this was a haunting story that makes you wonder whether vigilante justice will win out.  I was happy I read this follow-up story even though it moved a bit slow at times.

Rating 3.5/5 stars

Camino Island; John Grisham
Doubleday / Random House Audio - 2017
(narrator - January Lavoy)

This Grisham novel was a departure from his earlier legal thrillers and court dramas but, many book lovers will be drawn into this story about literary came, rare books and book stores.

The story begins with a brazen heist by several small time crooks at the Princeton University Library.  Five of the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, priceless, but insured, are taken.  The insurance company enlists the help of Mercer Mann, a novelist with a serious case of writer's block to look into some leads to determine whether she might be able to lead them to the priceless (in excess of $25 million) loot.

Fun, engaging characters, a lighter but fun listen.

3.5/5 stars

The Music Shop; Rachel Joyce
Random House - 2017

By the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and, The Love Song of Miss Queen Hennessy, The Music Shop turned out to be a sweet story that not only deals with music but about wounded people and second chances as well.

The story is set in the late 1980's where Frank owns a "music shop" in a somewhat rundown area of town.  Although he sells all kinds of music and can recommend just the right piece for each customer who enters his shop, the one thing Frank refuses to do is to change with the times and to begin selling CDS, the latest rage. For Frank, nothing will ever replace vinyl.

One day a mysterious woman enters his shop.  Her name is Isle Bachmann, but before he ever learns her name or anything about her, something happens and she's gone in a flash.  He soon finds himself somewhat obsessed with finding out who the lovely woman in the green pea coat is and what brough her to his shop.

Part mystery but, this novel, for me was all about quirky Frank, a charming, wounded man who is easy to root for.  Readers who enjoy reading about music and like flawed characters should give this one a try.

4.5/5 stars

The Muralist, B.A. Shapiro
Algonquin Books - 2015

The Muralist, was our October book group selection and, for the first time in a while, it was a book that all (12) of us enjoyed to some degree.

The story begins in 2015 at a New York art appraisal house where (3) paintings are discovered by Danielle, a worker there.  Danielle, happens to be the great-niece of Alize Benoit, an artist who disappeared in 1940 when the country was preparing for war.  Danielle sees similarities in these works and those of her great-aunt's other paintings.

A parallel story, that of Alize, begins in 1939 where we learn about her work, the work of other artists and the plight of the Jews and the effects of the Great Depression. Interesting information about President Roosevelt's WPA (Work Progress Administration) and, the efforts of his wife Eleanor to further the works of various artists.

This was a work of fiction but much was based on fact.  There was so much to discuss from the works of great artists to the frightening similarities of the world of politics then and now.  I enjoyed reading about abstract expressionism and great artists as well.

4/5 stars


  1. I want to read The Muralist and The Almost Sisters soon. It sounds like I need to add The Music Shop to my wish list.

  2. That was a nice variety of books and we enjoyed your reviews too!

  3. Diane, I enjoyed reading your mini reviews! The Music Shop and The Muralist interest me most right now. Have a terrific week ahead!

  4. I love January LaVoy narration and may check out the Grisham book on audio. The Music Shop looks good. Have a great week.

  5. I really liked The Art Forger by Shapiro. Glad you and your group liked the one you read. I used to read Joshilyn Jackson but it has been a while. I am happy for you that your reading picked up. Thanks for the mini reviews!

  6. Adding The Music Shop to my GR list. Sounds like one I'd enjoy.

  7. I really liked The Life We Bury. This one doesn't sound as good. And I keep seeing Joshilyn Jackson. Maybe there's another one I should try first.

  8. I had not heard of The Music Shop but I loved Harold Fry! I love that bright cover too.

  9. So glad you have gotten over your reading slump! And your mini reviews to catch up are a GREAT idea - I really need to do that - I have been perpetually a month behind all year on reviews.

    I commented on the Eskens books on your Goodreads post today. And I loved Harold Fry - I didn't realize she had another book out - thanks for the heads up!

    Enjoy your books this week -


    Book By Book

  10. I need to catch up on the Allan Esken books! I really enjoyed his first (The Life We Bury). And, it's been a long time since I've read anything by John Grisham, but I enjoy his departures from the legal thrillers, so Camino Island may be one to try on audio. Thanks for all the mini reviews!

    1. This Esken novel was my least favorite for some reason but, still glad I read it.

  11. The Music Shop totally caught my attention. I'm a big fan of 80s music so I can imagine this book will have me thinking of favorite tunes from my high school days!

  12. I think I'll be adding The Music Shop to my list.

  13. You've reviewed a Grisham I haven't heard of before, boy is that man prolific. I just bought his latest, which is a lawyer drama.

  14. The Music Shop is going on my list!

  15. I understand the reviewing slump! I'm still reading, but writing has taken a hit. I'm trying to be more organized and focus, but it hasn't been easy. And even visiting blogs has been slow for me. Ugh. I need to get the cobwebs out of my head.

    The Music Shop sounds like a book I might like.


Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thanks again for visiting.