• Jaime Beth

February Reads

Updated: Mar 19

This was a good month of reading for me! I read 10 books over 28 days, which is a lot for me! I had my stack of finished books and told my daughter that perhaps I had a problem- that maybe reading this much wasn't normal. I worried that perhaps it was a sign of escapism and avoidance of reality. Both of which are probably true - during the pandemic I've read way more than usual, but also just had way more time to read than usual as well. She reminded me my addiction could be much worse and not to fret! So here I share my habit of devouring books with you! The first paragraph alongside each book is my review, which is followed by the publishers summary. I rate the books on a 5 star scale, 5 being the highest rating.

Book of Lost Friends

by Lisa Wingate

*****

Absolutely adore this book. I am a huge fan of historical fiction especially civil war, reconstruction and slavery stories that humanize the experiences of all. It is a heartbreaking story but also one that shows the strength of family, hope and perseverance. The story told between past and present and the ways they are connected in one community and home are done so well. I love the research element as shared through Benny and the heart wrenching experiences as shared by Hannie.


Lisa Wingate brings to life stories from actual "Lost Friends" advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold off.


Louisiana, 1875 In the tumultuous aftermath of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now-destitute plantation; Juneau Jane, her illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister; and Hannie, Lavinia's former slave. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following dangerous roads rife with ruthless vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and eight siblings before slavery's end, the pilgrimage westward reignites an agonizing question: Could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the seemingly limitless frontiers of Texas and, improbably, hope.


Louisiana, 1987 For first-year teacher Benedetta Silva, a subsidized job at a poor rural school seems like the ticket to canceling her hefty student debt--until she lands in a tiny, out-of-step Mississippi River town. Augustine, Louisiana, seems suspicious of new ideas and new people, and Benny can scarcely comprehend the lives of her poverty-stricken students. But amid the gnarled oaks and run-down plantation homes lies the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything.



The Lies that Bind

by Emily Giffin

**

I used to be a big fan of Giffin and was excited to hear she came out with a new book this year. This story of the desire to feel love, connection and direction in life was rather disappointing. Giffin uses 9/11 NYC in the story in a way that felt a bit crass and there were a lot of moments that made me dislike a lot of the characters and roll my eyes at their behaviors.


It's 2 A.M. on a Saturday night in the spring of 2001, and twenty-eight-year-old Cecily Gardner sits alone in a dive bar in New York's East Village, questioning her life. Feeling lonesome and homesick for the Midwest, she wonders if she'll ever make it as a reporter in the big city--and whether she made a terrible mistake in breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Matthew.


As Cecily reaches for the phone to call him, she hears a guy on the barstool next to her say, "Don't do it--you'll regret it." Something tells her to listen, and over the next several hours--and shots of tequila--the two forge an unlikely connection. That should be it, they both decide the next morning, as Cecily reminds herself of the perils of a rebound relationship. Moreover, their timing couldn't be worse--Grant is preparing to quit his job and move overseas. Yet despite all their obstacles, they can't seem to say goodbye, and for the first time in her carefully constructed life, Cecily follows her heart instead of her head.


Then Grant disappears in the chaos of 9/11. Fearing the worst, Cecily spots his face on a missing-person poster, and realizes she is not the only one searching for him. Her investigative reporting instincts kick into action as she vows to discover the truth. But the questions pile up fast: How well did she really know Grant? Did he ever really love her? And is it possible to love a man who wasn't who he seemed to be?



A Stranger in the House

by Shari Lapena

**

I always find a good mystery entertaining but this one felt a bit contrived. There were definitely some twists and turns that kept me guessing even until the very end, which I appreciate, but there was a lot that seemed a bit far fetched as well. I loved Stranger in the House, Lapena's previous novel, but this one veers far off course for me. The women of the book are both in love with the same man - one that has very few redeemable qualities. The motivations behind the characters actions are quite ridiculous.


In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A domestic thriller packed full of secrets, and a twisty story that never stops—from the bestselling author of The Couple Next Door


He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, “Glad to be home.”


Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.


There's a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.


The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.


Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won't stop asking questions.


Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.




The Forgotten Room

by Karen White, Beatriz Willams, Lauren Willig

**

Three different stories, time periods and three different authors...this book was like a puzzle and at times left me needing a diagram to keep things straight. Each of the main characters, Olive, Lucy and Kate were images of strength. The love, loss and dreams of the characters was well written. I just felt there were so many implausible coincidences and moments that sort of left you thinking, "Come on, really?" I think perhaps if there had been only 2 characters rather than 3 it may have been less of a jumble and more believable. I'm a big fan of Beatriz Williams for her historical fiction that reads with ease, but this one didn't resonate as much with me.


1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.


Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel's portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate? And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother? In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known. But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?


The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.


Pretty Things

by Janelle Brown

****

Nicole Kidman will star Amazon's adaptation of this novel.

Two wildly different women--one a grifter, the other an heiress--are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.


Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.


Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer--traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family's sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: A mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa's past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.


Nina, Vanessa, and Lachlan's paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.


This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.




The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

****

This book really made me think and ponder the what ifs of life. While I don't believe in the idea of parallel universes, it is intriguing to imagine a world where by making different choices your life would've taken different paths. We are faced with so many opportunities in our lives and I loved how this book made you stop and question the choices we've made and will continue to make. There were definite moments of despair in this book where I truly feel the pain that Nora was going through and wondered if she'd ever find happiness.


Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”


A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.


Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?


In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.


The Au Pair

by Emma Rous

****

Told through Seraphine, who is searching for answers and belonging and then through Laura 25 years earlier as the au pair living in a seaside country estate filled with secrets. I really enjoy books that are told in dual timelines and felt that was the best way for the author to convey the past and present confusion, lies, omissions and coincidences.

I appreciated the setting, I was intrigued by the questions but so much of the elements that come together to reveal the truth at the end seem so far fetched and beyond coincidental! I still enjoyed it and found it to be quick read where I was waiting to find out what could possibly explain this family! A little something for fans of historical fiction, family drama and mystery.


Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.


Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.


Who is the child and what really happened that day?


One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.




The Searcher

by Tana French

*

I have read and enjoyed other Tana French books, but this one was not one of them. I almost quit several times but kept hoping things would pick up. I enjoyed a few chapters at the end when it felt like the characters were coming to life and answers were being found. The first 200 pages dragged on. While the remote Irish setting was beautifully written it left a feeling of gloom and despair. Cal moved to find peace and it seemed impossible for him. Trey was faced with such hardships and even sparks of hope were often diminished by community gossip and troubles. I suppose this is more about my taste in books, less about this book itself. If you enjoy books told from a male perspective with some darkness and mystery this may be a book for you...just didn't suit me at all!


Retired detective Cal Hooper moves to a remote village in rural Ireland. His plans are to fix up the dilapidated cottage he's bought, to walk the mountains, to put his old police instincts to bed forever.


Then a local boy appeals to him for help. His brother is missing, and no one in the village, least of all the police, seems to care. And once again, Cal feels that restless itch.


Something is wrong in this community, and he must find out what, even if it brings trouble to his door.



The Last Story of Mina Lee

by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

****

Told through both Mina and Margot's experiences we are invited into their stories of the immigrant experiences both first generation and second generation. I enjoyed these stories and the ways in which through uncovering her mother's past helped Margot to also learn to forgive and love herself. I enjoyed the cultural insights through I do think that Kim went a bit overboard on sharing every single Korean meal eaten!



Margot Lee's mother, Mina, isn't returning her calls. It's a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother's life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.


Interwoven with Margot's present-day search is Mina's story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she's barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.



The Blue Bistro

****

by Elin Hilderbrand

I am a big fan of Hilderbrand's writing. She is a great author for light hearted beach reads that don't require a lot of in depth concentration or thinking! This one was a lovely delve into the restaurants of Nantucket and the experiences of the staff that work in one of the best known bistros. The tangle of a male and female friendship and its complications when a new love comes into the picture was the central focus of the love story within these pages. There was definitely some far fetched story lines, like how smoothly Adrienne just finds a posh job, a place to live and a new love, but if you don't think too deeply about all of that, its a great fast read!


Adrienne Dealey has spent the past six years working for hotels in exotic resort towns. This summer she has decided to make Nantucket home. Left flat broke by her ex-boyfriend, she is desperate to earn some fast money. When the desirable Thatcher Smith, owner of Nantucket's hottest restaurant, is the only one to offer her a job, she wonders if she can get by with no restaurant experience. Thatcher gives Adrienne a crash course in the business...and they share an instant attraction. But there is a mystery about their situation: what is it about Fiona, the Blue Bistro's chef, that captures Thatcher's attention again and again? And why does such a successful restaurant seem to be in its final season before closing its doors for good? Despite her uncertainty, Adrienne must decide whether to open her heart for the first time, or move on, as she always does.


Infused with intimate Nantucket detail and filled with the warmth of passion and the breeze of doubt, The Blue Bistro is perfect summer reading.



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