Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Reviews | Lots of Great Fiction

I've been reading quite a bit the past few months and have discovered lots of great fiction, new and old!

I picked up The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan on one of our trips to the local Barnes and Noble because a book about a bookstore always sounds interesting. This is the first Jenny Colgan book I've read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The story follows Nina Redmond as she makes a huge change when her job as a librarian in England ends due to budget cuts and the centralizing of library services in one big media tech center. Nina buys an old van in a small town in Scotland, converts it into a little bookshop, and moves out of her comfort zone and into a new life far away from the city. This is a great story about adventure and the beauty of nature and finding the right book for each reader and helping others and falling in love. I highly recommend it!

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See has been on my to-read shelf for a while. This book was highly recommend by librarians and members of our local book club, as well as many others. This is one of the best books I've read this year!

Li-yan and her family are Akha and live in a remote area of China. There are lots of customs native to the Akha that dictate their lives. Her a-man (mother) is the village healer, a greatly respected position (although still considered beneath all the males). Throughout this story, Li-yan experiences so many things:  the birth of a child out of wedlock and the decision to leave her at an orphanage; questioning her tribe's customs and rituals; separation from her family; and her education and training in the production of tea. There's a good bit of historical information about tea farming in China (as well as the One Child Policy). There are also glimpses into Li-yan's daughter's life through letters, therapy transcripts, homework assignments, etc. This story is beautifully told, with very well-developed characters, a page-turner - get it, read it!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms was one of the monthly free Kindle books offered to Amazon Prime members. It was a nice easy read, perfect vacation reading during our summer trip to the Atlantic northeast.

The main character, Amy, is a librarian who has been raising her two kids on her own since her husband just up and left three years before. As the school year comes to an end, he's back in town and wants to spend time with the kids. Amy ends up taking a trip to New York City for a librarian's conference. When the kids decide to stay with their dad all summer, she stays in New York and becomes part of a magazine article about "momspringas" (similar to Amish rumspringas). Of course, she meets a guy, and the summer is much more interesting than she had anticipated. With several twists and turns, I wasn't sure how the story would end, but it was a nicely satisfying ending.

The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann was another free book I had downloaded to my Kindle; however it was a much heavier read as it addressed the issue of molestation from various viewpoints.

Katie is twenty-four-years-old when her father is set to be released from prison after serving six years for molesting her best friend when the girls were in their teens. Throughout his time in prison, Katie visited her father in prison and he called her every Wednesday evening on her home phone (because he didn't trust calling on her cell phone). Katie believes her father is innocent, and this book follows her story as she reflects back on that time and tries to figure out what really happened. It's a fairly good read, with a few twists as family secrets are revealed.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman was a book club selection that I have mixed feelings about.

Eleanor Oliphant is somewhat of a naive misfit who has no filter or social skills. The story follows her as she lives her life alone and never strays from her routines - work, crosswords, Vodka, more Vodka on weekends, and Wednesday evening calls with her Mummy, who is apparently either in prison or an insane asylum. Eleanor has lots of strange ideas about social customs and rules because "Mummy always said" things should be a certain way. Things begin to change in her life when she discovers a page from the social worker's files and is befriended by the new IT guy at work. Raymond turns out to be a good friend and together they help an old guy who passes out on the street and meet his family.

Honestly, it's interesting and often pretty funny to read Eleanor's descriptions of various scenes - like how everyone at a wedding stands around pretending they like all the other people there. She uses great "crossword" words as she describes things. There were several twists and turns, one of which made me think the book was going to have a satisfying conclusion, then another that ruined it for me.

Robbie read Bird Box by Josh Malerman a while back and put it on my to-read shelf. In this story, when a strange "creature" is seen, it causes people to go  insane and kill themselves. The story alternates between Malorie's life beginning five years ago when the first creatures appeared and her current life traveling down river with two small children in search of a safe place.

In the beginning, Malorie, who is pregnant, answers a newspaper ad offering a place to live during this catastrophic time. She ends up living in a house with several others. They cover all the windows and only go outside if they are blindfolded. This is an interesting, engaging read that has been turned into a Netflix movie. We watched the movie, that stars Sandra Bullock, earlier this week. There are many changes in the storyline from the book, but it's a very well-done movie (although it's rated R and may cause nightmares!).

I've also read several young adult books recently.


At a little used book store on Prince Edward Island, I found a Trixie Belden book that I didn't own - #34:The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire. It was so FUN to revisit these "old friends" and add to my teenage collection after all these years

I had a free copy of Treasure Island by Robert Louise Stevenson on my Kindle. This is a classic that I'm not sure I've read before, although the story is so familiar ... I probably read this as a picture storybook at some point. This is a good read, told from Jim Hawkin's point of view, with a few chapters from the doctor's point of view, as they search for buried treasure.

When our youngest nephew mentioned his summer reading included Animal Farm by George Orwell, I decided it was finally time to read this classic as well. (I'm not sure why I didn't read it in high school; maybe because we read Watership Down instead.) This story is a great example/allegory of how easily animals/humans can forget and be re-conditioned to what's "normal" or "best" in a very short period of time. 

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Several of those sound interesting. The first reminds me of the premise of The Little Paris Bookshop which I read a couple years ago. I have Tea Girl and Animal Farm on my shelves too. I barely remember anything I read in high school, with the exception of disliking Lord of the Flies.

  2. A couple of those have been on my radar for awhile, but most of them were new to me. I've been buried in a couple of very long books---both worth the time, however.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations & reviews.


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