13 July 2020

21 Books: Catching Up with Reviews

Here's what I've read since my last check-in. All books were received for review or for a freelance assignment unless otherwise indicated. Where you see "AFM," please check out my full audiobook review on the AudioFile Magazine website. Also note that I've given fuller treatment to some of these titles over on Goodreads.

Recommended Books for Summer 2020
  • Age of Empyre by Michael J. Sullivan (Grim Oak Press, June 2020): This is the final installment of the Legends of the First Empire series. If you like great characters, terrific world building, and good action in your epic fantasies, then you need to read everything Sullivan has written. Better yet, listen to the audiobooks brilliantly read by Tim Gerard Reynolds. (personal collection)
  • Pile of Bones by Michael J. Sullivan (Audible Studios, Jan. 2020): This short story takes place in the same universe as the Legends of the First Empire series. If you're a fan, you need to listen to this, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds. (personal collection)
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, May 2020): This is a prequel to the Hunger Games series. I enjoyed seeing something of the background to the games and to Snow. AFM
Recommended Books for Summer 2020
  • The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner (St. Martin's Press, May 2020): Set in post-World War II England, a group of very different and differently broken people come together to help preserve Jane Austen's cottage and legacy in Chawton. Deserves the buzz; you don't have to be familiar with Austen to like this book.
  • Red Sky over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman (Mira, June 9): This book starts just a day before the attack on Pearl Harbor and is set on the Big Island of Hawaii. It's both a story of young woman trying to understand her late father as well as a tale of doing the right thing and protecting those in your care. It also has some romance.
  • Unreconciled by W. Michael Gear (Daw, May 2020): This is the fourth in the Donovan series set on a remote planet in the distant future. I love so much about these books, including the characters and the world building. Even more, though, I like the way Gear explores several issues connected to colonization of a "new" world and the connections between the colonizers and their motherland. As always for this series, I part read and part listen. Alyssa Bresnahan does a great job with the narration.
Recommended Books for Summer 2020
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Riverhead, June 2): An excellent novel that tells the story of teenage very light-skinned Black twins who run away from their small Louisiana town to NOLA. From there they lose track of each other as one disappears again, this time to marry a white man and pass into a new world of the rich and comfortable; the other marries an abusive man, whom she leaves to return to her childhood home. The story follows them and their daughters and focuses on the consequences of each woman's decisions. #OwnVoices AFM
  • The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon (Forever, June 9): A fun rom-com featuring three Black women who meet when they realize they've all been two-timed by the same guy. Humor and romance mixed with feminist issues. #OwnVoices AFM
  • What I'm Looking For by Karen Grey (Home Cooked Books, June 2020): Another fun rom-com, this one set in Boston in the 1980s. A female financial analyst who is trying to make it in a man's world meets a Shakespeare actor who is unsure about his ambitions. Good period details. Well-done audiobook (see Goodreads for more).
Recommended Books for Summer 2020
  • The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson (Ecco, May 2020): A beautiful book that is partly about the natural life of the eel and partly a moving tribute to the author's father. I was surprised and fascinated by what I learned about the eel and loved hearing the stories of Svensson's father. Give this book in translation a try. AFM
  • Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev (William Morrow, May 2020): An enjoyable take on Austen's classic novel featuring a chef, a soccer star, and a reality cooking show. #OwnVoices AFM
  • Mirgations by Charlotte McConaghy (Flatiron, Aug. 2020): I wrote about this on Instagram and Goodreads. Set in the not too distant future, this book explores relationships, climate change, and the Arctic tern. One of my favorites of the year. Narrator Barrie Kreinik tapped into the emotional core of the story.
Recommended Books for Summer 2020
  • Death of a Chimney Sweep by M.C. Beaton (Grand Central, 2012): The 26th in a fun, light mystery series featuring a village copper who solves all the cases in a small Highland town. Love the characters, the Scottish setting, and the mysteries. Narrator Graeme Malcolm is a pleasure to listen to. (personal collection)
  • The Bothers York by Thomas Penn (Simon & Schuster, June 2020): My favorite way to learn history is to combine listening with reading, which is what I did here. Penn makes the complexities of the War of the Roses accessible, and I'm beginning to get a handle on this period of British history. Roy McMillan held my attention with his expression and sense of pacing, though he could have more clearly distinguished direct quotations from the narrative.
  • The Wedding Thief by Mary Simses (Back Bay Books, July 2020): A rom-com on the surface with some deeper themes of family, sisters, forgiveness, and understanding. Some of the characters went a little too far in their antics for my tastes, but all in all fine summer read.
Recommended Books for Summer 2020
  • Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing (Berkley, May 2020): Good start to a new cozy mystery series. I liked the details of the Boulder, Colorado, setting as well as the introduction to the characters and premise of the series. The mystery was well presented with good red herrings. AFM
  • The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni (William Morrow, April 2020): I read this earlier in the year and forgot to write about it. A Gothic story of a young woman who inherits land and a castle in the Italian Alps from a relative she never knew she had. A dream come true? Not necessarily. Can't say more without spoiling it, but this is one of my favorites of the year.
  • When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald (Gallery, Jan. 2020): This is by far my favorite book of the the year right now.  A super coming-of-age story about a young woman who has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Narrator Phoebe Strole's performance is amazing. (See Instagram and Goodreads for details.)
Recommended Books for Summer 2020
  • Death of a Kingfisher by M.C. Beaton (Grand Central, 2012): The 27th Hamish Macbeth mystery gave me all I expect from this series. Graeme Malcolm narrated. (personal collection)
  • The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton (Berkley, June 2020): Three women who need change cross paths during the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, which caused much damage and many deaths in the Florida Keys. Loved the period details and was fooled by a couple of twists. AFM
  • The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls by Ursula Hegi (Flatiron, Aug. 2020): I had mixed feelings about this book about three women and their children, set in the late nineteenth century in Germany along the shores of the North Sea. Maybe a little too unreal for me? AFM


rhapsodyinbooks 7/13/20, 6:53 AM  

Sounds like some fun reading in this group. I have a couple of them on hold at the library. Funny I am reading a book set in the 1660s and eel pie is all the thing. I hated even reading about eels - being eaten, anyway. Maybe I will skip The Book of Eels...

JoAnn 7/13/20, 8:43 AM  

I read The Vanishing Half last week and loved it. My daughter listened and said the audio is excellent... I'm tempted to listen now, too!

Karen White 7/13/20, 9:50 AM  

Honored to have my book included in your roundup!
Reading The Vanishing Half for my book club right now. Such a different tone from her first book but I'm into it.
The Boyfriend Project is on my TBR list; glad to hear you liked it.

Kathy Martin 7/13/20, 10:21 AM  

Such a nice assortment of books. I'm really getting into audiobooks but have thus far stuck to books I have already read. Some of your science fiction choices have caught my attention for when I finish David Weber's Honor Harrington series and the spin-off series. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Kay 7/13/20, 10:39 AM  

I've added a couple to my list of books to try - especially The Ancestor. Love that cover!

shelleyrae @ book'd out 7/13/20, 10:49 AM  

Lots of excellent titles Beth, thanks for sharing your thoughts on them.

Wishing you a great reading week

Tina 7/13/20, 10:58 AM  

The Jane Austen book keeps poppping up on various sites and I still don't have a copy. It looks very interesdting to me. Oooo, the Ancestor is definitely one I want!

sherry fundin 7/13/20, 12:51 PM  

lots of books. sounds like you enjoyed them all
sherry @ fundinmental

Yvonne 7/13/20, 2:34 PM  

So many great looking books. I enjoyed Killer Chardonnay. I need to get back to reading M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series. I haven't tried the other series yet, but eventually I will. The Last Train to Key West looks really good and that's on my list to read. The Jane Austen Society looks really good.

I hope you have a great week!

Vicki 7/13/20, 3:58 PM  

I see a few that I'm considering. I hope you have a great week!

I'm so behind on reviews :(

Jen at Introverted Reader 7/13/20, 4:19 PM  

I need to give Michael Sullivan a try. Your Austen spin-offs caught my eye as well. Persuasion is my favorite of Austen's works and it always seems to be overlook in favor of Pride and Prejudice. I'll have to look at that spin-off. Enjoy your week!

Sue Jackson 7/13/20, 4:58 PM  

Ah, my son loved Michael Sullivan's the Riyria Chronicles, so I went to my list (ok, spreadsheet - I'm a total geek) of books to get him and found I'd already written down this other Sullivan series...based on your recommendation!

I've been hearing great things about The Vanishing Half & really want to read it. Migrations and When We Were Vikings are both new to me, but sound fantastic.

Looks like you've had some outstanding recent reading months!


2020 Big Book Summer Challenge

Greg 7/13/20, 8:06 PM  

Sounds like a fantastic line up! I've been curious about the Hunger games prequel, and I think the Jane Austen Society sounds nice too.

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/13/20, 9:20 PM  

There are so many books here that I have on my TBR list- Recipe for Persuasion at the top as I loved her last novel.

Les in Oregon 7/15/20, 2:07 PM  

Migrations is high on my list, so I'm happy to learn that you enjoyed it so well. The Vanishing Half has gotten a lot of positive press and I'll get to it eventually, but I hope it hasn't been over-hyped.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 7/16/20, 2:15 PM  

Thanks for sharing these. I've been very curious about Vanishing Half and the new Hunger Games book especially. I am glad to hear your thoughts.

Daryl 7/24/20, 1:19 PM  

late to the party but there are a few here i need to read .. thanks/1

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