Let me start by saying that I'm sorry for the overwhelming amount of black and white on the page. I usually like to break up my writing with photos, but due to my poor planning, I didn't take a lot of photos of the library books I had this month... and there were a lot of them. I've been using the library way more often but I vow to remember to take pictures before I return books from here on out. Now scroll on and enjoy some book reviews of everything I read in March!
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams
I think if I had to pick a favorite genre, it would be historical fiction. There's just something that's so transporting about reading a novel set in a different time and place. This novel by Williams follows two different storylines: the first is the story of Violet Schuyler, a girl from a well-off family who forgoes the life laid out for her to study physics in London in 1914. There she meets and married Dr. Walter Grant and navigates her precarious position as a woman physicist in pre-war Germany after they move there for her husband's job. The other storyline follows Vivian Schuyler, Violet's niece, in 1964 Manhattan. After receiving a strange package on a Saturday, Vivian uses her sleuthing skills and leverages her position at Metropolitan magazine to look into the disappearance of her aunt at the start of the war. The weaving of both these tales had me on the edge of my seat and Vivian tries to ascertain what exactly happened to Violet Grant (and a possible lover) when things started to go south in Germany. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I felt like I was in a completely different place while reading. Williams's writing is enchanting and I can't wait to read more by her in the future.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
In an attempt to become more involved in my community (we've been living in Shorewood for a year now and know absolutely no one) and utilize the library more (the one half a mile from our house), I decided to join the book clubs they offer a few times throughout the month. I started with the True Story Book Club and then joined A Novel Idea Book Club where the first read was Jiles's short novel about a Texas man who was a former soldier and now rides around reading Texans the news from various newspapers. I'll say that the concept interested me. What a cool idea to go around reading people the news, especially in the 1800s when such things weren't as accessible to those in rural areas. After a reading one night, Britt Johnson asks Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd to help in the transport of an orphan girl taken by Indians back to her aunt and uncle in southern Texas. What ensues is a long journey both in distance and in growth. Readers watch as Kidd develops a relationship with the young Johanna as he teaches her how to act in society, speak English and even defend herself from those who wish her harm. While the storyline is definitely interesting, I felt that the ending was predictable and that this book could've been shorter even. I felt myself losing interest at a lot of points in the novel which is why it was just okay for me. They are making a movie starring Tom Hanks as Captain Kidd, so I'll be interested to see how they adapt it to the big screen.
The Holdout by Graham Moore
A good whodunit with some twists and turns is always a great read for me. I find that they go by quickly and are hard to put down. The Holdout was one of those reads for me. Maya was the lone juror who voted not guilty in a trial 10 years ago and changed the minds of the other 11 jurors to vote the same, freeing a man accused of murder. Now, they've come back together at the hotel they were sequestered in during the trial to discuss the verdict in a documentary. There, a juror who had information that would completely change the case is killed in Maya's room. Now she's on the run from authorities who are charging her with murder while she tries to solve the mystery of the murder 10 years ago and the murder of the other juror. I could not predict where this was going to go. Every time I thought I knew, something completely unthought of happened. I loved every page of this book and Moore's writing as well. I have a love for Criminal Minds and Blue Bloods and the like so any kind of crime procedurals or legal thrillers are like a siren call to me. If you're looking for that novel that's going to surprise you at every turn, I HIGHLY recommend this one.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
I will start off by saying that I was a little disappointed by this novel. Only a little. I had heard so many great things about it, so I was very excited when I was notified that it came into the library. The only thing I was disappointed by was the lack of writing about the plane crash itself which is the basis for the story. I get why there was so much build-up of all the others on the plane. They become part of Edward's healing through the letters he reads and writes to the family members of those lost. He was the sole survivor from the crash and now must navigate life as an orphan living with his aunt and uncle. His story of growth and healing following such a tragedy was beautiful and had me tearing up at some points. That part lived up to expectations most definitely. Maybe it's my interest in technical knowledge that left me wanting more details on the crash. Overall, it was a great read and definitely one I would recommend to others.
Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
That True Story Book Club I mentioned earlier? This is that book club. For March, we read this story about the Washingtons' slave Ona Judge who escaped during his second term in office. I'm a definite history nerd so the book club concept overall speaks to me, but this book in particular really grabbed my interest. It's always illuminating to see different perspectives of people you think you know well, especially people like the first president and first first lady. Dunbar's writing was well researched but as we talked about last night in our Zoom meeting about the book, she does fill in a lot of blanks with "we can assume" or "we can guess." There isn't a lot of documentation about this slave, especially because she was a runaway, so a lot has to be inferred from what little documentation there was and what kind of life slaves typically led in 1700s Virginia, where the Washingtons' lived, and Pennsylvania, as Philadelphia was the first nation's capital. The story ended up reading more like a narrative than a historical account, but I personally didn't feel like that detracted from the research and work Dunbar put into this biography.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
HOLY SHIT. This book had me scared out of my mind at some points, to be honest. I am a complete chicken so reading this book at night was probably a horrible decision but I couldn't put it down. Like 'The Secret Life of Violet Grant', this book follows two storylines: one about a girl who goes missing in the 1980s from a motel she worked the night shift at and the other about her niece trying to discover what happened to her 30 years later. The book begins with Viv's disappearance and then goes back to follow her storyline from her arrival in Fell, New York to what really happened the night she seemingly up and left her job at the Sun Down Motel. Woven throughout is Carly's arrival in the same town and her hunt to find out about her aunt. St. James's writing had my heart pounding and I think that any author who can make you feel something so physical while reading is worthy of a five-star rating. I partially guessed the ending but there were still some surprises in store that I had no idea were coming. I just absolutely loved this novel.
The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
If you don't know, I co-host a chapter of the book club Literary League with my BFF MacKenzie. Our March pick was this debut by Daré about a young girl named Adunni in Nigeria. After the death of her mother, Adunni is sold by her father to be the third wife of a man in their village. There, she befriends the second wife who is pregnant. But after the death of the second wife, Adunni knows she will be blamed for the circumstances of her death and decides to run away. With the help of a woman her mother knew and her son, she escapes to Lagos where she becomes the maid to a wealthy family. Her only desire through all of this is to go to school so she can become a teacher one day. Through the help of the cook and a local woman she meets named Ms. Tia, Adunni enters into a scholarship program for young women in serving positions. Though again, I felt the ending was predictable, Daré does such a beautiful job of writing this novel, especially in terms of the language. Adunni's English skills aren't the best but you can see her improving as the novel goes along, especially toward the end. I really liked this book and the different perspective it provided from my typical reads.
Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
I've just accepted the fact that I don't really enjoy Hemingway. I can appreciate his writing style and influence, most definitely, but I just can't stay interested very long. This was the third book I've read by him, again a collection of his short stories like 'Winner Take Nothing'. These stories focus on the difference in a man's life when he doesn't have the softness of a woman with him. Overall they were a great example of his writing skill, but, quite frankly, boring. I do have a couple of his actual novels on deck so I'm hoping that I'll be more interested in those since it carries one storyline throughout instead of switching stories every few pages or so.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This book was a recommendation from my friend MacKenzie. She loved this book so I had high hopes for it. Eleanor Oliphant is an average girl living and working at an average office job that she's been at ever since she left college. She has a set routine: pizza and wine on Friday nights, vodka on the weekends and a dreaded phone call with her mother every Wednesday. She also has occasional visits from social workers to check how she's doing. Overall, she's average but has a definite oddball personality. But then she falls in love with a musician and is convinced he will be the love of her life. After some definite stalking and a new makeover, she's ready to finally meet him, but does he live up to expectations? The answer blows open Eleanor's past and what happened to make her into the person she is. With the help of a work colleague, she will come to face her demons whether she wants to or not. Initially, I wasn't loving the book, and I told MacKenzie as much, but she told me to push on. I did because I'm too stubborn to DNF a book, and the ending just turned the whole thing around for me. An absolute five stars for Eleanor.
The Glittering Hour by Iona Gray
To finish off the month, I returned to my tried and true historical fiction love. This one had been sitting on my shelf since December and I have been trying to get rid of all the BOTM books in my TBR. (Shameless plug for my BOTM links goes here: https://www.mybotm.com/z4fxzvdgjlh?show_box=true) I will say that this book kind of dragged for me. It was another one that followed two storylines. (I guess I really gravitate toward those kinds of books?) The first being Selina's in 1920s London when she was apart of the Bright Young People. The second storyline focused on her daughter Alice in the 1930s while she stays at her grandparents' estate and goes on a treasure hunt to find out about Selina's past. Again, I predicted a lot of points in the storyline. I feel that there isn't a lot of writing that is truly original anymore in their plotlines so I feel a little disappointed at the end of a lot of books, though sometimes I feel satisfied at how the end even if I already have an idea. I did prefer to read Alice's storyline as she discovered things about her mother's past because I feel that I haven't read anything from that perspective before. The ending, too, I felt was really sweet and made me tear up a bit. I would say this was almost a four-star read because of that.
And that's everything I read in March! I've been taking it slow so far in April as I felt like I've been rushing through books for the sake of reading them instead of reading them to enjoy them. I've only read three so far which is perfectly fine with me. Be sure to check back at the end of the month for reviews of all of my April reads as I am determined to get them out in a timely manner this time! Also check out my Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/88312634-halle-olson) to see everything I'm currently reading!
What books did you read in March? What were some of your favorites? Let me know in the comment section. Also, please feel free to leave feedback about my reviews as I'm still new to this and I want to improve!
Shop my picks below!
Disclosure: All Amazon links are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a small commission off of your purchase should you choose to buy via links.