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March has been an interesting month of releases for me. I’ve read a whole lot of books I really liked, but only one that really wowed me. What’s even more surprising about that is that the book is a domestic thriller. Who would have thought? I read a couple more books than the ones pictured here and reviewed all the books over on Instagram, so if you’re looking for my reviews a little closer to the books’ release dates, you should follow me there.
In my personal life it’s chaos! I’m still teaching from home and that is actually great. It has surprised me how much I’ve come to enjoy it. My home however, is in the middle of a remodel. Why I decided to dive into this right now, I’m not sure. I’ve had most of the inside painted, have ordered all new furniture for the living room (that won’t come until July or August) and my kitchen and main bathroom are being ripped out next week and then put together again all new. I’m very excited and have waited a long time to do this, but it’s a little crazy. Boxes are EVERYWHERE. I figure by September everything will be finished and I can truly enjoy my home. That’s enough of me, on to March 2021 Book Reviews!
The Best of the Month
Too Good To Be True by Carola Lovering
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Length: 352 pages
My Thoughts: Sometimes a title says it all, and that was certainly the case for me with 𝐓𝐎𝐎 𝐆𝐎𝐎𝐃 𝐓𝐎 𝐁𝐄 𝐓𝐑𝐔𝐄 by Carola Lovering. I can have a sticky relationship with domestic thrillers, but when one works for me, it really works.
This is the story of a man and the women he’s married to. Yes, I said “the women.” Through twists and turns Burke Michaels finds himself with two wives, and a whole lot of reasons why. I don’t want to reveal too much about the story itself, but loved hearing alternately from Burke, his longtime wife, Heather, and his young new wife, Skye. With each chapter the knots grow tighter until finally they begin to unravel. For me this was a propulsive read that I simply could not put down. One might even say it was “too good to be true.” Grade: A
Note: I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Other Books I Recommend
The Baddest Girl on the Planet by Heather Frese (debut)
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Length: 228 pages
My Thoughts: Based solely on the title, my expectations of this book were a little off. I expected a bad girl, a truly bad girl. Instead, I met Evie, a young woman thrust into unplanned motherhood in her early 20’s. Though she’s often seen herself that way, Evie isn’t bad. She’s just trying to figure out how to be a grown up.
Evie’s story moves around in time, jumping between her childhood, teens, young marriage and the present with each new chapter. As a reader, that took a little bit of adjustment, but Frese always kept it clear and the shifts between past and present really made the book interesting. Most of the chapters was told in first person by Evie, but a few shifted to the rarely used second person. It was a surprise each time the switch was made, but in the end, I really liked it and would love to talk to the author about why she chose to shift her telling.
Frese also did a beautiful job with the sense of place in 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘉𝘢𝘥𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘦𝘵. I always felt like I was right there in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Hers is a quirky, quiet kind of coming-of-age story that I think many will thoroughly enjoy. Grade: B
Note: I received a copy of this book from Blair in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Length: 464 pages
My Thoughts: I have loved all of Nada Hashimi’s books, so very much looked forward to reading 𝐒𝐏𝐀𝐑𝐊𝐒 𝐋𝐈𝐊𝐄 𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐑𝐒. Between her gorgeous writing and the sense of urgency in her stories, Hashimi has never let me down, and that is true of her latest, though it didn’t reach the level of her earlier books for me. This is the story of Sitara, a 10-year old girl who is present in the Presidential Palace when it’s taken in a coup where many, including her parents, are killed. It’s the story of what happened then and also years later when she’s a surgeon living in the U.S.
I liked the childhood timeline very much and appreciated learning some of the history of Afghanistan. I enjoyed the perspective of a child in the midst of tragedy and political upheaval, and I loved the relationship between Sitara and her adoptive mother. What didn’t work as well for me was the present day timeline and the woman Sitara had grown into. She felt a little off to me. The story itself didn’t have the same sense of urgency present in Hashimi’s earlier stories. I think Sitara’s “secret past” was a way to try to add that in, but for me it felt a bit too much. Despite all that, I flew through the novel, enjoying Hashimi’s writing, and many parts of the story. While this isn’t my favorite of her books, I still consider Nadia Hashimi to be an auto-buy author. Grade: B-
(If you’ve never read Hashimi, I highly recommend starting with my favorite, 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘰𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘴 𝘓𝘰𝘸.)
Note: I received a copy of this book from William Morrow in exchange for my honest thoughts.
What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Length: 341 pages
My Thoughts: 𝗪𝐇𝐀𝐓’𝐒 𝐌𝐈𝐍𝐄 𝐀𝐍𝐃 𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑𝐒 is just the sort of deep dive that I most like in a book. For nearly forty years, this compelling story follows two families in a small North Carolina community. One family is white, the other Black, neither is from money, and both have been rocked by tragedy. Around that, Coster built an incredible story with so much to like, including:
- Dual timelines, slowly bringing forward the full picture.
- The back and forth telling of each families’ story.
- Parallels between two hardened mothers who really couldn’t have been more different.
- A community divided by school integration.
- Women supporting women!
- Strained sibling relationships.
- Evolution of the characters.
- The full circle of life.
If I were to offer a single downside it would be that there were times the book slowed for me, though it always picked back up again. If you’ve yet to read 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵’𝘴 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴, I highly recommend changing that! Grade: B-
Note: I received a copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan (debut)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Length: 288 pages
My Thoughts: When I first heard 𝐀𝐂𝐓𝐒 𝐎𝐅 𝐃𝐄𝐒𝐏𝐄𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍 compared to Sally Rooney’s books, you can bet I perked up and paid attention! I seem to have a special place in my heart for those tortured young women, making bad decisions as they try to figure out life. That’s what I love about Rooney’s books and it’s also what shone in this book. Debut author Megan Nolan uses first person to tell the story of a 21-year old woman, in love with the idea of being in love. She becomes involved in a virulent relationship that despite her better instincts, she desperately clings to.
We never know the name of this woman who’s narrating her own story with the eyes and wisdom of someone a few years older, someone who has finally found a measure of freedom. She’s gained perspective on who she was and some of the reasons why she held on so tightly, why she allowed herself to be so marginalized. It’s a sad story, not always easy to read. Though like with Rooney’s protagonists, I felt for the inner struggles, the poor decision, and ultimately the growth of Nolan’s narrator. I also loved, that she could sympathized with her younger self and was willing to grant herself the grace of forgiveness. Grade: B
Note: I received a copy of this book from Little, Brown and Company (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Publisher: Avid Reader Press
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Length: 208 pages
My Thoughts: 𝐈𝐍𝐅𝐈𝐍𝐈𝐓𝐄 𝐂𝐎𝐔𝐍𝐓𝐑𝐘 by Patricia Engel isn’t an easy book for me to pull my thoughts together on. This is the story of a Colombian family torn apart by immigration laws in the U.S., their struggles to stay connected, and the journey to find their way back together. It’s a book that made me cry…multiple times. The story begins with 15-year old Talia who has just escaped from a girls’ correctional facility in the mountains of Colombia. She MUST get back to Bogata quickly to make her already scheduled flight to the U.S. where she will join her mother and siblings. Born in the U.S., Talia has spent most of her life in Colombia with her father and grandmother.
Engel takes the reader back to Talia’s parents, Elena and Mauro, their decision to leave Colombia, and all that happened as they lived undocumented in the U.S. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking story of a family’s love and longing for a better life. In that, I found 𝘐𝘯𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘺 so moving. It fell off a little for me when the story drifted into folklore and parts of Elena’s and Mauro’s childhoods. It was also a bit jarring when two thirds of the way into the story two new points of view surfaced. Though as I read on, I very much liked the role each played in the telling of this moving immigrant story. Grade: B-
Note: I received a copy of this book from Avid Reader Press (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton (debut)
Publisher: 37 Ink
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Length: 368 pages
My Thoughts: I first ran across 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐅𝐈𝐍𝐀𝐋 𝐑𝐄𝐕𝐈𝐕𝐀𝐋 𝐎𝐅 𝐎𝐏𝐀𝐋 & 𝐍𝐄𝐕 way back in the fall in an Edelweiss newsletter. I was immediately intrigued both by the obvious comparison and its own unique story. I held myself back from reading this book for MONTHS, but finally last week, it was time. Now my expectations were high. Very high. So did 𝘖𝘱𝘢𝘭 & 𝘕𝘦𝘷 live up to those expectations. Mostly, yes.
For those of you living under a rock, 𝘖𝘱𝘢𝘭 & 𝘕𝘦𝘷 uses an oral history format to tell the story of a short-lived 1970’s rock duo. (A duo that’s considering a long awaited reunion.) Nev grew up involved in the music scene in England, but had come to NYC to see if he could finally gain some traction. He’s eventually paired with Opal, a surprise choice from Detroit. Why a surprise? Well, she’s Black, bald, outspoken, and not quite the ballad lover that Nev is. Still, Opal moves to NYC and the two make a go of it. That’s the part of the story I liked best.
Things slowed down for me in the second part, which I’m not going to talk about, not wanting to ruin the story for anyone. I went into the second half of the book blind, and am glad I did. Just suffice to say, I thought some of the interviews went on a little long and added little to the overall story. By the third part of this book, the pace had really picked up, leaving me flying through the pages until the very end. I’m left feeling very impressed with debut author Dawnie Walton. She seamlessly wove together BIG personalities, serious issues of race in America, and the world of music, all in its own unique package. Grade: B+
Note: I received a copy of this book from 37 Ink (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.