What I Read: April 2021

Jeanine Cummings: American Dirt

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

I had wanted to read this book for so long but before I started I discovered that it had received a lot of criticism. I’m not going to go into the full details, and you can find out more online if you are interested but one of the issues raised was the fact the author is white and has never lived in Mexico. As this is a fiction book that raised a serious issue, I decided to ignore that, finish the book and review it for what it was – a fiction book. In spite of everything said about the novel, I found it to be captivating, informative, suspenseful, heartbreaking and hard to put down . It’s 400 pages long and I read it in two days. All the criticism didn’t lower the importance or relevance of the story, at least not for me. If nothing else, hopefully it will start conversations and awareness about the issue of immigration. The only criticism I have is that it was a bit slow after the initial shocking start. Otherwise, I would recommend everyone to read this book.


t.m. logan: Trust me

Ellen was just trying to help a stranger. That was how it started: giving a few minutes respite to a flustered young mother sitting opposite her on the train. A few minutes holding her baby while the mother makes an urgent call. The weight of the child in her arms making Ellen’s heart ache for what she can never have.
Five minutes pass. Ten. The train pulls into a station and Ellen is stunned to see the mother hurrying away down the platform, without looking back. Leaving her baby behind. Ellen is about to raise the alarm when she discovers a note in the baby’s bag, three desperate lines scrawled hastily on a piece of paper:”Please protect Mia.Don’t trust the police.Don’t trust anyone.” Why would a mother abandon her child to a stranger? Ellen is about to discover that the baby in her arms might hold the key to an unspeakable crime. And doing the right thing might just cost her everything . . . 

After reading ‘The Holiday’ and ‘The Catch’ I was very excited to read this book and I wasn’t disappointed! There are many red herrings that change your opinion about who is behind all of this, as you really do not know who to trust. I couldn’t figure it out until very late! The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because at times it was a bit slow and I got frustrated because no one wanted to give ANY answers to Ellen but they kept showing up at her doors! But the short chapters made it easy to fly through and the style of writing made it easy to get hooked from the beginning without needing several chapters to get into the story. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read a thriller with a unique storyline and some interesting characters to follow!


tim weaver: missing pieces

Rebekah is trapped on Crow Island and is 101 miles from the US mainland. Much of the island was destroyed by Hurricane Gloria in 1987 and has few facilities. How and why is she trapped? Meanwhile, soon to be retired Detective Frank Travis is searching for missing artist Louise Mason. How do these seemingly disparate stories connect?

Tim Weaver is one of my favourite authors. I have read most of his books from the David Raker series but this is his first standalone book and the first one set in America. Despite being 500 pages long it felt much shorter because I was hooked and I ended up finishing it in less than 48 hours! The story unfolds through dual timelines of ‘before’ and ‘now’ which fit seamlessly together. As with the author’s previous books, Missing Pieces is a perfectly paced read with an addictive mystery that keeps you fully engaged throughout. The tension-filled claustrophobic atmosphere is palpable as Rebekah searches for answers and struggles to survive on the island alone. At times you really have to suspend the disbelief but twists and turns compensate for that. I never came even close to guessing what was going on and who the villain was.


Lorraine Brown: Uncoupling

Hannah and Si are in love and on the same track – that is, until their train divides on the way to a wedding. The next morning, Hannah wakes up in Paris and realises that her boyfriend (and her ticket) are 300 miles away in Amsterdam!
But then Hannah meets Léo on the station platform, and he’s everything Si isn’t. Spending the day with him in Paris forces Hannah to question how well she really knows herself – and whether, sometimes, you need to go in the wrong direction to find everything you’ve been looking for… 

This book is a bit corny and predictable but honestly that’s why I read these type of books and this book is exactly what I needed -a little bit of escapism. I loved the detailed description of the beautiful Paris, it really transported me there. The characters are likeable and the story flows. Although this is billed as a romance I think it’s more of a love story to finding yourself and being who you want to be instead of fitting into some pre planned mould that society has laid out. I really enjoyed it, not just because I got to escape to Paris but because it is a charming, joyful, and uplifting story that has been well written and plotted.Recommended for anyone who loves Paris and a bit of romance!


megan goldin: the Night swim

On her way to Neapolis, North Carolina; podcast host Rachel Krall, finds a note on the dashboard of her car pleading for help. The writer of the note, Hannah, believes her sister was murdered 25 years ago and needs Rachel’s help to identify the murderer(s). Rachel is wary of helping Hannah, but soon gets pulled in to her story as she leaves more and more letters for Rachel to read about what happened to her sister, Jenny. At the same time, Rachel begins attending the trial of a famous swimmer accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. The two cases converge, leading to a sickening and sad revelation. 

This book is not easy to read. The author spends a lot of time examining how a rape trial plays out in the courtroom. The rapes of two female characters are also shared. It is heavy, dark, and emotional to read but it’s also important to the story, one that gets into the heavy topic of rape culture and what that means for our generation versus previous ones. The chapters alternate between Hannah and Rachel’s point of view as well as episodes from the podcast. There are two mysteries in this book and the author blended their stories perfectly. The transitions between the past and present were flawless. Both stories were interesting, gut wrenching and intriguing. It was well-paced and I was hooked from the first page. I’m really hoping this will become a series.


mike Gayle: all the lonely people

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment. But Hubert Bird is lying.The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul. Until, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on. Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out. Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .

A story of community, loneliness and unlikely friendships. The book successfully swaps between present day and London in the 50’s to tell the story about Hubert Bird. It successfully tackled themes like racism and loss but focuses on loneliness . It was very emotional at times but also very uplifting and inspirational. The only thing I didn’t like is that it wasn’t really ‘unputdownable’, and not as gripping as I hoped. There were some twists through the book but essentially this was a story about the power of community. Lots of different emotions are experienced but overall there is a sense of joy in this thought-provoking, delightful and very captivating read.


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