April Book Reviews

Hey, everyone! We’re wrapping up another month, so it’s time for my monthly book review post. My reading slowed some this month because I’ve been busy working on my WIP (more about that later), but I still finished several books. I had previously read other books by Anita Dickason and Robbie Cheadle, but the reads were first-time reads for the other authors.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Nightingale follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabel, who lived in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The book opens in 1995 with one of the sisters (we don’t know which one until the end) reflecting back on those years.

Their mother is dead and their father, who fought in the Great War, is a broken man who doesn’t know how to love them. Both women end up risking their lives to save others—Isabel helps downed allied fighters escape and Vianne helps in hiding Jewish children whose parents have been sent to POW camps.

A few things kept me from giving this five stars. There are several inconsistencies and a few unbelievable events such as Isabel leaving the house in “knee-deep snow,” then finding and stealing a bicycle. She rushes through the streets to a place where she hides it (and isn’t caught). Hello? Riding a bike in knee-deep snow? Any Nazi soldier could have easily followed the tracks.

I thought the author overused similes. I’m of the opinion that a few are okay but show me something, don’t tell me. Also, the book was a little too long for my reading taste, but overall the positives outweighed the negatives for me. Fiction or non-fiction, we need books that tell us the truth about history.

There is a quote in the book that sums it up, “You girls will be part of the generation that goes on, that remembers.” Sadly, many today have forgotten or they want to erase the dark times because it doesn’t fit their agenda.

Overall, I give this 3.5 stars rounded up to four for review purposes.

All He Has Left by Chad Zunker

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was a quick read with a good premise. The story started well, but then sort of went off the rails. Too many unbelievable events. A former high school football coach, Jake Slater, is suspected of murder, Not just one, but two, and then a third.

He not only evades the local police, but the FBI, and a hired assassin. And often in broad daylight. There’s one scene in which Jake is fleeing the assassin. He escapes by hopping on a freight train. And the train has a caboose! Really? Cabooses haven’t been used since the 1980s. The author is only about forty years behind times on that one.

The solution was predictable and the ending “meh.’ I’ll give it a “generous” three stars. At least I got this one free.

My Father’s House by Patrick Dorn

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Short and easy to read – only thirteen pages and that includes the author’s note and copyright. I feel this could have been expanded, but I guess a longer story wouldn’t have fit the author’s purpose. An okay read, but short, and I felt something was lacking in the ending.

Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert by Erica Elliott

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I don’t read a lot of memoirs and non-fiction but as I’m interested in learning more about Native Americans, in particular the Diné, or Navajo, I decided to give this book a try. I’m glad I did.

Erica Elliott’s story begins in 1971 when she was a young teacher on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. After the first week, she was so discouraged she wanted to give up. Her students wouldn’t communicate with her and the differences in cultures made certain situations awkward.

After listening to her father’s wise words, “Give it three months,” and with the help of a Navajo teacher assistant, Erica began to learn the language and customs. Her students warmed to her, so much that they began inviting her into their homes. There she learned more about their customs, such as how to make traditional fry bread and weave traditional rugs.

“The People” embraced her and eventually, she was able to participate in some of their ceremonies. During this time, she witnessed miraculous healings, including the healing of a tumor on her neck after elders prayed for her. Erica also spent one summer living and working with a Navajo family herding their sheep where she continued to embrace their simple lifestyle.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I feel I have a much better understanding of the Diné (as they call themselves) from a non-native perspective. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about the Navajo people.

Murder’s Legacy by Anita Dickason

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Murders Legacy is the second book of Anita Dickason’s Tori Winters Mystery series. I thought the first book was good. The second one was even better.

Tori Winters has settled into her new life in Granbury, Texas. She has plans to renovate the historic mansion she inherited from her grandmother and turn it into a bed and breakfast. Tori’s great-grandfather, who built the mansion, was a notorious gangster who also held private gambling parties in the house. In addition to the house, there is also a tunnel leading from it to the outside, possibly to allow anyone attending the illegal gambling sessions to escape.

When part of the tunnel caves in during a construction project, Tori and the contractor discover a skeleton with a gunshot wound to the head. It’s estimated to have been buried for around eighty years.

They notify the police and soon reporters are on the scene. The following day, a city inspector pulls her construction permit until it can be determined if the property is safe. Things go from bad to worse when a tabloid publishes a story stating the house is unsafe and should be demolished. The city attorney announces he plans to conduct an inspection of the property with the intent to condemn it.

In the meantime, Tori is set on discovering the skeleton’s identity and who was responsible for his murder. Her inquires lead to several mysterious events—the former housekeeper was attacked in her home after Tori makes plans to visit her and inquire about the skeleton. One construction worker is involved in a hit-and-run accident, and another’s house was set on fire.

Who is behind all this and why? It’s obvious someone with a lot of clout is pushing for the demolition of the home.

Dickason has a knack for keeping the reader guessing until the end. Her characters—especially Tori—are well-developed. I enjoyed the small-town setting as well. I hope there will be more books in this series, and the last line of the book hints there will be.

Lion Scream by Robbie Cheadle

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lion Scream is a book of syllabic poetry about South African wildlife. Robbie Cheadle’s passion for preserving not only endangered species but also the environment and concern about climate change. The book contains not only poems but information about each breed of animal and its status on the endangered list.

Cheadle also has photos and links to videos she has taken during her various visits to game preserves. I came away more educated about the plight of these animals. I especially liked the section on lions but enjoyed them all.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys poems and wishes to learn more about South Africa’s amazing animals.

That’s it for this month! I’ll be back at the end of May with more reviews. In the meantime, don’t forget to visit The Well Read Fish for reviews of Christian Fiction books.

Book Reviews: Desolation Mountain, Fox Creek, and Deadly Keepsakes

Hey, Readers. With my ongoing book tour for Menagerie, I haven’t posted any book reviews lately. Since I don’t have a Tuesday guest spot this week, I thought it would be a good time to catch up with my reviews. Today, I’m featuring three books, two of which are part of the Cork O’Connor series. (I’m now caught up on that one.) So, here we go.

Desolation Mountain

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reading a book in the Cork O’Connor series is like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes. While I like some of the books better than others, this seventeenth novel in the series is one of my favorites.

Stephen O’Connor is now twenty years old. He desires to be a Mide, a member of the Grand Medicine Society, but he’s also spiritually and physically wounded. He has had visions in the past, namely his mother’s death and of the men who shot him. Desolation Mountain opens with Steven having another vision. This time it involves an eagle, a small boy shooting an arrow at it, and the bird falling from the sky.

Stephen, desperate to know the meaning of the vision seeks advice from his mentor, the ancient Mide, Henry Meloux.

Soon after, Cork, as a member of Tamarack County Search and Rescue, receives a call that a plane carrying a United States senator has gone down on Desolation Mountain located on the Iron Lake Reservation.

What follows is a tangled mix of people ascending on Aurora—FBI, NTSB, and other government agencies. Something is amiss and it’s hard to determine if the agencies are working together or against one another. Add to that a group of military-looking personnel with an unscrupulous leader and it’s hard to know who to trust.

Cork, along with Stephen, begins his own investigation of the crash. While on the mountain, he meets Bo Thorson, a character from a Krueger stand-alone novel, and one whom Cork has worked with in the past. Even though Cork trusted the man, I wasn’t completely sure of his motives.

The plot had a lot of twists and turns but wraps up with a satisfying conclusion. As usual, Henry plays a key role as does Cork’s wife Raney, and his son-in-law Daniel. You’ll find familiar characters from past novels, such as Tom Blessing, Isaiah Broome, and Sara LeDuc. The introduction of new characters keeps this series fresh.

While Stephen finds the answer to his vision, at least in part, the book leaves with an open-ended message regarding Henry. Having already read book eighteen, which is in essence a prequel to the series, I’m both eager and feel I will be a little sad to read the next volume, Fox Creek.

There is one quote from Henry that stood out in my mind. Wise words from a wise man. “Who among us knows how many of these moments we have left? I try to gather them, like a squirrel preparing for a long winter.”

Fox Creek

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I both looked forward to and dreaded this nineteenth installment of the Cork O’Connor series. I dreaded it for fear of the death of a favorite character.

Kruger’s style of writing was a bit different in this one as it’s written in present tense. The novel is in parts and comes from four characters’ points of view—Cork’s, Rainy’s, Stephens, and The Wolf’s. As a reader who once disliked present tense, I thought it added to the suspense in this case.

A businessman from the Twin Cities area who is looking for his wife, Delores Morriseau, seeks Cork’s assistance. Delores is a stranger who comes to Henry Meloux seeking shelter and Henry’s wisdom. When it becomes clear, Delores is in danger, and the man seeking her is an imposter, Henry takes both Delores and his niece Rainy (Cork’s wife) into the Boundary Waters.

There, they are sought by four men, including one known as The Wolf, who has experience in tracking. It soon becomes apparent that the century-old Henry is much wiser. It then becomes a game for The Wolf to track him down.

In the meantime, Cork and Delores’s brother-in-law, go into the Boundary Waters in search of their family members. Delores’s real husband, Lou, is missing, and his brother fears the men are tracking her hoping she’ll lead them to him. The stakes are high as the men will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Stephen also plays an important role, traveling to the town where Delores’s in-laws live. Together with their daughter, Belle, Stephen goes to Lou’s home in search of clues.

The action starts on page one and doesn’t let up until the end. I won’t give away endings, but I will say I was prepared to shed a few tears. The ending does leave open the possibility of an impending romance for Stephen. I will eagerly await book twenty.

Deadly Keepsakes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After reading a friend’s review and recommendation, I had this book on my TBR list for a while. From the start, the setting intrigued me—the town of Granbury, Texas.

When Tori Winters, a hospice nurse, testifies in a murder trial, she faces threats from the killer’s family. Around the same time, she receives a call from a lawyer in Texas saying that she has inherited her grandmother’s estate. Tori never knew this woman as her own parents are both deceased. When she fears for her life, she decides to leave Missouri for Texas.

When she meets with the lawyer, she learns she’s not only inherited a 1930s mansion, but also millions of dollars. She decides to stay in Granbury and move into the old house. She also discovers her great-grandfather, who built the house, was a notorious gangster.

She soon makes new friends, but as the new person in town, Tori is the subject of much talk and gossip. Several people, including the lawyer and her grandmother’s CPA, advise her to sell the home.

It’s not long before Tori is in danger. Who and why? There are several suspects, and the author did a good job of throwing in red herrings. The plot was well-placed. The lead character, Tori, is a strong and determined woman, a characteristic I like. Deadly Keepsakes wraps up in a satisfying conclusion.

This was my first time reading Anita Dickason’s works, but it won’t be the last.

As mentioned in the reviews, the Cork O’Connor books are the seventeenth and nineteenth in the series. I read book eighteen. Lightning Strike, a year ago. It’s a prequel to the series and doesn’t in any way, deter from the timeline of the stories. In fact, I would recommend anyone just starting this series read it first.

So far, I’ve been busy with reading and am well on my way to achieving my goal for the year. Once the tour is over, I’ll likely go back to weekly reviews.