Wednesday, August 12, 2020

April's Reads Reviewed

April's Reads Mini-Review Roundup

Elizabeth and her German GardenElizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

This book is perfect. I love Elizabeth. She'd prefer to spend her days in her garden, alone, and I can definitely relate to that. This book is written in diary format with Elizabeth recounting the mundane daily activities of her life as a wealthy Englishwoman in Germany during the latter part of the 1800s. It's subtle, but my god this book is funny.

Much is left unsaid but the reader can still pick up on it, like Elizabeth's loving marriage (with her husband with gentle ribbing and good-natured fun referred to as The Man of Wrath) and her doting relationship with her charming children. Elizabeth is perfectly imperfect. I loved Arnim's The Enchanted April for the tranquil escapism and lovely characters, and all of that is here again but with a main character who is even more of a kindred spirit and definitely more humor.

The Secret KeeperThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton

While I liked The House at Riverton a whole lot, The Secret Keeper is even better. It's another doorstop with fairly large chapters, but I flew through it despite all that. The mystery kept me guessing, and just when I thought I had it figured out, some new bit of information changed things up again.

The historical part had me enthralled. It had a great sense of time and place. I loved two of the characters, but one of them I tried to like but couldn't fight off the creeping dread that I really didn't like them. That wasn't a bad thing at all though. Ah, and the romance was lovely. The modern story follows Laurel-- a hardened 66 year old cigarette smoking woman who, while not as developed, was still likable and I was caught up in her sleuthing. She wasn't the typical young lead with a romance, and while I love that trope, it was nice to have a different kind of character to follow.

Morton did a particularly fantastic job of keeping up the tension and mystery between the modern parts and the historical parts. It's hard to describe, but the way she scattered the clues kept me constantly on my toes and voraciously collecting the pieces from the past and present to try to weave together the mystery of the past. It was gripping, and the ending was worthy of the journey. 

The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to RememberThe World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers

This is another book that I read over time. Each chapter is about 1-3 pages and focuses on a story, life lesson, or thought from Fred Rogers. I felt like I was sitting on the set of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and chatting with Fred. He felt like a mentor. I learned so much about him, his show, and child psychology, which was unexpected but wonderful. Every time I'd open the book I'd get this sense of calm and love. The book has the subtitle of "Important Things to Remember" and that's very apt. I think I'll open it again from time to time and reread passages. They are important things to remind oneself of again.

The Solitary SummerThe Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim

This is the second book in the "Elizabeth" series, and everything I said about the first book is true for this second book. I think you could probably read this book without having read the first one, but why would you want to miss out?

The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I can't decide if I like this one more or The Secret Keeper. It's a tough call. For about the first quarter of the book I thought that this was good, but I was impatient because I felt like I had it all figured out already and that I was going to spent the next several hundred pages waiting for the main character to get there too. While I was right in guessing that aspect of the mystery, thankfully the main character figured it out about a quarter of the way through as well and then the rest of the book opened up even more mysteries that I happily paced along the main character in unraveling.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find there are short stories/fairy tales interspersed throughout. I think there are about five of them and each one is a fantastic story in its own right. All of the characters were fun to follow and I appreciated the romances a lot. There were a lot of bittersweet and sad events that tugged at my heart. The parts with Nell and young Cassandra reminded me of my own grandparents who have recently passed, and so that was personally bittersweet as well. The final, final discovery was a little disappointing, but all in all it was very well worth the read.

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