Monday, April 29, 2024

Mini Book Reviews: April 2023

Disclaimer: I received ARCs of The Limits, Backyard Bird Chronicles, Lucky, and Love is a Burning Thing from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for my reviews.

Continuing with my unofficial theme this month of ups and downs, some of the books I read this month were great and some were not-so-great. My favorite book of the month, hands down, was Wolf At the Table. I also enjoyed Piglet, The Backyard Bird Chronicles, and Love is a Burning Thing. While some readers enjoyed Worry, Lucky, and The Limits, my advice is to take a pass.

 is a book about two bickering sisters who live in New York. Darkly funny at times, I also found this book a little depressing. The oldest sister is obsessed with mommy bloggers, particularly Christian mommy bloggers; the younger sister battles outbreaks of hives that come out of nowhere. The youngest adopts a dog named Amy Klobuchar, a quirky pup with three legs who becomes an important focus for both girls. Their parents live in Florida and their mother is particularly harsh and critical of both of them. The story comes to a climax on a holiday weekend in Montauk with a shocking and sadly ambiguous ending. I stuck with this one because I wanted to see how it ends and now I wish I hadn't.

Oh, poor Piglet--those childhood nicknames just seem to stick! Piglet loves to eat and she loves to cook. She's a successful cookbook editor and she's engaged to be married to an amazing man who loves her food and comes from money. Her life just seems too good to be true! But two weeks before the wedding, her world is shattered and her life begins to fall apart. The reader never gets specific details about exactly what happened as Piglet has to forge ahead with the wedding plans. Watching her self-destruct and hearing her family call her 'Piglet'--or worse 'Pig'--kind of broke my heart.  You really have to look for the deeper meaning here, the metaphors surrounding the food descriptions, and the actions of the characters. This was a clever read and left me with lots of food for thought (pun intended)!

Set during the early days of the pandemic, The Limits is a story of 4 different women--a marine biologist who lives in Tahiti, her daughter Pia, who is struggling with teenage angst, Kate, who is married to Pia's dad, and Athyna, who is one of Kate's students. I struggled to keep them all straight--plus there are some subplots that further muddy the narrative. It wasn't until about halfway through the story when the characters connect that I was able to stay focused instead of trying to figure out who was who. Any one of these subplots could have been a separate book. The writing was beautiful, but this complex story was a bit much for me. 

Well-known fiction author Amy Tan takes us to her backyard for her observations and drawings of the birds that populate her feeders. Most of her journaling takes place during the pandemic, a divisive time during which she developed an interest in birdwatching. Her observations and stories are entertaining; her drawings are beautiful! She also shares the knowledge she has gained over the many hours spent studying the birds' behaviors. Many nature lovers will relate to the attachment and compassion she has for the birds. The Backyard Bird Chronicles won't be the book for everyone, but I really enjoyed it! She left me with lots of food for thought about bird behaviors and migration. 

What a slow burn! I picked up Wolf At the Table on the recommendation of Susie at Novel Visits who called it a "dysfunctional family novel with lots of secrets-big and small and others very, very dark". She wasn't kidding. The story is told in alternating chapters by several of the characters, a device that can sometimes confuse the reader, but did not happen with this book. In addition, I've read a few reviews that felt the book was not emotional enough; from my perspective, the objective storytelling kept the drama at a minimum and let the story play itself out. I won't deny wondering had the mom had been more emotionally invested in her children things might have turned out differently. But then we wouldn't have had such a good story! This was a dark, deep, juicy novel that had me put life on hold so I could finish it. 

The usually reliable Jane Smiley jumps into the nostalgic trend, penning a coming of age story about a young girl who becomes a famous folk singer in the 1960s. Her uncle tells her she's 'lucky' after taking her to a horse race where she wins big. She keeps the roll of $2 bills with her throughout the story as a reminder of her good fortune. Her career earns her a comfortable income that allows her to live life on her terms, which the author shares in tedious detail. I know it's Jane Smiley and all, but a good editor could have helped tighten up the story a bit. And then there's that weird twist of an ending...I didn't feel so Lucky with this one.

In Love is a Burning Thing, a coming-of-age memoir, Nina St Pierre aims to make sense of her chaotic childhood and her mother's erratic behavior, which includes self-immolation. I found her personal reflections riveting and deeply affecting. Her gift for is writing evident. I am always amazed by the resilience of individuals raised in unstable homes. Instead of anger, St Pierre chooses compassion and understanding towards her mother, which is remarkable.  To be released May 7.

What have you read this month? Do you have any book recommendations for me?

I'm linking up with Jenn and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics. I'm also excited to join Farrah for My Month is Booked! 


  1. A shame about the Smiley - she's known for never writing in the same genre twice (though she did do a pony book series!) and I have not been keen on her whole output, I have to say. The bird one looks great.

    1. It was such a disappointment! It is a good story, but it just rambles too much. The Amy Tan bird book was great!!

  2. That's quite a mix of reading! My exciting reading for the month, other than blogs, has been owners manuals, LOL.

  3. You fit in quite the variety of books this month! I usually read much more over the summer so I hope to continue that. I have a stack to get to! Thanks for the reviews

  4. Oooh! These all sound great (except Lucky). I read Verity (hated it) and How To Kill Men And Get Away With It (entertaining). This month, I want to dig into embroidery in my spare time and then get back to reading.

    1. I saw 'How to Kill Men and Get Away with it" and was wondering if it was bigger than the clever titile! I'll check it out.

  5. What a variety of books! Hmm, from this list I don't know which one I would pick first. I am reading "Doctors and Friends: and am enjoying it. I am almost done with it and have a couple more from your book reviews that I plan to read.

  6. I'd never have guessed that Amy Tan would write a book about backyard birds, but kinda intrigued now. My boss does a lot of birdwatching and starts off our weekly meetings with cool bird facts so I've been paying more attention over the last couple years, hehe. I'm gonna need to check out Wolf At the Table soon too.

    P.S. I'm taking over a friend's book linkup, so if you ever want to link up this or any other monthly mini-reviews, I open it up on the first Monday of every month + would love to have you join in! :]!