Mini Book Reviews // February Library Reads

Surprise, surprise, there's actually one book this time that is not a mystery!  Well, technically, it's not marked as a mystery, but there is a mystery subtly woven throughout.  But hey, I checked it out without knowing that.  I must have a force field that attracts mysteries...  

Anyway, I am here today to do mini reviews on the books I picked up from the library last month for the Snagged @ The Library Challenge.  Reading three library books a month keeps me on track for my target number of 36.  You can read last month's mini reviews here.  

Murder on Astor Place: I discovered a new author last month: Victoria Thompson.  This book is her debut mystery in a series about a widowed midwife, Sarah Brandt, living in turn-of-the-century New York City.  In this first book, Sarah helps deliver a baby for a woman who runs a boarding house.  The following day, the woman discovers that one of her boarders, a young woman, has been murdered.  Thus, Sarah is pulled into the mystery.  She knows the family of the young woman who was murdered, and she rather forcibly thrusts her help upon the police officer investigating the murder, Frank Malloy.  Sarah comes from one of New York's wealthiest families, and because the young woman who was murdered belonged to a wealthy family as well, Sarah is able to provide Malloy with information and connections.  Malloy is brooding, not entirely honorable, and generally unlikeable, but Sarah continues to help him with the mystery, whether he likes it or not.  There are enough brutal plot twists, shocking discoveries, and dirty motives to go around before the mystery is solved.

I really enjoyed this book.  It's one of those very solid, classic mysteries.  There are plenty of one-on-one interviews, scene-of-the-crime investigations, and police-y bits.  This is certainly not one to read if you prefer thriller mysteries with lots of suspense, or anything, but it is great if you are a fan of really good, classic detective stuff.  I enjoy Sarah Brandt's character.  She's pretty unconventional, very smart, persistent, and absolutely unflappable.  Like, nothing phases her.  Frank Malloy, on the other hand, isn't an extremely likable character, but the reader gets insights into him throughout the book and you can kind of warm up to him.  He is rather nasty to Sarah, though, and I have to say that that got a little annoying.  Also, I really love the history in this book!  Theodore Roosevelt makes a few cameos, as he is the (infamous) police commissioner at the time the novel takes place, and he is passionate about reform in the NYPD, which is pretty corrupt.  I really enjoyed that.  Last thing: this book has some wicked twists, and I'm totally a fan.  Overall, good book, and I think I'll continue to read Victoria Thompson's stuff.

Murder on Marble Row: This is #6 in the series kicked off by Murder on Astor Place, and this time, there is another murder (pretty evident from the title), but this time, Malloy is put on the job by Roosevelt himself.  It's a wealthy factory owner who had an unfortunate introduction to a bomb placed in his office.  Anarchists are high on the list of suspects, although the man's family and colleagues aren't out of the question, either.  Once again, Sarah Brandt is also involved, and while Malloy wants her no where near the crime, he can't afford to refuse her when her help is so invaluable.  The rest of the story is quite similar to the first.  A lot of dealing with a wealthy and difficult New York family with a host of motives for killing their father and husband.  Once again, there were a lot of plot twists, but this time, the story felt a little dragged out.  Just when I was sure they solved it, something else would come up or not line up, and they would have to accuse someone else.  It got a little long.  Also, while there are hints that Malloy is in love with Sarah, and he is softening to her, he still gets angry with her every time he sees her talking to suspects or investigating angles, or traipsing around New York to visit anarchists or the bereaved family, etc.  More than anything, that got suuuuper old.  Like, you just knew that when Sarah was somewhere and Malloy turned up there would be a angry glare from Malloy and a retort from Sarah, and – I got kind of sick of it.  Also, their relationship seems to have barely changed from the first book, and this is #6!  I'm sick of their back and forth just from two books, and there are like four in there where it must be the same!  Ugh.  If I decide to continue reading this series, I will go with 7 or something, because I would like to see if their relationship ever progresses.  In conclusion, it was a good mystery, but I'm getting a little tired of the character dynamic.

The Secret Keeper: One word could sum up this book for me.  Beautiful.  The Secret Keeper was a beautiful book.  There were parts of the story that were not beautiful, characters who were not beautiful, but it is just a beautiful story.  The main character, a British actress named Laurel from pretty close to present day, has a memory from her childhood when she was 16 of her mother killing a man who had come to visit their home.  She was the only one of her three sisters and one brother who saw it, and she lied to the police and said that her mother had killed the man in self defense, but she hadn't.  And Laurel remembered.  And now, as her mother lies only a couple months from death, Laurel embarks on a quest to uncover the secrets of her mother, Dorothy Nicholson.  This search takes her from present day back to pre-WWII, to England through the Blitz, to the '60s and through the lives of people she never met.  In the end, what she finds is stunning, and in a way, beautiful.

Oh my word.  This book was just amazing.  It started out so innocent and sweet, a girl in love with the One, a young man who lived by his camera.  A beautiful romance that blossomed into something harder than they bargained for, more complicated than they foresaw, and ended in something of nightmares.  But underneath the secrets, the regrets, the loss, there was redemption, a second chance at a new life, forgiveness.  I cannot explain what it was about this book that was so beautiful and compelling, but I think it was the theme of second chances and forgiveness.  Dorothy Nicholson had done awful things, but she had been given a second chance, she had found her people, and they forgave her.  That's why I found it so beautiful.

Kate Morton is an incredible storyteller.  She weaves unbelievable stories with broken people and their painful lives, and it's beautiful.  This was a captivating book – the characters stole my heart and I felt like I really knew them by the end.  That's what I want in a story – characters I can connect with and identify with, and even when I can't, I want them to be real and believable.  And this book met those wishes.  If you read one book this month, make it this one!  I highly, highly recommend it.  It. was. just. beautiful.

And those were the books I read last month from the library!  Thanks so much for reading, and I will be back on Friday with another installment of This Girl Likes.  xo, Ella

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