The Rainmaker by John Grisham

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This is the story of Rudy Baylor, a twenty-five-year-old who is just finishing law school and searching desperately for work. He has two cases before he can even get his law license: a silly one in which his elderly landlord wants to leave the bulk of her estate to a televangelist, and a lawsuit in which a poor family sues an insurance company that refuses to pay for their son’s cancer treatment.

I like Rudy, especially because he’s so down on his luck. He very much reminds me of how I felt in college: broke and desperate to make a good living. I do think the book is much longer than it should be. The audiobook is about fifteen hours long (!!!). I’m one of those people who hesitates to read a book longer than 300 pages or so. (I’d cut some of the parts about Rudy leaving his resume at various firms around Memphis. Those parts felt like they could’ve been summed up so that we could move toward the main action more quickly.) I think the book is mostly about the insurance company lawsuit. I see it as a story about poor, disadvantaged people vs. a corrupt business. Reminds me a bit of Erin Brokovich. Much enjoyed! 😃

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

I finished the whole thing in two days. It’s about a 30-year-old woman whose 12-year-old daughter is murdered in a park along with the daughter’s best friend. The mother, Eve, vows to find her daughter’s killer. She lives in a tiny town in Missouri where both her mother and her ex-lover are into drugs and hard living.

The one thing that bugged me about this one was that Eve, the first-person narrator, keeps a secret from the reader for about half of the book. She simply doesn’t tell us who her daughter’s father is, even though she knew all along. Aside from that, I found this book to be a fun read that kept me guessing. I especially liked the way the author characterizes Eve and her mother. Eve was really shaped by her upbringing, and that comes out on the page. I also appreciated that the book is so short (only about six hours long for the audio version). I despise when authors waste words, and Engel doesn’t waste many. An interesting, entertaining novel. Brava!

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

I re-listened to this one today. It’s told in simple language and has lovely descriptions (eg. A man’s deep voice compared to a well, the descriptions of Vermeer’s paintings). the story follows Griet, a Dutch girl who works as a maid for Vermeer, the painter. Griet must contend with Vermeer’s jealous wife and some other headstrong family members to work as their maid. She comes from a family led by a blind father who cannot financially support his family, and thus she becomes a maid at age 16. The story is set in the 1600s in Delft, a period I know nothing about. Most historicals I read are set in the 20th century. Give this one a listen if you have a chance. The audio is narrated by a young woman with a quiet and pleasant voice.

What I’m Reading Now: The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds

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This one is very good and I can’t wait to finish it. It’s about a young girl growing up in a staunchly religious, Christian family. Her grandpa starts his own church and publicly shames those in the faith that he disagrees with. He gets up and gives sermons in which he calls out even his own family members. It’s cringey and abusive. Women in the church are gaslit and told that they must be at fault if they miscarry a baby, and don’t even think about committing formication in this church. The book was first published in 1995, but I think it’s a very important book to read right now in light f everything going on with abortion rights and all the scandals surrounding abuse in churches.

What I’m Reading Now: Memphis by Tara Stringfellow

I just started this one today. I’m about three hours into it, and I like it so far. It’s about a Black southern family, and it focuses on the females living in Memphis. They endure spousal abuse, sexual violence, and single motherhood. I’ve always been a sucker for a generational novel, and I love reading about women’s lives.

The thing I like most about this one is the love and appreciation for Black beauty. Most novels I’ve read are by white authors who wax poetic about blue eyes and/or pale skin. This one doesn’t do that so far. There’s a paragraph in chapter one where the character admires a tall, dark-skinned woman. 🤗

The book skips around in time. The earliest events take place in the 1930s and the more recent events take place in the early 2000s. There’s a family tree at the beginning of the story to help you keep track of who is who since there are so many principal characters.

If you like women’s fiction and family sagas, give this one a try.

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What I’m Reading Now: When Winter Comes by V.A. Shannon

I got this book free with my subscription. I’m about a third of the way through and really enjoying it thus far. Based on the title and cover I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it would be a historical because of the old fashioned dress of the woman on the cover, and I was right about that, but I never would’ve guessed based on the title and cover that the book would be about the Donner Party.

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In case you haven’t heard, the Donner Party was a group of several families traveling in a wagon train to California in 1846-1847. The trip was supposed to take several weeks, but the party got lost in the mountains during an attempt to take a shortcut. There was a snowstorm and some of the people died. Some of the surviving travelers resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.

The book is written in first-person, (my favorite POV!) from the perspective of a young woman who robs a man in Cincy and takes off with the Donner party to California in hopes of both fleeing prosecution and also establishing a better life for herself.

So far the biggest conflicts are between her and the other travelers. She’s acting as a nanny for the Keseberg family. Mr. Keseberg is based on a real historical figure. Our narrator respects him but clashes with his wife.

Can’t wait to see what happens next…

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