It’s the first Monday of the month, which means it’s time for another edition of ….

June brought me four solid historical fictions and two semi-enjoyable non-fiction titles. I recommend all four historical fiction books. They were all good in their own unique way.


Husbands and Lovers by Beatriz Williams.

I’ve always considered Beatriz Williams to be one of the best historical fiction authors on the market today. She has the uncanny ability to finetune her voice to fit the character and the time period. This book is no different. Set in 1950s Egypt and contemporary Long Island, Husbands and Lovers revisits one of Williams’ favorite themes of late: second chance at love. The story follows two women, Hannah and Mallory whose lives are connected, although how isn’t revealed until near the end of the book.

Both gave up on love. In Hannah’s case, she’s chosen a loveless marriage of convenience to escape post-war poverty. Mallory has walked away from the love of her life for “reasons”.  Both women are forced to face the ramifications of their decisions. Hannah must decide what to do when she falls in love with another man. Meanwhile, Mallory finds herself reconnecting with her old love, and forced to share her secrets.    

Like Williams’ last book, THE BEACH AT SUMMERLY,, the writing in this story is imbued with regret and melancholy. I only wish she’d spent more time on Hannah’s story, as I found it far more compelling. Mallory’s storyline is interesting, but as a mother, I had a much harder time understanding some of the choices she made.  For that reason, I need to dock one star.

That said, Husbands and Lovers remains a fantastic read.

The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian.

Reading the back copy, it’s easy to mistake this story for a thriller set in Africa. In reality, it’s a character study in human tenacity.

Set in the 1960s, THE LIONESS is about a group of Hollywood friends who go on an African safari. What starts as a fantastical adventure quickly turns into a nightmare when they are attacked and kidnapped. The story is told through multiple points of view with each chapter revealing the characters’ hidden agendas and histories. Along the way, Bohjalian weaves in commentary on racial relations, communism, the Cold War, colonialism, and the African independence movement.

The book takes a bit to get into but picks up around Chapter 15. Then it gets very interesting. 

This was my first Bohjalian novel, and listening to his prose taught me a lot about writing historical fiction. I enjoyed the complex character studies and the unpredictability surrounding who would and wouldn’t die. Alas, there were times when Bohjalian got a repetitive, which slowed the pace. v

But what ultimately makes me give the book 3.5/4 stars is the central heroine, Katie Barstow. She was as close to a Mary Sue. Everyone loved her and sang her praises. She was beautiful, rich, innocent, enlightened, kind, generous to all, blah blah blah. Her biggest flaw was being too trusting. I liked Carmen and a few of the other characters much better.

The Narrator in the audio version was fantastic, btw. 

Warning: This is a graphic book. People don’t die prettily.

The Unlocked Path by Janis Robinson Daly.

An interesting look at the struggles facing female doctors at the turn of the century. THE UNLOCKED PATH tells the story of Eliza Edwards, a young society woman who enrolls in the Women’s Medical College, one of the first female medical schools in the country. As we follow Eliza through her education and career, we learn the challenges those trailblazing women faced in the medical profession.  What fascinated me is that many issues, such as access to medical care and reproductive rights remain relevant today.  

Eliza is a plucky, sympathetic heroine who – realistically – doesn’t always make the perfect choice. Rather she leads with her heart instead of her head, a tendency that eventually affects her personal life. As the story unfolds, we watch her grow up. By the end of the book, she’s no longer an idealistic young doctor, but a confident woman.

Finally, I enjoyed watching Eliza and her medical “sisters” navigate the various historical events of the early 20th century. It’s amazing how much history people witnessed.

Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange. 

 First, I respect the theme and subject of this book.  This book shows how Americans’ actions in the mid-19th century (really, before that) are still being felt by Native Americans today. Wandering Stars is a sad story about generational trauma and oppression.  It’s an important story.Sadly, I’m not a fan of run-on sentences, even if they are supposed to be stream-of-consciousness.  The writing style in the book’s first half, which all stream-of-conciousness, held readers at a distance. As a result, Jude and Charlie Star, two pivotal characters, remained ciphers.  

I understand that literary writing differs from commercial writing, but that doesn’t mean the author should get a pass for being too wordy. I found the 70-100 word sentences hindered the story.  The second half of the book was more accessible. 

It’s important to note that this is not an easy read. It’s a dark subject with no break in the misery. Everyone is either addicted, sick, or traumatized.  If you’re looking for a beach read, this isn’t it.

On the other hand, if you want to deepen your understanding of how horrifically white people treated Native Americans and how sh*tty we’re still treating them today, then yes, definitely pick up this story.


Inspired: Understanding Creativity by Matt Richtel.

Like other reviewers have mentioned, this book felt like two or three essays stretched into a book. There were  lot of interviews with and anecdotes regarding artists and people who came up with unique ideas. Some discussed their views on creativity which I enjoyed. Other times I felt like Richtel was working too hard to make them feel relevant. 

The best part of the entire book came toward the end when he described the 4 C’s of creativity. That to me was eye opening. 

Richtel’s style is extremely accessible, and the book is a quick, entertaining read.

Discovering the Inner Mother by Bethany Webster.

I need to start this review by stating a few truths as I see them.

1. The patriarchy has held women back for thousands of years.

2. The Mother Wound is very real. Our mothers are complex human beings and are the product of generations of familial trauma and experiences, and while they did the best they could, they absorbed certain lessons that they then passed down to us. Lessons such as “don’t make waves or people will be mad” or “suppress your uniqueness”. These messages get absorbed as “you’re not good enough” and result in people-pleasing, anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues. 

Now that I’ve got those that out of the way, I can share my thoughts on DISCOVERING THE INNER MOTHER.

There are many valuable points in this book. I recognized myself in many of the statements – particularly those about unconsciously looking for maternal approval in others. She’s 100% right that we can both love our mothers and accept that our upbringing left scars.  I walked away from this book with new insight regarding my inner struggles. 

However, not everything is this book worked for me. It’s important to note that Webster is not a therapist. Rather, this is advice born out of her personal journey. As a result, the book tends to assume all mother wounds look like hers. Plus, she blames everything on the patriarchy and ignores the many psychological, economic, social, and cultural factors that are part of generational trauma. The last couple chapters, which discuss how to heal your mother wound are the most valuable. I would call this a Read and Pick the Useful Flowers kind of book.  

Tomorrow, my family and I leave on a week-long vacation in Maine. It’s the first time we’ve taken our grandson to see the ocean, so we’re very excited.

On Thursday, we will be attending the Independence Day Parade. I am proud to say that I have three ancestors (maybe more) who fought in the Revolutionary War. When I read what it was like for those soldiers – the terrible conditions, the lack of food, the illness – it’s really quite humbling.

I hope to return to regular blogging next week as well. This little corner of the Internet is one of the few places that I control. I want to take more opportunities to share my thoughts and connect with you all.

In the meantime, enjoy the week. May July bring us all good fortune and good health.