Book Reviews

Some ideas for your spring reading lists

By Lynda Rego
Posted 3/28/23

I’ve been bingeing books lately. As the weather warms and the yard and garden call, reading will take a backseat for a month or two, so I’m trying to catch up on my reading list. Here …

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Book Reviews

Some ideas for your spring reading lists


I’ve been bingeing books lately. As the weather warms and the yard and garden call, reading will take a backseat for a month or two, so I’m trying to catch up on my reading list. Here some ideas for yours.

“The Lincoln Highway” (2021) by Amor Towles is, as you can tell from the title, a book about travel — by car, cab, truck, train and foot — physically and psychologically. It’s a coming of age story set in 1954. Emmet Watson is released from the Salina juvenile reform program (where he was sent due to “the ugly side of chance”) several months early because of his father’s death. He returns home to their Nebraska farm, which is in foreclosure, and his 8-year-old brother, Billy. His plan is to head to Texas and use his carpentry skills to create a new life for them. But, Billy wants to go to San Francisco to seek out their mother and to follow the Lincoln Highway (the route their mother took when she left them) to get there.

But, fate has other plans. When Duchess and Woolly, Emmet’s bunkmates from Salina, show up, a simple trip West will become a more complicated and fraught adventure, with lots of fascinating characters, good and bad, along the way.

It’s a wonderful story of dreams, hope, friendship, family and love. Chapters are alternately told by Billy, Emmet, Woolly and Duchess, along with Sally, the Watsons’ neighbor. There are wonderful tidbits, such as the book Billy lugs along, “Professor Abacus Abernathe’s Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers and Other Intrepid Travelers,” Duchess’ stories, and Sally’s take on men and Jesus’ feelings on women. It has lots of humor and heart, and you never quite know what will happen next. As Woolly and then Billy sum it up best, it’s “an escapade.” One you will most definitely want to tag along on.

“Next Year in Havana” (2018) by Chanel Cleeton. Cleeton grew up on stories of how her family fled Cuba after the revolution and Castro’s ascension. She studied politics and history and it shows in this fascinating look at the revolution, the realities of war, exile, and the longing for a place to call home.

We see this from the point of view of Elisa Perez experiencing the revolution in 1958-59 and her granddaughter Marisol Ferrera, who visits Cuba when the U.S. reopens relations with the government in 2017.

The Perez family is part of Cuba’s elite, Elisa’s father a sugar baron with ties to Batista. But, she falls in love with a revolutionary and begins to question everything she knows.

Marisol was brought up by her grandmother in Florida and grew up hearing Elisa’s reminiscences of life in Havana, the sweeping 5-mile Malecón seawall, the Perez estate and gardens in Miramar, the music, the food, the seaside house for vacations. When Elisa dies, she asks in her will that Marisol scatter her ashes in Cuba. Marisol collects possible places important to Elisa from her aunts and is invited to stay with Ana Rodriguez, Elisa’s best friend in Havana before the family fled.

Marisol is there to write a story on tourism for a travel magazine, but then she meets and is attracted to Ana’s grandson, Luis, a professor of history at the University of Havana. Cuba is not what she expected. Beneath the colorful buildings and big, classic 1950s cars, is a country of people who struggle to get by. Ana’s family runs a paladar (a restaurant for tourists) in their house, at least the part of it they are allowed to live in, to make ends meet. Now generals and high-ranking officials live in the big estates in Miramar, with a Russian diplomat in the Perez home.

As Marisol spends time with Luis, visiting sites for her article, she will also learn about Cuban history and its present and will discover family secrets that improve her understanding of her grandmother and change her own life, too.

“Rush of Blood” (2012) by Mark Billingham. A mystery author I like recommended this author and this thriller is suspenseful and really keeps you guessing. Three couples from England meet while vacationing in Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida, and strike up a “vacation” friendship. But, the day they are due to fly home, a 13-year-old mentally handicapped girl goes missing from the resort where they are staying. Once home, one couple invites the others to dinner. Two more return dinners will follow. One of the women is interested in the case and keeps up with news of it on the Internet. The girl’s body was discovered in a mangrove swamp. We learn more about the couples and their marriages and pasts. Some of it not pleasant.

The American police questioned them in Florida and are checking with any tourists who stayed at the resort that week. They then contact the English police and ask them to follow up with the three couples. A gung-ho trainee detective constable gets the job and she thinks there’s something strange about the couples, going above and beyond to dig up information. Then, another girl goes missing in England and things really heat up. I loved the way the book is plotted with alternating chapters about the couples (and some by the murderer). And, I didn’t see the end coming at all.

“Book Lovers” (2022) by Emily Henry. This smart, funny romance novel and its snappy dialogue is a fun read. Henry wrote it because she loves Hallmark movies and was fascinated by the trope that sends a high-powered city man to a small town to take over a business, save a business, etc., and then he falls in love with a country girl nothing like his girlfriend back in the city (“designer-wearing, stiletto-donning, red pen-wielding, salad-eating women”). She wanted to know who those women were and “what a happy ending might look like” for one of them.

So successful literary agent Nora Stephens (called The Shark behind her back) is enticed by her sister Libby to vacation in the small town in North Carolina where one of Nora’s best-selling books was set. Libby has created a bucket list for them to accomplish and is determined Nora will date some locals and have a “small-town romance novel experience” and step outside her comfort zone.

But, who should she run into there but Charlie Lastra, an editor from New York City, who passed on one of her favorite authors, the one who penned the book set in Sunshine Falls. Apparently, that’s where Lastra is actually from. His parents own the local bookstore and he’s come home to help his parents after his father had a stroke. It’s pretty simple to see where all this is heading, but it’s done so beautifully, with a loving, but complicated relationship between the sisters and a fiery attraction between Nora and Charlie. And, all the fun of small-town life. Emily Henry is a new author on my reading list.

Visit Lynda Rego on Facebook at where she shares tips on cooking, books, gardening, genealogy and other topics. Click on Like and share ideas for upcoming stories.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.