My April 2024 reads

April brought another fabulous – and varied – month month in books.

I started the month off with a classic author, Elizabeth Gaskell, a friend and contemporary of Charles Dickens, who published her novels serially in his literary  magazines. I had never read her novella of the Salem Witch Trials and enjoyed this interesting recounting of a young British woman who gets caught up in the collective hysteria of seventeenth century New England. Next I travelled to the UK and Venice pre- and post-WWII as family secrets and lies were uncovered.

April 2024 Reads / Kimberly Sullivan


Then I broke up my fiction streak to read a sports autobiography of an outspoken DI swimmer form the University of Kentucky who contended with a male athlete competing in the NCAA women’s category, and followed her behind the scenes look at how this decision was foisted on women college athletes. And finally, I wrapped up the month with a fascinating look at the ugly catfights between the two queens – and pioneers – of the beauty industry in early twentieth century New York as they battled it out for the beauty supremacy title.

Two of my four books were NetGalley reads. Two were authors I’ve already read, two were new to me. All come highly recommended.

Full reviews below. Happy reading!

Lois The WitchLois The Witch cover

Elizabeth Gaskell

I loved Gaskell’s North and South and was curious to read this novella, a fictionalized account of the real life hanging of a young, English woman declared a witch in the collective hysteria of Salem. Like North and South, this was originally serialized in Charles Dickens’ literary magazine.

Lois promises her dying mother she will travel to the New World to live with family who have settled there. Orphaned and alone, she travels to Salem, where she becomes part of a pious but dour household. Lois does not ingratiate herself to the family when she refuses the offer of marriage of her cousin, Manasseh, or when the handsome pastor shows more interest in lovely Lois than in her cousin, Faith, who had hoped to capture his attention.

This poignant tale illustrates the collective insanity that washes over the Puritan community bent on “rooting out evil” during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.



The Secret Daughter of VeniceSecret Daughter of Venice cover

Juliet Greenwood

Kate has grown up in the English noble family of Ahern, in an historic but crumbling family estate. But she has grown accustomed to whispers around town that she is an illegitimate heir, with her dark hair and olive skin hinting at her Italian providence.

Kate has hazy memories of her life before England, of sun-drenched villas and learning art techniques that are now her passion, but not appreciated by her family. The need for volunteers during WWII allows Kate to journey away from her family estate, and also begins her search for her mother, whom she believes was an Italian artist who spend time in Italy. Her investigations take her to post-war Italy, to Naples, the Campagna countryside around Pompeii and, finally, to Venice. Slowly, Kate begins to piece together the mysteries of her past, thereby allowing her to project her future.

This was an engaging and fast-paced historical fiction novel, set in Britain and Italy, which slowly uncovers layers of mysteries and lies that help Kate to unravel the story of her past.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.


Swimming Against The CurrentSwimming Against The Current cover

Riley Gaines

I enjoy sports biography books, and when I saw a new swimming book by Riley Gaines, I was curious to read it.

Gaines had a successful career in DI swimming at the University of Kentucky. As an avid swimmer who always competed in other team sports while swimming (non-competitively) my entire life, I’ve always had great appreciation for competitive swimmers who had the dedication and drive for those early morning killer workouts.

Gaines’ story took on a modern twist when, following a spectacular junior year, she was eager to clinch NCAA victory in her sprint specialties in her senior year – only to find an entirely new entry to the competition. Lia Thomas was a mediocre longer distance swimmer on the men’s team at Penn, one who never qualified for NCAA championships in three years of competition. But when he switched to the women’s team, he quickly shot to the tippety-top of the NCAA charts, nationwide, in both distance and sprinting. Weird, right?

Here’s where the story gets interesting, as we get Gaines’ inside view on how the NCAA bullied and silenced women athletes who called out the humongous elephant in the room if these elite women athletes refused to go along with The Narrative.

This is a book where the badge of honor is how many one-star reviews it garners from people who proudly proclaim “I’d never read such a TerribleHorribleNoGoodVeryBad Book.” A very interesting book, with a fascinating insider’s perspective – and timely chronicles of a woman’s fight to protect women’s sports. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, it’s worth a read.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.


A Beautiful RivalA Breautiful Rival cover

Gill Paul

Another fabulous historical fiction novel by Gill Paul. I adored this novel of Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, two cutthroat businesswomen and rivals who invented the beauty industry in the early twentieth century.

Told through alternating chapters, we follow the stories of Helena Rubenstein, a Jew from Krakow, Poland, whose father throws her out when she falls in love with a Catholic Pole – she then goes on to build her fame and fortune alone – and Elizabeth Arden, from a dirt-poor family in Canada who works hard to ensure her humble roots are never discovered as she climbs the ladder of success with bon ton New York.

Rubenstein and Arden go head-to-head to ascend to the role of queen of the New York beauty industry, and they will stop at nothing to emerge victorious. A fabulous and well-written tale of two brilliant and ruthless beauty moguls, well ahead of their time. A highly recommended read.



Leave a Comment