Thursday, July 30, 2020

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

4 Stars

Today’s entry is brought to you by . . . .

At this point in my life I’m not much of a reader of the classics (and certainly not many smarty classics that would have been assigned back when I rode my dinosaur to school every day), but I’m pretty sure you get your mystery lovers club membership revoked if you haven’t ever read a Hercule Poirot. That being said, this was only my second Poirot story (the other being the obvious selection - Murder on the Orient Express) and this time around it was our favorite P.I.’s THIRTEENTH go ‘round. (Also of note the only reason I read this was because Peter Swanson told me to in Eight Perfect Murders.)

At the start of The ABC Murders M. Poirot (as he is so often referred) finds himself realizing he’s getting a little long in the tooth and contemplating potential retirement, but upon receipt of a letter informing him of an upcoming murder – going so far as to name the date and place – he figures it’s nothing a little Just for Men can’t fix so . . . .

What follows is a romp from cities A to D containing victims with the same initial as their murder locale. There appear to be no other connections and the method of killing varies as well. How will Poirot ever put the pieces together on this tricky puzzle???

This was simply a good time and I can’t believe how well Christie’s stories have aged over the (80+) years. The mystery was a fun one to chase and I’m glad Swanson twisted my arm enough that I gave it a whirl. If nothing else, it gave me a break from the one thousand and fourteen reincarnations of And Then There Were None that I read every year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

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4 Stars

I actually have an unread ARC of Katherine Center’s newest release, but it seems like that was a big turd for most of my friends so I’ve been terrified to read it. And despite my heart telling me . . . .

My brain thankfully has been pretty persistent in reminding me that I’m kind of a Grade A Asshole and I need to lower my expectations before diving into that one.

Unfortunately Happiness for Beginners didn’t help minimize my fangirling despite it being a “finding yourself” story combined with a May/December romance which generally aren’t my ideas of a good time. Maybe I should pull the trigger on the new one – at this point it’s pretty apparent that this is an author who might do no wrong for me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

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4 Stars

I’m not exactly what you’d call a Jane Austen fangirl like the folks in this book club, but I do have a sort of an unhealthy relationship with Pride and Prejudice along with any and all of its gazillions of retellings. So why did it take me so long to read this book? Well, basically it’s all Fern's fault. Have you ever been terrified of reading anything else by an author after having sort of a lifechanging moment with the first thing you read by them and you just can’t imagine their other stuff even being able to hold a candle to the other book’s greatness? Yeah, that’s pretty much what my problem was with this – despite it having a title that pretty much guaranteed the story within would provide at least a modicum of enjoyment for me.

It may have taken years, but I finally decided to nut up and read this out on the deck earlier this year when it wasn’t hot enough to fuse my underwear to my ass. I don’t know what I was scared of. It was exactly what I hoped it would be with characters who I would love know in real life. And while it certainly does not compare to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves it shouldn’t have to. They are totally different stories that I wouldn’t even categorize in the same genre.


The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

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1.5 Stars

The Wife Stalker took its place at the top of my TBR over the eleventy other library books I have checked out due to the fact that after reading Your House Will Pay I was suffering a severe book hangover and needed some sort of buffer before moving on. These fillers can come in the shape of romcoms, thrillers or chicklit and trust me when I say I read a lot – and I mean A. L.O.T. – of “trash” and absolutely dig it most of the time.

The premise here was one that I should have loved. Husband and wife have a couple of kids and things are going well enough until a new chick comes into the picture. That’s all you get because between that one sentence and the title you probably can figure out where it goes from there. The low rating here comes from me whining to myself and making snarky notes on the Kindle the entire time I was reading it until the twist came near the end to make sense of things. These characters were totally undeveloped and the timeline was sooooooo fast-forwarded that I just couldn’t let myself get taken away by the over-the-top storyline like I usually can. Not to mention the extra twist that got thrown in (why authors???? why?????) And the dialogue? We’re talking a literary merit of something like . . . . .

I’m rounding up to 2 Stars for the very last paragraph that brought just a teensie bit of redemption and for the fact that I breezed through this in an evening.

Monday, July 27, 2020

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

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5 Stars

I’m not a child. I am an outlaw.

A couple of years back I picked up an early copy of a book that no one was really talking about and that little book (She Rides Shotgun) ended up being the best thing I read all year. I picked up this little book that no one is really talking about yet because my friend Shelley sent me a DM saying she thought it would be right up my alley and since she isn’t much of a bookpusher I took her seriously and requested a copy pronto. And then . . . . . 

While not really alike as far as comparisons go, much like in She Rides Shotgun, We Begin at the End featured a storyline with a dead mama, steering clear of a potential bad guy, lots of grit and a leading lady in the form of a young girl that I absolutely fell in love with. This will easily go down as one of the best things I read this year (and it’s the time of the ‘Rona, so your girl be reading ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME.) and will be one of the rarities that stick with me for years to come.

All the Stars and highly recommended.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
Thank you, NetGalley!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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2 Stars

I’m pretty sure the wrongreading I did here was 100% my own fault. After being blown away by American Gods ages ago my hopes were super high that this would be yet another wild ride through Gaiman’s imagination as he revamped Norse tales from the olde days of yore. Now, these little snippets of ancient history did feature our favorite pals such as . . . .

But sadly, it was not a reimagining of the past, just a simple retelling instead. On my American Gods review, I said I was hoping for a Dogma type of experience and got just what I had hoped for. This one was like an encyclopedic rendering of Norse mythology that had me like . . . .

Gaiman is waaaaaaay too creative and talented to push out a basic regurge.

However, this knocked a pretty old selection off the TBR as well as was a recommendation for the library’s Summer Reading Program, so I’m still calling it a win. One of these days I’ll be able to go and get my free swag, right??? I’ve probably read 20 books at this point instead of the 5 required to obtain the major award.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

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3.5 Stars

Can I take a minute to address the absolute brilliance of an author who refuses to EVER use a quotation mark writing a book entitled Conversations With Friends that almost completely consists of conversations . . . . .

Oh Sally Rooney to you I can only say WERK KWEEN . . . . .

(I didn’t really pull that off, did I????)

Anyway, this one wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as Normal People, but at this point I feel pretty confident saying if Rooney writes it, Imma probably read it. I like broken people and not-really-okay romantic entanglements the way she delivers them. Sometimes it’s just nice to read something where you don’t have to like the characters or their actions in order to still become fully invested in the story.

I started this while waiting for my kids’ nine millionth baseball game of the year to start because I had a paper copy and the glare was so horrific there was no way I could read any of my Kindle options. I figured it would pass the hour warm-up period and I would put it away easily. That was not the case. Instead I read this cover to cover and someone had to give me a shove whenever my kid came up to bat because I was pretty much in a trance.

Not for everyone, but it was certainly for me . . . .

Can you tell I have fallen into a Parks and Recreation black hole this 97th week of quarantine????

Monday, July 13, 2020

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

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5 Stars

“I’m happy the dog chased the cat that chased the rat.”
So am I Jake! So. Am. I.

I am super late to the Elin Hilderbrand party and am pretty sure this is only the third book of hers that I’ve read. I started with the first book in the “Paradise” series due to its timely release date during a Snowpocalypse when I wanted nothing else but to escape to a place like St. John. Oh wait, immediate edit because this is my fourth book of hers. DUH I read the other “Summer” book which is the entire reason this one pinged my radar. I assumed this book would be some sort of spinoff of that one and didn’t bother reading the blurb at all – just immediately added myself to the loooooooooong library wait list.

So it wasn’t any sort of a spinoff at all, but an “inspired by” type of selection instead where Mallory and Jake meet every Labor Day for . . . . you guessed it, twenty-eight summers in the fashion of . . . .

Which is 100% an exception to the rule when it comes to me not seeking out stories about cheating and/or cheaters. Sometimes it happens, sometimes I even give it a pass if the fictional circumstances are good enough, but it’s not usually my cuppa. Except when it’s Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. Or now Jake and Mallory. Oh my glob did I love this book. It even made me cry my own actual human tears despite being told at the very beginning what the ending was going to be. And speaking of the ending. The actual very last page ending?????

I don’t know if everyone will love this as much as I did, but the nostalgia factor of Same Time Next Year combined with just a solid good tale regarding these characters and how their lives changed over the decades (with ZERO of the “tragiporn” elements I was so afraid were going to get thrown in) was just what I needed to sink into as an escape. Not to mention the “What Are We Talking About In ____?” chapter openings. My lack of television viewing was very apparent because I recognized hardly any of the character names (aside from people who I feel are my kinfolk at this point like the Bluths and the Sopranos), but I could sing all of the songs referenced and luckily I knew almost all of the actual newsworthy names and events. It was a little bit of a bummer to see how many things are still being discussed and how many years later those discussions have continued with little to no change, but at this point I think we all need to be slapped in the face with our complacency.

Elin Hilderbrand, you get all of the stars. It was a billion and a half degrees where I live on Saturday and I was stuck sweating my fat a$$ off at baseball games all dang day. The break in the weather and this book all queued up and ready to go on Sunday was a perfect way to end the weekend. I cannot wait for your next release.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

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5 Stars

“Men die all the time in fights or pipeline explosions or gas leaks. They fall from cooling towers or try to beat the train or get drunk and decide to clean their guns. Women are killed when they get cancer or marry badly or take rides with strange men.”
Boy was I afraid to read this one. It had a big ol’ following on the ‘Gram around release time and if you haven’t heard me mention it a time or twelve, that doesn’t necessarily bode well for your ol’ gal pal Kelly. Now before anyone gets their panties in a twist thinking that I’m bashing Insta please let it be noted that it and my newfound love for the TikToks are pretty much what has gotten my family through this ‘Rona without suffering a bludgeoning from my trusty Maglite. The difference between Bookstagram and Goodreads is over there I’m all about the pretty pictures, but may not actually share any of the same tastes with the people I follow. I’ve been a member here for what feels like eternity and have formed a trust circle of fellow curmudgeons, social deviants and general weirdos who pretty much are of one mind when it comes to books. This review is for those people. Don’t be askeered like me and steer clear of this. If you want atmosphere and setting, this is for you. If you want gritty, this is for you. If you want strong female narrators, this is for you.

Set at the beginning of the oil boom in the mid-70s, Odessa, Texas is a place that is changing. Ranches are drying up thanks to drought, but a new crop is on the rise – oil. Valentine jumps off with one of the newly arrived roughnecks taking a local girl out on a date. That girl winds up on a farmhouse porch beaten and bloodied. The story goes from there until the trial date and is told through different connected narratives voiced by various women who make up the town’s population regarding their own personal lots in life with just a touch of some Scout and Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird to really send it over the edge into 5 Star territory. I can’t even words on this review due to my reaction being so opposite of what I went in anticipating. This book punched me right in the gut and that’s a pretty effing hard thing to do at this point.

Highly recommended and will most certainly go down as one of the best things I read in 2020.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

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3 Stars

My hold for this latest release by James McBride just so happened to coincide with the group read being conducted by . . . . .

Guaranteeing a nearly perfect rating from the masses and broadcasting my wrongreader status far and wide. The premise here starts off fairly simple . . . .

“A cloudy September afternoon in 1969. That’s the day the old deacon, known as Sportcoat to his friends, marched out to the plaza of the Causeway Housing Projects in South Brooklyn, stuck an ancient .38 Colt in the face of a nineteen-year-old drug dealer named Deems Clemens, and pulled the trigger.

What follows is a story about the neighborhood surrounding the Five Points Baptist Church and the various characters who reside near there. Church ladies, maintenance men with a government cheese side hustle, bumbling hitmen, a mobster known as the Elephant, and on and on. Serious messages are delivered with humor (sometimes to the point of being the annoying slapstick variety) as you meander through the interconnected tales of a possible missing treasure and missing Christmas club cash.

This was my second go around with McBride and at this point I feel comfortable saying my lack of stars comes from a place of enjoying the tale but not the telling. I just don’t connect with his writing. This had a lot of potential, and maybe it fell victim to the hype train for me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

2.5 Stars

Big Fish had been on my TBR for eternity after watching the film version eons ago and getting completely swept up in its magic. The basics regarding the story is a man returns home for his father’s last days and is told a series of what can only be tall tales that are presented as said father’s life story. Unfortunately this is one of the rare occasions where the movie actually surpasses the novel as far as quality. That being said, I thought it was a lovely tribute to the author’s father.

Thanks to the library for always pushing me to explore new worlds, or in this case . . . .

Lockdown mode has me all out of whack when it comes to posting reviews, but this was one of the recommended selections for this year’s challenge and eventually I’ll be able to go retrieve my major award for continually being a reader of many books : )