Weekly Reads – 16 January 2022

Well, we made it halfway through January! I’m hoping that the year has started well for you all. Personally, I’ve been so busy that I can’t tell! Fortunately, the kids have a 4 day weekend. Originally it was just supposed to be a 3 day weekend with MLK day as a holiday on Monday. However, our local school board voted to give teachers 3 additional in-service days this year to help with their stress (and teachers are dealing with unbelievable stress and they all need our support!), and Friday was the first of those days off for the kids. And how did we celebrate? We slept in. Well, I slept in. And I’m doing it again on Monday. There are no words to describe how excited I am by this.

In other news, I watched The Tragedy of MacBeth last night. I had been chatting about it with friends earlier in the day and then Pat told me he saw that it was available on streaming. So, I called a family movie night…which didn’t last long. In retrospect, MacBeth is probably not the place to start when you are introducing your kids to Shakespeare and Pat hates things in black and white. Ultimately, I watched all of it and loved it, but the rest of the family bailed. I did put a hold on the Kenneth Branagh production of Much Ado About Nothing at the library as I think that will be a better fit for my kids. I was considering the Leonardo diCaprio/Clare Danes Romeo and Juliet, but I couldn’t remember how spicy it was (I remember very clearly how spicy the 1960s version is. We watched it Freshman year in high school and more than one of my male classmates had their minds blown by the nudity).

Onto the books!

As usual, I’m linking up with Kathryn at Book Date and her It’s Monday…What Are You Reading? blog hop.

Last week, I finished:

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Date Finished: January 10, 2022
Rating: 3 stars

There have been a number of people who have been pressing Ruth Ware books to me, insisting they are top-notch thrillers. After reading The Lying Game I’m wondering if I started with the wrong book.

To be fair, there is much to credit Ruth Ware here. Her writing builds tension and keeps you turning the pages. She created a strong, but slightly creepy, world of women returning to the town where they met at school. Her prose is strong and readable.

But, ultimately, this story had its problems. The entire mystery was rather weak and I could never figure out why it was such a big deal to these characters. There were many details that were just sort of left hanging at the end of the book that deserved some sort of resolution. And, for me the worst issue, the main character kept making decisions that made no sense to me.

I will give Ruth Ware another try (I have The Turn of the Key sitting on my TBR bookshelf), but hopefully, this was just one disappointing entry into her body of work.

The Girls on the Shore (Two Rivers #2.5) by Ann Cleeves
Date Finished: January 11, 2022
Rating: 3 stars

I picked up this book mostly out of interest in how it would work. Short story mysteries need to pick up the action right away and see it through. One thing I’ve noticed in the first two books in this series is that Cleeves takes her time to get the ball rolling, which is fine in a novel but I wanted to see if it worked to her detriment here.

The good news is that we jump right in, with Detective Matthew Venn finding two (slightly creepy) girls standing on the beach. Slightly creepy kids are always a good trope and I was in. We get a glimpse of Matthew’s own insecurities around children and then we get his right-hand woman, Jen, in the action, who takes control.

And I was completely in here…and then it all just stops. This was a great start to a story, maybe even a novel, but then it peters out as quickly as it starts. Frustrating? Very much so. My only hope is that the seeds of this story plant themselves in the character development in future novels because I would hate to think that the 15 minutes I spent on this were for naught.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Date Finished: January 13, 2022
Rating: 4.5 stars

It took me longer than it should to read this book and I can attribute that to two things (beyond the library hold list). First, a book about a kid who dies doesn’t entice me. Secondly, I hate Hamlet. To be fair, I’ve only read Hamlet in an academic, and painful, context and I may feel differently if I were to just watch a production for fun. But I digress.

So, after much prodding from my bookish friends, and finally reaching the top of the holds list, I started this one and now I am kicking myself for not reading it the moment I heard about it. To my abovementioned concerns: the play Hamlet plays a very little role in this book and yeah, this book is about a kid who dies. But it is also not about a kid who dies.

While Hamnet’s death is central to this book, this is a novel of familial love. We do meet Hamnet, but we also meet his sisters, both of whom have to deal with the loss of him in his way. We meet his parents, two people who love each other but seem to operate on very different planes. We meet his grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We see not only his parents’ relationship but also the deeply loving relationship his mother has with her brother who, unlike her husband, is her pillar of strength.

This book spoke to my soul in gorgeous prose and I have no criticism of the story. If I had to nitpick something it would be this: I wish it had been made less obvious (through the summary and the front pages) that this book was about Shakespeare’s son. The name “William Shakespeare” (or “Shakespeare,” but there might be a stray “William” there referring to someone else) never appears in this book and I wish that I had the opportunity to realize in my own reading who this family was. That, however, is not an issue with the book or the writing, just in the packaging and one I can overlook (especially since I would have known what was up anyway as it took me so long to read this!).

If you are one of those who had been on my case to read this, you were right. If you haven’t read this yet, do so. You won’t regret it.

A Blizzard of Polar Bears (Alex Carter #2) by Alice Henderson
Date Finished: January 16, 2022
Rating: 3.5 stars

I’m torn on this book. When it’s good, it’s very good. When it’s not, it’s…okay, I guess?

If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller that will keep you turning pages while teaching you more about polar bears than you never knew you wanted, this definitely delivers on that point. But, there are also barren ice caps in this story, parts where Henderson delves too deeply into minutiae that are neither important to the story nor interesting.

The good news is that these patches are easily skimmable and once things get going, it goes at a rapid pace. I do wish Henderson’s writing style was a little more nuanced, but she does deliver on the action when needed. I also have a dread that, as this series goes on, something might develop with the main character which will not be welcome, but we will have to see with that.

This isn’t a book that will rock your world, but if you are interested in wildlife welfare and don’t mind skimming (but not missing) chunks, this could be up your alley.

This week, I started:

  • The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

13 thoughts on “Weekly Reads – 16 January 2022

  1. I like how you rate the books, gives me an idea of what you thought of them. I know Meredith I think it is, on the Currently Reading podcast, her fave book is The Count of Monte Cristo. Big yes for those teachers. And enjoy the sleep ins.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice looking assortment of books! Our local schools are considering going virtual again since they are having trouble having adequate staff because of so much illness. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad you were able to sleep in some this weekend! It’s a rare treat around here for me, although I have come to appreciate my quiet mornings to myself while everyone else sleeps in. I hope you are enjoying your reading. Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors. I hope you have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Teachers definitely need (and deserve) more breaks! I’m glad your school district recognizes that.

    I remember the 1960s version of Romeo & Juliet. My teacher, a tiny, birdlike woman, was waiting for the nudity. She jumped up, ran in front of the screen to block it, then sat back down. The boys in my class were doomed to disappointment!

    I’ve added Hamnet to my Overdrive wishlist but I don’t think I’ve gone so far as to actually request it. Like you, I’m just hesitant about it. Maybe I’ll request it soon. But I have a bit of a fatalistic approach to my wishlist and think that when it’s the right time for me to read a book, it will magically be available. 🙂

    Enjoy your week!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your review of Hamnet is perfect for people who hesitate to read literary fiction, I think. Hamnet was an amazing read.

    One of the books on the 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read list is an old book called Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. I think that might be a good place to start…maybe not that old book but say a comic book of some of the lighter plays.

    Like

  6. I’m with you both on Ruth Ware (although I haven’t read The Lying Game) and also on Hamnet! Ruth Ware is overrated. I listened to Hamnet on audio, but I might surprise myself and read it over again in print someday. (I don’t reread very often!)
    Nice idea to make a 4-day weekend out of a 3-day one for the sake of mental health. Glad you were able to take advantage of it!
    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my Monday post! I had the Monday holiday off, but somehow managed to fill it with appointments, errands, and line dance class, and didn’t get any blog visiting in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you for the suggestion of a graphic novel version of Shakespeare. I just checked my Indie and they have some Manga Shakespeare! My daughter’s birthday is next month–she may not be sure about Shakespeare, but she loves Manga…so guess what she will be getting!

      Like

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About Melinda