Well, howdy there! I haven’t been around for a while because…I haven’t been around for a while! We took off for Spring Break to see my dad in Arizona! I’ve not posted for 3 weeks, the 2nd two were due to travel, but the week before was because I was overwhelmed with everything to do to get ready to travel. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the practice of traveling!
I won’t go into the day to day detail of our trip, but here are some pictures from our time down there:
I didn’t get as much reading done while we were down there due to a variety of reasons. First of all, you can tell by the pictures that we were quite busy. Secondly, things are just LOUD at my dad’s place. He refuses to wear his hearing aids, so the volume on everything was up to 100. Even with my noise-canceling headphones, it was a bit much!
Despite that, we had a great time, but I was happy to be back home. We’re back to our usual schedule, which is nice. Now, I just need the spring weather to arrive! We’re stuck in the 50-ish degree and rain showers type of weather and I’m a little sick of it. Oh well, the sun will come out…sometime!
Now, onto the books. I’m going to catch up form my last update, so this will be a bit of a longer post. As usual, I’m linking up with Kathryn at Book Date and her It’s Monday…What Are You Reading? blog hop.
Since my last update, I finished:
The Hidden by Melanie Golding
Date finished: March 8. 2022
Star rating: 3 stars
Once I heard “selkie thriller,” I knew I had to give this one a try. And, just on that, it was successful. I mean, there is a selkie and this is a pretty standard, propulsive thriller. Had this book been anything more than that, I would have been surprised. Yes, it was entertaining and a book that kept me interested, but I won’t say that this book didn’t have its problems.
First off, and this is completely not-spoilery and something I wish someone would have told me before I started, the main character’s name is Joanna Harper. There is nothing complicated in that except that Golding sometimes calls her Joanna and sometimes calls her Harper and there seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to why she does this. Folk, I spent half the book thinking Harper was Joanna’s partner. Once I figured out what was going on, I have to admit I felt a little spark of rage every time I saw the name change from there on out.
Secondly, I think that if you have a book that has both fantastical and realistic elements, you need to keep the realistic parts rooted in reality. I can suspend disbelief about selkies. However, there were some non-fantastical medical issues, shall we say, that I thought were complete rubbish and unbelievable. And that is too bad, because that took me out of the story even more than the Joanna/Harper issue.
I read this one in print, but I almost wish I had listened to it on audio. I do think that this novel has great potential as an audio book and, if I recommend it to someone, I’m going to suggest they take that route with it.
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
Date finished: March 10, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
This was probably my most anticipated book for the first part of 2022 and, while it didn’t quite exceed my expectations, it certainly lived up to them.
This book felt more like a mystery than a horror novel to me, which is fine. There were still some creepy scenes and a lot of that horror-like tension, but the structure was just a bit different. I felt that Shea was a well-rounded character whose backstory was a strong tool in explaining who she was and why she did the things she did.
My complaints about this book are minor when compared to my enjoyment of it. It was truly an unputdownable work, but I did find it a tad bit predictable (which is probably why it felt a bit more like a mystery to me, not that mysteries are predictable, but I didn’t feel that the twists were quite up to horror levels). Also, as an Oregonian, this book’s setting felt very off to me. It’s set on the Oregon coast, but not any Oregon coast that I know of. I realize I’m the only person in the world who was probably irritated by that, but there you go.
Still, this book was a wild ride. While it wasn’t my favorite Simone St. James novel (that is still The Broken Girls), it was a great reading experience that completely hit the spot.
Across a Hundred Miles by Reyna Grande
Date finished: March 12, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
I had never heard of this book when I came across it in a Little Free Library. Something just called to me and I decided to give it a try and I’m so glad that I did.
This is one of those books that is interesting enough to read but you aren’t entirely sure what is going on until a certain thing happens and then everything falls into place. I loved how Grande decided to tell this story. It was both beautiful and horrendous and you can feel the pain the characters experience. She also did a wonderful job capturing the dangerous journey so many take to come to this country.
There were a few parts I wished were fleshed out a bit more and I think that some of the storytelling in the early parts of the book could have been a bit more streamlined. But, all in all, this was an amazing book and I feel blessed that bookish serendipity put it in my hands.
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
Date finished: March 15, 2022
Star rating: 4.5 stars
“Fun” is not usually a term I use to describe a murder mystery, but it is more than apt in this amusement park ride of a novel.
Law students Charlotte and Femi are given a stack of correspondence with a note from their advisor to try to make sense of it. This book invites the readers along with Charlotte and Femi to figure out when what went wrong when a community simultaneously launches a fundraising appeal for a sick child and puts on a community theater production of an Arthur Miller play.
As readers, we are given all the information Charlotte and Femi have as they get it. We see their thought process and have the chance of putting our own detective skills to work. Hallett challenges us as she points us in the right direction and white hurling red herrings at us.
All this is set against the backdrop of secrets, petty dramas, corruption, and amateur dramatics. The characters in this mystery are colorful and entertaining. As this is an epistolary novel, everything is from the mouths (er, typing fingers) of the characters.
This book was hard to put down and I was almost sad to finish it. It was probably the most unique mystery reading experience I’ve had and I am incredibly grateful to Janice Hallett for that.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Date finished: March 20, 2022
Star rating: 5 stars!!!
I make a point of waiting to read book club books until close to the meeting date. I broke that rule for this one. I’ve waited from the day it was released to start this and I just was not going to wait for another 6 months!
People, this was worth the not-waiting (yes, I’ll reread it–probably on audio–before my book club). Louise Erdrich has the knack for writing books that both comfort you and disrupt your world and this is definitely one of those. I will say that you will need to be ready to read about 2020 before starting this book. If you aren’t ready for that, keep this book in mind for a later date.
I loved Tookie, a woman who has had a hard life and is still dealing with her demons. And ghosts. Yes, she has to deal with ghosts–or, at least, one ghost in particular. I also enjoyed those around Tookie, including her husband, her co-workers, and her husband’s adopted daughter. The one mystifying character is Louise Erdrich herself. I found her presence in this book entertaining but strange (in a good way). Somehow, it made this book seem more authentic.
This will probably end up being one of my favorite books of the year and I can’t wait to read it again and discuss it this fall with my book club.
I Shall Not Want (Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ van Alstyne #6) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Date finished: March 30, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
This series has become a comfort read for me. I did take a break after the last book, more because of other pressing books than anything else, but I was happy to jump back into this one.
I know this is a mystery, and there is a mystery there, but this book is more about relationships. We are still working through Russ and Clare’s relationship, which was left in a bad place at the end of the last book. I have to credit Spencer-Fleming with really diving in here and the emotional journeys both these characters take are incredibly realistic. We also have a new recruit, Hadley Knox, and her co-worker, the not-quite-as-new Kevin Flynn (who has been in previous books). I’m not sure that Spencer-Fleming quite got Kevin right, but I think she hit the nail on the head with Hadley.
As for the mystery, it was good. It worked and it was interesting, although it wasn’t as complex as one might find in a comparable mystery. However, it was enough here in this novel which is more about the characters than the actual mystery.
I’m glad to be back in Millers Kill and looking forward to seeing what is in store for Clare and Russ.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Date finished: March 31, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
This was probably the most hyped book I’ve read lately, which is notable as the book is backlist. However, everyone I know seems to be reading it and then one of my book clubs chose it.
All that played a role in my enjoyment of this book. I went into it expecting something mindblowing. Don’t get me wrong–the writing is just amazing and I was drawn in with Count Rostov’s story. But I still felt through most of it like I was missing something.
Here’s the thing, though…once I finished the book, the hype all made sense to me. This book is ultimately worth the hype, but you need to wait for the pay-off. This is a book that needs to be considered in its entirety, not judged at some random point in the middle.
Because I had a reading deadline (thanks to a book club), I wasn’t able to read this in a slow and steady way. However, that is how I would recommend reading this–take the time to really soak it in so that you can truly experience it.
I’m currently working on:
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn