It’s May, y’all! Where on earth is time going? The kids only have about 6 weeks left of school and I still feel like it is the middle of winter! The weather is not exactly helping with that feeling. The last several years, we’ve had warm, dry springs. This spring is much more like the ones when I was growing up—rainy and cool. I know that it is good for us to have a wetter, cooler spring…BUT I WANT WARM WEATHER! And, yes, I know that whining about it isn’t going to change anything.
Okay, no more weather complaints! Yesterday was Pat’s birthday, although we had a pretty quiet one. Chris went to a birthday party for one of his friends while Pat, Lillie, and I went to Pat’s favorite place–Costco! Pat was feeling a little down because he can’t any of the birthday foods he wants, thanks to some new dietary restrictions, but we figured out we could do wings and be okay. And, really, wings always make everything okay, right?
This coming week is Lillie’s school play and she has not one, not two, but THREE roles! This is her first time acting, so we’re really excited to see her up on stage. I spent a little bit of time on the stage growing up, so it is fun to see my daughter doing it now.
Okay, time for 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 reading:
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
Date finished: April 25, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
Oh man, this one was good! I had heard so many people rave about this one that I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. It not only lived up to it, it surpassed it.
Seriously, who knew that a reader could be so emotionally invested in a violin? Yes, it is a rare violin. Yes, it has an interesting backstory. But the truth is that the violin is an extension of Ray and Ray, as the main character, is the kind of guy you just have to root for. I immediately fell in love with Ray, wanted all the wonderful things for him, and wanted to go after those who hurt him with a pitchfork. He’s not a perfect person–he’s sometimes impulsive, sometimes a pushover, and sometimes makes bad decisions–but who doesn’t?
As a thriller, this works on all levels. I didn’t see the end coming, although it made complete sense in retrospect. I also liked the structure of the book. Instead of jumping between the past and current day, we start in the current day then hop to the past and then work back up to the current day. I wish more thriller writers would take that approach.
There were a couple of minor things that didn’t work for me with this book. Now and then, the writing style just felt a bit rough. This was not a widespread problem–just a line here or there that didn’t land quite right. I also found Ray’s family (both branches of them) rather cartoonish. This doesn’t take away from the story, but it was a bit distracting.
But, overall, this is an impressive debut that I would pass on to anyone. I can’t wait to see what Slocumb brings us next.
Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti #1) by Donna Leon
Date Finished: April 25, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
This book came to me from two top-notch recommendations: Louise Erdrich (in THE SENTENCE as a read-alike for Louise Penny) and Hillary Clinton (on her podcast, when she answered my email about what she had been reading and what she would recommend). So, no pressure or anything…
Fortunately, both Louise Erdrich and Hillary Clinton will be staying as top-notch recommenders for me. This was a solid, entertaining mystery and introduction to a series I will definitely be reading (all 31, as of now, books!).
I’m not going into the specifics with this book because, with a mystery, it’s best to know as little as possible before turning to the first page. However, I did want to highlight some things about it. First off, I said above that this was put forth by Louise Erdrich as a good Louise Penny read-alike and I wholeheartedly agree. While we don’t (yet, at least) have a community of quirky characters, Guido Burnetti is as compelling as Armand Gamache.
Also, Leon is like Penny in that she does an amazing job with a sense of place. The world featured here is Venice, one of the most unique and storied cities in the world. Leon brings the city to life, and not just the picturesque side of things. The gritty side of the city is also on display. It’s still hard to travel, but this is a good way to get to Venice at least in your reading mind.
This is in no way a complaint about the book, but I think it is something to keep in mind. This book was written in 1992, but there is nothing that screams THE 90S about it and it has a very contemporary feel. However, it is important to keep in mind that even though this book feels like it could take place today, it does take place in 1992. The specter of WWII and Hitler looms heavier in this book than it could in a story set in the current day.
This book was exactly what I was looking for and filled the Louise Penny-shaped hole in my heart now that I’m caught up with the Gamache books. For anyone else looking for a strong mystery and/or an escape to Venice, I would urge you to pick this one up.
The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
Date finished: April 28, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
Trying to explain what this book is about is pointless because it isn’t about what it is about. Does that make any sense? This may be categorized as a mystery, it may be more accurate to refer to it as a puzzle mystery–with an emphasis on “puzzle”.
I will admit that it took me a while to settle into this one and I spent a lot of time wondering where things were going. Normally, that would be a drawback with a book. However, with this one, it is intentional. This is a book that requires brainpower, but not in a way that feels taxing. While reader involvement is needed, it is a fun little task to take on.
What I did not expect was to be moved by this book. I won’t say more than that. I realize I haven’t said much at all about this book, but that is for the best. I would recommend reading Janice Hallett’s THE APPEAL first. These two books are not tied together, but THE APPEAL will give you a better idea of what Hallett does in her books and this one feels like a more intermediate step in her books.
Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
Date finished: April 30, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars
I resisted this one for a while–I was intrigued by the premise, but wary of the violence. Finally, the time came when I felt ready to read it and it was worth it.
This book has the distinction of being the first book to make me cry this year. I could feel the pain Ike and Buddy Lee were dealing with not only the death of their sons but also the regret of relationships that would never be. I also enjoyed watching Ike and Buddy Lee’s friendship flounder before flowering. Cosby has the gift of being able to convey deep emotions without a lot of flowery or overwrought language.
The plot kept me going and I didn’t figure it out until right before the reveal, which is an accomplishment for any book. My only challenge–I don’t want to say it is a complaint–was the violence. Look, it’s not unnecessary violence, but it is graphic. While I think this is a story everyone should experience, I realize that not everyone can stand the level of bloodshed. Honestly, the only reason why this isn’t a 5-star book is that I struggled with the violence level.
So, this is a book I would widely recommend, but with the qualifier that you need to be able to deal with some Tarantino-level violence.
Last week, I started reading:
- The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo (audiobook)
- The Man in the Brown Suit (Colonel Race #1) by Agatha Christie
- Dog Flowers: A Memoir by Danielle Geller
Last week, I continued to read:
- Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie (page 505)
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (31%)
- Alone in Wonderland by Christine Reed (page 135)