Weekly Reads – July 31, 2022

Lordy, it is HOT out there. My father lives outside of Tucson and a few days ago, it was 20 degrees COOLER where he was than where I am. They say it is supposed to cool down next week, but it looks like “cool down” means it only gets into the 90s. I was not meant for this weather.

Obviously, we’ve been spending a lot of time inside. Twice this past week, our local electric company called a peak time event, when they ask residential user to shift as much usage as possible away from a specific time (usually 4-7 or 5-8 in the summer, mid-morning in the winters). I turn off as much as I can and the kids and I have started to head to the library during this time to park ourselves and read in their wonderful air conditioning. I have to admit, it is a pretty nice set up. I have realized we are not the only ones with this idea as the library does seem to be especially busy with readers during those time, but as long as we can find a seat, we’re happy.

Lillie and I have continued watching BritBox mysteries. We watched the entire Father Brown series (the new version with Mark Williams) and last night we finished off the spin-off Sister Boniface. I think I may introduce her to Midsomer Murders now, although we may start with the most recent season and work backwards. If anyone knows any other similar mystery shows (not the Miss Marple ones…I’m saving those. We’re also watching Poirot each time I finish a story or novel) that we should check out, please let me know.

Before I get to the books, I wanted to let you know that I did do something wild and crazy this week and did a mid-week post!

The 10 Worst Books I’ve Read (according to Goodreads)

And, to be fair, I was tricked into reading 2 of these by Meryl Streep.

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:

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Date finished: July 26, 2022
Star rating: 2.5 stars

I wanted to like this more than I did. I recently read Fajardo-Anstine’s short story collection, Sabrina and Corina, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I found her first novel to be a bit of a mess.

I understood this story would be a family saga, and it isn’t. It’s the story of one young woman with some flashbacks to her parents. I don’t mind things like that, but the flashbacks seemed almost stuffed in at the last minute. I couldn’t put the pieces of the two narratives together. While I was mostly interested in Luz’s story, the flashbacks were just a distraction. There was also a problematic power relationship with this book that wasn’t always treated as problematic. That alone almost made me DNF.

Fajardo-Antine’s writing is beautiful, and I probably finished this book because, if nothing else, she hits the right notes with the prose. Her short stories in her previous collection were so strong that I can only assume she’s still developing her novel skills. Will I read her future works? Yes. I know she can write, so I can only expect her novels to improve.

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin (narrated by Saskia Maarleveld)
Date finished: July 27, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars

I’m one of those people who is “over” World War II fiction (okay, it’s a little more complicated than that, but you get the gist), but I am also one of those people who loves books that celebrate bibliophilia, so this one hit at least one of my notes.

What I do not like about World War II fiction is the tendency to fetishize the war and tell heartwarming stories that highlight the romantic idea of the 1940s, not the reality. I was incredibly relieved that Martin did not shy away from the horror of living in London during the War. This story does have its heartwarming elements, but they are firmly in the arena of the love of reading.

I liked Grace as a character, but I found her a tad too perfect at times. This didn’t bother me much, but I wish she were a bit more well-rounded every once in a while. Martin did a great job of showing how Grace develops her love of reading, which I’m sure the audience can appreciate. There is a whiff of romance here, but it is very low-stakes and not central to the story. I quite liked that because I think trying to insert a full-blown love story here would have been a mistake.

I listened to this, which helped me overcome some of my WWII aversion, even though my reasons for not enjoying that trope aren’t present here. This book is fast-paced and engaging and a good choice for readers like me, who want their WWII fiction to be realistic.

The Drowning Sea (Maggie D’arcy #3) by Sarah Stewart Taylor
Date finished: July 27, 2022
Star rating: 3.5 stars

Not only was I glad to get back to this series, but I was also glad this series got back to Ireland. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the previous installment, I just think Maggie sparkles when she’s on the Emerald Isle.

Maggie is back in Ireland–but in a different capacity. Instead of trying to crack a crime that spans both sides of the Atlantic, she’s between jobs and in Ireland on vacation with her Irish boyfriend, his son, and her angsty teenage daughter. But, as these things go, crime finds her.

There was a very frustrating element of this book, but it was an intended frustration, so it is more a strength than a detriment. Maggie, for the first time, is on the outside of the investigation instead of running it. Maggie never has all the information, and, therefore, the reader is also a bit in the dark. However, Maggie can also concentrate on aspects of the crime that don’t interest the authorities.

The central mystery is well-crafted. It held my attention, but I admit it wasn’t exactly memorable. I was more invested in the “family secrets” that Maggie tracks down. There was also an added frustration of Maggie trying to decide if she wants to move with her daughter from Long Island to Ireland and start a new chapter of her professional life from the bottom of the latter. I will admit that this was probably more frustrating for me because I want Maggie in Ireland–not because I’m wearing rose-colored glasses and want her with Conor (not that I’m against that, though…)– but because this series is just so much better in Ireland than it is in the States.

I’m glad that Maggie is back, and I enjoyed this one, even if it was sometimes frustrating. And, of course, I’m looking forward to more sleuthing from Maggie D’arcy.

The Big Four (Hercule Poirot #5) by Agatha Christie
Date finished: July 29, 2022
Star rating: 3 stars

I’m torn on this one.

On the one hand, it’s a good thriller with an individual (or an individual and his sidekick) up against a global crime syndicate. I’m always here for a good David and Goliath story. This is also an action-packed story, which is sometimes a little outrageous but will keep you turning the pages.

On the other hand, I feel like it is a little bit of a bait and switch. This is a Hercule Poirot book, and I expect to find him in a mystery, not a thriller. I found many things unbelievable because I couldn’t picture Poirot doing whatever it was (running to a fro, climbing out of windows, etc). If a different character were featured, this wouldn’t be an issue. But my mind just couldn’t picture it with Poirot.

Hastings is back, and I find him a frustrating character, but his silliness does seem to work better here, and I’m not sure how this story could have been told without him. So, I’ll eat my anti-Hastings words (for this book). There are also some secondary characters that we’ve met in earlier novels or stories that make an appearance.

Ultimately, I’m of two minds about this book. I liked it, but I wish it wasn’t a Poirot “mystery.”

Trickster’s Point (Cork O’Connor #12) by William Kent Krueger
Date finished: July 31, 2022
Star rating: 4.5 stars

It’s getting harder and harder to rate the Cork O’Connor books because William Kent Krueger keeps raising the bar on them.  These have always been strong books, but since about the 9th or 10th book, each entry is stronger than the one before it.

At the center of this book is a knot of relationships.  I can’t minimalize it and say it is a love triangle, friendship, or anything.  It’s messy and complicated but in the best way possible.  Cork O’Connor is both in the middle of it and, painfully, on the sidelines.  He’s the main suspect in the suspicious death of his longtime friend, a rising politician.  But there is so much more than what meets the eye in this.

I loved how Krueger pulled away the layers of all that was happening.  It’s told both with deep care and skillful plotting.  This could have easily fallen apart, but Krueger can elevate it into something almost beautiful.

I admit that I figured out the whodunnit probably a bit earlier than revealed, but I’m not disappointed as the story still had more to give.  Many of the characters here are ones we’ve seen in the background of other novels, so it was nice to see them have their time in the limelight, showing the care Krueger has put into creating this world.

As I always say when I write about these books, you need to start the series at the beginning.  However, the entire series is great, and once you hit the midpoint (or the midpoint as of now), you will be glad that you spent the time getting to know Cork O’Connor and his world.

Last week, I started reading:

  • Even As We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
  • The Moonflower Murders (Susan Ryeland #2) by Anthony Horowitz (narrated by Lesley Manville and Allan Corduner)

5 thoughts on “Weekly Reads – July 31, 2022

  1. I very much enjoyed The Big Four but then I hadn’t met Poirot and Hastings before so had no previous thoughts about them or the books. I didn’t know Agatha Christie wrote so much humour into a book.

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  2. Glad to see I’m not the only one who didn’t find The Drowning Sea to be quite as good as I’d hoped it would be. Personally, I really liked the previous one and how it actually made sense to have the story in both places. I think part of my problem with the new one was we all knew that Maggie would be moving to Ireland, so that just seemed like a pointless storyline.

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  3. Since you gave a high rating to Trickster’s Point, I am now curious to read the Cork O’Connor series. I am also intrigued by The Last Bookshop in London.

    Thanks for sharing, and stay cool! I like the idea of hanging out in the library.

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  4. I, too, am over WWII fiction. I read so much of it years ago that I seem to have reached some sort of saturation point about it which is too bad since so much is still being written. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

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About Melinda