Okay, I feel like I owe you all 2 apologies. First off, I reread my post from last week and I sounded like such a downer! I’m not sure why I came across that in my writing, because I really don’t think I was especially in a bad mood! Anyway, apologies for that.
Also, apologies for not visiting your blogs last week. I had every intention to, but I was kind of slammed with a bunch of little tasks I needed to get done for various different projects. The biggest of which was getting ready for Girl Scout Cookie season, which usually happens earlier, but this year it is a month later. The girls in our troop are already have their set customer base and aren’t interested in doing booths, which makes things MUCH easier for me. The one tough thing is we seem to have a small, squeaky critter living in our garage, so our troop cookie pantry will be my living room. It’s a good thing the Christmas tree is down.
And, by the Christmas tree being down, I mean down…on the floor of the living room. But at least it is not still up and in full regalia. When I posted last week, I honestly thought we would still have the tree up by the time this week….so, PROGRESS!
This afternoon, Lillie and I are going to go see a production of The Music Man put on by the local youth theatre. Nearly all of her friends from school are in this production (Lillie doesn’t sing, or else she probably would have been in it, too), so that will be fun. The Music Man is one of the first musicals I saw as a children and the music is so incredibly catchy that I’m sure I’ll still be singing the songs next week.
And now, 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 reading:
Dear Committee Members (Jason Fitger #1) by Julie Schumacher
Date finished: January 10, 2023
Rating: B+ ⭐⭐⭐½
Oh, academia! When you aren’t dark, you are truly passive-aggressive (in the best way possible, of course!)
In this collection of Letters of Recommendation (or LORs, as Professor Fitger calls them), we watch an Associate Professor in the English department as he struggles through the trials of working in a department that has no respect, navigates the waters between his ex-wife and his ex-lover, and tries to avoid the constant construction in his building.
All I can say is that this is fun! Professor Fitger, who is also a frustrated novelist, does not hold back the vinegar. He has perfected the art of the compliment that is actually an insult, and he does it beautifully. As we spend a year with him and his letters, we see his ups and (much more common) downs. But we are also tricked into reading an actual story, which I didn’t realize until I nearly finished the book. This alone elevated the novel from a collection of letters to something more profound.
This is an excellent book for bedtime reading–the “chapters” (letters) are short, and the book is easy to put down and pick up again. While the writing is intentionally flowery–that’s part of the humor–it’s easy to follow and doesn’t require extreme brain power.
I quite enjoyed this one and would recommend it to anyone looking for a book that will remind them of the absurdities of life.
There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura
Date finished; January 11, 2023
Rating: B ⭐⭐⭐
Well, that was weird.
Don’t get me wrong; I mean that in the best way. I have never read a book quite like this one. For that alone, I have to give credit. This is about a woman in her mid-thirties who quits after suffering burnout at her long-term job and then travels through a series of temp jobs for the next year. Each job is stranger than the next.
My biggest barrier in this book was just a cultural difference. I don’t always have luck with Japanese novels. In this one, there were things I couldn’t understand. What’s with the lonely hearts group? How can you even hear advertisements on a train? What is up with that park? In retrospect, I wish I had read this with a book club. I believe if I had the opportunity to discuss my thoughts as I read this or a discussion shortly after finishing, some of those pieces may fall into place.
Ultimately, though, I never felt tempted to DNF this book. I looked forward to picking it up each day, and even if I didn’t fully understand what was happening, I still enjoyed the ride. If you are a reader who can handle some disorientation or know more about Japanese culture than I do, this book might work for you.
Marple: Twelve New Mysteries by Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse, and Ruth Ware
Date finished: January 14, 2022
Rating: A ⭐⭐⭐⭐
What a delightful collection for any Agatha Christie fan.
Of course, Agatha Christie didn’t write this, but she did create Miss Marple, and 12 contemporary female writers have put their own spin on the busybody from St. Mary’s Mead. Each writer worked independently and brought their own flavor to their story. I had great fun deciding which ones best evoked Christie’s voice and which were truly the author writing.
Like any short story collection, especially one with multiple authors, some stories were better than others. Three stories especially stuck out to me. The first was “The Second Murder at the Vicarage” by Val McDermid, a writer I had never even heard of before. This one draws directly from the first true novel in the Marple collection, and I loved that callback to the beginning. Elly Griffiths wrote “Murder at the Villa Rosa,” and this one was just Elly Griffiths through and through. I’m guessing this story may not work as well for someone unfamiliar with Elly Griffith, but I’m a fan of hers, and I loved it. For me, the best story in this collection is “The Jade Empress” by Jean Kwok (an author I’ve heard of but have yet to read). This was the perfect mix of the author and Christie. Agatha Christie herself could have written this story. The voice was perfect and the mystery was classic Christie. Yet, Kwok can still bring herself into it in a delightful way by highlighting Asian traditions and putting it in an Asian setting (a Chinese steamer to Hong Kong and then in Hong Kong). This story is a masterclass on a short story of this sort.
While the other 9 stories fall into line behind these three, I did enjoy them all. I was also introduced to some new authors I will check out in the future while still giving me my Marple fix.
This week I’m reading:
In addition to what I’m reading (or will soon be reading), I use this week’s video to ask an important question…should I read Prince Harry’s Spare?
Also, thanks for the nice words about my spicy opinions in my “Authors I won’t read.” I was nervous about that one, but at least those who have replied or spoken to me about it tend to agree with my opinions!