Weekly Reads – January 29, 2023

Can you believe that we are almost through January? I’m still in “New Year” mode and now I’m being pushed into the “OMG, my daughter is going to be 14 in a few weeks! What fresh hell awaits me?” mode.

I do want to apologize for not updating last week. I was feeling under the weather and decided that sleeping trumped blogging (and YouTubing) at that point in time. It wasn’t a big deal–I wasn’t sick, but had a situation involving a prescription that caused all this. It happens, but I’m glad I’m over it.

This is the last week of the semester for the kids’ and I think I’m the one who is most excited about the upcoming four day weekend (next Friday and the following Monday off). I mean, I GET TO SLEEP IN! However, it is a bit shocking to think that we are halfway through Lillie’s last year in Middle School and Chris’s last year in Elementary School. I know they are both excited (well, Lillie is excited. I think Chris may be a bit apprehensive), but I’m just in disbelief.
If you are a movie viewer, you also know that we are now in awards season. I have to admit that I used to be far more interested in this than I am now. I don’t even watch the award shows anymore and I don’t care too much about nominations. However, I did glance at the Oscar nominations this week, and I had 3 thoughts:
1 – I want to see Everything Everywhere All At Once
2 – Ugh…James Cameron. Blech!
3 – Top Gun: Maverick really does not deserve to be nominated. I saw it and it is really just a rehash of the original film. It doesn’t actually do anything new. Also, I felt really old watching it.
Anyway, I looked up to see where I could watch Everything Everywhere All At Once and it looked like it was on Paramount+. That is a nasty lie! It’s on Showtime, which you can access through Paramount+. I really didn’t need yet another streaming service (although I was tempted for a moment), so I looked for another film to watch. I ended up with The Banshees of Inisherin on HBO. The acting in this movie is amazing. The story is, well, the story is strange in a way I didn’t expect. It’s about 2 middle aged men dealing with middle school problems and there is some self-amputation. So, um, yeah. I’m not recommending or non-recommending it. The acting alone makes it worth watching. However, does it outweigh the story? I’m not sure.
Okay, enough about movies…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.

Since my last update, I finished reading:

Death and Judgment (Commissario Brunetti #4) by Donna Leon
Date finished: January 16, 2023
Rating: B ⭐⭐⭐

I’m back with Guido Brunetti after DNF’ing the 3rd book in the series. I can’t yet say that this is a series you don’t need to read in order, but you can skip the 3rd book and be just fine in the 4th!

Donna Leon did some interesting things with this book that I felt had mixed results. The first is that she opens with the scene of a truck accident, which is clearly more than just a case of cargo moving. While this will definitely hook you in, it doesn’t quite hook into the story as much as I would hope. It also robs the narrative of the mystery of “what is going on,” as you will know from the first scene what the underlying situation is. The ending didn’t quite work either. While I always knew what was happening, I didn’t know who the culprit was until Leon let all the pieces fall into place. But, then, it seems like she wanted the ending to be slightly open, but to me, it just felt rushed, as if she had written herself into a corner.

However, beyond that, this was a pretty strong mystery. The clues are meted out at a good pace, and while we know what is going on, it doesn’t seem crazy that Guido doesn’t know what is happening. I also really enjoyed the fact that Leon pulled Paola and Chiara more into this story. So far, they’ve been in the background, but they have their own roles here. On a less generous note, I was also pleased that Raffi was elsewhere for this book as I have yet to warm to Guido’s son.

As always, Leon brings Venice and its environs to life. I love all the little geographical details she includes. She also brings the secondary and even tertiary characters to life and keeps them interesting for the reader. As this book was written in the 1990s, there are a few moments where there is a bit of “time shock,” such as when Guido wishes he had one of those “portable phones.” These bits are not flaws in the book but rather entertaining reminders of the past.

I’m glad to be back with this series, and I look forward to continuing on as it comes closer to the present day.

The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama (narrated by Michelle Obama)
Date finished: January 17, 2023
Rating: A+ ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

While most First Ladies are admired, I revere Michelle Obama. I always had great respect for her and was blown away by Becoming. With this book, she shows us that she isn’t just someone who had a successful life. Here she truly inspires us with her wisdom and vulnerability.

This book is not meant to be a sequel to Becoming, but I do feel that the experience of reading this is greatly enhanced if it follows Becoming. Obama frequently refers back in The Light We Carry to events that she detailed in Becoming, which helps to place these events if you are already familiar with Becoming. I think of Becoming as Michelle Obama 101 and The Light We Carry as Michelle Obama 201.

This book lies somewhere on the spectrum between memoir and self-help. Considering Becoming only came out a few years ago, there isn’t much for a new memoir (even though those few years have been eventful, to say the least!). However, this also isn’t Michelle Obama telling us all how to live our best lives. Instead, it is her visiting her vulnerabilities and explaining what worked for her to overcome them. Other than a section where she passes on parenting wisdom from her mother, she doesn’t give any advice outright. Instead, her strategies are there for us to take if we want them.

I loved this book from beginning to end. The chapters on parenting and partnering were the most impactful for me, but I found them all to be inspiring and useful. My copy of The Light We Carry will live alongside Becoming on my keeper shelf.

Parnassus on Wheels (Parnassus #1) by Christopher Morley
Date finished: January 19, 2023
Rating: A+ ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

What a delightful little jaunt!

I’ve discovered–and it really solidified for me reading this book–that one of my catnip items is women getting FED UP and busting out to live their own lives. That is exactly what we have here. Helen has dutifully kept house for her author brother for years. When the opportunity for her to buy a traveling book wagon and head out into the wide world, she jumps at it (before her brother can).

This book just put a big smile on my face. I loved Helen and enjoyed seeing her come into her own as she goes on her big adventure. I also adored Roger Mifflin, the former owner of the Parnassus, who ends up being her companion until he can get to Brooklyn.

This is not a long book, but it is a fun little adventure in its own right. It was published in 1917, and while it feels true to its time, it doesn’t feel dated and holds up against the years. The prose is neither complicated nor flowery (except when it needs to be), and I liked exploring this bygone world when we were on the cusp of the motorized age.

I had a huge smile on my face as I read this novella. It’s one that I will return to time and time again.

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut Universe #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Date finished: January 19, 2023
Rating: A ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m the sort of person who reads several books at once and is pretty good about balancing all those books. However, once I started this book, all the other books I had in progress were pushed to the side, and all my attention landed here.

I don’t know if I can describe this well, but I felt this book spoke to my intelligence. Kowal never spoke to me, even though she tackled some complicated concepts. The world she created, which is an alternative United States of the 1950s, is unblinkingly realistic. Even though Elma and I have pretty much nothing in common, I found her fascinating, and she quickly became one of my favorite literary heroines.

This book is generally considered to be a work of Science Fiction. I don’t think that is wrong, but this feels more like (slightly alternative) Historical Fiction. This is probably why I was able to sink so comfortably into it. However, now that I am invested in these characters, I will definitely be reading on in the series, and I’m sure that future books will be more squarely in the Science Fiction realm.

That being said, even the Science Fiction portions were fairly easy to follow. Kowal does get a little “mathy” now and then, but nowhere near what Andy Weir has been known to write–and you can easily skim over those sections without missing anything with the plot. On the other end of the spectrum, I didn’t think the few spicy scenes worked quite well. I have nothing against sex scenes, which are not overly explicit, but I felt like these scenes did nothing to push the narrative forward, leaving me to wonder why I was reading them.

I am so surprised by this novel and feel so lucky that it was recommended to me.

The Seven Dials Mystery (Superintendent Battle #2) by Agatha Christie
Date finished: January 25, 2023
Rating: B+ ⭐⭐⭐½

There are many ways I think of Agatha Christie’s books: mysterious, surprising, thrilling, or dark. This one, however, can only be described as a fun romp…and I am here for it.

Because I did not enjoy the first Superintendent Battle book, The Secret of Chimneys, I was worried about this one. However, I was quickly sucked into the setting of the younger, upper crust of English society living it up at a country estate. This sort of carefree atmosphere quickly gives way to something more mysterious–an underground and anonymous group of…something? Criminals? Murderers? Heroes? Misfits? Who knows?

While this book is a mystery, I kept forgetting about it because I was enjoying my time with Bundle and her group of friends. I am mystified why these books are called the Superintendent Battle books when he is, at best, a secondary character. Bundle is clearly the heroine here, and she is a delight. She reminds me quite a bit of Bunty Windemere in the Father Brown TV series (having never read those books, I’m not sure if she has a literary counterpart. If not, it almost seems as if she were based on the Bundle of this book). Agatha Christie created a handful of fully-realized and captivating characters, and Bundle is there with Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple.

I do think I may have enjoyed this book a bit more if I hadn’t had to take a break in the middle of it to finish another book. Because of this, I did lose some momentum. I also felt the second to last chapter began to drag, especially compared to the rest of the book.

While this book was imperfect, I can’t say I minded too much. This book was just fun and an unexpected offering from Agatha Christie.

A Dying Fall (Ruth Galloway #5) by Elly Griffiths
Date finished: January 28, 2023
Rating: A ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Oh, Ruth…you are every woman!

Elly Griffiths has created a fabulous heroine in Ruth Galloway–she’s both strong and insecure, curious and careful, loving and suspicious. In this book, we get Ruth at her best in her element and a healthy dose of her best friend, the Druid Cathbad.

Nelson, the police officer with whom Ruth has a not-entirely-professional relationship, is also here…which is interesting because this book doesn’t take place in Norfolk, the area they all call home. Instead, we find these characters in the vacation spot of Blackpool, Nelson’s hometown. Ruth is called to examine a find left behind by a college friend who recently died under suspicious circumstances.

This book brings about the best elements of this series. We have Ruth working in archaeology, Cathbad bringing the more ancient features, and Nelson in a problematic situation. Here, Nelson isn’t only in his usual difficult situation with Ruth. He is also on the outside of law enforcement–while he began his police career with Blackpool, but is now little more than an outside consultant. This shift in position allows for a bit more character growth with Nelson. I quite liked this mystery–it was the perfect mix of the modern and the ancient. I also could not solve it beforehand, as Griffiths give us more than a few effective red herrings.

My favorite element of this book was the relationship between Cathbad and Ruth. Cathbad has always been an interesting character, but he’s also always been the mysterious guy on the outside. Here, he is in the middle of the action. His friendship with Ruth is one we rarely see in books–a healthy one based on mutual respect. Even though their relationship is unproblematic, it is still fascinating to watch.

I had a few minor quibbles here and there, most of which would be spoilers if I mentioned them here. But none of them were so big that they caused anything but a faint ripple of annoyance as I read. This is an enjoyable mystery series that I would heartily recommend.

I’m currently reading:

Again, check out my YouTube video for what I’m currently reading. I’ve hit my monthly goal of 12 books, so if I finish any of these books in the next two days, they will be gravy. If I don’t finish them until February comes, they’ll be a jump start for the month!

17 thoughts on “Weekly Reads – January 29, 2023

  1. I’m glad you are feeling better. I usually watch as many Oscar nominated movies as I can before the awards. This year, I’ve only seen Top Gun. I need to catch up 🙂

    Hope you have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The good thing now is that so many of the movies are already streaming, so you don’t have to make a bunch of trips to the cinema. Heck, I can’t remember the last time I saw a non-MCU movie in the theater!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a little surprised about all the Top Gun love too. I mean, it’s a fun movie, but not exactly breaking any new ground. Everyone seems to love it so much though I hesitate to even saythat because people look at you like what’s wrong with you? lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband was SO EXCITED to finally see the new Top Gun movie, but even he was a bit underwhelmed. And (this is true) he actually bought a new 4K TV to watch it on!


    1. Thanks so much! I am feeling better. But, now, my son appears to be sick. I don’t know what it is, but I’m afraid it might be covid…again. I’ll test him tomorrow and see what it says (although it might still be too early!)


    1. Thanks for the well wishes! Yes, I’m feeling better…but I’m also crossing my fingers that whatever my son suddenly developed is not another case of Covid! Yikes!


  3. I had been eyeing the new Michelle Obama book, but after reading your review, I am heading over to Amazon to order it! I loved Becoming, and I admire her as a person. I would love to see her in the White House, but I’m sure she wouldn’t want that.

    Your books all look good! Enjoy your week.

    Liked by 1 person

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About Melinda