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November 2017 Reads – #chicklit, #mystery, #urbanfantasy

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment
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I picked up the pace a bit in November reading a total of 6 books, mostly chick lit but with a mystery and an urban fantasy tossed in there for good measure.

I started the month off with the end of my Liane Moriarty kick with her chick lit The Hypnotist’s Love Story. This book is about a practicing therapeutic hypnotist who meets the man of her dreams except for one thing…his ex-girlfriend is stalking him. This book did not at all go in the direction I was expecting and I’m still not sure the ending counts as a happy ever after (even though I’m pretty sure it was supposed to). If you’re looking for a different chick lit read, you should definitely pick this one up. The story is quite unique.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Next I decided to return to the Bridget Jones series so I returned to Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding (see the first in the series reviewed here). Written in the same diary style as the first and again covering a year, this looks at Bridget’s on again off again romance with Mark Darcy. Normally on again off agains irritate me, but it kind of works in this case, I think because the on again off agains don’t happen too terribly often and are more reflective of things each of them have to work on rather than entirely stupid misunderstandings. I also must say this was much better than the movie. The kind of loathed Thailand interlude comes across much better in the book and makes way more sense.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

At the same time as I was reading this I was finishing up my audiobook, the second in the Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht mystery series – Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson (see the first in the series reviewed here). This isn’t necessarily a series you need to read in order. It surrounds a police investigative team in Sweden and each book regards a different case. The investigator’s personal lives are present but just barely and aren’t the focus of the book. This entry in the series looks at the mysterious death of a pastor and his wife. The story is intertwined with the immigrant/refugee crisis in Europe. While I thought the audio narrator was again phenomenal, I couldn’t get as into this mystery as into the first one. I thought it verged a bit too far into preachy mode as opposed to just telling a story. But that said I’m sure I’ll return for the third entry in the series because the mystery telling is just so different from a lot of the American mysteries. It keeps me on my toes.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I jumped right back into another chick lit with the next book in the Bridget Jones series – Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. It is not a spoiler to tell you this as you discover it in the very first chapter: Mark Darcy dies tragically young so this book surrounds Bridget as a widow with two children. This is clearly a dichotomizing choice. Some readers are fine with it and others aren’t. I’ve never been that into Mark Darcy so I didn’t mind he was gone but I am married and I hated having the idea of losing a partner so young all unexpectedly up in my face in what was supposed to be a relaxing read. Do I think Fielding did a good job telling the story she chose to tell? Yes. Do I think widows deserve to be represented in literature and given a happy ending? Yes. Do I wish I’d known this in advance before picking it up? Absolutely.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I changed pace a bit next by picking up the next book in the Demon Slayer urban fantasy series I adore – Night of the Living Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (see the first in the series reviewed here). Lizzie gets called to go undercover in New Orleans to stop the rise of an evil voodoo church (not to be confused with good voodoo). This was a great entry in the series that delivered exactly what I’ve come to expect. Entertaining and unexpected action sequences, real peril, unique bad guys, and a strong monogamous relationship at the center of it all.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Finally I read the contemporary chick lit Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen. Julia and Michael fought hard to get out of their hardscrabble West Virginia life and now are millionaires living in D.C. But when Michael survives an unexpected heart attack his priorities start to change. Can their marriage survive his change of heart? I was expecting something very different from this book about priorities and marriage and what really matters in life. What I got was….much more fantastical than I had imagined. I could have handled that if it had just taken the final leap into truly over the top but it toed the edge so much that it landed in ho-hum.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of November 2017:

  • 6 books
    • 6 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 6 female authors; 0 male authors
    • 5 ebooks; 0 print books; 1 audiobook

 

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October 2017 Reads – In Which I Read Only Books by Liane Moriarty

December 30, 2017 4 comments
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You’ll notice I ended September with a chick lit book by the Australian author Liane Moriarty. Well that started a singular focused reading kick the likes of which I haven’t been on since the Sookie Stackhouse books in the early 2010s. I read every single Liane Moriarty book I could get my hands on. There’s just something about them where even if I ultimately wasn’t a huge fan of everything about the book the experience of reading it was precisely the stress relief I needed. They all are set in Australia. They all do a remarkable job of looking at an aspect of women’s lives but in a jazzed up way that makes it more fun. They just work.

First I read Truly Madly Guilty about a backyard barbecue gone wrong. I thought it was going to be something entirely different from what it was, and what it wound up being was just something that worked so much better than I thought. It’s about marriage and forgiveness and accepting that others make mistakes and not judging people based on appearances, but it’s all of that without being preachy. It also features a subplot about a character’s relative who hoards that was really well-handled.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Next up was Big Little Lies which has an award-winning miniseries based on it. I haven’t seen the miniseries. I can’t bring myself to watch it since it’s not set in Australia (and the Australian setting really makes these books for me). This one at first glance is about in-fighting among the moms whose kids all go to the same school but it ends up being about so much more. I really liked this one because at first you might think it’s one of those books stereotyping women to be catty but in fact it goes much deeper and shows how society can pit women against each other but we’re much stronger when we’re together…and we’re kind of inclined to be that way anyway.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Finally I read The Husband’s Secret. My own husband kept glancing over while I was reading it asking if the husband’s secret was making me freak out yet, haha. Yes, this book revolves around a secret and no, it’s not what you might think when hearing of a book with that title. I really like that this book looks at how well can you really know someone and considers the question of can one moment really determine who you are.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of October 2017:

  • 3 books
    • 3 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors (but all the same one); 0 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 0 print book; 0 audiobooks

September 2017 Reads – #fantasy, #nonfiction, #chicklit

December 29, 2017 4 comments
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The end of September was our second wedding anniversary, and I feel like you can see my romantic mood reflected in the last two books of the month. I started out the month, though, with a fantasy and a nonfiction.

The fantasy was Kushiel’s Chosen Jacqueline Carey, the sequel to Kushiel’s Dart that I read in May. In this entry the main character is now a noblewoman instead of a bondservant but she still ends up sucked into the schemings and plottings of the those who would change the course of nations. While I overall enjoyed this entry in the series I felt that the length and action weren’t as well-balanced as in the first book. There was too little plot for the sheer length of the book.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I’ve always been interested in learning more about how to manage money so I picked up a copy of the nonfiction Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. This book seeks to compare and contrast the advice given by a rich mentor and a poor mentor and take the best of each world. While the initial concept is good what is lacking in the book is an ability to understand others and other life situations. There’s not one way that will work for everyone but the book presents the idea that everyone can achieve wealth in exactly the same way. And in all honesty the way presented, while it has some good ideas (such as to ensure you’re investing in assets rather than liabilities) it also relies a lot on other people not managing their money well (for instance in the case of being a lender to someone else or owning property and renting it out to others). While I’m not saying how the author achieved his money is wrong per se I will say that it’s not a way I personally would be comfortable running my own affairs from an ethical perspective. I would also say the book doesn’t necessarily age well. It reflects an ideal property investment market which we do not have currently. I did take away a few good tips from it though, such as the understanding what’s really an asset and what’s a liability tip mentioned before, so it wasn’t a total loss of time to read.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Next I decided it was high time I read the book one of my favorite chick lit movies is based on–Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. The basic plot of this is a 30-something in London keeps a diary for a year documenting both her attempts at self-improvement and her romantic exploits. I found Mark Darcy to be far more likable in the book than in the movie, and I understood Bridget’s attraction to him better. (In fact, reading the book version of him made me like him better in the movie version too. I was able to see the subtleties going on in the acting I’d missed before). I thought the plot with Bridget’s mother was much more well thought-out and a situation that made me have more empathy for Bridget than in the movie. I also liked how it’s very clear in the book that Bridget is obsessed with her weight but is actually a healthy weight and her friends will actually say something to her when she gets too thin. There was just something touching about her neuroticness in the book. As I said in my short initial review on GoodReads: v. good.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I rounded out the month with the Liane Moriarty chick lit from Australia – What Alice Forgot. Interestingly, this made it onto my wishlist long before the Big Little Lies miniseries hullabaloo. I just thought the plot sounded interesting. I didn’t even realize it was the same author until I had to wait in line for the book at the library. I decided to stick with starting with the book I was initially interested in, and I’m glad I did. It was such a hoot. Alice is 29, married/madly in love and pregnant with her first child. Then she wakes up and discovers she’s 39 and in the middle of a divorce. (Of course she has amnesia, she hasn’t actually time-traveled). What happened to make her marriage fall apart? It’s a giant mystery for her to solve. I really enjoyed this book. If you’re someone who really believes in marriage then the mystery of what happened to Alice’s really sucks you in. There’s also quite a bit in there about how you change over the course of your 30s and which of these changes are good or bad. I will say the ending was a bit meh to me. It felt kind of rushed and epiloguey and I’m just not sure how I feel about it in the long-run. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the experience of the read, though.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of September 2017:

  • 4 books
    • 3 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors; 1 male author
    • 3 ebooks; 1 print book; 0 audiobooks

August 2017 Reads – #nonfiction, #scifi, #thriller

December 28, 2017 2 comments
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August saw me picking back up some nonfiction (yay!) as well as a thriller and a scifi.

The first nonfiction actually wasn’t on purpose. I logged onto my library’s website and they have a collection of “rarely available” which basically means there’s currently a copy available which is unusual because this book is usually checked out. I checked out the nonfiction Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for amusement but guys…it actually has affected my life. I think of myself as being a pretty organized person but something about her method helped me take it to the next level. I reviewed this read in haiku format here.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Next I saw a book had come out by one an author I like – John Twelve Hawks. It’s the scifi Spark. This follows the agent in a secret special services section of a multinational corporation who also just so happens to have Cotard’s Syndrome – he believes he is dead. The themes are similar to those of author of Twelve Hawks’s works (beware of The Man, no matter who is currently in control) but the focus is on one main character instead of many/the whole world.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Throughout the month I read a thriller in audiobook format called Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon. This book follows twin sisters who haven’t spoken in years. One lives as a shut-in and the other has been kicked out by her husband and denied access to her young daughter. My enjoyment of this book was hurt by the audio recording. The two sisters were read by two different performers and while one was excellent the other was very stale and boring to listen to. It kept me from getting too wrapped up in the story. That said, I thought the thriller had some unnecessary red herrings, took a bit too long to get where it was going, and I honestly thought the ending was too kind to a particular villain.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I finished up the month with In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. In this work, Dr. Mate examines addiction in the context of his longtime work with the addicts living in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. The perspective of someone working so closely with victims of addiction is an important one to have. Dr. Mate sees the realities day in and day out. He’s also honest about how sometimes he is able to feel compassion and how other times he gets frustrated. Woven in with his recollections of particular patients are discussions of the science of addiction and Dr. Mate’s own take on it. I did feel that Dr. Mate sometimes got a bit too wrapped up in himself. I found his attempts to compare his music cd buying issues with drug and alcohol addiction to be a bit ill-tasting in my mouth and revisited too often. I also felt it muddied the waters of the people whose stories he was telling and the science he was presenting. The academic in me also wondered how he went about getting permission to include certain people in the book (for instance, those who have passed away). However, regardless this was an important read for anyone interested in the current addiction crisis.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of August 2017:

  • 5 books
    • 2 fiction; 2 nonfiction
    • 2 female authors; 2 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 0 print books; 1 audiobook

July 2017 Reads – #fantasy, #thriller

December 27, 2017 Leave a comment
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July saw me seeking out a bunch of thrillers – 3 in fact, plus 2 dark fantasies.

I started the month with the much talked about Irish lit The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. This book is somewhere between fantasy and mystery with an unreliable narrator leaving the reader uncertain if the fantastical things are really happening or just in the main character’s head. I was quite disappointed by this book in multiple areas. First, I felt queer-baited by this book as it was buzzed about having great queer content but in actual fact all of the queer characters are secondary characters with little “screentime.” It also has pacing issues. It starts really slowly and most of the action happens in the last 25% of the book. I also didn’t feel the fantasy elements added to the book at all; they just made it more confusing.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

Next I read another much talked-about book The Girl on the Train a thriller by Paula Hawkins. If you haven’t heard much about this one, it’s about a woman who commutes on a train and watches a couple in their backyard when she goes by every day but then she sees something shocking and finds herself getting involved in their lives. I loved this book and felt it totally lived up to the hype. For me there was something just delightful about listening to this woman’s train commuter life and problems while also commuting on a train. Similarly, I really enjoyed how Rachel’s alcoholism isn’t the point of the story but the problems it causes (or issues it makes worse) are also acknowledged. This is a book I would read again even knowing the ending. (Indeed, I did watch the movie, although I must say moving the setting from London to NYC removes a lot of interesting plot points).
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

Next I decided to finally get around to reading a Richelle Mead series I hadn’t started. I love her Succubus series so I thought this would be a great bet. I picked up Gameboard of the Gods, the start of another of her fantasy series, but unfortunately this one didn’t do it for me. The plot is almost too complicated to explain quickly. Suffice to say, there’s a future world with competing large governments, one of which has outlawed many religions. An exile is brought back in to investigate supernatural claims. My issues with this book mostly boil down to it being way too much set-up and not enough plot. It feels like the set-up to an epic series but it’s setting up a society I didn’t enjoy about learning about or visiting, which is problematic. I learned after reading this that the series is held up as it was dropped by the publishers due to low sales so I’m also not sure it’s worth investing the effort into reading this much set-up only to never get resolution.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Up next was another thriller What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross. This covers one of my favorite thriller plots – the abduction of a child. In this case, it’s the snatching of a baby from a distracted mother in a supercenter (that is clearly meant to be Ikea). What happens when the child grows up and figures out that her mother is not her mother? I absolutely loved this book right up until the ending. The ending was awful. I had to go back the next day and re-read it to ensure I hadn’t misread it. Let’s just say, the ending felt very out of touch with reality to me.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

I wrapped up the month with one final thriller, Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson. I read Swanson’s first book and really liked it – he sets most of his thrillers in the Boston area and New England and since I live here, I find it even more thrilling to see the areas I know rendered so well and having such thrilling things occurring in them. This thriller revolves around another of my favorite plot devices – the house swap. Kate swaps houses with her distant cousin in Boston and while she enjoys his posh Beacon Hill residence she soon starts to suspect not everything is as it seems. Kate suffers from PTSD and high anxiety and I loved seeing her as a heroine sometimes in spite of and sometimes because of these things (her anxiety makes her more attuned to certain things in the house). While I did know whodunit early on, there were enough plot twists that I wasn’t expecting to keep me entertained.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of July 2017:

  • 5 books
    • 5 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 4 female authors; 1 male author
    • 3 ebooks; 0 print books; 2 audiobooks
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June 2017 Reads – #scifi, #chicklit

December 26, 2017 5 comments
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In June I was back up to my average 4 reads in a month, and I had two each in scifi and chick lit.

I started the month by finishing up the audiobook version of The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. This scifi looks at a post nuclear apocalypse world that has reverted from technology into essentially a farming sans tech existence where anything veering from the norm at all is culled out (including people). It’s an interesting idea but I found it to be a bit too preachy. I don’t like it when it feels like the author is preaching at me through a character, and this happened a few too many times for my taste.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(Source: Audible)

Next I read a duo of chick lit. First up was Summer at Castle Stone by Lynn Marie Hulsman. In this a ghost-writer from New York City accidentally ends up working in the kitchen of a castle getaway in Ireland in her attempts to get an inside scoop on the chef who works there (in order to better write the copy around his new cookbook). I thought this book had a wonderful setting and while the mix-ups were expected, they were for the most part cute. I did find some of the situations to be a more serious issue than the laugh they were played for but those didn’t keep me from enjoying the escape.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(Source: purchased)

My second chick lit was The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne. I’ve read many of her books before and came into this fully expecting to enjoy it, and I did! In this, a fading finishing school gets  21st century makeover. As is typical of Hester Browne, the main plot actually involves the heroine’s career with romance being (for her) an unexpected side-plot. Delightful, but not my favorite among her works, which is why this received 4 stars. The finishing school wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the description.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My final read of the month was the feminist scifi classic A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski. In this book there is a planet that is mostly water with a humanoid species of entirely women that live both in and out of the water. This planet is under threat from an interplanetary organization that has many political ties–essentially a corporation with a powerful lobbyist group. Two women from this planet take on a male from another planet as an apprentice in an attempt to see if the aliens trying to take them over are children or adults. (They do not determine adulthood by a numerical age but by behavior and mental state, with adulthood being awarded upon someone by a committee). The reason for this important determination is it will decide how they respond to the threat with the response being very different to a child than to an adult. I would honestly say that although this book is known as a feminist classic I perceived of it more as a pacifist classic. Femaleness and maleness come up far less in the book than I would have expected (with the exception of sex and reproduction of course). Most of the book is actually about how to respond to threats, whether violence in the face of violence changes who you are, etc… I suppose some people might view those as masculine or feminine responses but I do not and so I didn’t see this as a feminist book per se. It really delivered on the plot summary though, particularly with the world building. If this intrigues you, I recommend you pick it up.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

My total for the month of June 2017:

  • 4 books
    • 4 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors; 1 male author
    • 2 ebooks; 1 print book; 1 audiobook

 

May 2017 Reads – #chicklit, #fantasy

December 25, 2017 1 comment
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I had so many of these monthly reviews piled up that I decided to just post one a day through the end of the year so I can start 2018 on track. I hope you enjoy!

May saw me finishing just two books but that’s because one was a chunkster and my longest read of the whole year.

I started the month off with a quick read, the chick lit Cocktails for Three, which I previously reviewed in haiku form here.

Then I picked up a book that had been languishing on my tbr pile for a long time with multiple recommendations from friends – Kushiel’s Dart. This is a fantasy by a female author set in an alternate universe version of Europe where France is a slightly different country built around a religion that is an offshoot of Christianity that honors and respects prostitution, essentially. I wasn’t sure what I would think of it but I did ultimately enjoy it. While I thought it started out slow and that its worldbuilding could use more creativity (all of the fake nations are basically just other versions of modern-day nations like the UK), it was still quite enjoyable. I think the most enjoyable part for me was the wonderfully creative new religion the author came up with, but I may have enjoyed that more than others might as I was a Religious Studies minor in undergrad.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

My total for the month of May 2017:

  • 2 books
    • 2 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 2 female authors; 0 male authors
    • 1 ebook; 1 print book; 0 audiobooks