January 2023–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

The Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor (Length: 556 pages) Reader, know thyself with this book. This is a sweeping crime family saga set in Delhi, India . . . it’s the Indian Godfather. This is the first of a trilogy, so it ends on a cliffhanger, but before we get there, there’s beautiful writing, a pulse-pounding plot (here and there, with some SLOW parts in the middle), and overall it’s hard to put down because you want to find out what happens. BUT, it’s incredibly violent, you won’t like many (if not most) of the primary characters, the descriptions of poverty and the hard lives of some of the characters can be hard to stomach . . . if you can handle all of that, it’s absolutely worth a read. I’ll pick up the second book in the series when it’s released because I don’t think I’ll forget what I’ve read in the this one, and I do want to see where the author goes from here.

Book #2:

One Day in December by Josie Silver (Length: 394 pages). This lovely rom-com was the palate-cleanser I needed after the aforementioned crime novel. I LOVE this book! I’m finding I’m a Reese Pick’s fan, so I knew I’d enjoy this book about two people who catch a glimpse of one another on a bus/bus stop in London, and then find their lives intersecting throughout the following decade. The characters have depth, the romance at the center is the opposite of cheesy (which I adore!) and the writing is very memorable. This is absolutely in the top 10 of rom-coms for me, and you won’t be disappointed if you take a chance on this novel.

Book #3:

Remarkably Bright Creatures  by Shelby Van Pelt (Length: 362 pages). I ADORE this book! This was my book club’s January book club pick and all 10 of us LOVED the reading experience. This is set mostly in a small aquarium in a town on the shores of Washington state. The novel features Tova, an elderly cleaning woman who cleans the aquarium in the evenings, primarily to stay busy as both her husband and her son have passed away. The other major character is Marcellus, an incredibly intelligent giant Pacific octopus who has a talent for escaping his tank. The supporting cast of characters are all very interesting. This novel reminds me of Fredrik Backman’s writing where all of the characters and subplots magically come together in a very realistic way (although in this novel it’s a BIT far-fetched but not so far that I wasn’t able to just go along with it). The writing is strong, and I couldn’t put it down. All of us said we read this in a day or two, and many of us immediately started researching this incredible octopus.

Book #4:

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Length: 432 pages)  I’ve wanted to check out this teen fantasy series (of 5 books) for years but I finally was inspired to pick up the first book once a few of my coworkers started reading it. My older teen daughter has had all 15 books (they’re interconnected via worlds and characters) for a while and discusses them on BookTok so I just had to ask nicely to borrow this on. 😉 I will say this reminds me of the Twilight series in that the central romance is a bit cheesy, but what this book features is fantastic world building. I was immediately hooked by the author’s descriptions of the various “courts” in the fairylands and I didn’t read this with an eye towards the Beauty and the Beast retelling that the author allegedly based this on. Instead, I got a more Lord of the Rings vibe here. There were a few plot inconsistencies, but they weren’t bad enough to stop me from reading further; they absolutely were distracting however, and a more discerning reader than me may be even more annoyed. I absolutely understand the appeal of the series and I have already started the second book in the series and I’m enjoying that one even more. I am told that the writing quality increases with each book so that’s promising.

Book #5:

City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita (Length: 304 pages) This is a mystery/thriller with a unique premise–it’s primarily set within one building in Alaska which houses the town’s entire population (200 plus condos). There are LOTS of plot twists, many quirky characters, and the tone is very creepy and unsettling, much of which is thanks to the setting . . . the dark Alaskan winter and the giant building (with its various tunnels and connected dilapidated outbuildings). This is well-written and had enough going on to keep me interested. It’s a very fast read, with short chapters (yay!) and the author sets this up for sequel(s) so I will definitely keep reading this author in the future. A library check out for sure!

January 2023–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Float Plan by Trish Doller (Length: 263 pages) This rom-com is such an under-rated gem of a book! It’s well-written, with a propulsive plot and it’s set in various islands of the Caribbean, so it’s so much fun to tag along as a reader. The premise of the story is a young woman decides to sail from Florida to Trinidad after her fiancée commits suicide. She uses his original charts and plans to take the trip that they had planned together before his death. Because she’s a sailing novice she picks up a crew member along the way, an Irish hunk named Keane Sullivan. Yes, Keane is perfect, seems too good to be true and yes his “fatal flaw” is a nothingburger. But we know all this and we’ll enjoy the ride regardless, because the descriptions of the various islands, including their food and culture, along with how sailing really works, all elevate this novel to one of my all-time favorite romances. Check it out!

Book #2:

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny (Length: 394 pages). Louise Penny is the rare auto-buy author for me (Fredrik Backman is the other), and I have to say that this book, #18 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series set in gorgeous Three Pines, Canada, is my favorite thus far. The central mystery is intricately-crafted (per usual), and is primarily set within Three Pines, and features all of my favorite residents, which is a big reason why I love this book so much. There are trigger warnings for child sexual abuse (none of it is graphic, but it is alluded to) and it absolutely furthers the plot. This can also be read as a standalone if you’re interested in checking out the series (which starts out slow but by book 4 the series hits its stride. Check out the Three Pines series on Amazon Prime too–it’s well-done and while each pair of episodes is based on one of her books, the plot resolutions are different than the books themselves so don’t worry about plot spoilers.

Book #3:

Dating Dr Dil  by Nisha Sharma (Length: 373 pages). I don’t remember how this book came onto my radar but I really enjoyed this rom-com written from the East Asian perspective. The trope is the male protagonist, a cardiologist, believes in arranged marriage because love is “physically bad for the heart” and the female protagonist wants a love-based marriage like her parents enjoyed. They both have a financial incentive to get married; the female gets the house her mom built and the male gets his community center financed. There is the standard miscommunication issue here and this is VERY open door and steamy. Well-written, with decent character development, I’ll remember this one for a while because it’s sufficiently different than other rom coms out there. I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars if I had to rate it.

Book #4:

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (Length: 289 pages)  I listened to this one and it finally clicked for me–I’ve tried reading his books before and didn’t think they were funny, but for some reason hearing him read his work out loud did the trick. At times hysterically funny (his chapter “Standing by” re: characters in an airport had me laughing so hard that I cried) and thought-provoking and just plain interesting, this book of essays is fantastic. I adored it and I’m already queuing up more for my future commutes. I’m late to the party but I’m so glad I’m finally here.

December 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (Length: 366 pages) This is a well-written rom-com with a unique premise. Florence Day is a ghostwriter for a beloved romance writer who is hired to finish out that author’s multi-book contract. Florence can also SEE ghosts, having grown up in a family-run funeral home. She can also see her ghostly hot editor, Benji Andor, and they spend a magical week together after Florence’s dad passes away. This is witty, charming, and strong character development. This is a rare bird among rom-coms in that it’s actually memorable. I absolutely recommend this!

Book #2:

The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly Brock (Length: 464 pages). This novel is part adventure, part family saga–lighter on the adventure part, to my disappointment, and it’s about 100 pages too long. I never had the urge to go back and pick this up to read, but once I did, I was glad I did, for whatever that’s worth. This is a well-written saga told just as World War 11 was winding down, and is set in the Evertell home/property just outside Savannah, Georgia, and it was also the home of the “stone” from the real-life Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia. Again, I wish it was heavier on the adventure parts as those are what kept me reading, and overall, I’m glad I picked this one up. It’s worth a library pick at least.

Book #3:

June, Reimagined by Rebekah Crane (Length: 283 pages).  This rom-com was an Amazon First Reads, which is always a crapshoot lately, but I enjoyed this romance set in Scotland. A college junior, June, escapes her life in Ohio after her brother’s death, and meets a brooding, grouchy Scottish, hunk, etc. This is a bit deeper than most rom-coms and the characters are interesting, if thinly-drawn. I give it a 3 out of 5 starts ultimately because this romance suffers from the same issue that I have with many rom coms . . . if the characters would simply TALK to one another, the issue plaguing each and every relationship in this book, they wouldn’t have the problems they do. I won’t remember this one in a month but it was an easy and enjoyable read.

Book #4:

Mothertrucker by Amy Butcher (Length: 283 pages)  I adore this book! This is a non-fiction account of a feminist literature professor from Ohio (who is also a victim of ongoing domestic violence) who tags along with Joy “Mothertrucker”, the only female big rig truck driver on the infamous Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Joy herself is also a victim of domestic violence, and the author uses gorgeous writing to draw parallels between their lives living in such different places, as well as drawing from the beauty of the landscape they drive through on their journey. I highly recommend this book!

Book #5:

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena (Length: 363 pages)  I listened to this one on my commute, and I was hopeful it would be a better listen than the last Lapena audiobook I reviewed a few weeks ago. This one is about spoiled rich kids who as adults are looking to divide their inheritance from their uber-wealthy parents. Their father was an emotionally abusive pyschopath and their mother stood by and watched. And apparently psychopathy is partly genetic which makes all of them (along with others) prime suspects after both parents are found brutally murdered after a family Easter dinner. The narrator in this book is much better than the last Lapena book I listened to, so that was a better start. The underlying mystery here is decent, but the author’s reveal of the murderer almost fell anticlimactic, as once again, no clues are given throughout for the reader so the reader is just along for the ride. Without that emotional investment, the ending isn’t as satisfying as other murder mysteries. Perhaps this is just what this author does, so lesson learned for me as I am looking for something different with these reads. All told, however, this was an entertaining read and I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading this novel.

December 2022–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

A Blizzard of Polar Bears by Alice Henderson (Length: 347 pages) This is the second novel in a series featuring the “nature detective” Alice Carter, who in this book is researching polar bears in Churchill, Canada. This is VERY action-packed ( a few helicopter crashes, lots of murder, a ship sinking, etc). I enjoyed learning about how climate change is affecting the polar bear population too. This novel is entirely unbelievable, but the writing is decent and overall, this is a really fun ride, IF You suspend all disbelief. This would be a great read on vacation especially an Alaskan cruise.

Book #2:

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Length: 363 pages). I am a TJR fan and I was very excited to finally get my hands on a copy of this one. This is definitely more for tennis fans as TJR gets into the nitty gritty of tennis games, AND for those readers who don’t feel a need to like or even empathize with the main character. The main character here, the eponymous Carrie Soto, is definitely not likeable but I didn’t care and I loved picking this up each time. I really enjoyed the author’s exploration of the ins and outs of professional tennis, and I really enjoyed the character of her dad, Javier Soto. I would love to see this as a movie as I could picture this in my head the entire time I was reading. Definitely two thumbs up from me!

Book #3:

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (Length: 95 pages).  This creepy novella was recommended by a bookish podcast and the podcaster described this one as fairytale horror, but I’d add, with a twist. This novella won the Shirley Jackson prize which should give the reader a clue as to what this book is about. I figured out the twist fairly early on (thanks to some cleverly placed clues) but I still really enjoyed the ride here. Definitely get someone else to read it so you can discuss afterwards . . . it’s hard to describe anything more without giving away spoilers. This is worth a library checkout solely due to its short length.

Book #4:

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena (Length: 302 pages)  I listened to this one on my commute. I would not recommend this narrator or this book, unfortunately. I found the narrator to be a bit too annoying (as I thought she took too much artistic license in voicing some of the emotions such as sarcasm). This is a locked room/remote snowbound hotel type mystery, which I typically enjoy, thanks to Agatha Christie. Characters get knocked off, one by one, and the author clearly is trying to channel the great Agatha here, but it’s a miss, by a few miles. There is zero way for the reader to figure out whodunit it (because the reveal depends on hidden backstories of the characters) so you are just along for the ride, which is is fine but the big reveal here is a big stretch, and not clever at all. Skip this one. 😦

November 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Curfew by Jayne Cowie (Length: 318 pages)  I first learned about this interesting novel through one of the bookish podcasts I listen to and I checked it out from my library–it was instantly available so I don’t think many know about this one. This is a mystery set in the near-future where all males over the age of 10 are fitted with a tracking device on their ankle by the government, and are not allowed to be outdoors between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am (thus, the title). Cohabitation certificates are also required for all couples who want to live together, necessitating counseling to ensure it’s a healthy relationship. If a partner needs to leave, the government helps with child care, etc. The penalty for breaking curfew is prison so it’s very rare that any males are found outdoors once this policy is instituted and the rates of domestic violence and stranger rape/violence are almost non-existent. Then a woman is found murdered after curfew, which means if the perpetrator is a man, the whole system is flawed. The premise here is very interesting, and the plot propels the reader forward. However, the execution isn’t optimal . . . the writing is a bit amateurish, and the characters aren’t sufficiently fleshed out to where the reader cares about what happens to them. If you lower your expectations about those things, it’s worth it . . . it would be a great pick for a book club discussion for sure.

Book #2:

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Length: 461 pages). I ADORE this book. This is in my top 3 for the year, if not in the top spot (I still have a month of reading left to go). I told a friend that this reminds me of a cross between the novels The Lincoln Highway (by Amor Towles) and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The set-up here is four orphans escape their tragic circumstances in Minnesota in 1932 by canoeing down to the Mississippi River, and we get to tag along on their various mishaps and adventures. There are some tough subjects broached but many are seen from afar (ie, the author isn’t delving into the details) but the writing is simply gorgeous. The plot absolutely keeps you turning the pages; in fact, this is my favorite type of novel . . . where you think about it when you’re not reading it, and you can’t wait to get back to it. The characters are ones you won’t forget, and I thought the ending was perfect. Please read this one!

Book #3:

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (Length: 178 pages).  I’ve had this short non-fiction book on my Kindle for years and decided to dip into it when I was in the mood for something lighter. I’ve seen the few movies based on this book (series–this is the first of two) so I was aware of the basic premise . . . it’s the true story of a dozen kids in a family growing up in the early 1900s. The father was an efficiency expert and this career carried over into the kids’ household chores (the father would time the kids and figure out how to make teeth brushing more efficient, for example). The mother was a bit unusual for the time period as she’d assist the father with his career, editing his papers, etc. This is a very fast read, and super interesting. I did chuckle out loud a few times. But keep in mind the time period in which this was written (by 2 of the adult children) as it’s a bit archaic in tone, but ultimately, it’s very kind-hearted and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. Good for all ages too!