Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Utterly fascinating look at what happens to our bodies after we die. As someone who is 100% behind green burials and organ donation, it opened my eyes to other options as well.

Some of you might find the subject matter gross, off-putting, or otherwise distasteful, but death is a part of life, and I really enjoyed all of the topics she covered. Mary Roach really knows how to dive into a subject and make it accessible. And as someone who really dreads flying, I especially enjoyed the plane crash section (no, really, I did). I found it somewhat comforting.

If you find yourself squeamish, maybe don't read it while you eat, ok? Especially the section on cannibalism, or body decomposition. But if that puts you off, you probably wouldn't read this book anyway. 3.5 stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: Small Great Things

Small Great Things Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was fantastic. I had to wait a few days to formulate my review because it was such an emotional roller coaster.

Race relations are never easy to discuss. There are some people who, no matter what you say, what facts you present to them, will never change their minds. And you can't understand someone's life if you haven't walked in their shoes.

Meet Ruth. She's a long-time L&D nurse, one of the hardest jobs out there. By all accounts, she knows her stuff. She also happens to be black. She attends to a newborn, as you do, and walks straight into his parents, who are white supremacists. When things go wrong, they are quick to point the finger at her.

Meet Kennedy. She's a hard-working public defender who hasn't really gotten her shot at a huge case yet. Kennedy is white. She's just grinding along, trying to find quick justice for her case load when she comes across Ruth. She wants to help Ruth and fights to keep the case. I want to tell you more, but instead I ask for you to read the book. Don't read any reviews before you start. Stop reading mine, go read the book, then come back and tell me what you think.

And the audiobook was well done with multiple narrators (always a favorite of mine), so if that's your thing, do that version. 4.5 stars that I am rounding up because I am still thinking about this book days later.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Review: Your Wicked Heart

Your Wicked Heart Your Wicked Heart by Meredith Duran
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sometimes it's hard to decide on a new author when you read a prequel of sorts. Since Your Wicked Heart is book. 0.5 in the "Rules for the Reckless" series, it may not be a fair entry to Meredith Duran's work. I will give her another chance, but I really didn't love this one, and I'm a huge fan of historical romance. I may be a Klingon in temper, but I do have a marshmallow heart.

We journey to Greece to meet Amanda, who has just been jilted at the altar from a viscount. She's just trying to get out of a bad situation with her employer, who sounds like an awful person, and thinks the viscount is a swell chap who she might come to love over time. Well, at least she's honest. However, she meets someone who claims to be the real viscount, and hilarity ensues. Not really, he straight on kidnaps her and she's not smart enough to get her life together and stand on her own two feet. Do you expect them to bicker and then fall in love? Well then, this isn't your first historical romance, because that's one of the usual formulas. But it's been much better done in hundreds of other books. Amanda isn't likable, and rather dumb (2 strikes) and Spence, while eventually charming, brave and loyal, was a bit of a dunderhead as well.

However, it was a shorter novel and I can forgive a little of the bumps in the road. This author will live to see round 2, but the next book will need to be much better to stay in my HEA rotation. 1.5 stars, but rounding up because I did like Spence.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 27, 2018

Review: The Murder at the Vicarage

The Murder at the Vicarage The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Miss Marple, you saucy minx. Here's where it all began. But not really, because I'm sure you've been solving crimes long before this story.

We journey to St Mary Mead, the most dangerous small town ever (after Hamish's Lochdubh, of course). We have a murder (gasp!) at the vicarage (shriek!). Very distressing, and everyone seems to be a suspect. We get red herrings like you would expect from my gal Agatha. She's the master of suspense, yo. What's in the suitcase? Who killed the Colonel? Who is having an affair, and who just wants to? And why is no one listening to Miss Marple?

To answer these and other important questions, grab a copy of this book and move to St Mary Mead. But watch your back, folks. It's dangerous out there. Also, don't drink the tea. It might be poisoned. 3 stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a sad, lovely book! A beautiful look at losing our parents and the process that can happen as we age. Sometimes our bodies go faster than our minds, and sometimes our minds go faster than our bodies. Both options sound scary to me.

I'm convinced I am going to live to be 114, but I don't spend time dwelling on the various ways my body might break down along the journey. I just try to live a (mostly) healthy lifestyle, do good things for the universe, and hopefully that is enough. This story brought home some of my secret fears, though, and it made me tear up a little. Not a ton, because I'm kind of prickly like that, but a few tears were shed. Nothing like A Man Called Ove. Backman got me bad with that one, but this one was emotional, too. Maybe if it was a full-length novel I would have been ruined by the end, but it was still lovely. Give yourself an hour and read this one. 4 stars.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Educated: A Memoir

Educated: A Memoir Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm so torn about how to review this book. There were many parts that were hard for me to read. Some parts brought up long buried wounds from childhood, some parts had me shaking my head in disbelief and horror, and some parts made me so happy she is trying to build a different life as an adult.

Family relationships are hard. I felt very triggered by parts of the story. My family was different than Tara's but I can definitely relate to parts of it. Some of it was so foreign to me that I could barely wrap my brain around it, though. Her brother is clearly mentally ill. That the family excused his abuse and turned a blind eye is disgusting. Her father and mother probably believed they were both doing their best to raise the family in line with their personal beliefs, but damn, do they all need lots of therapy. I think the reason Tara has been unable to cut ties with them is because they do love her, and the story does show those bright moments. Walking away from family can't be easy. I'm glad she has regained some of the relationships she lost. I'm not sure if it can be viewed as a cult mentality, or religious zealotry, or mental illness, or what, but it's disturbing to read.

I can't put myself in her shoes, thankfully, and I'm glad that some of the family was able to get an education and choose a somewhat different life. Clearly she had one leg up with her natural intelligence and has had several lucky breaks to get to where she is now, but she has overcome some serious odds. And I personally feel she is still messed up and needs to continue working on herself, but hey, who doesn't need to do that?

I'm glad I read it. 4 stars.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Review: What Happens in London

What Happens in London What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 in the Bevelstoke series. Not quite up to my love of the Bridgertons, but I'm not sure anything will take their place.

You see, I didn't think much of Olivia in The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. I thought she was rather two-dimensional and a little unlikeable. Miranda seemed to be a much better friend to her than Olivia was back. However, we get more exposure to her inner thoughts and emotions, and she's better in this book. I mean, she's the heroine, so let's hope she's better. But Harry! And Sebastian! They were both divine. Julia Quinn writes a good hero, and an excellent HEA. That's why I love her so much. And I always love a good Russian spy storyline. Must be because I'm a child of the 80s Cold War.

Weird things that stood out to me: Olivia's parents, and especially her mother, are barely in this book. Which is strange, because her mother was all over Miranda's story and she isn't even related to her. And Winston was barely around as well. I know this is set after Miranda's story, so Olivia has had 3 seasons and is on the shelf, but I expected more family interactions like in the first book.

But it's Julia Quinn, and it's funny and sweet, and I'm a marshmallow so I loved it anyway. It didn't hurt that I loved Harry so much and the surrounding cast of characters were interesting and intriguing (I'm looking at you, Vladimir. Hope you get your own book soon). Excited to read Sebastian's story in book 3. I'm sure it will be entertaining.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 20, 2018

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**My third reading of this book, and I love Guernsey just as much as I did three years ago. And the audiobook is just perfect!  A very rare 5 star book for me.

Just like Juliet, I have fallen in love with Guernsey. I want to pack my bags and live there and join their literary society. I am enchanted.

Journey back in time through a series of correspondence between author Juliet Ashby and the people of Guernsey Island following the occupation of World War II. But beware--you might find you leave a piece of your heart behind. Funny, sweet, dramatic, and curious, I was so absorbed. I just loved this book. I loved everyone in the literary society, especially Dawsey. And I loved the ending, and felt it was the perfect ending to a beautiful book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: Brownies and Broomsticks

Brownies and Broomsticks Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book started out firmly in the 2 star pile, but slowly redeemed itself. Or my mood got better. It's hard to say.

We meet Katie, who is a baker, as she moves to open a bakery with her aunt and uncle in Savannah, Georgia. She's fresh out of a relationship and ready for a new start. As you would expect with a cozy mystery, there is a murder right out of the gate. Shockingly, Katie isn't the accused, but she's on the case and causing issues for the police force. I'm shaking my head over here at some of her decisions. Seriously, Katie. Just stop it. Oh, and did I mention that Katie is a very powerful witch, but has no idea until she finds out her aunt is also a witch? And her mom and dad, who failed to tell her and help her foster those magical abilities? This is far from the least believable part of this book, friends.

I ended up liking Katie and trying my best to ignore the love triangle you always get in this kind of series. I liked her aunt and uncle, I adored her dog, I'm suspicious of her nosy neighbor, and I'm pretty annoyed by the ladies of the coven. I'm not feeling any of their characters. It's like the author tried way too hard to make them each "interesting" and "unique". They are not either of these things. I'm landing on "annoying" and "ridiculous". However, I did end up liking the story by the end and will eventually read book 2 someday. 3 stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Ella, The Slayer

Ella, The Slayer Ella, The Slayer by A.W. Exley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh, book, I had such high hopes for you, but alas, you fell short of expectations. Way short.

Ella, our heroine, is quite frankly not likable. I just couldn't muster up enough empathy to feel for her plight. Seth, however, I did like. He's likable. I can't fathom why he was so drawn to Ella. It must be the katana. And beyond Ella just not connecting with me, she was the queen of bad decisions. Seriously, girl, the last part of the book was just a train wreck. You know the government needs something, and you choose to not deliver. Why? No clue. You could have dispatched the vermin with your trusty katana, or you could have captured the vermin as requested, and you choose to do C) none of the above? I'm all for setting up the next book in the series, but I can't stick with this one. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I would elaborate, but I don't want to spoil anyone. But when you get to this part of the story, you will know exactly what I am complaining about.

2 stars for Seth and Frank. Pretty much everyone who lives at the other house. They saved it from being a 1 star stinker.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Re-read. I stand by my original review. Jenny, let's be best friends.

You know how you listen to someone and you think, "This is my life she is describing?" Now you have me listening to this audiobook.

Jenny Lawson is insane. And funny. And her husband is a saint. She's a great storyteller. I want to drive to Jen's house and hang out and swap stories. Her stories made me think about similar times in my marriage, and I loved it.

I laughed out loud several times and had to rewind the story to catch it all. 4 stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book will make you want to question the purity of your water system, and will drive you to wash your hands. A lot.

Cholera. We don't hear much about it anymore, but it used to be a big problem. Thankfully we have moved into more sanitary times, in part due to the work of Dr. John Snow, who knows more than nothing. He probably had less fabulous hair, though. He mapped the clusters of outbreaks and determined the source was tied to the Broad Street pump. Groundbreaking work for that time, and as you would expect, no one believed him. But eventually the outbreak was contained, sanitation became better, and people lived longer.

I found it a fascinating read. Very glad to live in the 21st century where medicine, and life, has evolved to allow me to live to be 114. 3 stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 13, 2018

Review: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I might have found something to fill the Bridgerton-sized hole in my heart. Julia Quinn has quickly become one of my favorite historical romance writers. Yes, yes, I'm a marshmallow.

Miranda Cheever and her best friend, Olivia Bevelstoke, have always been 2 peas in a pod. Miranda is a part of the family, and has had a schoolgirl crush on Turner, the oldest brother, since she was 10 years old. Time passes, and Miranda is all grown up and headed to her first season. Turner, conveniently a widower, has come back to the family fold and sparks fly. At every turn, they spark, they flirt, and are like magnets, drawn together. They try their best to resist, but you know it will end in a HEA. She's smart and funny, and he's handsome and caring. A good combo, for sure.

I loved the romance, and the thoughtfulness Turner put into their relationship. It was clearly apparent to everyone but Miss Miranda and Turner how devoted he was, but in the end they all lived happily ever after.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: Violet

Violet Violet by Juliet James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Why do I keep reading books from this series? My only excuse is I got them for free, I guess? No clue.

Not good writing. The characters are ridiculous and I can't bring myself to get emotionally invested in any of them. Now, please keep in mind I started with book 7, then jumped to book 3. Maybe if I started with book 1 like I should have I would not be rolling my eyes so hard. But I doubt it. These books are silly. The men are even more ridiculous than the women, and the premise of this one is possibly worse than the first one I read. It made me rather fondly think of Opal because Violet was a real stinker.

Ben wants a mail order bride. Lettie writes his letters for him and reads them because he is illiterate. Ok, not judging. But she loves him, he loves her, and there is some nonsense about her live in / husband / outlaw, a pie contest that is a total sham (I mean, seriously, with that reveal I almost threw the iPad across the room) and other assorted stupid plot lines that I can barely remember 2 days later. All the hallmarks of a terrible book. And a hidden identity plot that even a blind person could see a hundred miles away.

I must have done something terrible in a past life as a mail order bride because I just keep reading them. If you love mail order bride stories, I have many others I can recommend, but stay away from this series unless you like nonsense.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: The Wire in the Blood

The Wire in the Blood The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another messed up serial killer. Val, you have a dark and twisted soul.

This one features celebrities, a newly formed profiler squad, and my favs, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. Carol isn't officially on the squad, as you think she might be. But she's there, and she's loyal to Tony. The crimes were grisly. I listened to this one on audio and there were a few times where I actually shouted, "no!" when things were happening. Val McDermid writes a good thriller, and she takes it to a dark place. If you read the first Tony & Carol book, The Mermaids Singing, you know how crazy the crimes can get. This one is different, but still a little sickening.

Disturbing because things like this can happen in the world. Read this, then go hug your kids. 3.5 stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Review: Midnight Marriage

Midnight Marriage Midnight Marriage by Lucinda Brant
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Do you like relationships that start from a very bad beginning? Then do I have the book for you! You are about to enter a world of ridiculousness.

Julian and Deb are forced into a marriage in the middle of the night. She's 12 and drugged up on laudanum so she has no memory of this night. He's 16 and drunk, but remembers it quite well. They are married, and then he is whisked away on a Grand Tour. Years pass, and then a meet-cute happens in the woods. He's been stabbed in a duel; she is secretly playing music with her nephew. Sparks fly as she bandages him up. Unbeknownst to them both, it's their spouse! He finds out, she doesn't, and he marries her all over again. And this is actually where the story gets rolling. All of this nonsense happens in the first chapters.

You see, this whole book is ridiculous. If you think I'm making this all up, go get yourself a copy and discover just how crazy this whole plot gets. Despite all of the insanity, I'm actually going to give this book 2.5 stars. Not sure that I'll read the others, but maybe. Sometimes I'm just like that.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Review: At Bertram's Hotel

At Bertram's Hotel At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Christie I haven't read yet! Surprised that I missed this one somehow. My only excuse is while I like Miss Marple, I love Hercule Poirot.

Instead of being in the quiet village of St. Mary Mead, we are in London. Miss Marple is on a bit of a vacation, staying at Bertram's Hotel. She's pretty much ignored, as usual, and then she drops truth bombs when the police decide to ask her if she knows anything. Spoiler, she does.

A poor old clergyman disappears, we have an estranged mother-daughter team staying at the hotel (Coincidence? Of course not), and everyone is acting like they have secrets to keep. But you don't keep your secrets when Miss Marple is around. The plot on this one is a bit outlandish and I really didn't like a single character, but even an average Christie is good. Still 3 stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Review: Nerve

Nerve Nerve by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very early Francis, but just as enjoyable as all of his others. This time, our everyman hero is young steeplechase jockey Robb Finn. Robb is working hard to find rides and establish himself in the sport. He's just gaining ground when he get's a chance to substitute for an injured top jockey, and he's finally where he wants to be.

But someone is spreading bad rumors about jockeys, Robb included. And he's not going to stop until he finds out who and exacts his revenge. There is also an odd kissing cousins subplot that I'm not too sure about, but Robb is charming enough that I'll allow it.

As usual, 3 stars.

View all my reviews