Lighter Reads

In between all the heavy books, I like to mix it up with a few lighter reads.  To me, those are books that don’t require too much thought or focus.  In between the 24 hour Bone Clocks audiobook, plus the expository Deep Work nonfiction, and the high school English favorite Dracula, I needed to add some light reads to the mix!

This month, it was also important to me that my light reads come from my unread shelf (i.e. books I already own but have not yet read).  If you are interested in learning more about the Unread Shelf Project, check out Whitney’s Instagram, or the #unreadshelfproject2018 hashtag.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James
narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Audio Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My sister-in-law originally turned me on to Simone St. James, and I’ve now read 5 of her 6 novels.  These haunting, almost cozy mysteries take place in early 20th century Britain, each with a new, strong female character and a different ghostly element, which is usually evident by the title.

An Inquiry into Love and Death follows Gillian Leigh to the seaside village of Rothewell, where she must investigate the mysterious death of her ghost-hunter uncle Toby, alongside a handsome Scotland Yard inspector named Drew Merriken.  (Side note: every time they said Drew’s last name, I couldn’t help but thing to myself, “‘Merica!”)

As you can imagine, ghost hunting and romance ensue.  This book was just what I needed for the time, but it wasn’t anything spectacular.  If you’re interested in reading Simone St. James, I’d start with Silence for the Dead (my favorite) or The Other Side of Midnight, both of which I rated 4 stars.

A Walk to Remember

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
narrated by Frank Muller

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Audio Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Confession: In high school, I was a huge Nicholas Sparks fan.  There, I said it!  And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

You probably all know A Walk to Remember from the movie featuring Mandy Moore in which she sings that really pretty song (that I may or may not still sing in my shower to this day).  This is one of those instances where the movie is actually better than the book!

It’s a sweet little high school love story between the extremely pious Jamie Sullivan (great name, right?!), daughter of the local Baptist minister, and bad boy Landon Carter, son of the local Congressman.  An unlikely romance, and yet true love always finds a way.

But in a Nicholas Sparks novel, things rarely end on a high note!  This is why I finally moved away from Nicholas Sparks; I discovered through other romance novelists that love stories mustn’t always end in tragedy!  Love can have a happy ending!  Unfortunately for Jamie and Landon, their happy ending is marred by death, but whose I will not say.  Read the book (or watch the movie) to find out!

Happy reading!

Two Novels for the Price of One

The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
narrated by Steven Crossley, Jessica Ball, Colin Mace, Laurel Lefkow, Anna Bentinck, & Leon Williams

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Bone Clocks is a supernatural sci-fi novel told in 6 parts, from the viewpoints of 5 different characters, about a group of humanistic beings who never age, and how their “lives” affect a group of mere mortals who fall into their paths.  Each of the 5 main characters is highly flawed, and yet when you hear things from their points of view, you find yourself empathizing with even the basest of individuals, a testament to David Mitchell’s excellent writing and character development.

But while I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters, something in the story fell flat for me.  The reader is left in the dark for much of the novel about how exactly this world works, until the fifth chapter when the answers are finally revealed.  And yet this was the chapter in which I found my attention wandering most.  I didn’t so much care about the world in which these people live, or the (super lame) battles they fight through, as I felt moved by their everyday struggles and encounters.

If David Mitchell had chosen to make this story a simple study of characters, more so than a supernatural saga, I think I would have enjoyed it more.

The Bone Clocks is a bit difficult to listen to because it seems to take place in our world, until something just slightly off happens, causing you to rewind and make sure you heard correctly.  Spoiler alert: you probably did!  Despite the novels oddities, each of the audiobook narrators did a superb job, and thus the audiobook gets 5 stars from me.

But I cannot finish this review without mentioning the random, apocalyptic final chapter that felt like it came from another book entirely.  While I typically enjoy apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, I did not feel this was the place for it.  Take it out and make it a story all on its own, and I’m in!  But the way it was written left me feeling like I got 2 novels for the price of one.

Memorable Quotes:

“Men marry women hoping they’ll never change.  Women marry men hoping they will.”

 

How to Write a Cozy Mystery

INGREDIENTS

1      Young woman (20’s – 30’s)
1      Heaping broken relationship
1      Small town
1-2  Close relatives
1      Murder
1      Supernatural element
1-2  Cops, to taste
1      Adorable pet
1      Love interest (may add multiple)
2      Twists
Good Food
Charm


FEATURED EQUIPMENT

Laptop Computer (any brand)


INSTRUCTIONS
MAKES 1 COZY MYSTERY

  1. Fold the broken relationship into the young woman, and move her to the new, small town with a close relative.
  2. Set the scene for a murder, ensuring the young woman remains nearby.
  3. Throw in a couple of incompetent cops, and let the young woman rise to the challenge of solving the murders herself.
  4. Put an adorable pet in the young woman’s life for companionship and comedic value.
  5. Add a love interest.
  6. Blend in a twist or two to surprise the reader’s senses.
  7. Sprinkle good food and lots of charm on top!

NOTES

  • Two love interests may be added, depending on desired taste, but adding in multiple often results in a love triangle.
  • If planning to make multiple cozy mysteries, it helps to have an overarching story, usually something involving the young woman’s parents.
  • The supernatural element can be added at any time during the process.

Not The Martian

The Martian

Artemis by Andy Weir
narrated by Rosario Dawson

Method of consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Audio Rating⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

I was SO excited to read this one that I apparently pre-ordered it on Audible and then, forgetting that, later purchased it as my Book of the Month in November.  My friend PJ, with whom I share an Audible library, also preordered the audiobook, so I was destined to read it one way or another!

This novel is written by Andy Weir, who you may know from writing a somewhat popular novel called The Martian.  It was also made into a slightly more popular movie, featuring a guy named Matt Damon.  No big deal though!

As you can imagine, my expectations for this novel were a bit high.  So let me give you a warning: If you enjoyed The Martian, DO NOT try to compare Artemis to it in any way.  The only ways they are similar are that they both take place off Earth, and they both have characters who run into bigger and badder problems, no matter how hard they try to fix things.  And… you know, some nerdy sciencey stuff.

Artemis is the name of the only city on Earth’s moon, inhabited by about 2500 people, including a young woman named Jazz Bashara.  Jazz smuggles banned goods from Earth to the Moon with the help of a childhood, Earthbound pen pal friend.

But one day Jazz discovers the workings of a Brazilian crime syndicate happening in her beloved home city, and she must work with her friends and a few powerful allies to take them down.  It’s safe to say she runs into a few obstacles along the way!

All the Genres in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Method of Consumption: Paperback

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

 

 

This novel transcends audiences and genres in a completely unexpected way, making me love it for its quirky randomness.  However, it is clear that my opinion is somewhat controversial, since the Goodreads rating for this book is only 3.57/5.0.  I read All the Birds in the Sky for a book club pick, and I went into it knowing absolutely nothing (as I usually like to do with my reads).

When the book first began, following the story of two young children, a witch named Patricia and Laurence, a computer nerd, I thought I was reading confused middle grade fiction that couldn’t decide if it was fantasy or sci-fi.  As the story progressed, and the two main characters grew, it became clear to me that this could not possibly be written for children, when elements of a sweet little love story (and a bit of bad language) shone through.  I decided it must belong in the young adult category.  Until… I started reading about themes and issues that young adults should not be reading.

There are certainly some serious undertones to this book, which will make you take a good look at our society, but the playfulness keeps it lighthearted too.  It takes a lot to make me laugh when reading, but there were parts of this novel I found genuinely hilarious, such as the two-second time machine that Laurence builds as a young teen.  A two-second time machine??  That’s the kind of thing you’ll find in this novel that is so ridiculous it’s funny.  In fact, chapter 4 may have been the most ridiculous chapter in any book I’ve ever read, and it had me laughing out loud at a strange and random character named Theodolphus Rose.

Charlie Jane Anders takes you on an outlandish journey through her twisted imagination, as you follow Laurence and Patricia into adulthood, where their worlds and genres collide.  As the earth is headed towards the apocalypse with its rapidly rising temperatures, Laurence is working on a machine to create a wormhole to another planet, while Patricia and her magical crew attempt to save the world in their own way.  Will science or nature, sci-fi or fantasy, win?

Memorable quotes:

“Weirdness is value neutral.”

“You know… no matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not.  But if you’re clever and lucky and work your butt off, then you get to be surrounded by people who expect you to be the person you wish you were.”

“Maybe you can’t make up your mind as easily,  if you feel too much.”

 

The Good House, a great book

The Good House

The Good House by Ann Leary
narrated by Mary Beth Hurt

Method of consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

At the heart of this beautiful tale is the heartbreaking story of Hildy Good’s struggle with the alcoholism she doesn’t believe she has, and how it affects those closest to her.  And yet, this small-town story is about so much more.

I hesitate to recap this one and risk giving away the elements you will enjoy discovering on your own, so I’ll say no more about the story itself.  But if you’re wondering whether to read this one, or listen to it on audio, do yourself a favor and download the audiobook.  Mary Beth Hurt’s performance is so perfect, she encapsulates the characters better than I possibly could have done with the voices in my head.

If you enjoyed Richard Russo’s Empire Falls or Nobody’s Fool, then I highly recommend this novel.  If you love books about small towns with flawed characters, this is the book for you.  And if you’re into unreliable narrators you can still root for, read this!

I will certainly be checking out a few of Ann Leary’s other works from the library soon!

Memorable quotes:

“Drunkalogue”: referring to the story one tells about one’s alcoholism in an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting

A Lady Sherlock

A Study in Scarlet WomenA Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
narrated by Kate Reading (what an apt last name!)

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I was understandably skeptical about this one, as I am with most re-tellings. This wasn’t a true re-telling though as it changes a MAJOR aspect of the novel: namely, the existence of Sherlock Holmes.

This is a story about a woman in Victorian London named Charlotte Holmes with an aptitude for deduction. Unfortunately, as a woman in her day, she could not outwardly practice her detective skills, so with the help of a few friends, she assumes a secret identity called – you guessed it! – Sherlock Holmes.

There were two main storylines in this novel, which (I believe) eventually converged. (Admittedly, while listening to this book, I tuned it out from time to time.) The main murder case in this book was much more interesting to me than Charlotte’s escapades.

In summary, I think I would have enjoyed this book much more if it were just a murder mystery, without the Sherlock/Charlotte plot line.

Memorable quotes: none

Cozy mysteries are my guilty pleasure.

Dead and BreakfastDead and Breakfast by Kate Kingbury
A Merry Ghost Inn Mystery
narrated by Tavia Gilbert

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

With all the serious and heavy books that I read, I always like to have a cozy mystery series in my back pocket to lighten things up when I need to.

My first cozy mystery series was the Magical Bakery Mysteries by Bailey Cates, which I came across in a friend’s Goodreads feed. I decided to give it a chance and realized that cozy mysteries are really fun and adorable!

Dead and Breakfast was no exception. The ghost didn’t feature as prominently into the story as I hoped and expected (I love a good ghost story!), but the murder mysteries – yes there were 2 in this novel! – didn’t disappoint.

Be sure to keep your expectations low with this one, but if you know what you’re getting yourself into, you’ll definitely enjoy. My only complaint is that there are only 2 installments to this series so far!

Luckily, I discovered through Goodreads that Kate Kingsbury has a twenty-one book Pennyfoot Hotel series, which I will begin promptly.

Memorable quotes: none

Notorious RBG

Notorious RBGNotorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
narrated by Andi Arndt

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I want to start by saying that this book is probably better consumed through physical copy or e-book. Periodically throughout the audiobook I’d hear, “For additional commentary, please see the enhanced portion of this audiobook.” But I have no idea where to find the “enhanced portion,” so I feel like I missed out on a lot.

This non-fiction work was a general overview of the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice and all-around badass! If you’re a fan of RBG, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re looking for an in depth, detailed story and explanation of RBG’s life and work, this is not the book for you.

After reading this, I have a newfound appreciation and admiration for Justice Ginsburg. I admit that I didn’t know much about her before, except that she can do more pushups than I can! So I enjoyed learning about her family, her previous law work, and her fights on the Supreme Court.

Memorable quotes: none*

*Note: RBG herself has some fantastic quotes, but as they were not germane to this book, I did not include them here.

 

The Great Book Heist

Camino IslandCamino Island by John Grisham
narrated by January Lavoy

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

This fun little heist novel reads more like tame Dan Brown than John Grisham. I’ve grown fond of Grisham’s latest thriller stories, which feel different to me than his original works. I recently finished The Rooster Bar as well and gave that one 4 stars.

This book about books starts right in the middle of the action – with the heist – and then takes you on a journey to Camino Island, FL to discover what happened to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stolen manuscripts. The plot was clever and, though somewhat predictable, I was still guessing until the end.

If you’re doing POPSUGAR’S 2018 Reading Challenge, this one will cross off “A book involving a heist” and will give you plenty of books to choose from for the “book mentioned in another book” category. (Be sure to make a list as you go along, and if you do, please send it my way! I failed to do so.)

Memorable quotes: none