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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet (Agatha Raisin #2) by M.C. Beaton

Former London PR agent, Agatha Raisin still hasn’t adjusted to village life, where the only prospect for a hot evening out is a meeting of the Ladies Society.

And since her overtures toward James Lacey, the retired military man next door, have failed, Agatha jumps at the chance to visit the new vet, who is single and good-looking. Although Agatha’s cat hasn’t a thing wrong with him, Hodge endures having a thermometer shoved up his bum in the name of romance.

Unfortunately his sacrifice is all for naught when the vet is soon found dead next to a high-strung horse. The police call the vet’s demise a freak accident, but Agatha convinces the hard-to-get James Lacey, who is also bored in the Cotswolds, that playing amateur detective might be fun.

Unfortunately, just as curiosity killed the cat, Agatha’s inept snooping is soon a motivation for murder.

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

She’s ornery, dismissive, curious. I’m reading them all out of order depending on what is available from my library and loving every bit.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Diana Bishop, who was great, though I do love the extra edge of snarkiness that Penelope Keith brings out in the character to match.

I keep coming back to this series because they are such great in-between, hearty, make me laugh books with lightened life lessons of daily life to also satisfy those aspects when choosing a book worthwhile.

I did think it got a bit complicated in the manner of which a character was taken out, became quite over-layered in attempt to maintain the mystery, but all in all I enjoyed it and will keep on in the series.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (Agatha Raisin #4) by M.C. Beaton

After six months in London, Agatha Raisin returns to her beloved Cotswold village-and her dashing neighbor, James Lacey. Well, sort of. James might not be so interested in Agatha. But soon enough, Agatha becomes consumed by her other passion: crime solving.

A woman has been found dead in a lonely field nearby. Her name is Jessica Tartinck, a hiker who infuriated wealthy landowners by insisting on her hiking club’s right to trek across their properties.

Now it’s up to Agatha, with James’ help, to launch an investigation. Together, they will follow no shortage of leads-many of Jessica’s fellow Dembley walkers seem all too willing and able to commit murder. But the trail of a killer is as easy to lose as your heart-and your life. So Agatha and James had better watch their every step.

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m really loving this series more and more.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Penelope Keith, who was amazing. She brought to life the saucy, almost snarky, yet fun and lively aspect to Agatha’s personality.

And in this book I learned a lot more of Agatha’s personality. I loved the introspection, the bluntness. These books are becoming my go-to in-betweens to lighten up my reading experience and make me laugh. This was just hilarious.

The writing style itself matches the scene and characters. The writing is clear, direct, and it makes for an easy jump back into the story if your mind just so happens to wander away.

I loved the variation in the expression of emotion.

I felt this one to be more of the resolution I’ve wanted from the series. Though it was a jump around in series for me, perhaps realizing it probably spoiled the progression in the main character relationships, I don’t mind because I go along based on what is available at my library and I’m caring enough about the characters to go wherever they want to take me and this one was just fun.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Historical Fiction

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie.

It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.

Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was interesting in concept and story.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Sneha Mathan, who spoke soft and smooth, fitting for the story and it was very relaxing to listen to.

I appreciated the observations and personal aspects. I thought I was going to like it more thank I did. There was an abundance of observations and because of the writing style, being more long-winded and overly descriptive for me, it didn’t really move along like I would typically prefer. It was poetic which was beautiful, but too many adjectives for my taste made it difficult for me to develop my own immersion into the story.

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Categories
Book Reviews Books Fantasy Fiction

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

See it on Goodreads

Check it out on Amazon

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Grab a coffee, grab a snack, this is going to be a long one…

Organized by the story, descriptions, and characters.

And some photo/video footage of a garden experience that I was reminded of while reading the book.

The story.

Addressed deeper perspective and problems associated with combat/war, specific ones at that, in a thoughtful way as an overarching theme built within a fantasy genre, namely a school of magic, which interestingly enough was likely not completely separate from certain cultural aspects that were being portrayed. I loved that this story was unique to me in this sense and wasn’t just an academic info dump, nor too fantastical to ignore historical realities.

The beginning of the story set the geographical and political scene clearly which was great since there were so many places, tribes, characters, and character roles to keep track of. Unfortunately there were many more to come and they became less integrated into the climax and ending. Perhaps they will all come back later in the series.

It’s a serious book with serious subtopics of historical significance. Initially I wasn’t sure about using such dark events in this one. It crossed the line of to inform vs entertain by merging nonfiction with high-fantasy realm, yet made a point of either coping/escapism as a result, depiction of other social/cultural traditions, or perhaps to bring a younger reader into such subject matter through genre appeal, of which I had to really think about. In context. I didn’t know enough of the history coming into it to probably fully appreciate it nor am I into fantasy enough to fully embrace these types of tropes.

Sometimes it was more difficult to take such seriousness with the parts of juvenile insults, occasional comedic tone, and the jarring overuse of more modern-day swearing, but maybe I am just not the main target demographic for this book.

The second half focused more on real time war details, employing previously learned war training tactics, which were interesting from a martial arts perspective and I appreciated the action. The exuberant amount of power struggles with “just in time rescuing” droned on a bit and became too repetitive for my taste.

I really liked the side stories that took time to explain the backstory, the puppet show, the parade. Very well done, I like to see clever, yet subtle integrations like this.

There was a lot to unpack in the this book. Drug users, drug dealers, supply and demand with war trauma and tactics over the use of it, military school and martial arts, sterilization procedures, losing yourself in war, role confusion, love, loyalty to the party, loyalty to the system, loyalty to roots, culture, yourself. Being called to action at a moment’s notice, feeling ill-prepared, violence, savagery, greed, all of it, changing you as a person. However it was hard to see that change in the characters. It was something I expected. I wanted to see growth, regression, change, anything.

Descriptions.

I liked the author’s uncomplicated descriptions. And I liked how she transitioned the turning of events, especially those involving combat. She had a knack for scene changes and carrying action scenes forward.

The characters.

Navigating through a world of fragmented social discord, postwar oppression, and everywhere rumors and indoctrination. I would have liked the characters to have been a little more connected with their own emotions and displayed in various ways, adding value to their actions, their rationales, and ultimately show enough self-awareness to understand others. To empathize, see beyond, the big picture, the future, the outcome as well as the nuances and details to give them purpose, something worth fighting for whether it was an internal or external motivator. Even if it was a mechanical force. Anything to shape their journey and pave the way for a more dynamic ending or to add dimension to their existence in a more personal way.

I had major issues with the characters, particularly the main one. I would have liked to have seen more character consistency. Her inconsistent characterization disrupted to the flow.

I liked how the author set the tone for the main character. Depicting attributes such as strength, stubbornness, yet also not without feeling, her plunging into despair, feeling alone, like a foreigner. Building her up as a survivor with capacity yet unknown to the character and as a reader.

However, I had a hard time understanding her. She was inconsistent, wavering, wishy-washy. She was unearthed yet defaulted to unmotivated and lacking charisma. I never found what made the main protagonist happy. Never found what made her tick. It was frustrating. Characters living (or dying) through this type of subject matter are really important for me. This character, however, ruined it for me.

There were questions of source and determination, whether training versus heritage, but nothing innate about her in either case was convincing.

She had a lot of character flaws, sure, ones that make her unlikeable to readers of her story and less favorable among her instructors and peers in the story. She was stubborn, struggling her way through life, navigating at will. Her personality, an off-putting, know-it-all novice that stemmed from humble, yet forgotten roots, not very self-aware.

It just didn’t make sense how she studied and trained so much but misunderstood the very foundation, origin, and fundamentals, leading the narration to be more of a telling as Rin went along than solidarity in showing of character. Overall it was a bit of a disconnect, making it difficult for me to get into her head. She was supposed to be gifted but wasn’t consistently depicted as either book or street smart so I wasn’t sure who she was supposed to be or who she was supposed to become in the process. Then the end came and I felt like I knew nothing about her as a person.

She embraced certain concepts but then had total disregard for others, trained by an absolute scholar yet had little respect for the art. She vacillated between working hard and having natural abilities, but by the end I wasn’t sure which given or earned characteristics she held or whether it was a brain, heart, or courage she was supposed to be seeking out. As the book went on, her character identity became increasingly difficult to pinpoint.

A risk-taking, insecure female protagonist, who sought out a path in life that she later found out was perhaps built on belonging, the accolades, general curiosity, determination, impulsiveness, and a hunger for technique still without the actual discipline, which to me, not completely knowing undermined everything that built her up to be.

She was impatient, overly complex, difficult, manipulative, and had this antagonistic personality you just want to hate, yet have hope for when you realize you still have half a book to read. So you keep reading. But time and time again, she was dismissive of people who’ve helped her, naive and green, yet headstrong without clear direction or purpose. She became an unloveable underdog with unreliability in both narration and deepest depiction of character. She was all confusion and incredibly contradictory.

And ugh, a phrase so overused in writing “Rin let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding.”

And then we have Nezha, who was just snide, expectant of better luxuries, then slated as having snobby pretentiousness smoothed out by the war just a few paragraphs later, only to flip-flop as well, picking up pretentiousness again, and again it was confusing to not know if there would be any turning point or self-recognition, life decision, some introspection or event that would be a guide to character enrichment and ultimately frame the plot, making it not only a great story, but a solid, resourceful, and believable one.

And then there’s Atlan. I’ll stop my thoughts on other characters here though.

All in all I was ready for this book to be over. Yet in its uniqueness I also appreciated it for what it was.

My biggest issue was with the main character who was the deal-breaker. Heartless and less justifiably so, especially for a plot that was built upon actual crimes against humanity. Perhaps it was just not the style I wanted to feed my mind with, with such wavering characters. I do recognize that I’m more of a nonfiction reader when it comes to stories like this. Maybe first person narration would have helped me embody more of what she embodied in seeking clear insight into her value as the main character. I don’t know.

I haven’t decided if or when I will be reading the next in series, but I’ll be curious to pick up more from this author outside of this particular story because the other writing aspects are ones I would like to look forward to.

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Glad to see you’ve made it this far!

I had some flashbacks as I read a few passages and thought I’d share!

I’ve come into contact with several kinds of ants in my life, from the docile sugar ants to fire ants to the fuzzy red velvet ant, even the ferocious Dorylus, also known as driver ants, safari ants, or siafu.

The ones that marched into my garden, taking over without warning are coming up as Megaponera annals or pondering ants. They are similar to carpenter ants.

They are raiders, filing in by the 100s, feasting on termites, carrying larvae.

They are bold and aggressive, following me around as I pulled weeds.

And they bite. Really hard!

Once they take hold they DO NOT let go.

She thought of the warrior Bodhidharma, meditating for years while listening to the ants scream. She suspected that the ants wouldn’t be the only ones screaming when she was done.

They poured through like a swarm of ants, like a cloud of hornets; unstoppable and infinite, overwhelming in number.

Have you read this one, what did you think?

Categories
ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Thriller

The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

Michael and Megan Fitzgerald are siblings who share a terrifying past.

Both adopted, and now grown — Michael is a long-haul truck driver, Megan a college student majoring in psychology — they trust each other before anyone else. They’ve had to.

In Los Angeles, Detective Garrett Hobbs and FBI Agent Jessica Gimble have joined forces to work a murder that seems like a dead cinch. Their chief suspect is quickly identified and apprehended –but then there’s another killing just like the one they’ve been investigating. And another.

And not just in Los Angeles — the spree spreads across the country. The Fitzgerald family comes to the investigators’ attention, but Dobbs and Gimble are at a loss — if one of the four is involved, which Fitzgerald might it be?

From coastal California to upstate New York, Dobbs and Gimble race against time and across state lines to stop an ingenious and deeply deranged killer — one whose dark and twisted appetites put them outside the range of logic or experience.

The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Little, Brown and Company for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

Wow the suspense!

This was an interesting read for me because having read books from both authors, (90s Patterson and a few from the Michael Bennett series, Barker, from the latest She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be and Dracul), I had certain expectations and was not sure how a blend of creative elements and the diversity among the two would play out.



I was excited and I also had questions. Was this going to be a cross-over for new audiences or existing readership or appeal to both? Would it be fresh or familiar and would it even matter? Would I be experiencing reader confusion if there was a certain continuity I was looking for in the writing and storyline? Who contributed what as far as idea, vision, and implementation? Were there creative differences and how did those get worked out? I wanted to know. I don’t know why I wanted to know these things, I just did.

So I’ll just say when I was reading, there were certain recognizable traits I identified and the collaboration was executed fabulously.

The storyline. Ah, makes so much sense. Red herrings, yes, you got me. Ending, yup, well played. The police force with feasibility and critical knowledge, so well polished, and I just love it when I can read a book and not feel the need to nitpick these things apart.

The writing. So fast paced and decisive, as the storyline calls for and the immediacy was so incredibly satisfying. It was a captivating, dive-in of an opening. A few hard-driven parts were almost borderline overstimulating for me, but nonetheless, I happily devoured the book in one sitting.

The lines written without apology, a very natural, yet precise and enticing way of wording, compelling but not over worked or over thought. And there was this persuasiveness that was essential for such a detailed, psychological thrill which was just entrancing. I recognized certain stylistic features that just cut through my mind like, oooh that’s eerie, oooh that cliffhanger, so solid, I’ll keep reading.

I loved how dual scenarios and POVs converged at the surprise elements while still maintaining their distinction. There was this unique quality to the writing, especially for the crime fiction genre, where the voices were undoubtedly distinguishable in both thought and action. I feel like sometimes character traits and voices tend to take on the same persona and get muddy when police investigations take place, definitely not the case in this one.

I loved the characterizations of people, as well as general observations of personal characteristics/habits themselves. And the scenery, I mean Needles, CA., if you’ve ever driven through, you’d recognize that the description of the settings were spot on.

And of course I loved the literary references and the quotes from within the story itself. They generated their own deep significance that articulated the intricacies of the plot so well.

A solid read and I’m looking forward to seeing more collaborations like this.



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Categories
Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Horror Mystery Thriller

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was really drawn into this one. I think it was because there were so many moving parts and it had all the mysterious elements that make for an interesting story. There were some issues with the writing and the story itself, however I was along for the ride anyway.

I read this one for the Literally Dead Book Club. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom which I enjoyed.

The story.
I liked the build up. I liked the atmosphere, the setting, the elements of backstory and going back in real time with changing POVs to meet somewhere in the middle. I couldn’t decide whether it was going to be based on my lack of information, or psychological, or supernatural, or a simple thought-experiment, it kept me on my toes. I also like to go in blind with books, barely skimming the descriptions, looking for themes and key words that either turn me on or off to a story and diving in from there and this book was easy for me to get into based on just a few interests of mine, mostly having to do with a Victorian estate.

I liked how it played heavily on the emotions of scare tactics. There were unmentioned assumptions which were well played. Assumptions that people freak out over snakes, startled by creeps of hidden floor boards, flickering lights, music, appealing to a multitude of senses, creating a frightening scene and letting the reader play on those emotions and reactions, indulge in risking that readers would respond in such a way author intended without drawing unnecessary attention to itself as a thriller and doing more of the show instead of tell which went a long way.

This book was great, it definitely got super messy though. Mostly related to the composition of the plot which left loose ends, relied on convenient amnesia, question of plausibility, underlying lack of communication which created a sort of drama fatigue with ever-changing new leads and secrecy that started off convincing, yet only to a point.

The characters.
Ali had some characteristics I had expected from a daughter but came off as then it is but then it’s not, the relationship with her family was this, then it wasn’t. Flipped back and forth. Emotionally expressive verbally with adoration for her father but emotionally absent in every other way. I wanted the personal threats to the female main character to feel a little more personal in a realistic way. For her to be very much in the headspace of denial with counter arguments that don’t hold much weight with her continued action to pursue sleuthing, then it kind of fell apart from that aspect.

Character roles.
Surprised at word choice of professionals such as the chief saying crime scene guys instead of detectives. Contradictory whether the old furniture had any value or obvious signs of water damage for someone who renovates houses, also no home inspection, no blue prints, even for a historic home were just some things that were amiss for me.

The ending.
And the ending? So unsatisfying. A cover up? No thought to age of reason?

But I liked this book anyway, go figure. I was just in the mood for a read like this and it delivered in ways that were outside of the shortcomings I felt it had and I really enjoyed it.



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Categories
Book Blog Book Reviews Featured Fiction Romance

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay (Swallowtail Bay, Book 1) by Katie Ginger

Licking her wounds from her divorce, Stella impulsively buys a gift shop and two holiday lets in glorious Swallowtail Bay, hoping for a fresh start with her King Charles Spaniel Frank.

When the neighbours meet her with a warm welcome, Stella knows she’s found the new home she was looking for. Even gorgeous but grumpy local Miles can’t take the shine off things. But then her ex-husband announces he’s getting married again, and someone in the village starts gossiping about Stella…

Is Stella’s dream over already? Or, with her new friends behind her, can Stella fight back and save her new life – and find the happy ever after she’s been waiting for?

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay by Katie Ginger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This was ok, sort of liked it, sort of teetering on my opinion about it. I really wanted to like this one more than I did though. I couldn’t stay focused on it. I think those who like a slow, easy feeling read will enjoy this one more than I did.

I loved the idea of the story, the business, the shops, the bay, the small town, people being friendly, learning about the character circumstances, how they got there, how they were coming to be, the things everyone was doing, the setting.

But getting through loads of descriptors after the first 20-30 pages really bogged down my reading experience.

I felt like I was wading around the surf in JNCO jeans. Almost two pages dedicated to describing the flat was unappealing to me. The overly detailed descriptions didn’t add much depth or interest, rather they became incredibly distracting as I read on.

Just the flat, knowing everything about it being dirty, the layout, the furniture, actually leading to repetition and over-emphasis throughout the book. Then the activities of walking up to meet someone, reaching for a knob, opening doors, closing doors, glancing out windows, putting a cup to their mouth, setting the cup down, using a napkin, picking up a fork, loading the fork with cake, taking a bite, setting the fork down, their every physical move documented with every interaction.

It was just too slow-paced and bulky, cluttered for my style, obstacles to my enjoyment of what I thought was actually a really story so I will look forward to exploring more from that aspect.

I’m interested in checking out the others in the series and seeing what they are like.



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Categories
Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Thriller

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom a rising television star. The bride 
a magazine publisher.

It’s a wedding for a magazine in a remote location. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. And then someone turns up dead.

Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was great!

The story. The story was so well thought out. I think the effect was there, an enjoyable thriller, winding tighter and tighter, chapters transitioning from back story, to real time action, shortening in length as they went on, the intensity increasing like a tether ball winding around the pole at 4th grade recess.

Weddings are stressful for everyone and all the elements of wedding bliss and actual outcome were captured in the most dynamic way. I liked that this was an isolated closed mystery story taking place on an exclusive island with a fitting topography and Celtic history that drove the plot forward.

And it’s one of those books I think, predictable or not, if you wanted to by all sleuthy, there’s enough satisfaction in the story and satisfaction in the writing that an early lightbulb moment would be just as fulfilling reading onward.

The writing. I loved the strategically placed words, hinting about what was to come related to someone not leaving the island the way they arrived. I liked the strategically placed red herrings, the foreshadowing with words like… well I won’t quote the phrases, but they were letting me know something very specific was going to take place.

I really liked the way the POVs were done. First person narrative was done well with quite a bit of varied sentence structure and presented with a style of foreknowledge and knowledge acquisition in a really fresh and interesting way, especially when it came to description of physical traits which aimed for unbelabored accuracy in just a few words.

It was not as linear as I had expected in the beginning. Parts felt like chapters were missing with the multiple POVs, foretelling mixed with current events. I realized though how much I dove in, speed mode, by the time I got to page 30, realizing I was finally starting to commit things to memory and so I decided to restart the book and then it all made so much better sense to me.

Characters. First off the character roles were perfect, the couple, the plus one, the single… A wedding party composed of friends and family, reminiscing over everything you see and experience from the social aspect at wedding festivities from shared memories, childhood crushes, deviant behavior, life successes and failures, talents, desires.

I thought it was all well done especially when it came to character distinction, partly in due because of the age range/generational similarities and the author made them all shine in their own way.

Personalities from dialogue to inner monologue, action, all following suit and each had attachments of deeper connectivity, defining life stories with hopes and dreams, insecurities, consistent with life stages, elements of what could have been and nostalgia of pasts relationships, regret, even down to the awkwardness of joining conversation, all interwoven in such a way I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. All of it nicely curated to fit perfectly within the story being told.

Some questions, but not deal breakers. I did want to know what happened to a certain character aside from the emotional response that was displayed. Was it a lost one? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it really mattered. I enjoyed reading the story so much anyway, but thought I’d mention it because it did linger in my head.

It did end sort of abruptly after the peak. I kind of wanted to see a bit more character reflection after the reveal, especially of a certain few. I didn’t expect to have full resolution or discourse, but just a little more internal dialogue or character interaction to bring situational awareness to everyone involved as a bit of closure to the post wedding festivities and relationships. Likely my feelings about this are because the greater first 3rd was more about building up character dynamic than action and I would have liked the story to have picked up a bit again from this angle in the end for full circle completeness.

Super good book nonetheless!

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“I look down at the spilled contents, shining gold tubes of mascara and lipsticks rolling in a bid for freedom across the floorboards, an overturned compact leaking a trail of bronzing powder.”



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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin #1) by M.C. Beaton

“The irascible but endearing personality of Agatha Raisin is like a heady dash of curry. May we have another serving, please?”
DETROIT FREE PRESS
Agatha has moved to a picture-book English village and wants to get in the swing. So she buys herself a quiche for the village quiche-making contest and is more than alarmed when it kills a judge. Hot on the trail of the poisoner, Agatha is fearless, all the while unaware, that she’s become the next victim….

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok now that I’ve read the first one, I’m starting to get it, as likely author intended, and will keep coming back to this series, though probably picking and choosing which themes I think I’d like rather than order in series now that the foundation has been set. There are just certain ones I want I’m more drawn to in both title and cover and want to read certain ones sooner than later. We’ll see though.

I listened to this one via audiobook, narrated by Penelope Keith, who was just perfect for this book in both telling of characters quirks and the setting being in Cotswolds, but she just can tell a story with such enthusiasm, multi-dimensional, getting-into-my-thought-pattern type of story narration.

The main character was the perfect example of an unlikeable main protagonist that you just love to read about.

With the story, she fumbles through life, flaws and victories, predicaments self-inflicted but the plot ends up having other contributing factors to her embarrassing situations which kept it curious and more favorably complex than just frustrating character stupidity or poor character development.

There was enough life experiences or knowledge of certain topics built into the story to give credibility to baking and prize winning, a little less to poisoning and criminology, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless.

As with #3, the climax and character reveal was just so late. I don’t know if this is an ongoing, purposeful theme and writing style of every book. I don’t know. Everything else was just superb but this bit drove me nuts. The stories and characters are interesting enough that if you figure out “whodunnit” early, the story and characters have just enough substance to keep subsequent reading enjoyable and it would actually be more pleasurable to read more post reveal, but maybe the author didn’t know that about herself and perhaps wanted to play it safe and didn’t want the subsequent parts to become a post revelation slump for early sleuthers.

Anyway I’m looking forward to the rest in this series and may revisit my thoughts on them after I read a few more. And I’m actually wondering if it is the audio narration that is so well done that is compelling me to read more, which is something to think about and don’t mind at all because it is actually that enjoyable.

EDIT: I’ve skipped around in the series depending on what has been available at my library and I must say I am in love with this series. They are the perfect, quick, happy yet full of enough substance, type of read to fit in between anything else that I’m reading.

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Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed parts of this one, for very specific reasons.

The story was one that took me back to my absolute love for Grimms’ fairy tales. The lure of folklore, fantastical creatures, the mystery of forests, unfolding into an almost creepy, dark parade of characters that share how they came to be with a startling past, connection to the present, and some sort of unsought wisdom and knowledge being imparted to those who interact with them. And then the excitement is waiting to see what the protagonist does with their new found friend/knowledge and follow them along as they fall into traps of deceit, conquests, and satisfying endings. And offer something valuable, entertaining, precious, insightful in the meanwhile.

I enjoyed the ideas put forth in this one, being set in Russia, the atmosphere of village life in winter, the author was great at creating a lovely, solid opening scene for the characters to live in. For me, this was the driving force and bulk of joy I found in the book. The fantastical characters, intelligent and fierce, they had drive, they had something to offer.

In this book, bits of the story seemed to be more of a retelling of certain folklore, which was great, but the more I read on, I found myself longing for either a completely original piece of work or a retelling of just a few known fairy tales into one, like Into the Woods for comparison. This was because the number of characters to keep track of became a bit too much. The focus seemed to change from following an intriguing young girl’s story to a compulsion to include numerous characters that were less important in her journey and this took the book in tangents that were less supportive in her development, and for me, really started to become quite boring half way through.

I loved the writing style in the beginning, presenting characters with a balance of intriguing descriptions and dialogue, going into a trajectory where I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen. I couldn’t put the book down. However about the 3rd-4th/5th way through the book, there wasn’t much being added to the overall characterization and storyline to keep my interest and drive to move the plot forward. It became more of an introduction of these multiple characters and I had to put the book down for several weeks because the story became incredibly slow and quite dry at these points.

It was becoming less reliant on character development, which I thought at the beginning was going to be really strong and something I was looking forward to, but instead, it simmered down to an excellent opening, a heavy reliance on atmospheric description which was a major strength at the beginning, followed by introductions of multiple characters with nowhere to go.

The main action was a major, abrupt shift in the story and overtook the plot, the book as a whole. It was characters upon characters interacting with each other on the sidelines, power struggles again and again, like the game of Final Fantasy, battle scenes, sword clinking with sword, sword clinking with sword, and more sword clinking with sword.

And what I really wanted to do is walk around the village more and talk to people. The main characters I got to know, I wanted to know, sort of became lost in the mix and therefore there was this disconnect to the main plot and that’s where I lost most of my interest. The atmospheric presentation, though amazing, was’t enough to carry the story through and the action scenes became somewhat redundant, missing opportunities for character development, building overall trajectory, or solidifying plot.

And then the book just ended. I suppose much was a pacing issue, like an erratic, brake happy driver. It was fine and smooth when getting on the freeway, but the journey became a bit rough, a little dull, and didn’t end with much satisfaction. Upon reading, I didn’t realize it was a trilogy, but still, I wanted more. I wanted justification, I wanted reason, I wanted forethought fleshed out.

But kudos, kudos, kudos to the amazing opener, tempting ideas, and fanciful, luring setting and scene descriptions.



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The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War #2) by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers — a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his “father,” he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I just loved the witty humor, the science, the mere confirmation through human observation.

I listened to this one via audiobook, narrated by William Dufris, which was excellent.

I loved the speculation, the licorice, the confrontation, the human discovery. Some parts droned on a bit, I really wanted to know John Perry again, and a little more concrete and emotional connection between the characters (yet while side characters to maintain their distinction) and the direction the overall plot trajectory, but I’m looking forward to continuing on in the series.



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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I thought this was great. I listened to it via audiobook, narrated by the author himself, which I’d highly recommend.

The writing, the story, really captured the innocence, both literal and magical thinking of a child, yet was palatable as an adult reader.

Kittens, staircases, hidden places, wormholes, riddle-like quests. Curiosity, the feeling of getting in trouble, being disciplined, friendships, dangers and fears, and dinner manners. All the themes, concepts, and individual interpretation shared, making for a really compelling read.



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