Tuesday, June 28, 2016

In the Shadows of Paris by Claude Izner

I grabbed this one at random at the library mostly due to the title. Once I saw the cover though, I had to read it. It's just so pretty.

Turns out this is the fifth book in a series featuring one of the main characters Victor Legris, a book seller. It's written by two sisters who go by the pen name Claude Izner. This book is about the bookseller who solves crimes occasionally, and when people start dying, he and his protege step in and help solve the mystery.

Let me start off by saying there are 71 footnotes in this book. 71. It feels like there's one on every page and I found that quite annoying. These notes reference language translations. literary references, historical references etc. that I really could have done with out. If you have to explain something after you've said it, maybe you shouldn't have said it?

This one was so hard to get into that I almost gave up twice before I was even 50 pages in. The authors switch characters so fast, and with little warning, that I had to keep going back when they finally gave people names to try and figure out who was who. Right at the beginning they go back in time to an event that, in my opinion didn't even link up the way they thought it would later on. It just seemed like extra information that maybe we could have done without.

Once the characters were fleshed out, I found myself drawn to them. That was the reason I finished the book. I really wanted to know what would happen to them, specifically one of the criminal characters. By the end though, the one criminal character had such a flat ending to his story that it just bugged me.

The whole thing just felt over complicated for nothing. It was just so mediocre in my opinion. I don't think I'll be picking up any of the other ones in the future.

Recommendation: If you are familiar with the history relating to Paris then perhaps this is for you? If you like footnotes and historical fiction that ties back into real places and events, then maybe this is for you? If you are a casual mystery reader, perhaps give this one a pass.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

This book is about two cowboy brothers living out in Montana in 1893. One brother is obsessed with the stories about the great Sherlock Holmes, and even fancies himself a bit of a sleuth. The other brother is the narrator of this fine tale and the two of them find themselves in the perfect position to investigate a murder in the style of their favorite detective. 

It's written in true wild west type of fashion complete with terms and speech patterns right out of the old days. It's heavy on the ranching story lines and lingo that go with it. I loved every second of it. So much so that I couldn't put it down even though the day I read it I had a killer headache. Nothing was going to stop me!

The characters are great, the story was great, I had no complaints with this book at all. I didn't think that linking up the wild west and Sherlock Holmes could be this good! I am happy to report that it totally works and it's totally awesome! 

The mystery itself was hard, I didn't know a darn thing till the very end. I love it when that happens!

This one is the first of 6 I believe, following these two brothers. I came across this one by accident at the library and the title totally pulled me in. I've already taken out the second book from the library and it's going to be my next read. 

Recommendation: This is a western mystery. If that is something you might enjoy, please give this a read. Also, if you like the work of Sherlock Holmes and you would enjoy reading a fictitious case of a cowboy inspired by him, then you must read this!

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Years ago I watched The Da Vinci Code movie and I enjoyed it. I knew it was a book, but back then I was so involved in reading mysteries that it never really occurred to me to read it.

I found it used at a thrift store a little while ago so I grabbed it up and gave it a go. I read it all in about three hours I think, then I spent the rest of my day off watching the movies (The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons). 

I liked the story. It was interesting and it kept my attention. The writing was good, and I didn't find myself skimming over pages either. It's an easy read, not too complicated, not too intense. 

There was quite a few things that happened in the book that I didn't remember. I found out later it was because it wasn't in the movie. I feel like they passed over some parts in the movie that I would have liked included. I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil anything and I'm sure most of you have heard of this movie/book before. 

I know some people hate this book because of the topic, but if the topic appeals to you, then this is worth the read. I think the book is better than the movie. Hands down. There's so much more going on, and the ending is different, but I liked it better that way. 

Recommendation: If you liked the movie, if you're interested in the story, give it a read. The book is better and the writing is good. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

You may have heard of this movie (like I did) and had no idea it was a book, or maybe you knew and were keeping it a secret. I don't know. But I do know that I've read the book, watched the movie, and I have some thoughts.

It's a story about a family who's father passes away and they have to spend a week locked into the family home together. It's told from the point of view of one of the sons and it details the hilarity and troubles of life. I won't say anymore, but it's a dark and funny movie that I enjoyed.

I saw the movie first and I liked it. It made me laugh. Helps that I really enjoy most of the actors in the movie too. My only wish was to change the ending, I wanted more. I always want more.

The book was good too but it was different in a lot of places from the movie. Surprisingly, I prefer the movie to the book. The book had some graphic descriptions of things in it that weren't in the movie, and I'm kinda glad about that (although it was still funny) In the odd place or two the book was better than the movie, but overall movie is better than the book.

In the back of the book, there was an excerpt of another book by the same author and I noticed there was a lot of similarities between the main characters. The author seems to like writing these men who are useless creatures who are not worthy of redemption, but at the same time pardoning all their faults and letting them off the hook. In the book version This Is Where I Leave You, the main character is quite a bit more pathetic than he is in the movie, and honestly, I am so much happier with the movie.

Recommendation: This was a pretty cool movie. I really liked it. The book, well it's okay. I would watch the movie first though if you're thinking about reading the book.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

This came across my radar online a couple times and since I had heard of the author before I decided to give it a try.

This book is a compilation of letters and replies from the online advice column Dear Sugar from The Rumpus. It's full of advice about life, love, and loss. Some of the letters are new and never before seen and they are placed into sections. 

Cheryl Strayed does not hide one little thing when she responds to these letters. She is real, raw, and downright honest with her words. Some of it was hard to read and I found myself needing to step away for a little while and continue it later. I took my time with this book because so much of it was necessary. 

Her writing style is unmistakable. She hits so close to home with everything she writes. She showed me myself on the page, tore me down, then gave me back all the hope I needed. I couldn't be more grateful that her work is out there and that she herself exists.  

Recommendation: This may not be easy to read all the way through at once, but I think it's necessary. Very necessary. You will feel better for the experience. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, then I hope you've heard of the books by Laurie R. King where she writes about the famous detective from the point of view of a woman who comes into his life by the name of Mary Russell.

These books are GOLD, people! They are great! I love them so darn much. This one is the first one in the series and it covers their first case and how they met. It's a bit of a slow story progression, but it's still really interesting. Mary Russell is young and figuring out her place in the world when she meets Sherlock and a friendship blooms.

I felt like I was reading about the Sherlock Holmes we all know and love and I can't wait to read them all. I think there's quite a few actually. I really love the idea of a female counterpart and I think it just brings new flavor into the story. There is a big age difference between them, but I still think it works.

The investigations are the same as ever, the cases are as odd and as tough as ever, and the feel is pure Sherlock Holmes.

Recommendation: For the lovers of all things Sherlock Holmes. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The BFG by Roald Dahl

If you haven't read this yet, or at least heard of the amazingness that is Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, among others!) then please let this book be a lovely introduction to his work.

This book is short, sweet, and all types of great. As a child I read the odd book or two of his, but I was reading at a higher level pretty quickly and I think that's why I may have missed out on quite a few great children's classics. I think I did read it as a child, but I can't remember so when I found a set of Roald Dahl's books on sale, I grabbed it up.

The reason I'm talking about this book today is because it's coming out as a movie very soon and I am excited!! I'm making my boyfriend read the book too before we go and see it. I have high hopes for the movie and I cannot wait to see it because I'm sure I'm going to love it!

Recommendation: Read this, go see the movie, enjoy the greatness! You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

This book caught my eye on Instagram and I adored the cover. I know this is technically a kids book, but some of the best so often are.

I really liked the idea behind the story. It's about a young girl who's baby brother gets kidnapped by crows and taken into the impassable wilderness outside of town and she must go in to find her brother with the help of a friend from school. 

Yes, like others, I thought of Labyrinth too (girl rescuing her baby brother from a magical creature anyone?) but it also reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia, both I really enjoyed. 

There are cool talking creatures, interesting characters, and a whole new world to explore in this book. Turns out its the first of a trilogy and I'm excited to read the other two. 

I kind of thought that this book could have been about teenagers and it still would have worked without any issues. There was also a lot more war and battles than I typically see in these kinds of books for children, but I didn't mind it. Only other odd thing was the family dynamic. It seemed a little weird to me, but I guess it had to be because then the story wouldn't have worked itself out in the same way and I can get behind that. I won't say more because I don't want to give any spoilers.

It was good. The pictures were really cool, the story was an easy read, and I liked it. I have already bought the next two and I'm going to read and review those too.

I read some reviews on Goodreads that complained about the beginning and its references to a hipster Portland and such, but the rest of the story is so much more then that. Don't let that kind of silliness distract you from a great story since that stuff is not what the book is really about.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed Narnia and the Labyrinth, give this a try. It's pretty darn good. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Daisies for Innocence by Bailey Cattrell

This is the first in a new series called the Enchanted Garden Mysteries by author Bailey Cattrell. It was published at the beginning of this year.

I found through a little bit of investigation that this author has published another series called the Magical Bakery Mysteries under the name Bailey Cates, the Home Crafting Mysteries series under the name Cricket McRae, and a book called Shotgun Moon under the name K. C. McRae.

This book is about a woman who runs a custom perfume and scent store with a lovely garden outside. She can help people with scent and her talents seem almost supernatural. Her employee turns up dead and it's up to her to solve the mystery once she becomes a suspect.

Right off the bat this book looks like one of those easy, pun filled, mysteries that take like no time at all to read, but that you'll enjoy in passing
. Honestly, I think it was much more then that. Yes, the cover is full of terrible puns, but the story wasn't and although it was a light read, it was still deeper and more interesting then some other books of this nature.

The story has such a magical feel to it and I loved it. There was a lot of bits about plants, perfumes, and the teachings relating to scents and symbolism that I really enjoyed. I think that the background story line could really go somewhere in these books.

I can't wait for more books in this series. I wanted more from this author so that's how I figured out about her other series under other pen names and I've already ordered the first in the Magical Bakery Mysteries!

Recommendation: Read this if you like reading mysteries or books with a magical slant about plants and aromatherapy. I think you'll be happily surprised.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Joanne Fluke: The Hannah Swensen series

I have been reading this series for years now. These mysteries are focused around the main character Hannah Swensen who is a baker living in a small town. She owns a cookie shop and with the help of her sisters, one of the two main men in her life, and her awesome detective skills, she solves mysteries. Quite often she even manages to find the bodies herself! Every book is full of recipes for delicious baked goods, even some other great dishes, that are mentioned in the story. As such, each murder mystery is named for a key baked good that features in the mystery.

I own a good chunk of the series as e-books. I tend to read them in the middle of the night when I can't sleep on my phone or my e-reader. They are fairly easy reads that aren't overly complicated and because of that I prefer to get them from the library or on my e-reader. 

I find these books to be rather light, they tend to follow the same kind of formula, with a lot of the same characters. I don't mind this though, because even though they are pretty simple, I don't tend to figure out the end before its over which is something I look for in a good mystery. I don't want to be able to solve it early. There`s a lot of repetition as far as things go with the characters, but the author stays true to them, they never come off feeling fake. 

I guess they've made one into a made-for-TV-movie... no interest in watching it. At all. I saw the cast, and it doesn't make any sense. 

These are fun little reads that make your mouth water with delicious recipes. 

Recommendation: Perfect for the lover of sweet treats and light mysteries. 

If you were wondering which of her books are in my e-book library, here they are (in no particular order):

  • Cherry Cheesecake Murder
  • Blueberry Muffin Murder
  • Apple Turnover Murder
  • Fudge Cupcake Murder
  • Peach Cobbler Murder
  • Chocolate Chip Murder
  • Key Lime Pie Murder
  • Cream Puff Murder
  • Red Velvet Cupcake Murder
  • Cinnamon Roll Murder
  • Sugar Cookie Murder
  • Candy Cane Murder
  • Plum Pudding Murder
  • Gingerbread Cookie Murder
  • Carrot Cake Murder
  • Devil`s Food Cake Murder

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg

This is the second book by Natalie Goldberg that I have had the pleasure of reading. The True Secret of Writing is the follow up type of book to her book Writing Down the Bones (you can read my thoughts on that book here)

This book focuses more on her zen training and the zen style writing boot camps that she holds. She shares all there is to know about her boot camps, even sharing a schedule she's used at one of them so the reader can get a real feel of her zen writing boot camps for themselves. 

As usual, this book is chock full of wisdom and anecdotes all geared to succeeding and inspiring others to write. It's a beautiful guidebook just waiting to kick start anyone's writing. It's hard to explain why I love her writing so much without sitting down and quoting you whole pages of her magical words. They are like pearls of wisdom on the page that just send a tingle down my spine and makes me feel like I can pick up my pen and move mountains. 

It took me quite a long time to read this book mainly because I needed frequent pauses to to savor it and let the knowledge sink in. Since completing it the first time I`ve picked it up again numerous times to flip through when in need of inspiration. 

I loved her tales of her own writing path. She discusses different ways she's written, things she's done to write, and everything in between. I read Writing Down the Bones first, of course, but I did not find even one instance of repetitiveness between the two, even though the subject matter is so very similar. Both are equally important and both are equally great. 

Recommendation: This book is a definite must read for any writer. It's truly a staple on my bookshelf. If something happened to my copy, this is a book I would have to replace. I am so much better for having read this book.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Sandman by Lars Kepler

So this book is the fourth book in a series by a Swedish couple who use the pen name Lars Kepler. They are named Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and are both published authors on their own.

When I heard about this series that follows Detective Inspector Joona Linna, it was said that Lars Kepler was the next Stieg Larsson (the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books) and I was excited because I loved those books.

The Sandman was a creepy, mildly shocking thriller. It wasn't really too heavy on the mystery side, it was more about catching the person they already knew did it. There was a lot of bits that were on the scary, in-your-face, psychological side and I don`t know how I feel about that. As far as it being like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books... I don`t really think so.

The chapters were super short and it was a fairly easy read. I`m not really sure how I feel about the characters either. They were odd to me, and I found it hard to identify with them. I liked it, but I didn't like it that much. I`m glad it was a library book though, and that I didn't take the plunge and buy it.  I don`t really think I`ll be reading any more of these books either. Just not my style.

Recommendation: If you like creepy psychological thrillers, then you will like this.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I picked this book up used years ago because everyone was talking about it and I figured some day I would give it a try even though it wasn't really my type of read. I am a mystery lover to the core but I've been branching out a lot lately and I am enjoying myself.

I did not quite know what to expect with this book. I didn't watch the movie at all so all I knew was what was written on the back. Right off the bad, I was surprised but delighted at how the book was set up. I love that it was in sections and it was set up in little stories of her memories.

I liked the way she just told us her story and let it all out there. Of course, she is a great writer and I have been picking up some of her other works when I find them (like Big Magic which everyone needs to read. Read my thoughts about it here) and I think she's such an interesting person.

This book was really great. I loved the rawness about it. It left me wanting more and I found it to be really inspiring in unexpected ways. I didn't want to put it down either. There's so much about the lives of others that really moves us and I really do enjoy true stories like this.

She does touch on her beliefs quite a bit but I even enjoyed that part too. Differences between our lives and the lives of others are just as great as the similarities. I have definitely not experienced the same things that she has, but I could still identify with her story.

This is going to be a book that I will be rereading for sure in the future. I would like to see the movie too at some point.

Recommendation: Give this a try. It's good, it'll make you feel things, and .you'll like it.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life is the third and final book in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.

If you've read the other two or heard about this trilogy before then you will know it's about a witch and a vampire who are trying to save the future of their races. There is so much more then that but I don't want to spoil anything accidentally. You can read my reviews on the first book here and the second book here 

This book is the culmination of their journey through time to finish what they started. It's detailed and interesting. There is never a dull moment. Like the other books I had a hard time putting this one down until the end. I find that the characters are well developed and believable. The witch and vampire love story aspect has been done many times but I wasn't disappointed.

This one got weird reviews on Goodreads. In my opinion it was just as good as the other two. The ending for me was perhaps a little simple, that perhaps the overall mission ended a little easily but I still enjoyed the book.

I find myself left wanting more. I know this is the last one in the trilogy, but I still would like to know more about the characters and their life after the end of the book. I have so many questions!

Recommendation: If you haven't yet read any of the novels in this trilogy then you really should! They are very good.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May Wrap Up!

It has been FOREVER since I've done a monthly wrap up of the books I've read. Why, you ask? Because I almost always forget what day it is. I end up missing the end/beginning of the next month so often that I remember like 5 days into the new month and that's just way too late.

In the month of May this year I read a total of 7 books. Four were from library and three were from my own collection. I decided super last minute to make a post about it at all so my photos were done rather quickly. (I snapped the ones of the library books on my way out this morning as I was going to the library after work today).

The books marked with a * are the ones that will have reviews coming soon! I think this month was a pretty good literary month and I am ready for June!

From the library I read:

Daisies for Innocence by Bailey Cattrell *
The Sandman by Lars Kepler *
Robert B. Parker's Kickback by Ace Atkins
Death of a Chimney Sweep by M.C. Beaton

From my collection I read:

Wildwood by Colin Meloy*
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper*
The BFG by Roald Dahl *