Monday – What Are You Reading?

Hey all! How was your weekend? Mine was pretty good – time with the kids, made it to church, and my son tried out a new recipe for chocolate cake. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still pretty yummy. Oh, and I finished a bunch of books.

Right now I am just reading one book, The Room by Swedish writer and actor Jonas Karlsson.

17830958

You might be able to guess from the briefcase that this is set in an office. However, even if you haven’t worked in an office, I’m sure you’re familiar enough with the basic environment that you could enjoy the book. I’m finding it really funny. Bjorn is the narrator and he is troubled that none of his coworkers are as good at their jobs as he is. In fact, they are pretty dismal, while he is doing most of the work. Then he finds a secret room at work where he can relax for a few minutes and get away from their annoying habits.

The writer is an actor who has won some awards in Sweden. I think his drama background shows because I could easily imagine this as a play. It works great as a book though. It’s really short, although it has 65 chapters, most are only a couple of pages long. I can’t wait to see how it ends.

What are you reading right now? Are you enjoying it? Let me know in the comments.

Advertisements

Review: Heap House

17977053
Title: Heap House (The Iremonger Trilogy)

Author: Edward Carey

Synopsis: Clod is an Iremonger. He lives in the Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded items collected from all over London. At the centre is Heap House, a puzzle of houses, castles, homes and mysteries reclaimed from the city and built into a living maze of staircases and scurrying rats.

The Iremongers are a mean and cruel family, robust and hardworking, but Clod has an illness. He can hear the objects whispering. His birth object, a universal bath plug, says ‘James Henry’, Cousin Tummis’s tap is squeaking ‘Hilary Evelyn Ward-Jackson’ and something in the attic is shouting ‘Robert Burrington‘ and it sounds angry.

A storm is brewing over Heap House. The Iremongers are growing restless and the whispers are getting louder. When Clod meets Lucy Pennant, a girl newly arrived from the city, everything changes. The secrets that bind Heap House together begin to unravel to reveal a dark truth that threatens to destroy Clod’s world.

My thoughts:

What a weird book! I don’t remember how this one made it on to my TBR list, but I’m kind of glad it did.

It’s sort of a cross between Tim Burton and Oliver Twist. It’s set in a strange version of Victorian England. Clod, and yes, the spelling is intentional, is an orphan part of a wealthy but strange family that makes their living exploiting the poor and claiming their trash. It’s made them rich but set them apart in the most bizarre ways. The whole book is just really hard to describe.

Clod is definitely the best of a bad bunch though, and I really wanted to see him escape from this horrible life. I loved Lucy, and I can’t wait to see how she shakes things up. It definitely ends on a cliffhanger, so be prepared for that.

I am going to finish this series, but I didn’t love it enough that I’m just dying to get the next book. I got this one from the library and I didn’t like it enough to buy it. I am honestly unsure how kids will like it. I think the kids who like the Tim Burton kind of feel will enjoy it. It’s a little Lemony Snicket like, so if you’re into that vibe, you’d probably enjoy it too.

Review: Along Came Jones

This book was received in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My opinions, however, remain my own. Thanks for the chance to read this book!

36696444

Title: Along Came Jones

Author: Victoria Bernadine

Summary: Benjamin Ferrin Macon-Jones has it all: a luxurious lifestyle in Toronto and the love of an intelligent, ambitious woman…until that same woman refuses his marriage proposal, tells him he’s a detriment to her career, and leaves him. Unable to deal with his cantankerous family trying to be supportive, he quietly slips away into the Canadian countryside.

Lou Upjohn has problems of her own. She’s a recluse and agoraphobic, staying safely within the walls of her ancestral home in small town Saskatchewan and depending on Ike, her best and only friend, to deal with the outside world.

Only Ike’s just married another woman and now he’s moving to Vancouver. Before he leaves, he hires the new guy in town, Ferrin Jones, to run her errands and do her yard work. Lou isn’t happy, but even she has to admit the stranger looks mildly interesting.

Both their lives could be changed forever if she only has the courage to open the door. 

My thoughts:

I don’t read much contemporary romance, like, at all, so I was a little surprised to be approached to review this story. However, I am pretty open about my mental health issues, and I found that angle intriguing enough that I said yes. I’m so glad I did!

I am really not a fan of the insta-love that substitutes for a real relationship in so many new books. Maybe that’s because it’s primarily YA, but I *so* don’t want to read about a couple who meet, fall in love, and fall into bed. I’m not into those books. If you are, hey, good for you, but I want real people who have time to get to know one another before they fall.

So this book was a breath of fresh air for me. I loved the MCs – Ferrin was just so appealing, with his crazy family and optimistic attitude. I can see why Lou fell for him – he’s just a great guy. And Lou, she’s so real and so much stronger than she has given herself credit for being. I liked that she didn’t magically overcome her panic attacks. The pacing felt pretty realistic. The bad guy is just human garbage and I was glad to see them get what they deserved.

If you are looking for a good romance with a great small town setting, I would definitely recommend this one. The author says she’s been writing for a long time, and it shows. Recommended.

A Short Heist

I received a copy of this for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Review: The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife by Melodie Campbell

Synopsis:

Del’s great-aunt, Kitty, has retired from a life of crime and embarked on a new venture, the B-Team. Although Del works at an animal shelter by day, by night she, her great-aunt and their cohorts, Dino and Ritz, use their criminal skills to right wrongs. In this fun book, the modern-day Robin Hoods set out to return a necklace to its rightful owner but along the way discover they’ve been duped by an imposter who also wants to get her hands on the necklace. The problem is, criminals can’t go to the police, even if they are on the side of the good. Del comes up with a new plan, and the B-Team saves the day. Not without a few detours along the way. 

Review:

Del and her brother Dino have grown up in and around the family business. What that business is exactly is never spelled out, but it’s not strictly legal, judging by their skill set. Lately their aunt Kitty has decided to use their talents to help in the cause of justice, which is not to say it’s legal, and agrees to take on a case recovering a ex-wife’s diamond necklace. Things do not go as planned.

Del is an appealing character and I liked Aunt Kitty. The rest are sort of just outlines, but this book is extremely brief, little more than a short story. I would have enjoyed it more if three or four of these exploits were gathered together. As it is, it was a quick fun read that made me smile, but nothing deeper than that. Thanks for the chance to read this one.

Must Read!

I just finished the BEST audio book – It’s called Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz.

41w-4vFx2RL

Gregg Hurwitz writes these great thriller than always have me on the edge of my seat. They’re one of my secret pleasure from the library, secret because I get one and hide up in my room and read it like crazy until I get to end. Just don’t even talk to me until I’m done, because they’re that good.

Usually his books are stand alone, which I like because I can read them in any order, based on when the library has them, and I don’t have to remember the character names or whatever. I just know the suspense all has to wrap up in one book, which makes it more intense. But then I heard he had a series, and I had to check it out.

Synopsis:

Who is Orphan X?

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them. But he’s not merely a legend.

“Excellent…A smart, stylish, state-of-the-art thriller…might give Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books a run for their money.”—The Washington Post

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as an Orphan, an off-the-books black box program designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence asset: An assassin. Evan was Orphan X—until he broke with the program and used everything he learned to disappear. But now someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training who will exploit Evan’s secret new identity as the Nowhere Man to eliminate him.

 

My review:

What a great ride! It reminded me a little of Alias, a little of the movie Salt. Evan is the Nowhere Man, and if you’re in real trouble, desperate trouble, he’s the best friend you could have. I love Evan as a character, and I love the way Hurwitz takes the time to develop who he is at the beginning of the book, and then show us how he got there and how he changes. I know you don’t read thriller for character development, but I think that’s what shows a great writer.

I got this one on audio, like I said, and I think that’s totally the way to go. I’m already planning to download the next one. I don’t want to give away too much, but the description of the second book already has me wondering how Evan is going to get out of this mess. If you like edge of your seat books, pick this one soon.

Mini Reviews!

I’ve been reading a lot lately but I haven’t been able to keep up the reviews on here. I thought I would do some short reviews and bundle a bunch of them together so you can see what I’ve been up to.

10196362

 

Murder among friends

The Accident by Linwood Barclay centers around a man whose wife dies in a drunk driving accident. He can’t believe that she would have gotten behind the wheel in that state, but her death starts him asking questions that trigger a rash of violence all around him. I really like this writer – what a page turner!

Short stories

I found The Man Who Would Be King at the thrift store for a dollar. I love Rudyard Kipling, so this little collection of 5 of his best stories was just what I needed. If you can find such a collection (and I think some of them are free on Kindle) this is a great place to start. I loved Kim and Jungle Stories too.

Nonfiction Audio

After finishing my book for book club, I was looking for another good book to listen to from my library. I decided on Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. It’s the first book I’ve read by her and I enjoyed it. This one is about the history of Hawaii, a state with such a rich and interesting heritage that I feel she barely scratched the surface. She has a rather annoying voice though, so I think I’d read it instead of listen.

Other News

We did have to say goodbye to Tina and it was just as heartbreaking as we thought it would be. She was feisty right up to the last, but went right off to sleep in the end. It sort of broke my heart today to come home to all the signs she left around the house, to be cooking dinner and not have her under foot demanding her fair share. We still have Rosie, but to go from 3 cats to one in just eight months is such a shock. We had Tina for 15 years and Spooky for 12. It’s not easy to say goodbye.

 

Review: The Raphael Affair

Title: The Raphael Affair

Author: Iain Pears

Setting: Mostly Rome, Italy 1990s

Source: Off the shelf

“English art scholar Jonathan Argyll was amazed to find himself arrested for vagrancy-while searching for a long-lost Raphael in a tiny Roman church. Although General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad has little confidence in Jonathan’s theories, Bottando’s lovely assistant, Flavia di Stefano, is intrigued by the idea of a lost classic, and by Jonathan himself. But in the midst of the painting’s discovery and the resultant worldwide publicity, a new chain of events is set into action. First vandalism, then murder, surround the painting. And as new facts about its true nature emerge, Bottando sends Flavia and Jonathan to investigate–little knowing that the pair will be on the run for the truth… and for their very lives.”

Review

I have read other books 📚 by this author and really enjoyed them (An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Portrait) so I had high hopes for this one. Sadly, it was a little bit of a mess. So many characters to keep straight , 3 POV and no visual way to tell them apart and some sense description that could have been incorporated into the story much better. I didn’t really like it dislike the characters either. I did enjoy the setting though. I don’t know much about art, but I like reading about it. I can’t decide if I’m going to try another book on this series or not. Maybe if I find one I will, but I don’t think I’ll look for them. Darn.

Review: The Shape-Changer’s Wife

437806

Title: The Shape-Changer’s Wife

Author: Sharon Shinn

Genre: Fantasy

How I got this book: Found it in a thrift store

“From the national bestselling author of The Samaria Trilogy…this is the novel that launched Sharon Shinn’s career and inspired Peter S. Beagle to call her “the most original writer of fantasy since Robin McKinley.”

Aubrey was a student of the fine art of wizardry. But the more knowledge he acquired, the more he wanted to learn. He traveled in search of the greatest master of all, the gifted shape-changer Glyrenden. From him, Aubrey expected to discover the secret of long-lost spells and the mysteries of arcane magic.

But there was one discovery he never expected, a mystery he risked every thing to solve. Her name was Lilith…”

Review:

I’m so glad I found this book! I’ve read some short stories by Sharon Shinn, so when I found this book at the thrift store, I picked it up. The premise really intrigued me.

This is one that I don’t want to spoil, but I found it completely captivating. Our young Aubrey is very talent at magic, but he has much to learn about people. He wants to learn the magic of transformation, and there’s no better wizard at that than Glyrenden. Aubrey is prepared to work hard and study, he’s even prepared for a few personality quirks on the wizard’s behalf. He’s not prepared for the strange household or the way the town people hate them.

This is the author’s first book, but it’s still in print and available on the Kindle. If you like fantasy, especially the work of Peter S. Beagle, I would definitely recommend this one. It’s a stand alone title and it’s not very long, but it’s just charming.

Firethorn Chronicles

I’ve been really lucky with the fairy tale retellings – most of them have been very good, a couple have been great. But luck doesn’t last forever. I just read a couple that were disappointing.

The Firethorn Chronicles by Lea Doue are set in a land with dragons and sorcery. Sounds promising, right? Here’s what the description says:

“The Firethorn Crown, a re-imagining of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” is the first in the Firethorn Chronicles, a series of stand-alone novels inspired by fairy tales and other stories. Follow the sisters on their adventures in a land where sorcery is feared, women can rule, and dragons fly.”

The dragons that I encountered in the two books I read ranged from the size of a bird to large stone dragons. Both cool, but not exactly impressive. That’s kind of where I am with these books. The first is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses. Princess Lily is the oldest and for some strange reason, her mom is intent on announcing her engagement as soon as the king goes out of town. That’s never really explained either. There’s several suitors, a bunch of sisters, and an evil-ish sorcery type guy who places a curse on Lily.

You can tell how much I liked it it, right? It just didn’t make as much sense as it should have, but I thought that maybe I had just been in the wrong mood and I should give the author another chance. I did like the dragons. So I tried the next book, The Midsummer Captives. This one was based loosely on A Midsummer’s Night Dream and brought back the same evil-ish sorcerer. This time it’s Princess Gwen who gets tangled up in events and is trapped by the stone dragons I mentioned earlier. But the plot is just as confusing and if the antagonist is better characterized, there’s not enough description of anyone else to make them stand out. I won’t be reading more by this author.

Book Review: The 31st of February

Title – The 31st of February

Author- Julian Symons

Anderson’s wife fell down the stairs three weeks ago. It wasn’t that they were close. In fact, he can’t remember now why he ever married her. But for some reason, he’s falling apart after her death. Maybe it’s because the police have been coming around asking questions. He’s been finding strange letters. And his office calendar keeps changing its date. He can’t keep his mind on his work at the advertising firm. What really happened to Valerie?

This is perhaps the book that Symons is best known for, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of his others. A Three Pipe Problem was better. The feeling of being unable to know whether Anderson had really killed his wife, was he going crazy or was he being persecuted – it made for a good story, but it could have been better. What saved it for me was the ending. Suddenly, I looked at everything in a different light and it was much more interesting. 3.5 stars