Quick Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Lethal White is the fourth Cormoran Strike novel and it begins with Cormoran being visited by a mentally ill young man named Billy who tells him about a murder he believes he witnessed as a child. Before Strike can get into the specifics, Billy flees the office and sends Strike, and his partner Robin Ellacott, on a mission to satisfy his own need to make sure that Billy is okay and that no one is getting away with murder. The tale weaves in and out of London. It ends up at protests (it is set before the London Olympics) and in the Houses of Parliament. It reintroduces characters from Strike’s past. The mystery, in the end, felt a little forced. Or, maybe that Strike just can’t let some things go felt forces. I don’t know. I didn’t love this. In fact, now that it has tied up some story lines relating to Robin and her partner Matthew, I may be done with this book series. We’ll see. I do still very much like both Robin and Cormoran. If you really loved the previous books, I say give this one a go, but if you were only so-so on them, I’d say pick something up you are more interested in.

Not a Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

This isn’t a review so much as a scream into the void. I am loving this book. It is so good. But, I’m bad at planning. So bad that even though I had three weeks to read it (I checked it out from the library) my audiobook expired three chapters from the end. I am so close to being done. I was in the middle of a very emotionally tense scene. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!

So, now I’m back in the queue waiting for a copy to be available…again… so I can hear the end of this book.

Can you die from not hearing the end of a book? Asking for a friend.

Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

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This novel started off well. Amanda, a high schooler, is sure her mother has been kidnapped by a serial killer who has been stalking the streets of San Francisco for the past few months. Then, the story flashes back to before the first of the murders and you get to meet Amanda (who is a little bratty, but lovable), her grandfather (who is awesome), her mom, Indiana (who is flighty) and Amanda’s online friends who all play an online role-playing game called Ripper. Indiana is a healer at a clinic (she does massage, magnets, and aromatherapy) and some of her patients, her ex-husband and his secretary, her former in-laws, and her boyfriend figure into the tale as well.

 

This novel had a huge cast. Maybe its the Summer of Novels with Huge Casts?

 

I liked this well enough at the beginning. But, the more of it I got through, the more there was about it to dislike. I wasn’t really sure what was going on with the online role-playing game. Also, Indiana was a little grating. Finally, there is a twist at the end that was soapy, stereotypical and garbage-like and then another twist that was telegraphed and obvious. Meh. On the positive side, Edoardro Ballerini who read the audiobook did an excellent job of

 

I wanted to like this book, because I’ve liked other Isabel Allende books in the past, but it wasn’t for me. For everything that was good about it, there was at least one thing that was equally bad or worse about it. I was not a fan.

This Month in Reality: I stumble through a review of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

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I finished listening to this read-by-the-author audio book well over a week ago and I’ve been trying to decide what exactly I wanted to say about it. On the one hand, it was a touching memoir about surviving with grit, perseverance and the support of your family (or, at least, the pieces of your family who had gotten themselves together enough to provide support). On the other hand, the wider cultural moment that this book was released into has kind of positioned it in this place where people can trot it out to say, “Look! White people suffer, too!” whenever a person of color points to some systemic issue that is causing a lot of suffering. And, while it does make some good points about the wider culture and how people are struggling and the systems we have in place aren’t adequate to support us, they were points that I had read elsewhere. Drug abuse, incarceration, broken families, and intergenerational trauma are things that have definitely been subjects of discussion for awhile, just maybe not in the mainstream.

But, that’s maybe not a problem of the book itself but its reception?

So, on the one hand, I shouldn’t blame a book for its reception and its use or misuse by its readership. On the other hand, if we’re not going to have these conversations now about how, “yes, there are class issues in America, but no they are not entirely independent of race and ethnicity and engaging with one without engaging with the others doesn’t paint the full picture”, then when are we going to have them?

So, I’m in this weird place where I was really touched by the narrative, and happy to have been given an example of another American life (because J.D. Vance’s childhood is pretty far away from my Suburban middle class upbringing). But, I still see this book in a wider context in which, if we addressed some of the race-related structural issues scholars, activists and politicians have highlighted over the years (for example, here, in Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow), people like Vance would also benefit. I mean, if we decriminalized drug addiction and made more money available for treatment and support, maybe Vance’s story would be a little different.

So, I don’t know. It was a really touching story and it has given me a lot to think about. This is a worthy result for any book, but especially a book of non-fiction. And, its not that I don’t recommend it, it’s probably more that there are other things that I’d recommend about class, family and culture in America before I recommended this.

Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. A BBC Radio 4 Full Cast Dramatization

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Two weeks ago, My Mom and I went on a road trip to Buffalo, NY so I could defend my dissertation and clean out my storage unit and officially move back to Iowa. Fun times. This meant that we had a lot of time together on the road and in hotel rooms, so we got a lot of audiobooks listened to. When we were planning this road trip, we decided we wanted to do some Agatha Christie. I didn’t realize, though, when we checked this out from the library, that this was a dramatization. That ended up being a pleasant surprise. The cast did an excellent job of portraying the fear and the mystery of the novel. It was really enjoyable. Fellow blogger Jack suggested we look for the James Bond dramatizations. The library doesn’t have them, but I might see if they’ll get them in for us because listening to this was fun.

Review: At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

At the end of April, before I started the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge, I was listening to an audio book before bed. Because there is maybe something a little wrong with me, the book I was listening to was At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. 510qnpnltsl-_sl500_

I read this ages ago when I was younger and into horror and creepiness and not at all aware of the world. And, let me just say… don’t re-read old things that you loved as a younger person if you don’t want to have to confront everything that’s problematic about them.

Sigh.

Anyway, the audiobook is read by Edward Herrmann and he does an amazing performance. I believed he was an academic who just wanted to do his research but who fell into something older and scarier than he could have imagined and who now JUST WANTS TO WARN HUMANITY OKAY. He really sold it. I loved it.

But, back to the problematic bit: H.P. Lovecraft had no problems at all relating the tales of these terrible creatures to exotic things you may have heard about from other places like The Orient.

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via GIPHY

That’s H.P. Lovecraft, waving his fingers mystically when he thinks about the Orient. And, the first time it happened, I rolled my eyes and thought, “product of his time. all of his work is xenophobic. you know that.”

But, it comes up a lot. Like, a lot a lot.
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via GIPHY

 

It’s a good thing I was listening before bed because all of that eye rolling is exhausting. The descriptions of the creatures are still top-notch and weird and the atmosphere still comes across as spooky. And, Edward Herrmann, man. Seriously. He sells the crap out of it.

 

So, I recommend this recording if I you want to read or re-read this story. But, know, that if you’re even a little bit woke, this dusty old dude is going to make you want to shake your head and argue with him in between being creepy and being weird.