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June Book Reviews (2015) – Part 1

I promised to read more in June….and I did! So much reading, in fact, that if I’d tried to put it all in one post it would have overwhelmed all of us. I also realized I should have been giving you a synopsis for each book, so you’d know what I was talking about. Fixing that from now on!!

Whole Cat and Caboodle3 starsGoodreads Description: Sarah Grayson is the happy proprietor of Second Chance, a charming shop in the oceanfront town of North Harbor, Maine. At the shop, she sells used items that she has lovingly refurbished and repurposed. But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis. Elvis has seen nine lives—and then some. The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up at a local bar when the band was playing the King of Rock and Roll’s music and hopped in Sarah’s truck. Since then, he’s been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store. But when Sarah’s elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder. Even Sarah’s old high school flame, investigator Nick Elliot, seems convinced that Maddie was up to no good. So it’s up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend’s name and make sure the real murderer doesn’t get a second chance.

This actually took me a while to read, comparatively speaking. I usually blow through cozies in a day or two, three tops. This one took me almost two weeks. Not because it was bad, just because I couldn’t focus! When I finally got into it though, I devoured it. First of all, Elvis absolutely makes the story. Second, Sarah is one of the few cozy characters who doesn’t set out to become a sleuth from the beginning. In this story, you get a lot more of the secondary and tertiary characters. It was a team effort, and that team was very….unique. I enjoyed it (and now I want to plant teacup gardens…..).

Buy a Whisker3 starsGoodreads Description: Things have been quiet in the coastal town of North Harbor, Maine, since Sarah Grayson and her rescue cat, Elvis, solved their first murder. Sarah is happy running Second Chance, the shop where she sells lovingly refurbished and repurposed items. But then she gets dragged into a controversy over developing the waterfront. Most of the residents—including Sarah—are for it, but there is one holdout—baker Lily Carter. So when Lily is found murdered in her bakery, it looks like somebody wanted to remove the only obstacle to the development. But Sarah soon discovers that nothing is as simple as it seems. Now, with the help of her cat’s uncanny ability to detect a lie, Sarah is narrowing down the suspects. But can she collar the culprit before the ruthless killer pounces again?

I enjoyed the second book just as much as the first. In addition to the great characters, what I like about this series so far is that I honestly never have a clue who the bad guy is. There aren’t a whole lot of red herrings, and to be honest, the mystery part is fairly secondary to the rest of the story about Sarah and Second Chance and all the goings on in North Harbor. In a way, that makes the mystery and solving the mystery a little “neat” in terms of how quickly they corner the killers, but I’m ok with that because I enjoy the rest of it.

To Die Fur3 starsGoodreads Description: Deirdre has her hands full, as usual. Working as as a Jill-of-all-trades for a zany billionaire like Zelda Zoransky means the daily grind is closer to a juggling act, and this week is no exception—especially when her side job is directing spiritual traffic in Zelda’s pet cemetery. With ZZ hosting a party for some of the world’s wealthiest animal collectors and a rare albino liger named Augustus in residence at the private zoo, Foxtrot is ready for trouble to take a big bite out of her schedule. She doesn’t have to wait long. The half-ton big cat is dead, and there’s a houseful of colorful suspects, each one wackier than the next. But if they were all bidding to buy him, who would want Augustus dead? With the help of Tango’s feline telepathy and Whiskey the canine shapeshifter, Foxtrot learns that there’s much more to Augustus than meets the eye. Now they just have to sniff out a killer before any more fur flies…

I loved the first one in this series, and was super excited to read the second. Sadly, while it was cute, it just wasn’t as great as the first. I didn’t really enjoy the mystery, and I wanted more Augustus time! I also had hoped to revisit some of the characters from the first book a little more than I did. I realize it’s not always easy to include every minor character, but I felt their loss! That said, this is still a fun series and one I’m definitely looking forward to continuing.

men expain things2 starsGoodreads Description: In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters. She ends on a serious note— because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!” This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.

This was our June Book Club book. We had a shorter gap between meetings, so thought it would be an easyish read, plus there’d be stuff to talk about. Boy, did we miss the mark.

To be fair, the description in NO WAY matches the actual book. It’s not funny. It’s not terribly enlightening, though there were a few points that made me stop and think. The Virginia Woolf essay makes no sense, has nothing to do with any of the other essays, and put me to sleep.

To sum it up….I think this was the longest 130 page book I’ve ever read.

room3 starsGoodreads Description: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Oh, Room. I’ve had this book on my to-read list since I first heard about it in 2010, shortly after it came out. It’s got a fairly high rating (3.96) and has been on tons of must-read lists. I just couldn’t seem to get around to it, so I finally suggested it for Book Club. We ended up picking Men Explain Things, but listed Room as one of two backup books. To be honest, I wasn’t really planning on reading the backup books, but then I ended up getting super sick, and had tons of reading time. So Room it was.

This book is so freakin’ fucked up. Not just the story/subject, but ….ugh. I hated the characters. All of them. I actually liked Jack better when he was in the room than out, though I did think the portrayal was fairly realistic. I hated Ma (whatever her name was), and I wanted to punch her for the way she acted after they escaped. I think the character I most appreciated was Steppa, and he gets very little mention.

And can we just…Just when I thought I’d never have to read about Jack breastfeeding again, therefore finally getting away from the cringe-worthy stuff, he starts sucking on his mother’s rotted tooth. GIVE ME A BREAK.

I didn’t hate Room, but I didn’t love it either. I had a problem with some of it being unrealistic (the whole rescue scene), and I had a problem with the inconsistencies in Jack’s vocabulary and speech patterns. Particular issue was the use of do and did….half the time he got it right and half the time he didn’t. Maybe that’s how 5 year olds are, but I couldn’t help thinking he either knew it or he didn’t.

I wouldn’t put this on a must-read list, but I am glad I read it…if only so I can mark it down as one I never need to read again.

adulting2 starsGoodreads Description: If you graduated from college but still feel like a student . . . if you wear a business suit to job interviews but pajamas to the grocery store . . . if you have your own apartment but no idea how to cook or clean . . . it’s OK. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just because you don’t feel like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t act like one. And it all begins with this funny, wise, and useful book. Based on Kelly Williams Brown’s popular blog, ADULTING makes the scary, confusing “real world” approachable, manageable-and even conquerable.  

I think my issue with this book is more that I’m not the target audience anymore than the book itself. There were a couple interesting points, but most of it is stuff I’ve figured out by now. This would be a good gift for a high school graduate, or maybe even a college graduate, but anyone past that is going to be bored.

Still Alice5 starsGoodreads Description: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life–and her relationship with her family and the world–forever.

This book. OMG this book.

I didn’t have any desire to read it. AT ALL. I thought it sounded mopey and boring and utterly depressing. But it was our second backup book, and I was deathly ill, so it seemed appropriate.

Guys, this book is right up there with The Fault in Our Stars on the tearjerker scale. Talk about total sobfest.

I loved loved loved this book. And I loved it even more because I didn’t expect to. It shook me to the core, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It’s the most real, honest, tragic, and beautiful depiction of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I can’t say enough about it – it’s one of those books that doesn’t really need words. Just read it.

To be continued…….

Ratings

I use the Goodreads rating scale of 1-5 stars. I know sometimes it’s hard to stick to only 5 options…lots of times we want half stars!! But, half stars make things messy. My ratings tend to be on the somewhat conservative side, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that a 3 star rating doesn’t mean a book is bad. Generally, I choose books that I expect to enjoy (don’t we all?). If I do enjoy them, then they’ve met my expectations…so I give them a 3. Anything lower than 3 didn’t live up to my expectations, and anything above 3 exceeded them. I’m generally not looking for certain writing styles or plot lines or technical aspects. If something stands out (for good or bad), I’ll comment on it, but in general technical aspects won’t be the sole influencer on my rating.

Any questions on my ratings? If so, just ask!