For Pete’s Sake

For Pete's SakeFor Pete's Sake
by Geri Buckley
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9780425201534
Publication Date: January 1, 2005
Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Berkley

Pietra Pete Lang is a modern-day Southern belle who's busy trying to keep her eccentric family from falling into dysfunction. But her mettle is about to be tested--along with her heart--when fireworks ignite between Pete and her brother's divorce attorney.

This is a re-read I’ve had for so long that I have no notes from the original read, I only remember that I really enjoyed it as a rom-com sort of book.

While it’s definitely a rom-com, it’s also definitely dated.  The difference just under two decades can make is startling.  I spent a lot of time thinking ‘you could not get away with saying that now’, and the total lack of subtlety often made this a trying re-read.  But the Florida setting was still enjoyable, as were the eccentric characters in Pete’s family, even if the plot was thin.

Crowbones re-read (World of the Others, #3)

by Anne Bishop
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780593337332
Series: The World of the Others #3
Publication Date: March 8, 2022
Pages: 368
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

I don’t typically re-review re-reads, but my first reading of Crowbones left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied; in spite of a returning cast of characters I loved, the story felt disjointed and scattered.  I knew as soon as I finished I’d need to re-read it to be able to determine of it was the story, or it was just me.

I’m happy to say, it was just me.  While my thoughts from the first review still stand overall, the story felt more cohesive and not at all disjoined the second time around.  Some of this new found clarity is because it’s a re-read, of course; Bishop has a tendency to switch to the 3rd person POV of “them” without naming “them”.  When this works well, it adds a bit of buildup to the story; if the author doesn’t nail it though, it can muddle things.  This time around, I knew who all the “them”s were, and I knew who the mystery guest was, which just made everything jell nicely, making it easier to immerse myself in the world and the story.

I still think it’s a 4 star read: as much as I enjoyed it, it’s still not on par with the previous books, but it’s a 4+, rather than a 4-.

I’m going to use this for my Raven/Free Square on my Halloween Bingo 2022 card.

The Hunt for Red October (Jack Ryan, #4)

The Hunt for Red OctoberThe Hunt for Red October
by Tom Clancy
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 0870212850
Series: Jack Ryan #4
Publication Date: October 1, 1984
Pages: 387
Genre: Political Fiction, Thriller
Publisher: Naval Institute Press

I haven’t read this since soon after it came out in the late 80’s, although I’ve seen the movies numerous times over the years.  It’s every bit as good as I remember – even better, really, because this time around I didn’t have any trouble keeping track of the boats and the subs.  True, bits of it are dated (the average American salary being 20k a year, or even more startling, the superiority of the CRAY-2 supercomputer, which cost tens of millions of dollars, was available only at NASA and a few military centers, ,,,  and had the same computing power of the first iPad.), but overall the action is fast, the writing intelligent, and the suspense top notch.

Having gone so long between reads, and having seen the movie enough times in between, I had forgotten how much the movie deviates – especially at the end – from the book.  I’m generally pretty vitriolic about movie adaptations, especially when they significantly alter things, but full credit to the screenwriters; I don’t know that the book’s ending would have worked as well on-screen, but the spirit of the thing was caught perfectly.  Re-reading this ending was like experiencing it for the first time and it was tense.

I’m thankful to Peregrinations for getting me thinking about this book again.  I’m sort of tempted to re-read a few other Ryan books now.  Or, at least, after Halloween Bingo.

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2022, but I’m still not sure which square I want to use it for – either Fear the Drowning Deep, or Film at 11.  For now, I think I’ll assign it to Fear the Drowning Deep, since that square has already been called.

How Reading Changed My Life (Re-read)

How Reading Changed My LifeHow Reading Changed My Life
by Anna Quindlen
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780345422781
Publication Date: November 15, 2001
Pages: 85
Genre: Books and Reading, Essays
Publisher: Penguin Random House

THE LIBRARY OF CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT is a groundbreaking series where America’s finest writers and most brilliant minds tackle today’s most provocative, fascinating, and relevant issues. Striking and daring, creative and important, these original voices on matters political, social, economic, and cultural, will enlighten, comfort, entertain, enrage, and ignite healthy debate across the country.

This was a re-read – I meant to grab Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (which I’ll be re-reading next), but once I started I was happy to keep going.

This is one of those rare books (extended essay, really) that I rated higher on my second read.  While I mainly agree with my thoughts from the first read, I didn’t find myself annoyed by the things that annoyed me the first time around.  (My original review is on the next page.)

Overall, just an excellent essay on reading, re-reading, the importance of reading Important Texts, and just the joy of being a bookworm.

My original review is here.

Lost Among the Living

Lost Among the LivingLost Among the Living
by Simone St. James
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451476197
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Pages: 318
Genre: Fiction, Paranormal
Publisher: NAL / New American Library

England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex's wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family's estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband's origins...and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths' past is just the beginning...

All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie's husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband's darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him. Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever.

And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House...

Not only a re-read, but a re-re-read – and still I couldn’t remember most of the book’s happenings.  Most of the time, I like when this happens, because, though I may not remember plot points, I remember a sense of place.  Not so much with this book, and I can’t really say why.

I stand by most of what I said in my original review.  Except it’s not my least favourite of St. James’ first 5, it’s my second least favourite.  I remember The Other Side of Midnight being less enjoyable.  Although now I’m questioning my memory; a re-read of it might be in order.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
by Alice Menzies (translator), Katarina Bivald
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780701189068
Publication Date: June 18, 2015
Pages: 376
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden - except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it's time. But when she arrives, there's a twist waiting for her - Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman's house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.

But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it's almost beyond repair are all the people she's come to know through Amy's letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy's guarded nephew Tom.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

Another re-read – I seem to be on a general-fiction-involving-books spree at this very moment.

This time though, my take on the book is very different.  I first read this in 2016, before the End Of Life As We Knew It.  Now, living mid-shitstorm as we are, this story struck me as melancholy.  So very melancholy.  This is a town gasping its last breath, and an MC that has lived her whole life in a shade of grey, whose massive adventure in life is to visit her elderly pen pal in a tiny town in Iowa.  Every single one the people in this story has given up.  Until Sara arrives and the novelty of a tourist gives them all something to focus on.

The plot itself is highly improbable, but the outlook is so dismal it doesn’t matter – anything to give these people some hope – and the improbability gives the story and the characters a chance to be their quirky selves.  It’s a story with a happy ending for everybody – maybe even the town.


My previous review (inside the spoiler tags to save space):

View Spoiler »

Northanger Abbey

Northanger AbbeyNorthanger Abbey
by Jane Austen
Rating: ★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1975
Pages: 222
Genre: Fiction, Literature
Publisher: Folio Society

During an eventful season at Bath, young, naove Catherine Morland experiences fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who introduces Catherine to the joys of Gothic romances, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father's house, Northanger Abbey. There, influenced by novels of horror and intrigue, Catherine comes to imagine terrible crimes committed by General Tilney, risking the loss of Henry's affection, and must learn the difference between fiction and reality, false friends and true. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, Northanger Abbey is the most youthful and optimistic of Jane Austen's work.

My thoughts about this book are about as uneven as the book’s narrative, but I’m … 90% sure I like this one even less than I like Emma.

This re-reading was done in parallel to Robert Rodi’s analysis of the same in his book Bitch in a Bonnet, in the hopes that he could show me this book from a more appealing direction.  He didn’t, but that’s because he doesn’t think much of this book as a whole either.

As a story, there’s no there there in Northanger Abbey, and our ‘heroine’ Catherine is naive to the point of imbecility.  The hero is an ass, charming and witty though he may be, and even Austen knew it:

…I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a   persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought. It is a new circumstance in romance, I acknowledge, and dreadfully derogatory of an heroine’s dignity; but if it be as new in common life, the credit of a wild imagination will at least be all my own.

The narrative structure is meandering, at best.

But the satire is delicious and I lived for the moments, like in the above quote, that Austen breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader as herself.  Because this book was originally written and completed before all her other books (but published posthumously), her humor is much more in-line with her juvenile works.  In other words, her wit is rawly scathing, and lacks the subtleties she developed in her adult works.  When she has a go at someone, you know it. It’s a lot of fun.

I’m definitely not sorry I re-read it; Austen’s worst is still miles better than almost everybody else’s best.  But I can now confidently put Northanger Abbey and Emma at the end of the shelf, and save my indulgent re-reads for the other 4 novels.

My … 10 days in reading? Part 2

The first half of my re-reading binge was inspired by Moonlight Reader’s comment in her posts about wanting to get back to reading Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series.  This is a series I’d gotten caught up in years ago, but abandoned for reasons I couldn’t remember.  She put the series back on my radar, and I got to wondering whether I could get caught up in it again, or if I should just mark that series as abandoned, so I had MT pull the 9 books I have down from the shelves and buried myself in 19th century England.

Rather than try to review all of the books again here, I’m just going to list the book and include a thought or two about each one.  Because this is still going to make for a physically long post, I put it behind a ‘read more’. Suffice it to say that the series was very hit and miss for me up through book 9.  I remember the qualities that drove me to set the series aside originally, but there is also a lot to like about them (most of them, anyway).  Will I continue?  I’m still not sure.  Maybe.  At least, I might try one more.

Continue reading My … 10 days in reading? Part 2

My … 10 days in reading? Part 1

I don’t even know how long it’s been.  While my leg continues to improve – and noticeably – the stress levels have gone up because of office politics.

Everybody – and there are a stupid number of people involved in my health at the moment – has been just fine about everything except one person, and she oversees safety/workplace injuries for my company.  She’s gotten a bug up her ass, trying to insist that I be taxied into the corporate office 4 days a week, so I can sit and do exactly the same thing I’m doing from home.   The list of reasons this is wholly impractical is long, and everybody agrees, but she won’t let it go, trying to do end-runs around everybody to get it approved, because she thinks it will be better for me both mentally and physically. 🙄  The surgeon officially shot it down yesterday, in writing, so hopefully, that’s the end of that.

The stress, along with the mind numbing effects of Cisco networking training (what I’m doing from home), have driven me into a massive binge of re-reading.  14 books, read back to back the way a chain-smoker lights his next one with his last, with a mid-binge whiplash from historical mystery into alternate reality fantasy.

I think I’m done now – MT really wants me to be done, because he has 14 books he has to re-shelve, all requiring the ladder, and he’d be happier not to have to fetch any others.  For the record:  I married the perfect man. (For me)  Last night, there was an audible sigh of relieve when I pulled The Book of Forgotten Authors off my TBR shelf.

The second half of my binge was re-reading – again – The Others series by Anne Bishop.  These never, ever, get old for me, and while they are easily the most violent, and at times, goriest books I own, they relax me in a way no other books have.  At my core there’s a very angry misanthrope, and she is soothed by the way justice is always served, usually with a very satisfactory and bloody finality.

I’ve added all the books in the series to the book database, but I won’t do more than add the covers here, as my feelings about each book remain the same as my original reviews.

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception (Roxy Abruzzo, #1)

Our Lady of Immaculate DeceptionOur Lady of Immaculate Deception
by Nancy Martin
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9780312573720
Series: Roxy Abruzzo Mystery #1
Publication Date: March 7, 2010
Pages: 310
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books

This is the first book in a spin-off series, of sorts, from the Blackbird Sisters; it involves a completely different member of the crime family Michael is the heir apparent to, and takes place in Pittsburgh, rather than Philly.

It’s also a much rougher, seedier flavour of cozy mystery, set in a low income area with a high crime rate.  Roxy owns an architectural salvage company, trying to support her daughter and avoid working for her uncle Carmine in the family business.

Martin created Roxy as a deeply flawed, broken woman who uses an active sex life as a weapon, but seems to enjoy it not at all.  She obviously cares a great deal, as she goes out of her way to shelter abused women, support her daughter, and keep her dim-witted friend from violating his parole, but her uber defensiveness is grating and her inability to connect with anyone makes it difficult for the reader to connect with her.  It’s a very different take from the Blackbird Sisters, which didn’t shy away from dysfunction, but still managed to engage the reader.

Different too is this story’s multiple POVs.  When it works, it works brilliantly, offering an ending that might not be expected, but when it doesn’t it leaves the reader wondering why Martin bothered, or at least wondering why certain POVs were included.

The parts were there for a very excellent read, but they just didn’t come together in a way that left me caring at all about any of the characters.  I have the second book of what ended up being a 2 book series, but when I finished my re-read of this one, I found that I just didn’t have it in me to dip into this kind of dysfunction a second time.  Maybe someday.