You guys, I think I busted through my slump! Let’s hope it’s not temporary. And let’s see if I can squeeze in all the books from this week…
Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose (2016, Harper, 304 pages, e-loan). There were so many monkey-themed books in this year’s Tournament of Books, I just couldn’t take it. And monkeys – not my favorite. They bug, they annoy, they’re frickin’ creepy! But Mister Monkey is more about nostalgia about a children’s show expressed by those involved in and touched by the show – former actors, audience members, and even the author of the book the musical was based on. It’s supposed to be funny, but the humor seemed aimed at an audience a few clicks left of where my funny bone is located. The longing ache for bygone times hit the mark with me far better than the jokes. But even the desperate attempts to reconcile an irretrievable past with their sad present tense didn’t jive all that well with me. It was a meh book to the nth degree. 2 of 5 stars.
Shatter, by Michael Robotham (2008, Sphere, 352 pages, paperback). I grabbed this at a used book store, though I can’t remember when, and it was a total “eh” kind of buy. A mystery/thriller about a psychology wunder-professor who helps the police solve a suicide that could have been a murder. But how does someone make a naked woman jump off a bridge when she’s terrified and doesn’t want to? So that was the premise. I like thrillers when the voice is right and the plot isn’t too cookie cutter and the characters are developed and aren’t plastic pieces moved about the game board. Shatter had a good plot, a good mystery, that was what made me grab the book in the first place. The characters were well drawn; the main ones were quirky enough to feel original and fresh, and the background characters knew when to speak up and flesh out a scene and when to pipe down to keep the scene from getting overwhelmed. The pacing was perfect, too. So even though it wasn’t a WOW THIS BOOK! kind of experience, it was still enough to make me knock out the book in a few sittings, rather than just leave it for 10 pages here or there. 3 of 5 stars.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, by Fiona Carnarvon (2011, Broadway Books, 310 pages, paperback). I was thrilled to find this at the Book Barn in Connecticut over the summer (or was it the Fall for Uncle Timmy’s wedding – did we even go to the Book Barn then?). In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing was engaging, even if the editing could have been a lot tighter. The history was clearly laid out, with enough gossip to keep it entertaining. If you enjoy historical pieces, or biographies of the upper class Brits from a certain time, this is right up your alley. You’ll especially enjoy it if you at all liked Downtown Abbey, but even if you’re one of the handful of people who didn’t watch it, and you still enjoy British history, you’ll enjoy this. 3 of 5 stars. (I’d have ranked it higher but I wasn’t kidding about the loose editing – it bugged.)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor (2011, Little,Brown, 422 pages, ebook). This book has been on my TBR quite possibly since it was released 6 years ago. I never could find it (now I know why) and so on my TBR it stayed. Then it was a Deal of the Day and I snagged it, thinking that even if I didn’t like it, I was only out $2. I finally had a break in my reading rotation, and OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS!!! I was immediately sucked in, even though the characters casually strolling through Prague quickly took a spin from quirky novel to fantasy novel, which usually I’m mostly averse to. But because the world was so 3D – I mean, I really felt I was there, seeing every detail, every background character, every everything – I was okay with the blue hair and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-esque characterization of Karou, our main character. She was badass. And her chimerea family added an American Gods/Magic: The Gathering-esque quality on top of everything else. But the storytelling was of the highest caliber, to the point where it killed me to put it down. I was mad I had gone 6 years without knowing what I was missing out on, but then I realized that the entire trilogy is out and so I can fly through it without waiting! WIN! I am so heavily invested in Karou – I don’t know why she isn’t as big as Katniss, honestly. 5 of 5 stars.
We Eat Our Own, by Kea Wilson (2016, Scribner, 320 pages, eloan). It’s always tough to read something after you finish a book that will be in your top 10 for the year. I tried to go total opposite – We Eat Our Own is about a horror film crew shooting in the middle of the South American jungle, when everything goes awry. The small town may or may not be entirely involved in trafficking drugs and protecting their own, and our nameless main character may not survive. Not because the town is creepy and vampiric and focused only on protecting their own, but because the main character is a soul-less a-hole himself, without a single redeeming characteristic. It was hard to read simply because I didn’t want him to survive. Hmph. 1 of 5 stars.
See? A pretty good week! I’m nearly through with another good book – Always Running – about a man’s life in L.A. and Chicago gangs, and how he tries to get his son to break the cycle. I AM SO GLAD READING ISN’T BROKEN ANY MORE!! Stay tuned for many happy updates.