Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman

9 Jan
lady in the lake laura lippman

Four of 5 stars

This book is pretty fantastic, but I feel the book cover combined with the title kind of misleads what the book is. Yes, it’s a murder mystery, but it’s also an historical fiction and it’s way above the usual mystery genre in writing quality. Having read the book now I get what the cover is doing, but I wish it looked less average mystery paperback book-y.

I’ve always adored stories that are narrated by several characters, as it gives you a much better picture of what is actually going on, and insights into how certain character’s views are shaped. I know it annoys some readers of this book, and this book does go all the way into letting us hear from every single minor character. But what that does here is give us many more pieces of the puzzle of what Baltimore was like in the 1960s. In this book the murder just serves as a reason to (attempt to) understand the racial and class issues of that time and place, the gender roles and expectations of that time and place, and the pretty sorry state of marital match-ups of the time. Men and women are so forced into their gender roles that they have nothing in common and no way to communicate with each other. I’m generalizing, but the limitations forced onto all genders, races and religions, the expectations of behavior, they hurt just about everyone. In the end, in this case, it led to murder.

My young self from the 1980s related completely to Maddie in this book. Bursting against all the restrictions and expectations, yet still feeling unwilling to break certain rules. She’s a complicated character who ends up hurting several people to achieve her own happiness, and accidentally hurts even more as she tries to do what she feels is the right thing to do.

I wanted to give the book 5 stars, but the end felt a little flat to me. The reveal was shocking and took me completely off guard, but the end of Maddie’s story, the telling of it, just didn’t excite me at all.

I’ve never read anything by Laura Lippman before, but I would absolutely try another book from this author. I really loved this one.

Save Yourself, by Cameron Esposito

30 Dec
save yourself cameron esposito

Five of 5 stars

Yes, this book is laugh out loud funny, but it is also incredibly sad in parts. You won’t laugh through this entire book, you will feel pain and heart break and disappointment and frustration. And then you turn the page and laugh again. Just like real life.

I am a big fan of Cameron Esposito, and because her career is centered around talking about her (often amazing) life, I was already familiar with many of the stories. In this book she fleshes the stories out and gives more of her emotions, and the experiences that shaped those emotions, and the events that helped her understand what happened. Much of the book is about her experience in the Catholic church and how her feelings about the church evolved, and how her experience with the church shaped her life and still has repercussions in many ways. We follow along as she understands her sexuality, and how coming out affected her and those around her. She talks about first girlfriends, and later girlfriends, and heart break and loss. I have a greater understanding of her family, and the love they all share, and I’m glad that even though her coming out was rough, they managed to get back to that amazing family eventually. We learn all about how her career started and grew, and I have even more respect for her now that I understand how hard she has worked, and all the amazing things she has done for women in comedy from behind the scenes.

What we don’t hear about (other than some casual mentions) is Rhea. There is a one paragraph note at about the 70% mark where she explains that that loss is just then happening and therefore too fresh and painful to include in this book. That one paragraph just ripped my heart out. I had to finally put the book down at that point to resume the next morning. Cameron has been very open about 2019 being such a painful year for her, and I hope she understands we have all hurt for them both and wish them healing as quickly as Life will allow.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and I’m so thankful for it. I was a fan before, I’m a bigger fan now. Cameron is so very intelligent, and her book is written very well. I definitely recommend it and I look forward to her next (even though I’m sure it will make me cry).

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid

18 Dec
such a fun age kiley reid

FIVE of 5 stars

Kiley Reid is a gift to readers, and everyone should put this book on their reading lists and pre-order it now.

Reid is an amazing writer. She fleshes these characters out, gives them complete, flawed stories, and does dialogue phenomenally well. I loved the interactions between Emira and her friends, they felt like home. Even the toddler voices were spot on.

Then, she flips the plot all over. For the first half of the book, every time you think you understand what this story is about she adds another aspect that changes everything. I absolutely loved the beginning chapters where new parts of the plot are introduced every few pages.

I have not shouted out loud at a book so much in a long time. When I wasn’t shouting, I was cringing. There is a character in this book who goes from batsh*t loony, to gross and disgusting, to psychotic, and then at the end we find out they’re downright evil.

It was a joy to read not because the story was happy (it’s not really) but because the writing is fantastic. It was a *pleasure* to consume the pages, even to the very bittersweet end.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m honestly so impressed at this author’s first book. I will read absolutely anything she writes in the future.

Conviction, by Denise Mina

15 Dec
conviction denise mina

Four of 5 stars

I feel very confused, but I think the book is excellent.

First of all, I did NOT see that ending coming. The twist and “bad guy/gal” reveal was totally unexpected. Barring major plot holes, what more can you ask of a mystery/thriller?

Second, I listened to the audiobook. While it was excellently narrated, I don’t recommend it unless you have some time to really listen. Because this book is COMPLEX. It is complex, complicated, and has story within story within story. It is done so very well, but you have to pay attention.

It is exciting and perplexing and actually interesting, and has complicated characters and it’s centered around a podcast, or rather podcasting. And it’s often FUNNY in between the scary. I loved the conclusion, which might signal a second book (which I would most definitely read!), and I’m still reeling from the reveal.

The only downside I found was that meeting the character of Gretchen* did not match at all with how she had been described during the book. However it might be that I was just so gobsmacked by the reveal that my brain couldn’t wrap around the narrator’s portrayal. Also, I don’t really buy that Anna had to hide her identity from everyone, even her husband. I won’t say why she’s hiding, since it’s not revealed for a bit, but it feels like life could have been easier if she just explained to her husband why she couldn’t fly or drive.

This is a book I would read again, or even listen to again (and hopefully pick up some more answers), and I’m old enough now that I almost never do that. Life is too short, and there are too many books to read. But this one would be worth it.

I most definitely recommend it. If I listen again and get a better understanding of Gretchen*, I will change this to 5 stars.

* Because I listened to the audiobook, I’m not sure how names were spelled in the printed book.

A Madness of Sunshine, by Nalini Singh

14 Dec
madness of sunshine nalina singh

Four of 5 stars

Wow, I really loved this book. It only had one flaw and I wish it didn’t because it so deserved 5 stars.

It’s a mystery/thriller set in a tiny Maori village in New Zealand. The best part of the book is getting to know this tiny place and the people in it. I loved learning a little about Maori culture, and the landscape of New Zealand. The characters are plentiful, and we get to know them all and their back stories and history and their good parts and their bad parts. You absolutely cannot be sure who the bad guy/girl is until all is revealed.

I loved the main character of Anahera, and I was pretty fond of Will the town cop as well. Their characters meshed so well together, and their backstories made them incredibly interesting. I would VERY happily read another book with either of them starring. Both characters have so much more to explore.

Going into the book blind, I was not expecting the sudden disappearance of one of the villagers who we had met. The mystery is complicated, with several intertwining plot lines, and a village full of interesting people you know are suspects but you hope none of them are the actual culprit/s. The story is very dark, and the reveals even darker, but at the end I was left with this magical feeling, a love of the wild New Zealand landscape, and a desire to read and know more. A madness of sunshine indeed.

I loved the book from the beginning, and barring a terrible ending I was sure it was going to get 5 stars from me. Unfortunately, there was a jarring sudden confession that didn’t make much sense to me, and I wish that wasn’t how the reveal came about. I just can’t believe that this bad guy/girl would have taken so much time to confess like that. There is a second confession from another character that – although more believable – I also just… wish… I wish writers would find a way around this. I don’t want characters just suddenly confessing everything. The confessions here did not ruin my enjoyment of this book, and I would *eagerly* read the next book from this author, but I also believe the author’s talent belies the need for sudden and unnecessary confessions.

I was given an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I honestly wish I could give it five stars, but I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is a GREAT read.

Nine Elms, by Robert Bryndza

9 Dec
nine elms bryndza

FIVE of 5 stars

When you’ve had a streak of mediocre books to read, you can always trust Robert Bryndza to break it.
I love his Erika Foster books, and now we have a new heroine, Kate Marshall. A former detective who brought down a serial killer, almost getting herself killed in the process, she’s now a professor who struggles with her alcoholism every day. She also struggles with the consequences of her alcoholism. Meanwhile, a copycat killer is on the loose.

Nine Elms is a fully terrifying thriller, both complicated and fast paced. No big plot holes that I noticed, although the Facebook timeline is a bit off (People forget we haven’t always had FB, and although it’s possible Tristan joined FB in 2005 as a 16 yr old, I don’t believe it’s very likely). The killer/s in this book are indeed terrifying, and even though killer #2 has a Batman style benefit, it was a possible benefit that I can buy into. Overall, after reading some not-so-great thrillers, I’m reminded how great it is to read a scary, complicated story that ties up loose ends and gives us great characters both good and bad. It is also obvious that Kate Miller has several novels ahead of her, and I’m excited to read them.

Many thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for a fair review. I’ll never understand how Bryndza manages to crank out these books at such a fast pace while also giving us amazing stories with great characters. Five stars for this one.

Rage Baking, by Kathy Gunst, Katherine Alford

5 Dec
rage baking

FIVE of 5 stars

Five stars for everything about this book.

I saw this cover on NetGalley and immediately clicked “Request”. What a cover! What a title! This book was speaking to my soul and I needed it.

And it was so much more than I hoped. It’s more than a cookbook, and it is not filled with rage. It’s filled with determination, and women, and color, and messiness, and getting things done. There are fantastic recipes for all sorts of baking, and in between are chapters of women, and their stories, and our history, and our fights, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The recipes: VERY EASY. Okay, a couple are of the very easy variety, most are of medium/easy difficulty, but all are do-able. Any could be attempted by a beginner cook with success. All sound delicious, and I didn’t see any ingredients more difficult to find than tahini or flax seed. The variety ranges from cupcakes to baklawa, from upsidedown cakes to focaccia. There are several cookie recipes (I can’t wait to try the Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies!). Of course there’s an Impeachment Cake. And something I plan to try soon, (Chorizo) Pigs in a Blanket, which are dedicated to “the Republican men of the Alabama State Senate […] who voted to take away women’s reproductive freedom.”

The photos: Gorgeous and messy and real and featuring real baker hands of all colors and ages, not just creamy white hand models. And an added bonus of photos of so many real women who have fought and are fighting for our rights. Some I recognized, some I knew but couldn’t name, but at the end of the book there is a section explaining who each of them are.

This is a legitimate cookbook, with some added history and education, and something every woman – no matter your politics or who you voted for – every woman should have this cookbook and learn to channel her rage into making things better for us all. There is such an outstanding variety of recipes, and nothing so fancy that you’d feel like it’s only for a special occasion, that you’ll be tempted to try every single recipe in the book. I know I will, I’ve already pre-ordered 2 copies, one for me and one for my daughter.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and I honestly can’t wait to start some rage baking.