Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Books on the Nightstand recommend this one and they didn't get it wrong:

Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is a read-in-one-sitting powerhouse of a novel, full of emotion and gorgeousness. It’s a look at a woman who is suffering a crisis in her marriage, written in the form of letters that read like journal entries. This isn’t an easy book to describe, but it’s a novel that works on many different levels and is quite unique in style.
This is a crazy ass book. I almost think I would recommend reading rather than listening, although listening was a bit of a trip. Super short book- 3 hours or 182 pages - we walk through a marriage that breaks down with the narrator, simply known as "The Wife".

Before The Wife became The Wife, she was single and fell in love. A baby girl came along, happiness was abundant even with a colicky baby. Then things settled and became ... there. The Husband found someone else but The Wife wasn't letting go.

As a reviewer of books, I shouldn't say I'm at a loss to describe why this book is worth the read and why it's so good. It's a stream of consciousness. It's lyrical. It's real. It's how I would imagine myself in a marriage - constant doubting of my ability to even be a normal human being. Doubting, but still trying anyways. Doubting, and being called The Crazy Wife. Trying not to ruin the little human I'm tasked with making into a responsible adult.

“Three things no one has ever said about me:
You make it look so easy.
You are very mysterious.
You need to take yourself more seriously.” ― Jenny OffillDept. of Speculation

“How had she become one of those people who wears yoga pants all day? She used to make fun of those people. With their happiness maps and their gratitude journals and their bags made out of recycled tire treads. But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.” ― Jenny OffillDept. of Speculation 

“What Rilke said: Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further.” ― Jenny OffillDept. of Speculation 

So....give it a try. It's only 182 pages of your life

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Since I am still trying to read from my stacks (1,100+ and growing - eep), I was going through one of the bookcases for the next book I wanted to try. I don't really remember buying The Stepford Wives but I know I got it at my friend's bookstore (may the wonderful store RIP). I've never seen the movie (the 1975 version OR the 2004 version)  but, like a lot of classics, the lexicon of the Stepford wife has permeated our vocabulary. I felt that I should read this.

It's a super quick read, just 145 pages, and it is damn creepy.Walter and Joanna Eberhart move to Stepford with their 2 kids and it becomes obvious to Joanna that "Stepford is out of step". Walter joins the Men's Association (please note, there is no Women's Association) and things start getting more out of step.

Joanna befriends Charmaine and Bobbie who both dislike the typical Stepford wife - dutiful to the husband, keeps a spotless house and perfect children. Bobbie and Joanna are sure something is up when Charmaine suddenly becomes the perfect housewife after a weekend away with her husband.

Then Bobbie takes a weekend away with her husband.

Then Walter wants a weekend away.

What is actually creepy about this book is that there is speculation that something is wrong and that the husbands are behind it, but in the end, there is no answer and Stepford is full of perfect housewives.

I plan on seeing the original movie because my understanding of the newest one is that they try to explain what happened to the wives. No please, I like my creepy to stay creepy.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning

I devoured this series when I found it. It's a good mix of mystery and book collecting. If you really love books, you would like this series. But I was surprised when I was rearranging my books to find The Bookman's Promise. I read the synopsis and it didn't sound familiar. How did I read all other books in the series and not this? We must remedy that!

We're back with Cliff Janeway, ex-cop turned bookstore owner/bookscout. He comes across a rare Richard Burton book and purchases it for fairly hefty sum. Doing this gets him in the spotlight a bit and all the crankpots start calling with "rare" books of their own to sell him. Josephine Gallant seems to be one of those crankpots. An elderly lady, very much near her deathbed, not only calls but takes her last bit of energy to visit Janeway. She claims the book he purchased from stolen from her grandfather, Charles Warren, who traveled with Burton. Trouble is, no one can find proof Warren and Burton even knew each other. Gallant is intriguing enough that Janeway listens and tries to help. Denise and Mike Ralston let Gallant stay with them and sadly, she dies. But not before getting Janeway to promise to get the books that were stolen. He promises.

Things take an ugly turn when Denise is killed. And Janeway is off to find the killer and why the books were so important.

A motley cast of characters join Janeway for some Southern history and back story on Richard Burton (yes! a real person!) and the tensions that led to the Civil War. Mystery, murderers, books and American history. Seriously? What more do you want?

Dig out the series - it's over 10 years old - and start devouring.

X by Sue Grafton

I listened to this one as an audiobook and I think that is what left me feel ambivalent about it. Kinsey Millhone is the PI in this series and she is only 38, but in the audiobook, she sounded much older and more bitter. That's not how I like Kinsey and I think if I had read the book, I would have gotten a different tone.

We start this one off with Teddy Xanakis, a very bitter woman who caught her husband, Ari, having a sex with her best friend. We know she's planning some revenge and we know it will eventually involve Kinsey.

All of the books in this series can act as standalones since Kinsey will "get people up to date" at the beginning of each book. All the books are well worth reading, however. Kinsey lives alone in Santa Theresa, CA, is 38 and a PI. Also, it's 1989.

Kinsey meets up with a Hallie Bettancourt to help her find her son who she gave up for adoption.

Kinsey also helps Ruth, Pete Wolinsky's widow, with some unfinished business of Pete's and is on the trail of a serial killer.

Kinsey also tries to figure out what is up with her new neighbors, an elderly couple who just have an iffy quality about them

Does this sounds like a lot of non-connecting story lines? Yes, because it is. This book bounced around too much to make a lot of sense. I was actually expecting all of the 3 lines to converged but they never did. If we had just ditched the new neighbors and the Xanakis, Bettancourt storylines, this would have been a good, fleshed out book. There were issues with the serial killer line that made no sense but I think all the other people were fighting for page space.

Do read this series, but don't start with X. Maybe, leave it for very last or skip it all together.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

I had heard about the movie with Matt Damon and just dismissed it (Matt Damon needs saved AGAIN??) but as I was listening to my backlog of Science..Sort of podcasts The Martian came up again in the form of an interview with the author (episode 228). Even though they warned several times that there were spoilers, I kept listening. As soon as I got to work, I logged on to my library to get the book and was sucked in from sentence one.

The most basic premise of this book is an astronaut is left stranded on Mars. There is a dangerous dust storm that forces the Ares 3 crew to abandon their missions 6 days in and Mark Watney is injured and presumed dead during the storm. The rest of the crew has to leave before they all die. Watney survives his injury and the storm and makes it back to the HAB. And thus we begin a year and a half of MacGyver on Mars. Seriously, I would have curled into a ball and cried.

The science of this book is 100% believable and almost makes the book feel like non-fiction. Watney is a great character mainly because, as smart as he is, he's a damn doofus. Sometimes, he was his own worst enemy and Mars was just watching him nearly blow himself up.

Told through the logs Watney keeps while he's alone on Mars and from the POV of the NASA folks trying to get him home, this is a rollercoaster. My only complaint is I had to work, eat, sleep, etc and couldn't just read it cover to cover.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy

My last postal club book for 2015 and it was unexpected! One of the things I like about joining a postal book club is the breadth of the books that make the rounds. Some of these I don't think I would have picked up on my own and read, but I'm always glad I read them. This book was one of those. I know I shouldn't but sometimes I judge books by their covers. There's a whole cliche about that and yet, I still do it! I almost never read the dust jacket either - I like being surprised. I Love You More pictures 3 well dressed women (with half their faces cut off at the top of the book) and one is holding a gun. Meh. Woman scorned? Eh.

I started reading because it's for the book club and the person who sent it wanted folks to read it. We start off with Picasso, a little girl who loves words and spelling and who might be too smart for her own good. Her mother is Diana Lane and her dad is Oliver Lane.

"The rumors started before my daddy's body got cold"

Well ok. You got me. Oliver Lane is murdered while Diana and Picasso are on vacation. The police show up and the investigation begins. Each chapter gives us the point of view of either Picasso, Detective Kennedy or The Wives. Wait, what? Ah yes, Oliver is a scumbag. He married Diana, then married Jewels, then married Roberta (aka Bert). Technically, he was only married to Diana but the other wives didn't know this. Each wife had a child or children with Oliver. He managed to keep 3 families completely separate and no one suspected anything. Jewels finally caught a whiff of something smelly and followed Oliver, only to find his other families. She introduces herself to each wife and they start meeting.... and planning.

We get all the backstory of the murder, the wives and their (weird) rituals, Picasso's newfound love of lying, Detective Kennedy's newfound lust of Diana. It seems like a basic mystery-that's-not-a-mystery. The wives did it.

Did they?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

This turned out MUCH better than I had hopes for.  In case you haven't left your rock, Robert Galbraith is actually JK Rowling. As much as I loved the Harry Potter series, her writing was ok. I'd been ignoring her newer books because I didn't have high hopes for an adult novel. Color me wrong.

This is the first in the Cormoran Strike series and I hope she keeps this going for a long time. I listened to the audio read by Robert Glenister and it was fantastic. As long as he narrates the rest of the series, I will be listening to them.

Strike is a down and out private detective who, due to being dumped by his crazy fiance, has taken to living in his office. He is barely making money and had to let his temporary secretary go because he could no longer afford to pay the temp agency. Let's not mention the loans he had with folks who were getting scary about getting re-paid. Also let's not mention that he is a war veteran who lost part of his leg in Afghanistan. Dude is very down on his luck.

The temp agency sends a new secretary and, because of their "smashing" meeting, he feels obliged to keep her a week while she interviews for other jobs. At this point, a new client comes in. John Bristow wants to hire Strike to investigate the supposed suicide of his sister, supermodel Lula Landry. Bristow doesn't believe it was suicide and wants to prove it. Everyone else in the family, the cops and the media believe she killed herself. Strike ends up taking the job and begins the gumshoeing.

And that's all I'm going to say. I was drawn in immediately and really disappointed in myself for not figuring out who the killer was. I was actually surprised enough at the outcome I immediately texted my friend, who had already read the book, with a WTF?!?!?! I think she laughed at me.  This is an excellent hard-boiled detective novel, worthy of all 5 stars!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

M Train by Patti Smith

I made the mistake of assumption with this book. I assumed it was similar to Just Kids, which I read back in 2010. I assumed I could take this book around with me - it did fit nicely in my purse - and just pick up and read when I had spare time. I assumed a lot. M Train is not Just Kids. M Train commands you to sit down, sit still and have a beverage in solitude. M Train demands that you lose yourself and walk with Patti.

At first, I just didn't want to keep reading. Smith is incredibly non-linear in M Train, floating between past, present, dream and reality. It was often hard to decipher where I was. That frustrated me to no end. But I kept going and finally, poured some bourbon, got under the blankets on my couch and just let go. Non-linear prose, be damned.

It amazes me how Patti makes serial crime dramas, coffee and cats lyrical. But that is one of the reasons I listen to her music as well. Travel with Smith and Fred, mourn Fred, travel with Smith to where the wind takes her. Look at her photos, read her books and watch as she struggles to write (and say hi to the cowboy).

There is no plot, no grand plan to this book. Just go with. In the end, it's a beautiful journey.