Thursday, May 28, 2015

Welcome; Mini Book Reviews

Wow, I was amazed at the huge (for me) spike in new readers that happens when several people share a post on their timelines. Welcome, if anyone has come back to visit! I don't normally make it a habit to write about controversial items in the news (I am a recovering people pleaser, if that's okay with everyone) so if that's what you're looking for on a daily basis, this won't be the blog for you. However, this experience has made me realize that if I care deeply about an issue, I should write about it since my words may ring true for others.

Today I'm going to write about something that no one ever cared about back in my glory days of up to 5 comments per post: books. Although now I have several avid readers who comment here, so there's that. I thought I'd do mini-reviews of what I've been reading lately, since I don't have enough to say about any particular book to make up a full post. After slogging through The Count of Monte Cristo, I've had better luck lately in my book choices.

First up was The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer. This was the first book by Georgette Heyer I have read, and (at the risk of beating a dead cliche) I must say it won't be my last. Heyer's slyly adept descriptions and dialogue brought new life to the over-familiar trope of the murder-in-a-country-house mystery novel. I checked this out as an e-book from my library. For some reason they have this and a few of her other other Golden-Age-era mysteries, but not the Regency romances she is best known for. No matter; I'll find the other books. I can hardly wait to read more of her work--her books will be the perfect light, frothy, but not idiotic summer reading. I might buy some of them in paperback, because I can see her novels being fun to reread, too. (This is high praise because I only buy books when a) I know I'll reread them OR b) they are so cheap I won't mind donating them to charity when I've finished with them, if I don't care to keep them.) Four stars (and a half, if Goodreads would let me give half stars).

Next is comedian Jim Gaffigan's Food: A Love Story. I listened to it as an audiobook while commuting, also borrowed from the library (I love the library!) I enjoyed it, and as other reviewers have said, listening to it on audio is the way to go. It made it seem like one of Gaffigan's comedy routines, and since he's one of my favorite comedians, that's a plus for me. Of course he recreated the Hot Pocket rant that made him famous, but I hadn't heard it in a long time, so that was okay. I do think he didn't have to make the book quite so comprehensive; it was like he felt compelled to include every kind of food to pad the length. By the end, I was like, "Okay, I get it: you like to eat." In fact, I started to wonder how Mr. Gaffigan doesn't weigh 800 pounds. But there were plenty of funny parts that made up for the parts that dragged. All in all, one of my most successful audiobook picks. Three stars.

I started As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust as another library audiobook, but quickly realized I had underestimated the amount of time and attention listening to a novel takes. I would never finish listening to the book in the amount of time I had left, and since it's a new book, someone would want it immediately after my time was up. I returned the audiobook and requested the hard copy. Lesson learned: for audiobooks, stick to nonfiction or short stories (easier to get back into) or older novels that I can recheck if needed. Here are my thoughts on the actual story:

Although I read this installment of the Flavia de Luce novels quickly and with enjoyment, I gave it a 3 instead of a 4 because it was not very believable (I mean, besides the fact that the series is about a very young girl, even one who is a chemistry prodigy, encountering dead bodies every few months and solving the case). In addition, the Canadian characters had some false notes (I doubt anyone ever actually talked like some of the boarders at Miss Bodycoates' school. They sound like Jimmy Cagney at times). I was relieved when [spoiler alert] Flavia is told she is being sent home to Buckshaw, and only partly because I was tired of reading about how she is startled by her own emotions every time she remembers it. I also missed the usual cast of characters, especially Dogger. I wonder if some of the shadowy members of the mysterious Nide league will feature in forthcoming novels. If not, the book left a lot of questions unanswered. I do think Bradley does a magnificent job of subtly portraying that Flavia, despite her keen perceptions and genius-level IQ, is still a child and can make childish mistakes...although many times her childish intuitions turn out to be exactly right. Three stars ( for comparison, I gave four stars to each of the previous books). 

Another audiobook, and this one was an unqualified success. It was the best audiobook I've listened to. I literally laughed out loud on average every two minutes. Even though I'm generally conservative in my beliefs, Stephen Colbert's parody of a right-wing pundit is so spot-on that it had me giggling helplessly at the absurdity of his statements on everything from marriage to pets to higher education. I read the book in hard copy a few years ago, but this was better. Besides Colbert's word-perfect delivery, there is stirring background music and a series of actors voicing little monologues titled "Stephen Speaks For Me" from such people as a confirmed Spinster and The Guy Sitting Next to You at a Sports Arena, I highly recommend it. Four and a half stars.

I'm going to stop now. I was going to include another novel I finished a week or so ago, but apparently I have too much to say about it for this post. 

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recommendations, for audiobooks or "regular" books, as I think of them? Either way, happy reading! 



  1. Those look interesting. I'm currently reading a biography of the Queen Mum; it's a total slog but contains a lot of interesting information, so I'm pushing through.

  2. Nicole, I've always thought the Queen Mum sounded like an interesting person, especially after seeing The King's Speech. I wish biographers didn't feel compelled to shove in all the boring details, though I suppose they feel they have to.

  3. I haven't read any of these, but I love Georgette Heyer. I've read several of her regency romances and they're perfect. Very witty and light, and entertaining.