Murder on Black Swan Lane

Murder on Black Swan Lane (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery, #1)Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I wrote on Instagram…gimme alllll the Regency detective stories. I chatted with a friend about this one (hi Candice!), so I’m incorporating some of her thoughts into this review.

I really liked the Earl of Wrexford — I called him vulpine and repressed, which is pretty much my jam for Regency royalty heroes. Candice thought he was just “meh” and would have kept him in the friendzone.

We both liked Raven and Hawk, the little scamps.

Charlotte was a bit more of a blank slate for me. It does help the reader project herself onto a protagonist, so I didn’t mind it.

The plot was suitably twisty and the setting/atmosphere was great fun. No spoilers, but my friend and I both enjoyed the ending.

Himself

HimselfHimself by Jess Kidd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Himself, Mahoney is investigating his mother’s death in a small Irish town, and villagers both dead and alive are drawn into his quest.

The writing is unique and lively. I rarely do this, but I knocked off a star because magical realism just isn’t really my cup of tea. I’m interested to follow this author and see what she does next.

From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good DeathFrom Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is a freedom found in decomposition, a body rendered messy, chaotic, and wild. I relish this image when visualizing what will become of my future corpse.

Three main thoughts about this incredible book:

  1. Can we all agree the title font is #covergoals??
  2. Come for the globe-trekking stories about mummies and unfamiliar death rituals, stay for the thoughtful analysis of problems in the US funeral industry.
  3. Caitlyn Doughty’s droll humor is a combination of Morticia Addams and all the #dadjokes. “Bear burials” become “bearials” and donor bodies are John and Jane Compost. Funerals in remote Indonesia are “B.Y.O.B(uffalo)”.

    A gurney with a corpse inside a body bag waits on a path in a forest.

    Illustrations throughout are by Landis Blair. A page from the forest burial chapter.

I loved the book and found it very interesting. Highly recommended!

Dan Stevens and the Orient Express

dan stevens  I just finished listening to Murder on the Orient Express narrated by Dan Stevens. I have a lot of thoughts about the plot, but I’m skipping all that today. Other non-plot thoughts!

  1. Not looking forward to Johnny Depp as Hercule Poirot in the upcoming movie. Did we forget that he abused Amber Heard? Why is he still an A-list star? Also Poirot is supposed to be small and clever, and Depp is neither.
  2. Audio recordings of books are so magical. How many takes does it take to get a good take? Do they splice together a zillion snippets or try to get a whole chapter in one go? Do the actors decide on the vocal characterizations themselves or is there, like, a committee?
  3. I am enjoying Dan Stevens murmuring in my ear more than is probably seemly. His voice is delicious. I would listen to him read a grocery list, but instead I humbly suggest the collected works of Charlotte Stein for his next audio project. (I would say “sorry, mom” but she knows me). I’m adding Dan to my list of imaginary boyfriends in the Audiobook Narrator slot.

Overall I really enjoyed the book and the narration! I’ll probably see the movie too, maybe with a corresponding donation to a DV agency.

The Visitors

The VisitorsThe Visitors by Catherine Burns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Visitors is creepy and entirely suitable for October. I admit I finished it during daylight hours! The story is about a woman who ignores the terrible things happening in her house, her family, and her own mind…until she can’t ignore it any longer. The author pulls no punches, and there is no sweet, easy redemption found here. Totally gripping.

If We Were Villains

If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So long as we did it together, our individual sins might be abated. There is no comfort like complicity.

If We Were Villains is moving into the top spot for my favorite book of the year so far. (Overtaking the Gentleman’s Guide!! #GGTVAV 4-ever) The group dynamic among the collegiate theater students is complex, and our understanding grows organically. I loved all these murderous little darlings. This is a rare book that hooks you in the beginning and drives urgently toward the conclusion, but somehow the middle is truly the best part. If you like Shakespeare at all, this is a must read.

My Absolute Darling

My Absolute DarlingMy Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here is the problem with My Absolute Darling.

Yes, the writing is beautiful. Northern California is wonderfully evoked. The survivalist stuff sounds cool.

But here is the problem: It is a balletic, orgiastic symphony of violence. You can write books about violence, you can read books about violence, totally fine, I’m opposed to censorship, etc. But my personal complaint is that the story revels in its violence. It gives more time, care, and loving attention to detail to Turtle’s torture and pain than it does to her interior life. The point of the book is the violence. The author would probably tell you it’s about survival–it’s not. Survival is at best a secondary interest.

Books obviously don’t have to be about good things happening to good people, or bad things happening to bad people. Books don’t “have” to be about anything. They also don’t have to be about violence in and of itself.

Wicked Like a Wildfire

Wicked Like a Wildfire (Hibiscus Daughter, #1)Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

❝Mama’s desserts were nothing if not suspenseful.❞

🌺 I loved the magic system and the Montenegrin setting. The dynamic between the twin sisters feels real and loving and sometimes painful. I didn’t grow up with any sisters, although I have THREE beloved sisters now as an adult which I think was quite clever of me!
Two complaints, both pretty minor: Iris comes across as passive at times. A lot of the plot involves her finding out about her past, so she spends much of her time confused and hearing about herself from others. Also there is a key point that gets abandoned–Jasmina tells her daughters they may never fall in love, which is a really interesting idea and would have been fun to pursue. But it just kinda gets dropped.
Regardless I enjoyed reading and I’m looking forward to another installment in the series!

Fierce Kingdom

Fierce KingdomFierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“And here they are where death is shoving its bloody snout in their faces, and she has not considered it, not really… That is what you do when you have a child, isn’t it, open yourself up to unimaginable pain and then try to pretend away the possibilities.”

I LOVED this book. It’s no spoiler to say this is a story about something bad that happens in a zoo, and even so, within the first ten pages I was practically yelling for Joan to get out of the zoo. (Also not a spoiler: It’s not a story about the parking lot outside a zoo!)

I was reading with my own personal favorite four-year-old in mind, and I loved Lincoln and the tiny details of his relationship with his mother. The prose is tense and tightly written, with no spare syllable taking up space. Highly recommended.