Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The depth and detail of the portrayal of Aza’s anxiety and intrusive thoughts was remarkable. Reading her thoughts was anxiety-inducing in me. When a spiral tightened and tightened as I read and read, I would often think, “it’s too much!” But that’s the point–it was too much for Aza, too. She didn’t have the power to decide when to stop spiraling.

I deducted a star just because the whole missing-billionaire framework wasn’t interesting, but the characterization of Aza makes the book important and compelling.

A Christmas Disaster (w/ happy ending)

When Sheila and I arrived at the park this morning, about a hundred of her furry frenemies were already there frolicking. One woman had lost her furry friend.

“Coco!?” she called.  “Coco!”

The woman (who was clearly either Barb or a Kathy, let’s go with Kathy) was not alarmed. Kathy sounded irked. The irksome Coco was nowhere to be seen, and Sheila and I continued our walk.

Fifteen minutes later, after completing our urgent business, we were ready to leave the park.

Kathy also approached the exit, still yelling for Coco.

“Coco!?” she called.

A guy with a beagle pointed outside the park, toward the busy intersection where the farmers were setting up the greenmarket.

“She went that way,” he said.

Kathy broke into that shuffle you do when you’re trying not to look like you’re hurrying. You do it when you’re less calm than you would like. It’s the exact opposite of the elbows-up fake run you do in an intersection when some driver wants you to hurry, but you could not care less about the driver’s poor time management. Her hands were straight down by her sides, and her shoulders bobbed from side to side as she hurried out of the park.

At the open space created between the park exit, the farmer’s market, and the streetcorner, five men with leashed dogs were standing around like a Greek chorus.

“Right there!” someone said, pointing to a long-haired yellow dog, whose half-hour of freedom was rapidly coming to an end.

“Coco!” yelled Kathy. “Stop!”

Coco did not stop. She bobbed and weaved, her head and hips low, looking guilty but defiant. Sheila and I watched from the park exit, both our mouths open, one tongue lolling out. The farmers at the market unloaded crates of apples and evergreen wreaths.

The five men converged in a zone defense. Coco, who had been reading the news about men, did not like their pentagram trap. She darted toward the busy street. Cars and trucks raced past, downhill on DeKalb Avenue, bound for very important destinations on Flatbush Avenue.

“Coco, NO!” yelled Kathy.

“It’s a Christmas Disaster!” yelled one of the farmers, unhelpfully.

The five men and their pentagram trap collapsed into a useless open-sided blob shape. A bloodhound mix, sensing drama, began baying.

The bloodhound bay is one of my favorite sounds because it achieves a perfect balance of urgency and hilarity. You cannot take one seriously, but you’re interested in whatever they’re talking about.

“OooOoooOO,” said the bloodhound.

That set off the other dogs. Coco saw the thick traffic and darted like Kam Chancellor around a tree. Kathy lunged for her. She missed. Coco dodged around the five men and their dogs.

“OooOOOoo,” said the bloodhound.

Then, a Christmas Miracle. “Oh, here, look,” said Kathy. She pulled from her pocket a little baggie, presumably dog treats, and jangled it.

Coco was enticed. Jangle, jangle, jangle. The men held their dogs back. Coco slunk up, ears flat. We all went still, even the unhelpful farmer. Coco crept closer, then nosed against the baggie for a treat. Kathy grabbed her harness.

The five men breathed five sighs of relief. Kathy’s recollection of the treats in her pocket, although perhaps belated, had saved the day.

“Let’s go home,” said Kathy. Coco wagged her tail.

“OooOOOoo,” said the bloodhound.

Rebel Seoul

Rebel SeoulRebel Seoul by Axie Oh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rebel Seoul is a dystopian YA set among students at a state military academy. I loved the Old Seoul/Neo Seoul dual cities. The protagonist, Lee Jaewon, starts off emotionally repressed. Crazy sh*t happens and he just kinda goes along with it. But that makes his eventual breakdown and unraveling even more poignant.

Even for the genre, the level of belief-stretching insane events in the plot is…next level. Once I got over my disbelief and just went along for the ride, it was pretty fun.

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.


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.