Reading Roundup: Out on a Limb

It’s that time again.  That time when I realize I haven’t written anything for this blog in a long time and I start kicking myself.  It’s also that time when I realize no one’s actually waiting for this blog so I stop kicking myself.  But all the same here’s some reviews.  I chose to cover the ones over the past six months that I went out on a limb for, meaning they aren’t my usual fair.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

A girl gets a free ride to Yale because she can see ghosts.  Um, what?  I took a chance on this one from Book of the Month and I’m really glad I did.  Trust me it all makes sense when you get into the world of Alex Stern.  She reluctantly takes a position monitoring the secret societies of Yale who don’t just party.  Alex has the ability to see ghosts which is really useful when you’re policing frat boys dabbling in the occult.  And when a town girl is murdered, she’s the one with the heart to pursue the case.  This is intended as a series and I actually can’t wait to see what happens to Alex and Darlington.  It’s a little bit Harry Potter and a little bit Veronica Mars and I’m in.

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

This one is half whodunit and half international espionage.  I’m not usually a big spies and governments fan but this one was okay.  Our character Annabel is a naïve wife of a banker who goes missing.  Determined to find out what happened to him, she’s pulled into a web of high finance and offshore accounts.  Unknowingly aided by Martina, an intrepid journalist, she risks her life with terrorists and blood money.  I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it.  I would recommend it, but I enjoyed Alger’s new novel Girls Like Us more.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katerine Arden

In January I was in the mood for something completely different, so I got this one from the library.  Set in a fantasy medieval Russia, this story reads like a fairy tale where a girl must fight for her identity and to save her village.  Like all fairy tale stepmothers, Vasilisa’s is cold and unloving and against anything having to do with the old magic.  But it’s the old magic that Vasilisa must tap into to stop the evil that’s threatening her home.  Rich language and tons of atmosphere make this a fun read for a cold winter night.  I recommend it if you’re looking for something off the beaten path.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I love the Big Little Lies series on HBO.  So, I decided to see what else Liane Moriarty had.  I have to say I was bit disappointed.  This one started out good with the non-linear timeline circling the events of a barbeque attended by three couples.  We gradually learn their secrets and motivations culminating in a traumatizing event.  I think this book just went on too long.  I kept waiting for it to end and it seemed like it just wouldn’t.  Are we going to just keep following these people forever?  Some editing would have helped.  I don’t think I would recommend this one.

Beartown by Frederik Backman

This is another one that’s pretty out there.  I loved Backman’s A Man Called Ove, so I wanted to see what else he had.  He spends a good bit of time introducing his characters which works here because then he hits you over the head with tragedy and it hurts.  It really does.  It’s really impressive how he makes you care so much about what happens to this tiny town in the woods and about hockey.  This is a book about people and no matter what sports we’re playing or where we are in the world, we can relate.  I recommend it and going in knowing as little as possible.

That’s it for now.  Until next time, happy reading y’all!

Magnolia Run Available Now

Hello, happy readers!  Just wanted to let everybody know that my book Magnolia Run is now available via Christian Faith Publishing.  Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.  You can also follow me on Goodreads.

This has been a singular experience.  It’s been nine months since I was told my book would be published and there are still days when I can’t believe it.  I guess I just don’t know how to handle that dream-come-true moment.  The idea of getting published was always more of a daydream than an actual this-will-happen-someday dream.  If I’m honest, I never thought I could write a book that someone else would actually read.  But I did.  And I’m here.  And it’s available.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Happy reading, y’all!

Dreading the Soggy Bottom

Have you ever made a pie?  You work so hard making the crust and preparing the filling, only to have the middle of the bottom come out wet and yucky.  It ruins the whole pie.

There’s such a thing as the soggy bottom of a book too.  It’s that point about two thirds in where the author starts circling.  You know that book, the one where you’re loving the characters and you’re caught up in the mystery and then nothing happens for a hundred pages.  We keep going over the same clues and our characters spend a lot of time doing irrelevant things.  It’s enough to make you throw the book across the room.

I’ve been enjoying Michael Connelly’s new series about Renee Ballard and I really liked the recent crossover with Bosch, Dark Sacred Night.  I’m a big fan of the Amazon series but this was my first experience with Connelly’s writing.  I recently borrowed one of his called The Poet, a one-off from the mid-nineties.  At five hundred pages, this book had the soggiest soggy bottom I ever did see.  I skimmed the last two hundred pages and by the end I didn’t even like the characters anymore.  It was quite disappointing.

Of course, a book doesn’t have to have a soggy bottom to get ruined.  Case in point, the one I just finished, that will remain nameless, that had the granny menacing everyone with a blowtorch before revealing why she did it.  No, really.

So, it has not been the best few weeks for me in reading.  I hope y’all are faring better with your endeavors.  Maybe next time I’ll have better news and recommendations to share.  Until then, happy reading, y’all!

Bridge to Nowhere

Have you heard about Markus Zuzak’s new book Bridge of Clay?  You probably have because the whole world loved The Book Thief and have waited forever.  No really, it’s been thirteen years.  That’s the first red flag.

When I heard Mr. Zuzak was publishing a new book I was excited because I loved the writing of The Book Thief.  I thought the plot wasn’t that original or exciting but the style was awesome.  I also loved I Am the Messenger because the story was so off beat and interesting.  If we could have a book that married the amazing prose of The Book Thief with a charming plot like I Am the Messenger, we might have a contender for Favorite Book.

But it was not to be.  I read an interview on Goodreads where Zuzak said he had been trying to write this book since he was really young and he agonized over everything, making sure it was perfect.  Uh-oh.  Red Flag number two.  Something that personal does not usually translate.  Mostly it’ll resonate with, well, you.  Despite this reservation I gave it a shot.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  I read about half of the book and I have no idea what we’re supposed to be getting from it.  We start out with five boisterous teenage boys taking care of themselves with a bunch of animals running around.  That was actually the part I liked.  They were interesting, I liked the way they interacted, each with his own unique personality.  Enter the deadbeat father who asks them if they’d like to come with him out to the middle of nowhere and build a bridge.  Um, okay.  So one of them decides it’d be a good idea to quit school and go to the middle of nowhere with a man he hardly knows to dig holes in the hot sun so they can put a bridge over a mostly dry river bed.  Um, okaaayyy…

Most of the 250 pages I read didn’t even have anything to do with Clay or his brothers.  It was all about their mother’s childhood behind the Iron Curtain and how she got to Australia and their father’s childhood and how he married one girl and then got divorced.  Why do I care?

I’m sorry, but you introduced a whole group of really interesting characters and then left them for half a book to talk about their parents’ pasts?  What does that have to do with anything?  Not to mention this is supposed to be a first person narrative.  The narrator is the oldest brother who isn’t seeing any of this first hand and yet writes like he has intimate knowledge.

To me, this book was a mess.  I think this is what happens when a story marinates too long in the writer’s head.  He gets too close and loses perspective.  Zuzak wanted to convey some awesome family saga with great points about healing and forgiveness but really it’s just a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing.

As much as it pains me to say it, I think Mr. Zuzak missed the mark this time.  I would give this one a wide berth.

Book Review: Into the Water

I got the new Paula Hawkins novel, Into the Water, thanks to Book of the Month extras.  Just like her debut, The Girl on the Train, I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a quick read and it looks longer than it is in hardback format.  The type is large and the chapters are short.  It moves back and forth between narrators with speed and skill.  I’m normally not a fan of that but Ms. Hawkins does it really well.  I do admit that it was a little confusing at first trying to place everyone into the narrative but I think that was part of the point.  This book really makes you lose your bearings, very much like the characters.

I enjoyed the tight family drama and the suspense.  It kept me reading and I’m sad it’s over.  That’s what a good book should do.  I definitely recommend Into the Water to lovers of grip-lit like myself but I also recommend it to anyone who likes a well-told story.

Who Am I?

It’s been nearly a month since I left my job and it’s been both awesome and stressful.  I keep going back and forth from “I’m so glad I left” to “Holy crap! Why’d I leave the comfort of a full-time job?”

After a recent church class I realized that my angst is tied up in identity.  Who am I now? Who am I if I’m not Kim the tax accountant?

I’m Kim, Who Lives at Home.  I’m Kim, the aspiring author.  I’m Kim, who volunteers with kids. I’m Kim, who wants to work with kids.  I have to remind myself of that everyday, sometimes several times a day.

I do have plans but I want to take it one week at a time.  God has told me he wants me to spend more time in prayer and I’m making an effort.  I realize that I have to be patient and wait for Him to tell me where to go next.  The last thing I want is to screw this whole thing up.  This time is a gift from God and I’m not going to squander it.

Book Review: The Princess Diarist

And now for something completely different.  I’ve decided to start reviewing some of the books I read here at ol’ Kim Who Lives at Home.  Hope you enjoy.

Let me start by saying I love Carrie Fisher.  I’ve read her other two memoirs, Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic, so I was super excited when I heard she had written a third.  I was also sad to learn of her untimely death and her mother’s shortly after.  She was a fantastic writer and I’m sorry there won’t be any more.

The Princess Diarist did not disappoint.  I love Fisher’s writing style.  She’s so witty and self-deprecating.  In this one in particular I thought she sounded, well, a lot like me.

In this memoir she goes back to the time of filming Star Wars in 1976.  I wasn’t born then but that didn’t matter at all.  She was a nineteen year old girl just starting her life and not sure what she wanted to do with it.  Even though I’ve never starred in a movie-turned-phenomenon, nor had an affair with my reticent co-star, I found her wholly relatable.   She has printed some of her personal diaries from the time and she sounds just as confused and scared as any of us at that age (or older).

I definitely recommend Ms. Fisher’s last literary outing.  I recommend her other memoirs as well.  I can’t speak to her fiction but I’d love to get around to it someday.  She really was a renaissance woman, huh?  So if you’re a Star Wars fan seeking more info about the filming or just love a good memoir, I suggest you pick it up.