Sorry kids, no feet.

I'm a reader raising voracious readers. To mock my children, I have recently quit my job so  I can stay at home and read all day. I enjoy caffeinated beverages, short walks to the library, and long walks down aisles of used book stores. 

The Lager Queen of Minnesota

The Lager Queen of Minnesota - J. Ryan Stradal

Without going back to look, I can't remember what my previous choice for favorite book of 2019 was. It doesn't matter. Whatever it was, it has been dethroned. The Lager Queen of Minnesota is and will remain my favorite read of 2019. 

 

This book demands that you read it while eating tater-tot hotdish and listening to Prince. It was absolute perfection. The characters. The setting. Everything. I laughed. I cried. I cried a lot. The women in this novel tore at my heart. I knew these women. I was raised by these women. This book made my heart ache for the carefree days spent following my grandma around in her garden or standing in her kitchen carefully measuring out ingredients to make something beyond delicious. 

 

It wasn't just the women who made me emotional. It was the beer. I'm a huge fan of beer. The guy who picks up our recycling every week would probably argue I'm something a little more unhealthy and he only takes clear glass. The beer in the book wasn't just beer. I could see and smell the Grain Belt, the Hamms, and the PBR my grandpa use to drink. It depended what was on sale. Every night for supper, he had a beer for supper. Even towards the end when the doctors told him he wasn't allowed to have beer with his medication. He didn't care. He fought in WWII. He was going to drink the beer. It was only one can. And honestly, it wasn't even one can. For 57 years, he split that one can of beer every night with my grandma. Even after she died, he only poured himself half a can. 

 

My own personal nostalgia aside, I highly recommend this book. It's just as Minnesotan as giant roadside attractions (shout out to the World's Largest Ball of Twine Made by One Man) and Sven and Ole' jokes. To some it might be boring but it's full of heart and people you won't easily forget. 

 

 

 

 

Edit- I've done the leg work. It seems my top books this year have been A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman and Virgil Wander by Leif Enger. I find it rather strange that two books about Minnesota by Minnesotans landed in my top five. I'll be the first to tell you Minnesota is kind of boring and ordinary. 

Try New Things

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

When you quit your job and don't immediately go back to work full time, sometimes you have to make some cost cutting moves. First on the list of things to go, my subscription to Pandora. Second, extra cell data. I'm driving my girls back and forth to school every day. This leaves me with quite a bit of time in a vehicle with only the radio to keep me company. The problem with the radio is Taylor Swift. I can't. She's everywhere. Nope.

 

The girls found the audio books at the library recently. We've been working our way through various children's' books. I decided this might be an opportunity to look through the adult audio selections. This is how I stumbled on to And Then There Were None read by Dan Stevens. 

 

In my house Dan Stevens is Beast from the live action Beauty and the Beast. In my van, he saves me from the voices in my head by providing me with brilliant voices of his own. I'm enjoying listening much more than I thought I would. 

 

All of this brings me to a question- What audio books do you recommend? Who are some of your favorite narrators? Books can be children or adult.

The Library Book - Susan Orlean

The Library Book - Susan Orlean

It's been soooo long since I have read a book that was any good. The wait was completely worth it. 

 

If you love reading, you need to read this book. It is so much more than just an in-depth look at the Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986. It is a emotional, uplifting, and deep look at the role libraries play in our society. It goes beyond America. It looks at the impact of libraries on a global scale.

 

Once you get into it, the library fire is actually a very small part of the story. The Los Angeles Public Library is the star of this story. The supporting cast is a wide variety of people from all walks of life. By the end of this book. I found myself wanting to go the Los Angeles just to see if I could meet some of these people at the library. 

 

My husband was more than annoyed with me by the end of this book. I was constantly sticking my head of spouting random facts about fires and fire fighters. At one point, before I even said anything, he put his hand up "I use to be a fire fighter. I know!" Ok but did you know........There was just so much I wanted to share. And if you think he was annoyed with the fire facts, it was nothing compared to the look on his face when he watched my cry through all of chapter 9.

 

I could go on and on about this book. Or you could just read it yourself. It's just one of those books I feel like you need to read to understand how wonderful it really is. 

 

I can say all kinds of things that might convince you. Instead I want to share a passage:

"My mother imbued me with a love of libraries. The reason why I finally embraced this book project- wanted, and then needed, to write it- was my realization that I was losing her. I found myself wondering whether a shared memory can exist if one of the people sharing it no longer remembers it. Is the circuit broken, the memory darkened?"

 

And maybe one more-

"The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten- that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is as if we never existed." 

 

Seriously. Read this book. It is the best book I've read all year. 

 

The Electric Hotel - Dominic Smith

The Electric Hotel - Dominic Smith

I was immediately draw to this book by the cover. When I flipped it over to read the blurb, the spine had black and white images of tigers. Hotels and tigers? I don't even care what this book is really about, I need to read it.

 

About 50 pages in, I was already setting myself up to read yet another disappointing book. At least I'm consistent at this point. I really had to push myself to get through the next 50. At about 105, I knew sticking with it was the right choice.

 

The book follows Claude who is one of the very first concession agents for the Lumiere brothers. The Lumiere brothers invented the cinematographe, basically an improvement on Edision's peepshow device. I did a little research after reading this novel. Edison was a douche in this book which as it turns out is pretty true to life. 

 

Claude eventually decides to branch out. He decides he wants to make his own movies. He collects a group of people including an aging actress, a man who lights himself on fire, and a guy who just wants to get out from under the mod. It's the stuff good television is made of, right? Together they embark on the most adventurous cinema project of the age. The Electric Hotel is Claude's epic work. The story follows the "gang" through the movie's production and the events that follow the movie's controversial release.

 

All of this is being told to Martin, a college student who seeks out Claude at his current residence, the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. Claude's story telling is mixed with current events. Current, like 1962 current. 

 

As mentioned before, the first 100 pages were a bit of a struggle for me. More than anything going on in the story or the author's writing, it was the format. I thought it was clunky. The author uses block paragraphs. Some paragraphs are full of three or four long sentences. Some are long paragraphs filled with short sentence. He doesn't punctuate conversations the way you normally would. 

 

--Hi

--How is your day?

--I think we need a tiger in this movie.

--I'll find one.

 

That is how conversations appear. It took some getting use to. If that tiny example turns you off, don't even bother with this book. 

 

So why did I stick to it? One, I'm determined to get out of my bad book slump. Two, once I got to the part where Claude and crew are making their epic masterpiece, I couldn't put the book down. The author made me feel like I was watching a silent movie. The images that ran through my head were black and white accompanied by dramatic piano scores. It was brilliant. It was haunting. It was beautiful. 

 

I'm curious to know if anyone has read The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Smith. I would love to know if his different style is his signature or just something done with this novel. 

Not Really Book Related

One of my seven year olds has discovered Disney sequels. I don't know if there is enough alcohol to get me through this. 

 

I came downstairs a little before 7:00 this morning to find she's watching the second Pocahontas movie. You know, the one with the James I who is probably an accurate depiction? Where Pocahontas is a perfect example of British society with enough white paint? 

 

I think this afternoon, we are going to the library and getting the real story of Pocahontas. It could be the most traumatic thing my children experience. Seriously, other than a means of torture, why was this movie made?

 

 

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) - Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper - Kerri Maniscalco

It looks like my quest for a good book continues.Stalking Jack the Ripper is just the latest in a line of bad books. I understand that this book was written for a Young Adult audience. However, this book is a prime example of why I avoid Young Adult books. Even when I was a Young Adult, I avoided Young Adult books. I went straight from the Babysitter Club books in the basement of the public library to Anne Rice upstairs. There was never an in-between stage for me. I'm not saying that there isn't good Young Adult literature out there. This just isn't an example of it.

 

First of all, I think the author could have easily avoided using the Jack the Ripper story line. She could have easily told her story as something separate from Jack the Ripper. If you read her author notes at the end, you'll find she more or less told her story separate from Jack the Ripper. The notes were full of things like "I know this happened like this but it didn't fit my story so I changed it" and "I didn't mention this person, even though they were kind of a big deal because it didn't fit my story". Then tell a different story. Plenty of books exist dealing with the mythology of Jack the Ripper without actually being about Jack the Ripper.

 

If she would have told this story with different characters it would have been even better. I will preface this by saying I finished Anne Perry's A Breach of Promise right before starting this book. One of my biggest problems with that book was the lecturing about feminism during Victorian England. I don't want to be preached at. I understand that women were poorly treated. I understand sexism still exists. I'm raising three girls. I get it. Anyway. I knew this book wasn't going to be about a Victorian teenage girl who falls into the expected societal roles. The blurb tells you she helps her uncle perform autopsies. That's fine. I have no issues with that. What I do have issue with is a character who has to constantly remind everyone around her (and the reader) that she's not just a stupid girl. However, at the same time, don't tell her she's not a lady. She may like dead bodies but she also really likes pretty things. She's complicated like that. More than solving the mystery of Jack the Ripper, our protagonist Audrey Rose, sets out to answer the question "Can I be taken seriously in the science world if I still wear make up and pretty dresses?" Again, I have zero issues with the feminism at work here. My problem is the way the author continues to hammer it home. I get it. She's unconventional. I get it. She's in a man's world and she has to prove herself. Tell me who Jack the Ripper is already.

 

The other main character, Thomas, was just as irritating as Audrey Rose. We get it. You like her. You've done everything put push her off the playground swings and pull her hair. The author set out to make Thomas, a younger, more dashing, and significantly more handsome (we are constantly reminded how handsome Thomas is) Sherlock Holmes. It didn't work. Part of the wonder of Sherlock Holmes is how he figures things out first and the reader has to figure out how he figured it out. This kid was trying to be Sherlock Holmes hosting a cooking show. The reader had to be told everything he was doing as he was doing it. Not a fan. 

 

I think it's kind of obvious at this point that this book didn't work for me. Let me assure you, it wasn't just the characters. Again, I realize this was a Young Adult book. I was promised a huge plot twist. I did not get a huge plot twist. I had the "who" figured out about 20 pages in. Spoiler alert, I was right. The "why" was a little bit of a surprise but once I thought about it, the clues were there the whole time. It is possible I was just so annoyed with the main characters, I glossed over a few things. I think it does a little disservice to young adults to assume they can't handle a plot any more complex than what this book offers. 

 

It's safe to say, I won't be picking up any of the other books in this series. It's also safe to say, I won't be recommending any of these books to my girls either. 

A Breach of Promise (William Monk #9) - Anne Perry

A Breach of Promise - Anne Perry

I spent this whole book feeling like I was missing something. As it turns out I was missing books 7 and 8. Oops.

 

This book was a little too preachy.

 

The twist completely took me by surprise.

 

Too bad everything had such a convenient ending. You can't tell me that many coincidences actually exist in a place like London.

Reading progress update: I've read 246 out of 384 pages.

A Breach of Promise - Anne Perry

A plot twist I didn't see coming has now turned the last part of the book into a lecture on feminism. I understand that some of these issues were beginning to come to the forefront during this particular time period. However, Perry's lecturing feels a little anachronistic, as well as repetitive. I was hoping it was something that would stay only in her Pitt novels. It appears that's not the case. Has anyone read through the Pitt and/or Monk series? Does the political undertone stay with all of the coming novels? I have found myself enjoying these books, Monk more than Pitt. That being said, I don't want to keep on if I'm just going to get lectured every time I pick up a new book. 

Reading progress update: I've read 37%.

Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland - Susan Fraser King

I think I'm about to add another book to my DNF pile. Isn't it weird how you can read in streaks? Sometimes you get a five of the most amazing books you've ever read. Then you pick up that sixth book and suddenly you get eight in a row of the most questionable choices you've ever made. Having bangs for most of the 90s is proof of my questionable choices. 

 

My issues with this book need to be taken with a grain of salt. I've freely admitted that I just don't like e-books as much as paper copies. However, I think I might have the same issues with this book regardless of format. The characters are weak and one dimensional. Margaret's family are a bunch of ungrateful turds. Margaret herself is empty-headed and spoiled. "Look at what a good person I am! I gave away shoes that were too small for me anyway!" Malcolm is just your typical blundering neanderthal who Margaret will reform at some point. It's just not working for me. 

 

So many books. So little time. 

July Reading Wrap Up

After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England - Leanda de Lisle The Gods of Gotham - Lyndsay Faye Bethlehem Road - Anne Perry Her Royal Spyness - Rhys Bowen The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls - Anissa Gray A Trail of Ink - Mel Starr Oksana, Behave! - Maria Kuznetsova The Pericles Commission - Gary Corby King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War - Catrine Clay

July was a good reading month. I can't remember the last time I finished this many books. I was helped by the vacations and swimming lessons my children participated in. My girls are still on vacation with my in-laws for another week. Hopefully I can get some more reading done before the back to school craziness hurts.

 

King, Kaiser, Tsar was the most fascinating book I have read in a while. I don't know about everyone else but my public school education only glosses over WWI. Archduke Ferdinand was shot. War started. Nobody listened to Wilson when he said splitting Prussia up was a bad idea. That's about the extent of our education. This book didn't spend a ton of time dealing with WWI specifically but it did give the reader a great deal of insight to the men who helped get us to that point. I highly recommend it even if you don't have an interest in that time period. 

 

Her Royal Spyness and The Pericles Commission were my fiction favorites. The problem with both of them is the number of books that exist in each series. Of course I needed more books on my TBR. 

Hit A Wall.

It was bound to happen. On the heels of reading so many fantastic books, I was bound to hit a wall. Hopefully this current string of bad reading luck doesn't continue for any significant amount of time.

 

First I had the dumpster fire that was Oksana, Behave. Then I picked up Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman. Lipman has been recommended to me a few times. Good Riddance was just sitting on my library's new release shelf, pleading with me to take it. So I did. About 30 pages in, the book almost found itself hurling toward a wall. 

 

Before I tell you why I had such a violent reaction, let me explain how bad at math I am. A sixth grade student corrected my math in front of my boss. When I told the story to my husband, my ten year old overheard and said "Mom, you know that's basic multiplication, right?"

 

So in Good Riddance, we are introduced to Daphne. Early in the book she attends a 50 year  class reunion for the class of 1968 at the school her mother taught for. There is a pretty significant revelation at this reunion that leads the reader to believe Daphne was born between  1969-1970. A few pages later Daphne points out to her attractive neighbor that he's 25 to her 31. Wait? I know my math is horrible but that doesn't work for me. I'm 34 and know the year of my birth to be 1984. How can someone born between 1969-1970 be younger than me. This isn't a fantasy. There's no strange time travel element. It's completely contemporary with several popular culture references that make it obvious this book takes place in 2018. Not to mention  the 50th reunion thing. I went back to re-read a few pages to make sure I didn't miss anything. Nope. I took out a calculator to double check my math. Yup. Still good. So how in the world does the author get away with this? How does something like this get by an editor? More importantly, what kind of author thinks they   can pull this kind of a fast one their readers?

 

I think it is safe to say, I won't be finishing this book. I decided instead to pick up the copy of Night Circus I checked out from the library. I cracked the cover and was immediately overpowered by the smell of mold and cigarettes. Maybe I need to try an e-book or old reliable Harry Potter?

 

Thoughts? Would anyone else keep reading Good Riddance? Or is this mistake just too  much to forgive?

14 out of 50 isn't too bad. My ten year old is laughing at this. She's read nearly 30 books this summer. I'm constantly reminding her she doesn't have to do things like laundry and drive. My children will be gone for the next ten days which should give me lots of extra reading time. Just kidding. That extra reading time is going to be spent touring wineries and catching up with my friends who have finally returned from their year serving overseas in Kuwait.

Personal Summer Challenge

Reblogged from Sorry kids, no feet. :

 I am not going to be participating in this round of Booklikes-opoly. Instead I'm going to be participating in a summer challenge with a historical fiction group I moderate for. The goal is to read 50 books over the course of the summer. We create our lists and lock them on June 1st. The goal is to read all 50 books on the list and earn points. There are opportunities to change things around twice during the summer. If you'd like more information or to participate, I'll post a link in the comments. Be warned, it is a Goodreads group. I promise, we aren't overly "Goodreads-ish".

 

This post is going to serve as my tracking post. 

 

50.) Here Be Dragons- Sharon Kay Penman 

49.)The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

48.) Red Rising - Pierre Brown

47.) Traitor - Rory Clements

46.) Empress Orchid - Anchee Min - Swapped out for Good Riddance - Elinor Lipman

45.) Silent in the Grave - Deanna Raybourn

44.) The Huntress - Kate Quinn

43.) The Witches of St. Petersburg - Imogen Edwards Jones

42.) Bethlehem Road - Anne Perry

41.) When Gods Die - C.S Harris

40.) The Leopard's Prey - Suzanne Arrunda

39.) Murder, Most Royal - Jean Plaidy

38.)Her Royal Spyness - Rhys Bowen

37.) A Breach of Promise - Anne Perry

36.) The Serpent's Daughter - Suzanne Arrunda

35.) Silent in the Sanctuary - Deanna Raybourn

34.) The White Mirror - Elsa Hart - Swapped out for The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls - Anissa Grey

33.) Prince - Rory Clements

32.) The Samurai's Wife - Laura Joh Rowland

31.) The Iona Sanction - Gary Colby

30.) Gods of Gotham - Lyndsay Faye

29.) American Princess - Stephanie Thornton

28.) Rough Music - Robert Blake

27.) The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

26.) Weighed in the Balance - Anne Perry

25.) The Prisoner in the Castle - Susan Elia MacNeal

24.) Woman 99 - Greer Macalister

23.) The Pericles Commission - Gary Colby

22.) Forever Amber - Kathleen Winsor

21.) Eye of the Red Tsar - Sam Eastland

20.) Watch the Lady - Elizabeth Fremantle

19.) Highgate Rise - Anne Perry

18.) A Trail of Ink - Melvin R. Starr

17.) To Die But Once - Jacquline Winspear

16.) The Winter King  Bernard Cornwell

15.) The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith

14.) Ravenspur - Conn Iggulden

13.) Remedy for Treason - Cardine Roe

12.) The Heretics - Rory Clements

11.) The Sunne in Splendour - Sharon Kay Penman

10.) The Last Bookaneer - Matthew Pearl

9.) Belgrave Square - Anne Perry

8.) The American Agent - Jacquline Winspear

7.) The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin

6.) We Are Water - Wally Lamb - Swapped out for Daughters of the Lake - Wendy Webb

5.) Jade Dragon Mountain - Elsa Hart

4.) The Temple of the Muses - John Maddox Roberts

3.)The Silent Cry - Anne Perry

2.) The Concubine's Tattoo - Laura Joh Rowland

1.) Pope Joan - Donna Woolfolk Cross

SPOILER ALERT!

Oksana, Behave!

Oksana, Behave! - Maria Kuznetsova

I will admit to judging this book by its cover. A book where a girl is sticking her middle finger (Is it still your middle finger if you only have four?) at everyone? This book had to be written with someone like me in mind. 

 

I cracked open the book while my kids were cooling off at the local splash pad (judge me all you want, they were supervised) and immediately I was hooked. I could related to little Oksana on so many levels. She was sassy. She had problems listening to her parents. She doesn't want a little brother.........

 

-I need to squirrel out here for a second. Throughout the book, Oksana's mom seems to be constantly pregnant. Every time the reader is given the clues to guess Oksana's mom is pregnant, the readers is also told that mom still drink and smokes. I understand that this book starts around 1992. However, Oksana's parents are intelligent people. Her dad was a physicist in Russia and mom is an accountant. Even in 1992, we knew that smoking and drinking while pregnant were bad. As the 90s progressed, Oksana's mom continued to get pregnant. My problem is that, as someone who grew up and went to school in the 90s, I know the information about smoking and drinking while pregnant continued to increase. We were constantly told during high school health classes that smoking and drinking while pregnant would lead to bad things. They lived in America. They went to American doctors. You can't tell me that no doctor pointed out that after several failed pregnancies, maybe you should stop smoking and drinking while pregnant.  I'm done with my squirrel rant now.  Thanks for coming to my TED talk. 

 

Anyway, Oksana should have instantly became a girl I could invite into my home and share a glass of wine with. Especially once she got to college. I am going to need a little bit more information about how she could graduate from Duke and move on to higher education with all the abuse her liver took. 

 

Now Oksana is a full-fledged adult. If you thought all of her questionable choices were behind her, you would be wrong. You get the the end of the book and Oksana has learned nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. She did not develop. She did not mature. She did the same shit she had always done and there never seemed to be any real consequences. It seemed like no matter what kind of stupid decision she made, she always ended up with exactly what she wanted in the end. It is really hard to root for a protagonist like that. In Oksana's defense, it is kind of hard to see any kind of change or development when your author writes a book that's more like a new short story with every chapter instead of a cohesive, flowing novel.

 

 

 

The Pericles Commission (The Athenian Mysteries #1) - Gary Corby

The Pericles Commission - Gary Corby

The Democrats and the Conservatives are fighting. I guess democracy has had the same problem since the beginning of its time. Maybe we need a Nicolaos instead of a Mueller? 

 

I've immediately gone ahead and ordered the next three books in this series. It is pretty rare for me to like a first book in a series as much as I liked this one. I usually find them clunky, full of random back stories, and full of characters who lack personality. This book did have clunky parts. However, I found the cast of characters to be charming and funny. 

 

Nicolaos is to Ancient Greece what Gordianus the Finder is to Ancient Rome. The similiarties are striking both in character and story. The difference is in the setting. Much like Saylor does for Rome, Corby makes Greece come to life. You can almost taste the watered wine and smell the back alleys. Also as noted above, Nicolaos' supporting cast is wonderful. It's a big larger and more eclectic than Gordianus' which adds a fun element to these novels that I don't associate with the others. 

A Trail of Ink (Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton #3) - Mel Starr

A Trail of Ink - Mel Starr

By this point in the series, Hugh should be dead about 100 times over. He just has this knack for getting himself into situations that he should see coming from a mile away. I'm not entirely sure how he ever actually solves a mystery. My favorite character at this point just might be Hugh's horse, Bruce.

 

All of that aside, I'm still reading the next book. They are quick light reads. I have all of the available books in e-book form. They are my bedtime books. 

Reading progress update: I've read 110 out of 352 pages.

The Pericles Commission - Gary Corby

Gordianus the Finder is my literary boyfriend from Ancient Rome

 

Uhtred is my literary boyfriend who is a sword wielding Saxon/Viking dreamboat.

 

I have an available spot open for a literary boyfriend from Ancient Greece. Nicolaos just might get that spot.

 

I've already reserved the next two books. These are just what I needed.  

Currently reading

Red Rising
Pierce Brown