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The Last Romantics

Rarely do I read realistic fiction, especially about troubled families. I don’t watch tv dramas about troubled families, I hate reality tv, and the books I’ve read in the genre just drive me bonkers. I hate reading about discord. It’s not a mental escape for me. So when I recommend a family drama, you know it must be a great one.

From Goodreads:

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house, with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden-boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and to ask what, exactly, they are willing to do for love. 

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they guide us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

The characters in this book weren’t obnoxious, which was the selling point. Any family drama has to have some humor and levity to it for me to become engaged. And although the characters were flawed, knowing their childhood struggles was key to understand who they were at their cores. The writing style is just beautiful, and I really enjoyed the book overall.

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Troubled Blood

I am well aware of the controversy JK Rowling has created. Why she feels the need to double down on this subject is beyond me. However,I I separate artist and work. I always have. A celebrity’s personal life has no bearing on what I read, watch, or listen to. That said, TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN.

This book is the fifth in the Cormoran Strike series. The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil, and Lethal White are the others. I have really enjoyed these books and rarely see the ending coming. Troubled Blood was no exception. At 900+ pages, I flew through this book because it was excellent.

From Goodreads:

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough — who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot’s disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . .

The cold case aspect was really interesting, given that many of the people surrounding the case were either dead or near impossible to find. Rowling does an excellent job leaving you hints along the way that become important by the end. Something you think is just a one-off sentence or conversation ends up leading to a major revelation.

If you are turned off of Rowling from this point on, I understand and respect that. However, if you are okay with continuing to read her work, then I highly recommend this series.

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books and reading

Craven Manor

Once again, this book was recommended by the Books in the Freezer podcast. I’m way behind, but this book was mentioned by a guest on an episode about Indie horror. The premise sounded good, and I like a good haunted house/ghost story, which don’t scare me at all because I don’t believe in ghosts but these are still fun, creepy books to read, especially this time of the year.

From Goodreads:

Some secrets are better left forgotten…

Daniel is desperate for a fresh start. So when a mysterious figure slides a note under his door offering the position of groundskeeper at an ancient estate, he leaps at the chance, even though it seems too good to be true. Alarm bells start ringing when he arrives at Craven Manor. The abandoned mansion’s front door hangs open, and leaves and cobwebs coat the marble foyer. It’s clear no one has lived here in a long time…but he has nowhere else to go.

Against his better judgment, he moves into the groundskeeper’s cottage tucked away behind the old family crypt. But when a candle flickers to life in the abandoned tower window, Daniel realizes he isn’t alone after all. Craven Manor is hiding a terrible secret… One that threatens to bury him with it.

This book was just okay for me, though. I thought the secret was good, the main character was fine, but it just didn’t come together. I felt like 100 pages were missing. I also didn’t understand the main character’s loyalty to anything. If a ghost is haunting me, no matter how sad the ghost is, I’m out. Plain and simple. I don’t need to “help” a ghost. That seemed a bit preposterous. The book is short, and I thought it could have been more developed, overall. The scare factor was minimal, but was sufficiently creepy. To rate as the ladies do on the podcast, this was a room temperature book for sure.

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The Regulators

Ages ago, I read Desperation by Stephen King. I remember it was about the desert and didn’t much like it. I have memories of reading it over the summer while floating around the pool, which might have been better than the book itself. I have also been listening to the Kingcast podcast, where “each episode would focus on a different Stephen King short story or novel and its resulting adaptation. Each episode’s special guest would get to decide which Stephen King adaptation we talked about.” This podcast is hosted by two King junkies who clearly know their stuff.

And in a recent episode, one of them mentioned that The Regulators was the same-ish story of Desperation, but written by Richard Bachman instead of SK. Bachman is SK’s pseudonym he created to publish more books. Back in the day, authors couldn’t publish more than one, maybe two books a year. So King created Bachman to get more books on the market. It was also a test to see if Bachman’s books would be received well without having the King name attached. Bachman’s books are notoriously more violent than King’s books, also.

From Goodreads: There’s a place in Wentworth, Ohio, where summer is in full swing. It’s called Poplar Street. Up until now it’s been a nice place to live. The idling red van around the corner is about to change all that. Let the battle against evil begin. Here come…The Regulators

The entire book, flashbacks aside, takes place in just a couple of hours. Poplar Street is under attack. As the story unfolds, you learn about the neighbors and why this attack is happening. In true King fashion, nothing about the attack is normal. Supernatural events are at play.

I’ve only read a couple of Bachman books, The Long Walk (which I loved) and Rage. My goal to read all of King’s works will include all the Bachman books, of course. I can attest to the fact that this one was really graphic, and the ending, man, Bachman did not mess around. This book was a great one.

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books and reading

The Other Side of the Door

Thanks Netgalley for this copy!

I’ve never read anything by Nicci French, who I’ve learned is really a husband and wife writing team. Cool! But something about this book make me request it on Netgalley. I wish I could say it was worth the read, but I was really disappointed.

From Goodreads:

Who is more dangerous? An enemy? A friend? Or a lover?

Bonnie Graham stands in the open door of her friend’s apartment. She is alone, except for the dead body lying in a pool of blood on the floor. What happened? What will Bonnie do now? Whom can she turn to? And what role has she played in the murderous events?

Bonnie is a music teacher who has spent a long, hot summer in London rehearsing with a band to play at a friend’s wedding. It was supposed to be fun, but the band members find the complicated knots of their friendships–some old, some new–unraveling as the days themselves unwind. What was meant to be a summer of happiness, love, and music turns deadly as lovers betray one another, passions turn murderous, and friendship itself becomes a crime. Everyone tells lies. But is anyone prepared to tell the truth to uncover a murderer?

Nicci French, the author of eleven internationally bestselling novels including Killing Me SoftlyCatch Me When I Fall, and Losing You, delivers a sexy, intricate thriller about the temptation of secrets, the weight of lies, and the price of betrayal and suspicion.

The story is told in alternating Before and After chapters, before the murder and after. In the before chapters, you get to know Bonnie, the band she has haphazardly put together, and her friends and relationships. In the After chapters, you learn about the murder, namely who and why, and the aftermath and impact it has on Bonnie.

The characters were obnoxious. Every single one of them was awful, aside from Bonnie’s former student Joakim, who was a bright spot. Every other character lacked any kind of conscience, self-awareness, or moral compass. Because of this, I didn’t care about them. I kept reading to see all the secrets revealed, but the reasoning behind the murder and aftermath was just ridiculous. I was hoping for an interesting thriller, but this one didn’t deliver.

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books and reading

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

As much as I love horror, I’ve never read a Grady Hendrix book. I admit that I judged his books by the cover (and title, really). I expected them to be campy and cheesy and ridiculous. What I found was quite the opposite, though. This book was awesome, simple as that. I cannot wait to read his others now.

From Goodreads:

Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

I grew up in and currently live in the south. I know people that are exactly like these characters. Anything out of the ordinary is immediately rejected. Several of the characters are super religious, so anything they don’t perceive as Christian-like, isn’t given a second thought, which is a major plot point in this book as well. The gross factor was pretty high in places. There’s one scene (this isn’t a spoiler) where a cockroach climbs into a person’s ear. Ever since seeing Star Trek Wrath of Khan as a child where the thing crawls into the guy’s ear, I’ve had a phobia of this very event. The cockroach scene almost sent me over the edge. Gah. But I flew through this tightly-written, creative, excellent book. Highly recommend.