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The Bone Farm (and some series spotlights)

⇒This week I review Dean Koontz’s The Bone Farm and shine a spotlight on some of the other book series I’m addicted to.⇐


Author: Dean Koontz

(3.76 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Published April 25, 2018by Brilliance Audio

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers

Pages: 100

#TheBoneFarm #JaneHawk


Let me say first that if you are looking for a series to get invested in, Dean Koontz has some wonderful, easy reads that will keep you on a series train for a nice, pleasant (tense, suspenseful, thrilling, sometimes scary) ride. The Bone Farm is book #0.5 (a case file that precedes the events of the Jane Hawk series), and is every bit as engaging as its older, bigger siblings. But if death-defying females aren’t your thing (hmm, who are you?), then you could try any of Koontz’s other appealing series: Odd Thomas, 9 books that will have you seeing death in a whole new light; Frankenstein, a new look at an old monster in 6 books; or Moonlight Bay, 3 books (2 pub & 1 on the way) that will test if you can survive the darkness of night. I’ve read all of Odd Thomas (love, love, love) and Moonlight Bay (well, not book 3 because it isn’t out yet (and may actually never happen). And I read Prodigal Son of his Frankenstein series last year (sooooo good). Dean Koontz has yet to disappoint me.

But let me back up a little and give you the Goodreads blurb on The Bone Farm:

Katherine Haskell, a young college co-ed is on her way back to school, but she never makes it there. Instead, she becomes the latest prey of the rapist and murderer dubbed by the tabloids the “Mother Hater.” He is a twisted soul who kidnaps young girls for pleasure then discards them. Katherine is missing, but she’s not yet dead. FBI agents Jane Hawk and her partner Gary Burkett must descend into the hell of this killer’s mind to solve the case before it is too late. The question is – will they both get out alive?

This novella is presented as a case file which only hypes me up that there will be more of these – oh book gods, please don’t fail us on this one. The bad guy is bat$&!# cuckoo, Jane is smart and ruthless, there’s a controlling mother, and an old creepy farm house – I’m here for ALL of it!!!! I almost wrote a spoiler right there because I got excited, but stopped myself right in time. Y’all lucked out. But just know, it gets twisty and good!

The Bone Farm is part of the Jane Hawk series, which includes 6 other books to date. The series features a strong heroine in an all-out battle against a new world order. The books are suspenseful, thrilling, and addictive. In a word, readthem. (I know, I know. Just do it.)


So since we’re talking about series, I thought I’d spotlight just a few of the other series that I have followed unfailingly over the years. Most of them are in my preferred genre of mystery/thrillers, but there are a few deviants in the bunch. And you might be surprised by what you won’t find on my list: namely, Harry Potter. (No shade! I just haven’t read them!)

Pendergast Series

One of my longest-standing series, I got hooked on Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s series featuring the enigmatic Aloysius X.L. Pendergast from the very first book, Relic (read the book, skip the movie) – even though he was only a supporting character way back then. The authors obviously saw something in him and took off running with his story, and it has been a favorite ever since.


Stephanie Plum Series

Many readers will own up to the fact that they have at least one numbered (or alphabetical) series on their reading list. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is mine. She just released book #25 last year and Twisted Twenty-Six is expected in November 2019. These books are cozy crime fiction with hilarious characters that become as familiar as your own family members. I don’t care if this series goes to 200, I am never not going to read a Stephanie Plum book. And oh, by the way, #teamRanger.


Jack Reacher Series

Please, please, please do me a favor and tell me that you did not watch the movies that were supposed to depict this character. And if you did, just forget all that you saw. This Jack Reacher – The REAL Jack Reacher (yes, he’s real to me) – is bigger than life and yet can disappear at a moment’s notice (just thought about that – Sasquatch tendencies? Hmmm…). He is such a fascinating personality with such an amazing skill set (think Taken, but with a brilliant, powerful, Matrix-like Army drifter). Reacher is BIG and BRAWNY, but he is not beautiful. He’s a brawler that doesn’t want to fight unless he has to. And then he’s deadly.


Crazy Rich Asians is a new series for me. I only started reading it because I saw that the movie was releasing soon and I happened to find the first book on the shelf at my neighborhood Goodwill store (where I buy most of my books). After I read it, I went back and found the other two there as well (I have some very generous, good-taste readers in my area, apparently)! I love the humor of this series, as well as the way they sneak social commentary into the text without being preachy or judgy. (It’s a word!)


OTHER SERIES I LOVE:

4MK Thriller series by J.D. Barker

(The 3rd book may release in 2019 – fingers crossed)

Illuminae Files series by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

(I’ve reviewed all of these and I wish it wasn’t over!)

Archie Seridan & Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain

(A sadistic female serial killer. Nuff said.)

Court series by Sarah J. Maas

(YA romance with faeries. Yep.)

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

(Seriously, these are as good as – or even better than – the HBO show)

So if you’re a dedicated series reader, stick with it because series = goals! And if you haven’t found a series you love yet, keep looking – there’s a perfect succession of books out there just waiting to be discovered. Happy Reading!


Featured

The 18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club #18)

⇒New Release Review: The 18th release in the Women’s Murder Club series has its share of heroes and monsters and the women work together to solve the most gruesome of murders.⇐


Authors: James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

(4.17 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery

Published April 29, 2019by Little Brown & Company (Hachette Audio)

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

#18thAbduction #WomensMurderClub


A lot of people have a lot to say about how James Patterson writes books, but when you find a good series you stick with it. I’ve found such a series in The Women’s Murder Club, and The 18th Abduction hasn’t swayed me from that decision.

While reliably clever crime fiction and smart procedurals will always be a big draw for me, this book also has another great attraction: strong female leads. The Club is packed with clever thinkers, strategic go-getters, and passionate right-the-wrongers. And there’s enough variety between these four women and their partners to keep the interest level for their stories high enough for at least 18 more book releases.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb: Three female schoolteachers go missing in San Francisco, and Detective Lindsay Boxer is on the case-which quickly escalates from missing person to murder.Under pressure at work, Lindsay needs support at home. But her husband Joe is drawn into an encounter with a woman who’s seen a ghost–a notorious war criminal from her Eastern European home country, walking the streets of San Francisco.As Lindsay digs deeper, with help from intrepid journalist Cindy Thomas, there are revelations about the victims. The implications are shocking. And when Joe’s mystery informant disappears, joining the ranks of missing women in grave danger, all evidence points to a sordid international crime operation. It will take the combined skills of Lindsay, Joe, and the entire Women’s Murder Club to protect their city, and themselves, from a monster.


One thing that’s different about this addition of The Murder Club series is that the story line lacks most of the Murder Club members. Sure, they’re all mentioned and enter scenes cameo-style, but the events of this book mainly involve Lindsay, her husband Joe, and her partner Rich. At first I missed the constant back-and-forth between all the ladies that makes for such colorful action (narrator January LaVoy does such a great job of bringing each of them to life). However, once the story gets established, it doesn’t suffer from their absence at all.

This crime-riddled mystery is based five years in the past, so it doesn’t follow chronologically from the events in book #17. We are introduced to Anna – a spirited informant who drags Joe into tracking a tyrant whose war crimes have followed him into his sanctuary in the US. As Joe struggles to toe the line and cut red tape, Lindsay has a more “balls to the wall” approach in tracking the perpetrator of a triple abduction in the city. When the threads of these crimes tie together, the couple becomes an untouchable team.

If you are a long-time reader of this series, don’t skip The 18th Abduction. It is gritty, graphic, and tragic, but the buildup and twists make the ride truly worth the read. And even though we don’t get the full influence of all the women in this particular story, what we do get is an important account of strength and resilience in the face of horrible atrocities. And though a lot of it is hard to read (or hear), the knowledge is worth the trauma.

Readers should be aware of some intense triggers including rape, torture, kidnapping, murder, and genocide. The book includes graphic descriptions of these acts, so sensitive readers should be aware.

Lovers of the series will be happy to know that we won’t have to wait a year for the next book. The 19th Christmas will be released on October 7th of 2019 and I, for one, can’t wait to learn what fresh hell Patterson and Paetro will drag us through just in time for the holidays!


James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Maxine Paetro is an American author who has been published since 1979. Paetro has collaborated with best-selling author James Patterson on the Women’s Murder Club novel series and standalone novels.


Featured

April ARCs Spotlight

⇒Shining a spotlight on just a few book requests I’ve received in 2019!⇐

When I started That New Book Smell over a year ago, one thing I didn’t count on is the amount of review requests I would receive. At first, I really did try to respond to each and every person/publisher that contacted me, I soon found that it was overwhelming. And while I am extremely flattered that authors would value my opinions about their valuable works, it would be an insurmountable task to read every book requested of me.

So, I thought it would be good to at least shine a spotlight on some of the books that have landed in my inbox. This does not mean that I will never give these books a full review, it just means that these are a few that have caught my interest and I think they deserve more exposure and more readers!


Fate Came Calling

Author: Kurt Bryan

Nonfiction / Biography / Adventure

Warren Vest was unexpectedly chosen to transport a new species of animal to a continent on the other side of the world. His remarkable journey led to a series of events that altered the course of his life from farming to becoming an incredible pilot and airline executive.

Details: 378 pgs; Published March 21, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

fatecamecalling.com #fatecamecalling #AprilARCs


Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick

Author: William Harris

Science-Fiction

A science mission to investigate the planet Sworld goes wrong and the crew are marooned with no way to get home. As they explore their new home, they meet new species, discover a sentient forest that reveals a quest, and ultimately face off against the Gliders – an ancient race who have turned to violence and aggression.

Details: 458 pgs; Published date: May 3, 2019 by Chandra Press (Available on Amazon)

#Sworld #AprilARCs Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick


A Perfect Lie

Author: L. R. Jones

Mystery / Thriller

I am Hailey Anne Monroe. I’m twenty-eight years old. An artist, who found her muse on the canvas because I wasn’t allowed to have friends or even keep a journal. And yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m that Hailey Anne Monroe, daughter to Thomas Frank Monroe, the man who was a half-percentage point from becoming President of the United States. If you were able to ask him, he’d probably tell you that I was the half point. But you can’t ask him, and he can’t tell you. He’s dead. They’re all dead and now I can speak.

Details: Publish date: May 14, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#theperfectlie #AprilARCs


Coda

Author: Keith Knapp

Horror

After a devastating earthquake hits Los Angeles, a group of survivors find themselves whisked away to a place known only as The Town. It is there that they will face their inner-most demons and relics of the past as they try to find a way out and back to reality. But an evil presence awaits them there. It knows their fears, their sins and their lies and will do anything to keep them right where they are.

Details: 426 pgs; Published March 13, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#Coda #AprilARCs Coda on Goodreads


Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza

Author: Kitty Felde

Middle Grade Mystery

Legend has it anyone who sees the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill will be cursed with bad luck. 10-year-old Fina Medoza just saw it. And the last thing her family needs right now is more bad luck… The only way for Fina to save her family from future “cat”astrophe? She must solve the mystery of the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill.

Details: 182 pgs; Published February 28, 2019 by Black Rose Writing

#Welcometowashingtonfinamendoza #AprilARCs Website


Whether you’re a reader, a blogger, or both, I encourage you to explore books published by independent publishers. I know that books by established authors and popular publishing houses may feel new and shiny, but there are some amazing gems to be found in the indie world (and, apparently, right in my inbox)!


Featured

Ghost Busting Mystery (Shady Hoosier Detective Series, Book 1)

⇒Senior super sleuths tackle a haunting local mystery – with hilarious results! ⇐

**Many thanks to Hot Pants Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Daisy Pettles

(4.51 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: August 16, 2018, by Hot Pants Press

Pages: 244 (paperback)

#GhostBustingMystery


We police the living, not the dead. If you’re being pestered by dead people, you’re on your own. Your tax dollars don’t cover that.

Boots Gibson

If you are plugged in at all, you automatically know the answer to the question, “Who ya gonna call?” But in this case, if you answer “Ghostbusters!”, you’d be dead wrong.

Knobby Waters, Indiana has a poltergeist problem that the local sheriff isn’t equipped to handle. Enter Ruby Jane and Lavinia, two senior detectives with the Harry Shades Detective Agency. (And by “senior”, I don’t mean “experienced”!) RJ and Veenie are determined to put the kibosh on any otherworldly antics in Pawpaw County, but they’ll need help from a whole host of uncanny characters to ultimately unveil this mystery.


Here’s a portion of the Goodreads book summary… When Dode Schneider, rattle-brained Indiana farmer, insists the abandoned Wyatt mansion is haunted by ghosts with big butts who dance in the apple orchard, Pawpaw County Sheriff Boots Gibson happily off-loads the crazy complaint to Ruby Jane Waskom and Veenie Goens, senior sleuths in training with the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency. Ruby Jane and Veenie, lifelong gal pals, aren’t afraid of the haunted Wyatt mansion, built by a con artist banker who rowed out of town on the flood waters of 1919, taking the town’s assets with him. The senior crime-cracking duo set out in their smoke-belching 1960 Impala to uncover the truth behind the century-old haunting legend only to find surprise evidence of long ago murder and mayhem. Along the way, Veenie and Ruby Jane chase down a missing drunk wiener dog, earn a lifetime supply of mystery meat sandwiches from Pokey’s Tavern, recover a stolen Harley, and uncover the startling truth about a long cursed buried treasure.

I’d seen The Exorcist. No way I wanted my head to spin around. My arthritis was bad enough without some big-butted demon twisting on my neck.

RJ Waskom

April has become a bit of an ARC-reading month, unintentionally. I didn’t set out to tackle a bunch of them this month, there was no specific challenge goal I was trying to reach, but it just so happened that the ARC-review stars aligned and April became that month.

And while it’s obvious after a few chapters into each of them that they all won’t turn out to be winners, I could tell almost instantly that Ghost Busting Mystery would be one that I enjoyed. And I was right!

Squeal Daddy says you were popping wheelies out by the covered bridge. He wrote you up in his police blotter section.

Junior

RJ and Veenie’s antics had me LOL’ing for real, like out loud, in public! Yes, I got a few strange looks, but it was totally worth it. If a book can make you do that, then read more just like that one!

Read this book if you are a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series – you will find the characterizations familiar, but definitely not derivative. Read it if you enjoy cozy mysteries full of the hilarious and unpredictable. And then, if you enjoy it, pick up the Shady Hoosier Detective Series books 2 (Baby Daddy Mystery) and 3 (Chickenlandia Mystery), because I certainly plan to!


Daisy Pettles

Daisy Pettles is the pen name of Vicky Phillips, born in Bedford, Indiana and raised in the tiny farming community of Medora. As a child, she was fed a steady diet of books, pies, and Bible stories. A world traveler, she has raced camels in Egypt and eaten Kentucky Fried Chicken with communists in Shanghai. She was a therapist before becoming an entrepreneur and award-winning writer. (-bio adapted from the book cover)


Featured

New or Old – That Smell is Incredible

Welcome to my book review blog. Thanks for dropping in!

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Whenever I get a new book, or mooch an old book, or borrow a book from the library, for that matter, I bring it close to my nose… and inhale.

Sometimes the smell is crisp and warm, almost woodsy. Other times it’s ancient and musky, like well-worn furniture. Either way, it’s a great smell. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory is showing Anna (future Yale student) around the library and she picks up a book and smells it? Yes, just like that: #bibliosmia.

So now you know I read old books and new – and I love them both equally. So if you’re here to just see reviews on all the hot new releases that everyone else is reading and blogging about, then you’re not in the right place. Sorry.

I do read selective New Releases, but I also have a lot of “Dusty Bookshelf” reads that I am committed to getting through in this upcoming year (I said that last year too), and a lot of books that people have recommended to me that I will finally get around to. The books I read/review won’t always be current, but they’ll always be interesting.

I prefer reading hardcovers or trade-sized paperbacks (there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands), but I also read several e-books and listen to a few audiobooks each month, so you’ll likely see reviews for publications in those formats as well.

Occasionally, when she lets me, my daughter and I will read her books together. She’s in 5th grade and has a bookcase full of chapter books that we work our way through whenever she’s not bogged down with school-assigned stories. When our read-along books are especially good, I’ll review those too.

I’ll also occasionally be featuring my favorite authors, book events in Georgia, upcoming new releases, links to free e-book deals, and throwback looks at my favorite childhood reads.

I’m a Goodreads member and belong to several groups there. The book cover pics I post will most often come from Goodreads along with mentions of their overall rating of each book. However, I do not – I repeat, NOT – allow the rating from “the masses” influence my personal opinion of any book I read. Reviews are my own individual thoughts and I am absolutely not receiving any compensation for anything I post here.

As you may have guessed, this is my first foray into blogging so I’m sure I have some kinks to work out. If something isn’t working or posting correctly, just bear with me and I’ll get it worked out. Eventually. ♥

Enjoy!

booksniffing

Little Darlings

⇒”Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw… she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.”⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Melanie Golding

(4.03 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle Version

Expected Publication Date: April 30, 2019, by Crooked Lane Books

Pages: 315 (Kindle version)

#LittleDarlings


She’ll have to put them in the water, if she wants her own babies back … Right under the water. Hold ’em down.

Fairy tales. As children, we love them. They’re the stories of magic and happy endings. Sometimes they can be a little twisted, but we love them for their power to convey simple messages in otherworldly ways. As an adult, I learned that most of the fairy tales I heard as a child were not how they were originally written. They were dark, scary, and didn’t always have a happy ending. And I love them!

Right now my podcast subscriptions are filled with those same types of dark stories. Podcasts like Lore and Tales entertain us with the scary side of folklore; and just like them, Little Darlings will have you guessing about what is real and what is imagined.


Here’s a portion of the book summary…. Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own… creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley- to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

A book of scary stories about twins, for a woman who’s just had twins? How inappropriate can you get?

Let me say that identical twins are creepy enough all on their own. Add in a stinky old river lady, an ancient book of unsettling tales, and a disinterested police force, and you have great ingredients for a harrowing mystery. And in Little Darlings, Golding keeps you guessing from the maternity ward to the psych ward.

The characters are unreliable; yes, nearly all of them. The story development is well-paced – going to from a banal baby birth to a creepy child abduction in short order, building from there all the way up to possible infanticide.

There was a darkness to this, something unknown, the tang of evil.

Soon to be a motion picture, I can guess that the imagery on screen will be as haunting as it is on the page: a traumatized new mom, infant twins that just may be something a little less than human, and more life and death in one town’s rivers than should legally be allowed.

Read his book if you love folklore that crosses the line into creepy. Read it if your favorite Disney characters aren’t the princesses, but the witches. Read it if you get excited just by seeing the word “changelings”. And read it if you want to see what magic one debut novel author can make with one dark little fairy tale.


Melanie Golding

Melanie Golding grew up in a village in Leicestershire. She has been employed in may occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. In 2016, she graduated from the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, with distinction. Little Darlings is her first novel.


Audible Originals (x3)

⇒I binged a couple – or three – Audible Originals last week. Let’s see how they stacked up to my usual audiobook reads.⇐


Last week was slower than usual at work (thanks spring break), so I popped in my earbuds and binged a few Audible Original audiobooks to see what all the fuss is about.

What fuss? Audible members now have access to at least two free original audiobooks per month. And we get to choose which two from a variety of genres.

These were my picks last week (three because I’m just now getting around to reading them), and a short review of each.

Author: Bryan Burrough

Narrator: Steve White

(3.32 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime

Published 2019by Audible Originals

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs 45 mins

#DemonNextDoor


The small town of Temple, Texas, where Bryan Burrough grew up, had harbored a dark secret. One of his high school classmates, Danny Corwin, was a vicious serial killer who had raped and mutilated six women, murdering three of them. Yet the town had denied all early signs of the radical evil that was growing within Corwin. -Adapted from Goodreads

As a true crime junkie, I was immediately drawn to this title. How much better can a crime story get than when it’s being told from someone close to both the victims and the criminal? Although I enjoyed exploring this story about a serial killer I’ve never heard of before, I think the choice of narrator for the audiobook was a curious one. Steve White’s voice, although perfect for book narration, did not convey the serious and grave tones the subject matter deserved. The story is tragic and graphic at many points, but White’s “Mr. Rogers”-style tone forced me to remove a star from my rating.


Author: John Woolf, Nick Baker

Narrator: Stephen Fry

(3.75 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / History

Published: First published October 20, 2018

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hrs 33 mins

#VictorianSecrets

Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy—welcome to Victorian Secrets. Over 12 fascinating episodes, Stephen Fry explores the weird and worrying ways of Victorian Britain through true accounts delving deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality. –Goodreads description

This book is only available as an audiobook and once you hear it, you’ll understand why. Stellar audio production combined with superbly perfect narration by Stephen Fry make this a book standout effort. And if you’re into spicy British secrets, then this is definitely the book for you! While I found the beginning of the book very intriguing, as it progressed, my interest steadily waned all the way down to the somewhat “unfinished ” ending.


Author: John Scalzi

Narrator: Zachary Quinto

(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)


Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

Published: 2019 by Audible Originals (First published October 4, 2016)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs 18 mins

#TheDispatcher

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.
It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him. -Goodreads description

Easily my favorite of the three audiobooks, The Dispatcher is sufficiently sci-fi enough and thrilling enough to satisfy my reading needs on both fronts. I could easily see the action playing out in my head, and I’d pay for a full-price ticket to see it on the big screen. Plus, let me ask in super-kudos for Quinto’s narration on this one – I’d listen to anything he reads!


Verdict? If you’re an Audible member, give the Originals a try – after all, with everyone else creating original content, why shouldn’t Audible as well? Happy Reading!


Fifty Things that Aren’t My Fault

⇒Witty essays about the crossroads of life, and how to celebrate each twisty turn.⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Cathy Guisewite

(4.06 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / Humor / Essays

Format: Kindle Version

Publish Date: April 2, 2019, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 336 (Kindle version)

#Fiftythingsthatarentmyfault


There’s absolutely no direction I can look without making eye contact with the fact that life as I knew it is over.


Let’s face it – adulting is difficult. There are taxes and bills and insurance and whatever you’re really supposed to know about changing the battery in your home’s fire alarm or changing your car’s oil. This is not easy stuff. I mean, even as I sit here, I’m struggling. I was supposed to have finished writing this blog days ago (when I finished reading the book), instead, here it is, 10:00 at night and I’m pecking away furiously at my phone (because my laptop is now officially toast), trying to write this review before my eyes involuntarily shut for the day.

I spent my whole weekend spring cleaning – only getting one room completely done – and work looms tomorrow like a big ugly Monday morning ogre. And I’m thinking about all the random things I need to accomplish this week. Is this being an adult? Cuz I don’t think I’m doing it right, and I seem to have a friend in Cathy Guisewite.

Here’s an abbreviated blurb from Goodreads…

From the iconic creator of the “Cathy”comic strip comes a collection of funny, warm, and wise essays… centered around the particular challenge of caring for aging parents and growing children, all while trying not to lose oneself in the process… Her deeply funny and relatable look at the life of a frazzled career woman became a touchstone for women everywhere, and now, in her debut essay collection, Guisewite returns with her signature self-deprecating wit and warmth, this time taking a look at her own life.

There’s no honor in mentioning what happened last night with nine “100 Calorie Packs” of Mini Oreos.

Even if you don’t immediately recognize Cathy Guisewite’s name, you probably are instantly familiar with the image of her beloved comic strip character, Cathy, especially if you grew up in a certain generation (mine!).

And while cartoon Cathy certainly had her fair share of bumpy roads, Fifty Things is about flesh and blood Cathy’s all too real life challenges, triumphs, and tripping points. Relatable? Yes. Uplifting? Enh.

Life is overflowing with expectations and obligations that use up our time, energy, and spirit and leave us feeling exhausted, insecure, and alone.

If you can get through the first couple of chapters while maintaining a positive attitude, you just might end up liking this book. I was nervous at first- it had the potential to become one big 300-plus-page gripe fest. But she saves it by being entirely candid and displaying all her jagged faults- even the ones we’ve tried to hide in ourselves.

Ok, so why should you read this book? If you’ve ever spent 37 minutes getting ready for bed, using magic face creams, special hair curlers, under eye brighteners, etc., etc. only to wake up the next morning looking exactly the same, you might relate to Cathy. If you are so excited to go shopping and come home only with a pair of earrings or a pair of shoes because they were the only things that fit, you might relate to Cathy. And if you’re in the middle of releasing adult children and corralling aging presents, you’ll definitely relate to Cathy.

Now I know what that lump is that’s still stuck in my throat- it’s What Comes Next.

As I still battle with trying to also love nonfiction, I have found that humor does help (Bill Bryson- winner, winner). So when Guisewite finds the funny in ordering takeout or trying on swimsuits, I think, “Hmmm, maybe both adulting and nonfiction aren’t that bad after all. “

Maybe.


Cathy Guisewite

Cathy Lee Guisewite is the cartoonist who created the comic strip Cathy in 1976. Guisewite was born in Dayton, Ohio and grew up in Midland, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. Guisewite received her bachelor’s degree in English in 1972. She also holds seven honorary degrees. –Bio adapted from Goodreads.


Sharp Objects

⇒When you shake the family tree and more than a few rotten apples fall out.⇐


Author: Gillian Flynn

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Psychological Thriller

Published 2006by Broadway Paperbacks

Format: Paperback

Pages: 254 (Paperback)

#SharpObjects


I like checking days off a calendar — 151 days crossed and nothing truly horrible has happened. 152 and the world isn’t ruined. 153 and I haven’t destroyed anyone.


About one fourth of the way into this book, I had parts of my review already written. In my head, it was complimentary and mostly lighthearted. Then I kept reading.

While I knew Sharp Objects would be telling a dark story (hellooo, murder), I wasn’t prepared for this next-to-hell level of depravity. Ummm, Gillian, Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects? Your therapist is working overtime, sweetie. But I’m glad for it because this book was terribly fantastic.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.


I’m almost afraid to write this review because I don’t want to give anything away. This is when I could use a little of Flynn’s skill because she gives NOTHING away. Reading Sharp Objects is like lifting off the top of the first Matryoshka doll and finding a rotten egg in there instead of another doll. And then a cockroach inside the egg. And then Ebola inside of the cockroach. Not exaggerating. This story is all kinds of messed up.

They always call depression the blues… Depression to me is urine yellow. Washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss.

Our first-person perspective comes from Camille Preaker, who pretty much proves she’s unreliable and dangerously flawed before we’ve even made it out of the first chapter. But this is the ticket we paid for, so buckle up ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. As the layers of Camille’s past are peeled away during her visit home to Wind Gap, Missouri, the murders of two young girls almost take a back seat to Camille’s personal family drama. Who are these weirdly damaged people?! Once you meet her mom, stepdad, and half-sister, you start to understand why Camille did a stint in the psych ward; you really can’t blame her. After reading this book, I’m thinking that checking out the Talkspace app may not be such a bad idea.

How do you keep safe when your whole day is as wide and empty as the sky? Anything could happen.

So the book’s subject and events are dark, but I didn’t find it gloomy or depressing. Flynn wraps up all the impending danger and distress like a little present and then stands back like a sinister villain to watch us unwrap it. It’s like watching Black Mirror on Netflix when you think you know what’s going on, but then all of a sudden you’re like, “Wait, what the heck happened just now?!” Same feeling.

Readers of Gone Girl will love Sharp Objects – if they haven’t already read it (I know I’m behind the crowd on this one). It’s suspenseful, gritty, mysterious, and strange. There are almost too many triggers to list for sensitive readers, and if I did try to list them, some might spoil the cleverly crafted plot development.

There isn’t much pretty or clean about it, but it is, in fact, a masterpiece. From the first few paragraphs, I knew Flynn was going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I love her now for that.

To refuse has so many more consequences than submitting.

Camille’s family portrait should be the top-right-corner graphic on the Wikipedia page for “dysfunctional”. (Is dysfunction-in-denial an entry?) As this book ended, I wanted to go hug my family and tell them thank you for always being good to me even if every single one of them is cuckoo-crazy! Oh, and I also kept touching my teeth with my tongue too. Read it, you’ll get it then.


Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

⇒And eventually there is no one left in the world except people who don’t look at each other people’s faces… and these people are all special people like me.⇐


Author: Mark Haddon

(3.87 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery

Format: Paperback

Published July 31, 2003by Vintage Books

Pages: 226 (Paperback)

#CuriousIncident


This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them.


As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” Please know that I have this advice in mind when I evaluate this book. I am not a patient person. I know this about myself; I own it. There are certain pet peeves I have that will immediately set me off. Becoming a parent cooled my hot temper by several hundred degrees, but impatience still lingers beneath the surface of my otherwise sunny disposition! And now I’ll pause so all my friends can write sarcastic comments refuting that last statement. I’ll wait…

OK, moving on! The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was not an easy book for me to read. It was frustrating, sad, maddening, and at the same time fascinating, poetic, moving, and victorious. I have never read a book like it before, and maybe I hope to never again. Not in a bad way, but because I found it to be so eccentric that anything similar might only be seen as a copy cat.

Here is what Curious Incident is all about: “Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information…”

Everyone has learning difficulties, because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult.

I left off the end of the book’s summary. I found that description on the copyright page and thought it was a perfect summary… until the last three words. Talk about a spoiler alert! I’m glad I didn’t run into that summary snippet until after I finished reading the book. In those three words is one of the best twisty plot points, and not knowing those three words going into the book makes the development of the story even better.

I haven’t done my reviews like this in a long time, but, for this book, it seems appropriate…

WHAT I LIKED: The story was entirely absorbing. You just have to know what this kid is going to do next. Christopher is quirky and unpredictable and unreliable to his core, so it’s a trippy ride to keep up with him. The humor is so subtle that it leaves you wondering if you really should be laughing (but you do anyway, and you definitely should be because it’s funny!). And finally, it’s a really fast read. Both the writing style and the under-300 page count made it possible for me to read this book in just two days, and I do not consider myself a speedy reader at all.

I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Curious Incident left me feeling like a bad person! There are people naturally gifted with patience and compassion who are brilliant at relating to and caring for relatives, students, and/or friends who are on the spectrum. That’s not me. Just reading about the way they approach life makes me frustrated and angry because of my frustration. The book is chock full of behaviors that had me screaming and groaning almost as much as Christopher did. I could not relate to him as the main character on any level, and that inability to connect made reading his story more than a little irksome.

Oh, and just one other little thing: Math! I.loathe.math. It makes me sad and confused and bitter. I see numbers in an equation and I get “brain burn”. If you enjoy math, I’m truly happy for you. No, I am, seriously. The world needs people like you because of people like me – people who despise math and wish that the whole world just worked off of words and pictures instead.

I came very close to not owning this book at all. I was browsing through books at a giant library sale and I picked up Curious Incident and glanced at the unique cover. I was about to place it back on the stack when a man beside me said, “You should buy that one. It’s good. It’s different, and weird, but it’s good.” So I bought it. And even though Christopher Boone took me on a bumpy ride through Swindon and London and back again, it was totally worth the trip.


Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English. – Bio from Goodreads


Crazy Rich Asians

⇒There’s rich, there’s filthy rich, and then there’s Crazy Rich.⇐


Author: Kevin Kwan

(3.83 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Romance

Format: Trade Paperback

Published June 11, 2013by Anchor Books

Pages: 527 (Paperback ), 403 (Hardcover)

#CrazyRichAsians


This is Singapore, and the idle rich spend all their time gossiping about other people’s money.

Nick, Crazy Rich Asians

In elementary school we used to make cootie catchers. You know, the folded paper fortune teller games that would most definitely determine your future. In less than 30 seconds, you and your best friends could find out which superstar you would marry, what ultra-chic luxury car you would drive, and how many bedrooms your multi-million dollar mansion would have. These flippy, folded pieces of paper carried our dreams of being rich, and – for most of us – they are the closest we’d ever come to all that extravagance.

Reading Crazy Rich Asians is what it would look like if someone’s insanely decadent cootie catcher choices actually manifested in real life.

In Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu discovers that there is more to her boyfriend Nick Young than she has discovered in the year that they’ve been dating – a few billion dollars more, in fact. Here’s the cover summary: When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

You can’t really blame your parents. They were born that way – it’s just not in their DNA to associate with anyone who isn’t from their class, anyone who isn’t born rich or royal.

Michael Teo, Crazy Rich Asians

My most coveted cootie catcher choices always included a Ferrari Testarossa (red, of course), a three-story mansion with a pool and stables, and two kids with sexy singer El Debarge. I never considered that a future like that would be considered small potatoes to these crazy, filthy rich characters in Singapore. The decadence and absurdly irresponsible spending only increases with every chapter. It’s a label-dropper’s dream come true!

So, if you’re not a billionaire (sadly, I am not), not really into fashion or labels (not me either), and you have no plans to visit Singapore or marry one if its rich bachelors or bachelorettes, why should you read this book? Simply because it was a really good read. Kevin Kwan gives his characters the attention they deserve by dedicating chapters to each of them in order to tell a complete story. They are each romantic, hilarious, arrogant, ridiculous, and tragic – giving the book a layered and engaging narrative throughout. I laughed, I got frustrated, I envied, I laughed again (I mean really, Kitty Pong?!). These are the types of reading experiences I really look forward to each time I pick up a new book.

Mark’s not white, he’s Jewish- that’s basically Asian!

Sylvia Wong-Swartz, Crazy Rich Asians

It is instantly apparent why Crazy Rich Asians was turned into a movie. Kwan makes every scene so visual. There is glitz and glamour depicted with such detail and color, presented in a way that never feels tiresome or long-winded. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing if that imagery matches the opulence of the world I built in my head.

Read this book for the romantic story of two young people falling in love and facing some hard truths. Read it for the vivid depictions of lavish lifestyles. Read it for the hilarious antics of the trashy soap opera-star fiancée and the neurotic clothes horse of a son for whom perfection is just out of reach.

I’ve had enough of being around all these crazy rich Asians, all these people whose lives revolve around making money, spending money, flaunting money, comparing money, hiding money, controlling others with money, and ruining their lives over money.

Rachel, Crazy Rich Asians

If I had a gripe about his book, it would be that reading it forces you into the next book and then the next. The ending isn’t the comforting conclusion where all loose ends are neatly tied. Instead, it’s a lurching race to get a few thing settled before the final page is turned. The questions left lingering demand a sequel. Good thing Kwan provided one in China Rich Girlfriend and a third in the series, Rich People Problems. While Nick and Rachel are romantic and cute, I want more of glamorous Astrid Leong’s story. I want to know how Eleanor Young is made to pay for her dirty deeds. And I want to know if Eddie Cheng ever gets the picture-perfect family he wants so badly. So, yes, I’m sucked into the crazy richness of the story and I want more Crazy in my life!

Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore. He currently lives in Manhattan. Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel. – Bio from book cover.