Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Readers Imbibing Peril Mini Reviews

Hello. Yes, I am ridiculously late with my Readers Imbibing Peril books. I did read them during September and October, but I've been in a bit of a blogging slump lately. Now that I'm getting back in the groove of writing about books here, I wanted to tell you about the books that would be perfect picks for spooky reading next year and the ones you can leave languishing on their library shelves.

Career of Evil is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series featuring the titular detective and his assistant Robin Ellacott. In this story, Robin is shocked and sickened when she opens a package at work and finds a severed leg. Cormoran has some ideas about who might have sent it, but the police won't listen to him so it is up to the intrepid duo to figure out who is targeting them and what their end game is. I think this was my least favorite of the series so far. The will they/won't they dynamic between Cormoran and Robin goes to some weird and frustrating places and it feels like the whole purpose of this case is to fill in backstory for the main characters as Cormoran muses about which figure from his past might send them a severed leg. This book also features the point of view of the perpetrator, so we get way too many pages of violent fantasy about assault to women.

Recommend for RIP? Meh.

Jane McKeene worries she will never be good at remembering proper etiquette or keeping her dress clean. But that is only part of her training--the rest of her classes at Miss Preston's School are about combat and defending wealthy white women from the zombies that rose up from the battlefields of the Civil War. But Jane's future as an attendant may never come to pass when she starts investigating the disappearance of local families and finds out that the zombie uprising is much more complicated than it appears. Dread Nation is a book where I loved the premise and the main character, but had a hard time sticking with the story the way that the author laid it out.

Recommend for RIP? Meh.

               Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)     Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)

A man returns home for a funeral and decides to go visit the family that lived down the road. Once there, he starts to remember the incredible and impossible things that happened the year that he turned seven. This is one of those books best entered not knowing too much about the plot; I didn't really know what it was about and I was thrilled to enter into this melancholy little book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is magical and atmospheric and captures the feeling of being a child who feels unseen and misunderstood by adults, while also understanding the distance and beauty of memory. This reads almost like a parable or fairy tale, where there is no wasted information and anything is possible. If somehow you have missed reading Neil Gaiman or this one in particular, get to it!

Recommend for RIP? Yes!

Nancy thought she was all alone, the only child to stumble into another world. But at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, she finds people just like her who lived for a time in a magical realm only to find they no longer fit in back home. As Nancy starts to find her place among these strange and broken children, someone is murdered. In a house where people will do anything to get back to their magical worlds, is anyone safe? Every Heart a Doorway is an incredibly dark story because there is a brutal murderer in the house, but mostly because these children have been through traumatic experiences. Seanan McGuire has done an incredible job of giving you just enough information so you can imagine the beautiful, terrible, amazing worlds they have visited and see how the darkness of magical worlds compares to the darkness in our own.

Recommend for RIP? Yes!

          The Ocean at the End of the Lane    Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: Unsheltered

Willa's life has not gone the way she expected. She finds herself in a crumbling house in Vineland, New Jersey with her husband, her dying father-in-law, her adult daughter, her son's baby, and no job. Willa is determined to find a way to care for her family and when she discovers that a famous female scientist from the time of Darwin might have lived in her house, she thinks that  will be the key to ensuring their home doesn't fall down around them. The story moves through two timelines, as we see Willa and her family in the present and the people who lived in and around their home in the mid-nineteenth century--scientist Mary Treat and schoolteacher Thatcher Greenwood.

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of beloved books The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees and a new book of hers is always a big deal in the literary world. In Unsheltered, she masterfully shows the frustration and heartbreak of doing everything right and not being able to make ends meet. Willa and her husband are both starting over again in their careers in journalism and academia instead of having stability after decades of working. She is having trouble navigating the endless complications of medical care for her sick father-in-law. Her son has finished graduate school, but his world implodes when his girlfriend commits suicide and leaves him as the sole parent to their baby. This kind of story is all too familiar to modern readers, who know all about stringing together several part-time gigs  and still not being able to pay the bills or spending all their savings when someone needs unexpected medical care.

There are many readers who felt that this book was too political and devolved into political diatribe with Willa's debates with her very Republican father-in-law or daughter Tig's ruminations on how the generations before her ruined both the planet and the economy. But for me, it felt very of the moment. It might be impossible to write about the past few years without acknowledging that very charged political discussions are everywhere and many people are discouraged and angry with the way things are going in the United States.

As always, Barbara Kingsolver gives a master class in doing good research and crafting rich characters that compel readers to follow them through a story. It is obvious she did a great deal of research into the accomplishments of real-life scientist Mary Treat and the fascinatingly bizarre origins of Vineland, New Jersey. She has written a book that captures this specific moment in time and also reminds us that having to start all over again is a familiar story across generations.

By Barbara Kingsolver
Harper October 2018
480 pages
From the library