June 2018 Book(s) Review(s)

It’s the most wonderful time of the month (sing it to the tune of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”)!  I love the beginning of each month so that we can talk books.  June started out a lot stronger than May (thank goodness), and my book selections throughout the month stayed pretty strong, too.  Phew!  Because of this, I have ten book reviews from June.Additionally, at the end of each review, I’ve incorporated a “star rating”.  One star being the lowest rating and five stars being the highest.  This is to help everyone put a mental visual to how much I really enjoyed a book.  Sometimes that helps a person decide if I really liked a book or just had nice things to say.  I hope that this helps everyone out–but if not, you’ve lost nothing but time by reading the reviews, so…here we are.As always, these are my honest opinions about these books.  No one has paid me to read or review them–I just do this because…well, I’m going to read anyway.  May as well share with all of you what I thought to help you decide if you want to read them, too.  However, please read my disclosure policy when you have a moment.Let’s do it, shall we?The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – Look, it goes without saying (as far as I’m concerned) that, if you pick up a book by Alice Hoffman, you won’t be disappointed.  This is a prequel to Practical Magic–arguably Hoffman’s most well-known novel that was adapted into a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman (and the resplendent Stockard Channing and Dianne Weist).  This prequel does not disappoint.  The reader gets to hear about the childhood, teenage years, early adulthood, and then adulthood of Aunt Jet and Aunt Francis (and Uncle Vincent?!?!).  Every bit of it is absolute gold.  I could not read this book fast enough so that I could hear every bit about the early years of these three extraordinary characters.  I absolutely adored this book and cannot say enough nice things to say about it.  Hoffman is an absolute master at storytelling and I’m giddy every time I pick up one of her books.  The best thing I can say is that this may be my favorite book of Hoffman’s–and that is saying something.  I rate this gem 5 out of 5 stars.Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann – I had some problems with this book.  Grann’s journalist background did not mix well with trying to build a narrative.  The first half of the book is very dry and, for me, hard to get into initially.  About halfway into the book, though, I really started to enjoy the book.  David Grann tells the story of the systematic racism and eventually murders of several Native Americans from the Osage tribe in August County Oklahoma in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Additionally, it gives background on the beginnings of private detectives, and eventually, the FBI.  At the end of the novel, the reader gets to read about how this dark time in American history has had a ripple effect throughout Native American communities.  Ultimately, I felt this was an incredibly important book since it highlights the atrocities done against Native Americans by white people and the U.S. government.  It also reminded me that when discussions of racism and how people of color are treated in the U.S., Native Americans are still left out of the discussion.  Everyone should read this–especially white folk.  I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars–due to the style of writing.Carry on by Rainbow Rowell – This was my first Rainbow Rowell book, so I wasn’t familiar with her style, but I knew that a lot of her writing is built around a fan fiction style of writing.  Carry On is obviously a retelling of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  And, it goes without saying, it’s not nearly as good as HP, nor is Rowell as masterful a storyteller or writer as Rowling.  However, the book is A LOT of fun.  Additionally, the book has good representation for people of color, women, LGBT folks, and more.  Basically, the book tells the story of Simon–the chosen one–who is struggling to understand if he thinks that his roommate at his magical school is his enemy…or something different…while trying to figure out if his magical mentor is his friend…or something different.  The magical world is facing a crisis–magic is disappearing!  What can the chosen one do to save everyone–and maybe find love along the way?  I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars–mostly because it’s so much fun and so readable.The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – Okay, full disclosure.  Around the house, JoJo (the missus) makes me refer to this as “The Potato Book” because, by the time I’ve said the whole title, she’s lost interest.  It is important to mention that this book is written in epistolary style, of which I usually am not a fan.  Having said that–I need to shut up and ignore my biases sometimes.  This was an extraordinary book, full of heartache, love, travel, food, books, hope, and truly lovable characters.  Once I got to the 50-page mark, I felt like I was with old friends, and I was filled with a sense of hiraeth.  Guernsey and its citizens make the reader long to pack their bags and jump on a boat.  The characters in this book feel like family which we are all just waiting to meet, and once we do, we’ll never want to say “goodbye”.  This may not just be one of my favorite books of the year–but of all time.  My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of the book.  This was an absolute gem and I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars–simply because that’s the highest rating in the system.Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – Not gonna lie–just because a book won a Pulitzer Prize doesn’t mean that it is good.  And that was the thought I couldn’t get out of my mind for the first 90% of this book.  I was berating myself internally for buying this and adding it to my June TBR (to-be-read).  However, as the book came to an end, I had done a 180 turn with my feelings.  As I mentioned on Litsy, it’s like something touching you in such a way that you don’t realize you’ve been holding your breath, so you take a sharp inhalation to keep your emotions from pouring over.  This book was a lamentation on how we all struggle to reconcile our faith against the struggles we face in life.  It’s not the easiest to read, or the most fun…but at the end, you might just feel changed.  I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.The Cat Who Talked Turkey by Lillian Jackson Braun – If you know me, I have a deep appreciation for the art of a good “cozy” mystery.  They’re fun, they’re comforting, they’re silly, they’re like revisiting old friends.  Lillian Jackson Braun writes “The Cat Who…” series, and she always delivers a good cozy.  Great?  No.  Never great, actually.  But I always feel like I’m home when I delve into one of the books in the series, and they make me smile.  The books in the series aren’t brain food or great literature but they’re definitely entertaining and fun.  You can’t really complain about that.  I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I’m going to quote my review from Litsy here: This book is an absolute masterpiece in storytelling.  “The circus arrives without warning.”  That is how the story begins and ends…perfectly.  Succinctly.  That one sentence sets the tone, warns you that you don’t know what the next page will reveal.  The story builds, flashing between past and present and back again.  Is it about magic? Romance? Illusions? Fate? Choices? No.  It’s about the circus–which is home to all of these things.”  As you can tell, I became completely enamored with this tale about two illusionists/magicians that “battle” for superiority over the course of years at a circus made of…magic.  It’s an absolutely stunning novel and immaculately written.  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.Druid of Death: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Richard T. Ryan – Full disclosure–this was a book I got from an early release by the author.  It won’t be released until October 17th, 2018.  Anyhoozles, if you enjoy a good Sherlock Holmes caper (or just a good thriller/mystery), this is a fun, exciting read.  Ryan pulls off some truly fantastic back-and-forth dialogue between Holmes and Dr. Watson.  His skills at crafting a capable mystery are superb as well.  In this Sherlock Holmes adventure, Holmes and Watson are investigating a series of murders at famous Celtic/Pagan sites throughout the U.K., all while providing the charm you’d expect from Holmes and Watson.  Additionally, Ryan uses his words carefully and succinctly, not wasting the readers time with bloated descriptions or dialogue.  I’d definitely recommend this to anyone that enjoys Sherlock Holmes or the genre.  I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian – This espionage thriller/suspense novel was totally serviceable.  However, in this tale of a flight attendant that wakes up in a hotel bed with a dead hedge fund manager (who may or may not have ties to the Russian mob) is not that unique.  It doesn’t really offer anything new or cutting edge or contribute anything to the genre.  There are no twists or surprises that make the reader have to pause to whisper “oh. my. God.”  And I feel like the main character is one that I’ve met in numerous contemporary suspense/thrillers.  Ultimately, it was a fun, light read that I think readers who enjoy the genre will enjoy.  But that’s all it has going for it.  I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.Sourdough by Robin Sloan – I really enjoyed Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.  Although, that book and this book have something glaring in common.  They both lose their spirit in the second half.  In Sourdough, the first half is a fable about how we feed our body, minds, and souls through food, work, and relationships.  The second half turns into a dry, clinical sci-fi novel.  It’s very off-putting.  If the book was the warm, light-hearted fable throughout, it would’ve been more likable for me.  And this, being my second Robin Sloan book, has led me to believe that he just can’t deliver an ending.  I give this one 2 out of 5 stars.Cat of the Century (Mrs. Murphy #18) by Rita Mae Brown – This is another cozy mystery author that I usually really enjoy.  This book took a little work to get into and finish, but the mystery was pretty good, if not predictable.  Brown delivered another fun cozy mystery that was a good palate cleanser between books.  Interesting characters, funny animal sidekicks, interesting locales…it’s what you’d expect.  Not too much to complain about but nothing to write home about either.  This one gets a 3 out of 5 stars from me.Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – I hate to be brutally honest, but for me, this was a case of a book having more hype than it had the right to have. The story is convoluted, the characters are common in suspense/thriller/mysteries, and by the time I got to the end, I had stopped caring about “the twist you’ll never see coming”. One, because I did see it coming, and two, it wasn’t a unique twist. In fact, I feel that the writer got so invested in crafting a shocking twist that even she wasn’t sure what the twist was. I give this 1 out of 5 stars.Until next time…

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