Third Quarter Update

Time for a third quarter check in. All I can say….worst reading slump of the year.

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TOTAL: 3

I had decided to start using an official monthly TBR list in hopes it will push me to finish books. I have a stack of about 10 books next to my bed that I started and just never seemed to finish. It was a rough slump and I’m hoping some basic organization will pull me out of it. I have a lot of catching up to do. So, without further ado, these are the books I finished in July, August, and September.

Mystery: 2

Non Fiction: 1

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The good thing? I loved every single one of these books! I’m going to stick with the positive on this one.

2018 Goals Check-in

Total Books Read

Goal: 50       Current: 19

Nonfiction Books Read

Goal: 12      Current: 6

I’m already working on my TBR for October and Non-Fiction November. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Lindsay

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The Altar Girl

The Altar Girl

by Orest Stelmach

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The daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.

Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post–World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

I picked up The Altar Girl via the Amazon First picks deal ages ago. The book sat in my kindle library for a rather long time awaiting the perfect reading mood. That mood arrived after a couple of draining and frustrating weeks. I didn’t want my usual choice of fun and quirky cozy mystery; I needed a grittier mystery that didn’t shy away from the darker aspects of crime. I kept coming back to The Altar Girl.

It was good; it gave me exactly what I needed in a story. Nadia is Ukrainian-American. She is the estranged child of immigrants who is struggling with her muddled sense of identification when her godfather dies. Nadia knows it wasn’t an accident. So she heads home to discover the truth, confront her family, come to terms with her upbringing, and quench her need for a greater purpose.

The Altar Girl gives us a glimpse of two separate points in Nadia’s life: the first is the current hunt for her godfather’s this murderer and the second is her attempt at 14 to be the youngest teenager to complete the wilderness survival test. Stelmach utilizes different tenses in each timeline which adds a subtle depth to Nadia. The stories seamlessly entwine; her memories dragging the reader through Nadia’s modern decisions and illuminating the familial issues that haunt her.

All of the characters were fantastically developed as Stelmach doesn’t shy away from flawed and twisted traits. Nadia struggles with the guilt of no longer being a good child. Her mother twists the truth, manipulating her children in a sick expression of self hatred. And Donnie deserves his own character case study!

The Altar Girl was a fantastic read. I have a few negative points but they are too nit-picky to discuss here. This book was thrilling, gritty, and somewhat heart wrenching. Stelmach’s subtle writing techniques, such as never mentioning the godfather by his given name, entrenched readers in the unique culture of his upbringing. I loved reading about the history of Ukrainian refugees, their struggle to survive WWII, and the development of their own community in a new country.

I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty mystery full of family drama. The Altar Girl is something I would usually shy away from, but I’ve already picked up the next book in the series. Is anyone else a fan of Orest Stelmach? Let me know what you’re reading!

Lindsay

CB Strike Update

I love JK Rowling’s Cormoran Strike mystery series written under her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. I actually prefer this series over Harry Potter….(there. I SAID IT. I love this series. Its fantastic)

So you can only imagine how excited I was to find the books had been turned into a tv series and that it was available on Cinemax/Amazon Prime. Guys…I full on fan-girled and then subjected my husband to three books worth of episodes. He was less than thrilled but I am one happy girl who is ready to binge watch the entire series again. (I reshared by initial reviews of The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkwormand Career of Evil before watching the show.)

So how does it hold up to the original books? I think the tv adaption is awesome!

The tv adaptation stays relatively true to the stories. The setting is visually spectacular; the gray/blue lighting emphasizing the darker aspects of both the crimes and Strike’s personal struggles. I felt the cast was well picked. Tom Burke played the perfect Strike and I was happy with Holliday Grainger’s representation of Robin. Even the secondary characters, such as Shanker and Matthew, were just well done. And the best part….they didn’t change the storylines too much! (that’s always a big deal in my opinion)

I wish the episodes were longer. I felt that each book could have had an additional episode devoted to the story because there were so many fantastic details that you miss if you haven’t read the books. This includes the details of both Strike and Robin’s pasts, the minutia of the investigations, and Strike’s investigative relationships.

My one actual complaint….Matthew was too nice. The Matthew of the books is an insecure, controlling jerk. I can’t stand him. I finished the last book wanting nothing more than for Robin to leave him. The Matthew of the series was a more reasonable shadow of the man in the books. Sure he was still insecure and self centered but he’s no where near as whining and controlling as he should have been portrayed. It left me annoyed that he was more likable than he should have been.

WATCH IT! READ THE BOOKS! And then let me know what you think! In the meantime…I think I’m going to watch it again. Happy Reading!

Lindsay

Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks

by Rex Stout

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The guest at a gathering of the greatest chefs in the world, Nero Wolfe must practice his own trade–sleuthing–when he discovers that a murderer is in their midst.

Nero Wolfe must travel to South Carolina to provide the keynote speech at a gathering of the world’s greatest cooks. Nero Wolfe leaves the brownstone….he takes a TRAIN…and then of course has to solve a murder far from home.

The best part of every Nero Wolfe story is the relationship between the eccentric detective and his mouthy right-hand-man, Archie Goodman. Too Many Cooks is no exception, as Wolfe is struggling with the uncomfortable aspect of being outside his home while Archie is doing his best to accommodate Wolfe’s demands. Comedic banter fills the pages as Wolfe stoically deals with the irritations surrounding him. These two characters keep me coming back time after time.

I will say that Too Many Cooks offered a unique murder but one I found less than interesting thanks to the irritating cast of supporting characters. Many pages were dedicated to extensive descriptions of grand meals (which was cool) and listening to the self important ramblings of the cooks (boring…). I have to add that a surprising number of background characters were less developed than usual. There were a number of cooks and spouses (spouse of cook was pretty much their claim to fame) that I couldn’t describe if my life depended on it. They were just there, which isn’t normal for a Rex Stout story.

I must also warn people the book was written in the 1960s and is set in South Carolina, so of course there are conversations concerning racial tensions. I felt Stout handled it well, highlighting the negative actions of both races while utilizing Wolfe to present options of equality to the readers. Too Many Cooks presented an objective conversation that focused on perspective and social growth; but, the story still contains period racial slurs. I just want readers to be aware of this before picking up the book. I will say the scene where Wolfe interrogates the kitchen scene is my favorite!

Too Many Cooks was good but it definitely isn’t my favorite Nero Wolfe story. The Black Orchids still holds that title and the book I recommend to anyone interested in the series. Too Many Cooks still was the perfect read to pull me out of a month long reading slump; a solid Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin story never fails to make me smile.

Let me know which Nero Wolfe story is your favorite. What series do you turn to when you’re struggling with a reading slump? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

No Stone Unturned

No Stone Unturned: The Truth Story of the World’s Premier Forensic Investigators

by Steve Jackson

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A body stuffed in a car trunk swallowed by the swirling, muddy waters of the Missouri River. A hiker brutally murdered, then thrown off a cliff in a remote mountain range. A devious killer who hid his wife’s body under a thick cement patio. For investigators, the story is often the same: they know a murder took place, they may even know who did it. But without key evidence, pursuing a conviction is nearly impossible. That’s when they call NecroSearch International. NecroSearch boasts a brain trust of the nation’s top scientists, specialists, and behaviorists who use the latest technology and techniques to help solve “unsolvable” crimes, no matter how decayed the corpse, no matter how cleverly the killer has hidden the victim’s body. Now, for the first time ever, readers are taken on a fascinating, often-shocking journey into a realm of crime investigation of which few people are aware. Necrosearch’s most challenging cases are described, step-by-step, as these modern-day Sherlock Holmes’s detect bodies and evidence thought irretrievable, and testify in court to bring cold-blooded killers to justice.

July found me craving a good true crime nonfiction read. I had previously enjoyed The Poisoner’s Handbook, and was looking for something that focused on forensic science. But I also wanted a story that covered actual investigations (which is what I was looking for but didn’t get when I read Mad City) I was lamenting my need for a good true crime story to my friend TS Barnett and she suggested I check out No Stone Unturned. She shares my love for true crime and has great taste, so I immediately started the audio version.

I absolutely loved No Stone Unturned! The novel follows the creation of NecroSearch, a group of scientists dedicated to advancing forensic science and investigation. The story is expertly laid out, starting with the development of the ‘pig people’ organization and introducing key scientists and volunteers involved. Jackson outlines the science behind the different fields with include geology, archaeology, entomology, and sloberology! The science is presented in laymen’s terms; keeping the information relatable without utilizing and insultingly dumbed-down approach.

One of the best aspects of No Stone Unturned is the applied use of the science in individual cases. Parker focuses on one case at a time. For each investigation he provides information from the disappearance of the victim, the initial police investigation, the involvement of NecroSearch, and the results of the search. He even recounts the trials of the killers. Each investigation is different and presented unique problems which allowed the scientists of NecroSearch to help return lost loved-ones while also providing new data on developing investigation techniques.

And if that wasn’t already fantastic….the volunteers of NecroSearch are dedicated to working together as peers. They actively avoid egotistical battles and hold law enforcement in high respect. Jackson even shares how the group help each other handle the mental effects of working with violence, death, and missing bodies.

I do not have anything negative to say about the story. The complaints I saw from other reviewers, which are few, is the writing style can be dry and they wished for more details concerning the individual team members. I found the writing to be far from dry, but I did also read the audio version. (It was fantastic and well worth the listen).

No Stone Unturned is a nonfiction work I would happily recommend to anyone interested in true crime or forensic investigation. It provides a surprisingly hopeful attitude to a rather morbid topic. It even managed to bring me out of a frustrating reading slump. Pick it up! And please share your true crime suggestions, since I always need another book to read 🙂

Happy Reading!

Lindsay

Bookish Facts

Bookish Fact #6: My dad made me a history lover.

I am lucky in that both of my parents are readers. My mom prefers fiction and reads a lot of mysteries. My dad loves historical nonfiction. My mom may have been the driving force behind my love of reading, but Dad was just as influential on my reading tastes.

We only had one TV growing up, and evenings meant watching things together as a family. The channels were often tuned to a baseball game or some random educational program (How stuff Works, Myth Busters). Dad’s favorite was The History Channel…back went the programming was actually about history.

His favorites were the history of the military, baseball, the space race, industry, and of course aviation. (I happily admit that I adore all these topics as well) We went to museums as a family on a regular basis. He’s sat through hours of me retelling my lessons learned in my college history courses. And to this day he still calls me with book recommendations and requests.

My parents are the reason my nieces and nephews get books for gifts, because can anything really beat the gift of a good story? Have your parents, or some other awesome person, influenced your reading this way? Please share!

Lindsay

Career of Evil

Career of Evil

by Robert Galbraith

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Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

Career of Evil is the third in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A mystery and also a story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

(originally published 05/12/2016)

Career of Evil is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith, who is really JK Rowling. Strike’s detective agency is thriving thanks to their last two high profile cases and Robin and Strike are having a difficult time keeping up. Then Robin receives a severed leg in the mail. It doesn’t take long for them to be national news and loosing clients by the minute.

I had to begin the Month of Mystery with Career of Evil! I am a Harry Potter fan but I believe I might be more of a Cormoran Strike fan. Mystery is my go to genre and Career of Evil may be a new favorite.

I like how Galbraith sucker punches both Strike and Robin right at the beginning! Life is going great and then one severed leg manages to ruin the business, put a strain on Robin and Matthew’s relationship, and cause Strike to revisit memories best left forgotten. The mystery is dark and forces us to delve in to the past of some pretty disturbing individuals. Guys, this story managed to make me laugh, cry, yell, and cheer. I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy person during my work commute.

Expect excellent character development in our two main characters. We get to learn more about the haunting past of both Robin and Strike. We get to watch their friendship deepen and, my personal favorite, we get to see Robin’s stubborn side! I love how she stands up for herself, refusing to let anyone push her around. Galbriath’s writing style leaves me feeling like I am right there watching everything happen. This series really needs to be made in to a tv show or movies!

As for complaints…I wish I didn’t have to wait for the next one! I did have a tough time with the lack of communication between Robin and Cormoran. Robin considers him one of her best friends but they rarely open up to each other despite working long hours together. And all the emotional tension between them….uhg! I need the next book! I’m also still not ok with Matthew as he really doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, but I’m not going to waste time ranting about him.

There is soooo much more I want to share but you just need to read it. Oh, and the ending was PERFECT! I need to read Career of Evil again! Anyone else a Robert Galbraith fan? What did you think of Career of Evil?

Lindsay

The Silkworm

The Silkworm

by Robert Galbraith

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Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo’s Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

(originially published 10/01/2015)

The Silkworm is the second novel in Robert Galbraith’s (aka JK Rowling) Cormoran Strike mysteries. Feel free to check out my review of the first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling

I read these novels because I love Cormoran Strike! I like that he’s tall, rough, awkward, and stands out in EVERY crowd. I like that he’s stubborn, irritable, and steadfast in his investigative techniques. The characteristics that would turn most people off make me love him all the more! I would definitely grab a pint with him.

Still, I was not really a fan of The Silkworm. There are two big points that just made the plot ‘eh’ for me. One: the relationship between Robin and Matthew just pissed me off. I just don’t understand why such a smart, independent woman would be with someone as insecure and mean as Matthew. Luckily, Robin stands up for herself and the story ends with what seems to be a healthier future for the couple. But I still found myself yelling at Matthew while reading.

Two: the main storyline, aka the mystery, was too slow for my taste. It drug on and on about Quine’s terrible novel and depressing writing career. I had a difficult time sympathizing with ANY of the ‘literary world’ characters. NONE of them were remotely likable!! Quine’s death was the most interesting aspect of the character! I feel like Galbraith was attempting to humorously releave frustrations with the literary industry but it left The Silkworm’s plot less engaging.

I still recommend the book because of Strike and his character development. Strike is no longer struggling to survive and we are able to see him fully interact with family and friends. I love that his relationship with Robin is bluntly honest and surprisingly full of trust. His self confidence is strengthening since his split with Charlotte and we meet characters that truly love Strike. We see him communicate with his aunt and uncle, who beg him to visit for Christmas. We meet his old school buddy, Chum, who’s willingness to help Strike with no strings attached leaves you wanting to buy them both a beer. And we get to meet Al, the one sibling who adores Strike just the way he is (sister Lucy constantly trying to change him gets old) All of these points make The Silkworm a worthwhile read!

Plus, the ending is AWESOME! Have you read The Silkworm? Share your thoughts!

Lindsay

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling

by Robert Galbraith

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A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

(review originally shared 03/05/3015)

We all should know by now that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter series.  I enjoyed the Harry Potter novels and was excited to see that Rowling has continued to write, but in a completely different genre.  The best compliment that I can give Galbraith/Rowling is that I didn’t think of Harry Potter once while reading The Cuckoo’s Calling! 

Cormoran Strike is a down-on-his-luck private investigator who is hired to prove that legendary supermodel, Lula Landry, did not commit suicide.  The investigation thrusts Strike in to the world of the rich and famous; a world where lies are far more common than the truth.  I listened to the audio version of The Cuckoo’s Calling and found myself sitting parked in my driveway long after I had arrived home because I couldn’t stop listening!  Galbraith has done a fantastic job with the mystery genre.

The characters are complex and well developed; I had no problem visualizing each individual.  The setting was equally developed, and I can still smell the lime air freshener Cormoran uses in his office.  I loved Cormoran Strike; of course, I have a thing for burly cop characters…so yeah.  Cormoran and Robin’s relationship still makes me smile.  The mystery progressed at a realistic rate and I was kept guessing until the very end.

I only had a couple of issues.  The first is how Strike reveals the reason behind his breakup with Charlotte.  He just spits it out.  It is an important moment and I felt it should have been rehashed for the readers.  I could have used one extra paragraph where Strike relives the moment one last time before he lets it go.  The second is when Strike meets with the killer.  I felt Strike should have actually had a plan in that moment.  I won’t say anything else because of spoilers, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.

The Cuckoos Calling is a great read!  Kudos Rowling; you’re a good mystery author.  Book two, The Silkworm is on my TBR list.  Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling?  What do you think about Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling’s mystery novels?

Lindsay

Books or Film?

We’ve all been there. The credits are rolling and someone loudly states, “Well the book was better.” Maybe you’re the one who said it. Maybe your the person rolling your eyes because of course the 600 page book was better. Or maybe your the one who hasn’t had the chance to read the book or has no desire to read it. In the end of the movies stays relatively true to the book…does it really matter?

I like to think I’m pretty easy going but I’m not when it comes to books (sheepishly admitting to the half hour rant I had about YA editing yesterday). But, I firmly believe that movies based on books can be AMAZING! (The Giver, Harry Potter, and so on) Of course the movie cant deviate from the book’s storyline or change characters’ personalities. It needs to remain true to the story.

I prefer TV shows over movies. And I’ve been struggling with a frustrating reading slump the last month. So imagine how thrilled I was to see that one of my favorite mystery series, the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling), has been turned into a tv series. And I could stream it through Amazon!

This week I’ll be resharing my reviews for the first three books in series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil. And this weekend I will proceed to binge watch the entire show! People, it’s ridiculous how excited I am.

Let me know if you’ve seen the series. Are you a fan of the books? And where do you stand on the books to film debate?

Happy Reading!

Lindsay