The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – A Book Review

A good friend recommended The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, and though it’s been in publication for almost 100 years, I’ve never read it. In fact, I’ve never read a single Agatha Christie book.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I’m often not a fan of mysteries because I feel that they usually don’t lay the serious groundwork needed to provide the reader with actual clues, but Christie more than satisfied me in that regard. She gave all of the characters a possible motive for the murder, and had them all in the vicinity of the murder near the time of death. Her details were quite meticulous. Furthermore, finding the answer to the mystery was quite possible. 

On that note, I also appreciated that Christie wrote quite a bit of this book using dialogue. She provided only the most necessary of description, which made for a very quick read. Many of her clues were revealed through characters talking to one another, which proved a pleasant experience. 

My only complaint is that the detective, Hercule Poirot, seemed to be an almost secondary character. Because he was not the narrator, we only got to know Poirot in a limited way. This was necessary due to the structure and narrative style of the book, but I’m curious to know if all of Poirot’s books feature someone else as the narrator.

I’ll find out soon enough! I am absolutely excited to read more Agatha Christie. She writes my kind of mystery books. 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher – A Book Review

A friend recommended this initial book of The Dresden Files. It’s called Storm Front, and it’s the first time we meet Harry Dresden, a Chicago private investigator and practicing wizard. 

Yes, you read that right.

I appreciated that Storm Front is a wonderful blend of genre. It often reads like hard-boiled detective noir, full of all the cliches and tropes you would expect. But then it blends in high fantasy with magical rods, demon trolls, and dark magic. I also liked that it moved at a very fast pace and proved pretty easy to follow.

That being said, I’m not sure I’ll revisit Harry Dresden. I found the dialogue a little too predictable, the writing technique felt a little too familiar, and the detective aspect never quite connected with me.

However, I know a lot of very smart people who love this series, so I may have to give the second book a try and assume that they get better and better as they progress. 

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid – A Book Review

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I heard Netflix planned to make this novel into a movie, so I thought I’d give it a read first. Interestingly enough, I reviewed another book by Iain Reid, Foe, exactly one year ago today.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is Reid’s debut novel. It’s written from the perspective of a young woman who is visiting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Most of the book is spent with them conversing in a car as they travel to the boyfriend’s childhood home far into the countryside. The narrator tells us that Jake is incredibly intelligent and generally a nice guy, but she’s thinking of ending things with him. They eventually reach the parents, things become very strange, and then the plot quickens to a frantic pace.

I can’t pretend that I particularly enjoyed this book. It is primarily dialogue and internal monologue, with lots of philosophizing. I found it very slow in the beginning, and while the book ends with quite a bit of suspense, the conclusion dissatisfied.

It’s difficult for me to critically discuss this book without spoiling some major revelations, so I’ll simply have to say that I never found the premise all that engaging, the big twist fell flat for me, and I generally found it far too in love with its own dialogue.

Obviously, I’m in the minority. Netflix and Charlie Kaufman found it worthy of their time, though Kaufman’s interest in the book shouldn’t be surprising considering his other work.

I’m afraid I don’t recommend you read I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, but I found Foe quite interesting if you’d like to give Reid a try.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes – A Book Review

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Though this book is aimed at young readers in terms of sentence complexity, the plot and themes of Ghost Boys are so important that I believe adults would benefit from reading it as well.

Ghost Boys is about a young black boy named Jerome who is shot and killed by a white police officer. The aftermath of his murder involves Jerome’s family, his best friend, the police officer, the police officer’s family, and the multitude of young black men and boys who previously died under similar circumstances.

However, the book does not progress in a linear fashion. It alternates between when Jerome was alive and when he’s not. By using this method, Jewell Parker Rhodes builds suspense and keeps the reader enthralled.

I think Ghost Boys is an excellent book for introducing young readers to the very real racism that still plagues our country to this day. It offers a glimpse into the racist murders of black children dating back decades, even centuries, and it does not shy away from pointing out that murders motivated by racism have yet to end.

Ghost Boys delves deeply into the fact that real change cannot occur without acknowledging racism and the horrors that it perpetuates. Yet it does so through simple paragraphs and a very fast pace.

Jerome’s death is vividly described, but it does not cross the line. Young readers need to understand the awful implications of gun violence. I think Rhodes does a fine job of respecting young people enough to avoid pulling punches without drifting into the overtly gratuitous.

Ghost Boys is the kind of book that can foster change. I encourage you to read it, allow your middle or high school child to read it, and then discuss it together afterwards.

The Giver Of Stars by Jojo Moyes – A Book Review

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A friend recommended this book and–if I’m honest–I didn’t think it would suit my tastes. However, I’m pleased to announce that I loved it.

I’m not sure why I was initially hesitant. It features a group of librarians–some of my favorite people–delivering books–some of my favorite things–to citizens living in the Kentucky mountains during the Great Depression.

I’ll admit that it starts off a little slowly, but that is purposeful as the author is establishing characters in order to display their tremendous growth throughout the novel. Consequently, by the time this book is over, you’ll feel as though you’ve lived these characters’ lives alongside them. It’s an incredible experience.

The author has a solid grip on providing just enough description, the perfect amount of dialogue, excellent pacing, captivating subplots, and–like I said–enthralling characterization. It’s a pleasure to read.

While it’s true that the book became a little melodramatic in the last third, I was far too invested to find such theatrics off-putting. In fact, The Giver Of Stars touched me so deeply that it managed to entice a tear or two from my old, cynical eyes.

The Giver Of Stars creates characters that will feel as real to you as your best friend enduring numerous hardships all in the service of giving people access to books. How can any book lover resist that premise?

A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane – A Book Review

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A friend recommended this book to me, and it marks the first time I’ve ever read Dennis Lehane.

For some reason, I envisioned this book involving some kind of international war and intelligence officers, but that’s not the case at all. The title actually refers to a gang war breaking out in the Boston area. Patrick Kenzie is a PI hired to find a missing woman who has stolen documents from an important politician. Those documents are fueling the gang war, and Kenzie has found himself right in the middle of it all.

The book takes place in the early 1990s, which is very apparent due to  several references to music, TV, and major news events of that era. Kenzie, the PI, narrates the book and at times I found his internal dialogue cliched and trying too hard to be clever. I found the first half of the book a bit of a struggle to read because there isn’t much character development–it just keeps plugging away at the plot. Eventually the suspense of the story gripped me and I finished the last half of the book quickly, but I can’t say I ever connected with Kenzie or his partner, Angela Gennaro, on a personal level.

If you read this–be warned. The book fully embraces the racial tension that existed in Boston in the 1990s. The language is harsh, the characters are harsh, and the depictions are harsh. Some may find this “realistic,” but, in this day and age, it was deeply uncomfortable to read. On the one hand, I have to give Lehane credit for not shying away from his characters’ racism. On the other, some of the characters seemed overtly stereotypical.

I asked my friend for a quick, action-packed read, and A Drink Before the War definitely fits the bill. I was surprised to discover several other titles by Lehane that I recognized such as Shutter Island, Live By Night, Mystic River, and Gone, Baby, Gone.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – A Book Review

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Where the Crawdads Sing is a fast-paced, potent, concise book that has a little bit of everything which will likely satisfy any reader.

The story centers around Kya, a young girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. When I say alone–I mean alone. Everyone has abandoned her–her mother, father, brothers, sisters, people in the nearby town–everyone. This forces her to fend for herself in a primitive shack that has neither indoor plumbing nor electricity. Though initially a child, and despite lacking any formal education, she learns to observe nature’s lessons, and that becomes the key to her survival into adulthood. Unfortunately, though the town completely shuns her, its sins will not leave her alone and she is eventually accused of murder.

Where the Crawdads Sing accomplishes so much in such a short amount of time. It delves deeply into issues of domestic abuse, abandonment, discrimination, elitism, and hypocrisy.

However, it is also a love letter to nature as it beautifully describes the vibrant activities occurring in areas most people deem uncivilized. Owens’ writing is compressed, but extremely effective. She will make you feel like you’re living in the marsh, coexisting with nature, right by Kya’s side.

Furthermore, there is a captivating murder mystery present in this book as well. Though it may sound out of place, it’s not. Owens weaves the murder mystery into the overall plot perfectly. It never feels forced nor contrived. Between Kya’s story, the murder mystery, and the convergence of the two, I couldn’t put this book down.

No matter what your taste, I highly recommend Where the Crawdad’s Sing. I believe anyone who enjoys fiction will like this book.

In the House In the Dark Of the Woods by Laird Hunt – A Book Review

When browsing the “new” section at my local library, the cover to In the House In the Dark Of the Woods demanded my attention. Admittedly, I’ve never head of the book nor it’s author–Laird Hunt. Anyway, I read the inside cover, which sounded very interesting, and decided to take a chance on it.

In the House In the Dark Of the Woods is a brief, strange, even confounding read. It takes place during colonial times and features a woman who gets lost while walking in the untamed woods. She wants to return home to her young son and overbearing husband, but simply can’t find her way. She eventually meets a series of women, all of whom seem both helpful and dangerous. They also each wield a dark, supernatural aura–for though they each claim to want to assist the woman in finding her way, they never quite agree on what exactly “way” means.

Hunt brings you a book incredibly detailed in some facets, yet frustratingly vague in others. Like being lost in the woods, the reader stumbles around in this book quite a bit as though searching for a clearing. However, nothing is particularly clear with In the House In the Dark Of the Woods. 

Due to its brevity, I found In the House In the Dark Of the Woods an interesting,  fun read. It certainly kept me alert as I endeavored to make sense of it all. Hunt is a talented writer who executes some beautifully constructed passages. His descriptions are consistently easy to imagine, and the dialogue he provides is unique to each character. The plot, however, is not quite so discernible, but I suspect that’s the point.

In the House In the Dark Of the Woods is certainly worth your time if you’re interested in a fast, unusual read that feels “literary” but smothers itself in the arcane.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy described as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2JUqte2 or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Foe by Iain Reid – A Book Review

I found Foe at the Normal Public Library as I wondered the new books section. The title initially caught my attention, plus the fact that it’s pretty thin. I read the inside of the jacket and was sold.

This book absolutely riveted me. I read it in three days, which, for me, is very fast. I really don’t want to tell you too much about the book for fear of spoiling it. However, I will say that it is sparsely written, quickly paced, and a real page-turner.

I thought I had this book figured out about half way through it, but Reid introduces so many possibilities, I couldn’t be sure I was right until the very end. And even though I had it right, Reid managed to throw in an unexpected twist that I didn’t see coming.

If you’re looking for a fast, captivating read with a plot that will enthrall you, I recommend Foe by Iain Reid.

foe by iain reid

Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2JUqte2 or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – A Book Review

I saw this book in the “new” section at my local library and fell in love with the cover. Quite honestly, that’s the main reason I picked it up. Well, that, and the fact that it’s very short. I figured it was worth the risk because the premise sounded interesting and it wouldn’t be much of a time investment.

Unfortunately, I did not follow the vast majority of this story. The concept is that two rivals from two different entities have fallen in love with each other after exchanging letters. One entity is cybernetic in nature, the other is organic. Both entities are attempting to win a war by altering time and space throughout history. Sounds captivating, right?

I’m afraid this is a case in which the narrative style did not complement the plot very well. The authors chose to largely convey the story through the actual letters of the two rivals. The letters are enigmatic and verbose. Consequently, it proved very difficult to piecemeal the actual story, which made reading it quite a labor.

I’m sure some will love this book because of its unconventional style. Others will appreciate the diction and structure. It simply wasn’t for me.

However, I do feel that it has one of the best covers that I’ve ever seen.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1