07 May 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 6 Good Books

6 mini book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsI skipped my review post last week for no particular reason than I was feeling lazy. Instead I posted extra-short reviews on Twitter. I give you similarly short thoughts today, just to keep a record here.

This was a slow reading week, which is the weather's fault. I did yard work, started cleaning the deck for summer, and had to dig out my summer clothes. It was also the first week of our outdoor farmer's market, which is where we buy the bulk of our food until it closes in late October.

Yay for summer.

Before I get to my reading life, here are some things to look for this coming week.

On Wednesday on the AudioFile Magazine blog I'll recommend five audiobooks that will each give you a new perspective on nature, animals, and the world around us. I concentrate on fun books to help you get in the mood for easy summer living.

On Friday, I will share my thoughts on the upcoming Cinemax miniseries C. B. Strike, based on the first three Cormoran Strike books by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling). The show debuts on June 1, so mark your calendars. I'll have more information later in the week.

What I Read Two Weeks Ago

  • 6 mini book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsSloan Crosley's Look Alive Out There (Macmillan, April 3) is a collection of essays about living in New York, working freelance, traveling, making reproductive decisions, and dealing with neighbors as well as other musings about contemporary life. Humor mixed with spot-on truths. Recommended. (Audiobook review available soon from AudioFile)
  • Luke Barr's Ritz and Escoffier (Clarkson Potter, April 3) is a dual biography of how Ritz and Escoffier rose from humble beginnings to become trusted sources of elegance and good taste (no pun intended) at the turn of the last century. Fascinating and easy to read. Recommended. (Audiobook review available soon from AudioFile)
  • Sylvain Neuvel's Only Human (Del Rey, May 1) is the third (and final?) book in the Themis Files series. This installment had me laughing at the pop culture references, even as I became wrapped up in the main characters' struggles to adjust to a changing Earth. Audiobook is the best way to read the series: the fantabulous full-cast performance is not to be missed (start with book 1). (Review copy provided by the publisher)
  • Jane Harper's The Dry (Flatiron, 2017). I did a quick reread of this great crime novel set in a small town in Australia. The protagonist, Aaron Falk, is a federal agent in the Australian finance division, who becomes involved in a murder investigation when he returns to his home town for the funeral. Recommended. (Review copy provided by the publisher)
What I Read Last Week

Review: Force of Nature by Jane HarperThe Force of Nature by Jane Harper (Flatiron, February 2018), is the second entry in the Aaron Falk series. In this outing, Falk is back at his office in Melbourne and has a new partner, Carmen Cooper. They are called to the bushland, when an executive at a bank they're investigating goes missing on a corporate outdoor weekend, meant to encourage bonding and trust. The Giralang Ranges is true wilderness, and the question is whether Alice Russell's disappearance is an unfortunate accident, bad judgment, or something very sinister. And, of course, no matter the circumstances, is she alive or dead? Harper weaves the complex relationships among the five women and five men on the retreat with the spooky reputation of the Giralang Ranges, the current Falk/Cooper criminal investigation, and other factors. Good tension and solid plotting pulled me in, and I was unable to figure out the solution before it was revealed. The Falk books are now among of my favorites in crime fiction. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Macmillan Audio; 8 hr, 53 min) read by Stephen Shanahan. As I wrote last week, Shanahan has a natural, fluid style and masterfully works the tempo to keep the tension tight. Good characterization . . . plus I love his Australian accent. Recommended in print or audio. (Both print and audiobook copies provided by the publisher)

Review: The Shape of Water by Andrea CamilleriI listened to Andrea Camilleri's The Shape of Water (Penguin Books, 2002), which was translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarell. This is the first in a long series that stars Salvo Montalbano, a police inspector in Sicily, and I decided to start the audiobooks on the recommendation of SuziQoregon from Whimpulsive blog. The book is a combination of mystery, social commentary, and humor and even includes some good food references. Montalbano has no problem stepping a little outside the strict confines of his duty and has a creative way solving crimes. I liked his personality and the comings and goings of the town, including the ongoing feud between two mafia families. Despite appearances, Montalbano respects his job and wants to uncover the truth. He seems particularly skilled at dealing with the local community, taking an Everyman's attitude more than wielding his power as a policeman. The crime itself involved a death that may or may not have been murder but left the dead man in a compromising position. My impression after book 1 is that the series is fun, adult reading. This isn't hard-core crime fiction, but isn't as light as a cozy. I plan to continue the series. The unabridged audiobook (Blackstone Audio; 4 hr, 4 min) is read by Grover Gardner, who does a great job distinguishing the voices and giving the characters an Italian and Sicilian flavor without tripping into parody. He delivers the humor as easily as the more tense-filled moments and kept me listening the entire afternoon. And good news for audiobook fans: Gardner reads the entire series (19 books are currently available). (Audiobook: personal copy)

Current Books and Television

I'm currently listening to Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room and reading Julia Fine's What Should Be Wild. Both are excellent, and I'm having a hard time deciding which book to read when. Sweetbitter started on Starz over the weekend. I plan to watch tonight. I really loved the book of the same title, written by Stephanie Danler (though I know it got mixed reviews), so I'm curious about how it comes across on film. The actress who plays the main character, Tess, doesn't match the image I had in my mind. We shall see, and I shall report back. If you get Netflix, I hope you're watching David Letterman's My Next Guest Needs no Introduction. We've watched all five current episodes, and each one was excellent.


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 5/7/18, 6:20 AM  

I, personally, like short reviews. Just like a psychologist can figure out whether a marriage will last after watching a couple for ten minutes, I can decide if I want to read a book after knowing just a little about the story.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 5/7/18, 7:12 AM  

I'm so annoyed - I tried to record Sweetbitter, but we don't get Starz! I guess I'll have to wait for it to come out on Netflix.

And I'm so curious to hear what people thing of The Mars Room...it's getting such mixed reviews...even among the reviewers I trust!

Mae Travels 5/7/18, 8:25 AM  

The Camilleri series about detective Montalbano has been one of my favorites for a long time, though the most recent ones have been a bit disappointing. The descriptions of Sicilian foods that the detective eats in restaurants and that his housekeeper cooks for him are especially wonderful! All that fresh Mediterranean fish! I hope you enjoy them.

My review of one I liked is here: http://maefood.blogspot.com/2009/06/snack-thief.html

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Kay 5/7/18, 9:30 AM  

I second your praise about Jane Harper's books - especially on audio. I really liked both of them and am curious if the next will take us to another region of Australia. I've liked getting to know more about that country. Am very curious about the Cormoran Strike TV adaptation, but we don't have Cinemax. Shall see how I might be able to try that one. I imagine it will show up somewhere that I can access eventually.

Susie | Novel Visits 5/7/18, 9:32 AM  

I loved Sweetbitter, too, but don't get Starz. I may have to wait until the end of the season and do a free trial, so I can binge watch it.

I'm looking forward to hearing more of yiur thoughts on The Mars Room. It just didn't work for me and I feel like I missed something.

Have a great week.

Laurel-Rain Snow 5/7/18, 9:32 AM  

I enjoyed The Dry, so I must read Force of Nature soon. It is waiting patiently on Pippa, my Kindle.

Have a great week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Kathy Martin 5/7/18, 10:36 AM  

All of your books are new to me. I don't watch much TV and don't have Netflix or any premium channels. I am interested in reading Jane Harper's books because I like mysteries and Australia is a new setting for me. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

bermudaonion 5/7/18, 11:05 AM  

Look Alive Out There sounds really good to me!

Tina 5/7/18, 11:29 AM  

Loved The Dry and very much looking forward to Harper's next book. I am soooo close on that hold at the library. Ah, Cormoron Strike....can't wait to see that one! We don't have broadcast TV so I have to wait, once again, on the library.

If we ever move I want consistant internet so I can stream!

Vicki 5/7/18, 3:06 PM  

All those books are new to me. I'll check out Letterman's show.

Susan Schleicher 5/7/18, 4:49 PM  

I had a slow reading week this week too. Busy times! Interesting, new-to-me books on your list. Enjoy!!

Unknown 5/7/18, 6:46 PM  

I really enjoyed reading your post. Your mini reviews are amazing, despite me not generally reading these genre, you've piqued my interest on some of these books, most especially Look Alive Out There.

I'm also going to check out Jane Harper's books, living in Sydney, I like reading books set in Australia, but not many of the themes that are normally set in Australia intrigues me, but these books have.

I didn't even know JK Rowling had a pseudonym, I wonder why she does when she'd get more book sales if she wrote under her JK Rowling name. How are these books?

Paperback Princess

Sue Jackson 5/7/18, 6:46 PM  

Ooh...a new TV series based on Cormaran Strike? Can;t wait to see it! (but I will have to, since we don't get Cinemax). We've only read the first book so far, but my husband and I both enjoyed it.

And we loved book 1 of The Themis Files! In fact, at Booktopia this weekend, I bought my husband book 2 for Father's Day (shhh!) - don't know how we missed it last year! The audio sounds great.

I;ve been hearing SO many good things about Jane Harper's novels - she is on my own TBR list and my list for gift ideas for my husband, too - I like getting him books that I want to read also!

One of the booksellers at Booktopia this weekend recommended The Mars Room - it sounds so good! Glad you are enjoying it.

Have a great week & enjoy your books -


Book By Book

Nise' 5/7/18, 10:16 PM  

Our farmer's market opened last weekend too and I have a goal to make it there weekly! I've got to get to The Dry so I can read the next book! Have a great week.

pussreboots 5/8/18, 12:25 AM  

Look Alive Out There is on my wishilst. What am I reading?

Aj @ Read All The Things! 5/8/18, 2:22 AM  

I’m glad you liked Only Human. I still need to read that one. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/11/18, 7:45 AM  

I keep staring at Sweetbitter on our fiction shelf at the Book Cellar and thinking I should read it. Now I will. I can't believe I haven't watched Letterman yet, it looks so good.

Daryl 5/22/18, 8:24 AM  

some interesting choices AND TV suggestions! awesome post

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