05 August 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: A Quartet of Book Reviews

4 books to read in August 2019Welcome to another Monday. Hope your weekend was relaxing and full of books, family, friends, and more.

We had a fairly quiet week for a change. I swear I was worried we were becoming one of those households in which there's constant drama. I'm very grateful for mostly smooth sailing.

We haven't been watching too much television lately, but we decided to give season 1, episode 1 of Derry Girls a try. Sadly, neither of us was really taken with it. It wasn't bad, it just didn't make us want to watch more.

Other than that, I've been catching up on the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. They take place in the 1920s in Australia and are really a lot of fun. Perfect escape viewing, if you haven't seen them yet.

Review of A Highland Christmas by M. C. Beaton A Highland Christmas by M. C. Beaton (Blackstone Audio, 2 hr, 7 min). As you know, I love the Hamish Macbeth mystery series set in the Scottish Highlands and starring a village copper who, despite having a reputation for being lazy and unambitious, always manages to solve the murder before the city police detectives can. This short Christmas story is numbered 1.5, but should really be listened to much later in the series. Nevertheless, it's a fun and (as a friend of mine said) sweet story of how Hamish solves two local crimes (a lost cat, stolen Christmas decorations) and at the same time gives several townspeople a new lease on life. If you're a Hamish fan, don't miss this Christmas story. The audiobook was read by Graeme Malcolm who does a terrific job with this series. It took me a while to get used to him (Davina Porter used to narrate the series), but I'm now a full-fledged fan. (borrowed from the library)

Review of Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton FrankQueen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank (William Morrow, May). I have a list of favorite summer authors, and Frank is on that list. I've always liked her sense of humor, the Lowcountry setting of her beach reads, and the smart women characters she creates. Although I liked this year's book, I can't say it's one of my favorites. Thirty-year-old Holly Kensen lives with her drama queen mother on Sullivan's Island, where she's a part-time beekeeper and part-time cake decorator while waiting for a teaching job to open up at the local elementary school. She is also always available to help out her handsome widowed neighbor and his two adorable sons, even though Archie doesn't seem to see her in the way she sees him. Meanwhile, her older sister, Leslie, is having marriage troubles and decides to move back home. Lots of drama ensues, and we hope that all works out for the three Kensen women.

I had a few issues with Queen Bee. First, Archie's two little boys didn't seem believable to me. It wasn't just a case of too much "out of the mouths of babes" type dialogue; they didn't act like any little boys I've been around. Second, there was a bit of a woo-woo factor to the story, and although I'm not against some conversing with nature, I wasn't really buying it here. Finally, one of the plot lines involves cross-dressing, and although Frank generally presented this in a sympathetic and realistic manner, she sometimes missed the mark. On the other hand, I liked all the honeybee facts. (audiobook review will be available through AudioFile magazine)

Review of Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane BuxtonHollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central, Aug. 6). Let's get one thing out of the way at the beginning. I really, really liked this novel, but it absolutely won't be for everyone. The story is told primarily from the viewpoint of S.T., a domesticated crow living in the Seattle area with Big Jim, a redneck human who has taught S.T. all about the MoFos (humans). Dennis, a seemingly doofus bloodhound, rounds out the household. One day Big Jim suddenly gets sick, and after his condition continues to deteriorate, S.T. tries to find a cure, only to discover that all the MoFos are suffering from a virus that turns them into zombie-like creatures. Seeing no hope for Big Jim, S.T. and Dennis venture out into the city, where all the domesticated and wild creatures, including released zoo animals, find they are once again in charge of planet Earth. S.T. tells us about the wisdom of the trees and the two layers of natural communication. He also gets caught up in the factions of domesticated animals, feral animals, city animals, and truly wild animals (including predators and insects), who must come up with new ways to live in the post-human world. Okay, admittedly weird sounding. But I loved S.T.'s outlook and the descriptions of the different animals from other animals' perspectives. I was caught up in the friendships and laughed at the humor. The story also includes fun Seattle, pop culture, and food references. The cause of the human downfall was a little heavy-handed, but yay S.T. for figuring it out and using it to the animals' benefit.

I did a combo read and listen of Hollow Kingdom. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 10 hr, 11 min) was read by Robert Petkoff, who did a brilliant job creating voices for the animals and keeping me fully invested in the story. Petkoff enlivened the action scenes and infused his performance with just the right level of emotions. (digital and audio editions provided by the publisher)

Review of Cape by Kate Hannigan and illustrated by Patrick SpazianteCape by Kate Hannigan and illustrated by Patrick Spaziante (Aladdin, Aug. 6). This middle grade story is mostly told in text with a few sections of panels--comic book style. The book follows three young girls living in Philadelphia during World War II. All of them love solving puzzles and meet after they've answered an ad calling for problem solvers to help with the war effort. In this alternate world, superheroes are real, but have disappeared from the city since Pearl Harbor. The trio quickly bond, especially after they've been tapped to help with a secret mission. To their wonder, it turns out that they too have superhero powers, which they can use to help save Philadelphia from Nazi spies. Cape is a little different from your usual superhero story. Running themes are friendship, family, sacrifice for your country, bullying, kindness, and fighting prejudice. Some of the characters are based on real people, and some of the plot lines are based on real events, most prominently the women who built the first computer (the ENIAC Six). Yes, you have to take a leap of faith here, but Hannigan does a great job introducing young readers to some of the less-well-known aspects of life in the States during World War II. Cape is the promising start of a new series. (digital copy provided by the publisher)


Susie | Novel Visits 8/5/19, 9:33 AM  

Yours is the second review I read today on The Hollow Kingdom. What a unique premiss for a book. I think it might be a little too out there for me, but it does sound wild. Plus, I find crows SO annoying. There are a couple that live in my neighborhood and they can be so loud, disrupting my outside reading time! Have a great week.

Nise' 8/5/19, 9:39 AM  

Glad it was a quiet week! I am hoping for one this week. Frank is one of my go to summer authors too!

Yvonne 8/5/19, 9:55 AM  

I'm glad you had a quiet week. I have to read the Hamish Macbeth. I love M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series. I hope you have a great week!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 8/5/19, 11:01 AM  

Hmmm...I like the sound of Hollow Kingdom. I always have mixed feeling about such odd books, though; I either love them or I hate them. I shall look for it.

Kathy Martin 8/5/19, 12:30 PM  

I think The Hollow Kingdom sounds a little to weird for me. I'm kind of stuck in mysteries - realistic, preferably - these days. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Tina 8/5/19, 1:28 PM  

I haven't seen Derry Girls but we have had shows like that. Just didn't grab us.
I like M.C. Beaton quite a bit, glad there's a new book.

Vicki 8/5/19, 4:07 PM  

All are new to me.

pussreboots 8/5/19, 7:18 PM  

All of your books are on my wishlist. My weekly updates

Greg 8/5/19, 8:22 PM  

I watched the first Miss Fisher's a while back and liked it, especially the time setting. I ned to watch more. I tried High Seas which is a 1920's murder mystery on a ship, but it's a little slow moving. Hopefully it picks up.

Quiet drama- free weeks are good! Hope you have a great week ahead.

shelleyrae @ book'd out 8/6/19, 9:15 AM  

I loveMiss Fishers Murder Mysteries, I cant wait til the movie release later this year. Oddly enough I was never a fan of the book series though. Have you read any?

Have a great reading week

Bryan G. Robinson 8/6/19, 3:29 PM  

Hmmm, and my wife and I liked Derry Girls. She was in Belfast for a short semester in college and could relate. Differentiate strokes for different folks.🙂

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