Monthly Archives: June 2020

Her Last Flight

I’ve read another book by Beatriz Williams, she’s fun for light intrigue. However, Her Last Flight, though full of potential, wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

DSC00584Janey Everett is a photojournalist on a mission: to fund out what happened in the final days of famous pilot Sam Mallory. The key to the mystery is Mallory’s partner, Irene Foster. So Everett’s first mission is to find Foster, who disappeared in a round-the-globe race.

But discovering the story is more than just professional interest for Janey, and soon she has to determine how far she’s willing to go to get the truth. And whether she’s ready to face what she hears.

The story was very good, despite having an inkling about one or two plot points within the first 100 pages. However, the characters posed some challenges. The classic loveless marriage as an excuse to have an affair didn’t sit well with me.

Additionally, the baggage Janey carried around, though it makes sense, didn’t seem to fit the story well. Raised without her father and taken advantage of by her step-father as a young woman, Janey has commitment issues and, frankly, becomes a sex addict. However, it didn’t seem to add to the story, and made is less enjoyable for me to read.

This was disappointing, because the story was otherwise quite enjoyable, full of intrigue and adventure.

Jamaica Inn

Ever since I read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, I’ve been wanting to read more by her. The depth of story and characters is excellent, and the gothic feel of her stories is reminiscent of other classics, but Du Maurier’s books tend to be a little easier to get through.

DSC00591Jamaica Inn starts with the death of Mary Yellan’s mother and Mary’s subsequent journey to live with her Aunt Patience at the remote Jamaica Inn, run by her uncle Joss Merlyn. Mary’s memory of her vibrant, enthusiastic aunt come crashing down when Mary arrives at the inn–despite being warned off– and finds a nervous shell of the woman she knew. Joss Merlyn is a hard man, and Mary soon realizes that she would have been better off heeding the warnings and staying away from Jamaica Inn. Though she doesn’t know what it is, exactly, there is darkness that makes itself at home there, and soon Mary is caught up in the middle of it.

A strong woman in her own right, Mary clings to her moral high ground as best as she can, but finds herself uncharacteristically tempted by a dark and handsome stranger she knows she cannot trust. Somehow, Mary finds herself quite in love and unsure of how to proceed.

Du Maurier is definitely a must-read author for fans of Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey, and other classic stories. I’d say even fans of Wilkie Collins would find Du Maurier enjoyable. Her characters are real–they aren’t perfect, nor are the villains purely evil. Du Maurier writes her characters with soft spots and rough edges and the reader may find themselves understanding even the character they hate, or raging against the character they love.

The descriptions Du Maurier writes add greatly to the story, as well. Both scene-setting descriptions, as well as inner thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. As a writer myself, I know the pressure one can feel to make sure chunks of text are broken up by dialogue, and I’ll admit I have to be quite conscious about it, or else I’ll boogie write (right, sorry) along with description and inner monologues and scene setting, and then remember my characters have to speak, too. So I appreciate authors who show skill at using descriptions etc., to move the story along and avoid leaving the reader feeling bogged down.

I’m very excited to know that I have many more books to go before exhausting her writings, including some autobiographical work, which I’m really interested in. Now if I  could just get to the library…

Song of the Sparrow

I remember buying this book when I was a teenager and thinking it was so cool, a different take on King Arthur from a female point of view. Now, reading it again as an adult, I still think it’s cool.

Lisa Ann Sandell’s Song of the Sparrow is told from the perspective of Elaine of Ascolat, the Lady of Shalott.img_2047 Forced to leave the island as a young girl, Elaine grew up among only men, soldiers at that. So when a beautiful lady arrives in their camp, Gwynivere, Arthur’s bride-to-be, Elaine is excited to finally have a bosom friend. Gwynivere, however, does not share Elaine’s enthusiasm. It’s not until everything depends on them working together that the girls finally open up and see they can learn a lot from each other.

This line of Arthurian lore follows more along the lines of the film King Arthur, highlighting him as a battle commander taking lead when the Roman leader died and working to unite Briton and defeat the Saxons. It’s way, way different than all the other King Arthur books I’ve read lately, so it was a nice change of pace (just the ticket to make me interested again in diving back down the rabbit hole…).

My one difficulty with this book, which I don’t recall having as a teen, is that it’s written in verse. But I still get tripped up when verses don’t rhyme (except when I write it, because then I know the beat I’m going for). So I found myself a few times struggling because it doesn’t read the same as a novel, but it feels halting to try to break where the author does.

Otherwise, I’d say it’s a classic teen telling of the story, with Lancelot and Gwynivere, Elaine loving Lancelot from afar, then finding out maybe a hero is different than a lover, plus the pivotal coming into their own moment for Gwynivere and Elaine, overcoming the odds to reach a happy ending for everyone (or almost everyone).

All in all, it’s a fun read, and quick, once you just get going and don’t worry about how you’re “supposed” to read it.

The Last Lecture

Do you ever grab a book to read knowing it’ll be a tough kind of read, then realize it hits too close to home? Yeah, I hate that, too.

DSC00585Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture is literally that. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Pausch had a unique experience to truly have one last lecture. Full of insight and wisdom from a man who packed a lot into a short life, Pausch had a second reason for the lecture (and the book): to give his kids something to remember him by.

Now, I knew exactly what this book was going to be. But I didn’t put two and two together and remember that it might not be the kind of book I want to be reading right now. Oops.

That said, it was a good book and a study, of sorts, in optimism, which I’m notoriously awful with. But when it sets the tone for life, any dream is possible, any obstacle is surmountable, and every moment becomes precious and cherishable. For me, that was a good reminder, to continue to live and pursue joy, instead of getting bogged down in the challenges.

I thought the book was going to be essentially a transcript of the lecture he gave, but it wasn’t, it was written in a very personal style, like he’s sitting there with you, giving you some advice and wisdom.

I’m not quite ready to actually go and watch the last lecture, but for now, I’ve got some perspective changing to get to.

The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)

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I’ve been reading some advance copies of books digitally lately, and let me just say, I was not made for digital reading. It’s hard. That said, I was interested in reading Katie Mack’s The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking). I think this was not a great book to read digitally.

Mack provides readers with a quick introduction to cosmology before looking at some of the ways the universe could end, including being crunched like a soda can, reaching unbearable temperatures, and being ripped apart. While the end of the universe is by no means imminent, I can understand why it’s interesting to explore the possibilities.

Part of what was challenging about this book was that I was reading it in conjunction with another book. How do people do that? That makes it difficult to keep up with the science I’m reading, when I’m just reading it sporadically. But overall, it was an interesting read full of hypotheticals that make me curious to know more.

Since I’ve been trying to revamp my blog I have a question to pose to you, my readers. Would you like me to institute a simple rating system of “buy, borrow, or skip” in terms of my recommendations? Comment and let me know!

Prisoner of the Daleks

As I’m trying to pack things up, it seemed time to knock out reading a few shorter stories in order to beef up my collection of blogs ready for posting. So I went back to my latest Doctor Who book to read the second story, Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale.

While flying solo, the Doctor ends up on an abandoned planet in the wrong time and finds himself suddenly in the middle of a war with the Daleks. Joining up with a team of Dalek bounty hunters, the Doctor must work with his new friends in order to try to stop the Daleks from gaining access to a small tear in time and space. If the Daleks succeed, they’ll finally be able to accomplish the extermination of the human race.

This was a fun, fast-paced little read featuring David Tennant’s incarnation of the Doctor, who has always been my favorite. It’s a little bit of a different story, in that many characters aren’t able to be saved, and Baxendale’s Doctor works to save himself and the others by dooming the Daleks. In some ways it felt contrary to the Doctor.

All in all, it was a fun read, and as always makes me want to get back into the show. But that’s a rabbit hole for another time.

The Guest List

I became aware of Lucy Foley earlier this year when her book The Hunting Party was selected as a Barnes & Noble book of the month. It was a popular choice, so when I saw an advance copy of her new book, The Guest List, I snagged it.

An isolated Irish island seems like the perfect place for a wedding—and the perfect place for a murder. While everyone should be celebrating, after the vows are said and cake it cut, someone turns up dead. Suddenly everyone is a suspect, and several people have hidden but compelling motives. But who really did it?

The story is told from a variety of perspectives, giving a good look at each character’s motives and thought processes. You start the book knowing it’s an Agatha Christie-esque mystery, where you know what’s happened, but not the who or the why. You’re left to piece things together through the narratives of the night before the wedding and the day of the event.

I was a little skeptical at first, because I know this is exactly the same style as Foley’s other book (which I didn’t read, but it’s just the principle). But I found the book actually quite engaging, even if I did hate every person in the book. What I will say, though, is that the way everything neatly traced back to the dead character was a little unimaginative. Each character had motive, and even though only one did the deed, everyone got revenge. The “got what was coming to them” feel left me a little dissatisfied.

So while it was a fast-paced read that kept me engaged and kept me linking all the stories together, it didn’t quite achieve the mind blowing climax I think Foley was going for.

The books isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, as it’s a little on the vulgar side in terms of language as well as content, which I found off-putting as well. I just don’t enjoy reading about characters who see women as sexual conquests instead of people. The book also touches on sensitive, triggering subjects, including suicide, abortion, and sexual exploitation via blackmail.