C is for Corpse – 3/5 Stars
The third Kinsey Milhone mystery, and probably the first one that I thought was pretty good. The other two were fine, and only fine, but what was hard to discern about those was who is this narrator and what does she do, want, feel etc.
This one has more personality to it and I am beginning to better understand more about her. It begins with a workout partner/guy at the gym hiring her to investigate a devastating carwreck he was in months prior that left his best friend dead and his own brain riddle with memory-destroying injuries. Once a hot preppy pre-med student working the rounds before a second go at med school admittance, he is now the traumatic brain injury induced emotional wreck who has gaps in his perceptions and over-reactions to every emotional set-back. Convinced that the wreck was a set up and not simply a rich kid drinking and driving accident, he hires Kinsey to look into the fractured memories he has.
This book reminds me a LOT of the kinds of movies my dad used to rent from Kroger — a new detective investigating a singular crime or a murder of the week kind of tv show. It hits all those notes. There’s the barest sense of a personal stake in the mystery.
The only issue I have is that the audiobook reader, who does a perfunctory job narrates the “dumbed down” Bobby with such a goofy voice that when he is hitting on Kinsey with a vulnerable state kind of boyishness it sounds like she’s about to hop in the sack with Eeyore, which is its whole other thing.
Empire of Ivory – 4/5
This is the fourth book in the Naomi Novik Temaraire novel series. For those of you who might not know about this series, re-imagine the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O’Brien but along the way to his post-captainship Aubrey finds and hatches a dragon’s egg and pair bonds with the dragon. That’s this series.
What’s also funny about listening to the audiobooks of these novels is that they’re read by Simon Vance, who also reads the Aubrey/Maturin books, so there’s a kind of consistency. But most importantly, his voice for Temaraire, the Imperial Chinese Celestial breed of dragon who bonds and befriends our main human protagonist is so charming and loving.
Anyway, this is the first of the books that I really really liked, compared to liking the others just fine and liking the world a lot. It’s got more of the kinds of discussions of politics and morals that make a lot of historical fiction much more interesting. We are faced in this book with the return of Temaraire and Lawrence to England to find that there’s a plague hitting the local British force of dragons which gives them an incessant cough, suppresses their appetites and causes them to waste away. Already deeply sympathetic to the dragon cause, Lawrence finds himself devastated not only by his empathy toward the dragons, their humans, and their crew, but in his own horror at the real possibility of Temaraire becoming ill too. So they ship off to southern Africa is search of a piquant kind of mushroom that was used in a restorative broth Temeraire drank in China and believed possibly useful in the fight against this disease.
I won’t think too hard about the ways in which this novel intertwines itself into the question of abolition because I don’t really feel like working through whether or not the book handles it well. It SEEMS to but I could easily convinced it’s much more awkward and problematic than my cursory thoughts on it suggest.
This is Really Happening 3/5
This is a collection of biographical essays by Buzzfeed content collator Erin Chack. It’s basically two types of memoirs, both done pretty well, a cancer memoir and an adult adolescence memoir. I think part of these types are handled well, and the book is pretty funny, interesting, and at times very insightful. It’s a little too hodgepodge to be very good, but take on their own the different essays are mostly successful. What does work about it, on its own, but mostly in comparison to other not that dissimilar books like it is that Chack seems to have a pretty good sense of what she knows and what she should write about, so there’s never any parts of the book that fall into youthful arrogance pretending to be intelligent precociousness.
So the two types: I call adult adolescence anything that falls into that college-age to mid-20s, where you go through a lot and a lot of emotions, but don’t always have the sense to process much of it. The essays here are funny and light in those ways.
The cancer memoir is also very good because a) it’s her story to tell and b) it challenges directly and indirectly cultural concepts of cancer. For that reason, were I to find a free copy of this book, I’d happily put it in classroom library. I have had student who have had cancer and I wouldn’t give them this book to read, but I’d be happy to have them stumble upon it.
The only parts I expressly didn’t like were the kind of rationalizations about working for Buzzfeed. It’s a job, and while Buzzfeed does do good news reporting and in-depth journalism, and while no one can blame a person for working for Buzzfeed, you’re not going to fool me into praising or seeing remote virtue in their content.