Here are reviews for the books I read in July that I didn’t have time or energy to do a full review on. Note: I was out of work in July so I read a lot.
The Woman in Cabin 10 ***
Read this while on a cruise ship and it definitely gave me some interesting feelings! A relatively entertaining thriller. I’d read another Ruth Ware book but wouldn’t rush out to do so
From Crook to Cook: Platinum Recipes From Tha Boss Dogg’s Kitchen****
Look, it’s simple: I had to read a cookbook for a summer reading challenge and I saw Kindle Unlimited offer this one. I figured if I had to read one, it’d be from someone entertaining like Snoop Dogg. And he didn’t disappoint; covering his favorite recipes and making me hungry as heck. I don’t know if any of these dishes work (I don’t cook) but they looked good to me and that’s all that matters (again: to me).
Greene has the same problem here that he does in The Quiet American: his characters can’t rise above being anything other than actors for his morality play. Plus, I like my gangster novels pulpy and this was contented to be of the overwritten lit variety. I’ll always love The Honorary Consul but it seems like that’s my exception to the rule with Greene’s work.
Plunder of the Sun***
A fun, quickie treasure hunt crime read that taught me more about Peruvian history than I ever knew. Could have done without the patronizing attitude towards women (shocker for a book that came out in the 50s) but otherwise, this was good.
Stunt: A Mythical Reimagining of Nellie Jackson, Madam of Natchez****
I’m biased here; Saida is an old acquaintance and while we’re not exactly close, I think highly of her and her work. So take this review for what that’s worth: I think it’s an excellent collection of wonderfully considered mediations on Nellie Jackson’s life and circumstances. Saida uses her words to build a world and I’ve always been drawn to writers who can do so with sparse, driving prose. Some of these, I had to step back from and consider what I’d read, which is to me the sign of any good poet. Pay for her work and enjoy.
The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, A Killer and the Birth of a Gangster Nation***
An interesting enough story but weirdly told by the author with unnecessary editorializing and redundant comparisons. Granted, it’s a story that isn’t deep enough to fill a long Wikipedia page but the filler here distracts from the story itself.
The Guest List***
Good enough as far as these kinds of thrillers go. Don’t get married on a spooky island.
Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook Files of Martin Ehrengraf****
Imagine if a non-people-eating Hannibal Lecter was a defense attorney who got people off from murder using…less than savory means. Some hilarious stories from the fertile mind of Lawrence Block. Ehrengraf was the last great creation of his that I put off reading and now I’m glad I finished it. Such a fun, entertaining group of stories.
Someone once wrote that Raymond Chandler writes like “a slumming angel.” With all due respect to Chandler, who has been properly Hosanna’d for his works, I think that title more aptly fits Vicki Hendricks, who writes these fascinating Florida noirs with women struggling to find the love they need and doing so in such desperate, sweaty ways. I laughed, I almost cried, I cringed, I rooted for the protagonist as she and her lover romped through Key West. Hendricks writes about sex in unapologetically frank ways, which is appealing in a time where people either take Victorian attitudes towards the subject or try to turn it into a literary event. Great stuff.
Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragic Romance****
Entertaining and fun. Perfect for Lebowski fans. I wish he hadn’t included so many Shakespeare references from other plays. The notes were a bit cloying as well. But still, I enjoyed this.
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor****
A fascinating story of human survival told in compelling fashion by Marquez. However, I would’ve liked to learn more about the fallout from the story and how it impacted Colombia since that seems like quite the tale in its own right.
A Night to Remember****
A well done “Just the facts” recount of the night the Titanic sunk. So gripping that the truth read like a thriller. A little patriarchal in language and random in structure but otherwise, a good book.
Slonim Woods 9: A Memoir****
Deeply disturbing. I don’t read books like this often so it made me uncomfortable. We all like to think this wouldn’t happen to us but when I was 19 and away at college, I was naive and impressionable like this author. Apparently, this book just scratches the surface of the Larry Ray saga.
A Clockwork Orange****
The first half where he’s just being a destructive tool is annoying, both in language and execution (admittedly, some of the language is clever). But there are major payoffs post-brainwashing. The societal questions it raises are interesting enough but I didn’t expect the theological ones and they have me curious.
A funny, fun retelling of Norse myths. Whether or not folks like this (I obviously did, Gaiman is a great storyteller), I hope they’re inspired to rewrite mythology in their own respective ways just by reading books like this.
My Summer Darlings****
My kind of fun, soapy, steamy, character-driven summer thriller. The ending disappoints as it always does and the twist is fine (if semi-predictable) but this is still a fun book. Someone wrote that May Cobb writes like an East Texas Jackie Collins with better prose. I definitely agree.
The Cat Who Saved Books***
Books that usually don’t work for me…
1. Charm orgies
2. Books about loving books
So yeah, two strikes and the third was a story that could’ve been shorter, even at it’s already short length.
This one had moments, really beautiful moments. But I don’t know. I don’t think I need 192 pages to be reminded of how much I love books. If I need a reminder, I’ll read another book.
I wanted to give this four stars—the Jackie O scenes are fantastic—but I can’t just for that. Aside from a few poignant moments, I never connected with the main character, who mostly annoyed me and sort of brought my enjoyment of the book down. Parts of it moved me to tears but most of it had me rolling my eyes.
Really enjoyed the first 4/5ths of this, which read like The Secret History by way of a young adult Agatha Christie novel. But the last twenty pages, which both halt things too abruptly and try too hard to set up the sequel, were a disappointment. I knew it was a series but it still would’ve worked better as a self-contained novel with a smoother ending. I appreciated the book but it kind of soured me on continuing the rest of the series.
Ace Atkins’ first book showed signs of the writer he was to become. Spins its tires a bit in spots but it’s still a good southern fried crime tale with some lovely scenery and, of course, the blues.
My guilty pleasure read and yet, I deserve to feel guilty as these books are bigoted garbage. I shouldn’t read them and yet I can’t help but be drawn into this stupid, lurid, soapy world. Jackie Collins will make you believe the Electra complex is real; she’s got one the size of Jupiter.
Aside from the Rainbird character (yeesh), this holds up as well as I remember. Suspenseful and wonderfully laced with the kinds of 70s paranoia/anti-government stuff I love. Definitely in my top tier King rankings along with Misery, 11/22/63, and Wolves of the Calla.