Fiction

Book 54 of 52: Savage Run by C.J. Box

The latest in our series of Savage Run by C.J. Box. Did it occur to me that it was a bit odd that I brought a book about a Wyoming game warden to read in England? Yes. However, I also read Regency romance novels in my home in New Jersey so is it all that different?

Anyway – this is the second in Box’s Joe Pickett series about, yes, a Wyoming game warden. Like Open Season (which I did read while out west this summer), which I read earlier this year, it’s about the tension between environmentalists and people who use the land for profit, sport or both. It opens with an exploding cow. Yes, an exploding cow.

As the book progresses, we follow the two men responsible for the exploding cow, and murders of high profile people working in the environmental movement. Pickett gets involved because he investigates the cow incident, eventually puts together that these murders are connected.

It’s a quick read, and one that kept me engaged, which is why I brought it with me, to read on the flight, and then on the London Underground while zipping around London. It was the perfect book for it.

Also a […]

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Book 53 of 52: Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey

After my dog died, a friend was kind enough to send me a box of romance novels (and I know you read this, so shout out in the comments if you’d like!). I was looking for one more book to read before I left for London, so picked Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey out of the box. It looked like a Hallmark Christmas movie, so why not.

WELL! I was wrong about the tone of this book. If I had just flipped to the back jacket, I would have known that Bailey is known a high spice level in her book. This maybe one of the most explicit romance novels I’ve ever read? Of course that’s my fault since I judged the book by its cover, but I kept flipping between the book and the cover and thinking “huh!”

Our main characters are Beat and Melody. Their mothers had been in a band together until something split them up and they became sworn enemies. Beat, for reasons we find out later, is being blackmailed, and the one way for him to get enough money to pay this guy off is to do a reality show that challenges him to get […]

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Book 52 of 52: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

It is time, once again (and if you’ve been here a while, you know what I’m going to stay) for me to continue on my quest to read every book about Italy written in the English language.

Now up: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. The novel opens on a small, remote Italian town where Pasquale, who has named the hotel he inherited The Adequate View, welcomes a dazzling stranger: Dee Moray, an American actress sent from the set of Cleopatra to recover from whatever is making her sick.

When the book started here, I was excited to dig in. I have long said someone should make a biopic about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton swanning around Rome during their budding love affair. Even if the book wasn’t about exactly that, it was Italy! In the 1962! Let’s go!

But then the action skips suddenly to modern day (the book was published in 2012) Hollywood to Claire, an unhappy production assistant with a porn-addicted boyfriend. Over the course of the novel, these two stories are awkwardly knit together.

Some of the turns the plot takes along the way are so predictable I rolled my eyes, and others so outlandish that I did the same […]

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Book 51 of 52: The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

In The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman, twin sisters Ladies Augusta and Julia Colebrook are in a unique position. They are 42 years old, and unmarried, but have their own money. Like other women their age in Regency London, they don’t have a lot of power, but unlike other “spinsters,” they are not 100% beholden to male relatives or partners.

So what do they do? Become vigilantes, of a sort, and help women and girls in need by doing things like getting back letters a man is using to blackmail his former lover, escape abusive husbands, rescue children from being forced into sex work, and infiltrating a women’s mental institution that is using its patients for profit.

The story is told from Lady Augusta’s point of view, and when she decides this is what she’s going to do, she thinks, “For myself, I no longer believed that this world was mere preparation for the next. This was all the life I would have, and I had to do as much with it as possible.”

While it’s set in Regency London, as many of the historical romances I read are, it’s not a romance. Instead, it’s billed as a “feminist […]

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Book 50 of 52: Flush by Carl Hiaasen

We’re back with our Florida pal Carl Hiaasen with Flush, a middle grade book about a pair of siblings who are picking up their father’s fight against the ne’re do wells who want to exploit Florida’s beauty for personal, financial gain.

After their father is arrested for sinking the Coral Queen, a casino boat that he accuses of dumping raw sewage into the Florida Keys, brother and sister Noah and Abby are determined to find the proof that will both get him out of jail, and the boat owner from poisoning one of their favorite beaches.

Like all Hiaasen books I’ve read, it pits the people who love Florida and its weird, wonderful beauty, against those who want to destroy it. And because it’s book for kids told from a kid’s (Noah’s) point of view, it also has the added element of being a child watching your parents fight. Their mother is threatening to divorce their father because his environmentalism is putting their finances at risk — and her general exasperation, even though she too cares for the land and water around her. It has the same kind of Florida strangeness and characters as Hiaasen’s adult books, but he does the […]

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Book 49 of 52: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty begins with a disappearance: Joy Delaney, retired tennis instructor and mom of four vanishes from the family home. She doesn’t leave a note. Her cell phone is found under her bed. She sent her kids a text message of nonsense, and then poof was gone.

What happened to her? Was her perfect marriage not so? Did she finally have it with her husband and leave? And what about a strange young woman who showed up one night, a few months before, barefoot and cold, saying she was running away from an abusive boyfriend? Did she have something to do with a woman who built her life on routines suddenly going missing?

I read most of Apples Never Fall while sick with a horrible, throat ripping cold (not COVID, trust me, I was tested many times). I could do little else but read, so the book did entertain me while I was ill. Moriarty is good at building a mystery by dropping hints throughout the narrative, and I enjoyed that part, even if the building was a little late to start. The first jaw dropping moment didn’t come until page 115 of 532 (and yes I […]

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Book 47 of 52: Knockout by Sarah MacLean

Knockout is the third in the Hell’s Belles books, a historical romance series about a group of (mostly) aristocratic women who don’t hold much power in official circles, but unofficially are doing things like helping women escape abusive situations, obtain abortions, and organize against unfair labor practices. Of course this has also made them a target, which comes to a head in this book, as the Belles figure out who is blowing up their clandestine establishments. Seems outlandish? MacLean said in the epilogue that they’re based on a real group!

Our hero is Imogen Loveless, an explosions expert; our hero, Thomas Peck, a detective who is hired by her brother to “protect” her until she finally finds a husband. Can you guess who that husband ends up being? Of course you can! It’s a romance after all!

And it was…here it is again…aggressively fine. MacLean’s writing is a bit spicier than I usually read, but I still keep up with her books because they’re fun, and I always learn something. This one ends with a tease as to the next book, which is about a woman usually referred to as just “Duchess,” the Belle I’ve been most curious about this […]

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Book 46 of 52: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

After my dog died, I was looking to sink into a book that I knew would keep me occupied while I also tried to get used to being down the shore without her. I’ve read a bunch of Pam Jenoff’s books, and have marked them all “aggressively fine.” I saw the title of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach and thought great: sweep me away to WW II England, ahoy!

Except Chelsea Beach doesn’t refer to anything in England. Instead, it’s Chelsea Beach in Atlantic City, about 30 miles from where I took this picture.

My fault! Though the book does eventually move to England, the bulk of the narrative is set in Philadelphia and in this part of Absecon Island. Adelia Montforte is a 16-year-old Italian teenager whose parents somehow get her on a boat to the U.S. in 1941. She’s Jewish, and her parents are political activists. They know the writing is on the wall and send her to safety. Adelia arrives in Philadelphia to stay with an aunt and uncle, who also rent a place down the shore in the summer.

Next door is the Connally family, a boisterous group with four sons. She spends the summer with them, […]

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Book 45 of 52: TBA

Hey readers! I can’t talk about the book I just finished, because it’s for work. But when that piece is out, I’ll update here, and in a new post. Read on!

Nov. 6 update: here’s the review!

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Book 43 of 52: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

I don’t know if it’s fair for me to write a review of The Mothers by Brit Bennett. When I started the book, my dog was either lying next to me on the grass when I read outside; or at my feet when I read inside. When I finished it, she was gone. I still read the book, but my brain was only making a glancing connection with the material.

But here’s what I can say:

The Mothers is about Nadia [corrected thanks to a reader], a 17 year old whose mother just died by suicide. The Mothers of the title are olden women who are members of a Black church, and they act as an omnipotent Greek chorus narrating the novel. Her father is the guy with a truck who helps everyone out. From the jump, we know that Aubrey had an abortion, and that news of it eventually gets out.

When and how is part of the plot, so I won’t spoil it here. I’ve seen other contemporary writers try to use a Greek chorus before, and Bennett is the best one to do it yet.

However, the last third of the story unraveled, with the primary players making decisions that […]

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