What I Read in January

10 books in January. I think that’s a record! I wasn’t a big fan of some of what I read, but by the end of the month I was enjoying all my books. I went into a major murder-mystery theme in January. Although it seems like I’ve moved on from there.

The Best

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry The Ingredients of Love

  • The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce (A wonderful companion book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I was sobbing at the end. )
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (I recommend reading this before Queenie’s book, but they can be read and enjoyed independent of each other. A wonderfully quirky tale of a man with an unresolved past trying to make amends.)
  • The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau (A very cute rom-com set in Paris about a series of misconceptions, deceptions and mistaken identities.)

The Meh

  The Sign of the Four Funny Girl Death at Wentwater Court (Daisy Dalrymple, #1) Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)

  • The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I love the first half, the second half wandered and there is so much latent racism sprinkled throughout the book. I know that it was just the way of life back then, but its so jarring to read in today’s world.)
  • Funny Girl by Nick Hornby (It wasn’t very funny.)
  • Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Fan’s of Agatha Christie and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will appreciate this book. I like the era and the gumption of the main character. The ending fell short and was a major disappointment.)
  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (The first introduction to James Bond. I was not impressed.)

The Worst

The Precious One Moonlight over Paris Return of the Thin Man

  • The Precius One by Marisa de los Santa (bleh. Cliché, overly-precious and horribly predictable and unrealistic ending.)
  • Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson (Wonderful writing by the author, except that there was no real plot and no character development.)
  • Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (A series of unfortunate events turned Hammett’s wonderful Thin Man into a parody of itself for the Hollywood Screen. This was more like a screenplay than the book and given how many changes were made to the story to make it fit the screen, well, the essential essence and Hammett’s originality and wit were lost in the shuffle.)

 

 

January Reading – Week 3 recap

I’m a few days late on this recap, but I also didn’t really get very far with reading either. My library had a Friend’s of the Library Booksale on Saturday and I picked up a wonderful selection of books all for $6. Seriously, I live off of book sales like these.

IMG_1352

I also picked up a copy of these two books, but they didn’t make it into the group photo shoot.

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France

What I finished:

The Ingredients of LoveThe Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau
Format: book

The summary and the cover are what attracted me to this book. As well as a sneak peek into the author’s newest book coming out in March Paris is Always a Good Idea. Ingredients of Love is a cute little love story based on a massive, self-serving deception of a naïve restaurant chef, Aurelie, by a book publisher, Andre. One sad and lonely day after being dumped by her boyfriend Claude, Aurelie goes for a long and thoughtful walk and finds herself in a charming little bookstore. Unsure of what to do, the bookseller directs her to table covered with novels. The first one she picks up is somehow about her and her restaurant. After that, her search for the author leads her to Andre and madcap hijinks ensue.

Its kind of nice reading a contemporary love story set in Paris that is not a memoir with biting or thoughtful social philosophy and observation. Its just a story of a guy and a girl and how they “fell in love.” Its very cheesy, but I liked the author’s writing style. He’s no Antoine Laurain, he’s still my number 1 for French fiction. But I did enjoy this book, despite the lackluster heroine (she’s quite dull). Andre was very entertaining in his determination to keep the ruse of his double personality. Its very reminiscent of a 1990s Meg Ryan Rom-Com.

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (James Bond Book #1)
Format: eAudio

I went back to the audiobook version of Casino Royale. Although I liked the book, it just didn’t live up to the hype and the myth that surrounds the theatrical version of James Bond. This book is our first introduction to Bond. Like the book itself, or maybe the book is like Bond, both are very dry and matter-of-fact. Bond is more sexist than charming, and not very clever despite being a good gambler. I wasn’t very impressed, but it was a quick read at only 187 pages, so I might give the follow-up novels a try to see if he gets more exciting. I kept waiting to see if Vesper would do something besides being kidnapped and looking pretty. I think my modern feminist view clashed with the sexism of the 1960s. As Bond put it, women were only good for cooking and sex. They had no role in espionage. How he became a 007 agent was someone disappointing too. It was revealed during a quick mention of him having killed a couple of people. That’s it. A quick two sentences and viola. The book was a nice step away from the hard-boiled crime novels I was reading. Now I’m ready for something more exciting, like books about espionage, and government level conspiracies.

What I’m Reading Now

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock book #2)
Format: Print

It’s an 87 page story, but because it’s on my bedside table, I only read 2-3 pages before I go to bed. I hope to finish it this week though. It’s quite a juicy story and I’m loving watching Watson and Mary fall in love with each other.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Format: Audiobook / Read by Jim Broadbent

Unassuming and mild manner Harold wakes up one morning with a letter from a former co-worker informing him of her battle with cancer. After spending some time thinking of a reply to her letter, Harold finally puts the pen to paper. But when he walks to the post to deliver it, he has an overwhelming sense that a letter is not enough. So he walks to the next post box, and then keeps going. He makes a decision that if he walks the 500 miles to Berwick upon Tweed, then he can save Queenie Hennessy from her cancer.

This book is amazing. The narrator is amazing and I never want it to it. Harold is one of those super flawed characters that you cheer for anyway. He’s a coward, a bad father (detached, not cruel), but he’s sensitive, vulnerable and his travel is more of a philosophical look into his life than it is about saving Queenie. It’s wonderfully introspective and I love being on this journey with Harold.

This quote is from The Ingredients of Love, but I feel it applies very well to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

“Sometimes you go out in order to get somewhere. And sometimes you just go out to walk and walk and go farther and farther until the clouds clear, despair calms down, or you have thought a thought through to the very end”

January Reading – Week 2 recap

I like this little weekly summary of what I’m reading. If you’re really curious as to what books are going through my revolving door of interest, follow me on Goodreads.

What I finished:

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Daisy Dalyrmple Book #1)
Format: e-audiobook

I’m not sure why, but I’ve fallen into a historical murder mystery fiction mode. I really enjoyed Death at Wentwater Court, at least I did until the ending. Daisy Darlymple is a new journalist, writing columns about the homes of the England’s wealthiest and finest aristocracy. During a stay at a friend’s estate, Daisy and her companions stumble upon the corpse of one of the house guests. Now Daisy is entangled in solving the mystery with the local detective. The book was fun, although the author was very heavy-handed with the slang of the era towards the beginning of the novel. I enjoyed the mystery, the twists and the guesses as to who-dunnit. The only bell that really rang false for me was how the eventual murder was solved and Daisy’s attempts to convince the murderer to escape to Brazil.

Moonlight over ParisMoonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Format: Print

Near death due to the influenza, Helena Parr promised herself that if she survived, she would make sure to really live her life. After a miraculous recovery, she decides to leave her gossip-riddled life in England and go to France for a year to live with her eccentric aunt Agnes, studying art. Along the way, Helena makes a motley cru assortment of friends and meets and greets the various literary and artistic elite of this jazz age of Paris’s past. This book was fairly boring from start to end. I still don’t understand the concept or reasoning for the character of Louisette. She’s meant to be a chaperone for Daisy Fields, one of Helena’s classmates, but she’s never actively a part of the story and then she’s quickly swept away at the end. Although, the story and romance is very predictable and there is little to no plot in the story. Just Helena going to school and being chummy. I think the only thing that kept me engaged with the story was Robson’s writing style and the ease of which I felt transposed back to Paris of the 1920s. She has a great talent with description and setting. I just wish her book had some more depth and character development to it. All the characters were flat, minus the tropes of the eccentric aunt and flamboyant artist friends.

What I’m Reading Now

Return of the Thin Man Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Format: e-Audiobook

Although this is penned as two novellas covered the tale of Nick and Nora Charles following the hit novel The Thin Man, this comes across more as a screenplay than a novella. Which is fine, but I think what I loved most about The Thin Man was Hammett’s setting and use of descriptive writing to really bring the characters alive. And Nick and Nora are possibly by favorite literacy couple. The story is definitely dated though, with blatant racism and sexism in its depictions of certain characters. It does take away from the story. Although the audio is still fairly entertaining as its read by a full ensemble cast of narrators.

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1) Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (James Bond Book #1)
Format: Print

I have yet to venture in the James Bond world. I’ve seen a couple of the newer movies, but I thought I should give the books a try as they fit in quite perfectly with my murder mystery theme of the month. I did start on the audiobook, but I couldn’t concentrate on the narration, so I’m giving the print version a try.

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2) The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock book #2)
Format: Print

Fresh off the tails of the Sherlock Christmas special, I’m back into the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I did read A Study in Scarlet a while ago, but have stagnated on reading the rest of the Sherlock books because I honestly have no clue in what order they need to be read. There are the 4 novels and various essays and short stories and mini novels. A co-worker recommend I spilt the works into groups, pre-death Sherlock and post-revival Sherlock. In either case, it doesn’t matter too much in which order I read the stories in those two groups.

Lets be Honest

I’m not very good at keeping up with reviewing the books I finish in a timely manner. So, I’m going to try something new this year. Weekly recaps. Summaries of what I’ve read, what I’ve finished, and what I’ve added to my To-Read pile. I probably won’t be doing individual book reviews, unless its something I absolutely adore.

Here’s my summary of January so far.

What I finished:

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
Format: Audiobook

Review:

This was my first Nick Hornby title. It was a bit lackluster. I think my biggest complaint is that it was sold as “funny” but it wasn’t. It was about Barbara, a small town girl who moved to London and found her onto a most beloved sitcom in the 1960s. It was and it wasn’t. Hornby kept telling us that the show was successful, daring and original. Barbara changed her name to Sophie and was able to leave her past behind her without a second thought. I wish we had been given a better glimpse into the show. A joke, a transcript, something to highlight it. There was also very little character development. There wasn’t much of a different between Sophie and Barbara. There weren’t many challenges, and everything just kind of fell into place. There were also a lot of awkward moments. Maybe those were the funny parts?

The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
Format: Print
Source: Publisher via LibraryThing

Review:

This could have been a great book, but the ending just about ruined it for me. This is the third book by the author that I’ve read and I’ve realized that her stories are all very similar and very formulaic. There are stories of abandonment, of loneliness, and of finding family in unusual places. Everything is always wrapped up in a neat little Hallmark bow and the world lives happily ever after. This approach was a breath of fresh air in her first book, Love Walked In. The characters were unique, had depth and the story was original. Three books and the story is stale. The Precious One is a story told by two daughters (half-sisters) of a crotchety old man, (Wilson) who was a terrible father to one and a wonderful father to the other. Although Taisy was the more likable character, Willow had more depth and was more interesting. Taisy’s storyline was predictable and uninteresting. Willow’s storyline had a lot of interesting twists and turns, but the sugar-coated all is well ending…I ended up skimming the last twenty pages because it was so unbelievable and such a departure from the character foundations that had been laid out in the beginning of the book.

What I’m Reading Now

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
Format: Audiobook

Somewhat like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, this is book 1 of the Daisy Darlymple mysteries. Its a 1920’s murder at the famous Wentwater Court estate. Rookie journalist Daisy finds herself in the middle of the investigation of a shocking murder at the estate during her stay.

Moonlight over Paris Moonlight over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Format: Book – Source: Publisher

After surviving a near death from a bought of the influenza during the 1920’s, Helena Parr decides that she must make something of her life. So, she decides to live with her eccentric aunt Agnes in Paris for a year studying art. Along the way, she makes acquaintances with some of the best known artists and writers in Paris (Hemingway, Stein) and manages to find love.

Books I Read – Micro Reviews (part 1)

I’ve been reading faster than I’ve been reviewing, so sadly, these books will not get their own posts. A couple of them should rightfully get their own post, as I did very much enjoy them, but alas, I don’t have the time to write it all out.

Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham
Format: Book / Source: Library

Read Bottom UpThis is a very cute and quick novel describing the modern dating scene as set in New York. The novel is written as a series of texts and emails. According to the introduction, Neel wrote from the perspective of Elliot while Skye wrote from the perspective of Madeline, neither knowing what the other was writing. The book was funny, the jokes were very on-point. It reminded me a lot of the sense of humor in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None TV show in Netflix. It also reminded me of Ceclia Ahern’s Love, Rosie novel, which is also written as text messages, emails, IM’s and other modern chat instruments.

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Format: Audiobook / Narrators: Helen Marsh, Nicolette McKenzie, & Nigel Carrington

Lost & Found I’d been on a wild goose chase, looking for a book that matched the humor and wry sarcasm of Where’d You Go Bernadette for a few years now. I thankfully found it in Brooke Davis’ Lost and Found. Set in the backdrop of Australia, this book tells the sad saga of 7-year-old Millie Bird, abandoned by her mother in a woman’s department store shortly after the death of her father. The book has three main characters, Millie, Agatha Pantha and Karl the Touch Typist. Each person has their own sad story and somehow their lives converge as they work together to try to reunite Millie with her long-gone mother. The book is funny, heartbreaking and captivating. The narrators were superb, particularly for Mille and Agatha.

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
Format: Book / Source: Library

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest This book was first referenced in AJ Jacob’s Drop Dead Healthy, and the topic has been of interest to me since. Dan Buettner visits a variety continents and small cities across the world, those with the highest population of those living up to and past 100 years of age to find out just how they have managed to live as long as they have, while still being mentally and physically fit at over 100-years of age. He goes to Italy, Japan, Costa Rica, even a small city in California. The secret to a long life? 1. Mostly vegetarian diet 2. A strong social life. 3. A sense of purpose (a reason to get up in the morning – volunteer work, family, other happy obligations. 4. A moderate glass of good red wine each day 5. Walking, walking, stretching and more walking. It’s not brain science. It’s common sense that we’ve forgotten in our bubble of highly processed foods and convenience methods of cooking.

The Tower, The Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Format: Audiobook / Narrator: Jonathan Cowley

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise Taking place in the infamous and tourist hot-spot Tower of London, Julia Stuart’s book is a quiet, introspective look at the lives of the people who live and work in the tower. The book started quite slowly, with a varied cast of characters and a rather blurry plot with no real path. It didn’t take for me to realize that like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, British books tend to be more about window snippets into the people’s lives, than about a major conflict, upheaval or occurrence. The main figures are Balthazar and Hebe Jones as they try to make sense of their crumbling marriage 2 years after the death of their young son. The supporting cast is full of color and humor, highlighting the rather dour and grim auras of the Jones. Despite its slow start, it’s a rather beautiful novel. Jonathan Cowley is a wonderful narrator. You can’t really go wrong with British narrators. There is just something so soothing and captivating about their accents. There is also the added bonus of historical tidbits about the Tower of London, from its menagerie to its cast of prisoners over the years.

Book Review: Happier at Home by Gretchin Rubin

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here and Remember Now. by Gretchen Rubin

Format: eAudio Books

Narrator: Kathe Mazur

Source: Library Copy / Overdrive

Random House Audio, 2012

If there is any one book I actually regret having finished, it has to be this one. Well, maybe Goodnight June, but this one as well. This book was incredibly myopic, superficial, elitist and uninviting in virtually every sense. I kept hoping for insights, for little gems of inspiration or change, but none was to be found. Rubin is best known for her other NY Times Bestselling Book The Happiness Project. I read and half-heartedly enjoyed that book. I thought I would give Happier at Home a try. I didn’t have any other audio books to listen to at the time.

I think if Rubin had written this as a long article, or a blog post, it wouldn’t be so bad. It might even have been helpful had it been shorter in length so much less in her head. Also, she should have branded it as being more mindful rather than being happier. She wasn’t unhappy when she started. She was still riding the high of her Happiness Project book being such a success. In the end, I don’t feel like she made herself any more happy than she was at the beginning. It did feel like she paid more attention to the incredible minutiae of her life and looked for happiness in random areas. At times it felt like she was nit-picking just to find something to complain about in otherwise easy life. A loving husband, great kids, a great apartment in walking distance to wonderful restaurants, libraries and more. She could travel, but doesn’t want to. She wanted to look for happiness in the small things in life. Its commendable. It’s a bit monastic. It was a big stretch because she already has so many wonderful and happy things in her life that rather than just appreciate what she has, she has to elaborate in boring detail all the pot-holes in her life.

I’m still stumped as to her target audience is with this book. Is it the low-income mother juggling two jobs? Is it the Park Ave mother with 2 nannies on the payroll? It’s somewhere in the middle, but leaning heavily towards Park Ave. mother. Although her Wednesday adventures outing with her eldest daughter sounded like a fun idea, tallying up the weekly admission costs for each and every place they went to every week had my head spinning. Her main source of happiness was purchasing Demeter Fragrance for her home. This book actually made me really sad and judgmental, which I don’t think was her intent. She did even include a disclaimer that her path to being happier at home is not the path that everyone should take. It’s just one person’s story. To be honest, the most helpful part of the entire book was the appendix at the end where she summarized her findings and her nine-month trial run at being happier at home.

The post, Book review: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, first appeared on The Novel World.

Book Review: The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay

The House I Loved

Title: The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
Format: e-Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Library Copy/Overdrive
Macmillan Audio, 2012
Length: 6 hours

Set during a unique historical period in France, Madame Rose Bazelet is determined to save her husband’s home from the wrecking ball of Baron Haussmann’s Parisian Boulevard renovation project of the 1860s. Rose sets up a camp in the basement of her husband’s family home, and tells a moving story of her life. She recounts her days before, during and after meeting her husband and what has led her to her current state. She writes a long letter to her late husband, processing her thoughts, feelings and emotions as she waits for the crew to come and demolish her home.

This is my third and most likely my last book by de Rosnay. The first being, A Secret Kept and the second being, A Paris Affair. To be honest, I just haven’t had much of a connection with any of her stories, as exciting and entrancing as the summaries and reviews sound. This book in particular was more dull than anything. It was neither great nor bad. It just was. I loved the historical era, its one I almost never come across. Historical books set in France are almost always about Marie Antoinette, or the 1920s. I would love to learn more about Haussmann’s renovation. How the public took to his drastic and dramatic alterations of their city streets. How people were re-housed, if at all.

In this book, we meet Rose. A typical, sweet French girl with a lot of baggage to her story. She had no connection to her own mother and similarly, has no connection to her own daughter. She seems lost, confused, but also stymied by social etiquette. She just doesn’t know what to do and does nothing as a result. I wish the story had more depth, more character development, more historical accuracies and factoids for me to contemplate. I think the book might have fared better had it not been written in Rose Bazelet’s voice. The writing style was too prim and descriptive to be passed off as local commentary. Also, I did not like being in Rose’s head for such a long period of time. She did not have a great many insights into the world around her. I would have liked to hear another voice, maybe a responder to the letters rather than it being a one-way conversation. I wanted someone to play devil’s advocate and defend Haussmann’s plans. I wanted there to be an external conflict. Rose’s internal conflict wasn’t that captivating.

The post, Book Review: The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay, first appeared on The Novel World.

Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Title: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
Genre: Horror, Fiction
Format: Audio Book
Narrator: Daniel Weyman
Source: Library Download
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012

 

This short novella takes place in Barcelona between 1979 and 1980. 15-year-old boarding school student Oscar  Drai finds himself with 3 free hours during the school day. With this time, he explores his neighborhood and surroundings areas. During on of his excursions, he stumbles into a dilapidated mansion, drawn in by the music playing from the inside.  Caught by the owner, Oscar takes off running, leaving with a gold watch that he had seen laying on a table. After a while, feeling the guilt of a thief, Oscar returns to the house to return the watch to its rightful owners. It is from this day that he meets Marina. A girl his age who lives alone with her father and the ghost of her departed mother. While Oscar and Marina form a unique and strong friendship, they find themselves led down a dark path, inserting themselves into the lives of broken, miserable lost souls. His journey with Marina takes him into the labyrinths of Barcelona’s underworld, a world full of forgotten, deformed and mislead creatures. A postwar Barcelona, filled with aristocrats, actresses, tycoons and inventors.

I think I would best describe this book a horror fairy tale. In all honesty, I was shocked to see that this book was penned for a young adult audience. Zafron’s prose is so rich with imagery, and so wrought with fear, loneliness and desperation from its cast of characters. I was shuddering with fear and disgust at some of the horror and violence that took place in the book. The twist at the end I did not predict, although it seemed like a fitting ending after everything Oscar and Marina suffered throughout the course of this book. I listed to the book on audio, which did definitely set the mood of such a dark book. Daniel Weyman did a fantastic job with the pace and tone of the book.

The book is an intricate mystery, suspense, thriller, horror love story of sorts. An ugly love, a frail love and a determined love, but a love story nonetheless. Although I wasn’t aware at the brevity of the book through the audio book, it is a story that I didn’t want to finish. In fact, it was very difficult to find a place to pause throughout the entire story. Each scene, each conversation, each experience flowed so perfectly into the next. It’s almost as if the book is meant to be read in one-go. My constant stops and starts with disrupt the mood and tone of the book and it would take me a while to transport myself back into Zafron’s world.

Although the book is set in 1970’s Barcelona, I was able to recognize a number of streets and locations that he mentioned from my trip there a few years ago. If anything, this book has me wanting to go back to Barcelona. The Gothic Quarter in particular is so rife for horror stories and old magic. It’s a wonderful setting for these types of books. Of the two Zafron books I’ve read, I prefer The Shadow of the Wind. I found that one to be more of an emotional and psychological horror, while Marina was driven more by passion and emotion. Apparently, I have not reviewed The Shadow of the Wind on this site. I thought I had. It’s a wonderful book and one I’m constantly shoving into the hands of curious library users asking for a good book to read. But now I have another title to stow away in my memory for the teens that come in looking for a book.

The post, Book Review: Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, first appeared on The Novel World.

Book Review: The Examined Life by Stephan Grosz

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephan Grosz
Genre: Memoir, Psychology
Format: Audio Book
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Norton & Company, 2014

 

In Stephen Grosz’ book, The Examined Life, Stephen gives the reader a look into the psycho-analytical process of a diverse and wide range of behavioral and mental maladaptions to their environments. The book is divided into five distinct sections, with stories and breakthroughs lining with the prescribed theme of the chapter. There is loss, closure, grief, etc.

Many of his chapters were insightful and introspective. He had a number of thoughtful observations that I wrote down.

“When we succeed in feeling nothing we lose our understanding of what hurts us and why”

This one quote was about a particular case study of a woman who just felt nothing when things fell apart around her. Its life a shield against the unfairness of life. Many of Grosz’s thoughts almost force the reader to look inwards really appreciate his analysis. Its funny with anything related to psychology. We always look for ourselves in these stories. I saw many elements of myself in each of his clients, granted not to their extreme. There is definitely something to be learned about behavior patterns and interpersonal relationships through the stories in this book. Although, to be honest, I felt like he was holding back quite a bit throughout the entire book. Every section felt just too short. Something was missing. He would start some section casually talking about 3 or 4 different client mental ailments before settling on one story to divulge in full to the reader. Although most of his stories stuck to the theme of the chapter, others felt randomly squeezed in. I would have liked some more insight and some transition from the patient’s distress to breakthrough. The breakthroughs were all invariable discovered through a memory of a long-forgotten dream or childhood experience. Most of the adulthood handicaps were stemmed from traumatic experiences. It made me hyper-aware of my son’s environment and what he is exposed to and what his experiences are. Last thing I want is for him to develop some kind of stigma or neurosis because of some seemingly miniscule action on my part.

I listened to the audiobook through my library’s Hoopla streaming service. Audiobooks on Hoopla are basically just one long track. This book was 5.5 hours. Which meant that I had to be very careful when I would pause or shut the screen so that I wouldn’t lose my place. The book was narrated by Peter Marinker. Both Grosz and Marinker are British and all of the stories take place at Grosz’ office in London. Marinker has a very calm and soothing voice, perfect to narrate the lives of such disturbed individuals. His voice carries a strong sense of calm and indifference that I think might be necessary to withstand so many sad stories of neglect, insecurity and human frailties. The story of the nine-year-old boy was perhaps the most effecting. The fact that they couldn’t move forward with the therapy until they both realized that the child could not be fixed talks to the extent of mental illness and our own biases towards what is normal and what is not.

The post, Book Review: The Examined Life by Stephan Grosz first appeared on The Novel World.

Book Review: Antidote to Venom by Willis Freeman Crofts

Antidote to Venom
Title: Antidote to Venom (Inspector French #17) by Willis Freeman Crofts
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library Copy
Format: Paperback
Publisher: British Library Crime Classic, (first published 1938)

This book I just stumbled upon browsing the new fiction shelves at the library one day. Its been quite a while since the last new episode of Sherlock and I was in the mood for just a classic murder mystery without all the thriller fluff that takes up most of modern-day mystery books. Plus, it’s a British classic crime novel, and I have enjoyed the last few of that genre that I read. This one in particular caught my eye because of its history. Willis Freeman Crofts was just as well-known in the mystery literary circles as Agatha Christie and Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle. With this particular novel, he inverted the typical mystery formula by presenting the views from the murder’s perspective. It was quite a novel take during his time.

In an English city, a murderer colluded with a local zookeeper, George Surridge to use snake venom to kill an old professor in order to gain his inheritance. The novel starts out with the murders, setting up their motives and already putting the reader’s sympathies in question. The famed Inspector French doesn’t even make an appearance until nearly the last fourth of the novel, just when you think things are wrapped up the murderers will be able to get away with their scheme. The entire process was so interesting to me. Especially the way the two accomplices worked together. One procured the venom, but had no idea how the other administered the venom to the victim. Since the reader was kept in the dark, we were able to follow through Inspector French’s detective process and piece together the missing parts of the puzzle to figure out how it was done, not necessarily who it was done by.

Since the book was written in the 1930’s, there’s a certain elegance to it, a subtle and snarky sense of humor belies the entire book. George Surridge is trapped in a loveless marriage. He starts an affair with a young woman he meets at the zoo. Soon, his affair ends up putting him in debt that only the inheritance of his aunt will rescue. Although he catches himself wishing her dead, he takes no actions and feels guilty (sort of) for his thoughts. When his aunt does actually pass away, he finds out from the lawyer, Capper, that all of the inheritance money has been spent. This is how Capper recruits his accomplice. Capper explains that the death of his uncle will provide both men with the funds that they so desperately need. Here we have motive, as well as a basic outline of how the murder will take place. The book was a wonderful read. I was eagerly looking for more books in the Inspector French series, as he works likes a Colombo type of detective. Those are always fun stories. I loved watching Colombo as a child with my mom. Unfortunately, there are no more books by Crofts available in my little area of the Bay Area. Maybe more will be re-published soon. This was a wonderfully engrossing novel that any mystery or British literature fan will appreciate and enjoy.

The post Book Review: Antidote to Venom by Willis Freeman Crofts first appeared on The Novel World.