5 stars · American Tall Tale · Book Review · Favorite Books · Historical Fiction

West with Giraffes…a satisfying American tall tale

If you loved the movie Big Fish, you’ll love West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. A historical fiction that holds its own in the American tall tale tradition, West with Giraffes holds the fine balance between just enough truth and just enough tall tale to be believable. I had a blast reading this book and actually just purchased a copy for my dad, who shares my love of Westerns and tall tales.

West with Giraffes follows the strange-but-true story of a pair of giraffes as they endure a wild boat trip across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, barely surviving a hurricane, before embarking on an epic road trip across the United States from New York to the San Diego zoon in California.

Rutledge skillfully navigates her way through the time period, folding her readers into the gritty reality of 1938; an America beaten, bruised and slowly recovering from the back to back travesties of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the fear and trepidation of Hitler’s rise to power, the palpable tension between black and white Americans, the wide open spaces between abandoned towns and the unreliable dirt roads that passed for highways.

Against this dark and dreary back drop, Rutledge gifts us with a strong cast of unlikely heroes: two awe inspiring giraffes, a beautiful and impulsive photographer, a grumpy but wise Old Man who keeps our heroes moving ever forward, and young man to rival any of the great American tall tale heroes, Woody Nickel. Through a series of wild happenstance, the inexperienced but determined Woody becomes the giraffes chauffer, embarking on the ride of life time.

If there is one thread that Rutledge weaves flawlessly through West with Giraffes, it’s the tiny spark of hope that people in hard times cherish and stoke so desperately. The giraffes, which were extremely rare in the US at that time, due to their delicate nature and the long distances required to acquire them, provide that hopeful beacon. Rutledge does a fantastic job reproducing the wonder, awe and excitement of folks seeing a giraffe for the very first time, particularly for an audience accustomed to feeding giraffes at their local zoo on any given weekday. I found myself enamored with giraffes and inspired to look a little deeper at this modern day staple of zoo creatures.

This was a fantastic read and a great way to break out of the mid-winter pandemic blues. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read more by this author.

Happy reading friends! Until next time, cheers!

-R

1938: Lofty and Patches loaded into their caravan for their cross country journey to the San Diego zoo. https://library.sandiegozoo.org/sdzg-history-timeline/#1930
2 Stars · Book Review · Bust · Gonna Need a Stiff Drink For This One · thoughts · YA

Meg Elison is officially the queen of trauma porn

Oh boy, it’s been a while since I’ve visited the blog. Between working, running my Pilates studio and homeschooling the minion, life’s been crazy busy. I’ve been reading daily, but finding time to share thoughts has been slim pickings lately.

So where do you find new books to read? In the good old days, I’d spend ages browsing in the library, sifting through books by size, color, cover art, title, and interesting first pages. Since getting a kindle, I’ve depended on recommendations from friends and whatever looks interesting on Kindle Unlimited. A few friends have recommended Good Reads, but I have such a hard time using that platform, it doesn’t feel fun or natural.

Amazon First Reads has been awesome to get a free book every month, but I noticed I’d collected a ton of unread books from the program, so 2021 started off with a deliberate effort to read every free book I’d downloaded in 2020 BEFORE buying/downloading any new books.

So let’s start 2021 with where we left off in 2020…Meg Elison. The author of The Unnamed Midwife, which I absolutely hated, wrote another book called Find Layla which found its way into my reading queue via Amazon first reads.

Written for a YA audience, Find Layla follows fourteen year old street wise and book smart Layla Bailey as she navigates her mother’s mental illness and the subsequent neglect, abuse, and responsibility as she ekes out a delicate survival for herself and her six year old brother, on top of the usual school bullies and teenage angst. All of this takes place within the realms of Layla’s science obsession and under the microscope of social media and the twitter’s sphere.

While Elison starts out strong and the reader develops a genuine concern for Layla, this book suffers from the same over emphasis on trauma, gaping plot holes, and lack of character development as The Unnamed Midwife.

For me, the plot holes are always the biggest hang up. In Finding Layla, the plot holes and lack of character development go hand in hand. To start with, Layla’s mom was very one dimensional. She was the evil mother with poor hygiene, poor social skills and completely incapable of caring for herself or her children. But what wasn’t explained was how she got that way. We see how the mother’s affliction affects Layla and her brother, Andy, but there’s never any background for how things got to where they were.

Was the mother a drug addict? A hoarder? Some other mental illness? How did she manage to have relationships that produced children? How was she able to care for the children as babies? How was she able to get, keep and maintain jobs seemingly easily over and over in new places with her poor hygiene and lack of social skills? Without these answers, the book never really fleshes out.

Layla’s best friend and classmates are equally lean characters. They are stereotypical “mean girls” that really push the limits on terrible behavior. While I know bullying exists and is infinitely worse with social media, the way Elison portrayed it here just felt completely over the top. It would have been nice to see a little more complexity and depth in the teenage characters to help round them out a little bit.

The adults in the book are as stupid and ineffective as the teenagers. This creates a continuing plot hole, leaving the reader wondering how so many adults could fail to respond, particularly when the situation for Layla and Andy is so dire and so very apparent to anyone in contact with either child.

Layla herself is the most developed character, but even she falls flat, particularly when the plot depends on the depth of another character, which just isn’t there to support her.

One thing I strongly dislike about Elison’s writing is her complete dependence on trauma to keep the reader engaged. Whenever a plot thread starts to unravel or get tangled, she throws in a heavy dose of extreme trauma. This was the same plot device she used to propel The Unnamed Midwife. The trauma portions of the book are incredibly well done. They’re graphic, evoke strong emotions and trigger the part of the brain that can’t stop rubber necking at a car crash. Unfortunately that doesn’t make for high brow reading and I found myself thoroughly disappointed at the amount of time I’d spent on another of Elison’s books when this one ended.

This one has 4.5 starts on Amazon right now, and close to 3,000 ratings but only 439 actual reviews. I was actually surprised by the lack of written reviews, considering how many ratings the book has.

Sorry for another negative book review. Those somehow seem easier to write and it seemed fitting to pick up where we left off on the last update. I have read some truly great books this year, so can’t wait to share those!

Until next time, cheers and happy reading!

Uncategorized

Worst book of 2020: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

I had one rule in 2020. No dystopian novels. After reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, I had to add a second rule. Never read a book about a deadly plague during a world wide pandemic.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife has the makings of an incredible dystopian tale. It has an awesome title. It has a plague that wipes out 95% of men, 99% of women and 100% of babies and children. It has a cross-dressing midwife, an interesting and unusual choice for main character. And the story opens with a creepy strange cult that has somehow been inspired by the journals of said cross-dressing midwife. Going in, there was no way this book could be terrible.

The story follows the “unnamed midwife” as she navigates across the U.S. looking for her lost partner and a safe space to survive post apocalyptic plague. As she travels, she journals her encounters with the world around her. Most of the entries detail the empty towns, long lonely highways, and endless nothingness left by the plague. The monotony is broken up with the occasional murderous gang of male rapists and their female slaves, religious fanatics who hide their women, women who refuse to join and follow the unnamed midwife, and “hives”, groups of men led by a single female.

Despite all of the four and five star reviews on Amazon praising this book for its innovation and strong feminist leanings, it had a messy plot that meandered, never actually going anywhere, with huge plot gaps and very poorly developed characters. Because you can’t write an entire book on nothingness broken only by the occasional bad guy encounter, the author threw in lots and lots of sex as filler. This is a clever ploy on the author’s part as the sex tends to take your attention away from the fact that this book is going nowhere.

In my opinion, the book fails majorly in a few ways.

First off, the main character sucks. There isn’t anything redeeming or remotely interesting about the unnamed midwife, except for the fact that she has survived and is now walking across the country. Her personality sucks. She’s kind of a jerk to everyone she encounters and is incredibly condescending. Most of the book dwells on her love life, which isn’t as interesting or as controversial as the author makes it out to be.

The cult religion angle never gets fleshed out and leaves so many unanswered questions. Why and how did a religion form? Where and how did the journals come into play? What is going on here?!?!

Every man is either a complete idiot or a murdering rapist. Every female, except the unnamed midwife, is incapable or incompetent. Why is the unnamed midwife the only competent character? This lack of depth in characters just feels too ridiculous to me.

The traveling and scavenging portions of the book left more questions on logistics and practicality than it solved the problems of hunger.

Sex. There’s just so much sex in the book that there isn’t much room left for anything else. I finally decided that I prefer young adult dystopian books because the kids in those books have to actually solve problems and figure things out.

I kept reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife waiting for the action to start or for the loose ends to start being tied up nicely. Instead, the book ended quickly and without answering any questions.

Overall, I hated this book. Would not recommend.

That’s all for today, cheers friends and happy reading!

-R

Gonna Need a Stiff Drink For This One · Politics · thoughts · WWII

How the pandemic lock down has helped me truly understand and empathize what was happening during WWII

WWII historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and the reading options are seemingly endless.  I received The Girl in the Blue Coat from a Secret Santa exchange and was very excited to read something from the Netherlands, which I don’t know much about. We’ve talked about this before, and I’m always astounded by the wide reach of WWII, especially considering how much of our school education focused solely on Germany, Japan and the US.

Something that has always eluded me when reading WWII novels is how and why the people reacted the way they did.  Neighbors living in fear of one another and turning each other in for the slightest suspicion.  Lives ruined over a misunderstanding or a bored busy-body.

With the world currently locked down by pandemic, sadly, I’ve begun to understand how it all unfolded.  With every government notice, every media post, every friend’s Facebook post, we are being bombarded with messages that the world is not a safe place.

We are receiving endless messages that every single person you encounter is a threat to your health.  That sweet little boy rummaging through the candy aisle?  Not safe.  That little old lady inching closer to hear a conversation, not safe.  The guy stocking groceries.   Not safe.  Your kid’s classmates?  Not safe.  Coworkers?  Not safe.  Random stranger jogging down the street?  Not safe.

Not only are we being told that other people are a threat to our health, we are being told that normal innocuous daily activities are also hazardous to our health.  Touching a door knob or a grocery cart.  Wearing your outside shoes inside.  Using the same towel daily.  Petting a stranger’s dog.  Driving with your car window down.  Breathing the same air as someone who ran by three hours ago.

Mail and packages should be left on the porch for 24 hours, contents should by Lysoled. Groceries should be removed from their packaging and repacked in “safe” containers.  Shopping, dining in a restaurant, exercising in public, riding a bus, taking an Uber, going to work, visiting a library…all unsafe.

The only “safe” activities are Netflix, Disney Plus and as much media content as you can stomach.

Did reading the last three paragraphs make you anxious, panicked and stressed out?  Yeah, me too.  And in that panic and anxiety, I have begun to understand more and more why people behaved the way they did during WWII.

First, humans are pretty much incapable of making good decisions when panicked.  And like the entire world during WWII, we’re all pretty panicked as record numbers of folks are unemployed, the economy has come to a standstill and life as we know has completely stopped.

Second, when everyone around you has been classified as an enemy and all of your normal daily activities are classified as unsafe, we feel, well…unsafe.  In WWII Europe, the “enemy” was the Jewish people, the homosexuals, the Roma.  In 2020, the “enemy” is anyone standing closer than 6′.

Third, when what we see doesn’t jive with what we are being told, we start to feel confused, frustrated, angry.  Heavy propaganda helped propel the Nazi machine through Europe.  Our current media has lost all credibility and can’t keep a story straight for more than 2 hours.

Those feelings of panic, danger, confusion, frustration and anger boil down to us feeling helpless, out of control, and alone.  That feeling of “alone” is amplified by the fact that we are physically cut off from almost all of our support systems and safe places.

As humans, when we feel helpless, out of control or alone, we do things to counteract and combat those feelings, whether or not they are logical, appropriate or helpful to our situation.

We hoard toilet paper.  We close down parks and trails, despite the fact that sunshine, exercise and fresh air are universally renowned for their health benefits.  We wear gloves to touch shopping carts.  We use rubbing alcohol to disinfect our mail.  We stand in our yards, wearing pj’s and howling every night at 8 pm with our neighbors.  We use social media to post endless articles, opinions and thoughts on the situation, whether or not those posts and articles are fact checked, true, or relevant.

It bears saying again.  When faced with uncertainty, danger, loss of control and alone, humans will always reach for the things that help us feel safe, in charge, under control and not alone, whether or not they are logical, appropriate or helpful to our situation. 

Just like the citizens who couldn’t control who was taken and who wasn’t, or whether or not their rations included sugar or flour, we can’t control whether or not the virus clings to metal or dies on cardboard.  We can’t control whether or not the stores have toilet paper.  And to feel safe, humans need something to control.

As California and New York’s political figure heads have started encouraging folks to turn each other in for social gatherings, it’s becoming a lot easier to understand just how those folks in WWII were able to turn in their neighbors, their friends, their customers.

While we see the consequences of those actions now, and judge them as morally reprehensible from the safety of our own lives decades later, there’s a good chance that they too, were people living in constant panic and fear, operating in panic and fear, decision making in panic and fear.

There’s a good chance that they too were people searching desperately for a way to gain back their own control, power, and safety.

Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy a good book and some sunshine.

-R

 

4 Stars · Book Review · China · Favorite Authors

Adventure abounds in Jeff Wheeler’s latest novel, The Killing Fog

41SJKIH2+DL._SY346_Hey friends!  How are you?  Are you reading a lot more lately?  I’ve seen a lot more posts in the books subreddit  on Reddit and a ton more book discussions between friends on Facebook.  It looks like most of us are dealing with these stay-at-home orders by indulging in lots and lots of reading.

So tell me, what are you reading?  I don’t have the stomach for anything dystopian at the moment, but Jeff Wheeler’s newest book just arrived and it was like Christmas morning on my kindle.  Y’all know how much I enjoy Jeff Wheeler’s world building and The Killing Fog just really took me in completely.

One of my favorite things about Wheeler’s writing is that he takes familiar-ish stories, locations or times and gives them a very magical supernatural spin.   His world building skills are incredible and The Killing Fog delivers completely in this sense.  The characters were much stronger than in The Harbinger Series  and the writing itself was almost as strong as that of The Kingfountain Series.    I’ve always find it interesting that Wheeler’s main characters are almost always strong capable young women and that he tends to write them fairly well for a middle aged man.

Hands down, The Kingfountain Series is still my favorite of Wheeler’s works (and I HIGHLY recommend these books if you’re in the mood for something well written, intriguing and magical), but The Killing Fog comes in at a strong second.  While the Harbinger Series, Muirwood and Mirrowen were good young adult fiction, The Kingfountain Series and The Grave Kingdom Series are better suited for mature readers and really show Wheeler at his finest.

Wheeler’s books are meant to be read as a series, they’re not standalone books, which can be a little bit annoying.  Especially since the next book in The Grave Kingdom series isn’t out until June, but it’s also nice to have something to look forward to.

Take care!  until next time, cheers!

-R

Books Read · Books to Movies · classics · dystopian · Gonna Need a Stiff Drink For This One · series books · thoughts

Books I wish I’d never read. My list of the worst books to read during a government imposed quarantine.

Boy, howdy.  The last few weeks have been rough.  Popping in to see how y’all are doing.  Everyone in my fam is safe and well, something I am grateful for every single second these days.  Lately, it seems like everything we did before last week was silly and meaningless.  We were so innocent and naive and the world was wonderful.  Writing a blog about the books I read was a fun and quirky hobby.  Now, at a time like this, it has felt silly and without purpose.

But then I went for a run on a beautiful day in our beautiful neighborhood and found that someone had written inspiring messages across a good 1/2 mile of the park loop.  The ones that stuck out the most were

“Always look for the helpers.  Mr. Rogers”

and

“Look for the light.  If you can’t find it, be the light.”.

So, here I am, ready to be a helper and a light bearer.  I don’t have much to offer, but if you enjoy discussions about books and love westerns, historical fiction and sci-fi, I can offer you companionship and camaraderie through a blog about books.

The last few weeks have left me anxiety ridden as I have (very unwisely!) gorged on news and found myself ticking off a mental checklist of news items found readily on a highlight reel of dystopian novels.  As my beautiful home state prepares to lock down tomorrow, there are several books I wish I’d never read and didn’t have a mental memory picture to pull references from right now.  Without further ado, I present to you, my list of the worst books to read during a government imposed quarantine.

The top three are quite obvious and cliche.  The number of young adult books on this list is alarming.  And finally, I’ve read so many books by Latin authors discussing the economic and government fallout of their countries, that they belong on this list as well.  Unlike the others on this list, I wouldn’t avoid reading the Latin American books right now because they aren’t dystopian novels, but they will bring an entirely different perspective to life outside of America as we know it and can be quite uncomfortable to read at times.

1984

Animal Farm

A Brave New World

Catch-22

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, The Mockingjay

Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant

The Light of the Fireflies

The Lord of the Flies

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Giver

The Time Machine

The Maze Runner

A River in Darkness

 

Latin American Books:

In the Time of the Butterflies

The Motorcycle Diaries

Guerrilla Warfare

Dreaming in Cuban

On my current reading list, I’ve been diving into the Deep Magic e-zine and Jeff Wheeler has a new book out, Killing Fog, so I’ve fallen into both of those lately.

Take care of yourself friends!  Drop me a comment or shoot an email response and let me know what you’re reading and how it’s going.

Cheers, – R

 

 

5 stars · Book Review · Sci-Fi · Science · series books · thoughts

The Last Dance is an accessible and entertaining intro for Sci-Fi newbies and hits the spot for nostalgic Sci-Fi readers

41LvyukIvVLIf you love the old Star Treks, Star Gate and anything 80’s sci-fi, The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker is a must read.  This was one of my favorite Kindle reads of the year.  It was well written, fun and incredibly intelligent.  You can tell Shoemaker loves space and the book maintains a good grasp on the science involved with space travel as well as the complexity of human behavior and emotions when millions of miles away from home.  There’s nothing I hate more than a book that glosses over science completely (unless it’s magic..of course!) so I really appreciated Shoemaker’s approach in The Last Dance.  The true emotion elicited by this book was reminiscent of reading “The War of the Worlds”…i.e..it totally could happen.

Set on the Aldrin, a space craft that shuttles people from Earth to the Mars colonies in 2083, The Last Dance untangles the very complicated story of Captain Nicolau Aames who is accused of treason and his loyal crew, accused of mutiny.

As Inspector General Park boards the Aldrin and conducts her investigation into Aames and his crew, she encounters the true complexity of space travel, the nuances of human interactions and the explosive political tensions between the Mars/Earth and Civilian/Military bureaucracy. 

Aames, by all accounts is an asshole.  But he is consistent, incredibly competent and exceptionally fair.  He’s also stubborn, arrogant and routinely pushes people to their breaking points.  His list of political enemies reaches from Earth to Mars.  His crew, however, is unswervingly loyal and exceptionally competent themselves, leaving Inspector General Park to dig for an unbiased truth from the testimonies of a crew who respects their captain and stands by him, even against accusations of mutiny and treason.  

The Last Dance was so much fun to read and I cannot wait book two: The Last Campaign.

5 Stars because I love retro sci-fi.  🙂

Until next time, happy reading friends.

-R

3 stars · Book Review · Historical Fiction · WW1

In a Field of Blue reaches beyond romance to the ravages of war

in a field of blueIn a Field of Blue by Gemma Liviero was a Kindle first read and despite a confusing and slow start, it was an enjoyable historical romance set in 1922 England.  With the slow start of the first few chapters, it felt like Liviero really struggled with finding the voice of her male narrator.  Starting out, I thought the main character was female and had to read back a few times in confusion before realizing the narrator was male and named Rudy.  That wasn’t a great start.  I read a lot and have never encountered a book where the narrator’s gender and name were unclear or confusing.  Luckily, Liviero found her footing and I was able to follow the story easily after realizing who Rudy was.

Set in England post WW1, In a Field of Blue swirls around three brothers and their mother.  The youngest son, Rudy, and his mother live precariously on the edge waiting for the return of Edgar, the eldest brother whose gone missing during the war and the heir of the family fortune.  Their future depends on Edgar’s return, as his death means the entire family estate would be lost to the wildly irresponsible Lawrence, the second born and next in line who wants to sell their home and move on with life.  As the third born, Rudy has no claim to anything except the mess his older brothers leave in their wake.  When a strange French woman arrives with a small boy in tow,  claiming to be Edgar’s widow arriving with his son, the family drama ensues and Rudy begins an investigation into the strange woman, named Mariette, the boy and Edgar.

While In a Field of Blue is classified as Historical Fiction, it definitely teeters closer towards historical romance without every falling into that category.  Liviero did a fantastic job bringing forth the emotional trauma of war and presenting it in a way that is both respectful and powerful.  This book is worth reading just for Liviero’s approach to mental health.  The characters are incredibly well developed, it’s impossible not to fall in love with them, and the backdrop she paints across Europe is beautifully done.  The story does flip between four different narrators, and I wish Liviero had stuck to Mariette as her narrator.  Her writing was so much stronger and easier to follow with Mariette than the other characters.  This book could have also done with some heavy editing, particularly through the first 30% to help with clarity and ease of reading.

Overall, In a Field of Blue was a very enjoyable book, perfect for a winter day snuggled under a blanket.  I give this one 3 stars.  Incredible characters, beautifully written, needed a lot of help with clarity those first few chapters.

Until next time, happy reading friends!

Cheers, -R

 

3 stars · beach read · Book Review · Bust · Secret Hideout · spoilers · Summer Read · thoughts

Unpopular Opinion: Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautifully written book with a stupid plot.

Thank goodness it’s a snow day because I stayed up late last night finishing up “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens and I need a nap.  This book is crazy popular right now and I was actually lucky enough to snag a copy from the library’s “Lucky Day” shelf last week.

So first things first, Where the Crawdads Sing has over 37,000 reviews on Amazon right now, with about 87% of those being 5 stars.  I’ve honestly never seen a book have so many reviews.  It’s just incredible.

*I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but with 37,000 reviews and a full Wikipedia synopsis of this book, I’m not sure what’s spoiler and what isn’t for this book.*

Set somewhere in the marshes of the North Carolina coast, the novel weaves together the story of the young beautiful feral marsh girl, Kya, with the suspected murder of the town’s golden boy, Chase.   As Owens takes readers through history and into the marsh, the chapters flash back and forth across the years of 1952-1969, eventually catching up to each other in 1969-1970.  The use of short chapters and flashing back and forth in time was well done.  Unlike Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, Owens was able to maintain her momentum and storytelling with ease throughout the entire novel.

The book is full of rich descriptions of the natural world and it’s no surprise that Owens is actually a zoologist.  While I enjoyed reading about the mashes’s flora and fauna and the incredibly world Owens creates in the marsh, it eventually burned me out and I wish there had been more editing to cull down the descriptions a bit.

The entire plot of Where the Crawdads Sing is set upon Kya’s abandonment, first by her mother who leaves six year old Kya and her four older siblings in the marsh shack with an abusive drunken father.  Her mother’s departure is followed by a slow trickling of abandonment by the four older siblings who vanish down the road without a trace until seven year old Kya is left alone with a man she fears and can’t count on to provide food or stability.  After a truce of sorts in which her father teachers her to fish and boat, he too disappears, leaving Kya to fend for herself in a shack in the middle of nowhere with no food and no money.

Depending on the skills taught by an older brother and her father, Kya survives alone for almost 17 years, a feral child living in the marsh surfacing only for meager supplies and gas for her boat.  Kya’s vulnerability draws readers in, the rich natural descriptions of the coast blending with the loneliness and heartbreak of a little girl left completely alone in the world.  Flashes of racism and prejudice flicker heavily across the pages and I couldn’t help but think that everyone in Barkley Cove comes across as a coward, an asshole or both.

In the midst of Kya’s desperate bid to survive, two local boys find Chase Andrews, the town’s hero, dead in the marsh.  The town searches desperately for a cause of death and eventually lands on a suspected murder.

Without spoilers, I found Where the Crawdads Sing to be a quick and easy read.  The story drew me in but left me wanting more rooted in reality.  I couldn’t get past an entire town knowingly and willingly leaving a little girl to survive out in the marsh alone for years.  I couldn’t get past older siblings knowingly and willingly leaving a little sister alone with a drunk abusive father.  I couldn’t get past the long list of skills that a six or seven year old would need to survive alone without food, running water or electricity in a North Carolina marsh.

I couldn’t get past Kya’s prodigal art talent or her seemingly instantaneous ability to read after 14 years of illiteracy once someone finally taught her the basics.  I couldn’t get past a child not only surviving but thriving on grits, mussels and a few random vegetables for years.

I couldn’t get past the middle-of-nowhere marsh shack being fitted out with plumbing and electricity without any details of how exactly that happened.  I couldn’t get past the terrible inconsistent accents.  I also hated all of the random poems and over technical explanations tossed into the book to make Kya appear much smarter and more cultured than the town folks.

I couldn’t get past the characters suddenly and shockingly changing character in ways that just did not make sense.

For all of my wanting to accept the story, I could not get past the absurdity of the trial or the eventual revelation of who killed Chase Andrews.

Overall, most of this book just felt too implausible.  Where the Crawdads Sing started out beautifully but left me reaching too far from reality to feel grounded in the story and too far removed from characters that seemed to flip personalities seemingly instantaneously.  This one rings somewhere around 3 stars.  Beautiful written.  Stupid plot.

Until next time, happy reading!

Cheers- R

3 stars · Book Review · Western

Emulating the Klondike Gold rush, “Toward the Midnight Sun” promises more than it delivers

Written by Eoin Dempsey, Toward the Midnight Sun promises adventure and romance against the rugged backdrop of the Klondike goldrush in 1897.  The story follows the young protagonist, Anna, as she embarks on a wild trip from Seattle to Dawson City to join her betrothed, a stranger twice her age.

As a native Coloradan, I LOVE westerns and the gold rush and anything about rugged mountain adventures.  After reading the description, I couldn’t wait to pick up this book and dig in.

After a very slow start and a slow build up, the action picks up when Anna finds herself stranded with dishonest chaperones and a pair of strangers her only allies.   The story really picks up and gets interesting as Anna starts her trek across the land to Dawson City.  I enjoyed the description of life on the trail and all of the work involved in getting yourself and your supplies across an unpredictable landscape with winter breathing down your back.

Things take a turn for the worse in Dawson City, and Toward the Midnight Sun moves from a slow starting adventure novel towards a cheap romance novel that loses the plot.  Things start to tumble together quickly and eventually characters are thrown into situations and reactions that don’t make sense for the story or their personalities.  Dempsey tries to be inclusive and empathetic towards the plight of women but it ends up feeling unnatural.  Anna becomes a young woman whose primary thoughts revolve around showing everyone she could do survive.  Rather than inspirational,  her inner monologue quickly gets boring.

About 3/4 of the way through the book, things start to feel too big to wrap up with just 25% of the book left and Dempsey steamrolls through to a quick ending.  The last portion of the book feels like Dempsey realized he needed to finish in a certain amount of pages and did anything to get there.

Overall, this book was a quick read.  I enjoyed the subject and the trail adventure.  However, the girl-power factor was overdone and the book was slow too start and too quick to end.   3 stars for me today.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Cheers- R