The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

I read this book for my One Drink Minimum Book club this month.  I have not read anything else by Matthew Quick and I probably won’t based on this.  I know I am in the minority because many people love all of Matthew Quick’s works.

This book is about a young man (30s) who lived with his mother his whole life.  She dies (no spoiler it happens in the first couple of pages) and he has to “learn” to live by himself.  He finds a form letter from Richard Gere to his mother and decides to start writing to him to work his way through what  is happening to him.  The entire book is in the form of letters (one sided) to Richard Gere.  Although it is never explicitly stated, it is clear that he on the autism spectrum somewhere.

Through his journey, he assembles a rather ragtag assortment of characters, I mean every character is quirky, I think that is supposed to be the charming??  He has a bipolar alcoholic defrocked priest, a counselor who is herself an abused woman and should be dealing with her own  issues,  a traumatized woman and her brother who is paranoid, delusional, believes in aliens and has a verbal tick where he says fuck in every single sentence…for the entire book.

I had a number of problems with the book: first, I felt somehow that Bartholomew’s disability was like  a punchline, it seemed a wrong treatment to me.  I also read The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night and I never got that sense from that book. Then, Bartholomew spends a great deal of the book trying to get to know Girllibrarian and when he does meet and talk to her, there is no sense that they have anything in common or anything to really talk about. Also,  Bartholomew shows no signs of really needing help, he may be autistic but he was his mother’s caregiver, not the other way around, and he shows no signs of being grief stricken.

I don’t want to say to much more and give away everything about the plot, but this really didn’t work for me.

 

Resolution & A Brush with Death

Resolution is the third book in the Garnethill trilogy by Denise Mina.  I would highly recommend reading this series in order…or you will be completely  lost.

It is hard to discuss too much about this book without giving away spoilers to the first two in the series, because this plot wraps up events from those books.  On the whole this is a dark, gritty, violent series.  It covers a gamut of issues from childhood sexual abuse, alcoholism, family dysfunction, infidelity, drug abuse, rape and of course murder.  The protagonist, Maureen, as a drunken, self destructive incest survivor drives this whole trilogy.  The closest character I can compare her to is Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame.

The negatives with the books, all of them, for me occur whenever Maureen interacts with the police officers. Those scenes seem to range from unrealistic to cartoonlike, especially by book 3 in the series.  Has Maureen learned nothing about the criminal justice system and dealing with police by that time??  Overall, a good trilogy with character development and growth over the course of the arc, an excellent sense of place, and  a nicely woven plot, if perhaps a little too neatly tied up in the end.

 

A Brush with Death is the second in the Penny Brannigan series set in Wales.  This book picks up right where the first one  left off.  Penny is living in the cottage she inherited from her close friend, Emma.  She stumbles upon a mystery from Emma’s past and feels compelled to follow it to the end.  I quite enjoyed the first in this series, however this one fell  somewhat flat for me.

The positives are the character descriptions and the setting.  Well executed to the point that the reader can “see” the people and the town.  There are a couple new characters that are introduced that I assume will be recurring because of the time spent developing them.  The mystery was interesting and I definitely had the culprit wrong, however there was information withheld from the reader until the reveal, so I don’t suppose you could solve it completely.

The negatives are that the romantic subplot didn’t really work for me. I didn’t get a sense of chemistry between the characters, but that is not a huge element in a mystery.   The dialogue was often stilted or on the other had silly.  The mystery seemed almost secondary, a bit emphasis in the book was the examination of change in social issues.  Although the portrayal of attitudes and the connection to a possible murder motive made this pertinent, it felt overshadowing to me.

I really did like the first book, so I might pick up the third one given the opportunity.

Burned by Thomas Ender

 

This book is the first in the Henning Juul series.  The protagonist, Henning, is a journalist who has literally been burned.  He and his son were in an apartment fire in which his son lost his life.  Henning has now returned to work and is assigned to a story involving the brutal murder/”honor killing” of a young aspiring film maker.  To throw salt on his wounds, he is partnered with his es-wife’s new boyfriend to work on the story.

Henning doesn’t buy the commonly accepted theory of the young Pakastani boyfriend committing an honor killing.  There is discussion of sharia, honor killings, and perceptions of Muslims interspersed with Henning’s investigation.  He leads a careful investigation with the help of an online informant, even at the risk of his own life.

Henning is an interesting character in that he has had this terrible tragedy occur, the loss of his son and his own injuries, and yet he doesn’t come across as whiny or self-absorbed.  He has some minor quirks as a result of his experiences but other than that, he very admirably goes about the business of moving forward.

This is an excellent thriller that hooks the reader right from the start.  Well drawn characters, good pacing, and finely crafted mystery plot all add up to a great read.  The ending gives a hint of what is to come in the series and I can’t wait to read more about Henning Juul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen

 

This is the third book in the Department Q series.  In my opinion, this was the best one yet!  After a slight hiccup in translation in book 2, this book has been translated very well.  The dialogue flowed well and seemed natural.  Assad is back in full force and there is a really interesting twist going on with Rose.

This mystery involves a serial killer/kidnapper, a note in a bottle, a car chase, and isolationist religious sects.  There are twists and turns and nail biting moments.  Carl is brought into the mystery  when a note for help written in blood and stuffed in a bottle lands on his desk.  Carl’s work life and home life is in an uproar.  His office is being moved about, Rose is causing her own version of chaos, and his home is turning into a refuge for the various people in his life, Hardy, his stepson, and others. Throughout this,  Carl with Assad as his trusty sidekick, doggedly purses his latest “lost cause”.

Great read, the best yet in this series!

Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell

 I just finished this cozy mystery, Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell.  The theme is not cookie baking, although there is some of that going on, but rather a shop that sells all things cookie related with an emphasis on cookie cutters, both antique collectibles and the everyday kind.

The sleuth, Olivia or Livie as she prefers to be called, is a divorced woman living with her mother who owns The Gingerbread House, the cookie and everything cookie related shop.  She has a dog, Spunky, and a partner/sidekick, Maddie.  Livie had a mentor in starting her business, Clarissa Chamberlain, who dies in what Livie feels are suspicious circumstances.  The police seem convinced it is an accident or perhaps suicide and Livie sets off to investigate.

I found the characters of Livie, her mom, and Maddie fun and interesting.  They are well drawn, not just stereotypes.  The mystery is interesting although there are few “real suspects”, pretty early on the pool of suspects is narrowed down to three probable villains.

I did find that the victim, Clarissa, seemed to be somewhat contradictory character.  She is Livie’s mentor and seemed to single-handedly pick her up and push her into a business of her own, yet she also seemed to be a somewhat ruthless and calculating business woman, controlling with her sons, manipulative, and yet mawkishly sentimental over her collection of antique cookie cutters.  Certainly interesting to read about.

Well done cozy mystery.  I am sure I will read more in this series.

 

3 More Reads

 

Glazed Murder was a total impulse by for me.  I have a confession, I have always avoided this series because I have a pretty big aversion to donuts.  I worked for a nation wide donut chain that will not be named in college, back in…1984, and I think that I can count the number of donuts I have eaten since then on one hand.

Anyway I picked it up and read it last night and was really surprised, I will admit i flipped quickly past the donut recipes, which were plentiful, so anyone who does want to make them will have lots to try here.  The main character, runs a independent donut shop and has a dead body of a local banker dumped in her parking lot one night.  Suzanne Hart is an interesting character and I like the push-pull relationship with her mother, who she has had to move back in with since her divorce and purchase of the donut shop.  A couple of the secondary characters need more development, but I am sure that because this is the first in a series that will come later.  Anyway, this is a fun light cozy mystery that has potential to become quite a good series.

Murder in Volume was this month’s read for the Cozy Mystery Corner Mystery Group on Goodreads. There is a plethora of book/library/bookstore themed cozies and many of them are among my favorite cozy series.  This is an book one of a 5 book series.  The protagonist is Megan Clark, a librarian and frustrated paleopathologist.  She has a sidekick history professor, Ryan, who is much older than her, and in fact is the father of her childhood friends.  She drags Ryan along on all of her adventures.  It is on one of these new activities, a book club, that Megan and Ryan stumble on a body and are embroiled in the mystery.

The point of view switches back and forth throughout the book.  It is in this switching that we learn that Ryan is having romantic feelings towards Megan, seemingly unrequited as Megan is dating someone else.  The mystery includes references to other mystery series, similar to Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series.  Part of these are understandable as discussion in the mystery book club meetings.

I did not connect with Megan Clark as a protagonist, she seemed arrogant and takes herself and her paleopathology degree far too seriously, even though it seems like it is not an employable degree. I also didn’t like the developing romance with Ryan at all, not being able to stop wondering what his kids would think of it.

I don’t think this is a series I will continue with, especially when there are so many other very good book themed cozies.

Perfect Love by Elizabeth Buchan is a women’s fiction novel, about Prue  a woman, wife, mother, and stepmother in her forties, who begins to be lured into infidelity.  This is a classic midlife crisis family drama novel, with complex family relationships and situations.   Added into this book is a running Joan of Arc metaphor that really doesn’t seem to work.  It actually could be eliminated from the book altogether.

I have read several of Elizabeth Buchan’s books and I have a strange relationship with them, I always find them very well written, with fully developed characters with all their flaws, and interesting plots. On the other hand, I would not say that I like them, if that makes sense.  Her stories are too realistic, there are never satisfying conclusions, no neat endings, no  punishment for the wicked or rewards for the good.  It always seems like things just trudge along and end with the characters still having numerous issues to work through, much like real life.

As someone who reads women’s fiction, for an escape from reality I am always frustrated, but I still keep reading them for some reason.

Blind Date by Frances Fyfield

 

 

I have not read any other work by Frances Fyfield, however I did watch and enjoy the TV series of the Helen West Casebook, which was based on her Helen West books.  I picked up this book because it was a selection for this month for the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.

I liked a lot about this book, the characters of Elisabeth Kennedy and Joe, were interesting in themselves and as a relationship.   The villain(s) twisted relationship revealed over time was intriguing and well done.  I found the setting, Elisabeth’s church tower apartment well done (and it is an important part of the story). The psychology of Elisabeth, the relationship between her and her mother, sister, and nephew is well done.

The mystery has more of psychological thriller feel to it than any other sub genre of mystery. The pacing was well suited to this type of mystery.

The issue I had with this book was with  character development.  I didn’t really get  a sense of Joe’s back story and I had trouble keeping his friends straight because they were not well defined enough.  I didn’t even understand entirely the idealization of Elisabeth’s sister, unless that was just some post-mortem “don’t speak ill of the dead” kind of thing but it seemed like an ongoing aspect of their relationship.  Even Joe realized that the story of Emma was too good to be true.  On the plus side, by eliminating some back story and character development, the pacing is accelerated.  This is fast moving and a quick read.

Overall, I did enjoy this and would read another book by Frances Fyfield.

Ankle Surgery Recap – Readers Workouts

There is a meme I would love to participate it hosted by Joy Weese Moll found here.  Unfortunately, I have not been doing much in the way of working out due to an ongoing ankle issue.  I “sprained” my ankle back in March and have been slogging through a myriad of treatments including surgical injections until I finally had surgery on June 20th.  I was under a no weight bearing order until today.  I am starting to rest some weight on the foot and flex the foot to stretch.

I switched doctors midway through this ordeal.  The first doctor did not read my films himself, he relied on the radiologist report so he missed the break in my ankle.  He had me walking on the ankle with the torn tendons off and on through all this.  He then gave me a “healing” Amniofix injection…excruciatingly painful…and did nothing that I could tell.  I got my act together and switched doctors and now finally am on the road to recovery.

I am starting this week to workout with the help of some youtube videos:

In four more weeks, I go back to see surgeon and hopefully start physical therapy.  My goal is to be mobile without crutches/knee walker/cane by September.