The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly: a Mini-Review

29154543The Wrong Side of Goodbye is Michael Connelly’s twenty-first Harry Bosch book.  I’ve never before read a mystery series for this long.  Years ago I was into the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton, but I think I stopped somewhere around the sixteenth book or so, because things just got too repetitive.  I used to read Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury series but decided to quit, coincidentally, after the 16th, mostly for the same reason (boredom) but also because that one involved investigating a snuff film with kids (NOPE NOPE NOPE!)  I’m still digging Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series, of which I’m on the fifteenth book.  But let’s face it, it’s Ruth freaking Rendell, the queen of smart psychological mysteries, and she’s a goddess in my book, so I think I’m safe there.   (Sadly, she passed away in 2015; I wrote a tribute to her here.)  The thing about series is, at some point they have to end, right?  I’m definitely hanging in with Detective Harry Bosch until the end, whenever that may be – and based on how much I enjoyed this one, I hope that’s not any time soon!

If you’ve never read a Bosch book before, let me get you up to speed.  They’re set in L.A. (with a few detours here and there to Vegas, Florida, and even once to China.)  Harry’s real name is Hieronymous (yes, like the 15th century painter!) His mom died when he was young, and he was put into foster care.  He’s a Vietnam vet, and flashbacks play a role in many of the novels.    He’s horrible at relationships, and as of this last book, he hasn’t found his one true love.  (I admit, the relationship plot lines are my least favorite and most cringe-worthy elements of the books.)  But he does have a daughter, and he manages to forge a pretty good relationship with her.  And his relationship with a half-brother, who he doesn’t discover until many books in, is really compelling (no spoilers!)

What I like about Harry is that he’s the guy fighting the system, fighting corrupt cops and politicians alike, always fighting for justice and the underdog.  He’s smart but he’s not perfect – he sometimes misses things and makes mistakes, and he’s got a bit of a hot temper.  He usually reads people well and is a good study of character.  I like how he will often think that something about a case is bothering him but he can’t quite make the connections, so he’ll let it sit and percolate, go about his business, and all of a sudden BAM! He’s cracked the case and it’s a mad race to see if he can save the next victim or catch the bad guy after all. Connelly’s plots are page-turners, but it’s really Bosch himself that keeps me coming back.

This one was a bit different because there were two cases being worked simultaneously.  Harry’s part-time now at the small San Fernando Police Department, since he’s no longer with the LAPD.  He’s also a private investigator on the side.  He’s working a serial rapist case for the department while also trying to find a potential heir to an ailing millionaire’s fortune. He gets so caught up in one case that he makes some crucial missteps in the other, possibly endangering someone he is close to.  It was a typically fast-paced Connelly thriller; I raced through it in two days, even willingly staying up way past my bedtime to finish it.

518cjmm-dxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_If you’re thinking about trying one of these books, I’ll tell you that the first three were solid three-star books for me.  It wasn’t until the fourth book  (The Last Coyote) that I knew that I was invested in the series for a while.  Harry is a capable, complicated, tough, caring, haunted man, and he made me want to keep coming back. Mysteries make great, entertaining palate-cleansers in between heavier literary fare, so if you’re game, I say give Michael Connelly a try!

 

The Rapid Fire Book Tag

Greetings!  Happy December, readers.  I’m slowly getting back into the reading groove after my mediocre/distracted/busy November.  Right now I am reading Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch thriller, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, as well as a reread of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  And I just started a nonfiction book about weight and body image called Body of Truth: Change Your Life by Changing the Way You Think About Weight and Health.  So far I’m enjoying all three!519rtaeemkl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

I saw this tag on Naz’s awesome blog (Read Diverse Books) last week and thought it looked like a fun way to get back in the swing of blogging.  Two book tag posts in a row?  Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll finish a book soon and write a proper review. So here we go (I warn you, it’s a long one!)

Ebooks or physical books?  Definitely physical.  I stare at a a screen all day at work and don’t want my reading to be one one if I can help it.  I’ve read a couple of ebooks and appreciate their availability and convenience, but I am almost always a paper reading fan.

Paperback or hardback?  Don’t care.

Online or in-store book shopping?  In-store is my preference, but with a young child and a husband who works an almost opposite schedule, my time to browse is almost nil.  So I’ll take whatever book shopping I can get at this point!

Trilogies or series?  No preference.  I read whatever suits the narrative.  I do tend to read mystery series, which can go on forever.  This latest Harry Bosch is the 21st!  But as long as the quality doesn’t go down, I’m in for the long haul.

Heroes or villains?  I want to read characters who are realistic to me in their emotions, thoughts, and actions, regardless of whether or not they’re likeable.  I like flawed characters; they “ring true” to me.  That said, I need at least a shred of goodness in a main character to really love a book.

bn-oc968_gyasi__jv_20160520165430A book you want everyone to read?  I’m going to echo Naz’s answer and choose Yaa Gyasi’s brilliant first novel Homegoing.  It just blew me away.  I didn’t want to put it down and made me reconsider what I thought I knew about the after effects of slavery that resound to this day.

Recommend an underrated book:   I did a Top Ten Tuesday post about this very topic back in July.  Check it out!

The last book you finished?  Mrs. Malory Investigates by Hazel Holt, the first in the series.  (See?  I told you I read mysteries!)  It was lovely and I have the second one on my bedside book stack.

3867811-_uy200_Used book, yes or no?  I don’t know how a reader could say no to used books.  I like to support authors of color (and hopefully help influence how the industry chooses to publish authors in the future) by buying new hardcovers sometimes, but I take books any way I can get them.

Top three favorite genres?  Mystery, Literary, Speculative.

Weirdest thing you use as a bookmark?  My bookmarks are pretty standard/boring.  I get them free at the library!  :)

Borrow or buy?  I do both, but most of my reading is borrowed, since I work at the library!

Characters or plot?  Both please!  But I do love a good novel where “nothing happens.”  :)  I love getting inside characters’ minds and I love books about the foibles and ordinary interactions among families and relationships.

Long or short book?  Short, if I have to choose.  Although I want it on the record that I’ve read Middlemarch TWICE, so I can read long books!  Ha ha!

Long or short chapters?  No preference.

Name the first three books you think of?  Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Beloved by Toni Morrison.  I loved the first one, and I intend to reread the last two soon, because it’s been FAR too long since I’ve read them and I want them to be fresher in my mind and look at them from an adult perspective.2540302-m

Books that make you laugh or cry?  Right now I probably need some more books that make me laugh!

Our world or fictional worlds?  How about something that resembles our world but is just a little bit off?  I like those kinds of books.

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?  Yes, initially.  But it’s certainly not my only criteria.

Audiobooks?  Yes, but I don’t do them very often.  I only listen to them occasionally in my car because most of my other listening to things time is taken up by a million podcasts!

Book to movie or book to TV?  Movie.  I don’t have a lot of time for TV these days – I’ve about reached my max on what I’ve got time to watch.

A movie or TV adaptation you preferred to the book? Mary Poppins.  The book and film are VERY different. 51jbvwtdx-l-_sx320_bo1204203200_

Series or standalone?  Standalone.

I hope you guys enjoyed this tag.  I like doing these things from time to time and I especially like reading them – it’s fun to see how our individual preferences match or differ.  I’m not going to tag anyone else, but feel free to do this if you like or if you’re stuck on what to write about next!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is My Genre – Tell Me Yours Tag

I was tagged by Jackie at Death By Tsundoku yesterday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time – I’ve been a real slacker here lately.  In between bingeing on new Gilmore Girls, the Thanksgiving holiday, and my family being sick, I haven’t felt much like blogging.  This is the kick in the pants I need to get back on track!this-is-my-genre-tell-me-yours

Drew@TheTattooedBookGeek created this tag.  Check out his blog!

Question 1:  What is your favorite genre?

While I enjoy many different genres, my go-to favorite is mystery (with a special shout out to British mysteries.)

Question 2: What is your favorite author from that genre?

Nope, no way, can’t pick one favorite.  Some of my favorites include Ruth Rendell, Michael Connelly, Agatha Christie, and Robert Galbraith (A.K.A.,  J.K. Rowling.)

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Michael Connelly

Question 3:  What is it about the genre that keep pulling you back?

I love the challenge, to see if I can solve the mystery before the detective/main character does (I usually can’t!) I also love the page-turning, immersive quality of mysteries.  I love literary fiction but I can more easily put a novel in that genre aside, while with (good) mysteries I am so caught up that I don’t want to put them down.  I love the sense of resolution and tidyness that mysteries can (usually, but not always) provide.  And with long-running series, I love seeing how a beloved character develops and changes over time.

Question 4: What is the book that started your love for the genre?1036967

Well, I’ve written before about how the Nancy Drew series and Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game were integral to my  love for mysteries from a young age.  But I also fell in love with mysteries early on by devouring the Nate the Great books by Marjorie Sharmat, the Cam Jansen series by David Adler, and the Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald Sobol.

Question 5: If you had to recommend at least one book from your favorite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

Oh man, this is tough.  I’ve got a few picks that I think are good places to start for a mystery newbie.  For a more literary take on mystery, you can’t go wrong with Kate Atkinson’s terrific Jackson Brodie books.  The first one is Case Histories.  It’s one of my all-time favorite reads.  410dvepm1dl-_sy344_bo1204203200_For a classic British mystery, go with Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Orient Express or The A.B.C. Murders.  For a lighter/cozy-ish spin on mysteries, try Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series.  the_sweetness_at_the_bottom_of_the_pieThey feature an 11-year old precocious British girl with a passion for chemistry and tempestuous relationships with her sisters.  Oh, and she happens to help solve murders.  The first one is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  And for a grittier, more violent detective series, try Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books.  Set in Los Angeles, Harry is a Vietnam vet and a maverick detective, often fighting corrupt government officials and fellow policemen.  The first one is The Black Echo.

Question 6:  Why do you read?

I read to learn, to connect, to vicariously experience, to empathize, and yes, to escape.  I read because it’s a central part of who I am.  I read because books are “uniquely portable magic,” as Stephen King said.

Thanks, Jackie, for tagging me.  This was fun!  I’m going to tag a few people because I’d be interested in their takes on it, but if you don’t have time to participate, no worries!  And if I don’t tag you but you’d like to participate, please do so!  Or tell me your favorite genre in the comments below!  If you also like mysteries, tell me some of your favorites.

Tag:

Katie @ Never Listless

Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons

Tara @ Caffeinatious

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Thankful For Books!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Broke and Bookish, is a Thanksgiving freebie.   I honestly don’t know who I’d be if I weren’t a reader.  I don’t know what else I’d do to get the education, enlightenment, companionship, and solace that books provide. Particularly now, when our nation is experiencing such a menacing and unsettling moment, books are providing a comfort to me that leaves me profoundly grateful.  I could have filled this list three times over, but these are the first ten that came to mind.

9780679886297Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman.  My first favorite book, at least the one I have memories of as a very young child.  I loved the different colored dogs and their crazy tree party!  I selected this not only because I loved it, but because my son loves it too!  He went through a phase where we read it every day, and it made me happy to be able to share a special book with him.

The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene.  These are the first books I got obsessed with as an independent reader, largely because I found old copies that belonged to my aunt when she was a girl, the hardback ones with the yellow spines.  They’re horrible to read as an adult (seriously, don’t try it) but as a child they ignited my interest in mysteries.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  Now’s here’s a children’s mystery that definitely holds up even for adults.  I read it somewhere around the age of 9 or 10, and I was utterly captivated.  I’ve reread it twice as an adult, and listened to the audio, and it’s just terrific.

l6un8d4jxqkpkgijh2wvenpm92u2tasakfhvt04wlqojg92b1yaa2rjjnw4wuxzl628ryfr86biudfyfxvrrp9khjzqrlk5vk8rln4mehx7dxj4xhbaqd26wnwsufBark, George by Jules Feiffer.  This picture book is a hilarious crowd-pleaser that I feature regularly in my preschool storytimes.  Parents and kids alike laugh out loud.

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone.  My son LOVES this book.  He thinks it’s hysterical when Grover implores the reader to stop turning pages!

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.  A regular library patron recommended her to me some years ago, and I couldn’t be more grateful to her.  It was the first Pym I read, and I discovered an author that I knew I would love and reread for the rest of my life.  Her books are charming, witty, intelligent, with just a hint of melancholy.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.  I am just grateful that this book exists.  I’m grateful that it’s gotten a lot of press, and I feel like it deserves all the praise and even more.  It’s the kind of novel that transports and enlightens at the same time.  I’d make everyone read it if I could.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.  The book that introduced me to Atkinson, who is one of my all-time favorite authors.  It’s a knock-out literary mystery and introduces one of my favorite fictional characters, the world-weary but good-hearted Jackson Brodie.

51msjnecgylAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I remember taking my time reading this beautiful, smart, romantic novel because I wanted to luxuriate in Adichie’s writing.  And the story!  Wow!

It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness by Sylvia Boorstein.  In a very warm and relatable manner, Boorstein writes of her own mental struggles (particularly with anxiety) to elucidate Buddhist principles and how they can make a person feel happier.  I don’t identify as Buddhist but there is so much wisdom here.  I reread this one regularly.

I hope those of you celebrating Thanksgiving this week enjoy your time, be it with family, friends, or just the solace of a good book and a cup of tea!  I know I’m looking forward to my five days off with family.  Let me know in the comments a book that you are thankful for; I would love to read about them.

 

 

 

Buying Books For A Good Cause

The past few days have been rough (I don’t need to tell you why, do I?) and I’ve been doing anything I can think of to take positive, helpful action as a citizen of this country and the world.  My sanity strategy is partly self-care, partly taking care of others.  To that end, tonight I went with my son to Barnes and Noble and bought a whole mess o’ books for needy kids!  It was FUN!

See, my library system’s Friends of the Library organization is collecting new and very gently used children’s books for underprivileged families.  Our community does this huge food giveaway at Christmas called the Empty Stocking Fund, and the Friends are providing a book or two to every person who gets a food box.  They’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and it’s proven very successful.  Bookstores are few and far between in the area, and even if a needy person can get to one they may not be able to afford to buy anything. Libraries are absolutely vital, but it’s also just so wonderful to be able to have books of one’s own in the home to read over and over again.  I know that as a child my books were among my most prized possessions.

So I went a little crazy tonight and made some fun purchases.  I bought board books for babies and toddlers, a couple of beginning reader/chapter books, and some books for middle grade readers.  Here are my pics:

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I made sure to choose some authors of color here too!  Seriously, Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud, Not Buddy is one of my very favorite books and you should all read it!

When I got to the register, the cashier was so excited about my purchases, exclaiming that I’d gotten some of her favorite childhood books.  She also pointed out to me that our local Barnes and Noble is doing a book drive for a charitable organization called Mission of Hope, which provides Christmas gifts for needy Appalachian kids.  So I bought another book at the register for that!

My point with all of this is not to get a cookie for my actions, but only to say that if you’re feeling anxious or sad or angry about what has transpired in the last week, or even if you’re not, there are so many opportunities for doing good.  Perhaps your local Barnes and Noble (or other bookstore) is doing a similar book drive for the holidays?  Check with your public library’s Friends of the Library organization and see if they’re collecting books for kids.  Or maybe there’s a Boys and Girls Club nearby who could use some new books for their collection.  We are stronger when we take care of one another, and what better way to channel your love of reading than to provide books to kids?  I wholeheartedly believe that reading fosters empathy and understanding.  So let’s try to get books into the hands of kids and grow some compassionate, educated kids, okay?  As one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, says, “Onward!”

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Titles Added To My TBR Lately

Who can resist a TBR list?  Certainly not this reader, so I felt compelled to participate in today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke And the Bookish.)  So here are the last ten books I’ve added to my TBR list (which is currently at a modest 376 titles) and my attempt at remembering why I added them (ha ha!)

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.  I added this after seeing it on Naz’s blog Read Diverse Books.  He featured it as part of his monthly My Lit Box subscription.  You can read about it here.30650040

Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age Story by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh. I think Naz marked this as “to-read” on Goodreads, but in any case,I need to read more books from a Muslim perspective, and I thought this had promise.

Mrs. Malory Investigates by Hazel Holt.  I added this because I found out that the author was a friend to one of my favorite writers, Barbara Pym, and wrote a biography of her.  I do enjoy the British mysteries, and I’m hoping this won’t be too much on the “cozy” side for me.

 A Lot to Ask: The Life of Barbara Pym by Hazel Holt.  The biography I just mentioned!28815474

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.  I’ve seen this around the blogosphere, and a friend in my book group gave it four stars.  I like to read thrillers every now and then, especially to be able to recommend things to library patrons who enjoy that genre.

Girl Up by Laura Bates.  I found this on Katy’s blog (read about it here.)  Goodreads blurb says, “Hilarious, jaunty and bold, GIRL UP exposes the truth about the pressures surrounding body image, the false representations in media, the complexities of a sex and relationships, the trials of social media and all the other lies they told us.”

Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, J Richard Gott III.  I found this on FictionFan’s blog (here) and I really need some more science writing to feed my brain.  Plus, Neil deGrasse Tyson is super cool.

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story by Timothy B. Tyson.  I found this through Jenny’s review on Shelf Love.  An examination of the racism in a small North Carolina town in the aftermath of a horrible 1970 hate crime from one of the area’s residents.

Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance by Haim Shapira.  A Goodreads friend gave this a five-star review, and I am always interested in books about happiness and living a “good life.”the-course-of-love

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton.  The story of an ordinary marriage over fourteen years, this came to my attention through Anne Bogel’s Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and her What Should I Read Next? podcast (which I love.)  I heard de Botton on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast recently, and he just seems so incredibly smart and reasonable, so I definitely want to read some of his work.

I will probably only read one of these anytime soon, but I will get to these one day!  Have you read any of these?  What have you added to your TBR lately?  Let me know in the comments.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

I came to love the Williamsburg Bridge, once I learned how to walk it.  I was mostly alone, a few all-weather bikers, a few heavily bundled Hasidic women.  I walked either in some dusky circumference of gray light or some blotchy, cottoned afternoon.  It never failed to move me.  I paused in the middle of the filthy river.  I stared at the trash eddying in currents and clinging to docks like wine dregs cling to a glass.  Simone had mentioned the orphan’s dinner as Howard’s to me.  I thought of them all up there at Howard’s on the Upper West Side.  I thought of Jake in a Christmas sweater.  I told them I was busy.  Remember this, I told myself.  Remember how quiet today is.  I had the newspaper, which I would keep for years, and I was on my way to lunch in Chinatown by myself.  As I contemplated the skyline this double feeling came to me as one though, pressing in from either side of the bridge, impossible for me to reconcile: It is ludicrous for anyone to live here and I can never leave.

Have you ever read a book with a full awareness all the time of how other people might hate it?  While I was reading Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter I kept thinking, “I shouldn’t like this as much as I do.”  The main character, a twenty-two year-old named Tess, consistently makes such poor choices. She’s kind of a blank slate as well, and we don’t learn very much about her past at all.  Pretty much every person in the novel is messed up in some way.  There’s really not much plot.  And yet I couldn’t stop reading.

41fe52droflI’ve never been a server, I can’t really cook, I don’t consider myself to possess a particularly refined palate, and still I find myself drawn to books and television shows about food and drink. Sweetbitter is set in New York City, which hits another one of my bookish buttons.  It is divided into four seasonal sections, beginning with summer 2006.  Tess has left an unnamed place, a place she only describes by evoking “the twin pillars of football and church, the low faded homes on childless cul-de-sacs, mornings of the Gazette and boxed doughnuts.”  Tess’s past is not really important in this story.  Instead we jump with her into the deep end of big-city, high-end restaurant business, and into the extraordinarily messy social lives of her co-workers, most of whom have been there for years.

She becomes fascinated with Simone, a senior server, and Jake, a bartender. They have an obvious and ineffable connection with one another, and despite being aware of that, Tess develops a raging crush on Jake.  Simone, who is in her thirties,  takes Tess under her wing, teaching her about wine and food and giving advice about life.  Tess comes to trust her and depend upon her as a sort of mother figure, all the while becoming closer and closer to Jake.

She cut me a piece of cheese and handed it to me – “The Dorset,” she said – and it tasted like butter but dirtier, and maybe like the chanterelles she kept touching.  She handed me a grape and when I bit it I found the seeds with me tongue and moved them to the side, spit them into my hand.  I saw purple vines fattening in the sun.

“It’s like the seasons, but in my mouth,” I said.  She humored me.  She cracked whole walnuts with a pair of silver nutcrackers.  The skins on the nuts felt like gossamer wrappings.  She brushed the scattered skins onto the floor, with the grape sees, the pink cheese rinds.

Let’s be generous and say that I understood about seventy percent of what Simone said to me.  What I didn’t misunderstand was the attention that she gave me.  Or that by being close to her, I was always in proximity to him.  There was an aura that came from being under her wing, with its exclusive wine tastings and cheese courses – the aura of promised meaning.

I mentioned bad choices earlier.  There is so much cocaine, so much alcohol flowing through these pages, so many casual and not so casual sexual escapades and heartbreaks. Thwarted ambitions, people using one another, people tethered to one another and to the restaurant in unhealthy ways.  But there is also the energy and the life of the nightly dance of cook, server, and guest, the camaraderie of going to the same bar with your co-workers every night, the thrill of learning to exist as an adult in New York City.  This is really a coming of age story.  I thought of myself at 22, fresh out of college, so lost without the structure of school, my identity so unformed.  I found myself feeling sympathy for Tess as she blunders on the job and in pursuit of love.  She makes bad choices, but damn it, she owns them.

Isn’t this what you dreamed of, Tess, when you got in your car and drove?  Didn’t you run away to find a world worth falling in love with, saying you didn’t care if it loved you back?

Danler’s writing is exquisite.  It hums and vibrates and pulled me along effortlessly.  I found myself picking up the book at every spare moment, and when I had to put it down again it was with unwilling resignation.  In this time of my technology-induced short attention span, I can’t tell you the last time I had this immersive experience of reading.  I know that some may find this author pretentious, or the plot boring, or Tess utterly unlikable. As for me, I simply lost myself in this world – a world I don’t want to inhabit in real life, but found so beautifully rendered that I couldn’t take my eyes from.