These Books Need To Go: a Mini-Review Round-Up

Having (regrettably) set my Goodreads Challenge number higher than I ever had in the past, I felt the pressure to read faster.  I have indeed turned on the jets and finished quite a few books in the past six weeks.  But I haven’t been reviewing them at the same pace.  So I’ve got this stack of books staring me in the face and, honestly, getting on my nerves.  Plus, they just need to get back to the library (where I procured them all.)  Because I’m sick of looking at them, here are some super quick mini-reviews to clear the decks.

Now You See Me (Lacey Flint #1) by Sharon Bolton.  Fiction Fan turned me onto this author.  I really enjoyed this one.  It’s got a strong female detective constable (Lacey,) a Jack the Ripper copycat killer with a mysterious connection to Lacey, and a nice slow-burning sexual tension between her and DI Mark Joesbury.  Very suspenseful, and I really didn’t know how it was all going to work out until the end.  High quality writing as well.  Definitely will be reading more of this series and this author in 2018!  Four stars.

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards (British Library Crime Classics.)  My pick for Christmas reading this year.  An uneven collection, but five of the Golden Age crime stories really stood out and made this a worthwhile pick.  Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock story, “The Blue Carbuncle” was entertaining as one might expect.  “Stuffing” by Edgar Wallace was short and sweet.  H.C. Bailey’s “The Unknown Murderer” featured an unlikely criminal and an unexpected twist.  “The Chinese Apple” by Joseph Shearing (a pen name of Marjorie Bowen) is a masterpiece of misdirection.  And my favorite, Ethel Lina White’s “Waxworks,” is a creepy delight.  A young female journalist investigates a hall of wax where two people have mysteriously died.  Determined to find out of the hall is indeed haunted, she sneaks in and gets herself locked in overnight on Christmas Eve.  Suspense builds as the night goes on and she finds herself imagining things – or could there be a murderer locked in with her?  I absolutely loved this one.  Overall, though, for the collection, Three stars.

White Rage: The Unspoke Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson.  This book grew out of an op-ed in the Washington Post in response to the 2014 Ferguson, MO riots after the killing of Michael Brown.  I could call this book Important Stuff We Should Have Studied in High School.  In a short but well-researched 164 pages (and 60 pages of end notes) Anderson lays out a map of white oppression tactics to every gain in status that African Americans have won since the end of the Civil War.  From the unjust laws of the former CSA states during Reconstruction to the assault on voting rights after the election of our first black president, Anderson makes a persuasive argument that every time African Americans win a victory, there is always a well-coordinated and legalistic backlash by a segment of white people in power.  The chapter on the aftermath of the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education was especially good.  An eye-opening, enraging, important book.  Four stars.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons.  A debut novel about grief and identity.  Unusual structure – some photographs, some graphs, a few pages include only three or four sentences.  The main character is Thandi, born and raised in America to a mixed-race South African mother and a light-skinned Black American father.  Thandi’s mother has died of cancer (not a spoiler) and we get to see how the event shapes Thandi’s life as she tries to find her place in the world as an adult.  There were some beautifully written passages about grief, but it just didn’t come together for me as powerful, cohesive  narrative.  The most interesting sections of the book for me were explorations of contemporary motherhood and marriage.  Three stars.

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud.  I’ve loved Messud’s two previous novels, The Emperor’s Children and The Woman Upstairs.  This one wasn’t on par with those, unfortunately.  A portrait of two twelve-year old best friends on the cusp of big changes and growing apart.  It moved along quickly and I was engaged, but I couldn’t quite believe that the narrator was supposed to be a seventeen year-old looking back and not a middle-aged author.  The voice was felt too mature.  There are some intelligent observations about the physical freedoms that girls give up as they grow into women, and there are scenes as the girls explore an old abandoned asylum that are lovely and creepy.  Messud is a good writer, I just wanted more vitality from this book.  Three stars.

Hear me now – I’m setting my Goodreads Challenge number nice and low next year!  This (self-imposed) pressure is for the birds.  Three more books by the end of the year to meet my goal.  I can do it!  Hope you all are enjoying some good reading this weekend.  Will you meet your Goodreads Challenge goal?

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32 thoughts on “These Books Need To Go: a Mini-Review Round-Up

  1. Hahaha – I’ve spent the last week racing through books in a desperate attempt to meet my GR challenge so I feel your pain! So glad you enjoyed Now You See Me, and the good news is that I think it’s possibly the weakest in the whole series. The next one, Dead Scared, scared me half to death! (But in a good way! 😀 ) Ooh, I think I have Waxworks in another collection – I’m going to rush off and try to fit it in before Christmas…

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  2. So I generally set my goals REAL low each year, so I can feel the satisfaction of meeting them. This year, I surpassed my goodreads goal by a few books (which I was shocked by) but I only put it at one book higher than it was the year before-the goal was 70 books. So….next year will probably be…71 books?

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  3. Now You See me sounds like my kind of read, I am glad that you enjoyed it.

    All the best reaching your goal. I am sure that you will.

    Your post made me check my challenge update. I have surpassed my goal by 16 books so far. However, going through my list, I feel like my reads were not that memorable. Less than 20 really stand out so next year, I will reduce the number but hopefully, I will find more quality reads 🙂

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  4. I have a pile of books just like this! Maybe I should take a page from your proverbial book and do something like you’ve done. I did like Burning Girl quite a lot. I read it as the narrator looking back at that time in her after many years had passed so the maturity of the voice worked for me. But then I also haven;t read the other two books you have and might have felt differently if I had. 🙂

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  5. I’ve never done a Goodreads Challenge! I’ve in fact never cared at all about the number of books I read in a year, only this year if I read twelve more books I’ll hit a lovely round number that I have become strangely covetous of hitting. So I am going to have to read like mad for the rest of December, you know, for no reason, completely arbitrarily.

    Anyway, I didn’t much care for The Burning Girl either. I wanted a lot more out of it.

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  6. I will likely meet my goal, but I sympathize with your desire to diffuse pressure in these kinds of self-imposed situations. You can always increase your goal midway through the year next year, if you find yourself reading more than you expected to read. I do like it to be a challenge, but not a weight/burden.

    It’s something that I want to nudge me into reading when I might otherwise sink into something passive that I won’t feel good about having spent time on later, not something that I want to leave me feeling like I’m failing. That can be a hard balance to find!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Insightful comment! A hard balance indeed. I find myself wanting to spend the first week of 2018 bingeing on Netflix. 🙂 I think I’m going super low on my Challenge next year, like 52. My husband doesn’t understand setting your goal low, he thinks, What’s the point? The point for me is just that shiny easy graphic of what I’ve read in a year with all the pretty covers. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh no! I have been meaning to read the new Messud having discovered and loved The Woman Upstairs this past year, but somehow The Burning Girl did not convince me and I ended up asking Santa for Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Haha– this is perfect! I use OneNote to manage my book reviews. Let me tell you– there are MANY books I read this year I have not reviewed. I think it’s healthy to let some go every now and then. When you don’t have time, don’t pressure yourself!

    I haven’t read a single one of these books, but White Rage is on my to read list now! I am always intrigued when op-eds turn into longer texts. It happens more often than I expected! This was a 2018 realization for me. I cannot wait to get to read it.

    Merry (belated) Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

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