Deadlocked (CBR4 #43)

Thank goodness this one is over and there’s only going to be one more.

You know how you enjoyed the Sookie books as trashy summer reads and they lured you into watching that crazy True Blood on HBO? Yeah. All the reasons you did are gone in this the twelfth book in the series. There has been a complete and total annihilation of the story arc and character developments in this series and we the loyal reader who simply must read the entire series because we have some OCD issues are paying the price.

The plot for Deadlocked is that the fae are still infesting the Bon Temps environs, Claude is missing in Faery, Sookie has a magic fairy object that others are on the hunt for, the vampires are still dealing with the fall-out from the murder of Nevada vampires from several books ago, and someone is trying to frame Eric for the death of a woman on his front lawn, Eric has also been betrothed to another vampire and is waiting for Sookie to use her magic fairy object to save him from this without giving her a reason to do so. Oh, and there’s a missing werewolf who witnessed the vampire killings which may be related to the dead girl on Eric’s front lawn. I think that about covers it. Somehow, all of these disparate things attempt to tie together. Attempt being the operative word.

These books were never capital L literature. They were fun. So why take the fun away? Charlaine Harris seems to have it out for those of us who show up looking for the previous formula of a coherent mystery surrounding some aspect of Sookie’s personal life (whether it be her zoo of boyfriends, vampire friends, or fae family) and fun character development featuring the romance novel angle.  What are we left with? Mundane chapter swollen with the minutia of our formerly perky, polite, considerate protagonist’s day. The truth is it’s boring, and ultimately a waste of words. The action is absent, the characters are hollow and the main storylines are resolved with a flick of the fairy wrist and a new plot development pops up in the final 15 pages just in time to lure the reader into reading the final book next year.

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Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (CBR4 #42)

I don’t know how I missed the Anne of Green Gables books when I was younger, but I did. I read all the Babysitters Club, all the Little House on the Prairie books but no Anne. I wish that I had found these books earlier since Anne is such a kindred spirit, as she would phrase it. L.M. Montgomery took much of the beautiful surroundings of Prince Edward Island at the turn of the last century to create the optimum environment to introduce perhaps the most fully formed adolescent character I have ever read.

Anne of Green Gables introduces us to Anne Shirley, an orphan who has traveled from home to home over the years but still has a dreamer’s heart. She is accidentally adopted by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert who are unmarried siblings living in their family home and as they reach their twilight years are looking for someone to help around the farm at Green Gables. Anne is not this child, but she ends up filling the space in their lives that was missing without their realizing it.

Anne is finally able to have the life of child and Marilla is determined to turn this vain, silly, sentimental, proud and impetuous girl and turn her into the model seen and not heard child. This is simply not to be, but in the book we follow the course of turning the absent-minded dreamer into an academic powerhouse who makes a bosom friend, finds a few kindred spirits, and finds herself loyal to the family of Green Gables over all else.

Read this book if you haven’t. Treat yourself.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (CBR4 #41)

When I decided to read Wild by Cheryl Strayed I knew virtually nothing about her. This is the case with the majority of the works I read in the course of a year. Come across a book at the library, bookstore, or online; give it a perusal, read a review, decide it sounds interesting. Read. This is my process. There are a few authors where I keep my ears perked for their next works (David Sedaris, Nora Roberts, etc.) but generally I am not author based. So going in, I knew very little about Strayed, only what I had picked up from reviews on the Cannonball.

 

I am both thankful that I was able to experience Strayed’s authorial voice with little outside influence and slightly sad that I had not encountered it before. While she may be known to you as Sugar from The Rumpus to me she was just Cheryl, the woman telling me about this crazy thing she did to get back to being who she really was, at her core.

 

It’s difficult to be detached in reviewing this work. Strayed lays a lot out for the reader in this book, and having also lost a parent (in my case my dad when I was 20, in Strayed’s case she was 22 when her mom died) there’s a lot of emotional overlap. Strayed’s life flew more obviously out of control than my own – she experienced the complete disintegration of her family, divorce, school and career failures, and drug addiction to name a few. At 26 she was seized with the idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (a sibling to the more well-known Appalachian Trail). Strayed was not a hiker, and certainly not a long distance hiker when the book The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California caught her eye at REI, but she became obsessed and knew somewhere deep within her that this was the solution to her nearly complete loss of self.

Strayed takes the reader with her, Monster (her overloaded pack), and a lucky feather along the Pacific Coast Trail uncovering bits of what it means to be human along the way. Prepare to inspect your soul when you pick this one up, and you most certainly should. Be warned, Wild is not some overly feel-good uplifting memoir meant to make you feel good about yourself and the rest of humanity. This is about the breaking down of the physical-self in order to put the emotional-self back together.

 

A Broken Vessel (CBR4 #40)

The Cannonball has given me many things this year (Ready Player One, The Fault in Our Stars, Dreamers of the Day) but I think introducing me to the character of Julian Kestrel and his mysteries is perhaps my favorite. I know that I haven’t rated the first book, Cut to the Quick, or this one, A Broken Vessel, with as many stars as the previous three but I simply adore the characters Kate Ross created in a way that I did not feel in the other Cannonball finds.   I love the characters of Julian, Dipper, and Dr. MacGregor enough that I can overlook my displeasure at spending so much time with Dipper’s sister, Sally.

Sally Stokes is a prostitute and thief who pickpockets her johns. We soon find out she is also Dipper’s younger sister who he has not seen in years. Much of A Broken Vessel is spent with Sally as the reader views the events through Sally’s eyes. Sally’s adventure starts in London’s Haymarket district, where she picks up three men in turn and nicknames them Bristles, Blue Eyes, and Blinkers. From each Sally steals a handkerchief – and from one she mistakenly steals a letter which contains an urgent plea for help.  It isn’t until she runs into her brother after being roughed up by Blinkers that Sally discovers the letter, and who better to help her unravel the mystery of the girl in need of help than one Julian Kestrel.

Julian, Dipper, and Sally (with an assist by Dr. MacGregor) come up with a plan to discover the identity of the girl in question and find out that she has died. Julian is convinced it was murder, and upon getting the backing of a magistrate, sets about to prove it. Enter Sally, who as a lady – and one of ill repute – she is particularly suited to investigate the circumstances of the girl’s death in a reform house. Julian and Dipper do their own sleuthing, turning up a human trafficking circuit and ultimately the person responsible for the murder.

This one was not perfect, mainly because while I acknowledge that Kate Ross gets the slang and other language right, it felt like it got in the way of the storytelling. Much of the language is dead to the American reader and at times it felt like I spent more times deducing what Sally was saying than what it meant for the story overall. Still a worthy read and I have Whom The Gods Love lined up to read in the next few weeks. I will be sad to end the Kestrel mysteries, and I know that I won’t be able to hold off finishing the fourth later this year.

The Last Boyfriend (CBR4 #39)

Romance novels have the reputation of being formulaic. This is not without reason, given that many romance novel writers’ churn out several books a year. It follows that the writers often develop a short hand with their readers which in turn can lead to a formula. Romance novels tend to unfold in a set way.  The reader meets the couple, it is made obvious to the reader that they are meant to be. This is achieved by either has a mutual conflict to overcome or individual conflicts which keep them from being together. The conflicts are resolved and then the couple decides they are meant to be together and make it official. End novel.

 

When I pick up any romance novel, but particularly a Nora Roberts novel, I am ready for just this formula. The fun in reading these types of works for me lies in the details. Give me a good setting, fun supporting characters, and interesting personalities for the leads and I am happy to give you a few hours of my time. However, this time reading The Last Boyfriend the second book in the Inn Boonsboro trilogy, I was left strangely disappointed. Owen Montgomery is the middle brother and office manager without an actual office for the family construction company. He is organized to a fault and likes it that way. Avery McTavish is the owner of the pizzeria across from the Inn and has her sights on another restaurant across the intersection. Avery and Owen have been in and out of each other’s lives for decades, but the tenor of their relationship is about to change.

 

This is all as to be expected, but when it was time to introduce the main conflict for these characters to overcome it felt lacking. Avery has serious issues regarding her mother who ran out on her and her father many years before and makes an appearance(late in the novel) to disrupt what Avery has been building with Owen. Their main conflict is a lack of communication. While this plot line is true to life, it doesn’t make for very interesting reading.  Also, the unspooling of the ghost storyline, featuring Lizzie, is also underwhelming.  I am however hopeful for the final piece of the trio because we get more inherently interesting leads: Owen’s older brother Ryder and Innkeeper Hope Beaumont.