Wicked Stitch by Amanda Lee

I brought this book into hospital with me thinking – a cozy mystery, this should keep my22891389 mind off things. It did until I got to ‘… the both of …’. Then it started to annoy me. Then there was a second act of bad grammar – ‘… the both of …’ again!! Then the relationship between the main character and her detective boyfriend was just too sickeningly sweet. Ugh! The dog and rabbit making friends was sweet, but got a little too much and really, what sort of hunting dog makes friends with a rabbit? I hated the condescending nickname the boyfriend had for the main character, and the food they were eating sounded ick. All those croissants with chicken salad filling, not to mention all the pizza and other junk! How obese are these people? Pity because the mystery part was good but not enough to rescue this. I could go on but maybe I should stop my rant here before I get all annoyed again. You can bet that I am not going to read another in this series, or anything by this author.

Wayward by Blake Crouch

17920175I seem to be in the habit of reading books that are midway or the last of a series. However, it didn’t matter that much to me for this one. Wayward is a page turner, but there were some things that annoyed me about it. Firstly, there was a lot of short sharp sentences¬† like this:
xxx
xxx
xxx
that were designed to build tension. They worked initially but then they started to appear too often which meant the tension evaporated. Secondly, evolution doesn’t work that fast. 2000 years into the future and humans will probably be the same (if we haven’t destroyed the earth by then). The creatures made me think of polar bears. They also reminded me of the Eloi from The Time Machine (so many time travel stories echo the HG Wells classic – I guess it can’t be escaped). Humans are also very hard to control – just look at any news story. The creepiest control story I’ve read so far is 1984, and this is because it is so close to contemporary authoritarianism (totalitarianism / fascism) that it is totally believable. But control only lasts for so long as so this story proves. The question I was always asking myself about this was what was the big man getting out of all this? I couldn’t see any benefits or pluses or… Plus, the big man’s surname was always distracting me because that is the surname of the systems guy at the department where I work. That sort of affected the tension for me too.

The ending leaves you on a cliff-hanger and the edition I got from my local library had a small sneak peek at the opening of the final installment. It didn’t grab me enough to want to find out what happens.

The Days of Anna Madrigal – Armistead Maupin

18586505This is another book doing double duty across challenges – Nevada for my North American book tour and LGBT romance for Read Harder 2017. I didn’t realise when I chose this book for Nevada that it could also work for a challenge in Read Harder, so that’s a plus! I was going to read The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley for the LGBT romance challenge but that’s a read for another day (it’s very long!).

This is the final (maybe) tale in the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. I’ve not read any of the other books in the series but it was easy to get the feel of the characters. It’s a sweet tale about an aging transgender lady called Anna Madrigal, and her friends. Various love stories are woven around two trips to Nevada – one to the Burning Man Festival (a creative, radical sustainability festival – with art!) and a homecoming/leave-taking trip to Winnemucca where Anna grew up. The writing itself isn’t brilliant, but the story is enough that the actual construction of it doesn’t matter that much.

One thing to point out about this tale is that although Maupin is gay, you don’t get the feeling that that has anything to do with the stories and characters. It also avoids being political – there is no whiff of activism at all. There is no – see, we are human and have feelings too! People are just people who have love affairs, crushes and friendships.

Queen of the Night by J.A. Jance

7746554This book is doing double duty for this challenge as well as Book Riots Read Harder 2017 challenge – read a novel set in Arizona and read a book set over 5000 miles from your location. This novel is part of a series about the Walker family – law and order administrators working in Arizona. The thriller story set-up was good – would a mass murderer be caught before escapes to Mexico? It was let down by wooden characters and the introduction of too many of them. I didn’t connect to any of them and halfway through, I got two of the families mixed up. This novel can’t really be read as a standalone novel. For it to make sense and to have an overall idea of the families and the people involved, reading the series is advisable. I also found the absence of descriptions about people odd. There is a lot of background story for various characters which is description of sorts, but nothing like ‘she pulled back her long pepper and salt hair from her face with a headband’. The only descriptions I can think of is for one of the former criminals haunting a now middle-aged woman, the current murderer on the run, and a little girl orphaned. Lots of descriptions of night blooming desert flower however. And cars. Oh! And at the beginning of each chapter is temperature in fahrenheit – which for someone who uses celcius is annoying and distracting. Yes, and I am in Australia and thought hmmm .. 23c at 9pm in the summer? Try 35c!¬† Tohono O’odham is an actual tribal group, and they play a large part in this story. I don’t know if the tribal stories and traditions in this novel are authentic or not, but it does add a lot of colour and action to the novel. Without them, the story would fall flat.

Close Range: Brokeback Moutain and other Stories – Annie Proulx

There is so much I liked about these stories. Brokeback Mountain is the famous one due to 1629the film (which I haven’t seen) and it is a sad raw tale about two men and their love for one another, their denial of desire and the grief that follows. My two favourite stories are Job History and Blood Bay – just fabulous stories with great endings. I love the sparse storytelling style which sort of puts me in mind of the Alistair Macleod short story collection I read some years ago. Both authors have no nonsense style of writing about people battling to build lives in harsh climates. The people are used to hard living and hard dying and all the hardness but loveliness inbetween. Proulx shows a deep emotional attachment to Wyoming in these stories, just as Macleod did with his stories about life in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I will be picking up the next volume of Proulx’s Wyoming stories soon.

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