Reading Through the 2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge

Image Source: Popsugar Photography
   Every writer began his or her career as a reader.
   In the last few years, I haven’t done as much reading as I used to do. Actually, since I began publishing my work in 2012, I haven’t made time to read anything but my own manuscripts. This year, I challenged myself to read more books in a variety of genres. I happened upon the Popsugar Challenge.

   As I go through the list, I’ll update this post with my impressions of the books I’ve read. They will be listed in reverse order with the last book I read showing at the top of the list.

  Prompt 2

    True Crime -- In Plain    Sight by Kathryn Casey

  Review to come

  Prompt 6

    A novel based on a real    person -- The Black    Dahlia by James Ellroy

  Review to come.

  Prompt 7

    A book set in a country   that fascinates you -- The   Cockroach by Jo Nesbo

  Review to come.

  Prompt 5

    Nordic Noir - The Bat by Jo Nesbo.

  I loved the dark and gritty tone of this book. Sometimes the pacing was a bit off and the dialog seemed contrived. Between the plodding plot, the side stories, and the Australian cliches, I caught glimpses of potential. The writer was able to suspend my disbelief enough to keep me engaged.

I found myself rooting for the alcoholic, self-destructive main character, Harry Hole, despite his many, many character flaws. Harry may have had an unusually effective method of solving a crime, but his inadequacies as a law enforcement officer were numerous and his defiant I'm-going-to-do-it-my-way attitude was potentially career destroying. It appears solving the crime was enough to keep him employed because he continues to work as a detective in the next book in the series. If you're looking for gritty realism, this may not be the book for you.

Although Harry is from Norway and quite a bit of the series is set there, the setting of this first book in the series is in Australia, a country that has always fascinated and enticed me. I didn't get enough of the culture and climate of Australia to satisfy my need for descriptive information about the country or its people.

I liked the first book enough to read book two and three, effectively sidetracking me from sticking to the Popsugar challenge list. I'd give The Bat three and a half stars. It kept my attention but occasionally aggravated the snot out of me as a writer reading someone else's work.

  Prompt 4

    A book involving a heist -- The Wanted by Robert Crais

  This was my first read by Robert Crais. I enjoyed the plot, pacing, and characters. My favorite character was actually Joe Pike rather than the main character Elvis Cole.
  It wasn't a heavy read, very light and quick. Nothing that made me think too hard or too much. Just right for a lazy day's entertainment.
  It's a story of unintended consequences, and I like that kind of book. The Wanted had me hooked from the start, and I would like to read more of Crais's work. However, I felt the ending was rushed. I needed a little more closure.

I give the book four stars.

Prompt 3

  The next book in a series you started – Return to Tradd Street by Karen White

  This is the fourth book in the Tradd Street series. I really enjoyed books one and two. The ending of book three was rather disappointing. Book four drags the Melanie/Jack relationship out to its ultimate happy-for-now conclusion. I wouldn’t call this a happily-ever-after sort of book. This couple still has relationship issues, which I understand continue to cause them problems in book five. I’m not sure I’ll read book five. I think I want to leave Melanie and Jack right where they are.
  White’s series is paranormal romance. Actually, this series, along with Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series, inspired me to write paranormal suspense. So, as you can imagine, I enjoyed reading the haunting scenes. Interwoven with the ghost story was a nice mystery to resolve. White wrapped up both the mystery and the ghost story satisfactorily for me.
  The Tradd Street books are not by any means an intense read. If the reader can get past Melanie’s annoying personality and Jack’s obliviousness to the obvious, this book is a fun read. The book was a refreshing departure from the serious content of the previous two books I read.

  I give Return to Tradd Street four stars because the author gets a bit redundant in describing Melanie’s annoying habits and her continued lack of self-esteem. White needs to grow the woman up a bit. She’s had four books to accomplish some character growth, and Melanie is still whiny and irritating.

 Prompt 8

   A book with a time of day in the title – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

   Midnight is not a true crime story in the accepted definition of the genre. Rather it is a real-life event portrayed in a fictionalized manner. Sometimes it seemed a bit too fictionalized and a bit too literary. The story suffered from lack of the grit of a documentary exposition of a murder. A true murder story should show blood on the page. To be fair, the book is listed on Amazon under Customs and Traditions rather than True Crime.
   The author spent the first part of the book doing in-depth character sketches of eccentric personalities who lived in Savannah, Georgia, at the time of the Danny Hansford murder. By the time part two began and the author dove into the murder and its aftermath, I had almost given up on reading anything at all about the crime. The central event in the book, the murder, was secondary to the unnamed narrator’s impressions of the people of Savannah. I wanted to know about the murder and all its gory details. I didn’t get my true crime fix.
  Midnight attempted an in-depth analysis of the socially inbred culture of a town that had for all intents and purposes isolated itself from the rest of the world. The author exposes his perceptions of the ugliness underneath the polished veneer of Savannah society, but then he glosses it over as if to say, “That’s just Savannah being Savannah.”
  I give the book four stars. Sometimes the excessive characterization bogged down the narrative. Underneath the in-depth analysis of Savannah society, there was, after all, a murder story that was dying to be told.

  Prompt 1

  A book on which a movie I’ve watched was based – Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

  I expected so much from this book because I enjoyed the movie. Now, I look back on my movie-going experience and I wonder why I did. Maybe I don’t remember the movie quite as well as I thought I did.
  So much about this book and its characterization disturbs me. I think the author meant for the heavy premise to be softened by the antics and eccentricities of the Ya-Yas. On the surface, this would appear to be a chick book about the never-ending loyalty of a group of eccentric friends. Not so. I found it to be a book about a grown woman caving in to her demanding mother in exchange for some grudging affection. The book was more about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship than the power of healthy friendships. The ending left me unsatisfied.
  Possibly the most annoying thing about the book was the author’s word choices. I’m from Louisiana. I’ve lived here all my life, and I can tell you for a fact that ya’ll is not spelled yall without an apostrophe. Never has been; never will be. No self-respecting Louisianan would call the small, red crustacean a crayfish. About the only thing authentic about Louisiana was the author’s description of the unbearable humidity in...well, most of the year.

  Don’t even get me started on the contrived dialog. No one in real life banters like Sidda and her friends or Vivi and the Ya-Yas. The dialog sounded like it came straight out of an old Hollywood movie.
  I give the book two and a half stars. It kept my attention, but I grumbled a lot while I read it. I found nothing at all divine about the Ya-Yas or their secrets.
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