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oblue

Obsidian Blue

Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

Currently reading

Naked Prey (Lucas Davenport, #14)
John Sandford
Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life
Frances Mayes
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
Pénélope Bagieu
An American Marriage
Tayari Jones
The Suffragette Scandal
Courtney Milan
Progress: 100 %
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Day Whatever of the Government Shutdown

 

Here is my finished kitchen.

 

 

Did a panorama view so you can see everything in one fail swoop.

 

And now I am off to borrow books from the library. Believe me, this whole shutdown has me more aware of how i spend money. This kitchen and other house renovations killed me last year. This year I am going to be more thoughtful of how I spend and save money. 2019 is all about my health and getting my savings back up to what it was before the shutdown and the renovations decimated it.  

 

 

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Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

Had a great time re-reading this. Free and Edward are fantastic. I do have to say I call BS on why he didn't tell Free the truth. I think he should have squirmed more and had to own that a big longer.

Was More Interested in Secondary Characters

From Mum With Love - Louise Emma Clarke

Please note that I received this ARC for free from NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. 

 

I ended up giving this three stars because I think the author can definitely write. I just think that I was more interested in Jess's sister and her best friend more than I was with her and her trying to find fulfillment writing a mommy blog. I think it didn't help that Jess was shrill and generally unfair to her husband throughout mos of the book and also angry that a rival blogger wasn't opening her arms to her. A times you think it's the first time she ever had someone that didn't like her. The other reason why I gave this three stars is that the letters to her daughter/blog entries were actually written very well and made me smile, laugh, and tear up at times. If it had just been that, I would have given this book five stars. 

 

Jess is a stay at home mother dealing with her 14 month old daughter. Jess realizes that staying at home isn't all it's cracked up to be. She feels tired and resentful that her husband gets to leave all day and barely seems to be around to be around their daughter. When her husband encourages to do a mommy blog (a subject that came up some other time) Jess is surprised to see that people really want to hear what she has to say. Quickly gaining internet fame and followers, Jess is quickly set up against the queen of all mommy bloggers, Tiggy, a childhood friend. 


I think the book playing into the rivalry really wasn't a thing besides here and there. Most of this book was about Jess learning what is important and being there for her sister and her friend. I thought at times though Jess was being a brat and unreasonable. She needed people to tell her how good she was every single minute it felt like it.

 

The secondary characters took up a bit in this book and not complaining because I liked them, but Clarke should have pushed the rivarly more. Maybe have Jess do a huge messed up viral moment and deal with being "cancelled" by people.

 

I thought the writing was good, but have to say that I wish that Clarke had talked more about how someone is popular for a moment before the internet moves onto someone else. Also I am going to say it, it seems really odd to have a blog be a huge influencer these days. Most people are on Instagram, twitter, snapchat, etc. So the book missed the boat to not even have those come into play. I can't recall the last time I went out and read a lifestyle blog. I just follow people on Instagram because I like the pictures/writing content that way. The only thing I read is Apartment Therapy, Cup of Jo, and Domino. 

 

The flow was good. I liked the book having Jess in the present, with her typing up letters she had written to her daughter before and after she was born. 

 

The ending left some things up in the air (mostly with Jess and one of her best friend) but I think we are supposed to take away things are going to work out. 

Thriller Aspect Not Well Done

The Couple - Sarah Mitchell

Please note that I received this ARC for free from NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review. 

 

Good grief, I don't know what to start with here. There was just too much going on. It didn't help that the author jumped back to the present and then 5 years before every every chapter. We are following our main character Claire's current engagement to a man named Angus and then her university romance with a guy named Dan. If you wanted to know about either guy, there's not much there. We just know that Clarie is still obsessing over Dan and where things went wrong, apparently went into a funk after the relationship ended and seems to be ambivalent (at best) about Angus. Things go to the weird where quickly where Claire meets a man who reminds her of Dan. And then it's just Claire running to and fro looking into something that made a little bit of sense at the end of the book. 

 

"The Couple" starts with Claire's engagement party to a man named Angus. Her family is pretty relieved that she has moved on from someone named Dan. FYI, it takes a while to even get to Dan and why Claire was so hung up on him. Claire works for the Home Office and deals with immigrant cases. We know she has a mother, stepfather, and brother, but she doesn't talk to them much, she is just telling you about them. Same with Angus. I didn't get a good sense of him via Claire. Same issue with Claire obsessing about the man she meets (Mark) and  her former boyfriend (Dan). She just runs around and says, well this person reminds me of Dan and I am now going to just run around and force this person to be with me, when I am not hiding it from my fiancee and trying to make things work there. This book was confusing. At least Mitchell didn't do the unreliable narrator thing (which I loathe). I think the big issue is that Claire is written inconsistently in this book. I don't know what she really wanted in the end. And then all of a sudden we get some huge reveal about things and I maybe squawked plot hole a few dozen times and let it go. 

 

The men were a mess in this book. We don't spend much time with anyone but the perfect Dan and good lord I didn't get it. You have to make him some big perfect love. Or something. Mitchell messes with his halo a bit, but then we don't get to see how things ended. We just get comments here and there and the rest is left to you to imagine. 

 

The writing feels really disconnected at times. Claire works at the Home Office and apparently deals with immigrant cases. Anytime Mitchell goes into whatever case Claire is working on the book gets odd. You have the idea that maybe Claire looks down on these people at times, or she doesn't really care (which I still say she doesn't) and all these cases just hang in the book. The flow is impacted by going from the present to five years ago. I just ceased to give a crap about Dan. Claire's obsession with him and his dealing with his ex got old fast. She was just a mess as the ex was in my opinion. That opinion isn't helped by the fact that though Mitchell over explains everything in this book, she decides to keep what happened to Dan vague. I mean you can guess what happened, but I wish that the rest of the book was more like that in order for it to really hit you.

 

The book's setting is mostly Angus and Clarie's home with Claire occasionally going out to stalk Mark somewhere else. 

 

The book ends in a whimper. 

The Book Was Free

Big Sexy Love - Kirsty Greenwood

Yeah, I said it.

 

Right now I am on a zero dollar book budget, which isn't that bad. I am reading things that I may have passed up on. Though now I am like, girl, get better taste in free books.

 

"Big Sexy Love" could have been so much better. I think in the end too many absurd things were happening and Greenwood lost the plot. And I liked the idea behind the plot so much. I also wish we spent more time with Birdie. Birdie was a great character, and we only get glimpses into her. I wish that Greenwood had included more scenes/dialogue with Birdie and Olive. I found myself loving the letters in the end and that Olive didn't just run after a dude. Other than that, I felt that this was an okay book to pass the time with.

 

"Big Sexy Love" has Olive Brewster going to New York to track down her best friend Birdie's ex who was her big sexy love. One wonders why Birdie can't do it, but you quickly find out that Birdie is dying, and it really will be up to Olive to track down Birdie's ex and give him a letter from her to him. Only issue is that Olive loves her routines (works at the fishmonger and goes home to watch Big Bang Theory with her brother and his pain the butt girlfriend) so traveling to New York isn't going to be an easy thing for her.

Olive meets a cast of thousands it seems, but she manages to shake up her routine and pushes through in order to make sure she keeps her promise to Birdie.

 

Olive was not a sympathetic character at times. We find out her parents separated and acted like jerks. So now she is living with her brother in their childhood home. the girlfriend is a nasty jerk, but she was still saying little truths here and there about Olive and her inability to take care of herself. I think if we didn't keep jumping from absurdity to absurdity the book would have worked better for me. Olive is almost arrested, arrested, and just running from scene to scene. We don't get to see her really take in New York except for here and there. I didn't like her love interest because guys who act like assholes are not my thing. 

 

The secondary characters are merely there to prop up Olive or be an impediment. The only one who is there and shines in this is Birdie. I do wish that Greenwood had worked with what she had more. The best friendship of Birdie and Olive are really the only parts of the book that worked.


The writing was so-so. I think that happening each chapter start with a text from someone in Olive's life didn't work that well. Also including twitter messages from one tertiary character was too much. The flow was pretty awful though. We just have ebbs and flows and nothing really works until the last 10 percent or so.

 

The setting moving from London to New York felt a bit blah to me. I just needed more color. Greenwood does at times have Olive pay attention to her setting. But it felt like a weird New York where everyone (mostly) is super helpful and things are apparently cheap as hell.

 

The ending was a surprise and I honestly think the epilogue was written very well. 

 

 

Perfect

If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin

If Beale Street Could Talk is sublime. For those who saw the movie, not everything in the novel stays the same, there are some scenes that I assume were cut for time. I thought that the way this ended was pretty perfect though.

 

This book is told from the POV of 18 year old Tish. She is dealing with the effects of her fiancee Fonny being locked up after he was accused of rape. You think that this would be simple until you read the long winding road that led them to this point. 

 

Tish's voice in this story is strong. Through her we get to see her first look at Fonny when they were kids and when they became something more. You get her frustration with how things are right now. And you get how she loves him. More than that, you get to see how Tish's family loves her. Her mother, father, and sister end up being Fonny's family too. 

We also get a look at Fonny's family and his two sisters, mother, and father. There could have been a whole other book about them. Every one that appears in this book is fully developed though. I don't know how long it has been that I read something that I could say well that was great, this person is great, and I can see this person in my head. 

Baldwin doesn't tell this story in a linear fashion, but it works. We go from the past (when Tish and Fonny met) her remembering the first time they went to church, and then back in the present with her telling her family that she is pregnant. And then we jump back again to see how happy Tish and Fonny were before they had a night that changed everything. The writing isn't lyrical. It is raw and in your face. 

 

“Tish,” she said, “when we was first brought here, the white man he didn’t give us no preachers to say words over us before we had our babies. And you and Fonny be together right now, married or not, wasn’t for that same damn white man. So, let me tell you what you got to do. You got to think about that baby. You got to hold on to that baby, don’t care what else happens or don’t happen. You got to do that.

 

“Unbow your head, sister,” she said, and raised her glass and touched mine. “Save the children,” she said, very quietly, and drained her glass.

 

That baby was our baby, it was on its way, my father’s great hand on my belly held it and warmed it: in spite of all that hung above our heads, that child was promised safety.

 

“I don’t know,” Frank said, “how God expects a man to act when his son is in trouble. Your God crucified His son and was probably glad to get rid of him, but I ain’t like that. I ain’t hardly going out in the street and kiss the first white cop I see. But I’ll be a very loving motherfucker the day my son walks out of that hellhole, free. I’ll be a loving motherfucker when I hold my son’s head between my hands again, and look into his eyes. Oh! I’ll be full of love, that day!”

 

The flow of this book was perfect. At times I was smiling, in tears, or full of despair, or hope. Baldwin puts you through the ringer. You want Tish and Fonny to have a different end to their story, but we all know what the end is going to be, what is has to be when you are talking about two black kids in love in the 1970s in America. Heck, have things changed? Baldwin shows you colorism, racism, sexism, police brutality, and one wonders have we come far enough? 

 

The setting of If Beale Street Could Talk is New York in the 1970s. You get to see how hard it was/is for a black man and a black woman at that time. 

 

The ending is left with us waiting for a new life even though we know that the life that Tish wanted is now gone. 

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin

Fantastic.  Fantastic. That’s all I got. 

Reading progress update: I've read 34%.

If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin

"The women have somehow managed to get it all together, to hold everything together. So, here everybody is, cleaned, scrubbed, brushed, and greased. Later, they’re going to eat ham hocks or chitterlings or fried or roasted chicken, with yams and rice and greens or cornbread or biscuits. They’re going to come home and fall out and be friendly: and some men wash their cars, on Sundays, more carefully than they wash their foreskins."

 

"Of course, I must say that I don’t think America is God’s gift to anybody—if it is, God’s days have got to be numbered. That God these people say they serve—and do serve, in ways that they don’t know—has got a very nasty sense of humor. Like you’d beat the shit out of Him, if He was a man. Or: if you were."

 

"It’s a miracle to realize that somebody loves you."

 

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Reading progress update: I've read 10%.

If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin

Got to love Tish talking about the hypocrisy of Fonny's mother and her sanctified mess. I still don't like to mess with Church people from the way they acted when I was a kid. Using God as a weapon against those and acting every way but a child of God from Monday through Saturday equals you are full of crap. 

 

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A Thousand Nos

The Couple Next Door: A Novel - Shari Lapena

Sometimes you read a book that you can't believe is so bad you just keep reading it. This was one of those books. The shifting narratives don't work, you pretty much know who did what it's just a wait for the cops to figure it out. The only reason why I didn't zero star this thing was the ending which made me go, huh. 

 

"The Couple Next Door" follows Anne and Marco Conti. A happily married couple (or it appears to be so) with a new baby girl at home, they are out of the house for the night. They are next door at their neighbor's helping to celebrate the husband's (Gregory) birthday. Anne is distressed though, she didn't want to leave their daughter Cora at home, and their neighbor forbid them to bring the baby (who does that?) and when Anne and Marco return home, they find their daughter missing. The book follows the investigation of who could have taken Cora and why. 

 

I think if Lapena had stayed with following Anne and including some narrative from detective Rasbach that it would have worked. Rasbach was investigating things and coming up with information on Anne and Marco. I rather it would have been delivered without readers knowing about it, or without us hearing about it from other characters first. The whole book read as lackluster as anything.

 

Lapena provides POVs from Anne, Marco, Detective Rashbach, and the Conti's next door neighbor, Cynthia. And we get some narration from Anne's father. I think he popped up twice. I only really liked Rasbach's POV. Though in the end he didn't solve much of anything since he is told what really went on in the end.

 

The writing was a disappointment. I just felt at times I was being spoonfed everything and it just got boring. The flow was pretty bad too. Probably because we kept jumping around to these four people with some additions from Anne's father here and there. I think we even got Anne's mother too. I just can't even remember anymore since this book just had a bit too much going on. 

 

The ending was a surprise. Probably the only thing that was while I was reading this. 

Interesting Idea That's Been Done Before

Evidence of the Affair - Taylor Jenkins Reid

Eh. I am pretty much reading anything that costs me zero dollars, so I thought I try one of the Amazon Original Stories. I have read Taylor Jenkins Reid before so I thought this be at least a good read, even though it's a short story. I liked the idea of writing letters back and forth, but though two of the characters were beyond boring, and hated the last letter that was sent. It pretty much makes one of the characters totally crap and actually being someone that she would have despised earlier. 

 

For this short story to make any sense, I will say up front this takes place in the late 1970s. Even though I know that phones exist, let's pretend that two strangers would mail each other and the mail would be able to get to the other person super fast. It drove me nuts sometimes one of them would mention getting together on a certain date and I would like at the date on the letter and wonder how they got it so soon in order to meet. 

 

Reid follows two characters, Carrie and David whose spouses are having an affair. Carrie, because she wants to spread misery (yeah I said it, fight me) writes David a letter and tells him that his wife is sleeping with her husband. I swear this reminds me of a movie that I saw and loathed, with Harrison Ford called Random Hearts. Anyway, Carrie doesn't get a response for several months and writes again and then eventually David starts writing her back.

 

The entire book is two people wondering what they did wrong (understandable) and putting themselves down and then meeting up eventually and pretty much gushing about the other one (that got old fast). And neither one of them do anything proactive about the cheating spouses. Instead we get to read the letters Carrie steals and sends back to David to read. If anything I was more interested in the cheating spouses. They actually had a personality. 

 

The book ends on a sour note (for me at least). 

Things You Save in a Fire

Things You Save in a Fire - Katherine Center

Please note that I received this via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

 

Well this was really good. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was because forgiveness is okay, but I loathed what one of the characters did and it was like they were given a pass on it because they had other issues going on. FYI, I am all about the vengeance. 

 

"Things You Save in a Fire" follows firefighter Cassie Hanwell. Cassie is doing great at her department and is about to receive an award when someone from her past comes screeching back. Cue one public relations nightmare later, and Cassie is going to have to start all over again. It's just luck that Cassie's estranged mother calls her and asks her to come and live with her for a year and help her due to her losing her eyesight. Cassie has to start all over again in Boston and we get to see the ins and outs of firefighters in this book.

 

Cassie was a great character. I also laughed at how none of the firefighters in this book use each other's first name. I still am blank on the real name of Cassie's love interest in this one. Cassie is strong, has good friends from the firehouse in Texas, but is a lonely individual. We readers can guess what happened to her, Center gives us enough clues. Cassie is resistant to becoming close with her mother and with the love interest who has a way of digging in. I did love Cassie's mixed emotions about her mother. She left her and her father on Cassie's 16th birthday which...yeah. I do want to say though that I wanted them to really have it out though. Cassie's mother character keeps talking about forgiveness, but it didn't seem like she really wanted to know how Cassie's life was harder after she left. 

 

The other firefighters and the captain were great. I don't know if I could be a firefighter. It sounds like a pain. I did appreciate what Cassie's favorite firefighter talked to her about before she left, about how things were easy for her before, and it was going to be hard now. Since this character was an African American woman I appreciated it. 

 

I thought the writing was really good and mixed in was explanations about fire, kits, etc. and what you do when a fire happens. We also get a few funny scenes with them responding to things that I went seriously people call the fire department on that? 

 

The flow was really good too. 


The setting of the book moves from Texas to Boston, but I didn't get a sense of either state in this one. The book is really focused on Cassie's mother home and that was described very well. Other than that, not too many details to make me think oh yeah this is happening in Boston, MA right now.


The ending was great. We get an epilogue that goes into things that occurred over a lengthy period of time. Very good ending and was sad to finish this one. 

Reading progress update: I've read 4%.

If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin

Because Moonlight is the best she gifted me a book!  I’ve only been buying essentials so this is a treat!

 

Snow started in earnest a minute ago so just reading this with a cup of tea and the curtains wide open. Junior is enjoying the snow falling too. 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

The Couple Next Door: A Novel - Shari Lapena

Wow. This was next level terrible. 

Only Enjoyed One Time Period

The Winter People - Jennifer McMahon

Sigh. Well this was an okay story, I only enjoyed the past time period in the book (the Sarah and Martin sections) and didn't like the present at all except for Ruth. The book fell down at the end too and I honestly didn't find this too scary.

 

"The Winter People" follows four people (Martin, Sara, Ruthie, and Katherine) in different time periods. Martin and Katherine's narratives are from the 1908 and Ruthie and Katherine are from the present day. The book focuses on all of their connections to a farm house in Vermont that is located near the so-called Devil's Hand. Why people would live near anything with the word devil in it is beyond me. 

 

As often with different narratives in one book, there were only two that I liked in this one. Martin and Sara's. We get to see how hard their lives are back in the early 1900s and how Martin is scared that he is losing Sara after the death of their daughter. Sara's story takes a while to get going. I was bored through the first 20 percent of the book. Sara's narrative is pretty thin until she starts recounting her childhood and we see what losing her child, Gertie, is doing to her. Sara also weaves in talk of her Auntie (not her real aunt) who ended up raising her and providing food and love to her, her brother and sister, and her father. Sara hints at something terrible happening, but we don't find out until the very end of the book. I have to say that the reveal was a horrible letdown though. I had some thoughts on Auntie, but can't get into it without spoiling.

 

Ruthie's narrative is boring, but gets stronger as she realizes her mother is missing and she needs to be strong for her little sister Fawn. Katherine's narrative doesn't work and I also thought she was an idiot by the time the book ended. 

 

McMahon decides to throw in a ridiculous character that really doesn't move things forward. I am just baffled she was included since there was so much already happening in this story. 

 

The flow was up and down, jumping from person to person didn't really work. I think if we had the straight telling of Martin/Sara or at least Sara's told in chronological order it would have been a stronger book. Instead we had too much going on and not enough explanations until the very end. 

 

The town of West Hall, Verrmont felt sparse, and most of the action was focused on the farmhouse. It made an interesting location, though I wish that it had been showcased a bit more. Make it more like the Overlook in "The Shining" and explain things a lot better. I am still confused on what made a winter person (it makes very little sense until you get to the end and even then I went, um okay...). 

 

The ending was interesting. You get to see what path Ruth chooses that I had some issues with. Especially when we get Sara's narrative and we see what happened to her. And Katherine was a fool times infinity. 

Way Too Light on World Building and Character Development

A Slice of Magic - Frances Mayes

Please note that I received this ARC from NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

 

Well I was up for some magical realism because I definitely needed the distraction. Too bad that the story itself was pretty lackluster. You can't promise me a magical pie shop and then not really show anything that magical. This book also seems to be trying for a cozy mystery theme which didn't work at all. The characters in this one were not very developed either. Also some of the reactions that the main character, Susanna had were not believable at all. 

 

"A Slice of Magic" has handywoman extraordinaire Susanna Daniels traveling to help out her Aunt Erma at her pie shop. Susanna hasn't talked to her aunt in 20 years. She still wonders why her aunt disappeared from her life and so is eager to find out what caused the rift between her aunt and mother. However, when Susanna appears in town of Hocus Hills, her aunt is nowhere to be found and just leaves her a note telling her to keep the pie shop running until she returns. A cast of many (seriously there's a lot going on) appears and there seems to be something odd going on in Hocus Hills.

 

Susanna is the main character, but honestly, I didn't really get her as a reader. She's terrible at making pies and instead of her trying to call the police to help figure out where her aunt is, her aunts friends just go things will be fine and eat pie. I am not kidding. We hear that Susanna is good at fixing things, but besides a scene where she starts fixing things at the pie shop, we just get numerous references to how handy she is. And of course there's a love interest, but he was super bland. There is a huge reveal about the guy and I was once again baffled by it. 

 

The other characters are paper thin in this. They all seem to have time to stop by the pie shop. There's a whole thing with a cookie store opening up that can ruin her aunt's pie shop and I ceased to care. And there was a fitness guru who went around shaming people for eating pie (I hated her) and a lot of other characters we barely spend time with. 

 

The writing was so so. Mayes decides to open each chapter with a question and response form the town's agony aunt named Eloide and I am still baffled why that was even in there. There was a whole thing about Susanna figuring out who Eloide was, but you think the author would have put in pie recipes or something since the whole book was about them. It was a weird narrative choice and I started skipping over them after a while. The book jumps around too much too. We have Susanna trying to deal with the pie shop and then she will have some memories about her aunt and making pies with her, or playing with her, etc. We get tidbits here and there about Susanna's life back home, but people from her home or mentioned, and seldom heard from which once again strains common sense. If I was gone for a week, my friends would all know and be texting or calling to check in. 


The flow was not good. Once Susanna gets to the pie shop and realizes her aunt isn't there the whole book just grinds along. Susanna doesn't know how to bake and why in the world she stayed and didn't call her mother was a question for the ages. There was also way too many things going on for the sake of plot and not common sense.


The town of Hocus Hills should have been charming, but I found half the characters annoying. We get very little backstory on people and Susanna gets a letter explaining everything and I just heavily sighed. The why behind everything was really dumb too. I just couldn't take it seriously. There was no world building at all in this first book which was a mistake. 


The ending was a letdown. Susanna finds out something about her aunt and what led to the rift with her mother and there was zero reaction to it. I just didn't find it believable. This book was fairly short and most of the ARC was then filled with the next couple of chapters of the next book in the series. I think this book is dancing around 200 pages which would explain why the world building wasn't that good.