Hello Book Fiends of Bloglandia!
So, how was the reading side of your April life?
I don’t mean to brag, but mine was FABULOUS!
See, except for two big duds, it seemed every book I picked up or listened to was really, really, REALLY good, and I ended up scattering four- and five-star reviews all over the Interwebs.
Which turned out to be a problem.
Because in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh no, I’ve got to pick three top reads and all of these are turning out be top reads!”
I mean, that’s a good problem to have, but I nearly stopped reading for fear of another great book coming my way.
But of course, being a book junkie, I didn’t.
I also couldn’t pick just three, which is why a bonus book (and a regal one, at that) has slipped its way in this month.
Anyway, poor decision-making abilities aside, let’s have a peek at April’s fabulous reads….
How to Sell a Haunted House
by Grady Hendrix
As if dolls and puppets weren’t creepy enough, along comes Grady Hendrix’s terrific tale that had me flipping pages faster than you should run from a haunted house.
The basic story sees the death of both of Louise’s parents, her going home for the funeral and to deal with the estate, then butting heads with her brother Mark over every single detail. But then this book turns into so much more.
On the surface this is a completely campy, almost silly, sometimes humorous horror novel full of demonic dolls and some rather worrisome squirrels. But at its heart is a story of uncovering family secrets and rebuilding strained sibling relationships. And somehow these both work together to create a great story.
I have to say I was worried. I’ve only ever read Hendrix’s Horrorstor, which had a hilarious concept and started out as a page-turner, but quickly fell apart. This book is nothing like that. It remains a page turner and an engaging story throughout, the characters are believable, the dialogue rolls along naturally and often adds levity and humor to the creepy, and the action scenes are done to a T.
Oh, and if you’re worried about the “horror” part of this, it’s not that scary. A few really nasty injuries, some tense scenes with those damn dolls, but it definitely ranks as “light” horror that shouldn’t cause nightmares (unless you’re already creeped out about dolls and squirrels!).
Death and the Penguin
by Andrey Kurkov
I don’t know any other way to describe this book other than “quirky”.
Okay, it’s also fun, full of dark humor, a bit absurd, heart-tugging (if you’re an animal lover), and at times a little sad.
The basic story sees Viktor, Ukrainian writer and owner of the penguin Misha, trying to sell his short stories, but only being able to find work writing living obituaries (as in obits of famous people to have on hand when the person dies). After a while Viktor realizes the people in his obits are dying not long after he submits the obits. And once that connection is made, Viktor is in trouble. And Misha too.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s funny, not in a laugh-out-loud way, but in a quirky/absurd way that makes the book enjoyable throughout. I couldn’t not care for Misha, and Viktor is just too much of an underdog not to cheer him on as he tries to make friends, keep his penguin alive, deal with gangsters, unwittingly become the father of a gangster’s kid, and trying to do the right thing (usually while making it worse).
I’m sure there’s all sorts of things people smarter than me could say about this being a statement about a man finding his place in the world in a post-soviet Russia, or other such political satire commentary, but I’m not that smart. You can read the NPR review for that.
The whole book kept me turning the pages just to see what Viktor might get up to next. If you’ve got a dark sense of humor and you’re looking for something different that’s a quick and entertaining read, give this one a try.
APRIL”S HIGHLY RECOMMENDED TOP PICK!!!
The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise
by Colleen Oakley
I wasn’t expecting much from this book. The premise seemed funny, but it also seemed like a pure rip-off of Thelma and Louise. But slap me with your grandma’s handbag because I ended up being absolutely blown away by the wit, heart, and wild adventures of Tanner and Louise.
The basic premise is that Tanner is a college dropout and has moved in with Louise who is getting over hip surgery and needs someone to drive her to appointments. Then after learning of the prison release of an old mob boss, Louise (aka “wanted jewel thief”) needs to make a break for it, Tanner ends up being dragged along for the ride with the FBI on their trail.
Okay, so let’s cover all the things that make this a great book: the plot moves along at a perfect pace,the characters are fully believable and their road-trip interactions are spot on (wanting to shove each other out of the car one minute, relying on each other the next, and back again), and the dialogue is pitch perfect with a good dose of sometimes biting and sometimes gentle humor.
Oakley’s writing is full of wit and very easy to read, so much so that I’d sit down to read thirty pages and end up reading sixty! The growth in the relationship between Tanner and Louise is a delight to watch and is never overdone or saccharine-y sweet. And I loved the little twists (there’s more than one) toward the end that simply wrapped up what ended up being a fabulous and nearly faultless book.
AND MY BECAUSE-I’M-INDECISIVE BONUS BOOK…
All the Queen’s Men
by S.J. Bennett
Crime, corruption, and corgis fill this twisty mystery featuring Queen Elizabeth II as an amateur sleuth working to unveil a murderer in Buckingham Palace.
This will appeal to anyone who’s waxing nostalgic over QEII, wants a peek behind the palace scenes, and who loves a good, intelligent mystery.
This book was an intriguing read and the author does an amazing job at trickling in clues, creating the “character” of the queen (and Phillip), making the other characters seem very real, and weaving a complex web together into a puzzling page turner. Even better than all that, Bennet’s writing truly makes the reader feel like they’re getting a behind the scenes glimpse into true palace life (from fancy rugs and tiaras to crumbling plaster and rotting ceilings).
While this might come across as a cozy mystery (amateur sleuth, narrow setting), it has a darker feel to it than a cozy that might put off some die-hard cozy fans. I’d say it’s more of a mix of traditional mystery, detective story, and cozy all rolled into one.
This is the second in a series, but having read the first book, I think you could jump straight into this one with no problem.
What did you read last month? Have you ever had a string of good reading luck? Anything surprisingly good? Anything horrible? Anything that unexpectedly blew you away? Reply and let me know!
Thanks for popping by and have a great month of reading, everyone!!!
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LAST CHANCE for the Mystery, Suspense & Thriller Lovers Out There….
A couple of wonderful authors have gotten together to share their own books, plus those of other indie authors, and I have to say they’ve put together two tempting collections of tomes.
While this is a way to (hopefully) lure you into making some purchases, it’s also a HUGEsupport (no exaggeration) if you did nothing other than pop into the bundles to check out all the fabulously creative stuff me and my fellow Indies are up to.
Anyway, enough blather. Let’s get to the tantalizing temptations!!
(Just click the images to see the books on offer.)
This first bundle is all about showing off the first book in an author’s series, taking the guess work out of finding a series’ first tale of sleuthing and spying.
Mystery Bundle #2
This second bundle is entirely full of delightful cozy mysteries. In the mix you’ll find a few traditional cozies, but, as you might have guessed from that eye-catching graphic, there’s a special focus on paranormal mysteries in this collection.