Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale tells the story of the murder of three-year-old Saville Kent in 1860. In the process it sort of tells the story of Mr. Whicher, one of the first English detectives, as well as the stories of many of those in the Kent family and servants working for the Kents at the time. The problem is it is written in a very random and confused manner going back and forth in time and interspersing facts with quotes from books and information about fictional detectives. That was weird. It was an okay book and did an excellent job of telling the facts of the murder itself, but otherwise it often was quite boring and went on and on about things that really were not important.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 21
Pages Read in 2014: 4918
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Filed under True Crime

Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail

Some years ago my daughter picked up Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail as a reward for one of those summer reading things. It sat on the shelf until, for who knows what reason, she picked it up a few weeks ago and read it. She couldn’t put it down, even at school, where her friends laughed and told her their little 7 and 8 year old siblings had read the book. She didn’t care. She just loved the book so much even though she’s 14. Justin reminded her a lot of her 7 year old brother that she begged me to read it aloud to her little brothers. Turns out the little guys loved the book as much as their older sister!

Justin is a 3rd grader who worries about – and is afraid of – everything. The book is written in diary format, covering a full school year. There is a lot of humor and a lot of sweetness. It made a lovely read aloud for the boys and me. We laughed a lot and just really enjoyed Justin Case.

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 18
Pages Read in 2014: 4412
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Mickey Outside by David Lender

Mickey Outside by David Lender is a good, not great, book. The author starts the action immediately (something I am a fan of in books) with Mickey in a country club-like jail (busted for Wall Street fraud) looking for someone to help him with a to be determined scam to make money to maintain a lavish lifestyle after they are let out in a few weeks. Mickey chooses Paul and together they settle on commissioning another inmate to create a perfect copy of a Van Gogh that was stolen several years ago (the author chose to use a Van Gogh that really was stolen from a museum in 2002) and then passing off the copy as genuine and scamming a very wealthy person out of millions of dollars.

The action was pretty consistent throughout the book. No parts dragged, but nothing (including a gun chase) was super exciting either. I found myself rooting for Mickey and Paul to succeed in their scam because they were both truly likeable characters. The dialogue was definitely a strong point. The transitions through time were often confusing, however. I think this was partly because the chapters were just plain too long (only 6 for the entire book). There was a side story about a criminal’s brother roughing up and stalking Mickey’s ex-wife and then going after Mickey that I felt was completely unnecessary, didn’t belong, and was only added to increase the overall length of the book. The few times those parts came up were distracting from the main story.

Mickey Outside is an easy read, and definitely worth reading if the description interests you. It doesn’t take much concentration and reads fast. Bottom line is it’s not great, but it’s not bad either, and I definitely don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it.

3 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 17
Pages Read in 2014: 4167
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Redwall by Brian Jacques

I really did not enjoy Redwall by Brian Jacques. There were some good points. The action was good (though horribly predictable) on occasion. Some of the dialog was good. But there were so many more bad points. The characters were very flat. Matthias could do no bad, Cluny could do no good. The whole Matthias-Martin “am that is” hinting at reincarnation thing was just plain creepy. Pretty much the whole thing was incredibly predictable. Because Matthias has a dream in the beginning, you pretty much know how it’s all going to play out. I was quite surprised by the amount of profanity considering it is a children’s book. I read all the way to the end, though, because I was sure it would get better. It didn’t. My 5 and 7 year old boys liked it okay (though it did start putting my 5 year old to sleep every night when I read it – he almost never falls asleep while being read to – so I guess that’s another good point of the book depending on your point of view).

2 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 16
Pages Read in 2014: 3933
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Filed under Children, Fantasy

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I wasn’t sure if I’d like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The premise is pretty dreadful. Hannah Baker committed suicide and two weeks later Clay Jensen gets a package of tapes where Hannah recorded her very long suicide note explaining to 13 people what each of them did that led to her decision. I figured she would be blaming them, but that’s not the way it is at all. What it is really saying is there are things people do – intentionally or unintentionally – that affect other people and there are sometimes repercussions we never could imagine.

I really liked the way the author wrote the story. Most of it is what Hannah said on the tapes, but in between what she said are Clay’s thoughts, memories, and conversations as he listens to them. Hannah’s words are in italics while Clay’s are in regular print making it easy to follow the back and forth. Clay’s part clarified some things and gave more information for other things and sometimes just made you feel so sad for Clay. I loved the ending. I won’t give it away, but I felt like Clay really learned something (something we all can take away from the book) from his terrible night listening to those tapes. I am surprised just how much I enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why (so much so I literally could barely put it down and read it all in one day).

5 (out of 5) Stars

Books Read in 2014: 15
Pages Read in 2014: 3582
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Filed under Realistic Fiction, Young Adult