Book Review – Y is for Yesterday

Note:  I was very saddened just after Christmas to find out that Sue Grafton had passed on.  (Eff Cancer).  I, along with a lot of readers, learned my alphabet on her covers.  I think I’m more upset with the world that there was just one book left than I would have been had it ended part way through.  I had finished this just before the news was released.  At the publishing of this post, it will have been about a month.  I’m still shocked and saddened by the loss of Sue. 

 

TITLE: Y is for Yesterday
AUTHOR: Sue Grafton
FORMAT: Hardback and EBook (I had both)
PUBLISHED: 2017

Y is for Yesterday is the 25th installment in the alphabet series of cozy-ish mysteries starring Kinsey Millhone (rhymes with Bone) and her cast of characters (ie her friends).

In this book, we flip between two story lines.  Several years in the past, there’s some extraordinary teenage angst happening at the school, somebody steals a test and then somebody else dies.  Oh, and somebody makes a sex tape.  In the current time line, there are two story lines – the same cast of characters as the past, and Kinsey’s.  Because the guy who went to jail for Sloan’s murder has just been released from juvie, and, well, he’s being blackmailed.  They have the tape, he has the money, and maybe just maybe they could swap.

Oh, and while all this is going on, a jackass from *kinsey’s* past is around.  And he’s trying to kill her.  Ned is a total piece of crap, and nobody’s safe while he’s on the lam.

 

So, as soon as I got the book, I immediately texted my mother to tell her I had it already and did she.  Then several updates as I read the book.  We’ve both read the series together for years.  It’s one of the things I liked so much about the series – it’s not one demographic.  It appeals to so many.   At Christmas, I stopped in to visit my Mom’s aunt, and she had it sitting in her coffee table.

Which is why what I’m about to say pissed me off so much.  When you read a series like this, you expect something.  I mean, we’ve done TWENTY FOUR other books with Sue, and when you do that, your readers gravitate towards your books because you expect them to work a certain way.  Longtime readers to the blog will remember that I’m the one that did the review of 50 Shades of Grey.  I say that because I want you to really appreciate me saying this:  *I AM SO FRIGGIN PISSED* that in the first third of the book she *graphically described the sex tape*.  I mean we know what got stuck where and I don’t always mean body parts.    It probably wouldn’t have upset me to find that in another book by somebody else.  But again, Sue’s been writing a certain way most of my life, and I’ve been reading her for over 20 years.  I expect a certain something and that isn’t it.

And for Sue’s *readers* that isn’t it.  I remember way back when her message board was a thing somebody complaining because Kinsey said bad words.  Now you’re going to tell us where to stick something?

In Kinsey’s normal cast of characters, we of course have Henry, her wonderful elderly landlord (I always thought the series would end with his death, not Sue’s…), and a couple transients that he’s picked up.  Homeless people who pitched a tent in the dirt patch that was his back yard.  One of them is fat.  Really fat.  Apparently so fat that I have forgotten her name but remember her plumptness because she was friggin’ fat shamed for most of the begining of the book.  I can’t tell you anything else whatsoever about her.  Not her eye color or hair color or anything.  Just her fatness.  Because Sue talked about how we had to shoehorn her into her clothes, etc.  She hardly talks about any other character’s body type, so this was a bit over-the-top ridiculous, too.

With that said, once you get through about a third of the book, it’s a huge sudden shift.  I know that the family has said that Sue was adamant that she wouldn’t have co-writers or ghost writers or anything else, but I’m serious when I say that the first third of the book sounds and feels like a totally different person wrote it.  I don’t know if there was a different editor or she set it down and came back to it months later or what happened, but it was definitely a very different book from that point on.

Oh, and at some point (I don’t remember where) there’s some unfortunateness involving Ned and Henry’s cat.  That I legitimately wanted to punch Sue for.  The cat comes through okay, but there’s not a lot I don’t ever want to read in a book, and animal abuse – even potential animal abuse – is way high on the list of shit you just don’t.

The last two-thirds of the book are something that I would expect from picking up a Sue Grafton book.  There’s a fantastic scene with Pearl and Ned, some really classically Sue stuff happens involving Fitz (the one getting blackmailed), and it was balanced nicely with Kinsey’s family stuff.

 

So rating this book is hard.  The first third as a Sue book gets about a 1/5, but a much higher rating if I had just stumbled upon it elsewhere.  The second and third third (that sounds funny, lol!) get at least a 4/5.  But combining them together…?  I’ll give the book a solid 3/5 overall.  If you can overlook the first third of the book, you can bump it up to a 4/5, but if you’re expecting a typical Kinsey Millhone read all the way through, you’ll be disappointed.

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Review: A Queen from the North

Title: A Queen from the North (A Royal Roses Book)

Authors: Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese

Published: 2017

Format: Ebook

Set in an alternate universe where the Wars of the Roses (between the Houses of York and Lancaster) never truly ended, the Unified Kingdom of England, Scotland, and Wales is still caught in the aftermath of the conflict. Arthur, the widowed Prince of Wales, needs to marry again to provide heirs to the throne, but is Lady Amelia Brockett, the daughter of a Yorkist earl and nearly twenty years his junior, the right woman to be the next Queen?

While this is, ostensibly, a romance novel, the romance isn’t the only plot worth following. The novel is as much political drama concerning the history (and the present) between the north (York) and south (London) of England, as well as the Commonwealth, as it is about the two people trying to navigate through courtship and engagement in the eyes of not only their family and friends, but also the public and the press.

Admittedly, for me, the political drama could be more intriguing than the romance, but that might just be my inner history nerd trying to parse together the differences between this novel’s universe and the English history we are all familiar with. While the Battle of Bosworth Field happened (ending the reign of Richard III and the Yorkist camp), history is altered from there. And while it would be easy to make comparisons between things happening in the novel and events happening today, they are still grounded in the history of the world the authors created, making them fit into the novel as organic events, not thinly veiled commentary on our world.

As for the main couple, Prince Arthur and Lady Amelia, they were believable as well. Well rounded, flaws and all, the authors made them human enough that the reader became invested in their lives and their world. And it appears there may be more books to come in this series, which has me excited. And maybe hoping to get a little more of the history of the world, if only for my inner history nerd’s happiness.

I give it 5 pages.

Book Review POWER AND EMPIRE by Marc Cameron

Title: Tom Clancy’s Power and Empire

Author:  Marc Cameron

Publication Date: 2017

Format: Kindle

 

Since Tom Clancy’s untimely death, the family has chosen three or four different writers to continue his legacy. This is the latest installment in the Jack Ryan series, and the first I’ve read by this author.  It involves both the Jack Ryan and Jack Ryan, Jr. storylines.

 

China starts flexing its muscle, wanted to expand control of the South China Sea. They do not believe President Ryan has the support or backbone to contest their claims. There is more to the story, as a traffic stop in Texas leads to a link to a Chinese spy who may have information on a larger plan going on. That information leads to the involvement of The Campus, bringing Jack Jr., John Clark, Ding Chavez and others into the picture. I feel Cameron captured Clancy’s style and intent, for the most part. He is not quite as wordy as Clancy was. That is good or bad depending on your preference. I did not mind the length of Clancy’s novels, but I’m sure some would have preferred them to be a bit shorter.

Overall, the book moves quickly, and is far from predictable. Cameron writes well, and I look forward to seeing more from him in the future. The plot is perfectly plausible, as are the characters’ reactions to events. No unbelievable heroics or dramatic actions that make you want to walk away from the story. I give it 4 our of 5 pages.

Book Review: “The Christmas Widow” by Jillian Eaton

TITLE: The Christmas Widow

AUTHOR: Jillian Eaton

PUBLISHED: 2014

FORMAT: E-Book

Lady Beatrice Tumbley hasn’t gone outside since her husband was killed two years before, earning her the sobriquet “Mad Lady Bea”. Jack Emerson appears on her doorstep one night, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Can she let go of her past and let love prevail?

I read a lot of romance novels, and while most of them don’t set my teeth on edge, there is one trope that irritates me to no end and makes it hard for me to read a book – and sometimes even finish it. That’s the one where the hero decides that he knows what is best for the heroine to deal with [insert problem here] and doesn’t bother to listen to her or just run roughshod over her feelings/concerns/etc. And of course the heroine eventually falls for him, because He Was Right! (I think I just sprained something rolling my eyes).

Unfortunately, that’s the main plot at work here. Jack knows how to get Beatrice out of her grief and runs roughshod over her coping mechanisms and her feelings. Because he loves her (after knowing her for several days) and she figures out she loves him too.

This was a novella, so there’s not enough to really get to know the characters. We don’t anything from Jack’s point of view until Chapter 8, and by that point, he had already annoyed me to the point where I didn’t care about him or why he’d been shot (or how he was able to miraculously recover) or, well, anything else. Which is a shame because I’ve read other books by this author and enjoyed them. This one was just too rushed, too reliant on a tired trope that needs to go away (in my opinion), and too thin on character development for me to enjoy it.

I give it 1 page.

Readers Wanted

Did you know that Book In The Bag has been read on almost every continent?  (I don’t think Penguins read books?  We should work on Antarctica…)

We’re in need of more readers who want to write reviews.  There’s no need to be discouraged, and it’s not that hard – really, I don’t ask that much of my bloggers.

  1. Reviews must be written in English.  You’re welcome to read books written in any language, of course.
  2. The reviews need to be PG-13 or better, even if the book isn’t.  Let’s face it, there are lots of books out there full of swearing and sex and violence, but a book review should let potential readers know if they want – or don’t want – to read a book, and with a group of diverse bloggers, we’re going to get a group of diverse blog readers, too.
  3. Have fun.

 

Before you ask, this is a non-paying gig.  We do it because we like to and really, it’s hard to stay objective when you’re getting cold hard cash for the review.  You’re welcome to get books in any legal means you’d like, and you’ can review just about anything.

Think you’ve got what it takes?  Leave a comment telling us why you should be a part of the book in the bag team.

 

 

2017 YITB Review

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This is the smallest update/year in review I have ever done, and I want to take a minute to apologise to loyal readers of the blog.  It would seem that my bloggers have been in a pretty constant state of flux over the past year with lots of changes (some good, some not so good) and we’ve just let reviewing books slide by the wayside.

I am actually ashamed to say that I only managed to read about half a dozen books last year.  But this year seems better.  Things are leveling out.  I’ve made a list of the things that really matter in my life and I’m going to be doing a big push at the blog.

 

Thus, this year’s list is small but mighty.

The top Book in the Bag Books of 2017:

  • Go To Sleep, Little Farm – Mary Lyn Ray
  • Mix It Up – Herve Tullet
  • Owls Don’t Blink – A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
  • Desert Solitare – Edward Abbey
  • Lexicon – Max Barry
  • Idolators of Cthulhu – H David Blalock

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