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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Book Review – W is for Wasted

Title: W is for Wasted
Author: Sue Grafton
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2013

W is for Wasted is the 23rd book in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series.
In this story, we follow Kinsey Millhone (rhymes with Bone) as a series of bizarre events unfold around her. To start, a homeless man dies on the beach with her name in his pocket. The story flips back and forth between the first person POV of Kinsey (as the entire series was) and the third person POV of something happening to somebody, but you’re not exactly sure who is involved or why we need to know it. Oh, and for some strange reason, Robert Deets is in town, asking Kinsey about the guy who stiffed him on a bill. Eventually it all ties in.

As the story unfolds, Kinsey ends up with a group of unlikely allies – the homeless friends of the dead man. Henry ends up with a cat. And we eventually find out how it all fits together.

I’m trying to not have any spoilers here, so I apologize if the review is vague, but there’s really not a lot of specifics I can give.

I didn’t mind the storyline so much. It was a bit predictable in places – a lot of the third person stuff I had figured out really early on. But then again, this is a cozy mystery, so of course it’s a bit predictable. There weren’t any huge issues, aside from characters that I just didn’t like. But that wasn’t a fault of the author.

I did have a bit of an issue with some of the phrasings in the book and a few of the references. Remember, the series started in the early 80s, and Sue has tried really hard to make Kinsey not age all that much. She keeps her slightly antiquated – she likes using index cards so she can slide them around… She likes the sound of her typewriter – so we don’t feel time as much, but there’s still that little thing in the back of your mind. If Only Kinsey had a cell phone. But then again, if that were the case, she’d be in her 50s, and I’m thinking there’s not that much running down the beach after a guy with a gun that she can do in that state.
Anyway, as I was saying… there were several references that we had to question – some felt too old, some felt too new, some were just weird. Like I said, Kinsey’s my mother’s age, so I kept asking her “would you have ever said…” or “what would you call…”

My biggest problem, though, had to deal with this book versus the rest of the series.
Here’s the thing. When Sue started the series back in the early 80s (it’s almost as old as I am!), the books had a very dedicated format/feel/whatever. The last few, however – since at least Q – have had a different feel than the rest of the series. I’m not saying it’s bad or good, but you sort of want a series to have the same feel all the way through. Maybe that’s the side effect of writing a 26 book series, or the side effect of writing for 30 years on a series. But A, B, C… don’t feel anything like the last half dozen have. (My favorite in the series is still L.)

So this causes the problem of rating the book.
I asked my mother (she read it at the same time I was, which made sharing the book really interesting) what she would rate it and she said 4/5.
As a standalone, I’d agree. The writing is better than the earlier books, and the story is tighter.
As for how it fits the series, I’d only give it a 3/5, if that makes sense.

Book Review – Kinsey & Me by Sue Grafton

Kinsey & Me

Sue Grafton

Hardback

2013

 

So, if you’re not familiar, Kinsey Millhone is a gumshoe who goes around solving crime for the incredible price of thirty dollars an hour plus expenses in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc).  The novels started about thirty years ago, but before that, there were a few short stories.

 

In this book, the stories were finally bound together.

 

Actually, it was first an intro, then a bunch of stories about Kinsey, then a second intro of sorts, then a few stories about… I don’t know who.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.

 

The Kinsey stories were decent.  There were a couple that were too short to be really good.  But the problem that I had was that Sue’s writing style doesn’t lend to a lot of story.  What you get, as with any awesome cozy mystery, is a bunch of characters that you really like.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just that, in Kinsey’s world, you have some really incredible awesome characters.  And I seriously missed  Rosie in her dive of a restaurant, and Henry Pitts, her incredibly sweet, elderly landlord, and her interaction with cops and friends and whatever else.

Like I said, they weren’t bad, they just weren’t nearly as rounded out as the novels.  And I think that was part of the problem.  Had I not read the novels, I would have liked most of these stories a lot better.

 

Okay, next was a second prologue of sorts, a short intro by Sue before you launched into the And Me part of this book.  Except here’s my issue.  Some of the stories were about a character named Kit and written in third person, and some were written in third person, and even some were written in second person.  And I was sort of unsure if they were all fiction, even though the book sort of leans towards them being that.

Sue is an incredible writer; I actually liked her first person stuff better as a short story, and she managed second person quite well, which most writers can’t do.  I teetered between giving this book a three and a four, and in the end, when I couldn’t recall what most of the stories were about by just their title, it was clear.  Three out of five pages.  Worth a read, but not as good as the novels.

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