Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mini Book Reviews x 5

Books read: 5. Book reviews: 0. Oops.

I've been on a reading roll the past couple weeks -- but between two vacations, work, and knitting my fingers off, I sorta forgot to write book reviews! Thus we have mini reviews (otherwise known as lazy cop-out). I hate to short some of these books -- particularly the awesome "Rubbernecker" -- but the thought of writing five separate reviews at one time is too overwhelming to contemplate (and think of how much reading time that would take away!). So, here we go:

P.S. Two of these reads, "Rubbernecker" and "The Girl on the Volkswagen Floor," can count toward R.I.P. X!

"Rubbernecker" by Belinda Bauer
First published in the U.K. in 2013, in the U.S. in 2015
313 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5

Image from Goodreads

This unique murder mystery is told from the perspective of an anatomy student with Asperger's. Patrick Fort has been obsessed with death ever since he saw his dad killed when he was a young boy, and that's why he's excited about starting a college class that involves dissecting a cadaver and determining the cause of death.

But Patrick soon notices that something is fishy with his group's cadaver, and his logical mind can't stop churning until he works out the inconsistencies. In the process, he crosses paths with a murderer.

"Rubbernecker" was a great read that was by turns funny, sad and fascinating. Patrick was an intriguing main character and Bauer did a great job showing us what it's like to see the world through the lens of Asperger's. I also enjoyed the book's setting: Cardiff, Wales. This was an unusual mystery but a page-turner nonetheless, and I plan to read the other two books by Bauer available in the U.S.
*For R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril

"War of the Encyclopaedists" by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite
First published in 2015
429 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

First: I love this cover. Second: I was totally intrigued by the premise of two friends -- one in a war zone -- keeping in touch via a Wikapedia page. Third: So, the Wikipedia page thing wasn't really a big part of the book. But I liked the story anyway.

Two twenty-something BFFs -- Halifax Corderoy and Mickey Montauk -- are living it up hipster-style in Seattle, where they (the "Encyclopaedists") host ironically themed booze- and drug-filled house parties at the perfectly-nicknamed Encyclopad.

But their friendship -- and the characters themselves -- changes drastically when Mickey, a lieutenant in the National Guard, is sent to Iraq. This is a coming-of-age story that's by turns funny, depressing and poignant. And along the way, readers gets a glimpse at what it was like to be a soldier on the ground at the beginning of the Iraq War, told by a war veteran himself.

"The Book of Speculation" by Erica Swyler
First published in 2015
339 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

It seems like forever ago that I read this book, and I feel like I'm going to do it a disservice because I don't remember the finer details. I will say that after some distance from it,  I downgraded the rating from 4 to 3.5 stars because of predictability and a narrator who, despite being a fellow librarian, got on my nerves a few times.

It's about an old book, a curse, the circus, Tarot cards, a family with the special ability of holding their breath underwater for impossible lengths of time; it's about tragedy and love. The story takes place in two totally separate parts that eventually converge. We're alternately in present day with a lonely librarian who receives a mysterious old book in the mail that opens up a treasure trove of family secrets and history, and at other times we're traveling with a circus in the 1700s.

"The Book of Speculation" has magical realism, plenty of dark plot points and some cool tidbits of circus history. The writing was lovely and I enjoyed the story (of course I did -- it involved a book and a librarian!) but if you don't manage to work it into your reading pile, it wouldn't be a devastating loss.

"Storm Front" by Jim Butcher
Audiobook narrated by James Marsters
First published in 2000
My rating: 3.75 (3.5 + .25 for narration)
Image from Goodreads

Harry Dresden is the only wizard listed in the Chicago phone book. He runs a little consulting business and helps the police with matters of the supernatural from time to time.

"Storm Front," the first in a long series, is generally classified as urban fantasy. I'd call it a supernatural mystery. It's a decent whodunit (Harry is enlisted by the police to help solve some particularly gory murders) and an introduction to the ways of this supernatural world and the creatures that inhabit it.

I had been planning to start the Harry Dresden series for a while, and when I came across "Storm Front" on a list of good audiobook narrators I figured I'd give it a shot. Marsters' narration took some getting used to -- lots of sighing and breathing sounds -- but it fit perfectly with Harry's overall put-upon, somewhat condescending air. I'm planning to listen to the second book in the series, "Fool Moon," on audiobook soon.

"The Girl on the Volkswagen Floor" by William A. Clark
First published in 1971
249 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
Image from Amazon

This book was making the rounds among my co-workers at the library and of course I had to join in the impromptu book club! It's a true crime story written by a former Dayton Daily News reporter about a still-unsolved murder in a Dayton, Ohio, suburb in the '60s.

The local element was one of the book's only redeeming qualities; I'm not sure I would've finished it if I wasn't intrigued by reading about the area where we currently live. The murdered woman was a young teacher at a middle school in our town, and she was found dead of strangulation under a blanket in her car in a store parking lot about 25 minutes away.

The other interesting part of the story was the consultation of a psychic to assist in the investigation. Completely stumped and facing pressure from the public to find the killer, the police secretly asked our intrepid reporter to follow up on the idea of enlisting a psychic, who ended up being either the real deal or batshit crazy.

Several of my co-workers really liked the book, but I was sorta disappointed. The first third of the book was horrendously boring and repetitive, and I was put off that neither the mysterious method of strangulation (the victim only had marks on the sides of her neck, not the front or back) or the killer's identity were revealed. I didn't know going in that it was a cold case... but that makes me wonder, what exactly was the point of the book then?


  1. The only one I have on my TBR is The Book of Speculation. I love the whole magical realism in books lately. I have to check out some of the others here - Great reviews!!

    1. I would recommend adding "Rubbernecker" to your list. It was a really good mystery and an interesting change of pace. P.S. I'm loving "In the Woods" so far!

  2. I liked your mini reviews. I'll have to add "War of the Encyclopaedists" by Robinson and Kovite to my TBR list!


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