AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

5/5 Stars

  • Author: Agatha Christie
  • Paperback, 300 pages
  •  Published March 29th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published November 6th 1939)

I’m a confirmed puzzle lover. Crosswords, sudoko, Scrabble, Clue, card games. I love them all. Puzzle love extends to my go-to lit genre. The way an author crafts a mystery with a surprise yet plausible ending is the best in my book (pun, intended). There is so much fun to be had in gathering clues and solving the puzzle the author has created.

That is all the more reason the confession I have to make is deeply shameful. This is the first Agatha Christie book I have ever read in my life.

I know. I know. Go ahead and scorn me. I’ve scorned myself for years over this glaring omission in my library of loves.

I did try. Given I was about thirteen at the time, it was nothing more than an ambitious plan to read Murder on the Orient Express after seeing the movie. I got no further than the first chapter, struggling with the formal prose.

The distaste stayed in my mind far longer than necessary and despite laboring over classical literature for years in college, I still lingered with my teenage opinion that Agatha Christie is just “too hard to read.”

BULLOCKS! (Excuse my English, but I’m feeling very British now.) As an adult reader, I still found the first 50 pages somewhat disorienting and slow to get started. After the story is set up and you settle into the quaint writing style, the pages fly and the spooky story is completely captivating.

There are ten characters, of course, and they are all summoned by an unknown host to holiday on a small island. As the story unfolds, we see that each of the guests harbor a deep, dark guilty secret. This cast of quirky endearing characters is part of the story’s charm.

The tale is told from an omniscient narrator. We get to know the characters from the outwardly image they present to the world. But, more importantly we are able to examine their deep-seated fears, panicky thoughts, and stubborn egos as their tender souls are laid wide open for the reader to examine.

The Ten Little Soldiers nursery rhyme is prominently displayed both in the novel and in the vacation house the guests are secluded in. The tension ratchets up quickly. We all know what is coming. Murder. One by one. There are no outsiders on the island. Therefore, the murderer must be one of the ten.  A metaphorical time bomb starts ticking with the first murder because you know it is only a matter of time until everyone is dead. The dread and fear is palpable throughout the novel.

The mystery seems absolutely impossible to solve as you read. After some of the crazy mysteries I’ve read over the years, I was all over the place trying to solve it. I had to keep reminding myself, this is not the best selling mystery in the world for nothing! There is no supernatural element here, it is not a dream, not a joke.

It is a brilliantly constructed puzzle with one equally brilliant answer.

Agatha Christie is a master puzzle crafter. The Best. Regarding the writing process for this novel, Dame Christie states, “…the person who was really pleased with it was myself, for I knew better than any critic how difficult it had been.”

She knew she was a genius. Love it.

Amazon has a great deal! And Then There Were None

THE PASSENGER

4/5 stars

  • Author: Lisa Lutz
  • Published on 3.1.2016
  • Simon & Schuster

Looking for a ride? Take your seat on THE PASSENGER. Clear your schedule for the next two days and settle in for a twisted adventure on the run!

Our feisty girl, Tanya (not her real name), has just walked in on her dead husband. It seems he took an accidental fall down the stairs. Instead of calling 911, she packs a bag, clears out a bank account and takes off. WHAT A PROMISING PREMISE! I was hooked after that first short chapter. This is an extremely addictive story and I’m so happy to tell you guys about it.

I love stories where the protagonist is on the run or they have to disappear a la witness protection program. It gets my adrenaline going and I get to learn all kinds of cool and perhaps useful stuff. Who knows when I will need to pick a lock, buy a car on the fly, or dye my hair in a diner restroom? You never know when this knowledge will come in handy. It is just like I always say…..Books make you smart!

I consider THE PASSENGER to be an especially good “on the run” book because:

a. Our protagonist is FEMALE!
b. She is likable, but not perfect.
c. Plot twists abound! Literally around every corner.
d. Nice psychological study of our girl on the run.
e. Fast-paced, easy to read, clear consice writing.
f. Burning mystery for the reader to solve.
g. A few fun red herrings.
h. Mystery is solved in a believable, realistic (AND SATISFYING!) manner.
i. A handbook on what not to do if you ever just want to disappear!

I found this story really compelling and was immediately captivated with it. I am so glad I picked it up from my adorable used bookstore. I had tried the audio version last year when it first came out and was really turned off by the narrator’s voice.

Man, I hate when the audio turns you off of an otherwise great book. If that happened to you, try reading the book in that old-school paper way that our ancestors invented.

The Passenger   AMAZON Link

IT

GUEST REVIEW by Blake

  • Release date: September 8, 2017 (USA)
  • Director: Andrés Muschietti
  • Budget: 35 million USA
  • Producers: Seth Grahame-Smith, Barbara Muschietti, Dan Lin, Roy Lee, David Katzenberg
  • Screenplay: Cary Fukunaga, Chase Palmer, Gary Dauberman

Let me first start off this review by saying…I am not BooksBeJeweled. I know, talk about a plot twist right? But, have no fear, Jewels isn’t going anywhere! Jewels was just kind enough to let me have a guest review here on her blog.

So for now here is a Movie review on the movie “It” from  Blake, otherwise known as a younger, smaller, better looking version of Jewels because I am lucky enough to call Jewels my mother. Okay, now seriously, on with the show…Unknown-2

So I am no book worm, but I AM a movie worm (?) Being the lovely daughter that I am, I bought tickets for my parents and I to attend a viewing of the movie “It.” I only bought them because I forced them to go, after all these kinds of movies are only good in the theaters right?

At least that’s what we thought until we realized if we waited to see the movie in the comfort of our own home, we wouldn’t be forced to put up with the obnoxious 30-year old men giggling like Pennywise the entire film or burping like they were 12 year old boys having a belching contest. Okay sorry, I know this isn’t supposed to be a review on the theater experience, but c’mon seriously??

Now, this review isn’t going to be comparing the 2017 version to the OG movie or the book, because well, I haven’t read the book or seen the OG movie. YOU’RE GETTING FRESH EYES PEOPLE.  The movie had barely begun before I quickly decided I enjoy any movie that revolves around a group of little boys, riding around on bikes and cussing. I mean honestly, does it get any better than that? The boys were easily the scene stealers of this movie.

The boys’ acting was totally believable, at times I even wondered if some of the dialogue was improvised. The little girl in the movie was a total badass, but also could easily pull at the audience’s heartstrings. I’m not going to lie I could have just watched a whole coming of age movie about the little kids, but I guess that would just be “Stand By Me.”

Now for what we are all here for right? Bill Skarsgard AKA Pennywise. The voice Skarsgard chose to use as Pennywise was perfect. Enticing, yet also something that would be in your nightmares. There were a lot of good, classic jump scares from his character, and amazing special effects. I kind of love that this movie had a lot of over the top scenes, some might say were too cheesy, but they took me back to some classic horror films like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and Stephen King’s “Carrie.”

While the jumpiness and clown were scary; overall, it was just a fun movie to watch. If you go into this movie wanting to laugh and wanting to scream you will. Just have an open mind and I’m sure you will be surprised by how much you love it. I enjoyed every second, until the men behind us started talking so loud I completely missed the last scene. I regret to inform you I completely missed the last scene. For all I know it could have been terrible, but I somehow seriously doubt that. I guess you’ll just have to go see it and let me know..get it? Go see “It?”

Ok, this is Blake signing off! Back to regularly scheduled programming!

XOXOimg_2971

ARTEMIS

2/5 stars

  • Author: Andy Weir
  • Publication date: 11.14.2017

Apologies in advance. You’re not gonna like what I have to say.

This is not the review I was expecting to write, but this is not the book I was expecting to read.

Andy Weir has successfully taken the one element I didn’t like in THE MARTIAN and expanded on that until ARTEMIS is almost a chore to read. Major disappointment.

Remember our hero, Mark, in The Martian? His jokey, sarcastic personality started to grate on my nerves towards the end of the book. It’s like he never quit with the relentless joking. Staring death in the face? Make a joke. Starving to death? Play some funny music. Ok, we get it! Mark is all about the comic relief. Why does it have to be so overdone and heavy-handed? I still enjoyed the book for all the old-school science fiction fun.

HOWEVER, after cutting Weir some slack for his forced characterizations in The Martian, I am not so ready to do the same with Artemis.

Guess what? Jazz, our female protagonist in Artemis, has almost the exact same personality as Mark from The Martian. Ugggggghhhhh. And that goofy, insulting character is even more annoying in a grown woman. Is that sexist? I hope not. I don’t mean it to be.

Oh, and by the way, Jazz is the town tramp (with a heart of gold) because of her reputation for sleeping with so many guys. Hysterical.

The book starts out very fun to read. I really enjoyed reading how the city of Artemis came to be established on the moon. I loved reading about the actualities of lunar living with 1/6 of the gravity. I liked learning about the moon’s surface, dust and atmosphere. There just wasn’t enough of the moon facts for me.

Also, I’m beginning to question Andy Weir’s imagination for the future. The moon inhabitants walk around and do all their business transactions on small computers that they carry. They pay for items and surf the internet on these “gizmos” as they are called. FASCINATING STUFF right here.

What there is plenty of:
Welding. Yes, welding. More than I ever want to know about welding.
Stupid middle-school humor that the very smart adults all seem to love.
Forced, unnatural dialogue.
Convoluted, crazy plot that never really makes sense.
Integral characters that are unexplained, because of one-note superficial writing.

After the first third of the book, I had to push through to finish it. Especially the middle part with all the welding. Take my advice and skim skim skim through the welding. The very end ramps up with some excitement, but not enough to make up of for the rest. Sad.

I would have liked more moonwalking, less welding. More thinking, less insulting. More imagination, less joking. More sci-fi, less lame comedy.

Amazon link Artemis: A Novel

THE DRY (Aaron Falk #1)

5/5 Stars

  • Author: Jane Harper
  • Hardcover published by Flatiron Books, 326 pages
  • US publication date: January 10, 2017

I blame Aaron Falk. He just made me add a new shelf on Goodreads. Series. You see, I don’t like book series. With a few VERY exceptional characters preceding Aaron Falk (Harry Potter, Christian Grey, Edward Cullen, Kinsey Milhone) have I read an entire series. It’s just too much of a commitment and then I feel guilty if I miss a book in the series. I will not be missing any book that Aaron Falk is in. Ever. No way, no worries, mate.

I am so late to THE DRY party that I almost didn’t read it. Finally, feeling caught up and proud of myself for all my ARC reading, I picked up one of the few hardbacks I have actually bought and opened up.

“It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.”
–Jane Harper, The Dry

What a terrific first sentence! Jane Harper, you hooked me at page 1, sentence one.

As a reader, I am immediately FEELING this dusty, angry, Australian farm town as it reels from one of the worst droughts in history. I could hear the flies buzzing, see the rabbits eating the last bits of vegetation and smell the despair of the townspeople as they try to hang on to their livelihoods without any rain. I have not experienced this type of magical transportation in a long time. It is perfectly intoxicating.

Stay with me, because that is just the setting of the book. Now, add a hardworking federal cop, Aaron Falk, who has relunctantly come back to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend. Aaron Falk is not a perfect hero, he has issues and secrets, but he tries to do right by his friends and he knows something is wrong here. Aaron’s childhood friend, Luke, has been accused of murdering his own family before turning the gun on himself. Aaron and Luke shared a secret many years ago which we learn of during the investigation of the family murder. Does this old secret have anything to do with Luke killing his family?

Aaron Falk is a tough nut to crack. The author shares just enough about him to make you want more. He is interesting, smart. A loner, a good guy, but what makes him tick? Oh, I’m a devoted fan. I will follow Aaron Falk through every one of his next books, even if there are fifty more to come.

Is this a character or plot driven mystery? BOTH! Plus, that Aussie setting! It is so real, you better keep your chapstick handy for the parched lips you develop while reading.

Sidenote: As I was reading THE DRY, Oregon’s beloved Columbia Gorge was on fire for weeks (still is). Portland was enveloped in smoke, ash and heat! So hard to breathe! My own atmospheric reality definitely contributed to the transforming ability the book had on me- haha. Not to diminish this captivating story in any way. It stands on it’s own, even if you read it at the North Pole!

AMAZON The Dry: A Novel

ARC Giveaway!

Hello Fellow Readers,

I am super excited to giveaway one of my favorite books of the year! GOOD ME BAD ME by Ali Land is one fun intense read! See my review.

As you guys know, numbers matter to some people in publishing. Well, all the people in publishing. In my quest to review more books, I need more followers and I need you to win this book! I plan on hosting lots more giveaways in the coming months.

HOW TO WIN A CHANCE FOR GOOD ME BAD ME:

Follow this blog!

See my social media buttons under stalk me and then STALK away!

Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest

If you don’t have an account on one of these, don’t worry. I will enter your name one time for each of your follows. So the more places you follow me, the more chances you have of winning.

Also, for another entry: Retweet my pinned tweet from my Twitter profile.

The giveway contest will end on Thursday, September 21 at MIDNIGHT PST and I will announce the winner on Twitter on Friday morning, Sept 22.

I just checked the international shipping rates and I apologize, but I cannot send outside of the U.S.A.  BOO! I’m sorry.

GOOD LUCK, fellow readers!

WHITE BODIES

  • 5/5 stars
  • Author:  Jane Robins
  • U.S. publication day:  9.19.2017

Have you ever googled a question and fallen down a rabbit hole for a couple of hours?  Yes, everyone has!

Imagine for a moment that you have a family member that you are worried about. Let’s say you think your sister may be in a dangerous relationship. You stumble onto a site called controllingmen.com. You find an enormous amount of helpful information. You linger on the site and end up chatting online with a couple of other friendly members. Now, what if you are a highly suggestible type personality? Do online strangers start getting you all revved up in a battered woman cause? Wait, is your sis really in trouble?

This is what happens to Callie. Her twin sister, Tilda, has always been worrisome and Callie feels it is her duty to rescue her, especially now that Felix has entered Tilda’s life.

This is the setup to what may be the best domestic suspense novel I have read all year!  I give WHITE BODIES all the stars and possibly even a coveted position in my TWISTER HALL OF FAME! I’m in love.

The entire novel is told from Callie’s POV in a first person narrative. It is a writing style I love when done well.  The style naturally propels the story in a fast, suspenseful manner. I also love the fact there aren’t any flashback chapters. Callie recalls a few memories of younger days, but the narrative is always in the present. The pages fly like fire. We discover clues when Callie does. She is the one investigating a troubling situation and the reader is along for the ride!

All the characters in the book are interesting, eccentric, and masterfully drawn. Jane Robins has created the best mix of odd-ball players I’ve read in a long while. Our protagonist, Callie, is clumsy, awkward and blurts out her thoughts before thinking. She is funny in a Bridget Jones sort of way. Tilda, her twin sister, is self-assured and graceful. An actress, she adores the spotlight and plays every situation as dramatically as possible. We also have Felix, Tilda’s new charming, controlling boyfriend. Tilda and Felix, together, have a toxic connection.

Domestic noir usually involves a husband/wife relationship that’s gone awry. But, WHITE BODIES is a study of the relationship between the twin sisters. What a strange relationship these two have. When certain characters die, you will drive yourself nuts trying to figure out this plot. The end of the book is shocking, plausible and written in such a clever way, it will blow your socks off!

I just can’t say enough how much I loved this book. It is written so well with a plot that is woven into the very structure of the pages. It was a thrill to read!

Amazon link White Bodies: An Addictive Psychological Thriller