The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Cassi Renee; she practically forced me to read them with all her five-star ratings on Goodreads. This is a solid, entertaining detective series (or "inspector" series, I suppose; the story is set in Canada, so many of the police terms are a little different), Gamache himself being an incredibly likable protagonist, very capable and full of wisdom, but extending grace to all the imperfect characters around him, being deeply aware of his own flaws. All those characters were richly drawn, but I hesitate to simply classify the stories as being character-driven- the plot is satisfyingly intricate, as all the best murder mysteries are, and I haven't been able to predict the endings of any of Penny's books.
I've been wrestling with my own opinion of these books; I knew I wouldn't call this series one of my favorites within the genre, but couldn't quite figure out why. I've decided it's because I'm looking for a suspension of reality when I'm reading this type of book, and Penny's characters are so realistic, all shades of grey, just too real for me. Quite the criticism, right? I think the problem, for me, is that I'm reading about these characters who are just too human: most of them possess some seriously messed up traits, things I feel I just can't forgive them for, whereas if I were to encounter those things in a real person, I can actually experience enough of the good side of that person that it enables me to have compassion for them, flaws and all. Penny talks about the good and the bad in each of her characters, but somehow I end up focusing only on the bad. It's very uncomfortable to have humanity so accurately portrayed.
I did immensely enjoy learning so much about Canada, its culture, pieces of history, etc- turns out I know nothing about Canada. I nearly bored Derek to death one night going on and on about Quebec after reading her book A Trick of the Light.
All in all I would recommend these- but cautiously, I reckon, for those who it turns out are a little shallow when it comes to their mysteries (ME).
Also, as a little side note on these books, I found a typo while reading one of them, but what was so fun was that a previous library patron had taken the liberty of not only finding it but also correcting it in pencil. I love stumbling across corrected typos in my library books. It's like catching glimpses of family members I've never met.
It's a little fuzzy, but I hope you can see that someone has corrected the word "timber," which is obviously a correctly-spelled word in its own right, to "timbre," something you'd really only know is the proper word from the context of the paragraph. Book people are the best people. Somebody put that on a t-shirt for me.
I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
Honestly, though, she could write just about anything and I'd be willing to forgive her, solely because of You've Got Mail, which I have seen approximately three thousand times and gladly anticipate watching three thousand more before I die.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (A Flavia de Luce novel) by Alan Bradley
Flavia is simply marvelous. I want to adopt her and bring her to 21st century Iowa, where she would no doubt achieve world domination in two short years.
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
Shonya for the sleep I lost while reading this book, but I thank her deeply for recommending it in the first place. This is a historical novel set in the last days of Nicholas Romanov, his wife, and children, after they had been ousted both from power and the royal palace, and told from the perspective of the kitchen boy, one of their last few faithful subjects allowed to serve them to the end, even while under house arrest. It became apparent through reading this that I know next to nothing about Russian history (this seems to be a disturbing trend for me), and was fascinated to learn about this royal family, their beliefs, downfall, relationships to each other and the Russian people, and all the other things I'm surely leaving out. This book was good. Like, five out of five stars on Goodreads-good. It's relatively short, but the pacing is perfect, you come to love and sympathize with the characters, and while I don't want to give too much away, you may get actual motion sickness from the violence of the plot twist that hits you when you least expect it. I've refrained quite well from begging you to read this or that so far in this post, but you know I can't let one of these Books posts go by without beseeching you at least once, so here it is: The Kitchen Boy. Read it. Thank me later.