Becky’s Two Hundred and Eighth Book Review: “Running Blind” by Lee Child

“Running Blind” by Lee Child is the fourth book in the Jack Reacher series. It starts off the same as the rest of the Jack Reacher books – you are immediately pulled into the story. I like how the book opens with the bad guy narrating. “Suppose you wanted to kill people. You would need to know ahead of time how to do it. That part is not too difficult. There are many ways. Some of them are better than others. Most of them have drawbacks. So you use what knowledge you’ve got, and you invent a new way. You think, and you think, and you think, and you come up with the perfect method.” (Running Blind, pg 2). I liked how cold and detached this person was when describing killing people. It was evident from the start that this was a very intelligent – albeit fucked up – individual.

SPOILER ALERT: I’M GOING TO DISCUSS EVENTS THAT HAPPENED AT THE END OF THE THIRD JACK REACHER NOVEL, “TRIPWIRE”

In the last book, Reacher was reunited with a woman that he had grown to love when he was younger but always looked at as untouchable. They finally got over the idea that their feelings were one-sided and the book ended on a ‘happily-ever-after’ note. Reacher even found himself with a house that her father left him. He went from being out of the army for a few years and living the life of a drifter, to someone with a house, a girlfriend, and a life that he wasn’t sure he really wanted. It is a difficult thing to connect with, at least for me, to not want to be attached to any one place. I think this quote helps to show how Reacher feels about the house: “…but it represented a big problem. It anchored him in a way which made him profoundly uncomfortable. Being static disconcerted him. He had moved around so often in his life it confused him to spend time in any one particular place. And he had never lived in a house before. Bunkhouses and service bungalows and motels were his habitat. It was ingrained.” (Running Blind, pg 63). It’s something I’ve never really thought about, but if that is what you’ve known your whole life then it makes sense that you might not want anything different.

While dealing with the idea of owning a house and everything that goes along with it, Reacher finds himself pulled into yet another mess. I found this whole situation infuriating. The FBI pulls him in to help investigate women being murdered, and they threaten him until he agrees to help. The way that they went about everything just made me so angry, and the fact that no one would listen to him just added to that. At the same time, Reacher certainly made sure to push their buttons whenever he got the chance.

I really like how we are learning more about Reacher in each book. His character continues to develop as we follow him. “Reacher made no reply. It was a technique he had perfected half a lifetime ago. Just stand absolutely still, don’t blink, say nothing. Wait for them to run through the possibilities…wait for them to start worrying.” (Running Blind, pg 375). There are aspects that we as the readers already know and come to expect – such as this quote where Reacher is utilizing his perfected patience to get answers – but Lee Child continues to develop Reacher beyond that, which I really enjoy.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that there are many great things about the Jack Reacher series. One of them is that the books are a thrill ride that will hook just about any reader. Then there is the fact that the books, so far, continue to develop Reacher as a character and keep things interesting. Just when you think you know the direction the book is going to take, Lee Child throws a curve ball at you. “Running Blind” kept me hooked and once again, I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventh Book Review: “Crystal” by V.C. Andrews

“Crystal” by V.C. Andrews is the second book in the Orphan series. This book follows the orphan Crystal who is adopted into an interesting family. The father is a peculiar penny-pincher and the mother is a soap opera fanatic. The couple approaches Crystal very differently and she soon finds herself trying to help solve the problems of her adoptive parents – most specifically that of the mother.

Shortly after being adopted, Crystal starts to understand just how strange her adoptive parents are. The mother comes off as a bit of an airhead. “Isn’t it wonderful to have a husband like Karl who can keep you from making the wrong decisions?” (Crystal, pg 12-13). Statements like these give the impression that Crystal’s mother feels content to let her husband make all the decisions – easy and hard alike – so that she can continue to live a life run by the television shows that she is so dedicated to. She is constantly trying to rope Crystal into staying beside her on the couch so they can watch the shows together. Crystal realizes very early on that her adoptive mother is living through the characters on her soaps. Then her adoptive father is full of advice and guidance that for whatever reason, he cannot bring himself to extend to his wife. ““Balance, Crystal,” he explained. “That’s what makes life truly comfortable, maintaining balance. Assets on one side, liabilities on the other. Everything you do, everyone you meet has assets and liabilities. Learn what they are, and you’ll know how to proceed.” (Crystal, pg 25). I liked this quote and found it a little odd at the same time. He talks about balance as if it is so important, but does almost nothing beyond adopting Crystal, whom he had hoped would be a positive influence, to get his wife to stop obsessing over television shows.

It was an odd book, that’s for sure. Crystal was a likeable enough character, although a little overly serious for a child. But acting older than you are makes sense for someone that was raised in an orphanage. The relationships that she develops with other kids her age were interesting. She didn’t behave like most kids do when trying to forge friendships, instead she refused to conform and pretend to be someone that she isn’t and was therefore, able to bypass friendships that would have been hollow.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. I like V.C. Andrews’s writing to a point. It’s okay. For the most part, the books are easy to read, and there is the added bonus with this series that the books are very short, so it isn’t a huge time commitment. I found parts of “Crystal” to be mildly entertaining and I’m intrigued about the rest of the Orphans series. But this book isn’t for everyone. It is one of those books that when it was done, it didn’t linger. I wasn’t emotionally attached to it or any of the characters. That is what I really look for in a book – a full reading experience with characters that I care about. And that isn’t really something that I found while reading “Crystal” by V.C. Andrews. But if you’re looking for a book to stash on a chair that you sit in for a few minutes, “Crystal” will work quite nicely.

This one quote I just had to include: “I hated promises. They were like those balloons I had seen drifting in the wind. They had shape until the air escaped, and then everyone forgot them.” (Crystal, pg 163)

Becky’s One Hundred and Ninety-Eighth Book Review: “Don’t Tell Penny” by Anna Bell

“Don’t Tell Penny” by Anna Bell was a free short story that I downloaded through BookShout. It was very short, but it did give me a chance to sample the author’s writing and find out if it would be worthwhile to invest in more of her works. That is part of the reason that I have been reading so many short stories lately. I enjoy branching out in my reading and a short story is a great way to get a small taste without having to devote a lot of time in an author you do not know.

The premise for the story is a girl named Penny that is convinced that her boyfriend Mark is about to propose. “Don’t Tell Penny” is narrated by her best friend, Louise whom is simultaneously excited for her best friend and worried that Penny has misjudged all the signs and that tonight is not in fact the night. There is a big party that has been planned to celebrate the end of Mark’s accounting exams. At the last minute it was moved from a local low-key place to a swanky hotel. That combined with the fact that Penny read a message on Mark’s phone that said “Don’t forget ring” has her completely convinced that he is going to pop the question tonight.

Would I recommend this book? Probably not, the writing was nothing extraordinary and although I could relate to Penny, I didn’t like her at all. I personally do not agree with the idea of snooping on my significant other’s phone and I kind of feel that she set herself up for disappointment by expecting the proposal. I certainly could relate to her eagerness for the engagement – I’ve been there – but at the same time I thought it was overly presumptuous for her to get her nails done and her hair fixed and to tell others that it was going to happen that night. She got very pushy when things weren’t happening the way that she had planned out in her head. Her best friend tried to diffuse the situation as best as she could and in return has Penny force her company upon Louise and her husband Russell when they very clearly wanted alone time. Penny wasn’t a likeable character and I thought Louise was a bit of an enabler. Overall, I was left unimpressed and with no desire to read the rest of the series.

Becky’s One Hundred and Seventy-First Book Review: “Mini Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella

“Mini Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella is the sixth book in the Shopaholic series where Becky is facing her wildest challenge yet – a toddler. It definitely makes for an interesting read to observe Becky as a mother. In a lot of ways, Becky Brandon née Bloomwood has always been a bit childish herself and part of what makes her so charming is her innocence and imagination. For example, she frequently finds herself swept away by her own daydreams. But there are some things that she does that make you question how well Becky would do having a whole other person completely dependent on her to exist. That being said, Becky does her best at being a mom and it is really entertaining to see all the challenges she faces with Minnie. Watching Luke try to juggle two shopaholics is even more enjoyable.

The book opens on Becky out Christmas shopping with her two-year old daughter, Minnie. Like her mother, Minnie is determined to get what she wants, especially when it comes to shopping. While fighting with Minnie about buying a toy pony Becky finds herself with an unwanted audience. In order to save face in front of a judgmental parent, Becky quickly determines that Minnie can buy the pony if she uses her own pocket money. After explaining the whole concept of saving up money to buy things you want, Becky tells Minnie that she can buy the pony but that she’ll have used all her pocket money up. Then the sales woman tells Becky that the pony is one of a set and asks if she wants the other one. Of course the judgmental parent observes all of this and makes a comment about how it is too bad that Minnie already spent her pocket money. “…she says to Minnie with one of those tight, unfriendly smiles which proves she never has any fun or sex. You can always tell that about people, I find.” (Mini Shopaholic, pg 14). I love how Becky reacts to such things. Instead of giving up on this, Becky explains to Minnie how overdrafts work and proceed to buy the pair of ponies based off this idea. Shopaholic in training.

In addition to dealing with the trials of raising a mini shopaholic, there is a financial crisis going on in England during “Mini Shopaholic” and because of this, everyone is being careful with their money. The entirety of the population of England is cutting back – including the Bloomwood family. It’s pretty funny reading about the challenges that everyone finds themselves in during “Mini Shopaholic”. At one point Becky’s mom, Janice, Becky, and Jess go shopping together at the pound shop and Becky finds herself in awe of her ever-thrifty sister, Jess. “I stare at her, gobsmacked. In fact, to be honest I feel a teeny bit affronted. Here we all are, feeling really virtuous because we’re shopping in the Pound Shop. And Jess has to trump everyone by not shopping at all, ever. That’s so typical of her. Next she’ll probably invent some form of anti-shopping. Like antimatter, or antigravity.” (Mini Shopaholic, pg 151). Becky’s reaction is after Jess reveals that she has begun bartering for goods or services when she needs them instead of spending any money.

Without giving anything away, I will say that at one point in “Mini Shopaholic” Becky finds herself in a rather humiliating situation. “…I’ve never felt so humiliated in my whole entire life.
Actually, on second thought, maybe I have. But this is definitely equal with all those other times.” (Mini Shopaholic, pg 297). I love this. Becky is really funny but also she speaks the truth. She constantly finds herself in embarrassing situations and always manages to save face somehow.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – this book was just as much fun if not more so than the earlier books in the series. Watching Becky Brandon née Bloomwood grow as a character first into a girlfriend, then into a fiancée, then into a wife, and then into an expectant mother, it’s been really entertaining. Becky is full of life and wherever she goes, hilarity ensues. Reading about her dealing with a two-year old version of herself is really hilarious. I love the series and I am eager to read the next book in the series “Shopaholic to the Stars”.

Becky’s One Hundred and Seventieth Book Review: “City of Lost Souls” by Cassandra Clare

“City of Lost Souls” by Cassandra Clare is the fifth book in the Mortal Instruments series. The series is so enjoyable and as always I find myself devouring the book. I dove into the fifth book as quickly as possible to find out what happens next after “City of Fallen Angels” ended with a cliffhanger.

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST FOUR BOOKS IN THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES (UNLESS YOU DO NOT CARE ABOUT SPOILERS IN WHICH CASE READ ON)

The fourth book in the series ended with Sebastian being brought back to life by Jace while under Lilith’s control. Clary left Jace on the roof to guard Sebastian without thinking about the fact that the mark Lilith had been using to control Jace would heal itself after Clary had destroyed it. Clary goes up to the roof to find that Jace and Sebastian are both missing.

At the beginning of “City of Lost Souls” the search for Jace and Sebastian has been going on for several weeks. There has been no luck finding either and Clary is beside herself with worry. She hasn’t been allowed to be involved with the search teams and is going stir crazy from her inability to act. Then when it looks as if the council is deprioritizing the search for Jace, Clary determines to do something about it. She goes to the Seeley Queen and is told the payment the queen wants in order to grant any help is a pair of magical rings in the institute. Clary breaks into the library during a council meeting and goes after the rings. When she is about to retrieve them, she suddenly has company. After weeks of nothing, she sees Jace and Sebastian working together to steal something from the institute.

Shortly after this, Jace comes to Clary and tries to get her to leave with him. Clary realizes that Jace is no longer her Jace. He is connected to Sebastian in a way that allows Sebastian to have control over him. Their connection also means that any harm that comes to one of them affects both. Clary does not know how to get her Jace back, but she is determined to do anything.

Clary decides to keep the rings the queen wanted for her own use and goes after Jace alone – her only lifeline being the rings. Simon wears one and she wears the other and they can communicate through them. Of course Simon can’t help but use the rings for a casual question. “Her voice came through, tinged with alarm. What is it? What’s happened? Did my mom find out I’m gone?
Not yet, he thought back. Is Azazel the cat from The Smurfs?
There was a long pause. That’s Azrael, Simon. And no more using the magic rings for Smurf questions!” (City of Lost Souls, pg 207). I really do enjoy how Cassandra Clare inserts humor throughout the book. There are times when things get very dark in this series and I think that her humor helps keep a lighter tone to the books, which helps make them overall more appealing to a greater number of people.

I think that another great thing about Cassandra Clare’s writing is that she inserts a fair amount of wisdom into her characters. For example, at one point Maia is begging for help from the Praetor Lupis and makes a promise on behalf of another. “…his voice held a note of warning. “I hope you understand that when you make promises in other people’s names, it falls upon your head to make sure they follow through.”” (City of Lost Souls, pg 204). This is something that I see a lot of people do and it is interesting to have a character explain what it really means to make a promise like that.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I don’t think that you could possibly read the first four books in the series and not be dying to know what happens next. Cassandra Clare creates an amazing fantasy world that I can’t get enough of. As the series continues to evolve, so does Clare’s writing. This book was just as enjoyable as the first four books in the series.

Becky’s One Hundred and Sixty-Second Book Review: “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor

“Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor is an unsung classic in my opinion. It was given to me by my mom only to be neglected on the bookshelf for years. I finally got around to reading it while on vacation this summer. Within the first few pages I knew that this was a book I would read again and again. Kathleen Winsor writes beautifully. Her world and those in it quickly captivated me. “She had never seen anyone like him before in her life. The clothes he wore, the sound of his voice, the expression in his eyes, all made her feel that she had had a momentary glimpse into another world – and she longed passionately to see it again, if only for a brief while. Everything else, her own world of Marygreen and Uncle Matt’s farm, all the young men she knew, now seemed to her intolerably dull, even contemptible.” (Forever Amber, pg 19).

The main character Amber can be challenging to like at times. She is young and foolhardy and quick to want things but difficult to please. There were times while I was reading “Forever Amber” that I just wanted to shake her and get her to see some sense. Still, I couldn’t help but find myself cheering her on in all her crazed adventures. One thing that Amber is without fail is opinionated. Her mind and her thought process was fascinating to follow. “She was already convinced that people had a better opinion of you if you pretended to be something more than you were than if you used them honestly.” (Forever Amber, pg 87). One thing that I found myself relating to in regards to Amber’s opinions were her thoughts on women. “But Amber had never believed that other women were important to her success and happiness, and she did not intend to let them trouble her now.” (Forever Amber, pg 173). I liked the way that Amber was upfront about her dislike of females. I don’t feel quite as strongly as she does, but nevertheless, I can relate.

“Forever Amber” begins in the countryside. When Amber first sees Bruce, she begs him to take her with him. Theirs is a passionate love affair and one that never ends. Their desire for each other burns brightly and I believe that is part of what makes their love so difficult to maintain. “By now Bruce had been back long enough and she had seen him so often that the jealousies and worries that beset her when he was away had begun to encroach upon the pleasure she found in being with him. She had begun to feel more discontented over what she was missing than grateful for what she had.” (Forever Amber, pg 322). This excerpt is a great example of what Amber is like. She wants things so badly that when she has them she doesn’t know how to enjoy it. It is part of what makes her so charming and infuriating at the same time.

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely – but not to everyone. It is a book that would appeal much more to the female population. That is not to say that men would not also find this book enjoyable. It was a great read and after writing this review, I want to go pick it up and begin my first reread of “Forever Amber”. Alas, there is not time for that right now. Perhaps next summer.

Becky’s One Hundred and Fifty-Ninth Book Review: “Derpy Dirk and the Fight With the School Bully By the Flagpole At Lunch: A Derp Sandwich Chapter Book” by Jack Thomas

“Derpy Dirk and the Fight With the School Bully By the Flagpole At Lunch: A Derp Sandwich Chapter Book” by Jack Thomas was a free ebook offered at apple. Since I love collecting books – physical and electronic – I downloaded it with the smallest glance at the title just glad to have something to read. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was to continue reading it to the end once I realized I did not enjoy the book at all.

This is one of the worst books I have ever read. Really, I should have guessed from the book title that it was likely not going to be a winner, but I thought it might be a fun, quick read. It was quick, it wasn’t really fun, and I feel like I walked away from reading this book a little stupider. The disclaimer at the beginning of the book warning children and adults that this is not a book for children actually gave me hopes that this book would contain entertaining adult-level humor. Really, it was just a book written at an adult level, but with a severe lack of humor.

The book is about Derpy Dirk, a complete and total loser who is marked by the school bully for a fight. The whole book follows him as he worries about his imminent demise at the hands of the school bully. Meanwhile, all teachers and parents look on as if this is all in the natural order of things. His parents react to the news of his upcoming fight with the school bully as something he deserves. It was almost enough to make you feel bad for the character, except he was impossible to like.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely not. It was a terrible read and a waste of my time. There is a lesson here though, not all free ebooks are good ebooks.