Book Review: Murder Strikes a Pose

I totally wasn’t kidding about seeking out the previous books in the downward dog series by Tracy Weber. She’s a local Seattle area author and as such deserved a little extra of my reading time. Murder Strikes a Pose is the first in the series as well as her debut novel.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of KCLS):

When George and Bella–a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd–disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

My thoughts:

Another book with ties to homelessness? hrm. It is a big problem up here. I could never figure out why though, it’s cold and rainy most of the year. I imagine that must be super uncomfortable. But Seattle seems to be a mecca like New Orleans (also super uncomfortable, 100 degrees and 2000 percent humidity, hello).

I enjoyed this book. For the most part it doesn’t read like a cozy trying to find it’s footing. There’s a little too much ruminating by the main character but it seemed in line with where the character actually was. Processing loss, learning to investigate, learning when to embrace things. So while the reading of said ruminating did irk now and then, it at least felt authentic to the character.

If I had read this one first I would totally say I am reading more to see where this goes. Since I read number 6 by accident first, I need to fill in the lines. LOL

Book Review: The Year of Less

I’ve given up burning the candle at both ends, I just threw myself into the fire. Given that state of extreme stress and constant over work, The Year of Less by Cait Flanders was extremely appealing.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.

Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life—and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.

My thoughts:

This is a one day book, meaning I dragged it with me all day so I could read what happened next as soon as possible.

Does she give great ideas on how to shop less?

Er, not really. Her suggestions felt few and far between. And when I was done reading I couldn’t really tell you what she said about that, other than think before you spend.

Does she write a compelling memoir none the less?

Oh yeah.

And she made me think about my compulsive consumerism. Because to be honest, I think we are all a little compulsive. Maybe a lot.

I know I was already chewing on how much is too much, what do I really need, why do I feel compelled to get things I don’t need or to buy them for other people? Moving for the second time in nine months will do that to you. LOL. Perhaps that’s why this book spoke to me.

But I think, if you’re at all interested in other people, this is an enjoyable book to read.

 

Book Review: Murder Likes It Hot

I was sliding through the library on my way to the last scheduling committee meeting, and this book just fell off the shelf at my feet. I had to pick it up and take it home; it would have been rude to leave Murder Likes It Hot by Tracy Weber just lying there on the floor, right?

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Newly married yoga instructor Kate Davidson feels stuck in low-energy limbo, despite her high-energy life. She’s trying to conceive a child, keep her studio afloat now that the ultra-cheap Some Like It Hot Yoga studio has opened across the street, and start a yoga program at a local resource center for homeless youth.

When a center employee is found dead, Kate sets aside her fertility and financial woes to delve into the world of teenage homelessness. While digging for clues with her German shepherd Bella, Kate discovers that family can be formed by bonds stronger than shared DNA, and she must defend it at all costs.

My thoughts:

Despite the slightly racy title, this book is feel good yoga and cozy mystery all the way. Let me just say I have to give kudos to Weber for weaving in the yoga and dog rescue work like they’re finely attuned spices in a good meal, rather than slathering it on like butter on cheap toast. I feel like the lines about yoga and animal rescue work are there to tell more about the main character, Kate, rather than pad the book.

I have this vague idea I read one of the series before and didn’t much like it. But I will say if that was the case, Weber has really hit her stride. This is book 6 in the series and I liked it enough, I will be back tracking to read the rest.

I live in the Seattle area, more or less, and the way she touched on the political issues surrounding homelessness locally was exceptionally well done.

The victim of the murder was unexpected. The bad guy was not so surprising once the actual murder occurred. I had a whole other extremely common plot line in mind as I was reading. But Weber didn’t go that way, all to the good. And extremely rare in a cozy mystery, she made me cry at the end.

I won’t even mention that she called an automatic, a revolver at one point. Except I just did. Well, no one is perfect.

Book Review: Read and Gone

Jay reminded me of Allison Brook the other day. He reviewed her third book and I suddenly realized, wait – I haven’t read the second one, Read and Gone, yet. Clickety Click, and poof it came to my kindle.

Basic Summary (courtesy of Amazon):

A devoted dad is as precious as diamonds, but Carrie Singleton wouldn’t know since her dad Jim’s been on the lam most of her life. In an unusual family reunion, she finds Jim breaking into her cottage in the middle of the night. The fun really starts when he begs her to help him recover his half of a twenty-million-dollar gem heist he pulled off with the local jeweler, Benton Parr. When she refuses, Jim takes off again.

Carrie finds her father again behind bars for the recent murder of Benton Parr. Who made the connection? Unbeknownst to her, Carrie’s boyfriend Dylan, an insurance investigator, has been searching for the gems. Determined to find the jewels herself, she starts examining every facet of Parr’s life. She turns up a treasure trove of suspects, one of whom bashes her on the head as she’s searching the victim’s country cabin.

Retreating to the quiet confines of the library where she works, Carrie watches as Smokey Joe, the resident cat, paws at a hole in the wall. Is he after the library’s ghost Evelyn, or something shinier?

My thoughts:

I find Carrie much more charming now that she has really embraced settling into the wonderful life that came her way, really via her Aunt and Uncle. She’s amusing and has funny friends. The library ghost is an interesting way to bail Carrie out of trouble and grant her knowledge she can’t get any other way.

On the other hand, she’s gotten dumb. Like the criminal had to actually hit her over the head twice before she caught on this time. LOL.

Will I read book three? Absolutely. And not just because Jay says the author really hits her stride in book 3, but it doesn’t hurt.

 

Book Review: Cinder

I don’t remember who recommended Cinder by Marissa Meyer to me. Someone who knew I was looking for Sci/Fi and Fantasy options for my creative writing class. It didn’t come in time for me to use it as an example for Sci/Fi. It’s rather complicated though, a retelling of a fairy tale with advanced technology.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

 

My thoughts:

I felt no impetus to read. I don’t know any way to explain it other than that. It is well written and enjoyable. I liked it. But at no point was I invested. In fact I remained 20 pages from the end, in the middle of what was sure to be the climax, for a week and didn’t even care.  I reread World War Z instead.

I don’t know why either. The characters are well drawn. The plot is good; predictable but I find most books predictable. The style was fast paced. Everything that makes a good book was totally present and accounted for.

It just didn’t speak to me.

Book Review: Reprise – World War Z

Disclaimer: I’ve reviewed this book before, 3 years ago maybe, you can read that here if you like.

I’m teaching Creative Writing this year and I allowed my students to pick the genres we discuss and write in. It’s been a mixed bag. LOL.

One of their choices was Sci Fi scary. You know aliens attacking, etc. But you can only read so many of those examples before, yawn. So I wove in a few other things. A short where the main character is a sentient ship in outer space. The first chapter of The Martian by Andy Weir. And then I talked a little about World War Z because of its unusual style, a pastiche of a sociological study.

This made me want to read it again and see if it was really as great as I remembered. And damn if it wasn’t still amazing. I stayed up half the night reading, again.

It is a fascinating read.

Book Review: The Brave Learner

Another mom at coop was trying to get a group together to read The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart and discuss it. Why not?

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Parents who are deeply invested in their children’s education can be hard on themselves and their kids. When exhausted parents are living the day-to-day grind, it can seem impossible to muster enough energy to make learning fun or interesting. How do parents nurture a love of learning amid childhood chaos, parental self-doubt, the flu, and state academic standards?

In this book, Julie Bogart distills decades of experience–homeschooling her five now grown children, developing curricula, and training homeschooling families around the world–to show parents how to make education an exciting, even enchanting, experience for their kids, whether they’re in elementary or high school.

Enchantment is about ease, not striving. Bogart shows parents how to make room for surprise, mystery, risk, and adventure in their family’s routine, so they can create an environment that naturally moves learning forward. If a child wants to pick up a new hobby or explore a subject area that the parent knows little about, it’s easy to simply say “no” to end the discussion and the parental discomfort, while dousing their child’s curious spark. Bogart gently invites parents to model brave learning for their kids so they, too, can approach life with curiosity, joy, and the courage to take learning risks.

 

My thoughts:

Yeah. This was a good read. Lots of magical pixie dust. Lots of one size fits all answers.

Lots of things I have already tried with my child and had them not work. Which according to Julie means I didn’t do it right. If I tried her methods and they didn’t have the results she described then my tone was wrong, or my facial expression, or the way I presented it was wrong, or secretly I wanted it to not work and my child picked up on that.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on one human. Seems it might be more kind to admit that not every solution works for every child. If you are setting yourself up as the know all and you have to insist the other person is wrong when your solution doesn’t work, then I have to wonder just how much you really know. And are you really invested in helping parents or shaming them?

Wow, I had no idea all that was in the back of my mind when I sat down to review this book. I started out thinking I liked the book in general but clearly her approach of “dictates from on high” really rubbed me the wrong way.

Which brings me to the conclusion I have now come to after 5 years of homeschooling MY child. Every child is different. In fact, they are different on different days of the week, seasons of the year, and times of their life. No packaged approach will ever fit. I think I might just be done reading how wonderfully someone else’s approach to home schooling their children went because in the end, they didn’t home school my child.