TTT: The Diamond in the Rough. 2016 Edition.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday (TTT) brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

January 17:  Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So

First off, I should warn you. I am a “recovering” engineer, and thus can be a little too analytical about things. The “underrated” piece of this is throwing me a bit. I mean, is this a book everyone else thinks is bad but you enjoyed? That’s how books work – not everyone loves the same books, which is what makes books so wonderful. So I’m going to just go with the “Hidden Gems” part. But a “hidden gem” can be tricky too. For our biggest assumption, we’ll assume that a “hidden gem” is not a huge blockbuster author (ie Dan Brown, Michael Connelly, Gillian Flynn, Rainbow Rowell, etc). I guess a hidden gem could be a lesser-known book by a big name author, but I don’t have any of those on my list, so let’s not complicate things any further.

Now just a few weeks ago, I thought Ready Player One was a hidden gem, but apparently everyone knows about this book. I loved Dumplin’, but I think everyone knows about that book, too. I mean, I heard about it from a ton of blogs which was why I picked it up in the first place. (And the terrific cover, but I digress.) And while The Murder of Mary Russell was a new find for me, it is actually the 14th book in the series, so loads of people must know about it.

I guess what I’m saying is, I will do my best here, and I apologize in advance if I think it’s a hidden gem that everyone has already discovered. Wouldn’t be the first time I’m late to the party.

So, based on my 2016 reads, here we go.

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Tricky Twenty-Two. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. At least it does for me when it involves Stephanie Plum.

Tricky Twenty-Two

By Janet Evanovich

Rating: 3/5 Stairs

tricky22_hardcoverI started reading this series several years ago with book one and I loved it. Book two was even funnier (still my favorite). The first 7 – 10 books were just plain fun.

And then Ms. Evanovich started recycling her story lines. Since I was listening to them one after the other, it got pretty old, pretty fast. But I am stubborn, and was determined to finish them all. I made it to Top Secret Twenty-One (having skipped two in between as they were not at the library). And then I just had to stop. I was so close to the finish (she hadn’t released #23 yet), but I needed a Plum break.

That was a year and a half ago.

In December I saw Top Secret Twenty-Two sitting on the library shelf, and actually thought, that might be fun to listen to. And it was.

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TTT:2016 releases that I didn’t get to, but I plan to read. I swear.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday (TTT) brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

January 10: Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To (But TOTALLY plan to)

I have so many 2016 releases that I added to my TBR that I (of course) did not get to. But totally plan on reading them! You know this happens to me Every. Single. Year. So many books, so little time.

These are my top ten that I really hope to get to this year. I even own a copy (six hardcover, four ebook) of ALL of them. Two of them I am currently reading. No, really! And last week I checked out audio books from the library for two others so I can listen to them in the car. Shall we?

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye

The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch Series)

By Michael Connelly

Rating 4/5 Stairs

wrongsideofgoodbyeOne of my favorite aspects of the Harry Bosch series is that the series is not lost to time. Over the course of 20 books (this one is #21), we’ve watched Harry’s ups and downs in the LAPD Homicide Division, some PI work, and then back to the LAPD in the Open-Unsolved Unit (cold cases). We’ve seen Harry flounder through a few relationships, and struggle to raise his daughter on her own. He’s caught a lot of bad guys, and burned a lot of bridges along the way.

For the last few books, Harry Bosch has been inching closer and closer to (an unwanted) retirement with the LAPD, and I’ve wondered what he would do when that happened. The question is answered in The Wrong Side of Goodbye. Harry is working as a private investigator (no surprise there), and he is also working as a volunteer cold case investigator for the San Fernando Police Department. Solving crimes and helping victims is in his blood, and he’s happy to still be working and making a difference.

If memory serves, The Wrong Side of Goodbye takes place a few years after The Burning Room (book #19), and maybe a year after The Crossing (#20, which was a combined Mickey Haller/Harry Bosch mystery). Harry is an empty nester, with his daughter in her second year at a nearby college. As always, Harry lives for his work. He’s working two cases simultaneously, the first is searching for a potential heir to a vast fortune on the PI side, and the second is trying to catch the Screen Cutter, a serial rapist in San Fernando.

As always, this is a fast-paced page turner. Mr. Connelly is excellent at keeping the pace steady, and I constantly found myself reading late into the night, “just one more chapter.” He also brings Mickey Haller into the picture as a minor character, and it’s always fun to see the two half brothers working together.

Great mystery/thriller for all you armchair detectives out there.

…and the rest of 2016

I got behind on reviews this year for a variety of reasons that I won’t bore you with, let’s just say life happened. Instead of bombarding you with a ton of mini-review posts, I figured I would get the majority of them done right here. Just a quick rating and brief thoughts will do. I do have a few NetGalley reads that I will be doing separate write ups for, and there are a couple of books that I did read in 2016, but just didn’t feel the need to review them on the site. You can see my full list of 2016 reads recorded on my 2016 Goodreads challenge page.

Reviews are alphabetical by author.

Inferno by Dan Brown
inferno3.5/5 Stairs

The fourth book in the Robert Langdon series. As a standalone novel, it was good – full of suspense and mystery. But it wasn’t as good as the first two Langdon books – Angels and Demons and, of course, The Da Vinci Code. Those two books had a lot of puzzles that symbologist Langdon had to solve, and Inferno was really lacking that (unique) element.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
foolmeonce4/5 Stairs

Right after her husband’s murder, Maya is determined to continue on and make a life for her and her two-year-old daughter. But when she sees something unexpected on her nanny-cam, she is forced to investigate. This was a fast-paced mystery with some big twists that I didn’t see coming.

The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilverio
falcolnfiasco4/5 Stairs

I’m a huge fan of Ms. DiSilverio’s cozy mysteries, and the first outing in her Readaholics series did not disappoint. A fun cozy where the primary detective is the head of a mystery book club.  I enjoyed the characters and look forward to reading more in this series.

Wedding Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
weddingcakemurder3/5 Stairs

I can’t believe it. 19 books into the series and Hannah finally makes a decision and gets married! Other than this big revelation, it’s a typical Hannah Swensen mystery, this one centered around preparation for her wedding reception.

The Trespasser by Tana French
thetrespasser5/5 Stairs

The sixth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, this is the second book I’ve read. The other book was The Secret Place, and it is where Conway and Moran are first paired up to solve a cold case. Now established partners, Conway and Moran are at the bottom rung of the Murder squad, getting the worst shifts and the worst cases. When they are assigned to yet-another-domestic murder, Conway is resigned to see it through but Moran sees potentially bigger picture and a much bigger case. The weary, tired Conway is a stark contrast to the eager, hopeful Moran. While the plot is interesting and moves quickly, it’s the characters and their relationships that truly bring this book to life. One of my favorite reads of 2016.

Castle Glower Series by Jessica Day George
tuesdayscastleTuesdays in the Castle, Wednesdays in the Tower, Thursdays with the Crown
4/5 Stairs

This is a cute series that my boys and I enjoy listening to in the car, especially my youngest. We have one more book left in the series that we will get to in 2017, and then I’ll do a review of the series.

The Babylon Line by Richard Greenberg
babylonline3.5/5 Stairs

This is an interesting play that takes place at a creative writing class in a small town. Some of the students take the class to heart, and begin to explore more honest accounts of their life. On paper, it felt that some of the character development and dynamics were a bit lacking, but I think on stage the actors would bring the spark that was missing. Overall I enjoyed the story.

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King
maryrussell4/5 Stairs

I randomly picked up this audio book at the library. I wasn’t aware it was the 14th book in the Mary Russell series, but I had no problem jumping right in. It was so interesting to think about what Mrs. Hudson’s life might have been like before she met Sherlock. I was a little disappointed to discover the root of Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson’s devotion to each other, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I plan on reading more in this series for sure.

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson
nooksandcrannies5/5 Stairs

My two boys and I needed a new audio book to listen to in the car, so I picked up <i>Nooks & Crannies</i> from the library. We all adored it. Tabitha and her mouse (and best friend) Pemberly find themselves in the middle of a mystery, and Tabitha channels her favorite fictional detective to help her solve the case.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
whataliceforgot4/5 Stairs

Another great read from Liane Moriarty. Such an interesting topic – would you from 10 years ago recognize the person you are today? Is your life where you expected to be, or has it taken an unexpected turn? Really enjoyed this one, although I think Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret are even better.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
godsofasgard4/5 Stairs

Mr. Riordan has tackled Greek Gods, Roman Gods, and Egyptian Gods (didn’t finish that trilogy, couldn’t get into the characters); now he is writing in the world of Norse Gods. This is a decent first book into the new Gods of Asgard series, but I found myself missing the characters I’ve grown to love from both the Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympus series.

The English Girl by Daniel Silva
englishgirl4/5 Stairs

I listened to this audio book early this year. I liked it, although felt a little lost since I have only read one other book in the series. The author seems to reference events from previous books. It had a few fun twists in it and overall was an enjoyable audio book.

Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith
pasadena4/5 Stairs

From the start, “Pasadena” reminded me of the TV show “Veronica Mars.” The book definitely has that noir vibe, which I really enjoyed. Jude is a spunky, somewhat lonely girl whose best friend was found dead in the swimming pool. Jude is sure foul play is involved, and determined to get answers. “Pasadena” is a page turner that kept me wondering until the end.

The Run of His Life: The People Versus O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin
runofhislife4/5 Stairs

I picked this up after watching the F/X mini-series that was based on this book. I was surprised to find that the mini-series was pretty faithful to Mr. Toobin’s non-fictional account of the case. There were some personal pieces that the TV show added in that weren’t found in the book, such as the potential personal relationship between Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. The Run of His Life was a well researched, engaging story from a man who had been reporting on the case very early on.