Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

One of the ways I discovered that I might not be handling the stress of the past few months is that no matter how often I tried, I could never summon the energy or desire to sit down and write reviews. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, knowing I would eventually write them. Then a week became a month. A month became five months. One overdue review became five. Five outstanding reviews became more than fifty. I finally realized I had an issue. After a great discussion with my therapist, here I am, attempting to tackle my review list one review at a time. It feels good to be here. It feels good to write again. So, let the reviews commence. First up – the many, many audiobooks I finished since January 2022.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I might lose some reader points here, but I could not and did not finish The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It wasn’t the syntax that bothered me. Ms. Plath did string together some fantastic sentences. What upset me to the point where I could not continue listening was the idea that Esther was insane. I know watching her deteriorating mental health is the entire point of the novel, but her self-loathing did me in. The world today is difficult enough without listening to someone who leaves her “friend” with a shady man, who enjoys criticizing other women, and does not ask for and will not accept help from others. I know that The Bell Jar is supposed to be an essential feminist novel about the burdens society places on its women, but I didn’t find it feminist. What I heard was not just depressing but also confirmed that a woman’s strongest foe is often another woman.

Cujo by Stephen King

Stephen King’s Cujo is another book I could not finish. This time, it had nothing to do with the characters and everything to do with the dog. For some reason, I thought Cujo was a demonic dog that viciously terrorized a town; I don’t know where or how I got this impression, but that is what I thought as I started this King classic. Imagine my surprise when Cujo starts as the adorable, affectionate, and utterly charming family dog who falls into the wrong cave while chasing a rabbit and proceeds to contract rabies. Cujo is not demonic but rabid. What’s worse is that King shows us Cujo’s battle against the disease. We see him recognize that he doesn’t feel well and that his feelings of aggression towards his family are not typical. In short, we see Cujo suffer, and that is where I draw the line. You can show human suffering all you want, but don’t dare show dogs’ suffering. They don’t deserve it, and my heart can’t take it.

Naked in Death by J. D. Robb

Long-time readers know I adore Nora Roberts and will gleefully read anything she publishes. Despite my love for her, I always avoided her In Death series because I didn’t want to have to tackle the 50+ novels in that series in addition to everything else I want to read. Still, I tasked myself with listening to my long audiobook list in order of publication date, and it just so happens that my husband had downloaded the first book in the series. So, I started Naked in Death, not knowing what to expect. I finished it in a day and immediately listened to books two, three, and four in short succession. Yeah, I’m a fan, and I cannot wait to get back to the series. First of all, I love the tone of this series. Not only is it darker and grittier than the novels she writes under her name, but there is also a rawness to Eve and Roarke that I adore. Everything about the series has an edge, from the characters to the world itself. Sure, it has fancy technology and gadgets, but there is something broken in Eve’s world that draws you to her. Only my self-control is preventing me from using my extra credits from downloading as much of the series as I can get and devouring them all.

Still Life by Louise Penny

I’ve read two of the Inspector Gamache series books and enjoyed them both. I promised myself this would be a series I would go back to the beginning and read them in order. I picked up the first book, Still Life, several years ago, thinking I would get around to listening to it sooner than I would to reading it. That did happen; unfortunately, I was so unhappy with the narrator that it ruined my experience. I still believe Louise Penny’s series is so damn charming as to be good for one’s soul, but the narrator was awful. He made no effort to differentiate between male characters, and I was slightly offended by his female characterizations. While I still plan to get around to the rest of the series, it will not be via audiobook. Ms. Penny deserves better than that.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Early in my book blogging career, I discovered the quirky delights of Sarah Vowell. Assassination Vacation was the last of her works on my list. As it has been several years since I read or listened to anything by her, I was looking forward to her take on presidential assassinations. What she had to say was perfectly irreverent and insightful; all I kept thinking was how different things were from when she wrote the book. Several times within its pages, she expresses her disgust at little Bush and the bogus war he thrust the country into. Our naivete about little Bush being the worst thing to happen to this country made me want to laugh and weep. It was difficult listening to her wax poetic about Lincoln, knowing he wasn’t quite the hero people thought he was. My distracting thoughts prevented me from absorbing almost everything she said, including the names of the various assassins. My experience is a situation where the problem is all me and not the author’s fault. Or maybe I should blame our most recent political history for distracting me from learning about other historical moments because I was too busy imagining how different things could be had someone assassinated 45.

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