Audiobook: Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story

by Bono
Read by the author
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Content: There is swearing, including a few f-bombs. it’s in the Music section of the bookstore.

I was never a super huge U2 fan, but I liked them quite a bit, in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. War, Joshua Tree, Rattle & Hum, and Actung Baby were the albums that I really liked, and listened to a lot. I never did see them live, a nagging regret I have, and one that was definintley made greater after listening to this book. At any rate, when I heard that Bono had written a memoior, I was absolutely in: I adore celebrity memoirs, he’s reading the book himself, what’s not to like? (I even snagged a signed copy at work, yay!)

And I was not wrong. Listening to this book is an experience. Not only does Bono read the book, he sings the lyrics, and they got the rights to the U2 songs to play snippets at the beginning of each chapter. There are sound effects (bells ding, crowds yell, and they put echos on his voice sometimes). The book is loosely chronological, though he does jump around telling stories as they fit in. It’s also loosely thematic, as he chooses the U2 song that best fits the theme of the chapter. He ranges through evertyhing, from the forming of U2, to his relationship wih his wife, to his work in activism, to the many different directions fthe band has gone. He’s introspective and often hard on himself – every time the ban nearly broke up, he says that it’s his fault – and often brings up his faith and doubts. It was absolutely worth the 20 hours listening to it, as I fell into a reawaking of the affection I hd for U2 as a teenager, and rediscovered so many of their songs that I rememberd loving.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved this one. Yes, it’s a celebrity memoir, but it’s also so much more than that. Highly, highly recommended.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

by Anne Helen Petersen
First sentence: “On November 8, 2016, I woke up early and said, to no one in particular,’I’m so excited to vote for our first female president!'”
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Content: There’s a lot of f-bombs. It’s in the Sociology section at the bookstore.

I picked this up after hearing an interview with the author on the It’s Been a Minute podcast (which is a fantastic podcast, by the way). It was a smart, interesting interview and I found myself wondering if the book was going to be as smart and as interesting.

And it was. Petersen looks at the representation of women in the media/popular culture through profiling ten celebrities she’s deemed “unruly”, literally not abiding by the set “rules” of culture. They each have a chapter and a reason why they’re unruly, ranging from Too Strong (Serena Williams) and Too Old (Madonna) to To Shrill (Hillary Clinton) and Too Slutty (Nicki Minaj). It’s an interesting look at each of these women’s careers, as well as the public perception of them. I thought it was fascinating. Some of the chapters are stronger than others (the Madonna chapter was actually more a critique of Madonna’s reactions to the cultural perception of her and a wish that she’d be better at resisting aging “gracefully”), but they’re all equally fascinating. There is a lack of people of color (Serena and Nicki are the only two), possibly because there’s a lack of women of color in the celebrity sphere… but I’m not the right person to judge that. I did find it a good, critical look at how we (men and women) perceive female celebrities and, by extension, how we perceive women in general.

A good read.

Audio Book: Good Clean Fun

by Nick Offerman
Read by the author
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Content: There’s some mild swearing. It’s in the humor section (I think) of the bookstore.

This is, basically, Nick Offerman’s homage to Offerman Woodshop, his woodworker’s collective in L.A. It’s a portrait of the craftspeople who work there, as well as those people Nick has come across in his “career” (the acting just pays the bills) as a woodsmith.

So, no, it wasn’t the best book to 1) start reading Nick Offerman (I think I’m going to try Paddle Your Own Canoe next) or 2) listen to in audio. That said, Nick is delightful to listen to read a book (not as delightful as Neil Gaiman), and there were lots of delightful anecdotes about Nick’s colleagues, as well as his opinions about working with your hands (pro: I felt justified, since I really enjoy canning) and the joy of working with wood, specifically.

I do have to say that while listening to this, I kind of wanted to learn how to build things (not a new desire for me; I should have taken shop class). I enjoyed Offerman’s enthusiasm for the art of woodworking, and his sense of humor. Even though I wish it has more of a narrative, I still found it enjoyable to listen to.

Audiobook: The Princess Diarist

princessdiaristby Carrie Fisher
Read by the author and Billy Lourd
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Content: There’s about a dozen f-bombs and other mild swearing, plus  some talk of sex (but nothing graphic). It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I downloaded this to listen to on audio soon after Carrie Fisher died, thinking that I might as well find out what everyone’s been talking about (well, maybe not everyone, but people I trust) when it comes to her writing.

First of all, she’s a delightful narrator. She’s sardonic and funny (not just in the writing, but also READING the book), and I loved listening to her gravely voice reminisce about her experience in making Star Wars. And while the gossip (of sorts) about her and Harrison’s affair was interesting, it really wasn’t, for me, the highlight of the book. (In fact, the actual diaries, which Billy Lourd reads, were kind of, well, lame.) No, the highlight was Fisher. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book in print, but hearing her read this was like sitting in a room and listening to her reminisce. It was delightful and fun, and while not perfect, highly enjoyable.

Probably much like Ms. Fisher herself. (I imagine anyway.)

Driving Heat

drivingheatby Richard Castle
First sentence: “The last thing Nikki Heat expected when she received her promotion to captain of the NYPD was how much the proud expression on Rook’s face in the audience would make her want him.”
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Others in the series: Heat Wave, Naked Heat, Heat Rises, Frozen Heat, Deadly Heat, Raging Heat  (Yes, I really have read the whole series.)
Content : Loads of f-bombs (though less than other books, I think), plus some tasteful sexytimes. It’s in the adult mystery section at the bookstore.

I realized, at some point while reading this, that I don’t actually remember much of what happened in the 7th season of Castle (not its best season) and I waited a lot longer before getting around to this one, so I really didn’t pick up on all the show references in the book. Which means, I was forced to take it on its own merit.

Nikki Heat has been promoted to captain and has to deal with the new pressures that come with that job. It doesn’t help that she catches a high-profile case right off the bat: the murder of a police psychologist, Lon King. HER psychologist. It’s not an easy death for Heat to deal with, especially since King had been helping her deal with her feelings about her impending marriage to Jamison Rook.

But, things aren’t always as it seems, and soon one murder turns into five (and the entire NYPD gets hacked)  as Heat and Rook try and solve this case.

Y’know, on its own merit, these still aren’t bad. The mystery was complex enough that I didn’t quite figure it out (though it did leave out one crucial piece of information, I think, in order to fully solve the mystery)  but it wasn’t super out of left field when they finally figured it all out. The plotting’s good, the writing’s not half-bad (I’ve read worse), and aside from a few editing mistakes (c’mon editors, get your act together. I know you’re trying to churn these out but, take a deep  breath and double check your work), it really is a halfway decent (if pulpy) mystery series.

Raging Heat

by Richard Castle
First sentence: “Nikki Heat wondered if her mother hadn’t been murdered what her life would have been.”
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Others in the series: Heat Wave, Naked Heat, Heat Rises, Frozen Heat, Deadly Heat
Content: These aren’t for the younger fans of the TV show. Grisly murders (though not terribly descriptive), off-screen sex, and lots of f-bombs puts it squarely in the adult mystery section at the bookstore.

I don’t know if I have anything new to say. I still enjoy these books for their own sake; although this one had highlights from both season 5 AND 6, it’s really it’s own beast. The mystery had me guessing, as Heat and Rook wandered the streets of New York and Long Island looking for the murderer of a Haitian immigrant. It was a pretty messy mystery, with lots of characters involved (both on the murdered end — there ended up being 4 or 5, I think — and as the murderers) and while I probably could have figured it out, I didn’t. I just sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns.

I also enjoyed the tension between Rook and Heat as they tried to balance life, work, and romance. If you follow the show, you’ll figure out where the book character’s relationship is going, but it’s a satisfyingly bumpy ride. (I especially enjoyed it when Heat lost her cool and dumped a bottle of Tequlia in Rook’s lap. He really did deserve it.)

All I can say is I’m glad the show’s back on, so I can get a preview of the next book.

Deadly Heat

by Richard Castle
ages: adult
First sentence: “NYPD Homicide detective Nikki Heat double-parked her gray Crown Victoria behind the coroner van and strode toward the pizza joint where a body waited.”
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Others in the series: Heat Wave,  Naked HeatHeat Rises, Frozen Heat

I’ve always kind of thought that you couldn’t pick up these books without having first watched the show. But, after finishing this one, I realized that really the only frame of reference you need is Frozen Heat. It picks up almost directly where that one leaves off, and ties most directly into it, giving us some nice loose ends all wrapped up.

Nikki knows who actually killed her mother. What she doesn’t know, is who called the shots. And that’s something she’s determined to do, even though the Department of Homeland Security Agents Bell (who happens to be Jameson Rook’s ex) and Callahan keep getting in her way. In addition, she’s faced with a serial killer, nicknamed Rainbow, who is playing games with her. And yes, she’s next on his list.

She’s also getting flack from her incompetent commander for juggling two cases, something which Nikki resents. But, determined as she is, she (and Rook, of course) doggedly persevere, and manage to solve the crimes in the end.

Much like season 5, this was a bit lighter, but also like Frozen Heat, it’s really it’s own beast now. I recognized a few plotlines from the season, but mostly, that’s not what I was reading this for. No, now I’m invested in Nikki Heat the character (not Nikki Heat as a reflection of the way Stana Katic plays Kate Beckett… man, that’s confusing!), and her own personal journey. And this one, I think it’s safe to say, is a pretty decent mystery. I suspected the end, though the clues were there, and if I had been paying attention I would have figured it out. I also liked the way the two storylines intersected in the end, and how they helped each other resolve. I liked that both Nikki and Rook had a chance to shine.

I’m sold on this as a series now, which means I’ll be sad if the show ever ends and these disappear. Unless, of course, the ghostwriter decides to keep it up. In that case, I’ll keep reading them.

Heat Rises

by Richard Castle
ages: adult
First sentence: “The thing about New York City is you never know what’s behind a door.”
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Nikki Heat is investigating the murder of a local parish priest, found at an S&M studio (is that what they’re called?). The investigation takes her in all sorts of directions, but then she’s called off the investigation, on the orders of her precinct captain. It’s nothing, he assures her. Which only makes her — and her lover, companion, sometimes partner, Jameson Rook — more suspicious. And since Nikki Heat doesn’t give up, she ends up digging into things she really shouldn’t have.

I’m realizing that the books really do follow not only the plots from the season (yes, this one has elements from Castle season 3 episodes), but also the mood. Which means, this book wasn’t as fun as either Heat Wave or
Naked Heat. Not to say that there wasn’t fun moments (like the passing Firefly reference? Cracked me up.) in the book. There were. It just wasn’t as fun as the previous two. (Also: not as sexy or foul; they really pulled back on the language and the sex was entirely off-screen.) It’s still good brain candy, and it was gratifying to see Nikki do so much entirely on her own. She really does rock.

Oh, and if you’ve seen the entire season 3, there’s a nice twist on the ending in the book. Which means, of course, that there will be a fourth. And yes, I will read it. (Hopefully, considering the way season 4 is going, the next book will be more fun to read overall.)

Naked Heat

by Richard Castle
ages: adult
First sentence: “Nikki Heat pondered red lights and why they seemed to las so much longer when there was no traffic.”
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Oh, you knew this review was coming.


I figured, since I’ve already caved into the publicity machine that is ABC, and the meta-ness of it all (and am really kind of finding it all fun and games), what the heck. Why not read the second one?

Besides, it’s a really good book to read when I’m on the elliptical at the gym: engaging, but not hard to follow.

As far as the book itself: I think it holds up better than the first book as a novel. Sure, it’s still in-jokes from the series (the book opener is lifted pretty much straight from the season 3 TV opener), and the basic plot lifts from a few episodes of season 2 Castle. The murder is of a gossip columnist, which ends up being a triple murder/suicide. There’s some nice twists and turns in the plot, and the outcome didn’t really become obvious until nearly the end. It was plotted much more evenly as well; it was more character- and plot-driven, and relied less on the reader knowing the background of the show. This is a book I could see non-Castle fans picking up and actually liking on its own terms. That’s not to say there isn’t the jabs and in-jokes (in fact, what made me laugh the hardest was the moonlighting profession they assigned to Jameson Rook. Too, too perfect).

Additionally, it’s much less about wish-fulfillment on the part of Castle, the character, and more about getting the story across. In other words, Nikki comes off as more of a real character this time — she’s smart and resourceful (and remember that episode where Castle has Alexis duct tape him to the chair? That’s important.) and while she does a lot of saving Castle’s butt (coming to his rescue at least twice), they’re also working more as a team than they did in the first book. The sex is dialed way back (though there is a couple of scenes; they are just briefer and less “steamy”), and it’s more about building an actual relationship between the two characters.

So, the discussion I ended up in with Hubby was about whether or not there will be more. On the show, they’ve kind of abandoned Castle’s premise for following Beckett around, and — if I remember right — he’s not done much writing this season. So, is ABC going to keep churning out the Nikki Heat books if there’s no reference to them in the show? Hubby seems to think that they could put out as many as they like independent of the TV show, but I think that the books lose much of their charm if you divorce them from the fun of the weekly episodes. Either way, I’ll probably keep reading them until they stop being brain candy.

Heat Wave

by Richard Castle
ages: adult
First sentence: “It was always the same for her when she arrived to meet the body.”
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“Oh, Melissa,” you say. “We know that you are really eclectic in your reading. But, a book written by the main character of a TV show. Really? Isn’t that a bit meta for your tastes?”

Yes. Yes, it is. And yet, it sat out there in cyberspace, it’s sultry cover calling to me, piquing my interest. Eventually, I had to cave in.

“Yes, but it can’t have been a good book. It’s written by a fictional person!”

Well, it wasn’t fine literature, that’s true. And I’m not sure it wasn’t even a good mystery, since I called it about halfway through. It did feel pretty pedestrian as far as books go. But, it was fun, and that’s all I was expecting. I’m guessing the screenwriters wrote it, by the way.

“What makes you say that? Nathan Fillion’s headshot’s on the back cover… they went pretty far keeping the illusion that Richard Castle ‘wrote’ the book.”

I know! And that’s one of the things I liked (besides Nathan Fillion’s headshot on the back cover). It really was an in-joke kind of things for fans of the series. Scenes in the book that were lifted straight from episodes; in many ways it was a mash-up of Castle, season one. Aside from Nikki Heat thoroughly beating up a bad guy while buck naked, of course. (Though honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing Stana Katic pull that off…)

“So, if it’s just a bunch of scenes from episodes thrown together by the screenwriters, is there even a plot?”

Yes, it does have a plot. Nikki Heat is a NYPD detective and the latest murder is millionaire developer Matthew Starr. Jameson Rook is a celebrity journalist following Nikki around to get background for an article he’s writing. As they investigate Starr’s murder, things unravel about his background, his wife, and his business, centering in on the $60 million art collection in his house. Of course, lives are put on the line, banter is had, and sparks fly. It’s not as fun as the show, and I got annoyed with a few things — like calling Detectives Raley and Ochoa “Roach” — but mostly, it’s was just fluffy fun.

“Even if it is fun, why should we, who don’t really watch Castle or follow Nathan Fillion obsessively on Twitter, read it?”

My response: Why aren’t you? It’s quite fun as TV goes. Great writing, pretty good stories, it’s some serious fun. Seriously, though, if you’re not a fan of the show, I really don’t know why you’d pick up the book. Unless you really, really like mysteries and will read just about anything. But, if you’re a fan (or even if you only just watch the show), it’s a quick, fun, fluffy read.

“*sigh* That means you’re going to read the sequel, doesn’t it?”

Yep. It does.