Depending on how you look at it, August was either a damn good month for me or perhaps the roughest so far. I speak professionally and personally – just when I think I finally have surged forward, something happens to set me back. I won’t go into detail right now, but if you’re up to speed with a certain publisher you already know half the story. I’m in wait and see mode on one book, and planning the next one – a complete departure from what I write. Suffice to say, I have some hard decisions in front of me.

I found the most pleasure this month in reading. When I read people let me be and I can stay inside where it’s not humid as f*ck. I didn’t dent the Pulitzer TBR, but I’ll get to that soon.

What I Read

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I enjoyed The Silkworm more than The Cuckoo’s Calling because this book centers on familiar ground – the publishing world. A notorious but not necessarily famous writer is missing and Strike is hired to find him. It’s a case he takes on despite the dubious chances of getting paid – beneath his surly exterior you see hints of a person with heart. With the second book we’re more comfortable with regular characters and the promise of more rumblings in personal lives to come.

Just a solid detective procedural.

No Regrets: A Rock'n'Roll MemoirNo Regrets: A Rock’n’Roll Memoir by Ace Frehley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Since I had a guest writer review Ace’s book on my rock blog I hadn’t intended to read for myself, but I found a copy on sale and figured I should complete the set. Ace’s book is shorter than Paul’s and Peter’s and as such not as detailed. I took away from it his perceptions of the other guys (shouldn’t be a surprise to many) and his admission of certain addictive behaviors. I found most interesting that he probably had a more stable family life growing up compared to other rock stars – definitely more than Paul. If you’re interested in anecdotes on the road and groupie stories, you may leave satisfied. As for detailed KISS history, it lacks, and it could be by Ace’s own admission that his memory blurs. I do think he’s kinder to Peter and Paul than they were in their books.

BittersweetBittersweet by Colleen McCullough

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This summer I finished a book on my summer bucket list – The Thorn Birds. For many this multi-generational saga is a desert island read, perhaps one of the first books with romantic elements ever read or kept under a pillow at night. Truthfully, The Thorn Birds didn’t do it for me, but I believe in the second chance rule where I read another book by the same author to see if I prefer that one. By coincidence a copy of Bittersweet came up on NetGalley.

Like The Thorn Birds, Bittersweet is set in Australia in the early 20th century. The story focuses on four sisters, two sets of twins, who enroll in nursing training. Through the 500+ pages, we witness one’s rise through the ranks, one’s decision to marry young, one’s yearning to pursue medicine, and one’s rebuffing of a rich man until she falls to pressure. Throughout the book actions progress without much in the way of character growth – despite an interesting backdrop of Depression-era Australia everybody seems to go through the motions here. One sister’s relations outside of marriage, scandalous for the time, seems boring here.

I really wanted to like Bittersweet better than The Thorn Birds. I don’t believe it’s a bad story. Like others say here, a story like this could have benefited from fewer characters, or else more emphasis on the interesting ones.

The Girl Who Came HomeThe Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Titanic setting got the book into my reader. This is actually a story that goes back in forth in time – in 1912 with young Maggie on the ship, and 1982 with Maggie’s great-granddaughter learning the story and using it to get on with her life. I have to admit I was more interested in the 1912 passages and how they related to the present reveals. It’s told simply, and though you know Maggie survives you do read and wonder what happens as the ship sinks.

My only complaint is the romance aspect of the story was wrapped up too quickly. All through the story Maggie pines for the boy she left behind, and suddenly that part of the story is wrapped up in two paragraphs of dialogue. We don’t get the show, just the tell. Other than that, if you’re more interested in Titanic fiction, it’s worth the eBook price.

Paul Simon: An American TunePaul Simon: An American Tune by Cornel Bonca

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ARC received via NetGalley.

I wouldn’t call Paul Simon: An American Tune by Cornel Bonca a proper biography of the singer/songwriter, though the author touches on important events in Simon’s life as they relate to his career. Tune is foremost a scholarly work, and thankfully not a wholly biased one because it allows the readers to study one interpretation of Simon’s music, then decide if it’s worth a listen.

Compared to Marc Eliot’s 2010 biography Paul Simon: A Life, Tune is a treat for die-hard Simon fans in that it appears better researched and less sensationalist. If you come to this expecting the standard unauthorized biography gossip – the dirt on the failed marriages, the Garfunkel angst, that unsettling tiff with Edie Brickell earlier this year – you’ll leave disappointed.

That’s not to say Bonca doesn’t explore the personal aspects of Simon’s career. Not unlike his peers (Bob Dylan mentioned most often), Simon draws from real life to create, and Bonca deconstructs Simon’s song catalog while interspersing brief histories of Simon’s progression in his career. As you read Tune you may find amazement in the balance of Simon’s failures and successes. Simon, and to some extent Simon and Garfunkel, has always seemed ever-present in pop culture since the 60s, but Tune points out the many struggles Simon faces to stay relevant, especially with the changes in music trends. How does a counter-culture folk/pop star thrive in the early MTV-era? Bonca concedes while Simon is not as prolific as some of his peers the messages in his song holds relevance. I have to agree with that – the first original episode of Saturday Night Live to air after 9/11, and who performs?

Tune is more scholarly then entertainment, but it’s not a boring book. It’s a good study for anybody who loves music.

IndelibleIndelible by Heather Ames

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On what’s supposed to be the biggest night of her life, Kaylen suffers a memory lapse and wakes up in bed with a strange man. This turn of events leads her down a dangerous path involving drug cartels and crooked police, all this while a hurricane bears down on Miami.

Indelible is a tight, solid story. I haven’t read a suspense in a while, and I enjoyed this one.

Hollywood WivesHollywood Wives by Jackie Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw parallels to Jacqueline Susann’s style in this book – the story is split primarily between three women.

Elaine is presented as a stereotypical, vapid, Beverly Hills wife who pays more attention to outward appearances.

Montana is a second wife and ambitious. She wants to see her screenplay produced and is constantly railroaded by her director husband and some asshole producer.

Angel is fresh off the turnip truck, married to a loser and probably the only person in the book without dreams of stardom.

Very few, if any, likable people in this story, yet you’re drawn to them like crack. As if they don’t have enough problems risking the clap as they sleep around, there’s a nutball traveling across country to kill one of them. You may learn a lesson about the consequences of using poppers during sex, and perhaps come to the conclusion that Hollywood is a soulless cesspool. Sunny, but soulless.

As a reading diversion, I’d rate this one above the Lace novels and The Lonely Lady. It’s dirty, poolside fun if you want to feel better about yourself and meet some people who could use a nice kick.

Next up, The Immortals by Michael Korda.

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