Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: May Roundup

It's time for another round of mini-reviews for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard!

The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker (2011)

I wanted to read this book after we watched the movie Whisky Tango Foxtrot with Tina Fey, based on this memoir.  On the other hand, I don't really like memoirs and the Middle East is not an area I know a whole lot about, so unfortunately, I couldn't really get into this book.

Part of the book describes what life is like for a journalist living in a foreign country and part of it is a current history of the political situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan - but I felt like I didn't get enough of either.  A lot of the political stuff went over my head; so many names and groups, and part of that is my fault for being so uninformed.  The personal parts of the book focused too much on the night life and illegal alcohol sought out by Barker and not enough on the stories she was writing.

I couldn't connect with Barker at all.  She went into this experience so unprepared.  She had rarely traveled outside the US before taking on this assignment and knew very little about the culture and politics of the area when she arrived.  Even after years of living there, she still couldn't grasp basic concepts on how to dress.  She often came across as na├»ve and judgmental and apparently had no problem punching men in the face.  I felt there was a level of disrespect when dealing with political figures (such as calling them by their first names) and I was left with a poor view towards Afghan and Pakistani people in general.  2 stars

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (2004)

I really thought I was going to like this one - the son of an English nobleman is taken hostage during an invasion by Danish Vikings in the 9th century.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be a DNF for me about 50% through.  I didn't understand the main character's motivations.  Although the child was not particularly happy with his father, he seemingly easily adopts the Viking lifestyle and religion with barely a second thought, and the Viking that captured him just seemed way too nice and treated him as another son.  The writing was dense, heavy, and somewhat bland.  When I found myself skimming more than reading, I knew it was time to stop.

A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7) by Louise Penny (2011)

A woman is found murdered in the garden of Clara and Peter Morrow in Three Pines, after a celebration for Clara's art show.  The woman turns out to be an old friend of Clara's, but they hadn't spoken since a falling out many years before.

I enjoyed this installment of the series, although it felt like there was a lot going on.  The main mystery was about the murder of Lillian Dyson.  Because she used to be an art critic, several characters from the art world were introduced.  However, as interesting as it was to learn about art and the lives and temperaments of artists, this mystery almost seemed secondary to the other storylines in the book.  I felt like this installment really dove deep into the lives of characters we've known since the first book.  Always a bit tenuous, we finally see the breakdown of Clara and Peter's marriage.  It was hard to read about Peter's jealousy regarding Clara's recent success, after years of being the more renowned artist.

The detectives are still dealing with scars, both emotional and physical, from the terror attack that took many of their colleagues' lives.  Jean Guy isn't doing so well and is now separated from his wife, having fallen in love with someone new and surprising, and he doesn't quite know what to do with his feelings.  Gamache is changed, as well, from the slight tremors in his hand to how he leads his team.  I really loved the character development in this book, and it made me want to quickly get to the next installment to see what happens.  4 stars


  1. Well done for getting through your backlist! I'm still trying to find a balance between ARC and new release and my backlisted TBR!

    Even if two of these didn't really work for you, at least they are now off the list!

    1. Thank you! This challenge has been really good for getting me to finally read some of these older titles!


  2. Too bad you didn't enjoy The Last Kingdom. I haven't read it yet but I'm going to watch the tv show soon.

    1. We started watching it, and couldn't get into that, either! I really thought it was something both my husband and I would like, just unfortunately it wasn't.

  3. One out of three isn't bad. I'm sorry the others weren't better.

    1. Thanks! Hopefully next month will be better!


I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!