I have lots of mysteries on my reading list for this month. There are also 3 non-fiction books and my favorite, The Warburgs by Ron Chernow, should count as 3 because it's very long. Of the fiction books, Strangler Vine (historical fiction) was the biggest positive surprise and I loved meeting up with John Wells, Nathan Heller, Harry Bosch and Will Trent again.
Please let me know in the comments of any great books that you read this month and you are always welcome to post a review with an opinion opposite of mine. Sometimes a book is good or bad simply based on the timing of when we read it.
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
By Tom Mueller, Narrated by Peter Ganim
I like nonfiction books on esoteric topics and this one seemed like a good candidate. I can’t actually eat olive oil but before I knew about my chlorophyll allergy I loved olives and olive oil. The book is generally interesting but it’s not well organized and you feel like every chapter is just a retelling of the points of the previous chapter but with different examples. What I learned is that the olive oil industry is rife with fraud and that most of the oil we buy in the stores isn’t pure olive oil at all. It explains why I have difficulty sometimes with my olive oil based soaps. There’s no assuring that the oil is olive and therefore the saponification value of the oil could be anything. He shares a lot of information on the miraculous health benefits of olive oil but then proves, once again, that we can’t rely in that either. Many of the processing steps that some bottlers go through completely kill the beneficial elements of the oil. Unless you are buying your olive oil close to the olive grove you are probably wasting your money. That pretty much sums up the book.
By Harry Farthing, Narrated by Harry Farthing
This book is about 2 attempted climbs of Mt. Everest. One is in 2009 and one in 1939. I actually stopped listening to the book after the 4th hour because it was kind of boring. I then listened to Extra Virginity and figured that if I could make it through EV then I could make it through The Summit and I did. The story is actually pretty good and I liked the ending although it was pretty unbelievable. This book has gotten widespread rave reviews so take my ambivalence with a grain of salt or a teaspoon of olive oil. I guess that mountain climbing isn't that interesting to me.
One thing that hurt this book was the narration. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. Authors should never narrate their own books.
True Crime: Nathan Heller Series
By Max Allen Collins, Narrated by Dan John Miller
This is the second in the very entertaining Nathan Heller series. These books are set in Depression Era Chicago and the stories revolve around real criminals, real cops and real feds. The author interjects Nathan Heller into the stories and offers some alternative theories about what really happened. Max Allen Collins was one of the writers for the Dick Tracy comic book series and you can see our hero, Detective Nathan Heller as a Tracy type. The narration is great and you feel the you have been set perfectly into that era. This is the second in the series and revolves around the death of John Dillinger outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. It’s a fun read.
The Silent Man
By Alex Berenson, Narrated by George Guidall
This is the 3rd book in the John Wells series. John is a semi-rogue CIA operative who is being hunted by his nemesis from book #2 and now tracking down new threats in this book. If you like international intrigue that is fast paced with lots of action, these books are for you.
I'm way behind on this series. This is only book #3 of 11.
I also love George Guidall as a narrator.
by Ron Chernow, Narrated by jonathan Reese
You have to like long biographies to want to read this book but I love long biographies about families and I loved this one. The publisher's summary best describes the book:
"Bankers, philanthropists, scholars, socialites, artists, and politicians, the Warburgs stood at the pinnacle of German (and, later, German American) Jewry. They forged economic dynasties, built mansions and estates, assembled libraries, endowed charities, and advised a German kaiser and two American presidents. But their very success made the Warburgs lightning rods for anti-Semitism, and their sense of patriotism became increasingly dangerous in a Germany that had declared Jews the enemy."
This is a fascinating family story and world financial history story. If you like Ron Chernow, you'll love this one too and Jonathan Reese does an excellent job with the narration.
If Every I Return, Pretty Peggy-O
by Sharyn McCrumb, Narrated by Sally Darling
This book was recommended to me by a friend. It's the first in a series of books set in rural Tennessee and this one is set in 1986 on the eve of the 20th class reunion for the class of 1966. Also, new in town is famous folk singer Peggy Muryan and a series of crimes have started that seem to be inspired by her songs.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it's a little slow moving but it seems about right for the time and place. It's in the mystery genre but it's really more about people, their relationships and the baggage that they carry through life. This one is all about Vietnam baggage. I don't meant that in any derogatory way. We all have baggage of some sort and in this book it's mostly about Vietnam.
The fun part of this book for me was the narrator. She had a perfect Southern accent. In fact she sounded just like my college roommate's mom, Hilda. I could listen to Hilda talk for house and I can say the same for Sally Darling. I think I listened to this book as much to hear her talk as anything else and I'll likely give the second book in the series a try.
The Black Box
by Michael Connelly, narrated by Michael McConnohie
This is the 18th book in the Harry Bosch series. I love the character, Harry, and have enjoyed all of the books in this series. Harry is now back at the LAPD working in the cold case department and has one from the LA riots that's 20 years old. The victim is a beautiful blonde foreign correspondent. He remembers taking the call that night but they had less than 30 minutes at each crime site during the riots.Now he's taking another look.
It's a good plot line but I didn't think this was one of the best in the Bosch series. Frankly I'm not confident that Michael Connelly actually wrote it. I know that after series mature that some authors bring in other writers and this has that fee. My issue could have also been the narrator. Michael McConnohie is fine but Len Cariou is the voice of Harry Bosch in my head and it was difficult to make the transition.
All the criticism aside, it's still a fun and fast paced Harry Bosch book and I enjoyed it.
by Thomas F Madden, Narrated by Eduardo Ballerini
I was looking forward to this book because I loved Istanbul by the same author. This one sort of got interesting around hour 4 but then got dull again and I just had to give up by hour 9.
Overall reviews for this book are excellent so if you think it's a topic that would be of interest to you then you should ignore my opinion and give it a try.
The 7th Canon
by Robert Dugoni, Narrated by James Patrick Cronin
Robert Dugoni is becoming one of my favorite mystery/crime writers. I really enjoy his Tracey Crosswhite series. In this one Father Thomas Martin runs a home for street boys. One of them is killed in the home and Martin is accused. Young Attorney Peter Donley must defend him and the only way he can is by figuring out who the real killer is.
It's fast paced with a good assortment of characters. This could easily become a series based on Donley and his detective. Some reviewers point out some messiness with certain facts about the Catholic religion but it didn't take away from the story for me.
The Kept Woman
by Karin Slaughter, Narrated by Kathleen Early
This is the 8th and most recent book in the Will Trent series. Will is an investigator in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and he carries a lot of baggage from his disturbing childhood. His love, Sara Linton, is the medical examiner for the GBI. The other major character is Angie, Will's childhood friend/tormentor and estranged wife. She's seriously nuts.
In this book Will had been investigating a rape charge against an NBA star and later the murder of an ex-cop. It's a complex mystery where everything ties together and there's a personal link to Will's past. It's a good story that I was glued to until the end.
My only beef with Karin Slaughter is that the relationship between Will and Sara and Will and Angie seems to never progress. These are people who deal with death and danger every day and yet, in their relationships they often act like 7th graders. Some of their communications are out of character. But I can take that to have the wonderfully complex mystery.
The Strangler Vine
by MJ Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This book was, I believe, another Audible Daily Deal and it was quite the deal!
Set in India in 1837, William Avery and Jeremiah Blake are sent on a mission to find a lost British author. The assignment takes them on an amazing and dangerous adventure where they end up in the mysterious Thugee cult/cast and the East India Company's attempt to quash the group. Yes, this is the source of our word "thug". Even if you don't read the book it's fun to look up "thug" in Wikipedia for a summary history of the group and word. This book is adventure and mystery and if you like historical fiction you will like this one.
It was a great month for reading. I finished 12 books and didn't finish 2. I have gotten a lot more brutal in my tolerance for mediocre and bad books. I used to make myself finish them but no more. There are too many good books to read to suffer through bad ones. Neither of the books I skipped are actually "bad" but they are just not the type of thing I like to read.
Of the books I likes I think my favorites of the month are Speaks the Nightbird, Hard Country and Till We have Faces.
What books have you read this month that you like?
Blind Your Ponies
by Stanley Gordon West
This book is about human redemption and is therefore set in a small town full of misfits like the island of misfit toys in the Christmas classic. I didn't mind the characters or even the basic story line but this book needed some serious editing. It's set in small town Montana and it seems everyone ended up there for some very sad reason and it includes every cliched character you can imagine: man distraught over his wife's murder, woman distraught over her lost daughter, handicapped daughter, abused teen boy, boy sent there to live with Grandmother while his parents build new lives for themselves, brothers with a long and unpleasant past and a lot of other equally damaged people just trying to get by in a place with no opportunities and a crummy high school basketball team.
This year they decided to field a team of only 6 for the last time and we are regaled with the game action for almost every game of the season. Throughout the season we find out what's wrong with everyone as they all rally behind the basketball team after they get their first win in 5 years.
I listened through the tedium of all those basketball games hoping to find out what eventually happened to everyone. We sort of get an answer with the 2 main characters but everyone else is left hanging on the bus ride home after the last game of the season. We get hints of resolution but no real resolution.
All in all it was a disappointing book.
The Hades Factor
by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds
This book was written 17 years ago and if you read spy novels you have probably already read this and the rest of the series. I decided to start this series because the later books are written by Kyle Mills, one of my favorite authors. Robert Ludlum didn't write this book. Gayle Lynds wrote it based on an outline or something that Ludlum had. You can tell that it's not one of his classic spy novels. It's not a bad story but the beginning is a little hard to take.
First there are way too many characters introduced to follow them. But that is resolved quickly as a bevy of them are murdered. There's so much going on that it's kind of confusing. I almost gave up but them wen't to Wikipedia to read about the Covert One series and discover which of this book's characters are part of the series. Then I could concentrate on them knowing that they would live until the end. It made the book a little easier to stomach.
Oh, the story is about a new pandemic virus that has not been seen before. One of the early victims is a researcher at the Army facility assigned to identify it. The book follows action to find out the source and cure of the virus.
It was good enough that I'll read more but it wasn't one of the best books I've listened too. It calmed down toward the middle and was a good ride until the end. If you listen to books this one has some production issues. Periodically sentences are repeated which is kind of annoying.
Speaks the Nightbird
by Robert McCammon
When I was at Birds of Feather I got into a discussion of books with Jamie Wallen. He is even a bigger audiobook addict than me and had some suggestions for me. This book was one of them and it's a jewel.
You know those books that draw you completely into the story as if you are living with the characters? For me, this was one of those books. The writer let me know the characters personally and set me right down into the middle of The Carolinas in 1699.
This book is the first in a series about law clerk, Matthew Corbett. We are introduced to him as a young boy growing up in an alms house. Fortune shines on him when he is selected to be trained as a law clerk by a traveling magistrate, Isaac Woodward. We then fast forward to 1699 when the 2 are on their way to Fount Royal for a witch trial.
I'm glad it's first in a series because I'm looking forward to seeing what Matthew is up to next.
I followed up Speaks the Nightbird with two duds (in my opinion). I couldn't finish either of these books. Both of these were Audible "Deal of the Day" books so at least I didn't pay much for them. I bought Texas Rising because I liked Empire of the Summer Moon. But ESM told a story. Texas Rising is more like a history textbook and I just couldn't garner the interest to finish it. I read enough to know that the subtitle should be "Don't Mess With Texas".
I have no idea what provoked me to buy Hawk of May. It's got too much of a fantasy element in it for me and the narrator drove me insane. This one should have been narrated by a man, not a woman. She made him sound like a child and there was no need to go overboard on the Scottish brogue.
Just like with our UFO projects, sometimes it's best to just give up and move on. I didn't finish either of these books.
Till We Have Faces
by CS Lewis
As a rule I never read (listen to) books that are less than 10 hours. I don't know how many pages that is but I like to get deep into a book and get to know the characters and I do't think that's really possible in shorter books. Short books, to me, are like a bowl of dairy-free ice cream without any sort of topping to cover up the fact that it's dairy-free.
All that is to lead into the fact that I made an exception for this book. It came up in the Audible Deal of the Day for 3 bucks and it sounded interesting. Afer all, how bad can a CS Lewis book be? Well, of course, it wasn't bad at all!
It is the retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid. This time told from the point of view of her unattractive sister, Oural. It's set in Glome, outside of Greek civilization. It's a good little story narrated by one of my favorite readers, Nadia May aka Donada Peters aka Wanda McCaddon.
by Nick Stone
I had low expectations for this book and I was pleasantly surprised. It's investigation and courtroom drama.
Terry Flynn and Vernon James grew up as best friends and both went to Cambridge where they had a huge falling out and have hated each other since.
Now Vernon has been accused of murder and Terry is a clerk on his defense team. Now Terry is torn between helping mount a good defense or just watching karma finally catch up with Vernon.
The narrator's voice for Terry was a little annoying at first. But, knowing, some of the London accents I think he was portraying the poor background that Terry came from and never really got out of. Good drama, interesting characters and a good story.
Her Mother's Hope
by Francine Rivers
Francine Rivers, I now know, mostly writes romance and religious/spiritual literature. Not there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my cup of tea. That said, I'm glad this one was classified as Contemporary Fiction because otherwise I would not have read it.
This is the story of Marta and her daughter, Hildie. The book starts with Marta's young life before WWI and her escape from her father's torment. We go through her life as she lives in Paris, London, Canada and the settles with her family in California. You get a real feel for how life must have really been like for people during that time. (Hint: It was very difficult.) She is determined that her daughter, Hildie, will not grow up and have a life like she and her sister had so she pushes her hard and constantly. About halfway through we switch to the story being told from Hildie's point of view and we are carried through WWII.
The wars are backdrops to advance the timeline. This is a story about family relationships, especially relationships between mothers and daughters.
Francine Rivers is a gifted writer. She grabs you from the first sentence and I didn't even realize the religious overtones until halfway through. It's just another part of the story that explains the characters. It's not a sermon, it's how these people cope with daily life and, I think, it's likely a very accurate portrayal of people from that time.
There is a sequel which continues the story through Hildie and her daughter. Not sure if I'll read that one but I expect it's just as well written.
by Michael McGarrity
I wish I remembered who recommended this book so I could thank them. I have found a new series and a new favorite author.
Hard Country is the 1st in the Kerney Family trilogy and takes us to the wild west country of New Mexico in the late 19th century and through WWI. John Kerney's wife dies in childbirth the same day that his brother and nephew are killed in West Texas. His SIL takes the new baby and he heads off to forge a new life. He ends up in New Mexico where he starts his search to get his son back.
I don't know anything about what life was really like in the West during that time but this story seems real to me as do the characters and their relationships with each other. If you read it you might also shead a tear or two.
The Bone House
by Brian Freeman
This is he first in the Cab Bolton series and the last one I'll read. If I were in college I'd read this as a drinking game and would have a shot for every cliche. I'd be blasted by the end of the first chapter.
A girl is found dead on a beach on Miami and the prime suspect is the man suspected of having sex with the girls minor sister. Every character in this book does incredibly stupid things. As an example there's the teen who witnesses a crime and decides that it would be a good idea to confront the criminal alone instead simply telling the police investigating the crime. This kind of behavior is repeated over and over by the characters in the book.
Of course the lead detective is wealthy, tall and handsome but can't pursue love because of a troubled past.
I finished it so it wasn't awful but I think I strained a muscle in my eye from rolling it so often.
by Russell Blake
I never read a book that has less than a 4 star review and I felt very confident about selecting this one with 4.4 stars. That is usually an indication of a home run.
For me, that rating was about 2 stars inflated. I can see why it might be popular. It has some adventure but doesn't really drag you along with the emotion of it all. It's just a story.
Drake Ramsey is notified that he has an inheritance from a relative that he didn't know even existed. His father disappeared in the Amazon jungle over 20 years ago but somehow his journal made it to his sister before he died. Hmmm, how did that happen? That's just the first illogical thing that happens in this book. His father was searching for a lost Aztec civilization with a huge cache of gold. Next thing you know he's being tracked by some old Russians just out of Siberia. The other characters are his father's old research partner, that man's daughter who is conveniently an unemployed PhD of Anthropology and an ex-Navy SEAL/CIA operative/weapons dealer...you know, the requisite dark, secretive mystery man.
It's a trite tale, what too many illogical events to count. The characters trip into trouble, trip out of trouble and trip onto the treasure when dozens of people have been looking for this same treasure for decades. The whole thing is a ridiculous take with weak character development and the PhD in Anthropology contributes nothing except to add a little sexual tension and even that is weak.
I suppose if I were in a hammock by a lake and didn't want to stress my imagination to much that I could enjoy this book but I couldn't wait to get through it. I stuck with it mostly because the narrator was good enough to hold my attention. I won't be reading the second book in the series.
by James Lee Burke
When I saw this book on the Daily Deal I knew that I had read several James Lee Burke books but had not read one in a while. Now I remember why.
With Burke you have to be ready for purple prose. He really wants us to appreciate the vastness of his vocabulary. It's almost like he's insecure about his own intelligence or writing skills so he has to overdo it. His characters think too much if that makes sense. Another consistent issue with his books is that his main male characters are way to progressive for their time and place, in my opinion.
All that said, if you can focus on the story through the prose it's an interesting tale up until the end. It ends abruptly and we don't get a lot of resolution. It's as if he ran out of time and just wanted to wrap it up.
The Immortal Irishman
by Timothy Egan
What a fascinating story and I'm so glad that someone took the time to write it. This is a biography of Thomas Meagher (pronounced Marr). He was a young, wealthy Irishman who could not stand the suffering of his fellow citizens during the Great Famine in Ireland in the 1840's. (Apparently it's only us Americans who call it the Potato Famine). He had outstanding oratory skills and led a failed uprising against the British Government. From there he was awarded a nice stay in Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) and eventually found his way to America. He was just in time for the Civil War where he formed the Irish Brigade from New York.
This book provides a lot of history about the Great Famine, the British penal colonies in Australia and about the Irish immigrants of America prior to the Civil War.
This book will appeal to anyone of Irish descent, Civil War buffs and people interested in the early days of the US western population efforts.
By Richard Montanari
This is the 4th book in the Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne series. Richard Montanari has one twisted mind. His villains are some incredibly twisted people and I have no idea how he comes up with these ideas. In this one murder victims are being posed in vintage gowns as if they are characters from a fairy tale. I like that in his stories that he tells the story from both voices. We know what the killer is thinking but we are never sure who the killer is. This one is full of twists and eventually uncovers a history that goes back 20 years. I like the characters, I like that the books are set in Philly and the stories always give me some really bizarre dreams.
February was great month for listening to books. Since we've essentially turned off the news, and the rest of the TV programming for that matter, I've had lots of reading time. The more I read the more productive I am and that's all good. As I look back on the list my 2 least favorites were Truevine and On The Couch. Once you read those reviews you will see that I didn't hate either of them. I'd give both a solid C.
Paper and Instanbul were both very good non-fiction books. Truevine is also non-fiction but you'll see that I really didn't love it. All of the fiction books are by authors that I've read before and several are series so I know they would all be good. The best surprise is that Hachette Audio has stopped adding the annoying sound effects to Baldacci's Puller series.
What good books have you read this month? I'm always looking for more books to add to my Audible Wish List. You are also invited to add your opinions about any of these books especially if your opinion is different from mine! When I'm deciding on books I always look at the review and check both the 5-star and the 1-star reviews so I can get a broader perspective. I always invite you do do the same here.
by Beth Macy
I reviewed Beth Macy's first book, The Factory Man, in 2014. When I saw that she had a new book set in the area where I grew up I knew I wanted to read it. This one is a story about George and Willie Muse, two black brothers with albinism born to a sharecropper family. In 1899 they were "captured" by the circus and spent the majority of the rest of their lives performing in freak shows with the circus. They traveled the world. But it's not a wine and caviar life. Their mother spent years looking for them and they were not treated well the first 14 years that they performed...they were basically slave labor.
I love the story of this book and have a deep admiration for the work and years it must have taken to dig out the details of what happened to the Muse brothers. Given that the story begins around 1900 in the poor South, that was a daunting task. My problem with the book is the amount of other information and tedious detail added. The brother's story alone wasn't enough for a book so there's every detail about circus life, the KKK of Roanoke, sharecropper life, the railroad, you name it.
I'm glad I read it because it's a bit of history about the area where I grew up that I didn't know, but I think I would have preferred a magazine article to the rehashing of the racial history, railroad history and development history of the area. In the end I'm not really sure what her underlying objective was in writing the book. Was it to tell the Muse brother's story and everything else was filler or was it a racial history with the Muse brothers as exhibit A. Either way, it was kind of a slog to get through.
No Man's Land
by David Baldacci
This is the 4th book in the John Puller series and my favorite so far. In this book we find out what happened to John Puller's mother 30 years before when she disappeared. It ties in to DARPA research.
This book was so refreshing after the work I had to put into listening to Truevine. This time I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. Even though it's part of a series I think that Baldacci does a good job of making each novel able to stand alone. There's reference to previous books to give foundation to parts of the storyline.
I liked the narrators fine. Orlaugh Cassidy does the female voices (one of which is annoyingly childish) and Kyf Brewer does the male voices. He's good but I don't think his voice is quite tough enough for the Puller character. But they both do a good job of being consistent with each character's voice. The best part about this recording is that there are no sound effects! I hope that's a new trend with Hachette books.
Lying on the Couch
by Irvin D. Yalom
This one should be called "Therapists are people too".
I'm not sure what to say about this book and even less sure why I bought it in the first place. It's a novel set around three therapists and their patients and gives you the thoughts of both parties during therapy sessions. It's more than that but I think the purpose was to show that therapy isn't a one-way street and that sometimes, therapists need therapy too.
I almost gave up early on because I just couldn't get the point of it. I went to Amazon and read some reviews and saw that a lot of the reviewers had to read this as part of their studies to become therapists. That didn't encourage me but I stuck with it and, end the end, it was a pretty good book. I think in the end that it's about the fact that we all need therapy of some kind at some point in our lives and sometimes it's formal and sometimes it's simply a form of meditation.
Blood on the Water
by Anne Perry
When I review books here I review them in the order that I read them and I write the review almost immediately after I finish the book. After a challenging book I always look for something reliable and Anne Perry's William Monk series is reliable.
This is #20 in the series and the investigation is about a pleasure boat that is blown up on the Thames killing over 200 people. Love the characters, love the narration by David Colacci and I love Anne Perry's stories.
Paper: Paging Through History
by Mark Kurlansky
In December I reviewed the book Salt, also by David Kurlansky. I enjoyed that so much that I decided to get this one. Many years ago I took a paper making class and enjoyed it. For a couple of years I made handmade paper note cards and Christmas cards. I still have all of the supplies. That's good because this book got me interested again. This book covers the very earliest paper making to present day electronic replacements for paper. There's also some great information about the history of printing and ink development. If you like history but want it a little on the lighter side you will enjoy this. If you have ever made paper or collect different kinds of paper, you will love this book.
Gods of Guilt
by Michael Connelly
If you have seen the Lincoln Lawyer movie then you are familiar with the basic story line of the Lincoln Lawyer series. Michael Connelly has 2 series. The first is Harry Bosch, a LAPD Detective. In one of those books Mickey Haller, a defense attorney, is introduced as his half brother. I enjoy both series but I've always thought that the Lincoln Lawyer series was the weaker of the two. With this book Connelly has finally brought this series up to match the Bosch series. It's a fun legal thriller with good characters and a fast pace. I was glued to my headphones with this one.
by Thomas Madden
Before reading this book the extent of my knowledge of Isanbul was that it was once called Constantinople. Seriously, that was all I knew about one of the most important cities in history. It covers everything from ancient times forward and it is fascinating.
If you like history you will enjoy this book. It's well written and the narration is good.
The One Man
by Andrew Gross
You have to have a strong stomach for this one but if you do it's worth the ride. The story revolved around rescuing a noted physicist from Auschwitz in WWII. There's one man, who speaks fluent German and Polish who might be able to accomplish it.
This book is intense and there are a couple of times where time is if the essence and we are dragged through a long conversation or thought sequence that just doesn't seem to fit. But that's a small complaint.
I didn't realize until I was writing this that the narrator for this book is the same as Istanbul. It shows his versatility that he can adapt his voice to the story at hand.
The Jury Master
by Robert Dugoni
This is the same author that writes the Tracey Crosswhite series. In The Jury Master he introduces David Sloane, a San Francisco trial lawyer. He's very successful but has recurring nightmares about his childhood that he can't remember. After close friend of the President dies Sloan received a package that starts to unravel his past. It's a very good plot and moves at a fast pace. My only complaint is that Dugoni likes to jump back and forth between scenes right in the middle of the action. Otherwise it's a good book that's very fast paced and lots of death and destruction.
Eye For An Eye
by Ben Coes
I followed one thriller by another. This one brings back one of my favorite covert operatives, Dewey Andreas. In this one some early events in the book prompt China's head of State Security to place a kill order on Dewey. From the first scene to the last the drama doesn't end.
These books are very fast paced with lots of intrigue and violence. Just the kind of book I like to relax with.
January was a light reading month for me. Of course that's because I spent most of it in the recliner watching TV and not listening to books. That's why I only finished 5 books.
The truth is that I really listened to 6. Last month I finished the month with the book Cure about the science of mind over body. I got so much out of it that I actually read it twice in case I missed something.
Then I started some new books. Hands down my favorite book this month is A Gentleman In Moscow. I wouldn't necessarily recommend any of the rest unless that particular genre speaks to you.
by Joseph Finder
Adam Cassidy works in the tech industry and isn't particularly driven. One day he decided to host a party for a friend in the mailroom and figures out a way to have the company foot the bill. He gets caught and that's the beginning of a tale of complex corporate espionage.
This book was written in 2004 so the technology referenced is quite dated but that doesn't take away from the story because the story requires a complete willingness to accept implausibility. First the character simply isn't smart or motivated enough to do what he does and the ending is completely predictable from the minute he is hired by Trion Systems. This book was apparently made into a movie that was a box office bomb. That should have been a clue. Glad I only paid $4 for it.
On The Move
by Oliver Sacks
I love biographies because usually biographies are about exceptional people and this book (actually an autobiography) is no exception. Oliver Sacks is best knows as the neurologist represented in the movie Awakenings about the encephalitis patients that he treated with L Dopa. Robin Williams played him in the movie and Robert DiNero played one of the patients. But that's a very small part of a life that included a passion for motorcycles, body building, drug addiction and an undying interest in the workings of the brain. Throw in the added complication of being gay in the 50's and 60's. It was a fascinating read.
A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
What a lovely book! I was skeptical because I had read Rules of Civility and didn't really like it. This one, however, is a gem.
In 1922 in the Bolshevik revolution Count Alexander Rostov is spared execution but is sentenced to life under house arrest at the Metropol Hotel. The story follows him for decades as he makes a life of meaning in his attic room. If you like audiobooks this one is beautifully narrated too.
Empire of the Summer Moon
by S. C. Gwynne
Before reading this book you could write everything I know about Texas history on a pin head. I barely know about the Alamo. It's just not something that was taught in history class in Virginia schools in the 1960's and 1970's. This book is about the Comanche Indian tribe and their eventual defeat by the white man.
The cover of the book highlights Quanah Parker, the last Comanche Chief and implies that the book is about him. But it's really a true history book going back to the Comanche's first interaction with the Mexicans, their adoption of the horse, the influx of white settlers and the ultimate clashes.
If you believe the current narratives about Indian tribes being peaceful and respecting Mother Earth you do not want to read this book. It is unapologetic and truthful about the brutality and violence on ALL sides during this period.
If you are into history you will like this book. If you are into "light" history this book might be a bit much. It took me a while to get through it but I'm glad I read it.
by Ann Cleeves
This is the second book in the Shetland series. As that implies, these mysteries are set in the Shetland area of Scotland. In this one a mystery man shows up at a surprisingly poorly attended art exhibit and has a emotional breakdown. The next day he is found dead in a local fishing shed. Jimmy Perez is the local police officer tasked with finding out who he is and why he was murdered. Of course there are other murders to keep things going.
These books aren't white knuckle mysteries. In fact, I figured out very early on who the culprit was but I didn't know why. What I like about these books is the character development. They are just the kind of people you would expect to find in any small town or village anywhere. It's a good light read and was a great follow on to Empire of the Summer Sun.
I did not post yesterday because a post about me laying around and napping through this cold isn't post worthy. I'm lucky that today is the last day of the month and I can post about my December books.
December was a particulary good month for books. There's only one that I'd specifically recommend not reading although I think Algorithms would be better in paper than audio if the topic is of interest to you. My big winners of the month are Salt, Escape Clause, Citizen Creek and Cure but the rest are worthy too.
Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown
By Eric Blehm
With that unweildy title you get the gist of this book. It's the biography of Adam Brown and Fearless is the right title. By all accounts he was fearless from birth and had an incredible tolerance for pain.
If you like books like Unbroken and American Sniper you might like this one. Adam Brown is a brave and driven person with flaws. He became a Navy SEAL as a goal to help him escape a drug addiction. It's a true rredemption story. My only caveat is that if you do not like Christian literature you will not like this. I didn't realize it had heavy Christian overtones until I was reading it and it's an integral part of his story and life. It might turn some readers off but if not, I think you will appreciate getting to know Adam Brown.
The Shut Eye
by Belinda Bauer
It was news to me that a Psychic is also called a Shut Eye but now I know. This is the story of a missing toddler and his mother's desperate search to find him, even by asking a local Shut Eye to help. She's seen as crazy by everyone except one detective who has been obsessed with a missing girl case for over a year.
I got this on one of Audible's Daily Deals so had very low expectations. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. The author tells a great story with lots of interwoven details.
by Lalita Tademy
Oh wow, what a gem of a book! I knew going in that it was a "historical novel" but thought it was a general historical story telling what life was like for a slave of a Native American tribe. It wasn't until the end that I discovered that the two main characters of the book were real people.
Cow Tom started life as a slave and was a translator for his chief of a Creek Indian tribe. Rose is his granddaughter. The book is told in 3 basic parts: Cow Tom's life until he had his family free of slavery, the period of time when his life overlapped that of his granddaughter Rose adn the third part about Rose's life. It's an amazing story. Rose's grandson is Jake Simmons, Jr, one of the msot famous and successful oil brokers.
Lalita Tademy is an outstanding writer. If you read this you will KNOW these people and want to spend more time with them. It's a beautifully written book.
Salt: A World History
by Mark Kurlansky
"Who knew?" That's what I kept saying as I listened to this book. It's exactly what it says it is. It's world history told through the history of salt and salt mining. It's loaded with "Oh, I had no idea" moments and is sprinkled with ancient and traditional recipies, especially recipes for traditional ways to preserve meats and vegetables with salt. If you like nonfiction, you will enjoy this book.
Because We Are
by Ted Oswald
Continuing my month of good luck in books is this gem. It's, as it says on the cover, a novel of Haiti as told through the character of a young orphaned girl named Liberty.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but Liberty drew me in from the first chapter. The author, I believe, truly conveyed the realities of life in Haiti and showed us a culture where children must grow up fast. He may have given Liberty and Jacques a little too much maturity and wisdom but the story was so good that I didn't mind. The narrator was PERFECT! The only complaint I have is that it was a little difficult to keep up at times when the story switches back and forth between scenes and times. There was no break in the narration to indicate a change. Otherwise it is a beautiful book.
A Tapping At My Door
by David Jackson
This is the first book in a new series and is a typical murder mystery with a detective with a lot of baggage. It' set in Liverpool England and opens with a woman opening her back door to shoo away a raven tapping at her door. Then the killer strikes. DS Nathan Cody is assigned to the case and he brings along a lot of emotional baggage from a previous undercover case gone bad. The second murder reveals that the targets of the murders are all police officers.
While the storyline is somewhat formulaic, the story is really well told and I was interested throughout. I usually listen to books as I fall asleep at night but I couldn't listen to this one because I was too engrossed to fall asleep. That's a good sign for a book!
Algorythms to Live By
by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
I admit, I had low expectations for this book but it was a Audible Deal fo the Day so was only $4 and worth the risk. Sometimes I loves these geeky books. Sometiems not. This is a "not".
First, my #1 rule of books is that the author should NEVER narrate the book. They are always bad at it and this is no exception. He knws this topic inside out and seems a little bored with it himself. I generally don't buy author-narrated books but this one slipped by me.
The subject matter is interesting. It's about how we can manage decision in out lives, like how many people to interview and who to hire for a job. But it's presented too dryly for those of us who aren't enigneers or mathematicians. While A Tapping At My Door kept me awake at night, this one is a good sleep aid and I'll work my way through it in that way.
by John Sandford
Thsi is #9 in the Virgil Flowers series and he's trying to find 2 tigers stolen from the local zoo before they are killed for Chinese medicines.
It's John Sandford and Virgil Flowers. What's not to love?
by James Kaufman
Joe Hart has a illustrious Navy career and now has a perfect wife and a successful law career and then his wife is killed by a drive-by shooter. He heads to the mountains to escape. Preston Wilson is a wealthy owner of several car dealerships and he's about to lose all of it. He needs the help of the right attorney and Joe Hart is it. Coincidentally, their paths have crossed in the past. Preston hikes into the mountains to beg Joe to take his case.
Sometimes you read a book and you know it will make a great movie. Tom Clancy, for example, gave is Jack Ryan and he's perfect for the big screen. While I was reading this book all I could think about was how this was written as a Lifetime movie scrpit. Joe is too perfect. We don't get to see him work. The work just seems to magically happen because he's so busy going off and taking care of his collectibles. It's soap opera with no depth of character.
Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body
by Jo Marchant
No book has surprised me more than this one. I have no idea why I picked it but am so glad I did. This isn't a new age book about how you can cure your diseases using Acupuncture, Reiki, Homeopathy or other non-traditional treatments. It's about the current research in the placebo effect and how effectively it can be used for things like pain management, reducing drug doses and managing side effects. Those methods might be Homeopathy or other non-traditional treatments but we aren't getting better becasue of the treatment but because we think we wil get better. Even when we know we are taking a placebo we can still get benefit. Jo Marchant shares the research being done using mind over body for pain manegement, MS, IBS, CFS, labor and delivery and other chronic medical issues. It's very enlightening and I recommend it to everyone.
I'm saving this one to read again.
I am so glad that today is the last day of the month and I can do the book review post because I'd have nothing otherwise.
I had grand plans to get things done yesterday but that was all tossed aside when Chris had a severe attack of vertigo. After a couple of hours of all the things you can imagine, I gave him a plastic trash bin to hug and hauled him to the ER. A bag of fluid, some magical medications and 5 hours later we were finally home and both exhausted. All I've accomplished is addressing Christmas cards.
If I'd had a personal assistant I would have gotten him or her to bring my applique project to the hospital. Instead I had to rely on ER ward neighbors for entertainment. It seems that upon arrival we were put in a "special" room in a section of the ER that has police guards. They were busy and that was the only room available....I think. There was a guy across the hall being totally uncooperative and being "attended to" by the most patient and kind police officer I've ever seen. Thirty minutes in and I wanted to march across the hall and slap some sense into the guy. Later I heard the officer on the phone with his wife ranting about some school "crisis" with one of the kids. All I can say is that this guy should teach classes on how to calm down a spouse. I'm not like him at all but I did admire him.
Just before they were about to do an unpleasant procedure on our hall mate they mercifully moved Chris to a normal room and my entertainment became the TV. Today he's just a little hung over but otherwise just fine.
Anyway, today I'm staying home and doing things and meanwhile you can check out the books I read this month. It wasn't my best month of reading. My favorite book was probably In The Clearing and Stalin was the worst.
Have you read any good books this month? Let me know in the comments, I'm always looking for recommendations!
by Stephen Kotin
I can sum up this book in two words.
I love reading history and I especially love reading history through biographies. I know little about Russian history and I thought this would be a good start but it's way too long and tedious.There's lots of detail for Russian scholars but way too much detail for the casual history reader. I couldn't finish it and mostly used it as a sleep aid at night. 10 minutes of this and I was out.
The King of Lies
by John Hart
I picked this book to read after Stalin to give my brain a rest and I suppose that it did do that for me. Otherwise it was one of the worst intrigue books that I've read in a long time.
Work Pickens (a ridiculous name for a ridiculous character) is an attorney in North Carolina. He has a trophy wife and a completely messed up sister. His father has been missing for 18 months and now his body has been found. Work is the #1 suspect. He thinks his sister did it and proceeds to make endless stupid decisions (for a supposedly smart man) to try to protect her.
Three chapters in and you know who did it and that person is never a suspect in his mind or with the police. The story is told by Work in a purple prose that does not fit his personality or decision making.
It's actually a good plot that is completely destroyed by bad writing.
A Corruptible Crown
by Gillian Bradshaw
Oh finally a book that I enjoyed!
This one is a historical novel set in the second British Civil War. Jamie Hudson is drafted again to avoid prison. His new wife is a printer in London mostly printing unlicensed material.
What I like about this one is that it's a historical novel without being a historical romance novel. These characters aren't romantic. Their lives seem like want we might really expect from that time. There are complexities of family inheritance, personal rivalries and the daily struggle to survive while apart from each other. It was a very interesting story, beautifully written and wonderfully narrated.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson
This is the 3rd book by Eric Larson that I've read. He's is a master at telling history in a way that feels like fiction. His best one is The Devil in the White City about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. This one is about the sinking of the Lusitania and the story is told from the perspective of all of the people involved: passengers, crew, British Intelligence, President Wilson and, of course, the German UBoat captain responsible for torpedoing the ship.
Scott Brick is the narrator and adds a bit too much melodrama to it but, all in all, if you like history you will enjoy this book.
The Last Refuge
by Ben Coes
This is the 3rd in the Dewey Andreas series. In this one Kohl Mier (who saved him in a previous book) has been kidnapped by the Iranians. Also, the Iranians are about to launch a nuclear bomb on Tel Aviv. If you like intrigue, spy novels, brutality and strong heroes you will love this series too.
In The Clearing
by Robert Dugoni
This is the third in the Tracy Crosswhite series. She is a detective in Seattle and in this book is investigating 2 murders. One is recent and the other is a 40 year old cold case that she is investigating as a favor to a friend.
I am enjoying this series even though they just barely meet my minimum 10 hour duration. This one is the most current one in the series but I'm hoping that we will get more soon!
The Traitor's Story
by Kevin Wignall
Not bad! I had low expectations for this one but was pleasantly surprised. The story starts off with a missing teenager in an apartment building in Switzerland. The parents ask a neighbor to help find her because there are rumors that he was a spy. He's now a history writer and doesn't admit to any sort of past but he helps. He soon discovers that the missing girl is tied to his own past.....whatever that was.
It kept me interested, there's good character development and the narrator is one of my favorites.
by Kate Atkinson
What provoked me to purchase another Kate Atkinson book, I'll never know, but is was a mistake. It's hard to believe but this book is much worse than A God In Ruins.
It is the first in a "detective" series with the character Jackson Brodie. Three random people come into his fledgling PI practice asking him to investigate cold cases. The third one shows up roughly 2/3 into the book. What follows is the most random bit of literature I've ever read. We wander around in various time periods and he doesn't seem to actually do any "detecting". Instead we are treated to various characters descriptions of losing their virginity, nonsensical fights with his ex-wife and a bizarre inheritance and none of these things are relevant to the story. The cases are solved almost miraculously after a singe phone call or in a flashback or in some other way that doesn't actually involve working.
It has gotten some great reviews but I think it's one of the worst books I've read in a long time.
October was a slow book month. We have had friends visiting and it's kind of rude to put headphones on while they are here. Although when Laura and I are sewing we both listen to our books. The low book count is also because of 2 big books this month. One, Stalin, is still underway and will be on next month's report. It's really interesting but requires a lot of focus to follow.
by David Baldacci
Will Robie is an assassin for hire. He can't/won't kill his last target. He's on the run and ends up partnered with a 14 year old whose parents were murdered and it's all connected.
This is the first in the Will Robie series. It was fine but the Baldacci books are all becoming very formulaic. It had sound effects but not as bad as the last Baldacci book that I read.
Mao's Last Dancer
by Li Cunxin
I can't do better describing this book than to share the publisher's summary. I loved this true story.
"This is the true story of how one moment in time, by the thinnest thread of a chance, changed the course of a small boy's life in ways that are beyond description. One day he would dance with some of the greatest ballet companies of the world. One day he would be a friend to a president and first lady, movie stars, and the most influential people in America. One day he would become a star: Mao's last dancer, and the darling of the West. Here is Li Cunxin's own story, a beautiful, rich account of an inspirational life, told with honesty, dignity, and pride."
by Anne Perry
This is #19 in the William Monk series. It starts out as a fraud accusation against a local minister. In the end it involves Judge Oliver Rathbone arrested for perverting the course of justice. William and Hester Monk work to save him.
Anne Perry is keeping this series intersting.
Guns, Germs and Steel
by Jared Diamond
This book is for the non-fiction readers and anyone who likes history. Jarend Diamond is an evolutionary biologist and presents his theories about the evolution of societies. I don't particularly agree with everything he proposed but the book is well researched, well presented and is a great base for discussion.
It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 and was republished in 2011.
by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood
After reading GG&S I needed something easier t read and War hawk fit the bill. This is the second in the Tucker Wayne series. Tucker is an ex-Army Ranger dealing with PTSD with his war-trained dog Kane.
In this one a former colleague has contacted him for help. Co-workers from her current employer are disappearing and she thinks she is next.
And this I started Stalin which might be the only book I finish in November!
September wasn't a great reading month for me. I only finished 7 books and, as you will see, I'm using the term "finished" very loosely. Football started this month so some of my reading time has been taken by the television. We also have friends visiting and it's a bit rude to plug in an audiobook while everyone else chats.
Of the 7 books I read I didn't finish 3 of them! This is why the Audible Deal of the Day is sometimes a crap shoot. Marine One was my favorite of the group this month with The Easape coming in at a close second.
by David Baldacci
This is the 3rd in Baldacci’s John Puller series. In this one we get to spend time with his brother and learn all about how he was framed for espionage. The book opens with his escape from military prison. It’s another reliable Baldacci thriller with our action hero, John Puller and a trove of cliché military officers: men and women. I enjoy this genre and enjoyed this book. It was a little annoying that Baldacci insists on military form to call them by their last names. It’s gets confusing at times with 2 “Pullers”. But, hey there might be times when you would want 2 pullers.
Another note about this book is that it is “enhanced” with periodic music and sound effects. It drives me batty. What I love about books is that I get to define the characters and the scenes in my own imagination. When the music, gunshots or screeching tires are added it’s very jarring and distracting to me. Hachette does this routinely with their books. Every time I read one I send them an email and they used to reply that most of their customers like it. They don’t bother acknowledging me anymore. So, I’m curious. If you listen to audiobooks do you like the new trend of adding sound effects and music? (My ego is prepared to be on the wrong side of this vote.)
When Gods Die
by CS Harris
This is the second in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. These books are set in Regency England and the Price Regent is suspected of murder when the unfortunate Marchioness is found in his room. I like this one better than the first so will keep reading the series. I can’t, however, figure out what her book titles have to do with the books except there’s a point in the book where someone is asked if they believe in God. I guess she just likes very clever titles and I’m good with that.
I just discovered that she (Candace Proctor is her real name) has another series under the author CS Graham that is go-written with her husband. I’ll try one of those out soon.
No special sound effects in these books and the narrator, Davena Porter, is one of my all-time favorites.
Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything
by Professor Dorsey Armstrong
I love The Great Courses books and have learned a lot from them. I've also listened to a previous course by Professor Armstrong on King Arthur and it was one of my favorite of the series. But I can't recommend this one. She is trying to cover too much ground in one course. She addresses poetry, essays, rhetoric, drama, autobiography and I don't know what else because she lost me. It's really just an overview of successful writing concepts. I gave up half way through because it became a chore to listen to it.
By Laurie R King
What did I do to deserve 2 really bad books in a row?
This is another book in the Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series that I've been enjoying. I picked it specifically to follow the Analysis book so I'd have something fun to read. Holy cow. It's been a long time since I've been so bored by a book. I gave up at Chapter 11 (of 29) because we are still wandering the desert trying to figure out what's going on. I decided that I didn't care enough about what was going on so I left them in the desert to find their own way out.
by Anne Perry
This is the 3rd in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. This time Thomas is investigating the rape and murder of a young woman in the neighborhood where Charlotte's sister lived. I generally enjoy Anne Perry's books but this one was a bit of a let down. It couldn't have been more obvious from the beginning who did it. The writing just seemed a little lazy to me.
The books in the series are mostly under my 10 hour minimum so I probably won't read any others.
by James W. Huston
It's a dark and stormy night and the President needs to go to Camp David. Marine One is to take him. The helicopter crashes on the way there killing everyone inside, including the President. Now it's time to search for blame. The first target is the French manufacturer. They hire former helicopter pilot and attorney, Mike Nolan to help with their defense.
This book moves at a fast pace and there's a lot going on. It focuses mostly on the courtroom drama and proceedings leading up to the trial. It's very fast paced and a fun read.
by Mika Waltari
This is a historical fiction book that is meant to give us a walk through history via the travels of one character. I don't know if it was the narrator or the writing or both, but this book was horrible. The main character is supposedly a brilliant physician but is otherwise a bumbling idiot who just barely gets out of scrapes. it reminds me of a Christopher Moore book so much (the narration contributes to that feeling) that I kept expecting a laugh line. I gave up a little more than half way through.
Blame it on the Olympics. I had more TV time than book listening time in August but I still managed 7 books. I think my favorites were The Seamstress and Lee, both non-fiction. The non-fiction books are all continuation of series that I like.
Football watching season starts this weekend so I expect my book run rate to stay about the same as August for the next few months.
by Sara Tuvel Bernstein
This book was published in 1999 so I might be the last person to read it but it was worth the wait. It's the true story of Seren (Sara), a Jewish girl born in Romania and her fight for survival through the war and during her time in the Nazi camps. It's about the human ability to adapt and believe everything will be OK no matter the clues all around us. It's the story about the human ability and will to survive against all odds. It's about the human ability to survive all that and compartmentalize it enough to move on and build a happy and productive life. This books ranks up there with Unbroken as one of my all-time favorite books.
Her Final Breath
by Robert Dugoni
Tracey Crosswhite, a Seattle detective, is back in the second installment of the series. This time she is investigating a serial killer known as The Cowboy. He preys on exotic dancers. Her superior seems to be doing everything he can to thwart the investigation, including arresting the wrong person.
This is only the second Crosswhite book but I'm enjoying the series so far.
Great Mythologies of the World
The Great Courses
If you are interested in mythology then this is the book for you. It's a heavy "tome" of 31 hours. What I loved about it is that it's not just about Greek mythology. It's in 4 parts with 4 different lecturers. The first part covers Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The second part takes us to Africa. part 3 covers Asian and pacific myths and the last part covers the Americas. It's really fascinating since most of us aren't taught much beyond Greek mythology but it is a lot to absorb. But if you can get through it all it is an excellent comparison, especially of the different creation myths but you must be prepared that you are really getting a college course with this one.
by Ben Coes
After the college course I needed a book with some action and Dewey Andreas fit the bill. This is the second book in the Dewey series and it is action packed. We left Dewey on a station (ranch) in Australia. His nemesis from the first book is still hunting him to vindicate his son's death. Then the US comes calling to as him to force a Coup in Pakistan to save the region from nuclear annihilation. This is fast paced action from beginning to end. I liked it even better than the first one.
Lee: The Last Years
by Charles Flood
It turns out that this is the second book by Flood that I've read. Fortunately I didn't check my review of the first one before reading this one because I didn't care much for the book on Lincoln. This one, on the other hand, is very interesting.
The book opens with the surrender at Appomattox and follows his life until his death, not many years later. Most of that time was spent at Washington College (now Washington and Lee) and discusses the things he did to try to heal the rift between North and South and the ground-breaking changes that he introduced to education as president of WC. It's a very interesting book and I know that's a fact because the narration is rather weak. I wouldn't have been about to tolerate the narrator for a bad book.
The Skin Gods
by Richard Montanari
I would not want to meet Richard Montanari. I think he would totally creep me out. He takes psychopathic behavior to a whole new level and I wouldn't want to know how he dreams this stuff up.
The Skin Gods is #2 in the Byrne and Balzano series. This time the killer is recreating some of the most recognizable crime scenes from movies and he's doing it on the streets of Philadelphia.
If you like psychopathic killer stories you will want to read this series.
I wanted to love this book because the author is apparently an award-winning crime writer in Britain. I think the books has been oversold as a "thriller". It's not. It's a pretty good mystery, but it's not a thriller.
It takes place in the Shetland Islands and starts with the discovery of a dead teenager in a field on a cold and snowy winter day. What follows is a pretty good and typical mystery that eventually has you thinking that almost anyone, except suspect #1, did it.
What I loved about the book is that it's centered around a big annual even called Up Helly Aa. That would have meant absolutely nothing to me except for the fact that the Up Helly Aa Jarl Squad purchased fabric from me a while back for their squad banners. It was fun to read something about the event. It's like a big Ren Faire just for Vikings. Here are the banners from last year.
It's the last blog day of July so let's take a break from pebbling and mosaic to talk about books. It's interesting that my two favorite books this month are the first and last. They are listed here in the order I read them because I write the reviews in a draft post right after finishing each book. Otherwise, I'd forget what I wanted to say about them. There was a sufficient amount of mediocre writing this month but nothing that I absolutely hated. But if I could only give one recommendation it would be this first book.
Don't forget to leave your book recommendations in the comments and you are welcome to offer a differing opinion on any of my reviews.
by Adam Minter
If you can tolerate non-fiction books at all please read this one. Adam Minter grew up in the scrap business and later became a journalist who writes about environmental issues. The way we deal with our garbage is is passion. I know that sounds weird, but it's true.
You will learn so much about how trash is gathered, sorted, recycled, reused or dumped in a landfill and, in the end, you will be a much better consumer and dumper. We think that filling our recycle bins every week will "save the planet". While it's a fine effort it's pales in comparison to recycling old cars, appliances, electronics and Christmas Tree lights. Yes, Christmas tree light recycling is big business. Underlying it (and everything else in the world) is money and labor costs.
This book would be a great book for high school students to learn about economics, environmental issues and the importance of engineering all in one place.
by Christine Carbo
In May I read The Wild Inside, the first in her Glacier national park series. Well, I think it's a series. This one was definitely a follow up to The Wild Inside because it references that story and the main character is in both.
The problem is that the main character in this one is not Ted Systead. Instead it's about Monty Harris, the park police officer that helped him in the first book. Now Monty has been to a "few investigative refresher courses" and fancies himself an ace detective. He's incredibly self-important and, frankly, clueless. Fortunately, his "intuition" sends him in the right direction to help him solve the case. You will be very impressed at the the level of deep thinking he can do in stressed situations. (Sarcasm alert!)
This book includes every modern PC talking point available: neo-Nazi, endangered species, global warming, mental issues and Neanderthal men. They aren't necessary at all to the plot of the novel so it comes across as just so much propaganda.
Please pass this one up if you see it at your library.
The Edge of Lost
by Kristina McMorris
Do you like Kate Morton? If so I think you will love this. I expected this to be a light read but found myself completely immersed in the story and wanting to meet the characters.
It opens in Alcatraz in 1937 in the middle of an escape attempt. We are immediately taken back almost 20 years to Dublin where a young boy dreaming of coming to America.
by Don Weber and Charles Bosworth, Jr.
Well, this one isn't for everyone. It's a true crime story about Paula Sims who was arrested in the late 1980's for murdering her infant daughter...after being suspected of murdering another daughter 3 years earlier.
Do you watch Discovery ID frequently? If so, you will "enjoy" the book. You can Google Paula Sims if you want the quick story but if you want to know the details of how these investigations were run and how the prosecution case was put together, then you will want to read this. It wasn't boring at all but you have to avoid getting emotionally into the story because Paula and her husband are vile people.
Building a Better Vocabulary
The Great Courses
Professor Kevin Flanigan
Weeeellllllll, I got this book because my husband has a massive vocabulary, making me and my Bassett education feel inferior, and I thought this would be interesting. It truly was. Outside of teaching lots of vocabulary words, the value in this book is in the methods that he introduces for learning and retaining new words. It presents a profusion of words and you will need to treat it as a course, taking lessons incrementally to remember the new words. He goes through the lessons teaching words in related groups. Many of them, like Procrustean, are words you would never use unless you are actually trying to be a pilgarlic. But it was fun to learn even the useless words, especially the entymology.
If I had children I'd do the book as a family with a lesson a week. Honestly, it could be fun. Taking the lessons metered, instead of all at once, would make a couple of his habits much less annoying. He over-emotes words like "weeeeelllllll", "soooooooo", "becaaaaaauuuuse" and at the end of each lesson he give some situations for the words but he pronounces it as "siduation" and that drove me batty.
But it's still a great book.
By Vince Flynn
There's a word that I learned in the vocabulary book that I thought I'd never use but it kept coming to mind as I read this book. I kept thinking that this book is agitprop for the Special Forces. Several members of congress have been murdered over the budget legislation (I kid not) and they are making demands on the President and remaining members of congress to fix the budget or more will die.
I love Vince Flynn and especially the Mitch Rapp character. I'm not sure when this was written but it's pre-Mitch but does introduce some of the characters, like Irene Kennedy, from the Rapp series.
Yes, most books are a lot of fantasy and you have to let go and flow with the story. But I do not accept that a member of the press knows exactly what's happening and who is doing it and stays quiet about it FOREVER. It's ludicrous.
I like the word ludicrous. I knew it but didn't use it much. I'm going to use it more often thanks to the vocabulary book.
by Winston Groom
Term Limits gave me a good break from the cerebral vocabulary study but, after reading it, I was ready for serious again. The Aviators was the right choice because it didn't require studying. It only required the ability to be amazed.
The Aviators are Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Charles Lindbergh. We've all heard their names and know some of their stories but this book fills in all of the gaps. The book tells the life stories of all three me. They don't necessarily overlap, although they all served in WWII, but you get a sense for the unique contributions of each and how they contributed to the great technical advances in flight and the edge it gave the Allies to win the war. This is how I like to study history, through the individuals that are remembered as key contributors.
If you like reading history, you will enjoy this book and these men.
The Black Country
By Alex Grecian
This is the second book in "The Murder Squad" series about Scotland yard detective in Victorian England. I read the first one, The Yard, 2 months ago. I liked that one well enough but I'm not as enthusiastic about this one. Detectives Day and Hammersmith, along with Dr. Kingsley are sent to the Midlands, aka Black Country because of the coal industry, to investigate a case of a missing family.
The story is quite disjointed. No one in town will talk. Is it because they are superstitious (because it's always fun to throw in a superstition storyline) or sick. The whole town is built on top of abandoned mine tunnels so they have periodic earthquake-like tremors from the buildings sinking into the tunnels. And, oh, by the way, half the town is sick. And, oh, by the way, there's a person stalking the woods that looks like a monster. And, oh, by the way, the 3 remaining children know what happened so they are lying to everyone AND they refuse to drink the water.
Ultimately, it was a good plot but it suffered in the telling. The whole superstition angle could have been completely left out because it contributed nothing to the story line.
by David C. Taylor
This is the 1st book in a noir mystery series by David C. Taylor. He was a screen writer for years and published this, his first novel, at the age of 70. Michael Cassidy is a cop in 1950's NYC and he finds himself on a case that puts him in too close to the KGB, FBI and the McCarthy hearings. As you would expect, the writing and dialogue is excellent and the story keeps you hooked. I enjoyed this one and see that his second book in the series is available.
The Short Drop
by Matthew Fitzsimmons
Hmmmm, what to say about this one.
This is a political thriller about a 10 year old case of the missing daughter of the, now, Vice President, Benjamin Lombard. Gibson Vaughn was the son of the Lombard's former chief of staff (until his suicide) and Gibson grew up with Suzanne. After his father's death Gibson hacked into Lombard's political files and ended up convicted and serving out his punishment in the Marines. It's 10 years later and Lombard's former security adviser says there's new information in Suzanne's case.
Got all that? It sounds like the basis for a very good thriller and it has great reviews. But I did not like it. Of course the politicians are completely unlikable and I'm grateful to the author for not using this as a political vehicle. You never know which party the VP is aligned with. But I don't know if the story is too contrived, or the characters are completely unlikable across the board, or what my problem was but I almost didn't finish because I just did not care how it ended. I just wanted it over. There's sequel coming out soon. I think I'll skip it.
The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
by Robert Garland
All in all, this was an interesting perspective on history and one we always miss in traditional history lessons. I was really looking forward to hearing about the lives of everyday people in ancient societies. It was presented clearly and covered pre-historic to late middle ages. However, Robert Garland's affected tone got to me after a while. I forgot just how pompous some professors sound. I also got tired of the worn out Beatles references and his blatant liberal comparisons to modern society were unwarranted and, frankly, mistaken. He would have been much better not to editorialize but seemed exceedingly anxious to prove that he is a feminist and stands strong with the modern woman. For example, when talking about women as having no rights or identity he compares it to colonial America implying that it was the last bastion of female inequality. There are plenty of societies with this exact same view of women today and they operate basically the same as they did thousands of years ago. There's no mention of that though.
Another example was talking about infanticide in Spartan and other cultures and talking about it as if it was a bad thing. He doesn't mention that this practice was government sanctioned in China not that long ago and all Western cultures willing abort children every day. What makes ours "right" and theirs "wrong"? That would have been a more interesting (and accurate) comparison and discussion if he's so intent on making comparisons. Either both situation are acceptable or they are not. But you can't place shame on the Spartans (they abandoned any babies that were deformed or deemed non-viable for "the good of the community") and not apply the same logic to us who do it for the good of the woman and her choices.
He misses some great opportunities to show that we haven't evolved as much as we think but was too focused on bashing modern Western (particularly American) culture.
The subject matter was very interesting but it suffered in the telling and editorializing. He should have told it from the contemporary point of view without comparing it to modern civilizations.
Say You're Sorry
by Michael Robotham
This is the 6th book in the Joe O'Loughlin series. This series is set in contemporary England and Joe is a clinical psychologist who keeps getting pulled into horrible situations.
This one opens with a fire and 2 deaths at a house and the disabled handyman is initially blamed. They bring on Joe to assess the handyman. Meanwhile a dead girl is found in a lake and it's determined that she is one of 2 girls that have been missing for 3 years.
I pebbled feverishly throughout this book. In fact, I recommend it for any tedious repetitive work you are doing. It will keep your mind very occupied while your hands do whatever boring task they need to. Plug in this book and you could have every window in your house clean in no time. I couldn't put it down.
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.
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