We're back from our 2 beautiful weeks in Maine and 2 weeks away from blogging or anything that even whiffs of "work". It was a great break but it's now time to play catch up. Usually I post the book reviews on the last day of the month but today's my first day back and I'm a little behind.
The highlights this month are all non-fiction. My reading order now mostly relies on when books become available from the library and that meant non-fiction this month. Rasputin, Bad Blood and Benjamin Franklin were all great reads. Bad Blood reads like a novel. You have to remind yourself that this really happened!
What good books have you read lately?
By John Carryrou, Narrated By Will Damron
Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction and that's certainly the truth in this case. This book is about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos. Theranos was supposed to revolutionize blood testing with the claim that their blood testing process could replace vials of blood with just the blood from a finger prick. The whole thing was a fraud and Elizabeth Holmes will go on trial for criminal charges next July.
I was reading some commentary about this case and there's a lot of accusations of white privilege. I actually think it's more if a case of pretty girl privilege. People were so desperate to have some female success/leadership in Silicon Valley that they were willing to believe anything she said. She appealed to a lot of once powerful men (George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, etc.) who were completely enthralled by her.
It was George Schultz's grandson who eventually helped bring her down. For me, this is one of the best business-gone-bad books since Anatomy of Greed about the Enron scandal. Will Damron was the perfect narrator. It was fun to go to YouTube to watch referenced interviews as I was reading the book.
The Night Ranger
By Alex Berenson, Narrated By George Guidall
This is the 7th in the John Wells series. Wells is now retired from the CIA when he receives a call from his estranged son, Evan. One of Evan's friends has been kidnapped in Somalia while working for an aid organization. Evan asks him to find his friend and the 3 other kidnapped aid workers.
This is another series in the vein of Dewey Andreas, jack Ryan, Mitch Rapp and others. It's very fast paced and wonderfully narrated by George Guidall. This has become one of my go-to reliable series when I just need a great adventure.
While researching this book I found that Berenson has written a non-fiction book called Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence. It's less than 7 hours but it has almost a perfect 5-star review so you might see it on a future reading list. If you have children or grand-children you might want to check it out.
By Doglas Smith, Narrated By P. J. Ochlan
Thanks to Diane's husband for the recommendation to read this book. This was published on the centenary of Rasputin's death a few years ago. There can't possibly be a more thorough or thoroughly researched history of Rasputin.
I know very little about Russian history but I gather that this book corrects many false beliefs about Rasputin, his life and his influence over the royal family.
It's a very interesting book but it's 33 hours so there's a LOT of detail. Smith is a Russian historian and has written this for people who are seriously interested in history. I learned a lot of things that I didn't know before but for this casual history lover, it could have been edited by about a third and I would have loved it. I don't regret reading it but by the end it did turn into a bit of a job.
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated By Kenny Blyth
This is the 7th book in the Shetland murder series. It's a rainly winter in Lerwick and Jimmy Perez is attending the funeral of a local man when a landslide sweeps a small house towards the sea. The house is expected to be uninhabited but they find the body of a beautiful woman in a red silk dress. That starts a new murder investigation.
These books are well written but the general plot of this book was almost identical to the last book: multiple murders, locals suspect someone other than the real killer and the killer is introduced in such a different way (he has a different story about the woman) that it's clear who the murderer is.
But there's only one more book in this series so I will likely read it just to finish things off.
The Limehouse Text
By Will Thomas, Narrated By Anthony Ferguson
This is the 3rd in the Barker and LLewelyn series. Set in Victorian England, Barker and Llewelyn are very much like Holmes and Watson. In this book Barker finds a pawn ticket among the effects of his late assistant. The pawn shop is in the Chinese district of London, Limehouse and the ticket is for a rare Chinese text.
Barker uses his skills as a private enquiry agent to navigate through this dangerous area of London to determine where the book belongs and solve several murders along the way.
It's a nice easy read and Barker and Llewelyn are quite likable. If you like Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and the like you will enjoy this series.
The Thirteenth Tale
By Diane Setterfield, Narrated By Ruthie Henshall and Lynn Redgrave
Several months ago I read Once Upon a River and loved it. It's one of my all-time favorite books. The Thirteenth Tale is probably her most well-known book so I was looking forward listening to it. Unfortunately I didn't catch that my library bough the abridged version! I really hate abridged books and that was enforced by the choppiness of this tale.
The story is about a reclusive author, Vida Winter and the daughter of a rare bookseller, Margaret Lea. Vida is most well known for a collection of 12 stories and her life story is going to be the thirteenth tale. She's selected Margaret Lea as her biographer because she somehow knows that Margaret has a troubled past beginning with discovering that she was actually a conjoined twin. Vida's story also has a twin aspect to it.
I didn't really enjoy this book although Setterfiend's writing is beautiful. But I think the problem was with the abridged version. Had I read the full length book I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more but now that I know the ending I don't think I'd go back and read it.
By Richard Russo, Narrated By Fred Sanders
This is the first Russo book that I've ever read and I understand that he's a very popular author. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this book.
The story is about Lincoln, Mich and Teddy. They met at a elite Eastern college in the late 60's and all worked serving food at a sorority and became best friends with Jacy Calloway, one of the sisters. Of course, they are all in love with her but she's engaged to a boy of her same social circle.
In 1971 they all go to Martha's Vineyard before Mick has to leave to join the Army and go to Vietnam. During that weekend Jacy disappears. No one seems to have ever done any real investigation of her disappearance.
It's 45 years later and for some odd reason they are getting back together at the house. They never kept in touch so I still don't know why any of them wanted to reconnect for a 3 day weekend out of the blue. They don't seem to have kept in touch at all in the intervening years.
What follows is a bunch of rehashing the past and speculation about what happened to Jacy. I read this on vacation so I kept asking Chris, Ian and Dave if guys would behave in the way the men in this book behave. It just seemed weird. In fact I'd almost say that the book was written with female characters but the editor though it was time for a male soul-searching book and they just tansgendered every character. It wasn't a bad story but it was not quite right.
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
By Walter Isaacson, Narrated By Nelson Runger
Chris and I picked this book to listen to during our drive to and from Maine. It's over 24 hours long so it's a investment but worth every minute of it.
I became an Isaacson fan with his Steve Jobs biography. He writes a great book and Franklin was no exception. Franklin has to be one of the most fascinating people in American history. You don't realize the vast influence he had over forming the new country until you get the entire story in one place.
I loved every minute of this book.
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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.