As I look back on the month this was a very non-fiction heavy month. In non-fiction I really enjoyed The Eighth Sister and The Perfume Collector. In non-fiction my favorites were Shoe Dog and Chase Darkness With Me. But the most important book that I read was Scam Me If You Can. I highly recommend it to everyone.
I didn't read as much as usual this month but that's because we've been having fun with our visiting friends. They leave next week so I'll have lots of reading time in February.
What ahve you read lately that you would recommend?
By Phil Knight, Read By Norbert Leo Butz
I've been hearing about this book for a couple of years and I'm so glad I finally read it. It's so popular that almost 4 years after publication there's still a waiting list at my library. Simply, it's the story of the idea and building of Nike. What started as an idea in business school to import high quality, affordable running shoes from Japan eventually became the Goliath of sports apparel, Nike.
For those who think that rich people are evil and do not deserve their rewards, this would be a good read. It chronicles the decades of effort, sacrifice and risk that was required to build a successful shoe business. He never had a plan to build Nike as we know it but the perseverance and talent of the team he gathered eventually became Nike.
This is a great book for college business students, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in a good old American success story. It's not just about business. It's actually more about the relationships that are at the heart of this successful business. I couldn't put it down.
Some Choose Darkness
By Charlie Donlea
This is the second book that I've read from Donlea and the 4th he's written. His books aren't really murder mysteries. Instead they are stories that delve into the minds and motivations of murderers. There's always an element of going back and forth in time to perfectly explain a clue that's just been found. I'm not normally a fan of the time switching but he handles it really well.
In this one Rory Moore is a forensic reconstructonist who can masterly reconstruct and solve old murders. She's about to start a new one when her father dies. In clearing out his legal cases she finds one for "The Thief" who was convicted of murdering his wife, Angela, and is suspected in a series of messing women in 1979. He's up for parole and the judge forces her (also a lawyer) to handle the case because it's been delayed so many times. She begins to reconstruct Angela's last days and finds things that she may not want to know. I enjoyed it.
By Amaryllis Fox, Read by the author
I've got really mixed feelings about this book. Fox joined the CIA shortly after college. She was first approached by clandestine services while a student at Oxford but turned that down. She was approached by the CIA while in graduate school in the US. This is her story of her life as a covert field agent in the CIA.
It's very interesting and seems like it could be real but in the epilogue it's made clear that the events and people are all changed. That makes sense because I couldn't see any situation where the CIA would have allowed this book to be published with that kind of detail. I didn't find anything to be too surprising except that life of a covert agent is a lot more interesting in novels.
I expect that she was recruited mostly because she was from a wealthy family, she's VERY smart and has traveled extensively throughout the world. It seemed easy for her to create her backstory because it could have easily been her real life. What the CIA taught her was how to have a few clandestine meetings and evade tracking. It was interesting.
Once again I have to stress this point: AUTHORS SHOULD NOT NARRATE THEIR OWN BOOKS!
Along the Broken Bay
By Flora J Soloman, Read by Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Set in Manila in 1941 when the Japanese invade the Philippines, this is a novel about Gina Thorpe. Gina and her daughter escape to the mountains and she begins helping the Guerrilla fighters. Eventually she moves back to Manila to join an underground army of smugglers.
Meanwhile she awaits word of her husband who is assumed to be in a POW camp.
I love historical fiction but this wasn't one of my favorites. It's not bad, but not great. I felt like the Gina character was often an idiot and wouldn't have survived in the real world of Manila at that time. I also felt that some of the events/actions weren't true to that time. For example, a telegram with full sentences. That never happened because you paid by the word so no one included "a" and "the". Telegrams were more akin to text messages today.
The reader gets great reviews on Audible but I really didn't like her. Her voice is too soft and she should be narrating romance novels instead.
Chase Darkness With Me
Written and read by Billy Jensen
Billy Jensen investigates unsolved murders and has a podcast called The Murder Squad with retired cold case investigator, Paul Holes. I didn't really know what I was getting into with this book. It was a sale book on Audible and I love the ID channel and true crime stories so I gave it a try. It tuned out to be a fun listen.
Billy tells parts of the story of his life to explain how he got into this line of work and then details steps he took in several of the cases that he's worked. Much of the book also covers The Golden State Killer because it was investigated by a friend of his and was the first case solved with genealogy using related DNA.
It turns out that this is also a "how to" book. At the end he gives great advice on how to get into assisting with case investigations. It was a fun read.
The Eighth Sister
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Eduardo Ballerini
This is the in a new series featuring Charles Jenkins, a retired CIA case officer. He now has security consulting business that he and his wife run and it's not doing well. His major client is behind in paying.
His former bureau chief shows up and asks him to travel undercover to Russia to determine why members a cell of long time embedded spies are being murdered. They are called the 7 sisters.
Robert Dugoni has become one of my favorite authors and I'd listen to Eduardo Ballerini read the phone book. This was fast paced and full of action and the scenes are sharp.
Scam Me If You Can
By Frank Abagnale, Read by Jason Culp
Frank Abagnale is one of the greatest scam artists of all time. He was prolific in his late teens and early 20's before he was finally caught and jailed. He was played by Leonardo DiCaprio on the 2002 movie, Catch Me If You Can.
Since his release (he's in his 60's now) he's been working in the security industry helping companies avoid hacking and scams.
Buy this book (it will be better in paper than audio), read it and then pass it on to everyone in your family to read it. It will be the best thing that you do this year. Read it even if you think you are totally scam proof. I read a lot on the topic of personal security and feel like I am pretty well educated in this arena but I learned several new things from this book.
The Perfume Collector
By Kathleen Tessaro
1955, London: Grace Monroe is married and a member of the best social circles. Her life seems idyllic. One evening she receives a letter from Paris that she has received an inheritance only she has no idea who her benefactor, Eva d'Orsay, is.
So begins her journey to Paris to discover the source of this inheritance. Eva's story begins in 1920's New York and is told through 3 perfumes that she inspired.
If you are a fan of Kate Morton, you will enjoy The Perfume Collector.
Written and read by Scott Adams
I've always thought that Dilbert was brilliant. It's clear that Scott Adams is really a philosopher in the way that Dilbert responds to situations that we are all too familiar with. This is his philosophy on critical thinking.
This is a short book (6 hours) but I was able to get it from the library and decided to give it a try. It's a really interesting primer on critical thinking. If you know someone who spends all day in a news bubble they might benefit from this book.
It's the last book report of the year! If my spreadsheet is right, I read 109 books this year and my total since 1995 (when I started keeping records) is 1446. That's all pretty meaningless but the accountant in me likes keeping track. I think that half of my books this year came from the library so I've saved about $400 off my Audible bill and that stat isn't meaningless at all!
This month my favorite book, hand down, is Me by Elton John. What good books have you read lately? What was your favorite book this year? It's hard for me to choose but if pressed I'd probably name Once Upon a River as my favorite fiction book and Sapiens as my favorite non-fiction.
By Elton John, Read By Taron Egerton
What a great book! Imagine that you are at a dinner party with a great storyteller and you don't want the evening to end. That's how I felt listening to this book. It's clear that Elton John has reached a point in his life where he's perfectly happy. Because of that he was able to look back on his life with honestly and humor. It's an amazing life and he's lucky to be alive.
If you like music history, Elton John music or just love a good biography you should read this book. The narrator is OUTSTANDING. There were times when I thought that Elton was reading the book. It makes sense because Taron Egerton was the person who played Elton in the musical Rocketman.
Down the River unto the Sea
By Walter Mosley, Read by Dion Graham
Walter Mosley is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely love is Easy Rawlins series. This novel introduces a new character, Joe King Oliver. Oliver is a former NYPD investigator who was framed and ended up in solitary at Rikers. The novel starts 10 years later when he's a private detective. He's received a card in the mail from the woman who was paid to frame him. Now he's investigating his own case along with the case of a black radical journalist accused of killing 2 police officers.
Mosely is a master of creating memorable and sympathetic characters even when those characters live on the "edge" of society.
The Ride of a Lifetime
By Robert Iger
I love non-fiction but generally avoid contemporary autobiographies because I think it's difficult for people to be truly honest in telling their own stories. In this book Iger did a masterful job of really avoiding telling much personal information and that's OK.
Iger has been the CEO of Disney for over 15 years and this book tells the story of the instinct, dedication and just plain hard work it takes to run a company as big as Disney. During his tenure Disney acquired Pixar, Lucasfilms, Marvel and 21st Century Fox. They also opened a Disney park in Shanghi.
Through the book you get an understanding of just how long deals like these take to complete and integrate. For someone new in business or studying business this would be a very valuable book to read. There's some great advice for people who manage teams and projects. I enjoyed it.
What Rose Forgot
By Nevada Barr, Read By Kate Burton
Rose Dennis is a hippie step-grandmother who wakes up in a hospital gown in a field. Two boys on bicycles find her and return her to the Alzheimer's Unit in a nursing home. She knows something is wrong when she overhears someone saying that she will not last the week.
She avoids taking her medication to keep her head clear so she can escape. After escaping from the nursing home and hiding out at her home, someone tries to murder her. But Grandma is one tough cookie and thwarts the murder attempt.
Her computer expert sister, Marion, and granddaughter, Mel help her find out who is after her while someone is determined to kill her.
It's not a great book but hippie Grandma as heroine was refreshing. I don't think it was intended but the book was quite funny and would make a great movie.
By Mason Cross, Read By Eric Meyers
This is the 3rd book in the Carter Blake series. 5 years ago Carter Blake left the secret government organization Winterlong. Now one of the people who made a deal with him to leave him alone for his silence has decided that he can't risk the deal any longer. He's set out to eliminate Blake.
Lots of action and Blake is a fun character but there's confusion in the writing. The story skips between many events are different times and, maybe because of the audio format, it's a little difficult to keep track.
Although the writing isn't as good as it should be it kept my interest and I might keep reading the series. I think it is important to read these books in order.
Upstairs at the White House
By J. B. West, Read By Jason Martin
This bookwas first published in 1973 and was a best seller for months. Mr. West was the Chief Usher at the White house and was the person closest to the President's family. His tenure at the White House covered the Presidencies from Roosevelt to Nixon.
It's not a salacious laundry airing but an honest look at what life in the White House was like for the First Families. You learn what the residents were like as people and how the White House is run. I found it very interesting.
The Girls in the Garden
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Colleen Premdergast
This is the third Jewell book that I've read this year. It's my least favorite but still a good book.
The setting is a community garden in London. Everyone fees that their children are safe until a midsummer's night party when Grace is found dead. What unfolds is background on family relationships in the neighborhood, some history about a previous death and jealous relationships among the teens in the neighborhood.
I enjoyed the story but it was a bit difficult to follow all of the characters in the book, especially the teens.
The Night Fire
By Michael Connelly
Read by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin
This is #22 in the Bosch series and #3 in the Ballard series.
Harry's mentor John Jack Thompson has died and his widow gives Harry a murder book that Thompson took with him when he retired. It looks like no work was ever really done on it. Bosch takes it to Ballard to help him work it. They soon discover that he may have taken the book so that it never got solved.
Adding Renee Ballard has kept the Bosch series fresh and moving forward. There are secondary investigations and precinct politics to add to the story.
An Obvious Fact
By Craig Johnson, Read By George Guidall
It's been a few years since I've read a Walt Longmire novel. They don't meet my 10 hour minimum for purchase from Audible but I've discovered that my library has them. They are a good light read so I picked this one to read this weekend between football games and spending time with our visitors.
The TV series kind of ruined the book series for me because I didn't like several of the casting choices in the series but I love George Guidall as a narrator for Walt.
In this middle of the Sturgis motorcycle rally a young motorcyclist is run off the road and ends up in critical condition. Walt is asked to help investigate. Henry Standing Bear and Vic are along to assist. This one involves an old love of Henry's, Lola.
These books aren't high literature but I really enjoy the banter and clever dialogue and they are very entertaining.
I've been watching a lot of football this month so my reading time has been restricted some. But I still made it through 8 books. It's was a pretty mediocre month of books but I loved Bloody Genius and Watching You.
What have you been reading?
By Jennifer Weiner, Read By Ari Graynor and Beth Manone
Two sisters grow up in 1950's Detroit and we follow them through their lives to modern times. In their journey they experience every possible feminist/progressive conundrum: religious discrimination, racism, sexual molestation/rape, lesbianism, interracial relationships, drug culture, free love and the predictable consequences, motherhood (or not), etc.
The author envisions that she is presenting a modern day Little Women and goes so far as to name her characters Jo and Beth and then makes them so self-absorbed that they aren't particularly likable. They don't seem particularly self-aware or aware of the consequences their actions have on themselves or others. As young people, don't seem to really give their decisions a lot of thought to begin with. They both are followers and fall into relationships or groups almost by happenstance. One part that really bothered me was Beth (as an adult) blaming Jo for something that happened to her when they were both teens that Jo didn't know about but, when she did find out, helped her fix. The meltdown later in life was unfair and unrealistic.
It's not a bad book but it's not great. It's really predictable and is clearly written to appeal to and fire up the modern day feminist. It seems to convey a message that consequences are unfair and that sentiment certainly feeds from current social thought.
Two things I found really interesting. One is that there are lots of sex scenes but the only ones described in detail are the lesbian scenes. Scenes between men and women are glossed over. I feel like she was doing that purposely to try to make certain readers particularly uncomfortable and I think it's a cheap trick.
Secondly, aside from their strong father, the book is all about women from start to finish. In the end there seems to finally be some family peace and it all centers on a little boy. That doesn't seem so feminist after all. Women can't get along without men in their lives?
The Fifth Column
By Andrew Gross, Ready By Eduardo Ballerini (my favorite narrator)
This is the third book that I've read from Andrew Gross. I almost didn't read it because it didn't meet my 10-hour minimum but I got it from the library (free) and that made it OK. :)
The fifth column is a term used to refer to any group that works to undermine a larger group from within. In this case it's Nazi sympathizers in NYC in 1940 working to wage war on the US from within.
Charles Mossman is 2 years out of jail from a drunken mistake and trying to rebuild a relationship with his 6 year old daughter and get his life back together. He comes to suspect that the kind Swiss neighbors are actually part of a sinister Nazi conspiracy. The problem is that Charles has no credibility and no one believes him. Once Pearl Harbor happens the conspiracy is activated and Charles is the only one who can see it but now his daughter is in danger.
This isn't as good as Button Man partly because Charles isn't a very sympathetic character. He makes a lot of bad and naive decisions that you can see coming from a mile away. But it's well written and a good story.
A Beautiful Place to Die
By Malla Nunn, Read By Saul Reichlin
This is the 1st in the Emmanuel Cooper series. The book is set in 1952 South Africa and Cooper is sent to a remote town ti investigate the murder of the local police captain. It is set the early days of Apartheid so the plot is complicated by the relationships between black, white and blended South Africa.
I have mixed feelings about the book. I liked the characters and the plot but for some reason I had a hard time sticking with it. It seemed to take some work to keep up. I'm not sure I'll read others in the series although I did enjoy having a totally different setting and environment for a story.
Behind Her Eyes
By Sarah Pinborough, Read By various readers
This book was recommended by a friend. I read the summary and didn't think I would like it (because it's not my genre) but I decided to give it a try when I saw that I could get it from the library for free.
Louise is a single Mom and a secretary. One night she meets a man in a bar and she feels a deep attraction. They only kiss and then he's gone until she arrives at work the following Monday and finds out he's her new boss. She meets his wife, Adele, while they are on a tour of the clinic offices. Later she bumps into Adele and they become friends. Now she's involved in both of their lives.
One the one hand it's a love triangle but it's also a dark psychological thriller. I was good with it up to that point and about half way through I realized that there was going to be a need to dispense with reality. I'll only say that there's an exploration of lucid dreams. Once I saw that coming I searched the web to find out the ending, realized that I would hate it and I stopped reading. I don't even like the idea of Disneyland's made up world as a vacation idea so this book was never really going to appeal to me.
All that said, if you like psychological thrillers or fantasy/mystical books I think you would really enjoy this. It's a very unique storyline and it's well written. It's just not my bag.
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Gabrielle Glaister
I don't know which of you is responsible for introducing me to Lisa Jewell but, thank you. I've found a new "must read" author. This is the second Jewell book I've read and I really enjoyed both of them.
Set on an upscale street in fictional Melville Heights in Bristol, England amid the famous painted houses. The cast of characters include Tom Fitzwilliam, local school headmaster, his wife and teen aged son who likes to spy on people in the area. Joey Mullen, newly married and living with her brother and pregnant SIL, a student with a mother who thinks that Tom is spying on her and a student with a crush on Tom. It's all complex and integrated but not so complex that you can't follow it.
You know early on what happened at the end but you don't know who or why. I was hooked by this very clever book. The narrator was excellent too. I'm off to reserve another Jewell book at the library.
Songs of Willow Frost
By Jamie Ford, Read By Ryan Gesell
This is my second book by Ford. I absolutely loved the first one, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
This one is similar. It's set in Depression-era Seattle and centers on a young boy who has been living in Sacred heart Orphanage since his mother's body was carried away from their apartment 5 years ago. One day he and the other orphans are taken to a local theater where he sees the actress Willow Frost and he's convinced that she is his mother.
He and his blind friend, Charlotte, escape to find her.
I didn't think it was a good as his first book but it's still good. It's quite dark and I feel like he has done a lot of research into the reality of life for Chinese people in Seattle during that time.
The Child Finder
By Rene Denfeld, Read By Alyssa Bresnahan
This another example of a book that I took a risk on simply because I could get it free from the library. I was underwhelmed.
The premise is good. Madison Culver has been missing for 3 years in Oregon's Skoookum National Forest. She would be 8 years old now. Naomi is everyone's last hope. She's known as The Child Finder because of "unique" investigative techniques to find missing children. Naomi was once a missing child herself.
As she searches for Madison (and another child recently missing) she starts to remember things from her own past.
This would have been really good if Naomi used techniques that are actually different and special. Her techniques are very basic investigative techniques and there's no way those techniques wouldn't have been used by the real investigators 3 years earlier. The community is also small and people would have noticed the things that she was asking about all on their own.
Abduction is a pretty dark topic so be prepared if you decided to read this one.
By John Sandford, Read By Eric Conger
I've been waiting for this book for weeks from the library. This is #12 in the Virgil Flowers series. At a local university a renowned researcher is found dead at the library. After the investigation languishes for 2 weeks Virgil is called in to assist.
There are ideological zealots, ex-wives and a daughter among the possible suspects.
Like all Sandford novels it's fast paced and funny. It was a good ending to the month.
Next up is Elton John's autobiography.
You can tell that it's football season because I only read 8 books this month! I also had several days of down time as I replaced my phone and had to get the new one set up. But I'm mostly happy with my 8 choices. I was only unhappy with The Perfect Horse. The month was a little heavy on psychological thrillers but the month ended on a hilarious note with Campusland.
What have you read this month that you would recommend?
The Home Front
An Audible Original
As an Audible member I get access to a couple of free books each month. I rarely listen to one because they are generally only a few hours long and not on topics that I'm interested in. But this one caught my interest.
It is a compilation of interviews done during WWII of the people at home. You get a first hand view of rationing, women going to work, types of war time jobs and other aspects of living during war times. It was interesting to hear the thoughts and opinions of the people who were there.
The Perfect Horse
By Wlizabeth Letts, Read By Paul Boehmer
Letts wrote one of my favorite books, The Eighty Dollar Champion, so I was excited to read another of her books. Unfortunately this one didn't do it for me.
The story is a cool one. During WWII the Nazi's stole the famous Lipizzaner stallions. The plan was to build a master race of stallions but near the end of the war the horses were in danger of being killed for food. The US captured a Nazi spy and discovered photographs of the horses in his briefcase. That set of a chain of events that resulted in an effort to rescue the stallions.
I loved her first book because it was all about a relationship between one man and his horse. This one is more of a history story and just didn't hold my attention. I was also a bit disturbed by the focus on the horses when so much human suffering was going on all around. In defense of the decision to rescue the horses, the military group sent for the rescue was small. If you like horses and history you might enjoy this one.
The Kind Worth Killing
By Peter Swanson, Read By several narrators
On a flight from London to Boston Ted and Lily meeting in the concourse bar and start sharing intimate details about their lives. Ted reveals that his wife, Miranda, is cheating on him and that he would kill her if he could. Lily offers to help. As the story unfolds we are treated to flashbacks from both of their lives and we learn that Lily has a background in murder.
This is like Gone Girl but better. Don't read it before bed through.
A Noise Downstairs
By Linwood Barclay, Read By George Newbern
I'm not sure how I would up reading 2 psychological thriller back to back but that's how it works sometimes with library holds. You get them when you get them.
I've read several Barclay books before, my favorite being No Time For Goodbye. I didn't feel this one was quite as good but it wasn't awful.
Paul Davis is a boring college professor, a real "good guy". One night he happens upon a crime being committed by a coworker. The coworker attacks him but he is saved by an arriving police officer. After months of physical healing he is now seeing a therapist for emotional healing. Then a bunch of weird things start happening. There are several twists but, honestly, I figured most of it out early on in the book and I'm not usually good at that.
By Debbie Herbert, Read By various readers
This is the first in a new psychological thriller series set in Normal, AL.
Fourteen year old Violet's friend, Ainsley, is missing and presumed dead. Everyone in this small town suspects Violet but Violet remembers nothing. She ends up in psychiatric hospitals until she's 21. Once released she returns to Normal to help her evil sister care for her father with dementia.
The story is narrated by each of the characters and it turns out that each character is to varying degrees, despicable. The town is full of secrets and it's time they all come out in the open. Lots of twists, some of which are just a twist too far. If you like psychological thrillers you might enjoy this one.
By Timothy Winegard, Read By Mark Deakins
If you have read any history you know that there's almost always a disease angle. This book makes me think that someone created an elaborate Excel spreadsheet of historical events and then created a Pivot table of deaths caused by disease (vs injury) and had a "holy crap" moment of realization that the mosquito is our apex predator. According to this book, it's estimated that the mosquito is responsible for the deaths of 52 billion people out of a total of 108 billion in out history. That's a darned good success rate and makes me want to order gallons of DEET because mosquitoes absolutely adore me.
This is your basic world and American history course taught from the perspective of the mosquito's influence on historical events from the fall of Rome, Genghis Khan, fall of Scotland to England, Spanish conquests of America, American Revolution, etc. He also talks about current research into mosquito/mosquito disease eradication efforts like CRISPR. All in all, it's a pretty interesting read.
Contrast that with another history book that I've tried to read recently. How To Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr has outstanding reviews but is one of the most boring books I've tried to read. I've found it's perfect for bedtime listening. I turn it on with a timer and I'm asleep in no time.
By Belinda Bauer, Read by Andrew Wincott
Eleven year old Jack and his sisters are left in the car while their Mother goes to call for help. She says she will be right back and she leaves Jack in charge. Little does he know that he will be in charge forever now.
Three years later his father has disappeared and Jack is in charge of supporting himself and his two sisters. He's also just figured out what happened to his mother.
This isn't a standard mystery. There are instead some seemingly unrelated threads that cross over and come together throughout the book. Bauer writes truly unique stories. The start of this one was a little difficult for me to keep organized but everything came together and I was riveted until the end.
By Scott Johnston, Narrated By Casey Turner
What a breath of fresh air this book was for me. It's a laugh out loud satire of current campus absurdities.
Lulu Harris, a wealthy socialite wannabe has arrived at the elite Devon University and is not happy with her tiny closet and shared dorm room. She's much more interested in her social media followers than on education. Eph Russel is her 19th Century English class and Red Wheeler is a trust fund baby in his 7th year and fancies himself the most woke guy on campus. Rounding it all out is Mitlon Strauss, campus president who thinks that he expertly manages aggrieved student groups, billionaire donors, petty faculty and the high paid Dean of Diversity and Inclusion.
I'm honestly not sure that it's all satire but it's hilariously funny unless you are triggered by satire. The narrator is a little annoying, especially at first. She eventually grew on me but if you read and listen to books you might want to read this one.
Even a mediocre book is better than no book and that point is proven over and over in September. You are about to read a lot of negative. It just wasn't my best month for picking books. I think that's because most of this month's selections came from the library. When I buy books from Audible I try to make sure that it's a book that I will love, after all I'm paying for it. I allow myself more risks in book selection from the library because they are "free". A couple were to try out new authors and now I know that these authors aren't my cup of tea and that's OK. Only one book was bad enough to just stop reading but a couple of others I did speed up to get them over with!
All that said, the month ended on a really good note with Johnny Cash, Boys Life and Flash Boys.
What books do you have to recommend to the rest of us this month?
An Elegant Defense
By Matt Richtel, Narrated By Fred Sanders
Being an allergic person, I'm fascinated by the workings of the immune system so I was looking forward to this book. It's about the current science around the immune system and is told through 4 patients: someone who has natural immunity against HIV/AIDS, someone with rheumatoid arthritis, someone with lymphoma and someone with lupus. the primary "character" is Jason, his childhood friend. Jason has recurring lymphoma.
Some diseases are a result of something overpowering or taking control of our immune systems and some diseases are a result of our immune systems overacting.
The book was rather choppy jumping from person to person and there was way too much content about Jason and his life. The truth is that there's tons of immune system research going on right now but not a lot of really new discoveries. Many of the current treatments are designed to turn the immune system off and that brings a whole other set of risks. I didn't really take away a lot of insights.
The Couple Next Door
By Shari Lapena, Narrated By Kristen Potter
Anne and Marco Conti seem to be a happy young couple. One night the neighbors invite them next door for a celebration dinner but the baby is not invited. (Clue 1) They leave the baby home and take the baby monitor with them. They check on the baby every half hour but when come home baby Cora is gone. There is a detective and "investigation" but that part is really superficial and the twists and turns of the story unfold.
I was really underwhelmed with this book. Mediocre writing, unlikable stereotypical characters and overloaded plot twists. It's kind of a bad version of Gone Girl.
By Andrews and Wilson, Narrated By Ray Porter
This is the 3rd in the Tier One series. It's "clandestine operations" genre thriller. John Dempsey and his secret anti terror unit, Ember, is mobilized after an attack on American and Israeli cabinet officials are attacked on US soil. No surprise that it's the nemesis that they missed in the last book. You do have to read these books in order.
This time Dempsey is working with his counterparts in Moussad and headed undercover into Iran. Lots of fast paced action. All 3 of the first books in this series are anti-Islamic-terrorist focused. The book ends with a hint that the series is moving to thwart Communist attacks next.
One of the things that I like about this series is that with each book there is character development. People come in and out of the story, characters develop and roles change.
By David McCullough, Narrated By John Bedford Lloyd
I love McCullough's books. Some of my favorites are The Great Bridge, The Wright Brothers and The Johnstown Flood. I will generally read anything he's written and was excited about this new one.
The Pioneers is billed as a story about the pioneers of the Northwest Territory. It's really about the settling of one town that is Marietta, Ohio today.
Over vacation Chris and our friend, Ian, read it. It turns out that we all stopped at about the same point (2/3 through). It's surprisingly tedious. It's as if he had some leftover notes from other books and thought that he might compile them all into one new book. There are many better book about the settling of the Midwest.
The Lost Girls of Paris
By Pam Jenoff, Narrated By Elizabeth Knoweldon, Henrietta Meire and Candace Thaxton
I love historical fiction and usually really love historical fiction about the WWII era. This one is about a group if female British radio operators agents sent to France shortly before D-Day. All I can say is that if Britain had agents so poorly trained and poorly disciplined in the real war we would all be speaking German now.
The book as an added element tied to an American woman, Grace, in NYC who finds photos of the women and inexplicably sets out to learn about them.
There are so many problems with this tale starting with the whole Grace storyline. It makes no sense to have it included and the character is about as hapless as the agents. Her narrator, Candace Thaxton, perormed one of most annoying narrations that I've ever read. She should be reading young adult and children's books with her sappy sing-song voice.
The agents, called "the girls" and "my girls" so often that it became incredibly annoying. No one that every worked with them ever called them "agents" or "women"? I don't think so. The primary agent, Marie, moved haphazardly though the story completely ignoring her training or directions and advice from in-country agents. Every time she was warned not to do something she did it anyway.
Start to finish, this book was annoying. Had I read the Audible reviews before getting the book from the library I would have never read it.
Johnny Cash: The Life
By Robert Hilburn, Narrated By Charles Pittard
First off, I'm not much of a Country music fan and have never been a Johnny Cash fan. I read this book because I read the biography of Sam Phillips and discovered that it was Phillips who discovered Cash along with Elvis, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. I had gotten a bit of information about Cash in that book and I though this one might be interesting. I was not disappointed.
This is an incredibly in-depth look at life of a music visionary who was also a deeply flawed human being. All of it is presented honestly by someone who clearly knew Johnny Cash well but also respected him for what he brought to the world of music.
It was fun to read sections of the book and then head to YouTube to find the video or music tracks to go along with the stories. His drug use and relentless need to always work really destroyed his body. Had he made better decisions he might still be alive today but when you read this book you realize that he lived about 7 normal lifetimes in his one. If you like biographies and like music I think you will love this book.
By Robert McCammon, Narrated By George Newbern
I picked up this book because it's by one of my favorite mystery authors. He writes the Matthew Corbett series. This book was written in 1991 so it's old enough to be classic" now. It deserves that category.
The story is about a boy named Cory Mackenson is 11 years old and growing up in Zephyr, AL in the 1960's. It's a pretty idyllic place for a young boy to grow up. His father delivers milk and one morning Cory is with him on a delivery when they witness a car plunging into a very deep lake. There's a dead man tied to the steering wheel. They know that once the car sinks that it will never be found again. When now one is ever reported missing the case has to remain unsolved.
This event begins the process of leaving childhood behind and recognizing (and experiencing) all of the elements of life from pure evil to people with seemingly mystical powers. It is a beautifully written book and I'd think that it would be a great one for a family to read together because there's a lot to think and talk about with the variety of characters and situations that occur.
Call The Midwife
By Jennifer Worth, Narrated By Nicola Barbor
This book kept showing up on my Audible recommended list. I wasn't sure I would like it but found it at the library and decided it was worth the risk (free). I'm so glad I didn't pay for it! It gets rave reviews and I understand why. If you are into childbirth (I'm not) and are curious about what it was like in the 1950's in the poor parts of London then you will be fascinated.
It's really a collection of essay or short-stories. It's not a continuing story. It kind of reminds me to the way that Joe Kenda presents murder cases on the ID channel.
The two things that annoyed me are 1) the author couldn't seem to decide if she was telling the story of a fully qualified and confident midwife or the story of an unbelievably innocent young girl and 2) the narrator! The narrator tried to turn this into some sort of drama with nearly whispered scenes all told in the voice of an English teenager. She drove me batty. I'm pretty sure now that I will not be the least interested in the series. My Mom was a nurse, I saw all I needed of that world growing up. But if you are thinking that you might listen to it please go to Audible first and listen to a sample to see if you can tolerate the narrators voice.
By Michael Lewis, Narrated By Dylan Baker
Michael Lewis writes a lot of really interesting non-fiction. Two of his books, Blind Side and Moneyball, were made into movies. This one explores the dark underbelly of a part of the financial transaction systems of wall street.
When you place a stock trade order it looks simple. You issue a buy order and someone else is willing to sell you that stock for the market price. Simple, right? Of course not!
There's an entire system behind those trades that operates on speed. That speed allows them to get to a transaction is milliseconds faster than another trader. This dark and secretive world makes hundredths of pennies by getting to that trade first. You don't notice it but given the volume of daily trading those bits of pennies add up to millions of dollars in profits without having any risk associated with stock ownership.
A small group of Wall Street traders figured this out and created an exchange where this kind of activity can't take place.
Michael Lewis does a great job of taking esoteric topics and making them interesting for the rest of us. You've got to be interested in this type of thing to get into this book. I really enjoyed it.
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.
You can tell that it's mold season in Virginia and I'm spending most of my time indoors. I listened to a possible record 14 books this month! There's a lot of love and hate in the list this month. My favorite fiction books were Ask Again, Yes and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. My favorite non-fiction books were Midnight in Chernobyl and The emperor of All Maladies. The Chernobyl book is so good that it reads like a novel.
There are a few books on the list this month that I flat out hated. That's not a big surprise because I take more risks now that I get free books from the library. If I had to pay for it, for example, I would have never bought In Pieces and probably also Where The Crawdad Sings. I've got some pretty mean reviews this month. Please don't take offense if you disagree. We all have opinions and I'm no book editor. I just know what I like. You are very welcome to offer your different view in the comments! I'm also always happy to get your recommendations.
The Splendor Before the Dark
By Ruth Downie, Narrated By Steve West, Katherine McEwan and Susan Denaker
July started off much better than June ended with this novel.
Margaret George writes incredibly well researched historical fiction. This one is the second in her Nero series. I read the first, Confession of a Young Nero, a year ago. This one picks up 10 years into his reign with the great fire of Rome and follows through the end of his life. Most of the written history about Nero was written 100 years or more after his death. George has included more modern research and findings into this possible history of the last of the Caesars.
By Sally Field
This book is a heavy read. It's not the typical celebrity lighthearted book about what it was like to work on certain films or to work with certain people. This book is Sally Field's personal therapy session rehashing all the troubled times in her life - and she had plenty of them. For me it was way too much information and I didn't particularly enjoy it.
Ask Again, Yes
By Mary Beth Keane, Narrated By Molly Pope
This book was a lovely surprise. I didn't expect to like it and instead I couldn't put it down.
It's about 2 families (the Stanhopes and Gleesons) living next door to each other. The men were rookie cops together in NYC. Their children, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope were best friends from a young age and fell in love as teens. Then tragedy struck that tore both families apart. The story is about Kate and Peter's love story and the complexities brought into it from the past.
But it's more than a love story. It's about how we change, how we deal with tragedy, how we forgive and what happens if we don't forgive, don't accept and don't move forward.
Midnight in Chernobyl
By Adam Higginbotham, Narrated By Jacques Roy
This book has gotten a lot of press lately so if you follow book reviews you have probably heard about it already. I generally am wary of effusive reviews but, in this case, all of the positive reviews are well deserved.
I can't imagine the hours and hours of time that Higgnebotham invested over the 10 years that he spent researching this book but it's clear that this was his personal life's work for that time. I can't imagine any aspect of the Chernobyl disaster that he did not investigate and follow.
The book is not at all political or putting forth an opinion about nuclear energy. It's simply an honest look at what happened, how it happened, how it was handled and the long term impacts. But you can't help but draw from it an observation about the inherent risks when the state controls both the production and regulation of industry.
I couldn't put it down. If you watched the HBO special on Chernobyl you should really read this book. That "documentary" had a lot of false information for the sake of ratings and viewership. It's a very unfair and inaccurate representation of the events and consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford, Narrated by Feodor Chin
This book was first published 10 years ago but it's only been lately that I've heard about it. Several people recommended it to me and I'm so glad that they did. It's a lovely book.
The story starts in 1986 and Henry Lee is standing outside the abandoned Panama Hotel that marked the entrance to Seattle's Japantown. The hotel is being remodeled and the owner has found boxes of property belonging to Japanese residents who were sent to internment camps in WWII. Henry ( of Chinese descent) met Keiko Okabe (of Japanese descent) in the 1940's when they both attended a white school as scholarship children. They bonded over Jazz music.
Henry's father objected to Henry having any relationship with Keiko. The story flips back and forth between the 40's and 80's and reveals the sacrifices that Henry has made for his family throughout his life. It's a really lovely story about friendships, family and life choices. I can't wait to listen to another of Jamie Ford's books. The narration was perfect.
City of Girls
By Elizabeth Gilbert, Narrated by Blair Brown
Did you read and enjoy The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant? If so then this book is for you!
Eighty-nine year old, Vivian received a letter from Angela. Angela knows that Vivian and her father had a relationship and now that both of her parents are dead she is ready to ask Vivian to tell her about the relationship with her father. That's the frame for the telling of Vivian's life story. That part of the story felt really contrived and forced element to the story because what followed was every single detail of Vivian's life. That doesn't mean it's a bad book but it's an awkward frame.
Vivian's tale starts in the 1040's when she's kicked out of Vassar and is sent to NYC to live with her Aunt Peg and Peg's girlfriend, Olive. Peg runs the small neighborhood theater, Lily Playhouse, and Vivian, with her exceptional sewing skills, becomes the costume designer. Vivian also leaps into a free-wheeling city party scene. One of the funniest scenes in the book is when Vivian loses her virginity. Vivian soon discovers that she loves living a promiscuous life. But that promiscuity catches up with her with a mistake that ruins her life in the city. She returns home to her WASP parent's home and tries to forge a more "expected" life.
The start of WWII give her an opportunity to live the life she wants to live. She makes a very happy life unapologetic life in NYC until someone from her past reappears. Olive helps guide her through the anger and hurt with my second favorite passage that I'm calling the "Field of Honor speech". A whole lot of people need these days need a dose of the Field of Honor speech.
Blair Brown did an excellent job narrating this book but if I ever asked someone a question and received 15 detail of that person's life I would not be so pleased. The story was well told and I consider this a great beach read but aside from her sewing career, I wouldn't consider Vivian a particularly interesting person to hang out with. I'd be more interested in knowing her to learn her costuming skills.
By Clive Cussler, Narrated by Scott Brick
I read the fist book in the Sam and Remi Fargo series last month and you might remember my lukewarm review. Now that I get books from the library (free) I'm more willing to take risks and try books out. The library had this book, the second in the series, so I put it on hold. I got it faster than I expected and finished it as quickly as I could.
I knew from the beginning that I wasn't going to lover it and that the criticisms that I had from the first one were legitimate. This one is the EXACT same plot as the first one. Sam and Remi are on a trip and happen upon some relic that and evil rich person has been trying to find for years. I would swear that some of the dialogue is truly identical in the 2 books. The characters are all very cliche, the conversations between Sam and Remi are all to clever, especially when they are in one of the many near-death situations.
Biggest eye-roll moment came when they arrive in Atlanta on one of their MANY carbon spewing trips all over the world Sam rents an SUV. Remy is about to scold him when he reveals that it's a hybrid. Oh well, then, we're all OK and can continue our daily plan rides while we illegally dig up artifacts. But it's all in the name of saving history.
It's the romance novel of the suspense genre and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you just need an easy read that doesn't require too much analysis. On those days Cussler is your author.
The Emperor of All Maladies
By Siddhartha Mukerjee, Narrated By Stephen Hoye
So far this month all of my books have come from the library and I read them in the order that I receive them. I rarely find a book that doesn't already have a wait list. This book was published in 2010 and I had to wait several weeks to get my copy. That's about all you need to know to assess whether it's a good book.
The Emperor of all maladies is cancer and this book is a very thorough and understandable of our research and treatment of cancer. I think reading this book will give you a deep appreciation of the complexities of the disease, empathy for the doctors and researchers who dedicate their lives to the disease and an understanding of the limitations of treatment.
Two years ago I read The Gene by this same author and it's still one of my all-time favorite books. This book was written first and, now that I've read this one, I can see why he needed to write The Gene after he finished this. Gene research and therapy is really the future of all medicine. The last few chapters of this book are all about the advances in cancer gene research and therapy so The Gene was a perfect follow up.
This book will give you a great perspective on the history of cancer and The Gene will take you into the future but with history of gene research. Thanks to Kristen (I think) for recommending this one to me.
Dark Tide Rising
By Anne Perry, Narrated By David Colachi
This is the 24th book in the William Monk series. These books are set in Victorian England and Monk is Commander of the Thames River Police. This one opens with Monk being asked to accompany someone to pay a ransom. Of course it ends in murder and sets Monk off on a new investigation.
After I finished this book I started thinking about the difference between Anne Perry, John Sandford and Vince Flynn novels (that I like) and the Clive Cussler series that I wrote about above. I think it all comes down to character development. Throughout the 24 books in the Monk series the characters grow and develop. We know their weaknesses and their strengths. They gain and lose friends and family. Life moves forward. In the Cussler books Remy and Sam are not very deep characters. Every sticky situation draws on some nearly-magical skill from some past experience. Bad (or illegal) actions don't have consequences because it's all for a "greater good". In each book they escape dozens of life-threatening events and it all wraps up in a nice little vignette back at home. There's no depth and no change for the characters.
In the Monk novels I look forward to seeing what Hester and Scuff are up to and if Monk might remember something from his past. Every character changes and grows throughout the series. I think it's more difficult to write like that but it makes all the difference in the quality of the book.
Food: A Cultural Culinary History
The Great Courses
By Ken Albala
This is a mostly interesting and in-depth of food development and consumption from the ancient times to current days. It started off great and I enjoyed all of the early lectures that covered the Stone Age through the Middle Ages. But once he got into the Colombian Exchange, the Industrial Revolution and modern tastes he climbed higher and higher on his soapbox. He had an agenda and he didn't deviate. His lecture on GMO food was full of factual errors. He rails against "so called labor saving devices" of the post-war era like canned and frozen food. His vision for the future of food is laughable. It's clear that he has a dream of going back to the "good ole days" of subsistence farming and living off a few basic food items.
It wasn't my favorite of The Great Course. That still remains The Addictive Brain.
Keep Her Safe
By K. A. Tucker, multiple narrators
I'm guessing that I picked this one us as one of the Audible Deal of the Day books.
Noah Marshall is the son of the Chief of Police of Austin, TX and one night while Noah is taking a shower she kills herself. Two days later his mother's attorney gives Noah a letter with instructions to deliver something to her former partner's daughter, Gracie Richards. Gracie's father was killed in an apparent drug bust gone bad.
Now Noah and Gracie are determined to figure out the truth.
The plot of this is actually very interesting and could have been developed into a pretty solid mystery but apparently Tucker writes romance/suspense so it's a little of both genres and probably not enough of either.
There were 4 narrators for the 4 main characters and I didn't think that worked so well. The narrator for Gracie was the least effective. She pronounced words like and English professor not in a conversational way that people really talk.
By Nate Blakeslee, Narrated By Mark Bramhall
This is the story of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. The author tries to present a balanced narrative of pro- and anti-wolf points of view but the book is completely pro-wolf. After reading this book you would believe that the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone (and therefore the entire Northwest) has been nothing but beneficial for the area. There absolutely are many benefits but I don't think he fairly presents the effect on the landowners and ranchers outside of the park and is certainly doesn't even whisper a mention of what a devastation it has been on the moose population (down from 1000 to 200). In fact, Yellowstone uses the current politically correct position that the moose population decline is due to climate change, which is completely ridiculous. Just a minimal amount of research on the web will produce a number of charts showing that where moose and wolves co-exist moose population suffer as wolf populations grow. The same has happened with the elk population. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe not. You aren't going to find out with this book.
Where this book succeeds is by anthropomorphizing specific wolves in the Yellowstone population so that when one of the "celebrities" is legally killed outside the Park, it becomes an international incident. The people profiled in this book are obsessed in the level of Jane Goodall and, honestly, I think they all should take a break every now and then and see how the real world operates. They are in such an echo chamber of information that they inevitably make the entire situation with the wolves polarizing.
I don't know enough about the whole situation to have a strong opinion and I didn't feel like the information that I got in this book was balanced enough for me to make a truly educated judgement. This book is all about protecting the wolves at all costs, including reneging on agreements made to the surrounding states to get them to allow the reintroduction of the wolf in the first place. It cleverly uses emotional attachment to specific wolves to get the reader emotionally attached to the cause. As for books on animal behavior, I liked How To Tame A Fox (and Make A Dog) much better.
The Deep, Deep Snow
By Brian Freeman, Narrated by January Lavoy
This book is on my reading list because it was an Audible Daily Deal. It is apparently an "Audible original" so this is the only place you can get it.
The publisher's summary opens with this:
“The first thing you should know about me is that I believe in signs. Omens. Premonitions. I grew up believing that things happen for a reason. That’s the only way to explain why I’m alive.”
The truth is that Deputy Shelby Lake (and the FBI) seem to wait for omens and clues to jump right in front of them. Nothing else would explain the slog you are taken through a maudlin and cliche-filled story. The "omens" add up to periodic sightings of snowy owls. Oh look, there's a snowy owl, time to have an epiphany! Oh look, a snowy owl, time to find a clue! The story moves ahead on jumps of time from months to years as if every so often they open a file drawer and think "maybe we should look at the case again". Deputy Lake is one of the most lethargic and emotionless main characters that I've seen in a long time. She certainly doesn't have a reputation for ambition or ability to solve crimes but once in the 10 years span she has a major epiphany and every mystery for the past 10 years is solved.
I'm kind of annoyed at myself that I bothered finishing it. Had I actually looked at my book rating spreadsheet I would have seen that I read another book by this author 2 years ago and hated it and I could have saved myself the bother!
Just as I was typing this I got notice that Where the Crawdad Sings has become available on Libbie so I'm hoping for better reading ahead!
Where The Crawdad Sings
By Delia Owens, Narrated By Cassandra Campbell
Well, ignore the last sentence of the previous review. I know this book has a HUGE fan base and I do understand why but I despised this book.
There's some lovely poetic writing and the premise of the book is interesting so I can see the general interest in the book. But I have no patience for poor research and gross stereotyping even in fiction and I am fed up with stupid hick stereotypes of Southern people. Let me give you some examples.
First, this book is set in the 1950's and 1960's but if there wasn't a date mentioned at the beginning of each chapter you would swear that it's post-depression era. Apparently Southern folks don't change their dress, behaviors, music or fashion with the times. But they name their children with names that weren't in use until the late '70's at the earliest. No one named their sons Chase and Tate in the late 40's and early 50's. You can find charts online to prove that and a decent editor would have caught it.
The author has apparently never visited North Carolina or even looked at a map of that wonderful state. She's from Georgia and lives in Idaho. The fictional town has to be located on the coast between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. Now if you lived there and was sent to buy inventory supplies for your Dad's business where would you go? Maybe Fayetteville, Charlotte, Raleigh or even Charleston but you would NOT travel to Asheville! Asheville has never been a commerce center. It is, and always has been, a vacation and artisan center. Did this book even have an editor?
The main characters are in their late teens and early 20's in the 1960's, a time of a complete renaissance in music and yet Chase plays old gospel type music for Kya. Chase was the most popular boy in town (the quarterback) and was a great womanizer. That type of boy doesn't chase a swamp recluse and serenade her with old time music. He would have been listening to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison.
Actually, the whole premise is complete fantasy. A 6 year old girl winds up abandoned and raises herself selling mussels to a local marina operator/fish monger/store operator. EVERYONE in town knows that she's on her own and they do absolutely nothing about it. There isn't a 6 year old that could survive this. If nothing else she would be severely malnourished and not grow up to be the mystical beauty that she became. The school truant officer makes a few attempts to get her but eventually gives up. The marina operator, a kind black man, and his wife help her out by buying her mussels and with free clothes and other things but at some point did these people once consider taking this child in? NO. The reader is left with the impression that she lives in such a remote place that it's impossible to find her. The only way to visit her is by boat and that's how she gets around. Miraculously the other popular boy in school befriends her and teaches her to read and write. Surprise, she's a brilliant science researcher, artist and writer! Around this time we discover that her home is actually right off a road and she even has a mailbox. Suddenly people can easily visit by car. Then miraculously, one of her siblings shows up when she's in her 20's to check on her. Where was he when he was 18 and she was still only 13? Maybe some of these things would have happened in the 20's or 30's, but NOT in the 60's! I grew up in the 60's in the South and the premise of this book offends me.
Add to all that the narration that is so stereotyped that you leave the book thinking that ever Southern person, including the sheriff, lawyers, store owners is a backwoods idiot. Kya sounds mentally challenged, not like some sort of scientific genius.
I could go on for 10 more paragraph talking about the problems that I have with this book. I hope I don't offend the many people who loved this book. You loved it for different reasons than I hated it. It certainly dishes out a giant dose of hope and that's always good. If you loved this, that's great. I'm sure you have hated books that I love. That's the beauty of opinions, we all have them and they are all different! In this case I accept that I'm in the minority on this book.
This wasn't a particularly prolific month for listening to books and I blame it all on my obsession with watching the British Bake Off. I watched every season on Netflix this month. I don't know why because I can't make anything that they made but I did learn a few things that I can apply to my gluten free vegan baking. I watched every season so I can get back to my normal life.
As I look through the books that I did listen to I'd also have to say that this was probably my worst month ever for book selection. I was thrilled to get Neon Prey from the library after weeks on hold and it was the highlight of the month. Everything else was OK or bad. There were even two books that I started and couldn't finish (I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeny and The Overstory by Richard Powers).
I hope you have some good recommendations for me so that July and August are better reading months!
The Great Alone
By Kristen Hannah, Narrated By Julia Whelan
I loved Hannah's The Nightingale so I was excited to read The Great Alone. Sadly, I did not love this one.
The story is about Ernt Albright, his wife Cora and daughter Leni. It's set in 1974 and Ernt is an ex-POW recently home from the Vietnam War. He has lots of issues and decides that going to wilds of Alaska will solve their problems. They are not prepared for wilderness living nor for the long dark winters.
There were many things that I didn't like about this book. The pacing was slow for the first half, sped up a little for the 3rd quarter and really sped up to close out the last quarter. But mostly I just didn't like a book about such serious dysfunction. The characters are stereotypes to the letter and make continuous bad decisions. Just once it would have been nice if one person would have made one "right" decision. The book was 95% depressing.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
I was so happy to get the library notice that Neon Prey was ready for me. I've been waiting since mid-April to get it. I needed a good book after The Great Alone.
This is the 29th book in the Lucas Davenport series. Davenport now a US Marshall and on the trail of Clayton Deese. Deese has skipped bail and as they are searching for him the uncover a burial ground behind his house. The search turns into a hunt for a serial killer.
Richard Ferrone is a great narrator for the Prey series and he is Lucas for me. It was a fun read with lots of action
By C. J. Box, Narrated By David Chandler
This is the 18th in the Joe Pickett series. The new Governor send Joe to investigate a missing British celebrity. Meanwhile Nate Romanowski asks Joe to look into why falconers are no longer allowed to hunt with eagles.
All of the books in the Pickett series are good but they are very formulaic. Someone from Joe's family is always involved (daughter Sheridan in this book), Nate always shows up just in time and Joe's Mother-in-law, Missy, is always evil.
It's a good, easy ready and David Chandler is the perfect narrator.
Crazy Rich Asians
By Kevin Kwan, Narrated By Lynn Chen
Here's a sentence that I've never written or said:
The movie is MUCH better than the book!
I saw the movie a couple of months ago and it was a cute chick flick to watch one evening when I was home alone. The characters were funny and the story was cute.
The library had the book so I decided to read it to see how different the story is. I always like the book better than the movie but in this case the book needed some serious editing and the screenwriter took care of that.
Nick and Rachel are professors at NYU and, after 2 years of dating, Nick is taking Rachel to Singapore to meet his family. He's an idiot because he does nothing to prepare her for the wealth that she's going to experience there. He acts as if he's surprised by the way Rachel is treated by his uber-wealthy family and friends. He's a clueless moron if he really expected her to be welcomed. But that's not the most annoying thing about the book. This book is a inventory of luxury brands and portrays a society obsessed with outspending each other. One way the movie is better is that it can portray that luxury visually without having to describe every private plane, designer dress, expensive food or whatever item is being consumed. Every paragraph seemed to contain a laundry list of luxury brands.
In reviews I've read that the book is funny. It's not. It's tedious and annoying and full of unlikable characters. The movie corrects all of those mistakes.
Gandhi Before India
By Ramachandra Guha, Narrated By Derek Perkins
We all know Ghandi has the activist who led the efforts for India's independence and, frankly, that's all I know about him. But before India he was in South Africa from 1893 - 1914 as a lawyer and civil rights activist where he honed his philosophy and skills. This book is the first in a planned 2-volume biography of Gandhi and it covers his life before returning to India to lead that movement.
Guhu is writing, what has to be, the most comprehensive biography of Gandhi. It's so comprehensive that it's mind-numbing. The 23 hours of listening could have been whittled down to about 18 easily. After 19 hours I couldn't take it anymore and gave up. I may eventually finish it but it won't be anytime soon.
By Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood
Narrated By Scott Brick
I've read several of Clive Cussler's books in the past and I saw this series in the library catalog and decided to give it a try. This is the 1st in a series featuring Sam and Remi Faro, professional treasure hunters that, conveniently, have skills equal to a SEAL Team member.
If you are a fan of Dan Brown and like books about secret codes and stashes of ancient treasure then this is a series for you. It's not really mu cup of tea but I like the characters and the story moves along well. It was an entertaining read after the Gandhi book. There are about 10 books in this series now so it might be fun to dig into. Since this series is available at the library I will probably give #2 a try.
By Mason Cross, Narrated By Eric Meyers
This is the second in the Carter Blake series. Blake is a Jack Reacher type character. He's great a hunting people down. In this book there's a serial killer on the loose in LA. He is abducting women when their cars have broken down on the highway. Blake is in Florida when he sees the news and he recognizes the killers signature. He goes to LA to offer his assistance.
I liked this one better than the first. I think the writing and story were a little better. There's lots of action and suspense. I think I will keep on with the series for a while.
There still isn't much creative going on around here but I'm having fun anyway. We had 6 guests Tuesday night, 4 Wednesday night, lots of laundry Thursday and a friend from England is visiting for the weekend. I might get myself back into my old routine next week.
Meanwhile it's time for the monthly book report! It was a great reading month with 14 books. There were a couple of losers: The Lost City of the Monkey God and Pieces of Her. But there were more winners: Before We Were Yours, We Hope For Better Things and Sam Phillips. But the absolute winner of the month was Once Upon A River.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated By Ray Porter
This the second in the Tier One series. These books build on each other and really need to be read in order. In the first novel John Dempsey went from Navy SEAL to a member of Ember, the nations most covert counter-terrorism unit. In this installment Dempsey and his team are on assignment in Iraq, Guatemala and finally, suburban US trying to stop a newly activated terrorist cell.
To say this book is action-packed is an understatement. It's along the lines of Jack Ryan and Mitch Rapp and is a good read. But do read them in order. Ray Porter is the perfect narrator for this most macho of macho men.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
By maria Semple, Narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite
This book is way out of my wheel-house but it kept showing up on recommended reading lists and my local library had it. So I figured that I could take the risk on a free book.
Bernadette Fox was a revolutionary architect then she gave up architecture for being a wife to a Microsoft executive and mother to a very precocious daughter. She's now borderline agoraphobic. When her daughter insist on a vacation to Antarctica it's about all she can take and she disappears.
The story is told through a group of emails and letters that her daughter gathers in an effort to try to find her mother. It's a humor book, not laugh-out-loud like Carl Hiaasen, but still funny. There are great moments in corporate cultist culture, private school one-upmanship, neighbor fights and Seattle elitist nonsense. It was a fun read. The narration isn't the best but I just sped it up a little and that took care of any irritation.
Before We Were Yours
By Lisa Wingate, Narrated by Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber
I knew about Georgia Tann and her adoption scandal before reading this book because it was featured on Deadly Women on the ID Channel and I'm a bit of an ID addict. I think that the Wikipedia article is a pretty fair summary of the events and acknowledges that the horrid side of the story is truly horrid. But there were also children who ended up with better lives and that the idea of adoption as acceptable was due to her efforts. Just shows that nothing is ever all good or all bad.
Lisa Wingate has written a fictional story that masterfully explores all sides of the issue as told through one family of children. The story is told by Rill telling the children's story alternating with Avery, unknowing granddaughter of one of the Tann children, as told in modern time. It's really beautifully written and beautifully narrated. Rill was a great character, both as a 12-year-old and a 90-year-old.
The Lost City of the Monkey God
By Douglas Preston, Narrated By Bill Mumy
In a nutshell, this is a book about a group of scientists and non-scientists that used a technology called LIDAR to map jungle areas of Honduras and discovered 4 potential archaeological sites. They went in to survey one area and confirmed that it was ancient. On a second trip a couple of artifacts were excavated but due to safety no further excavation has been done. The Wikipeida article will give you the details. It's assumed that this is the mythical Lost City of the Monkey God/The White City/La Cuidad Blanca.
Douglas Preston is a writer for National Geographic and novelist. He's the same Douglas Preston who co-writes the Pendergast novels with Lincoln Child. This book is about his experience traveling with the group on the first expedition and it's a detailed log of his and the team's experience. There's a lot of background on the effort it took to get permission to fly over Honduras to do the LIDAR survey, the years to get permission to explore one of the sites and the logistics of planning that trip. There's extensive information about the poisonous snakes in the area and the tropical diseases they could catch. (I dreamed about snakes for 4 days after listening to this book.)
As it turned out they did pick up a tropical parasite, Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, and about a third of the book is about this disease in all of it's gory details. The book might be worth a read or not. You really will get all of the info about the actual discovery with 30 minutes of web research. But if you want to know the effort and risks associated with archaeological work you might find this interesting.
There were 2 aspects of the book that I found humorous from politically correct/annoying people point of view:
There are a number of people who call themselves Honduras archaeology and anthropology experts. Those that weren't involved in the expedition did their best (and continue) to discredit the findings. It all reads like a lot of academic petty jealousy that I didn't find surprising at all. Also the local indigenous people cried foul as well. Suddenly when this mythical city might be found they claim ownership and, yes, racism. It can't be call the "Lost City of the Monkey God" because that's racist although that's how it's been referenced for hundreds of years. Now it's "The White City". But the book wouldn't have sold as well if it has been called The Lost White City. That might have been construed as racist although it refers to the white granite used to build the city.
Secondly, when talking about parasitical diseases he expanded into a general discussion about the migration of all kinds of diseases from 3rd World areas to 1st World areas (AIDS, Zika, Dengue and Leish) and, as required in our PC world, blames it all on climate change. Then he goes into great detail discussing each of these disease and how it's been documents that they all traveled by plane.....just like the diseases that wiped out the ancient people all traveled with Europeans by boat. Ridiculous.
Once Upon a River
By Diane Setterfield, Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
I don't remember which of you recommended this book but I'm very grateful. Diane Setterfield is not a writer. Diane Setterfield is a storyteller.
It's set in Victorian England around the River Thames and a pub called The Swan where storytelling is an art form. One Winter Solstice a man brings in a drowned girl that he fished out of the river. He collapses from exhaustion and the girl is placed in a back room. The local nurse, Rita, is sent for to care for the man. She checks on the girl a couple of house after she arrived and finds the girl alive. From there is woven a beautiful tale about life on a river and the people who inhabit the community. There are mysterious events, cruelty, love, pasts that want to stay hidden.....a little of everything. For me this book is the great storytelling of A River Runs Through It combined with some Dickensian characters and brooding and mystery from Jane Eyre. I enjoyed every minute of it and the narration is perfect.
Secrets to the Grave
By Tami Hoag, Narrated By Kristen Porder
This is the second in the Oak Knoll series and you must read the books in order. The storyline from the first book is an integral part of the second book.
In this one Marissa Fordham is brutally murdered and her toddler daughter barely survives the murder attempt on her life. Anna Leone, a major victim character from the first novel, is called in to be the child's advocate. As the Sheriff's office delves into the murder they find that Marissa had a lot of secrets, including who shoe really is.
It was a fast read with lots of twists and turns although it was easy to figure out the murderer early on in the book. There is a 3rd book in this series but the reviews are pretty universally terrible and few of the characters in the first 2 books are relevant in the 3rd. I will probably skip that one.
Pieces of Her
By Karen Slaughter, Narrated by Kathleen Early
I listened to this whole book because I wanted to see how Slaughter would wrap up the story, not because it was a good book. It was flat out horrible.
The story opens with Laura and her 31-year old daughter having lunch at a mall restaurant when a young mane comes in and opens fire. Laura subdues and kills the boy. Now her face has been broadcast all over television and news. Laura insists that her daughter leave town and sends her to a storage unit that is ready for an escape with car, identification and money.
That's probably a fine plot except that Andrea, the daughter, behaves like a clueless 17-year-old. She's incompetent to run her own life and proves even more incompetent as a runaway.It's a sloppy storyline written in a sloppy manner. For example, sometimes Andrea refers to her mother as Laura and sometimes Mom and she's mostly incapable of speaking to other people. She gets herself tied up in knots like a shy pre-teen.
Once we know that Laura has some sort of past that's come back to haunt her, the dialogue in the flashbacks is more 60's (calling cops "pigs") than late-80's when the events occurred. Even as a 55 year old, Laura, well educated and mild mannered still uses the term "pigs". It's completely out of character.
The book is beyond stupid and I can't believe they are making a movie from it. Maybe the screenwriters can fix it. Slaughter needs to stick with her Wil Trent series.
We Hope For Better Things
By Erin Bartles, Narrated by Stina Nielsen
Elizabeth Balsam, a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, meets James Rich and he asks her to look up a relative that she's never met to return a camera and some photos. She knows the photos are from the 1967 Detroit riots and that they have never been seen but she doesn't think finding her Great Aunt and delivering the items is worth her time until she is fired and suddenly has a ton of time on her hands.
She tracks down her Aunt Nora and ends up living with her for a few months in the 150 year old family home. While there she starts to uncover information about the history of her family and the home.
The Balsam family is white and the book unfolds a the story of race relations in 3 generations of her family, starting with the Civil War. The book is getting rave reviews and I think that's primarily because it pushes the buttons of topics that we are culturally fascinated with at the moment. It is well written and the characters are interesting and believable. The story line is mostly believable and there are quilts! The information about the quilts is surprisingly accurate. All in all, I enjoyed it.
My one disappointment with the book is that I felt that story was a little lazy. In every instance of inter-race relationships it was a well off white woman falling in love with a poor black man. I think that the subject could have been even more interesting if at least one of the couple was a white man and black woman. Maybe the characters all needed to be women to carry the story forward but I think the subject could have been explored more fully if, for example, the couple of 1967 could have been like the Loving's of Virginia. Regardless, I don't think this will appeal to feminists because of what the women gave up for love.
By Allison Brennan, Narrated By Eliza Foss
I thought I had found a new series to dig into, instead I found an annoying shallow main character. Max Revere grew up wealthy ins Atherton CA and is now an investigative reporter who looks into cold cases. You can envision her with her own ID channel show like Paula Zahn.
Max (Maxine) is home for one of her best friend's funerals. Although she hasn't seen Kevin in about 12 years, they were close friends in high school. Kevin was accused of murdering one of his other best friends and Max has never thought him guilty but he has never been able to get past the accusations from everyone else.
While there she begins to look closer into the death of their friend and into the recent death of a young architect on the same property. The plot was actually very interesting, it was the telling that got on my nerves. Much of the dialogue was awkward and Max's behavior was out of character for someone in her position. But I think that this book might be better reading than listening because the narrator was a very bad fit for the book. She made Max sound very ditzy and juvenile at times as if she was trying to read something gruesome to 4th graders in a way that wouldn't get them upset. I finally sped the book up to 1.25 just to get through it. It was easy to figure out who did it about half way through the book and then it seemed to take forever to get there.
Brennan is clearly a popular writer because she has several series and the books have rave reviews so she's worth a try.
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll
By Peter Guarlnick, Narrated by Kevin Stillwell
A few years ago I read Peter Guarlnick's 2-volume bio of Elvis Presley. I didn't even like Elvis Presley before I read that book but I developed an appreciation for his music, his talent and the way that he changed music. When i saw that Guarlnick had published a new book I had to read it.
Rightly, Sam Phillips was the first non-musician to be accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He did invent the new genre. He was also a fascinating man who worked with a lot of fascinating people. I loved ever minute listening to this book and stopped it often to go to YouTube to listen to specific performances, like Ike Turner's Rocket 88, the first Rock and Roll record ever recorded. If you are into music history, this is a great book and there's tons of supporting video and audio on YouTube. I even got to listen to some Howlin' Wolf.
By Jeffrey Toobin, Narrated By Paul Michael
I was only 13 when Patty Hearst was kidnapped and I remember hearing about it and the Symbian Liberation Army on the TV news but I'm sure I didn't really think about it much.
This book is a very thorough look at the events surrounding her kidnapping and the subsequent crimes committed by the SLA. What I like best about the book is that it's told from the perspective of that time and other things going on. California was experiencing so many citizen terrorist bombs and crimes that most weren't even making it into the news. There were also many "firsts" that happened is association with this crime, like the first use of a minicam to live-stream activity to television. It's a broad story of the time, not a simple exploration of Hearst and the SLA.
The book also delves into the life of Patricia Hearst and her family. Frankly, I don't think I'd liker her as a person very much. But the book was good and if you like non-fiction I think you will like this one.
By Tina Fey, Narrated By Tina Fey
I picked this book to listen to on our drive to Hatteras and it's a good driving book. It's mostly an autobiography told through some very funny stories from her life. It's not offensive or political and was just what we needed to keep us entertained for 5 hours.
The Emperors of Chocolate
By Joel Glenn Brenner
When I'm on vacation I like to read some paper books on the beach so I periodically buy some that are recommended and keep them in my travel bag. On the family beach vacation I pulled out this one. It was recommended by Carole after I listened to and reviewed the Hershey biography. This book is about the Mars and Hershey companies and their competitive and shared histories.
The book was published 20 years ago so the information is missing contemporary corporate history but it's still a very interesting read. Lots of fun facts about the development of chocolate products for war times, the development of the M&M (Mars and Murrie) and about the fight for store shelf space.
The Hyde Park Headsman
By Anne Perry
This is the 14th book in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series that's set in Victorian London. I bought this book in paperback because it's not available in audio format so I'll buy used paperbacks to fill in the series.
Thomas Pitt is recently promoted to Superintendent of Police and is investigating a series of decapitations in Hyde Park. It's a good light read.
How did we get to the end of April so fast? I feel like I just posted books last week but as I look through the list I see that I did make it through a lot of books this month. I start every book with great hope and excitement but the results this month were a mixed bag this month. Since I started borrowing audiobooks from the library I take more risks with the books I try. I don't care if I don't finish a free book. But the library doesn't have a huge inventory of audiobooks so I still get about half through Audible. That's still a 50% savings over my usual book expenditures. Audible does let you return books for a refund if you don't like them and I sure took advantage of that this month.
But, let's talk about the good from the month. I read two good books from William Kent Krueger. Heaven's Keep is the 9th installment in the excellent Cork O'Connor series but Ordinary Grace is a new stand-alone novel. Ordinary Grace was a wonderful story. Also in fiction I enjoyed Belgravia from Julian Fellows. It's Downton Abbey with more intrigue.
On the non-fiction side I loved Code Name Lisa, a WWII biography, and Bellevue, the history of the famous hospital. Both were excellent. I'll leave you to read through the reviews for my losers of the month.
What have you been reading? I added a couple of your recommendations to my reading list based on your comments last month. If you have read any of these books and have a different opinion, please share! It's good to have different perspectives.
Heart A History
By Sandeep Jauhar, Narrated By Patrick Lawlor
I really wanted to like this book and I generally do like medical texts written for the layperson, but I'm not sure I know what this book was. About a third of it was the history of the treatment of heart disease and development of medical science. The rest was his family medical history (including a chapter on his Mother with Parkinson's) and his his own mistakes/foibles as an intern and new doctor. The book was about 25% interesting and 75% annoying. I couldn't wait for it to end.
By William Kent Krueger, Narrated by Rich Orlow
Krueger is best knows for his Cork O'Connor mystery series. This is a stand alone novel about a family in a small town dealing with personal and community tragedy. The story, set in 1961, is told from the point of view of 13 year old Frank Drum and starts with the discovery of an unidentified dead man near the railroad tracks in town. The tragedies don't stop there and will also personally touch the Drum family.
It's not so much a mystery, as it is a story about a family trying to come to grips with these tragedies and mixed with the responsibilities of the father who is the local minister. It's a lovely story and you will feel part of the family as you read it.
Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter
By Ben Goldfarb, Narrated By Will Damron
I hated this book.I still don't know anything about the life of the beaver because Goldfarb didn't really cover that. I know nothing about the mating habits, dam building habits, eating habits or anything else about the LIFE of the beaver.
What I got was a repetitive narration of EVERY biologist working to reintroduce beavers back into the environment. I know how totally brilliant they all are because they are "beaver believers" and they know that only the beaver can reverse all of our ecological damage. The beaver is the solution to everything! He actually has the audacity to propose that beaver dams might be able to replace all of the man-made dams in California to solve water issues there. He's honestly partly serious about that.
I think beavers are kind of cute and they are very cool because they are like us in that they change their environment for their benefit. The people who study beavers, by contrast, are proselytizing jerks.
Code Name Lise
By Larry Loftis, Narrated by Kate Reading
We are in an age of girl power and are culturally fixated on "empowering" women. If you are looking for a book to give to any woman feeling powerless, this is the book. Odette Samson was not the most decorated female spy in British WWII history, she is celebrated as the most decorated spy in British WWII history, period. Her story is well known in Britain but not so much in the US. It's inspiring and beautifully narrated by Kate Reading.
The Waiting Room
By Emily Bleeker, Narrated by Sophie Amoss
Nine hours of wandering around in the mind of a crazy person.
Veronica Shelton's husband died shortly after her baby was born and now she can't bear to touch the baby. All kinds of weird things are happening to her. I won't share the ending but will say that it's billed as some sort of psychological thriller when it's really like listening to the crazy person on the subway who insists on telling you about some grand conspiracy. The story is full of cliches, has a timeline that simply doesn't work and unrealistically enabling characters.
By William Keent Krueger, Narrated by Buck Schriner
This is the 9th in the Cork O'Connor series. His two daughters are away at college so they are very minor characters this time. The story opens with Jo on a business trip when her chartered plan goes down with her tribal clients. Searches in the area find nothing and all are presumed lost. Months later Cork is approached by the pilot's wife to look into what happened.
His son, Stephen, is now a teen and goes on the search with him. It's another good O'Connor story.
With this book the publisher changed narrators from David Chandler to Buck Schriner. That was a very difficult adjustment for me and I'm still not sure I like him. I looked ahead in the series and it appears that Schriner only narrated 3 books and then they returned to Chandler. I think I can deal with that. Schriner isn't horrible, he's just not right.
The Return of the Native
By Thomas Hardy, Narrated By Alan Rickman
Let me start by saying that I am not a Thomas Hardy fan. I get that his novels were avante-garde for his time but the stories mostly bore me and his prose exhausts me. Two hours in and you know exactly how this one was going to end. Regardless, this version is narrated by Alan Rickman and for that reason alone I had to listen to it.
One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from Senses and Sensibility. Marianne (Kate Winslet) is just recovering from her near-death illness at Col. Brandon's (Alan Rickman) home. He comes into the room to see if he can do anything and Marianne finally recognizes him and thanks him. Rickman conveys so much with his physical response. If you ever watch S&S again look for that moment and watch his slight body movements and facial expression. It conveys so much in that half second.
So that's why I listened to this book. I loved Alan Rickman in everything he's ever done. As far as I can tell, it's the only book he's ever narrated and, as expected, it's masterful. The story? It's fine.
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Kenny Blythe
This is the 6th in the Shetland Island mystery series. A group of college friends travel to the Shetland Islands to celebrate the wedding of one of the travelers. One of the friends, Eleanor, disappears. Her body is found near a cliff.
Before her death, Eleanor claimed to have seen the ghost of a child that is rumored to appear only to childless women. Following seeing the child the woman becomes pregnant.
It's Detective Jimmy Perez's first case since the murder of his fiance. He, and his boss, Willow Reeves work the case. I enjoyed the mystery side of this story. The sexual undercurrents between Willow and Jimmy just don't seem to fit their personalities and it takes away from the story. But other than that it was a fun mystery.
By David Oshinsky, Narrated By Fred Sanders
If you like history this will be an interesting book to add to your reading list. It's really the history of medicine told through one of the most famous public hospitals in the country. It's the story of medical research, treatment of some of the most challenging diseases, immigration and mental health treatment. Their commitment to treating anyone who needs help has made Bellevue the front line for new disease outbreaks. It was a very interesting read.
By Julian Fellows, Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
If you love Downton Abbey or Jane Austen books this is the book for you. The story begins in 1815 on the Eve of the Battle of Waterloo at the Duchess of Richmond's ball. One family loses their son in battle and the other loses their daughter months later.
Twenty five years later the events surrounding the ball impact both families.
It's a good read and the narration is perfect.
The Night Agent
By Matthew Quirk, Narrated By Chris Andrew Ciulla
Peter Sutherland is an FBI agent who was selected to work on the White House situation room a year ago. He's surprised because he happens to be the son of an FBI agent suspected of selling secrets to Russia. One night he takes a call from a woman named Rose with a coded message telling that her Aunt and Uncle have been killed.
Peter takes matters into his own hands and finds Rose. What follows is a series of chase scenes and murders that point to a mole in the White House.
It sounds a lot more interesting than it is. First off, there isn't a chance on God's green earth that the FBI would hire the son of a suspected spy so the very premise of the story is laughable.The reviews for this book are mostly outstanding but about 30% are not favorable and I fall into that 30%. There was just too much luck involved to make the story play out. The Russian sky group was so large that there's no way these 2 people would have been left alive more than about 4 hours and yet they drove his car and used their personal cell phones for several days without being tracked. I strained my eyeball muscles with all the eye rolling that I did.
The narration was so weak that I had to speed it up to 1.25 to be able to tolerate him. But about 70% of the people who have read it loved it so keep that in mind as you consider any influence of my review.
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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