Do you remember last month when I talked about what a great book month November was? Well, we really only know "good" when we have something not so good to compare it to. Well, December was a "not so good month".
I did have a few really good books. Lethal White and Holy Ghost are books that I had been waiting to get from the library for a few months and they did not disappoint.
The Feather Thief was a superior book but it was a surprisingly interesting story. Brain On Fire was another interesting book but I'm not sure it would have wide appeal. Nowhere to Run and Tier One were books that I knew that I could count on to cleanse my palette from the rest of the books of the month.
So, that's not so bad, right? Well there are four books that I really can't recommend: Mary Queen of Scots was just way too long, The World In A Grain, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters and The Witch Elm were downright awful.....in my opinion. But read the detail reviews and if you have read any of them and have a different opinion please let us know in the comments. We all have different tastes in books.
Do you have any particular books on your 2019 reading list? I have lots of books on my Audible and Libbie wish lists but nothing specific that I must read. I'm open to almost m=anything....except sci-fi, fantasy, romance and self-help. I'm beyond help!
Here's my December reading list.
By Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), narrated by Robert Glenister
This is the 4th is the Cormoran Strike series. I never read the Harry Potter novels simply because magic isn't my genre. I've seen bits and pieces of the movies. But I know she's and outstanding writer and I am addicted to this mystery series.
Cormoran Strike lost a leg serving in Afghanistan and is now a private detective. At the end of the last book he had fired his assistant, Robin, because she was badly hurt in their last case. In this book it opens at Robin's wedding where he went to ask her back. When she returns from her honeymoon they are hired by a British government minister to try to stop a blackmail scheme.
These books are so well written and apparently you can find web sites where people explore the meaning of certain imagery in the book. Lethal White refers to a syndrome in horses, much of the story takes place around the Uffington White Horse and there's a painting in one of the main story locations with a white horse. According to the conspiracy theorists this all has to do with Rowling's hatred of the legacy British colonialism.
Whatever. I couldn't care or be influenced less about her politics. I just love her book.
The Feather Thief
By Kirk Wallace Johnson, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
I'm still waiting for a few books on my hold list on Libby so I started looking around for new books that were available and stumbled on this one. I'm glad I found it.
The book is about the 2009 theft by Edwin Rist of hundreds of rare and historically significant birds from the natural history Museum in Tring, UK. many of the birds had been collected by Charles Darwin's contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace.
You can look up Edwin Rist on Wikipedia and get the basic background of the theft and find out that he basically got off with a mental health defense. But Kirk Wallace Johnson, a fly fisherman, heard about the story and got obsessed by it and this book is the result.
It's basically in 3 parts. The first part is about the history of collecting specimens that was the rage in Victorian times. The second part is about the crime where we learn yet again, how poorly museum collections are secured. The third part is about the author's obsession with tracking down the missing birds and more about Rist, the fly tying community and their dedication to finding feathers from rare birds. It was a good read.
Nowhere to Run
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
This is the 10th novel in the Joe Pickett series. In the last book he was "sentenced" to a tour as the game warden in the remote area of Baggs, WY. It's the last week and he's following up on complaints about butchered elk, looted camps and other minor mayhem. Of course it turns out to be a lot more than it seems.
I like the Joe Pickett novels. My husband doesn't like that the family is so involved in the stories but it's one of the things that I enjoy about the books. They are a lot like the Craig Johnson books. David Chandler is the perfect narrator for Joe Pickett.
The Boston Girl
By Anita Diamant, Narrated by Linda Lavin
One of the benefits of now borrowing books from the library is that I'll occasionally read a book that's less than my 10 hour minimum rule. I generally prefer longer books and I set the 10 hour rule so reduce the per hour cost of listening on Audible. On Audible a 4 hour book costs 1 credit, the same as a 30 hour book.
Anyway, I was still waiting for some books to come off hold so I started looking around the Libbie app for books that are available. That's how I found The Feather Thief, this book and the next book.
The Boston Girl is a coming of age novel. Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents. She's now 85 and is telling her Granddaughter her life story. The story begins when she is 15 when she made the friends who would be part of her life forever. The story has a lot of historical detail about the lives if immigrants in Boston at that time and Linda Lavin (from the sitcom Alice) narrates it beautifully. The author takes a couple of gratuitous political cheap shots that I feel make her seem petty, but otherwise it's like sitting down with grandma to hear a good story.
Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness
By Susannah Cahalan, Narrated By Heather Henderson
You've got to love medical histories to like this book. I found it fascinating. Susannah was (and is) a writer for the New York Post. One day she began having hallucinations, seizures and other mental illness symptoms. She eventually ended up in the hospital where she stayed for a month. It was only due to the good fortune of time and place that she ended up with the right doctor to get the right diagnosis.
It's a mystery story and a very detailed personal history of the person who went through it.
The World in a Grain
By Vince Beiser, Narrated by Wil Damron
I had such high expectations for this book. I hoped for something along the lines of Salt by Mark Kurlansky but Vince Beiser isn't a historian, he's an activist.
This book is partly about sand as the foundation of civilization and how many different ways it's used (building roads, silicon chops...) but it's mostly about how the development of all of those things have led to a laundry list of bad things. It was so annoying that I gave up half way through. It could have been great and he could have gotten his points across without being such an unhappy activist and more of a dispassionate historian. I can summarize his point of view by saying that he pretty much sees everything about civilization as negative. How he gets through his miserable day is a mystery to me.
Right after this book I started and returned Borrowed Time by James Freeman and Vern McKinley. It's about the history of Citicorp. It's the kind of book that I usually love but the narrator was horrible. His narration would make this a great book to listen to if you have insomnia. I may get a paper copy to ready on vacation next year because it's the kind of book that I usually love.
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
By Margaret George, Narrated by Donada Peters
I love Margaret George's historical novels. One of my favorite books of all time is her book Memoirs of Cleopatra. I also enjoyed this book but I didn't love it. It's 42 hours long and that's a long time when telling the story of someone who spent half of her life basically imprisoned. It wasn't a bad book at all but it got a bit exhausting. 10 hours could have easily been edited out of it. But if you like historical novels with excruciating details this is the book for you.
The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters
By Sam Kashner and nancy Schoenberger
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
I don't know why I read this except that I saw some good reviews and I got it free from the library. I have a pretty healthy disinterest in the lives of society people but I thought it might be interesting. It was, sort of, but I left the book not really liking either woman very much.
It's a great look into the lives of society women of their age who were raised to marry well. It was bred into them from a young age and they really never abandoned it.
The book tries to play up the sibling rivalry but it was really no different than a lot of sister relationships. The difference is that in this case there's real money and social standing involved. Since that was the currency of their lives the rivalry is not really surprising.
If you buy into the whole Camelot facade of the Kennedy administration, don't read this book. It does blow that up pretty well. They were political animals just like today's politicians. Jackie knew, and often facilitated, Jack's foraging outside of the marriage. Plus she was a heavy smoker which the press helped hide just like they do with Obama. She did an amazing job of burnishing his image after his death. I wouldn't have been able to spend a day with either of these woman.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Eric Conger
This is the 11th in the Virgin Flowers series and I had been on the wait list at the library since September! It was a real treat after the last 3 books and it was classic F@>^!%$ Flowers. This time he's sent to the tiny town of Pinion, MN where a sighting of the virgin Mary has breathed new life into this half-dead town. That is until someone starts a shooting spree that puts everything at risk. Shrake and Jenkins are back with Virgil and there's nothing to eat in the town except frozen pot pies. It was a fun read.
Field of Bones
By JA Jance, narrated by Hillary Huber
I haven't read a JA Jance book in about 18 years so when someone recommended this I decided to give it a try. This is the 18th book in the Joanna Brady series. Brady is the sheriff in Cochise County, AZ. She's on maternity leave when a body dump field is found. Her Deputy Sheriff is in charge and they are trying to find the serial killer before another body is dumped.
You don't have to read these books in order because Jance spends a LOT of time giving background on each character between scenes. In fact, I'd say that a full 3rd of this book seemed like detailed background information so the story seemed quite choppy to me.
As for the story, it was fine. Not great. There are too many "strong women" and men around them to provide support. It's not a feminist manifesto at all. The author was actually quite even-handed with everyone and I didn't get political undertones. But it's simply not realistic that a Deputy Sheriff of either gender would be telling the Sheriff that they can't wait until she gets back because the job is a bit over his/her head. Also, things in this novel resolve quickly and easily. For example, the local FBI office didn't want to help with profiling but, no worries, Sheriff Brady has a connection and with a couple of phone calls we have the exact profile identified. Magic.
JA Jance has a large following so I know her novels are popular but they just aren't for me.
The Witch Elm
By Tana French, Narrated by Paul Nugent
Tana French writes the Dublin Murder Squad series, that I enjoyed until the most recent book, and this one had some good published reviews so I decided to give it a try. I should have read the Audible reviews first and skipped it. The publisher and professional reviews are always misleading!
I don't even understand this book. None of the characters are believable and not one of them behaves like a normal person would in the same situations. Most of the story revolves around the discovery of a dead body in a tree on family property. The dead person is a contemporary of three cousins now in their 20's. It's truly an excruciating story and it took every fiber of my being to finish it. I only finished it because I kept hoping for the main character, Toby, to die. Actually the best ending would have been fr everyone to die.
An anonymous Audible customer wrote a review that is so spot on that I decided that I'd share:
"The plot (is there a plot?) is slow and disjointed, featuring bizarre unrealistic event heaped upon bizarre unrealistic event duct-taped together with shoddy continuity. Characters drop out and/or show up with little or no explanation or reason. The scenes intended to be most dramatic made me laugh because of the giant plot conveniences driven by the author; the characters' motivations for doing most of what they do are unimaginable. Toby, Melissa, Susannah, Leon, Shawn, Hugo, and just about every character in this book are chess pieces being moved around artlessly to bring their fragmented, preposterous, mean-spirited, lazy plotlines to a close."
The book gave me a headache and a bad attitude that only a few hours outside raking leaves relieved.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated by Ray Porter
These are the same authors that write under the pen name Alex Ryan and authored Bejing Red. This is a new series based on a Tier One Navy SEAL named John Dempsey, formerly Jack Kemper. After a terrorism plot destroys his SEAL unit he is recruited to join Ember, the most secretive counter-terrorism until in existence.
It's not the best spy novel I've read but it was a good story, I liked the characters and it was very fast paced. It was a great palette cleanser after The Witch Elm.
On to 2019 and, hopefully, a lot of good books for all of us!
November has been one of the best months for books in a while. My least favorite book, The Templar Legacy, was still a very well written book. For non-fiction lovers I can recommend both of my books this month: Billion Dollar Whale and Destined For War. I got to revisit some of my favorite heroes and read a 70 year old classes. It's a difficult choice but I think my favorite this month was The Weight of Ink.
What have you read this month that was great? I've been waiting since September for Lethal White to become available on Libby so I'm currently enjoying the latest in the Cormoran Stirke series.
Billion Dollar Whale
By Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, Narrated by Will Collyer
If you like financial history books you will love this one. A man named Joh Low pulled off one of the biggest financial heists in history. We know it as the 1MBD Scandal. If you like this kind of book you will love this one. It's written by 2 Wall Street Journal writers that followed the story. It's fascinating.
The Templar Legacy
By Steve Berry, Narrated by Paul Michael
This is the first book in a series with the main character, Cotton Malone series of 14 (so far) books. Cotton is retired from the US Justice Department and is now an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen. His old boss shows up and is investigating research that her husband was doing when he died. It all has to do with the the Knights Templar that was, supposedly, eradicated in the 14th century.
It's like the DaVinci Code and if you liked that you will like this. I think it's better written than the DaVinci Code but that's coming from someone who really dislikes Dan Brown books so take it with a grain of salt. But if you like novels with layer and layers of secrets and codes you will really enjoy this.
The Weight of Ink
By Rachel Kadish, Narrated By Corrie James
What a lovely book. There are 3 main characters: Helen Watt, an ailing history professor studying 17th century Jewish history; Aaron Levy, a grad student working on a dissertation about Jewish characters in Shakespeare; and, Ester Velasquez, a scribe for a blind rabbi in the 17th century. Ester is an intellectual prevented from publishing her thoughts or writings because of her gender and poverty. However she writes to well known philosophers of the time to discuss her ideas on God and religion. In the modern time Helen and Arron have come across her writings (found in the house of a former student) and are studying them.
The book addresses several challenges of the 17th century: religious bias, gender bias, homosexuality and poverty but does so without imposing modern mores and thoughts. It's simply a good story and it provoked me to look up a philosopher or two so I learned a little something along the way.
An Echo of Murder
By Anne Perry, Narrated By David Colacci
I wanted an easy read after The Weight of Ink so I went with one of my favorite series, Anne Perry's William Monk. These books are set in Victorian England and this is the 23rd in the series. Perry does a nice job of keeping her stories fresh by introducing new characters and expanding their roles in subsequent books.
In this one Monk, Commander of the Thames River Police, is investigating a series of gruesome murders in the Hungarian immigrant community. Hester and Scuff, of course, get involved.We also meet a doctor that worked with Hester in the Crimean War.
Destined for War, Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?
By Graham Allison, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
If only our new services would spent even 1/20th of their time giving us truly useful and insightful information instead of focusing on salacious content that has no real impact on our lives. But they don't so I periodically search out books that will give me a bit of the information that I really need to have.
This is one of those books. The title is definitely an attention-grabbing hook because the author really spends most of the content explaining why we aren't really destined for war, in the traditional sense. We are certainly at war with China; or they with us. It's just not conventional.
If you like non-fiction this really is an excellent book. Allison uses historical wars to explain Thucydides's Trap where one power threatens to displace another. His information about the historical and cultural differences between the two countries is very thorough and the book sis very readable.
By Kyle Mills, Narrated by George Guidall
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm so glad that Kyle Mills took over writing the Mitch Rapp series. He was the perfect writer to take over for Vince Flynn and I'm so happy that Mitch Rapp lives on.
In this 17th book in the series the Russian president is ill and stirs up some international trouble to distract the media while he tries for a cure.
It's another action packed adventure and Mitch must save the day.
The Shadow Patrol
By Alex Berenson, Narrated by George Guidall
I usually spread out my CIA/Military hero books but I have a couple of non-fiction titles on hold at the library that should release soon and this one was in my Audible library with a couple of other non-fiction books so I decided to treat myself to a little John Wells first.
This is #6 in the Wells series. The CIA station in Kabul is having some problems and agents are dying. John Wells is sent in to investigate.
If you like Vince Flynn/Kyle Mills or Ben Coes, you will like Alex Berenson.
The Clockmaker's Daughter
By Kate Morton, Narrated by Joanna Foggatt
I enjoy Kate Morton's books. The stories are complex and woven between generations. The Clockmaker's Daughter is that and a lot more....maybe too much more.
In 1862 a group of artists gather at Birchwood Manor in Oxfordshire with a plan to spend the month in inspiration and creativity. The group is led by Edward Radcliffe. The trip is ruined when his fiance is shot dead and his muse, and true love, is missing.
150 years later Elodie Winslow, an archivist in London, uncovers a satchel that contains Edward's sketchbook and a photograph. Now she wants to find out more about them.
The book follows 4 different generations of people as they are affected by the house, a painting, a jewel and other related items.Frankly, there are a lot of characters to keep up with. I expect that this books was a lot more fun to write than to read. It required some work. Plus there's the added twist that one of the main narrators is a dead woman. The clockmaker is a very minor theme in the book and I don't think it was very relevant to the whole story unless it's simply about the passage of time. The father was such a non-entity to the story that he could have been a cooper, tailor or any number of other professions so I'm kind of annoyed by the title.
Just because of the complexity I did not like this book as much as I have enjoyed others. If you read it, be prepared to put in some work to keep track of the people and objects. It was fun to have it narrated by Mrs. Bates (Downton Abbey).
A Town Like Alice
By Nevil Shute, narrated By Neil Hunt
I finished off the month with this jewel of a book. It was published in 1950 and is the fictional story of an Englishwoman who was marched all over Malaysia by the Japanese in WWII. During one harrowing part of her journey she was aided by an Autralian soldier who was crucified as punishment.
Back in England after the war she discovers that she had inherited money from a distant relative she barely knew. She can now decide very independently where and how to live her life. It's about her life, her relationship with the solicitor who manages her trust and about the people she wants to thank. It's a lot more than that brief description. It's very much a love story, but not a romance story.
It's a well known and beautiful book but you must remember that it was written in the 1940's. You must be able to read it without imposing our modern moral code on the actions and language of the characters. If you can't do that you will have this book.
It was a perfect ending to a month of mostly great books.
October was not one of my best book months. It started off good with Middlesex but was up and down from there. My favorites are probably Button Man, The Men Who United the States and How to Tame a Fox. The last two books of the month were duds...in my opinion.
What are your favorites reads from October?
By Jeffery Eugenides, Narrated by Kristoffer Tabori
Middlesex is one of the most unique novels that I've ever read. The core story is about Cal/Caliope Stephanides and Cal is telling the story. But it's story that covers three generations and how decisions have affected his genetic makeup. Cal is intersexed: part boy and part girl. The book was published in 2003 so it was before our obsession with biological gender vs gender identity and, therefore, is refreshingly free of political overtones.
I think the book is a bit longer that it needs to be and if not for the great narration, I might have given up on it. But I'm glad I stuck with it. It's graphic in some places so that might not appeal to everyone but, otherwise, I think it's a good exploration of the randomness of how we come into existence and the choices that we make to deal with it. This one is positive, doesn't cast stereotype parents as evil and shows what a difference a good attitude and acceptance can make. We don't have to "fix" everything. Sometimes it's best to just be what we are.
The Secret Child
By Kerry Fisher, Narrated By Emma Spurgin Hussey
It's the 1960's, Suzy's husband is on a 15 month deployment and she gets pregnant. Today we would call it rape. But she has the baby and chooses to give it up for adoption to save the effect on her family. It's a decision that torments her the rest of her life and has consequences for her husband and daughter.
Half of the story is told by Suzy and half by her younger daughter, Grace. It's the age old story about decisions and unintended consequences. Even the right decision has consequences.
It's a well written book and it's definitely chick lit. I wouldn't want to read a lot of this kind of literature but this one was good.
I am Brian Wilson
By Brian Wilson, Narrated by Fred Berman
Brian Wilson is a musical genius. Often with genius comes other issues, especially emotional issues and that is certainly the case with Brian Wilson.
In this book we get a lot of the stories of the great impact that he had on the music industry, much of which is beyond the Beach Boys. We also get a look at his personal life and the struggles that he has daily to try to live a productive life.
It's all quite interesting if you can handle the scattershot nature of the way it's presented. It's impossible to keep up with chronological events. He jumps all over the place from one random story to another. I imagine that it's very much what his daily existence is like. I had a very hard time making it through.
By Christopher Moore, Narrated By Euan Morton
This is about the 4th book by Christopher Moore that I've read and I really should know better by now. His books are meant to be humor and they sort of are. I personally think that he tries to cram too many genres into his books. This one is part historical fiction, fantasy, mystery,mythology, satire and humor. It's too clever by half.
The story is about a "sacred blue" paint used by famous artists over the ages. The story opens with the death of van Gogh and the desire to determine if it was suicide or murder. Baker/painter Lucien Lessard along with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec set out to find out.
It would have been great a a straight up fantasy/historical fiction novel but the addition of crude humor, for the sake of humor, detracted from the clever storyline. It's probably the last of his books that I'll read.
Emma by Jane Austen
Narrated by Emma Thompson, Joanne Froggatt, Morgana Robinson
Of course I've read Emma before! Many times. But Audible has a new program where subscribers get 2 free listens of Audible-exclusive programs each month. This was the only of the 6 options for September that I was interested in. The narration was spot on.
By Andrew Gross, Narrated By Eduardo Ballerini
This is a historical thriller set in NYC at the formation of the mafia. The story is told through the Rabishevsky family. One brother starts a garment company and another gets involved with the street thugs that later become part of the mafia. It's an interesting story of NYC in the 1920's and 1930's and includes some real life mobsters and prosecutors.
The Men Who United the States
By Simon Winchester, Narrated by Simon Winchester
This book is a wonderful perspective on the development of the United States because it focuses on the explorers, inventors and forward-thinkers that created the tools that united our vast land. He does digress into some personal stores here and there but they are pretty interesting stories. You will learn a lot of history told in a wonderful storytelling narrative.
I read another of his books last year, The Professor and the Madman, about the development of the Oxford English Dictionary and I loved that one too.
How to Tame a Fox
By Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, Narrated by Joe Hempel
I told you above about the new Audible program where they provide 2 free downloads each month. You have 6 to choose from and I'm determined to get my free listens. This month I chose a 3 hours interview/podcast-type program nammed "Hi Bob" by Bob Newhart and "The Queen: Aretha Franklin". Both are about 3 hours each and now I've discovered that I don't really like a podcast format. But they are great for listening to when I go to bed to help me get to sleep.
I was happy to get back to my "real" books after that and the next one I selected was "How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)". By now you know that I'm kind of into genetics. Not enough to study it, but I do like reading about the study of it.
Apparently about 60 years ago a group of scientists in Russia were interested in understanding how the dog became domesticated from the wolf and if that evolution could be repeated in foxes. Dogs were the first domesticated animals and that happened thousands of years before sheep, goats and other animals. The scientists though that if they could select foxes for tameness that they might be able to see how the domestication process works. Surprisingly, the experiment worked quickly and very well. Within 10 generations (a decade or less) they had fully-domesticated foxes. What was interesting was what other traits changed as the foxes became tamer. Somehow, the researchers kept this experiment going for decades through much upheaval in Russia and now there's extensive genetic research happening on the tame and control foxes. The story is fascinating and you will be happy to knwo that if you have enough money that you can get your own pet fox.
Milk! A 10,000 Year Food Fracas
By Mark Kurlanski, Narrated By Brian Sutherland
I loved Mark Kurlanski's books on Paper and Salt. They were informative and fun. Milk, unfortunately is mostly boring. There really isn't anything "fracas-like" about the history of milk. There are a few tidbits of interesting information in the book, like the Swill Milk Scandal, but you can read about that on Wikipedia without dredging though this book that seems about 50% narrated recipes.
The book is further hindered by some very poor narration. I sped the book up to 1.25 just to get through it. My advice to you is to pass on the milk.
America for Beginners
By Leah Franqui, Narrated by Soneela Nankani
Oh the tedium!
I had heard great things about this book and it was even compared to Behold the Dreamers, one of my recent favorites. It is NOTHING like Behold the Dreamers except it is about foreigners visiting the US for the first time.
The story is about a Indian woman visiting the US for the first time to try to find her gay son. She is guided by a recent immigrant from Bengal and an aspiring actress who needs money. It takes half of the book just to introduce all of the characters and most of the book is comprised of internal dialogue from one character or another. I made it 6 hours in and just couldn't take it anymore. I was ambivalent about all of the characters and wanted to slap most of them and tell them to buck up and get on with their day.
(Fortunately this one was free from the library so I didn't feel bad not finishing it!)
It was a bummer to end on 2 bad books but I have hope for November!
Wow, September sure went by fast! My book list starts on my trip home from vacation and the rest was done while ironing and packing fabric, making flowers and doing every other prep task for the big show next week. As of today my booth is ready! All of the fabric is done, the decorations and signs made and everything is packed. I only have one task left to get my Bleeding Quilt presentation ready and I'll do that this weekend.
Today, I'm going to continue listening to my latest book and sew something.
I only finished 6 books this month but a few of them are real gems. My favorites are The House at the Edge of Night and The Woman Who Smashed Codes.
What have you read recently? Any recommendations?
The House at the Edge of Night
By Catherine Banner, Narrated by Eduardo Ballerini
Coming home from vacation I had Laura with me for the trip from Maine to Connecticut but I had to do Connecticut to Virginia by myself. I'm not a big fan of driving in any case but with a good book I 'm good to go. But the key is finding a good book and this time I lucked out.
The story is set on the fictional island of Castellamare, off the coast of Italy. Amadeo Esposito is a foundling (orphan) from Florence who is mentored by the physician that tends to the foundlings. He becomes a physician and finds employment, and love, as the first physician on the island. The story follows 3 generations of the Esposito family as the world intrudes and families leave and return to the lovely island.
It's a lovely story about a lovely place that you want to visit when the book is over. As soon as I got home I immediately put on my headphones so I could continue listening.
The Worst Hard Times
By Timothy Egan, Narrated by Patrick Lawlor
I read another book by Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman, that I loved. He does meticulous research on his subjects. But I can't say that I loved this one.
This is all about the Dust Bowl of the 1930's and there's tons of detail. It reminds me of the Ken Burns documentary productions (and in fact, Ken Burns reads the Forward) but imagine if you listened to the Ken Burns documentaries without the images. That's kind of what this book is like. Maybe Ken Burns turned this into one of his documentaries. If he did, I'd recommend watching that instead.
It's really well researched and I learned so much about that era that I just didn't know but it's story after story of one family's hardship or another. The best way to describe it is that the book is a bit too dry for my tastes. The point could have been made in a much shorter book. The repetitive stories didn't add to the overall message.
The Alice Network
By Kate Quinn, Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld
In 1947, Charlie is a socialite college girl who finds herself pregnant and obsessed with finding her cousin Rose who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war. Charlie shows up in London on the doorstep of Eve Gardiner wanting help finding Rose. Eve was a spy during WWI and is barely living with the scars of her experience. When Charlie mentions a particular name, Eve is determined to find the truth.
The story flips back and forth between 1947 (Charlie) and 1915 (Eve) as both stories unfold. It's well written and holds your interest. There are some brutal scenes but it's not suspense.
The Woman Who Smashed Codes
by Jason Fagone, Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
In 1912 Elizabeth Smith and William Freidman were working together on the estate of a crazy tycoon doing research projects. He was studying genetics and she was working on code breaking, specifically the theory that Bacon wrote Shakespeare and inserted codes into the text of the plays. The fell in love and became the preeminent code breakers in the US. Many books have been written about William. This book tells the rest of the story about Elizabeth and her work tracking gangsters after WWII and Nazis during WWII.
William and Elizabeth Friedman's work created the basis of the NSA and her story is fascinating. I loved this book!
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Kenny Blyth
This is the 5th in the Shetland Island series featuring detective Jimmy Perez. These are "edge of your seat" stories but they are good. I like the characters and the landscape descriptions make we want to visit the Shetland Islands. They are straight up murder mysteries and this one doesn't disappoint with 2 murders in pretty quick succession. The case gets Jimmy emerging from mourning back into work after the death of his fiance in the last book.
With this book they have changed the narrator and I like this one much better.
By Jeff Hawkins, Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
This is an old book (published in 2004) and that's especially old for a science book. I picked it up because Audible offered it in a Daily Deal and I'm glad I read it.
Jeff Hawkins was the founder of Palm Computing and Handspring. After he made is his fortune he turned to his primary interest: neuroscience. He started a company that is researching how we create and store memory. This book is his theory of how the neocortex works to learn and store patterns.
His company, Numenta, does this research today and works on developing artificial intelligence systems based on how the brain works. The book is very interesting. Where it gets dated is in the end where he's postulating on the future of AI. Some of the challenges that he identifies have been overcome, others are challenged in exactly the way he predicted. But his explanation of artificial intelligence actually made the who concept less scary for me.
This photo is the view that we had for the last 2 weeks. The 2 dots are me and our friend, Ian, heading out to kayak the length of Long Pond. We had a great week of beautiful weather, challenging hikes, lots of kayaking and way too much food. In other words, it was a perfect vacation and great to be away from the 95 degree heat and95% humidity days of August in Virginia. Laura and I even got in some sewing time and I'll share those projects as I get caught up this week.
Of course, it's always good to come home too and now that we are unpacked it's time to get back to focusing on normal business and getting ready for the AQS Virginia Beach show. Tomorrow I will announce the winners of all of the giveaways but today I'm going to start catching up by sharing my August audiobook list.
Given that the month included 2 weeks of vacation I did OK with 9 books read this month. Probably the 2 least favorite are Varina and The Woman in Cabin 10. My favorites are My Dear Hamilton and The Last Days of Night. The biggest surprise is Silver Linings Playbook.
Do you have any books to recommend this month?
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Gordon Griffin
This is the 4th in the Shetland Island series. If you watch the BBC series, Shetland, these are the books that series is based on. The main character is Inspector Jimmy Perez. He's visiting his parents on Fair Isle with his fiance, Fran.
The island is famous as a birders observatory and one of the ornithologists is murdered. There are a limited number of suspects and, yet, it takes a while to solve. What's great about these books is the depth of the characters. What's not so great is the path to solving crimes. It's good enough that I've already placed the 5th book on hold at the library.
The narration is fine. Not great, but fine. He pronounces Perez as "paris" which is annoying for this American. It may, however, be accurate for Scotland. But you could get away with listening to this one at 1.1 or 1.2 speed.
By Charles C. Mann, Narrated by Robertson Dean
Wow. This book is so full of information that it's hard to absorb it all. It starts in 1493 and traces the phenomenon called the Columbian Exchange that resulted from Columbus' exploration of the New World. It's broken into 4 regional parts: Atlantic, Pacific, Europe and Africa. That organization is what saves it from being completely overwhelming.
It's a big book to absorb and might be better read than heard but it is refreshingly unbiased by our modern perspective. It reminds me of the old Dragnet show, "Just the facts ma'am" and it's full of very interesting consequences to ponder.
I'm glad I listened to it but this one does require an investment of time and focus.
By Charles Frazier, Narrated by Molly Parker
Because I keep a detailed list, I know that I read Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain almost exactly 20 years ago! I remember really enjoying that book and I was looking forward to Varina.
Varina Howell was the wife of Jefferson Davis and this book is supposed to be the story of the Civil War era as told through the life of on of the key female figures.
I think the writing is good and the narration is beautiful but, in my opinion, the book is a hot mess. It told in a non-linear fashion so it jumps from one period to another with no real warning.I couldn't keep up. Fortunately I borrowed this one from the library so I didn't feel guilty not finishing it.
On Amazon it has rave reviews so you might like it.
By Carl Hiaasen, Narrated by George Wilson
Carl Hiaasen is one of the funniest writers today. His wacky tales of South Florida always make me laugh out loud. They are delightfully politically incorrect and feature outlandish stereotypes.
In this one tourist season is just getting underway and there's a misfit terrorist group bent on expelling the tourists and new Florida transplants. George Wilson is the perfect narrator for these stories.
Tourist Season is an older book, first published in the 80's but it's still entertaining today.
The Woman in Cabin 10
By Ruth Ware, Narrated By Imogen Church
This seems to be the hot book of summer that everyone is reading. Lo Blacklock works for a travel magazine has has been given the opportunity to spend a week on a luxury cruise. Everything is going great (but not really) until she hears someone being thrown overboard. All passengers are accounted for and she is dismissed as crazy.
Frankly, she is crazy. Throughout the whole book she is drunk (and therefore an unreliable witness) at every critical point, completely exhausted (so tired of hearing that) and makes one stupid move after another. She's that person who is in her 30's and her life is a continual mess and it's hard to generate any sympathy for her. Actually there aren't many characters to like in this one and that's probably my main complaint. Also there's an opening scene that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story.
It's a good summer read because it's a page turner. You do want to know what happens next but much of it makes logical sense and you wouldn't be disappointed if all of the characters died.
Last Days of Night
By Graham Moore, Narrated by Johnathan McClain
It's New Your in 1888 at the early days of electricity and Moore takes us along as Thomas Edison sues George Westinghouse over who owns the patent to the lightbulb. The story is told from the point of view of Paul Cravath, the rookie lawyer that Westinghouse has hired to defend him in the billion dollar case. Cravath is an interesting person in his own right as he is considered the modern structure of law firms. Nicola Tesla also features prominently in the story.
This is a work of historical fiction but the historical foundation is solid. It's well written and well narrated. Sometimes geniuses are also crazy.
Silver Linings Playbook
By Matthew Quick, Narrated by Ray Porter
I know that this is a book that was made into a movie that that Eagles fans consider it some sort of required reading/watching. Although I'm an Eagles fan I never had any desire to see the movie or read the book until Audible gave it away free a couple of weeks ago.
I don't know why they were giving it away and I probably missed several other free books that week, but no matter, I got this one free and I actually enjoyed it. Now I know why Bradly Cooper is always in the owner's box at Eagles games.
The story is about Pat People who spent several years in a neural health facility and decided that life is just a movie produced by God and that if he gets physically fit and learns to control his temper that he will be able to be reunited with his wife, Nikki.
The story opens when his Mom is taking him home and Pat discovers how much things have changed including the demolition of the "Vet" and the new Eagles stadium, Lincoln Financial Field. He also meets his sister-in-law's emotionally fragile sister, Tiffany.
It's a surprisingly good book. It handles mental illness very humanely. It's also a sweet love story, a story about family relationships, about fans love for their team and it introduces the kind of therapist that all therapists need to me. All that is packed into a relatively short (7 hour) book.
By C. J. Box, Narrated by David Chandler
This is #17 in the Joe Pickett series and the Cates family are out for revenge now that Dallas Cates is out of prison.
Yes, these books are a little formulaic but I still like the characters and the writing. Chris is reading them and he doesn't care for the way that Joe Pickett's family is so intertwined with the stories. That's one of the characteristics of the books that I like a lot.
If you like the Longmire books I think you will like the Joe Pickett series.
My Dear Hamilton
By Stephanie Dray and aura Kamoie
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
This is a historical novel about Eliza Schuler Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton.
We had a long drive to Maine in 2 cars so that meant that Laura and I got to pick a book to listen to while the boys played music in their car. We both like historical fiction so I selected this one.
It was long enough to get us from Richmond to Acadia and then back to Hartford where we had to drop her at the train station. Even with that much time we had to speed it up a bit.
There's very little actual information about Eliza Hamilton but the authors have done a good job of developing the type of wife that someone like Hamilton would have needed. After all, he was the source of the first American political sexual scandal and died at the hands of the Vice President. So there was lots of material to work with. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
When you are doing days on end of fabric dyeing and ironing you have lots of time to listen to books! July was a good book month in terns of volume. I finished 11 books and made it about halfway through 2 more. I even saved some money because about half of the books came from the library!
By Bryn Chancellor, Narrated by Cassandra Campbell and others
A new resident to Sycamore, AZ is on a hike and finds bones. The discovery uncovers 20 years of sorrow, angst and inner turmoil among, seemingly, every resident of the town. It brings back memories of a girl who went missing and all of the people who were involved in her life.
It's a well written coming-of-age story and if you are into that you will enjoy this book. I'm a little short on empathy so I have difficulty with characters who dwell on the past. There were times that it grated on me a bit and the audio is a tad slow. Once I increased the reading speed things improved considerably.
Inside Camp David
By Michael Giorgione, Narrated by Michael Giorgione
One of the benefits of getting audiobooks from the library free is that I can break my 10 hour minimum rule. The way that I pay for my Audible subscription I pay about $10 per book. I set my limit to 10 hours so that I pay $1 or less per hour of listening. With free books I don't have to do any of that justification and that's how I can to listen to a book that was less than 8 hours.
Inside Camp David is about exactly what it says. It's tales of how the presidents live at their Maryland retreat and information about how it operates. I didn't know that it's a Naval installation and is run and staffed by the Navy and Marines. The author was the commanding officer of the camp at the end of the Clinton administration and beginning of the Bush 43 administration. He interviewed all of the living commanders to get their stores for the book. There's the surprising friendliness of Jackie Kennedy, Johnson the workaholic, Nixon who relished the privacy, Reagan who loved watching movies with the staff, Bill Clinton who loved having lots of friends around, both Bush families who probably loved and used the place the most and the Obama girls who loved fishing in nearby ponds and Michelle Obama who hugged everyone.
While the narration wasn't bad, I do think that authors really need to have professional narrator for their books. Aside from that it was an interesting peek into the non-public lives of the presidents and their families. I give the author credit for seemingly showing only the best side of the Presidents. You won't be getting any dirt with this book. It's all positive. That perspective makes it very interesting that the only president without personal anecdotes of interaction with the staff is Jimmy Carter. The only mention of him is of the Egypt/Israel summit.
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
I just love this series. Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming and this is the 9th book in the series. I've been reading these out of order but each book is a stand-alone story and while some of the family details are out of order for me it doesn't take away from the experience.
In this one Joe and his wife once had a foster daughter, April. She was taken back by her mother and lived in a survivalist community. They believe that she died when there was a Federal raid on the camp. But now April has contacted one of the Pickett daughters and the hunt is on to find her. I love the character development. You can even have empathy for some of the bad guys.
David Chandler also does a great job narrating this series.
By Kim Van Alkemade, Narrated by Corey Brill and Andi Arndt
Technically this book is categorized as historical fiction. The only history is that a man named Jacob Ruppert was the millionaire owner of the New York Yankees in the early 1900's. He build the first Yankee Stadium and brought Babe Ruth to the team. When he died he mysteriously bequest over 1/3 of his estate to Helen Winthrope Weyant, an unknown actress. She publicly said that she had no idea why he left the money to her. They did know each other and there's one photo of her with him and some other men. Her younger brother, Rex, did actually work for the Yankees after he graduated high school.
That's it. That's the history part. Everything else about this book is fiction. Albert Kramer, his gay private secretary is fiction, her relationship with her mother, early bout with pneumonia, work in the theater, etc, is all fiction. The story is told alternately from her and Albert. So my first beef with the book is that it's billed as being about her but I felt it was more about Albert and the struggles living as a gay man during that time period. It was about Jacob and how he brought these two people into his life and made, in essence, a little family of 3. The bachelor girl is the least interesting of the 3 characters.
My primary beef with the book is the imposition of modern mores on that time period. It's all here: interracial relationships, living as a single woman, gay life, discrimination of all kinds (although more gentle than we perceive today), the plight of Asian people. You name it, the author checked all the politically correct boxes. That was over the top for me. It just didn't ring true to the era. This book should have been about Albert, should have left the interracial tones out and Helen should have been a secondary character.
It's getting rave reviews, though, so what do I know. I will say that the actual writing is very good. It's the plot that annoys me.
The Lost Airman
By Seth Meyerowitz, Narrated By Jonathan Todd Ross
I'm not sure why I've become so interested in "true hero" stories the past few years but I do love them. This one is written by the grandson of Arthur Meyerowitz who learned the full story of his Grandfather's war experience long after his Grandfather died.
Artur was a turret gunner on the Harmful Lil Armful B-24 when it was shot down over France. This is the story of his harrowing escape from Nazi-occupied France and the story of a lot of brave French people working with the Resistance. It's not the epic tale of Unbroken but it's a story worth reading if you are into this king of book.
By Owen Laukkanen, Narrated by Edduardo Ballerini
This is the 3rd book in the Stevens and Windemere series and the second one that I've read...and probably the last.
Stevens is an officer with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Minnesota and a middle aged, happily married, white guy. Windemere is a young black female FBI agent. None of that should be relevant except for the forced sexual tension between them. I didn't buy any of it and, frankly, it was a distraction to the story.
The main storyline is that the two of them are having lunch when the witness a sniper hit. They had the opportunity to catch the killer but Windermere froze and let him get away. That's problem #1. FBI agents, I believe, are trained better than that. More hit-style murders happen and they discover they are investigating a murder-for-hire organization that uses brainwashed former soldiers with PTSD to execute the murders.
Fortunately Stevens and Windemere, between fantasies of having a relationship, trip over clues and eventually solve the case. While I was listening I kept thinking that this would have been much more interesting of there was a "dark web" angle to the story. I swear there was just a normal website where people transacted the business of murder for hire.
But there were bigger problems.
- The protagonist is meticulous about managing risk in his business until he suddenly decides to throw all that aside and introduce astounding risk to his side business.
- The TSA and DoD, both, stonewall the FBI investigation. Absolutely absurd when you are dealing with clear evidence in a murder investigation.
- One of the major clues had to do with the purchase of a "shit ton" of a particular ammunition. That particular ammo would not work in the weapon that was used in some of the crimes.
There are well over 100 chapters, some just a couple of paragraphs, and I found that and the lazy writing really annoying. I'll avoid this series going forward.
However, Eduardo Ballerini is an excellent narrator and he's the main reason that I finished this book.
Mornings on Horseback
By David McCullough, Narrated by Nelson Runger
I was interested in reading this book after I read The Path Between the Seas about the building of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was the driver behind the completing of the canal and I wanted to know more about him.
This book focuses on his family life from when he was young through his second marriage. You get a clear picture of the moral foundations, inquisitive habits and dedication to service that he developed through is upbringing. Our 26th president was an interesting man and, after reading this, it's easy to understand how he was able to accomplish the great things he did as the youngest President to take office. (Many people, including Google, think that Kennedy was the youngest president but that's not true. Kennedy was 43 and 236 days, Roosevelt was 42 and 322 days. Kennedy was the youngest elected president but not the youngest to take office.
If you like biographies, this is a good one.
The Devil's Feast
By M.J. Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This is the 3rd in the Blake and Avery series set in Victorian England. Blake and Avery first met in India but at the beginning of this book Blake is in debtors prison and Avery is headed home to the English countryside. The night before his trip he is invited to dine with the most famous chef in England, Alexis Soyer. Soyer is a real historical figure and he was the chef at the Reform Club (a real place). The night that Avery has dinner with Soyer another guest dies of poison.
MJ Carter writes a great mystery novel. The characters are all interesting and the plot seems plausible. At the end of the book she has a chapter explaining what's "real" and what's fiction. I just hope there's going to be a 4th in the series.
By David Lebovitz, Narrated by Graham Halstead
This book is about the trials and tribulations of apartment renovation in Paris. The renovator, David Lebovitz, is also a pastry chef. I think he gained his fame through his cooking blog.
This book is not a good candidate for audio format. Almost every chapter ends with a recipe plugged in kind of randomly and there's nothing worse than a narrated recipe. Recipes are also not good for someone who is allergic to 75% of the foods available.
This book didn't work for me for two reasons. First, books with too much discussion of food that I can't eat just make me cranky. Second, the book is all about the ordeal that is apartment buying and renovation in Paris. If you love crushing bureaucracy then this book is for you! Seriously, it took 10 months to just close on the purchase of the apartment! I came away with the thought that visiting Paris might be just enough. For living, I'll stay in the good ole USA where we still expect some level of customer service.
Trap the Devil
By Be Coes, Narrated by Jay Snyder
Man, I love Dewey Andreas. This is the 7th in the series. Dewey is a CIA operative and there's an inside plot to take out the President, Vice President and Secretary of State and install a new government.
Fast paced and action packed with lots of returning characters, friends and enemies.
If you like Jack Ryan books, you will like the Andreas series.
The Unclaimed Victim
By D.M. Pulley, Narrated By Carly Robins
Last year I read The Dead Key by this author and I loved it. She masterfully wove a tale centered around an old bank building and featured two heroines. One who worked in the building in the 70's and another in the 90's. The Unclaimed Victim followed the formula of that story so closely that I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen.
Read one or the other. I wouldn't read both. I preferred The Dead Key.
By Ben Lynch, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith
This is another book that delves into the effect of genetics on our overall health. But Dr. Lynch has a program for "cleaning" our genes so they no longer behave dirty. Apparently you don't need to know your actual genetic structure because he has a questionnaire that will help you figure out where your genes are dirty.
Honestly, I didn't finish this book. The program is so draconian that I simply don't think I could add that on the things I already do. I'm probably 60% into his program already. Any further and I might as well move into a cave.
But the main reason I didn't finish it is that this book simply doesn't work in an audio format. There's a ton of supporting material that can't be narrated. But if you have any sort of chronic health problem you might find this interesting.
By J D Vance, Narrated by J D Vance
This is a book that I've been wanting to read for a while but it is shorter than my 10 hour minimum so I wouldn't buy it. But now that I have access to a decent library collection I was able to listen to it through Libby.
This is about the Scots-Irish Hillbilly people that live in Appalachia - the white working class that were/are the coal miners and factory workers that were hit so hard in the last recessions and with the opioid crisis.
It's a story about J D Vance and his family and how his Grandparents left Kentucky for jobs in Ohio, how the alcoholism of that generation affected the next and how his mother's addictions affected him. It's kind of depressing and uplifting at the same time. I have a strong Scots-Irish-Appalachia thread in my own family and it was funny to hear some of the same phrases that I used to hear growing up. Fortunately, I didn't have the family dysfunction that he had to deal with.
The book was published in 2016, before the election, but if you are still distraught about the election results and want to understand the Trump voter, this is the book you should read. Be careful, you might get a bit of insight and develop a bit of understanding and empathy.
Oops! I forgot to post yesterday. Maybe I was having too much fun ironing! So today I will play catch up.
This month in books was an odd one. There were too many bad books! But paying for bad books sent me back to the library to get Overdrive working again and to get a library card at another library that has a better selection of audiobooks. Where we live you can get a library card at the neighboring library system if you have a card at your local system. My local system is Pamunkey and the neighboring one is Henrico. (We like our Native American names here a lot.) The library is on the way home from Mom's so I'd just stop by one day on my way home. It wasn't as simple as I envisioned. The first stop was a Thursday morning, the only morning they are closed. The second stop involved discovering that I had to have my local library card with me. Third time was the charm and on the advice of one of you I decided to switch to the Libbie app. WHAT AN IMPROVEMENT! Libbie is so much better than Overdrive.
After my last book in Overdrive my library card suddenly stopped working and I couldn't figure out how to get it working again. I loaded the Henrico card and then magically my Pamunkey card appeared and now I can access both libraries. They don't have near the number of audiobooks that Audible has but I can probably cut my Audible expense in half and that wouldn't be a bad thing. So buying a few bad books will turn out to be a very good thing for me in the long run.
On to the books. It was mostly a month of "old reliables" as I continued several series. Only one non-fiction this month but The Path Between The Seas was a great one.
What have you read recently that you have loved?
Revenge in a Cold River
By Anne Perry, Narrated by David Colacci
This is book #22 in the William Monk series. I appreciate Anne Perry's ability to keep this series interesting without delving into gimmicks like characters developing supernatural capabilities. In this one we finally start to learn things about Monk's past before he lost his memory.
People from a past he doesn't remember come back to haunt him and once they discover that he doesn't remember that time in his life he is set up as revenge.
Paris in the Present Tense
By Mark Helprin, Narrated by Bronson Pinchot
First let me tell you what's great about this book: the narration! I think this is the second book I've listened to that was narrated by Pinchot and Balki has mad narration skills!
I picked up this book in a "Deal of the Day" offering and, given how Helprin has fallen out of favor, I'm surprised that Audible offered it. But I'm here for the stories, not politics, so I decided to give it a go.
Helprin writes beautiful prose and all of his characters are unbelievably clever, have broad vocabularies and speak their thoughts and intentions exquisitely clearly. In other words, his characters are mostly unbelievable.
The story is about a 74 year old Frenchman who is dealing with the normal kinds of challenges that a 74 year old deals with....except that he's as healthy as a 40 year old. He's made decisions that haven't helped him plan for the challenges of this time in his life, he's carrying around burdens from his past and he falls deeply in love with every woman he meets and fancies that they are in love with him.
It was a beautifully written but mediocre story. At the end of it all I just thought he was a crazy old man who should have planned his life a little better.
By Jon Sandford, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
After reading a disappointing book I generally search for something reliable for my next read and, for me, there's no one more reliable than John Sandford. This is the 28th book in the Prey series featuring Lucas Davenport. Davenport is now with the US Marshall Service and he's called to Washington DC to investigate a car accident that killed a US Senator. The surviving passenger, thinks it was no accident that that Davenport's nemesis (from book #27), Taryn Grant, may be behind the accident and a number of other events.
The Path Between the Seas
By David McCullough, Narrated by Nelson Runger
My favorite McCullough book is The Great Bridge about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge so when I saw this one about the building of the Panama Canal I just had to read it. It was published earlier than The Great Bridge but just as interesting. Both books remind us of a time when the US lead the world in great engineering feats. I believe that responsibility has now been relegated to the Chinese because we, sadly, would never take the kinds of risks required to build a Panama Canal today.
It's really well written, as you would expect and very thoroughly researched. It begins with the French attempt to build the canal. That part was a little difficult for me to follow but once the book got to Teddy Roosevelt and the American project I was all in.
After listening to The Path Between the Seas I hit an unprecedented run of bad books. I don't think this has ever happened before and it's made me sour on Audible Deal of the Day books! I couldn't finish any of these books but I'll give each a little mention:
Macbeth: A Novel by David Hewson and AJ Hartley. I thought that a novel format might make Macbeth more palatable to me. I was wrong. I listened longer than I should but only because I enjoyed the sound of Alan Cumming's voice.
West With the Night by Beryl Marhham. This is an autobiography of an amazing woman who lived an amazing life as a pilot in Kenya. She also trained racehorses. This book receives rave reviews but it just didn't hit with me. I was expecting something as beautifully written as Out of Africa and I was disappointed. It did spur me to do some research on her so that's good.
The Enigma of Reason by by Hugo Mercer and Dan Sperber. You know a book is going to be tough when the intro is an hour. It's tedious and the narrator makes things worse.
Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger
After three losers I had to find an "old reliable" and jumped into the 7th installment of the Cork O'Connor series. In this one Cork is a new private investigator and his first client is Henry Meloux. Henry has asked Cork to help find his 72 year old son that he's never met.
There's a new narrator for the series now and that was a little difficult to get used to but it was still a good read.
The Honest Spy
By Andreas Kollender, Narrated by Malcolm Hilgartner
Fritz Kolbe worked for the German Foreign Office at the start of WWII and he wasn't a support of Hitler and the Nazi Party. During the war he approached the US and became the most important spy of the war. Allen Dulles was his handler and says that it was the work with Kolbe that was key to his becoming the first civilian Director of the CIA.
That's all true.
This book is a novel based on the life of Kolbe. There's a lot in it that isn't necessarily true but the point is to give us an idea of what he life might have been like. It's not the most riveting book that I've ever read but I did enjoy it.
The premise is that Kolbe is telling his story to journalists after the war so the scenes in the book jump back and forth between the events of the war and the conversation with the journalists. That's all fine except that the narrator needed to take a little break between the changes. Sometimes I felt lost because it was narrated as one continuing event. But, otherwise, the narrator did a fine job.
By Margaret George, Narrated by Kate Reading
The month of June was "saved" from the bast taste of 3 loser books by another Margaret George masterpiece. I started reading her books with Memoirs of Cleopatra which is still one of my all-time favorite books.
This historical fiction is narrated by Elizabeth. It's clear that George does an amazing amount of research because so much of the story is true but she adds the color that makes it a great novel. I found myself on Wikipedia several times to research particular things that came up in the book. It was 31 hours long but it was a very pleasant 31 hours.
By David Baldacci, Narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy
This is the second book in the Will Robie series. My review of the first wasn't a good one but since I was able to get this one free through the library I decided to give it a try.
Will Robie and Jessica Reel are government employed assassins. Jessica has gone "off the farm" and is killing high-ranking employees of the government. Will is assigned to find her and bring her in, or kill her.
It's a better story than the first one but, with Baldacci, you have to suspend any need for plausibility. Baldacci's writing is starting to annoy me. There are impossible clues that only these two can read, convenient escape routes and lazy leaps in the story. He also has an annoying habit of introducing characters as "the man" or "the woman". It's a lot to keep track of when the character is finally revealed. "oh, he is that man from earlier".
There's a lot of action and I did finish the book because I wanted to see how it ended but it wasn't a particularly satisfying read. John Grishom lost me years ago when his writing got lazy and I think Baldacci has reached the same level.
Another month of books has gone by and it was a great month because there isn't a disappointment in the list. Behold the Dreamers was a wonderful surprise and the others were all very good. The last 2 non-fiction books were chose specifically for vacation drive time and beach reading so I don't expect either of those to have general appeal.
Have you read any good books this month? I usually set a 10 hour minimum for audiobooks so the longer the book, the better! Which brings me to a question. Has anyone read Infinite Jest? I saw it in a bookstore in Hatteras and put it in my Audible Wish list but it is 56 hours so I'd like to get an opinion or two before I get into it.
By Robert McCammon, Narrated by Marc Vieter
Robert McCmmon is the author of the Matthew Corbett series that I enjoy so much. That series is set in the 18th century. With this book, a standalone book, we are taken to Depression-era Louisiana and introduced to John Partlow and Ginger LaFrance, two hucksters who take advantage of the gullible.
Elsewhere there's Curtis a young black man who is a redcap at the train station and, unknown to everyone, has a special talent to communicate telepathically and he currently has regular conversations with a young girl named Nilla. When Nilla is abducted he feels compelled to help.
I'm generally not into any book that crosses this close to sci-fi but, I admit, this is a very well-written tale and the telepathy is handled very well. It was a great book to start off the month.
Hong Kong Black
By Alex Ryan, Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
This is the second in the Nick Foley series. Nich is a ex-Navy SEAL working for an NGO in China to provide clean drinking water to poor populations. But, as in the last book, he's drawn back into his old life. This time he's called by his CIA agent friend to check in on another missing agent, Peter Yu. He discovers that the agent hasn't been see in 4 days. Meanwhile, Nick's love interest, Dash, has been investigating a situation where dozens of mutilated bodies have been washed ashore. Once of them is the missing Yu.
The story is action packed and moves along at a good pace. The plot is very interesting and as I read it I just hoped that the things being done here really possible in real life....although I'm not confident.
I don't see any evidence of a 3rd Nick Foley book but the authors (Brian Anderws and Jefffrey Wilson) have lots of other books to choose from.
Behold the Dreamers
By Imbolo Mbue, Narrated by Prentice Onayemi
I almost passed on this book because it was so hyped when it came out and, frankly, I'm not a big Oprah fan so avoid her recommended books. But this one came up as a Deal of the Day bargain so I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did!
Jende Jonga has immigrated to New York City from Cameroon to try to make a better life for his wife, Neni and their young son. He eventually finds a job as a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman Brothers.
This is a book about life, life choices and cultural norms. It's about the consequences of which immigration lawyer you hire, who you work for, what your priorities are in life and finding out what "home" is. It's a nice story with the addition of the Lehman Brothers crisis I think that many readers might think this is a biography. It's not, it's purely a novel but you could see how this could be someone's real life story.
The narrator is fantastic!
The Secret Soldier
By Alex Berensen, Narrated by George Guidall
This is #5 in the John Wells series. Wells is a former CIA agent who still has a need for the challenge. In this book he is hired by the Saudi government, specifically King Abdullah. Someone is attacking the Saud family and trying to send the country into turmoil.
This is very fast paced and I couldn't put it down. I think it's my favorite in the series so far.
The Confessions of Young Nero
By Margaret George, Narrated by Steve West, Susan Denaker and Katharine McEwan
There are few authors who write as thoroughly researched historical fiction novels. The first one I read was Memoirs of Cleopatra and it's still my favorite. But this one was right up there. It tells the story of Nero as if he is narrating the story. She stays very true to historical events as well as they can be knows. There is no actual documentation from contemporaries of Nero so our history of him is told by historians of later generations. At the end of the book George explains her research, things that she interpreted differently from other historians and literary license that she took with some time periods and place names. It was 20 hours of great entertainment.
I contain Multitudes
By Ed Yong
Although I'm including the Audible link for this book I actually read this one with my eyes! Gasp!
Last year I started reading The Gene on vacation. It's a big undertaking and actually took 2 vacations to finish but it was a great book about about the history of genetics and current research in the field. I Contain Multitudes is a great complement to The Gene because microbe research is front and center for research and new treatments for all sorts of auto-immune diseases. Researchers generally agree that gut health is the secret to so many of our ailments including obesity, allergies, asthma, diabetes, cancer and much more.
I don't think this book is as well organized or as well written as The Gene but the information was very interesting and valuable. I learned 2 things that are relevant and useful today. First, fiber is incredibly important for gut health. He says "where you have populations with little poop (constipation) you will have the need for lots of hospitals". Second, is that the probiotic yogurts that we are eating are great to help prevent diarrhea after antibiotics but not much use beyond that. The microbes in them are quite generic and not in high enough quantities to make a difference. It would be like taking my quarter acre pond water and dumping it in the Atlantic Ocean to try to bring down the salinity level.
On the hopeful front there's some great progress being made in mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and zika.
If you are interested in science you might enjoy this one.
By William Warner, Narrated by Henry Strozier
When Chris and I go on a trip we try to find a good book to listen to. Often is a mystery or a humor book by Carl Hiaasen. This year we decided to go non-fiction and local.
Beautiful Swimmers is an old book originally published in the 1970's and it's all about the Blue Crabs of the Chesapeake Bay and the Watermen who build careers around them.
A lot of the information in this book is dated but it's still a great read about one of my favorite foods. In a way it was good to read the dated information because it really shows how far we've come in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and restoring many of the native species, including crabs.
It isn't for everyone but Bay locals might enjoy it.
The Secret Place
By Tana French, Narrated By Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson
This is #5 in the Dublin Murder Squad series. I read #6 in this series a few months ago and now I realize that it would have made a lot more sense if I had read them in order!
In this one there's been a murder at an all-girls boarding school. A boy from a nearby school was found dead on the grounds of the girl's school. The case went cold until one of the students found a note on a bulletin board called "The Secret Place". It's where the girls can post anonymous thoughts. The note that's found says "I know who killed Chris Harper".
The narration is great and the author captured perfectly the annoying dialect of teenagers. It's tots amazeballs.
,I think I mentioned a few months ago that I finally found Overdrive and the capability to download audiobooks from my local library free. That's very enticing and I've used it for a half dozen books or more so far. My library doesn't have a huge audiobook selection although I think the adjacent county does and I can get a library card there and would have access to lots more books. The thing is that I'm not all that motivated because with Overdrive, you get what you pay for. The Overdrive app is incredibly clunky compared to the Audible app. It's a pain to search for books and the app has several behavioral quirks, like the need to "re-synch" every time I turn it on.
I'm completely spoiled with Audible and now I know that a large chunk of the money that I spend on books is going to maintaining the technology that lets me enjoy them. Everything abut Audible is more robust and intuitive. On Overdrive I always have trouble even getting to the book to listen to it once it's downloaded. But the worst is what happened with the first book on my review this month: Grant. This book is 48 hours long! It's no surprise that I couldn't finish it in the 7-day loan period that I accidentally selected. On the expiration day I get no option to extend my loan, the book simply stops working. I had 10 hours left and the book was available so there's no reason for the app to not have an extension option for books not on waiting lists. To finish the book I have to download the entire 48 hours again and then skip to chapter 36. That is annoying!
I'm continue to use Overdrive some but it's not going to put Audible out of business.
My favorite books this month are 3 books by two of my "old reliable" authors: William Kent Krueger and Carl Hiaasen. What good books have you read this month?
Grant by Ron Chernow
Narrated by Mark Branhall
One of my favorite books of all time is Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. I also loved The House of Morgan and The Warburgs. His books are always thoroughly researched and exacting in the telling of the story. they are also always long. Grant takes the prize coming in at 48 hours. It is also being categorized as my least favorite Chernow book.
Ulysses Grant is a fascinating man and one of the most important figures in American history through his efforts to win the Civil War and the actions he took as President. We, as a nation, have a lot to be grateful to him for. That said, he simply isn't nearly as interesting a person as Hamilton. He was a very devoted family man, he might or might not have had a binge drinking issue, he was probably the most racial-equality minded person of his time and he was too loyal to friends when selecting cabinet members and aids. Those are the main points that I took from a book that tells EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of the man's life. Studying every single battle of the war was really not necessary to get the measure of the man and I thought it was overkill. But then, I'm a casual history student. This is a scholarly book and if you are into that you will love this one.
As I mentioned above, Overdrive was brutal with the expiration date and deleted the book from my phone with 10 hours left. He was conquering the KKK (the original one, not the 1930's version) when the book got deleted from my device. I was so fatigued from listening to such minutiae that I decided not to download it again to finish. I would have finished it if I had purchased it on Audible but I'm not sad that I didn't.
Mercy Falls and Copper River
By William Kent Krueger, Narrated by David Chandler
After Grant I needed something more entertaining to read and selected the 5th book in the Cork O'Connor series, Mercy Falls. A Chicago businessman has been murdered in Tamarack County and Cork is investigating. Simple enough except the man is from a very wealthy family and the man's brother was once involved with Cork's wife. He does determine who committed the murder but by then his own life, and his family's, is in danger and the book ends with him escaping town.
That's why I immediately started reading Copper River. (Plus it was in the middle of Mom's move and I didn't want to have to think about what book to read next.) Continuing with Cork O'Connor seemed the best approach and I'm glad I did. It's not totally necessary to read these 2 close together because Copper River is a completely different story. Cork is hiding out with his cousin in a tiny Michigan town. The cousin's son and a friend saw a dead body in the river that turns out to be a homeless teen. Cork exposes himself to help investigate......there's also a cougar.
I like the Cork O'Connor series a lot and will keep with it.
By Carl Hiaasen, Narrated By George Wilson
Carl Hiaasen is such a clever writer. All of his books are absurdly hilarious and I love them. They are all set in Florida and all feature corrupt politicians in some way. This story starts with a nutty congressman and his infatuation with a topless dancer. When a customer on a bachelor weekend tries to engage with the stripper the congressman attacks him with a champagne bottle. That sets off a series of hilarious event and includes a custody battle between the stripper and her ex-husband, a wheelchair thief, raising wolves as pets, boa constrictors, competing strip bars and any number of other story lines. It's crude, but very funny if you are into this kind of book.
By Liz Moore, Narrated by Kirby Heyborne, Keith Szarabajka
Have you ever watched an episode of Hoarders? It starts out kind of fascinating but devolves into sadness and hopelessness pretty quickly. The people portrayed are pretty much too far gone. But at then end there seems to be a tiny strand of hope.
Well, that's sort of the feeling reading this book. Arthur is a former professor but has been home bound for a decade and has ballooned to about 500 lbs. Charlene is a former student of Arthur's and over the past 20 years they have corresponded regularly but have not seen each other even though they live only 20 miles apart. Charlene is in about the same shape as Arthur but she has a son, Kel, who is a high school senior.
This book is supposedly about the last letter that Charlene writes to Arthur that will set off a series of events but it's really not that clear. Heft is a heavy story, told in a lumbering manner that made me feel like I was carrying around a weight and I couldn't wait to end it. After the long slog I was disappointed in the ending. I felt it needed to be carried forward a little more. In fact, I uttered a bit of profanity at the end because I felt that I had slogged through the story for so long that I deserved to spend a little time in the recently cleaned house just to see if the hoarder was really cured.
This book has received a lot of outstanding reviews and some awards so you might try it for yourself but my next book needs to be a palate cleanser.
By Ruth Downie, Narrated by Simon Vance
If you enjoy historical fiction this is a nice series. They are all set during the Roman Empire but each book is stand alone. You get a little background from previous books but Ruth Downie does a nice job of writing stand-alone stories.
In this one Ruso and his wife, Tulla, have moved to Britannia where he's been promised work. He expects it to be medical work but instead it's sleuthing work. He's tasked with finding a missing tax collector.
Interesting story and excellent narration. I always like books narrated by Simon Vance.
The Echo Man
By Richard Montanari, Narrated y Scott Brick
This is the 4th book in the Byrne and Balzano series. Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne are detectives in Philadelphia and they are investigating another serial killer. This time the victims are all placed and posed in the same was as a victim of a previous cold case.
Montanari's trademark is serial killers who are very meticulous, purposeful, deranged and very evil. The stories are complex and you have to play close attention to all characters. This one was particularly comnvoluted with the overlay of a music composition theme. It wrapped up quickly and I'm not sure if I was glad to have it end or annoyed that I felt cheated. It was a little of both, I think.
Also, Scott Brick is the narrator. I used to love Scott Brick. He was one of my favorites but he's starting to grate on me. He narrates every character as if they are carrying a chip on their shoulder. There was a particular passage in this book where Byrne and Balzano were having a light-hearted conversation but Brick narrated the conversation with so much condescension and attitude that I think he made the conversation have a totally different meaning. I don't know if I'll read more of this series.
By R E McDermott, Narrated By Tom Haberkom
This is the 1st in the Tom Dugan series. I was excited to find a new "mystery and intrigue" series. This series is compared to Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy. The main character, Tom Dugan, is a part-time CIA operative and this time he's called to infiltrate his friend's shipping company to fin out who has caused 2 shipping disasters. It sounded like it had the making of a great new series.
Sadly, in my opinion, it's not near the quality of Vince Flynn. This book needs some serious editing. There are too many characters and too many stories within the story. For example, there's a side story line where the shipping company owner is being framed and threatened with his handicapped daughter's life. The story would have worked just fine without the absolutely absurd kidnapping and recovery tale of the daughter. In another example, the CIA calls a police officer in Panama directly to ask for assistance. In the real world that would never happen the way it's told but his way of telling it makes the story efficient to write. But it doesn't make it a good story. I won't be exploring this series any further.
The narrator is really good though and that's what got me through the book.
Today is unpacking day for Mom. Once we have her new sewing room set up I'll share some photos. But for today I thought I'd take the blog to tell you about a book I listened to recently that I felt needed some extra attention.
My blog friend, Kristen, recommended this book to me and I almost didn't listen to it because it breaks 2 of my cardinal rules:
1 - No books less that 10 hours, this one is only 5 hours
2 - No books read by the author, this one is narrated by Elizabeth Gilbert
Another reason I almost passed it up is that I'm not an Eat, Pray, Love fan. I just couldn't get on that bandwagon.
But then one day I had a break between books and thought a quick little book would be perfect to quilt marbles by. I'm so glad I did!
The book I'm talking about is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book is about the creative life and is a summation of her own life experiences. What I loved about is that it's not the pie-in-the-sky advice of "living your dream". Those types of books seem to focus more on the dream and less on the living part. Gilbert focuses on living while pursuing the dream.
This book is about doing the work and it cuts through everything else that isn't absolutely necessary to be a serious artist and that list includes school.
Her comments about college for artists being unnecessary get a lot of negative comments in reviews but if someone pays attention to what she says, she's absolutely right. College is outrageously expensive these days and it's especially expensive when you are getting an art degree. There aren't a lot of jobs that you can get out of college that would pay back $100k in college debt. Gilbert puts a much-needed voice of reason when she make the point that we can make art any time and that being serious about it is about doing the work more than taking classes on the topic.
The book is full of real life wisdom for artists and others. Gilbert, of course, is mostly referring to writing, but the book applies to any artist. Frankly, I think it would be a good gift for any graduate because it really is about "living the dream" rather than "dreaming the life".
Thank you Kristen for recommending this book!
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.
To subscribe click the RSS Feed button and copy the URL of that page into your blog reader.
In Bloglovin you need to search "Colorways By Vicki Welsh" to find the blog.