All in all September was a very good reading month! I liked all of the books I read this month for different reasons but the one that really stuck with me is Beyond the Crushing Waves. It's based on a true story and is really well written.
My listening time for September was 108 hours and 30 minutes. Year to date that's 1045 hours and 50 minutes. That's 43+ days so far.
What great books did you read this month?
Ancient Rome by Simon Baker - Just couldn't get engaged in this one. It might have been the dull narration.
If She Wakes (734)
By Michael Koryta, Read By Robert Petkoff
This is the second Koryta book that I've read and I wasn't disappointed. The story opens with college student, Tara Beckley driving a visiting professor to a conference speaking engagement. On the way the professor starts acting strange and asks her to pull over. He then takes photos of her for a smartphone screen lock and tells her to put the phone in her car. The next thing she knows she in a terrible car accident that leaves her in the hospital with locked-in syndrome. She's fully alert but can't control any movement at all so everyone thinks she's brain dead.
While her family is trying to find a way to heal Tara, lots of other people are searching for the missing smartphone. There's lots of action, some misdirection and suspense. The interesting thing about the book is that much of the story is based on the missing phone but at the end the explanation of what was on the phone was kind of an afterthought. Honestly, while it underpinned the reason for the actions, it really wasn't relevant to the story so I wasn't so bothered by it.
By Robin Pilcher, Read By John Lee
This is an older book that popped up in my Chirp list one day. I remembered that I loved Rosamunde Pilcher's books and I had read one of Robin's before. I was happy to be reminded of this author.
This story is set around the Edinburgh International Festival of film, music and comedy. Six artists from different backgrounds and disciplines cross paths and their lives are changed.
This is a feel good book that was an enjoyable listen. I loved all of the different characters and found myself very interested in knowing what would happen to each. Robin writes as well as his mother. Her book, The Shell Seekers, is one of my all-time favorite reads. I read it in 1998 and still remember how much I enjoyed it.
I Am Pilgrim (1361)
By Terry Hayes, Read By Christopher Ragland
This book was almost as long as the last two books combined. That will be enough to warn some of you off from the start. But I love a long book because it's an opportunity for the author to create a complex plot and this book did not disappoint.
But, before I go into my thoughts, there's another aspect that might warn you off right off the bat. It's about a plot to contaminate the supply of flu vaccine. This book was released in 2014 before we were all sick to death of discussing viruses and vaccines.
The book opens with the death of an unknown young woman murdered in a run-down hotel in New York. The murder is interesting because the murderer seems to have followed the guidance from an obscure investigative book written by someone who knows a lot about methods of undetectable murder. The author, code named Pilgrim, needs to solve this murder and one other just to find the trail of the most dangerous person of all.
A Saudi son witnesses the beheading of his father and vows revenge. That revenge included training in Afghanistan as well as earning a medical degree. The medical degree give him credentials for travel and access to medical facilities. His training give him the ability to disappear and reinvent himself with the help of his underworld friends. His plan, if successful, will be worse than the Spanish Flu. Pilgrim must find him.
You do have to keep up while reading this book but it was a refreshing story and reminded me somewhat of the writing style of Kyle Mills (currently writing the Mitch Rapp series). I enjoyed it.
Beyond the Crushing Waves (655)
By Lilly Mirren, Read By Melissa Chambers
Before I tell you about the book I'll just say that if you read, and liked, Before We Were Yours, you will enjoy this book. It's a similar story based on different, but also, true events.
Before this book I had never heard of Britain's Child Migrant Programme. I expect it had good intentions to provide indigent British children with opportunities to be cared for and learn trades abroad. Between 1920 and 1970, about 130,000 children were sent to Canada and Australia to live and work on farms. Many were told that they were orphans or their single mother's were forced to give up their children. Charities and churches coordinated the efforts.
The story is told in this book through three children who found themselves together on a ship heading to Australia for the promise of a better future. What they found on arrival was a workhouse environment that may or may not have been better than their homes.
The story is told in two timer periods with the second in current day when the Granddaughter of one of the children is about to give birth to her own child. Several events collide that prompts a confession by the Grandmother.
The writing is beautiful and even though you sort of know how it ends, you are constantly cheering on the children and hoping that they get a break. I couldn't put it down.
Gone Baby Gone (816)
By Dennis Lehane, Read By Jonathan Davis
This is #4 in the Kenzie and Gennaro series. I read #3 last December and enjoyed it enough to keep going in the series. This is an older series. I believe the original release date was 1998 but the story still holds up. I liked this book even better than the last one. I realized that Lehane is a master of the complex plot and he develops it in such a way that he doesn't need to rely on magical revelations to resolve the plot.
In this book, Kenzie and Gennaro are asked to investigate the case of a missing 4 year old girl, Amanda. It's been long enough since the disappearance and the search has been so thorough, that they don't feel that they can add anything to the investigation. But Amanda's aunt is insistent and she seems to be the one most interested in finding Amanda.
Amanda's disappearance is complicated by the lack of interest of her drug and alcohol-dependent mother. In fact, Amanda disappeared from her bed while her mother was watching TV with a friend one night. She had left the door unlocked. It seems the case might be connected to some of the mother's drug activities.
But might it also be connected to some other missing children in this poor Boston area?
Lost and Found in Paris (630)
By Lian Dolan, Read by Brittany Pressley
If you need kind of an easy, frivolous read this is the book for you!
Joan Blakely lost her famous artist father on 9/11 and 10 years later she is still dealing with the grief. Her famous model mother had removed herself from the public eye. One day Joan comes home to have her husband tell her that 5 years ago he fathered twins with another woman but, it's OK, he want them to stay together (because he benefits from the association with the Blakely name) but he wants to be more involved with his sons. Joan blows up her marriage and starts life anew.
She accepts an assignment to be an art courrier to Paris. On her first night there (after dinner with her flight seat mate) she discovers the artwork has been stolen and one of her father's lost sketches has been left in its place. So begins a scavenger hunt through Paris to find the source of the sketch and the missing artwork.
It's a ridiculous story but kind of a fun, lighthearted read. There's a ton of celebrity name-dropping that seems really excessive and can be annoying but I eventually got over it.
Fourth of July Creek (941)
By Smith Henderson, Read by MacLeod Andrews and Jenna Lamia
If you are looking for something different to read, this might be your book. It's set in the Montana wilderness and the central character is Pete Snow. Pete is a social worker who looks nothing like a social worker. He's called to the local school one day to try to help a boy who has appeared out of nowhere. Benjamin Pearl is a nearly feral 11 year old who lives in the wilderness with his paranoid survivalist father. Pete works hard to build a relationship with Benjamin and his father but there are all sorts of complications, including the involvement of the FBI.
Meanwhile, Pete's ex-wife has moved with their daughter (Rachel) to Austin and the daughter narrates part of the story. She runs away and Pete goes on a desperate search to find her.
The narration flips back and forth between Pete and Rachel and it's a really choppy transition in the narration. It took me a couple of hours in to figure out exactly what was going on between the two different narration voices. That was not handled well for the listener. I expect that it's different chapters in the book and a pause between narrators would have been good.
But, back to the story, it's a unique story and it's interesting. It is dark in it's portrayal of the permanently downtrodden but there's hope. For a debut novel, it's really well written and you do get attached to the characters.
River of the Gods (602)
By Candice Millard, Read By Paul Michael
In the mid 1800's, England was obsessed with exploration of Africa. The Royal Geographical Society sent Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke to seek out the source of the Nile River. This is the story of that journey and the story of the lives of the people involved. It even addresses the petty actions of Speke and other people involved in the search. Pettiness survives all generations!
One of the most interesting people on the team was Sidi Mubarak Bombay, a former slave who agreed to be a guide on the tour.
It's a very interesting book and I feel that it addressed the subject and the characters honestly and fairly.
It's vacation month and since we've been with friends I have tried to be less anti-social than normal. that means I've finished fewer books. I finished 7 books and my favorites were probably The Collector's Daughter and The Second Life of Mirielle West. Of course I loved Manitou Canyon because I still love the Cork O'Connor series.
My listening time for August was 93 hours and 54 minutes. Year to date that's 937 hours and 20 minutes.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - Annoying book where all women are geniuses, all men are pigs and all people of faith are idiots. It also isn't "laugh out loud funny", as advertised. Fell flat for me.
Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor and Misadventure from America’s National Parks – After the second story about phone service for park rangers I couldn’t take it anymore.
The Second Life of Mirielle West (757)
Mirielle West is a socialite in 1920's LA going from party to party with her actor husband. One day she burns her hand and goes to the doctor where it's discovered that she has leprosy. Before she knows what happened she is shipped to a leprosy hospital in Carville, Louisiana.
Carville, LA is a real place and the living situation and treatments are true to life so there's a good dose of authentic history in this book. The book is about her difficult adjustment to her new life in Carville.
I enjoyed this book especially the unique storyline set around leprosy before antibiotics were discovered. Often Mirielle is unlikable but I think her character is absolutely believable.
Haven Point (830)
By Virginia Hume, Read By Cassandra Campbell
I selected this book to listen to on the drive up to Maine simply because it’s set in Maine. It’s about generations of a Boston Brahmin family that spend summers at Haven Point, their Maine vacation home. It’s a long book and it kept my interest but it’s not one that I’d remember. The characters were a little flat, the “big family secret” wasn’t anything that qualified as needing to be secret and the townspeople were annoyingly cliquish and shallow just like you would expect of country club types.
My review could be colored by the fact that I got sick on the drive up and was coughing my lungs out. A book would have to have been outstanding to make me happy on that drive.
Manitou Canyon (694)
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #15 in the Cork O’Connor series. WKK is one of my favorite writers and I love the O’Connor series. His characters are strong an interesting and he sets a beautiful stage in the Minnesota Boundary waters. It was nice to listen to this book while sitting lakeside in a cabin in the woods.
It’s November and a man has gone missing after a camping trip. The official search ended but the man’s grandchildren ask Cork to continue the search. It’s a race against winter weather to try to find him. When Cork doesn’t contact home on schedule another search is started.
Like all of the books in this series, it’s fast paced and the storyline is enhanced with some Ojibwe mysticism.
The Golden Couple (663)
By Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Read By Karissa Vacker and Marin Ireland
Marissa and Mathew Bishop are the golden couple until Marissa makes a mistake that threatens their relationship. The agree to see Avery Chambers, a therapist who guarantees that she can fix your problems in 10 sessions.
What follows is a bunch of weird events in all their lives that seem to be timed together.
The book is one big guessing game. I'm not sure if it's suspense or psychological thriller. There was a lot of misdirection and guessing. It was a fine story for a long car ride. I think if you like psychological mysteries that you will really enjoye this one.
The Other Wife (633)
By Michael Robotham, Read By Sean Barrett
This is book #9 in the Joe O'Loughlin series set in London. Joe is a psychologist with Parkinson's disease and his wife recently died from a medical accident.
The book opens with a call from the hospital that his father is injured and in a coma. When he gets to the hospital he discovers that the woman who brought his father in is another wife. The book follows the unraveling of the life of his respected surgeon father.
What seems like a fall down the stairs is actually an attack and there are questionable activities in the family trust. These books are really good but you need to know that they are a little dark. I thought the plot was quite unique and I appreciated that.
The Collector's Tomb (692)
By Gill Paul, Read By Imogen Church
I suppose that this book is historical fiction. The main character, Lady Evelyn Herbert, is real. She grew up in Highclere Castle (Downton Abby) and was the daughter of the Earl of Carnarvon. Carnarvon, along with Howard Carter, discovered Tutankhamun's tomb and Evelyn was with him when they first saw the inside of the tomb. It's speculated that she was the first person in the tomb.
This is definitely a novel but much of the story is true. I don't think that the most controversial storyline was true but it made for an interesting book. The character development was very good and I was riveted to the story.
By Meg Mitchell Moore, Read By Stacey Glembowski
I went a little overboard picking books for August that are Maine-centric. This is another one.
Louisa spent her life growing up in a coastal Maine community where her father was a well-respected judged. She's come home for the summer with her 3 children to spend time with her parents and to work on her book. She is on sabbatical from her position has a History professor. Her father has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's and her husband stayed in Brooklyn to work on his business venture as a very critical time for it.
Kristie has also recently come to this little town in Maine in a Greyhound bus. She's dealing with the grief of losing her mother and the secrets that her mother revealed about her birth.
It seemed like a good summer read but in the end it was kind of uneven and disappointing. Louisa was pretty darned annoying and hypocritical. On the one hand she's a staunch feminist but she's not interested in helping a woman who might have been wronged by her own family and she isn't good at being independent. She's a horrible communicator with her husband and sets standards for him that she's unwilling to place on herself. She's kind of an entitled brat. Frankly, I found her childish and unlikable. Her children, however, were delightful while her mother was a bit delusional. Kristie is an interesting character who has had a very tough life and, rightfully, doesn't truest too many people. The best character in the book is Kristie's boyfriend. He's a real gem.
I was glad enough for this one to end and I did like the ending. Everyone finally grows up.
To me the interesting part of the book was the insistence on strong feminist messages but in the end it's more traditional values that save the day. Not sure if that was intended or not but that's what it is.
A Necessary End (608)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #4 in the Inspector Banks series. It's an older series and this one is set during the term of Margaret Thatcher so there's a lot of political discussion.
A local peaceful political demonstration turns ugly when a police officer is stabbed and dies. Chief Inspector Banks is on the case until a senior officer is sent from London to head the investigation. Superintendent Burgess is the prototypical bully cop and doesn't waste time being brutal to the members of a small commune-style community.
I like the Banks series but I felt this one was a little awkward. Every character had to be introduced with their political leanings and it was hard to keep up with all of them for a while. This was my least favorite in the series so far.
I read 12 books this month and rejected 3 others. All in all, it wasn't my favorite month of reading. While I didn't actually hate any of the books I finished I can't see any of them making it into my top 10 for the year. The most creative story to me was The Lightkeeper's Daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know those characters. I also enjoyed finishing off the CJ Box Highway Quartet which has turned into a completely different series.
There are a couple of unique history books here that feature moments in history that I wasn't taught in school.
My least favorite book was the disorganized Come Fly With Me. It wasn't awful but I didn't think it was particularly cohesive or well organized.
My listening time for July was 114 hours and 51 minutes. Year to date that's 843 hours and 26 minutes.
I found a couple of new and interesting podcasts this month:
Disgraceland will be interesting to anyone who loves music. It tells some of the backstories of different music artists. Recent episodes feature Britney Spears, George Harrison and The Temptations
This Is Love is your place to find a good positive story. It's produced by the same people who produce Criminal, one of my favorite true crime podcasts. A recent episode of TIL profiled a 4th grader in North Carolina who recently won enough competitions to send him to the National Spelling Bee.
Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich - I think this is probably a really important book about living in Russia during and after Communism but I just couldn't handle the choppy format. It's like riding the subway and listening to snatches of conversation and just randomly recording them in a book.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead - I could tell very quickly that I was not going to like the contemporary character. A quick perusal of Goodreads reviews confirmed my suspicion so I cut my losses.
The Future is History by Masha Gressen - It's about the return of totalitarianism to Russia. I will read this in book form because AUTHORS SHOULD NOT NARRATE THEIR OWN BOOKS!
Defenders of the Faith (888)
By James Reston, Read By Jim Meskimen
You have to like history to enjoy this book but if you do love history I think you will really enjoy this one. It covers a period of history that we didn't really cover in my high school history classes. In college I avoided history classes like the plague. I'm still catching up through my personal reading.
This book covers the years between 1520 and 1536. At this time the Catholic church was in crisis from a series of weak popes and the rise of protestantism and Lutheranism. Charles V was considered the defender of the Christian faith and Suleyman was considered the defender of Islam. This book chronicles the wars that led from Hungary to Rhodes to Vienna. Had they won many people thought Europe would have become Muslim.
It's very interesting but it doesn't read like a novel. But if you are into history you will enjoy this. Reston also wrote a very good book about Galileo that I read a few years ago.
By C.J. Box, read By January LaVoy
This is the third in a series. In some lists the series is called The HIghway Quartet, in others it's the Cody Hoyt/Cassie Dewell series and now it's called the Cassie Dewell series because Box unceremoniously dropped his main character in the last book.
Cassie has moved to Grimsted, North Dakota to be the new Deputy Sheriff in an office of all men. No one has time for jealousy and resentment because there's a murder to investigate. Grimsted is at the center of the shale oil boom.Men outnumber women about 20 to 1, there's a housing shortage and the workers are making a lot of money. It's a perfect storm for the drug business and there's competition and corruption to go along with it.
A young boy, Kyle Westergaard, is considered "slow" as he suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. But mostly he just doesn't talk. He delivers papers to make a little extra money and is a witness to the even that sets off the story.
Cassie is also still chasing the Lizard King from the previous 2 books but that's just a little side story to this one.
A Dedicated Man (482)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #2 in the Inspector Banks series. Set in Yorkshire, England.
Harry Steadman is a wealthy, retired professor who is totally dedicated to industrial archeology, specifically the Roman history of the local area. One day a local farmer finds his body while out tending his sheep.
The book is about the investigation into Steadman's death and it's a generally good who-done-it novel. There are 27 books in this series so far and this one was first published in 1988 so the technology is old but I didn't mind that at all. It was a little short for my taste so I felt that some of the storyline was rushed but all-in-all I was thoroughly entertained.
The Lost Summers of Newport (788)
by Beatrix Williams, Mauren Willig and Karen White
Read by a cast
If you like Hallmark movies you will absolutely enjoy this book.
It's setting is a crumbling mansion in Newport during 3 different time periods. In 2019 Andie thinks she has found her dream job as a host of a mansion reno show. In 1899 Ellen has been hired to give singing lessons to a mining heiress in preparation for her arranged marriage to an Italian Prince in need of money. In Lucia is living with her Grandmother, the Princess, while her husband and father-in-law drain all of the assets that she brought into her marriage.
It was a fine book for what it was but wasn't the historical fiction that I expected.
Memento Mori (640)
By Ruth Downie, read by Simon Vance
This is the 8th installment in the Roman Empire series and I feel that these books do need to be read in order.
The main characters in the series is Gaius Petrius Ruso, a former Army medicus and his wife TIlla, a former British slave.
In this book, they are called to Aquae Sulis (modern-day Bath), to assist Ruso's best friend Valens. Valens' wife has been found dead in one of the famous healing baths. Valens is accused and the scandal threatens to ruin the reputation ( and business) of the baths.
Downie's books seem to be full of historic detail and are true to the culture of the time. There's no apologies about slavery (mostly white people) or anything else that was commonplace in that time, including bad medical practices and sacrificing to Gods. She adds lots of wit and humor to the stories as well. I find them a refreshing change of pace for a mystery novel.
The Chill of the Night (638)
By James Hayman, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is the second book in the McCabe and Savage series. This is where having 3 different audio libraries can mess you up. After finishing this book in Chrip I realized that I had book 1 in Audible so I'll go back and read that one before the month is out.
The series is set in Portland, Maine and this book is in the dead of winter. Lainie Goff is a young attorney hoping for a partnership in the firm soon. That hope is cut short when her dead and mutilated body is found in the trunk of her BMW on a local fishing pier.
There are several good suspects and the search is fast paced. But the best witness is a mentally ill young woman who no one believes. I enjoyed it.
The Last Emperor of Mexico (714)
By Edward Shawcross, Read By Gustavo Rex
History buffs will enjoy this book. It's the story of the one and only Emperor of Mexico, Emperor Maximillian. This takes place at the same time as the American Civil War. It seems that America's distraction with their own Civil War inspired a lot of foreign meddling in our neighbor to the South.
It was clear that this attempt to install an Emperor was doomed from the beginning. The story reminds me of Russia's and the US' attempt to change Afghanistan. The whole episode was kind of crazy but really interesting.
Come Fly The World (452)
By Julia Cooke, Read By Andi Arndt
If you judge this book by the cover you would expect sort of a Mad Men take of flight attendant escapades in the 60's and 70's, right? You would be wrong. I'm not really sure what this book is.
It might be a history of airlines in that era, it might be about the involvement of commercial airlines in the Vietnam War, it might be a memoir of certain flight attendants or it might be about women's struggles for equality. What it ended up being is a little of each and a whole lot disjointed. In none of the areas did the book go into enough depth to provide any information above what you would have coming into the book.
If it had been longer than 7+ hours I would have not finished it. I just didn't feel it was particularly well written.
Paradise Valley (606)
By C.J. Box, Read by Christine Delaine
This is the 4th book in the Highway Quartet/Cassie Dewell series. I read book 3 earlier this month and decided to finish off the series.
It's 3 years since the previous book and Cassie has been focused on luring the Lizard King to North Dakota where she can finally catch him. The plan is a complete disaster and Cassie loses her job.
Meanwhile, Kyle Westergarrd, a young boy from the previous book, has disappeared with a friend. They are off on a river adventure that they have had planned for many years. Kyle's grandmother asks Cassie to search for Kyle.
When I started this series it was called Highway Quartet but I suppose it was successful because now it's the Cassie Dewell series and there are 5 books with another coming out in September. It's a good series but I don't like it as much as Joe Pickett. The 4th book does end the Lizard King storyline and the next books seem to have Cassie as a private investigator. I'll probably continue the series eventually.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter (554)
By Jean E. Pendziwol, Read By a cast
This was a little different book for me and I enjoyed the ride.
Elizabeth lives in a senior home and has lost her vision. She can no longer read her beloved books or study art. Her father was a lightkeeper on Lake Superior and his missing personal journals have recently been found, but she can no longer read them.
Morgan is a troubled teen with a talent for the violin. She recently tagged a fence at the senior home and is "sentenced" to volunteer there to repair the fence. She meets Elizabeth and offers to read the diaries for her.Through the diary they come to realize that their lives are connected.
It's totally unbelievable but by the end you love the characters and wish it were true.
Man of My Time (714)
By Dalia Sofer, Read by Navid Navid
Hamid Mozaffarian travels from Iran to New York to see his estranged family. His father had died and specifically asked to be buried in Iran. They can't transport the body so they have had him cremated and are giving Hamid a tin of ashes to return to Iran.
This trip sets off a deep analysis of his life, the decisions he's made and the consequences of those decisions.
What's good about this book is that it's set during the Iranian revolution. While "life on review" books are reasonable common, it's rare to get one set in a country and time that's unique to the Western reader.
What's not as good about this book is that the narration is a bit flat and the book doesn't seem to have an order. I expected flashbacks in time but they were all over the place. In the end it was not bad but I was glad it was over.
The Younger Wife (558)
By Sally Hepworth, Read by a cast
I learned a new book genre tag while reading this book: Domestic Suspense. It's a good categorization of this book.
Stephen Aston is divorcing his wife to marry a new, and much younger one. His first wife, Pam, is in nursing care with dementia. The new wife, Heather, is the same age as Rachel, Stephen's youngest daughter. Rachel and Tully, the other sister, have theri own issues. The whole even seems to have cracked open a box of family secrets that will come to light between the engagement and wedding.
This is the second Helworth novel that I've read and I enjoy them. This one is fast paced without excessive dramatics.
I didn't get quite as much reading done in June as I usually do. I "only" read 9 books. I got sidetracked with a lot of podcasts this month. I'll start my quick analysis with my two least favorite books: Magic Hour by Kristen Hannah and Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. They weren't bad book but they were a bit of a let down. I read 2 C. J. Box books this month. I needed them as palette cleansers after the two DNF books below. The books that held my atten best were the three non-fiction books: Legacy (which will be of interest to my British friends), The Least of Us (to help develop more compassion and empathy) and Nothing to Envy (to make me grateful that I was born in a Western country).
My listening time for June was 106 hours and 40 minutes. Year to date that's 728 hours and 35 minutes.
The Eight by Katherine Neville - If you like Dan Brown you will love this book. I'd guess that this book is one that inspired his writing. I'm not a fan of this genre of mystical historical artifacts with magical powers.
The Widows of Malabar Hill - I'm not sure if this is a good book or not because the narration on the audio version is intolerable. You completely lose sight of this being set in India in the 1920's with an overly excited contemporary American accent.
What good books have you read recently?
Sleeping in the Ground (659)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
I read the first in the Inspector Banks series last month and this month I've skipped to book number 24, proving that you do not need to read these books in order!
The action starts at the first paragraph with a shooter at a wedding party. The case seems to resolve itself quickly with the culprit's discovery. But something doesn't add up and Banks is on the case.
Good narration, fast paced and an enjoyable read.
By Thomas Harding, Read By Mark Meadows
If you like family or business history or if you are from the UK, I think you will enjoy this book. This is the story of the family that built the J. Lyons company, knows for the Trocadero, corner coffee houses, tea, ice cream and baked goods. But it all started with a man named Lehmann Gluckstein who escaped the pograms and immigrated to Whitechapel (London) in the early 1800's. What started as a small tobacco factory turned into a family-run empire. This is basically the story of modern Britain as told through generations of one family.
The Highway (589)
By CJ Box, Read By Holter Graham
Both of the DNF books above came after I read Legacy. I was afraid I was going to be starting a rash of bad books so I quickly picked the 2nd book in the Highway Quartet series by CJ Box. I knew I could count on Box to give me an enjoyable read.
He did not disappoint.
I think this series absolutely needs to be read in order. There's just so much that carries forward from book 1 to book 2 and I can see from publisher summaries that 3 and 4 are continuations of this book. I'm actually going to get them soon so I don't forget the various storylines.
In this one, Danielle and Gracie (from book 1) are on Thanksgiving break and driving to Montana to meet up with Danielle's boyfriend. Danielle is an incredibly annoying, irresponsible and self-absorbed young woman. She's also beautiful which makes her a great target for the truck driver that she just passed on the highway.
When they disappear, Cody Hoyt (from book 1 and father of the boyfriend) and his new police partner, Cassie Dewell start a search. They find something much bigger than just 2 girls missing.
It's very fast paced and Box isn't afraid to kill off a main character.
The Least of Us (769)
By Sam Quinnones, Read By Tom Jordan
In 2016 I read Dreamland by this same author. It was all about the OxyContin epidemic. This book is a follow up with a broader focus.
On the addiction side he talks about how synthetic opioids, like the many varieties of fentanyl, have made addiction even worse and much harder to overcome. But he also addresses how our addictions to things like sugar work in a similar way.
As to causes, he doesn't leave any stones unturned, including corporate America's focus on creating food addictions. He gives special attention to the vile Sackler family that hold special responsibility for much of the opioid crisis.
But he also talks about he we work out way out of some of this by focusing on our own communities. I couldn't put it down.
If a book like this interests you, you might also like Soft White Underbelly on YouTube. Creator, Mark Laita, posts daily interview videos with people that we would normally never meet. There's everything from drug addicts, prostitutes and pimps to homeless people, ex-cons and immigrants. He really humanizes these people and builds a little more empathy for how people end up the way they do. They don't all deserve the empathy but many do.
The House in the Woods (557)
By Mark Dawson, Read By Simon Vance
This is the first in a new series for me.
DCI Mackenzie Jones is called to a murder scene at a remote farmhouse. A couple and two of their adult children have been shot. They were discovered by the only surviving brother, Ralph Malander.
Eventually the investigation determines that Ralph is the one who killed his family. Ralphs's wife hires PI Atticus Priest to help get Ralph acquitted. Priest and Jones have a history. He used to be a detective working for her and they had also had an affair. He left the force and started his on private investigation agency.
One of Atticus' talents is his knowledge of behavioral analysis and that gave this book an interesting twist. There are only 2 books in this series so far but I look forward to others.
Nothing to Envy (749)
By Barbara Demick, Read by Karen White
I'm not sure how this book came on my radar but I'm glad it did. It was written in 2009 but it's still very relevant today.
This book is about life in North Korea as told through the lives of 6 people who were about to escape. These people aren't the privileged people of the party, these are normal everyday people who struggled to survive during the famine of the 1990's.
The author was a foreign correspondent for the LA Times assigned to Beijing and Seoul. These are the stories of people she met in South Korea and is one of the best non-fiction books I've read this year.
Before The Fall (775)
By Noah Hawley, Read By Robert Petkoff
11 passengers and 3 crew members leave Martha's Vineyard one evening for a charter flight back to New York. The plane crashes in the ocean. Scott Burroughs, a last minute passenger, and a 4 year old boy are the only survivors. The passengers are 2 very influential people and one was about to have serious legal troubles.
The book opens with the crash and then begins to tell the story of all of the passengers and crew leading up to the fateful day. It is not "one of the year's best suspense novels" as the cover says. I never really felt a lot of true suspense. I was hooked from the beginning but by the last third I felt that it slowed down. It was an interesting read and it kept me engaged. The ending wasn't really a surprise. The best part of the story was the survival of Scott and the boy and the development of their relationship.
The author is the creator of the TV series Fargo and I could easily see this as a "Who shot JR?" style series where the action happens in the first episode and the rest of the episodes try to unravel the cause of the crash.
Magic Hour (878)
By Kristen Hannah, Read by Suzanne Torren
I have a love/hate relationship with Kristen Hannah. I love some of her books and others just don't click with me. This is one of the latter.
The story is about a girl who appeared out of the forest in the Pacific Northwest. She was wild and couldn't talk. A child psychologist who has had some recent problems comes home to treat the little girl. This book is basically a Hallmark movie in book format. If you like those kinds of stories this is for you. It was a little light for my tastes. Things resolved too easily.For example, it was obvious that at some point that the girl would run away. It took all of 15 minutes to find her. I prefer my stories with a little more drama. But I finished it because I wanted to find out how a young child could live in the woods of the PNW during cold winters.
This book has been re-released for some reason so if you like KH, be sure to check and see if you have read this one already. It was originally released in 2005.
Shadow Reel (544)
By CJ Box, Read By David Chandler
This is #22 in the Joe Pickett series. I would have expected this series to have run it's course by now but I'm still enjoying it.
It's Thanksgiving 2020 and the Pickett girls are coming home for the weekend. Joe thinks he's preparing for a quiet holiday weekend when he gets notice of a dead moose carcass. On further inspection it's not a moose, it's the dead body of a local fishing guide. At the same time Joe's wife, Mary Beth, has found a mysterious Nazi artifact on the front porch of the library and doesn't know who has left it there but there seems to be someone else in town who wants it badly.
Meanwhile, Nate Romanowski, is tracking down the person who stole his falcons and attacked his wife and daughter in the last book. His track will lead him into the middle of Antifa and BLM riots in two major cities.
This one had two really interesting and creative storylines in my opinion. I was listening to a lot of it on a Monday and I got so involved in the story that I started to think it was Thursday.
Even though I ended May with three DNF (did not finish) books, all-in-all it was a good month. Fourteen books finished just might be a record for me. There's nothing like two trips in one month to increase the available reading time!
I'm excited to have found two new mystery series by Peter Robinson and CJ Box and I always love a Dugoni mystery. My favorite fiction books were The Girl in the Painting and The Lost Orphan. In non-fiction I learned so much from Unsettled.
My listening time for May was 146 hours and 2 minutes. Year to date that's 621 hours and 55 minutes.
All That Remains by Sue Black. It's supposed to be about forensic science but it's mostly a memoir. I got annoyed when she spent a chapter deriding anyone who believes in any sort of afterlife and followed that whit a chapter about her dead grandmother hanging out on her left shoulder and how she opened a window to let her father's spirit leave.
A Question of Betrayal by Anne Perry. This is #2 in the Elena Standish series and Elena is the worst MI6 agent ever. She can barely decide what to wear. I just couldn't tolerate it.
The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman - we tried listening to this on the way to the beach but we both thought it was horrible
What books did you love and hate in May?
Gallows View (525)
By Peter Robinson, Read By Mark Honan
This is a short book for me (under 10 hours). I think one of you recommended it and it was available at the library so I gave it a try since it was free! I'm glad I did. It was an enjoyable read.
I's the first book in the Inspector Banks series. Alan Banks has retired from the London police. He's relocated to Yorkshire and taken and "easy" job in the local police.
There's a voyeur harassing women outside their homes but he's not leaving clues. One day an elderly woman is found brutally murdered in her home and Chief Inspector Banks wonders if the peeper has changed his MO.
Damage Control (682)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Christopher Lane
Dugoni writes several series that I like but this one is a stand-alone. We picked this book (and the next one) to be our car ride books to and from Paducah. This one is perfect for a car full of women because the men are the evil element of this book.
Dana Hill is an attorney as a Seattle law firm. Her husband is also an attorney and he leaves the child care totally up to her. She's finding it difficult to balance her life. Life becomes more difficult when she receives a devastating medical diagnosis and then find out her twin brother has been murdered.
She does not believe that her brother's murder was a robbery gone wrong so she teams up with the detective, Michael Logan, to get to the truth. It leads to some dangerous places and situations. Dana does have a knack for making some stupid decisions but the book is fast paced and a fun read.
Murder One (681)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Dan Jon Miller
On our return trip I let Anne pick a book from the ones I had downloaded and she picked another Dugoni.
This is the 4th book in the David Sloan series. Sloan is an attorney in Seattle. He's still recovering from the murder of his wife. On his first outing he runs into another attorney, Barclay Reid who is still dealing with the death of her daughter from an overdose. She got a bad batch of heroin that killed her.
Barclay is on a personal crusade against the drug dealer and when one legal avenue closes for her, conveniently the dealer ends up dead. She becomes the prime suspect and Sloan defends her.
All of the Dugoni books are fast paced and full of twists. They are fun reads. It's another good one for the car.
The Girl in the Painting (676)
By Tea Cooper, Read By Casey Withoos
This book was a nice change of pace from the previous two mysteries. This tells the story of a young orphaned math prodigy, Jane Piper. It's Australia in 1906 when Michael Quinn, with his sister, Elizabeth, take Jane into their home to give her a better education. They are knows to provide opportunities for many of the orphans but Jane's aptitude is special.
Jane has become almost a member of the family and works with Elizabeth doing the accounts for the family business. One day she's with Elizabeth when Elizabeth has a horrible reaction to a painting. Something evoked terror in her and Jane thinks it's a repressed memory as written about by Freud. Jane sets out to help Elizabeth understand her reaction.
The book goes back and forth in 3 time periods pretty seamlessly. I really enjoyed it.
The Surrogate (543)
By Toni Halleen, Read by a cast
I've got really mixed feelings about this book. It's about the surrogacy process and pretty much sets a scene where every possible thing that could go wrong, does.
Ruth us a 40ish journalist who wants a baby with her new husband, Hal. Hal already has 2 children from a previous marriage. They enter into a private surrogacy contract with Cally, who will use the money to pay for college. When Cally has the baby she is reluctant to give the baby up. That sets off a series of bad decisions by pretty much everyone. It's actually a good premise for a story but most of the characters are supremely annoying and emotionally immature. Ruth is the worst.
I finished the book but found it kind of disturbing. The behavior of the hospital staff during the birth and after Cally's disappearance is completely unacceptable. Hal and Ruth are annoying. Ruth is an emotional train wreck and Cally is immature. If I were considering surrogacy and read this book, I'd never do it.
Back of Beyond (660)
By C. J. Box, Read By Holter Graham
I really enjoy Box's Joe Pickett series and I didn't know until recently that he had other books. This is the first in a 4-book series called Highway Quartet. Cody Hoyt is a brilliant cop but he's also an alcoholic and has only been sober 2 months when his AA mentor is murdered. Hank Winter has been sober 14 years and Cody doesn't believe the initial assessment of alcohol-induced accident.
Clues in Hank's cabin link to a outfitter who leads wilderness tours into Yellowstone. Cody thinks that the killer is on the current tour along with his son and ex-wife's fiancé. What follows is a fast paced cat-and-mouse game to find the killer and make sure his son is safe.
I think Box does a great job of painting a scene. I felt like the imagery of Yellowstone back country and the experiences of the campers was accurate. It's not a place I want to go, that's for sure!
The Sun's Heartbeat (540)
By Bob Berman
I actually read this book with my own eyes! I took it to Paducah to start reading in the hotel and finished it at home. It's not available in audio format (it's 10 years old) so I estimated my reading time at 9 hours.
This book has some strong positives and one annoying negative.
This is a great book to learn about the sun and how it influences life on earth. It's well ordered and is written for non-scientists, like me. It starts with the history of the study of the sun and I was surprised at how recent our knowledge is and how little we still know about it. From that point I loved it and would recommend it.
The one annoying bit is that the writer is too clever. It seem that every other paragraph has some witty aside. That's fine occasionally but it was overdone in this book. But if you are a casual science reader you would still like this book.
Villa of Sun and Secrets (572)
By Jennifer Bohnet, Read By Julia Franklin
I picked up this book because I read about it on someone else's book list and it was free on Audible in May. I knew it was going to be "chick lit" but I was ready for a summer read.
Surprisingly, while it is women's literature, it was better than I expected!
Carla Sullivan is turning 50 and she's just discovered that her husband is having another affair. Her children are grown and she wants to get away. That becomes a possibility when she finds a letter in her mother's estate. He mother has written a letter to her twin sister in France and Carla decides to deliver it personally. Her aunt and mother haven't talked or seen each other in years so she's excited to meet her Aunt Josette again.
Their relationship starts off tentatively but over time a lifetime of secrets begin to unfold as Carla starts to decide what to do with the rest of her life. It's a good story but the narration is a bit over the top. You eventually get used to it.
The Lost Orphan (591)
By Stacey Hills, read By Elizabeth Knowelden and Imogen Church
This was a nice find in Chirp.
The story starts in London in 1754. Bess Bright left her newborn baby at the Foundling Hospital 6 years ago and she's returning to reclaim her daughter. She arrives only to discover that the records show that she claimed the girl the day after she left her. Clara has never lived at the hospital.
Nearby, a reclusive widow named Alexandra, is encouraged by her friend - a doctor from the orphanage - to hire a nursemaid to help care for her young daughter. Both of their pasts will soon collide.
It's a good story of class differences, mother/daughter relationships and dealing with trauma. I enjoyed the book and the narration.
Mary Barton (977)
By Elizabeth Gaskell, Read By Juliet Stevenson
Elizabeth Gaskell wrote in the 1840's about life in England at the time. This is the third novel of hers that I have read and I've enjoyed all of them.
This one is set in Manchester England during the time of the Chartist movement. Mary is the daughter of a tradesman who has lost his wife and lost his chartist petition. Mary is just barely holding them above water but she's also dealing with two men who want her affections. One is her lifelong friend, Jem and the other is the wealthy son of a Manchester mill owner, Henry Carson. When Henry is murdered Jem is the prime suspect.
The book follows is very contemporary to it's time and that makes it even more interesting. It had a bit of a slow start for me but once it got going I was hooked. I'm glad that Audible has made a recoding of this classic.
What climate science tells us, what it doesn't and why it matters
By Stephen E. Koonin
Leading up to vacation I like to spend some time each day getting a little bit of sun so that I don't scorch myself the first day on the beach. I read paper books when I'm relaxing in the sun. Is there a better read for that activity than a book about climate change?
I've been interested in climate change modeling ever since I was involved with modeling my company's insurance portfolio against hurricane and earthquake exposure. Compared to climate models, hurricane and earthquake models for the insurance industry are very simple but still complex in their own right. Yet, they are spectacularly and consistently wrong. I was working with them when Katrina happened and I cannot overestimate what garbage they were at estimating the losses on our portfolios......We paid a lot of money to license those models too.
So it was around that time that climate change made it on my radar and I make it a point to read books (not the news because the news is fear mongering garbage too) about the subject written by real scientists. I wanted to understand how climate models could be so good when our weather and catastrophe models are all so bad. I don't share many of those books because many of them are incredibly biased in their own right. But I think this one is different. I know it's different because the media refuses to talk about it.
Steven Koonin has incredible credentials. He was a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech and vice president and provost of that university for 10 years. But he is most knows at the Undersecretary for Science in the Depart of Energy in the Obama administration.
I think this is a really important book for us "normal" people. He takes a methodical approach at teaching us how to understand and interpret what we are told by the media and politicians. He goes through many aspect of climate science and explains what we know and , importantly, what we don't know. He is not a climate change "denier" but he is also not a climate alarmist. He's a methodical scientist and this book is the best I've read on the subject so far.
The Dark Hours (664)
By Michael Connelly, Read by Christine Lakin and Titus Welliver
This is supposedly #23 in the Harry Bosch series but it's really a Renee Ballard (#3) novel and the whole thing was one big "ugh" for me.
It kicks off New Year's Eve 2020 with the murder of a man during a celebratory street party. Ballard quickly learns that it's connected to an unsolved murder that Harry Bosch (now retired) worked and is unsolved. The case file is missing so she visits Bosch to learn more about the case.
At the same time there's a pair of serial rapists called the Midnight Men and they have struck again. She's determined to solve both while following no protocols, annoying everyone around her, taking a lot of unnecessary risks and being a total Karen about mask protocols.
This story was light on Bosch and heavy on politics and covid. I didn't enjoy it and I don't think it will age well.
Vengeance Road (617)
By Rick Mofina, Read By Graham Rowat
This was the book Chris and I settled on to listen to during our drive. It was better than our first choice, The Tale Teller, but not by much.
Karl Styebeck is a hero police officer in Buffalo. When two women are killed in a local notorious park, he's linked to the murders.
A local reporter, Jack Gannon, becomes obsessed with the case and pursues it relentlessly.
The problem with this book is that the actual mystery is weak and was easy to solve. To make the book "long enough" he filled it with all sorts of background information all through the story. It was fine for a car ride
An Irish Heart (600)
By Sharon Doyle Driedger
This is the book I chose for my beach read. It's not available in audio format. I found this book in a bookstore in Emerald Isle, NC.
As a US citizen I didn't get any Canadian history in my education but as someone of Irish descent it still resonated with me.
The subtitle is a little misleading because it should read "how Montreal systematically killed off it's Irish heart".
It's incredibly well researched and tells the story of Irish immigration to Canada. They were historically treated just as poorly as they were in the US. But they made lives for themselves and their families in a town called Griffintown. Over the years the French and English in Montreal gradually erased Griffintown and, with it, any Irish character in the city.
I had a great month of reading in April! I had one DNF book but that's because it's a book that needs to be read, instead of listened to. That book was Einstein's Fridge by Paul Sen. It's a history of the study of thermodynamics written for non-scientific people like me. I've purchased the paper version but Chris grabbed it before I could start it. I expect it will be a beach read.
My listening time for April was 110 hours and 38 minutes. year to date it's 475 hours and 53 minutes. You can tell that I have my headphones on all the time!
I found a couple of new podcasts that I enjoyed this month:
Finding Genius by Richard Jacobs - Jacobs searches out experts in a variety of fields for interviews. Recent topics have been as diverse as controlling weeds, Parkinson's Disease research and improving employee mental health
Scamfluencers - This is for those of us addicted to the ID channel. It profiles various scammers.
Please let me know of any good books that you read this month so I can make my book wish list even longer!
The Songbook of Benny Lament (892)
By Amy Harmon, Read By Rob Shapiro
What a jewel of a book! I don't know how I found this book but if it was one of you, thank you.
It's December 30, 1969 and Benny Lament is doing a radio interview about is life in the music industry. Mostly the book is the story of his life but each chapter starts off with an interview question.
Benny Lament grew up in the Bronx and music has always been the most important thing in his life. It's kept him from following his Dad into the mob life with his uncle Sal. One day his dad takes him to see Esther Mine perform. He's mesmerized by her voice and confused about why his Dad is particularly interested in this singer.
56 Days (639)
By Catherine Ryan Howard, Read By Alana Kerr Collins
I think that this is the first Covid era book that I've read in that it's set in the early weeks of the pandemic in Ireland. Many reviewers commented that they couldn't finish the book because they couldn't handle a covid theme yet. This book really isn't a covid-themed book. The early lockdown is just the backdrop for the story. It didn't bother me at all and just reminded me how naïve we all were to believe our authorities when they said "two weeks to flatten the curve".
The story is about Ciara and Oliver who meet in a grocery store 56 days ago and start dating just a few weeks before covid reaches Ireland and the lockdown orders begin. Remember those good 'ole days when we were told lockdown would be only a couple of weeks? Well that's the premise for them deciding to live together during lockdown. Today, 56 days later, detectives arrive at the apartment to find a decomposing body.
I really liked the premise of the book. Ciara and Oliver, of course, are not who they portray themselves to be. Their true identities unfold and the story develops. The problem I have with this book is the telling. It jumps all over the place going back and forth in time and replays many scenes, almost word for word, from the perspective of different characters. The ultimate effect is of being dragged slowly through a river of mud before being allowed to get up and walk out to the shower. It was just too slow and too erratic and the ending was ultimately drab.
City of Saints and Thieves (673)
By Natalie C. Anderson, Read By Pascale Armand
This was a refreshing change of pace for a mystery. The story is set in the fictional town of Sangui City, Kanya. Tina and her mother came to Kenya as refugees from Congo. Her mother worked as a maid in The Greyhill home where Tina grew up and was friends with the Greyhill son.
When her mother is murdered in the home, Tina has to live on the streets to survive. She has a job as a master thief for the Goondas, a local gang. She's biding her time until she can get revenge on the man who murdered her mother.
This is a fast paced mystery with some really interesting characters. Aspects are ridiculous but I liked Tina and her mission so much that I couldn't put it down.
The Paris Library (713)
By Janet Skeslien Charles, read by a cast
During WWII the American Library in Paris stayed open because of the dedicated librarians. This book tells the story of that library in historical fiction format but with a lot of fact.
Where the book goes al little stray for me is the telling of it between 1939 Paris and 1983 Montana. Odile Souchet is one of the librarians. She eventually marries and settles in Montana. The 1983 story is centered around her young neighbor, Lily. I found Lily's part of the story to be not nearly as interesting and not tightly connected to the 1939 story.
It's still a good and interesting story if you like historical fiction.
The Runaway (695)
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is #7 in the Peter Ash series and was an interesting development beyond the previous 6 books. One of the things I love about Petrie's writing in this series is that he avoids formula. In each novel Peter and the other characters, Louis and June, develop and grow. The interesting twist in this book is that the new character, Helena, is really the main character of the book. It's her story. Peter plays a major role but the focus is definitely on Helena. That has gotten a lot of criticism but I actually liked it.
Helena is 18 and all alone in a rural mid-western town. Her mother died in a car crash and the local deputy has Helena working for him for a pittance and for the "privilege" of living rent free in a run down travel trailer. One night while working at the gas station she sees the opportunity to leave town with a stranger. It can't be worse, right? Of course it can, and it is. Several months later when she is trying to escape she encounters Peter Ash on a highway in Nebraska pulling him into her nightmarish life.
When Brains Dream (547)
By Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold, Read By Bob Souer
I am fascinated by dreams. I have always had a very active dream life and I remember something from a dream almost every morning. My dreams are always in color. I often continue dream stories for several nights in a row. I often talk in my sleep and I used to be a pretty active sleep walker. Once, when I was traveling for work, I slept-walked my way to getting up, getting dressed, packing my suitcase and leaving my room. I woke at the elevator at 4 in the morning. It was not checkout day. It scared the daylights out of me. After that I made sure that I chain locked the room and found that sufficient to stymie my attempts to walk out in the hallway. I have woken in the morning many times fully dressed in bed. All that is to say, that I love my nightlife and love learning about what's going on in the brain while we sleep.
This book is a great intro to what we know, and mostly don't know about what and why we dream. It includes some background into early research, the pronouncements of Freud and Jung and really explains what we actually know and what we do not know. Mostly we really don't know very much except that we must sleep to survive and dreaming plays an important role. This book is an interesting look into current theories and research.
Flight of the Sparrow (660)
ByAmy Belding Brown, Read by Heather Henderson
In 1676 there was an Indian raid on the Massachusetts Bay Colony and one of the captives was Mary Rowlandson along with 2 of her children. She was held captive for 11 weeks and later wrote of her experience. Her book, Captivity and Restoration is probably the first "best seller" published in Colonial America. It's worth a read on it's own and is good to read along with this book.
Brown has taken that book and the very little knows about Mary and turned it into an interesting novel that explores the difference between the two cultures. Based on reading Mary's own account this novel is a nice story built around basic facts but it's still a very interesting story and I finished it off in 2 days.
A Hand To Hold in Deep Water (844)
By Shawn Mocher, Read By Elizabeth Evans
This is another book on one of the Chirp daily deal lists. It hasn't gotten much press and isn't broadly read. There are only 7 review on Audible. That's a shame because it's a really good book. I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was with the characters.
Willy Cherrymill owns a farm in rural Maryland and his stepdaughter Lacey is coming home with her young daughter. Tasha, the daughter, needs medical treatment at John's Hopkins. Willy and Lacey are close but haven't spent a lot of time together since Lacey left home. Both are still dealing with the disappearance of Lacey's mother and Willy's wife, May, 30 year ago. Lacey saw her mother leave with someone in a big red truck and that was the last time she saw her. There's been not one hint of her since.
Willy and Lacey (along with Tasha's father) try to focus on caring for Tasha while avoiding any mention of May. But Lacey becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her mother.
This book is about a lot of things but the biggest thing for me was about the way that humans choose to make families. This is the kind of book that might be good for a book club discussion. There are a myriad of themes that can be explored and discussed. One of them is incest so be aware of that. But I think it's handled well in this story. It's only one of the threads explored in this lovely book.
Wild Swans (1635)
By Jung Chang, Read By Pik-sen Lim
This book is a classic that was originally published in 1991. This particular audio version was republished in 2015. If you decide to read it, get this version because the narrator is excellent.
It is a history of 20th century China told through the lives of three women in one family. Jung Chang's grandmother had her feet bound and was given to a warlord as a concubine. Her mother was a Communist and Jung was one of the first people allowed to attend school in a Western country. It's a long book at over 27 hours but it's worth the read. You will find parallels in our current cancel culture. There's a lot to think about and explore in the ways that communist and socialist ideas are presented to populations and how we see these tactics today.
I've been very remiss in posting this week but it's our last week with our friends and we are taking advantage of our time together.
I have still been getting in some reading and finished 10 books this month and listened for 112 hours and 44 minutes. That doesn't include the time I wasted on my 2 DNF books for the month. My total listening time YTD is 365 hours and 15 minutes.
I'm happy to say that all-in-all it was a good reading month for me. Aside from the 2 DNF books there were only 2 books (Stolen Thoughts and A Good Day For Chardonnay) that I thought were OK. The rest I really enjoyed. It's a good mix of fiction, non-fiction and mystery so I hope you will find something you might like to read.
As always, I also want your recommendations for your best books of March.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict - found it pretty boring. Belle de Costa Green is a fascinating woman and I think I'd prefer a straight-up biography to this book that painted her as awfully superficial
When Death Becomes Life by Joshua D Mezrich - I thought this was going to tell personal stories about people involved in transplants. I turned it off when he started a very detailed description of a transplant operation
Biohacked: Family Secrets - About the sperm donor business and how, with DNA services, people are finding their sperm donor fathers.....and other stories.
Twin Flames - The story of a bizarre cult that professes to match people to their "twin flames".
Void Moon (659)
By Michael Connelly, Read By L. J. Ganser
This isn't a Bosch book. It's an older book from 2009 and, frankly, I didn't enjoy it.
Cassie Black is an ex-con under probation and working as a car salesperson. She is getting her life straight when she finds out that the daughter she gave up for adoption is being moved to France. She concocts an insane plan to get her back.
After a stupid attempt where a bunch of equally stupid and bad people get killed, she makes a decision that was completely obvious from the beginning.
The void moon is a weak mystical/bad luck reference used throughout the book. It was clear how this was going to end from the beginning.
To The Bright Edge of the World (807)
By Eowyn Ivey, Read by a cast
This is a fictional story about the exploration of the new Alaska territory in 1885. Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester leads the expedition while his pregnant wife, Sophie, must stay at the Vancouver Fort for the duration. The book explores their lives while apart during the exploration and there are a lot of references to ravens and their mystical "powers".
There is a side story of letter and journals that have been handed down through the generations. The last remaining descendant of the Forrester's has sent the journals to a museum in Alaska and is corresponding with the museum curator who is reluctant, due to funding, to accept the items.
There is a good bit of mystical romance to this tale but it is well told. According to my reading diary, I read her earlier book, The Snow Child in 2013 but I don't remember anything about it.
Half a World Away (700)
By Mike Gayle, Read By Ksyi Ushe and Joanna Brooks
All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle ended up on my 2022 Top 10 list. It's one of my all-time favorite books and this book proves that Mike Gayle isn't a one-hit wonder. Those of you who are fans of Gayle please excuse me, I've only just discovered him.
This story is about Kerry Hayes, a single mother and house cleaner who lives in a tough area of London. She had a difficult upbringing, mostly in an orphanage. She had a brother who is 8 years younger but when they were taken into care they were separated. Noah was adopted and is now a successful barrister. Kerry has been writing letters to him through the adoption agency for years trying to find him.
Now that she's near 40, she hires a private detective to find him so she can get in tough. It sets off a chain of events that affects both of their lives.
This is another beautifully written story by Gayle. When you are finished with this book you KNOW these people and you want to meet them. If you read this be warned that you will cry at some parts.
I'm officially declaring Bryce Courtenay, William Kent Krueger and Mike Gayle as my curretn favorite authors.
Tunnel 29 (573)
Written and Read by Helena Merriman
This one is for you non-fiction fans and it's a fascinating tale. This is the story of an escape tunnel built under the Berlin Wall in 1962. About 20 young men spent 6 months burrowing a tunnel under the wall and helped dozens escape.
The interesting twist to this particular tunnel story is that it was funded by NBC (after the project was already started). NBC wanted to film it and show the escapees coming out of the tunnel. It was one of the first documentaries of it's time and you can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube.
There are some discrepancies between the documentary and book but nothing substantial that would take away from the true story.
Dead man's Grave (707)
By Neil Lancaster, Read by Angus King
This is the 1st book is a Scottish police series featuring DS Max Craigie.
The head of a powerful Scottish crime family is murdered by an old man following through in a century-old clan feud. Craigie and detective Janine Calder are sent to investigate. Once the motive is determined, Craigie and Calder are pushed to close the case but now there are other murders that seem to be revenge.
Craigie and Calder find themselves investigating the murders but also possible corruption in the Scottish Police Service.
This was a fun read with a storyline that moved along quickly. However, if you are considering this one in audio format be sure to listen to a sample and make sure you can understand the heavy Scottish accent of the narrator. The only reason that I could listen to it was because I worked with a Scot many year ago and I eventually learned to understand what he was saying. This book might work best in paper.
Windigo Island (706)
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is book #14 in the Cork O'Connor series.
The body of an Ojibwe girl washes ashore on the fabled Windigo Island. The girl ran away a year before with a friend and now there's a search for the friend. O'Connor is now a PI and has been hired to find the girl.
I generally really dislike fantasy and sci-fi elements in books so I was thinking about why I didn't mind the mystical elements (and there are many) in this series of books. The fact that I still enjoy these books I think speaks to the brilliance of Krueger's writing. He uses the mystical elements to honor the customs and traditions of the Ojibwe people whereas most authors use mystical elements and magic to lazily solve a storyline problem. At least, that's what I think.
I enjoy this series a lot. I love the characters and I love that the characters develop in each book. He also constantly introduces new characters, causes harm to some of the characters we love and kill some others off. It's kind of risky but it pays off in very rich stories.
Black Cake (722)
By Charmaine Wilkerson, Read By Lynette R. Freeman and Simone Mcintyer
This is a very popular book just released in January. It's supposed to become a Hulu series.
Eleanor Bennett has recently passed and has left history voice recording for her 2 children along with a Caribbean black cake in the freezer. Eleanor shares the story of how she born on a Caribbean island and escaped to an uncertain future.
I expect that movie produces will make this into a really interesting movie or series because the basic story is good. It's the telling of it that's a mess. It's so chopped up that it's really hard to follow. Some of the chapters are a few paragraphs long and there's no need to have broken up the story into so many parts. Overall I was disappointed in it because I did enjoy the basic storyline.
Stolen Thoughts (587)
By Tim Tigner, Read By Paul Michael
I thought this was going to be like a Michael Crichton book and it could have been. The premise is that a Stanford scientist has develop mind reading technology and is using it harmlessly in Las Vegas as a psychic. One day one of her customers tries to kill her.
She figures out that someone else had developed the same technology and is trying to get rid of her to protect their technology. Sounds good, right?
The whole thing fell flat for me. The professional assassins are inept, the scientist is deaf but seems to be able to hear at convenient times and the people trying to kill her are completely unrealistic. For example, they all live on the same floor of a building....50 year old people basically living and working together.
This is another book that could be adapted into a much better movie. At the end of this book you find out that the author eliminated 25 chapters from the beginning of the book. Thank God!
A Good Day for Chardonnay (728)
By Daryndra Jones, Read By Lorelei King
This is the second book in the Sunshine Vicram series. I read the first one in December 2020 and you can read that review here. The books definitely need to be read in order.
In this episode, Sheriff Sunshine Vicram has all kinds of skullduggery going on. There's a bar fight that might have resulted in murder, an annoying raccoon, an old lady who confesses to every crime and her teen daughter who is an escape artist and off on an investigation on her own.
These stories really aren't mystery books. I'd call them romance novels told through a mystery plot. It's very light reading so if you are looking for a good, easy beach read this series might be for you. It sort of wore on me after a while and although the book ended with a giant cliffhanger (major pet peeve) I will not read any more of them. It's just not my genre.
If you are inclined to try it out, I will warn you of one thing. There is a very graphic sex scene about 2/3 through the book. There's a lot of sex chatter and activity in the book, but I was quite surprised at the graphic details in this one part. I'm no prude. After all, I'm watching Bridgerton for the second time, but I thought this particular scene was over the top. If you read any reviews of this book, you will see this mentioned often.
They Came For Freedom (575)
By Jay Milbrandt, Read By Wayne Campbell
I expect that what most of us know about the Pilgrims is what we were taught in middle school around Thanksgiving each year. This is an in-depth history of the first Pilgrims. It talks about their persecution in England for deviating from the Church of England and their hardships on coming to this new land. In a time where we have refugees fleeing countries all over the world, this is a good reminder of our earliest refugees. It also does a good job of telling the stories of the various Native American tribes that first encountered the arriving English.
It was an interesting book but it's truly for the history buffs. It doesn't read like a novel or historical fiction. I was glad it was only a little over 8 hours and not my usual 10 hour minimum.
Wow, February has flown by! It was a very interesting reading month for me. Surprisingly, my biggest disappointment was The Bonesetter's Daughter, but it wasn't a bad book! I just read a lot of good books this month. It's hard to pick favorites but I'd probably select Jessica as my favorite fiction book and A Time to Die as my totally surprising favorite non-fiction book.
My total listening time was 119 hours and 43 minutes. Year to date it's 252 hours and 31 minutes. That doesn't count any podcast hours and I listened to a lot of podcasts this month.
A couple of my favorite podcasts:
I've become a huge fan of Sleep Cove meditations to fall asleep to.
Against the Odds is an interesting podcasts that tells historical stories. The new season is about Ada Blackjack, a 21 year old Inuit woman and the only survivor of an ill-fated artic exploration in 1921.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman - It just started off too perky for my tastes.
What are your book recommendations this month?
Something to Hide (1288)
By Elizabeth George, Read By Simon Vance
This is book #21 in the Inspector Linley series. I read a lot of these books in the '90s but they dropped off my radar. This one popped up on some list recently and my library had it. The last book I had read in the series was #11 so I might have to go and catch up.
I like George's writing style and character development and you know that I love a long book with several sub-plots. At 21+ hours this one checked all the boxes. But, it has a pretty sensitive subject matter that might not appeal to everyone. It has also checked pretty much every PC box in the storylines and characters. But, the PC part isn't obnoxious. I think it's handled well.
A police detective is murdered. She had been working on a special task force in the North London Nigerian community trying to stop the cultural practice of female genital mutilation of infants and young girls. There are several possible candidates for the murder and there is a related storyline of a young boy trying to save his sister from being another victim of FGM.
There are references to previous events in the character's lives but it works fine as a stand-alone book.
The Bonesetter's Daughter (711)
By Amy Tan, Read by Amy Tan and Joan Chen
I have page of books on my Audible wish list and many of them are books that are considered classics. This is one of them. It's set in 2 time periods: current day San Francisco and 1920's China in the village near the discovery of Peking Man.
It tells the story of 3 generations of women starting with the Bonesetter's daughter. The book sis told in 3 sections, basically one dedicated to each generation. It opens with the current generation who is dealing with her mother as she develops Alzheimer's and losing her memories of her past.
I loved the section about the Bonesetter's daughter and her daughter. I struggled a little with the granddaughter (current gen) I get the stresses that she had in her life but she came across a bit flat for me. But, all in all, I enjoyed the book.
A Time to Die (603)
By Robert Moore, Read By Pete Cross
This book will not appeal to everyone but if you like non-fiction I think you will find it really interesting. It tells the story of the Kursk disaster.
The Kursk was a nuclear powered Russian submarine that sank in the Barents Sea on August 12 2000. It was participating in Russian naval exercises. There were 2 explosions that nearby ships felt but no one realized that there had been an accident for 6 hours. It was 7 days before a hatch was opened to see if there were survivors.
I know it might not sound interesting, but it really is.
Close Your Eyes (664)
By Michael Robotham, Read By Sean Barrett
This is #8 in the Joe O'Laughlin series. Joe is a clinical psychologist that gets called in on police investigations from times to time. This one opens with the murder of a woman and her teenage daughter in a remote farmhouse. The bodies were staged. Joe discovers that these murders might be related to a rash of attacks where people are choked and mutilated.
Reluctantly Joe allows his oldest daughter to see some of the information about the murdered teenager and she starts some digging on her own.
Robotham writes a great mystery but they are dark. Sean Barrett is a good narrator but in this book he uses the exact same voice for Joe and the killer so sometimes it was difficult to navigate the character changes.
The Magnolia Palace (669)
By Fiona Davis, Read By Karissa Vacker
In the early 1910's there was a model who was a famous muse for sculptors in NYC. One of the artworks is above the entrance to the Frick Mansion. Davis has imagined a story where the model becomes entwined with the Frick family while they were living in the mansion.
50 years later, in the 1960's, a young British model is working on a shoot in the mansion. Through a series of events she ends up locked in the mansion during a snow storm that shut down the city. One of the interns, Joshua, lost track of time in his basement office and also would up locked in. They use their time to follow a treasure hunt that Veronica found in one of the rooms.
Clues are uncovered in the 1960's as the story is told in the 1920's. Davis is a great story teller if you like historical fiction. This one is mostly fiction but there are elements of fact that she explains at the end of the book.
By Philipp Dettmer
Try to picture the day when I was in Costco and saw this on the book table. It's a book written specifically or me and anyone else interested in understanding how the immune system works.
This book is for the beginner researcher. I think there's a lot left out of it but it's a great basic intro to the complexities of the immune system and it has wonderful graphics. The immune system is really difficult to understand so I think he's done a masterful job for us non-medical types. If I knew a high school kid who was interested in medicine I'd buy them this book.
House of Correction by Nicci French (679)
Read By MIchelle Ford
This is the first book that I've ready by Nicci French and I really enjoyed it.
Tabatha is a troubled young woman who is accused of murder. Her attorney suggests that she plead to a lesser charge of manslaughter. She fires the attorney and proceeds to represent herself from her prison cell.
You are always rooting for Tabitha but no one is sure, not even Tabitha, if she is guilty or not. It was a fun read.
By Bryce Courtenay, Read By Humphrey Bower
I read my first Courtenay book, The Potato Factory, in 2012 and I think I've read all of them by now. He is one of my favorite writers of all time. When I read his books I really feel like I know what Australia was during the time period of the book and I feel like I know the characters personally.
Apparently Jessica is based on a true story. If so, Jessica is one of the strongest, bravest and most principled women ever.
She had a tough life growing up but she befriended two local boys. One of them had brain damage and one day she had to save him from lynch mob justice. Not long after that Jessica is pregnant and refuses to name the father. Add in rivalry between her and her sister for the love of the same man and a frowned upon friendship with a local Aboriginal woman. All of those elements make for a sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful story. I couldn't put it down.
The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women (740)
By Elizabeth Norton, Read By Jennifer Dixon
This book isn't going to be for everyone but if you like non-fiction, and specifically history, I think you will find it interesting.
It is exactly what the title says. It's all about what it was like to be a woman during the Tudor period and it covers women of all classes: royals, royal servants, influential widowed citizens and a peasant girl. The book is organized by Shakespeare's 7 stages of life so that each stage profiles different women. It might have felt more organized to just profile different women individually but I understand why she wanted to have this stage-of-life structure to the book.
FYI, life for women is better now.
This was a pretty book-rich month because apparently December and January are dead months for pod casts. It was good to be back to reading whole books again. I finished 11 books this month and listened 132 hours and 48 minutes. You will notice numbers by each book title. That's the minute length of the book. Audible tracks listening stats in the app and when I was 100% on Audible those stats were fun to track. Now I listen on Libby and Chirp, along with Audible and I missed the stats. But, hey, I'm an accountant I can track my own stats! It's not important but it's fun for me.
This month has a lot of good books but three books stood out for me. How It Happened was a good find of a new mystery writer and I enjoyed my first Barbara Kingsolver book, Prodigal Summer. In non-fiction I really enjoyed Fortune's Children.
The Nature Fix by Florence Williams - Best I can tell Ms. Williams was completely annoyed to have to leave Colorado for DC so she created a job (writing this book) that would allow her to travel to nature parks all over the world and talk about her disdain for noise. Bottom line: nature is good for you, Ms. Williams is annoying and the narrator is awful.
The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C Rosenberg - I thought I was going to be on to a new spy thriller series. Three hours in and we were still in introductions and I gave up.
What good books did you read this month?
How It Happened (639)
By Michael Koryta, Read By Robert Petkoff and Christine Lakin
I think I've found a new mystery writer to follow! For starters this one is set in Maine and almost covers the entire state. That gets bonus points right away.
Kimbery Crepeaux is a heroine addict, teen mother and basically no good. She has decided to confess to the murders of two local sweethearts and no one believes her. FBI agent, Rob Barrett, specializes in interrogations and believes that she is telling the truth. The only problem is that the bodies aren't where they are supposed to be. When the bodies are found 200 miles away with another person's DNA the case is wrapped up and Rob is assigned to a remote western office. But the young woman's father isn't giving up and eventually drags Rob back to Maine.
I love a good "rural America" story and this is one of those.
Fortune's Children (1085)
By Arthur T Vanderbilt II, Read By Patrick Lawler
Money is good. Money is a helpful tool. Excessive money might not be so good for the families that have it. But it's great for the people and companies that make all the excessive stuff that they buy (houses, boats, jewels....). Rich families just don't seem to be good at holding on to and preserving fortunes for future generations. The Vanderbilt family is a perfect case in point.
This is the story of Cornelius Vanderbilt and how he built one of the largest fortunes in American history and how, by the end of the 3rd generation, it was mostly all gone. To me, the book is full of a lot of dysfunctional and unhappy people obsessed with social standing. It is not just the telling of the story of this family but of that age and what society deemed important during the Gilded Age. It's a pretty fascinating tale if you like family and social histories.
The Long Call (697)
By Ann Cleeves, Read By Ben Aldridge
This is the first in the Two Rivers series with detective Matthew Venn. The story is set in North Devon, England and starts with Matthew standing outside his estranged father's funeral. Matthew had been excommunicated from his family's evangelical community.
While there he is called about a murder victim on a beach nearby. The investigation involves church members and an adult care center where his husband works.
I liked this better than the Vera Stanhope books but less than the Shetland books. This is a new series with only 2 books so far so I expect that I'll read the second one at some point.
By Maggie O'Farrell, Read By Ell Potter
I'm going to preface my comments by telling you that this book has great reviews so I might be totally wrong. It is a fictionalized story of how the death of Shakespeare's son inspired Hamlet. Nothing is really known about Shakespeare's family so this is not historical fiction because there's no documented history to rely on. Shakespeare isn't ever really mentioned by name and his wife's name is changed to Agnes.
The book is full of beautiful prose without much of a story. Imagine if you went through your day and analyzed every single moment for some sort of meaning. That's what this book is like. As an example, one of their daughter's contracted the plague and we are even told the story of the flea that bit her. It's that tedious. I'd say that the story was 11 hours of introduction and 42 minutes of plot.
I almost stopped at 3 hours but decided to trudge on. I regret that time because the next book I started had me hooked right from the beginning.
The Nesting Dolls (749)
By Alina Adams, Read By Nancy Peterson
This is a family saga focusing on 3 generations of a Jewish Russian family. It started in 1930's Odessa and Daria Kaganovitch marrying Edward Gordon, a comparatively wealthy musician. They are Jews and are eventually sent to Siberia with their 2 daughters. Daria and her daughter Natashia are eventually able to escape Russia for Brighton Beach in the 1970's. Next we are taken to 2019 and introduced to Zoe, Natashia's daughter.
I was totally hooked on this book during the telling of Daria's story and I enjoyed Natasha's story as well but once the family moves to the US I felt that it went a bit sideways. There is another character, Julia, who is Natasha's daughter and Zoe's mother. The narrator ruins this part of the story by speaking for Julia with a heavy Russian accent. That doesn't make any sense at all since she was born in the 1970's in the US. There's no way she would have a Russian accent or have "old world" attitudes like she does in the book. Zoe is way too focused on whether or not she is Russian or American. She was born in the late 1990's so that part of the storyline is ridiculous.
So, for me half of this book about Daria and Natashia was really good. The second half was interesting enough but the cultural battles and "old fashoined-ness" of Julia and Zoe's behaviors wasn't realistic. Their storylines were interesting enought to stick with the book but I don't think the characters were all that well developed.
A Man At Arms (560)
By Steven Pressfield, Read By George Guidell
Surprisingly, this is the first Pressfield book that I've ever read. He just had not come on my radar before. This is historical fiction set in the time of Paul The Apostle (AD55).
The Romans hire Telamon, a man-at-arms, to hunt down a letter written by Paul. Telamon is basically an assassin for hire and agrees to the assignment to find the letter and kill the courier. Through the process he has a conversion of his own.
I didn't feel like this was a bible story. I'd describe it as a really good action/adventure story that takes place around biblical events.
Prodigal Summer (946)
By Barbara Kingsolver, Read By Barbara Kingsolver
Here's another author I've never read before! I've almost picked up The Poisonwood Bible a few times but never followed through. I don't know how this particular one came up on my radar but it was available at the local library and I decided to give it a try. I honestly didn't have high hopes since the author is also the reader.
Those of you who are Kingsolver fans already know what I discovered; she writes beautiful prose. This books is like a slow walk in the woods in summer.
There are 3 stories all set in Southwestern Virginia near enough to Damascus and the Appalachian Trail and somewhere between Knoxville and Roanoke. All the rest is fiction. But this is where the author also lives so she knows the landscape, flora and fauna very well and describes it beautifully.
The three stories are intertwined and are brought closer together as the book progresses. The book is about the people and the environment. She clearly has opinions about things like pesticides and killing coyotes but I think that she shows us how we should be discussing things that we disagree on.
The Last Train to Key West (603)
By Chanel Cleeton, Read by a cast
I get some of my book recommendations from Modern Mrs Darcy and that's how this and the next one landed on my reading list.
It turns out that this is the 3rrd book in a series but I didn't know that until I was writing this review so it clearly worked well as a stand-alone book.
The story is set in Key West, Florida in the summer of 1935. It focuses on the stories of 3 women whose paths cross just before and after the great hurricane of 1935. It's historical fiction so the whole book is based in the significant events and tragedies of that hurricane. I had never heard of that one before but I just said "1935 hurricane" to my resident weather geek and was treated to a mini-Wikipedia lesson.
This book doesn't have the mastery of prose of the Kingsolver book but it has a lot more story.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven (755)
By Chris Cleave, Read By Luke Thompson
This book is another that was on the Modern Mrs Darcy list of books that have stood the test of time. Both of these books were good for me but neither would make it on a top 12 list.
This one is set in London between 1930 and 1942. It's another in my favorite WWII genre of books. Mary North leaves finishing school and goes to the War Office to sign up. Tom Shaw and Alistair Heath are roommates trying to decide what to do.
Mary is befuddled to be assigned to be a teacher and before the children can all be shipped out to the countryside she is fired. Tom is basically the superintendent of a vacant school district in London and begs Tom to allow her to teach the children left behind. Tom falls in love with Mary and will do anything to make her happy. Meanwhile, art restorer, Alistair enlists and is sent to Malta which is constantly under attack.
It's a pretty typical WWII story of love, loss, survival and dramatic changes and how each character navigates the threats and disaster around them. It was a good book with a few flat subplots but a great exploration of British fortitude.
By C.J. Box, Read By David Chandler (571)
This is #21 in the Joe Pickett series and I selected it because both of the DNF books above were right before this one. I needed an easy (and reliable) listen. I love David Chandler as the narrator of these books and I always love the appearance of Nate Romanowski, the falconer.
In this story Box is imposing technology on the aging (51 is young to me) Joe Pickett. He's been asked to take a Silicon Valley tech CEO on an elk hunt. (Think Mark Zuckerberg going hunting.) Some people don't like "Steve 2" so the hunt doesn't go as planned.
There's also an interesting side story around Nate's falcons that seems to be set up for another book. It's not great literature but it's a good story with interesting characters and strong men and women accustomed to living in the natural world.
Florida Roadkill (621)
By Tim Dorsey, Read By George Wilson
I had no idea that there was "another" Carl Haissen or Christopher Moore but it turns out hat Tim Dorsey has been writing about Serge A. Storm since the 1990's and the series is now 25 nooks long.
Serge A. Storm is a highly energetic psychopath who has a unique sense of justice. Like Hiaasen, these books are all set in Florida and they are similarly insane.
If you are even moderately offended these books are not for you. Dorsey insults everyone and it's 100% politically incorrect. This book would have been politically incorrect the year it was written. It might not be published today since we have become so very tender and humorless.
But if you can stomach it, it's a funny book. The story takes a bit to get into as he introduces all of the morally corrupt characters and his target industry: insurance.
This is the kind of book that Chris and I like to listen to on road trips so I expect to get through the second book in February.
It was another great year of reading. Is there ever a really bad year of reading? As long as there are books I'll be happy. Looking back over 2021, my spreadsheet says that I read 148 books in 2021. That's compares well to 2020 when I read 146 books. Since I started tracking in 1995, I've read 1757 books. Most are Audiobooks but I do pick up a paper book from times to time. I'm surprised I read so many this year since I've also developed a Podcast habit.
According to my spreadsheet, these are these were my favorite books of the year:
All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle
Ship of Gold by Gary Kinder
The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies
Chronic by Stephen Phillips
The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
Feast of Sorrows by Crystal King
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
The Fossil Hunter by Shelley Emling
We may not agree on what makes a good book and what makes a bad book so I'd be very interested to know your favorite books of 2021.
Here's my report for December. I didn't read as many books as usual but, aside from the 2 DNF books, they were all winners!
15 Seconds by Andrew Gross - The protagonist is supposed to be an intelligent professional but makes 3 really stupid decisions right at the start. I just couldn't follow a stupid character like that for a whole book.
In Search of a Kingdom - By Laurence Bergreen - It might be interesting but the narrator has made it into a sleep aid
Podcasts I enjoyed this month:
This is Actually Happening - Each episode tells a remarkable story of a survivor. The only speaker is the person who had the experience so you know that they survived whatever they went through. Recent episodes tell the stories of a woman who found out that her father wasn't her biological father, a man who survived living in public housing and doing drugs who became a prominent member of the community and a young woman why was abducted and raped. It's actually a quite uplifting podcast.
Myths and Legends by Jason and Carissa Weiser. Jason retells myths from all sorts of cultures but with a modern method of telling. He makes mythology relatable. I think kids might enjoy this one.
The Good Son
By Michael Gruber, Read By Neil Shah
Sonia Laghari is a religious woman (practicing Muslim and Catholic) and a Jungian psychologist. She and several other professionals are on at a peace symposium in Afghanistan when they are abducted by terrorists who may have stolen nuclear materials.
Sonia's son, Theo, grew up in Pakistan but is now an American and ex-Delta Force soldier. He is trying to use his wealthy Laghari family members and military connections to rescue his mother before it's too late. The terrorists are beheading one captive each time American kill Afghan
That summary makes this sound like a straight forward spy/mystery/thriller but it's a lot more than that. It (possibly) provides insight into Arab culture and the book reflects on philosophy, religion, psychology, anthropology, and political theory. Gruber does a masterful job of discussing issues from all sides. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Long and Faraway Gone
By Lou Berney, Read By BRian Hutchison and Amy McFadden
I read Berney's November Road back in September and liked it so I decided to give this one a try. This book explores how victims of violent crime affects the survivors. The crimes were two events in Oklahoma City in 1986. In one, a young woman was abducted from the state fair leaving her younger sister abandoned. In the second, a mass shooting/robbery at a small movie theater leaves 1 person alive. Neither crime was solved.
Twenty five years later, Wyatt, the theater survivor is a private investigator in Las Vegas but is sent to Oklahoma City on a case and it reopens old wounds and questions. Juilanna finds out that one of the original suspects has resurfaced and is determined to get answers from him.
I mostly liked this book but found the intersection of the two storylines to feel kind of forced and only for the purpose to make two short stories into one novel. It kind of jumped all over the place with 2 time periods and 2 storylines in each.
Andy Warhol was a Hoarder
By Claudia Kalb, Read By Lisa Larsen
The cover is deceiving. This book is NOT humorous. It's an exploration of various mental illnesses as told through the stories of celebrities through history. Many of the celebrities (Einstein, Lincoln, Howard Hughes, etc.) were not every officially diagnosed with any of these mental illnesses.
In the end, it was actually very interesting and at the end of each chapter it explores the pros and cons of treating some of these "illnesses". For example, when we treat an entire generation of children with ADHD medicine do we lose some important creative geniuses?
It was a good book but it's serious and not light-hearted.
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is the 6th book in the Peter Ash series and, in my opinion, they get better each time. This series is best reading order because Peter Ash's history and development through the books is important.
In this book Peter, his girlfriend, June, and their friend Lewis are in the wrong place at the right time and are able to interrupt a crime that put a lot of school children at risk. Unfortunately, Peter needs to be low profile and this doesn't help.
They find themselves involved in a big tech theft and arms development problem. The book starts fast and keeps up the pace. Book 7 comes out in January and I can't wait.
The Woman in Red
By Diana Giovnazzo, Read By Edita Brychta
I don't know who recommended this book but I'm glad it was brought to my attention. This is a historical fiction account of Anita Garibaldi. She was the wife and partner of the famous hero of the Brazilian Resistance, Guiseppe Garibaldi. There are/were statues to her in Brazil and Italy honoring her heroics in fighting alongside her husband. (I said "were" because who knows what statues still stand anywhere after the last 2 years.)
The book was a fun read but does have a bit of a romance novel storyline going through it. I didn't mind that because she is such a fascinating character.
By Dennis Lehane, Read By Jonathan Davis
This is the 3rd book in the Kenzie and Gennaro series. I have not read the first 2 and only got this one because it was on a Chrip deal one day. I will mention that the Chirp description of the plot of this book is all wrong! It's the description for Book 4. But, no worries, it's still a good read.
Trevor Stone is a billionaire who is dying and his only heir, his daughter, is missing. He's hired Kenzie and Gennaro to find her.
The trail starts in Boston, travels to Florida and back as they investigate a corrupt grief therapy organization and search for the missing daughter. Along the way it's hard to figure out the good guys for the bad. If was fast paced and fun.
I haven't read a Lehane book since 2006 but I think I'll get more in this series.
Find Your First
By Linwood Barclay, Read By George Newbern
Barclay's books, in my opinion are hit or miss. I hated Broken Promise but loved No Time For Goodbye. Fortunately, Find Your First was a winner for me.
Miles Cookson is a tech millionaire but once in his life he was financially strapped and donated sperm to make a few extra dollars. It's now 20+ years later and he's just found out that he has Huntington's Disease and he wants his "children" to know and to take care of them. He finds out that there are 9 and his wealth gets him access to the names. He's told his brother, and only heir, that he will be cared for but that the majority of his wealth will go to these 9 people. The brother's wife is not happy about that.
As Miles is searching, one of his children, Chloe, is searching for her biological father and finds someone who is a half brother. She and Miles eventually connect but a lot of things start going bad very quickly.
It was a fun ride with lots of twists and turns and a very spectacular ending involving a Winnebago.
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.
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.