When you are doing days on end of fabric dyeing and ironing you have lots of time to listen to books! July was a good book month in terns of volume. I finished 11 books and made it about halfway through 2 more. I even saved some money because about half of the books came from the library!
By Bryn Chancellor, Narrated by Cassandra Campbell and others
A new resident to Sycamore, AZ is on a hike and finds bones. The discovery uncovers 20 years of sorrow, angst and inner turmoil among, seemingly, every resident of the town. It brings back memories of a girl who went missing and all of the people who were involved in her life.
It's a well written coming-of-age story and if you are into that you will enjoy this book. I'm a little short on empathy so I have difficulty with characters who dwell on the past. There were times that it grated on me a bit and the audio is a tad slow. Once I increased the reading speed things improved considerably.
Inside Camp David
By Michael Giorgione, Narrated by Michael Giorgione
One of the benefits of getting audiobooks from the library free is that I can break my 10 hour minimum rule. The way that I pay for my Audible subscription I pay about $10 per book. I set my limit to 10 hours so that I pay $1 or less per hour of listening. With free books I don't have to do any of that justification and that's how I can to listen to a book that was less than 8 hours.
Inside Camp David is about exactly what it says. It's tales of how the presidents live at their Maryland retreat and information about how it operates. I didn't know that it's a Naval installation and is run and staffed by the Navy and Marines. The author was the commanding officer of the camp at the end of the Clinton administration and beginning of the Bush 43 administration. He interviewed all of the living commanders to get their stores for the book. There's the surprising friendliness of Jackie Kennedy, Johnson the workaholic, Nixon who relished the privacy, Reagan who loved watching movies with the staff, Bill Clinton who loved having lots of friends around, both Bush families who probably loved and used the place the most and the Obama girls who loved fishing in nearby ponds and Michelle Obama who hugged everyone.
While the narration wasn't bad, I do think that authors really need to have professional narrator for their books. Aside from that it was an interesting peek into the non-public lives of the presidents and their families. I give the author credit for seemingly showing only the best side of the Presidents. You won't be getting any dirt with this book. It's all positive. That perspective makes it very interesting that the only president without personal anecdotes of interaction with the staff is Jimmy Carter. The only mention of him is of the Egypt/Israel summit.
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
I just love this series. Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming and this is the 9th book in the series. I've been reading these out of order but each book is a stand-alone story and while some of the family details are out of order for me it doesn't take away from the experience.
In this one Joe and his wife once had a foster daughter, April. She was taken back by her mother and lived in a survivalist community. They believe that she died when there was a Federal raid on the camp. But now April has contacted one of the Pickett daughters and the hunt is on to find her. I love the character development. You can even have empathy for some of the bad guys.
David Chandler also does a great job narrating this series.
By Kim Van Alkemade, Narrated by Corey Brill and Andi Arndt
Technically this book is categorized as historical fiction. The only history is that a man named Jacob Ruppert was the millionaire owner of the New York Yankees in the early 1900's. He build the first Yankee Stadium and brought Babe Ruth to the team. When he died he mysteriously bequest over 1/3 of his estate to Helen Winthrope Weyant, an unknown actress. She publicly said that she had no idea why he left the money to her. They did know each other and there's one photo of her with him and some other men. Her younger brother, Rex, did actually work for the Yankees after he graduated high school.
That's it. That's the history part. Everything else about this book is fiction. Albert Kramer, his gay private secretary is fiction, her relationship with her mother, early bout with pneumonia, work in the theater, etc, is all fiction. The story is told alternately from her and Albert. So my first beef with the book is that it's billed as being about her but I felt it was more about Albert and the struggles living as a gay man during that time period. It was about Jacob and how he brought these two people into his life and made, in essence, a little family of 3. The bachelor girl is the least interesting of the 3 characters.
My primary beef with the book is the imposition of modern mores on that time period. It's all here: interracial relationships, living as a single woman, gay life, discrimination of all kinds (although more gentle than we perceive today), the plight of Asian people. You name it, the author checked all the politically correct boxes. That was over the top for me. It just didn't ring true to the era. This book should have been about Albert, should have left the interracial tones out and Helen should have been a secondary character.
It's getting rave reviews, though, so what do I know. I will say that the actual writing is very good. It's the plot that annoys me.
The Lost Airman
By Seth Meyerowitz, Narrated By Jonathan Todd Ross
I'm not sure why I've become so interested in "true hero" stories the past few years but I do love them. This one is written by the grandson of Arthur Meyerowitz who learned the full story of his Grandfather's war experience long after his Grandfather died.
Artur was a turret gunner on the Harmful Lil Armful B-24 when it was shot down over France. This is the story of his harrowing escape from Nazi-occupied France and the story of a lot of brave French people working with the Resistance. It's not the epic tale of Unbroken but it's a story worth reading if you are into this king of book.
By Owen Laukkanen, Narrated by Edduardo Ballerini
This is the 3rd book in the Stevens and Windemere series and the second one that I've read...and probably the last.
Stevens is an officer with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Minnesota and a middle aged, happily married, white guy. Windemere is a young black female FBI agent. None of that should be relevant except for the forced sexual tension between them. I didn't buy any of it and, frankly, it was a distraction to the story.
The main storyline is that the two of them are having lunch when the witness a sniper hit. They had the opportunity to catch the killer but Windermere froze and let him get away. That's problem #1. FBI agents, I believe, are trained better than that. More hit-style murders happen and they discover they are investigating a murder-for-hire organization that uses brainwashed former soldiers with PTSD to execute the murders.
Fortunately Stevens and Windemere, between fantasies of having a relationship, trip over clues and eventually solve the case. While I was listening I kept thinking that this would have been much more interesting of there was a "dark web" angle to the story. I swear there was just a normal website where people transacted the business of murder for hire.
But there were bigger problems.
- The protagonist is meticulous about managing risk in his business until he suddenly decides to throw all that aside and introduce astounding risk to his side business.
- The TSA and DoD, both, stonewall the FBI investigation. Absolutely absurd when you are dealing with clear evidence in a murder investigation.
- One of the major clues had to do with the purchase of a "shit ton" of a particular ammunition. That particular ammo would not work in the weapon that was used in some of the crimes.
There are well over 100 chapters, some just a couple of paragraphs, and I found that and the lazy writing really annoying. I'll avoid this series going forward.
However, Eduardo Ballerini is an excellent narrator and he's the main reason that I finished this book.
Mornings on Horseback
By David McCullough, Narrated by Nelson Runger
I was interested in reading this book after I read The Path Between the Seas about the building of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was the driver behind the completing of the canal and I wanted to know more about him.
This book focuses on his family life from when he was young through his second marriage. You get a clear picture of the moral foundations, inquisitive habits and dedication to service that he developed through is upbringing. Our 26th president was an interesting man and, after reading this, it's easy to understand how he was able to accomplish the great things he did as the youngest President to take office. (Many people, including Google, think that Kennedy was the youngest president but that's not true. Kennedy was 43 and 236 days, Roosevelt was 42 and 322 days. Kennedy was the youngest elected president but not the youngest to take office.
If you like biographies, this is a good one.
The Devil's Feast
By M.J. Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This is the 3rd in the Blake and Avery series set in Victorian England. Blake and Avery first met in India but at the beginning of this book Blake is in debtors prison and Avery is headed home to the English countryside. The night before his trip he is invited to dine with the most famous chef in England, Alexis Soyer. Soyer is a real historical figure and he was the chef at the Reform Club (a real place). The night that Avery has dinner with Soyer another guest dies of poison.
MJ Carter writes a great mystery novel. The characters are all interesting and the plot seems plausible. At the end of the book she has a chapter explaining what's "real" and what's fiction. I just hope there's going to be a 4th in the series.
By David Lebovitz, Narrated by Graham Halstead
This book is about the trials and tribulations of apartment renovation in Paris. The renovator, David Lebovitz, is also a pastry chef. I think he gained his fame through his cooking blog.
This book is not a good candidate for audio format. Almost every chapter ends with a recipe plugged in kind of randomly and there's nothing worse than a narrated recipe. Recipes are also not good for someone who is allergic to 75% of the foods available.
This book didn't work for me for two reasons. First, books with too much discussion of food that I can't eat just make me cranky. Second, the book is all about the ordeal that is apartment buying and renovation in Paris. If you love crushing bureaucracy then this book is for you! Seriously, it took 10 months to just close on the purchase of the apartment! I came away with the thought that visiting Paris might be just enough. For living, I'll stay in the good ole USA where we still expect some level of customer service.
Trap the Devil
By Be Coes, Narrated by Jay Snyder
Man, I love Dewey Andreas. This is the 7th in the series. Dewey is a CIA operative and there's an inside plot to take out the President, Vice President and Secretary of State and install a new government.
Fast paced and action packed with lots of returning characters, friends and enemies.
If you like Jack Ryan books, you will like the Andreas series.
The Unclaimed Victim
By D.M. Pulley, Narrated By Carly Robins
Last year I read The Dead Key by this author and I loved it. She masterfully wove a tale centered around an old bank building and featured two heroines. One who worked in the building in the 70's and another in the 90's. The Unclaimed Victim followed the formula of that story so closely that I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen.
Read one or the other. I wouldn't read both. I preferred The Dead Key.
By Ben Lynch, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith
This is another book that delves into the effect of genetics on our overall health. But Dr. Lynch has a program for "cleaning" our genes so they no longer behave dirty. Apparently you don't need to know your actual genetic structure because he has a questionnaire that will help you figure out where your genes are dirty.
Honestly, I didn't finish this book. The program is so draconian that I simply don't think I could add that on the things I already do. I'm probably 60% into his program already. Any further and I might as well move into a cave.
But the main reason I didn't finish it is that this book simply doesn't work in an audio format. There's a ton of supporting material that can't be narrated. But if you have any sort of chronic health problem you might find this interesting.
By J D Vance, Narrated by J D Vance
This is a book that I've been wanting to read for a while but it is shorter than my 10 hour minimum so I wouldn't buy it. But now that I have access to a decent library collection I was able to listen to it through Libby.
This is about the Scots-Irish Hillbilly people that live in Appalachia - the white working class that were/are the coal miners and factory workers that were hit so hard in the last recessions and with the opioid crisis.
It's a story about J D Vance and his family and how his Grandparents left Kentucky for jobs in Ohio, how the alcoholism of that generation affected the next and how his mother's addictions affected him. It's kind of depressing and uplifting at the same time. I have a strong Scots-Irish-Appalachia thread in my own family and it was funny to hear some of the same phrases that I used to hear growing up. Fortunately, I didn't have the family dysfunction that he had to deal with.
The book was published in 2016, before the election, but if you are still distraught about the election results and want to understand the Trump voter, this is the book you should read. Be careful, you might get a bit of insight and develop a bit of understanding and empathy.
Oops! I forgot to post yesterday. Maybe I was having too much fun ironing! So today I will play catch up.
This month in books was an odd one. There were too many bad books! But paying for bad books sent me back to the library to get Overdrive working again and to get a library card at another library that has a better selection of audiobooks. Where we live you can get a library card at the neighboring library system if you have a card at your local system. My local system is Pamunkey and the neighboring one is Henrico. (We like our Native American names here a lot.) The library is on the way home from Mom's so I'd just stop by one day on my way home. It wasn't as simple as I envisioned. The first stop was a Thursday morning, the only morning they are closed. The second stop involved discovering that I had to have my local library card with me. Third time was the charm and on the advice of one of you I decided to switch to the Libbie app. WHAT AN IMPROVEMENT! Libbie is so much better than Overdrive.
After my last book in Overdrive my library card suddenly stopped working and I couldn't figure out how to get it working again. I loaded the Henrico card and then magically my Pamunkey card appeared and now I can access both libraries. They don't have near the number of audiobooks that Audible has but I can probably cut my Audible expense in half and that wouldn't be a bad thing. So buying a few bad books will turn out to be a very good thing for me in the long run.
On to the books. It was mostly a month of "old reliables" as I continued several series. Only one non-fiction this month but The Path Between The Seas was a great one.
What have you read recently that you have loved?
Revenge in a Cold River
By Anne Perry, Narrated by David Colacci
This is book #22 in the William Monk series. I appreciate Anne Perry's ability to keep this series interesting without delving into gimmicks like characters developing supernatural capabilities. In this one we finally start to learn things about Monk's past before he lost his memory.
People from a past he doesn't remember come back to haunt him and once they discover that he doesn't remember that time in his life he is set up as revenge.
Paris in the Present Tense
By Mark Helprin, Narrated by Bronson Pinchot
First let me tell you what's great about this book: the narration! I think this is the second book I've listened to that was narrated by Pinchot and Balki has mad narration skills!
I picked up this book in a "Deal of the Day" offering and, given how Helprin has fallen out of favor, I'm surprised that Audible offered it. But I'm here for the stories, not politics, so I decided to give it a go.
Helprin writes beautiful prose and all of his characters are unbelievably clever, have broad vocabularies and speak their thoughts and intentions exquisitely clearly. In other words, his characters are mostly unbelievable.
The story is about a 74 year old Frenchman who is dealing with the normal kinds of challenges that a 74 year old deals with....except that he's as healthy as a 40 year old. He's made decisions that haven't helped him plan for the challenges of this time in his life, he's carrying around burdens from his past and he falls deeply in love with every woman he meets and fancies that they are in love with him.
It was a beautifully written but mediocre story. At the end of it all I just thought he was a crazy old man who should have planned his life a little better.
By Jon Sandford, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
After reading a disappointing book I generally search for something reliable for my next read and, for me, there's no one more reliable than John Sandford. This is the 28th book in the Prey series featuring Lucas Davenport. Davenport is now with the US Marshall Service and he's called to Washington DC to investigate a car accident that killed a US Senator. The surviving passenger, thinks it was no accident that that Davenport's nemesis (from book #27), Taryn Grant, may be behind the accident and a number of other events.
The Path Between the Seas
By David McCullough, Narrated by Nelson Runger
My favorite McCullough book is The Great Bridge about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge so when I saw this one about the building of the Panama Canal I just had to read it. It was published earlier than The Great Bridge but just as interesting. Both books remind us of a time when the US lead the world in great engineering feats. I believe that responsibility has now been relegated to the Chinese because we, sadly, would never take the kinds of risks required to build a Panama Canal today.
It's really well written, as you would expect and very thoroughly researched. It begins with the French attempt to build the canal. That part was a little difficult for me to follow but once the book got to Teddy Roosevelt and the American project I was all in.
After listening to The Path Between the Seas I hit an unprecedented run of bad books. I don't think this has ever happened before and it's made me sour on Audible Deal of the Day books! I couldn't finish any of these books but I'll give each a little mention:
Macbeth: A Novel by David Hewson and AJ Hartley. I thought that a novel format might make Macbeth more palatable to me. I was wrong. I listened longer than I should but only because I enjoyed the sound of Alan Cumming's voice.
West With the Night by Beryl Marhham. This is an autobiography of an amazing woman who lived an amazing life as a pilot in Kenya. She also trained racehorses. This book receives rave reviews but it just didn't hit with me. I was expecting something as beautifully written as Out of Africa and I was disappointed. It did spur me to do some research on her so that's good.
The Enigma of Reason by by Hugo Mercer and Dan Sperber. You know a book is going to be tough when the intro is an hour. It's tedious and the narrator makes things worse.
Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger
After three losers I had to find an "old reliable" and jumped into the 7th installment of the Cork O'Connor series. In this one Cork is a new private investigator and his first client is Henry Meloux. Henry has asked Cork to help find his 72 year old son that he's never met.
There's a new narrator for the series now and that was a little difficult to get used to but it was still a good read.
The Honest Spy
By Andreas Kollender, Narrated by Malcolm Hilgartner
Fritz Kolbe worked for the German Foreign Office at the start of WWII and he wasn't a support of Hitler and the Nazi Party. During the war he approached the US and became the most important spy of the war. Allen Dulles was his handler and says that it was the work with Kolbe that was key to his becoming the first civilian Director of the CIA.
That's all true.
This book is a novel based on the life of Kolbe. There's a lot in it that isn't necessarily true but the point is to give us an idea of what he life might have been like. It's not the most riveting book that I've ever read but I did enjoy it.
The premise is that Kolbe is telling his story to journalists after the war so the scenes in the book jump back and forth between the events of the war and the conversation with the journalists. That's all fine except that the narrator needed to take a little break between the changes. Sometimes I felt lost because it was narrated as one continuing event. But, otherwise, the narrator did a fine job.
By Margaret George, Narrated by Kate Reading
The month of June was "saved" from the bast taste of 3 loser books by another Margaret George masterpiece. I started reading her books with Memoirs of Cleopatra which is still one of my all-time favorite books.
This historical fiction is narrated by Elizabeth. It's clear that George does an amazing amount of research because so much of the story is true but she adds the color that makes it a great novel. I found myself on Wikipedia several times to research particular things that came up in the book. It was 31 hours long but it was a very pleasant 31 hours.
By David Baldacci, Narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy
This is the second book in the Will Robie series. My review of the first wasn't a good one but since I was able to get this one free through the library I decided to give it a try.
Will Robie and Jessica Reel are government employed assassins. Jessica has gone "off the farm" and is killing high-ranking employees of the government. Will is assigned to find her and bring her in, or kill her.
It's a better story than the first one but, with Baldacci, you have to suspend any need for plausibility. Baldacci's writing is starting to annoy me. There are impossible clues that only these two can read, convenient escape routes and lazy leaps in the story. He also has an annoying habit of introducing characters as "the man" or "the woman". It's a lot to keep track of when the character is finally revealed. "oh, he is that man from earlier".
There's a lot of action and I did finish the book because I wanted to see how it ended but it wasn't a particularly satisfying read. John Grishom lost me years ago when his writing got lazy and I think Baldacci has reached the same level.
Another month of books has gone by and it was a great month because there isn't a disappointment in the list. Behold the Dreamers was a wonderful surprise and the others were all very good. The last 2 non-fiction books were chose specifically for vacation drive time and beach reading so I don't expect either of those to have general appeal.
Have you read any good books this month? I usually set a 10 hour minimum for audiobooks so the longer the book, the better! Which brings me to a question. Has anyone read Infinite Jest? I saw it in a bookstore in Hatteras and put it in my Audible Wish list but it is 56 hours so I'd like to get an opinion or two before I get into it.
By Robert McCammon, Narrated by Marc Vieter
Robert McCmmon is the author of the Matthew Corbett series that I enjoy so much. That series is set in the 18th century. With this book, a standalone book, we are taken to Depression-era Louisiana and introduced to John Partlow and Ginger LaFrance, two hucksters who take advantage of the gullible.
Elsewhere there's Curtis a young black man who is a redcap at the train station and, unknown to everyone, has a special talent to communicate telepathically and he currently has regular conversations with a young girl named Nilla. When Nilla is abducted he feels compelled to help.
I'm generally not into any book that crosses this close to sci-fi but, I admit, this is a very well-written tale and the telepathy is handled very well. It was a great book to start off the month.
Hong Kong Black
By Alex Ryan, Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
This is the second in the Nick Foley series. Nich is a ex-Navy SEAL working for an NGO in China to provide clean drinking water to poor populations. But, as in the last book, he's drawn back into his old life. This time he's called by his CIA agent friend to check in on another missing agent, Peter Yu. He discovers that the agent hasn't been see in 4 days. Meanwhile, Nick's love interest, Dash, has been investigating a situation where dozens of mutilated bodies have been washed ashore. Once of them is the missing Yu.
The story is action packed and moves along at a good pace. The plot is very interesting and as I read it I just hoped that the things being done here really possible in real life....although I'm not confident.
I don't see any evidence of a 3rd Nick Foley book but the authors (Brian Anderws and Jefffrey Wilson) have lots of other books to choose from.
Behold the Dreamers
By Imbolo Mbue, Narrated by Prentice Onayemi
I almost passed on this book because it was so hyped when it came out and, frankly, I'm not a big Oprah fan so avoid her recommended books. But this one came up as a Deal of the Day bargain so I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did!
Jende Jonga has immigrated to New York City from Cameroon to try to make a better life for his wife, Neni and their young son. He eventually finds a job as a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman Brothers.
This is a book about life, life choices and cultural norms. It's about the consequences of which immigration lawyer you hire, who you work for, what your priorities are in life and finding out what "home" is. It's a nice story with the addition of the Lehman Brothers crisis I think that many readers might think this is a biography. It's not, it's purely a novel but you could see how this could be someone's real life story.
The narrator is fantastic!
The Secret Soldier
By Alex Berensen, Narrated by George Guidall
This is #5 in the John Wells series. Wells is a former CIA agent who still has a need for the challenge. In this book he is hired by the Saudi government, specifically King Abdullah. Someone is attacking the Saud family and trying to send the country into turmoil.
This is very fast paced and I couldn't put it down. I think it's my favorite in the series so far.
The Confessions of Young Nero
By Margaret George, Narrated by Steve West, Susan Denaker and Katharine McEwan
There are few authors who write as thoroughly researched historical fiction novels. The first one I read was Memoirs of Cleopatra and it's still my favorite. But this one was right up there. It tells the story of Nero as if he is narrating the story. She stays very true to historical events as well as they can be knows. There is no actual documentation from contemporaries of Nero so our history of him is told by historians of later generations. At the end of the book George explains her research, things that she interpreted differently from other historians and literary license that she took with some time periods and place names. It was 20 hours of great entertainment.
I contain Multitudes
By Ed Yong
Although I'm including the Audible link for this book I actually read this one with my eyes! Gasp!
Last year I started reading The Gene on vacation. It's a big undertaking and actually took 2 vacations to finish but it was a great book about about the history of genetics and current research in the field. I Contain Multitudes is a great complement to The Gene because microbe research is front and center for research and new treatments for all sorts of auto-immune diseases. Researchers generally agree that gut health is the secret to so many of our ailments including obesity, allergies, asthma, diabetes, cancer and much more.
I don't think this book is as well organized or as well written as The Gene but the information was very interesting and valuable. I learned 2 things that are relevant and useful today. First, fiber is incredibly important for gut health. He says "where you have populations with little poop (constipation) you will have the need for lots of hospitals". Second, is that the probiotic yogurts that we are eating are great to help prevent diarrhea after antibiotics but not much use beyond that. The microbes in them are quite generic and not in high enough quantities to make a difference. It would be like taking my quarter acre pond water and dumping it in the Atlantic Ocean to try to bring down the salinity level.
On the hopeful front there's some great progress being made in mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and zika.
If you are interested in science you might enjoy this one.
By William Warner, Narrated by Henry Strozier
When Chris and I go on a trip we try to find a good book to listen to. Often is a mystery or a humor book by Carl Hiaasen. This year we decided to go non-fiction and local.
Beautiful Swimmers is an old book originally published in the 1970's and it's all about the Blue Crabs of the Chesapeake Bay and the Watermen who build careers around them.
A lot of the information in this book is dated but it's still a great read about one of my favorite foods. In a way it was good to read the dated information because it really shows how far we've come in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and restoring many of the native species, including crabs.
It isn't for everyone but Bay locals might enjoy it.
The Secret Place
By Tana French, Narrated By Stephen Hogan and Lara Hutchinson
This is #5 in the Dublin Murder Squad series. I read #6 in this series a few months ago and now I realize that it would have made a lot more sense if I had read them in order!
In this one there's been a murder at an all-girls boarding school. A boy from a nearby school was found dead on the grounds of the girl's school. The case went cold until one of the students found a note on a bulletin board called "The Secret Place". It's where the girls can post anonymous thoughts. The note that's found says "I know who killed Chris Harper".
The narration is great and the author captured perfectly the annoying dialect of teenagers. It's tots amazeballs.
,I think I mentioned a few months ago that I finally found Overdrive and the capability to download audiobooks from my local library free. That's very enticing and I've used it for a half dozen books or more so far. My library doesn't have a huge audiobook selection although I think the adjacent county does and I can get a library card there and would have access to lots more books. The thing is that I'm not all that motivated because with Overdrive, you get what you pay for. The Overdrive app is incredibly clunky compared to the Audible app. It's a pain to search for books and the app has several behavioral quirks, like the need to "re-synch" every time I turn it on.
I'm completely spoiled with Audible and now I know that a large chunk of the money that I spend on books is going to maintaining the technology that lets me enjoy them. Everything abut Audible is more robust and intuitive. On Overdrive I always have trouble even getting to the book to listen to it once it's downloaded. But the worst is what happened with the first book on my review this month: Grant. This book is 48 hours long! It's no surprise that I couldn't finish it in the 7-day loan period that I accidentally selected. On the expiration day I get no option to extend my loan, the book simply stops working. I had 10 hours left and the book was available so there's no reason for the app to not have an extension option for books not on waiting lists. To finish the book I have to download the entire 48 hours again and then skip to chapter 36. That is annoying!
I'm continue to use Overdrive some but it's not going to put Audible out of business.
My favorite books this month are 3 books by two of my "old reliable" authors: William Kent Krueger and Carl Hiaasen. What good books have you read this month?
Grant by Ron Chernow
Narrated by Mark Branhall
One of my favorite books of all time is Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. I also loved The House of Morgan and The Warburgs. His books are always thoroughly researched and exacting in the telling of the story. they are also always long. Grant takes the prize coming in at 48 hours. It is also being categorized as my least favorite Chernow book.
Ulysses Grant is a fascinating man and one of the most important figures in American history through his efforts to win the Civil War and the actions he took as President. We, as a nation, have a lot to be grateful to him for. That said, he simply isn't nearly as interesting a person as Hamilton. He was a very devoted family man, he might or might not have had a binge drinking issue, he was probably the most racial-equality minded person of his time and he was too loyal to friends when selecting cabinet members and aids. Those are the main points that I took from a book that tells EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of the man's life. Studying every single battle of the war was really not necessary to get the measure of the man and I thought it was overkill. But then, I'm a casual history student. This is a scholarly book and if you are into that you will love this one.
As I mentioned above, Overdrive was brutal with the expiration date and deleted the book from my phone with 10 hours left. He was conquering the KKK (the original one, not the 1930's version) when the book got deleted from my device. I was so fatigued from listening to such minutiae that I decided not to download it again to finish. I would have finished it if I had purchased it on Audible but I'm not sad that I didn't.
Mercy Falls and Copper River
By William Kent Krueger, Narrated by David Chandler
After Grant I needed something more entertaining to read and selected the 5th book in the Cork O'Connor series, Mercy Falls. A Chicago businessman has been murdered in Tamarack County and Cork is investigating. Simple enough except the man is from a very wealthy family and the man's brother was once involved with Cork's wife. He does determine who committed the murder but by then his own life, and his family's, is in danger and the book ends with him escaping town.
That's why I immediately started reading Copper River. (Plus it was in the middle of Mom's move and I didn't want to have to think about what book to read next.) Continuing with Cork O'Connor seemed the best approach and I'm glad I did. It's not totally necessary to read these 2 close together because Copper River is a completely different story. Cork is hiding out with his cousin in a tiny Michigan town. The cousin's son and a friend saw a dead body in the river that turns out to be a homeless teen. Cork exposes himself to help investigate......there's also a cougar.
I like the Cork O'Connor series a lot and will keep with it.
By Carl Hiaasen, Narrated By George Wilson
Carl Hiaasen is such a clever writer. All of his books are absurdly hilarious and I love them. They are all set in Florida and all feature corrupt politicians in some way. This story starts with a nutty congressman and his infatuation with a topless dancer. When a customer on a bachelor weekend tries to engage with the stripper the congressman attacks him with a champagne bottle. That sets off a series of hilarious event and includes a custody battle between the stripper and her ex-husband, a wheelchair thief, raising wolves as pets, boa constrictors, competing strip bars and any number of other story lines. It's crude, but very funny if you are into this kind of book.
By Liz Moore, Narrated by Kirby Heyborne, Keith Szarabajka
Have you ever watched an episode of Hoarders? It starts out kind of fascinating but devolves into sadness and hopelessness pretty quickly. The people portrayed are pretty much too far gone. But at then end there seems to be a tiny strand of hope.
Well, that's sort of the feeling reading this book. Arthur is a former professor but has been home bound for a decade and has ballooned to about 500 lbs. Charlene is a former student of Arthur's and over the past 20 years they have corresponded regularly but have not seen each other even though they live only 20 miles apart. Charlene is in about the same shape as Arthur but she has a son, Kel, who is a high school senior.
This book is supposedly about the last letter that Charlene writes to Arthur that will set off a series of events but it's really not that clear. Heft is a heavy story, told in a lumbering manner that made me feel like I was carrying around a weight and I couldn't wait to end it. After the long slog I was disappointed in the ending. I felt it needed to be carried forward a little more. In fact, I uttered a bit of profanity at the end because I felt that I had slogged through the story for so long that I deserved to spend a little time in the recently cleaned house just to see if the hoarder was really cured.
This book has received a lot of outstanding reviews and some awards so you might try it for yourself but my next book needs to be a palate cleanser.
By Ruth Downie, Narrated by Simon Vance
If you enjoy historical fiction this is a nice series. They are all set during the Roman Empire but each book is stand alone. You get a little background from previous books but Ruth Downie does a nice job of writing stand-alone stories.
In this one Ruso and his wife, Tulla, have moved to Britannia where he's been promised work. He expects it to be medical work but instead it's sleuthing work. He's tasked with finding a missing tax collector.
Interesting story and excellent narration. I always like books narrated by Simon Vance.
The Echo Man
By Richard Montanari, Narrated y Scott Brick
This is the 4th book in the Byrne and Balzano series. Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne are detectives in Philadelphia and they are investigating another serial killer. This time the victims are all placed and posed in the same was as a victim of a previous cold case.
Montanari's trademark is serial killers who are very meticulous, purposeful, deranged and very evil. The stories are complex and you have to play close attention to all characters. This one was particularly comnvoluted with the overlay of a music composition theme. It wrapped up quickly and I'm not sure if I was glad to have it end or annoyed that I felt cheated. It was a little of both, I think.
Also, Scott Brick is the narrator. I used to love Scott Brick. He was one of my favorites but he's starting to grate on me. He narrates every character as if they are carrying a chip on their shoulder. There was a particular passage in this book where Byrne and Balzano were having a light-hearted conversation but Brick narrated the conversation with so much condescension and attitude that I think he made the conversation have a totally different meaning. I don't know if I'll read more of this series.
By R E McDermott, Narrated By Tom Haberkom
This is the 1st in the Tom Dugan series. I was excited to find a new "mystery and intrigue" series. This series is compared to Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy. The main character, Tom Dugan, is a part-time CIA operative and this time he's called to infiltrate his friend's shipping company to fin out who has caused 2 shipping disasters. It sounded like it had the making of a great new series.
Sadly, in my opinion, it's not near the quality of Vince Flynn. This book needs some serious editing. There are too many characters and too many stories within the story. For example, there's a side story line where the shipping company owner is being framed and threatened with his handicapped daughter's life. The story would have worked just fine without the absolutely absurd kidnapping and recovery tale of the daughter. In another example, the CIA calls a police officer in Panama directly to ask for assistance. In the real world that would never happen the way it's told but his way of telling it makes the story efficient to write. But it doesn't make it a good story. I won't be exploring this series any further.
The narrator is really good though and that's what got me through the book.
Today is unpacking day for Mom. Once we have her new sewing room set up I'll share some photos. But for today I thought I'd take the blog to tell you about a book I listened to recently that I felt needed some extra attention.
My blog friend, Kristen, recommended this book to me and I almost didn't listen to it because it breaks 2 of my cardinal rules:
1 - No books less that 10 hours, this one is only 5 hours
2 - No books read by the author, this one is narrated by Elizabeth Gilbert
Another reason I almost passed it up is that I'm not an Eat, Pray, Love fan. I just couldn't get on that bandwagon.
But then one day I had a break between books and thought a quick little book would be perfect to quilt marbles by. I'm so glad I did!
The book I'm talking about is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book is about the creative life and is a summation of her own life experiences. What I loved about is that it's not the pie-in-the-sky advice of "living your dream". Those types of books seem to focus more on the dream and less on the living part. Gilbert focuses on living while pursuing the dream.
This book is about doing the work and it cuts through everything else that isn't absolutely necessary to be a serious artist and that list includes school.
Her comments about college for artists being unnecessary get a lot of negative comments in reviews but if someone pays attention to what she says, she's absolutely right. College is outrageously expensive these days and it's especially expensive when you are getting an art degree. There aren't a lot of jobs that you can get out of college that would pay back $100k in college debt. Gilbert puts a much-needed voice of reason when she make the point that we can make art any time and that being serious about it is about doing the work more than taking classes on the topic.
The book is full of real life wisdom for artists and others. Gilbert, of course, is mostly referring to writing, but the book applies to any artist. Frankly, I think it would be a good gift for any graduate because it really is about "living the dream" rather than "dreaming the life".
Thank you Kristen for recommending this book!
February wasn't a terribly productive reading month but with the quilt show early in the month I didn't have as much reading time. So I'm calling this month quality over quantity. There wasn't a dud in the bunch!
What have you read this month that you would recommend?
Enemy of the State
By Kyle Mills, Narrated by Scott Brick
This is the 16th installment in the Mitch Rapp series and the second written by Kyle Mills. In this installment Rapp discovers that elements of the Saudi government are funding ISIS.
Kyle Mills has done a good job of replacing Vince Flynn in this series but this one didn't hold me as well as the last one. I think some of that has to do with replacing George Guidall with Scott Brick as the narrator. I used to love Scott Brick but his narrating style has become.....I don't know....arrogant? He narrates every book with an angry and arrogant persona that may or may not be appropriate. Hopefully they will bring back Guidall for the next one.
The Rival Queens
by Nancy Goldstone, Narrated by Suzanne Toren
If you live in the US and didn't specifically study history, you probably didn't get a lot of French history. At least that's my story. So when I saw this book on Audible I thought I'd give it a try.
This is the story of Catherine of Medici and her daughter, Marguerite de Valois. This is Renaissance France and it was full of political intrigue orchestrated by Catherine de Medici within her own family.
This book is very interesting and some non-fiction books read like fiction but this ins't one of those. You have to be a history lover to enjoy this book. But if you like history, this is a very interesting book.
In Farleigh Field
By Rhys Bowen, Narrated by Gemma Dawson
It's WWII and a soldier with a failed parachute has fallen to his death near the home of Lord Westerham. One of his daughters secretly works code breaking and the vicars son secretly works for MI5. They are asked to investigate.
This is part historical novel and part romance but the romance part is reasonable underplayed. I did not have high expectations but I really enjoyed this book. It moves at a good pace and has some interesting characters. The narrator has some criticism in the Audible reviews but I actually liked her. If you are going to listen to the book be sure to listen to the sample to see if the narrator's voice will bother you.
I liked it well enough to listen to another by Bowen.
Two Kinds of Truth
By Michael Connelly, narrated by Titus Welliver
#20 in the Harry Bosch series where we also get a good does of his half-brother, Mickey Haller.
As I was listening to this book I was also trying to figure out why I like this series so much and I think I've narrowed it down to a few things:
1 - Harry Bosch never does anything that seems out of character. I think it's difficult for a writer to get that right. Sometimes it would be easier to have the character do something totally different just to move the plot along. Connelly keeps Bosch in charater, which I appreciate.
2 - The storylines are mostly plausible.
3 - There's no magic. These storylines move along and develop. There are no major period of time skipped where we find out that the hero solved the crime in his sleep or tripped over evidence. Those kinds of books are written by lazy writers.
Harry Bosch is a reliable detective who does the dirty work. In this book he's trying to solve a cold case, a new double homicide related to Russian drug gangs and is caught up in an old case where he's being accused of planting evidence. As always, it's a great read and I love Titus Welliver (who plays Bosch in the TV series) narrating.
The Girl Who Was Taken
By Charlie Donlea, Narrated by Nina Alvamar
HS Grads Nicole Cutty and Meagan McDonald went missing from a summer beach party. Two weeks later Meagan stumbles out of a bunker but Nicole is never found. The book open at 18 months later and Nicole's sister is a forensic pathologist. A body come in that seems to be tied to her sister's disappearance. meanwhile Meagan has written a book about her ordeal to appease her parents but is working to recover her memory of exactly what happened to her.
This was a surprisingly riveting book. It goes back and forth in time between the period around the abduction and current day. Several candidates are introduced that might be involved but the ending surprised me. They didn't do a great job of explaining why the person abducted these girls but, in the end, that's not the important piece of information.
When the book started I thought he narrator's young female voice was going to annoy me but she was perfect for these 2 young female characters.
A Column of Fire
By Ken Follett, Narrated by John Lee
If you like historical novel sagas then you already know Ken Follett and have probably already read all of his books. To me he's as reliable as James Michener, Edward Rutherford and Bryce Courtenay.
This book is the third in the Kingsbridge series but it's really a stand alone novel. There are some references to the previous novels but that's it. That's good too because the books came out so far apart it would be impossible to remember the others. This one is set in the 1500's during the reign of Queen Elizabeth but much of it is set in France. Coincidentally, Catherine and her daughter in The Rival Queens (above) figure prominently in this one. The focus is the clash between the Protestants and Catholics of that time. As always, the characters are well developed and the historical aspects are very well researched.
The narrator is John Lee and he's one of my favorites. I could listen to him reading a cookbook.
So many people have told me about Overdrive to check out audiobooks from the library that I finally downloaded the app and gave it a try this month. The price is right but my local library has a very limited selection of audiobooks. I think I'll be able to get new releases (on wait list) but there's not much to choose from in non-fiction or anything published more than a few years ago. Audible is not under thread of losing me as a customer that's for sure!
This month I read Deep Freeze (my favorite book of the month) and At The Water's Edge on Overdrive so I saved a few dollars. My least favorite book this month was The Silent Sister but even that wasn't horrible. All-in-all it was a good month of listening.
By Ben Coes, Narrated by Peter Hermann
There's no better way to kick off the New Year than with an action-packed thriller. Dewey Andreas always delivers a lot of action.
In this 6th book Dewey is sent to Syria for an operation that ends up blown. Meanwhile the US has discovered a ship full of weapons on the way to ISIS and stops it. ISIS retaliates on US soil. Dewey and his former colleagues are reunited in the US to help resolve things.
That all sounds like a pretty simple description of the plot but, as with all of the other Andreas books, this one is action from beginning to end.
By Richard Montanari, Narrated by Scott Brick
This is the 4th book in the Byrne and Malzano series. These books all take place in Philadelphia where Byrne and Balzano are detectives. This case opens when the body of a young teenage runaway is found in an abandoned building the Badlands section of Philly. She was drowned but there's no water anywhere.
This begins a chase into the world of magic and puzzles and one demented protagonist.
If Philadelphia is anything like these books then the city has a very high percentage of psychologically demented people. While, in one way, this series is kind of a typical crime investigation series; in another way, they are a little creepy. Montanari's bad guys like torturing and killing young people. They are really well written and very suspenseful but you need to know the underlying theme before you start this series.
By Robert Dugoni, Narrated by Dan John Miller
This is the second in the David Sloane series. Dugoni also writes the Tracy Crosswhite series. Both are set in the Seattle area.
David Sloan is an attorney and is approached by an Iraq war widow to sue the government for wrongful death. The Feres Doctrine generally makes this impossible but as Sloane starts to look into it he thinks there is more to the story of the soldier's death.
This is a good story and these books have to be read in order. There's too much reference to events in the previous book. My main complaint with it is that it sort of reads like an abridged book. The story jumps quickly between events and tense situations wrap up pretty quickly. If you like a good thriller but not the ones that get your heart racing then this is the series, and author, for you. If you need to have nail-biting and bad dreams then you can skip this one.
The Infidel Stain
By M.J. Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This is the second book in the Blake and Avery series. If you happen to be watching he Victoria series on PBS you might enjoy these stories that explore the seedier side of Victorian England. The first one took place in India but this one is back in London. They are hired to investigate a series of murders among the city's "gutter press".
It's an enjoyable series.
By Jonathan Fredrick, Narrated by Ari Fliakos
This book fell about 15 minutes short of my self-imposed 10-hour minimum but it was a Deal of the Day book and the reviews convinced me to risk the $4. I'm glad I did.
This is the first novel by Jonathan Frederick and is set in the fictional town of Cain City, WV. The main character, Nick Malick, is a former police officer whose life fell apart when his son was kidnapped and murdered by a serial pedophile. The murderer is in jail on another crime and Nick is just waiting for him to get out so he can administer his own justice.
Now he's divorced and a private detective. His next client wants him to find his missing adult daughter. The search leads him into a drug ring from Detroit and corruption in the police department.
It's a great first novel and it just begs for a series based on Malick and his young sidekick who lives in the same converted high schools as Malick. There are several really well-developed character in this book that would support a series. The narration was fantastic too.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Eric Conger
We are big John Sandford fans in this family and Mom and Chris read this as soon as it came out. A week ago I decided to finally get a library card and try out Overdrive. My library system doesn't have a ton of audiobooks (and even less that I'd want to read) but they have some and it will save me a few bucks to get what I can out of the library. I had to wait about a week to get this book but once I had it on my phone I finished it off in about 2 days.
I love all John Sandford books and the Virgil Flowers series is really a lot of fun. This time Virgil is sent back to Trippton where he previously arrested the entire school board for corruption and murder. This time it's the dead of winter and a local woman, and bank owner, has been found dead in a block of ice in the river. He's also asked to assist a Los Angeles attorney in serving Cease and Desist orders to a local woman who is selling obscene Barbie dolls. There are lots of hilarious moments in this adventure.
If you've never read John Sandford I'd place him between Michael Connolly's Harry Bosch series and Carl Hiassen books. They are mystery with a great does of humor.
At the Water's Edge
By Sara Gruen, Narrated by Justine Eyre
I read Gruen's earlier novel, Water For Elephants, and I love historical fiction so this seemed like a good choice.
Not so much.
This is more like historical romance than historical fiction. It's set during WWII in Scotland. Madelyne and Ellis Hyde are part of Philadelphia society until they and their friend, Hank make total jerks of themselves at a society New Year's Eve party. Ellis' parents have had enough and kick them out. Hank still has his generous allowance so they decide to go to Scotland, in the middle of the war, to find the Loch Ness Monster. Ellis' father was disgraced years before on his own mission to find Nessie.
They get to Scotland where Ellis and Hank continue to behave like the spoiled, arrogant pigs that they are. Maddy, meanwhile, has no backbone but eventually befriends the people working at the Inn where they are staying.
If you like lite stories you will love this. It's well written and things wrap up conveniently and neatly in the end. There's even a white knight of sorts.
In reviews the narrator gets a lot of criticism. I didn't find her annoying at all but if you get the audionook of this one you might want to sample the audio first.
The Silent Sister
By Diane Chamberlain, Narrated by Susan Bennett
Well, it started off strong. Riley MacPherson has arrived in New Bern, NC to settle her father's estate. She had already lost her mother to cancer and her older sister to suicide over 20 years ago. While settling the estate she discovers that her sister might be alive and that her family had a lot of secrets.
This story started strong and then it rolled pretty much every current event cliche (child abuse, PTSD, gender selection) into the mix and finished it off with a pretty unsatisfying ending. Everything wrapped up nice and tidy.
The narration was good and the book wasn't awful but it was entirely predictable. The image on the cover of the book is a bit confusing. While there is one scene with water, the water in that scene is a frozen river on a snowy day.
By Tana French, Narrated By Hilda Fay
This is the 6th book in the Dublin Murder Squad series and the interesting thing about this series is that the characters are mostly new in each book. Because of that the books can easily be read out of order. I've read 1 - 4 and liked them but this one was a bit of a slog to get through.
Detectives Conway and Moran are called to a murder scene that looks like a simple lover's quarrel gone bad. They quickly go after the boyfriend although he claims he's never been in the victim's home. Other detectives are pushing her them to quickly arrest the boyfriend.
Conway is getting a little paranoid over the pressure and other harassment that she is experiencing. She can't give up on a scene and other evidence that might be linked to the victim's missing father from years before.
This book spends a LOT of time on conspiracy and paranoia and it gets a little tedious. Things get much better near the end when everything starts to unravel.
It was fun last month to see how you track your own reading lists. Goodreads sounds like a great idea and I wish it had existed 20 years ago but I can't imagine going in now to enter everything I've read or trying to manage between an old spreadsheet list and a new internet list. But I can see how it's a great tool and a great way to get ideas for new books to read.
This is the last report for the year. My spreadsheet tells me that I "read" 101 books this year. My favorites were:
The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter
Follow The River by James Alexander Thom
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Chain of Title by David Dayan
John Adams by David McCullough
The Dead Key by DM Pulley
My favorite series are:
Harry Bosch by Michael Connolly
Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers by John Sandford
William Monk by Anne Perry
Tracey Crosswhite by Robert Dugoni
Here are the books for December. It was a slow reading month with only 6 books but 5 out of the 6 were good!
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
by Sharyn McCrumb, Narrated by Sally Darling
This is the second book in the Ballad series. I read the first one, If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O, back in April. I didn't love the first one but I liked it well enough to try another. These are set in the mountains of Tennessee just west of the North Carolina border.
Here's the publisher's summary:
Laura Bryce has lived in the small east Tennessee community such a short time that she still feels like an outsider. But when there is violence on the Underhill farm, the sheriff calls on her to represent the church. He will handle the bodies, but she must comfort the bereaved. However, the unspeakable carnage she confronts in the farmhouse will push her down a rocky pathway of danger and heartache.
I have no idea where that came from but it doesn't come close to describing the plot of the novel. Yes there's a murder-suicide at the Underhill farm but Laura Byce is barely connected to it. In fact, no one in the town ever gets around to helping out the 2 surviving Underhill kids. Add in a sheriff who has an uncharacteristic obsession with Naomi Judd, a dying old man obsessed with a polluted river that no one cared about before, a woman who sees dead people and the future and you get a tedious book about weird people in a small town who are just making do day to day. I couldn't wait for it to end.
By C.J. Box, Narrated by David Chandler
After the disappointment of The hangman's Daughter I needed a reliable read. Joe Pickett is always reliable. I'm actually reading this series out of order but it's not a problem. This is an early one. I think it's #4 in the series.
Joe and his daughters are fishing when they stumble upon a mutilated deer. After some investigation Joe discovers that it's part of a series of crimes.
George, Nicholas and Wilhelm
By Miranda Carter, Read By Rosalyn Landor
I've mentioned in the past that my history education leaves much to be desired. I try to make up for that by reading. But even in my self-education I have pretty much ignored World War I. When this book showed up in the Daily Deal I got it. I also got a better education.
It's about the three rulers of Britain, Germany and Russia. They were first cousins. The book starts in the reign of Queen Victoria and takes us through the lives and reigns of George, Nicholas and Wilhelm.
While I enjoyed the book and learned a lot, it got tedious at times. It's a 21 hour read and probably could have been 15 but it was still worthwhile. But I only recommend this one to serious history readers.
Corridors of the Night
by Anne Perry, Narrated by David Collacci
This is #21 in the William Monk series and was a great read to follow the seriousness of the previous history lesson. In this one Hamilton Rand is a genius chemist who is determined to find a cure for "white blood disease", what we now know as leukemia. He is completely blind to the risk and costs of the treatment. Hester Monk isn't.
I don't know how Anne Perry keeps this series so fresh but I'm glad she does.
These are hard core mysteries but they are harder edged than cozy mysteries. I have a friend who prefers cozy mysteries. Her husband prefers hard core mysteries. They have trouble finding books to listen to on long car rides. I recommended that she give Anne Perry a try. I think her books are a good mid-way between the 2 genres.
The Winthrop Woman
By Anya Seton, Narrated by Corrie James
Anya Seton is most knows for romance novels so it's no surprise that I had never heard of her until this book appeared as a Daily Deal. It's historical fiction based on the life if Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett. The book seems to stay relatively true to her biography (on Wikipedia) and expertly weaves in the events and mores of the time. She was born in England but arrived in Massachusetts with the Puritan immigration. Her uncle and father-in-law, John Winthrop was the first Governor of Massachusetts. Elizabeth was one of the few female landowners in the mid-1600's in the new colony and owned much of the land that is now Greewich, CT. But even if you don't like history, this is mostly a novel about a woman who didn't quite fit in with the times but who made a good life for herself on her own terms. More research on the web will help you distinguish the history from the fiction....if you are interested.
By Robert McCammon, Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
This is the third installment in the Matthew Corbett series. It's 1702 in New York City when Matthew and his partner are hired to escort a mass murderer from an insane asylum near Philadelphia to the docks of NYC. Things, of course, don't go as planned.
Like any story about a serial killer this one has large doses of gruesomeness. Not enough to give me nightmares but its' still pretty raw.
Like the other books it's really well written and well narrated. It's important to read these books in order. There's way too much overlap with the story lines to try to follow this book before reading the other two. It even ends with hints to the next installment. I should probably read these a little closer together so I don't forget the important characters.
Before I get into the books that I listened to in November I want to answer a question that someone posted last month.
Susan R. posted: I love reading your "reading lists" and have gotten some good books from you. Your mention of an excel spreadsheet for reading made me sit up and take notice. I never thought of doing that but it is a great idea. Would you mind posting what you keep track of and how? I find that lately I start to read a book and discover that I have read it in the past. I don't like to reread a book because the suspense in not there, if that makes sense. Would love to start a spreadsheet but not sure what would be the best format.
Here's my simple spreadsheet that I started in Excel in 1995. Of course there are lots of free spreadsheet options out there, like Sheets in Google Docs. If I were starting this now I'd probably start it in Google Docs so I could have access to it anywhere. Of course I can also just store this document in Google Docs too.
But the point is that my spreadsheet is really simple. I capture the title, author, book rating (1 - 10), narrator, narrator rating (1 - 4), comments and date finished.
The nice thing about an electronic spreadsheet is the ability to sort on any field or search out names. I sorted on date to discover that my first entry was January 1995 and the book was Pulse by Edna Buchanan and I didn't like it much. The spreadsheet currently has 1221 entries and that's an average run rate of 53 books a year. I know that since I retired that I'm going through them much faster than when I was working.
I do reference the spreadsheet often. If I think I found a new author I'll search the spreadsheet just to make sure. I'll also check the narrator to see if I've heard and rated them before. A bad narrator can really ruin a good book.
When I finish a book I add it to the spreadsheet, review it on Audible and write the blog review before I start the next book. It's not all that much work and it's been really beneficial.
It was a great month of reading! I loved every book that I read this month. One of them was, hands down, the most important book that I've read all year. Read on to see which one.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
I've been saving this one for a few months and decided that the week that I got sick was just the right time to treat myself to it.
This is #27 in the Lucas Davenport series and you might expect that the character and storylines might get boring at this point in the series. But authors like John Sandford, Michael Connelly and Anne Perry know when it's time to send their characters on different adventures. John Sandford has moved Lucas away from Minnesota crimes by putting him in the US Marshall Service. He still lives and is based out of Minneapolis but he works wherever he needs to go on the next "hunting" expedition.
This time he's searching for a group that robbed a drug cartel counting house and murdered several people, including a young girl. We are introduced to new investigation partners that I expect (and hope) we will see in the next novel.
Richard Ferrone, in my opinion, is perfect for narrating Lucas' stories.
A Place Called Freedom
by Ken Follett, Narrated by Simon Prebble
Usually when you think of a Follett novel you expect about 30 hours of fine listening. This is an early novel (1995) and is shorter than most. But it's still a great story. This one opens in 1766 with Mack McAsh wanting to escape his life of slavery in a Scottish coal mine. Lizzie Hamlin is caught in an unhappy marriage to a spineless husband. Both want to escape.
It may be one of his early works but it's still another great Follett historical novel.
by Libble Hawker, Narrated by Amy McFaddin
A few years ago Chris and I took a vacation trip to Seattle and one of my favorite things was the underground tour at Pioneer Square. That is what piqued my interest in this book. In the 1860's the ratio of men to women in Seattle was about 10:1 and most of those women were "seamstresses", the common name for prostitutes. A man named Asa Mercer had an idea to bring "good" women from the East to Seattle to be wives. He specifically went to Lowell, MA to recruit the women because Lowell has been hit hard by the war and many of the mills had closed and women were unemployed. He hoped to bring 200 women but actually brought only about a dozen on his first trip. These women were knows as the Mercer Girls.
This book introduces us to 3 fictional Mercer girls to explore what might have enticed young women to make that voyage and how they might have integrated into Seattle culture. It's an interesting story although the characters might have been developed a little too rigidly. The narrator was good but definitely better suited for romance novels. Her voice is good but too girly for my taste.
At the end of the book the author provides some good information on some of the real Mercer girls and how she developed her characters. All in all, it was a good read.
The Art of Invisibility
by Kevin Mitnick, Narrated by Ray Porter
Hands down, this is the most important book that I've read all year. It's so important that this is what my friends are getting for Christmas. (They probably aren't going to be particularly impressed but, hopefully, at least one of them will read it.) I recommend reading a paper version so you can bookmark things rather than listening and trying to take notes. Because this is a book that will result in action items.
I know that most of us have given up on any concept of privacy on the internet but we do need to know just where and how we are exposed and some things we can do to mitigate the exposure.
Kevin Mitnick was the worlds most famous hacker and I read his autobiography, Ghost In The Wires, a few years ago. He's really, really smart and also kind of a sanctimonious jerk but that doesn't negate the knowledge that he shares. In this book there is an overriding focus on actually being invisible on the internet which is something most of us aren't interested in at all. But we do need to know what data is tracked on our cars, smartphones, computer browsers, fitness trackers and appliances. Believe me, it's a LOT more than you think. With that knowledge he provides some reasonably easy things that we can each do to better protect ourselves and our families. Honestly, I believe that someone in every family should read this book and don't buy Alexa unless you read this book first!
The Wrong Side of Goodbye
by Michael Connelly, Narrated by Titus Welliver
Harry Bosch #19. Harry is working part time at San Fernando PD on a series of rape cases that he's tied together. He's also doing private work on the side for a wealthy mogul who wants to know if he has an heir.
Another great Bosch novel. Great storylines and characters. His half-brother Mickey Haller also makes an appearance.
by Harlan Coben, Narrated by Scott Brick
Years ago I read some of the early books in Coben's Myron Bolitar series. I didn't care for them but I had read that the stand-alone novels were better than the series. That was a good recommendation.
It's ironic that I read this book so soon after reading "The Art of Invisibility" because this one is all about computer and internet privacy. There are a couple of storylines that, at first, seem completely unrelated ut everything ties together in the end.
The main story is about the Baye family. Adam Baye's parents have put spy software on their son's computer because of his behavior since a high school friend committed suicide. There's another storyline where women are being abducted and tortured to death.
It's a good story and held my interest throughout. I picked this one up in one of their sales and I think I'll try more Coben books again.
Mary Called Magdalene
by Margaret George, Narrated by Kate Reading
I finished off the month with one of my favorite historical fiction writers, Margaret George. This is a fictional biography of Mary and therefore a story about Jesus. Thanksgiving week seemed the perfect time to start reading this book and I truly enjoyed it.
If you are a theologian or academic you may hate this book but if you go into it understanding that it's historical FICTION I think you will enjoy the story.
We know very little about the real Mary Magdalene and this book gives her a plausible story and personality. For people, like me, with very little religious education it's nice way to get some understanding of the story of Christianity.
Another month has flown by and, given that it's football season, I'm pretty pleased that I finished 8 books this month. To be honest several were pretty mediocre but I loved Brain Myths by The Great Courses, The Crossing (because it's Harry Bosch) and The Dead Key. The Dead Key was a particular gem!
What's your favorite book that you read this month? All of us readers are always looking for new ideas!
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger, Narrated by Fred Berman and Phoebe Strole
Clare was 6 years old when she first met 36 year old Henry. They met many times as Clare grew up and eventually married when Clare was 23 and Henry, 31. This was all made possible because Henry has a genetic condition that makes him time travel.
I don't know what prompted me to buy this book and I've been postponing reading it. In the end, I think I'm glad I did. The book is well written and perfectly narrated. It takes a bit of your time to get used to the movements back and forth in time but it all eventually makes sense.
Part of the story line is that Henry is the first person diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder. His genetic clock resets itself and he unwillingly moves back and forth in time. As much as I dislike sci-fi I was surprised that I didn't mind it. The one thing that did bother me was what a frivolous character Henry is. His emotional maturity seems to never develop beyond college. I would expect someone with his "condition" to be more mature. Clare is the mature one and plays the perfect Penelope.
by Carol O'Connell, Narrated by Kate Reading
This is the 6th book in the Kathy Mallory series and I assume I started here because I got it on sale. If anyone else has read the books in this series I'd be really interested in your opinion. Much of my opinion might come from the narration.
So, put on your imagination cap and try to envision Spock from Star Trek as a beautiful, blonde NYC detective. That's how I would describe Kathy Mallory. She's a big bag of cliche characters:
- beautiful, and of course, blonde
- brilliant although she apparently grew up ALONE on the streets of NYC from about the age of 7 to 10
- private to the point of neurosis
- apparently, and mysteriously, wealthy enough to buy only designer clothes
- doesn't understand the concept of teamwork
- skulks around like a cat sneaking up on people
All that and for some strange reason she's a member of the special crimes unit and her co-workers protect her. So, let's change that image. She's part Spock and part Sheldon Cooper. Specifically the most annoying characteristics of both.
On the other hand, the story line is pretty interesting (except for a side story about some series of cheap Western novels that she would steal and have prostitutes read to her when she was a orphan). A prostitute (although the author annoyingly consistently uses "whore") is found dead presumably a suicide by hanging. It's one of the prostitutes that she clung to when she was living on the streets as a child. The murder seems to be strangely connected to another murder 20 years before.
I enjoyed the story and most of the other characters but I can't accept how flat the main character is and I certainly don't want to read any more books with her in them.
The Whiskey Rebels
by David Liss, Narrated by Christopher Lane
I don't think anyone will be surprised to learn that I have a big Excel spreadsheet where I track all of the books that I've read (ok, listened to). I started the list in 1995 and it currently has 1227 books on it. Sometimes, when I'm being smart, I actually consult the list before I buy a book to see if I've read it before or read anything else by the author.
All of that is to say that I didn't consult the list before buying this book and when I was adding this one to the list I discovered that I've read 2 of his other books about 10 years ago. I liked one and couldn't finish the other. Now having read 3 of his books I think I'd say that David Liss has great stories that aren't told all that well.
The Whiskey Rebels is, as you've probably guessed, historical fiction about the Whiskey Rebellion. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the two protagonists: Ethan Saunders and Joan Maycott. They come to the story addressing two overlapping federal government decisions that happened about the same time: establishment of national banking and establishment of the whiskey tax. Several of the characters are real historical figures, most notably Alexander Hamilton. But there are others and the author identifies the "real" people at the end of the book.
It is a good story and probably reflects pretty accurately what life was at that time. It was a little confusing switching back and forth between the 2 characters stories and the writing is mediocre at best. I'm still glad I read it because it made me go and research the Whiskey Rebellion.
By Michael Connelly, Narrated by Titus Welliver
You know after a day of wearing work shoes at the office you can't wait to get home and slide into your favorite sandals. That's what reading Michael Connelly is for me. Harry Bosch is my comfy sandal after wearing tight high heels.
This is #22 in the Harry Bosch series and #6 in Mickey Haller. Harry is now retired and Mickey needs him to be an investigator on a defense case. Hence, the "crossing" over to the enemy. At least that's how his former police detectives see it.
I don't know if it's because the last 2 books were so disappointing but this is one of my favorite Bosch books to date. It didn't hurt to have Titus Welliver narrating it now that I've seen him playing Bosch in the Amazon series.
Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons From Neuroscience
by the Great Courses, Narrated by Professor Indre Viskontas
Back in June I read The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons and really enjoyed it. So the next time I perused the Great Courses section of Audible I picked up this along with a few other books. I first (tried to) listen to The Vikings and discovered that I really don't care about the Vikings at all! I don't mind the ones who wear purple on Sunday but the historic ones, not so much. I stopped listening to that one and moved on to this one without much optimism.
Oh how I loved being pleasantly surprised and that's exactly what this book did. Each chapter is based on a brain myth: that we have 5 senses, that computers make us stupider, that Facebook makes us less social, that we only use 10% of our brain power, the left/right brain dominance. Dr. Viskontas takes on each of these myths (and many more) and share the research into each of these topics to show why our beliefs are all wrong. The material is presented in a way that anyone can understand it and, in some cases, can apply some changes to our own lives to help keep our brains healthy.
There are a couple of chapters where I believe that she should have either expanded the current understanding of the issue beyond neuroscience into included either information or caveats that there are other disciplines affecting the topic. For example, she talks about gender identity as a brain function but neglects to even mention the impact/influence of genetics. She also talks a LOT about her toddler but the examples are generally relevant given the development that happens in the brain in babies and children.
I learned a few things that we can all apply to our own lives. First physical activity is very important to brain health, especially as we age; second, computer activities (which I'll assume includes internet shopping) is great for seniors to keep their brains active; and third, all that Luminosity stuff is the equivalent of brain snake oil.
Some Danger Involved
by Will Thomas, Narrated by Anthony Ferguson
This is another new series to me. I'm pretty sure I picked this up in a sale because it's a little shy of my 10 hour minimum rule.
I didn't pay close attention to the era but I believe this is set around 1900. It opens with Thomas Llewelyn applying for a job with Cyrus Barker. Thomas is starving and homeless and answered a job advertisement as a last effort before throwing himself in the Thames. Barker is a private investigator looking for an assistant and he sees potential in Thomas.
They barely meet before they are off on their first case. Members of the Jewish community have hired Barker to investigate the crucifixion death of one of their citizens. The story is told by Thomas and we eventually get his personal history. If you like Anne Perry (William Monk, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt) you will enjoy this book, and probably the series. It's a little lighter than Perry and I'm on the fence about whether I'll read any more in the series. I did enjoy it and I like the characters but the books run a little short for me and that means that the plots can only be so complex.
The Dead Key
by D. M. Pulley, Narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith
In 1998 the First Bank of Cleveland has been vacant for 20 years. Iris is an engineer in a go-nowhere job when she is asked to create schematics of the old abandoned building for an impending sale. What she finds is a building left frozen in time. The bank had been shuttered in the middle of the night and every employee's desk was left unchanged. Iris starts finding mysterious things.
The story jumps back and forth between the 70's, just before the bank collapse, and the 90's with Iris. In the 70's we are following Beatrice as she starts to uncover some of what is happening there.
This book was the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and I completely understand how it won. It's a great (and unique storyline) told really well. It jumps back and forth in time which, as you know, I generally find supremely annoying. Ms. Pulley should teach a class for writers on how to do that transition right because she did it brilliantly and perfectly.
I couldn't turn this book off. One night I tried to listen to it in bed but it kept me wide awake. If you have worked in banking, as I did twice, you will know that the plot is mostly impossible but there's a thread of maybe, just maybe.....
By Robert Bidinotto, Narrated by Conor Hall
I found this one in another Deal of the Day and it's the second in the Dylan Hunter series. Dylan is a former special ops guy and the book opens with he and his girlfriend (a CIA operative) at the end of a month off recovering from the last operation. Just are they are leaving their mountain woods retreat an group of environmental terrorists have attacked a natural gas operation's offices.
Dylan and Annie stop the attack but the perps try to get revenge by planting a pipe bomb at their cabin.
The good about this book is the refreshing turn of events from traditional evil-doer stories. This time it's the environmentalists, EPA and other government officials that are the bad guys. The story runs along at a good pace and there are some twists and turns but too many of them are predictable and formulaic. Dylan has so many special skills, tools, connections and and such an endless supply of personal funds that the drama that's supposed to be there really isn't.
But that's not the worst part. Annie is the annoying character. She supposedly has PTSD but not "serious" PTSD but she can't be with Dylan if he continues his lifestyle....although she's still in the CIA. She is completely unbelievable as a CIA operative. She's way too girly and whiny for her character.
The funniest part of the book is that the voice for one of the characters sounds EXACTLY like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. The most annoying part is the Valentine's Day dinner. Completely unbelievable. Also unbelievable is that an operative with such an unpredictable schedule has a pet cat. Oh, and the narrator pronounces "cache" as "kash-A" instead of "kash" - like a kash-A of weapons. Hilarious.
I don't think I'll be delving further into this series.
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.
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