I finished 9 books in May and it was a month heavy on non-fiction with a strong dose of chick lit. Admittedly, it was a strange mix. I gave up on 2 books and should have given up on a third. The Conviction was straight up awful. Everything else was good!
DNF Books: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives - AKA The secret pettiness of a polygamist's wives. I think there might be a good story there but you have to wade through a lot of unnecessary tedious narrative about things like bodily functions.
Raising Lazarus - There are better books about the plight of the drug addicted that have less politics. I'd recommend Dreamland and The Least of Us, both by Sam Quinnones. I don't think this book will age well.
What have you been reading that you would recommend? Please leave your thoughts on any of these books as well. I think it's good for people to get different opinions when looking for a new book to read.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #18 in the Cork O'Connor series and it's a deviation from the other books in the series. This one is set in 1963 when Cork is a 12 year old boy and his father, Liam, is the newly elected sheriff.
Cork and his friends find the body of a respected Ojibwe man. It appears that it was suicide but Lima must prove it one way or another.
I still love these books and I enjoyed this look back at a young Cork and his family.
By Chris Blackwell, Read By Bill Nighy
If you like music history you will love this book. Chris Blackwell grew up a rich kid between London and Jamaica. While living in Jamaica he fell in love with the island music and, after meeting Bob Marley, decided to produce his record. What followed is a fascinating music recording career for artists such as Cat Stevens, Steve Winwood, U2, Grace Jones and others. It was a fascinating read.
By graham Hancock, Read By Graham Hancock
If you check out his Wiki page, you will see that the Graham hancock is labeled a "pseudoscientist". Of course, that's code for anyone that the establishment in any field doesn't like. We saw a lot of that the past 3 years in the medical arena. I don't pay attention to any of that any more and I try to read and research on my own and develop my own opinions.
I ready Hancock's earlier book, Magician of the Gods, which proposes that the lost civilization that Plato referred to as Atlantis, absolutely could have existed and been destroyed 11,600 years ago. I found the book fascinating and compelling. I was excited to read this new one (published in 2019). It focuses on the history of the Americas, specifically the Amazon, Inca culture and North America.
There are parts of this book that are speculative but there's a lot that's been proven and accepted as fact. For one, when I was in school we were taught that the Clovis people were the first society to inhabit North America about 13,000 years ago. In the last 15 years there have been huge discoveries of other cultures and it's been proven that the Clovis people were not the first to settle in North America and it has been confirmed that there were other, unrelated, people as far back as 25,000 years ago.
The writing style of the book is accessible for us "non-sciency" types and the subject matter is really interesting. He puts forth some interesting possibilities but is careful to present them as theories. The book seems fairly carefully compiled and, I expect, the criticisms are coming from people who have based their careers on facts that probably aren't facts. The truth is that we have explored so little of our history that no one really knows anything.
Honky Tonk Samurai
By Joe R. Lansdale, Read By Christopher Ryan Grant
If you like Larry McMurtry I think you will like Joe R. Lansdale. Honky Tonk Samurai is #9 in the Hal and Leonard series but it's the first book in the series that I've read. it worked just fine as stand-alone novel.
Hap and Leonard have been best friends since high school and consider each other brothers. Hap considers himself a white trash rebel and Leonard is a black, gay, Republican, Vietnam Vet with an addiction to vanilla cookies. They are working surveillance for a Private Eye when they see a man abusing a dog. Leonard decides to enact a little justice to save the dog.
A week later, Lilly Buckner, shows up at the PI office with video showing the beating that Leonard exacted and using it as a down payment to get them to take on the job of looking for her granddaughter. The first thing they discover is that the car dealership where she worked was a front for prostitution with much deeper roots into the criminal underworld.
It's a fast and fun read/listen. The dialogue is sometimes laugh out loud funny. The is the 4th Lansdale book I've read and I've enjoyed all of them.
Bottle of Lies
By Katherine Eban
This book was recommended to me by Kristen F. and I'm so glad she did. This is about the rise of the generic drug industry overseas and is a real eye-opener. If you have any belief that the generic drugs that we take are truly equivalent to the name brand ones, this book will dispel that quickly. The part that will really disgust you is that the bureaucracy of the FDA basically works to protect the bad manufacturers. Of course, we saw much of that in action during the last few years with the expedited approvals of drugs and therapies without sufficient safety data to support those recommendations. This book is a real eye-opener and I'm glad I read it. It supports my almost-pathological avoidance of prescription medicines.
I had read years ago about the FDA's inability/unwillingness to do their job related to certifying organic foods and, as a result, I don't trust the organic labeling on food at all and refuse to pay a premium for it. The FDA outsources that compliance and it's rife with corruption. There have also been several cases of employees from various "health food" grocers sharing stories about organic mislabeling. With this book, it seems that the, more vital, drug oversight is just as bad.
I read this book with my eyes, not my ears, and I recommend that. It would have been to much to track in audio format.
The Science and Art of Longevity
By Peter Attia, Read By Peter Attia
My doctor turned me on to Peter Attia's podcast as she runs her practice with many of the same principles. I'm very lucky to have her as my physician. I've listened to his podcast for a couple of years so I've hear a lot of this information before but it was very beneficial to hear it in a logical order. I'll just say here that this is probably the best/most important health focused book that I've ever read.
He approaches the history of medicine as 3 basic phases. Medicine 1.0 is that period of time before antibiotics when we didn't really know how infections spread and worked. Medicine 2.0 is now, where we treat disease in a reactive way. We treat heart disease after it's discovered and cancer after it's diagnosed. Medicine 3.0 is the future, where we will know the early signals that there might be an issue in the future and we address it early. That is what he tries to practice with his patients and what this book is all about.
It has a long intro with background to the history of medicine and the objectives of the book. Just be patient through that part. He then methodically addresses heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, exercise and stability, nutrition, sleep and mental/emotional health. The chapter on mental/emotional health was particularly profound in that he shared his own story to illustrate the importance of dealing with it as part of our overall health.
Each section has some good basic action items that allows us to be able to positively impact our own health. It's not specific diet things or even specific exercise things. it's more like categories of things. For example, the importance of getting enough protein and the importance of focusing on balance.
I listened to this in audio but I ordered the hardback because I want to read parts of it again and take some notes.
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Dan John Miller
This is the 5th (and last) book in the David Sloan series and I wish I had skipped it. If I had been in the mood to look for another book I would have DNFed this one.
David Sloan is (supposedly) a brilliant lawyer and the plot of this book is the sum of him making some really stupid decisions. I'm not even going to go into the plot. It's just terrible with the added downer of reading about boys being tortured in a military-style camp. It's awful.
By Kathleen Tessaro
Looking for a good summer beach read? This is a good candidate. Hughie Venables-Smythe is an out of work actor and applies for an interesting job as a professional flirt. As a professional he must remain single and he can't get involved in any physical way with his targets.
The book follows the lives of several people as the navigate their strained or non-existent love lives. I've read a couple of her books before and I liked them a lot. This one was a fun, light read. It's not available in audio format.
Reminders of Him
By Colleen Hoover, Read By Brittany Pressley and Ryan West
This was my second light beach read. Colleen Hoover keeps popping up in my Audible recommended list so I figured I better give her a try. I think I read that one of her books is being made into a movie or TV show.
Kenna Rowan has served 5 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter after a tragic accident that resulted in the death of her boyfriend. After she went to prison she discovered she was pregnant and gave up full custody to her boyfriend's parents. The parents and everyone in that town still hates her. But she is desperate to have some connection to her daughter, who she has never seen.
She's penniless when she moves back to the town and starts job hunting. The first person she meets is Ledger Ward. Ledger is her boyfriend's former best friend and is very close to the family and Kenna's daughter. Can he bridge the gap between Kenna and her daughter?
I can see why Hoover is so popular. She's a very good writer. This book isn't my normal genre but I could see reading one now and then, like when I'm on vacation.
I had some great reading time this month. It was a huge help during the 10 days that Chris and I had our epic colds. Every book I read this month was good so I'm not going to pick a favorite. I hope you find something good and leave your recommendations in the comments.
Don't Open The Door by Allison Brennan. I've read two of her books previous to this one. One I thought was tedious and one that was a very interesting premise. This one is just annoying with cliche characters. After 2 hours, I gave up.
By Joe R. Lansdale, Read by Brad Sanders
Joe Lansdale can WRITE and Brad Sanders was the perfect narrator for this wild western.
Loosely based on the real-life slave-turned-cowboy, Nat Love, Paradise Sky is a brutal and beautiful novel about the wildness of the West in the last 1800's.
After the Civil War, Nat (formerly Willie) and his father have settled down to farming when an insane local landowner is cause for Nat to run and strike out on his own. A farmer named Loving takes him in and teaches him farming, cooking, shooting, horseback riding and all sorts of other life skills. When Mr. Loving dies Nat takes on his name as a tribute and heads West.
He becomes a Buffalo Soldier and eventually finds his way to Deadwood where he becomes a bouncer at the infamous Gem Hotel. The Texas landowner is still searching for him so his life will not settle until that business is taken care of.
This book reminds me of the style of Larry McMurtry. The characters are richly drawn and the scenes are vivid. It's a western so the language is crude and there's plenty of murder aod gore. If you like a good Western I think you will enjoy this one. It got me through a week of being sick and made the time pass faster.
By Robert Bailey, Read by Joe Knezevich
This is the 1st in the Jason Rich series. Jason Rich is that personal injury lawyer that you see on billboards around your town. He's never been a criminal trial attorney. He's also in rehab for an alcohol addiction so he misses 2 weeks of calls from his sister begging for his help.
Jason's sister, Jana, has been charged with hiring a hit man to kill her husband and she wants Jason to represent her. The two have barely spoken in years but he agrees to take the case for his nieces. He returns to his hometown to try to unravel what really happened.
This was good enough as a first in a series for me to want to read another.
The Invincible Miss Cust
By Penny Haw, Read By Lucy Rayner
This is a historical novel about Aleen Cust. She was born in Ireland in 1868 and always dreamed of being a veterinarian but women couldn't pursue that career and her mother wouldn't have her embarrass the family by trying.
But, of course, she did do it. With the help of mentors, she was the first woman to enroll in the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh. She wasn't initially allowed to get the formal certificate but she found a way to practice anyway. She was the first woman veterinarian in Britain and Ireland. It's an interesting story and holds closely to the knows facts about her life.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
By Helen Simonson, Read By Peter Altschuler
In a small English village a wonderful cast of characters reside including Major Earnest Pettigrew (retired). The Major leads a quiet life since his wife died. He sees his son infrequently as he lives and works in London. When the Major's brother dies it seems that everyone and everything around him is changing. His son and niece are after a pair of historic guns to be sold for their benefit. The local land owner seems to be planning a large development and his son shows up with a new girlfriend looking for a weekend cottage. In the midst of this, he becomes friends with Mrs Jasmina Ali, the local Pakistani shop owner.
What ensues is a story about manners and tradition and the humor of trying to stick to the old ways. It's an endearing story about people trying to be happy and relevant in today's society.
By C.J. Box, Read by David Chandler
This is #23 in the Joe Pickett series. Joe is a Wyoming game warden with a reputation for getting involved in things he shouldn't and for destroying a record number of state vehicles. After 23 books you would expect the story lines to get a little tired but Box does a great job of keeping the characters moving forward. He's also very good at using current events/trends as elements in the story. In this one we have crypto mining and CCP influencing US politics. All quite believable.
Joe is tracking a wounded elk during a big snowstorm. He has permission to track on the private property. He does find the elk but also finds the body of a man that was killed by the exhaust fan of a structure full of computers.....in the middle of a vast cattle ranch. The victim is a university professor. As Joe is trying to learn more the body disappears and everyone, including the governor, tells him to stop investigating.
It's fast paced, plausible and a fun read.
By James Hayman, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is #3 of 5 in the McCabe and Savage series. This story centers around the theft and distribution of Canadian OxyContin. A young woman is found mutilated and a local doctor is lying in the road nearby, a victim of a hit and run.
Maggie Savage returned to the small seaport town to help with the investigation because the doctor is her best friend. Her partner, Michael McCabe, joins her after a few days.
As the investigation develops and other bodies are discovered, it seems that the man they are looking for might not exist. Only the sister of the murdered girl may have a clue, but she is missing.
The ending wasn't a huge surprise but it was sure fun getting there. The story is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns. This is an older series (this book is set in 2009) but if they didn't mention the date in each chapter heading, you would never know.
By Mary Roach
Once the days start to heat up in the Spring I try to get a little sun each day to prepare for our family beach trip at the end of May. I want to spend lots of time in the sun at the beach but I don't want to burn. When I sit in the sun I like to have a book to read so I don't get bored and antsy. This book served me well in my sun because each chapter takes about 15 - 20 minutes to read. One chapter for each side.
The book is a collection of essays about the conflicts between humans and nature and each essay is a completely unique topic and each is in her light-hearted but serious writing style. In each chapter she introduces specialists in some very unique areas of science: cougar trackers, danger tree blasters, macaque managers and lots of others. The footnotes are gems on their own.
It's an interesting and fun book and I learned a few things. I'd be inclined to suggest this for young people interested in animal welfare but a lot of her humor references things that anyone under 50 probably wouldn't know. Who actually remember Charles Nelson Riley?
The River Between Us
By Liz Fenwick, Read By Lucy Scott
You know how there's a "Cozy" Mystery category? Well, if there was a Cozy Historical Fiction category, this book would be in it. It's kind of like Kate Morton, but Kate Morton is a better writer.
Theo's (Theodoro) marriage has just ended and she escapes to the River Tamar near Cornwall. It's totally run down and she's looking forward to making it liveable again. On her first day, she finds a stash of letters from WWI (that no one else has ever found before). These letters were written from a servant of the nearby manor house to a young woman who lived in the manor.
Meanwhile Theo's own family history has some secrets that are coming to light since her Grandmother died. There's lots of DNA testing going on in Theo's era that tells some of the story of 100 years prior.
It's a fine book of escapist reading. EVERYTHING ties together and everyone is happy in the end. It's a little too gift-wrapped for me but I think a lot of people would really enjoy this book.
Who Is Maud Dixon?
By Alexandra Andrews, Read By Theresa Plummer
Florence Darrow dreams of being a writer and starts her adult life as an editorial assistant in NYC. She's frankly, not very self-aware or likable. After a stupid affair with her boss, she's given a chance to start over as an assistant to the reclusive writer Maud Dixon. They head to Marrakesh on a research trip and Florence has a terrible car accident. She awakens in the hospital with Maud missing. Can she become the writer?
I picked this up because I read Carole's book review post last week. Most of the books she recommended are new and not yet in audio format. But this one was and I decided to give it a try. To be honest, if not for her recommendation I would have stopped listening after 2 hours. It's a slow start but it does pick up speed and has a lot of twists. It's a very interesting plot and this book is more psychological thriller than standard mystery/thriller. If you like books like Gone Girl, you will like this one.
In the end I did enjoy it. I thought the plot was clever but, boy, did I hate both characters.
The Book Woman's Daughter
By Kim Michele Richardson, Read By Katie Schorr
I was so excited to see that there was a sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and I was not disappointed. Both books are historical fiction about the real-life Fugate family of Kentucky and about the packhorse library of rural Kentucky.
Honey Lovett is the 17 year old daughter of the famous blue packhorse librarian. When her parents are arrested for breaking anti-miscegenation laws (blue people were considered a different race and not allowed to marry whites or other races), Honey is left alone. Worse, the county social worker is determined to put her in a children's prison workhouse where she would have to stay until 21. She's determined to prove that she can take care of herself.
The narrator is perfect for the story and I couldn't put this book down and it was a great way to end the month.
I finished 10 books this month. I'm not reading as many as I used to because I'm listening to a good number of podcasts and watch several YouTube channels (mostly crochet and, weirdly, chateau restorations in France).
This month was a big non-fiction month and my 2 favorite books were non-fiction. Cobalt Red is a must read and The Soul of an Octopus is just a great read all around. In non-fiction The Sorority Murder and The Round House were my favorites.
I'd normally take a few minutes to share some of my favorite podcasts but I've had a cold for 3 days and my energy has run out for the moment. I'll catch up with podcasts next month.
What have you been reading? Share your recommendations in the comments.
Back to the Garden
By Laurie R. King, Read by Vivienne Leheny
I have kind of a love/dislike relationship with this author. I've read several of her books in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series and some I like and some I do not. This book is a stand alone murder mystery not at all related to the series.
The Gardener Estate is another grand estate mostly abandoned by family and turned over to a trust but during its heyday it was a magnificent estate with beautiful gardens. When young Rob Gardener inherited the estate in the 70's he turned it into a commune. Now the trust is trying to restore the estate and during relocation of a statue in one of the gardens, human remains are found under the concrete base.
Raquel Lang is a detective from another district but she is allowed to investigate this long ago crime because it might be connected to a string of serial murders at the time that were attributed to The Highwayman. A lot of people disappeared from the commune around that time because many people came and went without notice. She needs to find out where they all are now.
It's a pretty good plot that seemed to heat up quickly and them simmer a little too long before a quick wrap up. I didn't hate it and I didn't love it. I just found myself losing focus a few times.
The Round House
By Louise Erdrich, Read By Gary Farmer
Joe Coutts is 13 and living on a reservation in North Dakota in 1988 when his mother is attacked. Joe's father is a tribal judge and Joe becomes frustrated with the delays in identifying his mother's attacker. He sets out with his friends, Cappy, Zach and Angus to try to find answers on their own.
This is a true coming of age story about a boy who was forced to rush from childhood to young adult. Having grown up with 3 brothers I think I know a thing or two about teenage boys and how they think. I admire the author for her ability to truly portray events in the book from a young boy's perspective. It reminded me of some of William Kent Kreuger's books but with more profanity.
The book is narrated by Joe in current day, when he's in his 50's and the narrator has the perfect voice and intonation for a storyteller. Some people complained about the narration so if you are considering an audio version, go to Audible and listen to a sample.
I will read more fo Edrich's books. She's an exceppent writer.
Every Man A King
By Walter Mosley, Read By Dion Graham
This is the second book in the Joe King Oliver series. I love Walter Mosley as a writer, especially his hugely successful Easy Rawlings series. This series centers on Joe Oliver, a former NYPD police officer who was framed for a crime and found himself in Rikers. This series begins years later and he is now a private investigator. The first book is Down The River Unto The Sea. I read that one in 2019 and liked it. This one didn't hook me the same way.
Billionaire Roger Ferris is asking Joe to investigate the arrest of Alfred Xavier Quiller. Quiller is a white nationalist and Joe isn't interested in investigating but he takes the job because Ferris is in a relationship with Joe's 91 year old Grandmother. Joe doesn't understand why Ferris would care about Quiller at all.
There's another parallel case involving Joe's ex-wife. There are a ton of characters and rambling storylines. Honestly, I had trouble keep up with all of it.
The Sorority Murder
By Allison Brennan, Read By Amy McFaddin
This is the first in the Regan Merritt series and the second book by Brennan that I've read.
Lucas Vega is studying criminology and has proposed a podcast for his senior project. The podcast will be an attempt to crowdsource information relating to a 3 year old unsolved murder of a sorority member, Candace Swain. Candace was his writing tutor at the time of her death and Lucas thought she might have information related to an even earlier murder.
Lucas' advisor introduces him to Regan Merritt, a former US Marshall, and she agrees to be a guest on his podcast to talk about investigative techniques. She is intrigued by the case and agrees to assist him.
As an avid podcast listener and true crime fan, I was really intrigued by the premise of this story and I really enjoyed it. Occasionally the narrator annoyed me but then I had to remember that she was narrating college girls and felt that it wasn't that far off.
I've already put the second book in this series on hold at the library. It will be focused on Regan and the reason that she left the Marshall service.
By Siddarth Kara, Read By Peter Ganim
I try to read at least one non-fiction book each month and this month I chose this new book about the mining of cobalt in the Congo. It's a difficult read because it's so hard to read chapter after chapter about the suffering of the Congolese people at our hands. But it's a very important book and I recommend that everyone read it, especially if you are considering purchasing and EV or buying a solar array with battery storage. The people of the DRC are powering our transition to green energy and it doesn't seem so green when you read this book.
If you want to read a little about it before committing to the book check out this NPR article where the author said this:
"We shouldn't be transitioning to the use of electric vehicles at the cost of the people and environment of one of the most downtrodden and impoverished corners of the world," he says. "The bottom of the supply chain, where almost all the world's cobalt is coming from, is a horror show."
If you want to see an interview and see images from the mines, he was on with Joe Rogan a couple of months ago. It's an excellent interview. Don't like Joe Rogan? There are other interviews on YouTube.
The Paris Apartment
By Lucy Foley, Read By a cast
Jess needs to leave London quickly so she decides to go to Paris to stay with her half-brother, Ben, while she starts a new life. Only when she gets to his apartment he's nowhere to be found. Fortunately she can pick locks and lets herself in.
Now she needs to solve the mystery of missing Ben and there seems to be a lot of strange things happening in his apartment building.
I read one other Lucy Foley book and I enjoyed it. I cannot say the same for this one. None of the characters are likable and the story is slow and plodding. The narrators were good and that helped this dull book a lot. It did get interesting in the last hour or so but it seemed to take forever to get there. However, a screenwriter could make this into very good movie and maybe that's what she's fishing for with this one.
By jennifer Saint, Read by an indistinguishable cast
There have been lots of books recently that are new versions of Greek Mythology. The hook with this one is that it's told from the women's points of view.
This is the story of the fall of the House of Atreus. The story is told from the points of view of Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra.
Clytemnestra has married Agamemnon and on the eve of the Trojan War he sacrifices one of their daughters for good fortune on the voyage. Clytemnestra is devastated and her hatred blooms during his absence from the long war.
Meanwhile, Cassandra, is able tp prophesize the threat to Troy but no one will listen and Elektra, Clytemnestra's daughter, suffers from her mother's long obsession and grief.
It's an interesting take on myth, but it didn't really hold my attention the way Stephen Fry's books do. There was a lot of introspection and angst and that doesn't necessarily make for interesting reading. The narrators were each good but they were hard to tell apart so when each chapter began it took a few minutes to figure out who was talking. That could have easily been dealt with through chapter titles.
If you like mythology, I think you will enjoy this book. If you casually like mythology, start with the Stephen Fry books.
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
By Sy Montgomery
Back in November I read Remarkably Bright Creatures, a novel about an octopus in an aquarium near Seattle. I loved that book and still recommend it to lots of people. In that post, Kristen F. told me about this book and I'm so glad she did!
I love reading non-fiction on vacation so I decided to take this one to the beach with me and it was the perfect book to read while hearing waves crashing in the background. It's fun non-fiction.
Through her experiences with several octopuses (not octopi), Sy Montgomery has learned that they have different personalities and great intelligence. They recognize people, can play pranks, open puzzle boxes and are masterful escape artists. In this book she recounts her experiences and relationships with several Octopuses. The book is serious, touching, funny and sometimes sad. It's an easy read. It would be a perfect book for any teenager or young adult interested in marine science specifically or animal relationships in general.
It did not make me want to pet one.
The Song of the Cell
By Siddhartha Mukherjee, ready Bu Dennis Boutsikaris
This is a hefty book on a hefty topic and, if you are interested, I'd recommend reading a paper copy. Audio worked OK for me but I feel like I missed a little. It wasn't the narrator, I like him a lot. It's jsut a deep topic. This is the third book by Mukherjee I've read and my favorite is still The Gene.
In this one he explores a wide range of topics on cell biology. It's very informative and he always writes for the non-medical reader. This book has a lot of personal antidotes. Sometimes they helped illustrate a point, sometimes I felt he just wanted to talk.
I felt that sometimes the information on a topic was a bit dated (HIV/AIDS) but mostly it seemed to be current knowledge and research. If you like books on medical topics, you will enjoy this one too.
The Stationery Shop
By Marjan Kamali, Read By Mozhan Marno
I was underwhelmed with this book and I had really high hopes going onto it.
The story is set in the 1950's in Iran. Roya and Bahman meet in Mr Fakhri's bookshop and fall in love. Roya is just graduating high school and Bahman is a political activist. Within a few months they decided to marry. They are supported by everyone except Bahman's mother.
They agree to meet at the town square and elope but Bahman never shows up. Eventually she discovers that Bahman has married someone else so she decides to accept a scholarship to study in the US. She finds a new life there but spends the next 60 years wondering why Bahman didn't show up that day.
I thought this would be a good book to get some background on what Iran was like at that time but I don't really feel it did such a good job of that. It could have been any country in the middle of some sort of political turmoil. Roya seems to spend her entire life in depression. She desperately needed therapy. Her husband seems like a saint and, yet, his character is like a cardboard cutout.
I guess I don't buy into the theme of carrying a torch for 60 years. That seems like an unnecessary burden.
It was a slow month for me as I only finished 8 books. Some of that was due to the fact that a couple of the books weren't all that good and I think I avoided them by listening to podcasts instead. But let's just recap my favorites. By far, my favorite book of the month was The Reading List. It is a lovely book.
I also loved the most recent installment of the Department Q series, The Shadow Murders; the classic, Stoner; and All The Broken Places. I only read one non-fiction, Breath. It's a health-focused one and very good.
Let me knwo what good books you have read this month. I do put a lot fo your suggestions on my library and Audible wish lists.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio - Got 2.5 hours in and realized that I could only remember the names of 2 of the 5 or 6 main characters. Flat and dull.
The Shadow Murders
By Jussi Adler-Olsen, Read By Graeme Malcolm
This book is #9 in the Department Q series. I love this series and I love the characters. Scandinavian authors can dream up some really twisted plots. The books take place in Denmark and Department Q is the cold case unit. The books really need to be read in order so if you are going to give this author a try start with The Keeper of Lost Causes. Several of the books focus on on developing one of the rich characters in the novels.
In this installment, Department Q is assigned a case of a sixty year old woman who has committed suicide. It's not a cold case but their boss is convinced that it's related to a cold case from 1988. They quickly discover that there are a series of murders that have been meticulously timed to occur every 2 years on the birthday of a despot. The murders span over 30 years and another is scheduled to happen soon.
This is the second book that is written to happened during covid lockdowns. I hated the first one because of all of the talk of putting masks on and taking them off. It was tedious. This one is different because it uses the lockdowns to let the detectives and antagonists take advantage of the lockdown situation.
The book does end with a giant cliffhanger that will obviously be the topic of the next book. I usually hate cliffhangers but I didn't mind this one. It really is a separate storyline and sets up the next (and rumored final) book in the series. I can't wait.
By John Williams, Read By Robin Field
This is not a novel about Grateful Dead fans. It was written in 1965 and is considered an American classic....and I agree.
John Stoner was born on a small farm in 1891 and his father was encouraged to send him to the University of Missouri to study agriculture so he could make the farm more successful. He did attend the university but fell in love with literature and ultimately received a PhD in Literature and then took a job teaching at the University. It's a novel about the life of John Stoner and about how we make decisions about our lives and work. It's about campus politics, bad marriages, feeling stuck and making the best of it. It's not exactly profound or moving but it makes you aware of the Stoner moments in our own lives and tradeoffs that we make. It's beautifully written with no wasted words and the narration is right on point.
The book brought forward to me two memories from my college years. One is of the rampant politics and pettiness in academia. I always felt that it rivaled Congress for political shenanigans and the tenure system may benefit professors but it sure doesn't benefit the consumers who pay for the education. I remember quite a number of ineffective professors that I was stuck with because they were tenured. This book exposes campus politics entrenched in the early 1900's. It must be worse now with the amount of corporate money funding academic "research".
I'm going to take a little side step here out of book review mode to tell you a story from my college days because Stoner is the embodiment of this one English professor that I had. Prof Collins was my English Professor one summer session. He was an OK, but uninspired, teacher and all I really remember is that he wore the same two suits all summer. I remarked to a fellow student one day that his wife must hate him. Not that she was responsible for his wardrobe but she sure could have influence over it if she wanted.
During college I worked almost full time at a nice restaurant. It was run by a man named John and his assistant manager, Jackie. Jackie had stunningly beautiful red hair, dressed provocatively and loved doing belly dancing shows for the employees. The dudes loved it. John loved Jackie and it was blatantly obvious that they were having an affair. One day I came to work and there was Jackie sitting in a booth with Prof. Collins and she introduced him to me as her husband. I remarked that I had been in his class the previous summer and then I ran to the kitchen before my shock showed on my face. This book could have been called Collins and been written in the 1980's.
Jackie also kept pet ferrets in the restaurant. Yes, we had rodents in the restaurant intentionally. So many stories!
Shadows of Pecan Hollow
By Caroline Frost, Read (poorly) by Alex McKenna
I've got some real mixed feelings about this one.
In 1970 Kit walker ran away from her horrible home and ended up being cared for (groomed) by Manny Romero. In the beginning he was kind to her but eventually, of course, it turned into a somewhat captive relationship and they became knows as the Texaco Twosome for their series of gas station robberies across Texas.
Eventually they robbed one to many places and Manny was caught while Kit got away. Manny was jailed and, at 19, Kit tried to forge a new life for herself in Pecan Hollow with an Aunt she had never met. In 1990 Manny is out of prison and shows up in Pecan Hollow professing to be a new man, making nice with the townspeople and trying to get Kit back.
I believe that this is Frost's first novel and it has that feel to it but the basic storyline is pretty good. The profanity and vulgarity is over the top but I think that's a common crutch for new authors. It relies on shock value as added depth to the storyline. I'm no prude and my language is anything but clean and some things in this book were over-the-top and unnecessary even to me. There are also decisions that characters make that just don't make any sense but are used to further the plot. The whole thing felt like she had a good solid beginning and ending but the middle was a labor to write.
The worst thing about the book was the narration. I hope the author didn't select this narrator because she made all of these Texas characters sound decrepit and ignorant. Frankly, it was a bit offensive and very distracting. She also mispronounced so many words so badly that it was jarring. You hear a nonsensical word and have to stop to think about what word she actually meant. If you want to give this book a try, get in in paper form and read it yourself.
By Nick Pirog, Read By Johnny Heller
Apparently Nick Pirog was an early adopter to the eBook publishing scene and has been very successful with it. This is the first book in a 5+ book Thomas Prescott series. I found it on Audible as a deal with the first 4 together as one book. I'm not sure I'll listen to the other 3.
Thomas Prescott is a retired detective who helped solve a series of serial murders the previous October. He's been trying to get himself to read the Eight In October book about the murders and is avoiding meeting the author. The killer, Trystan Grayer, was dubbed "The MAINEiac". Prescott has never felt that Trystan was the real killer and that starts to be proven right when someone close to Thomas is murdered starting off a chain of new murders.
It's actually an interesting plot but the writing is a mess. First off, the Prescott character is hard to take serious. He's in the middle of a series of murders of women close to him and he's stupidly focused on ogling women, talking about his penis and, frankly, not focusing on the actual murders and protecting the potential victims. He gets a good amount of sex and sleep while women are dying. The FBI is supposedly heavily involved but basically leave the case up to him and they aren't even capable of being protection teams for the targeted victims. The boorish behavior of Prescott is something might expect in a book written in the 1960's but not one written in 2004. His behavior is inexcusable.
The ending had a big twist but even that was too convoluted for me to stomach. This book needed a serious editor for sure. I don't recommend it but I see that the subsequent books in the series have much better review so one day I might give book 2 a try.....but not anytime soon.
The Reading List
By Sara Nisha Adams, Read by a cast
After the last two books I felt I was due for a good one and Saint George delivered!
The Reading List is a lovely book written for those of us who can't live without books.
Mukesh is a widower living in West London and he's quite lost after the death of his wife. He's close with his daughters but not an integrated-life kind of close. He has his weekly routines and watches nature documentaries in the evenings. He worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who spends all of her time alone and reading.
Aleisha is a recent graduate reluctantly spending her last summer before university working in a library. One day she finds a piece of paper in the back of To Kill A Mockingbird. It's a list of books to read. Her home life is incredibly stressful and her job is dull so she decides to read the books on the list. One day Mukesh comes into the library and she uses the list to recommend books to him.
Each section of the book is loosely based on one of the novels on the list: Rebecca, The Kite Runner, The Life of Pi, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Beloved, and A Suitable Boy. I personally haven't read Beloved or A Suitable Boy. The Audible version of A Suitable Boy is massively abridged and Beloved is (by the reviews) horribly narrated by Toni Morrison. Apparently she narrates all of her own books, generally a bad idea.
This book is all about the power of books to educate and heal and the potential of libraries to build communities. It's lovely.
By James Grippando, Read By Christine Larkin
Kate Gamble is a law student, aspiring playwright and daughter of the CEO of Buck Technologies, a big data firm with big ties to the CIA. Kate has written a play about the Nazi's use of census data and early punch card technology to identify and control the Jewish population. She has supposedly written this play to explore her mother's loss of purpose. In the midst of all of this her mother commits suicide by jumping off her balcony.
Problem #1 - No director is ever going to put on a play about IBM's involvement with the Nazis. A documentary for TV maybe, but not a play. It's a stupid storyline.
Problem #2 - Her mother is an alcoholic and not at all tied to Germany, the plight of the Jews or anything else for that matter.
So she wants to be either a lawyer or a playwright but she takes a job at her father's company. Hmmmm
On her first day of work she runs into Patrick Battle, a boy that she used to babysit. He accidentally tells her of a secret program at the office called, seriously, Naivety. Also, her ex-boyfriend works for the DOJ and they are doing a cybersecurity audit at Buck and he's leading the audit.
When Patrick disappears and it appears that he is being held hostage, Kate takes the lead to go to Columbia and negotiate his return.
Problem #3 - We are to believe that an employee of a company that's under a DOJ audit and is a large client of the CIA is going to be allowed to fly off to Columbia to negotiate with a hostage taker. I don't think so.
While the Big Data underlying story is not only believable I think we've learned enough over the past few years to know that it's all true. The storylines around it are way to simplistic. Oh, and the hostage taker (working for a government that likes balloons) is working alone. Nope.
This is the second Grippando book that I've read and both were way over the top for me.
All The Broken Places
By John Boyne, Read By Kristen Atherton and Helen Lloyd
This book reminds me a little of A Gentleman In Moscow, one of my all time favorite books. Gretel Fernsby isn't as sympathetic as Count Rostov and the stories are quite different, but both books stay with you and make you think about what you might do in similar situations.
Gretel Fernsby is 91 years old and lives in an upscale mansion block (condos to Americans) in London. She has lived there for decades along with her neighbor, and good friend, Heidi. A new family is moving into the flat below her and she's not excited about the change. They have a young son, Henry, and eventually Gretel can't help but to build a friendship with the boy. She starts to realize that the boy and his mother are being abused. She wants to help them but realizes that getting involved may expose her own hidden past.
Gretel escaped Nazi Germany at the age of 12. Her father was commandant of one of the extermination camps. She and her mother escaped to France where they were discovered and brutalized. After her mother's death she made her way to Australia and eventually to London, changing her name each time looking for a new identity.
The story moves back and forth in time between her past and preset. Now, at 91, she faces a difficult decision that may expose her past which would have implications on her own family.
I've never read anything by John Boyne before and I now know that this is actually the sequel to he most popular book, Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. The story from that book is referenced in this book but I think that they can be read stand-alone. I will read more of Boyne's books for sure.
By James Nestor, Read By James Nestor
This one is for those of you, like me, who are interested with natural methods of healing. James Nestor had a myriad of health issues including sleep apnea and, being a journalist, he set out on a long exploratory journey to try to solve them. That research resulted in a fascinating book about how we breathe incorrectly and how to fix it. He delves into the evolution of the human skull as a result of changes in our diets over hundred of years and how that affected our nasal passages in a negative way. He interviews several people doing very interesting research into breathing and he participated in some very uncomfortable clinical trials. The book ends with some excellent breathing exercises, most of which can be found in meditation apps and YouTube videos.
At the end, he did cure his sleep apnea and learned that he can control his blood pressure to a significant degree by changing his breathing. The one major lesson is to avoid mouth breathing at all times.
People who might be interested in this book include people with sleep disorders, anxiety, autoimmune issues, ADHD and other behavioral problems and hypertension.
I started off 2023 with 10 books this month and only one DNF book. I took a trip down audiobook memory lane by re-listening to one of my earliest audiobooks, The Razor's Edge. I read it so long ago that I didn't remember any of it. I can barely remember what I read last week so that wasn't a surprise. I remember liking W. Somerset Maugham and I enjoyed it the second time around.
I don't have any strong favorites and I don't have any strong dislikes. It was a good month of reading and it's all fiction this month. Maybe you will find something intriguing on this list for your next read. I hope you will leave me some suggestions of books that you have enjoyed this month.
The War of Jenkins' Ear by Robert Gaudi - This one is for hard core historians. It didn't hold my interest.
Their Last Secret
By Rick Mofina, Read By Jennifer Jill Araya
This is the second book by Mofina that I've read and this one was better than the last. It's an interesting plot.
20 years ago Janie Klassen and 2 friend were involved in the brutal murder of a wealthy family in a town in Canada.
Now she's a school counselor in California and recently married to a popular crime writer. She finds a note on her car referencing the 20th anniversary. She's being followed and her husband has, unknowingly, decided that his next book will be about the murders in her town.
It's not a gripping "mystery" because there's not much of a mystery there but it's got enough drama and an interesting premise.
By Jason Pinter, Read By Angela Dawe
This is the 1st book in a new-to-me series. Rachel is a single mother of 2 young children who leads a quiet suburban life. No one suspects the tragedy that hit her family several years ago.
In her new life a former mayor is found dead on a frozen river. Everyone thinks that she killed herself but Rachel has done the math and knows that's impossible. She butts into the investigation and now the killer and the investigators aren't happy with her.
It's a very fast-paced investigative novel. I'd read more in this series for sure.
By Stuart Woods, Ready By Tony Roberts
I picked this book because Mom and I needed a 6 hour read for a day trip. This one fit the bill. This is the 62nd (!) book in the Stone Barrington series. I read some of this series several years ago.
Stone Barrington is a lawyer and has a new client. She's the extremely wealthy aunt of his assistant. Stone is helping her write a new will and set up a trust for her step-son. The step-son is spoiled, irresponsible and threatening to his step-mother.
It was a fast paced read that was great for a car ride. With the short length the plot could only get so complex but we both enjoyed it.
By Alice Feeney, Read By Stephanie Racine
Daisy Darker and her family have been estranged for years but the matriarch has asked everyone to come home for her 80th birthday. The homeplace is on a tidal land that is cut off from the mainland except during low tide. At midnight Nana is found dead in the kitchen. An hour later another family member is found dead. It's 6 hours until the tide recedes and everyone can get off the island.
I can't give away the plot twist but I will say that it has a big twist that would normally be a turn-off for me in a book. But I actually enjoyed this book. The whole thing takes place over about 6 hours and I couldn't put it down. It's a very "not me" book but shows that we need to try different books from time to time.
The Family Remains
By Lisa Jewell, Read by a cast
Lisa Jewell dreams up some really messed up family situations. In fact, I'd say she's an expert at the dysfunctional family novel. They are part mystery and part messed up family dynamics.
This one is a sequel to The Family Upstairs and I do recommend reading them in order. Unfortunately I read the first one 2 years ago and forgot bits of it. It eventually all came back to me as I was reading this one.
The bones of a missing woman are found on the shores of the Thames. She's been missing about 30 years and she was connected to a house where 3 people were found dead in an apparent cult suicide pact around the same time and the girl went missing. Got all that?
That house remained vacant for 25 year until the heir, an infant at the time, is found and can inherit it. So this book is about wrapping up the stories of the children from the first book. Then there's a separate storyline that seems really random until near the end and, when it comes together you kind of wonder what the purpose of all that was.
I was totally sucked into the book and finished it pretty quickly but once it was over I was a little perplexed by it all. If you like Lisa Jewell, it's pretty classic Lisa Jewell just a little more unhinged in my opinion.
The Razor's Edge
By W. Somerset Maugham, Read By Michael Page
I first started listening to audiobooks in the late 1980's when I was commuting to DC from Norfolk weekly. Back then they were cassette tapes and came in the mail in cardboard boxes. I remember when they switched to CDs and they had a big sale on the cassette versions. I bought tons of them really cheap and that kept me in books for months.
At first there wasn't the kind of extensive catalog that Audible has now so I got to read a lot of classics and one writer that I really enjoyed was W. Somerset Maugham. The Razor's Edge popped up somewhere recently and I decided to give it another listen. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
This book was first published in 1942 and is set in the time right after WWI and before WWII. Larry Darrell served in the war and returned a changed man. He's engaged to the beautiful Isabel but he can't seem to settle down. There are too many questions in his mind and it sends him to Paris to study philosophy, to an Ashram, a monastery and to work in a coal mine. Meanwhile we also follow the life of Isabel without Larry.
An interesting aspect of this book is that it's told from the POV of a third party. That, in itself, isn't unique but the third party is Maugham himself. It's a good read.
If you want to go down an interesting rabbit hole check out this obituary of Duvall Hecht, the founder of Books on Tape. Writing this review made me wonder how Books on Tape started. I'm glad I followed that thread. Hecht was a very interesting man.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #17 in the Cork O'Connor series. If you would like a book that it told in the age we live in but isn't overridden by the author's politics then this is the book for you. Are you cynical about government? Don't believe much of anything you hear? Someone who believes that right will win in the end? Any and all of you will be happy with this one.
A progressive Senator representing the area is flying in to speak at a local meeting. Her plane crashes and everyone aboard is killed. A surprising array of alphabet agencies descend on Aurora to figure out what went wrong.
Stephen, Cork's son, sees visions and they generally aren't pleasant. Several books back he saw a vision of his own mother's death. This story starts out with another of his visions and it seems related to the plane crash.
These books are fast paced and a fun read/listen.
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
By Jennifer Ryan, Read by Sophie Robert
This book came to me as a recommendation from Carole. I'd call it a mix of historical fiction and light romance and it was a good read for me when I needed something light but interesting.
It's WWII and Cressida Westcott has lost her home and fashion design business in the blitz. She has no option but to return to her family home that's now occupied by her nephew and niece, Violet Westcott. Violet is a debutante solely focused on finding an appropriate husband from the dwindling supply. The third main character is Grace Carlisle. She's the vicar's daughter and is trying to repair her mother's badly-damaged wedding dress to wear for her own upcoming nuptials.
These three come together at the local sewing circle where ladies meet to make items for the soldiers and repair/remake clothing for local residents. The group works to repair Grace's dress and get the idea to have a wedding dress exchange for brides that aren't allowed to purchase new dresses during the war. This part of the story is based on actual wedding dress exchanges that occurred during the war and many American women even shipped over their own dresses for the cause.
It was a fun read and a nice break from my usual fare.
The Arsonists' City
By Hala Alyan, Read By Leila Buck
The Nasr family immigrated from Lebanon and all of their children were born in America. The children are now adults and the family is spread from California to Texas, New York and Beirut. Now the patriarch wants to sell the family home in Beirut and all of the family is expected to spend the summer there.
Everyone has secrets and they have all grown apart with the distance. The book is a generational family saga set among real events. I thought that the character development was really well done. You really do get to know the characters and you like them better or less as their lives develop. I really enjoyed the different settings and cultural references.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter
By Hazel Gaynor, Read By Imogen Church
This is a novel based on the life of Grace Darling and while Grace's story is an interesting one I didn't find the re-telling of it to be all that interesting.
The book is meant to be a tribute to Grace and female lightkeepers through history. It features three women, Grace (1838) and Harriett and Matilda (1938). Matilda is a 19 year old pregnant Irish girl who is sent to Rhode Island to live with a relative until her baby is born. Harriett is a lighthouse keeper who lost her 16 year old daughter to a storm several years ago. Grace and a woman she helped save, Sarah Dawson, are real people. Matilda will learn of her connection to Sarah and Grace through a portrait that she find at the Rhode Island lighthouse.
The book explores their connections and their lives as lighthouse keepers. The problem with the book is that all of the characters are the same. All of the women are long-suffering, stare-into-the-distance types who are dedicated to their lighthouses above all else, even the chance for love. You hardly know you are jumping back and forward in time because the storylines are so similar and the women all have the same overriding angst. The men in the book are just supporting cast and all of the characters are kind of flat. Everything was flat, even the scenery. I didn't connect to one character or place and I love the shore and lighthouses. The narration exhausted me. I think Imogen Church narrated the story as it was meant to be portrayed but it was too plodding for me.
What a weird reading month! I don't think I've ever had a month of so many mediocre books. There were 3 books that I liked: Sulfur Springs, Magician of the Gods and The World Played Chess. The Last Queen was mostly interesting and The Murder of Mr. Wickham was silly entertainment. I wish I had skipped the others.
There are only 8 books this month because 1 of them was 30+ hours and another was 15. My total listening hours for December were 5822. That's 97 hours and 2 minutes. The 30 hour book was such a trudge that I think I avoided reading during that period and that really cut down on my book reading time.
My total reading time for the year is 1348 hours and 13 minutes. That's 56 days 4 hours and 2 minutes for the year. Since this is the first year that I've tracked my reading time, I have no idea how it compares to other years. It was just interesting to find out that I spent about 15% of my year listening or reading books. It seems like a fine use of the time and I'm sure that I didn't watch anywhere near this much TV.
Nobody's Child by Susan Vinocour - supposed to be about the history of the insanity defense. Couldn't get past the weak narration and slow start.
I've listened to a lot of Podcasts this year. I especially listened a lot this month as I avoided finishing The Ink Black Heart. Here are some of my favorites:
No Such Thing as Fish - this is our go-to for road trips. It's a British trivia discussion show. Each of the 4 panelists discuss their "fact of the week". It's hilarious.
Bad Bets - Each series tells the story of a faild business. Season 1 is about Enron, Season 2 is about Trevor Milton. I would not be surprised of season 3 is about FTX.
Criminal - Hosted by Phoebe Judge, this is a true crime podcast with a different crime profiled in each episode. Many are very old crimes. The most recent Episode, #203, is a wonderful compilation of animals commiting crimes. It's hilarious. Judge has a beautiful voice and I often listen to these to go to sleep.
This is Love - Another podcast produced by Phoebe Judge. Each episode is a wonderful love story, often profiling people with long relationships.
99% Invisible - A fun and informative series about urban environments and life.
Disgraceland - Profiles notorious and tragic people from the music industry.
Business Wars - History of business rivals. The most recent series is about Honda vs. Toyota
This Is Actually Happening - People tell their individual stories of trauma and survival. It's a hard listen but will make you feel better about the strength of the human spirit. Makes me appreciate that life I've had. Many of the stories are hard to listen to.
Other Interesting True Crime podcasts:
Small Town Dicks
Scoundrel: History's Forgotten Villains
Interesting Health Focused Podcasts if you want to delve into the weeds of healthy living
The Drive with Peter Attia - focused on longevity
Healthy Rebellion Radio
Great podcasts for putting you to sleep:
Nothing Much Happens
Send Me To Sleep
I hope you will share your favorite books and podcasts that you have enjoyed in the month of December. Here's to a great reading year in 2023!
Sulfur Springs (665)
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #16 in the Cork O'Connor series.
One of the things I love about this series is that Krueger keeps things fresh. He's not afraid to kill off a beloved character and he's happy to change venues. Changing venue is what he does in this book.
Cork and Rainey got married in the last installment and they are off to Sulfur Springs, AZ to try to find her son. They received a cryptic message from him that leads them to believe that he is in grave danger. This book takes on the border crisis by bringing together all sides of the issue.
The Hanging Valley (540)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #4 in the Inspector Alan Banks series. I really enjoyed the first 3 books in this series but this one was a slow mover for me.
In this beautiful English valley, most people come to relax and take in the breathtaking views. The small local village caters to hikers and tourists but underneath there's lots of tension among the local. One day a hiker finds a gruesome murder and that brings Alan Banks to investigate. Could this murder be tied to a disappearance several years before?
It was an interesting enough story but it sure dragged.
The Ink Black Heart (1962)
By Robert Galbraith, Read By Robert Glenister
This is the 6th book in the Cormoran Strike series and, in case you don't know, Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling. I have loved every book in this series....until now.
At 32+ hours, this was an investment of time and I did finish it but, frankly, I didn't enjoy it. It needed some serious editing and it was not a good book for audio format. If you decide to read this, read it in paper version.
The story is about the murder of a woman who was co-creator of a YouTube comic series called The Ink Black Heart. She is murdered in the graveyard that is the setting for the comic series. The victim, Edie Ledwell had been to the office of Cormoran Strike prior to her murder to ask them to help her find the identity of Anomie, a person who has been harassing her online. The declined the case but after she is murdered they are drawn into the case.
There are a few problems with the book but the biggest for me was that much of the dialogue happens in online chat rooms and narration of online chat simply doesn't work. It was painful. The other problem I had with it was the underlying theme of the "alt-right" being to blame. As you are introduced to the characters it's clear that none of them are "alt-right", or even politically motivated in any way. They are all way too self-absorbed and anti-social to be political. I just felt like that theme was gratuitous and added nothing to the book. But you could make one hell of a drinking game out of the number of times "alt-right" is said.
The final problem with this book is the 6 volume sexual tension between Cormoran and Robin, his business partner. These two people are adults. He's 40ish and she's 30ish and their inability to tell each other how they feel over 6 long novels has just become tedious.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham (723)
By Claudia Gray, Read By Billie Fulford-Brown
After the slog of The Ink Black Heart I needed something easy to listen to and I got it with this book.
Claudia Gray had brought together characters from each of Jane Austen's books for a party at the country estate of Mr. Knightly and Emma. She has aged the characters based on the publication dates of the books so that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are old enough to have an adult son, Jonathan, that they bring along on the trip. Catherine and Henry Tilney are also there from Northanger Abbey with their daughter, Juliet. There are guests in attendance from every book and who arrives uninvited but Mr. Wickham, our favorite villian. It seems that Wickham has made a career of swindling people out of money and almost everyone there has been a victim or knows a victim. It doesn't take long for him to meet his demise and now everyone in the house (excluding the servants) is a suspect. Jonathan and Juliet take it on themselves to solve the case because no one seems to trust the local magistrate, Frank Churchill.
The World Played Chess (603)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Todd Haberkorn
If you like William Kent Krueger, you will like Robert Dugoni. If you are a mystery reader you may already know him through his Tracey Crosswhite, Charles Jenkins and David Sloane series. Jenkins is my favorite of the three series but I read all of them.
This is a stand alone novel that turned out to be a good Christmas season read for me because it was written from the POV of my generation, so it was relatable. The underlying theme that is relatable to everyone is about how we can impact people's lives in very small ways.
In 1979 Vincent Bianco get a job on a remodel construction job for the summer before he goes to college. He is working with 2 Vietnam veterans. One of them is dealing with undiagnosed PTSD and Vincent proceeds to get an education that he never expected. He is also realizing that he's naturally going to grow apart from the high school friends that, until graduation, he thought he would never lose.
The book is told from 3 perspectives, Vince, William (one of the Vietnam vets) and Beau, Vince's son as he's graduating high school and trying to find his own identity. If you were born around 1960 this book will bring back so many memories of the current events of our lives as well as people you might ahave known. It's a very good coming of age story.
The Last Queen (821)
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Read By Sneha Mathan
If you like British royal history then this is a book for you. Rajit Singh was the first monarch of the Sikh empire and Jind Kaur was his 3rd "official" wife. He had as many as 30 wives/concubines. This book is about Jind, the most consequential of his wives. Her son, Duleep Singh, rose to power at the age of 5 and she became Regent. This was in the 1840's when the British were taking over India.
The story seems to remain true to the major events of her life (if Wikipedia is right) and it makes for a good base for a novel. There was as much palace intrigue in India at that time as there was in Britain. The palace intrigue got a little tedious but I expect it was pretty accurate.
Magician of the Gods (893)
Written and Read by Graham Hancock
I'm not sure how I found this book but I'm glad I did. I think Hancock is most well known for his book Fingerprints of the Gods. Hancock proposes the possibility of the existence of an advanced civilization that existed prior to the ice age and he proposes the possibility of a major meteor event that brought on the end of the ice age. It's a detailed, and fascinating, walk through various antiquities sites around the world. He is, of course, hated by "mainstream science" and he may be totally wrong but it's a very interesting read.
This book is also an exception to one of my cardinal rules. Hancock narrates his own book and does a great job.
Tending Roses (615)
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Allyson Ryan
I have read a few books by Lisa Wingate. Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends are two of my favorites. They are historical fiction. This one is a straight up novel.
Kate Bowman and her husband move temporarily to the family farm in Missouri to care for her Grandmother for a few weeks around Christmas. The story is basically a Hallmark-type story and you could easily write the plot. I thought the narration was a bit weak too. It's not a bad book, it's just not the genre for me.
Considering that November was such a big social month for me, I'm surprised that I finished 9 books. This month was surprisingly heavy on non-fiction and that's mostly because 2 of the books I read were in paper format. One of them, Mayflower, I started on one vacation and finished on another vacation. I usually like all of the non-fiction books I read but The Mosquito Bowl was a disappointment.
I have to give credit to Carole for recommending Remarkably Bright Creatures. I didn't think I would like it. Narrating animals are generally no my thing but this was a really enjoyable read. This is why I check out all of your recommendations. I know that I get in a rut reading and seeing what you are reading helps me expand my library in new directions so please tell me your favorite books that you have read recently.
My listening time for November was 109 hours and 39 minutes. Year to date that's 1251 hours and 11 minutes. That's 52+ days so far.
The Girl's With No Names by Serena Burdick - Supposed to be about a notorious girl's home but 30% through and we're not there yet. I got tired of the unlikable characters.
Portrait of an Artist by Laurie Lisle - Actually a well written biography of Georgia O'Keefe but I found that while I love her work I wasn't all that interested in her self-absorbed life. A friend of mine loved it so don't discount it based on my experience.
By Nathaniel Philbrich
If you are interested in US history you will enjoy this book. It's a very thoroughly researched history of the Mayflower and early years in Massachusetts. I feel like it's a really balanced history as well.
I didn't listen to this one. It was a vacation paperback that I started In Maine and finished at the beach this year. I wouldn't recommend audio format because it's a lot of information to absorb.
The Last Daughter of York (624)
By Nicola Cornick, Read By Sofia Engstrand
I couldn't have picked a book that's more different from Mayflower. York is a light romance novel with mystical storylines. It's not usually my genre but I was entertained. If you like Outlander I think you would love this book.
Part of it is set in the 15th century around the time of Richard III and Henry VII. Francis Lovell is tasked with protecting King Richard's son. Francis' wife, Anne, has a lodestone that was gifted to her that seems to give her special powers for protecting those around her and takes personal responsibility for the heir.
In modern time, Serena Warren, is still mourning the disappearance of her twin sister many years before. When Caitlyn's body is found in an 18th century unopened burial vault, the search for what happened to her reopens.
The character development is good, the story moves along at a good pace and it's an entertaining read.
The Cutting (647)
By James Hayman, Read by Stephen Mendel
This is the first book in the McCabe and Savage detective series. I actually read the second book first and it's OK to read them out of order.
McCabe and Savage are partner detectives in Portland, Maine. A missing high school athlete is discovered in a scrap metal yard and she's had her heart surgically removed. On the same day a young ad executive has gone missing while out on her morning run and her dog is found dead near the trail. McCabe is sure that both crimes are related and may have a link to cardiac surgeons.
Mendel reminds me of early John Sandford. It's fast paced and holds your interest. I listened to this one all in one day.
Einstein's Fridge (665)
By Paul Sen
This was another of my vacation books to read on the beach. I tried listening to it a few months ago but this book requires the ability to re-read passages. It worked much better in paper format.
It's all about the development of the laws of thermodynamics. It's very much written for us "normal" people. It was very interesting and didn't get too far over my head until the later chapters that deal with theoretical physics. If you like science books I think you will like this one.
Remarkably Bright Creatures (676)
By Shelby Van Pelt, Read By Marin Ireland and Michael Urie
I picked up this book after reading a recommendation on one of your blogs. I didn't really expect to like it but I trusted the review and I'm glad I did.
Tova Sullivan is a widow who also lost her only son 30 years ago. She's a night owl and got a job as the night cleaner at Sowell Bay Aquarium to occupy herself. She cares for all of the creatures there but especially is attached to Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus who likes to escape his tank in the evenings to grab snacks from the other tanks. One night she saves him as he's gotten tangled in an electrical cord. They bond after that.
Marcellus is determined to help her understand what happened to her son.
Yes, it's an absurd tale of a conscious octopus who narrates part of the story. That's why I expected to not like it. But it's a really nice story with very likable characters, especially Marcellus. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Mosquito Bowl (658)
By Buzz Bissinger, Read By George Newbern
This is a hard core WWII history book. It is not a book about a football game played in Guadalcanal during the war, as I expected. Seriously, less than 5 minutes of this book is about that game, which, by the way, ended in a scoreless tie.
The first half of the book is a quite detailed description of college football at that time as told through a number of the college stars who played before they were drafted into the war. Many of these players ended up in the 6th marine Division and played in this game.
The second half of the book is a very detailed account of the deaths of 15 of those players and the service and lives of some of the survivors. It's not for the faint of heart but it's thoroughly researched and detailed. Normally I would not have finished the book because I don't enjoy reading battle scenes but I felt that I needed to finish it simply out of respect for the men portrayed in the book.
I do think that serious war history readers will enjoy the book but get it in paper copy. There are a number of lists in the book that the narrator unnecessarily reads.
The Killing Room (686)
By Richard Montanari, Read By Scott Brick
This is the 6th book in the Byrne and Balzano police procedural series. This series is set in Philadelphia and opens with a gruesome murder scene in an abandoned church. Before they can finish the investigation there are 2 more killings and they realize they have a serial killer on their hands.
These books aren't so much about whodunit, but rather about how the cases are solved. There's an overriding theme of mysticism throughout. In fact, Byrne, has "special skills" that helps point him in the right direction. I think the series is unique but it's also pretty gruesome so you need to be aware of that before you jump in. All of the books have a serial killer theme.
Scott Brick narrates this one and most of the series. At one time he was my favorite narrator. Now he's become a little annoying. He reads all of his books the same and gives most of his characters an indignant attitude. There were times in this book that I had trouble distinguishing some of the minor characters because he just didn't give them different narration personalities.
I don't know that I'll read the last 2 books in this series. They are a little too gruesome.
The Good Wife of Bath (1188)
By Karen Brooks, Read By Fran Burgoyne
Eleanor was born under the signs of Venus and Mars, making her a lover and a fighter. In 1364, at the age of 12, she was married off to an elderly farmer. The marriage was arranged by a distant cousin, Geoffrey Chaucer.
This is a retelling of Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale from the perspective of the wife, Eleanor. In Chaucer's take, the wife had been married 5 times and it argues that women are morally equal to men.
The book tells the story from Eleanor's POV and, at almost 20 hours long, is the detailed story of her life, including the 5 marriages. It is a historical setting with mores and language of the time. There's rough language and rough treatment of people. Don't let your modern viewpoint impede in enjoying the story. Just go along with the story and appreciate the research done by the author to bring this period in time to life.
This is my first Karen Brooks story, not my last. The narration was outstanding as well.
Eat The Buddha (678)
By Barbara Demick, Read By Cassandra Campbell
I read Demick's other book, Nothing to Envy, earlier this year. It was about life in North Korea and was very impactful. I knew that I wanted to read this one about the Tibetan people.
Demick was a foreign correspondent with the LA Times and was bureau chief in Seoul and Beijing during her career. Both of these books are rigorously researched and, I think, required reading if you want to really know what goes on in these areas.
Eat The Buddha tells the story of the Tibetan town of Ngaba. The modern story of Ngaba is told through some of the families of the town. I finished this in 2 days. It was that interesting. With either if these book you really have to remind yourself that these events are happening in our lifetimes and not 100 years ago.
October was another very good reading month. I finished 8 books and I liked each of them. I was most happy to have received the newest Mitch Rapp book form the library. It had been on hold for weeks. There was only one book that I couldn't finish.
My listening time for September was 95 hours and 42 minutes. Year to date that's 1141 hours and 32 minutes. That's 47+ days so far.
What great books did you read this month?
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb. Flat, cliched characters and a slow narration. Main character is surprisingly naive and trusting after having been raised by a greedy, uncaring mother. Every white person is racist, everyone else is greedy and there's no real mystery about who stole the violin. The author's own biography would have been a much more interesting read.
The Midcoast (587)
By Adam White, Read By George Newbern
Ed and Andrew grew up together in a small Maine coastal town. Andrew was the "rich" kid and Ed was destined to be a lobsterman. Years later Andrew and his family move back to town where Andrew gets a job as a high school teacher. He's surprised to find that Ed and his college dropout wife are now the town's major benefactors.
When a line of police cars show up at Ed and Steph's house in the middle of a reception for the Amherst women's lacrosse team, Andres starts to wonder how it all came to be.
The book about Andrew exploring his and Ed's lives and what decisions led them to where each is on adulthood. In the end, I think it's an exploration of envy. It doesn't not get great reviews on Audible (3.9) and had I read the reviews first I would have never tried the book. I'm glad I didn't because I enjoyed it. The character development is good but I think that most people did not like the slower pace of the book.
The Lost Daughter (865)
By Gill Paul, Read By Helen Duff
There are tons of books about the murder of the Romanov family and many that imagine that Anastasia miraculously survived. There have even been women who purported to be Anastasia.
This book imagines that Grand Duchess Maria (the middle sister) survived. Who would have saved her and what might her life been like? Maria's story is intertwined with that of Val Doyle. Val lives in Australia. She had a rough upbringing with her unloving father and is now in a miserable marriage. When her father is dying he confesses "I didn't want to kill her". She starts to research the confession and some of the items that he left behind.
It was an interesting read. The parts leading up to the assassinations are quite accurate to their real life. Of course, the rest is the fiction. It did start off a little slow but I liked the character development and the story.
I read another of Paul's books in August, The Collector's Daughter, and I enjoyed it too.
The Hope Family Calendar (601)
By Mike Gayle, Read By David Morley Hale
This is my third book by Mike Gayle and I've loved all of them. He is a master of drawing you into a book and getting you attached to the characters.
In this story we are introduced to Tom Hope. He's a successful TV producer and has a perfect life with his wife and 2 daughters. Everything falls apart when his wife dies in a car accident. His mother-in-law, Linda, moves in to help care for the family and that's just the right amount of support to allow him to avoid dealing with his grief. Eventually Linda realizes that she must leave for Tom to straighten out his own life and re-engage with his daughters. Linda doesn't know it but she needs the time away as well.
Gayle's character development is about as good any writer out there. You really know these people and care about them. This is a wonderful story about dealing with grief. It wasn't sad. It was, as the title implies, hopeful.
Oath of Loyalty (563)
By Kyle Mills, Read By George Guidall
This is #21 in the Mitch Rapp series. This series was started by Vince Flynn but when he died the estate selected (wisely) to have Kyle Mills continue writing the series.
This book picks up exactly where Enemy At The Gates left off. The last scene of EATG is the exact first scene of OOL except that each is told from a different perspective. OOL begins with the scene from Rapp's point of view.
After that event President Cook is convinced that Rapp is a danger to him. He forces Irene Kennedy, Rapp's ally, out of her position as head of the CIA and she negotiates a truce of sorts with Rapp and Cook. Except that Cook doesn't hold up his end of the deal. From there it's a super fast paced race to try to avoid disaster.
A fun read from Kyle Mills, as always.
On a Night of a Thousand Stars (700)
By Andrea Yaryura Clark, Read By Pam Christensen
This is a reasonably common theme of two time periods coming together where revelations are revealed. The unique and interesting twist to this one is that it's set in Argentina.
In the 1970, a group of young people are caught in the middle of Argentina's Dirty War. Thousands of political dissidents "disappeared" during this time. Santiago Larrea and his wife, Lila were able to escape.
In 1998, Santiago is being appointed as UN ambassador for Argentina and the ceremonies around the appointment bring old friends around to celebrate with the Larrea's. But it also means that their daughter, Paloma, who was born during the war, hears some comments that send her on a mission to discover what actually happened during that time.
I didn't get lost in the book but it was an interesting story, I liked the characters and it educated me a very little bit on some unknown history. It's not going to win awards for exceptional writing but it's a worthy read.
The Night She Disappeared (716)
By Lisa Jewell, Read by Joanne Froggatt
Lisa Jewell has a unique story style with well developed characters and parallel timelines. As the mystery is being solved in preset time the crime unfolds in the past time.
In this novel a young woman and her partner disappear after attending a party at a large mansion. The left behind their 1 year old son, Noah. There's not a trace of them and the party-goers "saw nothing".
A year later a novelist and her boyfriend move into a cottage on the edge of the mansion property. When out for a walk she sees a sign that says "dig here". She does and finds an engagement ring that belonged to the couple.
Joanne Froggatt (Anna from Downton Abbey) did a great job narrating this one.
Carrying Albert Home
By Homer Hickam, Read by Adam Verner (639)
This was a fun, folksy romp through the South during the Depression. I think that the carrying Albert home part was true but the adventures, not so much. But who cares, Albert had a great time in this version of the story.
It's based loosely on his parents, Elsie and Homer Hickam. They were married during the Depression and lived in Coalwood , WV. As a wedding gift, Elsie received a baby alligator from Buddy Ebsen (the actor she knew in college in Florida). Unlike most people receiving such pets, she kept Albert and raised him until the day Homer decided that it was either him or Albert. What followed is the most adventurous drive to Florida ever taken.
The book is very folksy but also very funny and heart-warming. I feel like the portrayal of his parents is pretty on point and that there was a trip to take Albert to Friday. The rest is just a fun trip to meet some interesting and famous people and go on some exciting adventures.
By Attica Locke, Read By JD Jackson
Books like this is the reason that I love the Chirp daily deals so much. Chrirp sends an email every day with about 10 book offered for $6 or less. Many are older but are still really good books. Pleasantville was on that list one day.
Pleasantville is a neighborhood on the north side of Houston and is recognized as one for upwardly mobile black citizens. The story open on electing night in 1996 and a canvasser goes missing and is later found dead.
Jay Porter is a struggling environmental lawyer who won a major case against Cole Oil about a decade earlier. Jay is brought into the case to represent the man accused of abducting her.
This is a book about corruption at every level of politics and governance. I thought I'd not like it given the current politicization of everything but this was different. It's the way books used to be written and is probably more accurate. Everyone is corrupt, regardless of party affiliation. I really enjoyed it.
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.
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.