I don't know what I'd do without books. I like reading better than movies or TV and, sometimes, better than socializing. They keep me focused on my projects, keep me entertained when I need a distraction and, occasionally, shove in a few bits of knowledge through my thick skull. I started tracking my books on a spreadsheet in 1995 and have listened to (and sometimes read) 1609 books. This goes back to the days of Books on Tape where you would get boxes of cassettes in the mail and then ship them back when done. I had multiple boxes coming each week and one was always open in my passenger car seat and I had my Walkman going when I wasn't in the car or at work. Later I upgraded to CDs and a Discman. I even made a cross-body pouch to wear so I could carry it around. My lifetime average is 61 books a year but my pace picked up a lot in 2010 when I retired. This year I read 146 books, averaging 12/month. I wish I could read more. My wish list is long with more added every month. But don't ask me about TV or movies, I'm totally ignorant in those categories.
In my spreadsheet I rate my books and narrators. It's a way for me to remind myself to go back and look for new books by authors I love and to skip books by authors that I didn't love. In reviewing my ratings for 2020, and based on my feelings today, I'd say that these are my top 10 books of the year:
That list might be a little different next week but I'm sure that at least 5 of these books would be on the list always. I'm not worried or bothered if some of these are on your personal "worst" list, we all have different tastes. But I'd love to hear what your favorite books of the year (or December) are.
Here are the books I read in December. Some winners and a few serious losers.
Always the Last to Know
By Kristan Higgins, Read By cast
December did not get off to a great start because this book was a slog. I finished it but it wasn't because I liked any of the characters.
Here we have a family of 4. The children are 2 adult daughters and everyone is forced to start to address their "issues" when Dad has a stroke. The "issues" are basically decades of lack of communication. What follows is 12 hours of wanting to slap each one multiple times and yell, "get a grip, you were fortunate to have the life and opportunities you've been given!" This book is certainly written for today when everyone is encouraged to find the worst in their lives instead of being grateful for what they have. These are the kinds of people that I try to avoid in my real life. I found the whole thing tedious and the characters quite unlikable, especially the mother. She so obviously (and admittedly) favored one daughter over the other and now she's shocked that she has a bad relationship with the second daughter. They all found some sort of happiness in the end but boy was it a hard road to get there. Given that they all started in places of relative privilege that was no need for all the agony.
By Robert Crais, Read By James Daniels
I think I found this book through an audible Daily Deal and didn't realize until later that I had read Crais before but it's been several years. I'm not sure why I didn't real more back the because he writes a good, fast paced thriller with a tight plot and story line.
Jeff Talley is a former LAPD SWAT negotiator but the job eventually took a toll on him and his family. He's taken a chief job in a small town while he tries to heal himself and repair his marriage and relationship with his daughter. Of course, it's not a quite town for long.
One day 3 punks decide to rob a convenience store but the robbery goes bad when the owner is killed. They flee to a nearby neighborhood on the look for a car to steal. They end up taking a family hostage only this family has some business ties that complicate the entire situation.
I think I read this in a day and a half.
Freedom of the Mask
By Robert McCammon, Read By Edoardo Ballerini
This is #6 in the Matthew Corbett series and I was ready for it since I just read #5 a few weeks ago. When we last saw Matthew it was 1703 and he had been abducted and was on a ship to England and a rendezvous with his enemy Professor Fell.
This book picks up with his business partner, Hudson Greathouse along with Matthew's love, Berry Grigsby have found out where Matthew is are head to London to find and rescue him.
Meanwhile Matthew has murdered his captor on the ship and is arrested upon arrival to England and eventually ends up in the notorious Newgate Prison. He's escaped from prison by a mask-wearing vigilante. Soon he's allied with a local gang and discovers an underground world of highly addictive drugs and it all leads back to Fell.
It's an intense story with lots of interesting and well-developed characters and danger around every corner. As with all the books in the series, the story really never ends. But I think I am probably done with the series. I love murder and mystery books but this one crossed a bit too far into horror. I don't handle torture scenes well and there were some gruesome ones in this tale. I understand that book #7 is even more gruesome. I'll have to take a pass.
By Lisa Jewell, Read by a cast
Lisa Jewell is becoming one of my favorite authors. The publishers summary accurately calls this an "intricate thriller". You have to pay attention to everyone!
Saffyre Maddox has been under the care of child psychologist, Roan Fours, for 3 years when he decides that she doesn't need therapy anymore. Saffyer feels lost and abandoned. The Fours family has some of their own challenges. Meanwhile Owen Pickett is a neighbor of the Fours and his life is a mess and finds himself a member of an online INCEL (involuntary celibacy) community. When sexual attacks start in the neighborhood, Owen is the obvious culprit.
The cast narration worked really well and I'm not usually a fan.
Year of Wonders
By Geraldine Brooks, Read By Geraldine Brooks
Feeling depressed about our modern day plague? This book will put things into great perspective for you!
This tale is set in 1666 in Eyam, England and based in actual events. When the plague arrives in Eyam the village agrees to isolate themselves from the rest of the country. They work out methods of getting supplies and no one leaves. Anna Frith's husband has died in a mine accident and she's left to fend for herself and her 2 sons. She works as a housekeeper for the local minister. When plague arrives she becomes an unlikely heroine.
I enjoyed this book except for the ending. I wasn't really happy with where she ended up but I suppose it could have happened that way. The ending did not ruin the story, it seemed sort of randomly tacked on.
The Evening and the Morning
By Ken Follett, Read By John Lee
I've been waiting for this book for weeks. I like most of the Follett books and the Knightsbridge series was my favorite. This book is a prequel to that series.
It's 997 CE at the end of the Dark Ages. The Vikings are rampaging all over the East of England and the Welsh are attacking from the West.
The three focal characters are a Norman noblewoman who marries and English Alderman for love, a monk who wants to transform his modest abbey in to a learning center and a humble boat builder who arrives after the Vikings destroyed his home. Lots of family and political intrigue. Very typical Follett. If you liked his other books, you will like this one.
Find Her Alive, Detective Josie Quill Book 8
By Lisa Regan, Rad By Kate Handford
I'm always on the search for a new series to read and this book popped us as an Audible Deal of the Day. For $5 I could give it a try. Sadly, it wasn't even worth $5.
It's set in rural Eastern Pennsylvania and Josie is a Detective. Her twin sister , Trinity, has gone missing. When they discover bones everyone assumes the worst but it turn out to be another missing woman. They seem to have a serial killer.
Seriously, this is an awful book. It reads like it was written by an amateur writer. Characters are not well developed, which is surprising for the 8th installment in a series. Dialogue is juvenile. Everyone calls Josie "boss". Who does that especially when she mostly behaves like a junior detective? It's not 1970 anymore. Because the missing woman is Josie's sister she is not put in charge of the case, except that for the rest of the book she is in charge of the case. There are tons of similar contradictions throughout. Another example, Josie is in an accident caused by the suspect. She happens to be on the speaker phone with her boyfriend at the time. When the suspect hears the boyfriend's voice on the phone he leaves the scene but the boyfriend didn't hear any of the conversation she had with the suspect. Ridiculous. Also, in what universe does the FBI allow some local yokel police department take the lead in a serial killer case? It doesn't, ever. Given the clues they went through to solve it it should have take less than 48 hours but we had to drag through days of talking about people's pasts. It's a rural area and the suspect has a giant scar on his face. How hard is it to find that person? It reminded me of a 30 minute TV crime drama episode except that it took longer to get to the end.
By David Eagleman, Read By David Eagleman
All the brain cells that I lost reading that last book were renewed reading this one. I found this book because I listened to a podcast where the author was interviewed. He sounded interesting and the book sounded interesting. I was not disappointed.
The book focuses on the amazing adaptability of the brain and the stories of people overcoming serious brain damage, like missing an entire hemisphere, are so inspiring. He talks a lot about current treatment/therapy protocols for various brain injuries and diseases, like stroke and Alzheimer's. The book is very accessible for those of us without a science background. I couldn't put it down and can see myself reading it again sometime. He even did a great job narrating his own book which is a rarity of it's own among author narrators.
Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas
By Stephanie Barron, Read By Kate Reading
Barron writes a mystery series with Jane Austen as the central character. They are all "nice, light reads". I picked this one because I wanted something Christmassy to read Christmas week. Jane, her sister Cassandra and her mother are spending Christmas with her brother and his annoying wife. Fortunately, as soon as they arrive, they are invited to the Vyne by the wealthy Chute family.
The festivities don't last long when someone ends up dead and it doesn't look like an accident. Told over the 12 days of Christmas, Jane helps solve the crime.
By S. A. Cosby, Read By Adam Lazarre-White
This has to be one of the hotttest books of the year to read. I had to wait a few months for it to come available. It's written by a Virginia author and set in Virginia so I was very interested in reading it. It also sounded like it my be a lot like Walter Mosley novels and Mosley is one of my favorite authors.
The story centers on Beauregard "Bug" Montage. He an outstanding mechanic, a husband and father who is devoted to his family. He used to be known as one of the best wheelmen (escape driver) around. Now his business is in financial trouble, his Mom is in financial trouble, his daughter needs tuition and his son needs braces. When an old friend approaches him about an easy jewelry store heist, he decides to participate. That's a great set up for a great story.
I wouldn't advise not reading this book because Bug is a great character. In fact, Cosby's genius is character development, all the characters are interesting and we can easily compare them to people that we have known. Well I could anyway. I knew all these people where I grew up. They are Southern Virginia through and through.
But there were 2 things that kind of annoyed me about the story. First, Bug may be close to poverty but he is not stupid. He's a very smart man and the smart Bug would have NEVER gone on this adventure with this idiot friend and allowed that friend to be in charge. Never, not in a million years. Of course, the whole thing goes south.
The other thing that bothered me was the Virginia setting. I don't understand why the author referred to real towns and cities but then made up county names and got landscapes wrong. For example, at one point the are driving from Richmond to Peaks of Otter. He mentions that they go there via Lynchburg and then talk about ears popping as they drive over the mountain. Had they driven the Blue Ridge Parkway route they would have gone over the mountain but not the Lynchburg route. That route is all east of the mountain. There were lots of weird things like that. It's not really relevant to the story, it's just annoying. Reminded me of some of the ridiculous stage setting and travel in the Crawdad Sings book.
But don't let that dissuade you from reading this if you are looking for a new African-American author to read since that's the hot genre at the moment. Cosby creates great characters and tells a good story. But if you want a better African American writer, check out Walter Mosley. I don't care what his background is, he's hands-down one of my favorite writers ever.
A Bad Day for Sunshine
By Darynda Jones, Read By Lorelei King
So, I thought I was getting a mystery/detective novel. What I actually got was a romance novel with a detective candy coating. It's not my schtick but for what it was, it was entertaining enough.
What I've learned since finishing is that Jones is a really popular author and she has a series with the main character Charlie Davidson who sees dead people. She tries to get them to pass on to the other world but sometimes they need her to solve their crimes.....or something like that. The people who love that series were a little let down that this heroine, Sunshine Vicram, is just a normal person.
Sunshine grew up in Del Sol, NM and now she's back as the sheriff. She got the job because her parents got her name on the ballot without her permission. Part of her objective in taking the job is to solve her own unresolved kidnapping and rape case that happened when she was a teen. The result of that event is her precocious 14 year old daughter, Ari.
If you like real drama in your detective novels this will not be for you. If you like some drama and light romance in your romance novels then this is your next read.
The Queen's Gambit
By Walter Tevis, Read By Amy Landon
This book is an older book, I think it was written in the 1980's. It's been brought back to popularity by the Netflix series based on it. Audible offered it as a daily deal so I decided to give it a try, it has rave reviews.....and I don't get it.
Maybe there are a ton of chess aficionados that like having chess moves read to them. Otherwise, I do not understand the love unless it's just cool to like this book. It reminds me a a mystery series that I tried to get into a few years ago where the main character talked in detail about the meals that he ate. It's all just filler. This book seemed to be half chess moves that I didn't understand, or care about, and half drug addiction and loneliness. All that was told by one of the worst narrators ever. She was breathless and slow. I had to speed up to 1.15 to get through it. I hope the Netflix series is better but I won't be checking it out.
America's First Daughter
By Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Read By Cassandra Campbell
What a delightful way to end the month and year. I had read one of their other books, My Dear Hamilton, a couple of years ago and loved it. I guess I forgot about these authors until a friend mentioned that she had read this one. These authors write some of the most meticulously researched historical women's fiction that you can find.
This book is based on the life of Martha (Patsy) Jefferson Randolph, the oldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson. It's honestly researched and tells the story of the extended Jefferson family from Martha's point of view. Cassandra Campbell does a beautiful Virginia accent and the authors put you right in the middle of the story. It's a long book (my favorite) and I enjoyed every minutes of it.
How do you shop for books? As with everything else in my life my book selections revolve around lists. I have an Excel spreadsheet of all the books I've listened to (or actually read) and that list goes back to January 1995 and by next month it will have 1600 entries. I believe books > TV. I reference the list a lot to see if I liked a particular author or narrator. The second list is the hold list at my library on Libby and the third list is the Wish List on Audible. When new books come out I peruse the Audible list and put ones that I think I might like on my Wish List. Then I wait a few months to see how the reviews come in if it's a new author. Sometimes I leave them on the Wish List until my library gets the book in and I can put it on hold. It seems like a lot to manage but it actually makes my book selections more streamlined. Because I find it pretty stressful to finish a book and not have another ready to start in Libby or Audible. When that happens I'll sit at the computer for an hour or so putting books on hold in Libby or purchasing in Audible to make sure that I have 5 to 10 books stacked and ready to read.
I know, it seems weird but it's not much different than having multiple projects to work on. Imagine the panic if you woke one morning and didn't have even one project to work on that day. The horrors! That's how I feel about an empty book list.
All of that to say that I spent a couple of laptop sessions this week to get some books lined up for the next few weeks and now I'm all calm and peaceful again.
What have you been reading? I had a great month of books. I liked all of them. If I have to pick a least favorite it would be A Good Marriage simply because of the unlikable characters. The best has to be the new Robert Galbraith, Troubled Blood.
By C.J. Box, Read by David Chandler
This is #20 in the Joe Pickett series. If they ever switch readers for this series I think I'd have to give them up. Chandler has become Pickett for me.
In this book, the wife of the the local judge is shot by sniper fire. It looks like the judge was the target but the shooter missed. Joe is brought in to help solve the crime. It becomes more urgent when Nate Romanowski becomes the main suspect.
Box is still keeping these books fresh and interesting.
By Kyle Mills (Vince Flynn), Read By George Guidall
This is book 19 in the Mitch Rapp series. One of the things I love about Kyle Mills is that he has a real talent for telling stories that could actually happen. This one is about an attack on the US power grid. It's scary how realistic it is. I couldn't put it down.
By Patrick Radden Keefe, Read By Matthew Blaney
I was a teenager in the 1970's and I remember heard about "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland at that time but it was certainly not anything that we studied in school or payed much attention to.
This book is the story of that time and the key players in the IRA. It's told specifically around the abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972. She was a mother of 10 and was accused of being an information for the British military.
It's a fascinating book if you enjoy history. I do think it might be better read in paper than in audio. I found the narrator a little flat.
A Good Marriage
By Kimberly McCreight, Read by a cast
Many years ago when I was still working an co-worker and I were talking about a relatively new neighborhood nearby and I probably said something abut it being a boring suburb. He then proceeded to enlighten me that this particular neighborhood had a very active swingers group. His wife knew someone who participated and apparently there was (as you would expect) some crime that happened. Probably assault by a jealous spouse who couldn't handle what seemed like "fun". The whole thing kind of grossed me out and I think about it every time I drive near that neighborhood.
Well, that's how this book starts out. The characters are parents of students at a private school in Brooklyn. One of the parents has an annual party while the kids are away at camp and it's a "sleepover party". One of the attendees is murdered at her own home on the evening of that party. The husband is a prime suspect.
Every singer character in this book has a stupidly complex life with hidden secrets so anyone could have killed this woman. The husband calls on an old law school flame to be his attorney and she has secrets too!
If this is what big city private school parents are like then I'm happy to be a country hick. All of these people are awful and are probably raising some really messed up kids. The book moves along at a good pace but the actual detective work is pretty small. Most of the book is about uncovering the secrets. I wanted a shower after I finished it and I'm really happy for my seemingly boring life.
By Fiona Davis, Read By Cassandra Campbell
I'm not sure how I found Fiona Davis but if it was one of you, thank you. I really enjoyed this book and I see that she had lots of others available for me to read.
The book centers around Grand Central Station. In the 1920's there was an art school in the station and Clara Darden is one of the instructors. She's not taken seriously because she's an illustrator and sells her work for commercial use. The school closes at the beginning of the Depression and Clara virtually disappears from the art scene.
In the 1970's Virginia Clay is newly divorced, still struggling with her identity after a mastectomy and, gratefully, finds employment in the information booth of GCS. Clara and Virginia's paths cross through Clara's art that Virginia finds in the abandoned art school.
Nice character development and a perfect light, escapist read when you want a diversion from reality.
No One's Home
By D. M. Pulley, Read By Emily Sutton-Smith
When I'm stumped for a new book I like to go back through my Excel spreadsheet of books and look for authors that I loved and see if they have anything new. Pulley's The Dead Key is still one of my favorite books and I was excited to see a new offering.
Pulley is a master at moving back and forth in time intertwining stories. This book is set in a foreclosed mansion in Cleveland called Rawlingswood. It's in total disrepair when Margot and Myron Spielman decide that fixing up an old mansion won't be any stress on their already fragile marriage. Everyone in town thinks that the mansion is haunted and the Spielman family starts to believe it.
The story of the house is told through the three families who have lived challenging lives within the walls of the once grand mansion.
By Steve Jackson, Read by Kevin Pierce
If you are into true crime and you haven't read this book yet, put it on your list. It's the story of serial killer Thomas Luther.
I really wasn't sure about this book but I was hooked from the first chapter. It's a very methodical and detailed account of the life and crimes of Thomas Luther. The author must have done a lot of research and got a lot of people to share personal details and information because when you finish this book you know the detective, the victims, the victim's families, Luther's girlfriend, Luther's friends and everyone else remotely involved in this case. I know that sounds tedious but it isn't at all.
The book was originally written in the 90's but was updated in 2013. Jackson is an amazing storyteller and I can't wait to read another of his books.
Love and Other Consolation Prizes
By Jamie Ford, Read By Emily Woo Zeller
Jamie Ford tells wonderfully deep and poignant historical stories. His characters suffer immense hardships and they do it through actual historical places and events. He tells a great story.
In this one, 12 year old Ernest Young is a student at a charity boarding school and has the opportunity to attend the Seattle 1909 World's Fair. What he doesn't know is that he's going to be auctioned off with a raffle.
The winning ticket belongs to a madam at one of Seattle's most famous brothels where he will now live and work. There he befriends Maise (the madam's daughter) and Fahn (a maid). Learn about Seattle's history as their stories are told.
The narration is fantastic. I couldn't put it down.
The River of Souls
By Robert McCammon, Read By Edoardo Ballerini
According to my Excel spreadsheet, I started reading the Matthew Corbett series in 2017 - 2018. I stopped because this book is less than 10 hours long. But as I was going through my latest round of bookshelf crisis I remembered the series and decided that I wanted to continue with it. This is the 5th book in the series and the only one less than 10 hours. After reading it, I realize that it's somewhat of a prequel to book 6 so it was very much worth the read.
These books are set at the turn of the 18th century and Matthew Corbett is a private investigator and has accepted a commission in Charles Town in Carolina colony. He is to escort a beautiful young woman to a fancy dress ball. Easy. Not so fast. Carolina in 1703 is rugged.
I'm so glad I read this one and I look forward to the next 2 in the series. Edoardo Ballerini is probably my favorite narrator at the moment.
By Robert Galbraith, Read By Robert Glenister
I have been waiting for this book for weeks and was so excited when it became available at the library. This is the 5th book in the Cormoran Strike series. It's long, just as I like it, coming in at about 30 hours. The reason that I love long books is that there so much more character development and several subplots.
Cormoran Strike is a private detective visiting family in Cornwall when he is asked to help solve the disappearance of Margot Bamborough in 1974. By this point Strike is almost a celebrity for the previous high visibility crimes that he has solved. His business partner is Robin Ellacott and both had some pretty deep relationship baggage that gets carried through the book. There are other investigations going on as well as things in their personal lives but the characters aren't stuck in cliché relationships with each other. They developthroughout the book. I couldn't put it down.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter and love mystery books than you will love this series. JK Rowling, as we all know, is an amazing writer and can create scenes that we feel we can inhabit. Robert Glenister is the perfect narrator because you completely forget that one person is reading all of the dialogue. The books in the series are intertwined, like with Harry Potter, so I highly recommend reading them in order. The first one is The Cockoo's Calling. With all of the books be prepared for some pretty gruesome scenes.
By Fiona Davis, Read By Tavia Gilbert
Earlier this month I read The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis and I enjoyed it. She seems to specialize in historical fiction set in New Your City landmarks. This one is centered on the Barbizon Hotel. Look it up on Wikipedia, it has a very interesting history and after 2006 there were still 14 women living there under rent control even though the hotel had converted to condos.
The core of the story is set in 1952 when the hotel was home to single women, mostly either aspiring models or business school students. One of those students is still living at the hotel and that is the basis for the story.
It's interesting but I didn't feel it was as good as The Masterpiece. The plot was kind of weak and the romance element was a little heavy handed for me. I think this was one of her earlier books so I might try one of her newer ones.
I write these reviews as I finish each book so that at the end of the month it's easy to finish off the post. This month I discovered a bunch of new podcasts that I'm listening too. (I will not tell you what they are because several are political in nature.) I only mention it because I thought it was really cutting into my book time. Now that I look over the month I was apparently wrong. 12 books is actually pretty normal for me. Aside from The Weight of Night and When Christ and His Saints Slept, this was a good month. I was a little disappointed with Squeeze Me but I liked everything else.
What are your favorite books from October?
By Carl Hiaasen, Read By Scott Brick
It's been a long time since we have had a new book from Hiaasen so I was really excited to get my ear on this new one. The library hold for this one was months!
For those of you squeamish about snakes like me, I will warn you that the friendly python plays a prominent role in this tale. For those of you who are fatigued by novels blatantly portraying a Trumpian presidential character, you won't enjoy this. In my opinion writers have become incredibly lazy at presidential character development. It wasn't absolutely horrible in this particular book but it's there. I believe that books use that easy path will find that their books don't age well. I'm reminded of Vince Flynn/Kyle Mills who actually create characters so that they aren't too tied to current events. I prefer to escape from current events with my novels.
It's pretty typical Hiaasen but it's far from my favorite. But a bad Hiaasen is better than the best from some other authors! I don't love Scott Brick as the narrator. He's too serious of a reader to be given a humor book. George Wilson was a much better reader for Hiaasen's books.
The Lady of the Rivers
By Philippa Gregory, Read By Bianca Amato
This is a prequel to book I read a few months ago, The White Queen. This one ends exactly where that one starts but reading them out of order is no problem. Each is a full self-contained story. If you like historical fiction I think you will enjoy Gregory's novels.
The story is told by Jaquetta, a descendant of Melusina, the river goddess. As such, she can sometimes have visions of things to come. The story revolves around the court of King Henry VI. Jaquetta is a central figure in the court from her early marriage to the Duke of Bedford, English Regent of France.
The Weight of Night
By Christine Carbo, Read by RC Bray and Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Oh boy is this book horrible. I did finish it because I was in the middle of some projects and didn't want to stop to book shop and I wanted to see how it ended. I had read 2 other books in the Glacier series. I liked one and didn't like the other. Now I'm officially done with the series.
There's a huge forest fire and a fire crew unearths a shallow grave while clearing a fire break. Meanwhile another child has gone missing. Monty Harris is a park police officer and Gretchen Larsen is the lead CSI. Both of them have bad things in their pasts that we get to hear about each time there's a scene related to the missing child. There's a formula:
Gretchen in the present finding a clue
Gretchen in the past
Monty in the present following clues
Monty in the past
Rinse and repeat
Gretchen is from Sweden and, given her past, I'm pretty sure she would have never made it through immigration in the real world. So the initial set up bothers me. But the worst part about the book is the female narrator. Sometimes her accent sounds a little Swedish, sometimes Russian, sometimes Mexican and sometimes American. It's a hot mess. She's so bad that I had to look her up. She brags on her resume about her mastery of dialects. Hilarious.
I really like the premise of the main plot and I like how it played out but the forced insertion of each of their past lives made the story annoying. The narrator's voice made it all but intolerable.
Objects of My Affection
By Jill Smolinski, Read By Xe Sands
Lucy Bloom, thanks to her drug addict son's need for rehab, is broke and unemployed and she's determined to start over. She's written a book called Things are Not People, about decluttering. It doesn't sell well but it's enough of a credential to get her a job helping to de-clutter the home of an eccentric painter, Marva Meier Rios.
Marva seems to love ever object that she's acquired during her long life and Lucy has underestimated the challenge of getting her to let go of anything. Meanwhile an ex-boyfriend is back on the scene and her son's rehab isn't going well. It's a coming of age story for every character.
Lots of humor, secrets and tense relationships. I enjoyed it.
When Christ and his Saints Slept
By Sharon Kay Penman, Read By Anne Flosnim
I should love this book. It's historical fiction set around a King of England, two of my favorite things.
It's the first in the Plantagenet Series and tells the story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
It might be good but the reader made it incredibly boring. I couldn't finish it.
By CJ Box, Read By David Chandler
After that last disaster book I needed something reliable so I returned to Joe Pickett. This is #19 in the series. Joe has his job back and he's having some problems with some people new to the area that no one seems to know.
One of the interesting scenes in this book is between the FBI and a ranger in another district. They threaten her with a FD302 where they can allege pretty much anything they want and as long as the 2 agents agree to what's on the form she will have no recourse or defense. I perked up with that because we now know that's exactly what they did in real life to Michael Flynn. It's only been in the last few months that it was revealed that the 302 form was falsified. Interesting!
All that aside it's a fun story and I'm always happy to see Nate Romanowski and his falcons involved. I'll be reading the newest one soon because Audible had it on sale for $6 the day I finished this one.
The Last Agent
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Eduardo Ballerini
I have to say that Robert Dugoni is one of my favorite M&I authors right now and I'm loving this new series. He's most well knows for the Tracey Crosswhite series but this book is the second installment in the Charles Jenkins series.
Jenkins is a former CIA agent and his specialty area is Russia. In this installment he returns to Russia to try to save Paulina Ponomayova. She sacrificed her life in the last book to help him escape Russia. Now he's found out that she's not dead but she's about to undergo interrogation.
It's very fast paced and perfectly narrated by one of my favorite readers, Eduardo Ballerini. It's clear at the end of the book that he will be heading back to Russia soon.
By Mark Edwards, Read By Simon Mattacks
I was looking for another Mark Edwards book and discovered this one already in my library. I don't know when I bought it but I had not read it yet. I must have bought it on sale because it's a bit shy of my 10 hour minimum. I'm glad I got it because it was quite an adventure.
Lucas is a horror novelist and arrives at Julia's house for a writer's retreat. Julia's daughter disappeared 2 years ago and her husband drowned trying to find her. She's turned her historic home into a writer's retreat. Julia is convinced that her daughter is still alive. Everyone else thinks she was taken by an apparition that shows up to take children.
It's got an Agatha Christie feel to it. I couldn't put it down.
By Nina Willner
I've had a lot of trouble getting myself interested in non-fiction lately. I've returned 2 history books to the library because I'm just mentally exhausted with American politics and history. I love both so I know I'll be back to it in a few months. But this book came up and I thought it might be interesting and I was not disappointed!
The author's mother escaped East Germany just before the Communists blocked off that country. She left her family behind to start a new life in West Germany. She married a Holocaust survivor who was serving in the US military. This book was written by her daughter and tells the story of the 40 years that the families were separated. It's a very well told story about an extraordinary family. I was totally captivated by it.
North and South
By Elizabeth Gaskell, Read By Juliet Stevenson
I discovered Gaskell last month in Audible's new free section. She's a Victorian Jane Austen so what's not to love! Supposedly Charles Dickens asked her to write this book.
Our heroine is Margaret Hale. Her father is a minister in beautiful Hampshire but he has to leave his post and the family settles in the fictional northern industrial town of Milton. It's a drastic change for Margaret as she sees first hand the consequences of the industrial revolution. If you like Pride and Prejudice you'll like this and it's perfectly narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
Return to Robinswood
By Jean Grainger, Read By Caroline Lennon
This is the second in the Robinswood series and you really have to read these in order. As a standalone book this would be a bit if a disjointed mess but as a series it carries on the characters from the first book right where they left off. It's another good light-hearted feel-good book. The bad guys aren't so bad and everyone is happy and hopeful in the end.
The writing is good enough that you can imagine the post-war Irish countryside and the difficulties if living in England during a period of rations.
The Hunting Party
By Lucy Foley
This was the perfect book to finish on the eve of Halloween. A group of university friends are getting together at a remote Scottish hunting lodge to ring in the New Year. They are all in their 30's and there are undercurrents of tensions and personal angst. They remind me a little of the cast of 30 Something or Mad About You , both shows that I hated for the self-absorbed nature of the characters. I was rewarded this time because one of them ends up murdered. It seems like everyone is a possible suspect. It was a fun read with little clues and mis-directions dropped throughout.
I can't believe that it's the end of the month already! Time is flying by and I haven't started making Christmas postcards yet.
I'm not sure how I got through 12 books this month. In the evenings I've been taking a free online lecture class and watching my DrBeen medical videos almost every night. Clearly the rest of the time I don't talk to anyone, including my husband. I do admit that I have headphones on all day long.
My reading for September was a real mix of things and, frankly, not the best moth of reading ever. I think my favorites were Liar's Girl, Wives and Daughters and Thunderstruck. Lethal Agent was good, it was Mitch Rapp so it had to be good, but the subject matter was a little too current.
Whatg was your favorite book of the last month?
The Darwin Affair
By Tim Mason, Read By Derek Perkins
This is a Victorian mystery that made me think it could be Charles Dickens writing about Jack The Ripper. It starts with an attempt on Queen Victoria's life that ends with the death of a petty thief. But that's just the beginning of the torturous murders in this book. Along the way you meet Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and other notables of the time. It was OK but it's quite gruesome and I found it hard to keep up with all the characters and story lines.
Force of Nature
By Jane Harper, Read By Stephen Shanahan
This is #2 in the Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk series. I read the first book in this series, The Dry, last month and really enjoyed it. This one was a bit of a letdown.
The basic storyline is good. Five female colleagues go on a corporate outback hiking/camping retreat. There's also a group of male colleagues on a separate hike in the same area. One of the women dies on the trip and everyone has a different story about the trip.
In the last book Falk was the central character because the crime was in his own family. In this one the detective really could have been anyone. I don't feel his particular character added to the story. There really isn't much detecting because the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks. The hard part of the book was developing any sort of empathy with any of the characters. Two are sisters and one is the sister of the man who runs the company and none of them belong on a multi day hiking and camping trip.
I did eventually get into it and finish it but it was a bit of work for a while.
By Stephen Fry, Read By Stephen Fry
This is the second in Fry's series on the Greek myths and we chose this for the book to listen to on our vacation drive. The first book was about the Olympian gods. This one tells the stories of the mortal heroes like Perseus, Jason, Atalanta, Theseus and Heracles.
Stephen Fry does the BEST job of telling these stories! If you like the myths you will love his series. We listened to this for part of our car trip from Maine.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
By Mark Twain, Read By Nick Offerman
I don't need to review this book. It's Mark Twain and it's free on Audible! Honestly, I'm not a huge Twain fan but Offerman does a great narration.
This was our other driving book over vacation.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Read By Ray Porter
This is #4 in the Tier One series. Ember is America's premier Black Ops unit and this time they are trying to find Amanda Allen. She was the aid to the Ambassador to Turkey. The Ambassador was assassinated and Allen was kidnapped. She also happens to be a CIA operative. Ember is sent to Syria to try to find her.
These are books are tough men and tough women, lots of fighting and big egos. They are a little formulaic but they are fast paced, easy to follow and American usually wins.
The Liar's Girl
By Catherine Ryan Howard, Read by multiple artists
About a month ago Audible introduced a pretty large free library to subscribers. Free was kind of a cool concept so I decided to check it out. I expected it to be a bunch of mediocre or really old books. Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the library and the number of seemingly good books available. This is the first one that I tried and I was not disappointed.
It's set in Dublin and a college student is found dead in the Dublin canal and then there's a second one. The police want the help of Allison Smith to talk to her ex-boyfriend to ask him to help solve the crimes. Allison has been living outside Ireland ever since her boyfriend, Will, was convicted of 5 similar murders while they were in college 10 years ago. Clearly he didn't kill the new girls so did he really kill the first 5?
I found Allison to be a bit too spineless as a character but I did like the book. I finished this one in 2 days because I couldn't put it down.
Wives and Daughters
By Elizabeth Gaskell, Read By Prunella Scales
This is another gem that I found in the free Audible library. I had never heard of Gaskell but she was a popular Victorian writer and her book reminded me very much of Jane Austen. It's not quite as funny as Austen but it's a similar theme.
Molly Gibson is the only daughter of the local doctor and her mother died when Molly was very young. Molly is well loved by the townspeople. Her father decides that Molly needs a mother so me marries a local widow who turns out to be completely self-absorbed and petty. Fortunately Molly does love her new step-sister. It's a good look at what it was like to live and love in Victorian society.
By Erik larson, Read By Bob Balaban
I really enjoy Erik Larson books. He has a knack for making historical events read like novels. In this one he tells of the invention of the wireless radio by Guglielmo Marconi and the story of Hawley Crippin, a mild mannered doctor who was convicted of murdering his wife.
The two stories overlap when Marconi's device is used for the first time to help solve the Crippin murder.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
By Kim Michele Richardson, Read By Katie Schorr
You might remember that in June I read The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. It was about the fascinating story of the depression era packhorse libraries of Appalachia. It was very prolific especially in Kentucky and was a much needed connection to the outside world for the people of the region.
This is another book about a packhorse librarian (except that she uses a mule). Cussy Mary Carter is the daughter of a coal miner and they live a hard hand-to-mouth existence. Cussy's life is complicated by the fact that she's a "blue". Her skin is blue and she is the last known blue. Cussie is based on the real blue people of the Appalachia. Most were members of the Fugate family and had a unique genetic trait (shared by some groups in Alaska). It's called Methemoglobinemia and you can read about it here and see photos on the Fugate family.
It's a good book about hardscrabble living and the hopes and dreams of a young, blue girl who is blamed for much of the bad around the area. It wasn't as good as Giver of Stars but I still enjoyed it.
The Fall of Carthage
By Adrian Goldsworthy, Read By Derek Perkins
I love history and I should love this book. The Punic Wars led to the rise of Rome so it's an important series of events but there's way too much battle detail (battle-massacre-enslavement, rinse and repeat) to hold my interest. I may come back to it in bits to finish it off.
By Kylie Brant, Read By Bronson Pinchot
Before I talk about the book I want to talk about the narration first. I generally love Pinchot as a narrator but he really ruined the voice of Abbie, one of the 2 main characters. She's supposed to be tough, brilliant and unapproachable. Instead she comes off as slow, soft spoken and demure. But, in the end, it doesn't matter because this book is it's own nightmare.
It's really a romance novel disguised as a detective story. The characters are all stereotypes and not particularly well developed. The 2 main characters supposedly show up with deep personal demons that they have been dealing with for years. Poof! Exposed and resolved in 2 days of great sex! Long term relationship in 4 days? Sure! Let's get this case wrapped up. Oh look, no surprise, the culprit was right in from of us the whole time.
Yes, I did listen to the whole thing because I figured out everything in the first hour and wanted to see if I was right. I did skip a lot to get to the end though.
By Kyle Mills (for Vince Flynn), Read By George Guidall
This is the 18th book in the Mitch Rapp series and I needed reliable Mitch after the previous 2 dud books. I do love Kyle Mills writing Mitch now. The books are all full of intrigue and action.
Because it was Mitch Rapp I didn't even read the summary. Had I, I might have postponed this one for a while. Why? Because someone is producing a bat virus to unleash on the US! It's not the Chinese. In the series we are still focused on the Islamic terrorists and it is they who are producing the virus and hoping to transmit it with the help of Mexican drug smugglers.
It's a good book but you might not find this subject matter to be the escape from reality that you are looking for.
Another month of books is "in the books" so to speak. All in all this was a pretty good month! I really enjoyed the Jane Harper books and have another on my library wish list. I also enjoyed Westering Women and If You Want to Make God Laugh. Those are my favorite fiction books. I also really enjoyed both of the non-fiction books this month.
What have you been reading? I get some great recommendations from you. In fact, Westering Women was one of them.
By Jane Harper, Read By Steve Shanahan
Sometimes when I finish a book and don't have anything ready from the library I'll go through Libby and look through what's available. I have to scroll through a lot of James Patterson, Lee Child and David Baldacci but eventually I find something new. That's how I found this book and the next one. I didn't realize until I started listening to the next book that I had picked 2 books from the same author! Good thing I liked both of them.
The Dry is the 1st book in a series based on federal agent Aaron Falk. I didn't even know that it was a series until I started writing this review and downloaded the image from Audible.
Twenty years ago Falk was accused of murder and his friend, Luke, provided the alibi. Now Luke is dead and Falk is summoned to return home. Falk reluctantly agrees to help investigate what happened to Luke but while here's there the old murder suspicions surface.
The Lost Man
By Jane Harper, Read By Steve Shanahan
This one is not part of the Aaron Falk series. It's a stand-alone novel.
Two brothers are on family land standing over the body of their dead brother, Cam, the middle child. Cam has been in charge of the homestead since their father's death. Cam knows how to be prepared for the hot and dry climate of the Australian outback. How could he have gotten here without supplies?
This isn't so much of a mystery as a book about the complexities of family relationships, especially when abuse is involved. I wouldn't say that it ended as a happy book but the characters got some resolution and growth so I'd say that it ended on a hopeful note.
Loved the Aussie narrator for both books!
A Long Petal of the Sea
By Isabel Allende, Read by Eduardo Ballerini
In the late 1930's General Franco overthrew the Spanish government and brought in his Fascist regime. Many people were forced to flee. This is the fictional story of Roser and Victor who first fled to France and then on to Chili. The book tells the stories of their lives until their deaths many decades later.
I should have loved this book. It's historical fiction and the story of a long life among many generations. But in the end, I just didn't. I finished it but only because I forced myself to. I just could not connect with these characters. They were like cardboard characters moving through a diorama.
The book has rave reviews on Audible so it's really possible that I don't know what I'm talking about and you might love it.
Light It Up
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is the 3rd book in the Peter Ash series that I started last month. My library seems to have them available quickly and I think it's because once people start listening they can't stop.
Peter Ash is a good guy who is badly damaged from his experiences in Iraq. As this book opens he is rebuilding hiking trails on Oregon when he friend as him to help with a job for his daughter. The daughter runs a security firm that supports the marijuana business. He asks Peter to help on a cash run when they are ambushed and his friend ends up dead.
Another good one!
By Philippa Gregory, Read By Louise Brealey
This is the first in The Fairmile series and is set in the mid-1600's during England's Civil War. It's not a war story, it's more of a family saga story centering around Alinor and her two children. She's been abandoned by her husband and lives a day-to-day existence selling herbs, oils and as a midwife. One day meets James, a young man sneaking into the area . She helps him and things change drastically for her family.
I've not read one of Philippa Gregory's novels before. It reminded me a lot of John Jakes novels. It was a little dark and sad at times but I couldn't put it down so it must have been good!
By Atul Gawande, Read By Robert Petkoff
Atul Gawande is a physician and through this book he explores the ways that medicine, families and individuals handle end of life choices. One of the examples that he uses in the book is his own father's illness and end of life choices.
It is not a depressing book but it is an important book. We spend a lot of time thinking about what we are going to wear every day but we spend very little time thinking about how we want to die. It's guaranteed that we are going to die and this book is a guide to help understand options and to give people the confidence to make their own decisions.
The Last Widow
By Karin Slaughter, Read By Kathleen Earley
This is #9 in the Will Trent series and if I had taken 1 minute to check my book review spreadsheet I would have avoided this hackneyed storyline.
Will and Sara are still in some sort of weird relationship state more typical of teenagers, Will's boss still treats him more like a mother than a boss and Will is still emotionally damaged but somehow the three of them are able to solve a major crime.
The plot is trite and tired. Inspired by the Charlottesville riots, the story features a white supremacist sect determined to "fix" America. We've done enough Timothy McVey-inspired fiction. It's time to do something a tad bit more creative.
By Sandra Dallas, read By Angela Dawe
Well, if you need a book to make you grateful that you life in modern times, this is it! Ste in 1952 44 women set off on the Overland Trail with the promise of finding husbands in Goosetown, CA. The book is about the harrowing journey, the friendships and the secrets that are uncovered on the journey.
Another blogger recommended this book and I'm glad I gave it a try.
The First Conspiracy
By Brad Meltzer, Read By Scott Brick
I haven't read a Brad Meltzer book in about 10 years but this one popped up in the library and seemed interesting. I'm glad I found it!
It's all about a treasonous plot to kill George Washington during the Revolutionary War. It's got everything that a good spy novel would have except that it's not a novel.
People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks, Read By Edwina Wren
This is the second book that I've read from Geraldine Brooks. The main character is Hannah Heath, an Australian rare books expert. The Australian part is important because the narrator works very hard to get the Australian (and all other accents) almost to the point of distraction. I've never listened to a book where I felt the narrator worked sooooooo hard!
Anyway, Hannah is asked to conserve the Sarajevo Haggadah which was recently rescued from the Bosnian War (1996). Hannah discovers little fragments of things in the book (insect wing, salt, stains, hair) and that is the basis for telling the history of the book. There's lots of back and forth in time and LOTS of characters.
I think, all in all, it's a good story but it was a lot of work to keep up and Hannah and her mother have a ton of baggage that I'm not sure was necessary.
The White Queen
By Philippa Gregory, Read By Susan Lyons
This is the first in the Plantagenet and Tudor series and tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to King Edward IV. The time period is during the War of the Roses.
Gregory's work is extremely well researched and she's clear in the interview at the end where she took literary license. She ahd lots of opportunity because the life of Elizabeth isn't well documents and there's no information in what happened to their two sons (heirs to the throne). It was a fun read although at the end Elizabeth's laments got a little tedious. But I felt that the ending was certainly plausible and it sets up well for The White Princess. #5 in the series. Books 2, 3 and 4 are about her mother and other contemporaries. Book 5 is about her daughter.
If You Want To make God Laugh
By Bianca Marais, Read By Bianca Amato, Bhani Turpin and Katherine McEwan
17 year old Zodwa live in poverty on South Africa.She is raped and becomes pregnant.
Across town, two sisters, Ruth and Delilah, are reunited at the homestead after years of being estranged. Zodwa's grandmother used to work for Ruth and Delilah's parents.
After the baby is born, Zodwa's grandmother steals the baby and drops it at the home of Ruth and Delilah thinking that the baby will have a better chance at life. Two days later the grandmother is dead and Zodwa thinks she will never see her baby again.
First, there is nothing in the book to make God laugh so I have no idea where the title came from. But it's a good story about life's decisions, circumstances and consequences. All of the characters deal with conflict, despair, forgiveness and hope.
It was a good book to end the month on.
Wow, I finished 14 books this month! Can you tell that I've turned off the news? Most of the books this month came from the library so the reading order is just a function of availability. As always there's good and not-so-good. The Allen Eskins books and the Nick Petrie books were really nice surprises. I was also happy to read more from Andrea Penrose and Candace Fox. I'll pass on any more Spencer-Flemming books and I expect that I'll keep reading JoJo Moyes. There are 2 non-fiction books that are for very specific audiences.
What have you read this month? I'm digging deep into the library audio archives for new books to read so I can use all the suggestions that I can get.
The Heavens May Fall
By Allen Eskins, Read By David Colacci, Any McFadden and RC Bray
Those of you who have read this book will know that it falls under my 10 hours minimum (9.5 hours) but I was able to get it free from the library so I decided to get it on your recommendation.
Detective Max Rupert is still dealing with the unsolved murder of his wife four years and it affects how he does his job. This story opens as the wife of a prominent attorney is found murdered in her home. The husband is the first and only suspect but he has an alibi. The husband hires Brody Sanden, a friend of Rupert's, as his attorney. From there the story keeps you guessing until the very end.
I think that Rupert might be a series but it's not listed on Audible as a series. Eskins writes a good mystery and I'll read more.
The Ship of Brides
By JoJo Moyes, Read By Nicolette McKenzie
I read Moyes' The Giver of Stars last month about the Depression Era packhorse libraries of Kentucky. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't wait to fond another of her books to read. Some of her books are straight up romance books but some are historical fiction. I prefer historical fiction and that's what this one is.
During WWII a lot of military men stationed away from home married women in the countries where they were stationed. After the war it required a lot of effort to get tens of thousands of women transported to their new homes around the world. This book tells the story of one of the "war bride ships". The HMS Victorious was tasked with bringing several hundred brides from Australia to Portsmouth, England. This book is the fictional story of that journey. It's researched well enough and we all know enough about human behavior in stressful situations to know that this story rings true.
I became very attached to the brides and couldn't pt this one down....to the point that I ignored my Mom and husband for part of the 4th of July afternoon.
By Geraldine Brooks, Ready By Jennifer Ehle (the one and true Elizabeth Bennett)
This is a historical fiction book that tells the story of the first Native American to attend Harvard, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck. Caleb and his classmate Joel Hiacoomes are real and were the first Native American to attend Harvard.
The story is told more as a the life story of Bethia, the daughter of a Puritan minister on Martha's Vineyard. Bethia meets Caleb as a a young girl and they strike up a friendship. They teach each other their languages. As a girl in 1600's New England, she was not allowed an education but she was clearly smarter than her brother.
This book isn't really about Caleb "crossing" into the white world. It's about Bethia and what it was like being a woman in that time period. It's really well researched and it's pretty interesting but it's also kind of awkward and a little slow. About 2/3 through we're suddenly with Bethia on her death bed and all that happens is that she continues telling the story but now in past tense. I don't know the purpose of that.
Part of the slowness can be attributed to the narration. "Elizabeth Bennett", it turns out, isn't a great narrator. I sped it up a bit and that helped.
I liked the information in the book but it's not my favorite historical fiction book. But it's still worth a read I think.
The Guise of Another
By Allen Eskens, Read By Jonathan Yen
I read my first Allen Eskins book a few weeks ago and like it enough to look for another. This one is actually the first in the Max Rupert series. Max actually plays a small role in this book. This one focuses on his brother, Alexander.
Alexander is a war hero and Minnesota police detective. He's under investigation for corruption. When a new case comes his way he jumps on the opportunity to improve his reputation.
The case is about a car accident victim who seems to have a false identity and someone has been looking for this man for years.
Lots of twists and turns and a good read.
In the Bleak Midwinter
By Julia Spencer-Fleming, Read By Suzanne Toren
This is the first in a series set in upstate NY and featuring Episcopal Priest Clare Fergussen and local Detective Russ Van Alstyne. This book is almost 20 years old but the story holds up well. The biggest sign of it's age is that no one has cell phones. They actually look up number in a phone book!
Clare is new to the area and one day a baby is left on the steps of the church. She finds it and delivers the baby to the hospital. There's a search for the baby's mother that, of course, leads to a lot of surprises and murder.
If you are triggered by anything religious then you want to avoid this book. I didn't find it very religious but there are church scenes and a prayer or two. It's a pretty good story and it held my interest. The sexual tension between Clare and Russ is awkward. It will be interesting to see how that develops in future books. It's set in winter and there were actually times that I felt cold. That's a miracle in July in Virginia....or I have a covid fever. (I don't.)
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
I don't know who recommended this book to me but I thank you! This is actually the second book in a series featuring Peter Ash. Ash is a war veteran with PTSD. He can't go into buildings or sleep in enclosed places. He mostly camps and that's how he meets June. June's mother was killed recently and now people are after June to get access to the program that her mother was developing. Ash's friend, Louis, joins in to help.
It was a fun read and I really liked the characters.
Hidden Valley Road
By Robert Kolker, Read By Sean Pratt
Get down on your knees right now and thank whatever deity you pray to that you were not a member of this family. Their story is devastating.
HVR is about Don and Mimi Galvin and their 12 children, 6 of whom developed schizophrenia. It is incredibly interesting but also very heavy.
The Galvin children were born between 1945 and 1965. The two youngest are girls and the other 10 are all boys. Six of those boys developed schizophrenia by the mid-70's. Very little was knows about the disease and the treatments were rudimentary, at best so their suffering (individually and as a family) was horrible. But this family provided a unique was to research if there was an identifiable genetic marker for the disease.
The story is told very compassionately. No one is made out to be a villain. It's just the story of this family and the story of research and treatment of the disease. It was really interesting but also very heavy, so be prepared if you decide to read it. If you have a family member or friend with schizophrenia you can be very grateful to this family and the contributions that they were able to make to the science.
What Once Was True
By Jean Grainger, Read By Caroline Lennon
This is the first in The Robinswood Series. Robinswood is an estate in Waterford Ireland and the book opens in 1939. Lord and Lady Kenefick's fortunes are declining and keeping up the big estate is getting harder by the day. Dermont Murphy and his family live and work on the estate and do their best to keep things in running order.
War is looming and the old, reliable, social structure may be breaking down.
I enjoyed the character and the story. It had a little bit of everything: family drama, romance and mystery.
Murder at Kensington Palace
By Andrea Penrose, Read by James Cameron Stewart
This is the 3rd book in the Wresford and Sloane mystery series set in Georgian England, a time where there was a lot of interest in scientific research.
Charlotte Sloane's cousin is murdered and his brother is charged with the crime. Charlotte will have to reveal her true identity so that she and Wrexford can find the real killer.
This is a fun series. With each book new characters are introduced and each book has an underlying story that is true to the time. In this one people are experimenting with the Voltaic Pile (the first battery) and with the prospect of bring the dead back to life with electricity following on with the work of Luigi Galvini.
Gone By Midnight
By Candice Fox, Read By Euan Morton
This is the 3rd book in the Crimson Lake series. 4 boys are left to play in a hotel room to play while their parents have dinner. During one of the hourly checks it's discovered that one of the boys is missing. The mother wants Ted Conkaffee and Amanda Pharrell to help with the search and investigation.
Another fun read in this series.
The Housemaid's Daughter
By Barbara Mutch, Read By Bahni Turpin and Cat Gould
I selected this book because of the comparisons to The Help. This book is NOT even close to The Help. I really don't get the love for this book. It reads like a series of diary entries. Part of it is diary entries but the parts that aren't still read that way. The whole thing is flat and it's impossible to develop any empathy for the characters. In The Help you wanted to KNOW those characters;not in this book.
Ada is born the daughter of a housemaid in South Africa. Catherine, the mistress of the house, seems to have taken much more interest in raising Ada than her own two children. She teaches Ada to read and to play piano. The book is the story of Ada's life told in a series of short chapters that fall as flat as diary entries. Ada, who is very well read, is portrayed as naive right up until the time of her death. "What does this word "beneficiary" mean?" There's a lot of that throughout the book. It's ridiculous.
I finished the book because I could listen to Bahni Turpin read the phone book but I don't really recommend it.
A Fountain Filled With Blood
By Julia Spencer-Flemming
Read By Suzanne Toran
This is the second in the Rev Clare Fergussen and police chief Russ Van Alstyne series. I read the first one earlier this month and gave it a hopeful review. I hit a dry spot in book availability this week (every book on hold but none available). I found that this one was available a decided to give it a try.
The series is set in update NY. Both characters are ex-military which give then some unexpected talents and hangups to make the plot more interesting. The good Reverend likes to spend more time solving crimes and being a social justice activist than she does ministering to her congregation. She only prays when she's in trouble, like most of the rest of us. She's also got a serious crush on the married police chief.
The police chief, meanwhile, has a crush on the Reverend (about 20 years younger of course) but he's married. It's hard to accept that he's married because in 2 books his wife has never made an appearance. In fact, he seems to purposely leave home every time his wife is there. The relationship between the two is incredibly annoying. By now they would have either started having an affair or he would have left his wife because it's clear that he doesn't love her because he's never home!
There are murders that seem to be hate crimes (against gay men) but they may also have something to do with a resort development that isn't going well. Clare does a whole bunch of really stupid stuff (that no trained military helicopter pilot would ever do) and eventually she and Russ bungle their way into solving the crimes. You could tell from the first chapter who was behind it all.
The worst part is the narrator. Clare is from southern Virginia and I know the accent there very well as it's my own. Toran gives her a Southern Georgia plantation accent as if she just stepped out of Gone With the Wind. It bothered me a little in the first book but it really grated on me in this one because it really doesn't fit the personality and dialogue of the character. I won't read any more books in this series.
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is the first book in the Peter Ash series. I reviewed the #2 book, Burning Bright, above. I had put this one on hold at the library and it became available pretty quickly. I'm glad because it was refreshing after the last 2 books.
This is the book that introduces Peter Ash, a war veteran who is dealing with PTSD. His PTSD manifests itself as claustrophobia. He sleeps outside and avoids all inside spaces. He's come to Wisconsin to help the widow of one of his Marine friends. While working on her porch he finds a Samsonite suitcase stuffed with cash and explosives...
I finished this one in less than 24 hours. I'm putting #3 on hold right away.
Conquering the Electron
By Derek Cheung and Eric Brach
Read by Eric Jason Martin
I felt it was time I dove back into some non-fiction so I ended the months with this book. If you like human scientific history then this is the book for you! It is a VERY detailed history of the electronics age. It's interesting but reading this is like taking a college course. Lots and lots of information. It even included the development of the Voltaic Pile that I learned about in the Penrose book above. The narration could have been better but I sped it up to 1.15 and that helped a lot.
2020 has a lot of bad karma, primarily as the Year of Covid. But, for me, it's also the Year of Books and that's a really good thing. I'm running through books at a really fast pace. Books are the perfect escape from everything that's going on now. Chris and I go days without turning on the TV. In the evenings we like to just sit and read (and crochet or quilt).
Before I get into the books I read this month I'll quickly tell you about two books that I couldn't be bothered to finish:
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds: This should have been right up my alley but this author could not have made it more boring and his narration made it even worse.
The Real Watergate Scandal: Watergate was the first political event that I remember being engaged with as a young person. I thought it would be interested to revisit it 40+ years later from another perspective. I think he has some good information and points but the presentation is painfully rambling.
What have you read (that you liked) this month? I need a continual supply of recommendations!
By Lalita Tademy, Read By Bahni Turpin
Tademy is a brilliant writer and storyteller. Her books are fiction but they are based on her own ancestry and the intense genealogy she has done on her family. I read her first book, Citizen Creek, a few years ago and absolutely loved it.
This one tells the story of the post- Civil War reconstruction in Louisiana and starts with the Colfax Riot of Easter Sunday in 1873. The book tells the story of the Tademy's and Smith's as they try to build better lives for themselves and their families in the generations to follow.
Bahni Turpin could narrate a biology textbook and I'd listen to it.
My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry
By Fredrik Backman, Read By Juan Walker
I'll admit that I only got this book because it was free from the library and I wanted to see if I'd like it better than A Man Called Ove.
I think that Backman struggles with making his lead character consistently true to their age. Ove was only 57 but if you didn't know that you would swear that he was 85. In this book the main character, Elsa, is 7. Sometimes she behaves like a 4 years old and other times she's allowed the independence of a teenager. If you liked Ove, you will love this because I think it's better. But, for me, it was still tedious and plodding.
By Kathleen Tessaro, Read By Susan Bennett
I read another of Tessaro's book in January, The Perfume Collector, and I loved it.
Rare Objects is set in depressio-era Boston. Maeve Fanning is a poor 1st generation Irish immigrant. She's a bit on the wild side and loves fast men and lots of gin. She ends up in a psychiatric hospital after having an abortion. There she meets Diana van der Laar. She doesn't realize who Diana is until a few years later, while working in a antique store, she delivers some items to the van der Laar family. She and Diana re-connect and Maeve becomes entwined with the family and Diana's handsome brother.
It was a good read, although most of the characters are quite unlikable for most of the book. But they do grow and develop....mostly.
By Michael Connelly, Read By Peter Giles and Zach Villa
First off, I want to mention that Zach Villa narrates the part of the villain and he sounds a lot like Jon Hamm - he was hard to hate.
This is the third in a series focused on a reporter named Jack McEvoy. The first 2 books were published several years ago (1996 and 2009) so maybe as the Bosch novels fade he's focusing more on this storyline and the Mickey Haller books. If so, I'm cool with that. Bosch is getting a little stale.
In this one McEvoy is now working with in digital media at a website, FairWarning (which happens to be real), writing about consumer protection topics. One day he is stopped by police to be questioned over the death of a woman that he met at a bar a year ago. He hasn't seen her since. But as he's drawn into the case he discovers other similar murders and a link to a DNA processing website.
I enjoyed it and it was a refreshing break from Bosch. I think it's very current in the way it brings up risks with DNA processing sites just as those sites have been selling massive DNA databases to commercial companies and government entities.
The Book of Longings
By Sue Monk Kidd, Read By Mozhan Marno
The Secret Life of Bees is one of my all-time favorite books but I haven't red any more of Kidd's books since the huge disappointment of The Mermaid's Chair. Some authors only have one good book in them and that's what I felt about Kidd.
Recently I've been seeing this book on a lot of recommended lists so I decided to give it a try and I'm glad I did.
In this book Kidd imagines that Jesus had a wife. Her name is Ana and she is raised with wealth as the daughter of the head scribe to the ruler of Galilee. Judas is her adopted brother. Her father allows her to learn to read and write and she begins to document the lives of important women. Her ambition and knowledge, however, is her downfall when she is betrothed to an older widower at the age of 14. It's during this time that she first meets Jesus. She marries him and settles with him and his family in Nazareth. With Jesus finding his faith and following John the Baptist their lives grow more complex and tumultuous.
First, as a book, it's really compelling story with well-developed characters and perfect narration. I did find Ana with a few too many of our modern feminist traits but it wasn't "in your face" and every culture and society does have it's outliers. The hang up for many people will be the proposal that Jesus was married. The Bible doesn't say he was or wasn't but it's assumed that he wasn't. Kidd is simply imagining that he might have been. If it's something you think you would have problems with I'd suggest listening to her afterward first where she explains the genesis of the book. I think the whole story was very respectfully done.
I'll say this. It was a nice escape from the craziness that's going on outside right now.
The Last Trial
By Scott Turow, Read By John Bedford Lloyd
I haven't read a Turow book in a bout 20 years. It was book 3 in the Kindle County series and featured the attorney Sandy Stern. This one is book 11 and it's Sandy's last trial before he retires.He's 85 and his last case will be the defense of his friend, Kiril Pafko. Pafko is a Nobel Prize winner and accused of fraud, insider trading and murder (from side effect of his new cancer drug).
I haven't spent any time in courtrooms but I do expect that the tedious courtroom scenes in this book are true to form. The whole book is kind of pointless. There's not much personal conflict, no romance, no real character development or revelations. the whole thing wraps up making me believe that justice is completely pointless.
The Giver of Stars
By Jojo Moyes, Read by Julia Whalen
It was fun to be listening to this book while we were hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, in the Southern region of the Appalachian Mountains. The book tells a story of the real packhorse libraries of Kentucky
By Stephen Fry, Read By Stephen Fry
In this case the author narrating the book was perfect! Of course, he's an actor so he would make a great narrator.
I love the Greek myths and Fry's telling of them is the best presentation I've read so far. For some reason I was able to (finally) follow the stories and Gods from Chaos to the Premordials to the Titans and then the Olympians. He's a great storyteller and I look forward to reading Heroes, the second book that covers the Olympians and the mortal heroes. If you like the Greek myths you will enjoy this book. If you think you might want to learn about the Greek myths this is a great place to start.
By Esi Edugyan, Read By Dion Graham
This is the fictional story of George Washington Black (Wash). Wash was born a slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados. We meet him at the age of 10 when he is put in the path of the brother of the plantation manager, Christopher Wilde (Titch). The timeframe is 1840's - 1850's and it's not about American slavery. Titch takes Wash to be his manservant and assistant in building a hot air balloon. Titch teaches Wash to read and write and discovers that he has great artistic talent and capacity for learning.
Wash's life goes from Barbados to Virginia to the Artic to Nova Scotia to London to Morocco. It ends in an African dessert where he is reunited with his benefactor.
While I love Din Graham I felt htat his voice was too mature and deep for a 10 year old boy growing into a young man. There were many times during the book that I had to remind myself of Wash's age because the narration made me think he was a mature man.
I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. It has universal rave reviews and I was really into it for the first half but I started losing interest near the end. His story, to me, was told as a series of stops on a train and in the end I was just in a hurry to get to the end.
Lockdown continues to provide me with a lot of reading time. Rainy days on vacation kept my reading spree going. All in all it was a good book month. In non-fiction I loved The Mastermind and Catch and Kill. Both are really worthwhile reads. I was really happy to read another Department Q book, Victim 2117 but my very favorite book of the month is The Book of Lost Friends.
What recommendations do you have for me this month?
Apprentice Scarlet City
By Rebecca Gable, Read By a huge cast of B actors
This is an Audible original production of a book written in the 1950's and it's the first part of a trilogy. I could see where this book might have been one of the forerunners of the historical fiction genre. It was probably great in it's time but today's readers require a lot more historical accuracy.
The story centers around Jonah Durham, a young apprentice to his uncle's fabric trade. Through a whole lot of luck and unbelievable inheritance, he becomes a very rich merchant.
What really destroys this book is the production. Sometimes there's background music behind the narrator (annoying) and sometimes not (better). The background to everything else is either steps, door opening, revelry or nature sounds. Except for one time when there's a baby cooing as the Queen is doing business. You can be sure that would never have happened! The royals barely saw their children! I found it all extremely distracting. There's one kissing scene where the kissing sounds are hilarious! Imagine recording yourself kissing your hand loudly. The book would have been much better with a straight forward narration by one of Audible's great narrators and leave out the sound production by the local high school arts department.
By Evan Ratliff, Read By Evan Ratliff
My friend Kristen recommended this book last month and she did not go wrong. It's the fascinating story of the Justice Department's quest to bring down Paul LeRoux, the creator of a world-wide internet based pharmacy business. He also developed one of the world's best encryption program.
It's really well researched and you get a peek into the ruthlessness and corruption of LeRoux and into the pettiness that exists among people in all organizations (apparently, especially the government). It's very well documented and an interesting book. Once again, though, I will say that authors should not narrate their own books! On a 5 point scale, he's a 3 and that made it a little harder to get into at the beginning.
Victim 2117 - A Department Q Novel
By Jussi Adler-Olsen, Read By Graeme Malcolm
It's been 3 years since we've had a new Department Q novel but it was worth the wait. This series is set in Copenhagen and revolved around Detective Carl Morck. In the first book we learn how Carl would up in the basement as a department of one investigating cold cases. He's eventually joined by Rose, Assad and Carl.
In this book Assad has to revisit horrors of his past in the Middle East while Rose and Carl are trying to find a reclusive teen who is using Victim 2117 as his call to implement his own murderous plan. The two cases are tied through this victim.
These are the perfect books for audio because some of the makes seem to be hard to pronounce. For me it's easier to have someone else do that for me! It's good to read these in order because story lines carry through the series. Great writing, character development and story lines. I wish they came out more often.
By Ruth Downie, Read By Simon Vance
This is the 6th book in The Roman Empire series. The medicus, Ruso and his wife, Tilla, are the focus of the series. In this one they are in Britannia at the borderlands during the building of Hadrian's Wall. Ruso's clerk goes missing and a local boy says he saw a body being hidden in the wall.
I really enjoy this series. A lot of the characters carry through the series and you see as their opportunities and fortunes change over time. It's really well written and well narrated.
The Huguenot Chronicles
By Paul CR Monk, Read By David Pickering
After reading Tabula Rosa I got to thinking about some of the great historical fiction books that I've read, like those from Michener, Follett and Rutherford. I wanted to find another. I sometimes search for book by going to Amazon and looking up a book or author that I love and then looking at what Amazon says that other people bought. That's how I found these books which were available on Audible for 1 credit.
This is the story of a Huguenot Protestant family during the reign of Louis XIV. Jeanne and Jacob refused to convert and had their properties and children taken away and ultimately had to leave France separately. Jacob had been arrested and was indentured to a ship heading for the Caribbean. Jeanne had to sneak out of France and found her first refuge in Geneva. The children were taken in by her sister who did convert.
It's the story of their years apart trying to survive. The story sends them to the Caribbean, London, colonial New York and London. It's not the best written book ever but I have never read much about this time in history so it was a nice change from the usual English historical fiction.
By Anne Edwards, Read By Corrie James
The title of this book is quite misleading. It's really a history of the royal family during her time as a member of the family. If you took out everything was wasn't specific to her, you would have a short story.
I don't mean to criticize the Queen. I actually really admire her stoicism and commitment to the family and Great Britain. It's just that I've ready plenty of books about Edward's abdication, Great Britain during WWII and Elizabeth's reign. I didn't know much about King George V so that part was interesting but once the book was on to Edward and the abdication it wasn't as interesting aside from her willingness and ability to sever ties with her son.
By Barry Eisler, Read By Barry Eisler
This is the 7th in the John Rain series but the first one that I have read. I thought this was going to be another series like the Mitch Rapp series that I like so much. But I'm not really drawn to this character or the writing.
Rain is a hired assassin and has been tracked down in Tokyo bu his former black ops commander. He's convinced to take on one more assignment and he brings in three other operatives to work with him. That assignment turns out to be a set up and eventually they set u=out for revenge.
I don't really know why this book didn't work for me but I was happy for it to end and I wasn't particularly attached to any of the characters. That said, the John Rain books are wildy popular so if you like this genre you should at last try one of them.
By John Sandford, Read By Richard Ferrone
I was so happy when this book came off hold at the library just as we were leaving for vacation. I would have one of my favorite authors to listen to while hanging at the beach. I can't believe that I'm saying this about a Sandford book but this one was a disappointment. Maybe at 30 books in the Davenport series, the character is just getting harder to write. Davenport isn't young anymore but he's becoming more vigilante as he gets older and that just doesn't seem right.
In this book Davenport is called to DC to investigate a neo-Nazi website that is targeting children of political figures. No actual crime has been committed as there's no threat so they call in Davenport to investigate "off the books".
One of the things that really bothered me about this book are the strong hackneyed political messages. There's no original thought or conflict of beliefs. It's just the same drivel that we hear in the news every day. It was annoying and the plot and resolution was very predictable. I'm thinking that maybe he isn't actually writing his books anymore. I'll see how the next Virgil Flowers is this fall before I decide if I'm done with these series.
A Reasonable Doubt
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the 3rd in the Robin Lockwood series. Mom and I picked this one to listen to as we drove to and from the beach. At 7 hours it was the perfect length and we both love mysteries.
Lockwood is a defense attorney in Portland, OR and has recently become partner (after a very short time) in the firm. The previous partner, Regina Barrister, has retired due to early onset dementia. In this book, one of Regina's previous clients, a magician, is back. Previously he was acquitted of murder and attempted murder. Now he debuting a new illusion and wants it patented. (Ridiculous) But he's also a bit of a scammer and has built up quite a list of enemies. The story takes place in 3 different time frames and Regina is back in at times to have miraculous bursts of clear memory.
For a short book this one is way too convoluted and has way too many characters. Plus our heroine Robin, is another typically too strong and independent so she's always at risk of ruining a great relationship and putting her life in danger. She really isn't all that bright.
The Optimal Dose
By Judson Somerville
I read a paper copy of this book while on vacation. My doctor has been prescribing Vitamin D3 (actually a hormone, not a vitamin) for a few years as an immune system boost. It must be working because I haven't had a cold since. But I'd been reading some of the studies linking Vitamin D levels to COVID recovery and I decided that I wanted to read further.
This isn't a very long book. I read the whole thing in a few hours but it was fascinating. Dr. Somerville started researching Vitamin D3 when he was try to solve his own and his patients sleeping problems. He knew that if he could resolve sleeping issues that many other human ailments (pain, fatigue, weight control) could be improved. What he discovered is that the recommended doses that we take are much lower than the optimal dose that we need. It was a fascinating read and a good first step into researching Vitamin D3 benefits and dosing.
People who might be interested in reading this include people with chronic sleep issues, metabolic disease and people who seem to catch every cold and flu that they come in contact with.
The Book of Lost Friends
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Sophie Amoss, Bahni Turpin and others
Before I talk about this lovely book I just want to mention that Bahni Turpin is one of the BEST narrators. When she narrates a character you really feel that it's the actual character talking.She's one of the few narrators that I will actually search for books that she's narrated. All the narrators in this one are very good.
I read my first Lisa Wingate book, Before We Were Yours, last year and I loved it. This one is no exception. You can tell that when a story grabs her that she dives in very deep to thoroughly research every aspect of the story.
The Book of Lost Friends is based on a feature in the Southwestern Christian Advocate that was published in New Orleans after the Civil War. It carried a Lost Friends column that ran until early 1900's where notices were posted by people looking for friends and relatives lost during slavery.
In 1875 there are three women on a dangerous quest leaving Louisiana for Texas. One is a freed slave, one is heiress to a bankrupt plantation and the other is the Creole half sister of the heiress.
In 1987 a young teacher arrives in Louisiana to teach English at a poor school as a means to pay off her school debt. She's trying to get her students interested in reading and discovers an abandoned library at the nearby vacant plantation home. She gets permission to look for books and finds some amazing documents that helps tell the stories the 3 young women.
Lisa Wingate can write! It's a wonderful book.
Catch and Kill
Written and read by Ronan Farrow
Well, at least there's one real journalist left in the world! I knew the Farrow had helped expose Harvey Weinstein but I had no idea how difficult, and sometimes dangerous, the process was. He was blocked by NBC and friends of Weinstein and he was even followed by spies.
Most of the book is about the Weinstein investigation but the real underlying story is about how the media covers for powerful people. I could not put this book down.
A whole month of quarantine means a whole lot of reading! I finished 14 books this month and like always, some are winners and some are duds.
I loved both non-fiction books: Capitalism vs Socialism and Cured. In fiction my favorites were The Rosie Project, Cleopatra's Daughter, The Gown and Redemption Point.
Are you also getting in a lot of extra reading these days? What can you recommend to us this month?
The Perfect Alibi
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the second book in the Robin Lockwood series. I read the first one last month and put this one on hold. The app said I would get it in about 4 weeks and it was available 3 days later! That's one of the downfalls of books from the library, you have to read them when you get them.
Robin Lockwood is not the lead attorney in a prestigious small law firm since the managing partner has taken medical leave for early Alzheimers. Robin is now on her own. In this book she is representing a rape victim in a civil lawsuit and defending another client against a murder charge that should be self-defense. The cases might be linked.
The book is shorter than my usual 10 hour minimum but I'll take that for a Margolin book. The plot seems plausible and the cases are complex. It was a fun read.
I've put the 3rd one on hold with a wait time of 9 weeks. But I'm sure I'll get it sooner since all of us readers are devouring books during our world-wide lockdown.
The Great Courses: Capitalism vs. Socialism
BY Professor Edward Stuart
I love the Great Courses and this one did not disappoint. I starts with good background on the economic philosophers (Adams, Keynes, Marx, Friedman) and then takes you on a tour of world economies that have followed or follows some form of capitalism or socialism and the consequences of each.
It's very interesting and, I believe, the most unbiased presentation of economic theories that we could possibly as for.
By Michelle Moran, Read By Wanda McCaddon
Michelle Moran has a real talent for taking a bare bones structure of events and building it into a complete story. The first book I read of her's was Madame Tussaud and it was outstanding. This one was very good too.
Little is known about the daughter of Cleopatra, Cleopatra Selene, other than she was taken to Rome, raised by Octavia and eventually married to Juba and made Queen of Mauretania. Moran fills in a colorful story of Cleopatra Selene's life. The characters are well developed but it's not suspenseful, it's just the story of a girl's life but I enjoyed it.
A Duty to Defend
By Charles Todd, Read By Rosalyn Landor
This is the 1st book in the Bess Crawford series. It's set in WWI and Bess is a nurse. One of her patients (on his deathbed) asked her to deliver a message to his brother. Shortly after she is on a shop that's sunk by a mine and she has a broken arm. During her recovery she decided to head off to this soldier's home to deliver the message and there the mystery begins.
Todd has another series set in WWI based on an Inspector, Ian Rutledge, who has shell shock. Neither of them are really doing anything for me. This book was good but so much of what she did seemed so way out of character for a woman of that time.
Big Lies in a Small Town
By Diane Chamberlain, Read by Susan Bennett
In 2018, Morgan Christopher is in jail for a crime that she didn't commit. She is surprisingly paroled with an offer to restore an old post office mural in Edenton, NC. The mural was painted by artist, Anna Daly in 1940 who won a national contest to paint the mural. The mural was never hung but a local artist had it his will calls for the mural to be restored by Christopher and completed by a specific date.
The book goes back and forth in time to tell both Anna and Morgan's stories. It's well written and has the expected theme of Southern racism and prejudice against people who are "different" in general.
This is the second book I've read from Chamberlain. She's great at character development and immersing her reader into the story. I find the plots a little predictable (in this one it was a lot predictable) and tired. But I like the characters enough that I'm willing to stick it out with them.
By Jeffrey Rediger, Read by Jeffrey Rediger
I am very interested in some medical topics and especially about the inner-workings of the human body and our ability to heal ourselves. The best book I've read on the topic is Cure by Jo Marchant. It was so good that I read it twice back to back.
This book is, in theory, a great follow up to Cure as it delves deeper into some of the aspects of self-healing that were introduced in Cure. It's full of great information but you are going to have to do some work to get through it.
I think that Dr. Rediger is a control freak because he desperately needed to turn this book over to a professional editor and professional narrator. His narration and the production quality is awful. Th ebook is a little choppy and there are probably too many personal anecdotes.
All that said, it was full of really valuable information and planted some ideas to explore. It was worth tolerating the performance to get the information.
By Dervla McTiernan,Read By Aoife McMahon
This sis the second book in the Cormac Reilly series. I read the first one, The Ruin, last month and this one became available at the library pretty quickly. In this one Reilly's girlfriend, Emma, is a researcher at Galway University and discovers the body of a dead girl near campus. Reilly winds up on the case simply because Emma called him first. He's still personal non grata in his squad. The girl carries the ID of Carline Darcy, the granddaughter of Darcy Therapeutics and the sponsor of Emma's research.
Like the first novel, I have mixed feelings. It's a good plot but everyone has a side grievance or secret story and it gets difficult to track. But I loved listening to the Irish lilt of the narrator.
The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion, Read By Dan O'Grady
As the quarantine was starting and friend and I exchanged book recommendations. She recommended this one and a book called Year Zero by Rob Reid. I got about 2 hours into Year Zero and I just couldn't take it anymore. There was nothing funny about it. I texted her to give her a hard time about it and she said that she had given up on the book too. After listening to The Rosie Project I've reinstated her book recommendation rights. What a cute and funny book.
Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who can easily be imagined at Sheldon Cooper. He had very bad luck with dating and has decided to set out to find a mate with some very rigid criteria and so begins The Wife Project. Rosie Jarman is a smoker and bartender and is always late for everything. She's not wife material but he agrees to help her with The Father Project. You can guess how it ends. It's enjoyable and funny. I'm not inclined to read any of the other books int he series because I don't see these 2 characters making a sequel not that I know their personalities. It's easy enough to see how it would play out.
By Jennifer Robson, Read By Marisa Calin
In 1947 in London the designer Norman Hartnell was commissioned to make Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown. This story uses that as a backdrop for the story of the embroiders who worked on the gown. It follows them through that year and then 40 years later when one of the women dies in Toronto and her granddaughter finds some lace samples.
It's a really nice story with very well developed characters. The pace was good and the transition between times was handled very well. I will definitely look for other books by Robson.
By Linwood Barclay, Read By Quincy Dunn Baker and Brian O'Neil
This is the first book in a trilogy set in the town of Promise Falls, NY. It's supposed to be a mystery. David Harwood and his 11 year old son ahve moved back into his parent's home in PF. One day his cousin Marla is found to have a baby and there's a spot of blood on the front door of Marla's house. Instead of calling the police he gets Marla in the car to find the baby's home (from a convenient piece of paper in the baby's stroller with the address). At the home they discover the mother dead in the house.
I like Barclay's books but I did not get this one. The hapless characters were so absurd and cliche (police detective is obsessed with donuts, super sleezy politician, hard ass bitchy female hospital administrator) that it felt more like a Carl Hiassen book than a serious mystery, except that Hiassen is a better writer. The mystery was really easy to figure out so the rest of the book was just hopping around several unrelated and unresolved story lines that are lead ins to the second and third books. It's been a long time since I've rolled my eyes as much as I did while listening to this book.
By Candace Fox, Read By Euan Morton
This is the second in the Crimson Point series set in Australia. You have to read this series in order so read Crimson Point first where Ted Concaffee and Amanda Pharrell are first introduced. Ted is a former police officer who was wrongly convicted of abducting and raping a young girl. He's out of prison and trying to get his life back together. Amanda is a convicted murderer from when she was in school. They are both trying to get their lives back together and their shared attorney put them together to do private investigations. In this book they are continuing to investigate the crime Ted was accused of but they have also been hired to investigate 2 murders at a local bar.
I'm really enjoying this series and I liked the second book even better than the first. The bonus to this is the lovely Aussie narration by Euan Morton. I'm looking forward to the 3rd book in the series.
By Jacqueline Winspear, Read By Rita Barrington
This is the 1st book in the Maisie Dobbs detective series. The story is set before, during and after WWI. At 13 Maisie get a job in service at a manor house. She gets up early in the morning to sneak into the library to study the books. One day the mistress of the house finds her studying Latin with a private tutor. The book actually opens 10 years later, in 1929, when she is starting her own detective agency and getting her first case.
It's an interesting story but I hated the way it was told. About 1/3 through the book the investigation story ends abruptly and we are transported to 1910 when she gets that job and we then follow her through the war for about another 3rd of the book and just as suddenly we are back on the investigation. It's seriously like 2 shorter stories smashed together in one book. Maybe that transition works better in print but I found it all too jarring. The mystery isn't much of a mystery but it's an interesting perspective on the ravages of war. I doubt I'll read any more in this series.
A Week In Winter
By Maeve Binchy, Read By Rosalyn Landor
I can't remember how I came across this book but I'm thinking that it might have been one of your blogs. I like finding new books from other's book reviews.
This story is set in the west of Ireland on the coast. Chicky Starr has returned from America to remodel an old dilapidated mansion into a B&B. The story is focused on each character that works at the B&B and the guests that arrive for the opening week: a week in winter. It comes across more as a group of short stories. Each character's life is told in turns and we find out what bad decisions/luck/events have brought them to Stone House. Each character's story ends just after they arrive at Stone House and their personal dilemma is resolved. So it's really not about the week at all. While the characters interact, it's not a story about that week, the house or the local area. It's 80% about the background of each of these characters.
It's an light and easy read. Not a lot of pain or drama. It actually reminded me of that old TV show, Fantasy Island. Take Fantasy Island and put it on the Hallmark Channel and you have this book.
By Brina Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Read By Ray Porter
This is the 5th book in the Tier One series. Ember is like a secret version of the Navy SEALs and John Dempsey is the mission leader. They vanquished their Islamic enemies in the last book so this time they are focused squarely on Russia and the Russian equivalent of Ember, called Zeta.
There's a lot of tough talk, secret nicknames, magical technology and killing. Everyone has personal demons that they manage by getting themselves into impossible situations. Lots of action, adventure and blood. My one complaint is that there seems to be more and more macho conversation and magical survival and less and less actual strategy and zero questioning of collateral damage. The books are getting a little too formulaic for me.
Many of us have lost a lot of money (maybe only on paper so far) over the past month but we have gained a lot of time. Time is something that I am obsessed over. I constantly think about how I use my time. I'm absolutely obsessed with not wasting time. With no appointments, meetings or social engagements I have a lot more time and that means I'm doing a lot more reading while quilting, sewing and creating. I'm enjoying this time and trying to be positive about it and take full advantage of it.
To that end, I read 15 books in March. That's a record! My favorites were the first and last books that I read in March. The most important book that I read is Unaccountable.
I know you have been doing a lot of reading too. I'd love to hear you favorites of the month. Chris reads fantasy and SciFi so if you have any recommendations in that category that would be awesome.
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Robert Duboni
I've been seeing lots of recommendations to read this book and I finally decided to give it a try. I avoided it for a long time for 2 reasons. First, it's narrated by the author and second, he's a mystery writer so I wan't sure how he would be as a fiction writer. My worries on both fronts were unfounded.
This is a beautiful coming-of-age story about a boy born with ocular albinism which means that his eyes are red. His name is Sam Hill but the lighter side of the bullying he experiences is being called Sam Hell. If you do not like books with spiritual/religious undertones you will not like this book. But while faith is a big part of this book the story is so much more than that. It's about the struggles of life that everyone experiences and it's about the loss and recovery of faith, prejudice and racism. It's a special book.
By Candice Fox, Read By Euan Morton
I think I've found a new mystery series!
Sydney Police Detective Ted Conkaffey was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it ruined his life. He was accused of abducting a 13-year old girl. He wasn't convicted by the legal system but certainly by the public. He relocates to the remote area of Crimson Lake and is introduced to Private Investigator Amanda Pharrell, a convicted murderer.
She and Ted join forces to find missing author John Scully. As they investigate their own identities complicate the matter.
It was a good and unique story and there's nothing wrong with a book narrated with an Aussie accent.
By Ben Coes, Read by Ari Fliakos
Last month I talked about how tired the Walt Longmire series is getting. There's no real advancement of the characters as Walt ages out. Well, Ben Coes gets the importance of moving his characters along. It was clear in the last book (Bloody Sunday) that Dewey Andreas might be starting to wind down his career. One character that has shown up frequently in the books is Rob Tacoma, a former Navy SEAL and now an independent contractor.
This book is the first in the Tacoma series as he's hired by the CIA to avenge the deaths of two high-profile politicians who were assassinated by the Russian mafia. Like the Andreas books, it's action packed and we even get a visit from Dewey. Also, the narration is excellent.
It's not quite 10 hours (my minimum for buying a book) but it was available at my library. I'm glad I got it.
By Marty Makary, Read by Robertson Dean
I'm very fortunate to have found a GP who is very interested in a holistic approach to medicine. She researches and recommends treatments beyond traditional pharmaceuticals. She's also big on her patients learning and researching on their own and one of the things she recommended to me was the Podcast Peter Attia The Drive. Attia is an interesting and very smart person and he's hard to take in large doses. He is singularly obsessed with longevity and seems to rate longevity over living most days. I wouldn't have wanted him as my Dad or spouse. But some of his podcasts are really interesting and relevant to me so I pick and choose the ones that I want to follow.
One of his guests was Dr. Marty Makary and he was there to talk about this book. He's a surgeon who has worked in several of the best hospitals in the US. He set out to figure out why error rates and costs haven't down in the past 10 years and find the root cause to be the complete lack of transparency in the industry, especially with hospitals and surgeons.
One of the interesting things that they discussed in the podcast was free market medicine vs. socialized medicine. Makary believe that under socialized medicine that initially costs would go down considerably but that in the long run we would end up with something less than what we have today because cost containment would rule and thereby lead to massive rationing. His perspective was more thoughtful than my one sentence so I recommend listening to it. It made me think more deeply about my own opinion on the subject.
The book, however, deals solely with the lack of transparency in medical care and it's eye opening. This is one of those books that everyone should read but you should especially read it if you have a medical condition that might lead to surgery anytime in the near future. Some research beforehand would probably benefit you greatly.
Hum Little Bridie
By Jonathan Fredrick, Read By Ari Fliakos
This sis the second boon in the Cain City series. The series is set in a down and out town in West Virginia on the Ohio border. Cain City seems to be finally turning the corner and there's river development planned. Nick Malick is a private investigator working a case that is starting to involve two gangs and the power brokers of the city. At the center is Birdie, a young mother that Malick is trying to help leave her life of prostitution so that she can get her daughter back.
It's been 2 years since I read the first book in this series and I forgot how much I liked it. Fredrick puts you right in the middle of the seedy side of this town with well developed characters and environs. I hope there is a third int he series and that it doesn't take 2 more years to get it.
By Monica Hesse, Read By Tanya Ebe
This is a short book (only 7 hours) and I only picked it up because it was about events in Virginia. The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a very unique place that is still quite rural and has an agricultural economy. It's littered with abandoned houses, sheds and barns.
Between November 2012 and April 2013, Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick went on an arson spree and burned nearly 80 structures.
This book chronicles the events and the people (including fire fighters and investigators) involved.It took some work to get it to extend to 7 hours. There's even a chapter on historical crime couples like Bonnie and Clyde that really isn't relevant to this story. If you are from Virginia or have vacationed in the Eastern Shore or like arson stories you might like this book. But you could just Google Charlie and Tonya and get all the information that you need.
City of the Lost
By Kelley Armstrong, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the 1st book in the Casey Duncan/Rockton Series. Casey murdered someone in her past and now she's told one too many therapists (why would you tell any of them is the logical question) and the victim's family is out to get her. Her best friend, Diana, is having trouble with an abusive boyfriend. They find out about a place where they can relocate and disappear forever.
Rockton is a place in the middle of nowhere Canada and it's where people go to escape forever and start over. Once there, Casey learns that her investigative services are needed to help resolve a recent murder. Yes, it's kind of a ridiculous plot. But it's not a horrible book. It's got action, killers, cops, romance and a few twists. It's not my favorite police procedural but I'm going to give the series a try and reserve the second one at the library.
Murder at Half Moon Gate
By Andrea Penrose, Read By James Cameron Stewart
I read the 1st book in this series last month and liked it enough to read another. These are fun murder mysteries set in Regency England. Wrexford is and Earl who is interested in science, not society and Sloane is a widow who took over her late husband's career of producing satire cartoons. She's "adopted" two street urchins, Raven and Hawk, who help her gather information and are instrumental in their crime investigations.
If you like the Anne Perry books you will like these. Good character development and witty dialogue. Raven and Hawk are great characters and add a lot of fun to the story. In this one a genius inventor is murdered. He's suspected of having invented a new steam-powered engine that will revolutionize transportation. Lots of other people would be interested in the patent for that.
A Cold Trail
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Emily Sutton-Smith
This is the 7th book in the Tracey Crosswhite series. If you aren't familiar with these books I recommend reading them in order. There are many references to previous books.
Tracey and her husband, Dan, are back in their home town of Cedar Grove while their Seattle home is being remodeled. Dan is an attorney and has agreed to help a local merchant sew the city for trying to take away his business. They are new parents and Tracey is struggling with balancing her identities of mother and detective. While in Cedar Grove she gets involved in a cold case murder. It turns out that both efforts might be related.
It's a good story but wasn't my favorite but I think the new mother angles will be interesting to most.
The Great Quake
By Henry Fountain, Rad By Robert Fass
The biggest earthquake in US history was the Alaska quake that happened March 27, 1964. It was a magnitude 9.2 and fortunately happened in a sparsely populated place. It killed 130 people and destroyed the lower half of the state.
But out of that came a lot of our knowledge of plate tectonics, tidal waves and the behavior of different soil during earthquakes. It's an interesting book but a lot of the content is about the people impacted by the earthquake and the scientists researching the aftermath. It especially gives a clear picture of how LITTLE we still know about the science.
The Third Victim
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
Phillip Margolin is my favorite legal/procedural mystery writer and has been for a long time. He is probably the author that got me into the genre with his masterpiece, Gone But Not Forgotten. I didn't know who did it in that book until that last page. He is a master at writing a mystery puzzle.
I haven't read him in a while because is books are generally shorter than my 10 hour minimum for purchasing on Audible but I noticed that my library carries them and I was excited to start this new series.
Our heroine, Robin Lockwood, is a young lawyer who's just gotten her dream job with the best defense attorney in Oregon. She is immediately assigned second chair in the defense of Alex Mason. Mason is accused of murdering 2 women and attempted murder of a third. It's the third victim who has identified him. Adding to the complexity is the fact that Robin's boss is acting a little strange and seems to be forgetting things.
There's a bonus at the end of the audio version with an interview with Margolin. I've already got the second book on hold but I probably should read Gone But Not Forgotten again just for fun.
By Dervla McTiernan, Read By Aoife McMahon
This is a debut novel set in Galway, Ireland. Twenty years ago Cormac Reilly was a new detective and was sent on a call where he discovered the dead body of Hilaria Blake in her dilapidated house. He took her 2 orphan children to the hospital where Maude disappeared and young Jack was put in foster care. Nothing else happened with the case.
Twenty years later Jack is found dead and it's ruled a suicide. His sister, Maude, who has just returned to Ireland from Australia, doesn't believe that it's suicide. Neither does Jack's girlfriend, surgeon Aisling Conroy.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It's a good story but there are so many subplots, twists and side stories that at times it's hard to track. It takes a little work to get through it. There's a great deal of suffering and pain all through the book. Everyone has skeletons trying to escape closets and it's a lot of work to keep the closet doors shut.
The narration was great. I do love a good Irish accent. I'll give the second one a try.
The Echo Killing
By Christi Daugherty
This is the 1st book is a series featuring crime reporter Harper McClain. It's set in Savannah GA and Harper works the night desk at the local paper covering the local crime beat. One day there's a murder of a mother that echos the murder of her own mother 15 years ago. Harper feels that she needs to investigate it herself because the lead detective seems to be purposely stalling. What follows is a series of stupid/illegal actions on her part to find the real killer.
I did not love this book. I didn't feel like most of the characters were well developed, especially the lead detective. Harper makes a lot of immature decisions so she's annoying. But the worst part is that I knew from early in the book who did it and if it's that easy it simply isn't a good mystery. I'm usually terrible at figuring out the culprit so if I knew then it wasn't much of a mystery.
The narration is really slow but speeding up the app fixed that. I don't think I'll continue with this series.
A Darkness Absolute
By Kelley Armstrong
This is the second in the Rockton series that I started earlier this month. I usually don't like to read sequels so soon. When I put this one on hold at the library is said I would get it in about 4 weeks. I think we readers are going through a lot of books during the quarantine so this one was available in about a week.
Rockton is the town where people can escape to if they need to get away from their "real" lives. In this one Casey and the sheriff's deputy, Will, get lost in the forest and stumble on a woman trapped in a cave. It's a Rockton resident that's been missing over a year.
In this area there are town people and 2 groups of people that live in the forest so that leaves a lot of room for distrust and mystery antagonists. Every person in the book seems to have an agenda and, therefore, they can always act out of character. The romance between the sheriff and Casey is a lot like a teen love story to me.
I said after the last one that I was unsure about this series. The books have GREAT reviews on Audible but they just don't speak to me.
When Time Stopped
By Ariana Beumann, Read By Rebecca Lowman
What a great book to end the month with. I wasn't sure that I was ready to read this book because it's a memoir of her father's experiences as a Jew in Nazi Germany. Her father eventually emigrated to Venezuela where she was raised never knowing her Jewish heritage.Later in her father's life she was able to start putting the story together and when he died he left her a box of letters and memorabilia that helped her research.
It's a really beautiful and lovingly told story and is was good to remind me that the times we are in aren't the worst.
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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.