I started off 2023 with 10 books this month and only one DNF book. I took a trip down audiobook memory lane by re-listening to one of my earliest audiobooks, The Razor's Edge. I read it so long ago that I didn't remember any of it. I can barely remember what I read last week so that wasn't a surprise. I remember liking W. Somerset Maugham and I enjoyed it the second time around.
I don't have any strong favorites and I don't have any strong dislikes. It was a good month of reading and it's all fiction this month. Maybe you will find something intriguing on this list for your next read. I hope you will leave me some suggestions of books that you have enjoyed this month.
The War of Jenkins' Ear by Robert Gaudi - This one is for hard core historians. It didn't hold my interest.
Their Last Secret
By Rick Mofina, Read By Jennifer Jill Araya
This is the second book by Mofina that I've read and this one was better than the last. It's an interesting plot.
20 years ago Janie Klassen and 2 friend were involved in the brutal murder of a wealthy family in a town in Canada.
Now she's a school counselor in California and recently married to a popular crime writer. She finds a note on her car referencing the 20th anniversary. She's being followed and her husband has, unknowingly, decided that his next book will be about the murders in her town.
It's not a gripping "mystery" because there's not much of a mystery there but it's got enough drama and an interesting premise.
By Jason Pinter, Read By Angela Dawe
This is the 1st book in a new-to-me series. Rachel is a single mother of 2 young children who leads a quiet suburban life. No one suspects the tragedy that hit her family several years ago.
In her new life a former mayor is found dead on a frozen river. Everyone thinks that she killed herself but Rachel has done the math and knows that's impossible. She butts into the investigation and now the killer and the investigators aren't happy with her.
It's a very fast-paced investigative novel. I'd read more in this series for sure.
By Stuart Woods, Ready By Tony Roberts
I picked this book because Mom and I needed a 6 hour read for a day trip. This one fit the bill. This is the 62nd (!) book in the Stone Barrington series. I read some of this series several years ago.
Stone Barrington is a lawyer and has a new client. She's the extremely wealthy aunt of his assistant. Stone is helping her write a new will and set up a trust for her step-son. The step-son is spoiled, irresponsible and threatening to his step-mother.
It was a fast paced read that was great for a car ride. With the short length the plot could only get so complex but we both enjoyed it.
By Alice Feeney, Read By Stephanie Racine
Daisy Darker and her family have been estranged for years but the matriarch has asked everyone to come home for her 80th birthday. The homeplace is on a tidal land that is cut off from the mainland except during low tide. At midnight Nana is found dead in the kitchen. An hour later another family member is found dead. It's 6 hours until the tide recedes and everyone can get off the island.
I can't give away the plot twist but I will say that it has a big twist that would normally be a turn-off for me in a book. But I actually enjoyed this book. The whole thing takes place over about 6 hours and I couldn't put it down. It's a very "not me" book but shows that we need to try different books from time to time.
The Family Remains
By Lisa Jewell, Read by a cast
Lisa Jewell dreams up some really messed up family situations. In fact, I'd say she's an expert at the dysfunctional family novel. They are part mystery and part messed up family dynamics.
This one is a sequel to The Family Upstairs and I do recommend reading them in order. Unfortunately I read the first one 2 years ago and forgot bits of it. It eventually all came back to me as I was reading this one.
The bones of a missing woman are found on the shores of the Thames. She's been missing about 30 years and she was connected to a house where 3 people were found dead in an apparent cult suicide pact around the same time and the girl went missing. Got all that?
That house remained vacant for 25 year until the heir, an infant at the time, is found and can inherit it. So this book is about wrapping up the stories of the children from the first book. Then there's a separate storyline that seems really random until near the end and, when it comes together you kind of wonder what the purpose of all that was.
I was totally sucked into the book and finished it pretty quickly but once it was over I was a little perplexed by it all. If you like Lisa Jewell, it's pretty classic Lisa Jewell just a little more unhinged in my opinion.
The Razor's Edge
By W. Somerset Maugham, Read By Michael Page
I first started listening to audiobooks in the late 1980's when I was commuting to DC from Norfolk weekly. Back then they were cassette tapes and came in the mail in cardboard boxes. I remember when they switched to CDs and they had a big sale on the cassette versions. I bought tons of them really cheap and that kept me in books for months.
At first there wasn't the kind of extensive catalog that Audible has now so I got to read a lot of classics and one writer that I really enjoyed was W. Somerset Maugham. The Razor's Edge popped up somewhere recently and I decided to give it another listen. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
This book was first published in 1942 and is set in the time right after WWI and before WWII. Larry Darrell served in the war and returned a changed man. He's engaged to the beautiful Isabel but he can't seem to settle down. There are too many questions in his mind and it sends him to Paris to study philosophy, to an Ashram, a monastery and to work in a coal mine. Meanwhile we also follow the life of Isabel without Larry.
An interesting aspect of this book is that it's told from the POV of a third party. That, in itself, isn't unique but the third party is Maugham himself. It's a good read.
If you want to go down an interesting rabbit hole check out this obituary of Duvall Hecht, the founder of Books on Tape. Writing this review made me wonder how Books on Tape started. I'm glad I followed that thread. Hecht was a very interesting man.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #17 in the Cork O'Connor series. If you would like a book that it told in the age we live in but isn't overridden by the author's politics then this is the book for you. Are you cynical about government? Don't believe much of anything you hear? Someone who believes that right will win in the end? Any and all of you will be happy with this one.
A progressive Senator representing the area is flying in to speak at a local meeting. Her plane crashes and everyone aboard is killed. A surprising array of alphabet agencies descend on Aurora to figure out what went wrong.
Stephen, Cork's son, sees visions and they generally aren't pleasant. Several books back he saw a vision of his own mother's death. This story starts out with another of his visions and it seems related to the plane crash.
These books are fast paced and a fun read/listen.
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
By Jennifer Ryan, Read by Sophie Robert
This book came to me as a recommendation from Carole. I'd call it a mix of historical fiction and light romance and it was a good read for me when I needed something light but interesting.
It's WWII and Cressida Westcott has lost her home and fashion design business in the blitz. She has no option but to return to her family home that's now occupied by her nephew and niece, Violet Westcott. Violet is a debutante solely focused on finding an appropriate husband from the dwindling supply. The third main character is Grace Carlisle. She's the vicar's daughter and is trying to repair her mother's badly-damaged wedding dress to wear for her own upcoming nuptials.
These three come together at the local sewing circle where ladies meet to make items for the soldiers and repair/remake clothing for local residents. The group works to repair Grace's dress and get the idea to have a wedding dress exchange for brides that aren't allowed to purchase new dresses during the war. This part of the story is based on actual wedding dress exchanges that occurred during the war and many American women even shipped over their own dresses for the cause.
It was a fun read and a nice break from my usual fare.
The Arsonists' City
By Hala Alyan, Read By Leila Buck
The Nasr family immigrated from Lebanon and all of their children were born in America. The children are now adults and the family is spread from California to Texas, New York and Beirut. Now the patriarch wants to sell the family home in Beirut and all of the family is expected to spend the summer there.
Everyone has secrets and they have all grown apart with the distance. The book is a generational family saga set among real events. I thought that the character development was really well done. You really do get to know the characters and you like them better or less as their lives develop. I really enjoyed the different settings and cultural references.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter
By Hazel Gaynor, Read By Imogen Church
This is a novel based on the life of Grace Darling and while Grace's story is an interesting one I didn't find the re-telling of it to be all that interesting.
The book is meant to be a tribute to Grace and female lightkeepers through history. It features three women, Grace (1838) and Harriett and Matilda (1938). Matilda is a 19 year old pregnant Irish girl who is sent to Rhode Island to live with a relative until her baby is born. Harriett is a lighthouse keeper who lost her 16 year old daughter to a storm several years ago. Grace and a woman she helped save, Sarah Dawson, are real people. Matilda will learn of her connection to Sarah and Grace through a portrait that she find at the Rhode Island lighthouse.
The book explores their connections and their lives as lighthouse keepers. The problem with the book is that all of the characters are the same. All of the women are long-suffering, stare-into-the-distance types who are dedicated to their lighthouses above all else, even the chance for love. You hardly know you are jumping back and forward in time because the storylines are so similar and the women all have the same overriding angst. The men in the book are just supporting cast and all of the characters are kind of flat. Everything was flat, even the scenery. I didn't connect to one character or place and I love the shore and lighthouses. The narration exhausted me. I think Imogen Church narrated the story as it was meant to be portrayed but it was too plodding for me.
What a weird reading month! I don't think I've ever had a month of so many mediocre books. There were 3 books that I liked: Sulfur Springs, Magician of the Gods and The World Played Chess. The Last Queen was mostly interesting and The Murder of Mr. Wickham was silly entertainment. I wish I had skipped the others.
There are only 8 books this month because 1 of them was 30+ hours and another was 15. My total listening hours for December were 5822. That's 97 hours and 2 minutes. The 30 hour book was such a trudge that I think I avoided reading during that period and that really cut down on my book reading time.
My total reading time for the year is 1348 hours and 13 minutes. That's 56 days 4 hours and 2 minutes for the year. Since this is the first year that I've tracked my reading time, I have no idea how it compares to other years. It was just interesting to find out that I spent about 15% of my year listening or reading books. It seems like a fine use of the time and I'm sure that I didn't watch anywhere near this much TV.
Nobody's Child by Susan Vinocour - supposed to be about the history of the insanity defense. Couldn't get past the weak narration and slow start.
I've listened to a lot of Podcasts this year. I especially listened a lot this month as I avoided finishing The Ink Black Heart. Here are some of my favorites:
No Such Thing as Fish - this is our go-to for road trips. It's a British trivia discussion show. Each of the 4 panelists discuss their "fact of the week". It's hilarious.
Bad Bets - Each series tells the story of a faild business. Season 1 is about Enron, Season 2 is about Trevor Milton. I would not be surprised of season 3 is about FTX.
Criminal - Hosted by Phoebe Judge, this is a true crime podcast with a different crime profiled in each episode. Many are very old crimes. The most recent Episode, #203, is a wonderful compilation of animals commiting crimes. It's hilarious. Judge has a beautiful voice and I often listen to these to go to sleep.
This is Love - Another podcast produced by Phoebe Judge. Each episode is a wonderful love story, often profiling people with long relationships.
99% Invisible - A fun and informative series about urban environments and life.
Disgraceland - Profiles notorious and tragic people from the music industry.
Business Wars - History of business rivals. The most recent series is about Honda vs. Toyota
This Is Actually Happening - People tell their individual stories of trauma and survival. It's a hard listen but will make you feel better about the strength of the human spirit. Makes me appreciate that life I've had. Many of the stories are hard to listen to.
Other Interesting True Crime podcasts:
Small Town Dicks
Scoundrel: History's Forgotten Villains
Interesting Health Focused Podcasts if you want to delve into the weeds of healthy living
The Drive with Peter Attia - focused on longevity
Healthy Rebellion Radio
Great podcasts for putting you to sleep:
Nothing Much Happens
Send Me To Sleep
I hope you will share your favorite books and podcasts that you have enjoyed in the month of December. Here's to a great reading year in 2023!
Sulfur Springs (665)
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #16 in the Cork O'Connor series.
One of the things I love about this series is that Krueger keeps things fresh. He's not afraid to kill off a beloved character and he's happy to change venues. Changing venue is what he does in this book.
Cork and Rainey got married in the last installment and they are off to Sulfur Springs, AZ to try to find her son. They received a cryptic message from him that leads them to believe that he is in grave danger. This book takes on the border crisis by bringing together all sides of the issue.
The Hanging Valley (540)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #4 in the Inspector Alan Banks series. I really enjoyed the first 3 books in this series but this one was a slow mover for me.
In this beautiful English valley, most people come to relax and take in the breathtaking views. The small local village caters to hikers and tourists but underneath there's lots of tension among the local. One day a hiker finds a gruesome murder and that brings Alan Banks to investigate. Could this murder be tied to a disappearance several years before?
It was an interesting enough story but it sure dragged.
The Ink Black Heart (1962)
By Robert Galbraith, Read By Robert Glenister
This is the 6th book in the Cormoran Strike series and, in case you don't know, Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling. I have loved every book in this series....until now.
At 32+ hours, this was an investment of time and I did finish it but, frankly, I didn't enjoy it. It needed some serious editing and it was not a good book for audio format. If you decide to read this, read it in paper version.
The story is about the murder of a woman who was co-creator of a YouTube comic series called The Ink Black Heart. She is murdered in the graveyard that is the setting for the comic series. The victim, Edie Ledwell had been to the office of Cormoran Strike prior to her murder to ask them to help her find the identity of Anomie, a person who has been harassing her online. The declined the case but after she is murdered they are drawn into the case.
There are a few problems with the book but the biggest for me was that much of the dialogue happens in online chat rooms and narration of online chat simply doesn't work. It was painful. The other problem I had with it was the underlying theme of the "alt-right" being to blame. As you are introduced to the characters it's clear that none of them are "alt-right", or even politically motivated in any way. They are all way too self-absorbed and anti-social to be political. I just felt like that theme was gratuitous and added nothing to the book. But you could make one hell of a drinking game out of the number of times "alt-right" is said.
The final problem with this book is the 6 volume sexual tension between Cormoran and Robin, his business partner. These two people are adults. He's 40ish and she's 30ish and their inability to tell each other how they feel over 6 long novels has just become tedious.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham (723)
By Claudia Gray, Read By Billie Fulford-Brown
After the slog of The Ink Black Heart I needed something easy to listen to and I got it with this book.
Claudia Gray had brought together characters from each of Jane Austen's books for a party at the country estate of Mr. Knightly and Emma. She has aged the characters based on the publication dates of the books so that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are old enough to have an adult son, Jonathan, that they bring along on the trip. Catherine and Henry Tilney are also there from Northanger Abbey with their daughter, Juliet. There are guests in attendance from every book and who arrives uninvited but Mr. Wickham, our favorite villian. It seems that Wickham has made a career of swindling people out of money and almost everyone there has been a victim or knows a victim. It doesn't take long for him to meet his demise and now everyone in the house (excluding the servants) is a suspect. Jonathan and Juliet take it on themselves to solve the case because no one seems to trust the local magistrate, Frank Churchill.
The World Played Chess (603)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Todd Haberkorn
If you like William Kent Krueger, you will like Robert Dugoni. If you are a mystery reader you may already know him through his Tracey Crosswhite, Charles Jenkins and David Sloane series. Jenkins is my favorite of the three series but I read all of them.
This is a stand alone novel that turned out to be a good Christmas season read for me because it was written from the POV of my generation, so it was relatable. The underlying theme that is relatable to everyone is about how we can impact people's lives in very small ways.
In 1979 Vincent Bianco get a job on a remodel construction job for the summer before he goes to college. He is working with 2 Vietnam veterans. One of them is dealing with undiagnosed PTSD and Vincent proceeds to get an education that he never expected. He is also realizing that he's naturally going to grow apart from the high school friends that, until graduation, he thought he would never lose.
The book is told from 3 perspectives, Vince, William (one of the Vietnam vets) and Beau, Vince's son as he's graduating high school and trying to find his own identity. If you were born around 1960 this book will bring back so many memories of the current events of our lives as well as people you might ahave known. It's a very good coming of age story.
The Last Queen (821)
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Read By Sneha Mathan
If you like British royal history then this is a book for you. Rajit Singh was the first monarch of the Sikh empire and Jind Kaur was his 3rd "official" wife. He had as many as 30 wives/concubines. This book is about Jind, the most consequential of his wives. Her son, Duleep Singh, rose to power at the age of 5 and she became Regent. This was in the 1840's when the British were taking over India.
The story seems to remain true to the major events of her life (if Wikipedia is right) and it makes for a good base for a novel. There was as much palace intrigue in India at that time as there was in Britain. The palace intrigue got a little tedious but I expect it was pretty accurate.
Magician of the Gods (893)
Written and Read by Graham Hancock
I'm not sure how I found this book but I'm glad I did. I think Hancock is most well known for his book Fingerprints of the Gods. Hancock proposes the possibility of the existence of an advanced civilization that existed prior to the ice age and he proposes the possibility of a major meteor event that brought on the end of the ice age. It's a detailed, and fascinating, walk through various antiquities sites around the world. He is, of course, hated by "mainstream science" and he may be totally wrong but it's a very interesting read.
This book is also an exception to one of my cardinal rules. Hancock narrates his own book and does a great job.
Tending Roses (615)
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Allyson Ryan
I have read a few books by Lisa Wingate. Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends are two of my favorites. They are historical fiction. This one is a straight up novel.
Kate Bowman and her husband move temporarily to the family farm in Missouri to care for her Grandmother for a few weeks around Christmas. The story is basically a Hallmark-type story and you could easily write the plot. I thought the narration was a bit weak too. It's not a bad book, it's just not the genre for me.
Considering that November was such a big social month for me, I'm surprised that I finished 9 books. This month was surprisingly heavy on non-fiction and that's mostly because 2 of the books I read were in paper format. One of them, Mayflower, I started on one vacation and finished on another vacation. I usually like all of the non-fiction books I read but The Mosquito Bowl was a disappointment.
I have to give credit to Carole for recommending Remarkably Bright Creatures. I didn't think I would like it. Narrating animals are generally no my thing but this was a really enjoyable read. This is why I check out all of your recommendations. I know that I get in a rut reading and seeing what you are reading helps me expand my library in new directions so please tell me your favorite books that you have read recently.
My listening time for November was 109 hours and 39 minutes. Year to date that's 1251 hours and 11 minutes. That's 52+ days so far.
The Girl's With No Names by Serena Burdick - Supposed to be about a notorious girl's home but 30% through and we're not there yet. I got tired of the unlikable characters.
Portrait of an Artist by Laurie Lisle - Actually a well written biography of Georgia O'Keefe but I found that while I love her work I wasn't all that interested in her self-absorbed life. A friend of mine loved it so don't discount it based on my experience.
By Nathaniel Philbrich
If you are interested in US history you will enjoy this book. It's a very thoroughly researched history of the Mayflower and early years in Massachusetts. I feel like it's a really balanced history as well.
I didn't listen to this one. It was a vacation paperback that I started In Maine and finished at the beach this year. I wouldn't recommend audio format because it's a lot of information to absorb.
The Last Daughter of York (624)
By Nicola Cornick, Read By Sofia Engstrand
I couldn't have picked a book that's more different from Mayflower. York is a light romance novel with mystical storylines. It's not usually my genre but I was entertained. If you like Outlander I think you would love this book.
Part of it is set in the 15th century around the time of Richard III and Henry VII. Francis Lovell is tasked with protecting King Richard's son. Francis' wife, Anne, has a lodestone that was gifted to her that seems to give her special powers for protecting those around her and takes personal responsibility for the heir.
In modern time, Serena Warren, is still mourning the disappearance of her twin sister many years before. When Caitlyn's body is found in an 18th century unopened burial vault, the search for what happened to her reopens.
The character development is good, the story moves along at a good pace and it's an entertaining read.
The Cutting (647)
By James Hayman, Read by Stephen Mendel
This is the first book in the McCabe and Savage detective series. I actually read the second book first and it's OK to read them out of order.
McCabe and Savage are partner detectives in Portland, Maine. A missing high school athlete is discovered in a scrap metal yard and she's had her heart surgically removed. On the same day a young ad executive has gone missing while out on her morning run and her dog is found dead near the trail. McCabe is sure that both crimes are related and may have a link to cardiac surgeons.
Mendel reminds me of early John Sandford. It's fast paced and holds your interest. I listened to this one all in one day.
Einstein's Fridge (665)
By Paul Sen
This was another of my vacation books to read on the beach. I tried listening to it a few months ago but this book requires the ability to re-read passages. It worked much better in paper format.
It's all about the development of the laws of thermodynamics. It's very much written for us "normal" people. It was very interesting and didn't get too far over my head until the later chapters that deal with theoretical physics. If you like science books I think you will like this one.
Remarkably Bright Creatures (676)
By Shelby Van Pelt, Read By Marin Ireland and Michael Urie
I picked up this book after reading a recommendation on one of your blogs. I didn't really expect to like it but I trusted the review and I'm glad I did.
Tova Sullivan is a widow who also lost her only son 30 years ago. She's a night owl and got a job as the night cleaner at Sowell Bay Aquarium to occupy herself. She cares for all of the creatures there but especially is attached to Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus who likes to escape his tank in the evenings to grab snacks from the other tanks. One night she saves him as he's gotten tangled in an electrical cord. They bond after that.
Marcellus is determined to help her understand what happened to her son.
Yes, it's an absurd tale of a conscious octopus who narrates part of the story. That's why I expected to not like it. But it's a really nice story with very likable characters, especially Marcellus. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Mosquito Bowl (658)
By Buzz Bissinger, Read By George Newbern
This is a hard core WWII history book. It is not a book about a football game played in Guadalcanal during the war, as I expected. Seriously, less than 5 minutes of this book is about that game, which, by the way, ended in a scoreless tie.
The first half of the book is a quite detailed description of college football at that time as told through a number of the college stars who played before they were drafted into the war. Many of these players ended up in the 6th marine Division and played in this game.
The second half of the book is a very detailed account of the deaths of 15 of those players and the service and lives of some of the survivors. It's not for the faint of heart but it's thoroughly researched and detailed. Normally I would not have finished the book because I don't enjoy reading battle scenes but I felt that I needed to finish it simply out of respect for the men portrayed in the book.
I do think that serious war history readers will enjoy the book but get it in paper copy. There are a number of lists in the book that the narrator unnecessarily reads.
The Killing Room (686)
By Richard Montanari, Read By Scott Brick
This is the 6th book in the Byrne and Balzano police procedural series. This series is set in Philadelphia and opens with a gruesome murder scene in an abandoned church. Before they can finish the investigation there are 2 more killings and they realize they have a serial killer on their hands.
These books aren't so much about whodunit, but rather about how the cases are solved. There's an overriding theme of mysticism throughout. In fact, Byrne, has "special skills" that helps point him in the right direction. I think the series is unique but it's also pretty gruesome so you need to be aware of that before you jump in. All of the books have a serial killer theme.
Scott Brick narrates this one and most of the series. At one time he was my favorite narrator. Now he's become a little annoying. He reads all of his books the same and gives most of his characters an indignant attitude. There were times in this book that I had trouble distinguishing some of the minor characters because he just didn't give them different narration personalities.
I don't know that I'll read the last 2 books in this series. They are a little too gruesome.
The Good Wife of Bath (1188)
By Karen Brooks, Read By Fran Burgoyne
Eleanor was born under the signs of Venus and Mars, making her a lover and a fighter. In 1364, at the age of 12, she was married off to an elderly farmer. The marriage was arranged by a distant cousin, Geoffrey Chaucer.
This is a retelling of Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale from the perspective of the wife, Eleanor. In Chaucer's take, the wife had been married 5 times and it argues that women are morally equal to men.
The book tells the story from Eleanor's POV and, at almost 20 hours long, is the detailed story of her life, including the 5 marriages. It is a historical setting with mores and language of the time. There's rough language and rough treatment of people. Don't let your modern viewpoint impede in enjoying the story. Just go along with the story and appreciate the research done by the author to bring this period in time to life.
This is my first Karen Brooks story, not my last. The narration was outstanding as well.
Eat The Buddha (678)
By Barbara Demick, Read By Cassandra Campbell
I read Demick's other book, Nothing to Envy, earlier this year. It was about life in North Korea and was very impactful. I knew that I wanted to read this one about the Tibetan people.
Demick was a foreign correspondent with the LA Times and was bureau chief in Seoul and Beijing during her career. Both of these books are rigorously researched and, I think, required reading if you want to really know what goes on in these areas.
Eat The Buddha tells the story of the Tibetan town of Ngaba. The modern story of Ngaba is told through some of the families of the town. I finished this in 2 days. It was that interesting. With either if these book you really have to remind yourself that these events are happening in our lifetimes and not 100 years ago.
October was another very good reading month. I finished 8 books and I liked each of them. I was most happy to have received the newest Mitch Rapp book form the library. It had been on hold for weeks. There was only one book that I couldn't finish.
My listening time for September was 95 hours and 42 minutes. Year to date that's 1141 hours and 32 minutes. That's 47+ days so far.
What great books did you read this month?
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb. Flat, cliched characters and a slow narration. Main character is surprisingly naive and trusting after having been raised by a greedy, uncaring mother. Every white person is racist, everyone else is greedy and there's no real mystery about who stole the violin. The author's own biography would have been a much more interesting read.
The Midcoast (587)
By Adam White, Read By George Newbern
Ed and Andrew grew up together in a small Maine coastal town. Andrew was the "rich" kid and Ed was destined to be a lobsterman. Years later Andrew and his family move back to town where Andrew gets a job as a high school teacher. He's surprised to find that Ed and his college dropout wife are now the town's major benefactors.
When a line of police cars show up at Ed and Steph's house in the middle of a reception for the Amherst women's lacrosse team, Andres starts to wonder how it all came to be.
The book about Andrew exploring his and Ed's lives and what decisions led them to where each is on adulthood. In the end, I think it's an exploration of envy. It doesn't not get great reviews on Audible (3.9) and had I read the reviews first I would have never tried the book. I'm glad I didn't because I enjoyed it. The character development is good but I think that most people did not like the slower pace of the book.
The Lost Daughter (865)
By Gill Paul, Read By Helen Duff
There are tons of books about the murder of the Romanov family and many that imagine that Anastasia miraculously survived. There have even been women who purported to be Anastasia.
This book imagines that Grand Duchess Maria (the middle sister) survived. Who would have saved her and what might her life been like? Maria's story is intertwined with that of Val Doyle. Val lives in Australia. She had a rough upbringing with her unloving father and is now in a miserable marriage. When her father is dying he confesses "I didn't want to kill her". She starts to research the confession and some of the items that he left behind.
It was an interesting read. The parts leading up to the assassinations are quite accurate to their real life. Of course, the rest is the fiction. It did start off a little slow but I liked the character development and the story.
I read another of Paul's books in August, The Collector's Daughter, and I enjoyed it too.
The Hope Family Calendar (601)
By Mike Gayle, Read By David Morley Hale
This is my third book by Mike Gayle and I've loved all of them. He is a master of drawing you into a book and getting you attached to the characters.
In this story we are introduced to Tom Hope. He's a successful TV producer and has a perfect life with his wife and 2 daughters. Everything falls apart when his wife dies in a car accident. His mother-in-law, Linda, moves in to help care for the family and that's just the right amount of support to allow him to avoid dealing with his grief. Eventually Linda realizes that she must leave for Tom to straighten out his own life and re-engage with his daughters. Linda doesn't know it but she needs the time away as well.
Gayle's character development is about as good any writer out there. You really know these people and care about them. This is a wonderful story about dealing with grief. It wasn't sad. It was, as the title implies, hopeful.
Oath of Loyalty (563)
By Kyle Mills, Read By George Guidall
This is #21 in the Mitch Rapp series. This series was started by Vince Flynn but when he died the estate selected (wisely) to have Kyle Mills continue writing the series.
This book picks up exactly where Enemy At The Gates left off. The last scene of EATG is the exact first scene of OOL except that each is told from a different perspective. OOL begins with the scene from Rapp's point of view.
After that event President Cook is convinced that Rapp is a danger to him. He forces Irene Kennedy, Rapp's ally, out of her position as head of the CIA and she negotiates a truce of sorts with Rapp and Cook. Except that Cook doesn't hold up his end of the deal. From there it's a super fast paced race to try to avoid disaster.
A fun read from Kyle Mills, as always.
On a Night of a Thousand Stars (700)
By Andrea Yaryura Clark, Read By Pam Christensen
This is a reasonably common theme of two time periods coming together where revelations are revealed. The unique and interesting twist to this one is that it's set in Argentina.
In the 1970, a group of young people are caught in the middle of Argentina's Dirty War. Thousands of political dissidents "disappeared" during this time. Santiago Larrea and his wife, Lila were able to escape.
In 1998, Santiago is being appointed as UN ambassador for Argentina and the ceremonies around the appointment bring old friends around to celebrate with the Larrea's. But it also means that their daughter, Paloma, who was born during the war, hears some comments that send her on a mission to discover what actually happened during that time.
I didn't get lost in the book but it was an interesting story, I liked the characters and it educated me a very little bit on some unknown history. It's not going to win awards for exceptional writing but it's a worthy read.
The Night She Disappeared (716)
By Lisa Jewell, Read by Joanne Froggatt
Lisa Jewell has a unique story style with well developed characters and parallel timelines. As the mystery is being solved in preset time the crime unfolds in the past time.
In this novel a young woman and her partner disappear after attending a party at a large mansion. The left behind their 1 year old son, Noah. There's not a trace of them and the party-goers "saw nothing".
A year later a novelist and her boyfriend move into a cottage on the edge of the mansion property. When out for a walk she sees a sign that says "dig here". She does and finds an engagement ring that belonged to the couple.
Joanne Froggatt (Anna from Downton Abbey) did a great job narrating this one.
Carrying Albert Home
By Homer Hickam, Read by Adam Verner (639)
This was a fun, folksy romp through the South during the Depression. I think that the carrying Albert home part was true but the adventures, not so much. But who cares, Albert had a great time in this version of the story.
It's based loosely on his parents, Elsie and Homer Hickam. They were married during the Depression and lived in Coalwood , WV. As a wedding gift, Elsie received a baby alligator from Buddy Ebsen (the actor she knew in college in Florida). Unlike most people receiving such pets, she kept Albert and raised him until the day Homer decided that it was either him or Albert. What followed is the most adventurous drive to Florida ever taken.
The book is very folksy but also very funny and heart-warming. I feel like the portrayal of his parents is pretty on point and that there was a trip to take Albert to Friday. The rest is just a fun trip to meet some interesting and famous people and go on some exciting adventures.
By Attica Locke, Read By JD Jackson
Books like this is the reason that I love the Chirp daily deals so much. Chrirp sends an email every day with about 10 book offered for $6 or less. Many are older but are still really good books. Pleasantville was on that list one day.
Pleasantville is a neighborhood on the north side of Houston and is recognized as one for upwardly mobile black citizens. The story open on electing night in 1996 and a canvasser goes missing and is later found dead.
Jay Porter is a struggling environmental lawyer who won a major case against Cole Oil about a decade earlier. Jay is brought into the case to represent the man accused of abducting her.
This is a book about corruption at every level of politics and governance. I thought I'd not like it given the current politicization of everything but this was different. It's the way books used to be written and is probably more accurate. Everyone is corrupt, regardless of party affiliation. I really enjoyed it.
All in all September was a very good reading month! I liked all of the books I read this month for different reasons but the one that really stuck with me is Beyond the Crushing Waves. It's based on a true story and is really well written.
My listening time for September was 108 hours and 30 minutes. Year to date that's 1045 hours and 50 minutes. That's 43+ days so far.
What great books did you read this month?
Ancient Rome by Simon Baker - Just couldn't get engaged in this one. It might have been the dull narration.
If She Wakes (734)
By Michael Koryta, Read By Robert Petkoff
This is the second Koryta book that I've read and I wasn't disappointed. The story opens with college student, Tara Beckley driving a visiting professor to a conference speaking engagement. On the way the professor starts acting strange and asks her to pull over. He then takes photos of her for a smartphone screen lock and tells her to put the phone in her car. The next thing she knows she in a terrible car accident that leaves her in the hospital with locked-in syndrome. She's fully alert but can't control any movement at all so everyone thinks she's brain dead.
While her family is trying to find a way to heal Tara, lots of other people are searching for the missing smartphone. There's lots of action, some misdirection and suspense. The interesting thing about the book is that much of the story is based on the missing phone but at the end the explanation of what was on the phone was kind of an afterthought. Honestly, while it underpinned the reason for the actions, it really wasn't relevant to the story so I wasn't so bothered by it.
By Robin Pilcher, Read By John Lee
This is an older book that popped up in my Chirp list one day. I remembered that I loved Rosamunde Pilcher's books and I had read one of Robin's before. I was happy to be reminded of this author.
This story is set around the Edinburgh International Festival of film, music and comedy. Six artists from different backgrounds and disciplines cross paths and their lives are changed.
This is a feel good book that was an enjoyable listen. I loved all of the different characters and found myself very interested in knowing what would happen to each. Robin writes as well as his mother. Her book, The Shell Seekers, is one of my all-time favorite reads. I read it in 1998 and still remember how much I enjoyed it.
I Am Pilgrim (1361)
By Terry Hayes, Read By Christopher Ragland
This book was almost as long as the last two books combined. That will be enough to warn some of you off from the start. But I love a long book because it's an opportunity for the author to create a complex plot and this book did not disappoint.
But, before I go into my thoughts, there's another aspect that might warn you off right off the bat. It's about a plot to contaminate the supply of flu vaccine. This book was released in 2014 before we were all sick to death of discussing viruses and vaccines.
The book opens with the death of an unknown young woman murdered in a run-down hotel in New York. The murder is interesting because the murderer seems to have followed the guidance from an obscure investigative book written by someone who knows a lot about methods of undetectable murder. The author, code named Pilgrim, needs to solve this murder and one other just to find the trail of the most dangerous person of all.
A Saudi son witnesses the beheading of his father and vows revenge. That revenge included training in Afghanistan as well as earning a medical degree. The medical degree give him credentials for travel and access to medical facilities. His training give him the ability to disappear and reinvent himself with the help of his underworld friends. His plan, if successful, will be worse than the Spanish Flu. Pilgrim must find him.
You do have to keep up while reading this book but it was a refreshing story and reminded me somewhat of the writing style of Kyle Mills (currently writing the Mitch Rapp series). I enjoyed it.
Beyond the Crushing Waves (655)
By Lilly Mirren, Read By Melissa Chambers
Before I tell you about the book I'll just say that if you read, and liked, Before We Were Yours, you will enjoy this book. It's a similar story based on different, but also, true events.
Before this book I had never heard of Britain's Child Migrant Programme. I expect it had good intentions to provide indigent British children with opportunities to be cared for and learn trades abroad. Between 1920 and 1970, about 130,000 children were sent to Canada and Australia to live and work on farms. Many were told that they were orphans or their single mother's were forced to give up their children. Charities and churches coordinated the efforts.
The story is told in this book through three children who found themselves together on a ship heading to Australia for the promise of a better future. What they found on arrival was a workhouse environment that may or may not have been better than their homes.
The story is told in two timer periods with the second in current day when the Granddaughter of one of the children is about to give birth to her own child. Several events collide that prompts a confession by the Grandmother.
The writing is beautiful and even though you sort of know how it ends, you are constantly cheering on the children and hoping that they get a break. I couldn't put it down.
Gone Baby Gone (816)
By Dennis Lehane, Read By Jonathan Davis
This is #4 in the Kenzie and Gennaro series. I read #3 last December and enjoyed it enough to keep going in the series. This is an older series. I believe the original release date was 1998 but the story still holds up. I liked this book even better than the last one. I realized that Lehane is a master of the complex plot and he develops it in such a way that he doesn't need to rely on magical revelations to resolve the plot.
In this book, Kenzie and Gennaro are asked to investigate the case of a missing 4 year old girl, Amanda. It's been long enough since the disappearance and the search has been so thorough, that they don't feel that they can add anything to the investigation. But Amanda's aunt is insistent and she seems to be the one most interested in finding Amanda.
Amanda's disappearance is complicated by the lack of interest of her drug and alcohol-dependent mother. In fact, Amanda disappeared from her bed while her mother was watching TV with a friend one night. She had left the door unlocked. It seems the case might be connected to some of the mother's drug activities.
But might it also be connected to some other missing children in this poor Boston area?
Lost and Found in Paris (630)
By Lian Dolan, Read by Brittany Pressley
If you need kind of an easy, frivolous read this is the book for you!
Joan Blakely lost her famous artist father on 9/11 and 10 years later she is still dealing with the grief. Her famous model mother had removed herself from the public eye. One day Joan comes home to have her husband tell her that 5 years ago he fathered twins with another woman but, it's OK, he want them to stay together (because he benefits from the association with the Blakely name) but he wants to be more involved with his sons. Joan blows up her marriage and starts life anew.
She accepts an assignment to be an art courrier to Paris. On her first night there (after dinner with her flight seat mate) she discovers the artwork has been stolen and one of her father's lost sketches has been left in its place. So begins a scavenger hunt through Paris to find the source of the sketch and the missing artwork.
It's a ridiculous story but kind of a fun, lighthearted read. There's a ton of celebrity name-dropping that seems really excessive and can be annoying but I eventually got over it.
Fourth of July Creek (941)
By Smith Henderson, Read by MacLeod Andrews and Jenna Lamia
If you are looking for something different to read, this might be your book. It's set in the Montana wilderness and the central character is Pete Snow. Pete is a social worker who looks nothing like a social worker. He's called to the local school one day to try to help a boy who has appeared out of nowhere. Benjamin Pearl is a nearly feral 11 year old who lives in the wilderness with his paranoid survivalist father. Pete works hard to build a relationship with Benjamin and his father but there are all sorts of complications, including the involvement of the FBI.
Meanwhile, Pete's ex-wife has moved with their daughter (Rachel) to Austin and the daughter narrates part of the story. She runs away and Pete goes on a desperate search to find her.
The narration flips back and forth between Pete and Rachel and it's a really choppy transition in the narration. It took me a couple of hours in to figure out exactly what was going on between the two different narration voices. That was not handled well for the listener. I expect that it's different chapters in the book and a pause between narrators would have been good.
But, back to the story, it's a unique story and it's interesting. It is dark in it's portrayal of the permanently downtrodden but there's hope. For a debut novel, it's really well written and you do get attached to the characters.
River of the Gods (602)
By Candice Millard, Read By Paul Michael
In the mid 1800's, England was obsessed with exploration of Africa. The Royal Geographical Society sent Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke to seek out the source of the Nile River. This is the story of that journey and the story of the lives of the people involved. It even addresses the petty actions of Speke and other people involved in the search. Pettiness survives all generations!
One of the most interesting people on the team was Sidi Mubarak Bombay, a former slave who agreed to be a guide on the tour.
It's a very interesting book and I feel that it addressed the subject and the characters honestly and fairly.
It's vacation month and since we've been with friends I have tried to be less anti-social than normal. that means I've finished fewer books. I finished 7 books and my favorites were probably The Collector's Daughter and The Second Life of Mirielle West. Of course I loved Manitou Canyon because I still love the Cork O'Connor series.
My listening time for August was 93 hours and 54 minutes. Year to date that's 937 hours and 20 minutes.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - Annoying book where all women are geniuses, all men are pigs and all people of faith are idiots. It also isn't "laugh out loud funny", as advertised. Fell flat for me.
Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor and Misadventure from America’s National Parks – After the second story about phone service for park rangers I couldn’t take it anymore.
The Second Life of Mirielle West (757)
Mirielle West is a socialite in 1920's LA going from party to party with her actor husband. One day she burns her hand and goes to the doctor where it's discovered that she has leprosy. Before she knows what happened she is shipped to a leprosy hospital in Carville, Louisiana.
Carville, LA is a real place and the living situation and treatments are true to life so there's a good dose of authentic history in this book. The book is about her difficult adjustment to her new life in Carville.
I enjoyed this book especially the unique storyline set around leprosy before antibiotics were discovered. Often Mirielle is unlikable but I think her character is absolutely believable.
Haven Point (830)
By Virginia Hume, Read By Cassandra Campbell
I selected this book to listen to on the drive up to Maine simply because it’s set in Maine. It’s about generations of a Boston Brahmin family that spend summers at Haven Point, their Maine vacation home. It’s a long book and it kept my interest but it’s not one that I’d remember. The characters were a little flat, the “big family secret” wasn’t anything that qualified as needing to be secret and the townspeople were annoyingly cliquish and shallow just like you would expect of country club types.
My review could be colored by the fact that I got sick on the drive up and was coughing my lungs out. A book would have to have been outstanding to make me happy on that drive.
Manitou Canyon (694)
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #15 in the Cork O’Connor series. WKK is one of my favorite writers and I love the O’Connor series. His characters are strong an interesting and he sets a beautiful stage in the Minnesota Boundary waters. It was nice to listen to this book while sitting lakeside in a cabin in the woods.
It’s November and a man has gone missing after a camping trip. The official search ended but the man’s grandchildren ask Cork to continue the search. It’s a race against winter weather to try to find him. When Cork doesn’t contact home on schedule another search is started.
Like all of the books in this series, it’s fast paced and the storyline is enhanced with some Ojibwe mysticism.
The Golden Couple (663)
By Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Read By Karissa Vacker and Marin Ireland
Marissa and Mathew Bishop are the golden couple until Marissa makes a mistake that threatens their relationship. The agree to see Avery Chambers, a therapist who guarantees that she can fix your problems in 10 sessions.
What follows is a bunch of weird events in all their lives that seem to be timed together.
The book is one big guessing game. I'm not sure if it's suspense or psychological thriller. There was a lot of misdirection and guessing. It was a fine story for a long car ride. I think if you like psychological mysteries that you will really enjoye this one.
The Other Wife (633)
By Michael Robotham, Read By Sean Barrett
This is book #9 in the Joe O'Loughlin series set in London. Joe is a psychologist with Parkinson's disease and his wife recently died from a medical accident.
The book opens with a call from the hospital that his father is injured and in a coma. When he gets to the hospital he discovers that the woman who brought his father in is another wife. The book follows the unraveling of the life of his respected surgeon father.
What seems like a fall down the stairs is actually an attack and there are questionable activities in the family trust. These books are really good but you need to know that they are a little dark. I thought the plot was quite unique and I appreciated that.
The Collector's Tomb (692)
By Gill Paul, Read By Imogen Church
I suppose that this book is historical fiction. The main character, Lady Evelyn Herbert, is real. She grew up in Highclere Castle (Downton Abby) and was the daughter of the Earl of Carnarvon. Carnarvon, along with Howard Carter, discovered Tutankhamun's tomb and Evelyn was with him when they first saw the inside of the tomb. It's speculated that she was the first person in the tomb.
This is definitely a novel but much of the story is true. I don't think that the most controversial storyline was true but it made for an interesting book. The character development was very good and I was riveted to the story.
By Meg Mitchell Moore, Read By Stacey Glembowski
I went a little overboard picking books for August that are Maine-centric. This is another one.
Louisa spent her life growing up in a coastal Maine community where her father was a well-respected judged. She's come home for the summer with her 3 children to spend time with her parents and to work on her book. She is on sabbatical from her position has a History professor. Her father has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's and her husband stayed in Brooklyn to work on his business venture as a very critical time for it.
Kristie has also recently come to this little town in Maine in a Greyhound bus. She's dealing with the grief of losing her mother and the secrets that her mother revealed about her birth.
It seemed like a good summer read but in the end it was kind of uneven and disappointing. Louisa was pretty darned annoying and hypocritical. On the one hand she's a staunch feminist but she's not interested in helping a woman who might have been wronged by her own family and she isn't good at being independent. She's a horrible communicator with her husband and sets standards for him that she's unwilling to place on herself. She's kind of an entitled brat. Frankly, I found her childish and unlikable. Her children, however, were delightful while her mother was a bit delusional. Kristie is an interesting character who has had a very tough life and, rightfully, doesn't truest too many people. The best character in the book is Kristie's boyfriend. He's a real gem.
I was glad enough for this one to end and I did like the ending. Everyone finally grows up.
To me the interesting part of the book was the insistence on strong feminist messages but in the end it's more traditional values that save the day. Not sure if that was intended or not but that's what it is.
A Necessary End (608)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #4 in the Inspector Banks series. It's an older series and this one is set during the term of Margaret Thatcher so there's a lot of political discussion.
A local peaceful political demonstration turns ugly when a police officer is stabbed and dies. Chief Inspector Banks is on the case until a senior officer is sent from London to head the investigation. Superintendent Burgess is the prototypical bully cop and doesn't waste time being brutal to the members of a small commune-style community.
I like the Banks series but I felt this one was a little awkward. Every character had to be introduced with their political leanings and it was hard to keep up with all of them for a while. This was my least favorite in the series so far.
I read 12 books this month and rejected 3 others. All in all, it wasn't my favorite month of reading. While I didn't actually hate any of the books I finished I can't see any of them making it into my top 10 for the year. The most creative story to me was The Lightkeeper's Daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know those characters. I also enjoyed finishing off the CJ Box Highway Quartet which has turned into a completely different series.
There are a couple of unique history books here that feature moments in history that I wasn't taught in school.
My least favorite book was the disorganized Come Fly With Me. It wasn't awful but I didn't think it was particularly cohesive or well organized.
My listening time for July was 114 hours and 51 minutes. Year to date that's 843 hours and 26 minutes.
I found a couple of new and interesting podcasts this month:
Disgraceland will be interesting to anyone who loves music. It tells some of the backstories of different music artists. Recent episodes feature Britney Spears, George Harrison and The Temptations
This Is Love is your place to find a good positive story. It's produced by the same people who produce Criminal, one of my favorite true crime podcasts. A recent episode of TIL profiled a 4th grader in North Carolina who recently won enough competitions to send him to the National Spelling Bee.
Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich - I think this is probably a really important book about living in Russia during and after Communism but I just couldn't handle the choppy format. It's like riding the subway and listening to snatches of conversation and just randomly recording them in a book.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead - I could tell very quickly that I was not going to like the contemporary character. A quick perusal of Goodreads reviews confirmed my suspicion so I cut my losses.
The Future is History by Masha Gressen - It's about the return of totalitarianism to Russia. I will read this in book form because AUTHORS SHOULD NOT NARRATE THEIR OWN BOOKS!
Defenders of the Faith (888)
By James Reston, Read By Jim Meskimen
You have to like history to enjoy this book but if you do love history I think you will really enjoy this one. It covers a period of history that we didn't really cover in my high school history classes. In college I avoided history classes like the plague. I'm still catching up through my personal reading.
This book covers the years between 1520 and 1536. At this time the Catholic church was in crisis from a series of weak popes and the rise of protestantism and Lutheranism. Charles V was considered the defender of the Christian faith and Suleyman was considered the defender of Islam. This book chronicles the wars that led from Hungary to Rhodes to Vienna. Had they won many people thought Europe would have become Muslim.
It's very interesting but it doesn't read like a novel. But if you are into history you will enjoy this. Reston also wrote a very good book about Galileo that I read a few years ago.
By C.J. Box, read By January LaVoy
This is the third in a series. In some lists the series is called The HIghway Quartet, in others it's the Cody Hoyt/Cassie Dewell series and now it's called the Cassie Dewell series because Box unceremoniously dropped his main character in the last book.
Cassie has moved to Grimsted, North Dakota to be the new Deputy Sheriff in an office of all men. No one has time for jealousy and resentment because there's a murder to investigate. Grimsted is at the center of the shale oil boom.Men outnumber women about 20 to 1, there's a housing shortage and the workers are making a lot of money. It's a perfect storm for the drug business and there's competition and corruption to go along with it.
A young boy, Kyle Westergaard, is considered "slow" as he suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. But mostly he just doesn't talk. He delivers papers to make a little extra money and is a witness to the even that sets off the story.
Cassie is also still chasing the Lizard King from the previous 2 books but that's just a little side story to this one.
A Dedicated Man (482)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #2 in the Inspector Banks series. Set in Yorkshire, England.
Harry Steadman is a wealthy, retired professor who is totally dedicated to industrial archeology, specifically the Roman history of the local area. One day a local farmer finds his body while out tending his sheep.
The book is about the investigation into Steadman's death and it's a generally good who-done-it novel. There are 27 books in this series so far and this one was first published in 1988 so the technology is old but I didn't mind that at all. It was a little short for my taste so I felt that some of the storyline was rushed but all-in-all I was thoroughly entertained.
The Lost Summers of Newport (788)
by Beatrix Williams, Mauren Willig and Karen White
Read by a cast
If you like Hallmark movies you will absolutely enjoy this book.
It's setting is a crumbling mansion in Newport during 3 different time periods. In 2019 Andie thinks she has found her dream job as a host of a mansion reno show. In 1899 Ellen has been hired to give singing lessons to a mining heiress in preparation for her arranged marriage to an Italian Prince in need of money. In Lucia is living with her Grandmother, the Princess, while her husband and father-in-law drain all of the assets that she brought into her marriage.
It was a fine book for what it was but wasn't the historical fiction that I expected.
Memento Mori (640)
By Ruth Downie, read by Simon Vance
This is the 8th installment in the Roman Empire series and I feel that these books do need to be read in order.
The main characters in the series is Gaius Petrius Ruso, a former Army medicus and his wife TIlla, a former British slave.
In this book, they are called to Aquae Sulis (modern-day Bath), to assist Ruso's best friend Valens. Valens' wife has been found dead in one of the famous healing baths. Valens is accused and the scandal threatens to ruin the reputation ( and business) of the baths.
Downie's books seem to be full of historic detail and are true to the culture of the time. There's no apologies about slavery (mostly white people) or anything else that was commonplace in that time, including bad medical practices and sacrificing to Gods. She adds lots of wit and humor to the stories as well. I find them a refreshing change of pace for a mystery novel.
The Chill of the Night (638)
By James Hayman, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is the second book in the McCabe and Savage series. This is where having 3 different audio libraries can mess you up. After finishing this book in Chrip I realized that I had book 1 in Audible so I'll go back and read that one before the month is out.
The series is set in Portland, Maine and this book is in the dead of winter. Lainie Goff is a young attorney hoping for a partnership in the firm soon. That hope is cut short when her dead and mutilated body is found in the trunk of her BMW on a local fishing pier.
There are several good suspects and the search is fast paced. But the best witness is a mentally ill young woman who no one believes. I enjoyed it.
The Last Emperor of Mexico (714)
By Edward Shawcross, Read By Gustavo Rex
History buffs will enjoy this book. It's the story of the one and only Emperor of Mexico, Emperor Maximillian. This takes place at the same time as the American Civil War. It seems that America's distraction with their own Civil War inspired a lot of foreign meddling in our neighbor to the South.
It was clear that this attempt to install an Emperor was doomed from the beginning. The story reminds me of Russia's and the US' attempt to change Afghanistan. The whole episode was kind of crazy but really interesting.
Come Fly The World (452)
By Julia Cooke, Read By Andi Arndt
If you judge this book by the cover you would expect sort of a Mad Men take of flight attendant escapades in the 60's and 70's, right? You would be wrong. I'm not really sure what this book is.
It might be a history of airlines in that era, it might be about the involvement of commercial airlines in the Vietnam War, it might be a memoir of certain flight attendants or it might be about women's struggles for equality. What it ended up being is a little of each and a whole lot disjointed. In none of the areas did the book go into enough depth to provide any information above what you would have coming into the book.
If it had been longer than 7+ hours I would have not finished it. I just didn't feel it was particularly well written.
Paradise Valley (606)
By C.J. Box, Read by Christine Delaine
This is the 4th book in the Highway Quartet/Cassie Dewell series. I read book 3 earlier this month and decided to finish off the series.
It's 3 years since the previous book and Cassie has been focused on luring the Lizard King to North Dakota where she can finally catch him. The plan is a complete disaster and Cassie loses her job.
Meanwhile, Kyle Westergarrd, a young boy from the previous book, has disappeared with a friend. They are off on a river adventure that they have had planned for many years. Kyle's grandmother asks Cassie to search for Kyle.
When I started this series it was called Highway Quartet but I suppose it was successful because now it's the Cassie Dewell series and there are 5 books with another coming out in September. It's a good series but I don't like it as much as Joe Pickett. The 4th book does end the Lizard King storyline and the next books seem to have Cassie as a private investigator. I'll probably continue the series eventually.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter (554)
By Jean E. Pendziwol, Read By a cast
This was a little different book for me and I enjoyed the ride.
Elizabeth lives in a senior home and has lost her vision. She can no longer read her beloved books or study art. Her father was a lightkeeper on Lake Superior and his missing personal journals have recently been found, but she can no longer read them.
Morgan is a troubled teen with a talent for the violin. She recently tagged a fence at the senior home and is "sentenced" to volunteer there to repair the fence. She meets Elizabeth and offers to read the diaries for her.Through the diary they come to realize that their lives are connected.
It's totally unbelievable but by the end you love the characters and wish it were true.
Man of My Time (714)
By Dalia Sofer, Read by Navid Navid
Hamid Mozaffarian travels from Iran to New York to see his estranged family. His father had died and specifically asked to be buried in Iran. They can't transport the body so they have had him cremated and are giving Hamid a tin of ashes to return to Iran.
This trip sets off a deep analysis of his life, the decisions he's made and the consequences of those decisions.
What's good about this book is that it's set during the Iranian revolution. While "life on review" books are reasonable common, it's rare to get one set in a country and time that's unique to the Western reader.
What's not as good about this book is that the narration is a bit flat and the book doesn't seem to have an order. I expected flashbacks in time but they were all over the place. In the end it was not bad but I was glad it was over.
The Younger Wife (558)
By Sally Hepworth, Read by a cast
I learned a new book genre tag while reading this book: Domestic Suspense. It's a good categorization of this book.
Stephen Aston is divorcing his wife to marry a new, and much younger one. His first wife, Pam, is in nursing care with dementia. The new wife, Heather, is the same age as Rachel, Stephen's youngest daughter. Rachel and Tully, the other sister, have theri own issues. The whole even seems to have cracked open a box of family secrets that will come to light between the engagement and wedding.
This is the second Helworth novel that I've read and I enjoy them. This one is fast paced without excessive dramatics.
I didn't get quite as much reading done in June as I usually do. I "only" read 9 books. I got sidetracked with a lot of podcasts this month. I'll start my quick analysis with my two least favorite books: Magic Hour by Kristen Hannah and Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. They weren't bad book but they were a bit of a let down. I read 2 C. J. Box books this month. I needed them as palette cleansers after the two DNF books below. The books that held my atten best were the three non-fiction books: Legacy (which will be of interest to my British friends), The Least of Us (to help develop more compassion and empathy) and Nothing to Envy (to make me grateful that I was born in a Western country).
My listening time for June was 106 hours and 40 minutes. Year to date that's 728 hours and 35 minutes.
The Eight by Katherine Neville - If you like Dan Brown you will love this book. I'd guess that this book is one that inspired his writing. I'm not a fan of this genre of mystical historical artifacts with magical powers.
The Widows of Malabar Hill - I'm not sure if this is a good book or not because the narration on the audio version is intolerable. You completely lose sight of this being set in India in the 1920's with an overly excited contemporary American accent.
What good books have you read recently?
Sleeping in the Ground (659)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
I read the first in the Inspector Banks series last month and this month I've skipped to book number 24, proving that you do not need to read these books in order!
The action starts at the first paragraph with a shooter at a wedding party. The case seems to resolve itself quickly with the culprit's discovery. But something doesn't add up and Banks is on the case.
Good narration, fast paced and an enjoyable read.
By Thomas Harding, Read By Mark Meadows
If you like family or business history or if you are from the UK, I think you will enjoy this book. This is the story of the family that built the J. Lyons company, knows for the Trocadero, corner coffee houses, tea, ice cream and baked goods. But it all started with a man named Lehmann Gluckstein who escaped the pograms and immigrated to Whitechapel (London) in the early 1800's. What started as a small tobacco factory turned into a family-run empire. This is basically the story of modern Britain as told through generations of one family.
The Highway (589)
By CJ Box, Read By Holter Graham
Both of the DNF books above came after I read Legacy. I was afraid I was going to be starting a rash of bad books so I quickly picked the 2nd book in the Highway Quartet series by CJ Box. I knew I could count on Box to give me an enjoyable read.
He did not disappoint.
I think this series absolutely needs to be read in order. There's just so much that carries forward from book 1 to book 2 and I can see from publisher summaries that 3 and 4 are continuations of this book. I'm actually going to get them soon so I don't forget the various storylines.
In this one, Danielle and Gracie (from book 1) are on Thanksgiving break and driving to Montana to meet up with Danielle's boyfriend. Danielle is an incredibly annoying, irresponsible and self-absorbed young woman. She's also beautiful which makes her a great target for the truck driver that she just passed on the highway.
When they disappear, Cody Hoyt (from book 1 and father of the boyfriend) and his new police partner, Cassie Dewell start a search. They find something much bigger than just 2 girls missing.
It's very fast paced and Box isn't afraid to kill off a main character.
The Least of Us (769)
By Sam Quinnones, Read By Tom Jordan
In 2016 I read Dreamland by this same author. It was all about the OxyContin epidemic. This book is a follow up with a broader focus.
On the addiction side he talks about how synthetic opioids, like the many varieties of fentanyl, have made addiction even worse and much harder to overcome. But he also addresses how our addictions to things like sugar work in a similar way.
As to causes, he doesn't leave any stones unturned, including corporate America's focus on creating food addictions. He gives special attention to the vile Sackler family that hold special responsibility for much of the opioid crisis.
But he also talks about he we work out way out of some of this by focusing on our own communities. I couldn't put it down.
If a book like this interests you, you might also like Soft White Underbelly on YouTube. Creator, Mark Laita, posts daily interview videos with people that we would normally never meet. There's everything from drug addicts, prostitutes and pimps to homeless people, ex-cons and immigrants. He really humanizes these people and builds a little more empathy for how people end up the way they do. They don't all deserve the empathy but many do.
The House in the Woods (557)
By Mark Dawson, Read By Simon Vance
This is the first in a new series for me.
DCI Mackenzie Jones is called to a murder scene at a remote farmhouse. A couple and two of their adult children have been shot. They were discovered by the only surviving brother, Ralph Malander.
Eventually the investigation determines that Ralph is the one who killed his family. Ralphs's wife hires PI Atticus Priest to help get Ralph acquitted. Priest and Jones have a history. He used to be a detective working for her and they had also had an affair. He left the force and started his on private investigation agency.
One of Atticus' talents is his knowledge of behavioral analysis and that gave this book an interesting twist. There are only 2 books in this series so far but I look forward to others.
Nothing to Envy (749)
By Barbara Demick, Read by Karen White
I'm not sure how this book came on my radar but I'm glad it did. It was written in 2009 but it's still very relevant today.
This book is about life in North Korea as told through the lives of 6 people who were about to escape. These people aren't the privileged people of the party, these are normal everyday people who struggled to survive during the famine of the 1990's.
The author was a foreign correspondent for the LA Times assigned to Beijing and Seoul. These are the stories of people she met in South Korea and is one of the best non-fiction books I've read this year.
Before The Fall (775)
By Noah Hawley, Read By Robert Petkoff
11 passengers and 3 crew members leave Martha's Vineyard one evening for a charter flight back to New York. The plane crashes in the ocean. Scott Burroughs, a last minute passenger, and a 4 year old boy are the only survivors. The passengers are 2 very influential people and one was about to have serious legal troubles.
The book opens with the crash and then begins to tell the story of all of the passengers and crew leading up to the fateful day. It is not "one of the year's best suspense novels" as the cover says. I never really felt a lot of true suspense. I was hooked from the beginning but by the last third I felt that it slowed down. It was an interesting read and it kept me engaged. The ending wasn't really a surprise. The best part of the story was the survival of Scott and the boy and the development of their relationship.
The author is the creator of the TV series Fargo and I could easily see this as a "Who shot JR?" style series where the action happens in the first episode and the rest of the episodes try to unravel the cause of the crash.
Magic Hour (878)
By Kristen Hannah, Read by Suzanne Torren
I have a love/hate relationship with Kristen Hannah. I love some of her books and others just don't click with me. This is one of the latter.
The story is about a girl who appeared out of the forest in the Pacific Northwest. She was wild and couldn't talk. A child psychologist who has had some recent problems comes home to treat the little girl. This book is basically a Hallmark movie in book format. If you like those kinds of stories this is for you. It was a little light for my tastes. Things resolved too easily.For example, it was obvious that at some point that the girl would run away. It took all of 15 minutes to find her. I prefer my stories with a little more drama. But I finished it because I wanted to find out how a young child could live in the woods of the PNW during cold winters.
This book has been re-released for some reason so if you like KH, be sure to check and see if you have read this one already. It was originally released in 2005.
Shadow Reel (544)
By CJ Box, Read By David Chandler
This is #22 in the Joe Pickett series. I would have expected this series to have run it's course by now but I'm still enjoying it.
It's Thanksgiving 2020 and the Pickett girls are coming home for the weekend. Joe thinks he's preparing for a quiet holiday weekend when he gets notice of a dead moose carcass. On further inspection it's not a moose, it's the dead body of a local fishing guide. At the same time Joe's wife, Mary Beth, has found a mysterious Nazi artifact on the front porch of the library and doesn't know who has left it there but there seems to be someone else in town who wants it badly.
Meanwhile, Nate Romanowski, is tracking down the person who stole his falcons and attacked his wife and daughter in the last book. His track will lead him into the middle of Antifa and BLM riots in two major cities.
This one had two really interesting and creative storylines in my opinion. I was listening to a lot of it on a Monday and I got so involved in the story that I started to think it was Thursday.
Even though I ended May with three DNF (did not finish) books, all-in-all it was a good month. Fourteen books finished just might be a record for me. There's nothing like two trips in one month to increase the available reading time!
I'm excited to have found two new mystery series by Peter Robinson and CJ Box and I always love a Dugoni mystery. My favorite fiction books were The Girl in the Painting and The Lost Orphan. In non-fiction I learned so much from Unsettled.
My listening time for May was 146 hours and 2 minutes. Year to date that's 621 hours and 55 minutes.
All That Remains by Sue Black. It's supposed to be about forensic science but it's mostly a memoir. I got annoyed when she spent a chapter deriding anyone who believes in any sort of afterlife and followed that whit a chapter about her dead grandmother hanging out on her left shoulder and how she opened a window to let her father's spirit leave.
A Question of Betrayal by Anne Perry. This is #2 in the Elena Standish series and Elena is the worst MI6 agent ever. She can barely decide what to wear. I just couldn't tolerate it.
The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman - we tried listening to this on the way to the beach but we both thought it was horrible
What books did you love and hate in May?
Gallows View (525)
By Peter Robinson, Read By Mark Honan
This is a short book for me (under 10 hours). I think one of you recommended it and it was available at the library so I gave it a try since it was free! I'm glad I did. It was an enjoyable read.
I's the first book in the Inspector Banks series. Alan Banks has retired from the London police. He's relocated to Yorkshire and taken and "easy" job in the local police.
There's a voyeur harassing women outside their homes but he's not leaving clues. One day an elderly woman is found brutally murdered in her home and Chief Inspector Banks wonders if the peeper has changed his MO.
Damage Control (682)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Christopher Lane
Dugoni writes several series that I like but this one is a stand-alone. We picked this book (and the next one) to be our car ride books to and from Paducah. This one is perfect for a car full of women because the men are the evil element of this book.
Dana Hill is an attorney as a Seattle law firm. Her husband is also an attorney and he leaves the child care totally up to her. She's finding it difficult to balance her life. Life becomes more difficult when she receives a devastating medical diagnosis and then find out her twin brother has been murdered.
She does not believe that her brother's murder was a robbery gone wrong so she teams up with the detective, Michael Logan, to get to the truth. It leads to some dangerous places and situations. Dana does have a knack for making some stupid decisions but the book is fast paced and a fun read.
Murder One (681)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Dan Jon Miller
On our return trip I let Anne pick a book from the ones I had downloaded and she picked another Dugoni.
This is the 4th book in the David Sloan series. Sloan is an attorney in Seattle. He's still recovering from the murder of his wife. On his first outing he runs into another attorney, Barclay Reid who is still dealing with the death of her daughter from an overdose. She got a bad batch of heroin that killed her.
Barclay is on a personal crusade against the drug dealer and when one legal avenue closes for her, conveniently the dealer ends up dead. She becomes the prime suspect and Sloan defends her.
All of the Dugoni books are fast paced and full of twists. They are fun reads. It's another good one for the car.
The Girl in the Painting (676)
By Tea Cooper, Read By Casey Withoos
This book was a nice change of pace from the previous two mysteries. This tells the story of a young orphaned math prodigy, Jane Piper. It's Australia in 1906 when Michael Quinn, with his sister, Elizabeth, take Jane into their home to give her a better education. They are knows to provide opportunities for many of the orphans but Jane's aptitude is special.
Jane has become almost a member of the family and works with Elizabeth doing the accounts for the family business. One day she's with Elizabeth when Elizabeth has a horrible reaction to a painting. Something evoked terror in her and Jane thinks it's a repressed memory as written about by Freud. Jane sets out to help Elizabeth understand her reaction.
The book goes back and forth in 3 time periods pretty seamlessly. I really enjoyed it.
The Surrogate (543)
By Toni Halleen, Read by a cast
I've got really mixed feelings about this book. It's about the surrogacy process and pretty much sets a scene where every possible thing that could go wrong, does.
Ruth us a 40ish journalist who wants a baby with her new husband, Hal. Hal already has 2 children from a previous marriage. They enter into a private surrogacy contract with Cally, who will use the money to pay for college. When Cally has the baby she is reluctant to give the baby up. That sets off a series of bad decisions by pretty much everyone. It's actually a good premise for a story but most of the characters are supremely annoying and emotionally immature. Ruth is the worst.
I finished the book but found it kind of disturbing. The behavior of the hospital staff during the birth and after Cally's disappearance is completely unacceptable. Hal and Ruth are annoying. Ruth is an emotional train wreck and Cally is immature. If I were considering surrogacy and read this book, I'd never do it.
Back of Beyond (660)
By C. J. Box, Read By Holter Graham
I really enjoy Box's Joe Pickett series and I didn't know until recently that he had other books. This is the first in a 4-book series called Highway Quartet. Cody Hoyt is a brilliant cop but he's also an alcoholic and has only been sober 2 months when his AA mentor is murdered. Hank Winter has been sober 14 years and Cody doesn't believe the initial assessment of alcohol-induced accident.
Clues in Hank's cabin link to a outfitter who leads wilderness tours into Yellowstone. Cody thinks that the killer is on the current tour along with his son and ex-wife's fiancé. What follows is a fast paced cat-and-mouse game to find the killer and make sure his son is safe.
I think Box does a great job of painting a scene. I felt like the imagery of Yellowstone back country and the experiences of the campers was accurate. It's not a place I want to go, that's for sure!
The Sun's Heartbeat (540)
By Bob Berman
I actually read this book with my own eyes! I took it to Paducah to start reading in the hotel and finished it at home. It's not available in audio format (it's 10 years old) so I estimated my reading time at 9 hours.
This book has some strong positives and one annoying negative.
This is a great book to learn about the sun and how it influences life on earth. It's well ordered and is written for non-scientists, like me. It starts with the history of the study of the sun and I was surprised at how recent our knowledge is and how little we still know about it. From that point I loved it and would recommend it.
The one annoying bit is that the writer is too clever. It seem that every other paragraph has some witty aside. That's fine occasionally but it was overdone in this book. But if you are a casual science reader you would still like this book.
Villa of Sun and Secrets (572)
By Jennifer Bohnet, Read By Julia Franklin
I picked up this book because I read about it on someone else's book list and it was free on Audible in May. I knew it was going to be "chick lit" but I was ready for a summer read.
Surprisingly, while it is women's literature, it was better than I expected!
Carla Sullivan is turning 50 and she's just discovered that her husband is having another affair. Her children are grown and she wants to get away. That becomes a possibility when she finds a letter in her mother's estate. He mother has written a letter to her twin sister in France and Carla decides to deliver it personally. Her aunt and mother haven't talked or seen each other in years so she's excited to meet her Aunt Josette again.
Their relationship starts off tentatively but over time a lifetime of secrets begin to unfold as Carla starts to decide what to do with the rest of her life. It's a good story but the narration is a bit over the top. You eventually get used to it.
The Lost Orphan (591)
By Stacey Hills, read By Elizabeth Knowelden and Imogen Church
This was a nice find in Chirp.
The story starts in London in 1754. Bess Bright left her newborn baby at the Foundling Hospital 6 years ago and she's returning to reclaim her daughter. She arrives only to discover that the records show that she claimed the girl the day after she left her. Clara has never lived at the hospital.
Nearby, a reclusive widow named Alexandra, is encouraged by her friend - a doctor from the orphanage - to hire a nursemaid to help care for her young daughter. Both of their pasts will soon collide.
It's a good story of class differences, mother/daughter relationships and dealing with trauma. I enjoyed the book and the narration.
Mary Barton (977)
By Elizabeth Gaskell, Read By Juliet Stevenson
Elizabeth Gaskell wrote in the 1840's about life in England at the time. This is the third novel of hers that I have read and I've enjoyed all of them.
This one is set in Manchester England during the time of the Chartist movement. Mary is the daughter of a tradesman who has lost his wife and lost his chartist petition. Mary is just barely holding them above water but she's also dealing with two men who want her affections. One is her lifelong friend, Jem and the other is the wealthy son of a Manchester mill owner, Henry Carson. When Henry is murdered Jem is the prime suspect.
The book follows is very contemporary to it's time and that makes it even more interesting. It had a bit of a slow start for me but once it got going I was hooked. I'm glad that Audible has made a recoding of this classic.
What climate science tells us, what it doesn't and why it matters
By Stephen E. Koonin
Leading up to vacation I like to spend some time each day getting a little bit of sun so that I don't scorch myself the first day on the beach. I read paper books when I'm relaxing in the sun. Is there a better read for that activity than a book about climate change?
I've been interested in climate change modeling ever since I was involved with modeling my company's insurance portfolio against hurricane and earthquake exposure. Compared to climate models, hurricane and earthquake models for the insurance industry are very simple but still complex in their own right. Yet, they are spectacularly and consistently wrong. I was working with them when Katrina happened and I cannot overestimate what garbage they were at estimating the losses on our portfolios......We paid a lot of money to license those models too.
So it was around that time that climate change made it on my radar and I make it a point to read books (not the news because the news is fear mongering garbage too) about the subject written by real scientists. I wanted to understand how climate models could be so good when our weather and catastrophe models are all so bad. I don't share many of those books because many of them are incredibly biased in their own right. But I think this one is different. I know it's different because the media refuses to talk about it.
Steven Koonin has incredible credentials. He was a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech and vice president and provost of that university for 10 years. But he is most knows at the Undersecretary for Science in the Depart of Energy in the Obama administration.
I think this is a really important book for us "normal" people. He takes a methodical approach at teaching us how to understand and interpret what we are told by the media and politicians. He goes through many aspect of climate science and explains what we know and , importantly, what we don't know. He is not a climate change "denier" but he is also not a climate alarmist. He's a methodical scientist and this book is the best I've read on the subject so far.
The Dark Hours (664)
By Michael Connelly, Read by Christine Lakin and Titus Welliver
This is supposedly #23 in the Harry Bosch series but it's really a Renee Ballard (#3) novel and the whole thing was one big "ugh" for me.
It kicks off New Year's Eve 2020 with the murder of a man during a celebratory street party. Ballard quickly learns that it's connected to an unsolved murder that Harry Bosch (now retired) worked and is unsolved. The case file is missing so she visits Bosch to learn more about the case.
At the same time there's a pair of serial rapists called the Midnight Men and they have struck again. She's determined to solve both while following no protocols, annoying everyone around her, taking a lot of unnecessary risks and being a total Karen about mask protocols.
This story was light on Bosch and heavy on politics and covid. I didn't enjoy it and I don't think it will age well.
Vengeance Road (617)
By Rick Mofina, Read By Graham Rowat
This was the book Chris and I settled on to listen to during our drive. It was better than our first choice, The Tale Teller, but not by much.
Karl Styebeck is a hero police officer in Buffalo. When two women are killed in a local notorious park, he's linked to the murders.
A local reporter, Jack Gannon, becomes obsessed with the case and pursues it relentlessly.
The problem with this book is that the actual mystery is weak and was easy to solve. To make the book "long enough" he filled it with all sorts of background information all through the story. It was fine for a car ride
An Irish Heart (600)
By Sharon Doyle Driedger
This is the book I chose for my beach read. It's not available in audio format. I found this book in a bookstore in Emerald Isle, NC.
As a US citizen I didn't get any Canadian history in my education but as someone of Irish descent it still resonated with me.
The subtitle is a little misleading because it should read "how Montreal systematically killed off it's Irish heart".
It's incredibly well researched and tells the story of Irish immigration to Canada. They were historically treated just as poorly as they were in the US. But they made lives for themselves and their families in a town called Griffintown. Over the years the French and English in Montreal gradually erased Griffintown and, with it, any Irish character in the city.
I had a great month of reading in April! I had one DNF book but that's because it's a book that needs to be read, instead of listened to. That book was Einstein's Fridge by Paul Sen. It's a history of the study of thermodynamics written for non-scientific people like me. I've purchased the paper version but Chris grabbed it before I could start it. I expect it will be a beach read.
My listening time for April was 110 hours and 38 minutes. year to date it's 475 hours and 53 minutes. You can tell that I have my headphones on all the time!
I found a couple of new podcasts that I enjoyed this month:
Finding Genius by Richard Jacobs - Jacobs searches out experts in a variety of fields for interviews. Recent topics have been as diverse as controlling weeds, Parkinson's Disease research and improving employee mental health
Scamfluencers - This is for those of us addicted to the ID channel. It profiles various scammers.
Please let me know of any good books that you read this month so I can make my book wish list even longer!
The Songbook of Benny Lament (892)
By Amy Harmon, Read By Rob Shapiro
What a jewel of a book! I don't know how I found this book but if it was one of you, thank you.
It's December 30, 1969 and Benny Lament is doing a radio interview about is life in the music industry. Mostly the book is the story of his life but each chapter starts off with an interview question.
Benny Lament grew up in the Bronx and music has always been the most important thing in his life. It's kept him from following his Dad into the mob life with his uncle Sal. One day his dad takes him to see Esther Mine perform. He's mesmerized by her voice and confused about why his Dad is particularly interested in this singer.
56 Days (639)
By Catherine Ryan Howard, Read By Alana Kerr Collins
I think that this is the first Covid era book that I've read in that it's set in the early weeks of the pandemic in Ireland. Many reviewers commented that they couldn't finish the book because they couldn't handle a covid theme yet. This book really isn't a covid-themed book. The early lockdown is just the backdrop for the story. It didn't bother me at all and just reminded me how naïve we all were to believe our authorities when they said "two weeks to flatten the curve".
The story is about Ciara and Oliver who meet in a grocery store 56 days ago and start dating just a few weeks before covid reaches Ireland and the lockdown orders begin. Remember those good 'ole days when we were told lockdown would be only a couple of weeks? Well that's the premise for them deciding to live together during lockdown. Today, 56 days later, detectives arrive at the apartment to find a decomposing body.
I really liked the premise of the book. Ciara and Oliver, of course, are not who they portray themselves to be. Their true identities unfold and the story develops. The problem I have with this book is the telling. It jumps all over the place going back and forth in time and replays many scenes, almost word for word, from the perspective of different characters. The ultimate effect is of being dragged slowly through a river of mud before being allowed to get up and walk out to the shower. It was just too slow and too erratic and the ending was ultimately drab.
City of Saints and Thieves (673)
By Natalie C. Anderson, Read By Pascale Armand
This was a refreshing change of pace for a mystery. The story is set in the fictional town of Sangui City, Kanya. Tina and her mother came to Kenya as refugees from Congo. Her mother worked as a maid in The Greyhill home where Tina grew up and was friends with the Greyhill son.
When her mother is murdered in the home, Tina has to live on the streets to survive. She has a job as a master thief for the Goondas, a local gang. She's biding her time until she can get revenge on the man who murdered her mother.
This is a fast paced mystery with some really interesting characters. Aspects are ridiculous but I liked Tina and her mission so much that I couldn't put it down.
The Paris Library (713)
By Janet Skeslien Charles, read by a cast
During WWII the American Library in Paris stayed open because of the dedicated librarians. This book tells the story of that library in historical fiction format but with a lot of fact.
Where the book goes al little stray for me is the telling of it between 1939 Paris and 1983 Montana. Odile Souchet is one of the librarians. She eventually marries and settles in Montana. The 1983 story is centered around her young neighbor, Lily. I found Lily's part of the story to be not nearly as interesting and not tightly connected to the 1939 story.
It's still a good and interesting story if you like historical fiction.
The Runaway (695)
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is #7 in the Peter Ash series and was an interesting development beyond the previous 6 books. One of the things I love about Petrie's writing in this series is that he avoids formula. In each novel Peter and the other characters, Louis and June, develop and grow. The interesting twist in this book is that the new character, Helena, is really the main character of the book. It's her story. Peter plays a major role but the focus is definitely on Helena. That has gotten a lot of criticism but I actually liked it.
Helena is 18 and all alone in a rural mid-western town. Her mother died in a car crash and the local deputy has Helena working for him for a pittance and for the "privilege" of living rent free in a run down travel trailer. One night while working at the gas station she sees the opportunity to leave town with a stranger. It can't be worse, right? Of course it can, and it is. Several months later when she is trying to escape she encounters Peter Ash on a highway in Nebraska pulling him into her nightmarish life.
When Brains Dream (547)
By Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold, Read By Bob Souer
I am fascinated by dreams. I have always had a very active dream life and I remember something from a dream almost every morning. My dreams are always in color. I often continue dream stories for several nights in a row. I often talk in my sleep and I used to be a pretty active sleep walker. Once, when I was traveling for work, I slept-walked my way to getting up, getting dressed, packing my suitcase and leaving my room. I woke at the elevator at 4 in the morning. It was not checkout day. It scared the daylights out of me. After that I made sure that I chain locked the room and found that sufficient to stymie my attempts to walk out in the hallway. I have woken in the morning many times fully dressed in bed. All that is to say, that I love my nightlife and love learning about what's going on in the brain while we sleep.
This book is a great intro to what we know, and mostly don't know about what and why we dream. It includes some background into early research, the pronouncements of Freud and Jung and really explains what we actually know and what we do not know. Mostly we really don't know very much except that we must sleep to survive and dreaming plays an important role. This book is an interesting look into current theories and research.
Flight of the Sparrow (660)
ByAmy Belding Brown, Read by Heather Henderson
In 1676 there was an Indian raid on the Massachusetts Bay Colony and one of the captives was Mary Rowlandson along with 2 of her children. She was held captive for 11 weeks and later wrote of her experience. Her book, Captivity and Restoration is probably the first "best seller" published in Colonial America. It's worth a read on it's own and is good to read along with this book.
Brown has taken that book and the very little knows about Mary and turned it into an interesting novel that explores the difference between the two cultures. Based on reading Mary's own account this novel is a nice story built around basic facts but it's still a very interesting story and I finished it off in 2 days.
A Hand To Hold in Deep Water (844)
By Shawn Mocher, Read By Elizabeth Evans
This is another book on one of the Chirp daily deal lists. It hasn't gotten much press and isn't broadly read. There are only 7 review on Audible. That's a shame because it's a really good book. I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was with the characters.
Willy Cherrymill owns a farm in rural Maryland and his stepdaughter Lacey is coming home with her young daughter. Tasha, the daughter, needs medical treatment at John's Hopkins. Willy and Lacey are close but haven't spent a lot of time together since Lacey left home. Both are still dealing with the disappearance of Lacey's mother and Willy's wife, May, 30 year ago. Lacey saw her mother leave with someone in a big red truck and that was the last time she saw her. There's been not one hint of her since.
Willy and Lacey (along with Tasha's father) try to focus on caring for Tasha while avoiding any mention of May. But Lacey becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her mother.
This book is about a lot of things but the biggest thing for me was about the way that humans choose to make families. This is the kind of book that might be good for a book club discussion. There are a myriad of themes that can be explored and discussed. One of them is incest so be aware of that. But I think it's handled well in this story. It's only one of the threads explored in this lovely book.
Wild Swans (1635)
By Jung Chang, Read By Pik-sen Lim
This book is a classic that was originally published in 1991. This particular audio version was republished in 2015. If you decide to read it, get this version because the narrator is excellent.
It is a history of 20th century China told through the lives of three women in one family. Jung Chang's grandmother had her feet bound and was given to a warlord as a concubine. Her mother was a Communist and Jung was one of the first people allowed to attend school in a Western country. It's a long book at over 27 hours but it's worth the read. You will find parallels in our current cancel culture. There's a lot to think about and explore in the ways that communist and socialist ideas are presented to populations and how we see these tactics today.
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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.