How did we get to the end of April so fast? I feel like I just posted books last week but as I look through the list I see that I did make it through a lot of books this month. I start every book with great hope and excitement but the results this month were a mixed bag this month. Since I started borrowing audiobooks from the library I take more risks with the books I try. I don't care if I don't finish a free book. But the library doesn't have a huge inventory of audiobooks so I still get about half through Audible. That's still a 50% savings over my usual book expenditures. Audible does let you return books for a refund if you don't like them and I sure took advantage of that this month.
But, let's talk about the good from the month. I read two good books from William Kent Krueger. Heaven's Keep is the 9th installment in the excellent Cork O'Connor series but Ordinary Grace is a new stand-alone novel. Ordinary Grace was a wonderful story. Also in fiction I enjoyed Belgravia from Julian Fellows. It's Downton Abbey with more intrigue.
On the non-fiction side I loved Code Name Lisa, a WWII biography, and Bellevue, the history of the famous hospital. Both were excellent. I'll leave you to read through the reviews for my losers of the month.
What have you been reading? I added a couple of your recommendations to my reading list based on your comments last month. If you have read any of these books and have a different opinion, please share! It's good to have different perspectives.
Heart A History
By Sandeep Jauhar, Narrated By Patrick Lawlor
I really wanted to like this book and I generally do like medical texts written for the layperson, but I'm not sure I know what this book was. About a third of it was the history of the treatment of heart disease and development of medical science. The rest was his family medical history (including a chapter on his Mother with Parkinson's) and his his own mistakes/foibles as an intern and new doctor. The book was about 25% interesting and 75% annoying. I couldn't wait for it to end.
By William Kent Krueger, Narrated by Rich Orlow
Krueger is best knows for his Cork O'Connor mystery series. This is a stand alone novel about a family in a small town dealing with personal and community tragedy. The story, set in 1961, is told from the point of view of 13 year old Frank Drum and starts with the discovery of an unidentified dead man near the railroad tracks in town. The tragedies don't stop there and will also personally touch the Drum family.
It's not so much a mystery, as it is a story about a family trying to come to grips with these tragedies and mixed with the responsibilities of the father who is the local minister. It's a lovely story and you will feel part of the family as you read it.
Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter
By Ben Goldfarb, Narrated By Will Damron
I hated this book.I still don't know anything about the life of the beaver because Goldfarb didn't really cover that. I know nothing about the mating habits, dam building habits, eating habits or anything else about the LIFE of the beaver.
What I got was a repetitive narration of EVERY biologist working to reintroduce beavers back into the environment. I know how totally brilliant they all are because they are "beaver believers" and they know that only the beaver can reverse all of our ecological damage. The beaver is the solution to everything! He actually has the audacity to propose that beaver dams might be able to replace all of the man-made dams in California to solve water issues there. He's honestly partly serious about that.
I think beavers are kind of cute and they are very cool because they are like us in that they change their environment for their benefit. The people who study beavers, by contrast, are proselytizing jerks.
Code Name Lise
By Larry Loftis, Narrated by Kate Reading
We are in an age of girl power and are culturally fixated on "empowering" women. If you are looking for a book to give to any woman feeling powerless, this is the book. Odette Samson was not the most decorated female spy in British WWII history, she is celebrated as the most decorated spy in British WWII history, period. Her story is well known in Britain but not so much in the US. It's inspiring and beautifully narrated by Kate Reading.
The Waiting Room
By Emily Bleeker, Narrated by Sophie Amoss
Nine hours of wandering around in the mind of a crazy person.
Veronica Shelton's husband died shortly after her baby was born and now she can't bear to touch the baby. All kinds of weird things are happening to her. I won't share the ending but will say that it's billed as some sort of psychological thriller when it's really like listening to the crazy person on the subway who insists on telling you about some grand conspiracy. The story is full of cliches, has a timeline that simply doesn't work and unrealistically enabling characters.
By William Keent Krueger, Narrated by Buck Schriner
This is the 9th in the Cork O'Connor series. His two daughters are away at college so they are very minor characters this time. The story opens with Jo on a business trip when her chartered plan goes down with her tribal clients. Searches in the area find nothing and all are presumed lost. Months later Cork is approached by the pilot's wife to look into what happened.
His son, Stephen, is now a teen and goes on the search with him. It's another good O'Connor story.
With this book the publisher changed narrators from David Chandler to Buck Schriner. That was a very difficult adjustment for me and I'm still not sure I like him. I looked ahead in the series and it appears that Schriner only narrated 3 books and then they returned to Chandler. I think I can deal with that. Schriner isn't horrible, he's just not right.
The Return of the Native
By Thomas Hardy, Narrated By Alan Rickman
Let me start by saying that I am not a Thomas Hardy fan. I get that his novels were avante-garde for his time but the stories mostly bore me and his prose exhausts me. Two hours in and you know exactly how this one was going to end. Regardless, this version is narrated by Alan Rickman and for that reason alone I had to listen to it.
One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from Senses and Sensibility. Marianne (Kate Winslet) is just recovering from her near-death illness at Col. Brandon's (Alan Rickman) home. He comes into the room to see if he can do anything and Marianne finally recognizes him and thanks him. Rickman conveys so much with his physical response. If you ever watch S&S again look for that moment and watch his slight body movements and facial expression. It conveys so much in that half second.
So that's why I listened to this book. I loved Alan Rickman in everything he's ever done. As far as I can tell, it's the only book he's ever narrated and, as expected, it's masterful. The story? It's fine.
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Kenny Blythe
This is the 6th in the Shetland Island mystery series. A group of college friends travel to the Shetland Islands to celebrate the wedding of one of the travelers. One of the friends, Eleanor, disappears. Her body is found near a cliff.
Before her death, Eleanor claimed to have seen the ghost of a child that is rumored to appear only to childless women. Following seeing the child the woman becomes pregnant.
It's Detective Jimmy Perez's first case since the murder of his fiance. He, and his boss, Willow Reeves work the case. I enjoyed the mystery side of this story. The sexual undercurrents between Willow and Jimmy just don't seem to fit their personalities and it takes away from the story. But other than that it was a fun mystery.
By David Oshinsky, Narrated By Fred Sanders
If you like history this will be an interesting book to add to your reading list. It's really the history of medicine told through one of the most famous public hospitals in the country. It's the story of medical research, treatment of some of the most challenging diseases, immigration and mental health treatment. Their commitment to treating anyone who needs help has made Bellevue the front line for new disease outbreaks. It was a very interesting read.
By Julian Fellows, Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
If you love Downton Abbey or Jane Austen books this is the book for you. The story begins in 1815 on the Eve of the Battle of Waterloo at the Duchess of Richmond's ball. One family loses their son in battle and the other loses their daughter months later.
Twenty five years later the events surrounding the ball impact both families.
It's a good read and the narration is perfect.
The Night Agent
By Matthew Quirk, Narrated By Chris Andrew Ciulla
Peter Sutherland is an FBI agent who was selected to work on the White House situation room a year ago. He's surprised because he happens to be the son of an FBI agent suspected of selling secrets to Russia. One night he takes a call from a woman named Rose with a coded message telling that her Aunt and Uncle have been killed.
Peter takes matters into his own hands and finds Rose. What follows is a series of chase scenes and murders that point to a mole in the White House.
It sounds a lot more interesting than it is. First off, there isn't a chance on God's green earth that the FBI would hire the son of a suspected spy so the very premise of the story is laughable.The reviews for this book are mostly outstanding but about 30% are not favorable and I fall into that 30%. There was just too much luck involved to make the story play out. The Russian sky group was so large that there's no way these 2 people would have been left alive more than about 4 hours and yet they drove his car and used their personal cell phones for several days without being tracked. I strained my eyeball muscles with all the eye rolling that I did.
The narration was so weak that I had to speed it up to 1.25 to be able to tolerate him. But about 70% of the people who have read it loved it so keep that in mind as you consider any influence of my review.
I can't believe the end of March is already here. Even with travel time I mostly finished 9 books this month. I say mostly because I didn't finish Fly Girls. It should have been a book that I would enjoy but it wasn't, and I didn't. Aside from that it was actually a very good month in books. I stated with a biography of Milton S Hershey that kept me on a constant chocolate craving and made me decide to go to Quilt Odyssey in Hershey, PA this year. I've been wanted to go for a while and this book made me want to see the city that Milton built.
The most riveting book of the month was The Nightingale. I was completely invested int he characters and their struggles in WWII France.
What good books have you read this month? I read many of your recommendations. I might not get to them right away but I do put them on my Audible wish list.
By Michael D'Antonio, Narrated by Jonathan Yen
I used to eat a ton of Hershey's Special Dark and then about 15 years ago they decided that adding dairy to it would improve it. As a dairy-allergic person I was incensed. I wrote all kinds of letters to them and even tried to put a hex on the company. None of those things worked and I haven't been able to eat a Hershey product since. But I do love biographies about interesting people so I let go of my hatred and animosity to read this book and I'm glad I did.
Milton S. Hershey was a fascinating and very driven person. D'Antonio tells the whole story of his life from childhood and through the ownership of his company after his death. I really enjoyed it. It's not only the story of Mr Hershey but also the story of the candy and chocolate industry.
The Last Man
By Vince Flynn, Narrated by George Guidall
This is the 13th book in the Mitch Rapp series and might be the last one that Flynn wrote before his death. Kyle Mills is writing the series now and since he's one of my favorite authors I'm still enjoying the series.
I had not read them in order but with this one I'm caught up. In this one Mitch is investigating the kidnapping of another of the CIA's operatives. They must get Joe Rickman out before he is tortured into revealing clandestine operations.
It's fast paced and I couldn't put it down.
Deeper Than The Dead
By Tami Hoag, Narrated By Kristen Potter
Last month Sylvia recommend The Boy by Tami Hoag. My library didn't have it but they do have the Oak Knoll series. I didn't love the last Hoag book that I read but it was time to give her a try again. I was pleasantly surprised.
The story is set in fictional Oak Knoll CA in 1894. 3 children running from a bully stumble over a dead body in the woods. Their 5th grade teacher, Ann Navarre, is right behind them. The discovery sets off an investigation that points to several influential families of the community.
It's fast paced and riveting enough to have kept me awake until 2 am one night. The romance angle of the story would have been more believable of teenagers and the 5th graders are often portrayed as being more emotionally mature and insightful than 10 year olds really are. But none of that had much of an influence on the plot and action so it was only mildy annoying rather than a vehicle for lazy literary miracles. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book in the series.
By Kristen Hannah, Narrated By Polly Stone
Set is WWII France, the book focuses on 2 sisters, Vianne and Isabelle and how they navigate the war. They come in with plenty of family baggage the creates a baseline of tension. Vianne is just trying to survive with her daughter until the war is over and her husband returns. She eventually has to billet a Nazi Army officer. Isabelle becomes part of the French Resistance. They each fight the war and resist the Nazis in their own way.
It's a moving and, sometimes, gut-wrenching story. The writing is so good that during some scenes in a concentration camp I was listening in bed under a pile of blankets and I got very cold from the placebo effect of the narration. It's moving, emotional and outstanding. It took me a couple of days to get beyond this book.
I hadn't read Kristen Hannah is a while but I'm excited to find another.
Order To Kill
By Kyle Mills, Narrated by George Guidall
This is the 15th in the Mitch Rapp series. I wasn't going to read another Rapp novel this month but I needed something reliable and less emotional after The Nightingale.
In this adventure Rapp is trying to keep Pakistani nukes from getting into the wrong hands, specifically the Russians.
Another fast paced Rapp novel.
By Keith O'Brien, Narrated By Erein Bennett
I was excited to see this book as an Audible Deal of the Day. It's right up my alley combining history and biography. It's about pioneering female pilots in the 20's and 30's. I really tried to like this book but after 4 and a half hours I gave up. Honestly, it just wasn't that interesting.
If you are into aviation history you may love this book but it wasn't for me.
The Terminal List
By Jack Carr, Narrated by Ray Porter
I don't care for science fiction because I can't accept ignoring the laws of physics. I'm also not a fan of mystery books that are completely implausible. However, this once, I'm making an exception.
In The Terminal List LCDR James Reece is leading his SEAL team unit on a mission when they are ambushed and everyone except him and one other man are killed. Blaming himself he sets out to find why they were ambushed. The answer leads to the highest levels of government and he sets off on a revenge tour.
The extent of the conspiracy is unbelievable because too many people are involved. In reality, it would have fallen apart way before the orchestrated ambush. The revenge tour is also implausible but it is supremely satisfying!
It's not the best book I've ever read but it was good enough for me to put the second installment on hold for it's release in September.
She Lies in Wait
By Gytha Lodge, Multiple Narrators
This is another 1st in a series that I tried out this month and I was pleasantly surprised. In 1983 a teen out with 6 other teens disappears. 30 years later her body is found and Jonah Sheens is the detective in charge. 30 years ago he was a rookie cop and knew all 6 of the other kids.
The story switches back and forth between 1983 and preset day and it's told from the different perspectives of the participants with different narrators. I'm generally not a fan of that approach but it works in this book.
This is a new book and series that just came out in January so I'll have to wait a while for the second in the series.
By Ruth Downie, Narrated by Simon Vance
This is the 5th in the Roman Empire series. I really enjoy this series it combines my two favorite genres in one book: mysteries and historical fiction. The central character of the series is Gaius Petrius Ruso, a Roman medicus who decides to serve in the Roman outpost of Britannia. In this installment he is back in his post in the 20th legion and starts investigating a series of mysterious accidents and deaths.He's helped by his wife Tilla who is a barbarian Britain herself.
It's an interesting and well-written series.
This was not my best month of reading. I finished 9 books in February and the only real standout was Sapiens. I loved that book. I also enjoyed Bethlehem Road and To Kingdom Come. They are continuations of series that I already enjoy. The other 6 books were kind of "meh".
I hope you have some good recommendations for me this month!
By Lisa Scottoline, Narrated By January LaVoy
I'm always on the search for a great new mystery series so I thought I'd give this series a try. It's based around an all-female law firm and the 2 partners Bernie Rosato and Mary DiNunzio. A new client, 13 year old Allegra Gardner, has shown up to ask them to investigate the murder of her sister Fiona. Allegra believes that the wrong man is in prison.
If you like cliches and stereotypes you will LOVE this book. Can you imagine the uproar if someone wrote about an all-male law firm? Do you expect that ANY law firm would take a 13 year old seriously, even with her own trust fund? Everyone in this book is a cliche from the Italian families, the "genius" Allegra Lonnie, the wronged black man in prison who is accepting "God's will" and the God-fearing mother and church members who couldn't figure out the key clue in their own church. The narrator made is worse by making Allegra sound like a 6 year old, the Italian parents sound like they just arrived in Philadelphia and all of the black people in Philadelphia sound like they live in Birmingham, Alabama.
It's apparently a successful book series but it didn't work for me. Also, the book should be called "Convicted", not "Accused" because Lonnie is in jail, not on trial.
Then She Was Gone
By Lisa Jewell, Narrated By Helen Duff
I got this one from the library because I wasn't going to risk an Audible credit for a book I didn't expect to like. I'm happy to say that it surprised me.
Ellie Mack disappeared when she was 15. She was very happy and well adjusted and her family never could believe that she ran away. Several years alter some belongings and bones are found and the family starts to heal. Ellie's mother, Laurel, then meets a wonderful man and his daughter, Poppy. Poppy looks exactly like Ellie and and Laurel is on a renewed search to find out what happened to Ellie.
I've never read Lisa Jewel before but I'd guess that she definitely writes for female audiences. That said, this wasn't as chick litty as Accused. It was actually an interesting book and I read through it pretty quickly. I felt that the character development was good and people behaved as you would expect. Some things were no surprise at all (like who Poppy is) but other things were surprising (like who Poppy isn't). All in all, a good read.
By Edith Hamilton, Narrated By Suzanne Toren
If you are interested in mythology then you have probably already read this book. It was published in 1942 and is still popular. It's popular for good reason. The way that Hamilton organized the book makes it much easier to understand the Greek, Roman and Norse myths. I really enjoyed it but I think I would have retained more from it if I had read in in paper. It would have been beneficial to reference back to previous chapters.
I've read a few books on mythology and this one is the best by far. I think I actually retained some information this time.
By Yuval Noah Harari, Narrated By Derek Perkins
This book has been out a couple of years and it's so popular that I still had to wait a couple of months to get it from the library. Now that I've finished it I know why. It's excellent! It's not just evolutionary history, it's really about every aspect of humankind and Harari does a great job of breaking topics down to the bare essence. Even better, there's no political agenda! But his discussion of history actually helps to reanalyze today's challenges by comparing them to the essence of events in history. Once I started I couldn't put it down and I'm sure that was helped by the excellent narration.
Long Road to Mercy
By David Baldacci, Narrated by Brittany Pressley and Kyf Brewer
I am officially done with Baldacci. This book is simply horrible. In this book he starts a new series with the ridiculously named, FBI Special Agent Atlee Pine. She was a competitive weight lifter in high school and college so she's freakishly strong and able to lift the weight of a dead man. Her personal baggage is that her twin sister was abducted from their bedroom when she was 6 and no one knows what happened to her...although Atlee is sure that it's a serial killer in a nearby prison. I'm sure that particular storyline will travel through future books.
In this story she is a one-woman FBI office near the Grand Canyon. She's been offered bigger jobs but prefers to work on the front lines. This story opens when she is called to investigate a mutilated mule deer and the disappearance of it's rider. This leads to multiple ambush and chase scenes where she and her 60ish secretary are able to fend off multiple attackers with machine guns and other advantages. Girl power always wins out and scenes wrap up basically with the men going "duh, OK, I guess you got me".
The whole thing is made worse by a poor choice for narrators. The female would be better narrating a strong woman in a cozy mystery, not a tough FBI agent. The male narrator makes most of the men sound like Forrest Gump-type characters.
I'm glad that I listened to this book so I could multi-task with my time. I would have hated to totally waste that 11 hours.
To Kingdom Come
By Will Thomas, Narrated By Anthony Ferguson
This is the second in the Barker and Llewelyn series. Cyrus Barker is a private detective in Victorian London. Thomas Llewelyn is the assistant that he hired in the first book.
This book opens several bombs have been set off all over London. Barker and Llewelyn go undercover to infiltrate the Irish Republican Brotherhood as they are planning a much bigger attack to bring down the monarchy and the city.
These books are a lot like the Anne Perry series and are fiction based on some real events of the time. They aren't heart-pounding mysteries but if you like Sherlock Holmes or Anne Perry books you will like this series. They should be read in order though because there are references to things in the first book.
The Killing Season
By Mason Cross, Narrated by Eric Meyers
This book was another opportunity to get into a new series. It is the first book in the Carter Blake series. Blake is an expert in finding people who do not want to be found and the FBI frequently uses him. This time he's called to find Caleb Wardell, a sniper, who has escaped from prison custody. He's working with FBI agent Elaine Banner to find Wardell as he roams the mid-west on a sniper mission.
This book has some great reviews but it just didn't work for me. I am not a good storyteller, I'm more of a chronicler, telling a story with facts and not a lot of emotion or suspense. I felt that way about this book. I didn't really understand the sniper of his motive and Blake's magical way of tracking Wardell just didn't work. The sexual "tension" between Blake and Banner seemed forced and tossed in just to add a sexual angle.
I wasn't all that entertained so will not be reading more of this series.
Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrafice
By Adam Markos, Narrated By Dominic Hoffman
I love good military hero stories and am glad that I read this book to learn about 2 US Navy pilots from the Korean War: Ensign Jesse Brown, the first US Navy black carrier pilot and Lieutenant Tom Hudner.
It's a GOOD story. It's not a epic story. I'm glad I read it but it's not even close to the quality of Unbroken. A lot of this book is about the key people before they came into the military and a lot of battle detail about the marines that these pilots were assigned to protect. But the book is about 1 event in particular so there's a lot of background and follow-up to fill the pages. That said, both were very worthy of the ships that were later named for them. But just look their names up on Wikipedia and you will get everything you need.
By Anne Perry, Narrated By Davina Porter
This is #10 in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. The series is set in the late Victorian era. There are a series of murders of members of Parliament.The men are left tied to lamp posts looking like they are stooped drunks. The story is also tied to the early days of the suffragette movement and the plight of women and their property.
It's not the best book in the series but I love the series and Davina Porter is one of my favorite narrators.
It was an interesting month of books. I read fewer books because the last one, Atlas Shrugged, counted for about 5 book on it's own just in length. My biggest disappointments were The Last Palace and Pacific. All of the others were winners. I was so happy to read Atlas Shrugged again, it's one of my favorite books of all time.
What have you been reading? Any good recommedations for the rest of us?
The Last Palace
By Norman Eisen, Narrated By Jeff Goldblum
I was looking forward to reading this book because I know very little about the history of Czechoslovakia. So the first point that needs to be made is that this is not the story of Europe's Turbulence, as the title says. It is barely a history of Czechoslovakia. The premise is that this is the history of Europe told through the history of the inhabitants of this one palace. It is the story of the man who built the palace, the author's family, briefly, the Nazi and then Soviet occupation of the country and of some of the US diplomats who lived in the palace. I felt short-changed on all fronts.
The main bit of information that I took out of it is that a diplomat fell in love with the palace after WWII and through his machinations we, the US taxpayers, are funding the maintenance and upkeep on an obscene 100 room palace to house our diplomats. That part annoys me no end. The author was the diplomat there during the Obama administration and I have it from a very reliable source that he wasn't a particularly good diplomat. But his own opinion of his effectiveness is very different.
As to the narration, it's horrible. Jeff Goldblum reads this novel the way that an adult reads a children's book with exaggerated intonation. It is soooooo annoying! His voices for female characters are ridiculous and almost offensive. I hope he sticks to acting. I had to listen at 1.3 speed to get through it.
I did finish the book but didn't really learn much new except about the man who built the house and how he destroyed his family relationships in the process. That's not a particularly unique story among the super-wealthy and obsessive.
A Steep Price
By Robert Dugoni, Narrated By Emily Sutton-Smith
This is #6 in the Tracey Crosswhite series. Crosswhite is a detective in Seattle. She is asked to consult on the case of a missing young woman. She is estranged from her family because she refuses to have an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, back at the office, it seems her boss has discovered that she's pregnant and has already hired her replacement.
This is an enjoyable series. I like the characters and the story line moves along at a good pace. It's not particularly gruesome with details of murder and torture which probably give it a larger potential audience of mystery readers.
The narrator has been narrating most of the series and I'd be disappointed if that changed. Her voice is Tracey to me.
A Land Remembered
By Patrick D. Smith, Narrated by George Guidall
A beautifully written book that tells the story of Florida before Disney and the Snowbirds discovered it. The story spans 3 generations of the MacIvey family from the first generation of dirt poor homesteaders to the third generation real estate tycoon. The characters are so well developed that you become completely immersed in their lives. It's a great way to learn a little about the fascinating history of Florida.
It's narrated by George Guidell, one of my favorite narrators. He narrates the Longmire and Mitch Rapp series of books and he does a great job with this one too. This is an "old" book that was published in paper in 1984 and in audio in 2011. I'm glad that Audible featured it as one of it's Daily Deals.
By Simon Winchester, Narrated by Simon Winchester
I really enjoyed Winchester's The Men Who United the States and that's what led me to select this one. The challenge, I think, is trying to write a cohesive book with a giant ocean as the binding theme. I don't feel that he really met that challenge.
Pacific is really a collection of stories about different aspect of the Pacific Ocean from the birth and popularity of surfing, the invention of the transistor radio, beating up Australia for their immigration policies, the rise of North Korea and the Chinese takeover of the Asian Pacific. It was far too random for my taste. There are whole books written on some of the topics that would be better. It's really difficult to go from reading about the moving Gidget to China's desires to take over the world.
He also carried his personal political views into the book much more so than in the last book so the geo-political topics weren't presented in any balanced sort of way. It's not a bad book but I expect that there are better books on these topics.
Dark Sacred Night
By Michel Connelly, Narrated by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin
This is the 21st book in the Harry Bosch series and second in Renee Ballard. In the last book Bosch exposes a pill mill in LA and saves one of he victims. The woman he saves is the mother of Daisy Clayton, a 15 year old girl who was abducted and killed some years before. This book picks up where the last left off with Bosh investigating Daisy's cold case.
He's reviews some old files at LAPS when the night detective, Renee Ballard, starts looking into the case with him.
Connelly is doing a nice job of slowly retiring Bosch while bringing along Ballard. The two characters work well together. That said, it wasn't one of my favorites. Bosch come across as quite lethargic. His wit is gone. Frankly, I'm not convinced that Connelly actually wrote the book. There are lots of little side stories so that, in the end, the Daisy Clayton case is only about half of the book. It was a fine read and I enjoyed it, but it's not vintage Bosch.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Narrated by Scott Brick
I first listened to Atlas Shrugged in 1998 and with the current political climate I felt it was time for a refresher course. This is no frivolous read. It comes in at 62 hours! But it is probably one of the most prescient books ever written that shows what happens when free will is restricted and wealth is demonized. Rand grew up in Russia during the revolution and she saw her father's business confiscated and the family had to escape to Crimea. She came to the US in 1926 and I think this book shows how a socialist revolution would happen in the US....and how it would be fought.
The hero of this book is John Galt. "Who is John Galt?" is the response to ever new policy/restriction/theft executed against society. John Galt sets out to show what would happen if all of the heroes of innovation and industry went on strike. It's part science fiction (she even references fracking and color TVs in a book written in 1957), part love story, part mystery and part philosophical fiction. I loved this book the first time I read it and I loved it more this time.
A note about listening to this book. I downloaded it from Libby (and had to wait MONTHS to get it). It's a huge book and caused a lot of problems with the app. You have to be really patient with this one. It takes the app a long time to get itself set and ready to go. Many times I had to restart the app. Just be patient. The library really needs to break this into 2 separate downloads.
Do you remember last month when I talked about what a great book month November was? Well, we really only know "good" when we have something not so good to compare it to. Well, December was a "not so good month".
I did have a few really good books. Lethal White and Holy Ghost are books that I had been waiting to get from the library for a few months and they did not disappoint.
The Feather Thief was a superior book but it was a surprisingly interesting story. Brain On Fire was another interesting book but I'm not sure it would have wide appeal. Nowhere to Run and Tier One were books that I knew that I could count on to cleanse my palette from the rest of the books of the month.
So, that's not so bad, right? Well there are four books that I really can't recommend: Mary Queen of Scots was just way too long, The World In A Grain, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters and The Witch Elm were downright awful.....in my opinion. But read the detail reviews and if you have read any of them and have a different opinion please let us know in the comments. We all have different tastes in books.
Do you have any particular books on your 2019 reading list? I have lots of books on my Audible and Libbie wish lists but nothing specific that I must read. I'm open to almost m=anything....except sci-fi, fantasy, romance and self-help. I'm beyond help!
Here's my December reading list.
By Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), narrated by Robert Glenister
This is the 4th is the Cormoran Strike series. I never read the Harry Potter novels simply because magic isn't my genre. I've seen bits and pieces of the movies. But I know she's and outstanding writer and I am addicted to this mystery series.
Cormoran Strike lost a leg serving in Afghanistan and is now a private detective. At the end of the last book he had fired his assistant, Robin, because she was badly hurt in their last case. In this book it opens at Robin's wedding where he went to ask her back. When she returns from her honeymoon they are hired by a British government minister to try to stop a blackmail scheme.
These books are so well written and apparently you can find web sites where people explore the meaning of certain imagery in the book. Lethal White refers to a syndrome in horses, much of the story takes place around the Uffington White Horse and there's a painting in one of the main story locations with a white horse. According to the conspiracy theorists this all has to do with Rowling's hatred of the legacy British colonialism.
Whatever. I couldn't care or be influenced less about her politics. I just love her book.
The Feather Thief
By Kirk Wallace Johnson, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
I'm still waiting for a few books on my hold list on Libby so I started looking around for new books that were available and stumbled on this one. I'm glad I found it.
The book is about the 2009 theft by Edwin Rist of hundreds of rare and historically significant birds from the natural history Museum in Tring, UK. many of the birds had been collected by Charles Darwin's contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace.
You can look up Edwin Rist on Wikipedia and get the basic background of the theft and find out that he basically got off with a mental health defense. But Kirk Wallace Johnson, a fly fisherman, heard about the story and got obsessed by it and this book is the result.
It's basically in 3 parts. The first part is about the history of collecting specimens that was the rage in Victorian times. The second part is about the crime where we learn yet again, how poorly museum collections are secured. The third part is about the author's obsession with tracking down the missing birds and more about Rist, the fly tying community and their dedication to finding feathers from rare birds. It was a good read.
Nowhere to Run
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
This is the 10th novel in the Joe Pickett series. In the last book he was "sentenced" to a tour as the game warden in the remote area of Baggs, WY. It's the last week and he's following up on complaints about butchered elk, looted camps and other minor mayhem. Of course it turns out to be a lot more than it seems.
I like the Joe Pickett novels. My husband doesn't like that the family is so involved in the stories but it's one of the things that I enjoy about the books. They are a lot like the Craig Johnson books. David Chandler is the perfect narrator for Joe Pickett.
The Boston Girl
By Anita Diamant, Narrated by Linda Lavin
One of the benefits of now borrowing books from the library is that I'll occasionally read a book that's less than my 10 hour minimum rule. I generally prefer longer books and I set the 10 hour rule so reduce the per hour cost of listening on Audible. On Audible a 4 hour book costs 1 credit, the same as a 30 hour book.
Anyway, I was still waiting for some books to come off hold so I started looking around the Libbie app for books that are available. That's how I found The Feather Thief, this book and the next book.
The Boston Girl is a coming of age novel. Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents. She's now 85 and is telling her Granddaughter her life story. The story begins when she is 15 when she made the friends who would be part of her life forever. The story has a lot of historical detail about the lives if immigrants in Boston at that time and Linda Lavin (from the sitcom Alice) narrates it beautifully. The author takes a couple of gratuitous political cheap shots that I feel make her seem petty, but otherwise it's like sitting down with grandma to hear a good story.
Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness
By Susannah Cahalan, Narrated By Heather Henderson
You've got to love medical histories to like this book. I found it fascinating. Susannah was (and is) a writer for the New York Post. One day she began having hallucinations, seizures and other mental illness symptoms. She eventually ended up in the hospital where she stayed for a month. It was only due to the good fortune of time and place that she ended up with the right doctor to get the right diagnosis.
It's a mystery story and a very detailed personal history of the person who went through it.
The World in a Grain
By Vince Beiser, Narrated by Wil Damron
I had such high expectations for this book. I hoped for something along the lines of Salt by Mark Kurlansky but Vince Beiser isn't a historian, he's an activist.
This book is partly about sand as the foundation of civilization and how many different ways it's used (building roads, silicon chops...) but it's mostly about how the development of all of those things have led to a laundry list of bad things. It was so annoying that I gave up half way through. It could have been great and he could have gotten his points across without being such an unhappy activist and more of a dispassionate historian. I can summarize his point of view by saying that he pretty much sees everything about civilization as negative. How he gets through his miserable day is a mystery to me.
Right after this book I started and returned Borrowed Time by James Freeman and Vern McKinley. It's about the history of Citicorp. It's the kind of book that I usually love but the narrator was horrible. His narration would make this a great book to listen to if you have insomnia. I may get a paper copy to ready on vacation next year because it's the kind of book that I usually love.
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
By Margaret George, Narrated by Donada Peters
I love Margaret George's historical novels. One of my favorite books of all time is her book Memoirs of Cleopatra. I also enjoyed this book but I didn't love it. It's 42 hours long and that's a long time when telling the story of someone who spent half of her life basically imprisoned. It wasn't a bad book at all but it got a bit exhausting. 10 hours could have easily been edited out of it. But if you like historical novels with excruciating details this is the book for you.
The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters
By Sam Kashner and nancy Schoenberger
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
I don't know why I read this except that I saw some good reviews and I got it free from the library. I have a pretty healthy disinterest in the lives of society people but I thought it might be interesting. It was, sort of, but I left the book not really liking either woman very much.
It's a great look into the lives of society women of their age who were raised to marry well. It was bred into them from a young age and they really never abandoned it.
The book tries to play up the sibling rivalry but it was really no different than a lot of sister relationships. The difference is that in this case there's real money and social standing involved. Since that was the currency of their lives the rivalry is not really surprising.
If you buy into the whole Camelot facade of the Kennedy administration, don't read this book. It does blow that up pretty well. They were political animals just like today's politicians. Jackie knew, and often facilitated, Jack's foraging outside of the marriage. Plus she was a heavy smoker which the press helped hide just like they do with Obama. She did an amazing job of burnishing his image after his death. I wouldn't have been able to spend a day with either of these woman.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Eric Conger
This is the 11th in the Virgin Flowers series and I had been on the wait list at the library since September! It was a real treat after the last 3 books and it was classic F@>^!%$ Flowers. This time he's sent to the tiny town of Pinion, MN where a sighting of the virgin Mary has breathed new life into this half-dead town. That is until someone starts a shooting spree that puts everything at risk. Shrake and Jenkins are back with Virgil and there's nothing to eat in the town except frozen pot pies. It was a fun read.
Field of Bones
By JA Jance, narrated by Hillary Huber
I haven't read a JA Jance book in about 18 years so when someone recommended this I decided to give it a try. This is the 18th book in the Joanna Brady series. Brady is the sheriff in Cochise County, AZ. She's on maternity leave when a body dump field is found. Her Deputy Sheriff is in charge and they are trying to find the serial killer before another body is dumped.
You don't have to read these books in order because Jance spends a LOT of time giving background on each character between scenes. In fact, I'd say that a full 3rd of this book seemed like detailed background information so the story seemed quite choppy to me.
As for the story, it was fine. Not great. There are too many "strong women" and men around them to provide support. It's not a feminist manifesto at all. The author was actually quite even-handed with everyone and I didn't get political undertones. But it's simply not realistic that a Deputy Sheriff of either gender would be telling the Sheriff that they can't wait until she gets back because the job is a bit over his/her head. Also, things in this novel resolve quickly and easily. For example, the local FBI office didn't want to help with profiling but, no worries, Sheriff Brady has a connection and with a couple of phone calls we have the exact profile identified. Magic.
JA Jance has a large following so I know her novels are popular but they just aren't for me.
The Witch Elm
By Tana French, Narrated by Paul Nugent
Tana French writes the Dublin Murder Squad series, that I enjoyed until the most recent book, and this one had some good published reviews so I decided to give it a try. I should have read the Audible reviews first and skipped it. The publisher and professional reviews are always misleading!
I don't even understand this book. None of the characters are believable and not one of them behaves like a normal person would in the same situations. Most of the story revolves around the discovery of a dead body in a tree on family property. The dead person is a contemporary of three cousins now in their 20's. It's truly an excruciating story and it took every fiber of my being to finish it. I only finished it because I kept hoping for the main character, Toby, to die. Actually the best ending would have been fr everyone to die.
An anonymous Audible customer wrote a review that is so spot on that I decided that I'd share:
"The plot (is there a plot?) is slow and disjointed, featuring bizarre unrealistic event heaped upon bizarre unrealistic event duct-taped together with shoddy continuity. Characters drop out and/or show up with little or no explanation or reason. The scenes intended to be most dramatic made me laugh because of the giant plot conveniences driven by the author; the characters' motivations for doing most of what they do are unimaginable. Toby, Melissa, Susannah, Leon, Shawn, Hugo, and just about every character in this book are chess pieces being moved around artlessly to bring their fragmented, preposterous, mean-spirited, lazy plotlines to a close."
The book gave me a headache and a bad attitude that only a few hours outside raking leaves relieved.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated by Ray Porter
These are the same authors that write under the pen name Alex Ryan and authored Bejing Red. This is a new series based on a Tier One Navy SEAL named John Dempsey, formerly Jack Kemper. After a terrorism plot destroys his SEAL unit he is recruited to join Ember, the most secretive counter-terrorism until in existence.
It's not the best spy novel I've read but it was a good story, I liked the characters and it was very fast paced. It was a great palette cleanser after The Witch Elm.
On to 2019 and, hopefully, a lot of good books for all of us!
November has been one of the best months for books in a while. My least favorite book, The Templar Legacy, was still a very well written book. For non-fiction lovers I can recommend both of my books this month: Billion Dollar Whale and Destined For War. I got to revisit some of my favorite heroes and read a 70 year old classes. It's a difficult choice but I think my favorite this month was The Weight of Ink.
What have you read this month that was great? I've been waiting since September for Lethal White to become available on Libby so I'm currently enjoying the latest in the Cormoran Stirke series.
Billion Dollar Whale
By Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, Narrated by Will Collyer
If you like financial history books you will love this one. A man named Joh Low pulled off one of the biggest financial heists in history. We know it as the 1MBD Scandal. If you like this kind of book you will love this one. It's written by 2 Wall Street Journal writers that followed the story. It's fascinating.
The Templar Legacy
By Steve Berry, Narrated by Paul Michael
This is the first book in a series with the main character, Cotton Malone series of 14 (so far) books. Cotton is retired from the US Justice Department and is now an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen. His old boss shows up and is investigating research that her husband was doing when he died. It all has to do with the the Knights Templar that was, supposedly, eradicated in the 14th century.
It's like the DaVinci Code and if you liked that you will like this. I think it's better written than the DaVinci Code but that's coming from someone who really dislikes Dan Brown books so take it with a grain of salt. But if you like novels with layer and layers of secrets and codes you will really enjoy this.
The Weight of Ink
By Rachel Kadish, Narrated By Corrie James
What a lovely book. There are 3 main characters: Helen Watt, an ailing history professor studying 17th century Jewish history; Aaron Levy, a grad student working on a dissertation about Jewish characters in Shakespeare; and, Ester Velasquez, a scribe for a blind rabbi in the 17th century. Ester is an intellectual prevented from publishing her thoughts or writings because of her gender and poverty. However she writes to well known philosophers of the time to discuss her ideas on God and religion. In the modern time Helen and Arron have come across her writings (found in the house of a former student) and are studying them.
The book addresses several challenges of the 17th century: religious bias, gender bias, homosexuality and poverty but does so without imposing modern mores and thoughts. It's simply a good story and it provoked me to look up a philosopher or two so I learned a little something along the way.
An Echo of Murder
By Anne Perry, Narrated By David Colacci
I wanted an easy read after The Weight of Ink so I went with one of my favorite series, Anne Perry's William Monk. These books are set in Victorian England and this is the 23rd in the series. Perry does a nice job of keeping her stories fresh by introducing new characters and expanding their roles in subsequent books.
In this one Monk, Commander of the Thames River Police, is investigating a series of gruesome murders in the Hungarian immigrant community. Hester and Scuff, of course, get involved.We also meet a doctor that worked with Hester in the Crimean War.
Destined for War, Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?
By Graham Allison, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
If only our new services would spent even 1/20th of their time giving us truly useful and insightful information instead of focusing on salacious content that has no real impact on our lives. But they don't so I periodically search out books that will give me a bit of the information that I really need to have.
This is one of those books. The title is definitely an attention-grabbing hook because the author really spends most of the content explaining why we aren't really destined for war, in the traditional sense. We are certainly at war with China; or they with us. It's just not conventional.
If you like non-fiction this really is an excellent book. Allison uses historical wars to explain Thucydides's Trap where one power threatens to displace another. His information about the historical and cultural differences between the two countries is very thorough and the book sis very readable.
By Kyle Mills, Narrated by George Guidall
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm so glad that Kyle Mills took over writing the Mitch Rapp series. He was the perfect writer to take over for Vince Flynn and I'm so happy that Mitch Rapp lives on.
In this 17th book in the series the Russian president is ill and stirs up some international trouble to distract the media while he tries for a cure.
It's another action packed adventure and Mitch must save the day.
The Shadow Patrol
By Alex Berenson, Narrated by George Guidall
I usually spread out my CIA/Military hero books but I have a couple of non-fiction titles on hold at the library that should release soon and this one was in my Audible library with a couple of other non-fiction books so I decided to treat myself to a little John Wells first.
This is #6 in the Wells series. The CIA station in Kabul is having some problems and agents are dying. John Wells is sent in to investigate.
If you like Vince Flynn/Kyle Mills or Ben Coes, you will like Alex Berenson.
The Clockmaker's Daughter
By Kate Morton, Narrated by Joanna Foggatt
I enjoy Kate Morton's books. The stories are complex and woven between generations. The Clockmaker's Daughter is that and a lot more....maybe too much more.
In 1862 a group of artists gather at Birchwood Manor in Oxfordshire with a plan to spend the month in inspiration and creativity. The group is led by Edward Radcliffe. The trip is ruined when his fiance is shot dead and his muse, and true love, is missing.
150 years later Elodie Winslow, an archivist in London, uncovers a satchel that contains Edward's sketchbook and a photograph. Now she wants to find out more about them.
The book follows 4 different generations of people as they are affected by the house, a painting, a jewel and other related items.Frankly, there are a lot of characters to keep up with. I expect that this books was a lot more fun to write than to read. It required some work. Plus there's the added twist that one of the main narrators is a dead woman. The clockmaker is a very minor theme in the book and I don't think it was very relevant to the whole story unless it's simply about the passage of time. The father was such a non-entity to the story that he could have been a cooper, tailor or any number of other professions so I'm kind of annoyed by the title.
Just because of the complexity I did not like this book as much as I have enjoyed others. If you read it, be prepared to put in some work to keep track of the people and objects. It was fun to have it narrated by Mrs. Bates (Downton Abbey).
A Town Like Alice
By Nevil Shute, narrated By Neil Hunt
I finished off the month with this jewel of a book. It was published in 1950 and is the fictional story of an Englishwoman who was marched all over Malaysia by the Japanese in WWII. During one harrowing part of her journey she was aided by an Autralian soldier who was crucified as punishment.
Back in England after the war she discovers that she had inherited money from a distant relative she barely knew. She can now decide very independently where and how to live her life. It's about her life, her relationship with the solicitor who manages her trust and about the people she wants to thank. It's a lot more than that brief description. It's very much a love story, but not a romance story.
It's a well known and beautiful book but you must remember that it was written in the 1940's. You must be able to read it without imposing our modern moral code on the actions and language of the characters. If you can't do that you will have this book.
It was a perfect ending to a month of mostly great books.
October was not one of my best book months. It started off good with Middlesex but was up and down from there. My favorites are probably Button Man, The Men Who United the States and How to Tame a Fox. The last two books of the month were duds...in my opinion.
What are your favorites reads from October?
By Jeffery Eugenides, Narrated by Kristoffer Tabori
Middlesex is one of the most unique novels that I've ever read. The core story is about Cal/Caliope Stephanides and Cal is telling the story. But it's story that covers three generations and how decisions have affected his genetic makeup. Cal is intersexed: part boy and part girl. The book was published in 2003 so it was before our obsession with biological gender vs gender identity and, therefore, is refreshingly free of political overtones.
I think the book is a bit longer that it needs to be and if not for the great narration, I might have given up on it. But I'm glad I stuck with it. It's graphic in some places so that might not appeal to everyone but, otherwise, I think it's a good exploration of the randomness of how we come into existence and the choices that we make to deal with it. This one is positive, doesn't cast stereotype parents as evil and shows what a difference a good attitude and acceptance can make. We don't have to "fix" everything. Sometimes it's best to just be what we are.
The Secret Child
By Kerry Fisher, Narrated By Emma Spurgin Hussey
It's the 1960's, Suzy's husband is on a 15 month deployment and she gets pregnant. Today we would call it rape. But she has the baby and chooses to give it up for adoption to save the effect on her family. It's a decision that torments her the rest of her life and has consequences for her husband and daughter.
Half of the story is told by Suzy and half by her younger daughter, Grace. It's the age old story about decisions and unintended consequences. Even the right decision has consequences.
It's a well written book and it's definitely chick lit. I wouldn't want to read a lot of this kind of literature but this one was good.
I am Brian Wilson
By Brian Wilson, Narrated by Fred Berman
Brian Wilson is a musical genius. Often with genius comes other issues, especially emotional issues and that is certainly the case with Brian Wilson.
In this book we get a lot of the stories of the great impact that he had on the music industry, much of which is beyond the Beach Boys. We also get a look at his personal life and the struggles that he has daily to try to live a productive life.
It's all quite interesting if you can handle the scattershot nature of the way it's presented. It's impossible to keep up with chronological events. He jumps all over the place from one random story to another. I imagine that it's very much what his daily existence is like. I had a very hard time making it through.
By Christopher Moore, Narrated By Euan Morton
This is about the 4th book by Christopher Moore that I've read and I really should know better by now. His books are meant to be humor and they sort of are. I personally think that he tries to cram too many genres into his books. This one is part historical fiction, fantasy, mystery,mythology, satire and humor. It's too clever by half.
The story is about a "sacred blue" paint used by famous artists over the ages. The story opens with the death of van Gogh and the desire to determine if it was suicide or murder. Baker/painter Lucien Lessard along with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec set out to find out.
It would have been great a a straight up fantasy/historical fiction novel but the addition of crude humor, for the sake of humor, detracted from the clever storyline. It's probably the last of his books that I'll read.
Emma by Jane Austen
Narrated by Emma Thompson, Joanne Froggatt, Morgana Robinson
Of course I've read Emma before! Many times. But Audible has a new program where subscribers get 2 free listens of Audible-exclusive programs each month. This was the only of the 6 options for September that I was interested in. The narration was spot on.
By Andrew Gross, Narrated By Eduardo Ballerini
This is a historical thriller set in NYC at the formation of the mafia. The story is told through the Rabishevsky family. One brother starts a garment company and another gets involved with the street thugs that later become part of the mafia. It's an interesting story of NYC in the 1920's and 1930's and includes some real life mobsters and prosecutors.
The Men Who United the States
By Simon Winchester, Narrated by Simon Winchester
This book is a wonderful perspective on the development of the United States because it focuses on the explorers, inventors and forward-thinkers that created the tools that united our vast land. He does digress into some personal stores here and there but they are pretty interesting stories. You will learn a lot of history told in a wonderful storytelling narrative.
I read another of his books last year, The Professor and the Madman, about the development of the Oxford English Dictionary and I loved that one too.
How to Tame a Fox
By Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, Narrated by Joe Hempel
I told you above about the new Audible program where they provide 2 free downloads each month. You have 6 to choose from and I'm determined to get my free listens. This month I chose a 3 hours interview/podcast-type program nammed "Hi Bob" by Bob Newhart and "The Queen: Aretha Franklin". Both are about 3 hours each and now I've discovered that I don't really like a podcast format. But they are great for listening to when I go to bed to help me get to sleep.
I was happy to get back to my "real" books after that and the next one I selected was "How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)". By now you know that I'm kind of into genetics. Not enough to study it, but I do like reading about the study of it.
Apparently about 60 years ago a group of scientists in Russia were interested in understanding how the dog became domesticated from the wolf and if that evolution could be repeated in foxes. Dogs were the first domesticated animals and that happened thousands of years before sheep, goats and other animals. The scientists though that if they could select foxes for tameness that they might be able to see how the domestication process works. Surprisingly, the experiment worked quickly and very well. Within 10 generations (a decade or less) they had fully-domesticated foxes. What was interesting was what other traits changed as the foxes became tamer. Somehow, the researchers kept this experiment going for decades through much upheaval in Russia and now there's extensive genetic research happening on the tame and control foxes. The story is fascinating and you will be happy to knwo that if you have enough money that you can get your own pet fox.
Milk! A 10,000 Year Food Fracas
By Mark Kurlanski, Narrated By Brian Sutherland
I loved Mark Kurlanski's books on Paper and Salt. They were informative and fun. Milk, unfortunately is mostly boring. There really isn't anything "fracas-like" about the history of milk. There are a few tidbits of interesting information in the book, like the Swill Milk Scandal, but you can read about that on Wikipedia without dredging though this book that seems about 50% narrated recipes.
The book is further hindered by some very poor narration. I sped the book up to 1.25 just to get through it. My advice to you is to pass on the milk.
America for Beginners
By Leah Franqui, Narrated by Soneela Nankani
Oh the tedium!
I had heard great things about this book and it was even compared to Behold the Dreamers, one of my recent favorites. It is NOTHING like Behold the Dreamers except it is about foreigners visiting the US for the first time.
The story is about a Indian woman visiting the US for the first time to try to find her gay son. She is guided by a recent immigrant from Bengal and an aspiring actress who needs money. It takes half of the book just to introduce all of the characters and most of the book is comprised of internal dialogue from one character or another. I made it 6 hours in and just couldn't take it anymore. I was ambivalent about all of the characters and wanted to slap most of them and tell them to buck up and get on with their day.
(Fortunately this one was free from the library so I didn't feel bad not finishing it!)
It was a bummer to end on 2 bad books but I have hope for November!
Wow, September sure went by fast! My book list starts on my trip home from vacation and the rest was done while ironing and packing fabric, making flowers and doing every other prep task for the big show next week. As of today my booth is ready! All of the fabric is done, the decorations and signs made and everything is packed. I only have one task left to get my Bleeding Quilt presentation ready and I'll do that this weekend.
Today, I'm going to continue listening to my latest book and sew something.
I only finished 6 books this month but a few of them are real gems. My favorites are The House at the Edge of Night and The Woman Who Smashed Codes.
What have you read recently? Any recommendations?
The House at the Edge of Night
By Catherine Banner, Narrated by Eduardo Ballerini
Coming home from vacation I had Laura with me for the trip from Maine to Connecticut but I had to do Connecticut to Virginia by myself. I'm not a big fan of driving in any case but with a good book I 'm good to go. But the key is finding a good book and this time I lucked out.
The story is set on the fictional island of Castellamare, off the coast of Italy. Amadeo Esposito is a foundling (orphan) from Florence who is mentored by the physician that tends to the foundlings. He becomes a physician and finds employment, and love, as the first physician on the island. The story follows 3 generations of the Esposito family as the world intrudes and families leave and return to the lovely island.
It's a lovely story about a lovely place that you want to visit when the book is over. As soon as I got home I immediately put on my headphones so I could continue listening.
The Worst Hard Times
By Timothy Egan, Narrated by Patrick Lawlor
I read another book by Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman, that I loved. He does meticulous research on his subjects. But I can't say that I loved this one.
This is all about the Dust Bowl of the 1930's and there's tons of detail. It reminds me of the Ken Burns documentary productions (and in fact, Ken Burns reads the Forward) but imagine if you listened to the Ken Burns documentaries without the images. That's kind of what this book is like. Maybe Ken Burns turned this into one of his documentaries. If he did, I'd recommend watching that instead.
It's really well researched and I learned so much about that era that I just didn't know but it's story after story of one family's hardship or another. The best way to describe it is that the book is a bit too dry for my tastes. The point could have been made in a much shorter book. The repetitive stories didn't add to the overall message.
The Alice Network
By Kate Quinn, Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld
In 1947, Charlie is a socialite college girl who finds herself pregnant and obsessed with finding her cousin Rose who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war. Charlie shows up in London on the doorstep of Eve Gardiner wanting help finding Rose. Eve was a spy during WWI and is barely living with the scars of her experience. When Charlie mentions a particular name, Eve is determined to find the truth.
The story flips back and forth between 1947 (Charlie) and 1915 (Eve) as both stories unfold. It's well written and holds your interest. There are some brutal scenes but it's not suspense.
The Woman Who Smashed Codes
by Jason Fagone, Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
In 1912 Elizabeth Smith and William Freidman were working together on the estate of a crazy tycoon doing research projects. He was studying genetics and she was working on code breaking, specifically the theory that Bacon wrote Shakespeare and inserted codes into the text of the plays. The fell in love and became the preeminent code breakers in the US. Many books have been written about William. This book tells the rest of the story about Elizabeth and her work tracking gangsters after WWII and Nazis during WWII.
William and Elizabeth Friedman's work created the basis of the NSA and her story is fascinating. I loved this book!
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Kenny Blyth
This is the 5th in the Shetland Island series featuring detective Jimmy Perez. These are "edge of your seat" stories but they are good. I like the characters and the landscape descriptions make we want to visit the Shetland Islands. They are straight up murder mysteries and this one doesn't disappoint with 2 murders in pretty quick succession. The case gets Jimmy emerging from mourning back into work after the death of his fiance in the last book.
With this book they have changed the narrator and I like this one much better.
By Jeff Hawkins, Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
This is an old book (published in 2004) and that's especially old for a science book. I picked it up because Audible offered it in a Daily Deal and I'm glad I read it.
Jeff Hawkins was the founder of Palm Computing and Handspring. After he made is his fortune he turned to his primary interest: neuroscience. He started a company that is researching how we create and store memory. This book is his theory of how the neocortex works to learn and store patterns.
His company, Numenta, does this research today and works on developing artificial intelligence systems based on how the brain works. The book is very interesting. Where it gets dated is in the end where he's postulating on the future of AI. Some of the challenges that he identifies have been overcome, others are challenged in exactly the way he predicted. But his explanation of artificial intelligence actually made the who concept less scary for me.
This photo is the view that we had for the last 2 weeks. The 2 dots are me and our friend, Ian, heading out to kayak the length of Long Pond. We had a great week of beautiful weather, challenging hikes, lots of kayaking and way too much food. In other words, it was a perfect vacation and great to be away from the 95 degree heat and95% humidity days of August in Virginia. Laura and I even got in some sewing time and I'll share those projects as I get caught up this week.
Of course, it's always good to come home too and now that we are unpacked it's time to get back to focusing on normal business and getting ready for the AQS Virginia Beach show. Tomorrow I will announce the winners of all of the giveaways but today I'm going to start catching up by sharing my August audiobook list.
Given that the month included 2 weeks of vacation I did OK with 9 books read this month. Probably the 2 least favorite are Varina and The Woman in Cabin 10. My favorites are My Dear Hamilton and The Last Days of Night. The biggest surprise is Silver Linings Playbook.
Do you have any books to recommend this month?
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Gordon Griffin
This is the 4th in the Shetland Island series. If you watch the BBC series, Shetland, these are the books that series is based on. The main character is Inspector Jimmy Perez. He's visiting his parents on Fair Isle with his fiance, Fran.
The island is famous as a birders observatory and one of the ornithologists is murdered. There are a limited number of suspects and, yet, it takes a while to solve. What's great about these books is the depth of the characters. What's not so great is the path to solving crimes. It's good enough that I've already placed the 5th book on hold at the library.
The narration is fine. Not great, but fine. He pronounces Perez as "paris" which is annoying for this American. It may, however, be accurate for Scotland. But you could get away with listening to this one at 1.1 or 1.2 speed.
By Charles C. Mann, Narrated by Robertson Dean
Wow. This book is so full of information that it's hard to absorb it all. It starts in 1493 and traces the phenomenon called the Columbian Exchange that resulted from Columbus' exploration of the New World. It's broken into 4 regional parts: Atlantic, Pacific, Europe and Africa. That organization is what saves it from being completely overwhelming.
It's a big book to absorb and might be better read than heard but it is refreshingly unbiased by our modern perspective. It reminds me of the old Dragnet show, "Just the facts ma'am" and it's full of very interesting consequences to ponder.
I'm glad I listened to it but this one does require an investment of time and focus.
By Charles Frazier, Narrated by Molly Parker
Because I keep a detailed list, I know that I read Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain almost exactly 20 years ago! I remember really enjoying that book and I was looking forward to Varina.
Varina Howell was the wife of Jefferson Davis and this book is supposed to be the story of the Civil War era as told through the life of on of the key female figures.
I think the writing is good and the narration is beautiful but, in my opinion, the book is a hot mess. It told in a non-linear fashion so it jumps from one period to another with no real warning.I couldn't keep up. Fortunately I borrowed this one from the library so I didn't feel guilty not finishing it.
On Amazon it has rave reviews so you might like it.
By Carl Hiaasen, Narrated by George Wilson
Carl Hiaasen is one of the funniest writers today. His wacky tales of South Florida always make me laugh out loud. They are delightfully politically incorrect and feature outlandish stereotypes.
In this one tourist season is just getting underway and there's a misfit terrorist group bent on expelling the tourists and new Florida transplants. George Wilson is the perfect narrator for these stories.
Tourist Season is an older book, first published in the 80's but it's still entertaining today.
The Woman in Cabin 10
By Ruth Ware, Narrated By Imogen Church
This seems to be the hot book of summer that everyone is reading. Lo Blacklock works for a travel magazine has has been given the opportunity to spend a week on a luxury cruise. Everything is going great (but not really) until she hears someone being thrown overboard. All passengers are accounted for and she is dismissed as crazy.
Frankly, she is crazy. Throughout the whole book she is drunk (and therefore an unreliable witness) at every critical point, completely exhausted (so tired of hearing that) and makes one stupid move after another. She's that person who is in her 30's and her life is a continual mess and it's hard to generate any sympathy for her. Actually there aren't many characters to like in this one and that's probably my main complaint. Also there's an opening scene that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story.
It's a good summer read because it's a page turner. You do want to know what happens next but much of it makes logical sense and you wouldn't be disappointed if all of the characters died.
Last Days of Night
By Graham Moore, Narrated by Johnathan McClain
It's New Your in 1888 at the early days of electricity and Moore takes us along as Thomas Edison sues George Westinghouse over who owns the patent to the lightbulb. The story is told from the point of view of Paul Cravath, the rookie lawyer that Westinghouse has hired to defend him in the billion dollar case. Cravath is an interesting person in his own right as he is considered the modern structure of law firms. Nicola Tesla also features prominently in the story.
This is a work of historical fiction but the historical foundation is solid. It's well written and well narrated. Sometimes geniuses are also crazy.
Silver Linings Playbook
By Matthew Quick, Narrated by Ray Porter
I know that this is a book that was made into a movie that that Eagles fans consider it some sort of required reading/watching. Although I'm an Eagles fan I never had any desire to see the movie or read the book until Audible gave it away free a couple of weeks ago.
I don't know why they were giving it away and I probably missed several other free books that week, but no matter, I got this one free and I actually enjoyed it. Now I know why Bradly Cooper is always in the owner's box at Eagles games.
The story is about Pat People who spent several years in a neural health facility and decided that life is just a movie produced by God and that if he gets physically fit and learns to control his temper that he will be able to be reunited with his wife, Nikki.
The story opens when his Mom is taking him home and Pat discovers how much things have changed including the demolition of the "Vet" and the new Eagles stadium, Lincoln Financial Field. He also meets his sister-in-law's emotionally fragile sister, Tiffany.
It's a surprisingly good book. It handles mental illness very humanely. It's also a sweet love story, a story about family relationships, about fans love for their team and it introduces the kind of therapist that all therapists need to me. All that is packed into a relatively short (7 hour) book.
By C. J. Box, Narrated by David Chandler
This is #17 in the Joe Pickett series and the Cates family are out for revenge now that Dallas Cates is out of prison.
Yes, these books are a little formulaic but I still like the characters and the writing. Chris is reading them and he doesn't care for the way that Joe Pickett's family is so intertwined with the stories. That's one of the characteristics of the books that I like a lot.
If you like the Longmire books I think you will like the Joe Pickett series.
My Dear Hamilton
By Stephanie Dray and aura Kamoie
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
This is a historical novel about Eliza Schuler Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton.
We had a long drive to Maine in 2 cars so that meant that Laura and I got to pick a book to listen to while the boys played music in their car. We both like historical fiction so I selected this one.
It was long enough to get us from Richmond to Acadia and then back to Hartford where we had to drop her at the train station. Even with that much time we had to speed it up a bit.
There's very little actual information about Eliza Hamilton but the authors have done a good job of developing the type of wife that someone like Hamilton would have needed. After all, he was the source of the first American political sexual scandal and died at the hands of the Vice President. So there was lots of material to work with. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
When you are doing days on end of fabric dyeing and ironing you have lots of time to listen to books! July was a good book month in terns of volume. I finished 11 books and made it about halfway through 2 more. I even saved some money because about half of the books came from the library!
By Bryn Chancellor, Narrated by Cassandra Campbell and others
A new resident to Sycamore, AZ is on a hike and finds bones. The discovery uncovers 20 years of sorrow, angst and inner turmoil among, seemingly, every resident of the town. It brings back memories of a girl who went missing and all of the people who were involved in her life.
It's a well written coming-of-age story and if you are into that you will enjoy this book. I'm a little short on empathy so I have difficulty with characters who dwell on the past. There were times that it grated on me a bit and the audio is a tad slow. Once I increased the reading speed things improved considerably.
Inside Camp David
By Michael Giorgione, Narrated by Michael Giorgione
One of the benefits of getting audiobooks from the library free is that I can break my 10 hour minimum rule. The way that I pay for my Audible subscription I pay about $10 per book. I set my limit to 10 hours so that I pay $1 or less per hour of listening. With free books I don't have to do any of that justification and that's how I can to listen to a book that was less than 8 hours.
Inside Camp David is about exactly what it says. It's tales of how the presidents live at their Maryland retreat and information about how it operates. I didn't know that it's a Naval installation and is run and staffed by the Navy and Marines. The author was the commanding officer of the camp at the end of the Clinton administration and beginning of the Bush 43 administration. He interviewed all of the living commanders to get their stores for the book. There's the surprising friendliness of Jackie Kennedy, Johnson the workaholic, Nixon who relished the privacy, Reagan who loved watching movies with the staff, Bill Clinton who loved having lots of friends around, both Bush families who probably loved and used the place the most and the Obama girls who loved fishing in nearby ponds and Michelle Obama who hugged everyone.
While the narration wasn't bad, I do think that authors really need to have professional narrator for their books. Aside from that it was an interesting peek into the non-public lives of the presidents and their families. I give the author credit for seemingly showing only the best side of the Presidents. You won't be getting any dirt with this book. It's all positive. That perspective makes it very interesting that the only president without personal anecdotes of interaction with the staff is Jimmy Carter. The only mention of him is of the Egypt/Israel summit.
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
I just love this series. Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming and this is the 9th book in the series. I've been reading these out of order but each book is a stand-alone story and while some of the family details are out of order for me it doesn't take away from the experience.
In this one Joe and his wife once had a foster daughter, April. She was taken back by her mother and lived in a survivalist community. They believe that she died when there was a Federal raid on the camp. But now April has contacted one of the Pickett daughters and the hunt is on to find her. I love the character development. You can even have empathy for some of the bad guys.
David Chandler also does a great job narrating this series.
By Kim Van Alkemade, Narrated by Corey Brill and Andi Arndt
Technically this book is categorized as historical fiction. The only history is that a man named Jacob Ruppert was the millionaire owner of the New York Yankees in the early 1900's. He build the first Yankee Stadium and brought Babe Ruth to the team. When he died he mysteriously bequest over 1/3 of his estate to Helen Winthrope Weyant, an unknown actress. She publicly said that she had no idea why he left the money to her. They did know each other and there's one photo of her with him and some other men. Her younger brother, Rex, did actually work for the Yankees after he graduated high school.
That's it. That's the history part. Everything else about this book is fiction. Albert Kramer, his gay private secretary is fiction, her relationship with her mother, early bout with pneumonia, work in the theater, etc, is all fiction. The story is told alternately from her and Albert. So my first beef with the book is that it's billed as being about her but I felt it was more about Albert and the struggles living as a gay man during that time period. It was about Jacob and how he brought these two people into his life and made, in essence, a little family of 3. The bachelor girl is the least interesting of the 3 characters.
My primary beef with the book is the imposition of modern mores on that time period. It's all here: interracial relationships, living as a single woman, gay life, discrimination of all kinds (although more gentle than we perceive today), the plight of Asian people. You name it, the author checked all the politically correct boxes. That was over the top for me. It just didn't ring true to the era. This book should have been about Albert, should have left the interracial tones out and Helen should have been a secondary character.
It's getting rave reviews, though, so what do I know. I will say that the actual writing is very good. It's the plot that annoys me.
The Lost Airman
By Seth Meyerowitz, Narrated By Jonathan Todd Ross
I'm not sure why I've become so interested in "true hero" stories the past few years but I do love them. This one is written by the grandson of Arthur Meyerowitz who learned the full story of his Grandfather's war experience long after his Grandfather died.
Artur was a turret gunner on the Harmful Lil Armful B-24 when it was shot down over France. This is the story of his harrowing escape from Nazi-occupied France and the story of a lot of brave French people working with the Resistance. It's not the epic tale of Unbroken but it's a story worth reading if you are into this king of book.
By Owen Laukkanen, Narrated by Edduardo Ballerini
This is the 3rd book in the Stevens and Windemere series and the second one that I've read...and probably the last.
Stevens is an officer with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Minnesota and a middle aged, happily married, white guy. Windemere is a young black female FBI agent. None of that should be relevant except for the forced sexual tension between them. I didn't buy any of it and, frankly, it was a distraction to the story.
The main storyline is that the two of them are having lunch when the witness a sniper hit. They had the opportunity to catch the killer but Windermere froze and let him get away. That's problem #1. FBI agents, I believe, are trained better than that. More hit-style murders happen and they discover they are investigating a murder-for-hire organization that uses brainwashed former soldiers with PTSD to execute the murders.
Fortunately Stevens and Windemere, between fantasies of having a relationship, trip over clues and eventually solve the case. While I was listening I kept thinking that this would have been much more interesting of there was a "dark web" angle to the story. I swear there was just a normal website where people transacted the business of murder for hire.
But there were bigger problems.
- The protagonist is meticulous about managing risk in his business until he suddenly decides to throw all that aside and introduce astounding risk to his side business.
- The TSA and DoD, both, stonewall the FBI investigation. Absolutely absurd when you are dealing with clear evidence in a murder investigation.
- One of the major clues had to do with the purchase of a "shit ton" of a particular ammunition. That particular ammo would not work in the weapon that was used in some of the crimes.
There are well over 100 chapters, some just a couple of paragraphs, and I found that and the lazy writing really annoying. I'll avoid this series going forward.
However, Eduardo Ballerini is an excellent narrator and he's the main reason that I finished this book.
Mornings on Horseback
By David McCullough, Narrated by Nelson Runger
I was interested in reading this book after I read The Path Between the Seas about the building of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was the driver behind the completing of the canal and I wanted to know more about him.
This book focuses on his family life from when he was young through his second marriage. You get a clear picture of the moral foundations, inquisitive habits and dedication to service that he developed through is upbringing. Our 26th president was an interesting man and, after reading this, it's easy to understand how he was able to accomplish the great things he did as the youngest President to take office. (Many people, including Google, think that Kennedy was the youngest president but that's not true. Kennedy was 43 and 236 days, Roosevelt was 42 and 322 days. Kennedy was the youngest elected president but not the youngest to take office.
If you like biographies, this is a good one.
The Devil's Feast
By M.J. Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This is the 3rd in the Blake and Avery series set in Victorian England. Blake and Avery first met in India but at the beginning of this book Blake is in debtors prison and Avery is headed home to the English countryside. The night before his trip he is invited to dine with the most famous chef in England, Alexis Soyer. Soyer is a real historical figure and he was the chef at the Reform Club (a real place). The night that Avery has dinner with Soyer another guest dies of poison.
MJ Carter writes a great mystery novel. The characters are all interesting and the plot seems plausible. At the end of the book she has a chapter explaining what's "real" and what's fiction. I just hope there's going to be a 4th in the series.
By David Lebovitz, Narrated by Graham Halstead
This book is about the trials and tribulations of apartment renovation in Paris. The renovator, David Lebovitz, is also a pastry chef. I think he gained his fame through his cooking blog.
This book is not a good candidate for audio format. Almost every chapter ends with a recipe plugged in kind of randomly and there's nothing worse than a narrated recipe. Recipes are also not good for someone who is allergic to 75% of the foods available.
This book didn't work for me for two reasons. First, books with too much discussion of food that I can't eat just make me cranky. Second, the book is all about the ordeal that is apartment buying and renovation in Paris. If you love crushing bureaucracy then this book is for you! Seriously, it took 10 months to just close on the purchase of the apartment! I came away with the thought that visiting Paris might be just enough. For living, I'll stay in the good ole USA where we still expect some level of customer service.
Trap the Devil
By Be Coes, Narrated by Jay Snyder
Man, I love Dewey Andreas. This is the 7th in the series. Dewey is a CIA operative and there's an inside plot to take out the President, Vice President and Secretary of State and install a new government.
Fast paced and action packed with lots of returning characters, friends and enemies.
If you like Jack Ryan books, you will like the Andreas series.
The Unclaimed Victim
By D.M. Pulley, Narrated By Carly Robins
Last year I read The Dead Key by this author and I loved it. She masterfully wove a tale centered around an old bank building and featured two heroines. One who worked in the building in the 70's and another in the 90's. The Unclaimed Victim followed the formula of that story so closely that I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen.
Read one or the other. I wouldn't read both. I preferred The Dead Key.
By Ben Lynch, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith
This is another book that delves into the effect of genetics on our overall health. But Dr. Lynch has a program for "cleaning" our genes so they no longer behave dirty. Apparently you don't need to know your actual genetic structure because he has a questionnaire that will help you figure out where your genes are dirty.
Honestly, I didn't finish this book. The program is so draconian that I simply don't think I could add that on the things I already do. I'm probably 60% into his program already. Any further and I might as well move into a cave.
But the main reason I didn't finish it is that this book simply doesn't work in an audio format. There's a ton of supporting material that can't be narrated. But if you have any sort of chronic health problem you might find this interesting.
By J D Vance, Narrated by J D Vance
This is a book that I've been wanting to read for a while but it is shorter than my 10 hour minimum so I wouldn't buy it. But now that I have access to a decent library collection I was able to listen to it through Libby.
This is about the Scots-Irish Hillbilly people that live in Appalachia - the white working class that were/are the coal miners and factory workers that were hit so hard in the last recessions and with the opioid crisis.
It's a story about J D Vance and his family and how his Grandparents left Kentucky for jobs in Ohio, how the alcoholism of that generation affected the next and how his mother's addictions affected him. It's kind of depressing and uplifting at the same time. I have a strong Scots-Irish-Appalachia thread in my own family and it was funny to hear some of the same phrases that I used to hear growing up. Fortunately, I didn't have the family dysfunction that he had to deal with.
The book was published in 2016, before the election, but if you are still distraught about the election results and want to understand the Trump voter, this is the book you should read. Be careful, you might get a bit of insight and develop a bit of understanding and empathy.
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.
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