I haven't posted in a few days but that's because we are enjoying our last few days in Maine before we head home Friday. We've had one friend visiting with us for a few days and some other friends just arrived in town so we are having a great time catching up with everyone. I'll be back Monday with my August summary and catch up post before I get back on schedule next week.
I've done lots of reading this month and several of the books have been read with my eyes! I have one audiobook and one hardback book almost done. Both should be done by tomorrow but I'll use those to start off the September list.
It was a very good book month. I don't think I hated any book and many of them were very good. I only had one DNF:
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, I just could not get into it
What was your favorite book in August?
By William J. Mann, Read By Christopher Lane
We know that Hollywood is full of corruption and depravity. Through this book we know it's always been that way.
This is the story of the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor, head of the Motion Picture Association, in the 1920's. Mann explores everything that was going on in Hollywood at that time and profiles all of the key players in the industry and the many possible suspects for the crime.
If you like true crime I think you will like this. If you like Hollywood history you will also like this. It's quite detailed and very well researched.
The Crow Trap
By Ann Cleeves, Read By Anne Dover
I'm a fan of Cleeves' Shetland series (book and TV) so I was excited to find that there was another series that I could start. It's not a new series, just new to me.
Three women, all with some sort of baggage, are teamed up to perform and environmental assessment for a proposed mine. One of the team members soon finds her friend, Bella, has committed suicide. Shortly thereafter, one of the team members is murdered. Detective Vera Stanhope is called in to investigate.
Cleeves' books are so unique in the mystery genre. She keeps her "world" small and the stories focus on the local people, not politics or big issues. Everything is personal. I'm looking forward to diving into book 2. There are 9 books in the series so far.
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
By Tom Standage, Read By Sean Runnette
We picked this book to listen to on our drive to Maine and it was a good choice. We both like history but you don’t want to be listening to dry history while driving. The premise of the book is that 6 drinks played pivotal roles on the history of civilization: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola. The story starts about 3000 BCE with the first recorded making of beer. I expect that this book came out of some sort of college course where a professor was trying his best to make history interesting. This was a good way to do it. I expect that it’s a weak book to the serious historian but for the rest of us it’s a lot of fun and very interesting.
The Girl With the Louding Voice
By Abi Dare’ Read By Adjoa Andoh
Adunni is a poor young girl in Nigeria who loves school but after her mother dies the family falls on even more financial hardship. To financially recover, her father sells her to a local chieftan at the age of 14 to be his new wife. Adunni never gives up her desire to have a “louding voice” (be independent). The book is about her struggles to survive in unimaginable circumstances. Honestly, it’s a brutal read but Adunni’s spirit and hope keeps you interested and always rooting for her.
I picked up this book for 2 reasons. First, I heard a podcast where Taubes was interviewed about another book, Good Calories, Bad Calories and during the interview he mentioned this book about Cold Fusion. He was an interesting interview so I wanted to get his books. (I also picked up Good Calories, Bad Calories and I'm almost done with it.) My second reason for getting this book, published in 1993, was that I vividly remember reading all the hoopla about Cold Fusion in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I had just started reading the Wall Street Journal regularly and they covered this "miraculous" discovery heavily. Coverage disappeared a few months later and I’ve always wondered what happened with that supposed miracle of free energy. What happened was that it was a fraud.
This is not the best written book I’ve ever read but it sure gives you are vivid picture into the politics and money focus of science. I’ve read enough of the detail studies on various modern science topics to view everything I read in the media regarding scientific research with a giant dose of skepticism. This book shows how science sausage is made and it’s not pretty.
An American Marriage
By Tayari Jones, Narrated by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis
Celeste and Roy are young newlyweds living the American Dream in Atlanta when Roy is wrongly accused and sentenced for rape. As his time behind bars extends longer than their marriage, the relationship is strained. The telling of the story starts and ends with the recitation of letters and everything in between comes across as diary entries with each character telling a chapter. I think the premise is very interesting. What happens to a couple or family when one of the members is in jail, falsely accused? This story is told through a black family but I felt that race was a non-factor to the telling. From that perspective I felt that the book was really successful. It can speak to any audience. But, that said, it did fall a little flat for me and I did not like the Celeste character. I felt that for someone who constantly professed herself to be a strong and independent woman, she had a very weak backbone and much of the trouble was actually caused by her own lack of action. The flatness I attribute to the structure being told through letters and monologues from individual characters. In the end, it had a ton of potential, is worth a read for something different but it misses some punch.
The Dance of Life – The New Science of How a Single Cell Becomes a Human Being
By Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz and Roger Highfield, read in hardback, I don't recommend audio for this one
This book is part autobiography and part science book. Dr. Zernicka-Goetz is super smart and is a developmental biologist studying embryo development. This book is her personal story as well as a lot of detail about the advances that have been made (by her and others) in embryonic research. Part of it creeps me out about what we might be able to do soon but part of it gives me some comfort that we aren’t as far along as people might think. I do think that we are headed for some serious contemplations about defining the beginning of life and that will have ethical consequences for research and women’s rights vs the rights of the unborn. This book gave me lots of food for thought.
The personal stuff was OK but I don’t think knowing anything about her marriages really added anything to the book. While reading the book I noted the high percentage of women that she has hired in her labs. At the end of the book, she had a chapter on diversity and inclusion in science and I got the impression that she purposely favors female applicants to her labs. I don’t have an opinion about that, I just thought it was interesting. I also thought that the last chapter seemed a little forced as though an editor suggested that she add it to make the unavoidable ethical discussions about embryonic development more palatable. That may be totally unfair, it's jut my take on it. That last chapter seemed to be an unnecessary addition.
If you like science books you will like this one and you will appreciate reading about research done right.
The Rose Code
By Kate Quinn, Read By Saskia Maarleveld
This is my third Quinn book. She weaves great stories about the hidden female heroes of WWII. This one tells the story of the women code breakers of Bletchley Park. Our heroines are Osla, a Canadian debutante who is dating Prince Philip; Mab, a self-made girl from the poverty of East London; and Beth, a local spinster with an overbearing mother who is brilliant at solving crossword puzzles. Beth becomes one of the few female cryptanalysts, Osla is a German translator, and Mab works on the codebreaking machines. We also meet Alan Turing and other legends of Bletchley Park.
Three years after the war, and no longer friends, Beth contacts them through code to ask for their help. The story switches back and forth in time smoothly. It was a fun read with a great ending.
The Power Couple
By Alex Berenson, Read By Steven Weber and Marin Ireland
Alex Berenson is the author of the John Wells spy series that I like. This book isn’t John Wells.
Rebecca and Brian Unsworth have great jobs with the government. She’s with the FBI and he’s with NSA. They’ve been married 20 years and have had their problems but everything seems good now and they are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary with their two children on a trip to Europe. One night in Barcelona, their daughter, Kira, doesn’t return home. Over the weekend they try everything to find their daughter but discover that she's been kidnapped. They are trying to figure out why and where she is and, meanwhile, Kira tries everything to get away from her captors.
As I was reading the first half of the book I was focused on the kidnapping and was a little off balance with the telling of so much of Rebecca and Brian’s backstory. Then I realized what the story was really about and the second half really took off. It’s a different kind of book and I enjoyed it.
Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
By Gary Kinder, hardback
I think I discovered this book when I was reading a fiction novel that contained a storyline about the sinking of the SS Central America in 1857. Chris and I were living in Norfolk in the late 1980’s when a deep ocean explorer found the wreck and recovered millions in gold. I remember the news stories but wasn't all that interested. I found out about this book and decided to read about the effort to find the ship.
This is one of the most interesting books that I’ve read in a long time. I was completely riveted. It reads almost like a novel and tells the whole story about Tommy Thompson, his life, his genius, his fortitude and his total dedication to finding the SS Central America. The book is thoroughly researched and also tells the complete story of that last voyage. I remember reading the news accounts when the treasure was brought into Norfolk but I had no idea of the years of work, courage and ingenuity that went into the effort.
This book was published in 1998 so if you want a copy you will need to find it on the used market. By the way, Tommy Thompson is now in jail for contempt of court for not following through on an agreement to produce 500 gold coins from the ship. He claims that he doesn’t know where they are. The whole story is good for some research time on the internet, especially to see the underwater photos of the wreck.
The Summer Without You
By Karen Swan, Read By Katie Scarfe
Rowena Tipton has a great life in London with her boyfriend of 13 years. She expects that they will get engaged soon when he suddenly announces that he's going on a 6 month tour of Cambodia and expects the time away to make their love even stronger. (No modern woman would buy this drivel, IMHO)
It just so happens that Rowena has dual citizenship in the US and is invited to a wedding in NYC. That wedding leads to an invitation to spend the summer in The Hamptons on Long Island. (Yeah, that happens to someone every day!) She takes up the offer and is off on a summer of self discovery and sets up her "Family Media" business to cover her rent.
It was a fine summer read but Rowena is so annoyingly naïve and socially blind that you want to slap her periodically. For the first several weeks she only wears her boyfriend's clothing. In the Hamptons? Are you kidding me? Can you tell that this book annoyed me a little. It seems a perfect foundation for a Hallmark channel movie.
By Ruth Downie, Read By Simon Vance
This is book 7 in the Roman Empire series. The Medicus, Russo, and his wife, Tilla have been offered a medical position in Rome. It seems grand until he discovered that his predecessor, Doctor Kleitos, left town quickly and with everything and someone has left a dead body in a barrel outside his office.
He's also besieged by Kleitos' debt collectors and the sudden death of the local land owner (his sponsor). He and Tilla need to solve these mysteries before they also become victims.
I really enjoy this series set in Roman times. They can be read separately but I think they are best read in order.
I know I've been talking non-stop about Chirp books but I think Chirp is having a positive impact on the audiobook market. Chirp has daily deals like Audible but Audible only has 1 and Chirp has 5 or so every day. This summer I've noticed that Audible often has one of the Chirp books as their Daily Deal and also they are having a lot of $5 book sales. I love competition in the free market! I'm easily spending 70% less on books (with the addition of the library and Chrip) than I spent 3 or 4 years ago.
It was an interesting, and always good, reading month. The most impactful book of the month was The Girl Behind the Gates. But there are several other great books this month. What have you read that you enjoyed?
Deacon King Kong by James McBride - This book came highly recommended by one of my blog friends so don't take my DNF status as a definitive review. I just couldn't keep up with the characters. Everyone has nicknames and both real and nicknames are used. I was confused. Plus there's lots of alcoholism. King Kong is a home brew.
Collateral by Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson - #6 in the Tier One series. Exactly like the first 5. Decided I'm tired of them.
Fast Girls by Elsie Hooper - This book is historical fiction based in the lives of 3 female Olympians in the 1928 and 1936 games. I thought it would by like Code Girls but it's way more fiction than history.
The Day That Never Comes
By Caimh McDonnell, Read By Morgan C.Jones
This is the second of four books in The Dublin Trilogy. That statement alone indicates that this is a humor series. I read the first book last month. These books are set in Ireland and the main character, Paul Mulchrone, has opened a new detective agency. One of his partners won't talk to him and the other, former detective Bunny McGarry, has disappeared.
Meanwhile, the citizenry has had it with the people who destroyed the economy in the 00's but escaped with their own wealth in tack. Some new group had apparently decided to take on their own revenge crusade.
These books are best described as the Irish version of Carl Hiaasen. I think they will read better in a written book rather than audio. It all depends on your ability to follow a deep Irish accent.
The Ride of Her Life
By Elizabeth Letts, Read by Tavia Gilbert
One of my favorite books, The Eighty Dollar Champion, was written by Letts. Her love of horses is obvious but she also loves the people who own those horses. This book is about Mesannie Wilkins. She was 63 in 1954 and flat broke when she was told that she had a terminal illness and should move into a charity home. Instead she made enough money to buy a horse and she left Minot, Maine for California. It was her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean.
It's a fascinating story of her almost 2-year journey and a great read.
The Last Year of the War
By Susan Meissner, Read By Kimberly Farr
Elise Sontag is 14 and lives in Iowa during WWII. Her father is and German immigrant and is accused (wrongly) of being a spy. They are sent to an internment camp in Texas where Elise befriends Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from LA. They become best friends and make plans for their lives after they turn 18. When they are both about 16, they are each sent "back" to Germany and Japan in exchange for American prisoners. The two girls keep in touch for a while but eventually lose track of each other.
The story revolves around Elise and opens when Elise is elderly and recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She has, inexplicably to me, remained completely fixated on her youthful friendship with Mariko and that's the basis for the entire book. She seems to have a constant cloud over here despite ending up with a pretty awesome life after the war.
I read As Bright As Heaven in March and didn't love it. I didn't hate it either. I think Meissner does a great job of reminding us of some trying times in out history but her characters are so burdened that it's a bit of a slog to get through the stories.
The Night Swim
By Megan Goldin, Read By January LaVoy and Bailey Carr
I'm so grateful to my friend, Marcy, for turning me on to Chirp Books. Aside from the books being bargain priced (something I always love), the books are often classics that I need to read or books I've never heard of. Audible's algorithms for book recommendations are pretty horrible these days. They either recommend books that are exactly what you read recently or something off an approved woke list of authors. Chirp is refreshing. They have woke, un-woke, new, old, US and foreign translations. I love variety!
Rachel Krall is a true crime podcaster and she's heading to a coastal North Carolina town to cover the trial of a young man charged with rape. The trial is the focus of the current season of her podcast. While traveling to the town she begins to get anonymous notes from someone wanting Rachel to help figure out who murdered her sister 25 years earlier in this same town. The story is told in 3 ways: Rachel's activities around the trial, her podcast and the letters from the sister.
I am big fan of true crime TV and podcasts (The Murder Squad is my favorite). I was also fascinated with the work the Michelle McNamara did to help solve the Golden State Killer case although her obsession led her into some deadly personal behaviors. This book fed right into that same genre of entertainment for me.
This Poison Will Remain
By Fred Vargas, Read By Chris MacDonnell
Another great find from Chirp!
This is the 7th book in a series set in France featuring Commissaire Adamsberg. While investigating another case he hears about 3 elderly mend who have recently died of spider bites, specifically the Recluse spider. He decides to look into it even though the deaths are all ruled accidental. When it's discovered that the 3 men knew each other the investigation becomes more serious.
In some ways it's your standard police procedural but the subject matter is so unique that I found this book to be really refreshing. It explores every meaning and use of the word "recluse". I really enjoyed it.
Chirp only has the one book in the series in English and Audible has 3. You can tell it's a hidden gem because, even in Audible, it has less than 50 reviews. I wonder how many great books we miss because "the right people" don't ever read them?
By James Grippando, Read By Ron McLarty
I've found another new (old) series to try out. This book was first published in 1994 so it's lacking on technology. I think that's a good thing.
Jack Swytech is a defense attorney and one of his clients is about to be put to death. He tries to persuade his estranged father, the Governor of Florida, to grant a pardon. When that's unsuccessful someone decides to get revenge on both of them.
I think the basic story is really interesting and moves along at a good pace. I'm willing to try another in the series.
The Secret Keeper
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Abby Craden and Bahni Turpin
I've read two other Lisa Wingate books, Before We Were Yours and Book of Lost Friends, that I loved. She's a very good writer and created wonderfully rich characters.
The Secret Keeper is set in the Appalachian areas of North Carolina and East Tennessee and focuses on the history of the Melungeon people. That , in and of itself, is interesting to me because my best friend in High School was of Melungeon descent (Goins) and she didn't know it until she started doing genealogy in the '90's.
The book opens with Jen Gibbs starting her new job at a publishing house in NYC. An old partial manuscript mysteriously appears on her desk. She recognizes the writing of the author as someone famous for writing a time travel series set in Appalachia. Jen happens to be from that area and doesn't really want to go back.
This book was very good but wasn't as good as the first 2 that I read. This one verges a little into chick lit territory. It was still very engrossing and entertaining but it didn't have quite the depth of history as the other two books. Given that the history of the Melungeon people is so vague, I can see where she had to add more story to the story, if that makes sense. It's still a really great read.
The Beautiful and Damned
By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Read By William Dufris
If Fitzgerald's point was to make rich people seem morally bankrupt and lazy, mission accomplished! Anthony Patch is a Harvard graduate with one life mission: to wait for his Grandfather to die and inherit his wealth. He marries the beautiful Gloria and they waste their time in New York nightlife. I expect this is a story that's all too true of the 20's and today.
Flight of the Intruder
By Stephen Coonts, Read By Benjamin Darcie
I've seen Coonts on the bestseller lists for years but never tried one of his books. When this one showed up on a sale list I decided it was time to give it a try. This is the first book in the Jack Grafton series. Grafton is a fighter pilot in Vietnam. There are so few novels set in Vietnam that I was excited to give this one a try.
I can see why the series is popular. The story is good and Grafton is a great character. But I couldn't get past the details of flights. Many times it was like listening to a flight log and that part makes up way too much of the book for me.
The Girl Behind the Gates
By Brenda Davies, Read By Charlotte Strevens
This book is exactly why I love Chirp. Chirp brings me books that I'd never hear about on Audible.
In 1930 Nora Jennings had a wonderful life until an unplanned pregnancy. Her father, supported by the church, had her committed to a mental institution under the Mental Deficiency Act (Great Britain). Everyone though she would be out in a year or so. Instead she withstood incredible cruelty and mistreatment there for over 40 years.
It's heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It's also based on true story. I couldn't put it down.
In Her Tracks
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Emily Sutton-Smith
Tracy Crosswhite is back for an 8th installment. She's returned to work after discovering the tragic death of her sister. Her spiteful boss assigns her to the cold case unit but a few of the cold cases might overlap with a new case of a missing jogger.
These books are fast paced and well written. My main beef with this one is the reliance on stupidity to get the plot going. A young woman, new to Seattle, decides to go jogging after work and she chooses some obscure trail in a neighborhood just at dusk....as opposed to a public park or jogging path. It's so obscure that she can't find the entrance without asking someone for help. Are women really that stupid? I don't think so.
Interestingly, the cases relies heavily on familial DNA modeling, like The Night Swim.
I enjoyed the book and I like the Crosswhite character but I like his Charles Jenkins series better.
After I published last month's reviews I realized that I left 2 books off the May list. So I'm starting June with these 2 non-fiction books. With these my total for June is 13. That may seem a little light for me but Chesapeake is 50 hours so should count for at least 4 books! All in all it was a great reading month. There were only 2 duds: The Murder List is simply bad writing and Good Girls Lie is not my genre (psychological thriller).
I didn't have any DNF books this month but I wish I had quit The Murder List.
Do you have any recommendations for is this month? We aren't going to have internet or TV for 2 weeks of our vacation in August so I'm stockpiling books and sewing projects.
By Matthew McConaughey
Anne had the hardback of this book at the beach and I picked it up after she finished it. I had it finished in less than 2 days. What a fun read. This man has had an incredibly interesting life from childhood on. His outlook on life is refreshing. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Voyage of Mercy
By Stephen Puleo, read By Sean Patrick Hopkins
Did you know that the first international aid mission was the USA sending food to Ireland during the potato famine? Me either. But I know it now.
This is the story of the first of over 100 aid ships that were filled by the citizens of the USA to go to Ireland. The USS Jamestown was a retired war ship that was loaned to Captain Robert Bennet Forbes for the mission.
Forbes left a treasure trove of documentation from his life so the book has incredible details about the relief missions to Ireland. It was absolutely fascinating.
By Tana French, Read By Roger Clark
I loved her Dublin Murder Squad Series that seems to have come to an end. This one is a stand-alone book.
Cal Hooper was a Chicago police officer for 25 years. When he retired he, for some inexplicable reason, moved as far away as possible to a remote Irish town. There he could have some space and lots of peace and quite.
Then a local kid shows up and eventually convinces him to look for his missing brother. This little village, it turns out, is full of secrets.
This book has some really mixed reviews on Audible but I liked the book and the narrator. It's not as good as the DMS series but it was a fine read that kept my attention.
By John Hart, Read By Kevin Stillwell
The story is set in North Carolina during the Vietnam War. Gibson (Gibby) French has older twin brothers. One has already died in the war and the other, Jason, returned misunderstood, damaged and with a reputation as a hard (and decorated) killer. After 3 years in prison he returns home to see his little brother and gets both of them into a lot of trouble.
Jason takes Gibby on a day of adventure with 2 women. All is well until they pass a prison bus on the highway and one of the women decides to taunt the prisoners. She is brutally murdered later and suspicion immediately falls on Jason.
That's just the first couple of chapters and there's so much more to this story. It's very much about the mystery of the murder but it's also about family, misunderstandings, secrets and psychopaths. This is one of the most original stories that I've rad in a very long time. It's gritty, brutal, hopeful, and sensitive all at the same time.
If you decide to give this one a try there are some pretty gruesome scenes but he doesn't go into gory details just for the sake of the gore and horror. He provides enough to get across the brutality without leaving you with nightmare inducing images.
The Spanish Promise
By Karen Swan, Read By Yolanda Kettle
I'm really glad my friend introduced me to Chirp books. Audible recommendations are not great. They either recommend really popular authors that I already know about or they are using their recommendations for various forms of virtue signaling. Their algorithms clearly don't follow my own reading patterns anymore.
Chirp is refreshing because they recommend a lot of the books that we've never hear of or new authors. Their daily deal email has turned me into a book hoarder. At least the are all electronic versions so they aren't taking up valuable fabric and yarn storage space.
I've never heard of Karen Swan but she seems to be really popular. This story takes us to Spain (a refreshing change). One the country's richest men is dying and his family has just discovered that he's planning to give his wealth to a young woman from Madrid. No one has any idea who she is.
Charlotte Fairfax is contracted by the bank to meet this woman and convince her to accent a smaller amount. But the woman denies that she knows anything about the man or his gift.
I'd categorize this as a summer beach read. Charlotte is caught between her upcoming wedding, the mystery of the inheritance and an old flame. Mariana, the surprised recipient, is trying to figure out why she's being given this gift and how to deal with that kind of wealth. It was predictable but a fun, light read.
There was one aspect that was annoying. Charlotte is a wealth therapist or something like that. She helps people deal with sudden wealth. There was an overused theme of wealth not buying happiness.
Good Girls Lie
By J. T. Ellison, Read By Fiona Hardingham
Rich people who want someone else to raise their girls send them to the Goode School in Virginia. A new student is arriving from England. She has lost both of her parents and was accepted on scholarship because she doesn't have access to her inheritance. There is one senior girl on campus who seems to run the place. She oversees the honor code review board that doesn't seem to have faculty members (WTH?) and she seems to control the biggest secret society, The Dean is aware of the secret societies and that there is a lot of hazing going on.
When I student is found dead a lot of secrets start to unravel. There's a new sinister element on campus.
It's a psychological thriller in the vein of Gone Girl. I finished it but I won't read other books by Ellison. I read my first one in April and was on the fence about it. This one tipped the scale to "no". It's more rich people problems spread among a full cast of unlikable characters.
The Poacher's Son
By Paul Doiron, Read By Henry Levya
This is the first in a series focused on Mike Bowditch. Bowditch is a game warden in Maine and has almost no relationship with is father. One day he received a message from his father followed by a call from the police the next morning. His bar brawler father is accused of killing a cop and is a fugitive.
Mike believes that his father is innocent and (about halfway through the book) teams up with a retired game warden to hunt for his father and for the real killer.
The story took a while to set up but I suppose that's because it's the first in a series and there are people to introduce and backstories to develop. The actual man hunt got going about halfway through the books. I'm not saying that the first half was boring, it was not. This book got me through a very boring day at the voting polls.
I will try another book in this series to see how the character develops.
A Man With One of Those Faces
By Caimh McDonnell, Read By Morgan C. Jones
First in the Dublun Trilogy
If you like Carl Hiaasen I think you will like this. Set in Dublin, this is a murder mystery wrapped inside a humor book. Paul Mulchrone has a face that everyone seems to recognize. He spends time in local nursing homes visiting with various elderly people who think he's a nephew, son or friend. Eventually he visits with one too many patients and the next thing he knows someone is trying to murder him.
Aided by a nurse who is addicted to crime novels and a cop who has a penchant for violence, they try to solve one of Ireland's most notorious crimes.
It is quite Hiaasen-like. It took me a little to get into it but I think that was mostly because I was distracted with other stuff. I'm going to stick with the series. After finishing this, I discovered that there is a prequel called Angels in the Moonlight so I'll read that next.
Note: Audible has this identified as "Only From Audible". Not so. I got my copy from Chirp for about $5.
Then the fun begins.Ocean Prey
By John Sandford, Rad By Richard Ferrone
#31 in the Lucas Davenport series
Last year I read Masked Prey (#30) and was so disappointed in the political overtones that I almost skipped this book. But since it was free from the library it was low risk. With this book I feel like we are back to the old Davenport and I'm very happy about that. I don't think the Prey books are award worthy but they are fun and fast moving reads.
Three Coast Guardsmen are killed when inspecting a boat off the coast of Florida. An off-duty guardsman was fishing and called in the suspicious boat. The FBI is called in to investigate but their investigation goes nowhere. That's where the US Marshall's take over and Lucas Davenport is called in.
The real treat in this book is that Virgil Flowers along with Davenport's new side-kicks, Rae and Bob are back. The latest books in this series have really changed Davenport's personality. I'm not thrilled with it but it still works with the stories.
The Butterfly House
By Katrine Engberg, Read By Graem Malcolm
If you like the Department Q series by Jussi Adler Olsen then this book will be right up your alley. This book is also set in Copenhagen and narrated by the same reader as the Department Q books. He's an excellent narrator.
There are multiple story lines coming together in this fascinating book. There's a nurse in a local hospital "helping" some patients along into their life journeys. There are also blood-drained dead bodies showing up around the city, specifically in water sites. Lead detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are dealing with their own issues. Korner is just divorced and Werner is a new mother on maternity leave and hasn't quite processed what her new life means.
The Butterfly House is a now-defunct home for troubled teens and everything seems to connect there. There's a prequel to this book too that I'll now go and read. It's called The Tenant.
The Murder List
By Hank Phillippi Ryan, Read By Angela Dawe
I wish I had quit half way through this book when I first wanted to. I kept hoping for it to turn good but it didn't.
Rachel North is a law student married to Boston defense attorney. She's supposedly really smart, hard working and ethical. There's not much actual evidence of that except for the characters saying it.
My beef with this book started with the situation that brought all of the key characters together. Rachel was Chief of Staff for a Massachusetts state Senator. In fact, he's the president of the Senate. Shortly after being promoted to this job (that she's unqualified for) she actually selected to be on the jury of a murder trial. In no place in America would a politician's staff member be allowed to serve on a jury of any kind. Never. No way. To me, that makes the story lazy and it got worse from there.
By James A. Michener, Read By Larry McKeever
I love epic novels and I fell in love with that genre when I first read Chesapeake sometime in the early 1980's. Anyone who lives in Virginia, Maryland or Delaware loves the Chesapeake Bay tells the history of the Bay through a fictional Maryland river and town. I loved it 40 years ago and I loved it this month.
BUT, reading this book is a serious commitment. In paperback it's over 1000 pages and in audio is 50+ hours! Also this book was recorded in the early days of audiobooks (the Books On Tape days) and the narrator is not up to modern standards. Speeding it up to about 1.25 helped a lot.
The Last Child
By John Hart, Read By Scott Sowers
I read another John Hart book, The Unwilling, earlier this month. I put this one on hold at the library and it became available in time for me to finish out the month with 2 Hart books.
Johnny Merriman is a 13-year-boy whose life was torn apart a year ago when his sister was abducted (witnessed by his best friend) and then his father left. He's a very smart kid who has spent every spare minutes the last year searching for clues to find his sister. Meanwhile his mother has completely fallen apart and has ended up in an abusive relationship.
The Detective on the case, Clyde Hunt, is also haunted by Alyssa's disappearance and works the case night and day. He also keeps a close eye on Johnny and his mother.
You know how may books (John Sandford comes to mind) have the uber intelligent, risk-taking hero to pull the story together and eek out victory in the end? Then there are other books where every character continually makes illogical decisions that get them into more and more trouble? This isn't that kind of book. It's a very complex story with flawed characters just like real people. They make real life kinds of decisions and some of them become (unlikely) heroes.
I'll tell you how deeply I fell into this book. At one point I came into the den to tell Chris about an event in the book as if it was a real life news item. It also very much reminded me of the rural life in the small county where I grew up, although without abducted teenagers.
I read some of the reviews of this book on Audible and there were lots of complaints about the narrator but I enjoyed his reading. Maybe his accent is close to my own so I didn't find it bothersome at all. But if you are thinking about the audio version be sure to try a sample to hear the narration.
Several weeks ago my friend, Marcy, introduced me to Chirp books. While they don't have everything they do have some good bargains. Some of the books are older which is a good thing for me. So many of the new books are overloaded with political tropes that the authors seem to have forgotten how to develop deep characters and story lines. Older books don't have as many of these issues and I'm enjoying reading them. Several of the books this month came from Chirp. In fact I might have started a Chirp book hoarding problem. I seem to buy one off of ever daily deal email.
So now I have 3 book apps on my phone: Audible, Libby and Chirp. I can always find something good to read. Here's what I came up with this month.
Code Girls and Surviving Savannah were my favorites and Digital Minimalism is the book that I'd recommend to everyone.
Books that I didn't finish:
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn - This isn't a bad book but it wasn't for me. It's Rear Window meets Girls on a Train. and that's just not my genre. Interestingly I discovered that there are plagiarism claims against the author over this book. It's about to be a movie and there's a movie planned about the plagiarism claims.
More Ketchup than Salsa by Joe Cawley - supposed to be comparable to Hiaasen. Not even close and the deep Scottish accent is hard for this Southerner to follow.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - I was one hour in and realized that I hadn't paid any attention to it at all.
Peace Like A River - Leif Enger - Probably a good book once you get into it but it's a really slow start with a lot of details of goose hunting. I can get that from my husband every fall if I want.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles - seems like a fine story but poorly written. I expect it's better as a movie.
Lincoln's Last Trial
By Dan Abrams and David Fisher
Read By Adam Verner
This isn't technically Lincoln's last trial before becoming president, but it was the last murder trial. It was the summer of 1859 and Peachy Quinn, 22, went on trial for the murder. Springfield was a small town so Lincoln was close to the families of the victim (one of his law proteges) and the accused. Everyone knew everyone.
The claim that this trial propelled him to the presidency is an overreach. Lincoln had already started pursuing a national political career with a series of debates and speeches so this case garnered wider attention as a result.
I've got mixed feelings about this book. The actual discussion of the trial wasn't all that interesting to me. It's more-or-less a reading of the court transcript. It was interesting to learn a little more about the history of law practice in the US. There was good information in the book and parts that I enjoyed but it was a bit dry.
By Cynthia Swanson, Read By Katie Mazur
I have started following a few book reviewers in YouTube and picked up this book recommendation from one of them. It's a debut novel set in the 1960's. Kitty Miller lives in Denver and co-owns a book store with her best friend, Frieda. She starts having very realistic dreams where she is Katharyn Andersson, is married and has children. It's the life she always dreamed of. Can she choose which to stay in?
When I started this book I thought it was going to be a fantasy book, like Outlander and I almost quit reading it (because I hate fantasy books). But I decided to keep going to give the fantasy genre another try. It wasn't long before I realized that this book isn't fantasy at all. It's different and interesting even though you will likely figure out the ending pretty quickly. It's not a mystery, it's a journey. It's not the most stellar writing. Her husband and parents are not well developed and their dialogue is straight out of Leave It To Beaver. But the dilemma and resolution is very interesting and is a lesson in dealing with brokenness.
The narrator was a little slow so I had to speed it up a bit and that helped a lot.
By Liza Mundy, Read By Erin Bennett
This is the true story of women codebreakers during WWII. If you read, and enjoyed, The Woman Who Smashed Codes, you will like this book too. The story of Elizabeth Friedman is also told in this book so there's a little overlap. It was a little disjointed for me but that's a really minor complaint for a very interesting book.
These women are heros.
By Patti Callahan, Read by Catherine Taber and Brittany Pressley
The Steamship Pulaski was called "The Titanic of the South" when it sunk off Okracoke Island in 1838. The wreckage was recovered only a few years ago. That's the historical part of this novel. The fiction part is about Everly Winthrop, a history professor and museum curator in Savannah, GA. Savannah was the home port for the victims of the steamship explosion and many stories have been passed through the generations. Everly's Grandfather stoked her interest with all of the stories that he told her growing up about the steamship and passengers.
When the steamship is discovered she is asked to curate an artifacts exhibit for the local museum. She becomes very focused on the Longstreet family. The story it told during the two time periods from the Longstreet family members and Everly's discoveries and her struggles with her own grief.
Really well written and narrated. It was interesting to do some side research on the Pulaski.
Missing For Good
By Alex Coombs, Read By Carolyn Bonnyman
This is the second in the PI Hanlon series. I haven't read the first one. This one was on sale at Chirp so I picked it up. As best as I can tell, book 1 isn't' available in audio.
The story is set in Scotland and Hanlon seems to have left a detective job and gone out on her own as a private investigator.
Scotland's premier art dealer has hired Hanlon to find his daughter, Aurora. There's a good chance that she doesn't even want to have any connection with him. The agreement is that Hanlon will find her, and if she's alive, will take a photo to prove that she's alive and well and it will be up to Aurora to contact him. As Hanlon digs in she discovers that Aurora has an interesting past with some edgy friends. The search becomes very dangerous the closer Hanlon gets.
I don't think this is a widely read book and it's not the very best written book I've read, but I did enjoy the story.
By Cal Newport, Read By Will Damron
I've been working hard to get myself off my phone. I took Facebook and Instagram off my phone and that's been wonderful. But I have a long way to go. I still have my phone tethered to me because of my audiobooks and that means that I pick it up way too often to check mail and messages.
This book is all about why and how we can reduce our dependence on digital media. It's a worthwhile read.
Dead In The Water
By Penny Farmer, Read By Tess Gallagher
I love true crime books and podcasts. This is an interesting case. In 1978 UK citizens Chris Farmer and his girlfriend, Peta Frampton were found dead in the sea off Guatemala. It was pretty clear from the beginning that they were murdered by American Silas Duane Boston. They had been passengers on his boat when they died.
This is the story of why it took 40 years to get a case brought against Boston. It's a really interesting story and reminds us of how hard it was to work internationally in 1978 and reminds us of how often crimes only get solved because families stay involved in the search and pursuit. The murder was witnessed by Boston's young sons and they were also thwarted when they tried to tell people what happened. The story is really bizarre and interesting.
I thought the book was a little draggy. You can tell that it was incredibly cathartic for Chris' sister to write the book but it could have used some editing. But if you like true crime you will enjoy this and there's a connection to the Golden State Killer that actually helped finally get traction on this particular case.
By Margery Sharp, Read By Anna Parker-Naples
It's 1875 London and Adelaide Culver has been raised in very comfortable circumstances. She shocks everyone when she marries a poor artist. She finds herself now living in the impoverished Britannia Mews where she must try to make a good life for herself.
The story follows Adelaide and her family through her life in the Mews. It explores what brings us happiness in a very thoughtful way.
If you like Edith Wharton and John Galsworthy I think you will like this. I don't think this is quite as good as those but I enjoyed it.
By M.J. McGrath, Read by Kate Reading
This is a new-to-me series set in the Artic among the Inuit people. Edie Kiglatuk is the best hunting guide around but she is discriminated against in her community on Ellesmere Island. (Could it be because she's an alcoholic?) When one of her clients is shot and killed on her hunt and then one of her relatives commits suicide, Edie sets out to investigate on her own.
First off, EVERYONE has either a drinking, Xanax or Meth habit. Second, our unrealistic alcoholic heroine is smarter and stronger than all the men around her. I'm so tired of that trope. Finally, there's a weird side story about Lemmings that used just to lead up to the last scene of the book.
I didn't love it.
The First Cell
By Azra Raza
When I'm on vacation I really enjoy the luxury of "reading" books. You know, the ones written on real paper that you hold in your hands and use your eyeballs to read the words. I especially love reading non-fiction this way. I saved this book specifically for our beach trip.
I have mixed feelings about the book. The first and last chapters have some really valuable information on the true state of cancer research and treatment. Spoiler alert: we haven't made any significant progress in 50 years after spending billions on research and, on top of that, our doctors aren't really allowed to tell us the truth about our real prognosis on treatments. So, all of that was really interesting and would be helpful to anyone affected by cancer.
The rest of the book was case histories of her own patients. I wasn't so happy with these sections. I don't feel like she really advanced the narrative much and it kind of showed her to be a bit partial to certain groups of patients. That may be unfair, but she is the one who gushed about personal connections with specific patients, generally based on political or racial backgrounds. Her editors should have removed that stuff because I really don't believe that she treats her patients differently but that's kind of the way it came across.
The underlying theme, though, is that we are spending too much money trying to cure late stage cancers instead of developing ways to find and eradicate the first cancer cell which would be much less toxic.
She has been collecting samples and doing research in this field for about 30 years and seems miffed that her database isn't in demand.
Like I said, for the cancer patient or family member of cancer patients, there's some really good information here but most of it is in the first and last chapters.
The Nocturnal Brain
By Guy Leschziner
My other beach read was this book. It's also done in a case study format but was much better than the first cell. Neuroscience fascinates me. I tried reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker last year on vacation and, seriously, fell asleep every time I started reading it. This book is vastly more interesting and would be interesting to anyone having sleep issues or trying to sleep with someone having sleep issues.
It is presented as a series of case studies to explain different types of sleep disorders including: delayed sleep phase syndrome, night terrors, inability to sleep, sleep walking, narcolepsy and epilepsy. After reading this I realized why I didn't like The First Cell. In this book, the case studies are truly patient centric. In The First Cell, the case studies are more physician-centric. This book was much more interesting throughout the book.
Last month Becky asked if I ever found a book so bad that I couldn't finish it. The answer to that is a resounding YES! I used to mention those books in my monthly review and stopped doing it for some reason. This month I'll bring back that feature but I'll only list them with maybe a one sentence comment without giving them a full review. Bad books just don't deserve that much attention.
Bad books of April:
Now, on with the list of better books.
What good books have you read this month?
by Catherine Ryan Howard, Read By a cast
This is the second book that I've read by Howard and I'm sure to read more.
Adam Dunne's girlfriend left for a business trip to Barcelona and never returned. The Dublin police are not interested in helping with a missing adult so Adam starts researching on his own. He eventually discovers that she wasn't in Barcelona, she was on a cruise ship and she wasn't alone.
After more research he fins out that another woman went missing from the same ship under similar circumstances a year earlier. It's full of twists and turns and will keep you guessing. I never wanted to take a cruise before but I doubly don't want to now. The cast narration worked fine.
Tear Me Apart
By J.T. Ellison, Read by a cast
Mindy Wright is 17 and a competitive skier. She's working her way up to qualify for the Olympic team when she has a ski accident and breaks her leg. During the surgery on her leg doctors discover that she has leukemia. Chemo is not working. She needs a stem cell transplant from a relative. It's a surprise to find out that none of her relatives are a match. She was adopted and the adoption was under strange circumstances.
It's clear early in the book that there's a reckoning coming and it's clear (to the reader) who did it, but it's fun to watch it all come together. Not a lot of mystery but a lot of action.
I don't know why there's such a trend for cast narration. I find it distracting. Sometimes it works, like in Distress Signals, and sometimes it doesn't. It doesn't work so well in this one. The narration is pretty flat.
The White Princess
By Philippa Gregory, Read By Bianca Amato
This is the 5th book in the Cousin's War Series. Gregory sure knows how to write compelling historical fiction. She clearly does a great deal of research and is meticulous about telling the story of the time. There's no overlay of current mores onto the past and I soooooo appreciate that.
The brilliant thing that she does is to tell the story of the time through the women. Since the information on women during this time period is scant, she can create really compelling characters as the heroines of her books.
This book picks up after the War of the Roses and the first Tudor king, Henry VII, has come into power. His mother broker's a marriage to Princess Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Edward IV. This was an attempt to bring together the York and Tudor factions. I really enjoy these books. The character development is so well done that you feel like you know them all.
The Light Over London
By Julia Kelly, Read by a cast
In 1941, Louise and her cousin leave their Cornish village to volunteer with the Army. This was precipitated by a blow up with her mother over a pilot that she has started dating. Louise becomes a gunner girl in the anti-aircraft unit.
Today, Cara Hargrave is fresh off a divorce and has a new job working with an antique dealer. While clearing out an estate she finds a diary in a tin. It becomes an obsession with her and her new neighbor to find out more about the diarist and to return the book to her family.
This is the second book I've read by Kelly and I've enjoyed both of them. I'll read more!
Feels Like Falling
By Kristy Woodson Harvey, Read by Kelsey Navarro and Amanda Ronconi
Summer beach read.
This is a great Southern summer beach read. It's set in a fictional coastal North Carolina town. Gray Howard and Diana Harrington couldn't be from more different worlds but their paths cross in a drugstore photo department. Gray accidentally gets Diana fired from her job and she feels some responsibility.
With Gray's help Diana started to get back on her feet. With Diana's help, Gray is able to redefine her life after divorce. I loved the characters and the dialogue is brilliant. It's lighthearted and fun and made me want to get to the beach soon. I should add a book like this on my reading list each month. It would be like book dessert.
The Truth About Melodie Browne
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Anotnia Beamish
I've become a huge Lisa Jewell fan over the last few years. This book was a surprise because it's not her typical mystery. Melody Browne can't remember any of her childhood and she's been estranged from her parents since she got pregnant at 15. Her son is about to turn 18 when she has a chance encounter with a hypnotist. Now she's getting flashbacks from her missing past. She not only finds out about her past but also finds out how she impacted the lives of others. I loved it.
The Right Side
By Spencer Quinn, Read By Susan Bennett
LeAnn Hogan is in Walter Reed hospital recovering from an attack in Afghanistan. She has lost her right eye, has damage to the right side of her face and a severe case of PTSD. She forms a friendship with her roommate, Marci. She is devastated when Marci suddenly dies. LeAnn leaves the hospital and eventually finds her way to Marci's hometown in Washington State. After arriving there she discovers that Marci's daughter is missing.
The book summary gives the impression that this book is about finding the missing daughter but none of that story line even starts until the book is halfway done and her involvement in the search is minimal (although important).
This book is about putting the reader in the mind of someone going through PTSD and as that, it's a good read. LeAnn is quite a sympathetic character. It isn't much of a mystery/suspense novel at all. There's also an awesome stray dog.
By William H. McRaven, Read by the author
You will remember McRaven. He's the Admiral who gave the commencement address that advised graduates to start each day by making their bed. He's was also the commanding officer over the successful raid to get Bin Laden. On the down side, he's the reason that we have to take our shoes off at the airport.
This book is a collection of stories from his career. It's very interesting but much like the contemporary autobiographies by Bob Iger and James Comey, it's probably incomplete. People write their autobiographies to set their own narratives and can leave bad decisions out. That's fine, but it's not complete. It came off a little smoothed out, if that makes sense.
That said. This man is TOUGH. We, as a nation, need to be very grateful that people like McRaven exist. He did have an amazing career.
The Wild One
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is #5 in the Peter Ash series. Peter Ash is a war veteran with a bad case of PTSD. It mostly manifests as intense claustrophobia.
A grieving grandmother contacts Peter to try to find her missing Grandson. She has lost her daughter and son and her Grandson is all that's left. She believes that the boy's father killed the mother and left with the boy for Iceland, his homeland.
When he reaches Iceland he's met at the airport by a representative from the US Embassy. It seems that his own government doesn't want him to find the boy. That's a sign to him that the boy is in danger and he needs to find him quickly.
Fast paced and fun, as always. Not quite as good as the first 4 books. I think it needed June and/or Louis in the mix. But that's just a quibble. I'm already looking forward to book 6.
The Four Winds
By Kristin hannah, Read By Julia Whelan
What to feel better about the times we are living in? Read this book. You will feel nothing but deep gratitude for this piddly pandemic that we are going through.
The Four Winds is set in the Great Depression and specifically in the Dust Bowl region of Texas. Hannah always researches her novels thoroughly, and I've read enough about that period, to know that this book could easily be a true account.
In 1921, Elsa Wolcott, is deemed too old, infirm and ugly to marry. She's treated like the Cinderella of her family. But one night she meets Rafe Martinelli and has a little too much fun. She ends up disowned by her family and married into his Italian Catholic farming family. It's a tough start but she finally finds "family".
Things are good until 1934. The Depressions had ravaged the country and drought has ravaged their farm. The Martinelli farm is dying and Elsa must decide what to do to save her family.
Jewell writes a good book but this one is a depressing. The characters never seem to get a break. There's a lot of disaster and hopelessness all set in an unforgiving landscape.
The House We Grew Up In
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Karina Fernandez
I've really enjoyed Lisa Jewell's books. Until now they have all had a mystery element to add to the family dynamics of the book. This one was a little weird for me. I did finish it because I wanted to see how it ended, but, I admit, I didn't much like any of the characters.
The central figure is Lorelei Bird, the matriarch of the family. There's also husband Colin, daughters Meg and Beth and twin sons Rhys and Rory. The book opens with family members gathering back at the family home after Lorelei's death. In typical Jewell fashion the story is told back and forth in time and the central theme is figuring out how the family got so torn apart and wondering if the bonds can be repaired. All of the stories revolve around Easter for some reason.
It's a fine story, except that the underlying problem is Lorelei's hoarding. I've watched a couple episodes of one of the hoarding shows on TV and they make me terribly uneasy. It's so clear that these people have severe mental illness and, mostly, the families are powerless to do anything about it. That's true in this story too. It affects everyone. There are some really messed up people and storylines in this book.
Lisa Jewell also seems to be kind of obsessed with body weight. She obsessively focuses on fat and skinny people. She probably should back off that a little. Having the hoarder deride the overweight daughter seems a little out of bounds.
By Andrew Raymond, Read By Adam Gold
Tom Novak (American) and Stella Mitchell (British) are journalists investigating the terrorist attack that murdered the British Primer Minister just as he was making a speech that supposedly contained a surprise confession. There's a "maverick" CIA agent and a British intelligence officer "helping". Their reasons for participating are the deaths of one's sister and the other's interrogation target. It's a good plot but there are so many characters and so many sub plots that I had a lot of trouble keeping up. It needed some serious editing. tThe characters were a bit one-dimensional so it was sometimes hard to tell who's who.
It could also be that the book was ruined by weak narration. This is clearly a British book and yet they picked an American narrator. It was a little surprising how that one decision affected the quality of the book in a big way. I spent enough time working in England to recognize a lot of mispronunciations. That has to be incredibly annoying to actual British people.
This is supposedly the first in a series but I'm not sure I'd be on board for a second installment.
Blackberry ad Wild Rose
By Sonia Velton, Read by Esther Wane and Shiromi Arserio
It's good to end the month with some historical fiction.
This one is set in the 18th century in the Spitalfields area of London. When I worked there I often wandered around in Spitalfields Market and you can really feel the history of the place when you are there.
IN the 18th century it was the center for silk weaving and was heavily populated by Hugenot weavers from France. Irish weavers were coming to the area also and merchants were starting to import cheaper calico from India. Wages were bottoming out in the weaving trade so tensions were high.
Esther Thorel is the wife of one of the master weavers. She is an artist and is interested in designing patterns for silk weaving but her husband will hear none of it. Sara Kemp was new to London several years before and was tricked into working in a brothel. Esther tries to save Sara by bringing her into her house as a maid.
The story weaves together the stories of Esther and Sara into the very real unrest among journeyman silk weavers as everything heads toward riots. It was an enjoyable read.
Another month of reading is past and it's time for a little summary of the 13 books I finished this month. March was really a mixed bag. I did not select all winners this month. You will find several disappointing choices but mixed in are a few genuine gems. My favorites of the month are Miracle in the Andes, Do You Feel Like I Do? and This Tender Land. The first 2 are non-fiction but just as riveting as a good novel. The last one, I believe, will become an American classic in the vein of Huckleberry Finn.
What ahve you read this month that you would recommend?
The Myth of Perpetual Summer
By Susan Crandall, Read By Amy Rubinate
This book exhausted me a bit.
The story revolves around the James family from Mississippi. The family is knows for a line of college professors and a long history in the area. By the time we meet them in the 1970's they aren't wealthy anymore and survive on the reputation of the family history. You know, the stereotypical Southern genteel family with lots of hidden baggage.
The story is told by Talulah James. Her mother is completely irresponsible to the family because she's more interested in traveling the US protesting various causes. Her father is a history professor who lives with undiagnosed bipolar disease. Talulah and her brother, Grif, keep things together with the help of their Grandmother.
I've got mixed feelings about this one. It was a really slow start. It took 7 or 8 chapters to decide that I was going to stick with it. But the author got me to like the characters and what to see what would happen. I suppose that I'd say that if you like Forrest Gump or Prince of Tides, you will like this one.
Everything I never Told You
By Celeste Ng, Read By Cassandra Campbell
Boy, I started this month on kind of a down note. Like the last book, this one is about another dysfunctional family.
The book is touted as a novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970's Ohio. OK, technically, yes, it is a mixed race family so, since we are into anything racial right now that's the hook. But the book is about a family, who happens to be Asian-American, and SOME of the issues they deal with might be about race. But the root of the problem is that the parents have projected their own desires/regrets on their oldest daughter and basically ignored the other 2 children.
The book opens with the death of the oldest daughter and we are told what led up to it and then how it affected the family. It's an OK book. I didn't particularly like either of the parents so it was hard to like the book and the ending was a little forced. The narration is slow. If you are listening it will help to speed it up a bit.
By Anna Lee Huber, Read by Heather Wilds
This is the second book in the Lady Darby series. I liked the first one better than this one.
In the first book we learn that Kiera Darby is the widow of an anatomist and that she was forced to do his drawings. It was scandalous and now that she's a widow, she a social pariah. While solving a mystery in book 1 she meets Sebastian Gage and a weird love/attraction begins. Weird, because "something" keeps them apart.
In book 2 she's with her sister and BIL and they are traveling to Edinburgh. At a friend's estate she reconnects with childhood friends, William and Michael Dalmay. William is about to be married but Michael is the heir and is discovered to be mentally damaged. Today we would call it severe PTSD that was made worse by a stay in an asylum. Young local girl disappears, yadda, yadda, Michael blamed, yadda yadda, Kiera investigates with the help of Gage.
I'd call book 2 more of a romance novel than a mystery. It was clear from the beginning what was going on and it was really just background for the coming together and separating of Kiera and Gage. Why their relationship can't be a real relationship is never really explained and I expect it's dragged through future books which I will not likely listen to. It's a fine book for what it is, it's just not my thing.
As Bright As Heaven
By Susan Meissner, Read by a cast
This book gets rave reviews but it fell a little flat for me.
The story is set during the Spanish Flu pandemic in Philadelphia, one of the worst hit cities. The Bright family has moved from Quakertown so that the father can work at and eventually take over his uncle's mortuary. They recently lost a baby boy and the mother, Pauline, is still in despair. They move to Philadelphia for the hope of a better life for their 3 daughters, Evelyn, Maggie and Willa. Not long after arriving the Flu also arrives.
While delivering food and supplies to flu victims in South Philly, Maggie discovers a baby boy with his dead mother and sister. They bring the boy home to raise as their own.
The book covers the early flu years through abut 1925 as the girls become young women. I can see why it's so popular. It's a good story and ends well but it fell a little flat for me. As I was listening I found it was hard to imagine the events actually taking place in the 1920's. The conversation seemed too modern and I kept picturing the setting as more 1950's. The freedom of the girls, including one to pursue becoming a doctor, just didn't ring true for me. The narration was done by a cast, which was fine, but as the youngest girl aged the narrator didn't change her voice. We listen to scenes in speakeasys with the voice of a 10 year old.
It's a good book for a light read with some sadness and trauma but with a happy ending.
By Isabella Maldonado, Read By Roxanne Hernandez
This is the first in a new series featuring FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera. She has recently joined the FBI after being a DC area cop for several years and she's the first Latin woman to reach some specific rank in the FBI. She, of course, has a past. She was literally thrown in the garbage as a baby and then spent many years in bad foster homes. At 16 she was abducted, raped and brutalized but managed to escape. At the opening of the book she is jogging and 2 college students think it will be funny to attack her, rape her and live stream it on the internet. Instead what's livestreamed is her beating the crap out of the attacker. It goes viral and her original abductor now knows who she (she had changed her name) is and where she lives. He abducts another young girl and leaves her discarded and dead as a message to Nina that he's back.
That sounds like a great storyline, doesn't it? The vast majority of reviewers would agree but I have come to believe that most of the reviews for this book are fake because this book is almost awful. It's not suspenseful because the plot and conclusion are so obvious from the beginning. The actions of the FBI, most of the time, are laughable and the dialogue is awkward. Maldonado is supposedly a former FBI agent so I'd like to think that she really does know how the FBI works. If they work like they do in this book then the organization is kind of a waste. It might explain why it took a group if amateur sleuths ("Scoobys", in the book) to solve the decades old Golden State Killer case and why so many people watch the ID channel and listen to podcasts like The Murder Squad.
As for the dialogue, she uses conversation in the book to explain FBI things too the reader. Often the conversations reminded me of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory when he would simplify things for his friends. Imagine that you and I are chatting about our quilting projects and during the conversation we explain to each other how to sew a quarter inch seam as part of our project discussion. It's just like that in the book. It made the characters flat and insipid.
After doing a little research I discovered that this book is being made into a movie for Jennifer Lopez and it's probably perfect for that. In fact, I could believe that it was written specifically for her. Screen writers will fix the dialogue and JLo will get to beat up on a few men. There's no way that this book got almost all 5-star reviews on all of the book platforms. It's a 3-star book max. I'm glad I got it in the Audible daily deal for $4.
Miracle in the Andes
By Nando Parrado and Vince Rause, Read By Arthur Morey
It was the summer of 1974, just before I turned 14, that I discovered the non-fiction genre in books. I loved my summers because I could totally indulge my love of reading and I loved visiting the Bassett library to find new books to read. That summer our librarian introduced me to Alive by Piers Paul Read. It's the story of the 1972 Uruguay airlines crash in the Andes in October. The plane was carrying 45 passengers, mostly young rugby players. A search for the plan was relatively quickly called off because it was assumed that no one could have survived and the white plane was impossible to see on the glaciers and snow.
I sprawled out on our avocado green toile sofa one day and barely moved for 3 days until I read the last page. 16 of the 45 passengers survived for 72 days until 2 of them could hike out and try to get help. Alive is the story of the facts of the events and how they survived in such a barren area for so long.
Nando Parrado is one of the 2 people who hiked for 10 days to try to get help. They hiked 37 miles in 10 days in an area where no human had ever passed before. The plane had settled at 11,700 feet and their hike took them to about 15,000 feet. They had no winter gear or hiking tools. They just had the will to live. They eventually saw a man on horseback and after tossing notes tied around rocks across a river, the man went for help.
This book is a perfect companion to Alive. This book tells much more of the personal side of the events and how the crash affected him as he resumed his life. Like Alive, I could not put it down. In the audio version you get to hear Parrado, in his own voice, in the prologue and epilogue. His perspective on death and on living is a wonderful lesson for all of us.
Alive will always remain one of my all-time favorite books along with Unbroken. These men are truly extraordinary and I don't think any group of people could have survived that trial without the "team" ethic that they formed playing rugby together. This book will make Covid seem really petty and inconsequential to you. It will also make you feel very grateful.
Daughter of Fortune
By Isabel Allende, Read By Blair Brown
I'm writing this immediately after finishing the book and the only thing I can think to say about it is that it's pointless. It's supposed to be about Eliza Sommers who was orphaned at birth but was raised in the British colony of Valparaíso, Chile, by the well-intentioned Victorian spinster Miss Rose. She falls in love with one of her uncle's employees, Joaquín Andieta. Joaquin leaves for California for the Gold Rush. Unknowingly, he left a pregnant Eliza behind. She decides to follow him by stowing away on her uncle's ship. The book follows her search for Joaquin for several years in California.
It's a fine premise but Allende seems to have trouble distinguishing secondary characters from primary characters. Everyone seems to get a chapter of full introduction and background. In fact the first 1/4 of the book seems to be nothing but background. She even introduces a new character in the last 20 minutes of the story and then it just ended. In the last 2 chapters there were a couple of storyline advances that seemed to propose some reunions or major turning points but they were left hanging. It's as if she got tired and decided to just end it with one specific event and ignore all the other hanging storylines.
The other annoying thing about this book is that it was written in 1999 before our recent obsession with rewriting history. The book now has a introduction by Allende proposing that she wrote the book to tell the history of California from the perspective of the women, Chinese, Mexicans and South Americans who were robbed of their due in the new state. It's a good marketing angle to get this book back on reading lists but that it not what it's about. Not even close.
By Walter Mosley, Read By Michael Boatman
I first discovered Walter Mosley and his Easy Rawlins series in 1996 with White Butterfly, which is actually 3rd in the series. If you've hears of the movie Devil In A Blue Dress, it was based on the first book in the series with Denzel Washington playing Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins. But Don Cheadle stole the show with his portrayal of my favorite character, Mouse.
Easy is a WWII veteran and the books are all set in the 1950's and 1960's . In Blood Grove it's 1969 in LA and Easy has a small detective agency. One day a Vietnam Vet walks in and asks for Easy's help in finding. He believes that he stabbed someone to death in an orange grove and want Easy to find out. He takes the case after he realizes how damaged the young man is by his war experience. He soon regrets that decision.
Meanwhile, his adopted daughter Feather, is a teenager and doing well in school so life at home is great. That is until Feather's white uncle shows up in town to meet her.
Mosely creates such rich characters that you feel like you could go to LA and find them....except that you'd also have to go back in time. I think the time period for these novels is genius. Having them take place in the 50's and 60's means that the characters have to work a little harder but that it's also easier to hide. There's no technology aside from the newspaper, library and telephones with wires.
I love the whole series and Blood Grove is a great addition. If you aren't into violence, though, you should skip these books.
By Kate Quinn, Read By Saskia Maarleveld
Nina Markova is one of the famous Soviet Night Witches, a squadron of female bomber pilots in WWII. After the war British War Correspondent Ian Graham has given up journalism for being a Nazi hunter. In post-war Boston Jordan McBride works welcomes a new step-mother and sister to her family. She longs to become a photographer but her father wants her to take over the family antiques business.
All of these people come together in the search for a The Huntress, a woman known for murdering several people as a Nazi.
I've read one other Quinn book, The Alice Network, and she does "WWII spy" really well. Great characters and a narration that jumps between during the war and post-war as everything unfolds. Great narration too.
I enjoyed learning about the Soviet female bomber pilots that were put into service after Germany invaded Russia. The Germans nicknamed them the "Night Witches" because the only sound they heard when the planes were coming was the faint sound of a sweeping broom. Nina is a great character for one of these courageous pilots.
Do You Feel Like I Do?
Peter Frampton, Read By Peter Frampton
I don't know a ton about music but, for some reason, I really enjoy music biographies, especially artists from the 50's to the 80's. Peter Frampton was definitely an artist of my time and I remember what a big deal the talk box was. It had been used in country music some but it was Frampton that took it and owned it.
What I enjoyed about this book was his singular focus on making music. Whether he's making millions or making nothing, he seems to be all about the music and he seems to not carry around anger, resentment or jealousy for bad things that happened or things that could have been. I really enjoyed his story, how it intertwined with other artists of the time and I actually enjoyed hearing him tell the story. It was also fun to go to YouTube and listen to the songs as read the book. Watching clips of the Sgt Peppers movie was hilarious.
The Mountains Wild
By Sarah Stewart Taylor, Read By Marissa Calin
There's one word that sums up the writing and narration of this book and that word is "sloppy". The writing is sloppy or the editor was lazy. There are too many inconsistencies throughout the story as if it was written quickly to get it out on the coattails of a previous successful book. I don't know if that's the case or not but that's how it feels.
The narration takes that weak base and makes it worse. Much of the book takes place in Ireland but the main character is from Long Island. She tries mightily to keep all the accents straight and consistent but fails miserably. Maggie D'acry (appropriate last name for a romance novel), our heroine, speaks about every 4th word with a Long Island accent. Or is it Brooklyn? Or Boston? Is she having cawfee today or coffee? She can't seem to remember. The accent is totally unnecessary and the book would have been better without it.
But the book does struggle on it's own. It wasn't so horrible that I couldn't finish it but it was a messy story. Maggie grew up with her cousin, Erin, on Long Island and honestly, they never got along well. After leaving high school, Erin decides to move to Ireland (the homeland she has never visited). One day they got a call that Erin had disappeared. Maggie drops everything (at the age of 18, 19, 20?) to go there and spend weeks "investigating" Erin's last moves. They never find Erin or what happened to her.
Twenty-three years later Maggie is a detective, divorced and mother of a 15 year old. They receive a call that Erin's scarf has been found. Maggie drops everything again to go to Ireland to help solve the crime because she's a famous detective now. I'm not buying it.
Once there she acts more like a lovelorn teenager than a detective. She actually spends time more or less stalking someone she had a fling with 23 years ago. She does eventually get her act together and, magically, solves the crime.
It might be much better read, instead of listening to the bad narration but I thought it was a pretty weak story.
This Tender Land
By William Kent Krueger, Read By Scott Brick
William Kent Krueger is the author of the Cork O'Connor mystery series that I like so much. He also wrote a beautiful stand alone novel called Ordinary Grace. This is the book he wrote to follow on Ordinary Grace.
Krueger is a masterful writer and I believe that this book will become a classic. It is set in 1932 at the Lincoln School in Minnesota, an orphan school for Native American children. Odie and Albert O'Banion are two white orphans that were also taken into the school. It's a horrid place and Odie is treated particularly bad. They eventually have to flee with their mute Native friend, Mose and a recently orphaned girl named Emmy. This is the story of their escape in a canoe heading toward the Mississippi. It's an epic story. Some parts are hard to listen to but the characters are fantastic and the landscapes are beautiful. This is a book that I would read again.
Scent of Evil
By Archer Mayor, Read By Tom Taylorson
This is the third in the Joe Gunter series. This is an older series and this particular book was published in 1992. Audible has this series included free with membership. I'm really enjoying reading these book set in a time where pagers were consider modern technology. So far they are all set in Vermont.
A local Brattleboro stock broker has been found dead and the obvious suspect is one of the local police officers. The officer's wife was having an affair with the stockbroker. But as he investigates, Gunther, finds more and more bizarre details. Whoever the killer is seems to always be a few steps ahead of him.
This was my least favorite of the three. I think there were too many characters to track and it was easy to figure out who did it. But I like the Gunther character and the series in general so I'll keep reading them.
Another great month of books! 14 books read in 26 days. This is what limiting news exposure does for you. You get to read more books and you are much happier too. All in all, it was a good month. There were a few disappointments (Eli's Promise, The Widow Clicquot and The Shoemaker's Promise) but none of those three were bad. There were more great surprises (The Last Garden in England, American Spy, The Venetian Bargain, The Dearly Beloved). One book I'd recommend for anyone willing to read a medical book is Chronic. I provided a link to an interview with the author that you can watch to see if it might be interesting to you. Most of the rest of the books were books that I knew that I'd enjoy.
What good books have you read this month? My wish list is a little slim and needs some seeding.
By Ronald H. Balsom, Read By Fred Berman
This is the story of the fictional Eli Rosen and his family before WWII, during Nazi occupied Poland and in Chicago during Vietnam. It's historical fiction based on some real events. Definitely more fiction than history. It's beautifully written and tells the story of three time periods moving back and forth across time. I think that was a tool to help make the horrid parts more palatable to the reader. This book (and this author) has amazing reviews but I didn't love it.
I felt that Eli was portrayed as incredibly naïve and gullible and that just didn't ring true to me. He was a smart man and would have realized better what was really going on around him and would have known how to handle Maxilillian Poleski better. The book was a little slow and a lot predictable. But I didn't want to give up on it. I think most people who like this genre will find the book beautiful. It just didn't move me to the 4.7 stars that it has on Audible.
The Widow Cliquot
By Tilar Mazzeo, Read By Susan Erickson
Barbe-Nicole Cliquot clearly led a unique and fantastic life and lived at a very interesting time in history (Napoleonic Wars). Her husband died young and she, at 27, took over the family champagne business. She broke barriers and created a monumental business. But there's so little true documentation about her life that the telling of it is pretty lackluster. If the author said one more time "we can only imagine...." I was going to scream. If we have to do so much imagining then write historical fiction. I recently read The Indigo Girl, which is historical fiction. It made me wonder what the difference is between the 2 genres. There was clearly more factual documentation about Eliza Lucas' life than for The Widow Cliquot. With some dialogue, this book would have been much more interesting as historical fiction. The actual facts from her life can really only be documented in a pamphlet. This was a lot of filler and history going on around her life. If you love champagne it might be interesting.
By Archer Mayor, Read By Tom Taylorson
In my ongoing search for new series I discovered an old series. This is the first in the Joe Gunther Mysteries. This book was first written in the late 80's so it's not filled with technology. It's an old fashioned detective series and I enjoyed it.
Joe is a lieutenant in Brattleboro, VT. A series of crimes around town are starting to be tied to a jury pool from a 3 year old murder case. In that case a black man was convicted of murdering a woman. One of the jurors believed that he was set up.
Many people will pass this book by because of some of the language. If you can accept that language that isn't acceptable today was acceptable 40 years ago, then you can enjoy this book. I like that the book is just a good solid mystery. It's OK to read older books and enjoy them in the time they were written.
If you are on Audible this one is in the free section. I'll read more in the series.
By Anne Perry, Read By Jenny Sterlin
This is #15 in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. I think I accidentally skipped #14 in the series but these books do not need to be read in order.
The year is 1890, Thomas Pitt is the Police Superintendent and information about Britain's strategy for Africa is being given to the German Embassy. Within Britain, there are strong disagreements over the strategy to begin with and those disagreements.
The story opens with the suicide or accidental death of someone close to Thomas Pitt. The man's son thinks it has to be murder and asks Thomas to look into it.
I like this series because it's a reliable good read. I like the characters, especially the eccentric Aunt Vespasia.
The Venetian Bargain
By Marina Fiorato, Read By Pamela Garelick
This was another find from the Audible free section. I believe this book was originally published in 2014.
It's 1576 in Venice. Five years earlier the Venetians had defeated the Ottoman Empire. A ship arrives in Venice carrying cargo that will deliver the plague to the town. There's a woman on the ship who knows about it and tried to stop it. Her name is Feyra and she was the Harem doctor and she is trying to flee a future as the sultan's concubine. She needs all of her wits and her medical knowledge to survive in Venice.
Through the book we are introduced to some real people of the day. Probably the most famous is Andrea Palladio, one of the most famous architects of all time who gave us Palladian architecture.
If you like historical fiction you will enjoy this. This is the only book by this author that's available in Audible.
I Found You
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Helen Duff
Last month I reviewed my second book by Lucy Foley and complained about the strict formula of her books from the characters to the plot. I could possibly say the same about Lisa Jewell because she does absolutely have a formula. That's where the comparison ends. Jewell's books are so much more sophisticated in terms of character development and plot. I have loved all of them so far and once I start I can't put them down.
In a seaside town, Alice finds a man on the beach near her house. He doesn't know his name or where he came from. She's going to try to help him figure it out. The same week Lily Monrose is expecting her new husband home from work but he never arrives. Both women are trying to figure out what's going on with the mystery men in their lives.
By Lauren Wilkinson, Read By Bahni Turpin
If you read the reviews in the publisher's summary of this book, or even the one quote on the cover of the book, you will completely miss what this book is about. It is not an "espionage thriller" (Entertainment Weekly), it is not a "trenchant comment on race and gender in America" (Elliott Holt). In fact, I'm pretty sure that every reviewer of this book didn't actually read it. They saw the superficial qualities of the writer and character and made assumptions. That just shows how lazy we have become about judging everything. All of these reviewers are lazy and completely missed the beauty (and the point of) this book.
I honestly selected the book because I'd listen to Bahni Turpin read a medical text. She's brilliant. I'm so glad I picked this one. It's a very unique gem.
It's not really a spy novel but Marie Mitchell is spy and so was her sister. The espionage part of the book is set in the 1980's and Marie, as a black woman, has trouble being taken seriously in the New York field office (unlike her experience working in the Indianapolis office). She eventually leaves and contracts out to a private firm and becomes involved in operations in Burkina Faso (formerly Chad). It's the perfect place to center a novel because I'd bet none of us know anything about it. I didn't. Anyway, there are spy aspects and the opening is quite a thriller so it's a little misleading.
What this book really is, is a letter to Marie's sons written in 1993 (current period for the book). She's telling the story of her life in case she doesn't see them again. We learn about her upbringing, her relationships with her sister and parents, her career choices, her intelligence and her introspection. She recognizes that countries aren't all right or wrong, people aren't all bad or good and decisions have mixed results. We see Marie as a daughter, sister, mother AND spy and we recognize that all those parts are interconnected. It's a brilliant first novel....it's not dogmatic, it's thoughtful.
The Shoemaker's Wife
By Adriana Trigiani, Read By Lisa Flanagan
It's a multi-generational family drama as historical fiction so it should be right up my alley. It was OK. This is the third or fourth Trigiani book that I've read and, for me, they are all OK. The characters all fall a little flat for me and the writing is a little messy. There are events or conversations that should presage a future event but then nothing eve happens with them.
The story is based very loosely on her own family history of Italian immigrants to the US. Enza and Ciro meet in their hometown in the Italian Alps. Shortly after Ciro has to leave for the US where he will apprentice as a shoemaker. Enza follows later when her family falls on hard times. She and her father come to the US to work and send money home. Neither Ciro or Enza knows that the other is in New York.
In the end, I just didn't buy the story. But, saying that, she is a very popular author and people who like her work will like this book.
By Steven Phillips, MD and Dana Parish
Read By Thomas Allen, Teri Schnaubelt
Without question, one of the most important books I've ever read. Dr Phillips came to specialize in "autoimmune" diseases when, as a young medical intern, he saved his father from a heart transplant by discovering that his problem was an underlying Lyme infection. By treating that, his father was cured. He eventually had his own health crisis (bed ridden and near death) that was ultimately determined to be a bacterial infection from spider bites.
He share research and case studies to show that some cases of heart disease, neurological diseases and autoimmune diseases are actually caused by Lyme and other vector borne infections. He also discusses the types of treatments that are needed to truly cure these infections. He's had patients diagnosed with everything including: ALS, rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, autism, MS, OCD and various other maladies and many turned out to be infection caused.
He does not propose that ALL people with these diagnoses are actually infections but a significant percentage are. He explains about the different tests and which work and then talks about various approaches to treatment.
If you want to check him out before buying this book, here's an interview on YouTube. It's a pretty heavy book. I did not read it all at one time. I had to break it up between a few other books but it was so worth the time invested.
By Archer Mayor, Read By Tom Taylorson
This is the second book in the Joe Gunther series. I read the first one a few weeks ago and enjoyed it.
This is a pretty old series and most of the books are in the free section of the Audible library. That's what drew me to the first one, Open Season. These early novels are set in the 1980's in Vermont. There are no cell phones or other modern forensic tools. These books are good old fashioned investigation and, for me, that's what makes them fun.
In this one Joe is in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to help investigate an embezzlement case. But then there's a house fire that turns out to be arson/murder. The house is owned by a secretive sect that has taken over half the town in recent years. There's lots of pent up animosity to add to the intrigue.
There are 30 books in the series so far and 29 of them are free. I like Joe Gunther so I'll keep reading them.
The Dearly Beloved
By Cara Wall, Read By Kathy Keane
I pick up book ideas from all over the place. Some come from reading blog book reviews, some from book newsletters and some from friends. I feel certain that this book came from one of those sources but I don't remember. I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own.
Two couples, Charles & Nan and James & Lily, meet in 1963 in Greenwich Village. James and Charles are the new pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church. The story starts earlier to tell the stories of how each couple met and the influences on their lives. Charles was supposed to succeed his father as a History professor at Harvard, Lily had serious childhood trauma and says that she will never believe in God, James had a tough childhood in Chicago and wants to right all of the wrongs of the world and Nan grew up a minister's daughter in Mississippi where he father taught her how to connect with people. The book is, simply, about their lives: decisions, challenges and growth all amid the social changes of the 60's and 70's.
I almost didn't read the book when I got started and saw that it might have strong religious overtones but I soon realized that it isn't about religion at all. It does use faith (or not) as a method to show how we can reconcile differences in our lives. If a minister and his atheist wife can make a happy life then there's hope for others. Oh, and the church secretary is awesome.
It's cleverly written because you find yourself hating and then not hating and then liking a character as they move through their own phases of self-discovery and relinquishing their past demons. It's not going to be one of my favorite books of the year but it's a good one.
The Mother's Promise
By Sally Hepworth, Read By Barrie Kreinik
This is another, like that last one, that came to me from a list somewhere.
Alice Stanhope is a single mother of 15 year old Zoe. Zoe has social anxiety disorder that I propose was caused by the mother absolutely smothering her from birth. The kid was never seriously socialized at a young age and Alice has always lived her life mostly alone. Now all that is about to come to a head.
Alice is diagnosed with cancer, a diagnose that she's pretty much decided to avoid. She gets treatment but had avoided truly understanding the seriousness of her situation. She is very lucky that her nurse (Kate) and social worker (Sonja) feel a personal need to help her. Kudos to all the social workers out there because I expect there are a lot of Alice's in this world.
It's a well written book with the unsurprising message that we can't survive alone. We need family and friends. I found Alice immature and wanted to slap her a few times but the story got where it needed to be at the end.
Again, it wasn't my favorite but if you like deep emotional stories this might be a book for you.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
After the heaviness of the last 2 books I needed something light. By light, I mean murder.
This is #12 in the Cork O'Connor series. It opens with Cork on a hunting trip with his high school friend-turned-politician, Jubal Little. During the trip Jubal is shot with an arrow that looks like one of Cork's homemade arrows. Cork has to find the real killer before he's charged with the murder.
There's not much for me to review about this series. So far I like all of them. I like Cork as a character and I like the mystical overtones from the Native community. I always read these quickly.
The Last Garden in England
By Julia Kelly, Read by a cast
If you like Kate Morton just go ahead and get this book. You will love it.
The story is told around the fictional Highbury House in the village of Highbury in England. There are 3 women who had close connections with the garden so the story move between 3 times to tell the story the garden and the connections between the women.
In 1907 Venetia Smith is a novelty. She's an up and coming female garden designer and is hired to design the gardens for Highbury House. In 1944, land girl Beth Pedley, cook Stella Adderton and Diana Symonds, the widowed mistress of the house, try to find some sort of normality as the house is requisitioned for war use. In 2021, Emma Lovett, is knows for breathing new life into neglected gardens. She's hired by the descendants of Diana Symonds to restore the gardens.
This book was a great way to end the month. I couldn't put it down. Damned if I didn't actually shed a tear at one point. That doesn't happen very often!
I got a lot of sewing, quilting and spirograph done this month. I know that because I finished 14 books! I can't really name favorites, I read so many good ones. I can say that three of them are pretty much duds for me. Those are:
The law of Innocence
The Guest List
Don't Look For Me
That's not a bad ratio for having made it through 14 books, many of which I dug out of the Audible free section.
What have you read this month that you would recommend?
By William Kent Krueger, Read By Buck Schirner
This is the 11th book in the Cork O'Connor series. I'm happy to see that there are at least 6 more left for me to read because I really enjoy this series.
The books are set in Northwest Minnesota. Cork O'Connor is now a private investigator. The book opens with the whole family on a vacation in the remote Northwest Angle, the northern most part of the contiguous US states. A devastating storm hits that separates the group. Cork's daughter is stranded on an island where she finds an abandoned baby. Other people seem to be looking for the baby too.
Krueger is an outstanding writer. Along with the plot there's a non-intrusive discussion of God (both the Christian and the Ojibwe versions of God) and the use of God for good and evil.
Lily of the Nile
By Stephanie Dray, Read By Kyla Garcia
This is the 1st book in the Cleopatra's Daughter trilogy. It starts with the death of Cleopatra and the caption of her children. They are taken to Rome where they are at the mercy of the new Caesar.
The store focuses on Selene and her years in Rome. It's an interesting book but it didn't quite capture me the way her books co-authored with Laura Kamoie do. It wasn't a bad book but I never really felt connected to Selene or any of the other characters. I'm not sure if I'll read the remaining 2 books.
No Stone Unturned
By Steve Jackson, Read By Kevin Pierce
A couple of months ago I read Monster by this same author. It was true crime book about the hunt for a serial killer. I like true crime and really enjoyed that book so I was happy to find another by the same author.
This book is an older book that was updated in 2015. It tells the story of NecroSearch, International. NSI is a premier forensic investigative team that helps with crimes all over the world. They started in Colorado in the 1980's as a group of people interested in improving crime scene investigation. They were known as "the pig people" because they did their original experiments using pigs. If you like true crime entertainment you will enjoy this book. It kind of reminds me of the new sleuths who use the internet to solve crimes that the police can't solve, as was the case with the Golden State Killer.
The Anatomist's Wife
By Anna Lee Huber, Read By Heather Wilds
This is the first in a series and is along the lines of Anne Perry's William Monk and Charlotte Pitt series. I'm guessing it's set during the Victorian Era but that's mostly because I call everything set in an olden time as Victorian. It's not relevant, it's just a time of Lords and Ladies and formal dress for dinner.
Lady Kiera Darby is a widow. Her late husband was notorious for his anatomy studies and he enlisted her to do his drawings. As a result she learned a lot. She's living with her sister's family now in Scotland to try to get away from the nasty rumors. During a house party one of the guests is murdered. Kiera's brother-in-law asks her to assist the handsome rake, Sebastian Gage, to investigate the crime. It's not long before she is a suspect.
I had a little difficulty getting into the book. I'm not sure if it's the book or the uptight narration. It was a good diversionary read. Now that I know the characters I will likely read more of the series. The narrator gets some really bad reviews. I didn't think she was all that bad. She's not the best, but not awful.
Tear It Down
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
I think Peter Ash is my new favorite hero. He's an Iraq war veteran and has mostly settled down with June Cassidy on her property in Washington State. This is the 4th book in the series and it's probably best to read them in order to get the whole backstory on all the characters.
June knows that Peter is getting antsy so she send him to Memphis to help her friend, former war correspondent Wanda, work on her house. He arrives to find that a dump truck has been driven into the living room and no one knows why. Meanwhile a young, homeless musician has been roped into robbing a jewelry store and it didn't go well. He and Peter cross paths during his escape.
Just like the previous 3 books, it's action packed and the characters are vivid and interesting. I think there's one more book to catch up in the series and I'm going to try to hold off a month or two before I get it.
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Dan John Miller
This is the 3rd book in the David Sloan series. I like Dugoni a lot. I've read the Tracey Crosswhite series and Charles Jenkins too. Jenkins is probably my favorite series but this one is good too except that so many bad things happen to David!
Sloan is an attorney and has just finished a malpractice case against a doctor who may not have treated a child appropriately. The child later died of septicemia. Immediately after the trial someone approaches Sloan and says that he's responsible for the child's death because of a defective toy.
Sloan is then thrown into the cut throat world of toy manufacturers and it puts his family in grave danger. Very fast paced.
Feast of Sorrow
By Crystal King, Read By Simon Vance
I found this gem in the free section of Audible. It's historical fiction set in Ancient Rome. The most famous cookbook of all time is the first knows cookbook written by Apicius. This is the fictional story of the development of that cookbook but includes a lot of interesting facts from the period and weaves in all of the "known" facts about Apicius.
The story is told by the slave that he purchased to be his cook. He was told by the slave trader that this slave would make him famous. They both have a deep love of food and discovering new flavor combinations and recipes. Mix in all the palace intrigue surrounding all Roman rulers and you've got a really good story.
One of the fun facts of the time is the luxury and popularity of asbestos napkins!
Rider of the Purple Sage
By Zane Grey
This is another book that I came across in the free section of Audible. I'm trying to make full use of the free books. I've never read Zane Grey and I do enjoy a good Western. Apparently, this is the original version of the book. Originally it could not be published in his version because it addressed polygamy in the Mormon community. Audible has 8 versions of Riders of the Purple Sage but this is the free one.
What an outstanding book! I figure most of you have probably read it at some point but this 100+ year old book is new to me. The story is set in Cottonwoods, UT. Jim Lassiter has come to town to avenge his sister's death. The peaceful Mormons of this community are ruled by the tyrant Deacon Tull. Tull is also trying to take land and cattle from a single woman in the community. Great characters and perfectly narrated.
The Law of Innocence
by Michael Connelly, Ready By Peter Giles
This is #6 in the Lincoln Lawyer series and, frankly, it was horrible. Mickey Haller is set up for murdering one of his previous clients. It was easy to think he was guilty since the body was found in the trunk of his own car. Most of the book is the trial and it's a tedious mess of objections and sidebars interspersed with Mickey getting beat up in jail, Harry Bosch making some cameo appearances but not adding anything to the story and the pandemic! Yes, it's the first book where the pandemic makes an appearance and it's not handled very well. Sometimes people wear masks, sometimes they don't. Days go by without any mention of it and then, suddenly, lockdown. I feel like the book was written before the pandemic started and he went back and added in some token storylines around it. Of course if you are going to have a pandemic storyline you must have an anti-Trump story line. In this case we must prevent any Trump supporters from being selected for the jury. There was no point to that except for getting Connelly his woke gold stars. Everything about this book was annoying, including the narrator who must have hurt his vocal cords trying to maintain a fake deep husky voice for Haller.
By Rose Tremain, Read By Paul Daneman
Another book from the free section of Audible! This one is set during the reign of Charles II (1660) amid the delights of plague and the Great Fire of London (and we think we have it bad).
Robert Merivel is our hero. His father was a glovemaker to the king and, through him, he is introduced to Charles. For lack of a better phrase, he become unromantically infatuated with the King and will do about anything to be in favor. He's the King's fool for a while and then he is asked to marry the King's mistress but not consummate the wedding. In appreciation he is given an estate in Norfolk.
What follows is a series of bad decisions that leads to the loss of his relationship with the King, finding service during the plague and again during the fire. Robert is emotionally weak and immature but has periods of self-sufficiency and earned respect.
The book is historical fiction in the way that it takes place during the English Restoration and is built around some historical events. But the story is all about one's man quest to restore himself to some semblance of respect and honor. He's not the most likable character but his path is interesting.
Some reviewers love the narrator and some hate him. I got used to him but if you are thinking about listening to this I'd recommend playing the sample first to see if you like the narrator.
The Guest List
By Lucy Foley, Read by a cast
Back in October I read The Hunting Party by this author and I really enjoyed it so I quickly put this on on hold at the library. I have to say that this one was a bit of a let down.
The story is about a power couple (she's a magazine publisher, he's a reality TV star) having a wedding at a remote resort in Ireland. Everyone in this story has problems and many of then seem to revolve around the groom. They are an unsympathetic lot. It's not a bad story but it's EXACTLY like the Hunting Party. She has a formula and she doesn't deviate from it. If you have read one then you have basically read both.
Don't Look For Me
By Wendy Walker, Read by Therese Plummer
Molly Clark, wife and mother of 2 walks away from her life one night. She leaves a note at a hotel to not look for her. But, of course, that's not what really happened. Molly and her family have some heavy baggage for an accident a few years earlier. It takes a while for that to surface. But what you do know early is that Molly has been abducted and is being held to care for a 10 year old girl.
I should have never started this book because it's a psychological thriller and I really don't like those. This one gets rave reviews but I just hated it. Molly is so frantically overwrought that it annoyed me no end. Her alcoholic daughter searching for her was equally annoying. Was that the story or the reader? I'm not sure.
I read about the first hour and then just a minute or two of each chapter until the last hour. I just wanted to see how it ended. If you like the psychological thriller genre you might like this a lot.
The Indigo Girl
By Natasha Boyd, Read By Saskia Maarleveld
I don't mind the two previous "let down" books now because they were followed by my favorite book of the month. That's saying something because I ready some wonderful books this month.
The Indigo Girl is historical fiction but much more history than fiction. It's the store of Eliza Lucas. In 1739, at the age of 16 her father left her in charge of their 3 plantations in South Carolina. She was determined to make the successful experimenting with different crops. She planted oaks as a long term investment for ship building and she was determined to produce indigo. She knew of indigo production from her time living in Antigua.
I can't imagine any 16 year old today being mature enough to take on the pressures that Eliza had. Her plantation managers were determined to undermine her at every turn, her father was rapidly bringing debt on the farms to support his political aspirations and she had trouble getting honest help and advisement with growing indigo.
In the end she remains one of the most influential business people in the history of South Carolina. The book is based on a trove of letters that she left behind so we are given her own stories and relationships. Yes, she had slaves, but reading the book you can tell that slavery was destined to end simply because of the way that people like her treated them. She was one of the first to teach her slaves to read and write. To have that kind of foresight and conviction before the age of 20 is amazing.
The Desert Crucible
By Zane Grey, Read By Jim Gough
I enjoyed Riders of the Purple Sage so much earlier this month that I decided to finish out the month with the sequel.
At the end of RPS, some of the characters escaped and some hid in a valley in Utah. A disgraced young minister had heard the stories of the people left behind in Surprise Valley 12 years ago and he sets out to find and rescue them.
I'm loathe to even pretend to leave a review for a classic book so I'll just say that January ended on a great note for me.
I don't know what I'd do without books. I like reading better than movies or TV and, sometimes, better than socializing. They keep me focused on my projects, keep me entertained when I need a distraction and, occasionally, shove in a few bits of knowledge through my thick skull. I started tracking my books on a spreadsheet in 1995 and have listened to (and sometimes read) 1609 books. This goes back to the days of Books on Tape where you would get boxes of cassettes in the mail and then ship them back when done. I had multiple boxes coming each week and one was always open in my passenger car seat and I had my Walkman going when I wasn't in the car or at work. Later I upgraded to CDs and a Discman. I even made a cross-body pouch to wear so I could carry it around. My lifetime average is 61 books a year but my pace picked up a lot in 2010 when I retired. This year I read 146 books, averaging 12/month. I wish I could read more. My wish list is long with more added every month. But don't ask me about TV or movies, I'm totally ignorant in those categories.
In my spreadsheet I rate my books and narrators. It's a way for me to remind myself to go back and look for new books by authors I love and to skip books by authors that I didn't love. In reviewing my ratings for 2020, and based on my feelings today, I'd say that these are my top 10 books of the year:
That list might be a little different next week but I'm sure that at least 5 of these books would be on the list always. I'm not worried or bothered if some of these are on your personal "worst" list, we all have different tastes. But I'd love to hear what your favorite books of the year (or December) are.
Here are the books I read in December. Some winners and a few serious losers.
Always the Last to Know
By Kristan Higgins, Read By cast
December did not get off to a great start because this book was a slog. I finished it but it wasn't because I liked any of the characters.
Here we have a family of 4. The children are 2 adult daughters and everyone is forced to start to address their "issues" when Dad has a stroke. The "issues" are basically decades of lack of communication. What follows is 12 hours of wanting to slap each one multiple times and yell, "get a grip, you were fortunate to have the life and opportunities you've been given!" This book is certainly written for today when everyone is encouraged to find the worst in their lives instead of being grateful for what they have. These are the kinds of people that I try to avoid in my real life. I found the whole thing tedious and the characters quite unlikable, especially the mother. She so obviously (and admittedly) favored one daughter over the other and now she's shocked that she has a bad relationship with the second daughter. They all found some sort of happiness in the end but boy was it a hard road to get there. Given that they all started in places of relative privilege that was no need for all the agony.
By Robert Crais, Read By James Daniels
I think I found this book through an audible Daily Deal and didn't realize until later that I had read Crais before but it's been several years. I'm not sure why I didn't real more back the because he writes a good, fast paced thriller with a tight plot and story line.
Jeff Talley is a former LAPD SWAT negotiator but the job eventually took a toll on him and his family. He's taken a chief job in a small town while he tries to heal himself and repair his marriage and relationship with his daughter. Of course, it's not a quite town for long.
One day 3 punks decide to rob a convenience store but the robbery goes bad when the owner is killed. They flee to a nearby neighborhood on the look for a car to steal. They end up taking a family hostage only this family has some business ties that complicate the entire situation.
I think I read this in a day and a half.
Freedom of the Mask
By Robert McCammon, Read By Edoardo Ballerini
This is #6 in the Matthew Corbett series and I was ready for it since I just read #5 a few weeks ago. When we last saw Matthew it was 1703 and he had been abducted and was on a ship to England and a rendezvous with his enemy Professor Fell.
This book picks up with his business partner, Hudson Greathouse along with Matthew's love, Berry Grigsby have found out where Matthew is are head to London to find and rescue him.
Meanwhile Matthew has murdered his captor on the ship and is arrested upon arrival to England and eventually ends up in the notorious Newgate Prison. He's escaped from prison by a mask-wearing vigilante. Soon he's allied with a local gang and discovers an underground world of highly addictive drugs and it all leads back to Fell.
It's an intense story with lots of interesting and well-developed characters and danger around every corner. As with all the books in the series, the story really never ends. But I think I am probably done with the series. I love murder and mystery books but this one crossed a bit too far into horror. I don't handle torture scenes well and there were some gruesome ones in this tale. I understand that book #7 is even more gruesome. I'll have to take a pass.
By Lisa Jewell, Read by a cast
Lisa Jewell is becoming one of my favorite authors. The publishers summary accurately calls this an "intricate thriller". You have to pay attention to everyone!
Saffyre Maddox has been under the care of child psychologist, Roan Fours, for 3 years when he decides that she doesn't need therapy anymore. Saffyer feels lost and abandoned. The Fours family has some of their own challenges. Meanwhile Owen Pickett is a neighbor of the Fours and his life is a mess and finds himself a member of an online INCEL (involuntary celibacy) community. When sexual attacks start in the neighborhood, Owen is the obvious culprit.
The cast narration worked really well and I'm not usually a fan.
Year of Wonders
By Geraldine Brooks, Read By Geraldine Brooks
Feeling depressed about our modern day plague? This book will put things into great perspective for you!
This tale is set in 1666 in Eyam, England and based in actual events. When the plague arrives in Eyam the village agrees to isolate themselves from the rest of the country. They work out methods of getting supplies and no one leaves. Anna Frith's husband has died in a mine accident and she's left to fend for herself and her 2 sons. She works as a housekeeper for the local minister. When plague arrives she becomes an unlikely heroine.
I enjoyed this book except for the ending. I wasn't really happy with where she ended up but I suppose it could have happened that way. The ending did not ruin the story, it seemed sort of randomly tacked on.
The Evening and the Morning
By Ken Follett, Read By John Lee
I've been waiting for this book for weeks. I like most of the Follett books and the Knightsbridge series was my favorite. This book is a prequel to that series.
It's 997 CE at the end of the Dark Ages. The Vikings are rampaging all over the East of England and the Welsh are attacking from the West.
The three focal characters are a Norman noblewoman who marries and English Alderman for love, a monk who wants to transform his modest abbey in to a learning center and a humble boat builder who arrives after the Vikings destroyed his home. Lots of family and political intrigue. Very typical Follett. If you liked his other books, you will like this one.
Find Her Alive, Detective Josie Quill Book 8
By Lisa Regan, Rad By Kate Handford
I'm always on the search for a new series to read and this book popped us as an Audible Deal of the Day. For $5 I could give it a try. Sadly, it wasn't even worth $5.
It's set in rural Eastern Pennsylvania and Josie is a Detective. Her twin sister , Trinity, has gone missing. When they discover bones everyone assumes the worst but it turn out to be another missing woman. They seem to have a serial killer.
Seriously, this is an awful book. It reads like it was written by an amateur writer. Characters are not well developed, which is surprising for the 8th installment in a series. Dialogue is juvenile. Everyone calls Josie "boss". Who does that especially when she mostly behaves like a junior detective? It's not 1970 anymore. Because the missing woman is Josie's sister she is not put in charge of the case, except that for the rest of the book she is in charge of the case. There are tons of similar contradictions throughout. Another example, Josie is in an accident caused by the suspect. She happens to be on the speaker phone with her boyfriend at the time. When the suspect hears the boyfriend's voice on the phone he leaves the scene but the boyfriend didn't hear any of the conversation she had with the suspect. Ridiculous. Also, in what universe does the FBI allow some local yokel police department take the lead in a serial killer case? It doesn't, ever. Given the clues they went through to solve it it should have take less than 48 hours but we had to drag through days of talking about people's pasts. It's a rural area and the suspect has a giant scar on his face. How hard is it to find that person? It reminded me of a 30 minute TV crime drama episode except that it took longer to get to the end.
By David Eagleman, Read By David Eagleman
All the brain cells that I lost reading that last book were renewed reading this one. I found this book because I listened to a podcast where the author was interviewed. He sounded interesting and the book sounded interesting. I was not disappointed.
The book focuses on the amazing adaptability of the brain and the stories of people overcoming serious brain damage, like missing an entire hemisphere, are so inspiring. He talks a lot about current treatment/therapy protocols for various brain injuries and diseases, like stroke and Alzheimer's. The book is very accessible for those of us without a science background. I couldn't put it down and can see myself reading it again sometime. He even did a great job narrating his own book which is a rarity of it's own among author narrators.
Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas
By Stephanie Barron, Read By Kate Reading
Barron writes a mystery series with Jane Austen as the central character. They are all "nice, light reads". I picked this one because I wanted something Christmassy to read Christmas week. Jane, her sister Cassandra and her mother are spending Christmas with her brother and his annoying wife. Fortunately, as soon as they arrive, they are invited to the Vyne by the wealthy Chute family.
The festivities don't last long when someone ends up dead and it doesn't look like an accident. Told over the 12 days of Christmas, Jane helps solve the crime.
By S. A. Cosby, Read By Adam Lazarre-White
This has to be one of the hotttest books of the year to read. I had to wait a few months for it to come available. It's written by a Virginia author and set in Virginia so I was very interested in reading it. It also sounded like it my be a lot like Walter Mosley novels and Mosley is one of my favorite authors.
The story centers on Beauregard "Bug" Montage. He an outstanding mechanic, a husband and father who is devoted to his family. He used to be known as one of the best wheelmen (escape driver) around. Now his business is in financial trouble, his Mom is in financial trouble, his daughter needs tuition and his son needs braces. When an old friend approaches him about an easy jewelry store heist, he decides to participate. That's a great set up for a great story.
I wouldn't advise not reading this book because Bug is a great character. In fact, Cosby's genius is character development, all the characters are interesting and we can easily compare them to people that we have known. Well I could anyway. I knew all these people where I grew up. They are Southern Virginia through and through.
But there were 2 things that kind of annoyed me about the story. First, Bug may be close to poverty but he is not stupid. He's a very smart man and the smart Bug would have NEVER gone on this adventure with this idiot friend and allowed that friend to be in charge. Never, not in a million years. Of course, the whole thing goes south.
The other thing that bothered me was the Virginia setting. I don't understand why the author referred to real towns and cities but then made up county names and got landscapes wrong. For example, at one point the are driving from Richmond to Peaks of Otter. He mentions that they go there via Lynchburg and then talk about ears popping as they drive over the mountain. Had they driven the Blue Ridge Parkway route they would have gone over the mountain but not the Lynchburg route. That route is all east of the mountain. There were lots of weird things like that. It's not really relevant to the story, it's just annoying. Reminded me of some of the ridiculous stage setting and travel in the Crawdad Sings book.
But don't let that dissuade you from reading this if you are looking for a new African-American author to read since that's the hot genre at the moment. Cosby creates great characters and tells a good story. But if you want a better African American writer, check out Walter Mosley. I don't care what his background is, he's hands-down one of my favorite writers ever.
A Bad Day for Sunshine
By Darynda Jones, Read By Lorelei King
So, I thought I was getting a mystery/detective novel. What I actually got was a romance novel with a detective candy coating. It's not my schtick but for what it was, it was entertaining enough.
What I've learned since finishing is that Jones is a really popular author and she has a series with the main character Charlie Davidson who sees dead people. She tries to get them to pass on to the other world but sometimes they need her to solve their crimes.....or something like that. The people who love that series were a little let down that this heroine, Sunshine Vicram, is just a normal person.
Sunshine grew up in Del Sol, NM and now she's back as the sheriff. She got the job because her parents got her name on the ballot without her permission. Part of her objective in taking the job is to solve her own unresolved kidnapping and rape case that happened when she was a teen. The result of that event is her precocious 14 year old daughter, Ari.
If you like real drama in your detective novels this will not be for you. If you like some drama and light romance in your romance novels then this is your next read.
The Queen's Gambit
By Walter Tevis, Read By Amy Landon
This book is an older book, I think it was written in the 1980's. It's been brought back to popularity by the Netflix series based on it. Audible offered it as a daily deal so I decided to give it a try, it has rave reviews.....and I don't get it.
Maybe there are a ton of chess aficionados that like having chess moves read to them. Otherwise, I do not understand the love unless it's just cool to like this book. It reminds me a a mystery series that I tried to get into a few years ago where the main character talked in detail about the meals that he ate. It's all just filler. This book seemed to be half chess moves that I didn't understand, or care about, and half drug addiction and loneliness. All that was told by one of the worst narrators ever. She was breathless and slow. I had to speed up to 1.15 to get through it. I hope the Netflix series is better but I won't be checking it out.
America's First Daughter
By Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Read By Cassandra Campbell
What a delightful way to end the month and year. I had read one of their other books, My Dear Hamilton, a couple of years ago and loved it. I guess I forgot about these authors until a friend mentioned that she had read this one. These authors write some of the most meticulously researched historical women's fiction that you can find.
This book is based on the life of Martha (Patsy) Jefferson Randolph, the oldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson. It's honestly researched and tells the story of the extended Jefferson family from Martha's point of view. Cassandra Campbell does a beautiful Virginia accent and the authors put you right in the middle of the story. It's a long book (my favorite) and I enjoyed every minutes of it.
How do you shop for books? As with everything else in my life my book selections revolve around lists. I have an Excel spreadsheet of all the books I've listened to (or actually read) and that list goes back to January 1995 and by next month it will have 1600 entries. I believe books > TV. I reference the list a lot to see if I liked a particular author or narrator. The second list is the hold list at my library on Libby and the third list is the Wish List on Audible. When new books come out I peruse the Audible list and put ones that I think I might like on my Wish List. Then I wait a few months to see how the reviews come in if it's a new author. Sometimes I leave them on the Wish List until my library gets the book in and I can put it on hold. It seems like a lot to manage but it actually makes my book selections more streamlined. Because I find it pretty stressful to finish a book and not have another ready to start in Libby or Audible. When that happens I'll sit at the computer for an hour or so putting books on hold in Libby or purchasing in Audible to make sure that I have 5 to 10 books stacked and ready to read.
I know, it seems weird but it's not much different than having multiple projects to work on. Imagine the panic if you woke one morning and didn't have even one project to work on that day. The horrors! That's how I feel about an empty book list.
All of that to say that I spent a couple of laptop sessions this week to get some books lined up for the next few weeks and now I'm all calm and peaceful again.
What have you been reading? I had a great month of books. I liked all of them. If I have to pick a least favorite it would be A Good Marriage simply because of the unlikable characters. The best has to be the new Robert Galbraith, Troubled Blood.
By C.J. Box, Read by David Chandler
This is #20 in the Joe Pickett series. If they ever switch readers for this series I think I'd have to give them up. Chandler has become Pickett for me.
In this book, the wife of the the local judge is shot by sniper fire. It looks like the judge was the target but the shooter missed. Joe is brought in to help solve the crime. It becomes more urgent when Nate Romanowski becomes the main suspect.
Box is still keeping these books fresh and interesting.
By Kyle Mills (Vince Flynn), Read By George Guidall
This is book 19 in the Mitch Rapp series. One of the things I love about Kyle Mills is that he has a real talent for telling stories that could actually happen. This one is about an attack on the US power grid. It's scary how realistic it is. I couldn't put it down.
By Patrick Radden Keefe, Read By Matthew Blaney
I was a teenager in the 1970's and I remember heard about "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland at that time but it was certainly not anything that we studied in school or payed much attention to.
This book is the story of that time and the key players in the IRA. It's told specifically around the abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972. She was a mother of 10 and was accused of being an information for the British military.
It's a fascinating book if you enjoy history. I do think it might be better read in paper than in audio. I found the narrator a little flat.
A Good Marriage
By Kimberly McCreight, Read by a cast
Many years ago when I was still working an co-worker and I were talking about a relatively new neighborhood nearby and I probably said something abut it being a boring suburb. He then proceeded to enlighten me that this particular neighborhood had a very active swingers group. His wife knew someone who participated and apparently there was (as you would expect) some crime that happened. Probably assault by a jealous spouse who couldn't handle what seemed like "fun". The whole thing kind of grossed me out and I think about it every time I drive near that neighborhood.
Well, that's how this book starts out. The characters are parents of students at a private school in Brooklyn. One of the parents has an annual party while the kids are away at camp and it's a "sleepover party". One of the attendees is murdered at her own home on the evening of that party. The husband is a prime suspect.
Every singer character in this book has a stupidly complex life with hidden secrets so anyone could have killed this woman. The husband calls on an old law school flame to be his attorney and she has secrets too!
If this is what big city private school parents are like then I'm happy to be a country hick. All of these people are awful and are probably raising some really messed up kids. The book moves along at a good pace but the actual detective work is pretty small. Most of the book is about uncovering the secrets. I wanted a shower after I finished it and I'm really happy for my seemingly boring life.
By Fiona Davis, Read By Cassandra Campbell
I'm not sure how I found Fiona Davis but if it was one of you, thank you. I really enjoyed this book and I see that she had lots of others available for me to read.
The book centers around Grand Central Station. In the 1920's there was an art school in the station and Clara Darden is one of the instructors. She's not taken seriously because she's an illustrator and sells her work for commercial use. The school closes at the beginning of the Depression and Clara virtually disappears from the art scene.
In the 1970's Virginia Clay is newly divorced, still struggling with her identity after a mastectomy and, gratefully, finds employment in the information booth of GCS. Clara and Virginia's paths cross through Clara's art that Virginia finds in the abandoned art school.
Nice character development and a perfect light, escapist read when you want a diversion from reality.
No One's Home
By D. M. Pulley, Read By Emily Sutton-Smith
When I'm stumped for a new book I like to go back through my Excel spreadsheet of books and look for authors that I loved and see if they have anything new. Pulley's The Dead Key is still one of my favorite books and I was excited to see a new offering.
Pulley is a master at moving back and forth in time intertwining stories. This book is set in a foreclosed mansion in Cleveland called Rawlingswood. It's in total disrepair when Margot and Myron Spielman decide that fixing up an old mansion won't be any stress on their already fragile marriage. Everyone in town thinks that the mansion is haunted and the Spielman family starts to believe it.
The story of the house is told through the three families who have lived challenging lives within the walls of the once grand mansion.
By Steve Jackson, Read by Kevin Pierce
If you are into true crime and you haven't read this book yet, put it on your list. It's the story of serial killer Thomas Luther.
I really wasn't sure about this book but I was hooked from the first chapter. It's a very methodical and detailed account of the life and crimes of Thomas Luther. The author must have done a lot of research and got a lot of people to share personal details and information because when you finish this book you know the detective, the victims, the victim's families, Luther's girlfriend, Luther's friends and everyone else remotely involved in this case. I know that sounds tedious but it isn't at all.
The book was originally written in the 90's but was updated in 2013. Jackson is an amazing storyteller and I can't wait to read another of his books.
Love and Other Consolation Prizes
By Jamie Ford, Read By Emily Woo Zeller
Jamie Ford tells wonderfully deep and poignant historical stories. His characters suffer immense hardships and they do it through actual historical places and events. He tells a great story.
In this one, 12 year old Ernest Young is a student at a charity boarding school and has the opportunity to attend the Seattle 1909 World's Fair. What he doesn't know is that he's going to be auctioned off with a raffle.
The winning ticket belongs to a madam at one of Seattle's most famous brothels where he will now live and work. There he befriends Maise (the madam's daughter) and Fahn (a maid). Learn about Seattle's history as their stories are told.
The narration is fantastic. I couldn't put it down.
The River of Souls
By Robert McCammon, Read By Edoardo Ballerini
According to my Excel spreadsheet, I started reading the Matthew Corbett series in 2017 - 2018. I stopped because this book is less than 10 hours long. But as I was going through my latest round of bookshelf crisis I remembered the series and decided that I wanted to continue with it. This is the 5th book in the series and the only one less than 10 hours. After reading it, I realize that it's somewhat of a prequel to book 6 so it was very much worth the read.
These books are set at the turn of the 18th century and Matthew Corbett is a private investigator and has accepted a commission in Charles Town in Carolina colony. He is to escort a beautiful young woman to a fancy dress ball. Easy. Not so fast. Carolina in 1703 is rugged.
I'm so glad I read this one and I look forward to the next 2 in the series. Edoardo Ballerini is probably my favorite narrator at the moment.
By Robert Galbraith, Read By Robert Glenister
I have been waiting for this book for weeks and was so excited when it became available at the library. This is the 5th book in the Cormoran Strike series. It's long, just as I like it, coming in at about 30 hours. The reason that I love long books is that there so much more character development and several subplots.
Cormoran Strike is a private detective visiting family in Cornwall when he is asked to help solve the disappearance of Margot Bamborough in 1974. By this point Strike is almost a celebrity for the previous high visibility crimes that he has solved. His business partner is Robin Ellacott and both had some pretty deep relationship baggage that gets carried through the book. There are other investigations going on as well as things in their personal lives but the characters aren't stuck in cliché relationships with each other. They developthroughout the book. I couldn't put it down.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter and love mystery books than you will love this series. JK Rowling, as we all know, is an amazing writer and can create scenes that we feel we can inhabit. Robert Glenister is the perfect narrator because you completely forget that one person is reading all of the dialogue. The books in the series are intertwined, like with Harry Potter, so I highly recommend reading them in order. The first one is The Cockoo's Calling. With all of the books be prepared for some pretty gruesome scenes.
By Fiona Davis, Read By Tavia Gilbert
Earlier this month I read The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis and I enjoyed it. She seems to specialize in historical fiction set in New Your City landmarks. This one is centered on the Barbizon Hotel. Look it up on Wikipedia, it has a very interesting history and after 2006 there were still 14 women living there under rent control even though the hotel had converted to condos.
The core of the story is set in 1952 when the hotel was home to single women, mostly either aspiring models or business school students. One of those students is still living at the hotel and that is the basis for the story.
It's interesting but I didn't feel it was as good as The Masterpiece. The plot was kind of weak and the romance element was a little heavy handed for me. I think this was one of her earlier books so I might try one of her newer ones.
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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.