We're back from our 2 beautiful weeks in Maine and 2 weeks away from blogging or anything that even whiffs of "work". It was a great break but it's now time to play catch up. Usually I post the book reviews on the last day of the month but today's my first day back and I'm a little behind.
The highlights this month are all non-fiction. My reading order now mostly relies on when books become available from the library and that meant non-fiction this month. Rasputin, Bad Blood and Benjamin Franklin were all great reads. Bad Blood reads like a novel. You have to remind yourself that this really happened!
What good books have you read lately?
By John Carryrou, Narrated By Will Damron
Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction and that's certainly the truth in this case. This book is about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos. Theranos was supposed to revolutionize blood testing with the claim that their blood testing process could replace vials of blood with just the blood from a finger prick. The whole thing was a fraud and Elizabeth Holmes will go on trial for criminal charges next July.
I was reading some commentary about this case and there's a lot of accusations of white privilege. I actually think it's more if a case of pretty girl privilege. People were so desperate to have some female success/leadership in Silicon Valley that they were willing to believe anything she said. She appealed to a lot of once powerful men (George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, etc.) who were completely enthralled by her.
It was George Schultz's grandson who eventually helped bring her down. For me, this is one of the best business-gone-bad books since Anatomy of Greed about the Enron scandal. Will Damron was the perfect narrator. It was fun to go to YouTube to watch referenced interviews as I was reading the book.
The Night Ranger
By Alex Berenson, Narrated By George Guidall
This is the 7th in the John Wells series. Wells is now retired from the CIA when he receives a call from his estranged son, Evan. One of Evan's friends has been kidnapped in Somalia while working for an aid organization. Evan asks him to find his friend and the 3 other kidnapped aid workers.
This is another series in the vein of Dewey Andreas, jack Ryan, Mitch Rapp and others. It's very fast paced and wonderfully narrated by George Guidall. This has become one of my go-to reliable series when I just need a great adventure.
While researching this book I found that Berenson has written a non-fiction book called Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence. It's less than 7 hours but it has almost a perfect 5-star review so you might see it on a future reading list. If you have children or grand-children you might want to check it out.
By Doglas Smith, Narrated By P. J. Ochlan
Thanks to Diane's husband for the recommendation to read this book. This was published on the centenary of Rasputin's death a few years ago. There can't possibly be a more thorough or thoroughly researched history of Rasputin.
I know very little about Russian history but I gather that this book corrects many false beliefs about Rasputin, his life and his influence over the royal family.
It's a very interesting book but it's 33 hours so there's a LOT of detail. Smith is a Russian historian and has written this for people who are seriously interested in history. I learned a lot of things that I didn't know before but for this casual history lover, it could have been edited by about a third and I would have loved it. I don't regret reading it but by the end it did turn into a bit of a job.
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated By Kenny Blyth
This is the 7th book in the Shetland murder series. It's a rainly winter in Lerwick and Jimmy Perez is attending the funeral of a local man when a landslide sweeps a small house towards the sea. The house is expected to be uninhabited but they find the body of a beautiful woman in a red silk dress. That starts a new murder investigation.
These books are well written but the general plot of this book was almost identical to the last book: multiple murders, locals suspect someone other than the real killer and the killer is introduced in such a different way (he has a different story about the woman) that it's clear who the murderer is.
But there's only one more book in this series so I will likely read it just to finish things off.
The Limehouse Text
By Will Thomas, Narrated By Anthony Ferguson
This is the 3rd in the Barker and LLewelyn series. Set in Victorian England, Barker and Llewelyn are very much like Holmes and Watson. In this book Barker finds a pawn ticket among the effects of his late assistant. The pawn shop is in the Chinese district of London, Limehouse and the ticket is for a rare Chinese text.
Barker uses his skills as a private enquiry agent to navigate through this dangerous area of London to determine where the book belongs and solve several murders along the way.
It's a nice easy read and Barker and Llewelyn are quite likable. If you like Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and the like you will enjoy this series.
The Thirteenth Tale
By Diane Setterfield, Narrated By Ruthie Henshall and Lynn Redgrave
Several months ago I read Once Upon a River and loved it. It's one of my all-time favorite books. The Thirteenth Tale is probably her most well-known book so I was looking forward listening to it. Unfortunately I didn't catch that my library bough the abridged version! I really hate abridged books and that was enforced by the choppiness of this tale.
The story is about a reclusive author, Vida Winter and the daughter of a rare bookseller, Margaret Lea. Vida is most well known for a collection of 12 stories and her life story is going to be the thirteenth tale. She's selected Margaret Lea as her biographer because she somehow knows that Margaret has a troubled past beginning with discovering that she was actually a conjoined twin. Vida's story also has a twin aspect to it.
I didn't really enjoy this book although Setterfiend's writing is beautiful. But I think the problem was with the abridged version. Had I read the full length book I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more but now that I know the ending I don't think I'd go back and read it.
By Richard Russo, Narrated By Fred Sanders
This is the first Russo book that I've ever read and I understand that he's a very popular author. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this book.
The story is about Lincoln, Mich and Teddy. They met at a elite Eastern college in the late 60's and all worked serving food at a sorority and became best friends with Jacy Calloway, one of the sisters. Of course, they are all in love with her but she's engaged to a boy of her same social circle.
In 1971 they all go to Martha's Vineyard before Mick has to leave to join the Army and go to Vietnam. During that weekend Jacy disappears. No one seems to have ever done any real investigation of her disappearance.
It's 45 years later and for some odd reason they are getting back together at the house. They never kept in touch so I still don't know why any of them wanted to reconnect for a 3 day weekend out of the blue. They don't seem to have kept in touch at all in the intervening years.
What follows is a bunch of rehashing the past and speculation about what happened to Jacy. I read this on vacation so I kept asking Chris, Ian and Dave if guys would behave in the way the men in this book behave. It just seemed weird. In fact I'd almost say that the book was written with female characters but the editor though it was time for a male soul-searching book and they just tansgendered every character. It wasn't a bad story but it was not quite right.
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
By Walter Isaacson, Narrated By Nelson Runger
Chris and I picked this book to listen to during our drive to and from Maine. It's over 24 hours long so it's a investment but worth every minute of it.
I became an Isaacson fan with his Steve Jobs biography. He writes a great book and Franklin was no exception. Franklin has to be one of the most fascinating people in American history. You don't realize the vast influence he had over forming the new country until you get the entire story in one place.
I loved every minute of this book.
You can tell that it's mold season in Virginia and I'm spending most of my time indoors. I listened to a possible record 14 books this month! There's a lot of love and hate in the list this month. My favorite fiction books were Ask Again, Yes and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. My favorite non-fiction books were Midnight in Chernobyl and The emperor of All Maladies. The Chernobyl book is so good that it reads like a novel.
There are a few books on the list this month that I flat out hated. That's not a big surprise because I take more risks now that I get free books from the library. If I had to pay for it, for example, I would have never bought In Pieces and probably also Where The Crawdad Sings. I've got some pretty mean reviews this month. Please don't take offense if you disagree. We all have opinions and I'm no book editor. I just know what I like. You are very welcome to offer your different view in the comments! I'm also always happy to get your recommendations.
The Splendor Before the Dark
By Ruth Downie, Narrated By Steve West, Katherine McEwan and Susan Denaker
July started off much better than June ended with this novel.
Margaret George writes incredibly well researched historical fiction. This one is the second in her Nero series. I read the first, Confession of a Young Nero, a year ago. This one picks up 10 years into his reign with the great fire of Rome and follows through the end of his life. Most of the written history about Nero was written 100 years or more after his death. George has included more modern research and findings into this possible history of the last of the Caesars.
By Sally Field
This book is a heavy read. It's not the typical celebrity lighthearted book about what it was like to work on certain films or to work with certain people. This book is Sally Field's personal therapy session rehashing all the troubled times in her life - and she had plenty of them. For me it was way too much information and I didn't particularly enjoy it.
Ask Again, Yes
By Mary Beth Keane, Narrated By Molly Pope
This book was a lovely surprise. I didn't expect to like it and instead I couldn't put it down.
It's about 2 families (the Stanhopes and Gleesons) living next door to each other. The men were rookie cops together in NYC. Their children, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope were best friends from a young age and fell in love as teens. Then tragedy struck that tore both families apart. The story is about Kate and Peter's love story and the complexities brought into it from the past.
But it's more than a love story. It's about how we change, how we deal with tragedy, how we forgive and what happens if we don't forgive, don't accept and don't move forward.
Midnight in Chernobyl
By Adam Higginbotham, Narrated By Jacques Roy
This book has gotten a lot of press lately so if you follow book reviews you have probably heard about it already. I generally am wary of effusive reviews but, in this case, all of the positive reviews are well deserved.
I can't imagine the hours and hours of time that Higgnebotham invested over the 10 years that he spent researching this book but it's clear that this was his personal life's work for that time. I can't imagine any aspect of the Chernobyl disaster that he did not investigate and follow.
The book is not at all political or putting forth an opinion about nuclear energy. It's simply an honest look at what happened, how it happened, how it was handled and the long term impacts. But you can't help but draw from it an observation about the inherent risks when the state controls both the production and regulation of industry.
I couldn't put it down. If you watched the HBO special on Chernobyl you should really read this book. That "documentary" had a lot of false information for the sake of ratings and viewership. It's a very unfair and inaccurate representation of the events and consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.
Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford, Narrated by Feodor Chin
This book was first published 10 years ago but it's only been lately that I've heard about it. Several people recommended it to me and I'm so glad that they did. It's a lovely book.
The story starts in 1986 and Henry Lee is standing outside the abandoned Panama Hotel that marked the entrance to Seattle's Japantown. The hotel is being remodeled and the owner has found boxes of property belonging to Japanese residents who were sent to internment camps in WWII. Henry ( of Chinese descent) met Keiko Okabe (of Japanese descent) in the 1940's when they both attended a white school as scholarship children. They bonded over Jazz music.
Henry's father objected to Henry having any relationship with Keiko. The story flips back and forth between the 40's and 80's and reveals the sacrifices that Henry has made for his family throughout his life. It's a really lovely story about friendships, family and life choices. I can't wait to listen to another of Jamie Ford's books. The narration was perfect.
City of Girls
By Elizabeth Gilbert, Narrated by Blair Brown
Did you read and enjoy The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant? If so then this book is for you!
Eighty-nine year old, Vivian received a letter from Angela. Angela knows that Vivian and her father had a relationship and now that both of her parents are dead she is ready to ask Vivian to tell her about the relationship with her father. That's the frame for the telling of Vivian's life story. That part of the story felt really contrived and forced element to the story because what followed was every single detail of Vivian's life. That doesn't mean it's a bad book but it's an awkward frame.
Vivian's tale starts in the 1040's when she's kicked out of Vassar and is sent to NYC to live with her Aunt Peg and Peg's girlfriend, Olive. Peg runs the small neighborhood theater, Lily Playhouse, and Vivian, with her exceptional sewing skills, becomes the costume designer. Vivian also leaps into a free-wheeling city party scene. One of the funniest scenes in the book is when Vivian loses her virginity. Vivian soon discovers that she loves living a promiscuous life. But that promiscuity catches up with her with a mistake that ruins her life in the city. She returns home to her WASP parent's home and tries to forge a more "expected" life.
The start of WWII give her an opportunity to live the life she wants to live. She makes a very happy life unapologetic life in NYC until someone from her past reappears. Olive helps guide her through the anger and hurt with my second favorite passage that I'm calling the "Field of Honor speech". A whole lot of people need these days need a dose of the Field of Honor speech.
Blair Brown did an excellent job narrating this book but if I ever asked someone a question and received 15 detail of that person's life I would not be so pleased. The story was well told and I consider this a great beach read but aside from her sewing career, I wouldn't consider Vivian a particularly interesting person to hang out with. I'd be more interested in knowing her to learn her costuming skills.
By Clive Cussler, Narrated by Scott Brick
I read the fist book in the Sam and Remi Fargo series last month and you might remember my lukewarm review. Now that I get books from the library (free) I'm more willing to take risks and try books out. The library had this book, the second in the series, so I put it on hold. I got it faster than I expected and finished it as quickly as I could.
I knew from the beginning that I wasn't going to lover it and that the criticisms that I had from the first one were legitimate. This one is the EXACT same plot as the first one. Sam and Remi are on a trip and happen upon some relic that and evil rich person has been trying to find for years. I would swear that some of the dialogue is truly identical in the 2 books. The characters are all very cliche, the conversations between Sam and Remi are all to clever, especially when they are in one of the many near-death situations.
Biggest eye-roll moment came when they arrive in Atlanta on one of their MANY carbon spewing trips all over the world Sam rents an SUV. Remy is about to scold him when he reveals that it's a hybrid. Oh well, then, we're all OK and can continue our daily plan rides while we illegally dig up artifacts. But it's all in the name of saving history.
It's the romance novel of the suspense genre and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you just need an easy read that doesn't require too much analysis. On those days Cussler is your author.
The Emperor of All Maladies
By Siddhartha Mukerjee, Narrated By Stephen Hoye
So far this month all of my books have come from the library and I read them in the order that I receive them. I rarely find a book that doesn't already have a wait list. This book was published in 2010 and I had to wait several weeks to get my copy. That's about all you need to know to assess whether it's a good book.
The Emperor of all maladies is cancer and this book is a very thorough and understandable of our research and treatment of cancer. I think reading this book will give you a deep appreciation of the complexities of the disease, empathy for the doctors and researchers who dedicate their lives to the disease and an understanding of the limitations of treatment.
Two years ago I read The Gene by this same author and it's still one of my all-time favorite books. This book was written first and, now that I've read this one, I can see why he needed to write The Gene after he finished this. Gene research and therapy is really the future of all medicine. The last few chapters of this book are all about the advances in cancer gene research and therapy so The Gene was a perfect follow up.
This book will give you a great perspective on the history of cancer and The Gene will take you into the future but with history of gene research. Thanks to Kristen (I think) for recommending this one to me.
Dark Tide Rising
By Anne Perry, Narrated By David Colachi
This is the 24th book in the William Monk series. These books are set in Victorian England and Monk is Commander of the Thames River Police. This one opens with Monk being asked to accompany someone to pay a ransom. Of course it ends in murder and sets Monk off on a new investigation.
After I finished this book I started thinking about the difference between Anne Perry, John Sandford and Vince Flynn novels (that I like) and the Clive Cussler series that I wrote about above. I think it all comes down to character development. Throughout the 24 books in the Monk series the characters grow and develop. We know their weaknesses and their strengths. They gain and lose friends and family. Life moves forward. In the Cussler books Remy and Sam are not very deep characters. Every sticky situation draws on some nearly-magical skill from some past experience. Bad (or illegal) actions don't have consequences because it's all for a "greater good". In each book they escape dozens of life-threatening events and it all wraps up in a nice little vignette back at home. There's no depth and no change for the characters.
In the Monk novels I look forward to seeing what Hester and Scuff are up to and if Monk might remember something from his past. Every character changes and grows throughout the series. I think it's more difficult to write like that but it makes all the difference in the quality of the book.
Food: A Cultural Culinary History
The Great Courses
By Ken Albala
This is a mostly interesting and in-depth of food development and consumption from the ancient times to current days. It started off great and I enjoyed all of the early lectures that covered the Stone Age through the Middle Ages. But once he got into the Colombian Exchange, the Industrial Revolution and modern tastes he climbed higher and higher on his soapbox. He had an agenda and he didn't deviate. His lecture on GMO food was full of factual errors. He rails against "so called labor saving devices" of the post-war era like canned and frozen food. His vision for the future of food is laughable. It's clear that he has a dream of going back to the "good ole days" of subsistence farming and living off a few basic food items.
It wasn't my favorite of The Great Course. That still remains The Addictive Brain.
Keep Her Safe
By K. A. Tucker, multiple narrators
I'm guessing that I picked this one us as one of the Audible Deal of the Day books.
Noah Marshall is the son of the Chief of Police of Austin, TX and one night while Noah is taking a shower she kills herself. Two days later his mother's attorney gives Noah a letter with instructions to deliver something to her former partner's daughter, Gracie Richards. Gracie's father was killed in an apparent drug bust gone bad.
Now Noah and Gracie are determined to figure out the truth.
The plot of this is actually very interesting and could have been developed into a pretty solid mystery but apparently Tucker writes romance/suspense so it's a little of both genres and probably not enough of either.
There were 4 narrators for the 4 main characters and I didn't think that worked so well. The narrator for Gracie was the least effective. She pronounced words like and English professor not in a conversational way that people really talk.
By Nate Blakeslee, Narrated By Mark Bramhall
This is the story of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. The author tries to present a balanced narrative of pro- and anti-wolf points of view but the book is completely pro-wolf. After reading this book you would believe that the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone (and therefore the entire Northwest) has been nothing but beneficial for the area. There absolutely are many benefits but I don't think he fairly presents the effect on the landowners and ranchers outside of the park and is certainly doesn't even whisper a mention of what a devastation it has been on the moose population (down from 1000 to 200). In fact, Yellowstone uses the current politically correct position that the moose population decline is due to climate change, which is completely ridiculous. Just a minimal amount of research on the web will produce a number of charts showing that where moose and wolves co-exist moose population suffer as wolf populations grow. The same has happened with the elk population. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe not. You aren't going to find out with this book.
Where this book succeeds is by anthropomorphizing specific wolves in the Yellowstone population so that when one of the "celebrities" is legally killed outside the Park, it becomes an international incident. The people profiled in this book are obsessed in the level of Jane Goodall and, honestly, I think they all should take a break every now and then and see how the real world operates. They are in such an echo chamber of information that they inevitably make the entire situation with the wolves polarizing.
I don't know enough about the whole situation to have a strong opinion and I didn't feel like the information that I got in this book was balanced enough for me to make a truly educated judgement. This book is all about protecting the wolves at all costs, including reneging on agreements made to the surrounding states to get them to allow the reintroduction of the wolf in the first place. It cleverly uses emotional attachment to specific wolves to get the reader emotionally attached to the cause. As for books on animal behavior, I liked How To Tame A Fox (and Make A Dog) much better.
The Deep, Deep Snow
By Brian Freeman, Narrated by January Lavoy
This book is on my reading list because it was an Audible Daily Deal. It is apparently an "Audible original" so this is the only place you can get it.
The publisher's summary opens with this:
“The first thing you should know about me is that I believe in signs. Omens. Premonitions. I grew up believing that things happen for a reason. That’s the only way to explain why I’m alive.”
The truth is that Deputy Shelby Lake (and the FBI) seem to wait for omens and clues to jump right in front of them. Nothing else would explain the slog you are taken through a maudlin and cliche-filled story. The "omens" add up to periodic sightings of snowy owls. Oh look, there's a snowy owl, time to have an epiphany! Oh look, a snowy owl, time to find a clue! The story moves ahead on jumps of time from months to years as if every so often they open a file drawer and think "maybe we should look at the case again". Deputy Lake is one of the most lethargic and emotionless main characters that I've seen in a long time. She certainly doesn't have a reputation for ambition or ability to solve crimes but once in the 10 years span she has a major epiphany and every mystery for the past 10 years is solved.
I'm kind of annoyed at myself that I bothered finishing it. Had I actually looked at my book rating spreadsheet I would have seen that I read another book by this author 2 years ago and hated it and I could have saved myself the bother!
Just as I was typing this I got notice that Where the Crawdad Sings has become available on Libbie so I'm hoping for better reading ahead!
Where The Crawdad Sings
By Delia Owens, Narrated By Cassandra Campbell
Well, ignore the last sentence of the previous review. I know this book has a HUGE fan base and I do understand why but I despised this book.
There's some lovely poetic writing and the premise of the book is interesting so I can see the general interest in the book. But I have no patience for poor research and gross stereotyping even in fiction and I am fed up with stupid hick stereotypes of Southern people. Let me give you some examples.
First, this book is set in the 1950's and 1960's but if there wasn't a date mentioned at the beginning of each chapter you would swear that it's post-depression era. Apparently Southern folks don't change their dress, behaviors, music or fashion with the times. But they name their children with names that weren't in use until the late '70's at the earliest. No one named their sons Chase and Tate in the late 40's and early 50's. You can find charts online to prove that and a decent editor would have caught it.
The author has apparently never visited North Carolina or even looked at a map of that wonderful state. She's from Georgia and lives in Idaho. The fictional town has to be located on the coast between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. Now if you lived there and was sent to buy inventory supplies for your Dad's business where would you go? Maybe Fayetteville, Charlotte, Raleigh or even Charleston but you would NOT travel to Asheville! Asheville has never been a commerce center. It is, and always has been, a vacation and artisan center. Did this book even have an editor?
The main characters are in their late teens and early 20's in the 1960's, a time of a complete renaissance in music and yet Chase plays old gospel type music for Kya. Chase was the most popular boy in town (the quarterback) and was a great womanizer. That type of boy doesn't chase a swamp recluse and serenade her with old time music. He would have been listening to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison.
Actually, the whole premise is complete fantasy. A 6 year old girl winds up abandoned and raises herself selling mussels to a local marina operator/fish monger/store operator. EVERYONE in town knows that she's on her own and they do absolutely nothing about it. There isn't a 6 year old that could survive this. If nothing else she would be severely malnourished and not grow up to be the mystical beauty that she became. The school truant officer makes a few attempts to get her but eventually gives up. The marina operator, a kind black man, and his wife help her out by buying her mussels and with free clothes and other things but at some point did these people once consider taking this child in? NO. The reader is left with the impression that she lives in such a remote place that it's impossible to find her. The only way to visit her is by boat and that's how she gets around. Miraculously the other popular boy in school befriends her and teaches her to read and write. Surprise, she's a brilliant science researcher, artist and writer! Around this time we discover that her home is actually right off a road and she even has a mailbox. Suddenly people can easily visit by car. Then miraculously, one of her siblings shows up when she's in her 20's to check on her. Where was he when he was 18 and she was still only 13? Maybe some of these things would have happened in the 20's or 30's, but NOT in the 60's! I grew up in the 60's in the South and the premise of this book offends me.
Add to all that the narration that is so stereotyped that you leave the book thinking that ever Southern person, including the sheriff, lawyers, store owners is a backwoods idiot. Kya sounds mentally challenged, not like some sort of scientific genius.
I could go on for 10 more paragraph talking about the problems that I have with this book. I hope I don't offend the many people who loved this book. You loved it for different reasons than I hated it. It certainly dishes out a giant dose of hope and that's always good. If you loved this, that's great. I'm sure you have hated books that I love. That's the beauty of opinions, we all have them and they are all different! In this case I accept that I'm in the minority on this book.
This wasn't a particularly prolific month for listening to books and I blame it all on my obsession with watching the British Bake Off. I watched every season on Netflix this month. I don't know why because I can't make anything that they made but I did learn a few things that I can apply to my gluten free vegan baking. I watched every season so I can get back to my normal life.
As I look through the books that I did listen to I'd also have to say that this was probably my worst month ever for book selection. I was thrilled to get Neon Prey from the library after weeks on hold and it was the highlight of the month. Everything else was OK or bad. There were even two books that I started and couldn't finish (I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeny and The Overstory by Richard Powers).
I hope you have some good recommendations for me so that July and August are better reading months!
The Great Alone
By Kristen Hannah, Narrated By Julia Whelan
I loved Hannah's The Nightingale so I was excited to read The Great Alone. Sadly, I did not love this one.
The story is about Ernt Albright, his wife Cora and daughter Leni. It's set in 1974 and Ernt is an ex-POW recently home from the Vietnam War. He has lots of issues and decides that going to wilds of Alaska will solve their problems. They are not prepared for wilderness living nor for the long dark winters.
There were many things that I didn't like about this book. The pacing was slow for the first half, sped up a little for the 3rd quarter and really sped up to close out the last quarter. But mostly I just didn't like a book about such serious dysfunction. The characters are stereotypes to the letter and make continuous bad decisions. Just once it would have been nice if one person would have made one "right" decision. The book was 95% depressing.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
I was so happy to get the library notice that Neon Prey was ready for me. I've been waiting since mid-April to get it. I needed a good book after The Great Alone.
This is the 29th book in the Lucas Davenport series. Davenport now a US Marshall and on the trail of Clayton Deese. Deese has skipped bail and as they are searching for him the uncover a burial ground behind his house. The search turns into a hunt for a serial killer.
Richard Ferrone is a great narrator for the Prey series and he is Lucas for me. It was a fun read with lots of action
By C. J. Box, Narrated By David Chandler
This is the 18th in the Joe Pickett series. The new Governor send Joe to investigate a missing British celebrity. Meanwhile Nate Romanowski asks Joe to look into why falconers are no longer allowed to hunt with eagles.
All of the books in the Pickett series are good but they are very formulaic. Someone from Joe's family is always involved (daughter Sheridan in this book), Nate always shows up just in time and Joe's Mother-in-law, Missy, is always evil.
It's a good, easy ready and David Chandler is the perfect narrator.
Crazy Rich Asians
By Kevin Kwan, Narrated By Lynn Chen
Here's a sentence that I've never written or said:
The movie is MUCH better than the book!
I saw the movie a couple of months ago and it was a cute chick flick to watch one evening when I was home alone. The characters were funny and the story was cute.
The library had the book so I decided to read it to see how different the story is. I always like the book better than the movie but in this case the book needed some serious editing and the screenwriter took care of that.
Nick and Rachel are professors at NYU and, after 2 years of dating, Nick is taking Rachel to Singapore to meet his family. He's an idiot because he does nothing to prepare her for the wealth that she's going to experience there. He acts as if he's surprised by the way Rachel is treated by his uber-wealthy family and friends. He's a clueless moron if he really expected her to be welcomed. But that's not the most annoying thing about the book. This book is a inventory of luxury brands and portrays a society obsessed with outspending each other. One way the movie is better is that it can portray that luxury visually without having to describe every private plane, designer dress, expensive food or whatever item is being consumed. Every paragraph seemed to contain a laundry list of luxury brands.
In reviews I've read that the book is funny. It's not. It's tedious and annoying and full of unlikable characters. The movie corrects all of those mistakes.
Gandhi Before India
By Ramachandra Guha, Narrated By Derek Perkins
We all know Ghandi has the activist who led the efforts for India's independence and, frankly, that's all I know about him. But before India he was in South Africa from 1893 - 1914 as a lawyer and civil rights activist where he honed his philosophy and skills. This book is the first in a planned 2-volume biography of Gandhi and it covers his life before returning to India to lead that movement.
Guhu is writing, what has to be, the most comprehensive biography of Gandhi. It's so comprehensive that it's mind-numbing. The 23 hours of listening could have been whittled down to about 18 easily. After 19 hours I couldn't take it anymore and gave up. I may eventually finish it but it won't be anytime soon.
By Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood
Narrated By Scott Brick
I've read several of Clive Cussler's books in the past and I saw this series in the library catalog and decided to give it a try. This is the 1st in a series featuring Sam and Remi Faro, professional treasure hunters that, conveniently, have skills equal to a SEAL Team member.
If you are a fan of Dan Brown and like books about secret codes and stashes of ancient treasure then this is a series for you. It's not really mu cup of tea but I like the characters and the story moves along well. It was an entertaining read after the Gandhi book. There are about 10 books in this series now so it might be fun to dig into. Since this series is available at the library I will probably give #2 a try.
By Mason Cross, Narrated By Eric Meyers
This is the second in the Carter Blake series. Blake is a Jack Reacher type character. He's great a hunting people down. In this book there's a serial killer on the loose in LA. He is abducting women when their cars have broken down on the highway. Blake is in Florida when he sees the news and he recognizes the killers signature. He goes to LA to offer his assistance.
I liked this one better than the first. I think the writing and story were a little better. There's lots of action and suspense. I think I will keep on with the series for a while.
There still isn't much creative going on around here but I'm having fun anyway. We had 6 guests Tuesday night, 4 Wednesday night, lots of laundry Thursday and a friend from England is visiting for the weekend. I might get myself back into my old routine next week.
Meanwhile it's time for the monthly book report! It was a great reading month with 14 books. There were a couple of losers: The Lost City of the Monkey God and Pieces of Her. But there were more winners: Before We Were Yours, We Hope For Better Things and Sam Phillips. But the absolute winner of the month was Once Upon A River.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated By Ray Porter
This the second in the Tier One series. These books build on each other and really need to be read in order. In the first novel John Dempsey went from Navy SEAL to a member of Ember, the nations most covert counter-terrorism unit. In this installment Dempsey and his team are on assignment in Iraq, Guatemala and finally, suburban US trying to stop a newly activated terrorist cell.
To say this book is action-packed is an understatement. It's along the lines of Jack Ryan and Mitch Rapp and is a good read. But do read them in order. Ray Porter is the perfect narrator for this most macho of macho men.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
By maria Semple, Narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite
This book is way out of my wheel-house but it kept showing up on recommended reading lists and my local library had it. So I figured that I could take the risk on a free book.
Bernadette Fox was a revolutionary architect then she gave up architecture for being a wife to a Microsoft executive and mother to a very precocious daughter. She's now borderline agoraphobic. When her daughter insist on a vacation to Antarctica it's about all she can take and she disappears.
The story is told through a group of emails and letters that her daughter gathers in an effort to try to find her mother. It's a humor book, not laugh-out-loud like Carl Hiaasen, but still funny. There are great moments in corporate cultist culture, private school one-upmanship, neighbor fights and Seattle elitist nonsense. It was a fun read. The narration isn't the best but I just sped it up a little and that took care of any irritation.
Before We Were Yours
By Lisa Wingate, Narrated by Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber
I knew about Georgia Tann and her adoption scandal before reading this book because it was featured on Deadly Women on the ID Channel and I'm a bit of an ID addict. I think that the Wikipedia article is a pretty fair summary of the events and acknowledges that the horrid side of the story is truly horrid. But there were also children who ended up with better lives and that the idea of adoption as acceptable was due to her efforts. Just shows that nothing is ever all good or all bad.
Lisa Wingate has written a fictional story that masterfully explores all sides of the issue as told through one family of children. The story is told by Rill telling the children's story alternating with Avery, unknowing granddaughter of one of the Tann children, as told in modern time. It's really beautifully written and beautifully narrated. Rill was a great character, both as a 12-year-old and a 90-year-old.
The Lost City of the Monkey God
By Douglas Preston, Narrated By Bill Mumy
In a nutshell, this is a book about a group of scientists and non-scientists that used a technology called LIDAR to map jungle areas of Honduras and discovered 4 potential archaeological sites. They went in to survey one area and confirmed that it was ancient. On a second trip a couple of artifacts were excavated but due to safety no further excavation has been done. The Wikipeida article will give you the details. It's assumed that this is the mythical Lost City of the Monkey God/The White City/La Cuidad Blanca.
Douglas Preston is a writer for National Geographic and novelist. He's the same Douglas Preston who co-writes the Pendergast novels with Lincoln Child. This book is about his experience traveling with the group on the first expedition and it's a detailed log of his and the team's experience. There's a lot of background on the effort it took to get permission to fly over Honduras to do the LIDAR survey, the years to get permission to explore one of the sites and the logistics of planning that trip. There's extensive information about the poisonous snakes in the area and the tropical diseases they could catch. (I dreamed about snakes for 4 days after listening to this book.)
As it turned out they did pick up a tropical parasite, Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, and about a third of the book is about this disease in all of it's gory details. The book might be worth a read or not. You really will get all of the info about the actual discovery with 30 minutes of web research. But if you want to know the effort and risks associated with archaeological work you might find this interesting.
There were 2 aspects of the book that I found humorous from politically correct/annoying people point of view:
There are a number of people who call themselves Honduras archaeology and anthropology experts. Those that weren't involved in the expedition did their best (and continue) to discredit the findings. It all reads like a lot of academic petty jealousy that I didn't find surprising at all. Also the local indigenous people cried foul as well. Suddenly when this mythical city might be found they claim ownership and, yes, racism. It can't be call the "Lost City of the Monkey God" because that's racist although that's how it's been referenced for hundreds of years. Now it's "The White City". But the book wouldn't have sold as well if it has been called The Lost White City. That might have been construed as racist although it refers to the white granite used to build the city.
Secondly, when talking about parasitical diseases he expanded into a general discussion about the migration of all kinds of diseases from 3rd World areas to 1st World areas (AIDS, Zika, Dengue and Leish) and, as required in our PC world, blames it all on climate change. Then he goes into great detail discussing each of these disease and how it's been documents that they all traveled by plane.....just like the diseases that wiped out the ancient people all traveled with Europeans by boat. Ridiculous.
Once Upon a River
By Diane Setterfield, Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
I don't remember which of you recommended this book but I'm very grateful. Diane Setterfield is not a writer. Diane Setterfield is a storyteller.
It's set in Victorian England around the River Thames and a pub called The Swan where storytelling is an art form. One Winter Solstice a man brings in a drowned girl that he fished out of the river. He collapses from exhaustion and the girl is placed in a back room. The local nurse, Rita, is sent for to care for the man. She checks on the girl a couple of house after she arrived and finds the girl alive. From there is woven a beautiful tale about life on a river and the people who inhabit the community. There are mysterious events, cruelty, love, pasts that want to stay hidden.....a little of everything. For me this book is the great storytelling of A River Runs Through It combined with some Dickensian characters and brooding and mystery from Jane Eyre. I enjoyed every minute of it and the narration is perfect.
Secrets to the Grave
By Tami Hoag, Narrated By Kristen Porder
This is the second in the Oak Knoll series and you must read the books in order. The storyline from the first book is an integral part of the second book.
In this one Marissa Fordham is brutally murdered and her toddler daughter barely survives the murder attempt on her life. Anna Leone, a major victim character from the first novel, is called in to be the child's advocate. As the Sheriff's office delves into the murder they find that Marissa had a lot of secrets, including who shoe really is.
It was a fast read with lots of twists and turns although it was easy to figure out the murderer early on in the book. There is a 3rd book in this series but the reviews are pretty universally terrible and few of the characters in the first 2 books are relevant in the 3rd. I will probably skip that one.
Pieces of Her
By Karen Slaughter, Narrated by Kathleen Early
I listened to this whole book because I wanted to see how Slaughter would wrap up the story, not because it was a good book. It was flat out horrible.
The story opens with Laura and her 31-year old daughter having lunch at a mall restaurant when a young mane comes in and opens fire. Laura subdues and kills the boy. Now her face has been broadcast all over television and news. Laura insists that her daughter leave town and sends her to a storage unit that is ready for an escape with car, identification and money.
That's probably a fine plot except that Andrea, the daughter, behaves like a clueless 17-year-old. She's incompetent to run her own life and proves even more incompetent as a runaway.It's a sloppy storyline written in a sloppy manner. For example, sometimes Andrea refers to her mother as Laura and sometimes Mom and she's mostly incapable of speaking to other people. She gets herself tied up in knots like a shy pre-teen.
Once we know that Laura has some sort of past that's come back to haunt her, the dialogue in the flashbacks is more 60's (calling cops "pigs") than late-80's when the events occurred. Even as a 55 year old, Laura, well educated and mild mannered still uses the term "pigs". It's completely out of character.
The book is beyond stupid and I can't believe they are making a movie from it. Maybe the screenwriters can fix it. Slaughter needs to stick with her Wil Trent series.
We Hope For Better Things
By Erin Bartles, Narrated by Stina Nielsen
Elizabeth Balsam, a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, meets James Rich and he asks her to look up a relative that she's never met to return a camera and some photos. She knows the photos are from the 1967 Detroit riots and that they have never been seen but she doesn't think finding her Great Aunt and delivering the items is worth her time until she is fired and suddenly has a ton of time on her hands.
She tracks down her Aunt Nora and ends up living with her for a few months in the 150 year old family home. While there she starts to uncover information about the history of her family and the home.
The Balsam family is white and the book unfolds a the story of race relations in 3 generations of her family, starting with the Civil War. The book is getting rave reviews and I think that's primarily because it pushes the buttons of topics that we are culturally fascinated with at the moment. It is well written and the characters are interesting and believable. The story line is mostly believable and there are quilts! The information about the quilts is surprisingly accurate. All in all, I enjoyed it.
My one disappointment with the book is that I felt that story was a little lazy. In every instance of inter-race relationships it was a well off white woman falling in love with a poor black man. I think that the subject could have been even more interesting if at least one of the couple was a white man and black woman. Maybe the characters all needed to be women to carry the story forward but I think the subject could have been explored more fully if, for example, the couple of 1967 could have been like the Loving's of Virginia. Regardless, I don't think this will appeal to feminists because of what the women gave up for love.
By Allison Brennan, Narrated By Eliza Foss
I thought I had found a new series to dig into, instead I found an annoying shallow main character. Max Revere grew up wealthy ins Atherton CA and is now an investigative reporter who looks into cold cases. You can envision her with her own ID channel show like Paula Zahn.
Max (Maxine) is home for one of her best friend's funerals. Although she hasn't seen Kevin in about 12 years, they were close friends in high school. Kevin was accused of murdering one of his other best friends and Max has never thought him guilty but he has never been able to get past the accusations from everyone else.
While there she begins to look closer into the death of their friend and into the recent death of a young architect on the same property. The plot was actually very interesting, it was the telling that got on my nerves. Much of the dialogue was awkward and Max's behavior was out of character for someone in her position. But I think that this book might be better reading than listening because the narrator was a very bad fit for the book. She made Max sound very ditzy and juvenile at times as if she was trying to read something gruesome to 4th graders in a way that wouldn't get them upset. I finally sped the book up to 1.25 just to get through it. It was easy to figure out who did it about half way through the book and then it seemed to take forever to get there.
Brennan is clearly a popular writer because she has several series and the books have rave reviews so she's worth a try.
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll
By Peter Guarlnick, Narrated by Kevin Stillwell
A few years ago I read Peter Guarlnick's 2-volume bio of Elvis Presley. I didn't even like Elvis Presley before I read that book but I developed an appreciation for his music, his talent and the way that he changed music. When i saw that Guarlnick had published a new book I had to read it.
Rightly, Sam Phillips was the first non-musician to be accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He did invent the new genre. He was also a fascinating man who worked with a lot of fascinating people. I loved ever minute listening to this book and stopped it often to go to YouTube to listen to specific performances, like Ike Turner's Rocket 88, the first Rock and Roll record ever recorded. If you are into music history, this is a great book and there's tons of supporting video and audio on YouTube. I even got to listen to some Howlin' Wolf.
By Jeffrey Toobin, Narrated By Paul Michael
I was only 13 when Patty Hearst was kidnapped and I remember hearing about it and the Symbian Liberation Army on the TV news but I'm sure I didn't really think about it much.
This book is a very thorough look at the events surrounding her kidnapping and the subsequent crimes committed by the SLA. What I like best about the book is that it's told from the perspective of that time and other things going on. California was experiencing so many citizen terrorist bombs and crimes that most weren't even making it into the news. There were also many "firsts" that happened is association with this crime, like the first use of a minicam to live-stream activity to television. It's a broad story of the time, not a simple exploration of Hearst and the SLA.
The book also delves into the life of Patricia Hearst and her family. Frankly, I don't think I'd liker her as a person very much. But the book was good and if you like non-fiction I think you will like this one.
By Tina Fey, Narrated By Tina Fey
I picked this book to listen to on our drive to Hatteras and it's a good driving book. It's mostly an autobiography told through some very funny stories from her life. It's not offensive or political and was just what we needed to keep us entertained for 5 hours.
The Emperors of Chocolate
By Joel Glenn Brenner
When I'm on vacation I like to read some paper books on the beach so I periodically buy some that are recommended and keep them in my travel bag. On the family beach vacation I pulled out this one. It was recommended by Carole after I listened to and reviewed the Hershey biography. This book is about the Mars and Hershey companies and their competitive and shared histories.
The book was published 20 years ago so the information is missing contemporary corporate history but it's still a very interesting read. Lots of fun facts about the development of chocolate products for war times, the development of the M&M (Mars and Murrie) and about the fight for store shelf space.
The Hyde Park Headsman
By Anne Perry
This is the 14th book in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series that's set in Victorian London. I bought this book in paperback because it's not available in audio format so I'll buy used paperbacks to fill in the series.
Thomas Pitt is recently promoted to Superintendent of Police and is investigating a series of decapitations in Hyde Park. It's a good light read.
How did we get to the end of April so fast? I feel like I just posted books last week but as I look through the list I see that I did make it through a lot of books this month. I start every book with great hope and excitement but the results this month were a mixed bag this month. Since I started borrowing audiobooks from the library I take more risks with the books I try. I don't care if I don't finish a free book. But the library doesn't have a huge inventory of audiobooks so I still get about half through Audible. That's still a 50% savings over my usual book expenditures. Audible does let you return books for a refund if you don't like them and I sure took advantage of that this month.
But, let's talk about the good from the month. I read two good books from William Kent Krueger. Heaven's Keep is the 9th installment in the excellent Cork O'Connor series but Ordinary Grace is a new stand-alone novel. Ordinary Grace was a wonderful story. Also in fiction I enjoyed Belgravia from Julian Fellows. It's Downton Abbey with more intrigue.
On the non-fiction side I loved Code Name Lisa, a WWII biography, and Bellevue, the history of the famous hospital. Both were excellent. I'll leave you to read through the reviews for my losers of the month.
What have you been reading? I added a couple of your recommendations to my reading list based on your comments last month. If you have read any of these books and have a different opinion, please share! It's good to have different perspectives.
Heart A History
By Sandeep Jauhar, Narrated By Patrick Lawlor
I really wanted to like this book and I generally do like medical texts written for the layperson, but I'm not sure I know what this book was. About a third of it was the history of the treatment of heart disease and development of medical science. The rest was his family medical history (including a chapter on his Mother with Parkinson's) and his his own mistakes/foibles as an intern and new doctor. The book was about 25% interesting and 75% annoying. I couldn't wait for it to end.
By William Kent Krueger, Narrated by Rich Orlow
Krueger is best knows for his Cork O'Connor mystery series. This is a stand alone novel about a family in a small town dealing with personal and community tragedy. The story, set in 1961, is told from the point of view of 13 year old Frank Drum and starts with the discovery of an unidentified dead man near the railroad tracks in town. The tragedies don't stop there and will also personally touch the Drum family.
It's not so much a mystery, as it is a story about a family trying to come to grips with these tragedies and mixed with the responsibilities of the father who is the local minister. It's a lovely story and you will feel part of the family as you read it.
Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter
By Ben Goldfarb, Narrated By Will Damron
I hated this book.I still don't know anything about the life of the beaver because Goldfarb didn't really cover that. I know nothing about the mating habits, dam building habits, eating habits or anything else about the LIFE of the beaver.
What I got was a repetitive narration of EVERY biologist working to reintroduce beavers back into the environment. I know how totally brilliant they all are because they are "beaver believers" and they know that only the beaver can reverse all of our ecological damage. The beaver is the solution to everything! He actually has the audacity to propose that beaver dams might be able to replace all of the man-made dams in California to solve water issues there. He's honestly partly serious about that.
I think beavers are kind of cute and they are very cool because they are like us in that they change their environment for their benefit. The people who study beavers, by contrast, are proselytizing jerks.
Code Name Lise
By Larry Loftis, Narrated by Kate Reading
We are in an age of girl power and are culturally fixated on "empowering" women. If you are looking for a book to give to any woman feeling powerless, this is the book. Odette Samson was not the most decorated female spy in British WWII history, she is celebrated as the most decorated spy in British WWII history, period. Her story is well known in Britain but not so much in the US. It's inspiring and beautifully narrated by Kate Reading.
The Waiting Room
By Emily Bleeker, Narrated by Sophie Amoss
Nine hours of wandering around in the mind of a crazy person.
Veronica Shelton's husband died shortly after her baby was born and now she can't bear to touch the baby. All kinds of weird things are happening to her. I won't share the ending but will say that it's billed as some sort of psychological thriller when it's really like listening to the crazy person on the subway who insists on telling you about some grand conspiracy. The story is full of cliches, has a timeline that simply doesn't work and unrealistically enabling characters.
By William Keent Krueger, Narrated by Buck Schriner
This is the 9th in the Cork O'Connor series. His two daughters are away at college so they are very minor characters this time. The story opens with Jo on a business trip when her chartered plan goes down with her tribal clients. Searches in the area find nothing and all are presumed lost. Months later Cork is approached by the pilot's wife to look into what happened.
His son, Stephen, is now a teen and goes on the search with him. It's another good O'Connor story.
With this book the publisher changed narrators from David Chandler to Buck Schriner. That was a very difficult adjustment for me and I'm still not sure I like him. I looked ahead in the series and it appears that Schriner only narrated 3 books and then they returned to Chandler. I think I can deal with that. Schriner isn't horrible, he's just not right.
The Return of the Native
By Thomas Hardy, Narrated By Alan Rickman
Let me start by saying that I am not a Thomas Hardy fan. I get that his novels were avante-garde for his time but the stories mostly bore me and his prose exhausts me. Two hours in and you know exactly how this one was going to end. Regardless, this version is narrated by Alan Rickman and for that reason alone I had to listen to it.
One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from Senses and Sensibility. Marianne (Kate Winslet) is just recovering from her near-death illness at Col. Brandon's (Alan Rickman) home. He comes into the room to see if he can do anything and Marianne finally recognizes him and thanks him. Rickman conveys so much with his physical response. If you ever watch S&S again look for that moment and watch his slight body movements and facial expression. It conveys so much in that half second.
So that's why I listened to this book. I loved Alan Rickman in everything he's ever done. As far as I can tell, it's the only book he's ever narrated and, as expected, it's masterful. The story? It's fine.
By Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Kenny Blythe
This is the 6th in the Shetland Island mystery series. A group of college friends travel to the Shetland Islands to celebrate the wedding of one of the travelers. One of the friends, Eleanor, disappears. Her body is found near a cliff.
Before her death, Eleanor claimed to have seen the ghost of a child that is rumored to appear only to childless women. Following seeing the child the woman becomes pregnant.
It's Detective Jimmy Perez's first case since the murder of his fiance. He, and his boss, Willow Reeves work the case. I enjoyed the mystery side of this story. The sexual undercurrents between Willow and Jimmy just don't seem to fit their personalities and it takes away from the story. But other than that it was a fun mystery.
By David Oshinsky, Narrated By Fred Sanders
If you like history this will be an interesting book to add to your reading list. It's really the history of medicine told through one of the most famous public hospitals in the country. It's the story of medical research, treatment of some of the most challenging diseases, immigration and mental health treatment. Their commitment to treating anyone who needs help has made Bellevue the front line for new disease outbreaks. It was a very interesting read.
By Julian Fellows, Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
If you love Downton Abbey or Jane Austen books this is the book for you. The story begins in 1815 on the Eve of the Battle of Waterloo at the Duchess of Richmond's ball. One family loses their son in battle and the other loses their daughter months later.
Twenty five years later the events surrounding the ball impact both families.
It's a good read and the narration is perfect.
The Night Agent
By Matthew Quirk, Narrated By Chris Andrew Ciulla
Peter Sutherland is an FBI agent who was selected to work on the White House situation room a year ago. He's surprised because he happens to be the son of an FBI agent suspected of selling secrets to Russia. One night he takes a call from a woman named Rose with a coded message telling that her Aunt and Uncle have been killed.
Peter takes matters into his own hands and finds Rose. What follows is a series of chase scenes and murders that point to a mole in the White House.
It sounds a lot more interesting than it is. First off, there isn't a chance on God's green earth that the FBI would hire the son of a suspected spy so the very premise of the story is laughable.The reviews for this book are mostly outstanding but about 30% are not favorable and I fall into that 30%. There was just too much luck involved to make the story play out. The Russian sky group was so large that there's no way these 2 people would have been left alive more than about 4 hours and yet they drove his car and used their personal cell phones for several days without being tracked. I strained my eyeball muscles with all the eye rolling that I did.
The narration was so weak that I had to speed it up to 1.25 to be able to tolerate him. But about 70% of the people who have read it loved it so keep that in mind as you consider any influence of my review.
I can't believe the end of March is already here. Even with travel time I mostly finished 9 books this month. I say mostly because I didn't finish Fly Girls. It should have been a book that I would enjoy but it wasn't, and I didn't. Aside from that it was actually a very good month in books. I stated with a biography of Milton S Hershey that kept me on a constant chocolate craving and made me decide to go to Quilt Odyssey in Hershey, PA this year. I've been wanted to go for a while and this book made me want to see the city that Milton built.
The most riveting book of the month was The Nightingale. I was completely invested int he characters and their struggles in WWII France.
What good books have you read this month? I read many of your recommendations. I might not get to them right away but I do put them on my Audible wish list.
By Michael D'Antonio, Narrated by Jonathan Yen
I used to eat a ton of Hershey's Special Dark and then about 15 years ago they decided that adding dairy to it would improve it. As a dairy-allergic person I was incensed. I wrote all kinds of letters to them and even tried to put a hex on the company. None of those things worked and I haven't been able to eat a Hershey product since. But I do love biographies about interesting people so I let go of my hatred and animosity to read this book and I'm glad I did.
Milton S. Hershey was a fascinating and very driven person. D'Antonio tells the whole story of his life from childhood and through the ownership of his company after his death. I really enjoyed it. It's not only the story of Mr Hershey but also the story of the candy and chocolate industry.
The Last Man
By Vince Flynn, Narrated by George Guidall
This is the 13th book in the Mitch Rapp series and might be the last one that Flynn wrote before his death. Kyle Mills is writing the series now and since he's one of my favorite authors I'm still enjoying the series.
I had not read them in order but with this one I'm caught up. In this one Mitch is investigating the kidnapping of another of the CIA's operatives. They must get Joe Rickman out before he is tortured into revealing clandestine operations.
It's fast paced and I couldn't put it down.
Deeper Than The Dead
By Tami Hoag, Narrated By Kristen Potter
Last month Sylvia recommend The Boy by Tami Hoag. My library didn't have it but they do have the Oak Knoll series. I didn't love the last Hoag book that I read but it was time to give her a try again. I was pleasantly surprised.
The story is set in fictional Oak Knoll CA in 1894. 3 children running from a bully stumble over a dead body in the woods. Their 5th grade teacher, Ann Navarre, is right behind them. The discovery sets off an investigation that points to several influential families of the community.
It's fast paced and riveting enough to have kept me awake until 2 am one night. The romance angle of the story would have been more believable of teenagers and the 5th graders are often portrayed as being more emotionally mature and insightful than 10 year olds really are. But none of that had much of an influence on the plot and action so it was only mildy annoying rather than a vehicle for lazy literary miracles. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book in the series.
By Kristen Hannah, Narrated By Polly Stone
Set is WWII France, the book focuses on 2 sisters, Vianne and Isabelle and how they navigate the war. They come in with plenty of family baggage the creates a baseline of tension. Vianne is just trying to survive with her daughter until the war is over and her husband returns. She eventually has to billet a Nazi Army officer. Isabelle becomes part of the French Resistance. They each fight the war and resist the Nazis in their own way.
It's a moving and, sometimes, gut-wrenching story. The writing is so good that during some scenes in a concentration camp I was listening in bed under a pile of blankets and I got very cold from the placebo effect of the narration. It's moving, emotional and outstanding. It took me a couple of days to get beyond this book.
I hadn't read Kristen Hannah is a while but I'm excited to find another.
Order To Kill
By Kyle Mills, Narrated by George Guidall
This is the 15th in the Mitch Rapp series. I wasn't going to read another Rapp novel this month but I needed something reliable and less emotional after The Nightingale.
In this adventure Rapp is trying to keep Pakistani nukes from getting into the wrong hands, specifically the Russians.
Another fast paced Rapp novel.
By Keith O'Brien, Narrated By Erein Bennett
I was excited to see this book as an Audible Deal of the Day. It's right up my alley combining history and biography. It's about pioneering female pilots in the 20's and 30's. I really tried to like this book but after 4 and a half hours I gave up. Honestly, it just wasn't that interesting.
If you are into aviation history you may love this book but it wasn't for me.
The Terminal List
By Jack Carr, Narrated by Ray Porter
I don't care for science fiction because I can't accept ignoring the laws of physics. I'm also not a fan of mystery books that are completely implausible. However, this once, I'm making an exception.
In The Terminal List LCDR James Reece is leading his SEAL team unit on a mission when they are ambushed and everyone except him and one other man are killed. Blaming himself he sets out to find why they were ambushed. The answer leads to the highest levels of government and he sets off on a revenge tour.
The extent of the conspiracy is unbelievable because too many people are involved. In reality, it would have fallen apart way before the orchestrated ambush. The revenge tour is also implausible but it is supremely satisfying!
It's not the best book I've ever read but it was good enough for me to put the second installment on hold for it's release in September.
She Lies in Wait
By Gytha Lodge, Multiple Narrators
This is another 1st in a series that I tried out this month and I was pleasantly surprised. In 1983 a teen out with 6 other teens disappears. 30 years later her body is found and Jonah Sheens is the detective in charge. 30 years ago he was a rookie cop and knew all 6 of the other kids.
The story switches back and forth between 1983 and preset day and it's told from the different perspectives of the participants with different narrators. I'm generally not a fan of that approach but it works in this book.
This is a new book and series that just came out in January so I'll have to wait a while for the second in the series.
By Ruth Downie, Narrated by Simon Vance
This is the 5th in the Roman Empire series. I really enjoy this series it combines my two favorite genres in one book: mysteries and historical fiction. The central character of the series is Gaius Petrius Ruso, a Roman medicus who decides to serve in the Roman outpost of Britannia. In this installment he is back in his post in the 20th legion and starts investigating a series of mysterious accidents and deaths.He's helped by his wife Tilla who is a barbarian Britain herself.
It's an interesting and well-written series.
This was not my best month of reading. I finished 9 books in February and the only real standout was Sapiens. I loved that book. I also enjoyed Bethlehem Road and To Kingdom Come. They are continuations of series that I already enjoy. The other 6 books were kind of "meh".
I hope you have some good recommendations for me this month!
By Lisa Scottoline, Narrated By January LaVoy
I'm always on the search for a great new mystery series so I thought I'd give this series a try. It's based around an all-female law firm and the 2 partners Bernie Rosato and Mary DiNunzio. A new client, 13 year old Allegra Gardner, has shown up to ask them to investigate the murder of her sister Fiona. Allegra believes that the wrong man is in prison.
If you like cliches and stereotypes you will LOVE this book. Can you imagine the uproar if someone wrote about an all-male law firm? Do you expect that ANY law firm would take a 13 year old seriously, even with her own trust fund? Everyone in this book is a cliche from the Italian families, the "genius" Allegra Lonnie, the wronged black man in prison who is accepting "God's will" and the God-fearing mother and church members who couldn't figure out the key clue in their own church. The narrator made is worse by making Allegra sound like a 6 year old, the Italian parents sound like they just arrived in Philadelphia and all of the black people in Philadelphia sound like they live in Birmingham, Alabama.
It's apparently a successful book series but it didn't work for me. Also, the book should be called "Convicted", not "Accused" because Lonnie is in jail, not on trial.
Then She Was Gone
By Lisa Jewell, Narrated By Helen Duff
I got this one from the library because I wasn't going to risk an Audible credit for a book I didn't expect to like. I'm happy to say that it surprised me.
Ellie Mack disappeared when she was 15. She was very happy and well adjusted and her family never could believe that she ran away. Several years alter some belongings and bones are found and the family starts to heal. Ellie's mother, Laurel, then meets a wonderful man and his daughter, Poppy. Poppy looks exactly like Ellie and and Laurel is on a renewed search to find out what happened to Ellie.
I've never read Lisa Jewel before but I'd guess that she definitely writes for female audiences. That said, this wasn't as chick litty as Accused. It was actually an interesting book and I read through it pretty quickly. I felt that the character development was good and people behaved as you would expect. Some things were no surprise at all (like who Poppy is) but other things were surprising (like who Poppy isn't). All in all, a good read.
By Edith Hamilton, Narrated By Suzanne Toren
If you are interested in mythology then you have probably already read this book. It was published in 1942 and is still popular. It's popular for good reason. The way that Hamilton organized the book makes it much easier to understand the Greek, Roman and Norse myths. I really enjoyed it but I think I would have retained more from it if I had read in in paper. It would have been beneficial to reference back to previous chapters.
I've read a few books on mythology and this one is the best by far. I think I actually retained some information this time.
By Yuval Noah Harari, Narrated By Derek Perkins
This book has been out a couple of years and it's so popular that I still had to wait a couple of months to get it from the library. Now that I've finished it I know why. It's excellent! It's not just evolutionary history, it's really about every aspect of humankind and Harari does a great job of breaking topics down to the bare essence. Even better, there's no political agenda! But his discussion of history actually helps to reanalyze today's challenges by comparing them to the essence of events in history. Once I started I couldn't put it down and I'm sure that was helped by the excellent narration.
Long Road to Mercy
By David Baldacci, Narrated by Brittany Pressley and Kyf Brewer
I am officially done with Baldacci. This book is simply horrible. In this book he starts a new series with the ridiculously named, FBI Special Agent Atlee Pine. She was a competitive weight lifter in high school and college so she's freakishly strong and able to lift the weight of a dead man. Her personal baggage is that her twin sister was abducted from their bedroom when she was 6 and no one knows what happened to her...although Atlee is sure that it's a serial killer in a nearby prison. I'm sure that particular storyline will travel through future books.
In this story she is a one-woman FBI office near the Grand Canyon. She's been offered bigger jobs but prefers to work on the front lines. This story opens when she is called to investigate a mutilated mule deer and the disappearance of it's rider. This leads to multiple ambush and chase scenes where she and her 60ish secretary are able to fend off multiple attackers with machine guns and other advantages. Girl power always wins out and scenes wrap up basically with the men going "duh, OK, I guess you got me".
The whole thing is made worse by a poor choice for narrators. The female would be better narrating a strong woman in a cozy mystery, not a tough FBI agent. The male narrator makes most of the men sound like Forrest Gump-type characters.
I'm glad that I listened to this book so I could multi-task with my time. I would have hated to totally waste that 11 hours.
To Kingdom Come
By Will Thomas, Narrated By Anthony Ferguson
This is the second in the Barker and Llewelyn series. Cyrus Barker is a private detective in Victorian London. Thomas Llewelyn is the assistant that he hired in the first book.
This book opens several bombs have been set off all over London. Barker and Llewelyn go undercover to infiltrate the Irish Republican Brotherhood as they are planning a much bigger attack to bring down the monarchy and the city.
These books are a lot like the Anne Perry series and are fiction based on some real events of the time. They aren't heart-pounding mysteries but if you like Sherlock Holmes or Anne Perry books you will like this series. They should be read in order though because there are references to things in the first book.
The Killing Season
By Mason Cross, Narrated by Eric Meyers
This book was another opportunity to get into a new series. It is the first book in the Carter Blake series. Blake is an expert in finding people who do not want to be found and the FBI frequently uses him. This time he's called to find Caleb Wardell, a sniper, who has escaped from prison custody. He's working with FBI agent Elaine Banner to find Wardell as he roams the mid-west on a sniper mission.
This book has some great reviews but it just didn't work for me. I am not a good storyteller, I'm more of a chronicler, telling a story with facts and not a lot of emotion or suspense. I felt that way about this book. I didn't really understand the sniper of his motive and Blake's magical way of tracking Wardell just didn't work. The sexual "tension" between Blake and Banner seemed forced and tossed in just to add a sexual angle.
I wasn't all that entertained so will not be reading more of this series.
Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrafice
By Adam Markos, Narrated By Dominic Hoffman
I love good military hero stories and am glad that I read this book to learn about 2 US Navy pilots from the Korean War: Ensign Jesse Brown, the first US Navy black carrier pilot and Lieutenant Tom Hudner.
It's a GOOD story. It's not a epic story. I'm glad I read it but it's not even close to the quality of Unbroken. A lot of this book is about the key people before they came into the military and a lot of battle detail about the marines that these pilots were assigned to protect. But the book is about 1 event in particular so there's a lot of background and follow-up to fill the pages. That said, both were very worthy of the ships that were later named for them. But just look their names up on Wikipedia and you will get everything you need.
By Anne Perry, Narrated By Davina Porter
This is #10 in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. The series is set in the late Victorian era. There are a series of murders of members of Parliament.The men are left tied to lamp posts looking like they are stooped drunks. The story is also tied to the early days of the suffragette movement and the plight of women and their property.
It's not the best book in the series but I love the series and Davina Porter is one of my favorite narrators.
It was an interesting month of books. I read fewer books because the last one, Atlas Shrugged, counted for about 5 book on it's own just in length. My biggest disappointments were The Last Palace and Pacific. All of the others were winners. I was so happy to read Atlas Shrugged again, it's one of my favorite books of all time.
What have you been reading? Any good recommedations for the rest of us?
The Last Palace
By Norman Eisen, Narrated By Jeff Goldblum
I was looking forward to reading this book because I know very little about the history of Czechoslovakia. So the first point that needs to be made is that this is not the story of Europe's Turbulence, as the title says. It is barely a history of Czechoslovakia. The premise is that this is the history of Europe told through the history of the inhabitants of this one palace. It is the story of the man who built the palace, the author's family, briefly, the Nazi and then Soviet occupation of the country and of some of the US diplomats who lived in the palace. I felt short-changed on all fronts.
The main bit of information that I took out of it is that a diplomat fell in love with the palace after WWII and through his machinations we, the US taxpayers, are funding the maintenance and upkeep on an obscene 100 room palace to house our diplomats. That part annoys me no end. The author was the diplomat there during the Obama administration and I have it from a very reliable source that he wasn't a particularly good diplomat. But his own opinion of his effectiveness is very different.
As to the narration, it's horrible. Jeff Goldblum reads this novel the way that an adult reads a children's book with exaggerated intonation. It is soooooo annoying! His voices for female characters are ridiculous and almost offensive. I hope he sticks to acting. I had to listen at 1.3 speed to get through it.
I did finish the book but didn't really learn much new except about the man who built the house and how he destroyed his family relationships in the process. That's not a particularly unique story among the super-wealthy and obsessive.
A Steep Price
By Robert Dugoni, Narrated By Emily Sutton-Smith
This is #6 in the Tracey Crosswhite series. Crosswhite is a detective in Seattle. She is asked to consult on the case of a missing young woman. She is estranged from her family because she refuses to have an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, back at the office, it seems her boss has discovered that she's pregnant and has already hired her replacement.
This is an enjoyable series. I like the characters and the story line moves along at a good pace. It's not particularly gruesome with details of murder and torture which probably give it a larger potential audience of mystery readers.
The narrator has been narrating most of the series and I'd be disappointed if that changed. Her voice is Tracey to me.
A Land Remembered
By Patrick D. Smith, Narrated by George Guidall
A beautifully written book that tells the story of Florida before Disney and the Snowbirds discovered it. The story spans 3 generations of the MacIvey family from the first generation of dirt poor homesteaders to the third generation real estate tycoon. The characters are so well developed that you become completely immersed in their lives. It's a great way to learn a little about the fascinating history of Florida.
It's narrated by George Guidell, one of my favorite narrators. He narrates the Longmire and Mitch Rapp series of books and he does a great job with this one too. This is an "old" book that was published in paper in 1984 and in audio in 2011. I'm glad that Audible featured it as one of it's Daily Deals.
By Simon Winchester, Narrated by Simon Winchester
I really enjoyed Winchester's The Men Who United the States and that's what led me to select this one. The challenge, I think, is trying to write a cohesive book with a giant ocean as the binding theme. I don't feel that he really met that challenge.
Pacific is really a collection of stories about different aspect of the Pacific Ocean from the birth and popularity of surfing, the invention of the transistor radio, beating up Australia for their immigration policies, the rise of North Korea and the Chinese takeover of the Asian Pacific. It was far too random for my taste. There are whole books written on some of the topics that would be better. It's really difficult to go from reading about the moving Gidget to China's desires to take over the world.
He also carried his personal political views into the book much more so than in the last book so the geo-political topics weren't presented in any balanced sort of way. It's not a bad book but I expect that there are better books on these topics.
Dark Sacred Night
By Michel Connelly, Narrated by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin
This is the 21st book in the Harry Bosch series and second in Renee Ballard. In the last book Bosch exposes a pill mill in LA and saves one of he victims. The woman he saves is the mother of Daisy Clayton, a 15 year old girl who was abducted and killed some years before. This book picks up where the last left off with Bosh investigating Daisy's cold case.
He's reviews some old files at LAPS when the night detective, Renee Ballard, starts looking into the case with him.
Connelly is doing a nice job of slowly retiring Bosch while bringing along Ballard. The two characters work well together. That said, it wasn't one of my favorites. Bosch come across as quite lethargic. His wit is gone. Frankly, I'm not convinced that Connelly actually wrote the book. There are lots of little side stories so that, in the end, the Daisy Clayton case is only about half of the book. It was a fine read and I enjoyed it, but it's not vintage Bosch.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Narrated by Scott Brick
I first listened to Atlas Shrugged in 1998 and with the current political climate I felt it was time for a refresher course. This is no frivolous read. It comes in at 62 hours! But it is probably one of the most prescient books ever written that shows what happens when free will is restricted and wealth is demonized. Rand grew up in Russia during the revolution and she saw her father's business confiscated and the family had to escape to Crimea. She came to the US in 1926 and I think this book shows how a socialist revolution would happen in the US....and how it would be fought.
The hero of this book is John Galt. "Who is John Galt?" is the response to ever new policy/restriction/theft executed against society. John Galt sets out to show what would happen if all of the heroes of innovation and industry went on strike. It's part science fiction (she even references fracking and color TVs in a book written in 1957), part love story, part mystery and part philosophical fiction. I loved this book the first time I read it and I loved it more this time.
A note about listening to this book. I downloaded it from Libby (and had to wait MONTHS to get it). It's a huge book and caused a lot of problems with the app. You have to be really patient with this one. It takes the app a long time to get itself set and ready to go. Many times I had to restart the app. Just be patient. The library really needs to break this into 2 separate downloads.
Do you remember last month when I talked about what a great book month November was? Well, we really only know "good" when we have something not so good to compare it to. Well, December was a "not so good month".
I did have a few really good books. Lethal White and Holy Ghost are books that I had been waiting to get from the library for a few months and they did not disappoint.
The Feather Thief was a superior book but it was a surprisingly interesting story. Brain On Fire was another interesting book but I'm not sure it would have wide appeal. Nowhere to Run and Tier One were books that I knew that I could count on to cleanse my palette from the rest of the books of the month.
So, that's not so bad, right? Well there are four books that I really can't recommend: Mary Queen of Scots was just way too long, The World In A Grain, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters and The Witch Elm were downright awful.....in my opinion. But read the detail reviews and if you have read any of them and have a different opinion please let us know in the comments. We all have different tastes in books.
Do you have any particular books on your 2019 reading list? I have lots of books on my Audible and Libbie wish lists but nothing specific that I must read. I'm open to almost m=anything....except sci-fi, fantasy, romance and self-help. I'm beyond help!
Here's my December reading list.
By Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), narrated by Robert Glenister
This is the 4th is the Cormoran Strike series. I never read the Harry Potter novels simply because magic isn't my genre. I've seen bits and pieces of the movies. But I know she's and outstanding writer and I am addicted to this mystery series.
Cormoran Strike lost a leg serving in Afghanistan and is now a private detective. At the end of the last book he had fired his assistant, Robin, because she was badly hurt in their last case. In this book it opens at Robin's wedding where he went to ask her back. When she returns from her honeymoon they are hired by a British government minister to try to stop a blackmail scheme.
These books are so well written and apparently you can find web sites where people explore the meaning of certain imagery in the book. Lethal White refers to a syndrome in horses, much of the story takes place around the Uffington White Horse and there's a painting in one of the main story locations with a white horse. According to the conspiracy theorists this all has to do with Rowling's hatred of the legacy British colonialism.
Whatever. I couldn't care or be influenced less about her politics. I just love her book.
The Feather Thief
By Kirk Wallace Johnson, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
I'm still waiting for a few books on my hold list on Libby so I started looking around for new books that were available and stumbled on this one. I'm glad I found it.
The book is about the 2009 theft by Edwin Rist of hundreds of rare and historically significant birds from the natural history Museum in Tring, UK. many of the birds had been collected by Charles Darwin's contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace.
You can look up Edwin Rist on Wikipedia and get the basic background of the theft and find out that he basically got off with a mental health defense. But Kirk Wallace Johnson, a fly fisherman, heard about the story and got obsessed by it and this book is the result.
It's basically in 3 parts. The first part is about the history of collecting specimens that was the rage in Victorian times. The second part is about the crime where we learn yet again, how poorly museum collections are secured. The third part is about the author's obsession with tracking down the missing birds and more about Rist, the fly tying community and their dedication to finding feathers from rare birds. It was a good read.
Nowhere to Run
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
This is the 10th novel in the Joe Pickett series. In the last book he was "sentenced" to a tour as the game warden in the remote area of Baggs, WY. It's the last week and he's following up on complaints about butchered elk, looted camps and other minor mayhem. Of course it turns out to be a lot more than it seems.
I like the Joe Pickett novels. My husband doesn't like that the family is so involved in the stories but it's one of the things that I enjoy about the books. They are a lot like the Craig Johnson books. David Chandler is the perfect narrator for Joe Pickett.
The Boston Girl
By Anita Diamant, Narrated by Linda Lavin
One of the benefits of now borrowing books from the library is that I'll occasionally read a book that's less than my 10 hour minimum rule. I generally prefer longer books and I set the 10 hour rule so reduce the per hour cost of listening on Audible. On Audible a 4 hour book costs 1 credit, the same as a 30 hour book.
Anyway, I was still waiting for some books to come off hold so I started looking around the Libbie app for books that are available. That's how I found The Feather Thief, this book and the next book.
The Boston Girl is a coming of age novel. Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents. She's now 85 and is telling her Granddaughter her life story. The story begins when she is 15 when she made the friends who would be part of her life forever. The story has a lot of historical detail about the lives if immigrants in Boston at that time and Linda Lavin (from the sitcom Alice) narrates it beautifully. The author takes a couple of gratuitous political cheap shots that I feel make her seem petty, but otherwise it's like sitting down with grandma to hear a good story.
Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness
By Susannah Cahalan, Narrated By Heather Henderson
You've got to love medical histories to like this book. I found it fascinating. Susannah was (and is) a writer for the New York Post. One day she began having hallucinations, seizures and other mental illness symptoms. She eventually ended up in the hospital where she stayed for a month. It was only due to the good fortune of time and place that she ended up with the right doctor to get the right diagnosis.
It's a mystery story and a very detailed personal history of the person who went through it.
The World in a Grain
By Vince Beiser, Narrated by Wil Damron
I had such high expectations for this book. I hoped for something along the lines of Salt by Mark Kurlansky but Vince Beiser isn't a historian, he's an activist.
This book is partly about sand as the foundation of civilization and how many different ways it's used (building roads, silicon chops...) but it's mostly about how the development of all of those things have led to a laundry list of bad things. It was so annoying that I gave up half way through. It could have been great and he could have gotten his points across without being such an unhappy activist and more of a dispassionate historian. I can summarize his point of view by saying that he pretty much sees everything about civilization as negative. How he gets through his miserable day is a mystery to me.
Right after this book I started and returned Borrowed Time by James Freeman and Vern McKinley. It's about the history of Citicorp. It's the kind of book that I usually love but the narrator was horrible. His narration would make this a great book to listen to if you have insomnia. I may get a paper copy to ready on vacation next year because it's the kind of book that I usually love.
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
By Margaret George, Narrated by Donada Peters
I love Margaret George's historical novels. One of my favorite books of all time is her book Memoirs of Cleopatra. I also enjoyed this book but I didn't love it. It's 42 hours long and that's a long time when telling the story of someone who spent half of her life basically imprisoned. It wasn't a bad book at all but it got a bit exhausting. 10 hours could have easily been edited out of it. But if you like historical novels with excruciating details this is the book for you.
The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters
By Sam Kashner and nancy Schoenberger
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
I don't know why I read this except that I saw some good reviews and I got it free from the library. I have a pretty healthy disinterest in the lives of society people but I thought it might be interesting. It was, sort of, but I left the book not really liking either woman very much.
It's a great look into the lives of society women of their age who were raised to marry well. It was bred into them from a young age and they really never abandoned it.
The book tries to play up the sibling rivalry but it was really no different than a lot of sister relationships. The difference is that in this case there's real money and social standing involved. Since that was the currency of their lives the rivalry is not really surprising.
If you buy into the whole Camelot facade of the Kennedy administration, don't read this book. It does blow that up pretty well. They were political animals just like today's politicians. Jackie knew, and often facilitated, Jack's foraging outside of the marriage. Plus she was a heavy smoker which the press helped hide just like they do with Obama. She did an amazing job of burnishing his image after his death. I wouldn't have been able to spend a day with either of these woman.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Eric Conger
This is the 11th in the Virgin Flowers series and I had been on the wait list at the library since September! It was a real treat after the last 3 books and it was classic F@>^!%$ Flowers. This time he's sent to the tiny town of Pinion, MN where a sighting of the virgin Mary has breathed new life into this half-dead town. That is until someone starts a shooting spree that puts everything at risk. Shrake and Jenkins are back with Virgil and there's nothing to eat in the town except frozen pot pies. It was a fun read.
Field of Bones
By JA Jance, narrated by Hillary Huber
I haven't read a JA Jance book in about 18 years so when someone recommended this I decided to give it a try. This is the 18th book in the Joanna Brady series. Brady is the sheriff in Cochise County, AZ. She's on maternity leave when a body dump field is found. Her Deputy Sheriff is in charge and they are trying to find the serial killer before another body is dumped.
You don't have to read these books in order because Jance spends a LOT of time giving background on each character between scenes. In fact, I'd say that a full 3rd of this book seemed like detailed background information so the story seemed quite choppy to me.
As for the story, it was fine. Not great. There are too many "strong women" and men around them to provide support. It's not a feminist manifesto at all. The author was actually quite even-handed with everyone and I didn't get political undertones. But it's simply not realistic that a Deputy Sheriff of either gender would be telling the Sheriff that they can't wait until she gets back because the job is a bit over his/her head. Also, things in this novel resolve quickly and easily. For example, the local FBI office didn't want to help with profiling but, no worries, Sheriff Brady has a connection and with a couple of phone calls we have the exact profile identified. Magic.
JA Jance has a large following so I know her novels are popular but they just aren't for me.
The Witch Elm
By Tana French, Narrated by Paul Nugent
Tana French writes the Dublin Murder Squad series, that I enjoyed until the most recent book, and this one had some good published reviews so I decided to give it a try. I should have read the Audible reviews first and skipped it. The publisher and professional reviews are always misleading!
I don't even understand this book. None of the characters are believable and not one of them behaves like a normal person would in the same situations. Most of the story revolves around the discovery of a dead body in a tree on family property. The dead person is a contemporary of three cousins now in their 20's. It's truly an excruciating story and it took every fiber of my being to finish it. I only finished it because I kept hoping for the main character, Toby, to die. Actually the best ending would have been fr everyone to die.
An anonymous Audible customer wrote a review that is so spot on that I decided that I'd share:
"The plot (is there a plot?) is slow and disjointed, featuring bizarre unrealistic event heaped upon bizarre unrealistic event duct-taped together with shoddy continuity. Characters drop out and/or show up with little or no explanation or reason. The scenes intended to be most dramatic made me laugh because of the giant plot conveniences driven by the author; the characters' motivations for doing most of what they do are unimaginable. Toby, Melissa, Susannah, Leon, Shawn, Hugo, and just about every character in this book are chess pieces being moved around artlessly to bring their fragmented, preposterous, mean-spirited, lazy plotlines to a close."
The book gave me a headache and a bad attitude that only a few hours outside raking leaves relieved.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated by Ray Porter
These are the same authors that write under the pen name Alex Ryan and authored Bejing Red. This is a new series based on a Tier One Navy SEAL named John Dempsey, formerly Jack Kemper. After a terrorism plot destroys his SEAL unit he is recruited to join Ember, the most secretive counter-terrorism until in existence.
It's not the best spy novel I've read but it was a good story, I liked the characters and it was very fast paced. It was a great palette cleanser after The Witch Elm.
On to 2019 and, hopefully, a lot of good books for all of us!
November has been one of the best months for books in a while. My least favorite book, The Templar Legacy, was still a very well written book. For non-fiction lovers I can recommend both of my books this month: Billion Dollar Whale and Destined For War. I got to revisit some of my favorite heroes and read a 70 year old classes. It's a difficult choice but I think my favorite this month was The Weight of Ink.
What have you read this month that was great? I've been waiting since September for Lethal White to become available on Libby so I'm currently enjoying the latest in the Cormoran Stirke series.
Billion Dollar Whale
By Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, Narrated by Will Collyer
If you like financial history books you will love this one. A man named Joh Low pulled off one of the biggest financial heists in history. We know it as the 1MBD Scandal. If you like this kind of book you will love this one. It's written by 2 Wall Street Journal writers that followed the story. It's fascinating.
The Templar Legacy
By Steve Berry, Narrated by Paul Michael
This is the first book in a series with the main character, Cotton Malone series of 14 (so far) books. Cotton is retired from the US Justice Department and is now an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen. His old boss shows up and is investigating research that her husband was doing when he died. It all has to do with the the Knights Templar that was, supposedly, eradicated in the 14th century.
It's like the DaVinci Code and if you liked that you will like this. I think it's better written than the DaVinci Code but that's coming from someone who really dislikes Dan Brown books so take it with a grain of salt. But if you like novels with layer and layers of secrets and codes you will really enjoy this.
The Weight of Ink
By Rachel Kadish, Narrated By Corrie James
What a lovely book. There are 3 main characters: Helen Watt, an ailing history professor studying 17th century Jewish history; Aaron Levy, a grad student working on a dissertation about Jewish characters in Shakespeare; and, Ester Velasquez, a scribe for a blind rabbi in the 17th century. Ester is an intellectual prevented from publishing her thoughts or writings because of her gender and poverty. However she writes to well known philosophers of the time to discuss her ideas on God and religion. In the modern time Helen and Arron have come across her writings (found in the house of a former student) and are studying them.
The book addresses several challenges of the 17th century: religious bias, gender bias, homosexuality and poverty but does so without imposing modern mores and thoughts. It's simply a good story and it provoked me to look up a philosopher or two so I learned a little something along the way.
An Echo of Murder
By Anne Perry, Narrated By David Colacci
I wanted an easy read after The Weight of Ink so I went with one of my favorite series, Anne Perry's William Monk. These books are set in Victorian England and this is the 23rd in the series. Perry does a nice job of keeping her stories fresh by introducing new characters and expanding their roles in subsequent books.
In this one Monk, Commander of the Thames River Police, is investigating a series of gruesome murders in the Hungarian immigrant community. Hester and Scuff, of course, get involved.We also meet a doctor that worked with Hester in the Crimean War.
Destined for War, Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?
By Graham Allison, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
If only our new services would spent even 1/20th of their time giving us truly useful and insightful information instead of focusing on salacious content that has no real impact on our lives. But they don't so I periodically search out books that will give me a bit of the information that I really need to have.
This is one of those books. The title is definitely an attention-grabbing hook because the author really spends most of the content explaining why we aren't really destined for war, in the traditional sense. We are certainly at war with China; or they with us. It's just not conventional.
If you like non-fiction this really is an excellent book. Allison uses historical wars to explain Thucydides's Trap where one power threatens to displace another. His information about the historical and cultural differences between the two countries is very thorough and the book sis very readable.
By Kyle Mills, Narrated by George Guidall
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm so glad that Kyle Mills took over writing the Mitch Rapp series. He was the perfect writer to take over for Vince Flynn and I'm so happy that Mitch Rapp lives on.
In this 17th book in the series the Russian president is ill and stirs up some international trouble to distract the media while he tries for a cure.
It's another action packed adventure and Mitch must save the day.
The Shadow Patrol
By Alex Berenson, Narrated by George Guidall
I usually spread out my CIA/Military hero books but I have a couple of non-fiction titles on hold at the library that should release soon and this one was in my Audible library with a couple of other non-fiction books so I decided to treat myself to a little John Wells first.
This is #6 in the Wells series. The CIA station in Kabul is having some problems and agents are dying. John Wells is sent in to investigate.
If you like Vince Flynn/Kyle Mills or Ben Coes, you will like Alex Berenson.
The Clockmaker's Daughter
By Kate Morton, Narrated by Joanna Foggatt
I enjoy Kate Morton's books. The stories are complex and woven between generations. The Clockmaker's Daughter is that and a lot more....maybe too much more.
In 1862 a group of artists gather at Birchwood Manor in Oxfordshire with a plan to spend the month in inspiration and creativity. The group is led by Edward Radcliffe. The trip is ruined when his fiance is shot dead and his muse, and true love, is missing.
150 years later Elodie Winslow, an archivist in London, uncovers a satchel that contains Edward's sketchbook and a photograph. Now she wants to find out more about them.
The book follows 4 different generations of people as they are affected by the house, a painting, a jewel and other related items.Frankly, there are a lot of characters to keep up with. I expect that this books was a lot more fun to write than to read. It required some work. Plus there's the added twist that one of the main narrators is a dead woman. The clockmaker is a very minor theme in the book and I don't think it was very relevant to the whole story unless it's simply about the passage of time. The father was such a non-entity to the story that he could have been a cooper, tailor or any number of other professions so I'm kind of annoyed by the title.
Just because of the complexity I did not like this book as much as I have enjoyed others. If you read it, be prepared to put in some work to keep track of the people and objects. It was fun to have it narrated by Mrs. Bates (Downton Abbey).
A Town Like Alice
By Nevil Shute, narrated By Neil Hunt
I finished off the month with this jewel of a book. It was published in 1950 and is the fictional story of an Englishwoman who was marched all over Malaysia by the Japanese in WWII. During one harrowing part of her journey she was aided by an Autralian soldier who was crucified as punishment.
Back in England after the war she discovers that she had inherited money from a distant relative she barely knew. She can now decide very independently where and how to live her life. It's about her life, her relationship with the solicitor who manages her trust and about the people she wants to thank. It's a lot more than that brief description. It's very much a love story, but not a romance story.
It's a well known and beautiful book but you must remember that it was written in the 1940's. You must be able to read it without imposing our modern moral code on the actions and language of the characters. If you can't do that you will have this book.
It was a perfect ending to a month of mostly great books.
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.
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