Lockdown continues to provide me with a lot of reading time. Rainy days on vacation kept my reading spree going. All in all it was a good book month. In non-fiction I loved The Mastermind and Catch and Kill. Both are really worthwhile reads. I was really happy to read another Department Q book, Victim 2117 but my very favorite book of the month is The Book of Lost Friends.
What recommendations do you have for me this month?
Apprentice Scarlet City
By Rebecca Gable, Read By a huge cast of B actors
This is an Audible original production of a book written in the 1950's and it's the first part of a trilogy. I could see where this book might have been one of the forerunners of the historical fiction genre. It was probably great in it's time but today's readers require a lot more historical accuracy.
The story centers around Jonah Durham, a young apprentice to his uncle's fabric trade. Through a whole lot of luck and unbelievable inheritance, he becomes a very rich merchant.
What really destroys this book is the production. Sometimes there's background music behind the narrator (annoying) and sometimes not (better). The background to everything else is either steps, door opening, revelry or nature sounds. Except for one time when there's a baby cooing as the Queen is doing business. You can be sure that would never have happened! The royals barely saw their children! I found it all extremely distracting. There's one kissing scene where the kissing sounds are hilarious! Imagine recording yourself kissing your hand loudly. The book would have been much better with a straight forward narration by one of Audible's great narrators and leave out the sound production by the local high school arts department.
By Evan Ratliff, Read By Evan Ratliff
My friend Kristen recommended this book last month and she did not go wrong. It's the fascinating story of the Justice Department's quest to bring down Paul LeRoux, the creator of a world-wide internet based pharmacy business. He also developed one of the world's best encryption program.
It's really well researched and you get a peek into the ruthlessness and corruption of LeRoux and into the pettiness that exists among people in all organizations (apparently, especially the government). It's very well documented and an interesting book. Once again, though, I will say that authors should not narrate their own books! On a 5 point scale, he's a 3 and that made it a little harder to get into at the beginning.
Victim 2117 - A Department Q Novel
By Jussi Adler-Olsen, Read By Graeme Malcolm
It's been 3 years since we've had a new Department Q novel but it was worth the wait. This series is set in Copenhagen and revolved around Detective Carl Morck. In the first book we learn how Carl would up in the basement as a department of one investigating cold cases. He's eventually joined by Rose, Assad and Carl.
In this book Assad has to revisit horrors of his past in the Middle East while Rose and Carl are trying to find a reclusive teen who is using Victim 2117 as his call to implement his own murderous plan. The two cases are tied through this victim.
These are the perfect books for audio because some of the makes seem to be hard to pronounce. For me it's easier to have someone else do that for me! It's good to read these in order because story lines carry through the series. Great writing, character development and story lines. I wish they came out more often.
By Ruth Downie, Read By Simon Vance
This is the 6th book in The Roman Empire series. The medicus, Ruso and his wife, Tilla, are the focus of the series. In this one they are in Britannia at the borderlands during the building of Hadrian's Wall. Ruso's clerk goes missing and a local boy says he saw a body being hidden in the wall.
I really enjoy this series. A lot of the characters carry through the series and you see as their opportunities and fortunes change over time. It's really well written and well narrated.
The Huguenot Chronicles
By Paul CR Monk, Read By David Pickering
After reading Tabula Rosa I got to thinking about some of the great historical fiction books that I've read, like those from Michener, Follett and Rutherford. I wanted to find another. I sometimes search for book by going to Amazon and looking up a book or author that I love and then looking at what Amazon says that other people bought. That's how I found these books which were available on Audible for 1 credit.
This is the story of a Huguenot Protestant family during the reign of Louis XIV. Jeanne and Jacob refused to convert and had their properties and children taken away and ultimately had to leave France separately. Jacob had been arrested and was indentured to a ship heading for the Caribbean. Jeanne had to sneak out of France and found her first refuge in Geneva. The children were taken in by her sister who did convert.
It's the story of their years apart trying to survive. The story sends them to the Caribbean, London, colonial New York and London. It's not the best written book ever but I have never read much about this time in history so it was a nice change from the usual English historical fiction.
By Anne Edwards, Read By Corrie James
The title of this book is quite misleading. It's really a history of the royal family during her time as a member of the family. If you took out everything was wasn't specific to her, you would have a short story.
I don't mean to criticize the Queen. I actually really admire her stoicism and commitment to the family and Great Britain. It's just that I've ready plenty of books about Edward's abdication, Great Britain during WWII and Elizabeth's reign. I didn't know much about King George V so that part was interesting but once the book was on to Edward and the abdication it wasn't as interesting aside from her willingness and ability to sever ties with her son.
By Barry Eisler, Read By Barry Eisler
This is the 7th in the John Rain series but the first one that I have read. I thought this was going to be another series like the Mitch Rapp series that I like so much. But I'm not really drawn to this character or the writing.
Rain is a hired assassin and has been tracked down in Tokyo bu his former black ops commander. He's convinced to take on one more assignment and he brings in three other operatives to work with him. That assignment turns out to be a set up and eventually they set u=out for revenge.
I don't really know why this book didn't work for me but I was happy for it to end and I wasn't particularly attached to any of the characters. That said, the John Rain books are wildy popular so if you like this genre you should at last try one of them.
By John Sandford, Read By Richard Ferrone
I was so happy when this book came off hold at the library just as we were leaving for vacation. I would have one of my favorite authors to listen to while hanging at the beach. I can't believe that I'm saying this about a Sandford book but this one was a disappointment. Maybe at 30 books in the Davenport series, the character is just getting harder to write. Davenport isn't young anymore but he's becoming more vigilante as he gets older and that just doesn't seem right.
In this book Davenport is called to DC to investigate a neo-Nazi website that is targeting children of political figures. No actual crime has been committed as there's no threat so they call in Davenport to investigate "off the books".
One of the things that really bothered me about this book are the strong hackneyed political messages. There's no original thought or conflict of beliefs. It's just the same drivel that we hear in the news every day. It was annoying and the plot and resolution was very predictable. I'm thinking that maybe he isn't actually writing his books anymore. I'll see how the next Virgil Flowers is this fall before I decide if I'm done with these series.
A Reasonable Doubt
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the 3rd in the Robin Lockwood series. Mom and I picked this one to listen to as we drove to and from the beach. At 7 hours it was the perfect length and we both love mysteries.
Lockwood is a defense attorney in Portland, OR and has recently become partner (after a very short time) in the firm. The previous partner, Regina Barrister, has retired due to early onset dementia. In this book, one of Regina's previous clients, a magician, is back. Previously he was acquitted of murder and attempted murder. Now he debuting a new illusion and wants it patented. (Ridiculous) But he's also a bit of a scammer and has built up quite a list of enemies. The story takes place in 3 different time frames and Regina is back in at times to have miraculous bursts of clear memory.
For a short book this one is way too convoluted and has way too many characters. Plus our heroine Robin, is another typically too strong and independent so she's always at risk of ruining a great relationship and putting her life in danger. She really isn't all that bright.
The Optimal Dose
By Judson Somerville
I read a paper copy of this book while on vacation. My doctor has been prescribing Vitamin D3 (actually a hormone, not a vitamin) for a few years as an immune system boost. It must be working because I haven't had a cold since. But I'd been reading some of the studies linking Vitamin D levels to COVID recovery and I decided that I wanted to read further.
This isn't a very long book. I read the whole thing in a few hours but it was fascinating. Dr. Somerville started researching Vitamin D3 when he was try to solve his own and his patients sleeping problems. He knew that if he could resolve sleeping issues that many other human ailments (pain, fatigue, weight control) could be improved. What he discovered is that the recommended doses that we take are much lower than the optimal dose that we need. It was a fascinating read and a good first step into researching Vitamin D3 benefits and dosing.
People who might be interested in reading this include people with chronic sleep issues, metabolic disease and people who seem to catch every cold and flu that they come in contact with.
The Book of Lost Friends
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Sophie Amoss, Bahni Turpin and others
Before I talk about this lovely book I just want to mention that Bahni Turpin is one of the BEST narrators. When she narrates a character you really feel that it's the actual character talking.She's one of the few narrators that I will actually search for books that she's narrated. All the narrators in this one are very good.
I read my first Lisa Wingate book, Before We Were Yours, last year and I loved it. This one is no exception. You can tell that when a story grabs her that she dives in very deep to thoroughly research every aspect of the story.
The Book of Lost Friends is based on a feature in the Southwestern Christian Advocate that was published in New Orleans after the Civil War. It carried a Lost Friends column that ran until early 1900's where notices were posted by people looking for friends and relatives lost during slavery.
In 1875 there are three women on a dangerous quest leaving Louisiana for Texas. One is a freed slave, one is heiress to a bankrupt plantation and the other is the Creole half sister of the heiress.
In 1987 a young teacher arrives in Louisiana to teach English at a poor school as a means to pay off her school debt. She's trying to get her students interested in reading and discovers an abandoned library at the nearby vacant plantation home. She gets permission to look for books and finds some amazing documents that helps tell the stories the 3 young women.
Lisa Wingate can write! It's a wonderful book.
Catch and Kill
Written and read by Ronan Farrow
Well, at least there's one real journalist left in the world! I knew the Farrow had helped expose Harvey Weinstein but I had no idea how difficult, and sometimes dangerous, the process was. He was blocked by NBC and friends of Weinstein and he was even followed by spies.
Most of the book is about the Weinstein investigation but the real underlying story is about how the media covers for powerful people. I could not put this book down.
A whole month of quarantine means a whole lot of reading! I finished 14 books this month and like always, some are winners and some are duds.
I loved both non-fiction books: Capitalism vs Socialism and Cured. In fiction my favorites were The Rosie Project, Cleopatra's Daughter, The Gown and Redemption Point.
Are you also getting in a lot of extra reading these days? What can you recommend to us this month?
The Perfect Alibi
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the second book in the Robin Lockwood series. I read the first one last month and put this one on hold. The app said I would get it in about 4 weeks and it was available 3 days later! That's one of the downfalls of books from the library, you have to read them when you get them.
Robin Lockwood is not the lead attorney in a prestigious small law firm since the managing partner has taken medical leave for early Alzheimers. Robin is now on her own. In this book she is representing a rape victim in a civil lawsuit and defending another client against a murder charge that should be self-defense. The cases might be linked.
The book is shorter than my usual 10 hour minimum but I'll take that for a Margolin book. The plot seems plausible and the cases are complex. It was a fun read.
I've put the 3rd one on hold with a wait time of 9 weeks. But I'm sure I'll get it sooner since all of us readers are devouring books during our world-wide lockdown.
The Great Courses: Capitalism vs. Socialism
BY Professor Edward Stuart
I love the Great Courses and this one did not disappoint. I starts with good background on the economic philosophers (Adams, Keynes, Marx, Friedman) and then takes you on a tour of world economies that have followed or follows some form of capitalism or socialism and the consequences of each.
It's very interesting and, I believe, the most unbiased presentation of economic theories that we could possibly as for.
By Michelle Moran, Read By Wanda McCaddon
Michelle Moran has a real talent for taking a bare bones structure of events and building it into a complete story. The first book I read of her's was Madame Tussaud and it was outstanding. This one was very good too.
Little is known about the daughter of Cleopatra, Cleopatra Selene, other than she was taken to Rome, raised by Octavia and eventually married to Juba and made Queen of Mauretania. Moran fills in a colorful story of Cleopatra Selene's life. The characters are well developed but it's not suspenseful, it's just the story of a girl's life but I enjoyed it.
A Duty to Defend
By Charles Todd, Read By Rosalyn Landor
This is the 1st book in the Bess Crawford series. It's set in WWI and Bess is a nurse. One of her patients (on his deathbed) asked her to deliver a message to his brother. Shortly after she is on a shop that's sunk by a mine and she has a broken arm. During her recovery she decided to head off to this soldier's home to deliver the message and there the mystery begins.
Todd has another series set in WWI based on an Inspector, Ian Rutledge, who has shell shock. Neither of them are really doing anything for me. This book was good but so much of what she did seemed so way out of character for a woman of that time.
Big Lies in a Small Town
By Diane Chamberlain, Read by Susan Bennett
In 2018, Morgan Christopher is in jail for a crime that she didn't commit. She is surprisingly paroled with an offer to restore an old post office mural in Edenton, NC. The mural was painted by artist, Anna Daly in 1940 who won a national contest to paint the mural. The mural was never hung but a local artist had it his will calls for the mural to be restored by Christopher and completed by a specific date.
The book goes back and forth in time to tell both Anna and Morgan's stories. It's well written and has the expected theme of Southern racism and prejudice against people who are "different" in general.
This is the second book I've read from Chamberlain. She's great at character development and immersing her reader into the story. I find the plots a little predictable (in this one it was a lot predictable) and tired. But I like the characters enough that I'm willing to stick it out with them.
By Jeffrey Rediger, Read by Jeffrey Rediger
I am very interested in some medical topics and especially about the inner-workings of the human body and our ability to heal ourselves. The best book I've read on the topic is Cure by Jo Marchant. It was so good that I read it twice back to back.
This book is, in theory, a great follow up to Cure as it delves deeper into some of the aspects of self-healing that were introduced in Cure. It's full of great information but you are going to have to do some work to get through it.
I think that Dr. Rediger is a control freak because he desperately needed to turn this book over to a professional editor and professional narrator. His narration and the production quality is awful. Th ebook is a little choppy and there are probably too many personal anecdotes.
All that said, it was full of really valuable information and planted some ideas to explore. It was worth tolerating the performance to get the information.
By Dervla McTiernan,Read By Aoife McMahon
This sis the second book in the Cormac Reilly series. I read the first one, The Ruin, last month and this one became available at the library pretty quickly. In this one Reilly's girlfriend, Emma, is a researcher at Galway University and discovers the body of a dead girl near campus. Reilly winds up on the case simply because Emma called him first. He's still personal non grata in his squad. The girl carries the ID of Carline Darcy, the granddaughter of Darcy Therapeutics and the sponsor of Emma's research.
Like the first novel, I have mixed feelings. It's a good plot but everyone has a side grievance or secret story and it gets difficult to track. But I loved listening to the Irish lilt of the narrator.
The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion, Read By Dan O'Grady
As the quarantine was starting and friend and I exchanged book recommendations. She recommended this one and a book called Year Zero by Rob Reid. I got about 2 hours into Year Zero and I just couldn't take it anymore. There was nothing funny about it. I texted her to give her a hard time about it and she said that she had given up on the book too. After listening to The Rosie Project I've reinstated her book recommendation rights. What a cute and funny book.
Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who can easily be imagined at Sheldon Cooper. He had very bad luck with dating and has decided to set out to find a mate with some very rigid criteria and so begins The Wife Project. Rosie Jarman is a smoker and bartender and is always late for everything. She's not wife material but he agrees to help her with The Father Project. You can guess how it ends. It's enjoyable and funny. I'm not inclined to read any of the other books int he series because I don't see these 2 characters making a sequel not that I know their personalities. It's easy enough to see how it would play out.
By Jennifer Robson, Read By Marisa Calin
In 1947 in London the designer Norman Hartnell was commissioned to make Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown. This story uses that as a backdrop for the story of the embroiders who worked on the gown. It follows them through that year and then 40 years later when one of the women dies in Toronto and her granddaughter finds some lace samples.
It's a really nice story with very well developed characters. The pace was good and the transition between times was handled very well. I will definitely look for other books by Robson.
By Linwood Barclay, Read By Quincy Dunn Baker and Brian O'Neil
This is the first book in a trilogy set in the town of Promise Falls, NY. It's supposed to be a mystery. David Harwood and his 11 year old son ahve moved back into his parent's home in PF. One day his cousin Marla is found to have a baby and there's a spot of blood on the front door of Marla's house. Instead of calling the police he gets Marla in the car to find the baby's home (from a convenient piece of paper in the baby's stroller with the address). At the home they discover the mother dead in the house.
I like Barclay's books but I did not get this one. The hapless characters were so absurd and cliche (police detective is obsessed with donuts, super sleezy politician, hard ass bitchy female hospital administrator) that it felt more like a Carl Hiassen book than a serious mystery, except that Hiassen is a better writer. The mystery was really easy to figure out so the rest of the book was just hopping around several unrelated and unresolved story lines that are lead ins to the second and third books. It's been a long time since I've rolled my eyes as much as I did while listening to this book.
By Candace Fox, Read By Euan Morton
This is the second in the Crimson Point series set in Australia. You have to read this series in order so read Crimson Point first where Ted Concaffee and Amanda Pharrell are first introduced. Ted is a former police officer who was wrongly convicted of abducting and raping a young girl. He's out of prison and trying to get his life back together. Amanda is a convicted murderer from when she was in school. They are both trying to get their lives back together and their shared attorney put them together to do private investigations. In this book they are continuing to investigate the crime Ted was accused of but they have also been hired to investigate 2 murders at a local bar.
I'm really enjoying this series and I liked the second book even better than the first. The bonus to this is the lovely Aussie narration by Euan Morton. I'm looking forward to the 3rd book in the series.
By Jacqueline Winspear, Read By Rita Barrington
This is the 1st book in the Maisie Dobbs detective series. The story is set before, during and after WWI. At 13 Maisie get a job in service at a manor house. She gets up early in the morning to sneak into the library to study the books. One day the mistress of the house finds her studying Latin with a private tutor. The book actually opens 10 years later, in 1929, when she is starting her own detective agency and getting her first case.
It's an interesting story but I hated the way it was told. About 1/3 through the book the investigation story ends abruptly and we are transported to 1910 when she gets that job and we then follow her through the war for about another 3rd of the book and just as suddenly we are back on the investigation. It's seriously like 2 shorter stories smashed together in one book. Maybe that transition works better in print but I found it all too jarring. The mystery isn't much of a mystery but it's an interesting perspective on the ravages of war. I doubt I'll read any more in this series.
A Week In Winter
By Maeve Binchy, Read By Rosalyn Landor
I can't remember how I came across this book but I'm thinking that it might have been one of your blogs. I like finding new books from other's book reviews.
This story is set in the west of Ireland on the coast. Chicky Starr has returned from America to remodel an old dilapidated mansion into a B&B. The story is focused on each character that works at the B&B and the guests that arrive for the opening week: a week in winter. It comes across more as a group of short stories. Each character's life is told in turns and we find out what bad decisions/luck/events have brought them to Stone House. Each character's story ends just after they arrive at Stone House and their personal dilemma is resolved. So it's really not about the week at all. While the characters interact, it's not a story about that week, the house or the local area. It's 80% about the background of each of these characters.
It's an light and easy read. Not a lot of pain or drama. It actually reminded me of that old TV show, Fantasy Island. Take Fantasy Island and put it on the Hallmark Channel and you have this book.
By Brina Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Read By Ray Porter
This is the 5th book in the Tier One series. Ember is like a secret version of the Navy SEALs and John Dempsey is the mission leader. They vanquished their Islamic enemies in the last book so this time they are focused squarely on Russia and the Russian equivalent of Ember, called Zeta.
There's a lot of tough talk, secret nicknames, magical technology and killing. Everyone has personal demons that they manage by getting themselves into impossible situations. Lots of action, adventure and blood. My one complaint is that there seems to be more and more macho conversation and magical survival and less and less actual strategy and zero questioning of collateral damage. The books are getting a little too formulaic for me.
Many of us have lost a lot of money (maybe only on paper so far) over the past month but we have gained a lot of time. Time is something that I am obsessed over. I constantly think about how I use my time. I'm absolutely obsessed with not wasting time. With no appointments, meetings or social engagements I have a lot more time and that means I'm doing a lot more reading while quilting, sewing and creating. I'm enjoying this time and trying to be positive about it and take full advantage of it.
To that end, I read 15 books in March. That's a record! My favorites were the first and last books that I read in March. The most important book that I read is Unaccountable.
I know you have been doing a lot of reading too. I'd love to hear you favorites of the month. Chris reads fantasy and SciFi so if you have any recommendations in that category that would be awesome.
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Robert Duboni
I've been seeing lots of recommendations to read this book and I finally decided to give it a try. I avoided it for a long time for 2 reasons. First, it's narrated by the author and second, he's a mystery writer so I wan't sure how he would be as a fiction writer. My worries on both fronts were unfounded.
This is a beautiful coming-of-age story about a boy born with ocular albinism which means that his eyes are red. His name is Sam Hill but the lighter side of the bullying he experiences is being called Sam Hell. If you do not like books with spiritual/religious undertones you will not like this book. But while faith is a big part of this book the story is so much more than that. It's about the struggles of life that everyone experiences and it's about the loss and recovery of faith, prejudice and racism. It's a special book.
By Candice Fox, Read By Euan Morton
I think I've found a new mystery series!
Sydney Police Detective Ted Conkaffey was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it ruined his life. He was accused of abducting a 13-year old girl. He wasn't convicted by the legal system but certainly by the public. He relocates to the remote area of Crimson Lake and is introduced to Private Investigator Amanda Pharrell, a convicted murderer.
She and Ted join forces to find missing author John Scully. As they investigate their own identities complicate the matter.
It was a good and unique story and there's nothing wrong with a book narrated with an Aussie accent.
By Ben Coes, Read by Ari Fliakos
Last month I talked about how tired the Walt Longmire series is getting. There's no real advancement of the characters as Walt ages out. Well, Ben Coes gets the importance of moving his characters along. It was clear in the last book (Bloody Sunday) that Dewey Andreas might be starting to wind down his career. One character that has shown up frequently in the books is Rob Tacoma, a former Navy SEAL and now an independent contractor.
This book is the first in the Tacoma series as he's hired by the CIA to avenge the deaths of two high-profile politicians who were assassinated by the Russian mafia. Like the Andreas books, it's action packed and we even get a visit from Dewey. Also, the narration is excellent.
It's not quite 10 hours (my minimum for buying a book) but it was available at my library. I'm glad I got it.
By Marty Makary, Read by Robertson Dean
I'm very fortunate to have found a GP who is very interested in a holistic approach to medicine. She researches and recommends treatments beyond traditional pharmaceuticals. She's also big on her patients learning and researching on their own and one of the things she recommended to me was the Podcast Peter Attia The Drive. Attia is an interesting and very smart person and he's hard to take in large doses. He is singularly obsessed with longevity and seems to rate longevity over living most days. I wouldn't have wanted him as my Dad or spouse. But some of his podcasts are really interesting and relevant to me so I pick and choose the ones that I want to follow.
One of his guests was Dr. Marty Makary and he was there to talk about this book. He's a surgeon who has worked in several of the best hospitals in the US. He set out to figure out why error rates and costs haven't down in the past 10 years and find the root cause to be the complete lack of transparency in the industry, especially with hospitals and surgeons.
One of the interesting things that they discussed in the podcast was free market medicine vs. socialized medicine. Makary believe that under socialized medicine that initially costs would go down considerably but that in the long run we would end up with something less than what we have today because cost containment would rule and thereby lead to massive rationing. His perspective was more thoughtful than my one sentence so I recommend listening to it. It made me think more deeply about my own opinion on the subject.
The book, however, deals solely with the lack of transparency in medical care and it's eye opening. This is one of those books that everyone should read but you should especially read it if you have a medical condition that might lead to surgery anytime in the near future. Some research beforehand would probably benefit you greatly.
Hum Little Bridie
By Jonathan Fredrick, Read By Ari Fliakos
This sis the second boon in the Cain City series. The series is set in a down and out town in West Virginia on the Ohio border. Cain City seems to be finally turning the corner and there's river development planned. Nick Malick is a private investigator working a case that is starting to involve two gangs and the power brokers of the city. At the center is Birdie, a young mother that Malick is trying to help leave her life of prostitution so that she can get her daughter back.
It's been 2 years since I read the first book in this series and I forgot how much I liked it. Fredrick puts you right in the middle of the seedy side of this town with well developed characters and environs. I hope there is a third int he series and that it doesn't take 2 more years to get it.
By Monica Hesse, Read By Tanya Ebe
This is a short book (only 7 hours) and I only picked it up because it was about events in Virginia. The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a very unique place that is still quite rural and has an agricultural economy. It's littered with abandoned houses, sheds and barns.
Between November 2012 and April 2013, Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick went on an arson spree and burned nearly 80 structures.
This book chronicles the events and the people (including fire fighters and investigators) involved.It took some work to get it to extend to 7 hours. There's even a chapter on historical crime couples like Bonnie and Clyde that really isn't relevant to this story. If you are from Virginia or have vacationed in the Eastern Shore or like arson stories you might like this book. But you could just Google Charlie and Tonya and get all the information that you need.
City of the Lost
By Kelley Armstrong, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the 1st book in the Casey Duncan/Rockton Series. Casey murdered someone in her past and now she's told one too many therapists (why would you tell any of them is the logical question) and the victim's family is out to get her. Her best friend, Diana, is having trouble with an abusive boyfriend. They find out about a place where they can relocate and disappear forever.
Rockton is a place in the middle of nowhere Canada and it's where people go to escape forever and start over. Once there, Casey learns that her investigative services are needed to help resolve a recent murder. Yes, it's kind of a ridiculous plot. But it's not a horrible book. It's got action, killers, cops, romance and a few twists. It's not my favorite police procedural but I'm going to give the series a try and reserve the second one at the library.
Murder at Half Moon Gate
By Andrea Penrose, Read By James Cameron Stewart
I read the 1st book in this series last month and liked it enough to read another. These are fun murder mysteries set in Regency England. Wrexford is and Earl who is interested in science, not society and Sloane is a widow who took over her late husband's career of producing satire cartoons. She's "adopted" two street urchins, Raven and Hawk, who help her gather information and are instrumental in their crime investigations.
If you like the Anne Perry books you will like these. Good character development and witty dialogue. Raven and Hawk are great characters and add a lot of fun to the story. In this one a genius inventor is murdered. He's suspected of having invented a new steam-powered engine that will revolutionize transportation. Lots of other people would be interested in the patent for that.
A Cold Trail
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Emily Sutton-Smith
This is the 7th book in the Tracey Crosswhite series. If you aren't familiar with these books I recommend reading them in order. There are many references to previous books.
Tracey and her husband, Dan, are back in their home town of Cedar Grove while their Seattle home is being remodeled. Dan is an attorney and has agreed to help a local merchant sew the city for trying to take away his business. They are new parents and Tracey is struggling with balancing her identities of mother and detective. While in Cedar Grove she gets involved in a cold case murder. It turns out that both efforts might be related.
It's a good story but wasn't my favorite but I think the new mother angles will be interesting to most.
The Great Quake
By Henry Fountain, Rad By Robert Fass
The biggest earthquake in US history was the Alaska quake that happened March 27, 1964. It was a magnitude 9.2 and fortunately happened in a sparsely populated place. It killed 130 people and destroyed the lower half of the state.
But out of that came a lot of our knowledge of plate tectonics, tidal waves and the behavior of different soil during earthquakes. It's an interesting book but a lot of the content is about the people impacted by the earthquake and the scientists researching the aftermath. It especially gives a clear picture of how LITTLE we still know about the science.
The Third Victim
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
Phillip Margolin is my favorite legal/procedural mystery writer and has been for a long time. He is probably the author that got me into the genre with his masterpiece, Gone But Not Forgotten. I didn't know who did it in that book until that last page. He is a master at writing a mystery puzzle.
I haven't read him in a while because is books are generally shorter than my 10 hour minimum for purchasing on Audible but I noticed that my library carries them and I was excited to start this new series.
Our heroine, Robin Lockwood, is a young lawyer who's just gotten her dream job with the best defense attorney in Oregon. She is immediately assigned second chair in the defense of Alex Mason. Mason is accused of murdering 2 women and attempted murder of a third. It's the third victim who has identified him. Adding to the complexity is the fact that Robin's boss is acting a little strange and seems to be forgetting things.
There's a bonus at the end of the audio version with an interview with Margolin. I've already got the second book on hold but I probably should read Gone But Not Forgotten again just for fun.
By Dervla McTiernan, Read By Aoife McMahon
This is a debut novel set in Galway, Ireland. Twenty years ago Cormac Reilly was a new detective and was sent on a call where he discovered the dead body of Hilaria Blake in her dilapidated house. He took her 2 orphan children to the hospital where Maude disappeared and young Jack was put in foster care. Nothing else happened with the case.
Twenty years later Jack is found dead and it's ruled a suicide. His sister, Maude, who has just returned to Ireland from Australia, doesn't believe that it's suicide. Neither does Jack's girlfriend, surgeon Aisling Conroy.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It's a good story but there are so many subplots, twists and side stories that at times it's hard to track. It takes a little work to get through it. There's a great deal of suffering and pain all through the book. Everyone has skeletons trying to escape closets and it's a lot of work to keep the closet doors shut.
The narration was great. I do love a good Irish accent. I'll give the second one a try.
The Echo Killing
By Christi Daugherty
This is the 1st book is a series featuring crime reporter Harper McClain. It's set in Savannah GA and Harper works the night desk at the local paper covering the local crime beat. One day there's a murder of a mother that echos the murder of her own mother 15 years ago. Harper feels that she needs to investigate it herself because the lead detective seems to be purposely stalling. What follows is a series of stupid/illegal actions on her part to find the real killer.
I did not love this book. I didn't feel like most of the characters were well developed, especially the lead detective. Harper makes a lot of immature decisions so she's annoying. But the worst part is that I knew from early in the book who did it and if it's that easy it simply isn't a good mystery. I'm usually terrible at figuring out the culprit so if I knew then it wasn't much of a mystery.
The narration is really slow but speeding up the app fixed that. I don't think I'll continue with this series.
A Darkness Absolute
By Kelley Armstrong
This is the second in the Rockton series that I started earlier this month. I usually don't like to read sequels so soon. When I put this one on hold at the library is said I would get it in about 4 weeks. I think we readers are going through a lot of books during the quarantine so this one was available in about a week.
Rockton is the town where people can escape to if they need to get away from their "real" lives. In this one Casey and the sheriff's deputy, Will, get lost in the forest and stumble on a woman trapped in a cave. It's a Rockton resident that's been missing over a year.
In this area there are town people and 2 groups of people that live in the forest so that leaves a lot of room for distrust and mystery antagonists. Every person in the book seems to have an agenda and, therefore, they can always act out of character. The romance between the sheriff and Casey is a lot like a teen love story to me.
I said after the last one that I was unsure about this series. The books have GREAT reviews on Audible but they just don't speak to me.
When Time Stopped
By Ariana Beumann, Read By Rebecca Lowman
What a great book to end the month with. I wasn't sure that I was ready to read this book because it's a memoir of her father's experiences as a Jew in Nazi Germany. Her father eventually emigrated to Venezuela where she was raised never knowing her Jewish heritage.Later in her father's life she was able to start putting the story together and when he died he left her a box of letters and memorabilia that helped her research.
It's a really beautiful and lovingly told story and is was good to remind me that the times we are in aren't the worst.
February was a good month considering that I've been watching a lot of TV instead of listening to books. I finished 10 books and rejected 3 others part way through.
After seeing this list you will understand yesterday's post and my fixation on clearing out more of my own CRAP (Creative Resources and Projects). Secondhand by Adam Minter is a follow up to his outstanding first book, Junkyard Planet. Personally, I think everyone should read both but Secondhand will be the most relatable. It attempts to answer the question "What happens with our stuff when we die?"
The rest of the books are mostly reliable mystery and intrigue series and a couple of new series for me.
What books do you have to recommend this month?
Nothing to See Here
By Kevin Wilson, Read By Marin Ireland
Mom and I had to take a day trip to Roanoke this month and that entails about 6 hours of driving. I picked this book simply because it's about 6 hours long. It's not a horrible story but it's not the laugh riot that some reviewers said. The cover art is really stupid given the content of the book, it in no way reflects the story.
Lillian and Madison were boarding school roommates. Years later Madison is married to a rich politician and Lillian is down on her luck but they keep in touch. Now Madison's step-children are moving in with her just when her husband might become Secretary of State. She asks Lillian to come and take care of the kids for the summer. There's only one problem: the kids catch on fire when they are upset of disturbed.
The plot isn't very deep and the character development is kind of weak but it was an absolutely fine car book.
The Family Upstairs
By Lisa Jewell, Read by Tamaryn Payne, Bea Holland, Dominic Thorburn
Told from 3 points of view:
Libby Jones who discovers on her 25th birthday that she's inherited a house in Chelsea (London) from her birth family.
Henry and Lucy - a brother and sister who grew up in the house that was taken over by a cult figure.
Like her other books, this one is told back and forth in time revealing the history as Libby is discovering relevant information. If you like Lisa Jewell you will like this one.
By Jared Diamond, Read By Henry Strozier
I really enjoyed his previous book Guns, Germs and Steel but I had to give up on this one. It's supposed to be about nations in crisis and how they dealt with them. Instead there's way too many personal anecdotes.
I quit after Finland.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By Buck Shirmer
This is #10 in the Cork O'Connor mystery series. I needed something reliable after the let down of Upheaval and Cork O'Connor was just the ticket.
Cork is hired to find a missing art gallery owner and the federal government is proposing using an abandoned mine for nuclear waste storage. During the mine protests it's discovered that the Vermilion Drift shaft has a previously unknown entrance there are a number of bodies discovered, most from a 40 years ago.
Don't Believe It
By Charlie Donlea, Read By Nina Alvamar
This is the third book I've read by Donlea and I'll say that this author can really create a story with twists.
Sidney Ryan created the most watched documentary on TV. The Girl of Sugar beach documents the conviction of Grace Sebold of the murder of her boyfriend, Julian. She's been in a St Lucia jail for 10 years when Sidney takes on her case. Her investigation uncovers issues with the original evidence and case. The public outcry causes Grace to be released just as Sidney receives a letter telling her that she's got it all wrong.
I couldn't put it down.
By Adam Minter, Read By Daniel Henning
I loved Minter's Junkyard Planet so I couldn't wait to listen to Secondhand. I am especially appreciative that he stays out of the politics of environmentalism and instead focuses on hard facts about secondhand trading in things like clothing, electronics and cars. He starts with a question: What happens to people's stuff when they die? The answer is interesting and not straight-forward. He takes us through local thrift stores, Goodwill, electronics recyclers in Ghana, rag processors in Mumbai and secondhand stores in Japan. As in Junkyard Planet, we are reminded that there's good and bad in our consumer society but that free markets are a very efficient way to solve problems, including problems of dealing with waste.
One particular story that I appreciated was his trips to Ghana and explaining the secondhand electronics market there. He tells the real story that journalists got wrong in their sensationalized reports of ewaste dumping. The real story is much more interesting but governments have passed legislation that may cause more environmental harms than good based on the sensational reports.
It's another fascinating read by Minter and everyone interested in conservation should read it.
Murder on Black Swan Lane
By Andrea Penrose, Read By James Cameron Stewart
This is the first book in a new-to-me series set in Regency England. Actually the 3rd, and newest, book in the series came up in an Audible newsletter and as I was looking into it I discovered that I had bought this one in 2017 and never listened to it. I enjoyed it immensely. Fans of Anne Perry would like this series.
Charlotte Sloane draws satirical cartoons under her husband's pen name AJ Quill since he died 8 months ago. She keeps herself afloat along with 2 street urchins that she live with her. The Earl of Wrexford is a bored private scientist who's been publicly condemned by the Reverend Halsworthy. When Halsworthy is found dead Wrexford is the first suspect. He enlists Sloane's help in finding the true killer.
Lots of action, clever dialogue and Dickensian characters. It's perfectly narrated by James Cameron Stewart (Lord Ellesmere in Outlander).
By Ben Coes, Read By Ari Fliakos
This is the 8th book in the Dewey Andreas series. Andreas is a covert CIA operative who has decided that he's done with the CIA, until the President pays him a personal visit. The trouble is that the leader of North Korea has learned that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He's decided to go out in a blaze of glory but attacking the US with nuclear missiles. They need Dewey to stop it.
It's action packed for sure but the story line is even more outrageous than in previous books. This genre is known for absurd plot lines but this one even stretches commonly accepted absurdity. There's also a sub-plot that I never really understood except if it's there just to set up the next novel. I still enjoyed the ride though. Fliakos did a great job with the narration.
A Test of Wills
By Charles Todd, Read By Samuel Gillies
This is the first in a long series based around Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge. Rutledge has just returned from service in WWI. Like many soldiers he returns with his own ghosts and demons. His new assignment is to a difficult case in a small village and not a few people hope that he fails.
I'm not totally sold on this series yet. But I may give the series a try.
Murder on the Orient Express
By Agatha Christie, Read By Dan Stephens
That's right. I've never read this book before! I'm not about to write a review for one of the most popular books of all time but I will say that I certainly recommend this particular production. It's narrated by Dan Stephens (Matthew on Downton) and he's exceptional! It takes serious talent to do so many different voices and accents and actually keep them all in order.
The Western Star
By Craig Johnson, Read By George Guidall
This is the 13th book in the Walt Longmire series and it's the last one I will read. It's funny that I read this after Murder on the Orient Express because this was a total play on that book. Walt is getting his weapons certification when a young sheriff points out a photo of a group of sheriffs in front of the Wyoming Star train. It was taken before Walt's fateful first and last trip on the train. That story is overlaid with the upcoming compassionate parole hearing for the person who caused what happened on that train.
The train story is a total steal from MOTOE and the story flips back and forth between the events on the train and current day drama over the parole hearing. In the audio version there's no real break to let you know that there's a new chapter so it took a while to get used to the transitions.
Simultaneously, there's a side story with Catie that's a clear set up for the next book. I've read the reviews for the next book (which aren't so good) and with the way this book went I've decided that this series has finished for me.
I was so looking forward to The Beekeeper of Aleppo but I just couldn't get into it.
Songbird is the first book in a new series. Apparently Grainger has another detective series and this one is a spinoff. It's a police procedural but an incredibly tedious police procedural. Additionally the main character is supposed to be a young detective and the narrator is clearly an older posh gentleman. It doesn't work.
I found both of these books too tedious to stick with.
As I look back on the month this was a very non-fiction heavy month. In non-fiction I really enjoyed The Eighth Sister and The Perfume Collector. In non-fiction my favorites were Shoe Dog and Chase Darkness With Me. But the most important book that I read was Scam Me If You Can. I highly recommend it to everyone.
I didn't read as much as usual this month but that's because we've been having fun with our visiting friends. They leave next week so I'll have lots of reading time in February.
What ahve you read lately that you would recommend?
By Phil Knight, Read By Norbert Leo Butz
I've been hearing about this book for a couple of years and I'm so glad I finally read it. It's so popular that almost 4 years after publication there's still a waiting list at my library. Simply, it's the story of the idea and building of Nike. What started as an idea in business school to import high quality, affordable running shoes from Japan eventually became the Goliath of sports apparel, Nike.
For those who think that rich people are evil and do not deserve their rewards, this would be a good read. It chronicles the decades of effort, sacrifice and risk that was required to build a successful shoe business. He never had a plan to build Nike as we know it but the perseverance and talent of the team he gathered eventually became Nike.
This is a great book for college business students, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in a good old American success story. It's not just about business. It's actually more about the relationships that are at the heart of this successful business. I couldn't put it down.
Some Choose Darkness
By Charlie Donlea
This is the second book that I've read from Donlea and the 4th he's written. His books aren't really murder mysteries. Instead they are stories that delve into the minds and motivations of murderers. There's always an element of going back and forth in time to perfectly explain a clue that's just been found. I'm not normally a fan of the time switching but he handles it really well.
In this one Rory Moore is a forensic reconstructonist who can masterly reconstruct and solve old murders. She's about to start a new one when her father dies. In clearing out his legal cases she finds one for "The Thief" who was convicted of murdering his wife, Angela, and is suspected in a series of messing women in 1979. He's up for parole and the judge forces her (also a lawyer) to handle the case because it's been delayed so many times. She begins to reconstruct Angela's last days and finds things that she may not want to know. I enjoyed it.
By Amaryllis Fox, Read by the author
I've got really mixed feelings about this book. Fox joined the CIA shortly after college. She was first approached by clandestine services while a student at Oxford but turned that down. She was approached by the CIA while in graduate school in the US. This is her story of her life as a covert field agent in the CIA.
It's very interesting and seems like it could be real but in the epilogue it's made clear that the events and people are all changed. That makes sense because I couldn't see any situation where the CIA would have allowed this book to be published with that kind of detail. I didn't find anything to be too surprising except that life of a covert agent is a lot more interesting in novels.
I expect that she was recruited mostly because she was from a wealthy family, she's VERY smart and has traveled extensively throughout the world. It seemed easy for her to create her backstory because it could have easily been her real life. What the CIA taught her was how to have a few clandestine meetings and evade tracking. It was interesting.
Once again I have to stress this point: AUTHORS SHOULD NOT NARRATE THEIR OWN BOOKS!
Along the Broken Bay
By Flora J Soloman, Read by Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Set in Manila in 1941 when the Japanese invade the Philippines, this is a novel about Gina Thorpe. Gina and her daughter escape to the mountains and she begins helping the Guerrilla fighters. Eventually she moves back to Manila to join an underground army of smugglers.
Meanwhile she awaits word of her husband who is assumed to be in a POW camp.
I love historical fiction but this wasn't one of my favorites. It's not bad, but not great. I felt like the Gina character was often an idiot and wouldn't have survived in the real world of Manila at that time. I also felt that some of the events/actions weren't true to that time. For example, a telegram with full sentences. That never happened because you paid by the word so no one included "a" and "the". Telegrams were more akin to text messages today.
The reader gets great reviews on Audible but I really didn't like her. Her voice is too soft and she should be narrating romance novels instead.
Chase Darkness With Me
Written and read by Billy Jensen
Billy Jensen investigates unsolved murders and has a podcast called The Murder Squad with retired cold case investigator, Paul Holes. I didn't really know what I was getting into with this book. It was a sale book on Audible and I love the ID channel and true crime stories so I gave it a try. It tuned out to be a fun listen.
Billy tells parts of the story of his life to explain how he got into this line of work and then details steps he took in several of the cases that he's worked. Much of the book also covers The Golden State Killer because it was investigated by a friend of his and was the first case solved with genealogy using related DNA.
It turns out that this is also a "how to" book. At the end he gives great advice on how to get into assisting with case investigations. It was a fun read.
The Eighth Sister
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Eduardo Ballerini
This is the in a new series featuring Charles Jenkins, a retired CIA case officer. He now has security consulting business that he and his wife run and it's not doing well. His major client is behind in paying.
His former bureau chief shows up and asks him to travel undercover to Russia to determine why members a cell of long time embedded spies are being murdered. They are called the 7 sisters.
Robert Dugoni has become one of my favorite authors and I'd listen to Eduardo Ballerini read the phone book. This was fast paced and full of action and the scenes are sharp.
Scam Me If You Can
By Frank Abagnale, Read by Jason Culp
Frank Abagnale is one of the greatest scam artists of all time. He was prolific in his late teens and early 20's before he was finally caught and jailed. He was played by Leonardo DiCaprio on the 2002 movie, Catch Me If You Can.
Since his release (he's in his 60's now) he's been working in the security industry helping companies avoid hacking and scams.
Buy this book (it will be better in paper than audio), read it and then pass it on to everyone in your family to read it. It will be the best thing that you do this year. Read it even if you think you are totally scam proof. I read a lot on the topic of personal security and feel like I am pretty well educated in this arena but I learned several new things from this book.
The Perfume Collector
By Kathleen Tessaro
1955, London: Grace Monroe is married and a member of the best social circles. Her life seems idyllic. One evening she receives a letter from Paris that she has received an inheritance only she has no idea who her benefactor, Eva d'Orsay, is.
So begins her journey to Paris to discover the source of this inheritance. Eva's story begins in 1920's New York and is told through 3 perfumes that she inspired.
If you are a fan of Kate Morton, you will enjoy The Perfume Collector.
Written and read by Scott Adams
I've always thought that Dilbert was brilliant. It's clear that Scott Adams is really a philosopher in the way that Dilbert responds to situations that we are all too familiar with. This is his philosophy on critical thinking.
This is a short book (6 hours) but I was able to get it from the library and decided to give it a try. It's a really interesting primer on critical thinking. If you know someone who spends all day in a news bubble they might benefit from this book.
It's the last book report of the year! If my spreadsheet is right, I read 109 books this year and my total since 1995 (when I started keeping records) is 1446. That's all pretty meaningless but the accountant in me likes keeping track. I think that half of my books this year came from the library so I've saved about $400 off my Audible bill and that stat isn't meaningless at all!
This month my favorite book, hand down, is Me by Elton John. What good books have you read lately? What was your favorite book this year? It's hard for me to choose but if pressed I'd probably name Once Upon a River as my favorite fiction book and Sapiens as my favorite non-fiction.
By Elton John, Read By Taron Egerton
What a great book! Imagine that you are at a dinner party with a great storyteller and you don't want the evening to end. That's how I felt listening to this book. It's clear that Elton John has reached a point in his life where he's perfectly happy. Because of that he was able to look back on his life with honestly and humor. It's an amazing life and he's lucky to be alive.
If you like music history, Elton John music or just love a good biography you should read this book. The narrator is OUTSTANDING. There were times when I thought that Elton was reading the book. It makes sense because Taron Egerton was the person who played Elton in the musical Rocketman.
Down the River unto the Sea
By Walter Mosley, Read by Dion Graham
Walter Mosley is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely love is Easy Rawlins series. This novel introduces a new character, Joe King Oliver. Oliver is a former NYPD investigator who was framed and ended up in solitary at Rikers. The novel starts 10 years later when he's a private detective. He's received a card in the mail from the woman who was paid to frame him. Now he's investigating his own case along with the case of a black radical journalist accused of killing 2 police officers.
Mosely is a master of creating memorable and sympathetic characters even when those characters live on the "edge" of society.
The Ride of a Lifetime
By Robert Iger
I love non-fiction but generally avoid contemporary autobiographies because I think it's difficult for people to be truly honest in telling their own stories. In this book Iger did a masterful job of really avoiding telling much personal information and that's OK.
Iger has been the CEO of Disney for over 15 years and this book tells the story of the instinct, dedication and just plain hard work it takes to run a company as big as Disney. During his tenure Disney acquired Pixar, Lucasfilms, Marvel and 21st Century Fox. They also opened a Disney park in Shanghi.
Through the book you get an understanding of just how long deals like these take to complete and integrate. For someone new in business or studying business this would be a very valuable book to read. There's some great advice for people who manage teams and projects. I enjoyed it.
What Rose Forgot
By Nevada Barr, Read By Kate Burton
Rose Dennis is a hippie step-grandmother who wakes up in a hospital gown in a field. Two boys on bicycles find her and return her to the Alzheimer's Unit in a nursing home. She knows something is wrong when she overhears someone saying that she will not last the week.
She avoids taking her medication to keep her head clear so she can escape. After escaping from the nursing home and hiding out at her home, someone tries to murder her. But Grandma is one tough cookie and thwarts the murder attempt.
Her computer expert sister, Marion, and granddaughter, Mel help her find out who is after her while someone is determined to kill her.
It's not a great book but hippie Grandma as heroine was refreshing. I don't think it was intended but the book was quite funny and would make a great movie.
By Mason Cross, Read By Eric Meyers
This is the 3rd book in the Carter Blake series. 5 years ago Carter Blake left the secret government organization Winterlong. Now one of the people who made a deal with him to leave him alone for his silence has decided that he can't risk the deal any longer. He's set out to eliminate Blake.
Lots of action and Blake is a fun character but there's confusion in the writing. The story skips between many events are different times and, maybe because of the audio format, it's a little difficult to keep track.
Although the writing isn't as good as it should be it kept my interest and I might keep reading the series. I think it is important to read these books in order.
Upstairs at the White House
By J. B. West, Read By Jason Martin
This bookwas first published in 1973 and was a best seller for months. Mr. West was the Chief Usher at the White house and was the person closest to the President's family. His tenure at the White House covered the Presidencies from Roosevelt to Nixon.
It's not a salacious laundry airing but an honest look at what life in the White House was like for the First Families. You learn what the residents were like as people and how the White House is run. I found it very interesting.
The Girls in the Garden
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Colleen Premdergast
This is the third Jewell book that I've read this year. It's my least favorite but still a good book.
The setting is a community garden in London. Everyone fees that their children are safe until a midsummer's night party when Grace is found dead. What unfolds is background on family relationships in the neighborhood, some history about a previous death and jealous relationships among the teens in the neighborhood.
I enjoyed the story but it was a bit difficult to follow all of the characters in the book, especially the teens.
The Night Fire
By Michael Connelly
Read by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin
This is #22 in the Bosch series and #3 in the Ballard series.
Harry's mentor John Jack Thompson has died and his widow gives Harry a murder book that Thompson took with him when he retired. It looks like no work was ever really done on it. Bosch takes it to Ballard to help him work it. They soon discover that he may have taken the book so that it never got solved.
Adding Renee Ballard has kept the Bosch series fresh and moving forward. There are secondary investigations and precinct politics to add to the story.
An Obvious Fact
By Craig Johnson, Read By George Guidall
It's been a few years since I've read a Walt Longmire novel. They don't meet my 10 hour minimum for purchase from Audible but I've discovered that my library has them. They are a good light read so I picked this one to read this weekend between football games and spending time with our visitors.
The TV series kind of ruined the book series for me because I didn't like several of the casting choices in the series but I love George Guidall as a narrator for Walt.
In this middle of the Sturgis motorcycle rally a young motorcyclist is run off the road and ends up in critical condition. Walt is asked to help investigate. Henry Standing Bear and Vic are along to assist. This one involves an old love of Henry's, Lola.
These books aren't high literature but I really enjoy the banter and clever dialogue and they are very entertaining.
I've been watching a lot of football this month so my reading time has been restricted some. But I still made it through 8 books. It's was a pretty mediocre month of books but I loved Bloody Genius and Watching You.
What have you been reading?
By Jennifer Weiner, Read By Ari Graynor and Beth Manone
Two sisters grow up in 1950's Detroit and we follow them through their lives to modern times. In their journey they experience every possible feminist/progressive conundrum: religious discrimination, racism, sexual molestation/rape, lesbianism, interracial relationships, drug culture, free love and the predictable consequences, motherhood (or not), etc.
The author envisions that she is presenting a modern day Little Women and goes so far as to name her characters Jo and Beth and then makes them so self-absorbed that they aren't particularly likable. They don't seem particularly self-aware or aware of the consequences their actions have on themselves or others. As young people, don't seem to really give their decisions a lot of thought to begin with. They both are followers and fall into relationships or groups almost by happenstance. One part that really bothered me was Beth (as an adult) blaming Jo for something that happened to her when they were both teens that Jo didn't know about but, when she did find out, helped her fix. The meltdown later in life was unfair and unrealistic.
It's not a bad book but it's not great. It's really predictable and is clearly written to appeal to and fire up the modern day feminist. It seems to convey a message that consequences are unfair and that sentiment certainly feeds from current social thought.
Two things I found really interesting. One is that there are lots of sex scenes but the only ones described in detail are the lesbian scenes. Scenes between men and women are glossed over. I feel like she was doing that purposely to try to make certain readers particularly uncomfortable and I think it's a cheap trick.
Secondly, aside from their strong father, the book is all about women from start to finish. In the end there seems to finally be some family peace and it all centers on a little boy. That doesn't seem so feminist after all. Women can't get along without men in their lives?
The Fifth Column
By Andrew Gross, Ready By Eduardo Ballerini (my favorite narrator)
This is the third book that I've read from Andrew Gross. I almost didn't read it because it didn't meet my 10-hour minimum but I got it from the library (free) and that made it OK. :)
The fifth column is a term used to refer to any group that works to undermine a larger group from within. In this case it's Nazi sympathizers in NYC in 1940 working to wage war on the US from within.
Charles Mossman is 2 years out of jail from a drunken mistake and trying to rebuild a relationship with his 6 year old daughter and get his life back together. He comes to suspect that the kind Swiss neighbors are actually part of a sinister Nazi conspiracy. The problem is that Charles has no credibility and no one believes him. Once Pearl Harbor happens the conspiracy is activated and Charles is the only one who can see it but now his daughter is in danger.
This isn't as good as Button Man partly because Charles isn't a very sympathetic character. He makes a lot of bad and naive decisions that you can see coming from a mile away. But it's well written and a good story.
A Beautiful Place to Die
By Malla Nunn, Read By Saul Reichlin
This is the 1st in the Emmanuel Cooper series. The book is set in 1952 South Africa and Cooper is sent to a remote town ti investigate the murder of the local police captain. It is set the early days of Apartheid so the plot is complicated by the relationships between black, white and blended South Africa.
I have mixed feelings about the book. I liked the characters and the plot but for some reason I had a hard time sticking with it. It seemed to take some work to keep up. I'm not sure I'll read others in the series although I did enjoy having a totally different setting and environment for a story.
Behind Her Eyes
By Sarah Pinborough, Read By various readers
This book was recommended by a friend. I read the summary and didn't think I would like it (because it's not my genre) but I decided to give it a try when I saw that I could get it from the library for free.
Louise is a single Mom and a secretary. One night she meets a man in a bar and she feels a deep attraction. They only kiss and then he's gone until she arrives at work the following Monday and finds out he's her new boss. She meets his wife, Adele, while they are on a tour of the clinic offices. Later she bumps into Adele and they become friends. Now she's involved in both of their lives.
One the one hand it's a love triangle but it's also a dark psychological thriller. I was good with it up to that point and about half way through I realized that there was going to be a need to dispense with reality. I'll only say that there's an exploration of lucid dreams. Once I saw that coming I searched the web to find out the ending, realized that I would hate it and I stopped reading. I don't even like the idea of Disneyland's made up world as a vacation idea so this book was never really going to appeal to me.
All that said, if you like psychological thrillers or fantasy/mystical books I think you would really enjoy this. It's a very unique storyline and it's well written. It's just not my bag.
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Gabrielle Glaister
I don't know which of you is responsible for introducing me to Lisa Jewell but, thank you. I've found a new "must read" author. This is the second Jewell book I've read and I really enjoyed both of them.
Set on an upscale street in fictional Melville Heights in Bristol, England amid the famous painted houses. The cast of characters include Tom Fitzwilliam, local school headmaster, his wife and teen aged son who likes to spy on people in the area. Joey Mullen, newly married and living with her brother and pregnant SIL, a student with a mother who thinks that Tom is spying on her and a student with a crush on Tom. It's all complex and integrated but not so complex that you can't follow it.
You know early on what happened at the end but you don't know who or why. I was hooked by this very clever book. The narrator was excellent too. I'm off to reserve another Jewell book at the library.
Songs of Willow Frost
By Jamie Ford, Read By Ryan Gesell
This is my second book by Ford. I absolutely loved the first one, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
This one is similar. It's set in Depression-era Seattle and centers on a young boy who has been living in Sacred heart Orphanage since his mother's body was carried away from their apartment 5 years ago. One day he and the other orphans are taken to a local theater where he sees the actress Willow Frost and he's convinced that she is his mother.
He and his blind friend, Charlotte, escape to find her.
I didn't think it was a good as his first book but it's still good. It's quite dark and I feel like he has done a lot of research into the reality of life for Chinese people in Seattle during that time.
The Child Finder
By Rene Denfeld, Read By Alyssa Bresnahan
This another example of a book that I took a risk on simply because I could get it free from the library. I was underwhelmed.
The premise is good. Madison Culver has been missing for 3 years in Oregon's Skoookum National Forest. She would be 8 years old now. Naomi is everyone's last hope. She's known as The Child Finder because of "unique" investigative techniques to find missing children. Naomi was once a missing child herself.
As she searches for Madison (and another child recently missing) she starts to remember things from her own past.
This would have been really good if Naomi used techniques that are actually different and special. Her techniques are very basic investigative techniques and there's no way those techniques wouldn't have been used by the real investigators 3 years earlier. The community is also small and people would have noticed the things that she was asking about all on their own.
Abduction is a pretty dark topic so be prepared if you decided to read this one.
By John Sandford, Read By Eric Conger
I've been waiting for this book for weeks from the library. This is #12 in the Virgil Flowers series. At a local university a renowned researcher is found dead at the library. After the investigation languishes for 2 weeks Virgil is called in to assist.
There are ideological zealots, ex-wives and a daughter among the possible suspects.
Like all Sandford novels it's fast paced and funny. It was a good ending to the month.
Next up is Elton John's autobiography.
You can tell that it's football season because I only read 8 books this month! I also had several days of down time as I replaced my phone and had to get the new one set up. But I'm mostly happy with my 8 choices. I was only unhappy with The Perfect Horse. The month was a little heavy on psychological thrillers but the month ended on a hilarious note with Campusland.
What have you read this month that you would recommend?
The Home Front
An Audible Original
As an Audible member I get access to a couple of free books each month. I rarely listen to one because they are generally only a few hours long and not on topics that I'm interested in. But this one caught my interest.
It is a compilation of interviews done during WWII of the people at home. You get a first hand view of rationing, women going to work, types of war time jobs and other aspects of living during war times. It was interesting to hear the thoughts and opinions of the people who were there.
The Perfect Horse
By Wlizabeth Letts, Read By Paul Boehmer
Letts wrote one of my favorite books, The Eighty Dollar Champion, so I was excited to read another of her books. Unfortunately this one didn't do it for me.
The story is a cool one. During WWII the Nazi's stole the famous Lipizzaner stallions. The plan was to build a master race of stallions but near the end of the war the horses were in danger of being killed for food. The US captured a Nazi spy and discovered photographs of the horses in his briefcase. That set of a chain of events that resulted in an effort to rescue the stallions.
I loved her first book because it was all about a relationship between one man and his horse. This one is more of a history story and just didn't hold my attention. I was also a bit disturbed by the focus on the horses when so much human suffering was going on all around. In defense of the decision to rescue the horses, the military group sent for the rescue was small. If you like horses and history you might enjoy this one.
The Kind Worth Killing
By Peter Swanson, Read By several narrators
On a flight from London to Boston Ted and Lily meeting in the concourse bar and start sharing intimate details about their lives. Ted reveals that his wife, Miranda, is cheating on him and that he would kill her if he could. Lily offers to help. As the story unfolds we are treated to flashbacks from both of their lives and we learn that Lily has a background in murder.
This is like Gone Girl but better. Don't read it before bed through.
A Noise Downstairs
By Linwood Barclay, Read By George Newbern
I'm not sure how I would up reading 2 psychological thriller back to back but that's how it works sometimes with library holds. You get them when you get them.
I've read several Barclay books before, my favorite being No Time For Goodbye. I didn't feel this one was quite as good but it wasn't awful.
Paul Davis is a boring college professor, a real "good guy". One night he happens upon a crime being committed by a coworker. The coworker attacks him but he is saved by an arriving police officer. After months of physical healing he is now seeing a therapist for emotional healing. Then a bunch of weird things start happening. There are several twists but, honestly, I figured most of it out early on in the book and I'm not usually good at that.
By Debbie Herbert, Read By various readers
This is the first in a new psychological thriller series set in Normal, AL.
Fourteen year old Violet's friend, Ainsley, is missing and presumed dead. Everyone in this small town suspects Violet but Violet remembers nothing. She ends up in psychiatric hospitals until she's 21. Once released she returns to Normal to help her evil sister care for her father with dementia.
The story is narrated by each of the characters and it turns out that each character is to varying degrees, despicable. The town is full of secrets and it's time they all come out in the open. Lots of twists, some of which are just a twist too far. If you like psychological thrillers you might enjoy this one.
By Timothy Winegard, Read By Mark Deakins
If you have read any history you know that there's almost always a disease angle. This book makes me think that someone created an elaborate Excel spreadsheet of historical events and then created a Pivot table of deaths caused by disease (vs injury) and had a "holy crap" moment of realization that the mosquito is our apex predator. According to this book, it's estimated that the mosquito is responsible for the deaths of 52 billion people out of a total of 108 billion in out history. That's a darned good success rate and makes me want to order gallons of DEET because mosquitoes absolutely adore me.
This is your basic world and American history course taught from the perspective of the mosquito's influence on historical events from the fall of Rome, Genghis Khan, fall of Scotland to England, Spanish conquests of America, American Revolution, etc. He also talks about current research into mosquito/mosquito disease eradication efforts like CRISPR. All in all, it's a pretty interesting read.
Contrast that with another history book that I've tried to read recently. How To Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr has outstanding reviews but is one of the most boring books I've tried to read. I've found it's perfect for bedtime listening. I turn it on with a timer and I'm asleep in no time.
By Belinda Bauer, Read by Andrew Wincott
Eleven year old Jack and his sisters are left in the car while their Mother goes to call for help. She says she will be right back and she leaves Jack in charge. Little does he know that he will be in charge forever now.
Three years later his father has disappeared and Jack is in charge of supporting himself and his two sisters. He's also just figured out what happened to his mother.
This isn't a standard mystery. There are instead some seemingly unrelated threads that cross over and come together throughout the book. Bauer writes truly unique stories. The start of this one was a little difficult for me to keep organized but everything came together and I was riveted until the end.
By Scott Johnston, Narrated By Casey Turner
What a breath of fresh air this book was for me. It's a laugh out loud satire of current campus absurdities.
Lulu Harris, a wealthy socialite wannabe has arrived at the elite Devon University and is not happy with her tiny closet and shared dorm room. She's much more interested in her social media followers than on education. Eph Russel is her 19th Century English class and Red Wheeler is a trust fund baby in his 7th year and fancies himself the most woke guy on campus. Rounding it all out is Mitlon Strauss, campus president who thinks that he expertly manages aggrieved student groups, billionaire donors, petty faculty and the high paid Dean of Diversity and Inclusion.
I'm honestly not sure that it's all satire but it's hilariously funny unless you are triggered by satire. The narrator is a little annoying, especially at first. She eventually grew on me but if you read and listen to books you might want to read this one.
Even a mediocre book is better than no book and that point is proven over and over in September. You are about to read a lot of negative. It just wasn't my best month for picking books. I think that's because most of this month's selections came from the library. When I buy books from Audible I try to make sure that it's a book that I will love, after all I'm paying for it. I allow myself more risks in book selection from the library because they are "free". A couple were to try out new authors and now I know that these authors aren't my cup of tea and that's OK. Only one book was bad enough to just stop reading but a couple of others I did speed up to get them over with!
All that said, the month ended on a really good note with Johnny Cash, Boys Life and Flash Boys.
What books do you have to recommend to the rest of us this month?
An Elegant Defense
By Matt Richtel, Narrated By Fred Sanders
Being an allergic person, I'm fascinated by the workings of the immune system so I was looking forward to this book. It's about the current science around the immune system and is told through 4 patients: someone who has natural immunity against HIV/AIDS, someone with rheumatoid arthritis, someone with lymphoma and someone with lupus. the primary "character" is Jason, his childhood friend. Jason has recurring lymphoma.
Some diseases are a result of something overpowering or taking control of our immune systems and some diseases are a result of our immune systems overacting.
The book was rather choppy jumping from person to person and there was way too much content about Jason and his life. The truth is that there's tons of immune system research going on right now but not a lot of really new discoveries. Many of the current treatments are designed to turn the immune system off and that brings a whole other set of risks. I didn't really take away a lot of insights.
The Couple Next Door
By Shari Lapena, Narrated By Kristen Potter
Anne and Marco Conti seem to be a happy young couple. One night the neighbors invite them next door for a celebration dinner but the baby is not invited. (Clue 1) They leave the baby home and take the baby monitor with them. They check on the baby every half hour but when come home baby Cora is gone. There is a detective and "investigation" but that part is really superficial and the twists and turns of the story unfold.
I was really underwhelmed with this book. Mediocre writing, unlikable stereotypical characters and overloaded plot twists. It's kind of a bad version of Gone Girl.
By Andrews and Wilson, Narrated By Ray Porter
This is the 3rd in the Tier One series. It's "clandestine operations" genre thriller. John Dempsey and his secret anti terror unit, Ember, is mobilized after an attack on American and Israeli cabinet officials are attacked on US soil. No surprise that it's the nemesis that they missed in the last book. You do have to read these books in order.
This time Dempsey is working with his counterparts in Moussad and headed undercover into Iran. Lots of fast paced action. All 3 of the first books in this series are anti-Islamic-terrorist focused. The book ends with a hint that the series is moving to thwart Communist attacks next.
One of the things that I like about this series is that with each book there is character development. People come in and out of the story, characters develop and roles change.
By David McCullough, Narrated By John Bedford Lloyd
I love McCullough's books. Some of my favorites are The Great Bridge, The Wright Brothers and The Johnstown Flood. I will generally read anything he's written and was excited about this new one.
The Pioneers is billed as a story about the pioneers of the Northwest Territory. It's really about the settling of one town that is Marietta, Ohio today.
Over vacation Chris and our friend, Ian, read it. It turns out that we all stopped at about the same point (2/3 through). It's surprisingly tedious. It's as if he had some leftover notes from other books and thought that he might compile them all into one new book. There are many better book about the settling of the Midwest.
The Lost Girls of Paris
By Pam Jenoff, Narrated By Elizabeth Knoweldon, Henrietta Meire and Candace Thaxton
I love historical fiction and usually really love historical fiction about the WWII era. This one is about a group if female British radio operators agents sent to France shortly before D-Day. All I can say is that if Britain had agents so poorly trained and poorly disciplined in the real war we would all be speaking German now.
The book as an added element tied to an American woman, Grace, in NYC who finds photos of the women and inexplicably sets out to learn about them.
There are so many problems with this tale starting with the whole Grace storyline. It makes no sense to have it included and the character is about as hapless as the agents. Her narrator, Candace Thaxton, perormed one of most annoying narrations that I've ever read. She should be reading young adult and children's books with her sappy sing-song voice.
The agents, called "the girls" and "my girls" so often that it became incredibly annoying. No one that every worked with them ever called them "agents" or "women"? I don't think so. The primary agent, Marie, moved haphazardly though the story completely ignoring her training or directions and advice from in-country agents. Every time she was warned not to do something she did it anyway.
Start to finish, this book was annoying. Had I read the Audible reviews before getting the book from the library I would have never read it.
Johnny Cash: The Life
By Robert Hilburn, Narrated By Charles Pittard
First off, I'm not much of a Country music fan and have never been a Johnny Cash fan. I read this book because I read the biography of Sam Phillips and discovered that it was Phillips who discovered Cash along with Elvis, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. I had gotten a bit of information about Cash in that book and I though this one might be interesting. I was not disappointed.
This is an incredibly in-depth look at life of a music visionary who was also a deeply flawed human being. All of it is presented honestly by someone who clearly knew Johnny Cash well but also respected him for what he brought to the world of music.
It was fun to read sections of the book and then head to YouTube to find the video or music tracks to go along with the stories. His drug use and relentless need to always work really destroyed his body. Had he made better decisions he might still be alive today but when you read this book you realize that he lived about 7 normal lifetimes in his one. If you like biographies and like music I think you will love this book.
By Robert McCammon, Narrated By George Newbern
I picked up this book because it's by one of my favorite mystery authors. He writes the Matthew Corbett series. This book was written in 1991 so it's old enough to be classic" now. It deserves that category.
The story is about a boy named Cory Mackenson is 11 years old and growing up in Zephyr, AL in the 1960's. It's a pretty idyllic place for a young boy to grow up. His father delivers milk and one morning Cory is with him on a delivery when they witness a car plunging into a very deep lake. There's a dead man tied to the steering wheel. They know that once the car sinks that it will never be found again. When now one is ever reported missing the case has to remain unsolved.
This event begins the process of leaving childhood behind and recognizing (and experiencing) all of the elements of life from pure evil to people with seemingly mystical powers. It is a beautifully written book and I'd think that it would be a great one for a family to read together because there's a lot to think and talk about with the variety of characters and situations that occur.
Call The Midwife
By Jennifer Worth, Narrated By Nicola Barbor
This book kept showing up on my Audible recommended list. I wasn't sure I would like it but found it at the library and decided it was worth the risk (free). I'm so glad I didn't pay for it! It gets rave reviews and I understand why. If you are into childbirth (I'm not) and are curious about what it was like in the 1950's in the poor parts of London then you will be fascinated.
It's really a collection of essay or short-stories. It's not a continuing story. It kind of reminds me to the way that Joe Kenda presents murder cases on the ID channel.
The two things that annoyed me are 1) the author couldn't seem to decide if she was telling the story of a fully qualified and confident midwife or the story of an unbelievably innocent young girl and 2) the narrator! The narrator tried to turn this into some sort of drama with nearly whispered scenes all told in the voice of an English teenager. She drove me batty. I'm pretty sure now that I will not be the least interested in the series. My Mom was a nurse, I saw all I needed of that world growing up. But if you are thinking that you might listen to it please go to Audible first and listen to a sample to see if you can tolerate the narrators voice.
By Michael Lewis, Narrated By Dylan Baker
Michael Lewis writes a lot of really interesting non-fiction. Two of his books, Blind Side and Moneyball, were made into movies. This one explores the dark underbelly of a part of the financial transaction systems of wall street.
When you place a stock trade order it looks simple. You issue a buy order and someone else is willing to sell you that stock for the market price. Simple, right? Of course not!
There's an entire system behind those trades that operates on speed. That speed allows them to get to a transaction is milliseconds faster than another trader. This dark and secretive world makes hundredths of pennies by getting to that trade first. You don't notice it but given the volume of daily trading those bits of pennies add up to millions of dollars in profits without having any risk associated with stock ownership.
A small group of Wall Street traders figured this out and created an exchange where this kind of activity can't take place.
Michael Lewis does a great job of taking esoteric topics and making them interesting for the rest of us. You've got to be interested in this type of thing to get into this book. I really enjoyed it.
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.
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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