Since my Saturday posts are reserved for Customer Gems I'm posting my book reviews a day early. That works fine because there's no way I'll finish the current book before Sunday.
This was kind of a weird book month. I have a lot of variety in my genre's (well, variety for me) and not a lot of stand outs. Of course John Adams was great because everything David McCullough writes is excellent. Beijing Red brings a new series to me so that's always good. A Man Called Ove was probably the biggest let down. Maybe it was just over-hyped and an unrealistic expectation was set.
I have started another novel called What is the What by Dave Eggars. It's the kind of book that I usually love but i'm struggling to stay interested in it. It's less a novel than a flat telling of events. I want to stick with it because I feel like I'll learn alot about Sudan and the "Lost Boys" but I might have to slog this one out to get there. You may or may not see a review of this one in the future.
What have you been reading? Any recommendations for me or other readers?
Waiter to the Rich and Shameless
by Paul Hartford, Narrated by Patrick Cronin
After reading Witness at the end of August I needed something light and airy to read and I got it in this book. Paul Hartford wasn't making it in the music industry and decided to give service a try. He applied and was hired as a bartender at The Cricket Room (it's easy to figure out that he's talking about the Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel). This is his story of 10 years as a bartender and waiter at one of the most exclusive restaurants in the world.
Having spent many early years as a waitress I was interested in reading his story and I could identify a lot with many of the challenges, joys and issues of the service industry. It's peppered with lots of celebrity stories including Paris Hilton, Johnny Depp (accounting for his largest tip), Harrison Ford, Rod Stewart and lots of others.
If you are reading this for the celebrity gossip there might not be enough here to entice you. But if you've ever worked in the service industry you might find this interesting.
by David McCullough, narrated by Nelson Runger
I love early American history and especially the American Revolution. I also love anything written by David McCullough. His biographies are epic and John Adams is a wonderful subject because of the wealth of personal writings that are available from his life.
The book is 30 hours long but still seemed like a fast read. Being a Virginian we studied Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Patrick Henry pretty thoroughly. We learned about John Adams mostly through his rocky relationship with Jefferson and as Washington's Vice President. Now hearing the same from the perspective of Adams gives me a more well-rounded view of that time in history. There was also a wealth of information about he relationship with Abigail and their children.
It's a great read.
By Alex Ryan, Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
A new mystery series! This one features Nick Foley, a former Navy SEAL who now works for a NGO in China providing water sources for poor villages. One of his local co-workers suddenly dies at the site and everyone fears an Ebola-type outbreak.
Nick is first quarantined as a possible carrier and then accused of causing the deaths. Now suddenly he's back in SEAL mode investigating a bioterrorism threat.
This series (and there are 2 books so far) is set in China and I really enjoy the change of venue. It's not as well-written as a John Sandford or Kyle Mills book but it's still good. Alex Ryan is actually a pseudonym for the co-author team of Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson. This is their second series. The other series is Tier One and is co-authored.
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman, Narrated by George Newbern.
My favorite thing about this book was the narrator.
This has been a highly reviewed and recommended book and when it was put on sale I decided to give it a try.
It's set in Sweden is is about an "old curmudgeon" called Ove (pronounced oo-va). He seems to hate all people. Then a cat and some new neighbors show up and things start to change.
The book is told in chapter that alternate between his early life and current life. That part is quite annoying but the biggest issue is that I just can't buy the character. He's supposed to be 59 but would only be believable if he was 79. Look at the image on the book cover. That's not a 59 year old man. It's also really a book about processing grief.
I didn't care for the character development and there's no way that a man with his experiences has so much internalized hatred. He might be quite, have a strict routine and avoid contact with people but he doesn't hate.
This book has gotten rave reviews everywhere but it didn't do a thing for me.
by CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
Free Fire is #7 of 17 in the Joe Pickett series. Joe has been fired from his job as a game warden and is working on his step-father-in-law's ranch when the Governor of Wyoming comes calling. He wants Joe to investigate a murder in Yellowstone. A lawyer has murdered 4 people and, through a legal loophole, has gotten away with it. The legal loophole is fascinating and I'd love to know if it's real.
I picked this one to read after Ove because I knew I could count on Joe Pickett to get the bad taste out of my mind. He did that and also reminded me of the places we visited on our Yellowstone vacation a few years ago. I left this book in a much better reading mood.
Her Daughter's Dream
by Francine Rivers, Narrated by Stina Nielson
This is the second, and last, book in a series. I read the first one and decided to complete the series. It's definitely a religious/inspirational book so if that bugs you then you will hate this one. If you like those kinds of books you will love this series. The series follows 4 generations of women and explores the emotional baggage that they put on each other and carry through their lives.
I thought the first book was better. This one is quite choppy but the thing that bugged me most was how the author handled contemporary times. Some scenes make you think they are happening in the 1960's instead of the 1990's. It's evident in the dialogue and in the technology used/ignored during certain events. The characters cling way too strongly to their baggage too. The amount of drama was totally unnecessary except for the sole purpose of filling pages. It wasn't "real" enough for me.
The narrator is outstanding and that's probably what kept me in it.
A Mercifull Death
by Kendra Elliot, Narrated by Teri Schnaubelt
Mercy Kilpatrick was raised in an off-the-grid prepper family in Eagles Nest, OR. She was forced to leave the family when she was 18. It's 15 years later and she's back as an FBI agent investigating murders and weapons thefts.
It's a good premise and story line but Mercy isn't much of an FBI agent. I think her character is more like a local police officer. Without her childhood knowledge and involvement in a previous she would have never solved this one.
I'd categorize this book as being something between a cozy mystery and a more serious crime mystery. It was a little to light for my taste but it wasn't a bad book.
The Old Man
by Thomas Perry, Narrated by Peter Berkrot
Have you ever finished a book and thought "I don't know what I just went through"?
That was this book.
The old man is Dan Chase, a 60 year old retiree living in Vermont. But Dan Chase isn't Dan Chase. He has numerous identities, money stockpiled in several banks and weapons. None of which he has needed for 35 years ever since a covert operation went awry. Now he's been found and is on the run again.
This is not your everyday spy novel. It's full of twists and twisted characters. Thomas Perry writes a very tight story with well-defined characters. Some people will feel that he left some business unattended at the end but it seemed to end just right for me.
Give this one a try if you are up for something different. I've read several of his book and really enjoyed the Butcher's Boys books.
It looks like August was a light reading month for me. That's partly because we were on vacation for 2 weeks of the month and partly because some of the books are very long.
My two "serious" books, The Admirals and Witness, will not appeal to many but I enjoyed both of them and am very happy that I read Witness.
I liked all of the non-fiction books except Luck and Judgement.
What have you read this month that you loved?
by Walter Borneman, Narrated by Brian Troxell
Well I kicked off the month with a long and serious one. I'll just start off by saying that biographies aren't for everyone. I like them because I retain history lessons better when told through the individuals that were key to the event. I'm horrid with chronological dates.
I don't even know why I picked up this particular book. Although Chris was in the Navy and his Dad was on the USS Luce when it was sunk by a Japanese Kamakaze pilot (he survived) I've never been interested in US Naval history. This one appealed to me because of the uniqueness of these 4 particular men. They are the only Admirals in US Naval history to have been awarded 5 stars. The books was also an Audible Deal of the Day and it had great reviews.
Surprisingly, even to me, I loved it. Yes, it's about the events of the war but it's mostly about these 4 men, their lives, their roles in the war and their distinct personalities. If you are into this kind of book I thin you will really enjoy this one.
The Time it Never Rained
by Elmer Kelton, Narrated by George Guidall
This book was initially published in 1973 but it's still a great story over 4 decades later. It centers around Charlie Flagg, a cattle and sheep rancher in West Texas. He has always struggled but has kept his ranch going decade after decade. When an extended drought settles in he holds out against government programs meant to help and tries to hold his ranch, life and freedom together until the rains come again.
As you are listening to this you feel the slow pace of ranch life and although it's a slow tale you slow down to pace with it instead of getting frustrated. The book really draws you in to live with and to see life from the various perspective of each character. While it's a "old" story, much of what's dealt with parallels things we read about in current events. I really enjoyed this listen.
by Ann Cleeves, Narrated by Gordon Griffin
This is the third book in the Shetland Island series. I admit that I sometimes have trouble following some of the names but I like Inspector Jimmy Perez and some of the quirky characters that live on these remote islands.
It all starts with a young archaeologist finding some ancient bones. Soon the elderly woman who owns the property is killed. What looks like an accidental shooting turns into something else when the archaeologist commits suicide.
It was a great vacation read while I was stitching a lot of shibori while enjoying the beautiful August weather in Maine.
The Burning Room
By Michael Connelly
Although I have this linked to the Audible book I actually read this one in paper. It was one of the books I read while were were on vacation.
This is #19 in the Harry Bosch series. Harry is working cold cases and is teamed up with a new detective, Lucy Soto. They start on one cold case but end up working 3.
There's not much to say about liking or not liking this book because I love all of the Bosch novels. I read Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Kyle Mills and Anne Perry when I want a no-risk great read. Even though I read the paper version I notice that Titus Welliver is now narrating the Bosch books. That seems like a good idea since he is playing Bosch in the TV series.
by Anne Perry
This is #13 in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. It's not available in audio so I took my vacation trip as an opportunity to read the paperback. In this one Thomas and Charlotte are investigating the murder of a judge who is connected to another case that's 5 years old.
I continue to enjoy this series. Anne Perry is an excellent writer and makes you feel that she bringing you right into Victorian England.
Luck and Judgement
by Peter Grainger, Narrated by Gildart Jackson
This is the 3rd book in the DC Smith detective series. I have not read the first 2 books so this must have been an Audible Deal of the Day and, honestly, I didn't care for it.
The story opens with the report of a worker missing from a North Sea oil rig. It seems to be a simple case of accidental death but DC Smith isn't so sure and continues the investigation back onshore.
The plot line is actually really interesting but the characters came off kind of flat to me and there's an annoying amount of sarcasm in EVERY conversation. The dialogue is 10x too clever and it ultimately turned me off. I listened to this on vacation and found myself falling asleep when I was listening to it.
I will say that the Audible review for this book are outstanding so you might want to try the first one in the series to see if you like it.
by Whittaker Chambers, Narrated by John MacDonald
Witness was first published in 1952 and is the true story of Whittaker Chambers' work as a member of the Communist Party spying for the Soviet Union. It is also the story of how Chambers exposed Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy.
Chris and I had about 35 hours of driving for our vacation trip and chose this book (at 30 hours) to listen to during our drive time.
We are both shocked that this book wasn't part of our history study in school. It is a profound book about a critical point in US history. It's also a human nature story because Chambers shares a lot of information to explain how and why this American chose to join the Communist Party, what being a party member requires and what brought him to leave the party and ultimately expose other party members.
I believe this book is as relevant today as it was in 1952 and we are both glad that we read it. Reading it is an undertaking. The detail is, at times, excruciating, but you realize that it is all really necessary and worthwhile.
I can't believe that July is already over! I feel like I am very behind on everything but apparently I stayed up on my reading by finishing 11 books. There was lots of serious reading going on this month with Chain of Title, The Science of Energy, a medical book and American Kingpin. Two of those really read like good crime novels so I'd count them in both categories. In the non-fiction books I think the continuation of the Tracey Crosswhite series was probably my favorite.
What did you read this month that you would recommend? I seriously do look up all of your recommendations. I do have a 10 hour limit meaning that I don't buy books that are less than 10 hours. So sometimes I don't read them just for that reason. I know that seems a bit random but I like long hikes and I find that less than 10 hours is more of a romp. Regardless, leave your recommendations no matter the length or genre because other people like to read them too!
By T.E. Woods, Narrated by Christina Delany
The Fixer is Lydia. She is a clinical psychologist who had a horrible upbringing. Now she dispenses vigilante justice as a hired assassin with morals. But her latest hire is close to home and someone has figured out who she is and is using her to for all of his/her dirty work.
This is the first in the "Justice" series, a new series to me. I wasn't too sure about this one at the beginning. The author introduces the characters through a series of very choppy scenes that only hint at the characters and their motivations. It was a little difficult to track. But about a third of the way in I finally got the hang of it. It's an interesting story and reminds me a little of Karin Slaughter's books and writing style. I'll read more of them.
Chain of Title
By David Dayen, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith
Do you like conspiracy books? If so you will love this one. The catch is that it's not a novel. Everything in this book actually happened and if you are a homeowner or contemplating buying a home, you need to read this book.
This is the story of the mortgage/foreclosure crisis that set off the 2008 recession. I admit, I fell into that group of people who had little sympathy for the millions of Americans being foreclosed on. Chris and I live quite financially conservatively. I remember when we were house shopping in 1996 and we figured out what we could afford and started looking for our first house. I called the bank to get pre-qualified and they qualified us for FOUR TIMES the amount the we felt we could afford. We knew then that something bad was going to happen in housing if that was happening to everyone. We could have never afforded the mortgage or the electricity bill for the size house the bank was willing to lend.
But I didn't know what was going on with title transfers, how the securitization process was really working and how the banks were going about foreclosure. I was familiar with securitization from working in the bank card division of a large bank but only superficially. I did not know the details.
Also, if you are into activism you need to read this too. Often we think of ourselves as activists if we create protest art, write protest opinion pieces or participate in a protest march. That's OK, but it's not real activism. In this book you will see the reality of what it takes to be an effective activist. It takes EVERYTHING and this book gives you the real picture of the lives of 3 activists who really made a difference for us while impacting their own lives is very serious ways. It will also tell you that no matter which politicians tell you they are on "your" side. They are not and it's never more clear than in this event.
by Anna Romer, narrated by Eloise Oxer
Ruby Cardel thinks her life is great but then she finds a black bra in her boyfriend's suit jacket pocket. The same evening at her mother's art opening she meets a woman who was a beloved neighbor when she was growing up at Lyrebird Hill. Three weeks later she accepts the offer to visit her childhood home where her sister died in a terrible accident.
While there her memory of the event slowly begins to return and she discovers so many things about her life that are lies.
Ruby discovers the ancient letters of Brenna Magavin. Brenna is writing from her cell where she is to be hanged for murder.
The book is about both of their lives and how they are connected through the generations. The letters, and being at Lyrebird Hill, help bring Ruby's memory back and it's put her own life in danger.
that all sounds pretty good. It sort of was. It really wasn't a mystery/thriller. It was more romance/mystery/Lifetime movie. I'd put this somewhere between Nora Roberts and Karen White. It was a fine story but it sure was slow and plodding. It didn't help that the narrator sounded like a breathless Nicole Kidman. That got tedious after a while.
I didn't hate the book but I sure didn't love it. There just wasn't enough "meat" to it. You knew after the first third exactly where it was going and it too a long time to get there.
Blood on the Tracks
by Barbara Nickless, narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith
Sydney Rose Parnell is an Iraq war veteran and now a Special Agent with the railroad police. Her K-9 partner is also a war veteran. The story starts simply enough. A woman, who Sydney knows, is found brutally murdered. The main suspect is her fiance, known as the Burned Man. He is also a war veteran who is deeply scarred with internal and external wounds. He travels the railroads as a hobo. Sydney is called in to help track him down.
But the story isn't nearly that simple.
This is the first in a series and a debut novel by this author and it was surprisingly good. I really thought it was over about a third of the way through but that's when we started down a very windy road with a surprise ending. The only thing I didn't like about it is her name. Her "uncle" calls her "Sidney Rose" throughout and it starts to grate. Sidney would have been just fine.
In the reviews there are several complaints about the narrator but, honestly, I loved her and thought she did a great job.
The Science of Energy
by The Great Courses, Michael E Wysession
It's summer and that means that The Great Courses has a sale. I picked up 2 this summer . One on The Vikings that I simply cannot finish. I've determined that I'm really not interested in Vikings that aren't from Minnesota.
The second book was this one on the science of energy and there's a lot about this book to like. I read a lot on this topic and am very interested in it. If you are at all interested in energy production and economics you will enjoy this, if for nothing else, for the in-depth explanation of each type of energy and how it is produced. That's about half of the book.
The rest gets into relative costs, political factors and, eventually, his personal bias toward solar and wind. This lecture series was produced in 2015 and much of what he discusses on the political and economic sides of the topic is already outdated. For example, his projections about coal do not take into consideration the estimated 1600 new coal plants being built over the next decade, half in China. This is from the New York Times this week under a heading that touts the world's support for the Paris Climate Agreement. How 1600 coal fired plants (none of which will run as clean as ours) constitutes a climate commitment is beyond me. So if you read the book you need to consider the outdated nature of some of the economic and projection data.
Here's an example of his illogical bias. He discussed in detail the land destruction coal, while admitting that coal is the most energy rich resource of all energy resources. Then while talking about the expense of burning garbage for fuel he again talks about accepting the added expense for the gain of saving land from landfill. (Now, I know that if you take every landfill in the US and put it in one place it would be a blip in the state of New Mexico. I learned this in the book about garbage that I read a while back.) But then while talking about solar and vast amount of land needed to be dedicated to solar to power something equivalent to coal or nuclear (about the size of the whole state of New Mexico), he dismisses it by saying that we are simply going to have to make some tough decisions about land use. Let's be honest, environmentalists are never going to allow that kind of land abuse. We are already having trouble getting the transmission lines from solar and wind generating fields built because of environmental concerns. Additionally he never really talks about the fact that there isn't enough silver in the whole world for that quantity of solar panels.
In the end, I believe that his conclusions about where energy use and policy are headed are on target (it's a mix of everything and it will ultimately be economically based) but there are some important bits of analytical information left out of the discussion. More importantly, there's a wealth of information on every type of energy production that will help anyone filter the partial information that we are delivered via "the news" daily. It was a worthwhile listen.
By Michael Crichton, Narrated by MacLeod Andrews
I love the Audible Deal of the Day. Occasionally there's a dud but that's also the case with regular purchase books. Most often it's a good book that I would have missed otherwise.
When I saw this one I knew that I liked Michael Crichton (Airframe is one of my favorite books) and I had not read this one.
The story is set in 1994 which means that it's old enough that it could almost be one of my beloved period stories! I actually enjoyed reading this 25 years later and remembering how this story was pulled from the news at the time. Remember how, at that time, everyone thought that the Japanese were going to take down the US economy? They were buying a lot of US companies and it was a frequent narrative in news, editorials and politics. That is the underlying theme of this book but the basic storyline is timeless.
A young, beautiful woman is found dead in a conference room of a Japanese conglomerate right in the middle of a party that's being attended by celebrities, politicians and major business people. There are a lot of people with a lot of influence who want the whole incident to go away.
I liked the character development and the story moved along at a fast pace except when they had to stop to use a pay phone because they weren't anywhere near the car to use the car phone.
By William Landay, Narrated by Grover Gardner
Andy Barber has been the Assistant DA for 20 years and now he's investigating/prosecuting the murder of a local 14 year old boy, a classmate of his son, Jacob. He's removed from the case when Jacob is charged with the murder.
This is a courtroom drama. Most of the scenes are courtroom scenes and there are 2 cases going on. The first is Jacob's and the second, that's told interspersed with the first, is one where Andy is testifying. It was a little slow starting but once I was in I was hooked. Lots of twist and turns and a surprising ending.
Beat the heart Attack Gene
by Bale and Doneen, Narrated by Bob Souer
I have a primary care physician that I absolutely love. She's the best doctor that I've ever had and I was devastated when I found out that she left the practice for a concierge practice. After a lot of deliberation, hand wringing and angst, I decided to follow her to the new practice. Someone with my allergy issues needs a doctor she can trust to help work around them. I resigned myself to pay the concierge fee simply to have access to her.
Chris went with me to meet with her and get a tour of the new practice. I expected a fancy office with lots of superficial fluff. Surprisingly, we walked into a very normal-looking medical office without fancy beverages or other non-essential perks. What we found was a completely different medical practice that focuses on individualized preventative medicine. The fee actually pays for the most comprehensive physical I've ever seen. We were sent home with the assignment to read this book that explains one angle of the practice.
I included it in my reading list because I think some of my readers might find this book very helpful also, no matter where you get your medical treatment. A lot of data collected in your normal physical is explained in great detail in the book and there are a few tests (like genetic testing) that you can get on your own that will go a long way to explaining your own personal risk and best treatment practices.
I listened to it in audio but I think it would be much better in paper. But it is thorough and eye opening.
The Trapped Girl
by Robert Dugoni, Narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith
This is the 4th in the Tracey Crosswhite series. Crosswhite is a Seattle murder detective and is on call to get a case of a dead woman found in a crab pot. (This is were I learned that West Coast crab pots are a lot bigger than East Coast crab pots!)
The woman is though to be a woman who went missing on Mt. Rainier months before.
Robert Dugoni writes a good mystery. Tracey and her partners are interesting characters with typical human flaws. The writing style reminds me a bit of the Harry Bosch novels. Now I have to wait patiently for book 5.
By Nick Bilton, Narrated by Will Damron
Holy cow, what a story and it's all true.
This is the story of Ross Ulbricht, a physics graduate who used his Libertarian beliefs to justify building the biggest online drug/weapons/body parts market in the world. It was called Silk Road and was on the "Dark Web". It's also the story of the people who spent 2 years hunting for him. This story is better than fiction and a lot scarier. At root it's about people. Good people and bad people. Even on the good side there are bad people.
Of course, we know that shutting him down didn't shut down the online drug market. We see it in the news every day. But if you like true crime you will absolutely love this book. You will learn about the dark corners of the web, about Bitcoin currency and about how accidental some criminal capture really is.
by Carl Hiaasen, narrated by John Rubenstein
After American Kingpin I needed something a little lighter and Razor Girl was just the ticket. Carl Hiaasen is one of the funniest writers that I follow. All of his books are set in Florida and feature a crazy array of creatures, tourists, criminals, corrupt government officials and a few sort-of normal people in a twisted tale.
This one is set in Key West where the Razor Girl and her co-hort work a very interesting scam involving a razor and a car accident. This wild story includes a mobster vacationing in Key West with his girlfriend, a shyster owner of a beach erosion company, the star of a reality TV show very much patterned after Duck Dynasty (but trashier), his #1 fan, Bister and a testosterone deodorant that has some unpleasant side effects.
This one is laugh-out-loud funny but don't get if if profanity bothers you.
Wow, this month went by quickly! My book listening was a little below average this month as I only finished 9 books.My reviews are a mixed bag and before you read them please don't be offended if you like a book that I didn't. That's why we have options. What's good to me might be garbage to you. That's why I welcome you to add your own opinions about any of these books on the comments.
I also welcome your recommendations. One of the books this month came from one of your recommendations and I really enjoyed it.
I think my highlights this month were revisiting Joe Pickett, Cork O-Connor and Charlotte and Thomas Pitt in 3 fiction mystery series. In non-fiction I really enjoyed The Elephant Whisperer and Dueling Neurosurgeons.
What good books have you read recently?
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
It's been a year since I've checked in with Joe Pickett. He is a Wyoming game warden who has a habit of getting caught up in some serious crimes beyond his job description. This time it's terrorists using an abandoned sheep ranch in the Red Desert.
If you like lots of action and interesting characters you will enjoy the Joe Pickett series. I haven't read all of them but will start going back and filling in. They are complete enough on their own that you don't really need to read them in order.
David Chandler is a great voice for Joe and I hope the publisher never changes the narrator for the series.
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons
by Sam Kean, Narrated by Henry Leyva
I think I picked up this book based on a recommendation that Kristen F posted on one of my book review comments. Yes, I do read your recommendations and often add them to my Audible Wish List.
I know non-fiction isn't in everyone's bailiwick but I love non-fiction and have been on a medical non-fiction fixation lately and this one did not disappoint!
This is the history of brain research told through the tales of the most famous patients of brain research. It's reasonable that what we know about brain function was, largely, based on studying the people whose brains don't function properly. This book takes us on a historical journey to show how we learned about brain function. It's told mostly in layman's terms so that it's easy to understand. It reads like book of short stories and it kept me interested throughout.
By William Kent Krueger, Narrated by David Chandler
This is the 4th book in the Cork O'Connor series. The series is set in a northern Minnesota town near the Anishinaabe Indian reservation. Cork is a former sheriff of the town but gets involved in the case of a murdered teenager when his wife agrees to represent the accused, Solemn Winter Moon. Winter Moon is the girls ex-boyfriend.
At the beginning of the book the case seemed very clear. I couldn't figure out how the story could possibly unfold to need more space but Krueger is a excellent story teller and added a quite surprising ending. I like the characters, I like the town and I like the narrator. There are already 15 books in this series so I need to pick up my reading pace on these.
By Edward Rutherfurd, narrated by Jean Gilpin
I think my favorite genre of book is historical fiction, the longer the better. I absolutely love multi-generational books a la Ken Follett, James Michener, Bryce Courtenay and Edward Rutherfurd. I loved his 2-volume books on Ireland, Sarum, London, New York and Russka so I was really looking forward to Paris.
Now I feel a little let down. It has all the right elements: many generations of several families from all walks of society, hundreds of years of history intermingled with real historical figures. But it is almost impossible to follow (in audio format anyway) because it randomly jumps back and forth in time which makes tracking the characters virtually impossible. It was really confusing for the first 3rd of the book (and this one comes in at 38 hours). I finally got some sort of grip on the characters and events and felt settled in the book. WWI ended and the build up to WWII started and then suddenly we are thrust into the early 17th century and the doings of Cardinal Richelieu.
It's really a good story but if I had a paper copy I'd rip it apart, put it in chronological order and then read it. In the audio version that's not possible and I think that listening to it is too much work for me to recommend it.
The Girls of Atomic City
by Denise Kiernan, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Very little of this book is about women who worked at Oak Ridge. Yes, there are women whose "stories" are carried through the book but really only anecdotal. These aren't the women of Hidden Figures who made major contributions to social change at NASA and to the space race. The women in this book are real people but represent thousands of women who worked during WWII.
The majority of the book is simply general history about the creation of the atomic bomb, the decision to drop it and the aftermath. Frankly, there are better books about that. This one is way to disjointed and the "girls" stories don't really add anything relevant to the telling. That's not meant as an insult to the women who worked there. It's meant as commentary of the poor writing job of the author.
by Mary Burton, narrated by Christina Traister
If you like romance novels and mystery novels you will like this one. The plot is actually pretty interesting and I thought I'd like the fact that the main character lives in Ashland, VA, my little town. But the author doesn't really use the local Richmond area landmarks. There's a scene that obviously takes place at The Jefferson Hotel but she doesn't even mention it. So the location could have been anywhere.
I'm not a big fan of romance novels and I'm not sure how I ever picked it in the first place. It was probably a Deal of the Day.. It's the first in a series about a Riley Tatum, a state trooper. She arrives on an murder scene and is sees that her new case might be related to something that happened to her in Louisiana 12 years ago. I liked the plot a lot but didn't love the telling.
The Elephant Whisperer
by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence
narrated by Simon Vance
You might remember a book called Elephant Company that I read (and loved) last year. Coincidentally, it was June of last year. I guess June is now elephant month.
I don't have a particular fascination with elephants. Mostly I just like good books about things that I know little about.
This book is about a herd of troubled elephants that Lawrence Anthony accepted on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand. These elephants has escaped so many times that if he had not taken them they were going to be destroyed. They escaped again the first day he had them on the new reserve but he eventually earned their trust and today Thula Thula has 2 healthy herds. It is a lovely story about the reserve, the elephants and some of the amazing things that happen in the wild. It's well written and perfectly narrated by Simon Vance.
Fun fact: Lawrence Anthony is the person who went into Baghdad during the Gulf War to save as many animals as possible. There's a book about that too.
To Speak For The Dead
by Paul Levine, narrated by Luke Daniels
Jake Lassiter is a former football player sidelined due to injury so he became a lawyer instead. The story opens with him defending a surgeon against a medical malpractice case. During the trial he learns that his defendant had a relationship with the victim's wife, a former exotic dancer. Add in the dead man's angry daughter, a retired coroner who hates being retired and a body building chauffeur/boat captain/"personal assistant" and maybe it's not malpractice afterall.
I was kind of excited to read this book because it's the first in a long series. I envisioned another fun series to follow and I do like legal thrillers. Instead, what I got was something like Carl Hiaason trying to write like Michael Connelly. It wasn't a good legal thriller because of the idiotic decisions that Jake Lassiter makes. However, with a little clever writing it could have crossed over into humor based on all of those stupid decisions and one more small step toward stupid for the characters.
Instead we are to believe that an attorney would team up with a retired coroner to rob a grave, that the same defense attorney would agree to meet with main prosecution witness late at night in the middle of a Florida swamp and that a judge reads the racing forms while presiding over trials. You also have to endure a LOT of football references. I love football and it got tedious even to me.
Some years ago I read part of the Stone Barrington series by Stuart Woods. The series wasn't my cup of tea but if you like Stuart Woods I think you would like Paul Levine.
by Anne Perry, narrated by Davina Porter
This is the 8th book in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. Charlotte's sister Emily and her husband are visiting with family in Cardington Crescent when her husband is murdered and Emily is a prime suspect.
I am reading 2 of Anne Perry's series, this one and the Monk series. Both are set in Victorian England and draw contrast between the lives of society people, working class and poor. In this series Charlotte moves between both because she married a police officer, much below her class. She and her sister remain close.
Anne Perry is a very good writer. I love how she develops her characters and builds her plot. These aren't deep and complex mysteries but you can easily imagine that the characters are accurate to the time period. They are always a good read and Davina Porter is an outstanding narrator.
I finished 10 books this month. It's not my most productive reading month but given that I took 2 trips and had company for 3 weeks, I think I still accomplished a lot. I loved all but 3 of the books this month. I would not recommend Flat Lake in Winter. Truly, Madly Guilty was not one I loved but I think a lot of people would like it. It's well written, just not my genre.
It's impossible to pick a favorite from the others. It all depends on what types of books that you like. Read the reviews and decide for yourself. Don't forget to leave me your recommendations in the comments!
Follow the River
by James Alexander Thom, Narrated by David Drummond
I have no idea how I found this book but I'm so glad I did. The book was originally published in the 1980's but, being historical fiction, it's just as fresh 30 years later. This is an exquisitely researched fictional telling of the exceptional ordeal of Mary Draper Ingles.
When I was in school in Blacksburg I remember that there was a "Draper's Meadow" apartments and, in fact, I lived in the Shawnee Apartments, but as a college student I wasn't the least interested in local history. Radford College students even stay in buildings named Ingles and Draper but they probably don't know why either.
She was born in Philadelphia in 1732 and settled in western Virginia near modern day Blacksburg and Radford. The story begins with a Shawnee Indian raid on her farm, Draper's Meadow, during the French and Indian War. Four were killed and 6 taken captive. Mary, her 2 sons and her sister in law were among the captives.
Mary and another woman escaped from the Shawnee while on a salt-making mission at Big Bone Lick near today's Boone, Kentucky. This is the tale of their harrowing journey, barefoot, from Big Bone Lick back to Draper's Meadow, Virginia. They traveled hundreds of miles along the Ohip and New Rivers.
The author did an amazing job of putting you right there with her, knowing her thoughts, seeing what she saw and feeling the cold icy river. If you are interested in Virginia, Colonial or Women's history you will enjoy this book. If you like strong heroines you will love this book. Do you want your teenage daughter to understand what a woman can accomplish? Get her to read this book.
The Queen of Bedlam
by Robert McCammon, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
This is the second book in the Matthew Corbett series. I reviewed the first a couple of months ago. This one is set in New York City around 1702. There's a serial killer, The Masker, on the loose and Matthew is on the trail.
The story is actually a lot more complex than that. There are a whole series of events that might be related to The Masker. McCammon created a great story with lots of interesting characters. I'm hooked on this series.
Ballerini is now one of my favorite narrators too.
by Anne Rivers Siddons, Narrated by CJ Critt
I haven't read a Siddons novel in years and this one came up in an Audible Deal of the Day and I was about to go to the Outer Banks so it seemed a good fit. People who love this type of book will love this one. It's the story of Kate and her 3 closest college friends. About half of the book covers their college years. The it covers Kate's life after college and then 25 years after college when they have reunion on the Outer Banks.
It's typical chick lit stuff which, frankly, I don't identify with very much. Honestly, I couldn't tell you much about what I did in college and certainly didn't carry any grudges or hurt feelings with me as I moved on to new adventures and opportunities. I don't identify well with characters who haul around so much baggage. They lead unnecessarily complex and angst-ridden lives. Maybe it's because I was raised with brothers and, therefore, raised more like a boy than a girl so I have trouble identifying with books that have so much emotion in every encounter.
This is an older book (1991) so if you like Siddons you have probably already read it.
Backlands and The Last Ranch are the second and third installments in the Kearney Family Trilogy. I read the first book in March. I took Backlands in paperback with me on our trip to New Mexico. I though it was appropriate to read a book about New Mexico while IN New Mexico. I finished it quickly and bought The Last Ranch while I was there and finished it in two evenings. The three books follow 4 generations of the Kearney family as they found and work their Toularosa ranch. I really enjoyed all three books and felt that the writing got better with each book.
Independence Day by Ben Coes
Narrated by Peter Hermann
This is the 5th in the Dewey Andreas series. Dewey is still grief-stricken after the death of his fiance in the last book. But there's no time to mourn because a Russian hacker has planned an attack on the US.
The Dewey Andreas books will meet your need for CIA/spy action with lots of action and dead bodies.
Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarty, Narrated by Caroline Lee
I picked this book because my husband got addicted to the TV series Big Little Lies and I'm always looking for something new to read. This is about 3 seemingly normal families and how one event can change things. I think if you like books about human relationships you will enjoy this one. It's not really my favorite genre but I did like the characters and I think the author created realistic events and responses that we can identify with. But it's really just about every day life and I need a little more drama in my books.
Caroline Lee is a very popular narrator and is generally good but often her characters have babyish voices and it started to grate on me. It's interesting that in this book there's a section at the very end where Caroline Lee interviews the author and she sounds much more normal in the interview so clearly her character voices are quite affected.
By Erik Vance, Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia
A couple of months ago I reviewed a book called Cure that was one of the most interesting medical books that I've ever read. It was all about current research in various aspects of the placebo effect. This book, I believe, builds on that one.
In the book the author explores the way our expectations influence how our bodies respond to pain, depression, disease and other events. He focuses on placebo, nocebo, hypnosis. He shows how we can use our body and mind to build an internal pharmacy for legitimate chemical reactions. This is not a crackpot book about using alternative treatments for diseases like cancer. Instead he specifically addresses those conditions where alternative approaches have shown scientifically tested results. These include pain management, depression and stomach issues. It was a worthwhile read.
Flat Lake in Winter
by Joseph Klempner, Narrated by George Newbern
There were 4 of us going to the beach together from my house but we had so much stuff to take that we had to take 2 cars. Mom and I rode together in one and I picked a couple of audiobooks for us to listen too. We couldn't even tolerate 45 minutes of the first one so we moved on to this one.
There's a reason that this book only costs $8 every day. It's awful. The premise is great but the telling (not the narration, but the writing) that's bad.
Here's the publisher's summary:
Deep in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains sits a mansion, its image reflected perfectly on the still water of Flat Lake. Inside that estate are the savagely murdered bodies of a wealthy elderly couple.
All evidence points to Jonathan - their mentally handicapped twenty-eight-year-old grandson - but Matt Fielder, his appointed defense lawyer, isn't convinced. While Fielder is pretty sure Jonathan committed the killings, Jonathan's childlike understanding of the world renders it nearly impossible for him to have done it out of greed or malice. Now Fielder must fight the prosecution's campaign for the death penalty, but as he scours Jonathan's past for anything that will help their case, he uncovers a cache of dark family secrets that turn the case in a shocking and unexpected new direction.
Sounds pretty good, huh? Here's how I would rewrite it:
Deep in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains sits a mansion, its image reflected perfectly on the still water of Flat Lake. Inside that estate are the savagely murdered bodies of a wealthy elderly couple. That's the end of the good part.
All evidence points to Jonathan - their mentally handicapped twenty-eight-year-old grandson - but Matt Fielder, his appointed defense lawyer who is too lazy to be hired for any real work, isn't convinced. While Fielder is pretty sure Jonathan committed the killings, Jonathan's childlike understanding of the world renders it nearly impossible for him to have done it out of greed or malice. Now Fielder must fight the prosecution's campaign for the death penalty, but as he scours Jonathan's past for anything that will help their case, he trips over some other information while desperately trying to hook up with every single woman that he meets thinking that each is in love with him. The he eventually trips over the right answer.
by Siddhartha Mukherjee
When Mom and I were in Mew Mexico and on our way home I needed a book to read on the plane. I have no idea what prompted me to pick up a 500 page book but I thought it might be interesting.
It took that trip and breaks between puzzle working on vacation to finish it and it is excellent!
This book is pretty much the entire history of gene research but told very clearly in laymans terms. Everything was understandable.
It's a truly interesting topic but the biggest benefit to me is that I will have a much better understanding of how to interpret gene research headlines. If you have any interest in the subject at all you will really like this book. His first book is on cancer and I think I may read that one too.
I have lots of mysteries on my reading list for this month. There are also 3 non-fiction books and my favorite, The Warburgs by Ron Chernow, should count as 3 because it's very long. Of the fiction books, Strangler Vine (historical fiction) was the biggest positive surprise and I loved meeting up with John Wells, Nathan Heller, Harry Bosch and Will Trent again.
Please let me know in the comments of any great books that you read this month and you are always welcome to post a review with an opinion opposite of mine. Sometimes a book is good or bad simply based on the timing of when we read it.
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
By Tom Mueller, Narrated by Peter Ganim
I like nonfiction books on esoteric topics and this one seemed like a good candidate. I can’t actually eat olive oil but before I knew about my chlorophyll allergy I loved olives and olive oil. The book is generally interesting but it’s not well organized and you feel like every chapter is just a retelling of the points of the previous chapter but with different examples. What I learned is that the olive oil industry is rife with fraud and that most of the oil we buy in the stores isn’t pure olive oil at all. It explains why I have difficulty sometimes with my olive oil based soaps. There’s no assuring that the oil is olive and therefore the saponification value of the oil could be anything. He shares a lot of information on the miraculous health benefits of olive oil but then proves, once again, that we can’t rely in that either. Many of the processing steps that some bottlers go through completely kill the beneficial elements of the oil. Unless you are buying your olive oil close to the olive grove you are probably wasting your money. That pretty much sums up the book.
By Harry Farthing, Narrated by Harry Farthing
This book is about 2 attempted climbs of Mt. Everest. One is in 2009 and one in 1939. I actually stopped listening to the book after the 4th hour because it was kind of boring. I then listened to Extra Virginity and figured that if I could make it through EV then I could make it through The Summit and I did. The story is actually pretty good and I liked the ending although it was pretty unbelievable. This book has gotten widespread rave reviews so take my ambivalence with a grain of salt or a teaspoon of olive oil. I guess that mountain climbing isn't that interesting to me.
One thing that hurt this book was the narration. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. Authors should never narrate their own books.
True Crime: Nathan Heller Series
By Max Allen Collins, Narrated by Dan John Miller
This is the second in the very entertaining Nathan Heller series. These books are set in Depression Era Chicago and the stories revolve around real criminals, real cops and real feds. The author interjects Nathan Heller into the stories and offers some alternative theories about what really happened. Max Allen Collins was one of the writers for the Dick Tracy comic book series and you can see our hero, Detective Nathan Heller as a Tracy type. The narration is great and you feel the you have been set perfectly into that era. This is the second in the series and revolves around the death of John Dillinger outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. It’s a fun read.
The Silent Man
By Alex Berenson, Narrated by George Guidall
This is the 3rd book in the John Wells series. John is a semi-rogue CIA operative who is being hunted by his nemesis from book #2 and now tracking down new threats in this book. If you like international intrigue that is fast paced with lots of action, these books are for you.
I'm way behind on this series. This is only book #3 of 11.
I also love George Guidall as a narrator.
by Ron Chernow, Narrated by jonathan Reese
You have to like long biographies to want to read this book but I love long biographies about families and I loved this one. The publisher's summary best describes the book:
"Bankers, philanthropists, scholars, socialites, artists, and politicians, the Warburgs stood at the pinnacle of German (and, later, German American) Jewry. They forged economic dynasties, built mansions and estates, assembled libraries, endowed charities, and advised a German kaiser and two American presidents. But their very success made the Warburgs lightning rods for anti-Semitism, and their sense of patriotism became increasingly dangerous in a Germany that had declared Jews the enemy."
This is a fascinating family story and world financial history story. If you like Ron Chernow, you'll love this one too and Jonathan Reese does an excellent job with the narration.
If Every I Return, Pretty Peggy-O
by Sharyn McCrumb, Narrated by Sally Darling
This book was recommended to me by a friend. It's the first in a series of books set in rural Tennessee and this one is set in 1986 on the eve of the 20th class reunion for the class of 1966. Also, new in town is famous folk singer Peggy Muryan and a series of crimes have started that seem to be inspired by her songs.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it's a little slow moving but it seems about right for the time and place. It's in the mystery genre but it's really more about people, their relationships and the baggage that they carry through life. This one is all about Vietnam baggage. I don't meant that in any derogatory way. We all have baggage of some sort and in this book it's mostly about Vietnam.
The fun part of this book for me was the narrator. She had a perfect Southern accent. In fact she sounded just like my college roommate's mom, Hilda. I could listen to Hilda talk for house and I can say the same for Sally Darling. I think I listened to this book as much to hear her talk as anything else and I'll likely give the second book in the series a try.
The Black Box
by Michael Connelly, narrated by Michael McConnohie
This is the 18th book in the Harry Bosch series. I love the character, Harry, and have enjoyed all of the books in this series. Harry is now back at the LAPD working in the cold case department and has one from the LA riots that's 20 years old. The victim is a beautiful blonde foreign correspondent. He remembers taking the call that night but they had less than 30 minutes at each crime site during the riots.Now he's taking another look.
It's a good plot line but I didn't think this was one of the best in the Bosch series. Frankly I'm not confident that Michael Connelly actually wrote it. I know that after series mature that some authors bring in other writers and this has that fee. My issue could have also been the narrator. Michael McConnohie is fine but Len Cariou is the voice of Harry Bosch in my head and it was difficult to make the transition.
All the criticism aside, it's still a fun and fast paced Harry Bosch book and I enjoyed it.
by Thomas F Madden, Narrated by Eduardo Ballerini
I was looking forward to this book because I loved Istanbul by the same author. This one sort of got interesting around hour 4 but then got dull again and I just had to give up by hour 9.
Overall reviews for this book are excellent so if you think it's a topic that would be of interest to you then you should ignore my opinion and give it a try.
The 7th Canon
by Robert Dugoni, Narrated by James Patrick Cronin
Robert Dugoni is becoming one of my favorite mystery/crime writers. I really enjoy his Tracey Crosswhite series. In this one Father Thomas Martin runs a home for street boys. One of them is killed in the home and Martin is accused. Young Attorney Peter Donley must defend him and the only way he can is by figuring out who the real killer is.
It's fast paced with a good assortment of characters. This could easily become a series based on Donley and his detective. Some reviewers point out some messiness with certain facts about the Catholic religion but it didn't take away from the story for me.
The Kept Woman
by Karin Slaughter, Narrated by Kathleen Early
This is the 8th and most recent book in the Will Trent series. Will is an investigator in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and he carries a lot of baggage from his disturbing childhood. His love, Sara Linton, is the medical examiner for the GBI. The other major character is Angie, Will's childhood friend/tormentor and estranged wife. She's seriously nuts.
In this book Will had been investigating a rape charge against an NBA star and later the murder of an ex-cop. It's a complex mystery where everything ties together and there's a personal link to Will's past. It's a good story that I was glued to until the end.
My only beef with Karin Slaughter is that the relationship between Will and Sara and Will and Angie seems to never progress. These are people who deal with death and danger every day and yet, in their relationships they often act like 7th graders. Some of their communications are out of character. But I can take that to have the wonderfully complex mystery.
The Strangler Vine
by MJ Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This book was, I believe, another Audible Daily Deal and it was quite the deal!
Set in India in 1837, William Avery and Jeremiah Blake are sent on a mission to find a lost British author. The assignment takes them on an amazing and dangerous adventure where they end up in the mysterious Thugee cult/cast and the East India Company's attempt to quash the group. Yes, this is the source of our word "thug". Even if you don't read the book it's fun to look up "thug" in Wikipedia for a summary history of the group and word. This book is adventure and mystery and if you like historical fiction you will like this one.
It was a great month for reading. I finished 12 books and didn't finish 2. I have gotten a lot more brutal in my tolerance for mediocre and bad books. I used to make myself finish them but no more. There are too many good books to read to suffer through bad ones. Neither of the books I skipped are actually "bad" but they are just not the type of thing I like to read.
Of the books I likes I think my favorites of the month are Speaks the Nightbird, Hard Country and Till We have Faces.
What books have you read this month that you like?
Blind Your Ponies
by Stanley Gordon West
This book is about human redemption and is therefore set in a small town full of misfits like the island of misfit toys in the Christmas classic. I didn't mind the characters or even the basic story line but this book needed some serious editing. It's set in small town Montana and it seems everyone ended up there for some very sad reason and it includes every cliched character you can imagine: man distraught over his wife's murder, woman distraught over her lost daughter, handicapped daughter, abused teen boy, boy sent there to live with Grandmother while his parents build new lives for themselves, brothers with a long and unpleasant past and a lot of other equally damaged people just trying to get by in a place with no opportunities and a crummy high school basketball team.
This year they decided to field a team of only 6 for the last time and we are regaled with the game action for almost every game of the season. Throughout the season we find out what's wrong with everyone as they all rally behind the basketball team after they get their first win in 5 years.
I listened through the tedium of all those basketball games hoping to find out what eventually happened to everyone. We sort of get an answer with the 2 main characters but everyone else is left hanging on the bus ride home after the last game of the season. We get hints of resolution but no real resolution.
All in all it was a disappointing book.
The Hades Factor
by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds
This book was written 17 years ago and if you read spy novels you have probably already read this and the rest of the series. I decided to start this series because the later books are written by Kyle Mills, one of my favorite authors. Robert Ludlum didn't write this book. Gayle Lynds wrote it based on an outline or something that Ludlum had. You can tell that it's not one of his classic spy novels. It's not a bad story but the beginning is a little hard to take.
First there are way too many characters introduced to follow them. But that is resolved quickly as a bevy of them are murdered. There's so much going on that it's kind of confusing. I almost gave up but them wen't to Wikipedia to read about the Covert One series and discover which of this book's characters are part of the series. Then I could concentrate on them knowing that they would live until the end. It made the book a little easier to stomach.
Oh, the story is about a new pandemic virus that has not been seen before. One of the early victims is a researcher at the Army facility assigned to identify it. The book follows action to find out the source and cure of the virus.
It was good enough that I'll read more but it wasn't one of the best books I've listened too. It calmed down toward the middle and was a good ride until the end. If you listen to books this one has some production issues. Periodically sentences are repeated which is kind of annoying.
Speaks the Nightbird
by Robert McCammon
When I was at Birds of Feather I got into a discussion of books with Jamie Wallen. He is even a bigger audiobook addict than me and had some suggestions for me. This book was one of them and it's a jewel.
You know those books that draw you completely into the story as if you are living with the characters? For me, this was one of those books. The writer let me know the characters personally and set me right down into the middle of The Carolinas in 1699.
This book is the first in a series about law clerk, Matthew Corbett. We are introduced to him as a young boy growing up in an alms house. Fortune shines on him when he is selected to be trained as a law clerk by a traveling magistrate, Isaac Woodward. We then fast forward to 1699 when the 2 are on their way to Fount Royal for a witch trial.
I'm glad it's first in a series because I'm looking forward to seeing what Matthew is up to next.
I followed up Speaks the Nightbird with two duds (in my opinion). I couldn't finish either of these books. Both of these were Audible "Deal of the Day" books so at least I didn't pay much for them. I bought Texas Rising because I liked Empire of the Summer Moon. But ESM told a story. Texas Rising is more like a history textbook and I just couldn't garner the interest to finish it. I read enough to know that the subtitle should be "Don't Mess With Texas".
I have no idea what provoked me to buy Hawk of May. It's got too much of a fantasy element in it for me and the narrator drove me insane. This one should have been narrated by a man, not a woman. She made him sound like a child and there was no need to go overboard on the Scottish brogue.
Just like with our UFO projects, sometimes it's best to just give up and move on. I didn't finish either of these books.
Till We Have Faces
by CS Lewis
As a rule I never read (listen to) books that are less than 10 hours. I don't know how many pages that is but I like to get deep into a book and get to know the characters and I do't think that's really possible in shorter books. Short books, to me, are like a bowl of dairy-free ice cream without any sort of topping to cover up the fact that it's dairy-free.
All that is to lead into the fact that I made an exception for this book. It came up in the Audible Deal of the Day for 3 bucks and it sounded interesting. Afer all, how bad can a CS Lewis book be? Well, of course, it wasn't bad at all!
It is the retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid. This time told from the point of view of her unattractive sister, Oural. It's set in Glome, outside of Greek civilization. It's a good little story narrated by one of my favorite readers, Nadia May aka Donada Peters aka Wanda McCaddon.
by Nick Stone
I had low expectations for this book and I was pleasantly surprised. It's investigation and courtroom drama.
Terry Flynn and Vernon James grew up as best friends and both went to Cambridge where they had a huge falling out and have hated each other since.
Now Vernon has been accused of murder and Terry is a clerk on his defense team. Now Terry is torn between helping mount a good defense or just watching karma finally catch up with Vernon.
The narrator's voice for Terry was a little annoying at first. But, knowing, some of the London accents I think he was portraying the poor background that Terry came from and never really got out of. Good drama, interesting characters and a good story.
Her Mother's Hope
by Francine Rivers
Francine Rivers, I now know, mostly writes romance and religious/spiritual literature. Not there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my cup of tea. That said, I'm glad this one was classified as Contemporary Fiction because otherwise I would not have read it.
This is the story of Marta and her daughter, Hildie. The book starts with Marta's young life before WWI and her escape from her father's torment. We go through her life as she lives in Paris, London, Canada and the settles with her family in California. You get a real feel for how life must have really been like for people during that time. (Hint: It was very difficult.) She is determined that her daughter, Hildie, will not grow up and have a life like she and her sister had so she pushes her hard and constantly. About halfway through we switch to the story being told from Hildie's point of view and we are carried through WWII.
The wars are backdrops to advance the timeline. This is a story about family relationships, especially relationships between mothers and daughters.
Francine Rivers is a gifted writer. She grabs you from the first sentence and I didn't even realize the religious overtones until halfway through. It's just another part of the story that explains the characters. It's not a sermon, it's how these people cope with daily life and, I think, it's likely a very accurate portrayal of people from that time.
There is a sequel which continues the story through Hildie and her daughter. Not sure if I'll read that one but I expect it's just as well written.
by Michael McGarrity
I wish I remembered who recommended this book so I could thank them. I have found a new series and a new favorite author.
Hard Country is the 1st in the Kerney Family trilogy and takes us to the wild west country of New Mexico in the late 19th century and through WWI. John Kerney's wife dies in childbirth the same day that his brother and nephew are killed in West Texas. His SIL takes the new baby and he heads off to forge a new life. He ends up in New Mexico where he starts his search to get his son back.
I don't know anything about what life was really like in the West during that time but this story seems real to me as do the characters and their relationships with each other. If you read it you might also shead a tear or two.
The Bone House
by Brian Freeman
This is he first in the Cab Bolton series and the last one I'll read. If I were in college I'd read this as a drinking game and would have a shot for every cliche. I'd be blasted by the end of the first chapter.
A girl is found dead on a beach on Miami and the prime suspect is the man suspected of having sex with the girls minor sister. Every character in this book does incredibly stupid things. As an example there's the teen who witnesses a crime and decides that it would be a good idea to confront the criminal alone instead simply telling the police investigating the crime. This kind of behavior is repeated over and over by the characters in the book.
Of course the lead detective is wealthy, tall and handsome but can't pursue love because of a troubled past.
I finished it so it wasn't awful but I think I strained a muscle in my eye from rolling it so often.
by Russell Blake
I never read a book that has less than a 4 star review and I felt very confident about selecting this one with 4.4 stars. That is usually an indication of a home run.
For me, that rating was about 2 stars inflated. I can see why it might be popular. It has some adventure but doesn't really drag you along with the emotion of it all. It's just a story.
Drake Ramsey is notified that he has an inheritance from a relative that he didn't know even existed. His father disappeared in the Amazon jungle over 20 years ago but somehow his journal made it to his sister before he died. Hmmm, how did that happen? That's just the first illogical thing that happens in this book. His father was searching for a lost Aztec civilization with a huge cache of gold. Next thing you know he's being tracked by some old Russians just out of Siberia. The other characters are his father's old research partner, that man's daughter who is conveniently an unemployed PhD of Anthropology and an ex-Navy SEAL/CIA operative/weapons dealer...you know, the requisite dark, secretive mystery man.
It's a trite tale, what too many illogical events to count. The characters trip into trouble, trip out of trouble and trip onto the treasure when dozens of people have been looking for this same treasure for decades. The whole thing is a ridiculous take with weak character development and the PhD in Anthropology contributes nothing except to add a little sexual tension and even that is weak.
I suppose if I were in a hammock by a lake and didn't want to stress my imagination to much that I could enjoy this book but I couldn't wait to get through it. I stuck with it mostly because the narrator was good enough to hold my attention. I won't be reading the second book in the series.
by James Lee Burke
When I saw this book on the Daily Deal I knew that I had read several James Lee Burke books but had not read one in a while. Now I remember why.
With Burke you have to be ready for purple prose. He really wants us to appreciate the vastness of his vocabulary. It's almost like he's insecure about his own intelligence or writing skills so he has to overdo it. His characters think too much if that makes sense. Another consistent issue with his books is that his main male characters are way to progressive for their time and place, in my opinion.
All that said, if you can focus on the story through the prose it's an interesting tale up until the end. It ends abruptly and we don't get a lot of resolution. It's as if he ran out of time and just wanted to wrap it up.
The Immortal Irishman
by Timothy Egan
What a fascinating story and I'm so glad that someone took the time to write it. This is a biography of Thomas Meagher (pronounced Marr). He was a young, wealthy Irishman who could not stand the suffering of his fellow citizens during the Great Famine in Ireland in the 1840's. (Apparently it's only us Americans who call it the Potato Famine). He had outstanding oratory skills and led a failed uprising against the British Government. From there he was awarded a nice stay in Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) and eventually found his way to America. He was just in time for the Civil War where he formed the Irish Brigade from New York.
This book provides a lot of history about the Great Famine, the British penal colonies in Australia and about the Irish immigrants of America prior to the Civil War.
This book will appeal to anyone of Irish descent, Civil War buffs and people interested in the early days of the US western population efforts.
By Richard Montanari
This is the 4th book in the Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne series. Richard Montanari has one twisted mind. His villains are some incredibly twisted people and I have no idea how he comes up with these ideas. In this one murder victims are being posed in vintage gowns as if they are characters from a fairy tale. I like that in his stories that he tells the story from both voices. We know what the killer is thinking but we are never sure who the killer is. This one is full of twists and eventually uncovers a history that goes back 20 years. I like the characters, I like that the books are set in Philly and the stories always give me some really bizarre dreams.
February was great month for listening to books. Since we've essentially turned off the news, and the rest of the TV programming for that matter, I've had lots of reading time. The more I read the more productive I am and that's all good. As I look back on the list my 2 least favorites were Truevine and On The Couch. Once you read those reviews you will see that I didn't hate either of them. I'd give both a solid C.
Paper and Instanbul were both very good non-fiction books. Truevine is also non-fiction but you'll see that I really didn't love it. All of the fiction books are by authors that I've read before and several are series so I know they would all be good. The best surprise is that Hachette Audio has stopped adding the annoying sound effects to Baldacci's Puller series.
What good books have you read this month? I'm always looking for more books to add to my Audible Wish List. You are also invited to add your opinions about any of these books especially if your opinion is different from mine! When I'm deciding on books I always look at the review and check both the 5-star and the 1-star reviews so I can get a broader perspective. I always invite you do do the same here.
by Beth Macy
I reviewed Beth Macy's first book, The Factory Man, in 2014. When I saw that she had a new book set in the area where I grew up I knew I wanted to read it. This one is a story about George and Willie Muse, two black brothers with albinism born to a sharecropper family. In 1899 they were "captured" by the circus and spent the majority of the rest of their lives performing in freak shows with the circus. They traveled the world. But it's not a wine and caviar life. Their mother spent years looking for them and they were not treated well the first 14 years that they performed...they were basically slave labor.
I love the story of this book and have a deep admiration for the work and years it must have taken to dig out the details of what happened to the Muse brothers. Given that the story begins around 1900 in the poor South, that was a daunting task. My problem with the book is the amount of other information and tedious detail added. The brother's story alone wasn't enough for a book so there's every detail about circus life, the KKK of Roanoke, sharecropper life, the railroad, you name it.
I'm glad I read it because it's a bit of history about the area where I grew up that I didn't know, but I think I would have preferred a magazine article to the rehashing of the racial history, railroad history and development history of the area. In the end I'm not really sure what her underlying objective was in writing the book. Was it to tell the Muse brother's story and everything else was filler or was it a racial history with the Muse brothers as exhibit A. Either way, it was kind of a slog to get through.
No Man's Land
by David Baldacci
This is the 4th book in the John Puller series and my favorite so far. In this book we find out what happened to John Puller's mother 30 years before when she disappeared. It ties in to DARPA research.
This book was so refreshing after the work I had to put into listening to Truevine. This time I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. Even though it's part of a series I think that Baldacci does a good job of making each novel able to stand alone. There's reference to previous books to give foundation to parts of the storyline.
I liked the narrators fine. Orlaugh Cassidy does the female voices (one of which is annoyingly childish) and Kyf Brewer does the male voices. He's good but I don't think his voice is quite tough enough for the Puller character. But they both do a good job of being consistent with each character's voice. The best part about this recording is that there are no sound effects! I hope that's a new trend with Hachette books.
Lying on the Couch
by Irvin D. Yalom
This one should be called "Therapists are people too".
I'm not sure what to say about this book and even less sure why I bought it in the first place. It's a novel set around three therapists and their patients and gives you the thoughts of both parties during therapy sessions. It's more than that but I think the purpose was to show that therapy isn't a one-way street and that sometimes, therapists need therapy too.
I almost gave up early on because I just couldn't get the point of it. I went to Amazon and read some reviews and saw that a lot of the reviewers had to read this as part of their studies to become therapists. That didn't encourage me but I stuck with it and, end the end, it was a pretty good book. I think in the end that it's about the fact that we all need therapy of some kind at some point in our lives and sometimes it's formal and sometimes it's simply a form of meditation.
Blood on the Water
by Anne Perry
When I review books here I review them in the order that I read them and I write the review almost immediately after I finish the book. After a challenging book I always look for something reliable and Anne Perry's William Monk series is reliable.
This is #20 in the series and the investigation is about a pleasure boat that is blown up on the Thames killing over 200 people. Love the characters, love the narration by David Colacci and I love Anne Perry's stories.
Paper: Paging Through History
by Mark Kurlansky
In December I reviewed the book Salt, also by David Kurlansky. I enjoyed that so much that I decided to get this one. Many years ago I took a paper making class and enjoyed it. For a couple of years I made handmade paper note cards and Christmas cards. I still have all of the supplies. That's good because this book got me interested again. This book covers the very earliest paper making to present day electronic replacements for paper. There's also some great information about the history of printing and ink development. If you like history but want it a little on the lighter side you will enjoy this. If you have ever made paper or collect different kinds of paper, you will love this book.
Gods of Guilt
by Michael Connelly
If you have seen the Lincoln Lawyer movie then you are familiar with the basic story line of the Lincoln Lawyer series. Michael Connelly has 2 series. The first is Harry Bosch, a LAPD Detective. In one of those books Mickey Haller, a defense attorney, is introduced as his half brother. I enjoy both series but I've always thought that the Lincoln Lawyer series was the weaker of the two. With this book Connelly has finally brought this series up to match the Bosch series. It's a fun legal thriller with good characters and a fast pace. I was glued to my headphones with this one.
by Thomas Madden
Before reading this book the extent of my knowledge of Isanbul was that it was once called Constantinople. Seriously, that was all I knew about one of the most important cities in history. It covers everything from ancient times forward and it is fascinating.
If you like history you will enjoy this book. It's well written and the narration is good.
The One Man
by Andrew Gross
You have to have a strong stomach for this one but if you do it's worth the ride. The story revolved around rescuing a noted physicist from Auschwitz in WWII. There's one man, who speaks fluent German and Polish who might be able to accomplish it.
This book is intense and there are a couple of times where time is if the essence and we are dragged through a long conversation or thought sequence that just doesn't seem to fit. But that's a small complaint.
I didn't realize until I was writing this that the narrator for this book is the same as Istanbul. It shows his versatility that he can adapt his voice to the story at hand.
The Jury Master
by Robert Dugoni
This is the same author that writes the Tracey Crosswhite series. In The Jury Master he introduces David Sloane, a San Francisco trial lawyer. He's very successful but has recurring nightmares about his childhood that he can't remember. After close friend of the President dies Sloan received a package that starts to unravel his past. It's a very good plot and moves at a fast pace. My only complaint is that Dugoni likes to jump back and forth between scenes right in the middle of the action. Otherwise it's a good book that's very fast paced and lots of death and destruction.
Eye For An Eye
by Ben Coes
I followed one thriller by another. This one brings back one of my favorite covert operatives, Dewey Andreas. In this one some early events in the book prompt China's head of State Security to place a kill order on Dewey. From the first scene to the last the drama doesn't end.
These books are very fast paced with lots of intrigue and violence. Just the kind of book I like to relax with.
January was a light reading month for me. Of course that's because I spent most of it in the recliner watching TV and not listening to books. That's why I only finished 5 books.
The truth is that I really listened to 6. Last month I finished the month with the book Cure about the science of mind over body. I got so much out of it that I actually read it twice in case I missed something.
Then I started some new books. Hands down my favorite book this month is A Gentleman In Moscow. I wouldn't necessarily recommend any of the rest unless that particular genre speaks to you.
by Joseph Finder
Adam Cassidy works in the tech industry and isn't particularly driven. One day he decided to host a party for a friend in the mailroom and figures out a way to have the company foot the bill. He gets caught and that's the beginning of a tale of complex corporate espionage.
This book was written in 2004 so the technology referenced is quite dated but that doesn't take away from the story because the story requires a complete willingness to accept implausibility. First the character simply isn't smart or motivated enough to do what he does and the ending is completely predictable from the minute he is hired by Trion Systems. This book was apparently made into a movie that was a box office bomb. That should have been a clue. Glad I only paid $4 for it.
On The Move
by Oliver Sacks
I love biographies because usually biographies are about exceptional people and this book (actually an autobiography) is no exception. Oliver Sacks is best knows as the neurologist represented in the movie Awakenings about the encephalitis patients that he treated with L Dopa. Robin Williams played him in the movie and Robert DiNero played one of the patients. But that's a very small part of a life that included a passion for motorcycles, body building, drug addiction and an undying interest in the workings of the brain. Throw in the added complication of being gay in the 50's and 60's. It was a fascinating read.
A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
What a lovely book! I was skeptical because I had read Rules of Civility and didn't really like it. This one, however, is a gem.
In 1922 in the Bolshevik revolution Count Alexander Rostov is spared execution but is sentenced to life under house arrest at the Metropol Hotel. The story follows him for decades as he makes a life of meaning in his attic room. If you like audiobooks this one is beautifully narrated too.
Empire of the Summer Moon
by S. C. Gwynne
Before reading this book you could write everything I know about Texas history on a pin head. I barely know about the Alamo. It's just not something that was taught in history class in Virginia schools in the 1960's and 1970's. This book is about the Comanche Indian tribe and their eventual defeat by the white man.
The cover of the book highlights Quanah Parker, the last Comanche Chief and implies that the book is about him. But it's really a true history book going back to the Comanche's first interaction with the Mexicans, their adoption of the horse, the influx of white settlers and the ultimate clashes.
If you believe the current narratives about Indian tribes being peaceful and respecting Mother Earth you do not want to read this book. It is unapologetic and truthful about the brutality and violence on ALL sides during this period.
If you are into history you will like this book. If you are into "light" history this book might be a bit much. It took me a while to get through it but I'm glad I read it.
by Ann Cleeves
This is the second book in the Shetland series. As that implies, these mysteries are set in the Shetland area of Scotland. In this one a mystery man shows up at a surprisingly poorly attended art exhibit and has a emotional breakdown. The next day he is found dead in a local fishing shed. Jimmy Perez is the local police officer tasked with finding out who he is and why he was murdered. Of course there are other murders to keep things going.
These books aren't white knuckle mysteries. In fact, I figured out very early on who the culprit was but I didn't know why. What I like about these books is the character development. They are just the kind of people you would expect to find in any small town or village anywhere. It's a good light read and was a great follow on to Empire of the Summer Sun.
I did not post yesterday because a post about me laying around and napping through this cold isn't post worthy. I'm lucky that today is the last day of the month and I can post about my December books.
December was a particulary good month for books. There's only one that I'd specifically recommend not reading although I think Algorithms would be better in paper than audio if the topic is of interest to you. My big winners of the month are Salt, Escape Clause, Citizen Creek and Cure but the rest are worthy too.
Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown
By Eric Blehm
With that unweildy title you get the gist of this book. It's the biography of Adam Brown and Fearless is the right title. By all accounts he was fearless from birth and had an incredible tolerance for pain.
If you like books like Unbroken and American Sniper you might like this one. Adam Brown is a brave and driven person with flaws. He became a Navy SEAL as a goal to help him escape a drug addiction. It's a true rredemption story. My only caveat is that if you do not like Christian literature you will not like this. I didn't realize it had heavy Christian overtones until I was reading it and it's an integral part of his story and life. It might turn some readers off but if not, I think you will appreciate getting to know Adam Brown.
The Shut Eye
by Belinda Bauer
It was news to me that a Psychic is also called a Shut Eye but now I know. This is the story of a missing toddler and his mother's desperate search to find him, even by asking a local Shut Eye to help. She's seen as crazy by everyone except one detective who has been obsessed with a missing girl case for over a year.
I got this on one of Audible's Daily Deals so had very low expectations. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. The author tells a great story with lots of interwoven details.
by Lalita Tademy
Oh wow, what a gem of a book! I knew going in that it was a "historical novel" but thought it was a general historical story telling what life was like for a slave of a Native American tribe. It wasn't until the end that I discovered that the two main characters of the book were real people.
Cow Tom started life as a slave and was a translator for his chief of a Creek Indian tribe. Rose is his granddaughter. The book is told in 3 basic parts: Cow Tom's life until he had his family free of slavery, the period of time when his life overlapped that of his granddaughter Rose adn the third part about Rose's life. It's an amazing story. Rose's grandson is Jake Simmons, Jr, one of the msot famous and successful oil brokers.
Lalita Tademy is an outstanding writer. If you read this you will KNOW these people and want to spend more time with them. It's a beautifully written book.
Salt: A World History
by Mark Kurlansky
"Who knew?" That's what I kept saying as I listened to this book. It's exactly what it says it is. It's world history told through the history of salt and salt mining. It's loaded with "Oh, I had no idea" moments and is sprinkled with ancient and traditional recipies, especially recipes for traditional ways to preserve meats and vegetables with salt. If you like nonfiction, you will enjoy this book.
Because We Are
by Ted Oswald
Continuing my month of good luck in books is this gem. It's, as it says on the cover, a novel of Haiti as told through the character of a young orphaned girl named Liberty.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but Liberty drew me in from the first chapter. The author, I believe, truly conveyed the realities of life in Haiti and showed us a culture where children must grow up fast. He may have given Liberty and Jacques a little too much maturity and wisdom but the story was so good that I didn't mind. The narrator was PERFECT! The only complaint I have is that it was a little difficult to keep up at times when the story switches back and forth between scenes and times. There was no break in the narration to indicate a change. Otherwise it is a beautiful book.
A Tapping At My Door
by David Jackson
This is the first book in a new series and is a typical murder mystery with a detective with a lot of baggage. It' set in Liverpool England and opens with a woman opening her back door to shoo away a raven tapping at her door. Then the killer strikes. DS Nathan Cody is assigned to the case and he brings along a lot of emotional baggage from a previous undercover case gone bad. The second murder reveals that the targets of the murders are all police officers.
While the storyline is somewhat formulaic, the story is really well told and I was interested throughout. I usually listen to books as I fall asleep at night but I couldn't listen to this one because I was too engrossed to fall asleep. That's a good sign for a book!
Algorythms to Live By
by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
I admit, I had low expectations for this book but it was a Audible Deal fo the Day so was only $4 and worth the risk. Sometimes I loves these geeky books. Sometiems not. This is a "not".
First, my #1 rule of books is that the author should NEVER narrate the book. They are always bad at it and this is no exception. He knws this topic inside out and seems a little bored with it himself. I generally don't buy author-narrated books but this one slipped by me.
The subject matter is interesting. It's about how we can manage decision in out lives, like how many people to interview and who to hire for a job. But it's presented too dryly for those of us who aren't enigneers or mathematicians. While A Tapping At My Door kept me awake at night, this one is a good sleep aid and I'll work my way through it in that way.
by John Sandford
Thsi is #9 in the Virgil Flowers series and he's trying to find 2 tigers stolen from the local zoo before they are killed for Chinese medicines.
It's John Sandford and Virgil Flowers. What's not to love?
by James Kaufman
Joe Hart has a illustrious Navy career and now has a perfect wife and a successful law career and then his wife is killed by a drive-by shooter. He heads to the mountains to escape. Preston Wilson is a wealthy owner of several car dealerships and he's about to lose all of it. He needs the help of the right attorney and Joe Hart is it. Coincidentally, their paths have crossed in the past. Preston hikes into the mountains to beg Joe to take his case.
Sometimes you read a book and you know it will make a great movie. Tom Clancy, for example, gave is Jack Ryan and he's perfect for the big screen. While I was reading this book all I could think about was how this was written as a Lifetime movie scrpit. Joe is too perfect. We don't get to see him work. The work just seems to magically happen because he's so busy going off and taking care of his collectibles. It's soap opera with no depth of character.
Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body
by Jo Marchant
No book has surprised me more than this one. I have no idea why I picked it but am so glad I did. This isn't a new age book about how you can cure your diseases using Acupuncture, Reiki, Homeopathy or other non-traditional treatments. It's about the current research in the placebo effect and how effectively it can be used for things like pain management, reducing drug doses and managing side effects. Those methods might be Homeopathy or other non-traditional treatments but we aren't getting better becasue of the treatment but because we think we wil get better. Even when we know we are taking a placebo we can still get benefit. Jo Marchant shares the research being done using mind over body for pain manegement, MS, IBS, CFS, labor and delivery and other chronic medical issues. It's very enlightening and I recommend it to everyone.
I'm saving this one to read again.
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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