So many people have told me about Overdrive to check out audiobooks from the library that I finally downloaded the app and gave it a try this month. The price is right but my local library has a very limited selection of audiobooks. I think I'll be able to get new releases (on wait list) but there's not much to choose from in non-fiction or anything published more than a few years ago. Audible is not under thread of losing me as a customer that's for sure!
This month I read Deep Freeze (my favorite book of the month) and At The Water's Edge on Overdrive so I saved a few dollars. My least favorite book this month was The Silent Sister but even that wasn't horrible. All-in-all it was a good month of listening.
By Ben Coes, Narrated by Peter Hermann
There's no better way to kick off the New Year than with an action-packed thriller. Dewey Andreas always delivers a lot of action.
In this 6th book Dewey is sent to Syria for an operation that ends up blown. Meanwhile the US has discovered a ship full of weapons on the way to ISIS and stops it. ISIS retaliates on US soil. Dewey and his former colleagues are reunited in the US to help resolve things.
That all sounds like a pretty simple description of the plot but, as with all of the other Andreas books, this one is action from beginning to end.
By Richard Montanari, Narrated by Scott Brick
This is the 4th book in the Byrne and Malzano series. These books all take place in Philadelphia where Byrne and Balzano are detectives. This case opens when the body of a young teenage runaway is found in an abandoned building the Badlands section of Philly. She was drowned but there's no water anywhere.
This begins a chase into the world of magic and puzzles and one demented protagonist.
If Philadelphia is anything like these books then the city has a very high percentage of psychologically demented people. While, in one way, this series is kind of a typical crime investigation series; in another way, they are a little creepy. Montanari's bad guys like torturing and killing young people. They are really well written and very suspenseful but you need to know the underlying theme before you start this series.
By Robert Dugoni, Narrated by Dan John Miller
This is the second in the David Sloane series. Dugoni also writes the Tracy Crosswhite series. Both are set in the Seattle area.
David Sloan is an attorney and is approached by an Iraq war widow to sue the government for wrongful death. The Feres Doctrine generally makes this impossible but as Sloane starts to look into it he thinks there is more to the story of the soldier's death.
This is a good story and these books have to be read in order. There's too much reference to events in the previous book. My main complaint with it is that it sort of reads like an abridged book. The story jumps quickly between events and tense situations wrap up pretty quickly. If you like a good thriller but not the ones that get your heart racing then this is the series, and author, for you. If you need to have nail-biting and bad dreams then you can skip this one.
The Infidel Stain
By M.J. Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This is the second book in the Blake and Avery series. If you happen to be watching he Victoria series on PBS you might enjoy these stories that explore the seedier side of Victorian England. The first one took place in India but this one is back in London. They are hired to investigate a series of murders among the city's "gutter press".
It's an enjoyable series.
By Jonathan Fredrick, Narrated by Ari Fliakos
This book fell about 15 minutes short of my self-imposed 10-hour minimum but it was a Deal of the Day book and the reviews convinced me to risk the $4. I'm glad I did.
This is the first novel by Jonathan Frederick and is set in the fictional town of Cain City, WV. The main character, Nick Malick, is a former police officer whose life fell apart when his son was kidnapped and murdered by a serial pedophile. The murderer is in jail on another crime and Nick is just waiting for him to get out so he can administer his own justice.
Now he's divorced and a private detective. His next client wants him to find his missing adult daughter. The search leads him into a drug ring from Detroit and corruption in the police department.
It's a great first novel and it just begs for a series based on Malick and his young sidekick who lives in the same converted high schools as Malick. There are several really well-developed character in this book that would support a series. The narration was fantastic too.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Eric Conger
We are big John Sandford fans in this family and Mom and Chris read this as soon as it came out. A week ago I decided to finally get a library card and try out Overdrive. My library system doesn't have a ton of audiobooks (and even less that I'd want to read) but they have some and it will save me a few bucks to get what I can out of the library. I had to wait about a week to get this book but once I had it on my phone I finished it off in about 2 days.
I love all John Sandford books and the Virgil Flowers series is really a lot of fun. This time Virgil is sent back to Trippton where he previously arrested the entire school board for corruption and murder. This time it's the dead of winter and a local woman, and bank owner, has been found dead in a block of ice in the river. He's also asked to assist a Los Angeles attorney in serving Cease and Desist orders to a local woman who is selling obscene Barbie dolls. There are lots of hilarious moments in this adventure.
If you've never read John Sandford I'd place him between Michael Connolly's Harry Bosch series and Carl Hiassen books. They are mystery with a great does of humor.
At the Water's Edge
By Sara Gruen, Narrated by Justine Eyre
I read Gruen's earlier novel, Water For Elephants, and I love historical fiction so this seemed like a good choice.
Not so much.
This is more like historical romance than historical fiction. It's set during WWII in Scotland. Madelyne and Ellis Hyde are part of Philadelphia society until they and their friend, Hank make total jerks of themselves at a society New Year's Eve party. Ellis' parents have had enough and kick them out. Hank still has his generous allowance so they decide to go to Scotland, in the middle of the war, to find the Loch Ness Monster. Ellis' father was disgraced years before on his own mission to find Nessie.
They get to Scotland where Ellis and Hank continue to behave like the spoiled, arrogant pigs that they are. Maddy, meanwhile, has no backbone but eventually befriends the people working at the Inn where they are staying.
If you like lite stories you will love this. It's well written and things wrap up conveniently and neatly in the end. There's even a white knight of sorts.
In reviews the narrator gets a lot of criticism. I didn't find her annoying at all but if you get the audionook of this one you might want to sample the audio first.
The Silent Sister
By Diane Chamberlain, Narrated by Susan Bennett
Well, it started off strong. Riley MacPherson has arrived in New Bern, NC to settle her father's estate. She had already lost her mother to cancer and her older sister to suicide over 20 years ago. While settling the estate she discovers that her sister might be alive and that her family had a lot of secrets.
This story started strong and then it rolled pretty much every current event cliche (child abuse, PTSD, gender selection) into the mix and finished it off with a pretty unsatisfying ending. Everything wrapped up nice and tidy.
The narration was good and the book wasn't awful but it was entirely predictable. The image on the cover of the book is a bit confusing. While there is one scene with water, the water in that scene is a frozen river on a snowy day.
By Tana French, Narrated By Hilda Fay
This is the 6th book in the Dublin Murder Squad series and the interesting thing about this series is that the characters are mostly new in each book. Because of that the books can easily be read out of order. I've read 1 - 4 and liked them but this one was a bit of a slog to get through.
Detectives Conway and Moran are called to a murder scene that looks like a simple lover's quarrel gone bad. They quickly go after the boyfriend although he claims he's never been in the victim's home. Other detectives are pushing her them to quickly arrest the boyfriend.
Conway is getting a little paranoid over the pressure and other harassment that she is experiencing. She can't give up on a scene and other evidence that might be linked to the victim's missing father from years before.
This book spends a LOT of time on conspiracy and paranoia and it gets a little tedious. Things get much better near the end when everything starts to unravel.
It was fun last month to see how you track your own reading lists. Goodreads sounds like a great idea and I wish it had existed 20 years ago but I can't imagine going in now to enter everything I've read or trying to manage between an old spreadsheet list and a new internet list. But I can see how it's a great tool and a great way to get ideas for new books to read.
This is the last report for the year. My spreadsheet tells me that I "read" 101 books this year. My favorites were:
The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter
Follow The River by James Alexander Thom
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Chain of Title by David Dayan
John Adams by David McCullough
The Dead Key by DM Pulley
My favorite series are:
Harry Bosch by Michael Connolly
Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers by John Sandford
William Monk by Anne Perry
Tracey Crosswhite by Robert Dugoni
Here are the books for December. It was a slow reading month with only 6 books but 5 out of the 6 were good!
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
by Sharyn McCrumb, Narrated by Sally Darling
This is the second book in the Ballad series. I read the first one, If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O, back in April. I didn't love the first one but I liked it well enough to try another. These are set in the mountains of Tennessee just west of the North Carolina border.
Here's the publisher's summary:
Laura Bryce has lived in the small east Tennessee community such a short time that she still feels like an outsider. But when there is violence on the Underhill farm, the sheriff calls on her to represent the church. He will handle the bodies, but she must comfort the bereaved. However, the unspeakable carnage she confronts in the farmhouse will push her down a rocky pathway of danger and heartache.
I have no idea where that came from but it doesn't come close to describing the plot of the novel. Yes there's a murder-suicide at the Underhill farm but Laura Byce is barely connected to it. In fact, no one in the town ever gets around to helping out the 2 surviving Underhill kids. Add in a sheriff who has an uncharacteristic obsession with Naomi Judd, a dying old man obsessed with a polluted river that no one cared about before, a woman who sees dead people and the future and you get a tedious book about weird people in a small town who are just making do day to day. I couldn't wait for it to end.
By C.J. Box, Narrated by David Chandler
After the disappointment of The hangman's Daughter I needed a reliable read. Joe Pickett is always reliable. I'm actually reading this series out of order but it's not a problem. This is an early one. I think it's #4 in the series.
Joe and his daughters are fishing when they stumble upon a mutilated deer. After some investigation Joe discovers that it's part of a series of crimes.
George, Nicholas and Wilhelm
By Miranda Carter, Read By Rosalyn Landor
I've mentioned in the past that my history education leaves much to be desired. I try to make up for that by reading. But even in my self-education I have pretty much ignored World War I. When this book showed up in the Daily Deal I got it. I also got a better education.
It's about the three rulers of Britain, Germany and Russia. They were first cousins. The book starts in the reign of Queen Victoria and takes us through the lives and reigns of George, Nicholas and Wilhelm.
While I enjoyed the book and learned a lot, it got tedious at times. It's a 21 hour read and probably could have been 15 but it was still worthwhile. But I only recommend this one to serious history readers.
Corridors of the Night
by Anne Perry, Narrated by David Collacci
This is #21 in the William Monk series and was a great read to follow the seriousness of the previous history lesson. In this one Hamilton Rand is a genius chemist who is determined to find a cure for "white blood disease", what we now know as leukemia. He is completely blind to the risk and costs of the treatment. Hester Monk isn't.
I don't know how Anne Perry keeps this series so fresh but I'm glad she does.
These are hard core mysteries but they are harder edged than cozy mysteries. I have a friend who prefers cozy mysteries. Her husband prefers hard core mysteries. They have trouble finding books to listen to on long car rides. I recommended that she give Anne Perry a try. I think her books are a good mid-way between the 2 genres.
The Winthrop Woman
By Anya Seton, Narrated by Corrie James
Anya Seton is most knows for romance novels so it's no surprise that I had never heard of her until this book appeared as a Daily Deal. It's historical fiction based on the life if Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett. The book seems to stay relatively true to her biography (on Wikipedia) and expertly weaves in the events and mores of the time. She was born in England but arrived in Massachusetts with the Puritan immigration. Her uncle and father-in-law, John Winthrop was the first Governor of Massachusetts. Elizabeth was one of the few female landowners in the mid-1600's in the new colony and owned much of the land that is now Greewich, CT. But even if you don't like history, this is mostly a novel about a woman who didn't quite fit in with the times but who made a good life for herself on her own terms. More research on the web will help you distinguish the history from the fiction....if you are interested.
By Robert McCammon, Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
This is the third installment in the Matthew Corbett series. It's 1702 in New York City when Matthew and his partner are hired to escort a mass murderer from an insane asylum near Philadelphia to the docks of NYC. Things, of course, don't go as planned.
Like any story about a serial killer this one has large doses of gruesomeness. Not enough to give me nightmares but its' still pretty raw.
Like the other books it's really well written and well narrated. It's important to read these books in order. There's way too much overlap with the story lines to try to follow this book before reading the other two. It even ends with hints to the next installment. I should probably read these a little closer together so I don't forget the important characters.
Before I get into the books that I listened to in November I want to answer a question that someone posted last month.
Susan R. posted: I love reading your "reading lists" and have gotten some good books from you. Your mention of an excel spreadsheet for reading made me sit up and take notice. I never thought of doing that but it is a great idea. Would you mind posting what you keep track of and how? I find that lately I start to read a book and discover that I have read it in the past. I don't like to reread a book because the suspense in not there, if that makes sense. Would love to start a spreadsheet but not sure what would be the best format.
Here's my simple spreadsheet that I started in Excel in 1995. Of course there are lots of free spreadsheet options out there, like Sheets in Google Docs. If I were starting this now I'd probably start it in Google Docs so I could have access to it anywhere. Of course I can also just store this document in Google Docs too.
But the point is that my spreadsheet is really simple. I capture the title, author, book rating (1 - 10), narrator, narrator rating (1 - 4), comments and date finished.
The nice thing about an electronic spreadsheet is the ability to sort on any field or search out names. I sorted on date to discover that my first entry was January 1995 and the book was Pulse by Edna Buchanan and I didn't like it much. The spreadsheet currently has 1221 entries and that's an average run rate of 53 books a year. I know that since I retired that I'm going through them much faster than when I was working.
I do reference the spreadsheet often. If I think I found a new author I'll search the spreadsheet just to make sure. I'll also check the narrator to see if I've heard and rated them before. A bad narrator can really ruin a good book.
When I finish a book I add it to the spreadsheet, review it on Audible and write the blog review before I start the next book. It's not all that much work and it's been really beneficial.
It was a great month of reading! I loved every book that I read this month. One of them was, hands down, the most important book that I've read all year. Read on to see which one.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Richard Ferrone
I've been saving this one for a few months and decided that the week that I got sick was just the right time to treat myself to it.
This is #27 in the Lucas Davenport series and you might expect that the character and storylines might get boring at this point in the series. But authors like John Sandford, Michael Connelly and Anne Perry know when it's time to send their characters on different adventures. John Sandford has moved Lucas away from Minnesota crimes by putting him in the US Marshall Service. He still lives and is based out of Minneapolis but he works wherever he needs to go on the next "hunting" expedition.
This time he's searching for a group that robbed a drug cartel counting house and murdered several people, including a young girl. We are introduced to new investigation partners that I expect (and hope) we will see in the next novel.
Richard Ferrone, in my opinion, is perfect for narrating Lucas' stories.
A Place Called Freedom
by Ken Follett, Narrated by Simon Prebble
Usually when you think of a Follett novel you expect about 30 hours of fine listening. This is an early novel (1995) and is shorter than most. But it's still a great story. This one opens in 1766 with Mack McAsh wanting to escape his life of slavery in a Scottish coal mine. Lizzie Hamlin is caught in an unhappy marriage to a spineless husband. Both want to escape.
It may be one of his early works but it's still another great Follett historical novel.
by Libble Hawker, Narrated by Amy McFaddin
A few years ago Chris and I took a vacation trip to Seattle and one of my favorite things was the underground tour at Pioneer Square. That is what piqued my interest in this book. In the 1860's the ratio of men to women in Seattle was about 10:1 and most of those women were "seamstresses", the common name for prostitutes. A man named Asa Mercer had an idea to bring "good" women from the East to Seattle to be wives. He specifically went to Lowell, MA to recruit the women because Lowell has been hit hard by the war and many of the mills had closed and women were unemployed. He hoped to bring 200 women but actually brought only about a dozen on his first trip. These women were knows as the Mercer Girls.
This book introduces us to 3 fictional Mercer girls to explore what might have enticed young women to make that voyage and how they might have integrated into Seattle culture. It's an interesting story although the characters might have been developed a little too rigidly. The narrator was good but definitely better suited for romance novels. Her voice is good but too girly for my taste.
At the end of the book the author provides some good information on some of the real Mercer girls and how she developed her characters. All in all, it was a good read.
The Art of Invisibility
by Kevin Mitnick, Narrated by Ray Porter
Hands down, this is the most important book that I've read all year. It's so important that this is what my friends are getting for Christmas. (They probably aren't going to be particularly impressed but, hopefully, at least one of them will read it.) I recommend reading a paper version so you can bookmark things rather than listening and trying to take notes. Because this is a book that will result in action items.
I know that most of us have given up on any concept of privacy on the internet but we do need to know just where and how we are exposed and some things we can do to mitigate the exposure.
Kevin Mitnick was the worlds most famous hacker and I read his autobiography, Ghost In The Wires, a few years ago. He's really, really smart and also kind of a sanctimonious jerk but that doesn't negate the knowledge that he shares. In this book there is an overriding focus on actually being invisible on the internet which is something most of us aren't interested in at all. But we do need to know what data is tracked on our cars, smartphones, computer browsers, fitness trackers and appliances. Believe me, it's a LOT more than you think. With that knowledge he provides some reasonably easy things that we can each do to better protect ourselves and our families. Honestly, I believe that someone in every family should read this book and don't buy Alexa unless you read this book first!
The Wrong Side of Goodbye
by Michael Connelly, Narrated by Titus Welliver
Harry Bosch #19. Harry is working part time at San Fernando PD on a series of rape cases that he's tied together. He's also doing private work on the side for a wealthy mogul who wants to know if he has an heir.
Another great Bosch novel. Great storylines and characters. His half-brother Mickey Haller also makes an appearance.
by Harlan Coben, Narrated by Scott Brick
Years ago I read some of the early books in Coben's Myron Bolitar series. I didn't care for them but I had read that the stand-alone novels were better than the series. That was a good recommendation.
It's ironic that I read this book so soon after reading "The Art of Invisibility" because this one is all about computer and internet privacy. There are a couple of storylines that, at first, seem completely unrelated ut everything ties together in the end.
The main story is about the Baye family. Adam Baye's parents have put spy software on their son's computer because of his behavior since a high school friend committed suicide. There's another storyline where women are being abducted and tortured to death.
It's a good story and held my interest throughout. I picked this one up in one of their sales and I think I'll try more Coben books again.
Mary Called Magdalene
by Margaret George, Narrated by Kate Reading
I finished off the month with one of my favorite historical fiction writers, Margaret George. This is a fictional biography of Mary and therefore a story about Jesus. Thanksgiving week seemed the perfect time to start reading this book and I truly enjoyed it.
If you are a theologian or academic you may hate this book but if you go into it understanding that it's historical FICTION I think you will enjoy the story.
We know very little about the real Mary Magdalene and this book gives her a plausible story and personality. For people, like me, with very little religious education it's nice way to get some understanding of the story of Christianity.
Another month has flown by and, given that it's football season, I'm pretty pleased that I finished 8 books this month. To be honest several were pretty mediocre but I loved Brain Myths by The Great Courses, The Crossing (because it's Harry Bosch) and The Dead Key. The Dead Key was a particular gem!
What's your favorite book that you read this month? All of us readers are always looking for new ideas!
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger, Narrated by Fred Berman and Phoebe Strole
Clare was 6 years old when she first met 36 year old Henry. They met many times as Clare grew up and eventually married when Clare was 23 and Henry, 31. This was all made possible because Henry has a genetic condition that makes him time travel.
I don't know what prompted me to buy this book and I've been postponing reading it. In the end, I think I'm glad I did. The book is well written and perfectly narrated. It takes a bit of your time to get used to the movements back and forth in time but it all eventually makes sense.
Part of the story line is that Henry is the first person diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder. His genetic clock resets itself and he unwillingly moves back and forth in time. As much as I dislike sci-fi I was surprised that I didn't mind it. The one thing that did bother me was what a frivolous character Henry is. His emotional maturity seems to never develop beyond college. I would expect someone with his "condition" to be more mature. Clare is the mature one and plays the perfect Penelope.
by Carol O'Connell, Narrated by Kate Reading
This is the 6th book in the Kathy Mallory series and I assume I started here because I got it on sale. If anyone else has read the books in this series I'd be really interested in your opinion. Much of my opinion might come from the narration.
So, put on your imagination cap and try to envision Spock from Star Trek as a beautiful, blonde NYC detective. That's how I would describe Kathy Mallory. She's a big bag of cliche characters:
- beautiful, and of course, blonde
- brilliant although she apparently grew up ALONE on the streets of NYC from about the age of 7 to 10
- private to the point of neurosis
- apparently, and mysteriously, wealthy enough to buy only designer clothes
- doesn't understand the concept of teamwork
- skulks around like a cat sneaking up on people
All that and for some strange reason she's a member of the special crimes unit and her co-workers protect her. So, let's change that image. She's part Spock and part Sheldon Cooper. Specifically the most annoying characteristics of both.
On the other hand, the story line is pretty interesting (except for a side story about some series of cheap Western novels that she would steal and have prostitutes read to her when she was a orphan). A prostitute (although the author annoyingly consistently uses "whore") is found dead presumably a suicide by hanging. It's one of the prostitutes that she clung to when she was living on the streets as a child. The murder seems to be strangely connected to another murder 20 years before.
I enjoyed the story and most of the other characters but I can't accept how flat the main character is and I certainly don't want to read any more books with her in them.
The Whiskey Rebels
by David Liss, Narrated by Christopher Lane
I don't think anyone will be surprised to learn that I have a big Excel spreadsheet where I track all of the books that I've read (ok, listened to). I started the list in 1995 and it currently has 1227 books on it. Sometimes, when I'm being smart, I actually consult the list before I buy a book to see if I've read it before or read anything else by the author.
All of that is to say that I didn't consult the list before buying this book and when I was adding this one to the list I discovered that I've read 2 of his other books about 10 years ago. I liked one and couldn't finish the other. Now having read 3 of his books I think I'd say that David Liss has great stories that aren't told all that well.
The Whiskey Rebels is, as you've probably guessed, historical fiction about the Whiskey Rebellion. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the two protagonists: Ethan Saunders and Joan Maycott. They come to the story addressing two overlapping federal government decisions that happened about the same time: establishment of national banking and establishment of the whiskey tax. Several of the characters are real historical figures, most notably Alexander Hamilton. But there are others and the author identifies the "real" people at the end of the book.
It is a good story and probably reflects pretty accurately what life was at that time. It was a little confusing switching back and forth between the 2 characters stories and the writing is mediocre at best. I'm still glad I read it because it made me go and research the Whiskey Rebellion.
By Michael Connelly, Narrated by Titus Welliver
You know after a day of wearing work shoes at the office you can't wait to get home and slide into your favorite sandals. That's what reading Michael Connelly is for me. Harry Bosch is my comfy sandal after wearing tight high heels.
This is #22 in the Harry Bosch series and #6 in Mickey Haller. Harry is now retired and Mickey needs him to be an investigator on a defense case. Hence, the "crossing" over to the enemy. At least that's how his former police detectives see it.
I don't know if it's because the last 2 books were so disappointing but this is one of my favorite Bosch books to date. It didn't hurt to have Titus Welliver narrating it now that I've seen him playing Bosch in the Amazon series.
Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons From Neuroscience
by the Great Courses, Narrated by Professor Indre Viskontas
Back in June I read The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons and really enjoyed it. So the next time I perused the Great Courses section of Audible I picked up this along with a few other books. I first (tried to) listen to The Vikings and discovered that I really don't care about the Vikings at all! I don't mind the ones who wear purple on Sunday but the historic ones, not so much. I stopped listening to that one and moved on to this one without much optimism.
Oh how I loved being pleasantly surprised and that's exactly what this book did. Each chapter is based on a brain myth: that we have 5 senses, that computers make us stupider, that Facebook makes us less social, that we only use 10% of our brain power, the left/right brain dominance. Dr. Viskontas takes on each of these myths (and many more) and share the research into each of these topics to show why our beliefs are all wrong. The material is presented in a way that anyone can understand it and, in some cases, can apply some changes to our own lives to help keep our brains healthy.
There are a couple of chapters where I believe that she should have either expanded the current understanding of the issue beyond neuroscience into included either information or caveats that there are other disciplines affecting the topic. For example, she talks about gender identity as a brain function but neglects to even mention the impact/influence of genetics. She also talks a LOT about her toddler but the examples are generally relevant given the development that happens in the brain in babies and children.
I learned a few things that we can all apply to our own lives. First physical activity is very important to brain health, especially as we age; second, computer activities (which I'll assume includes internet shopping) is great for seniors to keep their brains active; and third, all that Luminosity stuff is the equivalent of brain snake oil.
Some Danger Involved
by Will Thomas, Narrated by Anthony Ferguson
This is another new series to me. I'm pretty sure I picked this up in a sale because it's a little shy of my 10 hour minimum rule.
I didn't pay close attention to the era but I believe this is set around 1900. It opens with Thomas Llewelyn applying for a job with Cyrus Barker. Thomas is starving and homeless and answered a job advertisement as a last effort before throwing himself in the Thames. Barker is a private investigator looking for an assistant and he sees potential in Thomas.
They barely meet before they are off on their first case. Members of the Jewish community have hired Barker to investigate the crucifixion death of one of their citizens. The story is told by Thomas and we eventually get his personal history. If you like Anne Perry (William Monk, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt) you will enjoy this book, and probably the series. It's a little lighter than Perry and I'm on the fence about whether I'll read any more in the series. I did enjoy it and I like the characters but the books run a little short for me and that means that the plots can only be so complex.
The Dead Key
by D. M. Pulley, Narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith
In 1998 the First Bank of Cleveland has been vacant for 20 years. Iris is an engineer in a go-nowhere job when she is asked to create schematics of the old abandoned building for an impending sale. What she finds is a building left frozen in time. The bank had been shuttered in the middle of the night and every employee's desk was left unchanged. Iris starts finding mysterious things.
The story jumps back and forth between the 70's, just before the bank collapse, and the 90's with Iris. In the 70's we are following Beatrice as she starts to uncover some of what is happening there.
This book was the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and I completely understand how it won. It's a great (and unique storyline) told really well. It jumps back and forth in time which, as you know, I generally find supremely annoying. Ms. Pulley should teach a class for writers on how to do that transition right because she did it brilliantly and perfectly.
I couldn't turn this book off. One night I tried to listen to it in bed but it kept me wide awake. If you have worked in banking, as I did twice, you will know that the plot is mostly impossible but there's a thread of maybe, just maybe.....
By Robert Bidinotto, Narrated by Conor Hall
I found this one in another Deal of the Day and it's the second in the Dylan Hunter series. Dylan is a former special ops guy and the book opens with he and his girlfriend (a CIA operative) at the end of a month off recovering from the last operation. Just are they are leaving their mountain woods retreat an group of environmental terrorists have attacked a natural gas operation's offices.
Dylan and Annie stop the attack but the perps try to get revenge by planting a pipe bomb at their cabin.
The good about this book is the refreshing turn of events from traditional evil-doer stories. This time it's the environmentalists, EPA and other government officials that are the bad guys. The story runs along at a good pace and there are some twists and turns but too many of them are predictable and formulaic. Dylan has so many special skills, tools, connections and and such an endless supply of personal funds that the drama that's supposed to be there really isn't.
But that's not the worst part. Annie is the annoying character. She supposedly has PTSD but not "serious" PTSD but she can't be with Dylan if he continues his lifestyle....although she's still in the CIA. She is completely unbelievable as a CIA operative. She's way too girly and whiny for her character.
The funniest part of the book is that the voice for one of the characters sounds EXACTLY like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. The most annoying part is the Valentine's Day dinner. Completely unbelievable. Also unbelievable is that an operative with such an unpredictable schedule has a pet cat. Oh, and the narrator pronounces "cache" as "kash-A" instead of "kash" - like a kash-A of weapons. Hilarious.
I don't think I'll be delving further into this series.
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.
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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