This was not my best reading month. There was a lot of mediocre this month. It started off great, I enjoyed the first 3 books, especially The Dictionary of Lost Words. The two book we chose for our drive to Maine were fun reads. The last 2 book are ones that I cannot recommend, although they have great ratings on Audible.
What book recommendations do you have for us this month?
Got the Look by James Grippando - it would be OK if you had nothing else to read
Just Another Missing Person
By Jillian McAllister, Read by a cast
Julia is a detective investigating the one day disappearance of a missing 22 year old. Olivia was last seen on CCTV entering a dead-end alley but she was never seen coming out. As she's going to the crime scene she's confronted by the perpetrator who knows her deepest secret. She either does what he says or she puts her own daughter in jeopardy. She has to frame someone else for the crime.
Very suspenseful, fast paced and makes you wonder what you would do in a similar situation.
The Mitford Murders
By Jessica Fellowes, Read by Rachel Atkins
This is the first book in a 6 book series set in the Golden Age of London. Think of it as Murder at Downton Abbey. That's not a coincidence as the author is the niece to Julian Fellowes and wrote the companion books to the series.
The series takes place at the Asthall Manor, the home of the Mitford family. Louisa Cannon is trying to escape her life of poverty in London and the opportunity to be a nursery maid is too good to pass up. She forms a friendship with the oldest daughter, Nancy.
When a nurse, Florence Nightingale Shaw is murdered on a train, Nancy leads Louisa into some amateur sleuthing. The book is actually based on the unsolved murder of the real Florence Nightingale Shaw. You can read the real story here. The book stays relatively true to the story, as much as it can.
It was a good, entertaining read. It's not edge-of-your-seat suspenseful and it's not quite cosy. It's a book for the day you just want to be entertained and don't want to work too hard to keep up with too many characters and crazy sub-plots.
The Dictionary of Lost Words
By Pip Williams, Read By Pippa Bennett-Warner
Among people who track such things (not me), it's famously known that the one word accidently left out of the first draft of the Oxford English Dictionary is "bondmaid". That is the fact that this story is based on.
Esme's mother died before she knew her so she spent her life with her father. Much of that time was in the Scriptorium where her father worked as a lexicographer editing words for the OED. She grew up there and developed a habit of collecting the slips of paper with rejected words. The first was "bondmaid".
Esme's life is in the middle of the Suffrage movement and WWI so she also collects words from the "common" people of those times. Most of the words are "women's words" and spoken words from tradespeople and illiterates. Her story unfolds with the words that she finds.
This book was recommended to me by 2 people last month and it happened to be available at my library so I jumped on it. It's one of those books that you read and feel like it was perfectly crafted. Great characters, prose, history and dialogue; it's all there.
An Honest Man
By Michael Koryta, Read By Robert Petkoff
This was the book we picked for our ride up to Maine and it was perfect. It's fast paced and kept us interested for the whole drive.
Israel Pike discovers 7 men murdered on a floating yacht. He's one of the primary suspects by his detective uncle because Israel is an ex-con.
Lyman Rankin is a 12 year old boy who has to frequently escape from his violent father. He has a secret place where he hides but when he goes there he's confronted by a hatchet-wielding woman.
It's all connected and there's no one to trust.
The Night Agent
By Matthew Quirk, Read By Chris Andrew Ciulla
FBI Agent Peter Sutherland is assigned to work the night desk in the White House Situation Room. It's boring until one night when one young woman calls in and says "Osprey was right, it's happening..." That sets off the unfolding of a years long conspiracy where a foreign government has access at the highest levels of the US Government.
It's a very fast paced spy novel but also very forgettable. The premise is unbelievable and the characters are unbelievable. But if you love chase scenes, this is the book for you.
By Nick Petrie, Read By Stephen Mendel
I've actually read this book before but we needed a good book for the drive home from vacation and this was perfect. This is the second book in the Peter Ash series and it's one of my favorite mystery series.
It's action stuff kind of like Dewey Andreas and Jason Bourne. Ash is a war veteran with severe PTSD. He's very claustrophobic and has spent much of his time in the California redwood forest . One day he becomes of too much interest to a Grizzly and, in looking for an escape, finds a rope and starts climbing. He ends up on a platform in the redwoods and finds a woman there who is trying to escape from dangerous men chasing her. He decides to help.
The 8th book in the series is set to come out in February.
The Women of Chateau Lafayette
By Stephanie Dray, Read by a cast
This is a historical fiction novel set around Chateau Lafayette, birthplace of the American independence hero, Marquis de Lafayette. It takes place during 3 wars. The first is Adrienne Lafayette during the American Revolution and French Revolution. The second is Beatrice Chanler, socialite Wife of William Astor Chanler, during the first and second World Wars. The third is a fictional girl named Marthe Simone, who was one of the young orphans raised at Chateau Lafayette and focuses on her work in the Resistance during WWII.
I have read 5 books authored or co-authored by Stephanie Dray and, honestly, the best ones are the ones she co-authored with Laura Kamoie: America's First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton. With all 3 solo books I've had trouble really connecting with the main characters. They are shallow, not well developed and there are too many frivolous scenes with the characters agonizing over decisions rather than actual action. I can't count the number of times that Beatrice worried about her hat....in the middle of a war! The novel moves back and forth between the eras but, because there's no real connection between the characters, it's just comes across as disorganized. It's a 24 hour book and, honestly, way too long. It took me a long time to finish it because I was often avoiding listening to it. But, I did hold out and finish it.
By Geraldine Brooks, Read by a cast
I did not like this book. It is supposed to be the story of one of the most famous racing horses of all time: Lexington. He's most knows as being the most successful sire of all time. The book is supposed to be historical fiction but the only history is the horse. All the rest is pure fiction and is a story about slavery and racism, and not a very good one at that.
I usually don't quote anyone else but I found this review on Audible that I felt best summed up this book perfectly. Credit to Heather who posted this on 08/25/2022
"A little bit of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a touch of Black Beauty, a swing at Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and as if that wasn’t enough, we top it off with Black Lives Matter! I just rolled my eyes all the way through this predictable book. The only thing that kept my interest was that I’d never heard of Lexington."
Just a book full of flat characters, weak storylines and a lot of cliches. I have read 4 of Brooks' books and the only one that I really loved was Years of Wonder about Eyam England during the plague.
What a great book month! I only finished 7 books but that was because some were long and also, it's football season. It's the time of year when I take off the headphones to sit in front of the TV.
Of the 7 books I finished I was only disappointed with one: The Sentence. I just didn't get the point of that one but I enjoyed all of the other books and my favorite is probably The Improbability of Love.
What books did you love (or hate) this month?
By Sarah Waters, Read By Juanita McMahon
If Charles Dickens wrote a psychological thriller, it would be this book.
In Victorian England, Susan Trinder was orphaned as a baby and raised by Mrs. Sucksby, who she views as a mother. Mrs. Sucksby along with a few other well-trained pickpockets and con artists. One day, fellow con, Gentleman, arrives with a grand plan to use Susan to swindle a young woman out of her inheritance.
Susan will become the Lady's personal maid and help convince her to marry Gentleman and will share in the riches. It's an elaborate scam that is in jeopardy when Susan forms a bond with the Lady.
This is one of the most unique and interesting books I've read in a while. It's a long one so if you are considering it, be prepared to devote over 23 hours to it.
The story is told alternating between Susan's story and the Lady's story. When it first started with Susan's story I really couldn't figure out what could make the book so long. Then part 2 is the same story told from the other perspective. Each one revealing a very surprising twist.
There are a couple of pretty steamy scenes and there's a very interesting storyline involving Victorian pornography. So be aware of that if it offends you. It's definitely the seedy side of Victorian London. I enjoyed it. It was a fresh story, not just another rehash of so many common plots.
The Ice Princess
By Camilla Lackberg, Read By David Thorn
This book was translated from Swedish so the names are all Swedish and sometimes hard to follow, but it's a fun mystery read.
Erica Falk has returned home after the deaths of her parents to clean out the house. While visiting, her childhood friend Alex is murdered. She and Alex haven't been in contact in years but Alex's parents as Erica to write a biography of Alex. Information about why Alex disappeared from her life is starting to come out.
Meanwhile, detective Patrick Hedstrom thinks his boss has the case all wrong and is investigating separate leads on his own. He and Erica also have a connection from their youth.
It was a good general mystery read.
By Louise Erdrich, Read By Louise Erdrich
I loved Erdrich's book, The Roundhouse, and was really looking forward to this one. Boy, was I disappointed.
Let me start my comments by saying that this book gets rave reviews so take my opinion as just that: opinion.
The premise of the book is that Tookie has just finished serving a long prison term which she survived by voracious reading. Now that she's out, she has gotten a job at a Minneapolis bookstore that specializes in indigenous authors. One of their most frequent customers dies on All Souls Day in 2019 and begins haunting Tookie at the store. What follows is just a weird rambling through the events of the next 12 months including a very large dose of pandemic, George Floyd, riots and BLM. By the end, I didn't even care about the point of the ghost. I just wanted it over. If the summary had mentioned anything about the pandemic storyline I would have never picked it up. Maybe in 20 years I could read about that but, at the moment, I'm not interested.
The author narrates it and, frankly, it's lethargic. I have never had to speed up a book to 1.25x to make it tolerable but I did with this one. There are also lots of lists of books. I think this book was a vehicle for the author to share her favorite reading lists. I kept listening to see if there ever was a point. I think it's intended to have some deep meaning and to make the reader have some deep reflections on something but I didn't get it.
The Girl on the Bridge
By James Hayman, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is #5 in the McCabe and Savage series. I needed a fast paced mystery after The Sentence and I got exactly what I wanted.
12 years ago Hannah Reindel was drugged and raped at a college fraternity party. When she reported it, 4 months later, she was not believed. She has dealt with the trauma ever since and on a December night she reaches a breaking point and jumps off a bridge into a freezing river.
A month after Hannah's death, Joshua Thorne, one of the alleged rapists is reported missing in Portland, Maine. During the investigation, McCabe and Savage discover that another of the rapists has recently died in New Hampshire. That one was reportedly an accidental death. The local investigator isn't so sure.
This story moves fast, has a couple of nice twists and the characters are interesting and, mostly, likable. I like all of the books in this series and this is the last one.
The Improbability of Love
By Hannah Rothschild, Read By Adam James and Kirsten Atherton
I loved this book!
Annie McDee is trying to get over a failed relationship, living in a crummy London flat, dreams of being a chef but is just barely getting by as a film maker's assistant.
She's in a new relationship now and is planning a nice birthday dinner for the man. She stops in a thrift store and finds a painting that she thinks he might like and blows her last $75 on it. Sadly, he's a no show and she's left to pick up the pieces of another failed relationship.
Now this painting is hers and her alcoholic mother is trying to convince her that the painting might actually be valuable. Unfortunately, the painting seems to bring her nothing but bad luck and it gets worse as people start to realize what it is and everyone wants it.
If you like art and history, you will love this book. It has one feature that is usually a big turnoff for me but it works in this book. The painting, called The Improbability of Love, narrates part of the story. The painting is so witty that I don't mind it and it was a great way to introduce the history of the painting into the story.
I got hooked for the start and couldn't put it down.
None of This is True
By Lisa Jewell, Read by a cast
Lisa Jewell is one heck of a writer and she's produced another winner with this new book.
Alix Summer is celebrating her 45th birthday at a local pup when she meets Josie Fair. They discover that they were both born on the same day at the same hospital. They are birthday twins.
Alix is a podcaster and just finished a series and is looking for another idea. After meeting Josie listens to all of Alix's podcasts and, when they meet a few days later, convinces Alix that she would be a good subject for her series. Josie says that she is going through big changes in her life.
The next thing she knows, Josie has entwined herself into Alix's life.
Some people in the reviews commented that they felt the ending was unfinished. I thought that the ending was perfect for the character. I couldn't put it down and stayed up very late one night to finish it.
The Fires of Vesuvius
By Mary Beard, Read By Phyllida Nash
If you are into Roman history then this is the book for you. If you are British then you are probably very familiar with the author, Mary Beard, and will know that this book is going to be thorough and accurate.
Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE and destroyed Pompeii. Most of what we know about early Roman life is information gathered from unearthing Pompeii. In this book, Beard makes sense of all of that information separating fact from speculation.
I thought it was organized really well and was very informative.
My August reading was totally focused on finding good vacation books so the list might seem a little different than usual. The result is a mixed bag. My favorites are Those Who Wish Me Dead and The Rachel Project. My least favorite was Life On The Edge because it was way over my head.
Gideon's Sword by Preston and Child - I loved the Pendergast series until Cold Vengeance. They made that book a "half book" by continuing it to another book to be published a year later. It annoyed me so much that I haven't read anything else from them. I thought it might be time to try again and selected this series. It's flat out awful.
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese - I stuck with it for about 15 hours and just had to quilt. There's no way that Oprah read and liked this book. This is the second Verghese book that I've quilt on. I won't try a third. They are both just dull and a drudgery to read.
What are the best books that you read this month?
By Kate Morton, Read By Clare Foy
I saved this book specifically for my 2-day trip to Maine and it kept me good company for the drive.
It's 2018 and Jess is called home to Australia from London because her beloved Grandmother, Nora, is sick and in hospital. Jess was mostly raised by her Grandmother because her mother, Polly, was quite absent as she was growing up.
At Nora's home Jess discovers a decades old true crime book that tells the story of a murder-suicide on Christmas Eve 1959. The victims were Nora's sister-in-law, nieces and nephew.
In typical Kate Morton style, the story moves back and forth in time revealing the crime, activities leading up to the crime and Nora's actions afterward as Jess is making discoveries of her own in current time.
It's probably not the best Kate Morton book but the character development is good, the story is good and I enjoyed my drive much more because I had this to listen to.
The narrator gets a lot of criticism on the Audible app but I thought she did a fine job. I had no complaints.
By Emily Henry, Read By Julia Whelan
If you like romance books that are like the Hallmark Channel but with spice then this is the book for you. It's not particularly my genre but this one has gotten a lot of press and I needed a palette cleanser after The Covenant of Water disappointment.
Books have defined Nora Stephen's life in every possible way from the most important memories of her late mother to her current job as a book agent. She's also dedicated her life to looking out for her younger sister who is now a mother of 2, soon to be 3. Before the baby is born, Libby wants Nora to take a month-long trip to Sunshine Fall, NC, the setting for Libby's favorite romance novel by one of Nora's authors.
Nora is surprised to run into one of her publishing rivals, Charlie Lastra, in this small town. Sparks fly as they are thrown together many times over the weeks ahead.
You know the rest. It's a cute book and was fine entertainment for 2 days.
By R. F. Kuang, Read By Helen Laser
June Hayward and Athena Lui were classmates at Yale and both aspiring authors. At the opening of the story Athena has made it big and June is still struggling to get her writing career off the ground. One night, while having dinner, Athena chokes and dies. June steals her most recent manuscript and publishes it as her own work.
It's not long before people are accusing her of stealing the work, at worst, and cultural appropriation, at the least.
It is not "chilling and hilariously cutting" as described by the publishers summary. It's a sad commentary on our current societal mores. June is not the only "thief" in this tale. As we see every day in the real world, anyone jealous of someone else's success can degrade others with accusations of cultural appropriation, racism, or any other aggression. What I found interesting in the reviews is the general complaint about June is that she's racist. I didn't see her as racist at all. What I saw was a lazy writer with moderate talent who became a thief as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Her stealing that manuscript had nothing to do with racism and everything to do with her general bad character and opportunity. But in today's society everything is racist which, I believe, makes nothing racist. We need to be less lazy in our own criticisms of people. Thieves are thieves, Liars are liars, and racists are racists. Everyone is not racists just because you are offended.
The other aspect of the story is commentary on the publishing world where a small group of people pick the winners and losers and decide what we will be allowed to read. I didn't find any of that surprising or insightful. It's no different from the news, entertainment and music industries. I found the storyline from this aspect to be kind of repetitive and dull.
I didn't particularly enjoy the book but I can see that it would create some very interesting discussions in a book club meeting.
Life on the Edge
By Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili
I like reading non-fiction on vacation for some reason but I may have stepped too far off the edge with this one. The basic premise of this book is to show how quantum mechanics applies to biology. I've read a few books on quantum mechanics and I understand it a little and I think I pick up a little more with each book. But I'll never be conversant in the topic.
This book started out interesting for me as they discussed how certain processes can be expressed in terms of quantum mechanics. These include the internal magnetic compasses of migrating birds, photosynthesis in plants, sense of smell and the enzyme processes of the body. I was pretty good through all of that.
The rest of the book heads off into wild speculations about quantum mechanics and the mutations in genetic code, origins of life, definition of consciousness.
In the end, it got way too complex for me to follow.
Those Who Wish Me Dead
By Michael Koryta
I didn't listen to this book, I actually read it and did it in 2 days.
Jace Wilson is a teenager playing around in quarry and when he dives into the water he discovers a dead body. As he's getting out of the water 2 mens show up with another man, slice his throat and dump him in the quarry too. They see Jace's clothes and realize they have a witness.
The killers will now do anything to get to Jace and prevent him from testifying against them. Jace and his family do not trust the cops so they agree to put Jace in a wilderness program in Montana. They are depending on Ethan and Allison Serbin to protect Jace.
It's not long before they realize where Jace is and the chase begins.
Koryta writes good stories. Lots of action and there were a couple of twists in this one that I did not see coming. It was a fun read.
The Rachel Incident
By Caroline O'Donoghue, Read by Tara Flynn
Rachel is a university student and James is her new co-worker at the local bookstore. They decide to become roommates and, immediately, fast friends.
Rachel has developed a crush for her married professor, Dr. Byrne. Byrne has written a new book and Rachel and James orchestrate a reading at the bookstore as a ruse to throws Rachel into his path. But Dr. Byrne has other desires.
That incident leads to a lot of secrets, compromises and long term effects that play out in the rest of the story. It's all about the inevitable messiness of living a life. It was a good story.
The Lucky Ones
By Mark Edwards, Read By Simon Mattacks
It's been a few years since I read a Mark Edwards book and I really need to have him in my rotation more often. He creates some really interesting characters!
Detective Imogen Evans is called to a murder. The victim, a recent heart transplant recipient and successful antiques dealer is killed just when she is at her happiest. She even dies with a smile on her face. Evans knows she has a serial killer on her hands.
Nearby, Ben Holland's life is finally straightening out. He and his son moved back to his home town to distance himself from his cheating wife and to be near his dying mother. It's been hard to get back on his feet but suddenly things are looking up.
Fast paced, good character development and a couple of twists. Everything you need from a good murder mystery.
Everything I Learned From Falling
By Claire Nelson
I read this one in hardback as a vacation read. Claire Nelson was hiking in Joshua Tree National Park when she fell and shattered her pelvis. She was off the trail and she wasn't sure if anyone would realize she was missing. She spent 3 nights in the desert and this is her survival story.
It was pretty interesting. One thing we've noticed when hiking that almost all of the solo hikers are women. Honestly, it's just plain stupid to hike alone but even dumber to not tell people when/where you are going and not leave a note on your car about when you left and where you went.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota
By J. Ryan Stradal, Read By Judith Ivey
This is one quirky and fun story. I don't' know how I found it because it's not something I would usually read. But it was a fun light vacation read and the narrator nailed the Minnesota accent.
Two sisters are emotionally separated when their father leaves the proceeds from the family farm to the younger sister, Helen, to help her start a brewery. The older sister, Edith is an award-winning baker but she and her husband struggle to make a living. When Edith's daughter and son-in-law die in a car crash, she takes in her Granddaughter, Diana. Diana eventually earns a shot at brewing an IPA. Will beer bring the family back together?
It's a fun story about family and beer. There's a lot of information about beer, which I didn't mind at all. The characters are likable and the story is told in a nice mid-western manner. It's a fun read.
I finished 8 books in July. That's kind of a slow month for me but when I have a lot going on I have trouble concentrating on books and listen to podcasts instead. Even with only 8 books, I'm happy to report that I was only disappointed with one, The Last Revival of Opal and Nev"
Two of the books I read this month are ones that were left as recommendations in last month's comments so be sure to read other's recommendations too! Also be sure to leave your own recommendations in the comments. I added a bunch of books from last month's comments to my various electronic wish lists. I'll get to them all eventually.
Island Queen by Vanessa Riley - Couldn't keep track of the characters with the narration.
The Museum of Ordinary People
By Mike Gayle, Read By Witney White
Another great book from one of my favorite writers. Mike Gayle writes wonderful books about relationships between people: family, friends and random strangers.
Jess is dealing with the sudden loss of her mother. It's month's later and time to clean out the house to prepare it for selling. She can seem to make herself get rid of the encyclopedia set that her mother gave her as a child. Her boyfriend is pressuring her to get rid of them because he doesn't want them in their tiny apartment. Then a friend tells her about the Museum of Ordinary People housed in the back of a warehouse. She's intrigued and becomes the unofficial curator along with the warehouse's new owner.
This book is all about the deep meaning in ordinary items but also about friendship, family and finding your right path. Gayle is a master of character development so you know these people and want to spend time with them.
By Patrick K. O'Donnell, Read By Will Damron
Over July 4th weekend I felt it was only right to read some American history and chose this book....wisely.
Every state education system teaches American history with a little different spin. In Virginia, we have a lot of history and our education (at least on the 1960's) focused heavily on Virginia and Virginia's heroes. We did get a lot of Revolutionary War history but it was Virginia focused.
This book added a lot to my education because it about the Marblehead Regiment if Massachusetts. The book delves into the pre-war lead up in Massachusetts as it pertains to the soldiers and mariners of Marblehead. These are the people that rowed Washington across the Delaware and did so many more heroic acts during the war.
Also, because Marblehead (the town) was highly integrated, the Regiments was also integrated with white, black, Hispanic and Native American troops.
It's very interesting book but I think I'd recommend that you read the book instead of listening to the audio. I like Will Damron as a narrator which makes me thing that something was off with the direction or editing.
The Kitchen Front
By Jennifer Ryan, Read By Jasmine Blackborow
I picked up this recommendation from Carole's blog and it was a good one! I usually don't remember where I got recommendations but this one was read within a week of raeding her blog post because the mibrary had it avaiable to check out right away.
It's the middle of WWII and everyone at home is suffering from fear, loss and a lack of access to good food. The BBC has a shows calle The Kitchen Front and is looking for a female co host. They decided to have a contest in the local area where the current host lives. Four women enter the 3 stage contest. One dish will be prepared each month: a starter, a main and a dessert. There's a war widow with 3 children who needs a better way to support her family, a kitchen maid wanting to escape life downstairs, a trained chef trying to break into the man's world of being a head chef and a manor lady wanting to escape her brutal husband.
The story follows the 4 women through the three months of the competition. The character development and story pacing is excellent and there are some very poignant moments.
Code Name Blue Wren
By Jim Popkin, Read By Jim Popkin
I think that Kristen F. recommended this one to me. I'm not sure I'm glad I read it although, it was very interesting.
It's the true story of Ana Montes, a high ranking official at the Defense Intelligence Agency. She used that position to spy for Fidel Castro's Cuba for 17 years. Her intelligence unmasked US spies in Cuba and led directly to the death of a Green Beret in El Salvador.
The book is riveting and frankly, reveals the ineptitude of the FBI in finding spies within our government. No wonder they turned their focus to parents at school board meetings and Catholics attending Church. Those groups are easier to find and intimidate.
The reason that I'm not sure I'm glad that I read it is because Ana Montes is now free after 20 years in jail. How does that happen?
In all seriousness, it is a very interesting and well written book.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
By Dawnie Walton, Read By a cast
It's difficult for me to describe this book so I'm going to start by sharing the publisher's summary:
Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.
In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.
Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.
Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.
This book has fantastic reviews but, from my perspective, it's kind of a hot mess. The narrative perspective is all over the place. That's the "daring structure" mentioned above. The cast is great but it's awkward when a character starts to speak and they introduces themselves first "Opal Jewel: blah blah blah". But it's not always like that. Sometime the Sunny character speaks for the other characters.
Opal is not particularly likable either. She behaves like a big star but the largest crowd she had ever performed for is 20,000. She so impetuous that she has her stage temper tantrums without consideration for the people who came to see her perform or he fellow performers. She seems to feel that her principles come before all else. There are 2 major incidences of this in the book and we can understand why she is not popular with promoters. She's immature and unprofessional.
Opal and Nev, as performers, are set well into the actual music and cultural history of their time so that you feel they might be a real band that you have never heard of. I found the story tedious and couldn't wait for it to end. But, this book gets RAVE reviews so you might like it.
By Peter Robinson, Read By Simon Prebble
This is #25 in the Inspector Alan Banks series set in the UK.
A young college student is found dead in an abandoned car but she didn't die there. It appears to be a suicide.
Near the same time the body of an unidentified man is found in gully. By his dress, he appears affluent and appears to have died from head trauma.
Inspector banks must decide if the cases are related and there's a side story that's related to a previous book. The side story was distracting to me and got a little confusing. I don't think I've read the book that carries that backstory but it does carry a lead up to a future story.
These books are entertaining. To me, they aren't as good as original John Sandford or Nick Petrie, but it's still a good series.
By Jane Harper, Read By Stephen Shanahan
This is the 3rd installment in the Aaron Falk series. It's a series that I've enjoyed and I'll keep an eye out for future releases.
In Exiles, Aaron Falk is on vacation in a small town in wine country in Southern Australia. He's there for the christening of his friend's daughter but it also marks the one year anniversary of the disappearance of Kim Gillespie.
At the annual festival a year ago, Kim's baby was found tucked in a stroller, alone, at the festival. People have been searching for her ever since. Falk can't avoid getting involved.
Good mystery, interesting characters and kept my focus during a week where I was completely distracted.
Sparks Like Stars
By Nadia Hashimi, Read By Mozhan Marno
In Kabul in 1978, Sitara Zamani lived a very privileged life as her father was a senior aide to the president. But when she was 10 years old her entire family was killed during a coup and only she survived.
She was smuggled out of the palace and eventually out of the country and found home in the United States.
In 2008, her name is Arianna and she's an oncology surgeon in NYC and a surprising patient arrives in her office. It's the man who saved her from the massacre but also may be the man who murdered her family. It's finally time to return to Kabul and learn the truth.
This was a very interesting historical fiction novel. It's about Afghanistan, the effects of trauma on children and how trauma is often bottled up and carried into adulthood. I'm glad I found this nw-to-me author.
Another reading month has come to an end and, for the most part, it was a really good one. A lot of the books I listen to now come from the library so I tend to read whatever comes off hold whenever a book is available. Where I use to kind of purposely rotate genres, now I read what I'm given. I don't mind either way, but this month it meant fewer non-fiction books.
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?
By Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, Read By Ronke Adékoluejo
Yinka is a 30+ single woman in a Nigerian community in the UK. Her mother and aunties constantly pray for her to find a husband. She's still grieving over a recent breakup when she loses her job and has to get involved in planning her cousin's wedding. Each bridesmaid sets a "wedding goal" and Yinka's is to find a date for the wedding. With spreadsheets and Post-It notes, she marches toward a plan.
Some reviewers see this book as a statement on misogyny and colorism in traditional cultures. I'm not in that camp. I don't see transgressions everywhere I look. I see the human condition and this is just a really good coming-of-age story as a young woman figures out what she truly wants in life. The story could have been told with a backdrop of any culture. These characters aren't necessarily uniquely Nigerian but the language and traditions of Nigerian culture adds richness to the story. Also, the narration is spot on.
By Charles Frazier, Read By Will Patton
I have read 3 of Frazier's books now. I loved Cold Mountain and thought Varina was disjointed. This one falls somewhere in the middle.
It's the height of the Great Depression and Val Welch (a man) has been hired to paint a mural at a post office in remote Wyoming. A local rancher and art lover, John Long, has offered to host Val at the ranch. Everything is going fine until John's wife, Eve, leaves home with a valuable Renoir painting. Long convinces Val to search for Eve and so begins a journey to Seattle, Florida and San Francisco.
It's not a bad book but it also wasn't riveting. I felt that the characters were a little flat although the prose is lovely.
By Oliver Sacks
I like to sit outside and get a little sun and grounding in every day so I keep a "real" book around to read and it's usually a non-fiction book. I'm pretty sure I picked this one up at a used book sale. If you are generally interested in the topic, you would find this book interesting.
It's basically a survey of different kinds of hallucinations, delusions and deliriums and the point of the book is to explain the different manifestations and causes. It covers Parkinsonian hallucinations, visual migraines, narcolepsy, sensory deprivation and much more.
I learned that my aunt with macular degeneration had Charles Bonnet syndrome in the last year of her life when her blindness was almost 100%. I think the best thing about the book is that it helps people understand what the hallucinating person is experiencing through a lot of personal stories.
By Ian McEwan, Read By Jill Tanner
I almost gave up on this book but I read some reviews that said to hang on until Chapter 10 where it makes a strong turn for the better. I stuck with it until the end and I'm still not sure what the point was.
Briony Tallis is an extremely annoying teenager when this book opens in 1935. Her family is quite dysfunctional and during a gathering of family and friends, Briony sees some events that she shouldn't and it leads her to accuse someone of a crime they didn't commit. That's what happens in Chapter 10 and it changes everyone's lives.
In part 3 we see what happened to everyone during the war and in the last part we visit with Briony again in 1999.
I know there was a movie made from this book. Did you see it? I sure hope it was better than this book. I found the characters flat and unsympathetic. Much of the story also just didn't seem all that relevant to the original crime. The book gets rave reviews so take my criticism with a grain of salt. If you have read it and have a different opinion please leave it in the comments.
The Island of Sea Women
By Lisa See, Read by Jennifer Lim
This was a very interesting book. Through the fictional story of two women, it tells the story of the Haenyeo divers of the island of Jeju, off South Korea. The tradition of female divers dates back to the 17th century. They can dive up to 98 feet deep and hold their breath up to 3 minutes. They have an incredible tolerance for hypothermia.
The story is told over decades through the lives of Mi-ja and Young-sook. They were very best friends at a young age when they started diving, but, as they grew older and political issues overwhelmed the culture, they grew apart and became enemies. It's a lovely story and could have done with a better narrator. Jennifer Lim got better as the characters aged but it was a rough start. I had to slow down the speed a bit.
The Girl in the Glass
By James Hayman, Read by Stephen Mendel
This is #4 in the McCabe and Savage series. Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage are detectives in Portland, ME and are called to investigate the murder of Veronica Aimee Whitby, daughter of one of the wealthiest people in Maine. Her murder is eerily similar to that of her Great-Grandmother (also named Aimee) in 1904. Both had the letter "A" cut into their chests.
There's only one more book in this series and I'm sorry to know that. I enjoy these characters and the stories are fast paced and "realistic" enough. His writing style reminds me a lot of early John Sandford.
The Heart's Invisible Furies
By John Boyne, Read By Stephen Hogan
Oh my, this has to be one of my favorite books ever. This is the second book I've read by John Boyne and he's officially one of my favorite writers, right up there with William Kent Krueger.
Cyril Avery was born out of wedlock to a teenager mother in Catholic Ireland, just after WWII. His mother was creuely kicked out of her community and finds a new life and creates a new family support in Dublin. She puts her baby up for an adoption coordinated by a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun. He's adopted by the Averys and it's made clear from the beginning that he's "not a real Avery".
This is a beautiful 21 hour coming of age saga about a young boy coping with being gay in Catholic Ireland and living with adoptive parents that treat him as if he's another status acquisition.
While his sexuality is an integral part of him and his story, that's not really what the book is about. It's about finding yourself, forgiveness, survival, creating family.....everything.
I loved All The Broken Places and I loved this book even more. The character development is flawless to the point that you can believe that all of these characters exist in the real world. The story is told in 7 year increments creating a perfect cadence to the story development.
The House Is On Fire
By Rachel Beanland, Read by a cast
This is one of the most popular books in my region at the moment and it was worth the long library wait.
On December 26, 1811 , almost 600 people were attending a theater production at the Richmond Theater at today's 12th and College streets. The chandelier stage prop caught scenery backdrops on fire creating an event so bad that even international newspapers carried it. The fire killed 72 people, including the sitting Governor.
In this book, Beanland, tracks the fate of 4 people during the fire and it's immediate aftermath. All of the characters are based on real people but they aren't necessarily real stories. But each story is certainly possible. The story only covers 4 days, from the fire to the mass burial and memorial service. The inquest was completed in 3 days, totally unheard of today.
If you like historical fiction, it's a really good book on it's own. But if you are a Virginian, it's even more interesting because the descriptions of Richmond and surrounding areas at that time.
Never Far Away
By Michael Koryta, Read By Robert Petcoff
This book got me through the last 2 days of piecing the Goldfinch quilt and I'm grateful for it! Lots of action and twists kept me diverted from the tedium.
Leah Trenton was once a wife and mother of 2 young children. But she had to leave that all behind and enter the witness protection program. She left her family and relocated to the rural Maine Highlands (where we spend 2 weeks each summer). One day her former husband unexpectedly dies in a car accident and her daughter calls the emergency number that she's been taught. Leah has to come out of hiding to adopt her children as Aunt Leah.
But the man who wanted her dead, still wants her dead. There are definitely some roll-your-eye moments, but it was a fun read.
The Brighter the Light
By Mary Ellen Taylor, Read By Megan Tusing
I finished off the month with a light beach read, this one set in Nags Head, NC. Ivy Neale inherits her grandmother's home on Nags Head, where Ivy grew up. She's coming home from NYC to clear out the house and get it ready to sell.
During her stay she has to deal with the abruptness of her departure from Nags Head 10 years earlier and as she sorts through her Grandmother's things she starts to uncover things that she did no know about her family history. The story is set in 2 time periods: 1950 and 2022.
It was a nice read. One thing Taylor did that I thought was very smart was to not reference COVID at all in the 2022 time period. When I started reading books that were set in 2020 and 2021 I felt that authors that incorporated the COVID storyline were making a mistake. No one is going to want to read a COVID story. We're over it. But we would be happy to read a book set fictionally in that time that didn't address any of the stuff that was happening then. This was jut a good beach escapist story and I enjoyed it.
I finished 9 books in May and it was a month heavy on non-fiction with a strong dose of chick lit. Admittedly, it was a strange mix. I gave up on 2 books and should have given up on a third. The Conviction was straight up awful. Everything else was good!
DNF Books: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives - AKA The secret pettiness of a polygamist's wives. I think there might be a good story there but you have to wade through a lot of unnecessary tedious narrative about things like bodily functions.
Raising Lazarus - There are better books about the plight of the drug addicted that have less politics. I'd recommend Dreamland and The Least of Us, both by Sam Quinnones. I don't think this book will age well.
What have you been reading that you would recommend? Please leave your thoughts on any of these books as well. I think it's good for people to get different opinions when looking for a new book to read.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #18 in the Cork O'Connor series and it's a deviation from the other books in the series. This one is set in 1963 when Cork is a 12 year old boy and his father, Liam, is the newly elected sheriff.
Cork and his friends find the body of a respected Ojibwe man. It appears that it was suicide but Lima must prove it one way or another.
I still love these books and I enjoyed this look back at a young Cork and his family.
By Chris Blackwell, Read By Bill Nighy
If you like music history you will love this book. Chris Blackwell grew up a rich kid between London and Jamaica. While living in Jamaica he fell in love with the island music and, after meeting Bob Marley, decided to produce his record. What followed is a fascinating music recording career for artists such as Cat Stevens, Steve Winwood, U2, Grace Jones and others. It was a fascinating read.
By graham Hancock, Read By Graham Hancock
If you check out his Wiki page, you will see that the Graham hancock is labeled a "pseudoscientist". Of course, that's code for anyone that the establishment in any field doesn't like. We saw a lot of that the past 3 years in the medical arena. I don't pay attention to any of that any more and I try to read and research on my own and develop my own opinions.
I ready Hancock's earlier book, Magician of the Gods, which proposes that the lost civilization that Plato referred to as Atlantis, absolutely could have existed and been destroyed 11,600 years ago. I found the book fascinating and compelling. I was excited to read this new one (published in 2019). It focuses on the history of the Americas, specifically the Amazon, Inca culture and North America.
There are parts of this book that are speculative but there's a lot that's been proven and accepted as fact. For one, when I was in school we were taught that the Clovis people were the first society to inhabit North America about 13,000 years ago. In the last 15 years there have been huge discoveries of other cultures and it's been proven that the Clovis people were not the first to settle in North America and it has been confirmed that there were other, unrelated, people as far back as 25,000 years ago.
The writing style of the book is accessible for us "non-sciency" types and the subject matter is really interesting. He puts forth some interesting possibilities but is careful to present them as theories. The book seems fairly carefully compiled and, I expect, the criticisms are coming from people who have based their careers on facts that probably aren't facts. The truth is that we have explored so little of our history that no one really knows anything.
Honky Tonk Samurai
By Joe R. Lansdale, Read By Christopher Ryan Grant
If you like Larry McMurtry I think you will like Joe R. Lansdale. Honky Tonk Samurai is #9 in the Hal and Leonard series but it's the first book in the series that I've read. it worked just fine as stand-alone novel.
Hap and Leonard have been best friends since high school and consider each other brothers. Hap considers himself a white trash rebel and Leonard is a black, gay, Republican, Vietnam Vet with an addiction to vanilla cookies. They are working surveillance for a Private Eye when they see a man abusing a dog. Leonard decides to enact a little justice to save the dog.
A week later, Lilly Buckner, shows up at the PI office with video showing the beating that Leonard exacted and using it as a down payment to get them to take on the job of looking for her granddaughter. The first thing they discover is that the car dealership where she worked was a front for prostitution with much deeper roots into the criminal underworld.
It's a fast and fun read/listen. The dialogue is sometimes laugh out loud funny. The is the 4th Lansdale book I've read and I've enjoyed all of them.
Bottle of Lies
By Katherine Eban
This book was recommended to me by Kristen F. and I'm so glad she did. This is about the rise of the generic drug industry overseas and is a real eye-opener. If you have any belief that the generic drugs that we take are truly equivalent to the name brand ones, this book will dispel that quickly. The part that will really disgust you is that the bureaucracy of the FDA basically works to protect the bad manufacturers. Of course, we saw much of that in action during the last few years with the expedited approvals of drugs and therapies without sufficient safety data to support those recommendations. This book is a real eye-opener and I'm glad I read it. It supports my almost-pathological avoidance of prescription medicines.
I had read years ago about the FDA's inability/unwillingness to do their job related to certifying organic foods and, as a result, I don't trust the organic labeling on food at all and refuse to pay a premium for it. The FDA outsources that compliance and it's rife with corruption. There have also been several cases of employees from various "health food" grocers sharing stories about organic mislabeling. With this book, it seems that the, more vital, drug oversight is just as bad.
I read this book with my eyes, not my ears, and I recommend that. It would have been to much to track in audio format.
The Science and Art of Longevity
By Peter Attia, Read By Peter Attia
My doctor turned me on to Peter Attia's podcast as she runs her practice with many of the same principles. I'm very lucky to have her as my physician. I've listened to his podcast for a couple of years so I've hear a lot of this information before but it was very beneficial to hear it in a logical order. I'll just say here that this is probably the best/most important health focused book that I've ever read.
He approaches the history of medicine as 3 basic phases. Medicine 1.0 is that period of time before antibiotics when we didn't really know how infections spread and worked. Medicine 2.0 is now, where we treat disease in a reactive way. We treat heart disease after it's discovered and cancer after it's diagnosed. Medicine 3.0 is the future, where we will know the early signals that there might be an issue in the future and we address it early. That is what he tries to practice with his patients and what this book is all about.
It has a long intro with background to the history of medicine and the objectives of the book. Just be patient through that part. He then methodically addresses heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, exercise and stability, nutrition, sleep and mental/emotional health. The chapter on mental/emotional health was particularly profound in that he shared his own story to illustrate the importance of dealing with it as part of our overall health.
Each section has some good basic action items that allows us to be able to positively impact our own health. It's not specific diet things or even specific exercise things. it's more like categories of things. For example, the importance of getting enough protein and the importance of focusing on balance.
I listened to this in audio but I ordered the hardback because I want to read parts of it again and take some notes.
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Dan John Miller
This is the 5th (and last) book in the David Sloan series and I wish I had skipped it. If I had been in the mood to look for another book I would have DNFed this one.
David Sloan is (supposedly) a brilliant lawyer and the plot of this book is the sum of him making some really stupid decisions. I'm not even going to go into the plot. It's just terrible with the added downer of reading about boys being tortured in a military-style camp. It's awful.
By Kathleen Tessaro
Looking for a good summer beach read? This is a good candidate. Hughie Venables-Smythe is an out of work actor and applies for an interesting job as a professional flirt. As a professional he must remain single and he can't get involved in any physical way with his targets.
The book follows the lives of several people as the navigate their strained or non-existent love lives. I've read a couple of her books before and I liked them a lot. This one was a fun, light read. It's not available in audio format.
Reminders of Him
By Colleen Hoover, Read By Brittany Pressley and Ryan West
This was my second light beach read. Colleen Hoover keeps popping up in my Audible recommended list so I figured I better give her a try. I think I read that one of her books is being made into a movie or TV show.
Kenna Rowan has served 5 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter after a tragic accident that resulted in the death of her boyfriend. After she went to prison she discovered she was pregnant and gave up full custody to her boyfriend's parents. The parents and everyone in that town still hates her. But she is desperate to have some connection to her daughter, who she has never seen.
She's penniless when she moves back to the town and starts job hunting. The first person she meets is Ledger Ward. Ledger is her boyfriend's former best friend and is very close to the family and Kenna's daughter. Can he bridge the gap between Kenna and her daughter?
I can see why Hoover is so popular. She's a very good writer. This book isn't my normal genre but I could see reading one now and then, like when I'm on vacation.
I had some great reading time this month. It was a huge help during the 10 days that Chris and I had our epic colds. Every book I read this month was good so I'm not going to pick a favorite. I hope you find something good and leave your recommendations in the comments.
Don't Open The Door by Allison Brennan. I've read two of her books previous to this one. One I thought was tedious and one that was a very interesting premise. This one is just annoying with cliche characters. After 2 hours, I gave up.
By Joe R. Lansdale, Read by Brad Sanders
Joe Lansdale can WRITE and Brad Sanders was the perfect narrator for this wild western.
Loosely based on the real-life slave-turned-cowboy, Nat Love, Paradise Sky is a brutal and beautiful novel about the wildness of the West in the last 1800's.
After the Civil War, Nat (formerly Willie) and his father have settled down to farming when an insane local landowner is cause for Nat to run and strike out on his own. A farmer named Loving takes him in and teaches him farming, cooking, shooting, horseback riding and all sorts of other life skills. When Mr. Loving dies Nat takes on his name as a tribute and heads West.
He becomes a Buffalo Soldier and eventually finds his way to Deadwood where he becomes a bouncer at the infamous Gem Hotel. The Texas landowner is still searching for him so his life will not settle until that business is taken care of.
This book reminds me of the style of Larry McMurtry. The characters are richly drawn and the scenes are vivid. It's a western so the language is crude and there's plenty of murder aod gore. If you like a good Western I think you will enjoy this one. It got me through a week of being sick and made the time pass faster.
By Robert Bailey, Read by Joe Knezevich
This is the 1st in the Jason Rich series. Jason Rich is that personal injury lawyer that you see on billboards around your town. He's never been a criminal trial attorney. He's also in rehab for an alcohol addiction so he misses 2 weeks of calls from his sister begging for his help.
Jason's sister, Jana, has been charged with hiring a hit man to kill her husband and she wants Jason to represent her. The two have barely spoken in years but he agrees to take the case for his nieces. He returns to his hometown to try to unravel what really happened.
This was good enough as a first in a series for me to want to read another.
The Invincible Miss Cust
By Penny Haw, Read By Lucy Rayner
This is a historical novel about Aleen Cust. She was born in Ireland in 1868 and always dreamed of being a veterinarian but women couldn't pursue that career and her mother wouldn't have her embarrass the family by trying.
But, of course, she did do it. With the help of mentors, she was the first woman to enroll in the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh. She wasn't initially allowed to get the formal certificate but she found a way to practice anyway. She was the first woman veterinarian in Britain and Ireland. It's an interesting story and holds closely to the knows facts about her life.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
By Helen Simonson, Read By Peter Altschuler
In a small English village a wonderful cast of characters reside including Major Earnest Pettigrew (retired). The Major leads a quiet life since his wife died. He sees his son infrequently as he lives and works in London. When the Major's brother dies it seems that everyone and everything around him is changing. His son and niece are after a pair of historic guns to be sold for their benefit. The local land owner seems to be planning a large development and his son shows up with a new girlfriend looking for a weekend cottage. In the midst of this, he becomes friends with Mrs Jasmina Ali, the local Pakistani shop owner.
What ensues is a story about manners and tradition and the humor of trying to stick to the old ways. It's an endearing story about people trying to be happy and relevant in today's society.
By C.J. Box, Read by David Chandler
This is #23 in the Joe Pickett series. Joe is a Wyoming game warden with a reputation for getting involved in things he shouldn't and for destroying a record number of state vehicles. After 23 books you would expect the story lines to get a little tired but Box does a great job of keeping the characters moving forward. He's also very good at using current events/trends as elements in the story. In this one we have crypto mining and CCP influencing US politics. All quite believable.
Joe is tracking a wounded elk during a big snowstorm. He has permission to track on the private property. He does find the elk but also finds the body of a man that was killed by the exhaust fan of a structure full of computers.....in the middle of a vast cattle ranch. The victim is a university professor. As Joe is trying to learn more the body disappears and everyone, including the governor, tells him to stop investigating.
It's fast paced, plausible and a fun read.
By James Hayman, Read By Stephen Mendel
This is #3 of 5 in the McCabe and Savage series. This story centers around the theft and distribution of Canadian OxyContin. A young woman is found mutilated and a local doctor is lying in the road nearby, a victim of a hit and run.
Maggie Savage returned to the small seaport town to help with the investigation because the doctor is her best friend. Her partner, Michael McCabe, joins her after a few days.
As the investigation develops and other bodies are discovered, it seems that the man they are looking for might not exist. Only the sister of the murdered girl may have a clue, but she is missing.
The ending wasn't a huge surprise but it was sure fun getting there. The story is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns. This is an older series (this book is set in 2009) but if they didn't mention the date in each chapter heading, you would never know.
By Mary Roach
Once the days start to heat up in the Spring I try to get a little sun each day to prepare for our family beach trip at the end of May. I want to spend lots of time in the sun at the beach but I don't want to burn. When I sit in the sun I like to have a book to read so I don't get bored and antsy. This book served me well in my sun because each chapter takes about 15 - 20 minutes to read. One chapter for each side.
The book is a collection of essays about the conflicts between humans and nature and each essay is a completely unique topic and each is in her light-hearted but serious writing style. In each chapter she introduces specialists in some very unique areas of science: cougar trackers, danger tree blasters, macaque managers and lots of others. The footnotes are gems on their own.
It's an interesting and fun book and I learned a few things. I'd be inclined to suggest this for young people interested in animal welfare but a lot of her humor references things that anyone under 50 probably wouldn't know. Who actually remember Charles Nelson Riley?
The River Between Us
By Liz Fenwick, Read By Lucy Scott
You know how there's a "Cozy" Mystery category? Well, if there was a Cozy Historical Fiction category, this book would be in it. It's kind of like Kate Morton, but Kate Morton is a better writer.
Theo's (Theodoro) marriage has just ended and she escapes to the River Tamar near Cornwall. It's totally run down and she's looking forward to making it liveable again. On her first day, she finds a stash of letters from WWI (that no one else has ever found before). These letters were written from a servant of the nearby manor house to a young woman who lived in the manor.
Meanwhile Theo's own family history has some secrets that are coming to light since her Grandmother died. There's lots of DNA testing going on in Theo's era that tells some of the story of 100 years prior.
It's a fine book of escapist reading. EVERYTHING ties together and everyone is happy in the end. It's a little too gift-wrapped for me but I think a lot of people would really enjoy this book.
Who Is Maud Dixon?
By Alexandra Andrews, Read By Theresa Plummer
Florence Darrow dreams of being a writer and starts her adult life as an editorial assistant in NYC. She's frankly, not very self-aware or likable. After a stupid affair with her boss, she's given a chance to start over as an assistant to the reclusive writer Maud Dixon. They head to Marrakesh on a research trip and Florence has a terrible car accident. She awakens in the hospital with Maud missing. Can she become the writer?
I picked this up because I read Carole's book review post last week. Most of the books she recommended are new and not yet in audio format. But this one was and I decided to give it a try. To be honest, if not for her recommendation I would have stopped listening after 2 hours. It's a slow start but it does pick up speed and has a lot of twists. It's a very interesting plot and this book is more psychological thriller than standard mystery/thriller. If you like books like Gone Girl, you will like this one.
In the end I did enjoy it. I thought the plot was clever but, boy, did I hate both characters.
The Book Woman's Daughter
By Kim Michele Richardson, Read By Katie Schorr
I was so excited to see that there was a sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and I was not disappointed. Both books are historical fiction about the real-life Fugate family of Kentucky and about the packhorse library of rural Kentucky.
Honey Lovett is the 17 year old daughter of the famous blue packhorse librarian. When her parents are arrested for breaking anti-miscegenation laws (blue people were considered a different race and not allowed to marry whites or other races), Honey is left alone. Worse, the county social worker is determined to put her in a children's prison workhouse where she would have to stay until 21. She's determined to prove that she can take care of herself.
The narrator is perfect for the story and I couldn't put this book down and it was a great way to end the month.
I finished 10 books this month. I'm not reading as many as I used to because I'm listening to a good number of podcasts and watch several YouTube channels (mostly crochet and, weirdly, chateau restorations in France).
This month was a big non-fiction month and my 2 favorite books were non-fiction. Cobalt Red is a must read and The Soul of an Octopus is just a great read all around. In non-fiction The Sorority Murder and The Round House were my favorites.
I'd normally take a few minutes to share some of my favorite podcasts but I've had a cold for 3 days and my energy has run out for the moment. I'll catch up with podcasts next month.
What have you been reading? Share your recommendations in the comments.
Back to the Garden
By Laurie R. King, Read by Vivienne Leheny
I have kind of a love/dislike relationship with this author. I've read several of her books in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series and some I like and some I do not. This book is a stand alone murder mystery not at all related to the series.
The Gardener Estate is another grand estate mostly abandoned by family and turned over to a trust but during its heyday it was a magnificent estate with beautiful gardens. When young Rob Gardener inherited the estate in the 70's he turned it into a commune. Now the trust is trying to restore the estate and during relocation of a statue in one of the gardens, human remains are found under the concrete base.
Raquel Lang is a detective from another district but she is allowed to investigate this long ago crime because it might be connected to a string of serial murders at the time that were attributed to The Highwayman. A lot of people disappeared from the commune around that time because many people came and went without notice. She needs to find out where they all are now.
It's a pretty good plot that seemed to heat up quickly and them simmer a little too long before a quick wrap up. I didn't hate it and I didn't love it. I just found myself losing focus a few times.
The Round House
By Louise Erdrich, Read By Gary Farmer
Joe Coutts is 13 and living on a reservation in North Dakota in 1988 when his mother is attacked. Joe's father is a tribal judge and Joe becomes frustrated with the delays in identifying his mother's attacker. He sets out with his friends, Cappy, Zach and Angus to try to find answers on their own.
This is a true coming of age story about a boy who was forced to rush from childhood to young adult. Having grown up with 3 brothers I think I know a thing or two about teenage boys and how they think. I admire the author for her ability to truly portray events in the book from a young boy's perspective. It reminded me of some of William Kent Kreuger's books but with more profanity.
The book is narrated by Joe in current day, when he's in his 50's and the narrator has the perfect voice and intonation for a storyteller. Some people complained about the narration so if you are considering an audio version, go to Audible and listen to a sample.
I will read more fo Edrich's books. She's an exceppent writer.
Every Man A King
By Walter Mosley, Read By Dion Graham
This is the second book in the Joe King Oliver series. I love Walter Mosley as a writer, especially his hugely successful Easy Rawlings series. This series centers on Joe Oliver, a former NYPD police officer who was framed for a crime and found himself in Rikers. This series begins years later and he is now a private investigator. The first book is Down The River Unto The Sea. I read that one in 2019 and liked it. This one didn't hook me the same way.
Billionaire Roger Ferris is asking Joe to investigate the arrest of Alfred Xavier Quiller. Quiller is a white nationalist and Joe isn't interested in investigating but he takes the job because Ferris is in a relationship with Joe's 91 year old Grandmother. Joe doesn't understand why Ferris would care about Quiller at all.
There's another parallel case involving Joe's ex-wife. There are a ton of characters and rambling storylines. Honestly, I had trouble keep up with all of it.
The Sorority Murder
By Allison Brennan, Read By Amy McFaddin
This is the first in the Regan Merritt series and the second book by Brennan that I've read.
Lucas Vega is studying criminology and has proposed a podcast for his senior project. The podcast will be an attempt to crowdsource information relating to a 3 year old unsolved murder of a sorority member, Candace Swain. Candace was his writing tutor at the time of her death and Lucas thought she might have information related to an even earlier murder.
Lucas' advisor introduces him to Regan Merritt, a former US Marshall, and she agrees to be a guest on his podcast to talk about investigative techniques. She is intrigued by the case and agrees to assist him.
As an avid podcast listener and true crime fan, I was really intrigued by the premise of this story and I really enjoyed it. Occasionally the narrator annoyed me but then I had to remember that she was narrating college girls and felt that it wasn't that far off.
I've already put the second book in this series on hold at the library. It will be focused on Regan and the reason that she left the Marshall service.
By Siddarth Kara, Read By Peter Ganim
I try to read at least one non-fiction book each month and this month I chose this new book about the mining of cobalt in the Congo. It's a difficult read because it's so hard to read chapter after chapter about the suffering of the Congolese people at our hands. But it's a very important book and I recommend that everyone read it, especially if you are considering purchasing and EV or buying a solar array with battery storage. The people of the DRC are powering our transition to green energy and it doesn't seem so green when you read this book.
If you want to read a little about it before committing to the book check out this NPR article where the author said this:
"We shouldn't be transitioning to the use of electric vehicles at the cost of the people and environment of one of the most downtrodden and impoverished corners of the world," he says. "The bottom of the supply chain, where almost all the world's cobalt is coming from, is a horror show."
If you want to see an interview and see images from the mines, he was on with Joe Rogan a couple of months ago. It's an excellent interview. Don't like Joe Rogan? There are other interviews on YouTube.
The Paris Apartment
By Lucy Foley, Read By a cast
Jess needs to leave London quickly so she decides to go to Paris to stay with her half-brother, Ben, while she starts a new life. Only when she gets to his apartment he's nowhere to be found. Fortunately she can pick locks and lets herself in.
Now she needs to solve the mystery of missing Ben and there seems to be a lot of strange things happening in his apartment building.
I read one other Lucy Foley book and I enjoyed it. I cannot say the same for this one. None of the characters are likable and the story is slow and plodding. The narrators were good and that helped this dull book a lot. It did get interesting in the last hour or so but it seemed to take forever to get there. However, a screenwriter could make this into very good movie and maybe that's what she's fishing for with this one.
By jennifer Saint, Read by an indistinguishable cast
There have been lots of books recently that are new versions of Greek Mythology. The hook with this one is that it's told from the women's points of view.
This is the story of the fall of the House of Atreus. The story is told from the points of view of Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra.
Clytemnestra has married Agamemnon and on the eve of the Trojan War he sacrifices one of their daughters for good fortune on the voyage. Clytemnestra is devastated and her hatred blooms during his absence from the long war.
Meanwhile, Cassandra, is able tp prophesize the threat to Troy but no one will listen and Elektra, Clytemnestra's daughter, suffers from her mother's long obsession and grief.
It's an interesting take on myth, but it didn't really hold my attention the way Stephen Fry's books do. There was a lot of introspection and angst and that doesn't necessarily make for interesting reading. The narrators were each good but they were hard to tell apart so when each chapter began it took a few minutes to figure out who was talking. That could have easily been dealt with through chapter titles.
If you like mythology, I think you will enjoy this book. If you casually like mythology, start with the Stephen Fry books.
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
By Sy Montgomery
Back in November I read Remarkably Bright Creatures, a novel about an octopus in an aquarium near Seattle. I loved that book and still recommend it to lots of people. In that post, Kristen F. told me about this book and I'm so glad she did!
I love reading non-fiction on vacation so I decided to take this one to the beach with me and it was the perfect book to read while hearing waves crashing in the background. It's fun non-fiction.
Through her experiences with several octopuses (not octopi), Sy Montgomery has learned that they have different personalities and great intelligence. They recognize people, can play pranks, open puzzle boxes and are masterful escape artists. In this book she recounts her experiences and relationships with several Octopuses. The book is serious, touching, funny and sometimes sad. It's an easy read. It would be a perfect book for any teenager or young adult interested in marine science specifically or animal relationships in general.
It did not make me want to pet one.
The Song of the Cell
By Siddhartha Mukherjee, ready Bu Dennis Boutsikaris
This is a hefty book on a hefty topic and, if you are interested, I'd recommend reading a paper copy. Audio worked OK for me but I feel like I missed a little. It wasn't the narrator, I like him a lot. It's jsut a deep topic. This is the third book by Mukherjee I've read and my favorite is still The Gene.
In this one he explores a wide range of topics on cell biology. It's very informative and he always writes for the non-medical reader. This book has a lot of personal antidotes. Sometimes they helped illustrate a point, sometimes I felt he just wanted to talk.
I felt that sometimes the information on a topic was a bit dated (HIV/AIDS) but mostly it seemed to be current knowledge and research. If you like books on medical topics, you will enjoy this one too.
The Stationery Shop
By Marjan Kamali, Read By Mozhan Marno
I was underwhelmed with this book and I had really high hopes going onto it.
The story is set in the 1950's in Iran. Roya and Bahman meet in Mr Fakhri's bookshop and fall in love. Roya is just graduating high school and Bahman is a political activist. Within a few months they decided to marry. They are supported by everyone except Bahman's mother.
They agree to meet at the town square and elope but Bahman never shows up. Eventually she discovers that Bahman has married someone else so she decides to accept a scholarship to study in the US. She finds a new life there but spends the next 60 years wondering why Bahman didn't show up that day.
I thought this would be a good book to get some background on what Iran was like at that time but I don't really feel it did such a good job of that. It could have been any country in the middle of some sort of political turmoil. Roya seems to spend her entire life in depression. She desperately needed therapy. Her husband seems like a saint and, yet, his character is like a cardboard cutout.
I guess I don't buy into the theme of carrying a torch for 60 years. That seems like an unnecessary burden.
It was a slow month for me as I only finished 8 books. Some of that was due to the fact that a couple of the books weren't all that good and I think I avoided them by listening to podcasts instead. But let's just recap my favorites. By far, my favorite book of the month was The Reading List. It is a lovely book.
I also loved the most recent installment of the Department Q series, The Shadow Murders; the classic, Stoner; and All The Broken Places. I only read one non-fiction, Breath. It's a health-focused one and very good.
Let me knwo what good books you have read this month. I do put a lot fo your suggestions on my library and Audible wish lists.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio - Got 2.5 hours in and realized that I could only remember the names of 2 of the 5 or 6 main characters. Flat and dull.
The Shadow Murders
By Jussi Adler-Olsen, Read By Graeme Malcolm
This book is #9 in the Department Q series. I love this series and I love the characters. Scandinavian authors can dream up some really twisted plots. The books take place in Denmark and Department Q is the cold case unit. The books really need to be read in order so if you are going to give this author a try start with The Keeper of Lost Causes. Several of the books focus on on developing one of the rich characters in the novels.
In this installment, Department Q is assigned a case of a sixty year old woman who has committed suicide. It's not a cold case but their boss is convinced that it's related to a cold case from 1988. They quickly discover that there are a series of murders that have been meticulously timed to occur every 2 years on the birthday of a despot. The murders span over 30 years and another is scheduled to happen soon.
This is the second book that is written to happened during covid lockdowns. I hated the first one because of all of the talk of putting masks on and taking them off. It was tedious. This one is different because it uses the lockdowns to let the detectives and antagonists take advantage of the lockdown situation.
The book does end with a giant cliffhanger that will obviously be the topic of the next book. I usually hate cliffhangers but I didn't mind this one. It really is a separate storyline and sets up the next (and rumored final) book in the series. I can't wait.
By John Williams, Read By Robin Field
This is not a novel about Grateful Dead fans. It was written in 1965 and is considered an American classic....and I agree.
John Stoner was born on a small farm in 1891 and his father was encouraged to send him to the University of Missouri to study agriculture so he could make the farm more successful. He did attend the university but fell in love with literature and ultimately received a PhD in Literature and then took a job teaching at the University. It's a novel about the life of John Stoner and about how we make decisions about our lives and work. It's about campus politics, bad marriages, feeling stuck and making the best of it. It's not exactly profound or moving but it makes you aware of the Stoner moments in our own lives and tradeoffs that we make. It's beautifully written with no wasted words and the narration is right on point.
The book brought forward to me two memories from my college years. One is of the rampant politics and pettiness in academia. I always felt that it rivaled Congress for political shenanigans and the tenure system may benefit professors but it sure doesn't benefit the consumers who pay for the education. I remember quite a number of ineffective professors that I was stuck with because they were tenured. This book exposes campus politics entrenched in the early 1900's. It must be worse now with the amount of corporate money funding academic "research".
I'm going to take a little side step here out of book review mode to tell you a story from my college days because Stoner is the embodiment of this one English professor that I had. Prof Collins was my English Professor one summer session. He was an OK, but uninspired, teacher and all I really remember is that he wore the same two suits all summer. I remarked to a fellow student one day that his wife must hate him. Not that she was responsible for his wardrobe but she sure could have influence over it if she wanted.
During college I worked almost full time at a nice restaurant. It was run by a man named John and his assistant manager, Jackie. Jackie had stunningly beautiful red hair, dressed provocatively and loved doing belly dancing shows for the employees. The dudes loved it. John loved Jackie and it was blatantly obvious that they were having an affair. One day I came to work and there was Jackie sitting in a booth with Prof. Collins and she introduced him to me as her husband. I remarked that I had been in his class the previous summer and then I ran to the kitchen before my shock showed on my face. This book could have been called Collins and been written in the 1980's.
Jackie also kept pet ferrets in the restaurant. Yes, we had rodents in the restaurant intentionally. So many stories!
Shadows of Pecan Hollow
By Caroline Frost, Read (poorly) by Alex McKenna
I've got some real mixed feelings about this one.
In 1970 Kit walker ran away from her horrible home and ended up being cared for (groomed) by Manny Romero. In the beginning he was kind to her but eventually, of course, it turned into a somewhat captive relationship and they became knows as the Texaco Twosome for their series of gas station robberies across Texas.
Eventually they robbed one to many places and Manny was caught while Kit got away. Manny was jailed and, at 19, Kit tried to forge a new life for herself in Pecan Hollow with an Aunt she had never met. In 1990 Manny is out of prison and shows up in Pecan Hollow professing to be a new man, making nice with the townspeople and trying to get Kit back.
I believe that this is Frost's first novel and it has that feel to it but the basic storyline is pretty good. The profanity and vulgarity is over the top but I think that's a common crutch for new authors. It relies on shock value as added depth to the storyline. I'm no prude and my language is anything but clean and some things in this book were over-the-top and unnecessary even to me. There are also decisions that characters make that just don't make any sense but are used to further the plot. The whole thing felt like she had a good solid beginning and ending but the middle was a labor to write.
The worst thing about the book was the narration. I hope the author didn't select this narrator because she made all of these Texas characters sound decrepit and ignorant. Frankly, it was a bit offensive and very distracting. She also mispronounced so many words so badly that it was jarring. You hear a nonsensical word and have to stop to think about what word she actually meant. If you want to give this book a try, get in in paper form and read it yourself.
By Nick Pirog, Read By Johnny Heller
Apparently Nick Pirog was an early adopter to the eBook publishing scene and has been very successful with it. This is the first book in a 5+ book Thomas Prescott series. I found it on Audible as a deal with the first 4 together as one book. I'm not sure I'll listen to the other 3.
Thomas Prescott is a retired detective who helped solve a series of serial murders the previous October. He's been trying to get himself to read the Eight In October book about the murders and is avoiding meeting the author. The killer, Trystan Grayer, was dubbed "The MAINEiac". Prescott has never felt that Trystan was the real killer and that starts to be proven right when someone close to Thomas is murdered starting off a chain of new murders.
It's actually an interesting plot but the writing is a mess. First off, the Prescott character is hard to take serious. He's in the middle of a series of murders of women close to him and he's stupidly focused on ogling women, talking about his penis and, frankly, not focusing on the actual murders and protecting the potential victims. He gets a good amount of sex and sleep while women are dying. The FBI is supposedly heavily involved but basically leave the case up to him and they aren't even capable of being protection teams for the targeted victims. The boorish behavior of Prescott is something might expect in a book written in the 1960's but not one written in 2004. His behavior is inexcusable.
The ending had a big twist but even that was too convoluted for me to stomach. This book needed a serious editor for sure. I don't recommend it but I see that the subsequent books in the series have much better review so one day I might give book 2 a try.....but not anytime soon.
The Reading List
By Sara Nisha Adams, Read by a cast
After the last two books I felt I was due for a good one and Saint George delivered!
The Reading List is a lovely book written for those of us who can't live without books.
Mukesh is a widower living in West London and he's quite lost after the death of his wife. He's close with his daughters but not an integrated-life kind of close. He has his weekly routines and watches nature documentaries in the evenings. He worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who spends all of her time alone and reading.
Aleisha is a recent graduate reluctantly spending her last summer before university working in a library. One day she finds a piece of paper in the back of To Kill A Mockingbird. It's a list of books to read. Her home life is incredibly stressful and her job is dull so she decides to read the books on the list. One day Mukesh comes into the library and she uses the list to recommend books to him.
Each section of the book is loosely based on one of the novels on the list: Rebecca, The Kite Runner, The Life of Pi, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Beloved, and A Suitable Boy. I personally haven't read Beloved or A Suitable Boy. The Audible version of A Suitable Boy is massively abridged and Beloved is (by the reviews) horribly narrated by Toni Morrison. Apparently she narrates all of her own books, generally a bad idea.
This book is all about the power of books to educate and heal and the potential of libraries to build communities. It's lovely.
By James Grippando, Read By Christine Larkin
Kate Gamble is a law student, aspiring playwright and daughter of the CEO of Buck Technologies, a big data firm with big ties to the CIA. Kate has written a play about the Nazi's use of census data and early punch card technology to identify and control the Jewish population. She has supposedly written this play to explore her mother's loss of purpose. In the midst of all of this her mother commits suicide by jumping off her balcony.
Problem #1 - No director is ever going to put on a play about IBM's involvement with the Nazis. A documentary for TV maybe, but not a play. It's a stupid storyline.
Problem #2 - Her mother is an alcoholic and not at all tied to Germany, the plight of the Jews or anything else for that matter.
So she wants to be either a lawyer or a playwright but she takes a job at her father's company. Hmmmm
On her first day of work she runs into Patrick Battle, a boy that she used to babysit. He accidentally tells her of a secret program at the office called, seriously, Naivety. Also, her ex-boyfriend works for the DOJ and they are doing a cybersecurity audit at Buck and he's leading the audit.
When Patrick disappears and it appears that he is being held hostage, Kate takes the lead to go to Columbia and negotiate his return.
Problem #3 - We are to believe that an employee of a company that's under a DOJ audit and is a large client of the CIA is going to be allowed to fly off to Columbia to negotiate with a hostage taker. I don't think so.
While the Big Data underlying story is not only believable I think we've learned enough over the past few years to know that it's all true. The storylines around it are way to simplistic. Oh, and the hostage taker (working for a government that likes balloons) is working alone. Nope.
This is the second Grippando book that I've read and both were way over the top for me.
All The Broken Places
By John Boyne, Read By Kristen Atherton and Helen Lloyd
This book reminds me a little of A Gentleman In Moscow, one of my all time favorite books. Gretel Fernsby isn't as sympathetic as Count Rostov and the stories are quite different, but both books stay with you and make you think about what you might do in similar situations.
Gretel Fernsby is 91 years old and lives in an upscale mansion block (condos to Americans) in London. She has lived there for decades along with her neighbor, and good friend, Heidi. A new family is moving into the flat below her and she's not excited about the change. They have a young son, Henry, and eventually Gretel can't help but to build a friendship with the boy. She starts to realize that the boy and his mother are being abused. She wants to help them but realizes that getting involved may expose her own hidden past.
Gretel escaped Nazi Germany at the age of 12. Her father was commandant of one of the extermination camps. She and her mother escaped to France where they were discovered and brutalized. After her mother's death she made her way to Australia and eventually to London, changing her name each time looking for a new identity.
The story moves back and forth in time between her past and preset. Now, at 91, she faces a difficult decision that may expose her past which would have implications on her own family.
I've never read anything by John Boyne before and I now know that this is actually the sequel to he most popular book, Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. The story from that book is referenced in this book but I think that they can be read stand-alone. I will read more of Boyne's books for sure.
By James Nestor, Read By James Nestor
This one is for those of you, like me, who are interested with natural methods of healing. James Nestor had a myriad of health issues including sleep apnea and, being a journalist, he set out on a long exploratory journey to try to solve them. That research resulted in a fascinating book about how we breathe incorrectly and how to fix it. He delves into the evolution of the human skull as a result of changes in our diets over hundred of years and how that affected our nasal passages in a negative way. He interviews several people doing very interesting research into breathing and he participated in some very uncomfortable clinical trials. The book ends with some excellent breathing exercises, most of which can be found in meditation apps and YouTube videos.
At the end, he did cure his sleep apnea and learned that he can control his blood pressure to a significant degree by changing his breathing. The one major lesson is to avoid mouth breathing at all times.
People who might be interested in this book include people with sleep disorders, anxiety, autoimmune issues, ADHD and other behavioral problems and hypertension.
I started off 2023 with 10 books this month and only one DNF book. I took a trip down audiobook memory lane by re-listening to one of my earliest audiobooks, The Razor's Edge. I read it so long ago that I didn't remember any of it. I can barely remember what I read last week so that wasn't a surprise. I remember liking W. Somerset Maugham and I enjoyed it the second time around.
I don't have any strong favorites and I don't have any strong dislikes. It was a good month of reading and it's all fiction this month. Maybe you will find something intriguing on this list for your next read. I hope you will leave me some suggestions of books that you have enjoyed this month.
The War of Jenkins' Ear by Robert Gaudi - This one is for hard core historians. It didn't hold my interest.
Their Last Secret
By Rick Mofina, Read By Jennifer Jill Araya
This is the second book by Mofina that I've read and this one was better than the last. It's an interesting plot.
20 years ago Janie Klassen and 2 friend were involved in the brutal murder of a wealthy family in a town in Canada.
Now she's a school counselor in California and recently married to a popular crime writer. She finds a note on her car referencing the 20th anniversary. She's being followed and her husband has, unknowingly, decided that his next book will be about the murders in her town.
It's not a gripping "mystery" because there's not much of a mystery there but it's got enough drama and an interesting premise.
By Jason Pinter, Read By Angela Dawe
This is the 1st book in a new-to-me series. Rachel is a single mother of 2 young children who leads a quiet suburban life. No one suspects the tragedy that hit her family several years ago.
In her new life a former mayor is found dead on a frozen river. Everyone thinks that she killed herself but Rachel has done the math and knows that's impossible. She butts into the investigation and now the killer and the investigators aren't happy with her.
It's a very fast-paced investigative novel. I'd read more in this series for sure.
By Stuart Woods, Ready By Tony Roberts
I picked this book because Mom and I needed a 6 hour read for a day trip. This one fit the bill. This is the 62nd (!) book in the Stone Barrington series. I read some of this series several years ago.
Stone Barrington is a lawyer and has a new client. She's the extremely wealthy aunt of his assistant. Stone is helping her write a new will and set up a trust for her step-son. The step-son is spoiled, irresponsible and threatening to his step-mother.
It was a fast paced read that was great for a car ride. With the short length the plot could only get so complex but we both enjoyed it.
By Alice Feeney, Read By Stephanie Racine
Daisy Darker and her family have been estranged for years but the matriarch has asked everyone to come home for her 80th birthday. The homeplace is on a tidal land that is cut off from the mainland except during low tide. At midnight Nana is found dead in the kitchen. An hour later another family member is found dead. It's 6 hours until the tide recedes and everyone can get off the island.
I can't give away the plot twist but I will say that it has a big twist that would normally be a turn-off for me in a book. But I actually enjoyed this book. The whole thing takes place over about 6 hours and I couldn't put it down. It's a very "not me" book but shows that we need to try different books from time to time.
The Family Remains
By Lisa Jewell, Read by a cast
Lisa Jewell dreams up some really messed up family situations. In fact, I'd say she's an expert at the dysfunctional family novel. They are part mystery and part messed up family dynamics.
This one is a sequel to The Family Upstairs and I do recommend reading them in order. Unfortunately I read the first one 2 years ago and forgot bits of it. It eventually all came back to me as I was reading this one.
The bones of a missing woman are found on the shores of the Thames. She's been missing about 30 years and she was connected to a house where 3 people were found dead in an apparent cult suicide pact around the same time and the girl went missing. Got all that?
That house remained vacant for 25 year until the heir, an infant at the time, is found and can inherit it. So this book is about wrapping up the stories of the children from the first book. Then there's a separate storyline that seems really random until near the end and, when it comes together you kind of wonder what the purpose of all that was.
I was totally sucked into the book and finished it pretty quickly but once it was over I was a little perplexed by it all. If you like Lisa Jewell, it's pretty classic Lisa Jewell just a little more unhinged in my opinion.
The Razor's Edge
By W. Somerset Maugham, Read By Michael Page
I first started listening to audiobooks in the late 1980's when I was commuting to DC from Norfolk weekly. Back then they were cassette tapes and came in the mail in cardboard boxes. I remember when they switched to CDs and they had a big sale on the cassette versions. I bought tons of them really cheap and that kept me in books for months.
At first there wasn't the kind of extensive catalog that Audible has now so I got to read a lot of classics and one writer that I really enjoyed was W. Somerset Maugham. The Razor's Edge popped up somewhere recently and I decided to give it another listen. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
This book was first published in 1942 and is set in the time right after WWI and before WWII. Larry Darrell served in the war and returned a changed man. He's engaged to the beautiful Isabel but he can't seem to settle down. There are too many questions in his mind and it sends him to Paris to study philosophy, to an Ashram, a monastery and to work in a coal mine. Meanwhile we also follow the life of Isabel without Larry.
An interesting aspect of this book is that it's told from the POV of a third party. That, in itself, isn't unique but the third party is Maugham himself. It's a good read.
If you want to go down an interesting rabbit hole check out this obituary of Duvall Hecht, the founder of Books on Tape. Writing this review made me wonder how Books on Tape started. I'm glad I followed that thread. Hecht was a very interesting man.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #17 in the Cork O'Connor series. If you would like a book that it told in the age we live in but isn't overridden by the author's politics then this is the book for you. Are you cynical about government? Don't believe much of anything you hear? Someone who believes that right will win in the end? Any and all of you will be happy with this one.
A progressive Senator representing the area is flying in to speak at a local meeting. Her plane crashes and everyone aboard is killed. A surprising array of alphabet agencies descend on Aurora to figure out what went wrong.
Stephen, Cork's son, sees visions and they generally aren't pleasant. Several books back he saw a vision of his own mother's death. This story starts out with another of his visions and it seems related to the plane crash.
These books are fast paced and a fun read/listen.
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
By Jennifer Ryan, Read by Sophie Robert
This book came to me as a recommendation from Carole. I'd call it a mix of historical fiction and light romance and it was a good read for me when I needed something light but interesting.
It's WWII and Cressida Westcott has lost her home and fashion design business in the blitz. She has no option but to return to her family home that's now occupied by her nephew and niece, Violet Westcott. Violet is a debutante solely focused on finding an appropriate husband from the dwindling supply. The third main character is Grace Carlisle. She's the vicar's daughter and is trying to repair her mother's badly-damaged wedding dress to wear for her own upcoming nuptials.
These three come together at the local sewing circle where ladies meet to make items for the soldiers and repair/remake clothing for local residents. The group works to repair Grace's dress and get the idea to have a wedding dress exchange for brides that aren't allowed to purchase new dresses during the war. This part of the story is based on actual wedding dress exchanges that occurred during the war and many American women even shipped over their own dresses for the cause.
It was a fun read and a nice break from my usual fare.
The Arsonists' City
By Hala Alyan, Read By Leila Buck
The Nasr family immigrated from Lebanon and all of their children were born in America. The children are now adults and the family is spread from California to Texas, New York and Beirut. Now the patriarch wants to sell the family home in Beirut and all of the family is expected to spend the summer there.
Everyone has secrets and they have all grown apart with the distance. The book is a generational family saga set among real events. I thought that the character development was really well done. You really do get to know the characters and you like them better or less as their lives develop. I really enjoyed the different settings and cultural references.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter
By Hazel Gaynor, Read By Imogen Church
This is a novel based on the life of Grace Darling and while Grace's story is an interesting one I didn't find the re-telling of it to be all that interesting.
The book is meant to be a tribute to Grace and female lightkeepers through history. It features three women, Grace (1838) and Harriett and Matilda (1938). Matilda is a 19 year old pregnant Irish girl who is sent to Rhode Island to live with a relative until her baby is born. Harriett is a lighthouse keeper who lost her 16 year old daughter to a storm several years ago. Grace and a woman she helped save, Sarah Dawson, are real people. Matilda will learn of her connection to Sarah and Grace through a portrait that she find at the Rhode Island lighthouse.
The book explores their connections and their lives as lighthouse keepers. The problem with the book is that all of the characters are the same. All of the women are long-suffering, stare-into-the-distance types who are dedicated to their lighthouses above all else, even the chance for love. You hardly know you are jumping back and forward in time because the storylines are so similar and the women all have the same overriding angst. The men in the book are just supporting cast and all of the characters are kind of flat. Everything was flat, even the scenery. I didn't connect to one character or place and I love the shore and lighthouses. The narration exhausted me. I think Imogen Church narrated the story as it was meant to be portrayed but it was too plodding for me.
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.