Do you remember last month when I talked about what a great book month November was? Well, we really only know "good" when we have something not so good to compare it to. Well, December was a "not so good month".
I did have a few really good books. Lethal White and Holy Ghost are books that I had been waiting to get from the library for a few months and they did not disappoint.
The Feather Thief was a superior book but it was a surprisingly interesting story. Brain On Fire was another interesting book but I'm not sure it would have wide appeal. Nowhere to Run and Tier One were books that I knew that I could count on to cleanse my palette from the rest of the books of the month.
So, that's not so bad, right? Well there are four books that I really can't recommend: Mary Queen of Scots was just way too long, The World In A Grain, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters and The Witch Elm were downright awful.....in my opinion. But read the detail reviews and if you have read any of them and have a different opinion please let us know in the comments. We all have different tastes in books.
Do you have any particular books on your 2019 reading list? I have lots of books on my Audible and Libbie wish lists but nothing specific that I must read. I'm open to almost m=anything....except sci-fi, fantasy, romance and self-help. I'm beyond help!
Here's my December reading list.
By Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), narrated by Robert Glenister
This is the 4th is the Cormoran Strike series. I never read the Harry Potter novels simply because magic isn't my genre. I've seen bits and pieces of the movies. But I know she's and outstanding writer and I am addicted to this mystery series.
Cormoran Strike lost a leg serving in Afghanistan and is now a private detective. At the end of the last book he had fired his assistant, Robin, because she was badly hurt in their last case. In this book it opens at Robin's wedding where he went to ask her back. When she returns from her honeymoon they are hired by a British government minister to try to stop a blackmail scheme.
These books are so well written and apparently you can find web sites where people explore the meaning of certain imagery in the book. Lethal White refers to a syndrome in horses, much of the story takes place around the Uffington White Horse and there's a painting in one of the main story locations with a white horse. According to the conspiracy theorists this all has to do with Rowling's hatred of the legacy British colonialism.
Whatever. I couldn't care or be influenced less about her politics. I just love her book.
The Feather Thief
By Kirk Wallace Johnson, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
I'm still waiting for a few books on my hold list on Libby so I started looking around for new books that were available and stumbled on this one. I'm glad I found it.
The book is about the 2009 theft by Edwin Rist of hundreds of rare and historically significant birds from the natural history Museum in Tring, UK. many of the birds had been collected by Charles Darwin's contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace.
You can look up Edwin Rist on Wikipedia and get the basic background of the theft and find out that he basically got off with a mental health defense. But Kirk Wallace Johnson, a fly fisherman, heard about the story and got obsessed by it and this book is the result.
It's basically in 3 parts. The first part is about the history of collecting specimens that was the rage in Victorian times. The second part is about the crime where we learn yet again, how poorly museum collections are secured. The third part is about the author's obsession with tracking down the missing birds and more about Rist, the fly tying community and their dedication to finding feathers from rare birds. It was a good read.
Nowhere to Run
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
This is the 10th novel in the Joe Pickett series. In the last book he was "sentenced" to a tour as the game warden in the remote area of Baggs, WY. It's the last week and he's following up on complaints about butchered elk, looted camps and other minor mayhem. Of course it turns out to be a lot more than it seems.
I like the Joe Pickett novels. My husband doesn't like that the family is so involved in the stories but it's one of the things that I enjoy about the books. They are a lot like the Craig Johnson books. David Chandler is the perfect narrator for Joe Pickett.
The Boston Girl
By Anita Diamant, Narrated by Linda Lavin
One of the benefits of now borrowing books from the library is that I'll occasionally read a book that's less than my 10 hour minimum rule. I generally prefer longer books and I set the 10 hour rule so reduce the per hour cost of listening on Audible. On Audible a 4 hour book costs 1 credit, the same as a 30 hour book.
Anyway, I was still waiting for some books to come off hold so I started looking around the Libbie app for books that are available. That's how I found The Feather Thief, this book and the next book.
The Boston Girl is a coming of age novel. Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents. She's now 85 and is telling her Granddaughter her life story. The story begins when she is 15 when she made the friends who would be part of her life forever. The story has a lot of historical detail about the lives if immigrants in Boston at that time and Linda Lavin (from the sitcom Alice) narrates it beautifully. The author takes a couple of gratuitous political cheap shots that I feel make her seem petty, but otherwise it's like sitting down with grandma to hear a good story.
Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness
By Susannah Cahalan, Narrated By Heather Henderson
You've got to love medical histories to like this book. I found it fascinating. Susannah was (and is) a writer for the New York Post. One day she began having hallucinations, seizures and other mental illness symptoms. She eventually ended up in the hospital where she stayed for a month. It was only due to the good fortune of time and place that she ended up with the right doctor to get the right diagnosis.
It's a mystery story and a very detailed personal history of the person who went through it.
The World in a Grain
By Vince Beiser, Narrated by Wil Damron
I had such high expectations for this book. I hoped for something along the lines of Salt by Mark Kurlansky but Vince Beiser isn't a historian, he's an activist.
This book is partly about sand as the foundation of civilization and how many different ways it's used (building roads, silicon chops...) but it's mostly about how the development of all of those things have led to a laundry list of bad things. It was so annoying that I gave up half way through. It could have been great and he could have gotten his points across without being such an unhappy activist and more of a dispassionate historian. I can summarize his point of view by saying that he pretty much sees everything about civilization as negative. How he gets through his miserable day is a mystery to me.
Right after this book I started and returned Borrowed Time by James Freeman and Vern McKinley. It's about the history of Citicorp. It's the kind of book that I usually love but the narrator was horrible. His narration would make this a great book to listen to if you have insomnia. I may get a paper copy to ready on vacation next year because it's the kind of book that I usually love.
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
By Margaret George, Narrated by Donada Peters
I love Margaret George's historical novels. One of my favorite books of all time is her book Memoirs of Cleopatra. I also enjoyed this book but I didn't love it. It's 42 hours long and that's a long time when telling the story of someone who spent half of her life basically imprisoned. It wasn't a bad book at all but it got a bit exhausting. 10 hours could have easily been edited out of it. But if you like historical novels with excruciating details this is the book for you.
The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters
By Sam Kashner and nancy Schoenberger
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
I don't know why I read this except that I saw some good reviews and I got it free from the library. I have a pretty healthy disinterest in the lives of society people but I thought it might be interesting. It was, sort of, but I left the book not really liking either woman very much.
It's a great look into the lives of society women of their age who were raised to marry well. It was bred into them from a young age and they really never abandoned it.
The book tries to play up the sibling rivalry but it was really no different than a lot of sister relationships. The difference is that in this case there's real money and social standing involved. Since that was the currency of their lives the rivalry is not really surprising.
If you buy into the whole Camelot facade of the Kennedy administration, don't read this book. It does blow that up pretty well. They were political animals just like today's politicians. Jackie knew, and often facilitated, Jack's foraging outside of the marriage. Plus she was a heavy smoker which the press helped hide just like they do with Obama. She did an amazing job of burnishing his image after his death. I wouldn't have been able to spend a day with either of these woman.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Eric Conger
This is the 11th in the Virgin Flowers series and I had been on the wait list at the library since September! It was a real treat after the last 3 books and it was classic F@>^!%$ Flowers. This time he's sent to the tiny town of Pinion, MN where a sighting of the virgin Mary has breathed new life into this half-dead town. That is until someone starts a shooting spree that puts everything at risk. Shrake and Jenkins are back with Virgil and there's nothing to eat in the town except frozen pot pies. It was a fun read.
Field of Bones
By JA Jance, narrated by Hillary Huber
I haven't read a JA Jance book in about 18 years so when someone recommended this I decided to give it a try. This is the 18th book in the Joanna Brady series. Brady is the sheriff in Cochise County, AZ. She's on maternity leave when a body dump field is found. Her Deputy Sheriff is in charge and they are trying to find the serial killer before another body is dumped.
You don't have to read these books in order because Jance spends a LOT of time giving background on each character between scenes. In fact, I'd say that a full 3rd of this book seemed like detailed background information so the story seemed quite choppy to me.
As for the story, it was fine. Not great. There are too many "strong women" and men around them to provide support. It's not a feminist manifesto at all. The author was actually quite even-handed with everyone and I didn't get political undertones. But it's simply not realistic that a Deputy Sheriff of either gender would be telling the Sheriff that they can't wait until she gets back because the job is a bit over his/her head. Also, things in this novel resolve quickly and easily. For example, the local FBI office didn't want to help with profiling but, no worries, Sheriff Brady has a connection and with a couple of phone calls we have the exact profile identified. Magic.
JA Jance has a large following so I know her novels are popular but they just aren't for me.
The Witch Elm
By Tana French, Narrated by Paul Nugent
Tana French writes the Dublin Murder Squad series, that I enjoyed until the most recent book, and this one had some good published reviews so I decided to give it a try. I should have read the Audible reviews first and skipped it. The publisher and professional reviews are always misleading!
I don't even understand this book. None of the characters are believable and not one of them behaves like a normal person would in the same situations. Most of the story revolves around the discovery of a dead body in a tree on family property. The dead person is a contemporary of three cousins now in their 20's. It's truly an excruciating story and it took every fiber of my being to finish it. I only finished it because I kept hoping for the main character, Toby, to die. Actually the best ending would have been fr everyone to die.
An anonymous Audible customer wrote a review that is so spot on that I decided that I'd share:
"The plot (is there a plot?) is slow and disjointed, featuring bizarre unrealistic event heaped upon bizarre unrealistic event duct-taped together with shoddy continuity. Characters drop out and/or show up with little or no explanation or reason. The scenes intended to be most dramatic made me laugh because of the giant plot conveniences driven by the author; the characters' motivations for doing most of what they do are unimaginable. Toby, Melissa, Susannah, Leon, Shawn, Hugo, and just about every character in this book are chess pieces being moved around artlessly to bring their fragmented, preposterous, mean-spirited, lazy plotlines to a close."
The book gave me a headache and a bad attitude that only a few hours outside raking leaves relieved.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated by Ray Porter
These are the same authors that write under the pen name Alex Ryan and authored Bejing Red. This is a new series based on a Tier One Navy SEAL named John Dempsey, formerly Jack Kemper. After a terrorism plot destroys his SEAL unit he is recruited to join Ember, the most secretive counter-terrorism until in existence.
It's not the best spy novel I've read but it was a good story, I liked the characters and it was very fast paced. It was a great palette cleanser after The Witch Elm.
On to 2019 and, hopefully, a lot of good books for all of us!
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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.