What a weird reading month! I don't think I've ever had a month of so many mediocre books. There were 3 books that I liked: Sulfur Springs, Magician of the Gods and The World Played Chess. The Last Queen was mostly interesting and The Murder of Mr. Wickham was silly entertainment. I wish I had skipped the others.
There are only 8 books this month because 1 of them was 30+ hours and another was 15. My total listening hours for December were 5822. That's 97 hours and 2 minutes. The 30 hour book was such a trudge that I think I avoided reading during that period and that really cut down on my book reading time.
My total reading time for the year is 1348 hours and 13 minutes. That's 56 days 4 hours and 2 minutes for the year. Since this is the first year that I've tracked my reading time, I have no idea how it compares to other years. It was just interesting to find out that I spent about 15% of my year listening or reading books. It seems like a fine use of the time and I'm sure that I didn't watch anywhere near this much TV.
Nobody's Child by Susan Vinocour - supposed to be about the history of the insanity defense. Couldn't get past the weak narration and slow start.
I've listened to a lot of Podcasts this year. I especially listened a lot this month as I avoided finishing The Ink Black Heart. Here are some of my favorites:
No Such Thing as Fish - this is our go-to for road trips. It's a British trivia discussion show. Each of the 4 panelists discuss their "fact of the week". It's hilarious.
Bad Bets - Each series tells the story of a faild business. Season 1 is about Enron, Season 2 is about Trevor Milton. I would not be surprised of season 3 is about FTX.
Criminal - Hosted by Phoebe Judge, this is a true crime podcast with a different crime profiled in each episode. Many are very old crimes. The most recent Episode, #203, is a wonderful compilation of animals commiting crimes. It's hilarious. Judge has a beautiful voice and I often listen to these to go to sleep.
This is Love - Another podcast produced by Phoebe Judge. Each episode is a wonderful love story, often profiling people with long relationships.
99% Invisible - A fun and informative series about urban environments and life.
Disgraceland - Profiles notorious and tragic people from the music industry.
Business Wars - History of business rivals. The most recent series is about Honda vs. Toyota
This Is Actually Happening - People tell their individual stories of trauma and survival. It's a hard listen but will make you feel better about the strength of the human spirit. Makes me appreciate that life I've had. Many of the stories are hard to listen to.
Other Interesting True Crime podcasts:
Small Town Dicks
Scoundrel: History's Forgotten Villains
Interesting Health Focused Podcasts if you want to delve into the weeds of healthy living
The Drive with Peter Attia - focused on longevity
Healthy Rebellion Radio
Great podcasts for putting you to sleep:
Nothing Much Happens
Send Me To Sleep
I hope you will share your favorite books and podcasts that you have enjoyed in the month of December. Here's to a great reading year in 2023!
Sulfur Springs (665)
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #16 in the Cork O'Connor series.
One of the things I love about this series is that Krueger keeps things fresh. He's not afraid to kill off a beloved character and he's happy to change venues. Changing venue is what he does in this book.
Cork and Rainey got married in the last installment and they are off to Sulfur Springs, AZ to try to find her son. They received a cryptic message from him that leads them to believe that he is in grave danger. This book takes on the border crisis by bringing together all sides of the issue.
The Hanging Valley (540)
By Peter Robinson, Read By James Langton
This is #4 in the Inspector Alan Banks series. I really enjoyed the first 3 books in this series but this one was a slow mover for me.
In this beautiful English valley, most people come to relax and take in the breathtaking views. The small local village caters to hikers and tourists but underneath there's lots of tension among the local. One day a hiker finds a gruesome murder and that brings Alan Banks to investigate. Could this murder be tied to a disappearance several years before?
It was an interesting enough story but it sure dragged.
The Ink Black Heart (1962)
By Robert Galbraith, Read By Robert Glenister
This is the 6th book in the Cormoran Strike series and, in case you don't know, Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling. I have loved every book in this series....until now.
At 32+ hours, this was an investment of time and I did finish it but, frankly, I didn't enjoy it. It needed some serious editing and it was not a good book for audio format. If you decide to read this, read it in paper version.
The story is about the murder of a woman who was co-creator of a YouTube comic series called The Ink Black Heart. She is murdered in the graveyard that is the setting for the comic series. The victim, Edie Ledwell had been to the office of Cormoran Strike prior to her murder to ask them to help her find the identity of Anomie, a person who has been harassing her online. The declined the case but after she is murdered they are drawn into the case.
There are a few problems with the book but the biggest for me was that much of the dialogue happens in online chat rooms and narration of online chat simply doesn't work. It was painful. The other problem I had with it was the underlying theme of the "alt-right" being to blame. As you are introduced to the characters it's clear that none of them are "alt-right", or even politically motivated in any way. They are all way too self-absorbed and anti-social to be political. I just felt like that theme was gratuitous and added nothing to the book. But you could make one hell of a drinking game out of the number of times "alt-right" is said.
The final problem with this book is the 6 volume sexual tension between Cormoran and Robin, his business partner. These two people are adults. He's 40ish and she's 30ish and their inability to tell each other how they feel over 6 long novels has just become tedious.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham (723)
By Claudia Gray, Read By Billie Fulford-Brown
After the slog of The Ink Black Heart I needed something easy to listen to and I got it with this book.
Claudia Gray had brought together characters from each of Jane Austen's books for a party at the country estate of Mr. Knightly and Emma. She has aged the characters based on the publication dates of the books so that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are old enough to have an adult son, Jonathan, that they bring along on the trip. Catherine and Henry Tilney are also there from Northanger Abbey with their daughter, Juliet. There are guests in attendance from every book and who arrives uninvited but Mr. Wickham, our favorite villian. It seems that Wickham has made a career of swindling people out of money and almost everyone there has been a victim or knows a victim. It doesn't take long for him to meet his demise and now everyone in the house (excluding the servants) is a suspect. Jonathan and Juliet take it on themselves to solve the case because no one seems to trust the local magistrate, Frank Churchill.
The World Played Chess (603)
By Robert Dugoni, Read By Todd Haberkorn
If you like William Kent Krueger, you will like Robert Dugoni. If you are a mystery reader you may already know him through his Tracey Crosswhite, Charles Jenkins and David Sloane series. Jenkins is my favorite of the three series but I read all of them.
This is a stand alone novel that turned out to be a good Christmas season read for me because it was written from the POV of my generation, so it was relatable. The underlying theme that is relatable to everyone is about how we can impact people's lives in very small ways.
In 1979 Vincent Bianco get a job on a remodel construction job for the summer before he goes to college. He is working with 2 Vietnam veterans. One of them is dealing with undiagnosed PTSD and Vincent proceeds to get an education that he never expected. He is also realizing that he's naturally going to grow apart from the high school friends that, until graduation, he thought he would never lose.
The book is told from 3 perspectives, Vince, William (one of the Vietnam vets) and Beau, Vince's son as he's graduating high school and trying to find his own identity. If you were born around 1960 this book will bring back so many memories of the current events of our lives as well as people you might ahave known. It's a very good coming of age story.
The Last Queen (821)
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Read By Sneha Mathan
If you like British royal history then this is a book for you. Rajit Singh was the first monarch of the Sikh empire and Jind Kaur was his 3rd "official" wife. He had as many as 30 wives/concubines. This book is about Jind, the most consequential of his wives. Her son, Duleep Singh, rose to power at the age of 5 and she became Regent. This was in the 1840's when the British were taking over India.
The story seems to remain true to the major events of her life (if Wikipedia is right) and it makes for a good base for a novel. There was as much palace intrigue in India at that time as there was in Britain. The palace intrigue got a little tedious but I expect it was pretty accurate.
Magician of the Gods (893)
Written and Read by Graham Hancock
I'm not sure how I found this book but I'm glad I did. I think Hancock is most well known for his book Fingerprints of the Gods. Hancock proposes the possibility of the existence of an advanced civilization that existed prior to the ice age and he proposes the possibility of a major meteor event that brought on the end of the ice age. It's a detailed, and fascinating, walk through various antiquities sites around the world. He is, of course, hated by "mainstream science" and he may be totally wrong but it's a very interesting read.
This book is also an exception to one of my cardinal rules. Hancock narrates his own book and does a great job.
Tending Roses (615)
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Allyson Ryan
I have read a few books by Lisa Wingate. Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends are two of my favorites. They are historical fiction. This one is a straight up novel.
Kate Bowman and her husband move temporarily to the family farm in Missouri to care for her Grandmother for a few weeks around Christmas. The story is basically a Hallmark-type story and you could easily write the plot. I thought the narration was a bit weak too. It's not a bad book, it's just not the genre 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.