Another great month of books! 14 books read in 26 days. This is what limiting news exposure does for you. You get to read more books and you are much happier too. All in all, it was a good month. There were a few disappointments (Eli's Promise, The Widow Clicquot and The Shoemaker's Promise) but none of those three were bad. There were more great surprises (The Last Garden in England, American Spy, The Venetian Bargain, The Dearly Beloved). One book I'd recommend for anyone willing to read a medical book is Chronic. I provided a link to an interview with the author that you can watch to see if it might be interesting to you. Most of the rest of the books were books that I knew that I'd enjoy.
What good books have you read this month? My wish list is a little slim and needs some seeding.
By Ronald H. Balsom, Read By Fred Berman
This is the story of the fictional Eli Rosen and his family before WWII, during Nazi occupied Poland and in Chicago during Vietnam. It's historical fiction based on some real events. Definitely more fiction than history. It's beautifully written and tells the story of three time periods moving back and forth across time. I think that was a tool to help make the horrid parts more palatable to the reader. This book (and this author) has amazing reviews but I didn't love it.
I felt that Eli was portrayed as incredibly naïve and gullible and that just didn't ring true to me. He was a smart man and would have realized better what was really going on around him and would have known how to handle Maxilillian Poleski better. The book was a little slow and a lot predictable. But I didn't want to give up on it. I think most people who like this genre will find the book beautiful. It just didn't move me to the 4.7 stars that it has on Audible.
The Widow Cliquot
By Tilar Mazzeo, Read By Susan Erickson
Barbe-Nicole Cliquot clearly led a unique and fantastic life and lived at a very interesting time in history (Napoleonic Wars). Her husband died young and she, at 27, took over the family champagne business. She broke barriers and created a monumental business. But there's so little true documentation about her life that the telling of it is pretty lackluster. If the author said one more time "we can only imagine...." I was going to scream. If we have to do so much imagining then write historical fiction. I recently read The Indigo Girl, which is historical fiction. It made me wonder what the difference is between the 2 genres. There was clearly more factual documentation about Eliza Lucas' life than for The Widow Cliquot. With some dialogue, this book would have been much more interesting as historical fiction. The actual facts from her life can really only be documented in a pamphlet. This was a lot of filler and history going on around her life. If you love champagne it might be interesting.
By Archer Mayor, Read By Tom Taylorson
In my ongoing search for new series I discovered an old series. This is the first in the Joe Gunther Mysteries. This book was first written in the late 80's so it's not filled with technology. It's an old fashioned detective series and I enjoyed it.
Joe is a lieutenant in Brattleboro, VT. A series of crimes around town are starting to be tied to a jury pool from a 3 year old murder case. In that case a black man was convicted of murdering a woman. One of the jurors believed that he was set up.
Many people will pass this book by because of some of the language. If you can accept that language that isn't acceptable today was acceptable 40 years ago, then you can enjoy this book. I like that the book is just a good solid mystery. It's OK to read older books and enjoy them in the time they were written.
If you are on Audible this one is in the free section. I'll read more in the series.
By Anne Perry, Read By Jenny Sterlin
This is #15 in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series. I think I accidentally skipped #14 in the series but these books do not need to be read in order.
The year is 1890, Thomas Pitt is the Police Superintendent and information about Britain's strategy for Africa is being given to the German Embassy. Within Britain, there are strong disagreements over the strategy to begin with and those disagreements.
The story opens with the suicide or accidental death of someone close to Thomas Pitt. The man's son thinks it has to be murder and asks Thomas to look into it.
I like this series because it's a reliable good read. I like the characters, especially the eccentric Aunt Vespasia.
The Venetian Bargain
By Marina Fiorato, Read By Pamela Garelick
This was another find from the Audible free section. I believe this book was originally published in 2014.
It's 1576 in Venice. Five years earlier the Venetians had defeated the Ottoman Empire. A ship arrives in Venice carrying cargo that will deliver the plague to the town. There's a woman on the ship who knows about it and tried to stop it. Her name is Feyra and she was the Harem doctor and she is trying to flee a future as the sultan's concubine. She needs all of her wits and her medical knowledge to survive in Venice.
Through the book we are introduced to some real people of the day. Probably the most famous is Andrea Palladio, one of the most famous architects of all time who gave us Palladian architecture.
If you like historical fiction you will enjoy this. This is the only book by this author that's available in Audible.
I Found You
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Helen Duff
Last month I reviewed my second book by Lucy Foley and complained about the strict formula of her books from the characters to the plot. I could possibly say the same about Lisa Jewell because she does absolutely have a formula. That's where the comparison ends. Jewell's books are so much more sophisticated in terms of character development and plot. I have loved all of them so far and once I start I can't put them down.
In a seaside town, Alice finds a man on the beach near her house. He doesn't know his name or where he came from. She's going to try to help him figure it out. The same week Lily Monrose is expecting her new husband home from work but he never arrives. Both women are trying to figure out what's going on with the mystery men in their lives.
By Lauren Wilkinson, Read By Bahni Turpin
If you read the reviews in the publisher's summary of this book, or even the one quote on the cover of the book, you will completely miss what this book is about. It is not an "espionage thriller" (Entertainment Weekly), it is not a "trenchant comment on race and gender in America" (Elliott Holt). In fact, I'm pretty sure that every reviewer of this book didn't actually read it. They saw the superficial qualities of the writer and character and made assumptions. That just shows how lazy we have become about judging everything. All of these reviewers are lazy and completely missed the beauty (and the point of) this book.
I honestly selected the book because I'd listen to Bahni Turpin read a medical text. She's brilliant. I'm so glad I picked this one. It's a very unique gem.
It's not really a spy novel but Marie Mitchell is spy and so was her sister. The espionage part of the book is set in the 1980's and Marie, as a black woman, has trouble being taken seriously in the New York field office (unlike her experience working in the Indianapolis office). She eventually leaves and contracts out to a private firm and becomes involved in operations in Burkina Faso (formerly Chad). It's the perfect place to center a novel because I'd bet none of us know anything about it. I didn't. Anyway, there are spy aspects and the opening is quite a thriller so it's a little misleading.
What this book really is, is a letter to Marie's sons written in 1993 (current period for the book). She's telling the story of her life in case she doesn't see them again. We learn about her upbringing, her relationships with her sister and parents, her career choices, her intelligence and her introspection. She recognizes that countries aren't all right or wrong, people aren't all bad or good and decisions have mixed results. We see Marie as a daughter, sister, mother AND spy and we recognize that all those parts are interconnected. It's a brilliant first novel....it's not dogmatic, it's thoughtful.
The Shoemaker's Wife
By Adriana Trigiani, Read By Lisa Flanagan
It's a multi-generational family drama as historical fiction so it should be right up my alley. It was OK. This is the third or fourth Trigiani book that I've read and, for me, they are all OK. The characters all fall a little flat for me and the writing is a little messy. There are events or conversations that should presage a future event but then nothing eve happens with them.
The story is based very loosely on her own family history of Italian immigrants to the US. Enza and Ciro meet in their hometown in the Italian Alps. Shortly after Ciro has to leave for the US where he will apprentice as a shoemaker. Enza follows later when her family falls on hard times. She and her father come to the US to work and send money home. Neither Ciro or Enza knows that the other is in New York.
In the end, I just didn't buy the story. But, saying that, she is a very popular author and people who like her work will like this book.
By Steven Phillips, MD and Dana Parish
Read By Thomas Allen, Teri Schnaubelt
Without question, one of the most important books I've ever read. Dr Phillips came to specialize in "autoimmune" diseases when, as a young medical intern, he saved his father from a heart transplant by discovering that his problem was an underlying Lyme infection. By treating that, his father was cured. He eventually had his own health crisis (bed ridden and near death) that was ultimately determined to be a bacterial infection from spider bites.
He share research and case studies to show that some cases of heart disease, neurological diseases and autoimmune diseases are actually caused by Lyme and other vector borne infections. He also discusses the types of treatments that are needed to truly cure these infections. He's had patients diagnosed with everything including: ALS, rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, autism, MS, OCD and various other maladies and many turned out to be infection caused.
He does not propose that ALL people with these diagnoses are actually infections but a significant percentage are. He explains about the different tests and which work and then talks about various approaches to treatment.
If you want to check him out before buying this book, here's an interview on YouTube. It's a pretty heavy book. I did not read it all at one time. I had to break it up between a few other books but it was so worth the time invested.
By Archer Mayor, Read By Tom Taylorson
This is the second book in the Joe Gunther series. I read the first one a few weeks ago and enjoyed it.
This is a pretty old series and most of the books are in the free section of the Audible library. That's what drew me to the first one, Open Season. These early novels are set in the 1980's in Vermont. There are no cell phones or other modern forensic tools. These books are good old fashioned investigation and, for me, that's what makes them fun.
In this one Joe is in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to help investigate an embezzlement case. But then there's a house fire that turns out to be arson/murder. The house is owned by a secretive sect that has taken over half the town in recent years. There's lots of pent up animosity to add to the intrigue.
There are 30 books in the series so far and 29 of them are free. I like Joe Gunther so I'll keep reading them.
The Dearly Beloved
By Cara Wall, Read By Kathy Keane
I pick up book ideas from all over the place. Some come from reading blog book reviews, some from book newsletters and some from friends. I feel certain that this book came from one of those sources but I don't remember. I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own.
Two couples, Charles & Nan and James & Lily, meet in 1963 in Greenwich Village. James and Charles are the new pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church. The story starts earlier to tell the stories of how each couple met and the influences on their lives. Charles was supposed to succeed his father as a History professor at Harvard, Lily had serious childhood trauma and says that she will never believe in God, James had a tough childhood in Chicago and wants to right all of the wrongs of the world and Nan grew up a minister's daughter in Mississippi where he father taught her how to connect with people. The book is, simply, about their lives: decisions, challenges and growth all amid the social changes of the 60's and 70's.
I almost didn't read the book when I got started and saw that it might have strong religious overtones but I soon realized that it isn't about religion at all. It does use faith (or not) as a method to show how we can reconcile differences in our lives. If a minister and his atheist wife can make a happy life then there's hope for others. Oh, and the church secretary is awesome.
It's cleverly written because you find yourself hating and then not hating and then liking a character as they move through their own phases of self-discovery and relinquishing their past demons. It's not going to be one of my favorite books of the year but it's a good one.
The Mother's Promise
By Sally Hepworth, Read By Barrie Kreinik
This is another, like that last one, that came to me from a list somewhere.
Alice Stanhope is a single mother of 15 year old Zoe. Zoe has social anxiety disorder that I propose was caused by the mother absolutely smothering her from birth. The kid was never seriously socialized at a young age and Alice has always lived her life mostly alone. Now all that is about to come to a head.
Alice is diagnosed with cancer, a diagnose that she's pretty much decided to avoid. She gets treatment but had avoided truly understanding the seriousness of her situation. She is very lucky that her nurse (Kate) and social worker (Sonja) feel a personal need to help her. Kudos to all the social workers out there because I expect there are a lot of Alice's in this world.
It's a well written book with the unsurprising message that we can't survive alone. We need family and friends. I found Alice immature and wanted to slap her a few times but the story got where it needed to be at the end.
Again, it wasn't my favorite but if you like deep emotional stories this might be a book for you.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
After the heaviness of the last 2 books I needed something light. By light, I mean murder.
This is #12 in the Cork O'Connor series. It opens with Cork on a hunting trip with his high school friend-turned-politician, Jubal Little. During the trip Jubal is shot with an arrow that looks like one of Cork's homemade arrows. Cork has to find the real killer before he's charged with the murder.
There's not much for me to review about this series. So far I like all of them. I like Cork as a character and I like the mystical overtones from the Native community. I always read these quickly.
The Last Garden in England
By Julia Kelly, Read by a cast
If you like Kate Morton just go ahead and get this book. You will love it.
The story is told around the fictional Highbury House in the village of Highbury in England. There are 3 women who had close connections with the garden so the story move between 3 times to tell the story the garden and the connections between the women.
In 1907 Venetia Smith is a novelty. She's an up and coming female garden designer and is hired to design the gardens for Highbury House. In 1944, land girl Beth Pedley, cook Stella Adderton and Diana Symonds, the widowed mistress of the house, try to find some sort of normality as the house is requisitioned for war use. In 2021, Emma Lovett, is knows for breathing new life into neglected gardens. She's hired by the descendants of Diana Symonds to restore the gardens.
This book was a great way to end the month. I couldn't put it down. Damned if I didn't actually shed a tear at one point. That doesn't happen very often!
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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.