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.
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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.