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.
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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.