It was a great month for reading. I finished 12 books and didn't finish 2. I have gotten a lot more brutal in my tolerance for mediocre and bad books. I used to make myself finish them but no more. There are too many good books to read to suffer through bad ones. Neither of the books I skipped are actually "bad" but they are just not the type of thing I like to read.
Of the books I likes I think my favorites of the month are Speaks the Nightbird, Hard Country and Till We have Faces.
What books have you read this month that you like?
Blind Your Ponies
by Stanley Gordon West
This book is about human redemption and is therefore set in a small town full of misfits like the island of misfit toys in the Christmas classic. I didn't mind the characters or even the basic story line but this book needed some serious editing. It's set in small town Montana and it seems everyone ended up there for some very sad reason and it includes every cliched character you can imagine: man distraught over his wife's murder, woman distraught over her lost daughter, handicapped daughter, abused teen boy, boy sent there to live with Grandmother while his parents build new lives for themselves, brothers with a long and unpleasant past and a lot of other equally damaged people just trying to get by in a place with no opportunities and a crummy high school basketball team.
This year they decided to field a team of only 6 for the last time and we are regaled with the game action for almost every game of the season. Throughout the season we find out what's wrong with everyone as they all rally behind the basketball team after they get their first win in 5 years.
I listened through the tedium of all those basketball games hoping to find out what eventually happened to everyone. We sort of get an answer with the 2 main characters but everyone else is left hanging on the bus ride home after the last game of the season. We get hints of resolution but no real resolution.
All in all it was a disappointing book.
The Hades Factor
by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds
This book was written 17 years ago and if you read spy novels you have probably already read this and the rest of the series. I decided to start this series because the later books are written by Kyle Mills, one of my favorite authors. Robert Ludlum didn't write this book. Gayle Lynds wrote it based on an outline or something that Ludlum had. You can tell that it's not one of his classic spy novels. It's not a bad story but the beginning is a little hard to take.
First there are way too many characters introduced to follow them. But that is resolved quickly as a bevy of them are murdered. There's so much going on that it's kind of confusing. I almost gave up but them wen't to Wikipedia to read about the Covert One series and discover which of this book's characters are part of the series. Then I could concentrate on them knowing that they would live until the end. It made the book a little easier to stomach.
Oh, the story is about a new pandemic virus that has not been seen before. One of the early victims is a researcher at the Army facility assigned to identify it. The book follows action to find out the source and cure of the virus.
It was good enough that I'll read more but it wasn't one of the best books I've listened too. It calmed down toward the middle and was a good ride until the end. If you listen to books this one has some production issues. Periodically sentences are repeated which is kind of annoying.
Speaks the Nightbird
by Robert McCammon
When I was at Birds of Feather I got into a discussion of books with Jamie Wallen. He is even a bigger audiobook addict than me and had some suggestions for me. This book was one of them and it's a jewel.
You know those books that draw you completely into the story as if you are living with the characters? For me, this was one of those books. The writer let me know the characters personally and set me right down into the middle of The Carolinas in 1699.
This book is the first in a series about law clerk, Matthew Corbett. We are introduced to him as a young boy growing up in an alms house. Fortune shines on him when he is selected to be trained as a law clerk by a traveling magistrate, Isaac Woodward. We then fast forward to 1699 when the 2 are on their way to Fount Royal for a witch trial.
I'm glad it's first in a series because I'm looking forward to seeing what Matthew is up to next.
I followed up Speaks the Nightbird with two duds (in my opinion). I couldn't finish either of these books. Both of these were Audible "Deal of the Day" books so at least I didn't pay much for them. I bought Texas Rising because I liked Empire of the Summer Moon. But ESM told a story. Texas Rising is more like a history textbook and I just couldn't garner the interest to finish it. I read enough to know that the subtitle should be "Don't Mess With Texas".
I have no idea what provoked me to buy Hawk of May. It's got too much of a fantasy element in it for me and the narrator drove me insane. This one should have been narrated by a man, not a woman. She made him sound like a child and there was no need to go overboard on the Scottish brogue.
Just like with our UFO projects, sometimes it's best to just give up and move on. I didn't finish either of these books.
Till We Have Faces
by CS Lewis
As a rule I never read (listen to) books that are less than 10 hours. I don't know how many pages that is but I like to get deep into a book and get to know the characters and I do't think that's really possible in shorter books. Short books, to me, are like a bowl of dairy-free ice cream without any sort of topping to cover up the fact that it's dairy-free.
All that is to lead into the fact that I made an exception for this book. It came up in the Audible Deal of the Day for 3 bucks and it sounded interesting. Afer all, how bad can a CS Lewis book be? Well, of course, it wasn't bad at all!
It is the retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid. This time told from the point of view of her unattractive sister, Oural. It's set in Glome, outside of Greek civilization. It's a good little story narrated by one of my favorite readers, Nadia May aka Donada Peters aka Wanda McCaddon.
by Nick Stone
I had low expectations for this book and I was pleasantly surprised. It's investigation and courtroom drama.
Terry Flynn and Vernon James grew up as best friends and both went to Cambridge where they had a huge falling out and have hated each other since.
Now Vernon has been accused of murder and Terry is a clerk on his defense team. Now Terry is torn between helping mount a good defense or just watching karma finally catch up with Vernon.
The narrator's voice for Terry was a little annoying at first. But, knowing, some of the London accents I think he was portraying the poor background that Terry came from and never really got out of. Good drama, interesting characters and a good story.
Her Mother's Hope
by Francine Rivers
Francine Rivers, I now know, mostly writes romance and religious/spiritual literature. Not there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my cup of tea. That said, I'm glad this one was classified as Contemporary Fiction because otherwise I would not have read it.
This is the story of Marta and her daughter, Hildie. The book starts with Marta's young life before WWI and her escape from her father's torment. We go through her life as she lives in Paris, London, Canada and the settles with her family in California. You get a real feel for how life must have really been like for people during that time. (Hint: It was very difficult.) She is determined that her daughter, Hildie, will not grow up and have a life like she and her sister had so she pushes her hard and constantly. About halfway through we switch to the story being told from Hildie's point of view and we are carried through WWII.
The wars are backdrops to advance the timeline. This is a story about family relationships, especially relationships between mothers and daughters.
Francine Rivers is a gifted writer. She grabs you from the first sentence and I didn't even realize the religious overtones until halfway through. It's just another part of the story that explains the characters. It's not a sermon, it's how these people cope with daily life and, I think, it's likely a very accurate portrayal of people from that time.
There is a sequel which continues the story through Hildie and her daughter. Not sure if I'll read that one but I expect it's just as well written.
by Michael McGarrity
I wish I remembered who recommended this book so I could thank them. I have found a new series and a new favorite author.
Hard Country is the 1st in the Kerney Family trilogy and takes us to the wild west country of New Mexico in the late 19th century and through WWI. John Kerney's wife dies in childbirth the same day that his brother and nephew are killed in West Texas. His SIL takes the new baby and he heads off to forge a new life. He ends up in New Mexico where he starts his search to get his son back.
I don't know anything about what life was really like in the West during that time but this story seems real to me as do the characters and their relationships with each other. If you read it you might also shead a tear or two.
The Bone House
by Brian Freeman
This is he first in the Cab Bolton series and the last one I'll read. If I were in college I'd read this as a drinking game and would have a shot for every cliche. I'd be blasted by the end of the first chapter.
A girl is found dead on a beach on Miami and the prime suspect is the man suspected of having sex with the girls minor sister. Every character in this book does incredibly stupid things. As an example there's the teen who witnesses a crime and decides that it would be a good idea to confront the criminal alone instead simply telling the police investigating the crime. This kind of behavior is repeated over and over by the characters in the book.
Of course the lead detective is wealthy, tall and handsome but can't pursue love because of a troubled past.
I finished it so it wasn't awful but I think I strained a muscle in my eye from rolling it so often.
by Russell Blake
I never read a book that has less than a 4 star review and I felt very confident about selecting this one with 4.4 stars. That is usually an indication of a home run.
For me, that rating was about 2 stars inflated. I can see why it might be popular. It has some adventure but doesn't really drag you along with the emotion of it all. It's just a story.
Drake Ramsey is notified that he has an inheritance from a relative that he didn't know even existed. His father disappeared in the Amazon jungle over 20 years ago but somehow his journal made it to his sister before he died. Hmmm, how did that happen? That's just the first illogical thing that happens in this book. His father was searching for a lost Aztec civilization with a huge cache of gold. Next thing you know he's being tracked by some old Russians just out of Siberia. The other characters are his father's old research partner, that man's daughter who is conveniently an unemployed PhD of Anthropology and an ex-Navy SEAL/CIA operative/weapons dealer...you know, the requisite dark, secretive mystery man.
It's a trite tale, what too many illogical events to count. The characters trip into trouble, trip out of trouble and trip onto the treasure when dozens of people have been looking for this same treasure for decades. The whole thing is a ridiculous take with weak character development and the PhD in Anthropology contributes nothing except to add a little sexual tension and even that is weak.
I suppose if I were in a hammock by a lake and didn't want to stress my imagination to much that I could enjoy this book but I couldn't wait to get through it. I stuck with it mostly because the narrator was good enough to hold my attention. I won't be reading the second book in the series.
by James Lee Burke
When I saw this book on the Daily Deal I knew that I had read several James Lee Burke books but had not read one in a while. Now I remember why.
With Burke you have to be ready for purple prose. He really wants us to appreciate the vastness of his vocabulary. It's almost like he's insecure about his own intelligence or writing skills so he has to overdo it. His characters think too much if that makes sense. Another consistent issue with his books is that his main male characters are way to progressive for their time and place, in my opinion.
All that said, if you can focus on the story through the prose it's an interesting tale up until the end. It ends abruptly and we don't get a lot of resolution. It's as if he ran out of time and just wanted to wrap it up.
The Immortal Irishman
by Timothy Egan
What a fascinating story and I'm so glad that someone took the time to write it. This is a biography of Thomas Meagher (pronounced Marr). He was a young, wealthy Irishman who could not stand the suffering of his fellow citizens during the Great Famine in Ireland in the 1840's. (Apparently it's only us Americans who call it the Potato Famine). He had outstanding oratory skills and led a failed uprising against the British Government. From there he was awarded a nice stay in Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) and eventually found his way to America. He was just in time for the Civil War where he formed the Irish Brigade from New York.
This book provides a lot of history about the Great Famine, the British penal colonies in Australia and about the Irish immigrants of America prior to the Civil War.
This book will appeal to anyone of Irish descent, Civil War buffs and people interested in the early days of the US western population efforts.
By Richard Montanari
This is the 4th book in the Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne series. Richard Montanari has one twisted mind. His villains are some incredibly twisted people and I have no idea how he comes up with these ideas. In this one murder victims are being posed in vintage gowns as if they are characters from a fairy tale. I like that in his stories that he tells the story from both voices. We know what the killer is thinking but we are never sure who the killer is. This one is full of twists and eventually uncovers a history that goes back 20 years. I like the characters, I like that the books are set in Philly and the stories always give me some really bizarre dreams.
3/31/2017 11:48:09 am
You really plough through those digitals! I'm currently listening to Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. It's keeping me awake at night, a good/bad thing as that means it's intriguing; I only listen in bed.
3/31/2017 12:03:37 pm
some of these sound good and will see if my library has them and if not there is amazon! Lately I have been checking my library first but they are small and usually do not have them.
3/31/2017 06:44:10 pm
If your public library does not have a book, they should be able to get it for you via Interlibrary Loan.
Wow, you really do plow through a lot of audio books! I am working on First Frost on audio, but I am lucky to get half a disc listened to in a day. I know what you mean about books needing an editor, read a self published one lately that was almost painful to slog through.
3/31/2017 06:42:41 pm
Thank you for your book reviews! I always like reading your comments.
4/1/2017 08:56:22 am
I'm starting a list of what you like and pick a couple from each month. I just finished listeneng to A Gentleman in Moscow. It was such a good read/listen. I listen to many books and am always looking for recommendations. I'm glad you post your reviews.
4/1/2017 10:43:09 am
Thanks for all the reviews. I read books now more than listen to audio but when I'm piecing or quilting, I like to listen to the books. I used to listen to so many authors but now am very selective. My favorite author to listen to is James Lee Burke, he's fantastic.
4/1/2017 03:48:52 pm
Very nice of you to share your book reviews, some sound very good, and some not so much. I'm just now listening to 'Guest Room' by Chris Bohjalina and was just about to give up on it, when after reading your review decided to listen a bit longer. It is different.
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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.