There still isn't much creative going on around here but I'm having fun anyway. We had 6 guests Tuesday night, 4 Wednesday night, lots of laundry Thursday and a friend from England is visiting for the weekend. I might get myself back into my old routine next week.
Meanwhile it's time for the monthly book report! It was a great reading month with 14 books. There were a couple of losers: The Lost City of the Monkey God and Pieces of Her. But there were more winners: Before We Were Yours, We Hope For Better Things and Sam Phillips. But the absolute winner of the month was Once Upon A River.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated By Ray Porter
This the second in the Tier One series. These books build on each other and really need to be read in order. In the first novel John Dempsey went from Navy SEAL to a member of Ember, the nations most covert counter-terrorism unit. In this installment Dempsey and his team are on assignment in Iraq, Guatemala and finally, suburban US trying to stop a newly activated terrorist cell.
To say this book is action-packed is an understatement. It's along the lines of Jack Ryan and Mitch Rapp and is a good read. But do read them in order. Ray Porter is the perfect narrator for this most macho of macho men.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
By maria Semple, Narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite
This book is way out of my wheel-house but it kept showing up on recommended reading lists and my local library had it. So I figured that I could take the risk on a free book.
Bernadette Fox was a revolutionary architect then she gave up architecture for being a wife to a Microsoft executive and mother to a very precocious daughter. She's now borderline agoraphobic. When her daughter insist on a vacation to Antarctica it's about all she can take and she disappears.
The story is told through a group of emails and letters that her daughter gathers in an effort to try to find her mother. It's a humor book, not laugh-out-loud like Carl Hiaasen, but still funny. There are great moments in corporate cultist culture, private school one-upmanship, neighbor fights and Seattle elitist nonsense. It was a fun read. The narration isn't the best but I just sped it up a little and that took care of any irritation.
Before We Were Yours
By Lisa Wingate, Narrated by Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber
I knew about Georgia Tann and her adoption scandal before reading this book because it was featured on Deadly Women on the ID Channel and I'm a bit of an ID addict. I think that the Wikipedia article is a pretty fair summary of the events and acknowledges that the horrid side of the story is truly horrid. But there were also children who ended up with better lives and that the idea of adoption as acceptable was due to her efforts. Just shows that nothing is ever all good or all bad.
Lisa Wingate has written a fictional story that masterfully explores all sides of the issue as told through one family of children. The story is told by Rill telling the children's story alternating with Avery, unknowing granddaughter of one of the Tann children, as told in modern time. It's really beautifully written and beautifully narrated. Rill was a great character, both as a 12-year-old and a 90-year-old.
The Lost City of the Monkey God
By Douglas Preston, Narrated By Bill Mumy
In a nutshell, this is a book about a group of scientists and non-scientists that used a technology called LIDAR to map jungle areas of Honduras and discovered 4 potential archaeological sites. They went in to survey one area and confirmed that it was ancient. On a second trip a couple of artifacts were excavated but due to safety no further excavation has been done. The Wikipeida article will give you the details. It's assumed that this is the mythical Lost City of the Monkey God/The White City/La Cuidad Blanca.
Douglas Preston is a writer for National Geographic and novelist. He's the same Douglas Preston who co-writes the Pendergast novels with Lincoln Child. This book is about his experience traveling with the group on the first expedition and it's a detailed log of his and the team's experience. There's a lot of background on the effort it took to get permission to fly over Honduras to do the LIDAR survey, the years to get permission to explore one of the sites and the logistics of planning that trip. There's extensive information about the poisonous snakes in the area and the tropical diseases they could catch. (I dreamed about snakes for 4 days after listening to this book.)
As it turned out they did pick up a tropical parasite, Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, and about a third of the book is about this disease in all of it's gory details. The book might be worth a read or not. You really will get all of the info about the actual discovery with 30 minutes of web research. But if you want to know the effort and risks associated with archaeological work you might find this interesting.
There were 2 aspects of the book that I found humorous from politically correct/annoying people point of view:
There are a number of people who call themselves Honduras archaeology and anthropology experts. Those that weren't involved in the expedition did their best (and continue) to discredit the findings. It all reads like a lot of academic petty jealousy that I didn't find surprising at all. Also the local indigenous people cried foul as well. Suddenly when this mythical city might be found they claim ownership and, yes, racism. It can't be call the "Lost City of the Monkey God" because that's racist although that's how it's been referenced for hundreds of years. Now it's "The White City". But the book wouldn't have sold as well if it has been called The Lost White City. That might have been construed as racist although it refers to the white granite used to build the city.
Secondly, when talking about parasitical diseases he expanded into a general discussion about the migration of all kinds of diseases from 3rd World areas to 1st World areas (AIDS, Zika, Dengue and Leish) and, as required in our PC world, blames it all on climate change. Then he goes into great detail discussing each of these disease and how it's been documents that they all traveled by plane.....just like the diseases that wiped out the ancient people all traveled with Europeans by boat. Ridiculous.
Once Upon a River
By Diane Setterfield, Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
I don't remember which of you recommended this book but I'm very grateful. Diane Setterfield is not a writer. Diane Setterfield is a storyteller.
It's set in Victorian England around the River Thames and a pub called The Swan where storytelling is an art form. One Winter Solstice a man brings in a drowned girl that he fished out of the river. He collapses from exhaustion and the girl is placed in a back room. The local nurse, Rita, is sent for to care for the man. She checks on the girl a couple of house after she arrived and finds the girl alive. From there is woven a beautiful tale about life on a river and the people who inhabit the community. There are mysterious events, cruelty, love, pasts that want to stay hidden.....a little of everything. For me this book is the great storytelling of A River Runs Through It combined with some Dickensian characters and brooding and mystery from Jane Eyre. I enjoyed every minute of it and the narration is perfect.
Secrets to the Grave
By Tami Hoag, Narrated By Kristen Porder
This is the second in the Oak Knoll series and you must read the books in order. The storyline from the first book is an integral part of the second book.
In this one Marissa Fordham is brutally murdered and her toddler daughter barely survives the murder attempt on her life. Anna Leone, a major victim character from the first novel, is called in to be the child's advocate. As the Sheriff's office delves into the murder they find that Marissa had a lot of secrets, including who shoe really is.
It was a fast read with lots of twists and turns although it was easy to figure out the murderer early on in the book. There is a 3rd book in this series but the reviews are pretty universally terrible and few of the characters in the first 2 books are relevant in the 3rd. I will probably skip that one.
Pieces of Her
By Karen Slaughter, Narrated by Kathleen Early
I listened to this whole book because I wanted to see how Slaughter would wrap up the story, not because it was a good book. It was flat out horrible.
The story opens with Laura and her 31-year old daughter having lunch at a mall restaurant when a young mane comes in and opens fire. Laura subdues and kills the boy. Now her face has been broadcast all over television and news. Laura insists that her daughter leave town and sends her to a storage unit that is ready for an escape with car, identification and money.
That's probably a fine plot except that Andrea, the daughter, behaves like a clueless 17-year-old. She's incompetent to run her own life and proves even more incompetent as a runaway.It's a sloppy storyline written in a sloppy manner. For example, sometimes Andrea refers to her mother as Laura and sometimes Mom and she's mostly incapable of speaking to other people. She gets herself tied up in knots like a shy pre-teen.
Once we know that Laura has some sort of past that's come back to haunt her, the dialogue in the flashbacks is more 60's (calling cops "pigs") than late-80's when the events occurred. Even as a 55 year old, Laura, well educated and mild mannered still uses the term "pigs". It's completely out of character.
The book is beyond stupid and I can't believe they are making a movie from it. Maybe the screenwriters can fix it. Slaughter needs to stick with her Wil Trent series.
We Hope For Better Things
By Erin Bartles, Narrated by Stina Nielsen
Elizabeth Balsam, a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, meets James Rich and he asks her to look up a relative that she's never met to return a camera and some photos. She knows the photos are from the 1967 Detroit riots and that they have never been seen but she doesn't think finding her Great Aunt and delivering the items is worth her time until she is fired and suddenly has a ton of time on her hands.
She tracks down her Aunt Nora and ends up living with her for a few months in the 150 year old family home. While there she starts to uncover information about the history of her family and the home.
The Balsam family is white and the book unfolds a the story of race relations in 3 generations of her family, starting with the Civil War. The book is getting rave reviews and I think that's primarily because it pushes the buttons of topics that we are culturally fascinated with at the moment. It is well written and the characters are interesting and believable. The story line is mostly believable and there are quilts! The information about the quilts is surprisingly accurate. All in all, I enjoyed it.
My one disappointment with the book is that I felt that story was a little lazy. In every instance of inter-race relationships it was a well off white woman falling in love with a poor black man. I think that the subject could have been even more interesting if at least one of the couple was a white man and black woman. Maybe the characters all needed to be women to carry the story forward but I think the subject could have been explored more fully if, for example, the couple of 1967 could have been like the Loving's of Virginia. Regardless, I don't think this will appeal to feminists because of what the women gave up for love.
By Allison Brennan, Narrated By Eliza Foss
I thought I had found a new series to dig into, instead I found an annoying shallow main character. Max Revere grew up wealthy ins Atherton CA and is now an investigative reporter who looks into cold cases. You can envision her with her own ID channel show like Paula Zahn.
Max (Maxine) is home for one of her best friend's funerals. Although she hasn't seen Kevin in about 12 years, they were close friends in high school. Kevin was accused of murdering one of his other best friends and Max has never thought him guilty but he has never been able to get past the accusations from everyone else.
While there she begins to look closer into the death of their friend and into the recent death of a young architect on the same property. The plot was actually very interesting, it was the telling that got on my nerves. Much of the dialogue was awkward and Max's behavior was out of character for someone in her position. But I think that this book might be better reading than listening because the narrator was a very bad fit for the book. She made Max sound very ditzy and juvenile at times as if she was trying to read something gruesome to 4th graders in a way that wouldn't get them upset. I finally sped the book up to 1.25 just to get through it. It was easy to figure out who did it about half way through the book and then it seemed to take forever to get there.
Brennan is clearly a popular writer because she has several series and the books have rave reviews so she's worth a try.
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll
By Peter Guarlnick, Narrated by Kevin Stillwell
A few years ago I read Peter Guarlnick's 2-volume bio of Elvis Presley. I didn't even like Elvis Presley before I read that book but I developed an appreciation for his music, his talent and the way that he changed music. When i saw that Guarlnick had published a new book I had to read it.
Rightly, Sam Phillips was the first non-musician to be accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He did invent the new genre. He was also a fascinating man who worked with a lot of fascinating people. I loved ever minute listening to this book and stopped it often to go to YouTube to listen to specific performances, like Ike Turner's Rocket 88, the first Rock and Roll record ever recorded. If you are into music history, this is a great book and there's tons of supporting video and audio on YouTube. I even got to listen to some Howlin' Wolf.
By Jeffrey Toobin, Narrated By Paul Michael
I was only 13 when Patty Hearst was kidnapped and I remember hearing about it and the Symbian Liberation Army on the TV news but I'm sure I didn't really think about it much.
This book is a very thorough look at the events surrounding her kidnapping and the subsequent crimes committed by the SLA. What I like best about the book is that it's told from the perspective of that time and other things going on. California was experiencing so many citizen terrorist bombs and crimes that most weren't even making it into the news. There were also many "firsts" that happened is association with this crime, like the first use of a minicam to live-stream activity to television. It's a broad story of the time, not a simple exploration of Hearst and the SLA.
The book also delves into the life of Patricia Hearst and her family. Frankly, I don't think I'd liker her as a person very much. But the book was good and if you like non-fiction I think you will like this one.
By Tina Fey, Narrated By Tina Fey
I picked this book to listen to on our drive to Hatteras and it's a good driving book. It's mostly an autobiography told through some very funny stories from her life. It's not offensive or political and was just what we needed to keep us entertained for 5 hours.
The Emperors of Chocolate
By Joel Glenn Brenner
When I'm on vacation I like to read some paper books on the beach so I periodically buy some that are recommended and keep them in my travel bag. On the family beach vacation I pulled out this one. It was recommended by Carole after I listened to and reviewed the Hershey biography. This book is about the Mars and Hershey companies and their competitive and shared histories.
The book was published 20 years ago so the information is missing contemporary corporate history but it's still a very interesting read. Lots of fun facts about the development of chocolate products for war times, the development of the M&M (Mars and Murrie) and about the fight for store shelf space.
The Hyde Park Headsman
By Anne Perry
This is the 14th book in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series that's set in Victorian London. I bought this book in paperback because it's not available in audio format so I'll buy used paperbacks to fill in the series.
Thomas Pitt is recently promoted to Superintendent of Police and is investigating a series of decapitations in Hyde Park. It's a good light read.
6/1/2019 11:23:09 am
Sorry you didn't like The Lost City of the Monkey God. I just finished what I thought was a good book - When Death Becomes Life: Notes From a Transplant Surgeon. I happened to see it at the library. It was a subject I knew next to nothing about and I found it interesting and learned a lot.
6/3/2019 09:14:07 am
That is a lot of books in a month!
6/5/2019 05:58:44 pm
Always enjoy your book reviews Vicki - and manage to find one or two of interest to scour the library for. Unfortunately, now that inter-library loan is no longer available, it's harder to track them down.
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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.