This was a very nice reading month for me! Of all the books that I read, Road to Ruin, is the only one that I really can't recommend. It might work better in book form. It was really difficult in audio. I was very happy to have a new Amor Towles book to read and I loved The Fossil Hunter. That one would be a great Christmas gift for a science-minded teenager. It's very motivating.
But my hidden gem of the month is All The Lonely People. I almost didn't read it because it was compared to A Man Called Ove (a book that I did not like). That comparison is an insult to this beautiful book. We all need to find our own Hubert Bird.
What did you read this month that you would recommend to the rest of us? I always check out your recommendations. You might not see them on my lists anytime soon but that's because I have 3 - 4 months worth of books downloaded on my phone at any time. Some people stockpile food. I stockpile fabric, yarn and books!
Stress Less, Accomplish More by Emily Fletcher - Supposed to be a new way to do meditation. It might be if you can find that among the promotions for her paid services.
I listened to lots of podcasts this month but here are couple that were particularly interesting to me:
Bad Blood: Sometime in 2019 I read the book Bad Blood by John Carryou. It was about the fraud behind the Theranos company. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder, is now on trial and Carryou has a series of podcast episodes that go into more background than the book. If you read the book you will enjoy this series.
Bad Bets: Another business collapse that fascinated me is Enron. Bad Bets is a Wall Street Journal podcast about the history of the collapse of Enron.
Metabolic Effects of Fructose - My doctor recommended Peter Attia to listen to. His podcasts are pretty deep in medical topics and he has (IMHO) an unhealthy obsession with longevity. But occasionally there's an episode that really piques my interest. This is one of those episodes. The title is about metabolic disease but the discussion is really about high blood pressure. It talked about the rols of salt and fructose on blood pressure.
The Lincoln Highway
By Amor Towles, Read by Eduardo Ballerini, Marin Ireland and Dion Graham
One of my all-time favorite books is A Gentleman in Moscow, so anything else that Towels writes will get compared to that That's really unfair. For me, the thing that made AGIM work was that it was completely focused on the one gentleman and all the people who came in and out of his life over many years.
The Lincoln Highway does have a central character, Emmett Watson but there are a lot of surrounding characters and the story is told from everyone's different points of view. That is a powerful approach but also, sometimes, a little distracting and disjointed. Just when I get involved in one character the episode is told again from another POV. That's my one complaint. I think it took me a little longer to get into because of that but I did eventually get hooked.
The story begin in 1954 as Emmett is returned home from the juvenile work farm after serving time for involuntary manslaughter. His father is deceased, the farm has been foreclosed. He plans to pick up his eight-year-old brother, Billy, and head out the Lincoln Highway to California to start a new life. But plans never work as planned.
When the warden brought Emmett home he didn't realize that he had 2 escapees, friends of Emmett's, in his trunk. The plan was altered with a detour to New York and to start their westward journey at the East Coast end of the Lincoln Highway.
What follows is 10 days of adventures and a lot of interesting and well-developed characters. You have to jump into this one and just go along for the ride! By the end I loved it.
Death in Focus
by Anne Perry
I've read a lot of Anne Perry books. I enjoy her Monk and Charlotte/Thomas Pitt series. All of her books are period stories. In this new series the central character is Elena Standish. It's pre-WWII and she's on vacation with her widowed sister, Margot. Elena meets Ian and agrees to follow him to Berlin then on to Paris and home to England. Before arriving in Berlin, Ian is murdered but is able to give her a message to pass on to British officials in Berlin.
Unbenownst to the family, Elena's grandfather was the former head of the recently-formed MI6. He's working behind the scenes to try to get Elena safely out of Berlin.
Perry is very good at character development and she tells a story that's great to sew to.
The Road Beyond Ruin
By Gemma Liviero, Read By Saskia Maarleveld and Angelo Di Loreto
It's August 1945 and everyone is trying to find their way after the war. This story kicks us off with Stephano, Italian POW, walking across Germany to try to get home. Along the way he find a young boy beside his dead mother. He takes the boy with him. He eventually finds an abandoned house where they might rest for a couple of days.
The next day the cabin owner, Erich (a German soldier) finds them but says they can stay until they can find a safe way home to Italy. Then there's a neighbor Rosalind and her damaged husband, Georg.
What follows is a disjointed story that at it's core is good but in the delivery is hard to follow. It's told the perspective of every adult and also in present and past times. The focus on the boy in the cover and summary is baffling because it's not really about Stephano and the boy. It's about the relationships between the 4 adults and things that happened in the war. At least I think that's what it was about. I found the whole thing a slog to get through. It was too much work to keep up with all of the characters, locations and time periods. It might work better in a paper book where it's easier to go refer to previous passages.
The Fossil Hunter
By Shelley Emling, Read By Rachael Beresford
What a fascinating biography!
Lyme Regis was a very popular area for fossil hunting in the early 1800's. Every time a storm came through people could comb the beaches for ammonites. Mary Anning used to go fossil and shell hunting on the beach and, after her father died, she continued to do it as a means of earning funds for the family. When she was 12 she discovered the first ichthyosaur skeleton. She went on to discover several other major paleontology finds.
It's a really well researched book and tells, not only of the scientific finds, but also of the difficulties getting credit for her work in a man's world. It's clear that she didn't dwell on the credit part because that's the way things were at that time. Instead she just kept at the work that she loved. Because she focused on the work and not the recognition, she actually contributed more.
Even if you don't love non-fiction I think you might like this one. Mary Anning was one cool lady with a singular focus.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chadler
This is the 13th book in the Cork O'Connor series that I still love. In this book a retired judge's wife goes missing and Cork (former sheriff) is asked to help investigate. At the same time his son, Stephen, is visiting with his girlfriend when her dog is murdered. They two events might be connected.
I love the narrator and I love the stories.
The Garden of Angels
By David Hewson, Read By Richard Armitage
About 20 years ago, 15 year old Nico Uccello is suspended from school for watching a group of bullies attack a Jewish boy. Nico just stood by and watched. At the same time his beloved grandfather, Paolo, is on his deathbed. Paolo gives Nico the first chapter of a manuscript that tells his own story of his life in Venice during the Nazi occupation. He slowly gives Nico each chapter until just before his death he gives him the key to the location of the final chapter.
Paolo's story is very interesting and it's nice to have a different venue (Italy) for another WWII story. Nico, unfortunately, isn't a particularly sympathetic character. He's basically a spoiled rich kid who does everything he can to avoid life's inevitable hard decisions but the generational aspect did add dimension to the story. In the audio version the transitions from past to present to future come without warning so it was a little difficult to keep up. That wouldn't be a problem in a paper version. All-in-all, if you like WWII novels I think you will find this one interesting and unique.
All The Lonely People
By Mike Gayle, Read By Ben Onwukwe
I haven't finished the year of reading but this book will absolutely end up in my top 10 list for 2021. Hubert Bird is a lonely 82 year old immigrant in London. Each week he talks to his daughter in Australia. He's embarrassed to tell her that he's lonely and doesn't really see or talk to other people so he invents a social life. She surprises him be telling him that she's going to visit in 4 months. Now he needs to get busy and actually create that social life.
Reviewers compare this to A Man Called Ove. That is an insult to this book. Huber is a 10, Ove is a 3 by comparison. This book is that much better. The characters are richer and the story is deeper. Everything in this book is a surprise and it's a beautiful story of dealing with loneliness and grief and finding hope in human connection. Hubert Bird is one of my favorite characters ever and the book is full of lessons for all of us.
The Perfect Theory
By Pedro G. Ferreira, Read By Sean Runnette
This one is for you hard-core science geeks. It's all about Einstein's theory of general relativity. If covers Einstein's life and the subsequent decades of research and debate on the topic.
For the non-scientist it was the right mix of biography, history and science with a good deal of personality thrown in. One Audible reviewer referred to it as a "love letter to general relativity". I agree.
It's a really good lesson for us on topics of "settled science". Science is never settled and we shouldn't be conned into believing that it is. If you are interested in science in general, and physics in particular, you will enjoy this. If you are an Audible member this one is in the free library.
Slightly South of Simple
By Kristy Woodson Harvey, Read By Shannon McManus and Janet Metzger
I have a friend named Nancy who reads as much as I do and our book lists almost never cross. We like totally different genres. This book is "Nancy" book. I would bet that she has already read the whole series.
This is the first book in a trilogy about a quintessential Southern woman and her 3 adult daughters. Each has a need to come home to Peachtree Bluffs to live with their mother. Ainsley, the Mom, has been very happy on her own but now her daughters need her. Caroline is the NYC socialite who's husband has left her for a supermodel. Sloane is on her own with 2 sons while her husband is deployed and Emerson, the actress, is going to be filming on location in Georgia.
It's your typical Southern beach novel and a fine read but it was a little too "girly" for me. I was raised with brothers so I just don't related to some of the nonsense that happens between sisters. But if you like this genre it's well written and the characters are well developed.
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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.