I've been watching a lot of football this month so my reading time has been restricted some. But I still made it through 8 books. It's was a pretty mediocre month of books but I loved Bloody Genius and Watching You.
What have you been reading?
By Jennifer Weiner, Read By Ari Graynor and Beth Manone
Two sisters grow up in 1950's Detroit and we follow them through their lives to modern times. In their journey they experience every possible feminist/progressive conundrum: religious discrimination, racism, sexual molestation/rape, lesbianism, interracial relationships, drug culture, free love and the predictable consequences, motherhood (or not), etc.
The author envisions that she is presenting a modern day Little Women and goes so far as to name her characters Jo and Beth and then makes them so self-absorbed that they aren't particularly likable. They don't seem particularly self-aware or aware of the consequences their actions have on themselves or others. As young people, don't seem to really give their decisions a lot of thought to begin with. They both are followers and fall into relationships or groups almost by happenstance. One part that really bothered me was Beth (as an adult) blaming Jo for something that happened to her when they were both teens that Jo didn't know about but, when she did find out, helped her fix. The meltdown later in life was unfair and unrealistic.
It's not a bad book but it's not great. It's really predictable and is clearly written to appeal to and fire up the modern day feminist. It seems to convey a message that consequences are unfair and that sentiment certainly feeds from current social thought.
Two things I found really interesting. One is that there are lots of sex scenes but the only ones described in detail are the lesbian scenes. Scenes between men and women are glossed over. I feel like she was doing that purposely to try to make certain readers particularly uncomfortable and I think it's a cheap trick.
Secondly, aside from their strong father, the book is all about women from start to finish. In the end there seems to finally be some family peace and it all centers on a little boy. That doesn't seem so feminist after all. Women can't get along without men in their lives?
The Fifth Column
By Andrew Gross, Ready By Eduardo Ballerini (my favorite narrator)
This is the third book that I've read from Andrew Gross. I almost didn't read it because it didn't meet my 10-hour minimum but I got it from the library (free) and that made it OK. :)
The fifth column is a term used to refer to any group that works to undermine a larger group from within. In this case it's Nazi sympathizers in NYC in 1940 working to wage war on the US from within.
Charles Mossman is 2 years out of jail from a drunken mistake and trying to rebuild a relationship with his 6 year old daughter and get his life back together. He comes to suspect that the kind Swiss neighbors are actually part of a sinister Nazi conspiracy. The problem is that Charles has no credibility and no one believes him. Once Pearl Harbor happens the conspiracy is activated and Charles is the only one who can see it but now his daughter is in danger.
This isn't as good as Button Man partly because Charles isn't a very sympathetic character. He makes a lot of bad and naive decisions that you can see coming from a mile away. But it's well written and a good story.
A Beautiful Place to Die
By Malla Nunn, Read By Saul Reichlin
This is the 1st in the Emmanuel Cooper series. The book is set in 1952 South Africa and Cooper is sent to a remote town ti investigate the murder of the local police captain. It is set the early days of Apartheid so the plot is complicated by the relationships between black, white and blended South Africa.
I have mixed feelings about the book. I liked the characters and the plot but for some reason I had a hard time sticking with it. It seemed to take some work to keep up. I'm not sure I'll read others in the series although I did enjoy having a totally different setting and environment for a story.
Behind Her Eyes
By Sarah Pinborough, Read By various readers
This book was recommended by a friend. I read the summary and didn't think I would like it (because it's not my genre) but I decided to give it a try when I saw that I could get it from the library for free.
Louise is a single Mom and a secretary. One night she meets a man in a bar and she feels a deep attraction. They only kiss and then he's gone until she arrives at work the following Monday and finds out he's her new boss. She meets his wife, Adele, while they are on a tour of the clinic offices. Later she bumps into Adele and they become friends. Now she's involved in both of their lives.
One the one hand it's a love triangle but it's also a dark psychological thriller. I was good with it up to that point and about half way through I realized that there was going to be a need to dispense with reality. I'll only say that there's an exploration of lucid dreams. Once I saw that coming I searched the web to find out the ending, realized that I would hate it and I stopped reading. I don't even like the idea of Disneyland's made up world as a vacation idea so this book was never really going to appeal to me.
All that said, if you like psychological thrillers or fantasy/mystical books I think you would really enjoy this. It's a very unique storyline and it's well written. It's just not my bag.
By Lisa Jewell, Read By Gabrielle Glaister
I don't know which of you is responsible for introducing me to Lisa Jewell but, thank you. I've found a new "must read" author. This is the second Jewell book I've read and I really enjoyed both of them.
Set on an upscale street in fictional Melville Heights in Bristol, England amid the famous painted houses. The cast of characters include Tom Fitzwilliam, local school headmaster, his wife and teen aged son who likes to spy on people in the area. Joey Mullen, newly married and living with her brother and pregnant SIL, a student with a mother who thinks that Tom is spying on her and a student with a crush on Tom. It's all complex and integrated but not so complex that you can't follow it.
You know early on what happened at the end but you don't know who or why. I was hooked by this very clever book. The narrator was excellent too. I'm off to reserve another Jewell book at the library.
Songs of Willow Frost
By Jamie Ford, Read By Ryan Gesell
This is my second book by Ford. I absolutely loved the first one, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
This one is similar. It's set in Depression-era Seattle and centers on a young boy who has been living in Sacred heart Orphanage since his mother's body was carried away from their apartment 5 years ago. One day he and the other orphans are taken to a local theater where he sees the actress Willow Frost and he's convinced that she is his mother.
He and his blind friend, Charlotte, escape to find her.
I didn't think it was a good as his first book but it's still good. It's quite dark and I feel like he has done a lot of research into the reality of life for Chinese people in Seattle during that time.
The Child Finder
By Rene Denfeld, Read By Alyssa Bresnahan
This another example of a book that I took a risk on simply because I could get it free from the library. I was underwhelmed.
The premise is good. Madison Culver has been missing for 3 years in Oregon's Skoookum National Forest. She would be 8 years old now. Naomi is everyone's last hope. She's known as The Child Finder because of "unique" investigative techniques to find missing children. Naomi was once a missing child herself.
As she searches for Madison (and another child recently missing) she starts to remember things from her own past.
This would have been really good if Naomi used techniques that are actually different and special. Her techniques are very basic investigative techniques and there's no way those techniques wouldn't have been used by the real investigators 3 years earlier. The community is also small and people would have noticed the things that she was asking about all on their own.
Abduction is a pretty dark topic so be prepared if you decided to read this one.
By John Sandford, Read By Eric Conger
I've been waiting for this book for weeks from the library. This is #12 in the Virgil Flowers series. At a local university a renowned researcher is found dead at the library. After the investigation languishes for 2 weeks Virgil is called in to assist.
There are ideological zealots, ex-wives and a daughter among the possible suspects.
Like all Sandford novels it's fast paced and funny. It was a good ending to the month.
Next up is Elton John's autobiography.
11/30/2019 11:14:02 am
Thanks for doing your monthly post of books. I always find at least one that I need to read.
11/30/2019 12:14:40 pm
Lisa Jewell is a new-to-me author that I'd like to try based on your recommendation. I just finished A Spark of Light by Jodi Picault which I enjoyed very much, although the sequencing is a bit unusual. Warning, the topic has to do with abortion, which may put some readers off. I'll definitely seek out other books by Jodi Picault.
11/30/2019 05:37:39 pm
I always enjoy your reviews and this time I've added a couple new authors to my list of possibilities. Will have to see if our library system has the new John Sandford yet.
12/1/2019 09:06:53 am
I too, have Elton John's book on order and am really looking forward to it, as he is, and has been one of my favorite musical artists, since my children began listening to his music in the late 60's.
12/2/2019 12:01:54 pm
I recently read one of your recommendations - The Kind Worth Killing, and enjoyed it. I then read another book which may or may not interest you - Unfollow by Meghan Phelps-Roper. She grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church (considered a hate group), which hates many groups - Jews, Catholics, Muslims, gays, among others. Her grandfather founded the group. As a young adult, through her interactions with "outsiders" on Twitter, she starts to question the beliefs and actions of her church and ultimately she and her sister leave the group. I remember reading about this group and their pickets, especially at soldier's funerals, which I thought was reprehensible. This book gives you the other side of the story. I found the account fascinating. It's basically about the transformative power of love.
12/4/2019 11:26:43 am
Thanks for introducing me to Sandford and Virgil. I was recently introduced to the Flavia de Luce Novels by Alan Bradley. Love the narrator and the Englishness of the whole thing, you might like them, the titles are SO bizarre. I am so on board with you about Disneyland. Currently listening to Testaments by Margaret Atwood, very good.
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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.