October was not one of my best book months. It started off good with Middlesex but was up and down from there. My favorites are probably Button Man, The Men Who United the States and How to Tame a Fox. The last two books of the month were duds...in my opinion.
What are your favorites reads from October?
By Jeffery Eugenides, Narrated by Kristoffer Tabori
Middlesex is one of the most unique novels that I've ever read. The core story is about Cal/Caliope Stephanides and Cal is telling the story. But it's story that covers three generations and how decisions have affected his genetic makeup. Cal is intersexed: part boy and part girl. The book was published in 2003 so it was before our obsession with biological gender vs gender identity and, therefore, is refreshingly free of political overtones.
I think the book is a bit longer that it needs to be and if not for the great narration, I might have given up on it. But I'm glad I stuck with it. It's graphic in some places so that might not appeal to everyone but, otherwise, I think it's a good exploration of the randomness of how we come into existence and the choices that we make to deal with it. This one is positive, doesn't cast stereotype parents as evil and shows what a difference a good attitude and acceptance can make. We don't have to "fix" everything. Sometimes it's best to just be what we are.
The Secret Child
By Kerry Fisher, Narrated By Emma Spurgin Hussey
It's the 1960's, Suzy's husband is on a 15 month deployment and she gets pregnant. Today we would call it rape. But she has the baby and chooses to give it up for adoption to save the effect on her family. It's a decision that torments her the rest of her life and has consequences for her husband and daughter.
Half of the story is told by Suzy and half by her younger daughter, Grace. It's the age old story about decisions and unintended consequences. Even the right decision has consequences.
It's a well written book and it's definitely chick lit. I wouldn't want to read a lot of this kind of literature but this one was good.
I am Brian Wilson
By Brian Wilson, Narrated by Fred Berman
Brian Wilson is a musical genius. Often with genius comes other issues, especially emotional issues and that is certainly the case with Brian Wilson.
In this book we get a lot of the stories of the great impact that he had on the music industry, much of which is beyond the Beach Boys. We also get a look at his personal life and the struggles that he has daily to try to live a productive life.
It's all quite interesting if you can handle the scattershot nature of the way it's presented. It's impossible to keep up with chronological events. He jumps all over the place from one random story to another. I imagine that it's very much what his daily existence is like. I had a very hard time making it through.
By Christopher Moore, Narrated By Euan Morton
This is about the 4th book by Christopher Moore that I've read and I really should know better by now. His books are meant to be humor and they sort of are. I personally think that he tries to cram too many genres into his books. This one is part historical fiction, fantasy, mystery,mythology, satire and humor. It's too clever by half.
The story is about a "sacred blue" paint used by famous artists over the ages. The story opens with the death of van Gogh and the desire to determine if it was suicide or murder. Baker/painter Lucien Lessard along with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec set out to find out.
It would have been great a a straight up fantasy/historical fiction novel but the addition of crude humor, for the sake of humor, detracted from the clever storyline. It's probably the last of his books that I'll read.
Emma by Jane Austen
Narrated by Emma Thompson, Joanne Froggatt, Morgana Robinson
Of course I've read Emma before! Many times. But Audible has a new program where subscribers get 2 free listens of Audible-exclusive programs each month. This was the only of the 6 options for September that I was interested in. The narration was spot on.
By Andrew Gross, Narrated By Eduardo Ballerini
This is a historical thriller set in NYC at the formation of the mafia. The story is told through the Rabishevsky family. One brother starts a garment company and another gets involved with the street thugs that later become part of the mafia. It's an interesting story of NYC in the 1920's and 1930's and includes some real life mobsters and prosecutors.
The Men Who United the States
By Simon Winchester, Narrated by Simon Winchester
This book is a wonderful perspective on the development of the United States because it focuses on the explorers, inventors and forward-thinkers that created the tools that united our vast land. He does digress into some personal stores here and there but they are pretty interesting stories. You will learn a lot of history told in a wonderful storytelling narrative.
I read another of his books last year, The Professor and the Madman, about the development of the Oxford English Dictionary and I loved that one too.
How to Tame a Fox
By Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, Narrated by Joe Hempel
I told you above about the new Audible program where they provide 2 free downloads each month. You have 6 to choose from and I'm determined to get my free listens. This month I chose a 3 hours interview/podcast-type program nammed "Hi Bob" by Bob Newhart and "The Queen: Aretha Franklin". Both are about 3 hours each and now I've discovered that I don't really like a podcast format. But they are great for listening to when I go to bed to help me get to sleep.
I was happy to get back to my "real" books after that and the next one I selected was "How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)". By now you know that I'm kind of into genetics. Not enough to study it, but I do like reading about the study of it.
Apparently about 60 years ago a group of scientists in Russia were interested in understanding how the dog became domesticated from the wolf and if that evolution could be repeated in foxes. Dogs were the first domesticated animals and that happened thousands of years before sheep, goats and other animals. The scientists though that if they could select foxes for tameness that they might be able to see how the domestication process works. Surprisingly, the experiment worked quickly and very well. Within 10 generations (a decade or less) they had fully-domesticated foxes. What was interesting was what other traits changed as the foxes became tamer. Somehow, the researchers kept this experiment going for decades through much upheaval in Russia and now there's extensive genetic research happening on the tame and control foxes. The story is fascinating and you will be happy to knwo that if you have enough money that you can get your own pet fox.
Milk! A 10,000 Year Food Fracas
By Mark Kurlanski, Narrated By Brian Sutherland
I loved Mark Kurlanski's books on Paper and Salt. They were informative and fun. Milk, unfortunately is mostly boring. There really isn't anything "fracas-like" about the history of milk. There are a few tidbits of interesting information in the book, like the Swill Milk Scandal, but you can read about that on Wikipedia without dredging though this book that seems about 50% narrated recipes.
The book is further hindered by some very poor narration. I sped the book up to 1.25 just to get through it. My advice to you is to pass on the milk.
America for Beginners
By Leah Franqui, Narrated by Soneela Nankani
Oh the tedium!
I had heard great things about this book and it was even compared to Behold the Dreamers, one of my recent favorites. It is NOTHING like Behold the Dreamers except it is about foreigners visiting the US for the first time.
The story is about a Indian woman visiting the US for the first time to try to find her gay son. She is guided by a recent immigrant from Bengal and an aspiring actress who needs money. It takes half of the book just to introduce all of the characters and most of the book is comprised of internal dialogue from one character or another. I made it 6 hours in and just couldn't take it anymore. I was ambivalent about all of the characters and wanted to slap most of them and tell them to buck up and get on with their day.
(Fortunately this one was free from the library so I didn't feel bad not finishing it!)
It was a bummer to end on 2 bad books but I have hope for November!
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.
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