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Benita's Big Bad Book Pile - 2018


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Edited: Today, 10:18am Top

Once again I will attempt to rid my shelves of books that have been sitting around for a very long time. My goal for this year is 50 books off my shelf. The books I will be reading will be anything purchased or added to my list before December 31, 2017. The eligible books can also be recorded books. I will add titles to this posting when I finish them and a short review below as I get time to write it. I will be leading the Two Guido's Mystery challenge and will participate in the Non-fiction category challenge led by Suzanne. I will also monitor and participate in the British Author Challenge and the American Author Challenge when I can. Using these challenges was an effective way for me to get books off of my shelves so I am going to continue to use them as a motivation tool in the coming year to move books off my shelves. I will use this first spot to index my ROOTS for the year.

1. Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb - sound recording - January 2, 2018
2. Warleggan by Winston Graham - January 5, 2018
3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor - sound recording - January 13, 2018
4. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon - January 15, 2018
5. Physik by Angie Sage - sound recording - January 24, 2018
6. An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962 by William Doyle - January 29, 2018
7. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave - February 1, 2018
8. Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz - sound recording - February 6, 2018
9. Los Angeles: People, Places, and the Castle on the Hill byA. M. Homes - February 13, 2018
10. Cobra by Deon Meyer - February 17, 2018
11. Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton - sound recording - February 25, 2018
12. Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman - sound recording - February 26, 2018
13. How to Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas c. Foster - March 1, 2018
14. Art of Travel by Alain De Botton - March 7, 2018
15. Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon - March 8, 2018
16. Symphony For the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson - sound recording - March 10, 2018
17. American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse - sound recording - March 11, 2018
18. Mays of Ventadorn by W. S. Merwin - March 13, 2018
19. Caraval by Stephanie Garber - sound recording - March 18, 2018
20. A Long Finish by Micahel Dibdin - March 19, 2018
21. Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by D. C. Pierson - March 30, 2018
22. Queste by Angie Sage - sound recording - April 7, 2018
23. A Walk In the Dark by Gianrico Carofiglio - April 8, 2018
24. Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 by Frederick Taylor - April 12, 2018
25. Story of A New Name by Elena Ferrante - April 13, 2018
26. Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves - April 20, 2018
27. Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon - April 21, 2018
28. Western Star by Craig Johnson - April 23, 2018
29. South of the Northeast Kingdom by David Mamet - April 29, 2018
30. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - sound recording - May 1, 2018
31. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann - May 8, 2017
32. Popular: Vintage Wisdom For A Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen - May 9, 2018
33. Syren by Angie Sage - sound recording, May 17, 2018
34. Dressed For Death by Donna Leon - May 22, 2018
35. Sightwitch by Susan Dennard - May 29, 2018
36. Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio - June 2, 2018
37. Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler - June 8, 2018
38. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - sound recording - June 9, 2018
39. American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow - June 18, 2018
40. Venetian Reckoning by Donna Leon - June 30, 2018
41. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan - sound recording - July 6, 2018
42. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman - July 7, 2018
43. Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee - July 10, 2018
44. Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker - July 20, 2018
45. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - sound recording - July 28, 2018
46. Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King - July 29, 2018
47. Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris - August 8, 2018
48. Sicilian Odyssey by Francine Prose - August 10, 2018
49. Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio - August 11, 2018
50. Warcross by Marie Lu - sound recording - August 10, 2018
51. War Storm by Victoria Aveyard - sound recording - August 23, 2018
52. Road to Santiago by Kathryn Harrison - August 30, 2018
53. Anubis Gates by Tim Powers - September 5, 2018
54. Acqua Alta by Donna Leon - September 8, 2018
55. Blood Rain by Michael Dibdin - September 10, 2018
56. Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet - September 12, 2018
57. Apostle; Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve by Tom Bissell - September 23, 2018
58. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - September 24, 2018
59. Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman - September 30, 2018
60. Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart - October 7, 2018
61. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan - sound recording - October 6, 2018
62. In the Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger in the Age of Aquarius by Charles WIlkins - October 9, 2018
63. Little French Bistro by Nina George - sound recording - October 13, 2018
64. A Fine Line by Gianrico Carofiglio - October 17, 2018
65. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman - sound recording - October 21, 2018
66. I Myself Have Seen It: The Myth of Hawai'i by Susanna Moore - October 22, 2018

Jan 3, 11:43am Top

Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb was my first ROOT for 2018. It was 20 CD's in length and 25 hours of listening. Most all of it was totally boring. For being a best-seller this one was a clunker.

I had been putting this one off because it was so long and for my commutes and driving around town, it seemed like it would be a good book for the long trip back and forth to Kansas. Since I had just read about Columbine, and this was a novel about Columbine, my interest was piqued and so it went with me to Kansas.

Get this author an editor! This was one long boring ride with one long boring book. This one simply had too many rabbit trails that, while connected, didn't really enhance the novel in any way. Most of it should have been chopped out and the novel should have concentrated on the parts that were relevant to Columbine and what happened to the many kinds of victims of that tragedy. The last 5 CD's were the most interesting of the entire novel.

The sound recording was narrated by George Guidall and he did a superb job with this narration. I can understand why people like him. It is unfortunate that his latest Longmire narrations are not of the same quality as this one. A good narrator wasted on a bloated novel.

Jan 3, 12:34pm Top

Welcome back and good luck rooting!

Jan 3, 6:45pm Top

Welcome back and have a great reading year! I hope your next book is more streamlined and interesting.

Jan 4, 3:57am Top

Welcome back, Benita. Happy ROOTing.

Will you be using a ticker too?

Jan 4, 10:39am Top

Welcome back and congrats on your first ROOT!

Jan 4, 5:47pm Top

I hope your next ROOT is better, Benita.

Edited: Jan 4, 9:11pm Top


I find that my index at the beginning works for me and since we report the numbers monthly I won’t use a ticker.

Jan 5, 9:34pm Top

Good luck with your ROOT goals this year!

Edited: Jan 13, 5:59pm Top

I have enjoyed watching the PBS broadcasts of the Poldark series so much that I was inspired to try to read through the series. I have now finished book 4 Warleggan by Winston Graham and it is easy to understand why this series has become so beloved by the British. (These novels are probably what inspired James Michner to write those great historic epics for which he is famous.) I noticed that the author uses a writing style that is short on dialog and long on descriptions of the land, the people, the way of life, and the conversations that take place. It is also noticeable how the series is in sync with the books and where it differs. This is altogether a fun project and I will be encouraging others to read this series even though it has been a slow project for me. I have been reading on this series for two years and it will take me many more to read all 11 of the books. If they keep the same quality as these first four novels it will be an enjoyable association.

Jan 12, 4:18pm Top

>10 benitastrnad: I've read the first 2 and do want to read the others. I'm not a series reader, really, because most of the time they come to bore me, so I read 1-2 in a series and then put them away for awhile and eventually get them out again. Thanks for reminding me I have 3-4 so I will pull them out and hopefully finish them this year. I watched the first year of Poldark TV series, but eventually lost interest in that because it was on Sunday nights @ 10pm and that's too late for me to watch during the school year.

Jan 24, 12:28pm Top

I'm so happy to find another person who is enjoying the Poldark books! I've heard raves and "meh"s about it, and I have yet to start. I like reading a book and then watching an adaptation (or vice versa) and seeing where they differ. I'm hoping to get started on the series this year (I own all of them, like the good little book hoarder that I am), that is if I can stay away from the library and stop starting so many darned books that I feel like I don't really get anywhere.

Jan 24, 12:45pm Top

I laughed when I read this. I do the same thing. If it is at home I put off reading it because I know I will always have it around and can read it at my leisure.

I am getting all of the Poldark books from my library and am taking my time reading through them. Joe Welch (his thread is joe’s book cafe) is also reading through the Poldark books as is Suzanne (Chatterbox). Suz and I are doing them much slower than is Joe.

Edited: Jan 24, 12:50pm Top

I thought I had read Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon many years ago, but I decided to reread it for the Two Guidos Mystery read along thread. It turned out that I had not read it, and was probably confusing it with another book I had read about the fire in the Teatro in Venice. To my surprise I had to get this book through Inter-Library Loan as it wasn’t in any of the libraries around town. I would have thought that as popular as this series is that it would have been easier to come by than it was. The ILL request came clear from UMass - Amherst.

I enjoyed this book and my introduction to Guido Brunetti. The descriptions of Venice are outstanding and make a person want to visit that city. I find myself looking forward to reading the rest of the Brunetti series.

Jan 25, 6:56pm Top

I listened to another of the Septimus Heap books. Physik by Angie Sage. In this episode in the life of Extraordinary Wizard Apprentice Septimus Heap, Septimus and company is dragged back in time and along with all the usual hi-jinks, Septimus learns to be a healer. The narrator, Gerard Doyle, for this series is excellent, so I will keep listening to these. This is truly family entertainment.

The real story here is how long it took me to get this through Inter-Library Loan. I had resolved that each time I took a long road trip I would listen to one of the books in this series, and knew that to do so I would have to use ILL. After I place my request, it took a month to get the recording here. That is very unusual. I will have to place my requests earlier if I want to have the recordings available when I make my long road trips.

Jan 25, 11:35pm Top

>14 benitastrnad: I love Guido and everyone on his side. I doubt I'll ever get to Venice except by visiting Guido! I've read them all and can't wait for the new one!

Jan 29, 10:36am Top

I finished my Prize Winner for the January Non-Fiction Challenge and it was a humdinger wonderful book. For the first time in months I sat down yesterday and read because I couldn't put the book down. An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962 by William Doyle was an amazing eye-opener and simply un-put-downable. This book is going on my personal Best-Reads list of 2018. The book was the Silver Gavel Award winner of 2002. This is an award from the American Bar Association. Each year the American Bar Association presents these awards to recognize work in media and the arts published or presented during the preceding year that have been exemplary in helping to foster the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system. American Insurrection was also on the Alex Award list from ALA. This is a list of adult titles for young adults. (Young Adults being students in high school.)

American Insurrection was published back in 2001 and I don't know why I waited so long to read it. It is an excellent example of narrative non-fiction. The book is about the desegregation of the University of Mississippi by James Merideth in the fall semester of 1962. It is also about the total ineptitude of the Kennedy Administration in handling this affair. It points out that the American North had no idea of the Southern mindset and opposition to the concept of desegregation and what form of civil disobedience that opposition would take. As a result they were totally unprepared for what happened the night of September 30, 1962 and federalized the National Guard much to late to do anything very effective and ended up sending a 30,000 man force of the U. S. Army to restore order to the university and the town. The author goes so far as to call this event an invasion and the last battle of the American Civil War. He provides evidence that this is not just hyperbole.

I was shocked by what I read in the book, coming as it did on the heels of the racist events at the University of Alabama two weeks ago. (I work at UA) I admit that I was doubtful of the credentials of the author of this book, so I enlisted the help of another librarian in researching the author. He is legit and so is this book. It is no wonder that 50 years after the integration of the big Southern Universities that there is still racism rampant on these campuses.

I can't sing the praises of this book high enough and thanks to Suzanne for putting this category into the mix of topics. I would never have gotten around to reading it otherwise.

Jan 29, 11:48am Top

That sounds brilliant - I love it when a book just takes you over like that, that you can't put it down.

Feb 3, 6:03pm Top

I got Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave at the ALA Mid-Winter conference in Boston. I went to a publisher's breakfast and heard the author talk about this book. It is based on a cache of letters that the author's family found when they cleaned out the house of his grandparents in London. Both were veterans of WWII and the letters were a treasure trove of stories about how these two people met and what happened to them during the war. One served in the Home Guard and one was in the artillery and in the Siege of Malta.

I saw a stack of the hard-copies of this book in the remainders pile at the Barnes & Noble in Tuscaloosa, and suggested to my real life book discussion group that we read it this year. So we did. I was slow to like this book even though I liked the speech that the author gave about his book. The book was very British. By that I mean in style and attitude. I think that made it hard to relate to until I got accustomed to the speech patterns and the sardonic wit and laconic attitude for which the Brits are famous. By the time I got to the last quarter of the book I couldn't put it down and I ended up liking it. It will be interesting to find out if any of the others in the book group have similar feelings about it.

Feb 3, 11:34pm Top

I was a big fan of Everyone brave is forgiven.

Edited: Feb 14, 7:41pm Top

I listened to Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz and like so many of Gidwitz's books I wonder what all the hyperbole is about. It was a Newbery Honor Book in 2016 and I can understand why the Newbery committee gave it that honor. It is an unusual way of presenting some usual middle and high school history. However, as a novel, it is typical Gidwitz fare. It is a bit preachy with a rather heavy handed indignant tone. It is clearly meant to teach or to be a teaching tool and in that it succeeds. It is also meant to appeal to middle school aged boys - hence, the farting dragon. There are some good plot twits that reinforce the religious aspect of the novel and the lesson the author is trying to teach. Undoubtedly there is enthusiasm for the the Middle Ages and all the beauty and darkness of those times, but it will require the guidance of a teacher or parent for a child to get the full benefit of this novel. Aside from its unusual subject matter I find it to be an average children's story. The author tells the story as a series of short episodes told by various people who are sitting around a fire in a hostel during the Middle Ages modeling the novel after The Canterbury Tales. This works - for the novel, but from there the author throws every trope, character type, and historical figure that he can into the story, making it a mashup instead of a novel. That said, it was entertaining and the narration, (the author reads part of the story) is superb. The reader's were all good at playing their roles, and the added bonus of hearing the bard sing, was an added bonus. This is definitely a story that children will like, even if I find it a mish-mash of Middle Ages history.

Feb 14, 7:16pm Top

I have been trying to read through the entire set of the National Geographic Directions series. However, our library only had four of them so I have been doing Inter-Library Loans for the others. Next month, Suzanne's Non-fiction challenge read topic is going to be travel. I am going to try to read two of this series for that challenge since these are really long essays - averaging about 200 pages at the most for each volume. Los Angeles: People, Places and the Castle on the Hill by A. M. Homes is one of those titles. It is one of the best I have read from this series. I don't know who A. M. Homes is (each place featured in the series is a favorite spot of a well known author) so don't think she is all that well known, but she certainly writes well. The author wrote about growing old in Los Angeles where everybody has to stay permanently young. She wrote about a doctor who preforms bris and she uses this vehicle to write about pretentious society people and the need to stay "hot" in the biz. She wrote about a trip she took to Palm Springs because it was home to so many stars, and the result was a very interesting essay on travel. She also wrote about her struggle with fear of flying. I found that part of the essay to be very well done. All-in-all, a book I would highly recommend.

Edited: Feb 19, 8:31pm Top

Deon Meyer has another thrilling winner in Cobra. Book 4 in the Benny Griessel series set in Cape Town South Africa continues to provide thrills and mystery, although I think the mystery part of this novel wasn't as strong as some of the previous entries. Benny continues to be interesting, but it is the secondary support cast that is so much fun to read about. They work as a team, but each has his or her own idiosyncrasies and Meyer has developed these people into fully rounded characters.

I got this novel as an ARC at the Las Vegas ALA conference, and just kept putting it aside. On my way out to the Denver ALA, I decided to take it with me, and I started reading it on the plane back to Alabama. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. It was great fun. Once again, these mystery/thrillers have foreshadowed actual events in South Africa. This novel was about corruption at the highest levels of South Africa. It was published in 2014 and in 2017, Jacob Zuma stepped down as President of South Africa because he was caught in the middle of a corrupt government that was siphoning off most of the wealth of South Africa to personal accounts of those in high places in the government.

I highly recommend this series as I find them entertaining but also enlightening.

Feb 20, 2:58pm Top

Ok, you hooked me. I put the first Benny Griessel book on my library list.

Edited: Feb 20, 4:09pm Top

You won't regret reading them if you like mystery/thrillers. Plus there is the insights about law and order in South Africa. I do recommend that you read them in order. That way you get to see the character growth of the main characters as well as the secondary ones.

Edited: Feb 25, 2:06pm Top

I finished listening to Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton. This has been my commute book for most of the month of February. This is a young adult fantasy novel, and I don’t think it should be classed as such. There is to many adult themes in it for it to be placed in a Middle or Junior High School Library. High school could get away with having it on the shelves, but definitely not any younger students.

I was slow to like this novel and, in fact, almost quit listening to it. The early stages of the novel were flat out boring. It began to pick up once the heroine was disillusioned and the good guy was turned into the bad guy. However, like so many of these novels that I read, all the problems could have been solved if the protagonists would just talk to each other. Instead, they lie to their best friends. Who does that? So unrealistic and unbelievable.

That makes me wonder who reads these things and what kind of example does this type of book set for young people? I don’t think that YA novels should be preachy, and they should be realistic, but come on, what this book teaches is to lie to your friends, not trust your parents, and go off on hair-brained schemes that, undoubtedly, are great adventures, but really rather silly. Oh - that sounds like teenagers!

The most interesting character (Maude) turned out to be one of the secondary characters. This was due to the moral choices that she had to make and the very real consequences of those decisions.

In the end, the fight scenes and the climax was interesting. The recording (narration) was well done. There were interesting characters in the novel with some great fight scene writing. That is enough to make this average fare for me.

Edited: Feb 25, 1:22pm Top

Nice review, Benita! I like my YA's to be the way ýou want them to be and not the way you described this one.

Edited: Feb 27, 12:40pm Top

I listened to the short story Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman on Sunday and Monday. This was a fancy splashy full cast recording of a short story by Gaiman. It was OK, but I am glad I didn't purchase it (I got it from the public library) as it wouldn't have been worth the money. It was typical Gaiman fare, and underdeveloped as a short story. It needed more work before it was published.

Edited: Mar 10, 12:56pm Top

I read How To Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster. This was a book I got at ALA Midwinter back in 2008 when the meeting was in Philadelphia. Little did I know that by the time I got around to readin it, the book would be almost a canonical title for High School students preparing for college. I was induced to read it for the real life book discussion group to which I belong. It is our April selection.

The book was suggested to the group by the one member of our group who is young enough to have children still in school. She has a daughter who is a junior and this title was on the list of suggested readings for college bound students.

I found it entertaining and written in an engaging manner. It is also reassuring and I think that is why it is regarded so highly by parents and the college bound. It tackles the subject of what to look for when reading. The concentration is on works that would be considered classical or essential reading for college educated people, but there is advice that can be used by those reading romance novels or twisted fairy tales or mythology.

Edited: Mar 10, 12:49pm Top

Art of Travel by Alain De Botton

I, unexpectedly, finished reading Alain De Botton's book Art of Travel last night. I had been reading this one in short bursts and found myself close to the end yesterday. I decided to stay up until I had finished it. I did.

This is a long essay about travel. Specifically, the art of travel. The author combines art and travel, and art and writing about travel, into one essay. The essay is a call on us to be more observant during our travel and to consider the little things about travel that bring pleasure and discomfort as well to our lives. He points out that often it is that intersection between between pleasure and discomfort that is the most clarifying aspect of travel. The author uses literature and art as points of departure and of comparison in his thoughts, actions, and words about travel. For instance, he uses the art of Edward Hopper as a starting point to talk about the loneliness of travel, the work and writings of Alexander Humbolt to expound on the adventure of travel, the exuberance of Van Gogh during his sojourn in Provance to write about the uplift we should get when experiencing new places and cultures during out travel. The book also uses works of art and literary quotations as if they were points on a compass for him to guide him in his writing. The effect was one of calm reassurance that there is value in travel that can enrich and enhance our lives, but we need to be observant and mindful of these people and places in order for the act of travel to turn into the art of travel.

Edited: Mar 13, 1:05pm Top

Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon. I read this book because this is the March title for the Two Guido's group read along. This is book 2 in the Guido Brunetti mystery series. It is a fairly standard mystery except that it has an exotic location - Venice. I found it amusing in places where it refers to the overcrowding caused by tourists and the ways the natives have of getting back at the hoards of people.

This book is about the disposal of toxic waste and pollution in general - pollution caused by over population and the water and air pollution caused by the over population caused by tourism. Reading this will make a prospective tourist think twice about traveling to this fabled city due to conscious thought about the impact such travel has on the place.

One thing I am getting tired of is the "Pink Pantherish" elements of the plot. The buffonary that goes on between Brunetti and Patta. Enough already. If Patta was that stupid he wouldn't be in the position he holds. Brunetti's manipulation is also offensive to me. He is way to self-righteous about his position in relation to Patta for my taste. The author should just drop that line and move on to the story.

Edited: Mar 14, 9:55pm Top

Symphony For the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson

I read/listened to this book. This was a book that was on the ALA Best Books for YA’s in 2015 - the year it was published. I had it on my TBR list since then because I thought it was an interesting subject to try to tackle for YA’s and wondered what Anderson would do with it. I finally listened to the book because I found the recorded version at the local library after reading a scathing review of the title here on LT.

This is indeed a tough subject to try to interpret for teens. Dmetri Shostakovich was a complicated person who lived in very unsettled times and served an unsettling aratistic master - music and an unforgiving political master - Stalin. The Siege of Leningrad was not a pleasant thing and Anderson did not sugar coat what people did. Likewise, with is treatment of the Red Famine and the Great Terror. He probably did not deal with them in-depth but that is because this book was not a biography of a person but rather a biography of the writing of a symphony and a thoughtful commentary on the importance of art and music to a culture.

The author was the narrator and I thought he did a good job of reading. It was not the best reading of a work of nonfiction I have heard, but it was good enough. It was not dispassioned but it was not overwrought either.

Overall, I thought this book was a good interpretation of a difficult subject.

Mar 10, 1:11pm Top

>30 benitastrnad: nice review. I gave up on that one after a few pages and gave it one star - but you've piqued my interest to give it another whirl!

Mar 11, 7:09pm Top

Glad to be of assistance. The book surprised me. I had not read Botton before and he is considered to be a literary darling" of sorts so I wasn't sure what I was going to find. The tone of the book does not change throughout, but it gets so much better when he starts talking about artists and their viewpoints about travel that show up in their art.

Edited: Mar 18, 5:05pm Top

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse - sound recording - March 11, 2018.

I first heard about this book last fall when it appeared on several best books of 2017 lists. In December when I got my listening list together for the trip to Kansas I found the recorded version of it on the shelves at the public library. However, it was brand new so it had a shorter check out period than I would have for my long Christmas break, so I left it there and then it never appeared back on those shelves. I finally had to put it on hold and it was good luck that brought it to me right before Sping Break.

This work of non-fiction is one of those books in which the title leads you to believe that it is about one thing when it really is about something else. The title would lead you to think it is about the crime of arson. It is, but under that it is about the lower middle income Americans and what is happening to many of the rural areas of this country. Depopulation, low income, and poor job prospects combined with little industry or availability of higher paying jobs forms a heady brew of discontent and disatification as well as a sort of destructive psychosis that produced one of the most monetarily destructive crime sprees in contemporary American history. The costs to the state of Virginia and the local county and municipal governments was astronomical, and all with no loss of life. It is an amazing story.

The author is a Washington Post reporter who covered the events of the story while they were happening, and the result of her writing abilities and her reporting accumen result in a first rate work of narrative nonfiction. I recommend this book to anybody who is trying to ascertain the mood and direction of the Americans who voted the way they have in the last few elections, as well as those who like narrative nonfiction.

Edited: Mar 14, 9:35pm Top

Mays of Ventadorn by W. S. Merwin. This is another of the National Geographic Directions series by the National Geographic Society. It is the eighth book in the series that I have read, and another great entry in the series.

I thought that this book would be about Italy because there was a beautiful picture of a Lute on the front cover. That just screamed Italian to me. However, this was not the case. This book is about 12th century troubadours. Specifically those in the southern part of France - the areas of Acquataine, Poitiers, Limousin, Dordagne, and Provence.

The author is a famous American poet. When he was very young he purchased a house in the Limousin area of France and spent part of each year there. He became an expert on the ancient local language that today is known as Occitan and began translating the works of Bernart de Ventadorn, one of the most famous of the troubadours who lived and worked in the court of Eleanor of Acquataine. The book is not so much about the place - Limousin, as it is a short history of the troubadours and the courts that supported their work. It was a very enjoyable book to read and made me even more curious about that area of France than I was before. I just have to visit there. I was disappointed to learn at the end of the book that the author now lives in Hawaii. I wonder why, when he could be living in the Limousin?

Edited: Mar 18, 6:48pm Top

Caraval by Stephanie Garber - sound recording - March 17, 2018.

This book was not on my original list for this month, however, when I went to get sound recordings for my spring break trip this one was on the shelves. I knew that the second in the series has come out, so decided that this was one I could listen to during the trip. It proved to be an interesting Young Adult Fantasy.

The novel is a combination of bodice ripper romance, carnival, and "Westing Game." That is to say, it combines a yearly game contest within a carnival atmosphere. The idea is clever but the execution lacks that extra pizzaz that would make it a really outstanding YA fantasy. It has a very predictable plot that at times does throw in some twists that make it fun. I just with the author had done more with it.

This was a sound recording and the narrator did a good job with the material. She was easy to listen to and conveyed the different characters nicely.

Edited: Today, 10:17am Top

A Long Finish by Michael Dibdin - March 19, 2018

This was not the best Aurelio Zen mystery I have read. As usual it was full of wine and food. Of course, wine and food, specifically, truffles, were the subject of this mystery. Or at least the motivation for the murders, as I see it. The plot for this novel was murky, but the reading was fun. The descriptions of a typical Italian wine town were enjoyable to read about. The novel is placed in the town of Alba. This is the heart of truffle country and truffles are a big business in that city. So big, that it is possible to make lots of money finding them. The rise in the international wine business and the corresponding increase in prices for the local Italian wines made for the base of the plot for this novel.

What I didn't like was, once again, the buffoonery of the characters. It seems that all Italian policemen are dunces and treat others like they are as well. I don't think that is the way it is in real life, and so am getting tired of this kind of stock character. It makes me long to read another book by Gianrico Carofiglio just to have some realism in an Italian mystery.

I only have three more Zen novels to read to finish up this series, and even though this title was not the best, I still enjoyed reading it. Zen is such a complex character and his life is such a mess due to his inept abilities to make a decision about what he wants in life. Oh well, there is always the next book in which he can change.

Edited: Apr 1, 12:42pm Top

On March 30, I finished Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by D. C. Pierson was a very strange book. It was my lunch time read at work book. This book was on the Alex Award list back in 2010 - or there-about. The reviews were good so I thought I would read it. When I finished it, I was not sure exactly what I had read. I thought it was just a coming-of-age story that morphed into a a Sci/Fi thriller, but at the end I figured it was a work of magical realism. I went back and read book reviews and they say nothing about magical realism, so maybe I am wrong. At any rate, I can’t figure out the ending and am not sure that I wish to do so.

This was not the worst book I have read, but it certainly won’t make my best of the year list. It was not a total waste of time, but there are better geek nerd coming of age books out there.

Edited: Apr 9, 12:58pm Top

I requested Queste by Angie Sage from Inter-Library Loan to listen to on the drive to and from Kansas for Spring Break. It didn't come in time. In fact it didn't come for more than a week after Spring Break. It was at a branch of Birmingham Public Library and should have taken a couple of days to get here. Instead it came all the way from Kenyon County Library in Ohio. What? Why? I since found out that our library has joined a consortium for "Rapid ILL" and using the resources in those libraries is to be the first priority of our library. It doesn't matter how close to us the library is. Does that make sense? Oh well, that was a dumb question.

Anyway, this is book four in the Septimus Heap series. It was another swords and sorcerers epic. Standard fare for upper elementary grades to read or for reading aloud to all ages. What sets this series apart is that they are narrated by the incomparable Gerard Doyle. He makes any book a delight to listen to.

Edited: Apr 9, 1:08pm Top

I quickly read A Walk In the Dark by Gianrico Carofiglio. This was a short novel and is book two in the Guido Guerrieri series. This series is translated from the Italian and are hit mysteries in Europe. In the U. S. I would not call them mysteries. They are more in the line of a Perry Mason thriller as all of the heavy hitting action takes place in court. Guerrieri is a defense lawyer and he is good at it. In book one, he suffered through a mid-life crises and in this second book he has straightened his life out, and then is hit hard again when a high school friend of his commits suicide at the same time that he has taken on a difficult case. The case is about sexual abuse, stalking, and a man with control issues. The way Guerrieri handles the case is just brilliant, but there is a surprise ending. I did find the inserts a bit disconcerting as I wasn't sure how they fit into the novel. It took me some time to figure out who was speaking these parts and why they were included. This was a satisfying read and once again very insightful about how the Italian legal system works. I am beginning to like this guy and this author, but I admit that it took some getting accustomed to a difference in style and a different kind of hero.

Edited: Apr 16, 2:54pm Top

I finished my book for this month's nonfiction challenge! It was Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 by Frederick Taylor. I have had this title in my collection since about 2005 when it was given to me for a birthday gift. I finally got it off the shelve to read it for Suzanne's nonfiction challenge. The category was History, and even though I had lots of titles from which to choose, I can't believe I am so far ahead of the eight-ball on this one. However, the book was good and totally engrossed me. Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 by Frederick Taylor is an excellent example of what we now call narrative nonfiction. The book starts out as a history of the bombing of Dresden in 1945 and it covers the early air war as well as the later. It turns out that technology plays a big role in the success of the Allied bombing campaign. The British and American's developed several instruments that allowed them to guide bombs better so that they were more effective. The Allies developed tactics that also improved bombing efficiency. And of course, by the end of the war, the total defeat of the German Air Force was another factor in bringing the war to the cities and the civilian population. There is coverage of the bombing of Coventry, Lubeck, and Hamburg as well as that of Dresden. There is also the "luck" factor. The author makes the case that many lucky breaks converged to create the bombing of Dresden so effective. These include the almost total lack of air raid shelters, and no air raid defenses, plus meteorological factors. (Certain weather conditions have to be present for firestorms to occur.) The author has extensive appendices that break down causality figures and he places the number at the same place that the German authorities in 1945 did - around 30,000. He does this in order to debunk, what he sees as inflated figures given by the Russian authorities in the Cold War and to warn people that the figures given by the psuedo-historian David Irving are wrong. This last part of the book was as interesting as some of the chapters on the stories of the survivors. I was unaware that many of the casualty figures given for Dresden come directly from David Irving and his early books on WWII. The figure of 300,000 started out as a typo and the Russians never corrected it in their reports because it suited them to keep the figure high. Irving chose that number even after it was proved that it was not correct.

I remember reading about David Irving a few years ago, but I was not aware that he had been plying his trade (that of Holocaust denier) since the late 1950's. It was interesting that a book published in 2004 is still dealing with his faulty research.

Edited: Apr 25, 8:02pm Top

I have been trying to read through some of the series that I have started for the year and since Story of A New Name by Elena Ferrante is also on my real life book discussion group as a title for August, I thought I would start on this one early. I did and at first it didn't hold my interest. Then it took off and I finally finished it after about 2 months of reading. This series is incredibly popular in the U. S. and sometimes I have a hard time figuring out why. This book is written in a style that I don't find easy to fall into and read without effort. Usually any kind of effort required to read a book spells doom for that title - not the case with this series. People love them. I think it is because at heart it is the sort of sprawling family epic that American love - like Poldark and Delderfeld's work. This is a sprawling family saga about a city - Naples, Italy, that is foreign and exotic. It is about two best friends and their friends, who through marriage and employment remain connected throughout the length of the novels. The truth is that this book could be set in Swindon, UK or Ada, Oklahoma, as the potential for sprawling family sagas is in every town and city all around the world. This particular novel just happens to be set in the exotic city of Naples, Italy. It is about what happens to these two best friends when one marries early to escape poverty and trades on the one asset she has - her sexual appeal, while the other one through luck and hard work, manages to continue her education and graduates from university and thus escapes her background. This of course, is not a new story, but combine it with the exotic setting and you get a novel that intrigues readers. The post World War II setting in a city trying to recover from WWII only adds to the plot.

What I found intriguing was the fact that Lila was probably the more talented learner, and if she had a spot of luck and could have continued on in school, she would have been a true intellectual. Lena was not naturally talented or curious, but through luck, and her own hard work, she was able to continue her education. She is uncomfortable with her education and feels that it makes people think she is smarter than she really is, while Lila doesn't care what people think about her learning all she can at every opportunity. She just does it anyway. Lena is uncomfortable and ill-at-ease with her success. It really is the story of two women who, through chance and opportunity, end up living the lives that each other secretly wanted. I will continue to read this series as now I am invested in the lives of these two women and I want to know what happened to them.

Edited: Apr 29, 6:57pm Top

Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves was a book I read for my real life BooK Discussion group. The book was on the Booker Prize Longlist for 2016. My book group read it because it is our Alabama book for the year. It is set in Alabama starting in 1923 and covers a period of 9 years. It is about the beginnings of rural electricification and all of the changes the coming of electricity brought to rural areas. It is also set in Kirby Prison and is about all of the modern so-called prison reforms that installation brought to the state, including “Yellow Mama” the brightly painted electric chair used to execute prisoners.

I had trouble reading this book and it just didn’t interest me when I first started reading it. I still have trouble figuring out why this novel was on the Booker Prize Longlist. In the end, it was a good enough novel, but I certainly don’t think it was of the caliber needed to nominated for a Booker Prize. I would like to know what was that committee thinking when this title was listed? Also, it was written by a woman from Montana who has never lived in Alabama, so I have to wonder what she was thinking when she was writing this novel. Maybe there was no motive other than to tell a good story, but I do have to wonder.

In the end I liked the novel well enough, but I don’t think that most people would stay with it long enough to finish it. Even with all the accolades I rate it an average novel.

Edited: Apr 30, 11:23am Top

Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon. I listened to this novel and I expected it to be the thrill ride that The Good German was. It isn't. The narration is quite good, but the cool tones and the pacing of the narrator probably effected how I "Read" this novel. It was good enough, but it just didn't take off in the way I expect from a spy thriller set in the very conception of the Cold War. The novel is set in Berlin in 1949 as the city is slowly being divided between East and West and living with the Berlin Blockade is a way of life. On the U. S. side, the Red Scare of the 1950's is taking root and many Jewish immigrants to Hollywood are caught in that net. These people are sent back to Germany to serve as spies for the fledgling CIA. That is the environment of the novel, but unfortunately it just doesn't quite pull of a thrilling spy story. Since the hero returns to his home in the East it is clear this is the beginning of a series. Unlike other spy series, it is a series that I won't be quick to pursue. The best part of this novel is that, due to my recent trip to Berlin, many of the streets upon which I walked and places I went to see were part of this story. That made it familiar and easy to visualize what it would have looked like in 1949. For instance, the park where Alex met his contact was the Volkspark on Fredrichshain that was right across the street from my hotel. How much more immediate can you get than that?

Edited: May 4, 10:26pm Top

Western Star by Craig Johnson is another fine entry in the Longmire series. This novel flashes back and forth between the past - 1970, and the present. The mystery is set on the Union Pacific passenger train the Western Star during an annual sheriffs convention that takes place on the train ride across the state of Wyoming. The mystery is a classic locked room mystery and Johnson has a classic Agatha Christie mystery as part of the story. He also manages to weave the modern ongoing Longmire-Duarte vengeance story into it and make it plausible. Good rip snorter, but I still think that Henry is not utilized enough. He is still window dressing.

Edited: May 4, 10:30pm Top

South of the Northeast Kingdom by David Mamet is the 11th book I have read in the National Geographic Directions series. This was not the best of this series. It read more like a disjointed set of sound bites and ideas and sketches for one of Mamet’s plays or movies than it did an essay about Vermont. However, I have to admire a person who moved to Vermont in the 1970’s, taught school there, and stayed to raise a family and live there for 40 years. Clearly he loves the place. To bad he didn’t do a better job of writing about it.

Edited: May 2, 10:36am Top

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I just finished listening to Illuminae the first book in the Illuminae trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The recorded version was very well done and I enjoyed it (had several driveway moments with it.) I wondered how this space opera would translate into a recorded version given the odd format of the novel, but the recorded version did quite well in interpreting the novel. It had a cast of characters, rather than a single reader, and that helped with the interpretation making it easier to tell when the novel had switched formats as well as characters. The main part of the novel is done as a series of corporate report memo's. These are interspersed with odd formatted pages that are sometimes drawings, diagrams, and other illustrations. It is odd, but I found it very effective in evoking the spirit of the novel in me as I read. I am glad I had the book as well as the recorded version, just so I could go back and do some double checking, but I think a reader could choose to listen to the book, not look at the print, and still get to the heart of the novel.

I am surprised that this one is classed as YA for several reasons.

I so enjoyed this novel that I immediately went to the library and got the recorded version of Gemina - book 2 in the series, and started listening to it on the way to work this morning. It has a different cast of characters and so has different readers. I can't wait to get into it. but if you like space opera this series is a good one.

Edited: May 18, 5:47pm Top

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. This title has had lots and lots of buzz already, so I don't need to sing its praises. I found it interesting because I am from the Plains states and usually find history about that area of interest. This book was a better book than his previous title Lost City of Z, which I also read. He also made this book a bit more personal with a large section at the end about his work as a historian and reporter. He tells the reader how easy it was to get involved in the lives of the descendants of the people he wrote about in his book. These were Native Americans, but I wonder what the descendants of the convicted murderer have to say. That would be interesting as well.

I read this book because it is the next selection for my real life book discussion group. It was a good read and I am sure there will be lots of discussion about it when we meet.

Edited: May 18, 5:56pm Top

Popular: Vintage Wisdom For A Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen. This title was named to the YALSA list of 10 Best Non-Fiction for YA's in 2015, and it deserves the accolades. The author wrote it during her 8th grade year in Brownsville, Texas. I found it engaging and honest. It was full of teen aged angst but it was not overwrought. The tone was perfect for me. I could see and understand the pain and anguish of a girl in puberty trying to find her place among her classmates and friends while navigating the labyrinth of pitfalls that is junior high school. This was a very well done book, and might well make my best of the year list.

The memoir starts with the discovery of a 1950's book on how to be popular written by a then well known teen model Betty Cornell. At first the author and her family make fun of the book, but then the author's mother suggested that the author might like to try some of the advice. She did. Taking one chapter to emphasize each month and do one thing from that chapter to improve herself. It was a fun read.

Edited: May 26, 1:55pm Top

Syren by Angie Sage is book 5 in the Septimus Heap series. Set on an island and with different sea voyages as part of the plot, the author works in various Syren legends and mythologies from around the world in a style that is very appealing to kids. All the plot twists and turns are kept interesting and fresh, in part, due to the excellent narration provided by Gerard Doyle.

In this novel, Septimus is beginning to show signs of maturity as he moves into that unknown realm of teenage angst and puberty. In some ways I am disappointed with some of the very traditional roles that all of the characters play and I can see Jenna gradually being relegated to the role of pretty figurehead with Septimus getting to do all the fun things. In fact, I applauded Jenna when she protested Septimus’ pushing her to a backseat. It didn’t change anything but I was glad that she did it. I shouldn’t expect so much from a series where the title character is a boy - but I did have hopes that this series would be a bit different.

Edited: May 29, 6:26pm Top

Dressed For Death by Donna Leon. This is the third book in the Guido Brunetti mystery series by American author Donna Leon. The series is set in Venice, Italy and Leon does a great job of placing her mysteries in that setting. The plots are OK but the author brings a real sense of the place, in this case, the city and environs of Venice, to the novels. Reading this mystery, at times, I could almost smell the stench of the polluted waters in the heat of the summer.

Edited: May 29, 6:34pm Top

Sightwitch by Susan DennardThis is a short book and it took me only 3 days to read, but it does pack a good story. It is a prequel to the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard and it goes a long way to explaining some of the events in the first two books in the Witchlands series.

I have really liked this series YA fantasy series and am surprised by that. When the first in the series Truthwitch came out I wasn't that impressed with the reviews, so didn't have it even on my reading list. I have been trying to participate in the Barnes & Noble book club that my local B& N store started last year and Truthwitch was one of the books they discussed. I listened to the recorded version of it, and was hooked on the series. I can't wait for the next book Bloodwitch. If your reading life is short on YA fantasy series give this series a try.

Edited: Jun 8, 10:24pm Top

Finally finished Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. This was my local Barnes & Noble book club selection for February 2018. It took me months to read it. It wasn’t a bad book, but it took a long time for me to get into it. It is a book about the early circus, tarot cards, curses, and librarians. I think I didn’t like the librarian part because it portrays the librarian as an archivist who hunts down rare facts and uses them to solve some kind of exotic puzzle and saves lives. It is a slow moving novel. It took me fully half of the book to get engaged with it. I thought it was a good novel for a debut but it didn’t knock my socks off. There was lots of things to speculate about the meaning of ..., or the reason for ... so it lots of discussion topics built into the plot, making it a good book club selection.

Edited: Jun 10, 12:39pm Top

I listened to Gemina: Illuminae Files - 02 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I like this unique YA science fiction series. They are in an odd format but the sound recordings are very well produced. Because this is book two I knew to check out the book and look at the hard copy as well as listen to it because the format of this series is so unique. It is a blending of illustrations that tell the story and words. Very unique and lots of fun to read and look at, but very long. 629 pages.

The sound recording is very well done. The narration has sound effects, music, (and music plays an important part in this novel) and a full cast at the end. The plot for this novel involves completely new characters with the incorporation of previous plot lines. The narrators in the previous novel come back in this one and provide continuity and synchronicity for the reader.

This novel provided me with many “driveway moments.” I have to wait for book 3 until after my trips but it will be first on my listening agenda as soon as I can get it.

Jun 19, 7:47pm Top

I finished reading American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow. I discovered this fascinating book while browsing the shelves in Gorgas Library. I checked it out and then earlier this year I found it at the local Friends of the Library Used Bookstore. This was a fascinating look at American history through its use and misuse of its trees and forests. The book started with the primeval forest and the harvesting of the New England White Pine for the exclusive use of the British Navy and ended with the impact of the Environmental movement and Global Warming. There was a whole chapter on tree diseases and the impact of them on our trees. Dutch Elm Disease and the Chestnut Blight and how the attempt to stop the Dutch Elm Disease led to Rachel Carson studying the effects of pesticides. Famous people who loved trees, all the way from Henry David Thoreau to Aldo Leopold were written about as well as those who hated trees, like Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. It was truly an amazing history and very well written. I highly recommend this book to history lovers as well as those who love our forests and trees. I am glad I read this one and I am going to pass it on to somebody else who will appreciate this unique history.

Jun 20, 6:41am Top

>55 benitastrnad:, I have to ask: how does Jackson's "loin-stirringly deep British accent" come across in the audio?

Jun 20, 4:36pm Top

>56 benitastrnad: That sounds brilliant - onto the wishlist it goes.

Jun 20, 6:38pm Top

>56 benitastrnad: ditto what >58 Jackie_K: says - onto the wishlist!

Jun 21, 6:12pm Top

Welllllllll. I didn't find it so, but the character did. And I do admit that he sounded good on the audio, but was it really him?

Edited: Jul 8, 7:38pm Top

A Venetian Reckoning by Donna Leon. Book 4 in the Guido Brunetti series. I had to use Inter-Library Loan for this title and the book came from the University of Virginia Library. With this novel it seems that the author is trying to follow in the footsteps of Maj Sowell and Pers Wahloo with the commentary on the state of the government as well as the culture and social structure of Italy. This time it is about how the political structure and big business use women for their own pleasure and discard them when done with them.

Edited: Jul 8, 7:40pm Top

I finished listening to Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. This was another title that I had to get from Inter-Library Loan. This one came from the public library in Plainville, Illinois. I really liked this autobiography/memoir and put it on my best of 2018 list.

The author can wax poetic about a wave and I can understand that some readers will be impatient with this style, but he diligently tries to explain why he has an obsession with surfing and his hopes that you, the reader, will come to understand it. One morning on my way to work he was describing a wave that was a black wall with indigo tops and on a few waves the tops were a more mellow navy blue. What guy thinks like that? I think that he does that to make a point about why he is so invested in surfing. Or addicted to surfing, might be a better term. He seems to be hyper-aware of the expanse of the ocean, his position in it, and his place on the Earth as well as the individual wave he is riding and it is this that keeps him surfing even as he enters his 60's. His descriptions of the highs that he gets while riding the board are amazing.

He does not stint on describing his callow youthfulness and his inconsiderate treatment of his friends and fellow surfers. His disdain for the modern surf competitions is made manifest to the reader as his is despair at the ruination, caused by the commercialization of surf tourist, of many wonderful surf sites around the world. He is not an environmentalist, but he would gladly join forces with them in order to preserve waves.

By the time the book ended I really felt his pain at losing his physical prowess due to age. The last chapter was title “When the Mountains Fall Into the Sea”. (I think that is a Biblical quote, but not sure). In the chapter he describes his exercise regimen that he follows in order to keep surfing since he is in his early 60’s. He swims everyday in an attempt to keep his stamina up to par and he does water aerobics and weightlifting every other day. Even with that regimen he still finds it hard to jump onto his board when he finds a wave he wants to ride. I feel his pain and he tries very hard to express that pain to the reader through these descriptions.

Edited: Jul 11, 11:24pm Top

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

This book is a commonplace. That is a book about books that is full of comments from other books. I just learned that! And I love the idea, as that is what I do in my book diary. I write comments I come across in the books I am reading. Fadiman’s book is much more sophisticated than mine as she is a long time writer for the New Yorker and editor of other magazines. This book is a collection of various essays she has done over the years that reflate to books, writing, and reading. One of the essays is about proof reading for spelling and punctuation mistakes!

This book was fun to read, and I laughed out loud when I read her advice to friends who lament the fact that their children don’t read. She always asks if they have books in the bathroom. She thinks that books, magazines, etc. in the bathroom are a sign of a reading household. The fact is that I was in my Bathroom when I read this essay! This was my Bathroom book.

Edited: Jul 21, 8:31pm Top

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee is the third, and final book in the Machineries of Empire series. However, it is clear that this title is not the end of this universe. The author left to many hanging threads for this to be last book about this amazing universe and the lives of the major players.

This entry in the series had lots of plot twists and surprises. How many Jadeo’s are there out in this universe? Who do they serve? What is Jadeo: Part of Cheriss, part of the Revenant, something different? All of these are questions that will need to be resolved at some point and the author has clearly chosen to prolong the readers pleasure by leaving these questions, and others, hanging.

As in the previous novels in this series the author excel at writing battle scenes and ramping up the excitement during the battles. Political intrigue abounds and the author has some very inventive plot twists that increase the tension and keep the reader asking WHAT? And then turning the page to find out.

Edited: Jul 21, 8:40pm Top

Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker this is the third book in the Arcadia Project and it is clear that there will be more in this urban fantasy series. I enjoy this series as it is different than any fantasy series that I normally read. It is filled with oddball characters who are really odd, or at least not the kind of people I run into in my everyday life. However, this entry in the series felt bloated. The plot had to much going on in it all at the same time that were hard to follow. It was to long. I know it is hard for authors, who plan on continuing a series, to build new plot lines into each novel so that the series flows and continues, but the plot and the novel would have benefited with some editing and tightening up. The author also tries to keep the series timely with the introduction of current events into the story but there clearly isn’t any meat on those bones when it comes to the plot. I am sure that I will read more of this series, even though it has the substance and staying power of that gloppy frosting on grocery store bakery cakes - fun for a short while, but quickly enough. But what do I expect from a series like this - great literature, or great fun?

Edited: Jul 31, 11:48am Top

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - book 3 in the Illuminae Files

I listened to this final title in the Illuminae Files trilogy and it was a bang up ending. There were some plot points that were predictable, but an author can't kill off everybody. Can they?

All-in-all, it was a nice resolution to this series. And the series was a bang up action series that was a perfect summer long read.

Edited: Jul 31, 11:52am Top

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lillies by Ross King

I will never look at these last painting of Monet the same way again. Especially the ones done of the willows or the rose arbor. Once I learned what was going on in Monet's life and his feelings about what was happening to France during WWI and how that affected his painting all the way from the subject matter he choose to the colors and time of day that he choose to depict on canvas. The violence around him is seriously a part of these paintings that makes them the antithesis of an anti-depressant, a sobriquet that he was often given. His twisted drooping willows are a symbol of a country and a man bowed but not giving up and his huge last paintings that were donated to the French government are very much a part of WWI.

This was an excellent book about the last great burst of creativity from the master of Impressionism.

Edited: Aug 9, 9:51pm Top

I am just finishing up another work of nonfiction that will also make my best-of-the-year list, Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris. This book has a subtitle that is very descriptive and will let you know exactly what this book is about - How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth From Interplanetary Peril.

This one is a book about amateur astronomers and how they furthering the research being done on all things having to do with what is out there in the universe questions. It turns out that amateur astronomers, with the aid of their own telescopes, some of them homemade, and home computers, are looking at the universe in many new ways. With the aid of the amateurs, astronomers are able to track objects in the skies twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Something that was impossible twenty-five years ago. The result, is an explosion in the knowledge of how our universe works. Great stuff in this book, and so easy to read.

This was my summer lunchtime book, which means I read it at work during my lunch hour. It provided me with hours of fun and fascinating reading.

Aug 11, 2:30am Top

Wow Benita, you have been reading lots of books. Good job.

Edited: Aug 12, 7:23pm Top

Sicilian Odyssey by Francine Prose. Finished on August 9, 2018. This is another in the National Geographic Directions series that I have been reading. I have read 12 titles in the series and this one is number 13. This one is not the best in the series. It is about Sicily and that interested me because someday I would like to go and visit Sicily. From all accounts they have terrific food there, and some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in Italy. I am afraid that this book did not do the place justice. It concentrated more on the modern Sicily and its problems with the Mafia. That may be a good thing, as travelers need to know about that, as well as how outside of the cities travel in Sicily is difficult. The best parts of this essay were when the author talked about getting along in Italy as an obvious American and a tourist in the off season. There were some lessons to take to heart in this little volume.

Edited: Sep 11, 5:20pm Top

Warcross by Marie Lu is the first in the new Warcross series by this author. This is a series that is a "Ready Player One" series for YA's. It is not a look back at retro video games, but a look forward to virtual video games of the future. I listened to this book and was impressed with the quality of the production. This was a Books on Tape production and it was very well done. The narrator was pitch perfect. The plot was predictable and there wasn't much new in it to keep me interested. There was a diversity of characters and that is a good thing, but one that isn't necessary for my personal enjoyment of a novel. That kind of thing is important for YA's to see in notes, but it isn't a deal breaker for me. I don't know if I will read the next one in this series, but I did purchase it for the library.

Edited: Sep 11, 5:26pm Top

What a bang up way to end a series! War Storm by Victoria Aveyard is the concluding book in the Red Queen YA dystopian fantasy series. It was a very good ending to this series. It was full of action, great plotting, and memorable characters. The best thing about this entry in the series was that it wrapped up the story and gave me many driveway moments and it still allowed the author plenty of room to create more stories, characters, and plot lines from this original series. For that reason I imagine that I will be reading more stories set in this world for several years.

Edited: Sep 16, 8:06pm Top

Road to Santiago by Kathryn Harrison is the 12th book I have read in the National Geographic Directions series. This one is about walking the pilgrim way to Santiago de Compostela. The author walked different portions of the road at three different times in her life. Harrison was a well known author at the time that she and her 12 year-old daughter tried to do the pilgrimage, but did not complete the walk. This book is about what the author learned while she walked the pilgrim way. She dwealt long and hard on the death of her mother and her alienation from her mother. These thoughts and rumination were the most boring and least interesting parts of the book. They did not seem to integrate with the rest of the journey and as a result I could not make the connections between what she was writing about the road and what she was writing about her crisis of faith and resolution of her abandonment by her mother and other significant women in her life. The book was just more disjointed that I thought it should have been.

Even so, it was worth reading because of my interest in the pilgrim way of Santiago di Compostela.

Edited: Sep 24, 2:22pm Top

Anubis Gates by Tim Powers I wanted to like this book. I didn't. This book has become a classic of the time travel sub-genre in Science Fiction/Fantasy and is referred to over and over by other authors and readers of Sci/Fi. I read the book, but I can't say that I enjoyed it. It took much to long for me to figure out the various parts of the novel and how they fit together. Once I did that the book came together and became much more exciting to read. I understand why it is considered to be so important but it didn't work all that well for me. I have enjoyed the time travel writing of Connie Willis much more.

Edited: Oct 1, 2:41pm Top

Acqua Alta by Donna Leon I finished book 5 in the Guido Brunetti series. This one, like most of them, is set in Venice, but it takes place during the winter months when Venice is plagued by the Acqua Alta. This is the local name for the extremely high tide that periodically inundates the city. The floods make walking around a trek through water wearing thigh high boots. The Acqua Alta is caused by a combination of winds from North Africa that push the water of the Adriatic to the shallow northern end of the sea, high tides caused by a full moon, and the rising water table of the Venetian Lagoon.

The murder mystery part of this novel was, as usual, well done, but I really like learning more about life in Venice.

Edited: Sep 10, 5:26pm Top

Blood Rain by Michael Dibdin is the 8th book in the Aurelio Zen mystery series. I have been working my way though this series. It has become my airport reading series. I tend to read them when I am traveling and anticipate that I will be sitting in airports. I brought the book because I thought I would read it on the way back to Tuscaloosa but it was so interesting that I finished it in two days!

My only complaint is that the murder mystery part of the story took half the book to start. In this novel Zen has been transferred to Sicily and his adopted daughter gets a job there so that they can get better acquainted as father and daughter. The relationship is just getting traction and she is murdered. The other victim of the murder is the judge in the case that Zen is working on. She is in love with Carla and the two of them are murdered in the same event. Zen wants his revenge and sets out to find out who murdered them.

This is a fine addition to this series.

Edited: Oct 10, 12:36pm Top

I just finished reading a big book that turned into a long slog. Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve by Tom Bissell was somewhat of a disappointment. I thought it was going to be a book about pilgrimage to the various tombs of the twelve apostles. That is not what it turned out to be. It was more of an academic tome than I was looking for. Parts of it were interesting, those were the parts were the author talked about the trips that he took to the tombs of each of the twelve apostles and his observations about the relics that were there as well as the people of that area. These parts of the book are the reason why I finished reading it. Most of the 350 page book was about early church history and the various schisms and sects that derived from the original Judean church. It was readable but it wasn’t a book that I would recommend for anybody but the most dedicated reader who is totally into early church history.

Edited: Sep 24, 2:19pm Top

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent I finally decided to get this book off of my bedside table. I have been reading it for almost 3 years. It was a long bleak read. The book was very well written but it was bleak. The existence of all of the major characters was bleak and did not improve throughout the book. Set in Iceland it is about the last person to receive the death penalty for murder in that country. The person just happened to be a woman. The novel is a series of interactions between the local Lutheran pastor who is sent to counsel the woman and prepare her for her coming execution. The execution is be done by a family member of the person who was murdered. The writing can't be improved upon and this author is definitely a person to watch and read in the future. However, at the time I was reading this book there were other things going on in my life and it simply was too bleak for me to appreciate. This is one of those books that would have been better at a different time.

Edited: Oct 10, 12:37pm Top

Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadimanis a book about belief systems but it is also a work of cultural anthropology. The author does spend a great deal of time describing the history of the Hmong and their relation to the places they have lived. She also spends time writing about what she calls the belief system in the western world regarding medicine versus that of the Hmong. The book ends with a description of a healing ceremony and a New Year's Blessing ceremony. I think there is more of a contrast about the clash of cultures and how medicine got caught up in that. The religious beliefs of the Lee family were definitely a part of that clash. For me it was apparent that the religious belief system of the Hmong couldn't be separated from the cultural and social customs. I think that might have been caused by the fact that Hmong as a language is verbal with no written component until the last century.

There is much in this book, and I found it a very relevant work to our current times even though the book was written 20 years ago. The fact that this title is still relevant makes it a relevant title. It's central focus is on medical ethics (those of the medical profession and those of the family) and the fact that these ethics were at opposite ends of a spectrum.

I first heard about this book because it was required reading for the graduate students in the Teacher Education Certification program at the University of Alabama. This group of students were required to attend read a prescribed list of books and gathered twice a month for one semester to discuss the titles. One of the students who worked in our library read it for this project and he couldn't stop talking about it. I have had my copy for years, and finally decided that the time had come to get it read and off my bedside table.

I think this book is very much about belief systems, but it is also about so much more, or less, depending on how you read it. I think it certainly deserved the accolades it has received over the years.

Edited: Oct 8, 10:09am Top

Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart is was a memoir of the first 5 years Stewart and his wife owned and operated a small sheep farm just south of Granada Spain. Stewart was one of the founding members of the rock band Genius. He left the band and became a certified sheep shearer and then found this small run down farm in Andalusia. He purchased it and spent the first summer starting on its rehabilitation. After the first 6 months his wife moved and they stayed, eventually starting a flock of sheep and a family. The reviews of this one were really good, but I found the book to be mostly average. However, I like reading this kind of travel memoir so all-in-all, it was a good way to end the evenings.

Oct 8, 12:53pm Top

Hi Benita! I was reading your comments over on Joe's Cafe thread and thought I should read more of what you have written. You have some fascinating titles in your list. I'm especially interested in the one about trees.and also the one about amateur astronomers. Fascinating shelves you've got!

Edited: Oct 9, 12:33pm Top

It's not my shelves. I have a whole Association of Research Libraries library in which to find books to read! My job allows me to do Inter-Library Loans for free, so I make use of that perk - liberally. I do have to say that my books are slowly chasing me out of my house. I am about to run out of room under the beds, so I am curtailing my acquisitions and turning to the library more and more.

That book about the amateur astronomers was really good and I am glad that I read it. I do recommend that book, and I added his other three books to my TBR shelves! American Canopy turned out to be a surprise. It was really good. This has been a stellar year for me in nonfiction.

Edited: Oct 12, 12:40pm Top

I listened to Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan. I had purchased a used copy of this book back in 2014 and finally picked it up for my daily commute listen. The book was good and reminded me of several food journey memoirs I have read in the last few years, but I did find my mind wandering while listening, so I would have to replay many portions of the book which caused the listening to go slower than it should have. The author was the narrator. He has a soft voice and that could have been the reason for my lack of attention. Still, this is a book I would recommend to anybody who is exploring our current food culture.

Edited: Yesterday, 2:51pm Top

I finished reading on of the oldest books I have in my collection and one of the first books I added to LT back when I joined. I got In the Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger in the Age of Aquarius by Charles Wilkins for $5.00 from the publisher at the Chicago ALA in the summer of 2009. Since then it had languished on my shelves until I pulled it off to read for this months 75’ers nonfiction challenge on the first person singular. As a memoir it fit the category.

This was not a lengthy book and that is a good thing. I found it to be the equalavant of a 4th grade scatalogicial joke. The author and his colleagues could not have engaged in all that illegal cementary behavior even in loosey goosey Canada back in the late 1960’s. The author’s writing is full of humor and I did find myself laughing but mostly I was indifferent. If you want to read about what goes on in the death industry in a nonfiction work, and still laugh - a lot, then the books by Caitin Doughty are a better bet.

Edited: Yesterday, 2:56pm Top

I enjoyed reading Little French Bistro by Nina George. This book was translated from the German original and had a very good narrator. The narrator varied her voice and gave expression to many of the characters in the story. This made it a nice easy listening recorded book. Perfect for a road trip. The story was nothing exceptional, but sometimes I just want to read something that is entertaining and easy. This is that kind of book. It did remind of "Possession" by A. S. Byatt in that this book had a good deal of Breton folk and fairy tale culture written into it. It was a reminder that Brittany is more Celtic and less French than many of us realize. Both books were set in Finisterre (Lands End) in Brittany and that also made me think of both books as I listened to this one. This book made me want to visit Brittany.

Edited: Today, 12:11pm Top

I finished reading I Myself Have Seen It: The Myth of Hawai'i by Susanna Moore. This was a memoir of the authors childhood and teen years in Hawaii. It is part of that National Geographic Directions series that I have been reading my way through. The book was full of Hawaiian history, especially about the Hawaiian's. There was a much more complete, but short biography of King Kamehameha I included. There was even a short dictionary of Pidgin in that the author included. Though forbidden to speak it at home, like most school children, she was fluent outside the house. This was a short book, and the most interesting parts were towards the end when she wrote about all the things that she could and could not do as a white person in Hawaii. Surfing and going to Waikiki beach were among those things. This is not a definitive book about Hawaii, but if you like to read about that state it would be of interest.


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