Benita's Big Bad Book Pile 2019
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Once again I will attempt to rid my shelves of books that have been sitting around for a very long time. I had a super successful year of ROOTing last year, so my goal for this year is 55 books off my shelf. The books I will be reading will be anything purchased or added to my list before December 31, 2018. 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. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley - sound recording - January 1, 2019
2. What There Is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell edited by Suzanne Marrs- January 5, 2019
3. Straight On Till Morning: The Life of Beryl Markham by Mary S. Lovell - January 9, 2019
4. Daughter of No Nation by A. M. Dellamonica - January 10, 2019
5. Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel - sound recording - January 11, 2019
6. Doubt by C. E. Tobisman - sound recording - January 23, 2019
7. Minnesota Rag by Fred W. Friendly - January 24, 2019
8. Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg - January 30, 2019
9. Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean - sound recording - February 8, 2019
10. At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier - February 10, 2019
11. Merchants of Doubt: How A Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes - February 13, 2019
12. Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon - February 19, 2019
13. Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge - sound recording - February 19, 2019
14. A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary - March 5,2019
15. Island Martinique by John Edgar Wideman - March 7, 2019
16. Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury - March 7, 2019
17. Static Ruin by Corey J. White - March 10, 2019
18. Suspicions of Mr. Whicher; A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale - sound recording - March 11, 2019
19. Preacher by Camilla Lackberg - March 14, 2019
20. Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson - sound recording - March 16, 2019
21. Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert - sound recording - March 17, 2019
22. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire - March 21, 2019
23. Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer - March 28, 2019
24. Empire Made: My Search for an Outlaw Uncle Who Vanished in British India by Kief Hillsbery - sound recording - April 3, 2019
25. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan - sound recording - April 5, 2019
26. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman - sound recording - April 10, 2019
27. Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry - April 11, 2019
28. Friends in High Places by Donna Leon - April 14, 2019
29. Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey - April 17, 2019
30. Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi - sound recording - April 26, 2019
31. Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of My Ancestors by Louise Erdrich - April 26, 2019
32. Red Collar by Jean-Christophe Rufin - April 28, 2019
33. Grave's A Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley - sound recording - May 5, 2019
34. Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas - May 11, 2019
35. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee - May 12, 2019
36. Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin - sound recording - May 18, 2019
37. Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg - May 21, 2019
38. 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley - May 23, 2019
39. My Famous Evening: Nova Scotia Sojourns, Diaries, and Preoccupations by Howard Norman - May 31, 2019
40. Sound of A Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey - sound recording - June 1, 2019
41. Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck - June 9, 2019
42. Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas - June 10, 2019
43. Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis - June 18, 2019
44. A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon - June 25, 2019
45. Medusa by Michael Dibdin - June 27, 2019
46. Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce - sound recording - July 1, 2019
47. End Games by Michael Dibdin - July 3, 2019
48. Riding With Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books by Ted Bishop - July 7, 2019
49. Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North by Ariel Dorfman - July 12, 2019
50. Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester - sound recording - July 15, 2019
51. Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman - July 26, 2019
52. Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard - July 27, 2019
53. Stranger by Camilla Lackberg - July 29, 2019
54. Ardennes 1944: Battle of the Bulge by Antony Beevor - August 7, 2019
55. Proof (Caroline Auden) by C. E. Tobisman - sound recording - August 8, 2019
56. Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor - August 11, 2019
57. Oranges by John McPhee - August 14, 2019
58. Willful Behavior by Donna Leon - August 17, 2019
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley is book 7 in the Flavia de Luce series and in this entry the author returns to the fine form of the earlier books in this series. The author is allowing Flavia to grow up in each book and in this one she takes some giant steps toward adulthood.
The narrator/reader of this series - Jayne Entwhistle - is excellent and her voice and characterizations allowed me to pass many a mile absorbed in the life of Flavia de Luce. I am sure that she is a large part of why I enjoy this series.
The October 2018 category for the 75’ers NonFiction Challenge hosted by Suzanne McGee was “First Person.” Suz suggested that books of letters and correspondence would be good for this category. On October 12, I started reading What There Is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell edited by Suzanne Marrs. I finished it last night and I really liked it.
I have never read anything by either one of these authors and am not sure that I am likely to do so, but I have read their edited letter collection. At first it was letter after letter about roses and her mother’s eyesight, but gradually I got interested in the lives and friendship of these people, and I ended up sharing in their friendship by reading their letters.
My 2019 New Years Resolution is to write more letters. I got about a dozen Christmas cards and I sent out many many more than that because I wanted to communicate with my friends what has been going on in my life in the last year. The act of writing something personal is an act of friendship and I wish I had gotten more Christmas cards and letters from people.
Thanks Suzanne for having this category and suggesting books of correspondence. It was a good experience and I am glad I purservered and finished it.
If you like to read more books about letters I can recommend Het Literaire Aardappelschiltaart Genootschap van Guernsey by Mary Ann Shaffer. I bought that book just because the title catched my eye. It was an excellent book and I got to know things about WO II I did not know.
I actually have a copy of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in my collection on the shelves. Maybe this is the year to ROOT that one.
I was inspired to read this biography Straight On Till Morning: The Biography of Beryl Markham by Mary S. Lovell after I read Markham's autobiography "West With the Night" late last year. West With the Night presented the life of a fascinating woman with grand brush strokes but didn't give me some of the documented detail that I wanted. Plus, it ended in 1936. I wanted more and had this book on my shelves. I wanted to read an unbiased opinion about this very interesting woman. This biography cleared up many of the questions about Markham that rose from the earlier book. It was a biography with no frills that explained, with documentation, Markham's life. The subject of the biography lived an exciting life. The biography is a straight forward biography - just the facts, that acted as a counterpoint to the very visceral experience of reading "West With the Night." I recommend reading the two books as a together they give the reader the facts and the flavor of Markham's life.
A Daughter of No Nation by A. M. Dellamonica
This is book 2 in the Stormwreck series by the author and is a book I read here at work over my lunch hour. When the students are here my lunch hours become more like lunch minutes, so that is part of the reason why it took me so long to read this book. I read the first book back in 2016 and thought it was pretty good. This book probably suffered from second book syndrome. It didn't grab me like the first one did. However, in fairness, my reading time with it was not sustained, so that accounts for some of the disjointed feeling I had while reading it. This would make a good YA book, because of the emphasis on the scientific method and the reasons why it is so important to be able to replicate and record results, as well as to do careful observations. There is an ecological mystery at the heart of this novel that is used to bring all of the plot points to a neatly tied up bundle, but the writing at the end just doesn't live up to those elements. It had all the elements of a very good YA fantasy and it fell just a little short.
Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel is a woman's take on the women involved in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. Unfortunately, the only women involved in these ventures into space were the wives of the astronauts. In all, I found that the book was rather light weight. There had to be much going on in all these women's lives, and the book didn't go into any of these multifaceted personalities and their relationships with husbands, children, communities, the government, or NASA. All or any of these would have made a great book. Because the lives of the astronauts were so closely controlled by NASA the lives of their families and their wives was as well. It was apparent that the contracts with NASA allowing the press unlimited access to these families was a grave interruption and imposition into the lives of these women. How they coped with it was the main focus of the book, but I thought the author let the government and NASA off lightly. There was no bad word in the book about the way NASA treated these women or about the outlandish requirements that they made of them. I would call this a good basic women's history of this part of the space program, but if you want to know what really went on this might not be the book for you.
Doubt by C. E. Tobisman was my first MP3 recorded book. It came with one CD and played on my car's CD player. It is also the first book by this author and is the first in the Caroline Audin series by Tobisman. The second book in the series won the Harper Lee Award for Legal Fiction that is given by the University of Alabama Law school. When I went to get the CD of the second I saw the first one was only $7.00. Why not I said? So I did. I liked this legal thriller. It had just enough action to be dangerous, but not that bloody over the top shoot'em up bang-bang action thriller type. It was very realistic. It was the right combination of footwork and moving around in conjunction with cyber work. This is an author who should get more publicity. Read this one, then talk it up to all your friends. That is what I am going to be doing.
I haven’t read this one. I just grew tired of solving crime but Flavia never actually seemed to accomplished much. Give me more Deiter! Why can’t we get some character development with him? Maybe I should try this one again...
I finished Minnesota Rag by Fred W. Friendly while flying out to Seattle for the American Library Association Mid-Winter conference. The book was the Silver Gavel Award winner in 1982. The Silver Gavel Award is given every year by the American Bar Association for a work of nonfiction that best illuminates the legal system in some regard. This book was written by a proponent and protector of Freedom of the Press, about the 1931 Supreme Court case that defined (some say redefined) the meaning of Freedom of the Press. The case was interesting, but where this book really excelled was in the description of the Supreme Court at that point in time. Reading this book just proves that the controversies about the politicization of the Court have been going on for a long long time - probably from the beginning. It may be that I found that part the most fascinating because it was like reading about the Court of today and realizing that the same political fights about strict or liberal interpretation of the Constitution are still going on. At the time of this court case, Chief Justice William H. Taft (the former President) had just died and Charles Evans Hughes became the new Chief Justice. Hughes was a more liberal justice than Taft, which was a surprise to the Harding administration, and his influence allowed the decision to go as it did. This book was written to explain what the Doctrine of Prior Restraint was and how dangerous it is for democracy. It does that, and makes me want to go read more about the history of the Court.
Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
I have to say, that this mystery novel was not what I expected. Scandicrime novels are usually dark, bloody, and very descriptively violent. Or at least the authors that I had previously read - Jo Nesbo and Steig Larsson. This novel was not that way. It was a good solid mystery in the same way that the Maisie Dobbs series is. Just good reading.
The plot was not that inventive and like some of the previous commentators in the Lackberg/Leon Comparison Read over on the 75'ers Group have observed - there were a couple of plot points that I did see coming, and so were not many surprises in this book. However, I found the overall novel to be well constructed. The descriptions of life in a smaller town in Sweden were enlightening. There were several times in the reading when something was brought up - then dropped, that I figure will show up later in the series. For instance, why was Eilert's little bit at the end, even in the book? My suspicion is that he will show up later - in another book. This is a good solid beginning to a series and I look forward to reading more entries in the series.
Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean was one of the first books I added to LibraryThing back in the day and I finally got around to reading/listening to it. I think it was 2008 when I joined and it was soon after that when I put this book into the library. I picked up a recorded version of the book somewhere along the way. That enabled me to have this as a commute listen. It turned out to be a good book to listen to while cummuting and running around town.
This book was narrative nonfiction and this form of nonfiction was new when this book was published back in 2000. However, I did not find this book that engaging. It seemed to wander off topic for large sections of the book. For instance, I had trouble figuring out why a huge section about Chief Billy was in the book. It is not a long book, so my guess is Chief Billy was filler. I would have liked to hear more about the habitat loss and how that is effecting the plants of the Everglades, but that was not in this book. Instead the author concentrated on weird characters. A few of those would have sufficed. She should have had more orchids and less weird characters and she would have still made her point about beauty and obsession being in the mind of the beholder.
It seems that tree and forests are all over my reading for about the last year. I didn't plan it that way, but it seems to be happening on a serendipitous bails. Likewise, I didn't think that I was going to like At the Edge of of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier, because I haven't liked the last couple of books by this author that I have tried to read. However, I liked this one.
The book starts in Ohio in 1838, and ends in San Francisco in 1858. (Really it still hasn't ended because the trees in the story are still growing in California and in Wales.) It begins with apple trees, Johnny Appleseed, and the Ohio wilderness, and ends with Giant Sequoias, San Francisco, and the Pacific Ocean. It starts with dispicble characters and ends with people you would like to get to know.
In short, this is a fine example of historical fiction that ties in with several books I have read lately.
I read Merchants of Doubt: How A Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues From Tobacco Smoke to GLobal Warming by Naomi Oreskes. I read this one for the Librarything Non-Fiction Challenge that is over on the 75’ers challenge groups. It was my book for February. The topic this month was science. For a book published in 2010 this one was still remarkable. It is not narrative non-fiction, because the author cites and footnotes everything, but still it is easy to understand. You wouldn’t believe the shannanigans scientists get up to when arguing amongst themselves in an effort to sway public opinion for political reasons. Read this book and find out.
Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon was another entry in the Guido Brunetti series that I read for the Leon/Lackberg challenge.
I have wondered for a long time why this series has remained so popular with readers. It surely isn't the mysteries themselves as they are quite standard and certainly aren't thrillers in any sense of the word. I believe that the answer lies in this author's ability to capture the relationship between Guido and Paola and make it interesting to the reader as well as making it become part of the unfolding story of Guido's life.
In this novel Guido struggles with his wife's intractable sense of right and wrong and the fact that she is a child of privilege, which makes her immune to prosecution and protects her sense of righteousness. The fact that her deviant "rights" might hurt somebody else, in this case, Guido's job, doesn't enter into her thoughts when she decides on her course of action.
This makes the entire novel interesting even if the murder mystery isn't.
Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge. This is a food history of the American South from the end of WWII to the present. Edge is the Director of the Southern Foodways ALliance based in Oxford, Mississippi. This group is doing great work to keep the food history and heritage of the South alive and well. Edge does a good job with this book. He starts out reminding readers that the food history of the South is tangled up with the racial history of the South and there is no way to separate the two. That thread occurs throughout the decade by decade format of the book. Edge does not shy away from this controversy and basically tells readers that it is the history of the region and they should embrace it and move on.
Famous chefs and restaurants of the area are discussed but also lesser known cooks and restaurants get time in these pages. These are mostly cooks and chefs of places that did not get recognition while they were in business.
A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary. This book has been part of my professional life for years. Beverly Cleary was a librarian who became a noted author of children's books. She won a Newbery medal and had several Newbery honor books and is best known for her Henry and Ramona Quimby books. This book came back to my attention because of a Tuscaloos Wine Club program in February. The presenter has a daughter who lives in McMinnville, Oregon and her husband is the business manager for a winery. One of the towns that was part of the pinot noir program was Yamhill. I kept thinking that I knew the name of that town, but it took me some time to remember why I knew that town. I knew we had this book in the library, so I got it off the shelf and started reading it during my lunch hour. It is an autobiography aimed at children, and that is clear from the style and structure of the book. It is nothing earth shattering and nothing that I would recommend, but because of this book and that wine program I have been inspired to go to the Willamette Valley in Oregon on a wine tasting trip.
I finished reading another in the National Geographic Society Directions series. This one was Island Martinique by John Edgar Wideman. This is the first book in this series that I have actively disliked. It is written in stream of consciousness prose and I hate that. To me that kind of writing becomes more and more like a screed than anything else, and I don't like reading screeds. I might be forced to listen to them at times, but I don't have to read it. There was a part of the book that was written in a diary format and that portion was OK. There was little about the history or the landform in this book. There was a whole lot about his feelings about slavery. I get that, and I think that it is impossible to separate slavery from the history of the Caribbean islands when traveling there. That is why I have never gone to the Caribbean and don't plan to do so, but I wanted this history mixed in with details about the country and land. This is not that kind of book.
For the Nonfiction Challenge here on LT the March topic is true crime. This is not one of my favorite categories, but when I started looking through my books, I found many works on theft of books and art. I picked one of the books I have had in my collection for a long time as the title to start the months reading - Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by the husband and wife team of Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. I read this book in a week because I found it so interesting. How people were so deceived and sucked in by John Drewe was interesting but because I am a librarian I was really interested in how Drewe was able to adjust archive records in order to give his forged art works an impeccable provenance that was able to deceive art critics and historians at the highest level was simply amazing. And to keep doing it for twelve years before he was caught. There are probably hundreds of paintings out there that are forged and the investigators for Scotland Yard know they didn't recover all of them. This was a great story on many levels, but for art lovers and librarians it is a warning to always be on your toes and let the buyer beware.
Static Ruin by Corey J. White This is book 3 in the Voidwitch series by this debut author in the world of Sci/Fi. I found this book (novella really) to be the weakest of the three titles. It is all shot 'em up, bang bang action, some of which seems gratuitous and not part of the story, and then we have Mars almost in a state of mental breakdown. Was the only thing keeping her on an even keel the idea of revenge? Or of finally finding a family? Since this is a trilogy we may never know the answer. From a readers point-of-view I think the author could have ended this much better and provided some closure. My suspicion is that the author is going to write more books about Mars. If so, this was a clumsy way to introduce that idea, and it comes close to ruining the fun of the first two novellas.
Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale I requested this recorded book from Inter-Library Loan and it took almost a month to get it to UA. I listened to it on the drive home and I found it a very hard slog to listen to. I had heard that this was a very interesting book, and I have to say it is like a hundred other academic tomes that I have read. I did not find it extraordinary. It turns out to be a treatise on the development of the detective during early Victorian times and then covers the development of the fictional idea of the police detective from the works of Charles Dickens to that of Wilkie Collins through Arthur Conan-Doyle by using the prism of the investigations of Police Inspector Whicher and the murder of a 5-year old child in a country house in Great Britain in 1861. For me this schema didn't work that well. But the book was tremendously popular, so I am in the minority.
I also think that the narration had something to do with my boredom with the book. Simon Vance was the narrator and I usually find him to be a good narrator. That was not the case this time around. Even he couldn't make this interesting for me. I did listen to the entire book, but it will not be one of my favorites for the year.
Preacher by Camilla Lackberg - I read this book for the mystery group read here on LT. I really enjoy the descriptions of Swedish life and the universal problem faced by those who live in wonderful tourist spots. Everybody wants to come visit but nobody wants to pay for that expensive playground. I also like the goings on in the police department. The author does a great job of giving the reader a realistic picture of how a police department in a small town in Scandinavia really works. I found parts of this book really gruesome and am not sure that I wanted to continue to read those. I think those vignettes could have been left out and the book would have been successful. The mystery was better developed than in the first book, so the writer is growing and getting stronger. The mystery is an old one and a new one, and I admit that I had trouble with the connection the author made between the 30 year-old murders and the current murders, but sometimes that happens. The idea that an uncle/father was crazy and killed two girls and then the nephew/son finds the diary the first murderer kept, and replicates the murders seemed a bit far-fetched to me. But it did keep me reading all the way through the book, so in that sense it was successful.
I totally get why this author is so popular in Sweden. She manages to walk that line between gruesome thriller and staid police procedural. And she does it very well by giving the reader a little bit of both.
Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert - if you like dark and twisted fairy tales try this one. This YA novel was on the ALA's Best Fiction for YA's and the Notable Children's Books list for 2019. I listened to it, and all the while I wondered if this was really a YA novel. I think it is another case of an adult novel that was moved to YA so that it would have a less crowded field in which to shine. In that it totally succeeds.
This is a take on the twisted fairy tale trope. It is the story of a mother and daughter on the run from unknown calamity. The mother gets kidnapped and the daughter, with the aid of the faithful sidekick, hies off to the rescue with no thought or preparation. It is a quest journey and both the journey and the novel succeed in providing an entertaining ride to the end. The heroine learns much about herself and through her history finds a way to deal with some of her inner character faults and her current trauma.
The narrator for this recorded book was excellent. It just goes to prove that a great story/plot can make any reader sound good.
This is one YA novel that I will be recommending to others. I am not sure that it will make my best of the year list, but it will be a contender.
I had heard good things about Seanan McGuire's writing and about this unusual ghost story - Sparrow Hill Road so decided to read it. It was interesting and fun to read for about the first 200 pages and then it simply ran out of gas. The novel starts out with a great premise, the ghost story of the girl who dies on prom night and extends it. However, it just keeps extending and the story gets lost in its own details. This novel should have been edited and cut and it would have made a great novella, but at 302 pages - it was simply wordy and boring. I don't think I will read the sequel.
Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer This book was for my local Barnes & Noble book store book discussion group. It is not one I would have picked simply because I don't like the title. I think that kind of title is designed to attract attention for shock value. Don't get me wrong, I like shock value as long as it is clever and not vulgar. After reading the book, I still think that word is "common" and the author could have used another title that would have been clever and descriptive of what was in the book. This title is neither of those things.
In fact there are no bad-ass librarians in Timbuktu and I found myself ambivalent about the "hero" librarian. The librarian who is featured broke every rule in the book about libraries and library collecting. He also misused funds given to him. All of this resulted in his having to smuggle books out of Timbuktu when they should have already been scanned and preserved digitally. Don't get me wrong - what El Quaeda does in destroying cultural treasures is wrong too. Very wrong. It just seems to me that there are no Heroes here.
What this book does best is explain why the Sub-Saharan countries of Africa are having such a hard time with fundamentalist terror groups. It takes the time to trace the development and spread of these groups and ties them into the current and immediate past history of countries like Algeria and Libya. It is hard to believe that a good thing like the Arab Spring could turn out to be such a blow to the Sub-Saharan countries and resulted in the spread of fundamentalist terrorism, but that is what happened.
This is a very eye-opening book. It is somewhat about books, manuscripts, and libraries, but that is not all it is. If it just didn't have such a cutsy title I would have liked it much better.
Empire Made: My Search for an Outlaw Uncle Who Vanished in British India by Kief Hillsbery This work is a bit of a hybrid between narrative nonfiction and memoir. The story toggles back and forth between the past and the present and the author does a supremely good job of making that interesting and both parts of the story relevant to each other. That is not an easy trick. The story starts in the present with the author learning about one of his family members who worked for the East India Company starting in 1840 and after being employed with them for ten years disappeared. The family kept some of his letters and artifacts, but essentially he dropped off the family map. The author makes a trip to Nepal as a student in the 1970's and since he was intrigued by the story of this lost family member begins a decades long investigation that takes him deep into the history of India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Afghanistan. The history that is inside the very readable volume is so relevant to the present that it should be read for that reason alone. However, the truth is that the author just has written a good story and managed the trick of making it relevant as well. So read it because it is just a good story. The narrator for the recorded version was very good and that enhanced the basic story. This one made my best of the year list! More people should be reading this one.
>33 benitastrnad: This book is on my 'buy this for me this year' wishlist - I hope someone takes the hint (if they don't I'll buy it anyway), I think it sounds great!
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. I first heard about this book through reading book reviews for work. However, it went on TBR list when it came to my attention when Mark Freeberg warbled about it on his thread several years ago. While I was cruising through the nonfiction recorded book selection at the Tuscaloosa Public Library in preparation for the drive to Kansas for Spring Break, I came across it. It was the right length to fit with the other titles I had selected, so I nabbed it. i started listening to it on the drive back to Alabama and was thoroughly engrossed in it, but hadn't finished it by the time I got back. When I got to Tuscaloosa, I found that ILL had Empire Made waiting for me. I had to put Brain on Fire aside while I listened to the ILL recorded book. I didn't have much left of this one to listen to, so when I did get back to it, I took up where I left off.
This book belongs to what I refer to as a "disease of the month" genre. Fictionalized accounts of exotic diseases are very popular in YA fiction, but this book is not fiction, and it is for adults. Technically it is an autobiography - or a memoir. I think it is autobiography because what the author writes is backed up by documentation. This documentation ranges from interviews with doctors to colleagues and family members. The author is stricken with a disease that, at the time, was unknown and therefore, she was misdiagnosed. Fortunately, one of her doctors ran one psychological test on her and recognized the results as matching those of an article he had recently read. She was treated and returned to functionality. The book is the story of that month and the accompanying slow recovery she made.
The book is very well written, and while full of scientific and medical terms, the author takes time to explain them and makes this story unique and meaningful. She brought insight into a difficult subject - mental illness, and the confusing diagnosis that many people get from the experts in the field.
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman This is book 3 in the Seraphina series by this author. I Pear Ruled it. I read/listened to about 180 pages (5 CD's) and then gave up on it. It was boring and I never got into the characters. This one was about Tess, a half sister to Seraphina. Tess is an angry rebellious teen, and not at all likeable, at first. Her story is told in sort of flashbacks, and the literary technique doesn't work in this book. It is too piecemeal, and to confusing for the reader. It was not at all like the first two books in this series.
There were problems with the narrator as well. The twin sisters name is one. Is it John, Jean, Jeanne, Shaun, Shin. The narrator pronounces it several ways in the portion that I listened to. It wasn't until I got the book that I was able to establish that her name is Jeanne. When a book is recorded it is little details like that which cause irritation amongst the listeners. I expected better from a Listening Library production. Their recorded books are always of high quality. This one isn't. So now it is on to another book. I doubt that I will come back to this one. For me the Seraphina series is done. It would take much for me to enticed back to this series.
Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry. I read this book for my real life book discussion group. This is not narrative nonfiction. This is an academic work and it concentrates on the academic work of others to explain the 1918 Flu Epidemic. To do that the author starts with the state of medicine in 1918. He works backwards from there to tell the story of the medical profession as it was after the American Civil War. He then brings that history forward to tell the story of the establishment of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, which was the first scientific, academic, and academically rigorous medical training available in the U.S. until the early 1900's. I suspect for many people this is the boring part of the book. I found it interesting. The middle sections of the book were about the epidemic itself. Where did it start? Why and how did it spread? And What were the results? This section is more like narrative nonfiction and many people would find it much easier to read. The last sections of the book discuss the aftermath of the epidemic and tell what happened to many of the major figures in the medical part of the story. There was a great deal of science in this book and explanations of the differences between virus' and bacteria's, as well as the differences between flu and pneumonia, and how vaccines and antitoxins are produced. This was an excellent book, and full of great detail. If you don't like detail in your reading - find another book on the subject.
Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey. I started reading this one for the 75'ers Nonfiction reading challenge hosted by Suzanne. That was the March category and I and didn't finish it until this month. This started out with an intriguing plot. A man is arrested at the Peabody Library in Baltimore, Maryland for stealing rare and historical maps out of old books. It turns out that he had built a whole business out of stealing and reselling these old maps that he illegally removed from books owned by public and university libraries. I would have liked to hear more about cartographic crime, but the book turned out to be about maps and then about the psychology of "collecting" and then the author's pursuit of the criminal. In short it got lost in the weeds. I think that happened because there really wasn't enough material to make a book. It was more like a nice long article for something like the New Yorker. Good idea, poor execution.
Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi This book was the fictional account of the book I read earlier this year titled "Merchants of Doubt." Doubt Factory took the same premise as the non-fiction work and worked it into a plot that was aimed at YA's. The boogie men in this novel were the PR people, security organizations, and big industry, particularly Big Pharma that deceive the public through obfuscation and downright obstruction. The narrator for this sound recording was good and even though the plot was somewhat predictable, on the whole this was a well done production of a workman like novel.
Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of My Ancestors by Louise Erdrich This is book 14 for me out of the 23 book in the National Geographic Directions Series that I have been reading through. The original version of the book was published in 2003, but it was reissued in 2014 with a different cover and an epilogue. I read the 2014 edition.
This was one of the better essays in this series. The author truly tries to bring the reader into the scenary, and the people who live in the area populated by the Ojibwe people. She also brings in her story and her love of books. The part about her visit to the island owned by the author and the present day use of it as a retreat for book people and people learning to speak the Ojibwe language was of special interest. This was an enjoyable travel essay.
Red Collar by Jean-Christophe Rufin. This novel is published by Europa Editions and is translated from the French. In France it won several prizes for fiction and after reading it I can understand why. It is a very good story. It is a short novel - about 190 pages, but it packs a whole bunch of ideas into those pages. It also enlightened me about another little known aspect of WWI. I had no idea that the French and English fought the Austrians, Russians, and Bulgarians in Greece around the city of Salonika. In fact it was a major engagement in a minor theater of the war, but tell that to the troops who fought and died there. A reader can learn much from a work of fiction.
The action in this novel takes place in France after WWI. The French army is still prosecuting soldiers for acts of defiance and disobedience. This story involves a loyal dog and fortunately everything turns out alright for the people in the story and the dog. Justice is done. I liked this one. Good job Europa.
Alot of these were short and some were audio books that I started while driving during spring break, so technically I finished them in April rather than March. I have been trying to get things read during my lunch hour and now will start spending time at the swimming pool on Sunday afternoon's. That gives me a couple more hours of reading time per week.
The Grave's A Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley the 9th and penultimate book in the Flavia De Luce series. Like most of the others in this series that I have read, I actually listened to this one and like the previous books in the series, it was a delight. The narrator does such a good job. This one makes the miles sing by. Which raises the question of is it the voice or is it the plot that I like? Oh well! It is all fun and an enjoyable way to pass the time. Not to mention all the chemistry in the series.
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas
This book had such a good review in Publisher’s Weekly that I preordered it from Amazon. The publisher is new - Felony & Mayhem - and I want to support new talent and new publishers. It is a hard business to break into. The question is - was the book worth reading? I found it average. This is meant as a comedy and as such it falls a little bit short. In this novel the author twists and plays with every literary trope to be found. As a result it is over-the-top in many ways. Here is an example. The Prime Imperative from Star Trek does not apply to her. She brings all of her 21st century ideas and ideals into her mission. To make matters worse, the heroine is obtuse and full of herself. She is a terrible detective and time traveler. I am sure that the author means that to be funny - but at times it fell flat and it got old.
The book needed serious editing. It was at least 50 pages too long.
The novel has some really good ideas and twists on old tropes that could be funny. Some better editing would have a profound effect for the better on this novel. I think it would have made a great novella, but as is, it fell short of the hype. The big question is would I read another in this series? The answer is no. Even though there was a spark of a good novella here, I ended up not caring about Shone McGonigle enough to read about her again.
As to the publisher - They now have a second murder mystery that has had great reviews listed in Publisher’s Weekly. It is a reissue of a 1930’s novel that has gone out of print.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
I loved this book! I gave it 5 stars. It will most certainly be on my best of the year list.
I got this book at ALA Mid-Winter in Atlanta at a publisher's lunch. The author was one of the authors who spoke at the lunch. The event was the same day as Trump's Inaguration and the Women's March. In Atlanta there were 50,000 women marching that day. The author got very emotional when she started talking. She said her book was about immigration and that she had fears that the U.S would limit immigration. Of course she was against this because she is a first generation immigrant. At the time the book and the author didn't impress me much, so I was surprised when it was nominated for a National Book Award. I had read the author's first book and even though I finished it, I was not that impressed with it. After reading this book I understand why it has accumulated the accolades it has. This is a darn good book. It's only fault is that it starts out so slowly and understated that I am sure that people give up on it. It is one of those books that is worth the buildup and the waiting.
The story is set in Japan and is about Korean immigrants to Japan just prior to WWII. The story starts in the 1930's and ends in the early 1990's and covers the war years, the Cold War and the explosion of the Japanese economy. It is about immigrants and the hardships and discrimination that they face everyday in building and establishing business's and in living and moving up the economic ladder - if that is even possible.
I cried at the end.
Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
This was the June book discussion selection for the Barnes & Noble Book group in Tuscaloosa. At first I was not going to participate in this discussion because it was the same day as my other book group. However, I ran across the recorded version of this book at the Tuscaloosa Public Library and decided that I could probably get it listened to in time for the discussion. If I made it to both discussions - fine. If not - fine too. I made it to both.
I first took note of this book when it was listed in the Martha Stewart Living magazine as one of the books to consider reading in their monthly book blurb.
Essentially, the book asks the question How would you live your life if you knew the date of your death? In my opinion it doesn’t answer that question very well, but it tries. The book starts out promising, but it ends badly. I also thought it could have dropped the sex scenes, or at least not been so explicit.
The narrator for this book was good. I think that helped to keep me listening.
>49 benitastrnad: I read this for one of my book clubs as well, and I agree totally with your assessment.
Finished The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg. This novel was a good read, so I think the author has finally found her style and her footing as an author. It was a bit on the long side, with a large number of plot threads to keep toggling back and for to, but overall, it was the best of her books in this series, so far. I will keep reading this series. The author has slowed her production of these novels so perhaps I will be able to keep up with her as I catch up on the titles.
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley. This book turned out to be a military history of the last siege and final fall of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet. It is one of those books that will make you cry because the history could be so different if the Western Christians had just sent military help and overlooked the differences in religious dogma between Eastern Orthodox and the Western Christianity. What really conqueror end Constantinople was internecine conflict between the Christians. However, in the end, Mehmet followed a policy of religious tolerance and allowed the Greeks and Jews to settle in their own quarters in the city. It was is son who was religiously intolerant and who put into place stricter prohibitions for Christians and Jews. Those laws were loosened in the late 1700's and early 1800's and now those laws are being tightened again under Erdogan.
There are lots of legends and mythologies associated with the Fall of Constantinople and this book was very enlightening. This was a short volume and clearly was not intended to be an in depth analysis of the siege, the political basis, or the long term historical consequences of the fall of Byzantium.
My Famous Evening: Nova Scotia Sojourns, Diaries, and Preoccupations by Howard Norman. This is book number 17 that I have read in the National Geographic Society Directions series. This one was pretty good for this series. There were two chapters in it about local folklore. One chapter devoted to Golskap tales from the Native Americans and one for the portents beliefs that are deeply held by the residents of European ancestry. These chapters were informative and gave me an idea of the local culture.
The author has made numerous extended stays in Nova Scotia that started in the 1960's when he was a graduate student collecting folklore for a research project. At one time he stayed in Sam Sheppard's home while he was writing and then later, he owned a house there and made it his writing escape. This was a nice quiet book that was easy to read in short snatches of time.
I have already requested number 18 in this series from ILL.
Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. I requested the recorded version of this book through ILL. Research in WorldCat told me that there were 4 libraries in the US that had the recorded version and one was the Carbondale, IL public library. When I made my ILL request I told them to ask for it from that specific library. I don't know if they took my word for it, but I received it from the Carbondale, Illinois public library in time to listen to on the way back from Kansas. The narrator had the perfect voice for reading this book. It was quiet, slow, and precise. Perfect for the book. Not interesting enough for the drive. I am not sure if it was her pleasant tone, her precise rhythm or the contents of the book, but I found myself sleepy most of the time while I was listening to this book. Not good, considering I was driving.
This is a naturalist book. It is a book about nature and about observing nature. The author spent more than a year in bed recovering from an auto-immune disease she picked up in Europe. While she was to weak to hardly move, a friend brought her a wild snail native to Massachusetts. Observing the snail in its daily and nighttime environments soon became the focus of her waking hours. That lead to research about snails and this short little book. The format of the book has poems and writings about snails that are just as intriguing as the book. It made me realize that more people than I would have thought possible have watched snails and written about the experience. This book made me think of my friend who is a fresh water mollusk expert. I wonder if she has read this book.
Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck What's not to like about a book in which the Flint Hills of Kansas are written about eloquently and elegantly on the first page of a book? I really liked this book and it will easily make my Best of 2019 list. I found it insightful and so much fun to read. Two brothers decide to purchase a wagon, a team of mules, and make the 2,000 mile trip from St. Joe, Missouri to someplace in Oregon following the Oregon Trail. What could be more fun to read about than that? The author has an easy breezy style when writing about everything from memoirs about traveling the trail back in the 1840's, to the history of mules in the US, and sights and sounds of the modern trail. There are wonderful line drawings that clearly delineate the intricacies of a three mule hitch, to cattle guards that are really helpful. There are also maps. It is one of my pet peeves to read history books that don't have maps, and this one has them. Thank the gods!
I heard about this book when it first came out and was a best seller, but I didn't take it seriously. How can you take such a book seriously when you grew up along the Oregon Trail and think you know everything about it? However, a trip to Scottsbluff, Nebraska made me take a hard look at this book, and put it on my reading list. The public library in Scottsbluff had the author come talk and the librarian gushed about what a great speaker he was and how much the public enjoyed his speech. I managed to convince the members of my real life book club to read this book as our June selection and they like it! Maybe not as much as I did, but they were all positive about it. This is a book that many kinds of readers will enjoy for many reasons. Quality story tellling being one of them.
Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas This is the fourth book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series by this author. It is a wrap up of the main part of this series and a lead in for a continuation for some of the minor characters. It is clear that the author is going to make some of the minor characters into the major characters of future books and this short, for this author, novel is a lead in for the upcoming part of this series.
Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis. This is a book bullet I took from Suzanne several years ago. I read it for the biography/memoir challenge for the month of July in the non-fiction group. The writing in this memoir is exquisite. It is moody, mystical, and spiritual. The author was an adherent of Jewish Orthodoxy and she ended up divorcing her husband and leaving the sect. This memoir is about that decision. What lead to the decision. What the results were of that decision and how the author has resolved her feelings of separation. It is very well writing with a sense of urgency and not at all desperate. Very well done memoir of a highly sensitive and personal topic.
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon This is book 10 in the Guido Brunetti series that I am reading for the Lackberg/Leon mystery challenge. It is more of thriller than the previous entries in the series have been and it continues to present different parts of Venice to the reader. This one is centered on environmental issues, and is centered around illegal clam harvesting. Another good entry in the series.
Medusa by Michael Dibdin is book 9 in the Aurelio Zen series. There are only 11 titles in this series, and I have one left to read. I took this one with me to Washington, D. C. to read on the plane.
This was a great plane read. I have enjoyed every one of the Zen books and this one was no exception. This time the mystery was set in the Alto Adige region of Italy and goes back all the way to WWI and the war in the Southern Tyrol. This was a complex mystery and in it more of the political life and corruption of the Italian government is discussed. Zen's cynicism and peripatetic personality combined with the setting, characters, and plot make for great reading.
I knocked out another ROOT over the holiday weekend. End Games by Michael Dibdin. This is the last of the Aurelio Zen mysteries and I have to say I am sorry that they ended. I really liked this mystery series. This one was set in Calabria region of Italy and covered lots of territory both historically and geographically. The history of the region was part of the story as was the food. Always the food. What is it with Italian mysteries and food? All of the detectives love to eat and describe the memorable meals.
This one is the last of this series. I shall miss Zen and these well crafted mystery novels. Dibdin brought the Italian life to the page and gave me characters I loved to read about. I like these Italian mysteries better than the Guido Brunetti series. They seem more realistic to me and I like the fact that Zen was transferred all around Italy in an attempt to get him out of the way. Now all of these books are gone off my shelves. I shall donate these last two books in the series to the used bookstore run by my local library so somebody else can enjoy them. I hope that they do enjoy them. They are to good to just lay around and not be read.
It was a unexpected pleasure to finally read Riding With Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books by Ted Bishop has been on my TBR list for a long long time - maybe since I joined LT. I started reading this one for my real life book discussion group. Each summer we do a round robin book talk of a travel book and this summer I chose this title. I wanted to read something about transportation not in a car, and wasn't in the mood for another snippy Paul Theroux train book. I remembered we had this book in the library and so went and got it. It turned out to be a fun read.
The author is an English Professor at the University of Edmonton whose specialty is early modern English literature. He is also a motorcycle rider. The book is about a literary trip he took by motorcycle from his home in Edmonton to Austin, Texas to do some work in the Stirling Archives. He had purchased a Ducati motorcycle and it was his inaugural trip with that machine. Along the way he stopped at other literary places of interest -like the New Mexico ranch of D. H. Lawrence. In the course of the book, he took a trip to Europe for a literary conference and visited the Ducati factory and museum. The book was full of side trips and lots of motorcycle stories. It was also full of thoughts about archives, books, and the art of reading. It was quite philosophical - even about motorcycling and motorcycles.
I finished reading Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North by Ariel Dorfman. The world's most arid desert is the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. It is the setting for this memoir that is part of the National Geographic Directions series. I have been reading my way through the 23 published titles in this series. This is number 19 that I have finished.
Dorfman was one of the young university students who brought Salvador Allende to power in the early 1970's, and he was lucky to escape and live in exile until the overthrow of Augusto Pinochet in 1990. He returned to Chile to tour the desert region and to track down family members and missing friends, murdered by the military during the years of the junta. He spent two months traveling through the region and he takes the reader along with him while he learns about nitrate mining and now copper mining and the boom and bust economy that mining on that scale brings with it. He also wrote about some of the coastal cities such as Iquique and Antofagasta. Behind all of this is he quest to find the graves of university friends who disappeared during the Pinochet years.
I read this one for my real life book discussion group. July was our month to do a travel book. We will have a round robin book talk because each member read the travel book of their choice.
I only have 3 more books to read in this series. This year should see the end of the series for me. Yeah!
Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester. This was a recorded version of the book and was read by the author. It had been on my shelves since I joined LT in 2008.
I had enjoyed Winchester’s other works and had listened to him read his book on the English geologist. I found him to be a good reader in that book. I did not enjoy him so much in this reading. None of the footnotes were read, and towards the end his overall tone turned to the sanctimonious.
Overall this book was somewhat of a disappointment. I wanted to learn more about the earthquake and less about the geology. I think that might be due to the fact that I had read John McPhee’s excellent book on California and it would be hard to top that work. In my opinion this book doesn’t match that one in depth of information.
Since it is about one event I would have liked to read more of the personal experiences of the people who were there. Perhaps more of a blow-by-blow description of events that just wasn’t there.
None of this makes this a bad book - it just means that it wasn’t what I wanted. It held my interest until the end and it arroused my curiosity about other major U.S. earthquakes such as New Madrid, Alaska, and Charleston. Perhaps he will write those books?
First time visitor – I thought you’d be in the 75ers but finally found you here in ROOTville. I’m in both groups. *smile*
I love the variety of books you read and what you say about them.
>29 benitastrnad: I think I liked The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher better than you did, but not by much. I didn't keep my copy.
>30 benitastrnad: I have this book on my shelves, and just found a copy of the first one, Ice Princess on BookMooch and mooched it, so will have to see if my mooch request is accepted.
>33 benitastrnad: I have The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu on my shelves and will still read it but with a better understanding of what it’s really about. I, too, get distressed when the ‘heroes’ of books aren’t.
>48 benitastrnad: Pachinko is on my shelves, would love to read it this year.
>63 benitastrnad: I adore all the books I’ve read by Simon Winchester so far, 4 of the 9 that are on my shelves.
I read a wide variety thanks to the Non-fiction challenge that Suzanne (Chatterbox) hosts. It is in the 75’ers group. Each month she has a different topic. This month is memoirs and biographies. I try to read, or listen to, one book a month for that group. Suzanne comes up with such unique topics that it makes finding something to fit the category lots of fun.
I have been participating in the ROOT’ers group since it was born. I use this thread as a list to keep track of the ROOT’s I have read. This makes it easy to report at the end of the month. I don’t do the tickers, but I do the reading. When I get time I write reviews. Then at the end of the year I print it out and put it in my book diary.
>65 benitastrnad: I wish I'd kept a book diary. I have started adding my reviews each month to my blog, for some sort of posterity, but I only started doing that this year.
>51 benitastrnad: read this one too. In fact I've finished every book by her that is translated into Dutch. 10 books and a novella about Patrick and Erica. And the newest one that is a standalone, Gouden Kooi. I liked them all. Some are better than others but over all they scored between 3,5 en 4,5 stars.
I read Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman for the July Nonfiction Challenge hosted by Suzanne. The category for July was Biographies. I had never heard of Patience Gray. I wanted to read this book because I had read a review of it several years ago and the reviews said it was an excellent example of a biography. I like to read about food and foodies and was astonished that I had never heard of Patience Gray. Who was this visionary writer? I had no clue. Clearly, the best thing to do was read the book and find out.
Patience Gray was a leader in the slow food movement, the back-to-nature club, or the organic food movement. Whatever you want to call it, Patience and her partner, the sculptor and painter Norman Mommens, were living the organic and back-to-the-land life style starting in the 1960’s. Along the way Patience wrote about food and published cookbooks about how to live seasonally and within the planetary means. She eschewed the consumer lifestyle that she thought permeated western culture. She and her partner lived in an isolated part of Italy, grew their own food, and preserved it, and then consumed it throughout the year. It reminded me of the way I grew up - summers dominated by the need to preserve whatever garden crop was in season at the moment.
Patience and Norman were also leaders in the environmental movement. They protested the overuse of pesticides, herbicides, and monoculture agriculture. They were far ahead of the curve in this regard and became looked to leaders of this movement in Italy. They also encouraged young people to stay in the region where they were born and start businesses there’ making them leaders in the small community movements of Europe.
The reviews were correct. This was a excellent biography and I enjoyed reading it. It was well written and made the reader envious of this full but frugal lifestyle and the subjects ability to live that way for 50 years.
When I went to enter this book into my book diary (paper book diary) I noticed that it was published by Chelsea Green Publishing. This is a small environmentally certified green publishing company based in Vermont. The book was printed on recycled paper and all materials used in the book are certified sustainable. This is in total keeping with what Patience and Norman would have wanted and it is a wonderful tribute to them and their principles.
Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard. I have been reading through this series for a couple of years and with this book I am caught up with the author. I found this entry in the series to engrossing that I went to the public library and got the recorded version of the book so that I could listen to it in the car as well as read it when I got home. I spent most of my Saturday reading this book instead of cleaning my bathroom. (image that - reading vs. cleaning and which was the winner?) The threads of this story (that is a pun that involves the books) are getting more numerous as well as more tangled and that makes it harder to write and to follow. The author has solved this problem by bringing in characters and then leaving them out for large sections of time. It is clear that there will be more books that will take up those stories, but for now there are dangling threads for some characters. The opposite is true of other characters. They were the subjects in previous books and then disappeared for a time, only to come roaring back in this book. This is definitely a series that I will continue to read, but as with other YA series it will get harder and harder to remember threads as time goes on. This will necessitate rereads - something that I have a hard time tolerating.
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. This World War II novel is set in London during the Blitz. The heroine, Emmaline, works at a women.s magazine as a typist. The editor is the Mrs. Bird of the title.
I found this novel to be a realistic picture of life in wartime London with all the trials of living through bombing and trying to have a life. Instead of the usual heroes of men in military uniform this novel pays tribute to the thousands of firemen, policemen, and other first responders who did heroic deeds and got little notice at the time.
This was not exactly chic lit. It was a nice piece of historical fiction.
I listened to this novel and the narrator and the recorded version were well done.
Stranger by Camilla Lackberg. This is a mystery novel that I read for the Lackberg/Leon challenge. This murder mystery is set in the same Swedish towns as the previous novels but the author adds a little more family drama that helps to bring the main characters in the novels to life. In this novel a reality TV show comes to town and with it a murder. From there some very strange connections to a recent murder in the town come to the fore and the murder mystery is off and running.
This translation seems smoother than the previous ones in the series so perhaps the author and translator have found their stride.
Ardennes 1944: The Battle of the Bulge by Antony Beevor
I finished reading Ardennes 1944 and really enjoyed the take that Antony Beevor has on the Battle of the Bulge. For one thing he is much more objective about the American leadership and the American soldier than are American historians. The last chapter of the book is devoted to dealing with civilian causalities and disruptions. For instance, he notes that 30,000 civilians were causalities in some way as a result of this battle. There were at least 5,000 dead civilians. They were without homes, without resources, and without finances. The long term effects of not being able to harvest their forests for twenty years left this area of France poverty stricken. This is something that a reader of military history never stops to think about.
Beevor also lets the reader know that the American's were just as guilty of disposing of prisoners-of-war by murdering them as were the Germans. In fact, he lays the blame at the door of General Bradley. Bradley is quoted as giving orders to take no prisoners. His soldiers followed that order to the letter. The difference between this order and the one given to the German soldiers is - which side won? Beevor says it reflects badly on the leadership. Bradley did not come off well in this book. He made mistakes and spent much to much time worrying about who had command of the largest army on the front, rather than on what was actually going on. He says simply that Bradley was out-of-touch and too concerned about what the glory hungry Montgomery to his north, and the equally egotistical Patton on his south, were doing, to worry about what was on his front doorstep.
Very interesting take on this battle, that American's think was a great victory.
Proof (Caroline Auden) by C. E. Tobisman
This is another first rate legal mystery/thriller from this author. Tobisman takes the reader inside the legal system and makes the nuts and bolts of filing evidence, filing cases, etc. - the stuff that usually isn't exciting - exciting for readers. That is a rare gift. In this novel the author takes a simple humble story and from it builds a novel that keeps the reader on the edge of their seats. And all with the simple stuff of routine legal work - until it isn't.
This novel won the Harper Lee Legal Fiction Award in 2018. This award is given by The University of Alabama Law School for the best legal fiction of the year. It deserves this award.
The author's first novel was just as good, so if you like mysteries or thriller - read or listen to both of them.
I listened to this novel, and the narrator of the recorded version does a really good job of bringing this novel to sound. This was a great commute listen.
I finished Oranges by John McPhee. I suspect that this book was originally a long essay that McPhee wrote for some magazine because it is about 175 pages in length. However, the short length packs a punch, with lots of information about the citrus industry, the fruit - oranges, and the geography of Florida into this slim volume. This book was first written in 1967 so some things are a bit dated. For instance, there is no mention of organic fruit or farming practices. There might not be any such thing as organic oranges, according to McPhee the industry is pretty much about forcing oranges to be beautiful orange orbs on a schedule.
I am glad that I finally got to this title.
Willful Behavior by Donna Leon is another entry in the Guido Brunetti series. This one delves into the sordid recent past of Italy as a Fascist country and allie of Germany in WWII. More of the history of Guido’s father-in-law and his father is told in this novel. Of course there is art - and Venetian corruption.
This novel is one that stands out in this series as being relevant and interesting to me. Really liked this one.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.