Sunday, December 31, 2023

A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet

 


A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet was my final read for 2023. I listened to the unabridged audio version of this novel, which was well narrated by Xe SandsListening time for A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet is 5 hours, 34 minutes.

I first learned about
 A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet from Dorothy at The Nature of Things. She gave A Children's Bible a 5 star rating, so I decided to give this novel a go. I wasn't disappointed. 

A Children's Bible is the first novel I've read by Lydia Millet. Her writing is wonderful. I will most likely read another one of her novels in the future. I think this novel is pretty deep without being over the top, pretentious, or preachy. I also liked how the story is told through Eve's point of view. Eve is one of the teenagers. The teenagers in this novel seem more mature than their parents are and they deal with life much better than their parents do.

Below is the publisher's summary for A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet from. Chirp's website:

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet’s sublime new novel—her first since the National Book Award long-listed Sweet Lamb of Heaven—follows a group of twelve eerily mature children on a forced vacation with their families at a sprawling lakeside mansion. Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group’s ringleaders—including Eve, who narrates the story—decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside. As the scenes of devastation begin to mimic events in the dog-eared picture Bible carried around by her beloved little brother, Eve devotes herself to keeping him safe from harm. A Children’s Bible is a prophetic, heartbreaking story of generational divide—and a haunting vision of what awaits us on the far side of Revelation.

I am giving A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Echos In Death by J. D. Robb

 


Echos In Death by J. D. Robb is the third novel in the 'In Death' series I've listened to this year. Echos In Death by J. D. Robb is narrated once again by Susan Ericksen and she does a lovely job with the narration. Listening time for this novel is 13 hours, 43 minutes.

Of the three 'In Death' novels I've listened to this year, Echos In Death by J. D. Robb is the best. I enjoyed the storyline, characters, and writing.

The following is the publisher's summary for Echos In Death by J. D. Robb found on Chirp's website:

After a party in New York, Lieutenant Eve Dallas rides home with her billionaire husband, Roarke, happy to be done with cocktails and small talk.

After another party, not far away, a woman retires to her bedroom with her husband-and walks into a brutal nightmare.

Their paths are about to collide…

When the young woman-dazed, naked, and bloody-wanders in front of their car, Roarke slams on the brakes just in time, and Eve, still in glittering gown and heels, springs into action. It’s been a long night for the tired homicide cop, and it’s far from over.

Daphne Strazza is rushed to the ER, but it’s too late for Dr. Anthony Strazza. A brilliant orthopedic surgeon, he now lies dead amid the wreckage of his obsessively organized town house, his three safes opened and emptied. Daphne would be a valuable witness, but in her terror and shock the only description of the perp she can offer is repeatedly calling him “the devil” …

While it emerges that Dr. Strazza was cold, controlling, and widely disliked-and that he treated Daphne like a trophy wife-this is one case where the evidence doesn’t point to the spouse as the first suspect. So Eve and her team must get started on the legwork, interviewing everyone from dinner-party guests to professional colleagues to caterers, in a desperate race to answer some crucial questions:

What does the devil look like? And where will he show up next?

I am giving Echos In Death by J. D. Robb a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Thursday, December 28, 2023

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel


I listened to the unabridged audio version of The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel and narrated by Mark Bramhall

Listening time for The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel is 10 hours, 52 minutes.

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel is the strangest novel I've read this year. Frankly, I almost gave up on listening to it numerous times in the first section because of the storyline. However, I persevered ONLY because an acquaintance of mine had read and loved this novel and I trust their reading judgement.

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel is divided into three sections. Each contains a different story. All three sections are intertwined and come together nicely. I was not a fan of section one, but enjoyed the last two sections just fine. I was glad that I stuck with this novel as I ended up enjoying it overall. By the way, Mark Bramhall is an excellent narrator.

Below is the publishers summary for The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel found on Chirp's website:

In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure. Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie finds himself at the center of a mystery of his own and drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest. Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife. But he arrives with an unusual companion: a chimpanzee. And there the century-old quest will come to an unexpected conclusion.The High Mountains of Portugal—part quest, part ghost story, part contemporary fable—offers a haunting exploration of great love and great loss. Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, it takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal in the last century—and through the human soul.

I am giving The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Cutthroat Cupcakes by Cate Lawley

 


It's no secret that I enjoy reading cozy mystery novels... And with the holiday season well underway, who wouldn't want to eat cupcakes or candy around the holidays? However, it just so happens, it isn't the Halloween Holiday! 

Nonetheless, I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of Cutthroat Cupcakes by Cate Lawley and narrated by Meg Price. Listening time is 5 hours, 21 minutes. 

Cutthroat Cupcakes is the 1st novel in the 'Cursed Candy Mysteries' and is nicely narrated.

I liked the sweets/candy treat theme for Cutthroat Cupcakes. The plot/storyline for this novel was pretty good and so were the characters and the writing. Not a bad start to a cozy mystery series. 

Below is the publisher's summary for Cutthroat Cupcakes by Cate Lawley I discovered on Chirp's website:
Killer cupcakes?

Seems improbable to Lina, but when an attractive detective snaps cuffs on her and accuses her of witchy crimes she’s forced to reconsider.

The murder weapon? A cupcake topper sold in Lina’s shop, Sticky, Tricky Treats.

The method? A killing curse.

The curse’s origin? Lina…sort of.

Except Lina hadn’t a clue that she was a witch, and certainly didn’t know she’d accidentally cursed some of her confections.

She’s got to catch the killer who used her magic to murder or possibly face a conviction as an accessory.

Now, if only the wizard detective assigned to the case weren’t such a distraction.
I am giving Cutthroat Cupcakes by Cate Lawley a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

New to Me Little Free Library in San Ramon, California!!

 


Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I visited three different Little Free Libraries locally. One of them was a new to us Little Free Library that was already packed to the gills with a plethora of books. Most of the books were geared towards youngsters with a few adult books available for trade.

It's amazing how many Little Free Libraries keep popping up in our area. I can remember when there weren't too many of them around a decade ago.

Have you found any new LFLs lately? 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey

 


I've heard Anne McCaffrey's name mentioned over the past several decades. But I had never read any of her novels until this year when I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of The Rowan, which was published in 1990 and narrated by Jean Reed BahleThe Rowan is a science fiction/romance novel and is the first novel in 'The Tower and the Hive' Series.

I was partly inspired to read a novel by Anne McCaffrey because she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award and also the first woman to win a Nebula Award. I figured that if she had won both of these prestigious literary awards, then she must be an excellent writer.  So why not give one of Ms. McCaffrey's novels a try? 

It wasn't until Chirp Audiobooks had a sale for The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey, that I downloaded and listened to this audiobook. It's plot sounded somewhat intriguing and the book seems to be well liked overall by readers.

Ugh, The Rowan's plot is bland, flat, and boring! It is such a one dimensional read. I don't understand it's appeal. Most of the character's were over the top dramatic in their interactions and it seemed like they were (almost) constantly bickering amongst each other when it came to the primes... And the romance between Jeff and the Rowan wasn't much of a romance, in my opinion.

The audio production for The Rowan was lacking. I don't know if it was originally recorded in the 1990s or when exactly, but the sound production is bad. Plus, the sound effect used to make it sound like the characters were communicating telepathically was annoying.

I didn't like The Rowan and I will not be continuing with the series. I doubt I'll be reading another novel by Anne McCaffrey either.

Below is the publisher's summary for The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey found on Chirp's website:

Told in the timeless style of Anne McCaffrey, The Rowan is the first installment in a wonderful trilogy. This is sci-fi at its best: a contemporary love story as well as an engrossing view of our world in the future.

The kinetically gifted, trained in mind/machine gestalt, are the most valued citizens of the Nine Star League. Using mental powers alone, these few Prime Talents transport ships, cargo and people between Earth’s Moon, Mars’ Demos and Jupiter’s Callisto.

An orphaned young girl, simply called The Rowan, is discovered to have superior telepathic potential and is trained to become Prime Talent on Callisto. After years of self-sacrificing dedication to her position, The Rowan intercepts an urgent mental call from Jeff Raven, a young Prime Talent on distant Deneb. She convinces the other Primes to merge their powers with hers to help fight off an attack by invading aliens. Her growing relationship with Jeff gives her the courage to break her status-imposed isolation, and choose the more rewarding world of love and family.

I am giving The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey a rating of 1 star out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

 


The Guest List by Lucy Foley has been a book in my to be read pile for quite a while. I was initially attracted to this novel because of its setting on a remote island and that it was a mystery with an intriguing storyline. In some ways, the setting for The Guest List and how the guests came together reminded of Agatha Christie's novel, And Then there Were None... But that's where the similarities between both novels end.

I feel that Lucy Foley does a fantastic job of creating suspense. The Guest List is a very atmospheric read and you can feel the tension building as you continue reading this novel. The best part of The Guest List for me is how the story is told through the eyes of several of the main characters in alternating chapters throughout the novel. 

The wedding night is not told in one continuous chapter, but is broken up into sections and scattered throughout the novel with the various main characters sharing their perspective of the wedding  events, how they know the bride or groom and tidbits about their personal lives. It becomes apparent who will be murdered, but by whom, when, and how the murder will happen is quite a different matter as quite a few people had an issue with the murder victim.

I did not like most of the characters in The Guest List. Most of them seemed shallow, immature, or rowdy frat boys as in the case of the best man and groomsmen. The best man and groomsmen were so over the top immature and the groom himself so slick... I couldn't stand them. The bride was no angel herself either and was callous/stuck up. Essentially, I was turned off by many of the characters/bad actors in this novel that it overshadowed the good parts of The Guest List for me.

Below is the plot summary for The Guest List by Lucy Foley from Chirp's website:

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

I'm giving The Guest List by Lucy Foley a rating of 2 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

 


I finished reading the paperback edition of Pointe by Brandy Colbert. I've had this young adult novel since before the pandemic and I am happy I finally read it.

It was the storyline that initially attracted me the most when it came to reading Pointe. I'd read an excerpt from Pointe and was hooked, so I decided I wanted to read the entire novel. There are some pretty deep topics discussed within Pointe, which made for interesting reading. Some of the topics touched upon are eating disorders, rape, kidnapping, child molestation, and PTSD. All heavy topics, but presented in a way that was different and engaging.

The main character is Theo (short for Theodora) Cartwright. She's 17 years old and a high school student who is into ballet big time. In fact, Theo is on her way to becoming an elite dancer. Although ballet is a part of this novel, ballet isn't the main focus of Pointe. At the start of the novel, we learn of Theo's best friend, Donovan, returns home after four years from being kidnapped/abducted. It later turns out that Donovan was kidnapped by Theo's former boyfriend and Theo is left wondering if Donovan willingly went with his abductor or if he was forced into being with his abductor. 

There's so much more to divulge about Pointe's storyline, but doing so would create many spoilers and I don't know how to share more information without spoiling it for potential readers... Yet leaving my review the way it is, doesn't highlight what a great read this novel is.

All I can say is that the writing is good/solid. I found Pointe to be different than expected in many ways. I also felt like the first 80-90% of the novel was the slow burn/build up to the final finale as the last forty pages of Pointe were the most riveting and engaging of the entire novel.

Below is the plot summary for Pointe by Brandy Colbert I discovered through Goodreads:

Theo is better now.

She's eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn't talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn't do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she's been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

I am giving Pointe by Brandy Colbert a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Christmas Ruse by Jennie Goutet


I like to read or listen to one or more holiday themed reads each year if possible based on time and interest. 

It just so happens that my last read for the month of November was a holiday themed novella titled, The Christmas Ruse by Jennie Goutet. This regency romance is a quick listen at just over 2 hours in length and is well narrated. Overall, I felt The Christmas Ruse had a decent storyline, interesting plot twists, a romance, and filled with fairly well developed characters despite the short length. It is a predictable read as to the story's outcome/ending. 

Even though I wasn't wowed by this novella, it is a clean, wholesome read that is worth the read if you enjoy regency romance novels/novellas.

Below is the plot summary for The Christmas Ruse by Jennie Goutet I found in the description section in YouTube video itself.

Nicholas Cranleigh suspects his meddlesome sister is up to something when she invites him to stay at Cothill Manor at the same time as Miss Dresden. He’s on his guard, but it’s hard to resist a woman with luminous eyes, who’s in need of a savior. Lavinia Dresden is ready to sacrifice herself to save her family from financial ruin in the only path open to a woman of gentle breeding. But she hadn’t counted the cost on her sacrifice until Lord Cranleigh came into her life—a man she knew to be her ideal. There remain only five days until the Christmas ball when Miss Dresden’s fate will be decided, and it soon becomes apparent to Nicholas that the question is not whether he wants to save Lavinia, but whether he is able.

I was able to listen to this unabridged novella for FREE on YouTube and so can you by clicking on the video link above.

I am giving The Christmas Ruse by Jennie Goutet a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

 


The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill is the first novel in the 'A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery' series. I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill, which was narrated by Clive Chafer.

I enjoy reading mystery novels. I also enjoy discovering new to me authors and new to me mystery series. So, I am pleased to have discovered The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill for these reasons. 

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill!! The novel itself is set in 1975 in communist Laos. The main character, Dr. Siri Paiboun, is a 72 year old doctor who has been appointed the national coroner. Dr. Siri Paiboun does not want this job as he hasn't been trained as a pathologist and also because he wants to retire after living a long life. However, the Laos government has no other trained candidates besides Dr. Siri Paiboun as most of the educated class has fled the country. So Dr. Siri Paiboun is stuck with working as national coroner.

Dr. Siri Paiboun is a wonderful character! He's smart (brilliant actually), witty, compassionate, and interesting to say the least. Dr. Siri Paiboun also dreams/receives communications from the spirit world, which makes for interesting reading and plot development. I would definitely say that Dr. Siri Paiboun is my favorite character from this novel. I also enjoyed most of the other characters as well.

The writing for The Coroner's Lunch is solid and so is the storyline. I may just continue on with this mystery series as I liked the characters and the writing so much!

Below is the publisher's summary for The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill from Chirp's website:

Laos, 1975. The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Dr. Siri Paiboun, a seventy-two-year-old Paris-trained doctor, is appointed national coroner. Although he has no training for the job, there is no one else: the rest of the educated class have fled.

He is expected to come up with the answers the party wants, but crafty and charming Dr. Siri is immune to bureaucratic pressure. At his age, he reasons, what can they do to him? And he knows he cannot fail the dead who come into his care without risk of incurring their boundless displeasure. Eternity could be a long time to have the spirits mad at you.

I am giving The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

 


Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith is another one of those novels that has been siting in my 'to be read' pile for 9-10 years or perhaps even longer. 

I FINALLY made time to listen to the unabridged audio version of Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter this month. I wasn't disappointed at all with this historical fiction/thriller/horror novel as it far exceeded my expectations of it. The writing is excellent... And the the plot, storyline, and character development were engrossing throughout the novel itself. 

I wasn't entirely sure what I was expecting when I first began listening to Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter, but I found the novel to be engrossing from the very start and also well narrated by Scott Holst

The novel chronicles the life of Abraham Lincoln from his youth through to his assassination. I liked that the novel focuses MAINLY on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. The novel itself mostly reads like a biography with vampires added in an interesting fashion that almost (and I emphasize the word 'almost') makes it seems like the existence of vampires could possibly be credible. Vampires are not romanticized is this novel like they have been in so many works of fiction, which makes for a refreshing take on the topic of vampires in general.

I felt like the ending for Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter was a bit soft though. Perhaps the author could have written the ending differently for a stronger impact, instead of the ending that it was. If you've read Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter, what did you think of the ending?

I do LOVE the cover art for Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter. I was thrilled to discover a photo that shows both the front cover and back cover of this novel to share in my review. Yes, it's a bit gory, but seems appropriate for the title and topic of the novel.

Below is the publisher's summary for Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith I found on Chirp's website:

Indiana. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.” “My baby boy…” she whispers before dying. Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, ”henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House. While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years. Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

I am giving Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

 


I've had The Sherlockian by Graham Moore in my 'to be read' pile for a decade or longer. I finally listened to the unabridged audio version of The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and narrated by Steven Crossley this month. Listening time for The Sherlockian is 11 hours, 43 minutes.

I really enjoyed The Sherlockian quite a bit! In fact, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The narration was great and it made the storyline pop even more. The Sherlockian is a combination mystery/thriller, contemporary and historical fiction read. So, if you like these genres and are also a Sherlock Holmes/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, then this read may definitely be the one for you!

I enjoyed the alternating timelines featuring contemporary day juxtaposed with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's time in alternating chapters. As readers, we follow Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's life as well as modern day, where main character, Harold White, is trying to find out where Doyle's lost diary is located and solving a murder among other things. Lots of twists and turns make for an interesting read.

The ending for this novel answered many questions. But I still felt some things were lacking in the wrap up of The Sherlockian

I don't know if Graham Moore has written any other novels. I could check, but I think I will take a pass. As much as I enjoyed The Sherlockian and the writing within its pages, I'm not hankering to read another novel by the author.

Below is the publisher's summary for The Sherlockian by Graham Moore I discovered on Chirp's website:
Hurtling from present day New York to Victorian London, The Sherlockian weaves the history of Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle into an inspired and entertaining double mystery that proves to be anything but “elementary.” In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective’s next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning-crowds sported black armbands in grief-and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin. Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had “murdered” Holmes in “The Final Problem,” he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.... Or has it? When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he’s about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world’s leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold-using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories-who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.
I am giving The Sherlockian by Graham Moore a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

 

I have wanted to read Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen off and on for over a decade now. I even had a used paperback edition of the novel at one point in time, but never read it. 

I love elephants... But circuses have a dark history with regards to animal abuse. So, after hearing that animal abuse happens within the pages of Water For Elephants, I just couldn't bring myself to read it. Yes, yes, I know Water For Elephants is a work of fiction, but I couldn't bare to read this novel even though I'd heard it was a good read and should consider reading it for the writing and storyline alone.

Fast forward to this month. I decided to read Water For Elephants after all. Mainly, I decided to read Water For Elephants because I wanted to finally give this novel a chance. Also because maybe, just maybe, I was missing a great book filled with an amazing storyline and wonderful characters.

I wasn't disappointed with Water For Elephants. Yes, animals are abused in this novel (especially the elephant) and it was difficult to read certain segments because of it, but the story and the characters made it worthwhile in the end. The novel does have a happy ending though for all, including the elephant.

Water For Elephants focuses on the life of Jacob Janowski. Jacob Janowski is an elderly man in his 90s living in an assisted living home. Jacob is curmudgeonly and is getting forgetful as he can't remember if he's 90 or 93 years old.

Jacob begins to reminisce about his life as a circus veterinarian for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth during the great depression. Jacob's focus on his early life at the circus begins when he and the other residents of the assisted living home learn that a circus is coming to town. In fact, many of the elderly residents at the assisted living facility end up going to see the circus with their families. There is also a wild claim made by another assisted living resident of being the person who brings water to the elephants at a circus. This sets Jacob off as he claims that there was no such position at a circus... And so Jacob begins the story of his life starting with his college days in veterinarian school at Cornell University, followed by a family tragedy, life working at the circus, and eventually marrying the love of his life.

Water For Elephants alternates between current day and also Jacob's past, which makes for a great read. I enjoyed the characters, the storyline, and the writing for Water For Elephants. I am so happy that I finally read this novel... Or rather, I should say listened to the unabridged audio version of Water For Elephants, which was well narrated by two different narrators.

Water For Elephants was my second read for November 2023. Have you read Water For Elephants? What did you think of it?

Below is the publisher's summary for Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen from Chirp's website:
Jacob Janowski’s luck had run out-orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

I am giving Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Ancient Art of Bookbinding Has Been Perfected!

 


I love these newsy type of stories about bookbinding and how small businesses are keeping the ancient art of bookbinding alive. How I'd love to be a bookbinder or an archivist... Heck, I'd even be thrilled to be a research librarian.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Dark Reservations by John Fortunato


Dark Reservations by John Fortunato is the first book I read/listened to for the month of November 2023. John Fortunato is a new to me author and the plot summary for Dark Reservations sounded really good, so I decided to give this mystery/thriller novel a go. I wasn't disappointed!

Dark Reservations by John Fortunato is a good read. It has an interesting storyline with appropriate plot twists. I liked the main character as well as the supporting cast of characters. The writing is solid. The novel itself is well paced and has a satisfying ending to round things out.

Below is the publisher's plot summary for Dark Reservations by John Fortunato I discovered on Chirp's website:

“An insightful take on life in the Southwest.” —Gene Hackman. Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent Joe Evers still mourns the death of his wife and, after a bungled investigation, faces a forced early retirement. What he needs is a new career, not another case. But when Congressman Arlen Edgerton’s bullet-riddled Lincoln turns up on the Navajo reservation—twenty years after he disappeared during a corruption probe—Joe must resurrect his failing career to solve the mysterious cold case.Joe partners with Navajo tribal officer Randall Bluehorse, his investigation antagonizes potential suspects, including a wealthy art collector, a former president of the Navajo Nation, a powerful U.S. senator, and Edgerton’s widow, who is now the front-runner in the New Mexico governor’s race. An unexpected romance further complicates both the investigation and Joe’s troubled relationship with his daughter, forcing him to confront his emotional demons while on the trail of a ruthless killer.Joe uncovers a murderous conspiracy that leads him from ancient Anasazi burial grounds on the Navajo Nation to backroom deals in Washington, D.C. Along the way, he delves into the dangerous world of black market trade in Native American artifacts. Can he unravel the mystery and bring the true criminal to justice, or will he become another silenced victim?

I am giving Dark Reservations by John Fortunato a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Crap Taxidermy by Kat Su


I have literally wanted to read Crap Taxidermy by Kat Su for years! I'm so glad that I finally obtained a physical copy of this book and read it in one sitting. I really like weird, quirky reads like this sometimes.


Crap Taxidermy by Kat Su is a small, hardback, coffee table sort of book... and it is a hoot! I love it. This book is a work of nonfiction about, you guessed it, crappy taxidermy. Crap Taxidermy is a very short, fast read as it largely contains photos of taxidermy gone very wrong. 

There is also an introduction by the author at the start of Crap Taxidermy. I learned that the author is an activewear designer by trade and also that she has a blog on Tumbler about taxidermy called, Crappy Taxidermy. According to the author, Crap Taxidermy is a celebration of crappy taxidermy.

I liked how Kat Su organized the taxidermy photos in her book by category, like a focus on the eyes or particular body poses, etc.

Crap Taxidermy ends with a 'how-to' section, which gives readers (and want to be taxidermists) specific directions on 'How To Stuff Your Own Mouse'. So, if you are feeling rather adventurous, you can go ahead and perform your very own taxidermy on an already dead mouse. 

I will be taking a hard pass on doing any sort of taxidermy, thank you very much. Would you be interested in doing a taxidermy?

Below is a book trailer for Crap Taxidermy by Kat Su, which features a group of women learning to taxidermy a mouse.



I am giving Crap Taxidermy by Kat Su a rating of 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Saturday, November 11, 2023

What's the Secret Formula to Agatha Christie's Novels?

 


I've read countless Agatha Christie novels over the years and fell in love with many of Ms. Christie's novels. 

When I stumbled upon a Ted-Ed video on YouTube about the secret formula to Agatha Christie's murder mysteries, I couldn't resist watching this short animated film. I wasn't disappointed as I learned a lot from watching this video.

If you are an Agatha Christie lover, you may enjoy watching this informative video as well.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

 


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty is a nonfiction book that's been in my 'to be read' pile since either last year or earlier this year. 

I've read/heard great things about Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory and this book didn't disappoint! I listened to the unabridged audio version of this nonfiction book, which is wonderfully narrated by the author.

I love nonfiction books in general and read widely on diverse topics such as Doughty's book. I enjoyed learning about the author's time working at a crematory in San Francisco's East Bay and about her mortuary career in general. I also enjoyed hearing Doughty's thoughts regarding the death industry and her views (along with various cultural views) on death in general.

Below is the publisher's summary for Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty from Chirp's website:

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty - a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre - took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. With an original voice that combines fearless curiosity and mordant wit, Caitlin tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters, gallows humor, and vivid characters (both living and very dead). Describing how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes), and cared for bodies of all shapes and sizes, Caitlin becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the deceased. Her eye-opening memoir shows how our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead). In the spirit of her popular Web series, “Ask a Mortician,” Caitlin’s engaging narrative style makes this otherwise scary topic both approachable and profound. “America’s (kinda dark) sweetheart” (Huffington Post) Caitlin Doughty, the host and creator of the “Ask a Mortician” Web series and the collective Order of the Good Death, is on a mission to change the way we think about death.

I am giving Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Steeped to Death by Gretchen Rue

 


I am a cozy mystery novel fan! I was delighted to discover the unabridged audio version of Steeped to Death by Gretchen Rue via Chirp for a deeply discounted price. Gretchen Rue is a new to me author and Steeped to Death is the first novel in the Witches' Brew Mysteries series

The storyline for Steeped to Death sounded like a fun read, so I figured why not give it a try. I wasn't disappointed with Steeped to Death by Gretchen Rue as it had all the elements I like in reading cozy mysteries... A fun amateur sleuth, an orange tabby cat (or any other furbaby would work), a witch, and a used bookstore with tea and pastry shop enclosed! Not to mention delicious sounding recipes I look forward to trying in the future. I look forward to reading the next book in this series titled, Death by a Thousand Sips.

P. S. I do love the cover artwork for this novel!

Below is the publisher's summary for Steeped to Death by Gretchen Rue I discovered via Chirp's website:

Phoebe Winchester’s beloved Aunt Eudora has a taste for adventure—and a knack for making magical tea. It’s even rumored that she just might be a witch. So when Eudora passes away and leaves everything to her niece—her Victorian mansion, her bookshop/tea store The Earl’s Study, and one very chubby orange cat named Bob—Phoebe gets more than she bargained for. And she knows she’s in deep when a dead man is found on the shop’s back step, apparently killed while trying to break in. Two suspects immediately emerge among the townspeople of Raven Creek, Washington. There’s village busybody Dierdre Miller, who seems desperate to buy Eudora’s house, and handsome PI Rich, one of Phoebe’s childhood friends—but how well does she really know him after all these years apart? Phoebe knows she should leave it to the professionals, but as she starts to dig into the underbelly of Raven Creek, she begins to uncover the truth about Eudora. What’s more, her aunt might not have been the only witch in the family: Phoebe soon discovers she has unique and unexpected gifts of her own. Now it’s just a matter of putting her newfound power to the test and casting a spell that could catch a killer.

I am giving Steeped to Death by Gretchen Rue a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Blackout by Simon Scarrow

 


The unabridged audio version of Blackout by Simon Scarrow and narrated by Simon Mattacks was my first read during the month of October 2023.

I love historical fiction and Blackout by Simon Scarrow is set in Germany during World War II. This novel also falls into the thriller genre as well. I should also mention that Simon Scarrow is a new to me author this year, so I enjoyed exploring a new author.

I enjoyed the narration for Blackout as well as the overall storyline. But for the most part, I found this novel to be a middle of the road read. Some of the characters seemed to be bit over the top/stereotypical, especially for the characters that were high ranking Nazi officials. 

Also, Horst Schenke's (main character) girlfriend was a bit too brash and gave the impression that she was immune to any sort of punishment for speaking out against the government because her uncle was an admiral in the navy. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading about Horst Schenke's efforts to solve a series of murders during difficult times.

Below is the plot summary for Blackout by Simon Scarrow from Chirp's website:
Berlin 1939. The city is blanketed by snow and ice. In the distance, the rumble of war grows louder. In the shadows, a serial killer rises … As the Nazis tighten their chokehold on the capital, panic and paranoia fester as blackout is rigidly enforced. Every night the city is plunged into an oppressive, suffocating darkness-pitch perfect conditions for unspeakable acts. When a young woman is found brutally murdered, it’s up to Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke to solve the case quickly. His reputation is already on the line for his failure to join the Nazi Party. If he doesn’t solve the case, the consequences could be fatal. Schenke’s worst fears are confirmed when a second victim is found. As the investigation takes him deeper into the regime’s darkest corridors, Schenke realizes danger lurks behind every corner-and that the warring factions of the Reich can be as deadly as a killer stalking the streets.
I am giving Blackout by Simon Scarrow a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Rose Gold: An Easy Rawlins Mystery #13 by Walter Mosley

 


I've heard about the Easy Rawlins mystery series by Walter Mosley over the years. I've also heard what a wonderful writer Walter Mosley is. Since I love mysteries in general, I thought I'd try reading one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins novels. 

I chose to listen to the unabridged audio version of Rose Gold: An Easy Rawlins Mystery #13 by Walter Mosley and narrated by JD Jackson as the storyline sounded intriguing. Plus, the UC Santa Barbara aspect and possibility of part of the novel's setting taking place in Santa Barbara and Isla Vista was also a strong draw for me as I worked at the UCSB Bookstore in their general book department as an assistant manager. Of course, I also lived in the Santa Barbara area. Alas, not much of the novel takes place in Santa Barbara or Isla Vista, so that was a BIG disappointment!

As far as the writing goes, it was fine. Walter Mosley is a good writer for sure. The storyline and plot were decent. However, Rose Gold wasn't for me. I'm simply not a hard boiled detective novel fan. I listened to The Maltese Falcon a few years ago and didn't like it for the same reason. Additionally, I felt like the start of Rose Gold spent too much time introducing reoccurring characters from previous novels that disrupted the flow of the start of Rose Gold.

Below is the publisher's summary for Rose Gold by Walter Mosley, which I found on Chirp's website:

Rose Gold is two colors, one woman, and a big headache.In this new mystery set in the Patty Hearst era of radical black nationalism and political abductions, a black ex-boxer self-named Uhuru Nolica, the leader of a revolutionary cell called Scorched Earth, has kidnapped Rosemary Goldsmith, the daughter of a weapons manufacturer, from her dorm at UC Santa Barbara. If they don’t receive the money, weapons, and apology they demand, “Rose Gold” will die—horribly and publicly. So the FBI, the State Department, and the LAPD turn to Easy Rawlins, the one man who can cross the necessary borders to resolve this dangerous standoff. With twelve previous adventures since 1990, Easy Rawlins is one of the small handful of private eyes in contemporary crime fiction who can be called immortal. Rose Gold continues his ongoing and unique achievement in combining the mystery/PI genre form with a rich social history of postwar Los Angeles—and not just the black parts of that sprawling city.

I am giving Rose Gold by Walter Mosley a rating of 2 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

 


I've had the paperback edition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi sitting in my 'to be read' pile since 2018. I've been meaning to read this novel sooner than I have as it has garnered a lot of positive attention and accolades since its publication.

However, it wasn't until this month that I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and narrated by Dominic Hoffman. Listening time for Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is 13 hours, 11 minutes.

As a quick side note, I'm listening to more books this year instead of reading them to help curb eye strain/fatigue.

I loved the concept of Homegoing. I enjoyed how the author presented the story of two half sisters (Effia and Esi) and how their lives are drastically different based on the slave trade in Ghana. Effia is married off to a powerful Englishman and lives a life of relative luxury compared to her half sister, Esi, who is sold into slavery and shipped to America. 

We, as readers, learn about the divergent lives that both Effia and Esi live, as well as those of their descendants over the centuries in alternating chapters. It was very enlightening to read about the slave trade in Ghana and also learn about the local customs of the different tribes in Ghana. 

I thought it was interesting to learn that slavery in Ghana predated the Atlantic slave trade and how Ghanian tribes contributed to the Atlantic slave trade itself. By learning about this bit of history, we read how it impacted future generations in both Ghana and America... More specifically, how it impacted cultural identity. For instance, one of the characters in the novel questions what it means to be 'black' in America.

Overall, I'm impressed with Yaa Gyasi's writing style and how she tackles several large topics/themes to make a very cohesive read. How she writes such a short, concise, and succinct novel that states so much, is simply amazing to me. 

However, as much as I liked Homegoing, I didn't love it as much as I expected or hoped I would from all the hype surrounding this novel when it was first released.

Below is the publisher's summary for Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi from Chirp's website:

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day. Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

I discovered the following short video interview with Yaa Gyasi on YouTube put out by Penguin Books UK. The author discusses her novel, Homegoing

I am giving Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code by Jennifer J. Chow


Mimi Lee Cracks the Code by Jennifer J. Chow is the third cozy mystery installment in the 'A Sassy Cat Mystery' series. I listened to the unabridged audio version of this cozy mystery novel, which was narrated by Natalie Naudus

I really enjoyed the first novel in the 'A Sassy Cat Mystery' series, so I went ahead and purchased the audio versions for the next two novels in the series from Chirp Audiobooks.

I wish I could say that I loved Mimi Lee Cracks the Code as much as I did the first novel in the series. Mimi Lee Cracks the Code is a decent read, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. The side story of Mimi Lee and her boyfriend having a fight and not getting along was a minor distraction I could have done without. Plus, the storyline and other characters were not as captivating. 

At this point in time, I doubt I'll continue reading any future novels from 'A Sassy Cat Mystery' series. Too many other cozy mystery novels and other books out there to captivate my attention.

Below is the plot summary for Mimi Lee Cracks the Code by Jennifer J. Chow from Chirp's website:

When murder follows Mimi Lee to her romantic island getaway, she puts on her best sleuthing hat with her sassy cat in tow in this adventurous cozy mystery by Jennifer J. Chow.

Mimi Lee just found an extra perk to being a pet groomer at Hollywoof (other than cuddling animals all day long, that is). Pixie St. James, one of Mimi’s clients and also the investor behind Hollywoof, has offered her and her boyfriend, Josh, a weekend getaway at her vacation home, nestled on the beautiful Catalina Island. Arriving just outside of Los Angeles but still far enough from the hustle and bustle, Mimi, Josh, and their cat Marshmallow (who, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a dingy pet hotel) are excited about their relaxing weekend at the island.

That is, until Pixie’s last renter, Davis D. Argo, turns up dead. Mimi and Josh’s romantic getaway immediately turns into an enormous buzzkill, especially when Pixie asks Mimi for help. The police suspect Pixie, and Mimi knows a thing or two about wrongful allegations. Mimi figures it couldn’t hurt to snoop a little since she’s already there, and soon discovers that a valuable item is missing. Except Pixie isn’t the only one in the neighborhood who has been robbed. There is something strange happening on the island, and Mimi won’t stop until she finds out what it is.

I'm giving Mimi Lee Cracks the Code by Jennifer J. Chow a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines by Jennifer J. Chow


Back in 2021, I read and reviewed the first cozy mystery novel in 'A Sassy Cat Mystery' series by Jennifer J. Chow titled, Mimi Gets A Clue. I really enjoyed reading the first novel in this new cozy mystery series and gave it a 4.5 star out of 5 star rating.

In July of this year, I finally listened to the unabridged audio version of Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines by Jennifer J. Chow and narrated by Natalie Naudus. This is the second novel in 
'A Sassy Cat Mystery' series. I wanted to love Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines as much as I did the first novel in the series. But Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines wasn't as engrossing as the first novel in the series. The writing was decent for Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines, but the characters and plot weren't as engaging to me this time around. Plus, the narration for this novel wasn't that stellar either. 

Below is the plot summary for Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines by Jennifer J. Chow from Chirp's website:

When a local teacher is found dead, Los Angeles’s newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a predicament—with her younger sister’s livelihood on the line.

Mimi Lee is on top of the world. She has a thriving pet grooming business, the sweetest boyfriend, and a talking cat to boot. When she arrives at the elementary school where her sister Alice works, she is expecting a fun girls’ night out—but instead finds a teacher slumped over in her car, dead.

Alice was the last one to see Helen Reed, which instantly marks her as the prime suspect. Unable to sit quietly and let the authorities walk all over her sister, Mimi starts snooping and talks to Helen’s closest contacts, including one jumpy principal, a two-faced fiancé, and three sketchy teachers. With the help of her sassy but savvy cat, Marshmallow, and a cute kitten named Nimbus, Mimi must race against time to get to the bottom of yet another case before her sister gets jailed.

I am giving Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines by Jennifer J. Chow a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!