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!!

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Secrets of the Spanish Playing Cards: Fortune Telling Using La Baraja Española by Kara Janssen


I have been interested in various fortune card telling systems from tarot to Lenormand for a few years now. I recently acquired a deck of La Baraja Española/Spanish Playing Cards. I'm not sure where this deck came from exactly, but decided I wanted to learn more about using this particular deck for fortune telling purposes. 

Earlier this year, I found the ebook edition of Secrets of the Spanish Playing Cards: Fortune Telling Using La Baraja Española by Kara Janssen from Amazon and decided to download and read it. This 118 page ebook was concise and to the point. Despite being a quick read, Secrets of the Spanish Playing Cards: Fortune Telling Using La Baraja Española by Kara Janssen is filled with plenty of information on how to do a reading using a La Baraja Española deck. 

I really enjoyed reading Secrets of the Spanish Playing Cards: Fortune Telling Using La Baraja Española by Kara Janssen and look forward to putting what I've learned into practice.

Below is the summary for Secrets of the Spanish Playing Cards: Fortune Telling Using La Baraja Española by Kara Janssen from Goodreads website:

Learn how to read the traditional Spanish playing cards, la Baraja Española, to understand your past and present, and reveal your future. 
The Spanish playing cards have been used for divination and fortune telling for centuries and now you can easily access their wisdom. 
This book will teach you the meanings of all the cards and enable you to begin doing in-depth readings right away.
Learn about various spreads and card combinations. Meanings are provided for all 48 cards, plus the Joker.
The Spanish playing cards can be used to discover concrete answers to everyday questions revolving around your daily life, such as work, romance, money and health. They can also be laid out in complex spreads that reveal deeper insights into your most spiritual and philosophical questions.
Now English-speakers can gain access to the wonderful wisdom of these beautiful Spanish cards. 
Discover what la Baraja Española reveals about your life, love, work and health. Take the journey to understand your past, present and future.

I am giving Secrets of the Spanish Playing Cards: Fortune Telling Using La Baraja Española by Kara Janssen a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez


I listened to the unabridged audio version of Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez and narrated by Angelo Di Loreto for National Hispanic Heritage Month.

I thought Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez started off kind of slowly and wondered where it was going initially. But things picked up and I liked the ending of this novel. It gave an interesting perspective on the Hispanic experience in Spanish Harlem. I liked the writing, storyline, and characters for Bodega Dreams. I thought Angelo Di Loreto was a decent narrator.

Below is the plot summary for Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez I discovered on Chirp's website:
In a stunning narrative combining the gritty rhythms of Junot Diaz with the noir genius of Walter Mosley, Bodega Dreams pulls us into Spanish Harlem, where the word is out: Willie Bodega is king. Need college tuition for your daughter? Start-up funds for your fruit stand? Bodega can help. He gives everyone a leg up, in exchange only for loyalty-and a steady income from the drugs he pushes. Lyrical, inspired, and darkly funny, this powerful debut novel brilliantly evokes the trial of Chino, a smart, promising young man to whom Bodega turns for a favor. Chino is drawn to Bodega’s street-smart idealism, but soon finds himself over his head, navigating an underworld of switchblade tempers, turncoat morality, and murder.

I am giving Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñonez a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars!

Until my next post, happy reading!