Friday, May 7, 2021

April Books

 Hi everyone.  Happy Friday. I thought I would wrap up the week with my monthly book post. 

 As I always write, this is my way of keeping a reading list. If you're interested in books, please feel free to read on.

I want to mention that last month Iris commented that I read a lot. Yes, I do, and I also listen to books as well as reading  books also. That's why I seem to get through so many. Smile.

April was another good month for books.

Book one for April was another stand alone Elizabeth Peter's mystery. I enjoyed this book as much as I did the other stand alone book by this author that I read last month (The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits).  It was a fun light read. I enjoyed the story, but I just didn't like the main character. I wonder if that was the author's point. The main character is 20 something year old woman named DJ who is working on an advanced degree  in anthropology. She takes a summer internship in Northern Arizona for an extremely rich man who has a whole collection of people living at his ranch. Being an Elizabeth Peter's book, mystery follows when the wealthy ranch owner disappears, and DJ gets involved in finding him. Elizabeth Peters was an archaeologist herself, so there are always lots of fascinating  details about cultures and their remains wherever her book is set.  

Book 2 for April was this one,  Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson. I actually splurged and bought this newly released book in hard cover (but discounted)  as I really wanted to read it. 

 I don't think this is a book for everyone, but it is the story of the discovery CRISPR. Bacteria are single celled organisms that have simpler cells than those of most multicellular organisms. However, just like us, they can be invaded by viruses that cause disease and kill the cell. However it was discovered that bacteria are able to incorporate genetic material from those viruses into their own genetic material in order to make them immune to those viruses. This basically makes up the bacteria's immune system. This viral DNA that is incorporated forms DNA called CRISPR (an acronym) for some palindromic repeats in the bacteria's DNA.

From this discovery, a whole new form of gene editing came into being called  CRISPR. One use of this gene editing has to do with some of the vaccine technology being used to make vaccines for Covid.

This books focuses not only on what CRISPR is, but also on the people who worked to make this discovery,  especially Jennifer Doudna. 

This book was a very interesting and not a difficult read, as it was written for the general curious reader, not for specialists. The author, Walter Isaacson,  as you can see in the cover photo, also wrote about Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs and is a talented biographer. Because I was curious about the science, this book was something I sat down and read when I was in the mood for more concentrated reading.  Even though this book was not a hard read,  I wish it had been just a tiny bit more heavy duty.  I particulary wanted to read to understand and learn more about CRISPR, so as I read I did some highlighting and bookmarking.

If it seems like I finished a lot of other  actual books this month it was because I had a lighter book in progress at the same time I was reading this one. For me, this book was not bedtime reading.

My first listen for April was this wonderful story by Jane Smiley.  It totally charmed me. Perestroika is a racehorse who escapes her stall and wanders out into Paris.  There she meets Freda the German short haired pointer, Raoul the raven and Sid and Nancy the mallard ducks. And a few other animals also. The humans in this story play secondary roles, but they are wonderful characters also.  I believe this is marketed as an older children's book, but I really loved this story and did not feel like it was only for children. I think Smiley did a great job giving the animals distinct personalities but not trying to make them too human like. And of course, a story in Paris is always wonderful too. 

Wesley the Owl was an interesting read, and I learned I never want to be an owl mom. Owls mate for life and are not social animals, so as an owl mom  (or dad), you pretty much have to be there for your owl it's entire life. Owls don't accept just anyone as their caretakers once they imprint with a person. The author adopted an infant owl that could never make it in the wild, and she became his owl mom. I learned a lot about barn owls, which was the species her owl Wesley was, and what happened during the 19 years he lived with the author.

I enjoyed this book. It was a light quick read. I learned a lot about owls that I didn't know. If you like animals stories, and/or like owls as I do, then I recommend this book.

I wasn't sure about Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi because I have read a few Japanese authored books before and had some mixed feelings about them. Maybe I am making too much of a simplification, but I found in the other stories I had read ,it was often hard to relate to characters. That of course could have been for many reasons, but I am guessing mainly it was because of the different cultural nuances  between America and Japan.

This books was a daily deal on Audible, and for $2.95 I thought the story of a cafe where you can time travel sounded interesting enough to give it a try.

I am glad I listened to it. It is a sweet people centered story. This time I could relate to the characters more, although  there were still some responses that I found curious.  Cultural differences or not, this is  a wonderful story. 

In this story, there are 4 different  people who visit the cafe to travel in time. There are several rules about time traveling in this cafe, and one of them is that your trip cannot change anything about the present time. Yet even without changing the present situation, the experience always seems to fix the issue that caused the person to want to travel in the first place. These people's stories are heartwarming and even a little unexpected. This is a recommended and unusual feel good read.

Then I moved on to reading Inspector Brunetti book 2. 
In this volume, an American soldier is killed in Venice. 
I enjoyed this story as much as book 1. I enjoyed being taken to Venice, sampling Italian customs and food. And I like Inspector Brunetti, the main character in the story, as well as learning more about him and his family. I was also surprised how this book ended. I only had about 25 pages left, and I was curious how the author would wrap it up. She did very satisfactory job of it. I'm glad there are 30 books in this series because it means it won't end very soon, and I have many more left to read. 

My next listen was Stargazer by Anne Hillerman. 

  This story is set in the Navajo Nation of western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. At some point after author Tony Hillerman died  in 2008, his daughter Anne picked up where he left off with his  characters and continued to write books about them.  This is her sixth book, and I believe this would be book 24 in this mystery series.

This book contains all 3 of Tony Hillerman's original characters ( Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and Bernadette Maneulito), but it focuses mostly on Bernadette Maneulito. I think Anne Hillerman has done a great job  developing her character. 

I read one review of this book on Amazon that said that Anne Hillerman has  strayed from the original books her dad wrote that focused on Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.  Perhaps if you want a male centered mystery that is true. I liked that the author has moved with the times and focused on Maneulito. 

In this story an old friend of Maneulito's turns herself in for killing her ex-husband. But did she really do it? Of course there are also some side stories, including the one where  Chee, who is married to Maneulito has become her temporary boss. Joe Leaphorn's story continues also.  He is still a valued mentor for the other 2 main characters. 

I have read several of the original Tony Hillerman books in this mystery series (but not all), and I enjoy his daughter's books just as much as his originals. 

My last listen for April was another daily deal at Audible. The little blurb on the cover; " A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed" got to me. I knew the name Gucci, but I couldn't picture what their purses even looked like, so I had to go check that out on the internet. Wow. Do people really pay that much for a purse? 

This book was an out of my usual reading zone, and that was another reason to listen. 

The story was well written and mostly interesting. It starts with the murder, but then took quite awhile (too long actually) to get back to it. In that time the author related the history of the family and their business, which had nothing to do with  harness and saddle makers to royalty as is often said,  and which  also reminded me a lot of those 1980's prime time soap operas like Dynasty and Dallas. This part of the story was really quite interesting.

Then the books really gets involved in the business during the 1990's. Parts of that were interesting to me, and parts were less so. 

I  don't regret the time it took to listen to this book. In fact, at a little over 16 hours long, it went really fast. I don't really know anything about how big international businesses run, so that was eyeopening. I'm not sure the story needed all that time to set the stage for the murder, since the murder wasn't the focus of most of the book. I think the subtitle was a little misleading. I expected one thing and definitely got another.  If you like histories that include a lot of business dealings, then this may be a good book for you. I'd have liked it better if there were less details about the the Gucci business in the second half of the story.

I am curious to see what the movie will be about. I hope it comes over to home viewing relatively quickly just to see how they portray the story in film.

I also read  another mystery in April; this one by Elly Griffiths. I am totally hooked on this author's archaeology series with Dr. Ruth Galloway, Nelson and several other characters. While  waiting for a new book in that series to be released, I decided to try another of Griffiths' mystery series. This one, The Zig Zag Girl, is the first book in what is she calls her Magic Men mysteries.  It has a showbiz theme that ties back to World War 2, and it is set in 1950's England. 

In this story, a women is cut into 3 pieces. Who did it? Detective Edgar Stevens connects with his old friend Max Mephisto, a magician, to get advice to help solve the crime. Max and Edgar decide that murder is somehow connected back to their days being Magic Men and their work during the war in Scotland. Several other Magic Men are also in the story.  

I very much enjoyed this mystery. I liked  the characters and how they worked with each other. I liked the connection back to the war and how the characters still carried effects from the war with them.  It gave the story a very believe feel in time.

Elly Griffiths has a great style. She manages to tell a story without bogging down the reader in a wordy way.  In this book there is also a great connection to the theater if you read through the author's notes at the end of the book.

And since I enjoyed the Zig Zag Girl, and I had book 2 on my shelf, I then moved onto my last read for April.

In this book 2 children have gone missing. Police detective Inspector Edgar Steven and Max Mephisto the magician are back.   I really enjoyed the characters and the story  as it  developed throughout the book. I didn't like this book quite as much as The Zig Zag Girl, but even though I write that, I would still recommend this book to read. You don't have to read the books in order, but I think the story richer if you do.

That's a lot of books for a month, even for me. 
As usual, if you have an recommendations, I'd love to read them. And maybe you found a recommendation too.

Thanks for sticking with this long post. 


Iris Flavia said...

Yes Wesley was cute, yet also I think I would not want feed him with mice and such, ugh.

Beats me who pays so much money for a name!
A lot of reading/listening again :-)

Valerie-Jael said...

You have been reading some great books. Hmmm, I wouldn't want to be an owl mum either if that's what it's like! Reading was, is and probably always will be my constant companion. Hugs, Valerie

CJ Kennedy said...

So many books and such an eclectic list! Enjoy the sunshine today

Laurie said...

I’ve read every Elizabeth Peters I can get my hands on ( mostly audio since I lost my sight ) , and I’ve read two others you listed, thanks so much for these suggestion!

Mae Travels said...

You and I have a lot of the same tastes in reading. I’m reading Elly Griffiths’ third Ruth. Galloway novel now, I have read most of the Brunetti mysteries, I need to get the new Hillerman book, which is the only one of the 24 I haven’t read. And so on. Thanks for the reminders!

best... mae at

Divers and Sundry said...

I really should check out Elizabeth Peter's stand-alones. I like Jane Smiley, but it's been a while since I read one of hers. Yes, Donna Leon! :) I've read all of Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn/Chee books but have been skittish about trying hers.

Jeanie said...

Oh dear. Elly Griffiths. Post war. I'm hooked before I even get it. And isn't Brunetti a interesting character? I like him so much. Lots of good ones on this list, Erika. I'm curious about the Isaacon book -- I do like his style and have heard quite a bit on this lately.

Let's Art Journal said...

Looks like you've read so many fabulous books, such great reviews! Thanks for sharing and wishing you a lovely Friday and weekend 😀. Hugs, Jo x

kathyinozarks said...

I really enjoy your reading list-thank you for sharing with us. a varied list too, the one about being an owl mom sounded interesting-didn't know one could keep an owl-perhaps with a permit, and the horse in Paris too had me smiling

kathyinozarks said...

I just picked up the book about the owl-anxious to read it

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I stopped by here last night and fell asleep in my chair, DUH. I saw the Gucci shoe emblem and had to laugh. I saw real Gucci purses and fake/knock off Gucci purses in LA. The fake are easy to tell because the fake ones don't care where the seam is and the real ones never put a seam across or through one of the GG rows.

I would love to read those mysteries. I also want to read the Code Breaker. It sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks for reviewing and piquing my interest in these books.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I forgot to tell you about the owl and the crow. When I was a child my neighbor found a baby owl. I don't remember the specifics now, but a crow bonded or imprinted with the baby owl. In the wild, apparently they would be enemies, but they grew up and lived together in my friend's garage. The local newspaper even did a story with photos of them. I guess it was a big deal, but to me, we were just kids and enjoyed seeing the birds together.

Empire of the Cat said...

I read this the other day when I wasn't well and it was nice to read some book reviews as I haven't felt up to reading lately but there are a few here that caught my eye so I might check them out. Ten books in a month doesn't seem unreasonable lol it's easy to burn through a few good ones if you are listening to audiobooks isn't it? I didn't read much last year and so I had so many books to catch up on, mostly new additions to series that I usually read. It was one a day at one point, lol, all audio of course. Elle xx

pearshapedcrafting said...

I'm bookmarking this - I love the reviews of some of these, hope they are available here! Hugs, Chrisx