Saturday, June 5, 2021

May Book Post

 Ho everyone. Happy weekend.

Once again it is time to post my reading list for  last month's books. 

As I always say, I post this list so I can keep track of my reading, but I know some people (like myself) enjoy reading book recommendations. So here you go. Read on if you're interested.

Today's book post has a few less books than in many  recent months. 

Put it down to lots of outside time (gardening and walking), as well as getting ready for my bees. I have been reading  as well as watching lots of on-line materials to become more bee informed since bee school didn't work out for me with covid this past winter. Also, the first 2 books I read/listened to were longer volumes, and after being outside working, I didn't need to read  or listen very long, if at all,  before falling asleep at night.

I also read this quote recently, and it made me laugh.

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

My first listen for the month was this book about biology and anthropology. I enjoy reading/listening to stories about things being dug out of the ground. This book is about finding fossils of the earliest human like ancestors. These fossils are the missing links, since we did not evolve directly from chimps.

This book tells lots of stories, but focuses on physical anthropologist Tim White.  White was involved in finding many of the  oldest fossil skeletons, and in the case of many of them, his team was the one who actually discovered them. This books focuses on his finds, but also talks about others involved in the decades long search. White's team biggest find is the oldest most complete fossil hominid (so far) that is called Ardi. If you are interested you can click on the link and read about her. 

White's story and this book's focus is an adventure that goes back to the early 1970's. Often these digs in Ethiopia needed to be under armed guard in areas with lots of poisonous snakes, tribes that had never seen automobiles, and were funded by some of the wealthiest people on the planet. There are also scientist feuds and friendships. Like all people, the main characters of this book are complex. There are funny parts and serious parts to each person. I very much enjoyed this book. 

One of these days I will hopefully become better at picking what books are good to listen to and which are better in paper or digital format.  I think I would have preferred seeing this book in print as there are accompanying photos, but  I did enjoy the listen.

I discovered the author Mary Stewart last summer when I stumbled upon a web page listing book best sellers by year from the past 100 years. Mary Stewart had quite a few books on that list. Last year I read her book the Moon Spinners which was a mystery and a very good read. Stewart's Merlin and King Arthur books kept popping up in lists and in blog comments also, so after doing some hunting on eBay, I was able to get a mixed and match set of hard covers of all 5 books in this series for a good price. They've sat on my bookshelf for awhile now, and then CJ mentioned  a few of them on her Saturday book posts. That reminded me I had them, so this month I read book one of series. (Thanks for that reminder CJ.)

Wow, this is an excellent story. I enjoyed it, and I must say Stewart is at her peak writing this book. I still can't get over how lush Stewart's language is in this story. Merlin, from the King Arthur stories, grows up in this book. Merlin has many adventures and discovers his powers.  Stewart also does a wonderful job setting the scene and describing the precarious world of Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, and other parts of England also in this time period (late 5th-6th centuries). The  battles between the Red and White Dragons begin, and although we are not yet at the time of Camelot, the scene is being set.

A definite highly recommended read if you are interested in the King Arthur and Merlin stories.

After listening to Fossil Men, I wanted something lighter to listen to. I'd read these early Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters a long time ago, and so it is really enjoyable after all those years to listen to them a second time. Since I remember characters and a few scenes, but not individual stories, it is like listening to them for the first time. 

The Mummy Case is book 3 in this series. (I've mentioned books 1 and 2 in earlier book posts so click on the book label to find them if you are interested.)

Amelia and her husband Radcliff Emerson (always referred to as Emerson in the book) are back in Egypt in the mid 1890's. They also have their young son Ramses with them this time, as well as Bastet the cat. Emerson promises Amelia pyramids to excavate, and of course, things don't go exactly as planned. Yet Amelia does manage to find murder and mayhem in the Egyptian desert once again. It wouldn't be one of this series if she didn't. 

This time there are mummy cases and stolen artifacts, robberies, murder and even a lion cub.

These books are always a fun read, or in my case listen. They are filled with quirky but believable characters, have some adventure, and of course they have Amelia, a women well advanced of her time.  I laughed quite a bit listening to this one.

A Superior Death is Nevada Barr's second book in her national park mystery series. I never read these books years ago when these early volumes came out, but these  first books have been around for quite awhile. I do remember the titles. The main character is Anna Pigeon, and she works as a ranger for the National Park Service as well as acting as an investigator in the mysteries.

In this story, Anna is at Isle Royal National Park in far northern Michigan.  I haven't visited this park so it is interesting to read about it through the mystery story. This time there is a dead body in a sunken ship in Lake Superior, a missing woman and tales of cannibalism.

At first I wasn't sure about this story because it seemed like there were a lot of characters to get straight, but it didn't take long to get into the groove of the story and knowing who was who was quite easy.  Barr writes a good story, and I liked this one better than the first book (Track of the Cat) that I read last summer. I really liked this book and recommend it. 

When I finished  listening to The Mummy Case, I went onto this book, Nefertiti. It was available on a 2 for 1 sale on Audible (they seem to have them every month lately-which is both good and bad).  Having read some Amelia Peabody's stories set in Egypt (like The Mummy Case), I thought I might learn a bit more about that ancient culture and one of it's still remembered women. 

In case you don't know who Nefertiti is, this is the famous bust of her. In fact the author said this sculpture displayed in the Neues Museum of Berlin  was her inspiration for the book. I took this photo of the internet, but I would love to go see it sometime.

This book is historical fiction. It is well written and not a heavy read (or listen). I like how the author incorporated   info and known culture from Nefertiti's time (1370-1330 BC). She did write this book as more as a fictional story rather than for historical value, so I am not sure how accurate all of the story details are. Nefertiti isn't the most likable of people in this book, but I suppose marrying into the Egyptian royal dynasty and becoming queen at a young age can do that to you.  Whether she was really as egocentric as the book makes her out to be is  hard to say, but I think believing you are a goddess on earth could make you act that way.

The story is told through the eyes of Nefertiti's younger step-sister, Mudnetjmet, who is very likable and makes a good narrator of the story. I enjoyed this book (even if it was more of a light fiction read with some history  in it), and I  learned some facts about this time in Ancient Egyptian history.

The author continued this series by also writing books on Nefertari, the queen of Ramses the Great and Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra.  I would like to give them a try also.

A French Garden Journey is a book about many personal journeys for the author, the British gardening expert Monty Don. This book is not always about wonderful gardens or even about making a garden. I guess you would call this book a memoir with gardens and a lot of travel. (And how can you go wrong with travel to France and gardens?)

This book, as the cover shows, is when Don  travels to France. He has been doing this for much of his life, and you also get to learn a bit about his life before gardening too. Don visits homes of famous artists and meets some fascinating people on his trips. Some of these adventures occurred when he was under 20, and some are much more recent, making this book full of  stories of a lifetime so far. Since he is a gardener, he does a great job of putting you into the the natural environment of the places he visits.

I really enjoyed this book, and I wish Don would write more about his travels to other places. He is not only a talented gardener but writes a good travel book too.

The final book I read this month was this oldie.  You might remember it as it was a best seller back in the 1990's.

When I was cleaning out books last month I came across my old copy of this book.  My first thought was how I didn't really get into this story the way some people did back in the day.  I remember lots of people talking about it. I almost put my copy in one of the the donation bags I was filling. 

Then I decided since this book was short and looked like a quick read, I would put it aside and read it again. Just to see if my thoughts about it had changed.

This is a love story. The writing was wonderful, and I must admit, I did get sucked into the story. Can such a deep love happen in just 4 days, as this story implies? I'm not so sure about that. There is also a sequel,  A Thousand Country Roads, which I have never read. I'm curious about it, not because I am hooked on  Francesca or Robert the main characters from this  original book and their love, but because I wonder how the author is going to tell that story after the way he wrote The Bridges of Madison County. 

I think the sequel is also a short quick read, so I may try to find a cheap used copy or hit the library and give it a try.

Cookbooks Talk-which may or may not interest you

I also bought myself 2 new cookbooks on a trip to Costco this past month.

Milk Street, Tuesday Nights Mediterranean caught my eye on the book table and has been a mouth watering read.

I like how most of the recipes are fairly quick to make, and there is a big variety. Even some things my picky eater husband would like. This cookbook doesn't focus on Italian or any one particular country, but has an assortment of recipes from all over the Mediterranean area. To name a few recipes that are tempting me, I want to try Chicken Sallmoriglio,  Carrot, Sweet Potato and Spinach Eggah, and Shrimp with Orzo, Tomatoes and Feta. 

Since life has been busy and I haven't  yet tried any of these,  I can't rave or complain about how they come out. I hope to try them soon. 

I do have an older Christopher Kimball cookbook (The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook from 1998) which I do enjoy cooking from.

The other cookbook I picked up at Costco was this newly revised one from King Arthur Flour.

 I have the older version of this book, and I must say it is one of my go to baking books. I sat down and did a comparison of the 2 books, because if I didn't find them different enough, I planned on returning this new one to Costco.

Although not all the recipes are different in this new version from the older version, there are many that are. I like how this new book has gluten free and other flour substitutions for many recipes.  I do find that this new version is thinner than the original, and on a visual inspection, seems to have fewer recipes. (I am not sure how the actual recipe counts compare or contrast.)

 I think King Arthur Flour writes excellent recipes for the home baker (they even have a hot line you can call in a baking emergency), and they have tried to make this new book more up to date. American baking really has changed since the original version came out in 2004. Not only are more flours available, but as baking has becomes more popular, people are experimenting with more types of baking and recipes.

I decided it was different enough to keep it, but I am also keeping my original version also since I use it so much.

I'm not being paid by King Arthur Flour for mentioning any of their books, but I also have their original cookbook (now out of print),

their cookie cookbook,

and their whole wheat flour cookbook.

The whole wheat flour book is only one I don't really use. Don't ask me why that is, but I should start using it. I love the other 2 and use them as much as the baking companion. I'd give all of these baking books 5 stars,and they help form the books that make up the base of my baking library. I consider my base the books I would never part with if I had to do a big purge". I won't tell you how many baking books I have; let's just say too many. My only complaint  with K. A. baking books is that they could use more color photos.

OK, enough about books for one post. That is my book list for May. As always, I love  recommendations, and  maybe I've inspired you with something also.
Enjoy your weekend!



Valerie-Jael said...

You have been reading some great books, or listening to them. I like listening, too, then I can do my crafting or housework and have some entertainment. The Amelia Peabody books are always fun. The bust of Nefertiti is really worth seeing, as are lots of the other exhibits there. Have an enjoyable weekend, rest and relax. How are the bees doing? Hugs, Valerie

kathyinozarks said...

Good morning you always share such interesting books-I will be back to read over this better. I have all of the King Arthur's cookbooks their cookie one is really good, I read the bridge over madison county-I loved that movie and always watch it again if it shows up-there is a second book to this story which is really good too. and I think I picked up another book by this author but don't remember it now.
thanks again and my husband just started reading the book about the owl Happy weekend

kathyinozarks said...

Hi-what are the names of the king arthur books by Stewart? I couldn't find those kept coming up a different author thank you

Divers and Sundry said...

Love the Groucho Marx quote. We're Marx Bros. fans here :)

Mary Stewart's trilogy (I don't count that 4th book) is wonderful! I used to have a few of the Amelia Peabody books, but I don't think they survived my Marie Kondo period. I remember enjoying them, though. I've read one of Barr's books but don't remember which one. Nefertiti has appeared in a couple of modern stories recently, including a Doctor Who I re-watched last week. Interesting that she so captured the public imagination. You have some nice variety in your reading.

Valerie-Jael said...

Thanks for the bee information! All the best for your bees, keep us updated! Hugs, Valerie

Let's Art Journal said...

Wow, such an array of books! So interesting, thanks for the recommendations 😀. Take care and happy weekend! Hugs, Jo x

CJ Kennedy said...

Glad you enjoyed the Stewart book. I like how your book lists are always so eclectic

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I like the sound of the mysteries. I'm a big mystery fan, as I'm sure you can tell. Wish I had more time to read and I need to invest in device so I can listen to books as I create art. Thanks for sharing these, dear.

craftytrog said...

A great selection of books Erika! I read the Mary Stewart King Arthur books years ago and loved them. I've always been fascinated by those stories and legends.
I'm on book 3 of the Sookie Stackhouse Trueblood series right now.
Keep on reading,
Alison xx

Iris Flavia said...

I have to admit... I just scrolled through, too dangerous!!
And yet. I think I will come back and buy...??? Help!!! Do you read or is it e-book, if latter, which device?

Mae Travels said...

Looks like an ambitious reading list to me! I have read almost nothing lately. I just can't get back into reading after a 10 day trip which was 10 hours a day of activity.

best... mae at

Jeanie said...

Shoot! I forgot to do the captcha! Good lists all around. I need to check out the Stewart. Love the Arthurian legends, as you know. And Monty Don has a four-part series on Netflix on the history of English gardens over four centuries which is fascinating. I love his presentation style -- fun, warm, knowledgable. A good watch.

The KA anniversary book has my all-time favorite carrot cake recipe. Accept no substitutes -- it rocks!

Lowcarb team member said...

You've certainly been reading some good sounding books.
That one by Monty Don took my eye.

All the best Jan