Saturday, September 4, 2021

August's Reading

Hi everyone. 

Here in the US, it is the start of the long Labor Day weekend. Although summer isn't officially over, this holiday signifies the end of the summer social season since so much gets back up and going after this weekend winds down. Sadly also, living in a tourist area, so many things start to close down or only open on weekends around my area also. 

But I am looking forward to autumn leaves, cooler days, getting back to bread making, and a whole list of other things I love.

I thought it would be a good time to do my monthly book post.

I know not everyone is interested in what I read, and that's OK. However, if  you like to read about books, then feel free to check out my reading during August. 

August was a good reading/listening month for me. There were lots of hot afternoons that my hammock and a book were the perfect way to spend my time. (Smile.)

My first listen in August was this book, The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen.

On my way to the New York sculpture gardens at the end of July, my friend started the audio version of this book in the car. We finished the first 5 chapters of the book while driving, and I was into the story, so I decided to use one of my credits  and pick it up off of Audible when I got home so I could listen to the rest of it 

This story is set in Ireland, and it has lots of things that make a good  and even a slightly Gothic style tale. There's  a  very old castle in an isolated  spot of the Wicklow Mountains, a legend of a ghost, a library filled with old books, a young researcher who's hired to work in this library, and a family with a long history in the castle. This novel jumps back and forth between the late 1800's and the present; there's even an unsolved  murder and a detective story to go with it.  What's not to love?

There may seem to be a bit too many subplots in this story, but it all pulls together. I enjoyed this book. My only complaint is the narrator didn't stop to take a breath between sections of the book. That meant that sometimes it took a minute to realize that the situation had changed.  Otherwise she did a great job, and this was an enjoyable story that I recommend. 

My first actual book of the month was book 3 in Elly Griffith's Magic Men mystery series. This  book is set in 1950's England, and this  story happens  as England is getting ready for  and celebrating  Queen Elizabeth's coronation. In this story we're also taken to 1950's New York state, as murder is afoot.

What connects the death of a fortune teller in Brighton, a military man in London and a TV repair man in Albany, New York? It is up to Detective Inspector Edgar Stevens and magician Max Mephisto to figure this out. Elly Griffiths writes a good tale weaving all these  murders together, and even throws in a little romance too. I also enjoyed the atmosphere and setting.  It ends with the murder being solved but also a bit of a cliffhanger for some of the main characters. I am enjoying this series, which is quite different from her Dr. Ruth Galloway books. Griffiths does a great job creating likable and realistic characters as well as some nice vintage theater culture too. Although you could possibly read this book without first reading books one and two, I would  recommend you read this series in order.

My next novel was book 5 of the Anna Pigeon series.  This  book, from 1997, is by Nevada Barr. I've mentioned before  how Anna is a US National Park ranger in some other recent book posts. This story is set on Cumberland Island National Seashore off of the coast of Georgia. A plane has crashed, killing the pilot and a passenger who also happens to be one of the island's park rangers. 

It takes awhile for these mystery stories to really get going as the author sets  the scene in the first 50-100 pages. It took me reading the first 4 books to get this writing habit of the author's down, so this time I expected it.  This is another good story, but I must say for me, the story really picked up in the last 1/3, or 100 pages of the book. Still, it was a well written and good mystery book.  

I'm also excited as I  owned up to book 6 in this series,  but found the rest of the books, starting with book 7, as an inexpensive hardcover set on eBay. It's like it had my name written on it. That means there will be more of these novels in my book posts in the future. I love it when you can find books in sets and even more so when you can find decent books or book sets for not much money.

And while reading my lighter fiction books, I am also slowly working my way through this huge book. I have not finished it.

When my MIL had some friends visiting from California early in August, we got talking about the play Six.  I hadn't heard of it, but it was explained to me that it is a play about Henry the VIII's six wives.

Years ago I read Alison Weir's book about these women, and I decided I wanted to reread that book. Do you think I could find my copy? Nope. I don't believe I got rid of it, and it might be in a box up in my attic. (Storing read books in the attic was a not so good suggestion from a friend because now I have piles of books up there. I am slowly going through them and cleaning them out by bringing down a big load of books every time I go into the attic for something else.) With the summer heat I am not going up to look for  this book until things cool down.

Instead, while looking on my bookshelves for the Alison Weir book, I found this book, Six Wives by David Starkey, that I bought at Costco a very long time ago and have never read.  It is  not quite as easy a read as Alison Weir's books usually are, but it is really interesting and well done. This month I am reading about Catherine of Aragon. I can read more as the time goes on and the mood strikes. I did notice in the index that the author spends most of his time writing about the first 2 queens, Catherine of Aragon and also Anne Boleyn, so when I get through Anne Boleyn I will have complete a big chunk of the book.

The one tough thing about this book is the size of it. It's great for reading sitting up, but almost too big to read in bed before I go to sleep or when I wake up first thing in the morning. 

And while I was looking for the Alison Weir book, I also did a search in my Audible account, just in case it was there. Why it would be? I don't know, but maybe I had the timing all wrong, and I listened to the book rather than reading it. In my search, I did find this book by her that I must have picked up on a sale at some point. It does go along  as a sort of side story with the queen's book. 

Plus it is narrated by Simon Prebble, who is one of my top readers. 

This is a really interesting period in British history. Weir does a short introduction to each of the royal children (Edward, Mary and Elizabeth), and then she moves on to Henry VIII's death and what happens with each of these people after that event. This includes their time on the thrown, with the exception of Elizabeth's life when she becomes queen. For that you would need her book on Elizabeth or another author's volume on this long reigned queen. 

I enjoyed hearing about the relationship between these half siblings. Their lives and beliefs were so different it is hard to believe they all had the same father. I guess when your father is a 16th century king,  your relationship to him is not the same as most people's relationships to their dads.  Weir also tells the sad story of Lady Jane Grey. I remember bits about this period of royal history from a class back in high school and from other books I have read, but this book was quite informative.  As the cliche goes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; the key point is that it was interesting listening. Weir does know how to write a historical nonfiction book and make it accessible. I learned a lot and enjoyed  it. 

Time's Convert is the 4th books in the Discovery of Witches series.  In the original book of this series, The Discovery of Witches, the reader meets Diana, an American professor of history and also a witch with a long family history in that craft. Also introduced is Matthew, a vampire, a man who has lived history.  The first 3 books are about their story. They include some time travel, magic, and an assortment of many other characters.  I really loved this series and read the first 3 books a couple of times,  most recently in 2018.

This latest book is a new one for me. It came out in late 2018, and even though I bought it,  I never read it.  I had just reread the first 3 books in the series, and I guess I wanted something else to read. This book was forgotten on my bookshelf, at least until this month. 

In Time's Convert we are reunited with  many of the characters from the series and get to see how life has progressed for them. We also get to learn more about two of the other main characters, Marcus and Pheobe. Phoebe is being turned into a vampire so she can be with Marcus for eternity. Marcus is Matthew's vampire son, and we discover more about him and about earlier life during the American and French Revolutions.  Harkness is actually a historian herself (for her PhD. she researched science and magic in Europe during the 1500's-1700's) with quite the curriculum vitae according to her website.  She is very good at combining history within her fantasy story.

The only part of this book I was less enthused about was the story of Phoebe becoming a vampire. There was nothing wrong with that part of the story; it just wasn't as interesting to me.

Overall Deborah Harkness did a great job with this story, and I hope she writes some more books starring this group of "people" with more time travel and history.

After listening to Allison Weir's book about the children of King Henry VIII, it was time for something much lighter and easier to listen to, like a cozy mystery. Till Death Do Us Tart, is book 4 of H. Y. Hanna's Tearoom mysteries.  It's been awhile since I listened to books 1-3, and this is a series  that is really enjoyable so it was time to continue with it. 

Gemma is a  30-ish year old woman  who gave up her high power job and invested her savings to open a tea room outside of Oxford in the Cotswolds. Early in the book she is living at home with her parents, which is challenging as her mother is still trying to make her into a proper  lady. She's also dating (much to her mother's annoyance) a local police detective.  It's tough for Gemma not to get involved when murders seem to keep happening around her.  This time the mayhem  starts  with a local cat show competition. 

One of other  stars in this series is Muesli, Gemma's cat.

These books are well written and quick listens.  They are light and fun. This Audible series is narrated by Pearl Hewitt who does a fantastic job also. I also like that the author moves on with everyone's lives, unlike some series that drag out a part of the story through too many books. You could definitely read this series out of order, but I think reading them in order gives a richer experience. 

This next book is written for young adults.  That made it a relatively quick and easy read, even if it is 494 pages long. The main character, Daunis, is an 18 year old who lives  on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and is part of the Objibwe  community. This book starts off with a little too much teenage culture for me, but by page 100 the background is set and the story really picks up. I loved how this book goes into  tribal and local culture. It also shows strong family connections. 

In this story Daunis is recruited to help the FBI find a local methamphetamine producer and dealer. I'm not sure I'd call this book  an actual detective story, even if the FBI is involved. It is written more from the perspective of Daunis, and there are bits throughout the book where you are reminded this story is for the young adult market. However,  it is a really well written and well structured  story.  I enjoyed it and often found it hard to put down. Daunis is also a great female role model for teenage girls who might read this book. 

This novel was suggested for my book group (which has shrunk to 4 of us who meet every now and again, usually, lately, while out taking a walk). I probably wouldn't have picked it up and read it otherwise, as  young adult  books are usually not my type. I am glad I read this. I also noticed on the Amazon web page for this book that this will soon be a Netflix series, made by the Obama's production company. 

After finishing my Oxford tea room mystery, I tried out a couple of books before I found my next listen. 

Jeanie from The Marmalade Gypsy mentioned a  mystery by this author and wrote about that book and how much she enjoyed this series in her July book post. I  hadn't heard of this series, but it did sound like one I might like, so I checked it out. Low and behold, book one was offered as I freebie on Audible. (You've got love that.) The Various Haunts of Men is book one in the Simon Serrailler series. 

This story has depth and interesting characters. I don't want to give too much away from the part I have read. First there is the missing woman, who worked at an elderly care center and when last we saw her, was out for a run. Then there is Freya as well as Simon, two of the police detectives, as well as Simon's sister who is a local general practitioner. I should not forget  the anonymous letter writer, who I am learning more about as I go through the story. There is also a hypnotist called Dava, and the narrator, Steven Pacey, does a fantastic job with his voice.  I must say, the narrator  even a little bit freaked me out during parts of this story. He does a great job with the characters.  This story really starts to pull together as you get further into it. 

I can't recommend this book yet, as I am only a little more than half through this 14+ hour audio, but so far, I am really enjoying it. (Thanks Jeanie for the recommendation.)

This charming book was a short read. My friend Deb lent this volume to me. 

The author of this book spent a year stuck in bed seriously ill.  She could barely move and needed daily care. A friend brought her a pot of violets that contained a small land snail. This pot of violets was next to the author's bed. This snail became the author's constant companion and a source of entertainment.  However, what Elisabeth Tova Bailey really discovered watching this snail was that the life of a snail is really fascinating.

Although the author doesn't  dwell on her disease, you can feel her frustration in places because she does include it in this story. However, she begins to read and learn about snails, and she discovers some amazing information. As an animal mostly overlooked, snails are really a complex and fascinating creature. I highly recommend this slim volume as it is not just about snails but about human perseverance in a tough circumstance also.

And here's my last book of the month.

When I finished actually reading Fire Keeper's Daughter and The Sounds of a Wild Snail Eating, I went  on to read another mystery. This one was mentioned in a comment on my last book post from Elle at Empire of the Cat blog. 

This book had an interesting plot. Could some murders that happened in New England be based on a blog post?  This  blog post is about 8 books that are (in the blog post author's mind) perfect murders.  One FBI agent, Gwen Mulvey, had the idea to connect the blog post to these murders. She connects and joins in  with Malcolm Kershaw of the Old Devil's bookshop in Boston  to have a few chats about these books and murders.  Malcolm was the writer of that blog post. 

This book had some twists and turns as I read through it.  My thoughts about the murderer changed a lot during the course of this novel. I must admit, I didn't guess who the actual murderer was.  I enjoyed this story.  I like how it was set in New England (mostly Boston) as I have some familiarity with the places mentioned in the story.  I'd give this story a 4/4.5 out of 5 stars. It wasn't the best mystery I have ever read, but I did like how it was different from the usual style I read. It was also a fast paced read. I'm glad you mentioned this book Elle; thanks for the suggestion. It was a very enjoyable book.

Now I want to check out the 6 books from the list of 8 that I haven't read. You might be seeing a few of them on another month's book list. 

You can see it was a busy book month for me. As always, if you have any recommendations, I'd love to read them.

Thanks so much for visiting.


kathyinozarks said...

Good morning wow you get through allot of books in a month-and they are always interesting-I just picked up that 4th book too from Discovery of Witches but have not started reading it yet-got side tracked with another series-with thick books. I first learned about the witches from the first years series on tv-I love the actors and the story is well done-then covid came and they stopped the series-then put it out on a streaming service first-just caught the second book series on the tv this summer. really enjoyed the books Happy weekend

The Padre said...

Like WoW - Those Are Some Creative Book Covers - They Really Know How To Draw You In - Like All Good Stores, Merchandising Is Key - Enjoy The Holiday Weekend


CJ Kennedy said...

You always have such an interesting collection of reads

CJ Kennedy said...

PS: Enjoy the cool, dry weather and have a happy holiday weekend

Valerie-Jael said...

You have lots of good books on the go, and several that I have read, too. I can't imagine a world without reading. My place is full of books, but these days I mostly read on Kindle so I can enlarge the print. Have a great weekend, take care, hugs, Valerie

Jeanie said...

I'll have to check out Eight Perfect Murders, the cat-tart mystery and Griffiths' magician series. I've read the Starkey -- it is heavy duty but fascinating and he's a reputable researcher. Once you get through Anne Boleyn, you can really fly through it but I was especially fascinated by the mechanations regarding the marriage dissolution between Henry and Catharine of Aragon. It's worth keeping up with. The one about the three children sounds interesting, too. Good list!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I am always in awe of all the books you read and listen to each month. I'm such a slow reader, I am lucky to get through one book every two months. Of course, I mostly read white papers and journals at other times. Real books take longer for me, since I usually get the biggest, heaviest books around (grin). I would love to read any of your mysteries and the books about Henry VIII wives and children. I did a lot of research while making my friend Kathy's Kings and Queens altered book, so am quite familiar with the stories. I'd love a different perspective, though. Thanks for these reviews.

Azka Kamil said...

Good morning wow you get through allot of books

Iris Flavia said...

Did you know there is an episode of The Simpsons on Henry VIII?
I´m sadly a slow reader...

craftytrog said...

I'm amazed that you manage to read so many books in a month Erika. I usually get through 1 or 2 books a month, as I tend to only read in bed, before I go to sleep. Perhaps I need a hammock!
A great selection of reads as always. Thanks for the reviews.

Divers and Sundry said...

Ah, but meteorological summer _is_ over ;) The meteorological seasons are based more on the weather on the ground, whereas astronomical seasons are based on the position of the sun, etc. It sure feels like Autumn here, with a temp of 62 when I got up this morning. I love the summertime heat, I'll admit, but the fall color and growing crispness in the air brings its own joys :) I tend to like whichever season I'm in lol

All of these books sound interesting. I'm finding it hard in these days when I can't browse book shelves, but your posts help :) Thanks!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Thanks Erika for sharing your recent reads, and I too am amazed at the number you finish reading or listening to. i have been averaging possibly 4-5 per month far less than yiurself. I also enjoyed Eight Perfect Murders and have read at least one other book by Peter Swanson. I will skip the books on Henry’s wives for now and most likely the foreseeable future😉 I have read a couple of Elly Griffiths books in this series, but it’s not ine I will continue. I did check the local library for The Darkling Bride and found I can download an audio books so it’s marked for a future read.

Lowcarb team member said...

Many thanks for sharing these reads, you certainly do well.

All the best Jan

nwilliams6 said...

Oh my gosh, I want to read them all! I need to write them down and see if our library has any of them. I love that you read so much - I plan to do more of it when I get to retire. Thanks for sharing your reviews with us! Hugz