Saturday, October 9, 2021

September 2021 Books

Hi everyone. 

It's the October holiday weekend here in the US, sometimes called Columbus Day, sometimes called Indigenous People Day. I'm not exactly sure which is the accepted one anymore, so that's why I'm giving you both names. For all I know, there may even be another name for this upcoming Monday.

I'm also wishing all my neighbors to the North a Happy Thanksgiving holiday weekend also. 

In the next few days, I have a couple of celebrations to attend. One of my husband's  nieces' wedding is this afternoon. It is outdoors, so I am keeping my fingers crossed about the weather. It is suppose to be cloudy and chilly, sadly. The couple were actually married last year, but because of covid are having their reception now. This wedding also means we have my daughter and her beau around for at least part of the weekend. 

This upcoming Tuesday my Mom turns 92. I have to laugh when I think of this because when I reminded her that she was turning 92, she was quite impressed with herself. With her short term memory loss, she can't remember her actual age, but every year she does want to insist she is turning 29 again.  She's been insisting that since I can remember. Smile. 

Before  early October gets away from me, I want to share my latest book post.  These are my September books. It was definitely a good month for mysteries, or I should say, since the beginning of the month was not a big reading time, the rest of the month was a good month for mostly mysteries.

As usual, I write this for me, so don't feel you need to read on if books aren't your thing.

Book one for me was the latest Louise Penny, Inspector Gamache mystery. This is book 17 series.

 Don't you love this cover art?

This time Inspector Gamache and his coworkers and family are back in Three Pines, Quebec. It is the week between Christmas and New Years, and the holiday week has become not as fun and relaxing a time as it usually might be. 

 First there is a shooting at a public gathering in an auditorium, and then on  a cold winter's New Years Eve in Quebec, a body is discovered in the snow. 

The last Inspector Gamache mystery was such a good one I wasn't sure how this new book would live up to it. I was not trying to compare stories, but I can say  Louise Penny is definitely  back with her wonderful Three Pines crew.

One interesting aside (for me at least) mentioned in this book is the story talked something called  the 100 monkeys theory. Scientists studying monkeys off an island in Japan discovered that one monkey learned to wash their food before they ate it, and some others then learned this trick from this monkey, and so forth. When it reached 100 monkeys that started washing their food,  suddenly all the monkeys were doing it.  (This also seems to apply to people, nothing to do with washing food but any event where the following starts small and  then before you know it, has many people's attention.)

That in itself is fascinating and does apply to this novel, but something rang a little bell in my head, and when I looked this up, this food washing happened at the monkey island we visited when I was in Japan in 2018. I saw this now famous group of monkeys, or the offspring of those monkeys.  I know you probably aren't as excited about that fact as me, but I did want to mention it so when/if I look back in a couple of years or so I can remember this about the book.

In September I also finished listening to this Susan Hill book I mentioned ( and had started) last month.

This was a very good listen, especially the last couple of hours, and the narrator, Steven Pacey, did a great job. It is even a little bit spooky, as the killer is not someone I would NOT want to meet. This story’s surprise ending was quite emotional also.  The author did take a bit long getting the story woven together, and she could have slightly weeded it down. As it is only book one of this series, my guess is  the author was setting a lot of background.  Even with this, I very much enjoyed this Simon Serrailler  mystery, and it kept my attention all the way through. I've  already listened to the next book in this series, which you will see more about below. 
(Here is my first write up about this book if you want to know anything else:August Books) Thanks again Jeanie for the recommendation.

I'd never read a Rhys  Bowen book, and because she's always putting out books with lots of good reviews,  she's been on my "I want to try one” list for awhile now. This book, The Venice Sketchbook,  was a daily deal a while back on Audible, so I picked it up. As I spent a lot of September busy with chores and a few longer drives, this story was a good listen because it was interesting but not anything that required a whole lot of close attention to minute details.

This a romantic story, but not a romance novel, with a bit of mystery.  There are 2 women in this book, Juliet in the 1930's and early 1940's and her great niece Caroline in the early 2000's. The story takes them both to Venice.  Caroline inherits a sketchbook and some keys from her great aunt when she dies, so Caroline is off to discover the mystery behind them. I learned a lot about Venice while reading this story, and I especially enjoyed the story of Juliet during World War 2. This story is well crafted, and I can see why Rhys Bowen books are popular.

I'm not sure I'd jump immediately into another one of this author's  romantic books,  but I will read more of her work in the future because Bowen writes a good story. She does write a mystery series which I am now also curious to check out.

Last month I read Eight Perfect Murders, a novel that discussed 8  books that were, in that author's opinion,  some of the most flawless ways to  murder someone. One of those 8 books was Double Indemnity  by James M. Cain, which was first published in 1936. I want to read (or reread) some of the books mentioned in Eight Perfect Murders, and Double Indemnity is the first one  from that wish list.

The inside cover stated that this book is considered to be in the genre roman noir.  I knew about noir fiction, but the roman part of that phrase was new to me, so I looked it up, only to discover that roman noir is Noir fiction, is a subgenre of crime fiction. In this subgenre, right and wrong are not clearly defined, while the protagonists are seriously and often tragically flawed.  

This book was a short, quick read. Cain was a talented writer, and I enjoyed this story. The short synopsis is that a woman wants to kill her husband for his insurance money, and she teams up with his insurance agent to stage his death so not only she, but also the agent, can collect the money. This book is told in the insurance agent's voice, and quite cleverly done. Just when I thought this story would peter out, the author finds a way to continue the story and keep you interested.

After reading Double Indemnity, I dug through my bookshelf and found my ancient copy of Agatha Christie's ABC Murders.  This book was another of the books mentioned in Eight Perfect Murders. I hadn't read this novel in an very very long time. (I love how my book, not this cover image I used from Amazon, cost me $1.75 new  in the 1970's. Back then I would used to use my babysitting cash to pick  up Agatha Christie books. I still have my teenage collection made up of many of Mrs. Christie's novels.)

In this 1936 novel, Hercule Poirot is asked to help solve a mystery where people are being murdered in alphabetical order.  The murderer makes it only part way into the alphabet when Poirot's "Little Grey Cells" solve the crime. I didn't remember the surprise twist at the  end of this story,  and Poirot's final synopsis to trap the murderer once again shows Christie's skill as an author.  I definitely need to start pulling out my old Agatha Christie books and rereading them.

Since the first Susan Hill book had been stuck in my brain ever since I finished it earlier during the month,  I then went on to listen to this next  novel in the  Simon Serrailler mystery series, The Pure of Heart.  Book two is also narrated by Steven Pacey. 

In this novel a child is kidnapped, Chief Inspector Serrailler's handicapped sister dies, a woman friend of the Inspector's  becomes obsessed and is practically stalking him, and some rich Americans move to town. Unlike book one in this series, you don't get many clues about the person of interest in the kidnapping case, and there is not a neat tidy wrap up to the novel. However, Susan Hill's style is to really get you involved with each of the characters in the story. There are several surprises along the way also. One of those is the ending. This series is definitely not a light cozy read, but definitely worth checking out.

The Thursday Murder Club is a newer novel (2020) , written by British author Richard Osman. He has worked in British television, and this is his first novel.

This was an fun, enjoyable read, not exactly what I'd call a cozy mystery, but more one with some unreliable narrators. When a small group of seniors from an over 65, elite housing facility need some excitement in their lives, they form the Thursday Murder Club. In this story, they actually get some real life murders to work on, instead of just going through old unsolved cases. The co-owner of the housing facility has been killed in his home, and except for a photograph left with the body, there aren't a whole lot of obvious clues. Then the other owner of the complex get killed while people are protesting his expansion.  This story is told through many voices, with lots of twists, turns and surprises, from the police to the citizens of the Thursday Murder Club. 

This book certainly gives seniors their due and credit for all they have learned and done during their lives.  I highly recommend this read. It is one of most unique mysteries I've read recently.

And my final listen ( although not  finished by the end of September but is finished by this post) for the month is this book for my book club's October meet up. My book group has shrunk to 4 people, myself and 3 friends.

I don't usually read space travel fiction, but I did enjoy the film The Martian, based on an earlier novel by Weir. There is a difference watching a 2-ish hour movie and listening to a 16 hour book, especially when there are so many other books that I want to indulge in.  It is good to expand one's reading horizons though, and I know there is  a commitment in a book group that you make an attempt with the chosen  novel.

OK, you can see how I felt starting this book.

How did this story actually go? Here's a very quick synopsis that doesn't really do the story justice. (I don't want to give too much away to those of you who might read this book.)  A not so good life-form is discovered in our solar system, and a multinational task force goes to explore.  The American, Ryland Grace, a scientist and former middle school teacher, is the only survivor of the 3 part suicide mission team sent into space to learn about this new life form. He has traveled  12 light years away from Earth and can't communicate directly with people on Earth when he has first contact with another species of extraterrestrial life. 

So what did I think? I enjoyed this novel, especially when Ryland meets this extraterrestrial. The narrator, Ray Porter, did a great job. The science in it is excellent. The story is well composed. I do want to to see the movie they make from it. OK, I liked it quite a lot, which surprises me. Is it the type of book I want to read more of? I probably wouldn't rush to read another one, but at some point, I might give a space travel book another read.  I can still say space travel books don't excite me all that much.  However, I am glad I listened to this story, and I am glad I enlarged my reading/listening bubble. Those of you who enjoy this style of book would probably really enjoy this novel.

Thanks for sticking with me this far through the post. As usual, I love recommendations.  Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


Angie's Recipes said...

Looks like that you are going to have a busy October with lots of celebrations. Happy Birthday to your mom!! I know I should not judge books by their covers..but these look really cool!

Valerie-Jael said...

Hi Erika. You've chosen some good books today, I know and like them all, except for the first and last ones, which I haven't read. There is a TV series here about Inspector Gamache, I like watching that, too. Have a great weekend, take care, hugs, Valerie

kathyinozarks said...

Hi Erika, Enjoy your weekend sounds fun-and Happy Birthday to your Mom.
I enjoy seeing your reading list as usually I am not familiar with any of them-thanks for sharing Happy Saturday and weekend

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Happy 29th birthday (AGAIN) to your mother. I hope she has a happy one.

I saw the review of The Thursday Murder Club on Nan's list and looked it up to see if my library carries it. Both his Murder Club books are at my library, so I am hoping they will be returned soon, so I can read them. I'm number 31 on the wait list for the first one, so it may be awhile before I get it, but I sure want to read it.

I love a good mystery and the ones you shared really piqued my interest. Hope you have a good weekend and get to spend time with your daughter and her boyfriend.

Divers and Sundry said...

If I could go to a book store I'd have started the Louise Penny series by now. I need to just go already lol

I've seen the film Double Indemnity and wonder if it's based on that book... Sounds like it from your plot description. It was a great film. I haven't read the ABC Murders but have seen a couple (or 3 maybe?) adaptations and enjoyed them.

I loved The Martian book! Project Hail Mary sounds like a book I'd like, thanks!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I forgot to mention, I have also read the ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. It's been awhile, though, so I should probably dig it out and reread it. I used to buy all my books, but once my home started to look like a library, I decided to USE the library instead (grin).

craftytrog said...

Happy birthday to your mum Erika, and I hope that you have a lovely weekend with your family at the wedding feast.
An interesting selection of mystery novels. I'm going to check out Rhys Bowen, as her book sounds like my cup of tea.
I finally finished the Sookie Stackhouse books, and now reading Camelot by Giles Kristian. I've always loved anything about King Arthur, and it's a great read. I loved his Lancelot too, discovered that book in a hotel on holiday, and cheekily brought it home with me.

Iris Flavia said...

Your words about your Mum sure made me laugh, too! Sweet. Happy 29th!
Loads of books - I am so slow and distracted too easily by... bloggers!!! ;-)

Lowcarb team member said...

Like the look of your books ...

Enjoy your weekend, and happy birthday to your Mum.

All the best Jan

Jeanie said...

I've heard of the Thursday Murder Club -- I'll have to add that to my list. The thing about the Hill novels is that some of the characters that aren't huge in one book return in another in the same role but bigger. So, even when something doesn't happen to them yet -- it might! She builds a village. I'm thrilled you like the Penny. I have that in my pile along with The Venice Sketchbook that someone sent me. I'm glad to hear it was OK. I was thinking about reading the eight books too -- I've only read a few of them!