Friday, March 4, 2022

My February Book Post

Hi everyone.  Happy Friday. 

February flew by, and it is already March so it's time for my next monthly book post. This post is about my February reads and listens. I usually have one actual book I'm reading and one book I'm listening to going on at the same time. Sometimes I even juggle 2 actual books, but never more than 1 listen.  With one book and one listen, I can get through a lot of books during a month. 

Here's my February book list.

 My last listen in January was the book Giant by Edna Ferber.  That book was set on the Texas plains starting in the 1920's. Coincidentally, my book club book (for our early March meeting) was this 2021 novel by Kristen Hannah, The Four Winds.  It is set in same time period as Giant.  This time instead of cattle ranching and drilling for oil, this story focuses in on life on a Texas farm in the 1920's and into  the Dust Bowl in the 1930's. One thing I liked was how this listen made a great follow up to the Ferber book.

Elsa Wolcott is  a very sheltered "old maid" of the whopping old age of 25 when she meets teenager Raphael Martinelli.  When they end up married, Elsa's life changes, and she becomes attached to the land. The Depression and the Dust Bowl  have hit the family hard, as have Elsa's feelings of never having been really loved for who she is.  This book takes you through the family's struggles and resilience as life gets more and more difficult. The descriptions of the dust storms and the devastation made me realize why so many people packed up what they had and left for the west coast, which is what happens in this story. 

I've seen Ken Burn's Dust Bowl Documentary, and it was definitely  not an easy time  or place to live. This book really brought it home though, as I became involved with the characters.  I enjoyed this book, and I definitely recommend it if you like historical fiction.

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji was first published in Japan in 1987 and was first published in English in 2017. I learned about this book from Jeanie at the Marmalade Gypsy blog, and I enjoyed the read. (Thanks Jeanie.)

Some of K-University's Mystery Club members have gone to spend a week on a deserted island where 4 people are known to have been murdered. As those murders have never been solved, these Mystery Club members hope use their own detective skills to gain some insight. However, that is not what happens. 

 The book goes back and forth between the island's Mystery Club visitors and  some amateur sleuths on the mainland. Those sleuths on the mainland are trying to solve the question who sent some anonymous letters that also deal with the island's  murders.  Add to that there are new deaths. This novel, a takeoff of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None story, is an enjoyable and a bit of a suspenseful read. Although there were a few things that I questioned about the ending, there is an interesting twist that wraps up the story nicely.  

You are probably familiar with the story of Anne Frank and the diary she wrote while in hiding during World War 2. 

This book, The Betrayal of Anne Frank,  is written by award winning Canadian biographer Rosemary Sullivan. This is the story of an investigation that began in the Netherlands in 2016 to answer one of the last remaining questions about the Frank family, as well as the other people who went into hiding with them. Eight people managed to stay hidden in an annex in Amsterdam for 25 months during the Second World War. The question that still needed an answer was who turned them in to the Nazi's. That betrayal lead to them being captured and sent to concentration camps.

I saw a segment about this investigation on 60 Minutes .  (For those unfamiliar with this show, 60 Minutes is an American news TV show.) After watching this segment and finding out there was a book about this investigation, I decided this would be probably be a very interesting read.  Part one of the book talks about the Frank family, and what became of the father Otto after the war, as he was the only one to survive. Part two takes you into the investigation,  lead by a retired FBI agent (American) Vince Pankoke. Pankoke did not start the investigation, but the role was offered to him by the Dutch team who had been working on it when they realized they needed someone with experience handling big investigations.

This book is not so much a "who done it" mystery, but it  follows the steps of a real life detective  to come up with an answer to a very real question. Although there were a lot of names to try to keep track of, most of those ended up being dead end leads. It was a fascinating story.  I also learned a lot about life in Amsterdam during the Second World War, as well as how people tried to survive under Nazi rule. 

For my next book, I wanted a light listen, so I chose Cooking For Picasso by Camille Aubray.  I'm not sure if it was really as light a story as I expected it to be, but it was an enjoyable listen. I also liked it as it was different from my usual fiction read. I even learned a few things about Picasso too.  This novel is partially based on an interlude in Picasso's life he spent in the Cote D'Azur in southern France, even though Picasso was not a main character in this story. 

This books jumps back and forth between the past, starting in 1936, and the present.  In 1936 we meet a young Ondine who cooks and delivers lunch to Picasso.   The fact that Picasso lived in this area during that time was  the springboard (the author's words) for this fictional story. The other part of the book that jumps ahead to present day is about Ondine's granddaughter, Celine. 

Celine finds out her grandmother's connection with Picasso, and she if off to discover more, including a trip back to France to take a cooking class. A lot of reviews said that you shouldn't read this book if you are hungry with all the food references. I agreed there were lots of food references, but I didn't find the food described enough to make me want to rush out and eat. They were necessary to this story however as it wove its way through these women's  lives. The lesson behind this book (for me) is that you might never know the secrets of your family's the past, but then again, you might be surprised.

The other mystery I read (or I should say reread) this month was book 4 of the Amelia Peabody series. The Lion in the Valley sees Amelia Peabody, her husband Emerson, their 8 years son Rames and well as Bastet their cat back on another archaeological dig in Egypt during the winter of 1895-1896.  Of course, murder, mayhem and even some romantic suspense follows them, in the most enjoyable way. Amelia is a one of kind lady. 

I listened to books 1-3, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, as I don't  have these actual books any longer. I did happen to have this book (#4 in the series), so I couldn't seeing using a credit to buy the book. However, the narrator did such a fantastic job  with her voices in the other volumes that I pretended it was her voice in my head as I read. Ha-ha. I guess you can say I really love a good narrator reading to me.

As I haven't visited with Amelia since last May, this book was a really enjoyable way to spend some time, and I can recommend this series if you haven't discovered it.

(And look Iris, if you're reading this, there's even a Henry on the cover.)

My final listen for the month was this book by Deborah Cadbury about some of Queen Victoria's grandchildren.  Queen Victoria had 9 children, 42 grandchildren, and as I found out doing some internet research, a lot of great, great-great, and presently, all the way up to 6 greats before the word grandchildren, leaving a total of 1238 descents in total. There are over 900 of them still alive.   (Fun facts: The descendant that lived the longest (to date) was Prince Philip, followed by the still living Queen Elizabeth, both of whom are great-great grandchildren.)  

The Queen's husband, Prince Albert, believed that by marrying off their children to various dynasties in Europe, a new progressive and modern order could be achieved that would stop all the in-fighting between European nations. 

That of course didn't end up working, but the Queen did marrying off, or I should say help broker or influence many of the marriages of her grandchildren to various European dynasties. That's not to say she always got her way. This book doesn't talk about all of her grandchildren, but it is a fascinating look into a few of the major ruling marriages. Even though I've read/listened to a few books about this Queen and her family, there was still new things to learn from this book.  I enjoyed it very much.

Those are my books for February.  It was a good month book wise for me. Did you read anything good to recommend? 

Have a great weekend. 



Iris Flavia said...

Wow, that a lot - I still struggle with my one book!

Anne (cornucopia) said...

Happy Birthday! (And those look like good books.)

kathyinozarks said...

Good morning, another great list of books-I am really behind in my reading-I am still working on the 6 book series Into the Wilderness by Donati which are really good.
Happy Birthday Erika

Valerie-Jael said...

Great list of books. I always liked the Amelia Peabody stories, she's a great character. And happy birthday, have a wonderful day! Big hugs, Valerie

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Readers are my favourite people, Erika, so please march right up to the head of the line. I am still old-fashioned (traditionalist sounds better) inasmuch as I still only read actual books. My wife is a dedicated downloader of eBooks from the library and listens to audio books while she is sewing. The book at my side right now is "Peter Scott, The Happy Man", a series of essays by the great ornithologist, artist and conservationist, son of Robert Falcon Scott of Antarctic fame. It was published in 1967 and encapsulates some of his work up until then. I find it fascinating and I am enjoying the archaic English, and admiring much of the style that has since fallen into disuse. A friend gave me the book. It had been her father's and he had even clipped the obituary for Peter Scott from the newspaper and it is tucked into the front of the book. It is in a box, a boxed set of one so to speak, with a fold out panel of one of his paintings. In addition to the sheer delight derived from reading it, I am quite thrilled by the presentation and it will occupy a place of honour on my shelves. So much pleasure from a simple book! Hugs from Ontario. David

Jeanie said...

Well, I've got to get that Queen Victoria book! I'm reading the Anne Frank book right now and it's fascinating. I am learning so much about the Netherlands during the war (much of which is very surprising to me) and the process itself is fascinating. I saw that 60 Minutes segment too -- and I was "in." I've always been very intrigued by her story. I've also read Cooking for Picasso (and just took it to the resale as no one I know wanted to borrow it!). It's very good, and as you know, I liked Decagon. The "Amelia" series sounds fun and I've always enjoyed Kristin Hannah. What a great bunch of books this month, Erika!

Mae Travels said...

Happy birthday! Jeanie inspired me to read the Decagon Murders also — and then I read the Agatha Christie original. Very complicated plots make both stories intriguing to read, though I liked the original version better than the knock-off.

I’ve heard that there is a lot of criticism of the new investigation of Anne Frank’s betrayal. Maybe it’s more of an effort at self-publicizing than a legit discovery.

best… mae at

Divers and Sundry said...

Happy Birthday!

You read so much more than I do. I used to read for hours every day but the movie-watching has derailed that habit.

CJ Kennedy said...

Quite an eclectic selection of books. I saw the 60 Minutes episode about Anne Frank. Looking good for a nice weekend. Enjoy the sunshine!

CJ Kennedy said...

Happy Birthday! 💐🎂

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

You are certainly a prolific reader, Erika, much more than myself since I can only handle one book at a time and so admire those who can manage more. I wasn't familiar with any of the ones you mentioned in this post, but the one about Queen Victoria would capture my interest. My reads are generally fiction, but I did recently finish Vanderbilt by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe and that lead me to read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, also by Ms. Howe. In the past, I have also included book reviews on my boook, but haven't done so in quite awhile. That said, I do appreciate reading about what others have read and their comments, so thanks.

Lowcarb team member said...

Happy Birthday.

Many thanks for sharing your book reads here, a good selection indeed.

Have a great weekend.

All the best Jan

Sharon Madson said...

A little birdie told me it was your birthday. Happy Birthday, Erika!
Good post. I have read a couple of the books you mentioned. I hope your birthday was great!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Happy birthday, Erika. I meant to get by sooner, but laundry and life got in the way today. I hope your birthday was great.

The Queen Victoria book sounds fascinating, but I always love a good mystery. The Lion in the Valley sounds like an fun read. What great books you found to read or listen to.

Thanks for sharing your monthly read and I hope your birthday was fabulous.

craftytrog said...

A good selection Erika. I'm reading the latest Diana Gabaldon Outlander book at present. 💙

LA Paylor said...

oh my book! Erika you've given me many choices. First of all I listen to books in studio time, and read one at night ebooks, before bed. Picasso will be my first, but then the japanese murder club is next. A while back I tried to read all the E Peter's books in order and got lost!!! I really loved her style of mystery but haven't thought about her for years. Thanks for the perfect synopsis and reviews to tell me if I want to follow up! I also read a great variety of styles. At the moment in studio I'm listening (and guffawing) at Guncle on audio...

EricaSta said...

First ... Sending you smiles for every moment of your special day. Have a fantastisc time and a very Happy Birthday! 🎂🥂🍾 And yes, I love books too. There are very interesting books here in your Post. Especially the cook book. I select them by the way.

Hugs, Heidrun

Aimeslee Winans said...

Fabulous reading list! They all sound interesting for sure. I've made a note of The Four Winds. I read Timothy Egan's 2006 book The Worst Hard Time (which Ken Burn's documentary is LARGELY based on, that's how he does them, picks the best book he can on subject) when it first came out and I highly recommend you read it if that time fascinates you as it does me. I also just read a lengthy investigative article on that Anne Frank betrayal, another fascinating topic! I'm thinking my dad would like the mystery book club thang, if he hadn't already read it before he died in 2019. And oh Lawd, Queen Victoria. Her son Bertie was a real piece of work. She should have been ashamed to have sired that one. She probably was, she was always convinced that his antics caused Prince Albert to be so angry it killed him.

Well, dear Erika, that brings me current for now. Sure did enjoy "our" visit! Have a good Sunday! xoxo

Shari Burke said...

You have reminded me that I wanted to get back to Elizabeth Peters! She was recommended to me several times so I requested the first book from the library a few years ago. I enjoyed it and planned to read on, but then we moved and shortly thereafter, the plague arrived and we were in lockdown with the library closed. I need to request the next one now.

The only Kristen Hannah I read was The Great Alone--having lived in Alaska myself, some of it was familiar.

When we first arrived in Ireland, the library had a biography of Princess Louise. She seemed like an interesting person.

Anyway, looks like lots of good books in February. Now we read into March! :-)