Sunday, July 3, 2022

June Books

Hi everyone. It's the long holiday July 4th weekend here in the US.  Happy birthday USA.

It is time again for me to write my book post for last month. I like to keep track of my books, and this is how I do that. I know some of you enjoy reading book posts, so if you like reading about books as I do, read on. 

For those who ask about how I managed to read so many, it is because I always have 2 books going at once. Usually one is an actual book,  and the other is a book I am listening to. Since I wake up early during the week when my husband still gets up to go to work,  I often read for awhile. I also often read before I go to sleep at night. And now that summer has arrived, an afternoon of reading on my hammock is always nice.  Smile.

Here's my list for June. This month I mostly stayed away from vintage stories and read a few new and more recently published books.

My first listen in June was this novel which was set in Brazil and then later in Golden Age of Hollywood.

Dores and Graca are friends, although unlikely ones. Dores is an orphan who was left at the whims of the servants  and owners at a Brazilian sugar plantation to raise her. Graca is the daughter of the wealthy plantation owner. As children they became fast friends, and Dores' life became forever tied to Graca. Dores is the narrator, and the story of these women's lives is told through her eyes starting in the 1920's. Graca's dream was to become a radio singer, but in this story, the 2 women's lives went so much further than life in Brazil and being radio singers.

The Air You Breath was an easy listen, perfect  while I worked on left over chores from May. I definitely liked this book, although I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars. My negatives: In some ways the story of going from "rags" to riches and pursuing one's dream was nothing new, and I think the story could have been 3-4 hours shorter than the 18 hour listen it was.  There were a few points during the listen that I just wanted the story to move on faster than it did. 

My positives:  I enjoyed how the book was set in Brazil. I also liked the time period it was set in, which started in the 1920's and went forward until the end of Dores's life. I learned some things about  Brazil's  history, as well as about samba music and being a samba performer. The characters were well developed, and it basically did keep my attention, even at its actual length. Overall,  I'm glad I listened to it.  It was well written and an interesting story about something I was really unfamiliar with.

I finished May with a heavy duty and long novel (Passage by Connie Willis), and I wanted to start June with a lighter book. It was also Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee early in the month, so to celebrate I decided to read this biography. 

Andrew Morton has written a lot of biographies (or so I saw when looking at Amazon), and I don't read many books in this genre. This is my first book written by Morton. I enjoyed it. Basically I knew  Queen Elizabeth's and Princess Margaret's  general story,  so it was fun to add in some details I didn't know. And this book gave a view of these two lives a little different from what I had learned  based on documentaries and the Netflix series "The Crown". (Interestingly enough, Norton dispels a few points from that show and mentions them directly.) 

I also like how the book talked about the Windsor sisters as a unit. Although this book wasn't quite as light a read as I thought it might be, it wasn't a challenge. This book was perfect reading for when life was busy  and the temperatures got warm. It was broken down into small units making it easy to stop when I needed or wanted to. I noticed Morton also wrote a biography of Wallis Simpson, and that one sounds very interesting also.

A friend recommended this next book to me, and I am very glad she did. Lessons In Chemistry was a fun and unique novel. 

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist during the 1950's before becoming the host of a TV cooking show during the early 1960's. She is  a modern woman trying to live in a time when women's lives play second fiddle to those of men. Thank goodness for her stubborn personality. This book made me smile and laugh out loud. It surprised me and even made me sad in spots.  It doesn't put down men at all, but merely points out the stereotypical traits of that era. For all her frustrations with being a chemist, Elizabeth becomes a role model of what women can be if they don't let the ways of the world (and men) get to them.

This book is an easy read, and it never was boring.  For me it had lots of things I like; science, a dog,  cooking, and using science in cooking. It is also a light enough read for those summer days lounging in my hammock. I highly recommend it if you're looking for something a little bit different from the usual read and especially if you need something that reminds you of how important your dreams are.

My next listen was this novel, The Lionness, by Chris Bohjalian. I used to read this author frequently; Midwives, The Double Bind and Water Witches being  books I really liked by the author.  Then I read one I wasn't as crazy about, and I can't even remember its name or what it was about. I hadn't picked up one of this author’s books since. It's interesting how 1  book can stop you reading an author for many years. 

It was time to give the author another try, and this title sounded interesting.

It is 1964, and actress Katie Barstow is on her honeymoon in Tanzania. She  is not only there with her new husband, but a small group of relatives and friends join the newlyweds. While on a day's photography and wildlife viewing adventure in the Serengeti, the group is attacked and  most are taken hostage by a group of armed men. The suspense builds as the story progresses.

This story is at times brutal, but Bohjalian doesn't dwell on the brutal. I like how he approached it by not only telling about the characters in their present 1964, but also with flashbacks. It breaks up  the story and makes it more palatable, putting the characters into their time and place. And I kept wondering as the story progressed what was going to happen to the captives, and why they had been captured in the first place. 

This story was a 10.5 hour listen, and those hours seem to fly by. This says to me it was a good story. I enjoyed listening to it and  recommend it.

After I finished Lessons in Chemistry, my next read was this newly released non-fiction book The Rise and Reign of Mammals. To be honest, I haven't quite finished this one, but I am so close to the end that I don't think my opinion or quick synopsis of the book will change. I would have finished it if the new Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway mystery hadn't been released-smile.

 Steve Brusatte's last book, The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs, was excellent, and the next piece of the story would be to move onto mammals. 

I never had time to take a mammology course during my undergrad degree decades ago, and I remembered a few things from other classes, but definitely not the detail found in this book. I loved it. The first part of the book takes the reader through the pre-mammal species that lead us to mammals, and then the book talks about mammals. After visiting a couple of museums while traveling (the Mammoth Museum in South Dakota and LaBrea Tar Pits in LA) during the last several years, it was great to learn more about these extinct animals. And it was also great to learn more about our history as a group of living organisms. 

Although this book is not written as a scientific journal or thesis, it still required a bit of focused reading. That made reading it before bed tough to do. It also meant I didn’t get the book read quite as quickly as I thought I might. But those are not negatives about the book; I wouldn't want it to be any lighter. I highly recommend this book if you like science/animal/biology writing. I know this book might not be many people's "animal" (smile), but I  very much enjoy it. I even took notes. Oh my, what a geek I am. 

Back in April I listened to book 1 of this private eye-mystery series by Spencer Quinn. Dog On It was the title of  book one.  During June I listened to book 2, where the adventures of Bernie the private investigator and Chet his dog continue.

This series is told through the eyes of Chet, a canine school flunk out who really is the smartest dog. And just like book 1, Chet is funny. I laughed a lot, and I really enjoyed the mystery story too. I don't know how dogs really think but the way Chet is portrayed is how I hope dogs think. This time Princess, a tiny world class show dog goes missing along with her owner, and even though Bernie is at first fired from the job thanks to Chet, he needs to find the kidnappers/dognappers with the help of Chet.

And of course there are all kinds of complicated twists and some "characters" also. The story might make you think you have it figured out,  but nothing is ever quite as it seems.  As I said last month, maybe this is not the series for cat lovers, but it is a highly recommended light and fun read for dog people for certain.

This book was released at the very end of June, and since I really enjoy this mystery series, I had to put aside (for a little bit) The Rise and Reign of Mammals to read this book. Luckily these mysteries are not hard to read so I was able to finish it by the time of this post.

The pandemic has just begun in 2020. Although there are several women who look like they have committed suicide, the King's Lynn investigators have reason to believe these women have been murdered. There has also been a body discovered outside of a church yard that is generally believed to be from the bubonic plague that ravaged the area hundreds of years earlier.  Some people believe it is the body of The Grey Lady, a supposed ghost who haunts the area.

It is fun to go back to these characters-Ruth, Nelson, Kate, Cathbad, Judy, Tanya and all the others to follow along with their lives. I probably could have used a few less reminders of the early 2020 lock down, but it makes for an interesting turn of events. Without trying to give too much away, covid has changed the dynamics of everyone's life. We also meet a few new characters; including Ruth's new neighbor, which keeps the story from getting too stale.

Griffiths writes a great mystery story with many twists and turns,  some quite unexpected. In some ways the pandemic lock down takes up a little too much of this story, as mentioned,  but the author does do a great job of bringing home life and police work during the early days of the pandemic.  Hopefully in the next volume of this series, Ruth's archaeological life will allow her to do more actual field work, as I missed that in this story. This is a recommended read, but since each book builds upon the last, only if you have been following this series.  And if you haven't been following the series, then I do suggest you find book 1 to read. Smile.

And my last book for the month was one I picked up and read a chapter here and there when the mood struck me.

When I was cleaning out and returning items to the new art space, I came across this book, The Technique of Water-Color Painting, in my books for cutting up pile. I had put it there as there were some interesting color plates in it.  I remember pulling it off my parents'book shelves when my brother and I cleaned up my Mom's house after she moved into assisted living. At that time I didn't really think much about it.

As I was deciding what to keep and toss out this time, I thought, I should read this book. It is an old (copyright 1926 although renewed several times) textbook on watercolor painting. And then I noticed my father's name in his distinct penmanship on the inside cover. That made my heart melt, and I decided I was going to read the book. Did my Dad actually ever have an interest in watercolor painting, or was it a college textbook from the very short time he was in college before being drafted during World War 2? (Sadly, I will probably  never find the answer to that question.)

Because this is an old book, it isn't set up in the colorful, eye catching way newer books are, but it still contains some great information, and I learned a lot reading it.

Those are my June books. I just did a count of my books since January and was shocked to find out I am at 47 so far this year. Wow. 
As always, I love a good recommendation.
I hope your weekend and the new month are going well. And if you celebrate July 4th, I hope you have a nice celebration.


kathyinozarks said...

Good morning, you always share such interesting monthly books-I will be checking out a few of them.
What an absolute treasure to find your father's handwriting in the watercolor book. Is there an author to this book? I was searching online for this one and nothing came up
Happy 4th of July weekend Hugs

Iris Flavia said...

Oh, why, thank you Erika. As if I don´t have enough books in the pipeline! Just ordered Lessons in Chemistry on my kindle.
I admit, I just "overflew" the others, this post was way too dangerous for me! ;-)
Have a happy day and hugs from here.

CJ Kennedy said...

Again, quite an eclectic read. How wonderful for you to get a message from your dad in the watercolor book. Today might be another good day to lie in the hammock and read.

craftytrog said...

An interesting selection of books Erika!
Although I still love a physical book, since joining our online library, I'm reading around 3 novels a week. Probably the reason why I'm not making as much art as I used too! Lol!

Iris Flavia said...

Just wanted to let you know: I enjoy the book immensly! Thank you for the review, a man CAN do a lunch for his kid!!!
Ingo did (and I´m not a kid).

DVArtist said...

Wow this is quite an assortment of reading. Thank you for sharing your views. Have a great day.

Divers and Sundry said...

Quite a variety! I used to read more but seem to have put movie-watching in the time slots I used to read during. Hmmm...

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

You read more books in a month than I do in five years. The mysteries sound good, but I wish you had dwelled a bit more on the Queen and Margaret. I would like the dinosaur book, too.

NGS said...

I really enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry, but I think I missed the memo on "fun" on that one! There are a lot of graphic scenes of violence and heavy issues in it and the cartoon-y cover is a bit misleading, so I feel like it's important to point out to people that the book is not all fun and game!

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Jeanie said...

The watercolor book and the story melts my heart. I'd love to see that one -- the cover is terrific. And I didn't know the new Ruth is in paper. Next amazon order. And I might have to add the Andrew Morton to that too. I'm fascinated by them and even when you know a lot -- you still get a different take.Love your book reviews!

Aimeslee Winans said...

Wow, you are doing good. The last year I read with purpose, I met a goal of 50. So 43 halfway is awesome! Your dad's book made me think about all of my dad's books we had to throw away because no one would come pick them up and we didn't have time to take them. I would have loved to have kept more than I did, so treasure that one! xoxo

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

WOW, Erika, you certainly have me and I'm sure many others "beat" in the book reading totals so fr this year. I am just shy of 25 reads, and I enjoyed your synopsis of your most recent ones. It's been awhile since I've posted any good reads of my own. My trend has been for historical fiction or a good mystery. Here's a few of my recent reads. I enjoyed all of them and you might enjoy a few of these:

The Personal Librarian - Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray
Finding Me - Viola Davis
The Magnolia Palace - Fiona Davis
Nine Lives - Peter Swanson
The Forgotten Room - Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
The House on Tradd Street - Karen White
Metropolis - B.A. Shapiro
The Summers of Newport - Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White
The Second Mrs Astor - Shana Abe

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