Happy Monday! What are you reading?

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so it’s time for an update! I’m still working on my Read Your Shelf challenge, trying to finish some of the books I own before acquiring any more. So far I have avoided the library for a month, but I did but a couple on Kindle.

This weekend I finished In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton. Here’s the synopsis.

On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact; close to 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained undetected by the navy for nearly four days and nights. Battered by a savage sea, they struggled to stay alive, fighting off sharks, hypothermia, and dementia. The captain’s subsequent court-martial left many questions unanswered: How did the navy fail to realize the Indianapolis was missing? And perhaps most amazing of all, how did these 317 men manage to survive? 

If you like survival stories, this one is really good. It’s headed to the used bookstore now.

I am also listening to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. It’s okay, but I really liked A Man Called Ove better.

I’m reading Dominion, Book 4 in the Awaken Online series by Travis Bagwell. I’ve mentioned his series on here before. I also just started A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson, a detective mystery. What are you reading? Let me know in the comments.

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Syria’s Secret Library: a Review

I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My thoughts remain my own.

Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Small Town Under Siege by Mike Thomson

Book description:

The remarkable, improbable story of a small, makeshift library in the Syrian town of Darayya, and the people who found hope and humanity in its books during the four-year siege they endured.


My thoughts:

It’s hard to decide what would be the most critical item to have on hand if your city was under siege. Food, medicine, clean water? How about books? I bet you didn’t even think about books. For Darayya, a town right in the middle of Syria’s civil war, books were the thing that kept people going.

Some remarkable young men decided to save as many books as they could, gathering them from abandoned buildings, digging through rubble, even under the bombing. They did this to create a hidden library where anyone could come and escape into another world.
When the library became a hit, they started offering classes on reading, lessons in Engliah, and lectures on many subjects.

I found the story fascinating, but it was frustrating at times. It’s not organized well. They author skips from subject to subject. Sometimes the quotes are well used to illustrate a point, but often they’re just stuck in there and they go on too long.

It’s a sobering reflection on modern warfare. It makes me angry that the world stood by and did nothing. Now the flow of refugees is a crisis, but with timely intervention, perhaps it could have been avoided. Read this one not for the writing, but for the story of these brave individuals.

Vacation pictures!

Our vacation got off to a rocky start. I was in a fender bender the day before we were supposed to leave! This 16 year old hit me and of course I was in my husband’s new-to-him car. I spent the next day at the doctor’s and in bed, but we finally left Saturday.

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And this where we wound up! Gorgeous, right?! Just 3 days to relax, hang with the fam, and of course, read.

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This is our cabin. It was small, but not as bad as I thought it would be. Fortunately the heater worked great. It was very cold at night. But that made building a campfire even more fun.

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We were there with my son and his wife, my sister and her son. I didn’t get any pictures of them though! They went out on the lake – in a rented paddle boat – but I mostly read and rested. We played Uno too.
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And there’s me any my sweetie! Hope your summer is great too!

The End of the Beginning: a Review

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I received this book from Net Galley for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My thoughts remain my own.

The End of the Beginning: Cancer, Immunity, and the Future of a Cure by Michael Kinch

My thoughts:

Cancer is a frightening word. Even with all the advancements in early diagnosis, screenings tests, and chemotherapy, it’s still a word that no one wants to hear. My dad died of advanced cancer 9 years ago. They couldn’t even tell where it has started and it was too late to matter. He died a week later.

So if you hand me a book about what’s next in the treatment of the disease, I will definitely read it. This book, however, really exceeded my expectations. There’s so much in here, from what cancer is exactly and how humans came to understand the disease to how we began to fight it.

It’s incredibly rich and detailed. I wouldn’t call it an easy read. It’s full of names and scientific concepts you will never have heard of. But it was fascinating stuff. And for all the assumptions that people have about the disease, I came away from the book feeling quite positive about the future. So many brilliant researchers are working on so many different treatments. One way or another, humans are going to beat this disease.

Encore Review: The Face of a Stranger

This review appeared earlier and is reprinted here.

The Face of a Stranger (William Monk #1) by Anne Perry

Book description:

His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective. But the accident that felled him has left him with only half a life; his memory and his entire past have vanished. As he tries to hide the truth, Monk returns to work and is assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a Crimean War hero and man about town. Which makes Monk’s efforts doubly difficult, since he’s forgotten his professional skills along with everything else…

My thoughts:

Now I remember why I don’t read Anne Perry anymore. I don’t really like her writing. This book sounded like a change from her Thomas/Charlotte Pitt series, which I did enjoy at one time. I just got a little tired of reading about the seamy side of Victorian life, and she explored deviance in all its forms, the worst crimes she could imagine, and on and on and on. There wasn’t much to smile about in her books, ever. But this is about a different character, so it was possible that it would be enjoyable.

Nope.

This is a classic example of how NOT to write a mystery, IMO. It starts with Detective William Monk awaking in a hospital to find that he is very weak, injured, and that he doesn’t remember anything at all, even his name or how he got there. He returns home and searches for clues all over his flat to find anything that will help trigger a memory. When nothing helps, he goes to visit his sister. On his return to London, he gets sent to investigate a crime that occurred the same night he had his accident, the murder of a popular gentleman with a titled family. Someone beat Joscelin Gray to death.

So far, it could have been a good book. We’ve got both the mystery of Monk’s past and the mystery of murder. But the writing was so darn bad that I really couldn’t finish the book. I was listening to it, which means that it took stinking forever to finish, so I finally gave up and got a paper copy at the library so I could skim through to the end.

The main thing that turned me off was the way the writer stuck interior monologue in the middle of PRACTICALLY EVERY CONVERSATION! So Monk is questioning someone, and then randomly thinks, “I wonder what kind of man I was before my accident. I wonder if I liked music. Did I have a girlfriend? Did I like pie? Why can’t I remember?” and on, and on, and on, while the actual conversation just sort of hangs there until Monk comes to his senses and starts paying attention again.

And the other main character, Hester Latterly, does the same thing. She’ll be listening to some discussion of the Crimean war and have a flashback to her service there as a nurse and we’ll get a page of her reminiscences. I know we all do that from time to time, let our minds wander now and then, but it’s really super boring to listen to! Even reading it was bad enough, but at least then I could skip ahead a couple of paragraphs.

I know that this series, and her other one, have some fans, but I am not reading anymore by this author. One series is too dark, and this one is too dumb. The writing itself is not very good and the style is extremely irritating. 1 star.

Vacation Books!

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Photo by Eneida Nieves on Pexels.com

We’ve got our family vacation this weekend at a little, relaxing cabin in the woods! My sister is planning on going on a paddleboat, hiking with her dogs, watching movies on her tablet. I’m going to read. All right, I might do the paddleboat too, if it’s not too long a ride and I’m not feeling too sore. But I am so excited to get away from everything and dig into my TBR.

It’s not like I don’t read a lot at home. It’s just that at home, I’m always interrupted by having to drive someone here or there, buy groceries, make dinner, whatever. Sometime I do it to myself by staying on the Xbox until it’s too late to read and I have to get up in the morning. But up in the mountains, there’s no wi-fi, there’s no schedule, I can just relax. And that means read. 8) I’ve already loaded up my tablet with everything I want to get to, so I thought I would share my list here.

I went to Overdrive and checked out some ebooks. Here’s what I borrowed:

The Girl with the Ghost Eyes by M H Boroson

Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay

Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer

From A Certain Point of View (Star Wars) edited by Renee Adieh

From Kindle Unlimited I got:

Between Frames by W R Gingell

Apprentice of Magic by K M Shea

Awaken Online: Dominion by Travis Bagwell

And from my ebook library I have:

Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C S Forester

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Genius Plague by David Walton

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde


I know you might be thinking, “Come on, I know you’re Speedy Reader, but seriously, how long are you going to be gone? That’s a lot of books!” And you’re absolutely right. There’s no way I will get through all these books. I probably won’t even finish half of them. But it’s all about options. After all, if I start a book and don’t like it, it’s not like I can go to the other room and grab a different book. I want to be prepared. Besides, if I ran out of books, I might have to go outside and do something, and that’s just not happening.

I am going to schedule a post for when I’m gone, but when I get back, I’ll let you know how I did on this list, what I liked and what I didn’t. Until next week, happy reading!

My Top 10 Mysteries

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. The prompt for this week was Top 10 books from your favorite genre. According to Goodreads, Mystery is my biggest shelf – by far. It was hard to come up with my 10 favorites – I have 2000+ that I’ve rated – but here are 10 that I love to reread. I’m going to force myself to choose just one from each author, but it’s so hard!

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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie This one is not the first Hercule Poirot – that one is The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It’s not the most famous – Murder on the Orient Express wins that title. But for some reason, I think it’s my favorite.  It’s clever, occasionally funny, and plays fair with the reader. The cover could be better, but it does hint at what’s going on in the plot.

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In the Best Families by Rex Stout This series has sort of fallen out of fashion. I think that’s a shame, as it features two of the most memorable characters in mystery – Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. This is definitely not the place to start if you want to try it out – I’d suggest starting at the beginning with Fer-de-Lance – but this is where it all culminates into the most suspenseful and shocking climax.

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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King I’m going to be controversial here and say that I actually prefer King’s version of Sherlock Holmes to the original. I know, heresy! But this is an older, more mellow version of the sleuth and the writing is – sorry, Sir Arthur – much, much better. The series declines as it goes on, but the first 3-4 were just perfect, and this cover is my favorite.

Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh Another author who is frequently forgotten by modern writers. I will admit that her treatment of queer characters is problematic. But most mystery writers of the era didn’t even admit that they existed. This book is a Stately Home murder with our handsome copper Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn on the scene.

Miss Seeton Sings by Heron Carvic This series might be unique in that it had 3 different authors, each of whom kept the characters in the original. Carvic created the character and his version is both funny and biting. Miss Seeton herself is an elderly retired art teach who just keeps blundering into the most appalling crimes and stirring things up, but all without realizing what’s going on.

A Late Phoenix by Catherine Aird Set in a fictional county in England, this series features a hardworking inspector, his clueless constable, and in this book, some nasty secrets dating back to World War II. Aird had to juggle the timeline around in later books to keep up with publication, but in this one, her characters are old enough to remember the war and the chaos it caused.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly Set in pre-Civil War New Orleans, everything in this series is shaped by race. The main character, Ben January, is Black. So is the victim. That means that the White police are going to hush things up as soon as possible. But Ben refuses to allow that to happen. So much history in here, and none of it pretty.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander This series is not very long – the author died after book 5 – but I enjoyed it so much it still makes the list. This is the first in the series about historical figure Sir John Fielding, a 18th century criminal court judge and founder of London’s first police force.

Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews As a Southern woman with a large extended family, I can neither confirm nor deny that this is what we are like. My family weddings never involved Spanish moss, peacocks, or murder. But murder isn’t off the table, that’s all I’m saying.

The Thin Woman by Dorothy Gilman Another great comic mystery series. Ellie Haskell is just trying to get through a family reunion when she hires a male escort to pose as her fiance. Then the aged relative dies and leaves them an inheritance – jointly. Now they’ll have to figure out how to live together before someone kills them both.


Did I tempt you with any of these favorites? What was on your list? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave a link to your list. Happy reading!

 

Book Quote

I know I just did one of these, but this paragraph blew my mind! I had to share it.

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Eight day old human embryo , courtesy of New Scientist

“Energy and life go hand in hand. If you stop breathing, you will not be able to generate the energy you need for staying alive and you’ll be dead in a few minutes. Keep breathing. Now the oxygen in your breath is being transported to virtually every one of the 15 trillion cells in your body, where it is used to burn glucose in cellular respiration. You are a fantastically energetic machine. Gram per gram, even when sitting comfortably, you are converting 10 000 times more energy than the sun every second.

Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane

More about this book from the publisher:

Mitochondria are pivotal in power, sex, and suicide. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest research findings in this exciting field to show how our growing understanding of mitochondria is shedding light on how complex life evolved, why sex arose (why don’t we just bud?), and why we age and die. This understanding is of fundamental importance, both in understanding how we and all other complex life came to be, but also in order to be able to control our own illnesses, and delay our degeneration and death. 

May Reading Wrap Up

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Hello readers! May is over so I thought I would do a wrap up of my reading month. It looks like it was a pretty good month, so let me get started.

Let me start with the bad, and work up to the good!

Books I DNF’d

The Christie Curse (Book Collector #1) by Victoria Abbott – I remembered why I don’t like modern cozy mysteries.

The Missing Guests of the Magic Grove Hotel (Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency #2) by David Casarett – just lost interest. It made me hungry though!

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis – flipped through a few pages, got the general idea.

Crossed Out by Kim Baccellia – didn’t realize it was a YA paranormal, didn’t fit for me.

The Invisible Hand (The Cost of Freedom #3) by Chris Northern – I loved the previous books in this series. What happened?

Not a bad amount, although it felt like there were more. There were a few books I read a few pages of and then decided I wasn’t in the mood to finish, so I decided to try later, but I’m not going to list them.


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Audiobooks

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place (Flavia de Luce #9) by Alan Bradley. Fun, but not his best. 2.75 stars

Captain’s Fury (Codex Alera #4)  by Jim Butcher. Still like the characters, but the writing is started to bug me. 3.5 stars

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Dense, highly technical writing made relevant with personal stories. Mind blowing stuff. 5 stars

I’m kind of surprised the number is so low. What was I listening to? Did I just forget to track it? I don’t know.


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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Books I read

Red Sister and Gray Sister (Books of the Ancestor 1 & 2) by Mark Lawrence. Freaking awesome! 5 stars each.

The Black Lung Captain (Tales of the Ketty Jay #2) by Chris Wooding. Lots of fun and I *loved* the ending. 4.5 stars

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America, edited by Ibi Zoboi. Not a bad story in here. 4 stars

Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards. Reviewed here.

The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home. Promising series debut set in Scotland. 4 stars

Murder in Little Shendon by A H Henderson. Also a mystery debut, set in mid-20th century England. 4 stars

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Totally original teen dystopia by Australia writer. 5 stars

Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Conteur. Why chemistry matters! 5 stars

A Bone of Contention: The Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Matthew Gregory. Medieval mystery set in Oxford. 4 stars.


Longest book read: The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, 592 pages

On my TBR the longest: Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny Le Conteur, since Feb 2012

Most disappointing: The Invisible Hand by Chris Northern. Went from a military fantasy fighting necromancers in book 1 to economic theory in book 3. Yawn.

Epic Awesome: Red Sister and Gray Sister by Mark Lawrence. You need to read these!

Coziest comfort read: Resorting to Murder. Perfect for a day sick in bed.


Like I said, a really good month! This month I’m hoping to stick to more of my own books, and not borrow from the library. I have so many physical book around here I would like to read. But I don’t make a specific TBR for each month. How was your reading in May? Let me know in the comments or post a link to your list. Happy reading!

Book Quote

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“Princess-Archdivine Llewen kin Stagthorne was now a slight, shrewd woman of sixty, who had carried out her duties to the Temple in this pocket palatine realm with the firm hand of a frugal housewife for some thirty years. As Penric knocked at the door to her private cabinet, one floor down from his own and adjacent to her chancellery, and was bade to enter, he found her dressed in the five-colored holy robes of her Temple office. Presumably she’d been caught either on the way to or from some ceremonial task. She was flanked as usual by her secretary, a woman of like age—and shrewdness—in the silks and linen and fine woolens appropriate to the palace precincts.”

From Penric and the Shaman, Book 2 in the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold