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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

AudioFile's Best Books of 2020

Road warriors have long loved the audio book, a wonderful innovation that makes miles in a car, train, or plane, fly quickly by. Although 2020 curbed travel, having a book read to you is still soothing whether you are riding a stationary bike, puttering around the house, or taking an extended dog walk. 

For audiobook fans, here is a link to AudioFile's list of the best audiobooks of 2020. Check it out!

Approaching noon in the Coronado National Forest.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Week That Was - November 2020

 It has been quite a week.

Based on all that has happened, and all that is to come, now is a good time to re-read a profile of Stacey Abrams which appeared in The New Yorker in August, 2019

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Friday, October 16, 2020

New Book in November from David Sedaris Because We All Need a Laugh


A new book from humorist David Sedaris is coming out in November. The Best of Me is, as the title implies, a collection of previously released material. Because Sedaris is so very funny, and considering all that is going on in the world, this type of collection simply screams 'potential holiday gift', so check your shopping list, folks. We need more smart and funny in this world. Let's support it where we find it.

Last spring I read his 2019 book Calypso and really enjoyed it. Many of the essays in Calypso focus on the author's family and life with his partner. Because this is not a book by Emma Bombeck  (remember her?), some of these essays address the sorrows of life and the reader is shown a great deal about tough, personal topics. 

Yet these difficult personal essays are interesting to read because the events within are shown to us with the honesty mixed with wit, style, and singular voice that is the magic of Sedaris. There is also enjoyable silliness (his Fitbit obsession) and some juvenile matters concerning swearing and, ahem, the stomach flu. Quite the mix of stuff and great to read. Highly recommend checking out Calypso.

As always, links to Amazon are provided for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate, I may receive a small commission if, after clicking a link, you subsequently make a purchase. Muchas gracias, amigos. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

New Book from Tana French


A new book from Tana French was released this month, The Searcher.  According to the book's page on Amazon, it is currently a #1 Best Seller in Witch and Wizard Thrillers. I have no idea why that is the case; and whether or not that is a recommendation is up to you, my friends.

I am a fan of the six books in French's Dublin murder squad series, crime novels featuring  a loosely connected set of Irish detectives. Her seventh book, The Witch Elm  (well-off young man's life in downward spiral) is not part of that series. 

I didn't really enjoy The Witch Elm, although everyone else apparently did as it was a New York Times Notable book in 2018 and an NPR Best Book of 2018. For me, the story was too creepy without being engaging; does that make sense?

Although The Witch Elm didn't tick my boxes for a good read, I plan to read The SearcherThe Searcher, according to the publisher's web site, is about a retired Chicago police officer who lives in Ireland. When a local boy goes missing, he gets drawn into investigating. What could possibly go wrong?

As always, links to Amazon are provided for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate, I may receive a small commission if, after clicking a link, you subsequently make a purchase. Muchas gracias, amigos. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Currently Reading: Novels, Mysteries and Short Stories

So much has happened in the world since my last post. I don't know about you, but for me it has been tough to find time for reading when there is so much going on with respect to the future of our country. In fact, the fly on VP Mike Pence's head at this past week's debate had a greater attention span than I have had for books recently.

Nonetheless, in tough times a good book provides a welcome space for relaxation, escape, and entertainment, so I have been doing some reading. Below is a quick look at a few of the books I've read in the past few weeks and months. Let me know in the comments if there are any particular books you recommend.

Yee Haw! The Recently-Read Round-Up 

Deep Dive (Sam Acquillo Mysteries Book 9) by  Chris Knopf 
Snap Review: Love it.

I'm a huge fan of Chris Knopf and his series featuring Sam Acquillo is my favorite. In this episode, a suspicious death occurs at the home of Sam's wealthy friend Burton Lewis. When it looks like the police are looking to put Lewis in the frame for the death, Sam steps in to investigate. His investigation takes him to Puerto Rico and a stealth look at the maybe shady charity that employed the deceased. 

There are lots of twists in this entertaining read, accompanied by the dry humor author Chris Knopf always provides. Highly recommend all Knopf's books.

Pizza Girl  by Jean Kyoung Frazier 
Snap Review: It was okay.

After reading a write-up about this book in the New York Times, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Kyoung Frazier does a great job of putting down on paper a portrait of young woman. Let's tick off the some of the demographics: the protagonist is 18, pregnant, finished with school, has a wee bit of a drinking problem, and is working as a pizza delivery driver. She misses her dead dad and is living with her mom and her boyfriend, the expectant father. Boyfriend has given up dreams of college in order to support his new family. 

Our protagonist doesn't seem to have any plans beyond those which circumstances have thrust upon her. Then, Pizza Girl becomes obsessed with one of her customers, Jenny. And from there the tale develops. 

The book is successful in bringing forth fresh characters and a memorable plot. So why didn't I love it? Maybe there was just too much going on for this character; and maybe that was the point as this book is a loud shout about youth. If that interests you, give it a read and let me know what you think.

The Mist by Ragnar Jonasson
Snap Review: Scandinavian mystery. Strange stuff, but interesting.

This is book three in a series. I jumped in without reading the two earlier books and had no trouble with the plot. The story is set in Iceland. There is a double murder at a remote farmhouse. There is a snowstorm. And our investigating detective has shattering developments in her private life. 

All together, everything is a bit creepy, making this one of those undemanding, interesting mysteries that take your mind off the world. 

The Shooting at Chateau Rock  by Martin Walker
Snap Review: I love reading all things Martin Walker, including this book.

This is another entry in the series by Martin Walker featuring Bruno, the police chief of a small village in France. After there is a suspicious death in the village - suspicious because the deceased disinherited his children in favor of purchasing continuing care at a retirement home -- Bruno investigates as only he can do. In addition to shady insurance companies, there are Russians, rock stars, all of Bruno's friends and, of course, food. 

I love this series and being inside this world created by Martin Walker. 

Dear Life by Alice Munro
Snap Review: I loved it.

Dear Life won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013 and, not that the Nobel people need me to say it, rightly so! These stories about the relationships and brief encounters of ordinary folks are burning, quiet, and spare. I loved it. Check it out. 

As always, links to Amazon are provided for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate, I may receive a small commission if, after clicking a link, you subsequently make a purchase. Muchas gracias, amigos. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

A New Challenge: Reading all the Edgar Nominees for Best Novel before April 30, 2020

The Edgar Awards will be presented this year on April 30. My favorite category is the award for Best Novel. Typically, all the books that are nominated for an Edgar in this category are enjoyable to mystery fans, but of course there can only be one winner. So, in the manner of the Academy Awards for movies, I'm going to read all five nominees before April 30 in an effort to anticipate who that winner might be.

Reading all five books within this timeline is a bit easier for me as I've already read two: Peter Heller's The River and Elly Griffiths's The Stranger Diaries. The remaining three are Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland, Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham, and Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee.

Smoke and Ashes is the third book in a series. Although I am a wee bit disappointed that I won't be reading these books in order, sometimes sacrifices must be made.

If you've read any of these books, or are up for joining me in reading all five by April 30, give a shout out in the comments.

Relaxing when you should be reading: A Dramatization.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Epidemics! Pandemics! Read all about it!

Looking for another topic of concern that can race through your brain at three in the morning, robbing you of sleep and roiling your stomach? Well, with the spread of coronavirus, the loud and angry voices of the anti-science crowd, a President and Republican Party that don't believe in government and public health, it seems like a pretty good time to get worried about a global pandemic.

And while worrying is a given in this day-and-age, there are also smart and interesting books that help us understand what is going on with respect to global health threats. Here are a few titles that have been recommended to me on the topic of viruses - where it goes and how it flows - and the biology and politics of it all.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen: Author David Quammen tackles the subject of the movement of viruses from wildlife to humans.

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. Mr. Barry looks at how biology and politics combined to result in the 1918 Influenza.

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola, and Beyond by Sonia Shah. Sonia Shah examines the dangers of pathogens by examining the spread of cholera.

And on the fiction side of things:

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel: In this novel, a virus takes off, an apocalypse occurs, and the world as we know it falls apart.

The Earth Abides by George R. Stuart: Originally published in 1949, this classic novel is about a global pandemic that wipes out all most all of humankind. How will the few survivors fare?

And from the fiction that I have read and highly recommend:

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller: A flu pandemic wipes out a man's family. With his dog by his side, he seeks to find what is left in the world. I love this novel. You might, too. If you've read The Dog Stars, share your thoughts about the book in the comment section. If you haven't read it, please try it out.

Global pandemic, illustrated.