This post is all of the reviews from my old blog.
I wasn’t planning to bring these over to this website, but then I had a quick talk with a work colleague. She said it was always interesting to see what I was reading, and that it inspired her to try new genres. We talked a little about what we like to read, and then went on with the work day.
That small interaction gave me the boost I needed right at that moment. I appreciated it it so much.
So here are all of those books, in alphabetical order. Looking for newer reviews? Click on the tag “book reviews.”
Full disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a link and buy something (even if it’s not the particular book,) I receive a little compensation.
I really enjoyed After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn. Daughter of two superheros, main character Celia West is normal. Despite her best efforts to not be associated with superheros, she always seems to be the one who is abducted, leading to her nickname of “Bait Girl.” There’s also some forensic accounting in here for genealogy and history buffs; Celia digs through old records to solve mysteries. If you can go with (or get over) the idea of superheros, this book is a fun ride filled with romance, family, and politics.
Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Justice, and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. More sci-fi fantasy to feed my inner Star Trek geek. Ship “parts” come to life and take revenge. Kind of, but a whole lot more sophisticated.
The Andean Codex by J.E. Williams. Part memoir, part explanation, I read this just before leaving for Peru, and it provided me with basic background to understand the world of the Q’ero.
Archangel by Sharon Shinn. There was something about the cover of this book that made me pick it up at the recent library book sale. It’s a red-headed woman holding a glowing blue orb in one hand, and a single white feather in the other. I can’t tell if she’s in ecstasy or communing with the gods/goddess. Regardless, it intrigued me, so I threw it into the box and brought it home. It’s a captivating story about a pure mortal (well, maybe) who marries an angel (seriously, an angel.) They spend most of the book disliking each other. And the end? Pure magic, of course. Now I’ve found another sci-fi/fantasy author to read – hurrah!
Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving. It’s a well written, intricate story, but drags on and on. Definitely not Cider House Rules or World According To Garp. Spoiler Alert: there is no resolution regarding the two mysterious women, or why Juan Diego allows them to drag him around so much. Or maybe I’m missing something.
The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller (The Origin Mystery, Book 1) by A.G. Riddle. Oooooo, now this I liked. I downloaded this in preparation for vacation travel. It’s perfect for that: metaphysics, motivation, ancient history, mystery – and a whole lot of excitement. It’s the kind of book I can read but – when it inevitably comes to the big screen- couldn’t possibly watch because of the twists, turns, and awesome scenery. P.S. It’s an epic battle between “good” and “evil.”
The Aztec Heresy by Paul Christopher. On one hand, this was a predictable treasure-hunters-do-good-deeds thriller. On the other hand, it was an exciting romp in the Central American jungle hunting for the mysterious lost treasure of Cortez. Throw in deep sea diving, sailing in the Caribean, Vatican and billionaire tycoon vengeance, plus a former Russian submarine captain, Cuban involvement, and a crazy rebel dictator, and it’s a fun read and even has a misplaced nuclear bomb. What more could you want? Bonus points for the Star Trek reference on page 257 comparing mutated jungle ants to The Borg.
My Backyard Jungle by James Barilla. I purchased this for $1 at a local deep discount store and, for that dollar, I’m happy I read it. Had I paid more? Eh, not so much. The title is titillating, but the author traveled around the world too much for me. I was hoping to hear more about his personal experience (not just about the squirrels in his yard.) On the other hand, if you’re an outdoor enthusiast concerned about suburbia encroaching on wildlife, this may be a great book for you to locate.
Banana Creme Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke. Yep, it’s yet another in the Hannah Swensen Mystery series with tasty recipes included. This is the Hannah Swensen I enjoy. It’s fluffy, it’s friendly, and I really want to make some of the Orange Marmalade Bar Cookies, or the Peach Muffins, or maybe the Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce. No matter, it’s a delicious series, with fun characters, and the writing is back on form. Yum!
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. This is terrific mystery series in the Sherlock Holmes tradition. In fact, it even features Holmes and a young, female assistant. Given the post World War I setting, there’s a twist of Maisie Dobbs but definitely more than enough to hold it’s own. I’d be happy to read many more of these.
Beyond Willpower: From Stress to Success in 40 Days (The secret principle to achieving success in life, love, and happiness) by Alexander Lloyd PhD, ND. While I got this for free from Blogging For Books and (as a result of getting it for free) need to write a review, I struggled with an never finished. For sure I’m intrigued by the energy medicine exercises. But for a self-help book the writing is awfully academic, and there’s a nearly 100 page introduction. Yawn.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Not quite just another dystopian young adult novel, this is about a particularly talented psychic. It helps that the main character is a powerful twenty-something. It doesn’t help that there’s another book that picks up where this ends. Just leave well enough alone already, please. Some stories don’t need sequels.
Book of Kells by R.A. MacAvoy was a wonderful distraction during January. It was Outlander before Outlander was a twinkle in Diana Gabalon’s eye. And I mean that literally because Outlander, published in 1995, is set 1700s Scotland, while Book of Kells was published in 1985 and is set in 900’s in Ireland. Fantasy, fighting, travel by horseback, bardic poetry, the goddess Brigid and, of course, love included.
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Yes, that that classic song – and now, the autobiography. I’ve always been fascinated by what makes superstars become superstars, and this book definitely gives me deeper insight into the inner workings of Springsteen. A must for any fan, an intriguing glimpse inside for anyone else.
Born Under An Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter by Sara Mansfield Taber. I picked this up for $1, and it was most definitely worth that and a lot more. This memoir is both a contemplation on the notion of being “American” if you’re rarely in the country, and a deep exploration of the nature of secrets – specifically those imposed upon Tabor’s father (the CIA spy.) Intelligent, literary, historical, and -as a result- probably not for everyone, the book was definitely my kind of tasty tea.
A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory by Sara Midda. Try as I might to read and enjoy this small jewel of a book, I can’t get into it. The darned thing is handwritten, and that makes it really hard to read for my over-50 eyes with good glasses. But if you have younger eyes, or perhaps a magnifying glass, check it out. Enchanting illustrations, lovely quotes, warm remembrances. Too bad I couldn’t see most of them clearly.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali. A best-seller in England, this book made me want to celebrate the indomitable human spirit and explore the immigrant experience. It’s another book triumphs the strength of powerful women and how they get that way. It’s depressing, it’s beautiful, and you should not miss it. It’s as colorful as a sari, as bitter as a cup of tea with the teabag left in too long.
Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half by Beth Moncel. This book definitely lives up to the title. And, because I’ve cooked both from this book and from the Budget Bytes blog, I can recommend this with no hesitation. The Carrot-Sweet Potato Soup is delicious and freezes well.
Cats On The Job: 50 Fabulous Felines Who Purr, Mouse, and Even Sing For Their Supper by Lisa Rogak. At first I thought this was a humorous collection of cats in cute costumes. It’s not. This is a book about fifty cats that actually work. There’s a cat that works as a dog trainer, circus cats, a firehouse cat, musician cats, a model cat, a diabetic alert cat, a crossing guard cat, and even a security guard cat. Great Christmas gift idea for anyone who loves cats.
Caught Dead: A Rick Van Lam Mystery by Andrew Lanh. It’s not that this mystery is poorly written, it’s not. It’s that I got bored and wanted it to be over. Or maybe because I read a mystery before I started this mystery and should have read something else first. And that I wasn’t sure if it was hard-boiled, thriller, cozy, or all three.
Chanel by Edmonde Charles-Roux. The subtitle of this biography is “her life, her world – and the woman behind the legend she herself created.” This is a deep and detailed exploration of the early life of famed fashion designer Coco Chanel. It tells the story of how a peasant girl stubbornly climbed to the top of the fashion industry and (pretty much) stayed there. At times I was bored with the musings of the author, other times fascinated by the bravado of Chanel. A must read for any fashionista.
Christmas Caramel Murder by Joanne Fluke is another in the Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series. I’ve read every book in the series, and this has to be the weakest. There’s a contrived plot twist based on A Christmas Carol, the new husband is barely mentioned, and the two former potential husbands play major roles. Talk about a bad cookie…don’t bite into this one.
Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. Who doesn’t love a good sci-fi romance on a distant planet? This is a cobbling together of two books that follow the life of Cordelia Vorkosigan and damn, it’s good. I mean, the second book – Barrayar – won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1992. If you like good writing and sci-fi, go read it.
Corpse Suzette by G.A. McKevett. The setting here is southern California, and the ‘voluptuous and proud of it’ private investigator (and former cop) is Georgia transplant Savannah Reid. There’s an overbearing cousin from the East Coast, a lovable but annoying cop, and a computer-savvy assistant. Throw in a couple of potential murders, and yep, it’s a fun read.
The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy by Nora Roberts – three books: Dark Witch, Shadow Spell, and Blood Magick. I’m a sucker for an easy-to-ready, easy-to-follow, paranormal romance set in Ireland, and Nora does it right every time. Yes,her romances are like cotton candy at a summer fair: fluffy and predictable. They’re are also lighthearted reads full of good food, good people, and a whole lot of magick. Love them!
Creeps Suzette by Mary Daheim is not related to aforementioned Corpse Suzette. The main characters here are middle age women who go on vacation to a fancy mansion and find all sorts of things wrong. There’s a former policy chief in this book, too, but he’s not in the action this time around.
Death At Wentworth Court by Carola Dunn. Yawn. Another socialite turned 1920’s detective in merry-ol’ England. B-O-R-I-N-G. I’d rather re-read a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear any day: at least those have meat, bones, and an awesome story.
Decaffeinated Corpse by Cleo Coyle. The setting is a historic coffee shop in Manhattan, the ‘brave, quirky heroine’ is Clare Cosi, and there’s plenty of cozy mystery foolishness afoot with an ex-husband, old friends, and international intrigue. A handful of recipes included.
A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages: From Adunaic to Elvish, Zaum to Klingon – The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons by Stephen D. Rogers. I found this on the remaindered table at a local store and grabbed two copies: one for me and one for a friend. Vocabulary, grammatical features, background information on the languages and their behaviors. Plus, the book also tells you how to build your own language. Fun!
Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein. This novel for ages 8-12 celebrates the love between a forlorn girl and a stubborn Shetland pony named Dirt. The young girl, Yonder, doesn’t speak, the pony is grumpy, and together they face the heavy subjects of alcoholism, school bullies, and animal welfare with a never-give-up attitude that is heartwarming.
The Discovery of Chocolate by James Runcie. What could be more romantic than a love that lasts for a few centuries? Nothing. And all the more interesting when it involves a man who can whip up the best chocolate in the world. Heart and tummy warming.
The Distant Marvels by Chantel Acevedo. A hurricane roars towards Cuba. The elderly are gathered and placed in a locked room on an upper floor in a historical hacienda. They tell stories of their lives, listening intensely as the storm rages outside. Highly recommended.
“I’ve seen it before, what mothers and daughters can do to one another during those terrible adolescent years. Grief must be at the bottom of it, for what is sadder for a parent than seeing her daughter shedding girlhood drop by precious drop? And what is more terrifying for a child than to doubt her mother, to begin to see her has a human with faults instead of as a goddess?” – page. 164
Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang. I really enjoyed the mix of mystical fox energy and day-to-day life in China beginning in 1908. There is food, fashion, and gorgeous descriptions of life as a fox. There’s murder, mystery, intrigue, and a heartwarming story of mother, daughter, and family.
Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn. Not that long ago I reviewed “After The Golden Age” by the same author and found the quirky story delightful. I feel the same way about this novel. Nice to know those superhero genes carry on saving the day.
The first two books in “The Dushane Sisters” trilogy by Courtney Pierce are epitome of all that I love about cozy mysteries. The first in the series, The Executrix, introduces you to the three Dushane sisters: Olivia, Lauren, and Danielle. They are smart, sassy, and uproariously funny. Mix in a standard poodle named Pogo, an ex mob member, some handsome men, and you’ve got everything you want in great summer reading. The fun thing is that, while at least two mysteries are solved in this book, another is just waiting to be unraveled!
Starting where The Executrix ended, Indigo Lake is the second in the series about the Dushane sisters. Here they’re traveling to an old family haunt to confront a vindictive relative, pacify a mobster or two, fall in love, and eat favorite childhood candy. It’s more of the same, and I really enjoyed the ride. Can’t wait for the final book in the series.
Early Warning by Jane Smiley. First, it’s Jane Smiley, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and you can tell. The story-telling is magnificent, just the way she writes about how lives wrap around one another through the years, and how each of us has our own demons, battles, and victories. It’s Midwestern to the core, even with the East coast relatives. Read this one, and anything else by Smiley you can get your hands on. A Thousand Acres is the Pulitzer winner. And Early Warning is the middle book in The Last Hundred Years Trilogy; others in the trilogy are Some Luck and Golden Age.
The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff, MD. There’s a twenty-question self-assessment on page 14, and I said yes to eighteen which Orloff designates that as a full-blown empath. I like Orloff’s casual writing style, and down-to-earth advice. Are you an empath? Some of the questions:
- “Do crowds drain me, and do I need alone time to revive myself?” Check.
- “Do I prefer one-to-one interactions and small groups to large gatherings?” Check.
- “Do arguments and yelling make me ill?” Check.
- “Do I react strongly to caffeine or medications?” Yes, why do you think I like caffeine so much and stay away from medications?
- “Do I prefer taking my own care to places to that I can leave early if I need to?” Oh, definitely, always have a book and/or an escape plan.
- “Do I absorb other people’s stress, emotions, or symptoms?” Yep.
Fast Tract Digestion (Heartburn) by Norman Robillard. Not that long ago, I was experiencing so much heartburn at night that I’d frequently sleep in a sitting position. This book tells you why what you eat contributes to repetitive heartburn, and what you can do about it. By just implementing a few simple suggestions, my nights are spent snoozing in a reclining position. Hallelujah!
Feisty After 45: The Best Blogs From Midlife Women edited by Elaine Ambrose. This collection of personal essays proves there’s a lot of good writing going (mostly) unnoticed in the blogosphere. From lap dances that go wrong to discussions of the bathrooms at Target, you’ll laugh along with these women. There’s a list of 12 good things about being a grandparent, and contemplation of the smell of young men. A corporate wife confesses and a tale of two daughters is revealed. Good stuff!
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. Looking for a long, lusty, historical? This is the book for you. Sixteen year-old country wench Amber St. Clare comes to 1660’s London determined to do anything and everything she’s ever wanted. Filled with frivolous clothing, political intrigue, court assignations, and more parties than you can shake a stick at, this 900+ page book is a rollicking ride through the upstairs and downstairs worlds of the great plague, the London fire, and a whole hell of a lot more.
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. The latest in the lengthy and beloved Vorkosigan series, reading this was like catching up with an old friend. It was terrific to see where Miles, Cordelia, and friends three years after Aral’s death. No clue what I’m talking about? Let me Google that for you.
The Girl On The Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins. An intriguing and fast read of a thriller. I gobbled it up in less than 24 hours. There’s a reason it’s a best seller, people.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I’m way late to the GG party, that’s for sure. The writing is as good as you think it should be, the story better. I haven’t seen the movie, won’t bother to see the movie, but might read the book again. It’s that good.
A friend brought me all of the “Haunted Home Renovation” cozy mysteries by author Juliet Blackwell. I gobbled them up immediately. Each one took about a day to read, so you can imagine there was a week or so there where I was reading nothing but these stories of Melanie Turner, high-end renovation specialist and ghost whisperer. She also tends to stumble upon not only ghosts, but also dead bodies throughout the San Francisco Bay area
Hidden Lives: A Family Memoir by Margaret Forster. I really wanted to like this book, even anticipated the thrill of following along as the author unraveled a family mystery. Alas, there were threads, but no unraveling. Like Miriam’s Kitchen, these book felt split into at least two parts and they didn’t work together to create a literary symphony.
And then there’s In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear. This installment from master mystery-solver Maisie Dobbs, is set at the very beginning of World War II in London. Maisie and staff are searching for clues to a series of connected murders. This book is as captivating as the rest, and if you haven’t read any, it’s high time to get started.
The Incarnations by Susan Barker. After I had a root canal, I took my well Novacained & puffy-cheeked self to the bookstore. This was recommended by a staff member, and does not disappoint. Fascinating weaving of Chinese history and contemporary Beijing wrapped in a cloud of soul mate mystery.
King by T.M. Frazier. This arrived in the late May/early June 2016 Bookworm Box and it’s horrid. Not that the writing is bad – it’s not – but the subject? Stereotypical bad boy overpowering a good girl twisted into a romance. I didn’t like the prologue, and the first few chapters failed to improve. Eventually I skipped to the end. The sad thing is that this is a series. No, just no.
Kittens Can Kill: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir by Clea Simon. This mystery had me at kitten, and kept me reading through squirrels, dogs, and more. I’d read another in this series.
The Lake Of Dreams by Kim Edwards. It’s a good summer read book, set in a picturesque town on a picturesque lake. There’s romance, travel, genealogy, and history. Throw in women’s suffrage and one intriguing family mystery, and you’ve got it. Except you don’t, because Edwards ever-so-softly creeps into your heart: “The raft moved gently, soothingly on the waves. The moon, almost full, cast the sprawling old house in mild light. I was cold, but I didn’t want to leave. I lay there for a long time, watching the sky clear and the stars emerge, taking their places in the night.” This book deserves a place on your summer reading list.
The Last Librarian by Brandt Legg. Set sometime in the future after a planet-wide disaster, and dystopian without being drab, this is the first in the Justor Journal series. Smart and sexy characters who love and quote books struggle in a world that’s not quite right. Fahrenheit 451, a secret corporate government, and an impending revolution make for an action-packed book about books.Thank goodness there are two more books in the series.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I bought this at the bookstore during an autumn getaway to Mackinac Island. The story took awhile to really grab me, but once it did, I was sailing along with the crew. Book and boat references? Yes, plus lost love and redemption.
The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age by Joyce Carol Oates. Try as I might to ‘get’ Joyce Carole Oates, I fail miserably at every turn. In this case, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the writing: it is flawless, ineffable, detailed – all of those things that writing should be. There are keen insights, memorable scenes, soul-baring revelations and confessions. But the memoir reads more like a series of journal entries in need of a strong story line. Maybe it’s me, the reader? Or maybe it’s the writing.
The Lost Treerunner by Brandt Legg. My friend Amber and I have been exchanging boxes of books by mail for about twenty years. About this book she wrote, “Remember the Last Librarian? Now I think this author is too smart.” I have to agree. The Last Librarian was a fabulous thriller, and this carries on with thrills and chills right to the very last page. The blurb on the back says it all, “In a world of lies, how do you know if you’ve found the truth?” In The Lost Treerunner, you know the truth, then you don’t, then you think you do. A must read.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Ablom. I always enjoy Ablom’s books; never love, never hate, enjoy. This falls right in line, although the premise of an early rock music pioneer’s magical life make it even more right up my alley, as it were. Or on my jukebox. A lovely story, and if you haven’t read anything by Ablom, shame on you.
The Mapmaker’s Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon by Robert Whitaker. Painstakingly researched, this is the very true story of an upper-class Peruvian woman who travels along the Amazon river to meet her husband in 1769. Sounds simple, except it isn’t, and she has 3000 miles and an untamed Amazonian wilderness to traverse. We learn what leads to her decision to travel, along with the tragedy and triumph of the journey.
The Martian by Andy Weir. How would you survive if left stranded on Mars? This formidable first novel answers that question with geeky science details (that I mostly skipped over,) cheesy 70’s music and TV references (LOL and OMG,) and a daring rescue (hurray!) There’s a whole lot more in there, but you’ll have to read it. I loved it. (And no, I won’t see the movie.)
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver. Surely you’ve seen the cover photo before, right? It’s “Migrant Mother” by Dorthea Lange, and it’s one of the most iconic photos of the last hundred years. This novel is a “fictionalized imagining” of the life of the woman in the photo (who’s actual name is Florence Owens Thompson, but the author uses Mary Coin,) the photographer (called Vera Dara in the novel,) and the son of a migrant farm owner. The book is vibrant, poetic, alive, and a heartbreaking look at a heartbreaking reality.
Masters of the Living Energy: The Mystical World of the Q’ero of Peru by Joan Parisi Wilcox. An in-depth exploration and explanation of the Q’ero world straight practicing Q’ero shamans. Though they’re not really shamans; read the book to understand more. If you’re curious about Q’ero spirituality, get this and read.
Miriam’s Kitchen: a Memoir by Elizabeth Erlich. On one hand I enjoyed this book – I always love reading about people’s relationship with food. On the other hand, Miriam’s Kitchen felt disjointed, like it was trying to tackle too much for a memoir. I did save some of the recipes to try later, but still, it was work to finish the memoir.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Yawn – yet another trilogy of books set in a dystopian regime. Yet another feisty female heroine. But with the addition of the ability to fly (among other things) this is one book I read quickly and did enjoy. Mind you, not enough to read the other two novels or play the adventure game. Your reading mileage may vary.
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. Frustrating. I don’t care if it’s a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, I couldn’t reach page 100. The prose is wonderful, but -on the whole- the book needs better guideposts for the reader. It’s just too much work to follow the story…which I’m sure is in there somewhere.
The Murder of Cleopatra: History’s Greatest Cold Case by Pat Brown. This was fascinating and -in lieu of a brief review- I’m gonna quote part of a paragraph from the back cover. If you’re into history and mystery, you’ve got to read it.
Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton I enjoyed the book, but feel it should come with a warning. The lengthy subtitle says the book is the true and incredible adventures of the spice trader who changed the course of history. And while it is about that, it’s also about ransacking, looting, bludgeoning, fighting, nasty politics, downright torture, and overall detestable behavior of the human race towards one another and nature. In both subject and writing style, it’s a tough read and not for everyone.
New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way: Alternate Approaches for Women 30-90 by Susun S. Weed. I’ve kept this book by my side throughout these menopausal years. Based on thirteen years of talking with more than 50,000 women, this is a treasure chest of information. For each so-called symptom of menopause (Hot/Cold Flashes, Hairy Problems, Emotional Uproar, etc.) Weed offers a variety of solutions from simple (collect information) to complex (break and enter.) A must.
The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire. I really tried to dislike this series, I really tried. At dinner one night I said I thought the first book was well written, but just too violent for me. And then I read another two or three, and didn’t stop until I finished the whole series. It easily took me less than two weeks to glide through all eight books; and now I long for the magical world of the faerie with all of the political intrigue, infighting, and imaginative world-building. October “Toby” Daye is a half human half fae (as in fairy or fairy-ish) hard-boiled detective type who also happens to have considerable talent with the decidedly not human skill of ‘riding blood.’ When she tastes blood, she sees and experiences the story of whomever the blood has come from; and given that she’s a detective, that blood is often coming from a freshly dead body. If you love fantasy, this is a great series to consider sinking into over winter.
Paris At The End Of The World: The City Of Light During The Great War 1914-1918 by John Baxter. This historical non-fiction was on the bargain table during that Novocaine-induced spending spree. What sets this apart, however, is the weaving of the story of the author’s great-grandfather with that of others who lived in Paris at this time: Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau, and more.
Peaches and Screams by G.A. McKevett is another in the Savannah Reid cozy mystery series. She goes home to Georgia in late summer to participate in a wedding – and get her younger brother out of jail. Her cats and friends from Los Angeles tag along for the fun.
The Permaculture Garden by Graham Bell. Trying to learn basic permaculture is like trying to unravel a multi-colored, multi-textured ball of yarn; there’s often so much theory that there’s little practical application. While there are a few practical suggestions in The Permaculture Garden, I got bogged down by the technical details and explanations. And, unfortunately, the “do it in one weekend’ projects would be summer-long projects for me.
I loved Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Straford. This is historical fiction based on real people and real events, focused on a woman finding her voice and place in the world. At first I thought it was a rip off of the Maise Dobbs series because the main character is named Maisie. It’s not. This is well written, fast paced, dynamite. Highly recommended!
Retail Arbitrage by Chris Green. Apparently, there are a whole lot of people buying stuff at garage sales and reselling on Ebay. While I was aware of that, I’ve recently become far more aware of just how big the whole thing actually is. This book has excellent advice but it’s from 2011 so a little out of date. The author also touts the products he’s developed to sell to people who are reselling. Annoying.
RightSizing: A SMART Living 365 Guide to Reinventing Retirement. Like me, your first question is probably, “What is Rightsizing?” Author Kathy Gottberg explains:
…Rightsizing is a conscious choice for a better lifestyle that more closely fits you and your family in the best way possible…it’s about being honest with yourself enough to figure out what you are spending money on and whether that money is worth the time, effort, and spirit you invest earning it. Best of all, rightsizing is about finding what brings your life meaning, makes you smile, and allows you to sleep well and deeply every single night. If you don’t have that now, maybe it’s time to rightsize your life.
Each chapter brings you further into the rightsizing approach to retirement: getting started, curing your addiction to ‘more,’ rightsizing health and well-being, eliminating the unnecessary, and so on. There’s even a chapter that gives you seven signs of real abundance. So if you’re thinking about retirement, this is definitely a book well worth keeping near you as a guide. Highly recommended: this book should be a best seller!
Second Sight by Judith Orloff, MD. The subtitle is a mouthful: an intuitive psychiatrist tells her extraordinary story and shows you how to tap your own inner wisdom. Useful in helping me understand the many ways I sense the world.
The Secret Life of Violent Grant by Beatriz Williams. I do enjoy historical fiction. And while this isn’t exactly historical fiction, it is an intriguing story line that kept me captivated over a day or two. Williams masterfully entwines the lives of 1960s Vivian and 1914s Violet with dashing suitors, passionate pursuit of physics, and a mysterious suitcase. Worth reading.
I love giving books as Christmas gifts because, ahem, I get to read the books before I give them. So is the case with The Secret Rooms: A True Story of A Haunted Castle, A Plotting Duchess, and A Family Secret by Catherine Bailey. If you’re a genealogist or historian, or just plain like digging through stacks of books in the library, you will enjoy this read.
I loved the personality of heroine Benni Harper in Seven Sisters by Earlene Fowler, and especially enjoyed the counter-play between Benni and her current husband (who just happens to be a retired police chief.) Then there’s the richest family in the county who just happen to have a dead body in the front room. I was disappointed in the ending, so am hoping that another book in the series finally sets this mystery to rest.
She Who Remembers by Linda Lay Shuler. I read this 1988 historical fiction just before I left for Peru. Fitting, really, as it imagines the lives of the Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon peoples. The portrait of female power was inspiring. This is the first of a triology; the other two books (that I have not read) are Voice of the Eagle and Let The Drum Speak. I may have to grab these in Kindle format.
A Ship of Pearl by Adela Crandell Durkee. Admittedly, I’m biased as the author is a friend. I love that this is a Michigan book: it’s always fun to read about the state in which I was born and currently live. And the story? Top notch. Appropriate for young adults, this novel explores coming of age when your whole world crashes.
Simple SMART and Happy: A SMART Living 365 Guide to a Sustainable and Meaningful Life is also from author Kathy Gottberg whom I met at the last day of the Bloggers at Midlife Conference. We hit it off immediately, and talked for a long time over cocktails. And as I was leaving, she offered me two of her books. And if you’re looking to simplify your life or heading into retirement, these are an absolute must. Both books are deeply rooted in Kathy’s unique SMART philosophy of life: sustainability, meaningfulness, awareness, responsibility, and thankfulness. She explores these concepts on her SMART Living 365 blog and beyond. This book is an intelligent meditation on and exploration of the concept of minimalism and simple living. And if you don’t know the difference? There’s a checklist for that. Highly recommended: this book should be a best seller!
Singer From The Sea by Sheri S. Tepper. Raised to be proper and polite, and assuming she will eventually become the wife of a powerful man, Genevieve is thrust into treacherous court life at a moment’s notice. She survives, thrives, and brings great change to her world, but not without some serious bumps, bruises, singing, and swimming. It’s not quite what you think, and is definitely delightful.
The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga. So this is a book about a really old erotic book. One reviewer even called it “an erotic book about an erotic book.” I wouldn’t go that far as there’s nothing “erotic” in the titular sense here. The eroticism comes from the Florence, Italy setting, and from the passion the characters show for their work, each other, and life. If you enjoy art history, and bookmaking that just so happen to include the discovery and restoration of an ancient erotic book (as well as the restoration of a noted fresco,) add this book to your reading list.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. This is a delicate book of female friendship in two rural Chinese villages. They are bound together both as “laotong” or emotional friends, and endure many things together, including foot binding. Their lives diverge is dramatic directions, but their friendship is forever.
This book also by Kim Holden arrived in the late May/early June 2016 Bookworm box. So Much More had modern and complex characters, but I had a hard time believing the male lead didn’t see his ex-wife’s evil streak; he’s too compassionate for that kind of blindness. Enjoyable, but (given the end) I’m wondering why I bothered.
My Son and the Afterlife by Elisa Medhus, MD. An easy introduction to the afterlife, as if we -the living- have any clues. Medical doctor Medhus lost her teenage son to suicide then and went looking for answers.
The “Southern Sisters” mysteries by Anne George. I took four of these novels to Peru and they were perfect travel companions: light, entertaining, and utterly Southern. They’re starting to show their age, though, as the characters were just buying their first computers. Recommended: Murder Makes Waves, Murder Shoots The Bull, Murder Carries A Torch, and Murder Boogies With Elvis.
The Spice Box by Lou Jane Temple. If you enjoy historical mysteries set in the upstairs/downstairs intrigue of fancy houses, think about adding this to your reading list. It’s set in Manhatten when horses still ruled the streets, and a young immigrant Irish cook just might be able to help a wealthy merchant solve a mystery or two. This is an easy read that also includes a handful of recipes. And the spice box itself? Not nearly as big of a deal as I thought it might be.
Spirit Wind by Jon L. Gibson. My first thoughts after finishing this book were, “That was delightful. I want to know if Spirit Wind and Blackbird marry. I want more!” There isn’t another book, but this one is certainly a satisfying coming-of-age story based on Chitimacha tribal mythology. Both archaeologically accurate and easy to follow, this is one book that should have hit the mainstream.
The Terranauts by T. Coraghessan Boyle. Set in the 1990s, the novel captures the “before internet” feel of the world. The idea of creating a bio-dome is intriguing, but is missing the abundance available from forest gardening. I’m pretty sure the terranauts would have had better diets and relied less on raising and butchering livestock if they’d followed permaculture principles.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li. This collection of short stories is haunting, delicate, disturbing, remarkable. We get brief glimpses at a life, and then move into another life. There’s Granny Lin honorably retired from a garment factory moving on to a boarding school, followed quickly by BeiBei screaming, a boy who resembles a dictator, and then the complex relationship between Sasha, Boshen, and Yang.
The Time-Traveling Fashionista On Board The Titanic by Bianca Turetsky. This charming book came from the local library sale; I liked the sparkly pink front cover and the blue gown on the back cover was intriguing, too. I didn’t know it was geared towards the middle school age group until I started to read about the awkward seventh grade Louise Lambert who has recently discovered a passion for vintage fashion. She goes to an unusual vintage store and ends up on the Titanic. As in the *real* Titanic. How she gets there, survives, and gets home are all part of the story – as are gorgeous illustrations of clothing featured in the book.
A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell. This cozy mystery features witch and vintage boutique owner Lily Ivory trying to figure out how a rival shop owner died. The title gives you a hint, and the story weaves the details in with aplomb. Recommended.
Turn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. In the tradition of Bill Bryson, author Mark Adams is the guy who works behind the desk at Adventure Magazine, but never goes on adventures. For this book he steps out from behind the desk and conquers the Andes mountains while re-creating Machu Picchu ‘discovery’ by Hiram Bingham III in 1911. If you’re going to Machu Picchu or trekking through Peru, be sure to read this before you go.
Transformational Life Coaching by Cherie Carter-Scott and Lynn U. Stewart. I wrote a 3 1/2 page book report on this for my life coaching training, and recommend it for any up-and-coming life coach. Good stuff. That said, if you’re not a life coach, you probably aren’t interested.
Twenties Girl: A Novel by Sophia Kinsella. Just imagine that you’re pretending that you know how to do your job, and your recently dead (and feisty) great aunt shows up to give you fashion advice. Sounds normal, right? The whole concept is preposterous, and the story made me laugh out loud. Fun, fashion, London, and love – I loved it!
The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane by Colin Falconer. I bought a 4th Generation Amazon Kindle at an estate sale sans power cord for $35. It took me another week to acquire a power cord, charge the device, and download my very first free Kindle book. I’ve read plenty of books on the Kindle app on my iPad, but never on an actual Kindle. And most free/cheap books I’ve read in the past needed both more content and an outside editor. This is not the case with The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane. It’s a fun romp from Dublin to New York on the Titanic and back to England on the Lusitanita (literally – the main character is on both and survives.) She is a feisty and independent, struggling to find herself in a world where such independence is frowned upon for women – but can she find love? You’ll have to read the book to find that out. And as for the ‘raging’ battle between electronic and actual books? I prefer an actual book, and also love the convenience of electronic for travel.
The Virgin of the Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. I’ve read this murder mystery a couple of times and have gone looking for other books by Nancy Pickard as a result. There’s something haunting about this book that keeps me coming back.
Virtual Vintage: The Insider’s Guide to Buying and Selling Fashion Online by Lindroth and Deborah Newell Tornello. This book has not been updated since 2002; so much has changed online since then that the book’s almost not worth having. Almost. Because there are terrific tibits in here. For example, I didn’t know that Biz powder was the best way to whiten fabrics; I tried the recommended soaking method on a yellowed white jacket and boy – did it ever do the job! There’s a good run down of what to look for, but – unfortunately – focused on designer duds. Yeah, that’s not happening at my local thrift store – or on my budget. There’s also a woefully outdated dreary explanation of how to sell and buy online and an equally old directory of websites. This book needs an update.
In “stating the obvious” category, there is Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by blogger, baker, and real-life butcher Cara Nicoletti. You like reading books and talking about books and cooking or eating yummy food? Definitely worth a look.
The Vorkisigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. A friend turned me on to this sci-fi adventure series and oh mama what a read! While the series starts out slow, it picks up speed, gains momentum, and just gets better. I read them in Just anticipating the release of book #17 in this series has me excited. Actually, anything and everything by Lois McMaster Bujold; her writing is both award-winning and truly masterful. Plotting, character development – gaaaa, it’s fabulous. Since August I’ve read practically everything she’s written. I quickly worked my way through the Chalion series, and am almost done with the Sharing Knife series.
The “Weather Warden” series by Rachel Caine – Books 1-4 The first book was a fun ride: a kick ass heroine with super power ability to manipulate weather. Cool beans! But then I proceeded to read books 2, 3, and 4 in order. That was my mistake. Permanent note to self: read books in a series one at a time, not one right after the other.
In the guilty pleasure arena, the Hannah Swenson mystery series by Joanne Fluke is on top of my list. I love cookies! I love mysteries! If you do, too, this is for you. Especially if you want easy to read and easy to follow books. I gobbled the latest –Wedding Cake Mystery– in less than 24 hours. And then, with the resolution of the mystery and the wedding, I wondered why I bothered. I don’t care, and am mystified as to why she married the guy she did – which means I’ll read the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Kind of how I devour Oreo cookies (the lemon ones, please.)
When The Moon Is Low: A Novel by Nadia Hashimi. This book has all of the things I love in a great story: love, mystery, travel, adventure, and overcoming immense hardship. Unfortunately, after all of the excitement, it ends like that. Really? Pfffft.
When: Would You Want To Know? by Victoria Laurie. Teenage Maddie sees death dates on everyone’s foreheads. Then she’s accused of murder, her life goes off the rails, and a thrill ride of a novel ensues.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman. The sequel to the best seller If I Stay, we catch up with Adam and Mia – and mostly Adam. If you read the first one, you’ve got to read the second one. Because love, and everything.
The Whistler by John Grisham. Love a complicated, twisty-turny plot with complete closure? This is for you, as are many of Grisham’s other novels; this one’s set in steamy Florida and involves organized crime and casinos. Well-written, fast-paced, The Whistler is a great summer read.
The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson. Yet another modern witch story. This one echoes thin TV drama, which makes perfect sense as the author was a member of the cast of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Nice, fast read, but I won’t be reaching for more.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. You all know I read all sorts of books, and this was at the annual book sale at my local library. I couldn’t remember reading it as a child, so brought the 1956 paperback published by the Henry Regenery Company in Chicago home. This is not the Hollywood movie and, like most books that are made into movies, I liked the book a whole lot better.
When Bunnies Go Bad by Clea Simon. Another in the Pru Marlowe mystery series. Pru can hear what animals think, which means that her job as a dog walker leads her into interesting situations. This time there are bunnies, dogs, and her ever intriguing cat Wallis. Good stuff.
Who Killed Mr. Moonlight: Bauhaus, Black Magick, and Benediction by David J. Haskins. This book goes a long way towards proving the point that music celebrities are just like you and me, with a lot more alcohol. Pity, really, because Haskins has a way with words. Interesting tidbits for die hard Bauhaus or Love and Rockets fans, but otherwise not worth reading.
After a rough start with the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, I was expertly guided to read Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad. Both are about the Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg – three witches who fly around on broomsticks and have monthly meetings around black cauldrons. Just my kind of thing. And just enjoyable enough to make me give Discworld another try or two or three.