Books · summer

Summer Reads Audible Style

Is listening to an audiobook “reading”?  While not “reading” in the traditional or neurological (due to different processing in the brain) sense; but an excellent alternative when you are driving, exercising, otherwise engaged in an activity where you are unable to “read.”

As an avid reader, I often have several books started at any given time and one of them is likely to be an audible book.  This summer I’ve listened while painting, weeding, exercising, and driving.  As confession is good for the sole, I confess I’ve listened to some excellent books and then there are the duds.  My summer thumbs up / thumbs down list follows.

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Those on the thumbs up list all share common features.  They had an engaging plot, likeable characters and were well written.  Park Avenue Summer and Down River are not to be missed.  They are excellent!  So, thumbs up for:

Park Avenue Summer

Down River

The Mulberry Tree

The Spitfire Girls

The Malta Exchange

The Girl From Berlin

Single Malt Murder

Honorable mentions to :  The Mother in Law and Berlin Calling

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Those earning a thumbs down also shared certain characteristics including a wandering plot, need for a good editor, and characters who were not rootable. Both The Golden Hour and Wunderland held so much potential.  Yet, they both fell flat.  I kept thinking get on with it!

 

Beach · Books · summer

Summer Beach Reads

It’s that time of year again!  With Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer I think of the beach, pool, and nights playing tennis.  I also think of what I’m going to load to my kindle or iPod to “read” at the beach or pool.  These are some of my recent favorite reads!

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Kristy W. Harvey is my new favorite author.  If you like Alice Monroe or Dorothy Benton Frank, you will love Harvey.  Her Peachtree Bluff trilogy is can’t put down.  I love the mix of the southern beach town with a hint of New York City thrown into the mix.  The story of strong women facing and overcoming the challenges in their lives.  Run, don’t walk to grab these for your beach bag.

 

 

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I devoured the Discovery of Witches trilogy.  It was different, fun, compelling and historical – even for someone who doesn’t run to stories of vampires, witches and demons.  This is the latest.  It is Marcus’ story and it does not disappoint.  All my favorite characters are back in the mix, Diana, Matthew, Baldwin but the focus is on Marcus as Matthew’s son and his upcoming marriage.

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If you enjoy that WWII suspense, espionage book, this and the Alice Network are books for you  I “read” (listened) to both with the audible versions.  I highly recommend the audible version for a long car trip (say to the beach!).  The Alice Network is set in occupied France while the Huntress takes a slightly different turn moving back and forth between post war Boston, post war Austria, and the Eastern front.  Both feature the work of brave women in the war.  The Huntress takes an unusual turn by featuring a woman as a sought after Nazi war criminal.

 

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If you’ve not found the Maisie Dobbs series yet, now is the time. The series began with Maisie in WWI and we’ve now progressed to WWII and the London blitz.  The latest, The American Agent, provides wonderful insight into the beginning of WWII and America’s take on a new world war.

 

More recommendations to come!  I think this is going to be a huge reading summer.

Books · Uncategorized

Books, Books, and More Books!

I love curling up on the lounge on the patio or under a beach or pool umbrella with a good book.  This summer I’ve put a large dent in the books I downloaded to my Kindle and/or the audiobooks I downloaded to my iPod.  One of my first blog posts was on my beach reading list.  Now, several flights and weekends later, I’ve more to add to my summer reading recommendations.

On a side note, someone asked me about my reviews, each book I write about I’ve read (or, if it’s an audiobook, listened to) and enjoyed enough to share with you!

 

As a child I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Dana Girls, Vicki Barr, or Hardy Boys book.  There is just something about the next adventure, the next chapter in the life’s of a favorite character that I can’t wait to enjoy.  In library speak, these books are referred to as series books.  The modern equivalent is the Harry Potter series – yet another I devoured – this time as an adult!

Recently, I discovered two new series that I love.  Both are mystery series with an intrepid female lead playing the part of detective.  Shades of Nancy?  I’ll have to consider further the impact Carolyn Keene has had on my lifetime reading habits.  But I digress, the two new favorite series are Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie  Dobbs and Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness.  Both also have a historical fiction element in common as both are set in the period between WWI and WWII.

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The Maisie Dobbs series is a bit bleaker in that it tackles the hard truths associated with WWI. The initial book in the series is the story of Marie’s childhood, including her time as a nurse in France and the horrors of the battlefield.  Later titles tackle the associated horrors of war in a post war environment.  The most recent title is set in the lead up to WWII.  They are delightful books that hold your attention and yet have an educational side.  Also deftly folded into the story is the story of the women’s movement in England and the corresponding societial changes prodded along by the First World War.

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Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series is simply a delight.  I love them.  They are like chocolate covered Oreos.  One is simply not sufficient.  Let’s be simple, this series is just FUN!  The lead character, Georgianna Rannoch, is Queen Victoria’s great granddaughter and thirty-fourth in line to the English throne.  Just to make things interesting, she is on the poor relations side of the royal family and is constantly seeking a solution to her money challenges.  While she is financially challenged, she has a warm relationship with Queen Mary and her children and grandchildren that include a very young Elizabeth.   Georgie is also charmed by a delicious and dashing noble, heir to an Irish title – Darcy O’Mara, also monetarily challenged, Catholic, and whose occupation is something of a secret agent man kind of thing.  But, oh my,  is he delish!

Georgie constantly finds herself on an adventure and in the middle of a murder investigation in varying parts of the British Empire (Scotland, Ireland, Balmoral), Europe (think Transylvania and the south of France), and even California.  Along the way she encounters historical figures like Wallace Simpson and Coco Chanel!   Light, and completely entertaining, the books also offer a commentary on the changes in society post WWI and the obstacles  for the modern woman in the 1930s.  The series is a must read!

Post script – both series are available as audiobooks from audible and are well done.

Books

My love affair with Audible.com

 

I’ve already said I love to read but like the rest of you my schedule is busy and I don’t always have the time to curl up with a good book. My alternative is audible! Audible is a division of Amazon that provides audio books. I download onto my iPhone titles that I want to read then I can multitask during the week – in the car, or on a plane, when I walk, when I cook or clean, or – well, you get the picture, when I’m doing something else but can focus on a good book rather than the task at hand. The added bonus is that it helps the task at hand go quicker and you’d be amazed at how many laps you can walk on the track when you’re at a good place in the book.

Audible’s selection is varied and deep and includes bestsellers and old favorites for all ages – even a selection of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys!

In preparation for a very long flight, I just loaded up my iPod. Some of my favorite authors are on my current playlist.

My playlist –

Mississippi Burning by Greg Iles – This is the final book in book in the Natchez Burning trilogy featuring Penn Cage and Natchez (Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree are the first two installments). I love that Natchez is treated as its own character. This highly entertaining and, at times frustrating, work shines a spotlight on the civil rights era while providing a commentary on the present. This trilogy is a must read or, in this case, a must listen!

Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck – There are many novels out there about WWII but this book has two new twists. Twist one is the focus is on the lives of the women left behind. The struggle of those to survive in the face of utter defeat and when faced with the lies and unthinkable acts committed around them.  This book provided new insight as to the how did the ordinary person just let this happen question.   It also highlights the power of propaganda.   Twist two is the story as told from the perspective of a resistor. Resistors were those who attempted to assassinate Hitler only to fail and be executed leaving their wives and children behind to face the consequences. I could not stop listening to this book.

The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith – This is my first book by this author; it will not be my last. Set in Italy, generally Venice, in 1944 at the end of WWII in Italy. This is the story of two brothers, at odds over, well, just about everything and the complication of Guilia . Guilia is a Jew, in hiding with her parents, who escapes when they are betrayed.  She is rescued by the reluctant hero, Cenzo. This is another that I did not want to put down.

The Orpheus Clock by Simon Goodman – A true story of a son’s quest and what he learns about his family. This is another must listen. This book is similar to the story of A Woman in Gold revealing yet another horror story of the Nazi’s treachery. If you enjoy art and museums this is well worth the “listen”.

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva – This is part of the Gabriel Allon series. If you enjoy adventure stories and spy thrillers ala Clancy, then Daniel Silva is a must author for you. A “black widow” is a female ISIS recruit – a female suicide bomber. A story of international intrigue that takes on the current day challenges of terrorism, this is an absolute must read or listen.  This one was released several months ago which is good for me as his newest was just released!

Duty and Honor, A Jack Ryan, Jr. novel – I love the Jack Ryan series, both Senior and Junior. This one is a bit over the top and would not be in my top five reads but it is still worth the listen. It does an excellent job of addressing Jr.’s growth and setting up the next chapter in the story with True Faith and Allegiance.

Also on my playlist are several fun series but I’ll leave those for another time.

 

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Books

The Beach Reading List

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Did I mention how much I love to read? As a child I was seldom without a book. My Mom introduced me to the Bobbsey Twins and Boxcar Children. When I was sick with chickenpox, My Aunt read Secret of the Old Clock to me creating a Nancy Drew fan in the process.

I am an eclectic reader. If I have to choose, I would say mysteries are my favorite. There is something appealing about trying to guess whodinnit before the reveal. I also love to read stories set in local and far away places. The ability to escape into someplace familiar or, in the alternative, foreign and be carried away by the story is a characteristic I look for in a good book. Historical fiction, cookbooks, biographies and design books round out my reading list.

Needless to say, I read and read a lot. For vacation, I look for a good story. So what is on my summer book list?  Since it’s still the first of summer, here are highlights from the list. It’s a long list . . . .

Jackie’s Girl by Kathy McKeon

Written by a former personal assistant to Jackie Kennedy, this is a compelling story of life post Camelot at Jackie’s residence in New York known as 1040. The true story of the writer’s immigration to the United States from Ireland and her life as a peripheral member of the Kennedy Clan pays homage to the former first lady and a particular time and place in history.

Mondigliani Scandal by Ken Follett

My introduction to Follett was through the Cathedral series with Pillars of the Earth. He weaves wonderful intricate plots with compelling characters. The Mondigliani Scandal is a bit of a departure from his norm but still has the intrigue of Eye the Needle. A fun read with a surprising albeit predictable ending; it is well worth the read.

On the Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett

Another oldie but goodie by Follett. This is the story of Ross Perot and the Iranian Revolution. A true story that reads like a work of fiction. I found it fascinating and educational.

Dead Ringer by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter

I love vintage Mary Higgins Clark. If I did not know otherwise, I would swear this book was written by Ms. Clark. A great mystery which leaves you guessing to the end. Extra points for weaving Klimt and Nazi stolen art artfully into this present day mystery in a manner that brings awareness to the issue.

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby

The latest in Crosby’s Virginia winery mystery series, this one delivers again. Light and fun, part mystery and part romance, this is simply a fun read. I recommend the entire series .

Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

This is the story of two families intertwined by history and regular vacations at Isle of Palms. Ms. Frank writes stories set on the islands off the South Carolina coast. They are light and fun and she makes it so easy to get lost in the trials and tribulations of her characters. She is one of my go to authors and her latest does not disappoint.