10 September 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 5 Good Books

Book reviews at Beth Fish ReadsOh boy, I certainly jumped right back into reading with a vengeance. It's always a good week when it's filled with books. And reading was made easier with cooler temperatures and lots of rain. What else is there to do but read or do household chores while listening to an audiobook?

Anticipating much less time spent outside, we've started getting the house back in shape for indoor living. We generally work on one room at a time, dealing with the accumulated clutter of the summer and starting with the kitchen. Deep cleaning, as I said, gives me lots of time to listen to audiobooks, so I can barely complain.

On the television, we finished season 1 of Marcella, caught up with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and finished Sharp Objects. I'm not sure what's up next for us, but I like the feeling of having completed at least a few seasons of old shows before starting something new.

Review of My Twenty-Five Years in Provence by Peter MaylePeter Mayle's My Twenty-Five Years in Provence (Knopf, June 26) was a bittersweet read, knowing the author died earlier this year. Long-time Mayle fans will recognize many of the twenty-one stories collected in this volume, though some were new to me, such as his relationship with movie director Ridley Scott (A Good Year) and his thoughts about John Thaw's portrayal in the television show based on A Year in Provence. I also liked Mayle's reaction to being awarded France's Legion d’Honneur. Of course, I loved the descriptions of life in the French countryside and especially the many food and wine references, particularly his introduction to how to drink the French spirit pastis. Mayle's signature sense of humor and astute observations shine, making me a fan all over again. The audiobook was nicely read by John Lee (Random House Audio; 4 hr, 3 min). I appreciated Lee's pronunciations of the French words and his sensitive and thoughtful performance. My full review on the audiobook production will be available through AudioFile magazine.

Review of Her Royal Spyness by Rhys BowenA big shout-out to my friend Jennifer from Literate Housewife who is not only a real-life friend but one of my trusted sources of audiobook recommendations. She said I would love Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen and read by the wonderful Katherine Kellgren (Audible Studios, 2010, 8 hr, 4 min), and she was right. Set in the United Kingdom in the early years of the Great Depression, this is part sly commentary on the royal/noble set and part mystery and all tons of fun. Despite being thirty-something in line for the throne, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (better known as Georgie), is actually without resources since she's unmarried and no longer feels comfortable living with her brother and his family on the crumbling ancestral estate. Fortunately, she still has a good relationship with her cousin the queen, giving her a certain cachet among the gentry. A secret assignment from the palace and a dead body in her bathtub, are just two of Georgie's worries as she negotiates life in London without a maid. Kellgren's characterizations, accents, and pacing bring the story alive and I found it really hard to stop listening to this audiobook. I may just have to binge listen through this series. (personal copy)

Reveiw of Harbor Me by Jacqueline WoodsonNow that I've read Jacqueline Woodson's Harbor Me (Nancy Paulsen Books, August 28), I can see why it has been getting so much buzz. There are several layers to this middle grade novel, giving it strong crossover appeal to older readers. The book is about a half dozen diverse special-needs sixth graders who become friends after their teacher gives them weekly unsupervised free time in an empty classroom. The kids slowly open up to each other, sharing the burdens of their learning disabilities and home life, including issues with immigration, being poor, and being bullied. On the surface, the novel is a story of friendships, but it also helps readers understand how larger political and social issues (police profiling, for example) have an impact on even the most innocent of our citizens. Because the audiobook was so short (Listening Library; 3 hr, 50 min), I also listened to the full-cast performance of the book. The narrators strengthened my emotional connection to the story, reinforcing the idea that we must all try harder to care for each other. The audiobook ends with a not-to-be missed frank discussion between Woodson and her son about some of the lessons found in the story. (review copies)

Quick Takes on Series

  • Review of Witness in Death by J. D. RobbI also listened to the next In Death book: Witness in Death by J. D. Robb (Brilliance Audio; 11 hr, 22 min), read by Susan Ericksen. This is the 10th book in the series, so reviewing without spoiling the story and finding new things to say are becoming difficult. I'm really impressed with how Robb has managed to keep the books fresh by allowing the characters to grow and change. Not only is Eve and Roarke's relationship reaching a new level but the recurring secondary characters are also blossoming. I'm thoroughly enjoying getting to know each one. Ericksen, as always, delivered consistent, believable characterizations and perfect pacing. (personal copy)
  • Review of The Gray Ghost Murders by Kieth McCaffertyThe second book in the Sean Stranahan series--The Gray Ghost Murders by Kieth McCafferty (Recorded Books, 9 hr, 36 min), read by Rick Holmes, was also a winner. I love the way McCafferty interjects diversity and contemporary issues into his murder mysteries, which are set in some of Montana's best fly-fishing territory. Great characters, good descriptions of the outdoor life, and a multilayered plot make for good listening. I particularly like the references to other authors, from Sparse Grey Hackle to Ivan Doig. Holmes is perfect for this series, tapping into the characters' personalities and letting the humor come through naturally. (personal copy)


bermudaonion 9/10/18, 8:07 AM  

I really liked Harbor Me and agree the discussion between Woodson and her son at the end is not to be missed. I think I would love the Mayle book as well.

Vicki 9/10/18, 8:49 AM  

I love Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming. I have Harbor Me and plan on listening to it soon.

Susie | Novel Visits 9/10/18, 8:52 AM  

Wow! You did come back going full throttle. I love Comedians in Cars, so silly but fun. I like to watch it while I'm on the elliptical. It makes the time fly by and I can usually get in 2 episodes. Hope you have another great week.

rhapsodyinbooks 9/10/18, 9:13 AM  

Sounds like a great reading week. I must get the Woodson book!

JoAnn 9/10/18, 9:30 AM  

I loved the audio of Her Royal Spyness, too! So much fun.

Daryl 9/10/18, 9:52 AM  

some good ones, thanks ... i am just finishing the second Carter & Lovecraft ...

Kathy Martin 9/10/18, 11:14 AM  

I just got my copy of the latest In Death book - #39, I think. I love these characters and the way Robb has them grow. Can't wait to read it! Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Laurel-Rain Snow 9/10/18, 11:20 AM  

I read Another Brooklyn, so I'm intrigued by Harbor Me. I also like the look of Her Royal Spyness.

Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog. Enjoy your week!

Tina 9/10/18, 11:30 AM  

Truly bittersweet reading that Mayle book. When I picked it up I hadn't realzied he died earlier this year. It was always fun being an armchair traveler with his books.

SuziQoregon 9/10/18, 12:31 PM  

Yay for Royal Spyness and In Death - two of my go to audio series

sherry fundin 9/10/18, 4:56 PM  

Glad to hear Robb is going strong!!!
sherry @ fundinmental

Greg 9/10/18, 5:04 PM  

I liked Marcella a lot. I was less enamored of the second season but I hope you like it if you watch it. And I've only read one of the Royal Spyness mysteries but it was a lot of fun- I read the Christmasy one.

Yvonne 9/10/18, 9:18 PM  

Her Royal Spyness is on my TBR. I read the last book in the series, which was great and now I want to start from the beginning. I finished watching Sharp Objects and it was good. I also finished Ozark on Netflix and that was really good. Hope you have a great week!

Mary R. 9/10/18, 10:25 PM  

You are the 3rd person today to recommend Her Royal Spyness. Clearly the universe is telling me to read this, so I put it on reserve at the library. Sounds like a great run of reading you have had!

Sue Jackson 9/11/18, 10:14 AM  

Wow, what an awesome reading week for you, with such variety! They all sound good, but Harbor Me really caught my attention - I've added it to my TBR. I've only read her memoir and one adult novel, so I would love to see what she does with a MG novel.

Enjoy your books this week! Hopefully this rain will stop soon!


Book By Book

Katherine P 9/11/18, 6:42 PM  

What a great group of books! I've had Peter Mayle on my TBR for years but somehow have never managed to actually read any of his books. I love the Royal Spyness though I did think in the middle the series got a bit inconsistent but the most recent book was one of my favorites so I think it's on the way back up! I've never read any of the In Death books though I've enjoyed other books by Nora Roberts. I think audio would be a great way to try this series.

Heidenkind 9/11/18, 10:47 PM  

Did you ever read any of the Walt Longmire books by Craig Johnson? The Sean Stranahan series sounds similar and I think it’s a really good series

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