Once again, I am sharing what I have been reading lately, in September. It has been a cram-packed reading month and I am overjoyed. It feels like fall reading has arrived. Now, if the temperatures would deliver fall as well. Instead, Savannah has experienced several record-breaking temperatures which means no windows to fling open, less time relaxing on the front porch. But for reading...
Without a doubt my book club, Between the Covers, book of the month, Where the Crawdads Sing, earns the top shelf award. Superb! Followed by Linda Holmes' Evvie Drake Starts Over, and oh, yes! A Better Man by Louise Penny with the feeling that she redeemed the book series with this one and I cannot wait for the next.
J.D. Robb's Vendetta In Death was much better than the last. Thus, I have hopes for a complete turn-around of the series as Robb writes book #50. Wonder if she's sending the series out with a bang or if she'll continue providing endless pleasure to adoring fans.
I cannot lie. I dig By Order of the President by W.E.B. Griffin. I can always count on a deeply woven book.
Without further discourse...
Long Road to Mercy by David Balducci. "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Catch a tiger by its toe. It's seared into Atlee Pine's memory: the kidnapper's chilling rhyme as he chose between six-year-old Atlee and her twin sister, Mercy. Mercy was taken. Atlee was spared. She never saw Mercy again. Three decades after that terrifying night, Atlee Pine works for the FBI. She's the lone agent assigned to the Shattered Rock, Arizona resident agency, which is responsible for protecting the Grand Canyon. So when one of the Grand Canyon's mules is found stabbed to death at the bottom of the canyon-and its rider missing-Pine is called in to investigate. It soon seems clear the lost tourist had something more clandestine than sightseeing in mind. But just as Pine begins to put together clues pointing to a terrifying plot, she's abruptly called off the case.
If she disobeys direct orders by continuing to search for the missing man, it will mean the end of her career. But unless Pine keeps working the case and discovers the truth, it could spell the very end of democracy in America as we know it..." The beginning sets up Atlee Pine's flawed and psychological well-being and is important in the sense this is who she's become because of her past. But, that is where the connection remains. The remainder of the story is solving an ever-evolving mystery. I didn't dislike the character, the story, or the writing and I will, I'm sure pick up the second in the series. I was, however, hoping for - more. Something, something - else. Pine is a strong character and I like her kicka$$ abilities but I felt there was something missing. 82/120
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff. "1946, Manhattan. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs — each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station. Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.." Aside from it being unbelievable at times (the author took tremendous liberties but I think, at times, did a disservice to the actual women who served in the war in such capacity), it was a somewhat enjoyable read. Very slow at times and the build up, rather than anticipating, became frustrating. Having just read The Alice Network, The Lost Girls by comparison...were lost and falls perilously short. 83/120
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens. Fabulous! Just might be my favorite book this year! I loved the handling of time: a present murder and a past moving towards the present. I loved life storied in the marshlands and how the marsh tells its own story weaved throughout. Without spoiling the ending, I could have done without the epitaph, or closing pages but leaving the reader to wonder, imagine, hope - all on their own. 84/120
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield. An exceptional memoir with invaluable lessons for the reader that Hadfield learned himself over the years as a military man and astronaut. Colonel Hadfield is a brilliant man and writes a surprisingly engaging story. 85/120
A Better Man by Louise Penny. I loved the complex story line. It was intriguing and different and brought the series back to, for the most part, the solving of murders and hopefully this continues well into the next books in the series. The added twist, or side story, of the life-threatening waters was an okay addition except it built and built and then came to a screeching halt with nothing more said so I felt it was supremely mishandled. The battlefield lines within the Surete leadership is tiresome and hopefully Penny will put aside the re-hashing of Gamache's fall and rise and in the next book can return to, like I said, solving murders. It did seem like there was a transition happening across multiple specters: Surete leadership, Jean-Guy's departure, returning to solving murders. Also, I usually love Penny's writing. I hung on her every word. Her characters were brilliant. However as one Amazon reviewer said exactly what I wish I could say, "I want what Louise Penny offered in her earlier novels: food and flowers and friendship, the place not found on any map, the place where we'd all like to live...with a good local mystery providing the narrative," yet, in this book I was dumbfounded by the non-sensical writing. Such as beginning. A sentence in the middle. Fragmented sentences. Starting. A sentence. And finishing in another sentence. It was. Crazy! At first I thought it was simply a mistake but then it continued throughout the book, again and again. Occasionally, to make a point is one thing but, man, it got old and hard to follow. It was crap writing. Sorry, not, sorry. Please don't do this again, Louise Penny. You are so much better than this. 86/120
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Jeff and I are reading together Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas and he mentions the marriage of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh and highlights Anne's strengths, and yes, weaknesses in her marriage and mentions her writing, as well, which intrigued me enough to check it out from the library. Anne Lindbergh was so far ahead of her time to the needs, the wants, the desire of women and the unknowing, or knowing, of how to bring balance to life. We are finally seeing, today, what Anne seemed to have found even then. "I remember again, ironically, that today more of us in America than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication of life. And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication." "...not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity...is the life of millions of women in America...the American woman more than any other has the privilege of choosing such a life." Through gifts from the sea, Anne confronts contentment in a barren beach shack and a simple life in a channeled whelk and that simplification can begin in the outward life even though the final answer is always inside. In a moon shell she tackles the gift of aloneness and solitude and the realization that "it is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger." I appreciated her words regarding a personal worship time, a time of spiritual reflection, of contemplation and worship and that in that giving time and acceptance time a women can find renewal and her springs refilled. "She must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work...any creative life proceeding from oneself...what matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive." Anne identifies the downfall's around women emancipating themselves from men and women's equalities, into competing to the neglect of their own inner springs, the timeless inner strength of woman. And the arduous, ever-changing and evolving marriage relationship and the one and only moments through the double sunrise shell. And the oyster shell for its tireless adaptability and tenacity [towards the marriage relationship], the shedding of shells (ambition, materialism, ego); On being whole for the marriage: "the two separate worlds or the two solitudes will surely have more to give each other than when each was a meager half." 87/120
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal. I finished chapter 8 and was beginning chapter 9 and I thought, "Draining! Make it stop! This book is draining my spirit." Not one thing good has occurred since beginning. Someone mentioned the book was funny. Did we even read the same book? Frustrating, annoying, yes. Three sisters each in their own crisis [that never ends] set out on a pilgrimage to India in honor of their mother's deathbed wishes. Neither of the sisters wish to do this and only grudgingly agree which, between their crisis, their grudges, and their individual attitudes carries on for much of the book (more than 75% of the book) and instead of hoping for resolution I just wanted to cast the book aside. Only I didn't. And, I have no idea why! While I saw few redeemable qualities in the characters, they hung on (as I did, reluctantly) and, finally in the last chapters, redeemed themselves and found peace. A welcome respite, but would have rather seen a slow change throughout the book because, rarely, do people rush change and the author bullet trained it. 88/120
Vendetta in Death by J.D. Robb. The play and banter between Eve and Roarke was good. Eve has grown so much as a character and Peabody, as well. I wonder if Eve, growing into her own isn't a problem now, for Robb. Eve needs a challenging opponent again. She needs all of her skills and character tested, some action. I've enjoyed the books where the killer is represented as a character without giving away who it is. In Vendetta it was an interesting murder investigation, however, I didn't appreciate knowing who the murderer was so early in the game. Pretty much lost interest once I knew who did it. I think this is the third in a row that I've been disappointed in the offering in a series that I usually adore...so many are amazing. If Robb is winding the series down with book 50 which comes out in February 2020 it would definitely need to go out with a bang, or be disappointingly anti-climatic. 89/120
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. This is a story of an unlikely relationship between a young woman who has lost her husband and a major league pitcher who has lost his game. A delightful yet unique story with a bit of romance that is handled extremely well. The dialogue never felt contrived but flowed naturally; extremely engaging discourse. For a somewhat quirky romance, the depth of character and story development was unexpected but exceptional. Both the main characters were flawed people in the middle of a crisis of the heart and head, but, still so likeable. I was rooting for both characters to find their way out of their loss into hope. Just so good. 90/120
Brave Love by Lisa Leonard. Women today feel pressure to be the best wife, mom, and professional possible - often at the expense of their own identity. But what if you could experience deep peace - knowing you are loved right now, just as you are? It was unclear to me where she found that deep peace. Was it in God or was it in pulling away from her family for some self reflection and personal time? While I didn't dislike the book I felt it read like a really long blog post. I have never really connected with Lisa's blog posts, as in I never really felt she wrote exceptional. However, I do love her story, her vulnerability, and what she has to say is so important for women today. She is doing hard things and as someone who lives/lived with years of chronic pain, and have faced immense relational sadness, excruciating and crushing pain, I know those overwhelming heart aches and have experienced those self-worth questions. There was quite a bit of repetitiveness and the lengthy narrative - loooong story, wish it was short - was frustrating at times and I found myself skimming much of it. 91/120
A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George. Confusing at first until I realized it was a, sort of, prequel to the series, how Lynley and St. James and Deborah, and Helen evolved in their relationships to where the beginning of the series began. And, there was a murder, of course, but the family dynamics played the larger part of the story, and their relationships and, for me, fell short of what I've come to love about the Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers series. 92/120
Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand. "Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It's 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother's historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha's Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, each of them hiding a troubling secret. As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country." This is my first ever Elin Hilderbrand book, who some have come to say summer wouldn't be the same without reading an Elin Hilderbrand book. A quick love note: the chapter titles - smooth. 93/120
By Order of the President by W.E.B. Griffin. Always a fan of Griffin. I just am. It is probably my military connection and to the special operations community, those type A personalities who so often do so well again and again. Lots of background story so definitely read this first in the series. A wealthy by birth military man on loan to the director of Homeland Security with secret service credentials is tasked by the president of the United States to look into a missing jet. Fast, fast-paced. I would say unbelievable but I'm prior service and I have worked with people like this - they just come out on top every single time. Pretty cool story line. Great beginning to a series. 94/120.
Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George. Back to the regularly scheduled murder investigation. I'm a happy camper. This was a cleverly drawn murder mystery with minimal hints as to the guilty. It is tough reading anytime the young are involved.95/120