2020 favorite books

Six books I read in 2020 that have stuck with me since I read them

I read many good books this year, but for one reason or another these are the books I keep thinking about.

Four of the six books are by new-to-me authors. Three of the them are audiobooks from my library so I probably wouldn’t have read them if I couldn’t have gotten them from the library. One book–The Bond was a Kindle Unlimited book. I’m really liking my KU subscription. I’ve found so many new authors and good books to read!

This was so fun to read. It was also such a good book about a plus-size main character who is a fashion blogger with a huge following. She agrees to come on a popular reality TV show as the star with lots of single guys vying for her affection.

She agrees to the show because she’s tired of the size zero young women the show usually has who don’t represent American women. Not everything works out as she hopes, but there are laugh out loud moments as well as cringe worthy moments. This is a very readable story, but it also has important messages (without being preachy) about our self-image and the way women are portrayed on social media as well as on television and in movies.

This was so well done. I don’t usually read romances, but I loved this book. I felt such empathy for both the main characters–Khai Diep and Esme Tran. They are both trying so hard to understand the world they live in.

I like the way the author portrays both characters. Esme is a mixed-race girl from Viet Nam where she’s never been treated as though she’s worthy because of her mixed race. Khai Diep is autistic and doesn’t want a relationship because he doesn’t understand feelings and doesn’t think he has any feelings. His family knows he just processes things differently than other people. And his mother wants him to be happy. However, he’s content with his routine, his job and his life the way they are. He doesn’t like change. Esme grew up in Viet Nam and has worked hard to provide for her daughter, mother and grandmother. When she’s offered the chance by Khai’s mother to come to America and meet Khai and perhaps marry him she jumps at the chance to have a better future.

I like the way the author portrays these two people. She really seems to understand how they feel and would act and react to the situations they find themselves in.

This was quite a unique book. I thought the world building was well done. The people of this world use genetics and people are created in a lab. Dinitra grows up fearing men because of their violent nature and because her world is only filled with women. A war was fought in the past by the men in their world so women took over and only use men as sperm donors.

When she graduates from her school she’s chosen to train 12–a fierce mutant dog. She’s terrified of the dog at first, but finally the two bond. The dog is supposed to help finally kill the rebels that beset her world. However, Dinitra and 12 are kidnapped by the rebels and she learns that what she’s thought of her world isn’t all true. I love the bond between Dinitra and 12. I’ve read other reviews who call this a story of a girl and her dog. And that’s certainly true.

A Deadly Education has many overtones of Harry Potter, but this school for magic users is a much scarier place. It’s not good to be alone in this school. Sometimes people alone in a hallway disappear and are never found again. People don’t have friendships in this school. However, an alliance can keep a person alive, but it can turn deadly, too, if you aren’t useful to the people in your alliance. Plus if you’re not from a wealthy family you probably can’t form an alliance.

Galadriel “El” Higgins is an outsider from a poor family and doesn’t have alliances, but she’s learned how to stay alive. She’s a grumpy, sarcastic character and no one really likes her. . . maybe because most of the students have heard of the dire prophecy made about her. She hopes to catch the eye of an important enclave so that after she graduates they will employ her. Therefore, she’s furious when Orien Lake, the most popular boy in the school and a member of the New York enclave, keeps saving her life. How will she make herself notable if she Orien Lake keeps interfering?

I listened to the audiobook and I thought Anisha Dadia did a great job capturing the snarky, sarcastic tone that El uses. She was easy and fun to listen to. Even though there are dark patches in this book it was a joy to read. I like finding out more about this world and more about individual students. I often don’t like young adult books because of the silly angst, but I didn’t find as much of that as I feared. These students are trying to survive to adulthood!

I was unsure if I wanted to read this book (and I’ve owned the book for months). I love Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series and was afraid I would be disappointed. This first book was very different from the Ruth Galloway series, but I loved it and want to find out more about DS Harbinder Kaur!

The Stranger Diaries is a mystery, but the Gothic story “The Stranger” by R.M. Holland is gradually told throughout the book along with the modern murder mystery. “The Stranger” is more in the Gothic horror genre, but perhaps because I read it gradually it didn’t scare me! (I don’t like horror.)

R.M. Holland is central to the book. He lived during the 1800’s in one of the buildings which is now a school where much of the book takes place. One of the characters, Clare Cassidy, is an English teacher at the school and is writing a book about Holland. A friend of Clare’s is killed and there seems to be a connection with Holland.

I felt Clare was the main character in this book even though the series will continue and is entitled “Harbinder Kaur.” DS Harbinder Kaur is one of the police officers who is investigating the murder. I wonder if the author will keep Harbinder more in the background of these stories. She’s certainly a character I’d like to know more about.

The story is told by different characters so we’re aware when they lie or hold something back from the police. We aren’t always certain we’re learning everything they know. I thought the author did a very good job the way she wrote the book.

I loved this! The characters are real and fun. I’d love to have them as friends though I’m not sure I could keep up! I like that many of the characters are retired, but that doesn’t mean they’re retired from life. Elizabeth is my favorite. I love the way she tests her memory with a question each day on her calendar of something that happened a couple weeks before. One day she asks herself what number was on a license plate. And she remembers! I think as we grow older testing our memory is something we all do.

The characters seem real to me–with both good and bad qualities. The characters act in surprising ways. The mysteries surprised me. The whole book surprised me! I am glad I had the audiobook of this. The narrator is Lesley Manville and she really enhanced the story for me.

What books were your favorites last year! Have you read any of these books?

Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

A fantasy set in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Universe

Slayer

by Kiersten White

Narrator: Madeleine Maby

Genre: YA Fantasy

Setting: Buffy Universe

Source: Audiobook, Library

Publishing Date: 2019

404 pages (12 hours)

Synopsis: Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

My Thoughts

Before I started the book I hadn’t realized the book was actually in the Buffy universe. That was something I really enjoyed. I liked the glimpses we got of Buffy and I liked that this book is mostly from the Watchers point of view. The book starts after the TV series ends, I think. (I haven’t watched any Buffy for a long time.) Might need to re-watch some of it since I really did enjoy it.

I thought this book had lots of promise. A watcher becomes a slayer! That sounds so great. I also liked the idea of hearing from the watcher side of things.

Too much angst

This book was a little too angsty for me. That’s why I don’t enjoy YA books very much anymore. I must confess I’m tired of all the teenage angst most of them have. I don’t mind reading about young protagonists, but I want some of the second-guessing themselves, constantly changing their mind and worrying about how they look all the time as well as the forbidden lovers trope kept to a minimum. This had a little too much of all that for me especially at the end. (However, this is more my problem than the book’s problem! But it is why I don’t read many young adult books.)

Characters don’t listen

I was also irritated when Nina wouldn’t listen to people. Sometimes you need to go your own way or follow your instincts, but if Nina had listened more and thought about things she wouldn’t have made some of the choices she did. Artemis, her twin sister, also irritated me by not listening to people—especially not listening to Nina whom she was supposed to love so much and whom Artemis had spent her life protecting. That was really irritating.

Bottom line

I listened to the audiobook and I thought the narrator did a good job. However, I probably won’t continue reading this series. It’s just not the series for me.

My Rating: B-
Narrator Rating: B+

Review: Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen

Emma Thompson & a full supporting cast perform a Jane Austen classic

Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen
Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen (Anna Lea, Adaptation Author)

Series: None

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Classic

Setting: Surrey, England

Source: Audible, Sep 2018 member benefit

Note: I received this book for free as an Audible Original Member Benefit. That didn’t influence my review.

Narrator: Emma Thompson with a full supporting cast (see below)

Publishing Date: 1815 (2018 for the Audible version)

Duration: 8 hours, 21 minutes

Synopsis: This Audible Original production of Jane Austen’s Emma is narrated by Emma Thompson (Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and BAFTA winner, Love Actually, Harry Potter, Sense and Sensibility), with a full supporting cast including Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey, Liar), Morgana Robinson (The Windsors, Walliams & Friend, Morgana Robinson’s the Agency), Aisling Loftus (Mr Selfridge, War & Peace), Joseph Millson (Casino Royale, The Sarah Jane Adventures), Alexa Davies (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) and rising star Isabella Inchbald as our eponymous heroine.

Before she began writing, Jane Austen wrote, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like’ and thus introduces the handsome, clever, rich – and flawed – Emma Woodhouse. Emma is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage; nothing, however, delights her more than matchmaking her fellow residents of Highbury. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

This lively comedy of manners, with its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, is often seen as Jane Austen’s masterpiece.

Public Domain (P)2018 Audible, Ltd. 

My thoughts

I really enjoyed this presentation of Emma. Each character is voiced by a different actor and they do a great job. I love Emma Thompson as an actor and she is the narrator of this story. She did a wonderful job. I was totally immersed in the story. I haven’t listened to many dramatizations before and want to listen to more now that I’ve listened to this story.

It’s been a long time since I read this book by Jane Austen, but I’ve always remembered it as a favorite of mine. Jane Austen is always a good observer of society while also creating a very enjoyable story. I like that Austen writes about a character who’s not likable whom we end up liking, because she has learned a lot during the course of the book.

Emma

Even though Emma isn’t very likable during much of the book she’s certainly a force to contend with! I like that she grows and matures a lot and is self-aware enough to acknowledge and learn from her mistakes. She has to learn there are consequences to her actions. She learns some harsh lessons, but is a better person for it. She’s not the same person she was when the book began.

Bottom line

I very much recommend this dramatization.

My Rating: A

Dramatization Rating: A

Have you read any books by Jane Austen? What about full cast dramatizations? Do you like them?

Review: Single Malt Murder by Melinda Mullett

Single Malt Murder by Melinda Mullett

Series: Whiskey Business Mystery #1

Genre: Mystery, Cozy

Setting: Scotland

Source: Audiobook, purchased

Narrator: Gemma Dawson

Publishing Date: 2017

278 pages

Synopsis: When Abi inherits her uncle’s quaint and storied single malt distillery, she finds herself immersed in a competitive high-stakes business that elicits deep passions and prejudices. An award-winning photojournalist, Abi has no trouble capturing the perfect shot—but making the perfect shot is another matter.When she starts to receive disturbing, anonymous threats, it’s clear that someone wants her out of the picture. But Abi’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Arriving on the scene with her whisky-loving best friend, Patrick, and an oversized wheaten terrier named Liam, Abi seems to put everyone in the bucolic village on edge—especially her dour but disturbingly attractive head distiller. Acts of sabotage and increasingly personal threats against Abi make it clear that she is not welcome. When one of Abi’s new employees is found floating facedown in a vat of whisky, Abi is determined to use her skills as an investigative journalist to identify the cold-blooded killer and dispense a dram of justice before he strikes again. But distilling truth from lies is tricky, especially when everyone seems to have something to hide.

My thoughts

Another book I read in 2018, but am finally reviewing now!

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. It takes place in Scotland and is about a whiskey distillery. The mystery is interesting and kept me guessing. I figured out some of it, but not all of it which is always nice.

Audiobook

I listened to the audio version of this book and the narrator–Gemma Dawson–is excellent. She did an excellent job with all the different voices and really increased my enjoyment of this book.

Abi, Liam and other characters

Abi inherits her uncle’s distillery in Scotland when he dies. Her uncle raised her after her parents died so she was very close to him. However, she had never visited him in Scotland. She was busy with her career as a photojournalist traveling the world and she resented the fact he’d sold their home in London to buy the distillery. After he dies she wishes she had found out more about his life in Scotland and had visited him there.

Abi is a good character–not perfect, but not stupid or irritating either! Her wheaten terrier Liam is a great character, too. I like a number of other characters, too. Abi’s best friend Patrick comes with her to Scotland and helps her. And it’s understandable why some of the distillery employees don’t like Abi since she never visited her uncle in Scotland. They’re also worried about what will happen to the distillery since she doesn’t know anything about whiskey. And there’s a whiff of romance in this first book.

Threats and Sabotage

Even before she travels to Scotland someone delivers a threatening message to her and that continues after she’s in Scotland. She also discovers someone is sabotaging the distillery. Abi doesn’t know anything about single malt scotch, but she’s determined to honor her uncle’s memory and his faith in leaving the distillery to her. She wants to find a buyer for the distillery who will continue to make special single malt scotch. The sabotage at the distillery continues and the threats to Abi escalate. A murder occurs at the distillery. Abi isn’t sure who she can trust. A good mystery indeed!

A good cozy

I like Abi and I like finding out more about the distilling of scotch and about Scotland. I look forward to reading the next book in the series! The fourth book in the series–Died in the Wool (which I featured in a Can’t-Wait Wednesday earlier in March)–is set to publish in June.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Have you read any books by this author?

Review: Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage

Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage

Series: None

Genre: Nonfiction, Dogs

Source: Audiobook, purchased

Narrator: Nicole Vilencia

Publishing Date: 2012

304 pages

Synopsis: People all over the world have been riveted by the story of Cairo, the Belgian Malinois who was a part of the Navy SEAL team that led the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. A dog’s natural intelligence, physical abilities, and pure loyalty contribute more to our military efforts than ever before. You don’t have to be a dog lover to be fascinated by the idea that a dog-the cousin of that furry guy begging for scraps under your table-could be one of the heroes who helped execute the most vital and high-tech military mission of the new millennium.

Now Maria Goodavage, editor and featured writer for one of the world’s most widely read dog blogs, tells heartwarming stories of modern soldier dogs and the amazing bonds that develop between them and their handlers. Beyond tales of training, operations, retirement, and adoption into the families of fallen soldiers, Goodavage talks to leading dog-cognition experts about why dogs like nothing more than to be on a mission with a handler they trust, no matter how deadly the IEDs they are sniffing, nor how far they must parachute or rappel from aircraft into enemy territory.

“Military working dogs live for love and praise from their handlers,” says Ron Aiello, president of the United States War Dogs Association and a former marine scout dog handler. “The work is all a big game, and then they get that pet, that praise. They would do anything for their handler.” This is an unprecedented window into the world of these adventurous, loving warriors. 

My thoughts

Such a good book about these hero dogs and their handlers. I’ve always been fascinated by them since I read books about dogs used in Vietnam by the military when I was a young adult. And it always broke my heart that the dogs used in Vietnam weren’t brought back home to the U.S. Most were euthanized. Today most dogs come back to the U.S. after their tours of duty overseas. I am disappointed, however, that the government still considers dogs as equipment. That affects so many things when it comes to the dogs. For example, dogs can’t officially receive any commendations for their work.

Deployments

I like the author talks about these dogs in a matter-of-fact way giving scientific information about dogs and specifically military dogs. However, she also talks about the things which make these dogs so special to their handlers and their units. Dogs deployed with units help the morale of the unit. Many dogs seem to know when a person needs extra attention and they spread their affection around.

Handlers and their dogs form a very special bond especially when they deploy together. In fact, many handlers prefer to be deployed even though it’s dangerous, because they get to spend more time with their dogs. Many dogs sleep with their handlers which isn’t allowed when dog and handler are in the States. The dog has to stay in a kennel and dogs might be assigned a different handler when they come back to the States. This is hard for both the dog and handler.

Well-researched book

The author obviously did lots of research for this book–telling about the history of military dogs, for example. She visited many military facilities to find out about the dogs, their training and their stories. She met many handlers, kennel managers, dog and handler instructors and many others during her time working on the book. She creates a fascinating picture of these dogs.

I won’t lie–Ms. Goodavage tells us some heartbreaking stories about both dogs, handlers, other soldiers, but she also tells stories about the heroism of these dogs, their handlers and other soldiers. And she tells about the dogs who retire and are adopted by civilians or often by their handler.

Should the military use dogs?

Some people may feel dogs shouldn’t be used for such dangerous work as IED detection, but dogs save many lives including sometimes lives of the people living where they’re deployed. The author also talks about the training the dogs get and that these are high energy dogs who love to work. They’re proud of their work and their reward which is almost always a Kong toy. When they do their job their greatest joy is to play with their Kong and receive the praise of their handler.

A good narrator

I listened to the audio version of the book and liked the narrator–Nicole Vilencia–a lot. She sounds like she could have written the book herself–that she knew all this information and was telling me about it. I recommend this book if you’re interested in dogs especially working, military dogs.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

  • 52 books in 52 weeks hosted by the mommymannegren.com blog — Military Related: Fiction or Nonfiction
  • The Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard
  • Review Writing Challenge hosted by Shari @ Delighted Reader blog
  • They Call It Puppy Love Challenge hosted by Barb @ Booker T’s Farm (February challenge)

Review: Zero G by Dan Wells

Zero G by Dan Wells

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction

Setting: On board a spaceship

Source: Audiobook (Free monthly member selection from Audible) (4 hours, 8 minutes)

Narrators: Emily Woo,  Margaret Ying Drake, Josh Hurley, Allyson Johnson, David Shih, Eddy Lee, Jennifer Van Dyck, Betsy Hogg, Chelsea Spack, Polly Lee 

Publishing Date: 2018

Synopsis: It’s one kid versus an entire band of space pirates in this cosmic middle grade caper from New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.

Zero is just one of 20,000 people aboard a spaceship bound for a new planet set to be colonized. The journey is over a century long but luckily, everyone is in stasis, so they’ll be safe and sound asleep during the trip. Everyone that is, except for Zero, whose pod has malfunctioned, waking him up a hundred years early. His initial excitement in roaming the ship alone quickly turns to a heart-stopping interstellar adventure when a family of space pirates show up, trying to hijack the ship and take the colonizers hostage. With everyone he knows fast asleep, it’s up to Zero to think fast and find a way to stop them–all on his own.

My thoughts

This is a fun adventure story. I think it’s more middle grade book than young adult (which is how some people on Goodreads describe it). It’s important to remember this is a middle grade book so some suspension of disbelief is needed. I didn’t have a problem because the story is so much fun. Zero is such a courageous, adventurous character.

Spaceship to new planet

Zero is 12-years-old and travelling with his family to a new planet. Everyone will be in stasis during the voyage since the trip will take about 100 years. Zero is super adventurous so before he and his family are scheduled to sleep he escapes his family and enjoys the zero gravity by flying through the spaceship exploring various parts of the ship. He meets the ship’s pilot who will guide the ship through the solar system the first few weeks of the trip so they avoid collisions with asteroids. And he even meets the ship’s AI. The AI will help the pilot guide the ship. After meeting them Zero realizes he needs to quickly head back to the part of the ship where his family is scheduled to sleep. When he gets back he discovers his two brothers are already asleep and his parents are beginning to worry about him. They enter their pods and soon sleep.

When Zero wakes up he’s excited to talk to his family and see the new planet. However, when he leaves his sleep pod neither his family nor anyone else near them is awake. He remembers the ship AI and talks to it. The ship AI tells him they’re only weeks into the trip and it thinks his pod must have malfunctioned somehow. They are approaching the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the Solar System. After that the ship goes into its hyper drive which a human can’t survive. At that time even the ship’s pilot goes into a sleep pod so he can survive and wake up to guide the ship to their new planet.

Zero quickly discovers the ship’s pilot is missing and there’s no one to pilot the ship through the asteroids of the Kuiper Belt. He also discovers the AI has some holes in its memory. The AI tells Zero he will have to help pilot the ship to avoid asteroids since the AI isn’t programmed to do that. Just after he helps the ship avoid an asteroid, Zero sees something else headed toward them. It turns out it’s a spaceship filled with space pirates! When Zero finds that out he realizes he has to save the ship and all the people on it. Zero is very innovative as he wages guerrilla warfare against the pirates! There’s excitement throughout the rest of the story. Several of the pirates are bad people, but I think this wouldn’t be a problem for most kids. Maybe because Zero is such an intrepid opponent.

Narration

I loved the full cast narration. Really fun to listen to.

Bottom line

I think this would be a great audio for a family to listen to on a road trip. I think my kids would have loved this when they were younger and I’d guess even kids as young as about 8-years-old as well as many adults will enjoy this. I’d love to listen to more Zero G stories about his adventures on their new planetary home.

My Rating: A-

Narrator Ratings: A-

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

  • 52 books in 52 weeks hosted by the mommymannegren.com blog (a children’s book–I’m interpreting that as middle grade book)
  • Review Writing Challenge hosted by Shari @ Delighted Reader blog

Review: Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

lake silence by anne bishopLake Silence by Anne Bishop

Series: The Others #6; The World of the Others #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Source: Audiobook, purchased; (13 hours, 38 minutes)

Narrator: Alexandra Harris

Publishing Date: 2018

402 pages

Synopsis: Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shapeshifters, and paranormal beings even more deadly. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget . . .

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns like Vicki’s have no distance from the Others, the dominant predators that rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what’s out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe–one of the shapeshifting Others–discovers a dead body, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the man’s death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, things get dangerous–and it’ll take everything they have to stay alive. 

My thoughts

I’ve read and loved all the books in this series and this is no exception. This book is about a new set of characters, but set in the same world as the ones before it. Chronologically it takes place after book 5.

I really like this new setting and the characters in this book. Vicki DeVine, Aggie Crowe, Wayne Grimshaw, Julian Farrow, Ilya Sanguinaty, Sproingers are all great characters. Vicki was damaged by her marriage. Her ex-husband verbally abused her and some of the villains in this story use that knowledge to try to make her feel less than she is. I love seeing her growth to a stronger woman. Aggie Crowe is one of the Others and is quite young, but she’s a great character, too.

Ms. Bishop does a great job showing the characteristics that various Others have when they are shifters from animal to human form. Aggie loves “shinies”–anything small that looks shiny that she can hide in her stash of personal objects. But Aggie is also brave and a good friend to Vicki. Ilya Sanguinaty is a suave, but scary character. And I like the irony that he’s an attorney and literally a “blood sucker!” Very fun to read about. And I’m hoping to read more about the Sproingers in future books. The Murder Game (similar to the board game Clue) in this book is fun to read about, too, especially after some of the Others change it to the way they play it. It’s suddenly a lot more scary and real.

I listened to the audio version of the book and think the narrator–Alexandra Harris–is excellent. She did a great job with the many voices in this book. I especially like the way Ilya sounds!

I highly recommend this book, but think you should read the first five books if you haven’t read them. You will understand the story, world and characters a little better. However, since these are new characters and a new setting it’s possible to read this one without the first series, but I think you will get more enjoyment if you’ve read the first books. And they’re so good you don’t want to miss them.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Have you read any books by this author?

Review: White Silence by Jodie Taylor

white silence by jodi taylorWhite Silence by Jodie Taylor

Series: Elizabeth Cage #1

Genre: Fantasy, Thriller

Setting: England

Source: Audiobook, purchased (10 hours, 31 minutes)

Narrator: Kate Scarfe

Publishing Date: 2017

325 pages

Synopsis: Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her. 

What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control. 

When her husband dies, Elizabeth’s world descends into a nightmare. But as she tries to piece her life back together, she discovers that not everything is as it seems. 

Alone in a strange and frightening world, she’s a vulnerable target to forces beyond her control. 

And she knows that she can’t trust anyone… 

My thoughts

Oh, my gosh, this book wasn’t what I was expecting! I knew it was a fantasy and I’ve read some of Jodi Taylor’s time travel series–The Chronicles of St. Mary’s–and I love that series. This new series is quite different. It’s more of a thriller and even ventured into horror territory for me. (I don’t like being scared so keep that in mind!) There were parts of this book that scared me–especially since I was home alone at the time…lol. I hadn’t planned to read any scary books for Halloween, but it happened anyway!

First part is more typical fantasy…the second not so much

The first part of the book is like a typical fantasy. The main character has some sort of magical ability, but she doesn’t know exactly what it is. She learns to hide her ability, but still comes to someone’s attention. By the time this has happened she’s happily married. However, her husband dies and the world she knows comes to an end. This is where the book gets very unpredictable.

Excellent narrator

I listened to the audio version of the book and it’s excellent. The narrator, Kate Scarfe, does a wonderful job. She’s easy to understand and I felt she really understood Elizabeth. I love the colors on the cover of this book, too!

One of my favorites this year

White Silence is one of my favorite books so far this year. I’m not going to say too much more about the book except that even though I was scared during some of dark light by jodi taylorthe book I listened compulsively and finished the 10+ hours of narration in one day. The second book–Dark Light–comes out at the end of this month and I’ve preordered it!

My Rating: A-

Narrator Rating: A

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Swords and Stars Reading Challenge hosted by MsNoseinaBook — Read the first book in a series

Review: Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

farmer in the sky by robert heinleinFarmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

Series: Heinlein’s Juveniles #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Setting: Ganymede

Source: Audiobook, purchased (6 hours, 34 minutes)

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Publishing Date: 1950

174 pages

Synopsis: Bill Lermer, a resourceful matter-of-fact teenager of the 21st century, tells what happens when his family decide to leave Earth and try scientific farming on Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter. 
After a two-month flight through space, including collision with a meteorite, only danger and hardship await the new colonists. But even a hair-raising adventure in the cave of The Other People cannot persuade Bill to return Earthside.

My thoughts

Farmer in the Sky won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1951. I can see why. It’s entertaining and doesn’t read like an antique book! It also reminded me of The Martian by Andy Weir. (I’m sure other people have made that comparison!) I think it’s my favorite so far of the Heinlein Juveniles I’ve read recently. In the last couple of years I’ve read five of the twelve books Heinlein specifically wrote for young people. I also read most of them when I was a teenager, but that was many years ago! I’m really enjoying revisiting them.

Farmer in the Sky

Bill, his dad George and his stepmother and stepsister decide to emigrate to Ganymede because Earth is overcrowded with rationing and limited choices. However, they aren’t quite ready for what they find when they get to Ganymede. It’s a lot more primitive than they thought it would be. Life on Ganymede isn’t always easy, but the family works together to succeed. Bill becomes a farmer and George works in town as an engineer so they can afford to get the farm started. It’s hard work, but they have a goal and are willing to work for it. It’s a rough life and they have their tragedies, but also their triumphs.

I’m fascinated at the details Heinlein added to this book about how the terraforming worked and how the settlers manage to live (or not live) on Ganymede. And I like the other familiar touches the author uses. Bill was an Eagle Scout on Earth and he discovers there are scout troops on Ganymede. He joins a troop and learns all sorts of helpful tips about living and surviving on a planet earthlings didn’t evolve on. He also meets other farmers and learns how to farm . . . what a hard job farming is, but also the satisfaction of hard work. He learns about self-sufficiency, but also how to accept help when he needs it and give help to his neighbors when they need it.

Audiobook

I listened to the audiobook and really like Nick Podehl’s narration. He does a good job with the different voices. He has a strong voice which is especially good with the male voices. And he’s easy to understand–always a plus!

Bottom Line

This is an excellent book for young teens, but also a great book for adults–particularly if you like classic science fiction.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Awards

Hugo Award for Best Novel (1951)

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Swords and Stars Reading Challenge hosted by MsNoseinaBook — Read a science fiction classic

Review: Blood Hollow by William Kent Kreuger

Blood Hollow by William Kent Kreuger

Blood Hollow by William Kent Kreuger

Series: Cork O’Connor #4

Genre: Mystery

Setting: Northern Minnesota

Source: Audiobook, Library (11 hours, 15 hours)

Narrator: David Chandler

Publishing Date: 2004

512 pages

Synopsis: When the corpse of a beautiful high school student is discovered on a hillside four months after her disappearance on New Year’s Eve, all evidence points to her boyfriend, local bad boy Solemn Winter Moon. Despite Solemn’s self-incriminating decision to go into hiding, Cork O’Connor, Aurora, Minnesota’s former sheriff, isn’t about to hang the crime on a kid he’s convinced is innocent. In an uphill battle to clear Solemn’s name, Cork encounters no shortage of adversity. Some — like bigotry and bureaucracy — he knows all too well. What Cork isn’t prepared for is the emergence of a long-held resentment from his own childhood. And when Solemn reappears, claiming to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ in Blood Hollow, the mystery becomes thornier than Cork could ever have anticipated. And that’s when the miracles start happening….

My thoughts

I read the first three of this series in 2017 and really liked them. I’ve meant to get back to the series and finally did. I listened to the audiobook and though it was 11 hours long it only took about three days to finish it! The narrator is great and the mystery is very good. It kept me guessing! Just like Cork I had many suspects throughout the course of the book!

The setting in the series is also one I really like. The books take place in northern Minnesota among lakes and forests. The main character is the former sheriff of his county and is part Irish and part Ojibwe Indian. The Ojibwe people and culture play a big part in these books and I love that. Cork O’Connor is very human, makes mistakes, but has strong ethical beliefs. He was raised Catholic, but no longer goes to church. Things happened in earlier books that caused him to doubt the existence of God. This book really explores different beliefs as well as miracles and spirituality. What is real when it comes to God? And how do we really know? How do we interpret “signs” from God? Are they real or not? Is God real? I like how this book talks about these things during the course of this mystery without preaching and without taking anything away from the mystery.

I also like that these books have lots about the relationships of the characters–especially Cork’s family. They have their ups-and-downs in and they’re not perfect, but they love each other. Cork has Ojibwe friends as well as white friends. There are tensions between the two groups of people in this book (as in earlier books), but Cork tries to have good relations with both groups.

I recommend this series if you like mysteries set in interesting places along with compelling characters and ideas.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Awards

Anthony Award for Best Novel (2005)

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge hosted by the POPSUGAR website — A book I borrowed (from the library)