How the South Won the Civil War ~ by Heather Cox Richardson

I got this at a pretty good sale, but I was interested in what Richardson, a moderately well-known academic professor of US history who also writes for a general audience, has to say about this idea that the South won the Civil War.  It’s a catchy title and it’s not quite accurate, but that said, what does Richardson, a very liberal oriented historian at Boston College, have to say on the subject?  The Washington Post calls the book “provocative” and “searing,” so it’s likely not a dry and dusty textbook. Even the words in the subtitle, “Oligarchy” “Democracy” and the “Soul of America” use some pretty emotionally charged and definitionally challenged words.  

How the South Won the Civil War:
Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight
for the Soul of America
by Heather Cox Richardson / 2020
Read by author /  9h 9m
Rating – 8.5 / US history 

Richardson seems to consider the official Civil War (1860-1864) to be an event in the broader conflict for the large idea of Democracy. To do this she immerses her argument in the party politics of Democrats vs Republicans, through Reconstruction, the progressive conflicts of the late 19th century and through the World Wars the Great Depression, on to the Civil Rights movement, Reagan, the Evangelicals, and finally, Trump (who was president when she was getting it published).  She covers US history as long as it’s useful to her argument.    

Although there were a few surprises and lots of unfamiliar details, I was pretty cognizant of the history and topics up to 1988 when more of it seemed new. Still, it was always the same message,  how horrible the conservatives (oligarch class) were toward the generally innocent and well-meaning progressives (working folks). In her mind the plantation culture of the antebellum South formed an oligarchy and that’s quiet likely true but the North had its own similar situations.

Anyway, according to records, the South did NOT win the Civil War so I’d say she doesn’t mean that in any literal way.  If you understand that for the North, the War Between the States was only about keeping the states united and ending slavery, then it’s obvious – the United States has not been carved up and there  is no legal slavery in the US.  Meanwhile for the South the war was for freedom and property rights which the North was trying to take away.

However we do have pretty serious case of polarization around the ideas of democracy (equality) vs freedom and in their own way those were the basic ideas involved in the Civil War. But imo, those ideas will always be at odds.

What Richardson does with the idea is show how from the Civil War on as we spread out over North America that conflict came up over and over again especially in our politics from Andrew Johnson to Donald Trump.

Richardson is quite liberal and mainly talking about oligarchy and democracy as we understand them today.  If you define the liberals/progressives as being for the working man and the conservatives as being for the oligarchs and the main thrust of the Civil War being Democracy then yup – Richardson is right, that was is sill going on in a myriad of ways.

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Come Back in September ~ by David Pinckney

From Putnam, the publishers: :  
“Critic and writer Darryl Pinckney recalls his friendship and apprenticeship with Elizabeth Hardwick and Barbara Epstein and the introduction they offered him to the New York literary world.

Come Back In September: A Literary Education 
On West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan
By Darryl Pinckney: 2022
Rating: 9.5 / memoir 

  • National Book Critics Circle Award – Nominee 
  • New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year 
  • Washington Post Best Books of the Year

The New York Times calls it “elegiac,”although for the most part I didn’t quite get that. There is certainly a tone of it”good-bye” especially the last chapter, But the title is oddly hopeful for an elegy. .It’s more like an observation that an era has passed and this book remembers Pinckney himself as well as his mentor and long-term, good friend Elizabeth Hardwick.  The book is like an homage to Elizabeth Hardwick.

With no audio book available for this, I actually it on my little iPad-Kindle. It took me quite a long time due to my senior eyes. Also, the book itself is quite dense with memories. I listened to other books along the way. This lack of an Audible book I’m looking for is rare, but I think it mostly happens with the older non-classic books as well as to a few which just wouldn’t work very well (graphic novels?)

 To me, the sample Kindle reads like a name-dropping memoir of New York literary snobbery and I almost decided not to bother, but changed my mind because I am group owner at All-Nonfiction and this was our month’s group read. Besides, I’ve read every book since I joined in April of 2000 – I don’t want to break that record.  I’m glad I read it. (What happened was that I kept procrastinating the decision to quit. – lol!)   

I typed a couple of criticisms (but note the high rating!)  If this book were only 250 pages long it might be much better – although maybe not quite so “elegiac” or nostalgic. I was really interested for only about the first 150 pages and then my involvement was in bits and pieces. That said, there is something compelling about this book – Maybe it’s the good-bye to the era with all the books and different kinds of news from the War in Vietnam (1973) to the height of the AIDS struggle (1980s) and on to the fall of the Berlin Wall so there’s also a bit of nostalgia here –

That said, I kept going, but Gertrude Stein did this kind of memoir properly with The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas which I read about 20 years ago. Stein’s book inspired me to compose a kind of annotated list of people mentioned and what they were noted for to go with the book.  I loved Stein’s book, but it’s only 206 hard cover pages and that fits what it was.

 In his defense, Pinckney tries for quite a lot more and wrote 432 pages (also hard cover for comparison), for his 2-decade memoir and homage to Elizabeth Hardwick, but he also includes information about his own family and some Black-American history.  

All that said, I enjoyed so much of it. I think he captured the ambiance of the New York literary circles in the 1970s and ’80s.  I’ve read quite a number of the authors mentioned, but certainly not all. Yes, I do feel like I got to know her as well as Pinckney.  

I read it in Kindle format and that’s certainly just as well because I think it would make for a poor audio version.  I almost decided to skip it but I’m very glad I didn’t. The only audio version available at Audible is in German.   

It was after trying the sample that I decided to skip it,  but I guess I only procrastinated the decision.  But I re-thought it and decided I should check out some background. Well that got me more interested and I decided to get it. And I read it. For the next 3 weeks I read it, taking notes and highlighting but not going very fast.  

Elizabeth (Liz, Lizzy) Hardwick, was age 50-something in 1974 when she became the professor and mentor of 19-year old Pinckney. Along with Barbara Epstein he kind of pleaded/advised/joked Hardwick into admitting him to her class and they became fast friends until her death 34 years later. (I read somewhere that he’s the custodian of her works.) . 

On the surface, this is NOT my era of New York literature. David Pinckney, is a Black New York writers born in about 1955 or so in Indiana.  (He’s rather coy about his age.)   Meanwhile I love the later New York of Don DeLillo and Jonathan Letham and Cynthia Ozick and others, Mark Helprin? Even Thomas Pynchon in his later days.

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These Silent Woods ~ by Kimi Cunningham Grant

This is a more a genre fiction with some crime involved than it is a typical crime novel.  The main tension driving this novel are the questions  “What did he do?”  And “Will they be found?”  

These Silent Woods
by Kimi Cunningham Grant 
2020 / 
Read by Bronson Pinchot, Stephanie Willis
Rating:  7+ / genre fiction -crime 

Ken Cooper, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his young daughter Finch (aka Elizabeth), live seriously “off the grid” in a remote part of the Appalachians.  Finch is 8 years old now and this is the only life she’s ever known. There’s no electricity, no contact with the outside world except for an old army buddy whose land they live on and who visits occasionally to bring supplies.  

Their only neighbor is another recluse named Scotland who spies on them and becomes friendly with Finch. Much of the book is about how Cooper and Finch manage their daily lives out there lacking contact with anyone except Scotland. Finch has never been to a store, never seen a movie, never been to school. Cooper is doing his best, but he’s a bit paranoid because he fears his past will catch up with him.

The author gives the backstory in pieces using several chapters scattered through the novel. Mom was killed in a car/deer accident and her parents didn’t think Cooper was a good idea for a dad. – they never have. Cooper had problems after Afghanistan and that’s described.

It’s a very compelling tale and the narration is excellent (Pinchot, is a personal favorite). The writing is smooth with good tension, interesting characters and a few sharp twists. That said it’s definitely not a thriller, in the usual sense of the term. There is more tension than in your usual general fiction, but that alone doesn’t make it a thriller.  

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Victory City – Salman Rushdie

I finished this on about the 1st of March and forgot to post my thoughts.  

Sad to say I was disappointed in this latest offering from a man I consider to be one of the greatest authors alive today.  It started out quite well but that didn’t hold up.  But he’s written several books I wasn’t all that crazy about so …. I guess it’s par for the course since I enjoyed his last several. 

Victory City 
by Salman Rushdie
2023 / 326 pages 
Read by Sid Sagar 11h 48m
Rating – 7.5 / historical-magical realism 

Much of what is background in this novel is supposedly true (from what I read. – I just wish I knew more of the history so I could have followed better).

I knew precious few of the multitude of names and places and events in this magical novel so when I came upon the name Ibn Batuta – my head snapped up. I knew this name! Ibn Batuta was a well known, learned and widely traveled scholar who, for about 3 decades, wandered and wrote about his travels, where all he visited and what all he saw. This included India in the area of which Rushdie writes.

I’ve loved Salman Rushdie’s works since I first read The Satanic Verses. I’d read other of his books but something about Satanic Verses and the hype after the Fatwa turned m off.  Ha!  I loved that book.   When I finished I said, “Huh? How did that go from Point A to Point C?  What happened?” And I promptly turned the book over and read it all the way through a second time.  

Over the years I’ve run hot and cool on Rushdie’s novels. The Satanic Verses is the best (imo),  Midnight’s Children, which I’ve read at least twice is also way up there along with several others.  But Shame and Fury and some of the others are flat to me. The more recent ones seem to have been better, since The Enchantress of Florence anyway.  So I was excited about a new one.  

Too bad, so sad. I very much appreciated the first third or so of Victory City but then it lost steam with the repetitive stories as the years past and too many characters were doing what seemed to be the same thing over and over again.  I got so confused I just finished to see how it ended.  If it had been more interested I might have started over when I got confused.  Nope – this one didn’t seem worth that.  

Victory City takes place in central India in the kingdom of Kampili  circa 14th century where the King has just been overthrown. The women of Kampili are distraught and walk into a very large bonfire in honor of heir sons and husbands and fathers.  Pampa Kampana’s mother walks into the flames with them leaving Pampa an orphan.  She grows up to be ravishingly beautiful with seemingly magical powers. She marries well and has children who marry well and have children.  Life and wars go on.  And Pampi gets older and older.  

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A Great Reckoning ~ by Louise Penny

Surprise!  I finished and enjoyed the whole thing except maybe the ending was a bit schmaltzy.  The surprise is that I’ve never been a Louise Penny fan in any way.  I’ve read 10 or more of the individual novels in the 18-book Detective Gamache/Three Pines series although I din’t read themt in order.  

A Great Reckoning 
By Louise Penny 
Read by Robert Bathurst 13h 12m
Rating: A+ / traditional mystery 

I read from book #1 and got to #6 but I really had a hard time with Ralph Cosham narrating because I couldn’t cut through his strong (but probably accurate) French accent and pronunciations when it came to names etc.   (Try “god” vs “guard.”)  

Since Gosham’s death in 2014  Robert Bathurst has been narrating. Still, I waited until 2020 to pick up on the series with #16 and I’ve been reading right along with publication ever since. Bathurst has enabled me to discern what is being said most of time, and that’s quite helpful although “Jean-Guy” still sounds like Jung-kie – a drug-addict.) 

Three Pines does not appear on any map, real or fictional, but in A Great Reckoning it’s revealed that it can only be found by getting lost.  . That tidbit might have been mentioned or described before, but if so I must have missed it, or missed the description. Nowhere is there a map with Three Pines on it  anywhere until Ganache finds a very old one inside a wall.  

So I’ll just stay that #16, A Great Reckoning is fine reading for those who enjoy a good “who-done-it” with a few of the old quirky characters from prior books, the folks who live in Three Pines.  Ganache has taken the position of director at a school for police cadets. Apparently bad things have been going on there including a little battle continuing between a rogue staff member and anyone in charge because he believes he was up for promotion.  And then there’s Amelia…

Enjoy – 

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Tomb of sand~ by Geetanjali Shree

 Ma is an 80-year old woman with plenty of money and has been depressed and going downhill health-wise since Pa died a few years prior. She causes problems for her children  and one day she walks away and gets lost. So her daughter, Beti who is very single and modern, takes Ma in to live with her. 

Tomb of Sand 
By Geetanjali Shree
Translated by Daisy Rockwell 
2018 / 
Read by  Deepti Gupta 18h 21m
Rating 9 / fiction
(Winner of the Booker International

prize and more)

Then along comes Rosie, a hijra (transexual -India style) to befriend her and be her companion. Meanwhile, a son gives her a golden cane with colorful butterflies. When Ma finds a small Buddha-statue she also realizes that her dream is to return to Pakistan. Rosie humors her and when the dust settles on that idea, they’re on their way. This is a huge abbreviation of what all goes on in the first third or so, but there are no spoilers.    

A tale tells itself. It can be complete, but also incomplete, the way all tales are. This particular tale has a border and women who come and go as they please. Once you’ve got women and a border, a story can write itself . . .”

The overarching theme is “borders,” and crossing them. It includes what they could be, where they are,  how to cross them, and so on. But the borders of gender and dying along with nationality (because it’s there) are more involved.   

There is a 1st person narrator, but that’s rarely apparent so there’s really no character development for him/her.

I had so looked forward to reading this but in places can be as boring as the Amazon readers say it is. It stayed compelling for me though   I just think a reader needs to take time to read it properly. Don’t go through I like it’s a thriller or a big climactic “ending” to get to.  The story is in the journey – to paraphrase a good saying.  

 There’s a lot of good story here, slow and meandering though it is, and I have a feeling I would have appreciated it a lot more 20 years ago when the literary aspects of a novel truly excited me. Now I find I get tired.  

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The Locked Room ~ by Elly Griffiths

Published ini late June 2022 this  isn’t a thriller but a highly suspenseful novel, but it’s well written and  quite entertaining with plenty of attention given to a twisty plot and a few memorable characters, The thing is that the  Covid quarantine messes with everyone’s lives.  

The Locked Room
By Elly Griffiths
Read by Jane McDowell 9h 41m
Rating: A+ / crime and covid
 (#14 in Ruth Galloway series) 

Again, there are lots of characters, but maybe I should just say there are lots of names, because most do not develop into characters. A few are fully fleshed out, another few are semi-“rounded” (as we used to say), and many others only appear in one scene or chapter.  (Is it a thing these days that if a character is created at all they must be given a name?) 

There have been several “suicides” in the general area of Norfolk and now comes Covid.  It’s the late winter and early spring of 2021 and the quarantines and restrictions are just being put in place.   Griffiths captures the feelings and the fears of the people as they figure out how to work with the rules
Dr Ruth finds a mysterious photo and gets a new neighbor, Cathbert feels ill,

Students and school teachers are on Zoom or FaceChat, 1st responders appear everywhere in Hazmat suits, the streets, stores, restaurants, bars and theaters are all empty. Get togethers of almost any kind are at least, postponed. And especially hospital visits are curtailed so people die there alone. 

Close quarters can put a strain on almost any relationship, but for the most part, people are all very kind. All of these things are present much ini evidence in the families and the neighborhoods of the book.  It gives an added dimension to the usual tension in a detective book.  

 In The Locked Room Ruth Galloway is going through the her mother’s old things although her death occurred 3 years prior.  She comes across a photo of the house she is living in now.  Huh?  On the back in distinctive handwriting her mother wrote, “Dawn 1963.” Ruth has no idea what any of this could mean, but it touches her heart so she keeps it to figure it out.

With Covid now presenting a very real threat Ruth teaches her anthropology students via Zoom while Kate, age 11, does her own homework pages, builds with Legos, and writes her own novel. They go for walks with the dog.  Ruth’s romantic partner, Harry Nelson, a detective chief inspector and is conducting a lot of his business via telephone and Zoom but there are times when that’s not possible.  

Meanwhile, Judy, another Detective Inspector, and her husband Cuthbert are personally impacted by Covid.  

This is a very good book –
Augustine Steward’s House (photo)

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The Darkest Place ~ by Phillip Margolin

Again.- don’t think the story is told until you turn that last page.  What a ride!   I think I’m going to leave that last book I have unread alone. These got better an better and the best of the lot so far as been #6, Murder at Black Oaks.  This was good though. – 

The Darkest Place
by Phillip Margolin 
Read by Therésè Plummer 6h 6m
Rating:  A / legal thriller 
(Book 5 in Robin Lockwood Series)  

Oh the tangles! The widow of a brutally murdered man is suspected of killing him. Two gangster types come to her wanting money. But she has no money. She leaves town and lands in Robin’s hometown. Then she agrees to surrogate pregnancy because she hears of a couple who desperately want a child and she needs money and hiding.  A lawyer puts the two in contact, gets all papers signed, and a pregnancy ensues. On a dark and stormy night (yes) a nurse isn’t aware that the newly delivered child is not legally the child of the woman who delivered and brings the baby to her.  They bond. Oops – Big oops!

Again.- don’t think the story is told until you turn that last page.  What a ride!   I think I’m going to leave that last book I have unread. These got better and better and the best of the lot so far as been #6, Murder at Black Oaks. This was good though. – 

Robin Lockwood 
Jeff – Robin’s fiance
Loretta Washington – receptionist 
Vanessa Cole –  Dist Atty
Kevin Harkness – 
Roger – police investigator at scene 
Carrie Anders – police –  “
Shirley Lockwood –  Robin’s mother/ roommate in EF
Nicholas Marquet – Kelly’s husband 
Joel Lowman – 1st victim –  many enemies 
Marjorie Lowman   Wife of 1st victim 
Kelley Starrett – Joel’s partner and Mistress
Gangsters –  go to wife to get what’s owed 
Ruth Larson/ Marjorie Loman  – wife of Joel Lowman
Nancy Cleary –  nurse – exhausted 
Emily – adoptive mother 
Caleb – adoptive father 
Roy /Peter – baby – (yikes) 
Darrel Holloway – atty for adoptive parents 
John Kaiser – motel manager
Irving Gilford local cop
Forster police chief out of state
2 deputies 
Arlene Castro – paramedic 
Gary Pinsky – paramedic 
Stan – a lawyer in Elk Grove, wants Robin as council 
Dr Nadine Wolf –  witness for prosecution 
Judge Stonehouse 
Maxwell Lancaster –  Doc for Marjorie/Robin 
Gabrielle Suarez – Psych for Marjorie 
Mulberry – jury lead 
Ken Breeland – new investigator 

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A Matter of Life and Death ~ by Phillip Margolin

And true to my word I looked at what other books in this series that I hadn’t read and came up with what Kirkus Reviews calls “A genuine whodunnit.”  

A Matter of Life and Death
by Phillip Margolin 
Read by Therésè Plummer 5h 38m
Rating – A+ / legal thriller
# 4 in Robin Lockwood series) 

One thing I really like about this series is that the women are very realistic (imo and speaking as a moderately well read woman). They’re not chic-lit in any way, They’re nicely differentiated from each other. They’re not overly emotional or anything else. They’re what they say they are – or aren’t.  

Another thing I appreciate is that the plots are tangled with more than one thread, they’re thrillers. And the courtroom scenes are high tension,  in fact the tension in the whole book is masterfully built.  

In this story Robin starts out defending a man who is transitioning to be a woman. She is a CPA but was arrested for prostitution.  The courtroom drama is very well done.  

And then in Part 2 the first body shows up in what turns out to be a story of illegal street fighting and Joe, the fighter in trouble, knows Robin from wrestling  Not too long later a second body is found and two threads merge.       

Legal crime fiction is often a matter of “who done it” and Margolin adds to this in his Robin Longwood series by focusing on criminals who are wrongly convicted.   

Robin Lockwood – defense lawyer and ex-wrestler 
Jeff Hodges – her romantic partner – roommate 
Mark Berman Robin’s law partner 
Erica Stassen – transexual on trial 
Ian Hennessy  – DA’s office – prosecuting attorney of Erica
Carrasco – a crooked Judge   
Betsy Carasco – Judge’s angry wife 
Stacy Hayes- the Judge’s mistress 
Loretta Washington – receptionist 
Joe Lattimore -ex-pro fighter/cook and murder suspect – (Black)
Maria Lattimore – Joe’s wife 
Asian woman – fighter
Carlos Ortega – Joe’s opponent in the fight  
Kevin Bash –  very criminal fight manager  – 
Roger – police investigator at scene 
Carrie Anders – police –  “
Vanessa  Cole – DA – 
Wilma Malone – circuit court judge – 
Harold Wright –  presiding judge – Robin likes him – 
Brent Maclan/ Macklin – reporter on illegal fights –  
Helen Reptis….  Betsy’s mother – very angry and very rich
 ______ Helen’s body guard 
Amanda Jaffe –  Robin’s co-council on this case
Carl Tepper – Man in Stacy’s apartment – 
Martin Breech –  gangster,  owns The Jungle Club 
Andre Rostoff –  giant gangster 
Sally Grace – medical examiner 
Wendell Appleton  – fingerprint spec 
Marvin Bradshaw –  police at judge’s house   
Melinda Cortez –  forensics expert – DNA 
Max Weaver –   lawyer for Bash 
Sal Bandetto – thug 

These are not long books – I can finish one in a day with no problem.  Also,  rating them is no problem because there is nothing at all literary about them. They’re straight-forward legal crime novels with great characters and plot with masterful hand in the tension-building.  

So now I’ve got 2 books to go – A Reasonable Doubt (#3) and The Darkest Place (#5)

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Murder at Black Oaks by Phillip Margolin

“An unapologetic valentine to golden age whodunits that sports its clichés as proudly as badges.”

Oh what a terrific book!  I’ve read several of Margolin’s books but this is hands down the best of what I’ve read.  Now I’m going to have to go back and try to get a couple more of the Robin Lockwood series.  

Murder at Black Oaks
By Phillip Margolin 2022 / 
Read by Thérèse Plummer 5h 55m

Rating:  A+ / mystery 
(#6 of the Robin Lockwood series) 

A young man is unjustly condemned to life in prison for killing his girlfriend and that starts us off.

There is every kind of cliche here – even the board game “Clue” and the Hercule Poirot mysteries of Agatha Christie. There’s a locked room in a remote haunted house when a snow storm traps them all. The house is that of a rich old man who is having a party including his lovely, new and young fiancé, Robin and her detective, along with the man he falsely had imprisoned for 30 years. Just to add spice, there’s an escaped and insane serial killer – and there’s more. It’s such fun.

There are a lot of characters here many of whom are introduced rather suddenly in Part 4. The first dead body shows up in Part 5 or 6.  

Characters – 
Robin – lead
Frank Melville – old rich attorney who put Alvarez in jail 
Jose Alvarez – not guilty but spent 30 years in prison 
Nelly Melville – daughter
Justin Trent – Melville’s attorney 
Sheila Monroe –  Melville’s new fiancé 
Cory Rockwell – actor/director to create film – a suspect in wife’s death – had an alibi Samuels. – local detective. (looks a lot like Zelco – the 
Ken Breland, – investigator for Robin
Victor Zelcoe –  escaped fugitive murderer 
Claire Winters – stabbed to death – lived with Rockwell – 11 pm – 
Khan convicted of the murder of Winters 
Tony Clark – stunt man for Rockwell 
Rose Macintire – witness to the Winters death 
Mrs Raskin – housekeeper 
Luther – house man 
Janet  – caterer
Max – caterer,  combat trained, knives in kitchen 

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The Maze ~ by Nelson DeMille 

Starting in about 1990 I’ve read about 10 of Nelson DeMille’s thrillers. I read some in paperback and, after 2000 or so via Audible.  Of the main series with John Corey I’ve read 4 or 5. (scroll down to see all the series). This is the series which starts with Plum Island, possibly the best of his books. 

The Maze 
by Nelson DeMille 
2022 / 
Read by Scott Brick 15h 42m
Rating C- / crime thriller
(8th in John Carey series) 

In The Maze the egotistical and smart-ass John Corey is back being his old arrogant and “politically incorrect” self to the point of real annoyance.  That’s one reason I stopped reading these books  The stories are okay though. The idea of the maze is from a large hedge maze on the land next door and used for some capers of the bad guys. 

Overall, I found the story predictable and using a rather coarse and gritty situation.  Scott Brick is his usual over-emoting self which I can only stand once in a great while now. He used to be one of my very favorite narrators. I don’t know anyone I’d recommend this to.      

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Suspect ~ by Scott Turow

Pinky (or Clarissa if you prefer) is a curious sort of youngish woman. She’s a natural detective, so when Rick, her step-brother, offered her a job as an investigator for his law firm she jumps at it.  Pinky is 33 years old, bright, courageous, funny, bisexual and awkward all at e same time.

By Scott Turow
2022 – 
Read by Helen Laser 
Rating:  A- / courtroom-thriller 
Kindle County series #12) 

The crime she was investigating was whether the chief of police is harassing (in a sexual way) the male officers under her supervision.  Yes, the female chief is quite guilty of sexual harassment. That case is now in a high profile trial and there’s some  good courtroom drama here. 

But with that case gone to trial, the curiosity of Pinky’s life at the moment is her neighbor in #2 which is what she calls him until they meet, “Two.”.  He’s kind of strange, older than she is, single and dorky. She follows him around town as he goes on his daily walks doing nothing much .She’s simply become curious about him so after a few weeks of this he confronts her and they meet and become friendly. Still, she continues to think he’s up to something. 

Nothing else much happens until about 1/2 way through the book when a body is found and the hunt and chase is on for reals.  These are scamming cops in lots of ways and there are some very twisty plots going on. 

Turow’s writing is masterful as usual and I’d like to see this become a series but …  My only complain is that the nicknames for everyone gets confusing. 

The narrator here is excellent.  

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Freeze Frame ~ by Peter May

As the result of a dare with a journalist, Enzo MacLeod , a forensic specialist, is tackling a series of 7 unsolved crimes. In this, the 4th, we find him on a tiny island off the coast of Brittany where, 20 years prior, an elderly man was murdered while his son was temporarily out of the country. He leaves instructions with his daughter-in-law not to change anything in the study as his son would deal with it when he got home.  Unfortunately the son was killed in an accident.  The widow left the room totally unchanged for 20 years – and then Enzo arrives. 

 Freeze Frame 
By Peter May
 2010 (294 pages)
Read by Peter Forbes 9h 30m 
Rating: A- / mystery 

But there had bene a trial and a man against whom ether was good evidence was exonerated because the police botched the job.  There have been very bad feelings ever since.  
That’s where Enzo is. And that’s the crime he solves.

What are the clues in the study and who killed the old man 20 years ago?  

Excellent reading –

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How to Avoid a Climate Disaster – by Bill Gates

I’d been looking at this book anyway and it might have been on my crowded Wish List. (I keep about 200  books on my Wish Lists and I pare and add regularly.) Anyway – there is was one day on sale. Okay – fine.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: 
The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need
By Bill Gates
Read by the author: 6 hours
Rating – 8 / non=fiction- climate change 

I generally try to follow major environmental news and there is a lot of changes a lot. There’s a lot of new technology as well as increasing  threats especially in the area of climate.   

 I expected a dry and nerdy book but nope, this is a very readable book. And where I’d intended to read a chapter a day, I got involved and listened to it almost straight through. What Gates has done is to write a progress report on how we’re coming along in dealing with climate change which is creeping up on us with increasing speed.  It’s a very big job if we’re going to avoid the disaster it will be if not addressed promptly. 

For such a big job, it’s very nicely organized and clearly written.   This book made #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list the week it was released.  Furthermore Gastes is a very competent reader and there’s a pdf file if you want the photos, charts and graphs (which I did).  

Table of Contents: 
• Introduction: 51 billion to zero 
• Why Zero? 
We have to get to zero greenhouse emissions because anything else will build up and we’ll never get rid of what we have which is way too much now. Much of the knowledge and technology will have to be developed, but quite a number of policies and regulations will have to be changed because although we have some – many are outdated and it’s VERY difficult to get energy policies changed.  (But this book is NOT a political tract.) This will be hard 

 • Five questions to ask in every climate conversation:
• How we plug in 
• How we make things 
• How we grow things 
• How we get around 
• How we keep cool and stay warm 
• Adapting to a warmer world 
• Why government policies matter 
• A plan for getting to zero 
• What each of us can do.

There are drawbacks to converting to “zero” emissions. The problem is extremely complex, and innovation takes decades so we need to get busy. We don’t have all the tools we need but we have do tools which should be used now  We need to drive the green premium down.  (Green products cost more.) What can we do help the world’s poorest who have the most to lose but did the least to create the problem. 

The wealthiest countries in the world are the ones who will have to go first in developing technologies for energy, transitioning to using them, and passing/enforcing effective regulations. These are the countries who are able to do that.  There are many pathways but no matter which one we take it will be hard.  But we can do it.  

And one by one Gates describes what has to be done to fight climate change effectively. He’s got a time-line. He’s includes spending, research and development of more risky ideas – this could be international like the Genome Project and the projects could be massive and funded for years in advance, match projects to needs and use early stage research and corporations. There are lots of ideas and some of them are veery specific and promising as well as being as cost effective as possible.    

Then there are the regulations which the governments need to coordinate and develop and enforce for electricity and electrofuels.  

This is not a political tract -he doesn’t espouse either government research and innovation or individual push in those directions. It’s very pragmatic – just like the US has pretty much always been.

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A World of Curiosities ~ by Louise Penny

This “cozy” is set in Three Pines which, after I read this somewhere, is NOT supposed to be a real or realistic place. It’s a fantasy place for a certain group of people/readers.  And with this book, A World of Curiosities,  it’s needed.  

A World of Curiosities
by Louise Penny
Read by Robert Bathurst 13h 15m
Rating: B+ / / Crime-horror

I don’t know why I keep reading these books.  I finish them, but that’s a barely finished.  I get them from the library because next time I just might not finish.  But so many people enjoy them and rave, from my friends to Book Group members and even my sister.  This one was better except for the horrendous subject-matter.  How in the world did Louise Penny get labeled “cozy” or am I imagining that? Or has she changed? 

Ten years ago now-retired Detective Armond Ganache faced a case of a murdered woman and her abused children.  Now those two children are grown and back in town with all their psychological baggage. Gamach is convinced the boy is a psychopath The novel mostly takes place in that distant past but the conclusion of the story is in today’s world and that has a lot of tangents as well.  And the book took off at about 40%.   

In spite of the graphic horrors, for the most part I enjoyed this addition to Penny’s series more than any of her prior novels. I think it was because of the “then and now” structure, the complexities of the characters and the twisty and twisted  plot itself.  I think over the years I’ve read about 7 or 8 of them.  I’ll not even bother going back to the Ralph Cosham books – there were 10 of them.  Now with Robert Bathurst there have been 9 more of which I’ve read 3 and I might, with time, read some more. We’ll see.  I might stick with reading as they come out. 

 The regular characters of Three Pines include (I don’t think they’re all in this book)
• Armand Gamache, top cop in the the provincial police forcez
• Reine-Marie,  his wife, a museum curator 
• Olivier, who owns the Bistro, and 
• Gabri, Olivie’s partner,who’s in charge of the B&B.
• Myrna, who runs the bookstore.
• Clara, an artist, and her husband, 
• Peter, Clara’s husband 
• Ruth, an elderly poet.

Many readers didn’t like this book so much because the subject matter is horrific and imo, Penny might be playing with the “horror” genre. It added a lot to the suspense, I will say that.  And the idyllic Three Pines was needed even more as a respite. 

The Paston Treasure –

Myrna, the Mammy: Louise Penny’s American Dream?

I’ll be reading more.

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The Marlow Murder Club ~ by Robert Thorogood

This one is pure entertainment, folks.  I needed a wee bit. It’s another case of elderly people becoming sleuths. This is a rather recent development in my reading,. but I’m older now, too.. Okay – I’m 75 and have been retired for 12 years.   I loved Nancy Drew when I was 11 so the idea of senior sleuths now is right on time.  I think it’s great to have enjoyable books with characters I at least semi-identify with.  Imo, the Boomers have had another impact –  lol.  

The Marlow Murder Club
by Robert Thorogood
2022 / 
Read by Nicolette McKenzie  
Rating:  A- / cozy crime 

It’s a fun book, the first in a series,  featuring senior citizen women as sleuths.  The main character is probably Judy Potts, age 77, a long-time widow with plenty of money.  Judy lives in a kind of mansion on the Thames and keeps herself busy by creating crossword puzzles for the local newspaper. 

Becks, the first to join Judy in sleuthing,  is a very proper vicar’s wife.  And there’s Susie Harris,  a long-time divorcé and a dog-walker.  These ladies didn’t know each other prior to Judy’s neighbor being murdere but become the main sleuths in this new cozy mystery by Robert Thorogood.  This is the first book in the series and I’ll be getting #2 when it comes out.  The main characters are nicely drawn, the plot was twisty and clever and there’s humor thrown in along with a small sense of theme in the idea of “puzzles.” 

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Glory – by Violet Bulawayo

I suppose NoViolelt Bulawayo’s new book, Glory, is a satire of sorts or perhaps an allegory. (It’s NOT Animal Farm). Glory starts out at a celebration for Old Horse, the “father of the nation,” who had, in 2017, ruled Bulawayo for almost 4 decades. The military who accompany him are known as the Defenders; they’re dogs.  Other characters are goats and chickens etc but I think that serves mostly to distance the reader from the events of the book rather than to give meaning. 

By Violet Bulawayo 2022
Read by Chipo Chung 16h 10m
Rating: 9.25 / political satire 
(I finished this back in January!)

Bulawayo was planning a nonfiction book about Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe but found that political satire would suit her purposes better. As satire it sometimes works, but it’s very difficult to laugh at something so tragic -there are very funny bits but those are in the beginnings of the book.  

The story actually takes place very generally during the presidency of “Crocodile” of Zimbabwe from 2017 until today (2021) . Prior to Mnangagwa, Robert Mugabe was “President” with Mnangagwa as Vice President.  This lasted for almost 4 decades and then Old Horse seems to want “Dr. Sweet Mother” to be Vice President possibly to succeed him as President.  This results in a. Military coup and the return of “Crocodile.”  

The plot line in the book tells the story of Destiny, a writer who has returned to her home in Jidada because she knows it’s the time of revolution. Her family and friends catch her up on what has transpired. 

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