The Reckoning ~ by John Grisham

I felt like I’d read this before –  how odd.  I know I’ve read quite a number of the scenes in the first part – right up to the kids going to see their mom at Christmas and confronting their dad.   Then with Part 2 it feels new to me.  This is way more than any sample (Kindle or Audible) would provide.  That’s close to 4 1/2 hours!   But there are more than 13 hours to go.  There’s no evidence of my having bought it on Audible (which is most likely) or Amazon or even in my libraries.

The Reckoning
by John Grisham
2018 / 435 pages
read by Michael Beck – 17h 36m
rating: A- / legal crime

I don’t seem to remember any of the war part.  I thought I remembered how the book ended in terms of the frame situatio but I was wrong.  I’d never read most of this ending but the real shocker part was familiar to me. It felt like maybe the publisher put out an extra large preview or something.  

Anyway,  it’s a frame story about a family in crisis with some background and an ending. That part is mystery/court-room drama.  The middle section is about dad going to WWII for several years.  The frame is standard John Grisham, the middle is a war story and I found it boring and one thing after another until it got too much and over the top..  

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The Hallows ~ by Victor Methos

This is certainly a legal thriller – both words, by any definition. There was some need for a suspension of disbelief in places because certain actions seemed highly unlikely but …. in general I enjoyed the read.

The Hallows
by Victor Methos 2019 /
read by Alexander Cendese 7h 52m
Rating: A- / legal thriller

(from the publisher)
Ruthless defense attorney Tatum Graham has been living large in Miami, but when his recently acquitted client claims another victim, Tatum has a crisis of conscience. Disillusioned, he heads to his small Utah hometown for a simpler life…but that’s not what he finds.

Soon after he arrives, Tatum’s childhood crush offers him a job at the county attorney’s office and assigns him a murder case. The victim is a teenage girl not unlike the victim in the last case he tried. Now a prosecutor, Tatum sees a chance for redemption, but politics, corruption, and a killer defense threaten to thwart justice.

To complicate matters, Tatum’s estranged father has terminal cancer, and the time to reconcile is running out. Tatum moved to Utah to find clarity, but his thoughts swirl with old feelings and present dangers. As the case heats up, so does the risk, threatening to adjourn Tatum’s new life before it begins.

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A Bitter Feast ~ by Deborah Crombie

I’ve seen Crombie’s name around the mystery shelves but never read one of her books. If the one I tried is a good example, and from the Audible site’s reviews I have good reason to think it is, I’ll likely try another.

A Bitter Feast
by Deborah Crombie
2019 /
read by Gerald Doyle 10h 42m
rating B / mystery

She’s mostly known for a series which features Duncan Kincaid a superintendent in Scotland Yard and his partner/ Detective Inspector wife, Jemma James.

These are traditional mysteries with professionals in charge but although the main characters are in law enforcement the thrust is not a procedural. They’re who-done-it stores along the lines the Hercule Poirot books by Agatha Christie or Louise Penny’s Three Pines series.

The setting is the London area and Gerard Doyle does a lovely job with the accent (for my California ears). In A Bitter Feast the action takes place in the upscale Cotswalds, Northeast of London.

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Anti-Social ~ by Andrew Marantz

This is an eye-opening book, for me anyway. The author is a regular staff writer for the New Yorker specializing in technology, social media and politics. And his assignment was to write about the “alt-right” before and after the 2016 election.

Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation 
by Andrew Marantz/ 2019
read by author – 15h 8m

Part One, DeploraBall, was kind of confusing although entertaining. This was more than made up for in Part Two, A Human Superpower, which was definitely informative including what motivated various leaders of the online community fractured as it was by the ideas of white supremacy, misogyny and totally free speech. It was also united by the deeply held belief in the idea of more freedom, fewer rules, from alt-light to apparent anarchy.

Part One, DeploraBall, was kind of confusing although entertaining. This was more than made up for in Part Two, A Human Superpower, which was definitely informative including what motivated various leaders of the online community fractured as it was by the ideas of white supremacy, misogyny and totally free speech. It was also united by the deeply held belief in the idea of more freedom, fewer rules, from alt-light to apparent anarchy.

Marantz takes us through the “movement” as it developed from the early days of the internet and Trump, Breitbart,the alt-right through the days following Trump’s election and the Charlottesville rampage.

I feel like I know a lot more about the individuals who make up the leadership, past and present, of this splintered group. Definitely worth the read.

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A Fatal Feast ~ by Jessica Fletcher/Donald Bain

I like to read a holiday book or two at holiday time so this year I got A Fatal Feast for fiction and This Land is Their Land by Barbara Ehrenreich for nonfiction. The Ehrenreich book was outstanding and A Fatal Feast rather silly by comparison. Oh well, that’s what I expected.

A Fatal Feast
by Jessica Fletcher/Donald Bain
2009 /
read by Sandra Burr – 7h 58m
rating: B- / cozy mystery

Jessica has been receiving mysterious and somewhat threatening letters in the mail but she goes on with her Thanksgiving plans. She invites a number of people to her home for a traditional dinner including her friend George from London, Seth the local doctor, other old friends and new plus an odd stranger who has been observing in town.

The murder takes place half-way through and after that it gets interesting with clues, possibilities and twists.

I did like the way Fletcher/Bain handled the contemporary view of Thanksgiving and other contemporary (2009) matters.

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This Land Is Their Land ~ by David Silverman

Just released this year, I thought it might be a good read for Thanksgiving. And it was that, although more the reason behind “day of mourning” than gratitude. I’d read a fair amount about the real “first Thanksgiving” in the US where the new colonists got together with the local natives to feast and “give thanks,” but not nearly all the detail this book goes into.

This Land Is Their Land
by David Silverman
2019 / 515 pages
read by William Roberts
rating: 9.2 / US history
(read and listene

The book covers the period from before the Pilgrims landed and the “first Thanksgiving” through end of King Phillip’s War fifty years later, Manifest Destiny and even the 21st century. There was a lot of surprising information especially regarding what happened after King Philips War when what transpired gets outrageous. The focus is always on the Wamp-anoag and their lot as time went on.

Imo, Silverman goes a bit over the top at the end where he advocates for changes in the schools and society.

I have The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer (Native Americans since 1890) on my Audible Wish List, but likely will not get to that until after the new year. I do so enjoy Native American (or First Nation/aboriginal) history.

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The Shotgun Lawyer ~ by Victor Methos

The interesting thing about this courtroom drama is that the highlighted case involves holding a gun manufacturer responsible for the deaths in the school shooting its product was used for. The mother of one of the victims contacts Pete Game, a low-level but popular attorney, about representing her. He’s the only lawyer in town who will take the case because not only is it pretty well impossible to win from the outset, but she wants a couple million dollars (for charity), an apology and a few other things

The Shotgun Lawyer
by Victor Methos
2018 / 349 pages
read by Will Damron 9h 32m
rating: B+ / courtroom drama


The characters are sympathetic with the bad guys being downright villainous. The plot has some excellent twists and tangle, with a bit too much coincidence, and the tension builds nicely.

I enjoyed it, but I’ve read better and I although I certainly agree with the “message,” the book may be a bit preachy for fiction.

I’ve read a few books by Methos before, not a lot. There’s one more in my wishlist for later – maybe in a few months.

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Ancient Civilizations of North America ~ (Great Courses / Edwin Barnhart

I’m not really a fan of the Great Courses material but once in awhile I’ll get one which piques my interest. I’ve got 6 so far and read 5.

Native Americans have interested me since college days when one of my professors presented them as quite heroic but certainly not perfect. These guys became real to me.

Ancient Civilizations of North America ~ (Great Courses)
by Edwin Barnhart / 2018
read by author 12h 19m
rating – 9 / North American History

That’s how Barnhart approaches the subject. Ancient natives were neither like those in Dances With Wolves nor like the primary source material of 19th century US military personnel.

Barnhart takes the reader from the earliest days of European contact in the south and southwest though the days of Custer in the Midwest and on to the Iroquois confederacy and Squanto.

I really enjoyed this one and I’m going on to read a *history* of Thanksgiving which it all kind of led up to. Barnhart has another book about the ancient natives of South America but I don’t think I’m interested. There’s so much to read.

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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – (B)

Although this is a pretty good book there were times I felt as though I’d read it before. It is not terribly original and although it got plenty of great reviews I was disappointed. The plot is too complex for me to even start describing and it’s creepy, too. The characters are not very well defined. The writing is mediocre. That’s probably enough said.

The Family Upstairs
by Lisa Jewell
2019 / 349 pages
read by a small cast
rating: B+ / suspense

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You Can Thank Me Later ~ by Kelly Harms

Another Audible Original freebie. Short and cute although kind of a Chick-lit thing. (I do like to read holiday books around the holidays but they’re usually mysteries.)

Sophie Dickenson is a single woman, a chef with a couple of married brothers. Charlie’s wife, Annette, was Sophie’s best friend. Pete and his wife had one child and were expecting a second. The family problem now, two years later, is that Annette’s cancer came back and it proved terminal. So this year he invited his current girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner at Sophie’s. Fun.

You Can Thank Me Later
by Kelly Harms
2018 /
read by Lauren Fortgang
3h 15m
rating: 6.5 / holiday novella

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Peace Like a River ~ by Leif Enger (7.5)

This book was hugely popular a few years ago (almost 20 years ago) and although I read some apparently. similar books, I never did get to this one and I remained curious. Oh well. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be but it’s not bad after you get into it. Imo, it gets a wee bit flowery in language, mushy in sentiment but the story is good although slower than what’s mostly on the market these days (what I’m used to now).

Peace Like a River
by Leif Enger
2000/ 324 pages
read by Chad Lowe 11h 34m
rating: 6 / religious fiction

It’s definitely about a family with problems and inspiration to get through them. After serious provocation, 16-year old Danny Land shoots and kills two teenagers who walk into his family’s home in the middle of the night. It might certainly be called self-defense.

The main characters are the 1st person narrator, Reuben, age 11, his younger sister Swede, age 9, the older Davy and their father Jeremiah. Mom is deceased. After Davy is arrested, put in jail and guess to trial it becomes obvious he’ll be going to prison. So he escapes and the family chases after him. They feel “led” in some way. .

Dad is a devout Christian and there are plenty of miracles as the story unfolds. The kids have been raised to expect them but the kids are coming of age and growing a tad skeptical.

I kept reading because the characters are so nicely drawn I cared about them and I wanted to find out what happened. (Also, I tend to finish books I buy.)

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Midnight Sun ~ by James Dommek Jr.

This is an “Audible Original” and I’m not too crazy about them in general, but once in awhile a selection comes along which really works. Midnight Sun is in the True Crime genre and that piques my interest. The story line is interesting and the main narrator is quite good.

Midnight Sun
by James Dommek Jr.
read by James Dommek Jr – 3h 23m
Rating: B+ / Short True Crime

In 2014 Teddy Kyle Smith, an up-and-coming actor from an Inupiaq tribe in north western Alaska, came home from a film festival, shot his mother, and then took off into the wilderness where he shot two hunters.

His defense included the appearance of Iñukuns, a secretive and ancient local tribe. Actually, it sounds like some form of mental illness, but Teddy refuses to use insanity as his defense. His story was that he was impacted by Iñukuns.

The whole thing could have been planned and staged by Teddy. His story could have been entirely made up without difficulty and lying to the police and the courts might be like second nature.

In the end Dommek makes a good point about Smith not getting a jury of his peers because there were no Inupiaq people on the jury and an appeal on those grounds didn’t work.

Bottom line, it was interesting, moderately well done and worth listening to.

Midnight Sun
by  James Dommek Jr. Josephine Holtzman, Isaac Kestenbaum
read by James Dommek – 3h 23m
rating B+ / true crime

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