Thin Air ~ by Ann Cleeves

Thin Air
by Ann Cleeeves
2017 / (398 pages)
read by Kenny Blythe 10h 1m
rating A – mystery
#6 in Shetland Island series

Moving along on my Shelter Island binge this mystery concerns the dead body of. a woman who was visiting Shetland Island with. group of long-time friends.. She seemed to vanish from a party but was found posed at the bottom of a cliff.

I’m ready to start the next book in the series Cold Earth.

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Dead Water by Ann Cleeves

Dead Water 
by Ann Cleeves
2014 /
read by Kenny Blythe 10h 5m
rating – A / mystery
Shelter Island series #5

 Another good solid mystery,  this time it’s book #5 in the shelter Islands series where Jimmy Perez is the only detective on the northern Scottish Island.  This time memories of old loves and rages rear up and turn some good people into murderers.   The pace is.slower than most mysteries these days but they aren’t thrillers.  Cleeves takes time with her characters and develops them very nicely, the plots are well thought out and the setting is interesting. Enjoy.

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Legacy of Lies ~ by Robert Bailey

Legacy of Lies
by Robert Bailey
2020 /
Read by Eric G. Dove – 8h 23m
rating – B-/ legal crime

I rather enjoyed this novel except for the sex parts. Those seemed gratuitous and kind of stupid. The main plot was clever though and the writing and characters were okay. The final ending was kind fo a twist. Sorry, I’m not going to waste any more words or time rewiring a review,

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Blue Lightning ~ by Ann Cleeves

Blue Lightning
by Ann Cleeves
2010 / 380 pages
read by Gordon Griffin 10h 32m
rating – B+ / mystery
(Shetland Island series #4)

It seems I’m still suffering from Corona-brain and unable to focus real well – and there have been other things in the current events class too – my god. So I’m trying to read mysteries and crime to get my mind focused but then alternating those with nonfiction because I really enjoy a good history book or current events. (Right now though I have to fight to get away from current events.)

So this book is #4 in the Shetland Island Jimmy Perez series by Ann Cleeves and I’ve been following them since book 1, Raven Black, which I read with a group several years ago,

This time Jimmy takes his fiancé to a small local island where his parents live, but while they are there a murder occurs. And then another one. The characters are warm and homey but danger lurks as the reader tries to arrange the clues. It’s a slow paced mystery with the daily doings of the village and its people being examined as well as direct motives.

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The Gates of Europe ~ by Serhii Plokhy x2

The Gates of Europe:
A  History of Ukraine

By Serhii Plokhy
2017 / 397 pages
read by Ralph Lister 15h 20m
rating: 9.5 / Europe history
(read and listened)

First review at:

 As promised, I read this a second time because although it is truly a wonderful book, painstakingly researched and brilliantly written,  it’s dense.  The question of how to cover 3000 years of history in 350 pages of narrative is one problem but another problem Is that these 300 pages are written for a lay readership (such as myself) interested pretty much only because if the news in he past several years (although I’ve been mildly interested since college).   What’s going on in this remote little place which used to be in the Soviet Union but seems to have problems with the western world as well as Putin’s Russia.  

The second reading I got a whole lot more out of it simply because I knew at this point that my old ideas about Kiev being Russian as much as St. Petersburg were out of data and it was the whole story leading up to independence which was important.  

So surprising because instead of a bone dry dusty tome Plokhy has written a fast paced and fascinating account of life on the Black Sea, between the steppes and the forest, and between Orthodox and Roman.  And Ralph Lister, the reader, has brought it to life.  

There are no source notes but I think Plokhy is so expert in his field that he, by himself, can be considered a source, like Mary Beard for her book, SPQR. There are plenty of other resources available including a chapter by chapter guide to “Further Reading.”

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The Mirror and the Light ~ by Hilary Mantel

The Mirror and the Light
by Hillary Mantel
2020 / 757 pages (Kindle)
read by Ben Miles 38h 12m
rating – 10/historical fiction
(read and listened)

This is the brilliant finish to Mantel’s story of Thomas Cromwell and his days in power as the Lord Great Chamberlain to King Henry the VIII, helping him get out of marriages he didn’t want and into marriages he thought the did as well as so much else. It”s ‘the third volume of the Wolf Hall trilogy which really should be read in order. In Book I, “Wolf Hall,” Thomas is found helping gather evidence against the Queen, Ann Bolyn, so that King Henry VIII can have her executed for treason. That task completed, volume II, “Bring Up the Bodies.”  concerns Cromwell arranging a marriage between Henry and Jane Seymore. Jane manages to give Henry a son, Edward,  but then she dies.  In “The Mirror and the Light”  Henry’s arranged marriage to Anne of Cleves is explored along with the final days of Cromwell..

Cromwell, as presented in Mantel’s meticulously researched story is a complex creature – possibly more complex than the reality of that very complex and ambitious man.  He was ambitious for himself but also moist likely for the Protestant Reformation in general as we’ll as for Henry himself.  In the years he lived and thrived in London Cromwell made many friends but maybe more enemies, he loved deeply but he lost both money and dear ones. He held various offices at the whim of King Henry III, proving himself to be indispensable until he wasn’t. He got to the very top and you know what they say about that –

This is one of those books where even if you definitely know the ending – the author hooks you in with prose and tension because you really care about this tragic hero, This is probably the best of the three books in terms of literary styling. I was wowed in the first book by the point of view which is like an intimate third person – or a detached first person – ??? Whatever it is, it definitely works. The second book, Bring up the Bodies, is definitely keeps up with the first, but the point of view is not so surprising. It’s in the third book though there Mantel brings it all home – the character and his point of view as well as the tension of the story-line – which gets pretty intense and we watch as Cromwell goes through some heavy changes.

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Nothing More Dangerous ~by Allen Eskins

Nothing More Dangerous
by Allen Eskens
2019 / 305 pages
read by Kevin Stilllwell 10h 27m
rating: A / fiction

I think I’ve read all of Eskens’ books now – there are four so far. I’ve enjoyed them all. This one is not part of a series, but is almost a fictionalized memoir – not quite. It’s more of mystery/crime novel and that a”s where I’d put it.

Boady Sanden is a 15-year old freshman in high school when the story opens, his father died years prior so he and his mom live together in a small house in a small town in rural Missouri. It’s 1975. One day the Elgens, a black family from Minnesota, move into the big empty house across the street. Mr Elgen is supposed to take charge of a certain business This doesn’t sit well with some people in town who have secrets they’d just as soon stay secret. And the story evolves.

Eskens is good – he writes good solid stories with nicely drawn characters and some action thown in.

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Damaging Evidence ~ 
by Al Macy

Damaging Evidence
by Al Macy
2020 /  323 pls
read by Nick Sullivan: 8h 19m
rating:  A+ / legal crime


Oh yay!  I’ve now finished another series this month!  There were the Anne Reeve books prior to Al Macy.  Both are *almost* cozy crime novels – they’re light-is and the focus is on the relationships as well as the crime solving.  It’s not gritty in the 2020 sense of the term, but there are some very difficult life circumstances involved. 

The setting is still Humboldt County in California,  home to a LOT of marijuana growing and sales and some other counter-culture goings on.  Every once in awhile this adds some interest, but is never a big point.  

This time we have Garrett Goodlove the first person attorney,  along with Jen his new wife and Nicole his daughter – all three are lawyers in Garrett’s firm.   And there’s Carley his no-nonsense deaf sister and Luella,  their excellent although older, investigator. These characters made their first appearances in the prior novels.  

The main plot thread concerns the prosecution of a local doctor who is doing entirely too many surgeries on his own and random heart patients. One of them was seriously damaged during what she says was unnecessary bypass surgery.  Then a witness shows up who knows something, but won’t tell for fear he’ll go to jail on an unrelated charge of his own. 

It’s probably wise to read the books in order. I’m totally looking forward to another one.

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Fair Warning ~ by Michael Connelly

Fair Warning
By Michael Connelly
2020 /  (416 pages)
read by Peter Giles 10h 26m
rating –  A / crime thriller
# 3 in Jack McEnvoy series

I read the first two books in this series (of 3 now) but only remembered only that Jack McEnvoy was the lead reporter and pretty depressed in The Poet and The Scarecrow and it’s been a long long time since I read them, Then, here in 2020, comes the third book in the series. . Okay –   

One night Jack is coming home from work as reporter for a news organization with an active  website when he is approached by two cops and questioned about the murder of a local woman.  The cops seem to think Jack did it but Jack knows he didn’t but his interest is piqued and off he goes, investigating.  It turns out there’s a serial murderer on the loose and his MO is very unusual. 

There’s no “mystery” here – it’s just a matter of catching the bad guy so I’ve simply used the term “crime thriller” as the genre except that the procedure is a mix of reporter and detective with lots of new-to-me technical improvements.. The only thing was that sometimes my suspension of disbelief was stretched a bit thin.  Good book if you can stand some gritty stuff.   

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Sufficient Evidence – by Al Macy

Sufficient Evidence
by Al Macy
2018 /
read by Nick Sullivan: 5h 57m
rating – A / legal crime

Fun book – mostly legal thriller with plenty of courtroom drama, but with some nice procedural elements. There’s also a good story arc meshing nicely with the prior Garret Goodlove book.  

Goodlove is an attorney working with a partner out of a small law office in Humboldt County California.  Conclusive Evidence, the first book in the series, sets it all up with a good plot involving his deaf twin sister.  

This time,  Aksana Ivanova, who looks like a fat old Russian grandmother, is arrested for being in possession of an assault rifle and then after she is released on those charges, for murder.  It’s tricky.  

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The House on Mango Street – by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cistneros
1984 / 111 pages
read by author: 2h 18m
rating 10 / 20th century
(both read and listened)

Second reading –  I knew I would it’s sooo good and because it’s that good even on a second reading I hang to give it a 10 .  I’ve been meaning to read this for ages but time is slippery and there are too many books – finally a group nominated it and that’s one way I’ll read it for sure – and then I’ll get sucked into reading it a second time

The whole book is only a bit over 100 pages plus the Introduction which is also totally wonderful.  The Audio I listened to used the Introduction from the 10th Anniversary edition while the Kindle version used the Introduction from the 25th Anniversary edition. Both by Cisneros and both very good.  I didn’t read them until I’d finished my first reading and fallen in love with both the author and her creation, Esperanza. 

There are scores of reviews and chapter by chapter teacher aids out there (this is taught in schools from Junior High to college – it’s that kind of book. The voice of the 1st person narrator goes from about age 4 or 5 to somewhere in her early to mid- teens, I’m not sure.  So that makes it a coming-of-age story in itself.  But for maybe a third of the book Esperanza is an unreliable narrator because at the age of 7 or so, she could hardly be happy and excited when the neighbor boy gets taken away by the cops in a police car – she truly doesn’t understand what it means.  Any reader over age 10 does though.   
The book is so full of literary stuff – from the unreliable narrator to childhood rhymes and rhythms, from  symbolism or allusion (especially feet) and incredible metaphors and themes like feminist issues or racism and otherness.  The idea of sex comes up as it will between the ages of 5 and 15 – sometimes yukkie.  It’s sometimes a sad and lonely book, but it’s also realistic and hopeful – especially knowing it’s generally based  on Cisneros’ life which turned out nicely.  There are times it’s even funny (see “A Rice Sandwich”). 
Each chapter is a little mini-story unto itself but woven into a larger picture of growing up Hispanic female in Chicago, but the point is that Esperanza becomes aware and wants her own house – somewhere she can be who she is on the inside – not what others expect her to be, including the neighbors and her father. 

It’s full of a girl’s desires and while she manages to get much of it she’s then disappointed because it’s not what she wanted or it doesn’t fulfill her or something,  Sometimes this happens to her friends and neighbors or her family.  And she grows up, leaving the dangers, constraints and traps of Mango Street behind.    

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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: by Lori Gottlieb

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
by Lori Gottlieb: 2019
Read by Brittany Pressley: 14h 21m Rating: 7.5 / memoir/self-help 

I only read this book because I bought it in an impulse by when it was on a 2-for-1 sale at Audible. I don’t know why but it didn’t sound too bad.   That said,  you’ll notice I gave the book an A- rating – not too shabby there.  

I outgrew self-help books many years ago,  but I do enjoy a good memoir.  In the sample the voice of the narrator was good and it landed in my check-out basket.  I like to get sale books for when I’m between good books and either too sated to read another one or I’m in an actual reading slump and can’t decide on my next one.  

And I’ve been in therapy myself which was quite successful, imo.  I could relate to much of how Gottlieb’s sessions went and what she was trying to do for her clients as well as what was happening to her personally.  She has a personal problem and sees a therapist herself.  

My expectations for these sale books aren’t very high.  A rating of B would probably be about right.  Gottleib’s book surprised me.  It’s not a debut book – she wrote a well-received book of the same genre about 10 years ago and she’s a psychotherapist, the author of magazine articles. 

I picked it up once and put it down for awhile – bored.  But then something stirred and after finishing The House on Mango Street I was ready for another piece of easy-reading – and this hit the spot then.   

Gottleib has many kinds of clients with different kinds of issues.  One young woman is dying. One guy is married, loves his wife but is having troubles with his own grief – no wonder.   One woman is having problems with booze and men.  One woman feels like her life is over and it was not worth the effort, very disappointing.  But the author has her own issues and her own therapist -at the outset of the book it’s break-up problems but she also has a child, a past, friends, the usual but with twists.   

The book is funny at times, insightful at other times.  It got a long list of review blurbs on Amazon. I can’t say as I really learned anything new but it’s always good to review some of it and it was interesting reading about this from a therapist’s point of view.  It’s good.  

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