The Ink Black Heart ~ by Robert Galbraith

Loved this book!  It’s the best of the lot in the Cormoran Strike series so far (imo).  This is understanding that yes, at over 1200 pages it is too long. I think it could have been cut to 950 or so, but only if they leave the parts I particularly like alone. LOL!   

The Ink Black Heart 
by Robert Galbraith
2022 / 1274 pages
Read by Robert Glenister 32h 42m
– 9.5/10 literary crime
# 6 in Cormoran Strike series
(Both read and listened)

Also there are so many characters I had to use the cast listing from the Wikipedia entry. But the main plot threads were as full and twisty as ever and the ongoing saga of Strike and Robin continues through all the upheavals.

I both listened to the audio recording and read the Kindle version. The Audio was fine (Glenister is a master reader),  but I also really enjoyed checking what I’d read with the Kindle.  

The Kindle version has problems with the fonts which get wonky in the chat-room scenes where the text uses some kind of photo for the pages. So the text itself can’t be enlarged but the page itself can be. Also in those chat-room scenes, the text itself is broken into two or three columns and frequently goes for 5 pages or more. What you have to do to make sense of this is to read one column all the way through the pages to the end of the scene, then go to the second column and read down that one all the way through.  If you don’t do this the second column on a page won’t make any sense. The third column only appears on the pages as necessary.  It took me awhile to figure this out and then with a bit of practice, I was happy. But during those pages it was really nice to have the Audible.  

The next thing is that there are a LOT of characters.  The Wikipedia link above has a list of them. So does the fan-site:


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14th Deadly Sin ~ by James Paterson and Maxine Paetro

Sad to say I skipped The Women’s Mystery Club #13 – I’ll have to catch it later.  I only discovered this after I was half-way through 14th Deadly Sin and I really didn’t want to go backwards.  

Fortunately #14 doesn’t have as much romance in it and Lindsay has now been a mommy for long enough to be able to get on with her job which is why I read the books.  

14th Deadly Sin
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Read by January LeVoy
Rating: A / procedural -legal thriller

The Women’s Murder Club is simply a group of women friends who all have ties to the criminal justice system in San Francisco.  There’s Lindsay Boxer, the protagonist, the star of the novels who is employed as a San Francisco Detective of some rank.  Yuki is the young Japanese-Hispanic-American lawyer of the Club, and is prosecuting the city for the wrongful arrest and jail-house death of a mentally slow but very good young man.  Cindy is a crime reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and has just had a book published. They each have boyfriends or husbands. Claire is black woman, large and very competent. 

The 14th Deadly Sin gets quite gritty and violent but it’s a good tangled plot. The writing is plain so the reader can keep his mind on the plot and the character development which are very good. This is really a women’s murder mystery series intended for women readers the personal lives of the main characters are typical of many romance novels. (And I read the books for the crime procedural and legal parts – not the romance. (I tend to be allergic to romance but I tolerate some.) 

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12th of Never ~ by James Patterson and Maxine Praeto

First off, 12th of Never starts slow and has a lot of tension breaks to delve into the side plots or interests (?). Second, there is just too much “women’s interest” &. romance in it for my tastes. The tension breakers go along with the overarching personal home lives of the protagonists. There’s too much new mommy-hood here.  I love the Women’s Murder Club for the plots, the general characters on their own, and the blow-out thriller parts.  I don’t tolerate romance well unless it’s kept to a minimum and either absolutely peripheral to the story or central. An example which is great is the Dave Robicheau series by James Lee Burke. Mostly so far the Women’s Murder Club has been fine, but in 12th of Never it’s over-the-top when the personal lives took over. The minus sign in my rating is because of that.  

12th of Never 
by James Patterson and Maxine Praeto 
Read by January Lavoy; 7h 6m
Rating: A- / crime-thriller 

But I thoroughly enjoyed the crimes and procedurals and twisty plot development involved. As usual there are several  plot lines which twist around each other but never really even touch each other. In the 12th of Never there’s a trial going on which involves a murder and a kidnapping. There are a series of murders which are predicted by a man who says he is clairvoyant.  There’s a guy in jail who is scheming after Lindsay I believe he’s a carry-over from the 11th book.  

Overall this book kept me hooked and listening carefully.  

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Being You ~ by Anil Seth

I was a bit put off by this book at first.  I had a rather dramatic and terrifying experience a few years ago when it took a longer time for me to come out of general anesthesia than is common. It took me 2+ weeks before I was mentally stable and 5 before I was actually released by the hospital and convalescent home.  The experience was scary and it scared me to even think much about. My doctors and various places on the internet said it was not uncommon – okay fine, But it was still scary and Being You turned out to be quite helpful and hopeful.  

Being You:
A New Science of Consciousness
by Anil Seth
2021 / 342 pages
read by author
Rating: 10 /

The way Seth introduces his subject in the Prologue put me back in that awful place so I decided to skip this book on my reading group’s list. But I didn’t like just skipping a book so I picked it a few weeks later and when discussion time came To my surprise the Prologue wasn’t as bad as I’d felt the first time. And Chapter 1 was better and the book never became scary again, in fact, it was comforting in several ways. And it was very interesting perhaps even more so because of my experience with anesthesia.

But the book isn’t a light read by any means, and the first few chapters are some of the most rigorous. In fact, I read and listened to the book at least two times because the new vocabulary gets confusing. I may still have another go at some point this month.

What Seth is doing is presenting is the science of today about consciousness and the chapters are developed cumulatively so it’s better to treat the work as one work instead of skipping around picking chapters which seem interesting. He’s talking about self-awareness type of self-consciousness, not the “someone’s watching me” kind of self-consciousness.

The subject goes from the basic consciousness of organisms to the scientific definitions and findings about human consciousness and this includes types and what constitutes consciousness. Toward the end Seth goes into Artificial Intelligence and animal consciousness/

Seth keeps the style lightish with quotes and anecdotes throughout as appropriate. And if you’re listening to the book he narrates it better than almost any other author who reads his own work and there’s a pdf file to provide the various graphics. He can be pretty funny.

The Footnotes include source material as well as further information related to the subject. The text includes a number of links to outside sources or the author tells you how to find them.

I really feel like I learned a whole lot of very interesting material from this book but some of it is still quite speculative. I still won’t have surgery again though – if it happened once it could happen again, I’m definitely a senior, considered elderly by some, and this is more likely to reoccur. And what if I got stuck that way?

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The Guise of Another ~ by Allen Eskens

I’ve read all of Eskens’ novels and enjoyed them tremendously and then I discovered I had not read this one.  I have no idea why not but I think it may have been because I thought it was more of a war book.  It’s not about war.  It’s about 2 brothers who are both police detectives.  Alex, the younger one, is very competitive while Max, the older one, tries to be accommodating but the younger one gets in trouble at work and is trying to clear his name without this big brother’s help.  

The Guise of Another 
by Allen Eskens 2015
Read by Jonathan Yen 9h 21m
Rating –  B/ crime-procedural-thriller

It’s a solid police procedural/thriller with some twists.  It’s good but not outstanding in any way. I’m looking forward to the next Eskens book, Forsaken Country, which is due out later this month (Sept). As luck would have it (I didn’t plan this, honest) is about the elder brother from The Guise of Another and a chase to save a small boy from his dangerous father.  

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Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World ~ by Philip Matyszak

Yes, Forgotten Peoples was even better the second time around.  I made better use of the organization and the general thrust of the book.  I understood the “lack of” source notes better. References to ancient documents such as the Bible are given within the text and otherwise see “Further Reading” which is admirably done.  

Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World 
by Philip Matyszak 

2020 / 398 pages
Read by Michael Page 8h 3m
Rating: 10 / ancient history of the west
(Both read and listened)

Again, it’s a marvelously well organized, very nicely written, and beautifully presented book.  Matyszak looks at 40 different Middle Eastern and European civilizations ranging from the Akkadians of Mesopotamia to the Hyksos of Egypt, the Jutes of Britain, and the Hephthalites of northern India. And he covered them more or less chronologically between the years 2300 BC and the 6th Century AD. He discusses who these people were, what they did and what they bequeathed to the West.

 It’s fascinating and I actually read parts of this book several times with a bit more sinking in each time. 

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The Employees ~ by Olga Ravn x2

I’ve read this twice now (see and actually this last time should count as a third time because I kind of studied the book, taking copious notes. There is so much that is striking about this novel. .

The Employees:  
A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century 
 by Olga Ravn 

2022 – 
Read by Hannah Curtis 2h 31m
Rating – 9.5 / literary sci-fi novella 

Taking place on a space ship with a large crew (employees) of both humans and humanoids Ravn explores what it means to be human vs humanoid.  The humans were brought there from Earth at some point while the humanoids were “born” (hatched?) there.  The humans miss the Earth and their prior lives while the humanoids are barely discovering what it means to be alive.  And there are the “objects” which they picked up on their travels. These are supposedly not even alive but they do seem to have strange effects on the employees. 

The book is comprised of short usually 1 or 2-page numbered “chapters”  or “statements,” in which the employees are being interviewed by someone from staff. One number is repeated – 054, but she has what she calls an “add-on.” Also, from the interviews themselves, it seems like she has other interviews with other numbers.  The interviews are with both humans and humanoids and slowly the reader is able to piece together the difference between them and then discern what is going on in the spaceship with its humans, humanoids and objects. Read carefully, I noticed and understood so much more on my second reading.

It’s a beautiful, haunting, evocative, sensory book of yearnings.  

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Take Your Breath Away ~ by Linwood Barclay

I’m not that fond of domestic thrillers. I prefer police procedurals, who-done-its, amateur sleuthing and legal thrillers. This one sounded different and quite interesting. I’ve read a couple of Linwood Barclay books and he writes okay. 

Take Your Breath Away
by Linwood Barclay 

2022 / 
Read by a cast 10h 1m
Rating: B+ / crime-suspense 

The plot is original and twisty. A woman who disappeared 6 years prior, and actually was thought to have been murdered, shows up back in town. Andrew, her husband, was heavily suspected of the murder, but now has another woman living with him. He’s very confused but determined. The murder victim’s relatives are now involved with their mother dying.  And the woman who lives with Andrew has a troubled brother who is orphaned and also lives with them.

Meanwhile, there is a police officer, Marissa Hardy, who seems to be a bit too aggressive in her pursuit of Andrew and whatever else she smells going on. I really disliked her – Barclay is quite good with characters.

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Confidence by Denise Mina

This was recommended by a fellow 4-Mystery-Addicts group member whose tastes often jive with mine.  Also, I read the 1st of this series, Conviction, and this, #2, is the latest book.  The novels feature “Anna and Fin” as kind of amateur detectives (in loose senses of the term). Anna listens to true crime podcasts and gets involved.  The first one started her off, when a crime pod-cast she listened to dealt with her own prior life. The second in involves other people a lot of other people and places.

by Denise Mina

Read by Rona Morrison and Jonathan Keeble 
7h 29m
Rating:  A / crime-thriller 

Actually, it involves lots of other people and places and things like a guy from South Africa and a Hungarian girl, a defrocked Catholic priest, and a box or casket which supposedly contains items from the cruxifixction itself.  That casket, along with the disappearances of the podcaster, are the focal points of the mystery. 

Anna and Fin travel a lot. Physically, they travel around Scotland, where they live, to Paris and Rome. Then digitally they visit all sorts of places like Hungary, Beirut and Boston.

Starting slow things get crazy-mixed up for awhile around 20%, but that clears and at about 1/3 it gets somewhat exciting.  At 1/2 it’s really interesting and at 3/4 it’s downright page-turning.  

Warning – it does deal with very unpleasant violence to self and others.  

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11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Praeto

Oh I do enjoy these novels.  There are little things which annoy me but overall they fix me when I’m mentally weary of nonfiction or literary fiction or maybe I’m just mentally weary of stress. I have no doubt I’ll finish the series but maybe not this year because I’m going at the rate of 1 or 2 books a month and I’ve got about 10 to go.  

11th Hour
by James Patterson and Maxine Praeto 

Read by January LaVoy – 6h 47m
Rating – A+ / crime thriller
(11th in Women’s Murder Club series)

Seven skulls are found in the garden of a man who was arrested, but found not guilty of killing his wife; they never found his wife’s body.  Meanwhile a vigilante of sorts is on the loose gunning for drug dealers – this might be a fellow police officer.  

And so it goes with two cases going at the same time for 6 hours 47 minutes while January LaVoy gives a masterful reading.  Plus there’s the overarching connecting plots of Lindsay Boxer and her friends as they go through life. (This is what makes it a series.) 

This is escapist, genre fiction – it’s formatted. It’s nothing special, but it gets the A from me because it’s very good at “developing” these characters and building tension. San Francisco sometimes plays higher than other times. The tension is high and higher with occasional breaks for a bit of romance (which I do NOT like).

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The Trees – by Percival Everett

It’s a racial allegory grounded in history, shrouded in mystery, and dripping with blood. An incendiary device you don’t want to put down.”- NPR

The Trees
by Percival Everett

2021/ 305 pages
read by Bill Andrew Quinn 7h 43m
rating – 9 / literary-crime-satire
(both read and listened)

Another book from the Booker Prize Long List 2022 and this one is very strange. In Money, Mississippi, where most of the story takes place, a  white man is found dead next to a black man. The black man is holding the testicles of the white man in his hand. The state police are called but by the time they get there the black corpse is gone. That’s right; it disappeared.  

Then pretty quickly another white man is found dead with a black man next to him and holding the white man’s privates.  Then this black corpse also disappears. The thing is by looking at the crime photos, this black corpse seems to be the same black corpse as was found at the first murder.  

The Mississippi State Police take up investigating, but don’t get very far with the local rednecks and the sheriff isn’t at all happy to have these black State Police in town. It turns out the white shooting victims  are actually serious racists from the families who lychee young Emmitt Till back in 1955.  The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is called. 

This is when the detectives meet Mama Z, the 105-year old local collector of US lynching stories, histories, news articles. It turns out there are strange, similar murders occurring all over the country. 

The book falls into the horror, who-done-it,” fantasy genre(s) but brimming with satire and even slap-stick comedy. I can’t say that I loved it in the conventional sense of loving a book, but it’s edgy, very funny and truly original as well as being wonderfully well written. It set my thinking back a notch as it’s even somewhat shocking in this day and age. 

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The Maid ~ by Nita Prose

Molly is a maid at a luxury hotel. Because of who she is in many ways, she loves everything about her job and being in that environment. She and her guardian grandmother were quite poor until she got this job. But although she loves cleaning she says she really has no friends. She lived with her beloved grandmother but Grandma died 9-months prior to the story’s opening.  Molly appears to have Asperger’s – or is on the spectrum anyway.  Her grandmother had explained things to her and Molly is full of things Granny said. 

The Maid 
by Nita Prose

2022 (280 pages)
Read by Lauren Ambrose 9h 37m
Rating – 8.5 / Literary Crime

On the day the story opens Molly has found a dead man in his bed in his room. According to Molly, this was “a seismic event.” 

The very rich and handsome Charles Black and his much younger, trophy wife of two years Giselle, stay in the room about 1 week a month while Charles inspects his large real estate holdings in the city. The narrative backtracks a bit from when Molly finds the body and then it goes forward with less and less backstory as the plot moves forward

The book is a bit long for the story it carries and although I thoroughly enjoyed parts of it, and there were some wonderful twists along the way, there were other places where I actually almost nodded off.  Also there were times I felt the character of Molly slipped and showed better perception than I’m accustomed to – could be though – this is all a spectrum now.  

It’s been a long time since I read a novel which included a character with Asperger’s so I’m glad to have seen it some time ago and put a hold on it at the library. That’s where it showed up while I’d forgotten about it at Audible.  Yay!  

 The books with Asperger’s characters have often been quite fun in their own way.   The Gauguin Connection (a series) by Genevieve Ryan, The Rosie Project and sequel by Graeme Simsion, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, and Convenience Store Woman (Sayaka Murata) are a few of my favorites.  This is a nice addition.

NPR review:

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