Book Reviews for March

This month, I tried something new. I got two books on cd to listen to while I quilted. The longarm makes a lot of noise, so earbuds or headphones are the only way to actually listen to something while I am using that machine. I’ve done audiobooks before, but only sporadically. My blogger buddy, Vicki, does this all the time while she quilts and she gets so much done! Anyway, here is what I listened to and read in print this past month. Links to Amazon provided for more information on plot synopsis of recommended books, and if you want to see if it is available on Kindle or Audible. Thank you for using my links when you can. There is a wide range of genres this month, as you know I like to read a lot of different things.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The premise of the story sounded intriguing, with a young boy choosing a book from an obscure library to read. His interest in the author leads to the discovery that someone is systematically destroying every copy of every book the author has written. His quest to find out more about the author leads him into a web of murder and madness. Sounds like a great story, but the execution was plodding and pedantic. I was close to wall-banging it after 300 pages, but stuck it out. At 487 pages, the novel could have been shortened by 200 pages to tighten up the story and build the suspense that was actually tiresome by the end. Can’t recommend.

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen – I listened to this one on audio, and the story suffered because of it. It was a typical historic fiction, set in 1820, when women had only limited rights to own property if they were widowed. The story involves a widow, left an inn in her husband’s will, and her attempt to bring it back from the edge of ruin. The story is pretty typical, and a bit annoying at the end where things seem to be coming out, and then one more problem is thrown in and then another. Overall, it would have been a nice, easy read in book form. But, the narrator of the audiobook had a slow reading style that very nearly put me to sleep several times, and all her male characters had the same voice, so it was hard to keep up with who was speaking. It would have been a better read in print, so recommended as an average story.

Fault Lines by Emily Itami – Beautifully written novel of a Japanese housewife, neglected by her husband, run ragged by her children, and constantly striving to hold herself to an impossible standard of perfection. She knows she is lucky to have what she has, but needs more for herself than to be all things to those around her and have nothing her own. When she meets a handsome stranger who listens to her, makes her feel worthy, she embarks on a dual life, later coming to realize that this is not sustainable and one life or the other must be chosen. Her thoughts and struggles with the conflicting emotions of her life make this a most interesting read. It is a compelling story, pulling the reader into her innermost feelings, and the event that brings what is truly important into sharp focus.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – I listened to this one on audio CDs. The story line is good, set in war torn London, with three character’s lives intersecting as a result of the war. Both men fall for the woman, one leaves for combat, while the other stays behind to run a school where she is employed as a teacher. All have to deal with the horror of war, in death, in injury, in terrible circumstance, in drug addiction. The narrator was good, and the narrator’s different voices for characters made it easy to know who was speaking. Overall a good story, that I wish I had read in print. My quibble with this one on audio is that I was forced to hear things that on the printed page I would have skimmed over. I didn’t enjoy the scenes of gore, some images I just don’t want in my mind.

Upgrade by Blake Crouch – This was a roller coaster ride through a science fiction story with enough reality to scare the daylights out of the reader. The protagonist is the unwilling recipient of an ‘upgrade’ to his DNA, making him into a super intelligent, physically superior human. As he is evolving, the military imprisons him for study. He is broken out by his sister, also the unwilling recipient of a DNA modification, and later discovers it is his brilliant yet misguided mother that is responsible. As his sister wants to continue her work with devastating consequences she cannot see, he is forced to oppose her to save humanity from a wholesale upgrade. Wonderfully tightly written, easy reading in spite of all the science, and next to impossible to put down. I finished it in two days. Highly recommend.

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell – In the genre of magical realism, a woman has the ability to make wishes come true, just by reading the wish on a scrap of paper that magically appears. But a wish she made in her childhood destroyed her family and gave her years of torment, so she stopped reading the little papers. When the wishes begin appearing again, she leaves town to get away for a while, and ends up in a town that won’t let her leave, staying with a woman who has some magic of her own. The story is about coming to terms with who she is, and accepting the consequences of things in the past. There is a bit more depth to the story than the usual in this genre, and I enjoyed it. Recommend if you like the magical realism genre.

Now, an advance word on a book that will not publish until May. Don’t tell My Sweet Babboo, but he may get this one for Christmas. We are both Formula 1 racing fans, and avidly devour the Netflix series Drive to Survive every season it comes out. The Formula 1 Drive to Survive Unofficial Companion is a well written guide to understanding the world of Formula 1 racing. Beginning with a detailed explanation of the principal jobs in each organization, the author takes the reader step by step into how teams function. Reading the back stories behind the infamous rivalry of Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Red Bull’s Christian Horner was fascinating. Chapter 2 details the history of Formula 1 racing, including the woeful lack of protective equipment in the early days. Famous drivers from the past like Jan Manuel Fangio are featured, along with the evolution of racing engines and design by manufacturer. The book then covers the extraordinary technology of aerodynamics, and engine power evolution. Racing circuits are shown for all the major racing venues, including some history and some that are no longer being used. The governing body is featured with the process of making rules for all the teams to follow, and those that push those limits, bending the rules to the breaking point. Subsequent chapters discuss the role of money in financing and influence in the sport, technological data, tires and strategy. Throughout the book are extraordinary candid and action photographs that would alone make the book a must-have for the Formula 1 enthusiast. My only quibble is the book ends a bit abruptly, and I would have liked to see another chapter bringing all the information together in some way, or looking to the future. Overall, highly recommend for the die-hard racing fan, and a great book for the casual fan who would enjoy the races more by understanding the teams and personalities behind the scenes. You can pre-order it with the Amazon link – Formula 1 Drive to Survive Unofficial Companion . Thanks to Netgalley for giving me an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest opinion. Click on Goodreads Review to ‘like’ my review.

What are you reading now, anything you recommend?

20 thoughts on “Book Reviews for March

  1. Rheanna

    Thanks for the recommendations. I had Fault Lines in my “to read” list and have moved it up. I started All Who are Brave are Forgiven but couldn’t get past the first few chapters. WWII historical fiction is my favorite genre but just wasn’t into this book. I may try again later.
    I am currently reading An American Marriage and have found it a quick read. I have also been reading the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I have enjoyed it in general but find Evelyn very hard to like. Hopefully I can persevere and finish soon.

  2. You have some interesting ones that have just one on my list. I loved “Everyone Brave Is Forgiven” which I read quite some time ago. It was sad and poignant to me. I have trouble with audio books and doing something else. For whatever reason, I can read while TV is on, for example, but when it comes to listening to a book while I’m painting or doing something else, I’m usually so into the task that I lose the book.

  3. By far, the two best novels that I have read in the last two years are The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles and Horse by Geraldine Brooks. Both authors are master storytellers.

  4. Julie

    End of March, need to assemble my Strippy Stars top today. I listen while sewing or walking at the rec center & have to agree with you that the downside of audible books is not being able to skim. I recently put a book right in the recycle bin, as in trash, not library donation. I didn’t want to burden anybody else with it.

  5. Diann@ Little Penguin Quilts

    You always have interesting book recommendations, and I haven’t read any of these yet. So I see a couple that will go on my library list! I agree that the reader for an audio book is really important. Sometimes I do wish I had the print copy also, so that I can reread parts that my mind wandered off from while listening!

  6. jseccurrtwcnyrrcom

    I listen to books while I sew…just not enough time for one or the other!

    I listened to Quiet by Susan Cain. This is a nonfiction book about introverts, all they have to offer and how to best communicate with them. Much better than I thought it would be.

    The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams was an excellent listen! Thank you for recommending!

    Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver was a book that I just wanted to keep listening to…long but compelling. She’s a master storyteller. Want to experience another one of her tales.

    Another of your recommendations, Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt was delightful and imaginative. Loved it!

    I download many books from the library and there is an option to increase or decrease the pace of the audio which helps…also it gives option to see what chapter/part you’re on so you can skip ahead. The CDs are good too and I get up and stretch my legs at the end of each CD.

    So glad you’re experiencing audiobooks. Bravo!

  7. Tina W from Oregon

    I recently listened to The Echo of Old Books by Barbara Davis. I enjoyed it except for the voice of one of the characters.

  8. Elle

    I highly recommend 3M Bluetooth headphones. I listen to TV shows or music. I love them. No hearing loss for this girl please!

  9. Oh just in time! I have blindly gone in for books and come up with boring awful books. One book “12 Little Yelpers” – I’m on page 156 and still not one word about dogs! And I also noticed some readers (above also have suggestions! Hurray! and Thanks!

  10. Marion

    My sisters and I have read The Innkeeper Of Ivy hill and the second and third books in the trilogy. We all agreed that the book is one of our favorite reads.
    Marion

  11. Thank you for the book reviews. I have not been reading as much as I was, need to start back. I have never listened to a book. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, Carole!

  12. Jax

    Hi Carole,
    As a longtime F1 fan, I appreciate your book review. Hope you’ve seen the films “Senna” and “Rush”, both excellent, as is “Drive to Survive”. I hear a new “Senna” film is in the works. Also enjoy your posts about your road trips; we had fun in a vintage Spitfire before passing it along to the next generation.
    Best,
    Jax

  13. That is quite an assortment! I love seeing what you read, I often find one or two that I can find at our library. I am currently reading Seven Women by Eric Metaxas, which has been so interesting. Seven mini biographies of women who changed the world.

  14. Tamara

    Your review of Shadow of the Wind was spot on for me. I listened to it for a book in translation challenge. I also didn’t like how the female characters were written.

  15. Tamara

    I would also encourage you to try the Libby app or other audiobook platforms that allow for you to change the narrator’s speed. I listened to Matthew Mcconaughey’s Greenlights at 1.5 speed pulling his drawl up to speed with my brain without affecting it too much.

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