Books I Listened to in 2014

The third and final part of my recap of the Books I Read in 2014 consists of the books I didn’t actually read, but rather listened to with my Audible app.  I find the experience of listening to a book different from reading one — not better nor worse, just different.  The narrator has a lot to do with the enjoyment of an audio book.

I did a lot less driving in 2014 than I have in previous years.  I took a lot less trips to visit my dad in New Jersey (as he moved up here to be closer to me), and my commute time was cut back to almost nothing as I worked from home.  However I did listen to some good stories in 2014:

 

Deception Point, Dan Brown

This may very well have been my favorite Dan Brown book. It takes place on the Arctic ice as scientists are working to prove that a NASA discovery is extraterrestrial, or is it???  The book has plenty of suspense and adventure, and as with all of Dan Brown’s books, it is very hard to put down!

 

 

The Time Keeper, Mitch Album

An odd story that makes you think about how me are obsessed with time.  There always seems to be either too much time or too little time.  In this parable, we meet Father Time who was the first man who attempted to measure time. He is punished for centuries, but eventually is set free with a mission to teach two modern day earthly people the true meaning of time.  This was an interesting story, and causes the reader (or listener) to think about time a little differently

 

David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell

To be truthful, I only listened to half of this book as it got very repetitive.  The basic premise is that successful people use their weaknesses to their advantage and their weakness becomes their strength.  Good to know.  Come to think of it, I never got all the way through any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books…

 

Generation Loss, Elizabeth Hand

A very strange murder mystery about a burnt out photographer who made her mark in the New York City punk scene of the late 70’s and has been drunk every since.  She goes to an island off the coast of Maine to interview a woman whose photography had a big impact on her work, and ends up deeply entangled in the life of the small island town.  Overall, I didn’t really like this story, but it held my attention and so I finished the book

 

The Dinner, Herman Koch

A very fascinating story that takes place entirely during the course of a dinner between two couples (the husbands are brothers).  During the course of the meal, an intriguing story unfolds and we find out details about the lives of the diners as well as the terrible acts committed by  their children.  I really enjoyed how the author told this story.

 

The Rook, Daniel O’Malley

I loved this story!   It revolves around a woman who wakes up with amnesia and discovers she is part of a secret organization comprised of individuals with all sorts of different magical “talents”.  The organization operates to keep ordinary citizens safe from supernatural  dangers. I look forward to the next book in the series, Stiletto (not due out until June 2015)

Books I Read in 2014 Part 2

I wanted to continue with the books I read in 2014.  These were books that I read with my book club.  The thing that separates these from the prior list is that these are books that I would never have just picked up on my own, but I enjoyed them and am glad I did!

 

Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline

The author tells weaves two stories together, one told by an older woman who was orphaned and sent out west on the orphan train, and the other a troubled teen in the foster care system.  The two come together and as they tell their stories, we see similarities in their struggles.  A very enjoyable book.

 

Orange is the New Black, My Year in a Women’s Prison Piper Kerman 

Let me admit, I had no desire to read this book, but I figured I’d at least start it…I loved it!  Piper Kerman tells a very interesting and heart-felt story about life in prison.  I learned a lot about daily prison life, about the lives of some of the many women inmates, and their struggles when they are released from prison.

I haven’t seen the TV show, but it sounds to me like the book is even better!  I highly recommend this book.

 

Everything that Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

This book made me go through my house and get rid of a lot of clutter and old stuff that I had lying around!  I enjoyed reading about minimalists and enjoyed clearing out a lot of my stuff!

 

The Brass Verdict, Michael Connelly

A “Lincoln Lawyer” crime suspense novel. Again one I wouldn’t have picked up on my own, but I enjoyed it.  Sad to say, I read the book so fast, I really don’t remember the story!

 

Nemesis, Jo Newbo

Another detective murder mystery, Nemesis takes place in Norway and features Detective Harry Hole.  The book was well written, suspenseful and kept me on the edge of my seat.

 

 

Defending Jacob, William Landay 

WOW, what a powerful and suspenseful novel.  One of the reviews I read put it into perspecrtive, “a legal and psychological thriller, it also delves into the heart of a family, and will rip yours out in the process.  I enjoyed the book and although the ending was difficult it was perfect for the story.  I only hope this wasn’t a true story.

 

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

This was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.  The author tells the story from the perspective of a young Charleston society girl,  Sarah Grimké  living during the time before the Civil War, and that of Hettie, a young slave girl Sarah is given as a gift for her 11th birthday. Sarah is horrified by this “gift” of a human being and does everything she can to help Hettie to a better life.  The reader experiences both Sarah and Hette’s lives through their own stories.

 

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, Cheryl Strayed

In order to come to terms with her mother’s death and her own self destructive behavior, Cheryl Stryaed decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. The reader experiences her achievements and failures and ultimately her successful journey of self discovery.  It did not make me want to hike the PCT!

 

Remember Me Like This, Bret Anthony Johnston

A very disturbing book about  a family struggling to come to grips with their life after their son who had been missing for four years is found.  The story is told from the point of view of the mother, father, grandfather and brother.

 

 

And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini

I put off reading this book as his last book was so very powerful and disturbing, I needed to be ready for this one!  This story was also poignant and parts were disturbing and hard to read, but I enjoyed the book and will definitely read his next novel.

 

 

 

Books I’ve read in 2014 — Part I

I read and listened to a bunch of good books this year, but I had to go through my Kindle and my Audible App to find them all!  I like to separate out the list into books I picked up and read for fun, books I’ve read for book club and those I’ve listened to.  I’d love to hear from you if you read any of these and what you thought, or if you had a favorite book you read or listened to in 2014.

Here is Part 1: Books I’ve read.

 

Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

I enjoyed this odd, magical, fantasy story.  There are tow main characters who we meet as children.  Each is prepared by a mentor for a life long challenge that will take place in and around an enchanted circus.  Neither character knows any details of the challenge or what they are supposed to do to win it.  The story is full of fun fringe characters but focuses on the development of and the interaction between, the two protagonists.

 

 

State Of Wonder, Ann Prachett.

I found this book on my bookshelf  and so I read the actual paperback version of the book.  It had been quite a while since I read a “real” book.  I don’t think that the format impacted my enjoyment of the book in any way!

State of Wonder was a riveting story and (I can say this here) a real page turner!  A pharmaceutical researcher is sent to the Amazon to investigate the death of her colleague who was working with an allusive scientist researching a new fertility drug that could greatly impact the world and make the company millions.

 

The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson  

I loved this book.  It was light, funny and full of adventure.  It reminded me a little of Forrest Gump how the main character finds himself in situations with world leaders, thereby weaving in a little history into the story!

 

 

And the Dark Sacred Night, Julia Glass

I very much enjoy Julia Glass’ novels.  This one did not disappoint.  The story stands on its own, however it provides some back story to two characters from her earlier work, Three Junes.

In this book, the main character is an adult man whose life is stuck.  His wife believes that in order to move forward he must first discover his past and sets him on a search to find his biological father, about whom his mother has refused to provide any information.  In his quest, he discovers family secrets and develops warm and loving relationships.

 

The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany

This was another book I discovered in my bookcase!  As I enjoy fantasy stories, and this one was billed as, “one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists.”  Well, maybe it was in its day, but I didn’t find it all that interesting or enjoyable.

 

Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, Nicholas Schou

As the title suggests, the book is a true story about the “hippie mafia” who manufactured acid (Orange Sunshine) and tons and tons of hashish and other drugs into the US in the 60’s.  It was interesting, but a little unsettling how easy it was to smuggle drugs into the country.

 

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts

Wow, what a book!  I totally enjoyed this book although it was very different from the books I typically read.  It is an autobiographical novel set in the underworld of modern Bombay (Mumbai) India.  The main character, Lin is an escaped convict from Australia who makes a new life in India.  His guide and friend Probaker takes him (and us) on a fascinating journey through the streets of Bombay.  Along the way, Lin is a counterfeiter, smuggler, gunrunner, and street soldier for a branch of the Bombay mafia.

 

The Book of Life (Book 3 of the All Souls Trilogy), Deborah Harkness

I couldn’t wait for this book to come out.  It was the third and final book of the All Souls Trilogy.  After reading the book, I went back and reread the first two, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night and then just to tidy things up, reread The Book of Life.  I really, really enjoyed the trilogy!  It involved witches, vampires and daemons; however the ultimate point of the story is that all creatures (including humans) are basically the same and we need to live together, accepting each other in order to survive.

 

 The Weight of Water, Anita Shreve

The Weight of Water is a novel which presents an alternative motive and murderer of two women at the Isles of Shoals in 1873.  As the Isle of Shoals is just off the coast of New Hampshire (where I live), and the crime is somewhat of a local legend, I was interested in the story. Anita Shreve presents her version through the eyes of a photographer who finds an eye witness account of the events.  The story goes back and forth between the photographer’s personal struggle and that of the woman who survived the double ax murder.  By the end of the book, the weight of water becomes very clear.  I enjoyed the book and the way that the author presented the material.

 

 

 

A Minimalist Experiment

I’ve begun reading this book about Minimalism and the idea is very, very appealing to me.  It seems to be a way to live a simpler — more fulfilling life.  A life that is more about what is really important — about discovering our passion,  and less about the mundane, routine stuff that consumes our time.

Part of minimalism is doing with less stuff.   Keeping only the things that add value to our lives.  Minimalism is not just organizing or decluttering.  The author points to the fact that hoarders and people who organizing their stuff are two sides of the same coin.  The organizers are simply neater about it.  Hoarders put it their compulsion to accumulate stuff out in the open whereas organizers keep it well hidden!

One exercise that the author put forth early on in his move toward minimalism was to get rid of one thing a day for thirty days.   That sounds easy enough  I’m going to give it a try starting today.  And as I like to hold myself accountable, I am going to post my progress.  Today, March 24, day 1 — Extra coffee maker, you are going into the Salvation Army pile!

Books I’ve Listened to in 2013

For my third and final post about the books I’ve read in 2013, I will review the books I listened to.  Listening to a book is a different experience from reading one.  For one thing reading is active.  Listening tends to be more passive, although you do need to pay close attention as it is harder to go back (especially when driving!)  My audio books have gotten me through many a long trip! (Reviews of other books I read are and here and here.  Photos courtesy of Amazon)

The Time Travelers Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (fiction)

Let me start by saying, I loved this book!  It is the story of Claire and Henry, a seemingly typical couple living in Chicago.  But, as the title suggests, Henry is a time traveler.  He jumps from present day, to past to future leaving Claire to wait and worry for his safety.  Claire and Henry first meet when Henry is a 40 year old man and travels back to Claire at age 7.  As the story progresses, present day Henry meets Claire for the first time, although she has met him on and off through  her childhood.  Niffenegger weaves a wonderful story that captures the readers imagination.  I highly recommend this book!

 

Lets Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris (essays, humor, travel?)

Another highly entertaining David Sedaris book!  In this book, Sedaris shares his life with the reader/listener in funny, poignant essays.  David Sedaris narrates the book (as he does his other books) and he entertains the reader with hilarious stories from his childhood, while he delves into more serious topics in a humorous way.    I enjoyed this book so much, that I am going to go back and re listen to some of his earlier books that I had enjoyed in years past.

 

Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly (history)

Bill O’Reilly narrates this book which gives the reader insight into Kennedy’s life.  O’Reilly details the life of John Kennedy, from his service as a PT Boat Commander, to his political rise, his election to the presidency, the trials he faced including  the Cold War, Vietnam, civil rights, and the events leading up to his assassination in Dallas in 1963.

 

Cooked: A Natural History Transformation, Michael Pollan (food/nutrition)

In this book, Michael Pollan looks at our relationship with food in terms of how we use the four classical elements to cook our food — fire (bar-b-que), water (braising), wind (baking) and earth (fermented foods).  Pollan master a meal using each style of cooking and describes the learning process in detail.  As always Pollan narrates a fascinating story about food in a way that is interesting and educational but non preachy nor judgmental.  He doesn’t tell us what or how to eat, he just shares his experiences and observations. 

The Winter Sea, Susanna Kearsley (historical fiction)

Wow, what a story!  Set in the early 1700’s prior to the failed Jacobite attempt to restore James Stewart to the throne of Scotland, and set in modern day Scotland, Susanna Kearsley weaves a tale of fact and fiction.  Her historical heroine is Sophie, a young girl living at Slains castle with the Jacobites.  Her present day heroine Claire is a writer who thinks she has made up her character Sophie and her adventures.  But as the story progresses, Claire discovers that all of what she is writing is indeed true and she has somehow inherited all of Sophie’s memories.  The Winter Sea is a well written book of history, adventure and romance.  I enjoyed it so much, later in the year I read The Firebrand which picks up where The Winter Sea leaves off.

 

A Hundred Summers, Beatriz Williams (fiction) 

Set in the thirties in a rich Rhode Island seaside community of Seaview, A Hundred Summers tells the story of two socialite young girls.   Williams weaves a story of friendship, betrayal, lies, family secrets and love.  It is a good summer read, or listen on a long trip to the beach!

 

Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger (fiction)

As Audrey Niffeneger wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I enjoyed it so much, I was excited to listen to Her Fearful Symetry.  This book takes place in London.  It is the story of two sets of twins.  Twenty year old Julia and Valentina, who are incomplete without each other, and their mother Edie and her twin Elsbeth who have been estranged for many years.   When their mother’s twin sister dies, she leaves everything to the twins with the stipulation that they live in her flat in London for a year, and that their mother (her twin sister) not set foot in the flat.  As the story goes on, the twins (and the reader) learn more and more about Edie and Elsbeth through Elsbeth ghost.  There is quite a surprising ending.  While I liked this book, I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as The Time Traveler’s Wife.

 

The Radleys, Matt Haig

I started listening to this story on the long drive to and from my family’s for Christmas.  I was so totally hooked on the story that this morning I put the audio book on and listened through my new Jam Box and cleaned the house.  I didn’t stop cleaning for 4 hours until I finished the book!  I loved it and now I have a clean house top to bottom!  The Radleys is the story of a family of vampires trying to live a “normal” live in a small English village.  Peter and Clara try to abstain from their natural instincts and haven’t told their teenage children what they actually are.  Eventually a devastating occurrence leads to their many secrets being revealed.  The book is humorous and full of intrigue.  I recommend it highly to those who like stories that are out of the ordinary!