Dogearedcopy’s 100

Discussão100 Books in 2024 Challenge

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Dogearedcopy’s 100

Editado: Jan 16, 7:19 am


I’m returning to the “100 Books” world after several years absence: I played along from 2013-2016 and TBH remember it being a bit more chaotic but then again, so was I! 😂

This year my “ulterior motives” are to read through a couple series (James Bond celebrity narrator editions, Series of Unfortunate Events in print), advance in a couple of other series and/or author catalogues (Master and Commander, John LeCarré, Stephen King) and dig into my TBR stacks a bit.

I read across most genres and currently tend to favor history, historical fiction, SFF and romance; but adding a few more mysteries into the mix this year.


Bit of a late start in setting up a thread but hoping to catch up soon! 🙂

OP: JAN 14
ETA: JAN 16 - Ticker & Intro

Editado: Fev 7, 7:48 pm

001. "Two Faces of Janus: A Short Story of Ancient Rome" (by Linnea Tanner) Short story set during the time of Caesar Augustus, a young man is at a crossroads when his loyalty is tested: Does he stand with the Caesar or with his own father? Well researched but plot fails to engage on an emotional level. ⭐️⭐️

Editado: Jan 16, 7:21 am

002. Noir to Hide: A Temporary Detective Novella (Temporary Detective by Hansen Scott) - A 29-yo temp worker is assigned over to the office of a private detective. Lots of 40s noir mixed into a twenty-first century setting as our hero gets mixed up with neckless thugs, a femme fatale, fedoras and a lot of cold hard cash. It’s all a bit awkwardly mashed-up and the hero acts like a high school student. ⭐️⭐️

Editado: Fev 7, 7:48 pm

003. At the Edge of Time: Exploring the Mysteries of Our Universe's First Seconds (by Dan Hooper; narrated by Graham Winton) - A noted astrophysicist and cosmologist who specializes in dark matter, Dan Hooper presents, in layman’s terms, what the scientific community has proven in regard to the Big Bang Theory. He also talks about the challenges that those who study the beginnings of the known universe face. Absolutely fascinating and the audiobook narrator is clear and engaged with the material; but really long, oddly placed pauses inserted to the recording take away from the performance. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Fev 7, 7:49 pm

004. Live and Let Die (James Bond #2 (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Rory Kinnear) - Cold War spy thriller featuring 007 and Mr. Big— the latter being the Black American voodoo supervillain smuggling pirate treasure in from Jamaica. Rory Kinnear is fine if a bit unenthusiastic at times— but understandable given some of the racist stuff in there. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Jan 16, 7:33 am

005. The Bad Beginning (Series of Unfortunate Events #1; by Lemony Snicket) - The Beauledaire children Violent, Klaus and Sonny are orphaned when their parents are killed in a house fire. The children are sent to live with a distant relative, Count Olaf, a money-hungry theater performer who connives to get his hands on the fortune. Children’s book but interesting world-building ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Jan 16, 7:33 am

006. Moonraker (James Bond #3; by Ian Fleming; narrated by Bill Nighy) - Cold War spy thriller in which 007 faces off with Richard Branson er, Elon Musk, no… Hugo Drax! A rocket ship with a weapons payload is scheduled to launch from the cliffs of Dover even as Bond races against the countdown to thwart a German-Soviet plan of attack. Bill Nighy sounds a bit older than I like but I also might be projecting because we know what he looks like. Nonetheless, his interpretive skills of the text are very good. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Jan 15, 2:43 pm

>1 Tanya-dogearedcopy: it looks as though you've already caught up!

Jan 15, 9:59 pm

>8 pamelad: Almost!😅

Editado: Jan 16, 7:28 am

007. Her Dragon Daddy: A Dragon Shifter Romance (Black Claw Dragons #1; by Roxie Ray) - I was seduced by a writing sample online; but it turns out the excerpt was pretty much the only well-written part of the book. A single mom moves back to her small hometown after her son has a violent altercation at his high school. The father of the boy is the town’s deputy sheriff and immediately recognizes his son. The anger issue is managed as can only be handled by alpha dragons and their families… OK, I’m not going to spill too much ink on this review: Suffice it to say that there was no tension to the plot; that the plot overall was well conceived but poorly developed; and the sex scenes (2) were lame. ⭐️⭐️

Editado: Jan 22, 11:10 pm

008. Diamonds are Forever (James Bond #4; by Ian Fleming; narrated by Damian Lewis) - 007 is sent to the USA to disrupt a diamond smuggling operation originating in Sierra Leone but ultimately funding Soviet Russia, in particular SMERSH (a spy killing arm of the USSR). He’s definitely working in unsanctioned territory but he meets up with his old friend Felix Leiter (ex-CIA now Pinkerton agent) and they take off for the race track at Saratoga and the casinos of Las Vegas. Fleming evokes the jet set life and the atmosphere of mid-century America with a painterly deftness. Damian Lewis narrates the alliterative and sometimes onomatopoeic prose with ease and even poetic fluidity. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Fev 7, 7:51 pm

009. From Russia with Love (James Bond #5; by Ian Fleming; narrated by Toby Stephens) - Fleming had planned to end the series with this story and he goes all in: over-the-top villains, hidden & disguised weapons, brutal fight scenes… SMERSH trains a young female agent to seduce Bond with the idea of ultimately involving him in a scandal that will blacken MI6’s reputation. To bait the trap, the lovely Tanya Romanova promises to defect and is bringing a cipher machine to Istanbul. This story is by far the closest to being “Hollywood” with its action lines, intrigue and local color (Turkey). Toby Stephens played the villain in a non-Fleming Bond movie, Die Another Day and delivers a pitch perfect performance. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Jan 26, 9:56 pm

010. The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa; translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai) - Rintaro is an introverted teen and loner who is cleaning up his late grandfather’s bookstore one evening when a cat wanders in. That the cat can talk is not the most unusual thing that happens: Over the course of the next few nights, the cat leads Rintaro through surreal labyrinths on a mission to save books. The style borders on the twee and yet the dreamscapes are so beautiful and the ultimate message so succinct it would be remiss not to note its elegance even in translation. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Jan 15, 10:54 pm

>8 pamelad: OK, Now caught up! Time to explore other people’s threads 🙂

Editado: Jan 22, 11:12 pm

011. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor (by Mark Schatzker) - This is a fascinating look at food production in this country since the 1950s and how “natural” and artificial flavors play a role in our shared agricultural history. These added flavors are tricking our brains into eating foods with poor nutritional values & disappointing blandness. Engagingly written and eye-opening!

I don’t remember how this book came to be on my radar; but I suspect it was a magazine article about the fragrance & flavor manufacturers in New Jersey and a mention of this author/book. If I happen to remember and find it, I’ll post a link to the article here later.
Anyway, the book definitely altered my perception of the food aisles! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Jan 22, 11:13 pm

012. The Monster of Florence (by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi; narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris) - From 1968 to 1985, a serial killer lurked in the Florentine hills of Italy and slayed seven couples who were making out in their cars. Afterwards, he would engage in a gruesome post-murder ritual that would become the inspiration for Thomas Harris’s character, Hannibal Lector.
The first half of this true account is the story as told by Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist who covered the killings and became known as something of an expert in the topic. The second half of the book recounts Douglas Preston’s move to Italy twenty years after the last killing and becoming intrigued with who the murderer might actually be. Spezi and Preston proceed to initiate an investigation of their own, much to the ire of the local police. Spezi and Preston would end up being hauled before the Polizia for questioning and suffering consequences for their actions.
The Monster of Florence provides tantalizing leads but as admitted in the interview with Douglas Preston at the end of the audio, the identity of the killer, like Jack the Ripper will not likely ever be known with any certainty.
The audiobook narrator was clear and confident with his delivery and Italian but I had one quibble: All the Italians in the book were given comical American voices with heavy Italian accents. A bit cringey and a little distracting but you sorta get used to it.

Editado: Jan 28, 10:05 pm

013. Beautiful Graves (by L. J. Shen) - This is a standalone contemporary romance novel about first love and second chances. Everlynne “Ever” Lawson meets her soulmate while on vacation in Barcelona when she is nineteen-years old. Kismet plays a role in bringing Joe and Ever together; but fate rears its ugly head when she returns to the United States. Tragedy strikes Ever and she ends up ghosting everyone, including Joe. For six years, she hides out in Salem, Massachusetts until Dominic enters the picture. He takes her, broken and all, into the world and while she doesn’t feel the love for Dom as she did Joe, she realizes that she needs to move forward and so she commits to this new relationship. I won’t spoil the plot twists which bring Joe back into the picture but the situation becomes messy and real. The author, known for her signature a$$hole boyfriend characters, takes a different approach and breathes life into an old trope and with perfectly imperfect people. ⭐️⭐️⭐️-1/2

Editado: Fev 2, 2:24 am

014. Apollo in the Age of Aquarius (by Neil M. Maher; narrated by L.J. Ganser)— a non-fiction book about NASA’s space program in the 1960s and in context with the social movements of the time. In the introduction, the author states that the book shows how the Apollo program worked in synergy with the Civil Rights, women’s rights and environmental movements. Instead of “synergy” though, Maher demonstrates how NASA functioned in spite of and in opposition to those movements and only caving in under political and financial pressure to address those concerns. By its own stated metric, the book failed to prove its point, instead demonstrating how NASA exacerbated social and cultural divisions. Overall, it’s an informative but awkwardly written book that inevitably leaves the reader disappointed with arguably one of the US’s greatest achievements. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Fev 7, 7:54 pm

015. Between Two Fires (by Christopher Buehlman; narrated by Steve West) - A dispossessed knight turned brigand, a drunkard priest and, a little girl travel across the Godforsaken lands between Normandy and Avignon in 1348. On a quest prompted by the little girl, the trio navigate a landscape ruined by the Black Plague as angels and devils wage war in a time and place rife with despair and ruin. Part historical fiction, part horror, part fantasy… it’s greater than the sum of its parts in its scope and vision. Steve West has a rich British voice that served the main narrative and male characters well but mispronunciations (“scythe” in particular came up often) and the voice he gave the little girl did the book a disservice in audio. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️-1/2

Editado: Fev 8, 2:14 am

016. Her River God Wolf (Obsessed Mates #1; by Ariana Hawkes) - There are accepted tropes in werewolf romances and the author strictly adheres to them: The inner wolf who is separate from and yet a part of the human host and; instant recognition of one’s true mate… In this case a lone wolf/guy discovers a young woman who has been cast off from her pack for not being “wolf enough”. Turns out she just hadn’t met the right wolf/guy. Short and not particularly memorable. ⭐️⭐️

017. Hooked (Never After novel by Emily McIntire) Dark contemporary romance using Barrie’s characters from Pater Pan— but set in a modern world. Hook is a drug kingpin (distributing pixie dust) when his operations are threatened by Peter Barrie, a competing drug lord. Hook uses Peter’s daughter Wendy in a political game with Peter and the whole thing becomes a mafia-style story of graphic sex and murder. The re-working of the Classic lit characters is clever but the message of moral relativism/convenience plus the disturbing depictions of gangland executions make this a hard pass in terms of reading other books in the series. Not rating.

Editado: Fev 11, 1:53 pm

018. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World (by Steve Brusatte) - NF book written by a working paleontologist, pop science in tone and style but geared toward an adult audience.

The number of advances in the field of paleontology in the past twenty years, i.e., readily accessible & more sophisticated technology, discoveries in China and new mathematical/statistical modeling have opened up a lot of “secrets” and corrected a lot of mistakes about the studies into the Mesozoic Era. From the end of the Permian Era (before dinosaurs) to the violent end of the Cretaceous period, the author brings color and life to a time of great geological upheavals and an incredibly diverse set of dinosaurs and their cousins. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Fev 15, 2:58 am

019. Dr. No (James Bond #6; by Ian Fleming; narrated by Hugh Quarshie) - James Bond is recovering from his near-death experience (From Russia with Love) — so Q sends him to Jamaica on light duty: A British agent and his secretary have disappeared after having investigated ongoings on Crab Island and; The Audobahn Society has their feathers ruffled because a population of roseate spoonbills, as well as two of their scientists, have disappeared. A reclusive, enigmatic figure, the eponymous Dr. No, may provide the answers to both mysteries.

Unlike the Hollywood Bonds, these adventures do not dismiss the vicissitudes of spy craft: People are hurt, killed, tortured, maimed… and Bond himself does not escape unscathed. The women and 007’s relationships with them are much more nuanced as well. There are still some incredulous action scenes and some “McGiver” cleverness in play but HEAs are not guaranteed— at least not in the way you might expect.

I’m loving the readings the celebrity actors are giving these adventures (high praise indeed considering I usually shy away from celebrity narrators) and due credit must be given to whom ever directs the studio sessions. The rough edges of Fleming’s narrative (e.g. dismissive tone towards the old ladies and their birds) is fully contextualized within the character speaking and allows the near poetry of some passages to shine through.

Hugh Quarshie, an older Ghanaian-British actor narrates this story. He has a very soft, “blurry” British accent akin to Michael York but with a finer ear for the Jamaican patois. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Fev 18, 12:27 pm

020. The Hangman’s Daughter (Hangman’s Daughter #1; by Oliver Pötzsch; translated from the German by Lee Chadeayne; narrated by Grover Gardner) - A mystery set in 17th c. Bavaria -
A young boy’s corpse is discovered with a mark drawn on his body and the local midwife is quickly arrested on charges of witchcraft. The hangman, Jakob Kuisl (who also serves as an instrument of the interrogation as a torturer) believes the woman to be innocent but unless she confesses, a full-blown witch hunt in which many more women will be accused and executed will commence. Soon, two more children’s bodies are found and the pressure to convict the midwife increases even as a darker conspiracy starts to emerge.
The author has written this historical fiction based on the real-life figure of his forefather and incorporated family folklore, extensive research and his own imagination in creating a vivid if somewhat unsavory picture of life in a small town in present day Germany. The main protagonist is the executioner with a progressive town doctor and the eponymous hangman’s daughter playing secondary and tertiary roles respectively (which makes the title of the book seem odd). There are a few repetitive points made (e.g. the consequences of a full blown witch hunt) and overall the story comes across as rather prosaic (Author‘s writing style? Translator?) but an interesting look at a corner of the world rarely if ever depicted in fiction. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Editado: Mar 22, 10:54 pm

021. Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (by Stephen King; narrated by George Guidall) - The first in the 8-volume epic horror fantasy introduces us to Roland, the last gunslinger in a future time and dystopian place on a plane different than our own. The landscape resembles an American Old West but contains remnants of the past that reflect our own 20th century history: “Hey Jude” plays on the piano at the honky tonk, a gas station becomes an enigmatic and religious relic… Roland is in pursuit of the Man in Black, a powerful sorcerer who contains knowledge about Dark Tower, Roland’s ultimate goal. There is a lot of allegorical and metaphorical language, symbols and ritual that makes this story rich if a little obtuse on the first reading but the richness and vivid descriptions make the dreamscape and fable-like plot seem real. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Editado: Fev 22, 1:52 am

022. Transcendent Kingdom (by Yaa Gyasi) - Gifty is a girl of evangelical faith who becomes apathetic towards God after the death of her brother and her mother's depression. As a young woman, Gifty pursues neuroscience as a way to understand something of her brother's death but all the while reflecting on what is missing in her spiritual life. Seeking a reconciliation of her beliefs, her Ghanian-American culture, and the lab work she does, she reflects on her past, her familial relationships and friendships. Introspective and contemplative, it's a novel incorporating Christian philosophy and identitarian values even as the protagonist tries to move beyond them-- only to circle back. Overall a tepid read and a disappointing sophomore effort from the author of Homegoing but it may appeal to those who are experiencing a crisis of faith. ⭐⭐⭐

Editado: Fev 24, 6:23 pm

023. Requiem of Sin (Zakrevsky Bratva #1; by Nicole Fox - A contemporary romance in which Demyen Zakrevsky, a Russian casino owner and organized crime figure seeks revenge against the girl who falsely testified against his brother in court years ago. Carla, the little girl who testified, is now a single mom who walks into one of Zarevsky's casinos and hits a jackpot playing the slots machines. She accidentally runs into Demyen and there's insta-lust which develops into a relationship despite his plans to sell her into white slavery and her being really about as bright as a burnt out light bulb. Nicole Fox usually writes duologies, a single story spread out over two volumes. This time she chose a rather ambitious trilogy, each volume over 400 pages. This first volume is bloated with passages showcasing how abusive Carla's last relationship was, digressions from Demyen's plot of revenge and hopes of exonerating his brother and, oddly placed scenes of sex and intimacy. The author seems to have had several plots in mind when she wrote this book and tried to mash them all into one. ⭐⭐-1/2

I started the second volume in the set, Sonata of Lies and just couldn't finish. I reached the point where Dem was trying to teach Carla, who he has also hired as a housekeeper (what?!), how to surf (!?) and boredom set in. It's all just too ridiculous and just... bad ⭐

Editado: Mar 22, 10:54 pm

024. The Reptile Room (Series of Unfortunate Events #2; by Lemony Snicket) - The second installment in the misadventures of the Baudelaire orphans initially finds them happily ensconced at the home of a distant relative-- a herpetologist named "Montgomery Montgomery." However, their happiness is all too brief before they are threatened by their arch nemesis, Count Olaf and they must rely upon themselves to survive. These dark tales (the series as a whole) are lightened only by the sheer absurdity of the situations and the author's style of explaining vocabulary & phrases, e.g., "hackneyed", "back at the ranch"... Nonetheless, it should be noted that there are deaths, threats of death, and child abuse. The children prevail after a fashion, but it's definitely not a set a set of fairy tales that end "... happily ever after". The pen & ink artwork by Brett Helquist is detailed and comic and a point in favor of reading the book in print (versus listening to in audio, though the performance by Tim Curry is highly entertaining and the CD editions have elaborate jacket designs and; the discs themselves are etched.) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Editado: Mar 22, 10:54 pm

025. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (by Stephen King; narrated by Frank Muller) - "The Drawing of the Three" picks up where "The Gunslinger" ends, Roland on a beach with large, predatory crustaceans and his ammunition spoiled, but his mission nonetheless clear and unmitigated by challenges soon presented. At three different times and places in the Gunslinger's world, a door appears to Roland, each leading to NYC in 1987, 1964 and 1977 respectively. In crossing over, he inhabits each of the people he is fated (see tarot card reading in The Gunslinger) to partner with on his inexorable journey to the Dark Tower; but his other world body remains on the beach in poor & deteriorating condition. There are cinematic gunfights and treachery, but nonetheless a code of fair play and even a little romance. This second tale is less allegorical in tone than 'The Gunslinger' but still resonants with dark horror/fantasy vibes. The audio recording is an older one narrated by Frank Muller and, as with the first book (narrated by George Guidall) you can hear the tells of pre-digital recording: tape hiss, edit cuts and even some background noise in a few places. But one issue with "The Drawing" in particular is that the download from Audible is so very fast! It's sounds like Jack Nicholson on speed. I had to slow it down to .80 in order for it to sound intelligible and reasonably "normal". ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Editado: Mar 22, 10:54 pm

026. The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco #1; by Lindsey Davis; narrated by Christian Rodska) - Historical Mystery set in Ancient Rome, 70 CE - Marcus Didius Falco, a private informer, rescues a pretty young girl from her pursuers in the Forum and becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving illegal silver ingots and a threat against the new emperor, Vespasian. Though I understand that new revelations about the casting of silver ingots in Imperial Rome has come to light since the book was written, this is a well-researched book that incorporates the author's groundwork nicely into a narrative that feels realistic and natural. Moreover, though descriptions of the sometimes brutal aspects of life and crime of Ancient Rome are rendered with detail, this falls on the side of being a cozy series, told from the POV of the protagonist. Christian Rodska is an older British narrator who has chosen some suspect pronunciations of Latin names & places, but remains consistent and, to be fair, it's not really distracting.

So, how often do I think of the Roman Empire? Honestly, a little bit every day but I'm probably going to be doing so for longer stretches at a time as I've decided to commit to this series. I read a number of them eight to ten years ago, but honestly, I don't remember much of anything. I don't think this is the fault of the author, more likely a reflection of where I was at mentally all those years ago. ⭐⭐⭐

027. Shadows in Bronze (Marcus Didius Falco #2; by Lindsey Davis; narrated by Simon Prebble) This second book in the MDF series picks up pretty much where the first book, The Silver Pigs left off. Falco is now tracking down a number of the conspirators that pose a threat to the Emperor Vespasian and; The relationship between Falco & a senator's daughter, Helena becomes "complicated". There are quite a number of original & surprising plot twists and at times I had trouble keeping track of the characters but it does sort itself out by the end. I stayed up last night to finish listening to this one and I have a bit of a hangover-- not only because I stayed up later than usual but because it unexpectedly exerted an emotional toll. Simon Prebble, an older British narrator is subtly different than Christian Rodska, perhaps not as crisp and with a different set of suspect pronunciations but he pretty much disappeared from the story in my head-- so I was hearing the story and not him. ⭐⭐⭐

Mar 8, 11:46 pm

I keep my TBR list to an arbitrary maximum, so if I want to add one I have to take another of. The purpose is to not let it become unrealistically long.
And just yesterday I removed Silver Pigs to make way for a new addition, but your reviews have made me add it back on. So now what book has to be sacrificed?

Mar 9, 11:51 am

>30 scunliffe: My father used to keep a small wine cellar. I think he kept something like 40 bottles, over the course of 50+ years. As he had limited space, when he brought a bottle in, another had to sent to the table for drinking.
So using the same idea, maybe read a book and knock it off your TBR stacks quickly?

Editado: Mar 22, 10:55 pm

028. Save Me the Plums (written and narrated by Ruth Reichl) - This is an account of the author's 10 years editorial stewardship over Gourmet magazine-- from 1999 to the day it shuttered in 2009. Condé Nast purchased the magazine (among others) and hired the author who was then a noted food critic for the New York Times. The memoir is filled with accounts of the large expense accounts, personal reflections and a few recipes so there something that should appeal to most readers--- except me. I found the author's claims of boho sensibilities disingenuous considering that she 1) lived in NYC; 2) Her son had a nanny and; 3) When 9/11 hit, she was able to escape to her place in upstate NY... Also, I am not a foodie so the fascination with food did nothing for me much less the more exotic items. And finally, I'm a pescatarian so some of the descriptions of beef and pork dishes made me a bit queasy. So why did I read it? Well, it is my book club's selection for March and, as the audio is short (7+ hours), thought it would be a quick and painless read. I needed a little break after the last Marcus Didious Falco Audiobook and thought this would be the perfect bit of mental floss. But to add insult to injury, Ms Reichl's reading was pretty uninspired. One positive note however was that the book pointed me towards two books that I am very much interested in adding to my stacks: M. F. K. Fisher's, Consider the Oyster and David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. Not my Cup of Tea/No Rating

Editado: Mar 23, 8:48 pm

029. The Dark Monk (The Hangman's Daughter #2; by Oliver Pötzsch; translated from the German by Lee Chadeayne; narrated by Grover Gardner) - About a year after the events in the first-in-series, The Hangman's Daughter, a flu-like epidemic has swept through Schongau, Bavaria (present-day Germany) and the parish priest has been found dead in the church. However, the priest did not die of the flu, overindulgence or, even hypothermia; and it becomes apparent that he was murdered by poisoning. The town doctor's son, also a medical professional (though not officially the town doctor) pursues the how and why-- which leads him on a literal treasure hunt. Insane monks, Templar Knight puzzles, and a time & place that cling to old superstitious ways all make for a dark melodrama. After a while, the constant tension becomes mundane and the author's research and redundancy burden the narrative down. The plot is reminiscent of both The Name of the Rose (by Umberto Eco) and The DaVinci Code (by Dan Brown) but without the erudition and fast pacing that make the later two books work respectively. ⭐⭐-1/2

030. The Secret, Book & Scone Society (The Secret, Book & Scone Society #1; by Ellery Adams) - A cozy mystery set during the present day in a fictional small town in North Carolina. People flock to Miracle Springs, a liberal utopia near Asheville, in search of healing and for some, a fresh start in their lives. Neil Parrish, part of a real estate development team that’s financing new home sales nearby, comes into town early for a meeting but is discovered dead on the railroad tracks. Nora— a bookstore owner, seller and “bibliotherapist” (someone who helps people with their troubles by recommending books to them)— and her three new friends, Estella, Hester and June do not believe it is suicide and decide to uncover the truth. Each member of the Secret, Book and Scone Society has her own secret— as well as seemingly every secondary, tertiary and passerby character in the story. The pages are over embroidered with details and literary allusions; and the mystery itself is underdeveloped. Overall the story is tiresome and not particularly exciting, even at its climax. ⭐⭐-1/2

Editado: Abr 1, 10:15 am

031. Conquest (The Four Groomsmen of the Wedpocalyse #1; by Lilian Monroe) - a contemporary rom-com set in a small town using the fake fiancé trope: Leo ST.James is notorious for having spread the clap to his college class and ten years later, is still known by the moniker, "Pest" (short for "Pestilence"). Amelia is a data analyst who, six years ago had a relationship with a guy who damaged her self-esteem so greatly that she hasn't dated since. Over the course of a week at a company retreat hosted by Leo's boss, Leo and Amelia pretend to be an engaged couple while also solving a light mystery: Who stole a pink diamond worth $12-million?
Technically nothing wrong with this story: well-edited, paced, and plotted with one steamy sex scene but honestly, Leo isn't very bright. I kept wanting to warn the brainy Amelia that one day, after sex, they were going to want to have a conversation about well, anything... ⭐⭐⭐

032.The Plot is Murder (Mystery Bookstore #1; by V.M. Burns) - a cozy mystery set in a small town in Michigan: Samantha, "Sam" Washington is a widow who opens up a mystery bookstore on the shore of Lake Michigan. Right before her store officially opens, her realtor knocks on the shop's door, desperate to talk to her. Having had contentious dealings with him, she refuses to let him in and turns away. The next morning, he is discovered dead on the property. Teaming up with her grandmother and three other "Golden Girls" analogs, Sam solves the mystery while also writing a mystery of her own. The structure of the book is different in that Sam's work-in-progress, a whodunit set in 1930s England involving a dead body found in a maze during a house party, is given equal play with the framing story. But neither story is particularly well developed and both suffer from a lack of descriptive detail. ⭐⭐⭐

Editado: Ontem, 11:39 pm

033. The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower III; by Stephen King; narrated by Frank Muller) - There are two "Books" to this third installment of the dark horror fantasy that serve as the keel or backbone for much of King's horror writing. In the first part, Roland the Gunslinger, Eddie and Susannah continue on their quest to to The Dark Tower but Roland is starting to go insane: Having sacrificed Jake Chambers in The Gunslinger, he saved Jake's life in The Drawing of the Three. Both realities exist and the paradox is debilitating Roland's perceptions and ability to function. Similarly, in 1979 New York City, Jake becomes aware that he is both alive and dead and as a result breaks down during finals week at his school. In both Jake's and Roland's world, signs must be interpreted correctly for a portal to open and Jake to cross over, thereby insuring one timeline and sanity for both. In the second part of The Waste Lands, Roland and his group-- called a ka-tet (those bound together by a common fate/destiny)-- push onwards in their journey and end up in a New York City analog called Lud. Survivors lurk in the makeshift ruins but escape for the group can be achieved if they can figure out the riddle, "Blaine the train is in pain". Even as terrible things happen, they persevere with hope and grim determination. I'm lookin forward to Book IV and the next set of riddles. . ⭐⭐⭐-3/4

Editado: Abr 12, 6:10 pm

034. Venus in Copper (Marcus Didius Falco #3; by Lindsey Davis; narrated by Simon Prebble) - While the previous installments are concerned with court intrigue and conspiracies, the plot in this story turns away from the gaze of Emperor Vespasian's eye and returns Falco to the less royal streets of Rome. He is hired by a freeman's household to investigate and thwart a gold digger from marrying into the family but complications set in and the case turns into a whodunit.
In addition to the cozy mystery, Ms Davis also provides insight into the classism of first century Rome: Vespasian is a "middle-class" soldier who has risen in the ranks and become Emperor; Emancipated slaves can ply their wiles in the market and it is neither impossible nor illegal for them to climb the social ladder to nouveau riche status; Republicans and citizens can scramble for greater respect and household goods but without considerable money, cannot hope to attain higher standing as a Senator or, in Falco's case, marry a Senator's daughter. There are times when Ms Davis's descriptions border on inventory listings but she manages to blunt this artlessness by having Falco have an auctioneer's acuity learned from his father. What saves the whole from mediocrity is a scene late in the book which winds up tension and then releases it with an emotional punch. It sounds as if even the audiobook narrator is affected. ⭐⭐⭐-1/2

035. The Iron Hand of Mars (Marcus Didius Falco #4; by Lindsey Davis; narrated by Simon Prebble) - There is a lot going on in this book, maybe too much... Vespasian recalls Falco to court where Falco is assigned a diplomatic mission with a dash of espionage: Falco is to present a new standard of arms to the 14th Gemina in Germania, suss out their actual loyalty, find out what happened to a missing military officer or two and, locate two local rebel Cletic leaders and talk to them-- one of which is a prophetess. Along the way, there's graft and murder involving the local pottery trade, a hairdresser accompanying Falco who may or may not be just a hairdresser, twenty newbie soldiers, Falco's girlfriend's brother, the girlfriend herself, and stories that are tied to the land if not the plot. The author clearly had a wealth of research to work with but the actual story might have been better served with a stronger editorial hand. As it stands, it's not always clear what's going on or how what is happening is relevant. ⭐⭐⭐