Goodreads Monday August 29, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished In the Past Week:

Forest Gump by Winston Groom

Meet Forrest Gump, the lovable, herculean, and surprisingly savvy hero of this remarkable comic odyssey. After accidentally becoming the star of University of Alabama’s football team, Forrest goes on to become a Vietnam War hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a villainous wrestler, and a business tycoon — as he wonders with childlike wisdom at the insanity all around him. In between misadventures, he manages to compare battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discover the truth about Richard Nixon, and survive the ups and downs of remaining true to his only love, Jenny, on an extraordinary journey through three decades of the American cultural landscape. Forrest Gump has one heck of a story to tell — and you’ve got to read it to believe it…

You can find my review of this book here.

Black Snow by James M. Scott

Seven minutes past midnight on March 10, 1945, nearly 300 American B-29s thundered into the skies over Tokyo. Their payloads of incendiaries ignited a firestorm that reached up to 2,800 degrees, liquefying asphalt and vaporizing thousands; sixteen square miles of the city were flattened and more than 100,000 men, women, and children were killed.

Black Snow is the story of this devastating operation, orchestrated by Major General Curtis LeMay, who famously remarked: “If we lose the war, we’ll be tried as war criminals.” James M. Scott reconstructs in granular detail that horrific night, and describes the development of the B-29, the capture of the Marianas for use as airfields, and the change in strategy from high-altitude daylight “precision” bombing to low-altitude nighttime incendiary bombing. Most importantly, the raid represented a significant moral shift for America, marking the first time commanders deliberately targeted civilians which helped pave the way for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later.

Drawing on first-person interviews with American pilots and bombardiers and Japanese survivors, air force archives, and oral histories never before published in English, Scott delivers a harrowing and gripping account, and his most important and compelling work to date.

You can find my review of this book here.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

My review of this book is pending.

Dead As a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural—but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time—a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks—unless the killer decides to find her first…

My review of this book is pending.

Books I am Currently Reading:

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

Progress: Edoc approximately 21%

I haven’t even picked up this book in the last week.

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne:

In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

Progress: Kindle book approximately 46%.

I was really bad about reading this book this week.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Progress: 128 out of 377 pages.

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

David Sedaris, the “champion storyteller,” (Los Angeles Times) returns with his first new collection of personal essays since the bestselling Calypso.

Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

Progress: Audiofile 9 of 9

Crooked Lines: A Single Mom’s Jewish Journey by Jenna Zark

While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her-Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit in to a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced lifetransforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.

Progress: 62 pages out of 212

To Read List:

Title: 2032: The Year A.I. Runs for President

Author: Keir Newton

Number of Pages: Unknown

Goodreads’ Summary: One Nation Under AI? It promises to save the country from catastrophe. It is unbiased, incorruptible and has the brainpower of a million minds. But who is really pulling its strings?

The year is 2032, and an audacious project out of Silicon Valley promises to cure the world’s ills: an AI candidate for president. As the brainchild of eccentric billionaire Jamin Lake, Algo is heralded as an efficient, rational, and seemingly incorruptible leader – and in a nation of seemingly endless crisis and division, the only thing that could save us.

Isaac Raff returns to a failing San Francisco to meet Algo. He doesn’t trust a word his old friend Jamin says. As the disillusioned pioneer behind Algo’s groundbreaking technology, Isaac knows how powerful – and how dangerous – putting an AI in charge of the country could be. And despite his initial curiosity, he soon begins to discover a much darker side to his old friend’s utopian promises…

With only days to go before the election and Algo on the cusp of a historic victory, Isaac will be forced to grapple with impossible questions of technology, money and power. Is Algo than a digital trojan horse destined to fulfil Jamin Lake’s latest fantasies for ultimate power? Would the country really be better run by an AI built in Silicon Valley’s image? And is Algo really only a collection of algo-rithms, or could it be something more?

2032 is a gripping speculative thriller that explores powerful themes of technology and Big Tech’s influence on our society. 2032 is an unforgettable story of what might be Artificial intelligence’s ultimate project: deciding the fate of all of us.

BOOK REVIEW: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

2277378Title: The Cruelest Month

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length: 310 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: June 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 31, 2022

Number in Book Series: 3

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

My Review: In this third installment of the Armand Gamache series we are back in Three Pines again. For such a small town, there is certainly a huge crime rate! The whole cast of characters is back and we get to learn more about their characters.

For example, Clara Marrow is an aspiring up and coming artist, having been recently discovered (in the second book). She is working on a masterpiece to be shown at a gallery and everyone loves it. It is truly fantastic. In a bout of jealousy, her husband Peter tells her the colors are off, and Clara obsesses over what needs to change. I was pretty annoyed at Peter for this — the painting was wonderful and didn’t need any changing, but he was such a jerk and basically sabotaged Clara’s success. Peter is also an artist and relished the spotlight, which has now has shifted to his wife. I spent most of the book really disliking Peter as a character — this feeling was only slightly changed when Peter redeems himself at the end.

We also learn more about the Arnot case and why Gamache took on his superiors. Essentially, Arnot was commanding his officers to not only look the other way in Native Canadian’s murders and other crimes i.e., they do not try to solve the cases, but eventually the police start committing the murders themselves. Gamache discovers this horrendous corruption and brings down Arnot and the other perpetrators. There are still some officers loyal to Arnot and they are trying to bring down Gamache — little does Gamache know that some of the people closest to him are the ones trying to take him down. The conspiracy is mounting, false stories are beginning to hit the newspapers and Gamache is trying to avoid them while solving the murder in Three Pines.

Along with our old friends from books past, we meet several new characters. Among these is Madeleine, who has moved in with her old school pal Hazel and Hazel’s daughter, Sophie. Madeleine’s boyfriend Monsieur Beliveau, and also Odile and her boyfriend Gilles.

I really love how rich, deep and complex these characters and their backgrounds are. These people feel very real to me and it is one of the reasons why I love this series so much.

Speaking of the murder, Gabri and Olivier decide to have a séance at their bistro on Good Friday led by a Wiccan, Jeanne, who has been lured to the town by an ad sent to her by the killer stating that the town is home to spiritual power. The séance does not go well (there are no spirits because the psychic Jeanne says that the village is “too happy”) and the participants decide to have another one at the Old Hadley place. In case you don’t remember, the Old Hadley place was the scene of the murder in the first book, was the home of the murderer in the second book, and in general the people of Three Pines think the house is evil or houses evil / is haunted. So, of course, what better place to hold a séance?

It seems fit then that the place where the villagers direct their negative energy has killed one of their own — newcomer Madeleine dies of fright during the séance, scared to death by the house itself. It is soon discovered that she was given a diet drug known to cause fatal heart attacks. Enter Gamache and his team to try to solve the case. Who wanted Madeleine dead? Everyone seems to love her — both women and men alike.

The dynamics on the team are, as always, interesting. We have Beauvoire, who most certainly loves Gamache like a son loves a father. Nichol, who everyone loves to hate is back again. I can’t figure out whether she is on Gamache’s side or not — this is still a mystery. Although she is loathsome character to be sure, her background is just as deep as the other characters in this book. Lacoste and Lemieux are also back again — and Lemieux is definitely a hidden fly in the ointment.

Can I say again how much I love Penny’s world building?

I am starting to see a pattern here — by the third book it is pretty clear that one of the new characters has committed the murder. Each has a motive, but which one did the deed?

You should definitely read to find out!

Other Books in this Series:

Book #1: A Still Life is the first book in the series where we are introduced to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

You can find my review of Still Life here.

Book #2: A Fatal Grace is the second book in the series.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself. 

You can find my review of A Fatal Grace here.