The Turn of The Key – Ruth Ware

This book was recommended on an online book group I’m a part of, so I requested it from my local library.

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Stats: First published in 2019, the paperback is 352, audio book is 10 discs, read by Imogen Church

Blurb: When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the home’s cameras, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder—but somebody is.

What I liked: I mostly like the narration done by Ms Church. She was good at making it a bit creepy. Of course, that means that the writing was good at making it creepy, and it was. And the characters in the story were very real but from the word and from the narration.

What I didn’t like: The story itself was a bit slow. The twist at the end did surprise me a bit, but it wasn’t an OMG moment by any means. And it was a touch hard to believe the the person that died could have done what he/she did, especially related to the house. (I don’t want to give anything away for those that want to read this story.) And finding out who did kill the character was actually a sad moment in the story, almost believable but also not quite.

Rating: 2.5/5

One By One by Ruth Ware

One by One

This book was recommended by one of my local librarians.

Stats: Published in 2020, Audio – 11 CDs, Narrator – Imogen Church, Print – 372 pages

Blurb: Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?
When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

What I liked: As people started getting picked off “One by One” in a situation where there is only so many people involved in a place where they can’t get away from each other (in a snowed in chalet), I definitely thought of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (which started out with a not socially acceptable – now – title). And Ruth reproduces the feeling of that great Christie story pretty well. You definitely feel like you’re in the chalet. You definitely get the feeling of the different characters (and Imogen Church helps this a lot too), and I didn’t know “who done it” until she tells you. I was listening so I couldn’t really go back and see if she “cheated” at all in how she used the different people’s voices (the different sections are told by different characters), but I trust that she’s a good enough author that she didn’t do that. I also like how the Ware does tell you who the murder is but there is still more of the book to go. The final ski down the mountain was a nasty. I’m not a skilled downhill skier, so it put me on edge for sure.

What I didn’t like: The end was a bit slow and I don’t remember learning with happened to some of the other characters when they split up. I would have liked to know why they didn’t come back in time.

Rating: 4/5

Formula For Wealth – Author Interview

I work with authors all year in various capacities through my book publishing company: CKBooks Publishing.

I can help with editing (all types), print and ebook design and formatting (yes, books you read have to be designed and formatted by someone), cover design, or even publishing. For Alan James (pen name), it was all of the above. 

Since I am an author myself, I like to help my clients when I can by featuring them and their books. So Alan has answered a few questions for us about his debut book: Formula For Wealth, which has garnered a 5 star review from Reader’s Favorite, btw. Good going, Alan!

 

This is part of what the reviewer (Foluso Falaye from Reader’s Favorite) said:

Formula for Wealth by Alan James details realistic and measurable ways to achieve certain financial goals. As clearly stated by the author, it is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Rather, it is a book for the wealth builders who are willing to put in the effort and the time it takes.

A wide range of subjects that determine wealth is examined: personal finance, wealth management, spending habits, lifestyle choices, unplanned expenses, assets and liabilities, and much more.

As the title suggests, Formula for Wealth includes some calculations, which would help in mapping out plans with specific time frames for achieving financial goals. In his richly packed book about acquiring wealth, Alan James leaves nothing untouched.

——————————————–

 

Some questions for Alan. 

Alan, how do you determine what your wealth is and what it can become?

You can know your wealth by calculating your net worth and you can use the equation for wealth to see what your wealth will become.

Can you determine how decisions that you are making will affect your wealth?

You can put the information into the equation for wealth to see the effect on your wealth. A couple of examples used in Formula For Wealth (link to amazon https://www.amazon.com/Formula-Wealth-Alan-James/dp/1949085341/) are buying a car and buying a house.

What prevents me from getting wealthier?

Decisions that you make and the actions that you take can prevent you from getting wealthier. The Formula For Wealth goes through factors like credit, instant gratification, and market pressure. It also provides tips for being successful implementing wise decisions.

What would it take to become a millionaire?

One way to become a millionaire is to invest about $100 a week into a retirement account where your employer matches your contribution and then when you get 10 percent return on your investment you will become a millionaire in less than 26 years.

Now, what about you? 

So why would I use some of my time during retirement to write a book? I had come up with a statement that simplified the equation for wealth and wanted to share it. I began to write a book to explain the equation for wealth and the simplified statement that I call the Formula for Wealth. When I begin a project, I find it very hard not to complete it, which helped to get my book available to help readers understand wealth.

Now that I am done writing my book, what will I do to keep busy? We moved to Arizona for retirement. I bought a house that needed some attention, so there are lots of chores to do. If there is not enough work around the house, there is be plenty of work around the church that can be done. I try to exercise regularly. My wife and I have taken up line dancing and we take the dog hiking. We are enjoying exploring the southwest, too.

Thanks, Alan. Enjoy your retirement!

Echo Burning – Lee Child

394715I needed an audio book to listen to and this one was available from my library.

Stats: Published in 2002 this is the 5th Jack Reacher Novel by Child. Print it is 432 pages, audio is 17′, narrator is Dick Hill

Blurb: Thumbing across the scorched Texas desert, Jack Reacher has nowhere to go and all the time in the world to get there. Cruising the same stretch of two-lane blacktop is Carmen Greer. For Reacher, the lift comes with a hitch. Carmen’s got a wild story to tell—all about her husband, her family secrets, and a hometown that’s purely gothic. She’s also got a plan. Reacher’s part of it. And before the sun sets, this ride could cost them both their lives.

What I liked: This story was interesting because it had Reacher stumped (and me too). In the typical Child way, Reacher figures things out the only way Reacher can, with his background knowledge of… (I won’t tell you and give away the fun of discovery). As usual, Child’s characters are all so real and the situation plausible (mostly). The setting helps enhance the mood of the story and the child increases the stakes. And in the typical Child way, there are people in the story that you don’t know why they are in the story until toward the end. I always enjoy Dick Hill’s narration of the Reacher stories. He was a good pick for the job.

What I didn’t like: Some of the detail is overdone a bit but that is Child’s style too. Easy to overlook in an audio format.

Rating: 4.5/5

Beating About the Bush by M.C. Beaton

43263431Since I can’t get into my local library yet to pick out audio books, I saw this one and thought it might be a light, cozy mystery. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to “read” anything too serious right now. I had seen one Agatha Raisin BBC program and wasn’t that impressed by it, but I thought I’d give one of the books a go.

Stats: The audio was produced in 2019, same year as the print edition. The print is 236 pages. I didn’t pay attention to the length of the audio book – sorry. Narrated by Penelope Kieth.

Blurb: When private detective Agatha Raisin comes across a severed leg in a roadside hedge, it looks like she is about to become involved in a particularly gruesome murder. Looks, however, can be deceiving, as Agatha discovers when she is employed to investigate a case of industrial espionage at a factory where nothing is quite what it seems.

The factory mystery soon turns to murder and a bad-tempered donkey turns Agatha into a national celebrity, before bringing her ridicule and shame. To add to her woes, Agatha finds herself grappling with growing feelings for her friend and occasional lover, Sir Charles Fraith. Then, as a possible solution to the factory murder unfolds, her own life is thrown into deadly peril. Will Agatha get her man at last? Or will the killer get her first?

What I liked: There were some funny bits, and I liked the donkey.

What I didn’t like: I wasn’t pulled into the story and didn’t really care for the two main characters, especially Agatha Raisin. Her personality grated on me and I don’t know why her sidekick stayed with her and took her verbal abuse (even if it was meant to be helpful.) So it was hard to care about how the story ended up. The body didn’t show up for quite a while into the story and I had a hard time keeping the bad guys straight. I’ll be staying away from Agatha Raisin. The narration was okay, but also not my favorite.

Rating: 2/10

 

The Magician’s Assistant – Ann Patchett

16055I was given Bel Canto (another Patchett book) from my daughter and enjoyed it so I thought I’d try this one too.

Stats: Published in 1997, 357 pages.

Blurb: Sabine– twenty years a magician’s assistant to her handsome, charming husband– is suddenly a widow. In the wake of his death, she finds he has left a final trick; a false identity and a family allegedly lost in a tragic accident but now revealed as very much alive and well. Named as heirs in his will, they enter Sabine’s life and set her on an adventure of unraveling his secrets, from sunny Los Angeles to the windswept plains of Nebraska, that will work its own sort of magic on her.

What I liked: The story was entertaining. I really enjoyed the magic. It shows Patchett’s skill to make writing about magic entertaining. Her characters are all very real and their actions, emotions, and interactions all believable. The winter in Nebraska sounded more like my home state of Wisconsin but since I’ve never been in Nebraska in winter, I can’t really say how accurate it was. What makes a writer think – ‘I’ll write a story about love and loss and make the main character a magician’s assistant’? Interesting.

What I didn’t like: The ending was a bit disappointing. Not sure what I was expecting but it made me feel… disappointed. That is the best word for it. There was a touch of hope, which saved it but still just… disappointing. It’s interesting how an ending can color your feeling of a book.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

A Measured Thread – Author Interview

I am happy to share some good news for Wisconsin author Mary Behan.

In this strange time she has managed to publish her first solo novel: A Measured Thread. Yeah!!
(Full disclosure: Mary was a client of mine. I helped her publish he book.)

Let’s hear from Mary:

Where did you grow up and how has this influenced your writing?

I’m born-and-bred Irish, emigrating to the USA at the age of twenty-five. The nuns who taught me over the course of twelve years put a great emphasis on writing and reading. In junior school it was all about handwriting. I remember ruled copybooks and the importance of keeping within the blue (lower case) and red (upper case) lines. We had dictation too, where the nun read aloud and we wrote in our copybooks with a pen dipped in ink. At high school we studied a canon of literature that included Nathaniel Hawthorne (Tanglewood Tales), Kenneth Graheme (the Wind in the Willows) and several Shakespearean plays, as well as poetry. Each week we had to write compositions — three-page stories — in English, French and Gaelic. My mother read to my sister and me from as early as I can remember, and encouraged us to read — something we both have continued throughout our lives. Literature is bred in the bone in Ireland, I think. We like words: speaking them, writing them, singing them, and the country has produced more than its share of Nobel laureates in literature.

What is A Measured Thread about?

My editor, Christine Keleny, asked me this question so many times throughout the four years I was writing A Measured Thread, and I think I gave her a new answer every time. On one level it’s about on old lady approaching the end of her life, who it trying to come to terms with a fateful decision she made fifty years earlier when she first emigrated to the USA from Ireland. Themes of guilt, abandonment and forgiveness weave their way through the story. But on another level the story is a homage to a sense of place, to finding a true ‘home’ — the ultimate treasure for an emigrant. I had to create a villain, Bill Breunig, in order to highlight Maggie’s dedication to the stewardship of her land. She knows that in the bigger scheme of things she is just passing through, but she wants to pass her land ethic on.

Where did you first get the idea for the story?

About eight years ago, I was in Ireland in our family home. Sorting through old papers, I came across a box of letters that my father kept — letters that I wrote home from when I first emigrated. The packages were as I describe in A Measured Thread, typed blue aerogrammes redolent of age. I brought them back to Wisconsin… and stared at them for weeks and weeks. Eventually I got up my courage to sort through the packages, and began to read. At first, I thought about the young woman who wrote those weekly letters home, the young Mary Behan. But then I began to think about my parents. What went on in their minds as they read the weekly missive? It gave me a completely different insight. The conflict between these two mindsets was the spark that prompted me to begin writing.

What was your goal in writing this novel?

One of the things I wanted was to give a woman’s voice to emigration. Many of the writers on the Irish diaspora are men (e.g., Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín) and even though their protagonists may be female, those writers haven’t grown up with all of the baggage that comes from a society dominated by men. Ireland’s matriarchal Druidic history is reflected nowadays in the archetypical Irish ‘mammy’, but whereas she wields her influence skillfully, she still doesn’t really have power. I wanted Maggie to be a person who not only broke through glass ceilings, but lived a successful life on her terms. And I wanted her to share her memories with Isobel in order to empower the young woman.

What is your next project?

I felt at a loss when I finished writing A Measured Thread. There was elation of course, but I had been working steadily on the novel for four years, so it was strange to realize that I had finally arrived at my destination. I didn’t have the energy (or desire) to begin another novel right away, so I decided to try my hand at writing short stories — one per month for a year. I found a wonderful group of beta readers who were willing to read the stories and give me honest feedback. Now, six months into the project I’m enjoying it very much. My hope is that at the end I’ll revise and assemble enough of the stories to publish them in a volume. Deep down, though, I’m hoping that one of them will cry out to become a full-length story — my next novel.

There is another project close to my heart: to write another book with my sister. Valerie and I wrote Abbey Girls, a memoir about our childhood in Ireland, especially our time together at boarding school.

We want to write a book about traveling with our father, Mick Behan. It’s from him that we inherited our love of travel, and over the years we each (both together and separately) have had amazing and hilarious adventures with him. As with Abbey Girls, the format will be epistolary, for we have written innumerable letters to each other since Val emigrated to Canada in 1969. We have diaries and photographs… it’s going to be so much fun!

Interesting in picking up Mary’s book?
Go to:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1734494301

ISBNPaperback – 9781734494303;   Ebook – ISBN 9781734494310

Or go to her website: mvbehan.com

Here she is on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53244963-a-measured-thread

More about Mary:

Mary is a retired professor of neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She devotes her time to writing fiction, memoir and short stories. Her first book, Abbey girls, is a memoir she wrote with her sister, Valerie Behan, about their childhood in Ireland. She lives with her husband in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin in a historic log cabin overlooking a tallgrass prairie.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionSometimes my work allows me to listen to books while I work. I was happy to see this one available from my library online service. I had heard the title and was interested in the topic.

Stats: It was published in 2014, which surprised me. I didn’t know I was so slow on the draw, but it explains why it was available to me from the library. Narrated by the author. It is 11 hours in length.

Blurb: Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

What I liked: Mr. Stevenson is an impressive man and this book does a good job telling his story. It’s not surprising that they picked this up to make a movie about it (which I would also recommend). It’s quite a story. A definite eye opener of the continued injustices in our judicial system.

What I didn’t like: Not sure I can think of anything.

Rating: 5/5

A Better Man by Louise Penny

44034500I always enjoy a stroll through the small but dangerous town of Three Pines 🙂

Stats: Published in 2019, print is 437 pages, audio is 11 discs, narrator, Robert Bathurst (as always)

Blurb: It’s Gamache’s first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter.

As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.

Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel…, he resumes the search.

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.

What I liked: There are enough questions about “Who done it” that you really don’t know until Penny tells you (or at least I didn’t). I don’t know what number this is in the Gamache series and I’ve only read a few of this series, but it still feels fresh. Penny is so good at making the characters and their lives seem very real. The backstories of the supporting characters play into the mystery so well. Bathurst does a wonderful job, as usual. I love his interpretation of the duck.

What I didn’t like: (Spoiler Alert) To keep the real “killer” hidden, Penny kind of lies to the reader. The person really responsible tries to pin it on someone else. Is that lying or is that what a person might actually do. For this character, it seems unlikely, but it makes the story work.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Giver of Stars – Jojo Moyes

The Giver of StarsI have read this author before so I thought this would be a safe pick.

Stats: The audio book (which I “read”) is 11 discs, 14 hours, narrated by Julia Whelan. The print book is 400 pages, published in October of 2019.

Blurb: Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

What I liked: I enjoyed the story in part because it was obvious it was based on some facts. It initially appears to be about Alice – the immigrant from England, but it really seems more about Margery – the feisty local that does and says what she likes. The library and the bond that forms with the women that run it is heartening and the things they encounter seem very real, as do the characters. I can see how, if they enjoyed reading, how they would like sharing that with people that would normally not be exposed to books. Plus, it’s understandable for the time period for the women to appreciate the independence this job gave them, a job men would generally have little interest in so suited them perfectly. Julia Whalen does a wonderful job with the narration, making each character unique.

What I didn’t like: It seems to takes Alice an extra long time to figure out what she decides to do once she (spoiler alert) leaves her husband. It also takes too long for the trial to happen. (I won’t tell you who is on trial.) I’m not sure why Moyes draws this out for so long. Generally, the book moves along in a saunter, like the women on their horses. It’s not the “epic” the publisher would have you believe, but it’s enjoyable.

Rating: 3.5/5