September 29, 2021

The Madness of Crowds

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #17
2021 Minotaur Books
Finished on September 27, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

You're a coward.

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He's asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting professor of statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is, until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson's views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion, are so confused it's near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

Abigail Robinson promises that if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed, it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds.

Another enjoyable mystery by Louise Penny, although I do have some issues with this latest installment in the Three Pines series. As I noted in my review of A Better Man, there are a few annoying details that are also mentioned more than once in this book. Do we really need to hear about random bits of food stuck in Clara's hair again? Or the repetitious asides about Ruth's duck Rosa or the odd ferret/rat creature that now resides with the Gamaches? (And yet, I don't mind reading about the bistro food, which is also a bit repetitious.) These are minor grievances, but they have become tiresome and I wish Penny's editor would urge her to find something fresh and new to say about her familiar cast of characters. 

The Madness of Crowds is definitely a mystery and not a thriller, which is fine, but it lacks the tension and suspense that I loved in All the Devils Are Here. I also feel that the ending was extremely convoluted and I had to go back and reread the final chapters in order to sort through the details to understand whodunnit. With two murders, it was quite a mess. 

And yet, this is not to say that I didn't enjoy The Madness of Crowds. I took my time, savoring the the book, trying not to rush to the end in order to learn the identity of the killer(s). I enjoyed the winter setting and the return to the close knit community of friends, family and neighbors. I didn't mind the backdrop of the post-pandemic world, about which some have voiced their complaints. I even fell in love with the beautiful cover art (by David Baldeosingh Rotstein) and endpapers (by MaryAnna Coleman), which are works of art in and of themselves. I think this 17th book in the series would be a great mystery to discuss with a book club, warts and all. In addition to the literary aspects of the author's writing, the timely and controversial themes are sure to spur debate on certain moral issues.

September 27, 2021

The Survivors


2021 Macmillan Audio
Narrated by Stephen Shanahan
Finished on September 25, 2021
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Coming home dredges up deeply buried secrets...

Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...

Boring! I listened to this audiobook for almost two weeks, hoping it would improve the further along I got, but it continued to bore me to tears. I should have called it quits early on, but I enjoyed Jane Harper's previous mysteries and thought this one would be worth persevering. I read the print editions of The Dry and Force of Nature (click on titles for my reviews), so maybe I should have gone that route with this book. Stephen Shanahan's narration wasn't bad, but it did feel somewhat slow. I increased the playback speed, but even that didn't enhance the narrative. I will definitely get the print edition when I decide to read The Lost Man

I received a complimentary copy from All thoughts and opinions are my own.

September 24, 2021

Looking Back - How Reading Changed My Life

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction - Essays
1998 Library of Contemporary Thought
Read in September 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A recurring theme throughout Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life is the comforting premise that readers are never alone. "There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books," she writes, "a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but never really a stranger. My real, true world." Later, she quotes editor Hazel Rochman: "Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds homes for us everywhere." Indeed, Quindlen's essays are full of the names of "friends," real or fictional—Anne of Green Gables and Heidi; Anthony Trollope and Jane Austen, to name just a few—who have comforted, inspired, educated, and delighted her throughout her life. In four short essays Quindlen shares her thoughts on the act of reading itself ("It is like the rubbing of two sticks together to make a fire, the act of reading, an improbable pedestrian task that leads to heat and light"); analyzes the difference between how men and women read ("there are very few books in which male characters, much less boys, are portrayed as devoted readers"); and cheerfully defends middlebrow literature: Most of those so-called middlebrow readers would have readily admitted that the Iliad set a standard that could not be matched by What Makes Sammy Run? or Exodus. But any reader with common sense would also understand intuitively, immediately, that such comparisons are false, that the uses of reading are vast and variegated and that some of them are not addressed by Homer.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Pretty good, but not as good as Ex Libris (Fadiman). A little dry and boring in spots. A few good quotes and passages. 11 great reading lists.

My Current Thoughts:

I own seven books (fiction and nonfiction) by Anna Quindlen, which I've read and loved, but this fell short of my expectations. I wish I had written down some of those good quotes and passages. Ah, well. I can probably borrow a copy from the library and see if my opinion has changed over the years.

September 20, 2021

The One I Left Behind


2013 William Morrow
Finished on September 18, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Bestselling author Jennifer McMahon is back with a gut-wrenching mystery about an architect whose troubled mother has been found 25 years after being kidnapped-by a killer who is still on the loose.

The summer of 1985 changed Reggie's life. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school's outcasts-Charlie, the local detective's son, and Tara, a goth kid who has a mental hold over Reggie and harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera--an ex-model with many "boyfriends" and a thirst for gin--the most, Vera's hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there's no body and Neptune disappears.

Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind after that horrific summer, Reggie doesn't trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when she gets a call from a homeless shelter saying that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.

With her signature style, Jennifer McMahon portrays the dark side of adolescent friendship and introduces characters who haunt the imagination, along with a disturbing web of secrets, betrayals, and murder.

The One I Left Behind turned out to be a great read for this year's R.I.P. challenge, but I wasn't sure about it when I first started reading the book. I didn't like any of the characters that were introduced in the opening chapters and the alternating timeline jolted me out of the story until I got further along and could anticipate each switch. And then there's Tara. Her manipulative hold over Reggie reminded me of the mean girls in junior high school. Ugh. 

I almost abandoned the book, but decided to read a few more chapters. I'm glad I did, as it didn't take long to get engrossed in the mystery. I wound up reading late into the night, following each new lead, trying to figure out Neptune's true identity. There are several red herrings and with each new chapter, I changed my mind, sure that this time I knew who was responsible for the murders. The final chapters are so suspenseful and at one point, I found that I was holding my breath; I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

I have to confess that I've owned an advance reader's copy of this book for close to a decade. I'm sure the publisher and author aren't exactly happy that they sent a reader an ARC only to have it languish on a shelf for so many years, but maybe my late-to-the-party review will create new interest in the book and the author's backlist. I know I can't wait to dive into some more of McMahon's suspense novels. Any recommendations?

September 18, 2021

In the Market for Murder


Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #2
2016 Brilliance Audio
Read by Elizabeth Knowelden
Finished on September 11, 2021
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Spring, 1909, and Lady Hardcastle, amateur sleuth and all-round eccentric, is enjoying a well-deserved rest. But a week after a trip to the cattle market, Spencer Caradine, a local farmer, turns up dead in the pub, face-down in his beef and mushroom pie. Once again, it is up to Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence, to solve the case.

Armed with wit and whimsy, not to mention Florence’s mean right hook, the pair set out to discover what really happened and why. Was it poison or just ill luck?

As they delve further into their investigation, they encounter a theft where nothing is stolen, a séance with a troubled ghost and an ever-increasing number of Spencer’s family and friends who might just have motive for murder. One thing’s for sure: Lady Hardcastle has a mystery on her hands.

I didn't care for this second installment in the Lady Hardcastle series nearly as much as A Quiet Life in the Country. The mystery (there are actually three mysteries) wasn't terribly interesting and I missed the humorous bantering between Lady Hardcastle and Flo that I so enjoyed in Kinsey's debut. There are five more books in this series and I'm not sure if I'll continue, although Elizabeth Knowelden is a delightful narrator of the audiobooks. Cozy mysteries may just not be for me.

September 17, 2021

Big Stone Gap

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
2000 Random House
Read in September 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

It's 1978, and Ave Maria Mulligan is the thirty-five-year-old self-proclaimed spinster of Big Stone Gap, a sleepy hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She's also the local pharmacist, the co-captain of the Rescue Squad, and the director of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, the town's long-running Outdoor Drama.

Ave Maria is content with her life of doing errands and negotiating small details--until she discovers a skeleton in her family's formerly tidy closet that completely unravels her quiet, conventional life. Suddenly, she finds herself juggling two marriage proposals, conducting a no-holds-barred family feud, planning a life-changing journey to the Old Country, and helping her best friend, the high-school band director, design a halftime show to dazzle Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed Hollywood movie star who's coming through town on a campaign stump with her husband, senatorial candidate John Warner.

Filled with big-time eccentrics and small-town shenanigans, Big Stone Gap is a jewel box of original characters, including sexpot Bookmobile librarian Iva Lou Wade; Fleeta Mullins, the chain-smoking pharmacy cashier with a penchant for professional wrestling; the dashing visionary Theodore Tipton; Elmo Gaspar, the snake-handling preacher; Jack MacChesney, a coal-mining bachelor looking for true love; and Pearl Grimes, a shy mountain girl on the verge of a miraculous transformation.

Comic and compassionate, Big Stone Gap is is the story of a woman who thinks life has passed her by, only to learn that the best is yet to come.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Pretty good. I had a tough time getting interested, but after a few chapters I was hooked. Lots of characters to keep track of. Some beautiful passages.

My Current Thoughts:

I vaguely remember this book and know I went on to read one or two of the sequels, but I no longer own a copy and I doubt I'd read it again. I wish I had written down some of those beautiful passages that I mentioned in my original notes. 

September 16, 2021

A Finer End


Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #7
2002 Bantam (first published in 2001)
Finished on September 9, 2021
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his partner Sergeant Gemma James return in another spellbinding novel of mysteries--one contemporary, one ancient--an investigation that will challenge them personally and professionally as no case ever has. 

When Duncan Kincaid's cousin Jack calls from Glastonbury to ask for his help on a rather unusual matter, Duncan welcomes the chance to spend a relaxing weekend outside of London with Gemma--but relaxation isn't on the agenda. Glastonbury is revered as the site of an ancient abbey, the mythical burial place of King Arthur and Guinevere, and a source of a strong druid power. Jack has no more than a passing interest in its history--until he comes across an extraordinary chronicle almost a thousand years old. The record reveals something terrible and bloody shattered the abbey's peace long ago--knowledge that will spark violence that reaches into the present. Soon it is up to Duncan and Gemma to find the truth the local police cannot see. But no one envisions the peril that lies ahead--or that there is more at stake than they ever dreamed possible.

This is my least favorite in the Kincaid/James series. The story starts off slowly with the introduction of numerous characters and Duncan and Gemma don't make much of an appearance until well into the mystery. Even then, it takes well over a hundred pages before they have a murder to solve. I had a difficult time suspending disbelief with the druid storyline and felt the paranormal aspects rather absurd and unrealistic. Overall, A Finer End was a disappointing installment in this series.

September 15, 2021

Wordless Wednesday - Peonies

 Disclaimer: These photos were taken at the end of May!

September 14, 2021

The Most Fun We Ever Had


2019 Random House Audio
Narrated by Emily Rankin
Length: 20 hrs and 33 mins
Finished on September 4, 2021
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple--still madly in love after forty years--recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they've built.

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that's to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she's not sure she wants by a man she's not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents'.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt--given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before--we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorenson's past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

I'm truly surprised that I loved this book as much as I did! I went into it with some trepidation, concerned that it had been over-hyped, much in the way two fairly recent reads (Normal People by Sally Rooney and Anxious People by Fredrik Backman) had been gushed over. Last year a blogging friend (JoAnn of Gulfside Musings) spoke highly of Lombardo's novel and while JoAnn and I aren't true reading twins, we have agreed on several books. This is most definitely one of them!

I listened to the audio edition of Lombardo's debut novel over the course of almost a month (it's over 500 pages in print and 20+ hours on audio) and found it very engaging, eager to get outside on my walks and continue listening. I came to care about the Sorenson family, warts and all. Wendy's caustic criticism and verbal cruelty had me shaking my head in exasperation, wanting to shake her for her rude behavior, until I learned the underlying reasons for her emotional pain. Jonah's tenderness toward his half-brothers tugged at my heartstrings and there were other instances of kindness between other family members that brought a tear to my eye.  Emily Rankin does a superb job reading this multi-generational story and I will seek out more audiobooks narrated by her. 

The Most Fun We Ever Had was an unexpected surprise and had I read the print edition, this richly satisfying book would have found its way to my permanent collection of favorites.  If family dramas similar to The Arrivals (Meg Mitchell Moore), The Children's Crusade (Ann Packer) and Ask Again, Yes (Mary Beth Keane) are your cup of tea, you don't want to miss this one. I hope Lombardo is busy writing another novel!

September 11, 2021


It's that time of year again! The R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge is back, now in its 16th year.
  •  Suspense
  •  Thriller
  •  Dark Fantasy
  •  Gothic
  •  Horror
  •  Supernatural 
To join the challenge simply read any books (or view any movies) of your choice from the above categories between September 1 – October 31st. Feel free to post about them on your blog, Instagram, or Twitter. You can use #RIPXVI or tag @PERILREADERS to connect with other participants.

I've chosen several mysteries and thrillers from my shelves, both in print and on audio. I love participating in reading challenges since it's a way to focus on a select group of books that I already own. 

Have you read any of these? Are there any that I should skip?

September 10, 2021

Looking Back - The Great Gatsby

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Fiction - Classic
1995 Scribner (first published in 1925)
Read in September 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing, and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby---young, handsome, and fabulously rich---always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

I read this in high school, but decided to read it again. (My daughter is reading it in her American Lit. class.) I can't say that I loved it, but it held my interest. Now I want to rent the video.

My Current Thoughts:

I always have great intentions to read more of the classics, but the majority of those that I have read as an adult have been somewhat disappointing. I know that The Great Gatsby is a favorite with many of my blogging friends, but I wasn't really impressed and don't see the appeal.

September 9, 2021

20 Books of Summer Results


I'm pretty pleased with my results for the summer reading challenge, especially since we were busy with visitors and traveling. I selected 21 books for the challenge and read 8, abandoned 6 and left 7 in my stacks. Below are links to my reviews for the books that I finished. 




You can find my original post for this challenge here.  

September 4, 2021

A Month in Summary - August 2021

Elk Country RV Park
Trinidad, California
August 2021

Fall is just around the corner and I'm still waiting for summer to arrive! Our temps have been in the 60s for what seems like months, but at least the sun is shining. I've been able to get out and walk almost every day and the whales have been hanging out close to the shoreline, which is always a treat no matter how many times we see them. There have been a lot of pelicans in the area as well, and I love to watch their synchronized movements as they glide above the water, dipping down as they pass over the waves. 

My reading numbers were down again this month since we were on the road for 10 days, but three of the four books I completed were very good. I'm looking forward to reading more by Lily King and Jodi Picoult never disappoints. I only gave up on one, which I've had on my shelves for a long time. I loved the movie, but the book didn't hold my interest so I moved on to something else. 

I did pretty well with the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge and will post my results later in the week. Next up, putting together my list for the R.I.P. challenge, which has already begun.  

Books Read (click on the title for my review): 

On Island Time by Hilary Stewart (4/5)

Writers & Lovers by Lily King (4.5/5)

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (2/5)

House Rules by Jodi Picoult (4.5/5)


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Movies & TV Series:

Lupin (Season Two) - Meh. We watched the entire season, but weren't that impressed. Season One was much better.

The Courier - I don't remember a thing about this movie.

The Bletchley Circle - We watched the first episode and weren't drawn in, but maybe we'll give it another try. 

The Prisoners - Excellent cast and a very good, albeit disturbing, thriller.

The Defeated - Good, but not great. Multiple storylines to keep track of, one of which is pretty gruesome.

Wild Bill - We just started this, so we'll see how we like it after a few more episodes.


My dear friend from San Diego came for a brief visit (along with her husband and mother) as they were passing through Depoe Bay heading back to California. Kristy and I have known each other for over 40 years (she's also my daughter's godmother) and it's always great to spend time catching up when our paths cross. 

Road Trip:

We had a nice, leisurely drive down to Santa Rosa to spend some time with my aunt and cousins. My uncle's memorial was postponed due to the rise in Covid cases in the area, but it was still wonderful to spend time with the immediate family. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as hot as it was when we were in California in June. I'll blog more about the trip in the coming weeks, but here are a few of my favorite photos.

We have returned to a mask mandate (both indoors and outdoors) in Oregon as Covid cases continue to climb. Our hospitals are nearing capacity, which makes us all anxious. Please be safe, wear a mask and get your vaccinations.

September 3, 2021

Looking Back - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Juvenile Fiction/Fantasy
2000 Scholastic
Read in August 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for hundreds of years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal - even by wizarding standards. 

And in his case, different can be deadly.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Another enjoyable installment in the Harry Potter series, but I don't share the enthusiasm of most readers. I like these books, but I don't think this one's all that great.

My Current Thoughts:

I read this a second time (on audio) in 2016 and enjoyed the audio much better than the print edition. I gave it 4/5 rating. Here's my original blog post for that second reading: 

This was a partial re-read, as I never finished the book the first time around. In an effort to read all the books in the series before the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I decided to listen to the remaining books. This installment was highly entertaining on audio, thanks to Jim Dale. I can certainly see why everyone was so anxious for the next release. Final Thoughts: Another winner! My only complaint is that listening to the details of the World Quiddich Cup became tedious and I found myself zoning out as I listened. Listening to Fred and George's bantering also became a bit tiresome. In spite of these quibbles, I'm glad I finally made time to listen to the book.