Wednesday 25 May 2022

I've been reading...

Well, of course I have... but not necessarily reviewing (it's veggie planting time in the garden). So it's high time I did some kind of catch-up post and because it's a wet and windy morning, so no gardening (my poor back is quite happy about that), today's the day for catching up.

So after my Cornish holiday light reading I read a book called Ghosts Among Us by James Van Praagh. I gather he's well known in the USA as a TV presenter but I'd never heard of him. I'm not particularly religious but I am very open-minded spiritually and I found this book about hauntings and why they happen incredibly interesting. The author writes well - with empathy and a willingness to explain his point of view. I will read more by him.

So then I returned to my usual stomping ground of dead bodies abounding. (Although, seeing what the previous book was about, perhaps 'returning' is not quite the right word. ;-) ) Long Road to Mercy was my first ever book by David Baldacci. Not sure why as my husband reads heaps of his books but I never have.

Atlee Pine is a female FBI agent who covers the area around The Grand Canyon. She's a survivor. Aged six and sharing a room with her twin sister, Mercy, a man broke into their room, took her sister but left Atlee behind. Obviously it's now Atlee's mission in life to find out what happened to her sister. She thinks she knows who did it too. But currently her focus is on the present. A dead mule is found on the trail down into the canyon. It has intitials curved on its side and this begins a long and dangerous mission for Agent Pine, involving a missing man and all kinds of government shenanigans. She gets taken off the case at one point so her and her older female PA go off on a road trip to Washington DC. Great stuff and I enjoyed the thrillerish tone to this one, it started off as a crime yarn and morphed into something a lot more 'spies and national security'. Atlee is quite typical of a modern crime thriller phenomenon, that of the 'kick-ass' female detective figure, usually with a past, but always a match for the men. I liked this one a lot and will definitely read more in this series and investigate others that Baldacci has written.

Next, I read a non-fiction travel book, Stans by Me by Ged Gilmore. This was my May book for the Round the World: Book Voyage reading challenge, this month's region being Northern Asia. The author puts his lone-traveller principles to one side and takes a guided tour around the 'Stans' of Central Asia, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and so on. He travelled with about eight other people and to be honest I found the people he travelled with a lot more interesting than his insights into the countries he went through. Perhaps that was the idea, I don't know, but the book was fine, I liked it, I didn't love it.

Lastly for this post, I read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I wanted to give this science-fiction author another chance after being a bit so-so about her book, A Psalm for the Wild Built, which didn't really wow me back in March. I had a feeling there was more there and I was right.

Rosemary Harper needs to escape her family's past on Mars so takes a clerk's job on the beat-up spacecraft, Wayfarer. I'm not sure I completely understood what the ship did, something about tunnelling or creating wormholes I think, but that didn't matter because this is a book about a crew - who and what they are and how they deal with situations. The captain is a decent sort named Ashby, there're two tech types, Kizzy and Jenks, a doctor who I think looks like a caterpiller, Sissix is a reptilian pilot, the navigator is a furry alien with a host virus that makes him a genius at seeing patterns in navigation and there's an algaeist who's rather confrontational. Pretty much all of them have secrets. Also onboard, Lovie, the AI controlling the ship's systems, part of the fabric of the ship, at the moment anyway... Reading this was a bit like watching half a dozen episodes of Star Trek strung together but with a non-military crew. I was completely charmed by how hard they all tried to get along and with the diversity of the crew and how they dealt with each other and some of the situations they got themselves into. The captain picks up a dangerous mission in an area of space peopled by a race split into factions which are constantly at war. But first they have to get there and that's not as simple as it sounds. Adventures abound and I loved that. Such imagination on display as regards the future of Earth, where the people went who left there, how they evolved and then went on to interact with other life forms in the galaxy. There is conflict, of course there is, but 'respect' is the most important message and this is a very positive book overall. I loved it and will be reading more in the series.  

So that's me up to date. I'm waiting now for the 20 Books of Summer challenge to start on the 1st. June, in the meantime I'm reading this:

Along the Med. on a Bike Named Reggie by Andrew P. Sykes is pretty much what it says on the tin - a travelogue of the author's cycle trip from the tip of Greece to the coast of Portugal. I read his book about cycling from Spain to Norway a couple of years ago and enjoyed it and this one is equally as good.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Hi Cath, glad you have been spending time outdoors playing in the dirt. It is rewarding and backbreaking -- I agree. Before we moved 13 years ago we had a 1/2 acre with load of floral gardens and trees. Although I was younger, it was still a workout for sure.

Glad you've been reading as well and such nice variety. I read several James Van Praagh books years ago and recall enjoying them. I should see what his more recent books are. Planning to post my 20 books of summer this weekend. I'm looking forward to diving in.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Another great selection of books from so many different genres!

As you might expect, it is the David Baldacci book I have my eye on. I read one or two of his early stand alone novels from the ate 1990s, but nothing really since then and I have no idea why, as I remember enjoying his good storylines and style of writing. I might add this one to my list, especially as it is the first book in a series, because then if I don't get to read any of the others I can treat it as a stand alone story, which has worked for me in the past.

We were only talking earlier about re-purposing some of the garden into veggie plots. Given the way things are going at the moment, things may take on a 'war footing' where digging-for-England, becomes a necessity!

I hope the back recovers with your enforced day off - it really is pretty cold and miserable here in Somerset today! :)

Cath said...

Diane: Yes, lots of time in the garden playing in the dirt. LOL! It's funny, I like gardening shows on TV but they rarely mention how backbreaking the whole process is. Half an acre is a considerable plot. We probably have about a quarter of an acre 'but' it's on a slope so not that easy to deal with. (Devon is very hilly.) We've promised ourselves a flat garden next time we move.

I was very impressed with James Van Praagh's book, some very interesting ideas and thoughts on all manner of things.

Look forward to your 20 Books of Summer list!

Cath said...

Yvonne: Thank you, I like to ring the changes.

Yes, I must admit I do sometimes treat the first book of a series as a standalone if I'm not that bothered about reading any more. And Atlee Pine is easy to do that with. In fact I there are only 3 or 4 books in the series so it's not even a huge investment to read them all. Whether I shall go on to read heaps of Baldacci books I don't know. Possibly not as a lot of them are about spies, the American secret service that sort of thing and I'm really a traditional murder mystery queen. LOL

You know, I can easily see that 'digging for England' thing coming back. Everything is so awful at the moment that quite honestly we have no idea what will happen next. It's quite unnerving.

It's just clearing up here after a very wet and blowy morning. At least the runner beans, fennel and lettuce got a good watering without me having to haul the watering can around.

TracyK said...

I have been gardening too, but nothing at the level that you are doing. And just the small bit I am doing makes my back ache. Today I am planning to pot a few salvia "blue spires" (I think) and do some pruning and weeding. We have some overcast for a few days and the sun won't bother me as much.

I have not read anything by David Baldacci, although for years I planned to read one of his early books. Maybe I will see one of his books at the book sale that interests me. He has written a lot of books.

Earlier I saw that you were reading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, and looked into that series. It looks like the kind of space travel book I like.

Lark said...

You've been reading lots of good books. I liked Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, too, though I haven't read any of her other books. And I've got that particular Baldacci book on my TBR list; I haven't really read him but my mom's a huge fan. And Long Road to Mercy sounds like a fun book. Good luck with your gardening! I've been getting my veggies planted, too. Fingers crossed they'll actually grow. :D

Vallypee said...

David Baldacci sounds good, Cath. I’ve never read any either. It sounds right up my street. Good for you with the gardening, but look after your back!

Cath said...

Tracy: Gardening is good no matter what the size of your plot, in my opinion. It's just nice to be outside. I hope your pruning and weeding goes well, like you I prefer overcast days to garden in as even in the UK the sun can get too much eventually.

Yes, Baldacci has written heaps of books, most of which I think my husband has read! I shall read a few but I don't think I'm going to be a big enough fan to want to read all of them.

I do heartily recommend the Angry Planet book, it was so much better than I expected.

Cath said...

Lark: Yes, I've been lucky to have found some good books lately. Or maybe I'm getting better at picking. I have book 2 of the Wayfarer books on reserve at the library now so I will report back on how the series progresses.

Good luck with your veggies this year!

Cath said...

Val: I wonder if David Baldacci appeals more to male readers and that's why so many of us ladies have never read his books. Just a thought. I will definitely look after my back, when I don't it can get very troublemsome.

Margot Kinberg said...

You've got some interesting books there, Cath. I'm glad you've enjoyed what you've read. It's a helpful reminder, too, that I've not read enough of Baldacci; I must rectify that!

Cath said...

Margot: Always good to enjoy what you read and I seem to mainly do that these days. I think I must've refined my way of choosing until I'm now almost certain to at least 'like' every book.

CLM said...

I really like this series about Atlee, especially the relationship with her assistant, who becomes a sort of a mother figure. His books can be violent but often in a comic book way that doesn't seem real (or painful to read) and certainly his characters usually bounce back, even when injured.