Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Mastering the Art of French Murder

Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is a rare occasion when I find a book that literally keeps me up all night. Happily, this was one of the best.

I have been a Julia Child fan for decades, so the title was a great hook to capture my attention. The reader did a remarkable job of bringing Julia to life. Actually, the reader did a remarkable job with everything thrown at her. There is an interesting mix of languages, locations, and people that are handled with ease.

The author has created not only interesting characters, but has brought to life a time and place that made me feel as if I might be watching a film.

There are plenty of references to mystery writers and characters which kept me on my toes trying to figure out ‘who done it’. And I have to say I was led down many a wrong path before I reached the culmination of the story. Who was involved? What was actually going on? You will have to read (or listen) to find out.

This book is apparently the beginning of a new series, another thing that makes me happy. If the next work is as good as this one, I could be along for long ride.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: I, Claudius and Claudius The God

I, Claudius/Claudius the God by Robert Graves

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first encountered Claudius in paperback when PBS ran the British series. It was impossible to ignore. I read both books by Robert Graves, but I have to say that at the time my knowledge of Rome and its history was extremely limited. Fast forward a few decades, toss in a lot more knowledge of Rome and a return visit to Emperor Claudius via the audio versions of Graves’ books. The experience is even more interesting and amazing.

When I started connecting the dots of the history I had learned with the tales Claudius tells, I gained an entirely different understanding.

The first person account of encounters with historical names and places brings both the people and the history to life. Some of it terrifying. Some of it mundane.

Claudius survived a family that pretty much killed off anyone who got in the way. His journey was one of learning to keep out of sight while in plain sight (confusing, yes, but infinitely necessary). He lived in interesting times among interesting people and in places that we can only see in ruins.

The books are not for those who like their history cleaned up and tidy. History has never been either. I would like to suggest that the reader have more than a tendril of knowledge of the subject matter but in the end I’m not sure it would matter. If Claudius’ story captivates enough, it could lead you into an entirely new rabbit hole.

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Audiobooks · Books

Favorite Authors In My Library: Sue Grafton

I honestly do not remember exactly when I was introduced to Sue Grafton and her heroine, Kinsey Millhone. I suspect it was when the first of her Alphabet Mysteries moved into paperback, somewhere around 1982. At that point I was devouring several women mystery writers, but only one stayed on my To Be Read List. Sue.

I should tell you that at that point in time I was young, broke, and frequented the local library when budget would not stretch to cover new paperbacks, let along hardback books. Grafton quickly moved to my Hardback list and stayed there until I acquired my first Kindle.

The Alphabet series was set in the 1980s and stayed there. Something novel after a while because Sue had to construct her stories without computers, cell phones, and a plethora of other tech that just was not available. While Kinsey might have maneuvered the world of paper files and pay phones, many of her later readers wouldn’t have a clue.

Originally intended to have one book per letter for the entire 26 letters, sadly Sue passed away just after book 25 came out. Somehow, it just seemed right. Even now.

Kinsey is sharp, funny, quirky, and a whole host of other things that endeared her to me. I love her sense of humor, her loyalty, her guts and her fears. The books cover her journey not only to crack the cases her clients bring her, but also the quirks of her own life. The books are not just the unfolding of the crime(s) but of life’s mysteries, too.

The audio books are a delight to listen to. Perfectly matched with Judy Kaye’s narration, they bring Kinsey to life.

I won’t lie, I miss Sue and Kinsey. Both are interesting women who put everything into their work. I am grateful, not to mention thankful, that I have several versions of the books (audio, paper and electronic) so I can visit them, not to mention Henry (I can smell his baking from here…) whenever I want.

Check out more about Sue here.

Audiobooks · Books

Contemplating My To Be Read List

My ‘To Be Read’ list is an ever evolving, and occasionally devolving, list of books I want to listen to. Here are a few of the books at the top of my To Be Read List:

NOTE: I am an audiobook listener but most titles can be found in other mediums.

Time And Again by Jack Finney is an old favorite. The story of science fiction, time travel, history, and, of course, a love story, Time and Again has been a beloved book for decades. In fact, my first encounter with it was in paper form. The audio version just adds that something ‘extra’ to the story.

I would be remiss if I did not include the sequel, From Time to Time, on my list. While not exactly as amazing as its predecessor, it is a good continuation of the tale.

I, Claudius and Claudius The God by Robert Graves. I read these decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed the tale. The books are the base material for the BBC production, “I, Claudius” starring Derek Jacoby. Claudius was born a cripple and a stammerer, most thought him quite dim. The irony of his story is that he survived to become emperor.

If you have not watched “I, Claudius” I suggest you check it out. Be warned: It is bloody, blatant and more than a bit obscene in parts. Much like the time of the story it tells. I recently came across a reunion interview that will give you some insight:

What is on your To Be Read List?

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Murder at a London Finishing School

Murder at a London Finishing School by Jessica Ellicott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always enjoy my time with Beryl and Edwina. I like the time period, the location, the mysteries, and, most importantly, the characters.

The thing about this series is that the characters always have growth and evolution, sometimes in spite of themselves.

This time around the ladies are called back to their finishing school near London to help their old headmistress solve a series of thefts and some mysterious happenings that are driving students away. In the middle of that investigation a school mate from the ladies’ time ends up dead.

One thing you can always count on is the great collection of characters, old and new, in the story. The regulars are welcome returns while the new folks add an interesting something different to the story.

I always recommend new folks to the series start at the beginning so they can keep up with the growth of our ladies, but each book does stand on its own.

Gather your favorite cup of whatever, curl up and enjoy the story!

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Good, The Bad and The History

The Good, the Bad and the History by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are those few and far in between authors that continue to amaze me as I read (listen) their latest works. Jodi Taylor is at the top of that list. No matter if I’m catching up with the Time Police or endeavoring to keep up with Max and St. Mary’s I never, ever, read the end of the book without shaking my head, chuckling a lot, and wondering how she does it. How does Jodi Taylor keep all those plot strings organized?

This latest visit has kept me up at night, required a rewind (I listen to the audio version), made me stop and get reacquainted with what happened in the last book, move forward and … start all over again to listen straight through.

Visiting St. Mary’s is like the yearly family union or visit to camp. There is that time spent with old friends, favorite relatives, all while enjoying the catch up with all that has transpired since the last visit.

This latest visit picks up right where the last one left off (with Max in trouble…again) and moves forward in its’ usual fast pace. While gathering the threads of the latest crises, the reader is also treated to a collection of threads from older books in the series.

NOTE: If you are new to the series, I would caution diving in in the middle as there is a lot you will have missed. You’ve been warned.

One of the pleasures of a long running series is the fact of the long run. There is a lot of character development. There is a lot of long running plot development, and there is the pure pleasure of the short term travels through time. Time as in time spent with the series and time as in time travel.

Max has undergone a lot of growth and it shows in her choices. She has also avoided growth in some areas, and that, too, pops up to create issues. It will be interesting to see how she moves forward.

In the meantime, buckle up and enjoy the ride!

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Audiobooks · Books

The Southern Sisters Mysteries

I discovered Anne George’s Southern Sisters Mysteries a couple of decades ago when I was embarking on audio books. Set in Alabama roughly in the 1990s, the books focus on two sisters; Patricia Ann and Mary Alice who are in their early to mid 60s.

The books are a wonderful cozy mix of humor and mystery spiced with that illusive addition of location and time period.

Read by Ruth Ann Phimister, who does an admirable job creating characters that are beautifully distinctive and well executed, the audio version of the series is a joy to listen to.

Check out this link to learn more about the books.

If you are looking for a great summer read or just need a change of pace from your usual read or listen, check out this great series.



Browsing The Shelves

Figuratively Speaking

Once a month my Audible credits restock and I have the ability to find new books to listen to. Some months the process is easy while other months it can be a long, tedious, frustrating, interesting experience.

I love being read to! I have enjoyed it since I was a very small child. When I was older and learned to read, I loved the foray to the local library or ordering the latest publisher’s catalog to find printed treasures. Tack on a few decades with eyesight that doesn’t always enjoy the printed word and audio books came to the rescue.

Don’t mistake me; I’ve had printed, electronic and audio versions of the same books for years. A good book is a good book no matter the format!

Anyway, this latest browse took me down the ‘BBC’ section of Audible’s catalog where I found a plethora of BBC productions covering a huge array of genres. I could dive into a variety of versions of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who, Tolkein and the like. I could find anthologies of authors like Christie and Wodehouse, to name a few. There was a selection of those tongue in cheek antidotes to game shows like ‘I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue’ or ‘Just A Minute’, too.

I don’t know what it is about the BBC, but they have produced some interesting, if not downright hilarious, shows over the decades. And I’m just speaking about the comedies or game shows, they have an equally impressive collection of dramas, too.

As we edge into Summer with the potential for beach reads, why not investigate beach listens, too? If this is your first venture into audio books, look for either a favorite author or a shorter book to dip your toe in.

There is something indulgent and comforting about being read to. It hearkens back to our younger years. Or, thinking slightly differently, why not check out one of the children’s books? No matter what your age, you can indulge in something you haven’t read in a long time or you can see what you might have missed.

Don’t overlook the impact audio books can have on the little ones, either. It is an excellent way to increase vocabulary and build imagination.

Now, back to my Audible Wishlist to see what might be in my next book run…


Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: A Tempest At Sea

A Tempest at Sea by Sherry Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read (listened to) the entire Lady Sherlock series, I’m used to (i.e. spoiled by) the storytelling. Add Kate Reading’s fabulous talents as a reader of the audiobooks and the experience is a luscious treat.

This latest addition to the series is unusual in that it brings together many characters from the other books and puts them on a ship much like the one Agatha Christie created in Death On The Nile. They are stuck together with at least one murderer among them.

Every part of this book is interesting on its own. From the resolution/evolution of character arcs to the mystery itself, each is well developed and engaging. Toss in the story arcs with various characters and the book really shines.

I like the way each character’s flaws and limitations are brought forward. There are places where the prose makes them visceral, to say the least. I’d mention a couple of characters here, but readers will have their own particular, um, favorites.

I also like that the book has included the ship plans for the reader, which makes figuring out locations easy. The audiobook has an attached pdf to download.

Yes, you can read it out of order and enjoy the story, but if you have read the entire series you will get more from this encounter with particular characters.

I’m curious to discover how many more books will be in the series. At this point, I can contemplate at least 2, maybe 3, more. What I can’t, and frankly don’t want to, contemplate is how those stories will develop. I’m more than happy to wait and see.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Vesuvius at Night

Vesuvius by Night by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally (!!) picked this up on and am I glad I did.

If you are a follower of the Falco series, you should know at least one of the main characters. If you aren’t it won’t matter. The difference, at least for me, is that I remembered that person from when he was a lot younger, more nieve, and a bit adventurous. It mattered.

I’ve studied what happened at Pompeii a lot in the past couple of years, but I have to admit that there was a head-slap moment when I realized that there was more than one way out of town, and it did not involve the water. [ Insert head-slap.] Yeah, it just never occurred to me. The other point is that apparently the majority of people started leaving early on. Call it a memory of the earthquake that almost destroyed the town a few years before. Archeologists have found many buildings still under repair from that earthquake.

All that being said, this was a powerful piece that resonated long after I finished listening.

This one will stay with you a bit and I think you will recall it if/when you watch any Pompeii walkthrough tours.

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