Midnight In Chernobyl

Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam HigginbothamI was a freshman in high school when Chernobyl happened. I don’t remember much of what I thought about it then. Probably not a lot. Even though I was in debate and more attuned to the news than most teenagers, I doubt I thought hard about it. I didn’t even get it much thought when I went to Moscow and St. Petersburg in January 1993.  I’ve always been fascinated with what happened since. The wasteland that lay in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. I don’t have HBO and haven’t seen the miniseries. But I was excited to see this book.

I listened to the audiobook and it was engrossing. The book has a million characters, but they aren’t too terribly hard to keep track of. Adam Higginbotham wrote and exceptionally detailed and meticulously researched book. He discusses the disaster, the reaction, and how things went wrong. The scariest part of this book is that this disaster could still happen today. Though the governments in the west wouldn’t be so secretive about it, I can see them passing blame like a hot potato.

I think the thing I liked most about this book is that though it follows a lot of people, the author does a great job of keeping you from feeling lost. He tells very human stories about the disaster and its aftermath. I was particularly bothered by the fact that looters in the military were taking contaminated items from the exclusion zone and sending them all over the Soviet Union for sale. All of those unsuspecting people being exposed to radioactivity.

I also felt for the first responders. They had horrible effects from the radiation poisoning they received. The Soviet government, of course, covered that up. And unfortunately, an opportunity to learn and make things safe gave way to secrecy and saving face with the West. A lot of the people who tried to make things better and safer were vilified by the Soviet leadership and that’s a shame because these men and women did what they were assigned to do, without regard for their personal safety, like first responders all over the world did.

I really liked this book. It was sad, and parts of it difficult to digest, but it was so well-written and so well-narrated, that you can’t help but like it. If you are interested in Soviet history, nuclear power, or anything related to Chernobyl, I highly recommend you check this book out. And if you do audio books, this one is really, really. good.

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All That You Leave Behind

All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee CarrDavid Carr was a reporter for the New York Times. He also was an addict. He wrote about it in his memoir Night of the Gun. He died suddenly a few years ago and his daughter, Erin, has written a memoir about her life, her father, his death, and the aftermath. She has written a wrenching, gut-punch of a book. It was honest and raw and is a must-read.

Erin Lee Carr grew up in the shadow of a larger-than-life man. Her dad was tough on her. But he was also her biggest cheerleader. She shares emails and gchats they had about life and career. The book brings you inside their lives and provides a touching, real look at her dad – her hero.

I loved this book because it was raw and unflinching. Erin writes so candidly about the havoc her dad’s death brought to her and her family’s life. She is honest about her life as well – her tendency towards addiction (no doubt inherited from both her parents), her non-relationship with her mother, and her tenuous relationship with her stepmother. She talks about her drinking and the multitudes of embarrassment it brought to her.

Through it all her dad was her rock. He tried to help her with sobriety. He gave her career advice. She was reluctant to use his name to open doors, but did so. When he died, the rug was pulled out from under her and she reacted to that badly. The fact that she’s brave enough to write about all of this without making excuses and shouldering the responsibility of her behavior made me like this book all the more.

She doesn’t glamorize addiction. She portrays it for what it is- blackouts and all. She also discusses the toll her behavior took on her personal relationships. She talks about how devastating her father’s death has been for her, and at first how upset she was that the general public would comment on it. She has since come to appreciate when people relay their stories because it shows her how much he meant to so many people.

I really liked this book. However, for some people, it might be really hard to read. Be forewarned the book discusses some difficult and possibly triggering topics. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic book and I’m glad I read it.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Cold Dish

The Cold Dish by Craig JohnsonI’ve been meaning to get to the Longmire series for a long time. I finally got the audio book of The Cold Dish and I’m glad I did. Walt Longmire is the Sheriff of Absoroka County, Wyoming. Cody Pritchard ends up dead after being convicted of rape and given a suspended sentence. Cody had three accomplices in the rape, who were are given suspended sentences. Walt wonders if this is revenge, or something else. He also wonders if there will be more victims.

As the investigation moves forward, we are introduced to a panoply of supporting characters. There is Harry Standing Bear, Walt’s long-time friend; Vic, Walt’s deputy and sassy heir-apparent; and Lucien Connolly, Walt’s mentor. The characters are well-written and I found all of them fascinating. Craig Johnson does a good job of making even minor supporting characters interesting. He provides lush descriptions with few words. The writing reminded me a bit of Lou Berney.

Craig Johnson does a really good job of describing the town, its inhabitants, and its surroundings. The audio book was so well narrated by George Guidall, I will always hear his voice as I read more books in the series. I loved listening to him talk about the cold and the snow, the small-town people and their quirky personalities, and Walt’s thoughts about all of it.

This was a good mystery and solid story telling. I enjoyed the audio book immensely. I will definitely be revisiting Walt and his cast of supporting characters in the future.

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Dark Site Is Lightening In A Book

Dark Site by Patrick  LeeSam Dryden is looking at a villa in the Malibu hills to rehab, when he’s shot at and almost killed. Danica Ellis is the victim of an attempted abduction in Oregon. She drives to Southern California to talk to her stepfather. At the same time, Sam drives to Danica’s location to prevent a murder. Sam and Danica meet up and together, the team up to figure out why people who seemingly have never met would have people try to kill them.

That is the basic plot of Dark Site by Patrick Lee, the third in the Sam Dryden series. I hadn’t read the first two books, but own them and am going to read them now. This is one hell of a great thriller writer. I was sucked in from the first page and was enthralled with the plot and the characters until the very end. The plot moves quickly. The twists are real and compelling.

This book was a thrill ride and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sam is an interesting guy and I liked the intermixing of time between 1989 and the present. It wasn’t presented in a confusing manner as authors are so prone to do these days. I appreciated the way Patrick Lee wrote young Sam and Danica. They were real. Like I said, I haven’t read the prior to books in the series, but I certainly am going to now. I like Sam. He’s likable and a good dude. I’m looking forward to what Patrick Lee does next.

If you are a thriller fan, you will love this book. If you haven’t read any Patrick Lee, I highly suggest you do. He’s worth the investment. Happy reading.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Silent Patient

A woman is accused of killing her husband. They are both artists and she is now in a mental hospital and has not spoken sine the crime occurred. A therapist is trying to get her to speak and find out what happened on the day the woman’s husband was murdered.

I am not saying another word about plot because if you read this, you won’t want to know. This is an OUTSTANDING thriller with plot twists that I did not see coming. Just when I thought I had it figured out, another curve ball was thrown at me. It starts a bit slowly, but then the pace is blistering. The last third goes by really quickly. I did the audio and it is narrated by a man and a woman, and they alternate between the two characters telling the story. They do a fantastic job.

If you want a thriller for the beach or something to read that will keep a hold of you until it’s done, this is the book for you. I’m looking forward to reading more books from Alex Michaelides. He is a fantastic story teller. 

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Bookventorypalooza – The Aftermath

Let me preface this by saying that when my anxiety is really bad, I do weird things. I either get really angry for no apparent reason or I do what I call “tweeker” projects – stuff that meth heads would do to occupy time they should be sleeping. My anxiety has been horrible for about a month. So I decided, one day, to inventory my books. To physically write down and count all my books. How hard can it be? Two or three weeks later, it’s done. Kind of.

Don’t tell the hubs, but there is a box of books in my trunk that had been residing at my parent’s house. That box hasn’t been inventoried. It will be, but it hasn’t yet. So, that box aside, the bookventory is done. I learned some interesting things.

  1. Some books are MIA. Whether I’ve lent them out and they haven’t been returned, or there are more books in the garage, I don’t know. My mother doesn’t know how I know there are missing books. But it’s like kids. Even if you have 16 of them, you know when one is missing. Same thing.
  2. The oldest book I own is a German-English Dictionary that belonged to my great-grandfather, Willie Paul, who came to America with it. It was published in 1911. It’s covered in a grocery bag cover like we used to do for elementary school texts. I love that little book. It’s a piece of my family’s history and part of the story of how they got to America. I also have Willie Paul’s German Passport.DSC_3791 (2)
  3. I have the third printing of the text book my other great-grandfather, George C. Atteberry wrote – Introduction to Social Science: A Survey of Social Problems. It’s a two volume set and I have the 1950 printing. It was originally printed in 1941. I was on bookfinder.com to find it, but could not. So, if you ever come across a 1941 printing of this set, buy it and I will gladly reimburse you. My great-grandfather wrote the chapters that would not be covered in a political science major, so the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with me. My grandma always said I reminded her of him and, after reading his chapters, I see why.DSC_3794 (2)
  4. Some statistical nuts and bolts: the grand total (not including the box in the car, plus two books I brought home) is 2,298. I think even my husband was a bit gobsmacked by that. Even I will admit, that is a lot of books. A lot of knowledge. And that’s after I gave away six boxes of books.
  5. There are some duplicates. How could there not be when the majority were boxed up for six years. I will raffle those off to students.
  6. I own 21 books about books. If that’s not nerd, nothing is.
  7. I own 116 books about the JFK Assassination. Tell me Oswald acted alone. Go ahead. I’ve read 99% of these books and I will fight you.
  8. Other than general fiction, mystery is the largest single category at 379. I love me a good murder.
  9. I own 21 books about space and astronauts. IMHO, this is not enough.
  10. The most books by one author – Marcia Muller. She writes the Sharon McCone mystery series and is considered one of the pioneering writers in women’s hard-boiled mysteries. I love her books. The number is 46 in case you were wondering.DSC_3788 (2)
  11. One bonus fun fact, I own 271 books about the Middle East. So there’s another area in which you would be hard pressed to out-knowledge me.
  12. I own six books about the OJ Simpson trial. I have read five of them. I still think he did it. I still think the prosecution was spectacularly inept. I still hate the result.

I’m sure that there are a thousand other ways I can break this inventory down. I’m actually quite happy I did it, despite the amount of work it was that I didn’t anticipate. I learned a lot about what I read and what books I keep. I came across some good memories. I came across some sad memories. At least now that it’s done, I only have to add new ones instead of reinventing the wheel. Have any of you every inventoried your books? What did you learn? Leave your comments.

Happy Reading, my friends.

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The Good Sister

The Good Sister by Gillian McAllisterBecky is on trial for murder. Becky is accused of killing the baby for whom she was a nanny. The baby’s mother is Martha – Becky’s sister. That is the basic plot of The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister. The only reason this book didn’t get five stars is that I figured it out.

The book is set in England, so the courtroom scenes won’t be exactly what you’re used to, but they are fascinating nonetheless. The book is told from different points of view. Martha’s point of view is the most prominent, but you also hear from witnesses, the judge, Becky, and her ex-husband, Marc. It also jumps a bit in time – from the night of the murder to the present. I did not find it the least bit annoying like I usually do and I loved the alternating points of view. It made what could have been a run-of-the-mill thriller much more interesting.

I liked the sibling rivalry/love between Martha and Becky. They are very different and each thinks the other is “better.” But neither admits it right away. Their relationship is complicated. Martha feels that Becky is innocent, despite what seems to be overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But Martha’s husband, Scott, believes Becky did it. Becky and Marc are jealous of Martha and Scott and make snide comments to each other. Becky blames her “failure” of a life on the fact that she never finished design school due to becoming pregnant with her son, Xander. Though she and Marc wanted more kids, they never had any and it led to the end of the marriage. Becky agrees to nanny Martha’s baby, Layla, who ends up dead, because Martha is running a charity for refugee children. That is where the trouble begins.

Layla cries. All. The. Time. She never stops. I kept thinking, “why doesn’t she cry herself to sleep?” But the constant, loud, angry crying is driving Becky mad. Becky is also drinking – a lot. She forgets to pick her son up from school several times. As the evidence mounts, Martha starts to think Marc did it. It isn’t until a surprise revelation at the end of the trial that the questions are answered.

I really enjoyed this book. Legal thriller with twists and turns. And despite the fact that I figured out who did it, that did not take away from the book. It was still a well-written thriller. If you like mysteries and legal thrillers, this is the book for you.

I won this book from goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for my review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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Bookventorypalooza

No photo description available.I decided to physically inventory my books. What, you may ask, in the world would make me want to do that? Simple. All my books (I think) are out of boxes and shelved. So now I can see them. So naturally, I had to count them and make a list.

The handwritten list is 53 full pages and another half page. But that’s isn’t enough. I decided to computerize it. So my husband taught me to use Access. This program is so cool. It’s going to take me a couple of weeks to type the list as I can only do it after work and on down time.

I thought it was important to count my books so I knew what I had. Also, if I can confess to you, I have bought duplicate books more times than I care to admit and I’m hoping that by doing this inventory I will have a better idea of what I won and will be able to avoid duplicates in the future. I doubt it will work, but it’s worth a shot. By rough count, I have about 2,000 books. The number was bigger than I thought, but not big enough. Well, it’s big enough for this house. It’s not big enough for me, though. One day, I will own a house with a dedicated library that has enough room for all my books. Until then, I will keep track of them.

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The Friends We Keep

The Friends We Keep by Jane GreenMaggie, Evvie, and Topher meet at the beginning of college in England. Maggie and Evvie are roommates and they all end up living together in a house. When they graduate, Evvie goes on to become a supermodel, Topher becomes a soap opera star, and Maggie works in PR until she runs into Evil Ben-the bartender at a bar Evvie worked at and the man of Maggie’s dreams. As it turns out none of their lives are idyllic. They the drift apart only to drift together again. One finds out about the betrayal of another, and things go south.

This is the basic plot of The Friends We Keep by Jane Green. This was my first Jane Green book and it won’t be my last. While the story was somewhat slow moving in places, I found it be to be a good story about friendship, aging, and love. The characters are fully developed and well-written. The story starts in 1992 and end up in the present day. One thing I truly loved about this book is the time jump was straight forward. There’s no fooling with the timeline like so many books. It’s not a gimmick. I appreciated that. The characters are all about my age so I identified with the trials they have – live aging parents, mid-life weight-gain, losing someone close.

I’m not sure how to classify this book, but I think it falls into contemporary fiction. It would be a good pick for a book club because I think there are several things that would make a good discussion. I recommend this book.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Things You Save In A Fire

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine CenterCassie Hanwell is one of the best firefighters in Austin, Texas. Despite being a woman. She is about to receive the highest award from the city. The mayor is to present the award, but instead, city council member Heath shows up. As he is posing for a picture with Cassie, he grabs her ass. Her response? She beats the crap out him with her plaque, sending him to the hospital and her to an unknown future with the Austin Fire Department. There is history between Cassie and Heath that she refuses to talk about and for most of the book, all you know is that it happened on her 16th birthday – the day her mother left her and her father.

After she beats Heath up, Cassie also is contacted by her estranged mother, asking her to move to Massachusetts to help her after she loses eyesight in one of her eyes. Cassie does not want to go. But her fire captain tells her it’s the best way to escape the mess she’s made of her career in Austin with her job still in tact. She moves to a fire department that is old. She’s the only woman. She is paired with the “rookie,” who is the son of a legendary Boston Firefighter, Owen. Cassie and Owen are pranked many times, including being duct taped to the flag pole outside the station. As Cassie proves herself to the firefighters and starts getting closer to Owen, the captain informs them that there is a budgetary shortfall and one of them will have to go. Owen doesn’t want to stay, but has to. Cassie doesn’t want to stay, but has to. Oh, and Cassie is being harassed by someone in the squad. As the harassment escalates, Cassie and Owen grow closer.

Enough plot. I liked, no I loved this book so, so much. I read How To Walk Away and I liked it. But this book, I loved. I love Cassie. She’s tough. Yet vulnerable. She’s hard and unforgiving at the beginning of the book. But she has a conversation with her mother about forgiveness that seems to open her up and shift her life. I liked that fact that the characters were relatable. And very real.

I identified with Cassie’s need to prove that she’s tough to the point that she becomes stone. She refuses to let any emotion in that may indicate weakness. It’s like toxic masculinity – woman style. If you have ever worked in a male-dominated environment, you know what I mean. Any display of care or concern, or – God forbid – tears, and you’re done. The pack will pounce. So you have to be tough. You have to suck it up and put it away to deal with at another time. Katherine Center writes that struggle so well in this book. You can feel Cassie’s fear and vulnerability and rage and frustration. It’s hard enough to be a woman. Try doing it in a man’s world.

I actually liked this book so much, I’m having trouble starting the next one. Do yourself a huge favor and buy this book when it comes out in August. It will be money well spent and you will not regret it.

I won this book and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the advanced reader’s copy.

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