Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Book Review: Home by Marilynne Robinson

HomeHome (Gilead #2).  Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2008). 325 pages. Genre:  Fiction.

First Line:  "'Home to stay, Glory! Yes!' her father said, and her heart sank."

Summary:  Reverend Boughton is well-advanced in years and is becoming more feeble each day.  Glory is the youngest of the eight Boughton children.  After her life fell apart, she returned home to care for her father.  Jack, the black sheep of the family, returned as well. He and Glory begin the work of getting to know one another while caring for their father and keeping him happy.

My thoughts:  I read Gilead last year and really liked it.  This story runs concurrently with Gilead. Gilead is the story of John Ames and a letter he is writing to his son.  John had his son in his old age and he is afraid he will not be able to tell him all the things a father should tell his son.  John Ames and Reverend Boughton are best friends.  They have known one another for as long as they can remember.  In Gilead, we heard about Glory coming to care for her father and that Jack was visiting.  It was interesting to read about these things from a different point of view.  But, I can't say that I liked this one as well as I liked Gilead.  

Glory has come home to care for her father.  She knows he is not long for this world and he requires more assistance each day.  But, since the relationship she was in fell apart and she no longer has a job, she really had no other place to go.  She loves her father and is glad to be able to help him.  

Jack was always the child that went off by himself.  He rarely participated in what the rest of the family was doing.  Everyone always walked on eggshells around him because they were afraid if they upset him, he would leave.  As he got older he stole things, drank and had a relationship with a young woman that produced a child.  He never took any responsibility for that child.  Jack has been a worry to his father for years.  So when the Reverend receives word that Jack is coming home, he is cautiously optimistic.  He has been let down so many times, that he can't allow himself to become too excited about the possibility of Jack returning.  But, Jack does return.

In many ways this book was uncomfortable and difficult to read.  As a reader, you could feel the tension in the atmosphere.  This speaks to the brilliance of Marilynne Robinson's writing.  Of the three, Glory is the most honest character.  She is uncomfortable around Jack, but only because she doesn't know him well.  She takes him as he is and thinks well of him.  She is always eager to help him.  

Most of the time I wanted to shake Jack.  He is constantly concerned with himself and what others think of him.  I guess maybe he has reason to be.  He knows he has been a worry to the family, but he claims he can't help what he does.  His lack of personal responsibility was frustrating.  One good thing I can say about him was that he seemed to be remorseful and he was very polite. 

Reverend Boughton loves Jack deeply.  But he is constantly giving him backhanded compliments.  He will compliment him while also jabbing him.  He feels like he has let him down as a father.  It is not surprising that a minister would have high expectations for his children, but it is clear that several of the children present themselves as the people they think their father wants them to be, while not being so lily white in reality.  Some of them felt the pressure to live up to these expectations, but felt they couldn't.  I'm not sure that Reverend Boughton saw his children for who they really were. 

But, ultimately, I think Jack did want to change.  He just wasn't sure how to do it.  He was one of those people who feels things deeply and this is what made him run away or drink. He couldn't bear to be hurt, so he fled even when he knew this would hurt those he cared about most.

This is a complicated and moving story.  While I didn't like it as much as I liked Gilead, I have a feeling it's going to stick with me for a while.  


"She went off to help her father put his socks on and shave and get his shirt buttoned, and  she thought, as she often did, At least I know what is required of me now, and that is something to be grateful for."

"It's television that makes things seem important, whether they are or not."

"Her father had always said, God does not need our worship.  We worship to enlarge our sense of the holy, so that we can feel and know the presence of the Lord, who is with us always."

"Still, there was something strained about it all, as if time had another burden, like humid air, or as if it were a denser medium and impervious to the trivialization which was all they would expect or hope for on an evening like this one, now that grace was said."

"He looked like a man full of that active contentment that makes even ordinary movement graceful."


Saturday, August 28, 2021

August Reading Wrap-Up

August Reading Wrap-Up

The month of August truly flew by with not much going on.  The yard and garden took on the late summer look and the crickets perform their symphony every morning and evening.  It is amazing to me how they seem to know it is August and time to perform!  Those two cuties in the picture above have been seen around our yard and neighborhood quite a bit this month.  That picture was taken near the beginning of the month and by now they look like adolescents and their spots are barely visible.

I read 8 books in August.  Here's the breakdown:

Mystery:  1

Non-fiction:  2

Historical fiction: 1

Cozy Mystery: 2

Suspense: 1

Fiction: 1


Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti, #1)

Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunnetti #1) by Donna Leon  Maestro Wellauer is found slumped in his easy chair just after intermission at the opera.  Nearby on the floor is the coffee cup that he had been drinking out of.  It is apparent that he has been poisoned.  Commissario Guido Brunetti is assigned to the case.  In the absence of any evidence, he begins to question everyone who knew the man in order to get a better understanding of his life.  The more questions he asks, the darker and more complicated the picture becomes. I really liked this book and am looking forward to reading the next in the series soon.


Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works

Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus - The authors, aka The Minimalists, explore what it might look like to remove excess clutter from your inner life by looking at seven relationships.  Well written and researched, but didn't resonate with me.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs - The author makes the point that even in this age of distraction, plenty of people still read.  In this book he attempts to answer what we should read and why.  There was a lot to like in this book, but I found it a bit rambling.  I often was hard pressed to figure out the point he was making.  

Historical Fiction:

When Twilight Breaks

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin - This takes place in Berlin and Munich in the days leading up to Kristallnacht.  Evelyn Brand is a female journalist working in Germany and Peter Lang is conducting research on language learning at the University of Munich.  The two of them work together to sort through the propaganda in an effort to find the truth and report it to their fellow Americans.  Interesting and thought-provoking.

Cozy Mystery:

Closely Harbored Secrets (Seaside Café Mystery, #5)

Closely Harbored Secrets (Seaside Cafe Mystery #5) by Bree Baker - Charm, North Carolina is preparing for the ghost walk that is held every fall.  There are lots of legends about the town and every fall all the best stories are told accompanied by actors in costume.  Everly Swan is providing the refreshments and her aunts are involved in the story telling.  As if the event isn’t creepy enough, one of the actors is found dead on the beach.  And, of course, Everly discovers the body. This is one of my favorite cozy series and this one left me with a smile on my face.

Crime & Punctuation (Deadly Edits, #1)

Crime & Punctuation (Deadly Edits #1) by Kaitlyn Dunnett - After the death of her husband, Mikki moves back to her hometown and begins working as a freelance editor.  Her first client is a local woman who has written a crime novel.  After reading the first few chapters, Mikki is pleasantly surprised and looking forward to working with the woman.  Unfortunately, the woman is found dead.  Initially, the death is ruled accidental, but Mikki is not convinced.  As she reads more of the manuscript, she realizes the author left some clues behind.  I enjoyed this first book in the series and am looking forward to reading more. 


Network of Deceit (Amara Alvarez #2)
Network of Deceit (Almara Alvarez #2) by Tom ThreadgillA teenage boy was found dead floating on an inner tube down the lazy river at the local water park.   It was a hot day, he had some alcohol in his blood.  Probably died of heat exhaustion. However, when the Medical Examiner notices something that points to the boy being dead before he got in the water, Detective Almara Alvarez has something to go on.  This was a complicated mystery involving cyber-crime.  I love this series and am anxiously awaiting the next installment.


Home (Gilead #2) by Marilynne Robinson - Reverend Boughton is well-advanced in years and is becoming more feeble each day.  Glory is the youngest of the eight Boughton children.  After her life fell apart, she returned home to care for her father.  Jack, the black sheep of the family, returned as well. He and Glory begin the work of getting to know one another while caring for their father and keeping him happy.  This is a complicated and moving story that I will not soon forget.  (Review coming soon)

I hope your August was filled with good books!

~ Gretchen

I am linking up with The Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight. 

I'm also linking up with The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Book Review: Network of Deceit by Tom Threadgill

Network of Deceit (Amara Alvarez #2)Network of Deceit (Amara Alvarez #2). Tom Threadgill.  Revell (2021). 384 pages.  Genre:  Mystery, Suspense. 

First Line:  "How long could a human being scream?"

Summary:  Amara Alvarez has been promoted to Homicide after solving a high profile case involving kidnapped children.  Her first assignment is to look into a death that happened at a local water park.  A teenage boy was found dead floating on an inner tube down the lazy river.  It was a hot day, he had some alcohol in his blood.  Probably died of heat exhaustion.  The toxicology report won't be back for several weeks, so unless she can find something that hints of foul play, this case is not worth investigating.  However, the Medical Examiner points out that the boy's toes and feet were not wrinkled.  If he had been in the water for more than five minutes, they should have been.  But, if he was dead before he got in the water, his nervous system would have ceased functioning and the reaction would not have occurred.  Looks like Amara has her first case in the Homicide division.

My thoughts:  Collision of Lies, the first book in the Amara Alvarez series, made my favorite books of 2020 list.  Network of Deceit will be on my 2021 list.  

Amara Alvarez is such a likeable character.  She has been promoted to the Homicide division, which is something she has wanted for some time.  As the newest detective in the division, she has mostly been doing paperwork at the card table that acts as her desk.  She is tenacious.  When she receives the water park case, she really doesn't have much to go on and is not sure where to begin.  So, she just starts somewhere and looks into every nook and cranny.  And when she is done, she looks again.  When she finally turns something up, the fun is just beginning.  One of the things I love about this series is the way the author allows us to follow along on the investigation. This is very much a police procedural and we get to think the thoughts Amara thinks as she investigates.  Added to the stress of her first case is a health issue for someone close to her.  

She is now in the same department as Starsky.  He has been a great friend and cares deeply for Amara. He also provides some comic relief.  He is tall and thin and always hungry.  The banter between them made me laugh.  I enjoyed their growing relationship.

The mystery was fascinating and had to do with online gaming, Bitcoin and Zcash.  I knew very little about these things going in and now feel like I know enough to at least have a general understanding if the topic came up in conversation.  The criminals were crafty and once you involve the online world, it is very easy to be deceptive.  It was a complicated situation and Amara had to learn as she went.  But, in the end, she unraveled the mystery.

The story takes place in San Antonio and I appreciated some of the sites and surroundings of the area that were included.  

This was a page turner and hard to put down once I started.  I enjoyed the strong character development, thorough research and fascinating mystery.  Now comes the wait for book three!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Book Review: Crime & Punctuation by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Crime & Punctuation (Deadly Edits, #1)Crime & Punctuation (Deadly Edits #1). Kaitlyn Dunnett.  Kensington Publishing (2018). 280 pages.  Genre:  Cozy Mystery.

First Lines: "'I don't know, Cal.  It doesn't look good.'  Always the silent type, Cal stared back at me with big green eyes and an enigmatic expression."

Summary: After her husband died, Mikki Lincoln purchased the home she lived in while growing up and relocated to her hometown.  In order to pay for some of the remodeling that the house needs, Mikki has been freelancing as an editor.  One of her first clients is a young woman with a book manuscript.  As Mikki begins reading the manuscript she is pleasantly surprised.  The book shows promise and she is looking forward to working with Tiffany to make the book publishable.  Unfortunately, before that can happen, Tiffany is found dead.  The police show up to question Mikki because her business card was found on the dead woman's body.  The police ultimately close the case as an accidental death.  But Mikki is not convinced.  As she reads the rest of Tiffany's book, she is more convinced than ever that her death was intentional.  But, will she be able to convince the police to continue their investigation?

My thoughts:  Mikki's job as an editor is what drew me to this series.  But I found plenty to like besides Mikki's chosen profession.  First of all was Mikki herself.  Newly widowed and still grieving, she has a lot to overcome.  She moved back to her hometown on a whim.  When she saw her childhood home for sale, she didn't hesitate to buy it.  But she also didn't really think through what moving back to an area she hadn't lived in for 40 years would mean.  Reconnecting with people who knew you long ago can be difficult.  I found Mikki to be very relatable and funny.

Mikki immediately connects with her friend Darlene and the two of them are quite a pair.  Darlene's husband Frank spends a lot of time golfing, which makes it possible for Darlene and Mikki to spend large amounts of time together.  Darlene has some health issues and never knows when a day is going to be good or bad.  Mikki understands and is always willing to help however she can.  When the two of them put their heads together, they are a force to be reckoned with.   

Tiffany's death is ruled accidental or possibly a suicide.  Mikki doesn't believe it.  As she feeds the detective clues, he doesn't seem very appreciative.  To complicate matters, Tiffany's grandmother was Mikki's nemesis in high school and she still treats Mikki as if she is beneath her.  As the mystery unravels and Tiffany's grandmother is right in the middle of it, Mikki is able to put aside any hurt feelings she has and look at things objectively.  

I enjoyed the descriptions of the small New York town.  It sounds like a lovely place to visit in the fall.  

Overall, this was a great start to the series and I am looking forward to spending more time with Mikki.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Book Review: The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of DistractionThe Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.  Alan Jacobs. Oxford University Press (2011). 162 pages.  Genre:  Non-fiction.

First Line:  "A while back my teenage son drifted into the room where I was reading, tilting his head to catch the title of the book in my hands."

Summary: We often hear these days that reading is on the decline, that fewer people than ever before are reading.  Even those of us who love reading find ourselves, at times, distracted.  In this book, Alan Jacobs contradicts the idea that reading is on the decline.  He is in contact on a daily basis with people who read and who want to know what they should read.  It is the question of "what should you read" and why that he attempts to address in this book.

My thoughts:  I found this book interesting, but I also found it frustrating at times.  I often felt that the author was going to make a point that never got made.  I found myself going back in the book to see what a section was supposed to be about.  However, I did copy many quotes into my commonplace book.  Here are some things I took away from the book:

1. A reminder that the most important reason to read books is that they bring us pleasure.

2. Don't turn reading into the intellectual equivalent of eating organic greens - because something is good for you or to check it off a list.

3.  Read at whim.

4. "Read what gives you delight - at least most of the time - and do so without shame."

5. A great way to determine what to read next is to find out what an author you love read and read that.

6. Rereading books can help you understand yourself better. 

7. Very little of our growth as readers can be planned. 

8. Serendipity (discovering things you were not looking for) in our reading life is desirable.

9. Serendipity can be cultivated.

10. "I used to try to determine in advance what books I would read over the summer, but eventually realized that to put any book on such a list nearly guaranteed that I would not read it."  This is my favorite quote from the book because I have felt and said the exact same thing.

This is probably a book that needs to be read more than once to fully appreciate.  However, I came away from it with lots to think about.  

Monday, August 16, 2021

Book Review: Closely Harbored Secrets by Bree Baker

Closely Harbored Secrets (Seaside Café Mystery, #5)Closely Harbored Secrets (Seaside Cafe Mystery #5). Bree Baker. Poisoned Pen Press (2020). 352 pages.  Genre: Cozy Mystery. 

First Line: "I waved goodbye to my last customer of the evening, then set the CLOSED sign in the window at Sun, Sand, and Tea, my seaside cafe and iced tea shop."

Summary:  It's fall in Charm, North Carolina and the town is preparing for the annual ghost walk.  There are lots of legends about the town and every fall all the best stories are told accompanied by actors in costume.  Everly Swan is providing the refreshments and her aunts are involved in the story telling.  As if the event isn’t creepy enough, one of the actors is found dead on the beach.  And, of course, Everly discovers the body. 

My thoughts: Reading one of the Seaside Cafe Mysteries is like visiting old friends. And best of all I always end my time with a smile on my face.

As usual, Everly is providing food and drinks for any activity that is going on. In this case, it is the annual ghost walk. It has become quite an event that people from other towns attend. Several actors dress up as figures from the legends. One of them is Mourning Mabel who was allegedly beheaded by a sailor who had fallen in love with her. Dixie Wetherill is wearing the costume this year and unfortunately, Dixie is the one who winds up murdered. Everly had never met her, but she is the one who discovered her lifeless body on the beach and ended up with her blood on her hands.

The mystery involves historical artifacts, family trees and secret rooms which makes it quite interesting. Everly mostly stays out of it, but when she begins receiving threats, it is difficult. However, she learns a little more about her own family's story in the course of the investigation.

There is a secondary storyline that was carried over from the previous book involving the election for mayor. Everly's aunt Fran is running against two other opponents and this adds a bit of tension to the story.

All of the supporting characters are back as well including Denise who now works at Sun, Sand and Tea, Wyatt, Grady, Denver, Amelia and Everly's aunts. Matt, a local paramedic, is a new character who plays a pretty big role in this book. And there is a bit of a twist in Everly's personal life.

I thought the author did a good job portraying Everly in this installment. This is the fifth murder victim she has discovered in a short amount of time and it is wearing on her. She seems more frazzled and less cheerful than normal and I think that is realistic.

All in all, this was a great addition to the series. As I said earlier, I finished the book with a smile on my face.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Book Review: When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

When Twilight BreaksWhen Twilight Breaks. Sarah Sundin. Revell (2021). 365 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance. 

First Line: "Berlin, Germany.  Tuesday, March 15, 1938. Evelyn Brand had done a crack bit of journalism, and she hadn't even had to dress like a man to do so."

Summary:  Evelyn Brand is a journalist working for the American New Service in Berlin.  It is not easy for a female to be in this line of work.  She is often passed over for big stories regardless of the quality of her work.  When she is sent to Munich to cover a story about  American students attending the University of Munich and their experiences, she once again feels she has been passed over.  Her male colleagues are given assignments in Berlin covering Hitler, the Nazi party and other political happenings.  Her boss gives her a contact at the University, Peter Lang.  The two men were roommates at Harvard.  Peter is a professor earning his doctorate in German.  He will be able to put her in touch with American students.  

Peter Lang is conducting research on language learning.  He has analyzed the way the mouth moves when speaking German and this has allowed him to help his English speaking students to more easily speak the German language without sounding like foreigners.  As Peter and Evelyn work together, the difficulties in Germany escalate.  Sarah longs to be able to report what is really going on in Germany to her American readers, but her boss proofs and changes her work before it hits the press.  Peter begins using his contacts with the Nazi party to feed Evelyn information that will help her get the stories out.  How long will they be able to keep this up before the truth comes out?

My thoughts: Every book I have read by Sarah Sundin has been enjoyable and this one was no exception.  She knows how to tell a good story.

Evelyn Brand is hard-working and feisty.  She handles herself well in a workplace full of men.  Her deepest desire is to report the truth.  Unfortunately, that is not what Germany wants the world to hear.  Germany wants the world to hear that life in their country is so much better than other places in the world.  That things are orderly and controlled.  But, Evelyn finds ways to report truth that won't upset Germany.  Unbeknownst to her, her boss is a supporter of the German agenda and often changes the wording of her articles before they go to press.  The male reporters are able to send their articles directly to New York, but Evelyn's must first be checked by her boss.  She is obviously frustrated by this, but handles it well.  Lying and cheating are not things she is willing to do, but she comes up with clever ways to get around the barriers in her path.  It was interesting to be immersed in the world of a female reporter in this era.

Peter Lang is such a good guy.  He is a genuinely caring person.  This comes through in his interactions with his students, his boss, and his co-workers.  He prefers things to be orderly and well-organized and arranges his life this way.  He is impressed with some of the ways Germany has created order.  At first, he thinks America would do well to imitate Germany.  But as he begins to see what is really going on, he realizes that Germany has taken things too far and he is the first one to stand up against the wrong attitudes of the Nazi party.  However, since he has contacts with the Nazi party, he uses those to gain information for Evelyn so she can get the word out to the United States.  It is a dangerous game he is playing.

Peter's work is interesting.  He is teaching German to American students, but in a unique way.  He has studied the way a German speaker moves his mouth and tongue when he speaks.  This knowledge helps to remove the accent that many Americans have when trying to speak German.  It can also go the other way - helping German speakers who are learning English to lose their accent.  In the author's note at the end of the book, she indicates that many of the elements of Peter's work are based on work done by her grandfather.

The bulk of the story takes place in the months leading up to Kristallnacht, the night when the homes and businesses of many Jewish people were destroyed.  Not only that, but many were killed or captured and sent to concentration camps.  The chaos and fear of that night are well portrayed by the author.  I learned a lot about what it was like for an ordinary person in Germany during those months.  The author took us to speeches given by Hitler, Nazi party meetings, concerts and movies.  

The faith element of the story was worked in seamlessly.  As the atmosphere grows more tense and dangerous, both Peter and Evelyn turn to God to help them through their difficulties. 

There is also a romance element in the story, but it is not overbearing and really is an aid to the storyline.  

Overall, this was a really good story containing many of the things I love in a book - great characters who do interesting work, a good sense of place, and some historical tidbits. If any of these things appeal to you, give this book a try.


"'I like jazz, but some of the modern works are too atonal and chaotic for my taste.  Classical music will always be my favorite.'"

"A man like her father, good and kind.  Papa let her be herself.  Papa took pride in her spunk and her accomplishments."


Monday, August 9, 2021

Book Review: Love People, Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never WorksLove People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works.  Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. Celadon Books (2021). 336 pages. Genre: Non-fiction.

First Line of Preface:  "The streets are erumpent with uniformed men wielding titanic assault rifles."

Summary:  After doing the hard work of removing physical clutter from your life, what comes next? In this book Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as The Minimalists, explore what it might look like to remove excess clutter from your inner life by looking at seven relationships in our lives.  These essential relationships make us who we are: stuff, truth, self, values, money, creativity and people.  Removing clutter in these areas can help us live more intentionally. 

My thoughts:  This is the third book written by this duo known as The Minimalists.  I have read all three.  Love People, Use Things is well written and researched.  But, it is my least favorite of the three.  

The book begins with a preface written after the book was finished, pointing out how the pandemic put things into perspective for a lot of people.  Many who had never lived intentionally were suddenly realizing that they needed more meaning and less stuff in their lives.  Joshua realized that the hard work he had been doing to remove excess from his life had left him better prepared for a pandemic than those who had not done this work.

The introduction tells a brief version of their lives before they became the Minimalists.

The rest of the book is divided into seven chapters, one for each relationship.  The chapters contain a deeper look at some of the personal stories the authors have told in their other books and some that have never been told.  In addition, they contain research or information from an expert in a field related to the relationship being explored.  At the end of each chapter is a Coda that includes questions to answer to get you to think deeper about this area in your life.  

Sometimes when I got a few pages into a chapter, I would go back to the beginning to remind myself what the chapter was supposed to be about because it wasn't clicking for me.  I couldn't remember what the chapter was supposed to be about based on what I was reading.  I did enjoy hearing more of the authors' stories.  Like I said, the book was well written, or maybe it was overwritten.  Unfortunately, this book just did not resonate with me.  However, it might be just what someone else needs.  

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Book Review: Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti, #1)Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti #1). Donna Leon. Harper Perennial (1992). 270 pages. Genre:  Mystery.

First Line:  "The third gong, announcing that the opera was about to continue, sounded discreetly through the lobbies and bars of Teatro La Fenice."

Summary:  When Maestro Helmut Wellauer fails to return to his position in front of the orchestra for the second half of the opera, someone is sent to retrieve him from his dressing room.  Maestro Wellauer is found slumped in his easy chair.  Nearby on the floor is the coffee cup that he had been drinking out of.  It is apparent that he has been poisoned.  Commissario Guido Brunetti is assigned to the case.  In the absence of any evidence, he begins to question everyone who knew the man in order to get a better understanding of his life.  The more questions he asks, the darker and more complicated the picture becomes. 

My thoughts:  This series takes place in modern day Venice.  The author does an exceptional job of making you feel like you are there, walking the streets of Venice right alongside Brunetti.  

Commissario Brunetti is easy to like.  He seems to bring a sense of calm when he enters a room.  He is patient when interviewees don't seem to be answering his questions and is often rewarded when they begin to tell him things he never thought to ask.  The story is told from his perspective and we accompany him on his round of interviews.  We are often privy to his thoughts as well as he works through the information he is gathering. Each night he returns home to his cozy apartment to have dinner with his wife and children.  I loved this aspect of the story.  

The cast of secondary characters were interesting as most of them were involved in the opera world or the upper class world of Venice. 

The mystery kept me turning pages as I really didn't have any solid ideas as to whodunnit.  I loved discovering the clues along with Brunetti.  There were a couple of twists at the end that made for a satisfying read. 

Donna Leon has written one Brunetti book per year since she started, so I guess I better get busy reading the next book in the series. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Book Review: Keep Going by Austin Kleon

Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and BadKeep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. Austin Kleon. Workman Publishing (2019). 224 pages. Genre:  Non-fiction.

First Line:  "A few years ago, I'd wake up every morning, check the headlines on my phone, and feel as if the world had gotten dumber and meaner overnight."

Summary:  Motivation to stay creative in ten different ways. 

My thoughts:  I don't think of myself as an artist, but I do create things.  We all do, whether we fix a meal, organize a closet, decorate a room, write a book review or paint a picture.  I think staying creative is more difficult than it used to be before we had so many digital things to distract us.  This book shows the reader how to stay focused and motivated so that your creativity can flourish.

Here are a few things I took away from this book:

1. "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." - Annie Dillard

2. Establish a daily routine.

3. Just because you do something well, doesn't mean you need to monetize it.

4. Take daily walks.

5. Pay attention, look around, notice things.

6. Read old books. 

7. Keep a diary.

8. Tidying up can be a way for our brain to rest.  

9. Observe the seasons in nature.

None of these things were new to me, however, it was good to be reminded of them in a unique way.  Austin Kleon is an artist and writer who reads widely and that always comes through in his books.  His books are a combination of his writing and art and usually contain lots of quotes.  If you feel stuck and need some motivation, give this book a try.  

You can find Austin Kleon online at austinkleon.com. He posts thoughtful articles, some of his art and pictures of pages from his diaries.