Thursday, January 20, 2022

AudioBook Review: Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce book cover and review
Although Miss Benson's Beetle is not my usual type of book, I enjoyed this delightful, heartwarming story.

In 1950, England is still recovering from WWII. Margery Benson is a worn-out school teacher who suffers a midlife crisis. She leaves her job and decides she wants to fulfill her lifelong quest -- to find the Golden Beetle in New Caledonia. Her father taught her about beetles when she was a child, and as you will find out as she flashes back throughout the story, she has never stopped learning about them. New Caledonia is on the other side of the world, and Margery has no idea how to get there. She has no money. She doesn't speak the language. But that doesn't stop her.

She advertises for an assistant, and the applicants leave a lot to be desired. She rejects an ex-POW who is suffering from PTSD. And she rejects Enid Pretty, a ditsy blond who wears high heels and obviously would not survive a jungle expedition on the other side of the world. But, because of circumstances, Enid is exactly who Margery ends up with.

Enid has many secrets which make it all the more remarkable that these two women manage to get as far as they do. And I won't tell you how far that is. They manage to get around when the odds are against them. No passport, no luggage, no visa, no money, no food. Police inquiries. Lost supplies. Injuries and other health issues. And the reappearance of the ex-POW. Nothing can stop them. These two unlikely women begin to respect each other, and their partnership improves both of their lives.

I giggled at the stupidity and brashness of Enid. And Margery's obsession with beetles and her ability to avoid unpleasantness using that knowledge is remarkable. 

Part of the reason I enjoyed Miss Benson's Beetle is because I listened to the audio version. This is one of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to. Juliet Stevenson's voices add so much to the story. I just can't recommend the audio version enough.

If Miss Benson's Beetle is your type of book, you should grab it. If it isn't your type of book, you should still consider it, especially if you enjoy audiobooks.

Published by Dial, 2020
Audiobook obtained from the library (Cloud Library)
352 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, January 17, 2022

Book Review: The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont

The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont book cover and review
In 1925, before Agatha Christie was famous, she disappeared for eleven days. Her whereabouts are a mystery to this day. The Christie Affair is de Gramont's reimagining of what might have happened to Christie those eleven days, and why.

The reason is that Agatha's husband was having an affair, and when he told Agatha he wanted a divorce, she left. The mistress, Nan, has an entire back story that is integral. A police officer is asked to come out of retirement to help with the nationwide search for Agatha, and he becomes an important character.

The answers are imaginative and entertaining. And surprising, at times. There is romance, murder, and lots of secrets. I really don't want to give away many details. It is fun to see how the past and the future come together without any clue ahead of time. The story is interesting, the writing is good, and the pace is brisk.

It is interesting that this event has spurred more than one author to create a tale about what happened during these eleven days. de Gramont has done a great job. I want to believe that her version is the truth...

Published by St. Martin's, February 1, 2022
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Year(s) in Review - Some Statistics

I retired in 2018, and I did a year-end statistics post that year, but since then I have not. You would think being retired would give me more time to read, but it also gave me more time to pursue other interests. I simply lost my desire to read for a while. So the numbers have gone down. Fortunately, beginning the last quarter of 2021, I feel more of a desire to read and my pace has picked up.

I'm summarizing in a chart the last four years. I'm including 2018 for comparison purposes. Mostly this post is for me, but if you are interested, you can take a look.


Here's a link to my Goodreads Year in Books 2021, which I always think is more interesting than a spreadsheet.

My favorite book of 2021 would be Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir.

I think that's enough for now. Wish me luck for 2022!

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Book Review: The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher book cover and review
I enjoyed The Paris Bookseller very much. It's not my usual read, and I'm not sure where I got the recommendation. But I'm glad I read it.

The Paris Bookseller is Sylvia Beach, an actual historical figure. Sylvia moves to Paris in the 1910s, mostly because it is a more tolerant environment for a lesbian. She ends up opening a bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which is the first in Paris to sell English books. She gains quite a clientele of ex-pats, including famous names such as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway.

James Joyce becomes one of Sylvia's best friends and when his book, Ulysses, is banned in the United States, Sylvia decides Shakespeare and Company should publish it. Sylvia works very hard and sacrifices much to see this book published.

The story moves slowly but is written well, so I enjoyed getting to know Sylvia intimately. She also develops a romance that gets her through many trials.  I enjoyed getting to experience Paris during the twenties and into the thirties, with the difficulties of the Depression. I wanted to know about Ulysses and even read the first three (of eighteen) sections. It is very "stream of conscious" and contains so many allegories that I didn't understand that I quit. I get the idea, although didn't read enough to understand why it was banned.

It helped me to know that The Paris Bookseller is basically a true story. Only a few characters are fictional. Everything that happens really happened, although the timeline was altered slightly in a few spots. Beach is a fascinating character, flaws and all. Honestly, I'm not sure I would have been very interested in this book if it weren't based in truth.

If you are at all interested in Sylvia Beach or the Paris literary scene during the 20s, pick up The Paris Bookseller.

Published by Berkley, January 11, 2022
eARC obtained from NetGalley
336 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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