Friday, December 10, 2021

Catching up with Book Reviews - The Sentence, Louise Erdrich - The Last House on the Street; Diane Chamberlain and Midwinter Murder; Agatha Christie

Hello out there, I'm still around.   I've been reading but lax about keeping up with reviews with so much going on as the year comes to a close.  

We had a Christmas luncheon for my library book group last week (11) showed up at my favorite restaurant - it was great gathering and we got our list of books to read in 2022 (more about this next week).  We had 2" of snow on Wednesday our first snowfall - (late this year). It looked quite pretty and now it is nearly gone - 60 degrees today! Crazy weather.

This weekend we our going to the theatre for a live on stage holiday show and music festival. It was an annual tradition for us but last year COVID put a halt to it.  This year, it is a go but, masks and proof of vaccination is required which makes me happy!!!  This coming week is my birthday week and we have something special planned that we are both looking forward to - more about that next week.

I still have some gift cards to purchase and some gifts to wrap.  We haven't finalized Christmas get together plans as with the girls in school (they are vaccinated) we still need to play it by ear as there have been some COVID cases in the classes - will this ever end?  We already made reservations for an early New Years eve dinner reservation - that too of course is subject to weather and COVID.

How has your December been and do you have any special plans coming up?

Here's an attempt to catch up on what I've read and what I'm reading now. 

The Sentence; Louise Erdrich
Harper and Harper Audio - 2021
Rating - 5/5 stars 

The Sentence is a very different kind of story by Louise Erdrich. It begin's on All Soul's Day, November 2, 2019 and ends on the same day in 2020.  Yes, it takes place during the pandemic, in Minneapolis amidst the George Floyd protests and the setting of local Indie bookstore that is haunted by one of the staffs least favorite (now decreased) former customers - Flora.  The ghost is determined to stick around until Tookie, the ex-con, who developed a love of books in prison and now works at the bookstore can figure out why she is still around.

Tookie is a great character who did something dumb that landed her in prison.  She ends up marrying the tribal police officer who was involved in her sentencing.  I loved how she has discovered a newfound love and appreciation for books that helped her survive her time behind bars.

The story has a lot going on but is so well done. Like most of the author's books there is Native American folklore and the struggles of the indigenous people. Books and specific book titles play a nice part in this story and, as always, the author's writing left a lasting impression.  There are some funny moments but yet this story is much deeper than it may seem from my brief ramblings.  The audiobook was narrated by the author and it was pitch-perfect! Don't miss it!

(audio download  from my public library - eGalley provided at no charge by Harper Books and Edelweiss)

The Last House on the Street; Diane Chamberlain
St. Martin's Press and Macmillan Audio - January -2022
Rating - 4.5/5 stars

This was a book I almost passed on but am so happy I had a chance to experience it.  It has history, mystery and real social issues that were all so well done. Told in dual timelines - 1965 and 2010, the story takes place in Round Hill, NC.  

(2010) Kayla Carter is a recent widow with a 4-year old daughter. Kayla's husband died in accident which happened as their dream house was being built. The house is a a grand McMansion with some fifty windows and, it is now ready to move in when Kayla has a strange woman that shows up at her office. Kayla is also an architect as was her late husband and, the woman advises Kayla against moving into that new home.  Who is this woman and should she take this as a threat or at least report this to the police?  Does the woman have anything to do with the strange things that begin happening once Kayla and her daughter move in?

(1965) Ellie Hockley is a college student from Round Hill involved in The Scope Project -- students who were committed to registering Blacks so that they could exercise their right to vote.  This, of course. in the 1960s South had to be done secretly. Ellie couldn't even tell her parents as they never would have approved.  What, if anything, does Ellie have to do with the present day story involving Kayla?

I loved this story and the way it played out. I really felt like I got to know the characters, especially Ellie and, even though the story was sad at times and it mad me mad as well, it was an important story to tell. and the author did a great job.  The audio book was read by Susan Bennett who did a great job.  Highly recommended.

(audio download provided at no charge by Macmillan Audio and NetGalley.)

Midwinter Murder; Agatha Christie
William Morrow and Harper Audio - 2020
Rating - 3.5/5 stars

I actually purchased this audio book last December through but, I never listened to it until this month.  Honestly, I haven't had the best of luck with the Agatha Christie books I've tried in the past but, a short story, winter collection seemed right up my alley.

There are (12) short stories featured and the only one I was familiar with was Three Blind Mice, (which I liked a lot) the stories in the collection were:

Christmas at Abney Hall
Three Blind Mice
The Chocolate Box
A Christmas Tragedy
The Coming of Mr. Quin
The Clergyman's Daughter/The Rose House
The Plymouth Express
Problem at Pollensa Bay
The Mystery of Hunters Lodge
The World's End
The Manhood of Edward Robinson
Christmas Adventure

The stories feature familiar Christie characters like: Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Harley Quin and Parker Pyne.  Miss Marple is a favorite as I like the way this elderly lady operates - such fun. Three Blind Mice, Sanctuary, Christmas Adventure and The Clergyman's Daughter were the ones that I liked best.

While I can't recommend the audio version as, at least for me, I found the narration by (Fennella Woolgar) a bit difficult to understand at times. Fortunately,  having the print edition was a bonus. Overall, while I liked a few of the short stories, several left me somewhat disappointed. I guess Agatha Christie isn't for all readers.

Reading Now

Library Books - (waiting to be read)

  1. Matrix; Lauren Groff (combo read/listen)
  2. Cloud Cuckoo Land; Anthony Doerr (combo)
  3. Five Days in Winter: Stories; Lily King (audio)


  1. That Louise Erdrich book sounds like I would enjoy it. I can admit it here, I bought myself 10 books for Christmas. What was I thinking? I have so many here waiting to be read. I wanted to give business to Powells so I did.

  2. I still have Cloud Cuckoo Land on my reading list and I wanted to get to it before the end of the year but that time is barreling toward me, so we'll see. I'm delighted to know you loved The Sentence as much as I did. It really is an amazing book.

    1. I had no idea The Sentence would be such an unusual kind of story IMO.

  3. I hope the play goes well. We've had snow and rain too, it got cold and now they're saying 60 later next week. It IS crazy.

    I love that cover of Midwinter Murder. I have had a bit of trouble with christie though...

    1. Greg, I always feel bad when I read an A.C and am disappointed as so many just love her stories.

  4. I hope you have a lovely birthday, Diane!

    Oddly enough, I said the same thing to my husband just a day or two ago, 'Is this ever going to end?' It doesn't feel like it at the moment. We get our boosters on Tuesday and I'm 'very' pleased about that.

    I actually think Agatha Christie's short stories are as good if not better than her novels. I've read a couple of cracking Miss Marple collections. With the novels you have to be picky and there are so many that that can be difficult. If you want a good wintery AC try The Sittaford Mystery, it's a standalone that I loved.

    Enjoy the plans you have for this week.

    1. Good luck with the boosters, we had ours in October -- just a sore arm for nearly a week for me and, no reaction for my husband. Thanks on the birthday wishes--I just shake my head and think, where did the time go? Thanks for the heads up on The Sittaford Mystery.

  5. That is a nice bunch of good books! I've never been much of an Agatha Christie fan though.

    1. Yes, not sure what it is? Maybe just out of practice with that particular writing style.

  6. We are still waiting for something even close to winter weather here, Diane. It was actually in the mid-eighties here yesterday, with extra high humidity to boot.

    Happy to see that you enjoyed The Sentence. Erdrich has not disappointed me yet, so I was kind of surprised and relived, both, to see how well she pulled off what, for her, is kind of an unusual novel. I'm really curious to see what you think of the new Doer novel next month...or when you write the review. I wasn't crazy about his All the Light We Cannot See, and I'm hoping I will enjoy the new one more.

    1. Sam, I like All the Light You Cannot See but maybe not as much as some readers as I think back. I'm still on the fence about Cloud Cuckoo and admit to feeling a fit intimidated by the scope and length (at least this time of year - perhaps something shorter first.)

  7. I hope you have a great week and a wonderful & Happy Birthday!

  8. You have such fun things coming up (happy early birthday!). The Erdrich book sounds really good as does The Last House on the Street.

    1. Thanks Helen, both books are worth reading; hope you will try them.

  9. I haven't decided whether to read the new Erdrich book -- you make me lean towards this one. I read Cloud Cuckoo Land this week and found it very enjoyable (blogged it a couple of days ago).

    best... mae at

    1. I just checked out your review - so happy you enjoyed it. I hope I will too.

  10. Love Agatha Christie books. I'm your new follower and I invite you to my blog if you want to.
    Thanks and have a nice day.

    1. hanks for stopping by; I do seem to have a hard time with Agatha Christie it seems.

  11. I've been looking for an audio or two for our drive up to East Texas next week. I'll see if I can find this Agatha. My husband likes her.

    I've been thinking about the new Erdrich book. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book.

    It sounds like you have a lot to look forward to that's coming up soon. Our book group is meeting next Tuesday night and we'll be discussing Christmas cozy mysteries and eating holiday treats, so that should be fun. Can't wait to hear about your birthday week!

    1. Thanks Deb. I did find this short story collection tough on audio. Have fun with young book groupies!

  12. Snow sounds lovely... even better that it's gone so quickly, lol! I'll miss a White Christmas (again) but there's something special about seeing a fully decorated Christmas tree on the beach, too. Hope you enjoy your holiday and birthday activities this week. The Sentence is on my list and am glad to see you gave it 5 stars. Have a great week, Diane. Happy Birthday!

    1. Thanks JoAnn and I wouldn't mind spending Christmas on the beach somewhere if we didn't have little ones here (well, their parents too LOL) Have a great week.

  13. How fun to get together for a luncheon with your book group. My group is have a little holiday party on Thursday and everyone will bring their nominations for 2022. I'm interested to hear what your group chose.

    The weather sure has been crazy, hasn't it? Your first snowfall was pretty late! We've had severe wind storms and lots of rain, but nothing compared to all the folks who were affected by the tornados this past weekend.

    We're going out tonight and Wednesday night (birthday celebrations), but other than that, we're staying pretty close to home for the remainder of the month. Your plans sound like fun! I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

  14. Wish i could sit still long enough to listen to an entire book on audio! Happy holiday reading.

  15. Hey Happy Birthday! I hope you have a special get-together event! I'm glad you liked Erdrich's latest novel ... I'm curious about it ... sounds quite different for her. I liked The Night Watchman on audio .... and I think Erdrich is a great readers of her books! Enjoy your week.

  16. I enjoyed Midwinter Murders but it definitely isn't the strongest collection of short stories. If you haven't read it you may want to try Ordeal by Innocence. It's the mystery Christie herself was the most satisfied with and is a pretty interesting mystery. But it definitely could be that Christie just isn't for you. I'm starting to come to that realization with Dorothy L. Sayers and it breaks my heart a bit but is kind of a relief too. Fingers crossed that there are no Covid cases in the girls' school before Christmas. I'm about done with it and all the new variants. I hope you have a wonderful week.

  17. An Agatha Christie I don't know?? I don't know that short story collection. Going to check it out right now.

    Hope you are doing well!! We miss you and are very glad you came to visit us.


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