The Books I Read in May 2017

I had a much better work-life balance in May which becomes totally obvious when I look at all the books I read last month. Sixteen in number. That’s a little more than one every two days. And the best part is that I can recommend all of them:

Cecelia Ahern: “Perfect”, EUR 9,09Celestine North is Flawed.
Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust.
But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.
Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

I wrote about the first part, “Flawed”, last month [here]. This is the second and final sequence – and it is just as suspense-packed. The story here covers only very few days, but there are many things happening. Celestine’s granddad is put into prison to put pressure on her. Carrick introduces Celestine to his family, who all want to help her and esp. the flawed. And there is Crevan’s son, who used to be Celestine’s boyfriend … One can read the novel on two different levels, i.e. the factual level and the subtext. I like how “Flawed” and “Perfect” makes you think about our society where people try to interfere more and more with their fellow citizens’ lives.

Rick Riordan: “The Dark Prophecy”, EUR 16,67Zeus has punished his son Apollo—god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more—by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo do anything about them without his powers?
After experiencing a series of dangerous—and frankly, humiliating—trials at Camp Half-Blood, Apollo must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships—with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride.

I am a huge Rick Riordan fan. I have read almost all of his books and love his invented worlds of gods and halfgods, and how intertwines all of them. This is why I had pre-ordered his latest novel – and I love it. Apollo, or Lester as he is now called, always complains about everything happening in his life since Zeus forced  him into his mortal form. Luckily, he also uses his brains and has amazing friends to help him fight monsters and rediscover old and dangerous oracles. Big recommendation!

J. K. Rowling: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay”, EUR 14,99When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone …
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters, this is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best.

I watched the movie first, but also wanted to read the book. It shows that the film stuck close to the screenplay. It was an easy reading, and I kind of wish that Rowling would instead have written it in the form of a novel. But that’s a personal preference. If you are a big fan of the magic Harry Potter world, this screenplay is a must read.

David Lagercrantz: “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”, EUR 7,79She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.
Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it …

During spring break I read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. This is a really good sequel and even by another author, since Larsson died more than ten years ago. Lagercrantz kept the same writing style, and he took elements from the first books to link the new story. The forth part is just as thrilling – and I can’t wait for the next book to be published in fall.

Elizabeth Gilbert: “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”, EUR 7,89Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

I love the movie “Eat Pray Love”, which is based on one of Gilbert’s books – but I didn’t enjoy reading that book. “Big Magic” is different. I can’t really explain why, but I liked it. Here, Gilbert shares her experience of being creative and gives advice how we all should overcome our fears and just do what makes us happy. Some of these are pretty superficial or generally known, but she tells stories from her own writing career, which make the book quite entertaining. To me this book is a beautiful reminder that we need to get our priorities right, esp. since we only live once.

I sum the following novels up. They all belong to the Hannah Swenson Mysteries series by Joanne Fluke. I saw the 20th and 21st books in the library and took them home with me because they looked and sounded interesting. That I read eleven out of 21 books in a month underlines how much I like this series. First of all, the characters are sympathetic and all, even minor characters are round. Many turn up again and again. Second, Hannah seems so normal with her cookie shop, her slightly annoying mother, and her crazy, but adorable cat. Also, she drinks liters of coffee every day. Third, the murder mysteries are described in an entertaining way, and I like to guess who the murderer is. Plus food is a constant topic, and there are many recipes in all the books. (This also explains the oatmeal cookies I made last weekend [here].)

What I also like is that it is possible to read the books in another order. I started with the last two published parts and then read the ones just as they became available as ebooks in my library. Since most characters turn up in several books, it is easy enough to understand what has happened in between and to fill some gaps later on. I’m still reading all the other volumes – and probably won’t touch any other book until I’ve finished the whole series.

Joanne Fluke: “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” (1),  – Hannah Swensen already has her hands full, between dodging her mother’s attempts to marry her off, and running Lake Eden, Minnesota’s most popular bakery, The Cookie Jar. But when the Cozy Cow Dairy’s beloved deliveryman is found murdered behind Hannah’s bakery with her famous Chocolate Chip Crunchies scattered around him, Hannah sets out to track down a killer. The more Hannah snoops, the more suspects turn up. This is one murder that’s starting to leave a very bad taste in Hannah’s mouth, and if she doesn’t watch her back, her sweet life may get burned to a crisp.

Joanne Fluke: “Sugar Cookie Murder” (6), EUR 9,00When it comes to holidays, Minnesotans rise to the occasion—and the little town of Lake Eden is baking up a storm with Hannah Swensen leading the way. The annual Christmas Buffet is the final test of the recipes Hannah has collected for the Lake Eden Holiday Buffet Cookbook. The recently divorced Martin Dubinski arrives at the buffet with his new Vegas showgirl wife—all wrapped up in glitter and fur. His ex-wife, however, seems as cool as chilled eggnog. And when Hannah’s mother’s antique Christmas cake knife disappears, its discovery in the décolletage of the new—and now late—Mrs. Dubinski puts the festivities on ice. With everyone stranded at the community center by a blizzard, Hannah puts her investigative skills to the test, using the ingredients at hand: half the town of Lake Eden—and a killer. Now, as the snowdrifts get higher, it’s up to Hannah to dig out all the clues—and make sure that this white Christmas doesn’t bring any more deadly tidings…

Joanne Fluke: “Peach Cobbler Murder” (7), Hier auf Amazon.deAs she sits in her nearly empty store on Groundhog Day, Hannah can only hope that spring is just around the corner – “and that the popularity of the new Magnolia Blossom Bakery is just a passing fad. The southern hospitality of Lake Eden’s two Georgia transplants, Shawna Lee and Vanessa Quinn, is grating on Hannah’s nerves -” and cutting into her profits. At least Hannah has her business partner Lisa’s wedding to look forward to.
Unfortunately, Shawna Lee has finagled an invitation to the reception – “and is bringing her Southern Peach Cobbler for the dessert table. Things go from bad to worse when Shawna Lee and Hannah’s sometime-boyfriend, Detective Mike Kingston, are no-shows to the wedding. When Hannah sees lights on at the Magnolia Blossom Bakery after the reception, she investigates -” and finds Shawna Lee shot to death.
With a little help from her friends, Hannah’s determined to track down whoever had the right ingredients to whip up a murder.

Joanne Fluke: “Key Lime Pie Murder” (9), Hier auf Amazon.deThe yummy [ninth] smalltown cozy from Fluke (after 2006’s Cherry Cheesecake Murder) finds sometime sleuth Hannah Swensen, owner of the Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minn., judging the baking contest at the Tri-County Fair. When one of her fellow judges, home economics teacher Willa Sunquist, is murdered, Hannah determines to sniff out the killer. Was it a man from Willa’s mysterious past? Or a student she flunked?

Joanne Fluke: “Candy Cane Murder” (9.5), EUR 9,00Bakery owner Hannah Swensen feels a little stuffed in her elf costume-but it’s too late to count calories. Lake Eden’s annual Christmas gala is upon her and eager children are waiting. Wayne Bergstrom, owner of Bergstrom’s Department Store, happily ho-ho-hos his way through the festivities in his Santa suit. But when a trail of candy canes leads to his corpse in a snow bank, Hannah must find Kris Kringle’s killer.

Joanne Fluke: “Plum Pudding Murder” (12), EUR 7,99Holiday business is booming at Hannah Swenson’s Cookie Jar pastry shop, but the mysterious murder of “Lunatic Larry” Jaeger puts a serious crimp in the season of good cheer. From the looks of it, Larry had as many enemies as Hannah’s sugar cookies have sprinkles. With the 12 days of Christmas ticking down and cookie orders piling up, tracking down the killer won’t be easy.

Joanne Fluke: “Apple Turnover Murder” (13), EUR 12,93Early summer brings plenty of work for baker Hannah Swensen, even before Mayor Bascomb’s wife drops by The Cookie Jar to place an order for her charity event…For eleven-hundred cookies! And Hannah almost flips when her business partner, Lisa, suggests setting up an apple turnover stand. But she places her faith in Lisa and agrees to be a magician’s assistant in the fundraiser’s talent show. The only snag is the show’s host, college professor Bradford Ramsey. Hannah and her sister, Michelle, each had unfortunate romances with Ramsey, and when the cad comes sniffing around between acts, Hannah tells him off. But when the curtain doesn’t go up, she discovers Ramsey backstage – dead, with a turnover in his hand. Now Hannah must find a killer who’s flakier than puff pastry – and far more dangerous.

Joanne Fluke: “Gingerbread Cookie Murder” (13.5), EUR 9,00When Hannah Swensen finds her neighbour Ernie Kusak with his head bashed in and sprawled on the floor of his condo next to an upended box of Hannah’s Gingerbread Cookies, she discovers a flurry of murder suspects that’s as long as her holiday shopping list.

Joanne Fluke: “Devil’s Food Cake Murder” (14), Hier auf Amazon.deHannah Swensen has to admit that her life is pretty sweet. Things are going well in the romance department, and her bakery’s delectable confections are selling almost as fast as she can bake them. Even her good friend Claire is on Cloud Nine, head over heels with her new husband, Reverend Bob Knudson. If only they could find time to take their honeymoon!
When Bob’s childhood friend, Matthew Walters, comes to town, it seems like divine intervention. Matthew, like Bob, is a Lutheran minister with a stubborn sweet tooth. Since he’s on sabbatical, Matthew is happy to fill in for Bob while he and Claire take that long-awaited honeymoon. It sounds like the perfect plan–until Hannah finds Matthew in the rectory, face-down in a plate full of Devil’s Food Cake, a single bullet in his head.
Determined to find out who killed Matthew, Hannah starts asking questions–and discovers that the good Reverend wasn’t quite the saintly fellow he appeared to be. But could the gold Sacagawea coins in Sunday’s collection plate hold the key to solving the crime? Or is the murder connected to that big jewel heist out in Minneapolis? Is it possible that Matthew’s love of chocolate somehow led to his downfall? It will take some more digging to find out, but Hannah is sure of one thing: even the most half-baked murder plot can be oh so deadly …

Joanne Fluke: “Christmas Caramel Murder” (20), EUR 9,00The holidays have arrived, and Hannah and her good pal Lisa have agreed to provide all the goodies for the town’s annual production of A Christmas Carol. But before anyone can say “Bah, humbug!” a Santa-sized sackful of trouble ensues. Like the fact that Lisa’s husband will be playing Mr. Claus to his ex-girlfriend Phyllis Bates’ Mrs. Claus. Or that before the curtains even go up Phyllis is found dead in the snow—wearing a costume that the real Mrs. Claus would put on the naughty list. Soon after the suspects pile up faster than snowdrifts in a blizzard, while a merry murderer remains on the loose. With clues even harder to find, it might take a visit from ghosts of Christmas past to wrap up this mystery in time for the holidays …

Joanne Fluke: “Banana Cream Pie Murder” (21), EUR 7,99A romantic seven-day cruise is the perfect start to bakery owner Hannah Swensen’s marriage. However, with a murder mystery heating up in Lake Eden, Minnesota, it seems the newlywed’s homecoming won’t be as sweet as she anticipated …
After an extravagant honeymoon, Hannah’s eager to settle down in Lake Eden and turn domestic daydreams into reality. But when her mother’s neighbor is discovered murdered in the condo downstairs, reality becomes a nightmarish investigation. Victoria Bascomb, once a renowned stage actress, was active in the theater community during her brief appearance in town … and made throngs of enemies along the way. Did a random intruder murder the woman as police claim, or was a deadlier scheme at play? As Hannah peels through countless suspects and some new troubles of her own, solving this crime—and living to tell about it—might prove trickier than mixing up the ultimate banana cream pie …

© janavar

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