Sunday, June 04, 2023

May 2023 Additions to My Digital Security Blanket


My recent restraint in buying eBooks and audiobooks slipped slightly in May, but that's only because I did find a couple of can't-resist sale prices AND I used several "coupons" that I'd been squirreling away. I'm still scrolling past many books that I would've snapped up last year, so my newfound fiscal responsibility hasn't disappeared completely!

Last month, I mentioned my monthly "reading map" in which I plug in any Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) that I have and then add gems that have fallen down the rabbit hole of my Kindle. So far, it's been going well, aided in large part to the fact that I've had fewer ARCs to read the past two or three months. See? My restraint has also included ARCs-- which is a good thing because I have hundreds of books, not only on my Kindle, but on my physical bookshelves as well.
What books proved to be irresistible last month? Let me show you! I've got them grouped by genre/subgenre, and if you click on the link in the book title, you'll be taken to Amazon US where you can learn more about the book.
=== Non-Fiction ===
Synopsis: "The Roaring Twenties--the Jazz Age--has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson.

Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.

A FEVER IN THE HEARTLAND marries a propulsive drama to a powerful and page-turning reckoning with one of the darkest threads in American history.

▲ Timothy Egan wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Worst Hard Time about the Depression and the Dust Bowl. He has a brilliant talent for turning all his hard-earned research into a riveting story that rivals the best fiction. After reading one of Jess Montgomery's Kinship mysteries that featured the Klan and after learning that the little Illinois farm town (population 1700) in which I grew up had its own chapter of the KKK in the 1920s, there was no way I wasn't going to get my hands on this book and read it.

Synopsis: "In 1954, sixty-three-year-old Maine farmer Annie Wilkins embarked on an impossible journey. She had no money and no family, she had just lost her farm, and her doctor had given her only two years to live. But Annie wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. She ignored her doctor’s advice to move into the county charity home. Instead, she bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, donned men’s dungarees, and headed south in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow. Annie had little idea what to expect beyond her rural crossroads; she didn’t even have a map. But she did have her ex-racehorse, her faithful mutt, and her own unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness.

Annie, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, rode straight into a world transformed by the rapid construction of modern highways. Between 1954 and 1956, the three travelers pushed through blizzards, forded rivers, climbed mountains, and clung to the narrow shoulder as cars whipped by them at terrifying speeds. Annie rode more than four thousand miles, through America’s big cities and small towns. Along the way, she met ordinary people and celebrities—from Andrew Wyeth (who sketched Tarzan) to Art Linkletter and Groucho Marx. She received many offers—a permanent home at a riding stable in New Jersey, a job at a gas station in rural Kentucky, even a marriage proposal from a Wyoming rancher. In a decade when car ownership nearly tripled, when television’s influence was expanding fast, when homeowners began locking their doors, Annie and her four-footed companions inspired an outpouring of neighborliness in a rapidly changing world.

▲ I love horses. I've read and enjoyed other books by Elizabeth Letts. When I saw the title of this book, I had to read the synopsis, and once I'd done that, I was hooked and had to buy it.
Synopsis: "History would have us believe the sea has always been a male realm, the idea of female captains almost unthinkable. But there is one exception, so notable she defies any expectation.

This is her remarkable story.

Captain Thurídur, born in Iceland in 1777, lived a life that was both controversial and unconventional. Her first time fishing, on the open unprotected rowboats of her time, was at age 11. Soon after, she audaciously began wearing trousers. She later became an acclaimed fishing captain brilliant at weather-reading and seacraft and consistently brought in the largest catches. In the Arctic seas where drownings occurred with terrifying regularity, she never lost a single crewmember. Renowned for her acute powers of observation, she also solved a notorious crime. In this extremely unequal society, she used the courts to fight for justice for the abused, and in her sixties, embarked on perilous journeys over trackless mountains.

Weaving together fastidious research and captivating prose, Margaret Willson reveals Captain Thurídur's fascinating story, her extraordinary courage, intelligence, and personal integrity.

Through adventure, oppression, joy, betrayal, and grief, Captain Thurídur speaks a universal voice. Here is a woman so ahead of her times she remains modern and inspirational today. Her story can now finally be told.

▲ Book titles catch my eye more than covers do. I grew up in a village library and finally got paid for the work I did when I turned sixteen. One of my jobs was to choose books for housebound patrons, and my eye quickly became trained to look for those all-important titles on the spines. Once this particular title caught my eye, my love of maritime as well as women's history took over.
Synopsis: "In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched, and beautifully written narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their outcasting of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Original and revealing,
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.
▲ The title grabbed me, and the synopsis made it a done deal. I like the fact that I'm getting back to reading more non-fiction. 

=== Thriller ===

AUDIO: The Last Word by Taylor Adams. Set in Washington state.
Synopsis: "Emma Carpenter lives in isolation with her golden retriever Laika, house-sitting an old beachfront home on the rainy Washington coast. Her only human contact is her enigmatic old neighbor, Deek, and (via text) the house’s owner, Jules.

One day, she reads a poorly written—but gruesome—horror novel by the author H. G. Kane, and posts a one-star review that drags her into an online argument with none other than the author himself. Soon after, disturbing incidents start to occur at night. To Emma, this can’t just be a coincidence. It was strange enough for this author to bicker with her online about a lousy review; could he be stalking her, too?

As Emma digs into Kane’s life and work, she learns he has published sixteen other novels, all similarly sadistic tales of stalking and murder. But who is he? How did he find her? And what else is he capable of?

Displaying his trademark command of rapid-fire pacing, unnerving atmosphere, and razor-sharp characterization, Taylor Adams once again delivers a diabolically disturbing—and deadly—game of cat and mouse.

▲ I came across this book while doing some work on The Poisoned Pen Bookstore's Pinterest page. Once I read the synopsis, I decided I had to use an Audible credit to get it. I think it's something few book bloggers/reviewers could resist taking a peek at!

Loot by Aaron Elkins. Set in Europe.
Synopsis: "In April 1945, the Nazis, reeling and near defeat, frantically work to hide the huge store of art treasures that Hitler has looted from Europe. Truck convoys loaded with the cultural wealth of the Western world pour in an unending stream into the compound of the vast Altaussee salt mine high in the Austrian Alps. But with the Allies closing in, the vaunted efficiency of the Nazis has broken down. At Altaussee, all is tumult and confusion. In the commotion, a single truck, its driver, and its priceless load of masterpieces vanish into a mountain snowstorm.

Half a century later, in a seedy Boston pawnshop, ex‑curator Ben Revere makes a stunning discovery among the piles of junk: a Velazquez from the legendary Lost Truck. But with it come decades of secrets, rancor, and lies, and the few who know of the painting’s existence have their lives snuffed out one by one by an unknown assassin. Revere must travel back to the grand cities of Europe to unravel the tangled history of the lost truck and its treasures before fifty years of hatred, greed, and retribution catch up with him.

▲ I've always been interested in art history and art theft, and articles about found art that was looted by the Nazis are guaranteed to capture my attention, so... Loot was right down my alley.

What do you think of last month's purchases? Have you read any of them? Did you add any of them to your own wish lists? Do tell! Inquiring minds would love to know! 


  1. I haven't been buying many books or ebooks as I rely on NetGalley for those. And I love reading the books in advance. Have a good reading week.

    1. I'd almost classify being able to read a book in advance as a guilty pleasure!

  2. Oh, I really hope you'll like Loot, Cathy. I think the main character in that one is done very well, and the story is interesting. I also like that you have several interesting non-fiction books here. It reminds me I should do a better job of reading non-fiction.

    1. I think it's been easier for me to ease my way back into non-fiction because some of last year's "Best Reads" were in that category. That reminded me of what I've been missing because-- in the dim past-- I read tons of non-fiction.

  3. I have A Fever In the Heartland at home to read. I had read The Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein and commented on it. You told me about Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time. It was excellent . I probably talked about it too much to friends. It was nonfiction but read easily like fiction. So when I saw who the author of A Fever in the Heartland was, I wanted to read it.

    1. The Worst Hard Time is an easy book to want to talk non-stop about. It's fantastic! I have A Fever in the Heartland scheduled to read later this month. *fingers crossed*

  4. I really like your nonfiction choices, Cathy. I've been trying to refocus more on nonfiction lately myself, and I've listed all of those as good possibilities to take a look at more closely. I've slowed down so much this year that I've only acquired 8 books in total, 6 of them being e-books. Love the way this has allowed me to dig through my shelves to find the long lost stuff hidden away there that I've never read.

    1. Yes, I'm really enjoying digging into my own Well of Lost Books. There are some absolute gems down there! (Good to see you back, by the way!)

  5. I love horses, too, so Letts' The Ride of Your Life is definitely going on my list. And I love the sound of Loot! Yay for more awesome books to read. :D

  6. Well, A Fever in the Heartland, Caste, The Last Word tempt me. Loot looks good, but I avoid WWII related books.

    1. You'd avoid the one I'm reading right now-- a woman sniper in WWII Russia-- too.

  7. Well, I kind of like books that are about women resistance fighters against the Nazis. I have a photo of Italian women resisters on my desktop. It is the Nazi horrors I do not want to read about.

  8. I love horses, too. We grew up loving them, reading Marguerite Henry's books with beautiful illustrations about the ponies in Chincoteague. I am a blubbering mess when I watch TV documentaries showing foals being born.

    1. Marguerite Henry's books illustrated by Wesley Dennis-- I loved those books growing up!


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