Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens looks at our history, but that history is 100,000 years long, so it's more of a quick overview of our history. I found it rather fascinating though. He takes us through the history of human development and migration, through the Cognitive Revolution, and Agricultural Revolution. He looks at how currency and coinage developed, the creation of religions, the arrival of imperialism and capitalism, and the history of inequalities and injustices. Yes, he has his own biases, but I loved the bits of information. So many things from this book pulled into conversations I was having, like the worth of a slave's life and the bank run in It's a Wonderful Life (which I've never watched by the way). In the end, he veers off into predictions for the future. I, personally, didn't find it particularly pessimistic, and there was a lot of hope too, like how relatively peaceful it is now. If you love history, I wouldn't suggest reading...
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Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

I love the title Sparkling Cyanide. Christie's titles don't tend to be particularly noticeable, but Sparkling Cyanide stands out. It captures clearly the method of murder - cyanide in the champagne, and it's a bit glamorous. Rosemarie died a year ago, presumably suicide. She was a beautiful woman, but her death benefitted several people. Her husband, George, truly loved her, in spite of her affairs, and has come to believe that she was actually murdered. Any one who was at the dinner the night she died could have done it - her lover or his scorned wife, her sister Iris who stands to inherit, the husband's trusted secretary, or a rather shady "friend" who, a year later is making moves on Iris. George organizes a second dinner party, with the same people, hoping to force a confession. It all goes terribly wrong when George is killed too. Colonel Race, a friend of George's, helps in the investigation. He doesn't actually do much, but he is on...
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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

I should have loved Magpie Murders. It's definitely a book for mystery readers. Not only does it have two well-plotted mysteries, it has some great quotes about the nature of mysteries and reading. “You must know that feeling when it's raining outside and the heating's on and you lose yourself, utterly, in a book. You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover.” “As far as I'm concerned, you can't beat a good whodunnit: the twists & turns, the clues and the red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn't seen it from the start.” The set up is great, a novel within a novel, both murder...
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Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Phoenix Rising was fun, but not quite good enough to hold my attention the whole time - like I found myself at the gym watching the captions on HGTV instead of listening to the story. I think it's a problem with the attitude of the book. It's steampunk. Books is an archivist; Braun is kind of a female James Bond. They embark on solving a mystery that drove one of their colleagues literally insane. There are huge mechamen and an enemy intent on destroying England maybe - not sure. There's an orgy and an escape from the dungeon. It's absurd and would be amusing, if it felt like the story knew how silly it was, instead it seems to take itself seriously. Now, I listened to the audio, so I don't know if that's just the way the narration seemed and I would have found the whole think more tongue in cheek had I been reading it in print. I like...
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Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

I really expected to like Natchez Burning. I've read Iles' books before and found the gripping and thought-provoking. This one just didn't work for me. The plot itself is good, I liked, or hated, the characters, and the setting was well-done. I enjoyed seeing the story from different characters points of view and it was easy to follow whose side of the story we were hearing. I did listen to the whole 35+ hours, but in the end I wished I hadn't bothered. First, there is a lot of repetition. Cut some of it out and it would be a tighter, more enjoyable book. I hate it when authors seem to think I'm going to forget things two chapters after they told me the first time. Second, it was overwrought. I don't know whether to blame the writing or the reader, but it was all overdone, just too much. Maybe the goal was to maintain tension and be descriptive, but it came...
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The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

I have been a Poirot fan for as long as I can remember, so of course I had to pick up The Monogram Murders. I have to admit I was disappointed. As a mystery, it was okay, if you can overlook the horrible  Scotland Yard detective Poirot has paired himself with, Catchpool. He's incompetent and spends way too much time dwelling on events in his childhood, on his weaknesses. The mystery, the way the murders are committed and how the bodies are laid out is interesting enough. There's even a nice little bit that confuses the time of death and the clues fit together well. The mystery itself could have been good, but it relied on the Poirot hook and in that it failed. Maybe give me an original character, or even a better sidekick and I would have felt differently. Poirot is just not Poirot. He's too Poirot, if that makes sense. It's like he's overly conscious of his own mannerisms and...
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