Books I’ve Recently Read | September 2015

Posted 9 September, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 26 Comments

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Books I've Recently Read

Welcome to another edition of minis! Though I need to increase my reading/listening speed if I want to do one of these posts a month. This almost catches me up with my backlog of books to chat about.

Curious about the shorter version of this post? In the Woods is perfect for your fall reading list, Tibetan Peach Pie is more delightful if you’ve already read Tom Robbins’ fiction, Armada was a huge let-down, and A Gift Upon the Shore pleasantly surprised me. While I listened to all four of these books (the narration for each was great), they would be just as good on paper.



In the Woods Book CoverTitle: In the WoodsAuthor: Tana French
Audio Narrator: Steven Crossley | Audio Duration: 20 hr, 23 min
Published: 2007 | Pages: 429 | Genre: Fiction (Crime)
Rating: Gripping

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Detective Rob Ryan of the Dublin Murder Squad finds his current gruesome murder case intersecting with a missing child incident he was involved in as a young boy. Ryan works together with his partner Cassie to help solve the murder of a young girl and also dig into the cold case of his own friends’ disappearances twenty years prior. Could the two cases be connected?

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Perfect for anyone who loves a dark crime mystery, characters who may or may not be who they seem to be, or a character study with substantial plot and rich language (the bookish trifecta!). Even though I sometimes felt that In the Woods was a bit on the long side (really, when are we going to get to the point!), I do believe some of this might have been exacerbated on audio. I did love Crossley’s narration of this gritty tale and would recommend a listen of In the Woods. I can’t wait to listen to the next in the Dublin Murder Squad series!



Tibetan Peach Pie Book CoverTitle: Tibetan Peach PieAuthor: Tom Robbins
Audio Narrator: Keith Szarabajka | Audio Duration: 12 hr, 27 min
Published: 2014 | Pages: 384 | Genre: Memoir
Rating: Offbeat and Entertaining…to Robbins fans

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: The life and times of Tom Robbins. Really–from childhood to adulthood he covers all of the zaniness of his life. And boy is it zany!

Bottom Line and Recommendation: When I was in college I had a big love affair with Tom Robbins. It’s been years since I’ve read one of his books, but listening to Tibetan Peach Pie reminded me of why I love his books so much–Robbins is the king of metaphor and while he can sometimes drone on and on, more times than not his word play made me smile. Since Robbins has been around the block longer than most currently publishing authors, he provided an interesting glimpse into publishing throughout the 60s and 70s. I would not recommend this as a starting place for Robbins, though–only tackle this after you have a few of his fiction titles under your belt (I like Still Life with Woodpecker and Jitterbug Perfume but haven’t read a Robbins I didn’t enjoy).



Armada Book CoverTitle: Armada | Author: Ernest Cline
Audio Narrator: Wil Wheaton | Audio Duration: 11 hr, 58 min
Published: 2015 | Pages: 355 | Genre: Fiction (Sci-Fi)
Rating: Too much of the same

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Zack Lightman is one of the world’s best players of the video game Armada–a game that turns out to be a training program for fighting alien invasion. His skills come in handy when he is recruited to fight the real life battle against alien invaders.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Scott and I listened to Armada on a roadtrip this summer and while he enjoyed the book, it did nothing for me. I loved Wil Wheaton’s narration of Ready Player One and it’s one of my most recommended audiobooks, but the narration and tone was too similar in Armada. Consequently Armada felt too much of the same as Ready Player One–heavy 80s trivia, video game simulation, flat supporting characters. Much of the book felt like a geek’s dissertation on the intersection of 80s trivia and gaming theory, but by the end I couldn’t pretend to care what happened. Oh wow that sounds bad. But! I still heartily recommend Ready Player One for good rollicking fun. I’m hoping Ernie Cline will come up with something a bit more creative for book number three.



A Gift Upon the Shore Book CoverTitle: A Gift Upon the Shore | Author: M.K. Wren
Audio Narrator: Gabra Zackman | Audio Duration: 15 hr, 9 min
Published: 1990 | Pages: 375 | Genre: Fiction
Rating: Thoughtful and Intriguing

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: After an apocalyptic nuclear war, Mary and Rachel fear themselves the only survivors of a devastating nuclear winter. They create a home for themselves and begin cultivating a library of books to protect the world’s knowledge and literature. Luke, a traveler from a religious colony stumbles upon the women as he searches for other survivors and encourages them to come be apart of The Ark, but it is made clear that Mary and Rachel’s progressive views on religion and learning are not compatible with the other survivors’.

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Post-apocalyptic fiction isn’t always a sub-genre that I gravitate toward but I was steered toward this audiobook by an avid listener and really enjoyed the listening experience. Religion plays a major theme in the book and while some have called this book anti-religious, I found the message to be centered and grounded amidst the extreme beliefs of the characters. Chapters alternate between two different time periods which kept the reading compelling and I often looked for excuses to listen. I recommend A Gift Upon the Shore but the religious overtones might be too strong for some?


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Agree with me/Disagree?

Have you listened to anything good lately? I just finished up Packing for Mars by Mary Roach and started Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Always looking for a good audiobook!


26 Responses to “Books I’ve Recently Read | September 2015”

  1. Funny you post about In The Woods on the exact day I decided to stop reading it. I’m only maybe 20/pages into it but don’t think it’s for me. :( so many people like it though. Oh well.

  2. Great roundup! I haven’t read In the Woods yet. I know I’ll love it. And, yes, Tibetan Peach Pie is especially fun for us Robbins fans. He used to be one of go-to authors. I have to get to Ready Player One … yeah, I’m so behind.

  3. You read a book with ‘pie’ in the title… :D
    I suppose I should read a Tom Robbins book someday.
    I’m listening to Donna Tartt read her The Secret History but I’m bored and not as curious as I should be when we already know the murder and why – get ON with it already! still 13 hours left! What more can happen? (Have you read? looking for someone to explain why I should keep going.) And Donna Tartt’ s voice takes some getting used to.

    • Yes! Pie! Though I wouldn’t recommend Tibetan Peach Pie unless you’ve read Robbins. Would be a case of “Who cares!!” ;) Ugh–Secret History on audio. I HATED it. Her voice ruined the listening experience for me and like you I just wanted the book to get on with it. Wish I had read the whole thing on paper (I did halfsies). Sorry CarePie! Wish I could be more encouraging…

  4. That’s interesting that you thought In the Woods was too long…the only French I’ve read was The Secret Place (I believe her latest in this series) and it took me over 300 pages to really get into it, but I loved it once I did. But, 300 pages to get into the story?!! Sheesh! So, point being I don’t think the length felt long b/c of audio…I think it’s just her style :)
    And – I’ve heard lots of disappointing reactions to Armada.
    I listened to Mary Roach’s Stiff earlier this year and liked it! May try Packing for Mars at some point.

  5. My oldest – who loved Ready Player One – is really looking forward to Armada. I can’t even fathom reading RPO to be honest. Just not my kind of book. But I’m sad to hear Armada was too similar. As for the other books? Tana French! I love that series. I had some issues with the first two books but they just keep getting better. I wish the next one was out already so I could listen to it this RIP season. I prefer them on audio.

  6. I haven’t heard of A Gift Upon the Shore, but I’m intrigued by the storyline and religious theme. Did you find following the two time periods confusing?

    • It was really hard to explain that when trying to write a mini-review! So, in one thread Mary is an older woman and is telling her story of the past to one of the children at The Ark–this is told from first person. The second thread is third person and kind of parallels the time period that Mary is telling the child about–so it shifts to the past, but the same past that we just heard about in first person. On audio the narration shifts was a bit confusing at first but only until I realized what she was trying to do. Not sure if that makes sense–but it was a really interesting book.

  7. I read IN THE WOODS and completely agree that it could have used some plot-tightening and a stronger editor in general. I liked it, though!

    I picked up Armada at the store and immediately put it back down. Glad I listened to my gut! I’m thinking READY PLAYER ONE for my Sci-Fi challenge…

  8. I’ve read all of Tana French’s novels and enjoyed each one of them. I just recently read Ready Player One and certainly want to read Armada!

  9. I love Tana Franch and have read three of her others in the Dublin Detective Squad. In the Woods is great. I would like to read A Gift Upon the Shore. Good picks!!

  10. Tana French is on my TBR though my library has yet to get copies in audio! I am looking forward to reading them soon though. I really want to listen to Ready Player One (mostly because of Wil Wheaton) but Armada just hasn’t interested me in the same way. Maybe because the blurb just seems a little too same old same old?

  11. I bought In The Woods on a whim a few months ago and it might finally be time to break it out! It sounds especially good for RIP X… :)

  12. Susan in TX

    I’ve got In the Woods sitting on my RIP pile – I’ve been saving it for fall. :) I enjoyed Ready Player One, but I haven’t read a single review that has encouraged me to pick up Armada. Happy reading/listening!

  13. In the Woods soooo doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, but I hear such good things about it, I stuck it on the RIPX TBR. We’ll see! The Ng book is highhhh on my wanna read list.

  14. Tana French is one of my absolute favorites and I loved all of her books, but the second book in the series, The Likeness, is my absolute favorite – I’m excited for you to get to it!! I’m disappointed by all the so-so reviews I’ve seen of Armada – I too loved RPO and looked forward to Cline’s latest. I just finished listening to Lock In by John Scalzi, also narrated by Wil Wheaton, and I liked it a lot – both the audio itself and the story.

  15. A lot of people seem to be underwhelmed by Armada but I really liked it. I think it was because it was more about movies like The Last Starfighter and stuff that my family was totally into when I was a kid. I’m also close in age to Cline (he’s about 3 years older than me) so the stuff he remembers the most is exactly the stuff I remember. It isn’t just an abstract nostalgia but my personal nostalgia. I do want to reread RPO now though because I barely remember it besides thinking it was awesome. Maybe it really was awesomer than this one.

    • Some of it, yes. He actually mentions Ender’s Game quite a bit throughout the book and highlights some of the similarities.

  16. Definitely agree with Armada! It was just meh for me … I wanted to love it since I adored Ready Player One, but it was just so cliche for me. Ready Player One was unique and this one wasn’t. I did love the narration, though!

  17. Sorry to hear Armada was such a disappointment – I imagine you had quite high hopes for it as much as you loved Ready Player One.