The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey

Title: The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose (B&N Exclusive Edition), Author: Oprah Winfrey The Path Made Clear. Finished 6-21-19, 4/5 stars, inspirational, pub. 2019

Unabridged audio read by Oprah Winfrey and so many others, including Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mitch Albom, Joe Biden, Goldie Hahn, John Bon Jovi, Stephen Colbert…  3 hours.

In her latest audiobook, The Path Made Clear, Oprah shares what she sees as a guide for activating your deepest vision of yourself, offering the framework for creating not just a life of success, but one of significance. The audiobook’s ten chapters are organized to help you recognize the important milestones along the road to self-discovery, laying out what you really need in order to achieve personal contentment, and what life’s detours are there to teach us.

Oprah opens each chapter by sharing her own key lessons and the personal stories that helped set the course for her best life. She then brings together wisdom and insights from luminaries in a wide array of fields, inspiring listeners to consider what they’re meant to do in the world and how to pursue it with passion and focus. These renowned figures share the greatest lessons from their own journeys toward a life filled with purpose.   from Goodreads

I loved this audio.  It was inspiring and thought-provoking and just a positive way to spend time in the car.  Oprah is the author, but she calls upon so many people to share their insight, sometimes as quip from a speech, other times in interview form.

Will it change your life?  Probably not.  But any one of the featured players may get you started on a new way of thinking and that can be a very powerful thing.  I loved hearing all the different voices.

If you like Oprah you’ll probably like this audio sampler (it’s only 3 hours after all).

 

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

Title: The Red Hunter: A Novel, Author: Lisa Unger The Red Hunter. Finished 4-17-19, 3.75/5 stars. thriller, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by Julia Whelan. 9 cds.

Claudia Bishop’s perfect life fell apart when the aftermath of a brutal assault left her with a crumbling marriage, a newborn daughter, and a constant sense of anxiety about the world around her. Now, looking for a fresh start with a home restoration project and growing blog, Claudia takes on a crumbling old house–one that unbeknownst to her has an ugly history and may hide long buried secrets.

For Zoey Drake the defining moment of her childhood was the horrific murder of her parents. Years later, she has embraced the rage that fuels her. Training in the martial arts has made her strong and ready to face the demons from the past–and within.

Strangers to each other, and walking very different paths in the wake of trauma, these two women are on a collision course–because Zoey’s past nightmare and Claudia’s dreams for her future take place in the same house. As Zoey seeks justice, and Claudia seeks peace, both will confront the terrifying monsters at the door.     from Goodreads

There are two competing storylines that seemed to have little to do with each other for most of the book.  Claudia, a fragile yet hopeful mother, and Zoey, an orphan not afraid to take a life, are as different as night and day whose different journeys will eventually put them in the same place at the same time.  The two storylines were challenging when listening to the audio and as much as I enjoyed the performance it wasn’t easy to differentiate between the two at times.  Aside from that I found the story okay and was happy with the ending which both satisfied the need for answers and warmed the heart.

This is my 5th read by Lisa Unger.

True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Title: True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, Author: Thich Nhat Hanh True Love. Finished 3-31-19, rating 4/5, mindfulness/Buddhism, 108 pages, pub. 1997

In this little treasure, Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned Zen monk, offers timeless insight into the nature of real love. With simplicity, warmth, and directness, he explores the four key aspects of love as described in the Buddhist tradition: lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and freedom—explaining how to experience them in our day-to-day lives. He also emphasizes that in order to love in a real way, we must first learn how to be fully present in our lives, and he offers simple techniques from the Buddhist tradition that anyone can use to establish the conditions of love.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, is an internationally known author, poet, scholar, and peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.     from Goodreads

What is it about Thich Nhat Hanh that speaks to me?  So many things.  I love his ability to embrace other religions.  I love that I can immediately take his words and use them.  I love the way he calms my spirit and provides insight.  See?  He’s my guy.

This particular book was about the four elements of true love in Buddhism. The first is maitri (love-kindness or benevolence).  The second is karuna (compassion).  The third is mudita (joy) and the fourth is upeksha (equanimity or freedom).  It’s a focus on learning on how to love well and I’m already using his wisdom.

I think everyone has different authors or spiritual guides that speak to their heart.  I know my love for him won’t be for everyone and that’s okay.  He’s written a lot of books, many, like this one, aren’t long so you can give him a try without investing too much time.  He may speak to you too.

 

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Summerland, Author: Elin Hilderbrand  Summerland. Finished 2-26-19, 4/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2012

Unabridged audio read by Erin Bennett. 13 hours.

A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. What begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny’s boyfriend, Jake, and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt–but the emotional damage is overwhelming. Questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel.

As summer unfolds, startling truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents, the secrets kept, promises broken, and hearts betrayed.  from Goodreads

When I posted my first Goodreads Cleanup post on Christmas this was the first book listed, the one that’s been on my Goodreads wish list the longest.  I am proud to say that I listened to it and liked it, thus meaning many more Goodreads Cleanup posts 🙂

It begins with the death of a talented junior and it follows the stories of the three in the car with her when it happened and their parents, all friends.  To say this is a bit sad is an understatement.  The cover and title make it seem a bit more happy than it really is.  It felt a bit like a soap opera, but not in a bad way.  I love that the narrator was someone from the small community of Nantucket.  She was giving us an insider’s look at what went down and it worked.

I liked it, but since I didn’t really feel an affinity for any of the characters I can’t say I loved it.  I did feel sympathy, lots of it actually, but no real connection.  Still a good story, but a bit of a downer for me.  I’m glad I read it.  Any story that takes me to Nantucket is worth reading.

 

 

 

The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife by Julia Justiss

Title: The Earl's Inconvenient Wife, Author: Julia JustissThe Earl’s Inconvenient Wife. Finished 2-11-19, 4/5 stars, historical romance, 288 pages, pub. 2019

Temperance Lattimar is too scandalous for a Season, until finally she’s sponsored by Lady Sayleford. The whole charade feels wrong when she doesn’t want a husband, but Temper feels awful when MP and aristocrat Gifford Newell is appointed to “protect” her at society events. With her past, she knows she’s not an ideal wife…but then a marriage of convenience to Giff becomes the only option!   from Goodreads

There was plenty of tension and strong-willed heroine exploits in this romance, but there was more too.  I learned a lot about Parliament.  It was refreshing to see an aristocrat actually working for the social good.  Giff did like the ladies a bit too much, but his devotion to his work was a plus.  Temper wanted only to be left alone to work.  After her dad denies her money, she tries a plan  that will leave her without a suitor after the season so that her dad must release her money and she can be left alone to travel around the world collecting artifacts.  As with any good Harlequin the two found themselves wanting one thing, but then discovering that something else made them happy.

This is part of a series and I thought it was well done. It was exactly what I needed, a bit of fun fluff.

The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

Title: The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man: A Novel, Author: Jonas Jonasson

The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man.  Finished 2-5-19, rating 4/5 stars, fiction, 448 pages, pub. 2019

The hysterical, clever, and unforgettable sequel to Jonas Jonasson’s international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!

Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.     from Goodreads

I didn’t read the first Allan and Julius story, but when Trish suggested I might like this I couldn’t resist.  An international caper with a crotchety old guy?  She knows me so well.

Allan and Julius are one of the most fun pairs I’ve had the chance to read lately.  Allan, who has led a very exciting life and gotten by with his gift of conversational nothingness, and Julius, the asparagus loving charmer always looking for a con, managed to find themselves in the most absurd situations.  I loved the chapters with those two, often laughing out loud at their antics.  They also managed to surround themselves with a somewhat cuckoo cast of characters who were easy to love.

The gift of this book is the humor, the light touch and easy way Jonasson manages to poke fun.  No political figure was too esteemed.  Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump, and Angela Merkel were hilarious in their interactions with Allan.  Allan and Trump golfing together was one of my favorite scenes.  Good stuff.

After a while I did find myself skimming through some of the chapters of secondary to world leaders characters and didn’t feel like I missed much.  At over 400 pages, I really just wanted the action focused on the main characters.

This was a fun book full of absurd situations.  I’d love to read a book about Allan when he turns 102 🙂

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a proof for this book tour.

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

Title: Fear: Trump in the White House, Author: Bob WoodwardFear: Trump in the White House.  Finished audio 1-16-19, rating 4/5, truth, pub. 2018\

Unabridged audio read by Robert Petkoff

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.  from Goodreads

I’m going to try and be as even-handed as I can be because Woodward went out his way to do so.  If you love Trump and call everything that is negative fake news this is not the book for you.  If you are on the fence about the man, liking some things and trying to ignore the rest, this is the book you need to read.  It is not a hit piece.  It is a methodical retelling of many moments at the White House in Trump’s first year or so.  If you detest Trump, this book will reinforce why, but it will also humanize him a bit.

I’m not spoiling anything for anyone by saying that this book could have just as easily been called Liar.  Every person in his administration that shows up in the book readily agrees.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that the man obviously has a problem with the truth.  Some people questioned whether he even knew he was lying or if it was just that much in his nature.  He also has a real issues with facts and hard data that go against what his gut tells him.  Seriously, he is making nuclear decisions based on nothing but opinions based on something he saw on TV.

I came away with adjusted views of the Ivanka and John Kelly (not in a positive way) and more respect for Cohn, Priebus and even Rob Porter.  Woodward is a well-respected journalist who does a very good job with this one.  My low opinion of Trump has not changed, but it was good to see that some sane people around him were trying to keep the country running (I should point out that all of these people are now gone).

 

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Bellewether, Author: Susanna KearsleyBellewether.  Finished 1-13-19, rating 4/5, historical fiction, 422 pages, pub. 2018

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.     from Goodreads

This was my first book of the year and it took me a while to become invested in the three characters whose stories make up Bellewether.  Charley who moved to the area so that she could live with her niece after the untimely death of her brother, took a job as museum director of the under construction Wilde House.  There she encountered maybe my favorite character of the book, the ghost.  There was also a cute contractor and some animosity toward the grandmother she’d never met who lived nearby.

As for the 1700’s storyline, we move between Lydia and Jean-Philippe’s perspective as the former tries to come to grips with unwanted houseguests and brothers with problems of their own.  Jean-Philippe only spoke French, so for much of the book he didn’t communicate freely.

I liked getting a deeper understanding of the war and what was happening in the region.  Some of these characters were based on real people or compilations which made the story richer, but maybe not quite as fanciful as I’d hoped.  There was romance, sure, but most of Kearsley’s books feel magical and this one didn’t quite get there for me.  It’s still good and I really enjoyed the multitude of characters and history.  My favorite ghost saved the day and the end was excellent and worth reading 400+ pages.

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Season of Storms, Author: Susanna KearsleySeason of Storms. Finished 10-7-18, 4/5 stars, romance, pub. 2001

First published in 2001, this lush novel of romantic suspense from Kearsley (The Splendour Falls) intertwines contemporary and historical narratives in northern Italy. In 1921, actress Celia Sands disappears for good just before opening night of the play written for her by her famous lover, Galeazzo D’Ascanio. Some 50 years later, the writer’s wealthy grandson, Alessandro D’Ascanio, decides to produce the play in the same setting: the theater his grandfather built on the family estate, Il Piacere. He invites a struggling young British actress also named Celia Sands, in homage to the earlier performer, to play the lead. Celia arrives at Il Piacere to find that two of its servants have gone missing, her predecessor’s ghost walks, and many of those around the estate—including D’Ascanio, to whom she’s strongly attracted—conceal dark secrets. The rich historical mystery and brooding atmosphere more than compensate for the improbable, overly elaborate premise. Agent: Shawna McCarthy, Shawna McCarthy Agency.

Any book that takes me to Italy starts as a winner and when Kearsley does it, well, don’t talk to me until I’ve turned the last page.  This one felt different than all of her others, there was a gothic atmosphere that I always like.  As much as I liked the setting and the dark nature of it, I do agree with the agent who wrote the summary above, it may have been overly done.  Still Italy and Kearsley will always save a bad day and I’m glad I read it.

I know these ‘reviews’ are very short and not really helpful to you but I’m trying to get them all done before the end of the year when I start to do summaries and favorites lists. This is the last one I’ve finished this year although I’m guessing I’ll finish one, maybe two, more.  How many do you think you’ll finish in the next week?

 

 

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Title: In the Midst of Winter, Author: Isabel AllendeIn the Midst of Winter. Finished audio 12-12-18, rating 3.75/5, fiction, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by Dennis Boutsikaris, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Alma Cuervo.

In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.    from Goodreads

I love Allende’s writing.  It’s always so rich and beautiful and this was no exception.  There were a few things said at the beginning that really connected me to Lucia and that was a good thing, because for me, the story was a little disappointing.  The car accident that got them all together in a pot brownie haze and the decisions made after were crazy.  But, the story that each of them told about Guatamala, Chile, and Brazil were eye opening, especially Evelyn’s considering the focus on the immigrant caravans these days.  Timely and well written, but the common narrative forcing them all together, while compelling in spots, missed the mark for me.