Book Review: A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville

50993145Summary

“What if Elizabeth Macarthur – wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in the earliest days of Sydney – had written a shockingly frank secret memoir? And what if novelist Kate Grenville, had miraculously found and published it? That’s the starting point for A Room Made of Leaves, a playful dance of possibilities between the real and the invented.
Marriage to a ruthless bully, the impulses of her heart, the search for power in the society that gave women none, this Elizabeth Macarthur manages her complicated life with spirit and passion, cunning and sly wit. Her memoir lets us hear – at last – what one of those seemingly demure women from history might really have thought.
At the centre of A Room Made of Leaves is one of the most toxic issues of our own age, the seductive appeal of false stories. This book may be set in the past, but it’s just as much about the present, where secrets and liws have the dangerous power to shape reality”. – from the blurb

My Thoughts

This fictional account of the life of Elizabeth Macarthur seemed very real to me. I would love to believe that the real Elizabeth Macarthur had the spirit and confidence of this fictional version. The story of the life of Elizabeth Macarthur starts at the beginning, in England when young Elizabeth met John Macarthur and how she came to marry the pompous and arrogant man. We followed them during their hellish voyage to Australia, and as they began their life in the new country, that, at first, was far less comfortable than expected.

As is usual for Kate, this book is well researched and very clearly tells the story of life in Sydney, in the very early days of settlement. I very much enjoyed reading about these times through the eyes of a strong female.

Historical fiction is my favourite genre and especially Australia historical fiction. I’ve read Kate Grenville’s books Secret River and The Lieutenant, and have been a fan ever since. This book didn’t disappoint at all. I found it totally engrossing and felt sad when I had read the last page. My opinion is that this wonderful novel is historical fiction at it’s best.

Next on my ‘to be read’ pile is the real biography of Elizabeth Macarthur which I’m keen to read.

Recommendations

‘This story, told through Grenville’s sharp lens, is one that will stay with the reader for a long time.’  – Readings

‘An ingenious tapestry of history and invention, A Room Made of Leaves is a novel of womanhood, motherhood, secrets, lies, obsession, transformation and the loss of innocence. It’s a true pleasure to read Grenville’s writing, and this one’s been well worth the wait!’ Booktopia

“Grenville’s prose is elegant and meticulously crafted…Despite the trappings of history in A Room Made of Leaves and Grenville’s impressive use of the archive to conjure the novel, her achievement here is not a historical one. A Room Made of Leaves questions,  rhetorically, how to live ethically with a history that is unfair.  Saturday Paper

 Published in 2020 by Text Publishing Company, Melbourne, Australia
Hardcover, 317 pages

My Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s most celebrated writers. Her international  bestseller The Secret River was awarded local and overseas prizes, has been adapted for the stage and as an acclaimed television miniseries, and is now a much-loved classic.
In 2017 Grenville was awarded the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature. She lives in Melbourne. – kategrenville.com.au

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Aussie Author Challenge

You can find my other blogs here:
Next Phase In Fitness & Life
and Tracking Down The Family

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australian reading challenge

Reading During a Pandemic

I feel very disappointed to say that I  haven’t posted here since May 7. That’s almost three months! I feel dreadful that it’s been so long. Actually, I was shocked to see how long it had been. Of course, I knew that it had been a while, but never imagined that 11 weeks had passed since I wrote a post. All day today, I’ve been wondering why I didn’t post for so long. I love reading and I really love writing reviews of the books I’ve read. So why would I stop writing them?

It’s not that I haven’t been reading, though I must admit to reading much less than usual during isolation. When I first realised that I would have to self isolate, back in early April, I imagined all the time that I would have on my hands. And spare time, of course means more reading time. At last I would have time to read each of the books in the pile on my bedside table, plus the unread books on my kindle. There would also be  time to read some of the many books that have sat on my bookshelf, unread, for far too long.

As it turned out, all that spare time didn’t equate to reading time. I know that I could have found time to read. I’ve always been able to find time to read, so why would a pandemic make that much difference. As far as I can work out, there is one reason. My head has been full of worries about the pandemic, about family and friends, and about the world. Every day, there has been so much bad news on TV, in the papers and on Social Media.

I’m fairly sure that with all that bad news, constantly in my brain, the thought of putting anything else in there is the last thing I’ve wanted to do. So because of this, reading has taken a back seat. 

Though, I have managed to read a few books during the pandemic, just a few. Interestingly, I’ve wanted to read different genres to what I would usually read.  I’ve read a couple of romance novels, chick lit, and comedies, all of which I wouldn’t usually read.  But I think the need for escape from the reality of life, has led me down a different reading path, which I have suprisingly quite enjoyed.

As I have finished reading each book, during the pandemic, I really haven’t been able to put my mind to writing a review. The thought of increasing the stress that I was already feeling, by using my brain to write a review, seemed to be one step too far. I didn’t seem able to do it. That is, until now. I’m now feeling ready to hit re-start.

My last blog posts were the A-Z Challenge posts. Even though I was prepared for the challenge this year, I found it difficult, also due to the worries of the pandemic. There seemed to be much more important things to worry about than a mere blog challenge.

As I said, I’m now feeling ready to get back into my reading and reviewing routine. My first book review since May, will be published next week.  I hope you will be interested enough to come back and check it out.

My other blogs can be found here:
Next Phase In Fitness & Life
and Tracking Down The Family

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Blogging April A to Z Reflections Post

The BLOGGING APRIL A-Z has now finished. I decided to take a few days to think about this year’s challenge, before publishing my reflections post. As usual, I loved the challenge, even though it does make for a busy month. This year was my sixth year participating, but not all were on this blog.. Including 2020, I have participated twice on this blog, and three times on my blog, Tracking Down The Family and twice on my other blog, Next Phase In Fitness & Life The reason the numbers don’t add up is that in 2017, I participated on two blogs in the one year.

What I Am Happy About

I had made a long term plan and had read all books by January

By the time the challenge website opened, I had written rough drafts for most posts

Almost all posts were written and ready to go before the challenge started, even though there was usually a final edit needed.

I visited many great blogs on a huge variety of topics and themes

There were many comments made on my blog and there were comments from bloggers other than book bloggers.

I loved that bloggers told me about their favourite books.

A relationship developed with a few bloggers that I hope will continue

Facts

Star Rating on books reviewed:  5 Star – three books, 4.5 star – six books,  4 star – nine books, 3.5 star – 7 books, 3 star – one book . My star rating is based on enjoyment, not literary merit, so, happily, most of the books I reviewed were enjoyable to read

My favourite book reviewed was Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.

Ten books reviewed were written by Aussie authors

Multiple books written by one author: There were two books written by Stephen King and two books written by Dervla McTiernan. Two books were written by James Patterson, but they were co-authored by different authors.

Eighteen books were fiction and eight were non-fiction

Twelve books were written by female authors, with sixteen written by males. One of James Patterson’s books was co-authored by a female author.

The Challenges

The posts that weren’t written by the start of the challenge were left until the last minute. Those posts were for W X Y Z

We had no phone or internet and patchy mobile service, for the first two weeks of April

As usual, the time I had to read, comment and reply to posts was limited. I intend to do more of this over the next two weeks.

Challenge Future

All being well in my life, I will be back for A to Z in 2021. I have decided that next year I will participate in the challenge on Tracking Down The Family, my family history blog. Just for a change, I don’t need to spend a whole year trying to come up with a theme for 2021 as I already have settled on one. But that’s a story for another day…..

A-Z Challenge 2020 List of books reviewed 

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A-Z Challenge 2020 List

The April A-Z Blogging Challenge is now over. My theme was book reviews and I posted a  review here every day in April. Here is the complete list of reviews. Hopefully you will find something interesting to read in the list.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Burke and Wills by Peter Fitzsimons

Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine

The Dry by Jane Harper

Erebus by Michael Palin

Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright

Good Dogs Don’t Make it to the South Pole by Hans-Olav Thyvold

Half the World in Winter by Maggie Joel 

The Inn by James Patterson & Candice Fox

Journey from Venice by Ruth Cracknell

Kin by Nick Brodie

The Lost Boys by Paul Byrnes

The Memory by Lucy Dawson

Needful Things by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King

Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

Quick by Steve Worland

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Unsolved by James Patterson and David Ellis

Vengeance by Sue Grafton

The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

The Ex by Alafair Burke

.Yes My Accent Is Real and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyari

Zodiac by Sam Wilson

 

 

 

Zodiac by Sam Wilson #atozchallenge #audiobook

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Zodiac by Sam Wilson
Audiobook Read By John Chancer

In a corrupt and volatile society where people are divided and defined by zodiac signs, status is cast at birth and binding forever. The line between a life of luxury and an existence of poverty can be determined by the stroke of midnight.
When a series of uniquely brutal murders targets victims of totally different signs, is it a misguided revolution or the work of a serial killer?
All eyes are on Detective Jerome Burton and Profiler, Lindi Childs. They may disagree over whether the answers are written in the stars, but they are united by their belief that a grand plan is being executed  –
Goodreads

A thrilling debut in a society divided along Zodiac lines, status is cast at birth – and binding for life. Who you are can be determined by a matter of days, hours, or even minutes – borrowbox, audiobook

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure of this story, when I first started listening to the audio book, but it didn’t take me long to get into what was happening, and from then on I was hooked into the story. The premise of the story is unbelievably original. Actually I would never have thought of a storyline where people are judged by their star sign, and the date and time of their birth. Their race or colour doesn’t matter at all.

Zodiac is a debut novel for this author, and I really look forward to reading his next book. This is the most clever and original thriller that I have read. As I got further into the story, it didn’t seem at all strange that people were judged on their star sign. It felt totally normal even though at times it does challenge your thinking. And then, there is the action packed ending. But enough of that. No spoilers. I recommend you do read this book.

Recommendations

‘A brilliant, original and gripping thriller. I’m struggling to think of a reader who won’t love this’ – Sarah Lotz, author of The Three

A bold storyteller with an amazing mind’ – Lauren Huxley

‘Impeccable storytelling. Undoubtedly a book which works both on the level of it’s ibntriguing high concept and sheer narrative nous’ – Barry Forshaw

Published 2016 by Penguin
Audiobook: Duration 11 hours, 36 minutes – unabridged.

My Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

Sam Wilson

Sam Wilson is a writer and TV director working in Cape Town.

To keep up with the latest book reviews, please pop your email address in the box on the sidebar. This will ensure you are notified of updates.

All books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library, unless otherwise stated.

Find me here: Facebook and Instagram and Goodreads

Images and author information: Goodreads .

You can find my other blogs here:
Next Phase In Fitness & Life
and Tracking Down The Family

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Yes My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told you by Kunal Nayyari

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

Of all the charming misfits on television, there’s no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory — the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian-American astrophysicist — ranks among the misfittingest. Now, we meet the actor who is every bit as loveable as the character he plays on TV. In this revealing collection of essays written in his irreverent, hilarious, and self-deprecating voice, Kunal Nayyar traces his journey from a little boy in New Delhi who mistakes, an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment, gets nosebleeds chugging Coca-Cola to impress other students, and excels in the sport of badminton, to the confident, successful actor on the set of TV’s most-watched sitcom since Friends.

Going behind the scenes of The Big Bang Theory and into his personal experiences, Kunal introduces readers to the people who helped him grow, such as his James Bond-loving, mustachioed father who taught him the most important lessons in life: Treat a beggar as you would a king. There are two sides to every story. A smile goes a long way. And, when in doubt, use a spreadsheet.

Kunal also walks us through his college years in Portland, where he takes his first sips of alcohol, and learns to let loose with his French, 6’8” gentle-giant roommate, works his first-ever job for the university’s housekeeping department cleaning toilets for minimum wage, and begins a series of romantic exploits that go just about as well as they would for Raj. (That is, until he meets and marries a former Miss India in an elaborate seven-day event that we get to experience in a chapter titled “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”)

Full of heart, but never taking itself too seriously, this witty and often inspiring collection of underdog tales follows a young man as he traverses two continents in search of a dream, along the way transcending culture and language (and many, many embarrassing incidents) to somehow miraculously land the role – Goodreads

My Thoughts

I was searching for a book to read for a review for the letter ‘Y’ when I came across this book written by the star of my favourite TV series, The Big Bang Theory.  I would usually shy away from autobiographies written by celebrities but thought I’d give this one a go, as I was keen on reviewing a book of genre I usually don’t review.

I didn’t have huge expectations but it wasn’t long before I was hooked. Kunal and Raj sound as though they are the same person, but that is possibly, because he has brought himself to the role.

. He writes with a self deprecating humour that is very funny to read, while coming across as being very genuine, as he talks about how appreciative he is of his fans.  I laughed and laughed, when I read about his Big Bang audition. And then laughed more, while reading about his marriage to Miss India.

I would describe Kunal’s book as being very sweet, very charming, very funny, but most of all very well written. I enjoyed this book much more than I expected and was sorry when it came to an end.

Yes, My Accent Is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven't Told You

Published in 2015 by Atria Books, 245 pages

Quotes

“Because words are powerful; they can hurt and wound, and one word can lead to a thousand horrors. So don’t forget to be impeccable with your words.”

“Sometimes people ask me, ‘Why are you writing a memoir? You’re only thirty-four.’
This is not a memoir. I’m not a president, or an astronaut, or a Kardashian.
This is a collection of stories from my life.”

My Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

To keep up with the latest book reviews, please pop your email address in the box on the sidebar. This will ensure you are notified of updates.

All books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library, unless otherwise stated.

Find me here: Facebook and Instagram and Goodreads

Images and author information: Goodreads .

You can find my other blogs here:
Next Phase In Fitness & Life
and Tracking Down The Family

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The Ex by Alafair Burke #atozchallenge

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

In the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on a Train comes this novel. After agreeing to defend her ex-fiance when he is arrested for a triple homicide, top criminal lawyer, Olivia Randall begins to have doubts as the evidence mounts against him. Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it.

My Thoughts

I struggled with this book. Firstly I picked the murderer right away. I’m rarely that clever. The main reason I chose to read this book was the title. In trying to find a book for the letter X, Ex was the closest I could get. I loved the cover so chose to go ahead with it. If not for the A to Z Challenge, I probably wouldn’t have continued with it, so find it difficult to recommend it as a good read. At first, I struggled with posting this review but I have committed to reviewing every book I read, no matter what. Another reader might enjoy what I don’t enjoy.

Published in January 2016 by Harper, 304 pages

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of “two power house series” (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair’s novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America’s police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair “is a terrific web spinner” who “knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy.- Goodreads

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All books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library, unless otherwise stated.

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Images and author information: Goodreads .

Links to my other blogs: Next Phase In Fitness & Life and Tracking Down The Family

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The Wife and the Widow by Christianwhite #atozchallenge

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

The Wife Between Us by Christian White

Summary

Set against gainst the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and the Widow is a mystery/thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside down when she’s forced to confront the evidence that her husband is a murderer. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and the Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love? – Goodreads

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My Thoughts

I felt The Wife and the Widow started slowly. At first I was hesitant to keep going with it. I really enjoyed Christian White’s first book, Nowhere Child which is the reason I stuck with this book. And I’m really pleased I did. When my eyes were finally opened to what was really going on in the story, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. No spoilers here at all. You have to read this book for the twist.

Published September 2019 by Affirm Press
Softcover, 384 pages

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Christian White

Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter. The Nowhere Child is his first book. An early draft of this novel won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and rights were quickly sold into fifteen countries. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and their adopted greyhound, Issy. – Goodreads

To keep up with the latest book reviews, please pop your email address in the box on the sidebar. This will ensure you are notified of updates.

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Images and author information: Goodreads

2020 Aussie Author Challenge

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V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton #atozchallenge

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

Summary

Another in Sue Grafton’s series of novels that are named after each letter of the alphabet. Investigator Kinsey Milhone, known by regular readers of this author, is based in a fictional city in Los Angeles and ready to solve the latest mystery.

In Las Vegas, a young college graduate is murdered when he is unable to pay back a loan funded by nororious criminal Lorenzo Dante.

Two years later, private investigator, Kinsey Millhone, finds herself assisting to apprehend a shoplifter – Audrey Vance. Events take a much darker turn when Audrey’s body is discovered beneath the Cold Spring bridge, a local suicide spot. Unable to believe she took her own life, Audrey’s fiance, Marvin Striker hires Kinsey to investigate. It soon emerges that the shoplifter had become caught up in a much larger operation. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Dante, has begun to grow weary of his life in organized crime, and is ftustrated with his violent and impulsive younger brother Cappi. While the police net begins to close in on him, Dante meets the beautiful Nora, who exerts a powerful pull over the gangster.

As Kinsey’s inquireies reach a dramatic head, it becomes clear that she and Dante have one thing in common – they must be careful who they trust…. – from the blurb

My Thoughts

I’ve only read one previous book in this epic series, and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first. Kinsey Milhone is an easy to like character who always seems to get her man. The story is written to a winning formula, however, I found it very enjoyable. This book is a very quick and easy read but with a ‘who dunnit’ storyline that had me turning the page.

I can’t help wondering how this series endures, for those fans who have read all books. I’m not so sure that I could read an alphabet of stories about one character.

Recommendations

“Sue Grafton’s mysteries are so consistently enjoyable you have to wonder what her secret is” – New York Times

“As the master of suspense continues to demonstrate in superb mystery after superb mystery, there are more ugly twists in the human heart that there are letters in the alphabet.” – Entertainment Weekly

Star Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton was a number One international bestselling and very prolific author of mystery and detective novels. Her books have been published in many languages and have appeared on The New York Times Bestseller lists many times and for many weeks each time. She passed away in 2017 before Z for Zero was published and so the alphabet series ends at Y.

Published in 2011 by Mantle, Pan McMillan
Paperback, 437 pages

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Unsolved by James Patterson and David Ellis #AtoZChallenge

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted

Unsolved – Invisible #2 by James Patterson and David Ellis

Summary

A chilling and shocking follow-up to Sunday Times bestseller Invisible by James Patterson.

FBI researcher, Emma Dockery is back with a vengeance. Obsessed with finding a link between a string of deaths across several different states, she is convinced that there’s a pattern. And where there’s a pattern, there’s a serial killer to put a stop to. When detectives working on some of the cases start turning up dead, Emma knows that she’s onto something. These deaths are murders, and she’s going to be the one to prove it.

The closer she gets to finding the killer, the more Emma feels like she’s being watched. Is she setting a trap for this depraved killer? Or with every step she takes, is she falling further into his web, with the death count rising, Emma must act fast to catch this killer, before she becomes the next name on the hit list. – from the blurb

Unsolved (Invisible, #2)

My Thoughts

I didn’t read Invisible 1, but it’s not necessary to read it before Unsolved. In fact, I didn’t realise this was a second book in a series until after I’d finished it. I have enjoyed the James Patterson collaborations that I’ve read so far, and this novel was no different. A fast paced, detective mystery with a great story line and a few twists along the way.

Of course, as with most James Patterson books, it’s obviously written to a formula which is quite cliche – the FBI agent who goes against protocol, but because she has great results she gets away with it.

 I enjoyed it this novel. It was a quick read with an interesting plot and unexpected twists.However, there is one thing that I didn’t like about this book and that was the ending. It just didn’t feel right to me, and left me disappointed at the end.

Star Rating: 3.5 star

About the Authors:

James Patterson

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today, with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He has sold over 380 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, among them The President Is Missing with President Bill Clinton, Patterson also writes fiction for young readers of all ages, including the Max Einstein series, produced in partnership with the Albert Einstein Estate. He is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists. – Goodreads

David Ellis

 

David Ellis is a lawyer and the Edgar Allan Poe Award winner for Best First Novel for Line of Vision. Ellis attended Northwestern Law School and began his legal career in private practice in Chicago in 1993. He served as the House Prosecutor who tried and convicted Illinois Governor Blagojevich in the Impeachment Trial before the Illinois Senate. He was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2014 and took office December 1, 2014. Ellis currently lives outside Chicago with his wife and three children.

Published 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Audio book published by Bolinda Audio

You can find my other blogs here:
Next Phase In Fitness & Life
and Tracking Down The Family

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