Saturday, August 31, 2013

August 2013 Reading List

Ranking lowest to highest this month - four 2.5's - beginning with Alexander McCall Smith's Trains and Lovers. You could hardly call this a book - more like a booklet. A very quick read about four people on a train from Edinburgh to London sharing stories about how trains have changed their love lives. I think Smith just needed to publish something and no books from his other series were ready yet. I adore some of his series and characters and can't even stand to read others. These characters were okay, it just seemed they were sketches thrown together to make a short book.

Next 2.5 - Laura Child's latest (#14) Tea Shop Mystery - Sweet Tea Revenge. The tea mysteries are the only ones of Child's series that I read - 1) because they are about tea and 2) they are set in Charleston - an area I find fascinating and would like to visit.

Which may also be the reason I am reading and enjoying a trilogy of Karen White's books about Charleston Realtor and ghost seer Melanie Middleton. I've finished the first two, The House On Tradd Street, in which Melanie inherits a grand old house along with its ghosts, a dog and a housekeeper and The Girl On Legare Street. Melanie's mother, missing from her life for thirty-three years, returns to buy and restore the old family home. Rating these both 2.5 also. They are well written, quick reads with the requisite ghosts, evil spirits, mysteries and a little romance.

I picked up Nora Roberts' latest mystery/romance, Whiskey Beach,  just because it was in front of me. I've read and enjoyed many of her books over the years, but have never felt compelled to read all of them. She is a good writer and her stories are always fun to read. I was reminded that when I'm at a loss for something to read I can always pick up a Nora Roberts book. Rated it 3.0.

Usually when I have to slog my way through a book I rate it pretty low. American Dreamer - A Life of Henry A. Wallace by John C. Culver and John Hyde was an exceptional 4.0. The slogging was only because it was such a long, detailed biography. I could only read so much at a time and then had to break it up with some pages from a lighter read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this fascinating Iowan whose birthplace is just up the road a few miles. As FDR's Secretary of Agriculture and then Vice President during Roosevelt's third term, he would have been president if Roosevelt hadn't chosen Harry S.Truman as his running mate for his fourth term as president. Henry Agard Wallace was a man ahead of his time. I can only wonder what his presidency would have been like.

Another 4.0. Chris Bohjalian is a new author for me even though The Light in the Ruins is his sixteenth book. This novel of love, war and revenge is set in Tuscany during WWII and alternately during 1955. It details, at times hard to read, what a family went through when their ancient villa was taken over by Nazi's during the war. A taut, well-written mystery with convincing characters - I will be sampling some of Bohjalian's other books.

Oh, how I have come to love Kate Shugak and her faithful half wolf, half dog companion, Mutt. In Restless In The Grave, Dana Stabenow gives us both the 19th Kate Shugak mystery and the 5th Liam Campbell book when she artfully arranges Kate being sent undercover to help Liam prove his pilot wife did not kill her high-flying competitor. I almost didn't read this book because I thought it was one of the Liam Campbell series. What a mistake that would have been! I think this book is her best so far - a 4.5. If you read this series, try to read them in order for the character development, even though each book can stand alone.

From low to high, remember? Saving the best for last, a solid 5.0 is Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News?. This book is #3 of the Jackson Brodie mysteries. And if I said I love Kate Shugak, then I really love Jackson Brodie. I love the way Atkinson develops all the loose threads of her books and then pulls them together. It always amazes me. This thriller begins with a mother and her three children walking home along a country lane. A deranged murderer accosts them. Only six-year-old Joanna survives by running away and hiding in an adjoining wheat field. Thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a crowded train going the wrong way.
As it happens, the fourth Jackson Brodie happened to be the first one I read. Now that I've read the first three in order, I do believe I'll go back and re-read Started Early, Took My Dog while waiting, hopefully, for the fifth book in the series.

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