Thursday, December 31, 2015

My December Reads, 2015

Another year of reading in the book - book as in this notebook where I keep track of what I read each month and how I rated them as well as enough about each book to recall it. I read eight books in December which gave me a total for the year of 98 books read. September was my lightest reading month with only five books completed. March and November tied for the most with twelve books read each of those two months. Most months I stayed around the average eight.

Some good books read this month - 2) 3.5's; 4) 4.0's and 2) 4.5's. Three of the 4.0's are pictured above in the last group of books this month. They are:

William Kent Krueger's 14th in the Cork O'Connor series, Windigo Island. (Note to library: It is easy to say Windingo instead of Windigo; I've done it myself, but come on, you are a library staffed with librarians. Why is this book listed as Windingo Island in your system?) (No. I have not yet made peace with the library!)
I love Krueger's books and am a big fan of the O'Connor series, however, this book seemed a little less 'complete' to me than the others. Not necessarily hurried, but less fleshed out. Which is a funny way of saying it since this book is about the problems of sex-trafficking on the reservations of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Cork's oldest daughter is brought in to help her dad in this case of finding a missing girl and a love interest is introduced for her. Looking forward to seeing how that goes and reading the next in the series.

Ruth Rendell has been a favorite author for some time. Her books are classified as psychological thrillers and while The Girl Next Door was certainly psychologically interesting, I wouldn't call it a thriller. Sixty years after a group of children discover and play in a series of tunnels in their neighborhood outside London, a box containing the skeletal remains of two hands, one male, one female, is discovered in one of the tunnels during the construction of a house. The group of children, now in their 70's is brought back together to help police in identifying the possible murder victims. The reunion results in some interesting revelations about their pasts.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey sounded so familiar to me I was sure I had already read it or at least one of Livesey's other books, but I do not find that I have. Gemma Hardy is an orphan girl from Iceland. Her mother's was from Scotland which is where her uncle takes her to live. After his death, Gemma becomes a servant to her aunt and cousins. Winning a scholarship to a boarding school seems like the perfect out for her, but again she is little more than a servant, earning her keep at the school while trying to keep up with her classes.
Gemma's life is one of hardship set in Scotland during the 1950's and 60's. She leaves school to become a nanny, falls in love with the little girl's guardian, leaves them when that doesn't work out, faces more hard luck and ultimately does not 'find' herself until she returns to Iceland and learns more about her parents and their deaths.

The final 4.0 book was one recommended to me by my daughter, Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart. Author Laurie R. King also had this book on her list of books she was giving as Christmas gifts, so I really expected it to be outstanding. It always bothers me when I'm not as impressed by a book as the person(s) who recommend it - I assume I'm 'missing' something that they got but I didn't. Which is not to say I didn't like this book, I did. It is based on a real woman (Constance Kopp) and her sisters who stand up to a ruthless factory owner and his 'enforcers' and win in the early 1900's - a time when women were still considered property of their husbands and if no husband was on the scene, then they had to be under the protection of a brother, father, uncle, etc. I did admire the pluck of these women and like that the book brought my attention to this little known part of history.

3.5's - Kathy Reichs' latest Temperance Brennan forensic crime solving novel Speaking In Bones and Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride.

Bones is the 18th Temperance Brennan novel, this one a little better than the last two or three I've read. A 'web-sleuth' brings Brennan a recording of a girl obviously being tortured and tells Temperance that she believes the girl is one of Tempe's unidentified bodies. Brennan begins investigating that possibility which seems as an excuse for her to keep postponing returning to Montreal and answering Ryan's marriage proposal.

I've been catching up on the Margaret Atwood books I had previously disregarded. I read two this month and Robber Bride was my least liked, not because of the writing which is excellent, but because of the subject matter. Three women friends are each betrayed by a fourth - a woman who steals their husbands as well as takes their money and trust.
Interesting to me was that this was the third book I read this month which mentioned the Babylon Project - a super gun commissioned by Saddam Hussein and designed by Canadian artillery expert Gerald Bull. I'm sure it was in the news at the time, but I totally did not register it or have forgotten about it. I always find it fascinating when these coincidences (more than one 'happening' about the same subject) occur in my life.)

Louise Penny's latest Inspector Gamache mystery The Nature of the Beast (#11 in the series) is built entirely on the Babylon Project. Inspector Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are now retired to the village of Three Pines. When a young boy, the teller of tall tales, is killed in what was meant to look like an accident, Gamache realizes it was murder and becomes part of the investigation along with his old team. When a super-sized old artillery gun is found disguised in the forest it becomes obvious the young boy had found it. Was this the reason he was killed? Excellent story-telling; one of my 4.5's. I do not think the good Inspector is going to be retired much longer.

Finally, the other 4.5, Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. Another novel based on a true happening. A young servant girl in 1843 Canada is accused of being an accomplice in the murder of her employer and his housekeeper. She is found guilty and condemned to hang but her sentence is commuted to life in prison. The book goes back and forth in time, relating Grace's early life as a poor Irish emigrant, her mother's death and her father's alcoholism, how she obtains a job as a servant girl, loses track of her siblings, and ultimately lands in prison.
The other voice in the book is that of a young psychiatric doctor who is attempting to help her remember what happened the day of the murders and perhaps clear her of her part in the crimes. His own mental instabilities lend an interesting twist to the book. I found this Atwood book much more satisfying - again, it all has to do with the subject matter.

I'm look forward to another great year of reading in 2016, starting, hopefully with my brother's latest installment in his time will tell series, In One Basket, as well as re-visiting a couple of well-liked books from a few years ago and all the new ones that come across my radar.
Happy reading in 2016!

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