Sunday, February 01, 2015

Books read in January

In Jan. 2014, I started keeping track of what I read in a little notebook. I just entered the title and author of each, and I assigned a “grade” to each book. 

1 - didn’t finish
4 - very good, but probably won’t read it again.
5 - best ever (LotR, for example), will read again

Anyway, now that I’ve got the list, I’ll review each month’s books very briefly here.

January 2015: 12 books; of which at least four are re-reads. The doubtful ones are the Christies; if I’ve already read those it was decades ago and I had forgotten the plots etc. Completely.

5 - Exploring JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit - Corey Olsen (“The Tolkien Professor” online): I’ve listened to all of Prof. Olsen’s Tolkien podcasts on iTunes and will probably listen again, eventually. He’s a Medieval Lit PhD who brings both his rigorous academic training and his passion for Tolkien to this book. It is very enjoyable for a Tolkien nerd like me, and will reward many re-readings in the future.

4 - The Mother Hunt - Rex Stout: I love Archie and Nero and I don’t think I need to give my rundown of the plot or anything for any of these; much more skilled Stout fans have great posts all over the internet.

4 − 13 at Dinner - Agatha Christie: see the previous comment re: Stout; the world doesn’t need my recap of the books. 

5 - As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley: the newest Flavia de Luce mystery from Bradley and like all the rest, *superb*. I adore Flavia and I was worried that transplanting her to Canada (to her late mother’s boarding school alma mater) would ruin it - particularly since I am completely mesmerized by Dogger and he of course got left behind to care for her father and sisters and the crumbling family manse. But I needn’t have feared - Flavia is more than equal to anything the world seems bent on throwing at her! And in this one we get more information about her mother’s mysterious past. Going to stop now; Spoilers!

4 - The Secret Rooms - Catherine Bailey: This is a non-fiction work about England’s biggest, one of its oldest, ducal estates, and the mysteries held therein. The blurb and jacket are a bit misleading, as they hint that it’s a ghost story. It’s not - it’s a deep dark family secret story, that is nonetheless fascinating (except I skipped the extensive descriptions of WW I battles and equally tedious marathon about a certain mother’s wartime machinations on behalf of her son - these simply didn’t interest me, it’s not the author’s fault). But the revelations had my jaw dropping several times. Also, as a glimpse of just what kind of life the aristocracy led before WW I, it was a real eye-opener. It’s unbelievable, the wealth, and the arrogance that equaled it. I for one am right glad the system pretty much crashed after WW I. Never will I look at Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother the Duke of Denver the same way again. 

5 - Death on the Nile: It’s Christie, in Egypt. What more do I need to say?

5 - Unbound - Jim C. Hines: this is the third book in the Magic ex Libris series, and I gobbled it up like popcorn. That’s not to say it’s light & airy; Jim doesn’t back down from confronting the implications of  the tropes he’s dealing with - just one example - Isaac’s friend the dryad warrior Lena Greenwood’s origins as basically  a character created for the benefit of horny male readers. The Magic ex Libris books combine several of my favorites - books, libraries, strong smart talented women, and every damn hobgoblin (including I think hobgoblins themselves) you can think of. A rip-snorting read. There’s another to come and I can’t wait to see how Libriomancer Isaac Vainio emerges from that one.

4 - Over My Dead Body - Rex Stout

5 - Help the Poor Struggler - Martha Grimes: this is a Richard Jury book and I am hopelessly enslaved to Grimes’s characters, regardless of whatever unevenness of plot, circumstance, attitudes, anything. I’ve got the whole series and I’ll be going back to them every so often until the day I die.

5 - The Deer Leap - Martha Grimes - see previous.

5 - The Five Bells and Bladebone - Martha Grimes - see 2 previous.

5 - Mrs. McGinty’s Dead - Agatha Christie: Probably read this years ago and forgot it. It’s a nice Poirot with him deliciously out of his comfort zone, staying in an ill-run, ill-heated, chaotic country B & B whose mistress hasn’t the slightest understanding or talent of cooking. The mystery’s pretty good, too.

So that was my reading for January. I’ve got The Shining Girls on my nightstand because we’re discussing it in the mystery club Feb. 10th.

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