Thanks to another friend, I had joined a facebook group for National Just Read More Novels Month. For me, this translated partly into Just Read Shorter Novels for a month, ending up with 7. So, rather than waiting for my usual quarterly book rundown, here’s what I read in January. Note that there are 8 books here, but the first book didn’t count for NaJuReMoNoMo because I had started it in December and only had the last 30 or so pages to read on New Year’s Day.
- William Stuart Long, The Exiles: This was a long book and is, in fact, the first volume in a 12 book series about Australians. The author, whose real name was Vivian Stuart (nee Violet Vivian Finlay) was even more prolific than that, writing over 70 books under at least 7 names. This book traces a young woman, Jenny Taggart, from a family tragedy through poverty in London through being transported to Australia on the First Fleet. She makes a great success oi her life there, though there is plenty of tragedy and loss along the way. From what I can tell, the historical background was pretty accurate, too. Overall, I thought this was a good read and I look forward to reading more of this series.
- Alexander Kent, Midshipman Bolitho and The Avenger: I like the Bolitho series for the characters and the relationships between them, not the naval battles. This one has Bolitho on leave at home and getting pulled into service to help deal with smugglers along the Cornish coast. The Bolitho novels were not written in chronological order, so I already knew some of what will happen later on between Richard Bolitho and his brother, Hugh, who he is serving under on this mission. I figured out a critical plot point pretty quickly, but it didn’t matter. It was still a good, quick read.
- Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing: This was for my book club, but I had suggested it to them, based on the recommendation of a couple of friends. It follows several generations of the descendants of two women who never knew they were sisters and tells the history of Ghana and of African-Americans along the way. I’ve traveled in Ghana, which probably helped in my enjoyment of this, but I think it should be accessible to anyone. This was fascinating and I recommend it highly.
- Jeff Lindsay, Dearly Devoted Dexter: This is part of a series (made into a TV show later on) about a blood spatter technician for the Miami Police who is also a sociopathic serial killer. This book involves a particularly horrifying series of crimes, but it also has to do with Dexter’s relationship with his family and his girlfriend and her children. The writing is breezy and entertaining, but it does feel strange to be cheering for Dexter, who is, after all, a serial killer.
- Stephanie Evanovich, Big Girl Panties: I needed a change of pace, so it was time for some chick lit. The genre tends to be predictable, so that isn’t a big criticism. The premise here is that a fat woman meets a personal trainer on an airplane, becomes his client, and transforms her life via weight loss, fitness, and, eventually, getting involved with him. To be fair, she doesn’t end up skinny per se and he realizes he loves her though she isn’t model thin, but there are still several annoying aspects to this book, starting with how much weight she loses how fast and going on to equating fatness with eating disorders and emotional issues. Then the whole thing is rather steamier than I really wanted to read on the train to work (including a subplot involving the trainer’s best friend who enjoys spanking his wife). Meh.
- Sara Woods, Tarry and Be Hanged: This is a British mystery from the late 1960’s, before mystery writers felt that they had to throw in a couple of hundred extra pages of subplots. Anthony Maitland gets his client acquitted of murder, but he still needs to find out whodunit to rescue the client’s reputation. This is a decent enough example of the genre, though I’d have appreciated an epilogue telling me what became of some of the characters after the crimes were solved.
- Alexander Kent, Band of Brothers: More of Richard Bolitho, who passes his commissioning exam to become a lieutenant and is charged with helping a new midshipman adjust, along with doing his actual job. There was a minor annoyance in the form of having one character with the first name Montagu and another with the surname Egmont, which are just similar enough to confuse me a little. I also wish Kent didn’t have the nasty habit of killing off characters I like.
- Stephen King, The Dead Zone: Nobody does suspense better than Stephen King. This book is about a guy who spends 4 and a half years in a coma after a car accident and awakens with psychic powers, which prove to be more of a curse than a blessing. There are ups and downs along the way, culminating in an interesting moral dilemma. You probably already know whether or not you like King’s writing. If you do, this is a good example of it.