Monday, October 7, 2013

Books of 2013 - September

Here it is, October 7, and this is my first post of the month. A week of vacation will do that, I guess.

Anyway, here are the books I finished in September (note: if you can't see book covers, try un-blocking pop-ups on this page):

1. The Affair of the Mutilated Mink Coat. Fiction by James Anderson. My review on Goodreads:
This book is a lot of fun. Nods and sly winks to all the inspector / whodunnits that have gone before.

Actually laughed out loud at this part (the speakers are Inspector Wilkins to Lord Burford):
"When I joined the force, I never saw myself out of the uniformed branch - perhaps a sergeant, at best. And in a peaceful place like Westshire, thought that poachers and the odd petty thief would be the extent of my contact with criminal types. But who could have anticipated the crime wave that's broken out among the English upper classes in recent years?"

"Crime wave? Put it as bad as that, do you?"

"Oh, my goodness, your lordship, yes. Never a week goes by without a nobleman being murdered in his library - oh, beg your pardon, didn't mean to alarm you - or a don in his study, or an heiress in her bath. And where's it left me? Oh, I've made Chief Inspector, true -"

So, like I said: fun. Intricate. But somehow not satisfactory. The ending, once again, left me slightly disappointed. And worst of all: there wasn't enough Inspector Wilkins.

Recommended for any fan of Christie, Marsh, or Sayers.

2. Rise. Fiction by Anna Carey. My Goodreads review:
Weakest installment in the series. Left me wondering - more than once - why should I care about this character or what's happening? It didn't feel like part of a cohesive whole, just random things that happened and a formerly interesting but now dull person talking about them. None of the deaths had the emotional impact they should have. The plot felt both rushed and agonizingly drawn out (now that's a trick!).

Giving it two stars because of fond memories of the first book.

Recommended for: die hard fans of dystopian novels and anyone who read the first book who believes in always finishing a series.

3. Take Flight. Non-fiction by Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan. Received a copy to review. See that review here.

4. Linked. Fiction by Imogen Howson. Goodreads review:
I had high hopes for this one: interesting premise, I have a thing for dystopian novels, and I have a daughter who shares the author's name. Shallow, you say? Well, so is the main narrator in this book.

I tried to like her but I never really felt any strong emotion for her at all. My favorite character was probably her dad, although I doubt I could tell you why. Also interesting: the crew of the Phoenix.

Tries to raise interesting questions about humanity, government, and progress but ends up a little muddled.

I know this was designed for a younger demographic, so I don't want to be too rough on it, but my overall feeling was one of, "Please stop whining and get on with it. Oh, and stop swearing while you're at it." Still, it was entertaining and I finished it on one lazy Saturday, so it's not like it required a huge commitment.

Recommended for: sci-fi fans (The Island, The Matrix, etc.). Warnings: frequent swearing.

5. Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse. Non-fiction by Jennifer Worth. Goodreads review:
I seriously debated whether this should be filed under biography or historical fiction. Unlike the memoir format of the first book, this book becomes speculative very quickly. The stories are still moving and, in varying degrees, tragic. But the question of, "how does the author KNOW this?" never went away for me.

Recommended for fans of the TV series. Warnings: language, horrifying situations.

6. Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions: Making Sense of Transatlantic English. Non-fiction by Orin Hargraves. Goodreads review:
Helpful discussion and lists illuminating the differences between American English and British English. Some typos, especially later in the book. Attempts to be respectful of the major worldview / political differences but is not always successful.

Recommended for fans of British TV or word / linguistics aficionados. You can put this on my "maybe for Christmas or birthday" list.

7.The Hanover Square Affair. Fiction by Ashley Gardner. My Goodreads review:
OK but not great, not really even good. Tried too hard to give the main character back story. Which means the back story was front loaded, constantly hitting the reader over the head "THINGS happened in my past. MANY things."

One of the supporting characters (Grenville) was far more interesting than our narrator / hero Gabriel Lacey. The tension just isn't there, despite the sordid, precarious situations our hero must face.

Something about the "feel" of this one just isn't right. Unlike the Sebastian St. Cyr series, this one just doesn't draw you in and make you care. And it turned out to be much more of a romance novel than a mystery (the newer covers bear this out).

Recommended for: maybe for die-hard Sebastian St. Cyr fans who can't wait for the next book. This one might tide you over.

8. Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. Non-fiction by Anthony Esolen. My Goodreads review:
Dynamite. Handle with care. Esolen is a great thinker and writer. His points are well, pointed. Agree or disagree, Americans need to confront these issues.

The negatives: the sarcastic, satirical tone wears a bit thin as the book goes on. Where's the hope, the alternatives? (The strength of satire is usually its brevity.) The author is also somewhat dismissive of girls. I think these imagination destroying methods are dangerous for girls as well as boys and I would have liked an acknowledgement of that. There seemed to be an attitude of, "Boys MUST be allowed to do the following dangerous, noble, exciting things and girls should go do...whatever it is that girls do."

Those small concerns aside, I HIGHLY recommend this book to all parents, grandparents, or anyone who cares about the generation being raised right now.

9. The Court of St. James's: The Monarch at Work from Victoria to Elizabeth II. Non-fiction by Christopher Hibbert. My Goodreads review:
Interesting. Roughly divided in two halves: the first covering Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII, and King George VI. And the second covering the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Having recently completed reading two biographies of monarchs (George V & George VI), some of this was a retread for me. (Although I enjoy reading a book and noting when I'm already familiar with a fact or anecdote)

The second half is now interesting because it is quite out of date, as far as the current royal family is concerned. This book was published before Prince Charles married Diana. To say that there have been many changes in "the firm" since then would be an understatement.

Recommended for history buffs and royal watchers, although only if you're aware that it's not up to date.

10. Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End. Non-fiction by Jennifer Worth. My Goodreads review:
So much better than the second book in the series. This is more of a continuation from the first book: memoir, philosophy, and heart breaking (sometimes astounding, sometimes horrifying) stories. Read this one to find out what happens to your favorite character. (Sister Monica Joan? Chummy? With so many memorable characters it will be hard to choose just one favorite. Those are mine.)

Recommended for fans of the TV series and history buffs.

11. Full Dark House. Fiction by Christopher Fowler. My Goodreads review:
Intriguing, well researched. Plot over the top, along with characters who are rather too colorful. Occasionally difficult switches in the two time periods. I don't think it would have detracted from the story to be more obvious at chapter beginnings as to which setting (time) was being used. Highly unlikely twist. I couldn't tell if this was a cheeky nod to a more famous story (don't want to spoil it by saying which one) or just a weak imitation.

Recommended for: X-Files fans, fans of noir mysteries.

Totals for September: 11
Fiction: 5
Non-fiction: 6

So, what did you read in September? Anything I should add to my stack?

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