Let’s hear it for 2021! Without having done a damn thing it’s probably the most anticipated year of my lifetime. This winter may hold more darkness than light, but for many of us, the fact that we’ll have a decent, caring, grown-up in the White House in 19 days is enough to spark some hope. As is the fact that my December reading was on fire. I read 19 (what?!) books this month and 14 were really good to really great. I can’t ask for much more than that.
Here then is my final monthly recap for 2020. Psychological thrillers continued to dominate!
Most of my reading in December is just for pleasure. Not that I don’t find pleasure in all my reading, but I focus more on details when I know I’m going to review a book. I read Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Book of Longings this month without thinking of reviewing and so am spotty on the details. The most relevant point? It’s the life story of Ana, a woman who becomes the wife of Jesus.
If you take your religion literally, then this is an offensive concept and the novel will not be for you. However, I found Ana’s story and her role in Jesus’s life to be tender, touching, and deeply spiritual. To me, it made his sacrifice even greater. If religious beliefs don’t come into play in your reading, even better. The Book of Longings is a beautifully written, detailed account of one woman’s tumultuous life at a time and place when women’s lives went unnoticed.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi: 5 star fiction, review to follow.Peter Swanson
Published by William Morrow
Publication date: March 3, 2020
Eight Perfect Murders would probably gotten a higher rating if I hadn’t read so many great thrillers this month. It’s a simmer of a novel based on a blog list a bookseller creates of the eight greatest murders in fiction. Someone starts recreating those murders in real life. Is it the narrator himself? Someone trying to frame him? Or even someone else? There are lots of secrets here and they come to light, but the ending felt forced.
The Office by Andy Greene: Fun listening about the making of the TV series The Office. I re-watched the series to coincide with events in the book and it was fascinating.
The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little: Review to follow
The story in Winter Counts ended up meaning less to me than the things I learned about modern day life as a Native American living on a reservation. The main character, Virgil, is basically a thug, hired by people seeking retribution for crimes. He’s a necessary evil because while there are tribal police they can only go after misdemeanors. Felony crimes or higher have to be pursued by the federal government, which has very little interest in doing so. This makes the reservation population a target for felonies like rape and murder. Virgil is often their justice. He’s hired by a man on the tribal council to ‘take care’ of someone bringing heroin into the high school. At first Virgil has little interest in the job, but when his nephew overdoses and the Feds want in, everything changes. The twists keep coming making Winter Counts a solid thriller, but I’m more interested in what the author does next. Treatment of Native Americans is another hidden part of American history that needs more attention.
The Defense by Steve Cavanagh: Review to follow
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson: The second book in the Jackson Brodie series. Review to follow
We Are All the Same in the Dark is set in a small Texas town. How I ended up reading and liking so many Texas books I have no idea. In this case, a teenage girl goes missing. Her brother grows up living under a cloud of suspicion, never leaving their family farm or their small town. Her best friend becomes a cop. The past collides with the present when the brother discovers a young woman in a field near his farm. She’s alive, but deeply traumatized. There are lots of pieces in play in this novel, but I loved the character development and the way the author kept adding layers of psychological complexity to the plot. It was addictive except for an ending that felt like a stretch. Still, this is an author I’ll read again.
That is officially it for December and 2020. Goodbye and good riddance. We still have challenges ahead, but I hope 2021 is a brighter year for everyone with lots of great reading!
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