I’m always reading. Usually two books at a time: one for reading during the day, another for bedtime reading. So I decided that this year (you could call it my New Year’s Resolution), I’m going to keep track of what I read. (the first two were started in December, but finished in 2022 so, hey, they go on my list!)
Catch Me, Lisa Gardner. (finished January 2) Another great read in the Detective D.D. Warren series about a young woman, Charlene Grant, who believes she is going to die. After all, her two best friends have been murdered on the same date: One two years ago, the other last year. Charlene has vowed not to be the third. Charlene’s past is of the murky kind. Even now she remembers little of her life “before,” and she often loses time, as if she has momentarily blanked out. She’s fled from her tiny hometown to Boston, hiding from her unknown stalker and training for the day she’ll have to defend herself. In the meantime, murders in the city have begun to point toward her. Is she the hunted — or the hunter?
To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor, Jeff Shaara: (finished January 3) This is the second of Jeff Shaara’s World War II novels that I’ve read. Shaara takes real life humans–some famous and others obscure–and weaves a novel around their experiences. To Wake the Giant looks at both the Japanese and American decisions, deceptions, and missteps that led up to the United States’ entry into the second World War.
Later, Stephen King. This was a quick read and the kind of Stephen King novel I like: short on graphic violence and long on black humor and suspense. It’s about Jamie Conklin, a thrteen-year-old boy who sees and talks to dead people. You might roll your eyes at that (cue Haley Joel Osment) but this story is not the same. Nobody knows about Jamie’s “gift” except him and his mom, and they intend to keep it that way. When his mother’s literary business is threatened by the death of her most famous–and only–client, it’s up to Jamie to get the author to relate the story that was left unfinished when he died. But of course things don’t go as expected.
The Mermaid and the Bear, Ailish Sinclair. Isobell is much like many girls of her time, betrothed in a politically advantageous fashion to a man who is known for his cruelty. Understandably, Isobel runs like hell. She ends up in Scotland pretending to be a house servant, but of course you know that’s not going to last. And of course there is a romance with the Laird of the manor. There is witchcraft and betrayal, the reappearance of the shunned bridegroom and Isobell’s older brother who is determined to keep her from inheriting what he wants for himself. Although there are a few common tropes here, they fit easily and convincingly into the story. I’m interested in reading the next book in this series, Firefles and Chocolate.
A Letter From Munich, Meg Lelvis. Another WWII novel, this one about a love letter discovered in 2012 in a box of keepsakes belonging to ex-cop Jack Bailey’s father. When Jack is invited by a friend to accompany him on his annual trip visit family in Germany, Jack decides to track down the mysterious woman from the letter. Jack’s adventures in Germany are interspersed with the story of Ariana and her sister, Renate, young women living in 1930’s Munich. You guessed it: Ariana is the “mysterious woman,” and we get to hear her story along with the story of a side of Jack Bailey’s father he never knew.
Forgotten in Death, JD Robb. Another favorite of mine, the “In Death” series by JD Robb is what I turn to when I need “light and easy” reading. In this latest installment, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called to the scene of a murder–a body found in a dumpster. The victim is a woman well-known to the locals, whose defining characteristics include origami flowers and keeping a notebook of minor offenses she witnesses. This time it seems the offense wasn’t minor: the book has disappeared. While investigating, Eve is called to a nearby building site (a site which her husband, Rourke, has jut purchased) where skeletal remains have been uncovered: a young woman and her unborn child, apparently from an upper class family based on the gold jewelry and designer shoes she wore. Eve is determined to solve both murders and, in the process discovers the shady deals and forbidden secrets of a family dynasty.
The Amber Crane, Malve Von Hassel. In the middle of the Thrty Years’ War, Peter, a young apprentice in the amber guild chafes at the rules that confine his artistic talent to crafting rosary beads and similar mundane bits of jewelry. Walking along a beach, an act that in itself is prohibited, he finds a large piece of raw amber. In it he envisions a beautiful crane, its wings spread. He can’t simply throw it back in the ocean, even though keeping it could cause his arrest and more. But there is something else about this amber: when Peter holds it, he is transported forward in time to the final months of World War Two and the company of a young woman desperately trying to escape the oncoming Russian army. Can he endanger his family, the reputation of his master, and his future as an amber merchant for the sake of a girl and a beautiful crane?
Billy Summers, Stephen King. (blurb from Goodreads): “Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong? How about everything.” Another King novel that isn’t grisly or even very frightening. Just a really good, suspenseful read where we’re rooting for the guy (Billy) who only kills bad people.
Someone Else’s Child, Alison Ragsdale. Catriona and her husband, Ducan, had two daughters, Faith and Hope. Faith died at birth. Unable to bear more children, Cat is shattered. But fate intervenes and they adopt an infant girl born two days after the twins. They name her April, for the month in which she was born. Hope and April are inseperable, almost like twins themselves. Then, when the girls are eight years old, tragedy strikes, threatening to tear the little family apart. April’s birth mother shows up and starts pressuring Cat to give April back to her. Can Cat and Duncan find the strength to repair their family and keep them whole?
The Raven and the Dove: A Novel of Viking Normandy, KM Butler. Yet another historical novel, this one takes place in 890 A.D. in what would become the country of France. It is a tale of Norse invaders who pillage and burn, and of devout Catholic Frankish countrymen who live in fear of them. But the Norsemen are not the heathens the Franks imagine. Nor are the Franks the weak sheep the Norse think they are. In an attempt to follow the path the gods intend for her, Shieldmaiden Halla proposes a marriage of convenience: In return for being made the ruler of a small town near Rouen, Halla will marry Taurin, one of the Franks. Although she hungers for battle and glorious death, she believes this is what the gods want of her. Taurin agrees to the marriage in return for the promise that the Norsemen will protect them, but the rest of the town remains hostile, believing that the Norse will eventually kill them all, eat their children and engage in heathen debauchery. When invaders begin pillaging the town, it’s up to Halla to discover their identity and unite the townspeople to defend themselves.
What’s intriguing to me is how siimilar the theme of The Raven and the Dove is to my novel, War Sonnets. In both of these stories, the “enemy” is seen as cruel, inhuman–“otherworldly”–when the truth is, both sides have beliefs and customs which are so firmly ingrained, they are willing to die to defend them.
There are three books I didn’t quite finish before the end of the month: Freedom Girls, by Alexandra Apolloni, American Dirt, by Jeanine Cousins, and Sarah’s Song, by VIcky Whedbee. More about them later.
So that’s ten books finished so far, and three in progress. I don’t imagine I’ll keep up the ten-book pace, but we shall see…