What I Read: January 2014

I read 6 books in January – 1 non-fiction, 5 non-fiction. 4 were in print, 2 on Kindle.

Heirs of the Body by Carola Dunn. The latest Daisy Dalrymple mystery (a series I sometimes refer to as Maisie Dobbs, but fluffy), revolves around Daisy’s family’s search for an heir to inherit the Fairacres estate. I love the setting of these stories (1920s England) and Daisy’s life as noble-turned-journalist-who-married-a-Scotland-Yard-detective. Fun read to start the year

The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities by Katharine Weber. I should really read something else by Katherine Weber, because the very end of this book (dealing with the end of her Grandmother’s life) was really lovely, and I caught I glimpse of Weber’s skill with words. But mostly I didn’t like this book, which I got through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. Weber’s childhood was hard. The first half focuses on her father who was unfaithful, as the book’s title suggests, but also just a crappy father and husband (and crazy/delusional/narcissistic). It’s hard to read. The second half, focused on her grandmother (she of the long-running affair with George Gershwin) is more interesting, and her grandmother was an impressively accomplished woman. I would have preferred a book focused just on that, but perhaps Weber felt she couldn’t tell one story without the other.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. A sequel of sorts to the amazing Code Name Verity. One of the characters in that book, plays a supporting role in this tale, but the protagonist is Rose Justice, American Air Transport pilot, who is intercepted during a flight in France and ends up in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The tale draws you in quickly, but doesn’t shirk on the horrors of the concentration camp or Hitler’s “final solution”. This book lacks the “twist” of Code Name Verity, but is still a REALLY good read. If you like historical fiction at all, pick this up.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin. This is the first book by Rankin that I’ve read, although he is a very well-known (and prolific!) Scottish mystery writer. This book is from his best known series (Inspector Rebus), and was loaned to me by my neighbor. I almost never read books out of series order, but I really enjoyed this one – the 18th in the series, with the detective retired and working as a civilian in the Cold Case Unit. Rebus is drawn into a current missing persons investigation, when a mother visits the Cold Case Unit, trying to draw the parallels between the recent disappearance and that of her daughter’s a decade ago (and several other women in between). I can honestly say it stands alone – you don’t need to have read the others to enjoy this one.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. The best word I can think to describe this book is wholesome. 16-year-old orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks, inherits a Montana homesteading claim from her Uncle Chester (who she’s never met). With nothing much keeping her in Arlington, Iowa, where she is staying with distant relatives, she gets on the train and heads out to Big Sky country. If she can set enough fence, plant enough crops and come up with $37.75 by the end of the 3 year claim period (of which only 1 year is remaining when she arrives), the land is hers. Set against the backdrop of World War I, Hattie struggles with the hard tasks of homesteading, but also finds joy and community with her neighbors. This was a Newbery Honor book in 2007 and is a welcome break from the dystopian fiction and supernatural romances flooding the YA market. A good, clean read.

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak. A fictional look at the making of Catherine the Great, who came to Russia as a 14-year-old to marry Peter, the heir of Empress Elizabeth. Told through the perspective of Varvara, the orphaned daughter of a Polish bookbinder, who works at the Palace and is recruited as a spy by the Chancellor. It’s interesting to look at the life of this famous person (who I didn’t know much about) before she rose to power. The story starts with shortly before her arrival in Russia and ends shortly after she becomes Empress. Not my favorite book ever, but a decent historical read.

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What I Read: January 2014

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