Book Reviews: My January Reads

February 14, 2020
For the year 2020, I have set a goal to read 50 books in different genres. It seems that in the past, I read too much of one kind of genre and would get stumped with finding something different. In 2019, I was more successful in extending my reading. I was dabbling in memoir, historical fiction, and true crime. I found a new mystery author that I could binge an entire series (that would be Louise Penny!).

January has started out well, with a choice of books in newer areas of reading: true crime, historical fiction, and non-fiction. Some have been on my To Be Read list, and others a quick pick from Kindle Unlimited.

This mystery by Faith Martin (real name, Joyce Cato) was a result of googling for a similar series like the Louise Penny "Gamache" books, all of which I've completed. Because I could not find the first of this series through my local library or Kindle Unlimited, I decided to try out the fourth, a Kindle Unlimited option.

In this book, Jenny, a professional chef, is already known as a successful, amateur sleuth, and not necessarily liked by the local police (of course). She discovers most of her clues by carefully observing and listening in the kitchen, then offers those to the police.

While I like the independence and resourcefulness of the Jenny character, I'm not fond of police characters who act like amateur sleuths. So for me, this was on a scale closer to a cozy mystery. It's light, moves quickly, and is suitable for a weekend read. But obviously -- nothing like Gamache.

"Stranger Beside Me" was my first Ann Rule read, after coming across it on the online Libby library service. I assumed that Ann was writing a true-crime narrative about Ted Bundy that she painstakingly researched and compiled -- but this story is one in which she was a part!

Through her depiction of Bundy, she includes her occasional interactions with him almost to the time of his execution (she broke off contact once he was convicted). It is incredible how someone (Bundy) could be so convincing and appear so ordinary, yet was extraordinarily conniving and treacherous.

The book was an excellent read, yet I was relieved when I finished after learning the extent of his crimes. If you have not read true-crime before, I am convinced that you will be hooked after reading this one!

This recent title by Patti Callahan I learned about on a podcast, and saw it on many "best reads" lists. After waiting for two months, the book finally arrived on my Libby library app shelf. I was prepared to sit and enjoy the weekend with this fictional account, based on C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidson.

It took me much longer than a weekend to complete the book. I finished it, but it was not for me. I wish I could join the many others who gave the book a 5-star rating but simply cannot. I'm not sure if I was disappointed with the writing or the story itself. The story moved much too slowly, and the relationship between Jack and Joy seemed awkward, especially after Joy's divorce and her move to England. The narratives describing Oxford and other places were lovely depicted. 

That being said, I would highly recommend that before starting the novel, the reader should FIRST read "A Note From the Author" at the back of the book. In it, she explains how she did her research and what memorabilia she referenced for her writing. It would have been helped me tremendously if this was the introduction instead of an endnote. 

I'm not giving up; I will plan to read another book from this author. I think this was just something that didn't quite succeed as historical fiction.

Now, THIS was a lovely weekend read (or should I say a one-day read!). As a fan of Anne's "What Should I Read Next" podcast, I'll give her credit for my changed reading life this past year. I am always intrigued by the guests on her show and her insightful recommendations. "I'd Rather Be Reading" is  lighthearted, delightful and describes how our reading lives are changed by what we read and what is on our bookshelves. Anne not only gives her reading insights but shares unique memories about her reading life, such as her visits to the library when she lived right next door as a newlywed. 

"Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can't imagine life without them."  Absolutely. What should I read next, Anne?

Looking for your next great book?  Click on the "Book Reviews" tab and see the list of all my reviews by subject.  

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