Thursday, January 19, 2023

My December 2022 Reads

This month was noteworthy for finishing a group read of Susan Cooper, joining Liz Dexter's Dean Street December, and reading the new Lacey Flint mystery by Sharon Bolton, which caused me to go back to the beginning of the series, plus listen to her recent standalone, The Split.

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach (2000). American journalist Alice Steinbach took a year off to live in five cities - Paris, Venice, Milan, London and Oxford - when she realized she was always so focused on “the next story” that she was missing out on unexpected adventures. A delightful book for armchair travelers and those who enjoy memoirs. Thank you to my mother for recommending this.


Susan Settles Down by Molly Clavering (1936). Susan Parsons and her brother – who has been invalided out of the Navy – move to the Scottish countryside when Oliver inherits a small farm. Susan is sure she will be miserable away from London but to her surprise finds that housekeeping for her brother brings friends, lots of entertainment, and romance. My review.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (2020). Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, has made a good life for himself and his family and is busily preparing for his busiest season. When he finds some young women being treated badly, he encounters the complicit silence of a people controlled by the Catholic Church.

Mrs. Tim Flies Home by D.E. Stevenson (1952). After 18 months in Kenya with her husband Tim, a colonel on active duty, Hester Christie wants to spend time with her children, so flies to England, with a layover in Rome. Once home, she moves into a rented house and soon has made friends and even an enemy or two. My review.
Table Two by Marjorie Wilenski (1942). It is WWII London just as the Blitz is beginning, and Anne has just begun a job with the Ministry of Foreign Information, created to translate foreign documents and letters. The book is about the quirky women who share the office and we find they are not that different from my own cranky 21st-century coworkers. My review.


The Dark by Sharon Bolton (2022). In the fifth Lacey Flint book, DCI Mark Joesbury’s team has spotted a new terrorist threat from the extremist, women-hating, group known as “incels” or “involuntary celibates.” And they seem to be after Lacey. My review.
Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton (2011). In the compelling first book about Lacey Flint, a young detective constable, she stumbles onto a woman who has just been brutally stabbed. Within twenty-four hours, a reporter receives an anonymous letter pointing out alarming similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper's first murder - a letter that calls out Lacey by name. Reread.

The Split by Sharon Bolton (2020)(audio). Felicity Lloyd, a glacier scientist, has traveled to a remote Antarctic island to do research with a team – and also to escape from her crazed husband Freddie who pursued her in Cambridge and now seems to have followed her across the world. Just behind him is the compassionate psychiatrist who thought he was helping her confront her past, but doesn’t realize he was on the same ship with Freddie. NYT review.

Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves (2016)(audio). Torrential rain triggers a landslide that crosses the road and sweeps down to the sea, revealing the body of a beautiful woman who is a stranger to the Shetland Islands. Detective Jimmy Perez takes charge of the investigation in this seventh book of the series.
Desert Star by Michael Connelly (2022). LAPD detective RenĂ©e Ballard has been given responsibility for a Cold Case unit and she persuades Harry Bosch to join as a volunteer so that he can hunt the killer who is Bosch’s “white whale”—a man responsible for the murder of an entire family.

A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot (2017). This mystery is about an FBI agent, estranged from her family since high school, who returns to Oregon to find a killer is targeting survivalists in her hometown. In this series launch, Mercy teams up with the local police chief to solve both the current crime and the one in her past.


Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews (2022)(audio). When a Hollywood producer shows up in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, Hattie gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to star in a beach house renovation and help her construction business recover from her last expensive project. Predictable but entertaining, and I am told Andrews is a Betsy-Tacy fan.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry (2022). Nora is a cutthroat New York literary agent constantly rejected by boyfriends who find romance with some small-town girl looking for the simpler things in life. When her sister drags her to a rural southern town for a vacation, Nora is persuaded to sample local entertainment but her efforts to “be” that Hallmark heroine are thwarted by a grumpy male editor she despises, who happens to be visiting as well.

Veil of Night by Linda Howard (2010)(audio). Jaclyn Wilde is a wedding planner who loves her job - until the bride whose wedding she's organizing is brutally killed and she becomes a suspect. But surely the handsome detective investigating the case won’t forget the night they spent together? This book was one of Howard’s weakest but the audio pickings were slim at the library that day.


The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor (2009). Abigail and her younger sister are constantly squabbling because Becky likes to be the center of attention. Then Becky disappears and the family disintegrates without her. This book was unrelievedly depressing.
Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper (1977). In the dramatic conclusion to The Dark is Rising sequence, Will, Bran, the Drew Children, and the elusive Merriman, a Merlin figure, join together to vanquish the forces of darkness. My reread of all five books in the series with Annabookbel was enjoyable and I do not recommend starting at the end. My review.


That’s Debatable by Jen Doll (2022). Millicent can’t let anything interfere with her goal of winning the Alabama State Debate title, which will provide the college scholarship she needs. Accordingly, it would not be a good idea to tutor Tag, a goofy debater from a private school, who admires her. My review.
Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood (2019). This is a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, in which author Laura Wood transplants Shakespeare's Beatrice and Benedick to a 1930s artists' colony in Tuscany. Like her other heroines, Bea is impatient with her family’s stodgy expectations and longs to be free and impulsive. Not as original or substantive as Wood’s earlier books but still enjoyable.  I would recommend starting with A Sky Painted Gold or A Snowfall of Silver.


Cath said...

I must have a look at the Mrs. Tim books at some stage, people seem to love them. But the two that really attract me are Table Two and A Merciful Death.

We were watching a travel doc. last night, a local author, Fern Britton, exploring Cornwall (she used to be a TV presenter but she gave that up to write historical fiction about Cornwall) and The Hundreds which is what the county used to be split up into. One of her favourite authors is Daphne Du Maurier so naturally she went to Fowey and then to the bit we went to near Menabily and stood exactly where we stood looking at the woods where the house is etc. Note, she didn't get in either so not even if you're famous do you get inside or even close enough to see the house!

Nicola Scott said...

I like the description of Without Reservations. I love a memoir.

TracyK said...

The Split by Sharon Bolton is appealing because I like to read about Antarctica. Maybe too tense for me but someday I will try it anyway. I am also interested in all the Furrowed Middlebrow books you read. And the Claire Keegan book. You read and review so much.

CLM said...

Cath, I should look online for Cornwall documentaries. That would certainly have made me laugh (and probably made Peter glad he had skipped the walk). I do wonder how much it costs to rent that gatekeeper's cottage. It would be weird to look out at the tourists, however! For the next Du Maurier Reading Week, I want to read her first book which I think is set in Fowey.

Nicola, I usually find memoirs to be a bit pretentious but this was very charming. It also left me wondering what happened next but it didn't occur to me until just now to Google her. Unfortunately, I found her obituary:

Tracy, my sisters and I really enjoy Sharon Bolton but they might be too graphic for you. The Split was quite unusual and had some very odd twists. If you were going to try one of her books, I would recommend Little Black Lies which is a standalone set in the Falkland Islands. However, for Antartica, I recommend Widows of the Ice, about the women left behind when Scott's expedition failed. It is not a quick read but I am halfway through and enjoying it.