Thursday, December 29, 2016

What I've Been Reading: December 2016

Well, here we are at the end-of-year roundup, and as I look back at what I've read over this past year, I feel pretty accomplished. While I didn't set a formal goal this year, I have still managed to read 85 books this year, more than any other year since I started tracking back in 2011 (I didn't include all of my re-reads, either). My reading material of choice is still predominantly fiction, and I've recently read fewer thrillers and suspense novels in favor of more contemporary fiction and even cozy mysteries. A patron and I were recently talking about how our reading tastes change, depending on overall mood, personal life, weather, etc. Apparently I'm looking for easy entertainment, and I am completely okay with that--we all read for different reasons.

In any case, here's what I've been reading lately.

Blueberry Muffin Murder & Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, by Joanne Fluke. Books 3 and 4 in Fluke's bestselling Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series. Blueberry Muffin Murder finds Hannah caught up in the whirlwind of Lake Eden's Winter Carnival, with cooking and lifestyle maven Connie Mac rolling into town and taking over everything: the Carnival cake, local shops, even Hannah's own shop kitchen! Then Ms. Mac turns up dead and it seems everyone had a motive, so it's up to Hannah to pitch in and clear her own name as well as those of her friends. In the fourth series installment, Hannah's comfortable life is upended when her beau, town dentist Norman Rhodes, announces that he's bought a house. Friends and family assume that they're engaged...only Norman hasn't popped any questions, and the house purchase is a total surprise to Hannah. Then a body is discovered on the property, and Hannah's back in the thick of another small town murder investigation. These are light and breezy reads, nothing taxing, just what the season seems to require.

Knit One, Kill Two & Needled to Death, by Maggie Sefton. I read these both via the Trumbull Library's access to Overdrive. These are the first and second books in Sefton's Knitting Mysteries, featuring corporate accountant and amateur sleuth Kelly Flynn. In the first, Kelly returns to Colorado in the wake of her beloved aunt's murder, only to find herself caught up in not only the whodunnit of the murder, but also land disputes and a deep secret her aunt had kept hidden for decades. In the second, Kelly, who has chosen to remain in Colorado, agrees to chaperone a group of knitters on an outing to see a local working alpaca farm. Upon arriving at their destination, however, the group finds their hostess dead under mysterious circumstances. Of course Kelly can't help but get involved in solving the case. Again, cozy mysteries make for great, quick reads this time of year.

Between Breaths, by Elizabeth Vargas. This memoir of anxiety and addiction from the famous television news journalist (best known for her work on 20/20, World News Tonight, and ABC news specials) chronicles Vargas's struggle with panic and anxiety attacks from an early age, as well as her later struggles with alcoholism and the strains these secrets placed on her personal life and career. Deeply moving and insightful.

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: the private diary of a Victorian lady, by Kate Summerscale. More non-fiction? In my reading list? I know! Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 in 1844. Her new husband moved them, by then with two sons, to Edinburgh's elegant society in 1850. But Henry traveled often and was cold and remote when home, leaving Isabella to her fantasies. Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts and feelings, her frustrations and her infatuations (including that with a married Dr. Edward Lane) in her diary over the course of the years that followed. But when Henry found her journals, aghast at his wife's perceived infidelity, he petitioned for divorce on the grounds of infidelity. The trial became a cause celebre and the diary was read aloud in court, much of it reprinted in the daily papers. Isabella's plight, that of a frustrated wife trapped in a rigid society, reverberates even today. I found it a fascinating read.

The Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson. Book three in Sanderson's bestselling and immensely popular Mistborn series (following The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension) follows new Emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, as they struggle in the wake of being tricked into releasing Ruin while trying to close the Well of Ascension. They must now battle Ruin's Inquisitors, the encroaching lethal mists called the Deepness, and the increasingly heavy falls of black ash that threaten to suffocate their very existence. Sanderson is an absolute master of his craft--I had worried that having taken more than six months off between books in the series that I would be lost, but he is so skillful a writer that I felt caught up almost immediately without feeling buried by a heavy-handed recap.

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. I've had Rainbow Rowell's work recommended to me repeatedly for the last several years, and now that I've capitulated, I wonder what in the heck took me so long! Simon Snow is officially the worst Chosen One ever. He can't control his magic, meaning that half the time he can't get his wand to work and the other half? Fire everywhere. His girlfriend broke up with him, his mentor is avoiding him, his alleged vampire of a roommate, Baz, never even showed up at the beginning of this, their final year at the Watford School of Magicks. Oh, and there happens to be a magic-eating monster running around, and it happens to be wearing Simon's face. Chatty, hilariously funny, and chock-full of monsters--if you think this sounds like Harry Potter, you're a little bit right and mostly mistaken in the best possible ways.

And that's it for me for 2016. I'll see you in the new year for new books and new recommendations. From all of us here at The Trumbull Library, Happy New Year and Happy Reading.

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