January 2017 Books

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The Thin Woman, by Dorothy Cannell: An old-fashioned mystery that is in the style of an Elizabeth Peters novel, but not quite as good as Peters. Goodreads spoiled it a bit for me by letting me know when I started it that it was #1 in the “Ellie Haskell” mystery series, and since the overweight heroine was named “Ellie Simons” and she hired writer “Bentley T. Haskell” to pose as her fiancé for a family reunion, the ending was pretty easy to guess. There were a few fun twists and turns along the way, and I did enjoy the book, but I probably won’t continue with the series.

Bhutan Lonely Planet Guide, by Lindsay Brown and Bradley Mayhew: I wish the updated guide were coming out before our trip to Bhutan, but it will be released at the end of March. This may have some outdated information, but it was a good overview of the history and culture of Bhutan. As our trip gets closer, I will probably dip back in to some of the information about specific sites.

Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth: Fantastic historical novel/fairy tale retelling. French noblewoman and novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from Louis XIV’s court at Versailles to a convent. While trying to make peace with her new life, she is comforted by an old nun, Soeur Seraphina, who tells her the story of a young girl whose parents sold her to a sorceress for a handful of bitter greens. Charlotte-Rose was a real woman, and was the first person to write the story of Rapunzel as we know it today. Forsyth clearly did extensive research and did a great job weaving together the stories of Charlotte-Rose, the witch, and the young girl (Margherita). VGR

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood: I am not sure how to review this book. I couldn’t put it down, and the writing is wonderful. The story is beautiful, horrifying, graphic, sweet, awful… Greenwood does such a good job of presenting her story without judgment that you find yourself lost in it, until you take a step back and really think about the facts of what she’s writing. Wavy is the daughter of a meth dealer and a drug addict. Her home is abusive, neglectful, and her mother is a whack job who does a real psychological number on her. Kellen is a twenty-something mechanic who does odd jobs for her father and starts taking care of Wavy when she is 8. By the time Wavy is 13, they are “in love” with each other and get engaged. This is a very well-crafted story that will push you outside of your comfort level and make you really think about a lot of different things. VGR

Behind Closed Doors, by B. A. Paris: A rather pulpy psychological thriller about “perfect couple” Jack and Grace. Just by reading the synopsis, I figured out what the book was about, but the fast pace and unfolding drama kept me reading despite the lack of mystery. It’s a totally preposterous premise, and Jack is like a cartoon villain, but it will definitely play on your emotions and keep your adrenaline pumping.

This Adventure Ends, by Emma Mills: This was a really sweet YA about misfit Sloane, who falls in with a tight-knit group of friends at her new Florida high school. Intense friendships, a lovely-yet-flawed family, a very slow-burn romance, and great dialogue and characters.

Sandry’s Book, by Tamora Pierce: As much as I love Pierce, I don’t know why I never read this series. Yes, it skews more middle-grade than YA, but Pierce always write stories and characters that I love. This book features four young people from totally different socio-economic backgrounds who all have undiscovered/untapped magical talent. They are brought together by a powerful wizard to study magic at a central school (published in 1997, long before Harry Potter!).

The Hogwarts Collection, by J. K. Rowling: A Pottermore Presents gathering of all the material previously published by Rowling on the website. Since I hadn’t kept up with any of that, it was all new to me and fun to read. There was a little bit of everything – some background on familiar characters like Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Dolores Umbridge; discussion of politics and Ministers of Magic; and some information on Hogwarts itself. The entries are all brief and in an encyclopedic style.

Tris’s Book, by Tamora Pierce: The characters from Sandry’s Book continue to improve their magical abilities and control in this book when the community they live in is threatened by pirates.

The Boy Is Back, by Meg Cabot: Fun novel from Cabot that is completely in the form of texts, emails, newspaper articles, and weird product reviews that are used pretty unrealistically to move the plot along. Pro golfer Reed Stewart hasn’t been back to his small Indiana hometown since he left right after high school. Moving consultant Becky Flowers was Reed’s high school sweetheart, who was left without explanation or communication when Reed left town. Reed ends up having to return home to help his parents, who are in dire financial (and legal) straits, and you can probably guess where the rest of the story goes.

Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach: Roach brings her quirky, behind-the-scenes research to the field of astronauts and survival in outer space. As always, some chapters are more compelling than others, but this was a fast, great read. VGR

A Family Holiday, by Bella Osborne: A rather insipid British rom-com; good humor, light character development, weak male lead. Charlie French is nanny to four quirky children when they lose both their parents in a car crash. There are two potential guardians named in the will – a bitchy aunt and an aloof, estranged uncle. Charlie is doing everything she can to remain as caretaker for the children she’s grown to love.

More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera: 16-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after his father’s suicide and his own suicide attempt. He has a wonderful girlfriend and close friends, but when his girlfriend goes away to art camp he starts spending all of his time with his new friend Thomas, who stirs up confusing and unhappy feelings in Aaron. He turns to the Leteo Institute, which has developed a revolutionary memory-altering procedure. This book is gritty, honest, and profoundly moving. VGR

Daja’s Book, by Tamora Pierce: A continuation of the four mages’ journey towards ability and control over their magic. This book focuses on Daja, the outcast Trader and blacksmith in training, as the students deal with the way their magics have intertwined and bled into each others’ crafts.

Rilla of Ingleside, by L. M. Montgomery: The last book in the Anne of Green Gables series, and one of my favorite re-reads. Rilla is a spoiled teenager at the start of the novel, which happens to coincide with the start of World War I. Her maturity and growth as her brothers, friends, and sweetheart go off to fight is well written and engaging. VGR

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir: Wow, this book kept me up all night! Although it bears some similarities to books such as Red Rising, it was incredibly compelling. Great character development all-around, and I hope Tahir publishes the rest of the series ASAP. Laia is a Scholar, ruled by the Martial Empire, and the descendent of Resistance leaders. Her brother is arrested and imprisoned by the Empire, and she goes to spy for the Resistance in order to try to get her brother released. Elias is the son of the Commandant (a brutal, cold, vicious woman whom Laia is serving as a slave). The story alternates between Laia and Elias, and right from the beginning we learn that Elias isn’t happy with his expected place in the Empire, even though he’s the premier soldier in the brutal military academy. VGR

Briar’s Book, by Tamora Pierce: This last book in the Winding Circle quartet focuses on Briar, who is helping his teacher Rosethorn with a plague outbreak. I’m glad I finally read these Pierce books, but because of their younger target audience, I definitely didn’t enjoy them as much as the Tortall novels. I’ll take a break before I read the next quartet of books about these characters.

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About Anjali Lind

I'm a freelance violist and violinist. I teach private lessons, I read a lot of books, I love to reorganize my closets for fun, I do too many logic puzzles, and I'm obsessed with planning for early retirement.
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