Reading list 2019

Anatomy of a ScandalAnatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took the first half of the book to get what it was supposed to be all about, and then when I found myself skimming lines to get the gist of each chapter (and to the end), I knew it would disappoint. Sorry.

The Iron King (The Accursed Kings, #1)The Iron King by Maurice Druon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up after reading George R. R. Martin’s blurb on the front cover, and also as a a sort of interim until season 8 of GoT. Will I continue with the rest of the novels? Probably not, for while it is entertaining historical fiction in its own right, it certainly has nothing on the Game of Thrones (the television series, not the books) that I have come to be a fan of.

When All is SaidWhen All is Said by Anne Griffin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Despite having to stop occasionally to look up terms/phrases unknown to my American vocabulary – hoolie? yoke? on the blower?! – the main character, a crotchety old man, grew on me as evening wore on. A heartwarming and beautifully written gem of a book to the very end.

The Land Before AvocadoThe Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting and funny look at Australia of the 60’s and 70’s. As an American I could identify with a few things during the same period in my home state of Hawaii (telephone party lines, dinners out of a can, roaming the neighborhood until dusk), but we did not have Spicy Meat Ring and I aim to make it!

The Psychology of Time TravelThe Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Two parts time travel mumbo-jumbo, 1 part lesbian love story, 2 parts nonsense. Definitely not your average time travel read. I get that this is all science fiction and fantasy, but the characters were so one-dimensional that I had already stopped giving a hoot about any of them by the end.

The Wolf in the WhaleThe Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve always found tv documentaries on Inuit culture very interesting, so to couple that with Norse mythology in an epic tale (that kinda felt like Narnia nearing the end) was a definite draw for me. It has everything going for it: magic, myths, ancient spirits, beasts, gods, and so much more; all fatefully bound together in a vast and unforgiving environment.

This book is not for the squeamish (several bloody, violent scenes) or persnickety. There are those who have criticized some parts as either too slow or boring. Let me offer some insight: winter is looooong and dark. Enjoy this highly imaginative whale of a tale during the cold season, preferably with a cup of hot tea and some cookies at your side.

The Name of the RoseThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having seen the film (with Sean Connery) years ago, and now following the tv series (with John Turturro), I read the book to find out which parts were altered, glossed over, or altogether left out in the screen versions. As an author and keen intellectual, Umberto Eco doesn’t mince words here; I just wish I knew beforehand what I was getting myself into! That said, this is what I didn’t like about reading The Name of the Rose.

1. The looooong passages of theological debate regarding poverty and laughter in the church. Honestly, it took up 50% of the book, mostly in the first half of the read, so I quickly skimmed over them.
2. The long descriptions of objects or events, like the door of the church, or what went on in Adso’s head when he was getting laid. I would rather have an illustration (of the door).
3. The parts written in Latin. As a reviewer pointed out, the Latin was explained in context either before or after, but I found that to be not always.

In short, if you’re looking for a cookie-cutter medieval mystery, maybe better to watch the film or tv series instead. I don’t know if other readers like to imagine voices for a character in a book, but I didn’t mind having Sean Connery in my head at all.

Two Cousins of AzovTwo Cousins of Azov by Andrea Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Andrea Bennett brings her cast of eccentric characters to such visually kooky life – example: She pulled her mouth up close to meet her brows. – that at one point I was thinking Two Cousins of Azov would make a great Tim Burton film. Loved the doses of Russian culture throughout the book, and already I am hooked on pryaniki cookies after trying several recipes online.

No Great MischiefNo Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a fan of the tv series Outlander and biding time until the new season begins, no wonder I was drawn to reading this mostly tragic tale about a family descended from Scottish Highlanders. There’s nothing wrong with the pace or the “repetitions” that have been pointed out, but I found it annoying that there had to be so many Alexander MacDonalds in one story. And yet brothers #2 and #3 (of the narrator) don’t even warrant a name??? Loved the humorous scenes that always centered around Grandpa.

The Songs We HideThe Songs We Hide by Connie Hampton Connally
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The setting in post-war Hungary sounded like this would make a good story, but the stiff writing (at times it felt “staccato”), slow plot and 2 main characters – a shy, creepy, country boy and a self-centered city girl in their early 20’s – made it an awkward and dull read. And as much as I expected to see Hungarian words dropped here and there, it got rather tiresome to see the same italicized terms over and over and over. I think the YA crowd might appreciate this better.

Memoirs Of A GeishaMemoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating look into the making of a geisha. I found the story engaging up to the part when Chiyo/Sayuri starts earning her keep as a full-fledged geisha. At that point onwards, it just turned into a bunch of coy, manipulative women, petulant old men and endless drinking games.

The Snow ChildThe Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enchanting and beautifully written for anyone who loves fantasy and fairytales. In Italian, the snow child’s name – Faina – translates to beech marten which I thought rather fitting at a particular point in the story. The scenes are so imaginative that I had a difficult time putting this book down.

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspired by the true story of a young woman convicted of murder and condemned to the chopping block in early 19th century Iceland, this book had so much anguish going on that I had to put it down and not touch it again until a few days later. Agony, sorrow, despair…gah! Definitely not a summer read.

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