Recent reads: November 2023

Well, it feels very much like the holidays are bearing down on me and with the time change happening overnight tonight, the darkness will be closing in. I’m a huge fan of standard time (I’d prefer to stay on standard then to do permanent daylight savings) and I’ll admit that I also welcome the hibernation and opportunities to sit by the fire and read. My reading slowed a bit in the recent months as we did a road trip and I was spending as much time in the sun as I could, but I did read. I’m back at it now with a vengeance as I make some changes in my daily routine as I put the phone down even more while also unsubscribing from a lot of email lists and picking up my kindle more.

The Thief

A thief is taken out of jail by the king’s magus and given the chance to win his freedom by stealing something incredibly difficult to steal. The adventure begins and we follow Gen and the magus as they set out to sneak into the neighboring country and find a hidden treasure. I really enjoyed this book, enjoyed the twist at the end, and the adventure was well done. Now I’m waiting for the library to get the second book in the series.

Wilding: Returning Nature to our Farm

A really interesting book about a couple who decide to take their estate in Britain back to its natural state (or as much as they can get it back to that state). Isabella Tree lays out so many details and reasons and research about how this is a good thing both financially and for the land, that I will admit I skimmed some parts of this. But overall I found it a truly interesting read, what happens when you add back in grazers and allow the land to return to what it once was? What species start to show up? How can this not only be better for the land and the countryside, but also sustain the estate in ways previously unthought of? And why are we so stuck on the stories we’ve told ourselves that may not be true? This last one is a question for the ages about so many things, but I really enjoyed reading about how much of what is thought of about Europe and how it was long ago may not be quite the way it was.

The Diamond Eye

Kate Quinn writes books based on people from history and I’ve absolutely loved everything I’ve read by her and this is no exception. Mila Pavlichenko is a sniper during World War II who travels to the US on a goodwill tour and becomes friends with Eleanor Roosevelt and the story Quinn weaves based on her life is so well done. I know very little about the Soviet front during the early days of WWII which made this all the more interesting to read. I’m aware that Quinn takes a lot of artistic license, which is why this is fiction, but she also writes amazing notes at the end pointing out what was based on fact and where she goes off on her own, which I appreciate a lot.

Demon Copperhead

So many people are talking about this book right now and how it’s one of the best they’ve read lately and it was on the shelf at the library so I grabbed my chance to get it. I’ve never read David Copperfield so I went into this one cold and not truly knowing where I was going and I have to say, it’s not a read for the faint of heart. I interspersed reading some lighter books while in the thick of this one. Set in Appalachia during the 1990s and 2000s when the opiod crisis is hitting, it’s a story about how much we don’t truly care for life and how much the people of this region have been pushed around and abused. It’s a great story and necessary and I loved the way Barbara Kingsolver created characters to share her thoughts and points of view so clearly.

Side note: Ezra Klein interviewed Kingsolver and I highly recommend giving it a listen or read.

People of the Book

Having read one of Geradine Brooks’ novels, I was eager to read more and this book didn’t disappoint. Brooks uses all the myths and ideas surrounding the Sarajevo Haggadah and turns it into a wonderful, can’t put it down, story. Hanna Heath is called in by the UN to verify and study the Haggadah in Sarajevo but inbetween her work, we’re taken back in time where Brooks imagines who and where and when the haggadah came to be. It’s really wonderful.

Well Met

A detour into the world of romance novels as a way to take myself away from the real world and this one achieved that goal. Emily is staying with her sister to help her recover after a horrible car accident and since her life has gone terribly wrong from what she planned, she’s free to help. Her niece wants to be in the local Renaissance Faire and an adult must be with here so Emily becomes a character. Of course she meets someone and off we go from there. An enjoyable read, but I’m not sure if I’ll keep going as this is the first in the series.

Dead Men Don’t Ski

I subscribe to a newsletter from the NY Times books section and they regularly highlight books that are older and this mystery series caught my eye. Luckily the library had it available and I read it in a few days. Henry Tibbets is a detective and works for Scotland Yard, when he and his wife go on vacation to a remote little hotel on the border of Italy and Austria, Interpol asks him to keep his eyes open for anything suspicious. Of course there is a murder and a short list of folks who could’ve done it. This is a mystery in the same vein as Poirot or Inspector Morse and I really enjoyed it.

Bloomsbury Girls

In 1950 three women end up working together at Bloombury Books in London and times may be changing, but not at the bookstore. As the women realize they could have different lives, each in their own ways still healing from World War II and other events, they band together to get what they want in life. This wasn’t a great story, but the author uses real people from the time and brings them into the bookstore and it was an interesting way to think about the story and the time.

Last Bus to Woodstock

We’ve been watching Endeavor since PBS made the entire series available on Passport and it made me curious about the books in which Morse first appears. This book is very slow to give much away about Morse and Lewis as people, I have a feeling that will build over the course of the series, but the mystery is fantastic. I had no idea who the real killer was until it was revealed. I’ll definitely be reading more of this series.