Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for December, 2016…
Saga, Volume 6, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – The most recent trade paperback installment of Saga found our heroes, Marko and Alana, reunited with each other but separated from their daughter Hazel and her grandmother, who are imprisoned on Landfall. The story alternates between their efforts to get her back with her own experiences in the prison. The end is both sad and hopeful – par for the course with Saga. I’m still really enjoying this comic series and looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson – Woodson’s newest book is her first for adults in awhile. In it, she explores the relationship between August, the narrator, and her three friends over the course of their youth in 1970s Brooklyn. It’s a hardscrabble coming-of-age story, beautifully written – as always with Woodson – and ultimately hopeful. I still loved Woodson’s memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, the best – but Another Brooklyn is a wonderful addition to her bibliography.
A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson – After a few intense reads in a row, I was really looking for something fluffy, and A Countess Below Stairs (also published with the alternate title The Secret Countess) fit the bill perfectly. It was light, frothy, and utterly predictable in a completely delightful way. Anna is Russian aristocracy who has been displaced, along with her mother, brother and faithful English governess, by the Bolsehvik revolution. Seeking to earn her way, she takes a temporary job as a housemaid in an English great house and – of course! – falls in love with the young Earl. There are a few problems standing in their way: Anna is impoverished and so, pretty much, is the Earl; plus, he’s engaged to an heiress (who is astoundingly beautiful and heinously awful). But Anna is basically a Disney princess – really, I think little birds help her on with her housemaid’s uniform every morning – so you know everything is going to work out just fine. I guessed how it would all turn out before I was a quarter done with the book, and I still loved every second.
Fables, Volume 7: Arabian Nights (And Days), by Bill Willingham – In the seventh trade volume of Fables, the Eastern version of the Fables arrive from their own version of the Homelands, bringing with them a djinn and a lot of trouble. Flycatcher creates an international incident, Boy Blue is still imprisoned, Prince Charming is hating life as Fabletown’s new mayor, and the Beast is settling into his role as sheriff. It’s a fun addition to the series, and Frau Totenkinder continues to be totes awesome.
Bloodline, by Claudia Gray – This newly released addition to the Star Wars canon focuses on Princess Leia’s political career as a Senator in the New Republic. The Senate is fracturing at the seams, divided between Populists (who want the individual planets to have ample freedom) and Centrists (agitating for a stronger central government). Leia is the most well-known Populist, but she has to join forces with a Centrist Senator to investigate an upstart crime cartel in a distant system. As Leia and her new ally cautiously explore the hornet’s nest outside the New Republic, it soon becomes clear that the crime cartel is connected to something more sinister – the rise of the First Order. This was a great addition to the canon and I loved reading about Leia in her element as a politician. Of course, I’m saddened by the cover now that we have lost the great Carrie Fisher – but reading Bloodline (which I did earlier in the month, before her heart attack) seems like a good way to celebrate her life and her most famous role.
Angels and Demons (Robert Langdon #1), by Dan Brown – I’d been meaning to read more of Dan Brown’s books; the only one I had read so far was The Da Vinci Code (everyone has read that one, right?). Angels and Demons was about as ridiculous as you would expect it to be, and I had way too much fun reading it. It took me right back to a Thanksgiving many moons ago, when my extended family got into a knock-down, drag-out fight about which Dan Brown book was more likely to be true: Angels and Demons or The Da Vinci Code. That is a thing that actually happened.
Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s #1), by Jodi Taylor – I read this on my friend Katie’s recommendation. Time travel books are one of my weaknesses and I really can’t say no to time-traveling historians. (Exhibit A: Doomsday Book.) Madeleine “Max” Maxwell and her colleagues at St. Mary’s, an institute for the study of history from… errrr… very close up, rocket through various ages, paying visits to the dinosaurs, a World War I field hospital, and several chronological stops in between, and sowing pandemonium everywhen they go. Such fun, and I can’t wait to continue on with the series.
The Fox at the Manger, by P.L. Travers – Due to my excessive library stack (why does that always happen to me?) I wasn’t able to do much Christmas reading this month. But I did manage to squeeze in this very slim volume by P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, and it was delightful. A harried mother, taking her son and his two friends to a Christmas service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, is surprised when one of the children asks her if there were any wild animals present for the birth of Jesus. Mummy is prepared with a delightful tale of a fox who stops by the manger with a special gift for the newborn baby and a lesson for the domesticated animals who believe themselves to be the only beasts with a right to celebrate the Savior’s birth. Delightful.
Barkskins, by Annie Proulx – I had been waiting and waiting and waiting, more and more impatiently, for my copy of Barkskins to arrive on the library holds shelf. Annie Proulx’s new release (and magnum opus!) follows the descendants of two indentured servants who arrive in French Canada in the 1600s. Rene Sel remains with his master, marries (against his will) a local Native Canadian woman, and lives a hardscrabble life until it is somewhat gruesomely cut short. Charles Duquet runs away, makes his fortune trading furs, and ultimately establishes a logging business that lasts for many generations. The Sels and the Duquets – later Dukes – mix and mingle throughout history, utterly unconscious of the fact that the founders of both of their lines once shared a wooded cabin (very briefly). So, I was lukewarm on Barkskins after waiting so long. The writing was wonderful and the scope of the story was impressive – but at over 700 pages, the book was too long. It was clear that, by about 100 pages from the end, even Proulx herself was exhausted by these people. A good pick for anyone with lots of time on their hands or an avid interest in lumberjacks – but I have neither of those things and I couldn’t help thinking how many other books I could be reading instead.
Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History – Without the Fairy Tale Endings, by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie – This short and highly entertaining volume has been on my to-read list for ages, and I really enjoyed it. From Alfhild, the princess who (temporarily) took up piracy, to Margaret, the princess who caused a bank robbery, McRobbie explores the darker side of royalty, away from the Disney fantasy lands. Princesses posing nude, making romantic conquests, murdering family members, giving political advice, usurping their husbands and sons to rule in their own right, leading military coups and going insane – hopefully not all at once – what’s not to love?
That wraps up my December in reading – and my 2016 in reading! It was a good month and a good year (in books, that is). Some fun nonfiction, some silly fiction, and a few gentle reads for when I just couldn’t deal with reality anymore – sounds like a recipe for a delightful few weeks of reading. I’m finishing the year, I think at 101 books – pretty darn good. Ahead for January, I’ve got more exciting new releases out from the library, and then I may finally get to turn my attention to some of the classic literature I’ve been missing recently.
What was the best thing you read in December?