Reading Round-Up: December 2019

Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I 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, 2019

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens #2), by Alison Weir – I really enjoyed the second installment in Alison Weir’s historical fiction series about the six queens of Henry VIII.  Anne Boleyn has always fascinated me, and Weir did her justice – providing a sympathetic, yet realistic, portrayal and imagining scenes that rang true.  Anne Boleyn was quite a bit pacier than the series opener, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, and by the end I found myself holding my breath and frantically flipping pages.  It made for good reading on a rainy late fall weekend.

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019, by Lia Leendertz – Thanks are due to Instagram for introducing me to Lia Leendertz and her beautiful almanacs.  I blazed through the 2018 edition – the first in the series – back at the beginning of the year and then savored 2019’s, month by month, all year long.  The recipes, garden tips, and lore are delightful reading and I’ve had such fun dipping in and out of this as the seasons have changed over the course of the past twelve months.

Not That It Matters, by A.A. Milne – It’s hard to find any Milne in my library, other than the Winnie-the-Pooh books (which I own, anyway), so I jumped at the chance to read this book of essays.  It was diverting and enjoyable, as expected.  Not every essay was a winner for me, but many were – and a handful made me laugh out loud.

A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Gamache #2), by Louise Penny – I enjoyed my second visit to the village of Three Pines, Quebec – but I think I actually preferred the first novel.  I’d saved Fatal Grace for December, because it takes place around the holidays – the victim is electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, while watching a curling tournament, surrounded by the entire population of the town just after Christmas.  V. mysterious!  I actually guessed who the killer was, which I never mind – makes me feel like a smarty – but my one complaint was the author’s insistence on describing everyone’s body type, which I found distracting and unnecessary.  Especially the victim’s daughter, a young girl, who was repeatedly described as grotesquely obese.  It seemed unkind, and took away from my enjoyment of the book, which was in all other respects a lot of fun.

Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge #1), by Elizabeth Strout – This one has been on my TBR for way too long, and now that there is a sequel, I really wanted to get to it.  Strout’s writing is so evocative, and I just loved Olive.  (Her son Christopher was another matter.)  As with any story collection, there were hits and misses for me – any story featuring Olive at its center was better than a story in which she was just peripheral.

Twelve Days of Christmas: A Correspondence, by John Julius Norwich – This was ten absolutely rollicking, delightful minutes.  Edward and Emily are a newly engaged couple and Edward gets the inspired idea to send his betrothed the gifts from the classic Christmas carol.  Emily is delighted by the partridge in the pear tree and by the two turtle doves, but things quickly go downhill after that.  I laughed until I cried.

A Christmas Book, by Elizabeth Goudge – Saw this one on Instagram and quickly added it to my library holds queue, and it came in with plenty of time to read over the Christmas season.  I liked it, but didn’t love it – mainly because the book was made up largely of extracts of Christmas scenes from other books that Goudge wrote, and the scenes suffered from my lack of familiarity with all the characters and their backstories.  The trademark Goudge descriptive writing was wonderful, though.

The Santa Klaus Murder, by Mavis Doriel Hay – Finally, I got around to one of the BL Crime Classics holiday mysteries I had heaped up on my shelf!  I really enjoyed this.  It was a fun Christmas murder mystery, and I guessed the killer’s identity, which always makes me feel smart.  My only complaint is that the synopsis on the back cover gave away a fairly substantial twist and allowed me to eliminate a major suspect before I even opened the book, which seems like it could have been better though out.

Home For the Holidays (Mother-Daughter Book Club #5), by Heather Vogel Frederick – I’d been saving the fifth installment in my re-read of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series for December, and it was such fun to visit with the girls and the moms over the holidays.  As always, it also made me want to revisit the classics that the book club reads – the Betsy-Tacy books, in this case.

Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories, by Noel Streatfeild – This was a fast, fun read and really lovely.  I’ve never read any Noel Streatfeild before (I know, what is wrong with me?) and this slim little volume was a perfect companion for my commute on December 23.  I enjoyed each story, but I think “The Chain” was my favorite.

A Country Doctor’s Commonplace Book, by Philip Rhys Evans – After I unwrapped this wonderful, fun book on Christmas morning 2018, I decided that I should make it a tradition to read it every Christmas Day, and this was the second annual reading.  I laughed my way through it, as I did in 2018 as well.

A Christmas Party, by Georgette Heyer – My first Georgette Heyer was a fun murder mystery!  Grumpy old family patriarch Nathaniel Herriard is found stabbed to death on Christmas Eve in a locked bedroom.  There’s no shortage of motives among Herriard’s unwilling Christmas guests, but who had the opportunity, and how did they get in and out of the locked bedroom?  Again, I guessed the killer – which I love – and while I didn’t figure out the exact solution to the locked room mystery, I spotted the trail of clues that ultimately led to the answer.  So fun!

I Was A Stranger, by General Sir John Hackett – It was time to take a break from Christmas reading, so I piled up a big stack of books – some from my own shelves, and some new books from Christmas morning – to read over New Year’s week (provided I found any time…) and this was the first.  I’ve had this incredible World War II memoir on my TBR for ages, and it was one of the best things I read all year.

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year, ed. Jane McMorland Hunter – Finally!  I’ve been reading this in spurts all year long – well, since February, anyway.  The idea was to dip in each day and read the poem for that day; there were stretches where I did just that, and other stretches where I got behind and then caught up in a big gulp.  I love nature poetry, and this was a lovely book to spend the year with.

Quite a finish to 2019 reading!  It was a wonderful year – lots of classics, poetry, well-drawn characters, beautiful writing, really the whole picture.  The highlight this month had to be I Was A Stranger – a great way to finish off an excellent year of bookishness.  And now onward!  I have plans for more classics, more poetry, and more happy and contented bookworm moments in 2020.

How was your last month of 2019 reading?

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