Books 17 through 25
17. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum. I finished this short, sweet story in a couple of days. It's quite charming, and serves as the basis of one of the Rankin Bass Christmas features. I can see this as a good book to read to children during the holiday season, perhaps a chapter or three at a time. It's quite imaginative, delving into how Santa Claus came to be. Fair warning: there are a few differences between what is "convention" and what is mentioned here. The biggest example are the names of the reindeer. However, I'm sure parents can work around this. All in all, it made me smile and feel nostalgic.
18. A Girl's Got to Breathe: The Life of Teresa Wright, by Donald Spoto. This was an engaging biography on actress Teresa Wright, whose career spanned about five decades. A huge plus for this bio is that the author knew Teresa and her second husband, Bob Anderson incredibly well. Many of the quotes and notes are directly from Teresa, Bob, and others first-hand. The prologue was a bit rough- it took 10 pages to even mention Teresa Wright. The book does tend to meander in the beginning but it smooths out. All in all, it kept my interest, and I would recommend it to others.
19. Haunted Franklin Castle, by William G. Krejci and John W. Myers. I had the chance to listen to a talk by Krejci at one of the local libraries before buying this book there, so I knew what it would cover. My one nit is people picking this up may expect it to be chock-full of stories about purported hauntings, especially given the title and the cover art. Oh, there are stories about possible paranormal encounters, but that encompasses about a quarter of the book. Maybe. The bulk of the history covers just that: the history of Franklin Castle. Now, that is fascinating in and of itself, even without the ghosts. Krejci and Myers especially spend considerable time debunking the many, many legends and myths surrounding the unique structure, particularly the tales about Hannes Tiedemann and his family. For example, the stories about Tiedemann being a tyrant and possibly murdering his own children, including three infants? Total fallacy. So, again, someone looking for a book full of paranormal happenings may be disappointed. But those who like local history, not the mention the truth, should add this one to their shelves.
20. The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn. Oh my gosh, I cannot say enough good things about this novel. It is far and away the BEST book I've read in 2019, and there was some fierce competition. Wow. I highly recommend this to anyone. This is a longer book but I finished it in a week. I hated putting it down. This is historical fiction, centered on two women from different eras that find their paths crossing. There is an excellent afterward at the end, where Quinn talks about what was factual and what was fictionalized. The two main heroines, Charlotte and Eve, are fiction (although they have loose inspirations in history), but many of the people and events surrounding them happened. The chapters alternate from Charlotte's view and Eve's. Most of Eve's chapters take place during World War I, where she served as a spy in occupied France against the Germans. Charlotte's chapters take place a few years after World War II. They come together after Charlotte seeks out Eve in the search for her beloved cousin. Both women have been broken by life, each harboring several personal tragedies. By coming together, they start to heal. I don't want to say much more, I've never been much for giving spoilers. But do yourself a favor and read this. You are welcome.
21. A Map of Days, by Ransom Riggs. This newest Miss Peregrine book takes place immediately after the third book. The Hollowgasts and wights that terrorized the peculiar children in the first three books are largely a thing of the past, but Jacob and the others soon find out that other dangers still exist. Jacob and several other peculiar children venture through modern day America (with some time loop travel) on an unsupervised adventure after stumbling across a secret room in Jacob's grandfather's old house. This is possibly the most complex and nuanced book yet, and certainly the most political, as Jacob discovers just how different the peculiar world is in America. I'm not sure I liked one element in the very end, but I will withhold judgement until the next book- and make no mistake, there will be another book, I'm certain. And this makes me very, very happy.
22. Gertrude and Claudius, by John Updike. I've thought for some time that a story from Claudius' point of view had potential. Updike sort of beat me to it, in this book that serves as a sort of prequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet, while delving into a bit of the history of that time. The first couple of pages took some getting used to, with the different names and the language. Also, the very beginning was a little weak, even melodramatic. However, stick with it, because it gets much better after the first couple of pages. After the rocky start, I had trouble putting this one down. While the names are different for much of the book (Hamlet is Amleth, for example), it's still easy to tell one character from the other. Fans of Hamlet should enjoy this book.
23. Night, by Eli Wiesel. This short autobiography is short but intense. Incredibly intense. Each chapter includes at least one punch-to-the-gut moment. Wiesel, who lived in Romania as a teen during World War II, was sent to the concentration camps with his family and neighbors during the last years of the war. Before Germany invaded, his town was more or less ignorant of the Nazi threat, and this would prove costly. Wiesel's first-hand account is told with a brutal honest, and not just about the war or the conditions of the camps, but with himself. More than once, I was moved to tears. A must read for those who care about history.
24. A Feast for Crows, by George RR Martin. This fourth saga concentrates on about half of the main characters (with the other half covered in the next installment). Again, really enjoyed this book. It had more than a few surprises. There was one character introduced I'm not sure I like; the person seems a bit superfluous, but I'll withhold judgement until the end of the series. I really liked Samwell's development in this, as he slowly begins to gain confidence in his journey with Gilly and the baby to become a maester. Also really liking Arya Stark's character, and the development of Jaime and Brienne.
25. A Dance With Dragons, by George RR Martin. The fifth book, and last one published so far. The action in this runs simultaneously with the fourth book, but from different viewpoints. Much of the book deals with Daenerys Targaryen, directly and indirectly. At this point word of the Queen of Dragons is spreading, and there are several trying to find her for one of three purposes: seek her hand, kill her, or ally with her. That final one is the main goal of Tyrion Lannister, who is on the run. In this book you also begin to see clearly what was only hinted at: what a monster Ramsey Bolton is. Wow, he is quite possibly the most evil character in the series. His physical and psychological tortures, and his glee from inflicting them, is blood chilling. It also continues the story with Cercei Lannister, whose blunder in the last book regarding the Sparrows becomes all too clear here. My only complaint is that now I have to wait for the sixth book. Drat.
Currently reading: Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Throw Like a Woman, by Susan Petrone, and The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You, by Lydia Fenet.