Friday, December 31, 2021

What I Rejected in 2021

Here's the list of books I just couldn't stand to finish in 2021.

1. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer.   I’d read Under the Banner of Heaven years ago, so I thought this would be interesting. But, from the first chapter, I could tell that the author intended to excuse and glorify a whiny, immature 25-year-old man who refused to listen to anyone about the dangers of living rough in the Alaska wilderness, claiming he “knew” how to handle any eventuality. As we are now in the middle of a pandemic fueled by the willful ignorance of many, and as sane Americans are currently battling against MAGAts who refuse to listen to any sort of reason, I have less than zero sympathy for anyone who behaves like an overgrown 13-year-old.  I cannot tolerate a book which excuses someone like that.  1/5/21
2. Silence in Hanover Close by Anne Perry . Most of this series is readable because, even though the author has very little concept of a denouement and ends nearly every book at the climax, leaving many problems unsolved, her characterization is excellent and her plots are fairly clever.  However, in this particular novel, Charlotte (the protagonist) begins to behave in a stupid manner, which I cannot tolerate. 22% 2/10/21.
3.The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh.  SO MUCH BACKSTORY!  Ugh.  And, finally, when jewels are stolen, it’s so boring.  There’s no urgency in solving the crime at all. 44%  I’m too bored to finish. 2/21/21
 4. The Lost Manuscript by Cathy Bonidan.  So much hype, so little action.  I waited weeks for this ebook to be available, but it’s incredibly dull.  So, there’s a manuscript.  OK. But the characters are dated and dull beyond words.  There’s no driving reason why they should care about the ms, and the plot is drifting.  12% is all I could stand. 2/24/21
 5. Agatha Christie: The Murders at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah. I’ve read the others in this series, but this one was sooo slow! 25% of the way through and nothing has happened except Poirot and friend take a bus ride to some fancy estate and two women act up to get attention. Dull. 3/12/21
6. Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Sutanto.  I wanted to like this.  In fact, I did like the beginning in which the 20-something gal is set up on a date because her mother has been pretending to be her on a dating app.  But, when the protagonist accidentally kills the date, she turns into an idiot, tampering with the body instead of reporting it to the cops, even though she clearly was not to blame, as he’d basically kidnapped her.  I cannot abide stupid, silly, helpless women in real life, and I refuse to waste my time reading about fictional ones.  17% 6/10/21
 7. The Historian by Celia Ekback. So many names!  Maybe if I’d been reading a physical book where I could continually flip back to the “cast list” at the front of the book, I could have tolerated it, but this was a library ebook, and I was confused and bored by 3%. 8/24/21
 8. Lobizona by Romina Garber. I picked up this YA paranormal in order to check out more diversity in protagonists for my students. And since it has an undocumented Argentine girl as its protagonist, that checks out.  It’s not bad; the writing’s ok.  It’s mostly that the plot is such a tired one: teen discovers special powers and must use them to save the world.  But what really got me is that the author is one of those women on a quest to “normalize” menstruation by talking about it incessantly.  I happen to be another sort of woman, the sort who feels that it’s a miserable time of the month for most women and really nothing to be glorified, but rather something to be discussed academically in hopes of better treatments and/or more control.  Thus, the fact that Garber ties the protagonist’s werewolf condition and powers to her (really awful) periods, I found myself rolling my eyes. 80 pages. 6/30/21
9. Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian. I waited weeks and weeks for this ebook to be available -- and then was bored.  Also, I realized I didn’t want a book which dwells so much on the domestic abuse bur rather one about a woman who escapes/beats/rises above it/gets revenge.  3% 7/7/21
 10. Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee.  One would think a tale about the world’s most famous doomed ship would be interesting, but this is not so in this case.  At 14% into the book, I am bored and confused.  Lee never mentions what job Valora’s brother Jamie has that brings him with other Chinese men onto the ship, and she never explains why Valora has a ticket (which she can’t use) through the presumably wealthy Mrs. Sloanes.  Does Valora work for her?  If so, why is she dressed as though she’s wealthy?  None of this is clear, yet the author proceeds as if it is.  Then she spends pages and pages of Valora hunting through third-class to find her brother, a poor method of introducing the reader to that area of the ship.  The characters feel like types: the poor, half-breed kid experiencing racism; the suspicious man in charge who will cause trouble later; the mysterious, glamorous, helpful woman; the older men stuck in their ways who distrust all Westerners; the brother who thinks his sister is incapable.  Add to that the fact that the reader knows the boat will sink, and the plot is already predictable at 14%.  7/12/21.
  11. First: The Life of Emma Smith by Jennifer Reeder I was expecting a biography as good as Mormon Enigma, but I was severely disappointed.
First of all, the book is very slim; there's just not much there for a biography written for adults.  And then it reads like a Relief Society manual, skimming over anything controversial.  Clearly, this book seeks NOT TO OFFEND.
It's disappointing.  Emma was not a bland woman; this book washes out all the color.
I became suspicious upon finding both a horrendously garbled sentence (a misplaced modifier made it laughable) and a misused word ("genres" where "roles" was needed) in the first paragraph of the introduction, as it was obvious there was no careful editing in the book. By ten pages in, I was bored.
So, if you want a bland, inoffensive, short read about Emma Smith, go ahead and grab this one.  Otherwise, read Mormon Enigma; it's much better.  7/15/21
12. The King’s Guard by Rae Carson.  I’d just finished Empire of Dreams by Carson, and this was just too similar a tale.  7/20/21  35%
13. Scorched Eggs by Laura Child.  The building next door blows up, showering glass everywhere, and the protagonist is unhurt, although only a few feet away when it happens.  And no one else in the building notices the explosion.  Riiiiiiiight.   So stupid.  Yes, cozies are supposed to be light and fluffy, but sometimes they’re just plain ridiculous and cartoonish.  30 pages. 7/24/21
14. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen.  The characterization is good, but the crime (murder) does not occur until the very end of chapter 11.  A murder mystery should not take half the book to get to the crime.  There is so much unnecessary detail for a murder mystery! Does Bowen think she’s Victor Hugo or something?  I’m surprised this even got published; it’s so rambling.  7/25/21
 15. A Fiancee’s Guide To First Wives and Murder by Dianne Freeman.  In real life, I cannot stand lying, scheming women who get away with things because they’re pretty, and I don’t waste my time reading about them.  Roughly three chapters. 8/2/21 historical mystery
16. The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams.  This book sounded so very good, but the description failed to mention that the protagonist is a self-styled victim who never, ever stands up for herself.  I loathe women like this in real life, and after 145 pages of a simpering Fanny Price-type wimp, I could stand no more.  She is ghastly.  Ugh.  9/18/21
 17. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher memoir. It was interesting until she actually started reprinting the diaries; then it was all starry-eyed drooling over Harrison Ford and not much about the filming. 155 pages.  11/2/21
18. A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier. YA The setting (a hotel is Switzerland) was interesting, but the protagonist was so dumb and the other characters were so very cardboard.  Ugh.  Mediocre YA drivel.  107 pages. 11/3/21
19. A Conspiracy of Silence by Sabrina Flynn. So much gratuitous violence and so many characters with no backstory!  95 pages. historical mystery. 12/20/21
20. The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes.   I don’t do books which portray rape as “sexy.” Ugh. Internalized misogyny, anyone? 59 pages. 12/27/21

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Review of House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland




House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland is a perfect example of how an author’s lack of research can undermine an otherwise decent book.
Let’s note the good in this book first: 1) The depth of characterization is really quite decent for YA. 2) The plot and pacing are good.  There are some surprise twists, and there is plenty of action.  Nothing drags, nothing is jammed in awkwardly, and nothing is confusing.
The basic conflict in the book is that three sisters (of the Hollow family) disappear at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, in the liminal moment between worlds, then reappear a month later -- but they’re not quite the same girls they were.  This is fine.  The reader gets to wonder if this is a kidnapping, a changeling situation, or something else.
The problem is that Sutherland has the Hollow family from London, but they speak American English, not British English.  And worse than that is that the initial disappearance of the girls and a significant part of the action when they try to return to the general area of their disappearance to try to solve the mystery takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland.  And it’s extremely apparent that not only has Sutherland never set foot in the city before, but also that she didn’t bother with more than five minutes of Google.
She gets two things right: 1) she describes the ruins of St. Anthony’s and the location (in Holyrood Park) well enough, and 2) she identifies St. Giles Cathedral as being in Old Town.  But the rest is ridiculously off.
The most ridiculous thing of all is that she has the girls disappear on an apparently otherwise deserted “lane” on Edinburgh’s Old Town on the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Five seconds with Google tells anyone that Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration is huge and jammed with people.  True, Prince’s Street Gardens are the most jammed, but Old Town is not going to be “deserted.”  If the girls had been sucked into a crowd of people and then disappeared, this would be understandable, but they’re not; there’s no one around when it happens, which is just stupid.  With this, the hingepoint for the entire plot becomes weak and silly.
Sutherland also has the Hollow girls grandparents live in a “house” in Old Town, and they disappear into the doorway of a burned-out “house” as well.  But the only actual houses in Old Town now are museums.  There are flats above stores and such, but there are no houses, not like she describes.  She also repeatedly refers to bricks in these houses and cobblestone streets, but most of the buildings of Old Town are stone, and the streets are set stone, not cobblestone.  Plus, she refers to a “warren” of “lanes” in Old Town.  Any map or map app will show that 1) they are not “lanes” but narrow alley-like walkways called “closes” (so nope, that ambulance didn’t drive down one as she has happen), and 2) these closes stick out from The Royal Mile like fishbones off a spine; they don’t curve and wander about at all.
Granted, some of what I listed is my being picky.  But all of it, and especially the fact that she has Edinburgh deserted at night -- and on Hogmanay no less! -- shows laziness and lack of research on the author’s part, and on the editor’s part as well.  A couple of hours’ research could’ve cleared up most of these problems.  Or, if the author is too lazy even for that, she could’ve solved the whole problem by creating a fictional Scottish village ( See Also: Brigadoon) where all this happens instead of assuming her readers are all as ignorant and lazy as she is.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Why Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book Is Relevant Again In 2021



The Doomsday Book is nearly 30 years old now, and I read it the first time when it was new.  I loved it!  The characterization is so incredibly in-depth and realistic, even for the children and pre-teens in the story (so many “adult” writers have real problems writing believable young characters), for one thing.  And the plot structure is amazing.  Not only does Willis create parallel health crises in two separate time periods (the first half of the 14th Century and the middle of the 21st Century), but she also creates parallel characters who deal with these crises.  (For example, Lady Imeyne and “the Gallstone” are highly-irritating, bossy older women who love to criticize; Father Roche and Mr. Dunworthy are both father figures for Kivrin, who seems to have no parents of her own; and Gawyn and Badri seem to have all the answers which would solve the problems, yet each is inaccessible for most of the novel, badly frustrating Kivrin and Dunworthy, respectively.)
I got this book approved by the school district for which I work and used it as a sci-fi option for years with my 9-grade gifted classes.  In the ‘90s, kids loved it.  But, by about 2008, they began to complain.  Teens simply couldn’t get past the fact that Willis had not envisioned either the Internet or cell phones, and thus the fact that several major plot points hang on the lack of communication in the future (2054, to be exact) overshadowed for them all the fabulous writing.
By 2015 or so, I gave up.  I still loved the book (and its incredible sequels: To Say Nothing Of The Dog, Black Out, and All Clear), but it wasn’t worth listening to kids whine about the lack of cell phones.
 But it’s now 2021, and it’s time to look at The Doomsday Book again and be astounded at what Willis did predict -- entirely too well.
Of course, the historical plot, wherein Kivrin deals with a village devastated by the Plague, Willis did with research.  And she describes a realistic variety of suffering and death.  All this readers could appreciate from the time the book was published.
But Willis has a parallel plague: a flu epidemic in the Oxford area in 2054.  And she anticipates so very much about a 21st Century epidemic/pandemic that it’s well-past time readers stopped brushing off the book as somehow bad because she didn’t predict cell phones.  Let me list for you a few things Willis did predict:
1) In the book, there has been a deadly pandemic in 2014.  She was only 5 years off for the beginning of the real one.
2) In her 2054 epidemic in Oxford (which remains a localized epidemic because of lessons learned from the 2014 pandemic), Willis has the following happen, all of which eerily anticipate what actually occurred in the COVID-19 pandemic:
2a) Racism. Badri, a 3rd-generation Englishman of Pakistani descent, is the first-known victim of the disease. In various scenes, crowds protest, holding signs about the “Indian flu.”  This anticipates the “China virus” rants of RW Americans in 2020.
2b) Shortages.  Almost immediately, there is a shortage of toilet paper in Oxford, and this fact becomes almost a running gag throughout the story. However, it’s uncanny that Willis predicted what became the first major shortage of the real pandemic.  Other shortages in the novel which mirror real life include what we call PPE and masks, as well as fresh food items.
2c) Anti-maskers.  True, in Willis’ story, there aren’t groups protesting masks specifically, but many characters forget or refuse to wear them, which, of course, causes much faster spreading of the virus.
2d) Protestors.  Willis has several scenes which include people protesting government quarantines and ranting about their rights.  These characters always seem to feel that their own freedom to do whatever they want should not be even temporarily curtailed in the interest of their own health and that of others.  This is so very much like the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers still ranting away well into 2021 that it’s almost scary.
2e)A leader who ignores science in order to gain popularity with a vocal minority.  In the novel, it is impossible for a virus to travel from the past to the future or vice versa if it would change the course of history.  In this fictional world, this piece of science has been repeatedly proven.  Yet, Gilchrist, the acting head of the Oxford University department running the time drop, loves his power so much that he takes up the anti-science position that the flu virus causing the epidemic in the city of Oxford somehow arrived in 2054 when Kivrin travelled to the past, so he closes down “the drop,” shutting off the computer system and stranding her in the past, because, by so doing, he can claim to have taken decisive action to “prevent” the worsening of the epidemic.  He happily sacrifices Kivrin’s safety in order to boost his power and role in the perception of an anti-science minority.

That’s a long list of predictions that Willis DID get right; it’s time for readers to get over their hang ups about her not envisioning cell phones (although she did envision Skyping, just on a dial-up desktop rather than a cellphone) and realize that she did a really great job with predicting other things in the midst of her fabulous plot and character skills.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Book Review: How To Behave Badly In Elizabethan England by Ruth Goodman


Like many people, I've been absolutely enthralled with the BBC historical videos featuring Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Alex Langlands living in historically recreated situations, generally for a full year at a time (Tales From The Green Valley, Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, etc.).  Once I realized that Goodman was the same "historian" from those videos, I couldn't wait to buy and read this book.

Note: I put "historian" in quotes for a reason.  Goodman presents herself as a historian and calls herself one, and she has a long list of ways in which she has been used as an "expert" on history, but, in a December 13, 2020, podcast on Everyday Life In Tudor England, she revealed that she is not actually a trained historian, but rather a person who has read a lot of history.  And the difference is quite apparent in this book.

First of all, there's the title. The book claims to be about Elizabethan England, but Goodman covers a period of time from Henry VIII to the Roundheads vs. the Cavaliers, in other words, not just the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but a nearly 200-year period of time.   That's an odd mistake for a so-called historian to make.

I shrugged off the title at first, but then I began to notice little details in her assertions which did not agree with details about history I've read in numerous other books.  (Side note: Since I teach Shakespeare, I read A LOT about Tudor and Stewart history from a wide variety of authors.)  For example, when Goodman talks about customs regarding men's removing their hats when bowing, she  ignores/seems unaware of the importance of the TYPE of hat a man wore, which was a very important class distinction. (See, for example, Neil MacGregor's Shakespeare's Restless World.)  And when she talks about which different colors of dye in clothing were popular and how the wearers were viewed for choosing those colors, Goodman never even mentions Elizabethan sumptuary laws, which literally spell out who could wear what type of clothing.  How can a writer calling herself a historian omit such obvious and well-known information?

But what really irritated me was her errors on Shakespeare, possibly the easiest source to check.  When Goodman claims that all the sword fighting in Romeo and Juliet was done with rapiers because swashbuckling was out of style by the 1590s, she completely disregards research that's been around since the 1990s on the subject AND Shakespeare's own script.  Mercutio has lengthy speeches making fun of Tybalt's newfangled Italian rapier fighting; he clearly uses the older style, likely with a bastard sword and a buckler.  But Goodman seems unaware of this, as if she, a person who as been hired as a historical resource for the Globe Theatre in London, has not even bothered to read the play.  Then, later in the book, she refers to the duel between Cesario (really Viola) and Sir Andrew Aguecheeck in the play 12th Night, but claims that the fight is broken up by the arrival of Viola's brother.  Three minutes with a Wikipedia summary of the plot will tell a reader that the fight is broken up by the arrival of Antonio, Viola's brother's friend, who believes the cross-dressed Viola is actually her twin brother.  If Goodman cannot be bothered to check such an easy-to-find source and is that casual with details, I cannot really trust her on her other claims in the book.

Thus, while Goodman is a delightful presenter in the numerous videos and podcasts in which she appears and has a light, easy-to-read style in her writing, I question her claims now.  She has revealed her lack of training and her lack of attention to both others' research and details in the sources she does mention.  She gives a bibliography in this book, but she gives no endnotes, footnotes, or citations for the claims she makes.  I would suggest reading her work with caution, as she seems to write rather like a first-year university study who is confident s/he has ALL the information when, in reality, s/he has only scratched the surface.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

What I Read And What I Rejected In 2020

 I've been keeping these lists since 2007.  Usually, I read right around 120 books a year, an average of 10 books a month.  But this year, because of the pandemic, I read 200 books.  As usual, they are mostly mysteries: historical, crime, and cozy.  These are my "entertainment" books, and I do read a LOT of them, but there is plenty of non-fiction and a little steampunk mixed in.

Following my very thorough list of what I read is a list of books I rejected, but I'm not as thorough here, and there are probably at least another 2 dozen books I began and then tossed aside because they were awful.  Sometimes I forget to update that list.

Unfortunately, the numbers won't copy over.  Please trust me that there are 200 books on the list of what I read and 19 on the list of what I rejected.

What I Read:

Behind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 1/1/20
 A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/3/20
Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/5/20
Amid The Winter’s Snow by Tasha Alexander * historical “mystery” 1/5/20
Maryellen, the One and Only by Valerie Tripp **** MG historical 1/6/20
Maryellen Taking Off by Valerie Tripp **** MG Historical **** 1/6/20
Shot Through the Hearth by Kate Carlisle **** cozy 1/11/20
An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage **** non-fiction, food 1/12/20
 Farm Fresh Murder by Paige Shelton (again) **** cozy 1/13/20
 Fruit of All Evil by Paige Shelton (again) ***** cozy 1/14/20
 A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/19/20
 A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 1/20/20
 Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 1/21/20
 Dangerous To Know by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/23/20
 Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** YA steampunk paranormal 1/26/20
12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose (again) (2A) **** drama 1/27/20
 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose (again) (1B) **** drama 1/28/20
 Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger (2nd time) ****YA steampunk/paranormal 1/28/20
 Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** YA steampunk/paranormal 1/29/20
 Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** YA steampunk/paranormal 1/31/20
 Death In The Floating City by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/3/20
 Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson **** YA mystery 2/4/20
 The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/9/20
 The Adventuress by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/10/20
 How To Be A Tudor by Ruth Goodman **** non-fiction, history 2/13/20
 That Silent Night by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/14/20
 Black Tie Murder by Sara Rosett **** historical mystery 2/16/20
 A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander *** historical mystery 2/16/20
 Danger at the Drawbridge by Mildred A. Wirt **** MG mystery 2/17/20
 Star of the East by Tasha Alexander *** historical mystery 2/17/20
 Uneasy Lies the Crown by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 2/19/20
 Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal **** historical A/A 2/22/20
Artist Trading Card Workshop by Bernie Berlin **** non-fiction, crafts 2/23/20
 Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power by D. Michael Quinn ***** non-fiction, religion, history 2/29/20
 The Green Door by Mildred Wirt **** MG mystery 3/3/20
 Tiny Treasures  by AG Library *** non-fiction, crafts 3/7/20
 Salt Dough by AG Library **** non-fiction, crafts 3/8/20
 Fairies by Rachel Haab **** non-fiction, crafts 3/8/20
 Making Mini Books by Sherri Haab non-fiction, crafts 3/8/20
 Homicide For The Holidays by Cheryl Honingfor ** historical mystery 3/18/20
 Same-Sex Dynamics Among 19th-Century Americans: A Mormon Example by D Michael Quinn  (2nd time) ***** non-fiction, history 3/20/20
 Broken Bone China by Laura Childs cozy mystery *** 3/22/20
 In The Shadow of Vesuvius by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 3/26/20
 Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit by Patricia Marcantonio ****historical mystery 3/29/20
 Prudence by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** steampunk 3/31/20
 Imprudence by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** steampunk 4/4/20
 Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal **** historical mystery 4/8/20
 Competence by Gail Carriger **** steampunk 4/11/20
 Reticence by Gail Carriger **** stampunk 4/12/20
 The Decent Inn of Death by Rennie Airth *** historical mystery 4/15/20
 Murder in the Manor by Fiona Grace *** cozy mystery 4/16/20
 Tale of the Witch Doll by Mildred A Wirt *** YA/MG mystery 4/17/20
 Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen **** 4/19/20
Digging Up History by Sheila Connolly ** cozy mystery 4/20/20
 Good Mail Day by Hinchcliff and Wheeler *** non-fiction, crafts 4/21/20
 The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel *** MG mystery 4/22/20
 A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/23/20
 The September Society by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/24/20
 Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson non-fiction, cookbook **** 4/26/20
  The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/26/20
 The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/30/20
 A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/3/20
 Burial at Sea by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/3/20
 American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson  **** non-fiction biography 5/4/20
 A Death in the Small Hours by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/4/20
 An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/7/20
 The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/9/20
 Home By Nightfall by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/10/20
 A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn ***** historical mystery 5/19/20
 Dead Man’s Bones by Susan Wittig Albert **** cozy mystery 5/21/20
 London: A Travel Guide Through Time by Dr. Matthew Green ***** non-fiction, history 5/24/20
 Revenge of the Barbary Ghost by Virginia Hamilton *** historical mystery 5/25/20
 The Vanishing Houseboat by Mildred A Wirt. *** MG mystery 5/27/20
 Foods That Will Win The War And How To Cook Them 1918 by Charles Houston **** vintage cookbook 5/20/20
 At Wit’s End by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 5/31/20
 Pressed To Death by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 5/31/20
 Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/1/20
 Chocolate a la murder by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/2/20
 The Quiche and the Dead by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/3/20
 Bleeding Tarts by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/4/20
 Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen *** non-fiction, writing 6/7/20
 Dread Nation by Justina Ireland **** YA paranormal alt-history dystopia 6/8/20
 A Murder For The Books by Victoria Gilbert **** cozy mystery 6/10/20
 The Inheritance by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 6/11/20
 The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 6/13/20
 Gone Before Christmas by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 6/14/20
 Murder At The Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell **** historical mystery 6/15/20
 An East End Murder by Charles Finch ** historical mystery 6/16/20
 The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/17/20
 A Lady In The Smoke by Karen Odden **** historical A/A 6/18/20
 Requiem For A Mezzo by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/19/20
 Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/19/20
 Damsel In Distress by Carola Dunn *** historical mystery 6/20/20
 Dead in the Water by Carola Dunn *** historical mystery 6/21/20
 Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/21/20
 Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/22/20
 Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson *** historical mystery 6/23/20
 To Davy Jones Below by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/24/20
 The Case of the Murdered Muckraker by Carola Dunn ***** historical mystery 6/24/20
 Mistletoe and Murder by Carola Dunn ***** historical mystery 6/25/20
 Die Laughing by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/26/20
 Mourning Wedding by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/27/20
 Fall of a Philanderer by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/27/20
 Gunpowder Plot by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/28/20
 The Bloody Tower by Carola Dunn *** historical mystery 6/30/20
 Black Ship by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/1/20
 Sheer Folly by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/4/20
 Anthem For A Doomed Youth *** historical mystery 7/6/20
 The Last Passenger by Charles Finch *** historical mystery 7/8/20
 Gone West by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/10/20
 Heirs of the Body by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/11/20
 Superfluous Women by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/13/20
 The Longest Yard Sale by Sherry Harris *** cozy 7/16/20
 The Secret Library by Oliver Teale *** non-fiction 7/18/20
 All Murders Final by Sherry Harris *** cozy 7/19/20
 A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George **** crime 7/20/20
 Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George **** crime 7/22/20
 The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion *** historical fiction 7/23/20
 Butch Cassidy by Robert Patterson *** non-fiction, biography 7/24/20
 A View To A Kilt by Kaitlyn Dunnett *** cozy mystery 7/31/20
 Tart of Darkness by Denise Swanson *** cozy 8/1/20
Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George **** mystery 8/2/20
  Leave No Scone Unturned by Denise Swanson ** cozy 8/5/20
 Silent in the Sanctuary by DeAnna Raybourn **** historical mystery 8/15/20
 The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz ***** non-fiction (again) 8/15/20
 A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George *** mystery 8/16/20
 The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison **** (3rd time) mystery  8/18/20
 The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne historical mystery by Elsa Hart *** 8/19/20
 The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie mystery **** 8/21/20
 Peril at End House by Agatha Christie **** (again) mystery 8/21/20
 The Last Seance by Agatha Christie **** 8/24/20
 Silent in the Grave by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/25/20
 Silent on the Moor by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/25/20
 Midsummer Night by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/27/20
 Dark Road to Darjeeling by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/28/20
 The Dark Enquiry by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery ** 8/28/20
 Silent Night by DeAnna Raybourn *** historical mystery 8/30/20
 Feral Attraction by Eileen Watkins **** cozy 8/30/20
 12th Night by Deanna Raybourn **** historical mystery 8/31/20
 The Persian Always Meows Twice by Eileen Watkins cozy 9/1/20
 Bonfire Night by Deanna Raybourn **** historical mystery 9/1/20
 The Bengal Identity by Eileen Watkins **** cozy 9/3/20
 Gone, Kitty, Gone by Eileen Watkins **** cozy 9/4/20
 Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennet **** YA A/A 9/8/20
 The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay by Lisa Shafer (again) ***** YA paranormal 9/8/20
 Nerissa MacKay and the Secrets of the Seventeen Scrolls (again) by Lisa Shafer ***** YA paranormal 9/9/20
 For The Sake Of Elena by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/10/20
 Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/11/20
 Deadly Curious by Cindy Anstey ** YA historical mystery 9/13/20
 Playing For The Ashes by Elizabeth George ** mystery 9/17/20
 In The Presence of the Enemy by Elizabeth George ***** mystery 9/19/20
 Deception On His Mind by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/20/20
 In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner by Elizabeth George *** mystery 9/22/20
 A Traitor To Memory by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/24/20
 With No One As Witness by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/26/20
 Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson **** historical mystery 9/30/20
 Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chen *** cozy 10/3/20
 The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths *** mystery 10/4/20
  The House At Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths *** mystery 10/5/20
 Careless in Red by Elizabeth George *** mystery 10/7/20
 This Body of Death by Elizabeth George **** 10/9/20
 Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George **** mystery 10/13/20
 Wicked Autumn by GM Malliet **** cozy mystery 10/19/20
 Fatal Winter by GM Malliet **** cozy 10/23/20
 800 Award-Winning Scrapbook Pages ed by Lisa Bearnson *** non-fiction, crafts 10/24/20
 Pagan Spring by GM Malliet **** cozy 10/25/20
 The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn (again) **** non-fiction, crafts 10/26/20
 A Roomful of Bones by Elly Griffiths **** crime 10/27/20
 A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/3/20
 The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/4/20
 The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/7/20
 Case Histories by Kate Atkinson *** crime/mystery 11/8/20
 The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/9/20
 The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/10/20
 The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/11/20
 Kahlo by Andrea Kettenmann *** non-fiction, biography 11/13/20
 Getting the Most From Your Rice Cooker by Colleen & Bob Simmons **** non-fiction, cookbook 11/14/20
 Captain Dave’s Boathouse by Andrew Culver ** mystery 11/14/20
 Ruth’s First Christmas Tree by Elly Griffiths * mystery  11/16/20
 No Ordinary Sound by Denise Lewis Patrick **** MG historical 11/22/20
 Never Stop Singing by Denisse Lewis Patrick **** MG historical 11/22/20
 The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/27/20
 A Demon Summer by GM Malliet **** mystery 11/30/20
 The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths **** crime 12/2/20
 The Haunted Season by GM Malliet *** mystery 12/3/20
 Devil’s Breath by GM Malliet *** mystery 12/5/20
 In Priory Wood by GM Malliet *** mystery 12/6/20
 Monarch: The Life And Reign Of Elizabeth II by Robert Lacey **** non-fiction, biography 12/8/20
 How To Make Christmas Wreaths And Garlands by Maddy Shaw *** non-fiction, crafts 12/9/20
 Thin Ice by Paige Shelton (2nd time) **** mystery 12/10/20
 Cold Wind by Paige Shelton **** mystery 12/12/20
 Real Food, Fake Food by  Larry Olmstead ** non-fiction 12/15/20
 Arsenic in the Azaleas by Dale Mayer *** cozy 12/17/20
 Victorian Farm by Peter Giin, Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands ***** non-fiction, history 12/20/20
 The Wickenham Murders by Amy Mayers *** cozy 12/21/20
 The Hound of the Baskervilles (again) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ***** mystery 12/22/20
 Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice by Marjorie Shaffer *** non-fiction, food history 12/28/20
 Salsas and Moles by Deborah Schneider **** cookbook 12/28/20
 The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (3rd time) *** mystery 12/30/20
 Edwardian Farm by Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman, and Alex Langlands ***** non-fiction, history 12/30/20

What I Rejected:

The Shadow of Death by James Runcie. THE most invertebrate “detective” ever!  No personality, does everything everyone asks of him.  Also, the writing style is almost entirely all short, simple declarative sentences, subject/verb/complement.  It’s like reading one of those Hi-Lo books for adults who never learned to read higher than a 3rd grade level.  Absolutely exasperating.  198 pages historical mystery 2/13/20
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis. I read about half of it and kept thinking it would start moving faster.  It never did. 3/5/20
The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicholas Meyer. So much running around with nothing happening. No tension. Lots of racism.  Not at all in the style of Conan-Doyle, although the author seems to think he’s doing a pastiche, he’s not even close. About 40% of the book read 3/21/20
 The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason. I know steampunk isn’t supposed to be historically accurate, but when the author has England growing cotton and importing wool in the 1880s without any explanation (like a huge climate change), I’m left to assume that the author is just plain stupid. Four chapters. 3/23/20
His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal. I liked the first two books in the series, but in this episode, the protagonist is sent into Berlin in the middle of WWII, and it was just far too stupid.  I cannot abide stupidity in a protagonist.  Five chapters.  4/5/20
Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Victoria Hamilton.  About two chapters was all I could take.  It was so hilariously bad!  The author has tried to write a Gothic thriller, but it just does not work in the 21st century!  It’s simply too stupid.  I’ve seen 9th graders write better plot beginnings than this. 4/20/20.
Murder in Millionaires Row... stupid protagonist.  April, 202
How To Be  A Heroine.  I grew bored after chapter one. May, 2020
The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas  I’ve liked others in this series, but she’s made the characters into caricatures of themselves now, and I’m irritated 33%. May 15, 2020
 The Year 1000 by Valerie Hansen.  OK, but it drags a bit, and I ran out of time on ebook loan.  May 15, 2020
 The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber.  I waited SIX WEEKS for this ebook to become available, and then I found out it’s Outlander fanfic.  Sooooooooo bad!  Huber clearly knows NOTHING about Scots or Gaelic or Scottish English.  Then the protagonist is weak and  timid and the love interest is a pretty boy jerk.  Spare me.  I made it through two chapters before I gave up. 5/2020
 The Plot Is Murder by VM Burns. Trying to find more diverse authors for my classroom library and needing mystery genre books, I decided to read this cozy.  But the protagonist is a wannabe cozy author, so the reader is given pages and pages of the cozy the protag is writing before the plot even starts!  Ugh. 38 pages 6/6/20
 Shelved for Murder by Victoria Gilbert. 4 chapters.  The author knows nothing about either artists or dancers, yet she blissfully writes about artists and dancers.  She confuses linseed oil with turpentine and has the victim stabbed with a palette knife.  A palette knife might work for slicing an artery, but they’re too flimsy to use to stab someone in the chest. 6/14/20
Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford  about five chapters.  It was actually pretty decent, but it was a bit gruesome, and I just wasn’t in the mood for it.  Maybe later. 6/20/20
 A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody.  The author is in love with telling instead of showing; the whole murder scene (with the murder happening right next to the protagonist) is TOLD.  Everything is passive.  Also, the author switches between first person POV and 3rd person omniscient POV, a combination which really does not work.  The writing style is choppy.  I made it through 48% and gave up when a murder was described in a passive manner.  8/1/20
 woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez  dull
 The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee 16%. I waited weeks for this to be available and it’s dull.  8/14/20
 Mexican Gothic. I really liked this at first, as it seemed to be that the heroine was going to be the rescuer instead of the victim (like in traditional gothic fiction), but then she began doing stupid things that made no sense with her personality and the circumstances.  As I cannot abide a stupid, weak protagonist, I stopped reading at 57%. 9/7/20
 Last Chance For Murder by Estelle Richards.  Cozy mysteries can be really good or really awful.  This one seemed promising....until the protagonist began making dumber and dumber decisions.  I cannot abide a stupid protagonist, particularly a female one. I stopped reading at 52% and deleted the whole (thankfully FREE) series from my kindle app. 12/26/20