Phyl's 5 Phaves for December and January

For the last two months I've largely been focused on my quiltmaking. I had a couple of quilts I needed to finish for Christmas that I showed off here. I finished two more quilts in January that I'll show off shortly. And I'm busy working on several others. All that sewing hasn't left as much time for reading. I still read a lot, but I see that my recent reading lists (see sidebar) are full of shorter categories and novellas.

So, in the interest of catching up, and acknowledging that I can't come up with 10 books that really stood out as above average from December and January, here are five:

5. A Hometown Boy by Janice Kay Johnson. Johnson is no stranger to tough topics, and boy did she tackle one here. In one of those odd--and in this case extremely sad--coincidences, this book about the aftermath of a mass shooting was published within weeks of the Newtown school shooting. David Owen is called back to his small hometown in eastern Washington when he learns that his older brother went on a shooting spree, killing half a dozen people before turning the gun on himself. One of the people Robbie killed was the father of an old friend, Acadia Henderson. Acadia, now living and working as a nurse in San Francisco comes home to bury her father and finds her old attraction to David is alive and well in spite of the horrific acts committed by David's brother. Johnson's book explores issues of mental illness, shame, guilt, forgiveness, and more. It's an ambitious book with a believable romance between David and Acadia woven through it. To be honest, I go back and forth at how well the book as a whole succeeds because so many issues are touched on and this is a category-length romance. The small town setting creates a fairy tale feeling about how easily many people rally around David and his mother. BUT, it really got me thinking more about the conversations we're having these days about how we treat mental illness in our society, and I consider that a good thing. I think this book is well worth a read if you can handle the emotional issues covered here; it is certainly not a light read.

4. Grease Monkey Jive by Ainslie Paton. I saw a lot of chatter on Twitter about this one and was eventually persuaded to buy it. The price was right and I'm a fan of Dancing With the Stars. I figured a book involving a ballroom dancing competition would be fun in spite of all of the warnings about the editing and formatting problems. And it was fun. It's amazing what you can overlook sometimes. This book is Australian-set and has not been "Americanized" for North American readers--thank goodness! It was great to read something with language that was obviously idiomatic, yet context gave me plenty of clues to figure out when a word meant something different than I was used to. This was a story with a perfect combination of humor and emotion about Alex Gordon who needs a temporary stand-in dance partner to stay alive in a ballroom dance competition. The dancer she and her injured partner find, Dan Maddox, has a lot of natural ability, but no training. As they spend time together dancing, it's clear they're deeply attracted. But Alex has a boyfriend and Dan is a player. Alex is studying accounting to move into a business career while Dan works as an auto mechanic and shows no signs of further ambition. On the surface it would appear that they have very little in common. Plus, both of them have serious emotional issues and they have to go through a lot to pave the way to a happy ending together. This is a rather long book, but Alex and Dan have much to work through. I enjoyed the journey which was helped along by some memorable secondary characters.

3. Table for One by Ros Clarke. This was my January TBR read.

2. The Last Man by Vince Flynn. Flynn's latest Mitch Rapp novel brings us back to current-day Mitch. The previous two books were a young Mitch, both of which I really liked. I was ambivalent about a return to the present day since I hadn't been too happy with Angry Mitch. In this very fast-paced suspense, Mitch is in Afghanistan to find a missing CIA agent. From the beginning Mitch realizes that things aren't what they seem and questions arise concerning the missing agent. There's a nice twist in this book that readers of the whole series will appreciate. I won't say more because it's too easy to venture into spoiler territory. All I can say is that I'm a huge fan and thoroughly enjoyed this one. I hear a series of movies based on the Mitch Rapp character are in the books. I'd love to see those!

1. The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand. I loved this book and wrote a stand-alone review of it here.


Comments

  1. I need to read that Janice Kay Johnson! I've got it languishing in my digital TBR at the moment....

    I've always felt that Harlequin is really missing a golden opportunity with her. They need to package her in trade paperback and market her to book clubs! I love her Supers, but she's got such untapped crossover potential IMHO.

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    1. I hope you can read the Johnson book soon. I will be interested to know what you think. And I agree with your Harlequin comment--given the subject matter/timing of this particular book, it would be a perfect book club read. I'm actually a little surprised that I've seen almost no chatter online about it.

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  2. I really wanted to read and review TABLE FOR ONE for Valentine's Day but I ran out of time and am actually STILL reading THE WINTER SEA. I haven't finished a book since Jan. 26th! I've just been SO busy lately.. and tired.

    Happy Valentine's Day! xo

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    1. Well, Christine, I see you did finally finish The Winter Sea. I want to read that now. Meanwhile I hope you had a nice Valentine's Day. Hubby had a meeting; I had quilt guild :)

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    2. Yes, I was so glad to have finished The Winter Sea. I totally enjoyed it.. but when I spend so long reading one book I get antsy for the next book. Even when I'm thoroughly enjoying the first one! I guess that's a sign of impatience, huh?

      We had a nice Valentine's Day. We often have Valentine's Days along the lines of yours, but celebrated a bit more than usual this year because it was the 20 year anniversary of our engagement. :) We went out to dinner AND saw a play at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey that we really enjoyed! It's a fairly prominent playhouse--I just learned that Newsie's started at the Papermill before it went to Broadway. We saw Lend Me A Tenor. It was great fun. :)

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    3. That sounds lovely, Christine! Congrats on 20 years together. I'm glad you were able to do something fun together.

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  3. I am so glad that people overseas are taking chances on books like Grease Monkey Jive which are very clearly Australian and haven't been Americanised at all!

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    1. Marg, if you know of other titles like GMJ that I should check into, I'd love some recs. Meanwhile, I hate the Americanization of other Australia-set books. There's just no need and it's great to expand my own internal dictionary.

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  4. You could try some of the rural romances by authors like Loretta Hill or Rachael Johns (although I am not sure how available they are overseas). Other suggestions might be Short Soup by Coleen Kwan, Wish or The One that Got Away by Kelly Hunter (although I am not sure how Americanised that one might be. I don't remember noticing it but sometimes I gloss over it). For other authors maybe Elise K Ackers or Alyssa Callen.

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    1. Thank you Marg! I read one by Rachael Johns last year. I will look for more by her. I have The One that Got Away by Kelly Hunter on my Kindle--I just haven't gotten to it yet. The other authors are new to me, so I will see what I can find. I will definitely look. Thanks again :)

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