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.