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02 January 2019 @ 01:47 pm
Let’s finish off the quarterly list making, before I get to my annual grand wrap-up. Here are the books I read over the last three months of 2018. There would have been one more, but I fell asleep early on New Year’s Eve, with 30 or so pages left.

  1. Harry Golden, Enjoy, Enjoy! I’ve read several of the collections of Golden’s pieces for The Carolina Israelite and mostly liked them. However, this book felt rather repetitive. I smiled at pieces about Jewish food and similar nostalgia, but I cringed at his broader attempts to speak on behalf of the Jewish community on topics like race and women’s rights. Okay, this was published in 1960, so it isn’t surprising that he was behind the times. That doesn’t mean I have to suffer through reading it. Disappointing.

  2. Alice McDermott, Someone. This was a book club selection and tells the story of an Irish-American woman in Brooklyn. I prefer novels with stronger plotlines so I found this pretty dull. There are things that happen, like another woman in the neighborhood discovering her new husband is actually a disguised woman, but nothing extraordinary happens to Marie, the main character. Overall, I thought this was a tedious read/

  3. Daniel M. Pinkwater, Young Adults. If you’re familiar with Pinkwater’s writing, you know he does silliness very well. The adventures of the Wild Dada Ducks, as they create chaos in high school and into college, are absurd and entertaining. It is, however, a bit mean-spirited at times, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it to readers of the target age group.

  4. Alexander McCall Smith, A Time of Love and Tartan. Another volume in the always delightful 44 Scotland Street series is always something to look forward to reading. There is the usual mixture of warmth and mild absurdity. The main thing for me here is that I genuinely like most of the characters and look forward to spending time with them.

  5. Alexander Kent, Richard Bolitho – Midshipman. Kent actually wrote the earlier adventures of Richard Bolitho out of chronological sequence (i.e. this is the first book in Bolitho’s Royal Navy career, but wasn’t published until 1975, while the series started in 1968 with book 7). Even a 16-year-old Bolitho is immensely likeable, as he tries to get his superiors to do the right thing – and gets in trouble for doing so. I’m glad I have more of this series to read.

  6. Giovanni Guareschi, Comrade Don Camillo. And now I have read all of the Don Camillo books! Guareschi’s village priest continues to charm me as he battles the forces of Communism, largely in the form of his rival, Peppone, the mayor of their village. This volume has Don Camillo going to the USSR, disguised as a member of a Communist delegation. He finds opportunities to meddle in various affairs, solving problems and bringing comfort to almost everyone he meets. This isn’t laugh out loud humor, but Guareschi’s work always brings me a smile.

  7. Jeff Linday, Dexter in the Dark. I normally advocate reading a series in order, but I happened to pick up a couple of the Dexter novels for trade at a used book store, so I take what I can. This is pretty weird stuff, largely because it feels horrible to find myself rooting for an admitted serial killer. Still, he only kills people who really deserve it. And the writing is breezy and fast-paced, so I did enjoy reading it.

  8. Beth Harbison, Secrets of a Shoe Addict. This is pretty stereotypical chick lit as three women get into expensive trouble while chaperoning a school band trip to Las Vegas, and start a phone sex business to pay off the debts. There are amusing relationship issues – including what may be the worst first date ever (involving a ventriloquist and his dummy) – but everything turns out well in the end. Well, maybe not so much for the dummy. It was an amusing escapist read – which is sometimes just what I need.

  9. Dan Chaon, Await Your Reply. Wow! This was another book club pick, and it proved to be one of the best novels I’ve read all year. The book alternates among three stories, each involving people who are running away or towards something amid lots of questions about identity. It isn’t until very near the end that we learn how the three stories are related. There are some pretty gruesome aspects to parts of the book, but, if you can handle the opening (involving a severed hand), it doesn’t really get any worse. Highly recommended.

  10. Neil Gaiman, Coraline. I had seen the 3-D movie years ago, but hadn’t read the book before. Coraline’s adventures, exploring her house, lead her to a horrifying other world, in which the Other Mother tries to win her over, but to what end? I’ve read a lot of Gaiman’s work and find it consistently entertaining, but decidedly dark.

  11. Eric Kimmel, Bar Mitzvah. I’m not sure what the intended audience for this book is. It probably works best for non-Jews who have been invited to a bar mitzvah and want some background on what to expect. I found it dull – and not especially accurate – with the exception of the personal anecdotes that are mixed in with the explanatory material.

  12. Morris West, Harlequin. International finance, cybercrime (circa 1974), and Middle East terrorism – I certainly can’t complain there wasn’t enough happening! There’s nothing profound, at least from the perspective of our era, in which the computer manipulation of international finances isn’t such a novelty. But it was a good enough escapist read.

  13. Jasper Fforde, Shades of Grey. Fforde is one of the most original novelists working nowadays. I’ve read a lot of his Thursday Next series, so was intrigued to find this first book in a new series in a Little Free Library near work. The concept is a society in which, after the Something Which Happened, people are categorized by their color perception. There are rigid rules, with complex loopholes, and all sorts of delightful details about this dystopian world of Chromatica. There are rumors that there will be sequels (or, possibly, a prequel next year) and I would even buy that brand new and in hardback.

By the way, for this year, I joined a facebook group for National Just Read More Novels Month, the object of which is to read lots of new novels (i.e. not re-reads, vice newly published) in January. I've started with the next Bolitho novel (chronologically, not by publication date).

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