I’ve always wanted to keep a book journal, to log the books I’ve read in a year, so I can look back in retrospect on all my literary companions. You can a pre-printed journal at Barnes and Noble and the like, but I’m on a cheap kick right now. No fancy notebook, just a list of what I’ve read and what I’ve thought about it.
A Storm of Swords
- – George R. R. Martin ( third book in the Game of Thrones series. I liked it, had a hard time putting it down, can’t wait for the next book. However, some descriptions of the violence, after the fact, have bothered me and have stuck with me longer than I would like. I’m afraid for Tyrion in the next book, because he’s one of my favorite characters that’s still alive.)
I’m starting from the very beginning – so far, 2011 has been a difficult year, so the reading volume is down a bit. Hopefully, that will change. edited to add: 2011 is still difficult, but the reading has increased; reading has been a way to escape from how bad 2011 has been and rescues me from the despair of being unemployed and searching for a job during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Second edit: The number of books has decreased as I am busy with a job I started in April, 2011. What a year!
- Takedown – Brad Thor ( a spy thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat until the last paragraph, which disappointed me)
- The Race – Richard North Patterson (a political novel about a fictitious race for the Republican Presidential nomination; I liked the expose of dirty politics in South Carolina)
- The Red Queen – Philippa Gregory (historical fiction about Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. I normally can’t abide Phillipa Gregory, but I enjoyed this tale.)
- Poison – Sarah Poole (historical fiction whose tale surrounds the nomination of Rodrigo Borgia as Pope. Lots of suspense, threats to not only the Jews of Rome, but of Christendom, and a detailed picture of life among the elite in Renaissance Italy. I liked it.)
- The Jewel of St. Petersburg – Kate Furnivall (Historical fiction based in 1911 -1918 St. Petersburg. I thought some of the language was a bit too modern. However, I also found it riveting and liked that the story was told from two vastly opposing viewpoints: that of Valentina, pampered daughter of the Tsar’s Minister of Finance, and that of Arkin, chauffeur to the Minister by day, Bolshevik by night. Both characters were complex – Valentina wants to be a nurse and be of use, and Arkin knows he should hate the Minister’s wife and daughters, but cannot bring himself to harm them when the opportunity presents itself. I would recommend it.)
- Irish Princess – Karen Harper (historical fiction about Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Lincoln. The tale starts and ends in Kildare, Ireland, where Elizabeth “Gera” Fitzgerald’s family ruled as the uncrowned royalty of Ireland. I was not aware of this historical figure until I read the book. A fascinating yarn, and most of the events are true.)
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt (non-fiction. I’ve seen parts of the movie with Kevin Spacey and John Cusak. I thought the book was going to be more focused on the Jim Williams murder trial – all four of them! – than it was. Although non-fiction, it reads like a novel. Savannah is a beautiful town, and I place I enjoy visiting, but I had no idea it was filled with so many, er, unique people.)
- The Queen’s Rival – Diane Harper (historical fiction focused on Bessie Blount and her affair with Henry VIII. While I like my historical fiction to be as close to fact as possible, I do understand that license will be taken. Normally, I’m okay with it, but I could not finish this book. Haerper constantly refers to Henry VIII’s green eyes, made Katherine of Aragon dark haired with an olive complexion when the lady was fair with strawberry blond hair. Anne Boleyn is placed at court for Mary Tudor’s wedding to the King of France when in reality she was at the court of Marguerite of Burgundy. Then, later in the book, Anne is at court before the Field of Cloth of Gold, when she was at the French court, serving Queen Claude. At one point, Anne is said to have green eyes, which is incorrect, but later is said to have dark eyes, which is correct. Henry Norris is described in one passage as being red-headed and freckle-faced and then later described as dark and reed thin. I put the book down when the book mentioned Anne Boleyn’s non-existent sixth finger and is called an evil-minded little bitch already the King’s mistress in 1525 – a point in time when she was still resistant to Henry’s advances. Ugh! I don’t mind license, but I do mind such glaring errors. I do not recommend this book at all.)
- The Girl From JungChow – Kate Furnivall (historical fiction, set in China and Russia in 1929. As with The Jewel of St. Petersburg, it took me a bit to get into the story, but after it grabbed me, I couldn’t put it down.)
- The Emperor’s Tomb – Steve Berry (action/thriller. Cotton Malone is set up again by his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, head of the Magellan Billet. Lots of action and globetrotting, plots, twists, double crosses – or are they something else? – and eunuchs. As will every other Berry novel I’ve read, I was sucked in and everything else ignored for the two and a half days it took to finish the book. I lose more sleep when reading a Steve Berry book….)
- The White Queen – Phillipa Gregory (historical fiction about Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to Edward IV, mother to the Two Princes that disappeared from the Tower of London, and to Elizabeth of York, Queen to Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII. A riveting read, more enjoyable than The Red Queen, but then, I think Elizabeth Woodville was probably a more interesting character in history than dour, ambitious Margaret Beaufort. Even though I do not as a rule like Phillipa Gregory, this is much worth the read.)
- Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives – Tanya Biank (non-fiction. This is the book that inspired the series “Army Wives” filmed here in lovely Charleston, SC. Recounts the details of Army wives lives on Fort Bragg during the Summer of 2002. An interesting read, that had me in tears at times, and thankful the makers of the TV series changed the outcome for some of the wives; the show would be too hard to take otherwise.)
- The Queen’s Governess – Karen Harper (historical fiction about Kat Ashley, governess and chief lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I of England. As much as I was irritated and annoyed by The Queen’s Rival I was charmed and entertained by this novel. The story is believable, and I was touched at the devotion Kat Ashley bore both Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth Tudor. A must read for Tudor fans.)
- The House on the Strand – Daphne deMaurier (almost a sci-fi tale of a man spending time in a professor’s house in Devon for the summer, helping out with the professor’s experimental recreational drugs. The drugs take the man back in time where he witnesses, but cannot participate, history. I’ve read this book more than once, and it didn’t fail to enthrall me this time either.)
- Highland Master – Amanda Scott; (marginally a historical romance, with the marginal part on the romance. Not the bodice ripper I was afraid it was going to be. A good summer read set in medieval Scotland.)
- Queen of Kings: The Immortal Story of Cleopatra – Maria Dahvana Headley (I saw this on the New Releases shelf a couple of weeks ago. I passed it over, but Burly Man picked it up for me. I started it Friday night and finished it Monday. Needless to say, the story drew me in.)
- Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts – Lucy Dillon (The cover made me pick it up, but the sweet story pulled me in. 40 something London PR master loses her job, lover, house and beloved aunt in short succession, but finds a new and richer life in the English countryside caring for the dogs at the kennel and animal shelter her aunt left her.)
- The Devil Among the Laywers – Sharyn McCrumb. (Part of the “ballad series” mysteries set in the mountains between East Tennessee and West North Carolina. A little different from the other books in the series in that Nora Bonesteel is a 12 year old girl, not the mountain matron we’ve come to know in the other books. While the format was different, I still fell into the story in a matter of pages, and was done within 36 hours of picking it up. I love Sharyn McCrumb’s books.)
- St. Dale – Sharyn McCrumb. (A year and a half after Dale Earnhardt died at the Daytona 500, a small yet diverse group of fans and the people they dragged along go on an 11 day whirlwind tour of the Southern Speedways where Earnhardt had his greatest victories. I am not a NASCAR follower, but the story and treatment of the sport, Earnhardt, and his fans is insightfully and affectionately told. I came away with a greater appreciation for all three.)
- Once Around the Track – Sharyn McCrumb. (Another affectionately told tale about the ins and outs of NASCAR racing. A consortium of women investors field the first ever all-woman NASCAR team. Delightful.)
- Finding Emilie – Laurel Corona (historical fiction about Emilie, the marquise du Châtelet, and her daughter, Lily. Enjoyed it.)
- A Young Wife – Pam Lewis (fiction based on events in the life of the author’s grandmother. Takes the reader from Amsterdam, Argentina, and New York City in the early part of the 20th Century.)
- Figures in Silk – Vanora Bennett (historical fiction based on the life of Isabel Shore, sister of Jane Shore, mistress of Edward IV.)
- The Ballad of Tom Dooley – Sharyn McCrumb (the sordid story of Tom Dula, Ann Melton and Laura Foster is told through the eyes of Pauline Foster and former North Carolina Governor, Zebulon Vance. As with most of Sharyn’s books, I started it on a Friday night and finished it sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning.)
- A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin (I watched the series on HBO and loved it. Liked Ned better in the show, but that may be the influence of Sean Bean. Loved Tyrion in the book as much as in the series. Viserys and Joffrey were much worse in the book. I couldn’t wait for Viserys to get his golden crown in the book, and I want Joffrey to die a slow, painful death.)
- Reign of Madness – Lynn Cullen (Historical fiction about Juana, second daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. I almost quit reading when it took the path that others made her appear ill to gain her power, but I persevered.)
- The Favored Queen – Carolly Erickson (Historical fiction about Jane Seymour. Bleh. I don’t care if you put a disclaimer at the end that historical fiction is FICTION and therefore you have played with the characters, timelines, and events. Get this history right!! Stay true to the historical figure’s character and personality!! ugh! I usually like Carolly Erickson, but this book tried my patience to the point I almost didn’t finish it.)
- The Jefferson Key – Steven Berry (suspense thriller involving pirates, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Witt. Set in Washington DC and its environs and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As with all of Berry’s novels, I had it read within 72 hours – during the work week.)
- A Clash of Kings – George R.R. Martin (fantasy-science fiction. Second book in the Game of Thrones series. Loved it! Right now, Tyrion is my flat out favorite character in the series – which means he’s sure to die a flamingly horrible death by the end of the series. Everyone I’ve liked so far ends up dead. Still hate Joffrey, and hope he comes to a terrible end.)
2010 Entries This year’s list is not complete…I haven’t written down everything I’ve read in the beginning months of the year. However, in no particular order, is a partial list of books I’ve read in 2010.
- Outlander, Diana Gabldon – historical fiction with a bit of sci-fi/fantasy to it. Set in both Post WWII Scotland and Pre-Rising of 1745 Scotland. This is the first book in the series, always a favorite. I used to read the series every year, but it’s grown cumbersome and the last couple of books have felt like filler.
- Avalon, Stephen Lawhead = the companion piece to The Pendragon Cycle, a series based on the Arthur legend. The Once and Future King returns to England just when he is needed most.
- Taliesin, Stephen Lawhead – the first book in the Pendragon Cycle, to which Avalon is a companion piece
- Jane Seymour, Frances B. Clark – historical fiction told through Jane Seymour’s eyes. A short tale, but compelling; as a bonus, I actually liked and felt for Jane Seymour, who has the misfortune of following two dynamic and remarkable women, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Poor Jane pales, historically, in comparison. This book makes her human, and not just a “plain Jane.”
- Anne Boleyn, Joanna Denny – a biography of Henry VIII’s second wife. Almost a hagiography, as Denny goes over backwards to refute the myths/lies about Anne Boleyn.
- My Enemy the Queen, Victoria Holt – historical fiction about Lettys Knowles, cousin to Elizabeth I.
- The Heretic’s Wife, Brenda Rickman Vantrese – Historical fiction set in Tudor England during the fall of Katherine of Aragon and the rise of Anne Boleyn. Told through several points of view, set in rural England, London, and Antwerp.
- The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette, Amy Daczyzyn
- The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir – history; delves into the last month of Anne Boleyn’s life; goes into minute detail of Anne’s fall and last days in the Tower.
- Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives (the definitive biography…and after 3 Anne Boleyn biographies in a row, I’m done for now with Tudor history)
- The Paris Vendetta, Steve Berry – suspense thriller
- Eye of the Red Tsar, Sam Eastland – mystery. The “Green Eye of the Tsar” is pulled from a Bolshevik prison after 10+ years to find any remaining Romanov’s in order to find their treasure for Stalin. As a condition of his release, the main character now becomes a special agent for Stalin. I’ll be following this series.
- Lost Voices of the Titanic: The Definitive Oral History, Nick Barratt
- The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Nathaniel Philbrick
- Rasputin’s Daughter, Robert Alexander
- Wolf Hall, Hillary Mantel