Reading Harder: Alternate Histories

The New Year inspired me to do some TBR tackling, like it always does.

Since the BookRiot list came out a few weeks ago I have been planning my 2019 reading.  I am always delighted when something on my TBR also qualifies for a BookRiot category as well, and I had two old backlist hangers on that qualified for the alternate history requirement.

I’m finding that I love stories set at different points of history.  Phillippa Gregory’s Lady of the Rivers series got me through new motherhood.  Nero Wolfe novels sustained me through late high school, college, and grad school when I only read fiction on breaks.

Futuristic dystopian/cli-fi books make me nervous, because of course anything can happen.  Given my lack of trust in the current Administration to protect the globe or anything that isn’t profitable nearly within this moment, scary futuristic books seem all too likely.  I’m game for historical dystopia, though.  Bring it.

But alternate history…it already happened a certain way so we can just play with ideas about if a moment was different, how would we be living now?  Both of the books in this post (I’m supposed to be working on my novel, not reading two books in a week, I need rehab) are set in times when assassinations of wartime US presidents (FDR and Lincoln) happened before they could leave their mark and each discusses the points that diverge from the facts that we learn today.  With each war having a different outcome, it also, in both books, means different things for racism in our country.

An Alternate History Book

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The Man In the High Castle, Philip K. Dick

This was on the TBR long before Netflix decided to make it into something.  I don’t even remember how it originally crept into my awareness.  I think at one point I thought that having read a PKD novel would have made me cool.

The Axis powers, Germany, Japan, and Italy won the Second World War, rather than the Allied powers, owing largely to an early assassination of FDR.  Essentially, this assassination is to blame for why America wasn’t strong enough to defeat Hitler and his allied countries and why in the novel the country is divided between German and Japanese territory, with Italy kind of the forgotten stepchild of the thing.

Nazi Germany is still the bully in the setting and in the plot, Imperial Japan is strong enough with their culture consuming their part of the US, which is under totalitarian rule.  Racism is rampant, there are definite classes based on skin color and ancestry, even with a brief mention of ethnic cleansing/experimentation still happening in Africa by the hands of the Germans, and it is still a dangerous thing to be Jewish.  I would say that even if Germany won the war I doubt the ethnic cleansing would continue today, but then I have to remember that the book was written and set in the early 60’s.  It’s nearly 60 years old as it is.  But when would it have stopped?

There are some parts of this story that are interesting, like the focus on the Japanese buying relics of Americana from the days before they took over.  Authentic Mickey Mouse watches are a valuable collectors item, as well as guns.  The Japanese I Ching features heavily as the closest thing I can determine as a religion and the characters rely on it to make decisions.  And as in any totalitarian rule there is a subversive book circulating  that speculates on if the Allied powers had won the war.  The book within the book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, then predicts the fall of the Soviet Union, something that happens in real life decades later.

However, this book spins out a little nutty near the end, makes some reaches, goes off on character revelations and plot turns that I had to check up with on Wikipedia (whom I donate to every Christmas btw because of my reading needs) and I missed what the point of some of them were.  I don’t know how Netflix is planning to handle these.  Wiki notes that Dick also used the I-Ching to make plot decisions…interesting.   This book was both fascinating and intense.  Tiring.  Exhausting.  It needed my full attention. It has way more to do with setting and the plot of political intrigue than it does about characters.  It’s weird in some ways,but that’s sci-fi.  It’s pardoned as a part of the genre.

And the TV series looks like even more of a ride.  Likely not knitting TV.

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Underground Airlines, Ben Winters

I was hesitant to jump into another alternate history book over the weekend, but it was on my TBR, and it went with the theme, and I was knitting a sock more than I was working on my novel, so I went for it.

In this one, Lincoln is assassinated early, like FDR’s early assassination in PKD.  The Civil War never happened, and instead the states compromise on slavery, with four states, the Hard Four, slavery is still legal (and of course regulated, but legal nonetheless) and white people continue to get rich on the backs of those left with no choice, Persons Bound by Labor.  Racism is more obvious in the other states than it would be if these Hard Four weren’t holding out on profiting by slave labor, even though other nations have not allowed the US to play with them anymore because slavery persists.

An escaped slave is obligated to work as a bounty hunter for the government.  Although racism persists, often freed people and policemen don’t want to help in returning escaped slaves, so the main character enters another bondage of sorts (he even has a tracker in his neck) to find those who have escaped from bondage.  He doesn’t have to return them himself, but he’s complicated Of course his story is interwoven with his own trauma, his story fleshing out the world of slavery.  It’s fascinating, his past intersecting with the hard truths of rooting out those who made it out like he did.  The plot twists are sweet, and he discovers the assignment that he is working on is of course more than it seems, and he ends up having to infiltrate the Hard Four.

I think I liked this one more than The Man in the High Castle because it has more of a human element to it.  The Man in The High Castle is so strongly plot driven,  hard core philosophical Sci-Fi.  Living in a totalitarian society and having your nation completely transformed by war in your lifetime would have repercussions and change who you are, but the plot doesn’t deal with that. Underground Airlines had me from the beginning and I rode it through in a short amount of time.

Both of these books are about racism and class.  And how when the true leaders can’t lead, we descend into dystopia.  BookRiot posted some of their own suggestions on this topic and they stated that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was also an alternate history, in that magic somehow returns to Britain.  I have read and reviewed it here but I never thought of it as an alternate history.  Magic doesn’t change Britain into a dystopia. Still loved it.  What a great read.  Even though it was too intense to revisit on Netflix.

I have started editing my novel in preparation to have it professionally critiqued, just easing myself back into it.  I need to ease off the reading now. It’s kind of happening.  But it’s so much easier on the emotions to blissfully knit and immerse myself in a book.

The cold weather has swooped into my part of the world.  My dog and car and I aren’t exactly thrilled, but we can go play on the lake if it’s cold long enough.

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The Last Reading Binge of 2018

Reading is many things: mind expansion, travel, exposure to different viewpoints, inspiration, etc, but sometimes for me it is survival.  Sometimes placing one foot in a fantasy world helps me manage less structured times and the boredom I have been known to suffer in those times.  I like a break but then I’m over it quickly.  I get shifty. I keep my brain alive by darting in and out of a fantasy world of someone else’s making.

Not all books are carved out for fantasy darting.  I didn’t dart in and out of, like, War and Peace or another round of Don Quixote.  No.

Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen:

Queen of Hearts, Malice at the Palace, Crowned and Dangerous, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service

This series is too unbearably easy to binge on.  I found them on one of those Audible sales where they are crafty buggers and let you have the first in a series for free.  I binged on a bunch in 2013-2014 as I was returning to feeling like myself after the entrance of a tiny little boy I made, stalling out at Queen of Hearts.

The main character, Georgiana Rannoch, is in line for the British throne in the 1930’s, too far away to actually have a chance and a poor relation to boot, but still considered aristocracy with everything that goes along with it.  She solves high society murder mysteries in the historical context of the world at that time.  So not only is it the delicious historical fiction that has me googling the people who drop into the plot line, it has a handful of very fun recurring characters who serve to up the drama, each in their own way:  a bad girl best friend, a selfish but glamorous mother, an inept lady’s maid, a reliable cockney grandfather, a horrid sister in law, and a dashing love interest.    She rarely has any money and people are always getting killed and complicating things in settings all over the world at that time and place:

Queen of Hearts is on a ship and in 1930’s Hollywood, Malice at the Palace is in the apartments of Buckingham Palace, Crowned and Dangerous is in Ireland, and most of On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service is in Italy. Georgie starts off as awkward but she is becoming more worldly and assertive as she moves through the novels, less clumsy, less shy.  Often in cozies or series the growth of the main character isn’t important, but Bowen seems to have prioritized that.  It makes Georgie more believable as a character because she is a young adult and so much change and growing up happens in that part of your life.  And with relatable flaws to make her likeable, to make you root for her to unmask the killer and save the day.

It’s a rare series for me to want to keep going, as I can get bored of the same people, but I don’t get bored of this cast of characters.  I am always amused when they show up to play their roles.

Also, these books are best enjoyed on audio. The late Katharine Kellgren was a genius with all the different voices and accents of the world at that time, even doing the men believably.  I prefer these on audio but I did devour some by reading the old fashioned way.  She brought these stories to life on audio. There won’t be another one made by Ms. Kellgren, unfortunately, but she is definitely my favorite narrator.  I think the fact I enjoy the stories so much will get me through getting used to another narrator, but I am not happy about it.

So I spent Christmas break trying to figure out mysteries for the elite in the western world of the 1930s .  It was nice for holiday down time, as I burned myself out on Christmas super early this year with the early snow and all the things we did with our son.  And I was strict about not starting with any challenges until the year actually changed over.  I am the picture of discipline.

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2019: the Intentions

So it’s all died down post holidays and in theory we are all back to our regular, and where I am, wintry lives for the next few weeks, and a new year ahead to fill with goals and speculation.

I have to focus on writing again this year, especially this winter, when obligations slow down for awhile.  No holidays, not yet sports, I need to run more over the winter but not blasting out long runs to prepare for races.  Here it is, the time to do it.  And before it gets stale.  Writing goals for 2019: (universe take note)

  1. Finish revising the novel I was working at last winter/spring.  It’s half revised and I know what I need to do with the rest.  I am experiencing some crippling doubt around it, afraid that if I dust it back off I will want to burn it all.  My consolation is I had a teacher getting me through it and reading much of it, so it can’t be that bad.  Right?  I won’t look at it and see unfixable writing disasters…right?  And then I am paying for a professional critique, fraught with the same anxiety that a new pair of eyes will be like, thanks for the three dollars a page but this sucks, I have nothing to say to un-suck this thing, you wasted all your time.

2. Revise the first novel I wrote that I also got some awesome ideas from my teacher on what to do with it. It’s not as complicated as the second novel I wrote, that one might be more fun and flow better to punch up.  And I have had more time with it.  Her comments are always energizing and I particularly liked the new breath she suggested I breathe into it.

3. Put something else out there to start getting traction as a writer.  Whether I want to do wattpad, revise three shorts/novellas I have been working on and try my luck self publishing on kindle, get a Submittable account and look into my sources on getting published in literary magazines/journals, something.  As you can see, I’m not entirely sure how I will go about getting my traction.  It’s less about making money (hence wattpad or if I tried a little KDP it would be a dollar a story or something) and more about this is what else you can look at as I eventually do want to send out my novel(s).  And my not being sure the details on this one yet is about focusing my emotional energy right now at facing goal #1.  I can work on other places and pieces when I am waiting for it to come back from being critiqued and I can’t get sidetracked by those.

4. Do my third year of 12 Short Stories.  If you don’t know what it is, it is a writing challenge where people submit a short story every month based on a prompt, hosted by Writer’s Write based out of South Africa. I have been experimenting, stretching my wings a little, and above all it keeps my cogs turning and keeps me writing.  Like this blog keeps me writing and thinking about what I read and why.  And because I did it from the very first prompt at the group’s inception back in 2016 when it was a Facebook page and not a wordpress site and I can’t stop now!  I been there since the start.   And I won their first writing contest, which got #1 on paper.   It’s moved me closer to my goals than I ever anticipated.

So all these writing goals on a primarily reading blog. Of course.  I can’t focus on binge reading all through this year, sadly.  I already started falling back into binge reading in December, knocking out Christmas reads and the last two challenges on BookRiot.   Similarly, there will be no Snow Read 2019 like there wasn’t one for 2018, and I will not pick a reading goal on Goodreads until later in the year, like I did this year when writing was on hold for everything else that had to happen.  No 5 over 500.

I will go back to blogging one book a week, except next week, because I already noted  that I got back into binge reading and the three books I tackled between Christmas and New Year deserve a post together.  As a final binge read tribute before I go back to swimming around in my self doubt and puzzling through weird thoughts when I am not working or parenting.  Or maybe when I am doing those things.  I bet I could come up with some brilliant things while racing my son in Mario Kart.  I found out I could reasonably follow a book in one ear too, as long as it wasn’t super complicated, while I play Mario with him.

But there will still be reading.  I am going to do BookRiot 2019 and already did one category and started another. There still has to be reading or else I will perish.  And maybe more reading than last year because I am not starting a project from a few jotted ideas and half of them turned out to be boring.  Ironing out foibles is possibly easier, but it still requires getting into a head space, and someone else’s story can crowd that head space.  Like my full time job does as well.  Yeah, that thing that stands in the way of flooding the world with my writing.

Just another note about BookRiot: I will be trying to read what I already have if I have something that fits the category.  Thankfully it’s happening pretty often as I am poking around the internets for the right choice:  I still want to read Exit West and that’s a category fitter, as well as some NK Jemisin, totally late to the party on her I think, Still trying to read down the backlist. I looked on my Amazon account yesterday and I definitely have over a thousand ebooks, which doesn’t count the piles of physical books engulfing my spaces in the house.  I still want to read down my TBR.  Desperately.   Maybe this also was why I didn’t pay attention to a lot of new releases in 2018 (I didn’t even read Circe or Less or Children of Blood and Bone or The Power or Milkman! But I have since procured Circe and I have the audio tagged on my library account).   And as I am writing this post I see Charlie Holmberg has a Kindle First release this month and I totally bought it with the audio.  I’m trying, I really am.

And if I can get in some short stories as challenge categories, I will shoot for that as well.  I could get some more short stories in via podcasts too.  If I stay away from the hilarity that is Literary Disco and let LeVar Burton read to this 80’s kid just a little bit more.

Wow, I was dreading this post a little because I was feeling unfocused for the new year, binge reading and learning how to crochet a granny square for like the third time while being perfectly aware I don’t need a new craft while I have a book to revise. It had more to say that I thought I did.  It always helps to make your intentions known.

I intend to finish at least one novel. And by finish, I mean something I feel is ready to be sent out for consideration for publication.

I intend not to start dyeing yarn in a crockpot either even though that’s a pretty writer-friendly hobby.

Comments and likes? Encouragement?  Happy 2019!

2018 Read Harder: What Made the List

The early snow and then the weird temperate rain this year has affected my patience with the Christmas season.

I am lucky enough to always have a lovely Christmas in my home but I am ready to move on to the next part of the year, which is surprising, given the fact that I loathe the time before spring could even suggest rolling in.  I might take down the tree after I write this.  Or I might attend the cardboard bonfire in my yard that is scheduled for all the Christmas shipping boxes later this afternoon.  I agree with the memes about this week of the year being one that feels nearly unmoored, even though I attended work to get some structure back into my life.

Working through the Royal Spyness series backlist books has been a light and fun distraction to this week that is always weird, no matter what I try to do with it.  Always the best on audio with the late but brilliant Katherine Kelgren.

But how did I do for my 2018 reading?

I surpassed my reading goal this year of 60 books.  Not as much as other years, but I have a full manuscript written out and half revised.   I will sacrifice 40 books this year for that goal, certainly.  And more books will be sacrificed when I get back to revising in the new year.

BookRiot’s Read Harder List 2018:

  1. A book published posthumously : The Master and Margarita,  Mikhail Bulgakov
  2. A book of true crime:  The Spider and the Fly, Claudia Rowe
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance): Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
  4. A comic written and drawn by the same person:  Anya’s Ghost,  Vera Brosgol
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa): The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden
  6. A book about nature: H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald
  7. A western:  News of the World, Paulette Jiles
  8. A comic written or drawn by a person of color:  Black Panther, TaNehisi Coates
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature: Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color:  The Dutchess War,  Courtney Milan
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980:  Mowgli Stories, Rudyard Kipling
  12. A celebrity memoir:  Bossypants, Tina Fey
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection:  Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman
  14. A book of social science: The Wisdom of Psychopaths, Kevin Dutton
  15. A one-sitting book: The Vegetarian, Han Kang
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series:  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author:  Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler, and Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation:  Black Tea and Other Stories,  Samuel Marolla
  20. A book with a cover you hate:  My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrarante
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author:  Tall Tail,  Rita Mae Brown
  22. An essay anthology:  Best Food Writing 2018, Ruth Reichl
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60:  Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished):  Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

I have noted before that I didn’t read any 2018 releases this year that I can think of, so I don’t have any Best of 2018 recommendations.  Other readers have certainly taken care of that for me and made me curious, now that the year is over, what I may have missed.  Circe, Where the Crawdads Sing, You’ll Find me in the Dark, etc.

I don’t know if I can pick a very favorite off this list. I have been trying to think of the books that stood out of this year’s reading, but I love reading, and I love what this reading challenge brings to my perspective on the world, and I loved most of these.  Most hit the blog in the form of a review.

I have to say that I feel weird sometimes when I am searching out books for these categories, combing for pictures of authors to be sure they are of color or reading their bios for their gender/sexual orientation.  The recommendation that I look at award lists is helpful, because some authors identify as color and they look white to me.  I am not a judge of these things.

Next week I hope to have hammered out some reading goals to share, deciding what lists to do, clarify writing goals.  I have the perfect creative space now and I want to also share my pictures of that.

Happy and Safe New Year!

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Christmas Reads: Nora Roberts Shorts

Focusing on finishing my reading year is incredibly hard now that next year’s lists are out and this year’s Best of lists are everywhere, especially since I don’t think I read any new releases this year.  Or very few.

I am justifying the fact I have already picked the books out that I will likely be reading in 2019 with my expectation of AMAZING kindle sales on Christmas week and I have to be ready.  I can’t let the sweet price go by and not be aware that I will NEED that book for my 2019 goals.  I don’t know if Santa is bringing me any Amazon cards, but I should be at the ready.

Another end of year challenge being faced in my house right now is my husband’s not getting into his Christmas socks early because he has blown through all the ones he has right now.  Possibly the elf can bring a few spares to tide him over.

Also a brief shout out to the Audible gift this year, The Christmas Hirelings, an ME Braddon Victorian Christmas item of goodness. I have not been as into their originals that they have been offering monthly yet, which either means I am a picky snob or I don’t tend to read what other people read.  I don’t know what other people read.   Maybe more nonfiction than I do.  But I’m excited about it as I am scrambling to make it to 60 books this year.

Speaking of what other people read, this post is dedicated to two Nora Roberts Christmas short stories as my foray into more popular authors via their Christmas books.

I’m not sure at this point if I regret that decision.  I will summarize them and then discuss my feelings for both of them in one part because I felt the same about both of these.

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All I Want for Christmas, Nora Roberts

Two motherless little boys ask Santa to bring them a Mom for Christmas the same fall where a beautiful young new music teacher assumes the open position in the local school.  She was a cosmopolitan girl but she is settling into small town life for the first time and he is the stoic handsome contractor that is raising his boys on his own, thank you very much, after the boys mother just wasn’t ready to be a mom.  He doesn’t need to let anyone into his life and lets her know it, but they can’t resist their overwhelming attraction to one another.

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Home for Christmas, Nora Roberts

A man comes back to his old home town for Christmas after traveling the globe to reconnect with his high school sweetheart, whom he pretty much abandoned, and unexpectedly reconnects with her for the holiday season.  A second chance at love and family on Christmas.

So, I get it.  She wouldn’t be the queen of romance if she didn’t know how to follow the formula that readers want and expect.  She didn’t have a lot of room with the word count to pursue too much extra or drama and get the couples united in a believably way.  But I felt these were just, blah.  I felt less like a jerk when I saw that Goodreads reviews were okay, but not stellar. She usually clears a four star rating on her novels but these stories didn’t make it to four. She’s a prolific world renowned writer and I read two of her shorts and I am not impressed.  I like the cozy Christmas books I have read more, even if they weren’t high on tension and conflict either.  But as I said, limited word count strips it to the bare romance plot line that is what readers love under all of it.  But they were not my favorite of the bunch this season.

With all of that said, I still intend on reading more Nora before I make a decision on her as a writer and if I want to keep reading her things.  I have Year One and she has some witch novels that deserve a visit.  Maybe I am just not a consumer of straight up romance.  Maybe it isn’t about her.  But I liked other things I read this season better.

Next week is the reading year in review!

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Christmas Reads: Love in a Castle

BookRiot’s Read Harder 2019 list was released on Wednesday!  It doesn’t matter that I am still chewing my way through 2018’s list either!  I even watched the Youtube video released and wrote it down before I could find the list I was so anxious to know what the next year’s lineup was to be.

Plotting my next year projects get me through the doldrums post Christmas and the prospect of the rest of the winter going by without all the Christmas lights twinkling on my way home from work.  Christmas lights are entirely too short lived.

I love the 2019 list.  I can’t tell you that I know how to find all of these books but it is better than the prospect of another celebrity memoir.  I am delighted to say it will be the first memoir free year in many.  Even if I hit Popsugar.

I’d rather hunt for an award winner of color, a non binary or prison author than read about white people ascending to an even more exalted status, even if white people problems will always hold a certain appeal to this Apple product loving, bangs wearing white girl.

Also white people romances in castles at Christmas, which was the intent of this post before the miracle of the new Read Harder list being released.

I lied last week when I said there are no witches in my Christmas romance lineup.  I didn’t know that Scottish time travel romances would involve a meddling magic hub in the form of a woman:

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Morna’s Legacy Christmas Novella Collection:  Scottish, Time Travel Christmas Novellas from Morna’s Legacy Series

I mean, Scotland, Christmas and time travel.  Coming from someone who enjoyed the first in the Outlander series, this was a no-brainer.  Outlander is a little more hard core on the Scottish history, which I loved in the first one but I haven’t read the rest because I heard the sex decreases and the anxiety increases, and, despite the historical accuracy of  it, it’s not enticing reading.

Morna is considerably lighter and these three books are compiled I think to appeal to a wide range of ages.   Two of the three are about older couples falling in love, kind of a second chance you really aren’t too old for this sort of thing and the other one is about traveling back in time to fix a breakup in a young couple just starting out.  Hope that last bit wasn’t a spoiler.  And they all center around the season of love and light, and being with family and finding family at Christmas.

These romances also include some mildly graphic sex, but it is love sex, not hookup sex.  It is like, soulmate sex. These are happily evers for three sets of lovers that, in the beginning, weren’t headed toward that.  It’s wish fulfillment without obstacles that are too harrowing.

All three of these stories were less than ten hours of listening on audio, and audio is always the way to go when you are listening to stories with Scottish characters. Real narrators who can do the accent but still have it understandable.   A decent price. Good background listening to a nice walk or gift wrapping.

I’d love to check out Scotland someday, even though I have heard that it is easy to underestimate how cold the place can be.

In other news, cookie baking was the seasonal activity of the weekend. And getting my husband to score me some massage gift cards for Christmas.  I wasn’t sad I didn’t have to freeze my butt off for a parade and a tree lighting like I did last weekend.

Next week is another holiday foray into a mega famous author’s works again for what I think will be the last Christmas reads post of the season.  I snuck in another read that doesn’t fit in with next week’s post but it might get tossed in anyway if I finish it in time to blog about it.  I’m really enjoying it, so I hope I finish it.

Then it’s my last two Read Harder reads.  Yes, I have three weeks to go and I haven’t finished all my reads and squeezing in the last few reads to make my Goodreads challenge goal.

gray and white castle built near a cliff
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And I am already the cheater scoping out the internet for my 2019 plan.

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Christmas Reads: Second Chances

My small town did Christmas yesterday, with Santa at the school, a parade and a tree lighting.  It’s a tiny blip on the map so it’s nice to have such an intimate gathering of the town for the holiday.  I always thought it would be really bold of me and somehow impressive to live somewhere like NYC but I think I’m a small town girl at heart. Especially with the internet so I can buy anything I want and have it mailed to me.

Also, Snow-pocalypse has turned more into rain and I took time off from work this week to get Christmas together, shopping, wrapping, etc so I can approach the holiday happy rather than stressed.  I need to make peanut blossom cookies with my son, the peanut butter ones with the chocolate kiss on top, even though he makes no bones about just eating the chocolate.  They are my husband’s favorite holiday cookie.  I’ll decorate some pre-made cookies too with my son and we will call it Christmas.

The two Christmas books for today’s post have to do with second chances.  I didn’t choose them that way:  one was the most recent available audiobook at the library and the other was another famous author Christmas book, but as I went along, binge reading/listening as is the joys of time off, I realized they were both about second chances at love.

 

the christmas train

The Christmas Train, David Baldacci

Okay, so normally I wouldn’t be attracted to Baldacci’s work and because he seems pretty mainstream I wouldn’t come across him for a reading challenge.   It’s interesting that my Christmas reads are what get me to read the mega popular authors.  I guess that makes me a nerd.

And I think this has been my favorite so far of the popular authors Christmas reads.  It was clearly written by an author that likes to layer on the conflict and mystery, with an appreciable final twist.  I notice Christmas books that are more about romance and family don’t have the same tension and twists, and many people like them that way.  But this is a Christmas book with the constant presence of a twist, an intrigue somewhere.

A man who is taking a cross country journey by train for Christmas comes across a second chance at love and connection, as well as a natural disaster and a mystery intrigue.  I binge read this sucker one night when I couldn’t sleep and I kept asking myself why there were more pages because lots of things had already happened in the story.  And I kept thinking to myself, wow, I like this more than I expected to. I could possibly pick up another Baldacci in the future.  I feel like it might be a good read/listen for traveling.  Not that I plan on traveling sans 6 year old any time soon.  But my enjoyment of it was a pleasant surprise, to be sure.

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The Christmas Star, Donna VanLiere

I posted on the previous book in this series, The Christmas Town, last week, commenting that I am kind of late to the game with book #8.  This one was shorter than The Christmas Town and it is a continuation of the stories in #8 with a new set of characters thrown in.  This was sweet and it was happy, and I liked to listen to it while binge knitting, another one of my super cool Mom hobbies. And there is a couple who is thrown together for a second chance at love, and because it’s VanLiere, it’s about family too, and love at Christmas.  I feel that is one of her jams, and it’s one of mine too.   There are the bickering old lady friends to keep it interesting and they get to bicker about wedding planning, an old British woman and an old Southern one.  No stubbornness there, right?

This one did not have the tension and the twists that Baldacci has.  I don’t know if readers who are into his thrillers would like this and vice versa, but I liked them both.  I like how Christmas reads has been a reading challenge for me in its own right.

What I am reading for next week’s post is not a leap for me at all.  It was a big ermagherd this looks great!  It doesn’t have witches, though.  I have a book of holiday shorts with witches in it.  I really do. But I am so much more likely to listen and there’s no audio available.

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