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January Booklist

Of note: fully half the books I read in January were audiobooks.

1. At Home, Bill Bryson

It's just so nice to hear Bryson read this own books.

2. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie

I keep thinking this series was written in or close to the time period it's in - 1950s or 60s - and then being a little befuddled when I'm reminded that this only came out four years ago. It just feels like an older book.

My favorite thing about Sidney is how human he is. Striving for the good, but so, so human.
3. Ross Poldark, Winston Graham

I find Ross Poldark to be an often frustrating character - he has some fairly intense failings, while at other times he's honorable to his own detriment. I often want to shake him and force him to talk, dammit, and stop lapsing into broody silence and one-liners.
Eh. It's a book of its time, and therefore sometimes problematic.
On the other hand, Cornwall!
4. The Outlandish Companion (volume II), Diana Gabaldon

A worthy followup to the first Companion, Now With More Gaelic! It has recaps of all the later books, essays on the food ways of the period, costumes and music in the tv series, Diana's writing methods, and so forth.

5. Time and Time Again, Ben Elton

I'm about to be fairly critical of this book, but don't get me wrong - it's worth the time if you like time travel, this period of history (pre-WWI), and/or lots of twists and turns. It's just that I judge time travel books by a very high standard, and this one doesn't measure up.
You can't send time travelers back in time with tons of anachronistic equipment - it *will* be discovered at some point, and your time traveler will be deemed at best, a spy, and at worst insane, delusional, or burned as a witch (if you're in 18th c. Scotland, at least.) He takes his freaking CELL PHONE back to 1914 with him, not to mention the body armor, weapons, and computer.
Not to mention that there's never a satisfactory explanation for how he keeps these things charged. "extra batteries" my foot.
Second, there is just an alarming lack of critical thinking. "Oh, let's stop X from getting killed and change the course of history!" Okay, but then you have to at least *think* about the fact that your actions could have unintended consequences, right? That's, like, the number one lesson of time travel.
Third, just personally, I really, really didn't like a certain twist.
But, yanno. It's well written and if you like time travel, you should probably read it.

6. Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers
7. Unpleasantness at the Belladonna Club, Dorothy Sayers


I don't have to tell you lot that this is sharp and intelligent writing. I feel like I lose the nuances by listening to the audio, but I'm sure I'll revisit them again in print later.

8. Into the Dim, Janet Taylor

(Thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy.)
Pros:
- engaging, pace-paced story
- mostly-historical fiction that might actually appeal to teens, and in a time period that doesn't get written about often
- main character is interesting and unusual (she's been homeschooled! And is claustrophobic.)
- time travel!
Cons:
- the historical places and characters were very shallowly drawn
- The writing was serviceable, but not great
- so many of the plot points left me feeling bewildered

This is a first novel, and so I cut it some slack for that. Altogether, I'd read the second in the series if it crosses my path.
Goodreads challenge status: right now, I'm exactly on track.

Comments

eattheolives
Feb. 14th, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
I think it's okay to say it here (I doubt anyone's coming back to read this post at this point anyway :)): making the female professor suddenly turn bad. It gave me whiplash! Her deviousness in coming along I could believe, but then the sudden "Oh, by the way, we killed your family on purpose" was just too much. Now, it *may* be that I was just an inattentive reader, but I didn't see anything that foreshadowed that at all, and it really threw me for a loop - she'd been one of my favorite parts of the book before that.
kiwiria
Feb. 16th, 2016 07:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, that did seem a bit much. It was tragic enough that they died just as he was hoping they might reconcile, but the fact that it was deliberate... so sad :(

I'd started disliking her already before that was revealed though, and couldn't quite forgive her deviousness in coming along (although I agree that it was believable), so I might already have been primed to think ill of her, and it therefore didn't bother me as much.