1. THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hossieni. Story of a young man from Afghanistan, what it was like growing up there in the 70’s and then fleeing to America during the turmoil and wars. Also a story of love, betrayal, forgiveness and hope. I enjoyed the book for its richness of cultural detail and because I felt totally immersed in Amir’s world, although I have to admit that his constant reference to his ‘shame’ and ‘cowardliness’ etc. grew old and wearying after awhile. The ending was actually good (I was worried I’d be disappointed, as so many books seem to do at the ending lately) and I enjoyed the book. Not as “outstanding” as the hype would have you believe, but still a great read. B+
2. JACK, KNAVE & FOOL by Bruce Alexander. #5 Sir John Fielding historical mystery set in 1770’s London and centering on the Bow Street Court. As usual with this series, several mysteries entwine to make an interesting mix. Annie, the cook, is learning to read and also joins a local choir. Jeremy begins reading his law books as his responsibilities for Sir John grow greater, and he feels much shame when he lets a prisoner escape. When it is brought to light later that the prisoner has a 12-year-old daughter, Jeremy gets involved with trying to help them. Meanwhile, Sir John is certain that the nephew of a prominent citizen has killed him off, but is unable to prove it—yet. As always, an excellent entry in the series. A.
3. THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE by Colin Dexter. #6 in the Chief Inspector Morse series set in Oxford. In this book, an Oxford don goes missing and Morse is contacted by the Vice-Headmaster. A body later turns up, of course, but how did it get to where it was found and who would so savagely mutilate it? And is it really Dr. Browne-Smith’s body after all? Enjoyable read, as all the Morse books have ever been for me. One of my favorite series. A.
4. THE WINTER KING by Bernard Cornwell. #1 in the Arthurian trilogy. Told from the point of view of Derfel, a servant of Merlin—actually a captured Saxon slave freed by the powerful Druid. Derfel later becomes one of Arthur’s warrior captains. Set in 480 A.D., the story tells of the wars and strife of the times—various British tribes against one another, against the Saxons, against the Franks, Christians against the Pagans, etc. and weaves Cornwell’s own brand of history with legend as his unique story of Arthur, Mordred, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin and the like is painted on the canvas. I quite enjoyed his telling of the first part of the tale and plan to collect this set in hardcover for my Keeper shelf. A.
5. BIRDMAN by Mo Hayder. Serial killer/ thriller set in London, about a necrophiliac who kills and mutilates prostitutes. Not for the faint of heart, but quite a riveting tale with the usual angst-driven police inspector with a tormented past that colors his way of thinking and doing things. (Is there not a ‘normal’ detective anywhere on the planet, I ask? LOL) Very difficult to put down. A.
6. ALL SHE WAS WORTH by Miyuki Miyabe. Japanese mystery about a police detective currently on medical leave and a private investigation he undertakes for his nephew, whose fiancée has disappeared after an argument they had. The investigation leads Honma into the murky world of excessive credit card debt, bankruptcy, identity theft and murder. Very enjoyable read—I always like getting immersed in the culture of a different country and enjoy the authenticity that an author who is a native of that country provides. The mystery was also very intriguing, and I liked the main character a lot. Unfortunately, I believe the author doesn’t write series books, just stand-alones, but I enjoyed this enough to seek out more by the same author even though I probably won’t be meeting the main character again. A-.
7. THE FIELD GUIDE (SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES BOOK 1) by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. Children’s fantasy about 3 kids who move into their great-aunt’s old house with their mother and discover a secret room, a riddle that leads to a book and ‘something in the walls’ that turns out to be something not quite of this world and seems determined to get them in trouble. A bit ‘young’ for my taste (I read it in less than an hour) but still enjoyable tale. B.
8. SABRIEL by Garth Nix. #1 in the Abhorsen fantasy series, and…WOW! I absolutely loved this book and found it very difficult to put down. This book has been on my shelf for months if not years. My daughter recommended it to me at least a year ago. Why did I not listen?? LOL Sabriel, daughter of The Abhorsen, a powerful necromancer who fights the dead, finishes high school in Anglesierre on the other side of the magical wall and is summoned to her birthplace, The Old Kingdom, by the spirit of her father. She has become the Abhorsen until she can free his spirit from Death…IF indeed she can do so. Under-trained, unknowledgeable about what’s been happening in her homeland, she sets out on a journey to save her father and meets some interesting characters and creatures along the way. A+
9. CROWN IN DARKNESS by Paul C. Doherty. #2 in the Hugh Corbett medieval mystery series, in which the Chancellor sends Corbett north to Scotland to investigate the death of their King Alexander. An accident? Or a carefully plotted murder? This is a short book (under 200 pages) and yet it seemed to take me quite awhile to read. I find the writing style a bit plodding and difficult to get through, and my mind wandered a lot. The subject matter and detail did keep me interested enough to complete it, though. There are certainly many historical mystery series that I enjoy more and I’m not sure when I will get back to this one. C+
10. BLIND TO THE BONES by Stephen Booth. #4 in the Ben Cooper/Diane Fry British police procedural series set in the Peak District. The disappearance of a college student two years ago ties in with a present-day murder as Ben and Diane investigate (mostly separately) the goings-on in the tiny village of Withens. Ben and Diane continue to each deal with their own demons as well. I really do not like Diane Fry as a character, but I am beginning to understand her more with each book. I love this series and this book was no exception. This one is, IMO, the best so far. A+
11. SOURCERY by Terry Pratchett. #5 in publication order of the Discworld fantasy books, this one again features Rincewind, the Luggage, Librarian, etc. as they speed away from Ankh-Morpork with the Archchancellor’s wizard hat. The hat asked to be stolen, you see, to keep young Coin, a true Sorcerer who walked into the Univesity and proclaimed himself Archchancellor, from putting it on. As always, Pratchett’s books make me laugh out loud, and also make me read slowly because sometimes one of his puns or jokes won’t hit me til several pages later—then I have to go back and read it again to make sure I got it! LOL A.
12. THIRD PERSON SINGULAR by K.J. Erickson. #1 in the Marshall “Mars” Bahr mystery series set in Minneapolis. When a high school senior from the wealthy suburb of Edina is found murdered in an unlikely area of Minneapolis, Mars looks desperately for suspects, but none are forthcoming. Several months later, new clues come to light and the investigation takes off once again. I enjoyed this first entry in the series, getting to know “Mars” and the supporting cast of characters. Erickson paints a vivid picture of Minneapolis and from what I can tell (I’m not a native of the city but I do live in the ‘burbs now) fairly accurate, too. There were a few little bits and bobs here and there that grated on my nerves, and I did figure out the bad guy well ahead of time, but still enjoyed it and will read more. B+.
13. WIT’CH FIRE by James Clemens. First in the “Banned and the Banished” fantasy series in which Elena, a young farm girl in Alasea discovers (with the help of her Uncle Bol) that she is the Wit’ch long prophesied to help the world slip out from under the dark rule of Lord Gul’gotha. She ends up banded together with a bunch of people and creatures of legend, they sworn to protect her and she only longing for the simple farm life she once had. Quite enjoyable and while there are some clichéd plotlines similar to many epic fantasy tales, it’s also sufficiently different to keep it interesting for the most part. There’s a fair bit of graphic violence and gory creatures and such, so best not for those prone to nightmares. LOL B+.
14. THE EVE OF ST. HYACINTH by Kate Sedley. #5 Roger the Chapman mystery set in 1270’s England in which Roger once again gets involved with the Plantagenet brothers: King Edward, George of Clarence and most especially Duke Richard, whose life is found to be in danger once again. Roger is enlisted to join the Duke’s household by Timothy Plummer to help find the mastermind behind a plan to assassinate Richard and the trail leads them to France and potentially another war. As always, enjoyable read with enough historical detail but a writing style that doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae. A.
15. DEATH OF A SNOB by M.C. Beaton. #6 in the Hamish MacBeth cozy Scottish police procedural series, in which Hamish, bereft of plans for the Christmas holiday, takes up the invite of a friend of Priscilla’s and joins her at her health farm on a lonely island to investigate whether or not someone is trying to kill her. Someone DOES die, but it’s not Jane—it’s Heather, one of her houseguests. Was Heather murdered because she was Heather or because someone thought she was Jane? Supt. Blair writes off the murder as an accident but Hamish knows better and eventually gets his man. As usual, a quick, light and enjoyable read. B+
16. NO MAN STANDING by Barbara Seranella. #5 Munch Mancini mystery, read this month in honor of the author at her untimely passing. Not that I need my arm twisted to pick up a Munch book!! In this installment, Munch’s friend Ellen’s mother and step-father are brutally murdered the day before Ellen is released from prison. Is this a message to Ellen? And will Ellen get the message or will Munch be dragged into yet another intrigue? And with Detective Rico Chacón investigating the murders, will Munch really mind being involved in the investigation? Another great read in this series, smack full of authenticity and a down-to-earth protagonist that you’re pulling for all the way. A.
DNF: BAD MOVE by Linwood Barclay. You know when you’re only in chapter 3 and already skimming, it’s not a good sign.