Before we start with the books, a quick programming note: Welcome to 2015! I’m starting off with my December 2014 Book Wrap-up but come back next week for either two or three (I haven’t decided yet) posts addressing reading, writing, and editing as they happened in 2014 and as I plan for them to happen in 2015.
Now, back to our regularly-scheduled books…
I thought I might read more in December but considering how busy things were with the holidays and editing, I’ll settle for what I did. Like November, it was a rather diverse month, including a novella, a play, a memoir, an older piece of fiction, an art book, and a really lousy novel.
Let’s get started:
The Haunted Bookshop – Christopher Morley – 3* – (Dec. 5):
This is the follow-up/sequel to Parnassus on Wheels, which I read in November. However, you don’t have to read Parnassus in order to understand this book. I’d probably recommend NOT reading Parnassus if you plan to read this book because after the adventure and comedy of its predecessor, I found The Haunted Bookshop to be a bit disappointing. Most serious transgression? The Haunted Bookshop isn’t haunted! That’s not a spoiler – it’s made clear very early on in the story that the name comes from the “hauntings” of the spirits of great writers. Instead, it’s a story of domestication, conspiracy, misdirects, and wrong conclusions made by a man infatuated with a young woman.
The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse – 2.5* – (Dec. 16):
Don’t judge a book by its beautiful cover, which is why I bought this one. At least compared to The Haunted Bookshop, this one did involve ghosts. However, the author seemed out of her depth in handling what could’ve been an amazing storyline of confusion, madness (was he really seeing ghosts? was it a fever dream? was he insane?), and history. Instead, she clumsily gave away the conclusion early on and then hammered it to death for the next 200 pages.
Amanda Palmer tends to be a bit polarizing if you know anything about her. And of course there was a lot of gossip surrounding the infamous Kickstarter campaign and not paying local musicians. It was interesting to hear the story from her perspective (she pulls no punches), as well as her general philosophy on asking, how it differs from begging, and how trusting she is of the community of supporters she’s built around her music. Her willingness to trust in a way that allows her to remain independent was very eye-opening.
The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde – 4* – (Dec. 27):
I don’t often read plays but this was a quick, easy read once I had the characters straight in my mind. It contains a great deal of quick wit. Even the title is a play on words with the name “Ernest” – indeed, there is a GREAT deal of importance in being both Ernest and earnest. It’s a quick read and my first introduction to Oscar Wilde. The movie, which I saw a few years ago, is a rather faithful adaptation from what I can remember, at least of the dialogue. I should rewatch it – you can’t go wrong with Colin Firth!
We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson – 4.75* – (Dec. 29):
This book about sisters Merricat and Constance, shunned by the village after the death-by-poison of their entire family (save elderly Uncle Julian) six years prior, is an interesting read about family, isolation, and mob mentality. When outsiders intrude into their solitude, things start to go very wrong, resulting in nothing good. The cover of this book is haunting, as are the words inside. It was first published in 1962 but it holds up well and I highly recommend it. It’s a short book and I just finished it a few days ago but I think it will stay with me for awhile.
I Was Once That Kid – David Gildersleeve – 3.75* – (Dec. 30):
On a recent trip to Savannah, Georgia, I found David Gildersleeve’s artwork in a gallery and fell in love. It’s not my usual style – comic book in nature. But we brought home four prints from his Being a Kid series. This book includes 20 of those drawings, along with commentary from David’s dad. I was expecting stories about David as a child or some look behind the artist. Instead, the commentary was quite generic. I felt like anyone could look at the images and come up with something very similar. I give 5* to the artwork but 2.5* to the commentary.
I ended the year 10 books over my adjusted goal of 45. I still didn’t read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson (for #jhbc) but the group decided to put it off until January. We read The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry for #jhbc as our Christmas read but I didn’t count that anywhere since it was so short. Between the annual library book sale and Christmas, my TBR shelf is out of control so I’m hopeful that much reading will happen this year. But more about that next week!
Happy reading and let me know if you’ve read any of the books above or have questions about any of them!