Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Books

So, as blogging has been so difficult for me this year, and reading so terribly hard since Oct 22, I wanted to do something a little different in the run-up to Christmas.  Instead of having a chocolate advent calendar, I thought I would write every day about books.  Either a book review of a book I've read and particularly liked, or thoughts on reading, or books I want for Christmas, or anything bookish that catches my eye.  So, it will be a surprise every day for 24 days.

Of course, I have already missed two days, so you get a triple treat today.  Three bookish things! 

Day One: Book Christmas Advent Calendar In which I review a book
                     The Detective's Daughter by Lesley Thomson

I read this book in March of this year.  Stella Darnell is a policeman's daughter.  Jack is the son of Kate Rokesmith, an unsolved murder from 30 years ago, that haunted Stella's father.  Upon DI Darnell's death, Kate begins sorting through her father's papers to prepare to empty his house.  She comes across a book of papers and realizes her father never got over not solving Kate's death. 

This isn't a simple murder mystery, however.  Stella is a little different, although it is not spelled out in the book, I suspect she is Obsessive-Compulsive to a high degree.  She runs a cleaning company and everything has to be spic and span or else....everything in her life is run the same way.  It is interesting in this novel to see what happens when she meets Kate Rokesmith's son, Jack who was 4 when his mother was murdered.  He was the only witness.  The story that Thomson weaves around grief, parents who are oblivious to their children's wants, and coming to terms with loss, and the slow uncovering of who killed Kate, made for a fascinating mystery novel.  I liked that Kate had to feel compulsive about her cleaning, and how she changes when she meets someone more damaged than she is, is enjoyable and realistic.  I liked the characters, and the mystery, very much.  If you want a good mystery with some emotional glimpses and growth in characters, this is one to get.

Day Two:  Book Christmas Advent Calendar:  surprise!  another book review!  hurray!
                      Invisible City by Julia Dahl
I came across a review of this book in one of the mystery review magazines I occasionally buy. I read it this past July. It is a debut mystery, featuring a female reporter who has arrived in New York City from Florida.  The catch?  Her mother is from New York City, and was one of the Hasidic Jews.  Rebekah Roberts doesn't remember her mother, her mother abandoned her and left her father when she was a baby, and disappeared.  Rebekah has come back to New York City to find what happened to her mother, while she works as a stringer newspaper reporter.  She is called out to cover the story of a dead woman discovered at a building site.  The woman is a Hasidic Jew. One of the men who arrive on the scene from the Jewish community is a man named Saul, who recognizes Rebekah because she looks so much like her mother. Her Hasidic background gives her access to the community, with some members willing to talk with her because she is one of them.

I thought this was an excellent debut mystery.  I was drawn to it because of the Hasidic Jewish storyline, which is rarely featured in general fiction. In this novel (as in real life), it is a culture closed off to much of the Western city around it, functioning, with the permission of the city fathers, with its own laws and customs, which Rebekah learns about and questions because she has not been raised in the Hasidic tradition.  We learn much on the way along with Rebekah.  Fascinating.  There are few stereotypes in the characters we meet, the mystery is decent and heart-breaking as we get to know the family members, and at the heart of it is what Rebekah learns of her mother and why she might have left her all those years ago.  Highly recommended.

Day Three: Book Christmas Advent Calendar: in which I confess, I was finally able to look at  some used books.

This is what I bought: and they are NOT for my Christmas box of books!!!  I'm a little naughty, aren't I?  Plus, still reading every so slowly.  Two books finished in 6 weeks, with another almost done now.  However, I can look at books again in a store so this is a big improvement for me. 

Because I'm reading so slowly, and haven't been able to shop much for Christmas, I don't have much of a Christmas list done yet.  I'm just beginning to look at what books are out now. Do you, Gentle readers?  What books are you really wanting for Christmas?  Have you done any secret book buying that is not a present for anyone this year, but is for you and just because you love books and they are irresistible?


Belle Wong said...

I love this idea of an Advent Calendar if books! And you've reminded me, I've been wanting to give myself the gift of visiting a few of the local bookstores!

Cath said...

I too love this idea, Susan. *So* looking forward to your posts.

Invisible City sounds excellent. The Jewish community fascinate me and I've always thought it would be nice to know more... particularly about New York oddly enough.

Nice pile of books! I see we have two in common, The Woman in White and The Mitford Girls.

I didn't buy any in months and then came home from Cardiff last week with four travel books from Waterstones. Then I got two of that fantasy series from Amazon and I have my eye on the last one too. Plus we just bought a tablet and it has free books! So of course I nabbed a few. LOL! Lost cause...

Susan said...

Belle: I hope you get to plenty of your indie bookstores this season :-) I have to get out to my independent local ones, too. You can use the idea of an Advent Calendar of books if you like! that would be awesome :-)

Cath: thanks so much! I hope you enjoy them. They really will be random book things each day! lol

Invisible City is available on Kindle (amazon e-reader), which is free for the computer. Just saying, in case you go looking for it :-)

Everyone seems to have read the Mitford Girls except me! so when I saw it for $3 I thought heck yes! I know I've read the Woman in White but it was so many years ago I think I can read it again now, and Wilkie Collins seems to be on the blogging reading radar right now. I hope you and I both are able to read it soon!

Isn't that the way though, we go months without buying anything and feel really virtuous (at least I do), and then along comes some new books and wham! and those darn free e-books are so tempting. I mean, they're free! I shouldn't mention that even when I borrow books from the library this year, which I was doing so I wouldn't buy so much, I managed to run up quite an overdue fine, right? :-D