08 January 2015

December Book Report

OK, let's get things underway again.  The good news about my holiday pictures is that I finally managed to download them from my camera.  The bad news is that I haven't had a chance to resize them, etc.  But I'm sure in the next post or two, they'll be ready.

In the meantime, I'm sharing what I read during December.  I didn't read as much as I would have liked, or even as much as I usually do, but that was largely because I spent more of my spare time decorating, baking, and knitting than I did reading.  It's all good, no matter how you think about it.


A Killer's Christmas in Wales, by Elizabeth J. Duncan.  I am not at all familiar with the Penny Brannigan series, and I have read very few things set in modern-day Wales, so I was curious.  I enjoyed this book.

Penny Brannigan and her friend and business partner, Victoria, are busy planning for the opening of their new spa in a small Welsh town.  They have previously owned a nail salon, but Penny received an inheritance that has allowed them to take their business to the next level.  This is the core story of the book, around which all other events swirl.

During the renovation of the building, the skeletal remains of a woman are found, and the police are trying to see if they can identify the person.  Then a well-to-do widow in the town meets a charming younger American man who she believes is romantically interested in her, but turns out to be a con artist.  Penny spies a couple who she can't quite recognize one evening in the dark, who apparently are having an affair. And then, right before the spa opening and Christmas Day itself, the American con artist is killed during a visit by a local arts group to a nearby castle.

Penny and Victoria are asked by the widow to investigate, since suspicion falls immediately on her.  So with everything else that they have going on, they agree to look into it.  Penny is somewhat distracted by the theft of a valuable brooch recently given to her by her policeman boyfriend, and in the end, even that is part of the overall story.

As I said, I enjoyed this book, it was a new setting and some new characters, and of course, takes place at Christmastime.

Not My Father's Son, by Alan Cumming.  Yes, not a Christmas book!  I started listening to this audiobook about a month ago, after going to a presentation by Alan Cumming a the Free Library of Philadelphia's Author Series.  And I just finished a few days ago, so it will be in here with my Christmas books. :-)

First of all, let me state that I love Alan Cumming.  I think it would be a hoot to know him.  I love him on the TV show, "The Good Wife," and think that if they ever created an Emmy for Best Reaction Shots, he would win, hands down, every single time.

Anyway, this all starts when he is asked to be on the British TV show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" where they research your roots.  Alan was interested in learning more about his paternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, who left to fight a war, but never really returned to his family.  During the course of background for the show, his father drops the bomb that Alan is not his son, but is the result of a brief affair between his mother and another man.

The story is told in "Then" and "Now" chapters, and details his childhood dealing with a father who seemed to go out of his way to make his child's life miserable.  Actually, not just his one child - both children, as well as his wife.  Cumming spares no horrible detail, and the reader (listener) comes away wondering how he has turned out as OK as he seems to be.  The book details all of the whirlwind of activity and trauma surrounding the information found about Tommy Darling for the TV show (which is not what anyone expected), which was happening at the same time that Cumming's father was claiming no biological connection.

For someone who grew up in what most would see as an idyllic setting, Cumming's childhood was full of fear, confusion, and wondering why his father treated him as he did.

This was pretty amazing. The twists of the story, and the story itself, are both disturbing and upsetting.  The fact that he is able to tell the whole story, and even move on from it, shows that people can overcome the worst.

By the way, if you ever have the chance to hear/see him in person, GO!!

Shakespeare's Christmas, by Charlaine Harris.  Well, this was interesting to me.  I had not read any previous books in this series, and frankly, am not interested in any of the author's other series, but this was a book I liked.

Lily Bard lives in Shakespeare, Arkansas, and when the book opens, she is participating in the town's Christmas parade, to promote her cleaning business.  Lily is an interesting character, not a cuddly, sweet type, more a defensive, tough type.  Which is apparently a result of having survived an abduction, rape, and mutilation.  Anyway, she is headed to her home town of Bartley for her younger sister's wedding, and dreading every minute of it, since her family and former friends don't seem to know how to act around her since the harrowing event.

Shortly before she heads home, she reads a story in the local paper, that is part of a series they run every year, about cold cases.  She is particularly drawn to one about a baby that was abducted from a nearby town, and the parents that have never given up hope.

It turns out that when she gets to Bartley, her current boyfriend, a private investigator, shows up, investigating the very child abduction case that rattled Lily.  With only a few days before her sister's wedding, there are all of a sudden a few murders to solve, and Lily becomes convinced that they are related to the abduction of the baby eight years ago.

This was interesting to me, both as a new series, and with a main character that was not really that appealing, or who put the "cozy" in cozy mystery.  Everything happens shortly before Christmas Day, and Lily wants it all resolved so she can be back in Shakespeare, celebrating the holiday the way that SHE wants to!

I am intrigued by this series, and will probably at least read the first installment for background.

Holiday Buzz, by Cleo Coyle.  This time around, Clare Cosi, coffeeshop owner/amateur detective extraordinaire, has a Christmas murder to figure out.  During the Great Christmas Cookie Swap, where she is providing the beverage service, one of part-time baristas, who also works for a friend of hers who owns a bakery, is found murdered right outside the building where the swap was taking place.  The police are treating it as part of a series of attacks they call "Christmas Stalkings," but Clare is convinced it's not related at all.

During the course of her investigation, the suspects come to include the Irish Mafia, former reality show stars, and a professional hockey player.  With information she is able to gather, and some info rounded up by her detective boyfriend, Clare tracks down the killer and finds out the whys and hows of just what happened.

This was nicely suspenseful, and very Christmasy.

Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen, by Emily Brightwell.  Honestly I abandoned this.  For whatever reason, it's just not interesting to me right now.  I think I'll try again next December before I decide it is just not for me.  It has potential ...

What about you - did you read anything interesting lately, and/or during December?  I'm always looking for suggestions (even though my to-be-read list is ridiculously long).  I'm on my way in 2015, though, as I started my second book of the year today!

P.S. Turns out that this is my 900th post - who'd have thunk it??


Caffeine Girl said...

I love hearing what everyone else is reading. I went through a huge mystery phase, but for now, I'm taking a break from them.

Lorraine said...

Bridget- I have heard the Alan Cumming book is good, but I confess not knowing who he is.

Thanks for the recommendation.

Kym said...

I'd LOVE to see Alan Cumming "live-and-in-person" -- what a treat! I had heard his book was good; thanks for the recommendation!

elns said...

You know I'm a fan of your book reports. I usually try to read something Christmassy even if it's a reread, but I didn't this year. I will have to seek out this post again later this year.

Alan Cumming would definitely be someone I'd love to have a drink or meal with.