Books & Blog: December 1, 2019

Books:

  • Me, Elton John
  • Let’s Kill Uncle, Rohan O’Grady
  • The Unkindest Tide, Seanan McGuire
  • The Lost City of the Monkey God, Douglas Preston
  • Blue Moon, Lee Child
  • Land of Wolves, Craig Johnston
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune
  • Wolfsong, TJ Klune
  • Call The Nurse, Mary J. MacLeod
  • Broken Genius, Drew Murray
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow

Elton John’s autobiography seems frank and open . . . and I say that because he confesses to a number of really unbecoming behaviors. Not that his peccadillos haven’t been more or less an open book over the past few years, right? But somehow, like his stage presence and overwhelming talent, John seems bigger than life and full of charm even when he’s confessing to his cocaine and sex and food addictions. After reading about his childhood, I think it’s amazing that he has managed to overcome all this to be a husband and father, and he’s earned my admiration. Me is readable and relatable.

I remembered Rohan O’Grady’s book as one of my teen favorites. I decided to find out if it really was as good as I recalled. My first impression was that Let’s Kill Uncle was as charming and scary as I’d remembered . . . but I decided it would not be written the same way now. I like it like it is. For very different reasons, two small children, Barnaby and Christie, are sent to an island off Canada for the summer in the early 1960s. Barnaby’s uncle visits occasionally, and his visits are terrifying. Though none of the island adults believe the girl and boy when they try to talk about it, Uncle is planning to kill both of them. The practical Christie suggests they kill Uncle first . . ..

I like everything Seanan McGuire writes. If you’re like me, you became a McGuire fan back when her October Day series began. The Unkindest Tide is McGuire’s thirteenth October Day book, and Toby is as great a hero as she ever has been. This time, her adventures are mostly underwater, as Toby accompanies her terrifying aunt, the Sea Witch, on a sad mission.

Douglas Preston has written a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. The Lost City of the Monkey God is Preston’s account of visiting Honduras with an expedition in search of the famous lost city, and of what the expedition found. The terrain and wildlife are equally formidable in Honduras, and the physical strain and privation of camping in the jungle take their toll on everyone, sometimes fatally. Fascinating throughout.

Blue Moon is Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher book. This is now one of the most popular series in the world, and if you haven’t read any Jack Reacher novels, shame on you. There’s a reason they are so well-known.

Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyoming, is another enduring and admired series protagonist. Longmire is not the loner Reacher is, and he has a mystical streak that would never cross Jack Reacher’s emotional palate. They’re both pretty anti-technology, though . . . but in Land of Wolves, Longmire takes some steps toward remedying that, because he wants to see his daughter and granddaughter, who live hours away. In Absaroka County, Walt’s investigating both the death of a shepherd and the depredations of a real wolf . . .but opinions differ on who is the most dangerous, the wolf or the murderer. As absorbing as all the other Longmire books, which are great both in print and to listen to.

The House in the Cerulean Sea and Wolfsong are both by TJ Klune, a writer with whom I was unfamiliar until I was asked to blurb House. I had a very high opinion of House, a sort of modern fairy tale about an office worker sent to evaluate the conditions of the magically gifted children at a remote boarding school. This assignment ends up changing his life, and maybe ours. After I’d read House, I hurried to buy Wolfsong, TJ Klune’s book about werewolves and pack bonds.  And I plan to order more.

Mary J. MacLeod, writer of Call the Nurse, is a completely different kettle of fish. She is a real Home Health nurse who went with her husband and two younger sons to settle on a remote Hebrides island in the early sixties. (Two books about remote islands in the early sixties!) Many of the cottages where Nurse MacLeod visited patients were not reachable by car – that is, you could get within a couple of miles, but then you had to hike, in weather that might be described as extremely brisk. I wonder if the way of life is still as difficult, and if the island is still populated.

Broken Genius is another book I was asked to blurb, and I’m saying yes to this one, too. Drew Murray is a good writer, and since this is his first and he’s this good, I think we have things to look forward to reading. His protagonist is Will Parker, an anonymous name for a computer genius who not only is extremely wealthy but takes jobs for the FBI Counterintelligence and Cyber Division because his conscience is uneasy. Will is especially intent on solving his latest case since a quantum computer that he funded has resurfaced after being lost, and the people who might have obtained it are being killed. Will both loves and hates this quantum computer: it’s brilliant and he caused its existence, but it also has the power to intrude into peoples’ lives more thoroughly than any other device. Following a trail of disaster and bodies, Will’s quest to find the Fukushima Unicorn leads him deep into his own past.

Alix E Harrow was unknown to me, but The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a truly amazing book. I hate to tell you anything about it, but the protagonist, January, can find doors that lead to a different worlds. However, she’s hostage to a rich American who realizes this, even when January doesn’t know it herself.  This is a complicated and beautiful novel, just lovely.

 

Blog

This is (maybe) my last Book & Blog of the year. Looking back at 2019, it hasn’t been my favorite. A LONGER FALL got pushed back to January 2020, so this year I haven’t had a new book, which feels really unpleasant. I have a couple of TV possibilities hanging in limbo, which is unpleasant, too. I was in the hospital twice. The family wedding we’d looked forward to was broken off.

On the other hand, I’ve had the constant support of readers who are anxious to continue Gunnie Rose’s adventures, and I have the great support of my literary agent in NYC, Joshua Bilmes, and the constant care of my book-to-screen agents in Hollywood at APA. I have my assistant and friend Paula. I have my Instagram wizard, Presley. I have my website maven, Dawn. And all the members of my family are well and working. Our grandchildren are healthy, intelligent, kind, and beautiful. And I have some truly stellar friends.

I’m going with that.

I have a lot of things to look forward to: our granddaughter dancing in a church program, getting my pedicure, getting my hair done, helping our daughter get her new home settled, our church Christmas party and our ladies’ tea party, taking our grandchildren to Breakfast with Santa (an annual treat), and other things both small and large that delight me. And finishing the next book! Due to real life stress and strain, I have fallen terribly behind, and I’m not happy about it. But this month, I will finish it and send it off, or I’ll get coal in my stocking.

Blessings and happiness to all of you, and I wish you a good 2020.

 

Charlaine Harris