Saturday, December 01, 2018

Wrapping up Fall Reading

I'm just wrapping up my Fall reading before diving into Holiday books, so here's a quickie look at what I read this Fall.

I Am the Chosen King, by Helen Hollick - read this one with the GoodReads True Book Talk Group. November was historical fiction month, and while this wasn't the book I voted for, I really enjoyed it. It's about Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, who was defeated by William the Bastard in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. Having visited Bayeaux last summer and viewed the Bayeaux Tapestry and listened to the French side of the story, it was a story fresh in my mind and was cool because I had visited many of the places in Normandy mentioned in the book. It was well-written and detailed and covered a period of history that I want to learn more about.

An Infamous Army, by Georgette Heyer - this was my second time listening to the audio version of this incredible book. It is a mashup of a Regency Romance and a very detailed narrative of the Battle of Waterloo, with definite overtones of Vanity Fair. I really need to read it next time with a map in hand because listening to it in the car means I can't research all the place names. Thoroughly enjoyable, though.

Varina, by Charles Frazier - an exceptionally creative and well-written novel about Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the African-American child who was part of her household during the Civil War but who was taken from her when the Union Army captured the Davises after Richmond fell. Varina reminded me of Frazier's Cold Mountain in that both books are journeys--in Cold Mountain, Inman is going home after the Civil War whereas Varina is fleeing Richmond and trying to reach Florida so she can escape to Cuba. One of the best books I read this year.  Now, I am very eager to read A Diary from Dixie, by Mary Chesnut, who was one of Varina's closest friends before, during, and after the war.

To Die but Once, by Jacqueline Winspear - the most recent (#14) in the excellent Maisie Dobbs series. I love these books, always listen to them as the actress is so good who reads them. It's set during the Dunkirk evacuation, and is an absolutely first-rate mystery. Loved it!

The Caves of Perigord, by Martin Walker - I really wanted to visited the Dordogne region of France on my trip last summer so I could go to the Lascaux caves, but I just couldn't fit it in. So, I did the next best a novel about the region. Martin Walker writes lovely mysteries set in the Dordogne region, but this one was a stand-alone that bounced between pre-historic times when the cave paintings were done, WWII (when British, American, and French soldiers were prepping for D-Day and encounter the caves), and modern-day (when a fragment of one of the paintings is part of theft). It was okay--I loved the pre-historic story about how the paintings were done, what they meant--all conjecture, of course, but fun to read. The WWII part was also good, but the modern-day was pretty weak in terms of story and characters.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson - another second listening of this favorite book. All about how the stuff we take for granted--light, toilets, kitchens, essentially everything in a house including its structure--came to be.  I love listening to Bryson read his own works.

Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon - I'm 75% done with this reread, which I am doing while watching season 4 of Outlander. I'm a fan of the whole series and never tire of reading about the adventures of Clarie and Jamie and their family that literally spans the centuries. Gives new meaning to the term "extended family."

Now, on to Holiday reading!


  1. Those are some great books! I like how seriously you take your historical fiction. It is always great for me when a book inspires me to read around it or do further research/reading.

    I really liked Cold Mountain when I finally got around to reading it. Varnia does sound interesting and I really enjoyed Frazier's writing style.

  2. This is such an interesting group of books. I Am the Chosen King sounds really good. I know so little about the original Anglo-Saxon monarchs. However I would like to know more.

    It is neat how you divide your reading into seasons. Hopefully this will be a good winter.

  3. Perfect timing. I have an audible credit that is about to expire and At Home is in my shopping cart. After reading your post, I can check out with confidence! Thank you.

    1. I bought it a few years ago, and we listened to it on a road trip and then I recently just felt like listening to it again. Perennial favorite!

  4. I am so keenly interested in reading this novel by Martin Walker! It scarcely matters that the modern-day story is less well-done. It sounds fascinating. I will enjoy it soon! Thank you.

    1. It really is a terrific premise for a novel, and despite a few weaknesses, an enjoyable read. I’m sure you will like it too.

  5. Oh so glad you too liked Varina. I too thought it was one of my favorites of the year. But I didn't know anyone else who'd read it -- so I didn't know if I was off track or not. I loved it. It also reminded me of Cold Mountain. Thanks also for the tip on the Martin Walker book .... we love that region of France and so would like this one.