Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Reviews – the December Edition


In December I tried to reach my (rather modest) reading goal for 2020, but I couldn’t quite get there. I ended up reading 58 books for the year, down from 76 the year before. My goal was just 60 because I knew that I wanted to listen to more podcasts & that would eat into my reading time. But I didn’t do that either. I reread some old favorites, and mostly played games on my iPad. Most of my “reading” was audiobooks, but my work commute is pretty short. Anyway, in my dash toward the end of the year I read seven books in December! I think I’ll try to shorten the descriptions so there isn’t quite as much to get through.
1. The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware. ★★★ Rowan Caine lies to obtain a nanny position at a remote house in Scotland. The book opens with her in a prison cell; she has been arrested for murdering one of the children. In a series of letters to an attorney, she maintains her innocence & tell the story of how she got there.
The Bug Says: There were aspects of this book that annoyed me (the house is a “smart” house and & I was very impatient with her technical illiteracy), but the twist at the end ended up making it worth the read.

2. Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted, by Shannan Martin. ★★★★ Shannan Martin had the perfect life: a cute farmhouse on six rambling acres, a loving husband, three adorable kids, money, friends, a close-knit church—a safe, happy existence. But when the bottom dropped out through a series of shocking changes and ordinary inconveniences, the Martins followed God’s call to something radically different: a small house on the other side of the urban tracks, a shoestring income, a challenged public school, and the harshness of a county jail (where her husband is now chaplain). And yet the family’s plunge from “safety” was the best thing that could have happened to them. 

The Bug Says: I follow Shannan on Instagram & find her to be a pragmatic lovely soul who talks openly about moving from conservative Republicanism to becoming something a little more like Christ would like us to be (hint: that’s not necessarily a bleeding heart liberal Democrat). In fact, our “Christ-likeness” doesn’t actually depend on our politics (shocker!). Anyway, this book tells the beginning of her journey and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
3. The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events #3), by Lemony Snicket. ★★★ If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted; but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and this one may be the worst of them all. If you haven't got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair. I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.

The Bug Says: This is where I started trying to read short things to get me over the book finish line. I’ve read a couple of other Lemony Snicket books and this one wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoy these because of how the author will use a word, and then give a definition of the word that is hilarious. (Note: if it’s not apparent from the description, this is actually a children’s book.)
4. The Mystery of Meerkat Hill (Precious Ramatswe’s Very First Case), by Alexander McCall Smith. ★★★★★ Precious wants to be a detective when she grows up. She is always practicing at being a detective by asking questions and finding out about other people’s lives. There are two new students in her class, a girl called Teb and a boy called Pontsho. She learns that they are brother and sister, and—even more exciting—that Pontsho has a clever pet meerkat named Kosi.
One day, Teb and Pontsho’s family’s cow disappears. Precious helps them look for clues to find the cow. But getting the cow back home will require some quick thinking and help from an unexpected source.
The Bug Says: This was a short story about the main character from the No. One Ladies' Detective Agency series. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It would be appropriate as a children’s book too.
5. & 6 Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Wembley (★★★) and Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (★★★★) (Agatha Raisin #s 4 & 5), by M.C. Beaton. More Agatha Raisin silliness – she finally catches her neighbor and then loses him again, all against the backdrop of murder.
The Bug Says: Agatha Raisin amuses me – her mysteries are your typical British village mysteries, but definitely on the silly side.
7. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #13), by Alexander McCall Smith. ★★★★ Precious Ramotswe is very busy these days. The best apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors is in trouble with the law and stuck with the worst lawyer in Gaborone. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are building the house of their dreams, but their builder is not completely on the up and up. Most shockingly, Mma Potokwane, the orphan farm’s respected matron, has been dismissed from her post. Mma Ramotswe is not about to rest when her friends are mistreated. Help arrives from an unexpected visitor. He is none other than the estimable Mr. Clovis Andersen, author of The Principles of Private Detection, the No. 1 Ladies’ prized manual. Together, Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and their colleague help right injustices that occur even in their beloved Botswana, and in the process discover something new about being a good detective. 
The Bug Says: There is just something about Mma Ramatswe’s brand of wisdom that pulls me in and makes me want to stay awhile. I will say that Mma Makutsi was extra annoying in this book – Mma Ramatswe has a lot more patience for her than I do. And that’s another valuable lesson for me to learn!

And so another year of books has come to an end. I finished the two books that I needed for my goal this past week - just a smidge too late to count - and I’m on to another one. We’ll see if I can hit my goal in 2021. What good things have you been reading lately?


  1. I think the Limpopo Academy is the next one. I've been reading them in order. right now I'm reading the lasted Stefanie Plum book. this one has an actual title along with the number.

    1. I've been reading them in order too - much less confusing that way! And I keep forgetting there's a new Plum book out!

  2. I'm reading Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (Hidden Legacy series). I like them and they are fast reads plus they take place in Houston although, it is a magical time.

  3. The "Falling Tree" book sounds intriguing. I'm always interested in memoirs in which people cope with challenges. I've never heard of Agatha Raisin!

    1. Agatha Raisin is a confection with a curmudgeon as a main character - ha!

  4. What good things have you been reading lately?

    I still have a seven books that I am "reading" but can't get truly interested in any of them. I'll read a few pages in one before going to bed and lose interest or my cat will jump on the bed and literally attack my book until I put it down and pet him.

    1. I think your cat has his priorities in order :)


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