These are the books I read in January,  2013.  They are divided by genre/mystery – science,    fiction and non-fiction.   mystery and sci-fi are rated A+ to  F,   while fiction and non- are rated 10 (high) to 1 (low).

Overall – I read 12 books (average to low)  –  but 2 of the print books were over 600 pages and 3 others were over 15 hours listening.  Of the 12 total,  6 were audio books.  Also,  2 were mysteries and 2 were non-fictions while 1 was sci-fi.   Women authors for 5 of the books.  Finally,  7 of the books were first published in 2012.

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** The St. Zita Society by Ruth Rendell
2012 / Carol Boyd- 8h 22m
Genre:  mystery
Rating:  A-

Twisted tale of who is going to do what to whom and are they going to get caught.  Lots of intrigue and complexities in this tale of murders in a moderately upscale neighborhood with plenty of odd characters both upstairs and down.  Hint:   keep a character list.

** The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin
2007 / read by Steven Hoye – 10h 48m
Genre:  Mystery (historical)
Rating:  A-

Yashim,  eunuch detective n the Sultan’s court of the early 19th century,  has to find out who was killed a visiting archeologist – and why.  Goodwin obviously knows the history and there are plenty of details,  but that aspect never drags on the plot or character development.   I personally enjoyed Goodwin’s prior book,  “The Janissary Tree,”  also about Yashim,  better but this is certainly a worthy sequel.

Ready, Reader, One Ernest Cline
2012 /  read by Will Wheaton /  15h 46m
Genre:   sci-fi
Rating: B+

Probably more a YA book (14 up) but a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys computer games.  Wade Watts, a 16-year old computer geek seeks to play through an online game set up several years prior by the fabulously rich and brilliant but deceased James Halliday.  Lots of acclaim for a debut novel.


**Skios by Michael Frayn
2012 / Kindle – 272 pages
Genre: fiction
Rating:  8

Hilarious (slap-stick almost) adventures in the land of the celebrity speaker circuit and con artists.   Mini-theme of “who are you, who am I?” as folks mis-identify others as well as themselves.   The small Greek island setting is kind of interesting.

**Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
2012 / read by Barbara Kingsolver/  16h 56m
Genre:  fiction
Rating:  7.5

Good story line and interesting characters unfortunately set in Kingsolver’s usual political territory.  I don’t disagree with the politics,  I only object when it interferes with the story.  As a result there are a few too many coincidences and fairly predictable plot “twists.”    Kingsolver does a very,  very good job of narrating her own book – great dialogue and accents.

**In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin
2012 /Kindle – 705 pages
Genre:  fiction
Rating:  7

Not in the same league as “Winter’s Tale”  for a variety of reasons.  Beautifully written although it gets a bit over-much.  Great surface story but a lot of background and “fluffing out” of the main basically cardboard “good”  characters,  Harry and Catherine,  to try to make them seem full and real.  “Bad” guys are stereotypically bad and never given any air at all – they just stay flat – almost cartoonish.

** The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonnason
2009 / Kindle – 385 pages
Genre – fiction
Rating:  8

Funny,  funny,  funny –  for about 325  pages of the 385.  Could the last couple adventures have been shaved?  I don’t know – the story did have to finish itself out.  It’s a spoof on police procedurals while a round-the-world adventure through the  20th century.

** Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)
1971 / Kindle – 210 pages
Genre – fiction
Rating:  9

Touching story of a 70-something woman who has gone to live in a  London hotel which accepts long term elderly.  It’s not a nursing home and that’s very definitely understood.  But Mrs. Palfrey makes a friend with a young man in the neighborhood and they pretend he’s her grandson.  Some find this book hopelessly sad but I didn’t at all – at least not too much.   It’s beautifully structured and written – the characters are enjoyable and believable.   It’ll be a classic in a few years.

** All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky
1947 / Kindle -263 pages
Genre – fiction (classic)
Rating:  8.5

The story of a mixed-class couple in Provincial northern France from prior to WWI (when the Germans marched in) and WWII (when the Germans marched in).  Society’s “rules” may change but people still fight wars and evacuate cities.   Sad but very worth the read.  Beautifully written – the last complete book Nemirovsky wrote prior to her arrest and death in Auschwitz.

**The Glass Palace by Amitov Ghosh (2000)
2000 / read by Simon Vance – 17h 59m
Genre – fiction
Rating:  7.5

Not up to The River of Smoke but because I loved that as well as the prior Sea of Poppies so much I really wanted to read this. Sadly I found there was too much emphasis on getting the history accurate and too little on character development.  The novel is set mostly in Burma and India from 1885, fall of the Burma Empire,  through WWII.   The intricacies of several  families and individuals are followed through this period.   I might have got more out of it had I read it in print format –  I had to do that with the Sea of Poppies books.


**  Joseph Anton: a Memoir  by Salman Rushdie
2012 / 656 pages
Genre: memoir
Rating:   9

Joseph Anton was the pseudonym of Salman Rushdie while he was in hiding due to the fatwa (1988 –   ).  Fans of Rushdie’s novels, The Satanic Verses,  Midnight’s Children,  The Moor’s Last Sigh (and others) will enjoy this although Rushdie does get wordy,  not quite able to edit a lot of name-dropping and event details.  I found it fascinating.

**  Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else  by Chrystia Freeland
2012 / read by Alison Ryan
Genre:  Non-fiction (economics)
Rating:  8.5

The rich (1%) are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and these days that’s doubly true.  Freeland outlines the ways the super-rich ( .01%) live, educate their children,  work the economies of the world and play.

“ALL artistic judgement is subjective. ALL artistic judgments are camouflaged autobiography. How it comes about, you don’t know. Inspect yourself. ” John Carey, book reviewer, London Times

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