Saturday, 31 December 2016

Reading Summary - December and 2016 in toto

It's the last day of 2016. Some things that took place in the past year are good to put behind. Unfortunately, they will follow into 2017. For that reason, I look forward to the new year with some trepidation. But, at the same time, you can't lead your life waiting for bad things to happen. You can only live it as best you can and make the most of it. I'm definitely looking forward to the final work being done on our old homestead. We spent a couple of hours yesterday painting our extra bedroom in anticipation of the final work to be done there. We still have a fair bit to do, but at least we made a start and got a good coat of paint on a lot of the room. Then it'll be the den. Not sure where we'll put all the furniture in that room, but when the work is done, we can reorganise. Something we've talked about for awhile now. So no bad thing.

Anyway, onto my final summary of stats on my December reading and my overall totals for the past year. I have to say, that retirement did give me lots of opportunities to read a lot and that was a very good thing. I had hoped to read 100 books this year and ended up with 150. I'm very pleased with that. So let's look at all the little stats that I've followed this year.

December / 2016 Reading Summary

                                             Dec             Sub-total        2016 Total
Books Read                          14                    136                 150      (last year 98, 2014 - 105)
Pages Read (rounded)       3750                41,375            45125   (last year 32,500, 2014 - 35,000)

Pages Breakdown
      < 250                                8                      59                  67
250 - 350                                3                      38                  41
351 - 450                                2                      19                  21
      > 450                                1                      20                  21

Author Gender
Female                                   6                       43                 49
Male                                      8                       93                101

5 - star                                   0                        18                 18
4 - star                                   6                        71                 77
3 - star                                   9                        46                 55

Fiction                                  4                         21                 25
Mystery                                8                         63                 71
SciFi                                     0                         34                 34
Non-Fict                               1                          9                  10
Humour                                0                          3                    3
Classics                                1                          6                    7

Top Three Books of December

There were no five-star books in December but still some excellent ones. My Top Three for the month are..

1. Landfall by Nevil Shute. Shute continues to be one of my all-time favourite authors. I've enjoyed every book I've read and look forward to reading many more. My review of Landfall is below.

"The more I read his work, the more I love the writing of Nevil Shute. His book, Landfall, written in 1940, falls into his 'war' period of writing. In its simplest form, you could call it a war story. Flying Officer Jerry Chambers is a pilot of Angus aircraft. His mission is flying over the English channel with his crew of 3 and, following a grid, tracking ships sailing up and down the Channel and also looking for German U-boats that might present a threat to allied shipping. One mission he sees a U-boat and sinks it.
This incident will greatly affect Jerry as it turns out that the submarine might not have been a German ship. There is an investigation and Jerry is transferred to a squadron that instead flies over Germany, dropping propaganda materiel. He does ultimately get another transfer, to an experimental unit that works out of the same area as his first squadron, working to help a scientist with unnamed experimental work that might help shift the war effort in the Allies favour. This is very dangerous work.
So that's the war story aspect. On another level, you have a romance between Jerry and barmaid, Mona, a sensible young lady who gradually falls in love with Jerry; the feeling is mutual, by the way. When Jerry is transferred, things are definitely put on hold. The interesting side-note to this romance, and it becomes key to the overall story is that the bar where Mona works is frequented by British sailors and airman. In the course of her work, she hears tidbits of information, that put together might mean the results of the original enquiry were erroneous.
It all seems kind of convoluted as I present it, but Shute is such an excellent writer. The story is presented in a gentle, logical manner and as you read through, everything fits together nicely. The characters are sympathetic, especially Jerry and Mona, both lovely people who are bound together, as many seem to have been in the War. The story is a pleasure to read, another example of Shute's ability to write interesting stories that strike a chord in your heart; everyday people doing impressive things, people you'd love to meet and know. The ending was satisfying and touched a bit of a nerve with me; leaving me nicely choked and happy. (4 stars) "

2. The Professor by Charlotte Bronte. This was the second Bronte book I read this past year, the first being my #1 book of the year, Jane Eyre. I have been pleased with the number of pre-1900 books I've read the past few years and plan to continue to explore those authors in 2017. My review of The Professor is below.

"The Professor by Charlotte Bronte was Bronte's first book but not published until her death. I have read Jane Eyre this past year and enjoyed very much. I had an inkling about The Professor but the overall story was a nice surprise for me. I thought it was about a woman who goes to Brussels to teach and falls in love with a professor. In fact, it was probably the polar opposite.
Basically, William Crimsworth finishes school and turns down his relatives who offer him a job as a minister. He instead goes to the north and gets a job in his brother's factory as a clerk. His brother basically treats William like dirt and pays him a pittance. In the end, William goes to Brussels, receiving a recommendation of an acquaintance of his brother and obtains a job as a professor at a boy's school; teaching English. He also manages to obtain a job teaching part-time at a girl's school next door and the mistress develops a crush on him. He discovers that she is instead engaged to the master of the boy's school.
William finds himself falling for a young woman who teaches lace work at the girl's school and begins to take lessons with the Professor to learn English. The story develops, with Crimsworth leaving his jobs, Frances (the young woman) losing her job and a relationship developing between Frances and William. I won't elaborate any more as I don't wish to ruin the ending of the story.
All in all, I enjoyed the story and like Charlotte Bronte's writing style. I enjoyed how the story moved along and how the characters developed. The story ended very nicely, which was also a pleasant surprise. It ended up being very satisfying and enjoyable. I will try her other stories and I think I'll have to brave Wuthering Heights, written by her sister, again as I took that in high school and never could get into it. Suffice it to say, I've been enjoying my exploration in the Classics and hope to continue to do so."

3. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson - I'd had this book on my shelf for awhile and just never got around to trying it. I'm very glad that I finally did, quite a unique story.

"I've had Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson on my bookshelf since early last year. It looked interesting, I purchased it, then I basically forgot about it. I only dusted it off when it became one of my group's monthly Group Read challenges. I'm so glad that it was. Such an interesting story. In some ways, it reminds me of the movie, Memento, with Christine, the main character having to start her life anew each time she wakes up.
Something happened to Christine twenty-five years ago that caused her to lose her memory. Each day she wakes up, not knowing who or where she is. Her husband must tell her, guide her, get her started each day, leaving notes and hints around the house so she can function. Seem simple? Well, there are more twists and turns ahead. Christine is seeing a doctor, who is trying to help her regain her memory; she is writing a journal each night and he is reminding her to read it to start the day, so she will have some ideas about what happened in previous days.
Still want a few more twists? Is her husband telling her the truth about what happened and about who Christine is? Is the doctor more than he seems? I'll leave it at that. It's a fascinating story, and sometimes a frustrating story, but, I guess, seeing what Christine is going through, maybe that's totally understandable. The story is well-written and well-crafted. I found myself, the more I got into the story, wanting to find out WHAT HAPPENED!! I had to get to the end, at the same time, being worried that it would all be sort of anti-climactic... It wasn't.
What added to my enjoyment was that I discovered that my missus had seen the movie... there is a movie??.. so I found myself reading bits and pieces to her, telling her my ideas on what had happened, how it might all be resolved. It's always more fun to share a great book with someone else.
It wasn't perfect, but it was still a most enjoyable, readable, tense, exciting story."

My Other December Reads

4. Wycliffe and Death in Stanley Street by W.J. Burley
5. Fractured by Karin Slaughter
6. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
7. Gideon's Month by J.J. Marric
8. My Father and Other Working Class Heroes by Gary Imlach
9. Winter Study by Nevada Barr
10. To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
11. Quietly in their Sleep by Donna Leon
12. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
13. Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
14. A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King.

So there you go. My 2016 reading is finished and my first 4 2017 books are on the stool in front of me by the sofa. They are goading me to start early. Well, maybe this evening I'll get the first one started.

Happy New Year and the Best for 2017!!!


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