December 2020 books on my list

A few November books I missed in my list last month plus four December books!

books-on-my-list

I keep a list of all the books I might want to read and add to it as the year goes on. As each month comes along I create a list on my blog for others and for me to keep track of as the months go by.

I don’t buy all these books–since I already have way too many books to read and some of the new books are expensive. I’m trying to stick to a budget!

I hope people reading my post may find some new books to read. I also hope these people will point me toward books I might not know about! The links to the following books will take you to the book on Goodreads.

……………………

I missed several books in my November book list so I’ve added them in this one. And I’ve already purchased three of the November books: A Promised Land, Christmas Island and Take a Look at the Five and Ten.

November 17

A Promised Land

by Barack Obama

Published by Crown

Genre: Memoir

768 pages

Synopsis: A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

November 30

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower

by Tamsyn Muir

Series: Unknown

Published by Subterranean Press

Genre: Fantasy Novella

200 pages

Synopsis: When the witch built the forty-flight tower, she made very sure to do the whole thing properly. Each flight contains a dreadful monster, ranging from a diamond-scaled dragon to a pack of slavering goblins. Should a prince battle his way to the top, he will be rewarded with a golden sword—and the lovely Princess Floralinda.

But no prince has managed to conquer the first flight yet, let alone get to the fortieth.

In fact, the supply of fresh princes seems to have quite dried up.

And winter is closing in on Floralinda…

Christmas Island

by Natalie Normann

Series: Unknown

Published by One More Chapter

Genre: Romance, Christmas, Norway

340 pages

Synopsis: Cosy up in front of a fire and discover Christmas the Norwegian way…full of romance, cosy traditions and hygge!

In the bleak midwinter…
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Take a Look at the Five and Ten

by Connie Willis

Published by Subterranean Press

Genre: Science Fiction, Christmas, novella

120 pages

Synopsis: Ori’s holidays are an endless series of elaborately awful meals cooked by her one-time stepfather Dave’s latest bride. Attended by a loose assemblage of family, Ori particularly dreads Grandma Elving—grandmother of Dave’s fourth wife—and her rhapsodizing about the Christmas she worked at Woolworth’s in the 1950s. And, of course, she hates being condescended to by beautiful, popular Sloane and her latest handsome pre-med or pre-law bocyfriend.

But this Christmas is different. Sloane’s latest catch Lassiter is extremely interested in Grandma Elving’s boringly detailed memories of that seasonal job, seeing in them the hallmarks of a TFBM, or traumatic flashbulb memory. With Ori’s assistance, he begins to use the older woman in an experiment—one she eagerly agrees to. As Ori and Lassiter spend more time together, Ori’s feelings for him grow alongside the elusive mystery of Grandma’s past.

December 1

The Outcast Girls

by Alys Clare

Series: World’s End Bureau Victorian Mystery #2

Published by Severn House Publishers

Genre: Historical Mystery

256 pages

Synopsis: London, 1881. Lily Raynor, owner of the World’s End Investigation Bureau, is growing increasingly worried. Work is drying up, finances are tight and she cannot find enough for her sole employee, Felix Wilbraham, to do. So when schoolteacher Georgiana Long arrives, with a worrying tale of runaway pupils, it seems like the answer to her prayers. The case is an interesting one, and what could be less perilous than a trip to a girls’ boarding school, out in the Fens?

Disguised as the new Assistant Matron, Lily joins the Shardlowes School staff, while Felix – suppressing his worries about his cool, calm employer – remains behind. But there are undercurrents at Shardlowes, and the shadowy, powerful men who fund the school’s less fortunate pupils loom larger as Felix’s own investigations unfold. Felix can’t shake off his fear that Lily is in danger – and soon, his premonitions come frighteningly true . . .

Death at a Country Mansion

by Louise R. Innes

Series: Daisy Thorne Mystery #1

Published by Kensington

Genre: Mystery, Cozy

288 pages

Synopsis: No one would ever accuse famous opera star Dame Serena Levanté of lacking a flare for the dramatic. Unfortunately, it’s curtains down on the dysfunctional diva when she’s found dead at the bottom of a staircase in her elegant home. Solving an opera singer’s murder may not be the typical hairdresser’s aria of expertise. But Dame Serena was the mother of Daisy’s best friend Floria, so Daisy must do-or-dye her best to get to the roots of the case.

When a priceless Modigliani painting in the house is reported missing, the mystery gets even more tangled. Even though the gruff but handsome Detective Inspector Paul McGuinness tells the stylist to stay out of his hair, Daisy is determined to make sure the killer faces a stern makeover—behind bars.

December 29

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

by Marie Benedict

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre: Historial Fiction, Mystery

288 pages

Synopsis: In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy pond, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car—strange for a frigid night. Her husband and daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author. Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away.

The puzzle of those missing eleven days has persisted. With her trademark exploration into the shadows of history, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such a murky story.

Olive Bright, Pigeoneer

by Stephanie Graves

Series: Unknown

Published by Kensington

Genre: Historical Mystery, WWII England, Espionage

304 pages

Synopsis: Set in a charming British village during World War II, Stephanie Graves’ new charming historical mystery introduces Olive Bright, a spirited young pigeon fancier who finds herself at the heart of a baffling murder…

Though war rages across mainland Europe and London is strafed by German aircraft, the little village of Pipley in Hertfordshire bustles along much as it always has. Adrift since her best friend, George, joined the Royal Air Force, twenty-two-year-old Olive Bright fills her days by helping at her father’s veterinary practice and tending to her beloved racing pigeons. Desperate to do her bit, Olive hopes that the National Pigeon Service will enlist Bright Lofts’ expertise, and use their highly trained birds to deliver critical, coded messages for His Majesty’s Forces. The strangers who arrive in Pipley are not from the NPS. Instead, Jameson Aldridge and his associate are tied to a covert British intelligence organization known as Baker Street. If Olive wants her pigeons to help the war effort, she must do so in complete secrecy. Tired of living vicariously through the characters of her beloved Agatha Christie novels, Olive readily agrees. But in the midst of her subterfuge, the village of Pipley is dealing with another mystery. Local busybody Miss Husselbee is found dead outside Olive’s pigeon loft. Is the murder tied to Olive’s new assignment? Or did Miss Husselbee finally succeed in ferreting out a secret shameful enough to kill for? With the gruff, handsome Jameson as an unlikely ally, Olive intends to find out–but homing in on a murderer can be a deadly business…

What December books do you hope to read? What books have I missed?

Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

mr-churchills-secretaryMr. Churchill’s Secretary
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Series: Maggie Hope Mystery #1
Genre: Historical Mystery (WWII England)
Published by Bantam, 2012
E-book, purchased
354 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character,  Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

As most of the dogs in London had been sent to the country or chloroformed–the barking of the dogs was considered too great a risk in case of invasion–even the usual walkers weren’t around. The London Zoo’s snakes and reptiles had also been killed, while the elephants and lions had been moved to a safer location, the park felt so open, so exposed.

and

“We will go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.”

“…We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!”

…The majesty and grandeur of the English language, in the hands and on the lips of Winston Churchill, had power that even the threat of bombs couldn’t subdue.

Cheers

  • Great description of the bombing of London.
  • More of a thriller and spy novel than a traditional mystery.
  • I really like the history woven into this story. For example, I didn’t realize Ireland was neutral and that some of the IRA met with Nazi’s during WWII.
  • I like Maggie a lot and like seeing historical characters like Winston Churchill from her perspective.
  • I also like the portions of Churchill’s speeches included in this book. So interesting and inspiring to read.
  • Maggie is also interesting since she has a degree from Wellesley College in the United Stated and had planned to get a doctorate in mathematics from MIT. The she went to England to settle an aunt’s estate and stayed in London even after WWII started.
  • The description of Maggie taking dictation and typing the reports directly is so interesting. That’s hard to do. I’ve worked as a secretary before and typed from someone dictating to me. I’m not a fast enough typist to type directly without having the person stop so I can catch up!
  • At the end of the book Ms. MacNeal adds a Historical Note which I really enjoyed. She visited the Cabinet War Rooms in London and that inspired this book. The exhibit has audio accompaniments to the displays and one of these is the remembrances of one of Churchill’s secretaries. She also read accounts of some of the other secretaries. I really enjoy authors who tell us some of the history behind their historical fiction.
  • The book is told from several POV’s. One is from an IRA terrorist who is setting bombs in London. He’s scary, but the author also humanizes him which is also scary.
  • I have never been in a city or country which is being bombed. The day-to-day horrors people live through shown in this book–people digging bomb shelters in their back yards, the stress of living under constant fear, people dying before getting to a bomb shelter, people not agreeing with their country’s war declaration–not believing Hitler would invade Great Britain or if he did that he would hurt people.

Jeers

  • Toward the end of the book I thought Maggie does some things when seem foolhardy.
  • A number of coincidences occur in the book. They’re explained well, but still seem unlikely.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I definitely want to read more books in this series. I read books about WWII when I was a teenager and my dad was in the South Pacific during the War so most of the books I read took place there. I  haven’t read many about England during WWII though I’ve watched documentaries and Foyle’s War.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading ($1.99 e-book)