My 2009 Year End Reading Summary from Christy

  • How many books read in 2009? 24
  • How many fiction? 14
  • How many non-fiction? 10
  • How many biographical or auto-biographical? 8
  • How many travel books? 2
  • Female authors? 16
  • Male authors? 8
  • Most favourite? Someone at a Distance, by Dorothy Whipple
  • Least favourite? The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, by Colleen McCullough
  • Any I simply couldn’t read all the way through? The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. I was amazed that the writer of Thornbirds could write such a dreadful book.
  • Oldest book read? The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
  • Newest book read? Persona non Grata, by Ruth Downie
  • Longest read? The Lost, A search for six of six million, by Daniel Mendelsohn
  • Shortest read? The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
  • How may books from the library? 18
  • Translated books? 3
  • Most read author of the year? Dorothy Whipple
  • How many by that author? 3
  • Any re-reads? No
  • Favourite character? Charlotte Gray
  • How many countries were visited, through the read page? Australia, USA, Canada, Russia, Poland, Germany, Monrovia, France, United Kingdom, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Kenya, South Africa, Botswana
  • Which books would you not have read without a recommendation? The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Someone at a Distance, Mrs Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Little Boy Lost, Facing the Lion.
  • Which author was new to me, and I want to read all that author’s works? Dorothy Whipple
  • Read any books I always meant to read? The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery
  • Any books I’m annoyed I didn’t read? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I have never kept a statistical record of the books I have read. And I don’t think this was my best year for reading books. I averaged two books per month. I think I’m going to try for three books per month next year. But I read for the love of it, so what takes my fancy or comes to my attention, will be read.

I seem to especially like books fiction or biographical, that are set in the first or second world war time period, but I’m not stuck there.

I have sorely neglected our library, book reading club and every time I run into someone they say “when are you coming back?” Just life gets in the way. So will work harder to keep up and participate in that.

Reading, what a joy, what a transportation, through time and distance from ones own fireside.

Well signing off from my American fireside reading.


P.S. Found this meme on Paperback Reader


Persona Non Grata, by Ruth Downie

This will be my last book review of the year and I was going to get together a very humble little tally of the books I have read this year.

Ruth Downie has two previous books in this series, both were New York Times best sellers, Medicus and Terre Incognita.

Based around the main character, a career military doctor, Gaius Petreius Ruso, who is stationed in Roman Britain, near Hadrian’s Wall and lives with his companion Tilla a tribal native of the isle. He receives a letter summoning him back to his family in the south of France.

On reaching the family home and vinyard, nobody owns up to sending the letter. All is in turmoil. The family are on the edge of bancrupty, their creditors are breathing down their necks, they could all be out on the street. Gaius’s sister-in-law’s brother, has drowned mysteriouly on a sea voyage.

Gaius has not told his family he will be bringing Tilla and has not told them of their relationship.

As if this isn’t enough their main creditor comes to visit and drops dead of poisoning in front of Gaius.

How is his younger sister mixed up the the gladiators.

Gaius is now expected to sort out the family fortunes.

What did I think?

I was truthfully expecting more. Knowing that Ruth Downie’s two previous books were New York Times best sellers. It was a good read, a not in depth read. Interesting research on Roman Life. I enjoyed it, and probably I should go back and read the two previous books.

I studied Roman Britain for my final exams, so had some background understanding of this period in history.

I felt it was an OK book that benefited from it’s period setting. I will hold judgement until I read the previous two books.


The Lost Art of Gratitude, by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel Dalhousie is a thoroughly modern woman, from a well to do background. She owns and edits from home, a philosophical journal. Has an eighteen month old boy, Charlie, who loves eating olives and lives with his father Jamie.

A chance meeting with an old acquantance Minty Auchterlonie, gets an invite for Charlie to her son’s birthday party, to be held at their prestigious family house in the country outside of Edinburgh. Minty is now a high flying financier. Isabel had always thought of her as a ruthless climber, but her integrity had never been brought into question.

Minty takes Isabel into her confidence over a personal matter, but is Minty being truthful with her or is she using her. Rumors come her way of Minty being involved in a financial bank fraud, plus some other shady dealings. Being the curious Isabel that she is, she just can’t say no.

Another dilemma is Professor Dove, her nemesis in the writing world. What’s this whole to do about plagiarism?

Her neice Cat is dating a new boyfriend (a tightrope walker!) Isabel has Jamie, her neice’s old boyfriend, Charlie’s father; and the open question of marriage is still hanging.

Philosophizing, snooping and being just mum, make up this easy read series of books set in Edinburgh.

As the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency has an old worldliness to it. This series has a modern theme about it. Set in Edinburgh in the world of today. I like both series by McCall Smith, and will read more of these books in each series.


Tea Time for the Traditioally Built, by Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi, run the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, in Botswana. Mma Ramotswe who owns the agency is married to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni a first class mechanic who runs a repair garage along with his two young apprentices and an older man. Mma Ramotswe and her husband also have two adopted children, with special needs, Motholeli and Puso, a girl and a boy repsectively.

Mma Makutsi lives alone but has a 99% score from the Botswana Secretarial College; which she is very proud of. And at present is engaged to Phuti Radiphuti, the owner of a large furniture store in town. An advantagious marriage for one who comes from a poor background.

Mma Ramotswe, Precious has an old white van which is very dear to her, it is in need of some major work, but she is afraid to ask her husband as she knows he will say there comes a time when you must let it go and buy a new one.

Mma Makutsi finds out that her fiance to be has employed non other than her old arch rival, Violet Sephotho, who could have not scored more than 50% in her final exams at Secretarial College. Will Violet succeed in catching Mma Makutsi’s fiance, or will Mma Ramotswe come up with a solution to show her up for who she is.

Plus their case at the agency with an owner of a leading football team, who is convinced there is a traitor in their midst, throwing the games.

A good cup of Red Bush Tea always helps the thinking process along. There is not a case yet that Mma Precious Ramotswe has not solved.

I the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of books, has delightful old values. It’s like stepping back to the sixties with some modern problems thrown in. A great cozy read by the fire with a cup of tea, red bush if you like.


Mma Makutsi,

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards

Obviously I have been away from my Lit Blog for a while. I have three books to review, but will start with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards. As soon as I read the review on the back of the book cover, I remembered seeing this as a film, although at the time did not realize that the film was based on a book.

Doctor David Henry is newly married, and very much in love with his wife, who is about to give birth to their first child. A blizzard in Kentucky, prevents them getting to the hospital, so he has to deliver his child at the nearby clinic, with the aid of a nurse.

The baby boy is delivered, a healthy boy. But following close on his heels is a second baby, unexpected, a little girl, who as soon as she is delivered Dr Henry can see that she has Down’s Syndrome. What to do, in a split moment in time he makes a decision which affects the rest of their lives. He decides to have the nurse, Caroline take the newly born child to an orphanage, keeping the knowledge of her living, a secret from his wife. Caroline though is unable to leave the newborn girl there and makes a decision that affects the rest of her life, to keep the child. Paul and Phoebe twins, growing up apart, never knowing each other. One decision brings sorrow, the other happiness.

The book goes into why he made this decision, and how secrets within a family destroy it. You have to go back to Dr Henry’s childhood, being brought up poor in the hills of West Virginia, with a very sick younger sister, who had a heart condition and who took much of the families energies and resources, but who also brought a lot of love. He saw himself in his son Paul and his younger sister in Phoebe, and he wanted to save Paul from what he went through, only remembering the bad things of his childhood, but forgetting the good. He could only remember as a student doctor a professor saying “A mongoloid, do you know what that means?” And he did all sorts of problems including the one he was most afraid of, a heart condition.

Caroline moves with the baby to Pittsburgh, where she gets a job, moving in with a woman Doro and her senile elderly father, as his nurse and helper. Here they thrive and are nurtured and grow.

His wife thinking the little girl is dead, holds a memorial service for her. She just cannot get over it. Even as years move on and she would like more children, he will not. She gives, he can’t, he knows why he can’t give and she doesn’t. All know they have the facade of a family, but something is missing.

There is so much more to the story, split decisions, not going back and putting things right, secrets, and why we do what we do.

It is a very well written book and I would highly recommend it.