19. Pacific Beat, by T Jefferson Parker - 3 stars. Parts of this book were kind of annoying (I'm thinking especially of Ann's diary, or maybe Ann was meant to be an annoying character and so I would naturally find her diary to be the same), parts of it were predictable; but overall it was an effective, well-written crime story with mostly realistic characters and evocative descriptions of Newport Beach and environs.
20. The Bay Psalm Book Murder, by Will Harriss - 2 stars. Except for learning a bit about the Bay Psalm Book and bibliography, I feel like I wasted my time. Oh, and all the characters sounded like the same person.
21. The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte, by Laura Joh Rowland - 1 star. The Brontë family gets involved in a plot to destroy the English empire. So far so good. However, Charlotte is whiny and stupid; Emily is whiny and self-centered; and Anne is a cipher. Maybe they were like that in real life -- I don't think so, but I don't know. At any rate, it doesn't make for very enjoyable reading. The outrageous plot is all right, as outrageous plots against the English empire go, but Charlotte's constant editorializing and second-guessing, as well as her precipitative propensity for passionate attachment to any man who looks at her twice and her consequent inability to think rationally, are downright annoying.
22. A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, by James Shapiro - 4 stars. Really interesting account of the year when Shakespeare's company moved from the Theatre and built the Globe on the south bank of the Thames. I wish Shapiro would do other years.
23. Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure, by B K Bostick - 3 stars. Good adventure/mystery story for middle readers, just the kind of thing I loved to read when I was the age of the characters in the book. Sometimes the vocabulary borders a bit on the erudite -- like calling a spade a digging implement -- but there's nothing wrong with making the reader stretch a bit. And now there's a sequel!
24. Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr John H Watson, by Lyndsay Faye - 4 stars. Of all the Sherlockian pastiches I've read, this one captures the voice of Watson better than any other. I qualify that statement by saying that I haven't read a terribly great lot of pastiches, but I have read a few, plus all four novels and 56 stories that Conan Doyle wrote. Plus, the mystery of Jack the Ripper adds to the intrigue.
25. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett - 3 stars. In this novella, Queen Elizabeth II starts checking books out from a bookmobile -- monarchical upheaval ensues.
26. Paragon Walk, by Anne Perry - 3 stars. A good solid mystery in Victorian England -- kind of thing Anne Perry excels at -- also reveals the classbound society and its attitudes.
27. Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure, by Lissa Evans - 4 stars. A fun and touching book for middle readers. There's a sequel that's on my list of books to read this year.
28. The Bad Quarto, by Jill Paton Walsh - 3 stars. Ultimately unsatisfying conclusion to the mystery, but all the incidental stuff about Cambridge academic life and student productions of Shakespeare and narrow boats on the canals(!) was interesting. Recommended if you like cozy mysteries.
29. Murder at the Library of Congress, by Margaret Truman - 2 stars. Formulaic mystery, mildly entertaining but intellectually unsatisfying.
30. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson - 2 stars. Eh. I don't see what the big deal is. Everyone I know (who read the book) said, "Oh! Lisbeth Salander is such an amazing character! What she went through and how she deals with it!" But I didn't see that in the book at all. And now I find out that you have to read the second book in the trilogy before you start seeing how amazing she really is. I don't know if I want to. Frankly, these people all seem rather mundane. PS I also don't get why the book is called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I think the tattoo is mentioned once, and is only one of several the Girl has. The original title in Swedish translates as Men Who Hate Women, which is more apt but less appealing, I guess.
31. All About Emily, by Connie Willis - 3 stars. A cute little Christmas novella, chock full of movie references that I appreciated. The story is a little scanty, but perfect for reading in one evening during the holiday season.
32. All Seated on the Ground, by Connie Willis - 3 stars. Another Christmas novella written with lots of humor (as is frequently the way with Connie Willis).
33. The Hobbit, by J R R Tolkien - 4 stars. This is the third or fourth time I've read The Hobbit; the last time was more than 20 years ago. I enjoyed it. It was fun to go back and read it again, even if it didn't have the same emotional impact it did when I read it as a child.
34. Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation, by Noel Riley Fitch - 3 stars. Interesting topic with much detail on the relationship between Sylvia Beach and James Joyce. Somewhat drily written, it took me way too long to read. As I mentioned previously, I want to read David McCullough's book on the subject now.
35. Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal, by J K Rowling - 4 stars. I read this book to help me practice and improve my Spanish (I got the idea from my nephew who said he improved his Russian that way). I learned how to say "dungeon" and "wand" and lots of other wizarding words. I enjoyed the experience and hope to eventually read the rest of the series in Spanish.
Some mildly interesting statistics about the books I read here follow.
Non-fiction books: 5
Steampunk books: 7
Murder mysteries: 12
Children's/YA books: 5
Foreign language books: 1
I noticed I read a good number of novellas this year. Maybe that's how I was able to exceed my expectations. Perhaps I should stick with 25 books as a goal, especially since I plan to read something as long as Les Misérables.
On to another year!