Books of 2020 – Georgette Heyer, Amy Harmon, Jacqueline Winspear

First post of 2020!

What happened, this dear blog asks the writer.

Well, inertia.

The more I blog, the more I blog. The longer the gap between 2 posts, the less likely it is for the forthcoming post to be out too easily.

In the meanwhile, I came across this genius personal book rating system by a reviewer on Amazon, which categorised books based on what they did for the reader. I improvised and created this for myself:

People read books for many reasons. I categorize books I’ve read as the following:
A – Books that entertained me and I learnt something from
BL – Books from which I learned something
BE – Books that entertain me
C – Books that wasted my time because they did too little of BL or BE for the time invested
I am not changing my star rating system yet, but I really really liked this non-star categorisation system!
Something else about book ratings that appealed to me:
I divide all literary works into two categories: Those I like and those I don’t like. No other criterion exists for me.” – Anton Chekov (in a letter to a fellow Russian writer in 1890)
Both of these made me think about WHY have I been rating the Agatha Raisin books and Mma Ramotswe books as 4/5 and not 5/5? I do love them both dearly and really, they are are therapy to me. It feels very studpidly uppity to give them 4 stars. I want to give them 5 stars. Because I love them. So I will! The only reason why I had withheld that fifth star earlier was because I didn’t feel they were “deep” enough, but after having read a few of them, I cannot say that any more. These books are teaming with wit and honest observation about daily life and the characters we meet in our own lives, and I honestly cannot fault them.
So, the legend effective henceforth:
Love – 5 stars, Like – 4 stars, Meh – 3 stars
I won’t really have books with 2 or 1 stars because I am good at abandoning books that I don’t like within the first 100 pages.

1. My Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – 4/5

I liked it, but did not love it. I expected a bit more in terms of humour perhaps. However, it was still a very pleasant read and I will be getting more by GH.

2. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon – 5/5

FINALLY a thoroughly beloved 5 star book! I loved it sooo much and highly recommend it to everyone. The writing was so lyrical, great for lovers of poetry. It was full of love & magic – I loved it. It was also super gripping once it got going (say 50 pages in), and was entirely unputdownable. Finally a book which has lived up to the glorious reviews its received! My first Amy Harmon and I’m eyeing From Sand and Ash next 😃  Or May be her 2020 release – Where the Lost Wander. Either way, I’m super glad to have discovered this author and can’t wait to read more by her! Once I’m through my current TBR pile….grrr.

3. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear – 3.5/5

A new to me series with a strong female lead. I was actually very excited about this book (and series) because of the fantastic reviews it’s got. I have to say that I found it very readable and a solid good book, but not GREAT. It was also quite a bit depressing. I was interested in the story, but not hooked. There wasn’t any wit or humour really. It deals with the trauma of people who lived through the First World War in Britain, with a small mystery. Not longing to pick up the next instalment, although readers say the next book has a lot more mystery.

4. Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by Agatha Raisin – 4/5

Standard Agatha Raisin fare but I prefer the ones set in Carsley because of the village life charm that oozes from the Carsely ones.

5. Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death – 5/5

Formulaic but Still comforting & enjoyable

6. Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham – 5/5

Formulaic but Still comforting & enjoyable

Started listening to Little Women audiobook, but really, can’t stop with comparisons with Anne. There is no comparison. Anne is at an entirely different level. So I stopped.

Abandoned

I’m effectively changing my 100 page rule to 50 page rule. If a book doesn’t grab my interest in the first 50 pages, I’m going to let it go because quite frankly, such books end up wasting my time. I wasted almost 2 weeks in January trying to read The Hobbit and then Americanah.
The Hobbit was just boring. The party keep getting caught and escaping… same thing over and over. Sure there are many things in there whichrelate to the human condition, but nothing that is very unique and cannot be felt through other books.
The other book I abandoned (quite early on) was Americanah. I found it a bit fluffy and it had a hypocritical unlikeable lead. The worst kind. Sigh. I had to drop it as I was getting “the rage” towards her.
It got me thinking about unlikeable characters though. Agatha Raisin is also an unlikeable character, but I love those books! Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary was also an unlikeable character – but I liked the book, and did not get “the rage”! Whereas, Lenu in the Neopolitan novels was an unlikeable character, but I got “the rage”. I think the main differences are: (a) when the author takes note of the character and makes inputs (like Flaubert), then as a reader I can side with the author and feel content. OR (b) the unlikeable character isn’t hypocritical and is aware of their terrible behaviour (like in Agatha Raisin), and/or (c) the author through the plotline honors “karma”, hah, that is, the unlikeable character meets the kind of fate that they “deserve”, like with Agatha Raisin (a character like her deserves an equally unlikeable male lead in James Lacey!) and Emma.
But Americanah’s lead character seemed to be very sanctimonious, and the treatment of other characters seemed to be very insulting really. They were flat, and were mostly inserted as embellishments to the story of the lead, and not whole characters by themselves (albeit supporting). The author treated Obinze’s wife with such hostility (for no good reason at the least in the beginning!), that it really irritated me.
I definitely prefer books with likeable and relatable characters, but Agatha Raisin has shown me that I can also thoroughly enjoy books with some unlikeable characters (where the author is AWARE that they’re unlikeable, and the treatment is accordingly appropriate!).
What I’m a bit annoyed with now is that I’m stuck with copies of these books that I can’t even return because it’s beyond Amazon’s 30 day return period! SO. Once I’m done with my TBR, I shall buy books and start reading them immediately, so I can return them if I need to abandon them (like I did with Station Eleven – it was sent right back to Amazon).
p.s.: The formatting is all wrong in this post, and I really can’t be bothered to fix it. 🙂

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