Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sam Houston, Hitler, Randy Travis, and Louise Penny

It doesn't look like I'll be finishing another book this month, so this is what it looks like for me going into February.

Books in Progress:

1Three Soldiers - John Dos Passos - I'm about 70% of the way through this 471-page novel about World War I now, but I've only been reading it in spurts as the mood strikes me. I'm reading the 1921 novel in its 1932 Modern Library edition, and that's kind of fun because it feels strange to be carrying around an 87-year-old book. But I won't lie. This one is kind of slow at times because of its repetitive pages about the weather conditions the soldiers faced and how they coped with it. 

2. The Gone Dead - Chanelle Benz - I'm reading this one via its audiobook version mostly on the 30-minute drive to pick my grandson up from school every afternoon, so it will take a while. I'm only about 15% of the way through it, but Benz is so far doing a good job of creating kind of a Southern gothic atmosphere and setting up the mystery at the core of the book. It's about a young black woman who returns to her long-abandoned Mississippi home where she learns the truth about her own past.

3. The German Heiress - Anika Scott - This is an ARC I got from LibraryThing, and it's scheduled for an April 20 release. I've just started it but it already seems to fall into the pattern of most of the World War II fiction that's been published in the last couple of years. That's been quite a trend, hasn't it, and I wonder when it will finally dry up. This one does have a little bit of a different twist in that it's the story of a powerful, formally wealthy, woman trying to disguise her identity well enough to escape Germany at the end of the war. (Her family's factory used slave labor during the war.)

Other Books I hope/plan to read this month: 

4. Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers - Brian Kilmeade - I've admired Sam Houston since I was a boy, and I'm looking forward to Kilmeade's take on the pivotal role that Houston played in Texas history. All of this took place just a few miles from my home, so I've visited the San Jacinto  battleground and the Sam Houston homes in the area for myself on numerous occasions. As the book's subtitle indicates, this is not just a book about Texas, it's about "The Texas Victory That Changed American History." I agree with Kilmeade about its importance and impact.

5. Wolf - Herbert J. Stern and Alan A. Winter - I received this hardback review copy in the mail last week and I'm really curious about it. It is said to be a fictionalized biography of Adolph Hitler, one of the most deservedly hated men the world has ever seen. I've never felt much like reading about Hitler, but this might be a more painless way to learn more about how he became the monster that he was and how the Germans let him get away with it all. At over 500 pages in length, this had better be good.

6. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls - Anissa Gray - I picked this one up at the library last week without knowing a thing about it. Simply put, I couldn't resist a book with this title and didn't really look at it closely until I had it at home. Turns out, it's about three sisters, the eldest of whom suddenly gets arrested, leaving the care of her teenage daughters to her two younger sisters. "What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and soul of an American family." We'll see about that.

7. A Fatal Grace - Louise Penny - One of my goals for 2020 is to catch up on the earlier books from series that I started reading somewhere in the middle. Louise Penny's Gamache series is one of those series. A Fatal Grace (2006) is the second book in the series, and it sounds like a really good mystery. This is part of what it says on the back cover: "How could she have been electrocuted in the midst of a curling match in Three Pines - and without anyone seeing a thing?" 

8. Gifts for the Dead - Joan Schweighardt - This is one I received in December via an email request from the author to consider it for review. I'll be reading a PDF version of the book so it may take me a little longer than normal to get it finished, but from the few pages I've sampled, this one has a lot of potential. I find it to be very readable and the author appears to be a pretty good storyteller, to boot. 

9. Forever and Ever, Amen - Randy Travis & Ken Abraham - This is a review copy of an e-book that I just received, but the book was actually published last summer. I really, really want to like this one because I've been a fan of Randy Travis music since 1982 when I heard him sing for the very first time. The man has really had a tragic life and I hope this is an honest recounting of how and why it all happened to him the way that it did. It still makes me sad to know that he will probably never be able to sing again.

10. The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick - This one, written in 1962, fits well into my 2020 goal to read more of the  "modern classics" that I've somehow never gotten around to reading up to now. I'm really curious to see how it compares to the four-season Amazon Prime series that is based upon it because the novel is only about 225 pages long. Somehow, Prime managed to stretch the premise into almost 40 hours of pretty good television over four years - if you have the time, the series is worth a look.

I seriously doubt that, come the end of February, all ten of these books will have been read and reviewed. Shiny new books and review opportunities are likely to catch my eye well before then. And, of course, some of these may end up being abandoned. Too, I'm waiting on a couple of library holds right now that could/should make it to me sometime in February, including the now infamous American Dirt - when that one comes to me, it's immediately going right to the top of my TBR list.

But this post should help keep me a bit more focused than I usually am, so it's worth a try. I'm aiming for some kind of middle-of-the-road compromise between rigidly following a reading list and drifting from book to book. 


  1. I know nothing about Sam Houston, though I did go to the Alamo. My cousin recently told me that her late husband had mining rights (is that the right term) at the Alamo. Presumably they are hers now.

    1. He was an amazing man, Nan. Only man to be governor of two different states, if I recall correctly. He lived with an Indian tribe for years as a young man and became an adopted son to the chief of the tribe. Moved to Texas where he got involved again in politics after the war that made Texas into an independent nation for a few years. During the Civil War he resigned the governorship of Texas rather than support secession and exiled himself to Huntsville, Tx, where he lived for a few years until his death. I love reading about him, and in the last several years a couple of really good biographies have been written. I don't expect Kilmead's to be great, but it does focus on the Battle of San Jacinto in which the Mexican army was finally defeated for good. Just a few years later Texas became a state and eased the way for westward expansion. Of course, that didn't happen before the U.S. used the Texas-Mexico border as an excuse to start a war with Mexico and take much of Mexico away as the spoils of war.

      I don't know about the mining rights. The Daughters of the Texas Revolution are very, very protective of the grounds and I can't imagine anyone mining there. And this is all located in the center of San Antonio, so all the surrounding streets look like any major city in the U.S. (San Antonio is the tenth largest city in the country.) I'd be curious to hear more about their rights.

    2. It is Mineral rights not Mining, which probably means oil. I don't expect anyone would be allowed to drill there!
      Very interesting about Sam H. So much I don't know in this world! I didn't know about the taking of Mexican land either. Well, maybe I learned it as a kid, but that was a long time ago! I have a cousin in SA, and we went there once. Very pretty.

    3. Most of the American West came as spoils of war from the War with Mexico in the late 1840s, Cath. Mexico was HUGE before that happened.

      You're right in that it would probably be translated into oil rights, but there's no chance of that ever happening unless someone can find a way to do some lateral drilling under the grounds from a mile or so away, and that would be prohibitively expensive if it is even possible.

    4. Sorry, Nan, I see that I used Cath's name in my reply up above rather than your own. Apologies.

  2. I have to say, Sam, that the American Dirt saga is keeping me rivetted to the chair. LOL!!!

    I like the sound of The Gone Dead, so will look forward to hearing what you think of that. I was going to say it would do for me for Mississippi for my American states challenge but when I checked I've already read 3 books for that state (The Help, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter & The Quiet Game) but I still think I would like to read that if it's good.

    Wolf also sounds interesting and I'm another one who has not read The Man in the HIgh Castle. In fact I haven't read anything by Philip K. Dick which is surprising when you consider what a sci-fi fan I used to be.

    Like you, I doubt that the books I've listed in my post will all get read... for a start I have 3 books to pick up from the library and several more that will be in in a few days. The joys of being a reader!

  3. Latest on American Dirt, Cath, is that the publisher has cancelled the entire book tour and has apologized profusely for being so insensitive about cultural appropriation issues. It's enough to make me sick. They are supposedly going to take the apology tour nationwide.

    The Gone Dead is a pretty good audiobook so far. Much of the dialogue is in a Southern black accent and the reader is doing a good job capturing the flavor of that accent (I just hope it's a black reader and not a white reader who's doing the narration or I may have just discovered another damning incidence of cultural appropriation.)

    I haven't read much of Philip K. Dick's work either...I don't think he was especially prolific but it does seem as if I should have read more of him by now.

  4. An interesting assortment of books! I look forward to hearing what you think--maybe especially on Wolf. At this point, I don't know that I'd want to read it, but I am curious.

    1. I'm really curious about Wolf, Jen, because I've always been reluctant to read much about Hitler's personal life. His kind of evilness appalls me, and I usually can't stomach it for long enough to read a whole book about it. Maybe this time, I will be able to do that.