Friday, February 28, 2020

Book Chase: The March 2020 Reading Plan

I was surprised this morning to see that I actually came closer to completing my February reading plan than I expected I would. I read and reviewed eight of the ten books on my list and am about 33% of the way through a ninth one that I'm really enjoying. The tenth book on my February list, Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, is going to slide to the top of my March list along with the one I'm a third of the way through, Joan Schweighardt's Gifts for the Dead (a book I'm really excited about right now). In addition, I "read" two audiobooks I hadn't planned to read: Ol' Yeller and The Reckless Oath We Made (Bryn Greenwood), meaning that I will have read ten books during February after all, just not the exact ten I had planned on reading.

That said, this is what I have planned for March:

1. Gifts for the Dead - Joan Schweighardt - I knew very little about this one when I put it on my reading list for last month, but now that I've read about a third of the book, I'm really excited about it. It's set in the early 20th century just before WWI breaks out and features a well-developed group of Irish immigrant characters who are facing a family tragedy together. The book has a great sense of place and time, and the author's writing style is a pleasure to read.

2. 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.

3. American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins - I can't wait to get to this one and have been looking forward to reading it for a while now. The traveling critic-show that wants to kill this book came through San Antonio last week but I decided against making the drive there from Houston to hear what they had to say - mainly because I was afraid most of it would be in Spanish only. I'm going to try to read the book with an open mind and not worry about all the "cultural appropriation" baloney associated with it.

4. Daughter of the Reich - Louise Fein - is a review copy that I picked up from LibraryThing a few weeks ago. It's the story of the daughter of a high-ranking Nazi who falls in love with an old Jewish friend of hers and begins an affair with him, endangering both their lives. I know I said I was done with WWII fiction of this type, but I'd forgotten that this one  was already on the way to me. It amazes me how many books like this one there are out there all of a sudden - and how much alike all their covers look.

5. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel - This is one I have on hand from my local library, and it seems like a timely read. It's a 2014 dystopian novel about a deadly flu epidemic that crushes the world, completely disintegrating life as we know it. It spans several decades and moves back and forth between life before and after the pandemic suddenly appears. Along with the Netflix series Pandemic that I'm currently watching, this one may end up making me more nervous about our immediate future than I really want to be.

6. A Bitter Feast - Deborah Crombie - This is another library book that is due back soon. I'm a big fan of Deborah Crombie and her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, so I'm really looking forward to this newest one. The story takes place during a weekend break in the Cotswolds that Duncan and Gemma are enjoying until the bodies begin to fall around them. I'm fascinated that a native Texan, still living in McKinney, Texas, can write such a good mystery series set in England - much like Elizabeth George does with her Inspector Lynley series.

7. The Blues Don't Care - Paul D. Marks - This is an e-ARC that I received a couple of weeks ago, and it sounds like a lot of fun. The basic premise is that the only white member of an otherwise all-black swing band in WWII Los Angeles has to solve the murder that one of the other band members is accused of having committed. If he is successful, he will have earned a permanent gig with the group. If not, not. I've read Marks in short story format before and enjoyed his work.

8. The Dead Don't Sleep - Steven Max Russo - This is another e-ARC that I've recently received. This one appealed to me because it features an "aging Vietnam veteran" whose war experiences seem to be coming back to haunt him when he meets a strange man who claims to remember him from the war. Once the vet figures out who the stranger is, he knows that it is time for a final reckoning with the man who  should have been taken care of the first time they had the chance all those years ago.

9. Land of Wolves - Craig Johnson - I've been a fan of Johnson's Longmire series for a long time  - both in print and via the well-done Netflix series of the same name. This is the latest book in what is now an 18-book series that has seen Walt Longmire age rather gracefully over the years despite the beating his body has taken. I've read most of the others, and I'm saving the Longmire short story collections for when I get completely caught up on the novels. 

10. LBJ's 1968: Power, Politics, and the Presidency in America's Year of Upheaval - Kyle Longley - This is a 2018 ARC that I've had around the house for almost two years and I think I'm finally ready to read it. 1968 was a crazy year for the country - and for me, personally. It's the year I went into the Army, the year I was attacked by fellow soldiers inside Fort Campbell, KY, after Martin Luther King's assassination, and the year I learned of Bobby Kennedy's assassination via a tiny transistor radio while sitting in a tree in the middle of the night while keeping an eye on the four or five wild pigs that had me so securely treed.

Because I spend so much time driving around Houston, I will likely work in one or two audiobooks, too. Most likely, I will end up finishing seven or eight of the books on this list and probably the two audiobooks I start in March. My February list kept me focused pretty well, so I'm hoping the same thing happens in March. As long as it works for me, I'll keep writing up a formal plan like this one to work from.


  1. That's quite a list you have for March! I've read and liked Station Eleven and A Bitter Feast, but I'm eager for the new Craig Johnson and I'm interested in some of the other titles.

    1. I think I started Station Eleven once before and quit on it but I can't remember why. The plot intrigues me so strongly that I can't imagine that happening again, but I'm wondering about it.

      The new Craig Johnson book sounds pretty good - but then again, they all are so I think I'll enjoy this one a lot, too.

      The LBJ book is the one that may end up getting abandoned before completion. That year just brings back some terrible memories for me even though I was a grunt in the Army and didn't have a ready access to the news media of the day.

  2. Nice list of books! Looks like you're going to have a good month of reading. Can't wait to hear what you think of American Dirt. :)

    1. Me, too. After all my ranting, it would be kind of ironic if it turns out to be a poorly written piece of junk. But I really don't think that's the case, so I can't wait to get to it.

  3. Fantastic list! (I love lists.) I shall be investigating a few of them. I have the first of that Deborah Crombie series on my Kindle, perhaps I'll try to get to that in March. I have a pile of books pulled out plus a stack of eight library books so we'll see.

    I'm all agog to see what you actually think of American Dirt after the whole saga of it. LOL

    Remember saying to me at the beginning of the year that my reading plan for this year of being more relaxed and dipping in and out of books might result in me actually getting through more books? Well, you were spot-on. It's quite possible, depending on whether I finish two books tomorrow, that I will have read a dozen books this month, which is double my normal total and a very rare achievement for me, a slowish reader. A bit bemused by it to be honest.

    1. I can't wait for American Dirt either, Cath. I've flipped through it and have even read the first couple of pages already, and my enthusiasm about the book remains intact. I hear it's quite a thriller in its own way, so I'm hoping for the best.

      Wow, 12 books in February, the shortest month of the year, is pretty spectacular. I think when your reading choices are more relaxed you tend to choose almost exactly the books that you are ready to read and enjoy. And I know that if I'm really enjoying a book I start burning through the pages at a pretty rapid clip - even to having to consciously slow myself down sometimes so that my comprehension doesn't suffer.

      And it's fun!

  4. Several of these look like ones I'd enjoy as well. I read American Dirt, which I liked a lot, but, would like to also read an immigrant story written by an immigrant). I also read Station Eleven - pretty good! enjoy them all.

    1. I'm about 40 pages into American Dirt, and to this point it's kind of an ordinary thriller. I expect that the mother-son relationship is going to be the thing that grabs me in this one at some point. I'm wondering, just based on 40 pages, how big a difference it would have made if Cummins got every single detail correct when it comes to Mexican culture. I doubt that would have made me any more or any less sympathetic to immigrants crashing our southern border than it will do as written.