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Chapter 4 - My Winter Vacation

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not much about cold weather. In fact if I had my d'ruthers I'd live in a place where it is between 75 and 85 degrees all year round. Even South Carolina winters are frequently too cold for me. But like all good readers, I head south for the holidays, stay indoors on particularly cold days, and read - a lot.

Christmas, 2023, found us on a Caribbean cruise - first to Honduras, then to Belize, then to Mexico. It was pleasantly warm, mostly, and I read. Then I came home and read some more. So far this month I have consumed 7 books, mostly fiction but here are five of them I'd recommend.

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon - This book was given to me for Christmas by my good friend T.I. Lowe (if you haven't read her books you should!). The Frozen River tells the story of Martha Ballard, a licensed midwife and healer and takes place in 1789 Maine. A man is found trapped in the ice of a quickly freezing river and it is a man who is currently up on charges of rape. Martha's connection with the story starts as she is called in to examine the body. As Martha investigates further she finds out more and more secrets about her small community, even more than she originally knew and, based on her occupation, she knew a lot. The book is based on Martha Ballard's life.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi - This is a wonderful tale of time travel, second chances, friendships, and family love. There is a small cafe' in Tokyo where the patrons can travel back in time but, of course, there are rules. You can only see/talk to people who have been in the cafe', you must not leave the seat you are sitting in, you cannot change anything in the past, and you must drink your coffee before it becomes cold. The book made me think about who I would see/talk to given the chance. There are currently four books in this series. Mindy at Bookends New and Used Book Store recommended this to me.

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman - This is the third in the Thursday Murder Club series and the seniors at the Cooper's Chase retirement community are at it again with another cold case mystery, an assassin, and the ultimate bad guy. This series by Osman is fun and engaging and I understand the first one is being made into a movie. I can hardly wait to read the next one.

Absolution by Alice McDermott - I talked about this book a few weeks ago and after having read it, I am even more curious to listen to the author at the Savannah Book Festival. The story is about two women in Vietnam in 1963 when the forces of the more democratic-leaning leader Diem were fighting against the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh. The US was primarily involved as consultants at this time and the women were there with their husbands and families. Charlene was determined to make Vietnam a better place and Tricia was caught in Charlene's altruistic wake. The experience shaped the lives of both women and posed many questions. This would be a good book club book.

November 1942 by Peter Englund - This is my only nonfiction book so far in January and I can only say "Wow!". While I am a big fan of history and especially World War II history, this book checked all the boxes for me. At the beginning of November 1942 it looked as if the Axis powers of Germany, Japan, and Italy were going to win the war. At the end of November the tides had turned and it was pretty much a bet they wouldn't. Using logs and diaries from 39 individuals Englund told the story of the month of November and why it was so pivotal in the war. The individuals discussed ranged from a 12 year old Jewish girl in Shanghai to a Korean comfort woman in Malaysia to German and Japanese officers to British soldiers in North Africa to American soldiers on Guadalcanal. The book was written in a linear timeline and was easy to read and understand throughout. Considering the book was also translated from Swedish to English, it was truly a masterpiece. My top 5 star book for the month!

Have you been reading some good books in January? Let me know!


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