The Last Books of 2018

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
I have conflicting thoughts about this one. I didn't like it, there's no question about that, but the vivid images, good and bad, that it planted in my head feel permanent. I have to give the author credit for drawing me in and making me feel like a part of the story whether I wanted to be or not. That's good writing. In this book's world, dogs are given human consciousness, which seems to burden them with the combined negative traits of both dogs and humans. There are parts that are touching, but also parts that are heartless and cruel. Dogs kill each other in bloody, violent scenes, plotting and conniving just like the worst of human beings. Not an enjoyable read at all, but maybe I just missed the point.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Well this was a nice surprise! It sat on my shelf for 10 years while I tried to avoid looking at it. I disliked the movie, so didn't want to read the book. Will I ever learn? It's one of the titles on my Guilt List, the books I feel I should have read at some point in my life but never did, so I made it my goal to read it in 2018. I was about 50 pages in when I realized, holy cow, this is good! Thackeray's writing (which I'd never read before) is nothing short of sparkling. He's smart, funny, wry and easy to read. It's a lengthy book, but I didn't at any point become tired or bored with it. On the contrary, I found it quite enjoyable. The things that made me dislike the movie proved to be Hollywood's usual over-emphasis on the negative and the unpleasant. The book is much more balanced and allows you to make up your own mind about various characters. I'm so glad I took the plunge and read this. Truly great writing.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
This is my second reading of this novel and I liked it even more this time than the last. I'd forgotten how comforting Pilcher's books are. The characters care about each other and love the places they live. There's something warm and soothing in that. The plot had a couple of holes, but I liked the characters so well, and the setting, that the imperfections didn't matter. Winter Solstice tells the stories of an eclectic group of people who end up in the same place at the same time as Christmas approaches. As they form relationships and learn each others secrets, the reader falls into the story without even realizing it's happening. To come to the end is to leave a place you'll miss and people you'll wish you could stay in touch with. I think I'm going to read another Rosamunde Pilcher this winter. I look forward to the sheer comfort of her writing. 

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva 
This is my second reading, but this time I enjoyed it. Last year it didn't appeal to me at all. Weird, isn't it? It's a fictional tale about Dickens and the events leading up to his writing of A Christmas Carol. There's a lot about his wife and family, and his relationships with his publishers, but it is fiction so it's hard to know which parts may be true and which not. That's the frustrating part of fiction about real people. Nevertheless it was nice story for the Christmas season.

A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg
I've loved this for years. My previous post about it is here.

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas 
Another one I've enjoyed for a long time and try to read every year. Previous post here.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
My favourite Christmas book ever. So much better than any of the movies. A previous post for this one can be found here.

A Christmas Promise by Anne Perry
I'm iffy on this one. Parts of it are lovely, and touching, but parts of it drag on and make you wish something would just happen. Then when things do begin to happen, it rolls along quickly and changes the tone of the book considerably. After a beginning of little-match-girl-like poignancy there's a violent murder, illegal opium dealing and a hooker. So it didn't turn out to be the story I expected, but it had its moments.