December was a bit of a flat month for reading for me! At the start of the month I was at 46 books read for the year so I figured I could easily read 4 to bring my total for the year up to a nice round 50. There was no reason I couldn’t, yes I had less commuting time due to the holidays but we had a couple of long drives (a 5-hour round trip to David’s parents and a 13 hour round trip to Scotland). However, from the photo above you can see I only read two books. And sadly, I disliked them both.
Naseem Rakha’s The Crying Tree was my first read of the month. This is about a woman trying (and largely failing) to cope after the murder of her beloved 15-year-old son. Irene and her husband Nate, a deputy sheriff move with their children, Nate and Bliss from Illinois to Oregon. They are struggling to settle in when their house is burgled and Shep killed by 19-year-old loner Daniel Robbin. He is apprehended and sentenced to death. Irene and her family leave Oregon behind and move back to Illinois in an attempt to move on. However, Irene battles with the the deep anger the death of Shep has left her with. She decides that all she can do is to forgive Robbin. When she hears 19 years after the trial, that the date of Robbin’s execution has been set, it sends her into a tailspin.
The format of the narrative is quite interesting and an aspect that I liked. It goes between Irene in both the past and present days and Tab Mason, the superintendent of the prison as he prepares to oversee Robbin’s execution. The two viewpoints weave together quite nicely and provide some balance to the story.
However, there was a lot to dislike about it at the same time. Rakha sadly relies largely on stereotypes particularly when it comes to the Southern characters – gun-toting, bigoted, uneducated et al. This made it really difficult to relate to the characters, even Irene who as a grieving mother should be fairly sympathetic.
Rather than being challenging it becomes a bit eye-roll worthy. There are loads of books that tackle this subject matter and unfortunately The Crying Tree just adds to the noise instead of standing out as a fresh voice.
The second book of December was A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan. Set in Kyrgyzstan, DI Borubaev is investigating a particularly brutal murder of a young woman who just happens to be the daughter of a leading government minister. Borubaev is told under no uncertain terms that he is to bring the perpetrator to him, making it seem politically motivated. However, more bodies appear confusing the matter – could it be coincidence, copycat, or a sinister cult killing.
Well, if I thought The Crying Tree was full of stereotypes, I was not prepared for A Killing Winter. It has it all – the hard -boiled cop with the dead wife, the corrupt ministers and superiors, the thug-like Russians, the ‘honourable’ crooks. I should have known from the fact that the cover quote was praise from the Daily Mail to be honest.
So a disappointing end to my year of books. However, this has taught me one thing. If you are hating a book – don’t waste your time trying to finish it. Obvious right? But I can’t be the only one who struggles through a book just to tick it off the list. This is the reason I have only read two book this month – I kept falling asleep on the damn train reading these! I vow to stop this bad habit this year.
Do you struggle with this need to finish a book regardless? Do you give it a certain length or time or page count, or do you toss it staightaway?