Hi everyone and welcome to December!

Quick note that I am sending this out while visiting Atlanta. Chances are I won’t be able to respond to any emails until Tuesday or Wednesday. So just a heads up about that.

It’s funny. I have quite a few friends who hate visiting the USA, but as a Scotsman living in Canada, I absolutely love visiting it! I have a map of the USA on my wall that I created and I update it every time I visit a different state with a picture from my adventures there. I’m hoping to eventually hit them all.

One thing I love is just how different every city feels. I visited San Francisco earlier this month and fell in love with it. Yeah, it has its problem with unhoused people, but where I currently live there is a homeless encampment a couple of blocks away. You just kind of get used to it.

I had a blast there. From going to a 49ers game, to Alcatraz, to a running tour, to Chinatown, to the pier, to just doing a bar crawl and walking up and down various hills, admiring the architecture. Wonderful city.

Unfortunately, those trips and a couple of other mini ones hurt my reading time somewhat this month, but I still managed to get through a couple of books. The nice thing is that from now until March when I travel to Ohio (my 12th state!), I have absolutely no travel plans at all. I’m looking forward to falling into a very boring routine which involves a lot of reading!

I mentioned last month that I had re-read The Firm by John Grisham, but I actually forgot to talk about it. This was probably the 10th time I have re-read this book, and it was just as enjoyable, if not moreso, than previous re-readings.

There is just something about those early Grisham books. Maybe it’s just because they were the first “adult” books I read, and so nostalgia plays a bit part, but I get so much joy out of re-reading them.

In saying that, I had to remind myself quite a few times that it’s 2023, but he wrote this in 1991 There was quite a few times where certain wording just seemed so off in this day and age.

After reading it, I re-watched the movie. I enjoyed it a lot, but boy does it have a fair bit of cringe ha. Like so many excuses to have Tom Cruise running, and then the whole cartwheel / flip scene with the street artist.

Next I read The Exchange, the sequel to it. Well, allegedly the sequel.

This was an interesting one as I have received many e-mails from people who have also read The Exchange, and they were really interested in hearing my thoughts about it. I didn’t fully read the e-mails due to potential spoilers, but the general vibe I got was that it wasn’t well received.

I’m going to spend a bit of time talking about it here. I’ll try and avoid spoilers but if you are planning on reading it, I’d advise skipping down to where I write “The Exchange Talk Over” in bold.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Exchange. It was a solid story. It kept me engaged. I read it in 3 sittings over the course of 24 hours. Yep I would say it was a good book. I don’t really post my ratings here, but I’d give it a 7/10.

But it wasn’t a sequel to The Firm.

This was a book that John Grisham decided to write, and then while writing it he decided to replace the main characters with Mitch and Abby. The entire happenings of The Firm were not a factor in this book at all. There were a couple of mentions and references to it but they were completely unnecessary to the story.

The Mitch McDeere in the first book was someone who was under a lot of pressure, and came up with a crazy and genius plan to get them all out of it. In a similar situation in this novel, he does none of that. They weren’t the same character at all.

So I can see why a lot of people felt cheated by it. Completely get that. I was disappointed in that aspect too. The other issue I had with the book is the reason that I stopped reading John Grisham (for the most part) many years ago. The story just sort of…..happens. You read it, and then it rolls onto a dull ending and that’s it.

No big twist at the end like in The Partner. No intense final act like The Firm. No jaw-dropping final moments like The Runaway Jury. Nothing like that. It just sort of fizzles out and end, which is typical of many Grisham books over the last 15 years.

Despite all that, I enjoyed the book, although I wish there were more to it. Around the 70% mark, I started thinking we were going to get some sort of The Partner end to it that would blow us away. As the story progressed, I realized we weren’t going to and it was just going to be a typical Grisham ending.

The Exchange Talk Over.

I read The Coworker by Freida McFadden. It’s a thriller about Natalie, and her odd coworker Dawn who goes missing, and then discovered dead.

First – I LOVED this book. I read it within 24 hours and couldn’t put it down; a great fast-paced thriller.

But one thing really bothered me about it – and I’ll be careful how I word this in case of spoilers. Basically, I’ve read a lot of thrillers. There is a common trope authors use. They throw something in really obvious so that you think “Aha – that person is the murderer!” or whatever. Then just as you start to think that, they confront it a few chapters later, explain it away, and leave you puzzled again while applauding the author for tricking you in that manner.

This book had that trope – except it was never addressed. And then when the “big twist” occurred, it was due to that exact trope.

It would be like a book saying “Janise is clearly the murderer. She had the means, motive and opportunity.” Nothing ever contradicts that, then the “big twist” in the book is that Janise is the murderer!

So a really enjoyable book, but one that had a big letdown that really disappointed me.

I read No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. My friend Craig had just picked it up, and I thought it would be cool if we both read it together, discussed it and then watched the movie.

I both love and hate Cormac’s writing style. I find that it can immerse you more into the book, but I also find it easy to lose track of who is talking etc. I’m also not a fan of how it feels like it is building to an explosive final act and then just….ends.

I LOVE the language and dialect by Cormac though. That was one neat thing watching the movie – seeing so much of the books original language used word for word in the movie. That’s a big tribute to McCarthy and his writing.

The book vs movie discussion is a good one to have about that. I had seen the movie years ago. I don’t have a firm answer but:

– When I watched the movie years ago, I really enjoyed it.
– When I read the book, I really enjoyed it.
– When I watched the movie after reading the book, I enjoyed the movie so much more than my original viewing.

One of those things where they are both great, and reading the book just really enhances the movie.

The next book I’ve started reading is Please Tell Me by Mike Omer. This is a standalone thriller that I happened to get via the “Kindle First Reads” program.

I actually started this due to the silliest reason ever. My Kindle has a “TBR” collection with literally thousands of books in it. I had just finished reading The Exchange on the treadmill. I went to pick out my next book, and dropped my Kindle. It slammed onto the treadmill then flew off. Luckily, it didn’t break.

But when I picked it up, it had randomly opened on that book. So hey the universe decided I should read that next!

And as always – be sure to check out our new site, Book Notification. It has 8x as many author listing as OOB, you can get notified of new books by your favourite authors, and also track all the books that you have read and see what’s next in a series etc.

Each month we give away 5 $25 Amazon gift certificates to random subscribers. 

To win all you have to do is be a subscriber. Nothing more! When we go to hit “Publish” we take a list of all of our subscribers, throw them into a random draw and those are the winners.

Our winners this month are:

  • Kris G. from Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Judy M. from Lincoln, MO
  • Beth B. from Kissimmee, FL
  • Jody from Columbus, Ohio (email starts with bookn)
  • Bl from Germanto, TN (email starts with bek)

All of you have been e-mailed. If you don’t see anything, check your junk folder or contact me.

Graeme

OrderOfBooks.com


Quotes of the Month

“What you see depends on what you look for. You can enjoy the positives, or seek out the negatives. It’s your choice.”

– From Even by Andrew Grant

“I owe everything I am and everything I will ever be to books.”

Gary Paulsen

“Ownership is overrated. We should elevate sharing. Wealth is individual; sharing is collective. We are not what we own. We are what we do, who we help, and the difference we make in the world. Sharing really is the way to happiness.”

– From The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis

Submit your own quotes; just hit reply. Book-related is great but happy to share non-book related too! Thanks to Sandra, Donna and Kerri for this month’s submissions. Love seeing quotes from books!

Book Recommendations

In this section, I give 3-5 random book recommendations. They can be old books, they can be new. But either way – I recommend you read them if the type of genre they are in appeals to you. Feel free to e-mail suggestions to me as many of the suggestions each month are from our readers. If you wish to add a description for the book around the same size as the ones below that’d be great too! 

The Winner by David Baldacci: This is a personal favourite of mine. It’s possible I recommended it before, but Terry from Milwaukee wrote in to recommend it so I’m happy to add it here.

It’s the story of a dirt-poor 20-year-old who is told by a mysterious person that she can get the gift of a lifetime – she can win the $100 million lottery jackpot. He will provide the numbers to her. She just has to change her identity; then, leave the USA forever.

Terry wrote “What an exciting,originally plotted story, with so much action, and too many scenes to try to guess the final results. Fabulous–one of his truly best books.” I have to agree. I’ve read it multiple times and might go back for another round.

The Bitter Past by Bruce Borgos: This is the first novel in the Porter Beck series, with the second novel due out next year. Keith wrote in to recommend this one. Here is what he wrote:

“I listened to a newly released novel: “The Bitter Past” by Bruce Borgos and was very impressed. I had never heard of this author but found two other books available on Amazon – so not a rookie effort. The book was a polished work, with well-developed characters and vivid descriptions of the desert southwest.

There was a nicely convoluted plot with multiple timelines starting in the 1950’s and ending in the near present. It’s KGB/SVR agents against Police/FBI/fringe religious sect members with enough lies and misdirection to thoroughly muddy the waters. I guessed several of the plot twists before they were revealed, but it was still a fun ride and worth the time spent”

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd: Phoenix wrote in to recommend this historical fiction novel. Here is what she wrote:

“Sue Monk Kidd has written a book called “The Book of Longings,” written from the point of view of Jesus’ wife. Now, I’m well aware that my more fundamental brethren and sistren take offense at the notion that Jesus might have been married, but culturally, he would have been married long before his ministry began.

So, once you get over that, you may find that you enjoy this book quite a lot. Ms. Kidd obviously did her research into the time period and cultural norms of the day. I found the main character well drawn and believable, as is the story as a whole. Highly recommended.”

December Book of the Month

What Happens in Vegas, written by James Patterson and Mark Seal, releases on December 4th, 2023.

I’m hearing a lot of good things about this book. It covers a lot of good stories related to Vegas. Like the Nevada Gaming Control Board has to find a man who unknowingly won over $200k at slot, or the story of the inventor of the Elvis impersonator wedding.

What I like most about this book is it’s a great Christmas gift! It’s one of those general books that the majority of people will be entertained by. Plus it’s by a famous author who many should recognize.

10 More Notable Books Releasing in December

And don’t forget you can get updated on all the upcoming books by your favourite authors with your own personalized calendar at BookNotification.com.

December Charities

While I appreciate all offers of donations to show your appreciation for the site and newsletter, I’d much rather you do that by supporting some great causes.  Each month I pick a few select charities broken down by our most popular countries or topics that you can support instead..   Thanks!

I rotate this list each month.  Feel free to suggest a favourite charity – hit reply.

Pictures of the Month:

Submitted by Christine

Submitted by Charlie, who wrote: “New addition to the local library. Created image of local fountain in Central Park of Henderson County Kentucky.”

From Gayle, who wrote “This shelf is in Prairie Pottery in Beach, ND. Very creative!”

From Kelly who said it is in Vancouver, WA. It was built by @brick.ninja in Instagram and the quote is:

“I have lived a thousand lives I have loved a thousand loves. I have walked on distant worlds and seen the end of time. Because I read.” by George R.R. Martin.

Send in your own to site@orderofbooks.com or by replying! Images, jokes, etc. We’ll take it all! Bit of a backlog but working my way through it.

Your Thoughts!

Last month I asked what has been your favourite autobiography, and why. The replies are later in the newsletter.

This month I’ve grabbed a question that was posted on Reddit that got some good responses.

“What’s a book you read this year that’s still lingering in your mind?”

If you’re like me, you read many books in a year and can barely remember most of them! Life is a lot easier now I track what I read at Book Notification.

But there are always a couple that do stick out, when I think about my year of reading.

The first would beThe Survivalist series by A. American. I started that this year, and I read 5 books one after the other. I’ve taken a bit of a break from it but will get back to it soon. This is a fantastic series from a whole new perspective that I was unfamiliar with. Something has wiped out the entire power grid, a suspected EMP attack, and electronics don’t work anymore etc. The POV is from an actual survivalist, and it’s really cool to read and see how they handle the world they prepared for.

The Wool / Silo series by Hugh Howey. I could just picture those massive silos, the long staircases etc. Howey did a fantastic job at describing those and that sort of dystopian future.

And in a bad way, A Good Girls’ Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. A book geared towards younger readers, and she unnecessarily killed a dog in it. It’s been months since I read that, and it still bothers me.

What about you? “What’s a book you read this year that’s still lingering in your mind?”

E-mail us your feedback to site@OrderOfBooks.com  or just reply to this e-mail, and we’ll pick the best comments and feature it in next month’s newsletter.  Five people will also randomly win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.

Reader Mailbag!

Click here to read.

Order of Books » Newsletter » OrderOfBooks December 2023 Newsletter

2 Responses to “OrderOfBooks December 2023 Newsletter”

  1. Peggy Sherman: 6 months ago

    Hi! I wanted to recommend a book–actually the whole series (unless this has been recommended before I started getting the newsletter). They are called The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor. They are a series in a true sense of the word. While perhaps they could be read out of order, each one does build on the one before. To quote the publisher’s description: “The stories of a bunch of disaster-prone historians who investigate major historical events in contemporary time. Do NOT call it time travel!” Wonderful characters have fun adventures in time (and mess up a lot). In its way, it’s also educational since they investigate actual events. If you haven’t read any of these, I highly recommend them!

    Peggy

    Reply

    • Graeme: 6 months ago

      Hi Peggy – that one has been recommended before 🙂 But I’ll add it to the list to recommend again soon!

      Reply

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