Speaking of binge-watching … not much going on in that area except lots of random “Criminal Minds” episodes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, they almost always satisfy and entertain, though a few have creeped me out to the extent that I compulsively track my daughters and offer endless unsolicited advice about what they need to do to stay safe. But it’s all in the name of entertainment, right?

Between Christmas and New Year’s, we did binge-watch a short Netflix series (think: eight episodes) called “Unbelievable.” It’s the story of the victims of a serial rapist and is said to be based on a true story. It begins with the rapist’s first victim, a young teenage girl just out of foster care. It chronicles her interaction with the police as she reports it, and at the hospital as she is examined.

Then, later, as the rapist continues to strike in other parts of the country, it shows other police officers (who happen to be women) as they process their cases and interview their victims.

What you see is that Marie — the first victim — is handled with far less care than anyone else. You’ll notice the difference in the way the male officers handle the case versus the women officers in later cases. Marie is young and had been abused at home and in foster care, so she had little social grace and confidence. When pressed about discrepant details in her report, and fearing repercussions to her fragile existence, she recanted her story, even though it was the truth. Had anyone been paying attention, they would have clearly seen that she was traumatized and needed help.

“Unbelievable” was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Limited Series (or Motion Picture made for Television) and lost to Chernobyl. Makes me want to see Chernobyl.

Now, on to books.

I just did a count, and it looks like I did manage to read at least 12 books in 12 months last year. More, if you count the ones that didn’t hold my interest, of which there are a few.

What happened is, sometime about a year and a half ago, I realized that my Friend Network had drastically dwindled, so I badgered a group of nice ladies to let me into their book club. It’s been a delight. If I don’t always love the books, I do always love the company.

So, here are my top three books of 2019:

“News of the World” by Paulette Giles. This one was an accident in that it was selected, then retracted, as a Book Club selection. I had started it and decided to finish it and I’m glad I did. An historical fiction, it takes place in the late 1800s in this part of the country, from around Wichita Falls to San Antonio, which is territory I am very familiar with.

It tells of an old Army officer, now wandering the country reading the news in a public forum for whatever coins he can garner. He ends up accepting the duty of transporting a young girl who was rescued by the Arm, after she was captured and raised by a band of Kiowa raiders years before. Captain Kidd’s commission is to get her from far north Texas to down south to Castroville, through the rugged territory that was still wild in more places than not. Though her parents had been killed in the raid, an aunt and uncle were supposedly there, though they had no idea that Johanna was still alive.

Somehow, historical fiction has become a favorite genre. Maybe it’s because I get to learn a thing or two as I read, without it being too much of a chore.

Another one: “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan. This one was such an easy read. It is the memoir of a young, professional woman living in New York who is suddenly thrust into a months-long ordeal when she gets a brain infection. It may sound basic, but it was so well-written and relatable, I recommend it for anyone and everyone. Might be more of a chick book than for guys, but that just means that you guys don’t know what you’re missing.

Finally, “Where the Crawdads Sing” was another favorite. It’s the story of a poor girl who pretty much raises herself in the marshlands of North Carolina. I loved the story. Yes, perhaps it’s another chick book. You guys … bless your heart.

In 2020 I vow to read more riveting, important, life-changing books. But I’m still hoping that John Sanders can come through with a couple of good Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport stories to help me pass the time on the beach or on the airplane.

Oh, yeah. And I’m hoping there will be a few beaches and airplanes in the mix. Juliasalas1@yahoo.com

Julia Salas lives in Lawton.

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