2010 books read

January:
1. Quite Ugly One Morning – Christopher Brookmyre
2. One Degree of Seperation – Karin Kallmaker
3. Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner
4. Silver on the Tree – Susan Cooper
5. Fortune’s Fool – Mercedes Lackey
6. Probe – Margeret Wander Bonanno
7. Firebird – Mercedesl Lackey

February:

8. The Chalet School in Exile – Elinor M. Brent-Dyer: I’ve read the Armada paperback, but this was the Girls Gone By re-print using the full manuscript. It’s the Chalet School, so of course I enjoyed it. The material that was restored definitely makes this a smoother read, despite there still being an annoying gap where EDB doesn’t give me Joey’s wedding, and I’m glad that I’ve finally been able to read it.

9. Storm Front – Jim Butcher: Everyone has been recommending the Dresden books to me recently so I finally picked up the first. Lots of fun, quite light and I’d quite like to read some more.

10. The School at the Chalet – Elinor M. Brent-Dyer: I’m on a bit of a Chalet School kick. It’s great to go back and read where it all began. I’m just trying to ignore EBD’s inconsistent character aging…

11. Old Man’s War – John Scalzi: I’ve been hearing about this one for years so I thought it was time to give it a try. Loved it! Great characters and an interesting idea that was explored well. Best of all, it kept me diving back for more every time I had a spare moment. It’s nice to see a book that has one basic idea done well and pays attention to things like characterisation and invention. Too many books seem to try to skim several ideas, never really giving anything the depth it needs, and sacrifice character to the demands of the ideas. I’m definitely going to be looking for more Scalzi.

12. Storm Glass – Maria V. Snyder: This is the first in a promised series of books featuring Opal Cowan. Opal appeared in her first series of books and she was an interesting character, so it’s nice to see her return. Snyder gave some good hints about the world she created and we got to explore it a bit in her first books, but here she’s got lots of scope to explore and takes every bit of it. I love Opal, I love that Snyder lets her admit that she causes some of her own problems and I love the unsual magic she’s exploring. It’s a book that was hard to put down.

March:

13. The Affinity Bridge – George Mann: It had all the elements of a good book, so why wasn’t it? This is the first time my “wow, great cover art” technique of choosing new authors has seriously failed me. The book had some great ideas (steampunk Victoriana, gothic mysteries etc.) but the writing was just flat. The characters were a bit cardboardy. The writer did the same thing that I’m trying to train myself out of: over-explaining every tiny thing and chucking info-dumps around left, right and centre. In short, a book that I don’t feel the need to return to and had to work hard to finish.

14. Dragonheart – Todd McCaffrey: Going back to Pern is always fun, particularly when I’m meeting some new characters or getting to know characters that have only been referenced lightly before. This one takes place at the same time as another of the recent Pern stories, but it focuses on a new Impressed rider and her gold dragon with only hints at the actions of the charcters in the other book. The new characters are interesting and I love seeing Pern in the intermediary stage between the Landing and the period centuries later when Pern rediscovers that history. It’s not the strongest book in the series, but Todd McCaffrey is settling in well and I think he’s made the right choice to set his stories in a different period in Pern’s history from what his mother wrote. It was a book that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages, perfect for a lazy weekend of reading with a big mug of tea.

15. Black Sails, Fast Ships – various: I’ve only read half the stories because I find that I can only read about pirates for so long, but so far I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s a collection of short stories about pirates. Not just the kind in 18th century sailing ships – the authors are from so many different genres and likewise they’ve interpreted the pirate idea in dozens of way. As with any anthology there are a couple of clunkers, but there are also some total gems. Elizabeth Bear’s contribution stands out as one of the best so far (unsurprising, I love her stuff) and the one that I read before putting it down about high-tech pirates haunted by the souls of ancient pirates was just brilliant. I’ll be returning to this when I’m a little less pirated-out.

16. Accidental Sorcerer – K.E. Mills: One that I picked up in England because the cover looked good and the back jacket blurb sounded fun. Overall, I enjoyed this one a lot and will be picking up the sequels. It’s not perfect, but it is compelling and fun. The story starts out very light and humorous, but becomes much darker in places so it’s a more meaty book than it first appears. The only imperfection is that the transition between light and dark could have been handled more smoothly. There are a few places that are a bit jarring. The ideas, characters and settings were great and for the most part well executed so this definitely an author that I’d like to return to.

17. Fool Moon – Jim Butcher: The second Dresden novel and I really enjoyed it. This one is definitely ‘the werewolf one’, with lots of variety in the monsters and lots of people who aren’t quite what they seem to be. Dresden is a great character and one of the rare ones that I can cope with in first person. It’s not deep reading, but it is a lot of fun.

18. Fifth Years at Malory Towers – Enid Blyton: This was an unintentional re-read because I forgot that I had read this one. It was a fun re-read, though. Blyton’s weak point is that her characters never really age. They are in the fifth year, around 16 years old, but would not have known this if it had not been stated. Darrell and co. certainly do not show any more maturity than they had in their first year. Elinor M Brent-Dyer has her faults, but her characters do grow and change so that the Joey we meet in the first Chalet School book has grown and matured when she finally becomes Head Girl. Blyton’s books probably work well for younger girls (I have friends who’s daughters will be six or seven next year and I think Malory Towers will be perfect for them) but they would be quickly outgrown by most girls.

April books:

19. All the Windwracked Stars – Elizabeth Bear
This was an excellent book and a good start to the month’s reading. Bear is one of those writers who gets better with each book and never re-hashes ideas, so each book is quite different from the last. In this book I discovered that she writes bleak brilliantly. It’s about the end of the world, with Norse mythology mixed in, and unlike many end of the world books this isn’t about big, epic ends. This is the slow death of a world so it’s bleak and quite disturbing in places. Definitely worth reading, but perhaps not good as bedtime reading.

20. Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings
I needed something lighter as my bedtime reading after giving myself some disturbed nights with the Bear book. When you need that then the best thing is to re-vist an old favourite. I still love these books and opening the covers is like having a great holiday with old dear friends. These books are popular for a reason: they’re not Shakespear, but they’re fun, absorbing and filled with great characters. His later books have been essentially re-telling the same stories, but he did it best in the Belgariad and Mallorean series.

21. Spirit – Gwyneth Jones
The first in my stack of award-nominated books to read through. This one was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke and I can immediately see why. It’s not the easiest book at the start – she plunges you right into the world she’s created without stopping for much explanation along the way – but it rolls along and draws you in very quickly. At heart, this book is a retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo in a sci-fi setting. I’m not familar with Dumas’ original so I suspect there are parallels that I missed, but this was still an excllent read. It’s also another one that isn’t good pre-bed reading!

22. Queen of Sorcery – David Eddings
The second Belgadiad book and perfect pick-me-up from reading more difficult fare during the day.

23. The City and the City – China Mieville
Another nominee, for both the Arthur C. Clarke and the Hugo, and an author I’ve been meaning to try for years. Incidentally, this one has won the ACC and I can see why. As with Spirit, the author throws you straight into the world and explains as little as he can, expecting the reader to gradually work things out from context. I found the first couple of chapters hard work and then I was right there in the book, unable to put it down. This is one that I think will benefit from a re-read now that I understand things better. The basic concept is that there are two cities sharing the same physical space, bleeding over in places, and the inhabitants of each city must try to ignore the other city at all times. In the midst of this, there is a murder that may or may not have crossed the borders. It’s a crime novel at heart, with the two cities idea adding an extra dimension that occasionally made my brain hurt (in a good way). Trying to explain it is really difficult because nothing is ever what you think it is, but it’s definitely worth reading.

24. Magician’s Gambit – David Eddings
OK, I’m on an Eddings kick. So sue me πŸ˜€

May books

25. Death Due Jour – Kathy Reichs
The second Temperance Brennan novel, but the first for me. I picked it up because I know that it inspired the TV show Bones (which I love) although it’s not a book-of-the-show thing. I enjoyed it far more than I thought that I would. It’s completely different from Bones and I really need to dig into how on earth they came up with Bones from it! This Tempe is older, a bit wiser and a fascinating character. Importantly, the mystery really works and Kathy Reichs puts in lots of lovely forensic science details without being overly-graphic or dry in her descriptions. Going to be looking out for some more!

26. Castle of Wizardry – David Eddings
It’s impossible to start a re-read and not finish a series.

27. Monday Mourning – Kathy Reichs
Another Temperance Brennan story, this one much further through the series. I think that I’ll be collecting these and reading in order, because the characters grow and develop through the books and I felt like I’d missed some crucial things. This one had lots of lovely forensics, a good mystery, and Reichs made both locations come alive as I read.

28. Enchanters End Game – David Eddings
I had to read the last one in the series. I’d forgotten how much I love these books. It’s odd how much more vividly I remember the final couple of books where the first couple were more vague in my memory until I re-read, but perhaps that’s because the final ones are always the last that I read? Anyway, I’ve loved doing this re-read and getting to visit old friends again.

29. Grave Peril – Jim Butcher
The ‘vampire’ Dresden book, but it’s one that is setting up a lot of things that carry through into the next few books. I’m not really a vampire girl, but this one was great and added lots of interesting ideas about the different Vampire Courts and the relationship of the fairy realm to everything else, which is good because the next book…

June books

30. Summer Knight – Jim Butcher
It’s the fairy story for Dresden. And these ones, thankfully, are rather more like the old fairies from tales rather than the pretty Disney kind of fairies. Lots of fun things in this one with a great bit of mystery and some interesting exploration of the way that Dresden’s wizard society functions in the modern world.

31. Death Masks – Jim Butcher
This one is an interesting mix of religion, magic and scary demons that was quite compelling. Butcher is gradually expanding and exploring the societies he’s created and it was great to get a better idea of what the Knights of the Cross (Sword? er, can’t quite remember) do and what their function is in this world. I get the feeling that some of the bad guys introduced here will be cropping up again and I’m looking forward to the next couple of books.

32. Wizards at War – Diane Duane
With a new Young Wizards book out, I needed to do a re-read of the last one so that I didn’t spend half the book trying to remember what had happened. I’m going to need a full Young Wizrds read soon, I suspect. This one gets pretty dark in places and it reminds me of why I think Duane is a fantastic kids author. She doesn’t shy away from difficult ideas, presenting them instead in a fictional setting that gets you thinking a bit. Her magic is brilliant because the wizards need to know about science in detail in order to work, it’s not just waving hands around and saying magic words. I kind of love the idea of magic that requires a study of the world around you to work correctly.

33. A Wizard of Mars – Diane Duane
Kit has had an obsession with Mars for the last few books, so this one was always going to come and I’m loving it. There’s adventure and, for once, Kit and Nita aren’t entirely in tune which reflects the ages they’re reaching. Anyone with any curiosity about space has probably got a soft spot for Mars – I’ve certainly aways wanted to know whether there was life there and what it was like – so we can understand Kit’s fascination. At the same time, we can understand Nita’s caution as events unfold. My only slight disappoint is that, apart from a few cameos, Dairine is largely absent and I’m hoping that the next book gives us a bit more about Dairine’s work both magically and in her search for Roshaune.

34. Guardians of the West – David Eddings
I thought that I was done with Eddings, but I ended up needing to start the Mallorean. Oops. This one always frustrates me a bit because the first few chapters are from Errand’s point of view and, frankly, he’s not a particularly interesting character. He’s also a child and misses a lot of the interesting bits. Thankfully Edding eventually switches back to a focus on the more interesting characters, although this one is a bit fragmentary and largely a set-up for the other books in this series. It’s one of those books that would have sunk like a rock if it hadn’t been published on the back of the success of the Belgariad, which would have been a shame because the rest of the series is great. You just have to get past this one to get to the good stuff.

July books

35. Grave Peril – Jim Butcher
I think this is the most interesting one of the series so far. It’s certainly the one where we’ve discovered the most about Dresden and about some of the characters surrounding him, with a couple of different plot threads running through the book that don’t really overlap, but do work well together in this book. One of the things that I’m enjoying with these books is the gradual world-building and the development of the different characters. The Dresden books are written first person from Dresden’s point of view, so we know a lot about his personality and world-view, but Butcher has done a good job of gradually revealing his background. It would probably be easy to keep the secondary characters in the background, and Butcher did this for the first couple of books, but they’re getting fleshed out into people we care about. This book has vampires galore, of several different types, but the central theme is actually families and what they are. I think it’s my favourite so far and I’m looking forward to reading the next few.

36. King of the Murgos – David Eddings
The action finally gets going in this one so it’s much more interesting than the first book in the series. Eddings spent most of the Belgariad painting the Angaraks as universally unpleasant with the Murgos as the evil, fairly stupid and thuggish tribe that everyone should hate. Here we’re given a bit more of a flavour of Murgo society and its intricacies. It makes for a more interesting enemy and it’s good to see that they aren’t universally evil or a single, undeveloped character. The Murgos of the Belgariad were pretty much interchangable, these ones aren’t. We also get a bit more insight into Silk’s background and even Sadi starts to become a character rather than a stereotype. In all, much stronger than Guardians of the West.

37. Demon Lord of Karanda – David Eddings
Another Angarak nation gets a bit of redemption in this one, although we only really heard about the Malloreans in the Belgariad so they were not quite the monolithically evil nation that the Murgos were written to be. Still, Eddings’ world-building in this one is great and there’s lots of good plot stuff in here. My memories of a big slow section in the middle were totally wrong – we’re only stuck at Zakath’s palace for a few short chapters and then everyone is on the road again. A fun, light read that doesn’t feel too ‘middle book’-ish.

38. Turn of the Screw – Henry James
While I was back in England with the family, I asked my sister for some classics recs. She’s much more up on proper literature than I am and she has a fair idea of what kinds of things interest me, so when she said that I’d enjoy Turn of the Screw I immediately went out and bought a copy. She’s right, I did enjoy it, although it helped that I watched the BBC adaptation over Christmas and have some idea of the story. It’s one that I think I will need to come back to for a re-read (possibly more than once) to really get everything out. The atmosphere is suitable spooky and we are never quite sure whether it’s all real or something that the governess has imagined, even at the end, so it’s one that makes you think long after finishing. James’ prose style is very dense and hard work in a lot of places (hence the need for a re-read) so it’s not a causal read the way that Austen is, but it is a good read.

39. Last Term at Malory Towers – Enid Blyton
Lots of fun, but Blyton’s inability to allow her characters to grow up and mature is particularly apparent here. Darrell and co. are supposed eighteen year-olds in the sixth form, but most of the time they still read as being around twelve despite discussions about careers and Darrell’s role as head girl. A fun bit of fluff when your brain needs a rest, but I’d still prefer a Chalet School book any time.

40. The Wizards of Caprona – Diana Wynne Jones
This one was picked up a couple of years ago because I’ve enjoyed adaptations of a couple of her books on TV (Archer’s Goon is still brilliant 20 years on) and I’ve heard good things about the Chrestomanci books. Not disappointed at all! The book is set in an alternate Italy, where magic is common and the great spell houses vie for commerce from the rich and notable. There’s a bit of mystery, a bit of adventure, and a nice little Romeo and Juliet subplot at the edges. Chrestomanci himself is only here in cameo, so it’s easy to pick up if you’re not familiar with the other books in this universe (I’m not…yet!) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I just need to find the rest!

41. The Vesuvius Club – Mark Gatiss
This is another one that has been lingering in my to be read pile for two long. It was largely picked up because Gatiss’ new adaptation of Sherlock Homes was on TV this week and it seemed like an appropriate thing to pick out. The central viewpoint character is Lucifer Box, an Edwardian gentleman spy who is definitely not what he first appears. It’s a slightly odd book, with a dry wit throughout and a hero who initially seems quite simple but grows and develops into something else entirely by the end of the book. There’s mad science (in the true spirit of an Edwardian James Bond), dastardly villains and a few unexpected plot twists. I loved it and, at the end, decided that it was exactly the kind of thing I would have expected from Gatiss, which is no bad thing at all.

42. La’s Orchestra Saves the World – Alistair McCall Smith
One from a recommendaton on a thread in this group. It is, in many ways, quite a gentle story about a young widow forming an orchestra during WWII. It had a lovely tone and I could recognise some of the character-types from growing up in England. Not one if you’re looking for rollicking adventure and the tone is both gentle and melancholy, fitting the character of La very well. Quite enjoyable with a cup of tea, this was a book that I’d characterise as ‘nice’ rather than ‘brilliant’.

August books:

43. Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
This one was another from my awards short-list reading list. It’s a steam punk novel set in old Seattle with zombies, which was quite the disturbing combination. The Boneshaker of the title is a drilling machine that went a little crazy, dug under a large section of Seattle and released a gas that turns anyone who breathes it in into a zombie. Old Seattle was walled up to keep the gas in and the story takes place fifteen years later with a mother setting out to rescue her son who has decided to sneak into the Blight-filled city to find out about his father. There’s a good dose of mystery in addition to the zombies and the constant threat of the Blight gas kept me tense even when the action slowed down. It’s not one for pre-bed reading! I can see why it was nominated for awards because it’s inventive and quite compelling. However, it is also a little uneven in pacing and there are long sections of ‘running away’ that added to the tension without really adding to the overall narrative. Much better than my last assault on steam punk and zombies (The Affinity Bridge) but not quite a five-star book.

44. The Island of Adventure – Enid Blyton
I loved these books as a kid so I was really happy to see them in a second hand bookshop. Of course, then I got a little worried that they might not be as good as I remembered, so I put off starting the first one. Thankfully I still love them just as much! Blyton’s bad habits regarding not letting children grow up are much less noticable and, in some ways, the older boys ‘read’ older than Daryl and co. even in the last Malory Towers book. It’s all quite silly, with four children (and Kiki the parrot!) stumbling across dastardly criminals during their summer holidays but tremendous fun and perfect as a mental break from tougher stuff.

45. The White Road – Lynn Flewelling
The Nightrunner book, a series that I’ve loved as reading candy since someone recommended the first one to me. It has the usual mix of adventure, intrigue and personal relationships and it’s hard to say much without discussing the previous book in the series because this is a definite continuation of that one. Flewelling continues to do a lovely job with Alec and Seregil’s relationship and manages to resolve one mystery while opening several others. Hopefully I won’t have to wait long before the next book!

46. Deja Dead – Kathy Reichs
The first Temperance Brennan book, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s a little rougher than her early writing, more graphic in its descriptions of corpses, but still less sensationalist than the Kay Scarpetta books. It’s good to see the introduction of many characters that we meet regularly in later books and the book fills in a bit of background that makes some of Death du Jour more understandable. There is still lots of interesting science mixed in with the crime thriller side of things and I loved this first look at Tempe. Not Reichs’ best, but still a very good read.

47. Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian
One of my all-time favourites and I really could not tell you how many times I’ve read this. It’s by turns moving, funny, tragic and uplifting and the emotional ‘oomph’ from certain sections never seems to lessen. It’s the story of a young evacuee sent to live in the country just before the start of WWII. Tom Oakley is initially pretty grumpy about having a young boy in the house disrupting his routine but is quickly won over by Will, whose background is both heartbreaking and probably not uncommon. It’s a story about healing and learning, with the war never far away. I read this for the first time when I was 12 and it’s been interesting to realise that what I love about the book now is quite different from what I loved all those years ago. I really can’t recommend this one highly enough.

48. Bare Bones – Kathy Reichs
This one is fairly late in the series, but Reichs is pretty good at making sure that we don’t get left behind when she mentions things that have happened in earlier books. It’s probably more satisfying to read them in order but I’m dipping in and out (depending on what the library has) and having no problems. There’s the trade-mark good science made interesting, Tempe is a great main protagonist and the mystery kept me well satisfied. Loving this series.

September books:

49. Back Home – Michelle Magorian
It’s the story of a girl who was evacuated to America during WWII and her return to England after the end of the war. When I first read this as a teenager, I focused mainly on Rusty and it’s only now, re-reading as an adult, that I see how much characterisation (and heartbreak) Magorian gave her mother as well. Much of the book focuses on the difficulties Rusty faces in trying to settle in the austerity of post-war England after the free and easy life in the USA, but it is also about her mother’s struggles to settle back into her pre-war roles. It’s one of those books that you just can’t put down after you start it, as all of Magorian’s are, and the characters jump off the page. Loved it.

50. Dead Beat – Jim Butcher
This one was read while I was without power for 29 hours and was a great distraction. I’m still really enjoying this series, particularly the way that the characters are growing and developing over time. With each book we learn a bit more about the supernatural side of the world created for the books (this one was ‘the zombie book’ complete with necromancy) and build on what has been established. Despite the raising of the dead, this one was a little lighter than the previous one and I continue to really enjoy Dresden and his growing band of friends, acquaintances and enemies.

51. Galileo’s Dream – Kim Stanley Robinson
This one was the last of the batch that I picked up when trying to read through some of the Arthur C. Clarke and Hugo awards nominees. Robinson is one of the great sci-fi authors so I had high hopes for this. Unfortunately it’s one where I kept using the adjective ‘nice’. The writing is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, and it might just be a perception thing. I spent the first half of the novel begging for it to be over, it picked up a bit in the second half and then went on for about four chapters too long. I could sense that there were some good ideas in here, but it lacked a defined point to everything that was happening and didn’t have enough going on to be interesting without a goal or point. Definitely better than a couple of this year’s books, but not going down as a favourite. The City and the City definitely deserved awards ahead of this one.

52. A Study in Scarlet – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Watching the new BBC update of Sherlock Holmes has inspired me to read the originals. The Complete Sherlock Holmes was the first thing that I loaded onto my new Kindle and Study in Scarlet is the first story. As it’s novella-length and often published on its own, I’m claiming it to my bookcount! I thoroughly enjoyed this, both in finding all the parallels to the BBC adaptation and as a story in itself. It’s the story that introduced readers to Holmes and Watson yet somehow the necessity of introducing the characters just adds to the story rather than slowing it down. In fact, the only part that slowed things was the long diversion in Utah but by the end it is a key part rather than a distraction. Great introductory story and left me wanting to read the next ones to see how everyone develops.

53. The Naughtiest Girl Again – Enid Blyton
I’m a bit conflicted about these ones. They’re a fun read, but this one had rather a lot of moralizing and most of the children are rather too goody-two-shoes to be real. Elizabeth, the naughtiest girl of the title, has firmly moved from ‘naughty’ to ‘trying to be a saint’, although it’s nice to see that she’s a character who has to work at being better. The two had new children are both sorted out by learning the value of caring for pets, taking exercise and brushing your hair regularly. Er. I’m not sure that I could persuade a modern kid of the value of this series!

54. The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
Despite seeing the film many times (it’s staple Christmas TV fare), I’ve never actually read this one. I think that I read one of the other Oz stories when I was a kid (I’ll find out – I’ve got the entire collection on my Kindle to read through) but somehow missed this one. It’s really quite charming and the lessons about friendship and finding one’s talents are delivered much more subtly than Blyton managed. It’s very much an American fairytale and the Dorothy of the book is obviously a child, making an interesting contrast to the late-teens Dorothy of the film. I’m looking forward to reading the next story, which I’ve seen the film of and will be interested to compare.

55. They Found Him Dead – Georgette Heyer
There was a discussion on a non-LT forum that I read about Regency romances and someone suggested Heyer, so I decided to take a look at her catalogue. Instead of plunking for a romance, though, I spotted a mystery and downloaded it. Typical. It’s along the same lines as Agatha Christie – murder in an old English house, lots of suspects etc. – and it was lovely mindless fare for a couple of lazy evenings. I’d still pick Christie if I could only have one or the other, but I’d read another Heyer mystery and I am going to check out her romances.

October books

56. Rise of the Iron Moon – Stephen Hunt
This one made me remember why I keep trying to read steam punk: it was inventive, compelling and filled with ideas that were brilliantly executed. I never knew quite where it would go next and Hunt is an author who is not afraid to tear down communities and places that he’s carefully built. This is definitely not light reading and it left me rather unsettled at the end (which may explain some of my other book choices this month – comfort reading!) but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It would be a good idea to read the previous books in the series because Hunt’s writing assumes knowledge of a lot of the characters and areas of his world. I appreciated that, though, because he was able to get events moving without needing to stop for a chunk of exposition every few pages!

57. 84 Charring Cross Road – Helene Hanff
This one came from a 75 books recommendation and it may be competing with The City and The City for favourite book this year. It’s a series of letters between a woman in New York and a bookshop in London, starting shortly after the war and carring on for twenty years. Watching the friendships grow between Helene and the staff was lovely as was the discussion of the books that she received. The hints at post-war life in Britain were fascinating, particularly compared to Helene’s life in New York, and I can see why it’s such a favourite for book lovers.

58. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street – Helene Hanff
Quite different from 84 Charring Cross Road, this is the tale (in the form of a diary) of Helene’s trip to London. It was something that she had discussed in her letters for two decades but fate intervened every time. Seeing London through her eyes was lovely and she describes the people that she meets with such clarity that you can see them in front of you. I loved it every bit as much as the letters, although some people don’t like this one as much, and it makes for great comfort reading.

59. Confessions of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
I can honestly say that I’ve never read chic-lit before and picked this one up on a reccomendation from 75 books (and because it was less than a dollar on Kindle). I feel vaguely ashamed by how much I enjoyed it! The writing is witty and smart, with a great cast of characters. Rebecca, the shopaholic of the title, goes from disaster to disaster and I could see exactly how she got there and why, so I could never get annoyed with her. In fact, it gave me an idea of how one of my friends years ago ended up with the debts and shopping problems she did because the Rebecca was so well-drawn. I’ve even gone and bought the second one…

60. A Great Deliverance – Elizabeth George
Autumn always makes me want to read English murder mysteries and I’ve never tried the Lynley ones, despite watching most of them on TV over the years. This rolled along at a great pace with plenty of mystery and intrigue mixed in with good characters who were explored and developed slightly more than you get in some books of this genre. I was familiar with the basics of the characters from TV (Lynley is an Earl, Havers is completely working class) and was surprised by how well the TV characters matched with the book versions. Obviously there was more room to explore both of them in a book and that added depth was just what I wanted. I’m definitely picking up more of these, although with the character development George does, I think they’ll benefit from being read in the right order!

61. Vet in a Spin – James Herriot
My Kindle battery was flat when I arrived at the B&B where I stayed for my vacation (grr, bad file draining it) so I had to borrow something while I found something to charge with, charged and removed the bad file. In the bookcase of airport paperbacks, this was the lone little book that caught my eye. It reminded me of why I devoured most of the James Herriot books when I was a teenager and the tales of life Dales life and farming in the 1930s, with the array of slightly nutty characters and equally odd animals, was perfect for my mood. Must hunt down the rest, my bookcase is sadly deprived!

62. A Murder is Announced – Agatha Christie
Good old Agatha Christie, who is always perfect autumn reading because her books are so comforting. I’m a particular fan of Miss Marple and this one was great, filled with possible suspects, cranky detectives, old English houses and Miss Marple outwitting them all as always.

63. Payment in Blood – Elizabeth George
Despite my occasional urge to hit Lynley, this one was terrific. I didn’t guess the whodunnit, there was a brilliant plot twist in the middle, lots of red herrings and George’s writing was great. Lynley was the main focus of this story with Havers a bit more in the background, but I found that I didn’t mind because it was appropriate for the storyline. In fact, one of the great things about the book was the exploration of how the police were willing to use Lynley’s aristocratic background and how easily he fell into the trap. Thankfully Havers was there to save the day and I’m looking forward to the repurcussions of some of the events in this book in the next one.

64. His Lady Mistress – Elizabeth Rolls
Pure, unadulterated fluff of the bad Regency romance variety. Completely ridiculous brain candy, yet surprisingly compelling. The only problem with it was that the author didn’t know when to stop and drew everything out for about 50 pages to long.

65. Enchanting the Lady – Kathryn Kennedy
Another fluff romance, this one with a supernatural/magic element and an author who knew when to stop. Fluffy, light, and fun.

November books

66. Duplicate Death – Georgette Heyer
It took a while to get going, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying this and was glued to the final few chapters. Characters from They Found Him Dead return, but it’s nice to have a grown-up Timothy here and I loved Chief Inspector (formerly Sergent) Hemminyway to bits. As with the last one, it was hard to guess who was the murderer although when you look back, you can see the clues scattered throughout. It’s very 40s upper/middle class and there’s some nice details on post-War food and taxation that often get glossed over in other similar novels. Definitely a novel for a cup of tea and a rainy afternoon.

67. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins
This was one that got mentioned in a couple of threads on the 75 books thread and, as I am always trying to make myself read more classics (for that read, at least one a year), I thought that I would give it a go. I loved it! The mystery develops at just the right pace, the characters jump off the pages and the trick of having different sections written by different characters worked beautifully. Each time we shifted to a different character’s ‘contribution’, we learned a bit more about all the other characters by learning both how they saw themselves and each other. The problems that I had with Turn of the Screw – the ornate, etherial writing that kept me from properly being absorbed – were completely absent here: it was easy to read and my biggest problem was usually pulling myself out of it to do things like laundry and going to work. Thoroughly recommended.

68. Well-Schooled in Murder – Elizabeth George
Another Inspector Lynley mystery, this time set in a mid-list public school. Obviously it’s a perfect change for Havers to show her distain for the wealthy and Lynley to revisit his own school years, but thankfully George makes it a much more interesting novel than that. It was only towards the end that I suspected who did it and the story didn’t go quite where I expected. I’m starting to really care about the characters – Deborah and St. James as well as Havers and Lynley – so it was lovely to have some good story-telling for all of them. I’m pretty sure that certain events here are going to have an impact on the next one and I’m looking forward to it.

69. The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side – Agatha Christie
A lovely Miss Marple that has the regulation dose of old English houses, suspicious characters, old grudges and little old ladies investigating murders. This one is also a little more down than some of them, with Miss Marple’s age telling on her so that her nephew employs a live-in carer for her and St. Mary’s Mead enduring the changes that the construction of a new housing estate bring. Miss Marple’s doctor prescibes a nice murder to cheer her up, which has luckily just happened at the village fete, and the wonderful network of friends and old servants scattered through the village come to her aid bringing gossip and information. Gentle, uplifting and perfect for a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea.

71. Joust – Mercedes Lackey
Somehow, I’ve never read this duology so when I friend offered to lend me the first, I jumped at the chance. For me, it wasn’t my favourite Lackey book: the writing was a little heavy and the characters did not really engage me as much as her characters usually do. The setting in a psuedo-Ancient Egyptian world (with dragons!) was great, though, and it’s not a terrible book. I’ll be borrowing the other one to read shortly so that I can find out what happens to Vetch and his dragon, but I probably won’t be buying these for the bookshelves.

72. Glimpses – Lynn Flewelling
This is a collection of Flewelling-authored short stories about Seregil and Alex. As they’re characters that I adore, I knew that I would need to buy this as soon as I heard about it πŸ™‚ They’re filling in gaps stories, showing us how our heros became who they are. We see Seregil shortly after his exile, how he met Micum, get the full story of Alex’s parents and get a peek at their first night together which I know will please just about everyone who loves their romance. It’s a nice addition to the collection and one that I’ll probably be dipping into every now and again.

December books

73. Arrows of the Queen – Mercedes Lackey
This was a re-read for a project that I’ve been working on. I’ve never read the Valdemar books in order (I’ve often done well to get the book in each series in order), so I first read this after reading a lot of the other books. Somehow, it got stuck in my head that the Arrows trillogy were not that good. Oops. While some of her later books are better and you can see the progress in her writing, the Arrows books are still great reads. This is the first, following Talia from the day that a white ‘horse’ absconds with her through most of her Heraldic training. There’s lots of references to events that Lackey fleshes out in other books, but she gives enough information that the reader never feels lost and this is a great introduction to the people and politics of Valdemar. It’s definitely much better than I remember!

74. Proven Guilty – Jim Butcher
This may be my favourite so far. The world of Dresen is getting so beautifully layered and every strand touches on another strand, which makes it all so fascinating. Seeing Dresen grow and develop over the course of the books is wonderful, but seeing the way that all the other characters are also developing is part of what keeps me back. This one touched on Sidhe politics and how the war between wizards and vampires is combing with that to be a massive tangle of strategy and loyalty. The central plot, of fetches and fear, was developed really well and it was great to get an insight into Charity Carpenter after all the hints that we have been given. In the final hundred pages there was set-up for several plot strands that I think are going to make the next few books even richer. Reading these books out of order would be almost impossible and this is definitely not a book to pick the series up with, but it’s a very satisfying read for anyone following the series.

75. The Moving Finger – Agatha Christie
This one was billed as a Miss Marple mystery, but she’s only there for the last few chapters and we don’t really get to see her detective powers until the final chapter. I felt slightly cheated by this because, while the POV character was great, it wasn’t the book that I wanted when I sat down with it. I’m sure that if you’re not specifically looking for a Marple book then this is a fun, satisfying mystery. I didn’t guess who did it (I was way off base) and the brother and sister team at the heart of the book were fun to spend time with. Not one of Christie’s strongest, but still a good read.

76. The Marvelous Land of Oz – Frank L. Baum
This was Baum’s first sequel to The Wizard of Oz and he quite sensibly gives us a new central figure, Tip, and his collection of odd friends rather than reviving Dorothy immediately. The Scarecrow and the Tin Man both get involved part way through, with the central plot being the invasion of the Emerald City by an army of girls armed with knitting needles and the overthrow of the Scarecrow. I did have a few issues with some of the ideas: the Army of Revolt and the firm belief that the girls should be defeated and returned to their places cooking and cleaning for the men is a little too obviously sexist. The only way to get past that is to remember that these books were written a century ago and reflect the attitudes of the time. Other than that, this is a fun romp through Oz with some great new characters, a few familiar characters, and one or two surprises.

77. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
This one is lovely to read a Christmas approaches. Although Christmas is the backdrop for this book rather than the central theme, somehow it’s still a beautifully festive read and the themes of Dark versus Light fit beautifully. This is the second book in Susan Cooper’s series, but it is readable without reading the first book and the only character carried through is Merriman Lyon. In my head, he’s a taller version of Cole Hawlings from the BBC adaptation of Box of Delights with whiter hair. Will Stanton is the main focal character of the book, introducing the idea of Old Ones and Things of Power through the experiences of a young boy discovering his destiny. In some ways it’s a common theme through this genre of books, but Cooper is one of the best.

78. Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday – Garth Nix
Another young boy finding his destiny, although this one is much quirkier and the young boy is an asthmatic American boy rather than a young English boy. Arthur Penhaligon becomes caught up in events through a quite unusual scenario that I will not spoil by revealing. The ideas – of Keys and characters named for the days of the week – are creative and almost perfect for a series of books. The ‘real’ world of the books is slightly removed from ours, although the quarantines and the flu viruses that can sweep the globe and kill millions are topical references to what our world might be. There is a certain amount of setting up that slowed the action a little in places, but I enjoyed this thoroughly and will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

79. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
I’ve been reading this one on my iPod when I’m having to lie down to rest my back. It’s charming and magical and I can see why it’s loved by so many. A lovely book to end the year on.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: 2010: A Year in Review (books edition) « Of Code and Cats

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