12.27.2010

2010 Discoveries: Books - Fiction

These may not have been new this year, in fact I can practically guarantee many of them were not, but they were new to me. Naturally I had to share them with you! Today we'll look at fiction in actual, hold-em-in-your-hand books (including Kindle ... but NOT audiobooks).

(All summaries are from my GoodReads list where you may see everything I read in 2010,)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
How did this author do it? A story about an 11-year-old detective that  is a unique blend of Sherlock Holmes, eccentric English country house  murder mystery, and Nancy Drew. And it works. Fascinating and wonderful.  I say that even though I pegged the murderer the first time there was  an appearance. The discovery of why and how and who was entirely  enjoyable despite that.

High Spirits - Robertson Davies
Can't remember where I saw this recommended but these are extremely  enjoyable humorous takes on the classic English "Christmas Eve" tellings  of subsequent experiences by the first Master of Massey College. Every  year he experiences either a ghostly visitation or some other  supernatural adventure which luckily happens in time for him to tell it  on Christmas Eve. Funny without being over the top. I will probably have  to investigate this author's other works after this.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simenson
My review is here.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Honestly, if I’d really known what it was about I’d never have been  interested but once I was engrossed in it I was glad to have read this  excellent book. Told by two different servants and one young woman who  doesn’t fit into the Jackson, Mississippi society because she didn’t  immediately get married and begin a family, this is a story of their  unexpected collaboration on a secret project that results in all of them  crossing lines that are not acknowledged aloud but which must be  crossed in order to truly know themselves. I raced through the last  fourth of it. Highly recommended. HIGHLY!

Vampire$ - John Steakley
My review is here.

Through the Wall - Cleveland Moffett
A noted detective is getting ready to go to Brazil for an important job.  He drops by Notre Dame where a young woman he never met says a few  sentences to him that leave him pale and canceling his trip. A young  woman, deeply in love, spurns her lover's marriage proposal because she  loves him too much. A international celebrity is found mysteriously  killed in a variation of the locked room mystery. All these events are  connected and are set in 1909 Paris, where the atmosphere is romantic  and mysterious and the art of detective investigation is very much to  the fore in the story. This was on a list from Michael Grost's list for Mystery Scene magazine of classic mysteries that you should read but probably haven't. Here is a piece  about this book which I believe was written in 1907. It is a locked  room mystery, which I normally do not like, but the way the author  slowly uncovers layers truth behind the mysterious situations is already  very apparent. It has the effect of a book of one cliff-hanger after  another and I am hooked. Final word: what a splendid plot and story  telling. Truly this is the story of a master detective pitted against a  master criminal, all wound around a tale of love and friendship. I got  this from the library but I'd bet it is available free at Project Gutenberg. I plan on  reading this on Forgotten Classics.

Carnacki, The Ghost-Finder - William Hope Hodgson
Whenever Carnacki finishes a tough case of tracking down the  supernatural he calls together his three friends to have dinner at their  London club and tells them the story. Sometimes he discovers the  supernatural, sometimes a hoax, and occasionally an intriguing mix of  the two. Thus we get seven fine ghost tales from William Hope Hodgson  who is better known for The House on the Border Land, which I have never  read, but surely shall someday. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I  picked up from Amazon for free and read on the Kindle. I would look at Project Gutenberg for it as a free public-domain book if you can't find it anywhere.

Trouble is My Business - Raymond Chandler
Having suffered through City of Dragons, I realized I'd never really  read any of the prototypical genre she was attempting to emulate. My  random selections of Raymond Chandler from the library yielded a book of  short stories and a novel. Beginning with this book of short stories, I  discovered that Chandler is an author I am enjoying. These pithy  stories are exactly what you would expect from the creator of Philip  Marlowe, except that they show the quintessential hard-boiled detective  from a developmental stage through many different stories. The last four  stories, so I'm told from the book blurb, have Philip Marlowe in them,  though I am not sure how he differs from the 'tecs I've read about thus  far (except in name). Great fun.

Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett
Yep.  I couldn't just try Chandler without also sampling the other great  master of hard-boiled mystery fiction, Dashiell Hammett. Again, my  random library selections yielded a novel and this short story  selection. It also has an interesting overview of Hammett's life in the  introduction. These stories contain hard boiled detectives but also,  surprisingly, twist ending stories from different points of view as  well. Hammett is a more varied writer than Chandler and I am always  amused whenever the main detective describes himself as short and stout  (which seems to happen frequently).

Till We Have Faces - C. S. Lewis
This is an intriguing retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche written in a way that puts me in mind of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy. It was gripping in a way I didn't expect and which I find difficult to explain. This story works as plain storytelling, as myth, as truth underlying myth, as character study, as unbelievably delicately written prose, and as fantasy. In short, this book is not nearly as difficult to read as I'd heard, while on the other hand containing rich layers that lend to repeated readings. I definitely enjoyed seeing Lewis's echoes of what is familiar in myth but which also is a bit of truth about Christianity.

2 comments:

  1. I've not idea if you got it from me, but FWIW I've recommended High Spirits on the blog a couple times. Glad you enjoyed it! I just downloaded that episode to listen to.

    As it happens, the other night I put Davies' first trilogy (Salterton Trilogy) on my reading pile for the year along with re-reading Till We Have Faces. (Have you read any of Davies' novels yet?)

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  2. I can't remember ... but if it was you, then thank you! :-)

    I've had Davies on my list ever since but haven't gotten to him yet. I am fighting my way out of podcast/book club commitments and then going to tackle my "to read" list. Hopefully Davies will be in there soon!

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