Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Time Out

I hope you all had a great Christmas and are looking forward to the new year as much as I am.

I'm at the beginning of a lovely long period of time off work - almost two and a half weeks. This is as a result of working almost every day over Christmas (apart from the day itself) and some sick days because I'm having a minor operation at the start of next week and will need a little recuperation time - that's time on the sofa with some knitting and a couple of books - tough!

So it's time to catch up on the blog and get back to regular posting and I thought I'd kick off with my Favourite Books of the Year.

I had a look back at last year's post of this time and I said I wanted to find a new author to savour this year and I managed that with the discovery of the wonderful James Sallis. So top of my favourite reads of the year has to be Cypress Grove, the first of his Turner series. Don't you just love when you find an author you hadn't known about previously and can delve back into his body of work and see him develop as a writer. I have his latest book Salt River on the Next to be Read shelf ready to be the first book of the new year. And I've also looking forward to his biography of Chester Himes.

I also enjoyed the second and third books in C J Sansom's Shardlake series. Dark Fire was excellent but I think Sovereign just pipped it. I'm looking forward to reading the latest book, Revelation, this year. I'm saving it till later in the year so I have something to look forward to (probably when the standard paperback comes out) and giving him the chance to get going on another.

Next up is a little gem I stumbled across by accident. I'm not normally a fan of anthropomorphism and I hate those mysteries where the cat solves the crime but this one - where a flock of sheep try to solve the mysterious death of their shepherd was just wonderful. It's Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. It's not cute and it's not fluffy and it deals with many different topics relevant to sheep including animal rights. Unfortunately the paperback seems to be out of print in the UK.

The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin is my next choice. A Moor, a Jew and a woman doctor who specialises in examining the dead. It's an unlikely combination in 12th Century Cambridge but that's where they are sent to solve a series of hideous child murders. I really liked this, thought the characters were intriguing and it was just that bit different from the usual run-of-the-mill historical mystery.

Finally, bringing up the rear is Flesh House by Stuart MacBride - just out in standard paperback format by the way if you haven't read it yet. It's got all the usual MacBride trademarks - it's funny and it's dark and it's gruesome. I had felt a little disappointed in the previous one in the series but this one is an absolute cracker. And it has the distinct advantage of being set in the glorious city of Aberdeen.

I've not read as many books that I would jump up and down and shout about this year as I would like. There's been some real mediocrity out there. However there have been a few others that merit a mention. Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi is a thriller with an unusual main character. He's not a man with many scruples and it's rare that you meet that in a crime novel these days where things tend to be more black and white. Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden was recommended by dovegreyreader and proved every bit as good as she said. One of several she's alerted me to that I probably wouldn't have picked up on otherwise. That's one of the reasons I love the blogosphere so much. The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona McLean was a slow starter - it took me two attempts and a bit of prompting before I got going with it but once I got started I couldn't put it down - intrigue, espionage and witchcraft - who knew all this went on in Banff in the 17th Century.

Tomorrow we set off down the blood-stained track towards my least-favourite books of the year. Anyone who wrote a book set in Edinburgh had better beware.

No comments: