Well, I started off the year pretty well, I think. I read eight books, including one from each of the Guardian’s lists of 100 best Non-Fiction Books and 100 best Novels in English.
I read De Profundis by Oscar Wilde. I can honestly say it is one of the best books I have ever read. Written while he was in prison, the book describes Wilde’s coming to terms with his life in prison. It deals with very heavy but very important topics, such as suffering and loss. This is one that I will undoubtedly read again as there is much that can be learned. I cannot recommend it enough. It is, by the way, #52 on the nonfiction list.
From the fiction list, I read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (#19). I have had an ebook copy of this book for years and often thought about starting it but was scared off by its length (This version says it is 695 pages.) This time, thought, I decided I had to read it. And I have to say that I enjoyed it. It is a mystery, the theft of a massive gem, told from the points of view of several people who were involved at various stages of the matter. As some of the reviews on Amazon say, you have to understand that this is a book written 150 years ago, not a modern detective novel. Everything doesn’t get laid out in the first 100 pages and solved before the end of 300. It was a great story, and I recommend it.
I read two mysteries, and I enjoyed both of them.
- Mistake Creek by Rachel Amphlett was a very exciting book. Nina came home after 10 years to board up her father’s business before a storm, with an eye to selling the property as soon as possible. After a man shows up at the door all bloody and another man sheltering there is murdered, she struggles to figure out who she can trust. And who is the murderer? Is it her old boyfriend? The couple that showed up on a motorbike? This ws a good story that kept my interest until the very end. I recommend it if you like thrillers.
- Murder in Adland by Bruce Beckham is the story of the murder of an ad executive. I guessed the murderer long before the end, but the story was still interesting because I could never e completely sure. The book also takes place in the Lake District of England, with side trips to London and Edinburgh. I thought the story was very interesting, but what really captured my attention was the insight the book offered into these other locations. I am used to reading about London, but even the parts of the story that took place there were more interesting because the lead detective didn’t know the city at all. I have a few other books in this series, and you can be sure I am going to read them.
I also read two speculative novels.
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick was an alternate history in which the Germans won World War II. I knew nothing about it before reading it — nothing except the fact that Amazon had a show based on the book. I have not watched the show but I may do so now that I have read the book. The tension between Japan and Germany is reminiscent of the tension between the US and the USSR after the war. No one seems any happier than they would have been if the war ended as we know it did. They are actually a lot more unhappy. It is an interesting story and will probably lead me to read more of Dick’s work.
- A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe was a fascinating book about Japanese mythology set in the present. Two girls were switched at birth to protect the one who is the daughter of the rulers of the kami living on Mt. Fuji. The story brings the two girls together to save the mountain and all the kami. It is a great story. The girls have to come to terms with not being who they always thought they were. It is a story of self-discovery. I really enjoyed it!
I read one book that I couldn’t really categorize, Death Wind by Travis Heermann and Jim Pinto. It is listed on Amazon as being horror, but it was much more than that. The story takes place after the Wounded Knee massacre and starts off as historical fiction. Then the Death Wind comes because of all the evil in the world and the story takes a drastic turn — cannibalism is part of the “cure” brought by the Wind. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did Heermann’s samurai books, but that is largely because I am not a fan of horror at all. Overall, though, I would recommend this book if you are into this kind of thing.
I read one other non-fiction book, Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline by Dean Wesley Smith. This book was exactly what I needed. I have read lots of books about writing, and they all had things I could try, and I tried them. But ultimately, most of them just slowed my writing down. This book, though, largely confirmed what I was already doing and legitimized it. That, and Smith’s example, has done more to spur my writing on than anything I have read in a long time.
So that was it for January. Let’s see what February brings!