This is my best and worst list of books for this year. I have to say though that not a single one that I read would be considered “bad” so although I didn’t read a lot this year it was all quality reading for me!
The Best List: (in no particular order)
Two Sides of the Moon..Scott & Leonev
In this unique dual autobiography, astronaut David Scott and cosmonaut Alexei Leonov recount their exceptional lives and careers spent on the cutting edge of science and space exploration. This book reveals, in a very personal way, the drama of one of the most ambitious contests ever embarked on by man, set against the conflict that once held the world in suspense: the clash between communism and Western democracy.Through the men+s memoirs, their courage emerges from their perseverance in times of extraordinary difficulty and danger.
This is a no brainer for me since I read quite a bit about our early Astronauts, but I have never read about any of the Russian Cosmonauts , so I found this VERY interesting.
The Necromancer .. Michael Scott
Nicholas Flamel is dying, and the spell from the Codex that renews his immortality is in the possession of the evil John Dee. Reunited with his wife, Perenelle, Flamel hopes to use his remaining power to prevent the monsters now on the island of Alcatraz from escaping. Meanwhile, Machiavelli and Billy the Kid have come to San Francisco to achieve the opposite, releasing the monsters to destroy the city. Twins Sophie and Josh are also back in San Francisco, where Sophie is kidnapped by Aoife, the twin sister of Scathach, the Celtic warrior who had been protecting them. Josh is beginning to doubt whether he is on the right side of things. John Dee is now persona non grata with the Dark Elders, having failed to capture the siblings in London. Trying to escape his inevitable judgment, Dee teams up with Virginia Dare to find his way to Josh so that he can train him as a Necromancer. With this power, Josh can raise Coatlicue, the Mother of All the Gods, from the dead, and thus allow Dee to take over the world himself. Depending on one’s point of view, all of these plot elements can either be disconcerting or can serve to create a sense of unrelenting forward momentum, taking readers breathlessly through to the end. The end in this case is a huge cliff-hanger, carrying with it an enormous sense of melancholy and moral ambiguity. This book will thrill fans of the series who are willing to stick with it to the conclusion.Tim Wadham,
I have been enjoying this series from the very beginning and each book gets better and better. The books are a great mixture of historical figures and Michael’s own fictional characters, and he makes the stories very interesting as well as action packed!
The Necromancer is a YA book but this old lady is totally enjoying the series. ( I will be sad when they end. :o( )
Neverland: J. M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan. by: Piers Dudgeon
The untold story behind Peter Pan: The shocking account of J. M. Barrie’s abuse and exploitation of the du Maurier family. In his revelatory Neverland, Piers Dudgeon tells the tragic story of J. M. Barrie and the Du Maurier family. Driven by a need to fill the vacuum left by sexual impotence, Barrie sought out George du Maurier, Daphne du Maurier’s grandfather (author of the famed Trilby), who specialized in hypnosis. Barrie’s fascination and obsession with the Du Maurier family is a shocking study of greed and psychological abuse, as we observe Barrie as he applies these lessons in mind control to captivate George’s daughter Sylvia, his son Gerald, as well as their children—who became the inspiration for the Darling family in Barrie’s immortal Peter Pan.
Barrie later altered Sylvia’s will after her death so that he could become the boys’ legal guardian, while pushing several members of the family to nervous breakdown and suicide. Barrie’s compulsion to dominate was so apparent to those around him that D. H. Lawrence once wrote: J. M Barrie has a fatal touch for those he loves. They die.
This book was a shocker for me. Very interesting.. so much so that I have gotten a Biography of J.M . Barrie ! This has the *feel* of a *tell-all* book.
Guernsey Literary & potato Peel Society.. by: Mary A Shaffer
The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet’s name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book’s epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet’s quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers.
I had book after book surprise me.. in a great way. This was yet another of them. This is a superb little book of reality. I am not even sure why I got the book because I never thought it would interest me.. boy.. was I wrong!
The Child Thief… by: Brom
Chesley-winning illustrator Brom (The Plucker) weaves together gloomy prose and horrifying adventures in this macabre fairy tale inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Born of faerie blood, Peter hunts abandoned children, runaways and the hopeless, recruiting for his Devils in Avalon and promising them a place where you never have to grow up. He conveniently fails to mention that Avalon’s monsters are very real, and the Devils must practice their war games or risk being tortured to death, eaten or worse. While early chapters are promising, this gothic fantasy stumbles on its own darkness. The devilishly amusing flashbacks to Peter’s origins don’t make up for the heavy-handed bloodshed, rampant violence and two-dimensional characters. It’s all fiendish monsters and desperate battles in this twisted, dark Neverland; the Disney Peter’s mirth and good humor are nowhere to be found.
Dare I say it? Another shocker. I saw this book at the book store and when I found no others to purchase I went back and picked it up. It had fine illustrations by Brom in the book so I though I’d try it. It IS dark. It IS horrifying and it is Good!
The Meaning of Night : A Confession by Michael Cox
Starred Review. Resonant with echoes of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, Cox’s richly imagined thriller features an unreliable narrator, Edward Glyver, who opens his chilling “confession” with a cold-blooded account of an anonymous murder that he commits one night on the streets of 1854 London. That killing is mere training for his planned assassination of Phoebus Daunt, an acquaintance Glyver blames for virtually every downturn in his life. Glyver feels Daunt’s insidious influence in everything from his humiliating expulsion from school to his dismal career as a law firm factotum. The narrative ultimately centers on the monomaniacal Glyver’s discovery of a usurped inheritance that should have been his birthright, the byzantine particulars of which are drawing him into a final, fatal confrontation with Daunt. Cox’s tale abounds with startling surprises that are made credible by its scrupulously researched background and details of everyday Victorian life. Its exemplary blend of intrigue, history and romance mark a stand-out literary debut. Cox is also the author of M.R. James, a biography of the classic ghost-story writer.
Well now.. I sent for this book because I felt it fit for Carl’s RIP challenge. It’s not the first time that I read something for RIP that I absolutely loved! (re: The Thirteenth Tale/ Drood) And I hope it won’t be the last! This and it’s sequel were really.. reallly… really good.
The Glass of Time.. by: Michael Cox
Starred Review. Set in 1876, Cox’s gripping second gothic thriller (after The Meaning of Night) follows the fortunes of 19-year-old orphan Esperanza Gorst, whose guardian charges her to go undercover as a lady’s maid. Without knowing precisely why she’s doing so, Gorst insinuates herself into the inner circle of Baroness Tansor, the fiancée of the preceding volume’s villain, Phoebus Daunt. The fake maid soon learns that her mistress has many secrets, and may, in fact, have been complicit in the death of a former servant. Cox excels at conveying his heroine’s conflict over deceiving her employer, especially after learning the role the lady played in her own difficult personal history. While readers unfamiliar with the first book will find themselves deeply engaged by the elegant descriptive prose, those with the benefit of the full context and nuances of The Meaning of Night will better appreciate this sequel.
This book picks up about 20 yrs after The Meaning of Night and has some of the same characters. I totally enjoyed both of these books and was deeply sad to learn that Michael Cox passed away last year and so there will be no more such books from him.
Tamsin.. by: Peter S Beagle
Like his enchanting The Last Unicorn, Beagle’s newest fantasy features characters so real they leap off his pages and into readers’ souls. Tamsin Willoughby, dead some 300 years, haunts ramshackle old Stourhead Farm in Dorset, England, an ancient 700-acre estate that 13-year-old Jenny’s new, English stepfather is restoring. Thoroughly American Jenny, miserable at being transplanted from New York City to rural Britain, finds a suffering kindred spirit in Tamsin, a ghost who is mourning Edric, a love she lost during Dorset’s punitive Bloody Assizes under King James II. Tamsin leads Jenny through an engrossing night world inhabited by an array of British spiritsAthe Black Dog, a braggart Boggart, ominous Oakmen, the shapeshifting Pooka and a marvelous mystical army-booted Earth Mother. To save Tamsin and gentle Edric from eternal torment, Jenny faces evil personified: demonic Judge Jeffries, who sentenced hundreds of people to brutal execution during the Assizes. Slipping effortlessly between Jenny’s brash 1999 lingo, the raw primeval dialect of ancient Dorset and Tamsin’s exquisite Jacobean English, Beagle has created a stunning tale of good battling evil, of wonder and heartbreak and of a love able to outlast the worst vileness of the human heart. Fantasy rarely dances through the imagination in more radiant garb than this.
Unfortunately, it took me some time to get to read this book… What can I say? It was another totally enjoyable read!! I think I am rather stuck back in old England where most of these fine stories seem to be centered around. So if you want a good old ghost story.. this would be the one to grab!
Least Liked: (hard choice there were none I really disliked)..
We Bought a Zoo: by Benjamin Mee (and only because I felt there could have been more to the story)
When writer Mee’s father died, his mother needed to sell the house and move to a smaller place—so the entire family decided to buy a zoo. Mee’s sister had seen an advertisement for the sale of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a small zoo in Devonshire in the southwest of England. After a long series of negotiations, licensing snafus, and the inevitable family conflicts, the author, his mother, and his brother moved into the park’s rundown house and started running a zoo. Though they owned the grounds and its 200 animals outright, they still had to pay 20 staff members, feed the animals, and upgrade the grounds. During the first week, a jaguar escaped, and the author and his brother began to realize what they’d gotten themselves into. Through eradicating the plague of rats, clearing out years of rubbish to reveal usable buildings, and battling with banks for operating expenses, the author and his staff gradually pulled the zoo back from the brink of closure. The emotional appeal of the zoo’s rescue is wonderfully limned in Mee’s practical, good-humored prose
Like I said, this isn’t a bad book!.. It just felt like it could be a whole lot more. It sure is an interesting prospect, and a true story but there just seemed to be something missing..or unfinished? So on that basis alone I dubbed this book as the least enjoyed.
I think it’s safe to say that my favorite new author for this year is Michael Cox.
Although my overall reading did not do well this year (not even half of the year before) I am still happy with what I did read!
The list below includes the book I am reading now because I know I will finish it before December is over…
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