Posted by Anna Campbell Feb 10 2015, 12:02 am in Alfred Lansing, Anna Campbell, Elly Griffiths, Endurance, Germania, Josephine Tey, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Miss Pym Disposes, mysteries, nonfiction, Peter Hill, reading, Simon Winder, Stargazing, Susanna Kearsley, The Outcast Dead, The Shadowy Horses, Through the Evil Days
This is a bittersweet moment for me. After nearly eight years with the Romance Bandits, this will be my last post. As you’d know from Cassondra’s moving and funny post at the start of the month, changes are afoot in the lair. One of the changes is that I’m going to devote my attention to other forms of social media other than blogging.
I’m still on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaCampbellFans?pnref=lhc
And on Twitter as @AnnaCampbellOz.
Thank you to the wonderful Bandits for so many fabulous years together. I wish you all the best in your new endeavors. And thank you especially to the fabulous Bandita Buddies. I’ve always felt among friends here and your comments have informed and delighted and amused and moved and interested me more than I can ever tell you. Thank you for being such a vibrant part of this community.
Now, back to normal transmission and a discussion of my favorite reads from 2014.
Welcome back to part 2 of the survey of my favorite reading in 2014. By the way, happy Valentine’s Day!
In part 1, I covered my pick of the romances I’d read last year. Now I’m covering the other stuff, mysteries, nonfiction and a fabulous piece of women’s fiction that could easily have gone into the romance list last month.
I’m going to start with the oldest book, MISS PYM DISPOSES (1946) by Golden Age English detective writer Josephine Tey. I picked up this book after seeing a really interesting list of the top 10 classic mysteries: http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2014/04/10-of-the-best-golden-age-crime-novels/ They all sounded pretty interesting and I also tried THE MOVING TOYSHOP, but this was the one that really caught my fancy.
I love Golden Age detective stories and I read a lot last year, including a couple of Ngaio Marshes and Margery Allinghams, and nearly all Josephine Tey’s books. Sometimes the attitudes in them are a little hard to take, but Miss Pym is a treasure. An independent woman takes up a temporary post at a girls boarding school and becomes involved in a murder. But in this particular story, the characters are the most interesting part, especially Miss Pym’s journey towards recognizing that she might be more than she first thought.
The next is another mystery, THE OUTCAST DEAD, the sixth Ruth Galloway book by British crime writer Elly Griffiths.
I just love this series. Ruth is a rather cranky single mother forensic archeologist who lives in a very atmospheric part of Norfolk on the English coast. In this story, she gets involved in a dig that sets out to prove the truth of a notorious 19th century murder trial. Things turn creepy when current events offer an eerie echo of the past. While it was a good read, I was a little disappointed with the previous entry in the series, A DYING FALL. But this one’s a real cracker and definitely worth a look.
The last mystery on my list is the latest in the wonderful Claire Fergusson-Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. I think JSF would currently vie for the spot at the top of my list of favorite writers. She writes the most amazing characters and high stakes dilemmas – I can’t put her stories down once I start them. In this one, a fatal fire leads to all sorts of complications for Claire and Russ and their friends and colleagues in Millers Kill. And with a brutal winter descending on the town, there’s danger from nature as well as man. Great stuff!
I read a lot of nonfiction, especially when I’m working on a story. I can put a nonfiction book down and get a good night’s sleep whereas if a piece of fiction has grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, I’m still turning the pages at 3am.
My first pick, STARGAZING: MEMOIRS OF A YOUNG LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER by Peter Hill is a book I’ve had sitting on my bookcase for about 10 years since a friend gave it to me as a birthday present. Silly me! It’s wonderful! It details the months the author spent as a lighthouse keeper on the west coast of Scotland in 1973, just as the old manned lighthouses became mechanized. The descriptions of the wild, spectacular coastal scenery are great and you’ll fall in love with many of the characters, but the strongest impression is one of sadness that a whole way of life is just disappearing under our eyes. A lovely book.
My next nonfiction choice is another older book, ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON’S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE by Alfred Lansing, published to immediate acclaim in 1959. I’m a bit of a sucker for accounts of polar exploration – the environment is just so unforgiving and fascinating. And I’ve long had a great admiration for Sir Ernest Shackleton who faced a situation that would have meant disaster for most people and came out on top. When Shackleton and his party are stranded in the Antarctic ice in 1912, death seems certain, but through courage, brilliance, luck, faith and, yes, endurance, they all get out alive.
This account of the real-life adventure will keep you on the edge of your seat. As part of his research, Lansing was able to interview people who had actually been part of Shackleton’s expedition so you really feel like you’re getting a true account of these astonishing events.
My last nonfiction choice is a fascinating ramble through German history, culture and landscape with English writer Simon Winder. GERMANIA: IN WAYWARD PURSUIT OF THE GERMANS AND THEIR HISTORY is full of strange and intriguing facts and made me want to go back to Germany (I visited briefly in 1985 but after reading this book, I think I’d get a lot more out of traveling there!). It’s funny and sad and erudite – I bet Simon Winder would be an interesting person to sit next to at a dinner party!
My last choice from my reading in 2014 is the fabulous THE SHADOWY HORSES by Susanna Kearsley. This is probably best classed as women’s fiction, although there’s a strong romantic subplot.
It features another archeologist, Verity Grey, who becomes involved in a dig on the wild east coast of Scotland in search of a major Roman encampment. She finds herself surrounded by fascinating and potentially sinister colleagues, including eccentric Peter Quinnell, the head of the dig, and charismatic historian David Fortune who attracts her as no man ever has before. Throw in a little boy with psychic gifts and a ghost or two, plus a couple of other characters with their own agendas, and the scene is set for a compelling story. This was my first Susanna Kearsley, although people have told me for years I’d enjoy her stuff. They were right – this would probably be my favorite book from last year. If you haven’t read it, rush to get it!
So there you go, some reading recommendations to keep you out of trouble!
Do you read outside the romance genre? What genres do you like? Any recommendations of books I should try?