Thursday, November 1, 2012

Books of 2012 - October

This month got off to a slow start because I had such a massive stack of non-fiction to work through. As it happens, despite finishing several out of the stack, I still have a massive stack of non-fiction to work though, thanks to my itchy "request it" finger and the online library catalog.

But then I caught the plague and also finished a small stack of Ngaio Marsh mysteries, thereby rounding out my October total. You can read a lot of books when you don't get out of bed. (Note: I do not recommend this method unless you're actually sick or bed-bound for another legitimate reason. The house tends to go to pieces when Mom doesn't get out of bed.)

1.The Hornet's Sting: The Amazing Untold Story of World War II Spy Thomas Sneum Non-fiction by Mark Ryan. True story of a courageous, if difficult man. I didn't know a lot about Denmark or allied spies in Denmark during the Second World War. Just the story of spies trying to get across the ice from Denmark to Sweden would make a great movie.

2.The Bad Quarto: An Imogen Quy Mystery Fiction by Jill Paton Walsh. The most recent of her Imogen Quy mystery series. Walsh has a thoughtful, readable, intelligent style and peppers her books with memorable characters and situations.

3.The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park Non-fiction by Sinclair McKay. What went on (and remained secret for many years) at Bletchley Park is one of the most extraordinary parts of WW2. This book is a well written introduction if you don't know much about it but it's also good for those of us who are familiar with the BP story. The personal interviews are fascinating.

4.Helluva Town: The Story of New York City During World War II Non-fiction by Richard Goldstein. Interesting material, considering the city and time, but I didn't really like how it was formatted. I think I would have preferred a chronological layout instead of jumping all over the place. Useful as research but wouldn't really hold up as a "for fun" read.

5.Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power Non-fiction by Andrew Nagorski. Really well written. Fascinating stuff here, much of which I've never read about anywhere else. Did you know an American woman stopped Hitler from taking his own life after the failed Beer Hall Putsch? Did you know the American Ambassador's daughter became a spy for the Russians? This book was a major undertaking for the author and it is well worth your time if you're at all interested in the period.

6.Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945Non-fiction by Max Hastings. One of the best one volume treatments of the war that I've ever read, if not THE best. (Really, it might just be the best.) Hastings is a master who manages to give an overview and close personal stories and incidents in just 800 pages. He also sets straight several ridiculous "revisionist" history tropes. Highly recommended.

7. Died in the Wool Fiction by Ngaio Marsh. So, I needed a break after all that heavy reading (Inferno alone took me 10 days) and I turned to a mystery series I've been meaning to read. Guess when this one is set? That's right: WW2. In New Zealand, but still, looks like I can't get away from the Second World War. (Not that I'd usually want to, you understand.) In this book Inspector Alleyn is investigating a suspicious death and trying to catch a spy.

8. Hand In Glove Fiction by Ngaio Marsh. Lots of detail and misdirection here but all of it plays fair with the reader.

9. Nursing Home Murder Fiction by Ngaio Marsh. It was here I began to suspect that I had been reading these books out of order. So I looked them up online and, sure enough, this is actually the earliest Marsh story that I have on hand. Rats. Anyway, that's not the book's fault and this one is full of suspects and witticisms.

10. Vintage Murder Fiction by Ngaio Marsh. Another early work, probably her first set in New Zealand. Inspector Alleyn is on vacation but he ends up investigating a murder anyway. There are several good characters in this story but a few are less well "fleshed out". Be warned that the way she describes the Maori in any of her mysteries set in NZ was most likely enlightened for her time but rings a little less acceptable to the modern reader.

11.Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage Non-fiction by Madeleine L'Engle. I read this one simply because it was highly praised on another blog that I read. I've never actually read any of L'Engle's other work. I did like this for its poignancy and wrestling with deep issues. Alas, I did my usual "research" upon finishing and found that her family thinks this would be more properly labeled as fiction. Perhaps this was her marriage as she wished it to be, instead of as it was. I don't know. I know that I have rather serious theological differences with this author and that makes me wary of reading anything else by her even though I did like this one (and it almost made me cry and I rarely ever cry over books).

Totals for October:
Fiction: 5 - all of them mysteries and 4 of which are Ngaio Marsh mysteries
Non-fiction: 6 - of which 5 are WW2 and were read, generally, as research

So, what have you been reading? Anything I should add to my stack?
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