New Book Loves of 2012

15922261This year held several new-to-me authors that I fell in love with. I already covered some of them over in a post about Loud Reading, but I couldn’t contain myself to a single book love post. What follows are more of my favorite reads of 2012.

As a scifi classic, I know I have had plenty of time and opportunity to read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. After reading this book, I can see why he has such a fan base, even with its few flaws (such as only 1 female main character). The plot, the narration of the audio version, and the lovable AI character made this a keeper on my shelf.

A pleasant surprise in this category was Shifted Perspective by J. Bridger. Were-cocker spaniels. Yep. I bet you weren’t expecting that. This book snuck up on me with it’s quiet way, a light snuffle, followed by a cold velvety nose to the armpit that made me sit up and take notice. I was turned into a cranky child, not wanting to put this book down and staying up far too late on a work night reading it.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is the first Arabic fantasy tale to save the world using flawed humans who enjoy cardamom tea. There’s ghuls, and shape shifters, and sword warriors, and magic, and bad folks who do really bad things.

The biologist in me was fascinated by the nonfiction Mushroom by Nicholas Money. This read was easily accessible, not too long, and left me with a deep respect for fungi – mostly because they can kill us in oh so many ways.

Now I know this series has been around for many years, and I even heard someone mention a tv series based on the books, but it was only lately that I stumbled across George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. It’s nitty gritty, complex, and full of flawed characters faced with tough decisions. I definitely plan to continue on with the series; in fact I am on the library waiting list for Book 2.

Diane Setterfield entertained by greatly with her The 13th Tale. An eerie tale featuring twins, it was part historical fiction, part ghost story, and one very large part suspense. The audio version worked very well.

Hands down, one of the best origin stories I have ever had the pleasure to read was Zorro by Isabel Allende. Piece by piece, she drew together over a period of years all the bits that made Diego the man we know as Zorro, from his warrior mother, to his years spent in Europe, and his time as a pirate captive, to finally the conflicts as a young man that drove him to put on the mask. Excellent read.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was unlike any other book I have read. Part fantasy, part historical fiction, and part mystery, it was super intense. Oh, and the audio kept catching me off guard with an accentuated Spanish accent popping off such phrases as, ‘They are just a bunch of ass-lickers!’.

Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul was an intense modern-day fiction about a Turkish family of women and their ties to a young Armenian American who comes to visit. Some might call this magical realism, as there is a djinn at some point that no one thinks odd. I enjoyed it because it was different from what I normally read and because it opened the door a little wider for me on the Turkish culture.

Giraffe by J. M Ledgard is a historical fiction based on facts, almost a nonfiction. Basically it is about a group of giraffes brought to a Czechoslovakian zoo and how all these folks are affected by their presence. Let me just say that the ending was not sudden, not over quickly, and was immensely sad. In fact, my man refused to listen to this book because of how sad it made me – but that is a sign that the author got the point across in full color.


I am not well versed on the classics and through Darkcargo’s efforts to encourage reading of the classics, I tackled The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck this year. this book was so poignant and moving, especially the ending (which is definitely not shown in the black and white movie). Steinbeck didn’t hold back from showing the gritty parts of Depression Era USA and the affect on migrant workers.

Dracula by Bram Stoker has received so much hype over the years and so many versions of vampires now abound in our world, that I simply did not expect how good this book would be. The suspense is high all the way through, and then there was the description of the Romanian and Transylvanian food that inspired some cooking of my own.

Pico with my book.

Conn Iggulden provided me with many, many hours of entertainment via his Emperor series covering the life of Julius Caesar, a part of history that has fascinated me for decades. From a young Julius running around getting into scraps with other idiot children, to his days captured by pirates, on to Greece, and eventually a long stint in Gaul, and finally Egypt and the birth of his son, and then Rome and his death. The four books in the series are worth the read (The Gates of Rome, The Death of Kings, The Field of Swords, The Gods of War).

Dracula – The Original Bad-Ass Vampire

An Estimated 33 lbs. of Kitties Enjoying Dracula

Dracula was a YOBC selection from last year, and I finally got around to it. When it first went on the list, I had my doubts about how good it would be.

It was great. I can now see why this classic has survived the ages. The characters are real people – ladies, gents, and monsters. There are no sparklers, day-walkers, huggable vampires in this novel. As the tension builds, the reader gents a true feeling that souls are at stake. The ending was very satisfactory.

And from this book, I have expanded my repertoire in the kitchen. In the earliest chapters, Jonathan Harker is traveling from England to Transylvania and he samples the local food at all the inns he stays at. I chose these three dishes mentioned: paprika hendl, impletata, and mamalgia.

Paprika hendle: paprika chicken cooked in a tomato sauce with sour cream.

Impletata: Sausage-mix stuffed eggplant.

Mamalgia: I went with the sausage-stuffed polenta balls recipe. It can also just be a morning porridge (think southern grits).

Fool Talk

It be all fool-talk, lock, stock and barrel; that’s what it be, an’ nowt else. These bans an’ wafts an’ boh-ghosts an’ barguests an’ boggles an’ all anent them is only fit to set bairns an’ dizzy women a-belderin’. They be nowt but air-blebs. They, an’ all grims an’ signs an’ warnin’s, be all invented by parsons an’ illsome beuk-bodies an’ railway touters to skeer an’ scunner hafflin’s an’ to get folks to do somethin’ that they don’t other incline to. It makes me fretful to think o’ them. Why, it’s them that, not content with printin’ lies on paper an’ preachin’ them out of pulpits, does want to be cuttin’ them on the tombstones. Look here all around you in what airt ye will; all them steans, holdin’ up their heads as well as they can out of their pride, is acant – simply tumblin’ down with the weight o’ the lies wrote on them, ‘Here lies the body’ or ‘Sacred to the memory’ wrote on all of them, an’ yet in nigh half of them there bean’t no bodies at all; an’ the memories of them bean’t cared a pinch of snuff about, much less sacred. Lies all of them, nothin’ but lies of one kind or another! My gog, but it’ll be a square scowderment at the Day of Judgment when they come trumblin’ up in their death-sarks, all jouped together an’ tryin’ to drag their tombsteans with them to prove how good they was; some of them trimmlin’ and ditherin’, with their hands that dozzened an’ slippy from lyin’ in the sea that they can’t even keep their grup o’ them.

Dracula, Bram Stoker

I am really enjoying this 2011 YOBC selection. It is far more subtle than any of the movies with so much more culture and manners of the time. I am finding it a very satisfying read.

Strange Wounds

Dracula is actually a surprisingly creepy story!

I was certain that I was going to be unimpressed with this book as our culture is so innundated with the story. But, they are classics for a reason!

The writing is of the “suck you in” variety (no pun intended), and I find myself with growing admiration and respect for the characters.

It’s fascinating, even though I know the cause of the strange events, to watch the story unfold and the mystery deepen. The castle is gloomy and Harker’s growing panic is heart-catching. The Captain’s journal of the terror on the ship as the sailors dissappear without a trace? Yea. Spooky.

Renfield is especially frightening.

We love Mina, her strength and kindness holding up under these bizzarre circumstances, as she watches her friend Lucy being eaten by Dracula –the girls and the reader don’t know this, though: Lucy just exhibits bouts of languid sickliness, contrasted with odd moments of post coital bliss, and strange unhealing wounds on her neck — and still has had no word from Jonathan, MIA in Central Europe for three months now.

I little wonder how terrifying this novel would have been to read in 1902, when the strange wounds, the sleep walking, the wild behaviour of the town’s dogs hadn’t yet become the vampire-norm they are today.

“Between me and the moonlight flitted a great bat, coming and going in great, whirling circles.” (Mina Harker’s journal)