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Ludmilla's 2009 Reading List

What have you read in 2009? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Ludmilla
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Ludmilla's 2009 Reading List

Post by Ludmilla » Thu January 29th, 2009, 2:32 pm

I decided to challenge myself this year by reading some award winning (or nominated) Children's fiction, along with some of my older shelf-sitters collecting dust in the forgotten spaces of my home, so my reading may seem a little heavier in those categories. I'm not a fast reader, nor do I read a lot of new books, anyway. I've been feeling particularly nostalgic lately.

January Reading:
  1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Historical, YA, Colonial America). Read this when I was young, but had forgotten most of it. Enjoyed it quite bit this time around.
  2. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (Historical, Juvenile, Middle Ages, England). One of those books where the voice of the narrator really reaches out and grabs you. Very enjoyable!
  3. The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (Historical, Juvenile, 15th Century Poland). Very interesting history, but the characters are a little too black and white for my tastes, but this shouldn't matter to the age group that it's written for.
  4. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (Historical, Juvenile, American Civil War). Good overview of the Civil War through the eyes of an Illinois family waiting to hear from loved ones fighting the war. The focus is more on how the war affected people than on plot.
  5. Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith (Historical, Young Adult, Adventure, American Civil War--Western Theatre). Exciting read about a young man's experiences fighting for the Union in the Western states -- primarily MO, KS, OK, and AR -- and his ambivalence once he's gotten to know and care for some of the people fighting for Stand Watie's Confederate unit, mostly composed of Cherokee Indians who were quite divided over the war.
  6. The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes (Historical, Juvnile/YA, Nautical Adventure w/ Pirates, 17th Century) Fun, but somewhat convoluted and arcane writing style.
  7. Bellarion the Fortunate by Rafael Sabatini (Historical, Adventure, 15th Century Italy). I think this is one of Sabatini's best -- but I tend to like his books with Italian settings.
  8. Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell (Historical Mystery, Post-Waterloo Regency England). Found it to be more of a historical whodunit tale than historically immersive.
  9. Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger (Historical, Adventure, 16th Century Italy). I liked this one the best out of what I've read by Shellabarger.
  10. The King's General by Daphne du Maurier (Historical, English Civil War, 17th Century, Cornwall). Fascinating look at the character of Sir Richard Grenvile through the eyes of the woman who loved him. There is a gothic element as well, but the history of how the civil war affected key families of Cornwall is thoroughly fleshed out.
  11. Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger (Historical, Adventure, Mexican Conquest, 16th Century). Fun epic adventure; chauvenistic elements, not out of place within the context of the cultures and that period, might alienate some readers, though. I liked Prince of Foxes better.
  12. The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell (Historical, YA, 16th Century, Exploration, SW-US). Cautionary tale of gold fever infecting the men of a splinter group of Coronado's expedition into the American Southwest. The young cartographer, Esteban de Sandoval, recalls from a prison cell his part in this journey as he awaits trial and sentencing for withholding the king's fifth and possibly for murder. The spare, emotional tone of the novel will work more for some than for others, but as a parable I thought it worked quite nicely.
Last edited by Ludmilla on Wed February 25th, 2009, 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Ludmilla » Wed February 25th, 2009, 3:03 pm

February Reading:
  1. My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier (Cornwall, 19th Century). One du Maurier's best; I'd recommend to anyone who loves psychological fiction with unreliable narrators.
  2. Bardelys the Magnificent , Rafael Sabatini (Historical Adventure, 17th Century, France). Fairly typical Sabatini; formulaic but fun. Is this the only novel he wrote in 1st person? That seems unusual for him, but I haven't gotten through all of his yet (trying to make this a goal to read his complete oeuvre, but this will take some time to hunt down some of his works; fortunately, quite a few are available online!)
  3. The Glass-Blowers, Daphne du Maurier (France, French Revolution, 1780s-1811). Follows the lives of siblings in a family of glass-blowers by trade and how the French Revolution impacted their way of life. Very much worthwhile if you are interested in this period. I found myself thinking how this could very much be viewed as a practice run for what would happen during the Russian Revolution two centuries later.
  4. The House on the Strand, Daphne du Maurier (Timeslip, 1960s/14th Century Cornwall). du Maurier has a little bit of fun with genetic memory and drug addiction, as her protagonist takes a drug that allows him to witness the lives of Cornish manor lords and ladies involved in an ill-fated affair.
  5. An Infamous Army: A Novel of Wellington, Waterloo, Love and War, Georgette Heyer (Brussels, 1815, Napoleonic Wars). I've decided I much prefer Heyer's historicals to her pure Romance novels (and I agree with EC's assessment that her characters are often twittery). The romance in this one wasn't particularly compelling for me, but the depiction of the challenges faced by the allies preparing to face Napoleon's troops and the Battle of Waterloo itself were quite good. One of the most memorable scenes is of the nervous energy of those attending a typical gay affair at a society ball in Brussels and witnessing the men leaving from that to report to their assignments in the wee hours of the morning as the battle becomes a reality.
  6. Moon Tiger, Penelope Lively (1987 Booker Prize winner, WWII, Egyptian Campaign). One of those books about the intertwined relationship between history and memory, personal and collective, as Claudia, age 76 and lying in a hospital bed sensing the end is near, reflects upon the history of the world, and her own history as she has lived it which includes an all too brief love affair with a tank commander in WWII. The narrative is not linear, shifts from 1st to 3rd, person to person. As Claudia points out, history is told by a multitude of voices, so she gives her history their added perspective. I was of a divided mind about this one. Claudia's worldview is an agnostic one that claws for transcendence, and whether that works or not is ... debatable.
  7. Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal , Mal Peet (WWII, Dutch Resistance, 1944-45, 2005 Carnegie Medal winner). This is the story of a shattering family secret told from two different time periods. The modern thread follows granddaughter Tamar, who is left to assemble clues about her grandfather's mysterious role in the war from a box he left behind after his death in 1995. The past thread covers the hunger winter of 44-45, and what happened to an SOE agent and his wireless operator working in the Netherlands with the fractious elements of the Dutch Resistance and preparing for the Allied invasion (basically trying to keep the infighting elements of the Resistance from doing anything stupid to cause German reprisals before the Allies can arrive to liberate them). I thought it was very good.
  8. These Old Shades, Georgette Heyer. (Romance, mid-18th Century France and England). meh... the romance in this one was too childish for my tastes, but others might get more mileage out of it.
  9. The Master of Verona, David Blixt. (Historical, 14th century Italy). Reading for the discussion thread here. Enjoyed it very much, especially learning more about Cangrande, but I think the author has set things up nicely for Pietro and little Cesco to eventually take over the story when the time is ripe.
Last edited by Ludmilla on Tue March 24th, 2009, 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Ludmilla » Tue March 24th, 2009, 3:10 pm

March Reading
(writing down some of my thoughts before memory fails me... I think mine is only about two weeks long before everything fades to a mish-mashy blur).

The Birds and Other Stories, Daphne du Maurier (Short Story collection) The Apple Tree, about a wife who haunts her unappreciative husband, was one of my favorites.

Hungry Hill, Daphne du Maurier (Ireland, 19th Century, Family Saga) Du Maurier apparently used the family of a friend of hers (Christopher Puxley) as the template for this story that covers the years 1820 - 1920 of a family of English landlords living in southern Ireland and profiting from a mining operation at Hungry Hill. There is a nemesis who curses the family when the financial patriarch begins the mining operation at Hungry Hill and the story focuses on one member from each generation until the curse has finally exhausted itself. I tend to think this is an underrated novel of du Maurier's. There are several scenes in this that haunt me.

The Carolinian, Rafael Sabatini. (Historical Adventure, 18th Century, American Revolutionary War, South Carolina) Sabatini's treatment of the American Revolutionary War and what we now call Charleston. Thought it started out a bit clumsily, but it very quickly picks up steam and is an enjoyable read.

Of Merchants and Heroes, Paul Waters. (Historical, Roman Republic) Thoughtful debut novel set in Rome and Greece near the end of the 2nd Punic War. I thought the villains/antagonists (Philip V of Macedon and an Illyrian pirate who is allied with Philip) could have been more fleshed out and the story could have used a little more tension (mainly due to the limitation of a 1st person narrative), but all in all, an interesting evocation of that time.


The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare. (Historical, YA/Juvenile, Roman Empire, Galilee) A spiritual coming-of-age during the time of Jesus. Nicely done, and does not soften the tougher issues that are at play here.

Fires, Marguerite Yourcenar. Passionate vignettes which include, among others, the voices of Phaedra, Achilles, Antigone, Phaedo, and Sappho. I kinda felt like I was listening to Tori Amos when reading this... it consumes you.

Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays, Christa Wolf. (Retold Myth). A revisioning of the Trojan War as told in a monologue by Cassandra. This is a re-read for me... I still don't have the patience to read the essays that come after this.

The Somnambulist, Jonathan Barnes. (Historical Fantasy/Mystery, Detective Story, Victorian England). This one features an unreliable narrator and several supernatural elements (some explained, some not). I often like unreliable narrators, but once the author reveals the identity of the narrator, it lost steam quickly for me. I felt the author was trying to throw too many things at me for it to really succeed, and some of it is down right over the top. Samuel Taylor Coleridge supplies the inspiration for this story's backbone, interestingly enough. Comparisons to The Anubis Gates are justified; comparisons to Gaiman's Neverwhere are not and are only superficially based on the seedier elements of London.


Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson (Historical, YA, 18th Century America, Pennsylvania) Compelling account of the Yellow Fever epidemic that sweeps through Philadelphia in the late summer of 1793, its devastating effect upon the residents, their struggle for survival and efforts to help the sick and dying. I highly recommend to those who enjoy tales of survival.

Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson (Historical, YA/Juvenile, American Revolutionary War, NY, Slavery). This one was a National Book Award Finalist in the Young People's Literature category, and quite deserving, I think. It would pair nicely with a reading of McCullough's 1776. Anderson's book really brings some of the events covered by McCullough to life.

As for the story, a young slave, Isabel, has been both sister and mother to her epileptic, baby sister, Ruth, and she is determined that they should stay together. When their mistress dies, a long lost relative (the mistress' nephew) sweeps in to profit from the settlement of her estate, ignoring Isabel's pleas to find the lawyer who can prove that the mistress had planned on setting them free upon her death. Instead, Isabel and Ruth are sold to a Loyalist couple who take them to NYC. Historical events covered during Isabel's time in NYC include the toppling of the statue of King George (parts of which the rebels used to make bullets), the plot to kill George Washington, and the great fire of NY (nearly one quarter of the city was destroyed by the fire). Isabel is befriended by a young slave boy, Curzon, who fights for the rebels in the place of his master. At Curzon's persuasion, Isabel reluctantly funnels information to the rebels hoping they will help free her from her Loyalist masters, but she finds the situation much more complicated. Rumors float that the British will free any slave who will fight on their side, but Isabel soon discovers that Loyalist slaves will be returned to their masters. The author does an admirable job of tackling the complex themes of a society fighting for their freedom in a time when 20 percent of their population were slaves. The horrible conditions of the Patriot POWs in NYC are also depicted. This is a riveting read and part of a planned series: The Seeds of America. The story of Isabel and Curzon shall continue, and hopefully we'll find out more of Curzon's backstory in the next book.

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Post by Misfit » Tue March 24th, 2009, 3:25 pm

I'm thinking I might have to move Hungry Hill up the line now, that sounds interesting. House on the Strand next though.
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Post by Ludmilla » Tue March 31st, 2009, 1:16 pm

Just to keep this neat and tidy:

March Reading - Final Books

The Land of the Silver Apples, Nancy Farmer. (Fiction, Juvenile, Fantasy, 8th Century Britain). This is the sequel to The Sea of Trolls; nice intermingling of pagan and christian mythologies, this one focuses on a new quest with new and old characters who encounter hobgoblins, elves, knuckers and yarthkins along the way. Didn't quite have the magic of the first book, but still a fun read.

The Swan Maiden, Jules Watson. (Fiction, Historical/Fantasy). Well... it's got a review here, so I think ya'll know what it's about... lovely book. Can't wait to read about Queen Maeve.

The Marquis of Carabas (also titled Master-at-Arms), Rafael Sabatini. (Historical, Republican France, 1790s). A master-at-arms, French by birth but raised in England, meets his long lost relatives when they emigrate to England and he shortly thereafter discovers he has inherited the family title, but with the conflict in France, claiming the title and property, amidst family jealousies, proves problematic. This one was written in Sabatini's later years, and he's in top form. I really liked it, and it dovetails nicely with my earlier reading of du Maurier's The Glass-Blowers, as it covers some of the same territory in Republican France. Historical figures that make an appearance include Lazare Hoche, Comte de Puisaye, and Chouan leaders, Georges Cadoudal and Pierre St. Regent.

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Post by Ludmilla » Thu April 30th, 2009, 10:45 am

April Reading

been bouncing around genres this month, which is pretty normal for me, but here's everything:

The White Mare, Dalriada trilogy #1 by Jules Watson (historical, 1st century AD, Scotland/England)
The Dawn Stag, Dalriada trilogy #2 by Jules Watson (historical, 1st century AD, Scotland/England)
The Boar Stone, Dalriada trilogy #3 by Jules Watson (historical, 4th century AD, Scotland/England)
The Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter (Children's Fantasy)
The King of Ireland's Son by Padraic Colum (Irish Myth & Legend)
The Boy Who Knew What the Birds Said by Padraic Colum (Irish Myth & Legend)
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees (Classic Fantasy)
Corambis by Sarah Monette (Fantasy, book 4 of a tetralogy)
Psion by Joan D. Vinge (SF/Fantasy)
Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge (SF/Fantasy)
Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason by Russell Shorto (NF, History, Religion and Philosophy)
The King's Shadow by Elizabeth Alder (YA Historical, 11th Century England, Battle of Hastings)
Grimm's Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm
Last edited by Ludmilla on Fri May 1st, 2009, 10:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Ludmilla » Wed May 27th, 2009, 2:14 pm

Since I don't think I'll have time to read anymore this month,

May Reading
Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin (good, but slogged through the middle of it)
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters (very good; loved it)
Dreamfall, Joan D. Vinge (#3 and final - so far - of a SF/Fantasy series)
Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden (story of Cree Indian snipers fighting in WWI; very good debut novel; will likely followup with his next book when I have the chance to pick it up)
The Master Butchers Singing Club, Louise Erdrich (loved it! probably one of Erdrich's most accessible novels IMO)
The Last Summer of the World (elegant and spare prose, but had some reservations that are mostly due to my own aesthetics)
Victory of Eagles, Naomi Novik (#5 of Temeraire series/Fantasy; I like this series for something light and fun to read between heavier books)
The Plague of Doves, Louise Erdrich (my goal is to one day read her complete oeuvre and then re-read everything in groupings that make sense to me; Erdrich is a writer to slowly sip and savor, not one for gulping down; I love her poetic, mythical storytelling style)

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Post by Ludmilla » Mon June 29th, 2009, 8:04 pm

June Reading
The Golden Warrior: The Story of Harold and William, Hope Muntz (Historical, 11th C England)
Deerskin, Robin McKinley (Fantasy: Retold Fairy Tale)
The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale (Fantasy: Young Adult, Retold Fairy Tale)
Through Black Spruce, Joseph Boyden (Contemporary Literature: Native American Life, Canada)
Reap the Wild Wind, Julie Czerneda (Science Fiction, Book 1 of a trilogy)
Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, Neil Shubin (NF: Science and Nature, Evolution and Biology)
Seed to Harvest, Octavia Butler (Science Fiction: Omnibus with 4 out 5 Patternist novels)
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout (Contemporary Literature: Pulitzer Prize-2009)
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner (General Literature, Friendship and Marriage, 1930s-1970s)
Celia Garth, Gwen Bristow (Historical: US-Revolutionary War, Charleston, South Carolina)
Last edited by Ludmilla on Fri July 10th, 2009, 12:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Leo62 » Tue June 30th, 2009, 12:03 pm

[quote=""Ludmilla""]The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters (very good; loved it)
[/quote]

This is next on my list - currently awaiting me on the library reservation shelf. :p I really enjoyed The Night Watch so glad to hear it's good.

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Post by Ludmilla » Tue June 30th, 2009, 1:17 pm

The Little Stranger is a bit of a departure for Waters in the sense that there are no lesbian love affairs in this. I thought it was a well done ghost story with a strong psychological component. I've also read some comparisons to Waugh's Brideshead Revisited regarding the manner in which Waters handles the British class distinctions.

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