Books of the Month – February 2013

I’d like to blame the shortness of February for only finishing 10 books in the month but my relative slackness was more likely due to the heat and the crazy business of my non-reading life. There were several days in the month when I didn’t read a word for leisure – a rare thing in my 45 years! However, the quality of my reading continues to make up for the quantity, to the point that I can’t decide which of these two books are my favourite for the month

OutOfTheSilenceJamesWe17472_fWendy James’ OUT OF THE SILENCE was published in 2005 but is set at the turn of the last century when Australia was a collection of separate colonies and society prescribed very strict rules for women. It is a fictional account based on real facts, central among these being that a young woman called Maggie Heffernan was convicted of an awful crime around this time, and addresses the question of how a basically good person might have come to such a point in her life. It’s terrific reading.

BlackSkiesIndridasonArnaldur Indriðason’s BLACK SKIES is the eighth novel in a series of Icelandic procedurals and is a great example of an author keeping a series fresh and interesting by taking risks. Both he and his publishers are to be congratulated for allowing two books in a row to focus on someone other than the series’ main protagonist. This one features a down to earth cop trying to unravel a strange crime set against the backdrop of the briefly booming Icelandic economy. It’s a treat.

The other notable books I read for the month were

  • Attica Locke’s BLACK WATER RISING which I thought worked better as a piece of historical fiction (it’s set in Texas in the early 80′s with flashbacks to the previous two decades of civil rights activism) than as a crime novel though it did attempt to be both. The characters and writing though are both outstanding and I’ll be reading more of Locke’s work
  • Martin Limon’s MR KILL takes place in 1970′s South Korea and sees two US military investigators on the trail of a rapist and murderer who is probably another military man/. The setting and plot are first rate and the characterisations are good too though one is so repugnant a human being that I was glad to see the back of him.
  • Julie Hyzy’s FONDUING FATHERS is a light but fun read in which a woman uncovers the secret of her father’s death
  • Robert Gott’s GOOD MURDER took me to war time Queensland where a troupe of travelling actors was attempting to stage Shakespeare but got caught up in the investigation into a series of murders. A must read for fans of satire or caper novels.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with my old friends Ruth, Harry, Cathbad and co in Elly Griffiths’ DYING FALL
  • Peter Corris’ THE DUNBAR CASE took his intrepid private eye to Newcastle and beyond on the trail of an old manuscript.
  • Shona MacLean’s CRUCIBLE OF SECRETS is the third novel to feature 17th century amateur sleuth Alexander Seaton and, for me, was a return to the excellence of the series’ first novel. It is a novel in which everyone has secrets, many of which would seem innocuous today but which, in austere and conservative Aberdeen in the early 1600′s, could get you killed.

I didn’t make a conscious decision for this to be the case but it seems I am drawn to historical crimes at the moment – with 5 of the 10 books I read for the month having been set in the past (1631. 1900, 1944, 1974 and 1981). Still I’m not doing too badly on my personal diversity index having read an equal mix of male and female authors, visited 6 different countries and read books by three new-to-me authors. Only one of my books for the month was a translated one though so I must improve on that score.

2013-02

Progress towards my book-ish goals

  • I’ve read and reviewed 4 of my nominated 10 books by Australian women for this year’s version of the Australian Women Writers Challenge and am relatively happy with that progress. I’ve got a couple of titles awating me at the library (and one of them isn’t even a crime novel!).
  • I read two books by Australian male writers this month which has helped even up the numbers on that score
  • My goal regarding book acquisition  is to buy less but buy local (audio books excluded) and I have done well, buying only one non-audio book during February and buying it from a local store (I had a voucher which makes it OK to have bought a book I know absolutely nothing about other than the fact it is set in Tasmania and is written by an Australian woman)

Snippets

I posted two different wrap-ups of Aussie crime fiction news and reviews during February. One was the first wrap up of reviews posted around the web as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013 that were tagged crime, mystery, detective, thriller or true crime - it’s great to see so many Australian women crime writers being read and discussed. The second was my semi-regular roundup of reviews and news about all Aussie crime fiction that I posted at my other blog.

Was February a good reading month for you? Did you have a favourite book or three? Have you lost sight of your new year’s reading resolutions yet?

18 thoughts on “Books of the Month – February 2013

  1. I had a tie for me book of the month too Bernadette. Ten books is about average for me so i think you’ve done well despite the pressures of other things. Glad your own particular brand of localism is working well!

  2. I’ve lucked out then. Today I received my copy of Wendy James’ Out of the Silence. As soon as I’ve finished with Katherine Howell’s riveting Web of Deceit, I’ll turn towards the James’ book. Out of your other titles, I’ve read Black Skies and Black Water Rising. I can’t wait to read the new Ruth Galloway story.
    My favorite reads for February were the second Hanne Wilhelsen book by Anne Holt, Blessed Are Those Who Thirst and The Golden Calf by Helene Thurston, featuring Irene Huss.
    I’m trying to match what I read last year, with my own Global Reading Challenge, aiming to read three books per continent, with historical crime fiction substituting for the seventh. Also, my goal is to read books from at least 21 countries, and try new authors.
    My problem is that I discovered so many “new” authors last year that I want to keep reading their books, so I may not reach my goal for even newer writers.

    • Kathy I’m in the same boat as far as new authors go – I have discovered so many new favourites whose work I want to read more of in the past couple of years that finding time for brand new authors is getting more difficult. it helps a little that I am far more reliant on my library this year than I have been for several years.

      I hope that Out of the Silence lives up to my hype – it was a book that felt very meaningful to me but I’m not sure every reader will feel the same. Glad you’re enjoying Web of Deceit though.

  3. Katherine Howell, Angela Savage, other Australian women writers and Anthony Bidulka, are among the “new” to me writers, but now are old friends.

  4. Bernadette – I’m glad you found some good reads this month. It’s interesting that you’ve been finding yourself reading more historical fiction lately. I get into patterns like that too without even really consciously thinking that I am.
     
    Oh, and on your excellent recommendation, I just received Out of the Silence and have started reading it. So far, it’s great!

  5. I don’t read many historical books, but your reviews are tempting. I’m happy about the number and quality of the books I’ve read, and I’m happy to have read half the number you have (life with two little ones).

    • It must be hard to find time to do any reading at all Rebecca so you should be well pleased that you’re carving out some time for yourself.

  6. I’m very tempted by James, Locke and Limon – thanks for the recommendations. My favourite book this month was probably G.W. Persson’s >Linda, As In The Linda Murder<. I love his writing style and that he seems to enjoy himself so much as an author as well!

  7. Several authors you have mentioned here I want to read. With the exception of Martin Limon, I have not read any of them. I have not been reading as many international books so far this year as I planned. I will go check out your links to Australian crime fiction.

  8. What a great reading month! Mine wasn’t nearly as good. I was so delighted to finally have some reading time, I found myself just skipping and hopping from one book to another, with the result that I had to return several of the novels I was reading back to the library before I could finish them. It turns out the whole going from book to book thing works quite well for non-fiction, though, as I skim-read my way through several non-fiction books in my tbr stack. I’m hoping for a much better fiction result in March!

    • There needs to be a word for that icky feeling of having to return a library book half-read – I’ve started doing it myself too now that I’m using the library more.

  9. It’s March but I must say I just finished Web of Deceit and I thought it was a perfect mystery. If I were rating, it would be a 5 out of 5. Everything came together with precision, like a ballet, to a fine crescendo. Nothing was underdone or overdone. Characters were interesting.
    Ella Marconi was smart, capable, determined, a bit feisty and human.
    Now my dilemma is what to read next I have such a big pile, not to mention the library’s books.
    I think I’ll enjoy the post-Web of Deceit. I’m going to try to avoid the post-good-book slump but I need a day to savor this one.

    • So glad you enjoyed it Kathy and I know you’ll pass it on to others…slowly winning over the world to Aussie authors one reader at a time :) I’ve got a list of really brilliant plotters in my head and Katherine is on it with people like Reginald Hill and Val McDermid.

  10. If you would like to recommend particular Reginald Hill and Val McDermid books, I would appreciate it. Her stand-alones appeal to me.

    • I think the best of Val McDermid’s books that I’ve read is A PLACE OF EXECUTION – it’s a standalone and has a cold case element. A ripper of a story in my humble opinion.

      It’s a bit harder with Reginald Hill – I loved THE WOODCUTTER which is a standalone – but I know lots of people didn’t like it – it’s one of those love it or hate it books. But some of his best writing is in his Dalziel and Pascoe books – though you don’t need to have read them all in order to enjoy them (I haven’t read them all and those I have read have been out of order – it doesn’t seem to have mattered). I really liked A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES and also MIDNIGHT FUGUE – they are both recent books in the series but I don’t think you need to know the history to enjoy them.

  11. I say the excellent Place of Execution on PBS here, with the brilliant Juliet Stevenson. I don’t think I’ll get as much out of the book as I saw the program.
    I’ve always wanted to read A Darker Domain, and Maxine Clarke liked The Grave Tattoo. I will read one of these sometime this year.
    I respect Val McDermid. I’ve seen her in interviews and read some of her articles.

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