(First, to let you know, I've pulled the names from the hat, and my two new pen pals for 2010 are Smithereens and Jodie. Could you two please email me with your full names and addresses? Sorry to the rest of you, but maybe I will add some more later in the year, depending on how it's going.)
Man, two posts in a row that contain the words "favorite" and "books." If I'm not careful, I'm going to start having a panic attack. Oh well, at least I also get to include the words "least favorites" as well. As always, there are twelve total, meant to represent one yea and one nay for each month from July through December (but I'm giving you one "yea" to grow on, because I really should have included it somewhere in my last post). Here you go (in no particular order, because I am living dangerously this year):
The 6 Yeas (or Favorites)
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
So much so that I went out and bought a nice, pretty new copy of The Woman in White from OneWorld Classics to read in 2010 (so expect more raving).
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
One of the best portrayals of both the raw brutality and raw tenderness of children that I've ever read. Oh, and it's disguised as "high adventure at sea."
In the Woods by Tana French
Thriller/mystery at its very best. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. And woe to anyone who interrupted me while reading! If you don't trust me, listen to Bob, "One of the best books I've read in years." (Of course, that was before he decided to start a debate with me about whether or not the ending was a bit disappointing.)
The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions
Okay. This isn't a book. It's a short story. However, it's probably long enough to qualify as a novella (especially if someone chose a small trim size and included some illustrations). It must be included, though, because it is the epitome not only of an excellent ghost story (maybe the most if others would quit rattling chains in my brain and sadly whispering, "What about me?"), but also of an excellent short story. (Bob agreed with me on this one, too.)
The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift
"What?" I hear those of you who know me say, "a book about a garden on Emily-the-Black-Thumb's list?" But there you have it. You see, like all good books, this one isn't really about a garden at all. Well, yes it is, but it's about so much more than a garden. It reminded me of reading Rose Macaulay's The Pleasure of Ruins: so much interesting trivia written so delightfully, but this one -- although not written quite as delightfully as Macaulay -- has a little more soul, since Swift interweaves some very personal memoir into it.
The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf
19th-century, supernatural, moralistic fiction at its best (what else would you expect from an author who was a minister?).
THE ONE TO GROW ON:
Cross Channels: Stories by Julian Barnes
I didn't need verification, having read several of his novels, that Barnes is one of the "best of the best" of contemporary authors. However, I got it in spades with this amazing, beautiful little collection of loosely inter-connected stories. If all short-story writing were like this, instead of being a reluctant reader of them, I'd be an addict.
The 6 Nays (or Least Favorites)
The House of Mystery: Room and Boredom by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, and Luca Russi
A hideous troll encountered along the road on my quest to understand the graphic novel. Why didn't I stop reading when the woman (very graphically) gave birth to the maggots that left her a half-empty shell? Luckily, Joe Hill came along to put the troll under Locke and Key, which helped erase this thought, "Most graphic novels ought to be subtitled, 'An Extraordinarily Confusing, Nonlinear Tale.'"
Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
A fine example of why a darling of the literati should not try his hand at genre fiction. Perhaps he shouldn't even be a darling of the literati (but I really shouldn't judge before reading one of his other books).
Piercing the Darkness by Katherine Ramsland
I am a masochist, you know, because I was disappointed by this one when I tried to read it a couple of years ago. I picked it up again, because I thought it would help inform me for a character I am trying to create. It didn't. It just reminded me that there are a lot of sick people in this world, and Ramsland didn't do nearly as good a job of writing about them as she did with her book about ghosts.
The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart
I am still convinced that this book had a one-page-forward-two-pages-back spell cast upon it. By far, the most boring book I read all year.
The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich
The black hole of unbelievability.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
A pea in the pod with Benjamin Black, as far as too many over-the-top "surprises" that made no sense. Oh, what a disappointment! How could the woman who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife, who made me so believe that time travel was possible, write such an unbelievable book? How could a book that so beautifully has a man muse, "She was going to break my heart, and I was going to let her" be one that I ultimately found to be a complete waste of time? Just so many wonderfully imaginative ideas, so poorly executed and taken in all the wrong directions. Audrey, was your publishing house rushing you or something? I know you can do better than that.