Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Discoveries of 2009: Blogs and Fiction

Once again, in no particular order, just as I came across them and added to my list ...

Blog Discoveries
  • Do You Write Under Your Own Name?
    Martin Edwards is a British mystery writer who writes informatively and entertainingly about mysteries he's read, his own writing, and, to a lesser degree, about his craft in general. I've picked up several interesting book tips there and am awaiting delivery to my local library of a couple of his books to try.
  • Mexico Bob
    As the name indicates, Bob is in Mexico. He's an American expat who writes about learning Spanish, Mexican customs and daily life, and also about his Catholic faith every so often. He's always interesting and has a big heart as anyone who has read about the time he agreed to let a gaggle of local school children interview him or about the stray dogs he feeds. Yeah. I'm a fan.
  • Betty Duffy
    I discovered Betty Duffy via Darwin Catholic's frequent references. She's a no nonsense gal who constantly considers her life through that lens of faith which I so enjoy reading. She's not a wimp and she can take a shot in the comments boxes as I discovered when objecting to ... oh, I don't remember ... something. She totally disarmed me by responding, "Julie D, You've called me out! What fun!" I like her.
  • Roman Catholic Cop
    The name pretty much says it all. Jamie's been a cop for 14 years and reading his thoughts about his faith while looking at the world he sees in law enforcement is an insightful ride along.
  • The Art of Manliness: a blog dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man.
    Written by husband and wife team, Brett and Kate McKay this fantastic blog is not really for men only. True, in their search for the lost art of manliness, the blog features articles on helping men be better husbands, better fathers, and better men. However, tucked among articles about falconry, 3 feats of strength, and early 20th century battles every man should know are things like how to write a thank you note and what a manly man can expect from women (which is not bad for women to read either).
  • Why I Am Catholic
    Recently begun by Webster Bull in response to the many puzzled people who kept asking about his conversion, this blog soon became a staple of my daily blog reading. Webster writes movingly and intelligently about his conversion and what he has found to love in the faith. Frank recently joined the blog so there are now two viewpoints about what there is to value in our faith.
Top Fiction
  •  Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
    From an Amazon review: Sirantha Jax is a jumper, an individual with a rare gene that allows her to access GRIMSPACE and therefore speed up space travel. She finds herself trapped in a psych unit cell, accused of somehow killing the entire crew of her last assigned ship. Everyone... including her pilot, lover, and friend, Kai. The bond between pilot and jumper is sacrosanct and Sirantha can't fathom how or why she would have caused such a crash. Unfortunately, she can't remember what went wrong. A man named March enters her cell and offers to rescue her. But what does he want in return? What will be the costs of this rescue?

    My comments: I can tell you that this is space opera at its finest. Tough, hard bitten characters with hearts of gold waaaaay down below the surface, romance, terrifyingly creepy aliens, a mystery to solve while on the run from the authorities. This book has it all. I was pretty disappointed that the sequel didn't match up to the original.
  • Anatomy of Fear by Jonathan Santlofer
    From the book description: From the smallest clues—an off-hand comment, a brief flash of fear in a victim's eyes—Nate Rodriguez is able to create an uncanny likeness of the assailant. Now Detective Terri Russo needs his help to solve a particularly shocking series of murders, perpetrated by a psychopath who enjoys drawing pictures of his crimes before committing them. Nate is being asked to enter the dark, twisted mind of a monster—to re-create a face that no one has lived to identify. But as a portrait slowly begins taking shape in Nate's mind and on the page, an electrifying game of cat and mouse reaches an unexpected new level—as a brilliant killer uses his own unique talents to turn the investigation in a terrifying new direction...

    I especially enjoyed Santlofer's artistic knowledge, Nate's grandmother who practices voodoo to help protect her grandson, the mystery from Nate's background that keeps popping up to haunt him, and ... of course ... guessing who was committing the crimes. I read lots of mysteries but somehow this one grabbed me enough to make me interested in the entire series and I'm still not tired of Nate.
  • The Death of a Pope by Piers Paul Read
    A thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Oh, with lots of Catholicism. That too. My review is here.
  • The Uncommon Reader by Arnold Bennett
    A sweet and charming tale of Queen Elizabeth II suddenly being overtaken by reading every book she can get her hands on. My review is here.
  • Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
    This story set in a mythical China where real dragons control the weather, among other things, captivated not only me but Hannah as well. My review is here.
  • Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
    From SFFaudio's review: This story spans more than a century, but most of the ‘action’ takes place in the middle of the 20th century, over a couple of months. See, a friendly alien recruited Enoch Wallace to become something of a galactic station master shortly after the American Civil War. Now, with his neighbors generally accepting his mysterious eternal youth, Enoch has a curious and unseen visitor watching him from the woods. Enoch is lonely, with his only friends being a completely deaf and mute young woman and his kindly mailman. Will the visitor in the trees learn the truth? Will Enoch help guide the Earth to its ultimate destiny?

    I really enjoyed this story which also sparked quite a debate about the nature of fiction and storytelling between Jesse from SFFaudio and me. (Dang, I think those comments are lost at the moment thanks to Haloscan's bugging out.) This story makes you think of what it means to truly be human, the nature of conflict (and not just between Jesse and me), and also made me love and appreciate nature more than ever.


    1. Hmmm, some interesting stuff in more to place on my list of books to read.

      Grimspace sounds quite interesting. Have you read the novel Jumper by Steven Gould? Really a very good SF book - but the Jumper in this is confined to jumping around earth. Very character driven and fairly action packed. They made a movie on the novel that sucked and was not close to the novel in any way. There was a sequel called Reflex which was also very good.

    2. Ohhh, now that's one to go on MY list. Thanks for the heads up!

    3. I do appreciate your mention of my blog. Thanks very much, and I hope you like the books!

    4. Thanks for the fiction recommendations! That being said, I found all the books at my local library except "Death of a Pope." Wonder why that one isn't in the inventory? :-(

    5. Hey, Julie, Thanks! Appreciate those kind words about ANATOMY OF FEAR.
      Happy New Year.
      Jonathan Santlofer