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January 25th, 2013

First two books of 2013, and goals

I usually make a number of goals beyond getting to 50 books. I always try to read diversely, not just books by white guys, so I imagine I'll keep doing that, though I'm not putting any specific numbers on that. I also like to try to include a few books by disabled authors. My only additional quantified goal this year, though, is to read at least 3 books by GLBT authors, since that's one area I didn't do as well in last year.

Book #1 was the fourth in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, "read" as an audiobook: "The Battle of the Labyrinth" by Rick Riordan. I really enjoyed this installment of the series for a number of reasons. I felt Percy was growing up, as was the subject matter. Riordan really does have to amp up the stakes as the series goes along in order to make it feel like the ulitmate battle is coming, and he does a good job of that in this book. I also liked that he digs deep for more obscure mythological creatures and minor gods. I felt the ecological message in the subplot with Grover looking for the god Pan was a little heavy-handed, but that is one of very few criticisms of the book. Overall, very enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to the fifth and final in this series.

Book #2 was "Ice Cold" by Tess Gerritsen. I've read other books by the author and liked them, but the only reason I picked this particular one up is that it was part of a box of free books set out during a conference I went to recently. I wanted a quick, fun read that was mostly brain candy, and this delivered on those counts.[Minor spoiler (click to open):]I was less thrilled that part of the solution to the mystery was something that the reader couldn't have guessed or intuited at all - it was pretty much completely unrelated to the original line of inquiry, and seemed to come out of the blue. There were only one or two *extremely* vague clues until the very end. That sort of feels like cheating to me in a book like this, so it wasn't one of my favorite books by Gerritsen.Still, I was entertained, so I can't complain too much.
Book 17: The Anatomy of Ghosts.
Author: Andrew Taylor, 2010.
Genre: Historical Mystery. 18th Century England.
Other Details: Paperback. 471 pages.

They say Jerusalem College, Cambridge, is haunted by Mrs Whichcote's ghost. In 1786, Frank Oldershaw claims he saw her in the garden, where she drowned. Now he's under the care of a physician. Desperate to salvage her son's reputation and restore him to health, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs her own agent - John Holdsworth, author of 'The Anatomy of Ghosts', a controversial attack on the existence of ghostly phenomena. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts the uneasy status quo. He glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr Carbury, ever could. - synopsis from author's website.

Following the death of his son and wife Holdsworth is himself a deeply troubled man, down on his luck and somewhat haunted by his own ghosts despite the rational stance that he has taken in his book. However, this being the Age of Enlightenment he is determined to put these phantoms to rest along with solving the mystery of Mrs. Whichcote's death and the reported haunting.

Given the title of the novel I had expected something a little more ghostly than this proved though it still was a very interesting historical mystery. I found it a fairly slowly paced novel which certainly suited its period setting with a great deal of emphasis upon class differences and stylised manners.

I had not heard of Andrew Taylor before this came up as a selection for our library reading group. Still, one of the many positive things about being a member of such a group is being introduced to writers whose work you've not encountered before. The Anatomy of Ghosts was well received by all members of the group and applauded for its plot, characters and how well the late 18th Century setting was executed. Interestingly only myself and two other members, who are also fans of horror and supernatural fiction, expressed that we'd been hoping for more ghostly goings on in the novel whereas the others seemed either pleased or not bothered by their absence. We all agreed there that the ending allowed plenty of scope for a sequel.

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