December 15, 2011

Dust from the Pages

As Jenny observed over at The Penslayer, we're halfway through December already. December of 2011. Whoda thunk? On the one hand it feels like this year has whipped by in a crazy blur, but at the same time, 2010 seems very far away. Lord willing, before you know it 2012 will be here (and The Hobbit will be coming out!).

In 2010, The Soldier's Cross was published and I upped my - what do you call it? - "online presence." Part of that involved actually using the splendid site Goodreads instead of just having an account, so 2011 has been one of the few years in which I've kept track of the books I have read. I didn't set a goal, liking to go through books at my own speed or lack thereof, and so the quantity wasn't as great as some of you, but I did wander into the worlds of some excellent books. I read some classics; some brilliant fantasies; a heap of rereads that didn't make it on the Goodreads list (Jane Austen, mostly); and some histories and other nonfiction. I didn't enjoy everything, but it was a nice, eclectic year. Here's a taste.

Away back in January I commenced my education proper in Sherlock Holmes. He makes for easy reading, so I have now read all the novels and most of the short stories (having already seen the Jeremy Brett TV-series, I knew how those ones ended and only read the ones I hadn't watched). I read Mutiny on the Bounty at last and just this month read the second in the trilogy, Men Against the Sea; I also added to my collection of sea novels such books as The Line upon a Wind (lift with your legs!), the 1950s novel The Tall Ships, and about the first hundred pages of Master and Commander...until I determined that it is most distinctly a man's novel. I met Jack Easy some time last year, and Hornblower awaits me after I've completed my own novel.

I took a huge bound out of my comfort zone and read The Killer Angels, perhaps the most not-me book in 2011's collection, and yet one that I enjoyed nonetheless. I read a new novel (gasp!), Liz Patterson's charming debut, The Mark of the Star. Just a couple months ago I also got Anne Elisabeth Stengl's newest novel, Veiled Rose, read it and promptly backtracked to read Heartless as well. They're some of my favorites from this year. (Yes! Abigail does read modern novels! ...Sometimes. Rarely. Alright, moving on.) I succeeded in finishing the Puritan Paperback The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (take a bite, chew ten times, swallow, digest, repeat); grudgingly picked up The Odyssey (even Athena recognized that Odysseus was an idiot!); and dabbled in some light reading with James Herriot. I had to read something light, you see, because at the same time I was reading Little Dorrit (you can't just come in saying you want to KNOW, you know).

In June I read my first G.K. Chesterton work, Four Faultless Felons. I can't decide what I think of Chesterton. I'll get back with you at a later date. Then there was...Team of Rivals. (May I remind you about lifting with your legs?) It involved some trudging, but it was very interesting. Then, Jenny having been on to me to read Beowulf, I picked that up (I like Wiglaf better than Beowulf). I read Rosemary Sutcliff's novel Frontier Wolf, which was like having my heart wrung a couple times (but wait, it's Sutcliff, so we expect that). The Forgotten Spurgeon, by Iain Murray, earned one of my rare five star ratings. It was good, accessible, encouraging, convicting, and did I mention that it was good?

For some light reading and inspiration for Sunshine and Gossamer I picked up the little book Dew on the Grass, a sweet read with some inside-out theology. I reread a couple Agatha Christie novels, Towards Zero (a favourite) and Murder at the Vicarage (not so much). I ventured a little dubiously into my first Robert Louis Stevenson novel, the odd Master of Ballantrae. Last week I finished The Count of Monte Cristo, complete and unabridged in its 1400-page glory. I'm not sure if I would read it again; it had its high points and its low points. Last night I (finally) reached the last page of Harry Blamire's The Christian Mind. I believe the crowning jewel of the year, however, was Howl's Moving Castle. This little book was clever, light and serious at once, and absolutely hilarious; after finishing it I loaned it out to various family members, and have yet to get it back.

The year is not quite finished; I hope to complete Thomas Costain's The Magnificent Century before January rolls around. But I am pleased with the books I've read and I enjoyed just about all of them. Unlike Jenny, many of my books had little (or little that I can pinpoint) to do with The White Sail's Shaking, and yet so many of them were beneficial in expanding my horizons. I read my first Dumas, my first Stevenson, and my first Chesterton this year. I found some new writers whose works I can watch for. I ventured into some very different eras, including the Civil War and the Age of Sail. And then of course there were those wonderful rereads.

what have you read this year?


  1. Oh, seems you had a busy, in a way of speaking, year! lol

    I'm a die hard Holmes lover, (BUT, I hate the new Sherlock Holmes movies. They are wrong, wrong WRONG *headdesk*).

    And Agatha Christie is simply amazing.

    This is a neat post, I might have to adapt it. However, I have read close to 1oo books ALONE this year. I'd have to skim over some and do the ones that stuck out to me. :-D Like 'The Soldier's Cross'.

  2. Wow, that's a lot of books! I average about 2-3 books per month, I find. It's been nice being able to keep track and to be steadier about my book diet.

    I'm quite fond of Holmes myself, but I haven't seen the new movies; I've heard they are enjoyable, but very different from the books. As for Agatha Christie, a few years ago I went on a rampage and read far too many of her novels, and I have been burned out ever since. Too much murder gets to one after a while. However, I do sometimes pick one up for a quick reread.

  3. Not only am I partway through The Forgotten Spurgeon, Hornblower happens to be one of my favorite fictional characters... EVER! How can you not love a guy who's novels come in packs of three called omnibuses? James Harriet is a family favorite, and Master and Commander is on my 'to read' list. It is a collectively agreed truth in our household that "The Poets of Saffron Park" at the beginning of The Man Who Was Thursday, by Chesterton, is one of the greatest sections of prose ever written. You, Ms. Hartman, have written a spot-on post!!

  4. Wonderful, Abigail! I too read "The Count" and didn't really like it. I was so melodramatic...poisoning everybody and all that rot. It reminded me of those horrid stories Jo March wrote before she found her real style in "Little Women" :D

  5. Luthian - It's lovely to hear that someone else has discovered The Forgotten Spurgeon. Banner of Truth puts out excellent books, but they aren't commonly read. James Herriot makes for very nice light reading; I've read All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Creatures Great and Small, and All Things Wise and Wonderful is waiting for me to be in the Herriot mood again. Thanks for commenting!

    Rachel - Count was interesting, but the Count's belief that he was the Avenging Angel sent by God (to avenge his own wrongs...) grated on me. The plot itself was a work of brilliance. It was the immorality that got me.

  6. I find it intriguing that you weren't wowed by Count of Monte Cristo as I was. But then, it was my first classic. I distinctly remember picking it up - in all its unabridged glory - and thinking, "This is a classic. But I'm going to read it if it kills me." (At that time, I lived under the assumption that classics were dry, boring, and a lot of work to read. I have since learned that of course some are, but many are not.) It did not kill me. In fact, I couldn't put it down. That was the book that saved my opinion of the classics. I still have not read it for a second time, just because it's so long, but I definitely have plans to do so.

    Have you read anything by Rafael Sabatini? He came after Dumas, I think, but I thought them similar. Sabatini writes all sorts of adventure books with dashing heroes and fair maidens in distress. Which I loved.

    As to books I read this year, I read a bunch. Probably more nonfiction than ever before. I haven't settled on my favorite. Maybe Ted Dekker's Immanuel's Veins. Or Ingrid Law's Scumble. But the best of all was probably Supernatural Ways of Royalty, by Kris Vallotton & Bill Johnson. :)

  7. Ah, yes, Abigail, that rubbed me wrong too. It was so presumptuous and then I didn't like the whole affair between several of the married people...yes, the immorality was running rampant by the end.

  8. Melody - It is amazing how we get the impression early on that classics are dull - they're so very not. The Count of Monte Cristo was certainly not boring, in spite of it being long, and in many ways it was very good indeed. I didn't hate it; it's just that the worldview was so much in opposition to my own that I couldn't enjoy it as unequivocally as I might have otherwise.

    I have heard a good bit about Sabatini, but I have not read any of his novels. I may have to get one. I believe Captain Blood is his most popular?

    Rachel - Indeed. I think there were also some elements that differ from edition to edition, so I may be approaching the book differently than others.

  9. I agree with Ashley, I thoroughly dislike the Sherlock movies. Only men with a real British accent should play Holmes. Not some American who thinks he can pull off a British accent-when really he can't.

  10. Abigail, I just found your blog, and I love it!
    Anyway, I wanted to say about Chesterton, he takes a bit of reading to fall in love with him, and you should definitely read some more of him! I would recommend the Father Brown stories or Manalive. Oh, and he's one of my favorite authors ever and I may or may not try to convince everyone I see of how wonderful he is. :) At the least you have to admire his wonderful command of the English language.

    Strange, by the way, that you found Odysseus an idiot, that's one adjective I've rarely heard used on him. :)

  11. Hello, Lady Amy! Thanks for stopping by!

    I do agree with you on the skill of Chesterton's writing; my issue with him stems more from his theology and worldview in general. However, he is very thought provoking and I intend to read more of his works in the future. I would need a fuller picture of his beliefs before making up my mind. My sister particularly enjoyed The Man Who Was Thursday, so I'll probably read that.

    As for Odysseus, I didn't find him so much an idiot, per se, as he was a sneak. "Cunning," I believe, was how you were supposed to describe him; I just didn't think it was a good sort of cunning. (But then, for some reason I liked Achilles in The Iliad, and he's not exactly the best role model either...)

  12. I read The Man who was Thursday as well. I didn't like it in the beginning but I did towards the end. But that is the only book I've read by him.

  13. Yes! Abigail does read modern novels! ...Sometimes. Rarely. Alright, moving on.

    Ha. That would be me in a nutshell. Nose always in an ancient, falling-apart copy of an ancient book. ^.^

    Thank you for sharing your 2011 reads! It was great fun to peruse--I always like to know what people are reading, or what they have read. I think I shall try my hand at a post like this... When the new year rolls around. I have absolutely no time now--in fact, I am being called away from the computer at this very moment, and so shall have to end this comment quickly...

    Merry Christmas, Abigail! This year has been such a blessed one for me, as I have gotten to know you better, read your wonderful work, and been inspired by your posts. I love you, and send many hugs and happy Christmastide thoughts your way. ^.^


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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