And now, my first books of 2009, read at my mom's house and on the plane back to Seattle...
My first book of the year was Joan Wolf's Golden Girl (1999). I've always enjoyed Wolf's romances--they're well-written with rich historical background--and I liked everything about this one but the villain. The villain is the hero's army mentor turned personal secretary, and it's strongly implied (though I don't recall it ever being explicitly stated) that he's gay and in love with the hero. He's certainly jealous and possessive, unable to bear the idea of anyone being closer to the hero than he is, so when the hero's marriage of convenience turns into a love match, the friend snaps, ultimately trying to murder the heroine. And that bothered me. It's not that the villain was gay, as such, but that his villainy was so wholly rooted in his sexuality, and that it took such an extreme form.
Next I read For All the Saints? (NT Wright, 2004). Unlike Simply Christian, which I read a few weeks ago, this one isn't written for a general audience. Instead it primarily addresses the Anglican theology of the afterlife, ways he feels that it is drifting out of orthodoxy, and its impact on the liturgy. From my perspective as an American Presbyterian of Baptist upbringing, it felt very academic, but it was worth reading as a history of Christian theology of heaven, hell, and purgatory.
Finally, I read the first book of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles, The Last Kingdom (2004). It's a wonderful book. The first-person narrator, Uhtred, a Saxon boy brought up by the Danes after his father's death in battle in 9th-century Northumbria, caught and held my interest from the first page. If the rest of the series is this good, I could like it as much as the Sharpe books...which is saying a lot, given my high interest in the Napoleonic Era and almost entire ignorance of Alfred the Great.