Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I read this year (December)


I've been keeping a book diary since mid-1998, and in all that time I have never finished a book on December 6. Not this year either.

59. American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare; The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee, by Karen Abbott (finished December 1). In which we follow the development of burlesque as a theatrical form, with special attention to the contributions of the Minsky brothers, and also the life and career of Rose Louise Hovick, better known as Gypsy Rose Lee. I knew the basic outline of the story from the musical Gypsy, based on her memoir--I first saw the TV version with Bette Midler as Mama Rose, who is such a larger than life character that she generally completely overshadows whoever's unfortunate enough to be playing Gypsy. Turns out she was toned down a lot from real life.

60. The Affinity Bridge, by George Mann (December 11). In which Sir Maurice Newbury, investigator for the Crown, and his new assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, are assigned by Queen Victoria to look into the crash of an airship on which, it turns out, all the passengers were tied to their seats. Revenants and automata are also involved: great fun.

61. Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, by Gary Krist (December 15). In which the author pulls together the birth of jazz, the short but colorful existence of the semi-legal vice district of Storyville, and the still-unsolved murders committed by the Axman. Fascinating, especially the parts about jazz.

62. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron (December 21). In which Jane Austen, visiting friends at Christmas, gets involved in solving the murder of a naval courier and the theft of the treaty he was carrying. I love these mysteries, and I still think they capture the spirit of Jane Austen's own novels a good deal better than 98% of the unofficial sequels that keep coming out. 

63. The King's Deryni, by Katherine Kurtz (December 29). In which Alaric Morgan manages to avoid all the pitfalls inherent in being publicly known as a member of a feared and oppressed race of sorcerers, and grows up enough to be useful to his king. I've been waiting a long, long time for this one, and there's no way it could ever have been good enough to support the weight of expectation, but I enjoyed it well enough.


64. Astro City: Through Open Doors, by Kurt Busiek (December 30). In which we continue to explore what the existence of superheros might mean for the rest of us. I'm a big fan of Astro City, and glad to see it returning.

And that's it for this year! Shelfari says I read five more books than this, but I think those are probably graphic novels that I skipped over in my book journal, so I'll stop here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What I read this year (November)


54. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed (finished November 4). I talked my coffeeshop book club into reading this over the objections of our founder, who doesn't read nonfiction for fun. I really enjoyed it, but I have a feeling the scene where the author and her brother have to put down their late mother's elderly horse is going to be the one where we lost some readers.

55. Closer to Home, by Mercedes Lackey (November 8). I felt distinctly meh about this when I read that Lackey was continuing the story of these particular characters, but my low expectations gave me room to be pleasantly surprised. I really liked the novel's take on the Romeo and Juliet story, and I now find I'm actually looking forward to the next one.

56. Engines of War, by George Mann (November 21). In which the Time Lord formerly known as the Doctor, after countless solitary years fighting the Time War against the Daleks, picks up a stray human again against his better judgment, and finds himself being reminded of some things he thought he had forgotten. I've been wanting to see more of the War Doctor since his appearance in the 50th anniversary special, and enjoyed this book so much I promptly looked up some of the author's other work.

57. Childe Morgan, by Katherine Kurtz (November 23). In which Alaric Morgan starts to grow up, but not fast enough to suit the purposes of King Donal, to whose service he was pledged before his birth. I thought a little better of it than the first time I read it; it seemed less like a crowd of characters rushing back and forth in search of a plot. Still seemed more like setup than actual story, but succeeded in making me cry at the end.

58. The Christmas Cat, by Melody Carlson (November 30). In which Garrison Brown must fulfill the conditions of his grandmother's will by personally and individually rehoming each of her six cats, to which he is violently allergic. My coffeeshop book club wanted to read something light and fluffy for December, so I suggested this one. I didn't realize at the time how short it was! I enjoyed it all the same.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What I read this year (October)


48. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (finished October 9). In which the history of the Eldar in Middle Earth is told, from before the formation of the world to the end of the Third Age. Granted, it's like reading the sagas of the Icelanders for fun. Tolkien, of course, translated the sagas from Icelandic for fun...which figures, somehow. I find this book easier to get through with each reread; it was a real slog the first couple of times I tried it, but this time it flowed away quite easily at the gym.

49. The King's Curse, by Philippa Gregory (October 10). In which Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, lives carefully in the shadow of her family name, as merely to be a Plantagenet is unsafe in the age of the Tudors. I wasn't previously much familiar with the life of Lady Pole, who became the oldest person executed by Henry VIII. I always like it when I can learn something from a historical novel.

50. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (October 12). In which a small number of rabbits, prompted by a vision of coming disaster, search for a safe place to establish a new warren. Another old favorite that I just felt like rereading. I remember being intimidated by the size of it when I first read it at age 12, but this time it went really quickly.

51. Tortall and Other Lands, by Tamora Pierce (October 16). In which we visit some old friends, and fill in some background. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but on the other hand I'm inclined to be a completist when it comes to authors I really like, and I've been a fan of Pierce for a long, long time.

52. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace, by Kate Summerscale (October 17). In which Isabella Robinson's private diary becomes a court document. Another e-book that I read mostly in half-hour increments at the gym. This one goes to show that tawdry divorce cases playing out in the popular press are nothing new.

53. Meet--the Tiger! by Leslie Charteris (October 27). In which Simon Templar meets Patricia Holm, and the rest is swashbuckling history. And yes, both the em dash and the exclamation point are essential components of the title. This was a triumph of interlibrary loan: they found it for me at a university in Connecticut, when I'd long since come to the conclusion I was never going to get my hands on a copy of the very first book to feature the Saint.

Friday, December 19, 2014

What I read this year (September)


42. I Work at a Public Library, by Gina Sheridan (finished September 10). In which the author demonstrates the universality of cuckoo library patrons and the inevitability of human excrement on the floor. Like a number of other library blogs and memoirs I could name, this just goes to show that librarians everywhere have stories of this kind. (The one I always tell from my library is the Naked Man on the Staircase story.)

43. The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress, by Ariel Lawhon (September 13). In which the disappearance of Judge Crater is elucidated by the three women in his life. I read this for my coffeeshop book club, and though it was a tawdry story I found it absorbing; I also didn't guess the twist at the end. In fact it made me want to reread the thing, just to see if the author had played fair and dropped clues that I might have caught if I'd been paying more attention. I learned my lesson, too, and waited to read this one until much closer to the meeting!

44. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (September 13). In which small hands venture great deeds because they must, and the world is saved, but not for everyone. I started a reread when I was on vacation in Colorado this summer, and stuck with it when I got home. I have honestly forgotten how many times I've read this brilliant book; it's been a favorite since I was nine or ten years old, and every time I go back to it I get something new out of it, because I bring something different with me.

45. A Dark-Adapted Eye, by Barbara Vine (September 24). In which Faith Severn, spurred by a true crime writer's interest in her family history, goes over the complex reasons that caused one her aunts to murder the other many years before. I read this for my pizza parlor book club. I think I was one of only two who finished it, but I enjoyed it. It seemed old-fashioned, but in a way that I like; I was surprised to check the publication date and realize it was published in the 80s.

46. Enter the Saint, by Leslie Charteris (September 25). In which Simon Templar saunters onto the scene, equally ready for a scrap or a song, and while the Snake and Whiskers come to well-deserved bad ends, a Lawless Lady joins the elect. I can see a whole-series reread coming up; they've all been reissued in paperback, so I can finally get hold of the ones I've never been able to track down at used book stores. Watch for the sign of the Saint, he will be back.


47. Lock In, by John Scalzi (September 27). In which Chris Shane, stricken with Haden's disease in childhood, joins the FBI's Haden-related crimes unit just in time to look into a murder involving an Integrator--a Haden's survivor who can let others borrow his body. Excellent near future police procedural, with some very interesting things to say about identity and gender.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What I read this year (August)


37. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (finished August 4). In which cartoonist Chast writes and draws a memoir of dealing with her parents in their declining years. I have really enjoyed a number of memoirs in graphic-novel format, and this was a great one. The story hit close to home too, as I'm sure it would for anybody who has been involved with caring for elderly parents.

38. Vanished Kingdoms, by Norman Davies (August 6). In which the noted historian discusses a number of political entities, mostly in Europe, which once existed and now no longer do, including both those as little known as the kingdom of Alt Clud in Britain and those once as powerful as the Soviet Union. It took me forever to read this, but when I joined a gym this year and figured out I could bring an e-reader and read while I used the elliptical machine I finally felt like I had the perfect opportunity to stick with this book.


39. The Late Scholar, by Jill Paton Walsh (August 8). In which Peter Wimsey, now the Duke of Denver, discovers he has also inherited the position of Visitor to an Oxford college, and is called upon to settle a dispute amongst the fellows. I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the previous installment, but it was still pretty fun.

40. In the King's Service, by Katherine Kurtz (August 20). In which King Donal Haldane plots to raise a Deryni protector for his crown prince even if he has to sire one himself. When I found out that the long-delayed last volume of this trilogy is finally coming out in December, I figured I'd better reread the first two, as I have very little recollection of where we left off!

41. Grave Sight, by Charlaine Harris (August 29). In which Harper Connelly, who can feel the last moments of the dead, has to start getting some answers from the living when more people start dying. My quirkier book club suggested an author rather than a title for this month, so I got to pick one of Harris's non-vampire novels. I liked it a lot, but didn't go on to the other books in the series; and then I missed the book club meeting about it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What I read this year (July)


34. The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie R. King (finished July 1). In which Mary Russell stumbles across an eccentric gentleman on the Sussex Downs, and ends up working as the partner of Sherlock Holmes. This is the third time I've read it, I think; I got through most of it on an airplane on the way back from Las Vegas, having picked up an autographed copy at the ALA conference. The author had a stack of Miss Russell's visiting cards, so I asked for one of those as well; I used to be one of her friends on MySpace back when MySpace was a thing, though I was a very peripheral "friend" and I doubt Miss Russell would remember me.

35. Defending Jacob, by William Landay (July 5). In which First Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber, investigating the murder of a student, is completely taken aback when his own son Jacob is arrested for the crime. I read this for my new book club, and we had a good discussion about it.

36. The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty (July 12). In which three women's personal tragedies intersect as Tess deals with her husband's infidelity by having an affair with a coworker of Rachel's, while Cecilia deals with a revelation from her husband's past having to do with Rachel's daughter. I read this for my new book club too, and then had trouble remembering it long enough to have anything to say about it at our August meeting!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What I read this year (June)


29. Fables, vol. 19: Snow White, and 30. Fairest in All the Land, both by Bill Willingham (both finished June 5). In the former of which, Snow White demonstrate who is really the best swordsman in Fabletown, and in the latter Cinderella is a lousy detective but a damn fine spy. I said I wasn't sure I wanted to continue with either of these series, didn't I? And yet, as you see, I'm still following along.

31. Saga, vol. 3, by Brian K. Vaughan (June 7). In which Gwendolyn and The Will finally track down Alana and Marko, to no one's satisfaction. Brilliant work, in spite of (or maybe because of) the fact that I was thoroughly ticked off by some plot points at the end. Lying Cat had better recover, that's all I have to say about that.

32. Skin Game, by Jim Butcher (June 14). In which Queen Mab loans out Harry Dresden's services as Winter Knight to one of his absolute least favorite villains, Nicodemus Archleone. This just demonstrates that sometimes it pays to stick with a series that seems to be going in ways you're not sure you like; I finished two or three of the recent ones with deep misgivings, but this one was very satisfying in a couple of ways ("Mister, where I come from, there is no try!"). That apocalyptic trilogy is getting closer all the time!

33. Blood Red, by Mercedes Lackey (June 20). In which we find out what would have happened had Little Red Riding Hood grown up to be a werewolf hunter. And this one reinforces the lesson. The last few in this series seemed to be getting kind of repetitive, but this went in a different direction and it was a lot of fun.

Friday, December 5, 2014

What I read this year (May)


26. Avatar: The Last Airbender--The Promise, by Gene Luen Yang (finished May 10). In which Aang and Zuko's Harmony Restoration Movement doesn't go as planned, and Zuko extracts a promise from Aang that makes the Avatar very unhappy. I got to meet Gene Luen Yang at ALA this summer, and tell him how much I love his work--after the Avatar stuff I looked up everything else he ever wrote, and Level Up is probably my favorite. He signed an Avatar poster for me and drew a quick sketch of Appa sticking his tongue out; it's a treasured possession, proudly displayed in my office.

27. Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline (May 17). In which an Irish orphan is put on a train to look for someone to take her in, and many years later a foster child does community service by helping an elderly lady clean up her attic. I was invited to join the book club a friend of mine was starting, and this was the first selection. I get the impression that this club is likely to read more of what you might consider "book club" books than my other, quirkier book club. I wasn't expecting to like this one, but I enjoyed it, particularly once I caught the parallel being drawn between the early 20th century orphan and the early 21st century foster child.

28. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton (May 25). In which Lily Bart consistently chooses money over happiness and ends up with neither. And this was the selection for my other book club this month. Unlike some of the classics we've attempted (looking at you, Henry James), this one was compulsively readable, if depressing at the end.

And that was it for May!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What I read this year (April)


21. The Martian, by Andy Weir (finished April 5). In which astronaut Mark Watney is left for dead on Mars when his team is forced to scrub their mission, and then has to figure out how to survive alone long enough to be rescued. I loved this book, and kept reading bits of it out loud to my husband, many of them having to do with disco music and Aquaman. I'm even interested to see the movie they're making of it, though I am not the world's biggest Matt Damon fan.

22. Doctor Who: A History, by Alan Kistler (April 7). More geeky fun, and I even learned some stuff I hadn't known: like the fact that Sean Pertwee was considered for the role and turned it down on the ground that his dad's performance had been so iconic.

23. Avatar: The Last Airbender--The Search, by Gene Luen Yang (April 19). In which Zuko recruits his mad sister Azula to help him search for their long-missing mother. I was late to the party for Avatar, catching up with the whole series on DVD years after it first came out, but I was hooked from the very first episode. I'm really enjoying these official sequel comics, and I've learned to wait for the hardcover deluxe edition with creators' commentary.

24. Time and Again, by Jack Finney (April 20). In which illustrator Si Morley learns to walk back and forth between the 1970s and the 1880s. There's really no need to go into detail about how time travel works in order to have a fascinating time travel story...though I had some issues with the ending, as I said at the time.

25. To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing, by Simon Garfield (April 26). I also enjoyed the author's book about typefaces, which just goes to illustrate what a huge geek I am. I always had fun writing letters, and I'm told I wrote extremely amusing ones back when I was in college and grad school, before email really took off and I got out of the habit of handwritten correspondence. This year I participated in the Month of Letters challenge, and I fully plan to do so again.


Friday, November 28, 2014

What I read this year (March)


This is the month that I started slowing down.

16. Beautiful Chaos, by Gary Russell (March 8). The Tenth Doctor book in the anniversary set, in which the Doctor brings Donna Noble home to visit her family just in time to help her grandfather Wilf figure out what's really going on with that new star in the sky. I was incredibly tickled when I figured out what the monster was in this one.

17. Doctor Who: The Vault, by Marcus Hearn (March 8). As a confirmed Doctor Who geek of long standing, I also enjoy reading nonfiction works about the show. This had a lot of historical trivia that I wasn't previously aware of, so I had a great time with this.


18. Worthy Brown's Daughter, by Philip Margolin (March 16). In which a lawyer in frontier Oregon helps a former slave sue for the freedom of his daughter. The first book by this author that I'd read. I found it engrossing, as I said at the time.

19. Broken Homes, by Ben Aaronovitch (March 23). Fourth in the uniformly excellent Rivers of London series, in which PCs Grant and May follow the Faceless Man into a dilapidated council estate that may have been designed more for magical than mundane purposes. It was a long wait for this one, as the author changed publishers just in time to introduce a six-month gap between the UK and US publication dates, but definitely worth the wait in spite of the cliffhanger at the end.

20. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach (March 24). In which the insatiably curious author investigates all the things than can happen to our remains. Another selection for my eclectic literary book club. This author was my suggestion, but I was kind of hoping to go with one of her other books.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What I read this year (February)


Continuing the minor nostalgia parade, here are the books I read in February.

8. The Men Who United the States, by Simon Winchester (finished February 1). I really like this author, and I found his organizing conceit for this book interesting: not chronological, but thematic, and the theme was the Asian five classical elements of wood, earth, water, fire and metal.

9. Earthworld, by Jacqueline Rayner (February 5). The Eighth Doctor book in the anniversary set, in which the Doctor, with Fitz and Anji in tow, finds himself in a far future theme park with some incomplete knowledge of what Earth was really like. This is the Doctor whose only screen appearance to date was the single TV movie back in 1996, which I had seen at the time and hadn't watched again in 17 years. The character went on to have a ton of adventures in original novels and audio dramas, none of which I was familiar with, so it was odd for me to read one of them with no idea where it fit in the larger scheme of things. It was evidently an early work of the author's, and her foreword to this edition made it clear that to her, it's cringe-worthy juvenilia; but I enjoyed it all the same.

10. Only Human, by Gareth Roberts (February 9). The Ninth Doctor book in the anniversary set, in which the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack discover a Neanderthal man wandering around early 21st-century Bromley. I was familiar with Roberts' work from the lovely novelization of Douglas Adams' Shada, and saw a lot of the same humor (and weirdness) at work in this one.

11. Shadows, by Robin McKinley (February 13). In which the already complicated situation of Maggie's widowed mother getting married again is complicated further by the moving shadows Maggie begins to see around the man. Really interesting world building in this one, with an Oldworld where magic is common and a Newworld where it is very strongly frowned upon, and the very appealing narrator dragged me along until I could start to make sense of it all.

12. To Davy Jones Below, by Carola Dunn (February 16). Ninth in the Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher series, Daisy and her beau Alec having gotten married offscreen, between books.  Alec does some excellent detecting on their trans-Atlantic crossing.

13. Faust Eric, by Terry Pratchett (February 17). In which a teenage demonologist attempts to summon a demon to give him three wishes, and gets Rincewind the Wizzard instead. I have to be in the right mood to read Pratchett; this was just the right book for a doctor's waiting room.

14. The Case of the Murdered Muckraker, by Carola Dunn (February 23). Tenth in the Daisy Fletcher series, in which Daisy actually witnesses the murder of a man she had just overheard arguing with a neighbor at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. You can wait a while for the crime in some of these, but not this time: the unpleasant victim is bumped off within the first thirty pages.

15. Stella Bain, by Anita Shreve (February 26). In which an amnesiac nurse and ambulance driver in World War I searches for her missing memories. Read for my ambitiously literary book club; Shreve tends to be our fallback author when we can't decide on a book. Not my usual taste, but I can usually get through them; our last two selections were both ponderous and unreadable to me, so I was glad this one was fast-moving.


Friday, November 21, 2014

What I read this year (January)


Anybody browsing my blog would think that I only look forward to reading, and never actually read anything; it seems like all I post any more is Waiting on Wednesday, and I've missed that the last couple of weeks on account of my arbitrary cutoff of only posting those about books that are coming out in the same calendar year. (Watch this space: I'm already queuing up January releases.)

Since I've run out of anticipatory posts for this year I thought I might switch to a retrospective. Here's what I read in January 2014:
1. Remembrance of the Daleks, by Ben Aaronovitch (finished January 2). This is, of course, a Doctor Who novel, in which the seventh Doctor and Ace return to 1963 London to find two opposing factions of Daleks fighting over a Time Lord device the Doctor had left there six regenerations ago. In honor of the 50th anniversary last year, the BBC reissued a set of eleven novels, one for each Doctor we knew about at the time, and of course being the geek that I am I bought them all...except for the four my husband gave me as a Valentine's Day present, him being the geek that he is. This is the only novelization of a televised serial included in the anniversary set, adapted and expanded by the original scriptwriter, who I already loved for his other work.

2. Rattle His Bones, by Carola Dunn (January 5). Eighth in the Daisy Dalrymple series of cozy historical mysteries, which I always enjoy when I'm in the mood for some fluff. Daisy manages some excellent deduction in this one, when she is first on the scene for a murder at the Museum of Natural History.

3. Fairest, vol. 2: The Hidden Kingdom (January 10). In which Rapunzel follows up a message about her missing children. I didn't make a note of the actual writer of this one, though of course the series creator is the inimitable Bill Willingham. To be honest, the darkness of this particular storyline made me a little reluctant to carry on with the series.

4. The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood, by Susan Wittig Albert (January 12). Third in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series of historical mysteries, in which Miss Potter advertises for cats, helps the local children look for fairies, and uncovers a fraud or two. I was interested that there's no murder in this one; it's always nice when mystery writers remember that there are other crimes.

5. Farthing, by Jo Walton (January 15). In which a Scotland Yard inspector investigates a murder at a house party, and the daughter of the house tries to prevent the blame from being fixed on her innocent--but Jewish--husband. Absolutely fascinating semi-historical murder mystery, with very strong overtones of Sayers and Tey, but set in an alternative England that made peace with Hitler in 1941 and is being overcome by a creeping fascism a decade or so later.

6. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (January 19). In which college is more complicated than Cath expects. Entertaining, authentic and funny, as I said at the time.

7. Astonishing X-Men, by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (January 20). In which Cyclops puts together a hand-picked team to be the new faces of the X-Men, and to start acting like superheros. I stopped reading X-Men comics a long time ago, but I mean: written by Joss Whedon and drawn by John Cassaday? Not skipping that one. I'd actually read the first of these two volumes a long time ago, but it was fun to catch up with the rest in spite of what they did to Kitty Pryde.
If I'd kept up that pace I'd be a lot closer to reading 100 books in the calendar year again, even though I didn't sign up for my library's challenge this year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (72)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm very much looking forward to: The King's Deryni, by Katherine Kurtz (Ace Hardcover, 2 December 2014).


Alaric Morgan always knew his purpose in life—to stand alongside the king of Gwynedd. The old king knew that whichever of his sons succeeded to the throne would benefit from having a Deryni at his side. Alaric and the young Prince Brion Haldane were bound together by magic—a magic to be called upon when Brion was most in need.

Now eighteen, Brion has ascended to the throne and seven-year-old Alaric has come to court. Through the coming years, both will grow to manhood and come to realize their destinies. Brion will strive to solidify his power and position, seek out a bride to secure his legacy, and ultimately, when faced with an unbeatable foe, call upon Alaric to fulfill his oath.

Meanwhile, Alaric slowly learns the extent of his powers and how to use them, and will face the prejudice that many have against Deryni in its ugliest form. He will experience bittersweet first love, great personal loss, and the hard lessons one gains from both. And he will be there to unleash the full power of his Deryni magic at Brion's command.

For Alaric is—and always will be—the King's Deryni.

*****

I got an email from Amazon, alerting me to upcoming books I might be interested in based on my purchase and browsing history, and I had to laugh when I saw this one; not a week before, I had been commiserating with my friend the Brit that we would probably never see this series finished in our lifetime.  We've been waiting on it for eight years, and I'm really pleased that we'll finally get hold of it. Of course, now I've got to reread the first two books in the trilogy (published in 2003 and 2006), because I totally don't remember where we left off!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (71)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Crimson Angel, by Barbara Hambly (Severn House, 1 December 2014).


When Jefferson Vitrack - the white half-brother of Benjamin January's wife - turns up on January's doorstep in the summer of 1838 claiming he has discovered a clue to the whereabouts of the family's lost treasure, January has no hesitation about refusing to help look for it. For the treasure lies in Haiti, the island that was once France's most profitable colony - until the blood-chilling repression practiced there by the whites upon their slaves triggered a savage rebellion. The world's only Black Republic still looks with murderous mistrust upon any strangers who might set foot there, and January is in no hurry to go. But when Vitrack is murdered, and attempts are made on January's wife and himself, he understands that he has no choice. He must seek the treasure himself, to draw the unknown killers into the open, a bloody trail that leads first to Cuba, then to Haiti, and finally to the secret that lies buried with the accursed gold.

*****

Always happy to see a new installment in this consistently excellent series of historical mysteries. A lot of the recent ones have gotten January away from New Orleans; I'm interested to see what he makes of Haiti.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (70)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, by Anne Lamott (Riverhead Hardcover, 11 November 2014).


Lamott offers a new message of hope that celebrates the triumph of light over the darkness in our lives. Our victories over hardship and pain may seem small, she writes, but they change us—our perceptions, our perspectives, and our lives. Lamott writes of forgiveness, restoration, and transformation, how we can turn toward love even in the most hopeless situations, how we find the joy in getting lost and our amazement in finally being found.

*****

I've been a fan of Lamott's non fiction since I stumbled across Bird by Bird years ago when I thought of becoming a writer. Her recent little books on prayer and meaning were both gems, and I expect as much from this one too.
 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (69)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's thing I'm looking forward to: The Turning Season, by Sharon Shinn (Ace Hardcover, 4 November 2014).



For Karadel, being a shape-shifter has always been a reality she couldn't escape. Even though she's built a safe life as a rural veterinarian, with a close-knit network of shifter and human friends who would do anything for her—and for each other—she can't help but wish for a chance at being normal.

When she's not dealing with her shifts or caring for her animal patients, she attempts to develop a drug that will help shifters control their changes—a drug that might even allow them to remain human forever.

But her comfortable life is threatened by two events: She meets an ordinary man who touches her heart, and her best friend is forced to shift publicly with deadly consequences.

Now Karadel must decide whom to trust: her old friends or her new love.

*****

This is not my favorite series of Shinn's, and in fact I haven't caught up with the book before this one. But I'm such a big fan of the author that both of them are definitely on the list of books I want to read.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (68)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, by Gary Krist (Crown, 28 October 2014).

 
   Empire of Sin re-creates the remarkable story of New Orleans' thirty-years war against itself, pitting the city's elite "better half" against its powerful and long-entrenched underworld of vice, perversity, and crime. This early-20th-century battle centers on one man: Tom Anderson, the undisputed czar of the city's Storyville vice district, who fights desperately to keep his empire intact as it faces onslaughts from all sides. Surrounding him are the stories of flamboyant prostitutes, crusading moral reformers, dissolute jazzmen, ruthless Mafiosi, venal politicians, and one extremely violent serial killer, all battling for primacy in a wild and wicked city unlike any other in the world.

*****

I like to read history for fun, I live near New Orleans and visit there often, and true crime stories can be very entertaining on occasion, so I think I'll keep an eye out for this one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (67)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron (Soho Crime, 28 October 2014).


Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.

Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide dies in a tragic accident whose circumstances Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane's fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly-crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?

*****

I saw advance copies of this at the American Library Association and grinned like a fool. I love this series, and had no idea there was a new one coming out; it's been three years since that last one.

There's a whole cottage industry of Jane Austen pastiche these days, of sequels and reimaginings of her novels; these little mysteries are more appealing to me than all of that. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (66)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Peripheral, by William Gibson (Viking, 28 October 2014).


Where Flynne and her brother, Burton, live, jobs outside the drug business are rare. Fortunately, Burton has his veteran's benefits, for neural damage he suffered from implants during his time in the USMC's elite Haptic Recon force. Then one night Burton has to go out, but there's a job he's supposed to do - a job Flynne didn't know he had. Beta-testing part of a new game, he tells her. The job seems to be simple: work a perimeter around the image of a tower building. Little buglike things turn up. He's supposed to get in their way, edge them back. That's all there is to it. He's offering Flynne a good price to take over for him. What she sees, though, isn't what Burton told her to expect. It might be a game, but it might also be murder.

*****

I've been a fan of William Gibson for a long time, though at the same time it's been a while since I read anything of his. This sounds like it should be good, though.
 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (65)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Centaur Rising, by Jane Yolen (Henry Holt & Co., 21 October 2014).


One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family's horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne's six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug - the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?

*****

I love Jane Yolen, and I'm happy to take a chance on anything she's written. That is all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (64)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Rebellion: The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution, by Peter Ackroyd (Thomas Dunne Books, 21 October 2014).


From the accession of the thrillingly unappealing James VI & I, who though rather ghastly, was also extraordinarily eloquent, to his hapless heir, Charles I, whose taste in art was peerless, but whose political judgment was so fatally poor, to Oliver Cromwell, far from pretty, ruthless and, ultimately, as much of a despot as "that man of blood," the king he executed, Ackroyd tells the story of the turbulent seventeenth century, in which England suffered through three civil wars - two fought between Parliament and both Charles I and Charles II, and, finally, the "Glorious Rebellion of 1688," which saw Charles II's brother James deposed and sent into exile.

Civil War doesn't just give us the brutality of politics and war. It also gives us glimpses of the extraordinarily rich literature of the time - Jacobean tragedy, Shakespeare's late masterpieces, the sermons of Dr. Donne and Lancelot Andrewes, Milton, Hobbes - and of ordinary life, lived against a backdrop of constant disruption and uncertainty.

*****

I've quite enjoyed the first two volumes. My husband found the first one confusing, since it was organized more thematically than chronologically, but I was able to follow it just fine, and I really liked the discussion of ordinary life interspersed with the more usual chronicle of kings and wars. So I expect this one will be equally entertaining and informative.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (63)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Riders on the Storm, by Ed Gorman (Pegasus, 15 October 2014).

 
When we last saw Sam McCain he had been drafted to fight the war in Vietnam. But Sam's military career ended in boot camp when he was accidentally shot in the head and forced to spend three months in a military hospital to recover.

Sam returns to his hometown of Black River Falls, where he works as a lawyer (and part-time investigator) for the court of the snobbish but amusing Judge Esme Ann Whitney.
Two of Sam's oldest friends are caught up in this same battle. Veteran Steve Donovan brutally belittles and finally savagely beats his old friend veteran Will Cullen when Cullen announces he's joined the anti-war group.

When Cullen is found murdered, the obvious suspect is Steve Donovan, but Sam has serious doubts about the man's guilt. At least three people had reasons to murder Cullen, and Sam begins to suspect he'll discover even more as his investigation heats up.

***** 

I'm a little behind on this series, but I really enjoyed the early ones that I've read. It struck me at the time as an unusual setting for a historical mystery series: middle America in the 1950s and 60s. And the protagonist was goofy in an appealing way. I probably won't pick this one up the day it comes out, but it's going on the list of books I want to get around to soon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (62)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin (Tor Books, 14 October  11 November 2014).


Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.  

*****

I am, of course, specifically looking forward to the English translation. I've read a lot of good things on various blogs about the current state of Chinese sf generally and about the brilliance of this book in particular, and I'm interested to see for myself what's going on here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (61)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm really looking forward to: Clariel, by Garth Nix (HarperCollins, 14 October 2014).


Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it - a natural hunter, all she ever thinks about is escaping the city's confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.

But many forces conspire against Clariel's dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

*****

Abhorsen and its sequels were some of the most original fantasy novels I'd read in a long time, and I'm really excited that there's a new one in the series! Looks fabulous.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (60)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Closer to Home, by Mercedes Lackey (DAW Hardcover, 7 October 2014).


 Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

*****

I've been enjoying this series, and I'm still interested enough to see where she goes with it next. Technically this is the first in a new Herald Spy series, but since it continues on directly from the Collegium Chronicles with the exact same set of characters I'm guessing the distinction is going to be pretty subtle.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (59)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The King's Curse, by Philippa Gregory (9 September 2014).




Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.


After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.

*****

I've greatly enjoyed all of her Cousins' War series, and it's interesting to see how it all leads up to the books she wrote a good deal earlier about the Tudors. I haven't read The Constant Princess, which is about Katherine of Aragon and should cover some of this same time period; I'll have to catch up with that one too, just to see how it compares.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (58)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Golden Princess, by S.M. Stirling (2 September 2014).




Princess Orlaith, heir to Rudi Mackenzie, Artos the First, High King of Montival, now wields the Sword of the Lady - and faces a new enemy. Fortunately, she also has a new ally in Reiko, Empress of Japan, who has been pursued to America by a conquering army from Asia.


To combat their mutual foe, Orlaith and Reiko embark on a quest to find the fabled Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the Grass-Cutting Sword, one of the three great treasures of the Japanese Imperial House. But dreams have revealed that the road to Kusanagi lies through the meganecropolis of the City of Angels, the greatest and most perilous of the dead cities...and beyond it, to a castle in the fearful Valley of Death. And their relentless enemy will stop at nothing to prevent them from succeeding.

For across the Pacific, the great arc of land that stretches from the dark kingdom of Korea to the realm of Capricornia in Australia is threatened by war. Now all the survivors of the Change must choose sides....

*****

It's a little bit odd that I feel like I am looking forward to this, because I haven't read the nine books leading up to it, but I'm told this one is designed to be a good jumping-on point for people like me. Or I could always keep looking forward to it while I catch up with the rest!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (57)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: Lock In, by John Scalzi (23 August 2014).




Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves "locked in" - fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people "locked in"...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, "The Agora," in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can "ride" these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....


*****

I would, of course, pick up anything by Scalzi. I wasn't sure about this near future premise when I first heard of it, but the inimitable Tor.com blog posted a lengthy excerpt not long ago, and I'm pretty much hooked already.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (56)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The House of the Four Winds, by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory (5 August 2014).


The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince's future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert wth rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own - but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won't give him up without a fight. 

*****
To be honest, the pirate girl on the cover would probably have caught my eye even if I wasn't already familiar with (and a fan of) the authors. Add to that the fact that I would be interested in anything by these two authors, whose previous work together has all been good, and I'm pretty much guaranteed to pick this up.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (55)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.  So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Pelican Bride, by Beth White (23 July 2014).


It is 1704 when Genevieve Gaillain and her sister board a French ship headed for the Louisiana colony as mail-order brides. Both have promised to marry one of the rough-and-tumble Canadian men in this New World in order to escape religious persecution in the Old World. Genevieve knows life won't be easy, but at least here she can establish a home and family without fear of beheading. But when she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer whose courageous stand for fair treatment of native peoples has made him decidedly unpopular in the young colony, Genevieve realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. And a secret she harbors could mean the undoing of the colony itself.

*****

I like historical fiction; this isn't my usual time period, but I live in south Louisiana, so this one has some local interest for me. Could be fun; I'll give it a shot.
 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (54)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. So here's a thing I'm looking forward to: The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen (8 July 2014).


Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...

***** 

It just looks interesting. I read an excerpt at Tor.com that got my attention. And I only just realized that's not a crown on the cover! Fun.