Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (35)

"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 find I'm looking forward to, almost in spite of myself: Stolen Crown, by Dennis L. McKiernan (Roc Hardcover, 4 February 2014).

For more than a hundred years, a bitter dispute over how the High King had been selected simmered in the dark halls of the royal family whose line had not been chosen. They held fast to their anger and bitterness through generations.

Finally one of their sons, Arkov of Garia, seized the throne through treachery and by force of arms, claiming it as rightfully his. But in his haste to see the king and queen slain, Arkov failed to confirm the death of the young prince, Reyer, who was spirited away to safety.

On a distant and mysterious island ruled by elves, where he was raised and trained by a trusted Captain of the slain High King, Reyer has now come of age. He has learned of his lineage—and those loyal to the bloodline of the true High King have rallied to his side.

And though the forces of his enemy are far superior, Reyer will gather an army and lead them against the Usurper—to gain back the crown and kingdom stolen from him and to restore Mithgar to its rightful rule.

Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.

I have an ambiguous relationship with the work of Dennis McKiernan. His first published work, the Iron Tower trilogy that established his Mithgar setting, was such an egregious ripoff of The Lord of the Rings that I was frankly amazed, even at the age of 14 or 15, that it had gotten by the eagle eyes of the Tolkien estate. I mean, the plot corresponded beat for beat, and the characters were all exceedingly familiar Types. I mean, it was more obvious than Terry Brooks' first Shannara books, and those were pretty damned obvious. And on top of that, McKiernan tried to use a Shakespeare-in-the-park kind of language that didn't come naturally to him, and it sounded pretty clunky.

But I read the whole thing, and not just because at that time of my life I hadn't yet realized that I really had no obligation to finish every book I started. There was just something about it, in spite of all the obvious surface flaws, that showed enough promise that I wanted to keep going. I read some more of his Mithgar stuff later on, too, and to this day I will defend Dragondoom against all comers, one by one or all in a bunch, as a truly excellent epic tragedy of a fantasy novel.

It's been a while since I read anything by him, but I think I might give this one a try.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (34)

"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: Air of Treason, by P.F. Chisholm (Poisoned Pen Press, 4 February 2014).

After his hair-raising adventures in London, Sir Robert Carey has finally tracked down the Queen who is about to make a state visit to Oxford. But instead of giving him his much-needed warrant and fee for being Deputy Warden of the West March with Scotland, Her Majesty orders him to investigate the most dangerous cold case of her reign - the mysterious death of Amy Dudley nee Robsart, unloved wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the Queen's long ago favourite suitor and potential husband. Since the Queen herself is one of the most obvious suspects for Amy's murder, Carey is not happy about this. And then somebody nearly manages to poison him with belladonna which blinds him temporarily. Worse still, Sergeant Dodd has totally disappeared on the road from London. As the Queen's scandalous past collides with her magnificent State entrance into Oxford, can Carey recover from being blinded by poison in time to find both Dodd and the true murderer of Amy Robsart?

Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.

I read the first four Robert Carey books a lot closer to their publication date, back when I lived in North Carolina, and was so fascinated by the setting on the notoriously lawless 16th-century Scottish border that I went on to read George MacDonald Fraser's history book on the subject, The Steel Bonnets (highly recommended, and don't skip the appendix with the complete text of the Archbishop of Glasgow's Monition of Cursing). So I was pretty excited a couple of years ago when, after a twelve-year hiatus, there was suddenly a fifth book in the series; and now a sixth one is coming out, huzzah. Should be good!

Monday, January 20, 2014


by Rainbow Rowell.

There's a lot about her first semester of college that tends to throw Cath off her stride, starting with the idea that her twin sister Wren doesn't want to room with her and not ending with the fact that her surly assigned roommate seems to come with a boyfriend who's always in their room (or at least waiting in the hallway outside). The followers of Cath's fanfic would really like it if she updated more often, and her Fiction Writing professor thinks that all fanfic is essentially plagiarism and has given her her first F for turning in one of her fics. Wren has thrown herself into the party scene and seems to be getting drunk pretty often, and back home, their dad is left with nobody to look after him and rein him in when he goes off his meds and gets too manic. It gives Cath a lot to worry about; maybe going away to college wasn't the best idea?

This really entertaining book was recommended to me by the teen librarian where I work, but it was already on my radar from things I'd seen at the blog. I kept reading random lines out loud to my husband when I thought they were self-contained enough to be funny without much context ("Don't get charm all over my sister. What if we can't get it out?"), but a lot more of it was funny in context. Cath's struggles with anxiety and self-doubt really resonated with me as well, given that I too was a shy, socially awkward, writer girl in college; though my reams of fanfic rightfully didn't see the light of day, let alone have a following.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (33)

"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: Queen of Stars, by Dave Duncan (47North, 28 January 2014).

While discovering the truth behind his half-human, half-elven parentage, master swordsman Rigel not only defeated the horrific monsters of the Starlands, but also thwarted Prince Vildiar's dark designs to conquer the elven realms. Now, despite his fate to die an early, violent death if he remains in the Starlands, Rigel refuses to return to Earth, consumed as he is by love for the newly crowned Queen Talitha. But this passion is perilous: Vildiar has hatched multiple conspiracies to usurp the throne, and a vision has revealed that if Rigel and Talitha ever consummate their love, it will only hasten Rigel's inevitable demise. Even under a pall of doom, Rigel never hesitates to defend the land and people he has taken on as his own. As traitors plot Talitha's downfall, Rigel rescues one of Vildiar's own half-breed offspring from Earth and offers her a new life in the Starlands. But will she embrace this gift without guile...or is she preparing to plunge a dagger into Rigel's back?

(Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.)

I love me some Dave Duncan. I discovered him when I stumbled across his "A Man of His Word" series, and was very impressed that it didn't seem as long as it is; his books can move. I missed the first book in this series somehow, but I'm taking steps to remedy that before this second installment comes out.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (32)

"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: What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton (Tor Books, 21 January 2014).

As any reader of Jo Walton's Among Others might guess, Walton is both an inveterate reader of SF and fantasy, and a chronic re-reader of books. In 2008, then-new science-fiction mega-site asked Walton to blog regularly about her re-reading - about all kinds of older fantasy and SF, ranging from acknowledged classics, to guilty pleasures, to forgotten oddities and gems. These posts have consistently been among the most popular features of Now this volumes presents a selection of the best of them, ranging from short essays to long reassessments of some of the field's most ambitious series.

Among Walton's many subjects here are the Zones of Thought novels of Vernor Vinge; the question of what genre readers mean by "mainstream"; the underappreciated SF adventures of C. J. Cherryh; the field's many approaches to time travel; the masterful science fiction of Samuel R. Delany; Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children; the early Hainish novels of Ursula K. Le Guin; and a Robert A. Heinlein novel you have most certainly never read.

(Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.)

I've been reading the blog almost since its inception, and have been a big fan of the "What's Jo Reading?" series, so I've probably read all of these essays. But I am still really looking forward to having all of them in one place.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Styx and Stones

by Carola Dunn.

The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple isn't sure why she agreed to help her brother-in-law Lord John Frobisher try to get to the bottom of the nasty anonymous letters he's been receiving, nor how much she, as a stranger in the village with no authority to force people to answer her questions, will be able to find out; but when the statue of an angel falls on one of her suspects in the local churchyard, she knows the police are going to have to hear about the Poison Pen, no matter whose embarrassing secrets get out.

I read the first five or six Daisy Dalrymple mysteries a lot closer to their publication date, back when I was working in bookstores in North Carolina; I'd stumbled across Requiem for a Mezzo on the remainder shelf at work (at the Intimate Bookshop at East Gate, for those who remember Chapel Hill in the 90s), and hunted up the others at the library. I seem to recall I took a break from the series because the library had accidentally skipped the next one in line. I'm less sure why I never picked these up again until now; I've faithfully kept track of each new title added to the series in my little notebook of Books I Want to Read Before I Die (formerly titled Books I Want to Read Real Soon Now, until I realized there were so many I couldn't get to them all Soon), and the library where I work now has them all.

I found this one a lot of fun, and it reminded me of why I liked the series. I love the setting of 1920s England, and Daisy is a great character. By now there are 14 more books in the series, so that should keep me entertained for a while.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (31)

"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: Worthy Brown's Daughter, by Phillip Margolin (Harper, 21 January 2014).

One of a handful of lawyers in the new state of Oregon, recently widowed Matthew Penny agrees to help Worthy Brown, a newly freed slave, rescue his fifteen year old daughter, Roxanne, from their former master, a powerful Portland lawyer. Worthy's lawsuit sets in motion events that lead to Worthy's arrest for murder and create an agonizing moral dilemma that could send either Worthy or Matthew to the hangman.

At the same time, hanging judge Jed Tyler, a powerful politician with a barren personal life, becomes infatuated with a beautiful gold-digger who is scheming to murder Benjamin Gillette, Oregon's wealthiest businessman. When Gillette appears to die from natural causes, Sharon Hill produces a forged contract of marriage and Tyler must decide if he will sacrifice his reputation to defend that of the woman who inspired his irrational obsession.

(Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.)

I have to admit, I have never read any of Phillip Margolin's contemporary thrillers, but this historical novel sounds fascinating. I think I'm going to have to give it a try.