Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (43)

"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: Deception's Princess, by Esther Friesner (Random House, 22 April 2014).

Maeve wishes she were born a boy. Headstrong and fearless, she would be the heir her father, the High King, deserves. Instead she is the youngest of five daughters and will eventually be shipped off into fosterage and then used as a pawn to make her father's kingdom stronger with her marriage. Frustrated, she turns to trickery and bad behavior until no family will foster her and no well-bred son will marry her. But is that what she really wants? How did she find herself wrapped up in so many lies? It's time for Maeve to tell her story . . . the true story.

Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.

I've been meaning for a while now to try Esther Friesner's Princesses of Myth series, and this one drawn from Irish myth sounds like it would be right up my alley. (It doesn't hurt that this cover makes Maeve look a lot like Merida from Brave.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Worthy Brown's Daughter

by Phillip Margolin.

Matthew Penny is managing to get by, but he's not one of the most prominent lawyers in 1860 Portland, Oregon. His frequent opponent, Caleb Barbour, is that prominent, largely due to his regular representation of wealthy businessman Benjamin Gillette, but when Barbour's black servant Worthy Brown tips Matthew off that Barbour has bribed the jury in a breach of contract case, Matthew uses the information to settle the case in his client's favor. In return he's more than willing to listen when Worthy comes to him for help in a legal matter of his own: Worthy and his daughter Roxanne were brought to Oregon as Barbour's slaves, and though Worthy was able to successfully negotiate his own freedom under the ban on slavery in Oregon's new state constitution, Barbour is refusing to release Roxanne. Meanwhile, another of Matthew's cases doesn't turn out so well, as he fails to win an acquittal for a man accused of theft when the accuser, a beautiful woman, charms the judge and jury. But Matthew himself never finds Sharon Hill enchanting at all, and he is disturbed to see that she appears to have set her sights on Benjamin Gillette just when Gillette, not best pleased about his regular lawyer's demonstrated crookedness, begins looking around for other representation and seems to be taking an interest in Matthew.

I had never read any of Margolin's contemporary legal thrillers, that not being one of my genres of choice, but this historical novel, based on a real case from mid-19th century Oregon, sounded fascinating. I wasn't disappointed, though the writing style was very different from the kind of novel I usually read: very straightforward, with short sentences and short chapters. That made it go by very quickly, though, and the story was engrossing, particularly in the interlocking moral dilemmas faced by most of the major characters. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (42)

"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: Valour and Vanity, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor, 29 April 2014).

 After Melody's wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on the their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.

Fortunately, one of the gentlemen from the ship is a local banker and arranges for a line of credit and a place to live. Relieved, the Vincents begin the work for which they have come to Italy.

All is proceeding apace until a solicitor arrives at their house and charges them with illegal trespass. Jane and Vincent produce letters from their banking friend, but they are all forgeries, and worse, he has used their forged letters to clean out their funds in England. Now, Jane and Vincent owe money to a number of people in town and are forbidden from travel. They manage to find some small work, but it is obvious to both of them that this path will not maintain them for long.

Instead, Vincent hatches a reckless plan to get their money back. The ensuing adventure is a glorious envisioning of all the best parts of heist narratives, but in a Regency setting with magic.

Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.

I've enjoyed all of this series so far, though the last one didn't appeal to me as much as the first and second. But this one sounds like a lot of fun; "a heist, in a Regency setting, with magic" would probably pull me in even if I had no past experience with the author.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (41)

"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: Sea of Shadows, by Kelley Armstrong (HarperCollins, 8 April 2014).

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire's worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters' journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they've ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court - one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.

I've never read anything by Kelley Armstrong, though I have a couple of friends who have recommended her to me. This may be the first one I pick up; the description just appeals to me. Sisters, check; monsters, check; romantic interest, check. Should be good!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (40)

"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 gleefully looking forward to: William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back, by Ian Doescher (Quirk Books, 18 March 2014).

 Return to the star-crossed galaxy far, far away as the brooding young hero, a power-mad emperor, and their jesting droids match wits, struggle for power, and soliloquize in elegant and impeccable iambic pentameter. Illustrated with beautiful black-and-white Elizabethan-style artwork, these two plays offer essential reading for all ages.

Cover and description from Fantastic Fiction.

Because seriously, how could I not be entranced by this? I loved William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope with a love that only other geeks could understand; especially those in the section of a Venn diagram showing the overlap of English lit geeks, Star Wars geeks, and theater geeks. I'm told that it's actually really fun to get together with a bunch of like-minded friends, assign parts, and do a table reading of it, but I don't have enough theatrical types in my circle of friends, alas.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

One Corpse Too Many

Starring Derek Jacobi as Cadfael and Sean Pertwee as Hugh Beringar.

When King Stephen defeats the Empress Maud's forces at Shrewsbury and makes an example of them by hanging the entire garrison, the monks of the nearby Benedictine abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul take on the grisly task of preparing the bodies for burial. In the process, Brother Cadfael, the abbey's herbalist, notices that while there were 94 men in the garrison, there are 95 bodies below the gallows, and though the extra man was certainly strangled to death he was evidently not hanged. Granted permission to look into the matter, Cadfael investigates with the help of a new novice going by the name of Godric. Meanwhile, the king assigns a new follower, one Hugh Beringar of Maesbury, to prove his loyalty by locating a missing girl, Godith Adeney--not only was she betrothed to Hugh in childhood, she is also the daughter of one of the few adherents of Maud to escape the siege, which would make her a valuable hostage should the king get his hands on her.

I've read this book (and the whole Cadfael series) several times, and there's a lot going on in this one, as in most; I haven't even mentioned the subplot of the escaping squire and FitzAlan's treasury. You'd think they would barely be able to hit the high points, let alone fit in any of the nuances, in a 75-minute TV movie. But in fact this is a fantastic adaptation, thanks to both the script and the acting. Sean Pertwee stands out, and is appropriately ambiguous as Hugh; Derek Jacobi is stellar as always, and appropriately dogged (and devious) as Cadfael. The girl who plays Godith makes such an unconvincing boy that I hardly feel it counts as a spoiler to mention her disguise, but the fact that the unctuous Brother Jerome, the master of novices, is completely taken in anyway is entirely in character for him, and it's a credit to the actor, Julian Firth, that he really sells Jerome's combination of self-importance and unworldliness.

Some of the later entries in the TV series drifted pretty far from the source material, and I think they suffered for it, but these early ones are great. I picked up the first four on sale at Barnes and Noble last weekend, and I think my husband has already watched them twice.