Ronincats 100 in 2015
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I'm finally ready to talk about my top reads of 2014. Although I'll finish at least one more book and probably two, none of them with reach that rank.
My top five fiction, all in genre oddly enough:
The Martian by Andrew Weir--nerdy, clever, unputdownable.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie--original, between the stars adventure.
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan--a delightful alternate steampunk history.
A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin--Set in London, unconventional and original.
Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire--a highly atmospheric ghost story, with delightful echoes from the 50s.
All but the first book are the first in a series.
What Makes This Book So Great? by Jo Walton--This is also genre, as Walton collects her blogs on her reactions to books, including many from two of my favorite series.
Speaking of which, best continuations of favorite series in 2014:
Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger--book 3 of The Finishing School
Crown of Renewal by Elizabeth Moon--book 5 of The Legend of Paksennarion
The Sea of Time by P. C. Hodgell--book 7 of the Chronicles of the Kencyrath
The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire--book 8 of October Daye
Valour & Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal--book 4 of the Glamourist Histories
Best YA series:
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Best Short Stories:
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis
The Vorkosigan series
The Parasol Protectorate series
The Red Heart of Memories and Past the Size of Dreaming by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Books read: 172
Pages read: 58,563
Average pages per book: 340
Average pages read per day: 160
New reads: 128
Library books: 48
Books off my shelf (acquired prior to 2014): 22
Science fiction: 33
General fiction: 3
Books acquired: 88
Books out the door: 40
Book #1 A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong by Cecilia Grant (188 pp.)
This was...not good. Too contrived, too conflicted, too tedious--while I love a fun Regency romance, I had to struggle to get through this short book and regret the time spent on it.
That said, I am also ditching my first book of the year in response to the lesson learned above. That would be Flirting with Magick by Leigh Bennett at the 19% read mark. If you want mindless chick lit with lots of sex, by all means try it out. That's how it goes with these free Kindle books, right?
Book #2 The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley (320 pp.)
This was really quite engaging and interesting. Ripley centers her facts and research around the stories of 3 transfer students who went to spend a year of school in one of the three top scoring countries in the world in critical thinking skills. Through this narrative, she looks at the factors that are related to these results and also how students view the systems. It was extremely interesting. Perhaps the weakest part is the conclusion, but Ripley had already stated her preference to lay out the data and let people draw their own conclusions. Recommended.
Book #3 Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch (325 pp.)
This fifth book of the Rivers of London series does not disappoint. Peter is out of his natural milieu in rural Hertfordshire but hot on the trail of vestigium! Aaronovitch takes advantage of this to put in lots of snarky details around diversity. No previous mysteries are cleared up but the story is loads of fun and there is just enough reference to the above to keep one titillated. Also a lot of Beverly here!
Book #4 The Western Lit Survival Kit: An irreverent guide to the classics, from Homer to Faulkner by Sandra Newman (280 pp.)
I received this as one of my Santa books from AnneDC, and it was a lot of fun. Newman is full of snark and at the same time is clearly familiar with the literature she lovingly satirizes. I appreciated her rating system, 1-10 for Importance, Accessibility, and Fun, and would definitely use this to choose which book by a classic author to read.
Book #5 The Minority Council by Kate Griffin (553 pp.)
This is the fourth book in the Matthew Swift, sorcerer and Mayor of London, series. In it, once again Matthew is shot, beat up, and generally trounced as he again spars with his Aldermen while trying to save the City. Nothing new here--but once again it all seems worth doing.
Book #6 The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively (186 pp.)
This Carnegie award winner reflects the sensibilities of a different time. As I mentioned above, it evokes the shades of Enid Bagnold or E. Nesbitt or Edward Eager. Written in the 70s, a time of major transition in children's literature, it looks backward rather than forward. Within its context, it is an gentle, old-fashioned little tale of a boy dealing with a poltergeist ghost as well as modern parents who definitely do not believe in such things. Because I like the authors above, I enjoyed it for what it is.
Book #7 Deeds of Honor: Paksenarrion World Chronicles by Elizabeth Moon (140 pp.)
This is a Kindle collection of short stories set in the Paksennarion universe, one of my favorite fantasy series (and it's complete!). Since I tend not to buy collections of short stories (some of these had evidently been previously published in such), all of these were new to me and I enjoyed them, but you need to have read the series to appreciate them. The collection is also rather expensive for what it is ($4.99) and so I'm fighting the unworthy urge to return it to Amazon.
Whew! Caught up for now.
I very much enjoyed The Martian as well, and Waistcoats and Weaponry just finished up her new book Prudence which was also fun, interesting how Prudence takes place years after the ending of the first series. A Natural History of Dragons looks interesting, .. and surprised and nice to find out there are more books by P. C. Hodgell. I enjoyed God Stalk and Dark of the Moon, but never got any more of the series.
I've really enjoyed the Rivers of London series as well. Got to spend a little time punting in Oxford with friends this past fall when i was over to visit!
Don't know if I'll join the group this year, as I don't know if I am organized enough, never managed to finish it last year.
Book #8 Arabella by Georgette Heyer (252 pp.)
This book could be described as Frederica with an 18 year old heroine, whose parents are both living. The plot parameters are among the closest to "traditional" Regency romances for one of Heyer's books, but the substance, as always, shows more imagination and heart.
Book #9 The Butler Who Laughed by Michelle Martin (219 pp.)
This Regency romance was a little on the different side without being wholly anachronistic. I give it points for this and for its characters. Although the baddies were pretty two-dimensional.
Book #10 The Spirit Gate by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff (385 pp.)
This was an ER ebook that I won for December. It was decent fantasy, but predictable. Interesting world-building about a small nation between the Christian Frank Empire and the Muslims, but very, very predictable. Characterization was not very developed and I could put the book down for several days without feeling any pull to pick it back up.
Book #11 M'Lady Witch by Christopher Stasheff (247 pp.)
I LOVED The Warlock in Spite of Himself, written by Stasheff in 1969, but none of the many, many sequels set in this world have ever reached the same level. I still pick up one now and then, in a futile quest, but it never happens. This is a rather silly little tale that I can't recommend, about Rod's (the original "warlock") daughter. I still love the original, though.
Book #12 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (288 pp.)
The pacing issues that some people had with this book never bothered me. I was quite content to let Kathy reveal her world bit by bit, until we get slammed by it at the end. I thought it was effective, the prose never too elaborate but definitely getting the job done. In all, I quite enjoyed it.
Book #13 The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson (377 pp.)
This is not one of Ibbotson's typical fantasies. There is no magic involved, and the only fantastical element is a small imaginary kingdom located right in Hitler's path in Eastern Europe. This is one of her later books and her experiences of leaving Vienna to escape Hitler as a child as well as her experience of boarding school in England both inform this story to a large degree. It is a children's book, but one of surprising depth and maturity.
Book #14 Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard (291 pp.)
It was absolutely no surprise to read in the acknowledgements at the end of the book that it was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Less lyrical but just as horrific, the Cabal Bros. Traveling Carnival is indeed something out of the ordinary. A little dark--okay, a lot dark--but with some humorous moments as well. I liked Horst best--Johannes seemed too obsessive-compulsive for me throughout the book. A very original fantasy that won't be for everyone.
Book #15 Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (390 pp.)
This was a lot of fun! It's a children's book, lots of action and no character development, but loads of action and imagination! In a world where ghosts have steadily become deadly, and only children can see them and therefore deal with them. It's the first of a series; be forewarned.
Book #16 Nobody's Home: An Anubis Gates Story by Tim Powers (87 pp.)
This is a novella about Jacky, and not worth what I paid for it, but I'm a completist and Jacky is a great character from The Anubis Gates. The story could certainly have been fleshed in more, and I would have loved that. For all its pages, it felt like a short story.
Book #17 Wordplay: How words captivate, illuminate, intimidate, inform & imbue us with intelligence by Glenn Bassett (308 pp.)
This book is a self-published Amazon book offered through the Early Reviewers program.
Amazon blurb: WordPlay lays out the functions of language as the foundation of what is loosely called mind. Studies of language in primitive cultures by anthropological linguists demonstrate the existence of a basic set of words called semantic primes in every cultural setting. Language is extended and elaborated on the foundation of semantic primes to construct a mental map of the perceived phenomenal world. Once in place, a rich culture of language is passed on from each generation to the next by example. Words ultimately become so ubiquitous and necessary that they take on a reality all their own. Mental maps become more real than the reality of direct experience. Establishment of a critical capacity for knowing truth demands a study of psycholinguistics. The fund of social psychological research made available through research over the past century offers a window on the way words are used to captivate, illuminate, intimidate, inform and imbue us with intelligence. WordPlay is a compilation of the most salient research that pertains to language use. It is a layman’s introduction to psycholinguistics. The emphasis is on how words shape behavior and become the substance of the mind. This is knowledge of those habits of mind that can interfere with straight, clear thinking. It is antidote to functional social ignorance of our rich language culture.
Dr. Bassett is a retired professor, "Professor Emeritus of Management and former Dean of Business at the University of Bridgeport. A graduate of Berkeley and Yale, as well as a former corporate staffer at General Electric, Dr. Bassett's career has focused on the science and practice of people management. He is the author of numerous articles and published books."
When I read this book, I thought Dr. Bassett must be a modern-day Renaissance man because his knowledge seemed so broad. But then in his chapter on philosophy, he comments on his combined use of Wikipedia and the published Encyclopedia Britannica to synopsize the various philosophers, and that led to the discovery of a heavy use of Wikipedia as a source as seen in his notes throughout the book. This has earned him poor ratings from other ER readers, and truly could be a source of concern. I must note, however, that the topics for which he uses Wikipedia are for summaries of historical persons and their contributions--not usually areas of controversy or inaccuracy. While this would be unacceptable in a scholarly work, I am inclined to be more relaxed as this appears to me to be the rumination of a retired and thoughtful scholar on a topic he feels is important, and I must agree with him. Bassett continually makes the point that our language creates a cultural framework that we typically take for granted, but which affects our thoughts and our interactions intimately. In our global economy, this cannot be stressed enough.
Because I have some background in psycholinguistics and, especially, cognitive psychology, I wondered at some points about how accessible this might be to someone without any such background. The text can be dense at points; Chomsky is confined to one paragraph. On the other hand, his discussion of cultural linguistics and the differing cultural connotations of "freedom" and "friendship" are fascinating, and his analysis of spin is masterly.
The book would definitely have benefitted from professional editing. Missing words often interrupt the flow of thoughts and knock one away from the ideas expressed. In the end, though, I enjoyed following this man's thoughts on this important topic.
Book #18 The Glass God by Kate Griffin (447 pp.)
Publisher's blurb: "Sharon Li: apprentice shaman and community support officer for the magically inclined. It wasn't the career Sharon had in mind, but she's getting used to running Magicals Anonymous and learning how to Be One with the City. When the Midnight Mayor goes missing, leaving only a suspiciously innocent-looking umbrella behind him, Sharon finds herself promoted. Her first task: find the Midnight Mayor. The only clues she has are a city dryad's cryptic warning and several pairs of abandoned shoes"--
Once again Griffin has created another kickass totally-involving crisis in London. This is the second of the Magicals Anonymous books, tangential to the Matthew Swift series, but Matthew does put in an appearance here. Sharon is a marvelous creation, a New-Age positive-speaking shaman who is a constant delight. As usual, the action never stops and the blood flows freely, but it is all great fun.
Book #19 The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor (342 pp.)
This one is all the fault of that book warbler beeg. Yes, this is the Jodi Taylor of St. Mary's time travel fame, but this is a straight romance, with a touch of fantasy (very slight) and a touch of Gothic. Taylor has finally learned how to construct an entire novel as opposed to series of novellas in her last few books, and she handles the plot and pacing with panache and her trademark humor. The fact that I cried through much of the last 20% of the book (yes, it's a Kindle book) only shows how much her characters pull you in. It's happy crying at the end. So if you like a good, sloppy, sentimental, funny tear-jerker every so often, this is one I'd recommend!
Book #20 Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia McKillip (289 pp.)
This was short stories, which isn't so much my thing, but it was McKillip, which is. I see uneven reviews, some critical of the fact that this edition collects stories from over the last 30 years of writing that had been published elsewhere, but since I haven't read any of them, that did not bother me at all. Some were okay, others were excellent, all were prototypical McKillip!
Book #21 The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (387 pp.)
One of Heyer's tour de forces, this has all of Heyer's trademark humor, wonderful characters, and sparkling dialogue. Only one characterization rings false to our modern sensibilities--it may be consistent with Regency prejudices but in a post World War II world, one would have wished for more nuanced presentation. But that is such a small part of the story overall that it would be a shame to let it mar our appreciation.
Book #22 The Aspern Papers by Henry James (142 pp.)
This short novel was my first experience of Henry James. The language is lucid, the descriptions of Venice evocative--a relief after reading the turbidity of his introduction! However, the story was only moderately interesting to me.
Book #23 The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan (373 pp.)
Mamie, you put this one on my radar and, considering I read 3/4 of it last night and finished it off this morning, it is a fun and fast read! Be warned, it is the first of a new series--all steam-punk, alternative world, no magic--and it is clever and well-developed. The British author has written 4 previous novels in the crime genre, but I've not heard of him. I'll definitely be reading on in this series, but I fear this is one of those where, when the first book is a big success, the publishers change the format for succeeding books from mmpb to trade paperback. :-( I hate it when they do that.
Book #24 Fairest by Marissa Meyer (222 pp.)
This is, as it says, Levana's story, but even though it gives a credible backstory to the character we know in the other Lunar Chronicles, this was one seriously mixed-up teenager from the get-go. It certainly didn't make me empathize with her at all. However, I suspect that what we learn about Winter in this book will be important in the her book, the final book in the series, when it comes out.
Book #25 What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund (419 pp.)
SuzyQOregon put this book on my wish list recently. Don't approach this book looking for the science of the act of reading. This is a graphic designer's musings, with illustrations, copious illustrations, on what is or might be involved in our minds when we read. It's an exploration using words and graphics of what he thinks might be going on. Enjoy it as that.
Book #26 Hex Marks the Spot by Madelyn Alt (246 pp.)
I mentioned above I picked this up from the library for 25¢ as they deaccessioned it, and thought it might fit my need for light reading at this time. Lord, no! Supposedly a mystery with a little bit of light witchcraft/spirit matters thrown in, we really just get the heroine, nearly 30--not a teen, trying to figure out whether her relationship with the policeman is going anywhere and why the hot guy in the coven is so attractive. Get over with it already. Yechhhh!
Book #27 Severance by Chris Bucholz (326 pp.)
This was my January ER book, a science fiction novel about a generation ship approaching its final destination. NOT a YA novel, it has mature (?) protagonists, an underlying mystery, and lots of action. I have to confess that I really liked it despite some flaws. I liked the habitat building and the characters a lot, and the idiosyncratities of the plot that made it different from any other story set in this type of setting that I've read.
Book #28 Flirting with Felicity by Gerri Russell (237 pp.)
Light, mindless chicklit romance.
Book #29 The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg (226 pp.)
Definitely a YA feel to it, but an original premise and a strong female protagonist.
Book #30 Prudence by Gail Carriger (357 pp.)
First of all, let me say that these books are not for everyone. But if you delight in snarky send-ups of style and adventure in Victorian steampunk dress, you will thoroughly enjoy this first book of the Custard Protocol series. Prudence, who was just a baby in the final book of the Parasol Protectorate series, is now 20 and is sent off to India by her adoptive father to secure the market on a special tea--and we know how important tea is to the British! We see very little of Lord Akeldama, Alexia and Lord Maccon, mostly because Prudence is off to India in her new dirigible, but the interactions between her, Ivy's twins (Primrose is her best friend), and Quesnel Lefoux are sufficiently entertaining. There is nothing even remotely worthy of serious attention here--it is all pure fun!
Book #31 Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire (352 pp.)
McGuire has now moved onto the list of authors of whom I automatically buy their books. I was somewhat lukewarm about the first book in this series, but each one gets better and this fourth book of the Incrytids is outstanding. Alex follows Shelby back to Australia to deal with a werewolf outbreak (lycanthropy in this world is a disease, one that inevitably results in premature death, one way or another, NOT a species). So we get to see a whole new ecosystem of cryptids as well as meeting his girlfriend's family. This is lots of action, a mystery, an exploration, and great characters to boot. Strongly recommended.
Book #32 Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen by Jane Aiken Hodge (252 pp.)
This 1972 book looks at Jane Austen's life within her family as revealed in the letters written by those close to her, as well as the letters that survived her sister's pogrom. Although I'm sure this is dated, as I believe new sources have been discovered in the last forty some years, it was interesting reading from a new perspective.
Book #33 A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, science, and the future of our planet by Nancy Ellen Abrams (165 pp.)
The author is married to physicist Joel Primack and has co-authored two books with him, The View from the Center of the Universe and The New Universe and the Human Future. Long an atheist, Abrams entered a 12 step program for an eating disorder and discovered that the requirement to acknowledge a higher power added a meaningful dimension to her life. Exploring what might exist that is worthy of the name "God" and that is "real" (that is, conforms to science as we know it), she generates some fascinating hypotheses. Abrams says that when world view and God view are in sync, then we are integrated into a meaningful existence, but this hasn't happened since the 17th century, when the concept of the celestial spheres was shattered. So science and religion go down different paths and individuals either turn completely to one or the other or struggle with attempts to integrate them. With her knowledge of the current scientific understanding of the universe, Abrams postulates a fascinating scenario of God as an emergent phenomenon, a very real phenomenon, from that rarest of matters, stardust that engages in complex thinking.
I appreciated the very clear picture of the physical nature of the universe, from the micro to the macro, and the analogies Abrams draws from it. The "truth box" for Newton's laws of physics is limited, with different laws for quantum and large-scale physics. Similarly, our human identity ranges from the individual self up through family, tribe, nation, religion, species, life, to Earth. If we can become whole through integrating these scales, bringing them into harmony, and apt at being able to shift perspectives as needed, then both God and science can become powerful forces to direct us and bring meaning to our lives.
Book #34 Third Time Lucky: And other stories of the most powerful wizard in the world by Tanya Huff (168 pp.)
Ah, publishing continues to open new horizons. In this case, it has collected 7 of Huff's early stories, many of which were in the now unavailable Stealing Magic collection, about Magdelene, the world's most powerful and laziest wizard into an e-book. These are prototypical fantasy short stories with a delightful protagonist, a light collection to read just for fun and relaxation with no high expectations, and just about worth the $2.99 price tag.
Book #35 The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen (385 pp.)
The wizards at the Unseen University have channeled a dangerous level of magic into a sidelined project, the Roundworld project, to bring the magic down to a safe level, and they aren't quite sure what to do with it. While they try to figure it out, two scientists use the project to illustrate basic physics and astronomy. Very readable, dovetailing into my book #33 very nicely.
Book #36 Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan (348 pp.)
This is the third book of Lady Trent's memoirs, set in an alternate Victorian England in a world where dragons abound. These books chronicle her fascination as a natural scientist with dragons and her explorations to study them and are cracking good fun!
Book #37 Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett (353 pp.)
They say there are only two things you can count on ... But that was before Death started pondering the existential. Of course, the last thing anyone needs is a squeamish Grim Reaper and soon his Discworld bosses have sent him off with best wishes and a well-earned gold watch. Now Death is having the time of his life, finding greener pastures where he can put his scythe to a whole new use. But like every cutback in an important public service, Death's demise soon leads to chaos and unrest -- literally, for those whose time was supposed to be up, like Windle Poons. The oldest geezer in the entire faculty of Unseen University -- home of magic, wizardry, and big dinners -- Windle was looking forward to a wonderful afterlife, not this boring been-there-done-that routine. To get the fresh start he deserves, Windle and the rest of Ankh-Morpork's undead and underemployed set off to find Death and save the world for the living (and everybody else, of course).
This is one of the best of the DEATH strand of stories (lacking only Susan), which is saying a lot since Hogfather and Thief of Time are classics in their own right!
Book #38 Soul Music by Terry Pratchett (373 pp.)
"Your grandfather is Death", said Albert. "You know? The skeleton in the black robe?" "Death", said Susan flatly. "Well, I can't say I didn't have my suspicions". Other children have xylophones. Susan just had to ask her grandfather to take his vest off. Yes. There's a death in the family. It's hard to grow up normally when Grandfather rides a white horse and wields a scythe - especially when you have to take over the family business, and everyone mistakes you for the Tooth Fairy. And especially when you have to face the new and addictive music that has entered the Discworld. It's lawless. It changes people. It's called MUSIC WITH ROCKS IN. It's got a beat and you can dance to it, but...It's alive. And it won't fade away.
This one was always a little precious for my tastes, but if you love classical rock, you'll catch all the clever allusions. And this is the book where Susan first comes into her own, and that's worth it all in itself!
Book #39 Abducticon by Alma Alexander (199 pp.)
This book was provided by the Early Reviewers program of LT.
This light, entertaining story of a science fiction convention hijacked by androids and taken on a fly-by around the moon seems to exist mostly as a stage for clever allusions to such classics as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and 2001. As such, read it when you want clever brain candy in lieu of a gripping story.
Any story about a science fiction convention has to be compared to Sharon McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun, which not only parodied science fiction conferences and fen but also had a murder mystery to boot. If you are going to read only one, make it the McCrumb for characterization and plot depth.
Book #40 Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (350 pp.)
Elizabeth Bear is a wonder of an author. She can write hard technical science fiction, old world vampires, epic fantasy set in Asian societies, Shakespearian and modern urban fantasy, and now, steampunk set in the Old West Northwest Territory. And she does it all SO WELL!
Karen Memery is a teenage "seamstress" in Rapid City, a boom town along Puget Sound that is feeding men to the gold rush in Alaska. What starts out as a personal feud with a rival procurer expands into a murder mystery and then even further into a life and death matter. Told in Karen's inimitable voice and featuring a cast of individualized, fascinating characters with elements of steampunk technology in an fully developed Old West masterpiece of world-building, the story-telling is by no means neglected. Highly recommended, and some excellent reviews on the work page as well.
Book #41 Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett (357 pp.)
My review from the last time I read it still stands:
The last in the series featuring Death and Susan, at least for the time being! This group of books is one of my favorite Discworld series, and TOT did not disappoint. The Auditors reappear with their usual intent of reducing the Universe to numbers and measuring and counting things and getting rid of that unpredictable squishy life stuff, especially humans. And this time it devolves to all-out war. Death has to go scare up Pestilence, Famine, and War out of their comfortable niches, and the Fifth Horseman even gets called up, while Susan is her usual no-nonsense self (the scenes of her actually teaching in her classroom are among the most hilarious in the book) and gets a love interest. And the History Monks with their time slicing are fantastic. Much fun, much action, great way to while away a couple of evenings!
Book #42 Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (432 pp.)
One of my earliest Pratchetts and definitely the first Gaiman I ever read, this is an old favorite retelling of Revelation, more or less.
Hope the rest of the year improves for you!
Good Omens is absolutely fantastic.
(And thanks for the reminder of the Lady Trent memoirs, I must chase up a copy at the library...)
>33 valkyrdeath: It's possible Powers will write more in this world--but the novella is the first time he's done so in all the years since writing The Anubis Gates. Enjoy!
>34 wookiebender: Thank you, Tanya. And definitely keep on with the Lady Trent memoirs--I love them.
So my reading is going pretty slowly these days. One reason is I'm working on a nonfiction chunkster, but my fiction reading has simply been slow.
Book #43 The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer (343 pp.)
A reread of the Heyer book of the month, a mid-tier book for me, and my 1951 edition has the worst back cover blurb of all time, with at least 10 blatant errors in it!
Book #44 Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee (352 pp.)
The third book in Lee's "urban" fantasy set in a beach community in Maine, this one continues the story line on both the mundane and fantastical levels. An entertaining series, Lee always produces good characters and interesting cats!
Book #45 A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (307 pp.)
This is the second in a series about Georgie, 34th in line for the throne in the 1930s, broke and trying to live in London, as she keeps being given sleuthing tasks by Queen Mary, usually for the queen's goal of separating her oldest son from that awful Mrs. Simpson. These are silly and farcical in the way they portray Georgie's struggle to stay in London without any money, at least one dead body always shows up, and Georgie is the one to figure it out, mostly. Great light fun, despite the three bodies in this one.
My reading has been very slow this month, with only one book finished in the first week of May. Partly this has been because I've been concentrating on The Reformation: A History. I've finished the first two parts and am ready to start the last section, but it's a long book (864 pp.)
However, to break my impasse with fiction I read a romance novella because it was narrated by a cat. ??
Book #46 The Girl With the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir (166 pp.)
A basic romance, whose primary charm is the cat. And there is somewhat of a mystery.
And then into my library books:
Book #47 I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (293 pp.)
Book 4 of the Flavia de Luce series, this one seemed to move more quickly than some of the earlier books, with much less time spent on family dynamics. I got through it in half a day--so it was a quick read and entertaining. I have to get on with the next before another full year passes.
Now I'm working on a Dr. Siri book with the usual enjoyment! There's an emphasis on mysteries right now because of the May Mayhem and Murder challenge thread on the 75ers group. I'm trying to catch up on my series because I don't read mysteries regularly.
Book #48 Slash and Burn by Colin Cotteril (290 pp.)
This is one of the best of the series!! Dr. Siri is such a character!
Book #49 Holiday in Death by J. D. Robb (340 pp.)
Another Eve Dallas book with a gut-wrenching murder involving sexual deviation, triggering Eve's past traumas, and hot sex with Rourke--not a lot of interaction with some of her friends, other than her assistants. I still like the world that Eve lives in, but the violence disturbs me.
After a slow section in The Reformation: A history, I'm now in a more interesting section. Part Three deals with the effects of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on the common man, and the first two parts were on apocalyptic expectations and death and discipline. Now i'm into Love and Sex. Yes!
"The Christian understanding of the roles of women and men in reproduction were also much influenced by the pre-Christian Aristotle, who presented the act of procreation as depending entirely on male seed. A man's semen contained the entire fetus in embryo, so anything that stopped male seed doing its job was an act of murder--anything, from masturbation to contraception to same-sex sexual relations."
Only one more chapter after I finish this section! 624 pages read.
Book #50 The Reformation: A History by Diarmaid MacCulloch (687 pp.)
The book is 792 pages long, but since I didn't read the notes (not comments, only citations of sources) nor the index, I don't count them. This is a blockbuster of facts and people from the 1500s through the 1700s as Europe underwent the upheavals of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. MacCulloch deals with overlapping contemporaneous events and personages with copious cross-referencing and ironic humor as he first sets the stage with a picture of Europe prior to the Reformation, then looks at the years noted above throughout Europe as these movements rippled across the land, then looks at the lasting effects on the everyday people. Fascinating!
Book #51 First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (296 pp.)
I had trouble getting into this sequel of Garden Spells--too domestic! But finally I got far enough in to develop some interest in the endings.
Book #52 Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (247 pp.)
Kerry wrote this about this book last month:
I loved this, it's described '....from the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets Chasing Vermeer in this clever middle grade debut...'
Theodora has a mystery on her hands when her grandfather dies suddenly, leaving her to fend for herself and her dysfunctional mother with $800 in the kitty and an old old house in Greenwich Village , New York. The discovery of a mysterious painting, possibly a masterpiece, that has hung in the house for over 40 years is sparked when Theo follows her grandfather's advice and looks 'under the egg'. Theo must discover the provenance of the painting and in the process she discovers a number of helpful friends in her community. This is a great story that delves into the world of the Holocaust and Monuments Men from World War II.
Another gem from the Jewish Book Council website recommendations list.
So you can see why I immediately ordered the book from MY library! I love both The Mixed-Up Files and especially Chasing Vermeer. First of all, this is a book aimed at middle school age people, and there is no fantasy or science fiction at all in it. There is a mystery to figure out, just as in Chasing Vermeer and From the Mixed-Up Files.... And this is just as delightful as both of those stories.
Book #53 The Origins of Tolkien's Middle-Earth for Dummies by Greg Harvey (318 pp.)
Melissa (Kassilem) had mentioned this book and since it was available at PaperBackSwap, where I have a million credits, I went ahead and got it. It was a great review of the stories in the Silmarillion without having to plod through it again, and is edging me toward a reread of LOTR--it's been a while. Interesting without being must-read fascinating, the author is knowledgeable and has some good points to make.
Book #54 Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (404 pp.)
I don't care for the cover. Except, that IS Miri front and center! But I loved the book. Set almost entirely on Surebleak, we are following half a dozen plot strands that very satisfyingly bring us up to date on ALMOST all those we love and care for (Shan and Priscilla are only mentioned in absentia, as is Theo). This, however, is NOT a book to introduce you to the Liaden universe. No, not at all. To read this book as you should, you should be familiar with the events in:
Agent of Change
Conflict of Honors
Theo is really not involved in this book, but her mother is and to understand her, you should at least read Fledgling and Saltation. Theo's story continues in Ghost Ship and Dragon Ship, which brings us up to the timeline of this book.
There are three other books that deal with the present generation's parents, two books that are deep prequel explaining how the Liadens arrived in this universe thousands of years ago, and two books involving a Terran trader interacting with Liadens some 300 years prior to this current series with no overlapping characters.
Book #55 The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (417 pp.)
This is the first book of a middle school fantasy trilogy recommended by CompSki. So far it seems a good solid entry into its genre (she particularly liked how it wrapped up in the third book) and I will continue, but I will say that I see no reason for those not interested in children's fantasy to read it.
Book #56 The Occasional Diamond Thief by J. A. McLachlan (250 pp.)
This is an ER book, so I will have to write a real review...later. It's science fiction, YA in tone, with some good diversity and some interesting world building, but it could have been longer to develop some of the plot lines more credibly to go beyond the YA format.
So today was a back to cleaning up my office day, after the usual kitchen cleaning. You probably don't remember that last weekend I made it through the couch, my computer desk surface, and the filing cabinet (which refilled the couch). Then when I had to replace an outlet I cleared all the shelves and doors and top of the computer armoire, which included lots of outdated computer CDs. Today I cleared the window seat, where there were numerous piles of outdated computer CDs as well as lots of the stuff cleared from the armoire; the latter went where it belongs in the armoire and all the computer stuff into a big shopping bag to sort through later. Some of the CDs are clearly outdated (e.g., printers I no longer have), some are games that probably don't work on the new operating systems on our computers (including a full set of Harry Potter games), some are outdated MacAddict game collections, and some are old files from work. Is there anything one can do with old CDs, crafts or anything? The other BIG accomplishment is that I went through the entire desk drawer of notepads plus one armoire door shelf full of all those free pads you get from charities and, keeping only those with my name on them, have moved the majority of these to the dining room table where they will rot for eternity---no, no, actually, I'm going to put them in a basket in my booth at the market with a sign--Free, take what you can use! And when they are gone (please!), I'll do the same with those packets of note cards from the same sources. For some reason I just can't seem to throw either of these away, even into recycling. And then I got everything off the couch again, to where it belongs, and I only have the top of my rolltop desk to finish clearing off. Well, and the dining room table. But still, it is SO much better. Then we sat out on the deck while my husband grilled salmon collars, sweet potatoes, and asparagus--delicious!
ETA AND I found the CD disk with all of Lois McMaster Bujold's books (sans Memory) that came in Cryoburn! I feared I had lost it. It goes back into its pocket in the book right away. After I download them all onto my Kindle.
>Book #57 Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible's First Man to Oppress, Inspire, and Make Sense of the World by Karl W. Giberson (240 pp.)
This was an Early Reviewer offering that I didn't get, but it looked interesting so I went ahead and bought it. It was actually quite interesting, written by a traditional Christian professor who is NOT fundamentalist or committed to the literal inerrancy of the Bible, but he was brought up that way and he has very interesting things to say about that community and its relationship with science (or lack thereof).
Basically, he says that since Augustine took some of St. Paul's comments and tied the salvation of Jesus firmly to Adam and the concept of original sin (as opposed to Adam being simply one of a series of patriarchal scriptural characters as in Judaism), a historical Adam becomes as important as Christ in the core conceptualization of Christianity. He tracks the relationship between science and Christianity as the former develops. Now that science is increasingly making it unlikely that we are all descended from one man and one woman, especially genetics, a model of salvation that was very complete and comforting in the Middle Ages now faces a challenge as great as that faced when Earth was found not to be the center of the universe. Even bringing up the topic has gotten many Christian professors fired from fundamentalist universities, as the author was. He considers himself a traditionalist rather than a fundamentalist, although he was brought up as the latter.
Book #58 The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (435 pp.)
Jonathan Stroud, of course, is known for his imaginative children's series, The Bartimaeus Trilogy, and the second of this new series, Lockwood & Co., is even more fun in my opinion. In an alternate history where ghosts began returning from the dead about 60 years previous, which at least 4 different tiers of deadliness, only children can directly sense and fight the supernatural. In London, those children with the sensitivity are recruited into agencies, but Lucy ended up in a rather independent small agency, and this is the second book of their adventures. It's imaginative, well-written and with just enough scariness to tickle the fancies of young readers. Also recommended for older readers of fantasy as well--you'll enjoy them, but start with The Screaming Staircase.
Book #59 Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff edited by Lori Baird (345 pp.)
I'm a sucker for these books and picked this one up through PaperBackSwap.com when I had ordered another book from the person offering this. Looking at the Recommended Reading in back, I have a number of the the books and resources she cites. Still, I always find these entertaining and, as I mentioned, it inspired a few moves here.
Book #60 The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens (437 pp.)
This is the second book in the Books of Beginning trilogy (I reviewed the first earlier this month), intended for grades 4-9. The story continues, focusing on the second child and the second book, with adventure and scares enough to satiate the grubbiest little heart. Oh, and the books are entertaining as well. BUT the library (and I have been getting most of my books from the library lately) only has the last book in AUDIO, 13 hours!! And it is still pretty expensive for Kindle, since it only came out this spring. I'm hoping the library has a paper version on order.
Book #61 Hold Fast by Blue Balliett (278 pp.)
This is a five-star book. Go out and get it. Read it.
I love Balliett's books. Her first three were mysteries, each focused around a different artist (Johannes Vermeer, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Alexander Calder). In the solving of the mysteries, three children with their own issues are able to resolve some of them. These also are middle-school books but written with such wit and cleverness that adults may completely enjoy them. But Hold Fast (I haven't read The Danger Box yet) is at a whole new level. It's the story of a family in Chicago, suddenly bereft of father and homeless, and the feeling of shelter life and the ubiquity of homeless in the city and how suddenly you don't seem to matter. Twined around a love of reading and wordplay and the words of Langston Hughes, Early needs to hold her family together and find out what really happened to lead to all of this--and yes, that is a mystery. Read it. Now.
Books read: 11
Pages read: 3865 Longest book: 482 Shortest book: 240 Mean pages/book: 351
Average pages read per day: 129
First reads: 10
Format: 7 hardbacks, 1 trade paperback, 2 Kindle, 1 mass market paperback
Source: Library- 6, pbs- 1, Kindle-2, Amazon hb-1
Science Fiction: 2
Children's: 5 (4 of which were fantasy series)
Author gender: 6 female, 6 male (one book was written by a pair, one each)
Books acquired: 4
Source: PBS-1, ER-1, Amazon-1 hb & 1 Kindle
Books out the Door: 4 donated to library
Book #64 The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig (428 pp.)
Beth was warbling about this series on her thread and my library has them, so...
These are a much lighter take-off on The Scarlet Pimpernel dealing with romantic spies and the Regency misses who love them and seek to emulate them--definitely a romance. Light and humorous, although the episode in the boat was really uncalled for, and just the thing for a migraine-y day.
Book #65 Agent of Change by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (247 pp.)
Book #66 Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (326 pp.)
Yes, the Liaden Universe series year-long group conversation started July 1, and I started with it. These are the two introductory books. Again, as stated above, if you enjoy adventuresome space opera with great characters, turtles, dragons, cats, and trees, this may be for you. A lot of new readers will have tried out the Vorkosigan books in 2014, and if you enjoyed them, you will also enjoy these.
Either of these two books can serve as a starting point. For the Vorkosigan readers, if you preferred The Warrior's Apprentice to Shards of Honor and Barrayar, start with Agent of Change. If vice versa, start with Conflict of Honors. These two then come together in Carpe Diem, the third book.
Book #67 Plan B by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (330 pp.)
Book #68 I Dare! by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 467 pp.)
So, a funny thing happened after Lee and Miller wrote their first two books. Their publisher told them the books didn't sell well enough and canned them. And there things rested for 9 years. But in the meantime, the internet grew and became a public venue and there were these people called fans who kept begging for more, because, see, THEY were reading the books. And so Lee & Miller were at long last picked up by a publisher named Meisha Merlin who were known for picking up quality fantasy series that no one else would continue. And so these two books were published in trade paperback, that being the default size for MM, rather than the mmpb editions of the first three books.
And there is practically nothing I can tell you about these two that wouldn't be spoilers for the earlier ones, except that it is very exciting, more great characters, and very satisfying.
Book #69 Necessity's Child by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (328 pp.)
After Meisha Merlin closed down, Lee and Miller wrote the next two books, Theo's story, by subscription. I well know this as I was one of the subscribers to Saltation and received a copy of the book when it was published. As a result of the subscription support, Baen Publishing took them up and has published them ever since, to the satisfaction of all their fans.
The only problem I had with Necessity's Child was the introduction of a completely new variable on Surebleak. I was not at all sure that was necessary, but am more reconciled to it upon a second reading. Again, more would be spoilers for earlier books. Now, a reread of Dragon in Exile next, to complete the current state of the main storyline.
Book #70 Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (404 pp.)
So I read it a month ago when it first came out. This time I read it in proper sequence, each and every word, and appreciated it even more! A great continuation of the series, not a place to start.
Book #71 A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (419 pp.)
Recommended, I think by foggidawn. I left it on the shelf after bringing it home from the library, reading two other library books and my Liaden books before it as the description left me ambivalent. But this book drew me in immediately! It's quite well written, imho, and not only draws on the immediately obvious Beauty and the Beast lore, but draws in another layer of an even older legend by the end. Strongly recommended for fantasy and fairy tale lovers, this has depth and grit and heart.
Book #73 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (333 pp.)
I bought this book early in January (it just misses being a book off my shelf) and it has been sitting there ever since. I took it with me for my airplane book and it served the purpose marvelously! I thought it was beautifully written and very much enjoyed the way the different elements wound around each other. I would not call it dystopian, but very much a quintessential apocalyptic book in the tradition of The Postman and Emergence, classics in the field. Definitely recommended!
Book #74 Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (109 pp.)
This is a novella-length ebook set in the same general locale as The Hallowed Hunt in the World of Five Gods setting, but at a different time (150 years later) and with no other connection. Readers will benefit from reading the other three books in this setting in order to have the correct understanding of the theology, "saints" and the nature of demons. This of course does not have the complexity and depth of Bujold's full length novels but it is an entertaining tale of a young man's sudden change of circumstances and the consequences. And reading Bujold is always a pleasure!
Book #75 A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine (328 pp.)
Levine and Shannon Hale are probably my two favorite fairy-tale writers due to the sheer volume of work they have produced in this area. Although their targets are the intermediate grades, their work is certainly entertaining for adults as well. I enjoy Levine a lot but oft times her books are missing from bookstore shelves and I forget to look for them at the library, so I want to thank foggidawn for mentioning this when she just recently read the sequel (still on order with the library). In this tale, Elodie sets out from home to the city of Two Castles to seek an apprenticeship, not with a weaver as her parents desire, but with actors. But alas, the free ten-year apprentice system has been abolished recently and she doesn't have the silver coin need to pay. And then a cat steals the little coin she does have. What to do now? And when a greedy king, an ogre, and a dragon get involved, things get a little complex. This was lots of fun.
Book #76 A Liaden Universe Constellation I by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (464 pp.)
Book #77 A Liaden Universe Constellation II by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (480 pp.)
Book #78 A Liaden Universe Constellation III by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (311 pp.)
A mix of stories, some more interesting than others, with a lot of in-between action that didn't fit into a novel. Enjoyable but only for the fans who've already read at least the first five novels (publication order).
Book #79 Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace (268 pp.)
An unusual and original post-apocalyptic tale of a young woman in a brutal setting, a village culture built around a fear of and observation of ghosts, and what choices she makes when there are none. Bluesalamander recommended this, and I do as well for those with a taste for this genre.
Book #80 The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee (335 pp.)
This is a YA Victorian mystery novel. I don't know if it's the book or just me because I feel all the YA elements--the spunky girl making unwise decisions but no deal breakers, the attractive male to compete with and antagonize, an agency to train women as spies--have just been done to death. I don't feel the mystery was that cleverly developed. There is one speck of originality in Mary's background. Maybe I'm wrong and this book (published in 2009) was the original of this type of story, but someone tell me if these get better or not as the series goes on. Please?
Book #80 Fledgling by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (375 pp.)
Book #81 Saltation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (325 pp.)
Book #82 Ghost Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (328 pp.)
Book #83 Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (373 pp.)
Fledgling and Saltation are the backstory of Theo Waitley, who shows up on Liad in the final pages of I Dare!--her raising on the Safe Planet of Delgado and her pilot training at Abingdon Academy as the result of a trip off planet with her mother. I had forgotten how much of Ghost Ship had to do with the mainline plot of Korval moving from Liad to Surebleak and will have to correct that on the Liaden Universe thread. One should not move from I Dare! to Necessity's Child without reading Ghost Ship in between. It's one of the newer books--this was maybe my second reading but probably my third, and while yes, it advances Theo's career, it also merges the two story lines. Dragon Ship is more concentrated on Theo but also follows the main clan and, especially, Theo's mother, putting them in place for the last two books (to date) in the series, Necessity's Child and Dragon in Exile. It would also help if one had read Pilot's Choice and Mouse and Dragon before these four books, but it isn't essential. As always, Miller and Lee take us on a rollicking good adventure!
Book #84 The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas (421 pp.)
Nina (humouress) mentioned this in June and PBS had it, so I ordered it. This is a fun book for the intermediate grades, with a great format, so don't get the Kindle version. It's the first of a fantasy series, and my library has them all so I will get the rest that way (esp. since PBS doesn't have any of them). Cute, original, fun, recommended!
Book #85 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (219 pp.)
Amber (scaifea) was reading this for the first time, with some antipathy at the beginning, and it had been several years since the first time I read this series and I felt it was time to read it again. I did not remember the details in this first book where misdirection plays such a large part, but just enough to actually pick up on most of the clues scattered throughout the story pointing to the denouement, so I felt pretty proud of myself. Gen IS such an unlikeable character in the first part of the book that it's hard to identify with him--just shows what a clever book it is. I of course immediately went on with the second book in the series.
Fueled by my Liaden Universe rereads, I powered through 23 books and 6720 pages in July, averaging 217 pages a day and 320 pages per book. 14 of those were Miller and Lee's Liaden books, science fiction space opera, and a lot of fun they were, all 12 of the rereads and the two new books of short stories. Besides these, I read 6 more new books and the reread just above, 6 fantasy and one science fiction. Three of those were library books, none were books off my shelves. I acquired no new books this month nor did I dispose of any.
Book # 86 The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (362 pp.)
This continues the story started in The Thief and does it very ably. More would be spoilers.
Book #87 The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (488 pp.)
I felt like this book didn't know what it wanted to be. At first charming and stereotypical, then confusing, then violent and ugly, then confusing, and above all LONG, I felt it never developed its own cohesive voice with solid characters. Some of the world-building was interesting, but it just didn't do it for me.
Book #88 The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (410 pp.)
This is one series in which the books just keep getting better! Very much enjoyed this reread.
Book #89 A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (352 pp.)
This fourth book in the series is the first not tightly focused on Gen, but it stands up in its own right to bring to a conclusion the status of the three countries and their royalty on the peninsula very similar in geography to Greece although very individual in their own right. A very satisfying series for a reread, such clever books and great characters!
Book #91 The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas (391 pp.)
This is the second in this children's fantasy series that I started last month. Still entertaining but only for those who enjoy children's fantasy.
Book #92 The Magic Thief: Found by Sarah Prineas (358 pp.)
Continuing the series, still lively and entertaining, a recommended children's fantasy series.
Book #93 Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (321 pp.)
Book #94 Crystal Dragon by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (359 pp.)
These are the long-ago prequels featuring Cantra and Jela and how the Liadens ended up in our universe at all. Very interesting for the light they shed on history, but I feel the story telling is weaker.
And then I finished up an ER book on Kindle.
Book #95 Tower in the Crooked Wood by Paula Johanson (128 pp.)
The subtitle of this book is "A Novel", which it clearly isn't, and many of its faults can be attributed to its short length. The author cobbles together too many disparate elements without enough build-up to influence us to accept them at face value. Set on an island in the Northwest of North America with an appropriate aboriginal culture, the story centers upon a girl who stumbles into a village, tells a strange story of involuntary servitude by magic and states her certainty that the perpetrator of this crime is on this very island and she has come to find it. As she tells her story, we learn of the loss of her brother and of her sister's baby as a result. Jenna's tale of her journey here involves her also involuntary service to a ruler of a walled city, and her escape. This sets up the circumstance of the ruler's soldiers following after her to bring her back. The village people refuse to let them have Jenna by force. Here the story stagnates until Jenna once again is brought to the magician to labor on his tower.
The relationships do not have time to develop, there is a lot of down time that doesn't move the story along, and we never find out why it all happens. There are hints of a larger framework but it never appears. This might have made a good short story, well-pruned, but it's a bloated novella and a severely-truncated novel, despite a few good elements.
Book #97 Three Parts Dead byMax Gladstone (333 pp.)
I downloaded this in May of 2014 when it was a Kindle Special. I tried it, and bounced after the first two chapters. But I kept reading good things about this series so went back and tried it a few days ago and this time I powered right through. Once I got into it, it was an original and entertaining fantasy with a very interesting world involving gods and magic. And I am going to count it as a book off my shelves as it's an e-book I paid money for--and I've been really lousy in that category this year!
"A god has died, and it's up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart. Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis's steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot. Tara's job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who's having an understandable crisis of faith. When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb's courts--and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb's slim hope of survival. Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs. "
The library has the series (good, because I wasn't going to pay $9.99 for the ebooks of the next two and even more for the last) and I've ordered the second from there, bringing my current holds up to 8. In part, that's because I just ordered the four books of The Steerswoman series the other day--I think I finished the first three but that was before the fourth was out and a long time ago. This is a series that still gets a lot of love. OH, I just realized it will fit right into September Series and Sequels! And the other good news is that I am finally #1 for Uprooted, so hopefully will be getting that shortly.
Book #98 The Just City by Jo Walton (368 pp.)
I've been working on this one for several weeks, a couple of chapters a day. It's a thought experiment. Athena has pulled lovers of Plato's The Republic from all areas of time to create it in reality. I cannot fathom the amount of prep that went into researching this! It also ends on a cliff-hanger so I can't really say much about the plot. Slow-moving, needs to be digested in small amounts, but fascinating!
Book #99 Uprooted by Naomi Novik (435 pp.)
I had read and loved Novik's Temeraire, liked the second in the series, got bored with the third and never continued. But when foggidawn, bell07 (Mary), and avatiakh (Kerry) all warbled ecstatically about this book, I immediately put it on hold at the libarary...and waited...and waited...and waited. But I finally got to the top of the Reserved list and picked it up on Saturday, as noted above. And I loved it. It got me from the beginning, even in first person, and just got better. Not a fairy tale retelling, but incorporating all the best elements to make a truly engaging story. Recommended strongly, and thanks, foggi, Mary, and especially Kerry who made it a point to recommend it personally to me!
Book #100 Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall (404 pp.)
This was a lot of fun. Think classic Heinlein juvenile but with girls (yes, and some boys too).
Book #101 Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone (347 pp.)
Set in the same world as Three Parts Dead (see message 22) but halfway around the world, we revisit Gladstone's conglomeration of dead and living gods and Crafts people in an Aztec setting. I think Gladstone's Craft series is approaching my appreciation of the Matthew Swift books in original concepts and gut-busting action sequences. After stalling on the first book for several months after the first two chapters, I sped through this one and am off to order the third from the library!
Book #102 The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein (270 pp.)
Book #103 The Outskirter's Secret by Rosemary Kirstein (342 pp.)
This series, begun 25 years ago and very difficult to find for a long period, is often pointed to as a pure exposition of the scientific method. Coincidentally, while reading these two books yesterday and today, I watched my first episode of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, an update of The Hound of the Baskervilles--so cleverly done and, despite the graphics, another excellent exemplar! These two books are also an excellent story. There was then an eleven year gap before book 3 arrived, and then book 4 the following year. I did read the third book, but I don't think I ever did read the fourth book and so intend to do so now. I'll do more on the story after I finish the series, as this is one of those that is really all one story.
18 books read
6409 pages read
average of 207 pages/day
average of 356 pages/book
New reads: 11
Library books: 11
Books off my shelves: 1
Genre: 5 science fiction, 9 fantasy, 4 children's (fantasy)
Format: 11 hardback, 4 trade paper, 3 Kindle
Author gender: 15 female, 5 male (2 were by a f/m combo)
Country of origin: 15 USA, 2 Canada, 1 England
Books acquired: 5 all from PaperBackSwap
Books out the door: 0
Book #104 The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett (276 pp.)
This was a bittersweet read. It is the book Pratchett was working on at the time of his death. In an afterword, Rob Wilkins (whoever he is, but obviously someone who was close to the construction of the book) tells us that every word in here is Pratchett's, it is complete from beginning to end--but, had Pratchett lived, it would have been denser, more in-filled, richer in nuance--which validates my experience from first looking at the book through the experience of reading it. I love the Tiffany Aching books, and this is a worthy finale, but don't let it be your introduction.
Book #105 A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire (358 pp.)
This is book 9 in the fantasy series featuring October Daye, changeling. This series is a current favorite not just for its action-packed plots, but also because it gets Celtic mythology right! Love the characters!
Book #106 Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen (306 pp.)
This is the third book in the Royal Spyness series, a fun mystery series set in the 1930s revolving around the 34th in line for the throne, Lady Georgiana (Georgie), one of Queen Victoria's great-granddaughters. This book has Georgie returning to her home in Scotland and to Balmoral Castle with the royals.
Book #107 Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley (375 pp.)
More Flavia, another good case with Flavia's usual idiosyncrasies, but it ends on a cliff-hanger!!
Book #108 The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (264 pp.)
As foretold, after reading the culmination of the Tiffany Aching books, The Shepherd's Crown, I am rereading the previous four books, the first of which is this one. I love the atmosphere evoked of the Chalk, the area where Pratchett himself lived and obviously has a great attachment.
Book #109 A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett (278 pp.)
Tiffany is 2 years older in this book, and goes off to apprentice herself and interact with other witches for the first time. Oh, and she's also in deadly peril from a "hiver".
Book #110 Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (323 pp.)
Tiffany is now 13, 2 years older than the last book, and still serving apprenticeships with older witches when she makes a wrong move that threatens her world.
Book 111 I shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (351 pp.)
This is, in my opinion, the richest and the best of the Tiffany Aching series. I recommend to those who have still to read The Shepherd's Crown that they read it first without rereading the other books beforehand, so they can appreciate what Pratchett did in his final book without comparing it to what he would have done, had he been given the time. This book shows what that could have been.
Book #112 Three in Death by J. D. Robb (368 pp)
These are three novellas featuring Eve Dallas (and Rourke) in police mysteries.
Book #113 The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein (419 pp.)
This is book 3 of the Steerswoman series, described by some as the best example ever of the scientific method. Can't say much about it other because of spoilers for the previous books.
Book #114 The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein (389 pp.)
So this is the fourth book of the series and the one I hadn't read before; I was disappointed that it did not complete the story. I suppose since it's been 11 years since this one came out that the final book probably won't be forthcoming. Still, I enjoyed this book as much as the others--it's fascinating seeing two different mindsets struggling to communicate concepts.
Book #115 Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Under-Rated Organ by Giulia Enders (256 pp.)
i picked this up on my Kindle in May, and have been browsing through it for the last 2 months.
i learned a lot, and definitely changed at least one behavior (to minimize diverticulitis). I would have liked even more but it seems this is a newly-developing field and so there is still lots to find out. Darryl just bought this and I'll be very interested in his opinion.
Book #116 Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone (382 pp.)
This is the third of the Craft novels, all set in different cities and with different characters (mostly) but in the same world. This is a world where the God Wars created a fractured society--some cities and countries still have their Deities ruling them and others, where the Gods were killed in the war, are ruled by those with Craft. This is an original world unlike any I've encountered previously, with clever and interesting plots that are intricate without being overwhelming. I've got the fourth and (at this point most recent) on hold from the library. Recommended.
Book #117 The Woman Who Wouldn't Die by Colin Cotterill (307 pp.)
This is the ninth of the Dr. Siri books and continues to be just as engaging as ever. The ensemble cast is fully capable of dealing with any evil encountered. We get to see more of the characters we love playing a part, but there really isn't a lot of time or character development spent with some of our favorite side characters. Still, very enjoyable with the same wry humor seen in previous books. Only one more to go and I am caught up with the author--drat!!
Book #118 The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton (348 pp.)
This book moved more quickly for me than the first (more action, less set-up) but went off into uncharted territory
Book #119 Thraxas by Martin Scott (223 pp.)
This won the World Fantasy Award back in 2000. It's British noir humor, a degenerate sorcerer PI, and is a mystery with lots of in-jokes about fantasy conventions (his best friend/sword backup is a mixed-blood (human, elf, orc) barmaid who wears a chain-mail bikini on the job to maximize trip. Don't expect any character development or emotional depth, but for light satirical entertainment, this might tickle your fantasy. And, it is FINALLY a book off my shelves!
Book #120 A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
I want to review this but will wait until next week when I can type fluently.
First of all, anyone who doesn't have a strong stomach for M/M fairly graphic sex should avoid this book. That said, the sex is not gratuitous--it is tightly tied into the consequences of all males bonding with members of a wolf-pack, both male and female. It's what Anne McCaffrey skipped over rather lightly in discussion of the natural consequences of bonding to green and golden dragons. I picked this up off a library shelf with no prior knowledge because it was written by two very competent authors, Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, that I like a lot. The world-building was competent and interesting, but the complex characterizations were what won me over. How does a young man who is heterosexual deal with bonding with a puppy wolf-king whom he loves, and the consequences in terms of human pack dynamics?
Book #121 Mad Maudlin by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill (536 pp.)
Book 6 of Bedlam's Bard series and a book off my shelves. Review next week.
This is the 5th book of the Bedlam's Bard series. After picking this up for 25¢ at the library, I read a couple of the earlier books earlier this year to perepare. This one is much more complex, with multiple strands interweaving among the different characters. I think it is the best of the series so far, but I have to admit that I am just not that much into the series, and Lackey seems to have developed rather a practice of starting out with abused kids and moving from there, a trope that I simply don't find that engaging.
Book #122 Black Magic Academy by Emily Martha Sorensen (152 pp.)
A short, easy read for girls 9-12.
This is 1 of those free Kindle books, downloaded 3 years ago. now I can get it off my device!
Final book for the month is another book that has been lurking on mr shelves for 2 years now.
Book #123 Fyre by Angie Sage (702 pp.)
This is the seventh and concluding book in a children's fantasy series by English author Sage. I have found this series to be fresh, sparkling, and original from beginning to end. Other adults who have read it, tho, have been profoundly irritated by the author's idiosyncratic spelling and bold-face type for technical Magykal terms. Didn't bother me and I love the world-building and the characters. Great read for fantasy-loving middle-schoolers!
9 month Round-up
Books Read: 123
Pages Read: 40,319
Average pages/book: 328
Average pages/day: 148
New reads: 90
Library books: 44
Books off my shelves (new reads): 10
Book #124 Pale Queen Rising by A. R. Kahler (254 pp.)
I selected this as my free Kindle First book last month and am very happy I didn't pay anything for it. An unoriginal mishmash of fantasy elements, all it has in its favor is action. Doesn't even tell a complete story, stops right in the middle. Not recommended.
Book #125 Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey (361 pp.)
This is the fourth book following the career of Mags as a Herald in Valdemar. Now, I loved the original Arrows of the Queen trilogy and a number of the sequels. These books are prequels, back to the time the Collegium was just being established for Heralds, and in the first trilogy, Mags is saved from child slavery in the mines and the assassins sent by his native land. Now he is settling into his role in Haven as a full Herald. This story line has gotten just a touch stale, but I thought I'd give it a try since I'm now reading Lackey purely as a library book. I nearly threw the book at the wall when midway through the story, yes, she did go there, a full-blown Juliet and Romeo plot. However, I did power through as I was already 50% through the book, and she actually did something original. Still, only for those still in love with Valdemar.
Book #126 Hounding the Pavement by Judi McCoy (336 pp.)
I picked this up after reading a description, woman has a psychic link with dogs, starts a dog-walking business, and solves a murder mystery. Unfortunately, this turned into a typical chick lit cozy mystery with dogs who are not nearly as snarky as Oberon in the Kevin Hearne books. Not as clever or original as I had hoped. Only if you like typical romance tropes.
Book #126 Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (431 pp.)
This is a fantastic book, in both senses of the word! For a thorough review, go to this link:
I'll just say that although it was a slow start for me (male geek nerd with girl problems), it went so far beyond that and was so finely nuanced that this is one I will definitely read again. And there is not that much fantasy set in an Arab emirate with an Arab/Indian mix protagonist and dealing with the aftermath of the Arabian Spring. Strongly recommended.
ETA the author also writes graphic novel, notably Ms. Marvel.
Book #127 City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (452 pp.)
This book came highly recommended, which probably is why it took a full year after purchasing it at The Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle last year before I got it read. Of course, that mean it counts as a book off my own shelf now! The fantasy is set in an original world and besides being a good story, reflects interesting thoughts on oppression, counter-oppression and the effects on the peoples involved, as well as the nature of Divinity. I see that a second book is due out next year, and I will definitely get it as well. People who enjoyed this book would undoubtedly like the Max Gladstone Craft series and its treatment of Divinity as well.
Book #128 Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix (291 pp.)
In his author's note, Nix acknowledges the primary influences for this book--Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and the entire Aubrey-Maturin series. He does a good job of living up to at least two of these influences in this rollicking Regency England adventure tale with elements of sorcery. However, there is no depth beneath the adventure, no insight into the magical system or the Fey, nor really into any of the characters besides Newt herself. I'd say it is a good YA romance-adventure. If that is damning with faint praise, it is only because of my deep love for the first three Old Kingdom books and that none of his more recent books have matched them.
Book #129 The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher (630 pp.)
I've never been a strong fan of Jim Butcher. I've read the first four Harry Dresden books at a desultory pace--not into the strongest ones yet, from what I heard. And I bounced off the first of the Codex Alera books, although I intend to try them again someday, having three of them in my tbr pile. But I thought I'd give this new series a try and...
This is a great story! I'd call it science fiction rather than fantasy, somewhat steampunkish with the technology. The world-building is really good, and shown rather than told--there's still a lot we don't know about this world by the end of the book. Oh, and the book does tell a complete story, so you aren't left on a cliff-hanger even though you know there is more of the story coming--that's one of my pet peeves. And the characters and story-line drew me in immediately. I wanted to keep reading into the night even when I was only 100 pages into this 630 page tome. Although I didn't, I did finish this in two days because I kept coming back to it every spare minute. There are strong female as well as male viewpoint characters, a talking cat who is a person as opposed to a cute accessory (and he only talks Cat, which most humans can't master), flying ships and battles (it's scary how Butcher channels David Weber in Chapter 68!), and much, much more! So glad I got this library copy so quickly, and recommend that you look for it immediately.
Book #130 The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud (374 pp.)
This is the third and just-published book in the Lockwood & Co. series, taking place in an England where 50 years before, the Supernatural suddenly manifested in a continuum of disturbing to fatal forms. Only children can see them and so they have become the ground troops to eliminate the revenants. After a disaster killing the rest of her team, Lucy fled from her home area to London and joined the only company not owned and managed by an adult. This is the third of her adventures and is just as creepy and violent as the others, but either I'm getting tired of them or I didn't like the dynamics with the new team member. Still, a very interesting world. Remember, the pov character is an 11 year old girl, it's a kid's book, and just go for the novelty.
Book #131 So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (403 pp.)
The revisions are pretty much inserting modern technology--cell phones, texting, etc.--into the original story first published in 1983. I really enjoyed this story when I first read it. This time through, the story seemed more juvenile and simplistic and echoed A Wrinkle in Time much more strongly than I recall noticing back in the 80s. I should note, however, that this series is still continuing and the more recent books are much more complex than this initial tale.
Book #133 Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (371 pp.)
This is the first novel by an award-winning young Malaysian author, and it's been getting a lot of buzz. This is an alternate history set in Regency England--not the first time that's been done! The novelty has been that its primary protagonist, the eponymous Sorcerer Royal, is a man of color who rose to that position upon the death of his guardian, who bought him, developed his talent for magic, freed him and promoted him as a magician using his influence as the Sorcerer Royal. But Zacharias Wythe is finding that the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers is even less tolerant of his presence without that influence, and actively seeking to displace him, as well as blaming him for a reduction in the amount of magic available to English magicians. A visit to the border of Faery with England reveals a cork blocking the flow of magic. There are political pressures to show that magic is still powerful enough for the government to subsidize the Society. You'd think all of this would be enough to deal with in a book, but when Wythe detours to a girls' school (where young ladies are taught how to control and get rid of their magic, being too delicate to do magic without harm to their constitutions), he not only sees evidence of substantial magic by females but picks up a half-Indian (East Indian) young woman with loads of magic who has to leave the school and wants to find a rich husband in order to be able to use her magic. Prunella basically hijacks the book from then on--she is a strong character, much stronger than Zacharias, actually. This is interesting, a quick and entertaining read, if not quite what I expected. Naomi Novik calls it "an enchanting cross between Georgette Heyer and Susanna Clarke." Much as I love Heyer, the story had more Heyer than I expected.
Book #134 Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane (387 pp.)
With this second book of the series, Duane moved beyond her inspirations into a full-fledged children's fantasy series with deeper undertones. Kit and Nita are called to join the whales under sea to once again battle the Lone One. I'm enjoying my reread of this series.
Book #135 The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason (356 pp.)
This is really a fun series. Set in an alternate Victorian England, Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker (daughter of Mycroft Holmes and sister of Bram Stoker) were called in by Irene Adler in the first book of the series to help solve a mystery where the two seventeen-year-old girls would be less obtrusive in a delicate situation. I received that book as an ER selection, and supposedly won the third book in the series through ER last month, although I haven't received it yet. So I figured I needed to read the second book. What is so fun is that the girls each tell their own viewpoint chapters and they are so unalike as to constantly irritate each other, as well as the clever references to the source literature throughout the story. Hope that third book shows up soon.
Book #136 High Wizardry by Diane Duane (375 pp.)
Book three in the series has little sister Dairine taking her Wizard's Oath and her Ordeal. These middle school books are nice light reading and easy to pick up on the run. It's interesting to see the alterations done to the stories to put them in the new time line and update the technology (time starts in 2007 for the first book now, originally published in 1982).
A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane (369 pp.)
Book 4 of the series has Nita being sent to her aunt in Ireland to get her away from wizardry and Kit for a while--anyone think that's going to work? Good grounding in Irish mythology here.
Book #138 A Wizard's Dilemma by Diane Duane (435 pp.)
I knew this one would be hard--Nita's mother is discovered to have a malignant brain tumor, and Nita deals with the limits of wizardry. It's very well done, and I'm a big fan of having kids be able to deal with difficult things in fiction as a preparation for RL (one of the reasons I get so irate at things like changing the ending of A Little Princess in the film)--it's probably at this point in the series where Duane develops the depth to make the series a classic. I shed a few tears, but I'm okay now.
Book #139 A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane (355 pp.)
Nita and Kit try to make contact with a young autistic wizard and cope with the development of Kit's dog's abilities. Another excellent installment.
Book #140 Wizard's Holiday by Diane Duane (451 pp.)
Book 8 of the series is even more complex and emotionally satisfying than the previous books. More would be spoilers for previous books. The next and final (at the moment) book in the series is the only one I have read, and it's been on my tbr shelf since it came out in 2011. But I'm taking a break from Nita and Kit and working on M&M tonight.
Book #141 Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger (326 pp.)
This concludes the Finishing School quartet and is more of the same. Our plot resolution lines are nicely tied up with some explosive action, but it just didn't grab me like her others. It may have been me.
Book #142 Wizards at War by Diane Duane (563 pp.)
Currently the last book of the series but with plenty of room for more!
Book #143 Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern (240 pp.)
This sounded interesting when Jim (drneutron) reviewed it, and it was. I was already aware that debts were sold and bought like mortgages were, and that collection agencies were trying to collect on debt that was beyond the statute of limitations for this state, but this journalist tracked down and talked to the people doing the collecting. Not great writing, but interesting characters and an eye-opener if you didn't realize what has been going on.
Book #144 Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (351 pp.)
I really enjoyed Caine's first book, Ill Wind, which started her Weather Warden series in 2003. It was chicklit in urban fantasy form, but I liked the snark and the world-building. But as it became a series, each book got more out there and more violent as she attempted to bring in something new--something known to happen when a first book becomes popular and then is stretched into a series without a clearly defined story line ahead of time. So I stopped reading her after about the 5th Weather Warden book and never got into any of her other series afterwards. The premise of this first book in her new series pulled me in, however, and I'm glad it did.
The Great Library of Alexandria controls all knowledge. Librarians are above national loyalties and conflicts, serving only knowledge. Owning actual books, unless stamped and licensed as duplicates, is illegal, but people have access to literature through "blanks" where any book requested appears and is read (Amazon Kindle, is that you?) for a period of time, then disappears. No room for abuse of power in this scenario, right? Jess comes from a book-smuggling family--his father pays for him to apply to be a Librarian. This is his story as he learns to see the Library for what it truly is.
Caine has learned from her experience. The story line is clearly delineated and controlled and you can see it is planned through to later books in the series. I loved the world-building and thought it entertaining reading indeed. Recommended.
Book #145 Last First Snow by Max Gladstone (380 pp.)
This is the 4th and newest book of the Craft Sequence published, but the first in chronological order. As such, it had to conform to events in Two Serpents Rise and that often constrains the story. As I said earlier, when bad things happen to people you like, it slows my reading down as I distance myself from the story, but I got through it and it was as well written as the others. Still a very interesting universe!
Book #146 The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason (351 pp.)
This is the third in a series. The first one was an ER book, and I got the second one to read from the library when I learned I had won this one as another ER book. The books feature two 17 year-old girls; one is the sister of Bram Stoker and the other the daughter of Mycroft Holmes. In a steampunk Victorian England where electricity is illegal, the girls have been involved in several mystery cases under the auspices of Irene Adler (Sherlock Holmes fans will need no introduction here). The girls have very different personalities and the conflicts between their points of view (the story is told in alternating first person between the two) as well as the introduction of some interesting young men add to the mystery and interest. I enjoy the interplay of personalities and the allusions to the world and literature we know as much as the mystery plot.
Book #147 The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter (419 pp.)
This is set in an alternate history Europe, in a societal and technological setting similar to the late 1700s, early 1800s. It took me a little while to get into it, but I enjoyed the world-building quite a bit. The plot was interesting even though the romance was predictable, and the characters were well-drawn.
Book #148 Harpy's Flight by Megan Lindholm (202 pp.)
This is a re-read. Lucy read this, the first of a quartet around the same characters, just recently and reminded me that I had not revisited them for far too long. Published in 1983, when Robin Hobb was still Megan Lindholm, I loved the strong female character and the interesting world-building in a time when that was far rarer.
I FINALLY finished Winter last night--wow, what a tome but definitely worth it.
Book #149 Winter by Marissa Meyer (827 pp.)
Book #150 The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran by Roy Mottahedeh (390 pp.)
I ordered this book from the library after Kerry (aviatakh) recommended it. Written 6 years after the Iranian revolution of 1979, it looks deeply into the secular and religious roots of the culture of Iran. I found it fascinating, a glimpse into a deeply different headspace from the average American but one that needs to be understood.
Book #151 The Windsingers by Megan Lindholm (268 pp.)
Continuing on my reread of the Ki and Vandien quartet, spurred on by Lucy discovering the series. High quality fantasy.
Book #152 Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (436 pp.)
This is the first of a new trilogy by Carson. It is basically a straight historical fiction of a trip from Georgia to California in 1849 except for one little twist that gets little use in this book--our heroine can sense gold like a water dowser senses water. Interesting and the writing pulled me in right away.