Read Recently — August 2008

Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow A different series from my previous flirtations with Saintcrow’s work; a bit darker, I think, and considering that the last ones had the hero going up against Satan himself, that’s saying something. Jill Kismet is a Hunter; she does Exorcisms and tracks down “Hellbreeds” in a nonstandard, multiracial world. Interesting, dark and noir (what I said about the first book of the last series, too). We’ll see how it goes. Cautiously recommended.

The New World: Book Three of the Age of Discover by Michael A. Stackpole Back in the first book, I noted that something vile happens, and that I was trusting Stackpole to set it right before the end. He does, but only just, and I can’t help but feel that the whole series would be better had he not done it in the first place. The whole series is cautiously recommended.

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews Sequel to Magic Bites. Kate’s back, and I couldn’t be more pleased. The magic is flaring up quickly and dying down just as quickly, implying that things are heading for a dangerously high magic level. Kate finds that she has to constantly steal a set of the Pack’s maps back from a teleporting archerwho just keeps stealing them (not a sensible thing to do; he’s pissing off the Beast Lord mightily). In addition, she’s promised a young girl that she will find her missing mother. Then some truly strange creatures show up, hunting the girl. I had a few problems with the worldbuilding in this one, but nothing major enough to spoil things. Overall, the world is fun, the characters (and their interaction) are great, and the story is a lot fun. This one is also free of the sexual abuse subplot that made the first one potentially triggery. Highly recommended.

The Man With the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green A new and different urban fantasy series by Green. The Drood family has protected the world against evils from beyond for so long that their own origin is lost in myth even to them. Each Drood wears a golden torc that grants him or her powerful magic abilities, including superhuman magic armour. Eddie Drood is the black sheep of the family–well, grey sheep, really. He works and lives outside the family mansion but is loyal nonetheless, until the family Matriarch sets him up and declares him outlaw. Now the whole family wants to kill him. Can Eddie stay alive long enough to figure out why? The Bond satire goes beyond the titles (the sequel is already out, and called Daemons are Forever this kind of thing can get old really, really fast), but this is fun. A good start to the series. Recommended.

The Heart of Valor by Tanya Huff After an encounter with a mysterious alien spacecraft (in The Better Part of Valor), Torin Kerr has been promoted to gunnery sergeant. And as much as she would like to get back to Sh’Quo Company, she’s stuck on Ventris station, lecturing the brass about the alien race the Silsviss, whom she helped recruit to the Confederation side in the first book (Valor’s Choice). A chance encounter with an officer acquaintance who was so badly injured that his reconstruction is causing philosophical arguments in the corps about whether he’s actually the same man or not leads to Torin being offered a chance to accompany him and his doctor to Crucible, the planet where new Marine recruits are given safe combat practice to round out their training, so that the officer’s rebuilt parts can be tested safely in combat-like situations. Torin goes along as much to get out of public speaking for a little while as to help out with the testing. This won’t be a challenge for her, after all, and at least this time no one’s going to die on her, right?

Wrong.

Fun story, and Huff is taking things in directions I never would have seen coming. All the Confederation novels are recommended.

Blood Angel by Justine Musk Some books are so unique and interesting that they stick in the mind and stay with you long after you’re done reading. Like them or hate them, you can’t forget them. This is not one of those books. At this remove from reading it, I couldn’t tell you what the hell it was about. There’s an artist, and a rock star who’s secretly evil (I know . . . what are the odds of that, eh?). And there is an angel of sorts, though I don’t remember it being made of blood, or representing blood, or anything like that. With a review like that, you know there’s no chance of my reading it again, or recommending that anyone else read it.

The Julius House by Charlaine Harris An Aurora Teagarden mystery. Roe’s getting married! And her fiance has given her the best possible present: the titular house. Roe being Roe, not only is it a lovely building, but it’s also the site of an unsolved mystery: an entire family simply disappeared one day, six years before. Mind you, Roe and her new husband barely know each other, and while he’s made the perfect shoice of gift there is stress on other levels. A fun, light mystery, and like the rest of the series, recommended.

Cruel Zinc Melodies by Glen Cook A Garrett novel. Garrett’s winter sleep is interrupted by the prospect of work. His sometime employer, Max Weiber, is building a theatre (theatres being hot in Tunfaire this year), but there are problems in the building process, that are causing delays. Things like giant bugs and ghosts. Garrett comes up with a plan to deal with the bugs, but ghosts are a bit beyond him. Maybe they’re just stories made up by lazy workers, or maybe there’s something buried deep under the theatre, something old and powerful and just now waking up from long centuries’s sleep . . . Highly recommended.

By the way, the Garrett series is long and all excellent, if you like this sort of thing, and they seem to have just reissued the whole thing. It starts with Sweet Silver Blues.

Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries? by Martin Gardner A collection of articles that were originally columns published in The Skeptical Inquirer. Brief, erudite, and entertaining, these are perfect casual or washroom reading. Recommended.

Red Hart Magic by Andre Norton Back in the 1970s, when the present trends in “Urban Fantasy” weren’t even conceivable, never mind conceived, Andre Norton was creating stories in which kids were finding quiet magic behind the scenes of the real world. Usually, the kids also resolve some personal issues while they’re at it. In this case, Chris and Nan are new step-siblings, staying with their aunt while their parents are on honeymoon. This means completely restructuring their lives, and they just don’t get along. One day, though, Chris finds a model of the Red Hart Inn for a reasonable price at the Salvation Army store. Soon both the kids are dreaming of tense times at the Inn in 17th-century England, even seeing the same events from different perspectives.

This isn’t my favourite of Norton’s Magic Books; that would be Fur Magic, but even Norton at her worst (which this is far from) is better than, say, Laurel K. Hamilton at her best.

Recommended.

The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins Dawkins explores the famous ‘tree of life’ model of evolution backwards, starting from the present and working back to the beginning, exploring each new branch as it ‘joins up’ with the path we’ve been following. There’s a deliberate invokation of the Canterbury Tales, hence the title. Very long book; cautiously recommended.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain; edited by Charles Neider It’s the autobiography of Mark Twain! Mark Twain‘s autbiography! Of course you want to read it!

The Orphan’s Tales Vol. II: In the Cities of Coin And Spice by Catherynne M. Valente Sequel to In the Night Garden, about which I raved. I rave about this one, too; it is as good as if not better than its predecessor. If you liked the first, you will like this one. Highly recommended.

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