Read Recently — December 2009

Bloody Good by Georgia Evans

It is World War II. The Blitz is on. In the small English village of Brytewood, Doctor Alice Doyle is overworked with just a nurse to help her take care not only of the villagers, but also the women and children evacuated from London and the workers at the munitions plant nearby. Fortunately, she’s about to get an assistant; unfortunately it’s Peter Watson, a handsome young man but also a Conscientious Objector, refusing to fight even while Alice’s own relatives are at risk in the forces.

There’s also the slight problem of the Nazi Vampire infiltrating her village as part of a plan to spread terror in Britain, but she doesn’t figure that one out for a while. Fortunately, not only will Watson, who is certainly not a coward, help her fight the vampire, but so will her Grandmother, who is part Pixie (and so, by default, is Alice) and the elderly Mr. Pendragon, who has secrets of his own. Along the way she will come to appreciate Watson, and he her, and the two of them will fall in love. And, for all that we’re supposed to take seriously the idea that Peter is hated for being an objector, aside from two minor characters who play almost no part in the story, and Alice’s short-lived contempt, everyone else in the book seems to understand the courage it takes to declare yourself and admires Peter for it.

So, really, if you’re in the mood for a light romance with no real tension to it, and a supernatural gloss, you could do worse than this one. On the other hand, if you were expecting something more about Nazi vampires, as I was, well . . . I mean, honestly, I was expecting that a story with Nazi vampires in it would have more, well, nazism. And vampirism. As it is, the vampire bites only one person, and makes a few of the livestock sick. He fails on the nazi front, too, since he makes one attempt at sabotaging the munitions plant and that attempt is defeated by a passing werefox (no, that comes right out of nowhere), and then he never tries again. And, while he makes two attempts at attacking the heroes, in both cases he’s driven off without them ever figuring out what it is that’s after them (and nobody gets hurt), and the final, climactic confrontation takes place in the last five pages of the book! I mean, that’s it. It doesn’t even take up the whole five pages. Boom, it’s over.

There are a couple of fairly explicit sex scenes that I just blipped over.

Overall, I’d hate to call this one Bloody Awful, but the real title is a double lie. Mildly not recommended.

MythOS by Kelly McCullough

Sequel to Webmage, Cybermancy, and Codespell. This time, as Raven goes about his efforts to repair Necessity, he’s accidentally zapped into another universe, along with his webgoblin Melchior and his sometime girlfriend, sometime enemy, the Fury Tisiphone. In this universe, the Norse gods are real and the Greek gods are myths. The essential nature of the universe is different, and all of their powers are lessened. And they come to the attention of both Odin and Loki. Can our heroes get back home again? Should they?

Fun, fun, fun. So far, McCullough has yet to strike a wrong note with me as far as this series goes. Highly recommended.

Daemons Are Forever by Simon R. Green

Sequel to The Man With The Golden Torc. This one finds Eddie in charge of the Drood family, trying to deal with the fact that most of the family has been depowered (Eddie’s fault) and looking for a way to re-establish their power without also coming to rule the world. Add to that the fact that they soon find themselves in battle with creatures that are basically the-great-old-ones-lite, and Eddie’s under a lot of stress . . .

So, as I said about The Unnatural Inquirer, here’s another Simon R. Green novel, pretty much the same as all the others. If you like that, and I do, then this book is recommended.

The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass

Rhiana Davinovitch is running away from trouble through Albuquerque’s downtown when we meet her. Sensitive Cop Richard Oort has been following the trail of blacked-out lights and failed electronics that Rhiana and her pursuers are leaving in their wake, which eventually leads him to them. Rhiana is being pursued by monsters, which Richard is able to deal with in a frankly rather brilliant fashion. Rhiana is some sort of minor wizard, as well as a physics major at the local university. The creatures were sent after her by magic, and Richard shouldn’t have been able to defeat them.

The two of them are taken in by a man named Kenntnis, who runs an organization called the Lumina. The Lumina, using “science, technology, and rational thought”, oppose the Old Ones and their irrationality and magic. If the Old Ones can shape current events properly, they can force open gates to their home universe and our world enters a new dark age. The Old Ones are every demon and god you’ve ever heard of. Yeah, that doesn’t go down well with Christian Richard Oort.

I was torn on this one. I mean, I like the idea of a fantasy novel in which, for once, science and reason are the good guys; on the other hand I didn’t really like most of the characters. Oort has a deep dark secret that you should be able to mostly guess as soon as he appears; Kenntnis is a pompous ass, though I wound up feeling sorry for him at the end, and Rhiana seems likely to get used and abandoned by everyone (though in fairness to Kenntnis he seemed ready to stand by her until something happens to him). There’s three or four other characters I haven’t even mentioned and while they all have their good points, they also all annoyed me. And it’s worth noting that while the book stands by science and technology, the gods and magic are real, so atheists are boned again.

I just generally didn’t like this one enough to recommend it, but it’s only mildly not recommended.

Urban Shaman: book one: the Walker papers by C. E. Murphy

I put off picking up this book for a long time, for a couple of reasons. First, it was only available in trade paperback, but that’s not a major problem if the book is good enough. Second, it’s from Luna and not by Michelle Sagara, so it was suspect. But it finally came out in mass-market paperback, and during a slow week for book-buying I picked it up. And last month I got around to reading it. And suprisingly, it’s pretty good.

Joanne Walker is flying home to Seattle on what turns into a literal red-eye flight (she left her glasses and contact-lens kit in her checked luggage, and now has been wearing her lenses for far, far too long) when she somehow sees from the airplane window a woman running from a pack of dogs towards a man with a balisong knife who seems, at a glance, to be waiting to attack her. When the plane lands, Joanne somehow convinces a taxi driver to take her out to the approximate area. There they find that the woman has escaped from her pursuers. Her name is Marie, she is a cultural anthropologist, and she has the ability to see when someone is going to die. Because of this, she is being pursued by the Wild Hunt (Celtic variety), because Cernunnos wants her for some reason (other than the fact that she is plainly gorgeous).

Joanne is half Native American and half Black Irish; her birth name was Joanne Walkingstick, while she has lived a rationalist life so far since leaving her Father and the Reservation, she is actually a Shaman and she now has only a few days to save the World from the Wild Hunt itself.

There is a subplot involving Joanne trying to keep her job after being absent for three months when she had only one month of vacation (she’s a cop–or, more accurately, she’s nominally a cop but sees herself more as a police mechanic, and is beloved by the officers of her precinct for her ability to keep their classic cars running), a problem exacerbated by her supervisor, the handsome and sarcastic Captain Morrison. Add in a lot of charming secondary characters and, well, you have what makes this book so good: a well-sketched world, filled with good characters, supporting a strong story.

Highly recommended.

Valor’s Trial: a Confederation novel by Tanya Huff

This is the last of the “Valor” novels, but not the last appearance of Torin Kerr, we are assured. It is, however, the last of my signed T. Huff books from last summer. In it, newly promoted to Gunner Sergeant Kerr is at last re-united with Sh’quo Company, just in time to head into battle. And, apparently, die in battle, as the Company and their opponents are all seemingly vapourized by a new weapon of the Others. Craig Ryder, her lover, refuses to believe she’s dead, but he’s almost alone in that–everyone knows that the Others don’t take prisoners.

Except it seems that they do, because Torin wakes up in a cave, part of a series of caves, filled with Marines thought lost in battle. Their needs are mysteriously taken care of and they seem, in Torin’s newly arrived opinion, to have forgotten how to be Marines. Can even the legendary Sgt. Kerr knock everybody into shape and escape in time to save them all?

You know I’m going to recommend this highly.

Bury Me Standing: the Gypsies and their journey by Isabel Fonseca

During the 80s and 90s, Isabel Fonseca actually lived with some of the gypsies of Eastern Europe, and visited a lot of others she didn’t live with. This book is the result. Interesting, informative, and readable.


Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams: the early years 1903 – 1940 by Gary Giddens

The first half of a biography of Bing Crosby.

Aside from the stuff specifically on Bing, one thing that struck me as interesting is that his early life and career basically runs alongside the development of the music industry. And it seems that their aversion to newness isn’t, itself, new: before the twenties they were opposed to the sale of phonographs because they thought it would cut into their earlier business of selling sheet music; and once they accepted records they were opposed to letting them be played on the radio, fearing that would cut into their sales. There is nothing new under the sun.

The book itself is mildly recommended, and mostly for biography fans or Bing Crosby fans. Or both.


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