Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer reading

This is a fun reading season known for books that are impossible to put down. Not necessarily literary masterpieces, but often more than pulp fiction. But really it is whatever suits your mood, day, location. A book for the beach is different from the book for the hammock; the book for the rainy day doesn't always fit the summer afternoon. What's in the NYTimes best seller list isn't what calls you from the library shelves. And sometimes only a classic will do. And heaven knows what you will find at the library book sales or the yard sales at this time of year!

After a few crazy, gripping, exhausting, compelling books, I was delighted to have a gentle paced, absorbing read by Canadian author Susanna Kearsley Season of Storms. This would have been perfect for a Sunday afternoon in a hammock, if I'd had one. I love this author, and applauded her recent awards for The Firebird. I am hard pressed to chose a favourite, and recommend all: perhaps it is best to read them in order if you can find them! Mariana (1994), Spendour Falls (1995), Shadowy Horses (1997), Named of the Dragon (1998), Season of storms (2001), Winter Sea (2008), Rose Garden (2011), Firebird (2013). (A Desperate Fortune is expected 2015). I truly enjoy her Scottish characters in her most recent books, and her well researched historical details. Her historical novels often have paranormal elements, with a gentle love story.  She has also written classic style thrillers as Emma Cole (Every Secret Thing, 2006).  Season of Storms is soon to be (re?) released August /September 2014.

This book, Season of Storms,  takes place primarily in the villa Il Piacere, near Lake Garda, Italy, and is modeled after the grand home Il Vittoriale of the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio.  I loved the brief but historical details of London and Venice which set the stage for the drama that was to unfold. I enjoyed the foray into the theatre world, for the accurate portrayal of stars, old and new, the staging descriptions, the hard work involved in finding the character and the intriguing personalities, politics, and egos of the cast. There is a nice balance of family, again old and new, each contributing clues to the slowly revealing story (the mystery is always backseat in this plot). In addition, the historical elements of the mystery surrounding the first play 70 years prior add to the overall story.

This is not a fast paced mystery / thriller.
This is not necessarily a page turner, thrilling read.
This is not similar to her most recent paranormal historical books.
But it is a lovely, well written, atmospheric novel that will provide you with a strong sense of place, both of romantic Italy and the theatre world. This novel reminded me of Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael and Madam will you Talk. This is a wonderful thing as I sincerely miss her writing (and if it's any indication by the number of individuals and book clubs to which I have recommended Kearsley, many people miss Stewart and have leapt at a new author!). If you like this gothic suspense style, read on!
I hope the popularity of this author makes people more aware of other, earlier novelists: Anya Seton, Daphine du Maurier, Barbara Erskine, Barbara Michaels, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Elizabeth Harris.
It's a new book if you haven't read it!

NetGalley ARC
4 stars (five because it perfectly suited my mood/day)

Summer Reads

And then I was asked what was on my to be read pile.
Susanna Calkins From the Charred Remains
Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See
Martha Grimes Vertigo 42
Susan Elia Macneal Prime Minister's Secret Agent
Carol McCleary No Job for a Lady
Lauren Owen The Quick
Jill Paton Walsh The Late Scholar
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter The Long Mars

Non fiction
Tim McGrath Give Me A Fast Ship

But I dropped everything as soon as Deborah Harkness' The Book of Life was in my hands. I finished it in the middle of the night, was bereft that the story had ended (especially as I want to know more about several characters: Gallowglass where are you!?), then went back and reread it savoring every word. That helped me let the story go, become a book again, instead of what I was living through. I also bought the hardcover book to read again after a friend finishes it and we discuss it. And yes, I will probably read the entire series again.

Several ARC books have arrived
Robin Hobb Fools Assassin
Susanna Kearsley Season of Storms
David Liss Atonement

Book Quote:
"It is the despair of book- lovers that they cannot read all the good books and it is their delight constantly to discover new ones. " Burton Rascoe

What's ahead?
Hysterically a Benedict Cumberbatch calendar is available on September 1st! Followed shortly by a Bio by Justin Lewis.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Farseer Rabbit Hole

How did I never read Robin Hobb? Recently I fell down the Farseer rabbit hole and disappeared for several days, because once I understood this was a continuation, I had to read ALL of those books. GRR Martin recommended, and I agree.
I was thumbing through the NetGalley ARCs and was drawn to this cover. Knowing none of the prehistory I was immediately cast into this well written, thought provoking story. I often wondered what a rich and varied past led this intricate man to this point in his life. To discover there was a trilogy was like discovering Terry Pratchett for the first time. I am not sorry I started at the end, with Fitz a grown man as the early tales have a lot of teen angst and messy life choices (sometimes I think girls are just smarter!).  I can't wait to read the next two installments because yes, there are cliff hangers. She loves these characters.

Robin Hobb is the second pen name for Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden (also Megan Lindholm). (If your in London in August she will be sharing a stage, in conversation with GRR Martin!) She has been writing tremendous, imaginative, award winning science fiction and fantasy for over twenty years. In addition to the Farseer trilogy, there are the Liveship  Traders trilogy and the Rain Wilds chronicles. She has a wonderful imagination and clear, detailed writing which captures your attention. There is action, drama, torment, love, family, dragons, magic, and new worlds to explore. I have warned you that you will lose a few days reading!

Fitz (FitzChivalry) is a royal bastard, former King's assassin now living a quieter life as Tom Badgerlock, with the love of his life Molly. But Tom/Fitz has the Wit, the dangerous ability to touch minds. His previous world collides with his new life and the adventure begins anew. I was delighted with the addition of his new daughter, watching her character develop and slowly reveal secrets.  She is definitely her father's daughter.  There is a rich cast with diverse characters, more so with the history of the earlier trilogy. Concepts of loyalty and honour, steadfast love and friendship bonds, good and evil provide counterpoint. Not every battle is won, but they are bravely fought (or not with wisdom). And you discover what matters in life. The story is well paced, richly detailed, multi-layered and full of developing characters. This promises to be a satisfying and unforgettable serious fantasy series.

If you like Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, Kristin Cashore, GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind: You will love this series. Her early work is especially suitable for teenagers (YA). There's still a lot of summer reading left!
Received as a NetGalley ARC
4.5 stars
Not a full fifth star because I like stories in series that are complete in themselves. People often read slower as they get to the end of a book because they don't want the fantastic story to end. I felt it couldn't end. And no doubt I have to wait until the end of the trilogy. I had not read Hobb before but she is now on my favourite list.

Summer mysteries

I love a good mystery, and many of my favourite authors have extended series. Three recent books are interesting page turners which keep you guessing. I have to caution you to read these in order though, so if you don't know these great authors, you're in for a treat (and a lot of summer reading!) These also have some brutal moments not for the faint of heart.

Field of Prey by John Sandford is the 24th installment of the Lucas Davenport series. It's all there, the same cast, the same plot, still in Minnesota, but the same scary suspense that keeps you reading to the end. It won't disappoint his loyal following, but some days I am glad I no longer live in Minnesota.  This time the violence was a bit over the top for me and there were a few glaring holes/oddities. While I enjoyed the character development of Letty, his daughter, (to the point where I suspect she will be the main character?!) it was hard to believe she was allowed on site. I didn't find many moments of comic relief and a more than a few odd details (really Lucas? Karma?).  I enjoy the Flowers series more, even with similar depressingly accurate criminal tendencies. This felt like watching the new Fargo: too real and too unpleasant. But hundreds of five star reviews on amazon.

And why aren't there hundreds of five star reviews for Christopher Brookmyre mysteries?! His intense police procedurals take place in Glasgow Scotland with two principle characters: DS Catherine McLeod and PI Jasmine Sharp. The third in the series Bred in the Bone has just been published (read Where the Bodies are Buried and When the Devil Dances!) and is an excellent, clever and intelligent mystery, well researched, perfect portrayal of Glasgow criminal underworld (not as dark as Denise Mina's mysteries) and has a fine sense of black comedy/humor. The Glasgow patter/slang may confuse you a bit, but it is an accurate, insightful portrayal mixing social commentary, politics and riveting action.  I find the complex plots rewarding, but the character development also makes reading them in order important. "This is Glasgow, we don't do subtle." I love the writing and language, at home with blether, craich, wee dram, jakey, polis, dodgems, and the places (Dunfermline's Alhambra, Crammond, spooky woods and the steamie).
 "...Beware the vengeance of a patient man."
"When you're living in a jungle, it helps if you have friends among the predators."
If you like Ian Rankin or Val McDermid, both top notch Scottish crime writers, you will enjoy this. And he has written a number of other books (I love his titles too- e.g Quite Ugly One Morning).

And then there are series that have made the move to television.   The 8th Walt Longmire mystery is also now in bookstores, and season 3 is on A&E. And while I am addicted to the program, I love the books. I think Any Other Name is Craig Johnson's best yet. Really. BUT with the character development and overlapping cases, you should read this series in order. This time he is helping his crusty old boss (still with pistol in hand) Lucian Connally solve a suicide of a friend/colleague, but he has a crucial deadline to solve it before the birth of his first grandchild. I love Walt's idiosyncrasies, the deadpan humor, the walking encyclopedia, and Dog. And while bad things happen, there is a warmth and sense of humanity that made this a great reading experience. And it is much better than the tv.
Walt is the stuff of Wyoming legend and this book doesn't disappoint on any page.

When did Dog become part dire wolf? Is everyone reading game of thrones? He's also a pet Kodiak (-and Smokey's evil twin, at least when eating ham). "They say dogs have a vocabulary of about 20 words, and I was pretty sure seventeen of  Dog's were ham."

"You're the first one to still be standing after that." (Cast waffle iron to to the head)
"I shrugged down the rest of my iced tea like Phillip Marlowe."
"She was worse when she had all her teeth."
"Every time you lie to me, I get the urge to finish writing this ticket."
Don't you think scars make better stories than tattoos? If that.s he case the  I've got a whole library on me. I've read it and I really liked the ending."
"She reached over and took a piece of my bacon, along with a little bit of my heart."
"Did I just see you imitate a buffalo? Don't quit your day job."
"You will stand and see the bad. The dead will rise and the blind will see."
"He was a hit man- not exactly somebody you'd find in Craigslist."

2013 reading list

It's a new book it you haven't read it!

Several people have reminded me I have been remiss in not publishing my book list for 2013, especially as they are catching up on summer reading. So for their records (printed out and stored in book journals) here it is. I was surprised to see how many books I had read as I felt it was far fewer than previous years with moving states and other journeys. I was not surprised to see how many are continuations by favorite authors. And I am still waiting for several installments (Rothfuss and Martin especially, but there are only a few days to go til Deborah Harkness' Book of Life!).
* denote special reading pleasures for me in an attempt to provide "the top 10 only please."

Books 2013.
Emily Cory Barker Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Alison Bechdel Fun House
Jaques Bonnet Phantoms of the Bookshelves
C. Alan Bradley Ms Sherlock
Daniel James Brown Boys in the Boat
Gordon Campbell The Hermit in the Garden
Mark Edmonson Why Read
Tim Federle Tequila Mockingbird
**AA Gill To America with Love
Josh Hanagarne The World's Strongest Librarian
Tracy Kiddder Richard Todd Good Prose
*Verlyn Klinkenborg Several Short Sentences on Writing
Bill McKibbon Wandering home
William Least Heat Moon Here, There, Elsewhere
Charlie leDuff Detroit, an Autopsy
*Doris Kearns Goodwin The Bully Pulpit
Rachel Maddox Drift
Solomon Northup 12 Years a Slave
Bobby Orr Orr: My Story
Michael Palin The Truth
James Pennebaker The Secret Lives of Pronouns
Nathaniel Philbrick Bunker Hill
*Tom Reiss The Black Count
*Mary Roach Gulp
Callum Roberts Unnatural History of the Sea
David Shields How Literature Saved my Life
**Amy Stewart Drunken Botanist, The Last Bookstore In America
EO Wilson Letters to a Young Scientist
Kate Atkinson Life After Life
Jo Baker Longbourn
Patricia Bracewell The Midwife's Tale
Paula Brackston Winter Witch, Witches of the Blue Well, Witch's Daughter
Caleb Carr Legend of Broken
Jon Cohen The Man in the Window (Nancy Pearl)
Lynn Cullen Mrs Poe
PS Duffy The Cartographer of No Mans Land
Tatiana deRosnay The House I Loved
Terry Fallis Best Laid Plans, High Road, Up and Down
Margaret Fox A Dark Heart
Lee Fulbright The Angry Woman Suite
**Neil Gaiman Ocean at the End of the Lane
Tracy Guzeman The Gravity of Birds
Benjamin Hale The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
Mark Helprin In Sunlight and Shadow
*Susanna Kearsley Firebird, Shadowy Horses
Brian Kimberling Snapper
Jill Lepore Book of Ages
Jennifer McMahon The Winter People
Colum McCann Transatlantic
Adam McOmber The White Forest
Suzanne Rindell The Other Typist
James Salter All That Is, Last Night
Mary Sharratt Illiminations
Kathleen Shoop After the Fog
AMSmith Unusual uses of Olive Oil
ML Stedman The Light between the Oceans
Donna Tartt The Goldfinch
Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector
Nancy Bilyeau The Crown, The Chalice
Chris Bohjalran The Light in the Ruins
Kristen Callihan Darkest London series
Ruth Downie Semper Fidelis
Dan Fesperman The Double Game
Felix Francis Refusal
Charles Finch The Old Betrayal, Death in Small Hours
Christopher Fowler The Invisible Code
Alex Grecian The Black Country
Barbara Hamilton Abigail Adams series
CS Harris What Darkness Brings
Tessa Harris Silkstone mysteries
John Harwood The Asylum
Craig Johnson A Serpents Tooth, Spirit of Steamboat
Emma Jameson Something blue
**Sarah Jio Morning Glory, the Last Camellia, Violets of Winter
**Laurie King Bones of Paris
Anna Lee Huber Mortal Arts
Charlie Lovett The Bookman's Tale
Stuart McBride Flesh House
*Susan Elia MacNeal His Majesty's Hope
Michaela MacCole Prisoners of the Palace
Becky Masterman A Rage against Dying
Oliver Patzsch The Beggar King
Anne Perry Blind Justice, The Scroll
Thomas Perry The Boyfriend
Jutta Profijt Morgue Drawer (series)
Deanna Raybourn Far in the Winds
Kathy Reichs Bones Of the Lost
Imogen Robertson Island of Bones, Paris Winter
MJ Rose The Book of Lost Fragrances
John Sandford Storm Front
AMSmith Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
Anthony Neil Smith All The Young Warriors
Olen Stenhauer
Charles Todd Question of Honor, Proof of Guilt
**Jacqueline Winspear Leaving Everything Most Loved
Novella/ short stories
Diane Chamberlain The First Lie
John Connolly Wanderer in Unknown Realms
Karen Russell Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Jessica Brockmole Letters from Skye
Amy Sackville Ornkey
**Ian Rankin Standing in Another Man's Grave
AD Scott A Double Death on the Black Isle
AMSmith Trains and Lovers
Kate DiCamillo Flora and Ulysses
***Rachel Hartman Seraphina
Naomi Novik Blood of Tyrants
Lemony Snickett All the Wrong Questions, the Dark
Sherwood Smith Crown Duel, prequels
John Connolly The Creeps
Kathy Reichs Shift
Cynthia Voigt Mister Max
Shelly Adina Lady of Devices
Anne Bishop Black Jewels
Book quote:
The books we think we ought to read are poky, dull, and dry;
The books that we would like to read we are ashamed to buy;
The books that people talk about we never can recall;
And the books that people give us, oh, they're the worst of all. Carolyn Wells