Books of the Week:
- Pack of Strays, Dana Cameron
- Brazen, Kelley Armstrong
- Beneath the Dark Ice, Greig Beck
- Watcher in the Shadows, Geoffrey Household
Just about anyone who knows me knows that Dana Cameron is one of my best friends. So you know I’m going to love her work, and Pack of Strays is well worth your reading time. This is Dana’s second Fangborn book – in the Fangborn world, werewolves, vampires, and seers are dedicated to helping humanity – but of course, this isn’t going to go smoothly, since they must keep their existence secret. Zoe Miller, an archaeologist, is a newly self-discovered Fangborn who’s had the misfortune to open Pandora’s Box. She has plenty of enemies to battle now: evil politicians who will reveal the existence of her race, and the Order of Nicomedia, who just wants to wipe out the Fangborn. There’s action and conflict aplenty for any urban fantasy lover.
Kelley Armstrong’s Brazen is a fun read for any Armstrong enthusiast (I am one, of course). Nick Sorrentino, the Casanova of the Pack, has to team up with part-demon Vanessa Callas to track packleader Jeremy Danver’s psychotic dad Malcolm. Along the way, Nick is able to show Vanessa he’s a fighter as well as a lover, and she’s able to relax with him enough to discover her inner female. Brazen is a short, fun, novel that expands on Armstrong’s wonderful Women of the Underworld series.
Beneath the Dark Ice is like an action movie caught in words. It’s high adventure, and if you’re in the mood for an action book, this is the one you should pick up. Scientists and commandos are sent on a mission together to the Antarctic, where a plane has crashed into a hitherto unsuspected cave system. Within twenty four hours, all contact with the survivors has been lost. Of course there’s a manly leader (Captain Alex Hunter) and a womanly scientist (petrobiologist Aimee Weir) who are attracted to each other while trying to survive all sorts of awful creatures.
Every now and then I just have to read Geoffrey Household. With an amazing economy of words and lots of hinted-at depths in his characters, Household gives us genuine tension in the most unlikely settings. In post-WWII Britain, reclusive zoologist Charles Dennim, who had a most interesting war, is tracked by a killer who wants nothing more than to end Dennim’s life in the most painful way possible . . . for exactly the wrong reason. An amazingly spare story, Watcher in the Shadows is everything a suspense novel should be.
There are books that are deep and wonderful and rouse great feelings in their passages. There are books that are fun and delightful and entertain you greatly for a certain duration. And there’s nothing wrong with loving both. I read a book recently that was so excellent, so fraught with tension and truth, that I couldn’t think what to read afterward. So I picked up a cozy, a conventional mystery, and was perfectly happy with its crafting motif against which is stacked a murder. Why not? There’s no rule that states that every book we read has to change our lives, or our politics, or our social outlook.
I’ve run up against all too many scornful readers, the kind who think that if you’re not reading a book in which a detective comes up against many ignorant and socially backward antagonists, you’re not reading anything worth the paper it’s printed on . . . especially if the ending is unambiguous and satisfying. I don’t prefer one over the other; it’s whatever I’m in the mood for.
I don’t listen to the same kind of music all the time, either. Why this militance over reading material?
It seems there’s always a brouhaha in the reading world, when some literary lion condescends to visit the genre ghetto, or when some genre writer soars and “transcends the genre,” as if that was something utterly desirable. And then there’s infighting between the knights of noir and the constables of cozy. And they all band together to deride the sameness of romance and joke about the covers.
Perhaps musicians do this, too. Maybe country fiddlers mock orchestra violinists, and ukulele players laugh at both. And I’m sure classical ballet dancers have a few things to say about hip-hop moves. To say nothing of the way portrait artists may feel about performance art.
I doubt this infighting will come to a stop any time soon. It seems very much like an episode of “Family Feud.” Who knows? Maybe the squabbling attracts spectators who will read/listen to/dance with/buy the art of one or more of the contestants . . . er, combatants.
Certainly, I’m not above getting a good mad on, as the Isabel Allende controversy proved.
In retrospect, it all seems a bit silly. All we artists are trying to make a living in a world in which fortune favors only a few. It might behoove us to drop our maces and swords (or teacups and petit fours) and concentrate on working harder, rather than swinging at each other.
On the other hand, who’s for a good brawl? Man, I can’t stand those game designers . . . or what about bassoon players? Weird!