Tag Archives: Jeaniene Frost

February 19, 2014

Books of the Week:

 

  • Up from the Grave, Jeaniene Frost
  • Dead Harvest, Chris F. Holm
  • The Nero Wolfe books, Rex Stout
  • The Girl with all the Gifts, M.R. Carey

Jeaniene Frost ended her hugely popular Cat and Bones series with a great bang. Up from the Grave contains revelation after revelation, a loose end or two, and a satisfyingly happy ending for Catherine, the Red Reaper, and her handsome vampire sire and lover, Bones, who literally sail off into the sunset with . . . but I’m  not going to give away any spoilers, here. There are moments of great tension, and of course a lot of bloodshed and explosions, before Cat and Bones make their world as right as they can.

 

Dead Harvest (Chris F. Holm) has an unusual premise, which is not uncommon for an urban fantasy novel – the protagonist collects souls. That’s his job. He does this in payment for a debt, and he never doubts that what he does is necessary. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a girl, he believes her to be innocent and the collection a mistake. Sam Thornton defies authority and refuses, and (almost literally) all Hell breaks loose. In a complicated and grim plot, Sam jumps from body to body in his attempt to keep the girl free. This is the first in a series.

 

Everyone who loves mysteries knows the name Rex Stout. Stout, the son of Quakers and a mathematical genius, turned to writing mysteries at an early age. The character of the eccentric private detective, Nero Wolfe, is iconic.  Wolfe, an orchid fancier, never leaves his brownstone unless there’s a terrible crisis, and he’s proud of his quirks and unashamed that he’s fat. His cook, Fritz, and his gardener, Theodore, live in the brownstone, too, along with Archie Goodwin, the younger, active, and brash private eye who does the legwork and interprets women to the misogynistic Wolfe. You can’t read just one Rex Stout – when you begin, they go down like potato chips. I read four in quick succession, and enjoyed every word. I read Three Men Out, The Rubber Band, and The Red Box.

 

The Girl with all the Gifts will be out here in JUNE. You should pre-order this book. It’s my literary grandchild, and I am bursting with second-hand pride. Toni Kelner and I asked M. R. Carey to contribute a story for the anthology, “An Apple for the Creature.” He sent us “Iphigenia in Aulis,” and I don’t think we changed a word of it. This story was nominated for several awards, and though it didn’t win any, Carey got a movie offer. He wrote a full-length book based on the characters in the story: Melanie, a little girl in a unique internment camp, her school teacher, Miss Justineau, and Sergeant Parks, who is in charge of keeping Melanie and the other pupils restrained. Melanie is a genius. She is also other things. I won’t reveal any of the other surprises about this brilliant book, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it.

 

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After being so indignant about Isabel Allende and bad announcers, I seem to have gotten over being angry for a while. And high time. I went to Boskone last weekend, a long-running science fiction convention held annually in Boston in February. Yes, Boston in February – doesn’t sound logical, does it? And sure enough, I had to fly in a day early to avoid a possible blizzard. So in the Riverfront Westin, I watched a snowfall the likes of which this southern girl has never seen. To add to my entertainment, it also sleeted and rained. I had a wide variety of weather events to choose from.

 

Boskone itself was very well organized and run by excellent people (and in a very comfortable hotel with a great staff). I had a great time on my several panels, and met some people I’d only heard about before, like Melinda Snodgrass, who knows so much about television writing and so many other mediums that it’s simply incredible. I also got to reconnect with friends, including Dana Cameron, Toni Kelner (Leigh Perry), Brendan DuBois, Seanan McGuire (Mira Grant), and Nancy Holder, as well as talk to my long-time agent, Joshua  Bilmes, and my long-time editor, Ginjer Buchanan.

 

Not completely to my surprise, but to my dismay, Ginjer told me she has plans to retire. I hope she has great fun creating a new life not built around work. She and husband John Douglas will have a fine time visiting relatives at their own leisure.

 

For me, this means change is in the offing. I’ve had Ginjer longer than any other editor. Change is the only thing that’s permanent.

 

I came home from 22-degree Boston to 72-degree Dallas, and the head cold from Hell. My husband had bought me pink roses for Valentine’s Day, and to my astonishment, a new television set for our room. A combination of the romantic and the practical. What a surprise. I hope all of you had pleasant surprises on Valentine’s Day.

 

Charlaine Harris

January 31, 2014

Books of the Week:

 

  • Jane and Prudence, A Few Green Leaves, An Academic Question, An Unsuitable Attachment, Barbara Pym
  • The Cat and Bones books by Jeaniene Frost
  • Indexing, Seanan McGuire

As you can see, I continued my Barbara Pym binge. There are minor characters who pop up in many of the books, and they are fun to meet over and over; and some of the main characters from a previous book also are glimpsed in later books. Pym is at her funniest and most honest when she reveals peoples’ true reactions to the same events. I wonder how she saw the future of her most unlikely couple, Ianthe Broome and John Challow. Pym books are a series of small delights.

 

The Cat and Bones books are far steamier fare, but they’re written with style and verve and an attention to being true to character. Many, many people have enjoyed this series about Catherine, the Red Reaper, and her vampire lover, Bones. I could never stand Cat’s mom, Justina, and I’ve always had issues with her, but the irony of her becoming the thing she hated most – a vampire – and then being such a good one, is not lost on me. From being a damaged child and an endangered teenager, Cat becomes the strongest woman around, which is absolutely satisfying. I’m still reading the earlier books before I read the last one in this excellent series.

 

Indexing, which Seanan McGuire originally presented chapter by chapter, proved hard for me to get into at first. McGuire is a mistress of world building, but I had only a tenuous grasp of this one in the opening of the book. McGuire gives us a world in which fairy tales come true over and over, where a small task force must keep the narrative contained to avoid the general populace being swept up in the consequences. Or simply to keep it secret? I wasn’t sure. The main character, Henrietta (Henry), is a potential Snow White, and her muscle, Sloane, is a potential Evil Stepsister. Like all McGuire books, there are touches of humor and not a little suspense and outright fear, as Henry gets caught up in a place where all the previous Snow Whites are trapped in a snowy wood. Any McGuire is worth reading!

 

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Isabel Allende, originally from Chile and now living in San Francisco, is a bestselling literary author. I know many, many people who admire her intensely, and I am sure this is deserved. By all accounts, she is a great writer. But as far as the mystery community is concerned, she put her foot into her mouth in a major way.

 

She thought she would write a mystery “as a joke.” Though I don’t want to put words into Allende’s mouth, to me this translates: I’m so amazingly ‘literary’ that condescending to write a genre novel is incredibly funny.

 

This is a quote from her NPR interview:

 

“The book is tongue in cheek. It’s very ironic … and I’m not a fan of mysteries, so to prepare for this experience of writing a mystery I started reading the most successful ones in the market in 2012. … And I realized I cannot write that kind of book. It’s too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there’s no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people. Very entertaining, but really bad people. So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke. My sleuth will not be this handsome detective or journalist or policeman or whatever. It will be a young, 16-year-old nerd. My female protagonist will not be this promiscuous, beautiful, dark-haired, thin lady. It will be a plump, blond, healer, and so forth.”

 

There are a lot of factual errors in this statement. There are quite a few mysteries with young protagonists (can you say “Flavia de Luce”?) There are many, many mysteries that do not have promiscuous thin women as protagonists. And most mystery protagonists are NOT bad people. They are driven to solve problems, to seek justice, to right wrongs, to save the innocent. Admittedly, they may do bad things in the course of achieving their goals. But many do not. In limiting herself to bestsellers, Allende left untouched a huge body of work that would have informed her vision more fully: because the mystery genre is ALL about redemption.

 

Allende’s book is Ripper, and before I read the interview, I considered buying it. But having devoted my professional life to genre literature, I don’t think I will. So, am I coming down too heavily on Isabel Allende? As a writer who’s been misunderstood a lot(!), maybe I should have more tolerance for her poor choice of words. And probably, after a week, I’ll just shrug and forget it. After all, it’s not like my opinion will make any difference to Isabel Allende. But I still don’t think I’ll buy the book.

 

Charlaine Harris