Tag Archives: Mira Grant

January 26, 2015

Books of the Week:

  • Nice, Jen Sacks
  • The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss
  • Dry Bones in the Valley, Tom Bouman
  • Symbiont, Mira Grant

Jen Sacks’s Nice came recommended by another member of Sisters in Crime. The description of it – “A girl hates breaking up with boyfriends, so she kills them” – just spoke to me. There’s a lot of truth in this novel. Grace has been raised to never argue or criticize. Consequently, she is pleasant to men she doesn’t really care for, and they get caught up in the illusion that she’s interested, and it ends very badly. Luckily for Grace, she meets the right man – another killer. Though I found a false note or two, this was such a delightful book that I’d like to read it over again for a second first time.

Patrick Rothfuss has been promising his anxious readers that he’d produce the third book in his Kvothe series. Instead, we have this ‘outtake’ book about Auri, the mysterious waif befriended by Kvothe. The Slow Regard of Silent Things tells us what Auri does in between her rooftop meetings with the magic student who is her only friend. If you’ve ever had a hint of OCD, you’ll empathize with Auri as she keeps the huge underground chambers beneath the college in order. This short book has its own kind of magic.

Dry Bones in the Valley is Tom Bouman’s debut mystery, and it’s been nominated for an Edgar Award. Henry Farrell has returned to his home town in Pennsylvania after the death of his wife, and falls into a job as Wild Thyme’s policeman. He has one deputy. He expects life to be easy, but it isn’t. Fracking is the county’s biggest industry. Meth may come in second. Farrell, shy and musical, watches his world fall apart when a body is found on a recluse’s land, and very soon after Farrell’s deputy dies. This is a challenging first novel.

Mira Grant (also known as Seanan McGuire) has written another intelligent, suspenseful, scientifically based novel. No big surprise! Symbiont is the second book about the characters we met in Parasitology, and it’s also no big surprise that their lives haven’t gotten any simpler or easier. The parasites that were first installed in humans to ward off common health problems have begun taking over their hosts. This is an oversimplification of a complicated plot, so please be sure and read Parasitology first.

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Patrick Rothfuss, Laurell K. Hamilton, various mystery writers . . . and to a certain extent, myself. What do we have in common? Pullouts. At least that’s how I think of think of work that’s not part of your main body of fiction, but deals with the same characters from another viewpoint.

I just finished The Slow Regard of Silent Things, a short book about one of the characters in Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle. And Laurell K. Hamilton has published several books that are focused on one or another side character in her famous Anita Blake series (the most recent is Jason).

One of my favorite mystery writers, Robert Crais, simply switched points of view in his Elvis Cole series to write about Joe Pike, Elvis’s friend and partner.  Bomb squad ace Carol Starkey has also gotten her own novel after appearing in an Elvis Cole story.

Speaking for myself, I suppose Dead but not Forgotten might be considered a series of pull-outs . . . just penned by other writers, about characters who’d appeared in my Sookie Stackhouse novels.

I don’t know if this happened very often in past decades. If you know of instances, please tell me. And I’m sure I’ve only skimmed the list of writers who are approaching this way of looking at their worlds.

I think that’s what this mini-trend reflects. It’s like flipping over a shiny thing you like, to see all aspects of it. If you think it’s so neat, maybe other people will, too. Besides, it’s your favorite shiny thing, and you hate to let go of it. And maybe you feel you have a lot more to say about it, too.

Those of you who are writers, have you ever considered doing this? Those of you who are readers, how do you feel about it?

Charlaine Harris

November 11, 2013

Books of the Week:

  • Parasite, Mira Grant
  • Longbourn, Jo Baker

The two books I read this week ended up taking me quite a while. Parasite andLongbourn are both well worth reading, and I didn’t want to skip over anything important. The books couldn’t be more different.

 

As anyone who’s followed this column know, I’m a huge fan of Seanan McGuire, who is also Mira Grant. Under any name, she’s an excellent writer and a very, very smart woman. Parasite is a scientific thriller that also succeeds as a human story. Sally Mitchell is on life-support and is about to be unplugged when she wakens with no memory of her past or her character. You may not be very fond of Sally, or Sal as she prefers to be called, but her parents are somewhat relieved to find out that the old devil-may-care wild child has become a completely different person. Not that Sal’s not emotional – she is. She cries and screams her way through the book, but under circumstances that are totally understandable. The corporation that saved her life with their parasite transplant is Up To No Good, as any reader will expect; and there are secrets to uncover and villains to foil. I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises of this excellent novel.

 

After the recent flood of novels and books centered on Jane Austen’s world, Longbourn was a quiet pleasure. It’s the story of “Pride and Prejudice” told from the servants’ point of view. To the elderly couple, the young maid, and the child who helps out, the arrival of a new young manservant is a matter of wonder and upheaval – especially to the maid, Sarah, an orphan. The servants have to make the lovely surface of Austen’s heroines’ world happen: they’re working from before sunup to after sundown to draw the baths, iron the garments, launder the garments, curl the hair, cook the meals, polish the brass, curry the horses for the carriage, wait outside in the cold for the girls of the house to be ready to leave the ball . . . a never-ending round of drudgery. But Sarah won’t have it. Having finally found a little happiness, she will not let it slip from her grasp. Longbourn is set belowstairs, but it’s full of the commonality of the human spirit.

 

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I went to see David Sedaris recently, and I had an excellent time. Those of you who are interested in modern essays will surely have read something of Sedaris’s, who writes often for The New Yorker and has published many bestselling books of essays and other pieces, mostly dealing with his (funny, painful, bitter, loving) upbringing as one of six children of a mother who became an alcoholic and father who was, to put it mildly, challenging. Sedaris himself cannot have been an easy child to raise, as he points out gleefully, since he had obsessive-compulsive disorder and gradually came to realize that he was gay.

 

“Me Talk Pretty One Day” is the first book of Sedaris’s I’d read, and it remains one of my favorites, while “When You are Engulfed in Flames” is perhaps even better. But I believe I’ve read almost everything he’s written, and even in his “off” books, there is something screamingly funny and screamingly painful.

 

Sedaris started signing before the event and he signed more after the event, so it must have been a very long evening for him – this was a tour with 40 events! – but he seemed to keep his balance throughout the whole hour “performance,” which consisted of reading a couple of essays and other pieces, plus tying them together with some reminiscences. It was as funny as you can possibly imagine. I laughed myself sick. His reading was followed by a brief Q &A segment. To my pleasure and relief, some of the questions he got asked are just as repetitive as the questions I get asked. It felt strange to be on the other side of the lights, but it was a real relief, too.Here’s my point – besides urging you, if you ever have a chance to see David Sedaris live, do it! – is that he spent a goodly portion of the evening touting someone else’s book. And this book was not at all humorous. It was “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,” by Barbara Demick, which explores the extreme difficulty and stress of trying to live in modern North Korea, under a regime as totalitarian as any ever devised. With grace and admiration, Sedaris said it was better than any book he would ever write, and urged all of us to buy it. In fact, he had it with his books in the lobby, to sell. I didn’t buy a copy in the lobby, but I have purchased one since.I consider Sedaris a fine, fine writer, maybe a great one, though since his field is self-deprecating humor – sometimes so scathing that he seems to be flaying himself in front of us – he may never get as much respect as he deserves. And now I admire him for his ardent advocacy of someone else’s book. It’s really satisfying to like both the writer and the man.

 

Charlaine Harris