Books & Blog: May 15, 2018

Books of the Week:

  • The Pisces, Melissa Broder
  • Barracoon, Zora Neale Hurston
  • She Rides Shotgun, Jordan Harper
  • Between Two Thorns and Any Other Name, Emma Newman
  • Anna Dressed in  Blood, Kendare Blake
  • Shadow’s Bane, Karen Chance
  • How to Marry a Werewolf, Gail Carriger

 

Imagine my surprise upon reading the jacket of The Pisces and recognizing the author photo. Melissa Broder, former Penguin employee and recognized poet, was my author escort during part of a long-ago tour. Now Melissa has written a celebrated book, and I was delighted to read it. If you were a fan of Mandy Stadtmiller’s Unwifeable, you will love The Pisces, and I think you’ll enjoy it even if you haven’t read Stadtmiller’s non-fiction book. Lucy, whose career and relationship with her boyfriend have both flatlined, is staying in Venice Beach, house sitting for her sister. She’s also trying a therapy group and taking care of a diabetic dog. Then, one night on the beach, she meets a very strange man who won’t get out of the water. Lucy makes many mistakes, but in the end I couldn’t help but empathize with her.

Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon is the long-ago written account Hurston made of her conversations with the last living former slave, Cudjo Lewis, who was nineteen when his tribe was conquered by the Dahomeys and sold into slavery. Lewis remembers some fascinating things about his tribal life before he came to America, and his accounts of his slavery are not detailed but they are horrifying. Lewis’s happy marriage and his children, some of whom died before him in sad ways, give the end of his life at least a patina of happiness. This is really something you should read.

Jordan Harper’s She Rides Shotgun is full of suspense, choices both good and bad, and an unforgettable couple – Polly McClusky, 11, shy and withdrawn, and her ex-convict father, Nate McClusky, who arrives one day to abduct Polly after school. Nate’s made an implacable enemy in prison, one with long arms, and he and Polly are both marked for death. What happens to them in the course of Nate’s attempt to get out from under the death sentence is grip-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting and scary.

Emma Newman is a new discovery of mine. It’s a great time to make that discovery, since I have several books to read in The Split Worlds series. Here’s the jacket explanation: “Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters.” Our protagonist, Cathy, has escaped from the strict social structure and confining garments of the Nether and made a life for herself in Mundanus, but she’s caught and returned to her family. Amid several plot threads, Cathy is the character I tended to follow. Despite her occasional graceless grumpiness and immaturity, Cathy is resourceful and kind at heart, and there is a lot of good in her. I look forward to reading the rest of Newman’s story.

I had to read Anna Dressed in Blood because I loved the title so much. Kendare Blake has written a YA book about a teenager whose destiny is to track destructive ghosts and kill them a second time, for good. I won’t give anything away, but this is a good read, a little frightening, a little bloody.

To my great delight, an editor sent me Karen Chance’s Shadow’s Bane. I am a  huge Karen Chance fan, and I was pretty excited to find out what happens to Dorina Basarab, whose life as a loathed dhampir has been so hard. Now she’s been appointed a senator in the vampire court and she has a lover, Louis-Cesare. You’d think Dory was set. But absolutely not. Karen Chance writes non-stop disaster, and this book, where Dory is sent to investigate a fey slavery ring, is no exception… thank goodness.

If you’ve read Gail Carriger before, you’re familiar with her world, where travel is by dirigible, vampires and werewolves (at least in England) are high in society, and young women are supposed to do as they’re told. Somehow, Carriger’s heroines never do, of course. In How to Marry a Werewolf, the loathsome parents of the lovely, disgraced, Faith send her to England to find a werewolf husband, since her parents deem her not fit for human consumption, so to speak. How Faith fares in England makes for a really fun read. I always enjoy Carriger’s books. They make me feel optimistic.

Blog

 I just had a visit from Jean Leggett of One More Story Games. Jean, her husband Blair, and their company have been working on an interactive game based on the first Lily Bard book, Shakespeare’s Landlord. I get the impression from listening to Jean that game-designing is like making a television show or movie, in some respects. It may not take a cast of thousands, but it takes a lot of specialized moving parts, each represented by a different person, to make the whole thing come together.

Since this writer works by herself and loves it, that is an alien work-form to me. I’m used to being the master of my fate and the captain of my career, so to speak. Of course, I’ve got an agent, and he’s very important in my professional life. And for the past few years, I’ve had book-to-screen agents on the left coast. But generally, as far as producing the actual product, I’m the woman who does the job.

Jean’s an enthusiastic and intelligent woman, and her company is fun. I think I learned a lot. I played the game, as far as it has been completed, and I represented Average Computer-Stupid Gamer (if there is such a thing) so Jean could test the game’s successes and weaknesses thus far. I played my part to perfection. I do play computer games, though my husband disparagingly says I like match three and hidden object games, as though those were somehow a little below par. If they are, I don’t know it. I have a good time, and I think playing helps my brain keep moving.

I’m hoping the Lily Bard game will be available by September, and you’ll all get to check it out. I’ll keep you posted.

Now back to “Cradle of Egypt.”

Charlaine Harris