Books Blog: November 30, 2017

I’ve been really remiss (for several reasons) in writing a blog lately. Now I have so many books lined up to talk about, I’m just going to skip any of my opinions I was going to share, and get right to the important thing: the books.

 

  • Firebird, Mercedes Lackey
  • The Long and the Short of It, Jodi Taylor
  • Strange Practice, Vivian Shaw
  • The Girl at the End of the World, Richard Levesque
  • Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz
  • Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant
  • Deja Who and Deja New, MaryJanice Davidson
  • Plaster City, Johnny Shaw
  • Murder in an Irish Village, Carlene O’Connor
  • Weycombe, G.M. Malliet
  • Theft by Finding, David Sedaris

 

Just when I think I’m in too much of a reading rut, I see a list of things I’ve read and I realize that isn’t true. These are old and new, fantasy and mystery, fiction and non-fiction. I enjoyed all these books, or I wouldn’t mention them. Of course, some of them I enjoyed more than others. That’s just the nature of reading.

 

Mercedes Lackey’s Firebird is not a new book. But any book by Lackey is going to be well-written and original. This is retelling of the Russian fairytale, and its scamp of hero, Ilya, is the middle of eight sons of a tyrannical small-time tsar. IIya’s adventures eventually lead him to a magic castle with twelve sequestered virgins, and include outwitting a dragon and its creator. Never boring, always fun. Ilya is a scamp.

 

The Long and the Short of It is a collection of Jodi Taylor stories set at St. Mary’s, the institute devoted to (don’t say it) time travel. If you’re as devoted a fan as I am, this is a must read. There’s even a Christmas story! In a very weird way, of course.

 

I admit I didn’t expect to enjoy Strange Practice as much as I did. I’m almost allergic to stories in which a character is named Van Helsing. I gave it a shot, though, and I’m glad I read it. Strange Practice is original and delightful.  Dr. Greta Helsing lives in London and is a physician to the weird. (Even ghouls catch a cold, apparently.)  Greta has given up much of any private life, but she has a few friends, among them Edmund Ruthven, vampire. He’s her ally when oddly transformed monks begin popping out of the ground and murdering the supernaturals of London.  One of the blurbs on the back calls this book “Darkly delicious,” and I’d agree.

 

The Girl at the End of the World is both a YA and an adult book, set in Los Angeles after a fast-spreading plague, always fatal, fells a lot of the population of the city . . . and around the world. Scarlett Fisher, fifteen, loses her family and her neighborhood, because she is immune. Now she has to learn to fend for herself, and exercises all her practical nature in trying to stay alive. She makes mistakes, and they cost her, but Scarlett is maybe the most mature fifteen-year-old ever, and a determined survivor.

 

Anthony Horowitz’s The Magpie Murders is a book-within-a-book, and will delight readers of classical murder mysteries. Susan Ryeland, book editor, receives the manuscript of the latest book by her house’s bestselling author, Alan Conway. Over a free weekend (her lover is out of town) Susan indulges herself by delving into the book. She’s a real fan of Conway’s, though he’s an ass. But the last chapter is missing, and Conway is dead, and after reading the fictional murder, we are invited to join in investigating the real murder. You really can’t lose with this. It’s great fun.

 

I’m a Mira Grant fan, you know, and Into the Drowning Deep is both scary and suspenseful. I don’t know if you’ve read the story it’s based on, “Lovely Ladies of the Sea: The True Story of the Marianna Mermaids,” but you don’t have to know the story to read the book . . . but it enhances the narrative quite a bit. A new team goes to REALLY find out what happened to the Atargatis, found empty years before. They are all invested, for various reasons, in solving the mystery, but they never suspect that the same fate might be theirs.

 

MaryJanice Davidson’s new series (Deja Who and Deja New) is fun like all of her other work, with snappy dialog and self-references and people full of life. In this case, one of the live people can remember her past lives and see the past lives of those around her. Leah Nazir has a horrible mother, an interesting boyfriend, and life full of conflict. She makes the best of it, as an MJD heroine must.

 

Johnny Shaw is my favorite new author. Wow, can he write. I’m in awe. Dove Season was a wonderful book, and his second novel about the same characters, Plaster City, is just as riveting. His protagonist, Jimmy Veeder, is a complex good old boy, California version. Jimmy has an outstanding characteristic: he is loyal to his friends, no matter where they drag him, no matter how misguided or terrible their actions are. Of course, this gets Jimmy into a lot of trouble, and he is no stranger to taking a beating. But Jimmy always wants to do the right thing, and he works hard as a farmer and (almost) as a father, and he knows he is past his wild years. Except when he isn’t. In this novel, Jimmy’s best friend Bobby Maves’ daughter is missing. She’s fifteen, and she may want to be missing, but this time no one has heard from her, and something worse may have happened. So Bobby enlists Jimmy to help him track her down, and everything starts to unravel.

 

Carlene O’Connor’s novel Murder in an Irish Village is a whodunit with an unusual setting. Siobhan O’Sullivan is trying to keep her family together following the death of her parents, and that involves keeping their bistro open. When a dead man is discovered sitting in a chair in the bistro, a man they had reason to hate, the whole family comes under suspicion. Siobhan is almost reckless in her attempts to clear their name, but she is a charming character.

 

Weycombe is a stand-alone, not part of the celebrated priest/sleuth mysteries Malliet’s written before. American Jillian lives in a gated community in suburban Weycombe, and she’s surrounded by people who do not mean her well. When Jillian finds beautiful (and treacherous) real estate agent Anna dead beside a walking path, she becomes a prime suspect in Anna’s murder, especially since Jillian’s husband has been one of Anna’s conquests. Jillian herself is determined to uncover every secret on her cul de sac, and not one of them is pretty. A complicated and fascinating tale.

 

David Sedaris has made his living by being funny, sometimes mordantly so, about his childhood, his many odd occupations, and the very peculiar things people do. He’s observed it all, and in Theft by Finding, we get to smile, or be annoyed, or wonder at the human condition. Theft is Sedaris’s diary, and it’s interesting all the way through because of the sharpness of his observations.

 

Charlaine Harris