Books:

  • Louisiana Longshot & Lethal Bayou Beauty,  Jana Deleon
  • Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan
  • Squeeze Me, Carl Hiaasen
  • Lucia in London/Mapp and Lucia and Queen Lucia/Miss Mapp, E. F. Benson
  • Emerald Blaze, Ilona Andrews
  • The Blacksmith Queen, G.A. Aiken
  • Queen’s Gambit, Karen Chance
  • Slippery Creatures, K.J. Charles
  • Troubled Blood, Robert Galbraith
  • The Enforcer Enigma: The San Andreas  Shifters, G.L. Carriger

I’ve been reading so much I can’t possibly mention everything, so I’m carrying some books over until next time. I have to write these columns more often! As I often remind people who enjoy reading this, I like every book I mention here, and I don’t talk about the ones I’ve read that I didn’t like. That having been said, there are many degrees of “liking” . . . but I’m not going to rank novels by degrees.

Jana Deleon’s “Miss Fortune” mysteries are fun: they’re over-the-top, short, bubbly, and have some incredibly snappy dialog. A trained CIA operative has to hide out in the tiny town of Sinful, Louisiana. She finds it’s run by incredibly savvy older women and has one handsome deputy. I think that gives you the essential elements to enjoy these books as much as I have been. You’ll enjoy the after-church sprint for banana pudding. (Where I lived, it was getting to the Blue and White café before all the chocolate pie was gone.) Start with Louisiana Longshot.

Rich People Problems is the third of Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy, though since apparently I can’t read numbers on book spines I didn’t know that. However, since I’d seen the movie, I knew who everyone was more or less, and I did enjoy this book a lot. It’s truly full of Rich People Problems.

I was glad to hear an interview with Carl Hiaasen on NPR, and delighted to hear he had a new book. If you’ve liked any of Hiaasen’s past books, which I think of as eco-mysteries, you’ll enjoy this one just as much. West Palm Beach, the Potussies (elderly rich women who adore the president), Burmese pythons, an animal capture expert named Angie Armstrong, and POTUS himself make this a richly satirical novel with a surprise around every corner. I loved Squeeze Me.

I also love books that carefully observe the tiny worlds of small towns and small people: not that Lucia Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp would ever consider themselves tiny. Both women are dictators in their own worlds in the 1920s-1930s. Even if those worlds are village-sized, we can still admire their chicanery and determination. Lucia’s scheming and careful manipulation of the people around her is worthy of a general, and Miss Mapp’s convoluted figuring makes me step back in awestruck admiration. Read Queen Lucia/ Miss Mapp first.

Along with a lot of other readers, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Emerald Blaze, Ilona Andrews’ latest Hidden Legacy novel. I ate it up much faster than I wanted to, because I just had to find out what happened, and now I have to wait for the next book. Aaaargh!

The Blacksmith Queen is GA Aiken’s twist on familiar fairy tale elements. There are no enormous surprises, but enough to keep you on your toes and tap-dancing. This was a fun book, and a delightful read.

And yet another queen in the title. Karen Chance’s latest Dorina Basarab novel, Queen’s Gambit, is full of action like all Karen Chance novels. If you haven’t read any of her Dorina books (they’re my favorites) you need to start earlier in the series. Dorina has a famous and frustrating father who has tried to raise the kill-at-sight dhampir to survive, but in so doing has split her nature. Dorina, who finally understands who and what she is, has her work carved out for her in this entry.

KJ Charles’ Slippery Creatures is an excellent mystery set in London after the Great War. Will Darling, a reader but rough, has inherited his uncle’s second-hand book store, which not only gives him a job but a place to live. But his uncle had some secrets, and Will is not only beset by a criminal gang, but the war office. Kim Secretan, a mysterious a suave gentleman turns up to help Will . . . possibly. They form a volatile relationship in a time that did not permit such a thing, and Will is kidnapped. Will Kim save him, or is his attachment a ruse? I enjoyed this book so much I’ve ordered the sequel.

Troubled Blood is Robert Galbraith’s  (better known by her other writing name, JK Rowling) latest Cormoran Strike/ Robin Ellacott mystery. I’m warning you, it’s over 900 pages long and I had to put it on a pillow to support it while I read. This might be a case to get out your e-reader. Its enormous length (and weight!) notwithstanding, I enjoyed it all. Cormoran and Robin (who is now going through a contentious divorce) take on their first cold case, and they have a year to solve it. Dr. Margot Bamborough disappeared on her way to join a friend at a pub twenty years before, and has not been seen or heard of since. Dr. Bamborough’s daughter wants to find out what happened to her mother and she has the money to pay for such an expensive investigation. Of course, this isn’t the only case the agency is handling, and Cormoran’s absentee father wants to stage a reunion, the male operatives don’t listen to Robin, and a myriad of other complications.

GL Carriger is Gail Carriger and her husband, and they’ve written several books about the San Andreas werewolf pack, which is certainly the most atypical one in America. Most of them are gay, their alpha looks like a boy in a labcoat, they’re of mixed races, and they all live together in a house that’s being renovated. There are other varieties of shifters in residence, also. All the books about the San Andreas pack contain a romance and a big conflict, both of which get resolved during the course of the book. I’ve read them all.

 

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I really have to write these more often. The pile of books to my right just gets more and more intimidating. In the interests of clearing my desk before the stack topples over on me, I want to add that I’ve read the following books and enjoyed them, too: A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Diane Freeman, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Inheritance Tracks by Catherine Aird, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (which had some very unexpected plunges into darkness), and The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig (YA). Now I can clean off my desk for the next deluge!

I was proud of the mixture of books I talked about this time. Every now and then I have a  jag of reading books by women, books with fairy tale themes (which seem quite popular for the past couple of years), conventional mysteries in historical settings (like A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder and Slippery Creatures), and non-genre books like the Lucia and Mapp series. But I had a happy miscellany this time: straight and gay, mysteries and fantasy, series and stand-alones. Books by familiar writers and writers new to me.

Reading is keeping me sane during this long slog through COVID-land. I do watch television, too, but reading is my primary thing, always. I haven’t been doing a lot of writing, but that’s changing soon. I am going to sign another contract for two more books in the Gunnie Rose world, and I’m very pleased and excited about that. I have a short story coming out in the next issue of EQMM, an Anne DeWitt story. I love to write those. “The Russian Cage” will be out February 23, with another gorgeous cover. And maybe in 2021 I’ll go to some conventions, depending on the current COVID situation. I love to see my readers, but I am in the at-risk category and must be mindful of that.

I hope you’re all staying healthy and wearing your masks. If you’re not wearing your masks, don’t tell me.

Charlaine Harris