BOOKS & BLOG: August 27, 2021

by | Sep 3, 2021 | 2021


  • The Fourth Wall, Barbara Paul
  • Payback’s a Witch, Lana Harper
  • Trojan Gold, Elizabeth Peters
  • Another Kind of Eden, James Lee Burke
  • Shadowed Steel, Chloe Neill
  • The Witness for the Dead, Katherine Addison
  • Daughter of the Empire, Lady Pamela Hicks
  • Pandora’s Orphans, Dana Cameron
  • The Library of the Dead, T.L. Huchu
  • A Terrible Fall of Angels, Laurell K. Hamilton

In an interview I did with my friends Dana Cameron and Toni L.P. Kelner (Leigh Perry), we talked about books that had shaped us as writers. I just reread two of those. Barbara Paul’s The Fourth Wall, now out of print, changed the way I wrote women . . . forever. It’s written from the pov of a playwright, Abby James, but she’s not written from her identity as a woman, but her identity as an intellectual human. What a great difference it makes. It taught me something important. I needed to reread! Dana mentioned Elizabeth Peters’ Trojan Gold, one of Peters’ Vickie Bliss novels. Elizabeth Peters had incredible talent, and her humorous books were as well-written as any hardboiled book. At the time it was written that was not accepted as the norm.

Lana Harper’s editor sent me Payback’s a Witch. At first I wasn’t terribly excited, since it was the third book I’d read recently in which a woman with supernatural ability returns (reluctantly) to her home town. However, Harper’s book has a freshness and charm that I enjoyed. Emmy Harlow comes from the least distinguished magical family in the town, and she was spectacularly jilted by the scion of the most powerful magical family. But Emmy has to return to take up her family’s part in the ritual games. She acquires some unexpected allies, one of them the beautiful Talia, whom Emmy finds more than a little interesting. This is a revenge tale with a twist.

Another Kind of Eden is the new  James Lee Burke novel, so you know what to expect: sad people, bad people, a glowing landscape, a good man, and some of the best writing in America for the past thirty years.

Chloe Neill’s spinoff series about the daughter of Ethan and Merit, Elisa, is really good. Elisa is tough as nails, in love with a werewolf, and never afraid of a good fight. In fact, she enjoys a good fight. When she is targeted by a new vampire bureau for turning a human without permission, Elisa never believes that’s the real purpose of their tracking her down, and she’s right. Shadowed Steel is the best book of the series to date.

Katherine Addison’s The Goblin King was so good I could hardly wait for her next book. I wasn’t disappointed. Addison picks another protagonist for The Witness for the Dead, Thara Celehar. His mandate is to touch the recent dead and learn the answers to the questions the living want answered, but sometimes this is more difficult than others, and sometimes the answer is not acceptable to the living.  Depressed, poor, and incorruptible, Thara’s drab life is brightened by some of the people he encounters in this book. Loved it.

Lady Pamela Hicks was raised as a Mountbatten, but it wasn’t the glorious round of beautiful clothes and good food you might imagine. Her parents believed in raising children modestly and without frills. Her mother was famously unfaithful to her father, and her father finally responded in kind. Both their lovers became important parts of the childrens’ lives. Before her marriage, Pamela accompanied the Queen to India (and was one of her bridesmaids). What a witness to history! Daughter of the Empire is fascinating.

My friend Dana Cameron has assembled her Fangborn short stories (and added a new one) into the excellent collection Pandora’s Orphans. Dana’s world is different from anyone else’s, and you’ll enjoy her take on the mythology of the vampire and werewolf tribes.

The Library of the Dead is the most original book I’ve read in  . . . I can’t tell you how long. Ropa, a teenage girl in Edinburgh, has become a ghostalker in an effort to make enough money to keep her grandmother and sister eating and housed. Ropa is determined, hard-working, and conscientious, so when she figures out that children are going missing, she feels it’s her job to find out who’d taking them, and for what reason. This lands her in a world of hurt, and also indirectly leads her to be admitted to the library, the most wonderful place for a girl like Ropa.

Laurell K. Hamilton has turned over a new leaf for this series about Zaniel Havelock, who has left the company of angels to be a police detective in Los Angeles. A series of deaths he’s investigating seem to be demon-caused, and the idea that a possessed man is causing the murders puts the whole squad on alert. Havelock is a good man with a very complicated past, and the mythology of this new world is also complicated, but fascinating. Thumbs up!



 This coming week I’ll go on an airplane for the first time in almost two years. I’ll also go to a convention, have an in-person signing, be on panel, and attend an awards ceremony as a nominee. This is such a huge change from the life I’ve been living that I’m nervous about the whole thing.

Am I being foolish? Maybe. DragonCon has a set of rules in place that should keep us as safe as we can be, and I plan to be masked and careful the whole time. Of course, I’m vaccinated. And I had COVID. So I should be chock full of antibodies. Wish me luck!

If all goes well, I will also get to visit with family while I’m there; in fact, I’ll be staying with one of my cousins. It’s been a long, long time since I was with them face to face, so I’m pretty happy about that.

Sooner or later (in Texas’ case, later) it will be Fall, and it will cool off, and life will be better. There’s a lot to look forward to if only we can stave off the Delta variant . . . and more people will get vaccinated.

If you have been putting this off, please reconsider. Listen to the science, not hearsay. Don’t buy vet medicine thinking it will prevent you from getting COVID. Don’t believe your children will be sterile if they are vaccinated. This isn’t a hoax or exaggerated. Nothing in this life is a hundred percent sure . . . but the figures show overwhelmingly that if you are vaccinated, you will not give COVID to someone else, and if you do get it, you will have a milder case. Right now, that’s as good as it gets.

Charlaine Harris