Books

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

91B9BE4E-81E0-44B0-843F-2E4E801CE0EEI suppose this is more of a thriller than a mystery, though there are some mysterious elements to it. You know who the bad guys are (for the most part), but it is unclear why each of the characters are mixed up in this story. And like any good thriller this book has some unexpected twists and turns (which I won’t ruin for anyone!).

The setup for this novel is brilliant: 13 people are in a hot air balloon and witness an act of violence. And then they all die in a crash… all expect for one person.

I read this book over the course of 24 hours because of Bolton’s effective use of very short chapters and an intricate weaving of a few stories spread over the course of a decade or so.

It is well written and compulsively readable. My only quibble is that it does seem remarkable that these particular characters would end up so well placed in relation to the story. However, I don’t think realism was the point of this book!

I will say that I’d never heard of Sharon Bolton before reading this book, but I plan on reading another one of her books soon!

Who should read it: If you don’t mind horrible people doing horrible things, this book is for you!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone

458630B6-2599-4CB7-9720-F3429B8EC020Recommending a book that is the 6th in a series isn’t something one should do, however, the Craft Sequence isn’t a normal series. If you read the series in publication order, as I have, you’re actually reading them out of chronological order. This might seem strange, but the upshot is you can pretty much start the series at any of the books. And you should.

I’m not a huge fan of urban fantasy, which is why I was so surprised when I read a review of “Ruin of Angels” describing it as such. Upon further reflection it does make sense: this is a world where lines of contracts power magic, ever living skeletons run corporations, and gods trade faith for power.

Ruin of Angels is a good jumping on point, and for $3 (ebook) it is a great deal. If you’ve read any of the other books in the series you’ll recognize some of the characters featured.

I suppose I should point out that all the main characters are women, which I guess is either a plus or minus depending on your point of view.

Who should read it: Anyone who has read any of the Craft Sequence, or if you’ve ever wondered what a space program powered by magic might look like.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea by Adam Roberts

A3D80DA6-4ECE-4E8C-9C0F-2DEBA535F133-950-00000172776FA044Adam Roberts is one of those authors who writes whatever they want, and damn the marketability. Generally I enjoy his work, and he is a very talented writer. This book wasn't his best work, though I did think it was quite interesting and I almost enjoyed just as a physical object.

Almost.

The cover is gorgeous, and the illustrations are generally very good but… the copy editing is just bad. I usually don't even notice the odd mistake here and there, but this book was littered with them. It was distracting (and not the author's fault, but it didn't do him any favors).

The story is heavily influenced/extends 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A French experimental submarine goes off on a test run and dives. And dives. And dives deeper than the ocean should allow a submarine to dive.

And then things get crazy, and none of it is good for the crew.

I would say this book ends up being interesting rather than good.

Who should read it: Big fans of Jules Verne and French people, I guess?

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

IMG_0395Trilogies can be tough. The first book is exciting because you're discovering a whole new world populated with interesting characters (at least in good ones!), the second book generally moves the story along and not much more, and the third book… the pressure is on to stick the landing. If you have a bad conclusion it can have the power to sour people on the previous two books, plus who is going to recommend a trilogy with a bad final book?

I'm happy to report that The Stone Sky, the final volume in the fantastic The Broken Earth trilogy, does not disappoint. It is a well written and satisfying conclusion to a very good trilogy. Seriously, if you haven't read any of these books you should totally do it.

My one complaint is an odd one: I almost feel like the third book explained too much of how the world got to be the way it is in the trilogy. Now, I know that lots of people will be very happy to find out the details, but I think I would have preferred a little more ambiguity. That's just me, though, since I tend to enjoy books where I have little idea what is going on (which was pretty much the case in the first two books of this series).

I won't bother to try and recap what this book is about, but I will say it is a very interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction.

Who should read it: If you're read the first two books you'll need to read this one. And you should read the first two.

Would I read it again: I can imagine myself re-reading this trilogy again at some point (much like the Foundation trilogy, which is probably my favorite trilogy of all time).

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae

7A185B08-1BF4-40DE-B3DC-462D5C85D140-970-000000F70BE47711The world is anything but cozy at the moment what with severe weather, missile launching madmen, and more than one Trump in the White House (I know, some of you are happy about that… though I have no idea how you could STILL be happy about it. I get voting for him… kind of… but it is pretty clear he's not suited for the job) and so I turn to books that'll transport me to a nice, gentle place. Oh, and include a murder.

That's right, I read the cozy mystery “Plaid And Plagiarism,” and I gosh darn enjoyed it. It isn't a heartbreaking work of literature, or a particularly good mystery, but it is like slipping into a warm woolen sweater. Plus it features a number of women characters, which is always nice. And I didn't even mean to read it! Marisa picked it up at the library and I saw it laying on the table… and read it.

The high number of women in the book isn't a surprise given the story centers around four women who buy a bookstore in Scotland, and end up involved in a murder of a local. The two main characters (the older of the four) were a little hard to tell apart at the start of the book, but soon developed unique characteristics that helped me remember who was who.

The central murder isn't dwelled upon, and it seems to not trouble the townsfolk as much as I think it would (even if the victim wasn't the most popular person). Oh, and the title does sort of gives a plot point away, which is a shame but I understand the allure of alliteration.

This is clearly the start of a series, and while I won't excitedly be looking for the next installment I'd certainly pick it up and read it if I found it laying around the house. Ok, so that doesn't sound like a glowing recommendation but really it is a fun little book.

Who should read it: If you like a quick read with a gentle murder set amongst book lovers I think you'd like this.

Would I read it again: I should probably get rid of this section since I almost always say, “No.” Which is a long way of saying, no.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Arrowood by Mick Finlay

A IMG_0378 good hook is important for any book, but I feel like it is doubly important for mysteries. There are thousands and thousands of them, and to stand out you need to come up with something unique. “Arrowood” takes the reader to well trodden territory: Sherlock Holmes' England. The hook? Sherlock exists, but not everyone can afford him. When you need someone to help but you can't afford Holmes (or he isn't interested in your case) you turn to Arrowood.

Clever, right?

Holmes is a big presence in this book, but he never appears. Arrowood is an investigator, just like Holmes. He has a plucky assistant, just like Holmes. He has an erudite air about him though isn't rich, just like Holmes.

And many characters in the book bring up these similarities much to Arrowood's chagrin. He isn't a Sherlock fan, thinking that Sherlock is mostly lucky (everyone is sure Sherlock is a genius. I assume the two will interact with one another at some point in the future if there are more Arrowood books).

I though the setup of the book was very interest, and the mystery was complex enough. However, the overall execution of this great idea was… well… fine. It wasn't amazing, nor was it bad. It was fine.

Who should read it: This would be a good beach read, I think. If you like to read about darkish mysteries on the beach, that is.

Would I read it again: Nope but I will keep an eye out for the sequel.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro

587186E6-1C5E-4DC0-8879-9914CC1D4A8C-953-000000FE4E95B1D4I have something like 1,000 books (both electronic and physical) that I haven't read as of yet, but I still find myself at the library once or twice a month. Usually I'm there to pick up a book I've placed on reserve, but while I'm there I check out the books on display.

And that's how I come across books from authors I've never heard of, and probably would never hear of during my normal travels about town. This time I picked up “Sputnik's Children” by a Canadian author (Terri Favro) on a whim.

This book combines a few things that I enjoy: super heroes, time travel, parallel universes, and a slightly unreliable narrator. My favorite part of the book? Some details make me think it is entirely possible that this entire story happens only in the mind of the main character (either version of the main character at that!).

The stories follows a comic book creator whose creation, the girl without a past, is based on her life story. The twist? She isn't from around here… she's from an alternate timeline. Or is she?

Once again I don't want to get into the story too much, but it is interesting and well written to boot!

Who should read it: If you like comic books, time travel, or pending nuclear doom this book is for you.

Would I read it again: As usual, I probably won't re-read this book, but I will read Favro's next book.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

52F77A35-623C-4E2F-BB95-126F075ABB6D-3580-0000064962D30F21The follow up to “Missing, Presumed” does not disappoint. You know you're reading a good mystery when you say, “Oh no!” out loud at the end of a chapter.

This installment finds Manon Bradshaw back where she started with an adopted son in tow. Oh, and she's pregnant (the identity of the father isn't revealed early on which lends a bit of tension if you've read the prior books).

It is interesting that the main character, Manon, isn't really involved in the central mystery as an investigator. I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to give anything away.

My only issue with the book comes in the form of the character “Birdie.” The author makes a pretty big deal about the fact that Birdie is fat, and I just got the feeling that this was a thin person writing what they think a fat person should act like. Just one fat guy's opinion.

That's a very minor quibble, though, in an otherwise gripping read.

Who should read it: Anyone who enjoyed the first one.

Would I read it again: I want to read the next one right now!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Very Important Corpses by Simon R. Green

31538E8F-A0CF-432F-81C3-555F02676C0C-2634-000004E3DBA6C809Another book by Simon R. Green! I borrowed this one from the library and read it in a day (it is both a quick read and a short book).

Ishmael Jones, the hero of this Green series, is an interesting character even if he talks pretty much like every other Green character. He's an alien that crashed landed onto earth in the 60's and who's ship recoded his body to be human. Though in the process he lost his memory, so he's been working for a variety of secret organizations (which is what all of Simon R. Green's characters do). They get his services, and he gets to move around and lay low even though he seemingly never ages.

Green takes this interesting character and throws him into mysteries that have a dash of the supernatural. This novel finds Jones, and his lady friend, on the shore of Loch Ness in a great house with a sorted history that is playing host to a secret cabal's annual meeting. Someone, or something, is killing people and Jones needs to find out who!

It is pretty obvious who is doing the killing, but it was an enjoyable tale (and much better than the last Green book I read. I do find it amusing that Jones isn't a fan of the ghost hunting organization that makes up the main cast of the series of which I am not much of a fan).

Overall, this did what I expect of a Green novel: took a few hours to read, made me chuckle a couple of times, and was generally pleasant despite the amount of gore.

Who should read it: If you like supernatural mysteries and manor houses you could do worse than this book.

Would I read it again: Nope, but I'll read the next in the series (I won't buy it, of course!).

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


The Gunslinger by Stephen King

DD8AB116-959C-48B5-940B-37C5F0E04F49-2541-0000046AA4EB3BCDI am a master of timing, I tells ya.

Fellow Incomparable folks have been singing the praises of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King for a very long time and yet I've been resistant to start reading it. I think mostly because I have boxed away King in my head as a horror writer and I am not so into horror as a genre.

I know this is unfair to the very talented Mr. King, and so with the advent of the movie based on the Dark Tower series I figured now was a great time to try and borrow the book from the library. You know, when everyone else had the same exact idea:

IMG_0370

I was content to wait my turn when from the North came a Bookslinger who ended my wait by shooting the ebook onto my Kindle:

IMG_0368

(Thanks again, John!).

Now I really had to read it! Though I was concerned that I wouldn't like it and disappoint some people I jumped into it.

The first thing I realized when I started reading was that I really knew nothing about the Dark Tower series (I assumed a tower was somehow involved). This ignorance was cleared up by not one but TWO forewords by the author in the edition I read. It was interesting to read the two and notice how his writing style has evolved over time, plus I found out this was King's attempt to write an Arthurian legend set in the Old West.

That was a bit of a red flag for me: I'm not big into westerns but while The Gunslinger is certainly informed by westerns (and people in it love to palaver) it is really something else entirely.

The book does a good job of setting up Roland and the Man in Black as opposing forces in the quest for the Tower. Really, the whole book is one long case scene intercut with some world building (that train station!) and flashbacks to Roland's life. It was well structured and a quick read.

It does suffer from what some first books can suffer from: a lot of setting up the pieces on the board but not much actually happens. There are some encounters with mutants, some death, and eating some rabbits but mostly this book is about one dude following another one across a desert, over the mountains, and then camping with him for a little bit.

The real question is: was it good enough to make me want to read the next book in the series? Yes, it was. I've already but a hold on it at the library. Now I just have to wait for 50 people to read it ahead of me.

Who should read it: I assume if you're a fan of Stephen King you've already read it, but if you are and you haven't… you should!

Would I read it again: Nah, but I will read the next one.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Empire of Time by Daniel Godfrey

0DF0DF98-E82F-4E5F-8F22-9514A2820756-1665-0000030E1215A08F

A few years ago we were vacationing in the Hudson Valley. I found myself at a bookstore and I picked up a copy of “New Pompeii” on a whim (and based on the subject matter + the cover). It was entertaining, so when I realized a sequel had been published I bought myself a copy.

Empire of Time jumps ahead 15 years and shows us what has been happening in New Pompeii. Oh yeah, you need to know that there's a time machine in these books capable of plucking things out of the past and bringing them forward in time (but it only works 30 years distant and beyond… or does it?!). A company that created this machine plucked people from Pompeii right before the eruption and settled them into an exact replica of Pompeii (minus the water in the harbor, which was a big tip off to the Romans that they weren't in Kansas anymore).

Things go off the rails in the first book, and 15 years later things seem to have settled down in New Pompeii, though the outside world is falling apart. The main character, Nick, is a modern day man who functions as New Pompeii's ambassador. The world isn't too big on New Pompeii since the Romans continue to have slaves, but the world can't get enough of the garum and knockoff frescos New Pompeii produces so people overlook the slaves.

I don't want to get into too much detail, but this is a very satisfying conclusion to the story (though I don't know if there will be another entry in the series, there certainly could be but you aren't left hanging at the end of this book). To enjoy this book, though, you do need to read the first one.

Who should read it: Anyone who read the first one! And if you like Roman history, you should read the first one.

Would I read it again: I think I would read the series again at some point in the distant future.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Final Books of Vacation

Untitled

The final bookstore stop during our trip to Oregon was Powell's Books on Hawthorne. This is one of the “smaller” Powell's at only 10,000 square feet.

I, of course, bought some books:


More Goodwill Books

Untitled

When you vacation with Marisa chances are good you'll be visiting a thrift store or 4. While we were in Portland we headed on down to the Goodwill where Marisa found herself some fancy, expensive shoes for a steal (though she wasn't as thrilled with my reaction when she excitedly told me. I was all like, “That's good!” She texted her sister to get the correct reaction).

Goodwills usually have a selection of used books, which I enjoy browsing through. Now, I should say that since the books at Goodwill are so cheap I tend to err on the side of buying a book I'm even slightly interested in.

That's how I ended up finding three books in less than 5 minutes to purchase:

  • Terror On Tuesday by Ann Purser
  • Basilica by William Montalbano
  • Strange Images of Death by Barbara Cleverly

Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

D6EA9F41-2AB5-4A2E-8059-1D5FEE9103F3-330-0000006CFA85F506Urban fantasy is not my cup of tea. An urban fantasy book with a blurb by Seanan McGuire is a great way to get me not to read a book.

And yet.

Mishell Baker's Arcadia Project series is the exception that proves the rule. I had to read the first one, “Borderline,” for a podcast and I really, really liked it.

So much so that I bought the second one as soon as it came out. And then I didn't read it for awhile because, life, ya know?

I stayed up late last night to finish this book because I was enjoying it so. The main character has a raft of issues, and yet she uses what many would consider weaknesses to her advantage. She's great, and she reacts to supernatural situations in a pretty believable way (well, as believable as possible!).

I will say that I thought the final climactic scene was… well not really climactic or exciting. It sort of fizzles away, which in the story makes sense… but it left me unsatisfied. Luckily, the actual ending of the book won me back.

Who should read it: Anyone who has read the first book (and you should read it if you haven't!).

Would I read it again: You're probably picking up by now that I rarely re-read books, and this book isn't good enough to be an exception to that rule. It is quite good, don't get me wrong.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Powell's Haul #1

Editorial Preview

Any book lover who visits Portland, OR has got to go to at least one Powell's. I went to two whilst I was in Portland, because why not?

The City of Books is their biggest store right in the middle of downtown Portland. It is billed as the largest independent bookstore in the world, and I believe it! They carry something like a million titles. Displaying admirable restraint I purchased 6 books:

Powell's Haul (main store)

One of the things I love about Powell's is the fact they shelve new and used books together. That just makes me happy… and did I mention the mind boggling amount of books they have in that store? It is crazy!

Powell's, like any successful bookstore, also carries a bunch of other things. I picked up this super cool robot pin (though I have no idea where I'm going to put it):

Powell's Fashion Pin

And given who I am, I had to buy this:

Untitled

Stay tuned to see what I purchased at the other Powell's I visited. Can you contain your excitement?


All Systems Red by Martha Wells

24CE98FF-BD21-4FF9-B36D-2E140BD662D8-3012-000003B2DE6AA3D5Tor.com has always been a favorite of mine, and when they started publishing novellas I bought a few. I didn't read any, since I'm a very busy man and all, but I bought them and that has got to count for something!

I finally decided to read All Systems Red, and on one hand I wish I had read it sooner but then again if I had the wait for the second novella would be even longer.

The main character calls itself Murderbot, but I don't want to talk too much about it since that might give away some things that are better off discovered while reading. I will say that Wells manages to paint a very comprehensive world in less than 200 pages. I know there's lots more to discover in this universe and I hope that she is working on a full raft of books!

The ebook is super cheap, and it isn't a big commitment of time so just read it already.

Who should read it: If you like introspective robots, this is the book for you!

Would I read it again: Sure! Though I'd rather read the next one.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Ghost of a Dream by Simon R. Green

B4B96E36-D60B-42A8-8411-A792705C4A96-2868-000003669024383CSimon R. Green writes several series and Ghost Finders is my least favorite. I only pick them up if I find them for cheap in used bookstores which is why I just read “Ghost of a Dream.” I paid $2. That might have been too much.

This isn't a good book, though it is a quick read. Why isn't it good? Well, in it we follow the adventures of a ghost finding team. The one thing, we are told, these people are very good at is knowing if something is a ghost or not. In the first part of the novel, which is totally unrelated to the rest of the book, the characters meet someone who turns out to be a ghost, but hid it from them. This is treated as a big deal since it can't ever happen. Then it proceeds to happen at least two more times in the book. Ug. And that's just one example of why you shouldn't read this book.

Plus, in the book one of the characters always wears a white suit and sunglasses. The cover features three people, who I can only assume are the three ghost finders we follow in the book, and none of them are wearing a white suit OR sunglasses. Sheesh.

Who should read it: No one.

Would I read it again: No.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

IMG_0204Vacations are for reading mysteries!

Missing, Presumed is a modern day (well, set in 2011) police procedural; a genre that I typically eschew. I generally look for reading material that takes me away from the real world, not stories which highlight real world problems (I get enough of that watching the news, am I right?).

That being said, this book is set in England which is far enough removed from my daily existence that I could enjoy it (you won't find me reading any of the many, many NY/LA based police mysteries!).

Manon Bradshaw, the main character, is a 39 year old woman working for the Cambridgeshire police force and assigned to a high profile missing person case. It looks like foul play was involved, and to make things even more complicated the missing person is the scion of a physician to the Royal Family. Add in a motley assortment of characters, a handsome boyfriend, and a corpse and you've got yourself a fine mystery.

Each chapter of the book switches from character to character, which works well to paint the complicated picture of the case and Manon's life. That's what makes this book so interesting to me: the mystery is a good hook but I really wanted to learn more about Manon and her life. Good thing this is the first in a series! I'll certainly be reading the next book (I almost bought it the other day, but it is only about 300 pages and the hardcover cost $27. I'll probably get it the from library and then write about it!).

Who should read it: Fans complex characters trying to do their jobs.

Would I read it again: I'll read the next one!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Third book of vacation

Untitled

Seaside, Oregon isn't my favorite Oregon coast town. It feels to me what I imagine the Jersey Shore feels like, though to be fair I've never “gone down the shore,” as they say in Philadelphia.

It is a town populated with arcades, souvenir shops, and family friendly restaurants. Not really a place I would opt to go on my own, but Marisa has spent many a happy hour at Seaside with her family so there we stopped. Plus my nephews had fun at the arcade, so who am I to judge?

Luckily for me, there's a bookstore called Beach Books and I was able to spend a few minutes, and dollars, there. The bookstore itself is yet another typical beach bookstore: lots of fiction (with an emphasis on mysteries) and not too much else (Marisa found their cookbook section to be lacking).

I did pick up “The Crossing Places” by Elly Griffiths. I read “The Zig Zag Girl” by the same author last year on a lark without knowing she had written a long lived series. Based on my enjoyment of the book of hers I had read I bought this one, which is the first in her series (and was recommended by an employee at the book shop).


Second Book from vacation

Untitled

The second book purchased on vacation is a brand new copy of “Blueprints of the Afterlife” by Ryan Boudinot (the cover of which assures you that is it, in fact, a novel). Why this book? Well, I've looked at it countless times and I thought I should give it a whirl.

I picked this up from the Cloud & Leaf Bookstore in Manzanita, Oregon which is a lovely little beach town bookstore. Not much science fiction (boo), but lots of non-fiction, mysteries, and things that you'd read on the beach.

Oh, and if you're in Manzanita and are craving Mexican food I can highly recommend El Trio Loco 2.


First Books of Vacation

IMG_6425

I'm on vacation, and you know what that means: I buy books!

The first two books were purchased at the Goodwill in Tillamook, Oregon.

I don't expect the Simon R. Green book to be good, but I enjoy reading his stuff and it cost $2. The Pratchett will go on my pile of to be read Pratchett (I've read some of his stuff, but not enough!).


Celine by Peter Heller

IMG_0072Another day, another mystery! Though I tend to think that a book qualifies as a mystery only if it is possible for the reader to figure out the answer before the main character. Given my definition, I suppose “Celine” by Peter Heller isn't a mystery at all (though I guess a reader smarter than me could have figured it out which would make it a mystery again!) but it is a compelling novel just like it says on the cover [A little aside here: Why are publishers increasingly feeling the need to put “a novel” on book covers? My pal Dan Moren wrote a book recently on which the cover helpfully assures you it is a novel. Just in case you confused it for a… parrot? I don't get it. Anyway, read Dan's book. You'll like it! I did. And look, a bonus book recommendation within the text of another recommendation. Aren't you the luckiest blog reader in the world?]. Celine, the main character, is a lot of fun and one of those detectives you jus know you'd enjoy following around all the time. I'm hopeful that this is the start of a series, but given that Heller seems to be shooting for literary stand alone books I imagine this will be Celine's only adventure that we get to read.

Heller is a talented author whose work I have enjoyed previously, and I didn't even realize he had written this until I started reading it and his bio mentioned that he had written “The Dog Star.” Both share his spare prose style, with occasional eruptions of words to describe mostly natural settings (which makes sense given Heller is an adventure/outdoorsy writer), and memorable characters.

I did enjoy The Dog Star more because it seemed fresher, which is tough to do in the post apocalyptic genre. Celine is certainly a fresh-ish take on the detective, which is a feat unto itself!

Who should read it: People who are looking for a well written book featuring an older female main character who is quite handy with a gun.

Would I read it again: I would read another book featuring Celine in a second!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Mightier than the Sword by K.J. Parker

213C6E2B-B014-4579-BC81-E00D20D67BC1-519-00000097C3E425BEK.J. Parker is one of my favorite writers, which is odd because they don't exist. Well, I mean they do but that's not their name. K.J. Parker is the pen name of Tom Holt, another author, when he feels like writing fantasy (though this isn't high fantasy, so no magic here. Low fantasy, I suppose, is the term though it more often feel like alternate history without having to worry about actual history).

I like K.J. Parker so much, in fact, that I have purposefully not read several of his novels. Why? Just so I won't find myself in the position of having read everything has has written thus far.

The funny thing is, I have a hard time getting into Tim Holt novels but I drink up Parker novels like delicious Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.

Imagine my surprise, and glee, when I found out that there was a new novella out (found via the New York Times Book section, of course). I immediately hastened to Amazon and bought it.

And I have just devoured it on my flight to Portland, Oregon (the same flight on which I finished reading Amatka). It is a short book following a typical Parker character: someone involved in the ruling class, good at his job but doesn't want to be, and thrust into lots of intrigue. The book also features another of Parker's favorite things: long lists. Lists of fictional books, lists of fictional provinces, and lists of supplies.

I loved it all, and it doesn't hurt that the central mystery (if you can really call it that, since it is pretty incidental to the story) revolves around monks who love books (as does the main character).

Who should read it: I'm always hesitant to actually recommend Parker's books to people because I think they are to a very specific taste, and there's nothing worse than telling someone to read a book you really liked only to find out that they didn't enjoy it. Therefore, you shouldn't read this book.

Would I read it again: I would, but that would be very silly since I still have so much unread Parker left to enjoy!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

4F45465A-2FB3-4030-84BB-D7B24675BF47-519-000000930BE40660As I was reading Amatka I kept thinking about Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, which I very much enjoyed. Each work (I consider the entire trilogy to be one thing, because I'm cool like that) is what the kids would call “high concept.”

VanderMeer's work combines a high concept story idea with what can only be described as “writerly writing.” Some people love it (i.e. me), and others not so much.

Tidbeck takes a super high concept idea, what if people went to a strange place where you had to constantly name things to keep them from dissolving, and bolts on a very personal story about a woman trying to adjust to life in a new place, meeting a partner she never thought she could, and questioning the very foundations of her society.

I was doubtful about how long Tidbeck could make her core concept work. There's only so many times I want to read about someone calling a pencil a pencil so it doesn't turn into goop, but she did a masterful job of quickly building this strange little world and populating it with very real, and believable, characters.

Who should read it: People who love high concept worlds populated by very relatable characters.

Would I read it again: I would, which is saying something since I don't normally re-read things. I'm certainly going to be reading her next book (whatever it is!).

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat