Monday, August 7, 2017

New Release: The Cottingley Secret

The story of the Cottingley fairies has fascinated me for years. I'm sure it is because Arthur Conan Doyle got involved by writing about and promoting the photographs created by the two girls in Yorkshire. Now I'm fascinated because of the other point of view, that of those girls. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor has a dual plot -- one is historical and imagines an autobiography written by Frances Griffiths, the younger of the two cousins, explaining what they did and why and the other is that of a modern day bookshop owner, Olivia, who is reading the manuscript for the first time and finding her unexpected connection to it.

I am going to tell you something amazing about this book. Both the historical narrative and the modern day one? EQUALLY INTERESTING. While I was reading one, I was simultaneously getting excited to get back to the other one. Crazy, right? This hardly ever happens. Gaynor managed both eras perfectly and I truly cared about both Frances and Olivia (and many of their friends and family members). I don't want to spoil anything about the modern-day story but I was also impressed by how she closed out that story line. She didn't take the expected route and make everything tidy and I loved that. If there is an overarching message in this book, it is the fact that life isn't tidy and that there are grey areas in everything and many of us are just trying our best. Also, there just might be fairies in the world after all.


Friday, August 4, 2017

A Big Stack of Books - The Last Two

Finally! The last two books from the stack! My coffee table looks so bare ...

Magpie Murders is a new release from Anthony Horowitz, a murder novel within a possible-murder novel. The narrator is a book editor at a small publisher and she's just been given the next book in a detective series. She settles in for the weekend to read the manuscript and we read it along with her. Both of us notice that the last chapter is missing and we, of course, think about contacting the author -- right until the moment when we find out he is dead, a presumed suicide.

The inside book is a pretty standard cozy mystery in the Poirot style. The outside book is an up-and-down journey through the actions of a woman who thinks solving a mystery in real life is just like a novel. I liked this one but didn't love it, perhaps because it was one of those books where there aren't really any likable characters. The inside author is horrible and the outside one is just a little too much of a mess to want to hang out with. So, the final word on this one is that it's fun enough to pass the time but not a do-not-miss.

Bellwether by Connie Willis is one of her non-science-fiction books so don't be confused by people who label it wrongly in LibraryThing based solely on assumptions. This story takes place almost entirely in an office building, with a few forays out to trendy restaurants and cafés. It focuses on a woman that studies fads, a man that studies chaos, a flock of sheep, and an administrative assistant named Flip. It's a bit of a comedy of errors, like To Say Nothing of the Dog, a bit of a romance, and a great satire about trends. I really had fun listening to this one and it has kind of put me in the mood to binge read/reread some Willis!

Back to a clean slate,

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Big Stack of Books - Fantasy and Sci-Fi Edition

Still working on that big stack I mentioned last time. Here are some of the recent-ish fantasy and sci-fi books I've enjoyed!

A lovely friend put this book, Lightless by C.A. Higgins, in my hands and told me I had to read it. I picked up the sequel at the same time based on the cool-sounding premise -- a state-of-the-art space vessel with an artificial intelligence and a scientist/mechanic who cares for her, even when faced with sabotage, terrorists, and an evil government interrogator. I don't read tons of straight-up science fiction but I would read a lot more if it was all like this! It was tense and exciting and so smart without trying to prove it's smart, if you know what I mean.

Ghost Train to New Orleans is the sequel to Mur Lafferty's The Shambling Guide to New York City and it was just as fun as the first book. Zoë and her colleagues head to New Orleans to write their second Shambling Guide and from the moment they board the ghost train, everything changes for Zoë. Luckily, everything is happening is a gorgeous, supernatural New Orleans where there are parties and beignets and plenty of things to hide from. I wish there were more books in the series because she mentions heading to London next!

I told you I wouldn't be able to wait very long before reading my next Company book and here I am, already done with The Life of the World to Come. This one brings together two of my favorite characters in an unexpected plot twist that has been building over a few of the books. I loved the way it was done and I loved this book. I totally understand why people love rereading this series because you become really invested in the lives of these not-quite-humans.

And yes, I read Monstress: Volume One - Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. It has an incredible story and the artwork is amazing. It had a feeling of familiarity even though there was nothing in it that I had ever seen before. I'm really looking forward to the next trade (which just came out a couple of weeks ago).

From space to eternity,

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Big Stack of Books - Junior Edition

I have a big stack of books here to review and they're stressing me out so you're going to get quick reviews over the next few days so that I can sit and peacefully enjoy an episode or two of Supernatural (I'm only in the middle of season two!) without staring at the pile.

The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the sequel to Book Scavenger and I have to admit that I enjoyed the first book better. This one was a lot darker and rather creepy at times, and not in a good way. It dealt with some of the issues of the first book in a pretty adult way and it overshadowed the fun puzzles and mysteries. I did like the San Francisco info and learned a lot about the islands off the coast. I also loved the references to It's-It Ice Cream Sandwiches because they are the best! I ended up buying myself a box shortly after finishing this.

I can't get enough Kate Milford (there's a sequel to Greenglass House coming out in October, kids!!!) and so, when I needed an escape from political madness, I turned to this book. Kate herself noticed my tweet about excitedly starting this one and apologized like this: "I want to say I love this, but you know you picked the one that involves a gullible populace falling prey to a huckster, right?" At least I was forewarned but Kate overstated the peril because this book is all about smart kids and their willingness to put their lives on the line to save their town. It was inspirational and I ended it with a renewed sense of power and hope.

Finally, I recently read the novelization of My Neighbor Totoro. I was in the mood because Z and I have been going to Studio Ghibli Fest movies each month, My Neighbor Totoro in June and Kiki's Delivery Service this month. Well, this book was cute and just slightly different from the movie so fun to read even if you've watched it a billion times already. Z's been eyeing it too but right now he's in the middle of the big Hitchhiker's Guide omnibus.

Believing and hoping (and eating It's-Its),

Saturday, July 29, 2017

New Release: Meddling Kids

I rarely preorder new books anymore but, because this was supposedly based on Mystery Inc./Scooby-Doo and because I *loved* Edgar Cantero's first novel, The Supernatural Enhancements, I knew that Meddling Kids was a no-risk buy and I also didn't want to wait to read it. Based on the descriptions (a mix of Scooby-Doo and The Goonies was the last one I saw), I was expecting a light-hearted, funny pastiche. But this is an actual horror book with damaged characters. The young detective friends have grown up, had various problems based on what they experienced in their last case, and have reunited in Oregon to face those demons -- some of them literal. It's not all bleak though -- there's friendship, unrequited love, and yes, a dog.

I was just reading my post about The Supernatural Enhancements and I said that I had written "holy crap" in a tweet and that the author asked if it was good crap or bad. This time I tweeted right at him -- "Wow, @punkahoy. Just wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. #readthisbook". And yes, they were good wows. I had so much fun reading this story, so many things happened that I never saw coming. The story had nods to those previously mentioned shows and found its creatures in Lovecraftian lore, but it was purposeful, never heavy-handed, and all arranged in an exciting, original way. Also, check out the awesome neon cover! This was a great summer read but would also be perfect during the upcoming RIP season. (Not that I'm already thinking about reading stacks for that because that would be crazy ... er ...)

Unearthing a gem,

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tesla, Tesla

The Last Days of Night is a newish release by Graham Moore, best known for his debut book, The Sherlockian. It explores the dawn of the electrical age by following the lawyer, Paul Cravath, who defended George Westinghouse in his battle with Thomas Edison over the lightbulb and direct versus alternating current. Because Nikola Tesla, after leaving the employ of Edison, spent some time working with Westinghouse and ended up selling him his AC patents, this ends up mostly being a tale of the relationships between Cravath, Westinghouse, and Tesla. There is also a love story for Cravath and a glimpse into New York high society.

At the end of the book, Moore calls it a "dramatization of history", a "Gordian knot of verifiable truth, educated supposition, dramatic rendering, and total guesswork". I thought it was fascinating and a fun read ... and it led me to finally pick up my next read from the TBR, where it has languished for years.

Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney is considered the definitive biography of Nikola Tesla. It is technical and mostly covers his inventions and patents but also veers into his social life and unique mental abilities. I only wish that it had been updated after the 1981 publication date because one of the most interesting parts was the discussion of how modern scientists are now putting some of Tesla's more "far-fetched" ideas to use. I know that there have been even more researchers and corporations in the last 35 years that have come to see the light about Tesla's ideas, so to speak, and it would have added even more strength to the narrative of his genius. Sometime soon I'll read Tesla's own short autobiography, maybe when I take delivery of my electric car later this year!

Plugging in to history,

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Company, In Short Form

Black Projects, White Knights is a collection of short stories set in Kage Baker's The Company alternate history series. The fifteen stories revisit some familiar characters like Mendoza, Joseph, and Kalugin and I enjoyed those but my favorite were the four stories featuring Alec, the mysterious child who is possibly genetically-modified, possibly a cyborg, but certainly a bright and unique boy. My favorite was The Dust Enclosed Here which happens to be available online. If you want to read a fun story about a technologically advanced kid who meets a holographic William Shakespeare and liberates him, then this is your lucky day!

I'm starting to get sad that I'm about halfway through the Company books already. Luckily it should take me some time to get through the remaining ones as they are getting very hard to track down! I have the next one (The Life of the World to Come) and a standalone (The Empress of Mars) but haven't found used copies of any others. Now I'm in the mood to scour my local used bookstores yet again ...

Enjoying the short but sweet tales,

Monday, July 10, 2017


Nine years ago ...

I had a little four year old kiddo who was off to preschool for a couple of hours each day.
I had some time to myself and wanted to find people to talk with about something other than parenting.
I had noticed book blogs and thought that I might like to try writing one.

Today ...

I have a big kid that is thirteen years old and starting eighth grade in the fall.
I get to talk to amazing people around the world almost every day about books, politics, and more.
I have a blog that is nine years old.

I don't know where the time goes but I couldn't be happier to have spent some of it doing this with all of you. Your friendships, discussions, and lives enrich mine. Thank you for making this a place and community that I don't want to leave.

With true love and appreciation,
K (and Z)