Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#RIPXII 2: The Meaning of Night

I didn't waste any time getting to my reread of Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night this RIP season. I read this book near when it came out in 2006, a couple of years before I started blogging, so all I really had in the old noggin were memories of super-enthusiastic feelings. I was quite nervous in case the book didn't live up to those.

The story follows Edward Glyver as he tries to regain a birthright that he was kept from as a child and to get revenge for wrongs done to him as a youth. He fights against Phoebus Daunt, a poet and scoundrel, who is attempting to con his way into that birthright and into the heart of Emily, the same woman who Edward has fallen in love with. I know that sounds a bit stodgy and, well, Victorian, but that's because I didn't share the first line yet --
After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper.
Yes, Glyver lets us know from the first sentence that he is a murderer. And, from there, the story continued to keep my attention. It was smart and twisty and made great use of Cox's extensive knowledge of history and literature. I'm so glad that I reread it and it has re-whetted my appetite for Wilkie Collins and the other Victorian sensationalists. Not all books need supernatural villains, for there's truly nothing so scary as the evil men do.

Sussing the truth,

Monday, September 18, 2017

New-ish Release: The Winged Girl of Knossos

The Winged Girl of Knossos isn't actually a new book. It was written in 1933 by Erick Berry, pen name for Evangel Allena Champlin Best. It was a Newbery Honor Book but was sadly out of print for many years. Thankfully, Paul Dry Books has reprinted it because I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago.

The "winged girl" is Inas, daughter of Daidalos. He is an inventor who longs to soar like the birds and she is an adventurer who does everything from sponge diving to bull jumping. Their home is ancient Crete, under the reign of King Minos. This story brings to life an era that time has turned into myth. Ariadne, the labyrinth and the minotaur, and Theseus are all real and they all have their places in Inas' tale.

Not only did Berry use an impressive vocabulary but she knew the right amount of tension to keep readers of all ages engaged and the historical setting is incredibly accessible. Best of all, the strong, active female character of Inas was truly ahead of her time. I suppose this is why the book received Honors. I keep thinking about the various adventures, the setting, the idea that myths come out of facts. I'm really looking forward to getting this book into our local elementary school so that more kids can enjoy it and be exposed to its ideas.

Digging in the past,

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

#RIPXII Book 1: Ash and Quill

Third in The Great Library series, Rachel Caine keeps upping the stakes for our young Library initiates and Ash and Quill is a ridiculously stressful, entirely readable entry in the series. For those still unfamiliar with it, the alternate universe premise is that the Great Library at Alexandria was never burned and a global civilization that venerated learning was established. But, of course, eventually the leaders started caring more about power than anything else. The first book starts with a group of young initiates who quickly bond as they start to uncover injustices and irregularities within The Library. I don't know how long this series is going to be but if Caine keeps up the character maturation, the high-stakes action, and the unadulterated bookishness, I'll stay on board for at least a few more books!

( I wrote a bit more about the first two books last year.)

Sharing this book instead of hiding it,

Thursday, August 31, 2017

'Tis the Season: RIP XII

Nothing signifies the transition from summer to fall like the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. Andi and Heather are hosting the event again this year and I couldn't be happier to switch into perilous reading mode. If you're interested in choosing a challenge level, head to either one of their posts for details. I always go a bit overboard and just assign myself the imaginary Infinite Peril level -- read as many books as I possibly can in two months. I always succeed.

With all that is going on in the world at the moment, I wanted to do something a little different this year. I have decided to spend most of my time this season with rereads. I want to find comfort in familiarity, joy in revisiting favorite authors and characters, peace in the guarantee that each read will be a good one. As I'm sure you have noticed, this is one of my favorite overarching genres and I have shelves full of stellar perilous reads.

(If I've actually read the book for a previous RIP challenge, I've included the year and my review.)

I love Carlos Ruis-Zafón and his YA horror stories--MarinaThe Prince of Mist (2010), The Midnight Palace (2012), and The Watcher in the Shadows (2013)--are creepy but tolerable for a chicken like me. They are all standalones so I (or you) can read them in any order.
I also adore the Samuel Johnson books by John Connolly -- The Gates (2010), The Infernals (2012), and The Creeps (2014). I love them so. I may do a marathon read through all three!
Gareth Jones' Constable & Toop (2014) is right next to them on my shelf and now I want to read that as well.
And I haven't forgotten that the fourth and final Jackaby book, The Dire King, is out. I'm just waiting until I can get over to my indie bookstore to buy it. I don't know if I'll reread all of the other books this season since I did fairly recently but one never knows!

Jonathan Barnes is another favorite and I haven't read The Somnambulist (2009) or The Domino Men (2010) in years. They are supernatural strangeness done in the best way.

Now, it hasn't been that long since I first read The Supernatural Enhancements (2014) but, since I am still in an Edgar Cantero mood after Meddling Kids, I will likely read it again sooner than I had planned.
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling (2012) was a five star read and, as Michael Boccacino hasn't written another book yet, I'll just have to revisit this one.

I've been rereading the Flavia de Luce series (done with those first two on top) so I'll continue with these until maybe catching up to the current one, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd.

I am also planning on raiding my Agatha Christie collection. I read so many of them before I started blogging so I don't even have ratings for them in LibraryThing and barely remember most of the plots. Same with Josephine Tey and Ngaio Marsh so I might pick some of those up too. I miss my classic mysteries!

It really has been ages since I read Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night and The Glass of Time but they pushed me down the path of neo-Victorians and sensationalism, now two of my favorite things, so I feel the need to revisit them and see if they are still as amazing as I remember.

It has also been a while since I last read Coraline. I watch the movie semi-regularly but the book is much scarier and Coraline is much stronger and more awesome in it. While I'm gazing at the Gaiman shelf, I'm also realizing that another reread of The Graveyard Book (2012) sounds good too!

I can't remember the last time I read Frankenstein and I have a pretty Penguin clothbound edition that I haven't cracked open yet. (And I see you sitting there, Dracula and The Woman in White.)

And, as if those fifty or so books aren't going to keep me busy enough, I will still try and read a couple of TBR books, especially short stories--The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales and Ghostly--and non-fiction--A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie and The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer.

I feel so happy just making this list so I know I'm going to have a lot of fun reading! What are your RIP season reading plans?

Delving into blissful darkness,

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),