This summer has been a bumper crop of good reads.
Below the cut, what I’ve read recently, what I’m reading. The what-will-I-read pile is always changing, and recommendations are welcome.
Sorcerer’s Luck, by Katharine Kerr.
One of the things I appreciated most when I put this book down was how Kerr had so skillfully taken the popular elements of the current wave of urban fantasies, and given them all a hard twist into weird. Or wyrd.
Two guys and one gal, vamps, shapeshifters, powers, Icelandic mythology in San Francisco, and tons of passion.
But where so many of the urban fantasies I’ve read pretty much keep the characters at the high-school end of the emotional spectrum, that is, instant-and-forever passion, a lot of will-he-or-won’t-he angst (and Byronic brooding or flippant quips on the part of either the good bad boy or the bad bad boy) here, we begin with attraction but the main relationship develops. And develops more! And evolves! While we still get all the razzle-dazzle of magic, sinister threats, mystery, and oh, the runes!
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne
In the opening pages, Byrne says that she is going to try to present Austen through the little details, the things Jane Austen left behind, and she sets out most assiduously to do just that. Where the book falls down is when she cannot resist telling us what Austen thought. The book is strongest when presenting the world that Jane Austen lived in, the signs of Jane left in objects, such as the amber crosses her brother brought back for her and Cassandra, in the family actions after a contested will, in furniture and others’ letters and in the houses where she worked and stayed. A signed royalty check (on which, by the way, Jane spelled her last name “Austin” in usual haphazard-about-spelling eighteenth century fashion). More of this review at Goodreads.
Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #1), by Jodi Taylor. This debut indie novel seems to be sparking a lot of comparisons with Connie Willis, due to time travel and Englishness. Almost any time travel novel leaves me puzzling with “but wait . . . if?” questions, and this one was no different, however that was after I put it down. The voice is so much fun, the pacing so fast, that I gobbled it down over a day.
From the dawn of time in western civilization, at least, the media best sellers have been sex, violence, and religion. In ancient times our Anglo-Saxon ancestors mixed their genealogical recounts with battle-bragging; at Agincourt and Crecy heralds of both sides stood with one another at the best vantage-point in order to watch the battle, with the mutual desire of get the details right for posterity. The earliest prints mass produced depicted Biblical scenes, wars, and and porn.
While I’ve been reading Rick Atkinson’s three volume work on the war, sometimes I take a sidestep into other works for purposes of comparison. (Rest of Review)
One of the more disturbing themes of Philip Bobbitt’s immensely readable (and immense) The Shield of Achilles is that a great deal of technology and indeed the development of the modern state is due to war. War is profitable, as long as it doesn’t tear up your own infrastructure (and of course the rich will always have their escape mechanisms). Linda Nagata, in her tight, tense The Red: First Light seems to have her finger on that particular pulse as gigantic corporations put super-soldiers in the field to keep the war market going . . .
Marla R. Miller’s Betsy Ross and the Making of America approached biography through a history of textiles. Very little is known about Ross, when one strips away the myth. Scholarly spelunking has led Miller to delving in the history of early Philadelphia through its founding families, and the merchants who made it great. I’ve only reached Ross’s apprencticeship, so I’ve still the Revolutionary years to go.
I’m always on the watch for fun reads by indie authors, and Lindsay Buroker came highly recommended. Her Encrypted and its companion volume are on sale right now. Space opera, codes, action, strong female lead were the words that hooked my attention.
As for the TBR pile, it’s toppling, but I’m always up for adding more! What do you recommend? Especially fun, swashbuckling reads with a dash of humor and romance. I slurp those down at light speed.