Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Loading my phone with books before a trip!

Heading to France this Friday (bad time to be heading to France, but we didn't know that when we booked the trip, did we!), so, assuming the plane and trains aren't on strike, I've been looking for things to have available to read.

Here's what I've got on Libby:

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (2014): short stories are a good bet when you're hanging about at airports and train stations. And who knows: maybe I'll discover a new author I like!

The Beekeeper's Apprentice, or, the Segregation of the Queen, by Laurie R. King. This one's an audiobook. Always good to have something to listen to, though I usually pick something I think will be boring so it puts me to sleep on the plane (not that I can sleep on the plane, but one lives in hope). This doesn't sound boring: it's a teenage detective who befriends an old Sherlock Holmes, first in a series. 

My Latest Grievance, by Elinor Lipman. She's a contemporary fiction author that's been recommended to me, and this was the only book of hers available to borrow. So we'll see if I like it. Not a romance: sounds like a coming-of-age, parent-daughter relationship kind of book.

Castles in Their Bones, by Laura Sebastian. This was on my Goodreads TBR and it was available. I can't remember why it's on my TBR; it sounds like a fairly typical YA fantasy with a very typical cover. Princessess, saving the kingdom, assassinations I think. The great thing about library books is that if you don't like them you can just give them back! 

Foreigner, by C. J. Cherryh. This isn't the first time I've borrowed this book for a trip, and a trip is probably not the time to be getting into this long and much-loved sci-fi series, because apparently it's slow to get started, and I'm slightly intimidated by it. But I do want to read it! So here it is. Maybe a three-hour train ride will be the right time to dive in. (Assuming the trains are running! I hope the trains are running next week!)

Republic of Dirt, by Susan Juby. This is the sequel to the hilariously funny Woefield Poultry Collective. Girl inherits a farm on an island and has to figure out farming, and islanders, and life in general. Juby is a delight, and I'm sure this one will get read.

A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèli Clark. I thought I had started this one and given up, but when I opened the sample I didn't recognize the scene, so maybe I'm mixing it up with another book about Djinn. This one comes highly recommended by many, and sounds pretty cool.

Libby has a seven-book limit, so until I return one of those, that's all I can have. (My hold on Nicola Griffiths' Spear came up but I had to delay delivery. Not sure that one is a travel read, anyway.)

On my Kindle, here are the new books I've purchased:

Chalice, by Robin McKinley. Read this decades ago and figured it was time to read it again. I remember it being slow and quiet, so it might be the book to get me to sleep!

Dragon Whisperer, by Vanessa Ricci-Thode. An alternate world with cool-sounding elemental magic and complicated human-dragon relationships. I supported her Kickstarter, so I will ultimately get three more books in the series. Love the covers.

Strong Wine, by A. J. Demas. Third in the Sword Dance series, the sweetest imaginable romance between a retired soldier and a dancer in an imaginary ancient-Mediterranean-style world.

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, by K. J. Parker, which I purchased on the strength of a short story in the above-mentioned sci-fi anthology, and because it's been on my TBR for a while and it doesn't look like my libraries will ever get it. (Is it self-published? Not sure.) Dry humour and an unconventional hero (an engineer). Sounds fun.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Mysteries of Thorn Manor, by Margaret Rogerson

Look what just came available on Libby! (I love putting things on hold and then forgetting that they're on hold, and having the notification suddenly pop up that a book I'd forgotten I wanted to read is now ready for me, and realizing that it's exactly the book I want to read right now!) And, since it's a short novella, I'm already finished it. What a treat!

Mysteries of Thorn Manor is a sort of Gratuitous Epilogue (ever since Andrea Höst invented that title, I've been so happy when other authors write them!) to Sorcery of Thorns that Rogerson wrote because her fans begged her for more of Elizabeth and Nathaniel. Because: more Elizabeth and Nathaniel! They're one of my favourite literary pairings and I'm obviously not alone. I need to reread Sorcery of Thorns now. Also, I think I need to buy these two books to have those gorgeous covers on my shelf! 

There is so much of all the things I love packed into this short book: mysterious probably sentient house with disappearing rooms and magic wallpaper and an attic full of cursed things; Elizabeth and Nathaniel and Silas and lots of squee and awww moments among them; Elizabeth taking care of books, because that's what Elizabeth does (and the wonderful magic ways that magical grimoires need to be taken care of); Nathaniel being ridiculously magical in very sexy ways; a ball (the kind with gowns!). And the plot resolution was so funny and appropriate and all the things I want out of fantasy.

If you haven't read Sorcery of Thorns, you really should. Especially if you are a fan of Sophie and Wizard Howl, because there are a lot of similar vibes here. Rogerson is a delightful writer: gorgeous descriptions of magic, characters with unplumbable depths, and lots of kind-hearted humour. And great heroines!

Just finished reading Mysteries of Thorn Manor while eating an apple pistachio strudel with Haagen Daas Vanilla Bean ice cream (I had to go downtown for an errand so I rewarded myself by stopping at a fancy bakery), and that's a good food metaphor: sweet and interesting with layers and delicious complexity. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Isle of Blood and Stone, by Makiia Lucier

I picked this one up on a random library browse: I love it when I find an unexpected gem because a librarian set a book face out on the shelf.

Isle of Blood and Stone is about a slightly disreputable royal mapmaker, and that was all I needed to bring the book home! Elias is a great character: he's skilled with maps and navigation and loves his job, but he has no fear of the seedy side of town and doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. But he still tries to live up to the legacy of his father, who disappeared many years ago when two princes were kidnapped. A mystery arrives in the form of two maps with deliberate inaccuracies that are obviously clues—and the maps appear to be drawn by Elias's father. Elias and his childhood friends, who happen to be the young king and his cousin Mercedes, a girl with her own unusual skills, have to decide if they will follow the clues and dig up the truth about an old tragedy that might be best left buried.

The world-building is lovely: an island kingdom with a distinctly Mediterranean feel and the kind of fantastical elements you might find on an old map; sea serpents are a real danger here. I was immersed in the setting, but it was the characters and their relationships that drew me into the story. Eliot, Mercedes and King Ulises are navigating the way their friendship must change as they fill their adult roles in the kingdom, and the tensions and loyalties among them are nuanced and real. I loved watching their interactions. There are a fairly large number of supporting characters, all of whom felt rounded and rich, helping the world feel full and interesting. I particularly liked Elias's family, and Reyna, the girl who wants to be mapmaker but whose future is limited because she's a girl.

The mystery is interesting enough, with adventure and suspense, and the resolution is one of those it-was-obvious-all-along-but-we-just-didn't-see-it solutions that are so satisfying. I wasn't particularly convinced by the bad guys, but it didn't really matter, since their motivations aren't what I was concerned about. I like that the ending isn't all tied up in a bow for us, and that it is true to each character.

The companion novel, Song of the Abyss, is about Reyna when she grows up, and I can't wait to read it!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Recent Reading

I don't usually keep track of what I read, because that sounds like way too much work! But I thought I had read quite a few new-to-me books in Feb that I enjoyed, and I was curious, so this is what I've gleaned from my Kindle and my borrowing history. If there's a star beside it then the link is to my Goodreads review.

Six Ways to Write a Love Letter, by Jackson Pearce

*Nora Goes Off Script, by Annabel Monahan

*The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi. This was so much fun! 

*The Shuddering City, by Sharon Shinn

Good Neighbours, by Stephanie Burgis. Cozy necromancy. What's not to like?

*Illuminations, by T. Kingfisher (Will probably do a longer review here on the blog.)

*If You Could See the Sun, by Ann Liang

Danny, Who Fell in a Hole, by Carl Fagan. The title says it all. Quirky and philosophical.

K-Pop Revolution, by Stephan Lee. Second of a duology; enjoyed them both.

I also re-read a bunch of stuff, including the Touchstone series, the Phoenix Feather series, and The Goblin Emperor. And I started but didn't finish several library picks.