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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Currently reading

A Book of Spirits and Thieves
Morgan Rhodes
A Crown of Swords
Robert Jordan
Progress: 203/880 pages
February
Lisa Moore

The Sparrow / Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet that will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question what it means to be "human". 

 

4.25 stars

I enjoy First Contact stories and this was a particularly good one. I think my enjoyment of it was increased by reading it soon after Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson, about a man who worked (sometimes with, sometimes against) the Jesuits in 17th century French Canada. Since a Jesuit priest, Emilio, is the main character in this novel, the historical context really helped me to appreciate him and his actions.

I found the switching between chapters set on Earth and those set on Rakhat to be very effective. Russell could reveal just enough in one setting to make the reader think they know something and then in the next section show how our assumptions can be dead wrong.

Although I thought that the humans’ easy ability to eat the flora and fauna of Rakhat to be a bit unlikely, I found their confusion and incorrect assumptions about the beings that they encountered to be wholly believable. Despite Emilio’s extreme talent as a linguist and language learner, it is difficult enough for us to understand the cultures of other Earthlings, let alone that of beings on another planet.

It wasn’t until the very last pages of the book that the title became clear to me, but once it came into focus, I appreciated it’s subtlety. A very interesting book and one which I will continue to think about for days to come.

Book number 355 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

The Sanctuary Sparrow / Ellis Peters

The Sanctuary Sparrow  - Ellis Peters

In the gentle Shrewsbury spring of 1140, the midnight matins at the Benedictine abbey suddenly reverberate with an unholy sound—a hunt in full cry. Persued by a drunken mob, the quarry is running for its life. When the frantic creature bursts into the nave to claim sanctuary, Brother Cadfael finds himself fighting off armed townsmen to save a terrified young man. Accused of robbery and murder is Liliwin, a wandering minstrel who performed at the wedding of a local goldsmith's son. The cold light of morning, however, will show his supposed victim, the miserly craftsman, still lives, although a strongbox lies empty. Brother Cadfael believes Liliwin is innocent, but finding the truth and the treasure before Liliwin's respite in sanctuary runs out may uncover a deadlier sin than thievery—a desperate love that nothing, not even the threat of hanging, can stop.

 

It’s been quite a while since I visited Brother Cadfael and perhaps because of that time lapse, I really enjoyed this novel. There truly aren’t too many options for murder in the 12th century, so one story is very like the last. I would classify these books as “cozy mysteries,” and it surprises me how much I like them, not usually being a fan of the cozy. I think it’s the historical nature of the tales that grabs me. It’s like learning history by osmosis while enjoying a good story.

Probably it also helped that I felt like I was getting away with something! I have a stack of previously signed out library books and theoretically this one should have waited until I made some progress on them. Instead, I plunged into this one right away and finished it in only an evening.

Peters does such a wonderful job of populating the abbey with the full spectrum of human frailties! The arrogant, the snob, the teacher, the compassionate, the seeker of justice, everybody is present and we get to observe their interactions. Her grasp of human behaviour is so accurate!

The result may not be tremendously surprising, but the journey is always enjoyable.

Bush Runner / Mark Bourrie

Bush Runner : the Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson - Mark Bourrie

Murderer. Salesman. Pirate. Adventurer. Cannibal. Co-founder of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Known to some as the first European to explore the upper Mississippi, and widely as the namesake of ships and hotel chains, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark Bourrie, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fifteen, Radisson assimilated and was adopted by a powerful family, only to escape to New York City after less than a year. After being recaptured, he defected from a raiding party to the Dutch and crossed the Atlantic to Holland—thus beginning a lifetime of seized opportunities and frustrated ambitions.

A guest among First Nations communities, French fur traders, and royal courts; witness to London’s Great Plague and Great Fire; and unwitting agent of the Jesuits’ corporate espionage, Radisson double-crossed the English, French, Dutch, and his adoptive Mohawk family alike, found himself marooned by pirates in Spain, and lived through shipwreck on the reefs of Venezuela. His most lasting venture as an Artic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates today, 350 years later, as North America’s oldest corporation.

 

I remember first hearing about Radisson and Groseilliers in about Grade 5, when I think they were called “explorers” or “fur traders.” I also recall my mother calling them Radishes and Gooseberries. Imagine my surprise to find that Groseilliers actually does mean gooseberries!

In many ways, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is a better and a worse man than you would expect from the few facts that I encountered in grade school. He seems to have been able to roll along with whatever situation he encountered, looking for an upside or an opportunity. He also seems to have had a natural aptitude for languages which stood him in good stead. On the poor side, he seemed to be motivated almost entirely by profit and was willing to abandon or double-cross his friends and business partners whenever it was convenient for him.

Why should we be interested in the man? As the author states in his introduction: He’s living with Indigenous people in North America. He’s with Charles II of England and his court of scoundrels, traitors, and ex-pirates. He’s in England during the Great Plague. He’s in London during the Great Fire. He’s set upon by spies. He’s in the Arctic. Then he’s with pirates in the Caribbean. After that, he’s at Versailles. And then the Arctic again. Along the way, he crosses paths with the most interesting people of his day. He’s the Forrest Gump of his time.

I can’t help but think that Radisson could have achieved a lot more if he hadn’t been quite so fixated on the fur trade. He could have lived a good life among the Iroquois or the Mohawk, but his restless nature wouldn’t let him settle. A bit of a conman, he couldn’t happily just live a normal life.

The Innocents / Michael Crummey

The Innocents - Michael Crummey

A brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland's northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean, by a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family's boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to keep them.

As they fight for their own survival through years of meagre catches and storms and ravaging illness, it is their fierce loyalty to each other that motivates and sustains them. But as seasons pass and they wade deeper into the mystery of their own natures, even that loyalty will be tested.

 

If you love beautiful language, this is the book for you. Crummey incorporates plenty of unique Newfoundland-isms into the text, but you can figure out what they mean quite easily from the context. I love language and words, so I found this new vocabulary to be quite intoxicating.

And what a story! A boy of 12 and a girl of 10 living in a remote cove of Newfoundland, orphaned and trying to carry on as they did when their parents were alive. The author got the premise of the story from an article in an old Newfoundland newspaper that featured two young people seeing off a clergyman with a gun in response to criticism (the girl was pregnant). In this novel, the children are raised by two people who seemed to barely speak, nor do they know how to read or write, no neighbours or relatives, no radio, no contact with the outside world. They are indeed innocents.

Crummey harkens back to the Genesis story: there are overtones of Cain and Abel in the story of Sennet Best and the brother that he seems to have murdered in order to gain the affections of Sarah, the children’s mother. And then of course Ada and Evered are completely ignorant about virtually everything, including sex. Can you imagine going through those turbulent teenage years with no clue what is happening to you? When Ada’s complete sex education consists of her mother’s warning, “Soon you’ll be getting your monthly visitor.”

The hardship they face and the challenges that they overcome are incredible. But you never know what you can do until you are faced with difficulty and they rise to the challenge. The triumph of the human spirit over ignorance.

Callahan's Legacy / Spider Robinson

Callahan's Legacy - Spider Robinson

For years, Callahan's was the place where friends met to have a few drinks, tell a few jokes, and occasionally save the world. Until that unfortunate incident with the nuke a few years ago....

But Jake Stonebender and his wife have opened a new Callahan's, Mary's Place, and all the regulars are there: Doc Webster, Fast Eddie the piano player, Long Drink McGonnigle, and of course the usual talking dogs, alcoholic vampires, aliens, and time travelers. Songs will be sung, drinks will be drunk (and drunks will have drinks), puns will be swapped...and as a three-eyed, three-legged, three-armed, three-everythinged alien flashes through space toward the bar, it just might be time to save the world again....

 

Suffice it to say that if you like Robinson’s Callahan novels, you will like this one. This offering was perhaps a bit better than the previous volumes or perhaps the series is growing on me (like a fungus). Something about Robinson’s voice in these books irritates the shit out of me--to me he sounds rather smugly self-satisfied. I hope that I’m wrong on that, but that’s my experience.

This story hasn’t aged well, being specific about certain computer and internet details as it is. It is definitely a creature of 1996. Also, be prepared for a LOT of pun-ishment. The puns are a characteristic of this series, but if you are allergic to this form of humour you may wish to pop an antihistamine before wading in.

Book number 354 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

The Gap into Ruin : This Day All Gods Die / Stephen R. Donaldson

The Gap Into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die - Stephen R. Donaldson

As the crew attempts to pursue the pirate ship Soar and her captain, their hopes turn to Angus Thermopyle. Angus, Morn Hyland, and her son, Davies, race home, unaware that Warden Dios and The Dragon are locked in a final confrontation that may alter the fate of humankind forever.

 

Put a mark on the wall, I actually enjoyed a SRD book! Nevertheless, I’m glad to be finished this particular series and know where all the chips have fallen. I will give Donaldson this, he is particularly skillful at recognizing when to end a chapter and when to switch view-points. I found his timing in this book to be right on the money.

I don’t require likeable characters, but for whatever reason, I find SRD’s characters to be particularly difficult to care about. What I could get into was the downfall of Holt Fasner (and the eventual release of Norna, omg I felt for that woman despite her unpleasantness).

It may have been Frank Herbert who wrote about “wheels within wheels” when writing about plots, but Donaldson wrote the superior plotting and backstabbing novels with this series. All the twisty, turny bits required close attention to know who was fooling whom. And Donaldson’s characters do it without spice to see into the future.

Book number 353 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

Bleak Seasons / Glen Cook

Bleak Seasons - Glen Cook

"Let me tell you who I am, on the chance that these scribblings do survive....I am Murgen, Standard bearer of the Black Company, though I bear the shame of having lost that standard in battle. I am keeping these Annals because Croaker is dead. One-Eye won't, and hardly anyone else can read or write. I will be your guide for however long it takes the Shadowlanders to force our present predicament to its inevitable end..." So writes Murgen, seasoned veteran of the Black Company. The Company has taken the fortress of Stormgard from the evil Shadowlanders, lords of darkness from the far reaches of the earth. Now the waiting begins.

Exhausted from the siege, beset by sorcery, and vastly outnumbered, the Company have risked their souls as well as their lives to hold their prize. But this is the end of an age, and great forces are at work. The ancient race known as the Nyueng Bao swear that ancient gods are stirring. the Company's commander has gone mad and flirts with the forces of darkness. Only Murgen, touched by a spell that has set his soul adrift in time, begins at last to comprehend the dark design that has made pawns of men and god alike.

 

 

It’s been a while since I last checked in on the Black Company. If you had asked me several years ago whether I would enjoy really dark military science fiction in a threatening fantasy world, I would have said, “No.” And I would have been quite definite about that. But I find myself really enjoying The Black Company series and this surprises me.

The Company itself is an eclectic mix of societal rejects who have banded together as mercenaries to earn a living and provide a kind of support group for each other. You can’t really call any of them likeable, and yet you find yourself glad to see the familiar faces: Goblin, One Eye, Big Bucket, Croaker, and Murgen (who is our narrator for this section of the Annals).

Cook manages to show us how awful warfare is, how neither side is right/good, and how much brutality accompanies war, all while entertaining us with the antics of the two wizards or the negotiation attempts of Murgen with various factions within the besieged city of Dejagore (what language are they speaking today? Or more importantly, claiming not to understand). Maybe you consider the Company men to be uneducated, but then they start speaking six or seven languages or building complex structures or negotiating their way out of bad situations, and it seems that they have learned quite a bit on the job.

Although the fantasy world is mostly medieval in technology, Cook uses a modern tone to the dialog. This combination doesn’t always work for me, but in this series it seems to mesh. I already have the next book in the series teed up and ready to go!

Book number 352 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

 

Inheritor / C.J. Cherryh

Inheritor - C.J. Cherryh

Six months have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix—the same ship which brought a colony of humans to the hostile environment of alien atevi nearly two hundred years ago. During these six months, the atevi have reconfigured their fledgling space program in a bid to take their place in the heavens alongside humans. But the return of the Phoenix has added a frighteningly powerful third party to an already volatile situation, polarizing both human and atevi political factions, and making the possibility of all-out planetary war an even more likely threat.

On the atevi mainland, human ambassador Bren Cameron, in a desperate attempt to maintain the peace, has arranged for one human representative from the Phoenix to take up residence with him in his apartments, and for another to be stationed on Mosphiera, humanity's island enclave. Bren himself is unable to return home for fear of being arrested or assassinated by the powerful arch conservative element who wish to bar the atevi from space. Desperately trying to keep abreast of the atevi associations, how can Bren possibly find a way to save two species from a three-sided conflict that no one can win?

 

Still very much enjoying this series and C.J. Cherryh’s writing. I love the complexities that she forces her main character, Bren, to deal with. His job is supposed to be translating between humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet. It sounds simple, but there are humans involved here and wherever there are at least three humans (or chimpanzees) there will be politics. So he must deal with human factions and humans are rank amateurs at intrigue compared to the atevi! Add to that mix the long-lost interplantary ship which has returned to look for the humans that it left behind, and the situation becomes even more complex. The atevi believe that a ship full of humans will undoubtedly side with the planet-side humans and have a hard time believing Bren that humans aren’t a monolithic group.

I think Cherryh must have studied colonial histories, perhaps Britain and India or similar patterns, to help her structure a believable narrative. The humans planet-side are so sure of their technological superiority that they get complacent and let their skills slip. They are arrogant because they overestimate their position and under-estimate the skills of the native population, the atevi.

Cherryh certainly knows how to torment a main character. With all the other complexities, she throws in a human ship representative who seems destined to blow a gasket, a burgeoning romantic relationship for Bren, and deteriorating relations with his family. Watching him negotiate this maze of details is fascinating!

Book number 351 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

The Night Country / Melissa Albert

The Night Country - Melissa Albert

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home...

 

The follow up to The Hazel Wood. I’m still rating this one 4 stars, but it wasn’t quite as enthralling as the initial offering, in my opinion. Some of this may be due to my coming down with the flu as I was finishing up--nothing might have completely pleased me under those conditions.

While I felt like The Hazel Wood was about breaking out of the destructive patterns that hold us in bad places in our lives, The Night Country seems to be about searching for new ways to live after making that escape. It’s not easy and you continually find yourself heading back towards old, familiar patterns of behaviour instead of breaking new ground.

Alice’s mother, Ella, finds herself feeling helpless as she watches her daughter struggle with this whole situation, as generations of parents have done before her. I found myself liking Ella and Alice more than I did in the previous book and being downright fond of Ellery Finch!

Once again, I would caution other readers that although there are fairy tale elements to the story, don’t be expecting handsome princes or entrancing Fae lords. However, if you like these two books of Melissa Albert’s, I would recommend trying An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns, both by Margaret Rogerson.

Friday Reads

The Night Country - Melissa Albert Inheritor - C.J. Cherryh The Innocents - Michael Crummey Callahan's Legacy - Spider Robinson

I'm having fun with The Night Country, the sequel to The Hazel Wood.  The library website tells me there are 10 people waiting for it, so I'm giving it my full attention right now.

 

Then I'm trying to catch up on the books that I meant to read last year for my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.  Inheritor is one of those, being the third book in C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series.  I'm quite excited to get to it.

 

Next in the queue is The Innocents by Michael Crummey.  This is the selection for February in my real-life Book Club.  I've borrowed a e-reader from a friend and am having my first experience with that format.  Not sure what I think just yet.

 

Finally, I had to interlibrary loan Callahan's Legacy for my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.  I'm never very impressed with Spider Robinson's writing.  He rubs me the wrong way, but you will hear more about that in the review, I'm sure.  I don't dislike him enough to refuse to read the 2-3 books I have left in this series.

 

So that's my reading line up for the weekend and early next week.  The weather here has been gorgeous, but is due to cool a bit on Saturday evening.  Still not frigid, though, so I remain happy about that.

 

Have a great weekend, friends!

The Prestige / Christopher Priest

The Prestige - Christopher Priest

In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent séance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose one another.

Their rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers, but with terrible consequences. In the course of pursuing each other's ruin, they will deploy all the deception their magicians' craft can command--the highest misdirection and the darkest science.

Blood will be spilled, but it will not be enough. In the end, their legacy will pass on for generations...to descendants who must, for their sanity's sake, untangle the puzzle left to them.
 

 

3.5 stars--better that “I liked it” but less than “I really liked it.” I was engaged while I was reading, but every time I set it down, I had a struggle to pick it back up again. Totally on me, it’s not the book.

If you enjoyed Robertson Davies’ Deptford Trilogy (Fifth BusinessThe ManticoreWorld of Wonders), you will probably enjoy this book too. Unlike Davies, the ending felt rather Frankenstein-like to me. And I have to wonder if Erin Morgenstern read this before she wrote The Night Circus. I also keep thinking about Faust for some reason that I can’t put my finger on.

I’ve run into Nikola Tesla as a character in fiction on a number of occasions now, and here he is again! I can see the appeal--an extremely intelligent and talented man, but eccentric and (at least in younger years) darkly handsome.

If you’re not a fan of the epistolary format, you may want to give this book a miss. But if you love the idea of dueling magicians, this is the book for you.

Book number 350 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

Sweep With Me / Ilona Andrews

Sweep with Me  -  Ilona Andrews

Thank you for joining us at Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, during the Treaty Stay. As you know, we are honor-bound to accept all guests during this oldest of innkeeper holidays and we are expecting a dangerous guest. Or several. But have no fear. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your hosts, Dina Demille and Sean Evans, will defend you at all costs. [But we hope we don’t have to.]

 

Every winter, Innkeepers look forward to celebrating their own special holiday, which commemorates the ancient treaty that united the very first Inns and established the rules that protect them, their intergalactic guests, and the very unaware/oblivious people of [planet] Earth. By tradition, the Innkeepers welcomed three guests: a warrior, a sage, and a pilgrim, but during the holiday, Innkeepers must open their doors to anyone who seeks lodging. Anyone.

 

All Dina hopes is that the guests and conduct themselves in a polite manner. But what’s a holiday without at least one disaster?

 

A very fun novella, which I purchased while rounding out a book order that included a recipe book that I wanted very much. I’d read the story in installments online, but what fun to have it all in one book and be able to absorb it all in one evening.

I’m a true blue Ilona Andrews fan and I really enjoy the Innkeeper Chronicles, so this little offering was ideal for me. I always appreciate Dina and her gentle-but-firm ways of dealing with guests. Orro is a favourite character and we get to know him a bit better here, including getting to peek into his living quarters. And although I’ve always suspected it, we readers get to see why Orro has never left Gertrude Hunt Inn. Of course, Sean is right by Dina’s side, riding herd on difficult guests, taking interstellar assassins on field trips, and raining destruction on any battlefield he encounters!

I don’t know how many more of these adventures that the Andrews have inside them, but I’m hoping for many, many more. I never get tired of this world and we still haven’t a clue what has happened to Dina’s parents and Dina has yet to be reunited with Klaus, her brother (although he showed up at Maud’s beside at the very end of Sweep of the Blade). Fingers crossed for more Innkeeper Chronicles!

(There was also a teaser included for Emerald Blaze! I await it with impatience and anticipation.)

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve / Stephen Greenblatt

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve - Stephen Greenblatt

Bolder, even, than the ambitious books for which Stephen Greenblatt is already renowned, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve explores the enduring story of humanity’s first parents. Comprising only a few ancient verses, the story of Adam and Eve has served as a mirror in which we seem to glimpse the whole, long history of our fears and desires, as both a hymn to human responsibility and a dark fable about human wretchedness.

Tracking the tale into the deep past, Greenblatt uncovers the tremendous theological, artistic, and cultural investment over centuries that made these fictional figures so profoundly resonant in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds and, finally, so very “real” to millions of people even in the present. With the uncanny brilliance he previously brought to his depictions of William Shakespeare and Poggio Bracciolini (the humanist monk who is the protagonist of The Swerve), Greenblatt explores the intensely personal engagement of Augustine, Dürer, and Milton in this mammoth project of collective creation, while he also limns the diversity of the story’s offspring: rich allegory, vicious misogyny, deep moral insight, and some of the greatest triumphs of art and literature.

The biblical origin story, Greenblatt argues, is a model for what the humanities still have to offer: not the scientific nature of things, but rather a deep encounter with problems that have gripped our species for as long as we can recall and that continue to fascinate and trouble us today.

 

My many hours spent listening to CBC radio tend to expand my TBR list beyond what I would usually choose for reading material. This book is but one example of that phenomenon, as I heard the author interviewed and became curious about this book.

It was interesting, although not quite as riveting as I could have hoped. Nevertheless, I learned a number of things that I found intriguing. I wasn’t fully aware of the creation myths of cultures surrounding the ancient Hebrews (Sumerians,Assyrians, Babylonians, etc.) but now I have some desire to learn more about all of those cultures.

I also learned more about St. Augustine and John Milton than I expected to (especially their sex lives!).

The Genesis story is so brief that it practically cries out for people to embellish it with fiction. I know that, as a child, I asked a lot of the same questions that Greenblatt explores in this book. I’m sure that this lack of detail has caused major headaches for Sunday School teachers for as long as there has been Sunday School. The tale has certainly inspired a lot of art work and it may be the ultimate tale of the “good old days,” referencing a gone-but-not-forgotten Golden Age.

Because Internet / Gretchen McCulloch

Because Internet - Gretchen McCulloch

Language is humanity's most spectacular open-source project, and the internet is making our language change faster and in more interesting ways than ever before. Internet conversations are structured by the shape of our apps and platforms, from the grammar of status updates to the protocols of comments and @replies. Linguistically inventive online communities spread new slang and jargon with dizzying speed. What's more, social media is a vast laboratory of unedited, unfiltered words where we can watch language evolve in real time.

Even the most absurd-looking slang has genuine patterns behind it. Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch explores the deep forces that shape human language and influence the way we communicate with one another. She explains how your first social internet experience influences whether you prefer "LOL" or "lol," why ~sparkly tildes~ succeeded where centuries of proposals for irony punctuation had failed, what emoji have in common with physical gestures, and how the artfully disarrayed language of animal memes like lolcats and doggo made them more likely to spread.

Because Internet is essential reading for anyone who's ever puzzled over how to punctuate a text message or wondered where memes come from. It's the perfect book for understanding how the internet is changing the English language, why that's a good thing, and what our online interactions reveal about who we are.

 

I found this author’s joy in her research to be contagious. She obviously loves linguistics and her interactions on the internet. In these days when there is so much contention and negativity on the interwebz, this is great to read.

As she points out, the use of slang presupposes that the writer knows the correct usage that they are deviating from and therefore is enjoying the process. And there have been panics about telephone use, among other technologies. Language evolves and someday in the not too distant future, people will look back at the situation today the way we look back at WWII terms entering the lexicon.

I loved how she traced the origins of certain internetisms or ways of expressing oneself, treating them as issues worthy of research. I also found her classification of people interesting, as I’m a Post Internet Person (I didn’t really engage in the world of the internet until after such sites as Facebook became things). My horizons were certainly expanded as I learned about facets of the net that I wasn’t aware of before.

If you are a closet linguistic like myself and you enjoy your playtime on the internet, you may find this book to be quite entertaining.

Timeless / Gail Carriger

Timeless  - Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, can not put a dampener on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

 

I’ve really enjoyed this series, though I think that the first book was probably my favourite of the five. I’m looking forward to reading both Carriger’s Finishing School and The Custard Protocol series. I’m glad there are more books in this alternate history to look forward to!

With this book, the Alexia/Conall storyline may have reached the end of its natural life span. Not every thread is wrapped up, but that’s not always necessary or even desirable. Things that were amusing in previous books (Lord & Lady Maccon living in Lord Akeldama’s third best closet, for instance) are becoming less entertaining. Prudence makes up for that as she becomes a character in her own right (and that will make The Custard Protocol interesting).

I must say that I was glad to see Biffy settled into his new role(s). He’s made the shift from vampire drone to young werewolf-about-town quite successfully, found a new squeeze, and shown some career potential. I’ll miss him more than Alexia and Conall, I think.

Such a fun world and I look forward to future expeditions into it!

Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen / Vicki Delany

Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen (A Year-Round Christmas Mystery) - Vicki Delany

In Rudolph, New York, it’s Christmastime all year long. But this December, while the snow-lined streets seem merry and bright, a murder is about to ruin everyone’s holiday cheer…

As the owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, Merry Wilkinson knows how to decorate homes for the holidays. That’s why she thinks her float in the semi-annual Santa Claus parade is a shoo-in for best in show. But when the tractor pulling Merry’s float is sabotaged, she has to face facts: there’s a Scrooge in Christmas Town.

Merry isn’t ready to point fingers, especially with a journalist in town writing a puff piece about Rudolph’s Christmas spirit. But when she stumbles upon the reporter’s body on a late night dog walk—and police suspect he was poisoned by a gingerbread cookie crafted by her best friend, Vicky—Merry will have to put down the jingle bells and figure out who’s really been grinching about town, before Vicky ends up on Santa’s naughty list…

 

I tried to get ahold of this book for the Christmas season, but was way too late! But, since this author will be attending a conference that I will attend in August, I decided that I would read it anyway. I have previously read her Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries, so I thought it would stand me in good stead to see what else she had to offer.

Imagine my surprise then, when I felt like I was re-read the Bookshop Mysteries! There are so many details in common. The protagonists are both young women who moved away from small communities and returned, both of them have set up speciality shops, both have best friends who run bake shops, both re-encounter a man they used to date, both have dogs that they barely have time for, both meet an attractive man who has newly moved to the community, both of them discover dead bodies, both have a member of the police force that they don’t get along with, and neither of these women trust the police to fully investigate the deaths. That’s a lot of overlap.

Don’t get me wrong--I finished the book. It was good enough to hold my attention to the end, although I was pretty sure of the destination. There were details that were delightful. This one is set in Rudolph, N.Y., billing itself as Christmastown USA. The main character is called Merry of course and her father (born on Dec. 25) is Noel and he is a dead ringer for Santa Claus. Merry’s dog, a young Saint Bernard, is called Matterhorn (though she calls him Mattie most often). Delany shows talent in naming her characters although I raised an eyebrow when the BFF in this one was named Vicky!

I realize that if you enjoy a particular pattern, you will enjoy a repeat of it. Witness myself and my obsessive reading of Ilona Andrews’ writing. Those novels too repeat a formula over and over and I shamelessly enjoy them. So, if you enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries, I have absolutely no doubt that you will enjoy the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries and vice-versa.