Current Reading: Krueger, Dionne

Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger – mystery. A new Krueger book is always cause for celebration here, as he’s one of my favorite authors. This was, no surprise, a good one, with all of the characters, setting and strong plotting we’re used to in a Krueger novel.

When a liberal Senator’s plane crashes into a swampy area not far from Aurora, home of Cork O’Conner and his family, Cork is called out to help with the search for the plane, any survivors, and possibly the plane’s black box. But before much searching can get underway, the FBI shows up and pushes everyone else away. The plane wreckage is found, no survivors. The black box is missing. Everyone who started the early search is questioned in an extremely accusatory way, and then people begin getting injured and some just disappear. The tension mounts as the locals try to find out what is really going on, why there seem to be government black ops agents in the area, and why everyone is being threatened. Good one.

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne – mystery. This was short-listed for one of the major awards, so I thought I’d try it. A woman and her husband and child are living a peaceful life on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when word comes of a prison break that changes their lives. Turns out the woman is the daughter of a kidnapped girl decades before who grew up in the marshes, off the grid. The escapee is her father, who killed two guards in his escape. She is determined to find him and bring him to justice, but her emotions are torn as she moves into the area she’s so familiar with from her youth, knowing all the while she doesn’t know what she will do when she finds her father.

Parts of this are atmospheric, the setting, as far as I could tell, well-drawn, the character interesting, but the novel as a whole didn’t click with me. Other readers will probably like it better.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 12 Comments

Forgotten: Fanuilh by Daniel Hood

This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in The Broken Bullhorn

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Fanuilh by Daniel Hood, Ace Books, April 1994

A successful blending of mystery and fantasy.

Here’s something a little different, this is both a mystery novel and a fantasy novel. The title character Fanuilh is a minature dragon, the familiar of the wizard Tarquin, who is stabbed to death.

Liam Rhenford, a young man just arriving to become apprenticed, discovers the body and the extremely distraught dragon. Together they set out to find the murderer. After initially being a suspect, the two work with a tough old captain of the city guard to solve the crime. Suspects include an actor with a beautiful sister, an herbalist who has a mysterious mistress, a wealthy merchant who believes he has been cheated and a girl who provided the wizard with virgin’s blood for a spell.

Hood does a good job giving the reader all the elements of both fantasy and mystery. This is the first of five novels in the series featuring Liam Rhenford and Fanuilh, and it’s quite good. Hood’s books are quite enjoyable, though the series is a bit uneven with some books stronger than others. That’s typical of series.

I found these to be somewhat reminiscent of Joel Rosenberg’s D’Shai and Hour of the Octopus, also very good mystery-fantasy blends that I highly recommend to anyone who has not read them.

The Rhenford & Fanuilh series:

  • Fanuilh – (Ace, April 1994)
  • Wizard’s Heir – (Ace, July 1995)
  • Beggar’s Banquet – (Ace, April 1997)
  • Scales of Justice – (Ace, March, 1998)
  • King’s Cure – (Ace, December, 2000)
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 6 Comments

Meet Dexter

I mentioned on Monday that we got a new cat. Here he is.

We’d had to put Belle, our fifteen-year-old female, down due to ill health. We were very sad and missed her terribly, but decided we needed a new cat to put the purr back into the house.

So Sunday we went to a local shelter and found ourselves this handsome boy. He’s four years old, was named Simba at the shelter, but we have re-named him Dexter. Maybe it’s for a favorite fine jazz player of mine, Dexter Gordon or it could be for Colin Dexter, author of the Morse books. Doesn’t matter, we like the name for him.

So say hello to our new guy, Dexter. He’s good sized at 9 pounds, a real lover and he’s making a nice adjustment to his new home. We expect him to be here a long time.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 10 Comments

Current Reading: Adam Fisher, Anthony Horowitz

By the way, we got a new cat today. Post coming.

Valley of Genius, the Uncensored History of Silicon Valley by Adam Fisher – non-fiction. I’m always interested in books about the early days of the computer industry and of silicon valley, so this was a natural selection for me. The format is unusual: the book consists entirely of quotes from the various persons involved, arranged to tell the story as it develops. This took a good deal of getting used to, as there was no read-it-through narrative, as such. But what is said is interesting and I found myself reading right through it. Some parts were a little repetitive, which is to be expected in this format. For those interested in the hardware and software developments of this place and time.

The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz – mystery (1977). I guess I’d call this a semi-golden age-like mystery, with many of the elements we’d see in a classic novel of detection. However the characters differ from what me might find in Sayers or Christie. That’s fine with me.

Firstly, we have a novel inside a novel. At the beginning is an editor for a publishing house telling us the book she has just settled down to read in manuscript changed her life. Before we can go further with that plot line, we are presented with the book itself.

It’s has Poirot-like character attempting to solve a murder, and it’s quite well done. I liked it. But before that book concludes, we are pulled out of it when the editor tell us the last chapters are missing. The rest of the novel then follows the editor and she tries to find the missing chapters, presenting another mystery to be solved.

An intriguing format, and yes, we do get the final chapters, finally. Worth reading.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 23 Comments

Forgotten: In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the Labyrinth of Drakes, A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan, Tor Books, April 2016

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Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 8 Comments

Current Reading: Julia Spencer-Fleming, John Varley

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming – mystery, first in series.

Clare Fergusson is the new priest at St. Alban’s Episcopal church in Miller’s Kill, New York (“kill” is a term for a body of water, most commonly a creek, but can also be a tidal inlet, river or strait). Clare isn’t your typical priest, not only for her gender but also for her background as a tough Army chopper pilot.

A newborn infant is left at the church rectory door which brings her together with the town’s police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who’s also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby’s mother – and intense pressure from potential adoptive parents – quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow the town.

Clare is characterized as intelligent though pushy at times, and she often goes beyond the expected for a non-authorized police snoop. She also occasionally does thoughtless things like going off by herself in a dangerous situation. Nevertheless, she’s a likable character and the story here is well told. The author keeps readers guessing until the mystery is solved, or at least most readers. I guessed with about twenty pages to go, but enjoyed the book to the end. The relationship between the priest and the (married) Sheriff will no doubt develop in future books in the series

I have so many books stacked up right now I don’t know when I’ll get to the next in the series, but look forward to it. These have very well drawn setting and interesting characters. Good for an afternoon or two.

Irontown Blues by John Varley – science fiction. The last Varley I read before this was back in 1979-1984, when I read his Gaea trilogy, consisting of Titan, Wizard and Demon. Honestly I didn’t like the second and third of those books very much, and only finished them to finish the trilogy.

I read a review of this one that got me interested, so I tried it and I really liked it a lot.

This is labeled an “Eight Worlds Novel” and there are three previous ones, The  Ophiuchi Hotline, (1977), Steel Beach (1992) and The Golden Globe (1998), neither of which I’ve read, and I didn’t feel at a loss in not having done so when reading this book.

The book’s protagonist, Christopher Bach, was a policeman in one of the largest Lunar cities when the A.I. Lunar Central Computer had a breakdown later called The Big Glitch. The problem turned into all-out urban war. When order was restored, Chris’s life was changed by his role in the conflict. He went private, assisted by his genetically altered dog Sherlock – a wonderful character! – and emulates the tough guys in the noir books and movies that he loves.

When Bach takes the case of a woman involuntarily infected with an engineered virus, he is on the hunt to track down the biohackers in the infamous district of Irontown. He’s in for much more than he bargained for. This is a noir mystery/SF novel set on the moon with great characters and sense of place. Recommended.

I plan on getting and reading the other Eight Worlds novels.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 15 Comments

FFB: How Like An Angel by Margaret Millar

This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in The Broken Bullhorn

How Like An Angel by Margaret Millar, © 1962, Carroll & Graf 2000 mass market paperback, mystery – Joe Quinn, P.I.

Private detective Joe Quinn gambles. That’s how he’s lost his job, car, clothes, and girlfriend; it’s why he’s hitchhiking from Reno to California, where he hopes to collect a small debt to see him through and get him back to Reno. He thinks his luck will change.

Hitchhiking, he’s dropped off along a secondary highway short of his goal. Hungry, thirsty and tired, he takes the little used driveway to a religious cult commune called The Tower. He hopes the back-country compound can offer him food and water and a place to sleep until morning when he’ll try to find a ride into the coastal city that is his goal.

There he meets Sister Blessing who, when she finds out Quinn is a private investigator, asks him to locate a man named Patrick O’Gorman. It proves to be no easy task: O’Gorman’s dead, apparently in an automobile accident several years before, having gone through a guard rail and into a flooding river. The body was never found, but was assumed to have washed down river and O’Gorman drowned. However, the more questions he asks, the less sure Quinn is that the death was as accidental as everyone insists.

The story becomes more and more involved as Quinn continues to talk to people, many of whom don’t seem to want to discuss the accident. Each new conversation hints at something deeper, an angle not previously understood. But there are contradictions too.

I kept guessing what happened, who did what to whom, how it was going to turn out, but every time I was wrong. When the last page was read, I was stunned, I’d been completely fooled. My wife read this soon after I did, and she enjoyed it too. She wasn’t as fooled as I, but still didn’t figure it out until the last 10-15 pages. Highly recommended.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 5 Comments

Current Reading – Elkins, Piper, Hartman, Gaines

Library books keep pouring in. It seems everything is on hold and not showing up, then wham! Three, four or more come in all at once. Oh, the pressure!

Good Blood by Aaron Elkins – mystery. It’s been a while since I read one by Elkins, who I met at my first mystery convention, Left Coast Crime in Anaheim, CA. in 1994. He’s a nice man, and his mysteries are cozies featuring the “skeleton detective”, Gideon Oliver. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that’s not from the library; I just picked it out of a box I’d been going through. I consider these light reading, but enjoy one occasionally.

A Girl’s Guide to Missles, Growing Up in America’s Secret Desert by Karen Lynnea Piper – autobiography. An uninteresting person makes for an uninteresting autobiography. I finished it by scanning through the later chapters. Meh.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – fantasy. Hartman is a fairly hot YA author, this is her first book of three. I liked this story of a young girl who discovers she is not wholly human in a world shared with humans and dragons. Good, but I probably won’t go on to the second book unless I have nothing else to read.

Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines – autobiography. We have enjoyed the HGTV program Fixer Upper from time to time, both for the personalities of Gaines and his wife Joanna and the finished remodeled homes they create. However, they should stick to TV, which they are not as the show is now done. Don’t waste a second on this.

next up, better books: In the Bleak Midwinter and Irontown Blues.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 16 Comments

Forgotten: The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar

This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in The Broken Bullhorn.
At the time I read this, I expected to go straight on to the second book. I have yet to do so. That seems to happen a lot. Too many books, I guess, or too many choices.

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar © 2010, Angry Robot 2010 mass market paperback, fantasy-steampunk – 1st in trilogy

Once in a while, you just have to have a book. This is one of those. I saw it and I’d wanted it for a while, but a review of the second one in the series finally convinced me to buy the set. I’m not much of a fan of steam punk, but these looked too good to pass up. I’ll start off with the cover blurb:

“When his beloved is killed in a terrorist atrocity committed by the sinister Bookman, young poet Orphan becomes enmeshed in a web of secrets and lies. His quest to uncover the truth takes him from the hidden catacombs of a London on the brink of revolution, through pirate-infested seas, to the mysterious island that may hold the secret to the origin, not only of the shadowy Bookman, but of Orphan himself…

I must say, for once the blurb is true to the book. The first thing that stuck me when I started reading this was the sense of place Tidhar gives the London location, and sets it up with the obvious steampunk elements: Victorian times but with steam-driven cars, dirigibles and so on. The British government has been taken over by a race of lizard-like beings that came from a mysterious island (hint) in the Pacific Ocean, or it’s the Atlantic, it’s never clear. It’s possible these creatures actually came from off planet. Whichever, they have an iron grip on the government and military. The only person or thing they seem to fear, and this fear is shared by much of the populace, is a mysterious being called The Bookman.

When Orphan’s best friend Gilgamesh is killed, and then his beloved fiancé is killed in a terrorist bombing, Orphan vows to find the truth behind the event and that leads him, inevitably, to a hunt for The Bookman.

I found the pace rapid enough to keep me turning pages, and the characters are very well constructed. I felt as if I really got to know Orphan and several other main characters quite well. Tidhar is a skilled writer telling a solidly constructed tale. The book finishes with an ending, though not a cliffhanger, so it can be read as a stand-alone. The second book in the trilogy is Camera Obscura.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 9 Comments

Princess Mirabelle

2003 – September 17, 2018Much loved, gone this day, greatly missed.

Posted in Books & Reading | 16 Comments