Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Book Recommendations or “What I Did On My Christmas Vacation.”

I guess the folks at Amazon.com read my slightly (ahem!) disparaging remarks about their free shipping program because a whole box load of books arrived on my doorstep a couple of days before Christmas. Of course, since I’d already given up on them (based on the arrival date prediction on the Amazon.com website), I’d made an intervening trip to Barnes & Noble to stock up with the result that I am actually overloaded on books for a change. That hasn’t happened since…well…actually, I don’t think that’s EVER happened before. I really like not having to force myself to read ever-so-slowly because I know there’s nothing left on my nightstand after I finish the current book. My nightstand overfloweth J

So, on to the reviews. Years ago, I read an amusing little story done in the Jane Austen style with a dash of magic thrown in for spice. ”Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot” was written by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Since I happen to adore all things Austen, I really enjoyed this book and it’s become a perennial favorite re-read. So, imagine my delight when I discovered that Mmes. Wrede and Stevermer have finally come out with a sequel which follows the continuing adventures of Cecelia and her cousin Kate as they make ”The Grand Tour.” Alas, it’s not quite as good as the original book, but for those who enjoyed the original, it’s nice to find out what happened to the characters and it’s still good enough to be a likeable read on its own. Unless you’re a major fan, however, I’d wait for the paperback version.

From the whirl of the London “Season” and travel on the continent, I moved on to radio shows and werewolves. Hiding on the shelves at B&N I found a little ol’ first time novel by Carrie Vaughn called ”Kitty and the Midnight Hour.” Despite a disturbing tendency for the cover art to look like a rip-off of the cover of Kim Harrison’s ”Dead Witch Walking,” this book was a lot of fun. While it’s true that werewolves and vampires seem to have been done to death (no pun intended) lately, the main character’s job as a midnight disc jockey on a radio station and her startup of a call-in talk show for pathetic supernatural beings is quite original. In fact, the one thing that would have made this book even more effective would have been for it to feature MORE of the radio world and a little bit less of the werewolves chewing each other up on the streets of Denver, CO. A sequel is already in the works and is forthcoming this summer. I look forward to reading more about Miss Kitty.

From there, I moved on to an anthology called ”Night's Edge” which includes four novellas (or LONG short stories) by some of my favorite authors including Charlaine Harris and Barbara Hambly. I particularly enjoyed Hambly’s story and wish she would go back to writing sci-fi and fantasy instead of her recent addiction to historical fiction. I’ll take spooky haunted buildings over Mary Todd Lincoln any day. It was quite obvious in the story that the author was exorcising some of her personal demons relating to the divorce and subsequent recent death of her husband George Alex Effinger.

Then it was time to head into space (as in “outer”) with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s anthology ”Low Port.” I’ve been a huge fan of their Liaden Universe series forever and am familiar with their concept of the “Low Port” as it exists in that universe so I thought it would be interesting to read what other authors did with the idea. The problem with anthologies is that you never know what percentage of the stories will be excellent vs. mediocre vs. out and out clunkers. It’s kind of like when you buy a new CD and there are one or two hit songs on it and the rest suck and now you’re out twenty bucks for two good songs and thirteen rotten ones. I hate that. But, I’m happy to report that most of the stories in this anthology are really enjoyable. There were a couple that I thought were overly obscure or had difficult-to-follow dialects in them, but no major suckiness anywhere. I particularly liked “Angel’s Kitchen.”

Then, it was time to move on to vampires. See, I’d already done a werewolf novel and the vampires are just so annoyingly competitive. They HAVE to horn in and make sure they are represented. Sadly, there’s so much vamp fic out there now that it’s really kinda getting a “been there, read that” feel to it. I’m happy to report that Mary Janice Davidson’s ”Undead and Unwed” brings a fresh new voice and humor to the genre. Although it takes place in Minneapolis, it really reads like “Sex & the City” meets “Dracula.” I’m not sure which of the four girls the heroine of this novel would be (some combination of Carrie’s shoe fetish and Samantha’s willingness to boink anything that will stand still long enough is probably about right). Anyway, this one is hilarious and highly recommended. And yeah, there are a few bits that will test your WSD (willing suspension of disbelief) such as the heroine luckily having a gazillionaire best friend who is able to buy her house and keep it safe until she “rises” from the dead, but who cares? This novel is sooo not about nit-picky little details. Tell your inner rational voice to shut the hell up and just enjoy the ride. I’m already on to the sequel and there are at least two more books in the series that are already in print. Yay!

Whew! Okay, by this point, I probably need a new eyeglass prescription from all this reading, but hey, I was on vacation. Which brings me to the last book, ” The Givenchy Code,” by Julie Kenner. A while back, I reviewed Ms. Kenner’s “Carpe Demon: The Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom” and was slightly disappointed in it. Not so with “Code.” This book rocks (and not just because of the clever play of words in the title). The heroine is smart, the hero is yummy-hunky-gorgeous and the plot is interesting as the two of them race around Manhattan trying to stay ahead of a killer who thinks a computer assassin game has come to life and is playing for real.

And lastly, since I unfairly (as it turns out) bitched about Amazon, I figure I need to even the scales by complaining about B&N now. How come they can’t get new releases on the shelves on time? Linnea Sinclair’s ”An Accidental Goddess” was released on December 27, 2005, and even though I gave B&N until the 29th to have it in stock, I had no luck. Ditto with the 30th and 31st. Now, here it is a whole new YEAR and I still don’t have this book. Phooey, I say!

Still, Happy New Year to all and if there isn’t a review this Friday, it’s B&N’s fault!


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