EJJ1955's Attempt to Read 75 Books (at least) in 2018
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Just wanted to set this up and say howdy to all members. Good luck with your 2018 reading!
Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.
Hello, all! I know I've read some things this year . . . oh, dear! Must record . . .
1. Fever Rising by K. M. Riley. A sci fi/fantasy book I edited.
2. The Dark Descent by Jerry Knack. Fantasy/vampire book I edited.
3. Dawn Among the Stars by Samantha Heuwagen. A sci fi book I edited.
As per usual, I don't comment on the books I've edited. As for personal reading, I started reading a well-written book about murder in turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th, that is) Vienna, but I just couldn't get motivated to keep reading it. I've started something more to my liking, but real life keeps interfering in my pleasures. I need to get basic things--like a place to live--sorted out.
4. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. Interesting day: we lost electricity for most of it, so I read all day long--not much else I could do, really. I'm staying in a motel, and the two guys (owner and guy who works for him) here brought me a candle and a cup of coffee (thank goodness). The lights came back on just about the time it got twilight-y out . . . anyway, wonderful, brilliant book. Much more somber than the previous book I read by Willis (To Say Nothing of the Dog), but gripping to read. A history student is sent back to the Middle Ages; as soon as she's gone, the man handling the transfer machinery becomes seriously ill, and Oxford endures a quarantine and a mysterious illness that is eventually identified as flu. Meanwhile, Kivrin finds herself disoriented and taken to a nearby manor house, but doesn't know where the drop zone is that she should return to so she can be transported home after two weeks. She's sick; she gets better, but then those around her start to become sick. She's become fond of the family, especially Agnes, a little girl, and Roche, the priest. Willis goes back and forth between the Middle Ages and the "current" (future) time in Oxford, chronicling the growing crisis in Oxford with the flu, as well as one professor, Dunworthy, who is frantic with worry about Kivrin, given some questionable decisions made by the people who set up her trip. Dunworthy is saddled--or blessed--with the care of the teen-aged great-nephew of a doctor friend of his, and Colin proves helpful in many ways.
5. To Rescue a Rogue by Jo Beverley. This was an easy Regency romance. The hero, Darius (Dare) Debenham, is addicted to opium. He was wounded in the battle of Waterloo and cared for--sort of--by a devious and scheming woman who gave him too much opium and otherwise imprisoned him (and two children Dare has since cared for). Back in England, he's slowly trying to wean himself off the drug, with the help of his valet and with a Chinese wise man, Ruyuan Feng, who trains him in tai chi. The heroine, Mara St. Bride, is a young and willful beauty, the sister of one of Dare's friends, Simon. Dare and Simon and ten other boys once formed a group called the Rogues, and these men and their wives surround Dare to support his struggle.
There are some small bits of this book I didn't quite find believable, as when Mara takes Dare to her home--with their servants in attendance, but none of her family--for his final effort to give up opium. There no hanky-panky at this point (though some has already occurred), but I still found it pretty unbelievable. Still, it's a fairly small quibble--the story moves along briskly, and all ends happily. Of course!
6. Reign of Bone and Steel by Erin St. Pierre and Gwynn White. This is one of a group of so-called science fiction novels I downloaded for free . . . and, for starters, this is fantasy, not sci fi. It's a fairly interesting premise, about a kingdom founded on the strength of a Soul Reaper who wields a sword that reaps the souls of the dead and feeds their strength into a bone of mysterious power. The nation is nearly constantly at war. A soldier, Caeda, is chosen as the new Soul Reaper when the previous one is murdered and the bone is stolen. The book concerns her attempts to find the bone, aided by Lord Dominik, a powerful wielder of magic who is engaged to the king's spoiled and self-centered daughter. Caeda is attracted to Dominik despite suspecting him of the theft for a brief period, but this suspicion doesn't last long. The book ends somewhat abruptly, setting the reader up for the second (and final) book in the series. I'm curious about it but wonder if my curiosity will fade as time goes by--will I seek out the second book? Can't say at this point.
Yes, I probably wouldn't put that one in the "recommend" column! But maybe the next one:
7. A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia by Clara Benson. This is a short but enjoyable mystery. Freddy Pilkington-Soames is a young newspaperman in London who goes to his mother's house one night after a festive evening and finds she has a body to get rid of--Ticky Maltravers, with whom she (and other socialites) has been out to dinner. Ticky exclaimed that he'd been poisoned before dropping dead outside her door, so she convinces Freddy to move the body several blocks away to Ticky's own doorway. Freddy reluctantly agrees (though he misses the address by one), and subsequently realizes he should investigate the murder so as to keep his mother's name out of it--she protests that she had nothing to do with the murder, although Freddy soon discovers that Ticky had been blackmailing a variety of people, including Freddy's mother. The story is well-paced and Freddy is a likable character; while there are plenty of suspects, the mystery is nicely resolved.
8. The Dark Descent by Jerry Knaak. Second edit of this book, the second in a vampire series.
9. Dawn Among the Stars by Samantha Heuwagen. Second edit of this book, the first in a space fantasy series.
10. The Rabbit Skinners by John Eidswick. Read this to review it. Mystery about a FBI agent on medical leave looking for a missing child.
Having more work to do is good, but I really need to read something just for pleasure!
12. Missing You by Katherine Bacher, a book I edited.
13. By Magic Beguiled by Maggie Shayne. This is a fantasy romance, in which Brigid Malone, a young woman who owns a florist shop, is forced to copy a painting belonging to Adam Reid by an evil man who has kidnapped her guardian/protector, Raze. The painting shows a possibly mythical land, Rush, which Adam thinks he visited as a child by finding a secret cave in the woods that led him to the "other" world. There, he met a woman, a queen named Maire, who showed him a vision of her daughters and told him that he shouldn't fall in love with one of them because his job would be to lead her and her sister home, but that he wouldn't be able to stay in Rush without dying. He grows up to become a professor with an expertise in fairy tales (alas, occasionally misspelled as "fairy tail" in this unedited book); when he meets Brigid, he falls for her despite realizing that she seems to be lying and hiding something from him (she is: she's copying his painting and plans to steal the original to obtain Raze's release). What can I say? There are tears upon tears upon tears flowing from Brigid's beautiful eyes, which he frequently kisses away before they have passionate sex, and it all ends happily for the two of them, with further volumes in the series that cover Brigid's twin sister's attempt to regain the throne of Rush. Whatever. Moving on . . .
14. The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer. This was something like the tenth or twentieth time I've read this book, which is one of my favorites by this favorite author. It tells the story of the Darracott family, which, at the story's start, consists of the domineering grandfather, his daughter-in-law, and her two (adult, or nearly) children, Anthea and Richmond. They are joined at the manor by the lord's son, his wife (the daughter of an earl), and their two sons, Vincent and Claud. Into this family comes Hugo, the heir to the title and manor. He's the son of another (dead) son of the lord and the weaver's daughter (also dead) he married (for which he was cast off, so nobody in the family knows Hugo). A large, seemingly placid military man, Hugo soon realizes his new family expects him to have been raised as a peasant, basically, so he starts talking in broad Yorkshire dialect (as a joke, as it turns out). The patriarch decides that Anthea should marry her cousin so as to keep his low birth and background from public view. Before long, though, it becomes apparent that Hugo is not exactly--or at all--what his family has expected. The plot involves smuggling and a non-fatal shooting . . .
15. A French Girl in New York by Anna Adams. This Cinderella story begins in northern France, where Maude Laurent is a sixteen-year-old girl living with a lawyer, his indolent wife, and their twin sons. Maude sleeps in the dark, rat-infested basement and is treated as a virtual slave, caring for the twins and waiting on their mother. She goes to the library and discovers music; she teaches herself to play the piano there. On a class trip to Paris, she happens by a cafe and ends up playing the piano and singing there, upon which she's discovered by an American music executive, James Baldwin. Before she knows it, she's in NYC, living with the Baldwin family and working on her first album. The story is filled with teenage ups-and-downs, as Maude and her new friend Jazzmine Baldwin get involved with young men and go shopping and make music. By the end of the tale, Maude is not only a pop star, she's discovered, for the first time, the names and fates of her parents, and, miraculously, found relatives closer than she could have imagined . . . stretching the beliveability of this book for me beyond credibility.
16. The American Heiress by Dorothy Eden. As a young girl, Hetty Brown is taken by her mother to the New York City mansion of the Jervis family. Hetty is given lessons alongside the spoiled heiress, Clemency, but after a few years she becomes Clemency's maid. Clemency eventually meets a British lord and becomes engaged to him; he returns to his position as an officer in Europe during World War I, and Clemency, her mother, and Hetty board a ship bound for England--the Lusitania. Given one of Clemency's gold bracelets to wear after the group hears the explosion that will sink the ship, Hetty is pulled from the water and mistaken for Clemency (they look very similar, given that Hetty is actually a bastard half-sister of Clemency's). Hetty is a plucky survivor and takes on the identify of Clemency, marrying Lord Hugo Hazzard of Loburn. While her new husband is away at war, Hetty finds herself mistress of Loburn, where she lives with her sister-in-law (and her young son), her mother-in-law, and her mother-in-law's companion, Julia, a woman who loves Hetty's husband.
Will her deception be discovered? Will her husband return from the war? Will she be able to give him a son and heir? Will her fortune restore Loburn to its previous glory? Despite Hetty's deception, the reader is firmly on her side in her dangerous game.
17 and 18. Evolution and Tormented by Kelly Carrero. These two fairly short novels (novellas?) begin a science fiction series about Jade, an Australian high-school student who gets in a car accident and then, in the hospital, watches the cut in her head heal immediately and disappear. She covers the evidence with a bandage and her mother takes her home. Soon her incredibly handsome boyfriend, Aiden, shows up. Before too long, Jade learns that she and Aiden, as well as the people he lives with (supposedly his sister and her husband, but really his parents) are all next-generation humans, able to use more of their brains and with special abilities, including telecommunication and teleporting. Still learning about her new abilities, Jade realizes her friend Chelsea has disappeared and begins having visions of her friend in terrible danger.
Jade eventually manages to rescue her friend but then finds someone close to her dead (or is she?); she and Aiden go on the run. The second book opens with Jade and Aiden in Thailand, but after yet another near miss/disaster, they return to his family's castle in England. Once she learns to teleport, they go back and forth to Australia to investigate the latest mystery; the eventual reveal of who is behind the threat to Jade comes as less of a shock than it's meant to be (because I had guessed it).
The books combine teenage angst issues, such as other girls wanting Jade's boyfriend, with life-and-death mysteries. Parents conveniently accept the teens' sexual relationship and their leaving school to deal with the crises that keep occurring.
I've downloaded dozens of books, and I'll keep reading them to see if I can find a hidden gem, but meanwhile, I'm also going to read something I expect to be much better--in this case, the first book in the Magicians series.
19. Her Desert Doctor by Marie Tuhart, another first-pass editing job.
20. The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Ah, finally--a well-written book that is also an absorbing story! Quentin Coldwater is a math genius in high school, initially hanging out with his two friends, James and Julia. Quentin lusts after Julia, but she and James are a couple, and Quentin is the miserable third man out. Quite suddenly one day, Quentin finds himself testing for admission to a school of magic, Brakebills College. He's admitted and he never looks back, diving into the esoteric study of magic. He makes friends and eventually becomes lovers with Alice. His main area of study is undetermined, so he is thrown together with Alice, Eliot, Josh, Penny, and Janet, students he remains connected to after graduation, when they live in NYC. Eventually, a way is found to travel to other realms, and Quentin discovers that his childhood literary fantasy world of Fillory may be real, after all . . . but it's much less idyllic than he imagined.
More i won't say at this point, but I'll definitely be reading the next two books. Soon!
21. Behind the Forgotten Front by Barbara Hawkins; reviewed for IndieReaders.
22. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. This is the first book I read on my new Nook, though not the first time I've read it. I've pretty much ignored work the past two or three days while reading this book . . . oh, well. Back to it this evening. The story concerns Kitty, an impoverished orphan who has been living with her irascible, wealthy guardian in the country. He decides to leave her his fortune, provided she marries one of his nephews. When the dashing, handsome Jack does not turn up to make her an offer, but several other nephews do, she impulsively runs away to the nearest post-house, where she finds another nephew, Freddy, on his way to her home but unaware of why he's been summoned. She convinces him to pretend an engagement, and by this method, contrives a long-desired visit to London, ostensibly to visit his parents. When they arrive in London, however, measles are afflicting his younger siblings, and Kitty goes to stay with his married sister, Meg. Kitty involves herself with a number of other relationships, and eventually two elopements are planned, while Kitty realizes she's underestimated the resourceful and dependable Freddy. It's all delightfully resolved, as Heyer's stories usually are.
23. and 24. Second-pass edits of Missing You and Desert Doctor.
25. The Magician King by Lev Grossman. This is the second in the trilogy, and Quentin begins as one of the four monarchs in the magical world of Fillory. But he's still longing for adventure, and he inadvertently uses a golden key to open a door that takes him and Julia back to Earth. Quentin takes them to Brakebills to ask for help, but after that proves pointless, it's left to Julia's less conventional connections to help them return. On the way they find out there's another mission--they need to find seven golden keys in order to save magic (and thus Fillory itself). Interwoven throughout the book is Julia's back story--how she learned magic and what she and some friends did in southern France that connects to the current crisis.
Coincidentally, today I picked up another Roku, and I'm pretty sure that Hulu has the episodes of The Magicians from the Sy Fy channel, so I can start watching them. Will be a great change from what I can find on the DirectTV here--just going to say, it's my least favorite provider. So many shopping channels. So many. Spectrum and Dish both better, though the best option is no provider, just internet access, some Rokus, and Amazon/Acorn/Hulu/Netflix/PBS. In my opinion. Oh, and whatever TCM calls its service, have to get that, too. Someday.
More work reading to do, but also, of course, the third book in the Magicians trilogy.
26. Escalate! by Jeffrey Poston, a book I proofread.
27. The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman. This was a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, though I suspect I'll be missing more tales of these magicians and the land of Fillory. Quentin Coldwater, having been kicked out of Fillory, finds himself back at Brakebills as a teacher. On his last trip through the Neitherlands, Quentin came away with a single sheet of paper; figuring out what the information on the page (a spell?) means is his hobby. What starts as a prank by a student named Plum leads to both Quentin and Plum being thrown out of Brakebills, and begins an unlikely quest by the two of them and a small group of other magicians to retrieve a mysterious suitcase--contents unknown. Meanwhile, the kings and queens of Fillory--Eliot, Janet, Poppy, and Joshua--are faced with a crisis when Fillory begins to fail catastrophically. Along the way, Quentin again encounters Alice, the niffin. Everything turns out to be (magically) interconnected, and all ends much better than expected given the challenges. Such a good trilogy!
28. You Are Mine by Janeal Falor. I'm still processing this book a bit . . . it was pretty depressing at times, describing a society in which men are warlocks and women are owned by them. Serena, eldest daughter of a family that's all girls, is the first of them to have her blood tested (it has lots of magical power in it, apparently) and she's promised/sold to Thomas, a warlock who repels her. At a tournament, he's killed by an outlander, Zade, who therefore inherits his possessions--including Serena. She tests the limits of the rules, and Zade, to her surprise, doesn't punish her. Serena finds a seamstress to make her clothing that isn't customary, including two-piece dresses she can get into without assistance. Zade has also inherited a position on the ruling council, where he walks a wary line between wanting to change this repressive society and needing to obey all the rules in the face of death threats. Things improve somewhat by the end of the tale, but it's the first in a series, so there's more to come in this unpleasant land. I'm just not sure I want to spend any more time there.
29. The Time Traders by Andre Norton. This is classic sci fi, published in 1958, telling the story of Ross Murdock, a wily young lawbreaker who finds himself offered the option of signing up for a government project instead of undergoing rehabilitation. He signs up, then finds that he has joined a secret government project involving time travel. After some extensive training, he's sent back to prehistoric Europe, where he pretends to be a trader. He and his fellow time-travelers are soon in conflict with men of the Soviet Union; Ross discovers that they have found an alien space ship and are plundering its technology.
This is a lively enough story, with chases and battles and explosions and physical hardship and sheer dumb luck all playing a part--but what's missing is any significant female character. There is one, briefly, a native wise woman, but one or two brief scenes with her are the total of female participation. I know this is typical of older science fiction, but I still have issues with it as a reader.
30. The Descent of the Drowned by Ana-Tahseen Ghafoor. This was a fantasy that I proofread.
31. Ribbons of Death by Edita A. Petrick is a book I reviewed.
32. Wanna Get Lucky and 33. Lucky Stiff, both by Deborah Coonts. These are the first two books (apparently) in the series featuring Lucky O'Toole, head of the Customer Service office in a Las Vegas casino hotel, the Babylon. Lucky is the thirty-ish daughter of a brothel madam and, she eventually finds out, her boss at the casino. She's tall, tough, and nearly tireless as she solves problems as well as crimes.
The series is funny and fast-paced, with a variety of interesting characters and a genuine love for Las Vegas in all its different parts. Great literature it isn't, but it is fun and enjoyable to read, with a few surprises. Romance plays a part, not only for Lucky but also for her parents, her secretary, and a few others along the way. Lucky's past has made her cautious, but she has a hard time resisting what seems to be the perfect man for her (even if he sometimes borrows her clothes). Hey--it's Vegas. Go with it.
34. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer. Just a comfort read of one of my favorite writers ever. Jack Carstares, the Earl of Wyncham, lives outside society and occasionally supplements his income by holding up carriages as a highwayman. He has been ostracized after admitting to cheating at cards, although the cheating was actually done by his brother Richard, who was so overcome with love for the beautiful and capricious Lavinia that he allowed his brother to bear the blame. Jack holds up his old friend Miles O'Hara, who claims Jack's pistol is unloaded and captures the masked bandit. Much to Jack's surprise, when his identity is revealed, Miles is overjoyed to see him and tells him he never believed Jack guilty of cheating, knowing him and Richard as he does.
Jack rescues a lovely young woman, Diana, from the unscrupulous Duke of Andover, the "Black Moth" of the title, who wounds Jack in the process. He's taken into Diana's home to recuperate, and the two fall in love. But Jack knows he can't ask her to marry him and share his disgrace, so he leaves, planning to go abroad. Miles and his wife persuade him to stay with them, though.
Richard has meanwhile been tormented by what he's done to his brother and resolves to come clean, even though he's sure he'll lose Lavinia--who somewhat belatedly realizes she loves her husband and doesn't want to leave him.
Can there be any doubt that it all works out in the end?! This tale is less humorous than many of Heyer's later works (it was her first published work, written at the age of 17!), but the adventure, the romance, and the feeling of being in the time portrayed are, as usual, pitch perfect.
35. Daffodils by Alex Martin. Although this is the first book in the "Katherine Wheel" trilogy, it is (as such books should be) a complete novel in itself. It begins with Katy Beagle, a young servant in the local manor house, reading in the library instead of dusting, as directed. She's accosted by the son of the manor, Charles, and accompanies him to town. The two carry on a mild flirtation, and Katy tries on his sister's old ballgown, whereupon he kisses her--and they are discovered by his mother and sister in this compromising position. Charles soon joins up to fight in WWI, while Katy agrees to marry the faithful Jem, a farmer who works on the estate.
Katy and Jem have a daughter, Florence, who contracts typhoid and dies before her first birthday. Katy is distraught and withdrawn, and Jem, realizing that he'll eventually be drafted anyway, joins the war effort and is shipped to France. When Katy receives a letter from officials that reports Jem as missing, presumed dead. However, she receives a letter from Jem dated after the notice, so she resolves to go to France and see if she can find him. She volunteers for a nursing job, but is found insufficiently prepared and joins the women's army unit instead, initially working in food service before finding her niche as a mechanic on the ambulances. She becomes good friends with Ariadne, an upper-class girl, and then with Cassandra--the girl from the local manor house whose dress she had tried on.
Cassandra and Katy each lose a brother in the war, but at the end, after armistice is declared, Katy finds that, miraculously, Jem has survived as a prisoner of war--he's lost an arm, but the two are joyfully reunited and return to England.
There's certainly plenty of room for a "what happens next?" sequel (or two), as Katy and Jem make their way into the Roaring '20s. Katy is a sufficiently appealing character, curious, determined, and mechanically adept, while the horrors of the first world war are vividly described.
36. Warcross by Marie Lu. Emika Chen is a bounty hunter living in a miserable NYC apartment with an unemployed friend; the rent is past due and they are threatened with eviction. One escape is to put on virtual-reality glasses and enter the world of Warcross, a gaming experience that has captured the world. Emika inadvertently hacks her way into the opening ceremonies for a world championship tournament of the game; before she knows it, she's whisked away to Japan by private jet and put into the category of wild card picks for the tournament's teams. This is a front, though, for her real mission--she's hired by the game's creator, Hideo Tanaka, to figure out who the mysterious "Zero" is who has also hacked his way into the game and who seems a threat to Hideo. Emika uses her considerable skills both to help her team win its matches and to chase her prey, the elusive Zero. Meanwhile, she's also becoming closer to Hideo and learning about the young genius's hidden pain, based on the disappearance of his younger brother during his youth. Emika manages to stop Zero's plan--but then she finds out what he was really trying to do.
I've read a lot of books lately that are the first in a series, usually a trilogy, and this is one of the few for which I'd really like to read the next two books. Emika is a compelling, very human character and the world created by Lu is fascinating.
37. The Neighbor's Horse by Charlie Kesinger. Proofread/copy edited this novella, sort of a combination of a fiction story and a business guide.
38. Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King, the eighth novel in King's series about Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. Russell and Holmes take ship for San Francisco, where Russell lived with her family until her father, mother, and little brother were killed in a road accident. The family home has been shut up and neglected, and Russell finds that her father's will stipulated that no one other than family be allowed into the house for years after his death. Russell has been troubled by a collection of dreams since her decision to return to San Francisco; the dreams feature a secret room and a faceless man. Holmes finds himself both determined to unravel the mystery--with the able help of an emaciated ex-Pinkerton agent named Dashiell Hammett--and to let Russell unravel the meaning of her dreams on her own. Eventually both come to the same conclusion--that her family was murdered, as were their Chinese servants, and the murderer is still a real threat to Russell. Russell's initial period of sleepless nights, confusion, emotion, and inability to eat properly are much less enticing than when the "real" Russell returns, a strong and determined woman who joins her husband in some sleuthing. The pair are aided not only by Hammett, but also by the son of her family's servants, a bookseller; and by an impromptu set of "Irregulars," street urchins drafted by Holmes.
39. Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt. This teen/young adult sci fi/fantasy concerns a seemingly ordinary high school girl, Marsha Truitt, who lives in Jewel, Indiana. A new student, Rigel Stuart, becomes the quarterback of the football team, but, more importantly, is obviously attracted to Marsha. Not only does she feel a special connection when he touches her, she suddenly notices that her vision has improved and her skin has cleared up. Rigel soon tells her that he's a Martian--and so is she. Gradually, she learns that she's actually the heir to the throne; her family was killed and the throne usurped when she was a baby. Danger still threatens her, although Rigel and his parents, as well as others, pledge to protect her.
It's an easy read, and the best feature is probably the feeling Hiatt captures of what it's like to be a teen falling in love, worrying about what clothes to wear, and feeling misunderstood by one's guardians. The fantasy element is a bit too-good-to-be-true in nature, though.
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