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Slavery By Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon (2008)

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
Swords and Dark Magic ed. by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders
From Egypt to Babylon: The International Age 1550-500 BC by Paul Collins (2008)
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It's easy (for me, at least) to forget that Ancient Egypt was not the only powerhouse in the mideast, and of the rich and busy trade between nations in the region (and beyond).  Not to mention the rise and fall of nations, including the Minoans, Chaldeans and Persians, and the endless wars.
This comprehensive overview is eminently readable, with illuminating photographic exemplars of the cultures discussed.  This has gone onto my "need to own" list.
4 stars.
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Well, this is how I spent my reading time this year, about 79 books worth.  And yes, I indulged in a number of re-reads.  Sometimes the re-reads are triggered by someone else's opinion about the book(s).  Sometimes, I just want to "go there" (aka comfort re-read).

Fate's Edge (The Edge, Book 3) by Ilona Andrews (2011)
Magic University: The Siren and the Sword by Cecilia Tan (2009)*
Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2) by Mira Grant (2011)*
Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) by Mira Grant (2010)*
Saints Astray by Jacqueline Carey (2011)*
Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (2009)#
One Salt Sea: An October Daye Novel by Seanan McGuire (2011)*
Master of the House of Darts
: Obsidian and Blood Book 3 by Aliette de Bodard (2011)*
Pale Demon (The Hollows, Book 9) by Kim Harrison (2011)*
Betrayer (Foreigner) by C. J. Cherryh #
Deceiver (Foreigner) by C. J. Cherryh #
Deliverer (Foreigner) by C. J. Cherryh (2007)#
Defender (Foreigner) by C. J. Cherryh (2002)#
Explorer (Foreigner) by C. J.  Cherryh (2003)#
Precursor (Foreigner) by C. J. Cherryh (2000)#
Inheritor (Foreigner) by C. J. Cherryh (1997)#
Invader (Foreigner) by C. J. Cherryh (1995)#
Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh (1994)#
Chernevog by C.J. Cherryh (1991)#
Rusalka by C.J. Cherryh (1990)#
All Clear by Connie Willis (2010)*
Blackout by Connie Willis (2010)*
Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt by Joyce A. Tyldesley (1995)*
Forty Thousand in Gehenna by C.J. Cherryh (1984)#
Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (2011)
Dreamships by Melissa Scott (1993)*#
Context by Cory Doctorow (2011)*
Horizon (The Sharing Knife: Vol. 4) by Lois McMaster Bujold (2009)*
The Sharing Knife, Vol. 3: Passage by Mcmaster Bujold (2008)*
Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, Book 1) by Lois McMaster Bujold (2007)*
Havemercy by Jaida Jones (2009)*
Ammonite by Nicola Griffith (1992)#
The Freedom Maze: a novel by Delia Sherman (2011)
Among Others
by Jo Walton (2011)
Embassytown by China Mieville (2011)
Dirge for Sabis (The Sword of Knowledge, Book 1) by C.J. Cherryh (1989)*
Wizard Spawn: Sword of Knowledge Book II by C. J. Cherryh (1989)
Reap the Whirlwind (Sword of Knowledge 3) by C. J. Cherryh (1989)
The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral-And How It Changed the American West by Jeff Guinn (2011) 
Invisible Giants: The Empires of Cleveland's Van Sweringen Brothers (Ohio) by Herbert H. Harwood Jr. (2003)
Servant of the Underworld: Obsidian & Blood, Book 1 by Aliette de Bodard (2010)
Kings of the North by Cecelia Holland (2010)
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (2001) Harry Dresden series*
The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon (2010)
Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, Book 2) by Diana Gabaldon (2001)
*Recipe for Revolution (beta read) by Barbara Louize (2011)
Generation Loss: A Novel by Elizabeth Hand (2007)
Ghost Story (Dresden Files, No. 13) by Jim Butcher (2011)
Hit List (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 20) by Laurell K. Hamilton (2011)
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugresic (2011)
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (2011)
Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism by Deborah Lutz (2011)
Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse (2001)*
Resurrection Code (Angelink Universe) by Lyda Morehouse (2011)*
Prophets in Hell edited by Janet Morris (1989)
Warring States, Susan Matthews #
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)
The Devil and Deep Space, Susan Matthews #
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach (2009)
Angel of Destruction, Susan Matthews #
Hour of Judgment, Susan Matthews #
Prisoner of Conscience, Susan Matthews #
An Exchange of Hostages, Susan Matthews #
Ash, Malinda Lo
Huntress, Malinda Lo
Steelhands, Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
The Drowning City, Amanda Downum
The Bone Palace, Amanda Downum*
Late Eclipses, Seanan McGuire
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi (2008)*
Old Man's War by John Scalzi (2007)*
By the Mountain Bound, Elizabeth Bear*
Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt, Barbara Mertz
River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Book 6), Patricia Briggs
Death's Daughter, Amber Benson
Conspirator, C.J. Cherryh #
Betrayer, C. J. Cherryh #
Deceiver, C. J. Cherryh #

* = not yet reviewed, may not review, or (beta reads) review to author only.
# = rereads 

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Writing a review that just said “Wow” over and over again would be pathetic.
Never let it be said that I wasn’t tempted.
There is nothing sentimental about this coming of age story.  Morwenna – or is it? – moves through a world which is simultaneously sparkling magic and soul-stultifying mundanity. Endless possibility and bottomless grief, encompassing wonder and bone deep fear.
Crippled by the car accident that killed her twin, she makes a place for herself in the boarding school to which she’s sent, beyond the library and the books she loves.
I have tiptoed through the forests of Lothlorian, shrugged the mothball scent of old coats into the crisp air of Narnia’s winter forest, and muddied my toes herding pigs with Taran, but I have never stepped into a world so much like the magic of my own childhood imaginings.
I first encountered Jo Walton on livejournal, where some cogent comment or poem spoke to me out of the electronic flow.  She began reviewing books on Tor, where she always saw something in a work, even those I’d disliked, that made me rethink the story in new ways and often sent me to my bookshelves or the library.
Among Others partakes of that critical sense of wonder, and one should read with a pencil handy.  It has expanded my reading list, and ended with a tiny tribute to one of my favorite books ever. 

And there’s a grandfather with a cat named Chairman Meow.   

This a book I'll be re-reading, for years. 

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**SPOILER ALERT** for these books, published in 1989.

In this shared world trilogy C.J. Cherryh fully exercises her history fetish by exploring the what-if inherent in the rise, fall  and adaptation of cultures.
The main characters, over a timeline of nearly a thousand years, are the descendents original citizens of the Sabirn Empire, and the cultures and empires which conquer and oppose them.
In Book 1, A Dirge for Sabis, Ancaran hordes from the north (pushed by barbarians from even further north, of course – this is Cherryh) conquer the Sabirn Empire and overrun the capital, Sabis.  This despite the efforts of a group of patriots including a “natural philosopher”, a smith, an army officer, and a resourceful magician to construct a weapon that could hold them off.  The group of patriots are forced to flee, finding a new patron behind the Ancar lines and using their knowledge to scare off a cult fleecing the locals. 
“If at first you don’t succeed, get the hell out of the way.”
 Followed by Wizard Spawn
Book II of the Sword of Knowledge series
C.J. Cherryh and Nancy Asire

500 years later, (See A Dirge for Sabis) Book II concentrates on the remnants of the Sabirn people, and the scorn and persecution they suffer under the rule of the descendants of the Ancar in Sabis.  This is our “one person makes a difference book”.  Chemist (and alchemist) Duran rescues a Sabirn boy injured in an attack behind his shop, and is stunned to discover that his neighbors disapprove – strongly.  Worse, the presence of the boy in Duran’s home leads to rumors of witchcraft and alchemical deeds that reach the ears of the court.  Eventually, he flees with the boy, the boy’s grandfather, and other Sabirn who know secrets of which he could only have dreamed.

Reap the Whirlwind
Book III of the Sword of Knowledge series
C.J. Cherryh and Mercedes Lackey
(See Also, A Dirge for Sabis and Wizard Spawn) Book III brings the descendents of the protagonists of Book I and II together to resist the depredations of the Wind Clan (fleeing, in a nice bit of symmetry, the pursuit of another clan and *their* overlords).  Having joined forces as a scholarly quasi-magical organization, they’re able to use the secret magics of the Sabirn, the strengths of the Ancar, the tenets of Duran, and the tenacity of the scholar’s leader to bring the Clan into alliance. 

Book one shows the Cherryh touch the most clearly – the multi-layered plotting, characters who turn out to be much different than first perceived. The early chapters were clearly her work, and Leslie Fish does a great job keeping up and fleshing out the characters and story.
The next two volumes are much simpler in plot and characterization, though not without the occasional surprise.  If not up to Cherryh’s,  Asire’s and Lackey’s best work, still a fun read.

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Mr. Miéville just can’t get no love from me. I tried. I really did. 

An opening quote doesn’t usually set up the premise of a novel as well as this:

“The word must communicate something (other than itself).”

Walter Benjamin “On Language as such and on the Language of Man”

But, must it? The science fictional story is always in the interfaces, is it not? In the friction between humans and humans, between humans and less human, between aliens and human, between aliens and aliens.   And yes, sometimes between humans and machines. Those stories are all about the endless slips and catches of communication, translation, connection.

At the edge of the known galaxy, an enclave of humans inhabits Embassytown, a machined/mutated city on the planet held by the Hosts. Communication is difficult at best – humans see language as a symbol. The Hosts do not.  Nor do they necessarily recognize the individuality of humans.  

The protagonist, Avice, was a precocious child chosen to become part of the Host’s language, a simile. (And really, do you think that the author, playing with words as he does constantly here, didn’t name her knowing what parallels we’d draw? A Vice? Avarice? Do you have to telegraph that your narrator is unreliable so strongly? Or, is that just a feint?) But – that isn’t the story, or isn’t even much of the beginning.  

Readers first meet Avice as a grown woman.   Scorning temporal framework created difficulty because on one level this novel is all about slippage, but illustrating that with time as the medium meant that Mr. Miéville demanded more work from me right from the start than I felt he’d earned.

On another level, Embassytown is about slippage in language –shifts in meaning. And on yet a third, slippage in culture/behavior, the natural outgrowth – or is it?– of confronting the unknown, or formerly unseen.

The second difficulty was that while the premises aroused my cold intellectual interest, the story was interesting, but not engaging.  A bit arch. Twee, even. Like the really good-looking kid in class who knows it – and might share a wink or a joke or even an afternoon, but will never, ever go to the dance with you. 

I liked the winks and jokes, but I won’t go looking for another afternoon. It’s not a matter of making myself emotionally vulnerable – Avice, and Scile, Bren and the Hosts all were just the other side of a window, but not where they could touch me, or me them. I wasn’t in any danger of losing my heart, but they frequently lost my interest.  

I confess I liked the textual nods to authors as disparate and talented as C.J. Cherryh, Frank Herbert, Mary Gentle, and Karen Traviss, among others. And that I was moved to write such a long review of a book I disliked is a tribute to the author’s ability to challenge readers.

I can look at a work like this and admire the thought process that birthed it, the complexity of the plot, the baroque touches and writerly affectations even as I reshelve it for something more – congenial. 

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The premise is that two consenting adults, thirty years ago, decided to sign a contract –written by “She”, the reader eventually finds - assigning her the role of mistress, obligated to provide sex, and assigning him the role of financial provider. Concomitantly, they begin recording their conversations.
Very little of this slim paperback is salacious. None of it was erotic. Much of it was offensive. Starting with the tagline:
“He is a successful businessman.
She could be any woman.”
But could this be any woman? Personally, I doubt it. Not because I have any trouble with the title contract. Certainly, it’s rarely brought up during this couple’s conversations, and never as an actual vs. philosophical issue. It was written in the context of a long-term, semi-committed relationship. (One that we’d call poly today – “He” apparently had another woman in Seattle with whom “He” also maintains a relationship.)
Some of these conversations were recorded over meals, some in bed, some over the telephone. The personal isn’t particularly political to these two people. Most of what they talk about is the relations between the sexes and while they use their personal lives as examples, it’s in a casual way. What’s grating and offensive is that “He” is patriarchal, overbearing, and unconsciously sexist - while proclaiming his feminism, in which of course he was earlier and better than “She”. I kept waiting for some sign of personal growth, but that wasn’t forthcoming either, possibly because the conversations may not be in any temporal order.
“She” talks about feminism and feminist authors, but not as if they’ve given her any growth or joy. Instead, “She” seems to blame feminist ideas – as does “He” – as the source of some unhappiness or doubt, not empowerment. I say “seem” because it’s just not easy to piece together a narrative of any kind for either of them.
Overall, I’m just not sure of the authors’ purpose in committing this to paper. Titillation? Falls flat. Character study? Too abstract. Snapshot of 80’s sexism, or feminism? Well, perhaps, but difficult to tell because the “conversations” mostly lack dates. Pure narcissism? Closer.
I think this was an interesting idea, but needs far better execution. Dates? Historical (herstorical) background? Conversations cast in the light of current events, thinking? More conversations, more personal background?
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This book is precisely as advertised – a simple to read, well organized primer on the basic elements of an estate plan.

Each chapter begins with a short overview of the topic to be covered – beneficiaries, children, and wills for example. The language is relatively simple, yet not patronizing.

Within each topic, more concise subheadings introduce a short discussion of that subtopic. None of these are very long, ranging from a single paragraph to a couple of pages. Specialized related topics are discussed in highlighted boxes. Resources for further information – usually Nolo products - are also lined out. 

Nolo’s underlying philosophy is that consumers usually don’t need attorneys. Instead, through fill-in-the-blank forms and checklists (offered, of course, by Nolo online, for a fee), the consumer is told repeatedly that an attorney is unnecessary for “most” estate plan situations. From time to time, the author will opine that a reader with a certain type of problem or needing a specialized kind of legal document needs to see an attorney.

I’m a huge fan of demystifying the law. I believe that legalese isn’t necessary (and that some attorneys use it to appear learned), and that most people can represent themselves or draw up a simple will.  

On the other hand, law is full of pitfalls, even for those of us who passed the bar exam. A consumer who fails to study this very carefully may make a problem, rather than solve one.  A concern for me is that I don’t believe that the information in this book is always sufficient for a consumer to *identify* an issue that could be problematic.

Otherwise, I have only one little quibble with the content. That was the author’s failure to even mention the existence, let along the effect, of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) on the distribution of retirement funds post-divorce.  


[Full disclosure: I am an attorney, at least on my better days. One of the things I really liked about this volume was that it covers the same topics as a first-year law student’s probate class, vastly simplified. I’d forgotten how much ground gets covered!]

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Mr. Fogel, a motivational speaker and former comic (more on that in a minute), creates a pastiche from the considerable literature of self-help, job search, motivation and entrepreneurial advice to argue that advancement is possible, even in this economy, if one acts as though one’s already promoted.

Right off the bat, I hugely dislike the typesetting in this book. The publisher (I suspect the publisher is also the author) uses a relatively small typeface. Then, each sentence is surrounded by a sea of white: double-spaced breaks. The effect is less than attractive, distracting, and difficult to read.

I understand why the author included the disclaimer “If You Still Have A Job”. For one thing, how-to books on getting a job abound. Yet I found parts of this applicable not only to improving one’s work situation, but to a job search and even (gasp) self-employment. 

Some of Mr. Fogel’s tongue in cheek humor is anything but subtle. “Yes! I am giving YOU the authority to to change your situation! And I must be serious, because I just italicized that last sentence.” (p. 37).    Often it reads as though he’s just re-writing his speech notes. I hope the lame humor works better in person than on the page.

Some of his assertions made me wince. “finding a mentor or Mastermind Group is a lot like dating the right girl” (p.89). Really? And in an anecdote where he describes a woman who is changing careers she is “a stunning woman who was a pediatrician” and “a stunning looking pediatrician” (p. 89) within three sentences. [I have erased five different descriptions of my reaction to that overt sexism. Let’s just say – speechless.]

Mr. Fogel occasionally lapses into circular arguments.   My favorite was “One of the main reasons I reinvented myself was because I wanted to be in control of my destiny. To be in control of my destiny, I knew I had to soak in new specialized knowledge that would allow me to leap over my competition in the quest for clients. [white space redacted] It was my desire for specialized knowledge that allowed me to learn an in-demand, financially viable skill!” (p. 154)

Lapses in grammar (“Is your present situation, like that?” p. 162) also call into question Mr. Fogel’s career as a “editorialist, direct mail copywriter, information marketer”.

Most of the heavy-handed advice seems to be common sense to me, but there are pieces worth keeping, though I might start (and finish) elsewhere. And finally - how couldn’t I love a recommended reading list that *begins* with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams?

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This caught my eye the last time I swung through the library because I really didn’t know the story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral. Mary Doria Russell’s Doc piqued my interest in the subject.

Doc was a fictionalize exploration of a man usually portrayed as a cold-blooded killer. Ms. Russell traced his childhood, young adulthood and the course of his tuberculosis and alcoholism, and questioned whether Doc Holliday wasn’t motivated by friendship and self-preservation far more than ill tempered malice. Doc focused on a period preceding the O.K. Corral gunfight by a number of years.

Mr. Guinn’s slant is much more traditional, and presents the “Shootout” as his centerpiece. His attention is on the Earps, whom he presents as complex, ambitious men. He dismisses Doc Holliday as a gun-toting brute. Ike Clanton, on the other hand, is portrayed as a blowhard – a stupid and cowardly drunk who inadvertently set the massacre in motion yet escaped with his skin whole. The political aspirations, feuds, ambitions and greed of these and other men precipitated the gunfight, Guinn argues.

Many of the primary sources were familiar from Ms. Russell’s volume. This volume offers a background of the forces that created the “Wild, Wild, West”, and of the (mostly men) that populated the deserts and cow-towns – miners, farmers ranchers, drovers, merchants, bankers – and Wells Fargo. Tombstone itself was founded by a prospector who made a big strike after being told that he was prospecting for his own tombstone.  

In Guinn’s view, the main motivator of the actors – male - was raw ambition. Women barely exist except for whore and wives (who are sometimes the same women),and  lack all agency. The sole exception is the “difficult” (a familiar caricature) Josephine, who took up with Wyatt Earp in a tempestuous relationship after he left Tombstone.

I found the extensive discussion of the legal repercussions of the shootout fascinating (I would) and the post-history engaging. It’s a detailed look at how the machinations of publicity seekers can change the perception of an event and the people involved. (“Cow-boy”, for example, began as a potent insult implying criminality, not a description of a hardworking ranch hand or good guy.) Guinn traces how Wyatt Earp emerged as a kind of hero post-Tombstone, the “source” for many a cowboy story and movie.

(not crossposted)
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“When he arrived in Dodge City in 1878, Dr. John Henry Holliday was a frail twenty-six-year-old dentist who wanted nothing grander than to practice his profession in a prosperous Kansas cow town.  Hope – cruelest of the evils that escaped Pandora’s box --- smiled on him gently all that summer.”
At its best, “Doc” exemplifies Russell’s work as both elegy and advocacy of the refugee.  A southern boy fleeing the effects of the Civil War, his mother’s death, and the humid Georgia weather that exacerbated his worsening tuberculosis, Doc Holliday wanted only to breathe – and exercise his not-inconsiderable dental skills.  Russell gently humanizes but never lionizes the iconic black-hatted villain of the Wild Wild West. 
Holliday isn’t the only refugee in the maelstrom of personalities, money and politics that is Dodge City.  Russell deftly distills the locale and people from fable to dusty, sometimes bloody, reality.   Unlike many western tales, the women are given at least as much attention as the men, even if, in the end, their motives are equally inscrutable. 
I’ve said elsewhere that I am not particularly fond of the third person omniscient voice which Russell uses here.  Too often that narrative voice becomes a personality of its own.  Here, it’s unobtrusive and serves only to insert the reader into the story, ghostlike, beside the characters.
If you could only read one book this year, this is one I'd recommend enthusiastically.


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I need this book for its introduction, which reviews and summarizes the elementary school to college building blocks of grammar and writing in a mere 38 pages!

This really is a reference work, not a “read”, but I found it very informative.

Covering fiction and non-fiction, Turco first reviews the historical basis of modern forms of writing, and explains and defines those forms and literary ideas. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that all English majors have a copy of this work on their bookshelves!

3.5 of 5

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Collection of urban fantasy stories featuring strong female protagonists, some human and some not, pitted against the darkest of the dark. Their victories are sometimes pyrrhic, but each gain, keeps our mundane streets safe.

I found all of the stories eminently readable, with nicely varied examples of the theme of the anthology.

Some are improved by an acquaintance with the author’s universe, such as Rachel Caine’s Weather Wardens. Carol Nelson Douglas’ Monster Mash was frenetic yet hysterically funny. Lilith Saintcrow is an author I’ve heard lauded, but haven’t read – and will be. Her “Monsters” was atmospheric, complicated and moving. Another new-to-me writer, Rachel Vincent, has a nice take on the hunter-turned-hunted trope.   I thought Jenna Black’s “Nine-tenths of the Law” was a perfect – and perfectly enjoyable - example of urban fantasy.

3.5 out of five.

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It’s been decades since I read this author’s “Floating Worlds”, which I remember as a favorite. I correctly recalled how excellently Cecelia Holland portrays the conditions and cultures of a particular time, but had forgotten just how detached her characters seem to me. 

Raef, a magician of uncertain powers; his teacher; his Viking friend/shieldman Leif; and Laissa, a young woman that they rescued during an adventure – or misadventure – in Constantinople, are traveling through the Norman country side of the early 1000’s, bound for what would become England. Before her death, Raef’s teacher reveals that she had released a demon, a stealer of souls, whose power is growing.

Raef, Leif and Laissa become embroiled in the politics of England, the tug of war, literally, between the Normans, Vikings and Danes. The soul-stealer has possessed the king’s wife, and added her own lust for power to the maelstrom. 

Good eventually trumps evil, but not without cost.

Holland’s language is more rhythmic than lyrical. Her characters are examined in an almost sterile third person, and I never felt close to them at all. 

Being the geek that I am, I really enjoyed the author’s historical note at the end, partly because it was the first part of the book that I heard a “voice” of any kind from her.  
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Engrossing mystery set in the Aztec/Mexica empire circa 1480, where the magic of the gods is real; blood – freely given or sacrificed – invokes the divine; and where the politics would put Byzantine to shame. 

Acatl, High Priest of the God of the Dead, is called in to investigate an apparent locked-room murder. His estranged warrior brother Neutemoc is the only suspect. But the use of magic in the murder that Neutemoc doesn’t know and can’t use leads Acatl to a series of suspects and gods.

Acatl suffers from what we’d call imposter syndrome, elevated to an office he never wanted by the recommendation of a mentor/frenemy. He doesn’t handle the position well, preferring to immerse himself in details.   Priests being celibate and of a lower social strata than warriors, he was a disappointment to his now-deceased parents. The evolution of his family and professional relationships are integral elements of the plot.

One must read slowly and pay attention – otherwise names – especially the multi-syllabic names of the gods - tend to devolve into word salad.   And you’ll need to know who the author is talking about at any given time, in a complicated story with plenty of red herrings, loops, back tracking and magical interference.


The author, a French woman writing in English (can you say ‘overachiever’?, WoW asks jealously) has full command of a fluid, quickly moving style. There are occasional odd turns of phrase and word choices – “”played on” for colloquial USAian “played” and “a dark lean shape whispering its seducing song” instead of ‘seductive song’, which caught my attention, but nothing to throw you completely out of the story. I’ve acquired the sequel and am really looking forward to it.
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The Maestro says it's Mozart
but it sounds like bubble gum
~ Leonard Cohen, Waiting for the Miracle 

Third verse, same as the first,
Rinse and repeat. 

The Exile is a graphic novel purporting to set out the events in Outlander from Jamie's point of view. 
The art is pretty, the characters are pretty - even the ugly Murtaugh is stylised into very interesting - but muddy at times.  Hmph.  NOT impressed.  And the book only covers *most* of Outlander, leaving aside the last portion.  Having Jamie's pov for that most interesting section would have been very helpful to understanding the entire plot.

Claire manages a return to her Highland lover Jamie (this isn't a spoiler per se; it's on the back cover of the book).  Fleeing the turmoil and politics of Scotland two decades after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden, Claire and Jamie end up in the West Indies, where Claire faces an old frenemy.  The voyage and destination give Ms. Gabaldon the excuse to insert pirates, vodoo, and a virtuous chance for Claire and Jamie to free black slaves.
Again, not a terrible book.  Fast, bouncy, readable romance.  

But given the treasures available for my reading, I think I've spent as much time on this series as I'm interested in spending.  
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Still not understanding the popularity of this series, except that it's not difficult to read and partakes a bit of the sensibility of an old movie serial or a modern tv show; the plot does have an arc, but the novel itself is a series of intertwined stories. This readable romance is obviously (sometimes a bit too obviously) well-researched and grounded in the history that forms its backdrop.  Yet there's only a single science fictional element, and the fantasy is all about the romance, not any magic of any kind. 


The romance between Claire and Jamie continues to be so over the top that it's not always believable, and while they endure hardship and setbacks separately and alone, happy endings seem inevitable as sunrise.


This volume picks up 20 years after the events in Outlander. Claire has raised Jamie's daughter and become a physician. Told in long flashbacks, the narrative alternates between 1740's Scotland and 1968 Scotland. Honestly, much more than that includes massive spoilers; suffice to say that the ever-too-busy Claire is on the hunt for a woman - a witch - who might have the means to return her to Jamie.
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Cass Neary is a burnt out has been, a brief bright star of punk rock photography.  Tricked into a field trip to Maine's coastal islands, to interview an icon of her field, she trips her way into the dark dramas remaining from a long-ago hippie commune.
The language is spare and lyrical, with descriptions of the coast and rocky islands with weather frigid enough to make me shiver.  Cass is the coyote, the raven, the dark prankster, in search of a good time or at least some sense in a world that lacks all comfort. She is unwelcome, the outsider; and the catalyst for evil and good where dark secrets aren't discussed.
I've said I'm not a fan of horror, and I'm not - but at its grimmest this story still maintained a gritty realism and a thread of hope.  The mystery at the core of the story is handled so deftly that the book was almost over before I realized it *was* a mystery.
I'll be looking for more of Ms. Hand's work.
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It’s hell to finally discover the secret about yourself that others have known all along. Not as bad, though, as watching the people you care about fall, one by one, at the hands of your arch-enemy.

Exploring concepts (Scalzi’s “big ideas”) of family, governance, guilt, honor and love, McGuire keeps the stakes nearly astronomical for her Knight of Faerie, October Daye. Toby caroms from one crisis to another with barely time to catch her breath.   This tale is so tightly plotted that revealing any one element unravels the rest, so I forgo a synopsis. Instead, accept my enthusiastic endorsement of this installment of the October Daye series. 

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Wow. And wow again. Deathless explores the biggest ideas of all.

Horror and bright hope twine together in this powerful saga of Death and love.   Valente’s prose is sonorous, yet not ponderous, and certainly not oblivious to the profane.

Her tremendously strong female main character experiences the deepest issues of life. With the Slavic folklore of her family of marriage as the scaffold, Valente deftly handles themes of duality including power, mastery, marriage, love and death.
There is literally so much to talk about in this wonderful book that I'm rendered speechless.  When I read it again, perhaps I'll be able to pull my chin off the floor and say something coherent.


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December 2012



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