Friday, August 20, 2010

Books from Summer 2010


I've been reading, mostly during vacation in late July but a bit since then. Here's the round up.

Books Read in Summer 2010 (so far)

Fire Sanctuary, by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Years ago I read Fires of Nuala the sequel to this book. I liked it and decided to track down the first novel which took years (partially due to my not wanting to pay $80 for a used paperback).

Now that I have read Fire Sanctuary, odds are that I will reread it. I liked the characters, some from off-world and all thrown for a loop based on the things that happen along the way. Like the other book I had to keep flipping to the beginning where the way the Nualans keep time was listed. I also kept checking out the family tree listed in the front, but be warned - it contains spoilers. I already knew some of what would happen since I had read the sequel, but I don't think it was in the author's best interest to tell all in a chart you see before the novel even starts.

Heat, by Bill Buford

The author was a writer and editor at The New Yorker and decided he needed to know more about cooking. He decided that the keepers of the knowledge he sought could be found in restaurants. He somehow managed to convince Mario Batali (yes, THAT Mario) to let him learn in the kitchen at Batali's restaurant, Babbo. Buford also tried to learn from some of the people (or same kinds of people) from whom Mario learned about cooking, mostly in Italy.

I enjoyed the story, but I wished it were a little more straightforward. As written, the tale wanders back and forth among Buford's experiences, the history of Batali, and of Italian cuisine, and of food itself. By the end it was a little tiring.

I learned more about Mario Batali (at least according to Buford) than I probably wanted to know. And this book reinforced my belief that restaurant cooks are kinda nuts. Overall I liked it but I'll be passing it on for someone else to read, not keeping it to reread.

Bone Crossed, by Patricia Briggs

A Mercy Thompson Novel, fantasy

This is the fourth in the series of novels about a special kind of shape shifter (Mercy is also a coyote) who has, perhaps, too many other supernatural beings for friends (and suitors). I love Mercy and the fact that she's no-nonsense and smart. She's not flawless (she's even more stubborn than I am and that's saying quite a bit) and I love that she hasn't miraculously recovered from the traumas of the last novel. The past in these books influences the future.

This was a satisfying read with appearances from a lot of key characters from Mercy's past adventures. I happily stayed up last with it one night. I'm now waiting for the next book in the series to come out in paperback.

Summer at Tiffany, by Marjorie Hart


This is a charming memoir set in summer 1945 when Marjorie and Marty, two young women from a college in Iowa find themselves working in New York City. It is no secret that they land jobs at Tiffany's but that is only a fraction of the story. With attention to detail, Marjorie brings to life a good feeling of what their life was like, not only that summer, but in the early war-time 1940's in general. She tells prices and explains how they scrimped to make what little they had go farther.

Between the name-dropping of famous people they glimpsed at work, Marjorie relates the gossip they followed in the magazines, and by talking to the doormen and elevator operators. She also relates end-of-war events as they played out in New York City with a particularity that make each one shine in a way the standard history book recap doesn't.

This was a quick read for me. The book's only flaw in my eyes was the extra information beyond the actual memoir. A page of notes in the beginning was followed by an official "Author's Note" and were unnecessarily repetitious. The edition I had also contained a large section at the back with a transcription of an interview with the author, along with other stories and folllow-ups that I supposed "didn't make the cut". Interesting, perhaps, but a little too much. And there were some drawings in the middle of the books (and photos and souvenirs) that were interesting but the drawings were not credited and it was only much later in the book that I decided that they must be from a booklet she describes.

Nonetheless I can think of two people who would enjoy reading this and will either pass it along or at least mention it to them soon.

Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher

Book Three of the Dresden Files, fantasy

I love the way that this series of books drops you into the middle of action and then catches you up in the next chapter. I am engaged immediately. In this story the Chicago wizard, Harry Dresden, knows he doesn't know enough and keeps making the best guesses he can. I love that I didn't figure out "who done it" before he did, even though I knew that he was wrong some of the time up until then.

I'm enjoying this series and will be reading the next one soon.

The Drastic Dragon of Draco, Texas, by Elizabeth Scarborough


I've been looking for this book for years, having read and liked a number of Scarborough's books. The one called "Goldcamp Vampire" brought back a character from this book, and I was curious enough to want to read it. But it has been out of print.

This was a fun read, though some parts dragged a little bit. The story follows young writer Miss Harper as she travels away from San Francisco and the her overbearing new stepmother. She is looking for inspiration for the (lucrative) adventure novels she knows are inside her. At first she is bored silly and schemes to get out where the action is. Then she finds it, first being kidnapped, then recovered, then wondering at the possibly shady dealings of her new host and his scalp-collecting friend. And that's before the honest-to-goodness fire-breathing dragon shows up.

The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff


Tanya Huff is evil in the most delightful way. I can't put her books down and this one was great. It kept me up way too late on way too many nights.

This story drops you in the middle of a very large, complicated family dominated by lots and lots of powerful women. One who considers herself not as powerful finds herself at loose ends when a letter comes telling her she's inherited her grandmother's store in Calgary. She goes to find out what happened to her grandmother, and uncovers more than she bargains for.

Dead and Gone, by Charlaine Harris

fantasy, a Sookie Stackhouse Novel

This is book 9 in the series and it tells a good story (but whatever you do, don't even think about starting with this novel!) The universe is too complicated.

Not to say that the little town of Bon Temps, Louisiana is complicated - it is fairly simple, as is Sookie's job as a waitress at the bar. But now that vampires have "come out of the closet" and into public view, it is now the turn of werewolves and shape-shifters, some of whom are close to Sookie. For some it goes well, but not for all.

Her boss has to go take care of some family business so Sookie ends up managing the bar just in time to discover a murder in the parking lot. And, oh yeah, there is also a powerful foe of Sookie's great-grandfather who is now trying to kill her. This makes the FBI who are in town to interview her the least of her problems.

I like the way Sookie's emotions in this one seem to run true to what I imagine the situation demands, no matter that this novel is another roller-coaster of a ride.

The Naked Viscount, by Sally MacKenzie


This was a fast, sexy read, regency-style. The woman has a brain and helps piece together the mystery in spite of the man's attempts to discount her assistance. It isn't my usual style and I don't plan to read the other books in this series. But if you are looking for a smart alternative to the old Harlequin's, then go for it.

Shakespeare's Christmas, by Charlaine Harris

A Lily Bard mystery, Book 3

Lily finds herself heading back to her hometown for her sister's wedding, scheduled for Christmas Eve. She hates the idea of being back in town, when everyone knows her as the victim of a crime instead of as the woman who survived. But Lily is putting on the best face forward for her sister's sake.

To her horror, she and her nurse sister discover the town's doctor and his nurse dead, bludgeoned to death. The only bright spot is that her new-ish boyfriend surprises her by showing up in town. Of course that bright spot is dimmed somewhat when she finds out that he is also there on business, and that the groom is a suspect in an old kidnapping case. There are only days left for Lily to get to the bottom of this before the wedding.

The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer


The authors take us back to Regency England and the continuing adventures of Kate and Cecy (Cecelia) as told by their letters (and those of their husbands). This time each has settled in with their husbands and now children, but danger has not finished with them. The non-magical James is sent by the Duke of Wellington to investigate the disappearance of a powerful foreign magician who was in the country to look into something having to do with the new railroads. Cecy accompanies him, after having arranged for her cousin Kate to take care of her children.

At first I worried I would have trouble telling one voice from the other, but I soon fell into the story and didn't surface until the satisfactory end. I can't say I identify with either character, but I like reading about them nonetheless.