16 April 2012

Books I've Read Since My Last Post

I've noticed a slight trend toward people being a bit shocked at the number of titles I manage to cram into these posts. So I though, hey, why not just do my Reading Monday of what I've read in a specified timeframe - namely, since my previous post (which was a Writing Wednesday, if you'll recall). Being me, I will still pull in other books in the series if there ARE other books, even if I read them previously, but oh well. That's just how I roll... So without further ado, I present to you: 12 days' worth of reading.

The Agency - Y. S. Lee

This was a recommendation from one of my students, and I'm quite glad I sought it out - I absolutely devoured the first two in this trilogy this week (waiting for the 3rd to come out in paperback). The premise is intriguing - an all-female secret detective agency in Victorian London - and the main character, Mary Quinn, is likable, fallible, and great fun to follow around. In the first book, we meet the 12-year-old Mary, who has been convicted of theft and sentenced to death (yeah, they could be a bit harsh back then). Fortunately for her (and us, since there wouldn't be a story otherwise), she is rescued by a few women dedicated to the education of disadvantaged girls, and the orphaned (and condemned) housebreaker takes her mother's maiden name and heads off to school instead of the gallows. The narrative picks up five years later, and we follow her on her first few assignments for the Agency (as companion/spy in a wealthy household, and as a boy {yep, boy} working on a construction site). The third apparently sends her in to the royal family itself - can't wait!

The Legend of Eli Monpress - Rachel Aaron

I'd had this trilogy on my wishlist for a while, so imagine my glee when it appeared in an omnibus edition - it's three for the price of two! About a thousand pages worth of slightly screwball fantasy will keep even me busy for a few days. Monpress is both a wizard and a brilliant thief (accompanied by a master swordfighter and a demonseed {oh, go read it to find out}), who seems bound and determined to cause as much mischief as humanly possible, even while depending on friendly spirits to help him out. That's where Spiritualist Miranda Lyonette comes in (she's the other main POV character, though there are sections in many others' as well) - she's been sent to try and catch him, or at the very least to stop him from stealing a dangerous wizardly artifact. Of course, on her way to tell the king that, she discovers that Eli has, erm, well, stolen the king... The second book concerns the strange goings on in the duchy of Gaol (I'm still trying to figure out whether that's actually pronounced "jail", like the old British spelling), while the third finds Eli and his crew having a well-earned rest when a character from the previous book pops up and asks for their help finding her missing father. The characters in these are perhaps not as deep as I normally prefer, but I can deal with that because Eli is supposed to be an enigma, and it looks like the forthcoming 4th volume explains rather a lot about our swordmaster, so okay. They're fun. Good enough for me!

Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess)

Whoa, you say. Hold on. That's not released till tomorrow. Dude, I work in a bookstore, I get ARCs. Best. Perq. EVER. Meanwhile, this book is so freakin' funny that I made a total arse of myself in Starbucks laughing like a loon (I was in there for a few hours while my car was getting fixed and I read the whole thing). If you haven't read her blog, for pete's sake go do that. She makes me feel a LOT better about my dad, for starters (case in point: my dad goes out to stalk raccoons with a bow and arrow, my mother, sister and I go haul his furious self back inside {in his defense, the damn things were getting into our trash cans}, and nobody dies. Her dad, on the other hand, kills a mama raccoon, realizes she had babies, and brings them home and puts them in the bathtub. And then her mother sews them jams {you know, those long shorts that were popular in the 80s}. Errrrrm... *facepalm* And that's probably the most normal part of the book. 'Cause yes, that is indeed a taxidermied mouse dressed as Hamlet and holding a similarly mousey Yorrick skull standing proudly on the cover.) . Also, hands down absolutely the best table of contents since Percy Jackson. Showed it to a coworker Sunday and her immediate reaction was, "I must own this." So all y'all go buy it tomorrow, m'kay?

Trylle - Amanda Hocking

When the ARC of the first one (Switched) landed in our break room, I snagged it more out of curiosity than anything else - I'd heard about this self-published chick who'd sold a bunch of ebooks and gotten picked up by a print publisher and thought I'd check it out. It's not bad, actually - I mean, it probably could've used one more rewrite-and-polish cycle, and she doesn't really hit her stride until the second one (Torn, which is the one I actually read this week), but after umpteen zillion vampires, werewolves, angels, and mermaids, trolls are kinda refreshing, y'know? There's the ubiquitous love triangle (or, well, kind of a square, but - ugh, no spoilers) and conflicted loyalties, and I could do with a bigger dose of worldbuilding, but you know what, I'm planning on picking up the third one when it comes out next week, so there. And lest you be swayed by that other massive "but it sold tons of ebooks so let's print it!" hot mess that's in the news (but shall not be named...), I'll just say I cracked that open, cracked UP, and will add that based on the couple of paragraphs I manged to scan before I threw it across the desk, this trilogy beats that one by at least an order of magnitude.

H.I.V.E. - Mark Walden

are currently six of these available stateside, and it's the 6th that I flew through this week. Otto Malpense, our antihero, is still trying to stay clear of the malevolent AI Overlord, while still keeping up with his studies and his friends back at H.I.V.E. (that's the Higher Institute of Villainous Evil, for those of you who missed the first five). Meanwhile, headmaster Nero is dealing with all kinds of betrayal and mess with the members of G.L.O.V.E. (Global League - ah, you get the point), and, oh yes, the POTUS (yes, yes, acronym city, that one's still President of the United States, though) gets dragged into it when Overlord takes over a supposedly secure facility and threatens to execute all kinds of VIP hostages if they don't deliver Otto to him ASAP (okay, okay, I'll stop). (Amusing aside which y'all should get - the designer of said facility is {or rather, was} one Jason Drake. Mmm-hmm.) This installment is both lighter and darker than most of the previous ones, and one character is the main focus of both - but I'm not telling... Oh, and these guys have even better gadgets than Alex Rider (he's further down this list)!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place - Maryrose Wood

This series starts with the cliché "Were you raised by wolves?" and turns it on its head by presenting three children who actually WERE. The third volume came out recently (and that's the one I read this week); the children, who are becoming more and more civilized thanks to the attentions of their governess, 15-year-old Penelope Lumley, have been studying birds. Imagine their surprise when they find an ostrich running around the grounds of Ashton Place (which, being in England, is not the sort of place one expects to find large African flightless birds). The ostrich turns out to be the property of one Admiral Faucet ("that's faw-say, my good man!"), who arrives shortly thereafter with the mother of their guardian, Lord Ashton. (With me so far? Good.) When the children, Miss Lumley and Admiral Faucet set out on an expedition into the woods to recapture the ostrich, will the Incorrigibles revert to their wolfish origins? (Hey, I'm not telling.)

Alex Rider - Anthony Horowitz

I read the final entry in this series this week, and I have to say it's a fitting, though definitely not happy, conclusion to the story. For anyone who's somehow missed this, it's pretty much THE go-to boy read - a teenage British spy who pops around the globe on secret missions, so cue lots of adventures and explosions (Horowitz is a successful screenwriter as well - I was pretty surprised the first time I saw his name pop up in the credits of one of my favourite Poirot shows!). The set-up is rather unusual in this one in that we don't see Alex himself at all for the first section - instead we see a prisoner (someone from a previous installment), a criminal consortium (the Scorpia of the title), but not our main character. He does eventually make it onstage, only to be (no surprise) shot at and sucked into another escapade, this time taking place in the sands and cities of Egypt. A rewarding read for series fans, but do read these in order if you haven't started yet (Stormbreaker is the first one).

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

This one doesn't come out till June. MUAHAHAHA! The set-up is straight from the headlines - woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, husband doesn't seem quite... quite, and suspicion abounds from all directions. The first section is told in alternating perspectives, first Nick (the husband) in present-day, then Amy (the wife) in diary flashbacks. Then you get to the second section and ALL bets are off. If I say more than that it'd spoil things, and that's something I definitely don't want to do because it's so very well done. The characters are frighteningly real, and the little tidbits that seem like mere colour early on may turn out to be major clues after all. Flynn has two previous novels which I'm planning to pick up when I get a little extra money, 'cause this lady can write AND plot (and plot and plot and PLOT).

And She Was - Alison Gaylin

Sometimes, when I'm feeling full of myself, I'll boast about my photographic memory. It doesn't hold a candle to Brenna Spector's, though - she can quite literally remember every detail of every day of her life starting the day after her older sister vanished. Not surprisingly, she's an investigator, using her amazing skill (or perhaps that should be curse) to recall the smallest details of cases even over a decade after they happened. When several cases from her past appear to be linking up, she ends up investigating both a small girl's disappearance, the vanishing of a woman who seemed to have a strange obsession with the case, and even, somehow, a tie to her long-gone sister as well. Add in a flamboyant (yet straight) tech-geek assistant who dresses like a refugee from Jersey Shore, a moody teenage daughter, and an ex-husband with whom she only really communicates via IM, and you have a fascinating portrait of a damaged woman trying to do the best she can. Sequel's due out next year, and the teaser seems to indicate that it will involve her missing sister. Looking forward to it!

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart

The fourth volume is finally here! It's been a long time coming (I think I got the first three autographed about two years ago), and it's a prequel, focusing not on the four kids we've come to know and love but on Mr. Benedict himself as a too-smart-for-his-age (okay, okay, he's eidetic too...) boy. His Holmes-like deductive skills are showcased from the very first chapter, where we find him being escorted to a new orphanage. The obligatory gang of bullies gives him a hard time, and the new director is exceedingly determined to be the most frugal man alive after the previous one squandered nearly all of the Rothschild endowment (yeah, those Rothschilds). Oh, and there's supposedly a secret treasure hidden on the grounds... Me being the kind of person I am, I unfortunately figured out that part of the mystery almost instantly, but the story's good enough to pull you through even so. As I said to the author when I met him (very briefly) at that signing, "Thank you for making smart cool again." If for no other reason than that, I'll be recommending this series for a long time to come.

The False Prince - Jennifer A. Nielsen

Shades of Prince and the Pauper here, but the stakes are far higher. Sage, a teenage orphan, is hand-picked by the nobleman Conner as a candidate to impersonate the lost prince of Carthya in an attempt to avoid a civil war after the rest of the royal family is killed. He's not the only one, though - and it's clear that only one will survive, as how could Conner leave the rest around to blab about the plot? Enough to make anyone, even a habitual thief and smartarse like Sage, sit up, pay attention, and keep his mouth shut. Sage is a fantastic character, and the plot races along in this first of a planned trilogy (short chapters, too). The boys have two weeks to learn to act like a prince - and it's truly winner-takes-all. And when the endgame plays out... well, sign me up for the next two! Damned publishing schedules, bet it'll be next year before the next one. *grumble*

Hmmm. This list feels short. I must be forgetting something, so if I remember, I'll add it!


Shaharizan Perez said...

Good selection of books. I will definitely check some of them out. The only one I am truly familiar with is the Alex Rider series and only because my son began reading them years ago when he just entered his teens. (He's going off to college in the Fall and I'm feeling kind of nostalgic of the days when he was younger.)

Thanks for the recommendations, great list.

ViolaNut said...

Thanks Chary - I kind of surprised myself with the number of topics I managed to hit over this timespan (I realized I missed out another non-fiction one, but I'm too tired to add it now), but the number's actually a little low. I'm going to blame it on Rullie sitting on either the book or me a whole hell of a lot lately. But I'm not complaining, 'cause it beats the alternative!