Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Self-Sufficiency Handbook

Subtitled Your Complete Guide to a Self-Sufficient Home, Garden and Kitchen, The Self-Sufficiency Handbook is a 240 page general guide to the concepts and ideas involved in becoming more self-sufficient.  The content is divided into 5 broad categories: The Land, The Self-sufficient House, The Organic Food Garden, Animal Husbandry, and The Pantry.

Each of these sections are pretty much standalone and could be read in any order.  There is no required cohesiveness to the content and it can be read and accessed as needed. To that end, the book includes a fairly good index which makes the content specifically accessible.

This is a very broad and general book.  It's a good 'starting off' guide, a 'dreaming' guide; it's emphatically not a specific how-to guide. If it errs, it tries to be everything to everyone.  Anyone actually going into homesteading will hopefully have a solid workable plan for getting from lifestyle A to whatever level of self-sufficiency is desirable. 

It's very tempting to see pictures of healthy gardens and adorable lambs and healthy beehives and want to be a part of that lifestyle. (I did!) The guides rarely show pictures of neighbor's pet-dog ravaged lambs, nosema infested empty beehives, or flattened gardens with more weeds than produce and production that wouldn't feed a toddler.

This is a very pretty book.  It is a positive upbeat book, a 'you can do it' book.  There are recipes and crafts in the final section with nice (very general) tutorials about apple cider, wines, soap and candlemaking etc.

Of good use to those beginning to explore options and at the 'dreamer' stage.  Very well photographed and written in accessible layman language.  Available in ebook, paperbound and hardback formats. Published 14th Nov, 2017 by Fox Chapel publishing. Authors Alan & Gill Bridgewater have been living a smallholding lifestyle for many years.

Three and a half stars, some very good general info here.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

The Otter of Death

The Otter of Death is the 5th installment in the Gunn Zoo cozy mystery series by Betty Webb. The series is a clean cozy whose main character is a zookeeper (and volunteer environmentalist) and Joe, her local sheriff love interest.

This is a well written cozy which fits comfortably into the genre.  For fans of continuing series with animals/antiques/librarians/bakeries & caterers, this series is engaging and fun.

The characterizations and plotting are adept and very readable.  It's a diverting and entertaining read.

Due out 2nd May, 2018 from Poisoned Pen, available in ebook, hardback and paperback formats (according to Amazon pre-pub info). No page content listed, but it's a relatively short read.

Bonus points for the author's dedication.  I practically grew up in my local public library and owe my lifelong reading habit to my parents (both educators) and a slew of engaged and intelligent public librarians who encouraged me to read anything and everything I could get my hands on.

Three and a half stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Big Book of Weekend Beading: Step-by-Step Instructions for 30+ Quick Beading Projects

This is a collection of 30+ (31 by my count) beading projects.  There are decor articles as well as a fair number of jewelry and beading enhanced fashion and accessory pieces.  The scope of the designs is heavily slanted to the beginner and quick-finish projects.

Roughly the first 25% of the content is introduction along with the standard picture tutorial of findings and techniques.  One caveat, the pictures for the actual techniques for the beading sections are not very detailed or close-up.  It is a good introduction to the techniques, netting, peyote, square stitch etc, but for tutorials, there are much clearer instructions available online.

The next 70% is given over to projects and patterns, roughly grouped by technique: General Beading, Stringing, Bead Embroidery, and Wirework.

The end of the book includes a short suppliers list with website affiliations, index, some of the patterns and photo credits.

This would make a good gift, along with some basic supplies, for someone who has been interested in learning to bead.  The projects are easily finished without a large commitment in supplies or time. 

192 pages, edited by Jean Power.  Due out 13th March, 2018 from  Fox Chapel.

Three and a half stars
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hypertufa Containers: Creating and Planting an Alpine Trough Garden

I'm a fanatical gardener and spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to improve our outdoor living space. Unfortunately I have to do so on a budget.  Any techniques which look great and save cash on the ridiculously expensive heavy containers in the garden centres are perfect for me.

Hypertufa fits the bill.  Author Lori Chips has written a clear, concise, and beautifully photographed book on sourcing and creating weatherproof hardscaping for the garden.  The book contains instructions for choosing supplies, construction techniques, weathering containers and troubleshooting.

Roughly the first 25% of the content is given over to straight introduction to the material, tutorial for building and creating molds and working with hypertufa to create trough containers.

The next 25% covers soil mixes, garden siting, and other materials (real tufa stone, for example) for the alpine rock garden. This is a complete and well written guide to the special needs and cultivation requirements of alpine plants.

Another 20% is given over to plant selection and planting styles.  There are so many lovely pictures of different cultivars and a lot of surprising juxtaposition which I wouldn't have otherwise expected (scabiosa sitting happily with lewisia and sempervivums all jostling one another side by side).  One thing which struck me about most of the pictures in the book is how exuberantly healthy everything looks.  The plants don't just seem to be existing, they're clearly thriving.

There's a fair amount of general garden wisdom and experience as well as style and cultivation advice which can be applied to a lot of other situations than just the selection and building of an alpine or other rock garden. The author is clearly experienced and writes clearly and with humor and insight. 

The book also includes a good glossary, bibliography and links for further reading.  I love books which turn me on to other books.

This is an unusual book.  It's  DIY manual, a really solid book on choosing and growing alpines, a pretty darned good look at planting styles and a picture book inviting a closer look at some often misunderstood and maligned plants.

Beautifully written and high quality useful instruction.

Four and a half stars.
Available in ebook and paperback format, anticipated release date: 1st Aug, 2018.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.









Thursday, February 15, 2018

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic

Spenser's 46th outing in novel form sees him chasing a priceless painting which was stolen 20 years ago in a famous heist at the Gardner museum.

Spenser is on the trail and willing to do whatever it takes to finish the job and honor the last wishes of a friend.  There's also a 5 million dollar reward, and he's up against everyone to see the assignment through.

There aren't so many things in life which are guaranteed to deliver.  Spenser, even on this 46th (!!!) installment, really does.  I love his mouthy attitude, his honor and his style.  Pure 100% unadulterated entertainment.  I love Spenser.  I admit trepidation when Ace Atkins took over the series, but they're really wonderful (this is the 7th book by my count since R.B.Parker passed away in 2010).

Due out 1 May, 2018 from Penguin - Putnam. 320 pages, available in ebook, hardcover and audio- formats.

Five stars.  I devoured this in one sitting. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lace and Blade 4

As I've said many times before on this blog, I love anthologies.  Lace and Blade 4, curated by Deborah J. Ross, and due out 14th February, 2018 from the MZB Literary Works Trust, is a good one.

One of the reasons I like anthologies and collections is that they're often full of new-to-me authors for further reading.  Another is that often with fantasy collections, there are tie-in stories giving background or side stories for my favorite characters or set in well-loved universes.  Third, they're usually a fairly mixed bag and if there's a story which doesn't appeal to me right there and then, there's always another one available without a huge time investment. This collection's no exception.

The quality of the stories is very high.  They are well written, varied, well curated stories, and all have at least a hint of romance(and/or danger) and fantasy.  Of the 13 included stories,  most were from authors familiar to me. As far as I can see, all the stories are new and published for the first time in this anthology.

The complete table of contents and authors list is copied from the publisher website and included below. 
Contents:
At the Sign of the Crow and Quill Marie Brennan
On the Peacock Path Judith Tarr
Sunset Games Robin Wayne Bailey
Sorcery of the Heart Lawrence Watt-Evans
The Butcher’s Boy and the Piri Folk Pat MacEwen
Gifts Tell Truth Heather Rose Jones
A Sword for Liberty Diana L. Paxson
Hearts of Broken Glass Rosemary Edghill
The Game of Lions Marella Sands
The Sharpest Cut Doranna Durgin
Pawn's Queen India Edghill
The Heart's Coda Carol Berg
The Wind's Kiss Dave Smeds

For me, selecting three standout stories was pretty difficult, they're all entertaining and engaging.  In the end, I chose the following three:

Sunset Games - Robin Wayne Bailey
Parisian vampire vs. master thief and woman of mystery - sexy and a really superlative use of dramatic tension.  While I was reading the story, I was not sure what I wanted to happen.  It's a very taut and extremely spare narrative. 

The Butcher's Boy and the Piri Folk - Pat MacEwan
I really loved this one.  It's witty and fun and serious by turns.  I love the message; it's what's inside a person that makes them truly great and not what's on the outside.  I also love English civil war fiction.  Additionally this is a really well written story and at 21 pages, a lovely diverting length for one sitting.

The Heart's Coda - Carol Berg
I love dragons, always have and always will.  This is a breathtaking story about traumatized dragons (PTSD) and the bard who has the ability to sing them whole again.  I actually teared up reading this story.  It's only 36 pages, but it felt much longer (in a GOOD way).  I intend to chase down Song of the Beast by the author, set in the same universe as soon as I can.  Really lovely story.

Stats:
284 pages, Ebook format.
Release date: 14th February 2018
Available for pre-order now (rrp $6.99)

Four and a half stars

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.







































































































































































Coffin, Scarcely Used

Originally published in 1958, Coffin Scarcely Used is Colin Watson's first Flaxborough mystery (of 12). Introducing Inspector Purbright, whose placid and mild surface belies a solid deductive mind, the first Flaxborough mystery has Purbright and colleagues trying to solve the bizarre electrocution murder of a local newspaper owner.

The series, and indeed the author, were unknown to me previously.  The reissue of the series by Prelude/Farrago with new covers is due to begin with this, the first book in the series, on 22 Feb, 2018.

This is a wickedly funny, very gently written and imagined tale.  It is a murder mystery and police procedural, true (with bonus murders, even), but first and foremost it's a wry skewering of village life and social commentary.  Every character is precisely drawn and every seemingly random description written with such unerring humour and precision that the whole is awe inspiring.  The dialogue is spot on, the plotting slowish but in every way germane to the tale.  This is a book to slow down a bit and savor; there are subtleties and humor that must be thought about.

There were a couple places in the book where I, as reader, wondered why in the world the author included something he'd written, only to shake my head later and think 'Well played, Mr. Watson, well played'!

The book never slides into 'mean-ness' or ridicules the stereotypes of which it makes gentle fun.  The book is genuinely funny, and surprisingly very little dated for having been written over 60 years ago. 

100% top shelf pure unadulterated clean classic murder mystery.  Very light language (occasional 'damn' or 'bloody').  No graphic content.

Four and a half stars.  I -really- enjoyed this. Heartily recommended!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

School for Psychics

The School for Psychics is the first book in a new series by K. C. Archer, due for release 03 April, 2018 from Simon and Schuster. The book covers the recruitment and first year of a group of young paranormals at a training college for psychics of all types from a pyrokinetic (Lucas, inevitably nicknamed 'Pyro') to animal medium (Jillian) and psychometrist (Jeremy).  The main character, Theodora/Teddy is an astral telepath who combines a bad attitude and trust issues with out of control psychic ability. 

The entire setup has a very X-Men/New Mutants vibe, but the author has successfully resisted much of the temptation to play off of the usual stereotypes.  There is, however, a lot of 'cool kids' vs. 'misfits' included as well as breaking curfew and sleeping around.  The sex (clean, and implied rather than graphic), drinking, etc, isn't as disturbing as it would be in another YA novel, since all of the principle players are over the age of consent, but the book certainly feels like a YA book.   All of the content is safe for work, so no need to avoid reading it on the bus commute or lunchtime.

The book is well written technically.  The dialogue flows well and the story moves along at a good clip.  The psychic dialogue was well handled (mostly in italics), and wasn't confusing to read.  I never had trouble figuring out what was going on.

Available in ebook, paperback, and audio formats, 368 pages, due out 3rd April.  I recently saw that the movie rights have already been optioned, so a film is likely at some point.

Three and a half stars, shadowy government agencies, good vs. evil mutants psychics, escapist fun.

Murder in Belgravia

Murder in Belgravia is the first book in what promises to be a continuing series.  Set in WWI London, this is a semi-cozy with an ensemble cast.  Despite having a relatively large cast of characters, the author does a good job of writing clearly and concisely and there isn't any confusion about what is happening to whom.What begins as a seemingly straightforward case of murder by self defense turns out to be anything but.  I would normally call this a cozy, however the fairly graphic descriptions of injuries, sexual abuse, pedophilia, homophobia and sexism, while softened from the brutal reality, were more than most people expect for a cozy mystery.  I didn't find the realism detracted from the novel, but I can see that for many readers it might.

The plotting and characterizations are well done and the dialogue is good, if somewhat breezily anachronistic (almost sarcastic in the modern usage of the word).  The women in the book are given a very free rein to investigate and interview people; it's sometimes a trifle jarring in context.

The denouement was very abrupt and somewhat unexpected for me.  I admit that it was pushing the boundaries for my suspension of disbelief that all the subplots were tied up so neatly and happily-ever-after-ly.  I can understand the desire for the author to give the poor tortured and downtrodden secondary characters a chance at a better life; I just wasn't entirely sold on the deux ex machina methods of delivery.

That being said, this is an enjoyable 211 page cozy, well written and entirely readable from a new voice in historical crime.  The author has written in other genres and for other audiences before.  Due to be published  6th Dec, 2017 from Mirror Books, available in ebook and paperback formats.

Three and a half stars, I will be following this series further



Monday, February 12, 2018

Retro Cross Stitch

Retro Cross Stitch by Véronique Enginger is a big and beautiful collection of 500 charts for motifs with a French retro flair to cross stitch.  The designs are varied and include many smaller designs as well as some larger pieces.  Scattered throughout are finished examples stitched onto various articles like linens, bags, framed pictures and labels/cards.

There are multiple themes included in the collection, broadly gathered into the chapters:
  • A Touch of Nostalgia
  • Chocolate, Tea, Coffee
  • Fabulous Journeys
  • Fashion
The entire collection runs to 192 pages, hardbound. There are multiple motifs per page and the charts have both symbol and color, making them very easy to follow.

The botanicals (example pictured on the cover) are really appealing and classy and would make wonderful hostess gifts stitched onto a wine bottle cover or napkin set.

While there are pictured examples of finished projects throughout the book, neither patterns nor instructions are included, they're just guides for further inspiration.

The photography, as always, is clear and high quality.

Five stars




Fables & Fairy Tales to Cross Stitch

Fables & Fairy Tales to Cross Stitch by Véronique Enginger is a lovely collection of fairy tale themed projects with stitching charts and finishing suggestions.  It's 144 pages from Schiffer Publishing and due to release 28th March, 2018.

There are several things I really liked about this volume.  The charts are very well reproduced,  crystal clear and have both symbols and colour shading on them.  I find that style of chart much easier on my eyes when stitching for long periods of time.  The overall quality of the designs is very high, on a first look through this collection, I found quite a number which I intend to stitch.

I also really liked that this collection (and Retro Cross Stitch by the same author, which I will review here on the blog soon), does more than just present the charts, but also includes the patterns for the soft furnishings and pillows and other projects along with clear finishing instructions.

Additionally, the text is charmingly retro and whimsical.  The entire collection has a very European flair and of the included fairy tales and rhymes, many will be new to Americans, less so to Europeans.

The book includes a wide variety of sizes and complexities in the charts, from tiny spot motifs to full pillow sized vignettes.  Many of the pieces coordinate also, so making up a layette isn't a problem.

Available in hardcover format 28th March, 2018.  Lovely pieces, well written instructions.

Four and a half stars

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Library of Lost Things

This was a bizarre little morality play/fable. The language is the undisputed star of the piece. It's quite short, only 28 pages. It's the perfect length for a tea-and-2-biscuits interlude.

The language is just so lush and vibrant and full of exuberance that it's *swoon* worthy.

Four stars, loved it!

Glamourie

Take a look at any long term knitter's library and you're just about guaranteed to find one or more volumes by Alice Starmore.  She's been an archivist and historian especially for the rich and traditional knitting of the British Isles, with occasional forays into other knitting traditions.

This book is decidedly different.  It is a knitting compendium, full of traditional colourways and techniques.  The masterful designs incorporate beautiful detailing and structural cables which support and refine the garments, however...  the book also includes numerous fables and dreamlike prose vignettes which are haunting and provide backstory for the designs.  The first half of the book includes these stories and 7 virtuoso artistic costumes.  These are stylistic animal themed art pieces (I would call them almost shamanistic).  They are amazing and very detailed and not at all practical (and they are clearly not meant to be so).

The second half of the book carries on with beautifully detailed and wonderfully complex patterns for 11 more practical versions of the costumes from the first half of the book.

I admire the authors for being willing to follow their artistic muse and produce art which doesn't adulterate their vision by trying to be practical and accessible or by pandering to a wider audience.  Make no mistake, the simplest of the designs in the second half of this book are challenging.  Some of the designs (especially the full on costumes in the front of the book) are odd and somewhat unsettling. 

I don't think these patterns will be dated very quickly because I've never seen anything remotely like them.

As always Starmore's use of color, texture and structure are virtuoso.  The yarns are scrumptious and worthy of the designs.

The book is very well named, the designs are bewitching and somewhat eerie. 

Four stars, available in hardback from Dover publications 14th Feb, 2018.



I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land

I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land is a special edition hardcover novella from Connie Willis published by Subterranean Press.

I've been a fan of the author for decades, and this piece, though only 88 pages, shines with her humor, sharp wit, and style.

I was always the Luddite who swore I'd never own an e-book reader.  I adore libraries full of old books.  When my university medical library was moving to new digs, I rehomed literally hundreds of the deaccessioned books and felt badly that there were, sadly, thousands more which I couldn't adopt. I now own several ebook readers (a pack of Kindles and a Kobo for bathtime reading), but I still love everything about books from the smell to the tactile joy and solidity of sitting down with a book.

Neil Gaiman says it so much better than I can (that's why he's a world famous author and I'm a professional labrat bionerd):
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
 The entire essay is available here.

Beautiful dust jacket art by Jon Foster.

I received an early e-ARC of this book and while I did find an error (Great Fire of London was in 1666, not 1665; it's pretty obviously a typo), I assume it'll be corrected before release.

Love the author, enjoyed the novella very much.

Four stars.



Dead Air

Dead Air is an impressive debut for author Cliff Protzman.  I was immediately drawn into this story full force when the main character Glenn Beckert gets a call that his friend Richie has been murdered at Z-rock, Richie's radio station.  Beckert's security firm, Blue Water, provides security services for the radio station and his employee was on site when the murder occurred. 

The setting is one of the main characters.  I grew up around Pittsburgh and the sense of place and the landmarks and 'vibe' is absolutely spot on.  There are numerous mentions of local landmarks and reading this book took me right back there.

The book is deftly plotted and definitely doesn't read like a debut novel in any way.  The characterizations are well written and the dialogue is pitch perfect. 

I would call it modern noir; gritty but also upbeat and surprisingly humorous. The secondary characters are vibrant and really well written, especially love interest Irene who is smart and beautiful and a good counterpoint for Beckert.  The clues are all there in the narrative and the denouement is well paced, exciting and satisfying.

I'm really looking forward to more novels from this author. 

321 pages, available in ebook and paperback formats.

Five stars, doesn't get better than this.



Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Pallet Book

The Pallet Book is a handy DIY manual with projects that look really good and don't seem to shout out that they were recycled from reclaimed pallet wood.
Author Chris Peterson teamed up with Voyageur Press to produce this 144 page softbound book, published 2 January, 2018.

The book includes multiple methods of deconstructing pallets and smoothing out the resultant wood in order to reclaim as much material as possible.  There are also good tips for arranging the reclaimed wood into similar widths and qualities to make selecting project materials easy and painless.  I really liked the safety minded tutorials on reclamation and deconstruction.  There were a lot of good tips on sourcing pallets also, along with good and sensible advice on being responsible (don't steal, ask permission, etc).

The book is arranged in thematic chapters, starting with an introduction on sourcing and deconstruction, availability and safety.

The second chapter includes some simple but useful and attractive yard and garden projects.  Each of the chapters starts with an introductory sidebar with a table of contents (there's also a master table of contents at the beginning of the book).  The yard and garden projects include planters, a bird house, a doghouse, a workbench and others.  They're not all small and simple projects.  There are some more challenging and larger projects including an adirondack chair (pictured on the cover), porch swing, hammock chair and chaise lounge.

Third chapter includes storage and organizational projects.  There's a bookshelf (cover pic), wine rack, coat rack, and others.

Fourth chapter includes many furniture and decor items.  I really love several of these and have started sourcing materials.  I like the idea of reclaiming and upcycling materials.  There's something very satisfying about making something useful and beautiful out of something potentially landfill-worthy.  

I'd like to comment on the general superlative quality of these projects.  They emphatically do NOT look like reclaimed pallet wood. They look really good; well made and professional.  There are 50 projects in all, including several in each chapter which are grouped into three quick projects.


The photography is top notch.  Quarto/Voyageur books have great photography along with clear and easy to follow tutorials.  They've become one of my top go-to choices for woodworking, cooking and other DIY.  They produce consistently high quality usable books.

While I did receive an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher, I'll be buying my own physical copy of this book for my workshop.  

Five stars



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Bee Book

Due out







Saturday, February 3, 2018

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, 4th Edition

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, 4th edition by Gail Damerow continues the long tradition of quality Storey's Guides with a revisit and updating of this 22 year old classic on the care and maintenance of the home flock.  The first edition of this book is one of the very first books I bought when we were still in the 'dreaming and planning' phase of our smallholding.  It's still the first book I recommend to people who are interested in home fowl.

I think it's vitally important (especially when caring for or interacting with other living creatures) to do the very best we can to give them the highest quality life possible.  This is a well written, understandable and accessible reference guide which covers pretty much everything to do with chickens in a no-nonsense and scientifically sound manner.

The book contains 424 pages with hundreds of photographs, sidebars, and illustrations.  The book is split up into logically arranged chapters.  The chapters progress from the truly basic and introductory (What is a chicken? What are the different breeds and what are their plus and minus characteristics? How do I get started?)... to the advanced whys and wherefores of managing breeding flocks, selecting stock, even a section on artificial insemination.

Disease management and culling are explained and defined very clearly along with illustrative discussion on whether to maintain an open or closed flock (the author herself has a closed flock).

The chapter on killing and butchering chickens and other fowl is well presented along with a good and complete explanation of the physiological mechanics involved in the musculature and why light meat is 'light' and dark meat is darker.

I have relied on the earlier editions of this book for many years for support and guidance with my own flock and I'm happy to see this updated version with newer links and further reading sections, updated glossary and updated info.  The general feel and layout of the book are true to the Storey's Guides format and will be recognizable and usable for anyone.

Five stars, a great successor to a long-lived and successful title.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

Firestorm

Firestorm is the third installment in the Worldmaker Trilogy by Lucy Hounsom.  Published December 14th, 2017 by Pan Macmillan it's over 500 pages of epic fantasy which satisfyingly ties up much of the story arc from the first two books.  The author has style and despite the length, the story doesn't drag at all.  I found myself looking forward to stealing reading time to spend in this world with these characters.  The prose really resonated with me and I never found myself rolling my eyes internally over inane characters or dialogue.  The characters are real and their motivations are consistent.

The world building is simply spectacular and the magic system includes timeline/world shifting... and dragons.  Honestly, she had me at dragons. Intelligent dragons.  This book ticked a whole lot of boxes for me which can lead to inflated expectations and disappointment.  Happily for once, the payoff was well worth the journey.  This was a very satisfying read and one that I just might go back and revisit from the first book through again.

The prose is beautifully fluid and deftly crafted.  For people who read epic fantasy regularly, there's nothing extremely rough or objectionable in the text.  I imagine few people go into a three volume campaign fantasy expecting a cat-based cozy romance/mystery...  That being said, there -is- murder, betrayal, rape, suicide, and the occasional narrative 'damn' 'hell' or 'bitch'.

This is a brick of a book.  There is no hand-holding or spoon feeding of info.  It's not particularly good as a standalone, but it is spectacularly well written and I'm looking forward to the author's future work.

Four stars for Firestorm and four and a half for the series.  I hope Ms. Hounsom writes more books in this world/milieu.  There are some tantalizing backstories left unwritten.

Available in ebook and paperback format.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.




Friday, January 26, 2018

Mississippi Roll

Mississippi Roll is the 24th book in the Wild Cards series published by Tor Books. There are 5 stories bound together by a segue/interlude story written by Steven Leigh. The book credits G.R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass as editor/assistant editor respectively.

I remember picking up the original books in the series in about 1987(ish) and loving the whole idea of a shared universe anthology series.  I'm already a huge fan of anthologies because there are always at least some stories that appeal at any given time and there are always new-to-me authors to follow up on after devouring the anthology.  I'm also very fond of short fiction because it provides a whole different set of problems and it's always fun (and often enlightening) to see how authors adapt to the constraints of a shorter narrative.

This book is 336 pages of well edited and curated fantasy goodness.  If you're familiar with the wildcards universe and premise, this is a good one. If you're not familiar with wildcards before now, this is a very good standalone novel to introduce the concept and some of the characters.

I loved the character Steam Wilbur ("In the Shadow of Tall Stacks" Steven Leigh). That's him on the cover. Leigh's interlude stories give the whole anthology a nice cohesiveness.

The stories are all strong, but I especially loved "A Big Break in the Small Time" by Carrie Vaughn.  I couldn't stop smiling reading it.  Deftly written and exciting and I'm a total sucker for couples who really care about one another.  Sweet!

Four and a half stars

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.