Summer Fantasy!

Robin Hobb Fool’s Asassin
Review by Helen McIver
How did I never read Robin Hobb? Recently I fell down the Farseer rabbit hole and disappeared for several days, because once I understood this was a continuation, I had to read ALL of those books. GRR Martin recommended, and I agree.

I was thumbing through the NetGalley ARCs and was drawn to this cover. Knowing none of the prehistory I was immediately cast into this well written, thought provoking story. I often wondered what a rich and varied past led this intricate man to this point in his life. To discover there was a trilogy was like discovering Terry Pratchett for the first time. I am not sorry I started at the end, with Fitz a grown man as the early tales have a lot of teen angst and messy life choices (sometimes I think girls are just smarter!). I can’t wait to read the next two installments because yes, there are cliff hangers. She clearly loves these characters.

Robin Hobb is the second pen name for Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden (also Megan Lindholm). (If you’re in London in August she will be sharing a stage, in conversation with GRR Martin!) She has been writing tremendous, imaginative, award winning science fiction and fantasy for over twenty years. In addition to the Farseer trilogy, there are the Liveship Traders trilogy and the Rain Wilds chronicles. She has a wonderful imagination and clear, detailed writing which captures your attention. There is action, drama, torment, love, family, dragons, magic, and new worlds to explore. I have warned you that you will lose a few days reading!

Fitz (FitzChivalry) is a royal bastard, former King’s assassin now living a quieter life as Tom Badgerlock, with the love of his life Molly. But Tom/Fitz has the Wit, the dangerous ability to touch minds. His previous world collides with his new life and the adventure begins anew. I was delighted with the addition of his new daughter, watching her character develop and slowly reveal secrets. She is definitely her father’s daughter. There is a rich cast with diverse characters, more so with the history of the earlier trilogy. Concepts of loyalty and honour, steadfast love and friendship bonds, good and evil provide counterpoint. Not every battle is won, but they are bravely fought (or not with wisdom). And you discover what matters in life. The story is well paced, richly detailed, multi-layered and full of developing characters. This promises to be a satisfying and unforgettable serious fantasy series.

If you like Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, Kristin Cashore, GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind: You will love this series. Her early work is especially suitable for teenagers (YA). There’s still a lot of summer reading left!

Received as a NetGalley ARC

4.5 stars

Not a full fifth star because I like stories in series that are complete in themselves. People often read slower as they get to the end of a book because they don’t want the fantastic story to end. I felt it couldn’t end. And no doubt I have to wait until the end of the trilogy. I had not read Hobb before but she is now on my favourite list.

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The TBR Pile

Review by Helen McIver
And then I was asked what was on my To Be Read pile.
Fiction
Susanna Calkins From the Charred Remains
Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See
Martha Grimes Vertigo 42
Susan Elia Macneal Prime Minister’s Secret Agent
Carol McCleary No Job for a Lady
Lauren Owen The Quick
Jill Paton Walsh The Late Scholar
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter The Long Mars
Non fiction
Tim McGrath Give Me A Fast Ship

I dropped everything as soon as Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life was in my hands. I finished it in the middle of the night, was bereft that the story had ended (especially as I want to know more about several characters: Gallowglass where are you!?), then went back and reread it savoring every word. That helped me let the story go and have it become a book again, instead of what I was living through. I also bought the hardcover book to read again after a friend finishes it and we discuss it. And yes, I will probably read the entire series.
And then, Harkness mentions another mystery series, by the author Deborah Crombie, which I am now going to start (16th Scotland Yard police procedural to be published in September!)
Book Quote:
“It is the despair of book-lovers that they cannot read all the good books and it is their delight constantly to discover new ones. ” Burton Rascoe

Scotia, darling Scotia

Review by Helen McIver

I have been missing Scotland lately, after a planned trip was cancelled. I wouldn’t have read Diana Gabaldon’s new book if I hadn’t been going over soon (even though the Scots are in America now, fighting in the revolution). I am in Vermont where I am often reminded of the Scottish hills/Bonnie braes and Highlands albeit without the heather. A delightful summer tea at the Perennial Gardens had Scottish breakfast tea on the menu (and described as a brisk broken leaf tea with spine stiffening qualities; really, how could I resist?) Pipes are often heard as there is a long heritage here. Recent guy dreich weather (stormy, rainy, cloudy, chilly) has felt like northern Scotland. And then a wee trip to my library brought home an old friend, the latest in a Scottish mystery series by AD Scott. Beneath the Abbey Wall and The Low Road, are the fourth and fifth installment of this saga set in the 1950s in the Great Glen. It is easily recognisable to me (not that different from my 1980s, but rapid change in the last 20 years makes this a reminisce).
I find these to be detailed mysteries dependent on character, personality development and sense of place. There is a wonderful use of language (vocabulary, colloquialisms, and proverbs) which I miss (thrawn, dwam, dreich, corrie, neb) characteristic of local authors (and Scott is from the Highlands, although she now lives in Vietnam and Australia). Her books explore the transformation of rural Scotland, the restrictions of small town life, with a common thread of loyalty. You will be immersed in another culture and another time.
There are many characters in this town and these stories. I am delighted to be reacquainted with them as we follow their growth, changes, challenges and trials. Murder never brings out the best, but life in the Highlands has always been full of strife, never forgotten. Mrs Archibald Smart was murdered (née Joyce Mackenzie) and it is her story that is the mystery that once again involves the Tinkers (especially a favourite character of mine, Jenny McPhee). Joyce was the incomparable office manager of the Highland Gazette (and yet we know hardly anything about her, from the previous novels). McAllister is the newspaper editor who is trying to make changes to the local paper while also favouring a new reporter Joanne Ross (we met her earlier, moving on from an abusive marriage; acceptable now, impossible then). Neil Stewart provides a stark contrast as a young Canadian over to do research, but also in search of his birth mother. I haven’t quite recovered from the urban depiction of Glasgow slums in The Low Road, but absolutely adored McAllister’s mum.

If you like Ian Rankin, PD James, or Peter Robinson mysteries, you will like these.
4 stars with the continuing story line (and the next installment is being written).

Book Quotes:
The opening line:
Ten past nine on a mid-September night. Everything in the town was tight shut. Including the sky. It must have known it was the Sabbath.”

“But this Sunday, winter gave advance notice with a gray drench-damp cold shroud, covering the town and mountains spiced up with a steady nor’easterly straight off the North Sea that sent even the seagulls inland. It seemed a fitting day to end in death.”
“She had never met a man who was not Scottish.”
“GlenFarclas 110 proof, a whisky he called the Lazarus cure.”
“In order to borrow two books of fiction, two books of nonfiction had to be checked out
.”

It’s a new book if you haven’t read it!

Review by Helen McIver

Several people have reminded me I have been remiss in not publishing my book list for 2013, especially as they are catching up on summer reading. So for their records (printed out and stored in book journals) here it is. I was surprised to see how many books I had read as I felt it was far fewer than previous years with moving states and other journeys. I was not surprised to see how many are continuations by favorite authors. And I am still waiting for several installments (Rothfuss and Martin especially, but there are only a few days to go til Deborah Harkness’ Book of Life!).

* denote special reading pleasures for me in an attempt to provide “the top 10 only please.”

Books 2013
Nonfiction
Emily Cory Barker Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic
Alison Bechdel Fun House
Jaques Bonnet Phantoms of the Bookshelves
C. Alan Bradley Ms Sherlock
Daniel James Brown Boys in the Boat
Gordon Campbell The Hermit in the Garden
Mark Edmonson Why Read
Tim Federle Tequila Mockingbird
**AA Gill To America with Love
Josh Hanagarne The World’s Strongest Librarian
Tracy Kiddder Richard Todd Good Prose
*Verlyn Klinkenborg Several Short Sentences on Writing
Bill McKibbon Wandering home
William Least Heat Moon Here, There, Elsewhere
Charlie leDuff Detroit, an Autopsy
*Doris Kearns Goodwin The Bully Pulpit
Rachel Maddox Drift
Solomon Northup 12 Years a Slave
Bobby Orr Orr: My Story
Michael Palin The Truth
James Pennebaker The Secret Lives of Pronouns
Nathaniel Philbrick Bunker Hill
*Tom Reiss The Black Count
*Mary Roach Gulp
Callum Roberts Unnatural History of the Sea
David Shields How Literature Saved my Life
**Amy Stewart Drunken Botanist, The Last Bookstore In America
EO Wilson Letters to a Young Scientist
Fiction
Kate Atkinson Life After Life
Jo Baker Longbourn
Andrea Barrett Archangel
Patricia Bracewell The Midwife’s Tale
Paula Brackston Winter Witch, Witches of the Blue Well, Witch’s Daughter
Caleb Carr Legend of Broken
Jon Cohen The Man in the Window (Nancy Pearl)
Lynn Cullen Mrs Poe
PS Duffy The Cartographer of No Mans Land
Tatiana deRosnay The House I Loved
Terry Fallis Best Laid Plans, High Road, Up and Down
Margaret Fox A Dark Heart
Lee Fulbright The Angry Woman Suite
**Neil Gaiman Ocean at the End of the Lane
Tracy Guzeman The Gravity of Birds
Benjamin Hale The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
Mark Helprin In Sunlight and Shadow
*Susanna Kearsley Firebird, Shadowy Horses
Brian Kimberling Snapper
Jill Lepore Book of Ages
Jennifer McMahon The Winter People
Colum McCann Transatlantic
Adam McOmber The White Forest
Suzanne Rindell The Other Typist
James Salter All That Is, Last Night
Mary Sharratt Illiminations
Kathleen Shoop After the Fog
AMSmith Unusual uses of Olive Oil
ML Stedman The Light between the Oceans
Donna Tartt The Goldfinch
Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector
Mysteries
Nancy Bilyeau The Crown, The Chalice
Chris Bohjalran The Light in the Ruins
Kristen Callihan Darkest London series
Ruth Downie Semper Fidelis
Dan Fesperman The Double Game
Felix Francis Refusal
Charles Finch The Old Betrayal, Death in Small Hours
Christopher Fowler The Invisible Code
Alex Grecian The Black Country
Barbara Hamilton Abigail Adams series
CS Harris What Darkness Brings
Tessa Harris Silkstone mysteries
John Harwood The Asylum
Craig Johnson A Serpents Tooth, Spirit of Steamboat
Emma Jameson Something Blue
**Sarah Jio Morning Glory, the Last Camellia, Violets of Winter
**Laurie King Bones of Paris
Anna Lee Huber Mortal Arts
Charlie Lovett The Bookman’s Tale
Stuart McBride Flesh House
*Susan Elia MacNeal His Majesty’s Hope
Michaela MacCole Prisoners of the Palace
Becky Masterman A Rage against Dying
Oliver Patzsch The Beggar King
Anne Perry Blind Justice, The Scroll
Thomas Perry The Boyfriend
Jutta Profijt Morgue Drawer (series)
Deanna Raybourn Far in the Winds
Kathy Reichs Bones Of the Lost
Imogen Robertson Island of Bones, Paris Winter
MJ Rose The Book of Lost Fragrances
John Sandford Storm Front
AMSmith Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
Anthony Neil Smith All The Young Warriors
Olen Stenhauer The Cairo Affair
Charles Todd Question of Honor, Proof of Guilt
**Jacqueline Winspear Leaving Everything Most Loved
Novella/ short stories
Diane Chamberlain The First Lie
John Connolly Wanderer in Unknown Realms
Karen Russell Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Scottish
Jessica Brockmole Letters from Skye
Amy Sackville Ornkey
**Ian Rankin Standing in Another Man’s Grave
AD Scott A Double Death on the Black Isle
AMSmith Trains and Lovers
YA
Kate DiCamillo Flora and Ulysses
***Rachel Hartman Seraphina
Naomi Novik Blood of Tyrants
Lemony Snickett All the Wrong Questions, the Dark
Sherwood Smith Crown Duel, prequels
John Connolly The Creeps
Kathy Reichs Shift
Cynthia Voigt Mister Max
Scifi/Steampunk
Shelly Adina Lady of Devices
Anne Bishop Black Jewels

Book quote:
The books we think we ought to read are poky, dull, and dry;
The books that we would like to read we are ashamed to buy;
The books that people talk about we never can recall;
And the books that people give us, oh, they’re the worst of all. Carolyn Wells