Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Catch-up Book Report

It's election day, otherwise known as the last day of ads that go along the lines of "My opponent sold his soul to Satan and is going to personally come to your house to take your money away from you and do vile things to your family" and the last day of the phone ringing off the hook with all the campaign messages. I swear, there's one candidate whose campaign has called me so often, in spite of me telling her real, live campaign workers repeatedly that I do not want to be called, that if an ex-boyfriend called me that often, I might be able to get a restraining order on grounds of harassment. Do they really think that disturbing people at mealtimes is going to make them favorably inclined?

On a happier note, I'm behind on book discussion, so here's an all-over-the-map Book Report.

First, I do have a bit of a theme because I was reading things that might fall into the historical fiction category. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe deals with the Salem witch trials with the idea of what if one of them really was a witch. A graduate student at Harvard in 1991 (important because if it had been today, one Google search could have cut out half the plot) stumbles upon something while clearing out her grandmother's old home in a village outside Salem, and her research indicates that the name she finds might have been a previously undocumented victim of the witch trials, and this woman seemed to own some kind of spell book that was passed on through generations before being lost. The book cuts back and forth between the "present" and some of the events of the past, but the past events are more like interludes rather than being directly tied to any discovery in the "present." And then some strange things start happening, and the student realizes that to save the day, she'll have to find that spell book.

I'm a sucker for books that involve someone researching the past, and then the stuff in the past being its own story. I also spent a day in Salem when I was on a business trip to Boston about ten years ago, and I enjoy reading books that take place in locations I've visited. I admit to giving a cheer when a character in the book asks the question that comes to mind when I see the current focus on witchcraft in Salem: the witch trials weren't actually about witchcraft, but rather were more Mean Girls: Colonial Edition, with none of the victims (in reality) being actual witches, as far as anyone can tell, so why do they act like Salem has some grand heritage in witchcraft? (Simple answer: tourist money.) This is certainly an interesting book if you're into that period of history.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake is a World War II book with intersecting story lines. During the Blitz, an American radio reporter is trying to make sense of it all and trying to convey what's going on to an American public that's still focused on trying to stay out of the war. Then there are the people in the small Cape Cod town who listen to her broadcasts. And then the town's doctor goes to London to help in the Blitz. I liked a lot about this book and it was close to the kind of WWII book I might write if I were to write one that didn't have magic in it, but it does veer more to the literary side of things.

Then I switched over to science fiction and fantasy. I finally read Flinx Transcendent, the final book in the Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster. This series had a lot to do with me becoming a science fiction reader, and I think this was a nice wrap-up, though I'll probably have to re-read some of the older books because it really does draw from the entire series to wrap things up, and there were a few things that I didn't quite recall. I wouldn't be surprised to see more Flinx books because while this one answered all the questions and resolved all the ongoing plot lines, the impression was left that Flinx wouldn't be happy for long without adventures, so maybe now that the series is wrapped there might be standalones, unless Alan has other things he wants to write.

And then I found a new lightish, quirky fantasy series by Rachel Aaron. The first book is The Spirit Thief, and the next one is out this week. This had one of the more interesting magical systems I've seen. Many objects, both living and inanimate, have their own spirits, some of which are fully awakened and some of which are dormant. The wizards in this world are those that can hear and communicate with these spirits. The good ones develop a kind of symbiotic relationship with certain spirits that then mediate with all the other spirits, while the bad ones enslave spirits. And then there's the guy who just seems to flirt with the spirits so that they then want to bend over backwards to help him. He's the greatest thief around, possibly because he can persuade the wood in locked doors that it would feel a lot better without those irritating nails sticking through it. But he's not nearly as famous as he'd like to be, and he sets out to get the biggest bounty ever on his head. To do that, he decides to steal something really big. Like, say, a king. Only he neglected to do his research on the royal family dynamics, so he doesn't realize that leaving the throne vacant long enough to make his ransom demands will cause all sorts of problems that he'll then have to set right. Oops. This one was a ton of fun. I felt like the first book was just starting to get into the characters, and the excerpts from the second that are at the back make it look like they'll really be explored in more depth now that they're established.

This series is coming from Orbit, and they seem to be on my wavelength because they're putting out a lot of stuff I like lately. The editor for this book is actually a fan of mine, so I guess it makes sense that I might like what she likes enough to throw money at it. They're currently my dream publisher, so maybe she'll be throwing money at me soon. And now I'd better get to work to give them something they might want to publish.

1 comment:

Rachel Aaron said...

Hey Shanna, I'm so glad you liked The Spirit Thief! I've been a fan of yours for years, so seeing this made my day. And yes, Orbit is awesome.
Actually, Book 2, The Spirit Rebellion, is out now. Orbit chose my series for their 3 books in 3 months push. Just another cool thing they do. Again, so glad you like it!
- Rachel