"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

May 27, 2013

Read Something! THREE PARTS DEAD by Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone 

Fantasy / thriller

Kos Everburning, god of fire, is dead. Without Him, the great city of Alt Coulumb, dependent on his powers, will soon die as well.

Tara Abernathy left the Hidden Schools in fire and lightning, expelled post-graduation in a great battle with her former professors. Despite her irregular method of departure, she's caught the eye of the prestigious firm Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao, and now she's an entry-level associate tasked with finding out who killed Kos, how, and why. Soon Tara, her only-somewhat-human boss, and their temporary assistant, the chain-smoking priest Abelard, are avoiding assassination attempts, chasing vampires, fending off attacks by gargoyles, and uncovering a web of intrigue that brings them before the reincarnation of Justice Herself to argue their case.

This is that too-rare work of speculative fiction that combines carefully detailed world-building with well-realized characters who feel like real people. Add a thrilling plot with plenty of twists, turns, and adventure, and Gladstone's debut novel (!) is a winner. This book has it all: murder, magic, intrigue, treachery, power, love - and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel, coming in October 2013.

  • The book jacket invokes Zelazny, Gaiman, and Grisham. I haven't read Zelazny and I'm not sure I concur with Grisham (the legal thriller aspects are there, but I don't really know that it's the same), but Gaiman's writing seems to have a very similar atmosphere/feeling to it.
  • Might be a good stretch for mystery/thriller readers who could be induced to read something in a more fantastic setting.

May 13, 2013

Read Something! AFFINITY by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters

Historical fiction / literary fiction / horror

Surfacing from a deep depression brought on by her father's death, Margaret Prior takes a family friend's advice and volunteers as a "lady visitor" at Millbank, a women's prison, where she hopes to become a positive influence on some of the inmates. In those dreary surroundings she meets the spiritualist medium Selina Dawes, sentenced to Millbank after a seance gone wrong resulted in a woman's death. Margaret and Selina are drawn to each other, but does Selina really talk to spirits? And what really happened in her past? Alternating passages from Margaret and Selina's diaries bring us closer and closer to the truth of the night that drastically changed Selina's life - and to a night that will forever change Margaret's. This is a dark, psychological novel about loss and grief, and about living in a world into which one will never quite fit neatly.

Slight warnings for mentions of attempted suicide, some nonexplicit but non-"vanilla" eroticism.

  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - similar slightly spooky atmosphere, unreliable narrators; both stories are deliberately vague as to the reality of the ghosts/spirits (at least for most of the narrative); both set in Britain in times past; both very focused on characters' psychology
  • "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - potentially unbalanced female narrators, similar time setting, themes of entrapment/imprisonment and haunting, atmospherically similar