I was re-listening to some old episodes of the SF Squeecast. I do this from time to time because they make me happy. And I got back around to Episode 31: Leave Me Hanging Like the True Friends You Are. (The episode titles are all pretty awesome.) And Lynne Thomas recommended Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer. I had picked this book up ages ago from LP because it very much “looked like my kind of thing,” but, as so often happens with me, it got stuck on a shelf and I never quite got around to it. So, I was very excited to be reminded about the book when I re-listened to the episode. And book 2, A Barricade in Hell, had come out in the meantime, so I got to read them right in a row. So, now that I’ve gushed, let me tell you about these books and what makes me so fond of them.
The elevator pitch for Delia’s Shadow is “Devil in the White City in San Francisco, with ghosts.
Delia Martin is a young woman who has grown up in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Like so many other people, Delia lost family in the disaster, but it cost her more than most because Delia can see the ghosts of all those killed in the earthquake and the following fire. If she touches a ghost, she can experience its last moments. Imagine being burned again, and again, or crushed by falling masonry, or trampled by a panicked mob every time you stepped outside your house.
For years, Delia has lived in New York, trying to get away from the horrors that San Francisco holds. But now, her best friend, Sadie, is getting married and Delia must return to the city of her birth. But she doesn’t come alone. The ghost she calls Shadow rides with her.
This ghost is different. She doesn’t just drift or repeat the moments before her death. She watches Delia with intent eyes. She wants something that she thinks Delia can give her.
The San Francisco she returns to is different. Vast stretches of the city have been rebuilt and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition is being held to show off the city’s recovery. But there is a darkness hidden beneath the glitter of the Tower of Jewels. A serial killer is stalking the streets and has threatened to claim a victim on the very grounds of the Exposition.
Delia’s family is already connected to the grisly murders. Sadie’s fiance, Jack, is one of the investigating officers. He and his partner, Gabe, are desperate to find the killer before he can come fully into the limelight and claim even more victims. Gabe is even more driven because the murders are eerily similar to a series of cases his father investigated thirty years before. It doesn’t take very long before the two halves of the story start to pull together. Shadow is somehow connected to the killer, and she has chosen Delia to finish her business with him.
I do not recommend reading this book before bed! The mystery is gripping and there are enough dark moments that you may lose sleep trying to get to the next “safe” spot in the story.
The book is told in alternating chapters between Delia and Gabe so that you always feel very much in the loop as far as the investigation goes. The side characters, Jack and Sadie, Sadie’s family, and Dora, the medium brought in to help Deila, are all distinct and vibrant. Everyone clearly has a past and a future. They’re all people, not just cutouts propped around the central figures.
There is also a slow romance between Gabe and Delia. It’s the considered courtship of two people who had not expected to ever find someone. Delia is older and much plainer than her vivacious friend, while Gabe is a widower. They do not rush into romance and no bodices are ripped or even seriously threatened. And that’s nice. It’s not that I don’t love a steamy romance. And I read plenty of books with crazy passion and flying undergarments. But, that wouldn’t feel appropriate to this story.
A Barricade in Hell is the second book in the series. Two years have gone by since the events of Delia’s Shadow. SPOILER::
Gabe and Delia are now married and settled in their own house. World War I has been grinding through the men of Europe and San Francisco is thick with the ghosts of American volunteers and the US is teetering on the brink of declaring war. And another unusually determined ghost has attached herself to Delia.
She can get through anything Delia or Dora can throw up to deter her and she seems eerily focused on Gabe for some reason. She interacts with Delia only as a way to get closer to Gabe.
Gabe, meanwhile, is working on the brutal murder of a man in a chemist’s shop. The victim was laid out, as though on an altar, covered with a cloth, and then his throat was slit. When Gabe starts looking for similar incidents he begins to turn up a troubling pattern of death and disappearance that leads him in the direction of a charismatic touring evangelist preaching pacifism and calling for America to stay out of the European war.
This time, Dora has a much bigger role, both in helping Delia cope with the purely supernatural elements, as well as assisting Gabe with his investigation. The side characters continue to be strongly written and evolve and grow alongside Delia and Gabe.
The atmosphere this time is more melancholy than in Delia’s Shadow although the threat is just as dangerous.
The third book, Against a Brightening Sky, comes out from Tor in October and it’s brilliant! I was very lucky to get an advance copy. I’ll review it a little closer to release.
I will say that it is set in 1919 and deals with the fallout of the Russian Revolution. It’s brilliant and lovely and could almost have been written with me in mind.
If you have an interest in supernatural stories, especially those set in a rich historical period, you cannot go wrong by picking up Jamie’s books. I hope you will enjoy reading about Delia and her family as much as I did.
Chris Grabenstein is the author of several children’s books including Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, which is a delightful combination of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The Island of Dr. Libirs could very well be in the same world as Mr. Lemoncello’s fabulous library. But it also might not. It is certainly fantastical enough, but there are never any direct references to the previous book. Also, the title reference to The Island of Dr. Moreau is deliberate, but not predictive.
Dr. Libris is running an experiment and it just so happens that Billy Gillfoyle, the son of one of his co-workers, is the perfect subject. So, the offer of a vacation at the good doctor’s lovely lakeside cabin is not entirely altruistic. Or, actually, at all altruistically.
There are security cameras covering the entirety of the grounds. There is a bookcase that seems to cause strange noises to come from the island in the middle of the lake.
Billy rows out and runs into the characters from the books he’s been reading. At first, Billy thinks they are just very clever actors, but soon the truth dawns on him; he can make people come to life by reading about them. This is not always a good thing. Especially when he gets the Sheriff of Nottingham shot with an arrow.
Now, Billy has to figure out how to wrangle a set of fictional characters, keep his new friend Walter and Walter’s younger sister from getting caught up in the craziness on the island, and in his spare time, he has to dodge the local bully and try to figure out what’s going on with his parents.
The Island of Dr. Libris wasn’t quite as fun for me as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, but then, I’m a librarian. I might be biased. How many of us have dreamed about being able to bring our favorite books to life? I would absolutely experiment with Dr. Libris’s wacky equipment. And then I’d probably get killed by something I shouldn’t have read about, but it might be worth it.
It’s a very fast read, so if you like middle-grade books it’s well worth your time.
The Island of Dr. Libris comes out today from Random House.
While I was in Chattanooga for Con Nooga (wrap up post later) I stopped by Epikos Comics and picked up a few single issues. Now, due to A) laziness and B) space issues I don’t tend to get single issues very much anymore. I have subscriptions to a bunch of titles on Comixology (a digital comics provider) and then I pick up trades to have at home for the books I really, really like.
So, is this the best plan? No, not really. Do I even like this plan? No, not really.
I’d much rather be supporting a local comic shop and giving the creators of the books I like that extra physical order every month. I don’t actually know if the publishers put more weight behind store orders than they do digital subscriptions, but it feels like they might. Of course, that might be my bookstore culture talking.
However, a weekly or even monthly trip to the comic shop just isn’t really practical with my life these days. So, I have my digital subscriptions and then my trades.
I get subscriptions for a couple of reasons. 1) I don’t have to keep up with release dates. The comics just magically appear when they come out. 2) The subscription shows the publishers that I’m willing to take as much of the title as they’re willing to publish. Every time Gotham Academy comes out I’ve already put in my $2.99. Release week sales are, apparently, the most important, so I try to make sure I’m there to show support for the titles I like.
So, what did I pick up?
(This book came out in April, but my friends had gotten a copy for me that I picked up while I was there.)
This is new Thor. Thor is a woman who is wielding Mjolnir. The previous Thor is still around. He didn’t get turned into a woman or die or anything. He lost Mjolnir somehow and a mysterious woman picked it up and became the new Thor. As one might suspect, the advent of a female Thor caused a great unrest across the internet. I think it’s awesome.
The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl #2
(I have issue #1 on order, they were just out.)
It’s Squirrel-Girl! She’s amazing. And adorable. And awesome. She is canonically one of the strongest heroes in the Marvel Universe. She’s beaten Wolverine, Thanos, and Doctor Doom. She’s awesome. And she takes absolutely no shit. She’s young, but not in the annoying-teen-sidekick way. She’s sassy. She’s funny. And she has squirrels. And tiny fuzzy rodents with fluffy tails are pretty adorable.
I actually picked this one up at the con, but it’s still a comic, so I’m tossing it in. Hero Cats is about… well, heroic cats. It’s a group of cats who all have some sort of extraordinary power. They’re fluffy and adorable and I love them so much!
There were also Hero Cats hats. I didn’t end up getting one because they were sold out of Midnight (the black cat, obviously!) However, I did get a custom comic cover done of Eris, the demonic cat. She was my first cat and I loved her even though she was Satan’s step-daughter.
Tomb Raider 12 & 13
Tomb Raider was being written by Gail Simone, who is made of magic. It has transitioned over to Rhianna Pratchett with #12, so we’ll see if I continue to be enthralled. Gail is so splendid, but she’s not the only person who can write good books. I just know and trust her whereas most other writers have to earn my trust. Rhianna was a writer on the Tomb Raider video game though, so I think we’ll be safe.
This comic is a bridge between the 2012 Tomb Raider video game which rebooted the franchise and this year’s forthcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider, which shows us Lara Croft stepping into the role we are familiar with; rich globetrotting archaeological scavenger.
The Lara of the first game is very much a young woman suffering after an extreme trauma. The comics help us get her from that fairly broken person to the protagonist of an action-adventure game that isn’t all about coping with PTSD. The comic even shows us Lara going to visit a psychiatrist. How many comic protagonists EVER deal with the horror they’ve had to go through? It’s kind of awesome.
It’s a book I have a subscription to and it was a cool variant cover. I had to!
Grayson is about Dick Grayson, post-Nightwing. He becomes a super-spy. I don’t even know, but it’s fun.
Gotham Academy #5
I love Gotham Academy. I bought every copy my local comic shop (Kingdom Comics) had last month so I could give sets to people. So, I picked up the new issue because it was there. I also have a subscription to this one. I actually have a subscription to everything I’ve listed here already. I’m… weird.
Gotham Academy is set at the city’s best prep school. Except, weird things keep happening, there are secret passages in the walls, a secret society trying to raise the ghost of a previous resident, and the protagonist may have tried to kill Batman last year. We’re not really sure.
Do you read comics? If so, what’s tickling your fancy these days?
The nomination period for this year’s Hugo Awards closes in a week. I am slightly late to the party since I just started filling in my ballot today, but there’s still time. I thought I would share what I’m nominating and see if you folks had any other suggestions. There are several categories that I am terribly weak in.
Novelette – 7,500 – 17,5000
A Fire in the Heavens by Mary Robinette Kowal
(honestly, for this one I’m just going to copy the description on the ballot, because I just don’t know.)
Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom appearing for the first time during 2014 or which has been substantially modified during 2014, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.
Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, & Howard Tayler
Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
Red Sonja, Vol, 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovanni
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddle
Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
(I’m not actually sure if the last two are really eligible in the category. It depends on what is meant by “told in graphic form” means to the committee.)
Dramatic Presentation – Short Form (90 minutes or less)
The Librarians – And the Apple of Discord
(I’m still debating about whether I want to nominate the entire run of Peggy Carter for long form next year or pick out an individual episode for short form. Decisions, decisions, decisions.)
Professional Editor – Short Form
Christie Yant – worked with Seanan on “Each to Each”
Lynne M. Thomas – editor at Uncanny Magazine
Ellen Datlow – editor of all the things including Tor.com and Women Destroy Horror
Professional Editor – Long Form
Shelia Gilbert – co-owner of DAW. Works with Seanan McGuire
Liz Gorinsky – works at Tor with authors like Mary Robinette Kowal, George Mann and Catherynne Valente
Aaaand that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far. Categories that remain:
John W. Campbell Award
Do you have any suggestions? What have I overlooked? What did you love the F/SF field in 2014?
Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid #4) by Seanan McGuire
Publication Date: March 3
Seanan has done it again! In Pocket Apocalypse Alex Price, herpetologist and cryptozoologist, is on his way to Australia. His girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, a cryptozoologist in her own right, has requested his help with a werewolf outbreak back home. Since Australia is a closed ecosystem, the introduction of a feral, highly contagious, apex predator is a very dangerous thing. One werewolf could infect the entire continent in a matter of months. However, the only thing more dangerous to Alex than the werewolves could be Shelby’s family. They aren’t at all happy to have their oldest daughter dating anyone, much less an American who happens to be a Price boy. This book packs a wonder for the natural beauty of Australia in with high action, and a humorous reminder that everything in Australia wants to kill you. No, really. EVERYTHING. And that’s just the things that the normal folks know about.
I love this book so much! There are sad things and funny things, and downright silly things. The Aeslin mice continue to be one of my favorite parts of the series. (I wonder what would happen if the Aeslin mice from the InCryptid books got together with Oberon from the Iron Druid books? Probably bloodshed, but they might bond over a shared love of food.) If you haven’t read any of the InCryptid books, you can start with Half-Off Ragnarok and then come on to Pocket Apocalypse.
The first two books focus on Verity Price, the middle child of the Price family, while these two focus on Alex. I’m assuming Antimony (the baby) will also get a run. Seanan has stated that the InCryptid series is a mult-generational story, so I think we’ve got lots of time to spend with the Prices and the Healeys.
Seanan has also, in her infinite awesomeness, given us loads of InCryptid material on her website. For free! I highly recommend you swing by there and look around. The link takes you straight to the short stories, but there is a field guide, wallpapers, and info on the novels.
The last time I checked in with the Popsugar Reading Challenge I had read three books for it.
A book set in a different country – The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood
A book by a female author – Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie
A book with nonhuman characters – The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Thanks to my trip to PAX South and a kerfuffle at the airport, I’ve managed to check off a few more from the list:
A book you can finish in a day – Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines
Jig is a slightly smarter, but slightly smaller than average goblin. He has terrible eyesight, which means he spends most of his time doing children’s chores instead of going out with the raiding parties or patrols. When he finally does get tapped to go on a patrol he runs into a group of adventurers. Adventurers are the worst! They look at goblins as a minor annoyance to be dispatched and forgotten. However, these adventurers decide that Jig could be of use to them and proceed to drag him on their adventure with them. Before he knows it he’s facing down hobgoblin traps, necromancers, dragons, poisonous fish, and magical possessions. And frankly, he’d really rather just be back in his tunnel eating some mystery stew and avoiding anything that smacks of adventure.
This book kept me relatively sane and happy during a three hour flight delay, so props to it for that!
A mystery or a thriller – A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
I’m not going to talk too much about the next few books since they aren’t out for a bit yet. I’ll have fuller reviews closer to publication.
This is the eleventh Maisie Dobbs book. I will say that there is a bit of a time jump. Maisie finds herself in Gibraltar as the Spanish Civil War is heating up. A Jewish man has been murdered on the grounds of the fanciest hotel in town and Maisie, of course, discovered the body. She finds herself unable to continue her travels while the man’s murder remains unsolved.
A Dangerous Place will be out from Harper on March 17.
A book published this year – Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire
This is Book 4 of the InCryptid series. This time Alex follows Shelby home to Australia where everything, including Shelby’s family, wants to kill him. There is a werewolf outbreak in Australia. This is potentially disastrous to an island ecology. Werewolves are not only apex predators, but during their change they are mindless killers. They could completely unbalance the Australian ecosystem in a matter of weeks if they get a secure foothold.
Since no one in the Thirty-Six Society, Australia’s cryptozoological organization, has ever dealt with a werewolf before Shelby asks Alex to come home with her and lend his expertise.
His presence is not received well. And then the werewolves show up and it all goes to hell.
Pocket Apocalypse will be out from DAW on March 3.
So, how are you guys doing with your reading goals for the year? Is anyone else doing the Popsugar Challenge or do you have other challenges that you’ve set for yourselves?
I spent the weekend at PAX South in San Antonio, Texas. PAX, for those of you who don’t know, stands for the Penny Arcade Expo. Penny Arcade is an incredibly successful web comic about video games. It is written and drawn by two men in the Seattle area. In 2004 they started their own convention as a place for fans of video games to gather, see new content, talk with developers, and generally geek out about games. The original show, PAX Prime, has grown into four yearly shows; Prime, East, Australia, and now South.
So, I went there for video games. And I saw plenty of video games, but I also found books! I had flagged two of the Indie Tabletop games that were being featured at the convention as things I wanted to look into. And then, as I was coming down the escalator into the expo hall I saw it!
There was a BOOKSHELF in the middle of the expo hall! The bookshelf was part of the booth for a game called Bring Your Own Book. The game is kind of like a literary scavenger hunt. Each player has a book, yes, a real, paper book. They draw prompt cards from the deck and then everyone races each other and the clock to find the best match to the prompt within their book. There are several different rule sets depending on how challenging you want the game to be. There are infinite variations. What about playing with only romance novels? You could play with only non-fiction or only sci-fi. You could all rotate books every round. The possibilities are endless!
The game is available online right now as a print and play, but there’s also a Kickstarter running for lovely boxed versions of the game. I highly encourage you to check it out! I’ve already backed the Kickstarter and basically pledged myself to do anything I can to help the game be a success. So, fair warning, I’ll probably bug you about it over the next 27 days.
Right next to Bring Your Own Book there was another book related game called Paperback. They had a typewriter. It was how you put yourself on their mailing list. They are my favorites!
The point of the game is to draw cards and form words. You also have to finish your novel. I picked up a copy of the game and as soon as UPS delivers it I’ll tell you all about how much I enjoyed playing it. They also had these fantastic postcards with pulp covers. I picked up a full set of those too, because how could I not? Paperback is available now and can be purchased from the website.
If you like games and books I suggest you look into these two. They’re pretty spiffy. Also, if you’re in the Birmingham area, we’ll be playing both these games at Little Professor for TableTop Day in April. I’ll update you more on that as we get closer.