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Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

July 21, 2014
tigermanOne of my favorite authors has a new book coming out!!!! Tuesday, July 29 Tigerman will be available to US readers. It’s lovely. I read it a couple of months ago because working at a bookstore means I’m special and I can do things like that. This is Harkaway’s third novel and while it has some themes in common with Angelmaker and Gone Away World it is very much its own story.
Tigerman focuses on a British soldier, Lester Ferris, who has severe battle fatigue after years fighting the battles of the United Kingdom. His post as the official representative of Her Majesty’s government on the island of Mancreu was meant to be a bit of a vacation until he could retire. A vacation on an island that occasionally belches out mutagenic clouds of gas and is slated to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon whenever the governments of the world get around to signing the paperwork. There’s also the fleet of ships docked in Mancreu’s bay. The island itself is in a very tricky legal state. No government officially claims Mancreu anymore, although there are international peackeeping forces stationed there to oversee the evacuation. The waters around the island, however, belong to no one. They have no law, no oversight, and no rules. The ships docked around Mancreu are there to take advantage of that. They are full of spies, black market organ transplants, and much, much worse.
Lester is there to be present, but not to react. To look, but never to see. He spends most of his time discussing comics with a young boy who lives on the island and taking tea at a local shop. Lester hardly dares to think about the days after the island when he might adopt the boy and live somewhere that isn’t an international environmental disaster.
That all begins to change when the shop owner is murdered. The fleet is starting to break the unspoken rule of non-interference and Lester’s world is falling apart. To help save it, and most importantly to help the boy feel safe Lester will  become something more than a soldier. He will become a comic book hero. He will become the Tigerman.
This book, more than either of Harkaway’s previous novels, is about love. What love will allow you to do in its name. What you can become for the sake of someone you love. It’s flashy, and brightly colored, and often a little silly, but there are moments of heartbreak and moments of pure joy. There are so many different threads of love weaving in and out through this story that it almost seems like they could hold the island together all on their own.

Favorite Re-reads: Agnes and the Hitman

July 18, 2014

agnesI started re-reading an old favorite today. Or, rather, I started re-listening to it. Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer is one of those books that I go back to over and over. It’s light, fun, and a little bit naughty, both from a sexy times standpoint and a violence meter.
Agnes is a food columnist living in a tiny town in South Carolina. Her column is called Cranky Agnes and she lives up to the title. She’s on track to cater the wedding of the decade, marry her attractive chef-fiance, and restore the gorgeous antebellum home they just purchased together.
Everything is going swimmingly until the night a young kid breaks into her house and tries to steal her dog. Agnes hits him many times with a frying pan before he falls through the wall into the basement she didn’t know she had. Suddenly, her picture perfect life is full of old mobsters, crazed dognappers, and a government hitman who is her new bodyguard.
Shane, said hitman/bodyguard, has a very straightforward life. He travels frequently and kills people for the government. It’s hard work and he doesn’t enjoy it, exactly, but he is very, very good at it. Until the night his Uncle Joey calls and asks for help protecting “his little Agnes.” Then the hit he’s on goes south for the first time in his career and he’s headed back to Keys, SC, the “armpit of the south.” And “little Agnes” turns out to be a grown woman with a disturbing agility with a skillet. He also can’t help but notice that she’s very well grown.
Soon it’s Agnes and Shane against the oncoming tide of craziness as more people come after the dog, after Agnes, and after Shane all while Agnes still has to cater the wedding of the decade.

Agnes and the Hitman has no pretensions of being highbrow literature, but it’s genuine and it’s fun. Jennifer Cruise is very good at writing witty, entertaining romances and Bob Mayer is great at writing high-paced action. Together they have managed to create a fabulous novel. The two have collaborated on a few other books; Don’t Look Down and Wild Ride. Don’t Look Down is pretty fun, but Wild Ridecan be skipped without regret.
I’ve read or listened to Agnes probably ten or more times. So, what prompted this revisit? I had a quote stuck in my head, Shane and his partner, Carpenter:

“I understand she cooks.”
“I am often hungry in the mornings.”

jenniferThat’s it. Nothing special. But it’s been kicking around in my head for the last couple of days, so I had to crank up the audio as soon as I finished my last book, which was The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross, by the way. I’m really enjoying his Laundry Files novels. And thanks to Seanan McGuire for the recommendation.

What are some of your favorite books to go back to?

Literary Tattoos

June 2, 2014

IMG_5911I spent the weekend at the Alabama Phoenix Festival, my local sci-fi convention. This is the third year I’ve been a vendor there and I really enjoyed myself. I love to interact with fans, fans of all sorts of things. I was cosplaying Saturday and Sunday, so I got to talk to people about the things I’m a fan of and ask them about what they’re fans of. It was all very cool. There were lots of authors there as well, but since I was at my booth I didn’t get to go to any of the panels. Cosplay is one of the major ways that fans at conventions can show their love for their fandom, but there’s something that goes a step beyond even that.  Tattoos are the ultimate expression of admiration. You’re permanently marking your skin in order to express your admiration for something. I saw several fan tattoos this weekend and showed off my own new tattoo. Yep. I have a new tattoo. It’s based on Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, which, if you’ve been following this blog for long, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of. I’ve read the book six times in the two years it’s been out. (I do that sometimes.) So, a month ago I went and got a tattoo inspired by the clockwork bees in the book. (There are clockwork bees in the book. And a mechanical book. And a protagonist named Joe Spork. And an octogenarian spy. It’s awesome!) Here is my Angelmaker tattoo:IMG_5698 memphis 016It’s actually my second book-inspired tattoo. The first was an illustration from Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart in the Bottle, which is a children’s book about coping with loss. I got it the week I found out my Dad had cancer and it helped me through the rest of that year and the years since. People get tattooed for all sorts of reasons, but literary tattoos have always interested me. Back in 2004 I heard about a project called Skin, which was a short story by Shelly Jackson. The thing about it was that it was never going to be published, as such. It was going to be tattooed, one word per person, onto people across the country. I have a friend who got a word. I applied, but by the time they got to me all the words had been given out. There have been hundreds of roundups of literary tattoos. Harper Collins even put out a book called The Word Made Flesh. (I submitted my bottle to that collection, but again, they were full up by that point.) There is just some books that get inside you and make a home there. And the amazing thing is that everyone is so different. There are some quotes that get tattooed over and over, “Not all those who wander are lost” comes to mind, but there are so many more that have never been duplicated and may never be. There is something amazing to me about that level of excitement over a book. Do you have any literary tattoos? Tell me all about them if you do!

Super Awesome Giveaway

May 21, 2014

life!!!EDIT, Part 2!!!

Ok, I’m not sure how many of you have looked at this in the last… 30 minutes. But Viking isn’t ready for ARCs of The Book Of Life to be out in the wild yet. So, the giveaway is going to run until much closer to the pub date of July 15. I will close the giveaway on June 30 and then ship the book out to arrive on the pub date.  I’m sorry I’m having to change it, but I really don’t want the nice folks at Viking to be upset with me because they’re already being extraordinarily awesome to give us these ARCs to start with.

So, to enter go to this page: Book of Life Giveaway and go through the options. You can earn lots of entries by commenting on this post, following the blog, following me on Twitter, follow Deborah Harkness or Viking on twitter. All the info is on the Rafflecopter page. Thanks so much!


May 14, 2014

So, there’s a hashtag going around: #WeNeedDiverseBooks.  There’s also a Tumblr. It’s a whole movement. And it reminded me of a conversation I’d had with the boy-type creature a few months ago when we were totaling up our books for 2013. Of the twenty or so books he’d read four or five had been written by authors of color. Of the one hundred and forty-four books I had read… two had been written by authors of color. That was not only embarrassing, it was ridiculous.
photoNow, I can come up with reasons – I read mostly in genre literature and there’s less representation there. I read a bunch of series, so it’s not quite as bad as it looks. But at the end of the day I read mostly white authors. And that bothered me. Even though I wasn’t doing it on purpose, I wasn’t doing anything about it either. So, I took to the internet last week and asked for a reading list.
People responded, as people are wont to do and I’ve got a list now. Granted, not everything people recommended to me looked like something I wanted to read. At the end of the day, I just don’t read much non-fiction or much literary fiction. I’ll work on expanding those horizons later. Maybe. But there are plenty of amazing authors working in speculative fiction and in mystery, which are my two primary genres. So, I’m following my Twitter advice and just buckling down to read.
daoThe first two books (paper and audio) that I’m starting with are The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. These had both been on my list for a while, but I just never got around to picking them up. My kindgomsbookstore didn’t have either just on the shelf and I’m easily distracted, so I just hadn’t gotten around to either one. I’m reading The Lives of Tao and listening to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. They’re both pretty awesome so far. I’ll keep you posted. And, because the internet is an amazing thing, there are interviews with both authors available from Sword & Laser. I’ll post those down below.


Wrapping up Mockingjay

April 11, 2014

I’m headed to JordanCon this weekend where I hope to see Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and Sam Flegal (he drew a zombie portrait of me once.  It was awesome!)  Pat is the writer guest of honor this year, which is pretty exciting.  I went last year and got to meet Seanan McGuire, who is one of my literary heroes.  I’m also in the art show again, so wish me luck on that.  I will have exciting pictures (if I remember to take any) on Monday when I come home.  But now, onto the end of Mockingjay.

mockingjayChapter 25
I was expecting the immediate reaction to seeing Prim die.  But instead, we get an opium dream and she’s back in a hospital.  This is not the emotional impact I was waiting for.
The description of the burn treatment is brief, but has caught my attention because I recently started another book called The Gargoyle.  Its protagonist is horribly burned and the book goes into loving (and nauseating) detail about the treatments he receives.  I can’t help but flash over to the horrible things he has to endure.
Katniss losing her voice is interesting, but I’m a little… jaded? about her injuries now.  It seems to mirror her temporary hearing loss in the first Arena.
Her mother is doing almost the opposite of what she did when Katniss’s father died.  She’s using work to numb the pain, rather than sinking into it.  Which seems to be what Katniss is leaning toward instead.
Unfortunately, there is no way or me to read the words “human torch” without immediately thinking of comic books.
Roses are almost never ominous in western mythology.  There’s Sleeping Beauty, of course, but that’s about it.
I like Paylor.  I hope she turns out to be one of the truly good guys.
Ah.  And Snow tells us that he didn’t actually send the parachutes.  Which tallies with what I thought at first, that Coin was the one who had Prim killed.
Gale’s traps.  Beetee’s traps.  Plutarch’s Games.  All brewed into a cauldron of hellfire.

Chapter 26
I wish her talk with Haymitch had gone better.  I like him even if he is drunk and abrasive.
Effie?!?  Except, why are her eyes vacant?  Ah, she was arrested too.  Poor Effie.
Katniss’s prep team is the only one left at all?  And all the stylists are dead.  With the implication that maybe the rebels killed some of them too.  These people just look better and better.
So, Gale at least semi-acknowledges that it might have been his and Beetee’s plan that killed Prim and all the other medics and children.
Coin wants to have a Hunger Games with Capitol children?  Of course she does.  And she wants the remaining victors to vote it into law because, coming from them, it might seem like justice rather than political maneuvering.
Why is Katniss voting yes?  I’m guessing there’s a plan and Haymtich is trusting her on it.
The moment where Katniss kills Coin instead should be dramatic, but I think I was expecting it.  Especially since she voted Yes for the Games.

Chapter 27
Why did they leave her alone to die or not if they were trying her in absentia?  Did they not care what happened to her?
Snow died at the same time.  Poetic, I suppose.
Paylor is the president.  That’s… satisfying I suppose.
And Katniss is “not guilty by reason of insanity.”  Will anyone know that Coin killed the children?
Katniss became her mother.
Poor Madge.  Although, maybe she was part of the rebellion all along.  Her pin started it all.
And that’s the emotional punch I’ve been waiting for.
And some very oblique sex to round things out.

I find it strange that her children are just “the girl” and “the boy.”  It feels very distancing.
The book sounds like an interesting project, but is it just for Katniss and her family?  Or is it bigger than that?
I’m surprised Gale survived actually.

Mockingjay chapters 22 –

April 9, 2014

mockingjayChapter 22
And once again, Katniss makes Snow look stupid.  Although, only to the people on the digging and hunting crews, but it’s enough.
Peeta’s connection to the things hunting her is interesting.  I wonder if it’s going to be further developed.
The pods are all fairly horrible.  It’s an interesting mind that can come up with these things.
Using the pods on the mutts is smart.
I feel almost like I should be keeping a count of the squad the way I did in the Arena.  We’ve lost five now.  Six if you count Leeg Two before Peeta arrived.
Dammit!  Finnick!  I knew he and Annie couldn’t be happy for long.
Is Gale’s gaping neck wound going to be a problem?  Because those usually don’t end well.
True love’s kiss?
And Katniss has now killed her first civilian.

Chapter 23
The fact that people are going about their business is very weird.  Although, I suppose it’s fairly typical of the Capitol.
The disguises can’t hold for long, but then, who would expect the Mockingjay to look like a Capitol citizen?
Furry… underwear?
So, you can go too far in the Capitol.  Tigris – did the name or the enhancements come first?
How odd that their erstwhile ally is fighting for the opposite reason as the rest of them.  She was banned from the Games that were the focus of her life.
As a side thought, I wonder where/how Caesar Flickerman is.
So, Gale’s injury is an issue.
She dreams of Effie.  I hope Effie is safe.  She was shallow and vapid, but she never hurt anyone.
Oh Katniss, confessing only to find out everyone already knew your dark secret.
“I don’t know why his voice reaches me when no one else’s can.”  Really, Katniss?  You don’t think maybe it’s because he’s the only one who really understands?  Haymitch was in the Games once.  Finnick and Joanna are the only other two who have had to go in twice.  And they knew there was a grand plan.  Only you and Peeta were flying blind.
It doesn’t surprise me that Katniss’s plan involves sacrificing herself.
Gale and Peeta bonding.  That’s strange, but then again, they understand each other in a way no one else can too.  Gale and Katniss have the woods and hunting.  Katniss and Peeta have the Games and Snow’s attention.  Gale and Peeta have Katniss.

Chapter 24
Surprise, Katniss hears Gale’s comment and immediately thinks the worst of it.  Not that I wouldn’t think the worst of something I’d overheard about myself too.  But, I’m not sure he meant it the way she’s taking it; that she’s calculating and cold.
The rebels are making progress, although it’s stunted by the time the broadcast goes out.  More people are fleeing into the heart of the Capitol.  I wonder if there’s a saturation point where Coin is willing to sacrifice the center of the city.
People are starting to seriously crack up in the Capitol and Peeta wants to be a diversion.  Lovely.
Gale is so sure Katniss can kill him.  And, of course, I think she could if it were down to her arrow or him in Snow’s hands.  Just like she was going to try to kill Peeta at the beginning of Catching Fire.
It seems right that one stylist helped set Katniss on this path and now another is helping her to the end of it.
The rebels are firing blindly into a crowd.  What lovely people.
And now it’s just mass panic and everyone shooting everyone else.  If you were going to get to this, why bother trying to preserve the Capitol?  Why not just stage an air raid?  And why hasn’t Snow used nukes?  Does he still think they can come out of this?
The Peacekeepers have Gale.  And she leaves him.  Granted, he tells her to, but that’s going to hurt both of them.
Oh.  He was telling her to shoot him.  But when she didn’t get it, he told her to go.  That’s terrible then.
Snow is using children as his human shield.  From who?  Does he think the rebels care?  That Coin cares?  Or is it to protect him from the Capitol refugees?
Did the Capitol actually just blow up the children or did Coin do it?
Ok, I’m guessing since the medics went in and that’s when the rest of the parachutes go off that it was actually the Capitol doing it.  And Prim.  Oh, Prim.  I knew it was coming, but I thought it would be off-screen.  Not her trying to help, trying to do what she’s best at.  That’s worse than I expected.  And yet, I’m not crying.  Maybe because I haven’t read the reaction chapter yet.


Three chapters and the Epilogue left to go.


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