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Feeling Flat – The Reading Equivalent of Writer’s Block

March 14, 2014

I’m having one of those periods in my reading life where almost nothing is satisfying the itch I’ve got.  I don’t know what I want to read, therefore, I can’t find a book that makes me happy.
ghostsI’ve tried Regency intrigue – Jane and the Ghosts of Netley by Stephanie Barron
I’m listening to the audiobook.  The protagonist of this series, of which this volume is the seventh, is Jane Austen, herself.  Jane finds herself mixed up in uncovering a diabolical web of murder, arson, and treason in the height of the Peninsular war.  Lord Harold Trowbridge, the man Jane loves, as well as an agent for the Crown, has asked for her help.  The woman he suspects of being at the center of this web is an old inamorata, and therefore the matter must be handled with some delicacy.
It is, like all the other books I’ve tried in this series, exceptionally well written.  Jane seems very fleshed out and real and there are just enough little Austonian references to please a devoted fan.

serpents

I’ve tried Victorian dragons – The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
This is the sequel to A Natural History of Dragons and very enjoyable.  I did not get it on audio this time because I regretted missing out on the illustrations with the first book.  (I have since gone back and purchased a hardcopy of A Natural History for my shelf.)  In this volume, Isabella (still Mrs. Camherst) is off on an expedition to Eriga (equivalent to Africa) to study the dragons of the southern climes.  The scandal of the trip (attended by a wayward daughter of the aristocracy and a lowly scholar) is the last of her concerns.  Politics can be as dangerous as a dragon, and Isabella and her party have dropped into a nest of fighting kings, ambassadors, and warlords.
Tied to that, is the fact that someone has stolen all the notes they have made on the properties, preservation, and synthesis of dragonbone.  The discovery of usable dragonbone could bypass the need for Erigan iron, but would set off a massacre of dragons like nothing the world has ever seen.  Isabella is in a very precarious position, indeed.

doppelgangsterI tried semi-absurd urban fantasy – Doppelgangster by Laura Resnick
Esther is a nice Jewish girl who acts on Broadway when she can get a part and works at an Italian restaurant when she needs to make ends meet.  Except, the restaurant is a known mob hangout.  And Esther has a few secrets of an otherworldly nature.  You see, it all started when the headline actress in the show Esther was in got kidnapped by a power crazed magician.  Over the course of that adventure (Disappearing Nightly) Esther met Max (a semi-immortal wizard working on the light side of the force) and the decidedly handsome Detective Lopez, who might become her boyfriend if she can stay out of supernatural trouble long enough to convince him that there’s nothing strange about her.
Unfortunately, a mobster at the restaurant sees his perfect double and then is assassinated while Esther is trying to serve his dinner.  Suddenly, Lopez’s boss suspects her of accessory to murder, she’s got to worry about whoever did the hit thinking she saw something, and the very real possibility that if she and Max can’t put a stop to the murders a devastating turf war is going to erupt in Little Italy.

roboI’ve also read comics.  Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War was quite good, as was Batgirl #2: Knightfall Descends.  I haven’t read a Bat-title in… close to a decade maybe?  I think the last one I read was Gotham by Gaslight, which is a Victorian-era reimagining of Batman.  It’s not steampunk as such, because the rest of the world stays the same.  Carriages, not dirigibles are the main mode of transportation.  Steam has not revolutionized the world (more than it already did).  Batman just has some awesome gadgets.  Because he’s Batman and that’s what he does.
batgirlI’ve never read a Batgirl-centric book before, but I was really impressed by Gail Simone’s first trade for Red Sonja that I picked up her Batgirl.  The timeline is a bit compressed from what I’m familiar with in the Bat-verse, but I’m enjoying the stories.  She’s not afraid to let Batgirl actually be Barbara Gordon and Barbara is vulnerable and human in a way that I don’t think we ever really see Batman being.  Batman puts on a Bruce Wayne suit more than Bruce dresses up like a bat.  Barbara, on the other hand, didn’t put on the mask because of a great tragedy in her past, or a wrong she had to right.  She (at least in the New 53 continuity) grabbed it because it was expedient when she needed to save someone.
This is a Barbara who was shot by the Joker, but never became Oracle.  She got the use of her legs back thanks to some experimental surgery and now she’s trying to get back into the suit.  And it’s tough.  She’s finally had that life altering trauma and it takes a lot to come back from that.  But she’s strong.  I really appreciate that about her.  She’s strong, but Gail isn’t afraid to show us her weak moments too.  She feels the hits, she feels the anxiety.  And that’s part of why we love her.

All of these books are fantastic in their own way, but none of them are filling up the little part of my soul that yearns for stories.  It seems to want something particular right now and I just don’t know what it is.  If you’ve got any recommendations, leave them in the comments!

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