Tuesday, March 9, 2010

January and February Books

Because, apparently, I forgot that January existed. But it must have, because I have a list of books I read during that month. In my own handwriting. Whether I remember any of them to review . . . well, here goes nothing.

The infamous 'She-wolf ' of France. Daughter and sister to several French kings, Isabella was married at age 12 to Edward II, heir to the legendary Edward Longshanks who subdued Wales and was known as The Hammer of the Scots. His son was less impressive, consistently preferring his gay lover(s) to his wife. Weir, one of my favorite biographers, gives a balanced, fair look at Isabella's life before she escaped her husband by going to France and returning at the head of an invasion army. Isabella is less sympathetic in the years when her lover ruled both her and England (after killing her husband and setting up a regency in the name of Edward III) but Weir weaves the period into the life so one can understand how these things happened.

A missing mother, a murdered father, a little girl who's tugging at Gemma's heartstrings . . . a great story of artists, secrets, and other stuff I can't enumerate at the moment because I'm looking out the hotel window at fabulous Los Angeles weather and I can't bring myself to write it all out. I love Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James and this is a particularly good entry in a fine series.

STARGIRL/Jerry Spinelli/B-
A popular book to recommend to pre-teens, I found Spinelli's story about an unusual high school student told through the eyes of her boyfriend to be a little too moralistic for my taste. Want me to agree that being yourself is more important than fitting in? Don't hit me over the head with it. To be fair, my 11-year-old daughter adored this book and it's sequel, so I'm probably just not the audience for it.

SHADOW OF THE WIND/Carlos Ruis Zafon/A
Hidden libraries, a mysterious stranger, and a writer whose books are systematically vanishing through violence. When a young boy finds one of the few remaining copies of the author's work, he gets caught in a violent past that's reaching out to the present. Highly recommended.

Torah is an ob/gyn on a remote Scottish island, adapting to a new home, new job, new boss, and a husband who's become secretive since the move. When bones are discovered in the fields behind Torah's house, she gets caught up in hunting a bizarre Norse-folklore sect that may be killing pregnant women. Extremely tense, great storytelling, and twists that kept me guessing. Recommended.

A wonderful entry in the Dalziel/Pascoe series, taking place in just 24 hours. Dalziel, about to return from convalesence after a bombing left him comatose, is a bit worried about how his underlings will treat him. But not worry--he manages to find himself a case of a woman whose 7-years' missing husband may not be dead at all and wants Dalziel to find out for certain before she marries again. Woven with the story of an up-and-coming politician with a difficult family past and Pascoe's attempts to work with Dalziel without either coddling him or controlling him. Love this series.

FALLEN/Lauren Kate/B+
An addition to the YA paranormal romance market, and a fairly strong one at that. Except that I can't remember the girl's name . . . but when she's sent to a reform school, she meets Daniel Grigori and can't shake the feeling that she's met him before. Only she can't begin to imagine where or how, and by the time she learns she's in way over her head. The dialogue was a little weak and the ending slightly petered out, but I'll look happily for the second in the series.

Having given us Poe as a detective in THE PALE BLUE EYE, Bayard now brings to life real Paris detective Vidocq in a story set in the years after Napoleon's fall when the royalty has been restored. But is a missing prince about to rise from the dead? Based on the enduring legends about the young Louis XVIII, who supposedly died of mistreatment in the year after his mother's execution (Marie Antoinette), Bayard does more than give a thrilling tale of hidden identity and political manipulation. The narrator is a doctor with an unsatisfcatory family history of his own, and my favorite character was the Princess Royal, the oldest daughter and only acknowledged survivor of the years of Terror that stole her family. Her interaction with her alleged brother is powerful and real and I loved the choices she made. Recommended.

My favorite fantasy trilogy since Lord of the Rings, I highly recommend this. Vin is a street thief with unexpected talents when she's recruited by Kelsier to join his crew and overthrow the Lord Ruler. Only problem? He's been ruling a thousand years and is immortal. But Kelsier has a plan, and a crew and, always, another secret. If you have the slightest interest in fantasy or epic heroics or caper stories or fabulous characters, intricate plotting, and a storyteller who can work his way into your heart without harldy trying, pick up The Mistborn Trilogy.

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