Friday, January 18, 2013

December Books

A cross between fantasy and caper, this is the tale of Locke Lamora. A Gentleman Bastard, he is the head of a small band of highly skilled con artists who are as dedicated to robbing the rich as they are to supporting each other. This first novel moves back and forth between Locke's childhood and training, and an elaborate con that is complicated by a mysterious assassin killing members of the underworld. I really can't do this novel justice--it's funny and poignant and twisty and clever. (You do have to have a fairly high tolerance for certain curse words--fair warning.)

I liked the first novel so much I went straight into the second adventure of Locke Lamora. Reeling from events in book one, Locke and a friend are working a con in a new city involving a gaming house that cannot be robbed. Just when you think you've got that story worked out, along comes a second plot about . . . pirates! Lynch is nothing if not creative and my only complaint is that apparently the world has been waiting years now for the third book to be released. It had better be soon.

REACHED/Ally Condie/B
The conclusion of Condie's MATCHED trilogy, REACHED unleashes full-scale rebellion on the Society. Cassia, Ky, and Xander each have critical parts to play--naturally--and they each have choices to make about their ultimate support for the rebellion itself. Fans of the series will no doubt be pleased with this concluding story, though it left me feeling just slightly cold.

THE EMPEROR'S SOUL/Brandon Sanderson/A
A novella by my favorite fantasy writer to tide me over while he works on book two of the Stormlight Archives. Shai is a brilliant Forger, capable of rewriting any object's past to create flawless reproductions of priceless art. Her skill is considered heretical and when she is captured by the emperor's men she expects to die. But instead they set her an impossible task--to Forge a new soul for the emperor who has been left comatose following an assassination attempt. Everything Sanderson writes is complex and satisfying and beautiful, and this novella is no exception.

A biography of the creator of the beloved Anne of Green Gables. A native of Prince Edward Island, Montgomery's best fiction was anchored in the physical and cultural landscape of her childhood. Her fiction, though, was definitely not a mirror of her life. She married later in life to a man who suffered increasingly from mental illness and had two sons whom she loved but who did not always make her life easy. A worthwhile look at one of Canada's first great women writers.

KILMENY OF THE ORCHARD/Lucy Maud Montgomery/C-
That said, I picked up this slim novel at Montgomery's childhood home last summer to expand my reading which had centered on the Anne novels before. This particular story was a disappointment--more a fairytale than a novel, from the stunningly beautiful but mute girl to the wealthy and morally upright man who rescues her from her fate. Certainly not her finest work.

Two early novels by my favorite ghost story/paranormal/gothic-tinged writer. In WILDWOOD, Felicity Stafford is widowed and shocked to discover in the postmortem that her husband's blood fits no known human classification. When she attempts to begin a new life for herself and her daughter, mysterious figures from her husband's past threaten them both. THE DEVIL'S PIPER is a multi-period tale of family secrets and the power of music to raise an ancient evil. Isarel West inherits his grandfather's Irish cottage which comes with the legacy of Jude's execution at Nuremberg as a Nazi accomplice. But the more immediate issue is the creature raised from his coffin by the music Isarel plays one night. All of Rayne's novels have interesting characters, multiple viewpoints that gradually weave together, and loads of atmosphere.

TEAM HUMAN/Sarah Rees Brennan/A-
Tired of all the fuss about vampires? So is high school student Mel. She's lived in the vampire-friendly city of New Whitby all her life but has never met one until the day one shows up at school. Worse, her best friend, Cathy, falls desperately in love with said vampire. Then there's the mysterious behavior of her other friend's parents, and suddenly Mel is up to her neck (aren't I clever?) in vampires. The real charm of this novel is the razor-sharp wit and pitch perfect tone of affectionate sarcasm.

I continue to read the Ian Rutledge novels, though usually with a slight sense of wariness. This one started out especially strong, with the Scotland Yard inspector--still haunted by the effects of WWI--receiving a bizarre confession from a dying man about a murder that took place during the war. Only there's no record of said murder. And then the dying man himself is murdered and Rutledge can't leave it alone. The second half of the novel retreated a bit into too-quick deductions and too-little time spent developing things, but otherwise good.

EIGHT COUSINS/Louisa May Alcott/B
Unlike KILMENY OF THE ORCHARD, this is a childhood story that stood up fairly well. Rose has recently been orphaned and is living in the care of her many aunts when her new guardian, Uncle Alec, comes home to claim her and try his methods of raising a young woman. His practices are unorthodox for the 1800s, but no one can deny the good effects on Rose. She has seven boy cousins as well, and her relationships with them are a big part of the story. Charming is a good word for this novel. 

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