One benefit to spending so much time at home sick, or at least medically suffering is that I do get the chance to read. I have read quite a bit of late.
The first two lives of Lukas Kasha by Lloyd Alexander is a children’s book, about a village wastrel who doesn’t do much. As the story begins he is provisionally employed by the carpenter to become his apprentice (Lukas appears to be a teen), and given some money as an article of good faith. He takes the money down to the tavern, and is selected by a travelling showman for a demonstration. His head is plunged into a bucket of water and he finds himself in another country, drowning in the sea. He has dramatic adventures, as he is crowned king, avoids murder and sets out on a mission to avert war. It’s entertaining, and familiar (that could be because I have read it before). Good fun and an afternoon’s read.
Henry Reed’s Babysitting Service by Keith Robertson is another children’s book, part of a series about Henry Reed. Henry is a diplomat’s kid, used to traveling the world. His parents have decided he needs some experience of the US, so he spends his summers with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey. He starts small businesses with a local girl his age to earn pocket money. In this one he starts a babysitting service, and has to deal with obnoxious teens taking his customers, bratty kids and random acts of fate. It is entertaining, but not as satisfying as the book above.
The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt is a big book, 582 pages of fun. It is weird, kind of a Dickens with fantasy and adventure story shoved in. It starts with one orphan, Molly, heading back to poorhouse after being fired from her new job. She is acquired by a high end brothel, but assassins soon come after her, and she must make her escape with a steam man. The other orphan lives with his uncle, after being orphaned in an airship accident that also exposed him to the fey mist. Both orphans have to set out both to survive and to help their country “Jackals” survive agasint the invading communist (its not called that, but that is what they are) armies that wish to bring back insect gods. It is interesting, but very confusing, as the description above may indicate. It has taken me three years to get through the whole book.
The Truth by Terry Pratchett is a Discworld novel. If you haven’t heard of Terry Pratchett you are probably from North America, where the publishers just don’t know how to handle him (their covers suck for starters). He writes of an alternative world where science is replaced by magic and all myths are true. And its funny! This novel is about newspapers and journalism coming to the big metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, and the repercussions that follow. This is one of the more entertaining discworld novels, and part of a recent move on his part to highlight certain societal elements we take for granted (newspapers, banks, the postal system and football). Always worth a reread.
A lady of expectations by Stephanie Laurens is part of the Lester family quartet. I have talked about the other three previously. It is a fairly classic Regency romance. Well off gentleman woos a respectable young lady, unfortunately she is under the impression he needs to marry money, and while she has a reasonable dowry, it isn’t enough she fears. He has money, and must persuade her to marry him. A secondary story about her cousin and her country beau is also part of the plot. Okay, not brilliant, not awful.
The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth is another children’s book, by an Australian. It’s about a young girl who finds out that her father was an earl, before he disappeared a day after she was born. She and her mother journey back to the ancestral castle in Scotland to deal with the family curse. Some time travel back to Mary, Queen of Scots, some dealings with fairies and some growing up ensues. She finds her father and reunites her family. It is well written and entertaining and manages to squish in some history.
The Starthorn Tree, also by Kate Forsyth is a Fantasy novel. Five children, from different races and backgrounds must join together to break the curse on the dying young Count. If the curse is allowed to continue all of their peoples will suffer. Good, another story about growing up and learning to understand other people.
DragonHaven, by Robin McKinley is a young adult book. I really like this author, but her style in the last few books I have read has changed, it is trying to be too hip, too teenagerish, and it interferes with the story. Or I am not a teenagers anymore. But I still love her earlier books. This book tells the story of a kid who grows up next to a dragon sanctuary and one day accidentally adopts an orphaned dragon- which is highly illegal. His efforts to hide the dragon, and ultimately return her to her place change the relationship between humans and dragons. It is good, and interesting take on dragons, but I want more Damar instead.
The Dreams our Stuff is made of is a nonfiction book by Thomas M Disch about how science fiction has infiltrated our lives. It is an interesting look at the cultural, social, military and scientific changes wrought by science fiction. From a pulp area dominated by men writing for adolescent boys it is has become a major part of our lives, without anyone really thinking about it. Very interesting, and some interesting points about the way we live now.
Declare by Tim Powers is kind of weird, but good. Tim Powers is a very odd author, who comes up with some interesting ideas. This is a spy novel, set in WWII and the early years of the Cold War, crossed with Arabian Nights. Two spies, half brothers (unknowingly) battle it out to control the Djinn. While both are English, one is working for the Soviets, and the other spends some time pretending to. I did mention it was weird? And quite engrossing. Weirdest bit- author’s insistence that all events are plausible with real actions taken by the real world people included in the story.
Another young adult fantasy by an Australian, Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, is another coming of age story (aren’t they all?). Exiled by the usurpation of his kingdom’s throne, blocked from accessing the country by a curse and with his father a prisoner in the mines, young Finnikin wanders the world with his guardian. They try to plead the case for their countries exiled citizens and find them somewhere to live. Their own country is walled off by a curse. One night, Finnikin dreams that the young heir is still alive and that he must go to a religious house, where they meet a young exile who will help them. All is not what it seems. This was quite good, although there was a bit too much angst for me.
Making Money is another Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, this time about the banks. Published a couple of years ago, it has some quite pertinent thoughts on the value of money, and gold and what we really think when we put our money in banks. Read it.
The last two books are Too many Crooks spoil the Broth by Tamar Myers, and Death of a Trickster by Kate Borden. Both are thin murder mystery novels with a kitschy hook. In one it is Pennsylvania dutch setting and in the other a small New England town. The Penn Dutch one includes recipes (part of a trend that includes scrapbooking mysteries, stitching mysteries and other hobbies). Both were light, easy reading. No challenge, no real thrills.
That is a significant chunk of my reading over the past week.