Author Archives: Bethany K. Warner

Book Banter: Miranda and Caliban

mirandaTitle: Miranda and Caliban

Author: Jacqueline Carey

Genre: fantasy

Length: 348 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Miranda knows only life on the island with her Papa, though she has fragments of memory from before. When Papa binds the wild boy — Caliban — to serve him, Caliban and Miranda become good friends. But their friendship stands in the way of Papa’s magical plans and it could threaten to destroy them.

Banter Points: If you haven’t guessed, “Miranda and Caliban” is a retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” I think I saw a live production of the Tempest when I was in high school, but my memory is foggy at best.

I think not knowing the play actually increased my enjoyment of Carey’s retelling because I didn’t know what was coming. My recollection is that Carey’s book spends a ton of time before the Shakespeare story actually starts and the part that’s the play takes up just a fraction of the book.

Carey’s story is a beautiful picture of the innocence of early friendship and how the world can taint it. Miranda is lovely, Caliban is loyal, Prospero is deceiving, Ariel is tricksy — just as expected, but the way she tells the story, it’s all rich. I just sank into this book and wish I could go back.

Bummer Points: I don’t have much here, other than I wish it could have ended differently for the characters.

Word Nerd Recommendation: This is a strong, strong contender for a top 10 book of the year.

Bonus: Also, my May Reading Challenge Book! While I didn’t quite find it on the new book shelf, I had it on hold from Wowbrary from before it was released.

Vader Cat

vader cat

Vader Cat finds your lack of reading disturbing.

Book Banter: Henry and the Chalk Dragon

chalk dragonTitle: Henry and the Chalk Dragon

Author: Jennifer Trafton

Genre: juvenile fiction

Length: 229 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Henry drew the best chalk dragon on his door… but it escapes. With his creativity running wild, Henry and his school friends Oscar and Jade. are going to have to learn bravery and how to let their imaginations run free to recapture the creature.

Banter Points: At Hutchmoot 2016, I got to hear Trafton read a chapter aloud and she had the audience of grown-ups laughing along. I promptly told my coworker who is the juvenile book selector about it and she ordered a few copies for our Library for when the book released in April.

This book is delightful. I’ve already told several people about it and I highly suspect it will make my top 10 for the year. Yes, it’s a kids books, but it powerfully talks about the differences of creativity and conformity and how to stand up for both people in trouble and your work. It’s just as poignant for adults… maybe even more so.

Bummer Points: I wish this book had existed when I was a 3rd-grader like Henry. It would have been good for me in those years.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Read it for yourself or get it for the kids in your life, especially if they are artsy types who might be inclined to give that up in the face of conforming to popularity.

Distinction

I was in San Francisco for the past few days for the Association of Fundraising Professionals annual conference.

As I was planning to go, I checked the weather and the forecast for the time I was there was perfect — mid 70s, sunshine. Suddenly, I was wondering how many sessions were too many to skip (I was a good kid, I promise) and what I could manage to get to while there.

Here is the conversation that went through my head:

Me: I wonder if I can get to Golden Gate park and hike around.

Me: No, you can’t do that. That got blown up.

Me: <pause>

Me: Wait. No. That was in a book. That was fictional.

Me: This is a new low.

So — a shout out to Chris Holm and the beginning of “Red Right Hand” for writing a scene so vivid that a year later or so, I was convinced for a minute that it really had gotten blown up. (Technically, he blew up the bridge itself… )

It’s good to know it’s still there.

golden gate

Q1 2017 Reading Stats

Reading seems to be right on track this year. I’m well-ahead on my goal to read 52 books for the year, but it’s still nice to not have a pressing goal, like I did last year.

Q1 Stats:

19 books

4248 pages

44 hours of audio

Interestingly, I’m right on track with where I was last year. In 2015, I was at 21 books in Q1 and in 2014, I was at 29 books. I read 11 of those in January 2014, including LOTR: Return of the King. Truth, I hadn’t quite yet met my now-husband in those days, so that accounts for a lot, along with the fact that I was in a groove then of reading graphic novels.

Since I began keeping this list 15 years ago now, the running total for number of books read is 1,288.

Book Banter: Moon over Soho

sohoTitle: Moon over Soho (Peter Grant #2)

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Length: 375 pages

Genre: urban fantasy/police procedural

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL digital collection

Plot Basics: When a jazz musician suddenly drops dead, Peter Grant doesn’t seem to think it’s case that falls into his specialized (aka, magical) territory. But when the coroner realizes it’s the latest in a string of jazz musicians falling dead, Peter is on the case, while still trying to learn both policing and magic.

Banter Points: Sometimes, series suffer from the sophomore slump, but “Moon over Soho” is maybe even better than “Midnight Riot.” Peter is still learning what it means to be a magical wizard cop and dealing with the aftermath of what happened to Leslie and Nightingale in the first outing.

Because of the links to jazz, Peter turns to his dad, the famous “Lord Grant” and former jazzman to understand the players — and how they are being played — and it gives a nice insight into Peter’s background. The books is peppered with brilliant one-liners from Peter that are soaked in British thought. They might some of the best parts of the book.

Also — Aaronovitch clearly has a sense of how magic works in the book and while the reader gets small lessons it’s not overwhelming. The lack of long explanations helps to make it, well, magical.

Bummer Points: Because I’m discovering him for the first time, Peter is still possibly edging Harry Dresden off his perch.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Loving this series. If you are looking for a great read, this is it. The magic is subtle enough that if you’re mostly a mystery book reader, you can still like these. If you’re more of an urban fantasy person, these are great crime books with a solid police procedural core.

Book Banter: Generation V

generation vTitle: Generation V

Author: M. L. Brennan

Length: 312 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL Downloadable collection

Plot Basics: Fortitude Scott is a baby vampire, meaning he’s still mostly human, and trying to make a human go of it, barely making ends meet with a coffee shop job and a deadbeat roommate. When his mother accepts a vampire guest into their territory, Fort is stunned at the way that vampire behaves and is determined to do something about it. With his new bodyguard, the shape-shifting fox Suzume, Fort goes up against a menace and has to figure out how to use his family legacy to get the job done.

Banter Points: If I hadn’t already found Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, this might be in the running for Best Discovered Author. I haven’t picked up an urban fantasy in a while that entertained as much as Generation V.

While Brennan plays with the vampire mythos, her changes were good ones. She kept familiar items — such as their weakness with sunlight — but gave it a nice twist so that it’s an affectation that gets worse as the vampire gets older.

Fort and Suzume have a fun banter between the two of them, but it works both as sidekick material and ways to move the story forward and propel characters to action. Also, at least so far, the vampires are not sex symbols. More like Rachel Caine’s Morganville vampires, they are bad guys but trying to stay under the radar of humans.

Bummer Points: I got nuthin’.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’m definitely going to keep going in this series of fun reads.

Book Banter: Faithful Place

faithfulTitle: Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3)

Author: Tana French

Genre: mystery

Length: 400 pages

Where Bethany’s copy came from: Personal collection via IndyPL used book sale

Plot Basics: Frank Mackey is a specialist at running undercover operations, but he’s determined to keep his family at arm’s length, or farther. When he gets a call that a suitcase is found that likely belonged to his first love — the girl who never showed on the day they were to run away together — Frank is forced back into his family’s broken dynamics. While he’s not officially allowed to work on the investigation, Frank knows that if anyone can uncover the truth, it’s him.

Banter Points: Tana French won my 2017 Best Discovered Author award… but I only managed to read two of her books last year. I was dawdling because I didn’t like Frank from his secondary character appearance in The Likeness. He was a manipulative jerk. On the whole, reading books about manipulative jerks isn’t something I prefer to do.

But WOW — French made me care about this manipulative jerk. A lot. Which is pretty amazing as I was sure I wasn’t going to like him going in. I was probably more hooked by wondering how Frank would fare through the events than the actual mystery itself.

Bummer Points: The case isn’t as compelling as the first two. It’s a good, seemingly unsolvable mystery, but this one is the least police-procedural-y of the bunch so far. Frank was involved in the case, but it’s much more of a character books than a crime book. Her first two involved more of cops being cops. The story has reasons for it, but as a police procedural fan it was a change.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’ve got book 4 on hold already after wondering why I was waiting so long.

New toy

kindle

I finally caved and bought myself an actual eReader. For years now, I’ve done eBooks on my iPad. But not very often, because that perpetual reading on a computer-like screen would do my eyes in. Last week, Amazon was offering a deal for Prime members and so I did it: one new KindlePaperwhite.

In other news, the hubz and I did the Amazon Household thing too. It’s like we’re grown-ups or something.

Book Banter: Midnight Riot

midnightTitle: Midnight Riot

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Genre: urban fantasy

Length: 298 pages

Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Rookie constable Peter Grant is hoping to be a detective, but it seems like he’s doomed to a life of paperwork. Lucky (or unluckily) for him, a gristly murder case brings him face to face with the crimes only witness, who just happens to be a ghost. Peter is reassigned to DCI Thomas Nightingale, the Metropolitan police’s only wizard/detective. As the crimes spread over the city, Peter and Nightingale must take on feuding river gods and the ghosts of London long-past to bring order back to the city.

Banter Points: If anyone has the power to even jostle Harry Dresden in his number one spot for favorite crime-fighting-wizard, Peter Grant may be that contender. “Midnight Riot” is a mash-up of Dresden, Harry Potter and Endeavour, with a less-mopey Brit detective. It’s straight-up English police procedural, with all the slang (like nick, copper, guv’nor, etc.) and sorting out the crime over a pint at the local that you’d expect.

Aaronovitch has given Grant just enough of a cheeky first-person narrative voice to make him entirely endearing. Likewise, Nightingale, is so stingy with details about the relationship between magic and the police and how long he’s been a part of both that it makes him enigmatically endearing.

Bummer Points: I can’t really say much without giving anything away, but I will say the ending felt very abrupt for all the build up through the book.

Word Nerd Recommendation: It’s only March, but it’s highly likely I’ve already found my 2017 winner for “Best Discovered Author” for the Word Nerd awards this year. There are five or six more of these and you can bet they are going in my TBR pile!