Saturday, October 1, 2022

My Son's Books from the 2022 Book Sale


For the next couple of book sale posts, be prepared for more variety than usual. My son reads mostly fantasy, science fiction, and nonfiction. My husband reads all types of fiction, but leans toward nonfiction.

The Planned Parenthood Book Sale ran from September 16th through September 25th, over two weekends. We visited five times. 

This post showcases some of the books that my son found at the book sale, and there are a lot of gorgeous covers here.

Zero World by Jason M. Hough  (578 pages)

From the book description at Goodreads:

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.

I like stories that merge spying and science fiction, and a parallel Earth could be interesting.

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owens (369 pages)

This is a YA Fantasy with a gorgeous cover. I liked the description and I love the cover, and there is a cat named Barf.

From the cover of the book:

Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.


Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson (300 pages)

This is a 2006 science fiction novel by American author Spider Robinson, based on a novel outline by the late Robert A. Heinlein. 

From the back of the book:

When Joel Johnston asks Jinny Hamilton to marry him, he believes he is entering an ordinary union. Then she reveals that she is the granddaughter of the wealthiest man in the solar system, and any man who marries her will be groomed for a place in the vast Conrad empire and sire a dynasty to carry on the family business....

Daunted by the prospect of such a future, Joel flees—and awakens on a colony ship heading out into space, torn between regret over his rash decision and his determination to forget Jinny and make a life for himself among the stars.

Artful by Peter David (276 pages)

This fantasy novel tells the further adventures of Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. It is a few years later in his life, and in this version there are vampires and a plot to overthrow the British monarchy. 

Another book with a very impressive cover.

The Space Between Worlds by Macaiah Johnson (320 pages)

From the summary at Goodreads:

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.

On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. 


Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook (700 pages)

This omnibus edition comprises The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose―the first three novels in Glen Cook's Black Company fantasy series.

I have read the first novel in this series (my review here). It combines elements of epic fantasy and dark fantasy as it follows the story of an elite mercenary unit that serve the Lady, ruler of the Northern Empire. Now I can read the second novel in this edition.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (420 pages)

From the summary at Goodreads:

Severin Unck's father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1946 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father's films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

Told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film.

The Changewinds by Jack L. Chalker  (820 pages)

My son introduced me to Jack Chalker's books in 2005, and I read several of the books in the Well of Souls series.

This book is an omnibus edition of the three books in the Changewinds series, including When the Changewinds Blow (1987), Riders of the Winds (1988) and War of the Maelstrom (1988). From what I can glean from descriptions, I think the stories are a blend of science fiction and fantasy.

Are you familiar with any of these books or authors? 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life: Laura Thompson


I started out loving this biography of Agatha Christie. It is very readable, and the first chapter about her childhood was charming. I did not know that much about Christie's life at all, especially before her marriage to Max Mallowan, so I learned a lot from the earlier chapters about her courtship and marriage to Archie Christie. The author often mentioned Christie's writing and specific mysteries, and I enjoyed that part a lot. 

However, the author depended too much on quotes from Christie's fiction books (mostly the non-mystery books) to demonstrate and support statements about Agatha's relationships with other people, and especially Archie Christie. 

The chapter about the mystery of Christie's disappearance went on too long for me, and since not much is definitely known about that event, she was making guesses on a good bit of it. On the other hand this was the first I had read on the subject, and she had to handle that period of time in some way, so that is a minor complaint. There were interesting facts (and opinions?) about how the investigation was handled.

Overall, I learned a lot of things about Agatha Christie's life that I have never known, and I appreciated learning about what was going on in her life when she wrote some of her books, especially the earlier ones.  Even with the few quibbles I had regarding this book, I found that it was interesting, informative, and well worth reading.

I would like to read other books on Christie's life. I had forgotten that she wrote an autobiography and I will be looking for a copy of that. I will also be seeking out Come, Tell Me How You Live by Christie, which focuses on her experiences on archaeological trips with Max Mallowan, her second husband. I have a copy of Robert Barnard's A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie, which is more about her books and her writing, but does include some about her life. I would appreciate other recommendations. 


Publisher:  Pegasus Books, 2018 (orig. publ. 2007)
Length:      485 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      UK, mostly
Genre:       Biography
Source:      I purchased my copy in June 2022.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

My Reading in August 2022


This may be the latest I have ever taken to put up a monthly reading summary. August was a good reading month with six books finished. I read two nonfiction books which was unusual. The rest were crime fiction, which is my favorite genre. The majority of the books were published after 2000, which is a change for me. 

Nonfiction / Biography

Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life (2007) by Laura Thompson

I started out loving this biography of Agatha Christie. It is very readable, and the first chapter about her childhood was charming. I had some quibbles with this book, but most of it was interesting, informative, and worth reading.

Nonficton / Nature

Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear (2018) by Lev Parikian 

This is a nonfiction book about a man who decides to return to an old love, birding. He has a goal to find 200 different species in the UK in one year. I love to read about birds and I would have liked to get more about birds and less about his personal journey and the process. But all of it was good, and visiting different parts of the UK was interesting. 

Crime Fiction

The Long Way Home  (2014) by Louise Penny

I am now a big fan of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. Except by this book, the tenth in the series, Gamache has retired to Three Pines. I was still very happy with the book, and I look forward to reading the next in the series. See my review here.

The Burglar in the Closet (1978) by Lawrence Block

The Bernie Rhodenbarr series by Lawrence Block now consists of 11 books. The Burglar in the Closet is the second book in the series. Bernie lives in New York City and supports himself by burgling apartments. See my review here.

Vanish (2005) by Tess Gerritsen

This is the 5th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series. It has been eleven years since I read the 4th book in the series, but I caught up with the story easily enough. Jane Rizzoli is a police detective, and she is also pregnant and her baby is overdue. While visiting her doctor at the hospital she gets caught up in a hostage situation. I am not fond of books about sex trafficking and that was a focus here, Also, the book was a bit too thrillerish for me. However, in the end I liked the book a lot because Gerritsen tells the story well, most of the characters are strong and well-defined, and the story has a great twist at the end.

Death Around the Bend (2017) by T.E. Kinsey

This is the third book in the Lady Hardcastle historical mystery series. The books have interesting plots, wonderful characters, and a lot of humor. See this post where I discuss the first three books in the series.

Currently reading

I am currently reading Anna Karenina. I started it on September 12th and am about a third of the way through. 

We have been to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale three times already, and will go again this weekend. It started on September 16th and will end on the 25th. I have bought way too many books, so I hope I won't find too many more on the weekend. 

The photos at the top and bottom of this post are geraniums (actually pelargoniums), my favorite flower. I think it is because there is so much variety in the blossoms for various types of geraniums. Photos were taken and processed by my husband. Click on the images for the best viewing quality.


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Book Sale purchases


Last Friday, September 16, was the first day of the Planned Parenthood book sale and it will continue through Sunday, September 25. We went to the book sale on both Friday and Saturday. (And we will go back again tomorrow, and Saturday and Sunday.) 

My goal this year was to cut back on short story book purchases, since I have so many, both in print editions and on the Kindle. Yet I went ahead and purchased these three books for various reasons. I have not sampled any of them yet. So, here they are.

MASH UP: Stories Inspired by Famous First Lines

Gardner Dozois  (Editor)

This is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories. The subtitle describes the theme. Each author picked a first line of a favorite classic and use it as a first line in a short story. There are thirteen stories in the 400 page book, and each one is around 30 pages in length. My son found this book for me, and I am glad he did.

Isaac Asimov Presents the Golden Years of Science Fiction: Third Series

Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg (Editors)

This anthology is 633 pages, with 20 short stories and novellas by various authors from 1943-1944. Each story is preceded by short introduction by Asimov and Greenberg.

In this case the authors are not listed on the cover, so I will include a list of the stories, from the Goodreads summary:

  • The Cave by P. Schuyler Miller
  • The Halfling by Leigh Brackett
  • Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore [as Lewis Padgett]
  • Q.U.R. by Anthony Boucher
  • Clash by Night by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore [as Lawrence O'Donnell]
  • Exile by Edmond Hamilton
  • Daymare by Fredric Brown
  • Doorway into Time by C. L. Moore
  • The Storm by A.E. van Vogt
  • The Proud Robot by Henry Kuttner [as Lewis Padgett]
  • Symbiotica by Eric Frank Russell
  • The Veil of Astellar by Leigh Brackett
  • City by Clifford D. Simak
  • Arena by Frederic Brown
  • Huddling Place by Clifford D. Simak
  • Kindness by Lester Del Rey
  • Desertion by Clifford D. Simak
  • When the Bough Breaks by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore [as Lewis Padgett]
  • Killdozer! by Theodore Sturgeon
  • No Woman Born by C.L. Moore

A Rare Benedictine

by Ellis Peters, Clifford Harper  (Illustrator)

This last book contains only three short stories, from the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. I already had a copy of this in paperback, but I jumped at the opportunity to get this hardback copy, mainly for greater ease of reading. It also is enhanced by lovely illustrations, so I am doubly happy to have it. My husband found this book for me; I am very grateful that he did.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril -- R.I.P. XVII

Once again I am participating in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event, otherwise known as the RIP XVII Challenge. I am late in announcing this, but I was reviewing the books I read last year especially for that challenge and I enjoyed all of them a lot. I hope to repeat that experience.

This year I was reminded of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event by posts at NancyElin's blog and Kay's Reading Life. This event was originally hosted by Carl V. Anderson at the Stainless Steel Droppings blog. Since then it has been hosted by other bloggers and lately has been primarily on Instagram and Twitter. See this post for the announcement for 2022. The event runs from September 1 through October 31, 2022.

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril is to enjoy books, short stories, and movies/television that could be classified as:

  • Mystery.
  • Suspense.
  • Thriller.
  • Dark Fantasy.
  • Gothic.
  • Horror.
  • Supernatural.

I read a lot of mystery fiction and thrillers, so this event is a natural for me. However, it will be more of a challenge this year because I have two longish classic fiction books I also want to read during September and October: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

Two books I plan to read in October that I think will fit the mood of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event are:

The Listening House by Mabel Seeley, a mystery published in 1938, set in a boarding house, which promises to have an eerie atmosphere. 

The Ghost of Opalina or Nine Lives by Peggy Bacon, an illustrated children's book about a ghost cat. Published in 1967. Constance at Staircase Wit recently reviewed that book.

I will list my books read for R.I.P. XVII in September and October here:

The Tenderness of Wolves (historical mystery set in 1867, in the Northern Territory in Canada).

Crazybone by Bill Pronzini (#26 in the Nameless Detective series)

The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peters (historical mystery set in 1140, #7 in the Brother Cadfael series)

Head On by John Scalzi (Science Fiction / Mystery crossover)

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Classics Club Spin #31: Tracy's List


The latest Classics Club Spin has been announced. I have chosen twenty books from my classics list. There are a few changes since my last list.

On Sunday 18th September, 2022, the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The goal is to read whatever book falls under that number on my Spin List by 30th October, 2022.

So, here is my list of 20 books for the spin...

  1. Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe   [209 pages]
  2. Sense and Sensibility (1811) by Jane Austen [411 pages]  This was the spin number !!  
  3. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury
  4. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James Cain
  5. My Ántonia (1918) by Willa Cather
  6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl
  7. The Sign of Four (1890) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  [160 pages]
  8. The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame 
  9. The Quiet American (1958) by Graham Greene   [180 pages]
  10. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) by Patricia Highsmith
  11. Goodbye to Berlin (1939) by Christopher Isherwood
  12. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson
  13. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) by Madeleine L'Engle
  14. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by Carson McCullers
  15. Cannery Row (1945) by John Steinbeck 
  16. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
  17. Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker    [420 pages]
  18. The 13 Clocks (1950) by James Thurber
  19. The Warden (1855) by Anthony Trollope
  20. The Optimist's Daughter (1972) by Eudora Welty   [180 pages]

The complication for me this time is that I just started reading Anna Karenina five days ago, on September 12th, and I am taking it slowly. So I sincerely hope that one of the shorter books on my list above will come up for the classic club spin this time, which will give me a better chance of getting it read by the deadline.