November 2011


The fifth book in the series.
mill

Publication year: 1993
Format: Audio
Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty. Ltd.
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 6 hrs and 19 minutes

Phryne Fisher is dancing in the Green Mill when a man is murdered right in front of her. The Green Mill is having a dance marathon and one of the remaining contestant falls down. Nobody sees the murderer. The rest of the evening is spent answering police’s questions and Phryne gets to know Tintagel Stone’s jazz band, the Jazz Makers, while they wait to be questioned. Phryne was in the Green Mill with a boring but respectable young man, Charles Freeman. He almost throws up at the sight of the corpse and runs away before the police arrive. Naturally, he’s a suspect.

Phryne investigates the murder and Charles’ disappearance. She finds out a lot about the victim and about Charles’ rich but unhappy family. Charles’ older brother Victor served in the great war but he came back changed and his family couldn’t deal with that. The brothers’ mother even claimed that Victor was dead when he couldn’t bear to live in a city anymore. Phryne also helps out young lovers and gets to fly her Gypsy Moth in a very dangerous situation. Also, she spends a lot of time in the city’s jazz scene and dates the lovely Tintagel Stone.

As is usual with this series, the book deals with serious issues. This time it’s the treatment of war veterans and how war changes the young men who serve in it. In the previous books, we’ve heard that two of the regular cast, the wharf worker/taxi driver/information collector/bodyguard Cecil Yates and his best friend Bert Johnson, met when they were in the war. Now, we heard about their horrible experiences in it.

The regular cast is back and we hear about their lives. Phryne’s adopted daughters make a short appearance as well. There’s also a large group of new characters. The Jazz Makers have some quirky people in it; Iris the bass player is a physical culture teacher, Rogers has a foul temper as is apparently usual for trumbone players, the clarinet player is studying to become a doctor, and Irene is the singer with a tragic past and a wonderful voice. Of course, there are the people related to the case and a few of them are quite awful people. Charles’ mother is wilfully blind and deaf, and keeps her son under tight control, and Charles himself treats people like dishrags.

With the familiar cast and the the humours writing style, this is a great addition to the series. Although, I’m not sure that pure mystery readers would be happy with the plot.

Unfortunately, Audible doesn’t currently have the next book in the series but it has Ruddy Gore, the seventh book.

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I couldn’t resist this one, so my third reading challenge for next year will be 2012 Sci-Fi Challenge hosted by Working for the Mandroid.

Here are the basic rules:

1. The challenge begins January 1, 2012 and runs through December 31, 2012. Books started before January 1 don’t count towards the challenge. Re-reads do count, but a new review must be written. Any format of book counts – hard copy, audiobook, e-book – we’re not picky.

2. A review has to be written and posted for each book in the challenge. If you don’t have a blog, they can be posted on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, Shelfari, Facebook, anywhere else book reviews are accepted and can be linked to.

3. Any books read for another challenge that fit into a category here can count towards this one. One book, however, cannot fill multiple categories in this challenge. For example, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game technically fits into at least four of the categories. It can only count for one though.

4. A post will be set up on Working for the Mandroid beginning January 1 for participants to add their review links. I personally will put up a post at the end of each month to track my own progress. That’s where you can comment, brag and/or complain about how impossible it is to get through Dune.*

5. At the end of the year, I will put all the people who signed up for the challenge and finished 6 of the 12 categories in a contest for a not yet determined prize. Those who finish all 12 of the categories will be entered into a different, better contest. Additional contests throughout the year might also become available depending on participation of readers and availability of prizes. Note: The more participants, the more likely I can get some science fiction friendly sponsors, the more contests.

The twelve categories and the books I intend to read for them:
YA/MG
Nancy Farmer: The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

Adult
John Scalzi: Fuzzy Nation

Hugo Winner
C. J. Cherryh: Downbelow Station

Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Jules Verne: From Earth to the Moon

Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Kim Stanley Robinson: Red Mars

Steampunk
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling: Difference Engine

Robots/Cyborgs/Androids
Kage Baker: Mendoza in Hollywood

Spaceships/Aliens
C. J. Cherryh: Faded Sun: Kutath

Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair

Apocalyptic/Dystopia/Utopia
Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games

Cyberpunk
Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster.
Liz Williams: Bloodmind

A quick look at my TBR conviced me that pretty much the only categories I won’t find in the towering stacks are likely to be YA/MG, Hugo Winners, Cyberpunk, and possibly Robots, so this challenge fits in well with my TBR goals.

My second reading challenge for next year will be The Speculative Fiction challenge 2012 hosted by Adventures of 2.0

Information:
Sign Up

Anyone can join, blog or not, you just need somewhere to post your reviews to share with the world. If you have a blog, a post about the challenge would be nice! Just add your details to the linky below to sign up.

I’ve made a couple of buttons and have modified the traditional challenge button for this year. Feel free to put them in your sidebar and use them in your review posts! Just save the image of your choice to your computer first please!

Timeline: 01 Jan 2012 – 31 Dec 2012. You can sign up from now right up until 31 Nov 2012.

Rules: The levels are back this year! Just pick your level and declare it in your post or in the comments below:

* Nosey: 3 novels
* Excited: 6 novels
* Content: 12 novels
* In Nirvana: 24 novels
* Obsessed: 48 novels

There is no need to list your books now (unless you are like me and love making lists), just pick as you go along and have fun! Books can most definitely be counted towards other challenges.

Any book format (ebook, print, audio) counts!

And because it can sometimes get a bit confusing (from Carolyns original post), Genres:

* Science Fiction: hard/soft SF, cyberpunk, time travel, alternative history, space opera
* Fantasy Fiction: dark fantasy, urban fantasy, magic realism, quest, mythical fantasy, steampunk
* Horror Fiction: paranormal, gothic literature, splatterpunk
* Supernatural Fiction
* Superhero Fiction
* Utopian and Dystopian Fiction
* Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

I’m going to go for the Obsessed level with 48 books. These will mostly be from my TBR pile, and combined with the Off the Shelf challenge, and audiobooks.

Read:
1, Sharon Lee: Carousel Tides (fantasy)
2, Tara Maya: Sacrifice (fantasy)
3, Tom Strong: Book Three (SF)
4, Tara Maya: Root (fantasy)
5, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Enemy Unseen (SF)
6, Kim Stanley Robinson: Red Mars (SF)
7, C. J. Cherryh: Faded Sun: Kutath
8, Tom Strong: Book Four
9, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Boneyards
10, John Vornholt: A Time to be Born
11, John Vornholt: A Time to Die
12, John Scalzi: Fuzzy Nation
13, Tom Strong: Book Five
14, Christoper Golden and Nancy Holder: Out of the Madhouse
15, H. Beam Piper: Little Fuzzy
16, Christoper Golden and Nancy Holder: The Ghost Roads
18, Christoper Golden and Nancy Holder: Sons of Entropy
19, Cherie Priest: Clementine
20, Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games
21, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore: A Time to Sow
22, Cherie Priest: Dreadnought
23, Avengers Assemble vol. 1
24, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore: A Time to Harvest
25, Cherie Priest: Ganymede
26, Robin McKinley: Spindle’s End
27, Jennifer Estep: Spider’s Bite
28, Carolyn Crane: Mind Games
29, Barbara Hambly: Dragonsbane
30, Kevin Hearne: Hounded
31, Jules Verne: From Earth to the Moon
32, Robert Greenberger: A Time To Love
33, Liz Williams: The Iron Khan
34, Robin McKinley: Sunshine
35, Jack Vance: The Dying Earth
36, Elizabeth A. Lynn: Watchtower
37, Liz Williams: Empire of Bones
38, Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes
39, Tanya Huff: Blood Price
40, Tanya Huff: Blood Trail
41, Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere
42, Carolyn Crane: Double Cross
43, Fritz Leiber: Swords in the Mist
44, Sarah Jane Stratford: The Moonlight Brigade
45, C. J. Cherryh: Downbelow Station
46, Teresa Frohock: Miserere
47, Liz Williams: Darkland
48, Liz Williams: Bloodmind

Today the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life is Best Urban Fantasy Novels of 2011.

I took part in the Horror and UF reading challenge so I read quite a lot of UF. Most of the are part of series so I’m going to take just one book from a series.

1, One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire
What a turn in Toby’s life! I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.

2, Windfall by Rachel Cain
I’ve really enjoyed all of Weather Warden series so far so it was tough to pick just one.

3, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
One of the first UF style books. It has more alien fae than in most of the modern UF.

4, Dayhunter by Jocelynn Drake
The series is somewhat cheesy but I’ve enjoyed them.

5, Midnight Guardian by Sarah Jane Stratford
Here the main vampires are over a thousand years old.

A stand alone science fiction book.

Publication year: 1966
Format: Print, a Finnish translation
Page count: 180
The translation’s publisher: BTJ Finland Ltd
Translator: Jyrki Iivonen
Publication year of the translation: 2010

The book is set in LeGuin’s science fiction world called the Hainish Cycle but has only a couple of references to the larger universe. In fact, the story structure resembles epic fantasy more than SF.

The book starts with rather long prologue “Semley’s Necklace”. It sets the mood and the world well. Semley lives in a world, Fomalhaut II, which is technologically the equivalent of a Bronze Age. Yet, her culture and the cultures and races around her, have made contact with a space faring culture whom they call the Star Lords. Even though Semley is the wife of the local ruler, she sees all the time how poor they are. She remembers that her family used to have a very valuable heirloom, a necklace, which was stolen or lost years ago. However, she’s been told that the Clayfolk would know where the necklace is. One night, she takes her husband’s windsteed and sets out to find the necklace. However, the necklace has been given to the Star Lords and Semly has to journey to another planet to get it. While the journey feels like a one long night to her, because of the time dilation effect, several years has passed in her home before she returns.

The main story focuses on Rocannon who is an ethnologist from the League of All Worlds. He’s a middle aged man who has been on several planets. He’s started to question the League’s right to descend on other worlds and tax them in order to continue their war. The story starts when Rocannon is with the local ruler in Hallen. The rest of his team has been scattered around the planet doing research but they have now gathered to the star ship. The enemy destroys the ship and Rocannon is left alone on an alien world. He also finds out that the enemies have destroyed a local village of the Fiia. Rocannon is convinced that the enemy must have a base on this world because his ship and the Fiia village wer destroyed by a short range helicopter, so he sets out to find that base. He hopes to use their ansibel radio to alert the League. However, he has to journey by traditional means: by foot, on sea, and through air.

The local lord Mogien, the sole surving Fiia from the Fiia village, and three servants accompany Rocannon on the way to another continent. They journey through hostile lands and encounter a few friends as well. Most of the time they fly on the backs of windsteed which are cat-like flying beasts. They’re living creatures which must be allowed to rest and eat, and they’re sometimes moody, too.

Sembly in the first story is from the city of Hallan and she’s lord Mogien’s grandmother. Rocannon was one of the two Star Lords she encountered during her journey, and the necklace plays a part in Rocannon’s story. So, the prologue isn’t a separate story.

The background to the story is rooted in SF with the space faring cultures and a war but many elements in the story itself feel like fantasy. Rocannon isn’t a traditional fantasy hero but he goes on a hero’s quest with a trusty group of friends. The culture in Hallan is feudal with clear lords and servants, and an honor system where death is preferred before dishonor. All the characters on the quest are male and the rulers seem to be male, as well.

Clayfolk live underground and resemble dwarfs somewhat. The Fiia are a more interesting race; they seem to be telepathic and discuss among themselves only telepathically but don’t do so with others. They don’t mingle with the other races. There’s also a prophecy about a Wanderer who would choose his companions but this isn’t explained more. The characters quickly become legendary figures. Sembly is already a legend when Rocannon’s story starts.

The prologue contains two scientific excerpts which describe the intelligent races and the planet. Most of the races are described as “human” and one of the background facts is that space has so many inhabited worlds, presumably by human like species, that they are like grains of sand on the beach. Yet, humans can’t survive faster than light travel so exploration takes many years. That’s why Rocannon can’t just wait for rescue. He says that it would take eight years for anyone else to come to the planet. Perhaps the strongest SF element in the story is Rocannon’s impermasuit which is skintight, not visible, and allows him to withstand violence and extreme temperatures. Except that sometimes he doesn’t use the helmet and can be knocked out when the plot demands it. I found that pretty cheesy.

The plot centers on the journey through the different lands and the different people the group encounters. Because the book is so short, the characters remain quite flat and stereotypical. Rocannon is a somewhat nervous outsider, Mogien is a brash young lord who follows the letter of the honor system, and two servant’s aren’t talked about much at all. The exception is Yahan, a young servant boy who emerges as quite a heroic figure.

A new Retrieval Artist story!

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Jay Snyder
Running Time: 9 hrs and 1 minute

The story starts four years ago, during the bombing of Armstrong, the biggest of the domed cities on the Moon. The city was in chaos and lots of people died. Just before the bombing, Detective Bartholomew Nyquist was meeting his new partner on a murder site. Nyquist is already surly about the new partner who is being forced on him because of the rules and the dome seems weirdly gloomy, too. However, officer Ursula Palmetti turns out to be reasonably intelligent and able to take orders. Nyquist interviews the woman who lives in the apartment where a man’s body was found and realizes that she might be the murderer. Then, all goes dark, all links go silent, and the world goes upside down. Nyquist has to fight an insane murderer in total darkness in an apartment filled with debris.

In chapter ten, we return to the present. Politicians are taking full advantage of Anniversary Day and giving speeches everywhere. They are aware that the day can encourage all sorts of crazy people and so they have a lot of bodyguards. Unfortunately, the security measures aren’t enough to protect Armstrong’s mayor who is giving a speech in a restaurant. He’s attacked without anyone noticing it and his aides are reluctant to call it a murder. Detectives are called in too late and they have to find every clue possible to find out who has used the exotic toxin. Then, other Moon leaders are attacked and Moon’s Security Chief Noelle DiRicci realizes that she has a crisis on her hands. She and the detectives are also working against the media because the people could get frightened or angry if they knew that their leaders are being attacked.

Meanwhile the former Retrieval Artist Miles Flint is dealing with his daughter Talia who is very intelligent and beautiful. Flint is very protective of her.

Anniversary Day is another tightly plotted Retrieval Artist story with a huge cast of characters. Familiar characters return and new characters are introduced. There are a lot of point-of-view characters but we get to know them pretty well because they are in a crisis situation. Some of them die and some decide to change their lives while for others, it’s another day on the job. We also find out new things about a few familiar secondary characters.

Detective Savita Romey (spelling?) is the lead detective in the mayor’s case and she’s a competent police officer. She’ also more politically savvy than either DeRicci or Nyqist and knows how to deal with politically oriented people, including some internal police affairs. She also knows that she was appointed to the case because of political reasons. She knows that Nyquist would have been a better choice but because Nyquist is in a relationship with DeRicci, she can’t appoint him to be the lead. Romey requests him in anyway.

It seems that Nyquist is taking over from Flint; in fact, Flint has retired from his business and is only involved in this case because of his computer skills. Romey and Nyquist are the lead POV characters along with some new characters. I don’t have a problem with that. The series follows police officers on the job and Flint clearly has other priorities now.

Anniversary Day is a great continuation to the series.

On Tuesday, November 22, Book View Cafe (BVC) is launching the ebook version of Tritcheon Hash by Sue Lange. To celebrate BVC is giving away five subscriptions to the book. The subscription comes with unlimited downloading and sharing of multiple formats (mobi, epub, or pdf).

Tritcheon Hash is available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Tritcheon-Hash-ebook/dp/B005SJRCVI/), Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/94746, and at the publisher’s website (http://bookviewcafe.com/).

Tritcheon Hash is a test pilot in the year 3011. She’s got it all: brains, guts, and a fast jet. But can she survive a mission to planet Earth?

“Against a vivid sci-fi backdrop, Lange brings a light touch to heavy material, with a fast-paced, funny story to boot.” — Kirkus

“Funny, perceptive and hard-hitting by turns – welcome to a new and witty voice in sf satire.” –John Grant, co-editor, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

To punctuate the weird science in the book, Lange is starting a 31 day blogging marathon on the subject of weird science at her Singularity Watch blog, [http://suelange.wordpress.com]. She plans to mine the far reaches of the Internet to find the strangest stories from the world of science, proving that no matter how strange science fiction is, nothing is more entertaining, weird or strange than reality.

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