September 2012

Booking Through Thursday

Quick–what are you reading right now? (Other than this question on
this website, of course.) Would you recommend it? What’s it about?

The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling. It’s an alternate history book set in Victorian England, one of the first steampunk books. I’d recommended it to anyone interested in early steampunk and a lush setting. And has patience for a slow plot. I read now most of it and I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’m also reading Josh Lanyon’s Fatal Shadows on Microsoft Reader. It’s a mystery with an amateur sleuth as the main character. I’d recommend it to people who like mysteries. The main character’s friend is murdered and he’s one of the suspects.


The first book in an epic fantasy series. It’s pretty dark so I’m adding this book to the RIP.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Page count: 670
Publisher: Solaris

290 years ago the peace accords were signed between the True-men (whom the T’En call Mieren) and the powerful and long-lived T’Enatuath (whom the humans call the Wyrd). The two races have co-existed in an uneasy peace since then. Sometimes half-bloods (whom the T’En call the Malaunje and the humans call the Wyrd) are born to two True-men parents. According to the accords, the True-men have to give up the half-blood infants to the T’En.

Sorne is king Charald’s eagerly-awaited first born son and heir. However, when Sorne is born a half-blood with six fingers and toes, red hair, and dark eyes, the king of Chalcedon is bitterly disappointed. The king wants to kill the boy, instead of giving him to the T’En so that as few people as possible would know about his shame. But high priest Oskane manages to save the infant’s life by suggesting that Oskane could take the child, hide him, and study him so that the True-men could find out any weaknesses the half-bloods have. The king agrees, but orders his young queen poisoned so that he can marry again and produce heirs without tainted blood. The queen was Oskane’s kin and Oskane had arranged the marriage so he feels responsible for the infant and the queen’s death.

Oskane, his aide, and a small group of servants travel to a abandoned place. On the way, they encounter a young woman being chased by a mob. The woman has given birth to a half-blood and the people in her village are furious. Oskane takes the young woman and her family with her. So, a king’s son and a carpenter’s son grow up together, both hated half-bloods, while Oskane dreams of revenge through the boy Sorne. In order to help the two half-bloods to become strong and resist the temptation of their magical gifts, Oskane beats them every day starting when they’re just five years old.

400 years ago a covenant was done between the male and the female T’En. According to the covenant, both sexes lived separetely in their own sisterhoods and brotherhoods. All pure blooded T’En children must be given to the sisterhoods to raise. Girls would never see their fathers again but the boys would return to their brotherhood when they turn seventeen.

Imoshen is a full-blooded T’En girl, born to T’En father, who is the leader of his brotherhood, and his Malaunje lover. Her father has raised her in secret with the hope that Imoshen would give birth to a powerful child who would break the covenant between the T’En brotherhoods and sisterhoods. Imoshen is raised on an island with only a few servants and without any knowledge of her culture.

Both Sorne and Imoshen are outsiders in their own cultures, and so they are a great way to introduce the cultures to the reader. Sorne knows that his culture despises half-bloods, like himself, but he doesn’t have to face that fact until in his adolescence, while Imoshen is thrust into the scheming and oppressive culture of the T’En almost without any knowledge about it. They both see the unfairness of their cultures and idealistically want to change them. Both are also flawed characters, especially when they get older and are scarred both physically and mentally by their experiences. The book follows them from birth to young adulthood.

We also follow a couple of other point-of-view characters. Vittoryxe is an ambitious young T’En woman. She wants to become the leader of her sisterhood, the all-mother, and will scheme and plot to get there. Unfortunately, she also expects everyone else to be a schemer and a liar, and treats them accordingly. Graelan is a young man who has just returned to his brotherhood, head full of battle and glory. To his shock, he’s trust in the middle of brotherhood scheming. Oskane leaves his familiar life at forty-five to raise the king’s half-blood son and to teach him humility and piety. However, Oskane still thinks of Sorne as a pawn and not a person who might want to do something else with his life than be a spy or avenger.

The book has a very complex world. The True-men have six different kingdoms and they each seem to have somewhat different culture, and different religions. They also have different languages. However, we don’t see much of them. Chalcedonian and T’En culture are the important ones for the story.

The T’En, or T’Enatuath as they call themselves, have been divided on gender lines to brotherhoods and sisterhoods. Every T’En has supernatural gifts and they believe that the male and the female gifts react badly to each other. The male gifts, and the males themselves, are seen as aggressive and dangerous. The male gift can taint a female gift, making the female addicted to the male gift. The female gifts are powerful in another plane but leave the female incapable of defending herself in the real world, and thus dangerously vulnerable to both the male T’En and the True-men. The half-bloods, called the Malaunje, serve the T’En in the brotherhoods and sisterhoods. Even though most T’En are born to one half-blood parent and one T’En parent, T’En don’t acknowledge the blood relationship to the half-blood. Also, in the T’En culture same-sex partners are commonplace. Each brotherhood is lead by an all-father and each sisterhood is lead by an all-mother. Each leader has two close confidantes and advisers: a hand-of-force and a voice-of-reason. Each clan has also a gift-tutor who is appointed by the previous gift-tutor. It seems that in a brotherhood, an all-father is replaced by assassination, outright murder, or by political scheming. In the sisterhoods, an all-mother usually steps down when she’s old and appoints the new leader, which usually means political scheming. I found the culture fascinating.

The T’En call the other plane the empyrean plane. The people with powerful gifts can project their minds to that plane but the plane is full of dangerous beasts. Unfortunately, the beasts can sometimes come to the real world on their own and so the T’En women must fight them. Sometimes a frightened or inexperienced T’En can also project herself accidentally to the other plane.

Besieged is centered on political scheming and interpersonal relationships (most of them are dysfunctional in one way or another). Families play also a large part; who should you give your loyalty and why. There’s also some interesting commentary on religion. The True-men of Chalcedonia worship the Seven; Mother, Father, and their five sons, and some characters claim to be able to talk with them. However, it’s clear from the start that they are lying. Religion seems to be pawn in political games or a exuse for people to justify their actions.

The book has a rather dark atmosphere with entire races hating and persecuting each other, children dying, and women being just pawns in political games. Oskane is a particularly dark character; he spends over a decade of his life raising two half-bloods but he always despises them and doesn’t see them as real people.

Yet, the characters have families and loved ones whom they defend and protect. Often enough the family isn’t by blood but by adoption. Both Sorne and Imoshen are curious people who want to know more and do what’s right.

There are lots of plot twists and some of them are down right brutal.

Collects issues 1-6

Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriquez
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Locke & Key is a comic with multiple mysteries for the characters to solve. The story starts with the Locke family: the parents Rendell and Nina, and their kids Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode. The first issue alternates between the past and the present.

In the past the Locke family is vacationing in Mendocino Valley where the parents are brutally attacked. Rendell is killed and Nina is brutalized. Kinsey and Bode are hiding from the two attackers while Tyler confronts them. The attackers are teenagers who knew Rendell.

The present starts with Rendell’s funeral and then Nina takes her children to live with Rendell’s brother in the big Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. The family is trying to start a new life but they all have issues to deal with. Tyler knew one of the attackers, Sam Lesser, and ended up beating him throughly, so that Sam has multiple scars on his face. Kinsey lives in constant fear. She changes her hair to a less radical style so that the other kids wouldn’t stare at her in school. And Bode finds a magic doorway which separates his body and spirit. The he finds a girl who lives in a well. Of course, nobody believes little Bode.

I found the first issue a little confusing because of the many shifts between now and then, but once the story starts rolling, it’s much clearer. The family dynamic is great. Even though the family has suffered a great loss and they are all trying to cope the best way they can, they are also trying to support each other. Tyler especially is trying to push down his own pain and fear, and be the rock for the others. He even thinks about killing himself at one point but realizes that he can’t do that to the others.

It comes quickly clear to the reader that the Keyhouse is a magical place and the Locke’s uncle Duncan seems to know more about it than he’s saying. Sam Lesser also knew something about the Keyhouse that prompted the attack. Issue four focuses on Sam’s side of the story.

The first trade of Locke and Key is a full of mysteries and may questions, as is usual for the first part. It’s also quite violent and doesn’t sugar coat the aftereffects of violence.

The ninth Phyrne Fisher mystery.

Publication year: 1997
Format: Audio
Publisher: Belinda Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 6 hrs and 53 minutes

A customer is poisoned in Sylvia Lee’s book store and the police think that miss Lee killed him. Luckily for miss Lee, her landlord hires Phyrne to look into the mystery.

Phyrne has found another lovely young man, Simon Abrahams, and he in turn acquaints Phryne to the Melbourne’s Jewish population. The murder victim is Jewish and Phryne makes a point to learn about both the history of the Jewish people and she also has to find out about the mystery of the Qabbalah. We also get to see how non-Jewish people treat them and that some of the Jewish people are insular and suspicions about other people, with good reason. For once, Phryne has to confront her lover’s mother, which was hilarious.

Most of the regular cast returns. Detective Inspector Robinson is on the case, and Cec and Bert are a great help. Only Phryne’s lover Lin Chung is away on a business trip.

I rather liked miss Lee. She’s one of the no-nonsense women who are quite common in Greenwood’s books. She has a way of guessing what people are like from the books they read; if they’re romantic or not, if they have social awareness or not. She’s locked up in jail for most of the book and she spends it by learning Latin! Too bad we aren’t going to see her again.

Another delightful addition to the series.

Booking Through Thursday

How do you organize/store your books? Do you go through them often? Or
do you pretty much just shelve them and then leave them alone until
you need them?

Almost all of my books are now in my four different bookcases. I organize them by size (hard backs are on different shelves from paper backs) and authors. Sometimes by genre, too. Mystery and non-fiction on different shelves than science fiction and fantasy. Single issue comic books on their own shelves and graphic novels and albums on another shelves. The books are on double rows, and usually the read books on the back and unread on front. However, I have a few favorite authors whose books are read and on the visible row.

I go through them occasionally, when I’m looking for a particular book or if I have enough books to join a reading challenge. A couple of days ago I looked through my shelves to put something on BookMooch.

The fourth book in the dark urban fantasy series set in a world where ghosts are real. The atmosphere and Chess’ life are so dark that I’m including this in my RIP reading.
Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Running Time: 13 hrs and 51 minutes

Chess Putham is a Debunker for the Church of the Real Truth; she banishes ghosts which tend to be violent and irrational. She’s also a drug addict because of her horrible childhood; she wants to keep those feelings and memories away. She’s also very insecure and feels that she deserves all the bad things which happened to her and when good things happen, she’s convinced that something or someone will screw it up.

Chess’ drug dealer is one of the two powerful local crime bosses, Bump. When one of his warehouses is burned with a ritually killed body inside, he orders Chess to find out who did it. As a Debunker, Chess often has to find out if an alleged haunting is real and if not, who and why did it, so in theory Chess might be able to track down the killer. Unfortunately, it takes time and Bump isn’t patient.

At the same time, the Church gives Chess a new case. One of their schools has a ghost and Chess is asked to look into it. The case had been assigned to another Debunker first, but he has disappeared, so Elder Griffin sends their best Debunker, Chess. Unfortunately for Chess, the school is located in another crime boss’ area. The boss, Slobag, is father to Chess’ former lover Lex and Chess might still have feelings for him.

Chess is in a new and still tenuous relationship with Bump’s main enforcer, Terrible. Unfortunately, she can’t just enjoy it but has to constantly worry about how Terrible sees her, and if and when he’s going to leave her. The relationship is raw and in-your-face and as far from happily ever after as can be. Because Chess’ new case in Lex’s father’s turf, she even more insecure about Terrible.

Like all the other books in this series, this one too has a lot of secondary characters. When Chess goes to the haunted school, the teachers treat her with a mixture of amusement and condescension and Chess’s awful memories about her own school time don’t help. All of the familiar cast returns.

The story moves at a good pace, switching between Chess’ two cases and her relationship with Terrible and scenes with Lex. However, a lot of time is spent in Chess’ head with her neurosis and insecurities. She also uses a lot of drugs, as usual.

An interesting side note is that some of the characters question the Church’ origins. Is it possible that the Church isn’t simply a savior when the ghosts started to rebel and attack humans, but that the Church actually started the whole thing? I hope this will be explored later. I don’t remember anyone mentioning this before. Since the Church essentially rescued Chess from her earlier life, Chess thinks that the Church is beyond any blame.

Apparently same-sex marriages exist in this world and are somewhat common. That was interesting to see because the quotations at the start of each chapter, from various in-world sources, are heteronormative.

The characters speak in a thick Downside accent which seems to be even thicker this time. Usually the accent is quite easy to listen to in an audio book (I probably wouldn’t have even tried to decipher it in a print format so I was really lucky that I started the series in audio) but this time is was sometimes a bit hard to fathom just what is being said. Bump’s dialog was especially bad.

The first chapter is available on the author’s site for free.

Yesterday, the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life is Authors who write more than one great book series.

1, Lois McMaster Bujold
She’s written the long running Vorkosigan scienc fiction series, which is centered on people rather than fight scenes or techinical jargon, the epic fantasy series set in the five gods universe (Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and the Hallowed Hunt), and a romace fantasy series the Sharing Knife.

2, C. J. Cherryh
She’s written several series in both science fiction and fantasy. I’ve only read her SF books so far, though.

3, Elizabeth Bear
I haven’t yet read all of her books, either. She seems to write books which blend SF and fantasy, for example the Edda of Burdens which is set in a post-apocalyptical world and draws inspiration from the Norse myths, and the Jacob’s Ladder trilogy set in a generation star ship where the society resembles a fantasy society.

4, Kristine Kathryn Rusch
I’ve read so far just her science fiction series. In the Retrieval Artist series Miles Flint is an expert tracer who seeks out people who have wanted to disappear for one reason or another. Flint tracks them down when something has happened, for example new evidence has been found. In the Diving universe the main character dives old space ship derelicts to find what maybe inside.

5, Cherie Priest
My favorite of Priest’s work is her Steampunk series starting with Boneshaker but she’s also written horror and urban fantasy.

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