The Friends and Family

BOOK BLOG
 

Fifth page. List starts with the most recent at the top.  Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Kay read: THE MISTED CLIFFS by Catherine Asaro
Sequel to her previous fantasy novel, The Charmed Sphere. Princess Melody Dawnfield, a mage in training and heir to the throne of Harsdown, must marry Prince Cobalt, heir to the previous dynasty that ruled her country and also heir to the neighboring land of Misty Cliffs, as decided by treaty to preserve the peace between Misty Cliffs, Harsdown, and Aronsdale. Her husband-to-be descends from two royal houses known for violence and ambition, and he is widely thought to be both brutal and insane. After the marriage she finds that he has been abused throughout his life, and that he is insecure and terrified of any sort of positive emotion, seeing them as a weakness. Can even a healing mage help the victim of such horrific abuse?

Kay read: 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
A graphic novel retelling of the thrilling stand of some 300 Spartan soldiers defending the Hot Gates from the invading Persian King and army. The story always thrills; the artwork is wonderful.

Joy read: TACONI AND CLAUDE: DOUBLE TROUBLE by M.E. Finke
Delightful story about the adventures of an aborigine boy and his cockatoo friend on an Outback cattle station. Taconi is approaching his ceremony of manhood and his father is trying to win the job of Station cook.

Joy read: TWIST OF HONOR by Karen Welss
Antonia, wealthy but low-born widow of the Earl of Cranbourne, is trying to avoid marriage with any of the string of fortune hunters with which the king is pressuring her. When she does choose a man, he is even more low-born than herself, and less fortunate in the character of his relatives. This is a better-than-average romance; the equivalent of a Regency romance, but set in a different time. Restoration instead of Regency, Charles II instead of George III & IV. The emphasis on the class of the nobility is there, the lavish wealth, the social intrigue; but the court of Charles II was more dissolute and more blatantly at the mercy of the successful intriguer. Karen Welss gives her story freshness by placing it in a new setting, and by giving to her hero and heroine a humanity which we feel instantly.

Joy read: TAKE ME TO A CIRCUS TENT: THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE FLIGHT MANUAL by Craig Fenton
The closest thing I've ever seen to an encyclopedia of a rock 'n' roll band. Just holding it for the first time gave me a huge, nostalgic smile. Review.

Carla read: THE BULL FROM THE SEA by Mary Renault
Spellbinding retelling of the Theseus legend, picking up Theseus' story on his triumphant return from Crete after slaying the Minotaur.  Sequel to THE KING MUST DIE, and as fresh and vivid as on a first reading. Review.

Joy read: TIME FOR ALEXANDER by Jennifer Macaire
First of the Iskander series. Time-traveling reporter Ashley is trapped in the past of Alexander the Great, when Alexander thinks he is rescuing her from the god Hades. Ashley knows that if she changes anything she will be erased by the machine that sent her here, so she must somehow keep herself and the children she bears Alexander from doing anything that will appear in the history books. Entertaining, fast-paced, and knowledgeable. The first edition was an EPPIE finalist, the second edition is even better.

Kay read: HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR by Jim Squires
HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR by Jim Squires is the story of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, by the man who bred him. Race horse breeding is both fascinating - in that even a very small farm like Two Bucks can breed a champion - and heart breaking with events like the death of a long awaited and prized foal or in the forced sale of a cherished horse in order to keep the rest of the horses in feed for another year.

Kay read: THE AMERICAN PLAGUE by Molly Caldwell Crosby
THE AMERICAN PLAGUE by Molly Caldwell Crosby tells of Yellow Fever, and how it has formed American history. The first section of the book tells of a great epidemic in the Mississippi Valley in 1878 which made some 200,000 people sick and killed so many people in Memphis alone that only that city's death toll was greater than that of the San Francisco Earthquake, the Chicago Fire, and the Johnstown Flood combined. The slow Federal response infuriated many, and caused confidence in the government and its ability to handle a crisis to plunge. The epidemic was the Katrina of its day - a natural horror compounded by bungling and slow bureaucracy. The second section of the book tells of Walter Reed and the brave medical crew he led in their efforts to find the source of transmission of the dreaded disease, which is thought to have killed some 500,000 Americans alone from the time the  slave ships brought it from Africa to the year 1900. Interesting, though very grim, stuff.

Kay read: BY SLANDEROUS TONGUES by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis
BY SLANDEROUS TONGUES by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis is the third book in a fantasy series which began with This Scepter'd Isle and Ill Met by Moonlight. The elves of Britain have seen various futures following the death of Henry VIII - most of them involving a time of absolute misery under his daughter Mary and a time of great joy under his daughter Elizabeth. The dark elves, who feed from hatred and pain and fear, cannot wait for Mary to rule, and want to stop Elizabeth from ever ruling. The bright elves, who feed from love and joy, wish to protect Elizabeth. Henry VIII has passed away now, and his young son is on the throne. The visions of Mary and Elizabeth remain, as well as a new vision - a flickering view of a sad and tragic young girl briefly taking the throne. The dark Court, forbidden by King Oberon to harm Elizabeth directly, decide to take a new path - killing her Bright Court protectors, and destroying her with gossip and slander in the human world. But her protectors might not be so easy to slay - and Elizabeth does not prove to be easy prey for the enspelled ladies' man (and her stepfather) - Thomas Seymour.

Kay read: THE BOOKSELLER OF KABUL by Asne Seierstad
THE BOOKSELLER OF KABUL by Asne Seierstad is a book written by a Norwegian journalist who was allowed to live with a family in Afghanistan for some months and given permission to write about the lives of the family members. As a woman, she was allowed to see a side of life in that very war-torn country that not many get a glimpse of - that of the daily lives of Afghani women. She both accompanied the patriarch on business trips, and the women to the markets (dressed in a burka). The result is a fascinating look at a family which has one foot in the modern world - The patriarch values books more than anything in the world and kept books available in Kabul, despite both the Communists and Taliban burning his stock. But at the same time, it is a very traditional family, where the women are held in little value, and where father's word is law. The plight of the women is heartbreaking.

Kay read: THE CAT WHO HAD 60 WHISKERS by Lilian Jackson Braun
THE CAT WHO HAD 60 WHISKERS by Lilian Jackson Braun is the latest in her Cat Who mystery series, which has something like thirty books in it now. The author of this series is now in her mid-nineties, and still producing a novel a year - which is completely amazing! Her age does show a bit, in that the plot is not quite as tightly woven as in books past, but still! I also give this author credit in that she never minds eliminating an important character (as she does in this book) or making a huge change (as she does in this book) in locale or setting. A couple of big surprises will be in store for long time readers in this installment.

Kay read: HORSE PASSAGES by Jennifer Macaire
HORSE PASSAGES by Jennifer Macaire is a young adult science fiction novel.  Travelers from Earth long ago found a haven world in the galaxy, complete with herds of horses which have the ability to open gates between worlds. A society grows up with hereditary herders who tend to the herds of horses, who map the new worlds the horses open up for mankind. But humans are not alone in this galaxy - there is a species of pirate-like Raiders who carry off horses and herders alike, who are never seen again. Twin herders Carl and Maegan Cadet travel with their herd of gray horses through the worlds. They lost the rest of their family to Raiders long ago, and both still carry emotional damage from that great loss. When further tragedy strikes the Cadets, they will be sorely tested. Beautifully written novel that I will pass on to my younger son - I think he will love it!

Kay read: THE TRUE KNIGHT by Susan Dexter
THE TRUE KNIGHT by Susan Dexter is the third book in the Warhorse of Esdragon Trilogy. Titch has trained his entire life in hopes of being a knight like his late father. In his first challenge, he meets a wondrous black stallion who he immediately knows he cannot live without. Wren is a mage's apprentice, without any memories of her life before the point where the mage pulled an otter out of his fish trap - an otter who became a girl when she tumbled out on dry land. The two young people are forced to go on a dangerous quest by a mad queen - to find that queen's son, ensorcelled into the shape of a swan. But finding the enchanted prince in the huge flocks of wild swans will prove to be the easiest and least dangerous of their challenges...

Kay read: THE WIND WITCH by Susan Dexter
THE WIND WITCH by Susan Dexter is the second book in The Warhorse of Esdragon Trilogy. It is two generations following Prince Leith and his mean wife, the Duchess Kess. Their granddaughter, a younger daughter of a younger son, has spent her life being a dutiful daughter and a dutiful wife (though her barrenness runs like an open sore through her heart). The one joy of her life is the black stallion Valadan, who bonded to her when she was a child. Now the widow of a landed farmer, Druyan wishes only to free hold her late husband's farm for a year and a day so that she can own it in her own name and not be forced to remarry by her family. But the land of Esdragon is under attack from Viking-like raiders from the sea, and in the lack of leadership from an incompetent and foolish Duke, Esdragon needs a hero - even if that hero is a widowed and barren weather-working witch who does not feel capable of being a hero!

Kay read: THE PRINCE OF ILL LUCK by Susan Dexter
THE PRINCE OF ILL LUCK by Susan Dexter is the first book of The Warhorse of Esdragon Trilogy. The favorite mare of a horse crazy Duke will not allow any stallion to mate with her. A wizard coaxes the winds to take on the form of a stallion and impregnate the mare. The resulting foal is named Valadan - a coal black immortal stallion with the speed and endurance of the wind, the intelligence of a human, and the ability to mind speak with his bonded riders. The colt is stolen from the Duke, and ends up running with the deer in the wilds. There he is found by a shipwrecked young Prince of the Isles named Leith. Leith is famed for having the worst luck in the world, and for bringing that luck with him to his companions wherever he goes. The story tells of how Leith, with the help of Valadan, wins the hand of a princess and tries to get the bad luck curse on his life lifted. Unfortunately, the story, while fun, was sort of ruined for me with the character of the princess - the worst example of the stereotyped headstrong and bitchy fantasy princess I have ever run into. Yuck. I still liked Valadan and Leith quite a bit, though!

Kay read: THE HORSE GODDESS by Morgan Llywelyn
THE HORSE GODDESS by Morgan Llywelyn tells the story of a Celtic girl who lived in the Austrian Alps at about the time of the rise of Athens. Epona is the daughter of a Chief and can reach out to the tribe's ponies with her mind. But she hates and fears the tribe's Druid, and does not wish to be trained as a Druid herself. When she is about to be forced to begin the Druid training against her will, she takes the opportunity to run away with some traders belonging to the Scythian people, and is taken to the steppes of Asia. There, among the horse people, her horse magic begins a legend that will result with her being identified as a goddess of horses. Well written and interesting historical fantasy.

Kay read: THE CHARMED SPHERE by Catherine Asaro
THE CHARMED SPHERE by Catherine Asaro is the first fantasy novel by this former rocket scientist and current science fiction writer. Aronsdale is a little country without particular wealth or renown, but where the people lead peaceful lives with plenty to eat and comfortable places to live, as well as holding gainful employment from agriculture and crafts. It is a quiet and very pleasant place to live. But it is a land facing the greatest challenge in decades as a neighboring country views it with conquest in mind following the death of its long time king. Both royal princes feel truly unfit to rule - and they both have good reason for their crippling self doubts. In the tradition of the land, the royal family members marry the most powerful appropriate age/sex mages that can be found - and both of the young princesses (though showing great promise) are country girls, just learning their magecraft, and very inexperienced. They each also feel unfit to be leaders! Even the army is inexperienced and in need of training, not having seen a real battle in decades. But somehow the two young royal couples and their advisors must find a way to defend this precious, peaceful, and endangered place from an ambitious neighboring king who views Aronsdale as a first step towards building an empire, and from his mad and very powerful mage.

Carla read: PENDRAGON by Stephen Lawhead
Uninvolving fantasy retelling of the King Arthur story mixed with elements of the Atlantis legend. Review.

Carla read: THE SAMPLIST by Francis Ellen
Witty black comedy set in a contemporary Glasgow music college, reminiscent of Tom Sharpe's PORTERHOUSE BLUE. Alex Stone is a mediocre pianist on a mission to prove that electronically sampled music can compare with the best performers in the world. But the slimy vice-principal is out to get him, his musician friends are brilliant but erratic, and to make matters worse his beautiful girlfriend has sent one of his computer-generated tapes to a music publisher who now wants to meet and sign this hitherto-unknown piano virtuoso... Review.

Joy read: REBEL HEART by Christine Young
Page 24 was as far as I could get in this romance. I started it because of the futuristic setting, but I don't enjoy bondage scenarios. Publication date is June 1, 2007.

Kay read: THE GRAND SOPHY by Georgette Heyer
THE GRAND SOPHY by Georgette Heyer is a Regency romance and one of the funnest and most charming books I have ever read. Sophy is bright, vibrant, and charming - and she knows what is best for others and goes about getting that best for them in very unorthodox ways. When she is sent to live with the stuffy family of her aunt in England by her diplomat father when he is posted to Brazil, she cheerfully turns their lives upside down and they do not know what hit them. Absolutely adorable story!

Kay read: ROMA ETERNA by Robert Silverberg
ROMA ETERNA by Robert Silverberg is a science fiction/fantasy novel set on an Earth where Rome never fell. A set of short stories that tell of key moments of the history of this Rome or tell of the lives of individual Romans, or gives a taste of what it was like living there. The stories begin at about the year AD 450 (our time) and end with the beginning of the space age (about AD 1970 our time) and deal with such topics as the discovery of the New World, the competition between the Western and Eastern Empires, and how Rome dealt with a certain very powerful and charismatic religious leader in Mecca... right on up to the first manned space flight.

Kay read: THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini is a very powerful novel set in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and America. Amir is the son of a rich merchant of Kabul, born in the last days of the kingdom, a time of relative peace. He lives with his father, and his father's lifelong servant, Ali, and that servant's son, Hassan - born not long after Amir, and his milk brother, as both boys lost their mothers and shared a wet nurse. The novel centers around the relationships between Amir and his father and between Amir and Hassan. The themes of the book is dealing with violence and tragedy, survivor's guilt and being too hard on yourself - and in facing down your demons of memories and guilt and insecurity and fear. In becoming good again and making restitution for crimes and sins and errors of the past. Parts of the book are very painful - but the story ends with a huge note of hope that things can change, that things can become better - that you can, in fact, become good again.

Kay read: POEMS, PROTEST, AND A DREAM by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
POEMS, PROTEST, AND A DREAM by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz is a collection of writings from one of Mexico's first great poets and playwrights, who lived way back in the 1600's. Hers are some of the first feminist writings to come from the Western European tradition, as she passionately defends her right to study, learn, teach, and write when attacked by upperlings in the Church. Of particular interest was a short play where she compares the indigenous Aztec religion with Catholicism.

Kay read: HARROWING THE DRAGON by Patricia A. McKillip
HARROWING THE DRAGON by Patricia A. McKillip is an excellent short story collection by a fantasy Grand Master. Some of the stories are serious, some humorous - none are quite what you would expect. All are elegantly told and rich with meaning. I especially enjoyed A Troll and Two Roses, A Matter of Music, and The Fellowship of the Dragon.

Kay read: FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER: A DAUGHTER OF CAMBODIA REMEMBERS by Loung Ung
FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER: A DAUGHTER OF CAMBODIA REMEMBERS by Loung Ung is the memoir of a woman who was once a victim of the Killing Fields of Cambodia. She was the five year old daughter of a well-off family of a high government official when the Khmer Rouge took over the country. The family did their best to hide in the countryside as peasants, but eventually the truth of the father came out and the members of the large family begin to die one by one. It is amazing that this little girl managed to survive though horror, violence, and starvation - but she did, and came to America as a refugee - still a child in years, but anything but a child in experience. She has become a voice for the victims of genocide, and a leader in the movement against land mines. The brutality she experienced is horrifyingly painful to read about - but the fact that she has survived and has turned her passion into a burning need to help others also is a sign of hope for the human race.

Kay read: THE BONEHUNTERS by Steven Erikson
THE BONEHUNTERS by Steven Erikson is the sixth huge novel in his fantasy series Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. I thought this one was a big improvement over the bloated fifth book. The action begins right after the end of the events of the fourth book, House of Chains, and we are back in the lands of the Malazan Empire. The Malaz Fourteenth Army is in pursuit of the last remnants of the rebel forces in the desert subcontinent called the Seven Cities. Karsa Orlong, coolest badass in the history of fantasy, has not only discovered that he has a good mind and heart - but he also discovers a personal need to become a champion for the underdog. The dread Chained God has been granted a place in the Pantheon, and the gods are deciding to choose their sides in the upcoming war - and pity all of the poor mortals who might get in the way! And the Malaz and Lethari empires are beginning to clash along the edges of their spheres of control.

Joy read: A CHARM FOR A UNICORN by Jennifer Macaire
An evil magician falls for the beautiful Leonie and steals her from the man she loves. He thinks he is in control, but he discounts the magic this helpless-seeming girl can wield. An utterly charming YA which mixes delight with a look at human issues. Leonie's alternate persona as a unicorn is as magical for us as the story is. **Tied for my most enjoyable YA read this year

Joy read: THE LOST PEOPLE OF MALPLAQUET by Andrew Dalton
2nd in the
Malplaquet trilogy. Young adult fantasy about a colony of Lilliputians trying to survive on a modern English estate. T.H. White with a touch of Monty Python as written by an ethics teacher. Review.

Kay read: THE ROMANOV PROPHECY by Steve Berry
The Russian people, fed up with government corruption and the power of the Russian Mob, has voted for a return to the Czars. An American lawyer, an expert in Russian language and history, has been chosen as one of the people to work on checking out the backgrounds of living members of the Romanov family, and to see if there is anything to keep any of them from becoming the new monarch. When digging through the top secret archives, he finds a prophecy of Rasputin, written down by the last Csarina, Alexandra, which indicates that someday heirs of herself and her husband might one day regain the Russian throne, even though the family is doomed to die within two years if nobles kill the mystic. He also finds evidence that both Lenin and Stalin were afraid that one or more of the children might have escaped the slaughter of the royal family in Ekaterinburg. It is soon obvious, as Miles Lord escapes one assassination attempt after another, that someone in power does not like these findings. Will Miles survive long enough to find the truth? Who is trying to kill him and hide that truth? How did a royal child escape the slaughter, and how have they been hidden away in the near-century since? Quite a nice little suspenseful historical whodunit.

Kay read: THE PILLOW BOOK OF LADY WISTERIA by Laura Joh Rowland
In Japan in the year 1693, under the shoguns. ~ Sano Ichiro serves the shogun as a special investigator and prosecutor. He receives the most dangerous case of his life when the shogun's cousin and heir is murdered when having a liaison with a high priced courtesan named Lady Wisteria. The woman has vanished, and an over-zealous judge has condemned all of the possible witnesses to death in an effort to increase his standing with the shogun. Evidence turns up implicating Sano himself, and he must solve the case quickly and prove who committed the murder - or he, his family, and all of his retainers will be put to death.

Kay read: THE BLACK LOTUS by Laura Joh Rowland
A mystery novel set in the 1690's in Japan under the Shogun. Samurai Sano Ichiro serves the Shogun as his sosakan-sama, a sort of special prosecutor/investigator (to try to find the nearest current day American equivalent). In this novel, Sano is sent forth to investigate the nefarious events surrounding a multiple murder and arson at the grounds of the temple of the Black Lotus sect of Buddhism. Sano has his hands full, as the investigation turns extremely difficult. He is aided by his wife, daughter of a top level judge, and trained (as some true life women of the samurai cast were) in both education and weapons as a man of that class was trained. The difficult investigation, and the pressure coming down from the court to solve the case quickly, put strains on themselves, their top retainers, and their marriage.

Kay read: THE HOUND AND THE FALCON by Judith Tarr
An omnibus of three fantasy novels which make up a trilogy:
The Isle of Glass
The Golden Horn
The Hounds of God
Brother Alfred, taken in by the monks of a quiet English monastery as an orphaned baby and foundling, has come to believe that he is elven rather than human. In the sixty years since he was found, he has not aged beyond looking like a teenager. He can read other people's minds, and has a magical talent for healing. Yet, though he does nothing but good with his life, he comes to have horrible, near-suicidal doubts of his worth, as the Church teaches that his kind is soulless and evil. Alf is sent forth from the monastery on an all important mission of diplomacy to Richard the Lion Heart, then is swept into a life of adventure - always, always doubting his own value. Sometimes you want to scold him for his stubbornness and his failure to see his great worth, but Tarr makes you care deeply about him and about his friends.

Kay read: THE ANALECTS by Confucius
THE ANALECTS by Confucius is a classic Chinese philosophy textbook, which praises family loyalty, learning, and hard work. Some of the thoughts are completely foreign to Western morality (such as family loyalty being more important than turning in a criminal) but interesting all the same.

Kay read: THE TERROR by Dan Simmons
A mixture of adventure, survival, and horror, this is a well crafted and suspenseful novel that grips you from cover to cover. Two British ships have been looking for the fabled Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic in the 1840's. They become trapped in the ice for three winters - two in the same desolate place - and are not able to escape in the intervening short summer. Food and fuel are running low, and there is something out there, picking off the men one or two at a time. Inspired loosely by an historical mystery, of a lost British exploratory expedition.

Carla read: THE DAWN STAG by Jules Watson
Sequel to THE WHITE MARE, this epic saga of love, war and spiritual fulfilment concludes the story of Rhiann and Eremon and their fight against the Roman invasion of Scotland, culminating in the battle of Mons Graupius in AD 83.  Review.

Joy read: A FINE AND BITTER SNOW by Dana Stabenow
The Bush government has decided to drill and mine in the inviolable Denali National Park. Its first step will be to replace the Park's Ranger, whose decades of experience in the Park make him irreplaceable to the Natives and wildlife who live there. Kate and her community rise up to defend their way of life.

Kay read: THE TURRET by Margery Sharp
THE TURRET by Margery Sharp is the sequel to Miss Bianca. The mice discover that a horrible man - a servant to the evil duchess in Miss Bianca - has been imprisoned by that wicked womann. They dither between setting him free (and giving him the chance to reform his ways) and feeling that he deserves what he is getting. Compassion from Miss Bianca and a great race horse named Sir Hector win the day. But have they freed a new man - or an old criminal?

Kay read: MISS BIANCA by Margery Sharp
MISS BIANCA by Margery Sharp is the sequel to The Rescuers. The little mice who like to rescue prisoners are at work again. In this case, they decided to free a young servant girl from bondage to a cruel and murderous duchess.

Kay read: THE RESCUERS by Margery Sharp
THE RESCUERS by Margery Sharp tells the story of three very brave little mice who manage to spring a young Norwegian poet out of a notorious prison. The mice are charming, as is the story. Much better than the films Disney came up with - and set in Europe rather than Louisiana or Australia.

Kay read: THE INCORRIGIBLE LADY CATHERINE by Elena Greene
THE INCORRIGIBLE LADY CATHERINE by Elena Greene is a Regency romance about the relationship between two good natured music lovers from different stations of life. Lady Catherine is the beautiful and musically talented daughter of a Duke. She is also both physically and emotionally abused, and decides to run away with a man she does not love to get away from her awful family. Caught by her father, she is banished to the cottage of some distant relatives in the Lake district and placed under guard. Nonetheless, she still manages to meet the handsome and sensitive Phillip Woodmere, a gentleman farmer with a heart as big as a mountain. They bond over his younger (orphaned) siblings and her musical genius. Misunderstandings (often brought about by the emotional wounds and insecurity of Catherine's past - she honestly does not feel that she is good enough for the kind Phillip) and differences in their social stations threaten their relationship, but all is well by the end.

Kay read: REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM by Kate Douglas Wiggin
REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM by Kate Douglas Wiggin tells the story of a girl sent by her widowed mother (who is impoverished and has too many children) to her spinster aunts to be brought up right and to get an education. It reminded me in many ways of Anne of Green Gables, but lacking the greater depth of that story. (Though in justice, this book might have been meant for younger readers than Anne.) Rebecca is a charmer - intelligent, dreamy, wildly creative. You cannot help but root her to have a good life.

Kay read: FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW by Margaret Sidney
FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW by Margaret Sidney is an old children's classic about a widowed mother who can never make ends meet, trying to raise five children with little food or money. The two eldest help as much as they can. Despite the poverty and hard work, the children are inevitably happy and cheerful. A pretty fairy tale where the entire family takes on the role of Cinderella.

Kay read: THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING by Alaa Al Aswany
THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING by Alaa Al Aswany is a gripping novel that tells of the lives of the residents of a down at the heels apartment building in Cairo during the time of the first Gulf War. Life in Egypt is not pretty or easy - the government and the police are corrupt beyond measure. Class discrimination against the poor runs rampant. Fundamentalism calls like a siren to angry young men with no opportunities and whose dreams have been shattered by the corruption and brutality they have encountered in their lives. Yet - the author embraces compassion, love, and life.

Kay read: GRAVE SURPRISE by Charlaine Harris
GRAVE SURPRISE by Charlaine Harris is the sequel to Grave Sight. Harper was struck by lightning when she was fourteen. ever since, she has been able to locate nearby corpses, and know what killed them. A professor at a small college near Memphis teaching a class on the supernatural has hired Harper to come to a very old cemetery on the grounds of the college and tell him (and his class) what killed the various people buried there (the priests in the old days kept very careful records, and Harper has had no access to those records). But she finds a surprise - one of the graves contains a second body - that of a young girl who was kidnapped from Nashville two years before. Harper had been hired at the time the girl vanished to see if she could find her, but could not. It soons becomes clear that the murderer had wanted the girl's body found, and in the most suspicious of circumstances for Harper and her brother/helper Tolliver. But who would have killed a little girl, who would have set them up, and why???

Carla read: EMPEROR Series by Conn Iggulden
A swashbuckling epic of military adventure (loosely) based on the life of Julius Caesar.  Cracking read, but be wary of the historical facts. Review.

Joy read: THE SINGING OF THE DEAD by Dana Stabenow
A candidate for state Senate is receiving death threats. Her manager reluctantly hires Kate in spite of the bad blood between them. The hundred-year-old story of a high glamour Alaskan prostitute runs parallel to the campaign intrigue. I do love Kate, her life and her friends.

Joy read: MIDNIGHT COME AGAIN by Dana Stabenow
Kate's friends are looking for her, but she doesn't want to be found. All they know is that she took off after a devastating personal tragedy. Life comes crashing back into Kate when her course intersects with an investigation of the Russian Mafia.

Kay read: MIDNIGHT TIDES by Steven Erikson
I finished it. Finally. Thanks be to God! Midnight Tides is over. You know, there is a magnificent story hiding in that 900+ page novel - crying and pleading for a good editor to release it! But for now, I feel as if I have just completed a 10k road race over hilly terrain. This book was a marathon. And nearly every time I picked it up, I ended up nodding off. And for a book of over 900 pages, nearly all of the good scenes and good action was in the last third. Though it is the fifth book in his fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen, it inexplicably takes place years before the other books, in a completely different (and distant) place in the world, and with a completely different batch of characters. I cannot recall at this moment when I have been so relieved to finish a book - which is a shame, as there was some very good writing and some great story elements hiding under all of that padding and under all of those unneeded subplots.

Joy read: HUNTER'S MOON by Dana Stabenow
It's delicious to be back in the Alaska of award winning mystery writer Dana Stabenow. Her detective Kate Shugak is a Native American who quit the police force after having her throat slashed. Kate is downright, vigorous, sneaky, sexy, clever, uninhibited -- a bundle of contradictions all wrapped up in a determined sense of justice. In this case, Kate is part of a team of hunting guides, hired by a very rich and untrustworthy German industrialist and his executives.
   It's a good thing I have the next
Kate Shugak so I can read right on to it. I can't believe she did that!

Joy read: THE PERSIAN BOY by Mary Renault
After the small but poisonous description of Bagoas in A TASTE OF ASHES, I wanted to revive my memory of the sweet boy who was Alexander's lover and servant in Mary Renault's classic THE PERSIAN BOY. The book is just as moving and beautiful in still another reread. **Tied for my most enjoyable historical novel of the year

Kay read: GRAVE SIGHT by Charlaine Harris
GRAVE SIGHT by Charlaine Harris is the first book in a new supernatural mystery series. Harper got struck by lightning as a young teen. It not only has left her physically scarred, but it has given her the ability to find nearby dead bodies, and to know what killed the person/s. With the company and support of her stepbrother, Tolliver, Harper does her best to make a living of this strange ability. People hire her to find dead bodies, then quite often look at her in horror when she finds them. In this story, Harper is called to a little town in the Arkansas Ozarks to see if she can find the body of a missing teenaged girl. She finds the body, but it stirs up a hornet's nest worth of trouble.

Kay read: DEATH A L'ORANGE by Nancy Fairbanks
DEATH A L'ORANGE by Nancy Fairbanks is the third book in her Culinary Mysteries series. Carolyn Blue loves food, and is a nationally syndicated food writer. Her husband is a chemistry professor and she travels with him when he goes to conventions and consultations - and while he works - she eats! At all of the finest restaurants in town, especially ones that feature regional specialties. And she solves mysteries while she is going around eating, as well. In this outing, Carolyn and her husband and their son are touring France. The descriptions of the food, especially in Normandy, make you drool! And the mystery is also pretty good! The author somehow makes you feel sorry for the culprit and despise the target. And you really want to eat a Norman apple pastry!

Kay read: VENETIA by Georgette Heyer
VENETIA by Georgette Heyer is a Regency era romance. Beautiful Venetia Lanyon has put aside any hopes for herself, in caring for her lame younger brother and for the family's estate after the death of her father and her older brother's service in the army. Then one day she meets her neighbor, Lord Damerel, a notorious rake shunned by most of Polite Society. Needless to say, sparks soon fly as the two opposites attract. A sweet story with quite a few twists and surprises.

Joy read: A TASTE OF ASHES by Jennifer Macaire
4th book in the
Iskander series, which she is now calling the Time For Alexander series. Time traveling Ashley married her beloved Alexander the Great. History has told her when he will die, but she isn't willing to sit still and let it happen. Ashley is determined to cheat fate, and save not only Alexander but her children, who are not rivals for his throne no matter what others think. Review.

Kay read: A TASTE OF MAGIC by Andre Norton & Jean Rabe
A TASTE OF MAGIC by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe is the Grand Master Norton's last story. Near the end of her life she requested Rabe, an author she had worked with before, to finish it. She provided Rabe with piles of notes and many conversations about how she wanted the story to go. The final effort is quite seamless - you cannot tell where Norton stopped writing and Rabe started. It is a little fantasy novel that starts with a cliché - a person is out hunting when nearly her entire village is wiped out and swears revenge when she returns home and finds the slaughter. But it quickly transcends that cliché and has lots of nice twists. Wisteria, the main character, has an interesting form of magic - one that primarily enhances her senses of smell and taste. A very pleasant little novel.

Kay read: DARTH BANE PATH OF DESTRUCTION by Drew Karpyshyn
DARTH BANE PATH OF DESTRUCTION by Drew Karpyshyn tells the story of how an angry miner from a dirt ball world becomes the most terrible and badass Sith Lord in the history of the Star Wars universe. Set hundreds (if not thousands) of years before the Star Wars movies, this helps set the stage for what we see on film. Well written for a Star Wars novel, too!

Joy read: SUNSET PROMISE by Irene Estep
A couple who burst into flames at the sight of each other is thrown into turmoil by an interminable series of misunderstandings and clumsiness. It doesn't help that he is an urban developer and she is part of a threatened historic neighborhood. After repeated cases of complete stupidity on both sides, it wasn't until the end of the book that the characters began to make sense. Better late than never. Review.

Joy read: SHATTERED DANCE by Caitlin Brennan
The culmination of the
White Magic trilogy, brimming with horse magic and human feeling. It was also full of foreshadowings of evil, so that by the time I passed the halfway point I had a hard time picking up the book. It was a tough road to the happy ending. Brennan/Tarr is a master writer, to make the emotions so complex and moving.

Kay read: PARADISE OF THE BLIND by Duong Thu Huong
PARADISE OF THE BLIND by Duong Thu Huong is a beautifully written novel filled with a gentle and hopeful spirit despite its disturbing subject matter. A young girl from Vietnam travels to Russia to work in a factory in the 1980's. Through current events in her life and through her flashbacks, we see how the country of Vietnam has been torn apart in decades of violence and turmoil. We see how venal and corrupt and ridiculous the Communist government was. We see how the ravages of the wars can affect one life, one family, one village. Yet despite everything, the author ends the book on a note of grace and hope that things will someday be a lot better in that beautiful country. Also - the constant descriptions of delicious sounding food gave me cravings!

Kay read: FREDERICA by Georgette Heyer
FREDERICA by Georgette Heyer is a regency romance about a bored nobleman who falls in love not only with his distant cousin, but also with her rowdy and funny little brothers. A very charming story about how a spoiled and jaded man finds his heart - and finds that it is much larger than he ever thought possible.

Kay read: THE ROYAL GHOSTS by Samrat Upadhyay
THE ROYAL GHOSTS by Samrat Upadhyay is a collection of short stories set in Nepal and written by a writer from Nepal. The stories are set in the recent past and current day. The stories tell of the lives of normal everyday people in Nepal and some of the challenges they face - whether the threat of Maoist insurgents or the breakdown of traditional castes or simply trying to find a spouse. Many of the stories end as a character faces a huge decision, which is haunting and makes you think for a long time, wondering what the person will choose to do. This is a beautiful collection of stories.

Kay read: ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT by Mercedes Lackey & Roberta Gellis
ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis is the sequel to This Scepter'd Isle. The elves have received visions of the fate of England after the death of Henry VIII. They see his daughter Mary ushering in a period of death and horror. They see his daughter Elizabeth ushering in a golden age. The Dark Elves, who feed on fear and pain, will do anything to bring Mary to the throne someday. The Bright Elves, who feed from joy and love, wish to bring Elizabeth to the throne. This novel tells of Elizabeth's girlhood - protected by the Bright Elves, threatened by the Dark.

Kay read: SMOKE IN THE WIND by Peter Tremayne
SMOKE IN THE WIND by Peter Tremayne is a mystery book set in Wales in the seventh century AD. In those days, women in Ireland were legally the equals of men. They could be rulers, judges, lawyers, or Christian priests. This story tells of an Irish woman lawyer who is traveling through Wales with a friend (a male Saxon lawyer) and is asked by the king of Dyfed to solve a mystery involving a suddenly abandoned monastery, with all of the monks vanishing into seemingly thin air. Near the monastery, a young girl has been raped and murdered. Sister Fidelma comes to believe that the two mysteries are linked, and she and her friend risk life and limb to find the answers.

Joy read: CHILDREN IN THE MORNING by Jennifer Macaire
Since I just got the last 4 books of the
Iskander series, I thought I had better refresh my memory on this one, the third one. Alexander the Great and his wife Ashley of the Sacred Sandals go to India, complete with army, where they brave rajahs, cobras, monsoons, and Alexander's wife Roxanne. The Iskander series has an unusual viewpoint. Ashley traveled by time machine, from a time after ours to Alexander's time, and now the series is slanting more and more toward fantasy. It's lively fun, not least because another of the genres that Macaire writes in is erotica. Review.

Kay read: THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe
First book read in the year 2007! This short novel tells the story of one of the leaders of a Nigerian tribe, named Okonkwo. When the British colonizers and missionaries come to Nigeria, his life, and the lives of his people, are forever changed.

Joy read: SONG OF UNMAKING by Caitlin Brennan
Sequel to THE MOUNTAIN'S CALL. I'm in a horse fantasy mood, so I went back to pick up Caitlin Brennan/Judith Tarr's
White Magic trilogy about the horse gods. I had a delightful time with it. It is wonderfully written, with beauty to the point of tears. It is also definitely challenging, with the destruction of the world in the balance. Some of the dark-worshippers are just as human and almost as likeable as those who serve the horse-gods. I hope there will turn out to be a way, in the next book, for the two cultures to work together to protect the world; but for now, one of the cultures worships oblivion, and they have a traitor mage who is winning.

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