What I Read October ‘13

I kicked reading’s butt this month. Coming back from a series of two or three book months, I finished seven in October. I don’t think I read more than I have been, I just finished some books that I had started in previous months and read some shorter books. Only one of the books I read this month were from series or authors that I had been reading this year. I hope I can keep it up through the end of the year.


The Iron Wyrm Affair

Lilith Saintcrow

I picked this up sometime on my Kindle and arbitrarily decided to read it one weekend. It seemed like an interesting combination of fantasy, steampunk and mystery.

The setting is pretty great. It is an alternate reality Britain where all sorts of fantasy trappings are real, like some sort of steampunk Harry Potter. I did want to learn more about this world and how it works. That information is tightly guarded, presumably to keep up the mystery aspect of the story. That is all fine and good. Where this story fell apart was that it didn’t make me care at all about any of the characters. They had little chemistry with each other and they weren’t interesting on their own. That the killed the whole thing for me. I didn’t hate The Iron Wyrm Affair, but I’m not going to continue with this series.


All Yesterdays

Darren Naish, C.M. Kosemen, John Conway

This is an examination of representations of dinosaurs and how the traditional looks might not be accurate. Not that all the depictions are wrong, but in merely pointing out that there are holes in the information we use to make those pictures. Plenty of common representations of those outsides of dinosaurs are educated guesswork. All Yesterdays points out where some of these guesses are and shows alternate possibilities. It also gives us different poses and angles from the usual depictions. It is really quite thought provoking.


Sleeping Murder

Agatha Christie

Another Christie, this one much better than the last. This time, Ms Marple actually investigates and solves the mystery, instead of hiring someone else to investigate and showing up at the end with the answer despite having no evidence. There are still younger characters that do the bulk of the heavy lifting in the investigation, but Marple is involved and actually has the information to draw her conclusion

In this story, a young married woman buys a house and has flashbacks to seeing a murder in that house. She finds out that she lived there briefly as a child and that her Step-mother has been missing since about the same time. So she and her husband enlist Ms Marple to help them figure out just what happened. This story really shows why Christie is one of the giatns of the genre

The only strange part is Ms Marple’s thought that leaving the mystery unsolved is better; that they should let a sleeping murder lie. While she does have some legitimate concerns for the investigator’s safety, but that doesn’t seem to be the reason for her objection. It is not like things are worse from knowing. Still, it is just an odd note in an otherwise highly entertaining mystery.


Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

Mark Kurlansky

This was a school book of my brother’s and I picked it up the other day and just read it. It is an interesting and sad look at the history of this fish. It starts out with how and why the fish was important to the history of the settlement of North America by Europeans. Then it moves to the sad ending of modernization and overfishing. Which is of course what we did.

All throughout the book and in a special section at the end are recipes on how to prepare cod. Many of these are historical, some are more modern. It is an odd but interesting addition. I wish I had the opportunity to try some of those recipes. It also sucked to get to the end and find out the book is 15 years old and ends with some questions about what would happen going forward. I’ll have to research and find out if the conservation efforts outlined at the end of this book worked.


A Splendid Hazard

Harold McGrath

This is supposedly an adventure novel, one that ended up on my kindle after I read A Prisoner of Zenda last year. This is occasionally well written, there are some really enthralling passages. But there is no adventure. The hero’s sole bit of action is getting punched out by the villain. The villain, other than punch, only loosed a duel with minor characters at the end.

It is about a search for lost Napoleonic treasure and a possible Napoleon descendant. But they just find and map and go get the treasure, there is little conflict. The villain may have been planning to set himself as Napoleon’s heir, but he doesn’t. This is an adventure where no adventure happens. Still, I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. I would read another McGrath, though I hope more would happen in it.


The Hanover Square Affair

Ashley Gardner

Another book that ended up on my kindle and sounded good enough.  This one turned out better than the one I started this post with.  This is mystery starring a former cavalry officer trying to find a missing girl.  This leads him to another mystery about a missing girl.

This is clearly a set up for a longer series, with characters introduced that do not have much of a role in this book, but have history and very obviously a future with the protagonist.  Still, Captain Lacey is a good character.  He is an honorable man in a world that is somewhat less honorable.  He sometimes comes off as rigid and maybe a touch self-righteous, but he is largely a sympathetic character.  His goodness strongly contrasts with how awful the criminals are.

The mystery unfolds nicely, but it is a little too obvious.  The answers are all there at the start, most of the investigation just obfuscates the obvious answers.  Still, it is a fine read even if I’m not rushing to get to the rest of the series.


Maps and Legends

Michael Chabon

Every time I read something by Chabon, I am hit with two separate impulses. The first is to all my writing stuff and throw it away because I will never be able to write this good. The second is to stop whatever it is I’m doing and just start writing, because even if I can’t match Chabon I might be able to manage something worthwhile.

This is a collection of essays about genre fiction. Some examinations of specific books, some reflections on what they mean to Chabon. It is thoroughly enthralling. There is a lot of food for thought here, and the recommended reading section of the back is going in its entirety on my to read list. This also reminded me that I bought a bunch of Chabon when his stuff on a Kindle sale. I’m an going to be powering through that shortly.

Next month I hope to finally finish The Lies of Locke Lamora and I am reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Also, during a recent flooding of my basement, I found a beaten copy of Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, so I will likely read that too.

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