Posts Tagged ‘book sales’

Library Book Sale Finds: Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James

Well, squiders. We were supposed to be on a cruise tomorrow. But, alas, that’s not happening, for obvious reasons.

Sad times.

So, a little over a month and a half ago, I went to another library book sale. Cuz I hadn’t in a while, and they were doing bags of books for $6, and I am weak.

(Actually, now that I think about it, I went to one in December too, though that wasn’t the best. The books were expensive. If I’m paying $6 per book, what’s the point? I should buy it new at that point so the author gets some of the money. I did get a ton of easy chapter books for the bigger, mobile one, though he has refused to read them.)

(He is mostly interested in books about Minecraft. Sigh. Though he doesn’t mind a story if someone else reads it to him. We just started The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler.)

ANYWAY, this sale wasn’t the best either–not a lot of material, just a few carts of books and old movies. I did manage to end up with six hardcovers, though.

And here we are. In a timely fashion, for once.

Title: Twelve Angry Librarians
Author: Miranda James
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year: 2017

Pros: Cat
Cons: Not enough kooky side characters

There is something to be said about a bag full of old paperbacks, where you’re getting a mixed bag of who knows what from who knows when. Modern books are less fun, in that regard.

Now, you guys know I love mysteries, and you know I love cozy mysteries. But that being said, I find that most cozy mystery series, especially modern ones, don’t really do it for me. I’m not a big historical fiction person, but I tend to like historical cozy mysteries. Gives them something, I guess. Contemporary-based cozies feel the need for some sort of something extra, which is really hit or miss as to whether or not it works.

I’m guessing we’re doing a two-for-one here, in that we have a helpful pet (ala The Cat Who series) plus it’s library-themed. (I am as bad as the next writer about being a sucker for stories about writers/librarians/etc. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that said stories are any good.)

This is a well-established series (this is the eighth book) with Charlie Harris, late middle-aged career librarian, as our protagonist. Charlie is likable enough, if a bit dull, but that’s fairly par for the course. His cat, Diesel, is properly charismatic.

And maybe the other books in the series are better at this, but I kind of feel like a cozy mystery series, if not carried by the protagonist, needs a cast of wacky side characters. And we should get them here–the book takes place at a librarian convention–but we don’t especially.

There’s nothing bad about the book. It’s perfectly serviceable. But it’s also forgettable.

Read other books in the Murder in the Stacks series, squiders? Thoughts about how essential the side characters are? Favorite cozy series in general?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Ipcress File by Len Deighton

Heyo, squiders. It’s that time again. And once again, I try to recapture what I was thinking when I stuck a particular book into my bag. Not sure. Maybe I just thought it would be cool?

Title: The Ipcress File
Author: Len Deighton
Genre: Spy/Thriller
Publication Year: 1962

Pros: Neat example of what’s probably the height of this genre
Cons: Incomprehensible in parts if you’re not genre savvy

This book was apparently made into a movie in 1965, but try as I might, I cannot find a copy to see if it makes more sense. Wikipedia tells me this is Len Deighton’s first novel, and that he’s considered one of the top three spy novelists of all time (Ian Fleming of James Bond fame and John le Carre are the other two).

We follow our unnamed narrator as he recalls the specifics of a mission to the Minister of Defence (British spelling intentional). The story is in first person throughout, and features a lot of what we probably now consider to be common in the spy genre: double crossings, questionable loyalties, sarcastic spies, etc.

When I could follow the story, I enjoyed it. I liked the narrator (whom I honestly didn’t realize was never named until I sat down to write this), I thought the female characters were handled better than in many contemporary stories (each shown as having her own strengths), and the dialogue was fun to read in many cases.

That being said, there were parts where I felt lost, where I couldn’t quite tell what was meant or what was happening, and whether or not it was important. I don’t necessarily think that’s a problem with the writing so much as that I am not the target audience and so do not have the necessary culture references/understanding to follow along.

All in all, very interesting, but I don’t know that I would pick up another similar book. Perhaps I’ll stick to the movie versions IF I CAN EVER FIND THEM.

Read anything by Len Deighton, squiders? Like ’60s-era spy novels?

(All things being said, I read John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as a teenager and don’t remember being lost, so mileage may vary between authors.)

Library Book Sale Finds: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

So, squiders, one of my “resolutions” for the year is to read more of the books I have sitting around. Specifically the books I keep picking up at library book sales.

It tickles me eternally that, as an adult, I like to talk about books when I hated it so much in high school.

If you guys have been around, you know I love mysteries in general and Agatha Christie in particular, so I never miss an opportunity if I see one sitting around.

Title: The Body in the Library
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year: 1942

Pros: Fast read, has Miss Marple
Cons: Meanders a bit in the middle

If I had to pick between Poirot or Miss Marple I’ll go Miss Marple every time. I like the deviation from your standard mystery protagonist. And I don’t mean that she’s an older woman, though I do appreciate that as well, since older women are rarely included in most novels, and certainly not as the protagonist. I mean she rarely actively sleuths; she just picks things up through gossip and knowledge of human nature. The quintessential armchair detective.

This is the second Miss Marple novel I’ve read, I believe, though I’ve read a number of short stories. She’s not actually that active in the book–a lot of chapters are from other points of view, such as the inspectors’ working on the case or other side characters–but she does figure it out, all the same, and sets up an elaborate plot to catch the murderer in the act, which I’ll admit is one of my favorite mystery tropes.

I also appreciate that the other characters in the book, especially the police, respect her and her abilities, instead of writing her off.

Is there anything special here? Not especially. It’s not one of her twistier plots. But it’s a fast read (I read it in about two hours total), it’s entertaining, and it includes this bit of dialogue:

Miss Marple said doubtfully, “Of course, dear, if you think I can be of any comfort to you–“

“Oh, I don’t want comfort. But you’re so good at bodies.”

Page 13 in my copy, The Body in the Library, Agatha Christie

I laughed out loud. I’ll admit it.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Read almost anything by Agatha Christie (except The Passenger to Frankfurt, which is one of her last books and is a bit unfocused in general).

(As an aside, my copy’s cover has a body stuck in a bookcase that is obviously shorter than said body, which amuses me greatly. Someone took the title very literally and obviously did not read the book.)

Read this book? What did you think? Opinions on Agatha Christie in general? Miss Marple or Poirot?

Library Book Sale Finds: Barbary by Vonda N. McIntyre

Good morning, squiders! I finally stopped checking a million books out from the library, so I’m getting back to reading books I actually own.

And, as such, I dug into my big pile of library book sale books from a few summers back and picked out a book.

(It was on the top of the pile. That was the deciding factor.)

Vonda N. McIntyre (the usage of the middle initial in her author name interests me, since her first name is fairly unique. Maybe it was to match the convention of other scifi authors at the time?) I’ve read before. (Oh no, I just Googled her, and she died in April. Rest in peace.) She wrote some Star Trek novels, which is where I know her from. Most notably (for me, probably not for other people, since she also wrote the movie novelizations for Star Treks 2 through 4) she wrote Enterprise: The First Adventure, which I picked up because it sounded like total crack–for its very first mission, the Enterprise has to transport a space circus, complete with flying horse–but it was actually really well done.

She also won a Hugo in 1979 for Dreamsnake, which I’ve not read, but sounds cool. And another Hugo in 1998 for The Moon and the Sun.

There’s some spoilers in the discussion, because unfortunately I can’t really discuss the plot without revealing something that the book keeps secret for the first few chapters.

Title: Barbary
Author: Vonda N. McIntyre
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Year: 1986

Pros: Quick, easy read; includes a cat and aliens
Cons: Ends a little abruptly

We meet Barbary (a 12-year-old girl) waiting, on Earth, yet again, as she attempts to get a shuttle to a space station to meet her foster family. (She keeps getting bumped off for more important people.) Barbary doesn’t really read like a 12-year-old most of the time–I’d put her a little older, maybe 14 or 15–but I suppose the argument could be made that she’s had to mature a little faster due to being in the foster care system for so long. (There is a point, later in the book, where her new foster father, a friend of her mother’s, is upset about something, and Barbary fully expects him to hit her, because that’s what she’s used to, which is heartbreaking.)

Adding to the complication of getting off Earth is that Barbary is smuggling her pet cat, Mickey, with her. Mickey, or Mick as Barbary normally refers to him, is a major motivation for her as well as a plot driver, and directly contributes to the climax of the story.

Once Barbary manages to catch a shuttle and get off Earth, she learns that there’s an alien ship approaching Earth, which is why it’s been so hard to get off-world (all the politicians and so forth keep taking priority). It’s on a course to the station Barbary will be living on.

This was a quick, easy read, one that was enjoyable. There’s not a lot of depth to the plot, but that’s fine. Barbary is a fine viewpoint character, mostly concerned with the wellbeing of the people/animal close to her and making sure she doesn’t get sent back to Earth (though the wellbeing does trump that). The alien ship is important but in the background for most of the story, which makes sense since, as a child, Barbary is more interested in things closer to home. There’s some nice, logical discussion about moving and living in space, and the technology predictions (we’ve talked before how older scifi tends to be good at predicting societal trends and bad at predicting technological trends, or vice versa) are not particularly jarring.

I’d recommend it overall. And if you haven’t read anything by Vonda McIntyre, you probably should.

Read anything by Ms. McIntyre, squiders? Read Barbary?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Glimpses of the Moon

Howdy, squiders! I dug back into my collection of library book sale books and came out with The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton, circa 1922.

This is another one of those books where I try to imagine what I was thinking when I picked it up. Did I like the title? Did I think I should read something by Edith Wharton? Who knows?

Title: The Glimpses of the Moon
Author: Edith Wharton
Genre: General Literature
Publication Year: 1922

Pros: Beautiful writing. Just, really pretty.
Cons: I wanted to strangle the male lead for 75% of the book.

As a caveat, I use “general literature” for basically everything that’s not an obvious genre. This is a story about two people, married on a lark with an agreement that they can divorce if something better comes along for the other. They are fringe members of society, spending time with the wealthy, but not having money themselves.

This is not an overly plotty book, so I won’t spend a lot of time there. What it is is a look at the opulence of the twenties and what is important, and how relationships work in a world where you can buy anything you want. A lot of social commentary. Somewhat reminiscent of The Great Gatsby (which I despise) but less likely to drive you to depression.

I do take a bit of umbrage with the male lead, Nick. (See?) He has a mild crisis of morals over something the female lead, Susy, does, and instead of doing anything useful, runs off and doesn’t talk to her for the next five months.

Dude. You suck. I know the whole point of the book is about love and realizing what matters and blah blah blah, but you are trash.

I admit I got so mad at one point that I flipped to the back of the book, which I NEVER DO, to make sure things were going to get resolved, because if I had to read 250 pages of shenanigans with him just running off for good, well, it wasn’t going to happen.

The writing is so so pretty. The characters are so so frustrating.

So! Would I recommend this book? Not sure. The writing is gorgeous, the human study is great, the moral is…iffy. There is kind of the implication that whatever Nick did in the interim is okay because he came to his senses in the end, which maybe was a good message back in the day? But I really just wanted to slap some sense into him.

So! Up to you, really. You know what you like. I thought it was okay, but I’m not going to be picking up other books like it for a while.

Library Book Sale Finds: The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Hey, look, squiders! I actually picked a scifi novel out of the bunch for once!

(Well, in actuality, I was talking to my grandmother about Connie Willis and the Oxford time travel novels because I’d seen Connie at MileHiCon and I’m a bit of a fangirl about her. And the next time I went by, my grandmother was reading The Doomsday Book and I was like, “Hey, I have that book and I should read it and then we can talk.” Except, of course, my grandmother is 95 and has nothing to do except read all day, so she was done in about four days and it took me three weeks, and she’s probably read four other books by now.)

Title: The Doomsday Book
Author: Connie Willis
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Year: 1992

Pros: Excellent twists mid-book, Colin, Mr. Dunworthy, Kirvin trying to speak Middle English
Cons: Drags a bit for first third of book

Let’s talk for a minute about the Oxford time travel books. There’s four novels and one novella in the series, and now I’ve read them all except for the novella, though Connie has it nicely available on her website, so I can get there shortly. (All five entries won Hugo awards, if you care about that sort of thing.) The premise is that sometime in the mid-2000s or 2100s (the Internet is telling me both and I can’t recall which is correct off the top of my head) time travel was invented. However, you can’t bring things through time, so commercial interest quickly died off and time travel became the realm of academics, “historians” who travel back in time to observe how life worked or important events, etc. There is some amount of “slippage” based on how far you’re traveling and how close you are to milestone events (which tend to be unreachable directly).

The Doomsday Book is the first of the series, published in 1992. (The novella, Fire Watch, is technically first, being published in 1983. Then there’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, 1999, and the duology of Blackout/All Clear from 2010.) I will say that time travel is more of a frame story, and most of the novels tend to be historical in nature. Blackout/All Clear is a brilliant WWII story within the trappings of time travel (which mostly doesn’t work throughout for Drama), for example. (To Say Nothing of the Dog is not as historical as the others. That’s not to say that there’s not historical elements–Ned and Verity spend a lot of time in WWII era–but it’s not the focus. It’s much more of a farcical/romantic comedy.)

The Doomsday Book is a play on the Domesday Book (pronounced the same way), which was produced by William the Conqueror in 1086 to take stock of the land and ownership thereof in England after the invasion. The Medieval department has just gotten access to the “Net” (the process that time travel works through) and are taking advantage of the history department head being MIA to send their first historian back to 1320. The 1300s have a danger rating of 10 (because of things like the Black Plague) so they’re supposed to go through a bunch of tests before sending people, but screw that. Nothing can go wrong, right? 20th century has been sending people forever.

Of course, things go wrong.

Like most of the series, the book switches between “modern day” Oxford and the historian (Kirvin, in this case) in the past. (To Say Nothing of the Dog stays in Ned’s point of view throughout, if I recall correctly, but he’s going back and forth through time so often that he can carry both time periods on his own.) An interesting mechanic of the time travel is that time is equivalent. So if you want to spend a week in 1918, for example, a week has to pass in the current time as well before you can be picked back up. This makes missing your “drop” a big deal as you can’t just go back and try again.

There are some comedic elements, such as when Kirvin realizes basically everything she learned about the time period is incorrect (and her attempts to understand and speak Middle English) and the general snarkiness of Mr. Dunworthy’s thoughts (he’s our viewpoint character in the “present” day) and Colin in general. (I ♥ Colin, and he’ll be back in Blackout/All Clear.) But this book is closer in tone to Blackout/All Clear, more serious, and it doesn’t shy away from the less appealing aspects of the time period.

(Seriously, though, if you haven’t read Blackout/All Clear I highly recommend it. It’s long–1300 pages between the two books, but it’s one of those books you read and are awed by.)

(Not great for re-readability, though.)

Overall, it’s a good book, especially once it gets moving about a third of the way through, though I like the later books in the series better. It’s always nice to see reoccurring characters (Mr. Dunworthy is a constant throughout all the books) again, and the comedy is spot-on when it’s present. I’d recommend it, especially if the series sounds interesting to you.

Back Thursday for more common writing mistakes.

Read any of the Oxford time travel series, Squiders? Thoughts? Which one is your favorite?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Goldcamp Vampire

Hooray! Another one off the shelf for your enjoyment. Neither my husband or me cop to buying this. I mean, look at the cover.

This has no elements that would entice my husband. It’s bright. It’s colorful. No one is immediately dying. (My husband tends towards darker fantasy.)

But I dislike vampires. A lot. I so rarely pick up any sort of media that includes them, and there one is, right in the title.

(It probably was me. But what was I thinking?)

Maybe I thought it would be a romp. I do like romps.

Anyway! I bought this book at a library book sale in 2015 and now I have read it, and we can talk about it.

Title: The Goldcamp Vampire
Author: Elizabeth Scarborough
Genre: Historical fantasy
Publication Year: 1987

Pros: Occasional fun capers and no one cares about there being a vampire, not even the Mounties
Cons: Wanting to beat viewpoint character over the head with something

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It’s fairly ridiculous, and no one’s fooling anyone, and also no one cares and it’s glorious. But I felt like the prose was dense and I admit to skimming when it got bogged down in description, and I wasn’t too fond of the main character, who often couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

(Goodreads includes a longer title: The Goldcamp Vampire, or the Sanguinary Sourdough, though I’m not sure where sourdough comes into it.)

This is also the second book in the series, the first being The Drastic Dragon of Draco, Texas. I have not read that book or this author previously.

Pelagia Harper, also known as Valentine Lovelace (author), has recently lost her father, so when his mistress offers her a chance to make a new life in the Yukon, she goes along with it, thinking she’ll at least have a good story to tell. There is a weird addition to the party, however–they’ll need to escort the coffin of the mistress’s new employer’s former partner with them.

By the time they reach their end destination, several people around them have died seemingly randomly, and Pelagia/Valentine has been implicated in at least one of their murders. So the mistress and her employer insist on hiding her in plain sight by dying her hair and making her a flamenco dancer at their saloon, answering to the name of Corazon and speaking no English.

So you can see what sort of book this is. I wish I had liked Pelagia/Valentine better. Besides the name confusion (as she rarely thinks of herself by name, and those around her have practically half-a-dozen names she’s referred to), she’s older (in her ’30s), an author, has dealt with supernatural creatures previously, and isn’t afraid to go to other people’s rescue. I should like her. But I didn’t. Nor was I too wild about most of the side characters, of which there are a couple dozen, which are sometimes hard to keep track of. I did like Larsson, Lomax, and Jack London, and occasionally Vasily Vladovitch. Oh, and the cat.

I dunno. I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars. So not good, but not bad. If you like romps involving the Yukon, the Gold Rush, and vampires, hey, here’s a book for you. There’s also a were-moose.

Read anything else by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough? Would you recommend anything?