Monday, January 7, 2013

Holiday Reading

   The Christmas period is so busy for us booksellers that I've had little chance lately to dip into my very-enticing To Be Read pile. Thank goodness, then, for a few days off and less frantic working days. In the last two weeks, I've caught up on my list to the extent of getting five of the must-review titles read. 
Angry Robot, £7.99
   My first read was Cassandra Clarke's forthcoming novel from Angry Robot: 'The Mad Scientist's Daughter'. It's due out for the UK market on February 7th, and I have to say it's probably one I'll be buying to keep and re-read. When Cat is five, her father brings home a surprise for her - a tutor named Finn. She is mystified by his strangeness, and thinks he must be a ghost, but she soon discovers that he is even stranger than that - he is a robot. A billion-dollar perfectly humanoid experimental robot, assisting her father in his laboratory and teaching Cat.  It reminded me a lot of Asimov's 'The Bicentennial Man', a major theme being the politics surrounding a robot which so closely resembles a human being. 'The Mad Scientist's Daughter', however, is a resolutely human story - the story of Cat's life and her relationship with Finn over the next twenty-odd years. It's wonderfully moving, and I'll be thoroughly recommending this one to both science fiction and drama/romance fans. 
Angry Robot, £7.99
Angry Robot, £7.99
   Next up were the first two parts of Anne Lyle's Night's Masque trilogy - 'The Alchemist of Souls' and 'The Merchant of Dreams', both from my favourite: Angry Robot. The trilogy follows the escapades of Maliverny Catlyn, a young ex-soldier recruited by Francis Walsingham ('spymaster' for the Queen) as bodyguard to the new envoy to Queen Elizabeth's court from the newly-discovered Skrayling civilisation of the New World. It's a heady world of politics, intrigue, and xenophobia, and Lyle makes creating a vivid and grimy Elizabethan background look easy. It's a fascinating period in itself, and a great setting for the introduction of the Skrayling species (I possibly have forgotten any more explicit descriptions, but I get a somewhat reptilian impression of them). Catlyn is joined by Coby, a young woman working for a theatre company by disguising herself as a boy, who becomes his valet. In the second outing, their investigation of Skrayling issues takes them to Venice, develops Coby's character hugely, and introduces us to lots of new elements of Skrayling culture. Overall, it's a fun series, and I love any book that can combine my loves of both historical and fantasy fiction. 
Available from the US
Bloomsbury, £6.99
  I read two children's books this month - Philip Reeve's 'Mothstorm' and Lisa Graff's 'A Tangle of Knots'. 'Mothstorm' is the conclusion of a terrifically-fun trilogy of space adventures (the first two were 'Larklight' and 'Starcross') aimed at a 10+ agegroup. (It's the first time I've committed to an age rating here, and it's a half-hearted attempt. There's nothing unsuitable for any age in here, so if they can read most of the words, give it to them!) It's a steampunk space adventure featuring a plucky boy, his goody-goody sister, a multi-species space pirate crew, and a marauding horde of aliens on giant moths. Future classics. 'A Tangle of Knots' is more average fare - a nicely-whimsical story involving a large cast of characters in a world where everyone has a particular Talent, be it running backwards, blowing bubbles, knitting, spitting, or baking anyone's perfect cake. It's a nice read for a similar 9/10+ agegroup.
   Anyway, in between more serious assignments I'm really enjoying re-reading Robert Jordan's epic Wheel of Time series, but unfortunately I started my re-read too late and I'm not going to meet my goal of having the entire series finished before Tuesday, when the final book 'A Memory of Light' will arrive. I'll have to read it to avoid spoilers, and then read it again when I've finished the rest of the series. I'm also FINALLY getting around to reading Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' for book club, and so far I'm enjoying everything except the sheer size. Over the Christmas holidays I started Sally Vickers' latest, 'The Cleaner of Chartres', which I was quite enjoying but which has been put aside in favour of more urgent projects for the moment!