I haven’t written about these for a while but this seems like a good time to mention them again. Each month, tor.com offers an ebook for free if you sign up for emails. This month’s selection, which is only available until 3/15 at 11:59 Eastern Time, is The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. I haven’t read this one yet, but it will be one of the next books I read because I really like Scalzi’s writing. I urge you to check out this great opportunity. Oh, unfortunately, it’s only available in the US and Canada. My apologies to anyone from anywhere else who just got excited about a free book!
I didn’t get as much reading done in February as I did in January, but I’m satisfied.
I read 2 books of speculative fiction:
- Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney is basically about linguistics. Well, not really, but it plays a big part in the story. Rydra Wong is a poet. The military brings her in when they need someone to help them stop sabotage. She discovers that the sounds they have heard and recorded are really a language. There is a message. I love stories where language plays an important role, and this book was wonderful in that regard. This is the first book I have read by Delaney, but it won’t be the last.
- The Army of Light by Stephen A. Fender is the first book in a 5-book series. I enjoyed this one a lot. the characters were fun. Shawn Kestrel served during the war, but now he moves cargo. When the daughter of his old commander comes looking for him, he has to listen. And that’s when the trouble started. She wants him to help look for her dad, who went missing while on a secret mission. He feels an obligation to help her, of course. But the mission turns out to be a lot more complicated than he thought when he signed on. This book kind of leaves you hanging at the end, but it was still a good read.
I red four mysteries:
- Chicken Culprit – A Backyard Farming Mystery by Vikki Walton was a silly book, but it was fun to read. Anne, recently divorced, moves from Virginia to Colorado to start over. She has always wanted to do some backyard farming, and now she has a chance. Unfortunately, before she even gets all moved in, her neighbor is killed. And another neighbor is a suspect. As Anne learns more about the town, she discovers that there are a lot of secrets being kept by a lot of people. It turns out Anne has a secret of her own that, when discovered, puts her in conflict with the people she has begun to care about in her new hometown.
- Siren and Pulse are the 9th and 10th books in the Kate Redman police detective series by by Celina Grace. I have read a number of the earlier ones but not all of them. There was no problem picking up #9 even though I skipped over quite a few in the series to get there. Kate is an interesting character, and I like her co-workers. Pulse wasn’t quite as good as earlier ones, I didn’t think, but I have to admit it was more because Kate was being dishonest with her partner and friends than because of the story itself. These books were good, though, as all of them in the series have been. I recommend them if you like British police stories.
- Parlez-Vous Murder is by Susan Kiernan-Lewis, an author I have read before She wrote the Maggie Newberry books about a woman who moves to France and marries a man who own a vineyard. I love those books. This one was good, but it was a little harder for me to get into. An EMP has cut off electricity and anything electronic all over the world. Jules found herself on a two-week vacation in France when it hit, and now she is stranded there. There is a murder, of course, but investigating it has to take second place to survival in this new world. Since the police won’t do it, Jules decided she has to. This is part mystery, part post-apocalyptic tale. I enjoyed it, but I can’t say I will rush out and buy the others in the series.
I also read one Baha’i book, God Passes By by Shoght Effendi. Again, it is available for free download from bahai.org if you are interested.
I read six mysteries last month, and I enjoyed every single one of them.
A Thin Veil by Jane Gorman was the next book in her Adam Kaminski series that I started in December. This time Adam is ostensibly back in Philadelphia, but he ends up going to Washington DC to assist with a case. When the aide to a Senator is killed, everyone assumes the senator was the target, but nothing is quite as it seems here. I enjoyed this even more than the first one, and I intend to read the others in the series before I am finished.
An Appointment with Murder, An Act of Deceit, and An Island of Illusions are all by Jennifer L. Jennings. Sarah Woods is a massage therapist whose life is really interrupted when her receptionist is murdered almost right in front of her. Turns out the receptionist isn’t exactly who Sarah thought she was, but then, neither is her business partner. At the end of the first book, Sarah is headed for a career change, and by the end of the third book, she is pretty much leaving everything in her old life behind to become a private investigator. These three books were good mysteries, and I really enjoyed them. At times in the second and third books I found myself relating almost too much to some of Sarah’s frustrations with her personal life, and that was a little unsettling, but I made it through the books with my own life intact. Sarah is an interesting character. I would like to read more of these books.
Crime Czar and Lucky Man by Tony Dunbar are the 5th and 6th books in his Tubby Dubonnet series. I haven’t read all of the earlier books, but that presented no problem. Tubby is a very interesting character, and I love the fact that they books take place in New Orleans. Many reviewers didn’t seem to care at all for Crime Czar, but I thought it was pretty good. Lucky Man really is an extension of Crime Czar, so I recommend reading them in that order. Tubby is a basically honest attorney whose life isn’t going well. His friend dies, and Tubby wants revenge. He thinks he gets it in Crime Czar, only to discover in Lucky Man that he still has a ways to go. As I said, I liked the books and think you might, too.
I made a decision this year to also record the spiritual reading I am doing. I am a Baha’i and am really trying to reread major books about the faith. Last month I read The Advent of Divine Justice and One Common Faith. Both books, and many others, are available for free from https://www.bahai.org/library/.
So that was January. Let’ s see how February goes.
I read an unbelievable number of books last month, and it is going to take a while for me to get them all mentioned here. I’ll start with the speculative fiction I read.
- Chosen: Book 1 of The Djinn Wars by Christine Pope was the first book in a series by an author whose work I like, so I was pretty sure I would enjoy it. And I did. Jessica Monroe lives in Albuquerque and is a graduate teaching assistant at the University of New Mexico. She somehow survives an illness that kills her family and most everyone else on the planet. She is guided to a safe haven near Santa Fe. She is soon joined by another “survivor” and gradually comes to depend on him. It’s a romance but that isn’t the main focus of the story. I recommend this book.
- Danger’s Halo by Amanda Carlson was another winner as far as I am concerned. Holly Danger makes a living salvaging things. Any and everything. But this time, she is paid to find a boy. She is drawn to him and ends up becoming his guardian. She takes him to her home and the trouble begins. It was a fun book to read, and I look forward to reading others in the series.
- Things Unseen by C. J Brightly was another good one. Aria is a history student whose work leads her to examine the origins of the empire. It was only 15 years ago, but no one seems to remember anything about it. She meets Owen, who helps her discover her own memories of the events and, eventually, the truth. She acts as a go-between for the human resistance and the fae, who have a personal stake in what is happening. I’m not doing the book justice here. It was good, and I highly recommend it.
- Storm Over Warlock by Andre Norton was difficult for me to get into, but once I was there, I was really into it. It’s Andre Norton, so I knew it would be work the time it took initially. Shann Lantee, a laborer with the Survey, appears to be the only survivor of an attack by the insect-appearing Throng. He eventually discovers he isn’t alone. There is another Terran, a Survey officer. They make an unlikely pair, but they eventually learn to trust each other and work together. They get some help from others, and it all ends well.
- The Rock by Bob Mayer was the best of all the books I read last month. Ayers Rock suddenly transmits messages that are picked up by the US military in Australia. The message specifically names four individuals, all of whom are brought in to try to figure out what is happening and why. Mayer is the author of the Area 51 books, which I absolutely loved. They were actually some of the first science fiction I read, and they definitely got me hooked. It was a series that my son and I both read. (I actually just discovered that there are a few of that series that I haven’t read yet, so I may end up reading them before long.) Mayer has written a ton of books in a number of different genre. I have not read any of them since Area 51 in the early 2000s. this one was so good that I am going to give some of the others a try.
So that is one group of books done. I will be back tomorrow, I hope, to continue working on last month’s reading.
Last month was a pretty successful year for me in terms of reading. I read a total of 77 books — more than 6 per month, on average. I am happy with that number, but I am not sure exactly how happy I am with what I did last year.
I had great intentions as I started reading last year. I was going to read one book from each of the Guardian’s best 100 Nonfiction list and best 100 Novel list each month. That proved to be difficult. No, that isn’t exactly true. It was more that I couldn’t keep up the pace of reading I was used to if I was going to meet this goal. Those books, while excellent, are not necessarily easy to read. Of course, I was limiting myself to those books I could access and read for free. That means they were old. And that means they were more difficult to read. I read 6 books off of each list before I gave up. I may try to read some more of them this year, but I am not committed to it as a goal.
I also planned to read one non-fiction book a month. I ended up reading only 10. Again, it was largely that I was more committed to reading an average of six books per month, and I couldn’t seem to find nonfiction books that allowed me to do that. So I pretty much gave up on that goal, too.
I read 55 novels of different varieties aside from the 6 that were on the Guardian’s list. They were pretty evenly divided between mysteries and speculative fiction. I am happy, at least, that this was fairly balanced.
In all, I am pleased with my reading last year. I hope this year will be an improvement on that work, though. We’ll have to see what happens.