The Cultural Gutter

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All I Want For Christmas Is A Few Good Books

Chris Szego
Posted December 25, 2008

10 80.JPGIn the spirit of the season, here are ten, in alphabetical order by author.

Shana Abé, Queen of Dragons. The Drakon are a people who can Shift into to smoke and Turn into dragons.  Having settled for centuries in the remotest part of northen England, keeping very much to themselves, their abilities to turn and shift have dwindled.  But their fierceness remains.  Kimber Langford is the  Earl of Chasen, and, since his parents’ inexplicable disappearance two years earlier, the tribe Alpha.  Maricara, once a serf in the Carpathian mountains, was married off as a child to the region’s Prince when it became clear that her gifts were powerful.  Ten years later, having killed her brutal husband and installed her brother as Prince, she is in no mood to tie herself down to another overbearing male.  Needless to say, she and Kimber get off to a less than ideal start.  A compelling voice in the genre.

 

Christian Cameron, The Tyrant.  Kineas distinguished himself fighting alongside the great Alexander – a feat for which he found himself banished from Athens.  He is hired by the tyrant of Olbia to train the city’s cavalry.  But the overwhelming war machine that is Macedon is heading their way, wanting the region’s bountiful grain.  Now, backed by only by his new recruits and their unpredictable Scythian allies, Kineas must face the deadliest enemy the world has ever seen.  Absolutely gripping, meticulously researched historical fiction.  What, you thought I read only romance?

 

Liz Carlyle, Never Romance a Rake  Kieran, Baron Rothwell, is not much received in Polite Society.  A gambler, a chronic drinker, and, so he believes, dying, he is enough given over to dissipation that he rarely even sees daylight.  But when Camille Marchand’s father offers her as a stake in a poker game, even Rothwell’s little-used sense of honour is offended.  He declares them betrothed, and takes the young woman to live with his family.  But Camille refuses to stay in where he wants her: namely, out of sight and mind.  She wants a real family, and is prepared to battle Rothwell to the end for it.  Also, incidentally, full of graphic descriptions of the realities of stomach ulcers.  Ouch.

 

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers.  Everyone should read this.  Really.  While the aim of the book is to deconstruct the myth of the ‘self-made man’ so popular in business culture, it is actually about how our backgrounds indelibly shape the path our lives take, for good or ill.  Among other things, Gladwell examines what hockey stars have in common; the reactions that set Southerners apart from everyone else; the luck that made Bill Gates who he is today (and Bill Joy, for that matter); the potential fate of geniuses; and the predominence of Jewish men in parts of the New York legal system.  Gladwell’s prose is immensely readable, and his ideas are fascinating. 

 

Elizabeth Hoyt, To Seduce a Sinner  Melisande Fleming has been in love with Lord Jasper Vale for years.  When Jasper is is jilted on his wedding day, she seizes her chance, and asks him to marry her instead.  He agrees, and the rest of the book is about two people getting to know each other – two strangers who happen to be married to one another.  Each of them has secrets, raw places they don’t want touched.  But both of them discover that sometimes all a wound needs to heal is a little sunlight.  I liked this book not only for itself, but because it made me re-read, and re-evaluate an earlier book of Hoyt’s, To Taste Temptation.

 

Lisa Kleypas, Blue-Eyed Devil   Kleypas second entry into the contemporary field is a solid follow-up to the first.  Haven Travis is rebuilding her life after a terrible first marriage. Hardy Cates has a history with the Travis family, and it isn’t good.  Neither is looking for a relationship… but they find each other, all the same.  Kleypas doesn’t shy away from the painful costs of abuse, both physical and emotional.  But her characters prove it can be overcome.  Which is not the same as forgotten. 

 

Majorie M. Liu, The Last Twilight, Dr. Rikki Kinn is a virus doctor working to track down what appears to be a deadly plague in the Congo.  Amiri, a former teacher turned detective, is there to protect her from those who will do anything to keep her from finding the source of the disease.  That Rikki is white and Amiri black is never an issue: that he’s a shapeshifting cheetah is rather more of a big deal.  Liu’s paranormal series began well and with every book the world she’s created gets more intricate and complex.

 

nation 250.jpgTerry Pratchett, Nation. This is my pick for book of the year. Mau is coming home from his manhood quest when a tidal wave washes under him.  When he reaches his island home, everyone is dead.  Everyone.  But the wave also washed up a boat, and in that boat is Daphne, a trouserman girl.  Together, these two young people have to rebuild the world.  In the process, they discover what to keep, and what to leave behind.  It’s an adventure, it’s occasionally quite funny (it is Pratchett, after all), it’s heartbreaking, and yes, there is the faintest hint of a love story.  But most of all, it’s a book about thinking: how hard it is, and how very necessary.  Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

 

Nora Roberts, Tribute As a child, Cilla McGowan was the star of a television show.  As an adult, she’s determined to renovate the home that belonged to her grandmother.  Ford  Sawyer, a graphic novelist, is her new neighbor.  The romance is Roberts at her usual (ie: terrific):  it’s believeable and moving, and the principals put most of the obstacles in their own way.  It also features a solve-the-decades-old-mystery subplot, and is absolutely rife with renovation-porn.

 

 Sharon Shinn, Fortune and Fate.  Wen used to be a King’s Rider:  one of the military elite of her world.  Now she’s in self-imposed exile, trying to expiate her failure to save her liege.  When she foils the kidnapping of a young heiress, she finds herself a place in the girl’s household, training the guards – and falling for the girl’s guardian, Jasper Paladar.  It’s another book in Shinn’s charming ‘Twelve Houses’ series.  Though you don’t have to have read the others in order to understand this one, the emotional impact is greater if you have.

 

~~~

~ Chris Szego wishes you Merry and Happy ~

Comments

One Response to “All I Want For Christmas Is A Few Good Books”

  1. Carol Borden
    December 31st, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    nice touch including malcolm gladwell.

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