City of Stars (Stravaganza, book 2), by Mary Hoffman

A few days ago I reviewed the first book in this series and expressed my desire to read more. Fortunately, there are (at this point) four books in the series, and I am currently in possession of all of them. (I am also confused as to why they decided to redesign the series starting with book 4. I like it when all volumes in a series match,┬ábut apparently other people don’t care as much.) Ms. Hoffman, a Cambridge and University College London graduate, has been writing for children for nearly forty years now; this series has won awards and other kinds of recognition from various sources, including a 2009 nomination for a Carnegie medal for the fourth volume (City of Secrets).

Georgia O’Grady, a twenty-first-century fifteen-year-old English schoolgirl, is more likely to be mistaken for an English schoolboy, with her short, spiky hair, indifferent manner of dressing, and pre-adolescent figure. She’s also horse-mad, and when she finds a winged horse figurine in an antiques store, she saves up for and buys it. Of course, it turns out to be a Stravagating talisman, and she falls asleep and finds herself in Talia. She ends up in a stable in Remora, an analogue for Siena, and they mistake her for a boy, renaming her Giorgio Gredi. There, she finds herself swept up in the annual horse race, to be held shortly. Of course, though, because she is a Stravagante and this is Talia, there’s more going on than just a simple horse race . . . Continue reading City of Stars (Stravaganza, book 2), by Mary Hoffman

City of Masks (Stravaganza, book 1), by Mary Hoffman

Mary Hoffman is English; she was born in a railroad town, but moved to London when she was quite small. She has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge and a diploma in linguistics from the University College of London. Just after that, in 1970, she started writing children’s books; to date she has published around eighty of them, mostly shorter works. The Stravaganza series contains her longest works to date. She is married; her husband is half-Indian, and of their three daughters, one (Rhiannon Lassiter) is a published author. In her spare time, she takes Italian classes, presumably at least somewhat as research for this series, at Oxford.

Lucien Mulholland is a fifteen-year-old twenty-first-century English boy, who is unfortunately dying from a brain tumor. Arianna is a fifteen-year-old sixteenth-century Talian girl living in an alternate universe where Remus founded Italy instead of Romulus. The connection? A journal, that allows Lucien to travel in his sleep from England, where he is doing poorly, to Talia, specifically Bellezza (an alternate Venice), where he is hale and healthy. Arianna wants nothing so much as to be a mandolier (gondolier), despite her gender, so she sneaks into town for the trials. There, she meets Lucien, recently traveled and confused, and they get caught up in the politics and plotting of the time. The Di Chimici (Medici) family wants nothing so much as to kill Bellezza’s Duchessa — can two teenagers help stop that from happening? Continue reading City of Masks (Stravaganza, book 1), by Mary Hoffman

Cybele’s Secret, by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier is the author of a number of books, one of which was Wildwood Dancing, which I read and reviewed earlier. This novel is a companion (not a direct sequel; it follows a different character) to that one, and continues the story of the Transylvanian sisters. Ms. Marillier is a musician by training and a writer by vocation; she has been a full-time writer since 2002. Her family emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand many years ago, and she lives in a cottage in Perth, Australia.

Paula is Jena’s younger sister, the scholarly, studious one. She has been helping her father with many of his business matters, and dreams of starting her own rare-book collection. When he mentions that he is going to travel to wherever-it-is, Paula immediately clamors to go along — and is allowed. For in the city, there is a woman named Irene who has her own scholarly haven for women, and Paula would like to study there. They get to town, hire a bodyguard for Paula, and she begins her studies — but something is strange about the piece they have come to town to buy, called Cybele’s Gift. Many people are after it, and things are starting to happen — attacks, sudden withdrawals from the bidding, and the involvement of strange individuals including a pirate . . . Continue reading Cybele’s Secret, by Juliet Marillier

The Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic, book 1), by Patricia C. Wrede

Patricia C. Wrede is one of my auto-buy authors. Based in Minnesota, she’s probably most well-known either for the Sorcery and Cecelia series of YA epistolary Regency-set fantasy novels co-authored with Caroline V. Stevermer, or for the quartet of YA books starting with Dealing with Dragons. Less well-known are her Lyra novels, set in a fantasy world during various eras and containing such obscure titles as Caught in Crystal, The Harp of Imach Thyssel, and The Raven Ring. She has also written two novels set in roughly the same world as the Sorcery and Cecelia books, Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward, neither of which features any of the main characters from the YA series. Another obscure work of hers is Snow White and Rose Red, a contribution to the Fairy Tales series (like Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin).

The Thirteenth Child is set in an alternate universe, where North America wasn’t settled by Asians via the Bering Strait, and mammoths, dragons, and other various megafauna still roam most of the country. Eff Rothmer is the second-to-last child in her family — the thirteenth, to be precise — and the twin sister of Lan, who is the seventh son of a seventh son. He is considered particularly lucky and possessed of an amazing ability to do magic, and it was suggested to her parents by more than one relative that they should have drowned her at birth. When the twins are still young, the entire family moves out to Mill City, which is just on the edge of the frontier. Mr. Rothmer has gotten a job as a professor at the brand-new college there, and besides, it would be best to move somewhere where no one knows that Eff is the thirteenth child and Lan is a double-seven. Out there, they find all sorts of adventure — on both sides of the Great Barrier that keeps the rest of the country safe from the frightening flora and fauna that characterizes the wilderness. Continue reading The Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic, book 1), by Patricia C. Wrede

Collected Stories, by Lewis Shiner

Ahh, tooth Lewis Shiner. The man who convinced me that I never want to move to Durham, gynecologist NC (the same way that Slumdog Millionaire made me not want to visit India). Born in Eugene, OR in 1950, he moved around a lot as a kid, and read science fiction and adventure novels. One of Bob Dylan’s first few “Dylan Goes Electric” concerts changed his life utterly, and he became involved in music, which would turn out to be a lifelong love and the inspiration for many of his tales. After a degree in English from SMU, he started writing more and more and although his path wasn’t straightforward (there was some technical writing in there, as well as computer programming and car trouble), eventually he was regularly selling detective fiction and science fiction to short-story magazines. His first novel, Frontera, was a finalist for a couple of major awards, and he has written five since.

This collection of short stories includes apparently 41 of his biggest and best tales, ranging from one of his first published works (“Deep Without Pity”) to three stories that had web debuts within the last couple years (“Straws,” “Golfing Vietnam,” “Fear Itself”). The tales range from a couple of punk westerns, a few pulp-type stories, straight-up science fiction, ultra-short literary fiction, a few that were intended for men’s magazines, and, of course, a few tales about rock ‘n’ roll. I won’t list all 41 titles, as that would take too much time, but interested readers can haunt the Sub Press website until they post the table of contents. This book will be published at the end of November this year. Continue reading Collected Stories, by Lewis Shiner

The uncollected stories of Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard is up for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author, discount as part of the Hugo Awards; this is her second year of eligibility. She’s an author that most of us probably haven’t heard of, check especially book reviewers like me, viagra buy being that she writes short stories. As much as I love short-story collections, she doesn’t have a compilation published (yet), being that she’s only been publishing for two or three years. She lives in Paris, although she has American citizenship; she’s half Vietnamese by heritage and speaks English as a first language. By day she works as an engineer; by night, she’s an expert on Meso-American mythology and culture. Here’s a link to her bibliography page; it contains links to all of her short stories that are available for free on the internet.

The titles of the stories that I reviewed are as follows, with a short description:

“Autumn’s Country” (Asian-set story about arranged marriages and the possible results)
“The Dancer’s Gift” (Dark secondary-world fantasy about destructive empathy)
“Through the Obsidian Gates” (Sort of an Orpheus-in-the-Underworld story, but with Mayans)
“Obsidian Shards” (Aztec death priest fights crime!)
“The Lost Xuyan Bride” (Alternate-history Dashiell-Hammett type mystery)
“The Dragon’s Tears” (Asian-set death, riddles, and [obviously] dragons story)
“Beneath the Mask” (Aztec death priest fights more crime!)
“Sea Child” (Secondary-world fantasy with high cliffs and dangerous waters)
“The Naming at the Pool” (Different secondary-world fantasy, with different riddles and changes of identity)
“Weepers and Ragers” (Future-set science fiction with melting brains and murder)
“For a Daughter” (Literary flash fiction about China’s one-child policy)
“Citadel of Cobras” (Hermits, forests, and magic)
“The Triad’s Gift” (Novella-length story about riddles, losing one’s kingdom, and nagas) Continue reading The uncollected stories of Aliette de Bodard

Nation, by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett — I mean, ed Sir Terry Pratchett — is one of England’s finest humorists, ever. He’s written something like fifty volumes in his Discworld collection, all set on a strange world that actually is flat and contains some of the most humorous people in fiction. He’s sort of like the brain-child of Charles Dickens and Jonathan Swift, but on crack (in a good way). He’s also recently been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and therefore has been slowing down his appearance schedule and writing. This novel is not part of the Discworld books at all, and was published mid-2008.

Mau is just about to be initiated from boyhood into manhood in his tribe, which lives on an island in the Pelagic Ocean, when a giant wave comes and kills everyone but him and the grandfather birds. Ermintrude (who quickly renames herself Daphne, given the chance) is thirteen and 139th in line for the British throne, and was traveling on a boat when the wave came and capsized her on the island. They are the only two humans on the island at first, and they have to learn to survive, both together and separately. Also, 137 specific people have died, and although she doesn’t know it, Daphne’s father has just been named king. She’s a princess now — but will her father or anyone else ever find her on the island? Continue reading Nation, by Terry Pratchett

Ebb Tide, by James P. Blaylock

James Blaylock is good friends with Tim Powers; he and a few other younger authors were mentored by the late Philip K. Dick. Born in Long Beach and educated at CSU Fullerton, store he currently teaches creative writing at Chapman University. Some years ago, tadalafil Mr. Blaylock created the Sherlock-Holmes-like character of Dr. Langdon St. Ives, and wrote several short stories and two novels — Homunculus and Lord Kelvin’s Machine — involving him and his exploits. These two, plus the short stories, are all available in the Subterranean Press omnibus The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives (which I intend to review eventually). This volume is apparently the first new Langdon St. Ives story in many years, and it will be published in July of 2009.

Langdon St. Ives is known as a collector of curiosities, and when a curiosity-shop owner finds a map supposedly drawn by Bill Cuttle, an old companion of Dr. St. Ives’s, he immediately contacts St. Ives’s people. The map is apparently in high demand; it is stolen (or so they think) before St. Ives and his faithful narrator, Jack Owlesby, can get there. Except fortunately the shop-owner made a fake for St. Ives’s arch-nemesis to steal, and armed with the original, St. Ives and Owlesby go searching for the treasure at the end — whatever it quite is. Continue reading Ebb Tide, by James P. Blaylock

Skybreaker, by Kenneth Oppel

When I was searching for new books recently, prosthesis on the internet, I came across the publication date for the third book in this series (Starclimber), which reminded me I’d never read book 2. The series started with Airborn, and I’d bought the second volume for my husband for his birthday in 2008. In any case, Kenneth Oppel is Canadian, and has written a couple series for children; he has won a fair number of awards, mostly Canadian. Born on Vancouver Island, he spent his childhood either there or in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is the opposite end of the country. The first two books in this trilogy were recently released in paperback, and the third book will be published very soon.

Skybreaker continues the story of Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries, and because it’s a sequel, I’m cutting the plot discussion. Continue reading Skybreaker, by Kenneth Oppel

Novelties & Souvenirs, by John Crowley

John Crowley is one of the rare f/sf authors who gets significant recognition from the mainstream press — in that way where Harold Bloom has a good opinion of him. His novel Little, healthful Big is probably the most well-known to spec-fic audiences; it’s essentially magic realism in the non-Latin-American way, order and won the World Fantasy Award. He’s also won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, purchase a second World Fantasy Award for one of the novellas in this collection, and a third one for lifetime achievement. Born in 1942 in Maine, he currently lives in New York City and writes, as well as working in the documentary film field and teaching at places as prestigious as Yale.

Novelties & Souvenirs collects all his short fiction through its publication in 2004; it was published by Harper Perennial. Four of the stories were originally published in a collection called Novelty, after one of its stories. Others were published in various formats, including a chapbook, a collection printed by Subterranean Press, Asimov’s, and a few other anthologies. The titles include “The Green Child,” “An Earthly Woman Sits and Sings,” “The Nightingale Sings at Night,” “Missolonghi 1824,” “The Reason for the Visit,” “Novelty,” “Gone,” “Antiquities,” “In Blue,” and “Great Work of Time.” They include retellings, dystopias, alternate histories, and most other kinds of speculative fiction. Continue reading Novelties & Souvenirs, by John Crowley