asenathwaite: green and blue spiral (scary)
[personal profile] asenathwaite
No more spoilers than the back cover, and probably less.

I'm not sure how little-known this book is, but I was unaware of its existence until I encountered it in the back of a used book store. It's the second book in a loosely-connected series; as far as I can tell the setting is the only connection between the books.

The House in the High Wood takes place in a 'verse I can best describe as "19th century meets Pleistocene." Coaches pass mastodon trains, there's a short-faced bear living in the woods, and a teratorn (one of my favorite extinct animals) plays a small but important part. I've never encountered a setting quite like it.

Plot summary: a new family moves into the ill-reputed old house above the village of Shilston Upcot. Strange and unpleasant things begin to happen. Mark Trench, the local squire, wants to know what's happening, no matter how horrible it may turn out to be. I love reading different authors' variations on old tropes, and The House in the High Wood is one of the best new-people-bring-stuff-what-ain't-good books I have ever read.

Barlough gets into the meat of the story almost immediately, which is delightfully refreshing after reading books that take forever to get to the events promised on the back cover (Tad Williams, I'm looking at you), and the pacing is overall very well handled. There's no sense of the author jamming things together to make the story go the right way.

One of the most delightful things about this book is the retro 19th century narrative style. Barlough writes in distant third person with a lot of straight-faced snarkiness about the setting and the characters, and yet it is still a horror story, not a comedy. I haven't read any modern horror, sci-fi, or fantasy that pulls off this style as well as Barlough does here.

Barnes & Noble
anaraine: The word "dreamer" emblazoned across a picture of clouds in a blue sky (for 3W4DW). ([dw] dreamer)
[personal profile] anaraine
Once Upon a Winter's Night by Dennis L. McKiernan

I found this novel about eight years ago in my library and I loved it so much that I actually hunted down a hardback copy for myself. It's an excellent retelling of a fairytale that stuck with the author through his childhood, and the book remains at the top of my "reread pile". It's a sweet fantasy romance that I would recommend for light reading.

From the inside cover:

Once upon a winter's night, a poor crofter's daughter is traded by her family for a lifetime of riches. Golden-haired Camille is sent away from all that she has ever known to marry a man she has never met: Prince Alain of the Summerwood, in the realm of Faery.

Carried to her fate by a huge white bear, Camille enters a land where time holds no sway—and where wonders both marvelous and malevolent abound. And though love blossoms between Camille and her prince, an unknown sadness seems to haunt him and he will never let her see his unmasked face. But then one night, thinking to break whatever curse has been laid upon him, Camille acts on her own—with dreadful results, and all she loves is terribly, magically swept away.

Now, to regain what she has lost, Camille must embark on a desperate quest through the hinterlands of Faery, seeking a mysterious place lying somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon...

ISBN: 0-451-45840-0
Length: 380 pages (hardback)

(And if you like this book, there are apparently sequels! I just discovered this last week, so I haven't read them yet, but I'll be very excited to get my hands on them.)


May. 12th, 2010 07:50 pm
fly_to_dawn: (Stock: Once upon a time...)
[personal profile] fly_to_dawn
Philip Pullman's probably best known for His Dark Materials - well, definitely best known for them. So, I'm here to rec one of his little known children's books: Mossycoat. I first read this book when I was five; it was written for 1998's International Book Year, and I've always been in love with this fairytale. I only discovered that Mossycoat is actually an old English tale yesterday, when I reread the book and noticed the 'as retold by' on the cover. (It's strange when I think about it, because I also bought Jacqueline Wilson's retelling of Rapunzel, and was aware that it was a story that already existed. Mossycoat is just that unknown!) Mossycoat is a story with the classic persecuted heroine, much like Cinderella and other various stories which involve the unfortunate heroine being bullied by others, but getting a happy ending with a nice man (mostly of higher social class). It's attraction lies not in the plot - although it does have its charms - but in Philip Pullman's vivid descriptions and exquisite storytelling. From the exotic dresses to the old hawker to the wit in the language, it's a great read; the best part, of course, is the eponymous 'Mossycoat' - the product of the heroine's mother's love for her daughter. I've loved this book ever since I first read it, and even now, at seventeen, it still has a magic about it. I'd definitely recommend this for young readers and lovers of fairytales alike: here's its page on

Now, go forth and read.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl, whose mother made her a magical mossy coat...

[personal profile] queer
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia.

I found this novel by searching for steampunk reads and I was not disappointed. From the back cover:

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between the gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets -- secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn't sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart -- literally.

The Alchemy of Stone tackles a multitude of issues -- race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic class, free will, and subjectivity. What I enjoyed most was the way these threads were woven into the subplots without detracting from the overall narrative. While it may be hard to see where Sedia is taking you over the course of the novel, at the end things become a bit more clear. And what an ending! It was one of those endings that stayed with me; I wasn't able to pull myself out of the world Sedia created until an hour after I put the book down.

I highly recommend this book for fantasy/steampunk lovers!

ISBN: 978-1-60701-215-3
Length: 301 pages (paperback, medium type)
fly_to_dawn: (London <3)
[personal profile] fly_to_dawn
From it's page:
Although the Court painter offers a plausible avowal of his own guilt in the murder of the royal art curator, Jane Bee, head housemaid at Windsor Castle, and her majestic employer suspect that the culprit lies closer to home.
Yep, it's Queen Elizabeth II who pairs up with witty Canadian housemaid Jane to solve a juicy murder mystery that has occurred in her favourite royal household, Windsor Castle. Death at Windsor Castle is the third in Benison's Her Majesty Investigates series, but I must admit, I jumped in here because Windsor is my childhood home. Benison captures the tranquil yet somewhat sharp upper-class essence of the town brilliantly, and the location is used to nice effect. What I love most about this book, though, is Jane Bee, who is such a lovable protagonist; sassy, fun-loving, cheeky and kind - and of course, with a lot of curiosity and a keen mind, which inevitably leads her to investigating the murder of the day. It's a really enjoyable read, overall, and I recommend it a lot - I can't wait to go back and read the first two in the series!

bewize: (Default)
[personal profile] bewize
I thought I'd share five of my favorite children's books.

Some of these I've reread recently, but most I haven't. I was surprised to realize how old all of them were in relation to how old I am (they're a lot older!), so I want to be sure that I leave a caveat that - while I don't remember race!fail or any other fail in the books, I would be surprised if there wasn't some in there somewhere.

Regardless, I read these books until the pages fell apart as child and I loved them. I still think of all of them fondly to this day.

Five of My Most Reread Children's Books )
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[personal profile] rivenwanderer
Very Far Away from Anywhere Else is the book that got me through high school. It's by Ursula Le Guin, who's well-known for her feminist sci-fi/fantasy work, but this coming-of-age YA book--novella, really--tends to slip through the cracks. It's about a nerdy, intellectual high-schooler struggling to find direction, and the friendship he develops with a quiet musician.

It's hard to overstate the impact that this book had on my inner development in my teens. Suddenly I had a data point for what might go on inside the head of another nerd. The fumbling-around that one does when trying to connect with other humans--really connect, with heart and mind and barely-understood social skills--became slightly less uncharted territory for me. The second-guessing over opposite-gender friendships, half driven by hormones and half by the pervasive cultural assumption that "man + woman = sex" was especially familiar and relieving to read about.

Has anyone else out there read this book?
littlebutfierce: (Default)
[personal profile] littlebutfierce
This is one of my favorite books, the second novel from gay Filipino American writer Alumit (his first was Letters to Montgomery Clift).

Jory Lalaban is a Filipino mail carrier in California who gets shot by a white supremacist (an obvious reference to the murder of Joseph Ileto).

The novel flashes between this incident (& Jory's hospitalization) & memories of his past, beginning with his youth in the Philippines as an orphan who ended up in the seminary. Eventually Jory rejects Catholicism & turns to a local, pre-colonial pagan religion, for which he becomes a community spiritual leader when he & his wife, Belen, move to Southern California. Belen is convinced she's been cursed by her mother for marrying Jory (& taking him from the church); the biggest supporting evidence for her belief was the tragic death of their oldest son, Jun-Jun, as a child. Emerson, their second child, grows up feeling second best (& also is the recipient of beyond-the-grave telephone calls from Jun-Jun).

Into this narrative also Alumit works in multiracial community politics, tensions between Asian Americans & Asians outside the US, & a sharp critique of the US health care system (though the book, published in 2007, predates the latest debates on this issue).

I adore this novel; I feel like there's so much there, & the first time I reread it I definitely picked up things I hadn't earlier. I am pretty sure that will continue to happen each time I return to this book (& I will!).
tanaqui: Illumiinated letter T (Default)
[personal profile] tanaqui
Title: The Complete Knowledge of Sally Fry
Author: Sylvia Murphy
ISBN: 0552990949/978-0552990943

I picked this up at a second-hand bookstall back when I was a student 20 years ago and I still re-read it regularly because it’s very funny and slyly observant of the foibles of its characters.

The story takes the form of a therapy technique involving "writing your own encyclopaedia": the Complete Knowledge of the title. In this case, it’s being written as a distraction by narrator Sally Fry, a single mother and sociology lecturer trying to finish her PhD by decamping to a cottage in Cornwall to be looked after by her own mother. Naturally, the rest of her family—her two sisters with their apparently "perfect" marriages, their husbands and children—end up descending on her, as does her own teenaged son who has gone off the rails with drugs.

The encyclopaedia framework is used really cleverly to build up the whole picture of Sally’s life and those of her family and academic colleagues, with us getting hints and bits and pieces of the story thrown in early on that are later picked up and elaborated on. There’s some nice digs at academia (and although the novel was published in the mid-80s, I don’t get the impression things have changed much!) and sibling rivalry.

It's currently out of print :( but I heartily recommend it if you can find a copy.
shanaqui: My Habitican mod avatar, featuring me and a pile of books bigger than me. ((Arthur) Prince McSulkypants)
[personal profile] shanaqui
I go to booksales often, and went to one semi-recently where I simply picked up a book called The King Awakes, by Janice Elliott, which looked like YA, mostly on the theory that it would probably be about King Arthur and while it probably wasn't anything amazing, it'd fill a warm summer afternoon, and I do like King Arthur...

Turns out, it is about King Arthur, and it's really quite interesting. There's actually two books in the series, as far as I can tell, but I haven't got hold of the second one yet. It isn't your typical Arthurian story because it's post-apocalyptic and dystopic, which got my attention the minute I realised.

Arthur isn't actually the central character, really, but that's no surprise with Arthurian fiction... He's an important supporting character. I didn't know at first there was a sequel, so at first it seemed a little disappointing, but the idea of a post-apocalyptic dystopic King Arthur story fascinated me. Worth a read, if it fascinates you too. I did a brief review of it here.

(I totally want to write a post-apocalyptic King Arthur story now.)
marny_h96: (read)
[personal profile] marny_h96
I'd really like for this community to become more active and therefor I'm making the following offer:

Anyone who posts here about a little-known book between May 5, 2010 and June 5, 2010 will receive 50 DW points per post.

Happy posting!