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Jessica Hammer
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Readers! I scour the Kindle book deals so you don't have to.

There are well over 1,000 books on sale this month so you're getting a list that's late and not very detailed - but I want to give you plenty of time to see what you might want to buy.

Also: if you buy a book based on this post, comment and let me know? On months like this, where it's a lot of digging through dreck, I could use the reminder that this is useful to my community.

Without further ado, the books!

Top Picks
Song of Albion, Stephen Lawhead :: portal fantasy in which a graduate student must play out stories from Celtic myth. A very good deal as it's not only a good story, it's the entire trilogy in one volume.
The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz :: a nice piece of Sherlockiana that goes beyond pastiche while still capturing the essence of the characters. Warning for child abuse.
Wall of Storms, Ken Liu :: Dandelion Dynasty 2. I read the first one and it was amazing. Can't wait to read this one too.
Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights, Alison Case :: after reading A True Story, I'm slightly obsessed with Wuthering Heights countertexts. I hope it's good!
Wicked, Gregory Maguire :: for all its flaws, a brilliant re-envisioning of a familiar story.
Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), Carol Tavris :: her other books have revolutionized my thinking; I should probably read this soon.

Things I've Read And Enjoyed
Kill Me Again, Rachel Abbott
The God's Eye View, Barry Eisler
Major Lord David, Sherry Lynn Ferguson :: girl-next-door-grows-up romance.
The Winter Over, Matthew Iden
The Immortalists, Kyle Mills
"London Twist," Barry Eisler
The Mermaid's Sister, Carrie Anne Noble
Smoke, Catherine McKenzie

Other Things that Looked Interesting
The Circle Opens, Tamora Pierce :: book 1.
The Angry Tide, Winston Graham :: Poldark book 7.
The Stranger from the Sea, Winston Graham :: book 8.
The Miller's Dance, Winston Graham :: book 9.
The Loving Cup, Winston Graham :: book 10.
The Twisted Sword, Winston Graham :: book 11.
Bella Poldark, Winston Graham :: book 12 (and last).
You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh
Nonviolent Communication, Marshall B. Rosenberg
The Virginity of Famous Men, Christine Sneed :: contemporary litfic short stories that look pretty neat.
The Sixth Window, Rachel Abbott
The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg :: Paper Magician book 1.
The Glass Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg :: book 2.
The Master Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg :: book 3.
$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer
The Seventh Bride, T. Kingfisher
Fractured, Catherine McKenzie
A Density of Souls, Christopher Rice
Eighty Million Eyes, Ed McBain :: 87th Precinct series.
Lady, Lady, I Did It, Ed McBain :: 87th Precinct series.
Jigsaw, Ed McBain :: 87th Precinct series.
Killer's Payoff, Ed McBain :: 87th Precinct series.
Like Love, Ed McBain :: 87th Precinct series.
Heat, Ed McBain :: 87th Precinct series.
The Con Man, Ed McBain :: 87th Precinct series.
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman
Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad, George R. R. Martin :: Wild Cards series.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Meg Elison :: book 1.
The Book of Etta, Meg Elison :: book 2.
Notes from No Man's Land, Eula Biss :: essays by a poet about race in America.
Nazi Germany and the Jews Volume 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939, Saul Friedlander
The Unforgiven, Alan LeMay
I Am A Cat, Soseki Natsume
Pretty Baby, Mary Kubica
Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi
The Dragon King Collection, Stephen Lawhead :: contains all three books in what looks like a fairly traditional fantasy series.
Baggage, S. G. Redling
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet, Charlie N. Holmberg
Case Histories, Kate Atkinson :: Jackson Brodie book 1.
Deborah Rising, Avraham Azrieli :: Biblical fiction written by (gasp!) an actual Jew.
A Reason to Live, Matthew Iden :: Marty Singer series 1.
Blueblood, Matthew Iden :: Marty Singer series 2.
One Right Thing, Matthew Iden :: Marty Singer series 3.
The Spike, Matthew Iden :: Marty Singer series 4.
The Wicked Flee, Matthew Iden :: Marty Singer series 5.
Once Was Lost, Matthew Iden :: Marty Singer series 6.
Abducted, T.R. Ragan :: Lizzy Gardner series 1.
Dead Weight, T.R. Ragan :: Lizzy Gardner series 2.
A Dark Mind, T.R. Ragan :: Lizzy Gardner series 3.
Obsessed, T.R. Ragan :: Lizzy Gardner series 4.
Almost Dead, T.R. Ragan :: Lizzy Gardner series 5.
Evil Never Dies, T.R. Ragan :: Lizzy Gardner series 6.
The Golden Scales, Parker Bilal :: Makana series 1.
The Royal Nanny, Karen Harper

Happy reading!

https://www.amazon.com/b?node=3441883011

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Trans men and transmasculine folks: these researchers are working to capture data about the health of the community in an ethical and inclusive way. The institution and researchers are reputable, the study was designed in collaboration with the community, and it's IRB approved which means there is oversight about how they will protect your data.

The survey is here:

https://tinyurl.com/TMHealthSurvey

You can also ask the researchers questions on their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/TMHealthSurvey/

Please reshare as appropriate. 

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Readers! There's a great-looking Thousand and One Nights retelling on Kindle sale, today only. Both books are on sale; link is to the first.

https://www.amazon.com/Wrath-Dawn-ebook/dp/B00O2BS5LO/

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Readers! A bunch of Agatha Christie novels on Kindle sale, today only.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html/ref=pe_button/?node=7533915011

10/71 #readinglist2017

The Nature of Balance, Tim Lebbon
The Drop, Dennis Lehane
Lilith: A Romance, George MacDonald
The Goddess Rules, Clare Naylor
Fall from Grace, Clyde Phillips
Blindsided, Clyde Phillips
Sacrifice, Clyde Phillips
Unthinkable, Clyde Phillips
We Are Unprepared, Meg Little Reilly
One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, Lauren Sandler

The Nature of Balance: overwritten, sloppy, and nearly unreadable. There’s the seed of an interesting horror novel somewhere in there (“if you fall asleep, you’ll die”) but it’s buried in cliché post-apocalyptica and a totally unmotivated explanation for all the nonsense. I’ve enjoyed some of Lebbon’s other work, so I’m hoping this is just bad juvenilia. Meanwhile, avoid.

The Drop: Lehane does his Lehane thing, so you know there’s going to be a portrait of a decaying Boston community, a cynical yet desperate plot to make it big, and old ghosts coming home to roost. Despite a slight case of the manic pixie dream girls, it’s well-executed and clever. By the time things erupt into life-changing violence at the end, you believe in all the characters’ motivations and habits, which lets Lehane set up a very clever situation and then knock it down. I enjoyed this more than his Kenzie-Gennaro series, though those are also very good.

Lilith: A Romance: I’m less bothered by explicit Christian propaganda (e.g. Narnia) than by the subtler sort (e.g. the Time Quintet), which is good, because Lilith is pretty darn explicit. There’s a lot of business about purity and holiness and dying so that you may live again, if you know what I mean. And yet there’s a wonderfully inventive energy about this book. From the initial manifestations of holiness as a ghostly butler, to the grotesque beasts who turn to dust in the light of the moon, to the character of Mara the ever-weeping, the freshness and originality of the vision is worth reading for. Although I’m not generally a fan of the appropriation of Jewish concepts by Christian writers, I even appreciated the way Lilith herself incorporated Jewish myths. Really the only false note was the sickly-sweet “ickle babies” the protagonist must protect. Not as good as the Curdie novels, but I would definitely read this again.

The Goddess Rules: a charming, implausible rom-com about a hapless pet-portraitist and the aging screen legend who teaches her how to be fabulous. The cutting portrayal of a classic fuckboy type was very effective, even if the other love interests were a bit thin. I liked that the author was willing to go way over the top, like having a character drop a shower of rose petals from a helicopter into a garden, and also to be practical, like having the owner of the garden be very displeased about the effects on their garden. Characters have to face the consequences of their choices, which felt a bit too melancholy for the bubbliness of the rest of the novel, but which I appreciated on general principles.

Phillips’ Candiotti series: detective thrillers set in San Francisco. The first one was really not very good – I kept saying to myself, “Wait, the main character’s quirk is that she really likes yogurt?” There’s also a weird heavy-handedness to some of the plots. For example, in one of the books the main character’s boyfriend struggles with living in her house, because that puts her in charge in ways he isn’t comfortable with. Conveniently, her house burns down a few scenes later. Gee whillikers, do you think the author is trying to say something about gender roles? (And do you think the author was aware of it? I don’t!) Nonetheless, I started caring about the characters as human beings somewhere midway through the second book. You’ll definitely find better detective thrillers and police procedurals out there, but if you particularly like San Francisco as a setting, or you’re intrigued by the author’s television-writing experience, these might be worth a read.

We Are Unprepared: well-intentioned in theory, but sort of gross and self-absorbed in practice. The protagonist moves to a small Maine town with his wife so that they can, pretty incompetently, get closer to nature. The first half of the book is a wonderful portrait of their mutual self-absorption, with terrific social satire, set against the ominous predictions of a “superstorm” caused by climate change. Unfortunately, the end of the book is pretty yucky. The main character Sees The Light! He Learns To Love! He Tries To Cheat On His Wife As Character Growth! But it’s okay because she’s Clearly Selfish and Unstable! He learns that Small Town Community Driven Living Is the Best Way! And Gets The Girl As A Reward! If the second half of the novel were as good as the first half, I’d definitely recommend; as it is, read it if you like climate apocalyptica and you don’t mind wanting to punch the character both when the author wants you to and when she doesn’t, albeit for different reasons.

One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child: when I started reading I was worried that the whole book would be a polemic, since the author is extremely exercised about the myths surrounding only children, and how difficult they are to debunk with actual research. She does a good job summarizing said research, but the first few chapters can be a little repetitive. Sandler does better when she gets into the latter two-thirds of the book, where she presents a range of frameworks for thinking about how many children to have, from labor issues to environmentalism. She concludes by reporting on research that suggests that families are happiest when parents are free both of overtly coercive pressures, and of implicit social pressures, to choose a particular family size. While she argues that there are many reasons to have only one child, she is clearly supportive of those who choose to have more – and highly critical of anyone who tries to make people feel like they ought to have more kids than they desire. Thought-provoking and full of good references to other work on this topic; recommended for people interested in the research on family size, even if they aren’t considering their own reproductive plans.

Happy reading!


17/61 #readinglist2017

Lord Sidley’s Last Season, Sherry Lynn Ferguson
The Magicians, James Gunn
Friday’s Child, Georgette Heyer
The Winter Over, Matthew Iden
Friday the Rabbi Slept Late, Harry Kemelman
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry, Harry Kemelman
Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home, Harry Kemelman
Monday the Rabbi Took Off, Harry Kemelman
Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red, Harry Kemelman
Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet, Harry Kemelman
Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out, Harry Kemelman
Conversations with Rabbi Small, Harry Kemelman
Someday the Rabbi Will Leave, Harry Kemelman
One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross, Harry Kemelman
The Day the Rabbi Resigned, Harry Kemelman
That Day the Rabbi Left Town, Harry Kemelman
The Nine Mile Walk, Harry Kemelman

Lord Sidley’s Last Season: a witty, well-plotted, well-written Regency romance. Artist Marion Ware has been betrothed to a friend of her brother’s, but when the brave and charming Lord Sidley returns from war, Marion must decide whether to follow her honor or her heart. I’ve read a few of Ferguson’s novels now and this standalone would be a great place to start. Recommended for romance-lovers!

The Magicians: a struggling private eye is hired to find out the name of a stranger, and gets swept into a war between magicians. The book was originally published in 1976, and you can see how some of the things it does have been adapted by later writers – but the plot is thin and the characters underdeveloped, so it’s probably only worth reading as a historical curiosity.

Friday’s Child: whether or not you like this novel will largely depend on how you feel about the character of Hero Wantage, the shy orphan who is swept into a life of high society by the young Viscount she’s always adored. Heyer clearly means her to be loving, giving, and unworldly, but I found her too frustrating to sympathize with. “Loving and giving” seems to mean “largely without backbone” and even the tiniest dollop of common sense would have gone a long way. That said, Heyer uses Wantage’s failings (and strengths!) to put her in a whole bunch of hilarious and romantically challenging situations, so I was willing to put my annoyance aside. I’ll stick to Frederica and The Grand Sophy, but if you like your heroines adoring and naïve, then you will probably have more fun with this Heyer than I did.

The Winter Over: a small group of researchers and staff prepare to “winter over” on a remote Antarctic research base, while a mysterious corporation has just bought it from the government. Nine months trapped in a hostile environment would be hard enough, but then things start to go wrong – very, very wrong. The book starts out reading like a thriller, but it eventually veers into horror-movie tropes in what I thought were very effective ways. I found the ending rather predictable but it was well enough executed that I was fine being along for the ride, particularly given the well-drawn details of daily life in the Antarctic.

Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi series: it’s rare for me to do this, but I’m recommending that you read the first book or two, then stop. The premise is quite wonderful: the rabbi of a small Massachusetts town (based on Marblehead, for the curious) must investigate crimes in order to protect various members of his congregation. While it may sound gimmicky, Kemelman sells it on multiple levels. A rabbi’s formal role is to be a judge for the community, and Rabbi Small typically deploys rabbinical or Talmudic insight to crack the case. At the same time, a lurking undercurrent of anti-Semitism makes it reasonable that his community would be unfairly targeted, and he would want to protect them. Meanwhile, the B-plot for each novel typically revolves around a conflict inside the synagogue, such as whether the rabbi should get a raise or who should be the next synagogue president. While it’s not my own experience, Kemelman absolutely captures the sociological moment when (some) Jews chose to make accommodations with American society, and what it costs them to do so. So why am I only recommending you read the first few? Three reasons. First, the crimes may not get repetitive, but the synagogue conflicts do. Second, Kemelman makes Small preachier and preachier as the series goes on; whatever you do, don’t read Conversations with Rabbi Small, which isn’t just preachy but features long repeated passages from other books in the series. Third, if you aren’t pretty plugged into Jewish history and culture, there are things in the series that you are likely to misinterpret. For example, when Rabbi Small argues that the synagogue shouldn’t fund civil rights work, he’s speaking to a very specific debate in Jewish law and theory about whether institutions are allowed to take on the halachic responsibilities of individuals – but without that context, he just sounds like a jerk. Ditto if you don’t know anything about how the Conservative movement became egalitarian. As someone who does have lots of context, though, I found these to be soul-soothing despite their flaws. I particularly enjoyed the places where Kemelman illustrates the gap between the Christio-secular assumptions of modern America, and the Jewish way. Even though my synagogue experiences have little to do with Rabbi Small’s, that’s something I live with every day.

The Nine Mile Walk: short stories featuring Nicky Welt, a crime-solving English professor. The title story is a classic, in which Welt deduces just a little more from a chance remark than anyone had expected, but I enjoyed them all.

Happy reading!


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Readers! Lots of great daily Kindle deals today, including Ashby's Company Town. It's in an upcoming batch of books to review, but the short version is that despite some flaws, it's a gripping near-future mystery in a wonderfully realized world.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/browse/ref=pe_button/?node=11552285011

8/44 #readinglist2017

A Certain Age, Beatriz Williams
Tales of Wonder, Jane Yolen
Triplet, Timothy Zahn
The Merman’s Children, Poul Anderson
The Ex, Alafair Burke
The Two Minute Rule, Robert Crais
The Green Gene, Peter Dickinson
Those Gentle Voices, George Effinger

A Certain Age: the book opens with the account of a murder trial, but who is on trial, and for murdering whom? You don’t find out until halfway through the book, but by then I was hooked on the romantic misadventures of two middle-aged socialites and their hapless young lovers – who also happen to be in love with each other. The narrative focuses on the two women, Theresa and Sophie, and makes them both sympathetic even when their interests conflict. I will be checking out more books by this author; recommended.

Tales of Wonder: an early collection of short stories. I’d already read the best things in the collection at novel length (e.g. Sister Light, Sister Dark), but even when Yolen is riffing on fairy tale tropes in relatively predictable ways, her writing remains lovely. I enjoyed all of these, but there are probably better places to start with Yolen.

Triplet: Zahn’s conceit is to send his characters back and forth between a science-fiction universe, a science-fantasy world, and a fantasy-only one. While his two leads (a young anthropologist and her bodyguard) know about all three settings, they must keep the secret from the inhabitants of the latter two. But it seems that someone else has figured out the secret of the worlds’ connection, and is willing to kill to exploit it. Fun action sequences and setting-play, but unless you really like the “collision between worlds” trope, this is entertaining but forgettable.

The Merman’s Children: when the Church exorcises the underwater city of a mer-king, forcing the inhabitants to flee, he must lead his people to a new home. Meanwhile, three of his half-human children work to ensure the well-being of their sister, who will only be safe on land. Adventures, as you may suspect, ensue. Anderson builds his story structure on Danish folktales as well as on history, but for once not in a way that makes me wonder whether white supremacists would also love the book. The best thing I’ve read by him so far, and worth wading through a number of books that made me mildly-to-very uncomfortable!

The Ex: a better-than-average psychological thriller about a lawyer investigating whether her long-ago ex is guilty of mass murder. The main characters are well-drawn and the investigation gripping, though I knew not to trust any of the conclusions drawn by any of the characters which spoiled one or two of the surprises. If you like this genre, though, it’s recommended.

The Two Minute Rule: Max Holman used to rob banks, until one of the customers had a heart attack during the robbery. Rather than run, Holman stayed to perform CPR – and got caught. Now that he’s out of prison, he’s ready to rebuild his life. But when his son is murdered, he is drawn back into the world he thought he’d escaped. I was surprised at how good the characterization was, particularly in the early sections as Holman reintegrates into the civilian world. I’ll definitely be checking out his other work, which (for those keeping track at home) means I’m up to two new authors I’m excited about.

The Green Gene: a dystopian imagining of what British apartheid might look like if people of Celtic origin had green skins. While I didn’t love the story, I did think it made a lot of smart decisions about how to use science fiction to address racism. For example, I loved that the main character was an Indian mathematician who had to decide whether he would accept conditional Saxon status (after all, at least he was not green) or whether he would ally himself with the despised Greens.

Those Gentle Voices: humanity’s first contact with aliens turns into farce, then satire, then tragedy. After traveling to a faraway planet, the explorers proceed to reenact their personal neuroses and demons – but the aliens are watching, listening, and learning, and eventually they will surpass their masters.

Happy reading!


April Kindle Book Deals

Pardon the absence of capsule reviews, though I've noted where books are in series and made a few notes in the third category. By this point in the month, I figure it's better to get these up and let you investigate what you're interested in for yourself. Happy reading!

Top Picks
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie :: Poirot 4
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Merely a Mister, Sherry Lynn Ferguson :: Regency 3
Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson

Other Things I've Read and Enjoyed
Sanctum, Sarah Fine :: Shadowlands 1
Fractured, Sarah Fine :: Shadowlands 2
Chaos, Sarah Fine :: Shadowlands 3
Old Yeller, Fred Gipson & Steven Polson
She's Not There, P.J. Parrish
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
Turning Angel, Greg Iles :: Natchez 2
From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming :: Bond 5
Only the Innocent, Rachel Abbott :: Douglas 1
The Shadow Hunter, Michael Prescott :: Sinclair 1
Regeneration, Barbara Allan & Max Allan Collins

Things I Haven't Read That Sounded Cool
The Flatey Enigma, Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson
Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution, Laurie Penny
Plum & Jaggers, Susan Richards Shreve
On Immunity, Eula Biss :: I'm a sucker for poets writing about science.
A Change of Heart, Sonali Dev
The Kaunteyas, Madhavi S. Mahadevan :: feminist countertext to the Mahabharata, featuring the queen Kunti. Clearly I need to read the Mahabharata first!
The Woman on the Orient Express, Lindsay Jayne Ashford :: Agatha Christie takes the same journey as her famous characters, and discovers mysteries en route.
Anathem, Neal Stephenson
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
The 7th Canon, Robert Dugoni :: a young lawyer must prove the innocence of a local priest in a case of sexual abuse and murder.
The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks
The Palace Job, Patrick Weekes :: Rogues of the Republic 1
The Prophecy Con, Patrick Weekes :: Rogues of the Republic 2
The Paladin Caper, Patrick Weekes :: Rogues of the Republic 3

https://www.amazon.com/b?node=3441883011

Readers! A whole bunch of Holmesiana on Kindle sale today, including several entries in Laurie R. King's superb Mary Russell series. I love her take on Holmes, not to mention the fact that her protagonist is a Jewish-American woman.

Happy reading!
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