Every summer my Bride and I escape the coils of duty to kith, kin, and kutlery. (That’s a thing. Really.) And every year we pillage several used book stores in an effort to imbibe deeply of literature. This summer is no different! We pillaged forty volumes from various shops, and I’d like to share some highlights.
Brandon will be pleased to know I bought a Jack Vance volume… kind of. It’s a gaphic novel adaptation of The Moon Moth by Humayoun Ibrahim, published by First Second Books. The original story revolves, in part, around using musical instruments to communicate. The adapter uses different shapes of word bubbles to communicate different instruments, and it works out marvelously well. I enjoyed it!
I also picked up my own copy of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I borrowed this from a friend earlier this year and read it to my children. It’s a delightful tale about a boy who faces down several wild animals to free a dragon from slavery. I loved reading it out loud. Each animal has a distinct personality, and I enjoyed giving each one a different accent and sound to match. If you get this for yourself (and I recommend you do!), make sure you read it out loud, too.
My Bride picked up several Tomie de Paola books. Again, if you have kids, do yourself a favor and check out his books. They’re usually whimsical and fun. We got Fin M’Coul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill, Tom, Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, and The Art Lesson. I can’t read my children these. Tom is about what happens when you give a five-year-old boy chicken feet and nail polish. I laughed, but my Bride shook her head a lot.
We weren’t done with picture books yet, though. My Bride spied The Miami Giant by Arthur Yotinks and Maurice Sendak. We read it tonight and frankly, I didn’t get it. Neither did she. So, there ya go.
The Friendship Puzzle: Helping Kids Learn about Accepting and Including Kids with Autism called to me from the stacks, and at a paltry ninety-nine cents, I thought it was worth the gamble. Books about educating kids about hot topics can be really, really bad or really, really delightful. This one… well, having worked with several teens with autism, the story rings true. The writer, Julie L. Coe, has two children with autism, so it better ring true! I can’t decide whether to be happy or sad that half the book is “further activities” rather than more story, though.
You can’t leave behind your calling, which means I also picked up some books that were influenced by my ministry. For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhan and Lisa A. Rice should be handy. My Bride and I read For Men Only and For Women Only and found them supremely helpful; hopefully this one will be, too. I also grabbed Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. and Moses’ Ark by Alice Beach and J. Cheryl Exum. Yes, Moses’ Ark, not Noah’s.
We also got some books for the kids: Cupcake Counsins by Kate Hannigan, Yellow Princess Gets a Pet by Alyssa Crowne, and Little Wizard Stories of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I’m most excited for the last there; it’s a collection of six short stories Baum wrote at the end of his life. I had no idea this volume existed. The Foreword mentions that Oz fans debate whether or not these stories are canon, so I guess it never makes most lists of Oz stories. I’m excited by the collection though. This particular printing even used blue ink, just like the originals!
I’m not always about genre fiction, though. I’ve really enjoyed nautical fiction, and I picked up a few. I got the non-fiction The Strange Ordeal of the S. S. Normandier by H. L. Tredree, about a boat whose sailors contract a terrible tropical fever and go insane while out on the ocean. Should be some pretty gripping reading. I also grabbed Son of Fortune by Victoria McKernan and Bloody Jack by L. A. Meyer. The last I’m looking forward to reading quite a bit; the subtitle reads, “Being an account of the curious adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy.” That’s enough to grab my interest. It’s the first book in a series; I hope I’m enticed back to read more! Finally in this category I got The Conquest of the Ocean by Brian Lavery, a non-fiction history of seafaring. It’s probably best that I learn more about ocean life than what Hornblower and his compatriots can teach me. Who knows? Maybe I can create a world like LeGuin’s Earthsea based on what I learn!
I also love me some Oriental studies. I got The Gossamer Years, which is a diary of a noblewoman in Heian Japan. This may not be “thrilling” reading, but I’m betting it’ll still grab my attention. Wavering a bit more into fantasy, I also got The Grass-Cutting Sword by Catherynne M. Valente, which is about (among other things) the founding of Japan. Bonus! It was autographed!
My Bride found a Dickens story she didn’t know existed called The Holly Tree in a unique cover, so she nabbed that. Meanwhile, I found The Spider: Master of Men! #2 by Grant Stockbridge. This is an old pulp hero, akin to the Shadow and Doc Savage. I’ve heard a lot about him, and he’s had a bit of a renaissance lately in comics, so I thought I’d give the original novels a try.
All right. I tried sailing by the non-genre books as fast as I could. Now, on to some of the meatier helpings!
If you’ve never read John Bellairs, whack yourself upside the head with a dead wizard’s thighbone and find yourself The House with a Clock in its Walls. Bellairs specializes in creepy stories for children. I found one I didn’t own yet: The Secret of the Underground Room. I’ve not been looking for his stuff, but I think he’s one of those authors I simply pick up when I run across. If you think Addam’s Family with a bit more creepiness and a touch less humor, you’ve got the feeling down.
Summoned by Anne M. Pillsworth features a book from the 1850’s advertising for an apprentice – please apply via email. The premise was enough to grab me, though apparently it ends up being about said modern-day apprentice releasing a spirit he shouldn’t have summoned in the first place. Could be good, might not be, but I still love that opening premise.
Diana Wynne Jones’ A Tale of Time City would be right up my alley in junior high, and I’m hoping I enjoy it just as much now. It’s about a city outside of time and space that’s slowly falling apart, and if it actually crumbles, time will stop everywhere. Two boys think they’ve solved the mystery and grab someone from the timestream… but they miss, get the wrong person, and make everything worse. Thus the plot!
Shelby and the Shifting Rings by A. M. Veillon has all the makings of being horribly terrible, but I’m hoping that the Veillon can keep all the different aspects together. A recently-orphaned girl discovers a hidden time machine in her boarding school and goes off on adventures. The first volume in the series (the one I got) seems to throw a lot of balls in the air according to the back cover copy, but you never know.
The Last Enchanter by Laurisa White Reyes is book two in The Celestine Chronicles, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to read it without too much work. It seems like boilerplate young adult fantasy by the back cover, but some simple, basic fantasy is necessary every once in a while.
Though it’s not genre, Antsy Does Timeby Neal Shusterman has some elements of fantasy. This is a direct sequel to The Schwa was Here, which I absolutely loved. Shusterman rarely disappoints and normally hits it out of the park; I’m looking forward to another such novel here. In this one, Antsy decides to give a month of his life to a kid who’s supposed to have six months left to live. Soon other kids are doing the same… and then those kids start dying. Intriguing concept!
Based on a recommendation from Brandon, I snapped up any Brent Weeks novels I could find. First I found The Black Prism for a paltry $2. Woo! But later on, a different store had the exact novel Brandon had recommended, The Way of Shadows. When I first saw this sitting on Brandon’s shelf, I thought it was your basic “oo look at the assassin he’s so badass” type novels, but apparently it’s a lot deeper than that. I hope so; otherwise I will use whatever I learn from the novel to take out Brandon. And I’m sure his Bride would not want that. So, Brandon, for the sake of your possible future widow, I hope the book is as good as you say!
My Bride and I love reading older fantasy like Lord Dunsany. I happened across The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison, first published in 1926. The various nations listed on the back cover are Witchland, Demonsland, Trollland, and so on. The preface of the novel reads, “It is neither allegory nor fable but a Story to be read for its own sake.” So shall I read it, with an eye on it as a fantasy that predates Tolkien and all the conventions he introduced.
I don’t often get anthologies, but when it’s edited by Peter S. Beagle of The Last Unicorn fame, I’ll try it! The Secret History of Fantasy features a whole lotta authors, including a new story by Beagle himself. We’ll see if the tales he chooses match his talent for writing.
My Bride grabbed Curses, Inc. by Vivian Vande Velde. She also wrote Dragon’s Bait, which my Bride read in a single sitting, I’m pretty sure. We read the preface, which explains the title of this short story collection. That alone was worth the price of the book. (Plus, it was edited by Jane Yolen, another favorite author of ours.)
Parasite by Mira Grant seems to have a basic by full-of-possibilities premise: in the near future, humanity has eradicated nearly all disease and physical ailments by using a tapeworm-like parasite in nearly every person. But then, as you might expect, something goes wrong. My Bride said it sounded like a Michael Chricton book, which isn’t exactly the worst thing you can say about a novel.
The Feral Child by Che Golden brings the Fae to modern-day child kidnapping cases. It could be really creepy if the premise holds out. After all, how would a modern-day family deal with a child disappearing after talking about fairies?
Two books by Elizabeth Kay sit right over yonder; Back to Divide and Jinx on the Divide, the second and third volumes in the Divide Trilogy. We couldn’t find book one anywhere. Sigh. Child discovers pathway to upside-down world where magic works. Child returns home. Magic follows. Hijinx ensue. Again, a fairly simple premise, but done right it leads to fun stories.
My Bride and I take perverse enjoyment in finding bad books. Self-published tomes tend to either be surprisingly good or cringeworthy. Humanity’s Edge by Tamara Wilhite looks to stand on that edge. It’s a collection of short stories. The one I’ve read so far is merely “meh,” but it was a two-pager in a book of longer tales. We’ll see.
Of more interest for me is Hulk Hercules: Professional Wrestler. Tony and Bianca are forced to spend a year with their Uncle Leo, who wears a lion’s head cape as part of his professional wrestling costume. When an old woman named Hera shows up and transports Leo, Tony, and Bianca to the world of ancient mythology, they must fight their way through until the end of the old stories. This will either bring immense joy or immense cringing. Either way, I win!
And finally, somehow, I found The Warden and the Wolf King, book four of the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. I’ve now read through book three and loved it (review forthcoming!). This was a surprise; it’s been available for a week and a day right now. I’m not entirely sure how the used bookstore got it; this isn’t an advance reader copy, so it’s not that! However it happened, I’m thrilled to have my own copy now and I’ll be reading it posthaste.
And that… that is Bookcation 2014. I can’t wait to read the spoils of our conquest!