05 February 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Recommended Novels

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Good BooksAs I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, the snow is falling (we're up to about 3 inches now), and we're waiting for the Super Bowl to begin. It was great day to stay inside: we read a little, played some cards, and listened to music.

In case you couldn't guess, we're rooting for the Eagles in my house. I spent most of the weekend baking and preparing sinful snacks (read: fatty and salty) to go with the copious beer that I'm sure we and our friends are going to consume as we cheer our state's team on to victory. (By the time you read this, you'll know if we're smiling or crying.)

My busy editing season is creeping up, but I managed to finish three books and break up with a fourth.

Review: The Lost Plot by Genevieve CogmanI finally read the newest book in the Invisible Library series. In The Lost Plot (Ace, Jan. 9), Genevieve Cogman keeps the characters and plotting fresh and promises many more adventures to come. In this outing, Irene Winter and her assistant, Kai, must visit an alternate 1920s New York City to obtain a book that is being used by a dragon queen for her own political games. I loved the way Irene reaches into her bag of many skills and talents to outwit the mob, the crooked police, and warring dragons while protecting a fellow librarian and saving her own life. I also love the ending of this installment, which will take the series into new territory. The Invisible Library books breath new life into speculative fiction: part paranormal, part steampunk, part alternate history, part mystery plus adult characters in adult situations. I'm sad I have to wait another year for book five. A note on the audiobooks: As you know, I recently reread the first three Invisible Library books via audiobook. Susan Duerden narrates the series (produced by Audible Studios) and does a decent job. My only complaint is that her performance sometimes toes the line of overdramatic, making me forget these books are not middle grade fantasy but adult stories that often address adult themes. I'm not sorry to have listened to the audiobooks, but I was happy to return to print. (Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.)

Review: The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph CassaraHere's a book for your best of 2018 list: The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara (Ecco, Feb. 6). Set in New York at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, the book focuses on four transgender or gay teens who escape their homes looking for acceptance, love, and a future. Cassara personalizes the Latino ball scene and exposes the indignities and cruelties suffered by this population of men and boys who want nothing more than to be themselves, some hoping to escape their birth gender. Undereducated, without resources, and finding it difficult to pass as straight, so many of these boys see prostitution as their only recourse. If they're lucky, they'll find shelter in a house run by a more experienced queen, who tries to protect them, feed them, and support their true natures. But even with friends and lovers, too many of these individuals succumb to disease, poverty, drugs, and violence before they've even had a chance to truly live. Angel, Venus, Juanito, and Daniel's stories broke my heart and opened my eyes. I'm so glad I took a chance on this book--based on true events--and I can't recommend it enough. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 15 hr, 35 min) read by Christian Barillas. My full audiobook review will be available from AudioFile magazine, but let me say here that Barillas's respectful and brilliant performance is unforgettable.

Reveiw: The Winter Sisters by Robin OliveiraSet in 1879 Albany, New York, The Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira (Viking, Feb. 27) is the story of two young girls who disappeared when trying to walk home from school after a massive spring blizzard. Readers learn the fate of the sisters fairly early on, so this complex mystery focuses less on the girls and more on the identities of the men who kidnapped them. Woven throughout the novel are feminist issues that still haven't been fully dealt with almost 140 years after this story takes place. Although the current #MeToo movement has given some women courage to speak out, teens, children, the poor, and women of color are still very much without a support system, and for them, rape trials haven't advanced much since the nineteenth century. One of the disturbing facts I learned from this book is that the age of consent at that time was 10 years old, and so a preteen girl could be blamed by a defense attorney for her own rape. The mystery was well done, and the ending wasn't completely predictable, though I had one of the bad guys pegged midway through. I also enjoyed revisiting Oliveira's previous character Mary Sutter, who has her own problems as one of the few licensed female physicians of the era. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Random House Audio; 16 hr, 36 min), read by Tavia Gilbert. I'm a big fan of Gilbert's work, especially her characterizations and the way she has of completely drawing me into a story. Her performance here met my every expectation. She enhanced the drama of action scenes, found the emotional heart of the characters, and kept me glued to my earbuds during the courtroom scenes. Recommended in print or audio. (Thanks to the publishers for the review copy.)


(Diane) bookchickdi 2/5/18, 8:48 AM  

I definitely want to read Winter Sisters and you just talked me in House of Impossible Beauties.

bermudaonion 2/5/18, 9:05 AM  

Way to go Eagles! I think I'd love The House of Impossible Beauties too.

Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine 2/5/18, 9:25 AM  

Congratulations on the win! I requested a copy of The House of Impossible Beauties last week. Fingers crossed!

Kay 2/5/18, 9:56 AM  

So glad the Eagles won! And Winter Sisters is quite interesting to me and already on my list. Not surprised about the 10-year-old consent thing - it was the time of children working in factories and other issues. Thanks for sharing these!

Kathy Martin 2/5/18, 10:29 AM  

Yay, Eagles! Nice variety of books this week. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Les in Oregon 2/5/18, 12:08 PM  

What a game! We were very happy the Eagles won, too!!

Thanks for bringing The House of Impossible Beauties to my attention. I'm almost finished with The Heart's Invisible Furies, which deals with similar themes and it will certainly be on my Top Ten for 2018. I'll head over to Audible and pre-order Cassara's novel!

Laurel-Rain Snow 2/5/18, 12:19 PM  

The Winter Sisters is going on my list! It sounds awesome (and sad), but I am drawn to books that remind us of how far behind we are.

Enjoy your week and your books. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Greg 2/5/18, 12:52 PM  

Yay Eagles!! We were quite happy with that win here too. :)

I did enjoy The Invisible Library, but I'm so behind on this series now... :(

sherry fundin 2/5/18, 1:04 PM  

Thanks for sharing some new to me books.
sherry @ fundinmental Sunday Memes

Unknown 2/5/18, 3:59 PM  

YAY for the Eagles!! WOO HOO!! I'm so excited to read that you enjoyed The House of Impossible Beauties; I have been very curious about this one, so you've tipped me over and I'll add it to my list. Hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl (what a game!) and are recovering appropriately today. :)

Sue Jackson 2/5/18, 7:25 PM  

Go, Birds!

All three of your books sound very good. I have been hearing a lot of good things about The House of Impossible Beauties - need to get to it!


Book By Book

pussreboots 2/5/18, 8:17 PM  

Yesterday was a nice quiet day here. This week's post

Aj @ Read All The Things! 2/5/18, 8:56 PM  

I hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl and the snacks. It looks like you read some good books. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Yvonne 2/5/18, 9:28 PM  

Hope you had a great Super Bowl day yesterday. We did :) Have a great week!

Susie | Novel Visits 2/5/18, 10:08 PM  

I've been on the fence about The House of Impossible Beauties, but you've convinced me and since I always like your audio recs I think I might go that way on it. Thanks!

Mystica 2/6/18, 1:42 AM  

These are all new to me. I appreciate the little write up on each.

Angela 2/6/18, 1:24 PM  

The Winter Sisters sounds like a fantastic book. I'm adding it to my to-read list!

Cleopatra Loves Books 2/6/18, 3:54 PM  

These all look good but I'm especially drawn to Winter Sisters.

Claudia 2/6/18, 7:05 PM  

I've got the Invisible Library on my stack, and will go down the series from there. Sounds like a winner.

Melissa 2/7/18, 7:53 PM  

Amazing win by our Eagles! I still don't think it has sunk in yet.

You're the second person this week to tell me about the Invisible Library series, so onto my Goodreads list it goes -- along with the other two. They all look great.

Daryl 2/8/18, 12:12 PM  

what a lovely list of escape reading, you got me hooked on the Invisible Library AND i agree the narrator does need to be a bit less

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