Monday, February 21, 2011

First Officer's Log No 30: Spring-ish In the Air: Spring Reading Recommendations

So the season of spring is kind of in the air here in good old Iowa City, it's just a matter of waiting until all the snow melts and the ground regains its solid state, as opposed to its current existence of mud, slick mud, slippery mud and some mish-mash of mud and sand / salt residue. Needless to say, when True Spring is upon us, I shall be rejoicing.

Big changes are in store for the bookshop soon, along with some major moving around. Be not afraid, though, for if you come in and find your section of choice has moved, just ask one of us. We'll be happy to direct you to the section's new home.

In the meantime, some new suggestions for our book hungry audience:

** Kate Griffin's A Madness of Angels, or, The Resurrection of Matthew Swift is a dark(ish) fantasy novel set in modern day London about a sorcerer named Matthew Swift who abruptly wakes up in his old house, only to discover that he's been dead for two years, but is now mysteriously alive. After a harrowing venture into this new world, Swift discovers that not only are at least a half-dozen other sorcerers in London dead, murdered as brutally as he was, but that there is something else alive inside of him, and it wants out.

This is a marvelous story from the get-go, with twists and turns aplenty. Swift's speech shifts from 'I' to 'We' as he moves through the world, unnerving most people around him, while just confusing him. He's a great narrator, and Kate Griffin gives him an easy sense of humor. This is no John Constantine (Vertigo Comics' 'Hellblazer' for those not in the know) arrogant English magician with a punk rock past; Swift is more akin to someone whom Neil Gaiman might create, except that Kate Griffin beat Mr Gaiman to it, and gives him a run for his money on the great character creation train. A Madness of Angels is the first volume in this series, followed by The Midnight Mayor, and a third volume, out later this spring, The Neon Court.

** Christopher Rice's Light Before Day is a harrowing, oftentimes disturbing look at the destructive nature of the methamphetamine trade in southern California, and the effect that drugs have on the small, tightly knit gay communities in Los Angeles. The star of this novel is Adam Murphy, an alcoholic journalist, whose lover mysteriously goes missing on the same night that a military serviceman on leave commits suicide via helicopter crash, taking three other servicemen with him. Adam's investigation into the crash leads him to James Wilton, a mystery novelist who needs a new bestseller, and who might be able to help Adam get what he wants. Along the way, they deal with the drug trade and other sordid activities, eventually revealing a mysterious kidnapping ring that links to the explosion of a meth lab.

It's an all over the place novel, but a good one from Rice, whose first two books A Density of Souls and The Snow Garden easily rank among my favorite books. While his prose can border on the silly at times, Rice is growing as a novelist, and Adam is a great narrator, funny and sarcastic, but also well aware of his own flaws, presenting an refreshingly honest character to mystery fiction. While Rice doesn't play with series, he writes good mysteries with (sometimes) uncomfortable themes, forcing readers to go on deeper into his world, even when sense says they should back off. In that regard, Adam represents the audience, as his sense of self preservation often tries to get the better of him, and usually fails. A strong offering for fans of the more intense mystery genre.

Until next week, fellow bibliophiles.

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