My holiday was nice and relaxing, just food and a lot of reading. My family is very big on books. Every afternoon, there's a quiet time, when we all go off into our own separate corners to read. When it's time to be social, we all read in the same room. So, in case you're in need of book recommendations or book gift ideas, here's a mondo wrap-up book report (some of these go back about a month -- I didn't read all of these over the weekend):
I mentioned that I was looking for a Mary Stewart-style Gothic, and I found a couple by her, The Stormy Petrel and Thornyhold. Both of these were (relatively) recent instead of from her heyday, and while they're nicely atmospheric, they're a little on the tame side, where there's no real danger and the mystery is easily solved. But they're very comforting reads. I especially liked Thornyhold, where the tameness was actually part of a plot twist. That one was close to magical realism in places, with even the slightest tinge of inspirational without being preachy. It's a good "cloudy afternoon with a cup of tea" book.
Then there was The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, which was a reader recommendation. It's a fun caper/adventure/fantasy story with some great plot twists. I want to read the rest of the series, and then re-read the first book, knowing what I know now.
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly strikes me as a bit of an oddity, in that it's an adult book about a child, but I think you need to be an adult to really get the child part, if that makes any sense. A young boy who's still hurting from his mother's death and resentful of his father's new wife and new half brother escapes into his books -- literally. Only, the books have been talking to each other on the shelf, so the fantasy/fairy-tale world he enters is a mix of stories, dreams and nightmares. It's beautifully written, made me laugh and times and made me cry at the end. I'll be looking for more books by this author.
The Book of Enchantments by Patricia Wrede is a collection of short stories. I stumbled on it in the library in the children's section (it's definitely not a children's book, nor was it meant to be, but she's written children's books, so I guess it got shelved there). Some of these stories were absolutely amazing, and then there was one, "Utensile Strength," that was brilliant and hilarious. You have to love a story that includes the recipe for "Quick After-Battle Triple Chocolate Cake." I will definitely be looking for more books by her, as it appears that the world for that story is one she's written novels about.
The Cipher by Diana Pharaoh Francis was a rather refreshing fantasy novel in that it's not the standard generic quasi-medieval pastoral setting and it involves different themes than I've been seeing in fantasy a lot lately. One of my odd little "things" is that I love sailing ships. Seeing tall ships with all those sails billowing in the wind makes my heart sing, and there were ships on the cover, so it caught my eye. Our Heroine is a customs inspector with the odd ability to sense magic, and that gets her into trouble when it brings her in contact with a dangerous magical object that latches onto her, just at a time when the bad guys see her as key to bringing down the monarchy. It was a very intense read, and I'll be looking for the sequel. Mix fantasy and sailing ships and I am so there.
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen was another reader recommendation and one of the books I bought as part of my civic duty to save the publishing industry, and I have to give a huge thanks for the recommendation because I LOVED IT! Oh, this was right up my alley. I kept reading the funny parts out loud to my mom. I've discovered that my library has the sequel in hardcover (it's not out yet in paperback), and I may be rushing over there today to grab it.
And then my mom had a copy of Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, which I hadn't read. The books about the Watch are my favorite within the Discworld universe, and reading that book set off a Terry Pratchett binge, as I now want to re-read all the Watch books in light of the things we learned in this one.
In writing-related news, I've made the executive decision to spend this month revising the NaNo project. I figure The New Project is in my agent's hands, so I might as well get something else into a state where I can send it to my agent. Plus, this is going to be a crazy month, and it's better to be working on something that involves a lot of thinking than to get myself caught up in a writing binge. In life news, I won't have to cook this week, since I lost the family argument about who had to take the Thanksgiving leftovers, and my mom then took that as an opportunity to clean out her refrigerator, so I ended up with more than just Thanksgiving leftovers. On a down note, I killed a squirrel while driving home. I've consoled myself with the fact that this was pretty much a Darwin-Award-winning squirrel, as it chose to dart across a busy four-lane highway. I slowed to miss it as it ran in front of me, and then after it made it safely across, it immediately turned to run back. I managed to avoid it with the front tires, and you'd think that might have scared it away from the road, but no, it kept going, trying to run across the highway under my car, so the back tires hit it. I felt absolutely awful about it, but I'd done everything I could to avoid the stupid squirrel, and it kept trying to get itself killed. Either it was a suicide by car, or it was some kind of squirrel fraternity initiation or triple dog dare, where it had to run back and forth across the highway to get in the club.
Finally, there is a strong possibility that I may turn into a pineapple by the end of the week. They had them on sale for less than a dollar each, so I bought a bunch, and then we didn't eat as many over the holiday as I expected, which means I have three pineapples I need to eat this week. I'm utterly addicted to fresh pineapple, but this much may make my hair stick out on top and my skin grow prickly.