Monday, April 01, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/30

I wonder if you folks reading this wonder at the disconnect between the books that appear in these weekly columns -- mostly books solidly in their genres, whether that be shojo or contemporary fantasy or shonen or military SF -- and the ones I end up reading, which make less sense as a grouping and can possibly only be explained by closely examining the dates certain items were due back at the library. I know it concerns me, now and then -- I worry that I see too many books that I don't end up reading and writing about, and whether that makes me less useful or good as a blogger.

But, unless I can somehow magically make publishers send me all and only the books I will want to read next -- particularly given that I rarely know what I want to read next -- I think I'll just have to muddle through as I have been. I do want to emphasize that there's a very good chance I would have really liked a lot of the books I don't manage to read these days -- I read piles of books much like them, back in my SFBC days, and liked lots of that -- and so any snark you may detect below is purely because that is my default state, signifying nothing.

First up this week is something I only got through Amazon's very nice Vine program -- an invitation-only subset of their website, full of products (mostly books, and most of those very firmly in their own genres, since that's how publishing works) that we happy few can ask to have sent to us, as long as we promise to post a review there. Paul Theroux is arguably the premier travel writer of our time -- I've written about him before here, covering The Pillars of Hercules and Ghost Train to the Evening Star -- and I've been slowly working my way through his various journeys, spacing them out so I always have more to come. This May, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish The Last Train to Zona Verde, subtitled "My Ultimate African Safari" -- it's the story of one more journey, a trip through southern and western Africa, from Cape Town through Namibia, Angola, and nearly to the Congo. This one I do expect to read, and to begin quickly -- I only hope I can figure out what to say about it afterward.

Turning back to my usual turf, Blood Trade is the sixth urban fantasy novel from Faith Hunter about skinwalker Jane Yellowrock and her (vampire- and supernatural-infested) world, centered on Natchez, Mississippi. It's a mass-market paperback from Roc in April, and sees Jane chasing down some of those pesky rogue vamps.

In mass the same month from Roc's sister imprint Ace is Dianne Sylvan's Of Shadow Born, the fourth in an urban fantasy series about a different world just like our own with hidden vampires. Our heroine here is Miranda Grey-Solomon, the Vampire Queen of the South, who this time out is dealing with the presumed death of her one true love (and Prime, whatever that is) -- he might not even return from I-can't-believe-it's-not-death in this book, if Sylvan is particularly daring and wants to delay it a book or two.

And, in manga, I've got a number of books coming from Yen Press in April:

Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit, Vol. 2 (Final) completes the follow-up to the original Country of Hearts series, with a new Wonderland-with-gangsters-and-true-love-Japanese-style story. The story is by QuinRose, the art by Delico Psyche, and the scenario by Owl Shinotsuki -- any or all of those may be post-human uploaded minds, or studios, or corporate entities, as much as I know.

Is This a Zombie?, Vol. 4 continues the harem-manga story, full of "magikewl girls" and vampire ninjas and inappropriate violence and teen angst played for laughs and all of that other stuff. The credit on this one are even odder: Sacchi (comic), Shinichi Kimura (Original), Kobuichi & Muririn (character Design). I'm not googling right now, but that looks to me like it was a TV show or light novel series first.

And there's a fifteenth volume of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which even I know was originally a light novel series by Nagaru Tanigawa. The manga has art by Gaku Tsugano, and also credits Noizi Ito with character design, since the people were visualized for other media before it hit manga.

Speaking of light novels, this month sees the eighth volume of Yukako Kabei's Keili, this time our cheerfully subtitled The Dead Sleep Eternally in the Wilderness, Part 1. If I remember correctly, this one is about a girl who can talk to ghosts and her ex-super-soldier buddy (and a dead soldier in a radio, right?) on a journey to somewhere to do something that might make their vaguely dystopian world better.

And it must be a good month for eighth volumes of light novels, since there's also Isuna Hasekura's Spice and Wolf, Vol. 8: The Town of Strife I. This one is about a harvest goddess (slash wolf girl) and her merchant boss/boyfriend/traveling companion/whatever (I really can't be relied upon to remember the fine points of character interactions in series I haven't even read). This time out, they're following a legend of a relic that might be from another god (presumably god), and, in the way of this series and absolutely nothing else in the world, that leads to a macroeconomics lesson.

If you like your urban fantasy dark, you must want it in trade paperback -- or so Ace suggests with Sarah Pinborough's A Matter of Blood, the first in a series called The Forgotten Gods (although it was called Dog Faced Gods in its British incarnation) and set in a London either in the near future enough to have seen everything go to hell or just today seen through a particularly jaundiced eye. (Pinborough is a horror writer with over a dozen books under her belt, from solo novels to Torchwood spin-offs to a trilogy for younger readers as Sarah Silverwood.) This one hits stores tomorrow.

And last this week is the first in an epic fantasy series by the evocatively named Django Wexler -- The Thousand Names, which Roc will publish in hardcover in July. It's set in a far-flung piece of a fantasy empire among a group of soldiers, and a has a guy in a black cloak with his back to the reader, all of which gives me a (possibly unwarranted) Gardens of the Moon vibe. But Wexler's milieu is more Victorian England than full-on secondary world, and it looks like magic will be more subtle and secret in this series than in some of its competition on the epic fantasy shelf.

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