Thursday, June 17, 2010

It’s summer, and at the library that means it’s our busiest time of the year between summer reading programs and people checking out things to read/listen to/watch on their vacations.  In this spirit, I’ve decided to take a look at some midlist books and recommend them for summer reading, regardless of whether you are going anywhere this summer or not.  If you’re confused, a midlist book is one that has not made the New York Times Bestseller list.  They don’t receive a lot of publicity, and their authors eek out small livings rather than the mega fortunes of J. K. Rowling and Danielle Steel.  I assume you’ve filled your wish list with blockbusters like the new Dresden Files installment by Jim Butcher, and Paolo Baciagalupi’s The Wind Up Girl because everyone’s been talking about them.  Well, here’s a list of lesser known books that are just as good to add to your list.

Steampunk has exploded this past year, with the overnight successes of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate Series and Cherie Priest’s Hugo nominated Boneshaker.  However, in keeping with my aim of sticking with midlist books, I’m going to point you in the direction of Dru Pagliasotti’s Clockwork Heart.  It’s a steampunk romance set in an original world, and has a bit of fantasy thrown in.  Set in the city of Ondinium, flying courier Taya witnesses a suspicious cable car accident during a routine errand.  With the help of the Forlore brothers, she sets out to unravel what happens.  What made this book stand out for me was interesting characters with complex reasons for their actions, as well as a highly stratified society and the resultant class tension.  The Clockwork Heart is available in paperback and e-book.

Misty Massey’s Mad Kestrel is a fun debut for those who enjoy epic fantasy.  The main character is Kestrel, a rogue mage working as a privateer.  When her captain is arrested for piracy, she takes control of the ship and sails off to rescue him.  I’m hoping at some point that she writes a sequel, as there’s a lot of space in this world to work with/in.  Mad Kestrel is available in trade and mass market paperbacks.

Paranormal/urban fantasy is huge right now, but a lot of it has been drifting into the realms of romance and outright smut.  Granted, many of the leading authors in this genre make a lot of money and sell a lot of books doing that, but in a long running series such things tend to bore me after a while.  The reasons why are a blog (or two) in and of themselves, so let’s move on to my recommendation for this subgenre: Rob Thurman’s Trick of Light.  Thurman is best known for her (yes, her) original series starring the Leandros brothers.  Trick of Light is set in the same alternate universe, where pucks are used car salesmen and valkyries are museum curators, but instead stars Trixia and takes place in Los Vegas, not New York.  This is also not the Los Vegas you know from CSI and Ocean’s Eleven.  Action takes place off the strip and away from the tourists, which was a twist I enjoyed.  Trixia is playing a long game of revenge for her younger brother’s death, and as part of that is searching for the Light of Life to use as a wedge in angelic/demonic information brokering.  The plot twists delightfully, because Trixia is never upfront and honest about anything, and keeps you guessing as to what is going on in her head throughout the entire book.  Trick of Light is available in paperback and e-book, and its sequel, Grimrose Path will be released September 7. 

Jim C. Hines has wonderful series going starring none other than Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty as you’ve never seen them before.  He draws on the darker, original stories rather than the Disney version, and sets his tales after the original stories end.  He keeps things fairly upbeat and tongue and cheek, however, and has fast paced plots that keep you interested.  His princesses are pro-active, and more likely to save the prince from danger than to be saved themselves.   The Stepsister Scheme and the Mermaid’s Madness are available in paperback and in e-book, and the third book, Red Hood’s Revenge, will be out on July 6 of this year.  If you like Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms Series, but maybe don’t really like the romance sub genre, these are a good bet.


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