Category Archives: 03. Read My Hoard 2024

A pair by James Michener

by James Michener
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1974
Genre: historical fiction
Pages: 1105
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier. Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story of Colorado—the Centennial State—is manifested through its people: Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; Levi Zendt, fleeing with his child bride from the Amish country; the cowboy, Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured Englishwoman, Charlotte Seccombe. In Centennial, trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers, and hunters are brought together in the dramatic conflicts that shape the destiny of the legendary West—and the entire country.

I love a doorstopper, a sweeping epic, a long, dramatic read – and especially if it was published in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Authors like James Clavell, Leon Uris, Herman Wouk, M.M. Kaye, Colleen McCullough and, yes, James Michener. I read a lot of James Michener as a teen, because my dad loved them and they were always on our bookshelves. I definitely remember reading Chesapeake, which I haven’t yet revisited, but that’s the only one I am certain that I have read. I am fairly certain that I did read Centennial, but it’s four decades on, so I can’t be sure.

Anyway, now that The Dial Press has reprinted all of Michener in kindle as well as paperback formats, I’ve revisited a couple of them and plan to continue. As an aside, these are perfect to read on my lightweight kindle because they are so huge that reading them in paperback is physically difficult. In addition, although they are a little pricy for a 50 year old book, at over a thousand pages, it’s basically like getting 3 to 4 books for one price.

This is Michener’s Colorado/wild, wild west book, which follows several characters/families from Lame Beaver, an Arapahoe chief, through the present day (which was 1976). I found it be a great read, and especially enjoyed one of the chapters about a cattle drive that brings cattle to Colorado from Texas. This reminded me a lot of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

I really love this style of book, and wish that there were more modern writers who were writing this type of epic story in addition to Edward Rutherfurd. Since there aren’t, I’m just going to revisit the old authors.

The SourceThe Source
by James Michener
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1965
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Pages: 1080
ReRead?: Yes

In the grand storytelling style that is his signature, James Michener sweeps us back through time to the very beginnings of the Jewish faith, thousands of years ago. Through the predecessors of four modern men and women, we experience the entire colorful history of the Jews, including the life of the early Hebrews and their persecutions, the impact of Christianity, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition, all the way to the founding of present-day Israel and the Middle-East conflict.
"A sweeping chronology filled with excitement."

I read this one last April and never got around to reviewing it. With the Israel/Palestine conflict, it’s even more timely than it was last year. And, for anyone who is interested, the kindle version is currently on sale for $1.99 in the U.S. kindle store.

I liked this one even more than I liked Centennial, probably because the subject matter was much further away from my own historical past. I do believe that I read this one as a young adult, because there were elements that felt extremely familiar to me.

I long ago left my Christian faith behind, but I did not lose my interest in Christian history, and this book is a riveting exploration of a place that is deeply consequential to the spread of Christianity across the world. In many ways, Jewish history is world history.

I haven’t decided yet which Michener I am going to read/revisit next. I do remember really enjoying Chesapeake, so that one is in the running, but I also bought Iberia in 2016 and it’s just been waiting for me. These really aren’t books that I want to check out of the library, because it often takes me more than the checkout time to finish the book, and, as well, I expect them to have strong rereading potential.

I did decide that it was time to reread Shogun, since there is a new, lush adaptation available through FX, so that is the next 1970’s “sweeping epic” on my reading list. While I was at it, I also bought Tai Pan, which I remember actually liking more than Shogun. So, I’m heading back to feudal Japan once I finish Our Mutual Friend.

The Murderbot Diaries: Books 1 – 3

I’m not a natural science fiction reader, but in the last year or so, I’ve gotten more into sci fi. Last year, I managed to read the entire Wayfarer’s quartet, by Becky Chambers and I absolutely loved them. My husband is a sci fi fan, so when we had a trip planned that was going to be about a 4 hour drive, I used an Audible credit to buy All Systems Red.

All Systems RedAll Systems Red
by Martha Wells
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: sci fi
Pages: 156
ReRead?: No

A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence.

"As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure."

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

I was surprised at how much I loved this first entry. Murderbot is a Security Unit – or SecUnit – which is an AI construct. Genderless, I am going to use “he/him” for reference, because that’s how I imagine him, although I have no idea why. I could use “it,” but he feels more like a “he” than an “it.”

Wells drops the reader directly into her world, without much in the way of exposition. You’re just on planet with the survey team, and meet the characters really organically. The first several Murderbot books are novellas, so the action commences pretty much right away and doesn’t really stop until the end.

The intriguing thing about this series is being inside of the head of Murderbot, a self-aware construct that has hacked his own governor module, but that has so internalized his job of providing security to humans that it continues to do just that, even though he doesn’t really have to. He becomes attached to his humans, and wants to keep them from harm. Rather reluctantly, he likes them. At the same time, he is deeply conflicted because, as he tells himself, he is a ruthless killing machine, which is why he has named himself Murderbot.

This novella sets up the central conflict between Murderbot & the humans he wants to protect, and the soulless corporation, GrayCris, which is the major villain.

Artificial ConditionArtificial Condition
by Martha Wells
Rating: ★★★½
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #2
Publication Date: May 8, 2015
Genre: sci fi
Pages: 158
ReRead?: No

It has a dark past--one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot." But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more. Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue. What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks.

In the continuing adventures of Murderbot, he has slipped away from Dr. Mensah and left Port FreeCommerce to try to get to the bottom of the events of Ganaka Pit on RaviHyral, which culminated in the death of a whole bunch of humans at his hands. He ends up on an unmanned transport that he names ART, and they become co-conspirators.

I found this to be the most confusing of the novellas, and am still trying to process exactly what happened on RaviHyral. I went back and reread it, and I’m still not sure that I understand. But Murderbot continues to develop relationships with humans, and, as well, with ART (aka Asshole Research Transport) a bot driven transport with a massive processing capacity.

Rogue ProtocolRogue Protocol
by Martha Wells
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #3
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Genre: sci fi
Pages: 159
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

SciFi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is again on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

We listened to this third book on a drive to the Oregon coast on Wednesday and then home on Friday. I also really liked it – Murderbot is determined to find evidence against GrayCris to assist Dr. Mensah in proving the case against them, so he scams his way onto a research team at a far outpost on the Corporation Rim to do his own investigation into what is probably more bad behavior by the villainous corporation.

Of course, things get FUBAR’d beyond all recognition because GrayCris is, indeed, pure evil. Murderbot throws a giant wrench into their plans, and saves a bunch of humans, while becoming emotionally attached to a human shaped and somewhat innocently child-like bot named Miki. Oh, my sweet Miki.

I love this series and would read on if I didn’t know that my husband would be super annoyed with me. The next entry is another novella, called Exit Strategy, and then book 5 is a full-length novel. I need to plan a road trip.

This Week in Books: Week 7

This is the post for 2/11 through 2/17, which means that I’m caught up. I managed to get in a lot more reading this week because my husband & I took a short beach vacation with his side of the family, which made for some extra reading time.

The Last Smile in Sunder CityThe Last Smile in Sunder City
by Luke Arnold
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Fetch Phllips #1
Publication Date: February 6, 2020
Genre: urban fantasy
Pages: 352
ReRead?: No

A former soldier turned PI tries to help the fantasy creatures whose lives he ruined in a world that's lost its magic in a compelling debut fantasy by Black Sails actor Luke Arnold.

Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.

I'm Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.
2. My services are confidential.
3. I don't work for humans.

It's nothing personal—I'm human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it's not the humans who need my help.

This was a fun little urban fantasy that I checked out of the public library after running across it somewhere. If I had to pick my most underrated but enjoyable genre, UF would probably be it. I don’t read it often, but when I do, I always really enjoy it. It did remind me – a bit – of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files but without Harry’s sometimes creepy attitude towards women.

This series has an interesting premise – a world that used to have magic, but doesn’t anymore (because human beings are assholes, of course), where all of the magical creatures are slowly falling apart.

Unlike Dying is My Business from last week, this is one where I will definitely continue the series. There are two more that have been published, which are available at my library.

Still MidnightStill Midnight
by Denise Mina
Rating: ★★★
Series: Alex Morrow #1
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Genre: mystery: modern (1980-present)
Pages: 363
ReRead?: No

The first book in the acclaimed Alex Morrow series of crime novels set in Glasgow, Scotland, from the author of national bestseller Conviction.

Alex Morrow is not new to the police force -- or to crime -- but there is nothing familiar about the call she has just received. On a still night in a quiet suburb of Glasgow, Scotland, three armed men have slipped from a van into a house, demanding a man who is not, and has never been, inside the front door. In the confusion that ensues, one family member is shot and another kidnapped, the assailants demanding an impossible ransom. Is this the amateur crime gone horribly wrong that it seems, or something much more unexpected?

"As Alex falls further into the most challenging case of her career, Denise Mina proves why "if you don't read crime novels, Mina is your reason to change"-Rocky Mountain News

Do I like Denise Mina? Do I like Tartan Noir? I don’t know. I can’t really answer that question. I know that I’ve read at least one other book by her, but I can’t remember anything about it.

I did not love this book, though. I gave it 3 stars, and that was probably generous given that there were basically zero characters that I liked, and there was a bit of a romantic subplot that left me feeling like I needed to go take a shower. One thing that was true to life is that the criminals and thugs in this book were dumber than dirt.

Alex frustrated me a lot, but there was a reveal at the end that put things into a different perspective. This was a library check out, so I’m going to give the next book a chance to redeem the series for me.

La Belle SauvageLa Belle Sauvage
by Phillip Pullman
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: The Book of Dust #1
Publication Date: October 19, 2017
Genre: fantasy, YA
Pages: 449
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy...

Malcolm's father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust--and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; an Egyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl--just a baby--named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

This was the clear stand-out of the week. After languishing on my digital TBR since 10/11/2017, it came up in a lucky spin at the beginning of February. I’ve read Pullman’s His Dark Materials previously, and enjoyed the series a lot.

La Belle Sauvage is a prequel to His Dark Materials, and involves the fate of baby Lyra. I loved the characters, especially Malcolm Polstead and his daemon Asta. Returning to the alternate England, and getting glimpses of Oxford and the increasing monstrousness of the Magisterium (OMG, the League of St. Anthony that encourages children to inform on their families if they don’t demonstrate sufficient adherence to religious rules was absolutely horrifying) and the coming fight centered around Lyra is fascinating.

The next book is called The Secret Commonwealth and was published in 2019. The events of that book evidently occur 20 years after La Belle Sauvage, and 7 years after the end of The Amber Spyglass. I don’t yet own that book, so I’m going to hold off for a reread of His Dark Materials, and then plunge in straight-away.

There is also – supposedly – a third book, but it hasn’t been published and there is no information about when that is likely to occur. There is conjecture that it could be this year, but no definitive information has been provided.

In addition to those 3, I finished:

  1. Centennial by James Michener
  2. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie
  3. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  4. Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

I plan to write up individual posts for Centennial and They Came to Baghdad, and I’m rereading Artificial Condition & will do a series post of the first 3 Murderbot Diaries once I finish that reread. I’ll also be finishing Beloved this week – yay!

This Week in Books: Week 6

I know it’s the 7th week, and I’ll be doing a second post after I finish this one, but I never got around to week 6. My father-in-law was in the hospital, and life intervened! That also means that I actually didn’t get a lot of reading time, so I only finished 3 books.

Dying is my BusinessDying is my Business
by Nicholas Kaufmann
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Dying is my Business #1
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Genre: fantasy, YA
Pages: 369
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

Given his line of work in the employ of a psychotic Brooklyn crime boss, Trent finds himself on the wrong end of too many bullets. Yet each time he’s killed, he wakes a few minutes later completely healed of his wounds but with no memory of his past identity. What’s worse, each time he cheats death someone else dies in his place.

Sent to steal an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse near the West Side Highway, Trent soon finds himself stumbling into an age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil, revealing a secret world where dangerous magic turns people into inhuman monstrosities, where impossible creatures hide in plain sight, and where the line between the living and the dead is never quite clear. And when the mysterious box is opened, he discovers he has only twenty-four hours to save New York City from certain destruction.

This was a lucky spin book that had been on my TBR since March, 2017. It’s a piece of urban fantasy, and I ended up enjoying it, although it hasn’t really stuck with me in the two weeks since I finished. There is a second book in the series that has been published, and the author had a third book planned, but I think that it didn’t get picked up for publication, and that’s been almost 10 years ago at this point. I enjoyed it, but not enough that I am going to seek out book 2, especially since book 3 never made it into print.

What Darkness BringsWhat Darkness Brings
by C.S. Harris
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #8
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Genre: historical mystery
Pages: 349
ReRead?: Yes
Project: 2024 read my hoard

London, September 1812. After a long night spent dealing with the tragic death of a former military comrade, a heart-sick Sebastian learns of a new calamity: Russell Yates, the dashing, one-time privateer who married Sebastian’s former lover Kat Boleyn a year ago, has been found standing over the corpse of notorious London diamond merchant Benjamin Eisler. Yates insists he is innocent, but he will surely hang unless Sebastian can unmask the real killer.

For the sake of Kat, the woman he once loved and lost, Sebastian plunges into a treacherous circle of intrigue. Although Eisler’s clients included the Prince Regent and the Emperor Napoleon, he was a despicable man with many enemies and a number of dangerous, well-kept secrets—including a passion for arcane texts and black magic. Central to the case is a magnificent blue diamond, believed to have once formed part of the French crown jewels, which disappeared on the night of Eisler’s death. As Sebastian traces the diamond’s ownership, he uncovers links that implicate an eccentric, powerful financier named Hope and stretch back into the darkest days of the French Revolution. When the killer grows ever more desperate and vicious, Sebastian finds his new marriage to Hero tested by the shadows of his first love, especially when he begins to suspect that Kat is keeping secrets of her own.

And as matters rise to a crisis, Sebastian must face a bitter truth--that he has been less than open with the fearless woman who is now his wife.

This is 8th (out of 19) book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, so I’m still in the books I’ve read before. I am not doing a full reread, but I don’t remember the number of the last book that I read, so I started at book 7 and am reading from there. My mom also reads these books, and we share a kindle account, so turning to GR isn’t a fool-proof way of determining where I am in the series.

I enjoy this series a lot, especially Hero, but this wasn’t my favorite installment so far.

With my TBR project, I started a new practice that I wish I’d been doing all along – I drop a note on the first page of the book with my name & the date that I read the book.

Old God's TimeOld God's Time
by Sebastian Barry
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: March 1, 2023
Genre: fiction
Pages: 261
ReRead?: No
Project: booker prize

From the two-time Booker Prize finalist author, a dazzlingly written novel exploring love, memory, grief, and long-buried secrets

Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home, a lean-to annexed to a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea. For months he has barely seen a soul, catching only glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a nervous young mother who has moved in next door. Occasionally, fond memories return, of his family, his beloved wife June and their two children, Winnie and Joe.

But when two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, one which Tom never quite came to terms with, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.

A beautiful, haunting novel, in which nothing is quite as it seems, Old God's Time is about what we live through, what we live with, and what may survive of us.

Old God’s Time was a Booker Prize long-list finalist that didn’t make it onto the short-list. Sebastian Barry is an Irish author, and this felt like a very Irish book to me, and one that I didn’t entirely enjoy. Barry is tackling difficult subjects – trauma, and the deep legacy of child abuse within the Catholic Church. It’s told from the first person perspective of a retired police officer, Tom Kettle, who has essentially outlived everyone he loved, and who has made a sort of complacent existence for himself.

Tom is an unreliable narrator, so I’m still not entirely sure about the truth of his reality. I would read more Barry, though.

This Week in Books: Week 5

Two days into February, and I’ve already finished 30 books this year, 18 of which (according to GR) are part of my “Read My Hoard” challenge. This week, I finished 6 books, and I’ll be talking about 5 of them. I’ll be doing a post on A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and The Broken Road, once I finish The Broken Road, which I will start sometime this month.

Death at the Deep EndDeath at the Deep End
by Patricia Wentworth
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Miss Silver #20
Publication Date: January 1, 1951
Genre: mystery: silver age (1950-1979)
Pages: 342
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

Miss Silver searches for a lonely young woman who has disappeared

Anna Ball has disappeared. For a year she has moved from one job as a nanny to another, unable to settle or make friends. After just a month with her last family, she walks down the road, steps onto a bus, and is never seen again. No one notices she has gone. Almost no one. There is one woman who cares about Anna: a long-ago school pal named Thomasina, with whom she would trade a weekly letter. When the letters stop, she panics, knowing that if she doesn’t help the girl, no one will. She seeks out Maud Silver, the kindly spinster detective, and asks for her help. A lonely girl has disappeared without a trace, and Miss Silver smells a whiff of murder in the air.

I bought most, if not all, of the Miss Silver mysteries for my kindle as they came up on sale, as well as a pretty significant number of Wentworth’s stand-alones and other, smaller, series entries. I started off reading them in order, but got bogged down with The Brading Collection, which I found boring. According to GR, I have it marked as finish, but that may be wrong, since I don’t recall making it to the end. In any case, after that one, I sort of soured on Miss Silver, which really isn’t fair, because any series can have installments that are less engaging to specific readers. When this one popped up as a random selection for me, I decided not to worry about order of reading, since it doesn’t really matter.

This was a middling Miss Silver for me – not as enjoyable as some, but still engaging enough that I never flagged reading it, and I’m looking forward to making my way through the rest of the Patricia Wentworth kindle books that I have accumulated over the years.

The St. Ambrose School For GirlsThe St. Ambrose School For Girls
by Jessica Ward
Rating: ★★★½
Publication Date: July 11, 2023
Genre: YA
Pages: 368
ReRead?: No

Heathers meets The Secret History in this thrilling coming-of-age novel set in a boarding school where the secrets are devastating—and deadly.

When Sarah Taylor arrives at the exclusive St. Ambrose School, she’s carrying more baggage than just what fits in her suitcase. She knows she’s not like the other girls—if the shabby, all-black, non-designer clothes don’t give that away, the bottle of lithium hidden in her desk drawer sure does.

St. Ambrose’s queen bee, Greta Stanhope, picks Sarah as a target from day one and the most popular, powerful, horrible girl at school is relentless in making sure Sarah knows what the pecking order is. Thankfully, Sarah makes an ally out of her roommate Ellen “Strots” Strotsberry, a cigarette-huffing, devil-may-care athlete who takes no bullshit. Also down the hall is Nick Hollis, the devastatingly handsome RA, and the object of more than one St. Ambrose student’s fantasies. Between Strots and Nick, Sarah hopes she can make it through the semester, dealing with not only her schoolwork and a recent bipolar diagnosis, but Greta’s increasingly malicious pranks.

Sarah is determined not to give Greta the satisfaction of breaking her. But when scandal unfolds, and someone ends up dead, her world threatens to unravel in ways she could never have imagined. The St. Ambrose School for Girls is a dangerous, delicious, twisty coming-of-age tale that will stay with you long after you turn the last page

Another “dark academia” book that I checked out of the library – this one more successful than the last one, This Is How We End Things. Fancy boarding school stories are catnip to me, especially when told from the perspective of an outsider. The blurb for this one says “Heathers meets The Secret History,” which is a bit of a stretch – The Secret History is really the standard by which all dark academia is judged, and it continues to largely stand alone. But, this book was entertaining enough, and I’m not sorry I read it.

by Benedict Jacka
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Alex Verus #6
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Genre: urban fantasy
Pages: 296
ReRead?: No


Alex Verus is a mage who can see the future, but even he couldn't have seen this day coming. Alex has agreed to join the Keepers, the magical police force, to protect his friends from his old master, the Dark Mage Richard Drakh.

Going legit was always going to be difficult for an outcast like Alex, and there are those in the Keepers who aren't keen to see an ex-Dark mage succeed. Especially when Dark mages are making a play for a seat on the council, for the first time in history.

Alex finally has the law on his side - but trapped between Light and Dark politics, investigating a seedy underworld with ties to the highest of powers, will a badge be enough to save him?

It looks like 3.5 stars is the rating of choice for this week. Veiled is the 6th book in the Alex Verus series, which I have been reading for years now. The first 5 are on my book club account, but I’ve read all of those, so I decided to pick up the series by checking this book out of the library. There are currently a total of 12 books in the series, and Jacka just released the first installment in a new series, so maybe that means that the series has concluded? Anyway, this wasn’t my favorite installment – a bit more magical politics that I’m interested in, but I really enjoy urban fantasy, and this was no exception. I’ll be continuing with the series, I’m just not sure when.

God Save the QueenGod Save the Queen
by Kate Locke
Rating: ★★½
Series: The Immortal Empire #1
Publication Date: July 1, 2012
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 383
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

The Year is 2012—and Queen Victoria still rules with an immortal fist.

She's the undead matriarch of a Britain, where the Aristocracy is made up of werewolves and vampires, where goblins live underground, and mothers know better than to let their children out after dark. A world where technology lives side by side with magic, where being nobility means being infected with the Plague (side-effects include undeath) and Hysteria is the popular affliction of the day.

Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard, and it's her duty to protect the Aristocracy. But things get complicated when her sister goes missing. Xandra will not only realise she's the prize in a dangerous power struggle—but she'll also uncover a conspiracy that threatens to topple the empire itself.

This was another random number generator selection for me, which had been on my TBR since July 4, 2012. The plot summary turned out to work better for me than the book itself, which I found to be a bit lacking. The writing felt undercooked and a bit juvenile, like someone’s NanoWriMo manuscript that could have used more editing. It billed itself as steampunk, but those elements were almost non-existent, and the romance between the main character and the love interest was not particularly convincing. Overall, I was disappointed, and will not be reading on with the series.

Navajo AutumnNavajo Autumn
by R. Allen Chappell
Rating: ★★★
Series: Navajo Nation Mysteries #1
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Genre: mystery: modern (1980-present)
Pages: 151
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

Thomas Begay is found dead-drunk under the La Plata Bridge ...not unusual for Thomas Begay. What is unusual, is BIA investigator Patsy Greyhorse, found lying beside him ...not drunk, or even a Navajo, but very dead nonetheless. Long time friend Charlie Yazzi, fresh from law school, risks his career ...and even his life to help his old schoolmate. The Answer seems to lie with the Yeenaaldiooshii ...should one choose to believe in such things. In the far reaches of the reservation there still are traditional Navajos living their lives with few concessions to modern mores. Guided by their strong sense of cultural heritage these outliers remain a strong anchor for the Navajo Nation. This story follows the lives of such people, caught up in a plot that could have far reaching implications for the entire tribe.

My dad had purchased this entire series back in 2014, so when the random number generator gave me #8 in the series, I decided to go back to book 1 and try it out. I’m still not sure if I will read on or not. This was quite a short mystery, so I blew through it in a couple of hours. I liked the setting, I liked the main character, and I found the writing to be quite readable, especially for a self-published mystery. For now, I’m leaving the rest of the series on my TBR.

Checking in on the Challenge

It’s almost the end of January, so I thought that this would be a good time to check in on Read My Hoard. So far, I’ve read 13 books from my TBR:

  1. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
  2. Billy Boyle by James R. Benn (I have decided that I will not be continuing with this series; the book itself is in the bag of books I am collecting to take to the UBS)
  3. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (this book is also headed to the UBS)
  4. Beast in View by Margaret Millar
  5. Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
  6. Babel by R.F. Kuang
  7. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  8. Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris
  9. How to Fall by Jane Casey
  10. When Maidens Mourn by C.S. Harris
  11. Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
  12. Spelunking through Hell by Seanan McGuire
  13. Death at the Deep End by Patricia Wentworth

Spelunking through Hell and Death at the Deep End were random picks delivered to me by the universe and the random number generator. Thanks, universe!

I decided to spin for five more, to be read or deleted in the month of February:

  1. The Tree of Hands by Ruth Rendell (on the TBR since March 2, 2017)
  2. God Save the Queen by Kate Locke (on the TBR since July 4, 2012)
  3. Dying is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann (on the TBR since February 4, 2014)
  4. Navajo Nation by R. Allen Chappell (this is book 1 of the Navajo Nation mystery series, acquired and read – I think – by my father. There are 9 of them on the TBR, and I actually spun for #8, but I’m going to read #1. I’m not at all sure about this series, so this will either motivate me to read the series, or will clear 9 books in one fell swoop).
  5. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (on the TBR since August 15, 2014)

I’m well on my way to slay Smaug!