Virtual: Rockin' Re-Read Convention

This was a recommended book. At first I had problems figuring out where it took place. Nary a clue except about 50 pages in (of 300 paages) I finally figured out that this was England.
I didn't get interested until after about 100 pages, and by 200 pages was quite enjoying the jumble of different characters.

First of all this is a romance or just a British country novel. More important, the main characters are about 76. there are a sprinkling of youngsters, and a couple of 90 somethings, but they all are together in a small town.
You see the first character we meet, Barbara, has a fainting event on her own doorstep - but she figures that she is dying
We meet her sister, Pauline, who is a widow, living in a rather run down house, and sharing in small village life. but she feel a bit empty. Suddenly her sister invites herself for a rest/vacation. No sooner does she arrive, but the two are in the auto, and into their life falls Bisto.
Bisto is mud-stained, unkept and about 76. since we judge people by what they look like, and this vagabond has No suitcase, no toothbrush and no wallet. But the sisters take him in, and he turns out to be someone quite different.
THE FIRST EAGLE by Tony Hillerman

I sometimes flit between two books. Often because one is electronic, and the other isn't. In this case I was reading this Hillerman book, and got a bit bored. You see the title seemed to indicate that there was a second eagle, and the story hadn't mentioned either.

So, I took a break, and read OLD GIRLS, and then came back to this. This meant that I finished both this afternoon.

Jim Chee is still acting Lieutenant, and he hates the paperwork. But since the Tribal police are spread WAY too thin, he heads out to back up one of his fellow officers. When he finally drives there, on paved, gravel and dirt roads, and hikes to his fellow officer, he finds him bleeding to death, and being leaned over by a man with a poached eagle. Jim immediately arrests the man, a Hopi named Jano, and of course the FBI take over. To complicate things Janet Pete has returned to the reservation, and is immediately assigned to defend Jano. Complicating things is a missing scientist, who is testing Groundhogs, Mice and other rodents for Bubonic Plague, and who has disappeared. To make this more fun, Retired Lieutenant Leaphorn has accepted a request from the young woman's family to try to find her.
MOON SPINNERS by Mary Stewart 

This used to be a favorite book. It looks like this copy was published in 1963, and rebound in 1968. It is an X-library from the main library in town.  I dug it from the mystery shelves on the "other" book case.  I had forgotten it was there, and so, I had sort-of forgotten the story. 

Nicola works for the British Embassy in Athens.  It is time for her spring holiday, and her cousin Frances, who works in a garden center, planned to join her. Independently, a Danish friend who writes travel books, found this small village on Crete, and goes into raptures over the quiet, beauty, and the real, but small, hotel, with good food.  So Nicola plans to travel by bus, with Frances, but the plans get messed up. Frances gets delayed, and Nicola gets a ride.  What to do with a lovely spring day, when she isn't expected?  Well Nicola stashes her suitcase under a bridge, and hikes into the hills. What is planned on just a few hour stroll to find a nice place for lunch, becomes a rescue of a man who has been shot, with a missing teenager.  The next morning, Nicola walks back down to the bridge, and out of the adventure.    But this is Mary Stewart, so there is more intrigue, worries, and a bit of a love story. 

When written this was probably a contemporary novel. The women wear dresses, and everyone is smoking.  There are 3 telephones in the village. I liked the vision of Crete being a place where you can walk for hours and not see anyone. flowers everywhere in bright colors (like red gladioli, wild iris, and even a dandelion.
Today was an on-line mini convention brought via Zoom by AlbaCon. Steve read the first chapter of SHOUT OF HONOR, a novella, and Sharon read a chapter of the Galleys for their unpublished TRADERS LEAP. With the information that the book should be out in December [And that Uncle Hugo's will handle the signed copies from his home, as he book store was burned down in the riots.] and the uncorrected- proofs will be brought to e-Arc by Baen in a week.... I'll be purchasing that.

SHOUT OF HONOR by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (Novella available via Amazon, and as ebook on other sites.]

SHOUT is a back story, it was never included in a novel. But as these stray thoughts come to Steve & Sharon, they get written down. Someday they may get included in a novel, but for now, the aside would just confuse the narrative. This all is from a stray comment by Val Con from the first novel "The YXtrang Ambassador" * . When that was written it was a throw away idea. At that point, YXtrang hadn't become the enemy, so it was just a line. Recently the characters have met YXtrang soldiers as pirates in space, as an expeditionary force attacking a planet's population, and most recently as adjunct-members of clan Korval.

This is a story of the mission of the YXtrang Ambassador. Who is a former Hero Explorer, and a failure to the YXtrang, so then send him on a Galaxy wide fools mission.

* YXtrang is pronounced as Icks-trang
DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM by Diana Wynne Jones

Mr. Chesney has been running tours through the land. Every summer, there are about two dozen tours. There is a contract, unbreakable it seems, and for 30 years, every summer, the land is torn up for the "final battle", and wizards are forced to lead the tourists on long journeys, where they rough it out. The terms of the contract seem to force, Merchants, Pirates, Elves, Dwarves, Clerics, Emirs and Kings to do Mr. Chesney's bidding. This does not mention the huge numbers of people who die during the wars,

BUT, the people have had enough. A group of representatives of the major armies, religion, and wizards (not to mention the king of the thieves), meet to consult the two Oracles of the land. The result is that Wizard Derk is chosen as the year's Dark Lord, and his 14 year old son Blade is to lead the last tour.

What results is a mad romp through all of the tropes of Fantasy books, games and movies. There are flying pigs (and horses), friendly cows, carnivorous sheep, Gryphons and Dragons... In fact the Grypons are Derk's children, and Derkholm is his home.. All of which will be subverted to Mr. Chesney's tours.

This is a fun book, but a lot is left to the reader's imagination... Especially things like "slave girls" who we meet just before they all go on strike, and disappear.

The companion book is : The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel
Where we understand that if there is a map, then every place on the map needs to be visited. I don't read this second book very often, because it is pretty long, and the sarcasm is VERY obvious.

I may just pull it down, as it is probably the book that the tourists, touring the fantasy world, needed to read before they headed out. [The Rick Steves, and Fodor's manuals of traveling in a fantasy world.]
or I may pull down YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN which is the book after DERKHOLM.
TRADER'S LEAP by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

OK, this isn't a re-read. This is an uncorrected proof, as purchased yesterday direct from Baen Press.
This is the latest in the Liad universe. So, not to include any spoilers, I'll just mention what Sharon read during the AlbaCon mini virtual convention held last Saturday.

Shann & Padi have just survived attempts on their lives on a planet. Wounded as they are, they must continue. The ship must trade, and for that it needs it's traders.

Publication date 12/1/2020 Baen Press.
1939 Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout, a Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin mystery.

Mr. Wolfe has rules, as Archie tells us, and Archie narrates all of these books.
One of the rules is that Mr. Wolfe never leaves his home. Rarely enters his auto with anyone except Archie driving, and keeps strict hours with his Orchards.

Many of the books tell of what happens when the strict rules are broken. And in this, the 10th year that Archie has lived with his boss, they are on the road.
The excuse for going out is to bring Albino Orchards to a Agricultural fair. Sadly, there is an auto accident, where the auto crashes into a tree, and the radiator is destroyed. [Final cost to tow and repair $67.] But who is Caesar, that is to be buried? Caesar is a Guernsey Bull.
My apologies for those keeping track of how many books I have read in the past 6 months.
I have now read TRADER'S LEAP three times. The first for fun, the second for details in a typo hunt, and the third to find that one weird word "louche" , that wasn't wrong, just unusual.

I should mention that there is a new character named Eet, and as Andre Norton is thanked I believe that this was deliberate.
YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN by Diana Wynne Jones

This is the follow on to DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM, Several years have passed. There are two new children to Wizard Derk. Kit and Blade are now very powerful wizards, especially when they work together.
Most important, Elda who once was the youngest of Derk's children, has started at the Wizard University. but things are not well there. The university used to only teach enough so that graduates could lead one of the tourist groups. After 40 years of this, the surviving wizards all retired, and the current group of teachers had gone through that training, and only that training. AND the university needs money, so wizard Corcoran selects the six first years that look to have the most important parents, and has sent letters looking for donations. Sadly all six have, in one way or another, tricked their relatives and gone to the university without notice.
Sadly the whole system is now breaking down.


You are about to go on vacation. So you go out and purchase the travel guide for the location, AAA, Rick Steve's, Lonely Planet or Fordor's. What if you are going to Fantasyland, on one of Mr. C's tours? Well then you need the Tough Guide.
Sadly, though this does include a map, and some good introductory Information, it is not a very good travel guide. This is more of a dictionary of reference terms. Each item is clever, and has tiny (Fordor like) icons in the margins. But this is like reading any dictionary. It gets boring pretty fast.

So, I do not recommend this as a travel guide for Fantasyland. I suggest that you see what the Frames guide is like.
This is a book of short stories. A total of 100 pages, but the links to Sir Terry's foot notes worked fine.

The title story, about the vacuum cleaner, and a bunch of stage magicians, is clever, and gentle in it's retelling of why you should not knock over an old lady's vacuum cleaner... i.e. never insult the Poor beggar lady in the woods.

From the Preface, These were written while Terry Pratchett was a junior reporter. Included are stores of the wild west, i.e. Wales.
Published in 2016 in US. A year after his passing.
VELVET SHADOWS by Andre Norton

Not my favorite. A Post Civil War clash of races and Victorian manners. Too many sub plots, too many mixed races [American, French, Hatti, African Americans of former slaves, 1/4 and 1/8 blood] all of these stirred into a pot with the Barbary Coast and Voodoo.

I think if the book had been primarily about Mammy Pleasant/Mrs. Mary Pleasant/Mrs. Mary Smith, it would have been a much better book.

Archie narrates the story. He narrates all of the stories, and I hear Tim Hutton's wise guy voice.

Nero Wolfe is a big man. Huge. Sedentary. He loves good food, and his butler & Chef Fritz is superb. He has a strict regime, of breakfast, 9:00-11:00 am in the Greenhouse, Noon lunch, and 4:00-6:00pm again in the Greenhouse, after which is dinner. He uses an elevator to get between floors of his New York City Brown Stone, and the Greenhouse is on the roof. He never leaves his house.

And on the few times that he does leave his house, Archie, his secretary, chauffer, detective, and muscle accompanies him. He employs a hand full of men on an irregular basis, and pays all of them well.

He only takes jobs that pay well, and he usually uncovers the truth, even when the police cannot.

His life is jostled by the arrival of a young woman from Yugoslavia (The year is 1939-1940). He refused to talk to her. He reveals to Archie that in his youth he was more agile, and traveled in Europe as a spy (possibly just before WWI). Just before returning to the US he adopted a child, because he could count her ribs, and had sent money to her guardian for many years.

But now the whole problem of Yugoslavia has come back to haunt him. With lovely women teaching fencing and dancing. With young men learning fencing and dancing, practicing politics and dying, this is a nice little romp through New York City before the war.
THE GRAND SOPHY by Georgette Heyer

Now to like Georgette Heyer, you need to like romance, with a bit of intrigue, and a lot of period clothing thrown in for fun.

Sir Horace has come to England to beg his sister to house his daughter for an unknow period. His "Little Sophy". You see he is off to Brazil, and needs is 20 year old daughter to find a husband. Little Sophy arrives, and rather than a meek miss is a assured woman who can ride a blood horse, drive a curricle, and shoot her small pistol. She finds the household all messed up, and decides to do something about the mess. You see, she has been her father's hostess for several years and to the officers, and diplomats she is know for managing.

I liked this book. It is a fairly well done romance novel.
I'll put a full review on the Andre Norton Thread.
FLEETING FANCY by Rosemary Edghill

I like Rosemary Edghill, AKA Eluki bes Shahar. I like her science fiction and her fantasy. She has co-authored with Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey and Marrion Zimmer Bradley.

UI almost stopped reading this after the first few chapters. I thought the premise was bad. But, I don't keep books that I don't like, and this was on my shelf (Abet in with the other books by this author, and not with the romance novels).

If I can ignore the premise of the book: A young(ish) man who for a lark, convinces a 16 year old to marry him. But the 'jest' is that it is done by a defrocked priest, so is not a true marriage. All of that is in the first chapter.

His father banishes him to India, hoping that it will mature him. 9 years later allows him to return if he will marry the woman that the Earl has chosen for him. It takes 6 months for the letter to reach India & 6 months for Lord Severn to return (By way of Capetown and Rio de Janeiro). He has 3 weeks to visit a tailor before his wedding........ to the young woman from his prank.

If you can get past the first 4 chapters, the rest of the book is a standard Regency Romance. The plot still rather twisted, but otherwise standard for such a romance. No dueling, but lots of fashion and horse drawn carriages & phaetons & bad roads.

So this appears that I've finished two books in one day, and that is true, but I didn't start both books yesterday. I actually started this e-book a couple of days ago, and then ran out of electrons. So I plugged the e-reader in, and pulled down a paperback. Once the paperback was finished, I went back to the e-reader.

This is one of those mysteries where, had I been reading a paperback, I would have started a pencil list of characters in the back.
There are the usual staff of the Wolfe residence, Archie, Fritz, and (see I've already forgotten a name) the gardener; there are the three as needed detective people that do hourly work for Wolfe, and then there is the dead guys family, attorneys, mistress and servants. [The deceased had a wife, 2 children, 3 sisters: June, May & April. June has 2 children & spouse. All of the single women seem to have male companions, and April has a secretary.)

You see the family is up in arms over the will. Some of them were totally cut out. One had a promised donation to her University cut to 10%, and the widow, who had been disfigured in an accident with a crossbow (held by the now dead guy), given a smallish amount and NOT the house. We are talking several millions in a world where the per-diem detectives work for $8/day.

Wolfe's bank account is currently down, so he agrees to take the inheritance case, which becomes a murder, and then two murders.

This is fun to read, but I probably should have kept a character list.... Just to keep things straight.

Oh, the impossible does happen. Wolfe leaves his home for business. He hates that.
THE RELUCTANT WIDOW by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer is a master of her genre. The period is the Regency in England. We can ignore the period if we don't care about what people are wearing. There is a nice little mystery, and a romance. A young woman (26) and a handsome man (32 or so). No confusing names, no need to draw a floor plan of the mansion. A quiet world where it takes a quarter of a hour to drive 9 miles, if one has a good horse. Candles, and a secret passage. Just a quiet week in the country.

So here the young woman, Elinor, who has been a governess for 6 years, arrives by the local mail coach at a small town. She is met by a carriage, rather than expected farm cart. She is asked if she has come about the advertisement, and she has. Just not the right advertisement. The Carriage owner advertised for a wife for his cousin, a man who's liver is failing due to too much drink, late hours, gambling. Of course the heroine refuses this role. Sadly for her the proposed groom has just been stabbed in a bar room brawl, and she is forced to marry him. He manages to leave his estate to her, and then dies.

After such a start, we spend a week of trying to put a house back in order after years of dust. Elinor's old governess arrives to accompany her, and cousins pop in with dogs, the before mentioned secret passage, and intrigue. It is lots of fun, but unexpectedly all occurs in a single week.
WHEEL OF STARS by Andre Norton
This is a Romance with Fantasy. Or a pretty good Fantasy novel slotted into a pretty bad Romance Novel.
I'll review on the Norton Thread
THESE OLD SHADES by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer wrote a lot of Regency Romance novels, and about a dozen mysteries. [As well as three historical romance written in 'ye olde style']. to my recollection she only wrote this one trio of related stories.
THE BLACK MOTH, THESE OLD SHADES and DEVILS CUB.... And I spent about 20 minutes hunched over the shelves where the Heyer books are stacked till I found the CUB book.

So, in the BLACK MOTH we meet the Duke of Avon, a man who would kidnap a woman because he wanted her. And was willing to sponge off his brother in law. In THESE OLD SHADES, we meet the Duke as a man of fashion (and wealth) walking in Paris, and being bowled over by a youth escaping from rough treatment. On a whim the Duke buys the youth.

The youth becomes the Duke's page, and then his ward, and in typical Heyer fashion there are swords, bullets, carriages to chase and finally revenge to be had.
FROM AWAY by Jessica Shay

This is a Romance with mystery and fantasy elements. It is also a departure for me as it is a "self published" book.

The book is good, real good. It is good enough that I barely noticed that a half hour had passed during the Auto Emissions test. It is a look up and two hours have passed type of book. On my scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is donate the book, and 10 is stay up all night) the book is a solid 8.

The prologue has a woman swimming in the bay at dawn. Listening to the voices of two guys in a row boat carry over the water.

The first chapter has Maura, a Librarian in a small island community of Maine, meeting the new Police Officer and his daughter. This officer has a British accent, but after that mention, there is no attempt to script in any accent. I think this is well done, especially when the three British men go to watch football on TV, and later Maura mentions that they are watching soccer.
I am less sure of my Maine dialect. There are only a couple of references to "Flatlanders".

The romance is subtle, and passes my "blush" test, as it doesn't go beyond the removing of clothing, and the fantasy is very subtle. The mystery is sort of the "pistol on the wall"😉. but is solved in the end.

I liked the mix of characters, children, 30 somethings and oldsters. I admit to having a bit of confusion on some of the names of the people populating the island, but never enough that I needed to figure out if that character would be able to do their bit. I.e. no need to jot the names down for later reference.

😉Note: Anton Chekhov's famous book writing advice: 'If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.

Book was purchased from Barnes & Noble, and is available in both Trade-paper and e-book form
Double J Press, MA Copyright 2020
ISBN 978-1-7353479-0-3 Paper
ISBN 978-1-7353479-1-2 eBook

On Barnes & Nobel site, search for Far Away by Jessica Shay

MYCode Guide

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