What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? AKA The Sunday Post 6-17-12

The biggest thing on my mostly virtual nightstand this week is plane tickets. And they are virtual, since no one gets actual plane tickets anymore.

On Friday, I’ll be flying to the original home of Mickey Mouse. No, I don’t mean Orlando. If I were going to Orlando, I’d drive.

I’m going to Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland. But I’m not going to visit Mickey. Or, at least, not on purpose.

The American Library Association Annual Conference is in Anaheim again this year. (We were just there in 2008). What does ALA mean to me? A lot of meetings. And a LOT of opportunities to meet authors and pick up free Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) and books. I expect I’ll see pretty much the same ARCs that the BEA attendees did. I have my fingers crossed.

But while I’m at ALA, this blog will still go on. There’s even going to be a blog hop next weekend. But before that…

The Lovestruck Giveaway Hop is still going strong. Don’t just look at my hop post, but be sure to check out all the hoppers! There are over 125 blogs participating, so hop and take a chance on some great book giveaways.

This week I’ll have two tours with interviews and reviews.

On Tuesday, June 19, my guest will be S. J. McMillan to talk about her paranormal romance City of the Gods, the Descendant. I’m in the middle of this book right now, and she’s used an unusual culture as her starting point. Her heroine is the descendant of the Ancient Aztecs. The battle  between good and evil is shaping up to be pretty epic.

Thursday we’re going into space with Maria Hammarblad. Her heroine is Kidnapped, but lives out that frequent fantasy of traveling those “strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations”. Even though her kidnapper is a hunk, it turns out there’s no place like home.

Kidnapped is a great lead-in to Friday’s SFR Blog Hop. I’ll be participating, along with other members of the SFR (that’s science fiction romance) Brigade as we provide SFR related book giveaways on all our blogs.

About that traveling nightstand of mine. Especially when I’m on the road, I look at this post to figure out what I should be reading!

I have some books that caught my eye on NetGalley or Edelweiss that are due out next week. Let’s take a look at what they are:

Two sequels to books I reviewed last year. Suited by Jo Anderton is the follow-up to her marvelous science fiction debut, Debris.

And The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton is the second mystery by Elizabeth Speller, after last year’s haunting The Return of Captain John Emmett.

I expect to pick up what my husband calls a “metric butt-load” of books from the conference. After all, I need to give LaZorra a new throne. I dismantled her old one.

The Return of Captain John Emmett

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller is a haunting story of lost men during a lost time–a story the lost generation of soldiers who only semi-returned from the trench warfare of World War I, and the between-the-wars limbo that was the 1920’s.

Today we call it “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” or PTSD, as if giving things a name makes them easier to live with. In the immediate aftermath of WWI, it was simply called “shell-shock”, as though the shorter name meant it could be dismissed that much more easily.

Captain John Emmett returned from his war, whole in body, but not in spirit. He coped badly with the war, and even worse with the peace. His family institutionalized him after he attacked another veteran. When he escaped from the sanitarium, he committed suicide and left no note. His sister, thinking that he was improving, and certain that there must have been something more to her brother’s death, enlists one of his old school friends to investigate the circumstances of Emmett’s suicide.

Laurence Bartram came home from his war as shell-shocked as Emmett, but didn’t quite reach the institutional stage. He returned from his war a widower, his wife having died in childbirth on the day that his unit made it last assault. Wracked with guilt, he has been unable to restart a new life in peacetime. Mary Emmett’s request to investigate her brother’s death gives him a new purpose.

Bartram discoveries uncover mystery upon mystery. At first he believes he is looking into an unfortunate, but ultimately simple, suicide. It would not have been uncommon. But as he delves deeper, his investigations lead from peacetime back to the war he left behind. And from suicide to murder.

In peacetime it was called shell-shock. In wartime, it was called cowardice. On the front lines, an officer convicted of cowardice in the face of the enemy was court martialed and shot. In the British Army only three officers faced such firing squads during WWI. Emmett was the officer in charge of one, and he botched it. The war is over and all the men from that squad are being picked off, one by one. Those that survived the war, someone is making sure that they don’t survive the peace.

Escape Rating B+: After a slow start, this one grabbed me at the end and didn’t let go. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. The mixture of real history with fiction makes the story compelling. Also the touch of “real fiction”. One of the characters is reading Agatha Christie, and commenting on the similarities. But the pathos is in the characters of Emmett, Mary Emmett and Bartram. War is hell. Those young men had no idea what they were in for, and even less what to do when they got out. Combined with the incredible networking influence of the “Old School Ties”, both literal and figurative, and what happened to someone who didn’t have them. The historical notes at the end put the story in context. For fiction, this is too real. And war is still hell.