Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

nature of the beast by louise pennyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache #11
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.

But when the boy disappears the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.
And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.

And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.
A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.

My Review:

As much as I love this series, and all the characters in it, I would not want to live in Three Pines. Quebec. The murder rate is much too high. I can see the tourist brochures now – Come to Three Pines if you’re tired of your life. With the subtext that your life will probably end if you go there.

The regulars all survive. Often not unscathed, but survive. This is a place that people come to for sanctuary, and often stay. Providing they survive their initial introduction.

For a story that starts small, The Nature of the Beast brings in a wider and wider world, even though its entire physical setting is that one small village in Quebec.

We start with one myth, the boy who cried wolf, and end with another, the Whore of Babylon. While that seems like quite a stretch, the path from one to another ultimately becomes clear, even as it obscures who is responsible for the evils that rain down on this place.

A little boy loves to roam the woods around Three Pines, and make up stories about the monsters he finds. Laurent Lepage is not just very imaginative, he’s also an excellent salesperson – he does all too good a job at getting people to believe his fantastic tales. But Laurent has been doing this since he was 6, and at age 9 people are generally wise to him. So when he bursts into the local Bistro claiming that he found a gun bigger than his house with a monster on it, no one believes.

And, just as in the fable about the boy who cried wolf, this time he is telling the truth. And it gets him killed.

Three Pines has been hiding a terrible secret. 40 years ago an arms dealer, a genius engineer, and a serial killer built a gigantic gun in the woods near Three Pines. Over time, the arms dealer was murdered, the engineer died, and the serial killer got caught. But the gun remained under camouflage netting until poor little Laurent found it, and touched off a series of murders, a witch hunt, and very nearly a prison break.

Chief Inspector Gamache, formerly of the Surete du Quebec, has retired with his wife Reine-Marie to the village of Three Pines. He became famous for rooting out the long-standing corruption in the Surete, and retired or perhaps retreated, to Three Pines to heal.

But murder, and his past, keep finding him. He is the first to think that Laurent did not die in a bicycle accident, but was murdered. And it is he that starts the search for the boy’s trail, and discovers the gun known in the arms trade as Big Babylon.

This Supergun was purported to be able to shoot a payload into low-earth-orbit using mechanical energy only – no electronics. The aiming, however was so imprecise that it could only be used on a very big target, like a city. It is a weapon of mass destruction, and the rumors said that it was purchased by Saddam Hussein. Luckily, he never got it.

During the story I kept wondering if the reason that the image of the Whore of Babylon was etched onto the gun’s base was for Saddam’s benefit. The reason turns out to be much more chilling than I imagined.

The discovery of the gun brings a host of interested parties to Three Pines. Laurent’s death has already brought Gamache’s former colleagues to the village. Isabelle Lacoste is now Chief of Homicide, Gamache’s old position, and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, originally Gamache’s second, is now hers. They are there for the murder.

Following in their wake are a retired physics professor and finally, two agents of the Canadian Security Service. The professor knew the arms dealer, and the Security Officers claim to be paper pushers who just so happen to be experts in the arms dealer, and especially in the Supergun he planned to sell. Or sold.

After a second death, both investigations heat up, and go at cross purposes. This is a case where everyone has secrets, and everyone’s secrets get in the way of anyone else finding the truth. They are all going in circles, and they all suspect each other of agendas that may not be for the greater good.

Into the middle of it all, a bigger threat than anyone imagined. The one person left alive who might know the truth of the whole mess is a convicted serial killer, locked in maximum security for a series of murders so heinous that his trial was kept secret. Gamache is the only person who knows who the man really is or just how much he has done.

The question facing the retired Chief is a terrible one – will the world be better off with a soulless serial killer on the loose but the plans for the doomsday gun found and safe, or will it be better to keep the devil locked up and let the world hunt for the Supergun plans throughout Three Pines, with all the chaos and destruction that will cause?

Which is the greater good?

Escape Rating A+: This one kept me up until 3 am. I had to finish. And as usual with this series, it’s the way that events affect the people involved that stick with me, and not necessarily the case itself.

This is also a case that fools the reader, as well as the detectives, right up to the end. The story starts with “Who killed Laurent?” but we and the detectives all get so sidetracked by the Supergun that we lose sight of the dead boy. We all think we know the motive for his murder (and the one that follows) but no one seems to fit the frame for the murderer.

The tie to the serial killer seems to come from left field. At first, the detectives think that Gamache is grasping at straws when he brings the man’s name into the investigation. At the end, of course, he’s right. He’s always right in the end, no matter how many times he seems to go off course in the middle. And this course looked very far fetched when it is first introduced. It’s only at the end where we discover just how deliberate this particular piece of misdirection was.

How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyAnd through the entire story range the people of Three Pines. By this point in the series, we know them and love them – even the cantankerously nasty poet Ruth Zardo and her duck Rosa. It is Ruth that is both shielding the present from the awful past, and who provides the insights that make the solution possible. And it’s Ruth who provides a surprising amount of compassionate healing to those who are left needing it most. Just as she did with Jean-Guy at the end of How The Light Gets In (enthusiastically reviewed here)

The part of the story that is sticking with me are the open questions that are left at the end. Gamache has healed enough that he needs to find a second act for his life. He’s not yet 60, and there is plenty of time for him to leave his mark again in some other service. He still feels the need to fight injustice, right wrongs and solve murders. There are plenty of places begging for him to come and lead them.

At the same time, the serial killer is a manipulative murdering bastard who is looking for a way out of prison and back into the world where he can commit more sick crimes. He knows Gamache’s name, and obviously spends his life planning his next action. Or evisceration. I have a feeling that he will (unfortunately for Gamache) be back.

And then there’s the Supergun, and everything it brought with it. It’s not just that the behemoth is out there in the woods, it’s that there are now members of the illegal arms trading community who know where it is and where to look for information on it. Some of those completely unscrupulous people know that Gamache and his colleagues thwarted them this time, and there’s a chance they’ll want payback.

But the big questions are the hard ones. Do the ends justify the means? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one? And if they do, who decides which are which? And last, particularly in regards to the security community – Who watches the watchers?

Those are the questions that haunt Gamache at the end of this book, and I expect will play a big part of the next. They are certainly haunting me.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

long way home by louise pennyFormat read: print ARC provided by the publisher
Formats available: hardcover, audiobook, ebook
Genre: mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache #10
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. “There is a balm in Gilead,” his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, “to make the wounded whole.”

While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. “There’s power enough in Heaven,” he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, “to cure a sin-sick soul.” And then he gets up. And joins her.

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

My Review:

still life by Louise pennyThe Long Way Home is a marvelously told character-study wrapped around the mystery of one man’s disappearance into the wilds of Quebec, and his own past. The story richly rewards those who have followed Inspector Gamache and the inhabitants of Three Pines from the beginning of his journey in Still Life, as The Long Way Home serves as an exploration into the lives of Gamache and his friends after the climactic ending of How the Light Gets In (reviewed here).

It’s also the story of the disintegration of both a marriage and a man. Peter and Clara Morrow are both artists, but for most of their lives, Peter has been famous (relatively) and Clara has been exploring. And sometimes laughed at. Until her acclaimed solo show at the Musee in Montreal. Now Clara is the famous artist, and Peter is seen as merely a technician.

He can’t bear being demoted to second place in their marriage. He can’t bear being suddenly seen as “less”, when he’s always been “more”. So he left. Left Clara, left Three Pines, left everything behind. But he promised to come back in one year. Then they would see.

But Peter doesn’t come back, and Clara can’t move on with her life until she figures out what happened. Especially since orderly and rule-bound Peter would never forget or miss their “date”–unless something was very, very wrong.

How the Light Gets In by Louise PennySo Clara does what everyone does when they have a mystery to be solved. Clara unburdens herself on a retired and recovering Armand Gamache. She needs to find Peter, whether or not he is lost. And Gamache, who owes the people of Three Pines so much, both for their willingness to stand by him in How the Light Gets In and simply for the way they have taken him into their hearts and provided refuge from the battles he thought he had left behind, knows that he must help her.

For Clara, he is willing to undertake one more case, even unofficially. All his friends, family and even former colleagues come along for this search into Peter Morrow’s whereabouts, a search that turns into an investigation of Peter and Clara’s past as well as the present. As they follow the route that Peter has taken through light and dark places, they discover that someone along their journey has been deceiving the world for too many years.

Suppressing someone’s art, the crime that Peter almost committed against Clara, creates a passion more than strong enough to murder.

Escape Rating A+: While the story is a terrific exploration of mystery, human nature, and how we invent and reinvent ourselves, it particularly rewards readers who have followed the series. Gamache’s brand of solving crimes (or missing persons cases) by examining the nature of the people involved (as opposed to just looking for motive and opportunity) has more depth in this case if you know the characters. There is a lot of bantering humor that is based on the personalities.

The action follows on the heels of How the Light Gets In, and serves in some ways as a coda to that story. If you love these characters, you want to know what happens after the crisis ends, and how they attempt to rebuild their lives. It was marvelous to visit Three Pines again, and I wasn’t sure that there would be a book after Light. This was a terrific look at what happens after “they lived happily ever after” because they don’t. Deep wounds don’t heal cleanly. We forgive but we don’t forget.

There’s a lesson in The Long Way Home. Those who manage to find a balm for their past wounds, move forward in their lives. They may continue to struggle with their pain, as Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Ruth Zardo do in different ways, but they also keep walking on into the light of a new and brighter day. Those who cling to the scars of the past, die in the shadows.

I hope I’ll get to go to Three Pines again. It has become one of my favorite places.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

A Baker’s Dozen of the Best Books of 2013

2013 blockAs 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back and attempt to decide which books were the best of the year.

OK, so this list is the best of my year. Why not? Everyone else is doing it!

But seriously, it’s both a surprise and a delight to look back and see which books got one of the rare A+ ratings. Or even just an A. (Along with the discovery that I need to do a better job of tagging to make them easier to find.)

There aren’t a lot of romances on this list. Not because I didn’t read some good ones this year, but because, well “reasons” as Cass says. Mostly because I do a separate list of the Best Ebook Romances for Library Journal every year, and also recap that list here at Reading Reality. So romance gets pretty much covered.

And speaking of Cass, she contributed her trademark snark to this list. Along with a dose of draconic awesomesauce.

These are the books that stuck with me this year. Sometimes to the point where I was still telling people about them months later, or where I am haunting NetGalley, Edelweiss or the author’s website looking for news of the next book in the series or their next book, period.

Cass’s thoughts on her faves are very definitely hers. And her picks probably won’t surprise anyone who has seen her dragon shoes. (Note from Cass: Do you want to see my dragon shoes?! They are amazing!)

Whatever your choices were for this or any other year, I hope you enjoyed every single page of them!

Spider Women's Daughter by Anne HillermanSpider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (A+ Review).  This is a case where life parallels art in a manner that is fitting and poignant. In the story, Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernie Manuelito picks up the case after retired “Legendary Lieutenant” Joe Leaphorn is gunned down in front of her outside a local diner. In real life, Anne Hillerman picks up the case of continuing her father Tony Hillerman’s mystery series by changing protagonists, using a female officer sandwiched between conflicting roles to solve the mystery of who shot the man she loves as an honorary father.


How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyHow the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (A+ Review) This was simply stunning, and there’s no other word to describe it. The light gets in through our broken places, and that’s what this 9th book in Penny’s Inspector Gamache series explores, the broken places in every single character involved. These are mysteries, but Gamache is not a detective who solves crimes by examing forensics; he solves crimes by studying people.

Imager’s Battalion (A Review) and Antiagon Fire (A Review) by L.E. Modesitt Jr. One of the things that I have loved about Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio has been his main characters. Both in the original trilogy (Imager, Imager’s Challenge and Imager’s Intrigue) and in this second series, we have a fantasy hero who is a grown up but still has to face the coming-into-his-power scenario. The women in the series are strong and resourceful in their own right, and the political challenges and machinations are never-ending but still make sense. I just plain like these people and can never wait to read more of their adventures. His protagonists make things happen without needing to be king or princeling. Fantastic.

Bronze Gods by A.A. AguirreBronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre (A Review) I just swallowed this one whole and came out the other side begging for more (which is coming, see tomorrow’s post). Bronze Gods is a masterful blend of steampunk, urban fantasy, mystery and police procedural, tied together with some truly awesome worldbuilding and the fantastic partnership of two characters who need each other to remain whole.  This one blew me away.

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest (A Review) If Bronze Gods is steampunk as urban fantasy, then Fiddlehead is steampunk as epic. Fiddlehead is the culmination of Priest’s long-running Clockwork Century alternate history steampunk epic, and it’s a doozy. She started with poisonous gas knocking Seattle back to the stone age in Boneshaker, and rippling that event into an endless U.S. Civil  War. With a reason for zombies to be part of the mix. Fiddlehead brings it all to roaring conclusion, and almost aligns history back to the world as we know it. Epic alternate history.

Garden of Stones by Mark T BarnesThe Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes (A Review) This one blew me away. Library Journal sends me books to review, and it’s hit or miss. This was one that absolutely surprised and delighted me. It is epic fantasy, and the world is not just complex, but the reader starts in the middle. There’s no gentle introduction. You feel that this place is ancient and has eons of history, as do all of the characters. It’s immersive and amazing. If you like your fantasy on the complicated side, with lots of betrayals, The Garden of Stones is a treat.

Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football by Rich Cohen (A Review) These are not the kind of monsters I usually read about, and this was not the kind of review I usually write. But the 1985 Bears were my team, and I’ve never been able to explain why that year was so damn much fun to anyone else. This book does it. And at the same time, I can’t watch a game now without thinking about this book, and what it has to say about CTE and the high cost of playing the game we all loved to watch.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversThe Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers (A Review) This is the one carryover from the Best Ebook Romances list, because it was so good that I couldn’t leave it out. The Story Guy was Mary Ann Rivers debut story, and it was an absolute winner. What makes it so good is that the issues that have to be overcome in this story are real; there are no billionaires or fantastically gorgeous Hollywood types in this tale, just an accountant and a librarian (go us!) who have real-world roadblocks to get past to reach a happy ending, if they can.

The Grove by Jean Johnson (A Review) This one is in Jean’s fantasy romance series, the Guardians of Destiny. And that series is a loose followup to her Sons of Destiny series. I’ve read both, and they are just tremendously fun. The fantasy worldbuilding is terrific, the romance is hot, and her heroines and heroes are always equal. No alpha-holes and no doormats need apply. (Her military science fiction series, Theirs Not to Reason Why, is also marvelous!)

The Human Division by John ScalziThe Human Division by John Scalzi (A- Review) Last but absolutely not least, John Scalzi’s return to his Old Man’s War series. Old Man’s War is one of my favorite books ever, and I pretty much shove it at anyone who even hints that they like SF and haven’t read it. So anything new in the OMW universe is automatically worth a read for me. The Human Division took the story in the new directions that followed from the end of The Last Colony, but left LOTS of unanswered questions. There was quite a bit of Scalzi’s trademark humor, but this is not intended as a funny book like Redshirts. I think this story is going to go to some dark places before it ends. But it’s awesome.

Honorable Mention: Clean by Alex Hughes (A+ Review) I adored this urban fantasy set in a post-tech wars dystopian future. Her flawed hero reminded me so much of the version of Sherlock Holmes in Elementary, but her messed-up Atlanta looked like a bad version of a place we could all too easily get to from here. The ONLY reason it didn’t make the “Best of 2013” list is that I’m late to the party. Clean was published in 2012.

Contributions from Cass:

natural history of dragons by marie brennanA Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (5 Star Review) because it was THE LITERARY EMBODIMENT OF DRACONIC PERFECTION. There is no more amazing depiction of dragons out there. It easily soared above my previous Dragon Favorites, and utterly crushed the Dragon Posers people are always trying to torment me with.

UPDATE FROM CASS: I invented a new rating scale for this one. I did not give it a mere 5/5 stars – but rather 15 stars. Nothing Marlene read this year hit that level of awesome. Come back sometime in February (March?) and see my feelings on the sequel. 

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams (4 Star Review). Though I was a wee bit nervous when, at the WorldCon Mad Science Panel, certain contributors had some suspiciously specific ideas about how to rain mayhem and destruction down onto the audience. (Someone give Seanan a Hugo just to distract her from setting off an international incident. Please?)

parasite by mira grantParasite by Mira Grant (4.5 Star Review) Parasites freak me right the fuck out. There is nothing more horrifying to me than a society where MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS tell everyone to ingest a goddamn tapeworm as a cure-all. Could I see the sheep doing it? Yes. Which only amps the terror up.

So that’s our list for 2013. What’s on your list?

Review: How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyFormat read: print ARC provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache, #9
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Date Released: August 27, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” —Leonard Cohen

Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna’s reluctance to reveal her friend’s name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?

My Review:

Saved by the duck.

In the end, everyone is saved by the crazy poet Ruth Zardo, and her adopted duck, Rosa. And the reminder that we are all strongest in the broken places.

It all starts with one woman dead and one woman missing. Audrey Villeneuve commits suicide at the Champlain Bridge, and Myrna Landers’ friend Caroline Pineault fails to come to Three Pines for Christmas. In the usual way of things, Gamache passes by the recovery of Villeneuve’s body on his way to Three Pines to talk with Myrna.

Of course, nothing is as it seems with either case. And neither is the apparent destruction of Chief Inspector Gamache’s formerly impressive Homicide Division in the Sûreté du Québec. The only thing that is entirely too close to what it appears to be is the descent of Gamache’s former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, into addiction, depression and self-destruction.

Caroline Pineault is not merely missing, she is dead. Murdered. In the wake of her death, her true identity emerges. She was the last of the Ouillette Quintuplets, a Depression-era miracle and media creation. Gamache needs to know not just how she died, but why. It is who he is. It is what he does.

But while he seems to be investigating her strange but probably relatively normal murder, he is setting other wheels into motion. Wheels that have been grinding slowly but inexorably for more than 30 years.

Wheels that will either finally cleanse the corruption out of Gamache’s beloved Sûreté, or grind him and every single one of his friends and allies, into dust.

And blow the tiny town of Three Pines along with them.

Escape Rating A+: There are so many mysteries in How the Light Gets In. There’s the relatively simple one of “who killed Caroline Pineault?” even though that turns out to be nothing like it seemed at first, because she turned out to be someone different than she appeared to be.

And yes, every time I read “Ouilette Quints” I saw “Dionne Quintuplets”. I had to look them up after I finished. Similar but not the same. Still.

A Fatal Grace by Louise PennyThe big mystery is one that has been hanging over Gamache since A Fatal Grace. Not just who is after him, but why? What happened 30 years ago to corrupt Pierre Arnot? Who is really behind the rot? How deep does it go? What is it really about?

The revelations surprise even Gamache, but once he understands, the long dark journey finally makes sense.

And speaking of long dark journeys, after The Beautiful Mystery (see review for details), I did wonder if the series wasn’t Jean-Guy Beauvior’s journey, even though the series is named for Gamache. At the beginning of the series, Gamache already is who he is going to be. He does some soul searching after Bury Your Dead, but it doesn’t change his essential self.

still life by Louise pennyJean-Guy is the person who grows up and changes the most through the series. He has the most to learn at the beginning of Still Life, and his lessons are the most painful, but he does learn them. With a little help from Rosa.

And the incredible, marvelous, crazily fantastic people of the village of Three Pines. The village and its inhabitants are as great a creation as Gamache himself. I can’t wait to go back.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

12 for 2012: The Best Dozen Books of My Year

It’s surprisingly difficult to decide which books were the absolute best from the year. Not so much the first few, those were kind of easy. But when it gets down to the last three or four, that’s where the nail-biting starts to come into play.

Looking back at the books I reviewed, I gave out a fair number of “A” ratings–but not very many “A+” ratings. And that’s as it should be. But there were also a couple of books that I read, and loved, but didn’t review. I bought them and didn’t write them up.

Love counts for a lot.

And there were a couple that just haunted me. They might not have been A+ books, but something about them made me stalk NetGalley for the rest of the year, searching for the next book in the series. Something, or someone that sticks in the mind that persistently matters.

This is my list of favorites for 2012. Your list, and your mileage, may vary.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher (reviewed 11/30/12). I started reading the Dresden Files out of nostalgia for Chicago, probably my favorite former hometown. But I fell in love with Harry’s snark, and stayed that way. Some of the books have been terrific, and some have been visits with an old friend. Cold Days is awesome, because Harry is finally filling those really big shoes he’s been clomping around Chicago in. He is a Power, and he finally recognizes it. And so does everyone else. What he does with that power, and how he keeps it from changing him, has only begun.


The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (reviewed 8/29/12). Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series are murder-mysteries. They are also intensely deep character studies, and none in the series more deeply felt than this outing, which takes the Chief Inspector and his flawed second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir to a remote monastery in northern Québec. The murder exposes the rot within the isolated monastic community, and the interference from the Sûreté Chief exposes the rot within the Sûreté itself, and within Gamache’s unit.


The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (reviewed 6/20/12) The latest volume in Gabaldon’s Lord John series, which is a kind of historical mystery series. Lord John Grey solves military problems that tend to get wrapped up in politics. The Scottish prisoner of the title is Jamie Fraser, the hero of Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and takes place in the gap between Drums of Autumn and Voyager. The Scottish Prisoner has to do with an attempt by Lord John and his brother to prevent yet another Jacobite Rebellion by working with Jamie. If you like the Outlander series at all, this one is marvelous.


Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara (reviewed 12/26/12) is the latest in Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series. Elantra is an urban fantasy, but the setting is a high fantasy world. The emperor is a dragon, for example. But the heroine is human, and flawed. She is also a member of the law enforcement agency. It just so happens that her desk sergeant is a lion. The commander is a hawk. Her best friends are immortal, and one of them is the spirit of a tower.  Kaylin’s striving each day to make the world better than she began it changes everything, even the unchanging immortals around her. Her journey fascinates.


Scholar and Princeps by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I didn’t write reviews of these, and I should have, because I loved them both. Scholar and Princeps are the 4th and 5th books in the Imager Portfolio. The first three books, Imager, Imager’s Challenge, and Imager’s Portfolio were so good I practically shoved them at people. These new ones are in a prequel trilogy, but equally excellent. What’s different about these series is that Modesitt’s heroes in both cases are coming into their powers without it being a coming-of-age story. They are adults who are adjusting to new power and responsibility. It makes the story different from the usual epic fantasy.


The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay (reviewed 1/6/12). This book was an utter surprise and delight. A former Buddhist monk leaves the monastery, becomes an LAPD detective, and eventually, a private investigator. What a fascinating backstory! Tenzing Norbu, known as Ten, retains just enough of his outsider perspective to be a fascinating point-of-view character. I stalked NetGalley for months waiting for the next book in this series to appear, because I wanted more!


The Fallen Queen (reviewed at BLI on 7/3/12) and The Midnight Court (reviewed 8/14/12) by Jane Kindred. I said that Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy reminded me of Russian tea, initially bitter, often and unexpectedly sweet, and filled with immensely complicated rituals. Also incredibly satisfying for those who savor a heady brew. Take Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Snow Queen and cross it with the history of the House of Romanov. Leaven it with the most complicated pantheon of angels and demons you can imagine, then stir well with the political machinations and sexual proclivities described in Kushiel’s Dart. Only with more heartbreak.

About Last Night by Ruthie Knox (reviewed 6/8/12) had me at hand-knitted straight-jacket. But it’s way more fun than that. Also more complicated. It’s the story of a formerly bad girl trying so damn hard to make up for her past mistakes, and unable to forgive herself, and one man who has tried much too hard for much too long to live up to his family’s expectations, in spite of the fact that what his family wants has nothing to do with what he wants for himself. They make a glorious mistake together, that turns out not to have been a mistake after all.


Taste Me (reviewed 12/11/12) and Chase Me (reviewed 12/12/12) by Tamara Hogan. The Underbelly Chronicles were a complete surprise, but in an absolutely fantastic way. They are paranormal romance of the urban fantasy persuasion, or the other way around. Every supernatural creature that we’ve ever imagined is real in Hogan’s version of Minneapolis, but with a fascinating twist. They’re real because they are the descendants of a wrecked space ship. That’s right, the vampires, and werewolves, and sirens, are all E.T. And when they find the wrecked ship’s black box after a thousand years, it phones home. The family reunion is coming up in book three. In the meantime, there is a lot of yummy interspecies romance.

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and The Line Between Here and Gone (reviewed at BLI 6/19/12) by Andrea Kane. I disappeared into The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and didn’t reappear until the end of The Line Between Here and Gone, although I still find the title of the second one more than a bit incomprehensible. Just the same, the Forensic Instincts team that solves the extremely gripping and highly unusual crimes in this new series by Kane is a force to be reckoned with. They have that kind of perfect balance that you see in crime-solving teams with the best chemistry. They are a fantastic “five-man band” which makes it a pure pleasure to watch them work, no matter how gruesome the crime they were solving.

Blue Monday by Nicci French. I’m currently stalking Netgalley for the next book in this series, Tuesday’s Gone. Which is not here yet, so it can’t be bloody gone! This is a mystery, but with a more psychological bent, as the amateur sleuth is a forensic psychologist. This one gave me chills from beginning to end, but it’s the protagonist who has me coming back. Because her work is so personal, she’s both strong and fragile at the same time, and I want to see if she can keep going.


And for sheer impact, last and absolutely not least…

The Mine by John A Heldt (reviewed at BLI on 9/28/12). There are surprises, and then there are books that absolutely blow you away. If you have ever read Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, The Mine will remind you of Finney. Heldt has crafted a story about a boy/man who accidentally goes back in time to America’s last golden summer, the summer of 1941. All he has is a few stories of Seattle in the 1940s that his grandmother told, and a fortunate memory for baseball statistics. What he does is fall in love, with a woman, a time, a place, and a way of life. And then he learns that he can come home, and that he must. No matter how much damage he does by leaving the people he has come to love, he knows that he will do more harm if he stays. The Mine will stick with you long after you finish.

That’s a wrap. I could have gone on. I though about adding honorable mentions, but that way lies madness. Definitely madness! I did list my Best Ebook Romances for 2012 on Library Journal again this year. There are a couple of repeats from that list to this one, but the qualifications are different. LJ has lots of other “best” lists, if you are looking for a few (dozen) more good books.

I’m dreaming of next year.


Review: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny is definitely that, a beautiful mystery. But that’s not all it is.

The Beautiful Mystery is the eighth book in Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, after A Trick of the Light (see review). Instead of returning to the small village of Three Pines, where the body count is getting inconceivably high, Penny sends Gamache, the head of the Homicide Division of the Sûreté du Québec, to the remote monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups to solve, of course, a murder.

But not just any murder. This case is a sort of locked-room murder writ large. Saint-Gilbert can only be reached by boat, and there are only 24 monks in this cloistered order. 23 suspects and a corpse.

But the monks of Saint-Gilbert released a bit of themselves out into the world they left behind. One glorious CD full of Gregorian chant. The beautiful mystery of a plainchant so harmonious, so beautiful, that a world starving for the peace the monks captured in that incredible music stormed their remote sanctuary. A sanctuary that had remained hidden for four centuries.

The CD brought the funds that the monks needed to repair the monastery. The roof, the walls, the electricity. Québec winters are brutal. Even the best masonry wears out eventually. But in selling their music, they sold their peace.

The loss of that peace exposed critical differences within the community. When all they had was each other, all alone in the wilderness, the differences didn’t matter. But when the debate was between bringing their message, their music, to the wider world, and returning to their isolation, those differences became a chasm, a schism.

A reason to kill.

Murder in the remotest parts of the province might not bring the Chief Inspector and his best detective, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Except, except, that chant, that beautiful mystery of music made the monastery, and the victim, famous. This is a high-profile case.

The victim was the choir director, the man responsible for the music. He represented one side of that terrible divide in the monastery. Now he was dead. It is up to Gamache and Beauvoir to determine which of the remaining 23 monks committed the murder.

Into the middle of the case drops Sylvain Françoeur, the Chief of the Sûreté. Gamache’s. Françoeur is not there to help with the case. He is there because of the schism within the Surete, a chasm where Françoeur stands on one side, and Gamache on the other.

Françoeur is part of the rot within the Sûreté. An insidious evil that Gamache has been fighting for many years. Françoeur and Gamache are old enemies, and know each other all too well. And Françoeur, snake that he is, knows where Gamache’s weak spots are.

Gamache’s strengths, and his weak points, are the Surete agents he has trained, particularly the ones he loves as much as his own children. Agents like Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

Escape Rating A+: The Inspector Gamache series, starting with Still Life, is definitely a mystery series. There is always a body. But they are also complex character studies. Gamache, Jean-Guy, often the people of Three Pines, the monks in this case, Françoeur.

Gamache studies people, and it’s from that study he figures out who committed the murder. Jean-Guy is usually the evidence guy. Or Isabelle Lacoste, who isn’t in this one. Gamache is also a terrific mentor.

But there’s an over-arching story in The Beautiful Mystery, in addition to the mystery of the dead monk. It’s the story of the rot in the Surete. The case in the immediate past is the one detailed in Bury Your Dead, but there’s old history between Gamache and Francoeur. It’s that old history that’s coming to a head, and Jean-Guy is caught in the middle.

There’s a part of me that is starting to wonder if the overall arch isn’t so much Gamache’s story as it is Jean-Guy’s journey. If so, The Beautiful Mystery is the point in the hero’s journey where everything looks really, really bleak.

The murder is solved. But not the mystery.

On My Wishlist-Waiting on Wednesday-Desperately Wanting Wednesday-On Saturday (1)

Yes, I know it’s not Wednesday. On Wednesday, what I mostly want is a clone. I have too many things to do and too little time to do them in.

Which is why I was using On My Wishlist in the first place. It ran on the weekends back in the good old days of March. But when it moved on to new management, it stopped.

So I’m Waiting on Wednesday at Breaking the Spine. Or Desperately Wanting Wednesday with Parajunkee. On Saturday. Mr. Linky will still love me on Wednesday. And I always want books.

If I didn’t well, I’d be somebody else. That person is down an entirely different leg of the trousers of time. I wonder who she is?

And there one book I’m stalking NetGalley for. (Isn’t there always?)

The next Chief Inspector Gamache book by Louise Penny has been announced! The title is oh so appropriate. It’s The Beautiful Mystery. No, really, the title of the book is The Beautiful Mystery.  

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The brilliant new novel in the New York Times bestselling series by Louise Penny, one of the most acclaimed crime writers of our time

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.” But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of  prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

If you have not yet had the pleasure of making the Chief Inspector’s acquaintance, you have plenty of time to read the series before August 28th. They are marvelous, like no other mystery series. Start with Still Life. But start now.


11 for 2011: Best reads of the year

2011 is coming to a close. It’s time to pause and reflect on the year that is ending.

There’s a lovely quote from Garrison Keillor, “A book is a present that you can open again and again.” There’s a corollary in this house about “not if the cat is sitting on it” but the principle still applies. The good stories from this year will still be good next year. Some of them may even have sequels!

These were my favorites of the year. At least when I narrow the list down to 11 and only 11. And even then I fudged a bit. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (reviewed 12/1/11). This book had everything it could possibly need. There’s a quest. There’s a love story. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s an homage to videogaming. There are pop-culture references to every cult classic of science fiction and fantasy literature imaginable. There’s an evil empire to be conquered. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Omnitopia: Dawn by Diane Duane (reviewed 4/22/11). On the surface, Omnitopia and Ready Player One have a lot in common. Thankfully, there is more than meets the eye. Omnitopia takes place in the here and now, or very close to it. The world has not yet gone down the dystopian road that Wade and his friends are looking back at in Ready Player One. On the other hand, any resemblance the reader might see between Worlds of Warcraft mixed with Facebook and Omnitopia, or between Omnitopia Corp and Apple, may not entirely be the reader’s imagination. Howsomever, Omnitopia Dawn also has some very neat things to say about artificial intelligence in science fiction. If you liked Ready Player One, just read Omnitopia: Dawn. Now!

The Iron Knight (reviewed 10/26/11) was the book that Julie Kagawa did not intend to write. She was done with Meghan, her story was over. Meghan is the Iron Queen, but what she has achieved is not a traditional happily-ever-after. Victory came at a price. Real victories always do. Meghan’s acceptance of her responsibility means that she must rule alone. Ash is a Winter Prince, and Meghan’s Iron Realm is fatal to his kind. The Iron Knight is Ash’s journey to become human, or at least to obtain a soul, so that he can join his love in her Iron Realm. It is an amazing journey of mythic proportions.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel (reviewed 10/18/11) is a story that absolutely shouldn’t work. The fact that it not only works, but works incredibly well, still leaves me gasping in delight. Dearly, Departed is the first, best, and so far only YA post-apocalypse steampunk zombie romance I’ve ever read. I never thought a zombie romance could possible work, period. This one not only works, it’s fun. There’s a sequel coming, Dearly, Beloved. I just wish I knew when.

Debris by Jo Anderton (reviewed 09/29/11) is the first book of The Veiled World Trilogy. It’s also Anderton’s first novel, a fact that absolutely amazed me when I read the book. Debris is science fiction with a fantasy “feel” to it, a book where things that are scientifically based seem magical to most of the population. But the story is about one woman’s fall from grace, and her discovery that her new place in society is where she was meant to be all along.

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (reviewed 09/19/11). If you love mysteries, and you are not familiar with Louise Penny’s work, get thee to a bookstore, or download her first Chief Inspector Gamache mystery, Still Life, to your ereader this instant. Louise Penny has been nominated for (and frequently won) just about every mystery award for the books in this series since she started in 2005. Find out why.

I love Sherlock Holmes pastiches. (This is not a digression, I will reach the point). I have read all Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell books, some more than once. I almost listed Pirate King (reviewed 9/9/11), this year’s Holmes/Russell book instead of Trick. But Pirate King was froth, and Penny never is. A regular contributor to Letters of Mary, the mailing list for fans of the Holmes/Russell books, recommended the Louise Penny books. I am forever grateful.

The Elantra Series by Michelle Sagara (review forthcoming). I confess I’m 2/3rds of the way through Cast in Ruin right now. I’ve tried describing this series, and the best I can come up with is an urban fantasy series set in a high fantasy world. I absolutely love it. It’s the characters that make this series. Everyone, absolutely everyone, is clearly drawn and their personality is delineated in a way that makes them interesting. There are people you wouldn’t want to meet, but they definitely are distinctive. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny in spots, even when it’s very much gallows humor. I’m driving my husband crazy because I keep laughing at the dialog, and I can’t explain what’s so funny. I would love to have drinks with Kaylin. I’d even buy. But the Elantra series is not humor. Like most urban fantasy, it’s very snarky. But the stories themselves have a crime, or now, a very big problem that needs solving, and Kaylin is at the center of it. Whether she wants to be or not.

If you are keeping score somewhere, or just want the reading order, it’s Cast in Moonlight (part of Harvest Moon), Cast in Shadow, Cast in Courtlight, Cast in Secret, Cast in Fury, Cast in Silence, Cast in Chaos, and Cast in Ruin.

The Ancient Blades Trilogy by David Chandler consists of Den of Thieves (reviewed 7/27/11), A Thief in the Night (reviewed 10/7/11) and Honor Among Thieves (reviewed 12/21/11). This was good, old-fashioned sword and sorcery. Which means the so-called hero is the thief and not the knight-errant. And every character you meet has a hidden agenda and that no one, absolutely no one, is any better than they ought to be. But the ending, oh the ending will absolutely leave you stunned.

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher (reviewed 7/29/11) is 2011’s entry in one of my absolute all time favorite series, The Dresden Files. And I saw Jim Butcher in person at one of the Atlanta Barnes & Noble stores. Ghost Story represents a very big change in the Dresden Files universe, where Harry Dresden starts growing into those extremely large boots he’s been stomping around in all these years. If you love urban fantasy, read Dresden.

Turn It Up by Inez Kelley (reviewed 8/10/11 and listed here) is one of the best takes on the “friends into lovers” trope that I have ever read. Period. Also, I’m an absolute sucker for smart people and witty dialogue, and this book is a gem. “Dr. Hot and the Honeypot” pretty much talk each other into a relationship, and into bed, while they give out sassy advice over the airwaves on their very suggestive and extremely successful sexual advice radio show.

My last book is a two-fer. Break Out (reviewed 8/4/11) and Deadly Pursuit (reviewed 12/6/11) by Nina Croft are the first two books in her Blood Hunter series, and I sincerely hope there are more. This is paranormal science fiction romance. Like Dearly, Departed, this concept should not work. But it absolutely does. And it gets better the longer it goes on. If you have an urban fantasy world in the 20th century, what would happen if that alternate history continued into space? Where do the vamps and the werewolves go? They go into space with everyone else, of course. And you end up with Ms. Croft’s Blood Hunter universe, which I loved. But you have to read both books. The first book just isn’t long enough for the world building. The second one rocks.

I stopped at 11 (well 11-ish) because this is the 2011 list. I could have gone on. And on. And on. My best ebook romances list was published on Library Journal earlier in the month. LJ has a ton of other “best” lists for your reading pleasure. Or for the detriment of your TBR pile.

Inspector Gamache

I drove to South Carolina last week in the urbane company of Chief Inspector Gamache of the  Sûreté du Québec. My trip to Collection Development Mini-Conference in Columbia was the perfect opportunity to listen to the latest unfortunate incident in Three Pines, Québec, where murder seems to be a cottage industry.

A Trick of the Light is the most recent book in Louise Penny’s series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. For some reason, an awful lot of murders seem to occur in the rather small village of Three Pines, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. So many murders that Gamache and his team have become friends with some of the local residents–even the ones they’ve investigated as suspects.

The “trick of the light” referred to in the title refers to a painting. One of the Three Pines residents, Clara Morrow, is an artist. So is her husband Peter. But it is Clara who has been “discovered” after working in obscurity for almost 30 years. Her one-woman show at the famed Musée in Montreal is a rousing success. But the after-party at her home in Three Pines is ruined by a dead body in the garden. Even worse, the corpse belongs to an old friend turned enemy of Clara’s from childhood.

And the corpse was everyone’s enemy. The dead woman was an art critic. A particularly venomous one. And she was especially good at being venomous–a deadly combination for any budding artist’s career. There was no difficulty in figuring out who wanted to kill the woman. Everyone at the party had a motive. Including the caterers.

Escape Rating: A+ It was an 8 hour trip and an 11 hour book. I kept finding excuses to finish listening to the book. The central mystery is all about the art world, and I did get fooled, so points for that. And, and, and, there is a whole lot of neat, weird, sad and truly angst-ridden stuff going on with the continuing characters and I want to know where that is leading now. Now and not next year, dammit, or whenever the next book will be. I’m really worried about Jean-Guy. And if you’ve read the series, you know exactly what I mean.

In other news, Bury Your Dead, the previous book in the series, was recognized this past weekend with some more well-deserved awards. Mystery Readers International awarded Bury Your Dead their Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel for 2010. And, at Bouchercon 2011, the World Mystery Convention in St. Louis on September 17, Bury Your Dead also won the Anthony Award for Best Novel. In 2010, the previous Inspector Gamache book, The Brutal Telling, won the award.

Also, again, thank you to the person on the Letters of Mary group (Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell) for recommending this series. Which only emphasizes the importance of recommending books to people. I’d never have found the Chief Inspector but for her.

The power in book recommendations

There’s been a lot of talk recently about just how hard it is for ebook sellers to duplicate the experience of book recommendations that independent bookshops and libraries provide. Earlier this week, I experienced again for myself just how powerful a personal recommendation can be.

The latest entry in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series was released on May 31. Kiss of Snow was her first hardcover release after 9 paperbacks. I pre-ordered the book from B&N, and, joy of joys, it automatically downloaded to my iPad a little after midnight on 5/31. There’s convenience for you! But I first started reading the series after the third book because a friend recommended it to me. She knew I read paranormal romance, and was pretty sure I would like the series. So, even though I had looked at the first book, Slave to Sensation, in the bookstore more than once, based on her personal recommendation I bought the book. And my friend was absolutely correct. I did love the book, and every single one since including the latest, which I devoured in between unpacking boxes earlier this week.

I am a subscriber to the Yahoo Group “Letters of Mary”, which is a list devoted to the works that Laurie R. King has written about Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes. The first book in the series is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. (If this sounds interesting, read this post for more details about the series) Among the discussion in the Group, one of the more prolific authors uses a quote from Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache as her sig, “He…told him the four sentences that lead to wisdom. *I’m sorry. I was wrong. I need help. I don’t know.* He’d never forgotten them and when he took over as Chief Inspector, Gamache passed them on to each and every one of his agents. Some took them to heart, some forgot them immediately. That was their choice.” The quote is from the latest book in the series, Bury Your Dead, which recently won the Agatha Award for Best Novel of 2010. But at the time I kept seeing the quote, the book hadn’t won the award yet, it just caught my interest. Even though I had never met the person who used it as her sig, I respected her work in the group enough to take it as a recommendation of the series of books. The series, starting with Still Life, is really, really good. It is one of those mysteries where you start to wonder about the body count in the small town, but the character of Chief Inspector Gamache is definitely worth getting to know. I’m just sorry I have to wait until the end of August for A Trick of the Light, which is the next and seventh book in the series.

L.E. Modesitt’s Imager is a book that I practically shoved at people. A lot of fantasy series are coming-of-age stories. In this particular case, although the hero does come into his power, it is specifically not a coming-of-age story–the protagonist is already an adult, although just barely. It was one of the things about the book I liked quite a bit. So, I recommended it, over and over. A friend in the next office at my LPOW read fantasy, I knew he liked Ray Feist’s Magician series, so I convinced him to read this. We ended up practically fighting over the library’s copies of books 2 and 3 of the series, Imager’s Challenge and Imager’s Portfolio, and had endless conversations about how we thought the story ought to go. He also started reading the rest of Modesitt’s books (there are LOTS) which I haven’t gotten around to yet. I will definitely read Scholar, the next Imager book, in November.

My point is that a significant number of book purchases came from three recommendations. My friend told me to read one Nalini Singh book. I ended up buying 10 so far since the series is still ongoing. One person on the “Letters of Mary” group effectively recommends the Louise Penny books in her sig file, and because of that, Galen and I have both read all 6 books in the series so far, and have continued to recommend them to others. I read Imager, recommended it to at least two other people, and I know one has read all of the Imager series, and the other has started reading all of Modesitt’s work, which consists of 56 books and rising according to Wikipedia.

Book recommending is a virtuous circle, the trick is in figuring out how to start it.