BOOK & BLOG
January 31, 2011
If you follow this column very closely, you’ll remember that I’ve reviewed His Majesty’s Dragon before. I don’t propose to review it again; but if I made a list of my favorite ten books of the past five years, Novik’s book would definitely be on it. I admire the amazing blend of dragons, the British Navy, and the background of the Napoleonic Wars. Since I read all of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower books at an early age (and I still own a complete set), maybe that’s not too surprising. Even if you’re not a fan of dragon fiction, this book (and the rest in the series) makes a wonderful read.
I had to track down the previous Fever books when I found I was all at sea with Shadowfever. Even when I’d brushed up on the previous Moning novels, I found myself in danger of getting hopelessly confused in this huge windup novel. There are lots of threads in the series. I don’t know how Moning managed a wall chart of this plot; you’d need a mighty big sheet of paper. However, there are some stellar passages and the big finale leaves very little to be desired. Mac is not the same person she was five books ago, but then, we didn’t expect her to be. She’s much, much more. For those of you who haven’t read these books yet, be sure to start with the first one and read them in order: Darkfever, Bloodfever, Faefever, Dreamfever, Shadowfever. These books are more urban fantasy then paranormal romance, though there’s certainly a high sexual tension in them all. Party girl MacKayla Lane travels from Georgia to Dublin to avenge her sister’s murder, and she finds out that her sister was not what she seemed . . . and neither is Mac herself.
I found Mystery Writers of America’s list of the Hundred Best Mysteries, and out of curiosity I checked the ones I’d read; turned out I’d read a very creditable 75 or 80 of them. I’m tracking down the ones I haven’t, and one of them was The Thin Man. I’d read Hammett’s other work, and how I skipped this landmark I have no idea. I also don’t know how Nick Charles manages to pay for Asta’s grooming, much less solve a mystery. All the characters drink so much that it’s a mystery to me how cope with doorknobs and elevators, much less thinking. However, this book has a lot of charm and quirkiness, and there’s no surprise in its making the list.
I don’t know know where you stand on keeping books. I find my attitude has changed in the past thirty years. I used to keep every book I bought or was given. For one thing, I very seldom got to buy a brand-new book. My budget didn’t permit such extravagance. I went to the library, mostly. I belonged to book clubs, so I bought smaller and cheaper versions of the books I wanted. I also visited used book stores and went to friend-of-the-library sales. Every now and then I’d get a gift card for a book store for Christmas. This was a fabulous occasion for me, and choosing a book was a momentous decision.
Gradually, very gradually, my circumstances changed. Every now and then, someone would simply send me a book; another writer, or my publisher, or someone’s agent. The sender might want a blurb, or an evaluation, or simply want the book to be in my hands. And I was also on a committee or two who read books for awards. Of course, those were free too. A heavy flow of books into the Harris household began, and all my bookshelves began to feel the crunch. I began to weed, very lightly. Books I had in both hardback and paperback, books I’d needed for school but wouldn’t use any more, and so on.
Over time, as my career began to take off around ten years ago, I gave myself a huge gift. I gave myself permission to buy any book I wanted. At first it was like giving crack to someone who is already a junkie. I went nuts. My publishers sent me books, my agent sent me books, I bought books . . . brand new books! It was heaven. Then, like the adorable Tribbles in the famous Star Trek episode, the wonderful creatures began to fill up my home.
It was evident I wouldn’t be able to shelve all the books that were coming in. My light pruning had to escalate. Though it would have been fun to keep the books, I began to feel it simply was not necessary to me any more. I knew that I would not reread most of them, and I decided it was selfish of me to hold on to them when someone else might enjoy them
Now the books I know I’ll never read again go home with bffpaula. She keeps them and sorts through them into piles she and her mom might read, and the rest go to the local library. Since its budget has been cut, and cut again, the library needs an infusion of new books from time to time, and I believe they are glad to get mine. No matter how I read through my shelves, they seem to remain full, and I know when bffpaula gets that tight look on her face that no more can squeezed into the bookcases. My husband very wisely told me that he didn’t want bookshelves in the hall, or otherwise the books would be marching down the hall, too. His own favorite novels have their designated spot, three bookcases in the living room.
So I’ve solved the overpopulation of my home, but I have to admit I regret seeing books go out in boxes, even to as good a home as bffpaula’s.
But when I picture someone checking a book out of the library that they might not have seen or read otherwise, I’m resigned to the situation.
© 2011 Charlaine Harris