Read in January

It's been a dark and cold month, but that's the way January usually is. I keep finding things other than books to distract me -- I spent much of this month playing Lego Lord of the Rings on the new Wii U, for example, which was usually entertaining and only occasionally frustrating -- but books are not the only thing in life. (At least, that's what people keep telling me.)

Here's what I did read this month:

Walter Mosley, The Long Fall (1/2) -- The first book in a new mystery series (new as of 2009) by the author of the excellent Easy Rawlins novels (and of the smutty, odd Killing Johnny Fry), set in New York, with a deeply morally conflicted hero. Mosley is a great writer -- not just a good crime novelist, but one of our best today period -- and particularly interesting for white guys like me to read, with his thoughtful, deep takes on American racial divides. It doesn't do to talk too much about the plot of a mystery, but this book has a good 'un.

Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts 1985-1986 (1/4) -- I've covered this series -- and Schulz's amazing fifty-year run on Peanuts -- in extensive detail before, and there isn't much I could say about these two years in the mid '80s that I didn't say about the previous two years in the mid '80s. Yes, this isn't Schulz's best work -- so it's A Winter's Tale rather than Macbeth, The Cat-Nappers rather than The Code of the Woosters. It's only disappointing in comparison with those heights, which isn't entirely Schulz's fault.

S. Gross, Your Mother Is a Remarkable Woman (1/6)

Lisa Lutz, Curse of the Spellmans (1/7) -- Second in the humorous mystery series, after The Spellman Files. These books are fast-moving, deeply enjoyable, regularly funny, decent mysteries, and even seem to have real character development going on. (The publisher compares them to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, which is a huge slander on Lutz's heroine Izzy Spellman -- Izzy is smart and competent and has real skills, albeit also an intensely compulsive nature and a hatred of self-reflection. If Izzy is still unable to control herself in another five books, I'll admit the comparison, but not before that -- and I don't expect it to happen; Lutz is clearly moving her characters and situations forward.) Again, talking about the plot of a mystery is not a good idea -- but these books both go quickly and stick with you.

Nigel Auchterlounie, Spleenal (1/7)

Julia Wertz, The Infinite Wait and Other Stories (1/13)

Nare Silver, The Signal and the Noise (1/17)

Susan Hill, Howards End Is on the Landing (1/22) -- Susan Hill may be a dark, cutting novelist, telling stories full of nasty doings and the horrors that mankind can get up to -- I've never read her novels, so it may be so. But, on the basis of this book, I highly doubt it. Hill spent a year reading only books that she already had in her (apparently large and wonderful, thoroughly English country) home, and wrote this book about the experience. There's quite a bit about the books she loves, about writers now forgotten, about the Great Books, about the joys of re-reading, and various other booky topics. There's also a few bits of autobiography, mostly concerned with Hill's very early days in the literary world -- her first novel was published in the early '60s, when she was a 19-year-old college student, and I'm afraid she does talk about how nice all of those older literary gentlemen were to poor young her without seeming to realize why they were so nice -- but she does stick to her topic most of the time. And she's entertaining about it, if quite English in an old-fashioned sense: country, Anglican, serious, pull-up-your-socks kind of English. This is exactly the kind of book you'd expect from a sixtyish British female novelist writing about the books she likes to read, and, as long as that's something you're likely to enjoy, Howards End Is on the Landing is delightful.

Lisa Lutz, Revenge of the Spellmans (1/24) -- Third in the series; see above for my spiel. I'm now two books behind, and I hope that the status will not remain quo when I catch up with the series in another month or three. (There's one sure way for a mystery series to kill itself: flash-freeze the background and characters, so that nothing ever changes or grows, no one seems to get any older, and the same comedy bits can get trotted out like clockwork in each book. So far, Lutz does not seem to be falling into that trap, which is especially keen for funny writers -- the audience wants the same old stuff over and over, since they liked it the first time, and writers must be cruel and sure, like a shark, and always move forward.)

Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (1/29)

Chester Brown, Ed the Happy Clown (1/30)

Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan, Demo, Vol. II (1/31) -- Ten years after the first series of Demo stories, more or less,Wood & Cloonan came back for six more stories of unusual young people and their travails. (See my review of the first collection.) This clutch is even further from superheroism than the first one -- only two of the protagonists here have anything I'd call a power of any kind, and the others are different from regular humanity in only neurological ways as far as I can see -- but they're still well-observed stories about odd people trying to live around or with their oddnesses, and Cloonan's art is still lovely, particular, and expressive, with excellent use of blacks and lots of specific faces for these very specific people. The stories are all separate, like the first grouping, and the getalt is still a weird combination of real-folks characterization and high-tension superhero storytelling, as if Demo is trying to straddle the divide between Spider-Man and R. Crumb all by itself.

I may need to dive into a reading project soon, to shake the doldrums off. Since I have three candidates in my head (and in various degrees of readiness on my shelves), I may need to put that up to a vote here. And if I say "I may need" a few more times, I'll become completely vague and unable to make a decision, so I'll quit there.

The Rare Obligatory Political Post

Or, A brief jeremiad aimed at people who agree with Hobby Lobby and the various other companies jumping on their bandwagon.

For those who haven't been following the news, first a chain of profitable craft stores, and now a whole slew of other organizations, are claiming that they shouldn't have to pay for some of the health-care requirements of the Affordable Care Act [1] (aka "Obamacare") because it interferes with their religious freedom.

I know the religious freedom card is one with powerful sentiment, particularly among the kind of white middle-class Christians who have never had to suffer the tiniest bit of actual persecution in their lives, but please do think through the implications.

This is a private company -- not a religious institution, not a non-profit, not any kind of specialized organization, but a plan ordinary company trying to make money -- that wants to enshrine in law a right to avoid following a particular piece of law. And the basis of that right to skip out on a law would be their own interpretation of the personal religious beliefs of the owners. Logically, there's no reason why the same argument couldn't be extended to any company -- or any individual, since a company is a legal person just as a natural person is -- and any law.

In other words, Hobby Lobby is trying to make it impossible for any laws to be enforced at all if anyone can think up a pseudo-religious explanation for wanting not to follow that law. This is literally a prescription for anarchy.

Look, think of even this mild extension of the doctrine: what about a company run by Christian Scientists? They don't believe in modern medicine at all, so does that mean that company should be free to avoid paying any health-care coverage?

This is just a stupid legal argument. Admit it, give it up, and move on. Your side has comprehensively lost the battle against contraception, and the tide is just not going to shift back the way you want it.

[1] Specifically, the requirement that employers cover FDA-approved contraception for female employees, which Hobby Lobby and its lik say they consider abortion. This is actually one of the core issues: this case is based on what they consider a procedure to be, not what the general understanding or the actual scientific facts of that procedure are. In other words, they're demanding that their faith be given preferential legal treatment, because it is their belief.

(inspired by this Chuck Asay cartoon, which I couldn't manage to make work for Editorial Explanations, since it's not even wrong)

Trend Pieces

Apparently classic, excellent books are now getting really inappropriate covers! Purely to chase new audiences of actual readers! (Who, clearly, aren't nearly as cultured as the article-writer, and so aren't worthy to read Great Litra'chur.)

This is deeply shocking, particularly since putting inappropriate/lurid/silly/trendy covers of good books has never happened before in the history of the world!!!!!

Catty Deaths

You've all seen the news that cats in the US -- the biggest culprits are feral and stray cats, but house cats do not have clean paws -- kill somewhere between 8 and 25 billion birds and mammals every single year, right?

I knew there was a reason why I didn't trust them.

The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

If there were a Wonk of the Year award, Silver would have won it in a slam-dunk last year -- this book was a bestseller, his political predictions came true almost perfectly, and he was all over the media (not least at his own, New York Time-affiliated FiveThirtyEight blog). I wouldn't be surprised if he'd also predicted the entire baseball season -- his other main claim to fame in the fields of wonkery was in devising a swell algorithm to predict the usefulness of players -- but I've been disconnected from sports for so long that I have no idea.

So: he's one of the current top Big Explainers, and The Signal and the Noise is his first book -- his official Big Explanation. Since it was designed to be a big bestseller, there is absolutely no math in it -- though Silver is a statistician, and his analyses rely heavily on Bayesian methodology -- and it, as it must, attempts to reduce all of life to one thing. (Oddly, for Silver, that thing is an equation, which is hard to do in a book with no math.)

Every single Big Explanation is wrong, with no exceptions, so this one is as well. Oh, it's pretty good, as Big Explanations go -- quite useful, in the right places, and a good tool for looking at a lot of situations in the actually existing world. But a book like this must insist that its Big Explanation covers everything in the world, and so Silver does, and so he's wrong, because nothing ever can do that. But his claim is elegant and not too obviously self-aggrandizing, so you can't stay grumpy at him for long.

If you know what Bayesian statistics are, you don't need to read The Signal and the Noise, only to know that Silver applies Bayes to baseball and politics, poker and weather forecasting, climate change and terrorism and the stock market -- all of which involve numbers and frequencies and lots of statistics, so they're fertile ground. If you only vaguely recognize Bayes -- if, like me, it's familiar while you read it, like the laws of thermodynamics and the carbon cycle, but slips out of mind immediately afterward -- then The Signal and the Noise will be pleasant and may make you feel quite smart. If you detest numbers and prediction, because the lord of the universe explained everything in this book you have right there, then you need to go sit in the corner while the grownups talk.

As long as no one takes Silver's Big Explanations absolutely seriously, it will be quite useful -- and thinking about probabilistic calculations in more situations would be a net positive for most of us. But I'm sure there will be a cult of Bayes -- like the Milton Freedmanites, I suppose, but more fond of brackets -- that insists that all of human life can and will be predicted. We always do have the stupid with us, though, so we can't blame Silver (more than mildly and half-heartedly) for that.

The Signal and the Noise has quite a lot of good thinking, some good tools, and an organizing principle that's vastly more correct than most similar books. For a non-fiction bestseller, this is about as good as it gets.


I've neglected to mention a bunch of these, so let's strew them about randomly and hope no one notices....

2013 Heinlein Award Winners

This award, for vaguely being Heinleinian and skiffy and pro-space in writings of some kind or another, goes to Allen Steele and Yoji Kondo this year, for no specific works or events.

This award has recently been taken over by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society from the Heinlein Society, according to the Locus Online write-up, which I think implies that Kondo is no longer the chair of the judging committee. But he previously was chair of that committee -- and is still cited as such by the official website of the award -- which is unusual for a winner, to say the least. (Of course, the first winner of the award was Virginia Heinlein, who created the prize and the committee, so there is a tradition to be upheld.)

The award itself will be given out at Balticon 47, in late May in the wilds of Maryland. If you want to see a grown man getting a whopping great sterling silver medallion with another grown man's face on it, this may be your best opportunity.

2013 BSFA Award Nominees

This one is more straightforward: the British Science Fiction Association, which is, as you know Bob, an Association of British people that like Science Fiction, has announced the nominees for their annual awards. Winners will be announced at this year's Eastercon, EightSquared, in scenic Bradford.

There are several categories -- and you can see all of them on the official BSFA blog, but here's the one that everyone cares the most about:

Best Novel
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (Corvus)
Empty Space: a Haunting by M. John Harrison (Gollancz)
Intrusion by Ken Macleod (Orbit)
Jack Glass by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)

 2013 Kitschies Nominees

This is a newer, quirkier British award -- which I suspect, like so many other awards, was created because one year the Wrong Things Won -- sponsored by a brand of rum and with three categories with cutesy names. In other words, it's the SF award for the Internet Era, so we'd better get used to it.

This year's nominees:

Red Tentacle:
  • Jesse Bullington's The Folly of the World (Orbit)
  • Frances Hardinge's A Face Like Glass (Macmillan)
  • Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker (William Heinemann)
  • Adam Roberts' Jack Glass (Gollancz)
  • Juli Zeh's The Method (Harvill Secker) (Translated by Sally-Ann Spencer)
Golden Tentacle:
  • Madeline Ashby's vN (Angry Robot)
  • Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon (William Heinemann)
  • Rachel Hartman's Seraphina (Doubleday)
  • Karen Lord's Redemption in Indigo (Jo Fletcher Books)
  • Tom Pollock's The City's Son (Jo Fletcher Books)
Inky Tentacle:
  • La Boca for Ned Beauman's The Teleportation Accident (Sceptre)
  • Oliver Jeffers for John Boyne's The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket (Doubleday)
  • Tom Gauld for Matthew Hughes' Costume Not Included (Angry Robot)
  • Peter Mendelsund for Ben Marcus' Flame Alphabet (Granta)
  • Dave Shelton for his own A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (David Fickling Books)
If you want explanations of the various naughty, naughty tentacles, check out the Kitschies site. I note that all of these works are distinguished by being "progressive," which I suppose means this is the opposite of the Libertarian's Prometheus Award.

Winners will be announced on February 26th at a random event space in London, because the Internet has nothing to do with boring old crotchety convention fandom! Anarchy Now!

Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees. (Note: this is possibly the only non-sarcastic sentence in the whole post.)

If You Like Maps of Fantasy Worlds

You'll want to be careful about clicking this link, since you could lose entire days there.

Note that not all of the links are still valid, and some lead to pages that include maps, rather than directly to the maps themselves. And some are official scanned-from-books maps, some are good fan-made maps, and some are cruder explorations of the territory.

But they're all maps of lands that don't exist, which is plenty good enough.

(via Publishers Weekly)

In the Spirit of the Season

Hey! I just discovered that the Dollyrots' wonderfully snotty "Valentine's Day" is available, right now, for free on NoiseTrade!

Grab it and enjoy it.

And then, if you like it, I'd recommend their middle record, Because I'm Awesome, because it is -- particularly the title song and their cover of "Brand New Key."

Speaking of that, I had to tell The Wife that "Brand New Key" was entirely an extended metaphor for sex recently -- I thought everyone had gotten that memo by now.... 

The Lack of Context Should Protect Me

Look, nimrod, your Annual Meeting cannot, by definition, be "an unprecedented event."

And if you're a group of smart people, you know that already, and have no excuses.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/26

Welcome back once again to the longest-running not-actually-reviewing-books column in the New Jersey Highlands! As always, these are books that just arrived, so I've only glanced at them and not actually read them cover to cover. Their mere existence in my life is tribute to a legion of hardworking book-publishing publicists, whose job it is to make sure that people like you find out about books that they might like, so I hope some of that goes on today.

What I'm about to tell you is as correct as I know, but I could be wrong -- so assume that if any slight change would make a book absolutely perfect for you, then I must have bobbled that detail.

First up is The Eldritch Conspiracy -- the book that once again reminds me that spelling "Eldritch" without the T is not strictly speaking correct -- by the portmanteau author Cat Adams. ("Adams" is, not secretly at all, actually the writing team of C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, who wrote the long "Sazi" series under their dual names before becoming "Cat Adams" as well.) This one is, I believe, the fifth book in the urban fantasy series about Celia Graves -- a part-Siren personal security consultant to the stars, recently turned half-undead by a vampire's bite, who seems to have the usual complicated personal and professional life required of a contemporary fantasy heroine -- in which she has to protect her cousin Princess Adriana, who will marry the King of Rusland if the assassins don't get her first. It's a trade paperback from Tor [1], officially arriving for sale tomorrow.

Also from Tor, but coming from their Starscape imprint for readers not as beaten down and jaded by experience, is the new novel by two-time Newbery honoree Lawrence Yep, City of Death. It's the grand finale of the City Trilogy, after City of Fire and City of Ice, and will be available in a week, on February 5th. It's an epic fantasy full of evil dragons that might be set in our world (references to the Silk Road) or maybe not (that road leads to the Kushan Empire). And I hope there's an in-story reason for the amazing length of that arrow on the cover -- seriously, it extends around the spine and still doesn't come to a head there, so I'm sure it must be a plot point.

It's been a long time since I saw an anthology that just starts its cover listing of contributors with Aesop, but Richard Klaw's The Apes of Wrath -- reprinting stories about conflicts and other SFF interactions between man and ape -- is just the book to do it. And it's not just an excuse to put "Rachel in Love" and "Red Shadows" into the same book, though they're both here, as they should be. The other seventeen stories come from names like Howard Waldrop, Joe R. Lansdale, Mary Robinette Kowal, Philip Jose Farmer, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, and, inevitably, Edgar Allan Poe (no points for guessing which story). This is a February trade paperback from the folks at Tachyon.

The Six-Gun Tarot is the first novel by R.S. Belcher -- though he did win the grand price in the recent Strange New Worlds contest -- and it's a hardcover from Tor, officially published last week. As the title implies, this is a weird western, set in the creepy frontier town of Golgotha. The flap copy mostly runs through the various creepiness and weirdness -- an apparently hanged sheriff, a hoard of mythical treasure, a secret order of pirates and assassins, that old abandoned silver mine and what might be coming out of it -- rather than giving away the story, so I should do the same.

There was a time when there were a lot of comics based on TV shows -- if you frequent the right parts of the Internet, you've already seen that famous "log of wood" cover of The Rifleman a few dozen times -- but that time is long ago now. About the only currently running show with a healthy comics presence is The Simpsons, and that Bongo comics series is still being collected for the book market by Harper. The new one is Simpsons Comics Supernova, including issues 81, 101-103, and the Summer Shindig # 2. The book itself just credit the whole shebang to Simpsons creator Matt Groening (in small type on the copyright page), but the stories themselves include the original credits. You probably know what to expect from Simpsons stories by now, but I'll note that this leads off with a fine homage to Carl Barks (and his modern followers), "Uncle Burn$."

I left the most complicated title for last, so I could get up to running speed before I tackled it. But here goes: The Eye of the World: The Wheel of Time: The Graphic Novel: Volume Three, credited to Robert Jordan (writer of the original novel, in case you've forgotten), Chuck Dixon (adaptor to comics) and artists Marcio Fiorito and Francis Nuguit. I do have to admit that I don't understand the appeal of adapting a novel into comics [2] -- new stories for comics about the same characters is perfectly cromulent, though -- but clearly there are people who see an appeal there. Tor publishes this in hardcover on January 29th -- though, in case you didn't know, this collects the individual issues originally published by Dynamite through comics shops.

[1] Everyone just assumes that the various electronic editions are available at the same time unless specified otherwise these days, right? That's my assumption, at least. I'll mention otherwise if I know otherwise.

[2] Of course, as soon as I typed this, I thought of the Roy Thomas/Barry Smith (not yet Windsor) Conan stories of the '70s, which is a major counterexample. So it may be possible to convince me I am wrong.


Two weeks ago, I complained that the current Internet-fueled economy was destroying vastly more jobs than it was creating, and reshaping the entire landscape for careers in the future for the worse.

Today, the AP has the same story -- though, since it's reported by professionals (unlike my Internet-fueled amateur thought piece, which is actually a symptom of the problem) there are quotes and numbers and lots of backup detail.

Turns out we're all screwed, unless we do something unique, or are willing to do the kind of service jobs that can never be automated (shelf-stocker, waiter). Everyone who doesn't self-identify as an "artist" or "entrepreneur" might as well learn how to eat grass; our jobs and middle-class income will all disappear eventually.

Two Songs About Bad Love

Life is full of love affairs that don't work out, and music even more so -- and here are two good songs in that vein that I've been listening to lately.

First, in the Cynthia Heimel corner (a la Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye) comes "JERK!" by Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians, which is much more nuanced and interesting than the all-caps title might suggest:

"JERK!" is available on a NoiseTrade sampler [1] -- free if you want, for any higher price you care to name if you prefer -- and is also the lead single on Coplan's debut EP.

And then there's Josh Ritter, whom I've blogged about before. The first song from his upcoming record The Beast in Its Tracks is the quiet, aching "Joy to You Baby":

If you preorder the album directly from Ritter's site, you get that song right away. (Although, since it's streaming, if you're sufficiently motivated and even mildly tech-savvy, you already have it now.) He's also doing an interesting promo where tickets for his upcoming tour also include a free download of the album once it's available.

[1] I can't get NoiseTrade to resolve, so no link right now -- but it's, and then search for Stephie Coplan. I don't think free samplers stay there forever, but there's a good chance it'll still be there for another month or three.

Lucinda Williams 60 år

Det kan man ju inte tro... Lucinda Williams fyller 60 i dag! Jag tror att det var Emmylou Harris som en gång sa något i stil med: "Jag trodde att alla bra sånger redan var skrivna, och så kommer Lucinda med bland de bästa jag hört..."

Vare sig det är blues, country eller rock så vet man att man alltid kommer att få något med äkta känsla. Ruffigt eller mjukt, snabbt eller långsamt, alltid finns Lu där med sin känslosamma röst och förför med sina sånger om kärlek, oftast om olycklig sådan, men aldrig uppgiven.

Lucinda Williams har också skrivit några av de starkaste positiva kärlekssångerna jag vet.
"Like A Rose" och "Something About What Happens When We Talk" finns ju redan här på bloggen. En annan är "Right In Time":

De förtvivlade och olyckliga kärlekssångerna är desto fler. Ärligt, naket, utlämnande:
"Abandoned" från den magiska vita "Lucinda Williams"-skivan från 1988:

Sen finns de analyserande sångerna. "Side of the Road" säger mer om kärlekens dubbla natur än flera doktorsavhandlingar tillsammans. Om behovet att vara för sig själv utan att vara ensam. Om dubbla känslor. Om att vara ärlig mot sig själv. Den finns redan på bloggen men vi tar den än en gång, nu i en suverän live-version:

You wait in the car,
On the side of the road.
Let me go and stand awhile,
I want to know you're there, but I want to be alone.
If only for a minute or two,
I want to see what it feels like to be without you.
I want to know the touch of my own skin,
Against the sun, against the wind
- Lucinda Williams

Grattis Lucinda! Ta väl hand om dig själv...!

Lucinda Williams hemsida - ovanligt innehållsrik hemsida.

The Journey of One Little Ring and Its Fingers

Note that this is book chronology -- which explains the seventeen-year gap between Frodo getting the ring and actually doing something about it.

Hobbits is the laziest creatures.


Here's How You Know You're Not Blogging Enough

The spammers start to circle, like sharks -- first one little comment here, then another, and then several a day.

Eventually, I assume, they'll hit the site continually until it finally succumbs. (Or, perhaps, regular posts start back up.)

I've been seeing more comments than posts on Antick Musings for the last few days, which is not a good sign, at this level. And I do know the solution.

Look for solutions in this space in the near future.

Trött på vinter och kyla

Vinter. Kyla. Mörker. Trötthet. Minus 22 grader... Nu räcker det!

Tuggade sönder en tand igår. Som en vass kil som spetsade tungan när jag försökte säga något. Aj! Nu är den lagad och jag tackar för utmärkt service! Och eftersom det var sista dagen på försäkringsperioden fick jag 432:- från Försäkringskassan. En dag till och jag hade inte fått ett öre... Ibland har man tur i oturen!

Mycket tröthet nu, och för mycket vardag som inte bara har vett att flyta på...

Runrig spår om bättre tider:

My worn heart feels young today
This darkest winter gone

Måtte det snart vara så...!

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/19

I'm in the middle of a long weekend after an eventful week at work, which means I'm even more full of ennui (or perhaps I mean inertia) than usual. But I can rouse myself to tell you about these books, all of which arrived in my home over the past week, and which I've only just glanced at so far. (In other words: I haven't actually read them -- I'm not Harriet Klausner; I don't claim to read five books before breakfast -- but I can tell you about what looks interesting even with that handicap.

First up is George O'Connor's Poseidon: Earth Shaker, the fifth in a series of graphic novels retelling Greek myths. (The earlier ones are Zeus, Athena, Hera, and Hades -- links are to my reviews, and I recommend the whole series. They're ostensibly for a younger audience, middle-grade or so, but O'Connor is both an inventive, energetic artist and a thoughtful, dedicated researcher/writer, and he turns these regularly re-told stories into something new and exciting every time.) It's from First Second, hitting stores any day now, and 3/4 of my household already wants to read it immediately, which should be a very high recommendation.

I also have the three mass-market paperbacks that DAW will publish next month, and those are:
Dead Things, a novel by Stephen Blackmoore which I tend to assume will launch an urban fantasy series (since it's about a necromancer in LA with secrets and a history and all of those interesting things), though I note that Blackmoore's first novel, City of the Lost, was a similarly noirish contemporary fantasy set in LA (with zombies). So he may actually be that incredibly rare creature nowadays, the novelist who writes different books each time out -- if so, we need to treasure him.

Irene Radford returns with The Silent Dragon, the first book of new series "The Children of the Dragon Nimbus." (Through my incredibly powers of deduction, I can tell that this is related to her earlier serieses "The Dragon Nimbus" and "The Dragon Nimbus Histories.")

And Kristen Britain is back with her fourth book in the "Green Rider" series, Blackveil. That's a series which has been a while between books -- they only come around every four years or so -- which means you Britain fans should make a big deal about it, and be more than ordinary happy for a new book.

I saw The Death Cure -- third in James Dashner's dystopian YA "Maze Runner" series -- a few months back with the ARC, and now I see it again, since it's a Delacorte trade paperback that published on January 8th.

Andrew P. Mayer's "Society of Steam" series -- and you get no points for guessing what subgenre it belongs to, since that should be pretty darn obvious -- continues into a third book, Power Under Pressure. It hit stores January 15 as a trade paperback from the fine folks at Pyr. And, from the back cover description, this book may actually see the group of the series title form, from the ashes of the now-defunct Society of Paragons, in order to finally defeat the fiendish plots of Lord Eschaton.

Lucy Knisley -- the amazingly young cartoonist of French Milk and an occasional webcomic called "Stop Paying Attention" -- is back with a second book, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. It's a memoir of her eating life, with what looks like plenty of digressions (and recipes!) in her lovely clean-line style. And you can get it from First Second books (yes, them again) in early April.

And, since nothing in the media ever comes alone but in ranks and cohorts, I also have here another graphic novel of a young woman's life, with a food slant: Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe. (The main character here is named Sadie, so I think it's not a memoir -- though Halliday's previous comics have been memoirs, and her author's note feints in that direction as well. So this is either fiction or it isn't.) In Peanut, a girl goes to a new high school and decides she wants to stand out, so she tells all her new classmates about her life-threatening peanut allergy...that she doesn't actually have. Hijinks (and, I expect, drama) ensue. It was published by Schwartz & Wade books, a YA imprint of the giant Random House empire that I was previously unaware of.

And last for this week is the new book by the man with the best vests in SFF: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s Imager's Battalion. It's the sixth book in the Imager series -- which I have to admit that I haven't read any of -- and Tor will publish it in hardcover tomorrow. The plot description is full of people, terms, and places that I don't know -- obviously, since it's book six of an epic fantasy series -- but I can note that this one sees the first imager fighting force in (this particular fictional) history.