Tag Archives: Seanan McGuire

Skunk Puppy

The dog has been skunked. Strangely, when he came zooming into the house at 4 a.m. after his close encounter with the skunkly kind, he smelled like… onions. Like a lot of onions – like he had been mugged by a roving band of onions gone to the bad; A Clockwork Onion, even.

Which I thought was weird, but was why I let him back into the bed — believing that he had just gotten into a patch of onion grass in the yard and comforting myself with the thought that the next day was laundry day. Despite repeated rounds of scrubbing, my bedroom can still only be described as “musky.” I did try incense, making the house smell like a skunk who wears tie dye.

This all got me thinking about books and smell. No, I will not be covering

Proust; this is not that kind of blog. We’re a little more lowbrow here. You can make your own madeleines if you want.

The Lantern

An homage to Du Maurier’s Rebecca, set in Provence. After a few chapters, I began to think that I could smell the lavender. In addition to being an elegant, creepy mystery with tons of style, The Lantern also gives the reader a smattering of fun-facts about the origins of lavender farming in the region.
The whole novel was so much fun I wish I could pick it up and read it again for the first time. It’s still in hardcover and is not getting nearly the amount of press it deserves. This means that you should just buy five or ten copies now, wrap them in holiday paper and be done in time to laze through both Halloween and Thanksgiving with an imperturbably superior air.
This one is getting a lot of press. It’s a fun romp and very atmospheric. The scents here are caramel apples and bonfires, ashes and falling leaves, exotic perfumes and spun sugar, snow, and the vanilla whiff of old paper. It’s perfect to read on a crisp autumn night and is supposed to be made into a movie. The book is so visually lush that I expect great things from the film. The plot has to do with treachery and magic, artifice and attraction, imagination and romance (But not in a goopey way. And for the guys: it is safe to read this. You’ll like it).
Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series follows a fae P.I. through San Francisco crime scenes. By fae I mean that she’s a fairy, as in “the fair folk,” “the people under the hill,” “those folks who steal babies and sour milk.” There are a lot of paranormal detectives out there in fictionland these days, so I should clarify: If you were thinking, “pink and sparkly?” Not so much. Daye’s world is peopled by just about every living thing in western myth. There are centaurs and pixies and plenty of weirdnesses you’ve probably never heard of unless you had a Welsh grandmother who liked to tell stories and try to scare the crap out of you.
McGuire’s mysteries are always fun and always full of good sensory descriptions. For instance, the magic produced by an individual carries a characteristic scent – so does their blood. There’s a good deal of humor in these books too. Sometimes it’s dark, but sometimes it’s just funny. With this, her 4th mystery in the series, McGuire’s really on top of the game – One Salt Sea is a tight, layered, fast-moving who-done-it that nicely evokes the Northern California landscape. You can start with the first one, Rosemary and Rue, or jump in at the last – but keep in mind that these novels get better and better from book to book. Also, check out this writer’s blog. It is just flat smart. I particularly admire this entry and this one.
Back to de-skunking the dog. It’s a good thing he’s cute, because he sure is smelly.

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My Summer Reading List: Something old, something new, some things fiction, some things true…

New Fiction

The Whole World, by Emily Winslow (New from Delacorte)

This smart, tightly plotted mystery will keep you guessing till the last. The characters are strange and engaging and very real. The setting leaps off the page. You feel like you might put this novel down and look up to find yourself there in Cambridge, England – cycling through the streets, surrounded by students from all over the world, in a strangely small-town-like city that thrives on the unusual and bristles with 800 years of architecture.

The Blind Contessa\’s New Machine, by Carey Wallace (Coming in July from Pamela Dorman Books)

I cannot shut up about this book. It’s lyrical and spare as a line drawing, but full of the kind of lush fancy I’d expect from Allende or Atwood. The contessa of the title grows up, marries and slowly grows blind – escaping into an interior world of stunning detail where few can follow and none, it seems, can stay.

Displaced Persons, by Ghita Schwarz (Coming in August from William Morrow & Company)

As we lose survivors of the Holocaust, this wise, tender novel brings us closer to an appreciation of what it is to go on, to create a new life out of whole cloth with little if any family, and fierce friendships grown on bitter ground. Schwarz considers what it costs to live in the present and allow the past in on one’s own terms. Her characters’ depth and strength are shocking.

New in Paperback:

The Blue Notebook, by James Levine (Coming in July from Spiegel & Grau)

Attention, readers who liked Little Bee:  The Blue Notebook is what you should read next. It’s even better.

New Non-Fiction:

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, by Jillian Lauren (New from Plume)

A great, guilty pleasure. Lauren takes the reader along on her unlikely-but-true trip from drop-out drama student to lover of the Sultan of Brunei. Unflinching and fascinating, this screams to be included in every beach bag.

Not so new, but so, so worth reading:

The Help, by Katherine Stockett (Amy Einhorn Books)

Ok, if you haven’t read this already, get with the program, will you? It’s important. The voices ring hypnotically true and the whole book is full of insight into a pivotal and often-neglected time and place in American history. Seriously, this is your homework: read it. Bonus? You won’t be able to put it down.

Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)

Great for fans of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, the Twilight series and the smarter sort of paranormal set, Rosemary and Rue features a heroine who’s a PI and also? A fairy. Not your pink, glittery type fairy. No, October Daye is about as noir as they come, and so are her supernatural cohorts. There’s a lot for a reader to learn about the myth (and pronunciation) surrounding the fae, but a helpful list at the front of the book will quickly bring you up to speed (and give you a wicked advantage at scrabble).

R& R came out in 2009 and was followed this March by its sequel, A Local Habitation, which is even better. The third October Daye novel, An Artificial Night is due in September 2010. I’m looking forward to it.

On the Divinity of Second Chances, by Kaya McLaren (Penguin)

For me, this is the ultimate feel-good novel. A quirky western family with some serious issues discovers (each member in their own style) that second chances are out there waiting for us all, one way or another. Surprising and different and full of humor, I like this even more than McLaren’s first book, Church of the Dog  (which was no slouch either).

Fluke, by Christopher Moore (Harper)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I do love me some Christopher Moore novels. This one is perfect for summer. Self described “Action Nerd” and marine behavioral biologist Nathan Quinn records, photographs and generally pesters humpback whales off Maui. His crew includes Amy (research assistant and “goth geek of the Pacific”), diver and cameraman Clay Demodocus, and dude-of-all-work, Kona —  a white-boy Rastaman from New Jersey. Things just get weirder from there. I dare you not to laugh.


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