Sunday, September 04, 2016

Books for Fall

In the United States, Labor Day is considered the beginning of autumn for social purposes. Traditionally, white shoes and hats were put away until Memorial Day, outdoor public swimming pools were closed, and school reopened for the fall semester after summer break.

Today the rules aren't nearly so strict. People wear whatever colors they want throughout the year. Heated pools stay open well into fall, and a lot of schools open near the beginning of August, shortening summer vacation in hopes of increasing retention of skills learned the previous year.

But it's still a good time for some fun books.

I Am a Wondrous Thing by Rob Howell

War looms in the west as sword, axe, and flame sweep the Kreisens and threaten to drag all of the neighboring realms, including Periaslavl, into the maelstrom.

Irina Ivanovna, ruler of Periaslavl, knows that war would destroy much of her land. Even though magic has kept her body young, she is tired and sees that she is not the one to lead her land through the upcoming storm.

She steps down in favor of her heir, as tradition dictates, and disappears from sight. She heads to the Kreisens to see if her magic can halt the bloodshed and pain.

But the storm was orchestrated by foes she does not know she has. They stalk her, knowing her magic is the key.

She must elude the hunters so she can discover what is truly threatening not just Periaslavl, but all of Shijuren.

Where will the lightning strike?

(This is the third and latest volume in the World of Shijuren.)

The Death of a Bandit: The Lady Was a Bandit volume 1 by Joseph T. Major

You can easily find the tale of the Diverse Band of Ordinary But Special People questing for the Magic Knickknack of Querty to help them win the Ultimate Battle Between Good and Evil which will mark the End of the Faerie Folk in Our World. This isn't one of those stories.
A bandit queen finds herself forced to choose between domesticity and execution. A scholar goes to extraordinary ends to find a wife. Together, they seek to solve the problems presented them in a world where magic and faerie are, well, just there.

WARNING: Contains violence, sex, and family.

(Humorous fantasy -- avoid choking, don't read while eating or drinking)

Whispered Magics by Sherwood Smith

As a child, Sherwood Smith was always on the watch for magic: no fog bank went unexplored, no wooden closet unchecked for a false back, no possible magical token left on the ground or in the gutter. In these nine stories, the impossible becomes possible, magic is real, aliens come visiting. How would our lives change?

(Although Sherwood Smith's muse usually runs to novels, even whole sequences of novels, every now and then it serves her up a perfect little gem of a short story. These are stories from the heart, that have stuck with me ever since I read them in the now-vanished magazines and kids' anthologies in which they first appeared).

Salt of the Air by Vera Nazarian

You are familiar with the salt of the earth. But did you know there is an even finer, more delicate essence?

Take wisdom and imagination, responsibility and beauty, and mix them together in arcane proportions to form a rich and peculiar brine. The resulting water of life is an emotional muddy liquid, filled with existential sediment swirling in the light of secret reality and reflecting prismatic colors of hope and wonder. If allowed to evaporate -- escape, flee, ascend into the ether and join the music of the spheres -- what remains is the quintessence; a precious concentrate that is elusive and volatile, neither fully solid nor so illusory as to be devoid of pithy substance. It is the Salt of the Air.

In this debut collection from the critically acclaimed author of Dreams of the Compass Rose and Lords of Rainbow, the nineteen stories are distillations of myth and philosophy, eroticism and ascetic purity. Dipping into an ancient multi-ethnic well, they are the stuff of fantasy—of maidens and deities and senior retirees, of emperors and artists and con artists, of warriors and librarians, of beings without a name and things very fey indeed....

Don't be afraid of ingesting ethereal salt.

Open your mind and inhale.

"Cautionary, sensual stories of love, reversal and revenge upend fairy tale conventions in Nazarian's lush collection... Sumptuous detail, twisty plots and surprising endings lift these extravagant tales."

"These are beautiful, haunting confections, reminiscent of Tanith Lee's erotically charged tales... Fine shades of emotion, mythic grandeur, crystalline prose, sharp revisionist intelligence: these are Vera Nazarian's hallmarks..."
-- Nick Gevers, LOCUS

Vera Nazarian immigrated to the USA from the former USSR as a kid, sold her first story at the age of 17, and since then has published numerous works in anthologies and magazines, and has seen her fiction translated into eight languages.

She made her novelist debut with the critically acclaimed novel DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE, followed by epic fantasy about a world without color, LORDS OF RAINBOW. Her novella "The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass" with an introduction by Charles de Lint made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2005. This first collection Salt of the Air, with an introduction by Gene Wolfe, contains the 2007 Nebula Award-nominated "The Story of Love." Recent work includes the 2008 Nebula Award-nominated, baroque novella "The Duke in His Castle."

Ancient myth, moral fables, eclectic philosophy, and her Armenian and Russian ethnic heritage play a strong part in all her work, combining the essences of things and places long gone into a rich evocation of wonder.

In addition to being a writer and award-winning artist, she is also the publisher of Norilana Books.

Official website:

(A collection of Vera Nazarian's fantasy short stories that don't belong to the Compass Rose universe.)

Mortis Operandi by Kfir Luzzatto and Dru Pagliassotti

Although not every criminal is a monster, nor every monster a criminal, you might be forgiven for mistaking the two as you investigate the gritty underworld of supernatural crime. Join officers of the law, private eyes, firefighters, bodyguards, crime-scene cleaners, security specialists, and other not-so-everyday citizens as they struggle against the macabre machinations of MORTIS OPERANDI.

MORTIS OPERANDI features stories that revolve around the investigation of a crime and in which the supernatural plays a central role.

(This anthology includes my short story "Once a Chekist," which belongs in the Gus on the Moon timeline but is set in Russia).

The Shadow over Leningrad by Leigh Kimmel

In Stalin's Soviet Union, Tikhon Grigoriev lives a precarious life. He knows too much. He's seen too much. A single misstep could destroy him, and if he stumbles, he will take his family down with him. With Leningrad besieged by Nazi armies, the danger has only increased.

He's not a man who wants to come to the notice of those in high places. But when he solved a murder that seemed supernatural, impossible, he attracted the attention of Leningrad's First Party Secretary.

So when a plot of land grows vegetables of unusual size and vigor, and anyone who eats them goes mad, who should be called upon to solve the mystery but Tikhon Grigoriev. However, these secrets could get him far worse than a bullet in the head. For during the White Nights the boundaries between worlds grow thin, and in some of those worlds humanity can have no place.

(The sequel to "Gnawing the Bones of the City," which appeared in Fiction Vortex in 2015.)

And over at Sarah Hoyt's blog, there's the annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale.

Crossposted at The Starship Cat blog and The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf.