Monday, May 12, 2014

Upcoming Books - Through October

There are a lot of good looking books in the works over the next few months, beginning with one I featured on it's own:

Beowulf - J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien
Release Date: May 22, 2014

The product description:
The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.

From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.

But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf "snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup"; but he rebuts the notion that this is "a mere treasure story", "just another dragon tale". He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is "the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history" that raises it to another level. "The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The ‘treasure’ is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination."

Sellic spell, a "marvellous tale", is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the "historical legends" of the Northern kingdoms.
On to the usual suspects of authors I keep an eye out for when it comes to new books:

Blood Red (Elemental Masters) - Mercedes Lackey
Blood Red
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: June 3, 2014

The product description:
Rosamund is an Earth Master in the Schwarzwald, the ancient Black Forest of Germany. Since the age of ten, she has lived with her teacher, the Hunt Master and Earth Magician of the Schwarzwald Foresters, a man she calls “Papa.” Her adoptive Papa rescued her after her original Earth Master teacher, an old woman who lived alone in a small cottage in the forest, was brutally murdered by werewolves. Rosa herself barely escaped, and this terrifying incident molded the course of her future.

For like her fellow Earth Masters of the Schwarzwald Lodge, Rosa is not a healer. Instead, her talents lead her on the more violent path of protection and defense— “cleansing” the Earth and protecting its gentle fae creatures from those evil beings who seek to do them harm.

And so Rosa becomes the first woman Hunt Master and the scourge of evil creatures, with a deadly specialty in werewolves and all shape­shifters.

While visiting with a Fire Master—a friend of her mentor from the Schwarzwald Lodge— Rosa meets a pair of Elemental Magicians from Hungary who have come looking for help. They suspect that there is a dark power responsible for a string of murders happening in the remote countryside of Transylvania, but they have no proof. Rosa agrees to help them, but there is a catch: one of the two men asking for aid is a hereditary werewolf.

Rosa has been taught that there are three kinds of werewolves. There are those, like the one that had murdered her teacher, who transform themselves by use of dark magic, and also those who have been infected by the bite of these magical werewolves—these poor victims have no control over their transforma­tive powers. Yet, there is a third kind: those who have been born with the ability to trans­form at will. Some insist that certain of these hereditary werewolves are benign. But Rosa has never encountered a benign werewolf!

Can she trust this Hungarian werewolf? Or is the Hunter destined to become the Hunted?
I think that Mercedes Lackey has finally gotten around to a version of Little Red Riding Hood in her retellings of fairy-tales.

Closer To Home: Book One of Herald Spy
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: October 7, 2014

The product description:
 Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?
House of Four Winds - Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
The House of Four Winds
Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Tor Books
Release Date: August 5, 2014

The product description:
Mercedes Lackey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Valdemar series and romantic fantasies like Beauty and the Werewolf and The Fairy Godmother. JAMES MALLORY and Lackey have collaborated on six novels. Now. these New York Times and USA Today bestselling collaborators bring romance to the fore with The House of Four Winds.

The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers. 

This is one I'm definitely looking forward to, with less than a month to go:

Crown of Renewal (Legend of Paksenarrion) - Elizabeth Moon
Crown of Renewal (Legend of Paksenarrion)
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Release Date: May 27, 2014

The product description:
Acclaimed author Elizabeth Moon spins gripping, richly imagined epic fantasy novels that have earned comparisons to the work of such authors as Robin Hobb and Lois McMaster Bujold. In this volume, Moon’s brilliant masterwork reaches its triumphant conclusion.

The mysterious reappearance of magery throughout the land has been met with suspicion, fear, and violence. In the kingdom of Lyonya, Kieri, the half-elven, half-human king, struggles to balance the competing demands of his heritage while fighting a deadly threat to his rule: evil elves linked in some way to the rebirth of magic.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia, a set of ancient artifacts recovered by the former mercenary Dorrin Verrakai may hold the answer to the riddle of magery’s return. Thus Dorrin embarks on a dangerous quest to return these relics of a bygone age to their all-but-mythical place of origin. What she encounters there will change her in unimaginable ways—and spell doom or salvation for the entire world.
There's also this one:

Shattered Shields
Shattered Shields (BAEN)
Ed. Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Baen Books
Release Date: November 4, 2014

The product description:
Swords and Shields. Faith and Magic.

Grab yours and get ready, for the enemy is on the move.

High fantasy and mighty conflicts go hand-in-hand. In great wars, armies rise to fight evil hordes and heroes struggle to push beyond their imperfections and save the day. These stories include more than just epic landscapes and characters...but also epic battles.

Imagine a doctor struggling to identify the spy who has infiltrated his company's ranks and poisoned his colleagues or a boy suspected of murder by a king yet protected by a princess as he helps her father against his own people. Imagine a butcher discovering that he's called to lead an uprising, or a First Born knowing that she must betray her own in order to save humanity.

The possibilities are endless, but at the heart they have this in common: soldiers--ordinary and otherwise-struggling against extraordinary odds to survive the day. They must withstand dark magic, dodge enemy blades, and defy the odds to survive SHATTERED SHIELDS.

Table of Contents:
Ashes and Starlight (Runelords) by David Farland
The Fixed Stars (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire
The Keeper of Names by Larry Correia
The Smaller We Are by John Helfers
Invictus by Annie Bellet
Rising Above by Sarah A. Hoyt
A Cup of Wisdom by Joseph Zieja
Words of Power by Wendy N. Wagner
Lightweaver in Shadow by Gray Rinehart
Hoofsore and Weary by Cat Rambo
Vengeance (Frost) by Robin Wayne Bailey
Deadfall by Nancy Fulda
Yael of the Strings by John R. Fultz
The Gleaners by Dave Gross
Bonded Men by James L. Sutter
Bone Candy (Black Company) by Glen Cook
First Blood (Paksenarrion) by Elizabeth Moon
There's a lot of names there that I recognize...
This is another one I'm looking forward to, though I'm likely to wait for the paperback to match the rest of the series. However, there's a lot of new material there. The only one I recognize is the story Alpha And Omega, published in On The Prowl.

Shifting Shadows: Stories From The World Of Mercy Thompson - Patricia Briggs
Shifting Shadows: Stories From The World Of Mercy Thompson
Patricia Briggs
Release Date: September 2, 2014

The product description:
Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger…

A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends…

Includes the new stories…
“Roses in Winter”

…and reader favorites
“Fairy Gifts”
“Alpha and Omega”
“Seeing Eye”
“The Star of David”
“In Red, with Pearls”
Laurell K. Hamilton is still going strong with her series about Merry Gentry:

Shiver of Light - Laurell K. Hamilton
A Shiver of Light
Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley Hardcover
Release Date: June 3, 2014

The product description:
I am Princess Meredith NicEssus. Legal name Meredith Gentry, because “Princess” looks so pretentious on a driver’s license. I was the first faerie princess born on American soil, but I wouldn’t be the only one for much longer...

Merry Gentry, ex–private detective, now full-time princess, knew she was descended from fertility goddesses, but when she learned she was about to have triplets, she began to understand what that might mean. Infertility has plagued the high ranks of faerie for centuries. Now nobles of both courts of faerie are coming to court Merry and her men, at their home in exile in the Western Lands of Los Angeles, because they will do anything to have babies of their own.

Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, is a more dangerous problem. He tried to seduce Merry and, failing that, raped her. He’s using the human courts to sue for visitation rights, claiming that one of the babies is his. And though Merry knows she was already pregnant when he took her, she can’t prove it.

To save herself and her babies from Taranis she will use the most dangerous powers in all of faerie: a god of death, a warrior known as the Darkness, the Killing Frost, and a king of nightmares. They are her lovers, and her dearest loves, and they will face down the might of the high courts of faerie—while trying to keep the war from spreading to innocent humans in Los Angeles, who are in danger of becoming collateral damage.
I've definitely fallen behind on this series!
The next book is a bit of a change of pace from fantasy and paranormal romance:

China Dolls - Lisa See
China Dolls: A Novel
Lisa See
Random House
Release Date: June 3, 2014

The product description:
The New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and Shanghai Girls has garnered international acclaim for her great skill at rendering the intricate relationships of women and the complex meeting of history and fate. Now comes Lisa See’s highly anticipated new novel, China Dolls.

It’s 1938 in San Francisco: a world’s fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities. Grace, Helen, and Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. Grace Lee, an American-born Chinese girl, has fled the Midwest with nothing but heartache, talent, and a pair of dancing shoes. Helen Fong lives with her extended family in Chinatown, where her traditional parents insist that she guard her reputation like a piece of jade. The stunning Ruby Tom challenges the boundaries of convention at every turn with her defiant attitude and no-holds-barred ambition.

The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. When their dark secrets are exposed and the invisible thread of fate binds them even tighter, they find the strength and resilience to reach for their dreams. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives, and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything.
I think this is going to be a book that's perfect for people who liked Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. My favorite Lisa See novel to date though, is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Elizabeth W. Barber

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Elizabeth Wayland Barber
Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years
Elizabeth W. Barber
W. W. Norton and Company
Copyright: 2005

The product description:
New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.

Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.

Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods—methods she herself helped to fashion. In a "brilliantly original book" (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.
Highly recommended, and an interesting read as it turned out. There are points where it feels a bit more "popular" rather than scholarly in tone, but Elizabeth Barber clearly knows what she's talking about in this book. And, a lot of that is from her own experiences as a weaver.

I like the approach that she's taken with this book, combining linguistics, literature and archaeology to trace the history of spinning and weaving through pre-history and into the Minoan and Mycenaean times. From that, I learned quite a bit about fiber choices and preparation methods through those time-periods: nettles, flax and hemp preparation for spinning, for example, and innumerable hints about the techniques and skills various groups of people were using.

She even traces the theorized migrations of the different tribes and groups through the use of the different types of loom-weights and linguistic changes.

One of the big things that I learned on reading Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years aside from just about everything I now know about the processing of vegetable fibres, was about the two different types of loom that were used. I was slightly familiar (through reading) with the vertical loom of the style shown in the Greek black-figure vases, but knew nothing about the ground-looms that were used in Egypt through much of the same time-period.

I do have a couple of minor quibbles with the book - such as the way in the first chapter, she jumps from the spindle to the treadle-powered spinning wheel, completely skipping the great wheel. On the whole though, those are small things, and this book is one I'd recommend to anyone interested in women's history or the history of spinning and weaving - not always the same thing though.

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years is well illustrated, both with photos, maps and line drawings. However, all of them are in black and white. I wish there had been some color imagery, but perhaps color would have detracted from the clarity of the images in some cases.

Now, if only I could find a book like this for the Classical era through the Middle Ages, or even the modern period.

Definitely a book that I'm going to be keeping on my shelves though.

Reading this book does (at least in my mind) count towards the History Reading Challenge.


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