Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

From my bedside pile, I’ve been reading for a few minutes before I go to sleep. It has made going to sleep so much easier, so mind clearing, so becoming involved in a story a night.

I loved Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Trilogy, and think it should be made into a film. There’s so much to think about in those books, and there is plenty of action.

The Midnighters: Secret Hour takes place in an odd sliver of time just at midnight. Some teens in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma, are able to enter that secret hour of the day when everything else in the world is frozen in the moments before midnight. They travel freely through the town, and have some useful talents that are even more useful in that bit of time out of time.

Rex is able to find and interpret Lore about the Secret Hour and the dark creatures who live in it. Melissa can read minds and feelings and is bombarded with them anytime she’s around people, except in the quieter Secret Hour. Dess is a mathematical genius, and can shape metals into weapons that hold the creatures of the Secret Hour at bay. Jonathan is able to fly through an ability to alter gravity. New to the group is Jess, who has just come to Bixby from Chicago. All of the Midnighters know she is one of them, but her talents are unknown.

Jess has the creatures of the Secret Hour scared, and they attack her soon after she settles in. She experiences the midnight hour first alone, then with the other talents in the group.

Perfect reading at the actual hour of midnight and after (when I’m often reading). I’m checking my shelves, very disorganized though they are, sadly, for the next two volumes Touching Darkness and Blue Noon.

In the meantime I’ve started Garth Nix’s Mister Monday, first book in the Keys to The Kingdom series.

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Artemis Andy Weir

It took me a little bit to get into this one, because it reminded me so much of Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars. Luckily, once you’re past the first part of the novel, Jasmine Bashara is no Podkayne. She’s a scrappy super agent, with an intellect she uses reluctantly at times. When she does use it, she’s amazing, and can outsmart pretty much everyone.

As small time smuggler in Artemis, the only existing lunar colony, Jazz knows her way around every dome and has lots of connections. Her troubles begin when she takes on a larger job for a sometime customer who is wealthy, but wants a great deal more.

Life in the closed dome society of Artemis is as scientifically fascinating as you’d expect from Andy Weir. You see how it could be built, and become a tourist mecca, and yet be a very spare society for it’s citizens. The danger of fire and the destruction of the colony is a constant. Contact with earth, and the moving of materials and supplies between earth and moon is painfully slow. Communication is monitored and again slow.

Once the plot to sabotage a rival is in motion, the book just zips along like a thriller, non-stop till the end.

The Book of Life Deborah Harkness

This is the third book in the wonderful All Souls trilogy.

We have beneath the surface of every day life entire societies of “creatures” as they think of themselves. Witches, Vampires and Demons. The witches sort of watch over hearth and home. Vampires are scientists and historians and wealthy business sorts. Demons are all alight with personality and wild creativity.

There is a governing body comprised of individuals from these groups who watch over their own and forbid mixing of the individuals.

Enter reluctant witch and dedicated historian Diana Bishop, and her vampire love, the scientist Matthew Clairmont. They’ve fallen deeply in love over the course of the books, travelled in time, and are set to break away from the Council and it’s restrictions to create a new order.

To do this, they need to find and put back together The Book of Life, hidden in the Bodleian Library, with missing pages scattered that must be reclaimed.

At it’s simplest, this is a vampire love story, of the sort I generally don’t read. There are steamy vampire love scenes. Luckily, the books are infused with history, genealogy, bioscience, rare books, and a deep and abiding distrust of prejudice in any form.

There is a vast cast of characters, great heroes, middling bumblers, terrible villains. The cultures created by the three creature factions are fascinating.

I loved the series, and look forward to more.

The Singular & Extraordinary Tale Of Mirror and Goliath Ishbelle Bee

I usually don’t write about books that I didn’t enjoy, the whole “if you can’t say something nice…” I’ll be brief here. This takes place in Victorian London, an era I always love. There are very weird supernatural things going on to do with the souls and babies and children being stolen and put into timepieces. I could take the horror of that if there was redemption and salvation for the lost.

It seems though that suffering will continue, just via a different villain. There is no thought that harming children was a problem, they’re just expendable. That’s how I felt. So. All done.

City of Endless Night Preston & Child

Here’s a new tale with the ever intriguing Agent Pendergast. He has this Sherlockian brain and approach to solving crimes. He’s been pretty aloof from personal relationships over the course of the series, but has slowly, slowly become attached to a small cache of friends and colleagues. Unfortunately for them, they often become targets of the various madmen who Pendergast tracks for their crimes.

The villain of City of Night stalks an unusual array of victims, tracking them, cornering them, killing and beheading them. Bodies are found but heads are not.

Pendergast has over the course of the last several books edged towards being withdrawn and uninterested in solving crimes, letting his personal demons haunt him. He begins here showing little interest despite the cleverness of the criminal and the undoubted challenge presented. He’s ordered to assist, and reluctantly does, and it isn’t until someone close to him is threatened that he fully engages.

There is an overlong cat and mouse sequence (I thought) at the end, but it does serve to bring Pendergast fully back to his best self and techniques.

The books have been getting shorter over time. One of the appealing things for me has been the absolutely labyrinthine plotting in the books. You’d think things were about to be resolved with the original crime, when it would all open up to another and another layer of machination. More of that.

The Fifth Season N. K. Jemisin

We have a world with completely unstable geology. There are “seasons” where things become worse and the earth’s surface cracks and spews volcanoes and entire communities (comms) are wiped out and everyone who survives in some way is forced to flee somewhere more stable.

People have “uses” rather than jobs, from something as simple as “strongbacks” to do physical labor to many different types of talented people who can help keep the earth somewhat stable. Those who are most talented are called “orogenes” and they’re hated and feared though they’re the ones who can save lives and communities. They’re either killed by their communities as children or taken to be trained in the art of controlling quakes and volcanoes.

The mistrust of them lies in the fact that they have great power, but if they’re threatened or scared or overwhelmed with feeling, they can destroy everything around them.

They lead lives of comparative privilege but are slaves, carefully watched and controlled their entire lives.

The story loops between several characters over time, or so I thought, till I realized near the end that it was the story of a single woman over time. I am not sure if I would have seen that sooner if I’d read it in a closer sequence. I didn’t like the characters much, and the world treated everyone horribly, I thought, so I read it over a period of several months, reading other things in between. When I was about halfway through, I started to appreciate one of the characters, and then looked forward to her chapters. Finding that one likeable character propelled me to read the rest at a normal rate. In my defense, the character had different names and lives, and experiences over time. There wasn’t for me a clue that this was one woman over a long life.

Kind of cleverly, one person’s life is disrupted by the instability of the whole world, and just as communities keep getting wiped out and everyone starts over, her life is disrupted and she begins anew over and over. When you realize this is one woman’s story, it is sad that there are only small interludes of peace and happiness for her. I was not planning to read more in the series, but, how can you leave her there with so much ahead that she needs and wants to do.

Monthly Wrapup

Things are looking up for the blog. Did I have five total posts last year? Yikes! My goal for 2018 is to have one hundred posts for the year. This figured out to be 8 posts a month. Although my blog calendar has flipped over to February, it’s only 8pm or so on the 31st as I write this. So six posts for January alone! I’m certain to make my goal this time.

I noticed my “about” page was a top post and hadn’t realized it was empty of any information at all. Oops! I’ve filled it in with all the pertinent information about me as a reader.

My Merlyn Perilous picture/icon is my Lord of the Rings Online character Merlyn and the whole Merlyn Perilous idea springs from her adventures in Middle Earth.

I’ve yet to update Good Reads with any new information. I’ll need to do that, I’m just not going to sign up for the “I’ll read 1000 books this year” program. It does provide another way to share my love of my favorite authors.

Thanks for stopping by, Merlyn