Friday Fiction Feature

fictionreboot2Hello and welcome back to the much-delayed Friday Fiction Feature! Tabatha is back again (see, I got here eventually) to bring you yet another installment of new, old, popular, and obscure fiction. Today I’m here to highlight a great friend of the expat reader, the e-book. Normally a stolid fan of real paper and glue books, I have found my personal library horribly limited by the confines of my suitcases, and the even more inflexible airline weight restrictions. As such, I have had to take refuge in the digital library, and so today’s selection will serve to highlight, in some small portion, the vast stores available to those bereft of real old-book-smell.

The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett 

No list of e-books would be complete without a contribution by Terry Pratchett, whose collected (and uncollected) works litter every online “recommended reads” list I have ever seen. However, as I have already included Good Omens, and a random assortment of Discworld novels, the only way left to include one, is the top of my “Recommended Reads” list for today (though I shudder to know why), Pratchett’s bestselling children’s book full of interesting facts for the young and old, The World of Poo.

A charming tale for people of all ages (but especially for young Sam Vimes) from the pen of Miss Felicity Beedle, Discworld’s premier children’s author.
From Snuff: ‘Vimes’ prompt arrival got a nod of approval from Sybil, who gingerly handed him a new book to read to Young Sam. Vimes looked at the cover. The title was The World of Poo. When his wife was out of eyeshot he carefully leafed through it. Well, okay, you had to accept that the world had moved on and these days fairy stories were probably not going to be about twinkly little things with wings. As he turned page after page, it dawned on him that whoever had written this book, they certainly knew what would make kids like Young Sam laugh until they were nearly sick. The bit about sailing down the river almost made him smile. But interspersed with the scatology was actually quite interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog muck helped make the very best leather, and other things that you never thought you would need to know, but once heard somehow lodged in your mind.’

X (Kinsey Millhone Book 24) by Sue Grafton

Mostly this book is here to remind you that e-books do not limit you fair readers to the obscure reaches of the library I tend to haunt, and the new best-sellers are easily within reach. So have no fear, those edging into the pool of e-books, you can get all the same novels you would find in a bookstore, only the endings are more surprising because it’s harder to tell how many pages you have left.

*Also, as a foreign language teacher, I can definitely confirm the trickiness of the innocuous letter X–really, I challenge you, think of 3 words off the top of your head you can use to easily show a room of 3-year-olds how to pronounce x (and “in a box” doesn’t count!)

X:  The number ten. An unknown quantity. A mistake. A cross. A kiss.
X:  The shortest entry in Webster’s Unabridged. Derived from Greek and Latin and commonly found in science, medicine, and religion. The most graphically dramatic letter. Notoriously tricky to pronounce: think xylophone.
X:  The twenty-fourth letter in the English alphabet.
Sue Grafton’s X: Perhaps her darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train sounds like a Good Hitchcockian tale–something like Rear Window except it replaces the obsessive binocular vigils of an immobile man with the casual creepiness of the bored commuter, casually making up stories in the lives of strangers who forgot to close their curtains.

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Mystic Mayhem (Mystic Isle Mysteries Book 1) by Sally J. Smith & Jean Steffens 

Mystic Mayhem is an unusual kind of mystery, not because this seems to be another cozy mystery (Cozy Mystery: a genre characterized by grisly murders, numerous dangerous suspects, some variety of baked goods, and cute romance, all wrapped up inside a pastel-colored cover), but because this time the mystery and magic seems to involve some rather hectic interviews with the murderee himself. I do wonder what kind of problems the ghost causes to manage to show up and still not solve the mystery…

From the acclaimed writing team of Sally J. Smith & Jean Steffens comes a hilarious first book in a brand new mystery series that will keep you guessing until the end…
Melanie Hamilton is not your average artist. She brings home the bacon by inking tattoos at New Orleans’s Mansion at Mystic Isle, a resort in the middle of the bayou that caters to fans of the peculiar and paranormal, but her true passion comes alive when she volunteers restoring Katrina-ravaged landmarks. Between her day job, her restoration work, and selling her paintings in Jackson Square, Mel’s life is more hectic than Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday. But when a guest of the resort, a millionaire’s widow, is poisoned, and Melanie’s close friend is arrested for the murder, things go from hectic to downright dangerous.
Mel joins forces with the resort’s delish manager, Jack Stockton, to prove her friend’s innocence. Soon they find themselves dealing with séances, secret passages, the ghost of the millionaire himself, gators, swamp rats, and a sinister killer who proves that not everything is what it seems in the Louisiana bayou.
Come on along, and get your creep on.

Leave it to Jeeves and Other Works by P.G. Wodehouse (Unexpurgated Edition) by P.G. Wodehouse 

Now that you’re firmly convinced you can get the newest and hottest books around, it’s time to bring in some of the oldest and coolest. My personal favorite this last week or so has been…really anything by P.G. Wodehouse. These books offer the lexical challenge of decoding outdated slang (which is almost comforting to those of us who can’t decipher new slang), but mostly, it provides very witty writing, with very clever plots, all of which are about absolute morons (who will cheerfully admit that they are such).

Arguably P.G. Wodehouse’s most endearing character, Reginald Jeeves is a “gentleman’s personal gentleman” (a valet) to the foppish Bertie Wooster. Subtle and clever, Jeeves carefully oversees Wooster’s life, often coming up with complicated plans to extricate young Wooster from the latest calamity in his life, be it legal, social, or womanly.


Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Greetings and welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature! Tabatha is back, and this time I really am going to finish the Death & the apocalypse feature I promised! In part I we explored the world’s end & what to do about it, and now in part II we’ll focus more on the (wo)man who’ll make it happen. Death is a very important figure for most people (eventually), but (s)he never gets much face-time (ba dum chi). So today we’re going to take a peek into several different versions of Death as a character. However, I won’t be giving you selections like The Book Thief, because while I hear it is a great read, I’d prefer to look on the lighter side of Death for today (and I’ve never heard of a single Death-&-Nazi-centrous book that made me laugh). So without further ado, I give you a character who is just dying out in literature. I hope the humor’s not too grave for you! _______________________________________________________________ Mort by Terry Pratchett 

Mort (Discworld, #4)Terry Pratchett’s Mort is first on the list, for the simple reason that Discworld’s Death is my favorite in the entire series. He is charming, his humor just kills, and he’s really very understanding about his job (though he would like to have people be happy to see him, just once!).

In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can’t refuse — especially since being, well, dead isn’t compulsory.As Death’s apprentice, he’ll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won’t need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he’d ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.

This book is worth a read if only for a look at how death (the state) functions in Discworld where the afterlife is whatever you believe it is, and everyone has a different idea of what comes next.

On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1) by Piers Anthony

On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, #1)Another series novel, On a Pale Horse has a very different approach to Death. Unlike the usual idea of Death as an immutable anthropomorphic personification (a.k.a. just the one skeleton forever), Anthony shows Death as more of a job that gets filled by a new working stiff. All in all it’s not too bad; the hours aren’t great and the walking skeleton look takes a bit of getting used to, but you meet a lot of new people, travel the world, and don’t have to worry about health insurance. It’s just the retirement plan that’s a bit troubling.

When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

Undeadly (The Reaper Diaries #1) by Michele Vail

Undeadly (The Reaper Diaries, #1)Moving even farther from the personality-less sythe-carying skeleton we all know and fear, Undeadly posits a very different view of the incarnation: a teenage girl who thought the world would be a nicer place with one more cute boy in it. Oops.

The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird…
Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper—and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she’s shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath.

Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another…except, there’s something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain—-Molly’s got an undeadly knack for finding trouble…

When  Adam Lacroft Met Death by Carlos Paolini

When Adam Lacroft Met DeathFor one last outsider’s opinion on Death, I’d like to point out that there is really no reason he needs to be a he (especially considering the whole fleshless skeleton thing…seems a bit of a moot point to me). When Adam Lacroft Met Death not only gender-bends our grim friend, but also gives her a personality. Far from Mort‘s understanding Death, this young(old) lady likes playing games with the lives, and deaths of others (but I suppose after a few millenia anyone would get tired of chess).

Death, in the form of a sexy, capricious twenty-something woman, offers a teenage boy a questionable way to win back his life in 19-year-old author’s debut novel.

Adam Lacroft is a carefree seventeen-year-old, in love, with a perfect slacker future in front of him–until a reckless driver crashes into his car and threatens to take all of that away. When Adam wakes-up in an empty white room, a cute girl sitting by his side giggles and explains to him that he is now dead. Coquettish and border-line psychotic , the girl produces a few demonstrations that scare Adam and verify the reality of his state of being. A proper introduction is then made and Adam Lacroft meets Death herself. Death, however, tells Adam he may call her Eve.

Feeling sympathy (or is it something else?) for Adam, Eve strikes-up a deal with him: if he can find and kill the driver who caused his accident within three days, Adam gets to turn 18 and find his natural end some other time. Having no clue of what to do next, Adam confides is rather strange predicament in his friend Erica and, together, they begin searching for the man who caused the accident. Their mission is unconscionable enough, but as Adam and Erica find-out more about their target, they find less of Eve’s version of the events ring true. Death is spoiled and condescending and, despite seeming to have a crush on Adam, is constantly setting him up to fail.

Death: a Life by George Pendle

Death: A LifeFinally, I want to shift gears a bit, out of the typical fiction and into autobiography. We’ve been looking at so many different accounts of what Death is like, it is only fair to get his perspective on the matter. (We at the Fiction Feature do believe in fair representation after all).

At last, the mysterious, feared, and misunderstood being known only as “Death” talks frankly and unforgettably about his infinitely awful existence. Chronicling his abusive childhood, his near-fatal addiction to Life, his excruciating time in rehab, and the ultimate triumph of his true nature, this long-awaited autobiography finally reveals the inner story of one of the most troubling, and troubled, figures in history. For the first time, Death reveals his affairs with the living, his maltreatment at the hands of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the ungodly truth behind the infamous “Jesus Incident,” and the loneliness of being the End of All Things.

Intense, unpredictable, and instantly engaging, Death: A Life is not only a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a universe that, despite its profound flaws, gave Death the fiery determination to carve out a successful existence on his own terms.

DEATH was born in Hell, the only son of Satan and Sin. He was educated in the Palace of Pandemonium and the Garden of Eden. Since before the Dawn of Time, he has ushered souls into the darkness of eternity. This is his first book.