|Frozen alligators - photo from Polk County Sheriff's Department|
It's been a while since I've been able to post a bizarre Florida tale, very unusual in this state where the bizarre is often a daily occurrence. But Friday's Orlando Sentinel (Feb. 7, 2014) published a beaut. The headline: Baby twins, frozen gators, meth, ammo discovered in Polk house. Evidently, the reporter is well aware of Florida's penchant for the strange because the story begins: "Only in Florida would deputies search a home and find two frozen alligators, meth in a box of baby wipes, a live bass in an aquarium, ammo and homemade drug pipes—all within reach of twin infants." The gators, the article continues, were a gift. The couple planned to stuff and display them. The gators' size was not stated, but the reporter estimates they were small enough to stuff into a plastic garbage bag (c. 3 feet?). The meth was allegedly for sale, the ammo were rounds for an AR-15 semi-automatic. Also found - a marijuana plant. The twins are now in state custody.
Actually, the above is a step up from some of the awfulness that's been rampant in Central Florida lately. On the one hand, we have the fantasy worlds created by our famous theme parks and the income from all the hotels, restaurants, and shops that go with them. On the other, senseless shootings, theft, road rage, human trafficking, people crashing cars through buildings, a toddler drowning in an open septic tank. So enjoy the bizarre story above for what it is: a true tale where nobody died or even got hurt. (Not counting landing in jail, of course.)
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Grace's reading - January & February, 2014
I always read a great deal, but over the past couple of months I've doubled or trebled the usual amount. And when I began to compile a list, the irony struck me. Almost all of them involved World Building. Not intentionally, but when I examined my list of both "new reads" and "old favorites," nearly every last one of them involved a look into a part of our own world not seen by most of us or a look at new and/or altered worlds that came out of authors' imaginations. Perhaps a surprising reading twist for an author who usually writes about the demandingly detailed, hopefully historically accurate, Regency era or about the Florida I see around me every day. Yet perhaps that's what we all do - look to books to provide us with something fresh and different from our daily lives.
Where did I turn first when I found myself pretty much confined to the house? I checked my Kindle and was delighted to discover my pre-order of Julie Hyzy's latest, Home of the Braised, had turned up. Oh joy! Her series about Olivia, the White House chef, who seems to spend more time embroiled in murder mysteries than in the kitchen, is always a delight. The background is not only authentic but a wonderful peek "below stairs" at the White House, not to mention all those equally delightful White House recipes.
And then there was Naomi Novik's Blood of Tyrants, the latest in her Temeraire series, a dramatic alternate history view of the Napoleonic Wars, not just in Europe but on the high seas, and in the far reaches of China, Australia, and South America. If you can let your imagination soar to talking dragons filling the Regency skies, don't miss Ms Novik's series. (But be sure to start at the beginning.) Her world, which combines classic attitudes and manners of the early nineteenth century with a world where opposing dragon squadrons fight battles in the sky, is truly remarkable. As are her characters, both dragon and human.
I also caught up on the last two Laura Resnick books in her Esther Diamond series: Polterheist and The Misfortune Cookie—as luck would have it, reading the Christmas-set book over Christmas and the Chinese New Year book over that holiday. Ms Resnick never fails to please with her wacky version of a Jewish heroine teamed with an ancient mage to save present-day New York City from an endless variety of demons, ghosts, and other forms of paranormal evil. Ms Resnick's ability to create her special world by adding even more bizarre characters to NYC than it already has is not to be missed. (Picture our heroine as a Hanukkah elf in a department store Christmas display!)
After that, I delved into previously read favorites, retrieving all six books of the Soulless series from my Kindle archives. Gail Carriger should be awarded some kind of blue ribbon for world-building. In the very first paragraph of Soulless she moves her proper young heroine from conventional London society into a world of vampires, with a burly hero of a werewolf entering soon after. And then we discover we're sharing a steampunk world with an incredible cast of characters, including a highly pragmatic, soulless heroine, gay vampires, Scottish werewolves, a woman who dresses as a man, and villains who would like to see an end to all who aren't "human."
Next I turned to old favorites on my bookshelves, first choosing Linnea Sinclair's Futuristic, Finders Keepers, which I absolutely love. Talk about a matched pair of strong, intelligent, super capable people - this hero and heroine take the prize. Action, adventure, and star-crossed love, all in one neat package. Loved it just as much the third time around. (Perhaps because I'm such a wimp myself.) For SciFi fans, the tech details are also superb. World Building at its best.
I feel almost as strongly about Jayne Castle's "Ghost" series. Again, probably because the heroines are all intelligent, independent, and feisty, and the heroes are "to die for." Swaggeringly Alpha, enough to make the most DIY girl willing to cry, "Oh thank God I don't have to handle this alone." And no, I'm not talking about Earth-types ghosts. Ms Castle's heroes all deal with nasty varieties of energy on an Earth-like planet far, far away. If you haven't encountered the world of "Harmony," I strongly recommend it. Warning to the guys: these books are Futuristics, with strong romance as well as adventure.
I've lost track of the number of times I've read Susan Elizabeth Phillip's First Lady. Every time I seem to get more out of it, perhaps because this time I'd also read the sequel, which came out some years later. This is a pip of a story, clever and heart-warming on at least a dozen different levels. Ms Phillip's creates an entire world inside the confines of an RV. A story not to be missed.
I suppose everyone has their favorite Nora Roberts. I've often thought mine was Carnal Innocence, but after re-reading Honest Illusions, I think that has to take my personal prize. I'm not usually a fan of heart-wrenching, but the vivid descriptions of magical illusions and the marvelous array of characters, larcenous though they are, are truly priceless, presenting the very special worlds of professional magic and jewelry theft, which I suspect few of us have attempted to delve into on our own.
And then I discovered I'd somehow missed the grand finale to Lindsay Burkoker's Emperor's Edge series. I immediately downloaded it to Kindle and just finished the wind-up to these truly remarkable seven books. Ms Buroker's world began in an arctic-like climate with the discovery of alien technology, moved on to a harsh steampunk world of non-stop action and adventure, in which she took the young assassin/villain in Book 1 and made him the anti-hero of five of the remaining six books. (Now that's being creative!) And in Book 6 she took time out from mayhem to continue the love story of the couple in Book 1, now resident in a peaceful tropical climate, and thus set up the longed-for HEA in Book 7. Very skillfully done, though this is not a series for the faint of heart. The action is violent and sometimes hard to take.
Back to another "old favorite." I'm currently working my way through Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Since I'd already re-read Books 1-4, I began with 5 and am now up to 8. The books are so saucy, clever, and imaginative, they simply take my breath away. (Though I admit to a strong preference for the ones who feature Ranger!) Ms Evanovich creates her special world out of modern-day Trenton, NJ, most particularly the section she calls "the Burg." Her descriptions of the world of the Burg and the characters in it are at least half her books' appeal. They are simply amazing. For those who might have missed this series - Stephanie is a struggling, and frequently inept, bounty hunter who succeeds through persistence, good intuition, and good luck, while besieged by non-stop disasters of every kind. If you enjoy humor with your mysteries, this series is for you.
Grace note: I have a number of other favorite books and favorite series, but since they weren't read in the last six weeks or so, I'm not including them here.
Summary. For many years now, when asked who my favorite author was, I'd answer: "Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich." More recently, I've added Gail Carriger. You might call her the Janet Evanovich of Steampunk. But I can guarantee all the authors mentioned above not only write great books, they also present them well. They are polished professionals, as are their editors and formatters. Mistakes are few and far between.
I hope what you read here will encourage you to check out some great books you might have missed. Be brave, try something new!
Thanks for stopping by.
For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft & Rayne Lord, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.