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Book recs!

Well, maybe not recs as such. I have especially enjoyed these three books just recently, but I do admit that the first one is a bit niche, and it seems that most of you have read the second one anyway. But still! Book recs!

Being that my life is 90% Simon & Simon at present, I had a mind to try one of Jameson Parker's books. He quit acting in the nineties, save for the occasional project for old friends, and has since become a writer. An Accidental Cowboy is his semi-autobiographical debut, and it's brilliant. Semi-autobiographical, not because it's fictional, but because he tells his own story wrapped around a book about modern cowboys. Possibly he felt more comfortable telling it that way, or possibly that's just how it turned out, I don't know. It's extremely well written though.

I doubt that the wider world knows a great deal about JP. He had a brief, burgeoning film career prior to Simon & Simon, and then obviously he spent the eighties fighting crooks and jumping out of windows. In 1992, his wife was subject to an abusive tirade from a new neighbour whilst dog-walking. Anxious to make sure that things didn't escalate, JP went over to try to talk to the man, only to be met at the door with a handgun. He was shot twice at close range, and fortunately had the presence of mind to play dead, thus probably avoiding a killing shot. By a remarkable fluke, he escaped serious physical damage, despite being hit in the chest by the first bullet. Psychologically it was a different story, and he was to spend years afterwards struggling with undiagnosed PTSD, depression and anxiety. He and his wife left Los Angeles and headed out into the hills, where they've lived ever since on a small ranch. An Accidental Cowboy tells the story of a man putting his life and his sanity back together, whilst also learning about the lives of modern cowboys, the ecology and fauna of the mountains, and how to (and how not to) round up half wild cattle.

Probably most people don't want to read a book about roping cattle. But it's fascinating, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, very honest, and beautifully written. And I recommend it even if nobody is interested!

After that I read The Time Traveller's Guide To Mediaeval England, by Ian Mortimer. This is an historical book, but it's much, much better written than the average historical text book. (Not that this is terribly difficult). Actually, I must be fair - there's a lot more popular stuff out there now; no longer is historical non-fiction the preserve of the sort of dry, professorial types that I used to be tormented by in the nineties, when I was studying history. Mortimer is a particularly good writer, though. He paints a very vivid picture of fourteenth century life, showing the people of England as very real, and very recognisable as people just like those living in England now. Their lives may have been shorter (on average), and very much harder, but they had the same feelings, hopes and desires as every other person. The book's also packed full of information on fashion, politics, culture, manners and food, amongst other things; so if you should happen to be planning a brief trip back through time, I do recommend that you take a copy. You should read it anyway though, because it's good. If slightly less useful to you in your armchair in 2016.

And then after that I read Uprooted by Naomi Novik (she of the wondrous Temeraire series, the final book of which is due this summer. Sob). Anyway, it's a really good book, and I recommend it unhesitatingly (although it's about five hundred pages, so may be more than some of you can manage lately. I'm really not very good at this whole recs thing, am I). A young woman living in the shadow of a vast and spiteful forest discovers herself to be a witch, and joins forces with a powerful magician to fight evil. Except that that makes it sound a bit run-of-the-mill, and it isn't. Novik's a good writer, and has always been particularly good at creating interesting characters. I like her casts, and the worlds that she puts them in (as with the Temeraire series, this is an alternate history, in this case an alternate Poland, I would think. It's not specified, but she does refer to the stories of her childhood, and her mother's family was Polish. And names are Polish-suggestive).

So yeah. Very much recommended. And now I face a long wait for Temeraire #9, which I believe is called League Of Dragons. The last one! I am wary of it. For eight books now there's been a running joke about how she's always nearly killing Granby. What if she actually kills him?! Granby is best - well, Granby and Iskierka are best. I want them to have their own spin-off, all flames and piractical dragonery. And ridiculously fancy coats and social faux pas, obviously.

I wonder what she will write next.


( 11 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Mar. 16th, 2016 08:36 am (UTC)
The Jameson Parker book sounds quite enticing. I love people's real stories, frequently more than any fictional yarns they could possibly spin. What a trauma, the poor guy. You can never quite bank on not running up against a complete nutjob, them's the breaks.

Except that that makes it sound a bit run-of-the-mill, and it isn't.
There's the trouble. There's so damn much fantasy and sci-fi out there now, it's a Herculean labour to sift out the good stuff. And then, you can't always rely on old favourites. I'll love Mercy Thompson forever - a Native American car mechanic shape-shifter with a vampire buddy who drives a Scoobymobile VW, who could not love her? But Patricia Briggs' latest books in the series... I am dutifully labouring through them. And I think that that says a lot.
Mar. 17th, 2016 12:22 am (UTC)
Yes, it's a frustration when a favourite fails to measure up. I love Novik's work, but book #8 of the Temeraire series was nonsense. Such a shame to see a properly good writer fall into overused tropes - and not even using them well! The even-numbered books in the series have never been quite as good, but I wasn't expecting something so unfortunate! Evidence that writers are only human, I suppose. Not sure that should be allowed eiter. ;)
Mar. 16th, 2016 12:31 pm (UTC)
Flippin' heck, I'm not surprised he got PTSD! I'm glad an actor you like wrote a good book and put cowboys in it for you:)

'League of Dragons' is an excellent title! 'Temeraire' is still on my bookcase. I plan to read it after a Terry Prachett as I have three TP's up there and I plan to break them up, instead of reading them all in a row. I'm hoping TP should be quite quick as I have read it before... in the 90's. Eek!

Ian Mortimer is also quite sensible!
Mar. 17th, 2016 12:32 am (UTC)
It is a good title, yes! I hope you enjoy the first one. Excellent debut, I thought.
Mar. 17th, 2016 12:16 pm (UTC)
So do I if there are eight more books: one of the advantages of being a latecomer!
Mar. 18th, 2016 05:13 am (UTC)
Yes, it will be a nice long series to catch up on if you find that you like it! #3 is still my favourite, but #5 and #7 were also especially good. I suppose you're allowed a different opinion if you really must, though... ;)
Mar. 16th, 2016 04:35 pm (UTC)
I had no idea about Jameson Parker! How awful. :o( I'm glad he made a full recovery.

The Time Traveller's Guide To Mediaeval England sounds fascinating. So I've just bought it. :oD
Mar. 17th, 2016 12:33 am (UTC)
Cool! Several people on my f-list have read it as well, so it does come very highly recommended! :)
Mar. 21st, 2016 11:47 am (UTC)
I've got Uprooted on the Kindle, just haven't got around to reading it yet.

I can't wait for the Temeraire books ... but the last one ... *sob*
Mar. 22nd, 2016 05:04 am (UTC)
Yes! I want to read it now, but on the other hand, no more Temeraire...
Mar. 22nd, 2016 05:07 am (UTC)
Haha yes, exactly that!
( 11 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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