We are on the cusp of all sorts of things, dear readers. Spooky critters are roaming the streets tonight. The sky gets yanked an hour that-a-way on Sunday. The city's downtown music system is going to ruin everyone's efforts to not hear "Little Drummer Boy" before Christmas. And publishing has fired off its last burst of big fall books. It's all coasting on inertia toward the glowing heart of the sun from here, folks.
But this last big burst? Oh, that's provided, as per usual, by Lee Child and Michael Connelly. Child returns with Blue Moon, the 439th adventure of Jack Reacher (plus or minus 415 or so), wherein Jack Reacher gets off a bus, buys a beer, gets his picture taken, and then hits a lot of people. They probably all deserved it.
Meanwhile, in The Night Fire, Michael Connelly is still adjusting his audience to the fact that retired detective Harry Bosch is old (much older than he is portrayed in the delightful TV series) and there are only so many fences he can gambol over before he breaks his hip. A few books back, Connelly cleverly introduced Renée Ballard, a "I work alone because it's better for everyone that way" sort of detective, and now Ballard and Bosch are teaming up on one of those cold cases that has been haunting Bosch for his entire career. Tying up some loose ends. Closing some doors. Opening others. It's nice to see authors evolving their characters.
And speaking of evolutionary practices, what's James Patterson up to this week? Oooh, it looks like he's repackaging some of his Bookshots into a fatter volume. This one is called The House Next Door, and it contains the novellas "The House Next Door," "The Killer's Wife," and "We. Are. Not. Alone." Which, in concert, sound like a trio of text messages suggesting that a quiet night of board game playing is going to go sideways. Guess we'll never finish that game of Cucumbering Time Agents Through the Portals of Eternus now, will we?
Speaking of plans going sideways, here's the latest "discovery" from the files of the late William T. Johnstone. Yuma Prison Crashout is the story of how Hank Fallon, falsely disgraced deputy marshal, gets his life back. How? you ask. Well, by going undercover in the meanest, nastiest hellhole of a territory prison in order to find a fortune in gold. The only problem is those scabrous prisoners are planning a breakout, and Fallon is going to have to go along with it if he hopes to survive his secret mission.
Oh, also out this week is Johnstone's A Jensen Family Christmas, which reminds us that we haven't done a mass listing of Christmas titles in awhile. So, here are this week's Christmas-themed mass market paperbacks. Are you ready?
All I Want for Christmas is You (two books in one!); A Baxter Family Christmas and A Jensen Family Christmas; The Christmas Keeper—by which we mean "cowboy"; Christmas Cookie Murder, which is different than Christmas Sweet, though both appear to suggest that you shouldn't accept baked goods from well-intentioned fellow employees; Christmas in Silver Springs (not a reprint—an important distinction, apparently); a Nora Roberts twofer called Christmas with You (which is not an "anthology" as much as the marketing department would like to pretend otherwise); The Highlander's Christmas Bride; Cowboy Firefighter Christmas Kiss (which is almost as good as Cowboy Ninja Viking, but clearly targeted for a different market); and A Cowboy for Christmas, which is the most clearly stated wish-fallfilment of the bunch.
That should do you for now, but we would be remiss to not mention Julia London's The Devil in the Saddle, which gets a few points for not catering to keyword marketing, but which also wins Best Cover of the Week Award with its masterful use of lighting and a puppy.
This is the sequel to The Charmer in Chaps, by the way. Okay, okay, so yes, we didn't mention it back in May when it came out, but you'll understand when you see the cover art.
See? Totally forgettable.
However, The Billionaire in Boots? Genius. Though you have wait until March.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes, the end of the month mass market paperback explosion. Oh, look! New books by Robert Jordan. There's this sexy blue one, a pale one, a red—oh, wait. What? This just the first three books of The Wheel of Time repackaged in a more pleasing "I'm not epic fantasy! Dragons are lit!" format.
Well, it worked for George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman. We can't fault the publisher for trying. Though we'd be less inclined to wrinkle our noses about it if they had done something a little more clever (*cough* Dune covers *cough*).
One of our other favorites from the last few weeks is Bruce Worden's Homophones Visualized. It's a pretty simple concept—the English language is a hot mess, and why do we have so many words that sound exactly the same?—and Worden makes it all laugh-out-loud funny and educational. Great stocking stuffer. Great bathroom reader. Great conversation starter. All in one.
And speaking of numbers, here's Prince's The Beautiful Ones, a personal memoir of how Prince became Prince, complete with all the idiosyncratic shorthand that made reading his liner notes an exercise in phonetics. The contract for the book was signed shortly before Prince's untimely death, which left editor Dan Piepenbring and the folks at Spiegel & Grau at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed. Fortunately, they managed to spend some time at Paisley Park and have arranged a elegiac collection of ephemera from Prince's archives to accompany the writing that Prince had accomplished on the memoir before his death.
Also, this is one of the last books from Spiegel & Grau, an excellent and idiosyncratic imprint that was reorg'ed out of existence earlier this year.
Anyway, while we were waiting for the day's boxes to arrive, we got distracted by Shea Serrano's Movies (And Other Things). Now, we like to think that we know a little something about movies, but Serrano has taken that level of knowledge and turned it into an series of Q & As that are hilarious, insightful, and spot-on. Who gets it worse in Kill Bill? Who's on the perfect heist crew? Which action movie hero is the best dog owner? It's all here, with charts, graphs, and illustrations. Best surprise gift for that media-savvy person in your life.
What book were we waiting for? Oh, it's here. Right next to this other book we were looking at. It's Gavin Pretor-Pinney's A Cloud a Day, a collection of 365 skies from the Cloud Appreciation Society. It's got cumulonimbus clouds! It's got nacreous skies! It's got anti-crepuscular rays! It's got pretty pictures of fluffy things!
And speaking of billowing sheets of ominousity, Dan Carlin's charming new book, The End is Always Near, is out this week. Carlin, who runs a podcast called Hardcore History, examines the numerous instances of the Imminent Apocalypse that have occurred throughout human history. Obviously, the Apocalypse—more often than not—didn't actually arrive, but that doesn't mean that human civilization didn't suffer a little shake-up during those final hours.
And finally, here's The Monsters Know What They're Doing by Keith Ammann. Based on Ammann's blog of the same name, this is a book that talks about tactics. As in, how do all these monsters in Dungeons & Dragons actually go about doing their monstrous things? We know. Many of you have probably never even thought about this, but now that we've broached the subject . . . How do kobolds survive long enough to get together for lunch? Who has the deadlier petrification attack: the cockatrice, the basilisk, or the medusa? Do Beholders poop, and if so, how? These questions and many others are examined, so that aspiring Dungeon Masters don't have to default to "The monster doesn't like the way your party looks" for a tactical strategy.
We endorse robust tactical strategies, especially since the holiday season is upon us. Shopping is about to get complicated. Parking will be hard to find. And the day is always shorter than you think it is. Thankfully, we're here later than we used be, and we've always got a book or two that you don't know you need (but you totally do).