Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith
What people tend to forget about Sherlock Holmes is that the Victorian London of Holmes and Watson was contemporaneous with the American old West. In this, the first of two charming mysteries, a pair of cowboys, having read of "Mr. Holmes' " exploits decide to try and apply his methods to some 'deducifying' of their own. Holmes fans will love them for their unabashed worship of the master and the loving homage to not only Holmes, but to Watson, as cowboy 'Big Red' Amlingmeyer narrates the tales in his own distinctive voice but with echoes of Watson's charm.
In addition to their Holmesian appeal, they are cleverly written mysteries, and they incorporate a lot of fact about the old West, as well as capturing the conciousness that the cowboy way of life was already passing into myth and legend.
And as if that wasn't ambitious enough for one book, it's also hilarious. A marvelous book- Go. Read. And I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
On the Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith
In this, the second of the cowboy detective series, we get yet another staple of the old West, the train robbery. This is a worthy sequel, with the same charm and sidesplitting humor of the first. I can only look forward eagerly to the next entry in the series.
Magic or Madness
Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier (Omnibus edition of three YA novels published as The Magic of Reason)
So I picked this up in part because I was intrigued by the Australian setting, which turned out to be one of the most interesting bits. It also had some appealing characters and an interesting magical system. I thought that the plot was a bit weak, as the characters don't really have an objective except survival. And overall, there was no real unifying theme to this, making a potentially quite good trilogy into something rather lightweight. I think I'd have found this an unexceptionable story with an interesting setting, except that there were some aspects of the last story in the trilogy that really bothered me.
Call me conservative, but I think fifteen is too young for sex. I'd have been bothered less if this had been treated as a serious matter, but the book handles the consequences rather cavalierly.
Iterations by Robert Sawyer
Sawyer is one of very few writers today producing serious speculative fiction in the classic sense. He's written a number of solidly readable and thoughtful novels. In this collection of his short stories, he delivers many similarly appealingly classic-flavored short stories. Not every story is a winner, in particular I thought the short-shorts were rather weak, but definitely worth reading.
Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King
This was a fascinating look at the building of the cathedral dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Renaissance Florence. The author brings Brunelleschi and his contemporaries alive in vivid color. The time is a study in contrasts- The politics and rivalries could be drawn from the pages of any modern newspaper, while the time scale of municipal projects seems absurdly elongated. The men who started the cathedral could never expect to see it finished. Brunelleschi gave forty years to the project- that he lived to see the dome built was in itself remarkable.
You need to have at least some interest in architecture and Roman engineering to find this as interesting as I did, but it is well written and readable by any standards.
In the Dead of Summer by Gillian Roberts
This is the sixth of the Amanda Pepper mysteries, set in Philadelphia. This was book had ambitions, but the pieces didn't quite come together. Some of the quirks that were appealing in major and minor characters in earlier books haven't developed over time. The topic was ambitious, but the plot flailed around – through much of the book there were non-villain characters who knew what had happened, but kept silent for fairly thin reasons while littering the landscape with cryptic clues. The author appears to realize that her series needs shaking up, but there were a few too many instances of the authorial hand reaching in to adjust the scenery to make it a satisfying read.
So you see, I may have been just a bit further behind in reviewing than I thought... and rather astonishingly, it brings me to 50 books for the first four months and a bit of the year. I think it's the air travel that does it...