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Karen Ostertag's blog

Fabled Cities

Stories live where we do.  When people lived in cottages and castles, travelling from village to farm to walled town through remote mountain passes and deep, dark woods, that's where our stories went, also.  They hid in the margins: dwarves and goblins and dragons dwelt deep in the mountains.  Elves and other fey folk populated the far green spaces.  Witches kept remote cottages deep in the ancient forest, and enchanted princesses slept in abandoned castles walled in by briars.

Now we live in cities and suburbs, in high ranches and apartments and skyscrapers, and our stories have moved in right along with us.  The Wild Hunt rides Harleys through the city streets at midnight, while wizards sell two-bit charms in back alleys.  Vampires hunt in night clubs, and forgotten, eldritch gods lurk in the sewers.  The magic of old has gotten a little glitzier, a little grungier, but it's still there, existing side-by-side with our digital toys. 

This is urban fantasy-- think of it as a faerie tale coming soon to a city near you. 

Romance under Pressure

Genre-blending-- bringing together the elements of two categories of fiction-- is becoming more and more popular these days.  Romance + fantasy, romance + mystery, romance + horror, romance + westerns, romance + post-apocalyptic science fiction... I've even seen romance + cookbooks.  And of course, there's no reason for authors to limit themselves to only two genres; take a powerful female mage, a handsome elven police detective, and throw in a magical murder, and you've got romance + fantasy + mystery. 

I plan to talk about several of the more popular types of genre-blended romance over the next few months, but right now I'll start with the most time-honored: romantic suspense.

Frozen Horrors: Books to Chill Your Blood

One heat wave's behind us.  The weather forecasters predict that more scorching temperatures are on their way.  Walking around outside at noon feels a bit like vacationing on Mercury.  But hey, no sweat-- I have just the book for you! 

When your air conditoner is laboring and it's too hot to sleep, you can always rely on a good, gripping horror novel to freeze you to the marrow.  As a bonus, all the titles I've selected are set in icy climes: Antarctica, Scandinavia, Alaska, Russia, northern Canada-- even deep space!  Let the library help you beat your soaring electric bill this month with our own brand of chilling out.  (And if these don't work... don't forget that the library is air conditioned!)

New Romance Fiction for July 2011

In paperback:

Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden C, M
Storm Kissed by Jessica Andersen (6, Nightkeepers) C, S
Hexed by Ilona Andrews, Yasmine Galanorn, Allyson James, Jeanne C. Stein C, F, S (Pbk-Romance Hexed)
Frostbound by Sharon Ashwood (4, Dark Forgotten) C, S, F
Baby, Drive South by Stephanie Bond (1, Southern Roads) C
Lord Langley is Back in Town by Elizabeth Boyle (3, Bachelor Chronicles: Standon Widows) H
A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan C, H
Body Guard by Suzanne Brockmann C, M
Red Heat by Nina Bruhns (1, Men in Uniform) C, M

New Speculative Fiction for July 2011

New to our shelves:

Welcome to Bordertown by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner, eds. F, A (Fantasy Welcome)
A Star Shall Fall by Marie Brennan (3, Onyx Court) F, R
The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer H
Chicks Kick Butt by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes, eds. F, H (Fantasy Chicks)
Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey (3, Kushiel's Legacy: Quest) F, R
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (a.k.a. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) (1, Expanse) SF
Witches of East End by Melissa De la Cruz (1, The Beauchamp Family) F, R, H
Stonewielder by Ian C. Esslemont (3, The Malazan Empire) F, H

Love All-American

School's out and the holiday weekend is here; time to celebrate your independence!  If you're like me, you've probably got a lot of hard-core idling planned for this weekend.  It's easy to forget things amidst all those parades, picnics, and jockeying for the best fireworks-viewing position, so I'd like to remind you of your most important piece of holiday equipment: a good blanket read. 

Choosing a blanket read can be a serious business.  First, there's the space consideration.  Paperbacks are best; not only are they physically lighter to carry, but they fit easily in a large pocket and the fine is minimal should you lose one.  (Hey, if you're going to be indulging in a few of Dorothy Ng's cocktails, it could happen.)  Then, there's the question of content.  You need something light, quick, and engaging, but not SO engaging that you give yourself sunburn.  (On second thought... perhaps you should just wear a hat and remember your sunblock.) 

Popping the Word Balloon: Graphic Novels for Adults

For me, the season of summer reading brings with it an opportunity to try new things, to read out of my comfort zone.  Speculative fiction is already out of a lot of readers' comfort zones.  When I tell someone I read speculative fiction, the most common response I get (after "What's that?") is "I'm not really into those sorts of books."  (The most entertaining reaction by far was a horrified "But... you're a librarian!")  I'm used to taking flak for what I read (hey, I read romance, too), but it still bothers me.  Speculative fiction encompasses such a broad panoply of styles, themes, philosophies, and yes, talents, that it's utterly unfair to dismiss the entire genre out of hand.  But there's a whole medium of literature on our library shelves that carries an even deeper stigma: comic books.

New Romance Fiction for June 2011

In paperback:

Hush by Cherry Adair (1, Lodestone trilogy) C, M, S
Midnight's Wild Passion by Anna Campbell H
Ripe for Pleasure by Isobel Carr (1, League of Second Sons) H, M
Darkfire Kiss by Deborah Cooke (6, Dragonfire) C, F, S
Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacqui D'Alessandro (1, Seaside Cove) C
Laid Bare by Lauren Dane (1, Brown Family) C
Coming Undone by Lauren Dane (2, Brown Family) C
SEALed Forever by Mary Margret Daughtridge (4, SEALed) C, M
When You Dare by Lori Foster (2, Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor) C, M

New Speculative Fiction for June 2011

New to our shelves:

The Great Night by Chris Adrian F, R
Conviction by Aaron Allston (7, Star Wars: The Fate of the Jedi) SF
Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 by Kevin J. Anderson (Nebula Awards Showcase) SF (SF Nebula)
Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard (1, Enemy) SF, R, M
Enemy Games by Michelle Burnard (2, Enemy) SF, R, M
Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell (1, The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier) SF
The Rogue by Trudi Canavan (2, Traitor Spy trilogy) F, M
Shivers VI by Richard Chizmar, ed. (6, Shivers) H (Horror Shivers)
The Meowmorphosis by Coleridge Cook & Franz Kafka H, F (Horror Cook)

Mating Season, Part Two

"Howard... I need that wedding.  I need some beauty and some music and some placecards before I die. It's like heroin." - Mrs. Brackett, "In & Out"

Many of you may have satisfied your veil-and-cake imperatives on a certain modest little British ceremony back in April.  For those who haven't, don't panic-- June is just over the holiday weekend horizon!  For some, June is the time to focus on dads and grads, but it's also the traditional month for another kind of happy ending: weddings.

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