Fresh Catch: This week’s exciting new book arrivals

Two books I’ve been eagerly awaiting arrived this week, and I’m just pleased as punch. (Can punch be pleased? Is that punch as in Hawaiian? Or like what comes from a closed fist? Or should that be with a capital P, as in the puppet who abuses puppet Judy? I think I don’t understand this expression after all. But I digress).

Book #1:

I’ve been waiting for this one since August (I even blogged about it, here, in a fit of intense anticipation), and here it is! Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm, by Philip Pullman, is a collection of Pullman’s 50 favorites, including tried-and-true standards such as “Snow White”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, and “Cinderella”. I can’t wait to read these, but I must confess that I’m even more intrigued by the titles of some of the lesser-known stories in the collection. Has anyone ever heard of “Thousandfurs” or “The Donkey Cabbage”? How about “The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs”, “The Girl with No Hands”, or “The Nixie of the Millpond”? Listen, I adored Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and I’d be willing to read just about anything he sets his pen to… add to that my love of fairy tales, and this collection seems like a sure bet to me.

Of course, I do have to proceed with caution, as I am admittedly terrible at reading short stories, and no matter how interested I may be in a collection, I almost never make it all the way through. I have a plan, however! I believe I’ll tackle this lovely new book in small bites — let’s say, oh, maybe 2 or 3 stories per week? I think the solution to my unavoidable impatience with story collections is to find a work-around so that I don’t end up frustrated by thoughts of all the novels I could be reading instead. So, if I take this one slow and steady, mixing in fairy tales betwixt and between all my other reading, I should be able to stick with it and get all the enjoyment from Pullman’s new collection that it seems to promise.

Book #2:

Sounds the trumpets! Wave the flags! Send up some fireworks, for Pete’s sake! (Wait, who’s Pete? Never mind…) It’s the newest book from Diana Gabaldon! Yes, Diana Gabaldon Herself, creator of the Outlander series, which I love beyond all reason. But if you live in the US, don’t go looking for this book in your local bookstore — it won’t be there. First things first — the basic facts:

A Trail of Fire, by Diana Gabaldon, is a collection of four novellas, one brand-new and three which were included in already published anthologies. For various reasons related to copyrights, the three already published stories can’t be re-released in the US just yet as they still belong to the anthologies, which is why, if you really want to get your hands on this collection, you’ll have to look outside your usual US sources.**

**So far, I know US readers who have successfully ordered A Trail of Fire from Amazon UK and from The Book Depository. The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Arizona has signed copies available for mail order as well (with a hefty price tag).

The contents of A Trail of Fire are:

1) “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” — published in the US in 2010 in the Songs of Love and Death anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. (Note to Firefly fans: This is not a Serenity cross-over, and Wash is not a character in this story. Just to clear up any potential confusion.) “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” tells the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents and their tragic fates during WWII, hinted at in the Outlander books but never fully explained prior to this story. This is essential reading for fans of the series, best read after Echo In The Bone.

2) “The Custom of the Army” — published in the US in 2010 as part of the Warriors anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. This story focuses on Lord John Grey, a supporting character in many of the Outlander books and lead character in a spin-off series. “The Custom of the Army” is set in 1759 and largely concerns the Battle of Quebec, plus much military intrigue.

3) “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” — published in the US in the anthology Down These Strange Streets, again courtesy of George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. This is another Lord John story, dealing with his lordship’s first posting to Jamaica at the head of a squadron detailed to deal with a slave rebellion, who end up with much more sinister forces to contend with. In terms of series chronology, the events in this story occur before the events in Voyager.

4) The new one! “The Space Between” has not previously been available, and will not be published in the US until 2013, when it will be included in the forthcoming anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. “The Space Between” takes place in 1778, after the events in Echo In The Bone, is set in France, and has as its main characters several side characters from the Outlander series, including Michael Murray, Marsali’s sister Joan, and the Comte St. Germain. I don’t know anything else about it… but I will soon!

At the risk of sounding like an insane fan, I will admit to already owning the anthologies containing stories 1 – 3, but after much debate (me vs. me), decided to go ahead and purchase A Trail of Fire for two reasons: One, to get my hands on “The Space Between” (obviously!) without having to wait until next March, and two, because it just looks like a beautiful book. Yes, I do sometimes judge books by their covers. When I truly give my heart to a book or series, I get a great deal of pleasure from having nice-looking copies on my shelves. A Trail of Fire will look simply smashing with all its “colleagues” — I have a space reserved for it right next to The Scottish Prisoner.


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