1 and 2. The Kingdom beyond the Waves (5 stars) and The Rise of the Iron Moon (4 stars), both by Stephen Hunt. I put these two together because they are independent but related stories from the same "universe". I've already mentioned how much I enjoy Hunt's non-stop-action plots, his pseudosteampunk world, and his engaging characters. He also writes in a style that rewards the reader. I have two more books to read in the series, and then it's done, which makes me a little sad.
3. Death Comes to Pemberley, by P D James - 2 stars. I've never read any books by James before, but I've seen some reviews that said this book is very like her other mysteries, just with Austen characters added. Or I should say, characters with Austen names, because they didn't act much like the characters I know from Pride and Prejudice. In fact, Elizabeth was scarcely in the story at all, more's the pity. The mystery itself was pretty easy to figure out (the Who part, if not the Why) because of the clues dropped in our way, there was no investigation to speak of, and the nick-of-time resolution to the case and the long explanations at the end were kind of a let-down. On the other hand, I think James got the language right for the kind of story she was writing. And finally, even though I kept wanting to really like the book but never got to that point, I did finish it. I don't know if I'll ever read another book by James, however.
4. The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson - 4 stars. Set in the Mistborn world, but several hundred years after the time of Vin and Elend, this book was a lot of fun to read as it traces the adventures of an ex-frontier lawman who returns to the big city and finds himself involved in a kidnapping/theft plot of major proportions. It was supposed to be a stand-alone novel, but doesn't end like one. There will be further adventures (thank goodness), but probably not for a while.
5, Legion, by Brandon Sanderson - 3 stars. The idea of a man who is such a genius that he must hallucinate various personas (or aspects, as he calls them) to process everything in his brain makes a brilliant story. I give this story three stars only because I felt the treatment was sometimes too shallow for the subject matter. This is a novella, but I would have liked to see things (plot, character, etc) more developed in a longer format. Still, I look forward to the further adventures of Stephen Leeds.
7. Murder in Grub Street, by Bruce Alexander - 4 stars. Another excellent entry in this series about an 18th-century crime-solving magistrate.
8. Skybreaker, by Kenneth Oppel - 4 stars. Skybreaker, classified as a YA book, is the steampunk-like story of a young airman who deals with pirates, a mysterious island with strange creatures, and an adventurous young woman. Constant action and great characterization make it well worth reading.
9. In Defense of Elitism, by William A Henry III - 4 stars. Published 18 years ago, this book is still relevant. Henry can be somewhat infuriating with his pronouncements, but his basic premise makes sense: not everyone is equal; there are some who are more talented in certain areas, more ambitious, more intelligent. But the current socio-political agendas are meant to bring us all to the same level. Henry argues for a strictly merit-based elitism that would give people equal opportunity to do their best (however good that may be), rather than empty promises of equal outcome.
10. The Ebb-Tide, by James P Blaylock - 4 stars. I'm a fan of steampunk literature, dark and light. This is a somewhat lighter one, although there are harrowing moments. It's also a novella, which I knew going in but which still makes me a little sad because I wanted it to keep going. But what I really appreciate is how skilled the author is at characterization. The characters seem real and I wish I could hang out with them. On to the next adventure!
11. The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs, by James P Blaylock - 4 stars. Another fine Langdon St Ives adventure. It's fun reuniting with Jack and the gang. There's not quite as much involvement with St Ives, as he's out of commission part of the time, but we get to know Alice St Ives a little better, which is nice. And there are more adventures to come: The Aylesford Skull comes out this month, and so it's on my list of books to read for this year.
12. Homunculus, by James P Blaylock - 3 stars. Here is the first Langdon St Ives adventure. The very funny, quirky, intricate, and sometimes creepy goings-on make for rewarding reading in this seminal steampunk novel. It's even worth reading just to enjoy Blaylock's writing style, even if you're not a steampunk fan.
13. Zeuglodon, by James P Blaylock - 4 stars. You may have figured out by now that Blaylock is one of my new favorite authors. In this YA novel, Kathleen Perkins, a young cryptozoologist, and her two cousins, Percy and Brendan, become enmeshed in a mysterious adventure of Vernean proportions involving the Guild of St George, a mermaid, and two very bad villains. It's a beautifully, sometimes poignantly, written story with plenty of humor and action. Once again, I hope there will be more.
14. Murder on the Eiffel Tower, by Claude Izner - 2 stars, or maybe 3. I can't decide. This is the first of a whole series of mysteries featuring a 19th-century Parisian bookseller/amateur sleuth. See, I thought, "Ooh...19th century, Paris, bookseller, mystery!" and decided that four out of four of my favorite things would make a pretty good book, so I was looking forward to immersing myself in the series. But I found I didn't like Victor Legris (the bookseller) very much. I'll give the second book a go, however, just to see if he doesn't improve.
15. The Silverado Squatters, by Robert Louis Stevenson - 3 stars. Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the most compassionate and humorous writers it's been my pleasure to read.
16. Shakespeare and Company, by Sylvia Beach - 3 stars. This memoir, a very selective memoir at that, by the woman who opened and ran the famous original Shakespeare and Co bookstore in Paris for nearly 30 years, was fascinating to read. It got me interested (and sometimes re-interested) in the authors of the day. There's not a lot of depth, though, like she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so I decided to go looking for another book on the topic. I found one, which I'll mention below, but I also want to eventually read David McCullough's book on the subject.
17. The Lady Vanishes, by Ethel Lina White - 3 stars. A somewhat pleasant, kind of fluffy little mystery. The Hitchcock movie is better. Contrary to what many people believe, there are times when the movie is better than the book. This is about the eighth case where I've found that to be true.
18. The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers - 4 stars. What took me so long to read this steampunk classic? I don't know! Highly recommended if you like books with plenty of action, suspense, creepiness, and humor, plus the added goodness of time travel and English Romantic poets.