Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Sunday, May 24, 2009
  It's in the story
Mario here,

We'll be chatting about novels so chime in.

Last week I attended two literary events. First, a reading and signing by Lily Burana.

She's getting lots of press for her newest book, I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles. (C-SPAN recorded her appearance.)

Burana is an former punk rocker/stripper who fell in love with an army officer and married him. The book is a witty, incisive look at life as a military wife. You wanted to hate Burana because she was so beautiful, eloquent, and smart but her charm and warmth won us all over. Damn her!

While I was at Burana's signing, fellow mystery writers Wick Downing (left) and Manuel Ramos each won a Colorado Authors League Top Hand Award (Downing for his YA novel, The Trials of Katie Hope. Ramos for his short story, The 405 Is Locked Up.)

The photo is from the signing Ramos and I hosted for the release of the anthology, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery.

Now, for the Main Event: Discuss your favorite novels.

I'll list mine in the order of first publication date.

The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells (1898). Martian war machines! Heat rays! Mass panic! One of the first great science fiction stories and still one of the best.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932). I had to read this in high school. I couldn't believe the story was written in 1931 as it seemed so far ahead of its time. I'm convinced our government is run by alpha-minuses at best.

1984, George Orwell (1949). Originally a high school reading assignment. The book haunted me for years. "Take Julia! Take Julia!" Doublespeak. If anything, I wish the title would've been Big Brother because now that 1984 has come and gone, people might assume that the messages are no longer relevant. I'd thought about this book so much that when my oldest son asked for help in his homework, I had pages of notes ready.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers (1940). Another mandatory high school read. So different than what I usually read at the time (lots of sci-fi and action thrillers) yet a story that drew me in and didn't let go. The first book to make me appreciate the craft of writing.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bettie Smith (1943). I got interested in this book because of an old Warner Brothers cartoon. A dog saw a sign in a bookstore and ran off to Brooklyn, to pee I guess. I wondered what the fuss was about and checked out the book. No dog peeing as it's a captivating coming of age story of a girl in NY.

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962). Amazing in-your-face, spare narrative. My best friend in high school and I got so into this book as the story appealed to our adolescent sense of anarchy. We even made costumes from the movie (very pre-fantasy con).

Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner (1987). One of my favorite reads of all time. Magical prose. What all writers should aspire to. I've bought many copies of this book only to give them away.

Dead Until Dark, Charliane Harris (2001). I frequently tell people that although I write vampire novels, I didn't like to read the genre until I got this book. Charlaine reinvented urban fantasy. The copies available today echo the True Blood TV show but I prefer the quirky original cover.

Altered Carbon, Richard K Morgan (2002). This book is such an over-the-top high-concept sci-fi winner that there's almost no point in trying to write anything else in the genre. Downright chilling.

Gone For Good, Harlan Coben (2002). A mesmerizing psychological thriller. Another of my all-time favorite reads. The prose is so good that it almost makes me cringe to dare call myself a writer.

Riding With The Queen, Jennie Shortridge (2003). Another book that I've bought many copies to give away. It's a very different story than what I usually read. The family black sheep musician returns to Denver to settle down and life keeps getting in the way. I discovered this novel when my sister sent an ARC. Sadly, I circulated it among my friends and never got it back.

The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly (2005). I'm not fond of legal thrillers but I got run over by this story. A pedal-to-the-metal masterpiece.

Succubus Blues, Richelle Mead (2007). I got the manuscript for this story in the hope of asking me for a blurb. (A blurb from me? Like that will sell any copies.) Well, this succubus worked her mo-jo on me. Richelle's other books has gone on to it the NYT best seller list but you never forget your first.

The Watchman, Robert Crais (2007). Crais is el numero uno mystery writer for me. I sink my chops into all of his books. I can't pick a favorite but I have to name one, so here you are.

There is life beyond the pages of a book, like Denver Roller Dolls chaos!

One of the lady bruisers from last Saturday's bout.

The cell phone doesn't take great action shots but you get a feel for the mayhem.

OMG – how can I top that list Mario? For one thing, I've read so many books in my life I've forgotten 90% of them (well, then they probably wouldn't make this list, eh?) For another, I majored in Philosophy and English Lit so I've read a ton of books normal people don't read. (Though actually I hated almost every book I read for those degrees.)

OK, I'll try....

1.The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the two series I ever have read repeatedly (I'm not much of a re-reader.) These three books are the only books I'd really HAVE to have on my bookshelf no matter what.

2.The complete Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (1st, 2nd and now he's on the 3rd – 8 novels in all) -- also his Gap science fiction series. -- This is the man that inspired me to want to write. I first read the first novel when I was 13. This is the other series I re-read.

From here on, there is no particular order:

3.My new find – Kop and Ex-Kop by Warren Hammond. (no, I'm not sucking up! I LOVE these books in a huge way. Unadulterated fandom.)

4.The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky.

5.Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse. This is a beautiful, lyrically written book. Even in translation.

6.The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane -- I really didn't expect upon starting my English lit degree to end up hating almost every work of classic ENGLISH literature I had to read. I was really gobsmackered to find I loved classic AMERICAN literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. I wish I'd studied more of it. This novel is at the top of that list.

7.Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Anon. -- Not quite a novel but one of the rare exceptions to generally hating classic English lit. (I also really liked John Donne but he was a poet, not a novelist. And that's just about it for me and English Lit.)

8.Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. Another old book grandma gave me. Gothic romance that is heavy on ominous horrors, light on sappy sentimentality.

9.Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh. Interesting classic murder mystery set in New Zealand and written in 1943 by famous New Zealand author Ngaio Marsh. Different from your average mystery novel because she explores the mores and racial tensions of colonists trying to hang onto their Britishness and the Maori culture they clash with.

10.Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – the ultimate horror novel! They are burning all the books!

11.A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

12.The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

13.Declare by Tim Powers – This is a brilliant, brilliant book that kind of sneaks up on you. From the demented mind of a great writer.

14.Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – Oh my lord, this man is a master of cyberpunk! I love cyberpunk, and this is perhaps my favorite of them all.

15.Distraction by Bruce Stirling – OK, perhaps THIS is my favorite cyberpunk novel ever. I can't decide.

16.Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. The book makes me cry and scares the tar out of me. It's been called “science fiction poetry”

17.The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke

19.Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. These first two installments of Lewis' space trilogy are fascinating books. However, I strongly dislike the final volume that completes Lewis' space trilogy.

20.The Rai-Kirah novels of Carol Berg (Revelation, Transformation, Restoration). If you like your fantasy gritty and full of ground-up glass, and I do.

21.The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

22.Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.

23.The Eight by Katherine Neville. Well told story. Very interesting writing technique.

24.The Deliverance of Sister Cecilia by William Buckley. This is an old novel my grandmother gave to me about a nun's resistance to the growing Communist takeover of Poland after WWII. It's a gripping fictionalization of true events – I literally could not put this book down.
Wow, I just compiled a quick list of my most favorite novels and found out a few things about me...

1. No classics on my list... what does that say about me?
2. A few of my most favorite writers failed to show up on this list? How can that be?

This list is what it is. The books I just loved, loved, loved for what ever the reason.

In no particular order (How do you do that to your children?)

1. Lightning by Koontz (My favorite novel about time issues)
2. The Shining by King (The one book that actually unnerved me and scared me, but the movie? eh' not so much).
3. Good Omens by Gaiman & Pratchett (Seriously good and funny battle to keep the status quo)
4. Rainbow Six by Clancy (What? It rocks the action man. A great wishfulfilment story if there ever was one. Sue me)
5. Striptease by Hiaasen (Great read and story! Wonderful out-to-lunch characters. Absolutely one of the worst movies ever and Demi... you should have waited until they had dropped.)
6. The Power Of The Dog by Winslow (Oh my god it's epic)
7. Hard Candy by Vachss (Down-n-Dirty hard scrabble, hard boiled to a razor's edge)
8. King Suckerman by Pelecanos (Unlike anything I had ever read. Brutal and packed with great dialog.)
9. Skinny Legs and All by Robbins (Talk about your prose and sentence structure! Plus a can of beans and a Spoon are out to save the world. Come on folks, can it get any better? or weirder?)
10. The Keep by Wilson (My favorite Vamp book of all time)
11. The Poet by Connelly (Kept me guessing right up to the end. Before that it would have been Presumed Innocent and whilst that was a very good read, The Poet is just better written.)
12. Mystic River by Lehane (Wait, I've got a lump in my throat and a tear running down my cheek.)
13. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight by Breslin (Awful movie, similar to the badness that's Striptease, but as a book... the funniest Mafia book of all time and parts of it could be true?!)
14. No Country For Old Men by McCarthy (never have I read a book that had such structure. Cormac knows his dialect and let's the pages breathe with life. This is a WOW book. So is the movie)
15. The Princess Bride by Goldman (Funny, Satirical, chock full of action, romance and horses that throw their shoes... hands down the funniest book I've ever read. The movie tries to capture the book and it is a very good and funny movie but this book is way way way better.)
16. Pest Control by Fitzhugh (Read it. That's all I can say on the matter. Find it Read it Get back to me to thank me.)

Well that's it. I could have mentioned so many others but these are stuck in the recesses of my mind like a windmill.... but I digress.
Atticus said: Wow, I just compiled a quick list of my most favorite novels and found out a few things about me...

I consider Princess Bride to be a modern classic and you've got "No Country for Old Men" and a Clancy book. We will not fault you for your taste.

I myself am off to go graving at a local cemetery and then to have tea (or something) with a local older lady at her house. I met her breifly a month ago at a reception for a Cemetery Decoration Day exhibit and promised to drop by next time I was at the cemetery near her house.

When I return this afternoon some time I shall post my list of books - though I feel rather intimidated as all three of you (incl Mario here) have posted some good lists.

Have a Blessed Memorial Day and a Joyous International Towel Day.

Don't feel intimidated! What you like is what you like.

I left off a bunch of books out of the sake of brevity. I was going for the books that really stand out in my mind years after reading them.

I also like:
-- the Ameila Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. Always great fun!

-- all of Steven Saylor's mystery novels. Most of them are set in ancient Rome and I just eat them up

--all the novels of Lindsay Davis. Also set in ancient Rome, she writes really funny dialogue and puts them into comical predicaments. I have to confess my writing voice tends to mimicry of her.

-- the Sherlockian mysteries of Laurie R. King and Carole Nelson Douglas. Lovely and fun! Richly detailed.

You may have noticed not much paranormal on the list. Because I don't read much paranormal. It was a happy accident that I found and enjoyed Mario's and Jeanne's books so much, but I'm not big on vampire stories, etc.

But I recently encountered a book in paranormal-land that will probably having lasting power in my mind:

--A Kiss for the Apocalypse by Thomas Sniegowski. Great book. Fresh premise. What happens if a non-fallen angel also decided he wanted to leave heaven and live on earth among humans? And then falls in love with a mortal? And now somebody has kidnapped Death, just at the same time as his beloved is about to die.

--I also confess, I like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden novels quite a bit.
Oooooook here I go with my list of books - though most are going to be a series since that is just how the sci-fi/fantasy genre goes.

- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (read the unabridged version in 7th grade in a weeks time and love it in all its mutations [musical, music-etc])

- The Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher

- The Blood Books Series by Tanya Huff

- Pretty much everything ever written by Raymond E. Feist - except those that were co-written. His "Magician" series is by far the best but I like just about everything this man does

- The Aurthur, Robin Hood, and Celtic Crusades series' by Stephen R. Lawhead

- The Seven Waters Series by Juliet Marillier (the first book is a takeoff of the seven swans fairy tale which has long been my favorite besides Beauty and the Beast)

- The Darkover Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley (some are better than other, but I’m currently only 10 books shy of having the whole series - it already takes up an entire book shelf ... and most of them are very skinny books)

- Sookie Stackhouse Novels

- All the Discworld Novels by Terry Pratchett that include Rincewind and the Unseen University. "Lost continent" would be my favorite. MY favorite non-UU Discworld novel is "Night Watch"

- The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

- The Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis

- The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (I think it reads better in the original French than English but both versions are very good)

- Jane Eyre by Bronte

- Pride and Prejudice

- the Anne of Green Gable Series by LM Montgomery

- Dracula by Bram Stoker

- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams

There are few misc non-fiction I like as well - chief among them are:

- A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery by Lyndy Abraham

- Any of the Book Binding guides Kevin A Smith (I personally own "Non-Adhesive Binding - Books Without Paste or Glue" and have my sights set on a fe others)

- J.R.R Tolkien Author of the Century & the Road to Middle Earth: How JR.R Tolkien Created a New Mythology by Tom Shippey (beyond amazing)

Sooooo that is the short list. There is another list of authors and books I'm very fond of, but as you can see, most everything I read is at LEAST part of a trilogy. I love people like Bradley's Darkover books and Feist's books b/c they have multiple trilogies all set in the same universe. I've started reading more Paranormal novels since reading this blog actually lol but I haven't found many that really stuck with me. Like Gina, the ones I have found, and clearly loved, were a very happy accident. I tend to find authors I like and then read everything they have. Most of the authors I have found are due to the many hours of my life I have spent in the used bookstore. The lower prices let me feel less bad about spending money on books to “try them out.” If I don’t like them I trade them in again. Every once in a while (like Juliet Marillier and Jeanne) I’ll find someone I really like and then I’ll invest in the rest of their books.
I'm humbled by your reading lists. Most of the time I just read the backs of cereal boxes.
@Mario: Don't sluff-off the backs of cereal boxes. They can provide many many minutes of pure sugar rush excitement.

Wait until Jeanne starts our Favorite Author's lists.

I took this one as those books that have stuck in our crawl.

Also I am opened to any kind of bribery to make sure that when Jeanne starts that thread that I include you on it even though I am still reading your first. (And enjoying it seeing how I was soooo tired of reading books where Government labs only create large insects or zombies. I mean Nymphomania... you know that's a military industrial complex screwup that I think a bunch of loyal and patriotic Americans could get behind.
The Nymphomaniacs of Rocky Flats is based on a true story. But because of James Frey and the whole Million Little Pieces debacle, I had to publish it as fiction.
@Mario: Hmm, Does Oliver Stone know about this? I would think if our Government was working on a virus that caused the N to happen that that would be a wonderful and empowering weapon to win hearts, minds and other parts over in the Mid-East.

That would be something to behold in such a male dominated society.

Well now I've been compelled to go out and buy a copy of The Poet. So far the opening paragraph is a winner. I'm taking it on an away mission overnight as my sole source of entertainment for the next day.

It better be good...
@Gina: Not to nitpick nut Mario's suggestion was The Lincoln Lawyer, I was the one that listed The Poet.

But and I'm sure Mario would agree... You cannot go wrong with any Michael Connelly book... period!

Though I wouldn't read any of his books featuring Harry Bosch without starting from the beginning with The Black Echo.

The Poet and The Lincoln Lawyer are stand-alone though Connelly's latest Scarecrow continues The Poet characters.

Well stream of consciousness seemed to work for our contest winners here so....

"Canticle for Liebowitz"... what a pleasure to see someone else who loved that book.... It has long been one of my favorites...

"Fevre Dreams" - yet another wonderful Vampire novel

LOTR but today that is almost like someonbe saying their favorite movie is Casablanca, so I will add "Bored of the Rings" especially with the run on cover art that matched the other 3 novels and "The Hobbit" cover art. Arguably one of the funniest parodies ever aside from "The Profit" by Kellogg Allbran.

"The Deadly Silents" by Lee Killough... admittedly a bit biased view as I gave her the ide and she dedicated the novel to me! (Does self-serving get more contest points???) But actually I LOVE cop science fiction which Lee has done wonders with.

"And The Devil Shall Drag You Under" Is the streak of humour showing under my pettticoats?

"In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash", "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters" "Phantom of the Open Hearth" etc. by Jean Shepherd, many of which were crafted into "Christmas Story" the best Christmas filem ever....

So much for the first installment!


Whoops. Mea culpa for thanking Mario, not you, re The Poet. I took it on a little overnighter trip with me yesterday and I'm engrossed in it.


If you like cop science fiction you must run, not walk but RUN to a bookstore and buy Kop and Ex-Kop by Warren Hammond. Like. Yesterday.

I also recently discovered "The Automatic Detective" by A. Lee Martinez which is in a similar vein. In this case it's a robot who stumbles into a life of being a PI. Quite a change of pace from his intended purpose as a death-weilding attack force commander. (read the book to find out how he gets himself out of THAT gig.) It was quite enjoyable, though it doesn't hold a candle to Kop or Ex-Kop.

P.S. -- Note to self. Start Kop/Ex-Kop fan club.
Oops. Typo alert. That's "death-wielding" not "death-weilding". I do know how to spell. Most usually.
Thanks Gina. I shall track it down, the game is afoot! Ditto the Auto Dick.

While I am on that subject, if you haven't read Randall Garrett's "Lord Darcy" series about a forensic sorceror, they are phenomenal, though they are of course fantasy rather than science fiction, but as a former cop/forensicist I LOVE how he analogizes our current forensics in a magikal fashion. Add them to my list.

And some more favorites to add to my list.... just about anything by Lovecraft..... not just pussyfooting about eveil in a fun way but full opn, gonzo, mind and soul ripping evil with NO redeeming qualities! The film industry has never done him right but now is the time for that with dark tales in vogue and CG SPFX genning at a wonderful apex. Pour me a gen and Miskatonic!

"The Phantom Tollbooth" - both the book and the animated film glow!

Just about everything by Lyman Frank Baum, his illustrators, Ruth Plumley Thompson etc. I LOVE Oz and all of its associated realms and Father Goose and..... and most of the associated works, with the reeking exception of "ZARDOZ", a bad Oz film and a bad Connery film...yuck!

"the Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace"....

Ok, some consider it non-fic, but then it has pretty well been deciphered as a hoax and so doesn't that sort of kind of make it a novel? And what an impact!

More later....

@Jeanne: You don't like my anymore because I didn't care for Dollhouse (wow I'm getting tired)? Then with this next statement you're really not going to like me!
I couldn't get into Buffy! I did however like most of the 1st season of Angel until they killed off that snarky Irish guy. Now about Firefly, I loved it. Serenity as well. So Some Joss can work for me.

As for the Stackhouse series: Never read 'em but loooove True Blood.

At some point (as if anyone will care) I'll mention the writers I follow. They are plenty but in truth only a few ever seem to chart. And for alot of them I can never find their books except online. Not even in used bookstores!

Ok, that's it for now. Oh wait a sec, while I've been dumping on Joss I should point out... I love the J.J. Abrams machine.

I shall add Randall Garrett's "Lord Darcy" series to my reading wish list and let you know.

And if I ever get into a sticky wicket over forensics details I'll hunt you dow...er, be sure to ask you nice questions.
@ DocPhibes - Ah how could I have forgotten Lovecraft? When I can track that man down (does *no one* ever have his books in stock or available for check out???)I do indeed enjoy Lovecraft, a nice dose of Gaiman and everyonce ina while enjoy siting down with a book by David Gemmel *his books always start off so good but hen without fail peter out after the halfway mark or just go off in some weird less desirable direction. I enjoy his ideas though).
Gina said: And if I ever get into a sticky wicket over forensics details I'll hunt you dow...er, be sure to ask you nice questions.

LOL! Gina I like you more and more every single day.
@ DocPhibes - Saying LotR is a favorite does seem a bit commonplace anymore. you are correct about that. However, there are people that read LotR and then there are people who READ LotR if you know what I mean. Those books are so incredibly multifaceted and complex that one could read them over and over again and find something new every single time. For me personally my facination with the books lies in Quenya, Sindarin, and the Tengwar script. For others the facination lies in the names, mythical pralelles/influences, etc. Always be proud to claim them as a favorite read.

That said, Bored of the Rings was a humerous read.
Completely agree Leia, which is why I said it, albeit with a disclaimer, and I LOVE works that have such marvelous underworks.... for example the Pakuni language in Land of the Lost... I will be watching to see if it survives intact in the Will Farrell version.

And reading all of the other scholarly works on Middle Earth published after JRR's death is a wonderful treasure trove of revelations of the easter eggs burried in LOTR and The Hobbit..

Try some of the SF specific used book stores for Lovecraft. If not I will see where mine have been buried by Abdul Alhazred. ;-)

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