Friday, August 29, 2014

Los Angeles Loves Books, plus An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd, Cursed Moon By Jaye Wells, and Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

It's nice to know that even in one of the most digital cities outside of Seattle, there's still a lot of love for physical books:

Skylight Books
"Despite what the L.A. haters say, Los Angeles is one of the biggest
book markets in the country," Studio System News reported in featuring
"eight treasured indie L.A. bookstores

"Ripe with story ideas for both the big and small screen, these stores
are treasure troves for those in the film and TV industry," SSN
observed. "Whether you're a development exec, writer, director,
producer, or agent, these brick and mortar gems are worth frequenting to
jumpstart your creative juices."

SSN also asked "several booksellers and managers
[to] tell us what's trending, which titles are perennial best sellers,
and what obscure finds they think are worthy of adaptation."

"Seven havens for book lovers in L.A.
which noted that in an increasingly digital world "sometimes it's nice
to rebel by holding on to something tangible, from days gone by....
Wutzwhat may be a mobile app, but we pride ourselves in providing you
with the top IRL experiences, most of which are found at
brick-and-mortar stores where you get to interact with real people who
are passionate about what they do. But when you do need to escape
reality, our favorite pastime is to pick up and crack open a good book."

An Unwilling Accomplice by the mother/son writing team Charles Todd, is the 6th book in the Bess Crawford, WW1 nurse series. I've read all of Todd's Crawford mysteries, and this latest one was a bit more intricate than the previous novels, perhaps because the characters are coming to the end of the war, and perhaps the authors are seeking a way to stop the series after the war comes to a close. Anyway, here's the blurb:
World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford's career and life are in jeopardy when a murder is committed on her watch.
Arriving in London on leave, Bess Crawford receives an unusual summons from the War Office. She's to accompany a wounded soldier from a northern clinic, Sergeant Jason Wilkins, to Buckingham Palace. Confined to a wheelchair, the soldier will be in her care for barely a day. But the morning after the ceremony, Wilkins is missing. Bess is blamed for losing the war hero.
More disturbing news complicates her difficult situation! The Army considers Wilkins a deserter, and Scotland Yard questions her when Wilkins is suspected of killing a man.
If Bess is to clear her name, she must prove that she was never his accomplice. But the sergeant has disappeared yet again. Carefully questioning unhelpful villagers, Bess and her friend, Simon, follow a trail of clues across England. But will uncovering the truth and saving her honor put more innocent people in jeopardy?
I found this book to be a bit more confusing as things were more fraught for Bess, because she insisted on getting involved in solving the mysteries because her honor as a nursing sister was on the line. She refused to listen to anyone who tried to tell her that she was pursuing dangerous leads in the case, and she seems immune to any an all male blandishments that come her way, subtle or not. While I understand if the authors don't want Bess to become romantically entangled because it will adversely affect her sleuthing and nursing, I still think it's somewhat odd to not have a woman of that era be at least interested in members of the opposite sex (or members of her own sex, I really don't care). Bess is somewhat mechanical and cold in her dealings with men, and though she's a grown woman she often seems too attached to her parents, as if she were still a child, and if she's old enough to go to war and deal with all the blood and gore and death, she's certainly old enough to not have to rely on mummy and daddy for help whenever she's in a pickle. Other than those minor problems, I enjoyed book 6, and I was interested to note that, though it's set in 1918, they didn't come to the end of the war in this book. I will be awaiting the next volume to see what happens when Bess is out of the military and back to "normal" life. Will she still work in nursing (especially since the Spanish flu killed a lot of people in 1918), or will she finally develop a relationship with Simon, or the Australian soldier? I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to all those who've read the other Bess Crawford mysteries, and those who like J Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries. 
Cursed Moon by Jaye Wells is the 2nd book in the Prospero's War series, and though I felt there was too much swearing in the first book, it seemed less harsh in the author's sophomore effort.  Magic in Kate Prospero's world isn't a pretty thing, it's addictive and can leave people as addicts or power-mad adepts. Though there is "clean" legal magic, Kate comes from a place called "The Cauldron" where the poor rely on "dirty" or illegal magic, and cops like Kate to clean up the messes and prevent the turf wars of the various magical groups from getting out of hand. Here's the blurb:
When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magic Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon's impact is especially strong for Kate, who's wrestling with guilt over her use of illegal magic.
When a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from a local coven, Kate's team must find the thief's hideout before the vengeful coven catches him. But the investigation uncovers the rogue's dangerous plot to unleash chaotic magic on the city. Once the Blue Moon rises no-one's secrets will be safe. Not even Kate's.
Cursed Moon had a lot more character development than Dirty Magic, the first book, and I really liked learning more about the people in Kate's world. I also loved that we got to see more of Little Man and Mary, the weirdest snitches outside of Total Recall, (the original movie), and we learned more about Kate's mother, her friend Pen and her partner Morales, the hottie cop. Though I still don't see why Kate goes all weak in the knees over Volos, who seems like a complete asshat to me, it was nice to see her develop her relationship with Morales, though unintentionally, and to see her gain confidence in her own magical abilities and be unrepentant about using them for good. Though I still think it's a cop out for authors to use so much swearing, especially for their smart protagonists, I will be looking forward to the next book in the series, Deadly Spells, when it comes out early next year. I'd give Cursed Moon an A, and recommend it to those who read the first book and those who enjoy their fantasies more gritty and tough.

Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's Wild Ride is the third book of their collaborations that I've read, after Agnes and the Hitman and Don't Look Down. Since there was a lot more paranormal stuff in this novel, I liked it even more than I liked Agnes and the Hitman, which I really enjoyed. Here's the blurb:
Mary Alice Brannigan doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that Dreamland, the decaying amusement park she’s been hired to restore, is a prison for the five Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world. Plus, there’s a guy she’s falling hard for—and there’s something about him that’s not quite right.
But rocky romances and demented demons aren’t the only problems in Dreamland: Mab’s also coping with a crooked politician, a supernatural raven, a secret government agency, an inexperienced sorceress, an unsettling inheritance, and some mind-boggling revelations from her past. As her personal demons wreck her newfound relationship and real demons wreck the park, Mab faces down immortal evil and discovers what everybody who’s ever been to an amusement park knows: The end of the ride is always the wildest.
 Apparently, demons are very sexy creatures, and they can breed with humans and have half-demon children, which is what the protagonists of this book are, reluctant half demons who are brother and sister, who then team up to become guardians and keep the untouchables from all getting out long enough to cause mayhem. Crusie and Mayer seem to have an excellent sense of humor, because they land their characters in various alarming but funny situations, and the dialog in the book sparkles with wit. I would assume that it's Mayer providing all the guns and military scenes, complete with evil power-hungry government officials and PTSD soldiers who are bent on destroying themselves with alcohol. While that all sounds rather grim, it's not, really, and the authors keep things light and fizzy and fun throughout the book, which has a plot that moves like a ninja on speed. Certainly deserving of an A, with the caveat that it's one of those "beach read" just for fun books that isn't really meant to be serious or intense. I would recommend it to anyone who likes fun paranormal romances. 
Finally, I love these old library photos. They take me back to the library in Mt Pleasant Iowa, where I learned to read and where I first shared the magic of books with the wonderful librarian there, who let me past the velvet rope into the adult section when I was about 8 years old. 

Vintage Photo Gallery: 'Librarians Being Awesome'
"Librarians, in case you hadn't heard, are essential members of
society--likely to expand minds wherever they go--and, as such, are
fully worthy of hero worship (whether they're among the coolest
librarians alive or just pretty cool)," Flavorwire noted in featuring
"25 vintage photos of librarians being awesome"
from My Daguerreotype Librarian The tumblr describes
itself as being "dedicated to literally or figuratively hunky and babely
librarians from the past."

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