Saturday, September 06, 2014

Downton Abbey, Female Spies, Binge Reading and House Immortal by Devon Monk, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch and Bless the Bride by Rhys Bowen

The British, they tease and taunt us with trailers and photos and article son Season 5 of Downton Abbey, the world's most popular TV drama, (outside of NCIS) and then they refuse to let us in on the joy of actually seeing the show until January of 2015, which is a CRIME, I tell you!

A trailer has been released for Downton
Season 5, which will premiere in the U.K. September 21 and in the U.S.
January 4 on PBS Masterpiece. reported that guest stars
this year include Richard E. Grant and Anna Chancellor.

This looks like a wonderful book, and I admire authors who delve into the depths of history to uncover the role that women played in historic events. It's not easy work.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

I agree that book binges are the best! Still, I can't resist watching the incomparable Kate Mulgrew play Red in Orange is the New Black. 

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Monogram
Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah and Agatha
Christie (Morrow, $25.99, 9780062297211) as her pick of the month for
September. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse
club's members, she wrote:

"Forget binge-watching Breaking Bad or Orange Is the New Black. I'm here
to make a stand for binge-reading. I've always been a binge-reader, and
one of the first series I devoured was Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot
novels. When the author passed away, I felt the pain of saying goodbye
to a character I'd grown to think of as a good friend. Now, Sophie
Hannah has written a new Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, which is
this month's book pick.

"I'd almost forgotten how much I loved the witty banter between the
Belgian detective and his young Scotland Yard protege, Edward Catchpool.

"A variety of other Christie novels will also be available in most
Costco warehouses."

I've polished off three more books, House Immortal by Devon Monk, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch and Bless the Bride by Rhys Bowen.

I'll start with the last book that I read, House Immortal by Devon Monk, which is the first in a new series she's written about Frankenstein's monster-style people. 
I've read every single book in every other series that Monk has written, and I've enjoyed them all. She has a real flare for creating interesting, flawed, fun and feisty female protagonists that never give up on their beliefs, values, morals and loved ones.
Mathilda Case is no exception. She's a "galvanized" immortal, a person stitched together from parts, but in Tilly's case, she was created as a child, and her mind and soul were transferred by her genius brother Quinten into her galvanized body. Tilly has been living "off the grid" on a farm with the stitched together odd creatures (like a dragon) that her father created before he and her mother were killed by one of the imperial "houses," house Black, decades ago. Everyone must be aligned with a particular house in order to survive in this post apocalyptic world, and that's where Tilly runs into trouble, as she's with the other off-grid people in "House Brown" which has no power and no specific dynastic family leader, as do all the other houses. Also, the other houses have one ore more of 12 "galvanized" immortals that they keep enslaved by dint of having them sign a treaty saying that the House Brown people would be left alone as long as they remain under the thumb of the house lords/ladies. Here's the blurb: One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized....
Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.
Tilly is one of thirteen incredible creations known as the galvanized, stitched together beings immortal and unfathomably strong. For a century, each House has fought for control over the galvanized. Now the Houses are also tangled in a deadly struggle for dominion over death—and Tilly and her kind hold the key to unlocking eternity
The secrets that Tilly must fight to protect are hidden within the very seams of her being. And to get the secrets, her enemies are willing to tear her apart piece by piece.… 
Tilly's peace is shattered when a 7 ft tall galvanized named Abraham shows up wounded at her door, insisting that he has a message from her long-dead mother that he must come and protect her and her father. Once the two of them get in a room together and Abraham Seven realizes that Tilly is one of his own kind, the sparks start to fly, and everything starts to go haywire. Suddenly all the houses are after Tilly, her farmhand, two-headed Ned, and her seemingly batty grandmother, who knits time into scarves directly from her miniature sheep.Once Tilly discovers that her brother has been held captive by house orange, and forced to turn one of the house lords into a galvanized, she has to fight to keep everyone alive in what has become a turf war between the houses. I LOVED this book, and I am thrilled that there is more to come in the series, because I could NOT put book one down! A real page turner that deserves an A, and is recommended for fans of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as well as fans of post apocalyptic fiction, like Hunger Games, Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments and World War Z.

Bless the Bride is book 10 in Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy mystery series, and while I've not read all 9 of the previous books, I have read 4 or 5 of them, and enjoyed them as cozy historical mysteries, set in turn of the century New York City. Here's the blurb:
With Molly Murphy’s wedding to NYPD Captain Daniel Sullivan quickly approaching, the Irish P.I. heads to the Westchester County countryside, where Daniel’s mother can counsel her on a bride’s proper place. Surprisingly, Molly seems to be agreeing with her future mother-in-law’s advice. Molly promises to leave her detective work behind and settle down after becoming Daniel’s wife…but she isn’t married yet. So when she gets word of a possible case, Molly sneaks back into the city to squeeze in a little more sleuthing before the wedding bells can ring.
A wealthy Chinese immigrant wants Molly to find his missing bride. Molly has a hunch that his intended has run off. But where could she have gone—and where would she be? The only Chinese women of the era are kept under house arrest, and Molly can’t help but wonder whether she’s saving the bride-to-be from the streets…or helping to lock her away for good. 
Molly is deep in frustrated wedding preparations (she's hopeless at sewing) when she receives word that her bohemian (read: lesbian) friends Gus and Sid are throwing her a pre-nuptual party, and have also had a request for her sleuthing services from an old Chinese man whose young purchased bride has run away. What follows is Molly getting deeper and deeper into trouble, as she usually does, and her somewhat loutish policeman fiance Daniel coming to the rescue, and always trying to control her, as usual. Unfortunately, he's gotten Molly to promise to cease using her sleuthing skills once they are married, and "settle down" into being a wife and mother who doesn't venture out for anything more dangerous than shopping. Though she goes behind his back in this whole book, Molly still seems to think she will be able to live with Daniel without her calling once she's married, which I find impossible to believe, since she's been so independent previously. But the way that Chinese women are treated, (like disposable property) is shown, during the course of the book, to be so much worse than how white women are treated that readers are deflected from the sexism and patriarchy that Molly must endure. Bowen's no nonsense prose and swift plot make this a novel that is easy to read in one sitting, and has a satisfying HEA ending to boot. A solid B+ with a recommendation for fans of Maisie Dobbs and Bess Crawford Mysteries to give Molly and her time a try.
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch is the 3rd book in the Gentlemen Bastards series, and, as I've read the previous two books, I felt like I knew what to expect from this book. Lynch has a penchant for LONG novels (I don't know that he's capable of writing a book under 700 pages) with boatloads of historical, political, nautical and other sorts of details. But it isn't the long-winded explanations and details that make me come back for more of the Gentlemen Bastards, Locke and Jean and Sabetha.It's the characters themselves, so richly drawn as to seem real, that make me want to know how they will face their next challenge and survive in the cruel environments in which they're constantly placed. The details, in this novel political and theatric, grow old and boring after the first or second chapter-long narrative. Thankfully, Lynch seems to know his audience's limits, and he salts the boring detail chapters among the action chapters, so no one falls asleep for fear of missing something interesting with Locke or Jean. Here's the blurb:
With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.
 Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body—though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring—and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.
 Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha—or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.
Sabetha's story, or at least as much of it as connects her to Locke, is on full display here, which is great, except we learn that Sabetha is prickly, smart and capricious,seemingly giving Locke signals that she will accept him as a boyfriend on one hand, and then withdrawing that to do him some dirt. While their plotting against one another was very clever and interesting, I felt that, as one of the few women in these novels, Sabetha portrayed women as being rather nasty creatures who are cruel, greedy and have no real concept of how to love someone, or to be loved by someone. The men, meanwhile, are basically only interested in the sexual side of any relationships that they have, and that seems to be the stand-in for a lasting relationship; vigorous sex which ends when the woman tragically dies or leaves town. I'm still not sure I understand the ending of the book, either, as I don't understand WHY the portrait made Sabetha run away from Locke. I also don't know what Locke's real name or heritage are, because, in an uncharacteristic slide into cryptic text, Lynch leaves us with the prophecy of a bondsmage, who conveniently dies at the hands of her sociopathic son, as our only knowledge of what or who he truly is. Color me frustrated. Still, the book deserves a B+ and I would recommend it to anyone who has read the other Gentlemen Bastard books.

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