Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Cost of Being a Bibliophile, Amazon's Takeover of South Lake Union in Seattle, the Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen, The Witch of Painted Sorrows by MJ Rose, and Prudence by Gail Carriger

The cost of my book addiction? I spent at least a thousand dollars last year on books. I figure I've been reading an average of 200 books a year for the past 50 years (I started reading when I was 4, and I am 54 now) so that comes out to 10,000 books I have read so far. I have probably spent at least $25K on books in my lifetime. So yeah, that amounts to something, especially for just one bibliophile. 

Seattle's South Lake Union has become a hotbed of Geekery since Amazon decided to build some very spiffy offices there, and create a transportation system for their workers. 
Amazon's lease of a full city block in Seattle's South Lake Union
neighborhood, next to its headquarters, "puts the firm on track to
eventually occupy about 10 million square feet
in downtown Seattle--or one-fourth of the market's inventory of premium
office space," the Seattle Times reported. On Tuesday, the company
confirmed it will move into 817,000 square feet at Troy Block, a
two-building complex.

"We've agreed to lease the Troy Block and we're really excited to
continue growing our urban campus in the heart of Seattle," John
Schoettler, Amazon director of global real estate and facilities.

Amazon's "rapid growth has put pressure on rents for offices and
apartments in the area, even as it's ignited an unprecedented boom in
apartment construction," the Seattle Times wrote.

"Every Seattle office tenant who has negotiated a lease in the last
couple of years has felt the 'Amazon Effect,' " said tenant broker Brian
Hayden of Flinn Ferguson. "The rate at which Amazon has been absorbing
space has had a significant effect on Seattle's overall vacancy rate,
which increases landlord confidence and puts upward pressure on rents." 

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen is the 5th book of hers that I've read, and enjoyed. Allen's books are similar to Alice Hoffman's, in that they all contain an element of magical realism, and all have female protagonists attempting to deal with their powers of one sort or another in the real world. Here's the blurb:

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina—has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite Paxton Osgood—has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.
Allen's prose is addictive, so refreshingly clean and smooth that it glides along the greased rails of the finely tuned plot like a bullet train to happytown. Her books are easy, delightful reads that are replete with characters that most readers will recognize and feel comfortable with right away. In this instance, Willa has settled in her hometown to try and outlive her past reputation as a prankster and general ne'er do well. She encounters Paxton Osgood's brother Colin, and from then on, it's a race to see who will find true love first, Pax and Sebastian, whom everyone assumed was gay in high school because he dressed nicely, or Willa and Colin, who has tried to stay as far away from his hometown and its obligations as possible. Though Paxton's character is more than a little obsessive-compulsive, and her beloved Sebastian is more than perfect, the mystery of whose bones are found under the peach tree next to the "Madam", an old family estate that Paxton has refurbished, keeps the burgeoning love affairs from getting too Harlequin-romance-novelish. Though you can read this novel in a day, I'd still give it an A for excellent storytelling, strong female protagonists and grumpy grannies with secrets. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys "cozy" mysteries, chick lit, or wants a fun, relaxing read.

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by MJ Rose is a glorious, gorgeous novel of turn of the (20th) century Paris, redolent with beauty; beautiful characters, classic paintings, elegant clothing and the sparkle of France surrounded with the flowing, curvacious lines of Art Nouveau. Frankly, I've been in love with MJ Roses paranormal mystery-romance-suspense-thrillers since reading Seduction, the Book of Lost Fragrances and the Collector of Dying Breaths, all riveting reading. So it was with high hopes that I got my copy of The Witch of Painted Sorrows last week, and once I turned the first page, I was unable to put it down. Here's what I said in my Goodreads review:I was in raptures when I got this book in the mail, because I have loved all of MJ Roses recent novels of paranormal romance and suspense. This novel was thoroughly engrossing, with prose so evocative that I started reading it this morning and finished it this afternoon.The plot was breathtakingly swift, and the characters beautifully full bodied and intriguing. My only problem with the whole novel was the ending.
I was saddened that Sandrine was unable to rid herself of the witch, and that in the end, she felt it necessary and right to allow herself to be possessed by La Luna. Most possessed people in myth, legend and historical reference become insane and die young, and none lead a happy, fulfilling life. How can Sandrine still be inside herself when she's hag-ridden by a 300 year old prostitute? She intimates that none of her work is her own, by the end, so I don't see how this can be an HEA for the protagonist when she's just a vessel and her body contains someone else's soul. I can't imagine Julien would be too thrilled, either. But readers don't get to know what his response will be to Sandrine's revelation at the end.
Here's the book blurb from B&N: 
Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.
Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.
Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.
This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.
Though I didn't like the ending, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I look forward to Rose's next paranormal thriller. An A is the only grade one could possibly give such an evocative novel.  I would recommend it to anyone who loves historical romance, paranormal romance or suspense.

Prudence, the Custard Protocol: Book One by Gail Carriger is the 9th book of hers that I've read, and adored. Carriger's Steampunk world of Imperialist London and Europe is always so thrilling, bursting with werewolves, vampires, zeppelin airships and all manner of mechanical wonders. Then there's Prudence herself, the daughter of an Alpha werewolf and Lord, and a mother who is "Soulless," able to turn paranormals human at a touch. This has allowed Prudence the ability to "borrow" supernatural shape-shifting abilities from werewolves, werecats, weremonkies and vampires, again at a touch. While one would think that her parents and her foster father, Lord Akeldama the vampire, would be loathe to send her on a dangerous mission while she's still a teenager, they decide to use her as a secret agent anyway, and off she goes in her bespoke airship, the Spotted Custard, to India to solve the mystery and kidnapping of a general's wife by weremonkies. Here's the blurbs:
The new arc of the Parasol Protectorate steampunk series when Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (a.k.a. Rue) takes off on a dirigible jaunt to India for, you guessed it, a cup of tea. This being a Gail Carriger (Waistcoats and Weaponry; Timeless) novel, her search for the perfect pekoe is soon interrupted by a dawning local rebellion, a significant kidnapping, werewolves, and some embarrassing wardrobe problems, none of which seem to fluster Rue or her pristine gal pal Primrose Tunstell. Definitely worth the ride; editor's recommendation. Barnes and Noble
Publishers Weekly
Carriger (Waistcoats and Weaponry) introduces fans of her Parasol Protectorate world to the next generation of madcap supernatural entities with the fluffy first Custard Protocol novel. Twenty-year-old Prudence “Rue” Akeldama and her best friend, Primrose Tunstell, have grown up in a version of Victorian England filled with vampires and werewolves. Rue, who can borrow the traits of any supernatural creature she touches, yearns for excitement and leaps at the chance to journey to India in search of a superior type of tea for her adoptive father, a wealthy vampire. She and her friends set off on a gaudy dirigible, only to run headfirst into danger, intrigue, and local politics. In a madcap adventure of manners, Rue veers from one threat to the next, always trying to maintain her dignity and composure. Fortunately for her, there’s never any sense of real danger. Carriger maintains a droll, tongue-in-cheek tone, and her protagonists are as concerned with witty banter and fashionable hats as they are with fighting for their lives. Series fans will enjoy this mischievous romp, which revisits old favorites while raising a new crop of charming characters.
I found some of the fussiness exhibited by Prim, Rue's best friend, to be trying, mainly because fainting young women stall the plot a bit. However, Rue's flirtation with Quesnel, Madam LeFou's son, make up for the fussiness quite nicely. I've found that reading Carriger always makes me head for my tea-maker and a nice cuppa. This particular book was no exception, and I was delighted by the discovery of a werelioness and the weremonkies. I look forward to the next book in the series, which I imagine will be just as much fun to read as this one. An A, and a recommendation to those who like dry British wit, tea and fascinating supernatural characters.

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