Monday, November 02, 2015

POTUS on Books, Queen of Darkness by Anne Bishop and A Barricade in Hell by Jamie Lee Moyer

I LOVE that our POTUS is a reader! I sincerely hope that the woman who replaces him next year is also a reader (and yes, I am hoping that a woman becomes president).

Obama: 'Novels Taught Me How to Be a Citizen'
"When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside
being president, and the most important set of understandings that I
bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I've learned
I think I've learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to
do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated
and full of grays, but there's still truth there to be found, and that
you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it's
possible to connect with some[one] else even though they're very
different from you."

--President Obama, in part two of his conversation with Marilynne
in the New York Review of Books.

Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop is the third book in the initial Black Jewels "dark fantasy" trilogy. I've read Bishop's "Others" series, which is also labeled as being in the dark fantasy genre, when again, it's much more horror fantasy with some romance subplots than anything. But here's the thing about the prolific Ms Bishop. I dislike horror fiction, and I am not a fan of blood and guts and death in any stories that I read. I much prefer uplifting stories that are enlightening and fun, as well as beautifully wrought. That said, Bishop's prose is mesmerizing. Her storytelling abilities are extraordinary, and her plots deep, dark and fascinating. Her characters are full bodied and sublime. Once I start reading any one of her books, I can't put it down. It's almost like she's put some kind of spell on the book itself, which will not let go of my eyeballs or detach from my fingers until I'm done reading it. This is why I feel a kind of outrage at Bishop, because I feel like I'm under a geis (or geas) to read books I wouldn't normally read because she's such a darned good writer. However, despite my outrage, I have a great deal of respect for Bishop as an author who is able to take horrible subject matter, such as pedophilia, child abuse, rape and murder and turn it into a page-turner that will keep you up until the wee hours. Mad props there, Bishop. 
Unfortunately, there are no regular summary blurbs for this book, no Publisher's Weekly summations or anything other than regular reader reviews, which I don't feel comfortable excerpting here. Suffice it to say that as the third book in this series, it brings to a close the story of Jaenelle Angelline and her adoptive father Saetan, the High Lord of Hell, and his sons Lucivar and Daemon Sadi. The back of the book says "Jaenelle Angelline now reigns as Queen, protector of the Shadow Realm. No longer will the corrupt Blood slaughter her people and defile her lands. But where one chapter ends, a final unseen battle remains to be written. And even Witch cannot stand alone. Somewhere, long lost in madness, is Daemon, her promised Consort. His unyielding love for Jaenelle will complete her court and secure her power. Yet, even together their strength may not be enough to stave off their enemies."
Those enemies, Dorothea and Hekatah, should have been killed off, along with Alexandra and the rest of Jaenelle's corrupt and evil family, long ago. However, since they've been allowed to continue their quest for power and to kill Jaenelle, Saetan, Daemon and Lucivar, I had a feeling that J would have to take the nuclear option sooner or later. Still, I have to say I liked the "Briarwood poison" that J let loose on the pedophiles, and I was happy that she and Daemon finally were able to become lovers, though there was too much fumbling and insecurity for my taste, especially considering that they were both adults and Daemon a very experienced lover. I've read part of the 4th book, which didn't have any of the protagonists from the trilogy in it, and was therefore easy to dismiss, and I'm now reading the 5th book, which takes place between the second and third books. I also have copies of the 6th and 7th books on my TBR stack. I'd give this trilogy an A, but only recommend it to those who have strong stomachs and constitutions, or who enjoy horror fiction.

A Barricade in Hell by Jamie Lee Moyer is the second book in this gothic mystery series, about Delia, a woman who can see and hear ghosts in 1917 San Francisco, California. After having read and enjoyed the first book, Delia's Shadow, I was anticipating this book as well, but was surprised by the fact that the author takes us several years into the future, where Delia and Gabe, her police captain husband, are married and grieving the death of their firstborn child. Here's the blurb:
In Jaime Lee Moyer's A Barricade in Hell, Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it's 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.
That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war. But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.
As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?
The ghosts in Barricade are much more aggressive than the ghosts in "Delia's Shadow" and they expend a great deal of energy trying to physically harm Delia (and Gabe) through dreams and through poltergeist activity, like smashing glass and mirrors. As in the previous book, Delia's friend Dora the medium is there to try and help solve the mystery of why this little girl poltergeist is so angry, while at the same time using her wealth and wiles to try and entrap a demon and an evil German woman who is killing people to feed the demon. The connection to China Town and the shaman/wizard who seeks out Gabe and Delia, and who ends up bringing the demon down, was a fascinating peek into the world of Asians in San Fran at the turn of the century and during the Great War. Though the ending was wrapped up well, I feel terrible for Delia, because she's been told by Dora that her ability to see ghosts makes it so she can't have children who will live. I am hoping in the next book, Delia and Dora will find a way for her to give birth and have a family.  I'd give this second novel in the series an A, and recommend it to anyone who loves a good ghost story and strong female protagonists.

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