Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hush Now, Don't You Cry by Rhys Bowen, Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

I just finished four great novels, several of which ended series that I started awhile ago, and am now finally getting some closure on characters and situations that have kept me wondering.

Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising were books two and three in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, (the first was Shadow and Bone) which I picked up because I'd read her latest, Six of Crows and was fascinated by the characters and the prose, and I wanted to know more about the magical and mysterious Grisha. These books take place in a setting that resembles imperialist Russia, and the main characters, Mal and Alina, have the stereotypical Russian fatalism, over confidence and quick wit that always draws me to Russian characters in books or TV shows, such as Star Trek's Pavel Chekov and Babylon 5's Susan Ivanova. Here are the blurbs for both books:
Siege and Storm: Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can't outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling's game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Ruin and Rising: The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she's fighting for. I loved the fact that Alina, though everyone seemed to want to manipulate her and use her for their own ends, whether it be sainthood or as the sun summoner to take over the world with the Darkling, always managed to keep her self grounded and fighting for the regular non-Grisha people, for her friends and for the love of her life, Mal. Though she was weak and sick and beaten down, time after time she got back up and kept moving forward toward her goal of beating back the darkness of the fold and killing the horrible power-hungry psychopath Darkling. She even managed to humanize him, in the end, by finding out his real name and the heritage that drove him to madness. I know that readers are supposed to adore Mal as well, but honestly, I found him to be a bit dim at times, and I much preferred prince Nikolai, who was funny, smart, charming and handsome, the complete package, as it were. But the ending was still kind to him, though I thought he was going to be lost for awhile there. I also loved the salty, mean old teacher Baghra, whose secrets were vital to bringing down the Darkling. The prose in this trilogy was clean and yet lyrical enough to be hypnotic, and when married to the enchanting characters, it adds up to a page-turning read that you can't put down until you've read the whole of it, from start to finish. A well earned A, with a recommendation to all Game of Thrones fans, and fans of Russian fairy tales and gripping storytelling.

Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger is the fourth and final book in the Finishing School series, which began with Etiquette and Espionage. Here's the blurb:
If one must flirt...flirt with danger.
Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine's floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia's sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she's not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster—in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.
What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series! I adore the wit and whimsy that Carriger brings to her books, and I've read all of her series thus far. My only problem with this final book in the series was that the latter half of the book felt somewhat forced and stilted. The ending seemed slightly rushed, too. Still, despite these small drawbacks, I enjoyed Sophronia's final take down of the Picklemen's coup, and I loved that all of her friends were there to help in the end. Carriger's prose is sparkling and fluffy and deliciously arch, so those who enjoy British comedy and romance should love these books. Her plots breeze along and her characters are rock solid. I'd give this series an A, and recommend it to those who love tea, wit and female protagonists who know how to be the perfect spy.

Hush Now, Don't You Cry is the 11th Molly Murphy mystery by the stalwart Rhys Bowen. I've read 5 or 6 of the other books in this series, and while I don't always enjoy Molly's nosiness, or her manipulative meekness, I do like the fact that she doesn't give up until the culprit is caught and the mystery solved. Here's the blurb:
In the latest in Rhys Bowen's award-winning historical series, Molly Murphy is supposed to give up sleuthing now that she's married, but the murder of an alderman puts her on the trail of a killer.
Molly Murphy, now Molly Sullivan, and her husband Daniel, a captain in the New York Police department, have been invited to spend their honeymoon on the Newport, RI, estate of Alderman Brian Hannan in the spring of 1904. Molly doesn't entirely trust the offer. Hannan—an ambitious man—has his eye on a senate seat and intentions of taking Tammany Hall to get it. When Hannan is found dead at the base of the cliffs that overlook the Atlantic, Molly's suspicions are quickly justified, and as much as she wants to keep her promise to Daniel that she won't do any more sleuthing now, there isn't much she can do once the chase is on. Rhys Bowen's brilliant wit and charm are on full display in Hush Now, Don't You Cry, another outstanding addition to her Agatha and Anthony award-winning historical series. Daniel gets pneumonia and is down for the count in this installment of the Molly Murphy Mysteries, so Molly has to jump through quite a few hoops just to try and find clues and figure out who killed the Alderman. I found the story of the child hidden away to be very Jane Austen-ish, and I enjoyed the gothic suspense of the ending as well, with Molly in danger of losing her life to a madman. I enjoyed the view into America at the turn of the century, and in my mind, I see Molly as a young Maureen O'Hara, red tresses and all. Bowen's prose is decent, and her plots move along in a straightforward manner, but at times her characters fall into cliche's and stereotypes that are hard to swallow. Still, her mysteries are fluffy fun for the most part, and I generally can figure out whodunit by the 4th chapter. I'd give this cozy mystery a B+, and recommend it to anyone who likes turn of the century mysteries and female protagonists who are Irish and stubborn and great at snooping around.

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