Thursday, July 28, 2016

RIP Jerry Doyle, Harry Potter Muggle Mob, Street Books, Handmaids Tale Mini Series, Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace, A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire, Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman, and The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio

Today we (as in the fans of beloved science fiction TV show Babylon 5) lost another great actor from that show, Jerry Doyle, who played Michael Garibaldi, chief of security. He was handsome, funny and cynical, and he turned a character who could easily have been two dimensional into a fully-realized being. Go with God, Mr Doyle, we will meet you beyond the Rim. As a side note, Doyle was only 5 years older than I am, at 60.

I think this is a brilliant idea, to have a "muggle mob" in celebration of the new Harry Potter play and book.

Harry Potter on Broadway: Scholastic's 'Muggle Mob'

In anticipation of this Sunday's release of Harry Potter and the Cursed
Child Parts One and Two, more than 300 Potter fans gathered last
Thursday for a massive flash mob, or "Muggle Mob
Scholastic's Manhattan headquarters building. The fans, all Scholastic
employees and their children, flooded into the street reading from a
favorite Harry Potter book and stopping traffic in the busy SoHo area.

"What better way to celebrate the release of the eighth story and start
the countdown to the biggest publishing event of the summer than to
gather a flash mob of dedicated Harry Potter fans eager to share their
love of books and reading," said Ellie Berger, president, Scholastic
Trade. "We could feel the excitement and anticipation as hundreds of
people were reading and one of the busiest streets in Manhattan came to
a standstill. It was an incredible moment and we can't wait until July

I love this idea of bringing books to the homeless, who have so little to look forward to.

Street Books 'Brings Great Reads to People Living Outside'

"For the past five years, Laura Moulton has spent her days in
underserved areas of Portland, Ore., lending books to people living on
the fringes of society
the Huffington Post reported in a profile of Moulton's Street Books, a bike-powered, mobile library she launched
in 2011 "to ensure the homeless communities have access to literature."

"Being recognized and spoken to on the street and offered a book for
someone who has really been struggling can be a really powerful thing,"
Moulton said. "Books have the power to have us feel empathy and have us
experience the thrill of a journey of someone else."

 I am thrilled that they are making a mini series of the classic Handmaids Tale. Atwood's book has themes that are more important than ever.

Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black) has joined the cast of The
Handmaid's Tale
Hulu's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel, according to the Hollywood
Reporter. The 10-episode drama stars Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men). Bruce
Miller (The 100) wrote the script and will executive produce with Daniel
Wilson, Fran Sears, Warren Littlefield and Ilene Chaiken. Atwood is a
consulting producer on the project, which was previously adapted as a
feature film in 1990 starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and
Robert Duvall. The Handmaid's Tale will premiere in 2017.

Envy of Angels (A Sin Du Jour Affair) by Matt Wallace was a book that I'd read about on Shelf Awareness and other publishing FB websites, and with it's reputation for snarky humor and fantasy, I have to say that I was intrigued. Though it's a short book (only a bit over 220 pages) it's jam-packed with hilarity, action and cameos by everyone from angels to the almighty.  Here's the blurbs:
In New York, eating out can be hell.
Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?
Welcome to Sin du Jour - where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish. Publisher's Weekly:Culinary hijinks are taken to the extreme in this entertaining novella by Wallace (the Slingers Saga). Lena and Darren are chefs who have been blackballed in the high-end restaurant community, so when they get a call from Byron Luck, the executive chef of catering company Sin du Jour, requesting their services, they jump at the chance. They soon find out, however, that Sin du Jour is no ordinary catering company, and their clients are downright devilish. They’ve been hired to help cater an event for some very dangerous entities, and the main course is fittingly over-the-top. Quite a bit is packed into this short read, including warring demon clans, angels, zombie clowns, and even some sneaky commentary on consumer culture, topped with a healthy helping of satire. The fast pace and quirky characters make for a zippy read, and there’s a clever twist at the end that will leave readers grinning and hoping for more stories featuring the Sin du Jour gang.
Though there was a lot of swearing and cursing, I still laughed my rump off during this roller-coaster ride of a novel. Lena was a real kick-arse cook, and Darren was more of a wimpy wuss than I expected, but Byron and his crew were fascinating and somehow very real, though they were in an unrealistic atmosphere. I am looking forward to the next couple of books in the series. This one deserves an A, and a recommendation to anyone who loves cynical, snarky urban fantasy.
A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire is the 9th book in the October Daye series, with the next book not available for a month or two. Here's the blurb:
Things are looking up.
For the first time in what feels like years, October "Toby" Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life -- and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.
Or not. When Queen Windermere's seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.
How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what's past is never really gone.
It's just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
I was surprised that in this novel, McGuire chose to deal with some of the questions that I posed about the entire series in my last review, though the answers weren't always satisfactory. And this time, Toby didn't get bloody and nearly dead until the last 60 pages of the book! So, progress! What I'm still unclear on is why Toby was allowed to break Oberon's law to kill Blind Michael, who was kidnapping, abusing and murdering children, and not allowed to kill the two insane rulers who are trying to chop her up and kill her this time around. I mean seriously, one of them should have died two books back. And I'm also still uncertain as to why more of the changelings don't form an underground resistance movement and work to overthrow the rulers who consider them disposable slaves. Why is Toby the only one who seems willing to fight for their rights as individuals worthy of humane treatment? I realize she's a hero and all, but once again she has to literally pull the knife from her own chest and save herself while everyone else is conveniently busy elsewhere. You'd think the King of Cats would be more on the ball than that, especially when he has plans to marry Toby. That said, this was one of my favorite of the series, right up there with the first book, Rosemary and Rue. There was also considerably less vomiting than in the previous books, so I'd call that a plus as well. I'd give it a B+ and recommend it to anyone who has read the other books in this urban fantasy series.

Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman was recommended by a website that seemed to be under the impression that this was her best work. I have read the Red Garden, Turtle Moon, Fortune's Daughter, Practical Magic, Aquamarine, Incantation, the Museum of Extraordinary Things, and the Dovekeepers, which comprises about 3/4 of her works. Therefore I had high expectations for Seventh Heaven that were, unfortunately, not met. Red Garden, Practical Magic and Dovekeepers were all much better books that this anemic offering. Set in the Long Island suburbs in 1959-60, I gather readers are supposed to see this as an indictment of middle class lives full of hypocrisy, sexism and racism. What happens, instead, is the book comes across as judgemental, preachy, cynical and ugly. Though her prose is lush and elegant, her characters are crass and stupid, repressed and pathetic. Here's the blurb: Nora Silk doesn’t really fit in on Hemlock Street, where every house looks the same. She's divorced. She wears a charm bracelet and high heels and red toreador pants. And the way she raises her kids is a scandal. But as time passes, the neighbors start having second thoughts about Nora. The women’s apprehension evolves into admiration. The men’s lust evolves into awe. The children are drawn to her in ways they can't explain. And everyone on this little street in 1959 Long Island seems to sense the possibilities and perils of a different kind of future when they look at Nora Silk...This extraordinary novel by the author of The River King and Local Girls takes us back to a time when the exotic both terrified and intrigued us, and despite our most desperate attempts, our passions and secrets remained as stubbornly alive as the weeds in our well-trimmed lawns. 
Unfortunately, I didn't like Nora Silk, who seemed clueless as to how to raise children and provide them with nutritious food and a clean environment. The fact that she'd have an affair with a teenager, instead of actually trying to find a mate who could help raise her children made no sense to me, especially in this era, when women had a hard enough time attempting a career, let alone being single parents. I also saw no evidence of the men's lust evolving into awe. In fact, I think that she was only saved from being raped by showing some of the wives how to buy nice underwear and how to give their husbands oral sex. I can't say that I liked any of the characters, (though I thought for awhile I was going to like one of the housewives who was fat, but she went on a liquid diet and abandoned her children and her husband, so I wasn't really fond of her or her cowardice. I'd give this book a C+, and recommend it only to die hard Hoffman fans who aren't averse to a bit of snobbery.

The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio is that rare creature, a self published book (via Amazon) that doesn't suck. I was unaware, when I purchased this book, that it was self published, or I would not have bought it. My time as a professional reviewer for two services, wherein I was not paid well and was forced to read only self published fiction has left scars and a bad taste in my mouth for self pubbed works that I don't think will ever leave me.  Surprisingly, there were only three minor typos in the book, and a majority of the prose was clean and sensible. The plot moves along at a swift and martial pace, with just enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Here is the blurb:
Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?
Though I loved Julianne and Kyle's love story, I was saddened that it didn't actually come to fruition until the mid 1960s, when both were middle aged and nearing retirement. I also didn't understand why Julianne didn't tell her daughter who she was right away, instead of waiting for her to be married and start a family, and for Jane, her adoptive mother, to be at death's door. I also thought that Julianne's mother and father were horrible people who didn't deserve to have children, after abandoning their son to a home and then disowning their daughter because she was in love with someone who was Catholic and "beneath her station" in society. Nasty snobs like that don't deserve the joy of raising children. Still, Julianne's story and her evolution to being the scarred and timid Helen, was fascinating. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romances set in the WW2 era in England. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Indie Bookstore Love, Chimes at Midnight and the Winter Long by Seanan McGuire, Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim, and A Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

Amen to this! I have always felt that bookstores and libraries were havens for bibliophiles like myself.

"I don't think I've ever been at an indie bookstore I didn't like. One
of the things I like is that they are so different in so many ways, but
at the same time they are similar: you get to meet people who really
care and know about books, and you get to meet a new community at each

--Jacqueline Woodson,
whose novel Another Brooklyn is August's #1 Indie Next List Pick, in a
Bookselling This Week interview

Chimes at Midnight and The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire are the seventh and eighth books, respectively, in her October Daye paranormal urban fantasy series. I've read all the other Toby books, and though I have enjoyed the strong female protagonist/heroine who saves the day, no pun intended, I have many frustrating questions about the way that these books are written. 
WHY, for example, are Toby and Tybalt (hottie King of the Cats) the only ones who can fight effectively and save one another (and in Toby's case, everyone else in the fae kingdoms)? Why, in a kingdom full of "pureblooded" fae, who have all these powers (according to their heritage) and "firstborns" who are nearly god-like in their powers and abilities, do they all consistently rely and depend on a half-blood changeling fae with bulemia and a caffeine addiction to save their children (and usually prevent a war) from some insane, power-hungry vengeful fae who inevitably hates Toby? And speaking of hatred, why, other than her posse of friends/lovers, does everyone seem to automatically loathe the sight of Toby? There are plenty of changelings in the fae/human world...why is Toby so despised, even by the people she helps? WHY is Toby the ONLY changeling who can form a coherent plan of action (she always asks if anyone else has a better plan, and she never gets a response) and then take the most heinous risks to kill the bad guy/gal/ruler, when everyone else has more power, allies, soldiers and resources? Sure, Tybalt or Sylvester or Quentin are always there when she wakes up from being disemboweled, or beaten nearly to death, or exsanguinated, but where the heck are they when the plans are being formed? Where are they when the battle rages? Usually, they are being held hostage or getting their asses kicked or being imprisoned in an iron cage. Why rely on a hero who can't even hold down a solid meal? That's something else I don't understand, Toby's seemingly squeamish attitude about blood when she's a blood-working fae, and her consistent pride in vomiting up every meal she eats, and still surviving, despite the fact that she doesn't have a decent diet or sleep pattern that allows her to be healthy or work towards recovery from her frequent near death experiences. She is a physical and emotional disaster, and that is supposed to make us root for her as a character? I love a good underdog protagonist as much as the next gal, but seriously, I don't get Toby's love affair with death and the stupidity/cruelty/racism of nearly everyone around her. Her mother is a lunatic (who is MIA), her father is dead, and her substitute dad and liege lord, Sylvester, is a lying, weak jerk whose wife and daughter despise Toby, seemingly just for existing. Here are the blurbs:
Chimes At Midnight: Things are starting to look up for October "Toby" Daye. She's training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.
Toby's efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets--and, oh, yes, save her own life. And then there's the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne....To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists--and they'll have to do it fast, because time is running out. The Winter Long via Publishers Weekly: McGuire continues the misadventures of changeling PI October Daye in this intense eighth urban fantasy novel (after Chimes at Midnight), which serves to wrap up and tie together many storylines from the previous installments. Toby Daye gets the shock of her lifetime when her old enemy, Simon Torquill—the man who turned her into a fish for 14 years—shows up on her doorstep, claiming he's been on her side all along. The shock compounds when she learns that they're related. Finally, it seems as though Toby will learn the true motivations behind the fateful events of so long ago, but the true mastermind is the last person she'd ever expect. Now Toby and her friends must face off against a terrifyingly powerful foe before the entire hidden kingdom of the Fae falls under the sway of evil. As usual, McGuire puts her heroine through the wringer, repeatedly pushing her to the brink of death in her quest to do the right thing. The tension is high, and the stakes have never been higher, as McGuire draws on elements all the way from the beginning of the series to deliver a pulse-pounding, often surprising tale
So Toby becomes addicted to goblin fruit accidentally, after a pie is thrown in her face, and miraculously recovers after finding a hope chest. She manages to depose the evil queen, but then finds, in the next installment, that both Simon (brother of Sylvester) and the Lushak are under the geis of someone she previously thought of as an ally. It didn't surprise me, at this point, that yet another ruling figure has it out for her, since most of them seem to hate her anyway.  I did enjoy the continuance of the story, but I strongly feel that the example that Toby sets of an eating disorder and cutting herself to work magic is a dangerous one for teenagers, especially teenage girls, who might find her behavior glamorized because she's the hero of the book. So I am giving these books a B, and only recommending them to adults (over 21) who don't have psychological problems.

Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim is a memoir that I had to read for my Tuesday night book group at the library. Because the head book librarian for KCLS gave us a talk about new and interesting titles for our book group back in October 2015, this year's roster of books was heavily tilted towards non fiction titles that Jen the librarian touted as good reads. Unfortunately, most of them were either terribly boring, dull or too bizarre for my tastes, and that's saying something, considering how long I've been a fan of the science fiction and fantasy genres.  Still, though I didn't vote for this book, I was game to read the tale of a South Korean/American woman's experiences teaching English in North Korea to boys (girls, apparently, aren't worthy of the same education). Here's the blurb: Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields—except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has gone undercover as a missionary and a teacher. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them English, all under the watchful eye of the regime.
Life at PUST is lonely and claustrophobic, especially for Suki, whose letters are read by censors and who must hide her notes and photographs not only from her minders but from her colleagues—evangelical Christian missionaries who don't know or choose to ignore that Suki doesn't share their faith. As the weeks pass, she is mystified by how easily her students lie, unnerved by their obedience to the regime. At the same time, they offer Suki tantalizing glimpses of their private selves—their boyish enthusiasm, their eagerness to please, the flashes of curiosity that have not yet been extinguished. She in turn begins to hint at the existence of a world beyond their own—at such exotic activities as surfing the Internet or traveling freely and, more dangerously, at electoral democracy and other ideas forbidden in a country where defectors risk torture and execution. But when Kim Jong-il dies, and the boys she has come to love appear devastated, she wonders whether the gulf between her world and theirs can ever be bridged.
Without You, There Is No Us offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world's most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls "soldiers and slaves."
When I wasn't bored out of my mind by this continual recitation of the deprivation, mind control and constant survelance and criticism of Suki, I was depressed and disgusted by her rabbit-like fearful attitude and her whining. She came off as cowardly, in not actually answering her students honestly about the outside world, only giving them half-truths and evasions so she could keep her job. I felt most sorry for her students, however, who had so little access to freedom of thought or freedom to learn about other cultures and lands. Their belief that things like kimchi are beloved the world over came off as pathetic boasting by ignorant, brainwashed children. The only bright spot came when she was finally allowed to show only one class of students the third Harry Potter movie (against the wishes of the religious missionaries, who somehow believed Harry Potter books/movies to be satanic). It seemed to me that teaching these boys to speak English was worthless, because they'd never really get the chance to use the language, since most will never be allowed to venture outside of North Korea's walls. I'd give this book a C, and only recommend it to those who are interested in Korea and it's history.

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen is the 16th book in the Molly Murphy mystery series, and it takes place during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake in California. I've read most of the other books in this series, so I generally know what to expect, but while I understand that Molly is a woman of her time, I am always surprised that she allows herself to be bullied and bossed around by her husband Daniel, who doesn't want her to investigate mysteries anymore, but still doesn't hesitate to put her into danger when he's in trouble himself, as he is in this novel. Molly also manages to get her son into trouble, in this case when he's abducted during the quake by a Chinese nanny, and Molly has to tear him from the grasp of a crazy woman who is trying to steal him away. Most mothers would never put their children at risk in the first place, and though she's supposed to be a smart woman, bringing an almost two year old child on a mission to San Francisco seems stupid. Here's the blurb: Molly Murphy Sullivan's husband Daniel, a police captain in turn-of-the-century New York City, is in a precarious position. The new police commissioner wants him off the force altogether. So when Daniel’s offered an assignment from John Wilkie, head of the secret service, he’s eager to accept. Molly can’t draw any details of the assignment out of him, even where he’ll be working. But when she spots him in San Francisco during a movie news segment, she starts to wonder if he’s in even more danger than she had first believed. And then she receives a strange and cryptic letter from him, leading her to conclude that he wants her to join him in San Francisco. Molly knows that if Daniel’s turning to her rather than John Wilkie or his contacts in the police force, something must have gone terribly wrong. What can she do for him that the police can’t? Especially when she doesn’t even know what his assignment is? Embarking on a cross-country journey with her young son, Molly can’t fathom what’s in store for her, but she knows it might be dangerous—in fact, it might put all of their lives at risk, in Rhys Bowen's Time of Fog and Fire
Even Publisher's Weekly calls this particular installment of the series "weak." I can't say that I completely disagree, as I found the plot contrived and not as well paced as previous novels. Overall it wasn't a bad novel, per se, and Bowen's prose gets cleaner and clearer with each installment. Still, I'd give it a B-, and recommend it to those who are interested in the San Francisco earthquake and its aftermath.

Monday, July 18, 2016

New Library of Congress Librarian, Jeff Bezos Does Star Trek, Two Books by Seanan McGuire, Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen and The Last Illusion by Rhys Bowen

Not that I am jealous or anything, but Dr Hayden has what sounds to me like my dream job, running the nation's library in Washington DC.I've always wanted to visit the Library of Congress, which is described as a glorious book filled haven for bibliophiles of all stripes.

Hayden Confirmed as Librarian of Congress

Yesterday, by a vote of 74-18, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. Carla D.

Hayden as the 14th Librarian of Congress
term. The longtime CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system in
Baltimore and a former president of the American Library Association was
by President Barack Obama in February. As the first woman, and the first
African American, to serve as chief executive of the Library of
Congress, Dr. Hayden succeeds acting librarian David S. Mao, who has
served since the retirement of Dr. James H. Billington last September.
She will be sworn in at a date to be determined and is expected to
assume her duties soon.

"This is truly a great honor to be nominated by President Obama and
confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead the nation's library, the Library
of Congress," Dr. Hayden said. "It has been my privilege to serve the
citizens of Baltimore for 23 years and help restore the Enoch Pratt Free
Library as a world-renowned institution. I look forward to working with
the dedicated staff of the Library of Congress. I will be honored to
build on the legacy and accomplishments of my predecessors in this
position, to be part of a continuing movement to open the treasure chest
that is the Library of Congress even further and to make it a place that
can be found and used by everyone."

Again, I find myself deeply envious of Jeff Bezos, who got to be on the set of the latest Star Trek movie...and who better to play an avaricious Ferengi than the billionare who created an online store that shut down many a bookstore over the US?

Amazon's Bezos Has Alien Cameo in Star Trek Beyond
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has been able "to live out every
Trekkie's fantasy by playing an alien
in the new Star Trek movie," according to the Associated Press. Producer
J.J. Abrams and director Justin Lin confirmed his appearance in Star
Trek Beyond, which opens Friday.

Lin told the AP that Bezos "was awesome. It was like a president was
visiting, you know? He had a big entourage! But it didn't matter because
he was so into it. He had to wait around all day because it was one day
we were shooting like three different scenes and, it was also credit to
Jeff because... he just nailed it every time."

Chris Pine, who stars as Capt. James T. Kirk, said, "I was there for the
bit with his like nine bodyguards and three limos. It was really
intense. I had no idea who he was. Not a clue. But he was obviously very

What kind of alien Bezos plays was not disclosed. We're betting he was a
One Salt Sea and Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire are books 5 and 6 in the October Daye paranormal urban fantasy series that I swore I'd stop reading after the first few books. Unfortunately, the protagonist Toby (and McGuire's razor sharp prose) drew me back in with a vengence. Now I am desperate for books 7, 8 and 9, while book 10 comes out next month. Here's the blurbs:

One Salt Sea--October "Toby" Daye is finally doing all right—and that inevitably means it's time for things to take a turn for the worse. Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist.
To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She'll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.
Toby's search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves. But someone is determined to stop her—and whoever it is isn't playing by Oberon's Laws. As the battle grows more and more personal, one thing is chillingly clear. When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away. 
Ashes of Honor--
It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep.  She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities, but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.
To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne. Chelsea, a teleporter like her father, is the kind of changeling the old stories warn about: the ones with all the strength and none of the control.  She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped. Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. Toby thought the last year was bad.  She has no idea.Ashes of Honor is the sixth installment of the highly praised Toby Daye series.
One Salt Sea culminates with the death (SPOILER) of Toby's Selkie lover Connor, and after losing her daughter Gilly to the mortal realm, it's just one too many emotional blows for Toby, who, as usual, throws herself into danger constantly because of guilt (over not being able to raise her daughter or tell her the secret of her fae heritage) and a serious lack of regard for her personal safety. What I loved about OSS is the lighthearted moments combined with the moments of sheer terror as Toby tries to escape the fae who are trying to kill her. Her ride on the wheelchair in the lap of a mermaid is not to be missed, and her final battle with Raysel is also fairly satisfying. Though I saw the transfer of Goldengreen's throne by the time I was halfway through the book, it's good to know that Toby manages to keep it together politically while she's beat up and grieving.(I have to make note of the fact that I never liked Connor for Toby as a significant other. He was wimpy and always in need of rescue. It seemed fairly obvious to me after reading the first book that Toby belongs with the King of Cats, Tybalt.) All in all, this was an excellent read, and it segued well into the next book, Ashes of Honor.
AOH deals with Toby being tapped to retrieve another stolen child, this time the teleporting illegitimate daughter of Etienne, who trained Toby while she was at court. Up to this point in the series, Etienne has been a real bastard to Toby, very much a stickler for protocol and the type of fae who looks down on changelings for their mixed heritage. Yet all this time, he's created his own changeling with the head of UC Berkeley's Folklore dept, an Irishwoman who of course loathes Toby on sight. (Everyone seems to either love or hate Toby, there are no inbetweens or grey areas in her life, which seems somewhat extreme). Of course the hypocrisy is completely lost on Etienne, and if I were Toby I would have told him to go soak his head when he came begging for her help. But where there's a child in danger, Toby can't help herself, she has to nearly kill herself getting the kid back. Fortunately, Tybalt and his cats, May the former Fetch, Danny the troll and Quentin the squire (as well as Raj, the cat kingdom heir) are all on hand to help Toby stop Chelsea before she destroys the portals and the lines between the fae and human realms. Tybalt finally gets himself together and declares his love of Toby, only to have her take the rest of the book to figure out that she is in love with him, too. There is an epic battle for the Cat throne and poor Raj has to realize that his father is a power hungry douchebag and renounce him in favor of Tybalt. All of this cat love lead me to wonder what happens if Tybalt gets Toby pregnant? Will she have a litter of kittens or several very furry human babies who can shape-change into kittens at inconvenient moments?  I will assume these questions are answered in the next two books, which I have on hold at the library. At any rate, I'd give both books an A, and recommend them to anyone who liked the first 5 Sookie Stackhouse books, or anyone who is looking for a female version of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. 

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen was recommended to me as part of a list of YA paranormal books that were funny and fascinating. What I was expecting was something closer to Patricia Briggs works, with the ultimate dystopia, Hell, being ruled over by an evil librarian. What I got was a surprisingly funny book that read like an extra-long episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, without the Scooby gang. Here's the blurb:
He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.
When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).
I wouldn't really classify this as "horror" genre fiction, because there's not enough grim death for that. Instead, our heroine Cyn just keeps getting funnier as she makes deals with demons and tries to stop the demon librarian from taking her best friend as his evil bride. Her crush of a lifetime, Ryan, (who incidently is playing Sweeney Todd in their school musical, while she's the set designer and stage manager for the show) is along for the ride as Cyn refuses to give up the fight for the souls of her school. The internal and external dialog is hilarious, and the plot swift and sincere. If you're a fan of teenage girls being theater nerds and kicking ass, you will love this A+ book, which I highly recommend.

The Last Illusion by Rhys Bowen is the 9th Molly Murphy mystery novel the 12th one that I've read. I'm fairly casual about reading the Molly Murphy series, generally because I don't like how Molly has to kowtow to her husband, Daniel Sullivan, who comes across as an ill-tempered bully, and his horrible mother, who has also been rude and mean to Molly. Fortunately, in the later MM books, Molly has found ways around Daniel's refusal to allow her to run her detective agency, though I find it hard to believe that he is so blind to her manipulations and lies. This book takes place while Molly and Daniel are still engaged, however, and I was interested in it because it takes place in a theater and involves the famed magician Harry Houdini. Here's the blurb:
Irish immigrant and private detective Molly Murphy is thrilled to have a ticket to see world-famous illusionist Harry Houdini. But before he can even take the stage, the opening act goes horribly wrong--and the sensational Signor Scarpelli's lovely assistant is sawed in half. In the aftermath, Scarpelli accuses Houdini of tampering with his equipment. Who else but the so-called Handcuff King could have got a hold of his trunk of tricks, which he keeps under lock and key?
And it seems the maestro Scarpelli's not the only one critical of Houdini. Now that he's raised the stakes to such a perilous level, lesser acts are being put out of business. With everyone on edge, Houdini's wife hires Molly to watch his back. But how can she protect a man who literally risks his life every night? Now it's up to Molly to keep an eye on Houdini and find out whether these masters of illusion are simply up to their tricks--or if there truly is something much more treacherous going on....
With sparkling wit, charming characters, and historic detail, multiple award winner Rhys Bowen brings early-twentieth-century New York City and the fantastic performers of the time vividly to life in The Last Illusion.
There was a lot of redundancy and info-dumping in this book that really slowed the plot to a crawl several times. Still, when things start moving faster in the last third of the book, it's a real roller coaster ride of disguise and reveals until the conclusion. Molly finds Bess, Houdini's wife to be something of a simpering child, and I liked the fact that she didn't allow this view of petite womanhood to erode her own self esteem and regard for her healthy, larger figure. That said, the story was decent and a nice peek into stage life at the turn of the 20th century. I'd give it a B, and recommend it to anyone interested in the legend of Harry Houdini.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Anthony Ryan's The Waking Fire, The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri and Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire

I've been inundated with books lately (which is a good thing, don't get me wrong) but I've not been able to get through some of them as fast as I'd like due to Crohns disease flares and other difficulties at home. That said, my summer reading list is quite hefty, just like I like it.

The first book I'm reviewing today was given to me as an ARC by the Ace/Rock "Rockstar" reader program in exchange for an honest review. I've read Ryan's other series, "Raven's Shadow," which starts with Blood Song, moves to Tower Lord and completes with Queen of Fire. Though it's military fantasy, which I am normally not a fan of, (unless the author is John Scalzi), I was intrigued by the characters in that series, and by skipping over the battle descriptions I was able to make it through to the end. I did note in my reviews of those works that Ryan could have edited out many of the battle scenes and other extraneous materials and still had a rollicking good read on his hands.
Unfortunately, his new epic fantasy, The Waking Fire (book 1 of the Draconis Memoria series) also needed a great deal of trimming, of both battle scenes and redundant info-dumps that drag down the pace of the plot to a crawl.
I found the prose to be rather ornate and dense as well. And where Ryan usually excels in making his protagonists fascinating and intriguing, in the Waking Fire, he's got 3 POVs and more sub-stories than you can shake a stick at, so his protagonists never have time to be fully realized and maintain the reader's attention. So while we are supposed to follow the adventures of Clay, Lizanne and Hilemore, we end up being confused as to what each of these people really has to do with each other and the plot. This made the book easy for me to put down in frustration of having to backtrack to figure out what Hilemore's ship has to do with Lizanne's mission and Clay's adventure.
Here's the blurb:
Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighbouring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.
  As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

The fact that the people of this world have made dragons nearly extinct by killing and bleeding them and then using their blood to enhance themselves is made to seem normal and appropriate, when in reality it is barbaric and cruel, and I was not at all surprised that the dragons want to rebel. I felt much more sympathy for them than I did for the humans, who seemed rather stupid. Clay, who is supposed to be the real hero of the three protagonists, comes off as just another uneducated boy who thinks with his dick and ends up being used by a fanatic. There wasn't really a good ending to the book, yet I felt like I deserved a good HEA after a 580 page slog through this depressing novel.  I'm going to give the Waking Fire a generous C+, and I'd only recommend it to people who are heavily into ships and dragons and battles with a high death toll.

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri was a garage sale find, and since it takes place in Ireland (where I've visited) it sounded like it would be right up my alley. It was a far more intricate story that I thought it would be, and the themes of domestic violence and reinventing yourself after heartbreak were well done in nice, clean prose. Here's the blurb: "You can always start again," Kate Robinson's mother once told her. "All it takes is a new thread."Overwhelmed by heartbreak and loss, Kate follows her mother's advice and flees to Ireland, her ancestral homeland, hoping to reinvent herself. In the seaside hamlet of Glenmara, the struggling twentysix-year-old fashion designer quickly develops a bond with members of the local lace-making society—and soon she and the lace makers are creating a line of exquisite lingerie, their skilled hands bringing flowers, Celtic dragons, nymphs, saints, kings, and queens to life with painterly skill. The circle also offers them something more: the strength to face their desires and fears. But not everyone in this charming, fading Gaelic village welcomes Kate, and a series of unexpected events threatens to unravel everything the women have worked so hard for."
The charming village setting was well described, if perhaps described too often, but the characters and the protagonists were so full of life that it was easy to forgive the lapse. Kate and Sullivan were quite the couple, and I loved reading about each of the lace maker's lives, which had not just heartbreak, but also joy and beauty and friendship and love. The plot is like an Irish reel, it's paced but over before you know it. I wish I'd made it to Glenmara, which is somewhere near Galway when I visited Ireland, because it sounds like my kind of town. Small towns are always full of the best characters, whether they're in Ireland or Iowa.  I'd give this book an A, and recommend it as a "beach read" to anyone who is interested in handicrafts or Ireland.

Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire is the 4th book in her October Daye series of paranormal urban fantasy/romance. This time Toby confronts her mother and finds out who she really is, while also dealing with all the fae who hate her and want her dead. As usual, our heroine is in grave danger, except this time, she actually dies, and is brought back to life thanks to her mother rekindling her heritage. Here's the blurb:
October "Toby" Daye, changeling knight in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, finds the delicate balance of her life shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended.
Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile.
Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher, for the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda. With everything on the line, Toby will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can't find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she never thought she'd have to face again...
Though I love Toby, this novel has her in constant motion and grieving the loss of Lily while trying to stay alive when Oleander is poisoning everyone and Raysel, the Dukes daughter, is gunning for her. I found that all the terrible things that kept putting her near death to be very taxing to me, as a reader, because we know that she can't actually die, because she's the heroine who is the engine to this series train. So reading about her pain was, well, painful. That said, learning about her heritage and why the evil folks are out to get her (they always take the time to outline their motivation for killing her) was a good way to further flesh out her character. As always, McGuire's prose is lean and clean, and her plots are like a cannonball rolling down the streets of San Francisco...once things start going, you can't stop reading until you're at the end, because the pace is ridiculous (somewhat like the car chases in the book, which are well over the speed limit). Another well deserved A, and a recommendation to anyone who has read the other books in the October Daye series. I'm currently reading the fifth book, and will read the 6th one after that. Then I will probably take a break from these novels for awhile, as they're fun in short doses of a two or three books.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

RIP Elie Wiesel, Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley and A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

I read Night by Elie Wiesel when I was in my late teens, and it overwhelmed me with sadness and despair at the inhumanity of prejudiced humans against other humans they deem lesser, in this case by their religion. It made me horrified at my German ancestry, and at the same time, it uplifted me because Wiesel wrote so eloquently of the inexhaustible human spirit, and the immortality of love. Rest in peace, Elie.

Obituary Note: Elie Wiesel

"the Auschwitz survivor who became an eloquent witness for the six
million Jews slaughtered in World War II and who, more than anyone else,
seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world's conscience," died
Saturday, the New York Times reported. He was 87.

Wiesel, who wrote several dozen books and in 1986 was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize, "was defined not so much by the work he did as by the
gaping void he filled.... [B]y the sheer force of his personality and
his gift for the haunting phrase, Mr. Wiesel, who had been liberated
from Buchenwald as a 16-year-old with the indelible tattoo A-7713 on his
arm, gradually exhumed the Holocaust from the burial ground of the
history books."

Night, the 1960 English translation of his autobiographical account of
the horrors he witnessed in the camps as a teenage boy, has sold more
than 10 million copies, "three million of them after Oprah Winfrey
picked it for her book club in 2006 and traveled with Mr. Wiesel to
Auschwitz," the Times wrote, adding that it was followed by novels,
books of essays and reportage, two plays and even two cantatas--"an
average of a book a year, 60 books by his own count in 2015." His Night
Trilogy includes Dawn and Day.

President Obama, who visited the site of the Buchenwald concentration
camp with Wiesel in 2009, said Saturday: 'He raised his voice, not just
against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in
all its forms. He implored each of us, as nations and as human beings,
to do the same, to see ourselves in each other and to make real that
pledge of 'never again.' "

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall was recommended to me by the publisher's blog and email newsletter, as a story similar to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Help. While I could see how the young Southern girl POV would remind people of Harper Lee's Scout, I found the book to have more echoes of Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle Stop Cafe mingled with Mockingbird and the Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Therefore, though the book was fairly derivative, I did enjoy the lively prose and first person POV of Starla, the red-headed feisty child who brings us her tale of running away and getting into trouble with an abused black woman in 1960s Mississippi.Here's the blurb:
From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.
In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old spitfire Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three—that’s when Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer. Starla’s daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf, so Mamie, with her tsk-tsk sounds and her bitter refrain of “Lord, give me strength,” is the nearest thing to family Starla has. After being put on restriction yet again for her sassy mouth, Starla is caught sneaking out for the Fourth of July parade. She fears Mamie will make good on her threat to send Starla to reform school, so Starla walks to the outskirts of town, and just keeps walking. . . . If she can get to Nashville and find her momma, then all that she promised will come true: Lulu will be a star. Daddy will come to live in Nashville, too. And her family will be whole and perfect. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. The trio embarks on a road trip that will change Starla’s life forever. She sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.
What interested me is how Starla began her journey for purely selfish and idealistic, overly romantic reasons, and once she stumbles on the reality of the cruelty, poverty, prejudice and powerlessness black women lived with every day at that time, she begins to see beyond her own needs and to the needs of those less fortunate around her. She becomes less of a brat and more of a realized character. Her understanding of how horrible people come in all colors also brings about Starla's realization that she has a strong sense of justice and a need to protect those who are weak or helpless. The prose was easy and breezy, but the plot completely predictable, and the ending almost syrupy sweet. Still, I'd give this book a B and recommend it to anyone who loves Southern fiction of the 60s, and funny, troublesome protagonists. 

Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley was the sequel to the dynamite Rook, which came out in 2012. I wasn't aware of the Rook until a couple of months ago, and once I started reading it, I was entranced. Brilliantly written and full of fascinating characters, The Rook reminded me that there are still authors out there who care about telling a truly innovative and exciting story. Hence, I was delighted to learn that the sequel, the Stiletto, was coming out this month, and I managed to get a copy from Barnes and the day after it was released.  Often sequels are a disappointment, and due to the size of this sequel (over 600 pages) I was worried that it might not live up to the Rook, but I was worried for nothing. Stiletto was a delight from start to finish, full of the legendary dry wit that the British are known for, and introducing more intrepid pawns and characters from both the Checquy and the Grafters. Here's the blurbs: 
When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—-and the bureaucratic finesse—-to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:
The Checquy—-the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural threats, and...
The Grafters—-a centuries-old supernatural threat.
But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war. Kirkus Reviews:The Brotherhood of the Checquy, England's "secret government organization that employed the supernatural to protect the populace from the supernatural," believes it's time to form an alliance with the Wetenschappeljik Broederschap van Natuurkundigen, known as the Grafters. Since a failed 17th-century invasion of the Isle of Wight, the Grafters, Belgian alchemists who have developed fantastical modifications for the human body, have been the Checquys' mortal enemies. That means there are dissenters to the merger, but influential Rook Myfanwy Thomas (Checquy agents are ranked as chess pieces) supports the alliance. But the diplomatic scenario becomes thorny when the Checquy learn that the Grafters haven't told them about the Antagonists, a terror group that's pursued the Grafter delegation to England. O'Malley (The Rook, 2012) weaves a complex, action-packed, cast-of-thousands narrative. Thomas becomes a target late, but Pawn Felicity Clements, one of the preternatural MI5-type agents, leads the action. With Myfanwy serving as the M to Felicity's Bond, both become appealing, nuanced characters. We first see Felicity target a killer whose victims have B-positive blood and confront the Oblong of Mystery—a huge fleshy entity occupying a house—but then Antagonist-inspired bad stuff threatens negotiations, and she's assigned to the Grafter delegation as security for Odette Leliefeld, scion of Grafter royalty, allowing O'Malley to riff on the buddy-comedy genre while continuing to add paranormal frosting to the spy-thriller genre. A craftily imaginative mashup of spies and the supernatural, but it's a tad too long for all but the most ardent fans.
Felicity and Odette were a great combo, and seeing things through both their eyes was a great way to really understand how different, and yet how similar their organizations were. Though I wasn't fond of the rich, spoiled and weak Odette, by the end I realized she had hidden depths and would be just fine as an agent of their combined forces. Though the book could have used a bit of a trim here and there, I was never bored while reading it, which is unusual for a book this size. O'Malley's prose is golden, and his plot is twisty enough to keep even the most jaded reader up late, turning pages into the wee hours. A well deserved A, with a fervent plea for the third in this series to come out by early next year. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves Doctor Who, or Monty Python, or supernatural tales and spy stories.

I received a trade paperback copy of A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I'd heard of this steampunk genre book on Facebook, on the Gail Carriger (author of the Soulless and Imprudence series) page, and it sounded right up my alley, with an intelligent female protagonist in a steampunk setting attempting to solve a mystery. Veronica Speedwell is an adventurer and a dauntless young woman who doesn't let romance turn her into a simpering, weak-headed fool. She never lets circumstances stop her from her intended goal, and she uses her considerable wits to get herself and her companion out of danger several times. I was utterly enchanted by Veronica, especially due to my love of science and butterflies, which Veronica collects and sells to support her expeditions. Here is the blurb:
London, 1887. After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth. Kirkus Reviews:Determined to live an independent life, Veronica Speedwell is anything but a proper Victorian lady. So when her home is attacked during her aunt's funeral, a rollicking adventure ensues. Mastermind of the charming Lady Grey Mysteries series, Raybourn (Bonfire Night, 2014, etc.) introduces her latest feisty heroine, deftly twining together suspense, romance, and cracking good dialogue. Certainly, lepidoptery should be a suitable hobby for a lady; chasing pretty things like butterflies can hold no dangers. But Veronica, a foundling raised from birth by her two late aunts, has taken things a little too far: by capturing and selling highly sought-after butterflies, she's financed her own expeditions to exotic locations, where she's indulged in emotionally careful yet physically torrid affairs. After rescuing Veronica from her attacker, Baron von Stauffenbach whisks her to London, depositing her in the care of the enigmatic Mr. Stoker, a brooding, Byronic hero of the natural history persuasion. Before the Baron can return to tell Veronica what he knows of her mother, he's found dead, and the police like Stoker for a suspect. Stoker and Veronica partner up to find the real culprit, hurtling pell-mell into a captivatingly intricate plot, including a traveling circus, the fetid Thames, and the Tower of London, as they dodge villains with murky motives and hulking henchmen. Soon, they realize that Stauffer's death may be connected to the mystery of Veronica's birth parents, and Stoker himself has a few secrets to discover, including what really happened on his disastrous expedition to the Amazon, which left him scarred and disgraced. As Veronica and Stoker careen through dastardly plot twists, they match wits, bantering with skill worthy of Tracey and Hepburn. A thrilling—and hilarious—beginning to a promising new series.
I completely agree with the Kirkus Reviewer in that reading this delightful novel is like watching a good Tracey/Hepburn film. You just can't take your eyes off of the two of them as they banter and slowly reveal their secrets to one another as their chemistry sizzles. The prose is gloriously British and yet remains clean and clear while the reader hangs on during the roller-coaster ride of the plot. I was so engrossed in this page-turner that I stayed up way too late to finish it last night. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys strong female protagonists, the steampunk genre and a ripping good read created by an expert storyteller. Oh, and I sincerely hope that the sequel comes along soon!