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There are some authors whose names you see all the time but you never read them, for one reason or another. I always associated Christina Dodd with romantic suspense - heavy on the romance part - and it's generally not my cup of tea, although of course I'm an avid fan of J. D. Robb. So there you go.
I picked up Because I'm Watching, and I am now kicking myself up and down the street. Yeah, judging books/covers, that whole litany applies here, and I'm a goofball.
Madeline Hewitt has gone through more than anyone should have to. She and her college roommates were assaulted, and two years ago, her fiancee was murdered. She's come to Virtue Falls, WA, to see if she can find a quiet place to put herself back together. Jacob Denikov is hailed as a war hero, but he's hiding in his darkened house, working up the nerve to kill himself. Then Maddie drives her car into his living room, and that begins a chain of events that will have a lasting effect on the entire town.
Okay, a couple of things. First of all, Because I'm Watching is part of a series that is apparently set in Virtue Falls, and I wasn't aware of that so now I've gotta back-fill. I'm good with that. And I can definitively say that Because I'm Watching stands on its own. But it's obvious there's backstory there I should have, and now I want to have it. So there's that.
Then too, there's romance, sure, but it's not the driving force behind the story, and what a story it is! Twists, turns, and an edginess I honestly didn't expect. I was ready for something cozier, and Because I'm Watching is definitely not a cozy read. There's no dripping gore but there's no shying away from the evil and pain that's out there.
And then, I have to admit it - it's been a long time since I developed a huge crush on a character, but Christina Dodd's created one I just want to spend more time with. No, I'm not telling who. Read it and guess.
So there you have it. Mea culpa, I should have been reading the Virtue Falls series all along. No idea about her other series but this one is definitely two thumbs up!
NOTE: We’re concentrating on Christina Dodd’s “Virtue Falls” series here. If you want any of her other books signed, please let us know in advance so we can have them in! Thanks!
The other day, JB wondered if perhaps Kathy Mallory might be losing her edge, becoming a bit more like an actual normal human.
Having just finished Carol O’Connell’s latest Mallory novel, Blind Sight, I can guaranted that no, Mallory’s the sociopath we all know and love, and fear just a bit. She is definitely The Law.
And her goal is catching the man who has cut out the hearts of four people – including a nun – and left the bodies on the lawn of Gracie Manor. But more than that, a twelve-year-old boy is missing. Jonah is the nephew of the murdered nun, and he’s blind. Mallory will do whatever it takes to get him back. Whatever. It. Takes.
I read Blind Sight in a Vicodin haze from a tooth extraction, and I couldn’t wait for the fuzziness and/or pain to subside to finish it. I had to know! This is a dangerous book – once you start, you won’t be able to stop. Carol O’Connell is at her finest, and I was completely captivated. I’ll have to go back and read it without brain-fog since I know I missed out on some of the complexities, but hey, there are wose things to have to “suffer” through than re-reading a great book, right?
Generally, when people think of Kelley Armstrong, they think of her urban fantasy writing, which is great, no question. But they often forget she writes amazing thrillers, like the Nadia Stafford trilogy (which I adore).
She's back in thriller-writing mode with City of the Lost (no signed copies available that I'm aware of), and I couldn't be more pleased.
Casey Duncan is a detective and a good one, but she can't keep her best friend, Diana, safe from Diana's abusive ex. Diana has run before, and Graham always finds her, and Casey's run with Diana in the past but has been unable to protect her. Now Diana wants to run one more time, to a haven that is kept off the grid. A little town in the Yukon wilderness where people can go when they need to disappear, sometimes for a few months, sometimes forever. And Diana wants Casey to run with her.
Casey has a reason for wanting to hide as well. Deep in her past, she killed someone and got away with it. Now it's possible that past is catching up to her, so maybe following Diana to this hidden town might not be such a bad thing.
But it turns out that the town of Rockton needs a good detective because the people there are being terrorized by a killer, and the sheriff needs all the help he can get if he's going to keep Rockton safe. Casey's just hoping her city street smarts are enough, because now a lot more is at stake than just an abusive ex and a shady past.
Kelley Armstrong has always been able to tell a good story, and City of the Lost is, in my mind, one of her absolute best. Yes, it falls into all the cliched categories - fast-paced, page-turner, action-packed - and it has my major requirement, fabulous flawed characters. But I was delighted by how skilfully Ms. Armstrong led me down the garden path and then twisted things around so I was surprised. All the way to the end, she kept the suspense going and I was sucked in all the way.
Let me put it this way - City of the Lost is written in present tense and I can't wait to go back and re-read it! Yeah, it's that good. Kudos to Kelley Armstrong!
"Greer drew a long breath and let the air out slowly. ‘I know the virals are coming back, Michael,' he said, 'because Amy told me.'"
At the end of his second book, it looked like Justin Cronin had boxed himself in. It looked like everything had been resolved. But of course that couldn't be the case, and not just because these books have been billed as a trilogy. There were just too many loose ends. The City of Mirrors brings us the final conflict, because The Twelve weren't the source of the viral infection, just the results. Now Amy has to confront the one who is at the heart of it all, the Zero, the Destroyer. Timothy J. Fanning.
Justin Cronin has created something that will go down as a classic, epic story. It's not just a military story gone wrong or urban fantasy, but a deep and complex world very much grounded in our reality, filled with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Granted, not everyone in these books is ordinary, but they all started that way, and in The City of Mirrors, Justin Cronin brings is incredible talent to bear, letting us see that even the darkest of the dark can have bright moments, and that all the good intentions in the world can be thwarted by random, unforeseeable acts.
At it's heart, though, The City of Mirrors - and indeed the whole trilogy - is about love and family. Make no mistake, there's action galore and violence is the order of the day, but at the end, protecting those you love, your family of the heart, and avenging them if need be, are what drives this story, and Justin Cronin delivers.
In fact, the end of the book left me wanting to go back and read the whole trilogy all over again. There will never be another story like the one of Amy NLN (no last name).
Okay then, I had to take a break from Seanan McGuire's "Toby Daye" series because, while it's exceptional and wonderful, it's very, very dark.
So I decided to go in a completely different direction and read straight-up epic fantasy. I grabbed Sam Sykes' first one, The City Stained Red (signed copies available - very limited number, though, and I'm not giving mine up!) and dove right in.
I'm about to geek out a bit on you. If you're not a fantasy person, you should have already skipped this anyway, but fair warning.
Sam Sykes has the classic D&D adventure group - three warriors, a thief, a cleric and a mage/wizard. I was immediately at home with this bunch since I started playing D&D back in the '70s. But here's the cool thing - he doesn't start at the beginning of their journey. In fact, the quest is over, they saved the day and did whatever they were supposed to do, and now they've come to town to get paid. And that's where things go incredibly wrong.
Plot-wise, that's really all you need to know, except to say that things are not tidily wrapped up in the first book, and I've got the second one, The Mortal Tally (Orbit, $16.00, again a very few signed copies left) in hand and I can't wait to get my hands on the third one when I can. The plot is complex, dynamic and an intriguing look at the impacts of commerce and religion on a city and its economy. It also has huge spiders, which oddly enough, didn't creep me out at all, and they should have. But there you go, Sykes is that good.
Of course, for me, it's all about the people, and here's where Sam Sykes really hits it out of the ballpark. His core group are what I expected: reluctantly heroic, dedicated to their own individual causes but unable to ignore their friendships, quirky and wonderfully vulnerable at the most inconvenient times. As I said, what I expected of an adventuring group. But his secondary characters absolutely steal the show! They're determined and sometimes scary, at odds with each other, and in one particular case, so charming that I can't wait to see more. The deeper I got into this world, the more I wanted to know, and now I'm hopelessly addicted.
Don't let the size of The City Stained Red daunt you. Yeah, it's big, but I promise, Sam Sykes writes like a wizard himself, and the pages will just fly past.
I always look forward to Gigi Pandian's "Accidental Alchemist" novels, so naturally I was thrilled to read The Elusive Elixir especially since at the end of The Masquerading Magician, our intrepid gargoyle, Dorian Robert-Houdin was in an increasingly bad way.
Zoe is determined in her quest to find a cure for Dorian's condition, and her search for the solution takes her to Paris. However, it hasn't been all that long since she was there - 1942 - so she's recognized. That throws her off her stride and the return of an old acquaintance really turns her around, leaving Zoe spinning helplessly as people around her find themselves in more and more danger.
The Elusive Elixir has a much more serious tone to it than the first two books, which caught me a bit by surprise. In this book, Gigi Pandian explores some of the more unsettling aspects of Zoe's past, and there's almost a sadness to certain parts of the book that bemused me a bit. But as always, Ms. Pandian weaves a fascinating story and infuses history along with her recipes into a wonderful concoction that is sure to please!
And I cannot wait to try out those recipes, I've gotta say. She's had me craving pasta through the whole book!
Around the time of Noah's flood, an angel came to the earth to destroy humanity. Qaphsial is actually running a little behind schedule but he figures if he can wipe out humanity, he can be back in Heaven in time to catch up on all his work, and he'll have incurred Divine favor along the way. He reaches into his pocket for the instrument of destruction, and...wait, where is it? Not here, not there.
That's the beginning of Richard Kadrey's The Everything Box, and it's a hoot. Immediately after experiencing Qaphsial's consternation, we're brought to modern day where Charlie Cooper - Coop to his friends, and, well, pretty much everybody - is working his way into a heavily guarded home to steal something. Coop's a thief, and he's very good at what he does, which is steal magical objects. Coop himself is not magical, not exactly, and he certainly can't wield any sort of magic, but he's got talent.
He's also got unreliable cohorts, and things don't go the way he planned, through absolutely no fault of his own. Now he's offered a job, steal a box, simple and easy, and the jail time he's been facing will disappear, as if by magic. Again, easy enough, Coop thinks But he's not the only one after this box (remember Qaphsial and his missing doohickey?), and there's a lot Coop's not being told.
But he's intrepid. And stubborn. And a little pissed off.
I love Richard Kadrey's "Sandman Slim" series, no question, but The Everything Box is, in my opinion, a step up and beyond those. I know, who knew he could out-do his earlier brilliance, but Kadrey's managed it, and not just because The Everything Box isn't written in present tense. It's got Kadrey's trademark humor, fast pacing, wild and insanely perfect people - not necessarily human all the time, but great people anyway (he's got a trio of little girls who are the epitome of Mean Girls that stole my heart) - and a caper that should have been straightforward, but this is Richard Kadrey after all, so nothing is straightforward except the fun. It would be fun to see more of Coop and his merry band of misfits, but so far The Everything Box is a stand-alone. Still, you never know, and a girl can always hope, right?
Again, I don't want to say too much about the plot in Patricia Briggs's latest "Mercy Thompson" novel, Fire Touched because if you haven't read the series (and whyever have you not? Love, love, love this series!) nothing will make sense, and if you have read the series (good for you!), I don't want to spoil anything. Let's just say that trolls are bad for cars, bridges and werewolves, and the Fire Touched boy of the title is yet another person who will find his way into your heart, even if you do want to smack him sometimes.
There's something about the way Patricia Briggs writes that just knocks me over. It's deceptively easy; she has to put huge amounts of time into it because her writing flows so smoothly that I often find myself re-reading a paragraph simply because it's so wonderful. I dropped back into this world where I was visiting old friends and was so glad to spend time with them again. I'd re-read the whole series, except there's so much on my to-be-read pile including the rest of Seanan McGuire's series. But man oh man, do I love the way Patricia Briggs writes!
Alanis McLachlan doesn't believe in ghosts despite the fact that she owns the White Magic Five and Dime, but the person standing in her doorway was supposed to be dead. He was killed thirty years ago. But there he is, and with him comes trouble.
You know who I'm talking about, right? You've read the first two in the great series by Steve Hockensmith and Lisa Falco, The White Magic Five and Dime and Fool Me Once. If you haven't, you absolutely must read these before you read Give The Devil His Due (April), and since it isn't out until April, there's time.
So you have a blast from the past, a velvet Elvis, and lots of laugh-out-loud cultural references.
"I was now old enough to see the day when the average teenager (Clarice didn't qualify) couldn't spot a Terminator reference. My time had clearly passed. If we'd been Eskimos, I would have crawled out onto the ice to die."
So far as the tarot goes, we've had the Major Arcana and Wands. Give The Devil His Due deals with Cups, and emotions are definitely running high in this one! Seriously, this is a well-written and entertaining series. No gore, no harsh language (although "duck" is used occasionally, only they don't mean mallards) and people I really truly love. I can't recommend this series by Steve Hockensmith and Lisa Falco highly enough!
Second books are often the test of an author's skill and talent. They've had time to perfect that first book, but the second could be rushed, fall short.
That is definitely NOT true of Glen Erik Hamilton's second book, Hard Cold Winter. If anything, he steps up his game, and I wasn't sure that was possible since I thought Past Crimes was absolutely brilliant. But he's done it, no question.
Van Shaw is back in Seattle, having mustered out of the Army. He doesn't want to work at his grandfather's bar - too many memories, and he's got plenty of those already since he's living in Dono's house - and he wants to stay away from the shady life, but work is kind of hard to come by. That puts him at loose ends when an old friend of Dono's asks Van to go look for his niece. Van knew Will through Dono, and niece Elana is just a few years younger than Van so their paths crossed a lot in the past. Besides, Elana's had questionable taste in men, so if she's gotten into something, Van figures he can handle it.
But it turns out Elana's landed a big fish. Kend Haymes's father's one of the richest men in the area, maybe even in the world, so it looks like Elana may be stepping up in the world. But she and Kend have gone to a cabin in the woods out on the peninsula, and she's been out of contact for too long, so Will is worried. Van figures it's a quick day trip, a nice hike even if it's a cold February, and he can make a few bucks, put Will's mind at ease and see an old friend.
What could go wrong?
Glen Erik Hamilton has created some of the best people around, and in Hard Cold Winter, he's introduced more, including Van's old Ranger buddy, Leonard Pak, who's been traveling the country, driven by his PTSD. It's obvious that Hamilton's done a lot of research, not just into all things military, but into the seedy underbelly of high stakes gambling, organized crime, and domestic terrorism. I don't want to say more, but trust me that he knows his stuff.
JB said Hard Cold Winter was the book of the year, and I can't dispute that. Granted, it's only March, and I see some potentially great things ahead, but I can't imagine a book that would drop this out of the top three. I can absolutely guarantee that Glen Erik Hamilton is a name to watch. He's going places, and we're going to be able to say "We knew him when."
So, I got this package in the mail a while back, and it turns out it was an Advance Reader's Copy. No biggie, we get them all the time. This one was addressed specifically to me, which again happens. I've been here for a while and one or two people have heard my name. Again, no biggie.
But then I realized it came with a note to me. A personal, handwritten note. From McKenna Jordan, owner of Houston's Murder By The Book.
THAT was a big deal.
McKenna Jordan is up there with Otto Penzler, Barbara Peters and our own Bill Farley for knowledge about books. She's a Rock Star in the bookselling world. (My first reaction - "McKenna knows who I am?! *squee*)
So of course I took her recommendation to heart. The ARC had nothing on it except the title of the book - He Said/She Said, the author - Erin Kelly, and the fact that it's published by Minotaur. No blurb, no synopsis, nada. I had to research to discover that it doesn't come out until next June, or that it's tentatively priced at $25.99. Just this plain white cover.
I opened it up, realized it was written in present tense and closed it. I took a deep breath, muttered, "McKenna loves it," and started again.
You're going to want this book. Publishers, we want Erin in to sign. Set it up, please.
This is the story, told in alternating voices, of Laura and Kit, a married couple in England, expecting their first babies - twins!, and dealing with a shared secret from their past that has left Laura with ongoing anxiety issues. From the very beginning of their relationship, Kit got Laura hooked on chasing total solar eclipses around the world. I had no idea eclipse chasing was a thing, but it is.
However, since Laura is so vastly pregnant, she can't go on the eclipse chase that's happening in March, 2015, so Kit is going to go alone. Neither of them are comfortable about it, but the money's spent so he might as well, right? And the chances that Beth will find him is miniscule, really, isn't it?
Who's Beth? Well now, for that, you'll have to read He Said/She Said when it comes out next year, but let me tell you, there are twists and turns and surprises galore. It'll be a movie, guaranteed. The visuals are too stunning not to be put up in a big screen. Erin Kelly is no stranger to filming, what with her Broadchurch involvement, so you know she can tell a tale. And this is one to be aware of now, plan ahead for it, put it on your list.
Not just because I said so, or even because McKenna did, but because He Said/She Said stands solidly as a fabulous book!
Generally, when Mike Lawson's protagonist, Joe DeMarco, does a job for his boss, Mahoney, it's just that - a job. Complicated, borderline illegal, but just a job (except for that time when it involved Mary Pat. Mary Pat is special, and DeMarco would do pretty much anything for her, and who can blame him?), so when Mahoney sends DeMarco to Boston, it should be just another job. A developer is strong-arming an old lady, Mahoney wants the developer to back off, the developer, a man named Sean Callahan, refuses and insults Mahoney in the process, so Mahoney sends in DeMarco. Pretty standard stuff, right?
Except that DeMarco meets the old lady, Elinore Dobbs, and discovers he really likes her. So when Callahan's goons seriously injure Elinore, suddenly the job is no longer just a job.
"Is she going to get better?"
"I don't know. I'm sorry. I wish I could tell you that she'll recover completely, but because of her age, she may not. We're going to keep her here for a couple more days, watch for swelling and internal bleeding, and maybe she'll recover. And maybe she won't. All I can tell you is that I'll do my best, but you should pray for her.
DeMarco wasn't a big believer in the power of prayer.
He did, however, believe in the power of revenge.
House Revenge hits all the right notes and is Lawson at his best. There are complications, there are twists and there is action galore. But, as usual, Mike Lawson creates the best people. It's fascinating to see how Mahoney has changed through the books, and DeMarco's made some changes himself. But in this, the 11th DeMarco novel, Mike Lawson has created new and fresh characters that are wonderfully real, and that's one of the things I love best about his writing.
And he tells one helluva story too!
Jordanna Max Brodsky has taken a different approach to urban fantasy. No vampires, no werewolves, no ghosts. Instead, she presents the idea that the Greek gods have survived, being immortal and all, although their powers are badly diminished since no one worships them any more.
In The Immortals, we meet Selene DiSilva, formerly known as the goddess Artemis, who is currently living in New York and working as a private investigator dedicated to protecting women in abusive relationships. She and her faithful hound, Hippolyta (Hippo for short, and let's face it, she's put on a few pounds), work to dissuade men from resorting to violence in dealing with their loved ones. It's an under-appreciated and often thankless task, but despite her diminished powers, Selene can't deny her true self, and protecting the innocent is who she has always been.
But when she discovers a woman's body, dressed in a traditional ancient Greek chiton with her hair done in the ritual braids, but mutilated in ways that deeply offend Selene, she can't help but investigate. And as more people die, Selene finds herself growing stronger, becoming Artemis again. Is it worth the cost to regain her powers?
The Immortals is fast paced and well written, but what really caught me was how intelligent and beautifully complex it is. With just a basic knowledge of the Greek gods - and honestly, I don't know much more than that, sprinkled with pop culture references - Ms. Brodsky tells a dark and compelling tale about how the ancient gods rivalries, long-standing issues, and flawed but changeable personalities interact with modern life, and what happens when their divine needs crash into today's disbelief and cynicism.
The great thing, I think, is that I didn't always like Selene - always loved Hippo, but then, Hippo's a great dog! - and I wasn't always thrilled with her newly acquired sidekick, Theo Schultz, but that's because Jordanna Max Brodsky has created real people, and they're beautifully imperfect. The story is gripping, the twists are great, and it's a true testament to her talent that these people are as compelling as they are. Then too, Ms. Brodsky's obvious knowledge of the intricacies of Greek mythology made The Immortals a learning experience in the best possible way, and you know I love learning new things! I do hope she continues to write about these gods. There's such potential!
For something brilliantly written and truly gritty, read Joe Ide's IQ Possible the freshest new voice in a long time.
Caveat - As a statement of fact and to explain what I'm going to say below, you need to be aware that I've been going through a depressive episode. Not Jenny Lawson bad, where you hide under tables, but it's affecting my perceptions and abilities. I am aware of it, hence the caveat. If you suffer from the same illness, you'll get it. So.
I haven't finished Joe Ide's debut, IQ because - and this is going to sound weird but remember the caveat - his writing is TOO good. Seriously, every time I open the book, I get sucked into his gang-filled LA, and I'm pulling so hard for his protagonist, Isaiah Quintabe, that I find it hard to drag myself out. I'm not kidding when I say that this book is truly one of the best books I've read in a long, long time. But it is seriously gritty - not gore-laden, but oh so sad and brutally depressing about life when you're poor and trying to stay out of gang life - that I have to set it aside to regain my equilibrium. It's that engrossing. If IQ doesn't sweep awards, there's no justice. I will finish it, but I don't want you to miss out because I'm in a weird head space. Grab it now.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Patricia McKillip. I've been reading her work for years, wishing I had her talent with words. She's a fantasy writer, best know for her book, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and her "Riddle Master" series (which is what I was looking for and couldn't find. Crisis averted, trilogy read, all is good).
But her new book, Kingfisher is urban fantasy, which kind of caught me off guard. It's set kind of up and down the West Coast, but it starts in Desolation Point which is up here in Washington, over on the peninsula, and I was unprepared for a Patricia McKillip story to be set someplace I'd actually been.
Pierce Oliver works in a restaurant and he's bored, so when a group of young men tell him he should come south to the major city of Severluna, that he might have a place in King Arden's court, Pierce is intrigued. His mother, Heloise, doesn't want him to go, but a restless young man isn't easily dissuaded, so he heads out to find adventure, and he does, but not where he expects.
Kingfisher is definitely urban fantasy. There's all kinds of magic involved. No vampires, only one shapeshifter, but illusions galore. The thing is, this isn't just a story about Pierce. There's an ensemble cast, and ultimately Kingfisher is a grail quest, which I found to be wonderful and charming. And Patricia McKillip is a wizard in her own right! Ten pages from the end, there was absolutely no way she could wrap everything up, just wasn't possible. And yet, she does, and perfectly.
Kingfisher is a quirky, charming, beautiful book, unlike anything Patricia McKillip has written before. She's stretching her literary wings, and has once again proven to me that if she writes it, I'll read it. Such a good book!
Let me say that if you haven't read Drew Chapman's first book, The Ascendant and you like fast-paced, wickedly intelligent thrillers, then it's past time.
But you also need to read The Ascendant before you read his latest, The King of Fear, the latest Garrett Reilly thriller, because the events that came before are hugely important to what happens in The King of Fear, and you'll need that context.
I can't say too much plot-wise about The King of Fear because so much of it is tied into The Ascendant, but I will say that Garrett's an even bigger mess than he was before, and even the people who want to trust him are skeptical that he's functioning properly. But when he contacts them to say that he's seen another pattern and that someone's targeting banks - and through them, governments - the team has to listen. Damaged as Garrett is, he's still very good at what he does.
Except he's up against someone who's just as good as he is and isn't incapacitated. So it's a race, and the team's already fractured.
Therefore, The King of Fear is a non-stop rollercoaster, and yeah, you've heard that before but believe me, you're going to want to squirrel away some time and simply sit and read this. There are so many moving parts and so many people that if you're not paying attention, you could lose track. I did briefly and realized that this wasn't any sort of fluff; I had to have my wits about me to follow what was happening, and it was worth every minute!
And the thing is, after a while, I came to see what the bad guy's point was, and while I had to disapprove of his methods, I wasn't shocked by what was happening, which says something about both my world-view and the state of the world around us, I guess. But in any case, despite Garrett being even more insufferable than he was before, I was still solidly on his side. And I can't wait to see where Andrew Chapman takes this next!
an't say too much about the plot of The King of Shanghai by Ian Hamilton since I don't want to spoil anything that has happened in previous books. I will say that Ava Lee's new partnership with May Ling Wong is more successful than the financially cautious Ava Lee is comfortable with, but there are some thrilling prospects out there and she can't deny their worth. Still, she's ready to dive in and explore the options, when she's contacted by an old friend of Uncle's, a Triad leader named Wu.
Ava Lee wants nothing to do with the Triad, but she has to respect Uncle's connection so she agrees to the meeting. What happens there may change her entire world, if she can survive it. Suddenly financial risks seem like the least of her worries.
Ian Hamilton has built a series that has wonderful people and a resiliency that can survive the loss of a major player and continue on, keeping the same sensibilities and feel while completely upending the world he's created. Not all authors can pull that off, but in Ian Hamilton, we have a genuine talent, and his love of the people and places he's created shines through.
If you haven't read this series, if you thought the idea of a half-Chinese/half-Canadian financial accountant sounds boring, then let me encourage you strongly to rethink that idea and pick up The Water Rat of Wanchai and I promise you'll race through the series. It really is one of my favorites and I can't recommend Ava Lee highly enough!
So, Amber's at it again, chasing me around the shop, waving a book at me, hollering, "You gotta read this! No, seriously, you gotta read this NOW!"
And, as usual, she's right. It's annoying, but I can't be angry because darn it, she's right. And this is no exception.
This time around she snagged me into reading Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger and it was exactly the right thing. Short recap, Bailey Chen has graduated from college and is back home, living with her parents and working as a bar-back at the Nightshade Lounge. It's that rocky time when she, like so many 20-somethings, are at loose ends, still trying to settle on a career - although Bailey's got a great interview set up with an up-and-coming start-up that's really promising! - and to be honest, her judgment isn't the best right now.
But Bailey's smart and observant, and she notices that the bartenders take extended "smoke" breaks even though none of them smoke, and they sometimes come back looking a bit worse for wear. It isn't until she mixes a seriously out-of-this-world Screwdriver that Bailey learns what's really going on.
Paul Krueger has come up with an absolutely brilliant premise and the world he's built is far too much fun! You don't have to drink to appreciate the story, but you absolutely have to read the Devil's Water Dictionary entries that are scattered throughout the book. Not only do they provide great drinks recipes, but the history and backstory of each ingredient and beverage are delightful. And important.
Drat that Amber! Once again, she's brought me into a fabulous new world, and I can't believe I have to wait for the next one, darn it!
If you've been following Anne Bishop's "The Others" series, you know things are coming to an explosive edge, and in the latest installment, Marked in Flesh, the explosion has begun.
I don't want to say too much about what happens in case you haven't read the first three - and if you like dark urban fantasy, you really, really should! Start with Written in Red (Roc, $7.99) and keep going. In fact, I re-read Written in Red, Murder of Crows and Vision in Silver so that I was completely immersed in the world before I read Marked in Flesh, and I'm glad I did. There are nuances and hints dropped in the first books that are brought out in this one.
Throughout the series, there have been hints of creatures out in the wild that are more dangerous than the various shapeshifters and vampires and such. In Marked in Flesh, we are introduced to a few of them, and they really are primal. The Humans First and Last movement has gotten the attention of the Elders, and nothing good can come of it. We also get to see a little bit of what is happening in the Cel-Romano area of the world, and it's fascinating. The hubris of man knows no bounds - but that doesn't mean that boundaries aren't out there.
This is a truly wonderful series, and it still rates high on my Must-Read list. The Others series is complex and different and absorbing, and I really can't say enough good things about it. Suffice to say, if you haven't read them, you really should. In fact, despite the ongoing problem of having too many things to read, I may have to go back and re-read Marked in Flesh, just to see what I missed on the first pass. Yeah, Anne Bishop is that good.
Anyone who's been paying any sort of attention to the mystery world in the past few years knows that there are various types of noir mysteries available now. Mostly they're set in specific places, like our own much beloved Seattle Noir but there are types that are not location-specific, and debut author Anne Buist falls right into the category of "tart noir", the type of twisted, troubled mystery that is driven by an equally twisted and troubled heroine.
And in Natalie King's case as presented to us in Medea's Curse (July 12th trade paperback original) driving is certainly the operative word considering Natalie's primary mode of transportation is a Ducati motorcycle that's far too large for her. She's an Australian forensic psychologist who's also the member of a rock/cover band and whose idea of a long-term relationship involves her shrink but no long-term lovers. And she's dogged, intense and bipolar.
She's juggling a couple of cases. One involves a woman who confessed to killing her daughter and is in jail, and the other also involves a woman with dead children, but Georgia maintains all three deaths were accidents. Oh, and then there's the young woman who's been referred because of potential abuse in her past.
Medea's Curse is brilliantly written about some incredibly difficult situations. Anne Buist has over 25 years experience in perinatal psychology and has worked closely with protective and legal services with regard to domestic violence and children in danger, and her expertise shines through. It's the sureness with which she writes about the psychological aspects of everyone involved, including Natalie's own condition, that makes this book hit with such an impact. It's not a book for everyone, not by a long shot, but for those who prefer a darker story, Medea's Curse is exactly what you want.
In 1989, fresh off his first novel's release, Michael Chabon went to his mother's house in Oakland to spend time with his terminally ill grandfather. During his time there, Chabon's grandfather talked about his life, telling stories and sharing things he'd never before revealed. Over the course of a couple of weeks, Michael Chabon heard all manner of things he had no idea were a part of his family's past.
His new novel, Moonglow is a story based on those recollections. Make no mistake, this is a novel. You never know the name of the man in the story; he's always referred to as "my grandfather". Moonglow reads like a biography, but Chabon assures us it's fiction. Sort of.
"In preparing this memoir, I have stuck to facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it. Wherever liberties have been taken with names, dates, places, events and conversations, or with the identities, motivations, and interrelationships of family members and historical personages, the reader is assured that they have been taken with due abandon."
That being said, Moonglow is Michael Chabon's tribute to an amazing man. This is not a kind and gentle reminiscence; the man you meet in these pages is frequently not a nice man. The first chapter begins with him assaulting his boss with a sincere intent to do grievous harm. As more of "my grandfather's" life is revealed, he did some truly awful things. But he also did some awe-inspiring and amazing things that helped shape the course of our history.
Anyone who's read a single work by Michael Chabon knows he's a wordsmith without peer. Moonglow is an amazing tribute to a great man, and it's obvious Mr. Chabon has put his heart into this book. It is compelling reading from the very first page, and I promise you'll be exhausted at the end. And you'll be so glad you made the journey.
Those of you who pick up Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's latest Pendergast novel, The Obsidian Chamber looking for a usual Pendergast tale are in for a surprise. The Obsidian Chamber is a transition novel, and so it has many moving parts rather than one main story, although there is a solid story line filled with the usual Preston/Child twists and turns right up to the very end.
From the beginning of the book, both Constance Green and Proctor, Pendergast's man of all talents, believe Pendergast to be dead. We, of course, don't believe it because he's Aloysius Pendergast (and Preston/Child would never be so foolish!), but they do and that's how things really do start to fall apart. Constance decides to retreat to her sanctum under the mansion, but before she can, she is kidnapped by none other than Diogenes Pendergast. Proctor cannot let that happen and immediately goes after her, and thus the race begins.
Obviously nothing is as it seems and Pendergast (Aloysius, that is, not Diogenes) is out of play for quite some time but he does return. And then things really take off.
I called this a "transition novel" because many tiny threads are tied up in The Obsidian Chamber and others are set into motion. I didn't think it flowed as smoothly as some of their other works, but I was captivated nonetheless, and I can't wait to see what happens now. We learn much more about Proctor and I hope we see more of him in the future; he surprised me on several levels, which is great since that meant that Preston and Child are making Proctor into an intriguing and multi-layered person which I think he's deserved to be for a long time now.
And oh, what we learn about Constance! So much is explained, and in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see her take off in books of her own. She's fascinating.
So while The Obsidian Chamber isn't traditional Pendergast fare in many ways, it's a book not to be skipped! What happens here will shape many future books, I have no doubt!
When JB asked me if Joshilyn Jackson's new book, The Opposite of Everyone had crime in it, I answer, "Oh yeah!" and it does - theft, robbery, attempted murder - but at its heart, The Opposite of Everyone is a missing persons story, both literally and figuratively, and it's truly amazing. Holy cow is it good!
Paula Vauss is a high profile Atlanta attorney, the shark in divorce cases that is virtually unstoppable. She lives in an expensive loft with her deaf cat, Henry, and she's fiercely, deeply independent. But as a child, Paula's name was Kali, and her mother was a free-floating gypsy of a woman, flitting from man to man and telling the most amazing stories based in Hindu lore and legend.
"A long time ago this happened, and it's happening now." That's how Kai's stories began, and they shaped and twined through young Kali's life. The only stability she had was the certainty of her mother and the stories.
So how did gypsy Kali become powerhouse attorney Paula Vauss? And, more to the point, what will Paula do when she finds out she's not the only child of the feckless and beautiful Kai? Because one day, a young man with the eyes Paula thought were hers alone, Kai long vanished, shows up at Paula's law firm. And from that point on, Paula and her ex-lover and brilliant if erratic investigator, Birdwine, are tumbled into a search across the country. What happened to Kai?
It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Joshilyn Jackson, always have been, and her books are an incredible treat. But there's something about The Opposite of Everyone that makes it even more special. It's not that Paula's not particularly likeable, although in many ways she isn't, or that her background is so blindingly different from most people's. The huge and telling flaws that run through Jackson's people are her earmark characteristic, and what makes her novels so compelling.
I found myself completely caught up in the story. It was almost like I was sitting in a comfortable chair with my hands busy doing mindless things while Paula sat next to me and told me her story. I was there. It was real. And it's sad and funny and heartbreaking and glorious, and now I can't imagine a world without Paula and Birdwine and Julian and Kai, oh especially Kai, in it. I can't explain it better than that, but The Opposite of Everyone is brilliant and amazing, and now I want to wipe it from my memory so I can read it again for the first time. Just stunning.
Local novelist J. C. Nelson describes his new urban fantasy novel, The Reburialists as a cross between Indiana Jones and The Mummy with zombies. And that shouldn't really work, and definitely shouldn't appeal to me - I'm not a zombie fan in the slightest. But I trust J. C. Nelson's writing, so I dove in.
And it's true that The Reburialists has the impossibly handsome, incredibly deadly hero paired with the outrageously beautiful, outstandingly brainy heroine who loathe each other at first and are fated, of course, to fall head-over-heels in love. And there are mummies and zombies and scorpions galore.
But that's where the trope ends and J. C. Nelson begins, and it's huge fun.
Brynner Carson is the top reburialist at the Bureau of Special Investigations, the organization dedicated to putting down reanimated corpses. Grace Roberts is the top Senior Analyst and translator for the BSI. So when strange messages appear throughout the country, Brynner and Grace are pulled together in the Seattle home office to figure out what's going on.
Sounds pretty typical, right?
Except that Brynner's isn’t as confident as he seems, Grace has no field experience, and they both have secrets that they'll fight to keep. These secrets aren't the usual ones either. Brynner's revolves around his mother's death, and Grace's involves her daughter. The more you get to know these two, the less heroic and more human they become, and that makes The Reburialists wonderful and unique. Then too, The Reburialists is told from both Brynner and Grace's points of view, so we get to know them better, understand why they do what they do, and really come to care for them and their causes on a personal level. He also takes on faith vs. science debate as to which creates the better weapon. Really good stuff.
Add to that the fact that J. C. Nelson has no problems taking the hard line. Good people die, bad people live, and his talent for making his characters believable makes the story more personal and poignant than it might be in other hands. So on the surface, The Reburialists may seem like a novel pandering to the current zombie addiction, but it really goes much deeper than that.
Which is not to say it's not a fun romp because it totally is! It's supposed to be a stand-alone, but I can see how it could have a sequel, and that would be fabulous too!
Once again, Amber twisted my arm (do you have any idea how hard it is to pack books with one arm behind your back? Fortunately, she chose my left one, but still) and had me read Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue, and she was right. As usual. I won't go into the summary since she just reviewed it a couple weeks ago, but a quick refresher is October Daye is half fae/half human, has been knighted by her fae liege, and gets turned into a fish for fourteen years. A koi, specifically. So when she breaks free of the enchantment, her life is radically changed. A lot can happen in 14 years. And then she's cursed.
Seanan McGuire has created a beautifully unique world with people you can care about, and that's always what I look for. I was definitely pleased to see that she's not afraid of doing harm to those you care about - which makes me sound awful, I know - because it keeps you on your toes. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good ones, which keeps this fantastical tale grounded. And she's laid out so many possible strands in this first book that I can't wait to see where she goes with them! I anticipate a reading binge comparable to the time I first read Patricia Briggs.
Seanan McGuire - "Octobery Daye" Series
I had said I was going to read all of Seanan McGuire's "Octobery Daye" series, and I have. And if you like urban fantasy, you should too, but you must read them in order. With some series it doesn't matter, but here? Oh definitely.
They are: Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses, One Salt Sea, Ashes of Honor, Chimes at Midnight, The Winter Long and A Red Rose Chain (various copies are signed). October Daye is half fae/half human, has been knighted by her fae liege, and gets turned into a fish for fourteen years. A koi, specifically. So when she breaks free of the enchantment, her life is radically changed. A lot can happen in 14 years. And then she's cursed. That's just the first chapter of Rosemary and Rue, and everything is just as dense and complex throughout the series. Oh, and there's a pronunciation guide - you're going to want to use it!
This is a dark and troubled series, gritty in ways that can leave you feeling uncomfortable at times, and that's a huge tribute to Seanan McGuire's talent. If you didn't care and care deeply about these people - not just Toby but the whole lot of them - then what happens in these books wouldn't have the impact it does. But she writes such complex, flawed, dedicated people that you're forced to care about them.
Word of warning, though. At the end of Ashes of Honor, it seems like she's wound up the series and it's a good place to stop. Do Not Do This. If you do, you'll miss some amazing people (I'm thinking of the Librarian, specifically, but there are others that I can't name because there are spoilers in there), and there are a few dangling issues that may seem unimportant but really blossom. Seanan McGuire's created a really wonderful, dark and beautiful world, and I hope she keeps writing this series for a very long time.
If you've read the "Bobbie Faye" series by Toni McGee Causey, you know she can write humor with the best of them, and humor is hard to write well. So it should come as no surprise that when she turns her hand to something darker, Toni McGee Causey - writing as T.M. Causey - is just as talented. And her new novel, The Saints of the Lost and Found is a gothically dark tale of heartbreak and greed and death and loss. Especially loss.
"I tried not to look at them: the cell phones, rings, earrings, wallets, briefcases, photos, keys, my God, the keys - does anyone not lose keys? - files, folders, always one shoe or one sock, tools, computers, balls, bats, gloves, glasses. Everything and anything you could imagine someone could lose..."
Avery Marie Broussard has the curse of being able to see lost things, and it is indeed a curse. But she doesn't see just physical objects. Lost jobs, lost love, lost parents, lost children, she sees it all. And that curse caused her to lose her own true love years ago when she fled from her home in Louisiana. Now her brother is in danger, possibly dying, and Avery has to go back home. But Avery is also running again, this time from her inability to help the FBI catch a serial killer, a man who's been murdering young girls. Going home may not be the best solution, but it's all she can do. And it might just kill her to do it.
Full disclosure - I read the manuscript last year. I have to say that reading that and then reading the finished book is a mini-tutorial in writing, and I'm decidedly grateful to have had that opportunity. And I have to also say that it was good to catch up with Avery Broussard again. I'd missed her, and even knowing what was going to happen next didn't slow down my enjoyment of The Saints of the Lost and Found, and that, I think, is the hallmark of a good book - rereading it brings just as much pleasure as reading it the first time. Anyone who's ever read anything by Toni McGee Causey knows she creates vibrant and compelling people. That's a no-brainer. And her ability to tell a fast-paced story is well proven.
But her ability to take all that talent and turn it into a story about a broken young woman who fights not only for herself but for those who need her, against all odds and in the face of incredible adversity? Not just everyone could pull that off, but T.M. Causey has that amazing ability, and I believe The Saints of the Lost and Found will stay with you as it has with me. In fact, I wouldn't mind hearing more about happenings in Avery's life down the road!
Oh, and by the way, that incredible cover art? Yeah, that's Toni's work as well. The lady has exceptional talents!
I picked up the new Peter S. Beagle novel because I’m a huge Peter Beagle fan (and no, my favorite of his is NOT The Last Unicorn, not even second favorite), but it was just for me, not for the shop.
So imagine how excited I was to discover that you too should read Summerlong!
On the ferry coming from a little island in Puget Sound, we meet Abe Aronson, on his way to meet Joanna Delvecchio, senior flight attendant and his companion of over twenty years, and possibly her daughter, Lily, if Joanna and Lily are getting along. Which generally they don’t, but Abe has hopes.
Between flights, Joanna spends her time with Abe on Gardner Island, and that’s where they meet Lioness Lazos, a newly hired waitress at their favorite diner. She’s looking for a place to stay that’s warm – she has an almost phobic terror of being cold – so Abe and Joanna offer Lioness Abe’s small garage, which is easily dusted and easy to keep warm.
It’s obvious to all of them, Abe, Joanna and Lily, that Lioness is hiding from someone but she won’t say who or why. And the more they get to know Lioness, the more they realize there’s something truly different about her, something they’ll all three go to any length to protect.
Summerlong isn’t a traditional mystery, and you’ll figure out soon enough who Lioness really is and why she’s hiding, but that’s really beside the point in a way. It’s all about how some people drop into our lives and change them, and how we respond to those changes, all told in that easy, gentle voice that can only belong to Peter S. Beagle. There is an otherworldly component to Summerlong as there is in most of his books, but as always, for me, it’s the people, and I plan on revisiting the folks on Gardner Island again and again.
There's not much I can tell you about the new "Charlie Parker" novel, A Time of Torment by John Connolly (Atria hc, $26.99, out Aug. 2nd, signed copies will be available) simply because if you're already addicted to this series, it doesn't really matter, and if you haven't read what's going on in Charlie's life up to this point, it won't make much sense.
All I can say is that Charlie reluctantly takes on a client who's just been released from prison. Jerome Burnel maintains he was framed for the cache of child porn found in his home and on his computer, but that's an old story, and no one believes it any more. Still, there's something about Jerome that catches Charlie's attention, and Angel is certain that Burnel is telling the truth. Before Charlie can decide, Burnel vanishes, and Charlie's convinced he didn't go voluntarily.
So Charlie begins to hunt, and when that happens, well, just look out.
It's good to visit old friends, and I love these people. But what's especially great is to see how Charlie has changed over the years, especially in light of his most recent health concerns. He's almost been fired in a crucible, and the power that is now Charlie Parker is something strange, formidable and wonderful. And he still has his trademark dry wit, which had me snorting out loud, chuckling and shaking my head.
My only complaint, honestly, was that we didn't get to see enough of the Fulci borthers, and I'm not entirely sure what that says about me, but I'm good with it. I love the Fulcis. However, Louis and Angel were nearby throughout the book, and that always makes me happy. Rest assured that whatever happens, Charlie Parker is not alone, and the changes that John Connolly is hinting at have me bouncing in anticipation of what will happen next!
Flavia is back home!
As we begin Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd (Out Sept. 20th), it's Christmas-time at Buckshaw Manor, and Flavia is back from her travels abroad, but she's returned to an oddly quiet home. Her father, the Colonel, is in hospital with pneumonia, and his precarious health along with sister Ophelia's break-up with her fiance has left the Manor strangely dark and subdued.
To escape the oppressive darkness - and her annoying cousin, Undine, who is constantly underfoot, Flavia goes to visit the vicar, and is asked to run an errand for the vicar's wife. Flavia, along with her trusty bicycle, Gladys, are more than up to the task. Sadly, the woodcarver whom Flavia is to speak with is unable to receive the message. You see, the poor man is dead, and since he's hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door, Flavia's fine scientific instincts tell her there is much to be investigated here!
Flavia is at her finest, honing not only her chemistry knowledge but now she's employing more of her interpersonal skills, and let me tell you, that makes her a force to be reckoned with! Since her father is out of commission and her sisters don't much pay attention to her, Flavia is left to her own resources more than ever, and she's becoming quite the formidable sleuth.
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd is vintage Flavia, and I have to admit that I was tickled to see more of Dogger, whom I adore. Well, doesn't everyone? It's good to see him back in action a bit. And it was lovely to visit with all our old friends at Bishop's Lacy!
I'm interested to see where Alan Bradley goes with this series. It's no spoiler to say that this is a somewhat darker book than some of his others, but I'm actually pleased by that. As Flavia grows up, she learns more about how the world works, and that's going to change her, which keeps her alive and dynamic. Mind you, she's still indubitably our Flavia, at her core as solid as dear Gladys, but she's slowly growing out of the child we first met.
Full marks to Alan Bradley for his deft touch and unwavering ability to capture Flavia as she grows up. Just a little. I really cannot wait for the next one!
For something brilliantly written, filled with real people you can relate to, read Maria Semple's Today Will Be Different.
Maria Semple is know for her humor, and she's brilliant at capturing the idiosyncrasies of everyday life here in Seattle, as exemplified by her smash hit, Where'd You Go, Bernadette so it didn't surprise me at all to find humor in her latest book, Today Will Be Different. What I wasn't prepared for was how very involved in her people's lives I was going to become. I understand Eleanor, and her very ordinary, everyday problems resonate. What could have been an incredibly sad novel turns into something hopeful because of Maria Semple's talent. Nothing gritty or grim here, just people being people. And art. (I really loved the John Denver illustration) But there is definitely a mystery!
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Ben H. Winters’ writing, so I grabbed his new one, Underground Airlines and dove in.
With the assassination of President-elect Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War never happened. Instead, North and South met and created an unbreakable amendment to the Constitution enshrining slavery in our laws forever. Granted, it’s limited to specific States which have been whittled down to the Hard Four, but it’s a part of life.
And slaves still run away.
Meet Victor, a bounty hunter for the US Marshall’s Service, tracking down escaped slaves to be returned to their owners. The twist? Victor himself is black, and was a slave as well, so he knows how to blend in. But as Victor pursues his latest escapee, a vibrant young man called “Jackdaw”, he discovers that the government has something they’ve been hiding.
Underground Airlines isn’t a casual read. It’s compelling and while the book is easy to read, the subject matter isn’t. In Victor, Ben H. Winters has created a flawed and unreliable narrator who captivates and compels even when he’s not very likeable. It’s often uncertain who he really is, which makes for a fascinating read. As we find out about Victor’s past, and what’s going on with his current assignment, we’re exposed more and more to the society in which he lives.
And that’s perhaps the most disturbing thing about Underground Airlines, and a solid tribute to Ben Winters’ talent and style, is the fact that you can see the echoes of this alternate world in today’s headlines. I discovered that I couldn’t read Underground Airlines too late in the evening or it would permeate my dreams, and not in a good way.
This is a powerful book, and I think it’s one that a lot of people who are concerned with race relations, not just here in the US but worldwide, should read. It’s a serious and complicated book, just as race relations are, but Ben Winters navigates these troubled waters with an ease that must have taken lots of hard work.
And I’m hoping there will be a follow-up, because Winters didn’t take the easy out at the end, leaving room for another one.
I have said time and time again that I don't read much true crime, that I prefer my crimes to be fictional. I sleep better that way.
But I couldn't NOT read Eli Sanders' book, While The City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness, about the assault of Teresa Butz and Jennifer Hopper in 2009. I had followed Mr. Sanders' coverage of the trial when it happened, for which he quite deservedly won a Pulitzer, and if you can find the archived records of his reporting, you absolutely should read them.
This book, however, is not a regurgitation of his reporting during the trial. It's an exploration of who the people involved were, and who they became. It's not a spoiler to tell you that Teresa was killed while Jennifer survived the attack by Isaiah Kalebu, but knowing more of who they were, and how Jennifer came to forgive Isaiah is a powerful story.
Personal note here - when my wife and I first moved to Seattle, we explored the South Park area - where this happened - as a possible future residence, so this particular story hit closer to home than it might have otherwise. And there are some great hidden spots in South Park, make no mistake, but we were told by a potential landlord that even with our two large dogs, we might not feel safe, being gay and all. He was frank and honest about what our reception might be, and we took his warning to heart. We realize now we may have missed out on a special community, but the events that happened on South Rose Street on July 11, 2009, terrified us.
I thought reading While The City Slept would be difficult, but as it turns out, Eli Sanders has a style and grace about his writing that makes this book not only easy to read despite the difficult subject matter, but absolutely compelling. I really did have a hard time putting it down. He's almost lyrical in places, and his understanding and compassion for all the people involved, including Isaiah, is what makes the entire book so evocative. I remembered his reporting of the trial and how he managed to take something that defied understanding and bring it into focus. He does the same thing here, and it's a story that needs telling, not to relieve Isaiah Kalebu of responsibility for his actions, but to understand how he could reach such a point. Add to that the way that Mr. Sanders introduces us to Teresa and Jennifer, and the tragedy takes on new dimensions.
This is a "trust me" book, but it is one I cannot recommend highly enough. If you never read another recounting of a crime, this is the one to read. It's heartbreaking, compassionate, and surprisingly hopeful. In fact, tht’s how Eli signs the book – “With Hope” – because despite the horror that occurred on July 11, 2009, in the house on Rose Street, there’s a way to stand against the violence for all of us, if we’re willing to step up to the plate. I slept just fine, and with the window open. Eli Sanders is a brilliant writer.
Again: Eli Sanders, While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness.
Okay, so technically, Amber didn't foist the Ben Aaronovitch "Rivers of London" series off on me. She was more devious about this one. She sold it hand-over-fist to anyone who walked in the door, and of course I listened, and I got sucked in just like they did. She's evil, I tell you!
Probationary Constable Peter Grant is just doing his job, walking a beat in London, when he sees something he shouldn't. After all, ghosts aren't real, so there has to be another explanation for the man he saw, standing there watching him. But Peter needs to find this guy because he witnessed a crime. Enter Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, head of (and really, technically, the only member of) a special investigative unit that looks into crimes with "special" elements to it, like, for example, ghosts. And magic. And all manner of strange and seemingly inexplicable things.
Since Peter saw the ghost, Inspector Nightingale recruits him to help solve this case, and Peter's life takes an impossible change for the odd. Fortunately, that's right up Peter Grant's alley!
This is a series you need - absolutely NEED - to read in order. Too much spills from one case to the next to simply grab one and run. Therefore, begin with Midnight Riot and then follow Peter's adventures, along with Lesley May, Inspector Nightingale, Molly, and Toby the dog, through Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, Broken Homes, and Foxglove Summer, with the new one, The Hanging Tree, coming out in January (not nearly soon enough!).
I knew there were a limited number of these fabulous books so I spaced them out between other books, but honestly, I just wanted to read them all at once. Ben Aaronovitch has created a group of wildly diverse and fabulously memorable people, and I love spending time with them. The beautiful complexity of the everyday world - racial prejudice, addiction, disability issues, wilful blindness and stubbornness, among others - are so skilfully woven into the fabric of his incredibly fun and exciting stories that it's only later you realize that that's what makes the whole Rivers of London series so engrossing.
I suspect I'll be revisiting this series over and over, and I'll bet I find something new every time, it's that layered. Darn it, Amber! You've done it again!
There have been a lot of books about dealing with the harshness of high school, mostly about the mean girls. But Kevin O'Brien's take on the subject is different in so many ways. In You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, we meet Spencer Murray, a 17 year old who is starting a new life in Seattle with his aunt, Andrea Boyle, following the loss of Spencer's parents. A new school is always hard, of course, and Spencer's managed to run afoul of the cool kids.
And to add to the stress, Andrea's met someone - Luke Shuler, acclaimed playwright - and they're really hitting it off. Luke has a son, Damon, from his previous marriage, and Spencer and Damon are of an age, so the potential for a new friend is there. Except Damon lives with his mom, and if Spencer thought he had it bad with the cool kids, well, Damon is their preferred target.
And Spencer has a secret. It's the reason he and his aunt moved to Seattle in the first place, to get away and start fresh.
Told from multiple viewpoints, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone captures all the uncertainty - and sometimes implacable and misplaced certainty - that every high schooler has felt. The fear, the anger, the confusion, the moments of delight, and how easy it is to get caught up in something bigger than you can handle. But it's not just about the kids. Kevin O'Brien deftly takes us through adult anxieties, hopes and fears, as we see how Andrea's new life with Luke is tangled with the baggage they both carry.
Ultimately the question is, who can you trust. At what point does honesty become a liability?
Let me warn you that once you start You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, you won't want to stop until the end. Kevin O'Brien's style is deceptively easy, the story so smooth that you don't realize how you've been sucked into this world until, like Andrea and Spencer, it's far too late. I'd recommend reading this when you have nothing else to do, because you won't want to stop until the very end. And for those of us who live here in Seattle, the fact that you know these places only heightens the suspense. Kevin O'Brien's quite the storyteller!
Okay, so Amber did it again. You'd think I'd learn, but no. She badgers me into reading something, I sigh and put it off, and she's right. Darn it.
This time it's the Chicagoland Vampire series by Chloe Neill. We can't get them into the shop fast enough to suit me and Amber won't share. She's hoarding them all at her house, so I'm buying them as fast as I can order them. Yeah, they're that good.
I just bought books 6 and 7, which tells you we're not the only ones who love this series. You must, however, read them in order, so start with Some Girls Bite and go from there.
Merit was never a typical twenty-something since her family has been part of Chicago's elite for a while, but she's never been all that impressed with their status and has gone her own way, which is why she was walking across the campus lawn, thinking about her upcoming Doctorate defense in Romantic English Literature when she was attacked by a vampire, and turned into one to save her life. It was, however, without her consent (there wasn't time, she gets that, but still), so she's not sure how to proceed. She was turned by the Master of Cadogen House, and she has a week to figure out if she wants to stay there or go rogue.
That's how the series begins and Merit's story is as addicting as Sookie Stackhouse's, and Mercy Thompson's, and while not as bleak as Jim Butcher's, if you've been following the Dresden Files, you'll recognize Merit's Chicago. What is different about Chloe Neill's series is the political atmosphere that runs throughout the books, and the food. There's enough meat - on both levels - to keep your mind and tummy active, and really, that's not a bad combination! Tracking down a hot-beef here in Seattle was a bit of a challenge, but I had to pull it off because Merit described them so lovingly. In the most carnivorous of terms, naturally!
You'll want to get the first three to begin. Just getting Some Girls Bite won't be enough; you're going to want Friday Night Bites and Twice Bitten (both Roc, both $7.99) to jump right into, and check with us after that. It's a popular series for a reason, and we might not have the following ones in! Yeah, it's that good.
Darn you, Amber! (And she's not sorry at all about it!)
I can’t explain why, with so much current that I need to read, that I decided to pick up a book that isn’t out until June, but I’ve never claimed to make sense.
I’ve read Neal Stephenson before, although not extensively, so I was expecting an epic tome filled with politics and science, and a fair amount of snark. I was not disappointed. I’m afraid I haven’t read anything by Nicole Galland so I have no baseline for her work, but she’s renowned in historical writing circles.
Still, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. ( we’re working on a drop-by with both authors, so keep your fingers crossed) caught me completely by surprise, in the best possible way!
Dr. Melisande Stokes is a historical linguist working as an adjunct professor in Cambridge, MA. However, we first meet her in 1851 London, writing down her story by whale oil light and trying not to spill ink on her borrowed dress, as she hopes to return to our century, although her hope is fading fast.
She was recruited to work for a shadowy government agency trying to get a new, experimental project off the ground. They needed a talented linguist who had few ties to the community, and Mel fit the bill. Little did she know that by agreeing to Tristan Lyon’s offer that her whole world would be transformed – quite literally.
I don’t want to say too much because a lot of the fun of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is figuring out things with Mel and all the other characters.
There are a few series that, when the new one comes out, I feel compelled to go back to the beginning and read them all. I like to be completely immersed in the world before I jump into the latest.
That’s absolutely true of Anne Bishop’s “The Others” series – and you absolutely have to read these in order, so if you haven’t, start with Written in Red (Roc, $7.99). Now the rumor mill told me that the latest, Etched in Bone is the last of this story arc, so I was dragging my heels. It’s no secret that I don’t want this series to end.
Basic plot, humans aren’t the primary species on Earth. Well, Namid is its name here, but you’ll recognize several locations. It’s an alternate reality. And yes, there are vampires and werewolves, but really, they’re the lesser of the Others who inhabit Namid, the buffer between the Others and humans, the clever meat. And that’s all people are, with a few exceptions.
But Meg Corbyn is an anomaly. She’s human but not-prey. She is cassandra sangue, a blood prophet. When her skin is cut, she speaks prophecy. But each cut brings her closer to her inevitable death. She stumbles into the Lakeside Courtyard and that triggers a chain of events that culminates in Etched in Bone.
Amber said that she thought the series ended in a satisfying way, and I have to agree, up to a point. I know, I know, I want more, but not all the questions posed in the earlier books were answered to my satisfaction. I’m hoping the new stories Anne Bishop tells of the Others will fill in the gaps, although honestly, I’m willing to fill in the answers using my imagination! But I think Anne Bishop will do a much better job.
This is a subtly addicting series, and I know I’ll be rereading it for years to come. It’s deftly written, cleverly plotted and, as always, the characters are brilliantly created. Just an amazing series!
You know how I say that you should read books in series order? I stand by that.
If you've never read pick up Patricia Briggs' work and you pick up her latest "Mercy Thompson" novel, Silence Fallen, you'll be just fine. She explains who everyone is and what's going on so that you won't feel left out, although you will want to go back and read the whole series.
"I'm a mechanic; I fix things that are broken. I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote. I have powerful friends. But when it comes right down to it, my real superpower is chaos."
We find Mercy on her way to get the fixings for chocolate chip cookies when she's kidnapped. Adam and the pack can't find her, and the amount of blood in the totaled SUV means Mercy is badly hurt. Eventually, Mercy turns up in Milan, and later ends up in Prague, with Adam and a bunch of others racing off in a diplomatic mission to get her back. Or kill anyone who gets in their way. Either one works.
Silence Fallen is written from both Mercy’s and Adam's viewpoints, and the notes to you, the reader, at the beginnings of every chapter are very important. They're notes to you from Mercy, and she's trying to be sure you understand what's going on, and what the timeline is.
Part of the brilliance of Patricia Briggs' writing is her wry humor in addition to her magnificent characters. She's created a world that's entertaining and always uncertain, so it's easy to relate to events even if you've never been kidnapped and sent out of the country. Despite the grim and scary events that happen, Silence Fallen has a sassy joy that makes the events we experience with both Mercy and Adam fantastically entertaining. And Patricia Briggs does touch on some deeper emotions and events that can make you think, so please don't dismiss this as a fluffy book. It isn't.
Oh, but it IS very good, and I think you'll enjoy the daylights out of it.