Friday, 12 October 2018

The Brightest Fell / Seanan McGuire

4 out of 5 stars
Things are slow, and October "Toby" Daye couldn't be happier about that. The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn't have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.

When Toby's mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do...until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes. Now Toby doesn't have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks. Not with Jazz and Tybalt's lives hanging in the balance. But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she's never met, one who's been missing for over a hundred years?



Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell.

Here I am, eleven books into the October Daye series, still enjoying it immensely. This is one of the books which is tough on Toby—she learns that hard, hard lesson that we sometimes have to learn. Your family doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. Sometimes you have to lean on your friends, lean on them hard, and trust your own instincts and abilities.

People can surprise you—Simon Torquill certainly plays that role in this book. Simon was put to sleep for a century in the last book and Toby is forced to bargain to have him awoken before the elf-shot has worn off. He’s not her choice of confederate, but her mother Amandine has left her no choices. McGuire makes a pretty good case for not judging our competition until we have spent some time with them.

It seems that everyone gets hurt in some way in this installment—May & Jazz are ripped apart, Tybalt is imprisoned, Raj has to assume the responsibility of the Kingdom of Dreaming Cats, Sylvester must allow something that will enrage his wife, Simon must save his daughter, The Luidaeg must put up with a constant parade of intense fae folk through her formerly isolated home. Toby gets pulled back towards humanity and must find a hope chest to return herself to her new Fae normal.

These books which contain the difficult choices and make Toby work with people she would normally avoid often end up being the most powerful in the series and this book is no exception. At the end, there is no question that she still has far to go, but we pause to let everyone rest & regroup. I’m next in line at the library for book number 12, Night and Silence, but it will probably be a couple of weeks, giving me time to rest and consider too.


The Ghost in the Glass House / Carey Wallace

3.25 stars out of 5
In a 1920s seaside town, Clare discovers a mysterious glass house in the backyard of her new summer home. There she falls in love with Jack, the ghost of a boy who can’t remember who he was before he died. Their romance is a haven for her from the cruel pranks of her society friends, especially her best friend, Bridget, who can’t wait to grow up and embark on romances of her own. As Clare begins to suspect an affair between her mother and Bridget's father, she retreats to the glass house. But that haven begins to crack when she realizes that Jack has lied to her about his name . . . From a dazzling and fearless new voice comes a shimmering story full of wonder and mystery, in a world where every character is haunted by lingering ghosts of love.

I read this book to fill the Ghost Stories square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I found this story to be somewhat reminiscent of Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree (or maybe it should be the other way around, since this was published before The Lie Tree.) I think it was a combination of a main character who is starting to question a parent’s choices and the time spent in the cave by the sea, complete with perilous journey to get there.

Strangely, it also reminded me of Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls, with the frenemy relationship between Clare and her BFF Bridget. Clare is a bit like Kate, with her desire to find true love and Bridget is a lot like Baba, longing to experiment with life, excitement, and boys.

Many people say that teenage girls become obsessed with horses when they are looking for a safe outlet for their love and attention. Clare hasn’t got a chance of finding a horse to lavish her care upon, but she finds Jack, the ghost boy in the glass house behind their rented summer home. What could be safer than a ghost for a first real relationship?

Not as strong nor as well written as either The Lie Tree or The Country Girls, it is still a pleasant story and I wouldn’t hesitate to offer it to a young adult.

Into the Black Nowhere / Meg Gardiner

3 out of 5 stars
In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI's serial crime unit discover the first victim's body in the woods. She's laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest's darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style--posed like Snow White awaiting her prince's kiss.


I read this book to fill the New Releases square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I read the first book in this series (UNSUB) last summer—it was an excellent summer book and I have been looking forward to this next step in the story. However, I’ve found myself a bit jaded with the mystery/thriller genre recently, so bear that in mind with my star rating of this book. For me, the stars reflect my personal reading experience, not an objective quality measurement and, as I say, I’m a bit off when it comes to this genre right now.

I was unsurprised to read on the dust jacket that this series is being made into a TV series. All the while I was reading, I was staging it in my mind’s eye to look like Criminal Minds! It reads like it is prepared to become a script. Looking at the GR description now, I see that this plot was based on Ted Bundy’s life of crime and I certainly notice the parallels now that I know to look for them. Using real-life details makes for a haunting plot.

So I was not at all startled when the book ended on a cliffhanger, obviously setting us up for the third book, due next year. I think I’ll be taking a hiatus from the thriller/serial killer category for a while, but I could see myself reading The Dark Corners of the Night eventually.

The Librarians and the Lost Lamp / Greg Cox

2 out of 5 stars
The story toggles between the past, as Flynn Carsen tries to find Aladdin’s Lamp before an ancient criminal organization known as the Forty Seals gets hold of it, and the future, when Eve Baird and a new group of Librarians — protectors of ancient artifacts like King Arthur’s sword Excalibur — stumble on a mystery in Las Vegas that seems to relate to the Lamp and the powerful djinn it can summon.

I read this book to fill the Relics and Curiosities square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

The relic in play in this book is Aladdin’s lamp. Usually, someone creative takes a book and from it produces a movie or a TV show. This book is the reverse engineering of that process and I didn’t really warm up to it. It is a novelization of the TV show The Librarians. Now, as a library worker, I am predisposed to like things like this and maybe I would have enjoyed the TV show. But I found the book rather boring. I was chatting with a colleague over coffee this morning and she said that she’d seen a bit of the TV show, but hadn’t really been very interested in it either. Your mileage may vary.

There is a distinct difference between what comprises witty dialog in a book vs. on TV. Where I can see that some of this novel would have worked on the screen, it was definitely anemic on the page. Aladdin’s Lamp and the Genie should not have to work so hard to create some excitement—the rebooted Forty Thieves were bumblers, rather than sharp competitors for the Lamp.

I guess Genevieve Cogman has spoiled me for the plot device of a central Library that collects important works of fiction from many different realities. If the description of The Librarians and the Lost Lamp sounds the slightest bit enticing to you, do yourself a favour and pick up The Invisible Library and get to know Irene, Kai, and Vale. The fifth installment of that series comes out in late November of this year and I have it marked on my calendar to go purchase the book that day.

Blood Moon / Alexandra Sokoloff

4.4 stars out of 5
Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace. The only surviving victim of his rampage was a child…who is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own.

Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt to track her down, despite feeling torn between his dedication to duty and his sympathy for her horrific history and motives. But when Roarke’s search unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman he seeks—and secretly wants—may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath. He just has to find her first.


I read this book to fill the Free Space square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

Bloody hell, what a good book! Make it 4.25 or 4.4 stars or something of that sort. An intriguing mash-up of the FBI profiler genre with a dash of the paranormal. Special Agent Matthew Roarke realizes that his morals have been compromised—he has come to identify with a woman who murders the men who prey on women. His partner is giving him the side-eye, not entirely trusting his judgement anymore, but his team still seems to be following his lead. When he chooses to re-open a decades old cold-case in the course of investigating Cara Lindstrom, his superior officer closes things right down again. Until it becomes clear that the Reaper is back and Cara is as interested in catching him as the FBI is.

Sokoloff knows how to build tension effectively and how to structure the mystery to keep me reading, reading, reading until the end. She is also gentle with the paranormal aspects of the story, never over playing them and leaving room for us to wonder if there’s a rational explanation.

Written well before the “Me Too” movement, this book still made me think about it, as women still take the brunt of domestic abuse, serial murder, kidnapping, sexual enslavement, and other forms of violence.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club / Dorothy Sayers

4 out of 5 stars
Lord Peter Wimsey bent down over General Fentiman and drew the Morning Post gently away from the gnarled old hands. Then, with a quick jerk, he lifted the quiet figure. It came up all of a piece, stiff as a wooden doll . . .
But how did the general die? Who was the mysterious Mr X who fled when he was wanted for questioning? And which of the general's heirs, both members of the Bellona Club, is lying?


I’m still enjoying Lord Peter Wimsey and Dorothy L. Sayers. I am entertained by the mysteries that Sayers invented, but I think what I truly adore is getting to know Lord Peter and his history more fully with each installment. While I think that Sayers started out making Wimsey more like Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster (only in the first book mind you), but I am so glad that she turned right around and began to use him as her agent in both sleuthing and social commentary. Wodehouse’s Jeeves may completely run Bertie’s life, but Mervyn Bunter is a co-conspirator for Lord Peter.

Sayers starts in right away depicting the Bellona Club as a waiting room for death:

'What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this Morgue?' demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the Evening Banner with the air of a man released from an irksome duty.

'Oh, I wouldn't call it that,' retorted Wimsey amiably. 'Funeral Parlour at the very least. Look at the marble. Look at the furnishings. Look at the palms and the chaste bronze nude in the corner.'

'Yes, and look at the corpses. Place always reminds me of that old thing in Punch, you know - 'Waiter! Take away Lord Whatsisname. He's been dead two days.' Look at old Ormsby there, snoring like a hippopotamus. Look at my revered grandpa - dodders in here at ten every morning, collects the Morning Post and the armchair by the fire, and becomes part of the furniture til the evening. Poor old devil. I suppose I'll be like that one of these days. . .'

An interesting issue in this work—what happens if one sibling leaves her earthly belongings to her brother if she predeceased him, but then they die at virtually the same time? Will anyone suspect murder if they are two elderly, unwell people? (This is why a string of nursing-home murders went undetected in Ontario—Elizabeth Wettlaufer had a nine year span of overdosing elderly patients with insulin before she was caught. All because health professionals just expect folks in nursing homes to die and are unwilling to look further).

All becoming much more relevant as the Baby Boom generation speeds toward nursing care and the funeral parlor.

Carniepunk

4 out of 5 stars
The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?

And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.

Featuring stories grotesque and comical, outrageous and action-packed, Carniepunk is the first anthology to channel the energy and attitude of urban fantasy into the bizarre world of creaking machinery, twisted myths, and vivid new magic.


I read this book to fill the Creepy Carnivals square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I seem to be developing more of a taste for short fiction, especially in this dark fantasy category. I enjoyed the offerings by the well-known authors (Rachel Caine, Jennifer Estep, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire) but actually found some of the stories by folks that I didn’t know to be more engaging. These people have to try harder, they can’t rely on well-trodden paths with familiar characters and situations. I think I’ll be checking out more fiction by Rob Thurman, for example, who got cover billing (and so must enjoy some notoriety) but whose work I had never encountered before. I’m also eyeing a book by Jaye Wells (Cursed Moon), maybe for Halloween Bingo next year.

It was fun to dip into several people’s versions of the creepy carnival, rather than cope with one author’s vision for 440 pages. It’s not like I need to expand my reading list at this point, but if you are struggling to find new authors that you enjoy, I would recommend an anthology like this one on a subject that intrigues you—you are bound to find someone whose work you enjoy.