Friday, 23 June 2017

The Lord of the Far Island / Victoria Holt

3.5 out of 5 stars
Lovely Ellen Kellaway was rescued from a bleak future by her newly discovered guardian, Jago Kellaway, Lord of the Far Island, off the wild coast of Cornwall. There, Ellen was drawn deeper and deeper into the secrets of a past as alive and threatening as the present. There Jago offered her the fabled Island Necklace worn by the mistresses of Kellaway Castle. But was it a promise of happiness -- or a dark symbol of death . . .?

  ***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

I think this may have been the very first romance novel that I ever read in my life, at around age 11 or 12. I remember how much I loved the book at that age and that is probably influencing my rating today.

Talk about Gothic! A heroine who is an orphan, living with distant family members as a Poor Relation? Check! Beautiful & spunky? Check! Mysterious goings-on? Check! Subtly threatening handsome man with secrets who arrives in the nick of time to save her from the horrid fate of governessing? Check! New family members who maybe aren’t as into her as she is into them? Check and double check! A second handsome and more straightforward man as a foil for the intense, dark one? Checkeroo!

I believe it was my mother who introduced me to Victoria Holt and she & I read our way through many of Holt’s novels. This was very much a nostalgia read—it reminded me of my teenage reading years and reading with Mom. I can definitely see where works like this one set my tastes in romantic fiction, leading to my current affection for paranormal romance.

Death in Cyprus / M.M. Kaye

4 out of 5 stars
Twenty-year-old Amanda Derrington is on an extended cruise with her uncle when she decides to make a short side trip to the sun-washed island of Cyprus. But even before the ship arrives in port, there is a suspicious death. Once the passengers reach the island, it soon becomes clear that the death was in fact an act of murder. What Amanda had meant to be a pleasant excursion quickly takes a turn for the worse.

  ***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

I love these older murder mystery/romance mash-ups written by writers like M.M. Kaye and Mary Stewart. Dating from the 1950s, they were written in an era where book heroines were more innocent (and worried about their reputations) and the social classes were more firmly entrenched.

I owned all the Kaye’s Death in … series at one point in my life and read them all multiple times. I wasn’t more than three pages into this one when I realized that I already knew who the murderer was, but I still enjoyed the reading process. The descriptions of Cyprus were beautiful and made me wish I could visit Villa Oleander and picnic in the Cyprean countryside. Kaye spent time in Cyprus as a British army wife, so no doubt was able to describe terrain that she was familiar with and obviously fond of.

Reading this now, as an older person, I realize how excruciating the effects of class are and how much personal income has become the new way to distinguish between classes (rather than whom one is related to). The characters in this novel often marry for money (George Norman and Alastair Blaine both depend on their wives’ money for their comfortable life style) and it was a foregone conclusion by their friends that it was a reasonable choice. Interestingly, it was men marrying for financial advantage, rather than the usual women in this case, perhaps Kaye pointing out that it’s a two way street.

This time around I also noticed how Persis, the American writer, is so very stereotypically American—she is loud, brash, demanding, and not the slightest bit retiring. Plus, she is attracted to British men for the same reason that many North American women are, that enticing accent. Still, she is a good friend to Amanda, our heroine, and courageous when required, so the impression is not at all negative.

An excellent nostalgia read, a great way to spend a lazy summer evening.

The Curse of the Pharaohs / Elizabeth Peters

4 out of 5 stars
Victorian Amelia Peabody continues to journal her Egypt adventures, toddler Ramses left in England. Husband Radcliffe Emerson's old friend Lady Baskerville fears a curse killed her husband Sir Henry, and soon engages the attentions of American Cyrus. The will funds continued excavation. But a lady dressed in white floats, flutters, spreads fear, and more death.

  ***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

It’s official—I adore Amelia Peabody-Emerson! Modern feminist sensibilities injected into a Victorian heroine. She loves her husband and her son, but she needs some mental stimulation and some physical labour to keep her occupied.

I loved that Radcliffe and Amelia have nicknamed their precocious son Ramses after the demanding and flamboyant Pharaoh. He takes after both of his parents, needless to say, in his intelligence and his firm opinions! I appreciate Amelia’s (sometimes unwarranted) self-confidence and her delight at being able to escape the boredom of motherhood and running a household. What could possibly be better than returning to Egypt to explore a newly discovered tomb with her beloved husband? Well, achieving that task while still having cooling baths at days end and tea whenever necessary, that’s what!

Peters manages to give us plenty of potential murderers and lots of unusual characters to provide intrigue and comedy. Amelia brandishes her parasol with abandon and barges her way to a solution with panache!

Mr. Rochester / Sarah Shoemaker

3.5 stars out of 5
"Reader, she married me."

For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature's most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë's masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker's rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward's eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.


 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because I enjoyed the first half of the book so much. The author remained very true to Brontë’s Jane Eyre and even managed to incorporate aspects of Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. I have to admire that!

The first half of the book, dealing with Edward Fairfax Rochester’s life before he meets his Jane, was the most enjoyable for me. I loved the back-story that Ms. Shoemaker created for him—the vulnerable, sensitive little boy who missed his mother and was ignored by his father. She obviously spent a great deal of time on the question, “What made Mr. Rochester into the man who met Jane Eyre?”

Once Jane appears in this text, however, there are constraints. You don’t mess with the Jane Eyre story, after all. For me, things changed at this point. Instead of the colourful, free painting that Shoemaker began with, she was reduced to paint-by-number. She introduced some interesting ideas that aren’t in Brontë’s original, but then has to wrap them up swiftly and neatly in order to fit into the accepted canon.

In short, very true to the original work and another interesting look at an old favourite.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Hallow Point / Ari Marmell

3.5 stars out of 5
The Spear of Lugh, one of the four Kingly Hallows of Ireland is in Chicago. And everyone, everyone wants it, for it is said that he who carries the spear into battle cannot be defeated. Among those who seek it are an agent of the infamous Wild Hunt; a mobster who knows far more about these things than he should; and of course both the Seelie and Unseelie Courts – the last people PI Mick Oberon would want getting hold of the spear...

Hard-boiled Fae detective Mick Oberon has quite the situation on his hands! The Spear of Lugh is somewhere in 1930s Chicago and every Fae faction (and a few in-the-know wise guys) want to get their meat hooks on it!

Mick uses his brain-box a little more in this mystery (when he isn’t getting pounded by some palooka that is), although he still has problems with his thought processes when he’s around a certain dame. Good action, good complications, excellent title! I am particularly fond of Fast Frankie, the leprechaun.

I still find this series a bit heavy on the Chicago gangland lingo—too many flivvers, floggers, bulls, molls, gats and what have you. But if you can overlook that, it is a fun little series.

Tangled Threads / Jennifer Estep

3.5 stars out of 5
I’d rather face a dozen lethal assassins any night than deal with something as tricky, convoluted, and fragile as my feelings.

But here I am. Gin Blanco, the semi-retired assassin known as the Spider. Hovering outside sexy businessman Owen Grayson’s front door like a nervous teenage girl. One thing I like about Owen: he doesn’t shy away from my past—or my present. And right now I have a bull’s-eye on my forehead.

Cold-blooded Fire elemental Mab Monroe has hired one of the smartest assassins in the business to trap me. Elektra LaFleur is skilled and efficient, with deadly electrical elemental magic as potent as my own Ice and Stone powers. Which means there’s a fifty-fifty chance one of us won’t survive this battle. I intend to kill LaFleur—or die trying—because Mab wants the assassin to take out my baby sister, Detective Bria Coolidge, too.

The only problem is, Bria has no idea I’m her long-lost sibling . . . or that I’m the murderer she’s been chasing through Ashland for weeks. And what Bria doesn’t know just might get us both dead. . . .


3.5 stars out of 5. I’m really looking forward to hearing the author in August at the When Words Collide conference.

Gin is up against another assassin in Tangled Threads and is learning to navigate new abilities that she has finally managed to access. Plus she’s negotiating a new, potentially great relationship with Owen Grayson. Now if only she could find a way to tell her long-lost sister who she is….

Once again, there is plenty of action, I like where the plot is going, we make good progress in every book. So why only 3.5 stars, you ask? Because of several writing ‘ticks’ that get on my nerves—the constant recital of where Gin keeps all of her knives, the obsession over eye colours, repeated references to what everybody’s personal runes look like, the frequent repetition of how Gin got Silverstone embedded in her palms (and ended up an orphan), plus the constant comparisons of the accepting Own to rejecting Donovan. And if I hear about Finn drinking chicory coffee just like his dear old dad one more time…..

This is the fourth book, people. We know all that stuff. A teeny bit of repeat would be acceptable to clue-in folks who skipped the first three, but the amount of repetition is excessive. It’s a good thing that I like the characters, that I enjoy the circle of friends & family that Gin is building around herself—that aspect of Ashland I’m quite attached to.

Not sure how much longer Estep can draw out this confrontation with the evil Mab Monroe, but I want to see how it all turns out!

Shakespeare's Christmas / Charlaine Harris

3.5 stars out of 5
Even in a sleepy Arkansas town, the holidays can be murder.

Lily Bard is going home for the holidays. More comfortable in baggy sweats than bridesmaid's frills, Lily isn't thrilled about attending her estranged sister's wedding. She has moved to Shakespeare, Arkansas, to start a new life, cleaning houses for a living, trying to forget the violence that once nearly destroyed her. Now she's heading back to home and hearth--just in time for murder.

The town's doctor and nurse have been bludgeoned to death at the office. And Lily's detective boyfriend suddenly shows up at her parents' door. Jack Leeds is investigating an eight-year-old kidnapping and the trail leads straight to Lily's hometown. It just might have something to do with the murders...and her sister's widowed fiancé. With only three days before the wedding, Lily must work fast to clean up the messy case before her sister commits...marriage!


In this installment, we change small towns and therefore a lot of the people that Lily Bard is interacting with and it’s a good change. She returns to her home-town and her family’s home for her sister’s wedding right before Christmas. After her traumatic rape & mutilation, Lily fled the town, her family and her friends, to start a new life in Shakespeare, Arkansas. Although she doesn’t regret the change of scene, in this book she learns that she maybe left too soon, not giving anyone (including herself) time to get used to her new normal.

Like many people, Lily is reluctant to return home to face the family. She is not comfortable in her own skin yet, although she’s getting there, and doesn’t have the social skills to deal with those close to her effectively. A very typical introvert, she finds that it doesn’t have to be quite as difficult as she envisioned it—her family will meet her half-way if she makes an effort.

One thing that did improve this book was that Lily was out of her regular routine—so although she takes on some cleaning tasks (as part of her “investigation” of what’s going on in her home-town), the reader isn’t subjected to as many detailed scenes of her cleaning routine. Also, she is away from her gym, so ditto with the karate/strength training that permeates the first two books.

I think this could be a good series for people who care too much about the opinions of others, particularly those not close to them. Lily seems to be far too worried about what the community thinks of her and not worried enough about what she thinks of herself. Lily, if they aren’t paying your bills, their opinions don’t matter!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Dreams of Steel / Glen Cook

4 out of 5 stars
Croaker has fallen and, following the Company's disastrous defeat at Dejagore, Lady is one of the few survivors--determined to avenge the Company and herself against the Shadowmasters, no matter what the cost.

But in assembling a new fighting force from the dregs and rabble of Taglios, she finds herself offered help by a mysterious, ancient cult of murder--competent, reliable, and apparently committed to her goals.

Meanwhile, far away, Shadowmasters conspire against one another and the world, weaving dark spells that reach into the heart of Taglios. And in a hidden grove, a familiar figure slowly awakens to find himself the captive of an animated, headless corpse.

Mercilessly cutting through Taglian intrigues, Lady appears to be growing stronger every day. All that disturbs her are the dreams which afflict her by night--dreams of carnage, of destruction, of universal death, unceasing...



More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way.

Just when I thought that Glen Cook’s grimdark Black Company world couldn’t get any bleaker, any darker, or any weirder…. I realize that I am wrong. Mr. Cook, your dark imagination scares me!

But, I am still invested in the two main characters in Dreams of Steel, namely Croaker and Lady. Croaker provides the dark sense of humour of the two, with Lady remembering some of things he has said or imagining what he would say when she finds herself hip deep in slaughter. Lady can never be said to be the softer, gentler one of the pair—if anything, she is even more ruthless, willing to put heads on stakes to make a point. Revenge is everything!

There really are no good guys in this series, just shades of black. It would be a shock to the system to try to jump in here at book 5, without having read the preceding novels—the level of violence and disregard for life would be overwhelming. But my situation is like the proverbial frog in the pot of water—it has gradually come to a boil without my noticing!

Now my search for a copy of Bleak Seasons must begin. I couldn’t abide a constant diet of grimdark fantasy in my reading life, but I must know what happens to this two bloodthirsty duo.


Book number 258 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

One Corpse Too Many / Ellis Peters

4 out of 5 stars
An ingenious killer disposes of a strangled corpse on a battlefield. Brother Cadfael discovers the body, and must then piece together disparate clues--including a girl in boy's clothing, a missing treasure and a single flower--to expose a murderer's black heart.


"The trouble with me, he thought unhappily, is that I have been about the world long enough to know that God's plans for us, however infallibly good, may not take the form we expect and demand."

Brother Cadfael, that former military man in a monk’s robe, knows his onions….and his murder victims and fugitives! When a murderer dumps his victim amongst the bodies of those hung for treason, Cadfael is not willing to let the perpetrator get away scot-free. Dragged away from his garden and his herbal potions, the good Brother must search for justice, but not interfere in politics.

I so enjoy the time period and setting of this particular series! I also appreciate the non-gory nature of the mysteries and the slower pacing more suited to the historical period depicted. Sure, there are pressures to solve the murder, but Cadfael has the time and thinking space in his garden to put the facts together and come up with a logical argument. He has both his military experience and his monastic learning to draw on, a formidable combination.

But it is Cadfael’s common sense and knowledge of human behaviour that makes him a good detective—and his willingness to admit that sometimes his monastic duties will need to be set aside if justice is to be done. A good man to have on your side!

Nice Girls Don't Bite Their Neighbors / Molly Harper

3.5 out of 5 stars
Just as Jane Jameson's unlife seems to be stabilizing, fate sinks its fangs firmly into her butt. Despite her near-phobia of wedding planning, her no-frills nighttime nuptials to her sexy boyfriend, Gabriel, are coming along smoothly. That is, until she turns a fatally wounded teenage acquaintance, and the Council pronounces her responsible for the newborn vamp until he can control his thirst.

Jane's kitchen barely holds enough Faux Type O to satiate the cute teen's appetite and maintain Gabriel's jealous streak at a slow simmer. As if keeping her hyperactive childe from sucking the blood out of the entire neighbourhood isn't enough to deal with, the persnickety ghost of Jane's newly deceased grandma Ruthie has declared war on the fanged residents of River Oaks. Suddenly choosing monogrammed cocktail napkins and a cake she can't even eat seems downright relaxing in comparison.

Tensions inside the house are growing...and outside, a sinister force is aiming a stake straight for the center of Gabriel's heart. Most brides just have to worry about choosing the right dress, but Jane fears that, at this rate, she'll never make it down the aisle for the wedding all nice girls dream of...



***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

”Sometimes I marveled at how grown-up we’d all come, and then Dick would recite a sixteen-stanza penis-based epic poem, and I’d take it back."

So long, Jane Jameson, it was good knowing you. Jane finally makes it to the altar, just as her mama has always wanted, but of course she does it her own way & like everything in Jane’s life, it’s complicated.

By this fourth book, the cute is wearing off a bit and I think it was a wise decision by the author to move on and write about other characters in Half Moon Hollow. It did seem a little pat that Jane would be burdened suddenly with a teenage “childe” just before her wedding. The complete and happy family picture makes for a stereotypical happily ever after. I must confess that I was happier when Jane was building her own inner circle of people that she was actually fond of, rather than relying on her cranky family members. I liked the non-traditional assemble-your-own-family approach of the earlier books.

I still like Dick Cheney (the vampire, not the vice president) better than Jane’s finally-not-reluctant husband, Gabriel, but that’s just me. Her gal-pal Andrea got the better choice in the marriage sweepstakes, in my opinion.

I’m taking a little break, but will move on to the Half Moon Hollow series this summer.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Clouds of Witness / Dorothy L. Sayers

3.5 stars out of 5
Rustic old Riddlesdale Lodge was a Wimsey family retreat filled with country pleasures and the thrill of the hunt – until the game turned up human and quite dead. He lay among the chrysanthemums, wore slippers and a dinner jacket and was Lord Peter's brother-in-law-to-be. His accused murderer was Wimsey's own brother, and if murder set all in the family wasn't enough to boggle the unflappable Lord Wimsey, perhaps a few twists of fate would be – a mysterious vanishing midnight letter from Egypt ... a grieving fiancée with suitcase in hand ... and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey.

Dorothy Sayers works seem to me to be perfect for anyone who enjoys the writing of Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. Sayers imparts an acerbic edge that keeps things from getting too twee. She manages to make sharp observations on both the gentry and the socialists, sometimes at the same time. I’ve recently been cataloguing the works of H.G. Wells, who wrote a lot about socialism in the early 20th century, and I find Sayers’ insights on the complicated societal changes of this time period to be spot on.

She isn’t gentle with her fellow authors either. I loved the following exchange, heard by Lord Peter while dining at the Soviet Club:

The authoress was just saying impressively to her companion: '-ever know a sincere emotion to express itself in a subordinate clause?'
'Joyce has freed us from the superstition of syntax,' agreed the curly haired man.
'Scenes which make emotional history,' said Miss Heath-Warburton, 'should ideally be expressed in a series of animal squeals.'
'The D.H. Lawrence formula,' said the other.


Poor old Lawrence, maligned again for trying to express what he considered to be real emotions and realistic human behaviour in his novels.

For some reason, it made me think of Dilbert, when his pointy-haired boss decrees that, “starting today, all passwords must contain letters, numbers, doodles, sign language, and squirrel noises.”

Being unable to express my review in either animal squeals or squirrel noises, I must tell you in English that this series is worth trying.

Jane Steele / Lyndsay Faye

4 out of 5 stars
Reader, I murdered him.
Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?


Reader, we were amused.

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics. It seems to appeal to a wide range of people and it also seems to inspire a number of authors. I’ve read Wide Sargasso Sea, The Lost Child, and Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters and enjoyed all of them. But Jane Steele was the most fun of them all.

Imagine if you will a young woman in similar circumstances as Jane Eyre, with a copy of the book in her hand, as she murders her way out of her problems. In this version, Jane gets rid of the nasty aunt, the abusive cousin, the skeezy schoolmaster, the violent landlord and still finds the Englishman-with-secrets of her dreams.

My second encounter with Lyndsay Faye and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would also recommend Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson, also set in Victorian London, a place & time that Faye seems to have great feeling for.

The Cold Kiss of Death / Suzanne McLeod

3.5 out of 5 stars
‘The ghost grasped her shift and ripped it open. The three interlacing crescents carved red-raw and bleeding into her thin chest didn’t look any better than the last dozen times I’d seen them. The wounds weren’t lethal – they weren’t even recent; she’d been dead for at least a hundred and fifty years – but my gut still twisted with anger that someone would do that to a child.’

Being haunted by a ghost is the least of Genny’s problems: she’s also trying to deal with the witch neighbour who wants her evicted. Finn, her sort-of-Ex – and now her new boss – can’t quite decide whether he wants their relationship to be business or pleasure. And then there’s the queue of vamps inviting her to paint the town red; how long before they stop taking no for an answer?

Just when it seems things can’t get any worse a human friend is murdered using sidhe magic. Determined to hunt down the killer and needing help, she turns to one of London’s most capricious wylde fae and the seductive vampire Malik al-Khan.

But all too soon she realises she doesn’t know who she can trust – and now Genny’s the one being hunted, not just by the police, but by some of London’s most powerful and dangerous supernaturals.


I’m enjoying this urban fantasy set in London, and McLeod’s mix of fae-vampires-witches. I’ll be very interested to see how this series intersects with Ben Aaronovitch’s magical London when the time comes. I’m guessing that it’ll be their river goddesses/river fae that interact and it should be most entertaining. Or perhaps via the ghosts. I’m intrigued and must continue both series!

Genny ends up fleeing everyone in this book—the ghosts, the vampires, other Fae, the police, the witches—a pretty standard set up in urban fiction. Every heroine seems to do it in one book or another, particularly before she gets settled in with a romantic partner. We live in suspicious times and being wary of everyone has become a fairly believable set-up. Getting away from everyone is next to impossible and it builds a certain amount of tension into the plot by default.

This installment cleared up some things and muddied others as a good series book should do. Genny has been given a year and a day to make some decisions about her life, so she has a bit of breathing room. Or so she thinks, for it seems to me that breathing room doesn’t make for compelling narrative. If I were her, I wouldn’t dilly-dally, I would get investigating immediately. And all of the Fae who are angling for her could be in for a surprise if she chooses the enticing Malik al Khan, her vampiric shadow instead of them!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

New Boy / Tracy Chevalier

4 out of 5 stars
Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote—“O” for short—knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day, so he is lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one boy, used to holding sway in the world of the school­yard, can’t stand to witness the budding relationship. When Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl, the school and its key players—teachers and pupils alike—will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is vividly transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington school, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. The world of preadolescents is as passionate and intense, if not more so, as that of adults. Drawing us into the lives and emotions of four eleven-year-olds—Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi—Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by love and jealousy, bullying and betrayal, is as moving as it is enthralling. It is an unfor­gettable novel.


What is Othello about? Love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, repentance. This retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy is intense. The action is condensed into one day on the school grounds. Osei is the new boy—introduced to this grade six class shortly before school ends for the summer. Son of a Ghanaian diplomat, O is used to being the new kid and to being the only black child in the schools he goes to.

Ian is every bit as calculating and cold as any Iago. He is sociopathic in this rendition—shaking down the other kids for their lunch money, turning games into gambling matches, using and abusing those around him. Dee is well-intentioned but easily manipulated by a malicious Ian, as is her best friend, Mimi.

This is an emotional stage in life, as kids go through puberty, start to obsess about relationships, figure out what tasks they are good at, and generally learn to steer their way through the obstacles of life. I was surprised that Chevalier chose this age group to tell this story, but for me it worked well.

It was a quick read and although I knew the broad strokes of the Othello story, I was pleasantly surprised by the details, the characters, and the inevitable ending.

Chimes at Midnight / Seanan McGuire

4 out of 5 stars
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 down...at 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, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. 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. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.


Shades of Lud-in-the-Mist! Replace Hope Mirrlees’ fairy fruit with goblin fruit, a very addictive substance for changelings and mortals, and you have one of October’s problems in Chimes at Midnight.

If I ever need to plan an insurrection, I would want Ms. Daye by my side. Even without her usual Fae powers, she is a force to be reckoned with. Mostly because of her awesome assortment of friends and acquaintances. Now including the Fae librarian, Mags!!! I knew there had to be a library stashed away in the land of Faerie somewhere and it is excellent. Constantly moving & disguising itself, but a temporary library card guarantees that it sits still until your crisis is over.

More Tybalt, more Luidaeg, an evil goblin fruit pie, revelations about young Quentin, plus Toby gets to lead a rebellion against the Queen in the Mists. What more could an October Daye fan ask for?

Friday, 2 June 2017

Wildfire / Ilona Andrews



So.  I have to wait until July 25th for the next installment in the Hidden Legacy series.  Rumour has it that book three will be the ‘conclusion’ to this series.  I have gone into preemptive mourning.



Why I Love Urban Fantasy

I’ve been a fantasy reader all of my life.  I started as a little kid with books like Waldo the Jumping Dragon.  I continued as a teenager with The Lord of the Rings.  And although I still have an enduring love of the regular fantasy genre as well as science fiction, I have found my true love in the Urban Fantasy subgenre.

Urban fantasy seemingly has it all: vampires, werewolves, fairies/the Fae, spies, time-traveling librarians, Medusas, talking mice, druids, magicians, goblins, intergalactic inns, magic swords, you name it!  It also has a propensity towards tough, ass-kicking main characters, be they male or female.

But no matter how impressive the main character, they suffer from the same problems as you and I do.  They sometimes doubt their abilities (Seanan McGuire’s October Daye).  They have difficulty with their families (Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels trying to cope with her god-like father).  They struggle with their finances (Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden).  They experience confusion in their love lives (Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse).  They worry about their careers (Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant).  They make bad decisions that have lasting effects on their lives (Kevin Hearne’s Atticus O’Sullivan).  They’ve lost people who are important to them (Ilona Andrews’ Dina Demille).  They’re having problems with their supervisor at work (Genevieve Cogman’s librarian, Irene).  They struggle to provide for their families (Ilona Andrews’ Nevada Baylor).

In short, these characters share the same problems that we have in the mundane world.  Just as the Harry Potter books speak to regular kids’ problems (sports, tests, bullies, misunderstandings between friends), Urban Fantasy represents a subset of somewhat more adult problems.

Plus, Urban Fantasy is all about relationships and not just romantic relationships.  Building a supportive circle of friends and allies.  Making a good reputation for yourself.  Finding a good partner, both in work and in love.  Finding out what you stand for.  Basically, it is about building a well-rounded life for oneself.

When the main character is female, she is generally a take-charge woman.  She’s a mechanic like Mercy Thompson or a vampire-librarian like Jane Jameson or an Inn Keeper like Dina Demille.  She’s got a quick wit and quicker reflexes.  They are us the way we would like to be.  I don’t know about you, but I always think of the perfect rejoinder about two days later and I often feel like I’m in danger of tripping over my own feet.  This is the REAL fantasy of these novels—the fantasy that allows up to enjoy this feeling of competence that is occasionally missing from the daily grind.

I love the hopeful nature of Urban Fantasy—the belief embodied in it that we can all find our place, find our people, and find our way in the world.

Bibliography

Detiege, Dave.  Waldo, the Jumping Dragon.
Tolkien, J.R.R.  The Lord of the Rings.
McGuire, Seanan.  Rosemary and Rue.  (October Daye)
Andrews, Ilona. Magic Bites. (Kate Daniels)
Butcher, Jim.  Storm Front. (The Dresden Files)
Harris, Charlaine.  Dead Until Dark.  (Sookie Stackhouse)
Aaronovitch, Ben. Rivers of London/Midnight Riot (Peter Grant)
Hearne, Kevin.  Hounded.  (The Iron Druid)
Andrews, Ilona. Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles)
Cogman, Genevieve.  The Invisible Library.
Andrews, Ilona. Burn for Me (The Hidden Legacy)
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.
Briggs, Patricia.  Moon Called. (Mercy Thompson)
Harper, Molly.  Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs (Jane Jameson)