When I downsized, I gave away my earlier Blackbird Sisters novels, and I regret it. Nora Blackbird is the lovely, fragile but relentless young woman wWhen I downsized, I gave away my earlier Blackbird Sisters novels, and I regret it. Nora Blackbird is the lovely, fragile but relentless young woman who grounds her sisters and pretty much everyone around her. Gossip, humor, haute couture, penniless heiresses trying to make a go of it, and a boyfriend whose father is a mafia figure. Watching Nora grow and make decisions for her future is as good as the mystery. If the back copy intrigues, go for it—they are well-written and fun!...more
The Goblin Emperor is a nominee for Best Novel for the 2015 Hugo Award, and it is easy to see why it made the slate. Lush world building, epic skullduThe Goblin Emperor is a nominee for Best Novel for the 2015 Hugo Award, and it is easy to see why it made the slate. Lush world building, epic skullduggery, backbiting and knifing of characters, a conspiracy to kill an emperor and his heirs (and the investigation is going nowhere)…and the forgotten son of the fourth empress.
Maia is in his late teens, half elf, half goblin. He has inherited his mother’s darker skin and height and his father’s delicate build. He was born at the wrong time, from the wrong marriage (a one night stand to seal a treaty, essentially) and only his mother wanted him. He was erratically taught in both schooling and social graces, has been isolated his entire life on a distant estate, and his guardian spent most of this time bullying him. This has produced a young man of great insecurities, who has to learn how to rule while hiding as much as he can of what he doesn’t know. It has also produced a young man who has been denied everything—especially choice.
He’s observant, in many ways seeing with the female gaze of someone who can control nothing but notices everything, and he quietly decides to give those who are voiceless a voice. Maia does this one person or incident at a time. All while finding someone to investigate his father’s murder, protecting his heirs (his older brother’s son and tiny daughters), and (horrors) selecting an empress.
If epic fantasy and cultural SF/F are your thing, you will be riveted. The only reason this is four stars, not five, is because it becomes hard to keep track of the intricate names of houses and minor characters important to the tapestry Addison is weaving. I will tell you that there is a glossary, but I was too involved to look for one! Recommended. Yes, this book will be on my ballot. ...more
I love all of Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow Mysteries, but the holiday ones are especially fun. Most cozy mystery series will have at least one ChristmaI love all of Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow Mysteries, but the holiday ones are especially fun. Most cozy mystery series will have at least one Christmas tale. Andrews is up to four, and they are all wonderful. Each manages to have a ton of humor, a real, multilayered mystery, and a great weaving of both new and returning supporting characters. Meg and Michael’s twins are getting old enough to show personalities and preferences, so this one and Duck the Halls, the last holiday mystery, really opened up the series.
In this story Meg is juggling ten designers decorating rooms in an old, recently repaired home. Her mother is included, of course, but for once Mother is the least of her worries. Everyone has secrets, and someone is sabotaging the rooms. Finally one of the designers shows up with a bullet between the eyes, and Meg has to work fast to solve this case, before she’s next in the gun sight. Andrews continues to make believable, gently funny characters who add to the stories, as well as constantly upping her game as a “hide in plain sight” clues and red herrings’ author.
Every player has a real part, and it all fits beautifully together. This one is a cozy keeper! ...more
The Good, the Bad, and the Emus is another winning Meg Langslow mystery from Donna Andrews. This one is filled with great sight gags and real world isThe Good, the Bad, and the Emus is another winning Meg Langslow mystery from Donna Andrews. This one is filled with great sight gags and real world issues lovingly dovetailed into a book delivering both family humor and a serious case to solve. In the beginning, Meg’s famous grandfather has tried to track down his long-lost love, Cordelia, Meg’s missing grandmother. The trail leads into the mountains, but unfortunately Cordelia died less than a year ago—and her reclusive cousin claims it was murder.
Meg and private detective Stanley Denton agree to try and find out real clues to the murderer to get the sheriff on the trail. The city has a great excuse to get everyone up there—feral emus need to be rounded up! The emu chase turns into a murder mystery, and a story of threatened environmental disaster. Entire new branches of family turn up, too.
You can always count on a wide spectrum of grins, chuckles, and LOLs when reading a Donna Andrews novel. This goes double for stories about Meg LangslYou can always count on a wide spectrum of grins, chuckles, and LOLs when reading a Donna Andrews novel. This goes double for stories about Meg Langslow and her crazy, endearing family. The troops are in fine form in this Christmas season tale of escalating pranks that end in a murder. If you’re paying attention, you’ll figure out why the crazed events are happening, but you may be surprised by the killer—and also by the tiny piece of information that turns out to be the key to all.
Longtime fans will be especially touched how she weaves the tale through its final chapter. One of the things I like best about Andrews’ dry humor and screwball plots is that each reoccurring character is firmly grounded in a sharply defined life and personal eccentricities. This gives the story its color and snap....more
Perhaps the most important thing to say about this wonderful short novel by P.N. Elrod is that you do not need to know either of her vampire series (TPerhaps the most important thing to say about this wonderful short novel by P.N. Elrod is that you do not need to know either of her vampire series (The Vampire Files or the Jonathan Barrett, Gentleman Vampire books) to enjoy this mystery laced with history, fantasy, and humor. Elrod makes you believe that journalist turned undead PI and nightclub owner Jack Fleming really does live in Depression Era Chicago, and really does head to a vampire funeral--where all hell breaks loose. It's up to Fleming and Barrett to solve their own attempted murders, as well as that of an inconvenient corpse found while Barrett was digging out a vampire crypt.
But things never go as you planned, or hoped.
The writing is clean and evocative, character speech rings true for class and era, and the mystery twists beautifully, making the title more appropriate than they could have imagined. Highly recommended.
Donna Andrews is known for writing cute mysteries with crazy supporting characters and often intricate plotting. Most of her Meg Langslow novels alsoDonna Andrews is known for writing cute mysteries with crazy supporting characters and often intricate plotting. Most of her Meg Langslow novels also are very funny. The ones that aren't laugh out loud still get me smiling. This time (for me) the book was a Smiler, not a Chuckler. But well worth reading for all those touches of small town weirdness-es Andrews excels at. Some readers think people just dump on Meg all the time, but she always manages to come out ahead and smiling.
I think you could start here, but if you can find it, read MURDER WITH PEACOCKS first. Starts everything off, and I still love that book!...more
If you love mysteries, you've probably heard of detective Nero Wolfe, even if you've never gotten around to reading one of Rex Stout's books. He's a vIf you love mysteries, you've probably heard of detective Nero Wolfe, even if you've never gotten around to reading one of Rex Stout's books. He's a vintage quirky classic detective, the only one who had a reason to gather everyone into one room for a Reveal at the end of the tale. When Stout died, we all mourned the passing of a man who gave us Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, Fritz the chef and butler, and the other regulars of his depression-era New York City.
Journalist Robert Goldsborough was given the job of writing more books in this world, and it looks like he's done a fine job of it. Everything you love in a Nero Wolfe tale is here (although this is Archie's origin story, so we see more of Archie than Wolfe) and the book has not been sexed up, or plastered with gore. This is a classic who-done-it mystery that really starts with a kidnapping and ends in multiple murder.
As always, it's the gumshoe walking the beat and questioning sources that helps solve the mystery. Caveat: I haven't read a Nero Wolfe for several years, so I did not jump from Stout's work to Goldsborough's homages. I enjoyed this, but it was also my first Goldsborough. It could be representative, or it could be his best work. He has won the Nero Award! Four stars for great atmosphere, character feel, and a tidy mystery. There was something missing, some slight but real-to-my-gut thing that keeps me from calling this a five star book. But I will try others of his Wolfe homages. Recommended.
**spoiler alert** This book is recommended for some readers--but not for me.
"I've been married so many times, they should revoke my license," says NY**spoiler alert** This book is recommended for some readers--but not for me.
"I've been married so many times, they should revoke my license," says NY model, and reluctant pilot Lalla Bains.
This is a well-written story with an interesting location (the California agricultural region) and an assortment of interesting characters. It's amateur detective, possibly a cozy (no sex or graphic violence by the time I stopped) but I couldn't get past one thing. I disliked the sassy protagonist. I'm sure the author was working to make her multilayered and full of interesting contradictions. But Lalla was someone who seemed to repeat stupid mistakes like a revolving wheel. She's oblivious to the good people in her life, and doesn't seem to have any detective qualities.
But sometimes protagonists I don't like grow on me, and this is well-written, so I hung in there. Then we hit a point where a character who has been referred to casually and waved at once from a distance suddenly is going to ride shotgun for the most dangerous thing yet that our heroine has attempted. This character was so obviously being set up to be the reason our heroine would rise to the occasion for, and *we don't know her and don't care about her,* that I stopped reading there.**
Up until this point I was ready to buy the second book, even disliking the protagonist. Which says a lot. So. Read a sample. If Lalla doesn't drive you nuts, definitely give this atmospheric little mystery a try. I may try another one eventually. But I have no desire at this point to finish this one.
**Yes, I stopped, so the ending may have gone in a different direction! But I don't care!...more
Toni Diamond (she was married just long enough to gain a one-in-a-million last name) never met a women who couldn't be enhanced by the LadRecommended.
Toni Diamond (she was married just long enough to gain a one-in-a-million last name) never met a women who couldn't be enhanced by the Lady Bianca makeup line. As one of their top sellers, Toni lives and breathes her business, even when she recognizes that it's not a fairy tale business. She's got a sharp eye both for commerce and for detail, and also an appreciation for the humor of a situation. Toni has fought her way to the top of a competitive business, and she's earned her fake (and real) diamonds and the nice home that took her out of the trailer park where her mother still happily lives.
When a woman is murdered at the Lady Bianca national convention in Dallas, Toni's sharp eye sees details that the sexy attending detective might miss--details that have the police on the trail of a serial killer whose next victim might just be Toni Diamond.
I thought that this was a cute amateur detective story, almost a cozy except for a dash of sex. Toni is intelligent and sympathetic, a capable people-handler with good instincts about management and murder. The supporting cast (including her mother, a smart women of ghastly taste, and her daughter, whose current joy is Goth everything) is appealing, the current love interest an attractive person, and the characters are not too stupid to live while solving the story.
I'd return to Toni's world to find out what happens next--and you even get a few makeup tips along the line! Recommended to anyone checking out a new cozy series, or in the mood for a few grins while enjoying a more classic, murders off-stage mystery. (It has a long sex scene that didn't add anything to our understanding of the characters, which is the only reason I didn't run off right away for more of the series. But I plan to return to it.)...more
**spoiler alert** I’ve been a big fan of Patricia Briggs’ for years, especially her Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega werewolf series. The alternate**spoiler alert** I’ve been a big fan of Patricia Briggs’ for years, especially her Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega werewolf series. The alternate contemporary world where the fae are known to be real and werewolves finally slide out from the shadows is many-layered yet easy to follow.
The Alpha and Omega books, of which Dead Heat is the fourth complete novel, haven’t quite decided what they want to be when they grow up. They flip from being a sweeter paranormal romance to having more sex than the Mercy Thompson tales. They also are edged with the violence that stalks Charles Cornick, the only born (not made) werewolf and a very dangerous wolf indeed. He’s the enforcer for the Alpha wolf of all North America, Bran Cornick, and is often sent out to investigate “problems” his father wants to keep undercover.
Dead Heat begins with a visit to an Arizona ranch to buy a good riding horse for Anna, Charles’ mate and one of only two known living Omega wolves (Omegas are as strong as Alphas but have no compulsion to obey them). Once there, new supernatural politics engulfs them. The fae folk have broken their pact with the American government and withdrawn into their enclaves. Now some of the darkest of their rank are sending forth outliers to remind humans just how dangerous they can be. Charles and Anna find themselves up to their eyebrows with missing children, and the results are horrifying.
This book starts slower than some in the interwoven series, but finishes fast. I found it very dark—it pressed all my buttons for children in peril, and the fae attacking is horrifying. I will warn readers that not all the children can be saved. I usually read these in hardback from the library and then buy a paperback later on, but I may not buy this one. The “find” is burnt into my brain, and all the interesting modern werewolf lore Briggs’ wove into the story may not be enough for me to re-read a book in a favorite series. (We see Charles and Anna begin to discuss the possibility of children, and Charles facing the loss (due to old age) of a good friend.)
Because of the button-pushing I’m giving it three instead of four stars. But if this danger trope doesn’t hit you as hard, you may find it a four star read. ...more
I have returned from a visit to the chalk witches, personified in the form of Tiffany Aching. In A Hat Full ofCharming, moving, exciting, thoughtful.
I have returned from a visit to the chalk witches, personified in the form of Tiffany Aching. In A Hat Full of Sky, by Terry Pratchett, our heroine makes her second appearance (the first was in The Wee Free Men) and thoroughly captivates her audience. This is a character that could be friends with my Alfreda, I think--she is gently wise, very practical, and woven from the land where she was born.
In this tale, she has to go out and gain a bit of education, since witches aren't born knowing everything they should know. And she promptly gets herself into trouble, as she keeps one secret too many, and it's one that threatens Tiffany and everyone around her. Her friends the Wee Free Men, the six-inch-high pictsies (who may be the greatest thieves in the world) are always lurking, ready to lend a hand, track her down at a distance, save the day when they can, and make you laugh out loud. Pratchett proves that he's not only a master of fantastic comedy--he can do it in a YA novel, too, with all his gifts intact. This book is on more than one level, and well worth your time....more
I was lost in the worldview of Rosemary Kirstein's The Steerswoman. This was the original first novel of The Steerswoman series, more recently combineI was lost in the worldview of Rosemary Kirstein's The Steerswoman. This was the original first novel of The Steerswoman series, more recently combined into The Steerswoman's Road. I'm going to need to get my hands on The Outskirter's Secret, the original #2 of the series, now rolled into an omnibus with The Steerswoman. This is character-driven fantasy/SF at its finest. Rowan has been trained as a steerswoman--explorer, cartographer, investigator, walking encyclopedia. Unable to lie, steerswomen wander freely asking questions and answering them across their known world. But when her questions about a tiny jewel attract unfriendly attention from the wizards, mysterious individuals of power, her own fate and that of her entire guild is at stake.
Kirstein has created a world where the steerswomen (and the very few steersmen) look at the world differently, and their presence, their questions, and how they answer others, keenly impacts their world. Every group Rowan interacts with has a different flavor to their speech, their concerns, their lives, that make the simple (and yet deeply complex beneath the surface) world come alive. It's anthropology, adventure, and also one of those fantasies that is really SF, if you're paying attention. But it's so well done you don't resent the intrusion of SF into the narrative.
Really enjoyed this--to the point that I resented a new POV cropping up about halfway into the book! ...more