Laura Resnick is a friend of a friend. Specifically, my friend is the wife of a fraternity brother of mine, so we go back a long way. When you see fri...moreLaura Resnick is a friend of a friend. Specifically, my friend is the wife of a fraternity brother of mine, so we go back a long way. When you see friends of friends commenting on stuff on Facebook, naturally you get curious about that person. I asked my friend Cindy if the thought Laura would mind me "friending" her on Facebook. She said no, so I did. When Laura announced the release of her latest novel, I learned it was the fourth of her "Esther Diammond" books. Not wanting to jump into characters developed over three previous novels, I decided to follow the canon.
Unfortunately, Laura's first novel, Disappearing Nightly, is out of print, so I picked up the second, Doppelgangster, for my Nook. Laura said she put a lot of backstory from the first novel into the second to catch everyone up. She was right, I got what was going on pretty quickly.
The main character of Doppelgangster is Esther Diamond, an aspiring actress living in New York who waits tables more than she acts. Esther got mixed up in some heavy-duty occult goings-on in the first novel, and naturally they continue to follow her around Manhattan. She's in between acting gigs, working at an Italian restaurant that is, well, to not sugar-coat it, mobbed-up. While working one night, she encounters a Doppelgänger, or perfect double, of a mobster who is a regular at the restaurant. The mobsters believe that, if one sees his perfect double, death is imminent, and this guy ends up dying while Esther's serving him.
Esther immediately picks up a tabloid characterisation of a mobbed-up "chorus girl," who witnesses what may be the beginning of a war between two crime families. Enlisting the help of Dr. Max Zodak, a mage/wizard of the "Magnum Collegium" (an organisation whose charter is fighting Evil with a capital "E"), she investigates the doppelgänger sighting. Naturally, since this involves a Mafia family, one of the older hitmen who knows Esther joins in. He doesn't get "doppelgängers" calling them "doppelgangsters." A few more deaths, a few more doppelgängers, and some solid plot work, and the case is solved.
When I started reading Doppelgangster, my first thought was, this is like Misty Lackey's Diana Tregarde novels, and I forgot how much fun a series like that is. Esther's not a paladin-level heroine; she's trying to make ends meet while getting an acting career off the ground. High-level paladins don't often sit around in sweats, consuming pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, but Esther does that when she's depressed. She's managed to get caught up into some weird stuff that complicates a love life, and Resnick's descriptions of a worked-up, horny Esther are at once exciting and humorous. Throw in social/business interactions with mobsters, and Esther Diamond's world just gets more interesting.
Doppelgangster is a fun read. Resnick does her homework on the occult/esoteric side of things, so it's easy to slip into the world in which Esther and Max are fighting Evil. You look at some elements, such as Max Zodak's bookstore and see connections used by countless other authors (think Ray's Occult Bookstore from "Ghostbusters" for this particular location), but you don't care. It's like role-playing game material that often starts in the common room of a local tavern. Yeah, it's a standard setting, but who cares, the story's good!
My instincts were solid here, and I've moved on to the next Esther Diamond story, Unsympathetic Magic(less)
I'm not sure what attracted me to this book, but there was an exotic aspect to the back-cover teaser that got my attention. Kushiel's Dart is medieval...moreI'm not sure what attracted me to this book, but there was an exotic aspect to the back-cover teaser that got my attention. Kushiel's Dart is medieval fantasy, sword-and-sorcery, but the "sorcery" is sexual rather than magickal.
Phedre is a "whore's get"--and in medieval terms, that's pretty low on the totem pole. In Jacqueline Carey's universe, Phedre's nominally in a kingdom corresponding to Gaul/France. 'Yeshua ben Yosef' is acknowledged, as is "Tiberium," but Christianity doesn't dominate Western Europe as in the real world. This gives Carey a great deal of latitude regarding sexual mores. Written in the first person, Phedre tells the story of how she was given over by her mother to a "house" of the "Night Court." The men and women of the Night Court see their role as offerings to a god, so sex-for-money is acceptable. Phedre's contract/indenture is purchased by a player, a poet and adventurer who educates her, training her to become his spy amongst the nobles of the land.
I'll leave the plot exposition at that. What impresses me about this book are several things. First, the Carey's universe turns medieval Christian mores on their head. There's not much Phedre does that didn't happen anyway, but the hypocrisy of the Church is missing. One might argue this is a cop-out on part of many fantasy authors who aren't very well-educated on the Church, but clearly Carey knows what she's about, and has done a great job of creating an "alternate theology" that works.
Second, the "good story" here involves the sex. Phedre likes it rough, as it were, but it's the way she's wired. She's an anguisette, someone who truly gets off on the pain. Her patron and mentor recognizes this and allows her to make her way in the world, using her talents to make him money and to gather intelligence about the doings of the nobility. The author weaves a wonderful tale of intrigue, scheming on both a personal and a grand scale. Epic battles on land and sea, with trials and tribulations for the main characters that are both exciting and bittersweet.
Kushiel's Dart is an interesting cross between a fantasy and a romance novel. Ms. Carey did well with her universe, throwing in more than just bodice-ripping. The concept of the "adepts" of the Night Court is developed well. Sex scenes in the book aren't bodice-rippers, but are of a level you don't see in most "vanilla" fantasy novels.
Kushiel's Dart is exactly what the jaded fantasy reader needs, a sexual boost. Even if you don't continue with Phedre's exploits in subsequent titles, this is an enjoyable read.(less)
Got into Rankin thanks to an interview he did on NPR, promoting his latest book, The Complaints. That novel is a story about the Edinburgh equivalent...moreGot into Rankin thanks to an interview he did on NPR, promoting his latest book, The Complaints. That novel is a story about the Edinburgh equivalent to Internal Affairs, but naturally the chat turned to the subject of Rankin's main character, Detective Inspector John Rebus. The man and his work sounded interesting, so off I went to check him out. I found his second Rebus novel, Hide and Seek as a "nook book," so I read that before this one, Rebus' first appearance.
Rebus is just a Detective Sergeant in Knots and Crosses which has him tracking a serial killer in Edinburgh. Rankin does a great job doing character exposition while keeping the plot moving. It's kind of interesting to go back and read a novel set 20 years ago, to see how police work has grown since then. Bottom line, though, is that tracking a serial killer is basically similar, and no doubt much of the internal politics that comes with being a cop in Edinburgh is the same. It's sort of sad that military references also apply today.
In any case, no regrets with going back to the beginning to read Rebus in canonical order. Looking forward to seeing his career progress.(less)
What a delightful read! Set at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries in New Orleans, Louis has done a great job conveying life in Storyville/Treme at th...moreWhat a delightful read! Set at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries in New Orleans, Louis has done a great job conveying life in Storyville/Treme at the time. Street con artists, prostitutes, bartenders, and other denizens of backatown all come to life and are engaging. The esoteric/spiritual aspects of the story are, as one would expect, nay, as one should demand from a story about New Orleans, are fantastic. The author weaves Catholicism, black spiritualism, Voudon, and practical life in New Orleans into a tapestry that keeps you reading.
The character who keeps the plot moving is jazz musician Buddy Bolden. From his early years, learning the trumpet, to young adulthood, to his mental breakdown, the characters of the story come in and out of his life, making him what he was, for better or worse.
The slice-of-life aspects of Building Coffins are well-researched. I love the connection to the "Sicilian lynchings" of 1893, one of the more shameful incidents in New Orleans' history.
Heard a great interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Ian Rankin a couple of months back, when his new novel The Complaints, came out. Rankin's "guy" is J...moreHeard a great interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Ian Rankin a couple of months back, when his new novel The Complaints, came out. Rankin's "guy" is John Rebus, a police detective in Edinburgh. I couldn't get Knots and Crosses, his first Rebus novel, for my Nook, so I got this one (the second), and picked up the hardcopy of the first for my flights to UK next week.
John Rebus is a Detective Sergeant in Edinburgh in the first novel, and the case gets him promoted to Detective Inspector for this one. It's very odd in some ways to read a novel from 1989 now, but it was still quite entertaining. I'd like to think the police would be more sophisticated about running down "occult"-related leads now, but part of me says maybe the lack of background and training is still there.
Anyway, I like Rebus and his style of police work. Being an Inspector, he's got seniority but not rank. He gets to utilize (and terrorize) the PCs (Police Constables) that work at the station, but it's not as if he's supervising a squad, such as Lt. Fancy on "NYPD Blue."
The story of this case is good and unpredictable, which is essential in a murder mystery. It's also incredibly cynical, much more so than what most American writers are capable of.(less)
I'm really enjoying this series. This book was along the lines of a "dark second movement," but it's clear (even if you didn't know there are more tha...moreI'm really enjoying this series. This book was along the lines of a "dark second movement," but it's clear (even if you didn't know there are more than three books) that not everything can be resolved in a third novel. Martin's style makes you want to shout out at characters when they're being dumb and to cheer with them when they succeed.
Started reading these books after watching ep 1 of the HBO series--too much context missing in the TV show. First was a great page-turner, has inspire...moreStarted reading these books after watching ep 1 of the HBO series--too much context missing in the TV show. First was a great page-turner, has inspired me to keep going.(less)
New Orleans, sports, the Ninth Ward, uptown, and a brilliant look at the inside of commercial kitchens in the city. Poppy done good with this novel. I...moreNew Orleans, sports, the Ninth Ward, uptown, and a brilliant look at the inside of commercial kitchens in the city. Poppy done good with this novel. I read Liquor just before the storm, meant to keep going with the series, and got distracted a bit by the events of the fall of 2005. Re-read Liquor over the summer, then bought Prime and Soul Kitchen as e-books foor my Nook. With all my travel this summer, it was a good anchor back to home. (less)