Will Frost, the successful CEO of Ingram International in the UK, and his wife, Carla, are excited about the return of their 19 year old daughter, Libby, from a trip in Thailand with her boyfriend, Luke. They’re hoping to spend some time with her, since she’ll soon be having a baby, and surely moving in with Luke, the baby’s father. They’re in the midst of installing a high tech security system in their renovated sixteenth century hunting lodge since someone had lit a bonfire on their front steps. Will thinks it may have been a prank, but he wants to be able to identify any trespassers on the property from now on. Not only is he excited to see his daughter, but he’s hoping her visit may take Carla’s mind off of a recent tragedy. Little does he know, but Will is about to have more to worry about than bonfires.
In the dead of night, the night before Libby and Luke are to return from Thailand, Will receives a phone call asking if he’d Googled himself lately. He does indeed Google himself, and finds a website containing pictures of Libby and Luke, but these aren’t vacation photos of a happy couple, they’re horrible pictures depicting them bound and gagged, along with pictures of the inside of his own home. Soon, he’s instructed to go to seven different homes and retrieve items that supposedly belong to Libby. Only then will there be any chance of seeing his daughter alive again. Will and Carla are terrified, but they’ve been told that if they involve the police, Libby will be killed, so Will heads to Florida to the first address. It’s only after he completes his task at the first home, that he’ll be given the address to the next, and so on. The carnage at the Florida house is unspeakable, but Will steels himself to his task while Carla uses GPS to keep track of him back in the UK, and also tries to find any connection they might have with the victims, and why they might have been targeted, since no ransom demands have been made. What could the killer possibly hope to achieve by playing such a sick game? How far will Will go to save his daughter, and how far can he go before he loses his sanity?
I dare you to read three pages of Scare Me and put it down. I’ve seen Scare Me described as Se7en-esque, and I suppose that’s a decent comparison. The similarities mostly lie in the grisly scenes that Will must navigate in order to collect each item. The novel goes back and forth between Will, Carla, Libby’s ordeal, and yes, we even get to follow along with the killer (as well as a few other surprises.) He even gives us a name, but you won’t understand the killer’s motivations, or identity, until the end. Parker isn’t cruel, though. You won’t have to wait until the very end before he drops a big clue about the killer’s identity, and I started to have inklings earlier on, but there’s good reason for that. You’ll see what I mean. If it seems like I’m being coy, it’s because I am. Revealing too much would be spoiling the fun of this fantastic thriller. Granted, I’m usually of the “call-the-cops-if-someone-is-kidnapped-no-matter-what” camp, but I’m a parent, and I certainly can’t tell you for sure what I would do if it was my child that’s been taken. I can tell you that I would be desperate and terrified, which Will and Carla certainly are, and Parker does a keen job exploring Will’s motivations as well as Carla’s, and they aren’t always the same. They’re definitely on the same page about getting their daughter back, but sometimes they don’t quite agree on the “how.” Through it all, though, they remain firmly united and although Will is in the thick of things, traveling literally around the world, one step behind a brutal killer, Carla proves just as capable back home.
As for the killer… Scare Me actually opens with the first murders, and you’ll get a really good idea of what you’re dealing with, or, at least, you think you will. By the time you get to the end, you will want to see this sick, evil, diabolical person meet their end in the most horrid way. However… Think you can’t have sympathy for a psychopath? Richard Parker may make you change your mind, and he’ll take you on a wild ride in the process. Scare Me is not only an effective, fast paced thriller, but it also mines some very uncomfortable and sometimes tragic territory, which adds depth that you sometimes don’t find in conventional thrillers. There’s a reason why Scare Me has already been optioned for film-and it’s not even out yet! Lock your doors, keep the lights on and plan to stay up late, because this is one very clever scavenger hunt from hell that you won’t want to miss!(less)
I love discovering new authors, and I especially love it when I discover one that will go on my autobuy. You know the feeling I’m talking about, where in the first few pages you know you’re really gonna like a book? That’s how I felt with Wide Open. Wide Open is Hallie Michaels’ story, and right away, you know you’re in for something unique. It begins when Hallie returns to South Dakota from Afghanistan to attend her sister Dell’s funeral. To hear the town tell it, Dell committed suicide, but Hallie knows better, and is determined to get to the bottom of it. With the help of her childhood friend, and Boyd, a sheriff’s deputy that has the same suspicions as Hallie, she’ll have to navigate some unusual, and possibly life threatening territory to find out the truth of her sister’s death. And there’s a storm coming…
Right away, the author plops you right down into the near stifling atmosphere of (rather stormy) small town South Dakota, and doesn’t let up on you. Hallie is a little more than normal, since she “died” in Afghanistan, was revived, and can now see ghosts on a near constant basis. One of them is Dell. The author manages to make the ghosts creepy and haunting without making them scary, and they’re not malicious, but they do want something of Hallie. She’s got 10 days to figure out what happened to her sister, and as it turns out, other women in the area that have gone missing. It may have something to do with Uku-Weber, and it’s founder Martin Weber, but Hallie’s not quite sure what. The company seemingly gets raves from the community, with its creation of new jobs and research into harnessing wind energy, but there’s something more diabolical going on, something involving magic, and possibly murder.
There are plenty of supernatural components in Wide Open for readers of fantasy, but the real magic lies in the characters. Hallie is moody and brittle much of the time, but we see her soften over the course of the novel, especially when it comes to Boyd. He’s determined to help Hallie, and she’s determined to push him away, and the almost-romance is actually kind of sweet (and it leaves plenty of good stuff for a next novel, maybe? Hopefully?) The writer’s staccato writing style served the story well, and her grasp on small town life is fascinating, plus there’s murder, magic, fire, and ghosts. How can you go wrong with that? Wide Open was a quick read for me, but that’s because I really didn’t want to put it down for long, and is a great debut fantasy. I have my fingers crossed for more Hallie and Boyd, but I’d be happy with anything from Deborah Coates. I urge you to give this one a try!(less)
When Marcus Goldman publishes his first novel, it makes him a star. High on money and fame, he barely stops to consider that more may be expected of him. Soon, though, his publisher and agent are hounding him to produce another book, or else, and after many false starts, Marcus suspects that he doesn’t have it in him to write another book. Desperate, he returns to Somerset, Massachusetts, where he first met Harry Quebert, author of The Origin of Evil, considered a masterpiece by some. He hasn’t seen Harry in about a decade, but Harry welcomes Marcus back into his home and insists that soon, he’ll be able to write another book. One day, Marcus sets about snooping in Harry’s office, hoping that he’ll find something to unlock the secrets of overcoming his persistant writer’s block. Instead, he finds a box with pictures of Harry with a very young girl. Harry catches him with the pictures and flies into a rage, but after calming himself, he begins to tell Marcus about the girl, Nola Kellergan, a girl that Harry insists that he was in love with. The problem is, Nola was only fifteen in 1975, much too young to be involved with a man in his 30s, and soon Marcus finds out that, in addition to being Harry’s lover, Nola disappeared that year, never to be seen again.
If Marcus was a bit disgusted to find out that Harry had fallen for a 15 year old girl, he gets an even bigger shock when her body is found on Harry’s property, three feet under the soil that was disturbed by landscapers, planting flowers at Harry’s request. Immediately, Harry is suspected, and subsequently arrested for Nola’s murder, but Marcus is sure that Harry would never kill anyone, and if he did, why would he request that flowers be planted in the very spot that he supposedly buried the body. Once Marcus’s publisher gets wind of the scandal, he demands that Marcus produce a sensational tell all about the case, full of sex and violence, but Marcus refuses. He then embarks on his own investigation, determined to clear Harry’s name.
The Truth About the Harry Quebert (pronounced kuh-bear) Affair, written by a Swiss author and translated from French, has gotten huge buzz and found enormous success overseas. It’s been touted as the next big thing and compared to Stieg Larsson’s work. Since I haven’t read his work, I can’t speak to that, but I can tell you that, if you’re looking for an intriguing mystery, then it’s worth your time. It’s told mostly in first person by Marcus Goldman, with frequent vignettes by the citizens of Somerset during Marcus’s investigation. I’ll admit that at first, I couldn’t stand Marcus. He calls himself Marcus the Magnificent growing up and manages to insert himself in situations in which he can’ t possibly lose, always out to elevate himself over others, even if he puts little to no effort into actually earning those accolades. So of course, after his first book finds huge success, he’s pretty much insufferable. One of my favorite parts of the book is a scene between Harry and Marcus in which Harry sharply and swiftly cuts Marcus down to size. You’ll be glad to hear that Marcus doesn’t stay insufferable, and in fact becomes fairly likable as the book progresses, and yes, there’s some self- discovery to be had. The author obviously put a lot of work into fleshing out the little town of Somerset (The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns comes to mind as sort of a comparison), and manages to put in enough sharp turns to make things interesting. It’s an ambitious book, but, coming in at almost 650 pages, it probably could have done with some trimming, and some of the dialogue missed the mark for me. Still, Dicker’s prose is clean, and as sometimes happens with books that move back and forth between time periods, never confusing. If you’re looking to escape into a purely fun, absorbing mystery, then this is a good choice.(less)
My favorite enigmatic FBI agent,Aloysius Pendergast,is back,and he’s determined to find out what really happened to his wife,Helen,in Africa,where she supposedly died at the jaws of a vicious lion. Cold Vengeance starts off with a bang,with Pendergast on a hunting expedition in Scotland with his brother in law,Judson Esterhazy. Esterhazy tries to do away with Pendergast,but,if you’re familiar with this series,then you know Pendergast is tough to kill,very tough,and it’s going to take more than a silly murder attempt to stop him. When D’Agosta,cop and dear friend to Pendergast,learns of the attempt on his life,he insists on traveling to Scotland to help,and Corrie Swanson (Still Life With Crows),also lends a hand back in New York. Constance Green plays a significant part in this book as well,and there will be revelations about her and her past. Esterhazy isn’t exactly a walk in the park,but we also meet a villain that puts him to shame. Pendergast is single minded in his mission to find out the truth,and he’ll employ all of his cunning and genius to do so. He’s also not afraid to resort to a bit of blackmail to get his way.
The authors put Pendergast through the physical ringer in this one,but he bounces back in typical Pendergast fashion,and he’ll stop at nothing to root out the truth. Cold Vengeance is like a big onion,and I had a hell of a time peeling back the layers! The action never stops,and I had a really hard time putting this one down. Most of the Pendergast novels can be read individually,however,you really need to have read Fever Dream to get the most out of Cold Vengeance. There are more twists and turns than you can count,a sadistic villain,secret Nazi groups with shadowy agendas,action galore,and of course,a cast of characters that we’ve grown to love. I’ll drop everything to pick up a Pendergast book,and Cold Vengeance was no exception! I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next book in this wonderful series!(less)
Captain Alexander Napoleon Outland can’t seem to get a break. Along with his crew, he’s out to score some magma when a pirate armada tries to shanghai his ship, the Sixty-Nine. Yes, his ship really is called the Sixty-Nine. Trust me, as you get to know Nap better, this will not surprise you one bit. Forced to land on a planet known for its military and distinct lack in the sense of humor department, Nap and crew find themselves in one sticky situation after another in their attempts to escape the planet and get back to business as usual.
Alexander Outland is told from the point of view of the Captain himself and strikes the perfect tone for a rollicking space opera from the get go. Nap is equal parts Han Solo, Jack Sparrow, and Buck Rogers, with a liberal dash of Spaceballs and Peter Venkman. He can’t resist the ladies, and usually they can’t resist him, which is why he is so puzzled that his weapons chief, Slinkie, is so resistant to his “charms”. However, in spite of his near overwhelming preoccupation with the gorgeous Slinkie, he manages to take care of his crew and inspire an odd sort of loyalty among the strange bunch. I fell in love with Nap from the beginning in spite of his overlarge libido and laughed out loud at his dry wit. There’s plenty of action here, but the real fun (for me) came from the dialogue between Nap and his eccentric crew, including the always cheerful, humanoid Audrey (the ship’s AI in a rockin’ bod). Interstellar spies, a pirate armada with a ridiculous name (trust me on this one), and a memorable (and smelly)trip through the sewer system of Herion are just part of the fun, and I was happy to ride along! Fans of space opera and sci-fi will have a great time with this one, and of course, fans of GJ Koch’s (aka Gini Koch) Kitty Martini series will find lots to love too! Will Nap and his crew escape the pirates and live to plunder another day? Will Nap ever bed the irresistible Slinkie? You’ll have to read it and find out! I promise you won’t be disappointed.(less)
Until I opened Shades of Milk and Honey, I had no idea I was in the mood for this kind of novel, but evidently I was, because I could hardly put it down, and in fact, read it in an afternoon. I feel like I have to mention that Sense and Sensiblity is one of my favorite movies, and I’ve seen it, well, let’s just say I’ve seen it multiple times, and I couldn’t help but compare Jane and Melody to the two eldest Dashwood sisters. Jane is 28, and therefore, her marriage prospects are pretty much nonexistent. It doesn’t help that she’s seen as very plain¸whereas her younger sister Melody is everything a suitor looks for in a bride¸beautiful and full of life. However, Jane has a talent that her sister lacks. Jane is a very skilled glamourist, which is seen as a most desirable trait in a wife. In Shades of Milk and Honey, glamour, or magic, is woven into beautiful scenes, or glamurals, for entertainment of guests, but can also be used to disguise more undesirable physical features. It’s really up to the talent of the glamourist as to what can be created, and Jane has talent in spades. She also has her eye on a gentlemen that her sister seems to like, but as we get deeper into the story, we find out that Melody’s affections are not what they seem, and when the girls meet the mysterious and talented Mr. Vincent, they get more excitement than they bargained for.
Shades of Milk and Honey is a light, effervescent concoction that begs to be read on a gorgeous spring afternoon under the shade of a beautiful tree. Don’t worry, it still works if those things aren’t available as well. You’ll root for Jane and I always have a little fun with books written during this time period because I always just want the characters to say what they feel, but propriety really doesn’t allow for it, and it makes for lovely tension. This has gotten a lot of comparison to Jane Austen, of course, but I’ll be completely honest and admit that I haven’t read any Jane since college (it’s been awhile), so it was hard for me to make any direct comparisons (other than Sense and Sensibility), and I think that’s a good thing, since even though the girls reminded me of the Dashwoods, I was just able to enjoy a lovely story. And it is lovely. An unusual take on magic, delightful characterizations, and just plain good writing make this Nebula nominee worth a read, and them some. It was the perfect break between darker fantasy books, and made me smile like a goofball at the end. I’d recommend it for anyone that loves gentle fantasy and a happy ending, and I do love a happy ending every now and then.(less)
Feed follows bloggers (and adoptive sister and brother) Georgia and Shaun Mason (and their respective teams) over a period of time as they cover a pivotal presidential election in a postapocalyptic US. After a virus, Kellis-Amberlee (originally meant to cure the common cold),runs rampant throughout the world, the US has slowly but surely rebuilt, reclaiming most of the country. There are however, areas of the country that cannot be retaken, and are teeming with zombies, who’s sole mission is to devour and infect. As Georgia and Shaun cover the campaign trail, things begin going horribly wrong, and knowing who to trust is becoming harder and harder. When people start dying, things get really serious.
Feed takes place in a world where blood tests greet you at every entry and exit, and hard justice is meted out on a daily basis. People have had to conform to a reality that includes not only constant blood testing, but safety measures on a grand scale, and skin to skin contact is now at a bare minimum. Public gathering? Forget about it, unless the area has been cleared for just that purpose. Kellis-Amberlee is a nasty, nasty little virus, yet Georgia lives with it on a daily basis, since she has a form of retinal KA that makes normal vision impossible. Georgia is our guiding voice here, and her strength and conviction comes across on every page, as does her absolute loyalty to her brother. Georgia is the sensible, pragmatic one, while Shaun takes chances that any sane person would scoff at, and they keep the ratings coming. Adopted by parents who’s biological child was killed during the Rising, Georgia and Shaun have built an unshakeable trust and dependency on each other, and it’s sometimes heartbreaking in it’s intensity. From page one, Feed grabs you by your neck, and refuses to let you go. The narrative is interspersed with snippets from each character’s blogs, and at times, the pace is frantic. Yes, it has zombies, and there are some truly, truly terrifying moments, but the true meat, so to speak, of this novel is in its depiction of how the media affects us in our daily lives, and how it can not only save lives, but destroy them as well. It will certainly make you think about how much we count on the news to not only keep us informed but tell us the truth, and how sometimes that’s not the case. Feed was one of those rare novels where I fell in love with the characters, and there were parts that absolutely broke my heart. I exclaimed out loud a few times, and was also moved to tears. Feed is a Hugo nominee for this year, and there’s good reason for that. The amount of research that went into this story is enormous, and the author’s attention to detail is impeccable. Feed is a raw, emotional, postapocalyptic masterpiece that will keep you glued to the pages. I implore you to make this one of your Must Reads this year. I promise you won’t regret it. (less)
Harlan Vetters is dying, and he has a secret. A plane crashed long ago deep in the Great North Woods and when Harlan and his friend, Paul Scollay, discovered the plane, they also found a bag of money and evidence that the plane may have been carrying a prisoner. There’s no sign of a body or bodies, only the dark presence of a young girl who’s said to haunt the surrounding area. So, Harlan and Paul took the money, and kept the secret, until Harlan told the story to his son and daughter, right before his death. Now, Marielle Vetters and Ernie Scollay have approached Charlie Parker about the mysterious plane, and the secrets it may still be hiding. There’s a list of names that were found with the money, and it seems that each person on the list are being met with untimely ends. There are those that will do anything to get their hands on that list and when Charlie finds out that his is among the names, things start to get very dangerous, and very personal.
John Connolly is a master at creeping, atmospheric dread, and The Wrath of Angels is no exception. If you‘ve been keeping up with the series, you may remember a particularly nasty bad guy that went by the name of Brightwell. He should be dead, because Charlie killed him, but he’s back, in the form of a very creepy little boy. The boy’s “mother” Darina, is as evil as she is beautiful, and she’s also out to find the list. Charlie Parker is known as a man that can get things done, sometimes in less than legal ways, and is always on the side of the angels. However, there are those that would see Charlie undone, in mind and body, and his name on that list may mean that the Collector is also on his trail. Charlie and the Collector have had an uneasy truce for some time now, but there’s reason to believe the Collector is not as discerning as he once was and the word “mercy” is not in his vocabulary. Charlie calls on Louis and Angel for their help in finding the plane and help also comes from unexpected places, in the form of a deaf/mute young woman who is much more than she seems.
John Connolly writes with his always superb, poetic prose and its beauty is wonderful contrast to the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, horrors he describes. Charlie is a quietly moral, flawed man, but his heroism lies in his intolerance of injustice, and his willingness to go the distance in order to fight it. Louis and Angel are capable, cranky, and wonderful as always, and be on the lookout for a charming scene involving them and Charlie’s young daughter, who is in awe of the duo. I usually say this with each new book in this series, and I’ll say it again: with each one, I expect they can’t get better, and they always are, they always do. Connolly’s superb fusion of noir and the supernatural is to be savored, and not to be missed.(less)
Agnes Magnúsdóttir has been convicted of taking part in the brutal murder of two men, Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson, along with Sigrídur (Sigga) Gudmundsdóttir and Fridrik Sigurdsson. Agnes is sent to northern Iceland to stay with a family until her execution can be carried out, and Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes’s time with this family, and is interspersed with her first person narrative of the events leading up to the crime in question. When she arrives at the farmhouse of Kornsá, she is met with wariness, especially from Lauga, one of two young sisters, and Margrét, their mother. Their father, Jón, is mostly indifferent to her presence, accepting that it’s his responsibility as a town official, but Lauga’s sister, Steina, is fascinated with Agnes and she recognizes her from an encounter from when the girls were much younger, in which Agnes showed them a small act of kindness. Steina just can’t believe that this quiet, melancholy woman could be guilty of the crimes that she has been convicted of. Agnes has requested that a young priest, Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jónsson, or Tóti, be her spiritual guardian until the time of her execution, and it isn’t forgiveness that she seeks, but something else entirely.
Burial Rites is Hannah Kent’s first novel, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from the confident voice of Agnes to the gorgeous, meticulous descriptions of Icelandic farm life in the mid-1800s. It’s also based on a true story, which makes it all the more devastating, and indeed, many of the “official” documents that accompany the narrative have been adapted from original sources . I loved everything about this book, but my favorite parts were Agnes’s first person accounts of her time with Natan, and their relationship, which was passionate, fraught, and eventually, for Agnes, an obsession. Did Agnes’s obsession lead to murder? I’ll leave that for you to find out, but her guilt or innocence is not the point. Burial Rites is the portrait of a woman who has always been an outsider, an orphan from a young age, and the eventual acceptance of her as part of the family that takes her in, and comes to care for her, during the days leading up to her execution. This is a lovely and haunting novel, and one that will stay with you long after you read the final page.(less)
The death of one of Jackson Lee’s sisters, Tessa, at a very young age, a death that Jackson himself was able to “see” using his gift, spurred a retaliatory act of violence that led young Jackson to the Cane Lake County Home for Boys, where he was called Shotgun Jack, a name he came by honestly. As things go, Cane Lake could have been much worse (it was bad enough), and Jackson even met someone that would later influence his life, but it wasn’t to be his last stop before adulthood. In fact, the carnival was, where he read cards and moved his hands over a crystal ball to make his way, and also where he met a sweet young girl named Abby who would make an indelible impression on Jack and would come to be an important part of his future as well. As an adult, Jackson finds himself making a decent living in Atlanta finding lost items, since all it takes for him is a touch. The only problem is, Jackson sees everything, but he’d never tell his clients that. It’s not a bad living, and with Abby as his secretary, he’s fairly content. Abby is away visiting family, however, and so he’s been on his own for a bit when a man walks into his office that will change his life forever.
When a man calling himself Dr. John Chang comes into Jackson’s office, he’s immediately suspicious, and with good reason. Dr. Chang wants him to participate in a “study” of his abilities, but Jackson isn’t having it, and after seeing Chang on his way, he thinks he’s seen the last of him. He hasn’t. In fact, Chang isn’t his name at all, and he’s using the fate of Jackson’s remaining sister, Glory, as leverage in securing his help in a government project gone wrong, one that involves the energy of violent death and someone from Jackson’s past; someone Jackson cared about very much. Finding it impossible to say no, Jackson joins the project, and what a ride!
This is my first novel by Rob Thurman, and if it’s any indication of her other work, count me as a fan. Jackson serves as narrator and I found myself drawn to his seemingly unsentimental façade, but of course, he’s not as unfeeling as he’d like people to think. In fact, if anything, it’s the complete opposite, since his gift allows him to completely read people at a touch. It’s caused him to put up a wall, forever shutting all but a few people out, but over the course of the book, that wall begins to erode, much to his chagrin. In fact, revelations from his violent childhood will come to light and everything is not quite what it seems. This also applies to people, of which he’s already painfully aware. The twists and turns in All Seeing Eye are legion and I was constantly kept guessing. In spite of the action, if you’re looking for a shallow thriller, this isn’t it, and in fact, in reminded me of some of Dean Koontz’s best work. Some portions are downright scary and Thurman doesn’t shy away from some of the more graphic aspects of the narrative, but I like some horror elements in my thrillers, so that was just fine with me. I found All Seeing Eye to be both unique and terrifying, even poignant, and a journey well worth taking! Fingers are crossed for more books in Jackson’s world!(less)
My partner in crime, Chelsea, from Vampire Book Club raved about Blood Rights, and I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Kristen Painter at the Readers n’ Ritas recently, so I was anxious to dive right in¸ and I’m so glad I did! First off, the cover is just lovely, and really does a good job of giving a spot on visual of Chrysabelle’s markings and her otherworldly beauty, and sets up the mood for the book perfectly. Chrysabelle is a comarre to a noble vampire. In other words, a certain vampire is her patron, and he (or she) owns her blood rights exclusively. When her patron is murdered, Chrysabelle is assumed to be his killer, and she goes on the run, hoping to escape over a hundred years of servitude. She immediately seeks out her “aunt”, a former comarre who won her freedom long ago, and who may be able to help Chrysabelle clear her name. Chrysabelle is no weeping violet, in spite of her career choice. She’s spent her life training in the killing arts, and does a fine job of defending herself at every turn, making pretty short work of anyone that chooses to threaten her or those she cares about. The author did a really nice job of balancing her physical strength along with the vulnerability that comes with over 100 years of pampered existence. She eventually meets up with Mal, an anathema vampire with a curse who has a shapeshifter and a ghost for sidekicks. Sparks inevitably fly¸ but probably not how you think.
From page one of Blood Rights, the author sets up the settings, in Romania and Paradise City in New Florida, to be characters in and of themselves. Keep in mind, this is the future (2067), and there’s a blending of old and new that really serves the story to great effect, but is very subtle and never heavy handed. Little details are sprinkled throughout that really enhance the story’s effectiveness. The push and pull of Mal and Chrysabelle is exquisite from the get go, and Ms. Painter gives us a villain, in the awful Tatiana, to rival the worst of them. Mal is the epitomy of “tortured soul”, and getting through his many layers was a big lure of this story, not to mention the delicious (and dangerous) tension between him and Chrysabelle. Tatiana is determined to become an Elder, now that Chrysabelle’s patron is dead, and she’s willing to go about it any way she can. Greedy and power hungry, Tatiana is a force to be reckoned with, ad you’ll love to hate her. Twists and turns abound, and there were a couple I saw coming, but also quite a few that I didn’t! The author has created an unusual and fascinating “othernatural” mythology that was refreshing, especially since the vampire genre is anything but fresh. Even if you feel “vamped-out” lately, I urge you to give this highly imaginative series a try! You won’t be disappointed!(less)
It was 1985 and Rosie Daly and Francis Mackey were in love. Eager to escape his deeply dysfunctional family, Frank makes plans with Rosie to head off to England for a new start. Rosie never shows up at their meeting place, though, and Frank is heartbroken. Still determined to get away, Frank spends time at friends and eventually joins the police. 22 years later, Frank is now a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad, and he’s about to get a phone call that will change everything. Rosie’s suitcase has been found in the derelict house that they were supposed to meet at on that fateful night, and Frank begins to suspect the worst. Did Rosie ever make it to England, or did she even make it out of Faithful Place. One thing is certain: Frank will get to the bottom of it, even if it means going back home and facing his family one last time.
Faithful Place, the third book in Tana French’s Dublin series, is told in Frank Mackey’s voice and isn’t a straightforward mystery, as such, but French’s novels never are strictly about the whodunit. Her talent lies in taking a reader into the hearts and minds of her characters with lyrical and razor sharp precision, and each book just gets better. Faithful Place in 1985 is a living, seething thing, and the people that populate it are fully fleshed out, especially Frank’s family. Jackie, Frank’s youngest sister, is the only sibling he’s consistently kept in touch with since leaving home, and seeing the rest of the family is the last thing he wants to do, but Rosie’s mystery trumps all, and he’s soon back in the thick of it. An alcoholic, abusive father and sharp tongued mother are just the beginning. Secrets and little intrigues are the lifeblood of Faithful Place and the families that reside there, and diving back into those murky waters is a dangerous proposition. Tragic and riveting, Faithful Place is rich in atmosphere and provides a heady slice-of-life of Dublin in the 80s and the present. The question of what happened to Rosie will draw you in, but it’s the intricate tapestry of familial drama that will keep you turning the pages. French’s writing is nothing short of perfect and is the standard that suspense authors of this ilk should strive for. Like many of the great, classic mystery writers, it’s the journey to find out the truth that’s spotlighted here and all of her characters ring achingly true. Fans of mystery and suspense shouldn’t miss this latest book by one of the biggest talents in the genre!(less)
“As I write this, I can only pray that Frankenstein’s twisted soul is rotting away in whatever crevice within Hell it has surely sunk into.”
So begins Dave Zeltserman’s electrifying novel presenting the classic story of Frankenstein’s monster, from the viewpoint of the “monster.” The monster in this instance is a man by the name of Friedrich Hoffmann, who, on the eve of his wedding to his beloved Johanna is drugged and when he comes to, in an alleyway, he is covered in blood and has Johanna’s locket in his coat. He soon understands that she is dead, murdered in a most heinous way, and he has been blamed for the crime. Broken, tortured, and set to die on the executioner’s wheel, Friedrich can only hope that he will be joining his true love soon. Little does he know that a fate worse than death awaits him.
Monster is told from Friedrich’s point of view, and as he takes you from the wheel, into death, and back to a sort of unlife as the creation of the wicked, diabolical Dr. Frankenstein, you won’t be able to look away, although you may want to. I found myself pausing to cover my eyes for a moment every now and then, not only as I processed the horror that Friedrich is experiencing, but also at the moments of beauty that he manages to find in the midst of this nearly inconceivable ordeal. And there is beauty, in the most unexpected of places. When Friedrich first “awakens” and finds that he cannot move, cannot speak, and can barely keep his eyes open, he is soon introduced to Charlotte, who is only a head, in a bowl of milky liquid. At first, Charlotte repels him, but soon he realizes that she too, is a victim of Dr. Frankenstein’s depraved experiments and it is her stories (he lip reads, because she cannot speak), and assurances that he is still a gently and kind soul, in spite of what is surely hideous appearance, that make his days bearable. When Charlotte is taken from him, at the behest of the Marquis de Sade, and he is inexplicably abandoned, he realizes that he must be free, and find the man that made him into this monster.
Eloquently written (like a certain classic that comes to mind), Monster will take you on a journey of death, rebirth, and vengeance, and is about a man trying desperately not to sink to the depths of his tormenter. I fell in love with Hoffman, and his grief, not only at losing Johanna, but at his own condition, is palpable on every page. However, rays of light do shine through the darkness, and kindness comes from some of the most unexpected places. During his journey, he will encounter vampyres, satanic cults, and more, and it will take him to a crumbling castle, where all will be revealed. Or will it? Brace yourself when Friedrich reaches that castle. Frankenstein is a villain that will make your skin crawl, and is the ultimate embodiment of evil. He even outdoes the Marquis, and that says quite a lot. Monster weighs in at just over 200 pages, but manages to pack a huge punch. If you’re a fan of Frankenstein and the mythos that surrounds it, and love literary horror, this one’s for you. Highly recommended!(less)
It’s really difficult to review a book in a series, unless it’s the first, without giving some things away. That said, I’m going to keep this review as spoiler free as possible.
In The Iron Queen, we rejoin Meghan and Ash after they’ve been exiled from Faery as a result of Ash declaring his love for Meghan. They return to Meghan’s home only to be attacked by thugs sent from the Iron Court and she realizes she cannot stay, or her family would be in grave danger. The characters we love from Iron King and Iron Daughter are all here, and there’s still a bit of a love triangle with Meghan, Ash, and Puck, although Ash will make a promise that will change things between him and Meghan forever. When they get word that the Winter and Summer Courts have banded together to fight the invasion of the Iron Court and the end of the Nevernever, Meghan is made an offer that she can’t refuse, but to accept it could cost her not only her life, but the lives of the ones she cherishes the most. In a race against time, Meghan and her friends must enter the Iron realm and defeat the Iron King, or she will lose the people, and the world, she’s come to love so much.
The novel moves right along with Meghan’s first person narrative, and as usual Ms. Kagawa’s prose flows beautiful and lush across the page, taking us into Meghan’s adventure as if we were by her side. Family secrets are revealed and battles are fought on Faery battlegrounds while the fate of an entire world hangs in the balance. Meghan has to gather every bit of strength she has to journey into the Iron realm and kill the false king. Along the way she’ll meet new friends, fight her way through a steampunk wasteland filled with magma lakes and mountains of lost things, iron fey attacks, and traitorous Winter fey, all while keeping her friends safe, and not losing herself in the process… Oh, and did I mention she gets to fly?
This is probably my favorite of the three novels and I’ll be anxiously looking forward to The Iron Knight!(less)
*No spoilers for this book, but if you're not caught up, be warned...*
When Any Other Name ended, William had just committed a terrible act based on wildly inaccurate information. Now he’s Duke of Londinium, and that makes Cathy Duchess. Cathy is still recovering from her attack, but soon she’s back on her feet and more than ready to find out what happened to her old governess. She’s also keen to find like-minded women and men in Londinium that are ready to help her change things for the better, meaning equal rights for women and a possible end to the shadowy Agency. Luckily Cathy has the help of Arbiter Max and his gargoyle, and their job, which includes investigating the mass murder of most of the Bath Chapter, has just been made a bit more difficult since Max’s wizard is acting a bit off the rails. Either way, things are about to come to a head, and of course, Cathy will most likely be in the center of things.
Meanwhile, Sam is dealing with his own crisis in Mundanus, and has garnered the attention of Lord Iron of the Elemental Court. He’ll follow a trail of corruption, environmental destruction, and all manner of chaos that will lead right back to Lord Iron himself, and what he finds is a shocker. Speaking of shockers, Emma Newman throws plenty at her readers in the third installment of this wonderful fantasy/uf series. Cathy is discovering her own power, and it has nothing to do with magic. She’s begun to embrace the fact that in her position, she can do a tremendous amount of good, and she’s also warming up to William, who is showing himself to be much more than the sum of his (handsome) parts. It’s an unorthodox love story, to be sure, but strangely enough, it’s one of the most realistic that I’ve read in a while. There’s no swooning, and the road has been rough, but it’s been human. We also get to spend quite a bit of time with Max and his gargoyle, who I adore, and Max begins to long for what’s missing inside of him, since of course, his soul is housed in the gargoyle. There’s lots of action in this one, but there’s still all of the court intrigue and wonderful characterization that I’ve come to expect from the series, and a few very important threads are wrapped up. Don’t worry, though, the ending leaves plenty of hints of things to come, and I can’t wait.(less)
Working the checkout line at the grocery store is no place for Miriam Black. Little acts of rebellion like staring into the laser light of the scanner just aren’t doin’ it for her. Of course she finally runs her mouth and gets herself fired, but gets an itch that she just needs to scratch. That would be touching the woman that fired her and finding out how she dies. The only problem is, when she does that, she finds out death isn’t far off at all, quite possibly for all of them. This incident prompts Miriam into packing up and attempting to leave the trailer that she shares with Louis. Feeling smothered and panicky, she sets off on foot, but Louis tracks her down. He always does. Louis talks Miriam into using her “talent” to help an English teacher at a school for troubled girls, which leads to visions of a serial killer. Let the descent into crazy begin…
If you’ve read Blackbirds, you’re already somewhat familiar with Miriam’s personality. She’s rude, mouthy, insensitive, blunt, extremely foul mouthed, and really, really hard to like. Ok, now set that stuff aside for just a minute. Bear with me. Yes, Miriam isn’t the most charming girl, and if anything, she’s even more abrasive in Mockingbird. Seriously, the girl would begin trying my patience in about 2 minutes. However, all of that crappy stuff is mostly a defense mechanism. Mostly. Her ability allows her to see horrible stuff, and the events at the girl’s school are just about as bad as it gets. Our Miriam, foulmouthed, childish, and surly, will put herself in the path of a Mack truck if it means saving an innocent life. She reminds me a bit of a zombie, without the whole rot and braaaaaiiiiiins thing. She will keep coming, until the job is done, and she’s dead. And poor Louis feels like her must protect her. Needless to say, I don’t envy Louis the job he’s assigned to himself. A killer is indeed cutting a swath through these girls, one that dons a plague mask and uses barbed wire for restraints. The situation is much, much worse than Miriam initially thinks, though, as hard as it is to believe, and she’ll need every bit of grit she has to get through this one. Dark forces are rallying against Miriam, because she’s been messing with fate, and fate is a fickle, vengeful mistress. Chuck Wendig’s mind is a terrifying, twisted, fascinating thing, and thank goodness he puts this stuff down on paper for the rest of us. Darker than dark, Mockingbird will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget, so fortify your stomach and settle in, because you’re going to want to read this one in one sitting. Can’t wait for the next one!(less)
Skyler is still shaken from the events in The Exodus Towers and he’s also still a little conflicted about his feelings for Tania, who risked her life to save his. It turns out that the alien Builders have something else up their sleeves, but what? Skyler and Tania do know that they must find the remaining keys, and they’re hoping that the towers will lead them to the artifacts needed to complete the Builder puzzle. They decide that two groups will go in search of the artifacts, with Tania leading one, and Skyler leading the other, but Tania isn’t an immune, so she’ll be limited in what she can do on the mission, since exposure to any area beyond the auras that surround the space elevators could result in her contracting Subs:the dreaded disease that has wiped out so much of the world’s population and driven the rest mad. Luckily, the portable towers do provide protective auras, but the danger is still great. Meanwhile, back in Nightcliff, Samantha is having her own struggles with Grillo’s fanatic Jacobites and her own part of the mission, which is also to get one of the keys back to the Builder ship, and hopefully save her friend Kelly from his clutches in the process.
The danger level is as high as ever, and it doesn’t help that Tania must not only fight her way through hoardes of SUBS infected humans, alongside Vanessa and Pablo, but she’s got to wear a protective suit to do it, and Skyler and Ana are toting Russell Blackfield along with them, ostensibly to help them with any and all info pertaining to Grillo and his operation.
I kind of love this series, and if you’re wondering, there’s just as much action as the first two books, and more twists than you can shake a shock stick at. We also get to know Prumble quite a bit better, as he’s helping Sam out, and that was an added bonus. He’s a bonafide hero, guys. Samantha is one of my favorite characters (like, ever), and the scenes with her and Prumble are among my favorites. Russell Blackfield was also a bit of a surprise this time around. Hough gives him more depth and even though he’s still a jerk, he finds himself in a unique position during this mission, and there may be a little hope of redemption, even for a scoundrel like him. Turns out he is actually capable of a little introspection. Who knew? Of course, Hough loves to throw all kinds of obstacles at our heroes, so there’s plenty to thwart their efforts in getting those keys to the Builder ships between the infected and Grillo’s goons. Since this is the last in the series, though, the narrative must move toward solving the why of the Builders, but it’s not so straightforward as all that. I was pleased and a little surprised at the ending (in a good way), and admittedly, more than a little sorry that the series ended. The Dire Earth Cycle is the equivalent of a blockbuster action movie (but with considerably more depth), and the books are certainly paced like one. I had great fun with this series, and I can’t wait to find out what Jason Hough has in store for us next!(less)
When The ‘Geisters opens, Ann LeSage is on her first date with the young, handsome lawyer, Michael Voors, but something starts to go wrong. She feels The Insect emerge (and Michael even witnesses its handiwork) and attempts to contain it by calling a friend and mentor that has helped her through this many times before. In her mind, she visualizes the tower that should contain The Insect, and eventually things quiet down, but it’s not over, not by a longshot. Soon, she and Michael are planning their wedding, and she’s introduced to an “old” friend of Michael’s, Ian Rickhardt. Ann dislikes him immediately and finds him to be boorish and intrusive, but she soon finds out that he’s offered to pay for the wedding and host it at his beautiful vineyard. Since Michael seems to view him as something of a father figure, she reluctantly lets herself be swept into his vortex. And what a vortex. They can’t even have a honeymoon without Ian flying in to show them the beautiful job that his people have done on their wedding video, and The Insect seems to emerge once again. During the flight home, tragedy strikes, and Ann finds out that things were not as they seemed. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. Ann’s entire world comes crashing down, and when she’s approached by a man that seems to know all about The Insect, and in fact, has plans for it, she has no choice but to run for her life.
David Nickle managed, throughout the first half, to convey a kind of quiet menace. There were flashbacks to Ann’s childhood, when The Insect first began to make itself known, and up until the accident that took her parents and crippled her older brother. So, except for a few friends, and Michael, Ann is fairly isolated, and there’s really no one she feels that she can turn to for help. When Ann goes on the run, things ramp up fairly quickly and menace turns to downright terror. As bound as Ann is to The Insect, she’s never really known its true motives, or its true origin, but she does learn that it’s not the only one, and she’s certainly not the only one with a very special, and very powerful, companion. David Nickle sets up the reveal fantastically, and if you’ve read anything by him, you know how good he is at imagery, especially very creepy imagery, and he’s also fairly subtle about it. I love subtle horror, and The ‘Geisters actually, at times, reads like classic Koontz (for me, this is a good thing.) But, make no mistake, David Nickle has a very unique touch and while this is a supernatural tale, it’s also a story of individual empowerment. Also, Dungeons and Dragons aficionados will be delighted at some of the references (Ann plays the game as a young girl.) If you enjoy ghost stories with a twist, you’ll really like this one.(less)
Fire on Dark Water begins in 1702 England, when 10 year old Lola Blaise is spirited away from her gypsy family by people that would sell her to men wanting to “experience” a virgin. Yeah, the world Lola lives in is nasty, brutal, and unforgiving, especially where gypsies are concerned. Lola eventually falls in with a gang of thieves and is eventually caught and sent to Newgate, where she is banished to America for 7 years to be retrained for colonial labor. On the ship, she’s befriended by three doxies, Violet, Maude, and Dollie, who do their best to shelter her from the bullying and abuse by the other prisoners. They can’t save her from the captain, however, who turns Lola into his own personal form of entertainment. After a mutiny attempt by the prisoners goes wrong, and it’s discovered that Lola helped procure a weapon, the ringleaders are promptly tortured and thrown overboard, while Lola is forced to watch. Lola then helps take care of prisoners and shipman afflicted by various forms of nastiness. So, after what I personally think of as the “Ship Ride from Hell”, Lola is sold into service to a family in Carolina that lost their previous housekeeper to fever. Lola is to help with all manner of medical emergencies on the plantation, and is determined to make the best of this situation. Such begins Lola’s experiences in the service of the girl who would eventually become Anne Bonny and her father. A fateful marriage will lead her to the West Indies, life on the high seas, and eventually, Lola would become Blackbeard’s thirteenth wife.
Fire On Dark Water is not a mystery, nor is there an epic quest. It's about a gypsy girl, abandoned and adrift, making her way in a hostile, unforgiving world. Lola’s voice is sturdy and unapologetic, even when she describes some of the horrible things she must submit to in order to survive. I had to keep reminding myself during the first part of this book, that Lola was only ten because the things she has to endure will make your heart ache. These are things no person; man, woman, or child should ever have to go through and is a glimpse into the dark hearts of men, and women. It was use or be used, and Lola clawed for her place the best she knew how. Intelligent, cunning, and resourceful, Lola survives in a world that most of us wouldn’t last more than 10 minutes in. The author creates a world rich in treachery and desire, and Lola Blaise’s story is one you won’t want to miss. If you like pirates, strong, intelligent women, and historic adventure that doesn’t let up, you’ll love Fire On Dark Water. (less)
When Alice comes home to find two strange men in the house with her father, she doesn’t know what to think. When a pair of hands reach down from the ceiling and snap her father’s neck, all hell breaks loose. Something is coming. Something big. And it wants Alice. Luckily, she’s got Gwyn and Mallory on her side. They insist she’s in danger and can trust them, and when she sees the spread of their wings, a new reality comes crashing down on her. There’s a war brewing in the realm of the angels, and the Morningstar is at the center of it. Turns out Alice is a half-born (half angel, half human), which makes her a hot commodity (in more ways than one) to the Fallen. Gwyn is an Earthbound, which means his wings have been clipped and he’s been exiled to Earth to carry out his sentence. His crimes aren’t detailed at first, but suffice it to say he made a few bad decisions. Mallory is a Descended, which any angel that comes to Earth is called. Gwyn is assigned to watch over Mallory, much to Mallory’s chagrin, and Mallory is in charge of Alice. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Alice will need all the help she can get, and with a team of angels in her corner, what can possibly go wrong?
For years, the Fallen have been opening hellmouths and taking thousands of people, whole families, down into the depths of hell. This overabundance of souls has tipped the balance in hell’s favor, and it’s all about balance. Alice is the key to restoring balance and Mallory, Gwyn, and Co. must train her to use her powers as a half-born in order to stop the hellmouth machine and bring order back. Little does Alice know, there’s more at work here, and revelations about her mother, Lucifer, and the rest of the angels will soon come to light, and it will change the stakes. Alice won’t be going to Wonderland. Instead, she’ll be descending into the freezing depths of hell alone. A clash of fire and ice is coming, and a war will be waged at the bone gates of hell, while Alice struggles to come to terms with her power, and her destiny.
I’ll be the first to admit that so far, with the recent popularity of angel themed books, I haven’t been all that impressed with some of the offerings, but I loved this book. Mallory is a slovenly, hard drinking, gun toting, smart mouthed angel with plenty of attitude, and I loved him. Vin, her angelic bodyguard, follows a close second, and Alice is a strong, brave heroine who’s had to deal with plenty of backlash in her life because of her otherness, and has always blamed herself for her mother’s abandonment. Can you imagine the news that you will have to go to hell and use your newfound powers to restore the balance in order to save humanity? If you’re a fan of Mike Shevdon’s Courts of the Feyre series, you’ll find much to love in this wonderful debut. Lou Morgan has a gift for visuals, and the final battle with the Fallen is something to behold. She expertly weaves fantasy and horror elements into a creepy, exciting, roller coaster ride of a book. Lou Morgan’s angels aren’t warm, fluffy, and halo’d, either. They’re fiercely beautiful warriors, and distinctly “other.” The angel mythos is fascinating and rich, and the author has laid the groundwork for what promises to be an explosive sequel. Luckily, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion is out in 2013, and I’ll be the first in line for it!(less)
Vissarion Lom of the Podchornok provincial police, has tried many times to get transferred to the capital city of the great Vlast, Mirgorod. He eventually gets his wish, but when he arrives, he finds out that he’s been summoned to catch a revolutionary by the name of Josef Kantor. Kantor, an “impresario of destruction”, is responsible for countless lives lost and horrendous atrocities in the name of freedom, and he’s also a ghost; a legend, an enigma, and a man shrouded in mystery. It’s made very clear to Lom, upon his arrival in Mirgorod, that he will be on his own in seeking Kantor, with no help from the police. He seeks out an old friend, a professor named Raku Vishnik, with whom he parted ways with when Raku went to university and Lom stayed in Podchornok to join the police. Eventually the university fired Raku after finding out about his family and his connection to artists and poets, and now he is the official historian of Mirgorod. He wanders the streets of the city with his camera, photographing the things that can’t be seem, the universe underneath of Mirgorod. Raku is welcoming to Lom, and Lom settles in with his old friend to get to work in finding a terrorist. Lom soon finds out that Mirgorod is a very dangerous place, and that he’s under threat by much more than just Kantor and his band of murderous revolutionaries. Amongst the death that hovers over Mirgorod like a haze is the Archangel, fallen from the stars, mired in the woods, a stone monolith with an alien intelligence… and it’s awakening.
Lom is much more than a policeman, and possibly much more than a man. Angels have been falling to earth for centuries, and humans have been taking pieces of their stone bodies and using them for “enhancements”. Lom has a piece of angel stone implanted in his head (placed there as a child) and sometimes he gets glimpses of another world, one lying just beneath the one he lives in, and at times, seems to exhibit certain powers. The Pollandore is the world that might be, that hasn’t been, and Kantor wants it destroyed, but he’s not the only one. Laverentina Chazia, Commander of the Secret Police, also wants to see it destroyed, and she’ll go to any means to do it. It’s up to Lom and a young woman, Maroussia, whose past lies in the dense forests surrounding Mirgorod, to save the past, as well as a future without constant war and bloodshed.
Peter Higgins has taken an alternate Russia rife with squalid alleyways, secret police, cabarets where artists gather to discuss their forbidden work and indulge in equally forbidden behavior, and thrown in fallen angels and pocket universes for good measure. I can’t forget to mention the rusalkas (water ghosts or nymphs), giants that are used as slaves, and the Gaukh Engine, which is the machine of steel and electricity that is the heart of the city’s archives. While Wolfhound Century tackles some pretty big ideas and themes (among them, transhumanism and cosmism ), the author has cleverly wrapped these ideas up into a story about a man, and a woman, who came from nothing, but are destined for greater things, and where myth and reality are sometimes indistinguishable. Wonderfully atmospheric and alive, not unlike the verdant, sentient forest that surrounds Mirgorod, and beautifully written, Wolfhound Century is equal parts nightmare and dreamscape, and what a dream. If you find yourself getting confused about the role of angel flesh and how it works, don’t worry, all will be revealed at the end. Speaking of the end, it’ll knock your socks off, and leave you hoping for the next book very, very soon. Wolfhound Century is a strange, complex, earthy, sometimes violent read, and one of the best debuts I’ve gotten my hands on.(less)
Young Zoe has moved to San Francisco with her mother after her father’s sudden death to start fresh. It’s hard enough for her to fit in, with her taste in old punk music, a taste instilled by her music biz parents, and the fact that her father’s death has left a hole that has caused her to withdraw into herself, but her mom is having a tough time finding a job as well. Almost nightly she dreams, and it’s in her dreams that she finds herself in the company of her brother, Valentine, who has only ever existed for her in her dreams.
One day, she finds herself in a record store, in the company of a rather odd proprietor who calls himself Ammut. She’s delighted in his collection of vintage rock records, and eventually, finds her way to a back room that holds records of a completely different sort. Ammut explains that these records contain the souls of the lost, and that her father’s is among them. With his strange machine, she is able to see through her father’s eyes, but she wants more, she wants to communicate with him, but in order to do this, Ammut begins to ask for payment in the form of items like blood, and teeth. Zoe will do anything to talk to her father again, and when she’s finally given access, she finds herself in a place called Iphigene, an in-between place for souls. At first, it doesn’t seem so bad, but things aren’t quite what they seem in Iphigene, and soon the strings of reality start unraveling, as Zoe realizes that those in charge have a plan for her, body and soul.
I was taken with Zoe immediately. She’s a little bit brash, and a whole lotta brave. When she enters Iphigene again, only to find out it’s not the paradise she experienced the first time, she rather admirably rolls with the punches, even when she witnesses the almost daily snacking on the poor souls that reside there by Iphigene’s very creepy and deliciously diabolical mistress, and her toothy minions. She has a special interest in Zoe, but Zoe’s main interest is getting out of Iphigene and saving her dad’s soul. Dead Set has some exciting moments, to be sure, and Iphigene is a scary and wondrous place, with plenty of intrigue to fill a novel, but the meat of the story lies in how Zoe deals with her dad’s death and its effect on her family. In this, the story certainly succeeds and there are some very poignant moments between Zoe and her dad, and also her lost brother, Valentine. Kadrey’s writing is always good, and Dead Set is no exception, with its very scary villians right out of Egyptian myth set against the tragic and lost denizens of Iphigene. There’s a ton of imagination in this story, and certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of Zoe, but even if we don’t, we have Dead Set, and I’m good with that. While most of Kadrey’s novels fall squarely in the adult realm, with their exploration of very dark themes, Dead Set would be perfect for curious teens that love their protagonists strong and their worlds dark and fantastical.(less)
When an Seraphim dies, the heavens scream with pain and the monkeys below (that would be us humans) usually perceive its death as just so much space junk. So, when Gabriel is murdered, the fallen angel Bayliss turns his face up to the sky to witness his death, and he also must find someone to take his place, but the mark that he picks out isn’t the one that ends up dead. Molly’s not sure what hit her when her body disintegrated on those train tracks, but the world she’s now in isn’t the one she left, and Bayliss is the only rudder she has in her new reality. Too bad for her, because they don’t exactly get along like gangbusters. Not only has an angel been murdered, but the Jericho Trumpet is missing, and Heaven is in distress. Who murdered Gabriel, and where is the Trumpet? Looks like Bayliss and Molly are the ones that have to find out, but at what cost?
Most of the book is told from Bayliss’s viewpoint, and those familiar with the works of Dashiell Hammett will recognize a good bulk of Bayliss’s affectations. Angels each have their own Magesteriums in the Pleroma (get out your physics and theology texts folks), and Bayliss’s Magesterium comes complete with an old time café where he can get coffee and keep an eye on the dames. As fun as Bayliss’s story was, I found myself wanting to get back to Molly more often than not. She’s a fish out of water when it comes to her new powers and surroundings, and she’s also still pining for her ex-girlfriend, who left her heartbroken. It doesn’t help that her brother is an addict, and he also witnessed her death. Much of Molly’s journey is coming to terms with her own death and her still strong ties to humanity and the ones she left behind. Yes, there’s a fascinating mystery (a murdered angel!!), and when it becomes clear that a group of angels want to break free from heaven, things really got wild, but it’s Molly’s story that, for me, made this book so damn good.
I’m not going to lie. Ian Tregillis has a doctorate in physics and boy does it show in this book. I was never so happy to have the dictionary feature on my Kindle (I used it a lot, and am not ashamed to admit it.) Don’t let that scare you away, though. I learned the terms pretty quickly and Tregillis is so good, his language just flows. I loved his reach-out-and-touch-it descriptions of memory and what I started to think of as the science of heaven. His prose made some of the sad passages (and there are a few), that much more poignant. Just be ready, though: there are a few surprises in this one that may make you exclaim out loud (I did, earning funny looks from my family.) Something more than night is a complex, exquisite, wonderfully written book, and it’s taken me forever to post this review because I didn’t feel like I was doing it justice-but this will have to do. If you like fantasy that’s a bit out of the box and a lot awesome (with enough noir seasoning to please a Hammett fan,to boot), Something More Than Night will make you a very happy reader, indeed.(less)
When Daniel’s parents, Tilde and Chris, moved from London to Sweden, Daniel believed that they were ending a long period of hard work, but work that was lucrative enough to afford them a comfortable semi retirement in a sprawling old farmhouse. It’s been three years since his parents left for Sweden and Daniel has been putting off a visit, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to see his parents. In fact, he loves his parents dearly, and only remembers a childhood filled with light and laughter. If his parents fought, he never saw it. So, in a shocking turn of events, he gets a call from his father, claiming his mother has been committed to a mental hospital. Shortly after that, his mother calls, informing him that she’s on a flight to England, having convinced the doctors at the hospital that she was of sound mind. She’s also sure that Daniel’s father is a part of a terrible conspiracy against her. What follows is a laying bare of secrets so shocking that Daniel is forced to rethink everything he ever thought he knew of his parents.
The Farm is Tom Rob Smith’s fourth novel and his first standalone after his Child 44 trilogy, and it’s a keeper. Tilde tells her story to Daniel using a series of items she’s collected as evidence and is determined to tell it in a logical, orderly way, even as Daniel struggles not to jump to conclusions and also to listen with an open mind. The story Tilde weaves, of a rural Swedish community harboring terrible secrets, is quietly horrifying, and there’s always a sense of urgency, as she’s terrified that Daniel’s father will find her and try to take her back to the hospital. What’s so fascinating about Daniel is that he’s been keeping a secret too. It’s nothing near as explosive as Tilde’s, but it does have some bearing on his acceptance of Tilde’s disturbing tale, as does his love for her and of course a will to see justice done. Tilde’s narrative is orderly, concise, and certainly not the expected chaotic ramblings of a disordered mind. Her suspicion’s point to a shocking crime, however, and the sense of dread that is woven throughout, along with Tilde’s very real feelings of isolation and persecution, make for a claustrophobic, tense read. Are these the intricate fantasies of an insane woman, or something much more sinister? Don’t worry, you’ll get answers, and you may even be surprised. The Farm is a clever, meticulously structured psychological thriller, and I marveled at Smith’s skill in painting such an effective portrait of isolation and mischief of the most devious sort, hiding behind a facade of “community”. Don’t miss this one, thriller fans.(less)
Watch out, Jane fans, you’re in for a helluva ride in Black Arts. I mean, this series has always been superb, and has suffered none of the afflictions that can hit series when they get to the 4th, 5th, etc books. There’s all the action you’ve come to expect, but what made it a standout to me was Jane’s very personal journey. I’ll get to that, but first, if you haven’t caught up with the series and don’t want to feel all spoilery, stop now. I won’t spoil this book, but, you know, there might be details that you may not want if you’re not caught up. That said, the huge thing at the center of Black Arts is Molly Everhart is missing, and her husband, Big Evan, and two kiddos, Angie and Evan, have come to Jane for help. Molly indicated that she would be dropping by Jane’s at some point, but she never made it. Jane puts Alex on Molly’s trail, and gets Evan and the kids settled in for the duration as best she can. Before she can blink, she finds out that two of Katie’s girls have gone missing, and one is a witch. Hmmm, seems to be a bit coincidental, yes? Maybe, but Jane also has a security job coming up for MOC Leo Pellesier, and it’s a really big deal, so she not only has to find Molly and the girls, but prep for a huge gathering of vamps.
We all know our Jane is up to the task, but even she can get overwhelmed, and in Black Arts, things really pile on, and fast. She’s got Big Evan staying with her, and their relationship is tenuous, at best, but he seems to know that Jane is really his only hope if he’s going to find Molly. Angie, Molly’s daughter, is beginning to show her magic, and it’s very strong, and an appearance by Ricky Bo has Jane in a tailspin. Jane does a whole lot of soul searching during the events of Black Arts in order to come to terms with her past and how she sees herself, not to mention her relationship with Beast, and this will be very important in order to reach Molly. I loved how this one ended and as much as Jane must endure, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve said before that this series just keeps getting better, and Black Arts is no exception. Can’t wait for the next one!(less)
Don’t expect a straightforward crime novel from What We’ve Lost is Nothing. In fact, this book is an examination of the 24 hours after the crime happens. Oak Park, Illinois is a lovely, posh neighborhood, and it butts right up against Chicago’s notorious west side. Ilois Lane is a peaceful, and some might say very ordinary street, but its inhabitants are anything but, and their stories are what make up the considerable meat of this novel that very effectively mines the undercurrents of our daily lives, and explores how isolated we can be from our neighbors. The McPherson’s daughter, 15 year old Mary Elizabeth, is under her family’s dining room table with her friend Sofia, getting high when the burglars hit her home in broad daylight. She’s not discovered, but she’s left to explain why she was skipping school and who she was skipping with. When they find out that her friend is Sofia, the daughter of Cambodian refugees, suspicion is immediately cast on them, especially since they seem to have had the least stolen among the residents. And just who, really, are the teen boys (supposedly Sofia’s cousins), with their loud music and bandannas, that spend quite a bit of time at Sofia’s home?
The McPhersons form a neighborhood watch group, of sorts, and of course the police are conducting their own investigation. We do get to know each of the residents that were burglarized, and how the aftermath of such an intrusive crime affects each one. There’s Étienne, a chef with a failing restaurant who claims he was in France at the time of the burglary but in truth, never went. There’s Arthur, who has hemeralopia, and who mourns the gradual loss of not only his sight, but also his independence, but takes comfort in the time Mary Elizabeth spends with him reading aloud. And of course, there’s Mary’s mom, Susan, who has been a crusader for melding the east side with their own idyllic community, but finds herself doubting everything she’s ever stood for, and Michael, Mary’s father, who feels oddly detached, not only from life, but from his own failings as a father and husband, and whose boiling anger would eventually consume him. And of course there is Mary Elizabeth, whose infatuation with bad-boy Caz will make any woman’s stomach clench that remembers what it was like to make that boy like you. And we can’t forget Sofia’s family, Cambodian refugees that rely largely on their daughter for social interaction, but will do anything in order for her to succeed and have a good life. They are a constant source of pride, love, and yes, embarrassment to Sofia, and some of their scenes are heartbreaking. Then there are Alicia and Dan. Alicia has a past of mental illness and has been coddled by her parents, even after marrying Dan, and feeling as if she’s not a participant in her own life, finds her carefully constructed world falling apart, bit by bit.
All of these lives come together explosively on Ilois Lane, and the pain and fear that the crime causes will coalesce into a miasma of mistrust and a kind of rage at their collective loss of control. Loss of control over their tidy lives, and the invisible boundaries that they mistakenly thought kept the bad things away. The narrative is sometimes uncomfortable, but ultimately, this is a book about hope, and how one event can be a catalyst for action and change, sometimes good, sometimes tragic.
Rachel Louise Snyder is an experienced journalist, and it shows with her eye for detail, and a compassionate, no nonsense touch. Her knowledge of Oak Park isn’t fictional either; she lived there right after college and experienced firsthand the efforts for integration and the positive effects of community activism. She also lived for a time in Cambodia so is able to give us particular insight on what it is like for refugees to live so outside of one’s true home and be the unfair subjects of suspicion and doubt. What We’ve Lost is Nothing is put together so well, that when the shocking ending comes, you may not know what hit you, but this is one book you’ll want to dive into and stay there, because it’s insidious, in the best way, and will stay with you long after you finish the last page.(less)
There’s a certain highly skilled Canadian author writing under the name “Nick Cutter” and it’s a rather appropriate name, given that “Nick’s” new book, The Troop, does involve a fair amount of cutting, and I don’t mean the kind involved in a normal Boy Scout outing. Ok, so, we’ll take it from the top. A troop of boys, led by their Scoutmaster, Tim Riggs (a doctor, by the way), is on tiny Falstaff Island for a few days of hiking, camping, and general Boy Scout fun. The problem is, a stranger has just arrived on the beach, and it’s immediately clear to Tim that something is very, very wrong. Actually, “wrong” is kind of an understatement. Something is living inside of the stranger, and it’s just dying to get out and spread it’s rather unique form of destruction. Luckily, for the stranger, Tim and his troop of five boys are the perfect breeding ground for what he carries, and he’s just dying to meet them (sorry, couldn’t help it.)
At first, Tim tries to help the man, but soon realizes that he’s wayyy beyond help. Then Tim starts feeling poorly. Then all hell pretty much starts breading loose as the boys realize that something very terrible is happening on their little island. But hey, it’ll be ok, right? Because their parents will come for them, right? Right?? It’s soon pretty evident that help isn’t coming soon, and there’s a reason for that. The island has been quarantined. Nothing in, nothing out. Doesn’t bode well for our boys, does it.
The Troop is a monster book, but this monster is a bioengineered horror that just won’t stop. As readers, we know this, because the narrative switches back and forth between the boys’ fight to survive, and case notes and newspaper articles about the horrid thing that was created in a lab and got loose via Patient Zero (the stranger). I really, realllly don’t want to get into detail about the “things” because it’s really fun, really creative, and really, really gross. What’s even scarier is that this thing was created to be used as a diet supplement, among other things (this may give you some idea of what their dealing with). Sure, you’ll lose weight. And keep losing it…you get the idea. The hunger is unstoppable. No, this isn’t a zombie book, in case you wondered. What it is, is a rather astute psychological look at what happens when you plop five young teen boys with wildly diverse personalities onto an island and have them fend for themselves. Yep, of course that’s shades of Lord of the Flies, but this is Lord of the Flies with an unspeakable twist. The “monster” is horrendous, but really, this is a great look at humankind’s capacity for cruelty and horror, which of course makes the situation that much more untenable. It also doesn’t help that one of the boys has been waiting forever to let his real personality show, and this is the perfect time to do this (this kid gets creepier than the monster at times, and that’s no easy feat.) Some sly commentary on society’s desire for a quick fix, and Cutter’s disturbingly great talent for descriptives make this a terrifying, utterly fantastic read. It’s not for the faint of heart, though. Nothing gratuitous, but some passages get pretty rough. These passages serve a distinctive purpose, though. Some horrors need to be exposed to the light of day. Nick Cutter has a sick, twisted imagination, but I like that about him, and his first foray into flat-out horror is a must read for those that like their scares smart and laced with some razor sharp social observations. If you’re familiar with “Cutter’s” other work, you know the man can write, but I bet you didn’t know he could pull this off. He can, he does, and I can’t wait for the next book.(less)
Shortly after the events of Wolfhound Century, Vissarion Lom and Maroussia Shaumian are on a tram headed into Mirgorod, battle weary and all too aware that they’re being pursued by Commander Lavrentina Chazia, chief of the Mirgorod Secret Police. Mirgorod is on the verge of war with the Archipelago, and they don’t have a chance against their vast armies, but for Chazia, that means an opportunity to remake the Vlast just as she wants, pure and united under her. Her patience is waning, however, and she’s convinced the Pollandore holds the keys to her success. But Chazia doesn’t know how to use the Pollandore, and she thinks that Maroussia Shaumian does. Chazia isn’t the only one after Maroussia, though. Josef Kantor wants her dead, and he plans on remaking himself anew. He has grand plans for Mirgorod and his capacity for hard work is inexhaustible, his desire for utter supplication unending, if it is to meet his goals. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from Mirgorod, there are diabolical machinations underway of apocalyptic proportions. In the forest, an Archangel is stirring, and it whispers to Josef Kantor, much to Chazia’s frustration, and she continues to use angel flesh on herself, in an attempt to connect to the ancient being, the only living angel, but every day, every minute, it drives her more and more insane.
I was blown away by Wolfhound Century, so does Truth and Fear measure up? Actually, it more than does, and as good as Wolfhound Century was, Truth and Fear is even better. Lom is a man whose only goal has become keeping Maroussia safe, and he’ll do that even at great, even grave, risk to himself. Luckily, he has an ally, in the form of a shapeshifter named Antoninu Florian who seems to have his own agenda, but proves more than useful in aiding the two fugitives. Maroussia is a young woman whose fate is entwined intimately with the Pollandore and believes it has the capacity to remake the Vlast into something good, not this burning mass of chaos and war that it currently is under the psychotic gaze of Chazia and Kantor.
When Maroussia is taken, Lom sets off with Florian to save her, and their harrowing journey will lead them to a glass city called Novaya Zima, and a violent, earth shattering conclusion that will change his destiny. In Truth and Fear, as in Wolfhound Century, Peter Higgins has created more than just a story. It’s an immersive, sensory experience, populated by giants, shapeshifters, earthy magic, and the power of ancient beings. Lom is a hero in the truest sense, in that he doesn’t see his actions as heroic, they just are, and they come as naturally to him as breathing. Prepare yourself for quite an ending, and the promise of more to come. The world-building is superb, and Higgins’s writing is, as usual, lyrical and sometimes brutal. I love this world, and I love these complicated, flawed, and utterly unique characters. I can’t wait to see what Peter Higgins gives us next.(less)
In the 4th installment of Stacia Kane’s wonderful Downside Ghosts series, we get to see much deeper into Chess’ psyche than in any previous books, and to me, that was a wonderful thing. My favorite Churchwitch is still Debunking ghost claims, but this time, her dealer wants her to investigate a rash of fires that involve murder and magic, and his employees. Chess is forced to go to a school on the other side of town for answers, and her presence there is anything but welcome. It also doesn’t help that she’s on her ex’s territory, a fact that he’s very aware of. This really doesn’t help her current precarious relationship with Terrible and certainly keeps Chess on her toes. Then there’s the nasty ghost she has to contend with…
Like I said in the beginning, this was the most emotional of the series. Chess is not only navigating the nasty murders that are being committed, but she’s also navigating the unknown world of being loved; really and truly loved. Our favorite enforcer Terrible is firmly in the picture, but Chess can’t see past her own self-loathing in order to give everything she has to the relationship. It makes for frustrating reading, for sure, especially since we love Chess, and we want her to be happy. She steps on her own toes time and time again, to sometimes tragic effect. There’s one scene in here that will break your heart into a million pieces, and then some. However, Ms. Kane gives us some much needed insight (without being particularly graphic), into why Chess is so, so damaged, and that will break your heart too. It will also make you understand so much of why Chess is, well, Chess. We also get a little closer to some of the other characters, and the scenes with Elder Griffin are especially charming. Yes, charming. The author’s trademark tight plotting and prose are on full display here, and the killer in this one will give you chills (the ghost too *shudder*). This is a watershed book for Chess, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her in the next book!(less)