Book of Killowen by Erin HartThis is book 4 in the Nora Gavin series. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I haven’t read any of the other books inBook of Killowen by Erin HartThis is book 4 in the Nora Gavin series. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I haven’t read any of the other books in the series. However, I didn’t find that too much of a problem. After a pretty awesome medieval prologue (I want to read that book!) the story opens with Nora and her archaeologist boyfriend going down to investigate a 9th century bog body, which has been found in the trunk of a submerged car. Once investigators remove the ancient body they find a much more recent corpse. Nora’s skills as a pathologist are quickly called into play. The couple along with Cormac’s father and a nurse companion are staying at an artist’s retreat near the bog. Everyone there is interesting and kind, but they’re also all hiding something. And every single one of them is a suspect in the murder. Early indications suggest that the murder may hinge on the victims well-known predilection for younger women who aren’t his wife. However, evidence soon points to the possibility that the motive may very well have to do with medieval illuminated manuscripts like the mythical Book of Killowen.
I liked this book fairly well. Cormac’s father was a very touching character for me. Mr. Maguire suffered a stroke prior to the start of the book (possibly in one of the earlier stories) and has lost much of his ability to communicate. His frustrations and those of his son resonated with me. My own mother has advanced Alzheimer’s. I think Hart did a great job of compassionately conveying the hardships experienced by both the victim and their families. I loved everything to do with the illuminated manuscripts. (I might have several coloring books of illuminations). The archaeological aspects were well done. But the plot overall relied a little too heavily on coincidence. I’ll probably go back and pick up another book in the series to see how it is. I liked the tone of the writing and the voice of the characters, but the way the mystery played out stretched my credulity a little bit....more
This was an awesome book. Mostly because it told me all about an awesome movie. I don't really have a ton to say about it other than that. If you're iThis was an awesome book. Mostly because it told me all about an awesome movie. I don't really have a ton to say about it other than that. If you're interested in finding out about the process behind a stop motion film then this book is really informative. If you're interested in the people and personalities behind ParaNorman, then this is the book for you. If you like miniature anything, pick this book up. Also, if you just like cool visuals....more
This is the second book in what I believe is going to be an ongoing series. The first book was called Mr. Churchill's Secretary and chronicled the jouThis is the second book in what I believe is going to be an ongoing series. The first book was called Mr. Churchill's Secretary and chronicled the journey of Maggie Hope, a half-English/half-American mathematician in London in the early days of WWII. Maggie has come to England to handle the sale of her grandmother's house, but ends up becoming one of the secretaries to Prime Minister Churchill. There is much intrigue and adventure, which I won't get into here as it might spoil the book. Princess Elizabeth's Spy picks up some time after the end of the first book. Maggie is in training to become an undercover agent in the hopes of being dropped into France. However, her physical skills are a bit underwhelming and so she is reassigned as the personal bodyguard to the crown princess. The royal family has taken residence in Windsor Castle. Maggie is placed in the household as the princess's new maths tutor. All is not well at the castle. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are in exile and known to have Nazi sympathies. A member of the staff at Bletchley Park, England's code breaking facility, as been murdered. Another death occurs on the castle grounds. Maggie has to figure out how all of this might be connected with a plot against the princess. On top of that, her boyfriend is missing in action and her father is a suspected German spy.
This was a fun read. I need to go back and read the first book and get introduced to Maggie. I would recommend that you read them in order. There were some subplots that I missed out on because I read them out of order. WWII isn't really my period. I'm a huge WWI fan, but I don't venture into WWII stories as often. I did however, watch The King's Speech. There was something about having seen that before I read this book that added a layer of richness. Princess Elizabeth is only in the film for a minute or two, but seeing her for that brief moment there made me more sympathetic to the fourteen-year-old Lilibet. The book would be perfectly entertaining without that extra layer, but it's nice that I had it. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is the second book in the Leland Sisters series. In book 1 Persy and Pen thwarted a plan to make Princess (now Queen Victoria)**spoiler alert** This is the second book in the Leland Sisters series. In book 1 Persy and Pen thwarted a plan to make Princess (now Queen Victoria) a magical puppet. Now Persy is untied with her true love, Ally is married, and Pen is feeling very left out. She has come to Ireland with Ally and her new husband to study magic further. Pen feels that she wasn’t enough of a help during the events of Bewitching Season and hopes that more magical study will make her more useful. Ally, however, is having a very difficult time. She is pregnant and both her magic and her health are suffering. Ally’s new father-in-law is very knowledgeable about magic and has taken Pen on as a student. But all of his other (male) students seem to resent her inclusion into the study sessions. The only people she doesn’t feel like she is burdening are Lady Keating and her dreadfully handsome son, Niall. After nearly running over Pen with her carriage Lady Keating seems to have adopted her as almost a pet. She invites Pen to come to tea, and dinner, and even to a visit to her country estate. Niall is no less charming and attentive. In fact, Pen begins to think that maybe he has stronger feelings for her than politeness. The only one who doesn’t seem to like her much is Lady Keatings daughter. With so much kindness and attention being showered on her is it any wonder she doesn’t see the danger she is in until it’s almost too late? Ok, I don’t have as happy an opinion of this book. Let me tell you why: ***SPOILER*** ***SPOILER*** ***SPOILER*** ***SPOILER*** ***SPOILER***
So, once again, in this book we have a problematic romance. In Bewitching Season I had a problem with the romance between Ally and her soon-to-be husband. In this book I find the relationship with Niall difficult. Niall is ordered, by his mother, to capture Penelope’s interest. He goes along with it because he always goes along with his mother. Then he gets to know her and really likes her. He doesn’t want to let his mother use her for her own nefarious plans (and they are really nefarious). So, his big plan is that he’ll seduce her! Yep. That’ll work great! She needs a maiden for her ritual so he’ll make sure that Pen no longer fits the bill. Um… This is my romantic lead? Really? He could just, oh, I don’t know, tell her! But that would be too easy apparently. Also, how is it that Pen, after just dealing with a similar sort of person in the first story, just blindly trusts Lady Keating?
I read the second book in this series about 15 years ago and liked it, but never really got around to getting any more. Then, back in August I was talI read the second book in this series about 15 years ago and liked it, but never really got around to getting any more. Then, back in August I was talking to my best friend about a space opera series she was reading. All of a sudden, I had to read this series again. So, I ordered the first book. And I liked it. It is much shorter than later books in the series and ends somewhat abruptly (the heroes have succeded in their primary mission, but not yet escaped), but I really enjoyed it. The book is set on the planet of Keiss, a human colony in the far reaches of space (relative to Earth). Carrie and her family were in the first wave of colonists and everything was going well until the Valytegans arrived and overwhelmed them. The Valytegans are a lizard-like alien race bent on conquest. Carrie and her family are now part of the resistance, but she brings something special to her side. Carrie and her sister Elise share a telepathic bond which allows for utterly secure transmission of information. The downside is that Carrie feels all the pain that Elise experiences. When Elise is captured and executed the backlash from the shattered bond nearly kills Carrie. Desperately, her mind reaches out in search of help. She finds it in the form of Kusac. Kusac and his team are Sholans, aliens that look like a cat/human hybrid (think Ron Perlman from Beauty & the Beast). The Sholan scout ship has crashed on Keiss and Kusac is alone and wounded. For the Sholan's telepathic gifts are prized, but not increadibly rare. When Kusac feels Carrie's mind crying for help he bonds with her in the hopes that she can help him as well. Together, the humans of Keiss and the stranded Sholans might be enough to defeat the Valytegans and avenge Carrie's sister. ...more
Yay! Another steampunk book. Mostly. Katherine Tulman is an orphan. She lives in London with her deeply unpleasant aunt and cousin (who, although he nYay! Another steampunk book. Mostly. Katherine Tulman is an orphan. She lives in London with her deeply unpleasant aunt and cousin (who, although he never appears on screen as it were, reminds me of Dudley Dursley being obese and spoiled). The bulk of the family money is held by Katherine’s paternal uncle, known as Mr. Tully. He is and eccentric inventor and has not been in contact with his sister-in-law for years, but disturbing rumors have come of excessive spending. Aunt Alice has dispatched Katherine to the family estate, Stranwyne Keep, to get evidence that Tully is insane. Then Alice can have him committed and take control of the family fortune. Katherine, while she might feel sympathy for anyone who has earned Aunt Alice’s ire, is nevertheless committed to her plan. If Aunt Alice gets all of the family money for her disgusting son, then Katherine, who balances the household books, has a much better chance of securing enough funds to become independent. Katherine journeys to Stranwyne and discovers that Uncle Tully is a genius. He has invented things that wouldn’t seem out of place in da Vinci’s workshop. A steampowered dragon takes up most of one workshop. A deep tunnel connects the estate with the outside world. Two entire villages of workers are supported by the estate, along with a gasworks, porcelain factory, and steam works. Everything is handled beautifully; hundreds of people have been snatched from the workhouse and now have clean homes and good jobs. The workshop produces marvels. But, there is no denying that Uncle Tully isn’t quite right. Then there is his assistant Lane. Lane is handsome, but rude. And he obviously doesn’t trust Katherine. What neither of them realize is that an even greater danger threatens Stranwyne and everyone in it, especially Katherine.
The book’s cover is very steampunk. But, you see now why I said that it was only sort of steampunk. Uncle Tully’s workshop has miracles and marvels of steam power, but the rest of the world is very much the typical Victorian England. In a way, I get the best of both worlds. The steam powered toys from the workshop are so unusual that lots of time gets devoted to them, whereas in a straight steampunk environment some of the awesome details get overlooked because they are normal for that world. In terms of the actual story… I did like it very much. It was much more of a Gothic romance than a steampunk story at its heart. There is the almost haunted house; the brooding, dark hero; the possibly insane genius; the threat of danger at every turn. Even Katherine herself seems to teeter on the brink of madness after a few nights in the house. There were moments where I didn’t especially like Katherine. I’m not sure I was supposed to though. Even after she sees how many people the estate is supporting her plans to turn Mr. Tully over to the doctors and Aunt Alice remain unchanged. In trying to be practical and protect herself she has given herself tunnel vision. But, that’s part of her character development rather than a flaw in the writing. One of the coolest parts about the book is that Stranwyne Keep is actually based on a real place. In the 1850′s the 5th Duke of Portland succeeded to the title and took over the management of Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. Over the next several years he had extensive tunnels constructed, moved most of the furniture out of the abbey, and had all the rooms painted pink. The duke was remarkably eccentric. He avoided contact with his servants and had his rooms refitted so that written messages could be passed back and forth through mailboxes. The estate did have its own gasworks as well as an underground library and ballroom. Rumors of madness, disfigurement, and depravity surrounded him, but no apparent legal action was ever undertaken....more
Courtship and Curses takes place during the Regency era. Sophie's papa has something to do with the war office and is very busy trying to fight NapoleCourtship and Curses takes place during the Regency era. Sophie's papa has something to do with the war office and is very busy trying to fight Napoleon. Sophie herself is making her curtsey to society this season. However, when she was a child she suffered a severe illness that left her with a limp. The same illness also took her mother, her sister, and her magic from her. She is shy about dancing, or even walking in public. When a handsome young lord begins paying attention to Sophie she hardly knows what to think. But love does seem to be in the air. Sophie's aunt rediscovers an old beau who was lost to her as a girl. Sophie's father is showing signs of interest in the charming widow of an old family friend. Everything seems to be going well. Then Sophie's magic starts to trickle back. It isn't reliable, but it seems to show up at the best possible times because it seems that someone is trying to kill her father. And the assassin is using magic. Now Sophie must wrest her magic back under control in order to keep her family safe. But who can she trust?...more
This is the third (and, as far as I know, final) book in the Frontier Magic series. I love this series! My quick and dirty tagline for it when I'm tryThis is the third (and, as far as I know, final) book in the Frontier Magic series. I love this series! My quick and dirty tagline for it when I'm trying to hand-sell it at the bookstore is: Harry Potter meets Little House on the Prairie. It's so much more complicated than that, but when you've got ten seconds to get a middle schooler's attention you work with what you've got. I like these books so much that I did a video review of book one, The Thirteenth Child. It's pretty terrible, but you can go watch it if you want a good laugh. The world is essentially 19th century America, but magic has always been known and because of that things have developed a little differently. The biggest differences for our purposes are these: it's not America, it's Columbia; westward expansion has essentially stopped at the Mammoth River (The Mississippi for us) due to the uncontrollable wildlife on the other side; Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson managed to create a barrier using the river that keeps all magical animals to the west; there is no Native American presence (I assume because of the dangers of the wildlife although it is not specified in the text); the Civil War worked a little bit differently, but the end result is the same and slavery has been abolished, although it was never as big a deal there as it was here due to the difficulty of clearing large plantations. As in most fairy tales, the seventh son of a seventh son is considered the most powerful magician known. However, especially in the eastern-most areas of the country, thirteenth children are considered more than unlucky, they're seen almost as plague carriers. The best case scenario is that their bad luck could spread unintentionally; the worst case is that they become twisted and lash out on purpose. Eff is a thirteenth child, but also the twin of a double seventh son. Throughout the entire series she has been struggling with the matter of who she is, what she can do, and what she should do. At the same time, she has begun to come into her own as an explorer. In each book she takes a trip across the Great Barrier into regions very few people have explored. In this third book, Eff joins an academic expedition into the far west. Their aim is to go further than the last successful expedition and catalog the plants and animals along the way. Several new threats have been moving eastward in the last several years. The expedition hopes, among other things, to give the settled communities some hint of what is coming so that they can prepare for it. I cannot say enough good things about this series. I've read the first book three times now, the second twice, and I think tonight when I get home I'll start book three for the second time. It is an amazing series. And I don't mean for a young adult series. There are things in this series about identity, self-worth, inner strength, and ways of seeing the world that I'm still trying to get a grip on in my thirties. So, if you have any interest in this type of book, westward expansion, fantasy literature, awesome female characters, please please please give this series a shot....more
God Save the Queen takes place in a post-steampunk, post-vampire/werewolf virus England. The setting is essentially modern day, but a modern-day influGod Save the Queen takes place in a post-steampunk, post-vampire/werewolf virus England. The setting is essentially modern day, but a modern-day influenced by immortal Victorians. The plague, which swept through Europe repeatedly over the centuries began to have some rather strange consequences. Those who carried antibodies to the plague began to gain in strength. Their lives were usually longer. Some of them began to have certain dietary requirements. The effects were different depending on the strain of the virus. Intermarriage with other plague-carriers increased the effects. These side effects were refined during the reign of Queen Victoria, resulting in a supernatural aristocracy. Werewolves and vampires now rule the British Isles. There is a third strain of the plague - the strain that creates goblins. Goblins are the strongest of the three types of immortals, but they are by far the least attractive. They have been relegated to the sewers and the underground train tunnels beneath the city. Xandra Vardan is a half-vampire. She is the offspring of an aristocrat and a mortal woman. Halfbloods serve as the protection for the ranks of the nobility since they possess much of their immortal parent's strength while suffering few of their weaknesses. Xandra has always been an exemplary guard. She has never deviated from the path expected of her. Until now. Xandra's sister has gone missing and Xandra is willing to break every rule in the book in order to find her. Even if that means going to the goblins for help.
This book was a little odd for me. I somehow missed that it was set in 2012, so the first time Xandra hiked her bustle up to get on her motorcycle I was a little taken aback. But I settled into the groove pretty quickly. There are twists and turns and plot-lines ducking down dark passages like Alice's white rabbit. I had a ton of fun with it. Xandra starts to question the reality she has been given and along the way finds out things about her family and herself that she never could have imagined. I'd recommend this to fans of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series or Kim Harrison's The Hollows series....more
This is a steampunk story about three unusual young women in early twentieth century London. Cora is a laboratory assistant to a wealthy, but secretivThis is a steampunk story about three unusual young women in early twentieth century London. Cora is a laboratory assistant to a wealthy, but secretive member of Parliament. Cora has lived as his ward since he plucked her from the streets of Whitechapel as a child. She is content with her life until the advent of an arrogant new laboratory assistant disrupts her routine. He is brash and annoying, but somehow attractive nonetheless. Cora's world is further disturbed when she finds out that girls in Whitechapel are being brutally attacked and murdered. These are girls she once grew up with, but the forces of law and order don't seem to care. Michiko is a young Japanese woman who trained under a traditional samurai. When her teacher refused her anymore training due to her sex Michiko struck out on her own. She ended up as the assistant to an Englishman who gives fencing and self defense to ladies. He is not nearly as good with a sword as she is, but Michiko needs the position an so keeps her head down. Michiko's world is turned upside down one day at the market when a master smith recognizes her for what she is, a samurai. He gives her a sword fitting her training. Michiko feels that she must live up to the honor he has done her. She must expand her life beyond mere survival. Nellie is a magician's assistant. Her master is kind and caring. Nellie's world is rarely troubled by darkness until the day a man stumbles into their apartments and dies. Suddenly, Nellie is catapulted into a world of danger and deception. Soon, a second man is killed and Nellie cannot turn her back on the mystery. The three girls end up coming together by happenstance, but quickly form a bond that overcomes class distinctions and even language barriers. They set out initially to solve the murders, but quickly stumble on a much darker plot that threatens all of England....more
This book picks up right before the weddings at the end of Pride & Prejudice. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley chat as they await the arrival of their brThis book picks up right before the weddings at the end of Pride & Prejudice. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley chat as they await the arrival of their brides. A rather entertaining conversation ensues as it becomes obvious that Mr. Bingley is feeling some trepidation about his marital duties. Although titillating, the book never reaches the point of salaciousness. I like that fine line in my Austen continuations. I find out and out sex a bit shocking in these, whereas I'll read a straight up regency romance novel with nary a blush. I suppose it's the contrast between that and the original material where ankles are covered, hands are only grasped when helping a lady over an obstacle, and kisses come at the conclusion of weddings. The Darcys and the Bingleys do take things quite a bit further than Austen, but not quite so far as Linda Berdoll's Darcy & Elizabeth books.
The first section of the book sets up the new families and establishes how married life is treating the sisters. Mr. Bennett, unsurprisingly, seeks the solitude of his daughters' homes fairly often. Although, you do see a very real affection between Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, which is largely absent in the original work. I like the idea that their relationship is not solely one of tolerant resignation. The second portion of the book opens with the surprising news that Miss Caroline Bingley has a suitor. Lord James Kincaid has been paying his addresses and she seems disposed to accept him. However, Mr. Bingley is not easy in his mind and enlists Mr. Darcy's assistance. Things soon become much more complicated than either man could have anticipated. With Darcy in London, Elizabeth and her father decide to do some investigation of their own and head up to Lord Kincaid's Scottish estate. What they find there is so shocking that in necessitates Elizabeth's immediate presence in London. Much like the Princess Bride, the second segment of The Darcys and the Bingleys is full of chases, escapes, revenge, and true love....more
I listened to this one on audio, and maybe that was a mistake. I quite liked the characters, but found the story rather dull. This is not something II listened to this one on audio, and maybe that was a mistake. I quite liked the characters, but found the story rather dull. This is not something I usually find with McKillip's books. Several of her books rest on my 'favorites' bookshelf at home. The Changling Sea is a book I have read probably ten or fifteen times and Ombria in Shadow is one that I consider heartbreakingly beautiful. Od Magic was nominated for Best Novel at the 2006 World Fantasy Awards. But it just doesn't resonate with me somehow.
Part of my problem may be that there are too many sub-plots moving at the same time. The story opens with Brenden Vetch, a young man who lives in the country very quietly and uses a plant based magic to heal the people and animals in his village. After his personal life takes a turn for the worse Brenden is persuaded by a giantess named Od to go to the capitol and take up the position of gardener at her school of magic.
Brenden goes to Kelior, but finds the school a very strange place. He simply wants to garden and nurture the plants in his charge, but everyone around him seems to want something from him. All magicians in Kelior are closely monitored by the crown. The teachers spy on one another, the crown either controls mages or banishes them for nonconformity. Students are not allowed in certain parts of the city for fear that they may be swayed into a rebellion.
Other threads of the story are held by Valoren; the king's personal mage who is concerned with power and position; Princess Sulys who has been learning forbidden magics from her grandmother; the wizard Yar who has begun to question the traditions and restrictions; Yar's lover Ceta Thiel, an historian researching Od; the stage magician Tyramin and his beautiful daughter Mistral; the guard captain who might be in love with Mistral; and Elver, a rebellious student who seems to know more magic than he should.
It becomes difficult to hold all these threads together and to devote enough attention to each one. Perhaps if I had been reading the book instead of listening to it I might have had an easier time of it. As it was, I was left feeling disappointed and a little unfulfilled. ...more