The Arrivals is a fantasy western. Let's just take a moment and look at those words, shall we? A F...moreThis review first appeared on www.medusaslibrary.com
The Arrivals is a fantasy western. Let's just take a moment and look at those words, shall we? A Fantasy... Western. Can you think of many other fantasy westerns? There's The Dark Tower and... Ok, so there are some steampunk westerns out there. Railsea and Iron Council have fantastical elements in a Western-ish setting. Dead Reckoning has steampunk and zombies. But I'm talking gun slingers, saloons, and magic. There isn't much of it out there, but Melissa Marr gives us just that. The book is smanbatet in the Wasteland. It's a strange world full of various forms of not-quite-humans. There are miners who have evolved to work underground. There are the bloedzuigers, who are equivalent to vampires (think the really ugly man-bat form from Bram Stoker's Dracula). There are cyanthropes, aka werewolves. Then there are the Arrivals. Arrivals are from our world. They don't know how they got to the Wasteland. They don't know if there's a way to get home. They come from all different eras starting with siblings Jack and Kitty from the 1870's and going up to the newest Arrival, Chloe who came from 2010. If an Arrival dies she might stay dead or she might wake up in six days. No one knows until it happens. The only other thing that the Arrivals have in common; they've all killed someone back in the "real" world. It might have been for a good reason, but they all have blood on their hands. Jack and Kitty believe that they have to use their strange powers to improve the Wasteland. They're in direct opposition to the mysterious Ajani. He seems interested only in personal profit. The siblings are constantly fighting Ajani for the most precious resource in the Wasteland - new Arrivals.
I read this while I was on jury duty and it did a great job of keeping me from feeling like I was in a weird, perpetual waiting room. At the same time, that feeling of being trapped in a bureaucratic Purgatory probably added something to my experience with the book. We'd all done something to land ourselves in jury duty, right?
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The characters were interesting and the world building was phenomenal. The only thing I can really complain about is that the book was too short. It's not that I felt shortchanged at the end, just that I wasn't ready to leave yet. The End came about 100 pages too soon for me. I have so many questions left! I really hope that Marr plans to turn this into a new series. I'm not saying that it's bad as a standalone, because it isn't. But there's still so much I want to know.(less)
Leo comes from a family of scientists. And not just any scientists, but really, really good scientists. He’s… creative. He’s a really good inventor, h...moreLeo comes from a family of scientists. And not just any scientists, but really, really good scientists. He’s… creative. He’s a really good inventor, he can see the machines before he even picks up a tool. It’s just that they don’t always do exactly what he expects them to. One night a tiny machine phases into his bedroom. It is being driven by a miniature version of himself and an amazing girl. They tell him that they’re from the future and that it is important that he read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (If that makes you think of the title of the book, good catch). The girl tries to tell him something else, but future-Leo stops her and they disappear. When Leo goes to the New-York Circulating Materials Repository he meets the regular sized version of the beautiful girl. Her name is Jaya and she’s the head page at the Repository. Leo falls in love and manages to get a job as a page in fairly short order. Leo has two goals for his time at the Repository; spend as much time as possible with Jaya and find the time machine that was in his bedroom. Along the way he discovers the Special Collections at the Repository. The Wells Bequest, in particular, is of interest. It has a time machine. It’s just… it doesn’t work. The glittering rod doesn’t glitter and the machine as a whole doesn’t go. When one of the pages goes a little crazy and threatens New York with a (theoretically) working version of Tesla’s Death Ray it becomes vital for Leo and Jaya to go back in time and stop Tesla’s assistant from stealing the plans. This was an amazingly fun read. The first book is pretty girl focused, but I think the second one will appeal to boys too. The book stands on its own. You know that something has happened at the Repository before, but you wouldn’t be lost if you started with the Wells Bequest. There’s romance, but not so much that I’d call it (in the immortal words of The Princess Bride) a kissing book. This novel has my whole-hearted recommendation.(less)
This one will be out in May from Macmillan. It’s a fantastic YA about a world where some people can bring their drawings to life. The Rithmatists are...moreThis one will be out in May from Macmillan. It’s a fantastic YA about a world where some people can bring their drawings to life. The Rithmatists are able to sketch wards and protections against the wild chalklings that threaten the country. Joel is a 16-year old student who wants more than anything to be a rithmatist, but he was not chosen. He has to be content with sneaking into classes when possible and reading the books on rithmatics that he can sneak out of the library. Joel’s entire world is turned upside down when students start disappearing and all the evidence points to a rithmatist as the culprit. What can a regular boy do against a rogue magician? Joel will have to gather his courage and find out before more of his classmates are lost.(less)
Jane and Vincent go to London to work on a commission. Jane takes her younger sister in the hopes of finding her a husband. I love all three books in...moreJane and Vincent go to London to work on a commission. Jane takes her younger sister in the hopes of finding her a husband. I love all three books in this series, but I especially like this one. Jane makes mistakes and jumps to conclusions in this book. She is entirely human and real and I feel like I know her. Not just because I’ve now spent three books with her, but because I have seen her failures and her triumphs. Mary Robinette Kowal does an excellent job weaving the history and politics of the time into her stories. Mount Tambora erupted in 1815 leading to global cooling. In the glamuralist world Mary has built there are glamorists who can call forth cool breezes and on cold enough days, actually create ice. These magicians are being blamed for the cold weather and crop failures. She masterfully links the plight of the coldmongers with that of the weavers who are being displaced by automated weaving frames. Jane and Vincent get caught up in a tangle between the cold mongers, Vincent’s father, and the army that has been called out to suppress any rebellion.(less)
Extinction Machine is the fifth Joe Ledger book out from Jonathan Maberry and all I can say is, wow. It’s astonishing to me how he manages to raise th...more Extinction Machine is the fifth Joe Ledger book out from Jonathan Maberry and all I can say is, wow. It’s astonishing to me how he manages to raise the stakes every time without tipping over into absurdity. Every hit Joe and his team take in this book is as emotionally wrenching for the reader as the very first one in Patient Zero. Every success feels personal. I found myself bobbing and weaving in my chair during fight scenes and clutching my dog during heartbreaking moments. I’m in. I am absolutely on Joe’s side. I want him to win. I want him to be happy. And I want horrible things to happen to his enemies. Shadow organizations around the world have been playing with toys that aren’t their own. Disasters usually follows these little experiments, things like devastating earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. But whoever figures out the puzzle first will put an end to the arms race, by winning it. Joe and Echo team get brought in with the rest of the DMS when the President goes missing. From his bedroom. In the White House. With no evidence left behind except a crop circle in the rose garden. The aliens want their toys back and Earth has a very limited window to respond or it’s good-bye to most of the western hemisphere. Of course, the DMS’s hands are tied with Acting President William Collins in the oval office because the only thing he hates more than the DMS is Joe Ledger himself. (less)
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 in...moreBook 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.(less)
Yay! Another steampunk book. Mostly. Katherine Tulman is an orphan. She lives in London with her deeply unpleasant aunt and cousin (who, although he n...moreYay! 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.(less)
I had an advance copy of Ironskin so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I ended up reading it all in one sitting. So, it was quite a whirl. I also like t...more I had an advance copy of Ironskin so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I ended up reading it all in one sitting. So, it was quite a whirl. I also like the cover. I’m not convinced about the accuracy of the fashion on the cover, but it’s pretty so I don’t care. Ironskin is set in an alternate England that never had an industrial revolution as such. They never needed to. They bought technology and the power supplies to use it from the fey. The blue packs were totally clean energy, the technology they could run was on par with that developed in the 20th century; electric lights, motorized vehicles, moving picture stories. All kinds of wonderful inventions free for the taking. Until, suddenly, they weren’t free at all. The Great War began when the fey rose up against their trade partners. Fey bombs exploded on the battlefield, killing many and imbedding the survivors with magical shrapnel. The fey have the ability to take over the bodies of the dead meaning that every bomb dealt double damage killing humans and creating more weapons for the fey to use. The war took a toll on England, vast stretches of battlefield are no longer inhabitable and the wounded are everywhere. Jane Elliott is one of the wounded. They are known as Ironskins for the iron coverings they must keep over the fey shrapnel imbedded in their bodies. Each piece of the fey magic comes with a curse that can infect those around them if it isn’t bound by cold iron. Jane is especially unlucky. Her curse is rage and the scars are on her face. She wears a sort of half mask of iron and cannot hide her injury from the world. Her curse has limited her employment prospects. Everyone understands about the wounded, but no one really wants them around. On the verge of desperation, Jane takes a job as a governess at a house on the edge of a fey wood. The child, Dorrie, is fey touched herself and her father, Edward Rochart has his own secrets. I really enjoyed this book. It has obvious parallels with Jane Eyre, but Connolly does a good job of not making it a flat retelling. Jane shares many of her literary predecessor’s traits. She is very self conscious about her appearance. She is drawn to the enigmatic Mr. Rochart, but backs off when more attractive women take the field for his affections. She is a bit more proactive than Miss Eyre however. When she discovers that Mr. Rochart’s secrets may very well endanger the country she takes rapid and decisive action. Miss Elliott is not fainting gothic heroine. She is a determined young woman who has finally found something worth fighting for. (less)
First of all, did I mention, DAN WELLS IS COMING TO MY BOOKSTORE JULY 6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Look – it’s on his webs...more First of all, did I mention, DAN WELLS IS COMING TO MY BOOKSTORE JULY 6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Look – it’s on his website and everything!!!!
Sorry, had to get that out. The book actually comes out July 3. I’m also talking to my Tor rep (The Hollow City) and my HarperTeen rep (Partials ) to see if there’s any way to get some copies to give away. I probably won’t haveThe Hollow City early, but I will try to get some signed copies of Dan’s books to give you guys. And I’m probably going to take some medication before the signing so that I don’t freak right out. Again.
Ok,The Hollow City. First off, it’s brilliant! I mean, just really, really good. The first thing you have to understand, is that Michael Shipman, our protagonist, is not to be trusted. I mean, he’s a nice enough guy, but he’s a paranoid schizophrenic. He has delusions. He sees things that aren’t there and imagines that dark, shadowy people are out to get him. They communicate thought any device that sends an electronic signal; cell phones, computers, tvs, clock radios. The faceless men are the worst. They literally have a blank where their face should be. They’re out to get him and do something horrible to him.
Granted, Michael has a right to be paranoid. His pregnant mother was kidnapped and murdered by a cult. People were out to get him before he was even born. His father resents that Michael lived while his mother died. He’s had a hard life for a young man. But, it’s all just in his head. Right?
The problem is that there are murders happening in the city. Horrible murders. Murders where the killer disfigures the victim’s face. The FBI think that Michael might know something, have seen something during one of his episodes. Or maybe, Michael saw everything because he is the killer? Michael himself can’t remember what happened the last time he blacked out. But there are only two possibilities; either he is a serial killer, or, some of the things he sees are real and they’re coming for him next.
I read this book incredibly fast. When I finished it, all I could say was, “Wow”. On twitter. Where I apparently made the author a little nervous.
I highly recommend this book! Michael is an amazing character. He is beautifully human in the midst of the horrible things happening around and to him. The story is tense and well thought out. I don’t want to keep talking about it because I don’t want to give anything away. Just buy it. Please.
This is a post-WWI British mystery, so it’s right in my wheelhouse as Dan and Rob Wells say on their podcast. The protagonist, Laurence Bartram, has c...moreThis is a post-WWI British mystery, so it’s right in my wheelhouse as Dan and Rob Wells say on their podcast. The protagonist, Laurence Bartram, has come out of the army with a whole body, but a shattered life. He escaped from the trenches relatively unhurt, but his wife and infant son died while he was away fighting. In the years since the war Laurence has drifted. His wife left him with enough money to live off of, but he has no purpose. He is in theory attempting to write a book about church architecture, but mostly he just sleepwalks through his days. Until one day, he gets a letter from the sister of an old school chum. John Emmett was kind to the orphaned Laurence and took him home for the occasional school holiday. John, unlike Laurence, had a very bad war. He came back with severe shell shock. Mary has written to tell Laurence that John has taken his own life. Laurence soon finds himself caught up in the Emmet family drama. John had written a will leaving fairly large sums of money to several people that were totally unknown to his family. As Laurence looks into these connections a number of sinister patterns begin to emerge. First, there is the nursing home John was staying at. How was he able to escape from it so easily? Why did the administration wait so long before informing either the police or John’s family that he was missing? The doctor in charge of the home is loved by the locals, but his son has a number of nasty rumors attached to his name. Then there is the courts martial that John was involved in during the war. A young man was executed for desertion. The execution was needlessly cruel, possibly the result of administrative bungling. The event apparently haunted John. Laurence finds a photograph from the day of the execution among John’s things. He decides to track down the men in the photograph, but quickly runs into some walls. Several of the men are dead; some in accidents, some have been murdered, and John, of course, committed suicide. But as a pattern of deaths emerges Laurence begins to doubt everything he has been told about his friend’s death.
I enjoyed this book overall. I liked it enough to read the next book in the series almost immediately (#67). The characters were well thought out and the writing was very good. I found the plot a little overly complex. I felt that some of the twists were unnecessary. There is a romantic sub-plot that has its own twists and turns on top of the labyrinth of the main plot. At times I wondered how a man who has just come out of a sort of waking coma would have the energy to run down all these trails when I barely had the energy to read them, but Speller addressed that. Laurence does feel fatigue and despair at the points in the book when I was at my most emotionally exhausted. The book was, overall, darker than I really liked. This is true of the second book as well. I tend, especially with my mysteries, to read more escapist literature than not. Speller seems to look at the darker sides of human nature. She lovingly lays bare the faults and misdeeds and weaknesses of the characters in her novel. She highlights their strengths as well, but there seem to be fewer of those. I suppose the easiest way to describe this book is to liken it to a painting that is beautiful and exquisitely executed, but makes me uncomfortable to look at. After two books, I can appreciate her talent, but I think I’ll probably stay in the shallow end of that particular pool for a while longer.(less)
Elegy for Eddie is the ninth installment in the Maisie Dobbs series. The year is 1933 and Maisie is once more in London. She is approached by several...moreElegy for Eddie is the ninth installment in the Maisie Dobbs series. The year is 1933 and Maisie is once more in London. She is approached by several old friends of her father’s who want to hire her. Eddie Pettit, a young man from Maisie’s old neighborhood, has died in an industrial accident. But the costermongers and Eddie’s mother aren’t satisfied with that explanation. All of the factory workers have been forbidden to discuss the incident on pain of losing their jobs. Maisie remembers Eddie fondly as a kind, gentle young man with an almost magical way with horses. The idea that someone might deliberately have harmed him is repellant to her. However, the case quickly proves much more dangerous than Maisie suspected. Maisie’s assistant Billy is severely injured while asking questions about the accident. Maisie herself is warned away by her paramour when her investigation leads toward prominent men and state secrets.
I was very happy that this book was a return to Maisie in London dealing with a very personal problem. I enjoyed A Lesson in Secrets, with it’s flavor of espionage, but I wouldn’t want the series as a whole to trend in that direction. I like Maisie to be herself, to walk around and talk to people openly. I also like that Maisie is having to take stock of herself in this book. She can see very clearly when it comes to other people, but her own life is in quite a muddle. She begins to sort some of that out in Elegy for Eddie.(less)