I received a trade paperback copy of A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I'd heard of this stI received a trade paperback copy of A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I'd heard of this steampunk genre book on Facebook, on the Gail Carriger (author of the Soulless and Imprudence series) page, and it sounded right up my alley, with an intelligent female protagonist in a steampunk setting attempting to solve a mystery. Veronica Speedwell is an adventurer and a dauntless young woman who doesn't let romance turn her into a simpering, weak-headed fool. She never lets circumstances stop her from her intended goal, and she uses her considerable wits to get herself and her companion out of danger several times. I was utterly enchanted by Veronica, especially due to my love of science and butterflies, which Veronica collects and sells to support her expeditions. Here is the blurb: Kirkus Reviews:Determined to live an independent life, Veronica Speedwell is anything but a proper Victorian lady. So when her home is attacked during her aunt's funeral, a rollicking adventure ensues. Mastermind of the charming Lady Grey Mysteries series, Raybourn (Bonfire Night, 2014, etc.) introduces her latest feisty heroine, deftly twining together suspense, romance, and cracking good dialogue. Certainly, lepidoptery should be a suitable hobby for a lady; chasing pretty things like butterflies can hold no dangers. But Veronica, a foundling raised from birth by her two late aunts, has taken things a little too far: by capturing and selling highly sought-after butterflies, she's financed her own expeditions to exotic locations, where she's indulged in emotionally careful yet physically torrid affairs. After rescuing Veronica from her attacker, Baron von Stauffenbach whisks her to London, depositing her in the care of the enigmatic Mr. Stoker, a brooding, Byronic hero of the natural history persuasion. Before the Baron can return to tell Veronica what he knows of her mother, he's found dead, and the police like Stoker for a suspect. Stoker and Veronica partner up to find the real culprit, hurtling pell-mell into a captivatingly intricate plot, including a traveling circus, the fetid Thames, and the Tower of London, as they dodge villains with murky motives and hulking henchmen. Soon, they realize that Stauffer's death may be connected to the mystery of Veronica's birth parents, and Stoker himself has a few secrets to discover, including what really happened on his disastrous expedition to the Amazon, which left him scarred and disgraced. As Veronica and Stoker careen through dastardly plot twists, they match wits, bantering with skill worthy of Tracey and Hepburn. A thrilling—and hilarious—beginning to a promising new series.
I completely agree with the Kirkus Reviewer in that reading this delightful novel is like watching a good Tracey/Hepburn film. You just can't take your eyes off of the two of them as they banter and slowly reveal their secrets to one another as their chemistry sizzles. The prose is gloriously British and yet remains clean and clear while the reader hangs on during the roller-coaster ride of the plot. I was so engrossed in this page-turner that I stayed up way too late to finish it last night. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys strong female protagonists, the steampunk genre and a ripping good read created by an expert storyteller. Oh, and I sincerely hope that the sequel comes along soon! ...more
Very well written novel with wonderful characters and a swift, sure plot. I adored the protagonist and was delighted that she finally found herself anVery well written novel with wonderful characters and a swift, sure plot. I adored the protagonist and was delighted that she finally found herself and her mate. This author is one to watch!...more
Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I should note, first, that I was given a copy of The Invisible Library by the publisher/authors rep, and I hadInvisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I should note, first, that I was given a copy of The Invisible Library by the publisher/authors rep, and I had previously downloaded an E-ARC onto my computer that I just couldn't read, because my eyes tire of screen glare after about an hour, and I prefer turning the pages if I can, when reading something so engaging that everything else in my life disappears.
At any rate, the publishers contacted me about reviewing the book, and I asked for a trade paperback copy, which they kindly sent to me in exchange for a review.
As I noted to them, this book is right up my alley. I am a huge fan of libraries, and have been since I got my first library card when I was 5 years old. Because my asthma/allergies were so bad, I couldn't go outside much as a child growing up in Iowa, so instead, I learned to read and traveled everywhere books could take me in my mind. Librarians were always kind to me, and allowed me into the regular stacks long before I was even a preteen, because I'd already read my way through the children's section by the time I was 6 or 7 years old. So I started reading science fiction and fantasy novels meant for adults in 1967, and I never looked back. Libraries were havens for me, because I was a chubby, smart nerd at a time when those were the kids who got bullied and harassed constantly.
I have also been a fan of the "Librarian" TV movies, starring Noah Wylie, because they put librarians into hero mode, where they went off to find books and magical objects that were best warehoused (like Warehouse 13) away from those who would misuse them. The TV show of the same name has also become a favorite.
Hence this novel, of an adventuring librarian going to other time periods in other universes to save books and bring them back to the main library, was familiar, sacred ground.
Oddly enough, it did not start or finish as I thought it would. I assumed that Irene would be more like Flynn from the Librarians, but she was much less swashbuckling than Flynn, much more practical and sensible than he was, and much more concerned with the life of her apprentice/sidekick, Kai the baby dragon.
Here's the blurb:One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.
London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.
Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...
Steampunk monsters abound, evil "skinwalkers" are out to get our heroes and a Sherlock Holmes by another name is on board to make this an adventure to remember. Cogman's prose is stellar, full of witty asides that make the bullet-train plot move at super sonic speed. My only nitpick, and it's a tiny one, is that I didn't feel that Irene should have placed her trust in Holmes/Vale so quickly and completely. She is bound by rules of secrecy about the library, and she seemed very quick to violate those rules because of her attraction to "the great detective," whom she has longed to work with. Vale was something of a condescending jerk, I felt, who neglected to realize and appreciate Irene's mind and role in dealing with the evil Alberich and Bradamant. She is an experienced agent, and did finally get the book back to the main library, so I thought that she should have gotten more credit from everyone than she did. Fortunately, she's going to be in a place where she can work on that in future novels, if the ending assignment is to be believed. I was so impressed with this exciting page-turner that I can hardly wait for the second book, The Masked City, to come out in September of this year. It will be followed by the third book, The Burning Page in December, just in time for my birthday! Obviously, this zesty bibliophilic adventure deserves an A, and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves Steampunk, paranormal mysteries, books, librarians and the Librarians movies and TV series....more
Jenny Lawson had one of the most bizarre childhoods I've ever read about. That said, it's not a shock that she grew up to be a very weird young womanJenny Lawson had one of the most bizarre childhoods I've ever read about. That said, it's not a shock that she grew up to be a very weird young woman with a successful blog and two books to her name. I did laugh a great deal while reading this book, but I was also taken aback by Lawson's ability to turn even the most mundane event into something of tragic and life-threatening proportions. She uses hyperbole in every chapter and the drama flows like wine. While this is fun for awhile, it gets old, fast, especially when it is coming from an adult, not a hormonally-crazed teenager. I am certain that half of my library book group will hate this book, while the other half will love it. I imagine it will split down age lines, with the older ladies thinking it was ridiculous and the younger ones liking the bizarro world that is Lawson's daily life. I'd give this book a B, and while I appreciate Lawsons' honesty, I can't say that I love her crude language and grim view of life, complete with gallows humor. I actually felt sorry for her husband Victor, who has to put up with her craziness every day....more
I received a free copy of The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt . As I explained in my email to the publisher, this book is right up my alley, being I received a free copy of The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt . As I explained in my email to the publisher, this book is right up my alley, being about theater (I've got a degree in theater) and history (ditto), while also having a strong female protagonist. This beautifully-appointed novel is subtitled "a novel of Shakespeare's Muse" which only adds to the mystique for lovers of the Bard like myself. I was not at all surprised, then, that I loved this book, but I was thrilled that the prose was gorgeous and the plot intricate but swift, so as not to mire the reader in too much trivia and history of the age. Here's the blurb: Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.
London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.
Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.
The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word. Aemilia's struggle to write poetry and to be recognized for her work is one that will be familiar to all female writers, unfortunately, even today. Especially while trying to deal with family issues, as Aemilia does, with a wastrel husband and two illegitimate children, one from a noble who seduced her when she was 16 and one fathered by William Shakespeare himself, who turns out to be quite a cad, especially after his child dies. There's lots of poetry in each chapter and some lovely, juicy behind-the-scenes information on Shakespeare's plays and how they were written, whether in collaboration with Aemilia or from Shakespeare's own hand. I also found the idea of Shakespeare being bisexual rather interesting, considering how often there are cross-dressers in his plays. All in all, this fascinating book deserves an A, and a top-notch recommendation to anyone who loves Shakespeare or the theater or England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. ...more
**spoiler alert** Fascinating book that was not at all what I expected. The characters are much more flawed than I anticipated, and there's much less**spoiler alert** Fascinating book that was not at all what I expected. The characters are much more flawed than I anticipated, and there's much less magic than I wanted. I found that the one character's desire to have a child, despite the fact that she knows it will kill her, to be a bit ridiculous. Why is adopting not an option? It makes no sense that she would seduce a gay man just to get a child whom she will never raise. ...more
**spoiler alert** I was rather disappointed in this book, because the main character's family were such low-lifes and "Uncle Kevin" who was such a her**spoiler alert** I was rather disappointed in this book, because the main character's family were such low-lifes and "Uncle Kevin" who was such a hero to the protagonist was a nasty junkie who commits suicide and her parent doesn't have the guts to tell her about it. I also found the whole "Nirvana worship" thing to be a bit ridiculous, as why would Europeans be that crazy over Kurt Cobain, another drug addict who, admittedly, did make some changes in the music scene, but to be so crazy about his music that you'd risk everything to get to a concert in Italy? I was living in Seattle in the 1990s, and yes, I saw all the grunge bands emerge, and to be honest, I wasn't that impressed with them or their music. (Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart did it better in the 1970s-80s) The pastor's wife at a local church was their housekeeper, and she told rather hair-raising tales of just how disgusting these people really were, not bathing for weeks so as to keep the high of heroine going because their pores were clogged with grease and sweat. Ugh. That the main character does drugs and then gets ripped off because of it almost seemed natural at that point. So why then, does she disavow her boyfriend in order to stay in a school that she hates? Also, I guess all Irish teenagers are constantly on the look out for sex, and the young women are accomodating, even if they don't want to...why, I don't know. The only character I liked was Dan Sean, who was a wonderful old geezer. ...more
This book read a lot like the authors master's thesis or PhD dissertation. There were tons of footnotes, and she didn't even get to the creation of thThis book read a lot like the authors master's thesis or PhD dissertation. There were tons of footnotes, and she didn't even get to the creation of the Wonder Woman comic until halfway through the book. First, the reader has to slog through a history of feminism and the sufferage movement, and then they have to read all about the comic creators life as a d-bag con man who managed to sleep with three different women and keep them all in a relationship. There's a lot of insinuation about two of these women becoming lesbians and living together until their deaths at an advanced age, but the author never actually comes out and says it. She also never clears up the mystery of whether or not Wonder Woman was a homonculous created from clay or an actual human Amazon from an Island....more
Not as good as her previous book, but still nicely done. Simonson takes on a more serious subject, WW1 and the days leading up to it, and race/class pNot as good as her previous book, but still nicely done. Simonson takes on a more serious subject, WW1 and the days leading up to it, and race/class prejudices at the time in England, as well as sexism and the horrific way that women are treated who are rape survivors....more