This novel gets off to a slow start but comes to a slam-bang finish. It has the feel of both history and suspenOriginally published at Reading Reality
This novel gets off to a slow start but comes to a slam-bang finish. It has the feel of both history and suspense, because it is both.
Elma Sands, the victim in this case, was a real person. The place where her body was found still exists in a New York City basement. I’m not sure which gave me more chills, the description of her short and tragic life and horrific death, or the author’s afterword describing her visit to the site.
City of Liars and Thieves is a story that proves that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The story, and the case, center around the first publicized murder trial in New York. And it displays all the facets of the “blindness” of justice, or the lack thereof, that we still expect to see in contemporary sensationalized trials.
Elma Sands was a young woman whose body was found in a well in Manhattan, in what will someday become Soho. But in 1800, Manhattan is a fast growing city with a desperate need for fresh water. “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink” could easily describe the situation. Surrounded by salt water, there is nowhere near enough fresh water for the people who live there. A situation made even worse by the lack of sanitation practices at the time.
Elma lives with her cousin Catherine Ring in a boardinghouse owned by Ring and her husband Elias. Elma is a young woman who has shown some questionable judgment back in her small home town of Cornwall, NY, and Caty hopes her cousin can get a fresh start in the larger city. Also, she just plain misses her.
Instead, Elma’s faults drop her into an early grave, as a warning to anyone who would get in the way of much bigger plans by much more important people than Elma (or Catherine) ever expected.
Elma got herself caught in the struggle between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton to create a bank outside Hamilton’s control. That struggle manifested itself in the creation of the Manhattan Water Company, a front for the creation of the Manhattan Bank (which still, in a strange way, exists).
The water company was a complete sham. It was a way of roping investors into a scheme that was bound to fail, but folded their money into the bank in such a way that the investors lost their shirts.
Elma made the mistake of telling one of the founders that she would expose him, based on pillow talk with his brother. Instead, she ended up in the bottom of a dry well, and the trial of her supposed murderer ended up as part of Burr and Hamilton’s presidential campaigns.
And the killer, beneficiary of his brother’s money and influence, got off scot-free. Or did he?
Escape Rating B: This story takes a while to set up, because there are so many historical factors in play. Caty and Elma’s relationship, Caty’s husband and their move to Manhattan, and finally, Elma coming to Manhattan already in the relationship that would eventually get her killed.
The stage also has to be set to show the continuing water crisis in Manhattan. We think of New York City as a place of abundance, both of wealth and material goods. Manhattan is the banking center of the city. But in Elma and Caty’s time, Wall Street was still mostly mud. The colonies as a whole had only been free for a quarter-century. This was a time when the U.S. was still more frontier than civilization.
Caty Ring is used as the point of view character. On the one hand, she survived, so she lives to tell the tale (and apparently did in real life). On the other hand, we are restricted to what Caty knows and does, or is reported to her. She is not privy to discussions with Burr and Hamilton, because in 1800 those gatherings were restricted to men. Her husband does not treat her as an equal partner, because he has myriad secrets of his own. In the dark, Caty forms her own conclusions about Elma’s actions and eventual death. Many of those conclusions turn out to be erroneous, both because Caty naively believed the best of people who obviously did not deserve it, and because she drowns in her grief as surely as Elma drowned in that well.
The suspense in this story, and the point where it starts moving at terrific speed, is when the accused murderer is brought to trial. The way that trials were conducted is both different and the same. The jury has to sleep at the courthouse, on the floor, until the trial is over and the verdict is rendered. The judge makes his bias obvious from the beginning of the case, and the amount of perjury condoned is jaw-dropping.
But the verdict in the end is the one that we expect. Money decides the case, and much of the reporting follows the accepted version rather than search for the truth. In the end, Elma’s virtue is on trial much more than her killer’s guilt or innocence.
And that is all too familiar.
p.s. Even if you don't normally read the author's afterward in a book, read this one. It's even more chilling than the story....more
If you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories that focus more on continuing a life that celebrates what is best in us dOriginally published at Reading Reality
If you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories that focus more on continuing a life that celebrates what is best in us despite conditions that travel well past hell in the handbasket, Station Eleven is utterly marvelous.
If you prefer the violent aspects of surviving in a world gone mad, try Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling instead.
The apocalyptic event that creates the world of Station Eleven feels all too real, all too plausible. In 1918, the influenza pandemic killed 3-5% of the world population. The event was slightly less than a century ago, and some of the same factors apply in Station Eleven, especially the ones where governments underestimated the infection rate and communicability of the disease. Or simply chose not to communicate the communicability of the disease.
Another frame of reference is the Black Death in the 1300s. 30-60% of the population of Europe was killed, and it took 150 years for the continent to recover. The combination of these two real-life historical examples bear strange fruit in Station Eleven.
More than 90% of the world’s population is wiped out in less than a month by a particularly virulent strain of swine flu. The disease strikes so quickly and in such large numbers that the world healthcare system is overwhelmed instantly. And it also gains a foothold because the country of origin downplays the seriousness of the epidemic. It spreads before anyone has a chance to find a cure, and then everyone who is either not resistant or not isolated dies in days.
Station Eleven is about how the world tries to right itself, and how much we take for granted that can be gone in an instant. With 90% of the world’s population dead, there is no one to maintain all the hallmarks of civilization that we use without a thought. No electricity, no grocery stores, no internet, no police or fire services. No national government because there is no communication infrastructure.
But it isn’t back to the Stone Age, because all the adults remember the world before. Even in a fight for bare survival, people remember how things used to be. As time goes on, the people who remember are the ones who have the most difficult time adjusting, because now they know just how marvelous the world was, and they mourn for it, or want it back.
The story begins with an event that feels like the death of patient zero, even though it isn’t. But Arthur Leander’s death on stage in King Lear occurs just as the first cases are dying in New York. For the group of people who witness his last performance, it becomes their touchstone for the day the universe changed.
Everything from that point forward is reckoned in B.D. (before disaster) or A.D. (after disaster). No other time frame matters.
“Because survival is insufficient” is a quote from the Star Trek Voyager episode Survival Instinct. It is also painted on the canvas of the Traveling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who travel around the Great Lakes performing classic works of music and Shakespeare in the small villages and hamlets that have survived the epidemic.
Kirsten Raimonde is one of the actors in the Traveling Symphony. She was also a child actress on stage when Arthur Leander fell, and she is one of the links between the pre-apocalyptic past and the dystopian present.
She and her traveling company tour a circuit of towns around the Great Lakes that, through trial and deadly error, they have determined to be a safe route. That route is disrupted when they return to St. Deborah by the Water to discover that it has been taken over by a cult leader who symbolically, or realistically, buries anyone who does not go along with his beliefs.
He is also the only other person in the changed world to have read an extremely limited run graphic novel that Arthur Leander gave to Kirsten just before the world ended. While Kirsten tries to resolve that puzzle, she and her friends also must journey to a Museum of life before the fall in order to find missing members of their crew who may be dead, or may just have fled the cult.
The cult, the symphony, and everyone’s memories of the late Arthur Leander travel back and forth through time and across a desolate Midwestern landscape to reach one isolated place that ties them all back together again.
Escape Rating A: Station Eleven is all about the journey. Both the literal journey that Kirsten and company take to find their missing crew, and the journey that humanity is taking from our world of overabundance to their world of scarcity. It is a journey that reveals the preciousness of human connection over all the technological distractions of contemporary life.
Using Arthur Leander’s coincidental death provides a mechanism for viewing the world as it was before, and the world as it is after. We see his life move from purpose to pointlessness to death. We also see the destruction through the eyes of the people who surrounded him in those last moments - his best friend, his child co-star, and the paramedic who tried to save him. Each of them takes a completely different journey to that point 15 years A.D. where they all meet again, along with his ex-wife and her son.
They each survive in different but quite possible ways. All equally traumatic and life changing as the universe changes. There is a world after, but the journey to get their is fraught with pain, and sorrow, and occasional sparks of joy.
Station Eleven has been lauded as literary fiction, but the story it tells is firmly within the post-apocalyptic genre of speculative/science fiction. Because it is set 15 years later, we get to see the story of how people survived, and not just the violence of the immediate collapse. It makes this a hopeful and sometimes lyrical tale, one well worth reading.
Because survival alone IS insufficient. To make us human, we must find ways to do and be more. And that is the story of Station Eleven.
p.s. Get your flu shot. It may not help but it can't hurt....more
In my review of the first book in this series, Maxwell Street Blues, I said that the Chicago the author portrays feels right to me. I lived and worked in Chicago for a lot of years, and the place in the books feels like the place I knew.
That’s even more true in Windy City Blues. The murder that kicks off this story takes place four blocks west of where I used to live. It is stranger than you can imagine to find your old neighborhood starring in a murder investigation.
And what a murder investigation it is.
The dead body belongs to a parking enforcement officer. That’s a fancy term for what we used to call “meter maids”. Jack Gelashvili’s head was beaten to a pulp, and it killed him. The question that Jules Landau ends up asking starts out as “Why did the managing editor of the Republic (read that as Chicago Tribune) call the city desk to quash the human interest story?” The death of a meter reader shouldn’t have crossed the head honcho’s radar. Not that the city editor didn’t obey his boss’ whim, but that the whim sticks out way more than the crime itself.
And suddenly Jules has a case, looking into Jack’s murder. Of course, Jules discovers that nothing involved is anywhere near the way it seems, starting with the two dirty cops in their last days before retirement, assigned to pretend to stake out the most likely murder suspect. Who can’t possibly be a real suspect, but can certainly serve as a real scapegoat, especially if he dies too.
Jules, as always in Chicago, follows the money. Which weaves a very tangled thread between the City’s Department of Revenue and kickbacks from the private company who leases certain city territories for very lucrative parking meter enforcement.
In Chicago, one hand always seems to wash the other. But when Jules looks into the background of that first unfortunate dead victim, the trail leads to the internecine warfare between the Russian and Georgian immigrant communities. In Chicago, police corruption and political kickbacks are expected. Human trafficking is a whole other shipload of wrong.
A wrong that has claimed more victims than Jules can ever find - and may claim his life and the lives of everyone he is involved with to protect the dirtiest of dirty secrets.
Escape Rating B+: This is definitely the Chicago I lived in. And it makes the story even more fun to recognize sights and suss out which Chicago institution’s names have been changed to protect the innocent, or more likely the guilty.
The major newspaper that is described in this book may be called The Chicago Republic, but based on the description of its policies. its relationship to the other daily in town, and especially to its iconic North Loop offices, its the Chicago Tribune.
The mystery in this story is one that is definitely helped by its Chicago context. The Chicago of popular imagination is a place where city officials taking kickbacks from contractors doesn’t even cause a momentary eyebrow raise on the part of the general public. In Chicago, its expected.
And yes, Chicago has privatized some of its parking enforcement. Probably not exactly the way it is in the story, or we all certainly hope not, but the parking has been privatized and the deal made was definitely questioned. Not necessarily because of outright graft, although that’s certainly possible, but because it looked like either a sweetheart deal or a desperation move that probably would cost the city more than it earned.
So to make the crime something that people in Chicago would actually kill for, the author had to up the ante. Way, way up. The scary thing is that even as heinous as the crime turns out to be, it still seems all too plausible. That one man’s dogged determination would be able to uncover everything, maybe not so much, but the crime, unfortunately, yes.
The readability of this story hinges on its main character, Jules Landau. We’re following him, so he has to be likeable, and be someone we could imagine talking with. Jules is an interesting set of contradictions, in ways that also seem endemic to Chicago. He was brought up in an affluent North Shore suburb, but his great-grandfather was a crony of Capone’s, and his dad did time for bribery and other typical white-collar Chicago crimes.
Jules knows cops because he’s worked with them as a private investigator, and because some of them were responsible for his dad’s arrest. The love/hate relationship he has with his cop friend/informant is sad, funny and useful, all at the same time.
Jules also has a marvelous cat named Punim. Jules may be a vegan, but Punim gets the best bits of animal innards from a local butcher. Punim rules that apartment, but also keeps Jules from being totally alone. Jules’ loneliness, or at least "Lone Ranger-ness", is also a theme of the stories. In Windy City Blues, he suffers a loss in his inner circle that is expected but still very touching, and leaves readers wondering who will fill that gap in his life and his investigations....more
Okay, I’ll admit it, the name of the town in this book made me crack a smile every time. This entry inOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly
Okay, I’ll admit it, the name of the town in this book made me crack a smile every time. This entry in the Phoenix Institute series takes place in “Charlton City”. I never knew my husband’s family had a whole town named after them, even a fictional one.
I know, I’m digressing. Again.
Although Luminous is a novella in the Phoenix Institute series, the Institute (or its characters) don’t appear until the very end of the story. This one is about the kind of person the Institute wants to help, and how she’s coped without their help until now.
It also shows that there are more “gifted” people in the world than just the few that the Institute has found, and that there are more evil mad scientists fooling around outside their expertise (and mental stability) than just the ones employed by Richard Lansing before his timely demise.
In some ways, Luminous reminds me more of Batman than the X-Men, who seem to be the inspiration for the Institute. In Luminous, we have a mysterious crime fighter a la Batman, teaming up with a righteous cop in a corrupt city, a la Commissioner Gordon and Gotham.
The difference is that in Luminous, our mysterious crime fighter has lost the ability to “take off her mask” and her relationship with the cop is way more than just a crime fighting partnership.
Our heroine only knows herself as “Noir”. Years of being the victim of sadistic experimentation by a truly mad scientist have left her with no memory of her life before she was kidnapped, and a bad case of “Invisible Woman” syndrome.
Noir is completely invisible, even to herself. That invisibility is what allowed her to escape from her tormentor, but she can’t remember, or find a way, to turn it off. When she needs to be seen, she dresses in black from head to foot, including a mask and gloves, so that there is something there for people to react to.
Not that she lets people see her to have a reaction very often.
But Noir has a goal; to find and stop the doctor whose diabolical experiments caused Noir so much pain. She also needs to stop the monster that her tormentor has created out of the man who used to be that same doctor’s brother.
The kidnapping, bank robbing, murdering spree has just got to stop. Noir has lots of information on Doctor Jill and her Monster Brother Jack, but no way to put it in the right hands - until she watches Police Lieutenant Aloysius James take charge at the scene of the monster’s latest rampage.
While it can be said that Noir is trying to be a hero, she also needs a hero. She needs someone she can trust, someone who will both believe in her and believe her, and someone who can accept her as she is, invisibility and all.
Al James is the one uncorrupt cop in a very corrupt city. Because he isn’t on the take, he’s always alone - none of the other cops think they can trust a man who isn’t as morally bankrupt as they are. Yes, there is an irony in that. The untrustworthy are only capable of trusting those equally untrustworthy.
But in his isolation, Al is willing to trust a woman he can’t see over a bunch of his fellow cops who he sees all too clearly. He may not be able to see Noir’s face, but he can tell from her actions that she is on the side of right.
Too many of his supposed brothers in blue are all too ready to take a payoff to either turn a blind eye to the evil in Charlton City, or to turn Al in to the forces of evil for cold, hard cash.
Noir is the only person who can save him from the crap he’s stepped in to - and Al is the only person willing to save Noir from her life on the invisible run. But first, they have to take down evil. Together.
Escape Rating B+: Luminous reads like a combination of Batman (with a gender twist) and Frankenstein. Doctor Jill certainly qualifies as the evil scientist who creates a monster (or two monsters, counting her crazy self).
In the mad scientist vein of SF (and SFR) we’re never quite sure in this book whether Noir’s power of invisibility is an accidental side-effect of Doctor Jill’s experiments, or whether it is something that was latent in her all along. One of the scary things for Noir is that she doesn’t know either.
Al and Noir are both messed up people, and their fairly heavy baggage draws them together. Al needs both a case where he can really make a difference and to let someone or something into his life besides work. Noir needs someone she can trust with her secret, someone she can be herself around, even if that self is invisible. Under her invisibility, she’s still a woman who needs contact with other people.
Both Al and Noir are wearing masks in one sense or another. Noir’s disguise is literal, she can’t be seen. Al hides his love for the city he serves (or at least its people) under sarcasm and cynicism, just as he hides what Noir discovers is a totally fine body under rumpled and even slightly oversize clothes.
Noir is able to be herself with Al, even if the only self she knows is the one she has constructed in the few months since she escaped the experimental lab. Al needs to re-discover a self that is not just a workaholic cop, but actually has a real life.
Al’s road is surprisingly rockier than Noir, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his ability to remember his whole life.
Solving the case turns out to be easy - for certain bloody and beat up cases of easy. Solving the possibilities of a real future relationship turns out to be a lot more difficult, but we don’t discover those details until Ghosts of Christmas Past.
The Phoenix Institute turns up at the end, as Al discovers both Noir’s identity before her kidnapping, and that the Phoenix Institute wants to help people like her. The future involvement of the Institute, and particularly psychic Beth Nakamora, provides the plot-excuse for Beth to be unavailable in the next Phoenix Institute story, Phoenix Legacy. The case in that story would have been much too easy to solve with Beth’s telepathy on tap.
But Noir and Al’s story is a terrific superhero-type romance/adventure all on its own....more
England after the end of World War I was a different place than it had been before the war. An entire generatioOriginally published at Reading Reality
England after the end of World War I was a different place than it had been before the war. An entire generation of young men had died in that war, leaving behind a generation of women for whom there simply would not be nearly enough men to marry for those that wanted to. Which meant that, in spite of the country’s desire to return to the gentler days before the war, there was a generation of women that was going to have to earn a living because there was no choice.
Women had spent the war years working at jobs that men did, for relatively good wages, and did not want to give those jobs and wages up. It was difficult to return to the kind of unskilled and unstimulating labor that they had left behind to become nurses and ambulance drivers at the start of the war. And there were too many families where the husband could no longer work because of war-related injuries, but the wife either couldn’t get a decent paying job, or her husband wouldn’t allow it.
Add to this the changes for those privileged, and those in service. A significant number of young people who would have gone into service for a wealthy and titled family before the war, went into military uniform and experienced a life with considerably more equality. Often it was the equal share in being shelled or gassed, and an equal share in the possibility of dying. But the world changed. Fewer people came back to service after the war, and the life of the privileged classes was forced to change, even if those changes went very much against the grain.
Think of the post-WWI world portrayed by Downton Abbey. The post-war period is markedly different from the pre-war. The universe had changed.
After the War is Over is the sequel to Robson’s excellent Somewhere in France. The point-of-view character is one of the friends of Lilly and Robbie from that first book. Charlotte Brown is radically different from Lilly and Robbie, bordering occasionally on downright radical.
Charlotte was a nurse during the war, but before and after she served as an aide to a constituency advocate in Liverpool. Charlotte’s job is to find aid and assistance for families suffering from the economic downturn. Even with all the women being fired from what are supposed to be “men’s jobs” there still aren’t enough jobs for all the returning soldiers.
While Charlotte is happy for Lilly and Robbie, and content in the job she is all but married to, something is missing in her life. Someone. Charlotte fell in love with Lilly’s brother Edward the day she met him. Unfortunately, any chance they have for happiness seems doomed. At first, Edward is caught in an engagement arranged by his parents when he was a child. Then, when his father dies and he inherits the earldom, he discovers that his father did a lousy job of managing the estates and that the death duties are ruinous. He breaks off his engagement and searches for a rich young woman whose family fortunes can repair his own.
But the real block to any possibility of happiness is Edward’s continuing depression and illness after the war. He feels as if he will never be a whole man after losing his leg, and he appears to be drinking himself into an early grave. Edward is suffering from shell-shock, but perhaps something more as well.
It will be up to Charlotte and her nursing skills to find out what is really wrong, and to make sure that he takes the care and cure that he needs. Even if she knows she is making it possible for him to be whole with someone other than herself.
She’ll be happy again. Someday.
Escape Rating A-: It’s easy to sympathize with a lot of Charlotte’s story. She is a career woman, long before it was cool. She has an inbuilt drive to do something about for the people who need help. It’s not just that she saw too much as a nurse, it’s the way she’s always been. She recites her own story in a public speech, off the cuff, and it explains so much about what motivates her.
She was also lucky in that her parents supported her goals, whether they completely understood them or not. Her situation contrasts strongly with Lilly’s, as Lilly had to fight to be her own person. Charlotte always was. While there is a difference in class, Charlotte is firmly middle-class, she also faced the expectation that she would marry and have children. Her mother worries that she won’t be happy without those things, but still loves the person she is, and doesn’t try to change her.
It’s good to see a story like this where the heroine has supportive parents and isn’t running away from a horrible, or even just stifling, situation.
A lot of this story is about women’s relationships. Not just about the friendship between Charlotte and Lilly, but particularly about the life Charlotte has created for herself as a single woman. Her friendships (and frenemy-ships) with her co-workers and her housemates are important. As is the late war that hangs over everything in the story.
Charlotte’s relationship with Edward reminded me a bit of Downton, specifically Matthew’s illness after the war and his engagement to the heiress Lavinia Swire. The way that his injuries affected him, the engagement to a woman who may have been the “right woman” to solve his family’s problems but was certainly not the one he loved, and the problems of class were similar to Edward’s predicament, his engagement, and his love for Charlotte. Nothing turns out quite the same, except the happy ending, but the situations are predicated on some of the same decision points.
After the War is Over is much less soap-opera-like over all. The central story is Charlotte’s becoming everything that she can be, and learning to love the life she has, in spite of difficulties thrown into the path of a career woman in the 1920s. Her happy ending is excellent icing on a well-told cake....more
I could just say that this is the story of an archaeological dig, and while that would be correct, it wouldn’tOriginally published at Reading Reality
I could just say that this is the story of an archaeological dig, and while that would be correct, it wouldn’t really cover the book or the impact of the story behind it. I could also say that this is the story of one person following their dream and making it happen, no matter how many times people tell her it is impossible.
What this is definitely NOT is a story about the King Richard who is the dastardly villain of Shakespeare’s play Richard III. The play has played its part in keeping the story of Richard alive, it is not history, but is almost entirely fictional-while this slim volume tells a true story about a woman and an organization that did not believe the conjectured tales, and a group of archaeologists who discovered the find of a lifetime.
Even though this is not about the Shakespeare play, or even the Shakespearean version of the villain, the author used the device of presenting the story in “Acts,” very much like a play.
The prologue is where the author sets the stage, in this case providing a brief but informative chapter about the historical Richard III. Not the conjecture, but what is actually known, and why there isn’t all that much. For a fascinating but fictional representation of the case, read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time. Tey was a Ricardian almost before the term existed, believing (and convincingly presenting) the case that Richard was not the villain Shakespeare and subsequent Tudor biographers made him.
The Ricardian perspective is important, because the Richard III Society (Ricardians all) provided half of the funding for the dig that found his bones. They believed that the skeleton would lay to rest some of the myths. Whether it did or did not, history will be the judge.
But Digging for Richard III isn’t so much about the king as it is about the effort to find his missing body, with some interesting side-notes about the difference between legends and verifiable facts. So this is a real treasure hunt with a fascinating hunt through time and car parks.
There are three parts to the story - the belief by Philippa Langley that the body must still be under Leicester somewhere, along with her search for an organization that could conduct the dig. Following that, there is the archaeological study itself, including the historical search to narrow the location of where the grave might be, the debunking of the myths that claimed there was no longer a grave to find, and the actual dig itself. Last, but certainly not least in terms of time or expense, the methods used to determine whether the bones that they found in the car park belonged to the man they were hunting for.
For anyone with even a passing interest in urban archaeology, British history in general or Richard III in particular, or just in historical treasure hunts, this book is an absolute delight.
Reality Rating A: Count me among the delighted. I originally read The Daughter of Time in my teens, and was converted to the Ricardian perspective then. It makes more sense than the later Tudor narratives, especially including the one that claimed that Richard was so evil that his mother was pregnant with him for 2 whole years. In the 1500s, they might not have known precisely how babies were conceived at the molecular level, but there was plenty of experiential evidence that pregnancy only lasts 9 months, give or take. I'm certain that the idea of a 2 year pregnancy probably scares a lot of mothers half to death, but any history that repeated that particular bit of demagoguery is questionable at best.
What is fascinating was how pervasive the myths were, and how many of them had accreted over time out of absolutely nothing except a desire to “pile on”. The events that occurred before Richard’s hasty burial were all meticulously recorded, but the fate of his coffin was lost to the mists of time, and then assumed to have been dug up and discarded during the Victorian era building spree in Leicester, if not before.
So there is a lot of myth debunking, as the archaeologists have to first search for whether the burial might exist, and then where the building it was purported to have occurred in might be under 21st century Leicester. Those same archaeologists never expected to find the body, because archaeology doesn’t work like that. They were just hoping to find the lost church the body was supposed to be in.
They found the body on the first day, and had no idea that they had found it. The amount of red tape involved when a dig finds human remains delayed the exhumation, and when it finally happened, everyone was focused somewhere else.
The story of how the determination was made that the bones in the car park really did belong to the (very) late king have all the drama of an episode of Bones or CSI. Every tool of forensic archaeology and crime scene forensics was brought into play to determine who the bones belonged to when they were alive..
There was a court case that fought over who owned the bones now that they’ve been exhumed. It wasn’t quite as big a war as the one Richard died in, but it was close.
Now all someone needs to do is figure out what really happened to the Princes in the Tower, and the complete historical mystery will finally be solved....more
Because the entire Cole McGinnis series until now has been told from inside Cole’s head, we only see what he seOriginally published at Reading Reality
Because the entire Cole McGinnis series until now has been told from inside Cole’s head, we only see what he sees and know what he knows. Cole’s first-person narrative is fantastic, because he’s an interesting and intelligent character and his head is therefore an interesting point-of-view. But it does mean that we don’t know what’s going on in places where Cole isn’t, unless he finds out later.
Down and Dirty is the story of all the things that happened out of Cole’s sight during the events of Dirty Deeds. Down and Dirty explains the world-rattling sentence that ends Dirty Deeds, and watching that explanation unfurl makes for a terrific romance.
Cole laid down the law that his younger half-brother Ichiro Tokugawa and his best friend Bobby Dawson were not, under pain of his wrath, to get involved with each other. It’s more than the usual prohibition against your friends dating your family, although there’s that too.
Ichi is Cole’s recently discovered half-brother, and Bobby is Cole's best friend. If they get involved and then break up, choosing between them is not a place Cole wants to go. And he figures he’d end up there fast, because if there’s one thing that Bobby Dawson hasn’t done since he came out, it’s fidelity. Or even something approaching serial monogamy. Bobby is only interested in one-night stands, with as many twinks a night as he can handle.
The problem isn’t even that Bobby has a son Ichi’s age, it’s that Cole is certain that Bobby is guaranteed to break Ichi’s heart, because that’s what he does. Of course, Cole is also being big brother and believing that Ichi wants the same thing he has - a happy long-term relationship, possibly heading towards permanence.
Ichi and Bobby have been driving each other crazy for months, ever since Ichi showed up at Cole’s door. But they snipe around each other because they both love Cole and know that he’s leery of the fallout if Ichi and Bobby getting involved. What Cole doesn’t reckon on is Ichi’s shocky reaction to being caught in the crossfire while helping Cole with a case. Ichi, a newly arrived transplant from Japan, just can’t get emotionally past the prevalence of guns in America, especially when people start shooting at Cole and him. And Ichi really can’t deal with Cole running towards the gunfire, because risking his life to help others is who he is.
In the aftermath, Ichi turns to Bobby as not just a safe haven, but as someone who can hopefully help him make sense out of Cole’s life and his choice to repeatedly run into the line of fire. Ichi also wants Bobby to help him feel alive in the face of death. In spite of breaking all the rules, Bobby finally gives Ichi what they both want.
What Bobby doesn’t count on is Ichi making him feel alive, too. Which is terrific, unless Cole makes them both dead when he finds out.
Escape Rating B+: I made the mistake of reading Down and Dirty before Dirty Deeds, and it felt like there was something missing. Only because there was. As much as I enjoyed Down and Dirty, it isn’t a complete story, but rather an accompaniment to Dirty Deeds. For full enjoyment of Down and Dirty, it is necessary to know the characters, and to be aware of the full context of the case that Cole is involved in.
Also, because this story isn’t, and couldn’t possibly be, Cole’s narration of events, it feels different. Not bad in any way, just different from expectations. Also, where the stories that feature Cole are romantic suspense, Down and Dirty is strictly a romance. There’s no case to solve, only two people exploring something oh so wrong that feels oh so right.
Down and Dirty is a sex-into-love story, which fits perfectly with Bobby’s character. He hasn’t been looking for Mr. Right, just Mr. Right Now, since he retired from the LAPD and came out. He’s been making up for lost time, and acting a bit like the teenager he hasn’t been in decades. Bobby is as surprised as Ichi that what they start to just scratch an itch stirs up a lot of emotions.
This is also a May-let’s say September romance. Bobby has a son the same age as Ichi. Although it’s only explained in one of the free shorts on the author’s website, Bobby is 52 and Ichi is 27 or 28. Any relationship between two people with that kind of age gap has some hurdles to go through for believability. The way that Bobby, who is older but often acts like a young idiot, and Ichi, who is young but has been through a lot and definitely has an old soul, work out a way to be together is well done.
And nearly totally derailed by the fact that they are keeping a huge secret from Cole, one that he will discover sooner or later. So Bobby sticks both his feet in his mouth at the end and tells him in the worst way possible.
Which is completely fitting for Bobby’s character. I can’t wait to find out how this new family dynamic plays out in the next book in this series. Please SOON?...more
First of all, read this before reading Down and Dirty. The two books present two different perspectives on theOriginally published at Reading Reality
First of all, read this before reading Down and Dirty. The two books present two different perspectives on the same set of events. Dirty Deeds is the foreground story, with Cole McGinnis, as usual, knee deep (or higher) in a case that he probably shouldn’t have gotten involved in but couldn’t help himself.
Down and Dirty is all the stuff going on at the same time that happens out of Cole’s sight and hearing. It’s the story of how things got to the point of the last line in Dirty Deeds, which will drive you crazy if you’ve read the rest of the series.
And you should read the rest of the series (Dirty Kiss, Dirty Secret, Dirty Laundry) . It is awesome romantic suspense, sometimes more suspense and sometimes more romance, featuring Cole McGinnis and the man he falls in love with, Kim Jae Min. Like so many excellent detective series, it’s not just Cole and Jae-Min, but also the family they create around them (especially Jae’s cat Neko) who make the series special.
Cole has a bad case of “white knight” syndrome. He has a tendency to try to jump in and rescue everyone, whether they want it or not, and whether it is a good idea from his perspective, or not. Or rather, Cole always thinks its a good idea at the time, while his friends and family are left either bailing him out of jail or waiting at a hospital, sometimes both.
But the case in Dirty Deeds hits very close to home. Cole became a private detective after a few years on the LAPD. As an out cop, Cole made as many enemies as he did friends, but he didn’t know just how many enemies he had until after his cop partner and best friend shot Cole, Cole’s lover, Rick, and himself. Cole’s never known why. But his settlement from the LAPD enabled him to set up his P.I. business.
While Cole hasn’t put any of the events completely behind him, he has moved on into a new life with Jae-Min. That life is threatened when his ex-partner’s drug-crazed widow comes to Cole’s house and shoots Jae-Min, then flees into the wind.
Cole needs to find Sheila so that he can feel safe. Or as safe as he ever lets himself be. What he needs is to make sure that Sheila can’t come back and try again, because Cole can’t face the idea of anyone else he loves dying in his arms.
Which doesn’t mean that hunting Sheila down won’t get him killed. Because Sheila wasn’t just out for a twisted kind of revenge. She’s gotten herself in much too deep with some very nasty people, in addition to falling down the meth rabbit hole.
If Sheila doesn’t kill Cole, her enemies just might.
And if you can't get the phrase, "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", the title to an old rock album by AC/DC, out of your head, it's totally appropriate. This is definitely a story where a lot of dirty deeds get done on the cheap, and it's disastrous for all concerned.
Escape Rating A: I read Down and Dirty first by accident, and wondered why that felt like half a book. This is the other half, and it’s awesome.
This story, like all the previous entries in the series (start with Dirty Kiss), is told by Cole from his first-person perspective. We only see what he sees and know what he knows, which is how he manages to get blindsided by the events that happen outside his narrow focus on Sheila.
There’s a whole lot of stuff that Cole will find out about after the fact. But before the fact, we have Cole’s hunt for the woman who shot his lover. Cole and Ben, his police partner, were best friends. Cole spent time with Ben’s family, and knew the woman Sheila used to be before Ben killed himself. He’s shocked at the change in her, and sees her as another one of Ben’s victims. What he doesn’t know is why she came back around and shot Jae-Min. Cole has to find out what set her off, so he can prevent her from doing it again.
So Cole, as usual, is in the middle of a case, but not the case he thought he was solving. First, it turns out the Sheila was into a whole lot of nasty stuff as a way of paying for her drug habit. The kind of nasty business that gets people killed by gunfire long before their drug of choice does them in.
Except that Cole’s drug of choice seems to be adrenaline, so…
In addition to the case, because it’s Sheila, Cole finds himself dealing with all the crap he still has in his head about Ben’s and Rick’s deaths. Cole spent so much time in rehab after the shooting, that he managed to completely suppress his feelings about the sudden loss of two people he loved. He’d kept himself trapped between the DENIAL and ANGER stages of grief, and hadn’t moved on. This case forces him to deal with some of the past crap. It’s necessary if he wants to move forward in his relationship with Jae-Min, not that Jae doesn’t have crap of his own.
But Cole’s past gets dredged up, and it needs to. There’s also some of the usual trademark snark and banter between Cole and Bobby, and a marvelous scene between Cole and his office manager/adopted mother Claudine. I laughed out loud, to the point of annoying my husband, over Cole’s thoughts about Jae’s cat Neko, who is a terrifying little treasure. I love reading the perspective of someone who is just as annoyed at feline behavior as I am.
I just love these people, this family. I want more stories of their adventures....more
The Jake & Laura series is tremendously fun, especially if you like 20th century historical mysteries, and/Originally published at Reading Reality
The Jake & Laura series is tremendously fun, especially if you like 20th century historical mysteries, and/or if you like stories where the fictional creations interact with real people.
The thing about using the 20th century as a setting for any type of historical fiction is that even if the reader doesn’t personally remember the era, it is close enough in time that we knew people who did, or at least that some of the icons of the time live in the public consciousness. We feel that we are familiar with the ancillary characters, even if we don’t know the details. And that we associate certain people with certain eras helps fix the story in time in a way that bare historical details may not.
In this particular case, Jake & Laura go to Hollywood in the relatively early days of the “Talkies”. The Jazz Singer, the first feature film presented as a talkie, premiered in 1927. Hollywood was still feeling the echoes, as acting careers, producers, directors and studios were still suffering the fallout. The Great Depression, which brought record numbers of viewers to theaters for cheap, escapist entertainment, also made it difficult for studios to pay back their loans on the expensive new equipment needed for sound.
Jake and Laura have arrived at a Hollywood in the midst of change, but still the Hollywood that is now legend, where starlets were discovered at street-corner diners, and speakeasies catered to the rich and/or famous. It was also the early days of the “studio system” where stars and wannabees signed up to have their public life controlled by the studios’ star-making publicity machine.
Laura is a successful Broadway actress, but she has come to Hollywood to star in a screwball comedy as the ingenue. It’s a role that will make her career in movies, if the picture ever gets made. But Laura is supposed to be the star, and Jake Donovan is supposed to hang around and finish his latest novel. The trip is also a test of their recently rekindled relationship.
Nothing works out the way it is supposed to.
Jake has been in Hollywood before, but the last time he was in LA, it was when he was working as a Pinkerton with Dashiell Hammett. Jake, like Hammett, is a detective-turned-novelist, and Hammett has been singing his praises on both fronts. So when Laura’s picture needs some tightening in the screenwriting, Jake is drafted against his will. As usual, he’s protecting Laura, and equally usually, he doesn’t tell her why he is suddenly involved in something she didn’t want him near.
Then there’s a death (of course there is) and Jake is in it up to his neck. He may not be guilty, but he certainly looks guilty. He needs to find the real killer before the scandal murders his writing career, and more importantly, Laura’s big chance in Hollywood.
Because in the Depression, Jake knows that they are only one or two paychecks away from disaster. Unless he ends up in prison, which will be more disaster than anyone can handle.
Escape Rating B+: The title, of course, is meant to recall the famous quote, “All the glitters is not gold”. Most of what glitters in Hollywood is tinsel, although it could equally be said to be pyrite, or “fool’s gold”. The point is that under all the glitter, there is a lot of fakery. Also a lot of people chase the gold of Hollywood, only to discover that the metal they mined isn’t gold after all.
The other version of this saying is also true, “All that is gold does not glitter”. Jake and Laura, their relationship and their core selves, are gold and true, even if they do suffer some knocks along the way. But then, real gold is a relatively soft metal, and it’s easy to dent or shape, yet it is resistant to corrosion, as, in the end, are Jake and Laura.
While the mystery in this story turns out to be a relatively simple case of “Who Benefits?” there are plenty of red herrings to steer Jake off course and keep the reader entertained. You are pretty sure who it has to be, but it takes a convoluted time for the evidence to be revealed (and/or discredited).
One of the fun things about this series is the way that Laura and Jake interact with the luminaries of Hollywood in the 1930s. Jake knew Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Thin Man books, which became a movie series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. William Powell appears as an important secondary character in All The Glitters. This is made even more fun (and slightly recursive) that Jake and Laura are intended to be a slightly more down to earth Nick and Nora Charles. (Hammett modeled Nick and Nora on himself and his lover Lillian Hellman)
The Thin Man series is also a comedy of manners hidden in a mystery (and vice versa) and so are the Jake and Laura stories. Art imitates life imitates art imitates life, with just as terrific results as the first book in this series, The Yankee Club. You don’t have to read Yankee Club in order to enjoy All That Glitters, but it’s probably just that much more fun if you do....more
Wonder Woman has often been presented as an icon of feminism. Admittedly, she looks like feminism for the maleOriginally published at Reading Reality
Wonder Woman has often been presented as an icon of feminism. Admittedly, she looks like feminism for the male gaze, with her abbreviated and skin-tight uniform of bustier and increasingly short shorts, but the principles that she espouses, at least when she is being drawn by someone who cares, are generally considered feminist.
If Wonder Woman’s history in the comic books is often convoluted, as DC Comics continually revises, retcons and retools the origin stories for their superheroes, the story of how she was created was possibly even stranger.
There’s also an amount of “small world” feeling that surrounds her creation. She was created by a man who believed that what he was propagating were first-wave feminist values, in spite of the life he lived being something rather different. At the same time, everyone seems to have known everyone. There’s a weird straight line between the creation of Wonder Woman and the invention of the birth control pill. In this history, that line has a couple of kinks in it.
Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston in 1942 during the Golden Age of comic books. Marston’s life was somewhat of a comic book all by itself, but no one seems to have been aware of it at the time, including his children. That’s part of what made this story so fascinating.
In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Marston lived at the head of an extremely unconventional household. His wife, Sadie Holloway, embodied the feminist principles that he inserted into Wonder Woman. She was the primary breadwinner, working at the executive level in various industries, including insurance, and was also an editor.
In addition to supporting Marston and their children, Sadie was also supporting the other woman in Marston’s life, Olive Byrne Richard, and the two children Marston had with her. In return for her involvement in this unusual arrangement, Olive Byrne became the caretaker for Holloway’s children with Marston in addition to her own.
Olive Byrne was the niece of Margaret Sanger, the famous (sometimes infamous) birth control advocate, so Marston knew Sanger.
Marston was also the originator of the lie-detector test, even though his design was not the one that went into widespread use.
The story in The Secret History of Wonder Woman is not a publication history of the comic, although there is a bit of that. Instead, it is a biography of the eccentric group of people who made the original Wonder Woman, and a fascinating look at how their unconventional lives and Marston’s unusual psychological theories about love and dominance made their way into the iconic character of Wonder Woman.
Reality Rating B: This is one of those stories that can only be true, because an attempt to fictionalize it would run past anyone’s willing suspension of disbelief.
As narrative, it takes a while to get into, but the journey is definitely worth the ride. At least partially because it’s such a surprise.
Marston certainly believed that the ideas he was promoting in Wonder Woman were aligned with first-wave feminism. After reading this book, I can’t say that I believe it, but I can see that he did. He also had a lot of very strange theories about the power of love and submission both being ultimately stronger than violence and dominance and being what women really needed. Again, not saying I believe it, or that anyone outside his immediate household believed his theories very long, but he did embody those theories in Wonder Woman.
On that other hand, he used both his wife and his mistress as models for different aspects of Wonder Woman’s personality and some of her costume and gadgetry. It also seems like Wonder Woman is the only thing he managed to succeed at, and the rest of the time he was a supposedly enlightened despot overseeing the household that was maintained for his convenience by his two “wives”.
There was a certain amount of bravery on everyone’s part in living a very unconventional life-style, but it seems as if it mostly benefitted him, which doesn’t seem feminist at all. Marston also used the Wonder Woman narrative as a way of poking none too gentle fun at various academics and officials who had derided his theories in the early part of his career.
Whatever he may have voiced regarding the power of women, Marston described all the many and varied ways in which Wonder Woman gets chained and bound, over and over, with a little too much loving detail to sit comfortably with readers who equate Wonder Woman with feminism. It feels like a disconnect between what he said and what he did, and one wonders why no one pointed it out at the time.
All in all, the way that Marston’s real life and theories inserted themselves into Wonder Woman is strangely compelling. The way that first-wave feminism was both promulgated and ultimately rejected by Wonder Woman when it changed hands reflects the change in women’s status after World War II. The backdrop history of the fear of comic books’ influence on children and the rise of censorship is reminiscent of the trials of both television violence and video games that have occurred in more recent times. Some things that have happened before are happening over and over.
This book reads much more like a biography of Marston than a history of Wonder Woman. Still, where those two intersect, and how, is fascinating.
Reviewer’s note: This book is not as long as it initially appears. While reading on my Kindle app, I was 65% completed when the narrative ended and the extensive footnotes began. It’s great to see how well researched the book is, but I thought it had a lot longer to go....more
The quote that opens this book, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in ouOriginally published at Reading Reality
The quote that opens this book, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time” is one that is often used in reference to the Great War, as World War I was referred to. It’s a quote that has haunted me since the first time I read it in The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell, a literary exploration about how WWI changed public consciousness in the mind of a generation.
And that’s fitting, because the WWI era has become very popular in the 21st century. The WWI era is also the Downton Abbey era, and we think we know it well because of the popularity of Downton.
But the lamps really did go out, as is shown quite clearly in Somewhere in France. We live in the world created by the shuttering of those gentle lights. The universe lit by our much harsher electricity is a much different place.
Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford is a woman that we would recognize. She wants to be whatever she can be. She’s bright and intelligent and wants to stretch her mind and her horizons.
But the class-ridden society that she was born into has placed her upon a pedestal, one that her station does not allow her to step off of without dire consequences. On the one hand, she has wealth and privilege; on the other, she is not permitted the education or training that would fit her to make her own way in the world. And, as she discovers, if anyone assists her in gaining that knowledge, the punishments are severe.
An old family retainer teaches her to drive. Her parents take away his retirement cottage and his pension. This is legal, there is no safety net. It is not right, but they have that privilege. It is also the last in a series of venal punishments that Lilly can no longer bear. She wants to help in the war effort, but her mother in particular feels that the aid organizations are no place for an earl’s daughter.
Lilly leaves with a carpetbag and goes out to earn her own place in the world, armed only with determination and those driving and mechanical skills that cost so dear. She sells her jewels to pay for her parents’ cruelty to the man who taught her.
A young woman set on a course to do her duty to her country, she intends to help with the skills that she has. The Army recruits women ambulance drivers, and she serves in France under horrific conditions. But there she is reunited with the two men who have been steadfast in their belief that she can be whatever she wants to be if she just keeps trying; her brother Edward, and Edward’s best friend, Robbie Fraser.
When she was Lady Elizabeth, Robbie was considered unsuitable for her. He’s a Scot who made it into university on scholarship and is supporting himself as a surgeon. As a professional man, her family considers him barely more than a tradesman. But for Lilly the independent woman, Robbie is the only man who knows who she really is and loves her for herself.
If he can just get over who she used to be, and what the war has done to them both.
Escape Rating A: This is a fantastic book to start the year with. Absolutely stunning.
Lilly starts the story as a bird in a gilded cage. You can feel her beating her wings against the bars; she wants out, but she’s letting herself be made smaller and smaller every day. Then the war (and an opportune visit from Robbie) kicks her into realizing that she can make a difference if she’s willing to step outside the box that her parents are determined to put her in.
Once she decides to start taking what to 21st century readers seem like reasonable risks (learning to drive, writing letters to friends) Lilly really starts to blossom. She doesn’t whine, she gets down to work.
We see the war from Lilly’s perspective as an ambulance driver. Think of MASH only with less developed surgical techniques and 30 years fewer medical advances. In other words, more death. Lilly drove the wounded through a nightmarish “No Man’s Land” day after torturous day, yet still kept on, because it was the best way she could contribute.
That a romance flourishes at all under these circumstances is both amazing and not surprising at all. The urge to find a spark of life amidst all that death seems natural, but Lilly finds Robbie at an Aid station, and they move haltingly beyond friendship. Robbie has an impossible time believing that they have any future, and there is often heartbreak.
The portrayal of the woman rising beyond everything her society believed possible of her is a terrific read. If you enjoy Downton Abbey, you will fall in love Somewhere in France.
And if you get caught up in Lilly’s wartime escapades, you may also enjoy Bess Crawford. Bess is a nurse in France in this war. Her first story is A Duty To The Dead....more
Some of the reviews compare Mercenary Instinct to Firefly, and it's a pretty fair starting point. Possibly an aOriginally published at Reading Reality
Some of the reviews compare Mercenary Instinct to Firefly, and it's a pretty fair starting point. Possibly an alternate universe Firefly. It's not that Mal Reynolds couldn't end up as cynical and universe-weary as Victor Mandrake (he pretty much did) but that I can't imagine Mal creating or leading a successful mercenary company with 200+ people on its payroll. He wasn't that organized, nor did he want to be in charge of quite that much. (Zoe, on the other hand, possibly yes)
But Mal would certainly have pulled the same stunt that Viktor does - taking a bounty for someone who seems criminal, only to change his mind when he discovers that the supposed criminals are every bit as much victims of intergalactic politics and chicanery as he is.
Upon which change of heart, trouble comes hunting him and his. So yes, Firefly.
Back to the actual book in hand (or on ereader), Mercenary Instinct. This is a combination unlikely love story and poke in the eye at intergalactic mercantile empires wrapped up in a fun package.
Viktor Mandrake is the Captain/Commander/Leader of Mandrake's Company, a successful mercenary company with a fairly decent sized payroll and quite a bit of good space-faring equipment. He's also a deserter from the GalCom Special Forces. GalCom isn't a government or a planet, it's a corporation. A universe spanning corporation that operates as a government. It's also the entity that wiped out the entire population of Mandrake's home planet because they didn't want to join the company.
Only one other planet ever suffered the same fate, and for the same reason. GalCom also wiped Ankari Markovich's home planet of Spero off the face of the universe. No other planet failed to heed those heart-breaking examples. But it does give Viktor something in common with Marcovich, the woman he is supposed to turn over to one of the more secretive Lords of Commerce on brutal but rather flimsy charges.
Ankari Markovich is the owner of a small biotech firm that plans to use ancient alien gut-bugs (try to say that three times fast) to make people healthier through gut-bug treatments. (As they are formally called, microbiota are real and research on changing or fixing them through injections from people with healthy microbiota is currently ongoing in our 21st century, which makes this plot not as far-fetched as it first appears)
Lord Felgard creates a "Most Wanted" poster for a very nasty crime using very shaky, almost "photoshopped" evidence so that he can put a very hefty bounty on Ankari and her two partners, Jamie and Lauren. All women in their early to mid-20s who have never even heard of Lord Felgard.
Their capture, in fact, the wanted posters themselves, come as a total surprise to Ankari and company. So much of a surprise that Viktor Mandrake starts to question the purpose of this bounty he has hunted. When Felgard double-crosses him, Viktor is certain there is more to this story than appears, in spite of, or perhaps because of, Ankari's repeated escape attempts.
She may be trouble, but she isn't a cold blooded killer. So what is she and why does Felgard want her in such a huge, expensive hurry?
And why can't Viktor manage to resist letting her trouble all the way into his formerly regimented life?
Escape Rating B+: In spite of, or perhaps because of, its similarity to Firefly, Mercenary Instinct is a whole lot of fun. It has that same blend of space opera combined with rooting for the underdog that made Firefly so much fun.
In the science fiction side of this book's roots, we have two themes that make for an interesting "man and woman against the evil corporation" plot work. The idea of an intergalactic corporation becoming the effective government is unfortunately all too easy to believe. After all, corporations now have rights to free speech in the U.S. Also, considering the current mess between Sony and North Korea, we have a corporation that either hacked, was hacked, and censored or was censored or refused to bow to censorship in the face of an actual government. The future where corporations are as big and powerful as countries may already be here.
And we've already talked about the gut-bugs. As funny as they sound, there's real science hiding in those microbiota.
Markovich and her friends make an interesting bunch of would-be entrepreneurs. Lauren is the scientist who focuses on her work to the exclusion of everything else, including self-preservation. Jamie is a self-taught pilot and engineer desperate to escape her home planet, and Ankari is the brains and guts of the outfit. She's the one who keeps going when it would be logical to stop trying. She rescues herself, over and over.
The double-cross by Felgard creates a dramatic tension as every mercenary company in the area swoops in to attempt to re-kidnap Ankari and her friends from Mandrake. The more odds that are stacked against them, the closer that Ankari and Viktor become.
I'll confess to not being 100% sold on their romance. While it made sense that they banded together in the face of so much opposition and danger, it smacked a bit too much of insta-love to sell me. I could see insta-lust in this situation but not true love. YMMV.
Felgard was a bit of a cookie-cutter villain, if the cookies were made out of man-eating plants. He's a bit bwahaha at the end, and seemed to exist mostly to create the situation rather than have real motives of his own.
But I still had a ball with this book, and have the entire series so far on my iPad waiting for the next time I need a treat. Trial and Temptation is already tempting me....more
The town of Tombstone that you're probably thinking of, the one with the O.K. Corral? That's in Arizona. Not thOriginally published at Reading Reality
The town of Tombstone that you're probably thinking of, the one with the O.K. Corral? That's in Arizona. Not that I'm not pretty sure that the name Tombstone isn't designed to blend your memories of that Tombstone with this Tombstone. Using such a familiar name in popular Old West legends brings a whole lot of atmosphere to this new one, and it makes perfect sense both from the author's standpoint and in the context of the story.
In this new Tombstone, some old gunfighters are bringing in tourists for a taste of the real West. The one that they lived in 150 years ago, when they were all feared outlaws. Becoming vampires back in the day made them faster, stronger and of course, virtually immortal.
There were 10 of them, but in this modern day, there are only nine. Nine men and women who remember the west as it was, because they lived it. They should have scattered to the four winds, but in this particular version of vampirism, the vampires have to return to the place where they were turned on the anniversary of that life-changing event. For all of them, that place is Tombstone.
In the 21st century, they have become entrepreneurs of an expensive and exclusive Wild West resort (Think of Westwood without the rampaging androids). The Tombstone Ten (minus one) need the money from the resort to buy the land they need for their annual pilgrimages - and just plain because Tombstone is home and they want to preserve it.
The Quick and the Undead, while it sets up the scenario of Tombstone and gives us peeks at the previous lives of the vampires who run the show, is also a romance between a travel blogger and a man she thinks is just an actor plying the part of Sheriff Boone Taggart. It's also the setup of a long-term suspense plot about the certainty that other vampires know who they are and where they are, and that the old vampire who made them is on his way back with unknown and probably unwelcome intentions for the gang he created and the town they made.
Back to that travel blogger, Riley Davenport, and Boone. Riley has been on the run for three years from an abusive ex. Her travel blog keeps her moving, and therefore difficult to track. She posts on a time delay, so by the time her posts on location X are being run, she's already at location Y or even Z. She lives out of suitcase but it makes her feel safe. Also tired.
Boone and his vampire friends (and enemies) upset all of Riley's carefully made plans. Tombstone offers as real an Old West experience as they can make, so there is no electricity and no internet. Which doesn't mean that the vampires running the show don't have all the modern technology available to track their very modern business, but that tech is NOT available to the guests.
Riley has avoided relationships while she's been on the run. She's lonely but afraid of finding herself attracted to another alpha male who will take over her life and kill her personality if not her actual self. While she is attracted to Boone from the moment she sees him, it takes her a lot of story to figure out that while he may be as alpha as they come, he doesn't want to control her.
Especially since his drive to keep her safe from a crazed killer vampire is to lock her up in a cave until things are safe.
Escape Rating B-: I love the setup of the town and the series, but I'm not so certain about the romance between Riley and Boone.
The idea that they might experience a whole lot of insta-lust and decide on a short-term fling for the time she's in Tombstone makes sense. That she decides she really loves him while she is trapped in a cave, even if it is definitely for her own safety, smacks a bit of Stockholm Syndrome. That she calls herself on it doesn't make it any less true.
Riley's ex is also a bit of a failed 'Chekhov's Gun'. She has lived her entire life for the last three years in rightful fear of this bastard, but he's neither the big baddie nor even the little baddie in this story. He's swept out with the trash in a brief mention at the end that he's in prison for battering some other woman. (The irony is that this feels 'real' in a real world sense while at the same time being disappointing in a story sense.)
The suspense angles of the story, the question about who is after the vampires and why, worked well both as suspense and as a way of illuminating a whole lot more about Boone's character and his past. The way that his closure gets delivered worked well for me.
I will say that the all-inclusive tourist town run by vampires setup reminded me a lot of Nina Bangs' Castle of Dark Dreams series. Bang's series is lighter and Raye's is spookier/darker, but the idea of vampires creating fantasies for tourist consumption is fun either way....more
This particular night before Christmas is a holiday story about sharing the joy of the season with the family yOriginally published at Reading Reality
This particular night before Christmas is a holiday story about sharing the joy of the season with the family you make. It's also a love story that is mostly about what happens after the happily ever after.
In the first two books of the Butternut Lake series (Up at Butternut Lake and Butternut Summer) we saw the women who formed a Girl's Night Out group all find, or cement, or re-forge, the relationships with the men in their lives.
Although the side-stories are about Jax and Jeremy finding a way to continue their marriage past the revelation of a long-past lie, the focus in the series has been on Allie and Caroline.
In Up at Butternut Lake, Allie returns to her childhood home at Butternut with her young son in order to start a new life for herself after the death in combat of her husband. She finds a new life and new love with Walker Ford, the new owner of the local customized boat (and sometimes yacht) store. By this particular Christmas, Allie and Walker are expecting their first child together. But as much as Walker longs for this child, he can't get past the tragedy of his first wife's miscarriage and the subsequent death of their marriage. He is smothering Allie out of fear that if he doesn't take care of each tiny detail, something will happen to the baby - again.
In Butternut Summer (reviewed here), Caroline discovers that her ex-husband is not the gambling, cheating alcoholic that she divorced 18 years ago. Jack has stopped gambling, he's certain that he will never cheat again, and he's been clean and sober for two years. He comes back to Butternut in the hopes of establishing a new relationship with their daughter Daisy, and with a tentative prayer that he has a chance with Caroline again. At this particular Christmas, Jack and Caroline are planning to marry each other - again. But this time Caroline gets to plan the wedding she wants, and she's nervous but having the time of her life.
Jack and Caroline's daughter Daisy is home from college for the holidays, and to be her parents' maid of honor and best woman. It's not every child of divorced parents that is able to realize the dream of her parents getting back together. In many cases, it's a downright bad idea, but for Jack and Caroline, it is finally right.
But in the midst of all this love and happiness, Daisy is pining for her own love, away in the Army.
In this holiday season, everything finally manages to work itself out the way it should, but not until after Murphy's Law throws a big monkey wrench into everyone's plans for a festive holiday and wedding celebration.
Escape Rating B+: I enjoyed this holiday story so much because I read the first two books and was familiar with all the characters - and all the reasons why their particular love stories were so deserving of happy endings. I don't think that coming into this one cold (so to speak) would get half as much pleasure out of the resolutions to the various issues.
The story is wrapped around Caroline planning for her wedding. While she is not obsessed, and certainly never strays into BrideZilla territory, she really does have her heart set on a real ceremony and reception with all their friends and getting everything just so, even if a bit scaled down for a small town AND the second-time around with the same guy. Their first wedding was a registry ceremony and no family. She's determined that this one be better - that it feel permanent because this time it is.
When the hall they have reserved suffers fire damage the day before the wedding, Caroline is slightly crushed, but plans to soldier on. Jack is the one who brings the whole town together to give her the reception she wanted, even if it isn't the way she planned. It's actually better this way.
Jack shows how far he has come from the jerk who left her 18 years ago by surprising both Caroline and Daisy with exactly what they wanted for Christmas, even if it was something they believed was out of reach.
All in all, a delightful holiday story with just the right sprinkling of romantic and family love....more
It is fascinating to read history about something you remember, and discover new truths and new insights on eveOriginally published at Reading Reality
It is fascinating to read history about something you remember, and discover new truths and new insights on events that still feel familiar - especially when those events are still shaping the world today.
Ostensibly, this is the story of the negotiations at Camp David in 1977 between the U.S., Israel and Egypt to provide at least a framework for peace in the Middle East, something that was not achieved and has not yet been achieved. From the perspective of 2014, it seems as if the issues in the Middle East are more intransigent than ever.
A goodly part of this book tells why things haven’t shifted much, or at least not shifted in a good direction, as a result of the events of these thirteen (not an auspicious number) days.
The author does this by interweaving the specific events at Camp David with a look into the contemporary histories of both Israel and Egypt, particularly in the 20th century. He looks behind the myths that both sides have created about the way that politics and history shaped and partitioned the area that is holy to three religions, and how that background of religious warfare has impacted contemporary events.
A critical part of the mix is the author’s triple biography of Carter, Begin and Sadat, to outline the ways in which their personal histories brought them to the summit, and kept them from reaching the kind of over-arching peace that they are claimed they sought. Some of the problems that they brought to the table were rooted in their own pasts, and that they each defined peace, and how that peace might be defined, from radically different perspectives.
Not all the baggage at Camp David came in suitcases - quite a lot of it was embedded into the psyches of the three principals. In many ways, it is amazing that they managed as much as they did.
On top of the personal, this story was also impacted by the three political landscapes at the time - Jimmy Carter staked the prestige of his presidency on Camp David, and probably lost his second term at least partially because he blocked out all other issues in his attempt to make a lasting peace. Begin was head of a coalition party in Israel that had multiple agendas, while Sadat was very much out on a limb politically from the other Arab nations, who viewed his attempt to negotiate with Israel as traitorous.
And yet, the accords signed at Camp David have not been broken in nearly 40 years. It may sometimes be a fractious peace, but there is peace between Egypt and Israel. But for how long?
Reality Rating A-: This historical narrative seemed like a perfect choice for this season that hopes for “peace on earth and goodwill to all” because it highlights a time when peace in a troubled region might have been within reach. That the attempt was made at all is a testament to the desires of people of good will, and yet, that they fell short is also a testament, not just to their human frailties, but also to the drumbeat of ancient as well as modern grievances.
If those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, then the story of Camp David is about the unwillingness or inability of a whole lot of people with the best intentions in the world who could not let go of a past that everyone remembers differently but all too well.
One of the things that makes this history accessible to the reader, is the way that the author set the negotiations into their historical and personal contexts. It wasn’t just about these thirteen days, but about the histories of the Middle East and the negotiators. Each part had a profound influence on all the others.
But the skill in which the past is interwoven into the day-by-day account of the negiations makes a gripping story, as well as a revealing triple-portrait of Carter, Begin and Sadat, as well as the members of their teams.
This is a work of living history for anyone who is interested in the issues in the Middle East....more
E: I have enjoyed reading Lin in the past so when I saw she was starting a new series IThis joint review was originally published at The Book Pushers
E: I have enjoyed reading Lin in the past so when I saw she was starting a new series I was extremely curious. Reading the blurb made me even more curious since Lin seemed to be combining several interesting historical elements, some culturalisms, a determined woman, and social change. I enjoyed the combination and the subdued slow growing romance threaded through the story.
Marlene: I have also enjoyed reading Lin in previous outings. This story particularly sounded interesting – the background reminded me a bit of an Asian-themed fantasy I read a few years ago that had some similarities, although what the title was is driving me crazy.
But Gunpowder Alchemy combined steampunk technology with an era of cultural change in a society that we don’t often see in urban fantasy or steampunk. So it looked good from the beginning and it was – both the slow building romance and the peek into a society we don’t often see in speculative fiction. It was a refreshing change of pace from all the Western/Celtic/Medieval based fantasy or Victorian based steampunk.
E: Soling grew up slightly pampered as the daughter of the Emperor’s chief engineer. She was allowed free reign of the labs and learned several different things along the way to include some of the art and science of acupuncture. She was also happy with the knowledge of her arranged marriage to one of her father’s promising engineers and then her life changed forever. Britain invaded with its traders protected by steam engines and the Emperor in retaliation had all of his engineers killed and their families exiled into poverty. Soling and her mother worked hard trying to keep what remained of their family together but gradually her mother sank into an opium addiction haze which claimed more and more of their limited funds forcing Soling to try to sell the last object from her father’s collection. There she gained the attention of the Crown Prince and was sent on an errand to find the last of her father’s secrets and in return her family would be protected. Soling’s journey took her through a variety of different locations, experiences, and really opened her eyes to life across the Empire and what levels desperate people were willing to sink to. Yet through it all she maintained her loyalty to her family and her belief that things could and would get better.
Marlene: Soling was an interesting choice for a point-of-view character because her culture has taught her that she is not supposed to be the prime mover of events or the head of her household. And yet, because of the experiences her family has survived, it is necessary that she take on a role she’s not intended to be suitable for – and yet she is. She’s very practical minded and does what is necessary, no matter how frightened she might be of events or the possible consequences.
She was intended to be a protected little flower, and instead, she finds purpose as a healer and self-taught engineer, working and fighting for peace. But first she has to drag herself out of the uncomfortable little cocoon that circumstances have created, and make her own way in the world. At first, she is pushed and pulled by circumstances beyond her control, but she learns to get what she can out of each turn of fate.
E: I really enjoyed the combination of science, art, biology, and creative imagination from Soling and the surviving members of her father’s engineers as they all struggled with the new reality. One took the tactic of learning as much as possible from the invaders, another tried their best to stay with traditional methods, while the third loyal to none focused his attention on trying to figure out why the British version of opium was having such a deleterious impact on Chinese people. Caught in the middle was Soling. I thought how she struggled to navigate change and the contrast between her memories of the men and who they had become while facing danger from a variety of different sources was captivating. I liked her slow path towards trusting towards her former betrothed even as she started to discover his past was full of secrets making him a much more complicated man then she thought. It was good seeing them balance with both facing potential sacrifices to keep their promises. I look forward to seeing their relationship grow.
Marlene: I liked the aspect of the story that had Soling weighing her childhood memories of her father’s men with her own adult perceptions. We often find that childhood homes and adults we met as children are smaller or less impressive when we meet them as adults. Soling has changed in the intervening time, and so have the men who used to see her as a bit of a mascot. Her memories of safety and trust conflict with the new reality. She has to remake judgments, and especially survive.
The contrast between the three different adaptations to the infiltration of the West and the change in Imperial circumstances provides part of the minefield that Soling must navigate through. That protecting her family remains her lodestone in the face of so much change gives her character strength.
E: Personally I have always been fascinated by the history of Asia so seeing how Lin took aspects of history I have wondered about and strung them together emphasizing how a reverence towards culture combined with a stealthy undermining of that same culture led to inescapable change was an absolute blast. I loved how Soling managed to retain her curiosity and her drive to make life better for others and in doing so made a difference despite all of the obstacles. I also thought the mental struggle evident in most of the primary characters between what they had been brought up to believe and what they had to face was well done. It was almost as if each primary character went through their own crisis of fate and while they survived, not all were able to adjust. Lin ended this first installment with the rising evidence of some mystery involving some new very dangerous opium strains and a need to develop a new method of warfare for a three front war. I continue to enjoy Lin’s voice in this new genre from her and as a result I am very interested in reading the next installment.
I give Gunpowder Alchemy a B
Marlene: It is refreshing to see a different world. So much speculative fiction, starts from a Western basis, that this alternate view of the forced opening of China to the British was a breath of fresh air. Every character in this story, especially Soling, has to struggle with the way that they have always been told the world is versus the way that things have actually worked out. The discovery that received truth is not the same as truth on the ground has been a hard lesson for many of the characters, as evidenced by the way they respond to change.
Soling’s romance with Chen Chang-wei develops very slowly, which fit the story and the times (even altered times) in which it is set. The beginning of the story, with its description of Soling’s childhood and current reduced circumstances, went just a bit slow for me, but was still enjoyable.
E: Dane is on my list of auto-buy authors and has been for years. As much as I enjoy herThis joint review was originally published at The Book Pushers
E: Dane is on my list of auto-buy authors and has been for years. As much as I enjoy her writing something about this series has really had me captivated since I started the first one, Goddess With a Blade, a few years ago. As I have gotten to know Rowan, Clive, and the other main characters I have found myself counting down to the release of each installment with great anticipation. Dane has built a complicated world populated with a variety of supernatural entities each with their own rules, quirks, and foibles who rub shoulders with humans and their drive to eliminate any challenges to the top of the food chain along with the not understood but feared “other”. Most of the supernatural entities don’t believe humans are at the top and in fact feel humans are little more than food, amusing and helpful at times, but food nonetheless. Over the centuries a group of humans and group of Vampires came to forge a sort of uneasy armistice bound by rules, reams of paperwork, and enforcers. However, as with any agreement between disputing parties, individuals always exist who want the agreement removed, or weighted heavily towards one side or the other so they exert influence in a variety of ways trying to gain an advantage.
Into this complicated mess came Rowan – with emotional and blood ties to humans, vampires, and an ancient Goddess determined to uphold the agreement and hunt down those who break its rules. Rowan’s involvement and success in maintaining the agreement led to her near death at the hands of one almost as ancient as her adoptive father possessing some of the power she gained from a crazed goddess. I absolutely loved watching Rowan on the hunt not just for what almost happened to her although it played a large part but to prevent the loss of countless lives.
Marlene: I have a soft spot in my heart for this series. The first book, Goddess with a Blade, was one of the first eARCs I got from NetGalley when I started Reading Reality. I loved it so much that I included it in my Best Ebook Romances list for Library Journal in 2011. (Blade to the Keep is on the 2014 list, partially because Blade on the Hunt didn’t come out in time)
As my friend E said, Dane’s worldbuilding in this series is incredibly rich and detailed. There have been a lot of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy series where the vampires are out of the coffin, but this one totally sells the idea that vampires are an apex predator that has kept itself hidden. Also, Dane does an excellent job portraying the complex political maneuvering that we have come to expect from vampire series.
Rowan is a fantastic character because she is herself an apex predator, but is not a vampire. As the living embodiment of the Celtic goddess Brigid, she has powers of her own. But Rowan is heavily involved with the vampires, on multiple levels. Her complicated relationship with the leader of the vampires, The First, gives new meaning to the phrase “dysfunctional family”. Theo is her foster father, but he is also the person who killed her biological parents. And he not only physically abused her throughout her childhood, he let members of his court do so as well. Yet, the layered complexity of their continuing relationship shows just how an abuse survivor can still love their parent, even if they are still very wary of the potential dangers.
Rowan is also a terrifically funny deadpan snarker. Rowan and Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb’s In Death series would get along famously.
E: One of the things I loved about this installment was being able to see more into Rowan and who she was underneath the snark and very real ability to kill just about anything or anything. I thought I had seen her depths during the second installment, Blade to the Keep, but it was fabulous learning she had a life completely outside of Hunter Corporation. Watching her soften and open up around Clive while maintaining her ability to both push his buttons and understand how/when to give because she cared deeply for him.
At the same time It was very entertaining to watch Clive deal with Warren and his interest in Rowan without losing his deadly edge or making it seem like Rowan had no say. The scene when Rowan and Clive dealt with what was happening was so much fun because the solution was a challenge to their usual sense of privacy and never to be repeated.
Marlene: And Rowan’s relationship with the head of the North American vampires, Clive, is just plain hot, while being equally multi-layered. These are complicated people who have come to a place where they “get” each other without needing to change each other.
The neat thing about Clive is that he totally understands that Rowan is a power in her own right. He is not interested in changing her, except to occasionally make her conscious of the danger she regularly places herself in. Rowan has an edge of violence that is necessary to keep her alive. Many men, particularly centuries-old vampires, would try to make her subservient, or obedient. Clive finds Rowan’s penchant for violence equal to his own, and it turns him on.
In spite of what should be insurmountable differences, Clive and Rowan are equals. The pissing contest that Warren gets into with Clive over Rowan just shows exactly how worthy of her Clive is, and how far out of touch Warren is.
Also Rowan thinks of Warren as an uncle, and can’t imagine him as anything else. Her “Ewww!” reaction is priceless.
E: In addition to revealing more about Rowan and the supernatural elements in the world, Dane kept the action moving as Rowan and her allies faced attacks from a variety of different directions. I loved how Rowan and Clive had to once more deal with Vampire politics getting in the way of her hunt. I can’t wait to see the fallout from those discoveries because I think it is going to be impressive. I am also looking forward to Rowan’s return to Hunter Corp. headquarters because she is going to clean house. I also found some interesting things out regarding magic users and what looks like an additional threat facing the world. I was also extremely satisfied by the results of Rowan’s hunt and how Rowan had to work to accomplish her goals.
The wait for this installment was certainly worth it. Dane proved yet again why I continue to seek out and recommend her books. I can’t wait to see what happens next in Rowan’s world and how she continues to mess up Clive’s proper British self. I give Blade on the Hunt an A
Marlene: The world of Rowan Summerwaite continues to expand and take on depth. The vampires are one powerful faction, but the Hunter Corporation represents the human side of the equation. Dane’s introduction of magic practitioners has added a third layer. After all, if vampires are real, why not witches (or the equivalent)?
While the quest in this story involved Rowan’s need to take out the ancient (and crazy) vampire Enyo before her actions either kill a bunch of humans or his inability to deal with Enyo causes The First to go off the deep end and kill an even bigger bunch of humans, Rowan and Clive have a lot of other plates spinning.
The fastest spinning plate is Rowan’s problems in Hunter Corporation, or their problems with her. Rowan does not do politics well, but that does not justify the repeated attempts on her life by one of her fellow Hunter Corporation partners. The exposure of the complete plot looks like it’s going to be the story in the next book.
Thank goddess. There is someone at Hunter Corporation who needs to be exposed. And then killed with extreme prejudice. Or perhaps the other way around. I love Rowan so much, I can’t wait to see what she does next. I also give Blade on the Hunt an A...more
Tethered is a high-stakes romance between two people who have to discover the depths of their own hearts and thOriginally published at Reading Reality
Tethered is a high-stakes romance between two people who have to discover the depths of their own hearts and the secrets of their identities while dodging assassination attempts and trying to cement a treaty between two interstellar factions who are both capable of tearing the universe apart.
After all, they've done that bit before. The treaty is supposed to keep them from doing it again.
Tyree is a member of the secretive Inc-Su race. While descended from humans, the Inc-Su broke away centuries ago to develop their ability to kill through sex. Inc=incubus, and Su, in context, is short for Succubus. The Inc-Su can absorb a person’s life force during sex. Fairly spectacular sex, so their victims die in ecstasy.
The Inc-Su are a race of contract assassins. In between assignments, they all live together on Refuge, a planet that may indeed be a refuge, but is also a prison. Inc-Su do not live away from Refuge and its rules, unless they are so flawed that they do not possess the Inc-Su powers.
Mirsee was a flawed Inc-Su. She served as a diplomat for the Terrans and even life-bonded with her fellow diplomat, the human Zander D’joren. Mirsee is dead at the hands of mysterious assassins, and the treaty that she and Zander worked so hard for is about to collapse, throwing the universe back to a space-spanning war between the Terrans and their allies, and the feline, predatory Tier-vane.
There is one hope - the Inc-Su can send Mirsee’s clone-sister, Tyree, to take her place as ambassador. Only the intimate members of Zander’s party can know the difference, or the treaty will be declared null and void before it can take effect.
Tyree has two assignments; flawlessly substitute for the sister she never knew she had, and protect Zander and herself from yet another assassination attempt before the treaty is signed and ratifies.
Falling in love with Zander is not part of the assignment. It is not even a likely outcome, as Zander is still mourning for her sister, and Tyree doesn’t have a frame-of-reference for what love is.
Tyree doesn’t do a very good job at most of her assignment. She never seems to be able to sniff out the assassination attempts before they happen - again and again. She even falls in love with the scarred but resolute Zander.
In the moment of victory, she is lost. Zander is left to determine if the treaty was worth the cost of losing the woman he loves. Again.
Escape Rating B+: There were a LOT of things I really enjoyed about this story, and a few things that make me quibble.
In science fiction romance (AKA SFR) both the worldbuilding and the romance have to work equally well for the story to be a solid A Rating. Tethered comes close, but there were just a couple of things…
The romance in this story is between a man who has lost his bondmate to a terrible tragedy, and that woman’s clone-sister. So Tyree looks exactly like Mirsee, and she has to for the diplomatic deception to work.
Tyree is not anything like Mirsee, they just look identical. So Zander ends up falling for his late wife’s identical twin. The growing emotional and sexual tension between Zander and Tyree does sell the romance, but...there’s never a scene where they talk, or Zander talks to himself or whatever, about his change of heart.
He really did love Mirsee. How much of his love for Tyree is based on their iidentical appearance? What changed his heart? Has he just healed in 6 months (possible) or is it, as another book I read called it “foxhole love”. They are stuck in a desperate situation and only have each other for comfort.
Zander is an admirable man. It is easy to see why Tyree falls for him. What is difficult is her acceptance that he loves her and isn’t transferring his love from her “sister” to her without dealing with the consequences. If she does accept it, I wanted more internal dialog, or even external dialog, that she had considered the risks. He hurts her once by calling her Mirsee in a private moment, so this issue doesn’t feel resolved.
On the other hand, she gets kidnapped the second the treaty is signed, so there isn’t a lot of time to deal with crap after their job is done.
The way that Zander was able to rescue Tyree, involving sudden and remarkable revelations about her parentage, felt a bit deus ex machina. In other words, terribly, terribly convenient. She needs to be rescued, very desperately, but the solution was too easy, even if emotionally difficult.
Because the story is relatively short, I wanted more explanation of the current state of the universe than there was time available. How did the Inc-Su split off from the Terrans, and why? The internal politics of both the Terrans and the Tier-vane needed a bit more detail to understand why they reached this state of near-war.
At the same time, the constant state of tension produced by the frequent assassination attempts kept me turning pages furiously to find out what would happen next. There is so much going on in this universe, and I want to see more....more
So far, the Collectors series is turning out to be the love child of every historical conspiracy treasure huntOriginally published at Reading Reality
So far, the Collectors series is turning out to be the love child of every historical conspiracy treasure hunt series that has ever been written. If the first book in the series, Lovely, Dark, and Deep is a cross between National Treasure and Titanic, then Deadly, Calm and Cold is the product of mixing The DaVinci Code with Indiana Jones. In other words, we have a treasure hunt for a historic artifact with nasty people on the tail (or trail) of our heroes.
The big difference is that all those other fictional treasure hunters are in it for the glory, or the thrill of discovery. At any rate, they volunteered. In the Collectors series, that is far from the case.
The evil baddies in the Collectors series are those collectors. They are a group of very rich and extremely self-indulgent, self-centered private collectors who will stop at nothing to add rare and priceless artifacts to their private collections. They are certainly not above a bit of blackmail, or even outright murder, to coerce experts into finding the prizes they seek. For the C7, it’s all just a big game. They get their thrills by grinding people into dust and beating their competition (the other C7 members) to whatever big prize is in their sights.
In Deadly, Calm and Cold, the big prize is King John’s lost crown jewels. Yes, I mean that King John, the one in the Robin Hood stories. Historically, he was the signer of the Magna Carta, because he was a despotic ruler even for those times. His nobles made him sign the “Great Charter” to protect themselves from his excesses. King John also really did lose his crown jewels in the area portrayed in the book, the east coast of England where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire.
Just as in Lovely, Dark and Deep, our story features a woman who is a technical expert on the subject at hand, and a man who finds himself in the middle of her search, but is hiding somewhere off the beaten path for reasons of his own.
Samantha Crowe is a graduate student in history, on a one-term research fellowship in England to delve into the history of King John’s lost treasure. She is also vulnerable to blackmail for some less-than-noble dealings both before and after college. She has a juvenile record, for stealing to support her addict-mother. While her motives were kind of good and kind of enabling, what happened is understandable. But it isn’t info that she disclosed to her university. Neither is her method of getting that research fellowship - her professor pulled strings to give it to her as a way of getting her out of the country and keeping her quiet about their now-over affair. She thought it might be love, he was just cheating on his unsuspecting wife with his equally unsuspecting grad student.
But sending dirty pictures to the student newspaper will pretty much kill both their careers. Or certainly hers. When the C7 member decides that the treasure she is researching is worth his time, she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. It doesn’t matter that the pictures are photoshopped - by the time any investigation figures that out, the damage will be done.
Brody Parker gets dragged into hunt because his house is part of the land where John’s treasure might be hidden - and because he has secrets of his own. Brody Parker isn’t even his real name - he’s in witness protection as a whistleblower in a major U.S. racketeering case. He’s spent years being paranoid that the mob really will track him down. C7 thinks he’s the perfect person to blackmail, but the same tech skills that brought down a big piece of organized crime make him the perfect person to help Sam turn the tables on the mysterious C7.
It helps that the C7 is facing a whistleblower of their very own. While the “big boss” is hard to find, the guy who is playing both ends against the middle is forced to the conclusion that helping Sam and Brody get out from under is his best chance of a new life.
In the adrenaline fueled treasure hunt, Sam and Brody discover that their best chance of a new life is with each other - if they survive.
Escape Rating B+: If this series continues to follow the pattern set in the first two books, it’s a winner. The woman is the expert, and while the man is the muscle, he never forgets that they are partners - he doesn’t take over everything including her. Brody, just as Shane did in Lovely, Dark and Deep, has secrets of his own that make him a perfect foil for Sam.
Both Sam and Brody, like Gillian and Shane before them, have a lot of damage that requires the other to help them heal. The way that they start out, equally attracted but equally untrusting, gives them a difficult road to travel towards each other, but makes their love story fit the adventure.
I loved that the treasure was real - there is even a nod to the discovery of Richard III’s body and how medieval treasure can still be found. The nods to actual historical events grounded the story in a way that some of the antecedents like The DaVinci Code are not, fun as they are.
In many ways, the villains of the series, those C7 Collectors, come off as a bit too “bwahaha” evil. Providing Sam and Brody with the more mundane double-crosser to negotiate with brought that mysterious band of evildoers down to earth.
For a good time with a heart-pounding adventure that has a rocky romance at its center, add The Collectors to your collection. (Sorry, that pun was irresistible, and so is the series!)...more
The Twelve Kingdoms series is all about playing the chess game of power. In that chess game, Princess Amelia moOriginally published at Reading Reality
The Twelve Kingdoms series is all about playing the chess game of power. In that chess game, Princess Amelia moves down the board as a pawn, and turns herself into a queen. It’s a long and hard journey, with pain, suffering, and eventually joy and purpose at the end.
But Amelia needs a lot of strengthening to get to that end. She started the series not just as the youngest daughter of High King Uorsin, but also as a fairy tale princess who is spoiled and protected and very much used to getting her own way.
It does not make her a nice person. It also doesn’t make her a bad person. But she is thoughtless and uncaring, and definitely believes that the world revolves around her and her beauty -- until it doesn’t.
Her fairy tale prince is killed at the end of the awesome first book in this series, The Mark of the Tala. Prince Hugh is seemingly killed at the hand of Amelia’s sister, Andromeda. Or at least that is what Amelia is told.
Amelia needs to learn not to accept everything she is told. What matters about Hugh’s death is that he was killed in an unjust war fomented by her oathbreaking father, whoever wielded the blade. His death shouldn’t have happened because nothing about the ongoing conflict between the Twelve Kingdoms and the Tala should have happened.
Amelia’s journey is to learn to separate truth from lies, and to embrace her stronger self and not let herself be a pawn at the hands of others, especially not her father or her father-in-law.
The rulers only want the child that she carries, the last child of the Prince of Avonlidgh. When the seers all predict the child is a boy, both her father and her father-in-law proclaim the child their heir, and start fighting over who will be the next High King, and where the seat of that High King should be.
It’s up to Amelia to become the queen that she can be, and not the pawn of the old men who have controlled her life so far.
But first she has to figure out what it means to be a grown woman, and to be a queen. And to be the daughter of the last Queen of the Tala. Because if either of the old men win, all it will mean is more war over a land that is dying and can’t support it any longer.
If Amelia can find her own way forward, she can be the Queen that Avonlidgh needs, and become the woman that her mother hoped she would be. She just has to believe that she has her own power within her, and learn to use it.
Escape Rating B+: I loved Princess Andromeda in The Mark of the Tala, and I think that oldest sister Ursula is a fantastic example of the warrior princess, but Amelia does not start this story (or even middle this story) as a sympathetic person.
While she is currently going through one hell of a trauma, she comes off as having always been a spoiled, pampered brat. Her transformation is stunning, but she starts out with a long way to go.
I really enjoy the worldbuilding in the Twelve Kingdoms, and we get a lot more information about how things in general are going wrong, and what will need to be done to stop it. Amelia seriously needs to step up.
There are a lot of scenes with sister Ursula, and I can’t wait for her book, The Talon of the Hawk. Ursula reminds me a lot of the warrior woman Cassandra Pentaghast in Dragon Age Inquisition, and if the comparison holds, her story is going to be fantastic.
But Amelia is a pawn for much of Tears of the Rose, and she needs to learn not to be a pawn. She’s not sympathetic at the beginning, but she does learn to think and do for herself.
There is a love story in this one, in spite of Amelia’s Prince being dead at the beginning. Ash is an enigma of a character - we don’t find out who or what he is until Amelia does. What makes him so integral a part of Amelia’s story is that he makes her think, and helps her to eventually think for herself....more
I picked up Duke City Hit because I enjoyed the first book in Austin's Duke City Trilogy, Duke City Split. HoweOriginally published at Reading Reality
I picked up Duke City Hit because I enjoyed the first book in Austin's Duke City Trilogy, Duke City Split. However, even though Duke City Hit is billed as the second in the series, it didn’t really feel like a second book. It reads as a stand-alone, and a bit different (although just as entertaining) as its predecessor.
Both books show the more mundane side of the criminal underworld in Albuquerque, NM, which really is nicknamed Duke City. The criminals in Split were a pair of well-practiced bank robbers who tried to keep under the radar. Their final spectacular failure is the plot of Duke City Split.
In Duke City Hit, we have the story of two family businesses who operate on the shady side of the street, although one doesn’t start out as a family business, mostly because Vic Walters doesn’t know he has a family.
Professional hit men generally don’t have family ties. But Vic is a native of Albuquerque, and he works for Lucky Penny Bail Bonds, even though he isn’t a bail bondsman any longer. For 30 years, Vic has been a contract killer, and the owner of the bail bond company is his business manager, just as her father was before her.
People contact Penny Randall when they want someone to disappear, and Vic makes it happen. He only takes contracts on men, and only on people that he is able to make himself believe that society would be better off without. No women, no children, and especially no one connected with Organized Crime.
He sets out to kill a scumbag named Harry Morino. He plans the job, and gets to Harry’s place to kill him, only to discover that someone has beat him to the punch. So to speak. At first, it just seems like easy money, until someone beats him to his next job, too.
Vic has either a stalker or a copycat. Or, as it turns out, a grown-up son who has come to finally meet his father, and learn the family business. Vic is a little too eager to spill the beans and take a fatherly interest in the young man who he did not know existed, but is definitely his boy.
Then he discovers that old Harry Morino was mobbed up to the eyebrows, and both Harry’s friends and his enemies want a piece of Vic. Or so it appears.
They say the truth will set you free. It might in Vic’s case, if it doesn’t get him killed first, along with his son.
Escape Rating B: While this isn’t as wild and crazy as Duke City Split, it does have some similarities without feeling like a sequel where you HAVE to read the first book.
Vic is a very quiet and successful operator. He’s had a long run as a contract hit man because he’s extremely careful and never flashy in the least. He also has a very good cover story in his association with Lucky Penny Bail Bonds. He says he’s just a paper-pusher, and people decide he’s boring. Of course he isn’t boring, but he is extremely controlled. It’s why he’s good at his job.
When Ryan shows up, Vic’s famous control slips. While he never knew he even had a child, finding Ryan as an adult, or Ryan finding him, strips away his focus. He feels like a father, even though he hasn’t been one until now.
To be fair, Ryan’s mother never told Vic she was pregnant, and Vic appears to have been upfront about his inability to make any long-term commitment. Ryan only discovers that Vic is his father after his mother dies. Once he sees Vic’s picture, the resemblance is way too strong to ignore.
Vic opens up to the young man, and finds that he wants to share his life and even his work. He knows that having Ryan as a partner is bad for the boy, but Ryan takes to the work like the proverbial duck to water. The two men need their connection to each other.
The drama in this story comes from the fallout from their first shared killing, that of not-so-poor Harry. While it was easy to figure out who betrayed whom, the way that the story played out was still fascinating, as was the way that Vic still manages to get the job done, even though it isn’t the job he thought it was.
In Duke City Hit, just as in the first book, the author does a good job of making the reader root for the bad guys, if only to preserve them from the worse guys....more
Alex Hughes’ Mindspace Investigations is a series that absolutely requires starting at the very beginning. (ThiOriginally published at Reading Reality
Alex Hughes’ Mindspace Investigations is a series that absolutely requires starting at the very beginning. (This seems to be my week for that.) If the idea of an urban fantasy series that reads like a marvelously twisted cross between Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and J.D. Robb’s In Death series, you’ve come to the right place.
Just start clean with the first book in the series, Clean. The following titles in the series are Sharp and Marked. It is SO worth it, and also necessary to help figure out the roots of the case in Vacant.
Like so many of the titles in this series, that word, Vacant, is a multiple entendre. It refers to Isabella Cherabino’s career, Adam Ward’s ethics, and the office they come to at the end of the story. Possibly also to any threads of a future that Adam might have, but we’ll see.
The cases that Adam and Isabella have to solve in the present are very much tied in with a larger conspiracy that they uncovered in the earlier stories. But even though that possibility is fairly clear to the reader, it is only a vague hint on the horizon for Adam, and not at all on Isabella’s radar.
This is the first time that they solve a case completely separately. It is also the first time that Adam is away from DeKalb County and operating entirely on his own and without training wheels or a support network. He’s on his own for the first time after his descent into addiction and in his long hard climb back to sobriety.
That separation nearly wrecks his extremely slowly developing relationship with Isabella Cherabino. More importantly, it nearly wrecks him. But he comes out stronger for it, albeit with a few more broken places. The difference is that he is not filling those broken places in with drugs. At least not today.
Isabella is charged with police brutality, and becomes the county’s poster child for non-tolerance of such a crime. The only problem is that she didn’t do it, and both the evidence and the hearing are rigged. The question that is asked throughout the story, and only answered by the end, is that of the rigger.
Adam is off in Savannah, chasing down a precognitive vision with the help of the FBI, although they consider that he is helping them. A child will die if Adam can’t figure out how to subvert the vision before it is too late. In order to derail the vision, he also needs to figure out what a judge in a high-profile case is hiding, and who benefits from killing her child.
And what does any of this have to do with actions in Adam’s past? In the end, it is all about him. And not in a good way. Saving that kid may not fix any of the other things that Adam has broken, but it will be enough to make today worthwhile. It gives him yet one more reason to remain clean.
But some of his screwups still catch up with him. Payment will be demanded, but not all of it today.
Escape Rating A: The world of Mindspace Investigations is a very dark and gritty one. While it seems that things are getting better after the chaos of the Tech Wars, it’s going to be a long, hard time until society gets back to where it is in our now. The levels of pollution in the air and water are a factor that Adam is constantly aware of on his trip to Savannah, and so are we.
What is different about this case is that Adam is operating completely solo. While the series has been told from his first-person perspective from the very beginning, we are always aware of Adam’s nearby support group; especially his police partner Isabella Cherabino and his NA sponsor Swartz.
In Savannah Adam is forced to work with an FBI team that he has never met, and one that resents the need to bring in an unknown teep on an emergency basis when theirs is injured. Adam is there to save a 10-year-old boy’s life, and the FBI team is there to prevent a second kidnapping attempt on that same boy.
Adam is also there because the Telepath Guild is yanking his chain, but that’s nothing new. One of the ongoing themes of the series is that Adam wants to distance himself as much as possible from the Telepath Guild, but he keeps getting sucked back in. It is very convenient for everyone, the police, the FBI, the Guild themselves, to have a telepath whose loyalties seem somewhat fluid.
They aren’t, and that’s what keeps getting him into trouble. Although in this story that same sense of loyalty also keeps him out of trouble. Just a bit.
Adam is forced to make a choice. Actually, he’s forced to make a lot of choices, and they are all choices between bad and less bad. He never really gets to choose between bad and good. He’s come a long way from the drug user he remembers being. He makes the best choices he can, and then lives with the consequences, knowingly.
In addition to the harrowing case that Adam is investigating, what we see is him learning to stand on his own again. The question, as always, is for how long.
While the events in this particular story had a lot to do with previous cases, there was also a sense that the events in this book have pushed the story into a different direction. After the bombshell at the end, I’m on pins and needles waiting to see what happens next....more
I picked The Wanderer’s Children because I read (and reviewed) the first book in this series, Trinity Stones, eOriginally published at Reading Reality
I picked The Wanderer’s Children because I read (and reviewed) the first book in this series, Trinity Stones, earlier this year. It is such a complex story that I had to see what happened next.
It is still a complex and convoluted story. In my possibly not so humble opinion, it is also still one single story. It’s not just that the action from The Wanderer’s Children follows directly from the end of Trinity Stones, but the complexity of the worldbuilding and the interrelationships among the characters is getting more intense. Reading The Wanderer’s Children definitely requires reading Trinity Stones first. The story is piling on layers within layers, and it only makes sense if you know how everyone got to the point (or fix) they are currently in.
I think we’ve even met all the characters, or certainly all the important ones, in Trinity Stones. It’s just that in The Wanderer’s Children, some of the focus is shifted from Cara and Simon to other people involved in the upcoming battle between good and evil, especially their friends Michael and newly met Brett King, as well as all of Cara Collins’ best friends.
I did have a momentary fear that we were going to head into romantic triangle territory, but thankfully that didn’t happen. Instead, we have Cara throwing off so many pheromones that everyone in her vicinity pairs up as soon as they meet.
In spite of the insistence on free will on the part of the angels (yes, I said angels) and angelic sympathizers working on keeping evil at bay, we do stray rather close to “fated mate” territory with some of the newly introduced couples. The free will part seems to come into play in the way that the couple may not get their acts together as a result of secrets or baggage that they are carrying.
So there are a bunch of things going on in The Wanderer’s Children. One of the major plot threads is the continuing growth of Cara’s powers. She nearly died at the end of Trinity Stones, and the cure that she was injected with continues to play havoc with her body and mind. Mostly in a good way, but there are definitely some downsides.
The romance in this story is between one member of her angel/guardian trinity and one of her best friends from college. (See, I said you needed to read the first book first)
The course of true love does not run smooth, or it wouldn’t be worth fighting for. Michael has some serious baggage from his childhood, and he doesn’t realize that Sienna has her fair share of demons (not literally) to fight. His reluctance to bring his trauma out into the light contrasts nicely with Sienna’s mostly out there personality. She hides with bravado, he hides by running away. Their mutual exploration and explosion is lovely to see straighten out.
But the more interesting issues revolve around Brett King, the rock star Cara met in Trinity Stones, and her other college best friend Jessa. It’s pretty clear that their romance will come in the next book, but they have a long way to go first. It’s not just that Brett has discovered the world of the angels and his place in it, but also that Jessa has one scary, possessive, evil stepfather.
And then there’s Cara’s other friend, Irene. She has scary bosses in the NSA who send her to spy on her best friend for reasons yet to be revealed.
And Irene has totally misinterpreted everything that has happened with her friend Cara and her fiance Simon (and Michael and Brett and everyone else). Irene has let herself fall into one serious misunderstandammit that might just tip the balance of power the wrong way.
If Jessa's stepfather doesn't scare her into tipping it first.
Escape Rating B: The action in this story is incredibly absorbing. Every single person has a big part to play in the battle between heaven and hell, and most of them have no idea that there even IS a battle coming. One of the neat things in this story is the way that Cara takes Brett under her wing to help him adjust to this strange new world that he is suddenly part of.
Michael and Sienna’s relationship is the core romance, and their journey towards each other (after a lot of running away on Michael’s part) is sweet as well as hot. They both have a lot of healing to do, and it needed to take them time to do it.
I will say again that this world has a lot of “moving parts” and there is still considerable ongoing worldbuilding. Reading Trinity Stones is required to make things make sense, and I’m really glad there was a list of “dramatis personae” at the beginning to get me back up to speed.
While the story is careening madly down the hill toward the epic confrontation at some point in the future, I had some issues with Irene’s storyline, and to a lesser extent, Jessa’s. Irene is clearly being misled by her NSA handlers, and it is not clear which side they are on. It is very clear that they are not on Irene’s side. But Irene increases her own heartache by keeping huge (and slightly unbelievable) secrets from her friend Cara, and letting herself be led down a complete path of misdirection, mostly self-inflicted. Irene feels either too smart to fall for this stuff or too stupid to carry out her clandestine mission. YMMV.
Jessa’s freaky-jealous stepfather seemed a bit over-the-top when added to all the issues that Irene brings to the table. And there are two huge cliffhangers that the reader gets dropped off of at the very end that made me want to scream in frustration. As much as Irene and Jessa drove me batty, I want to see what trouble they get Cara into next very, very badly....more
I enjoyed the first book in this series, Legend of the Highland Dragon, quite a lot (see review) and this second book is even more fun than the first one, in spite of the fact that there isn't much more info about that Legend, and that there isn't a whole lot of dragon. I was having too much fun to care.
That’s because the hero and heroine in this one, Colin MacAlasdair and Regina Talbot-Jones, are incredibly fun characters themselves (Stephen and Mina in Legend were a bit on the serious side)
Colin has spent the 110 years of his existing mostly trying to keep from being bored. In the present Victorian era, he’s playing the role of younger and slightly disreputable son of nobility to the hilt. It allows him to have a bit of a reputation and travel wherever the mood strikes him.
As a member of the MacAlasdair clan, he even has access to his very own wings if he needs to travel a long distance in a short time. Colin, like his older brother Stephen, is a dragon-shifter.
Unlike Stephen, Colin has also dabbled a bit with magic. After all, the MacAlasdairs are living proof that there are more things in this world than science can rationally account for.
That’s both how Colin meets, and some of what he thinks, when he meets Regina Talbot-Jones. She’s usually referred to as Reggie, a name that fits her considerably better, especially considering that she meets Colin by climbing a tree down to the room that she believes is occupied by her brother.
Colin has come to Regina’s home on the trail of a ghost story told by her brother. Colin just expects a little entertainment, but instead he comes face to face with an all too real ghost. And Regina, who is also just a bit more than he expected.
And vice-versa. Reggie has a magicaly talent, she can see people’s memories when she touches them. Colin grabs her arm to keep her from falling, and she sees his memories of flying. She’s the first person who has discovered his secret (as opposed to being told after some preparation) in decades.
Reggie surprises Colin on every turn, not just with her talent, but also with her quick wit, her thoughtful intelligence, and her forthright courage.
She’s damned surprised that he’s a dragon. But when her father’s ill-advised seance rouses the estate’s malevolent ghost, Reggie and Colin need all the courage and resources they can muster to keep her from striking again. And again.
Escape Rating A-: Although the title of this book is The Highland Dragon’s Lady, it’s really a chilling ghost story with a romance to up the ante. If anything, it’s a descendant of those lovely old Gothic Romances, with lots of eerie atmosphere. The big change is that those old Gothics didn’t include sex.
Reggie and Colin definitely get around to indulging all of the delicious sparks they cause in each other. But this is a couple who seduce each other with clever words before they finally get between the sheets. Except its actually a hayloft, and the scene is delicious.
As Colin and Reggie court and spark (and spark), the investigation into the local ghost is serious enough to send a shiver up the spine. It’s not (thank goodness) a family ghost. Reggie’s parents bought the estate, ghost and all, about three years previous to the story. The ghost doesn’t care that they aren’t her family, all she wants are more victims, and she’s very clever about getting them.
Reggie and Colin have to work hard to save each other, and Reggie’s family, from everything that this malevolent ghost has to throw at them. Even a dragon needs a bit of help now and then, especially when the stakes are very, very high. And I love it when the heroine gets to rescue the hero!...more
I have to say that I have loved every book in Sonya Clark’s Magic Born series so far (start with Trancehack), aOriginally published at Reading Reality
I have to say that I have loved every book in Sonya Clark’s Magic Born series so far (start with Trancehack), and Firewall is no exception. The worldbuilding in this series is chilling, scary and consistently awesome.
I read Firewall just as the deliberations from the grand jury in Ferguson were being announced, and the parallels between the society in the book and the actions of the elected officials in Ferguson was frighteningly close.
When the powers that be are unhappy that news of their abuses has gotten out of their tight cordon of control, they blame social media. This was true in the speech, and is also true in the book.
It gave me goosebumps, and it made me think. And shiver.
Firewall is the final book in Sonya Clark’s Magic Born series. This is a near-futuristic dystopian world where the U.S. has made itself into a dysfunctioning, economically depressed dystopia by locking all of those born with magic into ghettos and taking away their citizenship and rights. Because anyone can have a magic born child whether they themselves are magic born or not, children are taken away from their parents in infancy, as soon as the DNA test is administered.
Needless to say, the birthrate is dropping like a rock, because no one who wants a child wants to face the possibility that the child will be taken away.
By the time of Firewall, things have reached a tipping point. The restrictions on the magic born are increasing, and the total lockdown of magic born ghettos has plunged nearby neighborhoods into economic depression. Since no one initially wanted to live near a Freaktown, those nearby neighborhoods weren’t in good shape to begin with.
Lots of people are more and more sympathetic to magic born. The younger generation is much more tolerant than their elders. And the elders want to hang onto power at all costs.
Forces collide with violence. The government wants to bring in one of the few magic users they trained who escaped their clutches. After her, they send her former partner, the agent who probably let her escape. The agent who certainly has continued to love her in the three years since she left.
Tuyet Caron feels responsible for the new repressive laws against the magic born. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, she facilitated the escape of a woman and her magic born lover. Unfortunately for everyone, that woman was the wife of a prominent anti-magic politician, who is more than willing to use his professional clout to avenge a person wrong.
As the crackdown deepens, the violence escalates, and encompasses more people, including non-magic born. Into this volatile mix, Tuyets old partner Lee Hayes comes to either take her in, or help her escape again.
Their old enemy is right behind him.
But the climax of the story concerns the effects of the total information blackout on everything wrong in the flashpoint city of New Corinth. All info, including social media, is blocked by a firewall of tech and magic, maintained by a news corporation that wants to continue its monopoly on secret magic use.
Breaking that firewall, no matter what the cost, is crucial to bringing down the magic laws. Everybody pays dearly to make things right.
Escape Rating A+: While the love story between Hayes and Caron is sweetly done (three years of repression makes for a lot of sparkage!) I felt like the real depth in this story was the way that people came together to make sure the word got out.
Everyone in New Corinth knows that things are bad there, but because all true information from the ghettos is instantly repressed, no one on the outside knows about the police atrocities. And yes, there are definitely atrocities, including shooting unarmed civilians as they flee the violence, and otherwise deliberately sabotaging escape routes so that innocents are trapped in the kill zone, if not killed outright.
It’s brutality on a massive scale, but too many people who would be righteously opposed are kept completely in the dark and fed propaganda. It’s obscene in its way, and all too easy to believe.
They can’t beat the police - it’s not possible and it isn’t what they need. What they need, what the whole country needs, is for the truth to get out so that the situation can be repaired. Not just that the magic born can become citizens again, but that the U.S. can recover economically. The cost for disenfranchising and entire population is frighteningly clear.
It is possible to substitute the current treatment of any repressed group and come to the same sad conclusion about the potential future. That’s what made this book, and this series, so incredible for me. It was awesomely entertaining, and it made me think seriously at the same time....more