Really dark yet fun story from the world of Mercy Thompson. Though with Dead Heat just out did we need more Fae child killers? I really liked that weReally dark yet fun story from the world of Mercy Thompson. Though with Dead Heat just out did we need more Fae child killers? I really liked that we go to read so much more about Adam's daughter Jesse, who is usually relegated to the sidelines. Must buy myself a copy......more
Lora and her family have a harsh life on Mars. But they aren't like the townsfolk, they are heartier. With their homestead out on the prairie, growingLora and her family have a harsh life on Mars. But they aren't like the townsfolk, they are heartier. With their homestead out on the prairie, growing their sustenance out of the strange Martian soil, they are true pioneers. For all the destructive forces on the inhospitable planet working against them they have each other. Even Lora's grandmother who is almost more trouble then she is worth has her place; she was part of the initial colonization of the red planet. Though something is coming, the harsh yet manageable routine of their lives is about to be upset when the disappearances start again. They've happened before, the whispers that Martians still exist and sneak into their dwellings at night and whisk people away never to be seen again. Though no one is willing to believe it is happening again. One night when Lora is staying in town she sees them. Strange creatures dancing through the streets. The next night her grandmother is taken. The small township is still unwilling to believe the truth in front of their eyes. The sheriff would like nothing better then to ignore this problem, and then his wife disappears too. Though Lora's breaking point is the disappearance of her father.
With her father gone and her mother struck down with grief that she self medicates, Lora becomes the head of her family and she decides that they are no longer safe and should head out into the wasteland to save themselves. Calling on the townspeople to join them they pick up five more travellers. Ma, Al, Hannah, Toaster, Aunt Ruby, the Adamses, Madame Lucille and her husband all put their lives in Lora's hands. It's a harsh journey with untold hardships and eventually flagging spirits. Madame Lucille's husband is the first casualty, followed by their pack animals. When they are set upon by unknown creatures and separated, Lora and her brother Al learn that there is a secret City Inside. The complex city with all it's decorum makes Lora long for the simplicity of her family's homestead. Though the City Inside is now their home. A home full of secrets and dangers that might prove more deadly then anything they faced while trekking across the red planet. But their might also be hope there as well.
The wonderful thing about Paul's books is that they will never be what you expect. Some people might not like this, but personally I think that a great story surprises you and takes you to new lands and shows you new experiences that you would never have had if not for the words between the covers. To be surprised and delighted by the narrative voice is something that every true reader longs for. And Paul's voice is so unique, with each book he has written being it's own voice but somehow all part of him. When Megan from Firefly Press contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing Lost on Mars I jumped on this opportunity. The promotional material gave me an interesting if eventually narrow view of what to expect. Seeing as Paul and I have previously discussed our love of Laura Ingalls Wilder, me being practically raised on the books what with being born in the same state as her, I was picturing Lost on Mars very much as Little House on the Martian Prairie. But, being Paul, he turned all my expectations on its head and gave me an odyssey that is Little House on the Prairie meets Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert, with Roald Dahl and The Wizard of Oz and maybe even some Mad Max thrown in for good measure but all somehow something only Paul could have written.
Lost on Mars has two very distinct halves. There's the first half which is a pioneer tale of trying to survive the Martian wastelands and then there is the second half with the City Inside which is a Jules Verne Victorian epic that raises the book up to a new level that makes you extremely sad to part ways at the end while you keep your fingers crossed that the next installment won't be too far in your future. At first I was wary of this abrupt change in the story. The two worlds couldn't seem more apart yet somehow it was a natural transition. If not for this transition I don't think the book would have worked. By the time Lora and her compatriots are captured I had tired of their journey and the relentlessness of their life and bickering. The Martian abductors were a little too much like the Ninnies for me, and while I do like how the worlds of Paul's books are permeable and have a fluidity between them, the love I have for The Ninnies is so strong that I want them to remain their own thing. Therefore this switch up made the book click. It also added a level of mystery that Martians abducting people for dinner lacked. Plus the possibilities inherent in this new city are literally endless, which again makes me impatient for the next installment.
The reason that the City Inside is so fascinating to me, besides the fact that it's basically a Dickensian Christmas on Mars, is that Paul has this ability to imbue everything with life and personality; from cities to homes to utensils. Objects get sentience and smarts. Humans have a deep seated need to bring the world around them to life. Whether it's naming your car to your house, we anthropomorphize everything. One of my favorite characters on Red Dwarf was Talkie Toaster. He was uppity, full of his own importance, was always looking for a way to bring up bread products, and held his own with characters played by real actors. Enter Paul Magrs and his cast of characters. In his Iris Wildthyme books we have Barbara who is a vending machine, as well as Art Critic Panda, but he has said that he is in no way an object so I mustn't talk of him as such. In Lost on Mars Paul imbues life into a sunbed called Toaster. Toaster is easily one of my favorite characters. Besides being living history as well as a member of the Robinson family, the thought of him running across the Martian plains like a little gangly robotic dog makes me smile. He's just as real, if not more real, then some of his "human" compatriots.
As for those humans. For a YA book Paul doesn't flinch on showing the harshness of human nature. There is no sugar coating. Everyone is in it to save themselves, as seen when the ragged band of travellers stumbles on an abandoned ghost town. The adults descend on the supplies like a pack of jackals; and like those vicious carnivores they are willing to fight off anyone interested in their kills. The darker side of human nature is fully explored from cowardice to self interest. The townspeople are willing to ignore the disappearances because they don't want their lives upset. It's for the greater good to turn a blind eye, as has happened more times then we can count in our own very human history. They follow Lora because they can't be bothered to take the responsibility or initiative themselves. What compromises will man put up with in order to maintain peace? What will man do to survive? A pack animal that is loved and cared for is nothing but food at the end of the day, even if it has learned language. This is very much mirrored by the Martians own thoughts. While humans may be their intellectual equals, with art and history, they need the food more. To see the humans actions mimicked by an alien race shows in stark detail the wrongness of our thinking.
But there was one thing above everything else that made me connect to this book and that's it's literary pedigree. The Martian landscape and the settlers lives have been shaped by literature, from books being the most prized of possessions to the naming conventions of pets and even their town, "Our Town." Even the ships they arrived on where named from literature! It's all the little asides, the little jokes slid in that reinforce the importance of literature and will hopefully spark the reading bug in anyone who picks up this book. When Lora's last name of Robinson was finally revealed, a smile spread across my face at the thought of the original Robinson family, that of The Swiss Family Robinson. But it's this lovely combining of literature and their lives that makes the world and in particular the City Inside a kind of dream state, as if you were to wake one day within your favorite book. The arrival at the City Inside with them waking within a poppy field to see the magnificent metallic green city was a frisson of Ozian joy. Not only is this a great story, it harks back to other great stories and sets itself up in the grand literary cannon of our times that is now so meta in nature. ...more
Charles can count the people he loves and trusts on one hand. One of those people is mortal and is dying. Charles has known Joseph Sani for most of JoCharles can count the people he loves and trusts on one hand. One of those people is mortal and is dying. Charles has known Joseph Sani for most of Joseph's life. He has seen him grow up, have a family, but it was too much to be around to see him decline. Though the time has come to face this hardship, to say goodbye. Charles and Anna set out for Arizona to visit Joseph and his family. The Sani's have made a name for themselves breeding Arabian horses and Charles plans to buy a horse for Anna for her birthday. But Charles encounters trouble in the Sani household. Joseph's dad is a werewolf and has been petitioning for his son the be changed, against Joseph's wishes it might be said. Hosteen views the argument still open until the day Joseph is in the ground and instantly harasses Charles on the subject. Yet this ongoing argument is put aside when Joseph's daughter-in-law is attacked by a powerful Fae and his grandchildren are almost killed. Charles and Anna look into the attack and come to the conclusion that a very powerful fairy is on the loose and children are in danger and it's up to them to stop it.
A new Patricia Briggs book is always a time to celebrate. To me she is the best writer currently of urban fantasy, the one who fills the hole in my heart left by Joss Whedon. Her books are the epitome of comfort reads, a time set aside to curl up with a good book, a cast of characters you love, and a warm blanket, with the world slipping away as you are drawn into the current mystery. And my, have I missed Anna and Charles! Having two years of Mercy back to back was lovely, but there's something about Anna and Charles that I just connect to. Not hearing from them in three years was hard to bear, like a friend who you've lost touch with. That incident in Boston, then nothing till now. Thank you for finally having the time to catch up with me.
The problem facing long running series is that you can get in a rut, you can get formulaic, and then Cousin Oliver happens. So far I continue to find Briggs's series both fresh and exciting, but there is something more compelling about the Alpha and Omega series. Yes, it could be that compared to Mercy it's newer and has less then half the books, but what I think it is is the way the series is set up to follow their story as they go to other locations then being confined to the Tri-Cities or Bon Temps or even Stars Hollow. Sometimes a change in scene is necessary to keep a story vibrant. I like how we start out and they're snug in their home then something happens and Anna and Charles are dispatched to the scene. Seattle, Boston, now Scottsdale! Plus with each location change we get a new set of characters to mingle with the old, providing a nice blend of the familiar and the strange.
But with each change in location we get a change in focus, and here, well, the focus was too much of the equine variety. I find it odd that in quick succession I have read two books that are very focused on horses. As I said in that other review, I've never been a horse person, but that doesn't mean that books featuring horses are a bad thing, they just have to be handled right. Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter handled horses right, in that she didn't become overly detailed and wrote the horses as characters so that you could connect to them. Goodwin did it right, Briggs did it wrong. I know Briggs is a horse enthusiast in the extreme, you can get that from her writing even if you didn't already know this, but she wasn't able to tamp down that enthusiasm to make horses accessible to those who aren't of her ilk. At one point in the book Anna gives up trying to figure out all the jargon spewing out of Charles and I think that if one of the characters in your book can't even keep up, well, you lost your readers a long time ago.
So much horse talk had a detrimental effect on the pacing of the book. At the beginning it was OK, the horses added atmosphere, but about three quarters of the way through the book when the bad guy is "caught" and everyone just pushes the horrors they've faced behind them and they all trot off to the horse show the book hits a deadly lull it can't recover from. There's still a quarter of the book left, so you know that something is going to happen, there's going to be a twist, but after a few hours with Anna and Charles in the bleachers at the horse show I couldn't care less what that twist was. This is right about the time Anna gave up too I might add. Yet it kept going. And going. And more horses. And yeah. I've been to state fairs, I've been to Dairy expos, I've been to events like this and never in my life did I think they could be written in a way that bored me almost literally to tears. All forward momentum left the book and I thought I'd be trapped with those creepy horse slash pageant kid combinations for all eternity. I never want to read about horses ever again.
But I really don't ever want to read about those creepy little kids that are dressed like western themed pageant kids, pink rhinestones and all, riding their horses. Shudder. Yet this version of children is just one of many, seeing as children are a big theme in this book. I was OK with Anna pressuring Charles about them having a child, this didn't seem out of place. The evil fairy that was the book's Big Bad and was kidnapping children for nefarious reasons, really really creepy and spooky and kept the plot ticking right along until the horses came and trampled all over it. And then the book shifted. Yes, there was a creepy kid vibe from the evil fairy but to couple that with this weird objectification of the children at the horse show? It went too far into the creepy. Add to that that Anna and Charles thought this was cute? Um, no. This kind of objectification leads to evil people preying on children. So in a book about bringing this kind of evil, though in immortal form, to justice while at the same time condoning cultural practices that can result in drawing the attention of evil... no. Just no. Yes, life is all about compromise, but let's compromise about having children or recovering from abuse, finding a middle ground where we can live with life's horrors, not finding a middle ground where the horrors are allowed to flourish. ...more
**spoiler alert** Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are reveling in each other as they return home from the United States. They are finally as one, on**spoiler alert** Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are reveling in each other as they return home from the United States. They are finally as one, on the field and in the bedroom. Though their luxuriant revels come to an end when Eliza gets a ping from the distress beacon she left with her maid Alice and the street urchins that are under her protection, known as the Ministry Seven. They race to their rendezvous point in France to discover that their situation is dire. Queen Victoria has decided that The Ministry is a danger to her reign, and in particular to her plans for her Diamond Jubilee, and is using her other secret organization, the Department of Imperial Inconveniences to eliminate the Ministry. The Department in their signature tweed has been dispatching Ministry agents around the globe with alarming efficiency. Though the Ministry is far from beaten. Director Sound has enacted Shadow Protocol and the disparate agents from around the world are gathering, to regroup and figure out just why they were such a danger to the Queen and how they can stop her.
Half the fun of two strong leads is the will they won't they factor. More then one story has hinged on the sexual tension between the protagonists, or antagonists as it were. The problem that arises from this situation is that if you lead your audience on for too long they get frustrated. Likewise, if the relationship doesn't successfully gel after consummation, then you are in another dire situation, and sometimes go to drastic lengths to solve this problem, yes I'm looking at you Battlestar Galactica. An unsuccessful resolution has spelled the end for many franchises; it is what I like to call the Moonlighting factor, and yes, I know I'm not the only one to use this delightful eighties show as the case study for what not to do with a storyline. Moonlighting quite literally imploded when the leads, Maddie Hayes and David Addison, slept together at the end of the third season. The show spiraled out of control with a lame marriage plot and Maddie miscarrying her and David' child, till a show that was so bright ended with a whimper and the too appropriate epitaph "romance is a fragile thing." Therefore, while I have been delighting in the romance brewing between Books and Braun, I was also very wary.
Yet the time had more then come for Books and Braun to finally get their act together. The previous installment, Dawn's Early Light, was the tipping point with their antagonism and jealous acts. The Diamond Conspiracy opens up with the agents in full blissful coupledom. And here is where I say that thankfully they have avoided all the snares and dangers that were in their paths, huzzah! All gadgets and gizmos have been disarmed and dismantled and what has emerged is even sexier then before. Pip and Tee have managed to keep the tension between Welly and Eliza while simultaneously having their relationship develop into the next stage. Their blissful journey across the Atlantic and their stolen moments are what true sexual chemistry is all about. Yet, to me, the most romantic aspect is not their sexual chemistry, but the way they work as a team. They know the other one always has their back. They are a perfect unit and it is this connection that brings back the fresh dynamic of the first book in this series as it simultaneously sets a sturdier base for continued adventures.
With this consummation of their attraction and their developing relationship we have a very character driven story which spills out into the rest of the book. I think this is the best thing that could have happened for this series. The characters have always been the heart of the story, they have always shone while the plot flounders. The Diamond Conspiracy has stripped down this unwieldy universe that Pip and Tee have created and made it hinge on the human element. They have pulled in all the disparate elements and agents from around the globe that have featured in the Tales from the Archives and parred it down to a manageable amount. At times prior to reading this installment I have felt that their world with all it's tangential stories was almost too hard to hold onto, all the different threads of all these different stories turning to water in my hands and running away from me. This felt like a great spring cleaning, the house has been made new by brushing the cobwebs away. The Diamond Conspiracy feels like a new start for all our characters and it has invigorated me, in fact after finishing the book I felt so optimistic that I didn't want to pick up the next book I had ready to go and instead I started to clean my library, and yes, this is a very daunting task and perhaps shouldn't be started late on a Sunday night... what can I say, the book did it to me!
The feeling of this new beginning though needs to have follow through. The Big Bad of these books has gone a little blurg. While Doctor Jekyll does have a lot going for him as the ultimate puppet master, I seriously might go crazy if Sophia del Morte shows up yet again. In my mind she has never nor will never bring anything to these books. There comes a point when new evils need to be faced and the old evils put away. If there's one thing that I can't stand is the magical return of some long defeated foe. Pip and Tee have defeated quite a few, now let them all rest. Bring in a new villain to go with the new outlook on this series. Keep developing the villains just as Books and Braun's relationship has developed. But don't bring in new angles on old foes. Yes, that little twist that you end The Diamond Conspiracy with is interesting, but still, it's just the old with a twist of the new. The worst season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is easily season seven, because they brought back a villain who could also mimic every other villain ever seen on the show. Please. Move it along.
Despite my little rant there, the villains and their dirty deeds were really just a blip, they were part and parcel of the story and is more a warning rant then anything specific in this volume. The truth is this was a near perfect return to form if it hadn't been for the H.G. Wells factor. In previous volumes august personages have made appearances, as is logical for there are distinct people who unknowingly formed what we now know as Steampunk. From Edison to Tesla to Wells, their visions of the future formed the literature of the future, and the television shows, and the movies. The problem I have with Wells is that it comes too close to another Steampunk franchise I love, and that's Warehouse 13. There is no denying the similarities of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and Warehouse 13. With Wellington's archive and the Warehouse, we have two places that collect and store dangerous Steampunky artifacts, occasionally using them to solve their cases. One is present, one is past, I have no problem with them coexisting in my brain or in the world. What I do have a problem with is H.G. Wells being in both in such a similar manner. And H.G. was part of the Warehouse team over a year before the very first Ministry book came out. Just saying, even if Wells is so important to the Steampunk movement, perhaps Wells needs a little distance from the Ministry to not feel like a rip-off. ...more
**spoiler alert** Flavia can not believe that she has been forced to leave Buckshaw and go all the way to Canada! Sure she's getting the honor, howeve**spoiler alert** Flavia can not believe that she has been forced to leave Buckshaw and go all the way to Canada! Sure she's getting the honor, however dubious, of attending her mother's Alma mater, and getting to study with a world famous chemist who may or may not have killed her husband, but it's so far from home and everything familiar. She's never had to experience homesickness before. It doesn't help matters that her voyage to the school is in the hands of Ryerson Rainsmith, the chairman of Miss Bodycote's Female Academy's board of guardians, and his wife Dorsey, two people destined to die in Flavia's fevered imagination. Poison is such a lovely thing to dwell on, especially during a long transatlantic crossing. This being Flavia, the first night she arrives at the school a desiccated body is found in her room's chimney. Unlike anyone else this at least gives Flavia something familiar in this unfamiliar new world. She knows murder and she knows how to solve them. So while some things change, other things will always remain the same.
As much as I love Buckshaw, and I mean, I really love Buckshaw, I would move there if I could in an instant love it, I was both thrilled and terrified at the idea that Flavia was heading off to boarding school in Canada. My feelings were probably pretty much on par with Flavia's own. Miss Bodycote's Female Academy owes much of it's origins to that hallowed fictional institute created by Ronald Searle, St Trinian's. In fact it was Alan Bradley who turned me onto that lovely female academy where it was more likely to find dead bodies and weapons of mass destruction then well behaved gentle ladies ready to make their debut in society. In fact, looking beyond the surface of Miss Bodycote's, I'd say the two are one par, what with Harriet having attended previously, and the curriculum of the students preparing them more for a life of espionage then that of a homemaker. The two schools are almost interchangeable, you have an equal chance of getting killed at each as Flavia soon discovers.
If I had one real complaint about As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust it's that Bradley doesn't properly exploit this new school setting. Instead we get Flavia once again investigating a murder but instead of interacting with her fellow students she quickly finds herself falling into her old habits of interacting with adults only. Previously Flavia didn't have much time for or with her peers, but I was sure that a boarding school environment would force this upon her and hilarity would ensue. Initially it did. The late night Ouija board session which she rigs for her own purposes is some of the most thrilling and hilarious writing to ever flow out of Bradley's books and then the momentum he created is squandered. Couldn't she have gone to classes and done some homework? Found a little happiness with people her own age? Apparently not. The classmates are brushed aside, the adults are questioned, and Flavia is expelled.
This last bit is the most annoying conclusion I could imagine happening. Here we finally have Flavia getting ready to take on the world, to move her story forward, and instead I fear it's going to stagnate because it took one step forward and then two steps back. I can't decide why Bradley did this. Because I don't think Flavia's homesickness warranted this result. Yes, the first six books were a solid arc and the length of Bradley's original contract, but the contract got extended. So now we have a further four books, well three now. By having Flavia leave home I thought, wow, now she can grow up a little. Can you just imagine how much fun Flavia will be as an adult when the Cold War is really starting to gear up? I expect hijinks on the level of Chuck Barris's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. This, of course, is all my wishful thinking. But by having Flavia return home, ug. Bad idea. I might have loved this book and Flavia but I did not love where we left her. I want these final four books to be something new, the "next chapter" not the same old same old.
As for the murder itself. I felt that this was easily the weakest of the murders in the whole series. Though the truth is the murder is never the most important aspect of Flavia's books to me, they are a major part of the story and need to hold my attention nonetheless. Yes, there isn't really any new way to kill someone under the sun. If you can think of it, well, in all likelihood it has been thought of before, and most likely by Agatha Christie. Ah, Agatha, you wily lady you, thinking up all the greatest plot twists so that even if someone isn't meaning to they emulate you in same way, shape, or form, they somehow do. In this case it's Dead Man's Folly and your wunderkind sleuth Poirot, and it was a case of really very bad timing.
I actually have a hard time remembering the whodunits of Agatha Christie, they all kind of blend together after awhile so they are eminently re-readable. But as fate would have it the adaptation of Dead Man's Folly filmed at Christie's own home Greenway Estate and staring David Suchet aired at the same time that I received the arc of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from NetGalley. While it's not exactly the same, it couldn't be identical having been written by two very different and talented writers, well, there was enough similarity that any surprise or suspense was lost because of my foreknowledge. Yes, I know that I am really really good at figuring things out and knowing what's going to happen, but gosh darnit, sometimes I just wish I could be surprised. And while I look forward to my next adventure with Flavia, I hope there's some surprises in store for me....more
This is a book to be browsed through, reading what pops out at you. In that way it's laugh out loud hilarious. To sit down and read it, it loses it'sThis is a book to be browsed through, reading what pops out at you. In that way it's laugh out loud hilarious. To sit down and read it, it loses it's charm. Some of the jokes are spot on and some are so off the target you don't know where the arrow landed (read the Peter Pan section if you want an example). Also, if you haven't read all the classics from Greek plays to Henry James, be prepared to be lost. And design note. There are some MAJOR formatting issues in the book that take away from reading it. ...more
Fester Cat had spent twelve years on the streets of Manchester, twice contemplating domesticity, but the last lady didn't understand him, she thoughtFester Cat had spent twelve years on the streets of Manchester, twice contemplating domesticity, but the last lady didn't understand him, she thought he was a girl! The indignity! Then Paul and Jeremy enter his life. They're the new couple in Fester's territory, even though they've been there about a year. There's something alluring and different about them, but most magical of all they know Fester's name! The Spanish lady thought he was a she and here's two guys who not only know he's a distinguished gentleman but that he answers to Fester! Ungow!
After a little time coming and going Fester decides that he shall adopt Paul and Jeremy and their lives together begin. Fester isn't just a furry family member but he helps the three of them become a family. Through rituals of turkey at Christmas and long summer days reading in the "Beach House" to singing and talking, they bond into a cohesive unit that is campy and cuddly and most of all filled with joyous everlasting love.
In March of 2013 my heart broke a little at the news that a certain tuxedo kitty was no longer in this world. Thirty-six days later I got a story in my inbox, The Story of Fester Cat. And I knew I couldn't read it. In a little over two weeks it would be four years since I had lost my tuxedo kitty, Spot. 1445 days and growing. This September Paul contacted me asking if I'd review the book for my blog. I said I was glad to, all the while wondering, but can I? I usually avoid reading books about animals like the plague. I can't take the fact that the book was written because their furry little story had come to an end.
I don't want excesses of unnecessary emotion and rainbow bridges, a sentiment that Fester himself would agree with I'm sure. I don't feel that it's cathartic or will help me heal, all I feel is the pain as fresh as the day I lost my little guy. But somehow this book was different. Yes, it did break my heart, I cried uncontrollably for awhile, but it also put my heart back together. In the two years I'd known Paul, Fester had become a part of my life, the daily pictures on Facebook of them working away at his computer or relaxing in the Beach House was a highlight of my day. The lose of a furry family member leaves a hole in your heart that you don't know what to do with, Paul filled his with Fester's song.
Fester's story is told in Fester's own unique voice, ungow! I'm not talking just about the conversational aspect, the vocal inflections that everyone who has known and loved a talkative cat knows about. The way they insinuate themselves into conversations with a mow here and a meep there. I'm talking about the inner voice made real in the narration of his story. All cat "owners" will tell you that their cat has a unique voice, I always imagined my Spot's voice as regal and somewhat sardonic, like Jeremy Irons.
Paul though has masterfully written this book in such a way that it feels he is channeling Fester. Fester is observant and witty and knows how to keep his humans in line and sticking to their routines. He is streetwise but also has a deeper understanding of life. His voice isn't just unique like some books have a unique narrator. Fester's voice attains a whole other level where it feels like it's destined to be classic, much like Eloise in the fabulous Kay Thompson series. You just read it and go, yes, this is Fester.
Reading The Story of Fester Cat you realize how important and personal a book this is. While in some regards as Paul says "It's like our little cat going out to meet the world!" But I think there's a whole deeper level, the level of Paul and Jeremy. If you have been lucky enough to read any of Paul's other books you will realize that Paul rather sneakily works himself into the stories. There's a bit of Paul in Robert in the Brenda and Effie series, then in Jack in 666 Charing Cross Road, and then there's Simon in the Iris Wildthyme series. You get this feeling that Paul has always wanted to be on an adventure and as a talented writer he has used these surrogates to insert himself into the narrative.
But for the first time he doesn't need a stand-in. This is Paul's life. There must be something so scary opening yourself up in such a way when for years you've had this separation. Not just showing a fictionalized version of yourself shown in the best light, but to show the good, the bad, the love, the heartbreak, the fights, the fusses, to show it all for everyone. This book is Paul laid bare. This is him, and Fester, and Jeremy. This is their song, full of love and heartbreak, but undeniably catchy. I can only hope that it will stick with you as the chorus and refrain play in your memory. Ungow!...more
I'm finding it odd that Cinderella, who had her own spin-off series, has now basically taken over Fairest... seems a little unfair if you ask me. AlsoI'm finding it odd that Cinderella, who had her own spin-off series, has now basically taken over Fairest... seems a little unfair if you ask me. Also, this story was more important to the Fables arc, so, I think it would have fit better there then here, what with Mrs. Spratt aka Miss Douglas and that pesky missing shard of Bigby... also, just getting sick of Cinde being all female James Bond but while wearing the outfits of the Bond girls... ...more
Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, two sets of twins and all inseparable sisters. While they appear to have a perfect life they are thwarted by conventions and by expectations from their dear mama. Kitty has suffered the worst, being the beauty of the family her outward appearance clashed with her inner retiring nature resulting in several suicide attempts. Edda views it as imperative that they get out from under the thumb of their mother in order that they can have fulfilling lives. Women in Australia can now train to be nurses and the local hospital in Corunda, with the encouragement of the girl's father, is willing to take on the four sisters. It's hard but satisfying work, with all the sisters, save Grace, finding that this could be their true calling. Grace is the first to get married and leave the hospital. It was love at first sight for her and Bear. Soon the girls have to choose between love and a career, or a precarious balance of both. Times are tough and nothing is easy, especially in a world made for men, not women.
I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't know who Colleen McCullough was. Her book The Thorn Birds was not only a phenomenal bestseller, but the miniseries adaptation was one of my late Uncle's favorite shows ever. This is, of course, the man who bragged my entire life that the last movie he paid to see in theaters was The Name of the Rose and decided that nothing could compare after that so he closed his mind. Despite being a fan of The Name of the Rose, his seal of approval actually had me avoiding The Thorn Birds in any form for my entire life. So, despite knowing all about her, Colleen McCullough has been a part of my life without really being a part of it. Until now. I should have left well enough alone.
Don't let the talented graphic designers fool you by their pretty cover, this book is painfully bad. Rage reading bad. Full of bad cliched writing and stereotypes. Repetitive to the point where I wanted to pull out my hair. Did Colleen ever learn that you shouldn't keep repeating the same words in a paragraph? No she didn't. Or maybe she just has a very tiny vocabulary to go with her tiny mindset on the place of women, more on that to come! Oh, and all love is love at first sight? Seriously? Yet the pinnacle of this atrocious writing is that I got to know the sisters moods very intimately by the color of their eyes. Blurg. Every five seconds it's Kitty's eyes are now sparking violet, Edda's eyes are going green. Are their eyes freaking psychedelic rainbows? In fact, in this relatively short book (despite how long it felt, 352 pages is relatively short) eyes are mentioned 236 times! Eyes are mentioned on 67% of the pages! Just no.
Yet what just got under my skin like an immovable tick was that despite starting this book out with four independent women and an apparent feminist bent it very quickly went on to show that women need men and can rarely handle hard thinking and need a husband to complete them. WTF! Why would you destroy such a strong and powerful message by having each character only find happiness once she was married? These women were trailblazers, fighting to have their own lives away from parents, learning skills often reserved only for men, to then give it all up for what? Men who weren't nice and controlled them? Seriously, what's going on here? Why did this book go to cliches and limp-wristed writing? How can anyone justify saying this to an amazing and competent nurse: "Kitty, life never meant you to be a children's nurse. Your life means you to have children of your own!" Gag me now.
But Kitty's domestic fate isn't the worst held in store for the sisters. Oh no, not by a long shot. That fate belongs to Edda. Edda the invincible. Edda who wanted to be a doctor. Edda who wants to travel and be amazing. What becomes of Edda? She becomes a fag hag. Now I don't mean this derogatorily I'm just saying what is true, this is what Colleen McCullough did to her most powerful character, she made her need a man, but because Edda wanted more she needed a man who wouldn't threaten her sexuality or ambitions. Edda was at a point in her nursing career where she was at the top of her field and was scared to take that leap to be a doctor, despite wanting that originally and being thwarted by an evil step-mother. So truthfully, she could have become a doctor on her own impetus. But it takes her finding a gay politician in need of a wife for her to get to medical school. Seriously, WTF. Even worse, at the end she's obviously fallen in love with her husband and is now trapped in a marriage to a man whose nature can never give her what she now wants. Thanks for destroying the independent Edda in the most vicious and heartbreaking way possible Colleen.
From idiot girls to politics, this book doesn't just go downhill fast, it plunges itself off a cliff. I'm not the biggest fan of politics as it is, Australian politics during the depression? There is no way in hell this will ever interest me that I can think of. What is worse though is by aligning the politics with the most hated character in the book even if the politics didn't bore you to tears you'd grow to hate them because of Charles Henry Burdum. Charlie, I'm going to call him Charlie because he hates it, is the most controlling, possessive, jealous dumb ass with a Napoleon complex to ever be written. I am still baffled that Kitty was somehow bamboozled into marriage with him because from his first appearance in this book I wanted to throw him under the train he road in on. He isn't an anti hero, he is a douche. And in true douche manner he came in and took over the book and what little ray of feeble light that was trying to shine through was blocked out by this diminutive dumbass. But in the end, I hated all the characters, I hated the message, and I definitely hated this book, so I think I should just move on. When's the next boat out of Melbourne? ...more
Matthew and Diana return from the past to find much changed and much the same as it ever was. There has been loses while they were gone, and they mustMatthew and Diana return from the past to find much changed and much the same as it ever was. There has been loses while they were gone, and they must morn them. But life goes on, as Diana's ever increasing belly shows. The time has come to find answers as the lives growing in Diana's belly depend on them. Matthew delves into the science side at Yale while Diana goes to England to find out the answers of Ashmole 782. New and old technologies are used to find out secrets of their supernatural kind. Secrets that will hopefully bring the Congregation to a new understanding of how the world works. Witches and vampires and demons are more alike then they are different and these similarities should be embraced not segregated. But in the end there will be a battle, but will it be political or will Matthew's dangerous past come back to haunt him?
The "All Souls Trilogy" baffles me. It has so much wasted potential but, like some other series that I have found middling, it has a fierce fanbase that I don't want to rile, as well as a few close friends. This is the same fanbase that can see no wrong in Outlander, the forty year old women who will beat you to death if you say anything against Jamie Fraser. I just don't get it. Maybe I'm just not at the point in my life where this reaches out and touches something deep in my soul, instead I'm sticking by my opinion that this is Twilight for middle aged women. Before I actually read this installment I was excited for the conclusion of this series. Shadow of Night really captured my interest with it's historical bent, but sadly this volume decided to focus on science versus history. The mess this resulted in felt like Michael Crichton writing YA. The writing was clumsy with the shift from Diana's first person narration to Matthew's third person narration. The ending was a trite cliche with an extremely unrealistic HEA. In fact, was there actually enough to merit the moniker "book" when anything of interest was unresolved and everything seemed like it could be summed up in an afterword?
Now for the fun part. The part where I take apart The Book of Life and point at everything that drove me crazy. Shall we start with Stevie Nicks? I think we shall. What the hell is it with Stevie Nicks and witches? Yes she's rumored to be one, but she denies it so often and then does an about turn that you could get whiplash. But the fact of witches identifying with her music has gotten to a point in our culture where it's so cliched that to use it you seriously are going to incur my wrath. It just shows a laziness that you can't think of something more interesting and will just rely on the stereotype. Wasn't this whole series trying to say that things are more complicated and confusing then what you'd expect? Well, that means I'd expect something better then Stevie Nicks. At least she didn't show up and do an extended music video in the middle of the book for absolutely no reason, thank you American Horror Story: Coven and Ryan Murphy for bringing me that cringe worthy moment in television history. That moment is also the first thing that popped in my mind while reading this book. Ug. Stop.
As Gallowglass says "This family was more fun when we had fewer medical degrees." Thank you Gallowglass, aka the one character I like, for pointing out the obvious. The characters zeal for scientifically researching the world of creatures and their problems, from studying blood rage to genomes to The Book of Life itself made me want to scream in frustration. I like the history, I don't like the science. Yes, in books that tackle supernatural beings we have to look at the world they now inhabit, the fact that DNA and genetics can uncover centuries old secrets, but do we need to do it in such detail? Let's all go to Yale and get a research grant and blah blah blah, blood rage, blah blah blah, babies, blah blah blah, what was I even talking about? Now I'm not saying science can't be interesting, but it's more interesting when it's real. When it's made up mumbo jumbo by an author that isn't that accomplished and has tons of plot holes and inconsistencies? No thanks.
But you know what's worse then science? Politics! I hate politics. I pay attention because it's what every good citizen should do. Also, I live in the epicenter of political evil right now, so, well, it's a main topic of conversation, as in, what stupid and illegal thing happened today? But do I want to read, watch, listen, osmose politics for fun? NO! Here we have ANOTHER book with an unnatural union being thwarted by a secret governing body that just doesn't get the world is changing. Again, Twilight much? Any urban fantasy author will tell Harkness that it's best to leave the overly political BS that governs your world off stage. Seriously, all those meetings in Venice where they were droning on and on about all the different species that Harkness has created I was more interested in the architecture. The boat rides to and from the meetings were more thrilling. How did she make Venice boring? Well, she made a lot of things boring and took a lot of pages to do it, so really, I shouldn't be that surprised.
Writing this review is making me realize why it took me a month to read this book. ME, who usually devours a book in a few days no matter the length. OK, let's get this over with. So, what annoyance shall I conclude with? Oh, how about Diana! At the beginning of this series Diana was the conduit for the reader. She was fairly normal, aside from the whole being a witch thing. But over time as her relationship with Matthew deepened, she has become something other then human, something more. She now has arrows and firedrakes and weaving IN HER ARM! Yes, it's kind of cool, but there's also the fact that she is totally unrelatable now. She's a superhero, so we can look up to her, but the truth is, do people really truly ever relate to superheroes? They might want to be them, but relatability isn't part of that. Maybe my whole problem with this book and it's fans is that I can't relate at all and perhaps it's better if we just keep our distance. ...more
Sally Fitzhugh spent all her time at Lady Climpson's Select Seminary dreaming of the day when she would leave Bath and get to go to all the balls sheSally Fitzhugh spent all her time at Lady Climpson's Select Seminary dreaming of the day when she would leave Bath and get to go to all the balls she could wish for instead of trying to get out of doing homework. Sally has been out a year and she never thought the time would come when she would be bored with this life she dreamed of. If things couldn't get worse the silly people of the ton are enraptured with Sally's friend Lizzy's step-mother's book, The Convent of Orsino, and a vampire craze has engulfed the little season this October. All the rumors of vampires and the occult are swirly around the newly returned Duke of Belliston. He has been absent since the death of his parents years prior and seems the perfect vampire, or so everyone is saying. Sally isn't one of them.
Sally was hoping that the arrival of her two dearest friends, Lizzy and Agnes, would enliven things, but their trio is now more a duo and Sally is feeling distinctly left out. At a party abutting the regal home of the Duke of Belliston, Sally takes a dare to walk over to his house, bored and assuming she won't be caught she strides straight into Lucien, the Duke himself. Events soon transpire to thrust these two together on a more daily basis... but is this relationship something the two of them might secretly hope for? Could Sally fall for a supposed vampire?
If you've never met Lauren, she's this little pepperpot of energy powered by caffeine that talks a mile a minute from topics ranging from the sex lives of socialites in Kenya to Cary Elwes in Ella Enchanted to her high school debates. She exudes such a fun and vibrant energy that her happiness and far ranging interests are contagious. While being a writer of historical fiction she is, in my mind, the exact opposite of the more staid and reserved "traditional" historical fiction authors out there, ahem Philippa Gregory. The reason for the comparison is that Lauren's bubbly enthusiasm carries over to her books. Lauren has the research and the facts down, she has the academic and scholarly aspects of Gregory, but it's her enthusiasm that makes her books so much more then a well written piece of historical fiction. Lauren's books are fun because she brings herself into the equation, perhaps a little more in this volume with Eloise's fate. She loves her characters and her stories with such zeal that you are carried along with her on a reading adventure that you won't forget.
Lauren doesn't take herself too seriously and she is able to have fun with the historical genre while deftly skewering it at the same time with wordplay and modern nudges and winks. Though the theatre major in me had a major chuckle over the "renaming" of Sheridan's The School for Scandal as The Tutelage of Scandal, it's really vampire literature that is most lovingly lambasted in The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla. Just the idea that Miss Gwen, that bane of all young gentleman with her pointy parasol, would be the Stephenie Meyer of her day is a hoot. But that Miss Gwen not only has the ton in a virtual vampire frenzy, but that she even has sparkly vampires, that Lauren is creating parodies on so many levels, from what it is to be an author, to an author's fanbase, all the way to all the different vampire iterations over the centuries, that you can't help but fall for this book. Add to that references to Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, to The Princess Bride, Lauren's willingness to takes liberties will make you smile inside and want to hold onto this series forever.
The fact that The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is such a strong entry in the Pink Carnation series means that next year when the final volume, The Lure of the Moonflower, is published the ending will be bittersweet because Lauren just keeps developing as a writer. Lauren has been able to avoid many of the pitfalls of long running series by having each book be some offshoot of the first volume. Main characters will reappear, but never in more then background rolls, while the previous background characters take center stage. I love Sally Fitzhugh taking center stage, and yes, that's because I have a great love for all the Fitzhughs. But beyond that she is such an interesting character (but let's not talk about the chickens) with an indomitable will for one so young.
Though it's the events Sally is thrust into that really gripped me. Because at the heart of all the Napoleonic spies and secret leagues, the core of this book is a murder mystery, with a random attack stoat. While the spy angle has always been important, the truth is, spies aren't for everyone. I think this volume will have a wider appeal then previous ones because of the apparent murder/suicide of the Duke of Belliston's parents. This mystery gave the book a greater urgency and made me devour it at a most rapacious rate. Come next year I don't know what I shall do once I finish reading that final volume... luckily until then I will occupy myself with re-reading all the books with The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla being one of the highlights....more
Julia Conley has inherited a house in England. A house on Herne Hill has been left to her by an unknown great-aunt. Julia and her father left England when she was six and her mother was killed in a car crash. Since her life in New York hasn't been going that well lately as one of the many unemployed, she decides to go to England and spend a few months sorting out the house and hopefully sorting out her life. For Julia who has viewed her family as just her and her father she finds it hard to come to gripes with the fact that this was where her mother came from and she still has family here with a few cousins, who of course feel slighted with great-aunt Regina's will. The more time Julia spends in the house the more she wishes she had been given the chance to know her great-aunt.
For Regina might have held the key to a lovely Pre-Raphaelite painting in one of the rooms of the house, which has a matching painting hidden deep at the back of one of the cupboards. Why was the one painting displayed and the other hidden? Who is this artist Gavin Thorne? Going back to 1849 we learn about the painter Gavin Thorne and his muse, Imogen Grantham, who happened to be the mistress of the house on Herne Hill and married to a wealthy and significantly older collector who was occasionally visited by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who doted on his historical relics. Yet why hide the painting? What connection does this painter and this wife have to Julia? More importantly, after 160 years can Julia find out?
Sometimes life is staggering in it's synchronicity. The very day that I received That Summer in the mail my Great-Aunt Vicki died. My family got the call that she had passed in her sleep and that the rest of the family was to descend on Madison to take care of her estate. My Great-Aunt was the last of the older generation, being preceded in death by all my Grandparents and even an Uncle. While sadly I have never been bequeathed a mysterious house, because she was the last of that generation I have gotten quite used to clearing out ancestral homes, my Grandparents farm having accumulated over a hundred years worth of ephemera, with sadly not a rare painting or a secret stash of cash in sight, but a random piano being used as a tool bench and much mouse effluvia. As I spent the following weeks sifting through the rooms of her house, picking what to keep and what to give away, I couldn't help but think of all the things I don't know about my family and where I come from. There is a strong ancestry bug that my family has, but I have not yet been bitten, and there's a part of me that keeps thinking, better now before it's too late.
The detritus is all we have left of our family's history. Random paintings around the house, Aunt so and so painted this, Cousin so and so did that one; just what if the painting was something more? What if the painting was a closely guarded secret that would unlock some mystery about yourself? The search for your own identity is caught up in the past, in where you come from. While Julia's search for what happened in her own past with her mother as well as to her ancestor's is something that might be uncommon, the search is something we can all identify with. Lauren has tapped into something deep within everyone, a longing to know where they're from in order to find out where they belong. This gives us a strong connection to the characters, we are on their journey with them and I wouldn't want it any other way.
While the time slip genre is nothing new, Lauren is able to create a more accessible story then some authors who mire their books in overly flowery details and descriptions that go on for so many pages you lose the thread of the story. This isn't to say the writing is sparse, it's exactly what it needs to be to conjure this world, no more and no less. Though there is a part of me that wishes at some time in the future Lauren would go all out and write a doorstop of a novel. Yet in Lauren's time slip she is able to capture the best of all worlds, with a little Kate Morton, a little Somewhere in Time, a nod to Du Maurier's Rebecca, a Keats Bridget Jones call out with a wink to Nancy Mitford's silly season. There are also echoes of Victorian literature, from Imogen's marriage mirroring Dorthea's in Middlemarch, to Gavin bringing a little of the John Thornton vibe from North and South. Yet these homages aren't derivative, they give us a touchstone for the time period but then become so distinctly their own story that while you remember the connections at the back of your mind they are inconsequential as the story takes on a life of it's own.
As for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, I will admit that this subject matter is what made me swoon when I heard over a year ago about Lauren's next planned stand alone. I think that I have adequately covered my love of them in previous posts and writings, but I will say that even in the BBC production of Desperate Romantics, they have always been a band apart. Outsiders who verged on Gods in their ways of self aggrandising each other and mythologizing their lives and works. They were Romantics in every sense of the word, demanding the capital letter "R". Yet Lauren brought them down off their pedestals. Packed into the snug sitting room on Herne Hill we see a human Rossetti with his schemes and ideas and his future spiraling out before him. The ways the Brotherhood sought out collectors of antiquities to give an authenticity to their paintings adds a realism to them and their works.
These men aren't Gods, no matter how many posters in English classrooms and dorm rooms might say otherwise, they are men. They have loved and lost and with Gavin we have a true romantic hero that is swoonworthy. And like all good writing, this one aspect of the book, the Brotherhood, it doesn't overpower the story, it compliments it, it strengthens and adds to it. You will fall into this book and even if you are just a fraction of a romantic the Pre-Raphaelite's were you will find yourself falling in love with both couples in the different time periods. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, and if you're coming into this book from Lauren's Pink Carnation series, there are a few gems hidden in the book, but like these painters who would hide the Brotherhood's initials in their paintings, you might have to have a keen eye to spot them....more
Sophie Apperly is the odd one out in her family. They are all academic and artistic, whereas she's more of a homebody who likes to upscale thrift store finds into interesting creations. Therefore as far as her family are concerned she's a bit dumb and a bit of a dogsbody. To that end they volunteer her to take care of their Uncle Eric in the hope that this little gesture will make the horrid old man remember them in his will. Of course things don't go to plan in that Sophie and Eric get on like a house on fire and she finds out about a lost family trust to do with an oil well. Sophie decides to try to help her ever skint family by investigating this trust and to that end she gets a short term job in New York and goes to visit one of her two best friends. It's Sophie's dream come true, she's always wanted to go to New York, so when the job falls through, well, it's sad, but then there's more time to play the tourist on her very restricted budget.
At a gallery opening the helpful Sophie comes to the aid of the elderly Matilda. They instantly hit it off and soon Sophie is going to Connecticut to spend Thanksgiving with Matilda, who's grandson, Luke, looks on Sophie as a gold digger. Matilda and Luke himself are both rather wealthy. Yet Sophie has a heart of gold and, though she may be almost flat broke, she would never take advantage of this situation fate has landed her in. A situation that might help both her and Matilda, as Matilda sends Sophie back to England with a request, to find the house Matilda spent her holidays in as a youth. This might seem like a wild goose chase, but it's quite fun, and with Luke coming along for the ride, maybe something more then an old house will be found?
Three years ago I picked up my first Katie Fforde book and it was instant dislike. Love Letters struck all the wrong chords in me and made me swear off Katie Fforde. Of course I am a fickle person and I felt bad for having sworn off an author with only reading one of their books. I mean, shouldn't I at least give that author a second chance? Therefore I could look back without regrets having given said author the benefit of the doubt. As it so happens A Perfect Proposal had electronic galleys through Net Galley and I thought, if they approve my request, here is the perfect opportunity as it where to see if my first impressions were wrong. I thank the stars, and the e-galley gods, that I gave Katie Fforde a second chance. A Perfect Proposal was just the book I needed to brighten my days during a bleak time. This book is funny and witty with characters I connected to. I am hoping that Love Letters was the aberration in Fforde's writing career and not A Perfect Proposal so that I have tons of new books to look forward to. It's just such a wonderful surprise to find an author that you feel you can embrace.
You know how in some books they just drop everything in your lap from page one, here is everything and everyone, wham, girl, guy, situation, lots of complications till they are together, the end, or till they go at it, whichever comes first. A Perfect Proposal though does the exact opposite. We meet Sophie and are given the time to connect to her. We learn about her quirky dreams about customizing vintage and thrift clothing. How she's always loved the ocean. We feel for her because her family takes her for granted and think her a little daft, and who amongst us can't relate to that? There was a wonderful luxury in getting to know someone before they were thrust into this romantic situation. Not only that, but how often is it that someone so fundamentally good is the heroine? She has flaws, but she has such a big heart, she helps people who need it, is willing to give back without taking, has morals and is virtuous, but not in a goody two-shoes way. This lent the whole book a Jane Austen vibe in my opinion. There was the good poor girl who we've come to love and then her helpfulness puts her in the path of the aloof rich boy whose heart she will eventually melt by her sweetness. A modern Lizzy and Darcy if Lady Catherine decided to play matchmaker instead of heartbreaker. Sigh. I kind of wish the book hadn't ended so I was still in this world.
But no book is 100% perfect, there is always the things the niggle me, even in my most favorite of novels. The first is I didn't feel like the author had ever actually been to the United States. First that people from Maine were picking Sophie up in New York... um... I've driven that distance... it's like ten hours, not a short little jaunt. For Sophie not to know this it's excusable, but for the people she works for not having her fly there, that's weird. Sophie never using the internet, that's just odd. But New York being all wrong really got to me. Firstly, not knowing how big New York state is, forgivable, messing up distances within New York City, no way! She did a full days walk in weird opposite directions in hours, and then there's The Frick. I have been to The Frick many a time, and well, it's small, so easy to see everything in a short amount of time, an hour would do you easy, but Matilda makes it sound like it's the size of the MET! Also, the timezones are all off, England is five hours ahead of New York, no more, no less. Just little things an editor should have picked up on... which looking at my review of Love Letters, that was my main complaint, a lack of an editor...
Yet what I really want to know is what is up with this trope of Chick Lit and holidays? So I did inadvertently do Chick Lit month around Easter, chicks, see, it's funny right? But so many Chick Lit books throw in holidays. Bridget Jones's Diary is all about the holidays, bonfire night, Christmas... same with Confessions of a Shopaholic, oh, and Going Home which I just read too was all about Christmas. And that's not even taking into account girly movies like The Holiday and Love Actually, which I actually really hate. Is there an unwritten rule that makes holidays a must for declarations of love and hookups? Personally I think it's a little tacky, but that's just me....more
While Wellington Brooks and Eliza Braun did pull off the impossible in their last adventure for The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Doctor Sound hasWhile Wellington Brooks and Eliza Braun did pull off the impossible in their last adventure for The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Doctor Sound has thought that it might be a good idea to get them out of the limelight for awhile and ship them off to the colonies to help their sister agency, The Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical, which is attached to the US Marshals. In the United States Books and Braun meet their American counterparts, Felicity Lovelace the librarian, which is totally different then an archivist, and Wild Bill Wheatley, who Eliza has a grudge against from a previous mission in which their paths crossed. But the mission must come first, not revenge for past slights. Off the shores of North Carolina, known as the graveyard of the Atlantic, airships have been vanishing quite literally.
But Wellington and Felicity don't really care about the mission once they learn that Thomas Edison will be speaking at their hotel! After an eventful night it looks like Edison might be involved in their mission... he might be using a lighthouse as a death ray to cause all these wrecks! Seeing that Edison is their only real lead, the gaggle of agents decide to follow him. First they venture north, to Detroit, and the very hub of Edison's Empire. By the end of their mission they will have travelled coast to coast and hopefully staved of an international incident with the Prince of Wales. Yet questions remain, how involved was the nebulous House of Usher in this scheme? Did her majesty, the Queen, have ulterior motives with regard to her son? And does Wellington want to kiss Eliza again? Or will Eliza end up kissing Bill?
The thing that drew me to Steampunk in the first place was the essential Britishness of it. The fog bound streets, the pub brawls near the docks with a side of a cockney accent, a cup of tea after a day of daring do. This is what Steampunk means to me. So when at the end of the second book in this series, The Janus Affair, it became apparent that our esteemed agents Books and Braun were headed stateside, I wasn't that thrilled at the prospect. Yes, Steampunk isn't limited to Great Britain, yes Pip and Tee have done a good job to have this series, in particular the Tales from the Archives, show the worldwide scope of Steampunk, yes their are authors like Cherie Priest, whose Clockwork Century is very much ingrained in America, but despite all this precedent, Steampunk to me is British. I won't try to explain the logic of my mind, because I don't think I could. But I was seriously worried that Dawn's Early Light would have to overcome my own preconceptions. I should have had more faith in Pip and Tee. The book combined all the Britishness I love and added a Firefly vibe (fangirl sqwee) while also taking on the historical figures whose inventiveness fuels Steampunk, but are decidedly American.
The more I think on it, the American desire for invention, exploration, and looking forward is what drives Steampunk and the Steampunk community. So while my brain always goes "British British British" it is really a combination of the two that create the perfect balance in Steampunk, a perfect balance that was caught in this book. Writing a successful series of books itself is a balancing act. Round about book three is when you start to get bogged down with too much backstory and too many characters being on stage. By sending our beloved agents to the states, Pip and Tee were able to streamline the story and bring it down to the necessary few characters that were needed. While I did occasionally miss all the other agents and the archives, Dawn's Early Light had a cleanliness to it that made it a stronger book. Plus the introduction of Felicity and Bill (aka Jayne from Firefly), Books and Braun's counterparts and also romantic rivals, brought a breath of fresh air into the book. Having our hero and heroine not only trying to deal with their own feelings, but then having these two Americans continually throwing a wrench into any possible hookup brought a frisson of excitement and a worry that the delayed gratification to the inevitable hookup might never happen. Books and Braun belong together... but that doesn't mean temptation and distraction won't be a delicious plot device.
Another plot device that might have overplayed it's hand in this installment is the celebrity cameo. As I said before, everything is about balance. Celebrity cameos are always a fun narrative device in historical fiction, even if it's alternative history. Yet there can be one too many historical figures and this can upset the apple cart. The perfection of some of the cameos is marred by the superfluous ones. Back in undergrad I took film classes for fun. It's ironic that I thought art versus comm arts was a more viable career path. The history of film cannot be told without talking about Edison. Yes, he was brilliant, but yes, he was also a class A bastard. In fact, I had a friend play bastard on my Edison card to win a game of Apples to Apples once. And speaking of Apples, in describing Edison, I liked that Edison really sounded a lot like Steve Jobs and Apple's MO, ah the parallels. I reveled in the introduction of Edison, the asshole. He's a perfect villain, unlike the ill defined House of Usher. And his evilness is not just in his villainous death ray designed to level the competition, but in the slights to women scientists and his raging ego. It was the perfect cameo. To balance that we had Tesla, still surrounded with mystery, dubious morals, and pigeon jokes. Edison and Tesla, Tesla and Edison, the battle for the ages, and the perfect duo for this book. But Henry Ford? Ah Henry Ford, you were one cameo too many. It made me cringe a bit. You upset the apple cart.
Though the pedant in me now has to put on the lecturing voice and say what I've been saying for two books now. I know this is an ARC, so there will be errors... but seeing as these errors have persisted in the finished copies of the first two books, I have a feeling they might remain. The grammar and the spelling needs a polish. I will seriously do this for free. Yes, I am serious. I love this series and it pains me when errors still abound making it a flawed text... at one point their own character's name is misspelt. Also, it's chaise lounge not chez lounge... unless it's the house of lounges and not a piece of furniture. Aside from the obvious errors, there were also a few anachronisms that got under my skin. Blackbeard's dates are off by a hundred years. Why would Edison being going through Wisconsin to get to Arizona? There's this lake that I've gone over between me and Michigan... plus, to get to Arizona aka, the southwest, you wouldn't go northwest now would you? The OSM seems a little too much like Victorian SHIELD with the reference to Thor's hammer... plus, can we sing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when talking about Wellington's car? I know they are all nudge nudge wink wink, but they are just too modern, and like the typos, pull me out of a story I don't want to leave, like ever. In fact, can the next book be ready now?...more
Charlotte Baird is a bit of an odd duck, even for an heiress. She would rather spend her time taking photographs and manipulating them then hunting for a suitable husband. That all changes when she meets Bay Middleton. This suave horseman sweeps her off her feet and steals her heart. But her brother and prospective sister-in-law are adamant to show her that Bay is an entirely unsuitable match. Charlotte could marry a Duke and to settle for the best seat in the county? It seems such a waste. Though Fred and Augusta's disapproval might not be so altruistic as to save Charlotte from a fortune hunter as it is to keep the wealth at their own disposal. For Bay's part he genuinely loves Charlotte but he is torn. He has been asked to pilot Sisi, the Empress of Austria, for the hunting season, and there's a connection between him and this royal that can not be denied. Yet, in order to win Charlotte, he must indeed deny Sisi.
I was never the girl who wanted a pony. Girls of a certain age split distinctly along the equine obsession line. Me, I wasn't a horse girl. Oh, I had plenty of friends in grade school who were obsessed and spent every day at school talking about the weekend when they'd get to ride their ponies. Not me. I can literally count the number of times I have been on a horse on one hand. One delicate fragile hand that I was convinced a horse would love to bite the fingers off of. See, while I wasn't a horse girl, my grandparents did live in the country so I got to visit their neighbor's horse Dr. Pepper all the time and feed him grass and tremble with fear as his teeth chomped down on the stalks in that death clamp. I know he would never have hurt me, but that experience combined with my inane classmates practically guaranteed that I would never want a pony; a state I'm sure my mom was happy with having grown up in the country with seriously horse obsessed girls.
The reason for me mentioning this predilection of mine is that The Fortune Hunter, while ostensibly about romance and intrigue, comes down to horses in the end. Bay and his horse Tipsy, the Grand National, the hunting, Sisi and her riding ability, all of this adds up to a fair amount of horse for one book. Yet, despite not being a horse person, I did not lose interest. Daisy makes the subject of horses approachable and not alienating. They weren't just there to be another facet of our characters, they were a driving force of these characters.
Unlike my insipid classmates going on about their pretty ponies, Daisy has crafted this story so that when Tipsy is mentioned you don't tune out. She doesn't dwell on irrelevant details and what a pretty mane Tipsy has, instead Tipsy is elevated to a character just as important as Queen Victoria or Charlotte herself. I became invested in the horsier aspects of the story because the horses were integral to the story in a way that made sense. Daisy's writing made you feel that she knows what she's talking about but writes in such a way as to keep you interested, and for a subject I'm not invested in usually, I was drawn into this book.
The reason I liked Daisy's previous book, The American Heiress, is that not everything was wrapped up tidily with a bow in the end. Life isn't simple or easy, but complicated and messy, and sometimes I crave that reality in a book. Sometimes books can be a little too far fetched and focusing on the HEA, but how often does that happen to us? Yet in the case of The Fortune Hunter I found this looser ending not as satisfying. The main reason for this is the timeline brought about by the historical note at the end of the book. In The Fortune Hunter, Bay and Sisi's relationship is shown to flame and burn out over the course of one hunting season.
While I knowing conflating events is common to help the narrative, the fact that their relationship, whatever it actually was in real life, actually lasted for five years makes the season of passion ring false. Yes, Charlotte and Bay didn't marry until he had severed ties from Sisi, but this was a long five years later. I'm sorry, I just can't get beyond this five years. Five years means a lot more then what we saw and changes so much that the interpretation of events that Daisy has written would be drastically altered by the true timeline. While I enjoyed the story I would have liked it to maybe reflect reality a little closer, or at least left me ignorant of the truth unless I had searched it out... which, in fairness to my own predilections, I would have and we'd be having this same discussion. So, I guess we're stuck in a loop.
The photography interest Daisy "gave" to Charlotte is an aspect of the story I greatly enjoyed. Not only was this able to advance the plot and also show Charlotte the "truth" that she was blinding herself from, but it's logical historically, unlike those five years, grumble. During the Victorian era there were so few hobbies that were viewed as permissible to ladies of quality. Photography was one of these, though a little on the outer edges, mainly because of the damage it could do to your skin with the developing of the prints. But what I found most interesting wasn't so much Charlotte's photography, but her manipulation of the images, viewing people as animals.
While to some this might seem macabre, the truth is the most common and acceptable hobby for Victorian women was photocollage. I few years back I went to an exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago called "Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage." This show was of Victorian women's photo albums wherein they painted ducks and had photographs of their family member's heads on the bodies. Butterflies with cameos on the wings. The weirder the more likely they'd do it. Work that is so reminiscent of what Charlotte did that it struck a cord so true that Charlotte and I understood each other, which is the greatest thing a character in a book can do; connect with you....more
Jane and Vincent have been accompanying Melody and her new husband on their wedding tour of the continent. Leaving the newlyweds with their parents, JJane and Vincent have been accompanying Melody and her new husband on their wedding tour of the continent. Leaving the newlyweds with their parents, Jane and Vincent head to Murano. Lord Byron has given the Vincents an open invitation to visit him in Venice, which is a nice cover for what they what to do in Murano. They have long wanted to visit the famed glassmakers there after their discovery about weaving magic into glass to make it portable and not tethered to the earth. The couple hope that with improved techniques they can get reliable results. Yet as Napoleon rallied and invaded Belgium when they were first experimenting with this idea, they are this time set upon by pirates who, while ransoming them and hence not enslaving them, take all their possessions and leave Vincent with a nasty concussion. Finding Byron away from home they are destitute. A kind man takes them in and gives them everything they could need till either Byron returns or they are able to alert their families. Only, sometimes kind men have ulterior motives and the Vincents could be in far more trouble then they could even guess. In fact pirates might be a welcome relief.
There are few authors out there which I will drop everything for. Anything other then reading their newest book is considered nonessential. Phone calls go unanswered, emails pile up, work deadlines get stretched to breaking point. If it wasn't for the fact that food keeps me going and therefore keeps me reading I don't think I would remember to eat. Mary Robinette Kowal has become such an author for me. What began as a strong like has developed into a deep love with her Glamourist Histories. Any chance I get I'm recommending them to people and have so far converted quite a few of my bookish friends. My goal is for complete conversion (say it in a scary cyberman-esque voice). I think this goal is possible based on how these books have grown and developed over time. They are no longer just Jane Austen fanfic with magic, they're so much more! The books are part history, part fantasy, part alternate reality, there's just so much to love about them that I really can't stress enough that you should go out right now and get yourself all the books currently available, because the first won't be enough.
But what is wonderful about Mary Robinette Kowal beyond her writing is that she interacts with her fanbase and while still maintaining the proper author reader relationship she opens up her writing and her process to her readers, giving them a glimpse behind the curtain. In this day and age if an author wants to create a lasting impression on a reader and fortify her following they couldn't do better then to emulate Mary. Back in November I was beyond thrilled because for NaNoWriMo Mary was looking for Alpha readers for the fifth installment of The Glamourist Histories currently titled Of Noble Family. I was doing little dances of joy when I was approved, but more then that, because I had read the series all along Mary included a copy of the forth book, Valour and Vanity. She sent me the email on November 14th and by November 17th I had already devoured every single line. I didn't think that she could surpass my love of Glamour in Glass, which is the second book in the series and my number one read of 2012, but I think she might have. The only problem I faced was that getting to read the next book, Of Noble Family, in installments wouldn't really work for my voracious appetite. So, showing amazing fortitude, if I do say so myself, I waited until the start of the Beta read and over another long weekend I took it all in.
So why you're asking am I so enamoured of these books? Aside from the fact that I love anything Regency and Mary captures the feeling of the time period by sprinkling in historic details without inundating us with information, she has created a world where the magic just works. I'm not talking about works as in you say a spell and wow a light goes on, or even that it's successful in that something magical happens, I'm saying in the way she has created how magic is done just makes sense. The way magic resides in the ether out of the visible range and is brought forth and woven into something visible, either temporary or lasting, just works, it makes sense. Not just that, but as an artist myself, the way you think creatively, the way work takes a toll on you physically and mentally, Mary just nails it. There is such a simpatico going on between me and Jane with our feelings and our physical beings that I am right there with her every step of the way. While yes, there is this part of me going, Jane is me, there's a happier part of me going Jane is Jane. In the previous book, Without a Summer, I felt that Jane's voice was lost a little. She became more wishy-washy. She was constantly in doubt and lacked a spine. Here she doesn't just have a spine, she has spine enough for both her and Vincent, supporting them through their trials and hardships, making plans, taking names, befriending nuns, it's just perfect.
Speaking of those nuns... they are just one of the many aspects that made this book so awesome. The blurbs comparing this new installment to Ocean's Eleven aren't wrong. Only I would personally choose Ocean's Twelve, having seen it twice in theatres it's a better movie for many reasons; it has an awesome soundtrack, has a part in Italy, has an amazing Chachi joke, makes more fun of itself with meta humor, and has Eddie Izzard. Here we have glamourists, nuns, pirates, puppet shows, disguises, the Eleventh Doctor, breaking and entering, there is just so much awesome that it's hard to pinpoint what makes it work so well unless you count the fact that everything works so seamlessly together. The thing is you don't really think of heists starting before this past century. Sure their were pirates and brigands and all number of baddies who did all number of innumerable nasty things, but the heist feels like a more modern invention. In fact the definition of heist shows the word being an Americanism from the twenties and even references cars to define it. Aside from Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery, while being Victorian in conceit, but still very much a product of the seventies, I can't think of a successful book that combines a 19th century setting with an elaborate heist. For this alone Valour and Vanity should be held extraordinary and a must read, if not for every other reason I mentioned. Oh, and of course, me being a pusher for this series. Go on! You know you want to read it......more
Iris and Panda are sadly separated, but despite the time and distance between them they are keeping in touch until the happy day when Panda is back aboard the Celestial Omnibus. While Iris has her bus and is in the far flung reaches of the galaxy, Panda has been more Earth bound going to parties with Ngaio Marsh and spending Christmas aboard an ill-fated star cruiser. Yet they both miss each other so much that Iris aligns herself with a robot version of Panda, Pand R, and Panda goes off exploring the galaxy with an older, sexier, but bleaker version of Iris. Sadly for us readers, once they do reunite we will never get to read anymore of their fabulous correspondence.
I have always been a sucker for the epistolary novel. The nature of reading someone else's correspondence is illuminating and also slightly thrilling, like it's something you're not supposed to read. Fact or fiction, this device gets me every time. I always wonder what it would have been like if Jane Austen had kept Sense and Sensibility in her original epistolary form... ah, what I wouldn't give to have read that version as well. The most famous and one of my most favorite examples is Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road. In her correspondence with Frank Doel she created an instant classic, a classic that Paul and I are very much a fan of. In fact Paul wrote an homage, if you will, to Helene in his book 666 Charing Cross Road. He perfectly captured her and her voice, though never actually writing in the epistolary form. It has to be said that his foray finally into this style is an unequivocal success. This is Paul's personal epistolary tribute to Doctor Who with Panda and Iris poking fun at and saying all the snide asides we have all voiced from time to time but in the end come from a place of love. From Wildthyme with Love is a snorting good time, literally.
Speaking of snorting... let's talk about the literal LOL, the laugh out loud. If you are lucky you have a good sense of humor. You know what's funny and what isn't and you take joy in sharing a joke and laughing. Yet there are many forms of laughter. There is of course the unexpected laughter where you're out in public and you try to contain it because you don't want to draw attention to yourself, here I will add a note that perhaps it's not best to watch How I Met Your Mother on a treadmill at the gym because, well, this will happen quite frequently. There's the slow build laughter the leads to painful clutching of sides and perhaps falling off furniture, this usually requires other people, usually close friends to help induce and sustain this state. There's just the quick bark or smile you get while watching television, which is probably the most common. But there is a rare laugh... the embarrassing kind that I find to be the truest form of laughter.
When reading I rarely laugh out loud, there's usually a small knowing smile that I get, but beyond that, no verbalization. So when I say that From Wildthyme with Love actually had be doing my most embarrassing snort laugh... you can be guaranteed of the humor. The snort laugh is so guttural and also mildly offensive, that it comes from deep within you and can not be contained. If others are present, you will be red with embarrassment. The fact that I did it more then once... yeah, this book's a keeper. Almost everything in this book is a laugh out loud joke and if I were to highlight all my favorites, well, the whole book would be highlighted if I did each one. In fact, because I just had the word doc that Paul sent me I had to order a copy for my shelves because I knew that without this book proudly displayed my shelves wouldn't be quite the library they would be otherwise.
So what was it that made me snort? Well, Panda and his rather disastrous Christmas back in 2007. In his letter to Iris he said:
"You've missed Christmas. I went off and spent it on a cruise liner. Turned out we were traveling through bloody space! I met a nice girl serving drinks who looked a bit like that one off 'Neighbors'... I wasn't quite sure what was going on at that point - something about angels chasing after us and I almost spilled my drink walking a tightrope over a bloody inferno."
This succinct and cynical take on the David Tennant/Kylie Minogue Doctor Who episode "Voyage of the Damned" captures everything odd and wrong about the episode but never goes so far as to condemn it. This whole book is an ode to The Doctor and his fifty years. There is real love from Iris. There is love for the camp and the crazy, the stunt casting and the multiple bickering Doctors. Having just recently watched "The Three Doctors" I was loving Panda's recap of his own personal "Three Pandas" experience:
"There are two other Panda's here! One is much younger and far more frivolous than I, and the other seems to be terribly old and venerable. He didn't even make it through the Event Horizon or whatever, and we can only see him on Skype, thank goodness. Looks like he might smell of wee, TBH."
With loving jabs at everything from lost footage to negotiating with an over-sized scrotum (I call him penis face, but to each his own), to the "penultimate question," to a hilarious party where Panda messes with Ngaio Marsh saying that in the future nobody knows who Agatha Christie is but was later interrupted by a giant wasp, from the Hartnell years up to the present series, each and every joke and insight made me want to just embrace this slim volume and never let it go! Also, this book with a nod and a wink brings up the fact that, just perhaps, The Doctor has been taking all of Iris's best stories and claiming them as his own...
This book gave me faith in the show again. This past season with Matt Smith where I kept feeling that the material never lived up to the potential was nicely recapped as "I think she's got her knickers in a twist recently because of the convoluted story arc she's muddled up in. Feeling a bit mithered as a result." After reading and living life as a full time Whovian for the past few weeks I was feeling the same, I was flagging there, but this book brought me back. It refreshed me and made me so happy, which I have to say, some days that's a hard thing to do. If you aren't a Doctor Who fan... and I do know you're out there, will you be able to enjoy this book? Hell yes, even if you don't get all the context, the content is beyond a doubt hysterical. With Pand R being like an annoying Scrappy Doo and little jokes about Philippa Gregory, it does work outside the sphere of Doctor Who. From Wildthyme with Love is wonderfully funny, snarky, and just lovely....more
Harriet is returning to Buckshaw. Buckshaw, the home of the de Luce's for not much longer as it is to be sold. With Harriet comes all the other de LucHarriet is returning to Buckshaw. Buckshaw, the home of the de Luce's for not much longer as it is to be sold. With Harriet comes all the other de Luce's. Cousins young and old that Flavia has never met. Considering Flavia doesn't get along with her own siblings, she doesn't hold out much hope for this lot either. But having the family returning and seeing each other for the first time in years means that things that have been buried, old family secrets, rivalries, bodies, including that new one under the train who whispered to Flavia before his demise, all of it could be unearthed by a skilled sleuth who has had a little practice, which she would easily say and even crow about if it didn't annoy the others so much. Flavia is sure something is afoot, and she will figure it out and play God if she is given half a chance.
Originally the Flavia de Luce series was to end with The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. Luckily, we fans of the series won't have to result to weeping and wailing, pulling out hair and gnashing our teeth because Alan Bradley's contract was extended to include two more books. Sweet relief! Yet there is a nice sense of closure in The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. We get the denouement he had originally planned to be the culmination of the series, which ends with just the right note and doesn't go in for unrealistic surprises, but we also get a glimpse into what Flavia's future will hold and where the books will go from here.
With the fate of Buckshaw decided and the mystery of Harriet resolved, we get the closure that both us as readers and Flavia as our favorite little precocious poisoner have needed since The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Yet just having all the strings tied together and handed to us in a neat little bow, while giving us closure, wouldn't have given us the depth and intrigue we have come to expect in Bradley's books. Bradley shows us this world of spies and secrets that has always been there, lurking beneath the surface, but never obvious enough to spoil the big reveal. A family as intelligent and as well connected as the de Luce's would be a perfect fit to become government agents, Flavia's governess was teaching her substitution cyphers at a rather young age as it happens. Why else would Winston Churchill show up at Buckshaw for Harriet's return and tell Flavia the cryptic phrases "Pheasant Sandwiches." The book was just delicious with secrets and spies and it made me feel like I was watching the perfection of the first season of The Hour, where you don't know where anyone stands and in a moment your whole world will be upset. In fact, Flavia's world is about to be turned upside down.
While The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches feels like we have reached some sort of endgame, by bringing in the spies and the fact that the Cold War is just beginning in 1951, it feels as if Bradley is securing the longevity of the series by switching gears. Old plots have been wrapped up in order to start anew. By showing the true history of the de Luce's Bradley is setting Flavia center stage for the Cold War. Her genius and her penchant for solving crimes is exactly the kind of genius needed to fight the fight that is to come. Because of all these revelations we see that Flavia herself has changed. She has grown and matured. She realizes that her sisters taunts and jabs were not because she wasn't one of them, but because she was the most like the rest. Daffy and Feely were really the odd ducks out all along. Flavia is the one to carry on the family legacy into this new era.
All this soul searching and revelations make The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches a more intimate novel then in past. While it is the world outside that is at risk, it is what happens within the family, within Flavia, that matters most. There is a shift in Flavia, she is growing up and being able to see herself and her actions from the point of view of others. This insight turns her world on it's head. The way Flavia is even written has changed subtly. For the first time I can remember she makes references to the future and speaks as if what is happening is not in the present but that she is looking back. I will be sad to see this old Flavia go, but I am excited to continue on this journey with her. Though for those who might miss her precocious ways, the introduction of Undine might be a palliative... that's if she doesn't turn into the cousin Oliver of the series. ...more
Jerry Challenor is driving slowly to London. Taking the sleepy back roads and obscure thoroughfares. He is in no hurry, so when he sees an attractive girl alight from a bus with a large burden, he offers her a ride home. She lives at the White Cottage, which is very close at hand. After he drops the girl off he notices that the weather is in for a change and he stops to put the roof up on his convertible and gets to chatting to the local policeman. While relaxing by the side of the road the two men hear the report of a gunshot. They rush to the White Cottage, but someone is dead.
As it happens, Jerry's father is the famous Detective Chief Inspector W.T. Challenor, and Jerry calls him in to handle this mysterious murder. The victim is one Eric Crowther who lived next to the White Cottage in the grey monstrosity, the Dene. No one morns his passing. Every single person who knew him wanted him dead and everyone in the house had means and motive. The shotgun that did the deed was in the corner of the dining room, so anyone could have wandered in and blown him away. For personal reasons Jerry hopes fervently that it is not Norah, the attractive girl he gave a lift to. W.T. is baffled. He could easily arrest anyone in the house with circumstantial evidence, but it's the truth he wants. With Jerry in tow, W.T. heads to the continent and tracks down every lead he can think of... but will he ever make an arrest?
Someone at the BBC needs to make this into a movie right now! This would make a wonderful adaptation, much in the vein of the recent retelling of The Lady Vanishes with Tuppence Middleton. I'm picturing Laurence Fox as the lovestruck son Jerry and his real life father, James Fox, for W.T. Challenor. Perhaps Jenna-Louise Coleman as Norah? I'm telling you, it would be awesome. There was just something so fresh and vital about this story that I can see it appealing to anyone with a love of British period dramas and murder mysteries.
After having rather a rocky go of it with Dorothy L. Sayers, I was starting to become a little leery of my "Golden Summer" scheme. What if all these other hallowed authors where of the same ilk? Great as precursors, as proto-mysteries, as a jumping off point for later authors, but lacking that something that made them timeless and a great read till this day (Agatha Christie is exempt from these thoughts because she is awesome). What if the "Golden Age" wasn't really that golden? Thankfully The White Cottage Mystery has changed my mind and just hardened my heart to Dorothy L. Sayers. Unlike Sayers who fills her books with nonsense and ramblings, there was something so clean and spare to Margery Allingham's book that I wanted to give her book a great big hug. Not literally, because I think that might shatter my Kindle. No nonsense, no fluff, just a great whodunit that reminded me on more then one occasion of the great short stories that Daphne Du Maurier is known for. The style and turn of phrase, not to mention the setting were reminiscent of Du Maurier. And trust me, this is a true compliment from me if I'm comparing Allingham to Du Maurier.
Like Du Maurier and her obsession with the Brontes, Margery Allingham has created in Eric Crowther a character with some very interesting Bronte overtones. It's almost as if Allingham wanted to create a character as psychologically manipulative, hostile, and threatening as Heathcliff and then gleefully kill him. The fact that Crowther, through his machinations and games, is able to keep not only good people in line, but evil degenerates, shows the force of his character. He is an evil man and I echo the sentiments of Jerry that perhaps his death was an "act of God." As for the murderer... well... wait till you get to the final chapter of this lean mean mystery. My faith has been restored by this "act of God" and I will now pick up the first Campion mystery, not with cringing hands, but with a joyful song in my heart....more