Our hero,the Warden,is a scarred man,inside and out,however,he’s carved out a niche for himself in Low Town,dealing drugs and enjoying a certain shabby comfort under the watchful eye of his friend Adolphus and his doting wife. The Warden has a past in law enforcement,but one mistake cost him that career,so now he gets by the best he can. When he comes upon the body of a little girl,murdered and left for dead in the street,he finds himself sucked in to a diabolical evil,and compelled to find the person,or thing,responsible for her death. Unfortunately,her death won’t be the only one… Aided by a street urchin named Wren,his friends on the street,and even some friends in high places,the Warden will have to track down a man that won’t hesitate to use magic for murder.
I really,really enjoyed Low Town. There were none of the growing pains that are sometimes present in first novels,and it reads like a crime thriller. However,Low Town is not of our world. Daniel Polansky took our world,twisted it in on itself,steeped it in magic and set it loose. The effect is nothing short of dazzling. You’ll meet underworld criminals,petty thieves,street kids,prostitutes with unearthly beauty,and creatures only found in nightmares. Low Town is fast paced,gritty,with plenty of action to satisfy any crime/thriller fan,and more than enough magic to make fantasy fans equally happy. All this,and a twist that this jaded reader didn’t see coming,make Low Town a fantasy/noir treat that’s not to be missed!...more
Just when I thought dystopian might be getting a bit stale, I picked up Pure. Talk about a breath of fresh air! Well, the air in Pure is not all that fresh. In fact, outside of The Dome, it’s filled with ash and dust, the result of The Detonations a number of years earlier. There are a couple of theories (that correlate directly to inside/outside The Dome) as to how these detonations came about. Did someone else strike first? Did we? Or was it something far more sinister? Similar in tone to The Hunger Games (without the games, but with plenty of hunger), Pure presents a twisted, desolate landscape filled with creatures that defy the imagination. With this type of narrative, you expect the usual tropes; rogues out for blood, ragged children, broken families huddled together among the post-apocalyptic landscape, and dissidents with rebellion in mind. You get all of this with Pure, but the author has thrown a few extra things in the mix, which really made it stand out for me.
When The Detonations hit, the population got plenty of radiation, but with a little something…extra, thrown in. People were fused with whatever happened to be close during the meltdown, and nanobots kept them from dying of their wounds. So out of the ash came folks with parts of their cars, glass, metal, you name it, eternally entwined with them. People even fused with other people. Yep, you read that right. That’s not all. There are mutated creatures that rule the night (and sometimes the day), that will drag you down into the dust and devour you. Not a happy place. Pressia Belze is one of the luckier ones. She only has a doll head fused to her hand, and her grandfather has a fan blade in his neck that spins when he breathes. Things for Pressia and her grandfather are in sharp contrast to the sterile interior of The Dome, with its tightly controlled environment, designed for maximum containment, and maximum security. Partridge Willux is a Pure: unmarked, unscarred, protected. Yet, he’s been feeling that things are “off” for a while, that his father, one of those in charge of things inside the Dome, is up to no good and may have been lying to them all along. In this world, those would be considered “dangerous thoughts.” The denizens of the Dome, of course, have been spoon fed a certain rhetoric about those outside, and the “wretches” outside certainly have their own thoughts about the inhabitants of the Dome. Partridge wants to find his mother, who, in spite of what his father tells him, he suspects may be alive, and when he finally makes his escape from the Dome, he meets up with Pressia. Their futures are inexorably entwined, and during the search for Partridge’s mother, they will discover secrets that will cast light on their pasts, and have the power to change their futures. Unlikely alliances are made and loyalties are forged in their journey, and while Pure is certainly a postapocalyptic fantasy, it’s also very much about love, family, and the bonds that allow us to have hope beyond the point we think hope is possible. Lyrical, immediate, highly imaginative, and sometimes scathingly brutal, Pure is impossible to put down, and you won’t want to miss it!...more
After the events in Faithful Place, Dublin Murder Squad detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is ready for another big case, and he catches it in the form of two dead children, their father stabbed to death, and their mother also stabbed and in the hospital clinging to life. When Mick and his partner, the wet behind the ears Richie Curran, arrive at the house, it’s obvious right away that some things just don’t add up. The mother’s sister is hysterical at the scene, claiming she came to check on the family after she couldn’t get her on the phone. The door had to be broken down since two sturdy deadbolts were engaged, suggesting that either the husband or wife was responsible for the deaths. There are ragged holes in the walls of the house, belying the otherwise thoughtful and clean décor. If you’re a fan of Tana French’s, you already know that absolutely nothing in her novels is ever simple, and this case is no exception.
In Faithful Place, I came to mildly dislike Mick, but keep in mind, the viewpoint that he’s obnoxious, egotistical, and brash comes from a detective who he’s had some run ins with in the past, and you most definitely don’t get the full story about Kennedy. In Broken Harbor, told from his point of view, you get the full story, and frankly, while the terms “egotistical” and “brash” may apply, Kennedy is much more complex than these descriptions suggest. When this case is handed to Kennedy, he chooses a rookie partner that shows promise, and they seem to make a great team. Kennedy loves the chance to teach what he knows, and if Richie’s a little rough around the edges, he has a way with talking to witnesses and Kennedy is confident he’ll be a great detective. As Kennedy comes to the realization that this case may be way more than he bargained for, we get insight into his own background and a tragic history that involves Broken Harbor. For Kennedy, work doesn’t stop until the case is solved, and there is no such thing as overtime, but although he doesn’t have a wife and children at home, he does have a mentally unstable younger sister to contend with, and her manipulative ways could throw a huge wrench into what has become a complex and very sensitive case.
As usual, with most of Tana French’s novels, I thought I knew where the case was going in the beginning, but I was dead wrong. What Ms. French does best is family secrets, tragedy, and labyrinthine stories immediately grab you by the neck, and the heart, and don’t let go. The seemingly perfect family in question are not what they seem, and Kennedy must dig through layers of misdirection and seemingly contrary evidence to get to the bottom of what really happened the night the Spain children and their father were killed, and brought Jenny Spain so close to death. Things aren’t always as they seem, and the crumbling oceanfront neighborhood that once offered such promise to one young family is a metaphor for the decay that can linger so close to the surface, and by the time anyone notices, it’s too late. I’m a huge fan of Tana French’s, and she gets better and better with each novel. Wonderfully written, with just the right amount of dread, mystery fans can’t go wrong with this superb series. You’ll want to grab the hankies for this one, though. Highly recommended!...more
Agnes Magnúsdóttir has been convicted of taking part in the brutal murder of two men, Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson, along with Sigrídur (Sigga) Gudmundsdóttir and Fridrik Sigurdsson. Agnes is sent to northern Iceland to stay with a family until her execution can be carried out, and Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes’s time with this family, and is interspersed with her first person narrative of the events leading up to the crime in question. When she arrives at the farmhouse of Kornsá, she is met with wariness, especially from Lauga, one of two young sisters, and Margrét, their mother. Their father, Jón, is mostly indifferent to her presence, accepting that it’s his responsibility as a town official, but Lauga’s sister, Steina, is fascinated with Agnes and she recognizes her from an encounter from when the girls were much younger, in which Agnes showed them a small act of kindness. Steina just can’t believe that this quiet, melancholy woman could be guilty of the crimes that she has been convicted of. Agnes has requested that a young priest, Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jónsson, or Tóti, be her spiritual guardian until the time of her execution, and it isn’t forgiveness that she seeks, but something else entirely.
Burial Rites is Hannah Kent’s first novel, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from the confident voice of Agnes to the gorgeous, meticulous descriptions of Icelandic farm life in the mid-1800s. It’s also based on a true story, which makes it all the more devastating, and indeed, many of the “official” documents that accompany the narrative have been adapted from original sources . I loved everything about this book, but my favorite parts were Agnes’s first person accounts of her time with Natan, and their relationship, which was passionate, fraught, and eventually, for Agnes, an obsession. Did Agnes’s obsession lead to murder? I’ll leave that for you to find out, but her guilt or innocence is not the point. Burial Rites is the portrait of a woman who has always been an outsider, an orphan from a young age, and the eventual acceptance of her as part of the family that takes her in, and comes to care for her, during the days leading up to her execution. This is a lovely and haunting novel, and one that will stay with you long after you read the final page....more
In Hammered, we rejoin our intrepid hero, Atticus, as he attempts to steal a golden apple for Laksha Kulasekaran, an Indian witch that helped him out during a particularly nasty fight. You’d think riding a giant squirrel named Ratatosk up Yggdrasil (the World Tree), to get to Asgard would be super easy right? I mean, surely the Norns, physical manifestations of fate, that are waiting for Atticus will welcome him with big smiles and a golden apple, right? Riiiiight. Well, of course that’s not what happened, but to tell you would be to ruin it. Suffice it to say, Atticus pisses off a few more powerful folks, which he really doesn’t need since he’s got to help his Viking Vamp lawyer kill Thor. Yep, THE Thor. I love,love, love this series, and Hammered is the best so far. Let’s see, there are giant squirrels, frost giants, Jesus (yeah, Atticus hangs with Jesus, ok?), the Hammers of God (remember those guys?), Valkyries, giant boars, and of course, our beloved Oberon, Irish Wolfhound of awesomeness. We also learn more about how and when Leif was made vampire, and Atticus also tells about the wife he loved for 200 years. Morrigan shows up briefly in Hammered, and I always enjoy encounters between her and Atticus. She beats up on him so much it reminds me of that faery on Scrooged that bitch slapped Bill Murray around, except Morrigan isn’t nearly as jolly. The author’s trademark sarcasm is in fine form here, and there’s a particularly fun scene where Atticus likens Captain Kirk and Spock to the proverbial angel and demon on his shoulder. Hey, Atticus has to run a lot in this one, and he’s got to entertain himself somehow. There’s some game changers in this one though, especially since Atticus decides that it would be best to take his apprentice and Oberon, and get the hell out of Dodge (well, Arizona.) Things are getting way too hot in his kitchen and it’s time to start anew. You’ll be turning pages in warp speed until the final battle, then you won’t be able to turn them fast enough. I have to warn you, though, the ending will leave you with your jaw on the floor. If you haven’t discovered this series yet, run to the bookstore and grab ‘em all, like, now! Mr. Hearne just broke the news that at least 3 more are in the pipeline, and if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, or just a fan of excellent urban fantasy with some of the best writing in the biz, this is the series for you....more
In Venice, a woman’s body, clothed in the robes of a Catholic priest, washes up during one of the city’s regular bouts of flooding. She’s been shot in the head twice, and mysterious tattoos point to possible occult involvement. Detective-Colonel Aldo Piola is at the scene along with his new partner, Captain Kat Tapo. She’s about to experience her first murder investigation. She admires Piola a great deal, and is eager to impress him, but her first case might be more than a straightforward murder.
Meanwhile, at the Caserma Ederle American army base, Second Lieutenant Holly Boland receives a request for information from a woman named Barbara Holton, who’s interested in atrocities committed during Operation Storm during the break-up of Yugoslavia. As Holly looks into the request, she finds information that could paint the Army in a very bad light.
Meanwhile, Piola and Tapo continue their investigation which leads them to a website called Carnivia, a virtual reconstruction of Venice. Its creator, Daniele Barbo, has just been convicted of breaking internet privacy laws by not allowing the government access to Carnivia’s user data, and is awaiting sentencing. Barbo is a genius who was kidnapped as a child. He was left disfigured and is now a recluse, unable to connect with others.
The story becomes more intricate as Piola and Tapo come into contact with various police authorities with jurisdiction in Venice – the Polizia di Stato (answering to the Interior Ministry), and the Carabinieri (part of the Ministry of Defense). There seems to be mistrust of the law on all sides, and within its own bodies in Italy, but they follow the clues and as more bodies start piling up there appears to be a link to the US military.
Upon receiving this news, the powers that attempt to cripple the investigation. Piola feels that organised crime is taking over Venice, and Tapo is inclined to agree but she wants to fight the good fight and strike out on her own to solve the crime. Further complicating matters, Kat Tapo is increasingly attracted to her boss even though he’s married, and is her superior. Some impulses are impossible to ignore, even if giving in to them could mean disaster.
In parallel, Holly Boland continues her investigation and is horrified at what she learns of Operation Storm and atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian conflict. Eventually she comes into contact with Tepo’s investigation and the IT wizard Daniele Barbo. They all team up – with explosive results.
The Abomination is the first in the Carnivia trilogy and is a fantastic debut for English author Jonathan Holt. Kat Tapo is determined, strong, and very good at her job while Holly Boland is loyal to the US Army, and her home country. However, after a childhood spent in Italy with her well-known father, she’s glad to be back in a country she also loves and is determined to do the right thing. When Holly and Kat ask for Daniele Barbo’s help, the disfigured man at last gets the opportunity to connect with other people in a meaningful way.
What unfolds is a fascinating murder mystery involving war crimes, conspiracy, human trafficking and an intriguing virtual reality world where secrets are traded. The traditions of the past meet with the technology of the future. The two very strong and smart female characters are great, but attention is required throughout since the plot has many layers to it. Its conclusion will absolutely have you on the edge of your seat....more
The darkness is nearly all encompassing in Robin Wasserman’s latest, THE WAKING DARK. Oleander, Kansas is a very small town, considered quaint by its older residents (and some young ones), but for most of its younger set, it’s a place to escape once they come of age. Unfortunately, the time for escape is coming to an end, and it starts with the killing day. On the killing day, people that seemed sane snap and kill anyone that gets in there way, then themselves, except for one, a girl named Cass. Soon after, a tornado ravages Oleander and among the ruins, the town spirals further out of control, and when military forces move in, five teens will find the survival of Oleander on their shoulders, if they can survive the coming days. Juliet (Jule) Prevette is from the wrong side of the tracks, and part of a family that makes its living producing meth. Violence is nothing new to Jule, but it’s nothing compared to what’s in store. Jeremiah West is on the football team, popular and well liked, but he’s got a secret, and carries despair like a torch after witnessing his friend Nick’s death on the killing day. Daniel’s father is the town drunk and the only thing that really gives him joy is his younger half-brother Milo, and they’ll need each other more than ever when the town goes to hell, and boy does it.
I’ll admit, I had this for a bit and didn’t get to it until Chuck Wendig named it in his Stuff Wot I Liked in 2013 post. Boy, he wasn’t kiddin’. Wasserman’s small town vision is like something out of a Bosch painting and has been compared to Stephen King’s work. I have to agree on that one. In fact, it calls to mind Under the Dome, but with teens for the main characters and minus the aliens. That said, the comparisons are of the best kind, and this is uniquely Wasserman’s story. These teens are connected, but they’re not necessarily friends, and when the shite hits the fan, they have to trust each other, even if they never would have in their former lives. The adults in The Waking Dark behave very, very badly, and indeed, one of the scariest thing in a young person’s life is if the ones they are supposed to rely on the most become the enemy. Now, there is a reason behind this mess, and revealing what that is would be spoiling part of the fun, but Wasserman very slyly explores what it might be like to become completely morally untethered, and it is a nightmarish exploration. I grew quite fond of all the kids, but my favorite is Jule, who pretty much everyone would forgive if she went completely into the dark, but she doesn’t, and that makes her pretty special. Her family is right out of Deliverance, and the horrors of meth addiction are trumpeted loud and clear, as are her life of violence and neglect. Part survival horror, part psychological dissection of small town life, and part unflinching scare-fest, THE WAKING DARK is unmissable for mature teens and adults looking for scares that rise far above the usual fare....more
The Rook was another pleasant surprise for me this year. When I started, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but very quickly became absorbed in Myfanwy’s story. It gets off to a fairly creepy start with Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas coming to, in a park in London, surrounded by a gaggle of dead bodies wearing latex gloves. Intriguing, yes? Oh yes. Soon Myfanwy realizes she’s part of a super secret organization called the Chequy that has been put in place to protect the unsuspecting public from supernatural baddies. Wait, did I mention she’s lost her memory? Good thing her former self, going on premonitions from more than one individual, has left her prepared by way of a rather thorough binder full of info, to notes left in every jacket pocket. This sets up pretty well who Myfanwy Thomas was before she lost her memory: very organized, dependable, and, oh look!, she’s also a Rook. A Rook’s status is important, and she also realizes that she has some very special powers…
The Rook goes back in forth between events as they happen, and the notes and info that Myfanwy left for herself, so you get to know the former Myfanwy, as well as the current Myfanwy, who turns out to be not near as much of a wallflower as she was before. It provides a great contrast, and you’ll find yourself turning pages very quickly, since the author uses this method to tease the reader. Just when something not-so-good is about to happen, the book will go to a bit of related history that Myfanwy has written that’s somehow connected to the ongoing events and we also get to know many of her supporting cast this way. So, we have Myfanwy trying to acclimate herself back into the Chequy, coming to terms with her new self, and also trying to solve the mystery of just who it is that wants her dead. Then there are the Grafters¸ an ancient, evil organization that takes Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments to a whole, other, terrifying new level. The Rook has a bit of everything, from a secret Estate (school) that procures children with special “talents” for inclusion in the Chequy, members with many different and fascinating talents, like the Gestalt, which is four bodies that share one mind (creepy, yes?), Myfanwy’s intrepid secretary, Ingrid, who she would be lost without, Eldritch horrors menacing the public at every turn (tentacles! fungus!), a sexy vampire operative and ever so much more! I could write pages about all the cool, paranormal awesomeness in this book, but that would take away the fun, yes? Dry, wry, British wit is ever present and I found myself chuckling almost as much as I cringed (and you will cringe). The author has built a rich, fascinating world populated with characters that stretched the limits of my imagination in a wonderful way. I found myself sad to see this one end and will keep my fingers crossed for more. Can’t wait to see what else Daniel O’Malley has up his sleeve!...more
I picked up Darkfever at the urging of my partner in crime, Chelsea, of Vampire Book Club, and I’m really glad I did! I loved how the author took a rather annoying, somewhat spoiled Georgia peach and threw her into a situation that forced her to put on her big girl panties really, really quickly. Jericho Barrons’ Dublin is not the charmed southern life MacKayla “Mac” Lane is used to at all, and she’s forced to make some pretty nasty discoveries fairly soon after arriving to investigate the brutal death of her older sister. I’ll be honest, Mac kinda got on my nerves in the beginning. She talks about how pretty and well put together she is…a lot, and I wanted to give her a firm smack and maybe give that blond ponytail a good, hard yank, but I digress. That’s who she is at the start of the story; coddled, every need met by her parents, and not a care in the world. When she finds out about the death of her sister, however, that safe, soft world is shattered, and she’ll do anything to get to the bottom of things.
Going all the way to Dublin, without the blessing of her parents, who are shattered, is pretty brave for someone like Mac. When she meets Jericho Barrons, and discovers exactly what lurks in the shadows, she has to reach deep inside herself to discover hidden strength that she never knew she had. The world of the fae is opened to her, and it’s most definitely NOT the stuff of fairytales. There are shades that linger in the shadows, waiting to devour hapless victims, creatures that feed off of human beauty, and fae that can even kill by sexing you up to much. Yep, death by sex. It’s enough to drive any self respecting southern girl insane. But Mac isn’t just any southern girl. She can see through fae glamour, and it’s an asset that some will kill to possess. She’s sensitive to a book that Barrons will do anything to get his hands on, and if he has to use her a little bit to get to it, then so be it. Arrogant, painfully handsome, and for Mac, incessantly annoying, she finds herself an unwitting pawn in a game she’s only beginning to understand. Darkfever was a really good start to what I know is going to be quite a ride. Bring on the Darkness....more
Cass Dollar is lost and afraid, in a zombie wasteland. After waking up with her hair pulled out, skin flayed and raw, and at a loss as to where she is, she wanders the ruins until she comes across a young girl with a knife. This girl will lead her to a shelter, on of the last human outposts after bioterrorists have decimated the world, and left diseased, skin eating zombies, roaming and devouring. At the shelter she meets Smoke, and he offers to accompany her to find her young daughter, who was lost when Cass was attacked. What comes next is a harrowing journey to find her child, and her battle with the demons within herself.
Yes, Aftertime has zombies. Shambling, flesh-eating, rotting zombies. However, this is not a book about zombies. It’s a book about a broken woman’s journey to redemption. Cass is at once tough and resourceful, yet so raw and tangled inside. A recovering alcoholic, once using her body to quiet the despair within her, Cass must gather her wits in order to get back the one thing that means everything to her: her daughter.
Beautifully written, and emotionally wrenching, Aftertime is a post apocalyptic novel of despair, courage, and redemption that you won’t want to miss. I was riveted until the very last page!...more
When Daniel’s parents, Tilde and Chris, moved from London to Sweden, Daniel believed that they were ending a long period of hard work, but work that was lucrative enough to afford them a comfortable semi retirement in a sprawling old farmhouse. It’s been three years since his parents left for Sweden and Daniel has been putting off a visit, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to see his parents. In fact, he loves his parents dearly, and only remembers a childhood filled with light and laughter. If his parents fought, he never saw it. So, in a shocking turn of events, he gets a call from his father, claiming his mother has been committed to a mental hospital. Shortly after that, his mother calls, informing him that she’s on a flight to England, having convinced the doctors at the hospital that she was of sound mind. She’s also sure that Daniel’s father is a part of a terrible conspiracy against her. What follows is a laying bare of secrets so shocking that Daniel is forced to rethink everything he ever thought he knew of his parents.
The Farm is Tom Rob Smith’s fourth novel and his first standalone after his Child 44 trilogy, and it’s a keeper. Tilde tells her story to Daniel using a series of items she’s collected as evidence and is determined to tell it in a logical, orderly way, even as Daniel struggles not to jump to conclusions and also to listen with an open mind. The story Tilde weaves, of a rural Swedish community harboring terrible secrets, is quietly horrifying, and there’s always a sense of urgency, as she’s terrified that Daniel’s father will find her and try to take her back to the hospital. What’s so fascinating about Daniel is that he’s been keeping a secret too. It’s nothing near as explosive as Tilde’s, but it does have some bearing on his acceptance of Tilde’s disturbing tale, as does his love for her and of course a will to see justice done. Tilde’s narrative is orderly, concise, and certainly not the expected chaotic ramblings of a disordered mind. Her suspicion’s point to a shocking crime, however, and the sense of dread that is woven throughout, along with Tilde’s very real feelings of isolation and persecution, make for a claustrophobic, tense read. Are these the intricate fantasies of an insane woman, or something much more sinister? Don’t worry, you’ll get answers, and you may even be surprised. The Farm is a clever, meticulously structured psychological thriller, and I marveled at Smith’s skill in painting such an effective portrait of isolation and mischief of the most devious sort, hiding behind a facade of “community”. Don’t miss this one, thriller fans....more
Don’t expect a straightforward crime novel from What We’ve Lost is Nothing. In fact, this book is an examination of the 24 hours after the crime happens. Oak Park, Illinois is a lovely, posh neighborhood, and it butts right up against Chicago’s notorious west side. Ilois Lane is a peaceful, and some might say very ordinary street, but its inhabitants are anything but, and their stories are what make up the considerable meat of this novel that very effectively mines the undercurrents of our daily lives, and explores how isolated we can be from our neighbors. The McPherson’s daughter, 15 year old Mary Elizabeth, is under her family’s dining room table with her friend Sofia, getting high when the burglars hit her home in broad daylight. She’s not discovered, but she’s left to explain why she was skipping school and who she was skipping with. When they find out that her friend is Sofia, the daughter of Cambodian refugees, suspicion is immediately cast on them, especially since they seem to have had the least stolen among the residents. And just who, really, are the teen boys (supposedly Sofia’s cousins), with their loud music and bandannas, that spend quite a bit of time at Sofia’s home?
The McPhersons form a neighborhood watch group, of sorts, and of course the police are conducting their own investigation. We do get to know each of the residents that were burglarized, and how the aftermath of such an intrusive crime affects each one. There’s Étienne, a chef with a failing restaurant who claims he was in France at the time of the burglary but in truth, never went. There’s Arthur, who has hemeralopia, and who mourns the gradual loss of not only his sight, but also his independence, but takes comfort in the time Mary Elizabeth spends with him reading aloud. And of course, there’s Mary’s mom, Susan, who has been a crusader for melding the east side with their own idyllic community, but finds herself doubting everything she’s ever stood for, and Michael, Mary’s father, who feels oddly detached, not only from life, but from his own failings as a father and husband, and whose boiling anger would eventually consume him. And of course there is Mary Elizabeth, whose infatuation with bad-boy Caz will make any woman’s stomach clench that remembers what it was like to make that boy like you. And we can’t forget Sofia’s family, Cambodian refugees that rely largely on their daughter for social interaction, but will do anything in order for her to succeed and have a good life. They are a constant source of pride, love, and yes, embarrassment to Sofia, and some of their scenes are heartbreaking. Then there are Alicia and Dan. Alicia has a past of mental illness and has been coddled by her parents, even after marrying Dan, and feeling as if she’s not a participant in her own life, finds her carefully constructed world falling apart, bit by bit.
All of these lives come together explosively on Ilois Lane, and the pain and fear that the crime causes will coalesce into a miasma of mistrust and a kind of rage at their collective loss of control. Loss of control over their tidy lives, and the invisible boundaries that they mistakenly thought kept the bad things away. The narrative is sometimes uncomfortable, but ultimately, this is a book about hope, and how one event can be a catalyst for action and change, sometimes good, sometimes tragic.
Rachel Louise Snyder is an experienced journalist, and it shows with her eye for detail, and a compassionate, no nonsense touch. Her knowledge of Oak Park isn’t fictional either; she lived there right after college and experienced firsthand the efforts for integration and the positive effects of community activism. She also lived for a time in Cambodia so is able to give us particular insight on what it is like for refugees to live so outside of one’s true home and be the unfair subjects of suspicion and doubt. What We’ve Lost is Nothing is put together so well, that when the shocking ending comes, you may not know what hit you, but this is one book you’ll want to dive into and stay there, because it’s insidious, in the best way, and will stay with you long after you finish the last page....more
Shortly after the events of Wolfhound Century, Vissarion Lom and Maroussia Shaumian are on a tram headed into Mirgorod, battle weary and all too aware that they’re being pursued by Commander Lavrentina Chazia, chief of the Mirgorod Secret Police. Mirgorod is on the verge of war with the Archipelago, and they don’t have a chance against their vast armies, but for Chazia, that means an opportunity to remake the Vlast just as she wants, pure and united under her. Her patience is waning, however, and she’s convinced the Pollandore holds the keys to her success. But Chazia doesn’t know how to use the Pollandore, and she thinks that Maroussia Shaumian does. Chazia isn’t the only one after Maroussia, though. Josef Kantor wants her dead, and he plans on remaking himself anew. He has grand plans for Mirgorod and his capacity for hard work is inexhaustible, his desire for utter supplication unending, if it is to meet his goals. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from Mirgorod, there are diabolical machinations underway of apocalyptic proportions. In the forest, an Archangel is stirring, and it whispers to Josef Kantor, much to Chazia’s frustration, and she continues to use angel flesh on herself, in an attempt to connect to the ancient being, the only living angel, but every day, every minute, it drives her more and more insane.
I was blown away by Wolfhound Century, so does Truth and Fear measure up? Actually, it more than does, and as good as Wolfhound Century was, Truth and Fear is even better. Lom is a man whose only goal has become keeping Maroussia safe, and he’ll do that even at great, even grave, risk to himself. Luckily, he has an ally, in the form of a shapeshifter named Antoninu Florian who seems to have his own agenda, but proves more than useful in aiding the two fugitives. Maroussia is a young woman whose fate is entwined intimately with the Pollandore and believes it has the capacity to remake the Vlast into something good, not this burning mass of chaos and war that it currently is under the psychotic gaze of Chazia and Kantor.
When Maroussia is taken, Lom sets off with Florian to save her, and their harrowing journey will lead them to a glass city called Novaya Zima, and a violent, earth shattering conclusion that will change his destiny. In Truth and Fear, as in Wolfhound Century, Peter Higgins has created more than just a story. It’s an immersive, sensory experience, populated by giants, shapeshifters, earthy magic, and the power of ancient beings. Lom is a hero in the truest sense, in that he doesn’t see his actions as heroic, they just are, and they come as naturally to him as breathing. Prepare yourself for quite an ending, and the promise of more to come. The world-building is superb, and Higgins’s writing is, as usual, lyrical and sometimes brutal. I love this world, and I love these complicated, flawed, and utterly unique characters. I can’t wait to see what Peter Higgins gives us next....more
After Deacon Sorcha Faris' husband and partner, Kolya, is gravely injured after a devastating geist battle, she is paired with young Deacon Merrick Chambers. They are sent by the Arch Abbott to the village of Ulrich, where a geist infestation is devastating the villagers. Along for the journey is pretender to the throne, Raed Rossin, who carries a dark secret that has the power to kill, or possibly save, them all.
Geist was more pure fantasy than I'm used to, however, Philippa Ballantine has made it extremely accessible to this reader, and I suspect the same for fans of urban fantasy. There's a bit of everything in Geist: ghosts (lots of ghosts), sword fights, plenty of magic slinging, pirates, possessed sea creatures, and delicious romance! Great world building and intriguing characters round out a rich, entertaining read! I'll be eagerly awaiting Spectyr, the next installment in the series!...more
I love discovering new authors, and I especially love it when I discover one that will go on my autobuy. You know the feeling I’m talking about, where in the first few pages you know you’re really gonna like a book? That’s how I felt with Wide Open. Wide Open is Hallie Michaels’ story, and right away, you know you’re in for something unique. It begins when Hallie returns to South Dakota from Afghanistan to attend her sister Dell’s funeral. To hear the town tell it, Dell committed suicide, but Hallie knows better, and is determined to get to the bottom of it. With the help of her childhood friend, and Boyd, a sheriff’s deputy that has the same suspicions as Hallie, she’ll have to navigate some unusual, and possibly life threatening territory to find out the truth of her sister’s death. And there’s a storm coming…
Right away, the author plops you right down into the near stifling atmosphere of (rather stormy) small town South Dakota, and doesn’t let up on you. Hallie is a little more than normal, since she “died” in Afghanistan, was revived, and can now see ghosts on a near constant basis. One of them is Dell. The author manages to make the ghosts creepy and haunting without making them scary, and they’re not malicious, but they do want something of Hallie. She’s got 10 days to figure out what happened to her sister, and as it turns out, other women in the area that have gone missing. It may have something to do with Uku-Weber, and it’s founder Martin Weber, but Hallie’s not quite sure what. The company seemingly gets raves from the community, with its creation of new jobs and research into harnessing wind energy, but there’s something more diabolical going on, something involving magic, and possibly murder.
There are plenty of supernatural components in Wide Open for readers of fantasy, but the real magic lies in the characters. Hallie is moody and brittle much of the time, but we see her soften over the course of the novel, especially when it comes to Boyd. He’s determined to help Hallie, and she’s determined to push him away, and the almost-romance is actually kind of sweet (and it leaves plenty of good stuff for a next novel, maybe? Hopefully?) The writer’s staccato writing style served the story well, and her grasp on small town life is fascinating, plus there’s murder, magic, fire, and ghosts. How can you go wrong with that? Wide Open was a quick read for me, but that’s because I really didn’t want to put it down for long, and is a great debut fantasy. I have my fingers crossed for more Hallie and Boyd, but I’d be happy with anything from Deborah Coates. I urge you to give this one a try!...more
Wolf begins with a couple who have lost track of their young daughter while picking flowers in the woods. When they find her, she mentions a dog (it’s always a dog), and a man (it’s always a man), and of course the dog is injured and won’t she help the poor man with his dog? But it’s not what you think, and later, as she cuddles her teddy, Buttons, safe in the car with her parents, the little girl thinks about the words that were on a bit of paper attached to the dog’s collar: “Help us.”
64 year old Oliver Anchor-Ferrers has just been through surgery to replace his heart valves, and as he contemplates his wife, Matilda, and his adult daughter, Lucia, he also contemplates his own mortality. They’ve come to their beautiful Victorian home they’ve named The Turrets, high on a hill in the Mendips, so that Oliver can recover from his surgery. Lucia is brooding, as usual. It seems she’s never recovered fully since her ex-boyfriend was brutally murdered 14 years ago, not too far from The Turrets, actually, by a madman named Minnet Kable. When Matilda finds something near the house that calls to mind that long ago crime, she’s understandably terrified, and when two men show up, claiming to be police investigating the death of a nearby woman, all hell breaks loose in the Anchor-Ferrers household, calling up old crimes and new vendettas.
Meanwhile, DI Jack Caffery has gone off the wire to investigate the long ago disappearance of his brother Ewan that has haunted him for so very long. A new lead has come up, and The Walking Man seems to have valuable info, but it comes at a price. The Walking Man wants Caffery to look into something, and suddenly, Caffery has in his possession a little dog named Bear that has two little words written on its collar.
Mo Hayder’s thrillers are never anything less than superb, and Wolf was a one sitting read for me. The narrative alternates between the events in the Turrets and Caffery’s infuriating search for Bear’s owners, which will of course lead him to this family that needs his help so desperately. The Anchor-Ferrers are being held hostage in their own home, and their captors have a very specific motive, but they’re taking their time revealing it to Oliver and his family. Ultimate fear is their goal, and for this family, their ordeal is just getting started. The scenes in The Turrets are nothing short of terrifying, and Hayder builds the dread slowly and carefully, layering in important clues along the way. Who are these men and what do they want with this family? For Jack, will The Walking Man’s information finally lead him to his brother’s killer, and if so, will it offer the relief he so desperately needs from a lifetime of agony? This one has so many twists and turns it will give you whiplash, more than a few surprises, and it’s relentlessly clever. Hayder never makes her characters one dimensional, and this includes the bad guys, so be prepared for quite a tense ride. I can’t wait for the next Caffery book....more
Booze! Orgiastic simulated mass slaughter! More sex than you can shake a, er, stick at, and just about any way you want it! All of this and more can be found at the very adult playground of The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort. It’s here that Koko Martstellar can be found tending bar and tending her stable of boywhores, as well as enjoying the affection of her favorite, Archimedes. It’s an unorthodox life, but Koko is happy, and glad to be out of the mercenary for hire business. She’s abruptly yanked out of her island idyll when her bar is stormed by a band of ruthless killers, and they seem to be after one thing: Koko. Luckily, Koko hasn’t lost her touch, and she wipes the floor with this pack of predators, but not before racking up plenty of collateral damage. She’s also shocked to find out that the person that’s put out a hit on her is none other than her old mercenary comrade in arms, and, she thought, friend, Portia Delacompte. It’s time for Koko to say goodbye to her bar and run, and she does, with the help of an escape pod she built herself and has managed to keep hidden from her overseers at the CPB (Custom Pleasure Bureau.) Her pod takes her to the Second Free Zone, and eventually she makes her way to a residential barge called the Alaungpaya, and into the orbit of former security deputy Jedidiah Flynn. He could be the key to her survival, and she’s going to need all the help she can get, because a team of hitwomen have been set loose, and they’ve been ordered to terminate Koko once and for all.
You’ll most likely want to set aside a few uninterrupted hours for this one, because if you’re like me, once you start it, you’ll want to read it straight through. While on the run, Koko does indeed transform herself to look like the blue haired beauty on the cover, and if she looks tough, well, she is, but she’s also-and this may sound odd-pretty happy go lucky. She’s bewildered by the fact that her old friend seems bent on having Koko killed, but can’t think of why she would do that. The only thing that Koko can think of is an incident that happened quite a while back, but see, Koko is a loyal friend, and would never give up a secret she promised to keep, so you can see why she’s confused as to why Delacompte would be after her. Deeper motives aside, Koko has to stay alive, and luckily Flynn has a little time on his hands, at least until the next mass suicide event called Embrace. Flynn has been diagnosed with Depressus, a condition, he’s told, that has no cure, making suicide the only option. So, Flynn is a great boon to Koko, since his previous position in security gives him access to some areas that Koko never would have been able to penetrate.
Koko Takes a Holiday is pretty much run and gun from the get go, but Flynn’s condition, his and Koko’s blooming friendship on the fly, and of course, the secret behind Delacompte’s kill order on Koko, give it depth and elevates it above most SF adventure. The setting is 500 years in the future, and Shea does a great job conveying advanced tech and the “feel” of his far future without slowing down the narrative. I can tell you, Shea’s future is not one I’d want to be a part of. He hints at mass environmental devastation and of course, The Sixty Islands that people go to in order to participate in violent sex and simulated mass slaughter scenarios is really not a future that I find endearing. Maybe that’s what makes Koko so damn appealing though. She’s not a simple girl, but she takes pleasure from life, and from her work. She’s very much a doer, and rolls with the punches as they come, and boy do they. The action sequences are fantastic and fairly brutal at times. You really don’t want to know how warriors “mark” their kills. You just don’t *shudder*. That aside, Koko is a great foil for the dour Flynn and maybe she can give Flynn a much needed kick in the proverbial pants…
A bit on Koko’s pursuers: Shea does a great job at fleshing these gals out, and they’re larger than life and very, very scary. There’s one scene in particular where one of the bounty hunters, pretty much in the midst of pursuit, gets a call from her beloved… Eh, I don’t want to give it away, because it’s just so great, and made me laugh out loud. Also, Portia Delacompte makes for one of the most unsettling baddies that I’ve read in a long time. Can Koko and Flynn outrun some of the most brutal bounty hunters in the biz? Will Flynn give into Depressus and seek the final solution? And just why the hell is Delacompte really after Koko? Shea answers all of these questions and does it without any of the stutters that sometimes find their way into debut novels. Koko Takes a Holiday is a nonstop, bloody thrill ride with the all the subtlety of a rocket launcher, and I loved every minute of it. And the ending? Well, you’ll see-it’s a jawdropper. Kieran Shea will blow you away, promise. More Koko please!!...more
When Leslie meets Alex Twisden, it’s pretty much love at first site. 17 years her senior, Alex is everything Leslie wants in a man: successful lawyer, wants a family, and absolutely adores Leslie. Leslie is quite capable on her own, working for an up and coming children’s publisher, and quite frankly, she’d have married Alex if he was cab driver (or other such blue collar profession.) But he’s not, and they’re deliriously happy, comfortable in the luxury of Alex’s family brownstone, with portraits of his ancestors looking down on the hopeful lovebirds. Only one thing is missing from Alex and Leslie’s bliss: a baby. After countless fertility treatments, medical tests, and ultimately, numerous forms of quackery, “guaranteed” to increase fertility and give them the child they so desperately want, they turn to Dr. Kis, a supposed miracle worker in Slovenia. He is recommended by a neighbor and lawyer that, in exchange for information about the doctor that resulted in his wife’s pregnancy, demands to be given a job at Alex’s firm. Alex acquiesces, and learns about Dr. Kis, who supposedly performs miracles of fertility on his patients. When Alex pitches the idea to Leslie, she’s less than thrilled, having tired of the endless stress and strain put on their marriage by their efforts to conceive. She realizes how important this is to Alex, though, and agrees to go, after extracting a promise that this will be the last effort. So, the couple makes the journey to Slovenia, to the office of the strange, abrupt Dr. Kis, where a slavering pit bull stands guard, and where, little do they know, they’re about to undergo a very painful procedure. Said procedure surely achieves what Dr. Kris promised, but at what price? Turns out, it’s a big one. Huge. Soon the couple begins undergoing some terrifying changes, and by the time the twins are born (early), their lives have already become very different.
Cut to 10 years later: The Twisden house is in decline, falling to ruins, and twins Adam and Alice are kept to a very strict schedule. Dreaded are the nightly dinners where they watch their parents consume meat so rare that it’s blue and swimming in a puddle of blood (what Alex and Leslie call “gravy”). They are locked in their room on a nightly basis, and the noises that come from their parent’s room (of which Adam hears through a purloined baby monitor) are terrifying. The twins are loved, however, and Alex and Leslie haven’t harmed a hair on their heads…yet.
Adam is convinced that his parents are going to kill them, and is determined to take his sister and escape. He runs to a trusted teacher first, but his parents prove to be talented trackers, and he doesn’t remain hidden for long. Meanwhile, Alice has met a group of feral kids in Central Park that will reveal much more about their condition and what their parents may be becoming.
At first blush, Breed is pure horror, but it’s the author’s wry observations on elitist society and also Alex and Leslie’s slow loss of humanity that elevates this to something much more. Alex and Leslie adore their children, but cannot fight the changes taking place within them, and their struggle against those changes (in particular Leslie), is heartbreaking, and horrifying. The author turns the creep factor up to about 11, and it’s the first time in a while that after putting the book down, I may have been a little afraid of the dark for a few nights. By turns very scary, and heart wrenching, Breed will take you for a ride you’ll never forget, all the way to its shocking conclusion....more
Their little house in Georgia is crumbling around them, and they’re in desperate need of a new car, but for the most part, family life for Jack Winter and his wife, Aimee, is happy. They have two beautiful little girls, Abby and Charlie, and even if there’s a bit of tension when Jack goes to New Orleans to play gigs with his band, they’ve always gotten through it. Does it really matter that Jack can’t really remember his childhood before the day he ran away from home? Well, it might, because a darkness seems to be seeping into their happy little home. Things seem to start after Jack sees a pair of eyes in the road when driving with his family late at night, and crashes the car. Everyone seems fine, but as you soon see, nothing is really fine at all. They begin to hear a strange scratching in the walls, and their youngest, Charlie, begins seeing things in the room she shares with her sister. When Charlie gets very sick, things abruptly get worse. After a few days, Charlie seems to be feeling better, but she’s not the same little girl that Jack immediately fell in love with when she was born. As events escalate, Aimee becomes increasingly more afraid of her 6 year old, and Jack thinks he might know what’s terrorizing his family, because it’s an evil that has been with him all of his life, and he fears it has come for him again. Eventually Jack has to face his past if he has any hope of saving his family, and that means going back to the home he ran away from so long ago.
I haven’t read any really good horror in a little while, so Seed was quite the experience. I tend to like subtle horror more than more in your face fare (although I enjoy that too!), and the author has a knack for creeping, subtle scares that will cause you to pause every now and then, just to take it all in before continuing. You’ll certainly think of Bad Seed a few times when reading Seed, because Charlie’s behavior is insidious and terrifying, just like the evil that stalks the Winters. She’s just a little girl, but you’ll forget that at times, trust me. Seed is a wonderful study of a family falling apart in the face of a pretty nasty baddie and even though there’s not a lot of gore in this one, Ahlborn doesn’t really pull any punches, so I wouldn’t recommend Seed for the faint of heart. Seed has some of the most downright creepy scenes that I’ve read in a while, and I admit to having to resist keeping a light on at night for a few nights after reading it. If you enjoyed the movie Poltergeist, you’ll most certainly enjoy Seed (the author even references the movie in the book.) The tension is constant and it’s a very quick read, so you’ll surely fly through it like I did! Highly recommended, and a wonderful debut from a rising talent!...more
Necropolis had a couple of things going for it right away for me. One, it’s a Night Shade Books title (I loves me some Night Shade), and secondly, what a great cover! Noir, sci-fi, suspense, and horror? Yes please! When NYC cop Paul Donner and his wife Elise are gunned down in a bodega holdup, it seems it’s lights out for our hero. Not so fast! Fast forward 40 years later, post Shift (bioweapon? something else?), and Donner takes his first breath since his death. It seems folks are coming back from the dead. Not as shambling zombies, but as reborns. Everything regenerates, with the only differences being shock white hair, black fingernails and a pesky tendency to “youth”. Think about that for a minute. It’s just as horrible as it sounds. You die. You come back. You begin to age…backwards. Add to that the general population treating you like a 3rd class citizen, and it’s no wonder reborns choose suicide more often than not. When Donner, depressed and drowning in alcohol, gets an offer from a beautiful woman to find out who’s killing her employees, he reluctantly takes the case. Little does he know what a roller coaster ride it will be. See, the lovely lady that hires Donner turns out to be a pretty mean motor scooter, but our hero is certainly no dummy, so she’s gonna have her work cut out for her. Oh yes, yes she will.
Michael Dempsey’s NYC of the future is a tech infused, nourish, retro-futuristic playground entirely enclosed by a geodesic dome, surrounded by wasteland. Sounds fun, huh? I dunno, some parts might be fun, like the individual enclaves that have adopted certain time periods, like the Roaring 20’s, or the groovy 60’s. Other parts…not so much, like the fact that a huge corporation runs the show, and they’re doing some not-so-nice things with human genetics. It’s precisely this conglomerate that is using Donner for reasons he never considered, and it will take everything in his arsenal and all of his considerable wits, to outrun and outsmart this diabolical entity. Necropolis is told from third person (with the exception of Donner) and does change point of view quite a bit. Once you get used to the pace (and you will), you’re golden, and you’ll definitely enjoy the ride. I really liked the different POVs, but I’ll admit, I found myself looking forward to getting back to Donner…but I digress. Necropolis is a wild, wild ride that takes its readers through the underground of NYC, the machinations of an evil woman bent on world domination, to the rich environs of an Arabian palace in the middle of the New Jersey desert. Add to that an unlikely (yet very sweet) romance with an AI moll named Maggie, and a hero who is as complex as the twists and turns in this story, and you get a recipe for a really, really good read. There’s so much awesomeness in Necropolis that I want to gush and share, but that would take away quite a bit of the fun, now wouldn’t it? If you’re a fan of sci-fi, urban fantasy, and noir, you don’t want to miss this rich, complex story that is Necropolis. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next book from Michael Dempsey, and Necropolis is one of my favorite reads this year!...more
Edge of Dark Water is my first Joe Lansdale novel. I know, I know! The man is something of a legend, and I’m a bit ashamed that I’m just now discovering the awesome. But you have to start somewhere, yes? Anyway, I saw a blurb for Edge that said something along the lines of “a mix of Mark Twain and classic Stephen King.” Yes, please! As it turns out, that statement was pretty accurate. The voice of Edge of Dark Water is 16 year old Sue Ellen, who lives with her parents in East Texas, along the Sabine River, during the Depression. While fishing with her father, and her friend Terry, they make a grisly discovery. May Lynn, a girl their age, has been killed and dumped into the river with a sewing machine tied around her ankle to weigh her down. Sue Ellen’s father suggests leaving her there, but Sue Ellen and her friends have other ideas. The beautiful May Lynn always wanted to go to Hollywood, so they’re going to take her there. Unfortunately, this will be an undertaking of massive and terrifying proportions, as they navigate the turbulent Sabine and evade the designs of a sadistic killer out for their blood.
The idea of taking your friend’s body, burning the remains, and stealing a raft to take said remains down the river, and eventually to Hollywood, is really only something the very young would attempt, but that’s one of the things I love about this book. Yes, their idea is a fantastic one, the likelihood of success phenomenally low, yet Sue Ellen, Terry, and Jinx are determined to make it work. Sue Ellen’s alcoholic mother decides to leave her father and come with the group, in what turns out to be a very positive thing in the long run. There are a few significant things that will surely hinder their plans, however. One, Sue Ellen’s father isn’t going to let them get away so easily, and after Jinx has a scuffle with May Lynn’s father, neither is he. There’s a question of money, in the form of stolen loot that our little group has discovered, and a psycho named Skunk is on their trail. No one really believed in Skunk before now. His name was synonymous with the bogeyman, and was something used to scare small children, or so they thought. He’s plenty real though, and when they finally do meet, it’s terrifying. Seriously, this guy will make your nightmares have nightmares. I loved Sue Ellen’s wry voice and she is both wise beyond her years, and yet, just a young girl. Jinx’s dry sarcasm will make you laugh and adds plenty of levity to some pretty horrid circumstances. Terry is an intelligent young man, and most often a voice of reason, but he’s conflicted in ways that might come back to haunt our little group. The author keeps up a pretty relentless pace, and puts these kids through the ringer, keeping you glued to the pages until the very end. Unusual, sometimes brutal, and thoroughly fascinating, Edge of Dark Water is a must read for fans of literary horror and southern gothic noir, not to mention fans of just plain great writing and wonderful characters! You’ll love this one!...more
Mick Oberon is a Chicago PI, but he’s no ordinary PI. His weapon of choice, in fact, is a magic wand (a Luchtaine & Goodfellow Model 1592, specifically), and he has a little magic of his own on top of that. In 1932 Chicago, one run by mobsters and their ilk, a little magic is a nice thing to have, but tussling with them isn’t Oberon’s favorite thing to do. However, his landlord is about to lose the building, and it’s the only place that Oberon has ever felt at home in the human world. Needless to say, he needs cash, fast. So, when the wife of one of Chicago’s major mobsters asks for his help, he’s hesitant to take the case, but when he finds out that they’re looking for their daughter, who was taken 16 years ago and replaced with a changeling (who is starting to look, and act, less and less like a human girl), he reluctantly agrees that he may be one of the few, er, people, that can help them. The problem is, he’ll have to go Sideways, into Elphame (the land of faerie, the Chicago Otherworld, you get the idea), in order to even begin to catch the trail of their real daughter, and he’s not exactly welcome. Getting help from the Seelie Court won’t be easy, but if anyone can do it, Oberon can, or so he hopes. He also hopes that the trail won’t lead to the Unseelie Court. Good thing luck is on Oberon’s side…most of the time.
Mick Oberon is my kind of hero, and Hot Lead, Cold Iron is my kind of urban fantasy. Oberon is very, very old, a little cranky, loves nothing more than a warm glass of milk, and sometimes takes payment in oddities rather than cash. He also has a rather soft heart, and helping not only the girl that was taken from her family, but the changeling that was put in her place, soon becomes more than a payday. Also, when it’s revealed what the Fae’s idea of a “changeling” includes, it’s pretty shocking. But I digress. Back to Oberon. He has luck on his side and is able to “manipulate” others’ luck, to fantastic effect. Needless to say, it’s handy in a fight. And he gets in plenty of fights, mostly with mob thugs. Luckily, it’s also very difficult to really hurt Oberon, and he heals pretty fast. That said, he ends up dealing with some very powerful, very evil magic, and that can hurt a fellow, even one as old and powerful as our Mick.
This book opens with fists swinging, and barely pauses to take a breath. I loved Marmell’s version of Faerie, and some of the contraptions that Oberon uses while there are very clever (love the Fae camera.) Another thing I really liked (and didn’t really think about until I finished), was the absence of any kind of romance. I don’t mind a little romance in my reading, I really don’t, but to read an urban fantasy where that’s not even hinted at is kind of a nice change of pace. With this book, I was too busy being immersed in Marmell’s fully realized Chicago of the 30s, and Oberon’s charming eccentricities to miss it. Fae magic, witchcraft, and even the hint of other supernatural creatures, combined with the 30s setting, give this book it’s considerable charm. Add a hero like Mick Oberon, and you’ve got a winner. This was lots of fun, and I’m hoping we’ll see more of Oberon soon!...more
It’s really difficult to review a book in a series, unless it’s the first, without giving some things away. That said, I’m going to keep this review as spoiler free as possible.
In The Iron Queen, we rejoin Meghan and Ash after they’ve been exiled from Faery as a result of Ash declaring his love for Meghan. They return to Meghan’s home only to be attacked by thugs sent from the Iron Court and she realizes she cannot stay, or her family would be in grave danger. The characters we love from Iron King and Iron Daughter are all here, and there’s still a bit of a love triangle with Meghan, Ash, and Puck, although Ash will make a promise that will change things between him and Meghan forever. When they get word that the Winter and Summer Courts have banded together to fight the invasion of the Iron Court and the end of the Nevernever, Meghan is made an offer that she can’t refuse, but to accept it could cost her not only her life, but the lives of the ones she cherishes the most. In a race against time, Meghan and her friends must enter the Iron realm and defeat the Iron King, or she will lose the people, and the world, she’s come to love so much.
The novel moves right along with Meghan’s first person narrative, and as usual Ms. Kagawa’s prose flows beautiful and lush across the page, taking us into Meghan’s adventure as if we were by her side. Family secrets are revealed and battles are fought on Faery battlegrounds while the fate of an entire world hangs in the balance. Meghan has to gather every bit of strength she has to journey into the Iron realm and kill the false king. Along the way she’ll meet new friends, fight her way through a steampunk wasteland filled with magma lakes and mountains of lost things, iron fey attacks, and traitorous Winter fey, all while keeping her friends safe, and not losing herself in the process… Oh, and did I mention she gets to fly?
This is probably my favorite of the three novels and I’ll be anxiously looking forward to The Iron Knight!...more
In a veritable sea of books about Faerie in the last year, The Iron King is a solid standout! Meghan Chase, 16, has always been a little different, especially since her father disappeared when she was only six. When her little brother is kidnapped, she must journey into Faerie, where dangers lurk around every corner. This was quite an adventure, filled with action and humor, and I have to admit, I had a hard time putting it down. The beginning reminded me a lot of the movie, Labyrinth (I may be dating myself with that, but there it is), in that she must journey to another world to save her brother, in spite of unknown dangers.
Ms. Kagawa's take on Faery was very original, even while maintaining quite a few of the traditional elements. Her descriptions are lush and encompassing without taking over the page, and you really feel like you're part of the story. The addition of the Iron Court (and its origins), was ingenious, and also incorporated a lot of steampunk elements, which I loved!
This book was just a lot of fun, and I haven't read a first novel that was this well written in a long time. Meghan is a well fleshed out character, and her supporting cast is just as fun! I'm still not sure if I'm Team Puck or Team Ash (leaning toward Team Puck, but I rarely get my way!) If you haven't read this one yet (I know, I'm a little slow on the uptake-I may be the only one that hasn't already read The Iron Daughter), then get your hands on it ASAP!...more
Emily Collins has been spending the last 5 years or so working to support herself and her musician husband, while he plays gigs and crashes at friends’ houses. When Emily discovers that he’s been cheating on her (probably for a while), instead of breaking down, she throws him out, and discovers newfound freedom. Perhaps it’s fate, then, when she gets a letter notifying her that her Aunt Frannie has died, and left her Heartshorne, Oklahoma house to Emily. It’s almost too easy for Emily to shed the remnants of her old life, and head to Heartshorne, the place that her mother had left so long ago, vowing never to go back.
When Emily finally arrives in Heartshorne, she finds that Frannie’s house is a little dilapidated and worn, but that’s ok, because it’s hers. Soon she is greeted by the local Reverend, Levi Richardson, and soon learns that Frannie was actually killed in the home. In spite of that, Emily feels a connection to Heartshorne, and after finding out a terrible secret about her mother’s childhood that she never shared, Emily decides to find out the truth. She starts digging, with the help of a new friend, Jonathan, whose talent with tarot serves to strengthen Emily’s resolve, and whose companionship Emily comes to cherish. When more people disappear and start turning up dead, Emily feels compelled to make things right.
The title refers to a man-made lake in Heartshorne that serves as a literal and metaphorical repository of secrets. It’s dark, and beautiful, and sometimes gives off a menacing fog, but it seems to draw evil like a moth to a flame. We’re given the strong sense that Echo Lake is the key to just about everything, but Trent reveals its influence in snippets, some of them horrifying, some of them simply creepy, and it’s her fantastic sense of time (both past and present) and place, with Echo Lake at the center, that really propels this chilling book forward. If you’re looking for a heavy-handed horror tale, drenched in the supernatural, you won’t find that here. What you’ll find is a subtly menacing tale of secrets, murder, and home-grown vengeance, with a sometimes surrealistic veneer. It’s also a coming of age novel; alongside Emily’s journey (yes, she’s an adult, but when she leaves her old life behind, she’s only really beginning her true adulthood), we get the story of her mother Connie’s loss of innocence as a young, brash, headstrong girl of only 13. As Emily digs into her mother’s past, it starts to become clearer to her as to what made her mother what she was as an adult (she has since died of cancer), and as a mother, and it’s an important part of Emily’s journey. I really enjoyed this story of self discovery wrapped in a slightly supernatural murder tale. Letitia Trent has a poet’s grasp of language (as she should, since she’s a published poet), and this works so well in this atmospheric, creepy gem. This is a good book, and I’m really looking forward to what comes next from this talented author....more
There’s a blurb on the front of Fated by Jim Butcher, and I’ll admit, it went a ways toward me reading the book. Don’t get me wrong, the book sounded great, but Benedict Jacka is a new author, so it definitely helped. That said, Fated is a bit like the Dresden Files, but really only in the fact that Alex Verus is a wizard, or mage, and Alex’s voice is is a similar mix of easygoing and tightly coiled power. Alex is a diviner, able to see the many possible outcomes and paths of a situation. Usually. He’s not all-powerful, but he’s pretty darn powerful, and he’s done his best not to cross paths with the Council, running a magic shop in Camden Town, in London. Staying under the radar has done well for him, but when various mages (Light and Dark), come to him seeking his services, he finds himself back under the very thumb that he escaped years ago.
The author packs quite a bit of storytelling into just under 300 pages, and does it very effectively. I liked Alex immediately, and found his power fascinating. There’s some mild tension between Alex and his friend Luna, who’s carrying a very powerful curse, and she’ll turn out to be a valuable ally in the battle to come. And there will be battle. There’s a powerful artifact that more than a few powerful mages want to get their hands on, and they’ll use any manner of coercion, arm twisting, and just plain nastiness to get Alex to snag it for them. The main group of Dark mages that Alex deals with are really just plain mean, and I found myself wishing that Alex could just kick ‘em in the mouth. Multiple times. With feeling. It doesn’t help that Alex is carrying around a little baggage of his own, having been at the mercy of a Dark mage himself when he was younger. Yeah, the Dark mages like to keep slaves, er, helpers, and they’re extremely cruel about it. Can you say torture chambers? So, you can understand why Alex isn’t too keen on “helping” any of these guys out. On the charming side, we’re also introduced to some really neat creatures, and the world that the author has created is definitely one I’ll want to visit again. Fated is a strong start to what looks to be a magical series!...more
Megan Abbot is a master at writing fiction that, from the first word, begins to slowly stir up a quiet unease, building dread until it’s nearly unbearable, and The Fever is no exception. Teen angst is alive and well in The Fever, and it goes a little like this: Deenie and Gabby are best friends. Gabby is very popular. The girls want to be friends with her and they want to be her. In fact, “girls hung from her like tassels.” Gabby Bishop, Deenie Nash, and Lise Daniels are the “Trio Grande.” Lately, though, another girl, the rather scary, free spirited Skye, has encroached on their little group, and Deenie isn’t happy at all about the time Skye and Gabby spend together, without her. When Lise has a seizure during class and falls into a coma, the rumors start to fly, and there’s no more fertile ground than the fetid, hormone rich halls of a high school. Events turn very serious when other girls begin to suffer “attacks”, and Deenie has the uneasy feeling of knowledge just on the edge of her consciousness, of what can lead to the truth about the episodes and what led to Elise’s coma. The adults have their own ideas of vaccinations gone wrong,toxins in the air, even contagion, and before anyone can get to the truth, the school, and indeed the small town of Dryden, are whipped into a frenzy of fear.
In The Fever, Megan Abbot revisits the sometimes dangerous world of teen girls that she explored so well in Dare Me and sets the considerable drama against a background of paranoia and panic. At the center of the story is Deenie and her older brother, popular hockey star Eli, who live with their father Tom, who is a teacher at their high school. Tom loves his children fiercely but is increasingly aware of his maturing daughter slipping through his fingers. Seemingly overnight, the girls who used to spend the night in whimsical pajamas are beautiful, ethereal, and confounding things, and Lise’s unknown illness is like the flame that lights a potentially explosive fuse. Deenie is dealing with her own issues. Her mother moved out a while back, and Deenie is at a time in her life where having her mom around might ease some of her worry. A first sexual encounter has her on edge, as does the rift between her and Gabby. Eli is having growing pains himself, and is mystified about a picture of a girl in her underwear (taken below the neck) that he received on his phone and rumors of a sexual liaison that he supposedly had.
Megan Abbot is a pro at drawing out suspense and stretching the tension to the breaking point. Seriously, there aren’t many authors that do it better, and in her portrayal of pubescent teen girls, she draws them as almost sylphlike creatures with long limbs, complicated hair, and devious minds. Oh so devious minds. Adding to Deenie’s stress is a recent trip to a nearby lake that’s filled with algae and thought to be filled with much worse. The gulf between the parents and their teens is wide, and it’s here that Abbot packs in the terror, and even melancholy that’s beginning to overwhelm them.
What’s going on in The Fever is not otherworldly, but Megan Abbot makes you feel like it is, and her descriptions of the nearby lake, and Deenie’s worry that their forbidden visit has something to do with Lise’s condition, only serves to add to the cloak of fear that has settled over these girls like a shroud. Being a teen is confusing at best and terrifying at worst, and Megan Abbott mines this for all it’s worth, and then some. The Fever is an arresting, and very creepy work of suspense and suburban gothic, and I dare you to try to put this one down once you’ve picked it up....more
15 year old Sarah Reese is dead in D.C., found in a dumpster with her throat slashed, and three young men are the suspects. A white girl murdered with three black suspects will get attention enough, but she also happens to be the daughter of a prominent D.C. judge, David Reese, and speculation is all over the place. Was it random, a crime of opportunity, or was it a message for David Reese? These are all questions that Sully Carter, former war reporter, now news reporter, is determined to answer.
So, Sully asks questions, a lot of them, and in the process starts to remember other girls that have gone missing or were killed in the same area. He begins to connect the dots, literally, in fact, using a pinboard at the newsroom to track deaths in the area, and too many girls are dead, or have gone missing, in such a small area, for it to be a coincidence. But, of course, what could a prominent judge’s daughter have to do with a prostitute, or a dancer from the wrong side of the tracks. More than you might think, actually. A trail of corruption and scandal soon emerges, and Sully is determined to see justice done for all of these girls, not just for Sarah Reese. If he can do that with his reputation, and job, intact, even better.
Neely Tucker is a former war correspondent and journalist, and he puts his vast knowledge (seriously, read his bio-it’s fascinating) of the profession to great use in this superb debut. Sully is injured not only physically (he carries a prominent limp and visible scars), but also in his heart, still mourning the death of Nadia, a woman he’d fallen in love with overseas. He’s been carrying on a relationship with a woman for about a year, and she cares about Sully, but even she doesn’t like competing with a ghost. Sully’s melancholy is palpable, and he’s still carrying the aftershocks of his overseas work. He tends to drown his dark memories in a bottle, but he’s very good at what he does, and he’s shocked at the number of disappearances and killings of women that have gone ignored until the daughter of a prominent man (who he has a bit of dark history with), is found dead.
This Clinton era thriller packs plenty of punch: the pace is brisk, the dialogue is very smart, and the author never insults his reader’s intelligence in the process of unfolding the labyrinthine plot. It’s obvious that he knows what readers look for in good suspense, and he’s certainly got a handle on the breakneck speed at which the news business can make or break a person. I’ve always been fascinated with the lives and work of investigative journalists, and this book definitely satisfies that curiosity, to very entertaining effect. Pick up this book for the murder mystery, and stay for the excellent portrayal of a very specific time and place with an emphasis on the racial and class divide, a broken, rough-edged hero that’s well worth rooting for, and a helluva ending. I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author-his next book can’t come soon enough!...more
When I saw the cover of Firelight, I thought “Ohhh, that’s one I’m going to read.” It’s gorgeous, seriously. Granted, the word “romance” is on the spine, and I’m not a huge reader of romance, but, especially in the spirit of the new year, and trying new things in my reading, I was certainly game to give it a try. I do love historical novels, and Firelight also has paranormal elements, so that was a definite plus for me. I need not have had reservations, though, because Firelight had me hooked from the start. The novel opens when Miranda Ellis is only 19 and is cornered by thugs in a dark alley near her father’s house. Luckily, Lord Benjamin Archer comes to her rescue, although you’ll see later that Miranda is more than capable of taking care of herself. Lord Archer is there to kill Miranda’s father, yet after meeting this tough, beautiful girl, he decides to spare his life. Fast forward 3 years, and Miranda’s father, after marrying off her two older sisters, promises Miranda to Lord Archer. There’s no love lost between Miranda and her father, and even though Miranda is terrified, she’s determined to do her duty and marry the fearsome Lord Archer.
When Miranda marries Archer, that’s when the real fun of Firelight starts. Archer wears a mask on his face, supposedly to cover a hideous deformity. Miranda can’t say too much about that, though, since she’s got quite a secret of her own that she’s hiding. See, Miranda can set things on fire with a thought, so yeah, not a small secret by any means. Archer does not feel himself worthy of the beautiful Miranda, and consistently pulls away from her, even as she senses the kind soul behind the disguise. Hmmmm, sensing some parallels here? We’ve got a bit of Phantom of the Opera, and a bit of Beauty and the Beast as well (my absolute fave), but don’t get me wrong, Firelight is a story all its own. The few similarities just added to the charm of this book for me. So, there’s this delicious push and pull going on between Archer and Miranda, but when men start dying in gruesome ways, and Archer is suspected, Miranda vows to get to the bottom of the mystery, if it means saving the man she’s falling in love with. Throw in a rich London setting circa 1880, an ancient curse, a mysterious woman in disguise, and of course, plenty of romance and adventure, and you‘ve got a historical romance/fantasy that will keep you turning the pages. You can bet I’ll be looking forward to Moonglow this summer!...more
Captain Alexander Napoleon Outland can’t seem to get a break. Along with his crew, he’s out to score some magma when a pirate armada tries to shanghai his ship, the Sixty-Nine. Yes, his ship really is called the Sixty-Nine. Trust me, as you get to know Nap better, this will not surprise you one bit. Forced to land on a planet known for its military and distinct lack in the sense of humor department, Nap and crew find themselves in one sticky situation after another in their attempts to escape the planet and get back to business as usual.
Alexander Outland is told from the point of view of the Captain himself and strikes the perfect tone for a rollicking space opera from the get go. Nap is equal parts Han Solo, Jack Sparrow, and Buck Rogers, with a liberal dash of Spaceballs and Peter Venkman. He can’t resist the ladies, and usually they can’t resist him, which is why he is so puzzled that his weapons chief, Slinkie, is so resistant to his “charms”. However, in spite of his near overwhelming preoccupation with the gorgeous Slinkie, he manages to take care of his crew and inspire an odd sort of loyalty among the strange bunch. I fell in love with Nap from the beginning in spite of his overlarge libido and laughed out loud at his dry wit. There’s plenty of action here, but the real fun (for me) came from the dialogue between Nap and his eccentric crew, including the always cheerful, humanoid Audrey (the ship’s AI in a rockin’ bod). Interstellar spies, a pirate armada with a ridiculous name (trust me on this one), and a memorable (and smelly)trip through the sewer system of Herion are just part of the fun, and I was happy to ride along! Fans of space opera and sci-fi will have a great time with this one, and of course, fans of GJ Koch’s (aka Gini Koch) Kitty Martini series will find lots to love too! Will Nap and his crew escape the pirates and live to plunder another day? Will Nap ever bed the irresistible Slinkie? You’ll have to read it and find out! I promise you won’t be disappointed....more