Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Meeting Robin LaFevers

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon in early spring of 2013 when Robin LaFevers finally had a tour stop in the Midwest to promote the second book in the "His Fair Assassin" series, Dark Triumph. Six productive years since I had first found Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos at my local Barnes and Noble. She had ten books under her belt during that time, and yes, I had every one of those books in the back of my car as I headed to Illinois. Because what was a three hour ride to finally getting to meet one of my favorite authors? My friend Marie and I were making a day of it. First there was delicious pizza to be had at Giordano's, which is located right behind Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville. Then we took in the Riverwalk and saw a rather spectacular duck. A male wood duck to be precise, and growing up in a family that sold wildlife art, yes, I have to be precise. After working off some of the delicious pizza filling our bellies we went to Anderson's to get good seats for the coming talk by Robin. Not wanting to be overeager we chose seats in the second row and Marie was happy to find the last hardcover copy of Grave Mercy, as she hadn't started the "His Fair Assassin" series yet. Then we settled in for the wait.

Usually waiting for an author talk to begin is slightly onerous. You're usually in uncomfortable metal chairs and nervous excitement leads to babbling to strangers who end up thinking you're slightly unhinged. But don't discount what a good friend and a life-size poster of Richard Armitage can do for a long wait. Seriously, as much as they messed up The Hobbit with that whole trilogy, starting with An Unexpected Journey four months earlier in December of 2012, how can you NOT be drawn to that poster on the back wall of the bookstore with Richard giving off that smoldering gaze like he's looking right at you and you're the only thing in the world? Yes, there is a reason the picture with Robin is framed in this way, I couldn't cut out Richard, or Aidan if it comes to that, even if I had wanted to. Once Robin took the stage the presentation passed in a glorious haze of assassins and the history of Brittany and how Sybella is a different kind of heroine. The signing was wonderful as well, I had specifically worn my shirt that Robin had sent me and she jokingly told the rest of the signing line not to worry about "the person with the stalker level of books, we know each other." My books signed, my love of Robin and her work confirmed, Marie and I went in search of more adventures, AKA more books and food.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: February 19th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the critically acclaimed and USA Today bestselling author Charles Finch comes The Vanishing Man, a prequel to his Charles Lenox Victorian series, in which the theft of an antique painting sends Detective Lenox on a hunt for a criminal mastermind.

London, 1853: Having earned some renown by solving a case that baffled Scotland Yard, young Charles Lenox is called upon by the Duke of Dorset, one of England’s most revered noblemen, for help. A painting of the Duke’s great-grandfather has been stolen from his private study. But the Duke’s concern is not for his ancestor’s portrait; hiding in plain sight nearby is another painting of infinitely more value, one that holds the key to one of the country’s most famous and best-kept secrets.

Dorset believes the thieves took the wrong painting and may return when they realize their error - and when his fears result in murder, Lenox must act quickly to unravel the mystery behind both paintings before tragedy can strike again. As the Dorset family closes ranks to protect its reputation, Lenox uncovers a dark secret that could expose them to unimaginable scandal - and reveals the existence of an artifact, priceless beyond measure, for which the family is willing to risk anything to keep hidden.

In this intricately plotted prequel to the Charles Lenox mysteries, the young detective risks his potential career - and his reputation in high society - as he hunts for a criminal mastermind."

By going back to before, like with the TV show Endeavour, we're getting a fresh and new perspective of a character we've already grown to love. 

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Deheli Clark
Published by: Tor.com
Publication Date: February 19th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 144 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"P. Djèlí Clark returns to the historical fantasy universe of "A Dead Djinn in Cairo", with the otherworldly adventure novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015.

Cairo, 1912: The case started as a simple one for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities ― handling a possessed tram car.

Soon, however, Agent Hamed Nasr and his new partner Agent Onsi Youssef are exposed to a new side of Cairo stirring with suffragettes, secret societies, and sentient automatons in a race against time to protect the city from an encroaching danger that crosses the line between the magical and the mundane."

I am a sucker for all things Egyptian!

Gates of Stone by Angus Macallan
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: February 19th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 544 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In a world of blood and magic, a powerful epic fantasy begins...

AN EMPEROR’S DAUGHTER WHO WILL NOT BE DENIED
Just before her sixteenth birthday, Princess Katerina is refused her rightful place as heir to the Empire of the Ice-Bear - solely because of her sex. Determined to regain her inheritance, she murders the foreign lord she’s been ordered to marry and embarks on a perilous voyage to the lush, tropical islands of the Laut Besar in search of the vast wealth and power she needs to claim the Empire for herself.

A PRINCE FORCED TO TAKE A STAND
On a small island kingdom, Prince Arjun’s idyllic life is shattered when a malignant sorcerer invades, slaughters his people and steals the sacred sword of Jun’s ancestors. With his royal father dead and his palace in ruins, Jun reluctantly tracks the sorcerer and the magical blade far across the pirate-infested waters of the Laut Besar.

A SORCERER SEEKING TO DESTROY THE WORLD
Long ago the powerful relics known as the Seven Keys were used to safely lock away the terrifying evils of the Seven Hells. With Jun’s ancient sword in his grasp, the sorcerer Mangku has claimed the first Key, and begun his mission to unleash catastrophe upon the land.

As the destinies of these three entwine in the lawless islands of the Laut Besar, the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. For if the sorcerer cannot be stopped, the world itself will be unmade..."

Literal shivers, despite the warm clime. 

The Outcast Hours edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin
Published by: Solaris
Publication Date: February 19th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The bold new anthology from the acclaimed editors of The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories.

We live our lives in the daylight. Our stories take place under the sun: bright, clear, unafraid.

This is not a book of those stories.

These are the stories of people who live at night; under neon and starlight, and never the light of day.

These are the stories of poets and police; writers and waiters; gamers and goddesses; tourists and traders; the hidden and the forbidden; the lonely and the lovers.

These are their lives. These are their stories. And this is their time:

The Outcast Hours."

I'm not just picking books with Djinn... or am I?

The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin
Published by: RedDoor Publishing
Publication Date: February 19th, 2019
Format: Kindle, 242 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"If only she knew what sort of friend I really am...

Once upon a time, Jenny and Kath were best friends. Or were they?

Their reunion after eight years apart - when Jenny pays a visit from Australia where she’s settled - begins as idyllic. But all too soon, things begin to unravel and once the past is uncovered, there’s no going back.

This beautifully written, gripping and unforgettable psychological drama about love, lies and obsession will keep you reading long in to the night.

Keep your friends close, but your best friends closer."

The best friend dynamic and how it changes, it's explosive! 

David Lynch: Someone is in My House by David Lynch
Published by: Prestel
Publication Date: February 19th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Featuring rarely seen multimedia works by the revered cult filmmaker David Lynch, this revelatory book shows how he applies his powerful imagination and visual language across genres.

David Lynch has always been in the spotlight as a filmmaker, directing some of the most iconic movies ever made, but as a visual artist, he is less widely known. Lynch delights in the physicality of painting and likes to stimulate all the senses in his work. This book brings together Lynch's paintings, photography, drawings, sculpture and installation, and stills from his films. Many of these works reveal the dark underpinnings behind Lynch's often-macabre movies. Others explore his fascination with texture and collage. Throughout, Lynch's characteristic style - surreal, stylish, and even humorous - shines through. An introduction by music journalist and Lynch biographer Kristine McKenna, along with a thought-provoking essay by curator Stijn Huijts, offers fascinating new information and perspectives on Lynch's life and career. This book reveals an unexplored facet of Lynch's oeuvre and affirms that he is as brilliant a visual artist as he is a filmmaker."

Years ago, when I was a freshman in college, David Lynch was the artist in residence at Tandem Press and the art he created was very fascinating. I love that he's an artist of MANY mediums.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Review - Robin LaFevers' Dark Triumph

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy


Sybella escaped a horrible life to get to the convent of Saint Mortain. She was damaged and more than a little insane when she arrived, but they, and the new friends she made within the walls of the convent, made her whole again. So what does the Abbess ask of her? To go back to that horrible life because her rank and her position are perfectly placed to aid Anne, the Duchess of Brittany, in her fight against the French to maintain Brittany's independence. Because Sybella has been raised the daughter of d'Albert, Anne's most vicious suitor. A man who has worked his way through six wives and who woos through intimidation, capturing the town of Nantes in an attempt to force Anne's hand. A man so vile that the thought that Death is her father brings Sybella some comfort, because then her father isn't her father, and her brother isn't her brother, and therefore what happened between them isn't nearly as incestuous. The only reason Sybella agreed to this infernal arrangement was because the Abbess promised her that d'Albret would be marked for death. He remains unmarked and Sybella contemplates returning to her true father, but she has survived death so many times she fears she will be rejected once again.

When the convent discovers that the great warrior Beast didn't die in the bloody skirmish outside Nantes, but instead is hidden in the dungeons, Sybella is asked to aid in his release, no matter what danger this might put her in. Things seldom go to plan, and soon Sybella is on the road to Rennes treating Beast's grievous wounds, instead of being back in Nantes carrying out the convent's orders. It wasn't her idea, it was Beast's... and he didn't really give her a choice. The freedom she feels being away from d'Albret and his rotten entourage gives her hope. She can see a future for the first time, and perhaps that future includes the Beast of Waroch. She can travel the countryside with him as he uses his unique talents to call the peasantry to arms and to rise up for the Duchess and the future of Brittany! Only he is unaware of her parentage. He doesn't know that she's a d'Albret. His beloved sister Alyse was one of d'Albret's wives who died at the hands of her husband. Beast forever holds himself responsible for not rescuing his sister, and if he knew not only the truth of who Sybella is, but that it's her fault Alyse died, she could lose Beast forever. The man who she feels able to tell all her secrets to and whom she is falling for. But will her secrets force them apart forever or will they bring them closer together? Only Mortain knows.

From the moment I first finished Grave Mercy I was dying for the next book, which I feel really missed a step by being called Dark Triumph and not Grave Justice, but maybe that's just me. I needed to know what Sybella had been up to. What did the Abbess have Sybella doing? The tantalizing glimpses of her mission throughout Ismae's story in Grave Mercy just made my need to read this second installment all the more dire. Also what about Beast!?! He was LEFT FOR DEAD! In fact, given the wait I had ahead of me I spun possible outcomes, I had a very fixed idea of how the story should play out; we'd begin that first night when Ismae and Sybella were both at the convent and go on from there. Once I got my hands on Dark Triumph I realized that this wasn't at all the story I expected. That first time I read it, I loved it but I wasn't sure I liked it. At the start of Dark Triumph Sybella is such a pessimistic character. She obviously has every right to be, but having grown accustomed to the zealous narration of Ismae, this was a very strong tonal shift. Both women suffered horribly at the hands of men, yet Sybella's outlook is far bleaker. She embraces the vengeance over the mercy of death.

Sybella's past makes this book so dark that what had happened to her overshadowed her evolution the first time I picked the book up. But re-reading, knowing the dark and painful secrets Dark Triumph contained, I was able to see it far more clearly and come to like it, not just love it. There's this nostalgia the book captures where it exudes the vibe of epic fantasy films from the eighties. And no, this isn't just because I've been stuck on a couch for a few weeks with a nasty cold and oddly obsessing about Willow. Films made for kids in the eighties didn't shy away from scaring and scarring their audience. The truth they portrayed made the viewers stronger. The universality of Sybella's struggle, especially since the evolution of the #MeToo movement, hearkens back to these epic stories. A grand journey, an impossible quest, two people who have dark pasts but somehow find each other, all while tackling real world issues within the epic framework made this book mean so much to me. What's also interesting is thinking of parents letting children watch these films and wondering about protection. Who should be the protector in your life when you can't protect yourself? Because Sybella should have been surrounded by people who knew better, and it really takes her relationship with Beast to open her eyes to the fact she has been used by everybody, from her own brother to the Abbess. No one should live in a world where someone takes advantage of your fear and pain.

This pain is what informs Sybella's voice. What Robin has done with Dark Triumph is create not only another compelling narrative in this series, but she has captured Sybella's voice. There is nothing that can be more annoying then having a writer attempt to write a story form multiple points of view and have them fail utterly at it. Instead of having depth and a connection to a handful of characters instead you get a narrative that is flat because there is no distinction, no individuality, you only hear one voice, the authors. In life each person has a distinct voice, I do, you do, Ismae does, Sybella does, and on and on. When I write I fully admit that I can only capture my own voice, which works for what I do. But if Sybella had come out sounding just like Ismae, with her perky attitude and can-do spirit, then not only would this book have failed, but then the uniqueness of Ismae and her distinct voice would be belittled and cheapened. It would no longer have been hers. Instead with Sybella we have a far more educated voice. Less enthusiastic for carrying out Mortain's wishes. More circumspect, questioning, and wary. Which Sybella would have to be growing up in the dark world she inhabits. Being so different this initially led to a disconnect between the second and first book in the series, but I have since come to appreciate this expansion of the world of "His Fair Assassin."

Besides the different voice we also have a very different relationship dynamic between Beast and Sybella. They do not have the zealous righteousness that drives Ismae and Gavriel. They are driven by their dark pasts. They fight for what is right after being stomped down by the oppressive evil in the world, predominately doled out by d'Albrets. Yet neither of them seem to know when to stop pushing so sometimes the other has to be the guide for when enough is enough. This is most obviously shown when Beast occasionally helps Sybella to a state of unconsciousness to get her out of harm's way or when Sybella forces Beast to rest due to his injuries, when the last thing Beast wants is rest. The endearing aspect is that while they both have their secrets, neither one ever questions the loyalties of the other. One jumps, the other jumps. True love comes in many forms and Sybella would have been the first to question finding it in a giant of a man with a squashed face who is terrifying when the blood lust takes him on the battlefield. They compliment each other the way Ismae and Gavriel do. What I really love though is this shows that no matter how different, no matter how damaged you think yourself to be, there is always someone out there for you, they might just be found at the most inopportune of moments in the unlikeliest of places.

Of course the problem with me connecting so strongly to all the characters in the book and shipping them perhaps harder than they ship themselves is that I have a justifiable apprehension for their futures regarding both fictional and historical characters. That is the true magic of this series, that Robin has created a historical fantasy that is so real I worry about what will happen to the characters. Against my better judgment I might have spent a fair amount of time on Wikipedia looking up what really happened during the fight for Brittany to maintain it's independence and how this plays out doesn't necessarily play out how I would wish. I worry about what Ismae and Gavriel will do when the wars are done and the fight is over. How will they handle when Isabeau, Anne's beloved and sickly sister, dies? What will they think of Anne's short life? She is only 26 when she dies. How can the characters I know and love have a happy ending if Anne doesn't have one too? I really should stop obsessing about this and trust in Robin, she is a hopeless romantic and all will work out... right? Because history can be changed and Queen Victoria can end up with Lord M in a perfect world... and while this isn't a perfect world, perhaps it will be able to be perfect enough.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review - Robin LaFevers's Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Published by: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 644 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

Ismae almost died before she was born. Her mother tried to purge her from her body because she knew that Death was Ismae's father. All her life she has been marked by death with a dark wine stain from her shoulder to her hip. On the day of her marriage to a man she neither loves nor likes, he learns the truth and attempts to kill her. The herb witch that tried to end her in the womb now rescues her and sends her to the convent of St. Mortain. There Ismae learns that she is cursed, but with gifts from Death himself. Trained to be a handmaiden to Death she learns all the subtle arts from poisons to seduction, though she's not too keen on the womanly arts. She becomes a finely honed tool, an assassin for Death himself. Her first two assignments go rather well and the men are sent to their graves. The deaths of these two men though are inopportune for Brittany's government who is trying to stay an independent Duchy from France. As atonement for the inconvenience the convent has wrought the Duchy's young ruler, Anne, and her bastard brother, Gavriel Duval, Ismae is to accompany Gavriel to court and aid the country, while also serving the sometimes conflicting needs of the convent.

While at court, Gavriel is worried that he has been saddled with a loose cannon. Ismae seems to have no desire to confide in Gavriel, or ask his permission, willing to kill whomever Death has marked, whether it's convenient to Gavriel or not. That can be a bit problematic when the bodies start piling up. But Ismae has spent the last few years cloistered away from the world and never in her wildest dreams thought she would be embroiled in the affairs of the Breton Court and this new world view is shaking her beliefs. She wants to follow her orders from the convent, kill those who bear the mark, but through Gavriel she starts to wonder if the convent has things quite right. As Ismae is drawn deeper and deeper into the intrigues of the Breton Court and the Privy Council she learns that Anne is a ruler worthy of her protection and Gavriel my be a man worthy of her heart, but perhaps all that she has been taught is wrong. Perhaps the handmaidens of Death aren't there to bestow vengeance, mayhap they are to grant HIS mercy and the convent is misguided in their mission. If only St. Mortain would show her where her true destiny lies.

Back in 2011 after helping Robin with some Goodreads questions, I am after all a librarian in good standing on the site, as a thank you she sent me an ARC of the first book in her new series, Grave Mercy, as well as some swag. The "His Fair Assassin" series, with the HIM being Death, is set in Brittany in the 15th century and as Robin told me she was "curious to see what [I] think, since it is SO different from Theo!" The Theo in question being Theodosia Throckmorton, a budding Egyptologist whom Robin created and I adore. Yet while Robin is right that this series is "SO different" from Theo I wouldn't say they are worlds apart. Like Robin's other creations, including Nathaniel Fludd, there's a perfect melding of character, history, and that spark of magical realism. All these elements combine and conclusively prove that a great author is able to write in any genre and on any subject matter as long as they have a clear authorial voice and interconnected themes that come through no matter what they are writing about. Robin has that voice. It changes with the characters and the time periods she's writing about, but there's a way she grips you from the outset. She has an engaging writing style that doesn't make it feel like you're fighting the text to get from word to word and paragraph to paragraph.

Each and every time I've picked up one of Robin's books I'm surprised that when I finally, blearily, look up from the page that an hour or two or three have passed, sometimes it's even five in the morning and shouldn't I be asleep by now? But I just fall in, even reading Grave Mercy for the third time I felt like I was reading it for the first. There's a flow to the writing and you are gone. This flow is even more impressive when you think about the fact that this is, in essence, Historical Fiction. I read a lot of Historical Fiction and it can easily be bogged down with overly archaic language, too many historical events, and plot points given to you like a lesson at school that you hated the first time around and has you scrambling back and forth over the text trying to remember the minutiae of each plot and counter plot. But Robin did an amazing job of making the people, both historical and fictional, real. I fell for Ismae and her evil Hogwarts convent and then fell all over again when Gavriel showed up. These characters became friends to me. I was invested in their lives and with getting them together! Jane Austen had it so right with Darcy and Elizabeth, now just make one an assassin and the other an upright young man, and you just wait for them to realize the truth that, though they are so different, they are so right for each other.

Yet this investment in the book wouldn't work if not for Ismae. As many of you know I tend to do "dream casting" of books I read. The reason for this is twofold, I have always loved film and television so therefore when I can see an actor or actress so clearly as a character I will "cast" them in that role in my head; the second reason is sometimes the character is a little too broadly defined by the author and therefore I use my dream casting to fill in the blanks. I am making up for their shortfall. So when I stumble on a character who requires no casting I want to stand up and applaud. Here is someone so fully formed, so perfectly complete, no matter how imperfect they are, that I see them instantly in my mind's eye. This has literally only happened to me a handful of times, and I could name each and every occasion should you wish for me to do so, but for my purposes here, know that Ismae is one of these magnificent creations. She has such a unique voice, such a forceful presence, that if she were to step right out of Grave Mercy and into my library I would know her immediately and greet her as an old friend. I would then have her watch The Princess Bride with me, because near the end of her story she's channeling some serious vibes from that holiest of holy book and movie.

Re-reading Grave Mercy I started to analyze why this book connects to me and to the YA audience so fiercely and combined with the serendipitous release of Mary Queen of Scots everything fell into place. I've been complaining to my friends about how much everything about the new movie Mary Queen of Scots annoys me, from the fact that Mary somehow has a Scottish accent despite being raised in France to the two monarchs meeting when they never did. All this had me pining for the CW show Reign. Who would have ever thought that this over the top show with magic and a Medici and Nostradamus would, in it's final season, more accurately portray the last days of Mary Queen of Scots than a big blockbuster movie? I never would have! But the show, despite it's silliness, at it's core has that same spark that Grave Mercy possess. Which made me wonder, why am I drawn to courtly drama? And I realized, it's a metaphor for growing up. Being taken from a small, secluded world, be it a convent where you're training to be an assassin, or say a small Catholic school with only twenty students in your class, and being thrust into this world where you don't know the rules, be it the Breton Court or high school, this resonates with readers because they've either been through it or are currently embroiled in it. I finally get it! I get why I love this book and how it connects to me!

What I also get is how this book exposes the hypocrisy of the church. There is such a disconnect between the love Jesus preaches and the way his followers carry out what they think are HIS commandments. The complete incompatibility between God's word and what the church preaches. So much hate and vitriol comes from religion and this is why, despite going to a Catholic school for eight long years, I can not get behind organized religion. This is a big problem facing Ismae. She was raised at the convent of St. Mortain to be used by the convent to carry out Death's plan. But she realizes that the convent is fallible. She's not sure if they are promoting their own agenda over that of St. Mortain or if they truly believe that they are acting under HIS aegis, but the more Ismae sees of the world the more she realizes it isn't black and white, it isn't life or death, there are shades of grey, there is the possibility for forgiveness. Just because you are marked for death doesn't mean that it gives the convent license to kill you, it means that death is near and a decision has to be made. To see Ismae come to the realization that death isn't just vengeance, that death can be mercy, that death can be a blessing, that shatters her world, opens her eyes, makes her see the hypocrisy of what she has been taught and that the world is so much more than she could ever imagine. "There are more things in heaven and earth..."

Monday, February 11, 2019

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Revenant Express by George Mann
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The grand adventure continues in George Mann's Newbury and Hobbes steampunk mystery series, as a Victorian special agent races across a continent to save his beloved's life on board The Revenant Express.

Sir Maurice Newbury is bereft as his trusty assistant Veronica Hobbes lies dying with a wounded heart. Newbury and Veronica's sister Amelia must take a sleeper train across Europe to St. Petersberg to claim a clockwork heart that Newbury has commissioned from Faberge to save Veronica from a life trapped in limbo.

No sooner do they take off then sinister goings-on start to plague the train, and it is discovered that an old villain, thought dead, is also on board and seeking revenge. Can Newbury and Amelia defeat him and get the clockwork organ back to the Fixer in time to save Veronica? And can they do so without Newbury going so far into the dark side of occult magic that he can never return?

Meanwhile, Sir Charles Bainbridge is the only one of their team left in London to struggle with a case involving a series of horrific crimes. Someone is kidnapping prominent men and infecting them with the Revenant plague, leaving them chained in various locations around the city. But why?

It's a rousing chase to save both London and Veronica. Will these brave detectives be up to the task?"

FINALLY! With the way George jumps around in his storytelling we knew Veronica would survive... but it's been AGONY to find out how. Thankfully The Revenant Express has arrived at the station. 

Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit by Patricia Marcantonio
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Amidst the heraldry of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebrations, a string of brutal murders rocks Britain's upper crust - and could threaten the realm itself - in the spellbinding debut of Patricia Marcantonio's Felicity Carrol mysteries.

Felicity Carrol is interested in everything - except being a proper young matron of Victorian society. Brilliant and resourceful, Felicity took refuge in science and education after her mother died and her father abandoned her to servants. Now, all he wants is for her to marry into a family of status and money.

Felicity has other ambitions - but her plans shudder to a halt when her mentor is murdered at the British Museum and his priceless manuscript of King Arthur lore is stolen. Tapping into her photographic memory and the latest in the burgeoning field of forensic detection, Felicity launches an investigation. Handsome Scotland Yard Inspector Jackson Davies is also on the case, and finds Felicity as meddlesome as she is intelligent. But when more nobles are murdered and their King Arthur relics stolen, Felicity must journey on her own into the dark underworld of antiquity theft, where she uncovers a motive far more nefarious than simple profit.

As the killer sets his sights on a new victim - a charismatic duke who has captured Felicity’s imagination - the stakes rise to impossible heights. It’s a case that could shake the kingdom in Patricia Marcantonio’s series debut, Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit."

This sounds like a wonderful little cozy whodunit!

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 353 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the bestselling author of The Tuscan Child comes a beautiful and heart-rending novel of a woman’s love and sacrifice during the First World War.

As the Great War continues to take its toll, headstrong twenty-one-year-old Emily Bryce is determined to contribute to the war effort. She is convinced by a cheeky and handsome Australian pilot that she can do more, and it is not long before she falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage.

When he is sent back to the front, Emily volunteers as a “land girl,” tending to the neglected grounds of a large Devonshire estate. It’s here that Emily discovers the long-forgotten journals of a medicine woman who devoted her life to her herbal garden. The journals inspire Emily, and in the wake of devastating news, they are her saving grace. Emily’s lover has not only died a hero but has left her terrified—and with child. Since no one knows that Emily was never married, she adopts the charade of a war widow.

As Emily learns more about the volatile power of healing with herbs, the found journals will bring her to the brink of disaster, but may open a path to her destiny."

Land girls in Devonshire? Oh yes! 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Everyone's invited... everyone's a suspect...

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge...and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?"

With all the buzz around this book I have literally had it preordered since day one. Plus it looks like another winter storm is on the way, so perhaps this week I'll just stay in a devour it!

Careless Love by Peter Robinson
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"His fans include Stephen King, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Ian Rankin, and Louise Penney. He has won acclaim and numerous international prizes and awards, including the Edgar. Now, Peter Robinson, one of the world’s greatest suspense writers, returns with a powerful mystery in which his legendary Detective Superintendent Alan Banks must solve two perplexing crimes.

Two suspicious deaths challenge DS Alan Banks and his crack investigative team.

A young local student’s body is found in an abandoned car on a lonely country road. The death looks like suicide, but there are too many open questions for Banks and his team to rule out foul play. The victim didn’t own a car. She didn’t even drive. How did she get there? Where—and when—did she die? Did someone move her, and if so, why?

A man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up on the wild moorland. He is wearing an expensive suit and carrying no identification. Post mortem findings indicate that he died from injuries sustained during a fall. Was it an accident—did he slip and fall? Or was he pushed? Why was he up there? And why are there no signs of a vehicle near where he fell?

As the inconsistencies multiply and the mysteries surrounding these two cases proliferate, a source close to Annie reveals a piece of information that shocks the team and impacts the investigations. An old enemy has returned in a new guise—a nefarious foe who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants.

With the stakes raised, the hunt is on. But will Banks be able to find the evidence to stop him in time?"

New DCI Banks! WHAT! WHAT!

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The new standalone novel from bestselling author Jasper Fforde.

Every Winter, the human population hibernates.

During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity.

Well, not quite.

Your name is Charlie Worthing and it's your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses.

You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind.

When the dreams start to kill people, it's unsettling.

When you get the dreams too, it's weird.

When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.

But teasing truth from the Winter is never easy: You have to avoid the Villains and their penchant for murder, kidnapping, and stamp collecting, ensure you aren't eaten by Nightwalkers, whose thirst for human flesh can only be satisfied by comfort food, and sidestep the increasingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk.

But so long as you remember to wrap up warmly, you'll be fine."

Jasper Fforde, in my mind, excels at standalones that have a hint of the apocalypse, so Early Riser is RIGHT up my alley. Terminal Uprising by Jim C. Hines
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Human civilization didn’t just fall. It was pushed.

The Krakau came to Earth in the year 2104. By 2105, humanity had been reduced to shambling, feral monsters. In the Krakau’s defense, it was an accident, and a century later, they did come back and try to fix us. Sort of.

It’s been four months since Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos learned the truth of that accident. Four months since she and her team of hygiene and sanitation specialists stole the EMCS Pufferfish and stopped a bioterrorism attack against the Krakau homeworld. Four months since she set out to find proof of what really happened on Earth all those years ago.

Between trying to protect their secrets and fighting the xenocidal Prodryans, who’ve been escalating their war against everyone who isn’t Prodryan, the Krakau have their tentacles full.

Mops’ mission changes when she learns of a secret Krakau laboratory on Earth. A small group under command of Fleet Admiral Belle-Bonne Sage is working to create a new weapon, one that could bring victory over the Prodryans … or drown the galaxy in chaos.

To discover the truth, Mops and her rogue cleaning crew will have to do the one thing she fears most: return to Earth, a world overrun by feral apes, wild dogs, savage humans, and worse. (After all, the planet hasn’t been cleaned in a century and a half!) What Mops finds in the filthy ruins of humanity could change everything, assuming she survives long enough to share it.

Perhaps humanity isn’t as dead as the galaxy thought."

Speaking of apocalypse... 

The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A luxuriously magical retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in seventeenth-century France - and told from the point of view of the Beast himself.

I am neither monster nor man - yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company - until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.

Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse..."

I am a sucker for any Beauty and the Beast retelling. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Tuesday Tomorrow

Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 512 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"First in a duology, this darkly thrilling page-turner set in the world of the best-selling His Fair Assassin series is perfect for fans of Throne of Glass, Red Queen, and Game of Thrones. Told in alternating perspectives, when Sybella discovers there is another trained assassin from St. Mortain’s convent deep undercover in the French court, she must use every skill in her arsenal to navigate the deadly royal politics and find her sister in arms before her time - and that of the newly crowned queen - runs out.

When Sybella accompanies the Duchess to France, she expects trouble, but she isn’t expecting a deadly trap. Surrounded by enemies both known and unknown, Sybella searches for the undercover assassins from the convent of St. Mortain who were placed in the French court years ago.

Genevieve has been undercover for so many years, she no longer knows who she is or what she’s supposed to be fighting for. When she discovers a hidden prisoner who may be of importance, she takes matters into her own hands.

As these two worlds collide, the fate of the Duchess, Brittany, and everything Sybella and Genevieve have come to love hangs in the balance."

If me having an entire theme month wasn't a big enough hint about how excited I am about this book let me say it again, I am SO excited for Courting Darkness!

Enchantee by Gita Trelease
Published by: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Love. Magic. Revolution... Gita Trelease’s debut fantasy about an orphaned girl who uses dark magic to save her sister and herself from ruin is a “must-have” (School Library Journal, starred review)!

Paris is a labyrinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t...

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.

But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose - love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic - before Paris burns."

Can we designate this week as magical France week with these new releases?

The Seamstress by Allison Pittman
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 480 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A beautifully crafted story breathes life into the cameo character from the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities.

France, 1788
It is the best of times...

On a tranquil farm nestled in the French countryside, two orphaned cousins―Renée and Laurette―have been raised under the caring guardianship of young Émile Gagnon, the last of a once-prosperous family. No longer starving girls, Laurette and Renée now spend days tending Gagnon's sheep, and nights in their cozy loft, whispering secrets and dreams in this time of waning innocence and peace.

It is the worst of times...

Paris groans with a restlessness that can no longer be contained within its city streets. Hunger and hatred fuel her people. Violence seeps into the ornate halls of Versailles. Even Gagnon’s table in the quiet village of Mouton Blanc bears witness to the rumbles of rebellion, where Marcel Moreau embodies its voice and heart.

It is the story that has never been told.

In one night, the best and worst of fate collide. A chance encounter with a fashionable woman will bring Renée’s sewing skills to light and secure a place in the court of Queen Marie Antoinette. An act of reckless passion will throw Laurette into the arms of the increasingly militant Marcel. And Gagnon, steadfast in his faith in God and country, can only watch as those he loves march straight into the heart of the revolution."

See, France week!

Fog Season by Patrice Sarath
Published by: Angry Robot
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A web of secrets and hidden identities ensnare two sisters and their family, in this delightful historical fantasy sequel to The Sisters Mederos.

After the shocking events of last summer, the high society of Port Saint Frey has plenty to gossip about. Who was the Gentleman Bandit? Why hasn't he been captured? And what really happened that night when the Guildmaster disappeared? When the Guild hires Abel Fresnel, a detective with special powers of his own, to find the answers, Tesara and Yvienne Mederos have to avoid his probing questions and keep mum about their role in the events of that dark night. Everything's more or less under control until a dead man turns up in the dumbwaiter..."

Intrigue and dumbwaiters, you know you want to read this book!

Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss
Published by: Mythic Delirium Books
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A young woman hunts for her wayward shadow at the school where she first learned magic--while another faces a test she never studied for as ice envelopes the world. The tasks assigned a bookish boy lead him to fateful encounters with lizards, owls, trolls and a feisty, sarcastic cat. A bear wedding is cause for celebration, the spinning wheel and the tower in the briar hedge get to tell their own stories, and a kitchenmaid finds out that a lost princess is more than she seems. The sea witch reveals what she hoped to gain when she took the mermaid's voice. A wiser Snow White sets out to craft herself a new tale.

In these eight stories and twenty-three poems, World Fantasy Award winner Theodora Goss retells and recasts fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde. Sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious, always lyrical, the works gathered in Snow White Learns Witchcraft re-center and empower the women at the heart of these timeless narratives. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Jane Yolen, in her introduction, proclaims that Goss "transposes, transforms, and transcends times, eras, and old tales with ease. But also there is a core of tough magic that runs through all her pieces like a river through Faerie . . . I am ready to reread some of my new favorites.""

I enjoy retellings of Fairy Tales, but I really love when they're retold from a feminist POV.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorador
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Includes a brand-new Binti story!

Collected for the first time in an omnibus edition, the Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning Binti trilogy, the story of one extraordinary girl's journey from her home to distant Oomza University.

In her Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella, Nnedi Okorafor introduced us to Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family's concerns, Binti's talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey.

But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti's spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination.

There is more to the history of the Medusae - and their war with the Khoush - than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace.

Collected now for the first time in omnibus form, follow Binti's story in this groundbreaking sci-fi trilogy."

All your Binti needs now under one cover!

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A mysterious lab. A sinister scientist. A secret history. If you think you know the truth behind Eleven’s mother, prepare to have your mind turned Upside Down in this thrilling prequel to the hit show Stranger Things.

It’s the summer of 1969, and the shock of conflict reverberates through the youth of America, both at home and abroad. As a student at a quiet college campus in the heartland of Indiana, Terry Ives couldn’t be farther from the front lines of Vietnam or the incendiary protests in Washington.

But the world is changing, and Terry isn’t content to watch from the sidelines. When word gets around about an important government experiment in the small town of Hawkins, she signs on as a test subject for the project, code-named MKULTRA. Unmarked vans, a remote lab deep in the woods, mind-altering substances administered by tight-lipped researchers... and a mystery the young and restless Terry is determined to uncover.

But behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory - and the piercing gaze of its director, Dr. Martin Brenner - lurks a conspiracy greater than Terry could have ever imagined. To face it, she’ll need the help of her fellow test subjects, including one so mysterious the world doesn’t know she exists - a young girl with unexplainable superhuman powers and a number instead of a name: 008.

Amid the rising tensions of the new decade, Terry Ives and Martin Brenner have begun a different kind of war - one where the human mind is the battlefield."

If your one of the millions thinking July 4th is too far away, then this is the book for you!

The Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea Camilleri
Published by: Penguin Books
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The new novel in the irresistible and transporting New York Times bestselling Inspector Montalbano mystery series.

The day gets off to a bad start for Montalbano: while trying to break up a fight on Marinella beach, he hits the wrong man and is stopped by the Carabinieri. When he finally gets to the office, the inspector learns about a strange abduction: a woman was abducted, drugged, and then released unharmed a few hours later. A few days later, the same thing happens again, but this time the woman abducted is the niece of Enzo, the owner of Montalbano’s favorite trattoria. The only link between the two events is that both women are thirty years old and work in a bank.

Alongside this investigation, Montalbano has to deal with an arson case. A shop that sells household appliances has burned down, and its owner, Marcello Di Carlo, seems to have vanished into thin air. Has he run off with his lover after a holiday in the Canary Islands? Is he fleeing from his creditors, or was he murdered by the mafia for not paying their protection money? At first this seems like a trivial case, but a third abduction - yet again of a girl who works in a bank - and the discovery of a body bring up new questions. Whose body is it? And where has Di Carlo’s secret lover gone?"

For my mom who loves a good Montalbano mystery!

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting portrait of a young woman’s struggle with anorexia on an intimate journey to reclaim her life.

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears - imperfection, failure, loneliness - she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street."

A book about a struggle many have faced. 

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
Published by: The Dial Press
Publication Date: February 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella comes an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything.

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” And since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will?

It’s simply not in Fixie’s nature to say no to people. So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she not only agrees - she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, an investment manager, scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. Fixie laughs it off - she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

But then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life, and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. As always, she wants nothing for herself - but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. No sooner has Seb agreed than the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie - from small favors to life-changing moments - ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?"

What does every need to get through a cold and bleak February? How about some Chick Lit from the reigning queen, Sophie Kinsella? 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Assassination Vacation

One day in the spring of 2007 I stumbled on a book at Barnes and Noble by an author who would quickly become one of my most favorite authors ever. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by Robin (R.L.) LaFevers was, as some of my friends put it, the book I would write if I wrote, full of cats and mummies, and oh so British to boot. As the years went by I wouldn't just wait for Robin's new books, oh no, I would hunt them out, track down ways to gets advanced reader copies, sometimes even from her, any way to get her newest tome into my hands. There's a reason I started a blog, and that was to have a legitimate excuse to harass publishers and authors for ARCs! When she transitioned to YA in 2012 with the His Fair Assassin series I was one of the first to proclaim that she had reached a whole new level in her mastery of storytelling.

Female assassins raised in a monastery working for Death himself? If anyone other than Robin had written this series it might have been cheesy, instead it's a nuanced look at duty and loyalty and is just an amazing series that at once is historical fiction but has a hint of magical realism. But when the series ended with Mortal Heart's release in 2014 Robin went on a longer than expected hiatus emerging in Summer of 2016 with the news of a new duology set in the world of His Fair Assassin! Well that book, Courting Darkness, is FINALLY here! I couldn't not celebrate my favorite author returning to a much beloved world! So welcome to February, wherein we are taking an Assassination Vacation... Apologies to author Sarah Vowell, the title was too good not to use for my theme month...

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