Monday, April 29, 2019

Tuesday Tomorrow

The 18th Abduction by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Published by: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Detective Lindsay Boxer's investigation into the disappearance of three women teachers quickly escalates from missing persons to murder in the newest Women's Murder Club thriller.

For a trio of colleagues, an innocent night out after class ends in a deadly torture session. They vanish without a clue - until a body turns up. With the safety of San Francisco's entire school system at stake, Lindsay has never been under more pressure. As the chief of police and the press clamor for an arrest in the "school night" case, Lindsay turns to her best friend, investigative journalist Cindy Thomas. Together, Lindsay and Cindy take a new approach to the case, and unexpected facts about the victims leave them stunned.

While Lindsay is engrossed in her investigation, her husband, Joe Molinari, meets an Eastern European woman who claims to have seen a notorious war criminal - long presumed dead - from her home country. Before Lindsay can verify the woman's statement, Joe's mystery informant joins the ranks of the missing women. Lindsay, Joe, and the entire Women's Murder Club must pull together to protect their city, and one another - not from a ghost, but from a true monster."

Easily my favorite, and my mom's, James Patterson series. 

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 3568 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don't simply move into a haunted house - they build one...

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house - a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse - objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger."

Because even with the best intentions, things can go to the bad.

The Lazarus Files by Matthew McGough
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 608 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A deeply-reported, riveting account of a cold case murder in Los Angeles, unsolved until DNA evidence implicated a shocking suspect - a female detective within the LAPD’s own ranks.

On February 24, 1986, 29-year-old newlywed Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in the home she shared with her husband, John. The crime scene suggested a ferocious struggle, and police initially assumed it was a burglary gone awry. Before her death, Sherri had confided to her parents that an ex-girlfriend of John’s, a Los Angeles police officer, had threatened her. The Rasmussens urged the LAPD to investigate the ex-girlfriend, but the original detectives only pursued burglary suspects, and the case went cold.

DNA analysis did not exist when Sherri was murdered. Decades later, a swab from a bite mark on Sherri’s arm revealed her killer was in fact female, not male. A DNA match led to the arrest and conviction of veteran LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus, John’s onetime girlfriend.

The Lazarus Files delivers the visceral experience of being inside a real-life murder mystery. McGough reconstructs the lives of Sherri, John and Stephanie; the love triangle that led to Sherri’s murder; and the homicide investigation that followed. Was Stephanie protected by her fellow officers? What did the LAPD know, and when did they know it? Are there other LAPD cold cases with a police connection that remain unsolved?"

I'm all about true crime in California!

A Veil Removed by Michelle Cox
Published by: She Writes Press
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Murder is never far from this sexy couple...even during the holidays!

Their honeymoon abruptly ended by the untimely death of Alcott Howard, Clive and Henrietta return to Highbury, where Clive discovers all is not as it should be. Increasingly convinced that his father’s death was not an accident, Clive launches his own investigation, despite his mother’s belief that he has become “mentally disturbed” with grief. Henrietta eventually joins forces with Clive on their first real case, which becomes darker - and deadlier - than they imagined as they get closer to the truth behind Alcott’s troubled affairs.

Meanwhile, Henrietta’s sister, Elsie, begins, at Henrietta’s orchestration, to take classes at a women’s college - an attempt to evade her troubles and prevent any further romantic temptations. When she meets a bookish German custodian at the school, however, he challenges her to think for herself...even as she discovers some shocking secrets about his past life."

The bookish German custodian has some Little Women overtones!

Murder Knocks Twice by Susanna Calkins
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The first mystery in Susanna Calkins’ captivating new series takes readers into the dark, dangerous, and glittering underworld of a 1920s Chicago speakeasy.

Gina Ricci takes on a job as a cigarette girl to earn money for her ailing father - and to prove to herself that she can hold her own at Chicago’s most notorious speakeasy, the Third Door. She’s enchanted by the harsh, glamorous world she discovers: the sleek socialites sipping bootlegged cocktails, the rowdy ex-servicemen playing poker in a curtained back room, the flirtatious jazz pianist and the brooding photographer - all overseen by the club’s imposing owner, Signora Castallazzo. But the staff buzzes with whispers about Gina’s predecessor, who died under mysterious circumstances, and the photographer, Marty, warns her to be careful.

When Marty is brutally murdered, with Gina as the only witness, she’s determined to track down his killer. What secrets did Marty capture on his camera - and who would do anything to destroy it? As Gina searches for answers, she’s pulled deeper into the shadowy truths hiding behind the Third Door."

Chicago during the 1920s has always fascinated me, mainly because that's when my grandmother used to sneak away from school and hang out at all the speakeasies... I'm sure if she would approve of this new series. Also can we say cover lust?

The Almanack by Martine Bailey
Published by: Severn House Publisher
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The philosophy of time, destiny and the stars pervade this intricate historical mystery in which a young woman determines to avenge her mother’s death. 1752, Midsummer. Following a desperate summons from her mother, Tabitha Hart departs London for her home village of Netherlea - only to discover that her mother has drowned. Determined to discover the truth about the Widow Hart’s death, Tabitha consults her almanack and uncovers a series of cryptic notes describing her mother’s terror of someone she names only as ‘D’. Teaming up with young writer Nat Starling, Tabitha begins a race against time to unmask ‘D’ before more deaths follow. But as the summer draws to a close and the snow sets in, cutting off Netherlea from the outside world, Tabitha and Nat are forced to face the darkest hours of their lives. With the year predicted to meet a ‘violent, bloody end’’ will Tabitha survive long enough to bring her mother’s killer to justice?"

I wish that we still lived in a time when almanacks ruled how we viewed the world and how we passed on information.

Warrior Prime by Victor Gischler
Published by: 47North
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 361 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Peyne Erlich’s mission from the king is to learn everything he can about the rival kingdom’s magical ink mage warriors. What he finds is Zayda Yond.

Ever since Zayda was sold into servitude by her financially destitute father, her masters have taught her a punishing lesson: erase the past. Collared with an unmovable band of exotic metal, she faces a future of slavery. She’s also become an ink mage, marked with a tattoo that enables her to experience the world as no one else can - a powerful honor, yet one out of her control. Now, Zayda dreams only of escape.

She gets her chance when a scuttled ocean passage leaves her in a longboat, and in the company of another lone survivor, Peyne, a foreign envoy - spoiled, noble, a libertine, and a gambler. He’s also a skilled fighter. And when they make it to land, in wild and unfamiliar jungle territory, he’s the only person Zayda can trust.

Then come rumors of a lost desert city said to hold the key to removing Zayda’s collar. Shadowed by enemies who want to use her power to win their own war, Zayda must fight for her freedom - whatever the cost. And Peyne will do anything to help her."

The cover screams "space opera" but what intrigues me is the ink magic. 

Firefly: The Unification War Vol. One by Greg Pak
Published by: BOOM! Studios
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 144 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A new era of Firefly starts here, as the secret history of the Unification War is revealed at last!

From Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Avengers) comes a new era of Firefly, as the definitive story of the Unification War is told at last!

Captain Malcolm Reynolds thought he could outrun his past, but when a simple heist goes wrong, he’s forced to confront it. With the fabled Traitor of Serenity Valley in his sights, Mal’s quest for revenge will put him at odds with his own crew, forcing him to make a choice: fix the past or fight for the future.

Along with Whedon, writer Greg Pak (Mech Cadet Yu, Totally Awesome Hulk, Weapon X) and artist Dan McDaid (Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero) take you back to the battleground where it all began...and reveal a secret history that might end it all."

Literally the FIRST of all the Firefly comics to actually capture the feel of the series without ruining it with a stupid ending.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Book Review - Alison Goodman's The Dark Days Deceit

The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman
Published by: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 20th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 544 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Six months have passed since Lady Helen and Lord Carlston were united to form the Grand Reclaimer. Six months in Bath believing the final words of a Deceiver, the Comte d'Antraigues. Six months in which they are no closer to accessing their new powers; powers given to them in order to defeat the Grand Deceiver. What's more, Lady Helen absorbed the vile pages and power of the Ligatus when she and Lord Carlston formed their bond and she is barely holding back the darkness. The Ligatus could provide all their answers if only she could access it. Drastic actions must be taken as Lady Helen's marriage to the Duke of Selburn approaches and therefore the decision is made to hypnotize Helen to access the power wherein she promptly decimates Lady Margaret's house. Relocating to her fiance's nearby country estate, Chenwith, has it's advantages and disadvantages. Helen and Lord Carlston can work on wresting control over their power in seclusion but they are also surrounded by many people unaware of the Dark Days Club who expect Helen to act her part of the dutiful bride-to-be. And Helen's Aunt and brother are about to arrive! They can not know of her secret shadow life! Or more importantly, that which she can barely admit to herself, that she loves Lord Carlston.

Even if Helen can't admit her true feelings her Aunt sees the lay of the land and does everything in her power to keep the two halves of the Grand Reclaimer apart without knowing what damage she is doing. But whisking Helen back to the spa town has it's advantages. Helen can continue her search for the Bath Deceiver, the Deceiver who has the answers she and Lord Carlston need according to the Comte d'Antraigues. But danger is circling nearer and nearer as Helen attends to her nuptial and supernatural duties. Certain dangerous Deceivers are spotted and soon the unthinkable happens, one of their own is cut down. Poor Delia Cransdon, who has suffered much at the hands of the Deceivers, is murdered in broad daylight. Helen shoulders all the blame. Delia was an innocent who Helen had lately rebuked and it's something she can never take back and must live with forever. If any good could be said to come of a death it's that the Bath Deceiver is flushed out by this heinous act and Helen finally gets the answers she's needed on how to harness her powers. With reinforcements provided by the Dark Days Club they hole up at Chenwith and wait for the Grand Deceiver to make their move, because just as the Grand Reclaimer is a dyad, so is the Grand Deceiver. Only one needs to be cut down in order to succeed. But will the battle be won before Helen has to walk down the aisle? And who will win the batter for her heart?

The Dark Days Deceit is the perfect end to Alison Goodman's trilogy in that it combines the best aspects of the first and second books to create this wonderful melding of all that I loved in those installments for a last hurrah. We return more to the Georgian society of The Dark Days Club with Bath society and balls and the upcoming nuptials, yet we still have the more explicit darkness from The Dark Days Pact that doesn't flinch from cutting down favorite characters. I'm sorry, but I don't think I can ever forgive Alison for killing the Reclaimer Stokes in The Dark Days Pact, my Regency Hiddles. Yet what I loved most about this book was Bath! As Alison says in her "Author's Note" it's a town forever entwined with Austen and the Regency period. If you were to visit during the Jane Austen Festival, which is a dream of mine, it's the best alternative to time travel available to us at the moment. Though for me as soon as Lady Helen stepped out onto the streets of Bath and into a steamy little cafe I was instantly transported right into Jane Austen's Persuasion. There is something about this city, more than anywhere in England, that makes it Jane Austen's city, aforementioned festival or no. All the feelings I have about poor Anne Elliot's heart were brought to the fore as I read about Helen and Selburn getting married. Propriety be damned, marry for love! Be it Lord Carlston or Captain Wentworth!

Hearts aren't the only thing in jeopardy. There are so many series, from books to television shows to movies, that shy away from putting their characters in actual jeopardy. It's like, no matter how bad things get, no matter what goes wrong, you know that there's still this thin bubble protecting them from actually dying. Because they would never go there. Yet time and again I will say that unless the writers in whatever media are willing to go there than what is the point? There has to be real risk. Joss Whedon knows this, of course I think his was more a perverse glee to harm his fanbase, but you knew that your heart could be broken and that somehow made his shows more precious. Just look at what they did literally last week on The Magicians, the ONE character everyone thought was safe died. And not died like several characters on The Magicians have in the past, they died and left the show! That shock to the system, besides leaving me in a puddle of tears, made me realize why I love that show so much, because of my connection to the characters. Here Alison Goodman has done the same. Each and every character is at risk, and many of them meet an untimely end, and that gut punch I kept repeatedly feeling, that made me realize how invested I'd become in this series and these characters. This isn't a series that I'll read and forget, this is a series I'll go back to again and again.

What I found endearing and at times exasperating was Helen's attempts to compartmentalize her feelings for Lord Carlston. Their two characters are destined to be together and yet it's not just his not-quite-dead wife or her betrothal that are getting in the way, the idea of fate is. Helen isn't sure if her feelings are real because the two of them were destined to be two halves of the Grand Reclaimer and therefore have a bond that is beyond attraction, it is supernatural. Helen thinks that her heart beats for Lord Carlston because she can literally feel his own heartbeat once they are joined into the dyad. She thinks it's not real, it's all just alchemical. That power and fate have drawn them together instead of a connection based on who they really are and what's in their hearts. And you know what? If I were in Helen's shoes I'd be thinking the same thing! She's not spurning Lord Carlston because of his reputation or gruff personality, she's spurning him because she wants to know it's real. She literally has to know it's real. And isn't that what we all want? A love that is real. Of course we don't have the supernatural elements in our love lives, but that's why I love fantasy books, that's why I love shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Magicians, they make our ordinary every day struggles resonate through otherworldly stories. Life through another lens.

And a life that I have always wanted is one in which I have a partner to whom I could carry on complete conversations with without ever actually saying a word. In the rather uneven 2005 Casanova miniseries by Russell T. Davies of Doctor Who fame starring the Tenth Doctor David Tennant there is one scene that I just adore. Tennant, as Casanova, is star-crossed in love with the character Henriette played by Laura Fraser, who happens to be engaged to Rupert Penry-Jones's Grimani. In one scene they are at a party on other sides of the room and they are having a complete conversation with their looks, a conversation that enrages Grimani. But the first time I saw that scene I thought to myself, now that is true love. That, right there, that is what I want. Therefore having Helen and Lord Carlston have so many of their conversations without once saying a word made me know, alchemy or no, they were fated to be together. Also, the way Alison Goodman writes it is perfect. Instead of inferences or going on about looks and eyebrows, she just writes out their dialogue in italics as the full conversation it is. That's why I was pulling for these two kids to work everything out, even if it ruined Helen. If you have this kind of connection, it's worth everything isn't it?

But that's the problem isn't it? A woman during the Regency period could be ruined just by misconceptions, never mind actually running off and having a full blown affair. In fact, one thing that will really stick with you after reading this book is that throughout history it has really sucked being a woman. All the duty and deference and literally being someones property? I'm sorry, but as much as there are people trying to strip away my rights in the world right now at least I have the rights that so many others, especially Helen, didn't have. Then I started thinking about how Deceivers live. They don't breed, there can be no more Deceivers in the world unless a rift is opened onto their world, so there's a set number unless they are winnowed by final deaths. So the way they continue is by body hoping to their offspring and only their offspring. This is all well and good for male Deceivers, they can knock up tons of women and have all these options of how to stay alive, whereas female Deceivers have to actually give birth to the next body they will inhabit. Excuse me? If being a female didn't suck enough, being a female Deceiver must really suck! With having to deal with the possibility of death in childbirth, despite supernatural powers, it's still dangerous, then infant mortality... well, doesn't that just suck for them? I know I should feel bad for the enemy, but they're women too and they are stuck with the same short end of the stick! Yes, it really does suck being a woman a lot of the time.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Book Review - Alison Goodman's The Dark Days Pact

The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman
Published by: Speak
Publication Date: January 21st, 2017
Format: Paperback, 512 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

After being caught in her bedroom with Lord Carlston on the night of her ball Lady Helen has been tossed out by her uncle. If only she could tell her family it's not what they think! But her duties as a Reclaimer come first and that means only those in the Dark Days Club can know what really happened that night in her bedroom; that she killed the rogue Reclaimer Benchley and lost her chance of ever having a normal life. She has luckily clung to respectability by the discretion of all involved and by being whisked away to Brighton for the rest of the season. While it might seem odd that she has withdrawn to Brighton "for her health" with her new acquaintances, Lady Margaret and her brother Mr. Hammond, they at least lend her an air of respectability while helping to train her in her duties as a Reclaimer. As Lord Carlston's aides the siblings are helping Lady Helen in Lord Carlston's grand scheme to disguise her as a man for her Reclaimer duties. A task that sounds easier than it's turning out to be as she must unlearn all that is feminine in order to be masculine. Add to that that she must also maintain the life expected of Lady Helen and there's barely time to sleep. Though her sleepless nights might be more the memory of an embrace shared with Lord Carlston and worrying over his declining mental health than trying to maintain two separate lives simultaneously.

Due to the rigors of the job and the demands on their bodies Reclaimers at some point have to retire before going completely mad. Yet Lord Carlston seems to be getting rapidly worse. A fact that must be kept from the bureaucratic arm of the Dark Days Club. Mr. Pike would relish the chance to put Lord Carlston out to pasture or in the ground because he was going the way of Benchley. So it is rather disconcerting when Mr. Pike arrives in Brighton. Though he's not just there to monitor Lord Carlston, he's there to force Helen to swear her allegiance to the government and to assign her a mission which she must accomplish without her full training and with only the help of Mr. Hammond. Benchley's Terrene Lowry claims to have a journal that his Reclaimer kept written in the blood of his victims that Mr. Pike is desperate to get his hands on. Only when Helen confronts Lowry his price is unacceptable to her. She must find another way to get the journal, which becomes more desperate when a Deceiver, the Comte d'Antraigues, tells Lord Carlston that the journal is the only thing that will cure his madness. Lady Helen is caught between her duty and her desire and either outcome could prove fatal.

The first book in Lady Helen's series, The Dark Days Club, for all it's darkness in showing the seamy underbelly of Regency England was still nestled in the comfortable world of Jane Austen with the drawing rooms and balls and Dukes plighting their troth. Here that life is gone. Lady Helen is no longer ensconced in society but clinging to the edges as best she can. This is a darker world from the one she was cast out from. There are whore houses catering to all tastes. Cruelty, depravity, sexual congress, all that which Lady Helen was shielded from her entire life is now on full display as she walks through Brighton disguised as a man. She was raised to arrange dinner parties not cavort around in men's garb in back allies. Yet she readily accepts the change as the duties of a Reclaimer. I fully embraced this darker tale, it's kind of like comparing an adaptation of Jane Austen to the Tom Hardy series Taboo, both take place during the same time period, but both show such radically different views of that time period. And the thing I've noticed with me, as I get older, I'm less inclined to the happily ever after and more drawn to the ambiguous, darker endings. To me they feel more real, like they're reflecting the world as it is versus how we want it to be.

And poor Helen, she is trying so hard to fit herself into this new world order but underneath it all you can see she is struggling. The scene that I think best exemplifies this is when she's told that she's getting a radical new haircut. While I've never been a girl who longs for the long hair, there is that connection between gorgeously flowing hair and femininity, more so during earlier time periods. Think how much of an impact O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi had? Or when Fantine has to sell her hair in Les Misérables? Yet for how revolutionary she is being in embracing this new life and the challenges that it presents I think she occasionally is willing to fall back on her upbringing a little too much. She was raised to listen to her Uncle, listen to men, they know what's right, so as soon as Mr. Pike swoops in with all his horrid ideas that he says she must follow she follows them when instead she should tell him to STFU. She questions Pike in her mind yet there's a part of her that just follows him blindly despite disagreeing with everything he says and does. This just shows the larger problem endemic to society and that's women should obey because they are nothing more than property. They are to do what is expected, they can not color outside the lines. Helen might be a Reclaimer, but to her brethren she is just there for their use not her opinions.

Now, to get off my high horse, let's talk about something else, let's talk about the Deceivers. So Deceivers, if they are acting in accord to the compact they have with Reclaimers they skim energy off of people without them knowing it. They are taking a little bit of their life force in order to survive. When I started reading this series I had just been on a day trip to Chicago after which one of my friend's credit cards got a fraud warning. My other friend was convinced that the number had just been swiped by an unscrupulous waitress at the restaurant we had ate at, which wasn't at all the case, because the card had never once left my friend's wallet and had been scanned with a RFID reader. The scanner takes all your vital information and gives it to the thief without you even knowing until you get a ping on your credit card. They can take away your entire life without you knowing it and as I was explaining this a light went off above my head and I realized that is what an Deceiver does! Here was a real life example of the supernatural elements in the book and it made me appreciate Alison Goodman's worldbuilding even more. To be able to explain a supernatural element in terms that those who don't necessarily get fantasy can understand made me so happy! Now I just have to convince everyone I know to read this series and invest in RFID wallets.

In another real world and book world colliding incident I'm going to shift to Mr. Hammond. I know I've talked about this in another review before but seeing as I tend to dream cast books as I read them when an aspect of my dream casting and an aspect of the character come together it's fascinating and a little unnerving and is therefore worth repeating. From the second Mr. Hammond entered this story I have pictured him as Lord Alfred Paget from Victoria. There's something just so sweet and reassuring about this character as he threads his way through the politics and paramours of the royal household that his caring and concern rang true to who Mr. Hammond is. In season two of Victoria Lord Alfred falls in love with Edward Drummond, the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, which was doomed from the beginning and oh so heartbreaking. When Alison Goodman, through the deplorable Mr. Pike, reveals that Mr. Hammond is homosexual I had a moment of confusion. Had I totally, through my dream casting, learned a secret part of Mr. Hammond's character without even realizing I was doing it? I'm not sure, but it sure looks that way! Whatever the case is, whether I was subconsciously picking up on something or I just can somehow predict the future, I don't know, but it was simultaneously spooky and cool.

Putting my uncanny abilities aside there was an aspect of this story that just warmed the cockles of my heart, and that was to do with Delia Cransdon. Poor Delia who was ruined by a Deceiver who then killed himself to body jump when surrounded by Reclaimers and has since been under lock and key at her parents estate with the asylum looming ever larger. Her parents estate is close to Brighton and Helen views it as her duty to at least tell Delia what she can so that Delia will know she's not insane. Of course there's lots of back and forth with what can and can not be told but in the end Delia knows all that Helen does and is sworn in as Helen's aide. While the book doesn't go into specifics about how acceptable society views it that Helen is championing Delia, especially as Delia is viewed as rather "loose" at the one party they attend, that doesn't bother me so much as how glad I was to see how honorable Lady Helen is. Even before she knew about this other world Helen wanted to rush to Delia's side. As soon as Helen knew the truth and was shown the door by her relatives she reached out to Delia to ease her mind and also to reaffirm their friendship. If their was still any doubt in Helen's maid Darby's mind about whether Helen is on the side of the angels, this would have been proof enough. Lady Helen, saving the world one friend at a time.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The French Girl captivated readers with a twisting tale of psychological suspense. Now author Lexie Elliott heads to the foothills of the Scottish Highlands, where a woman's tangled family history comes back to haunt her...

An eerie, old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that's now hers.

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago - her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother's estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who's almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can't escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her - as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can't ignore how the neighborhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor's careless rugged beauty could cost her everything."

A Scottish manor with a mystery? Yes please!

The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton
Published by: Hachette Australia
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019
Format: Kindle, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Whenever society produces a depraved criminal, we wonder: is it nature or is it nurture?

When the charlatan Alicks Sly murdered his wife, Ellie, and killed himself with a cut-throat razor in a house in Sydney's Newtown in early 1904, he set off a chain of events that could answer that question. He also left behind mysteries that might never be solved. Sociologist Dr Tanya Bretherton traces the brutal story of Ellie, one of many suicide brides in turn-of-the-century Sydney; of her husband, Alicks, and his family; and their three orphaned sons, adrift in the world.

From the author of the acclaimed The Suitcase Baby - shortlisted for the 2018 Ned Kelly Award, Danger Prize and Waverley Library 'Nib' Award - comes another riveting true-crime case from Australia's dark past. The Suicide Bride is a masterful exploration of criminality, insanity, violence and bloody family ties in bleak, post-Victorian Sydney."

True Crime for the win!

A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews
Published by: Perfectly Proper Press
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019
Format: Kindle, 399 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"He Needed Peace...

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they're nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can't remedy. But that's all over now. He's finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure...

Former lady's companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she's at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest - and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you..."

Devon, Victorian England, India, so many favorite things in one book!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book Review - Alison Goodman's Lusus Naturae: A Lord Carlston Story

Lusus Naturae: A Lord Carlston Story by Alison Goodman
Published by: Speak
Publication Date: July 1st, 2016
Format: ebook, 51 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Download*

Lord Carlston has returned to England to see if the late Lady Catherine was right about her daughter Helen, that she is a rare direct inheritor of Reclaimer powers. Such an occurrence could mean many things, but in Reclaimer lore it means that a great evil will rise, a Grand Deceiver. This possibility has led Lord Carlston to face the enmity of the ton. He was driven from England three years prior for the murder of his wife, though no body was ever found. His duties have led him to the last place he wants to be on returning to England, part of the clamoring crowd waiting for all the young debutantes to be presented to the Queen and under the gimlet eyes of their mothers. But it affords him the opportunity to catch up with his dear friend and fellow Dark Days Club member Beau Brummel while surreptitiously watching Lady Helen before her debut. While his main purpose attending this event was to meet Lady Helen he cannot ignore the appearance of a Deceiver in their midst. A Deceiver that obviously wants to parlay. The Deceiver, Solanski, promises Lord Carlston information if he will check his mentor, the renowned Reclaimer Benchley, who has been breaking the accord between their kinds, killing Deceivers who are abiding by the rules. Lord Carlston agrees and Solanski confirms that there is a Grand Deceiver... To Lord Carlston it looks like Lady Helen might be their only hope.

What's great about authors writing little stories that fit into their larger series is that they're willing to experiment more with a concept that would otherwise be tossed aside as incompatible with the main books. The "Lady Helen" series by Alison Goodman by it's name alone shows that it follows Lady Helen and is told exclusively from her point of view. There's no switching of characters, no narrative gymnastics, it's all Lady Helen all the time. Therefore this short story is a welcome change of pace. I wouldn't want to see the complete story through the eyes of Lord Carlston, but seeing this one moment, when Lady Helen's and Lord Carlston's paths first cross, it's fascinating, not so much because of Lord Carlston but because we get to see Helen in a different light. Rarely in books do characters sit around and physically describe what they look like. There's usually a passing reference to hair color or height, but it's up to the readers imagination to fill in the rest. Having this short story immediately follow the first book wherein we've already formed a specific view of Helen hearing Lord Carslton's thoughts about her looks and that defiant jaw made me think about her from the outside instead of the inside and somehow this really brought home to me how the other Reclaimers might be worried about this girl being their only hope.

Though this story is also clever in that it helped bridge the one year gap between the first and second books in the series, a time during when details and specifics might become fuzzy in the readers minds. Therefore this story is very neatly done as a reclarification of what the Deceivers AKA the demons of this world are and what exactly the purpose of a Reclaimer is. I say it's neatly done because I really hate when the first few chapters of a book in a series is basically rehashing what we already know and you're just sitting there thinking, are you going to get on with it already? In fact that is how I felt through the entire first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones. The episode was all, hey, remember where we were? And I was all, hey, yes I do, and remember you only have six episode to wrap this all up and you just wasted one of them? Get to the killing already! So thank you Alison for thinking of a nice little alternative to creating reader rage. What's more with the conversation between Lord Carlston and Solanski we not only see that the Deceivers are a little worried about how crazy Benchley has become, I mean, come on, he committed the Ratcliff Highway murders after all, but Solanski definitively states that a Grand Deceiver is here. This is yet another Deceiver warning about what is coming and it fits in so well to know that Lord Carlston knew all along and is therefore more receptive to Lady Helen when she gives him this information, but also why he's willing to help her. I love something I thought I knew shifting every so slightly into a new light!

*This short story is also contained in the paperback edition of The Dark Days Club.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Book Review - Alison Goodman's The Dark Days Club

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Published by: Speak
Publication Date: December 14th, 2015
Format: Paperback, 544 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

When Lady Helen Wrexhall's parents died she thought that would be the biggest upset to her life. Her and her brother became orphans on the suffrage of their Aunt and Uncle Pennworth and life moved on. On the eve of her presentation to the Queen, Lady Helen assumed the only stumbling block to making a good match and avoiding a scene in front of royalty would be the lingering scandal of being the daughter of Lady Catherine, the Countess of Hayden, a traitor to the crown, but she was wrong. Lady Helen's life is about to change irrevocably and the only hint she has is her friend Delia Cransdon being ruined. Helen has always had an uncanny knack of reading people and she knows her Aunt Leonore is hiding something from her. Because the story will be the talk of the town Aunt Leonore agrees to tell everything to Helen as a warning and also because she has a love for the dramatic and Gothic. After two unsuccessful seasons Delia ran off with a man named Trent three days prior. Instead of heading to Scotland and an elopement, they were found in Sussex. Mr. Trent shot himself in the head and as he died, according to a groom from a nearby public house, he was lit from within. Mr. Trent must have been a ghoul to leave poor Delia ruined and covered in his blood.

Helen's first instinct is to rush to Delia's side but her Aunt makes it very clear that all of society has cut poor Delia and that Pennworth in particular will have no whiff of anything untoward happening to Helen. So Helen must go forward with her plans for the season. Presentations and balls and card parties and calling on friends, all while forsaking a dear friend for the sake of respectability. Yet her Uncle Pennworth has a secret, his side of the family also has a notorious member, Lord Carlston, who fled England three years prior because he was accused of murdering his wife. The fact that her body was never found didn't much matter to society. On the day of her presentation Lady Helen and Lord Carlston's paths will cross and he will take something very precious from her, a portrait of her mother, a portrait she foolishly brought to court because who brings the picture of a traitor when being presented to the Queen? Yet the Queen hints that perhaps all of society is wrong about Lady Catherine. There are so many questions swirling about in Helen's mind she soon realizes that the only one who might have any answers is Lord Carlston. As the two get to know each other she realizes the world is full of monsters and she was put on earth to destroy them. But will her destiny destroy her future?

The way the magic systems work in the Regency Magic genre can be broadly placed in three categories. The first and most common is that everyone knows about magic. Magic is a part of everyday life and it's just accepted and we get on with our story. The second is that the knowledge of magic is held by a select few, sometimes secret societies, sometimes families, but our heroine, and let me here point out that in Regency Magic it is almost always a heroine, is already in the know but gets drawn further into the magical world over the course of her story. The third and rarest category is the one in which our heroine is completely oblivious to magic and is thrust into this new world with no prerequisite knowledge and has to learn everything. The Dark Days Club falls into this rarefied third category and it made me giddy. Over the years of devouring books written in the Regency Magic genre it's very rare that a book or series feels fresh. They are usually just reassembling the same building blocks into a new and lovely picture, but it's still the basic building blocks. Here though I felt revitalized! Here was something new! Instead of being annoyed reading exposition about the already known magical system here we were on the journey with Helen learning all about Deceivers and Reclaimers and it made the book that much more visceral a read.

Alison Goodman doubled down on the originality in that instead of going to the fairy standby she chose a different path. Again, not that I have anything against fairies, with the time period they make sense with the romanticizing of the time period, but sometimes it's nice to not have fairies if you know what I mean. The Dark Days Club is far more demonic. This is why I really loved this book, it was Regency Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And if you're not rushing to the bookstore to pick this series up with that one sentence, I'm sorry, but I don't think we can be friends. Helen becomes a chosen one, she's a Reclaimer, like her mother before her, that has been gifted with supernatural powers, such as increased strength and hearing, and that habit of her of reading people? Well that would be so she can figure out what people are really Deceivers in disguise. Because Deceivers are the name given to the four kinds of demons in Helen's world. And what I really think is clever about naming them Deceivers is that it ties back into the Prince of Darkness, Satan himself, the Prince of Lies, the Great Deceiver himself! There's just so much more at stake when the upcoming war of good versus evil isn't again Napoleon or some fairies but is against the very denizens of hell.

This willingness to embrace the darkness of the Regency period is what sets this book completely apart from all other books I've read in this genre. When people think of the Regency period they think of Jane Austen whose writing has a universality to it. Yet to me sometimes making a book precisely about the time period is even more of an escape. And instead of just sticking to the broad strokes most authors do, such as Napoleon, with a few daring to expand to the social unrest of the time, we get specificity for 1812. We get to see the social unrest through the Luddite riots in the north, we see the dark underbelly of Regency England, we see the pee cups that girls about to be presented used behind screens at court when they were about to be presented to the Queen. And seriously, those pee cups answered a lot of questions I've had over the years wondering if people just had larger bladders in the 1800s... because me and that pee cup would have become very good friends what with my nerves. Though for me the part that had me wringing my hands with almost maniacal glee was the inclusion of the Ratcliff Highway Murders. These gruesome real life crimes have captivated people from those like Helen and possibly even Jane Austen herself who would have devoured the tale in the penny press to mystery writer P.D. James who wrote about them in The Maul and the Pear Tree. And as I'm sure you know, I love me a good true crime. This combination of fantasy and reality is what really sets The Dark Days Club apart.

Yet none of this would matter if the book didn't have characters we love and hate. Despite the fact I could probably rage against Helen's Uncle Pennworth for hours I will instead concentrate on my favorite character, Helen's lady's maid, Darby. Darby is the heart of this book. Not only does she ground the narrative for us readers by asking the questions of Lady Helen we would as if we were in her shoes, such as are Lady Helen's powers evil, but she drives the narrative with her coming to terms with this new world order. For Darby it all starts out small, worrying about one of the house maids who has gone missing, and this one question, this one small investigation, catapults her and Lady Helen into this new world. What's more, once a part of this world she doesn't question the rightness of it. For every Reclaimer, they have an assistant they share their powers with, their Terrene. This person grounds them, quite literally, and that is what I connect to with Darby. She is so practical, so down-to-earth, that she is the perfect sidekick, companion, Terrene, to Lady Helen. Plus her tendre that she develops for Lord Carlston's Terrene Quinn, for me, this is the true love story of the book. Not Helen and her choosing between Lord Carlston and her brother's best friend the Duke, it's all about Darby and Quinn, two people whose place in life might have precluded finding love.

Finally though I have to go a little off book, well not so much off book as to another book... Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery to be precise. This book holds a special place in my heart because my binge of Michael Crichton's oeuvre is really what made me the reader I am today. There are so many memorable scenes in that book that were later brought to life in Crichton's own adaptation starring Sean Connery that I will forever think of them as the pinnacle of a successful action sequence. One such scene that worked just as successfully on the page as on the screen is when our delightful villains have to break a snakesman out of Newgate Prison using a public hanging as distraction. This scene is a scene that I don't think will ever leave me for how taunt if made every nerve in my body. Therefore I was very excited when the action of The Dark Days Club took us to a public hanging at Newgate Prison, and not just a fictional hanging, but the execution of John Bellingham who had assassinated the Prime Minster Spencer Perceval. This melding of reality and fiction was just perfect and the taut action took me right back to the time when I first read The Great Train Robbery. The crush of the crowd, the frenzy, the mania, all of it came together perfectly to not only make me remember why I love reading so much but why I love this book so much. I seriously can not wait for the next installment!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Binding by Bridget Collins
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder - a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends - and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

An unforgettable novel of enchantment, mystery, memory, and forbidden love, The Binding is a beautiful homage to the allure and life-changing power of books - and a reminder to us all that knowledge can be its own kind of magic."

This has literally been on by TBR pile since I first heard of it and I was lucky enough to win an ARC in a drawing. I can't wait for you all to read it too.

The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters
Published by: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Seventeen-year-old Edgar Poe counts down the days until he can escape his foster family - the wealthy Allans of Richmond, Virginia. He hungers for his upcoming life as a student at the prestigious new university, almost as much as he longs to marry his beloved Elmira Royster. However, on the brink of his departure, all his plans go awry when a macabre Muse named Lenore appears to him. Muses are frightful creatures that lead Artists down a path of ruin and disgrace, and no respectable person could possibly understand or accept them. But Lenore steps out of the shadows with one request: "Let them see me!""

There just aren't enough books retelling and re-imagining the life of Poe.

The Master of Dreams by Mike Resnick
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Opening a new fantasy trilogy from Hugo award winner Resnick, this novel offers an adventure through space and time as Eddie Raven tries to outrun the dark forces pursuing him.

Eddie Raven isn't quite sure what's happening to him - and he's in a race to find out before it kills him.

His adventures begin with a shooting in a very strange shop in Manhattan - but soon he finds himself the owner of a very familiar bar in Casablanca. By the time he adjusts to that reality, he's suddenly become one of several undersized people helping a young woman search for a wizard. And after confronting the wizard, he somehow finds himself in Camelot.

But as he rushes to solve the mystery of his many appearances, a larger threat looms. Because someone or something is stalking him through time and space with deadly intent...."

Sounds a bit like one of the Burt-centric episodes of Moonlighting... meaning I'm sold! 

No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Go big or go gnome. The New York Times bestselling authors of Kill the Farm Boy welcome you to the world of Pell, the irreverent fantasy universe that recalls Monty Python and Terry Pratchett.

War is coming, and it’s gonna be Pell.

On one side stand the gnomes: smol, cheerful, possessing tidy cardigans and no taste for cruelty.

On the other side sit the halflings, proudly astride their war alpacas, carrying bags of grenades and hungry for a fight. And pretty much anything else.

It takes only one halfling bomb and Offi Numminen’s world is turned upside down - or downside up, really, since he lives in a hole in the ground. His goth cardigans and aggressive melancholy set him apart from the other gnomes, as does his decision to fight back against their halfling oppressors. Suddenly Offi is the leader of a band of lovable misfits and outcasts - from a gryphon who would literally kill for omelets to a young dwarf herbalist who is better with bees than with his cudgel to an assertive and cheerful teen witch with a beard as long as her book of curses - all on a journey to the Toot Towers to confront the dastardly villain intent on tearing Pell asunder. These adventurers never fit in anywhere else, but as they become friends, fight mermaids, and get really angry at this one raccoon, they learn that there’s nothing more heroic than being yourself.

In No Country for Old Gnomes, Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne lovingly tweak the tropes of fantasy and fairy tales. Here you’ll find goofy jokes and whimsical puns, but you’ll also find a diverse, feminist, and lighthearted approach to fantasy that will bring a smile to your face and many fine cheeses to your plate."

Gnomes puns to your heart's content!

Magickal Mystery Lore by Sharon Pape
Published by: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 246 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This spells trouble...

The New Camel Day Fair is a fun-filled event for residents of this upstate New York town. Kailyn Wilde, a modern-day witch of ancient lineage, leaves her potion shop, Abracadabra-and her feline familiar, Sashkatu-to attend with her fortune-telling Aunt Tilly. Joining them is legendary wizard Merlin, who's discovering new pleasures of time-traveling to the modern world, including curly fries and kettle corn-but the appeal of the Tilt-a-Wheel is beyond his mystical imagination.

The real wild ride begins later, when neighboring sweet shop owner Lolly rushes into Abracadabra with news about a dead body. The victim has one of Lolly's fudge knives stuck in her back, but in spite of the sticky evidence, Lolly is only one of several suspects with ample motive and opportunity. Meanwhile, Merlin's research into old family scrolls and electromagnetic ley lines is causing some unusual mix-ups. As the two investigations collide, Kailyn will have to do everything in her power to prevent disaster..."

Kitty cat magic!

The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith
Published by: Pantheon
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmö, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division.

These are their stories.

The first case: the small matter of a man stabbed in the back of the knee. Who would perpetrate such a crime and why? Next: a young woman's imaginary boyfriend goes missing. But how on earth do you search for someone who doesn't exist? And in the final investigation: eerie secrets that are revealed under a full moon may not seem so supernatural in the light of day. No case is too unusual, too complicated, or too, well insignificant for this squad to solve.

The team: Ulf “the Wolf” Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengsdotter, who's in love with Varg's car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing more than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.

With the help of a rather verbose local police officer, this crack team gets to the bottom of cases other detectives can't or won't bother to handle. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a true master."

Um, this is sheer genius. Parodying the glut of Swedish crime AND Law and Order. 

The Governess of Penwythe Hall by Sarah E. Ladd
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Kindle, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Cornwall was in her blood, and Delia feared she’d never escape its hold.

Cornwall, England, 1811.

Blamed for her husband’s death, Cordelia Greythorne fled Cornwall and accepted a governess position to begin a new life. Years later her employer’s unexpected death and his last request for her to watch over his five children force her to reevaluate. She can’t abandon the children now that they’ve lost both parents, but their new guardian lives at the timeworn Penwythe Hall...back on the Cornish coast she’s tried desperately to forget.

Jac Twethewey is determined to revive Penwythe Hall’s once-flourishing apple orchards, and he’ll stop at nothing to see his struggling estate profitable again. He hasn’t heard from his brother in years, so when his nieces, nephews, and their governess arrive unannounced, he battles both grief at his brother’s death and bewilderment over this sudden responsibility. Jac’s priorities shift as the children take up residence in the ancient halls, but their secretive governess - and the mystery shrouding her past - proves to be a disruption to his carefully laid plans.

Rich with family secrets, lingering danger, and the captivating allure of new love, this first book in the Cornwall series introduces us to the Twethewey family and their search for peace, justice, and love on the Cornish coast."

Because Poldark will soon be over and you NEED as much Cornwall as you can get!

The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the author of Suitors and Sabotage comes a suspenseful and enthralling new Regency novel, perfect for readers who like their Jane Austen classics with a side of mystery and murder.

1833. A near-fatal carriage accident has deposited an unconscious young woman on the doorstep of Hardwick Manor and into the care of young Lord James Ellerby. But when she finally awakens, it is with no memory of who she is or where she came from.

Beth, as she calls herself, has no identity; the only clue to her circumstances is a recurring nightmare of a hummingbird, blood dripping from its steel beak.

With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth tries to solve the mystery of her own identity and the appalling events that brought her to their door. But nothing could prepare her for the escalating dangers that threaten her and the Ellerby clan. From the hazardous cliffs of Dorset to the hostile streets of London, Beth will fight to reclaim her past, hunted by a secretive foe with murderous intentions.

Fans of Cindy Anstey's previous novels won't want to miss The Hummingbird Dagger, a dark and twisty new offering that blends romance, danger and mystery."

I like my Regency any which way, but yes please to murder and suspense!

City of Flickering Light by Juliette Fay
Published by: Gallery Books
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Juliette Fay-“one of the best authors of women’s fiction” (Library Journal) - transports us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and the raucous Roaring Twenties, as three friends struggle to earn their places among the stars of the silent screen - perfect for fans of La La Land and Rules of Civility.

It’s July 1921, “flickers” are all the rage, and Irene Van Beck has just declared her own independence by jumping off a moving train to escape her fate in a traveling burlesque show. When her friends, fellow dancer Millie Martin and comedian Henry Weiss, leap after her, the trio finds their way to the bright lights of Hollywood with hopes of making it big in the burgeoning silent film industry.

At first glance, Hollywood in the 1920s is like no other place on earth - iridescent, scandalous, and utterly exhilarating - and the three friends yearn for a life they could only have dreamed of before. But despite the glamour and seduction of Tinseltown, success doesn’t come easy, and nothing can prepare Irene, Millie, and Henry for the poverty, temptation, and heartbreak that lie ahead. With their ambitions challenged by both the men above them and the prejudice surrounding them, their friendship is the only constant through desperate times, as each struggles to find their true calling in an uncertain world. What begins as a quest for fame and fortune soon becomes a collective search for love, acceptance, and fulfillment as they navigate the backlots and stage sets where the illusions of the silver screen are brought to life.

With her “trademark wit and grace” (Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters), Juliette Fay crafts another radiant and fascinating historical novel as thrilling as the bygone era of Hollywood itself."

I am a sucker for anything to do with the early years of Hollywood, or should I say Hollywoodland?

Doublespeak by Alisa Smith
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The followup to the literate and action-packed historical thriller Speakeasy, Doublespeak finds plucky protagonist Lena on a journey back to her past.

Lieutenant Lena Stillman has been left, nearly alone, on her code-breaking mission in remote Alaska. World War II has been over for a month, but due to crimes committed a lifetime ago, Lena is still under the control of the powerful Miss Maggie.

Shaken by her role in the disappearance of Corporal Link Hughes - and by her own misjudgment of his character - Lena yearns for an opportunity to redeem them both. Then she receives a shocking message containing Link’s potential location: Siam. Embarking on a clandestine rescue mission to Bangkok, Lena is reunited with shadows from her past - including loyal friend Byron who is eager to escape his safe, dull life and the attractive yet dangerous “William Yardly.” As personal and political allegiances shift in the postwar maelstrom, it seems impossible to know who is good or bad, innocent or culpable and whether they are motivated by love or revenge.

Overlaying rich historic detail and an intricate plot, Doublespeak is an entrancing sequel to Alisa Smith’s first novel Speakeasy, which received the honor of being a Walter Scott Prize Academy recommended book of 2018."

I like the unlikely locals that one doesn't necessarily connect with WWII and the time immediately after that.

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer - never before seen in public - might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel."

A little romance with a little mystery, literary style! 

A Perfect Cornish Summer by Phillipa Ashley
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: April 16th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The first in a gorgeous new series from the author of Summer at the Cornish Cafe.

Summer is on the horizon, and the people of Porthmellow are eagerly awaiting the annual food festival. At least, most of them are...

For Sam Lovell, organising the summer festival in her hometown is one of the highlights of her year. It’s not always smooth sailing, but she loves to see Porthmellow’s harbour packed with happy visitors, and being on the committee has provided a much-needed distraction from the drama in her family life (and the distinct lack of it in her love life).

When their star guest pulls out with only a few weeks to go, everyone’s delighted when a London chef who grew up locally steps in at the last minute. But Gabe Matthias is the last person Sam was expecting to see, and his return to Porthmellow will change her quiet coastal life for ever.

Curl up with this gorgeous novel and savour the world of Porthmellow Harbour."

More Cornwall! With a little Doc Martin small town vibe. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Alison Goodman

Alison Goodman is one of those rare authors whose books remind you why you love reading. They are so rich and detailed that you can't help but fall in love with reading all over again. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Alison has an obvious love of learning having been a D.J. O'Hearn Memorial Fellow at Melbourne University. She holds a masters degree and is currently working on her PhD at the University of Queensland. But her academic bent doesn't surprised me in the least with how much detailed research goes into her books. You have to have a love of learning to want to find out how exactly women relieved themselves when they were presented to the Queen in Regency England. While she published her first book in 1998 it was her Eon/Eona duology from 2008 that really cemented her as an internationally bestselling and award-winning author. In fact in 2008 she was a James Tiptree, Jr. Award Honor Book, which is part of WisCon and seriously, if this means she, like Zen Cho, was in Madison at some point and I missed her I'm going to be very sad. At least it was in 2008 and that's before I started going, so at least I can console myself with that.

While it was her duology, before duologies really took off again, that made her a New York Times bestselling author it's The Dark Days Club books that are where it's at for me. This series has won a plethora of awards which proves that occasionally awards get it right. But awards don't matter as much as seeing that an author truly loves what they are writing. Alison lives and breathes the Regency. Just look at her Pinterest boards! I just adore that Alison has Pinterest boards! Because I am a visual person, despite my love of reading, and to visually see inside her brain, to look at her writing process in this medium, to troll through the architecture and art of the Regency period which she absorbed while writing a series I love adds a whole new level of reading enjoyment for me. What's more, she doesn't just virtually live in the Regency world, according to her website "Alison can dance a mean contra-dance, has a wardrobe full of historically accurate Regency clothes and will travel a long way for a good high-tea." Now the problem I have is that there really isn't a good place for high-tea near me to lure her in with... 

Question: When did you first discover Jane Austen?

Answer: I was quite a latecomer to Jane Austen and only started reading her in my late teens. Before that I read all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency books, so that was my real introduction to the era. My Lady Helen series is probably more of a direct descendant of Heyer than Austen - more emphasis on an adventure plot, a rich Regency setting, and lots of banter between the lead female and male.

Question: What do you think Jane Austen would think of her impact with so many literary offshoots, from parody to pastiche?

Answer: For all her gentility, Jane Austen was not without ambition! She published novels that were not in the usual mode for a woman of her time (and let’s not forget that a woman publishing in the early 1800’s was fairly unusual in itself). Not only that, when her brother was no longer able to negotiate with the publishers on her behalf, she took over the management of her career. I think that secretly - and in her letters to her beloved sister, Cassandra - she would have been thrilled and victorious about the afterlife of her novels, but publicly she would have been properly demure.

Question: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Answer: The Lady Helen series is often called Pride and Prejudice meets Buffy, and I can see why - Buffy and her girl power was definitely an inspiration. I find inspiration in all manner of things including Pinterest, newspapers and magazines from the Regency era, diaries written by people who lived at that time, and history books and documentaries (I have a list of my favourite books and documentaries that I used for the Lady Helen series on my website under Research at I also love visiting Regency cities and towns in England, and going to re-enactment events like balls and festivals. Frankly, anything and everything can be an inspiration. Writers are like magpies - we pick up all the shiny things that catch our eye and stash them away in our mind or notebooks for use in a story one day!

Question: What makes the early 19th century mesh so well with magic?

Answer: For me the early 19th century meshes so well with magic because it sits between the superstitions of pre-1700 and the new rationality that came with the Enlightenment. It was also a time when the bawdy, raucous manners of the Georgian era were being replaced by a new civility, which placed an emphasis on manners and gentility. In the Lady Helen series, I play on this duality and have created an underbelly of demonic chaos in the form of the Deceivers, deadly creatures that feed on the wild emotions of people that have been supressed beneath the new gentility.

Question: The world building and system of magic varies greatly in the regency fantasy genre, how did you go about creating yours?

Answer: Oops, I think I kind of answered this in the previous question. But let me elaborate - I built the magic system in the Lady Helen world directly from the idea of how early 19th century society was changing from the boorish Georgian era into the more refined civility of the Regency. With that as a starting point, I created a personification of that wildness in the form of the demonic Deceivers who live in human bodies and move in society, feeding on emotions. As soon as I had worked out their powers, I could then work out the powers of Lady Helen and her fellow Reclaimers, the human counter to the Deceiver threat.

Question: If you had to choose between writing only period literature or only fantasy literature, which would win?

Answer: I think it would have to be period literature. It would pain me to give up fantasy and all its mythic aspects and story freedoms, but in the end I love the research that goes along with writing period fiction. The one thing that I probably wouldn’t miss about writing fantasy is keeping track of the magic system. If you are writing a magic system, I recommend keeping up-to-date notes about what can and can’t happen in your magic world, and also create a chart at the end so that everything is kept straight as you edit. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.

Question: Be honest, have you ever dressed up in Regency clothes just to pretend for a moment you are in the past?

Absolutely - I proudly own my Regency geekdom. I have a full Regency wardrobe including a ball gown, spencer jackets and all the under-things. I’ve also learned how to dance in the Regency manner and go to balls and Regency events in full costume. I love it!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Book Review - Zen Cho's The True Queen

The True Queen by Zen Cho
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: March 12th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Two connected souls wash up on the magical shores of Janda Baik. Sakti speaks Muna's name and Muna knows that it is hers, just as she knows Sakti is her sister. But that is all. Neither girl knows any more. The powerful witch Mak Grenggang takes the girls in unperturbed by the amnesia but willing to help them with their memory when she has free time, which is rare. Sakti shows magical abilities and therefore becomes Mak Grenggang's pupil. Muna doesn't have a bit of magic in her body and therefore helps take care of Mak Grenggang's large household of supernatural beings. It is a simple and quiet life but Sakti is unsettled and mistrustful of Mak Grenggang. She wants to know who she is and why she has forgotten. Everything becomes more urgent when Sakti discovers that she literally has a hole through her body. Parts of her are fading away and she thinks this strongly indicates that she and her sister have been cursed, though Muna isn't convinced the kindly Mak Grenggang is behind it as her sister keeps insisting. They need answers and have heard that the English Raja is hoarding books on magic and therefore sneak to the British Resident's house on the settlement of Malacca where they are soon caught in the act.

Their trespass has severe political ramifications. The British in Malaysia have been waiting for any excuse to go after Mak Grenggang and take control of Janda Baik and Sakti and Muna have given them an excuse. Therefore Sakti and Muna have to be whisked away from the island through the realms of Fairy and into the protection of Mak Grenggang's friend, the Sorceress Royal of England. By Sakti being sponsored as an honored guest and pupil at the Sorceress Royal's school, The Lady Maria Wythe Academy for the Instruction of Females in Practical Thaumaturgy, the English can't justifiably seize Janda Baik. Only as they take the shortcut Mak Grenggang has laid for them through Fairy something horrible happens, Sakti is taken. Only Muna makes it to England and she has to convince the Sorceress Royal and her friend Henrietta Stapleton that she is the magical one and that their first goal is to find her sister. Things can never be that simple though. Fairy can not be accessed from England due to many ongoing issues, the most recent being the Threlfall family losing the Fairy Queen's Virtu, and an all out war with Fairy could come to pass. What is Muna to do when all she wants is her sister? The answer is whatever it takes.

In the first book in this series, Sorcerer to the Crown, we alternated between two characters, the Sorceress Royal, Prunella Gentleman, and her predecessor and now husband (sqweee) Zacharias Wythe. While The True Queen does continue their story they aren't the focus of this book and while at first I was like, I'm not sure I want the story continued in a book that isn't a direct up sequel, I've been completely won over with how Zen Cho has been able to expand her universe while remaining true to it's origins, which has that same snark I love so much from The Magicians. It's not just that we have more locations, from spending time in Janda Baik to seeing other parts of Fairy besides the quick glimpse Zacharias had previously of the court, it's that we see the story through the eyes of so many different characters. The number of POVs in this book has expanded exponentially, so Muna, Sakti, Prunella, Henrietta, Rollo, even a Midsomer, have a little slice of the story! And each character builds the narrative and it's themes, not one of them, even Clarissa Midsomer, taking away from the plot. The constant struggle between desire and duty is explored through more lives and more facets showcasing the importance of family and what sacrifice really means. I couldn't think of a better sequel.

While the character roster is expanding so is our understanding of how magic works in the world Zen Cho has created. I've always liked the idea that magic is science we don't yet understand, and while what we learn here isn't science, it does finally give us an understanding of how magic works in this world. In Sorcerer to the Crown it's clear that magic comes from the Fairy realm as they've put a block on it. Here though we see magic through the eyes of Muna who, while not magical, was taught an entirely different approach to magic in Malaysia. In fact she has many different terms and abilities that the English magicians don't have. She even calls the Queen of the Fairies the Queen of the Djinns. So it makes sense that she would see all magic differently and what she sees is that all magic is actually accomplished by invisible creatures in the air that do the magician's bidding. So all the spells and incantations are just words strung together, sometimes rather rudely, to get these invisible creatures to enact the wishes of the magician. Muna can not believe that this is how magic works! It's wonderful to think that through kindness and flattery anyone can achieve magical feats. The male English magicians who were all rather bombastic in my mind would never deign to believe that being nice can lead to magic and therefore it makes me extremely happy that this is the case.

In fact this whole book is about seeing everything differently. It's about opening up your eyes to the magic that is literally all around us. That love can come in many shapes and sizes and might not be expected or understood, but it is always welcome. This inclusivity prevalent throughout the book made me feel as if the ending was a little flat. Now I'm not going to go and spoil anything for you here, but I will explain a bit around the relationship in question in order to hopefully get my point across, but if you want to be completely ignorant feel free to skip ahead to me talking about dragons, and yes, I talk about dragons! So we have two characters of the same sex who fall desperately in love. You will be shipping them the entire book. Therefore when they don't technically end up together at the end of the book it's kind of heartbreaking. I mean, yes, it's historically accurate, being openly gay during this time in history wasn't exactly the done thing, but at the same time, this is a book about magic and dragons and actual fairies and I kind of was hoping for something more. Not a compromise, not something that will look fine to the outside world, but complete and total happily ever after. Of course seeing as this actually annoyed me so much just goes to show how much I love the characters...

Dragons! See, I told you I'd talk about them. So here's the thing, I never really thought of myself as a big dragon fan. I liked them and all, but then I started noticing things, like how I have a fair amount of stuffed animal dragons and dragon statuary and more than a few books about dragons and Falkor was easily my favorite character in The Neverending Story and then I thought on it and realized, yes, I think I'm a little obsessed with dragons. I mean, I'm not Dragonriders of Porn level obsessed, and thank you forever to whomever wrote the "Home Improvement" episode of The Magicians this season for that joke. But still, it all comes down to the fact that I love me some dragons. Which means I LOVE ME some Rollo Threlfall the familiar of Paget Damerell. The big reveal at the end of Sorcerer to the Crown is that Rollo isn't just a typical Regency buck but is actually a dragon. And therefore his Aunt Georgiana who kind of started the whole narrative going back in book one by asking Rollo to give a speech to some gentlewitches is also actually a dragon. But what I love most is that while they are dragons that doesn't change their underlying characters. Rollo is a Regency buck trapped in a dragon and Aunt Georgiana is the dragon of an aunt you always fear at the local assembly. Regency dragons, is there anything better!?! The answer is no if you were wondering.

But oddly enough it was a small plot point that was the icing on top of the cake for me and that was a hall of talking paintings. Talking paintings are pretty common in books with magic or magical schools, just look to how ubiquitous they are in Harry Potter. Though interestingly enough it's never mentioned how they came to be in Harry Potter, unless it's somewhere on Pottermore and I can't be bothered to slog through that site. I mean Dumbeldore's painting is up like minutes after he's dead, how did they swing that!?! I mean, seriously, how, I NEED to know. Therefore I was more than a little pleased that Zen Cho instead of just having talking paintings that are rude to the students of The Lady Maria Wythe Academy for the Instruction of Females in Practical Thaumaturgy she explains how they are made and why they might be a little rude. Because it's not the personality of the subject that is captured but the personality of the subject as viewed through the eyes of the artist. Oh, as an artist how I loved this. It's like instant revenge for generations on someone who is rude to you! As Mr. Wythe explained: "the paintings have little of their subjects in them - the life that animates them springs from the artist, and the artist's opinions of his subject cannot be taken as a wholly reliable guide to who they were. I am sure the real George Midsomer was much pleasanter than his likeness." Ahem, sure... a "nice" Midsomer. I'll believe it when I see it, maybe in the next book?

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