Monday, February 10, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Daughter from the Dark by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this extraordinary stand-alone novel, the authors and translator of Vita Nostra - a "dark Harry Potter on steroids with a hefty dose of metaphysics" (award-winning author Aliette de Bodard) - return with a story about creation, music, and companionship filled with their hallmark elements of subtle magic and fantasy.

Late one night, fate brings together DJ Aspirin and ten-year-old Alyona. After he tries to save her from imminent danger, she ends up at his apartment. But in the morning sinister doubts set in. Who is Alyona? A young con artist? A plant for a nefarious blackmailer? Or perhaps a long-lost daughter Aspirin never knew existed? Whoever this mysterious girl is, she now refuses to leave.

A game of cat-and-mouse has begun.

Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother. Confused and wary, Aspirin knows one thing: he wants her out of his apartment and his life. Yet every attempt to get rid of her is thwarted by an unusual protector: her plush teddy bear that may just transform into a fearsome monster.

Alyona tells Aspirin that if he would just allow her do her work, she’ll leave him - and this world. He can then return to the shallow life he led before her. But as outside forces begin to coalesce, threatening to finally separate them, Aspirin makes a startling discovery about himself and this ethereal, eerie child."

Here for the teddy bear defense!

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley
Published by: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A must-read for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, transforming The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a powerful tundra-inspired fantasty.

Before the massacre at Nariin, Enebish was one of the greatest warriors in the Sky King’s Imperial Army: a rare and dangerous Night Spinner, blessed with the ability to control the threads of darkness. Now, she is known as Enebish the Destroyer—a monster and murderer, banished to a monastery for losing control of her power and annihilating a merchant caravan.

Guilt stricken and scarred, Enebish tries to be grateful for her sanctuary, until her adoptive sister, Imperial Army commander Ghoa, returns from the war front with a tantalizing offer. If Enebish can capture the notorious criminal, Temujin, whose band of rebels has been seizing army supply wagons, not only will her crimes be pardoned, she will be reinstated as a warrior.

Enebish eagerly accepts. But as she hunts Temujin across the tundra, she discovers the tides of war have shifted, and the supplies he’s stealing are the only thing keeping thousands of shepherds from starving. Torn between duty and conscience, Enebish must decide whether to put her trust in the charismatic rebel or her beloved sister. No matter who she chooses, an even greater enemy is advancing, ready to bring the empire to its knees."

While The Hunchback of Notre Dame angle interests me, I'm mainly here for the "fans of Legin Bardugo's Grishaverse."

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers
Published by: Redhook
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A young witch is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist, in this haunting debut novel.

Helen Lambert has lived several lives-a young piano virtuoso in 1890s Paris, an actress in 1930's Hollywood, a rock star in 1970s Los Angeles-only she doesn't know it. Until she meets a strange man who claims he's watched over her for centuries, bound to her from the beginning.

At first, Helen doesn't believe him. Her life is as normal as any other modern career woman's. Then she begins having vivid dreams about ill-fated love and lives cut short. Caught in a curse, Helen will be forced to relive the same tragic events that ruined her previous lives. But with each rebirth, she's developed uncanny powers. And as the most powerful version of herself, Helen must find a way to break the curse before her time runs out."

SO MANY FAVORITE TIME PERIODS!!!

The Queen's Fortune by Allison Pataki
Published by: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history - from the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor's Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi.

As the French revolution ravages the country, Desiree Clary is faced with the life-altering truth that the world she has known and loved is gone and it’s fallen on her to save her family from the guillotine.

A chance encounter with Napoleon Bonaparte, the ambitious and charismatic young military prodigy, provides her answer. When her beloved sister Julie marries his brother Joseph, Desiree and Napoleon’s futures become irrevocably linked. Quickly entering into their own passionate, dizzying courtship that leads to a secret engagement, they vow to meet in the capital once his career has been secured. But her newly laid plans with Napoleon turn to sudden heartbreak, thanks to the rising star of Parisian society, Josephine de Beauharnais. Once again, Desiree’s life is turned on its head.

Swept to the glittering halls of the French capital, Desiree is plunged into the inner circle of the new ruling class, becoming further entangled with Napoleon, his family, and the new Empress. But her fortunes shift once again when she meets Napoleon's confidant and star general, the indomitable Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. As the two men in Desiree’s life become political rivals and military foes, the question that arises is: must she choose between the love of her new husband and the love of her nation and its Emperor?

From the lavish estates of the French Riviera to the raucous streets of Paris and Stockholm, Desiree finds herself at the epicenter of the rise and fall of an empire, navigating a constellation of political giants and dangerous, shifting alliances. Emerging from an impressionable girl into a fierce young woman, she discovers that to survive in this world she must learn to rely upon her instincts and her heart.

Allison Pataki’s meticulously researched and brilliantly imagined novel sweeps readers into the unbelievable life of a woman almost lost to history - a woman who, despite the swells of a stunning life and a tumultuous time, not only adapts and survives but, ultimately, reigns at the helm of a dynasty that outlasts an empire."

I am HERE for all things Napoleonic!

The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families - the Borgias."

I am one of those people who feel like I always need to know more about the Borgias.

The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews
Published by: Perfectly Proper Press
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 316 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A winter reunion for the orphans brings romance for Neville Cross in Book 4 of Mimi Matthews' USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series.

She Needed to be Seen...

As a lady's companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that's precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it's far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a month-long holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she'd hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He Wanted to be Heard...

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady's companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do?"

Dammit I love Devon!

The American Fiancée by Eric Dupont
Published by: HarperVia
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 672 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this extraordinary breakout novel - a rich, devastatingly humorous epic of one unforgettable family - award-winning author Eric Dupont illuminates the magic of stories, the bonds of family, and the twists of fate and fortune to transform our lives.

Over the course of the twentieth century, three generations of the Lamontagnes will weather love, passion, jealousy, revenge, and death. Their complicated family dynamic - as dramatic as Puccini’s legendary opera, Tosca - will propel their rise, and fall, and take them around the world...until they finally confront the secrets of their complicated pasts.

Born on Christmas, Louis Lamontagne, the family’s patriarch, is a larger-than-life lothario and raconteur who inherits his mother’s teal eyes and his father’s brutish good looks and whose charms travel beyond Quebec, across the state of New York where he wins at county fairs as a larger-than-life strongman, and even in Europe, where he is deployed for the US Army during World War II. We meet his daughter, Madeleine, who opens a successful chain of diners using the recipes from her grandmother, the original American Fiancée, and vows never to return to her hometown. And we end with her son Gabriel, another ladies’ man in the family, who falls in love with a woman he follows to Berlin and discovers unexpected connections there to the Lamontagne family that re-frame the entire course of the events in the book.

An unholy marriage of John Irving and Gary Shteyngart with the irresistible whimsy of Elizabeth McCracken, The American Fiancée is a big, bold, wildly ambitious novel that introduces a dynamic new voice to contemporary literature."

I'm all for generational family sagas!

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A searing novel which probes the world's approach to women's bodies and women's minds, and the time-honored tradition of doubting both.

At their newly founded school, Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline promise a groundbreaking education for young women. But Caroline has grave misgivings. After all, her own unconventional education has left her unmarriageable and isolated, unsuited to the narrow roles afforded women in 19th century New England.

When a mysterious flock of red birds descends on the town, Caroline alone seems to find them unsettling. But it's not long before the assembled students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: Rashes, seizures, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. One by one, they sicken. Fearing ruin for the school, Samuel overrules Caroline's pleas to inform the girls' parents and turns instead to a noted physician, a man whose sinister ministrations - based on a shocking historic treatment - horrify Caroline. As the men around her continue to dictate, disastrously, all terms of the girls' experience, Caroline's body too begins to betray her. To save herself and her young charges, she will have to defy every rule that has governed her life, her mind, her body, and her world.

Clare Beams's extraordinary debut story collection We Show What We Have Learned earned comparisons to Shirley Jackson, Karen Russell and Aimee Bender, and established Beams as a writer who "creates magical-realist pieces that often calculate the high cost of being a woman" (The Rumpus). Precisely observed, hauntingly atmospheric, as fiercely defiant as it is triumphant, The Illness Lesson is a spellbinding piece of storytelling."

Anyone garnering comparisons to Shirley Jackson is a must read in my book.

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the bestselling author of E. B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book Liesl and Po comes a timely and relevant adventure story about monsters of all kinds - and a girl brave enough to save them.

Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do together: saving and healing the remarkable creatures around Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. Their home on Cedar Street is full to the brim with dragons, squelches, and diggles, and Cordelia loves every one of them.

But their work must be kept secret - others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”?

One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared - along with nearly all the monsters.

With only a handful of clues and a cryptic note to guide her, Cordelia must set off to find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is)."

The end of the 19th century and weird animals? SOLD! 

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A. K. Larkwood's The Unspoken Name is a stunning debut fantasy about an orc priestess turned wizard's assassin.

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does - she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin - the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn - gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due."

When you're needing a little orc action. And who doesn't from time to time? Also reviewers have been comparing it to my FAVORITE Le Guin book...

A Falling Starr by Dani Hoots
Published by: FoxTales Press
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Kindle, 153 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A year ago I had woken up with no memory of who I was. No one seemed to know anything about me and for months the police investigated only to find nothing. The only thing I had was a necklace with the name Angela Starr.

The government gave me an ID with that name and let me enroll in a community college to get my GED. All the psychologists that they had examine me thought that would be best and going to school might jog some memories since they figured I was in my late teens. Well, it did, as I ran into a boy my age that I felt I knew, but before I could fully recover those memories, we found ourselves being chased into a portal that led to the other side of the universe.

But why did this other planet seem so familiar?"

Urban Fantasy meets Doctor Who? YAS!

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Volume 7 by Si Spurrier
Published by: Marvel
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 144 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"After all she's been through, professional disaster zone Doctor Aphra is right back where she started: working for Darth Vader. What villainous use has the dark lord found for her to make him spare the life of his most annoying foe...? And how long does she have to try to slither out of harm's way before he decides to finish what he started three years ago...?"

DOCTOR APHRA!!! THIS is the next Disney/Star Wars property I want developed into a series. PS, don't fuck it up or Triple Zero will be after you! 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Published by: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the dark underbelly of Victorian London, a formidable female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child in this gothic mystery - perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent and The Book of Speculation.

Bridie Devine - female detective extraordinaire - is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times."

True Gothic goodness!

Out of the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Published by: Gallery Books
Publication Date: February 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The twisted, beloved Dollanganger legend began two generations before Corrine Foxworth locked away her children in Flowers in the Attic. The second book in a new prequel story arc, Out of the Attic explores the Dollanganger family saga by traveling back decades to when the clan’s wicked destiny first took root.

Married to the handsome, wealthy Garland Foxworth following a wildfire romance, and an unexpected pregnancy, young Corrine Dixon finds her life very different from how she imagined it. Often alone in the mansion of Foxworth Hall, she can practically feel the ancestors’ judgment of her as insufficient - as not a Foxworth. Stern portraits glare at her from the walls, and the servants treat her strangely. Nothing in the vast place is truly hers.

Even her son, Malcolm Foxworth, born in the luxe Swan Room and instantly whisked away to a wet nurse, feels alien to her. With a husband alternately absent and possessively close, Corrine doesn’t yet realize that she’s barely scratched the surface of what lies beneath Foxworth Hall’s dark facade and the family that guards its legacies.

With the fortieth anniversary celebration of Flowers in the Attic, and ten new Lifetime movies in the past five years, there has never been a better time to experience the forbidden world of V.C. Andrews."

I am one who devoured all those Lifetime movies, especially this past August, and am in need of a V.C. Andrews fix!

Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: February 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"What if Wendy first traveled to Neverland...with Captain Hook?

Sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling's life is not what she imagined it would be. The doldrums of an empty house after her brothers have gone to school, the dull parties where everyone thinks she talks too much, and the fact that her parents have decided to send her away to Ireland as a governess-it all makes her wish things could be different.

Wendy's only real escape is in writing down tales of Never Land. After nearly meeting her hero, Peter Pan, four years earlier, she still holds on to the childhood hope that his magical home truly exists. She also holds on to his shadow.

So when an opportunity to travel to Never Land via pirate ship presents itself, Wendy makes a deal with the devil. But Never Land isn't quite the place she imagined it would be. Unexpected dangers and strange foes pop up at every turn, and a little pixie named Tinker Bell seems less than willing to help.

But when Captain Hook reveals some rather permanent and evil plans for Never Land, it's up to the two of them to save Peter Pan-and his world."

I am rather a sucker for all things Peter Pan.

Snug by Catana Chetwynd
Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing,
Publication Date: February 4th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 136 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Why bother getting out of bed when you could stay bundled up with that special someone and a book of cozy, cute comics. From the author of the bestselling Little Moments of Love comes Snug, a collection of comics that perfectly captures the honest, playful, and relatable snapshots of romantic life.

Chetwynd’s second book has the same charming and inviting style as her first and includes 50 percent new, never-before-shared comics. Snug is a celebration of the quirks and peculiarities of every one of us - and the magic that happens when we find our matching puzzle piece."

I've liked the Catana comics I've seen online so was excited for this book, I got a digital ARC. BUT the digital ARC crashed my computer repeatedly and what I did read before the inevitable crash didn't impress me. So for me, this is a pass, but I guess someone could use it as a gift for Valentine's Day, AKA that most exclusionary of holidays. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book Review 2019 #2 - Tasha Alexander's Upon the Midnight Clear

Upon the Midnight Clear by Tasha Alexander
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: November 5th, 2019
Format: Kindle, 73 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

What could have possessed Lady Emily and her husband Colin to actually take their three precocious boys to the legendary Hamleys Toy Shop days before Christmas? Yes, perhaps it's sheer joy at having London to themselves and avoiding their neighbor's overly enthusiastic holiday celebrations at Montague Manor that Colin refers to as The Festival of Horror. But their arrival at the toy shop seems fortuitous because a kind-hearted stranger gives her three boys Christmas crackers. Emily wants to view it as the act of kindness it appears, but in her husband's line of work appearances can be deceiving, just as the crackers turned out to be with each concealing a cryptic clue. Could this be the start of a Christmas case? When a Scottish stranger arrives the next day on their stoop Emily has every reason to believe the two events are connected as this man brings them a case. Years ago he married the love of his life against her parents wishes and she died in childbirth. He had every reason to believe that his child, a daughter, had died as well. Only recently he has found out that this might not be the case. Could Emily and Colin find his deceitful in-laws who are hidden under false identities within the teeming metropolis of London before Christmas or will he forever be separated from his daughter and any chance of happiness? Also, what about those Christmas crackers?

I'm OCD about reading books in order. So while I had an ARC of Lady Emily's fourteenth adventure, In the Shadow of Vesuvius, waiting on my Kindle I couldn't bring myself to read it immediately because of the upcoming Christmas Story, Upon the Midnight Clear. Tasha's Christmas tales are all such wonderful little slices of Emily's life coupled with just the right amount of Christmas cheer and literary allusions, like the perfect Christmas cookie, and I was ravenously waiting. Therefore the day it was released I devoured it whole. Yet my enjoyment didn't end there. This past holiday season was horrible for me. Starting at Thanksgiving and going straight through until Epiphany I was caring for my dad who was in and out of the hospital while watching my mom die. I had no Christmas. There were no gifts, there was nothing. I was barely able to squeeze in my mandatory traditions of watching Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Vicar of Dibley episode "The Christmas Lunch Incident" with a few cookies baked in haste. Yet I didn't feel cheated because I had the lingering memory of this story. The importance of family and the connection between fathers and daughters, important to me for what I was going through and also for what I knew Tasha had been through in the past year. Therefore in the cold days at the of the year when I was making my best of books list I knew this story had to be included, for giving me cheer and for helping me cope. There's nothing like getting lost in the pages of a book with an old friend to help you through the tough times.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Truants by Kate Weinberg
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Perfect for lovers of Agatha Christie and The Secret History, The Truants is a seductive, unsettling, and beautifully written debut novel of literary suspense - a thrilling exploration of deceit, first love, and the depths to which obsession can drive us.

People disappear when they most want to be seen.

Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat gray skies of East Anglia for one reason: to be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr. Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess's thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna's thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly knit group of rule-breakers - Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own.

But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken, until a tragedy shatters their friendships and love affairs, and reveals a terrible secret. Soon Jess must face the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?"

I have had this pre-ordered since Miranda Hart was like, you NEED to read this book!

The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From Erica Spindler, the New York Times bestselling author of The Other Girl and Justice for Sara comes The Look-Alike, a thrilling psychological drama about a woman who believes she escaped a brutal murder years ago - but does anyone else believe her?

Sienna Scott grew up in the dark shadow of her mother’s paranoid delusions. Now, she's returned home to confront her past and the unsolved murder that altered the course of her life.

In her mother’s shuttered house, an old fear that has haunted Sienna for years rears its ugly head - that it was she who had been the killer’s target that night. And now, with it, a new fear - that the killer not only intended to remedy his past mistake - he’s already begun. But are these fears any different from the ones that torment her mother?

As the walls close in, the line between truth and lie, reality and delusion disintegrate. Has Sienna’s worst nightmare come true? Or will she unmask a killer and finally prove she may be her mother’s look-alike, but she’s not her clone?"

I always love a good killer made a mistake so they're back to right the wrong story!

A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Witty and charming, New York Times-bestselling author Kerstin Gier's contemporary young adult novel A Castle in the Clouds follows a girl as she navigates secrets, romance, and danger in an aging grand hotel.

Way up in the Swiss mountains, there's an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year's Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.

Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure - and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart."

It's like a cute YA with shades of Poirot, with the whole Swiss grand hotel...

Cartier's Hopes by M.J. Rose
Published by: Atria Books
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author of Tiffany Blues, “a lush, romantic historical mystery” (Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale), comes a gorgeously wrought novel of ambition and betrayal set in the Gilded Age.

New York, 1910: A city of extravagant balls in Fifth Avenue mansions and poor immigrants crammed into crumbling Lower East Side tenements. A city where the suffrage movement is growing stronger every day, but most women reporters are still delegated to the fashion and lifestyle pages. But Vera Garland is set on making her mark in a man’s world of serious journalism.

Shortly after the world-famous Hope Diamond is acquired for a record sum, Vera begins investigating rumors about schemes by its new owner, jeweler Pierre Cartier, to manipulate its value. Vera is determined to find the truth behind the notorious diamond and its legendary curses - even better when the expose puts her in the same orbit as a magazine publisher whose blackmailing schemes led to the death of her beloved father.

Appealing to a young Russian jeweler for help, Vera is unprepared when she begins falling in love with him…and even more unprepared when she gets caught up in his deceptions and finds herself at risk of losing all she has worked so hard to achieve.

Set against the backdrop of New York’s glitter and grit, of ruthless men and the atrocities they commit in the pursuit of power, this enthralling historical novel explores our very human needs for love, retribution - and to pursue one’s destiny, regardless of the cost."

I love me some Gilded Age New York!

Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alamdea and Valynne E. Maetani
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This thrilling YA retelling of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai features a girl tasked with saving the world from eternal darkness. Perfect for fans of Six of Crows and Marie Lu.

Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her parents ignore her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Kyoto.

But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.

Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtier with reasons of her own for getting involved.

As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world?"

A female Seven Samurai? Yes please! 

Iridescent Fury by Zachary James
Published by: Zachary James Novels
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 500 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When Ariadae Vox's father tries to murder her after returning from the darkened forest she has been banished from all her life, the sixteen year-old takes it upon herself to delve into the seemingly wicked expanse of trees.

On her hunt for knowledge that can help save her kingdom from the cursed king, she discovers magic, monsters, and secrets that tie her to a world she has never known. Ariadae learns the truth of her mother's untimely fate, the lies hidden in the shadowed libraries of a ruthless Fae Queen, and the intentions behind each of her companion's reasons for joining her on this quest for answers that becomes a fight for survival.

Perfect for fans of the critically-acclaimed A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas and The Cruel Prince series by Holly Black."

Here for that wicked expanse of trees!

Cast in Wisdom by Michelle Sagara
Published by: Mira Books
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 544 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"SOMETHING IS WAKING.

The fiefs that exist at the heart of the city of Elantra are home to sentient Towers that guard the world against the incursion of Shadow. But between the fiefs exists the gray world of the border zone. In it, geography changes between one passage across a border and the next. The rules of magic are different there--and yet somehow familiar to Kaylin Neya.

When a Shadow escapes, Kaylin must find out how...and why. If Shadows can breach the barrier erected by the Towers, the whole of Elantra will be devoured. It's happened on other worlds. Bellusdeo, Kaylin's Dragon companion, absolutely believes it can happen on theirs.

The border zone holds secrets and ancient histories, and people are gathering there in search of its power. Without even understanding what that power is, or why it exists, Kaylin is in a desperate race against time to find those secrets first. She doesn't know who her enemies are. She doesn't know how many she'll face. But she won't face them alone."

I really need to start this series...

Highfire by Eoin Colfer
Published by: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana - and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs - now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie - now he goes by Vern. However...he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler - but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being - who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar) - fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc. - in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct - or Vern’s glory days are back.

A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action."

Could be awesome, could be horrid, but I'm all here for the dragon! 

Harry Potter: Knitting Magic by Tanis Gray
Published by: Insight Editions
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 192 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Introducing the first official Harry Potter knitting book - a deluxe guide to creating over 25 authentic Harry Potter knits based on the iconic films.

Channel the magic of the Harry Potter films from the screen to your needles with the ultimate knitter’s guide to the Wizarding World. Featuring over 25 magical knits pictured in gorgeous full-color photography, this book includes patterns for clothing, home projects, and keepsakes pulled straight from the movies - and even includes a few iconic costume pieces as seen on-screen. With yarn suggestions based on the true colors used in the films, projects range from simple patterns like the Hogwarts house scarves to more complex projects like Mrs. Weasley’s Christmas sweaters. A true fan must-have, this book also includes fun facts, original costume sketches, film stills, and other behind-the-scenes treasures. Harry Potter: Knitting Magic is sure to have fans everywhere summoning needles, conjuring yarn, and practicing their best knitting wizardry."

Official knits? Sqwee! 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Book Review 2019 #3 - Erin Morgenstren's The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: November 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 512 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

When he was young Zachary Ezra Rawlins found a door. Graffitied on the side of his home. Appearing overnight and painted over by the end of the day. He did not go through it and did not tell anyone about it but over the years wondered what would have happened. Therefore it comes as a shock when perusing the stacks of his school's library during winter break that there is a book with his story in it. This impossibility leads him on a hunt that will forever change his life. A hunt for a bee, a key, and a sword. A hunt that leads him into the cross-hairs of warring parties. At a literary themed masquerade at the Algonquin Hotel in New York he meets the players who will lead him down his path. Mirabel, the painter, and Dorian, the storyteller. But this path doesn't come without dangers. Far beneath the Earth there are tunnels and rooms and each and every one of them is filled with books and stories and adventures to be had. But they are all in danger. This subterranean world was once alive and vibrant and here Zachary Ezra Rawlins has finally stepped through the door into a magical world in it's death throes. What would have happened if he had arrived earlier? What will happen now that he's here? Can he save the library with his new companions or is it all lost before his adventure has really begun?

The Starless Sea is an ode to books and book lovers and all forms of stories. The plot twists and turns and is a complex puzzle waiting to be solved. A quest for the reader and for Zachary Ezra Rawlins. When you reach the end it becomes a beginning and it almost feels necessary to turn back to the first page and relive all the adventure and heartache. There's something nostalgic about it, it harkens back to well loved movies and books and even video games. There's more than a dash of The Neverending Story, and Labyrinth, and The Magicians, and and and a million other books and adventures I loved as a kid and adult. Though I have noted the discontent in some readers who were expecting a new iteration of The Night Circus. At first I to was hoping for that and while The Starless Sea is definitely not that it's so unique, so it's own thing, that I love it for what it is and the work you put in to understand and follow what is happening is justly rewarded. Books shouldn't be easy. Books should make us think, challenge us in ways we didn't expect, take us on an epic adventure that makes us realize why we fell in love with stories in the first place. I fell into The Starless Sea and don't care to be rescued.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Book Review 2019 #4 - Doctor Aphra Vol. 1: Aphra

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Vol. 1: Aphra by Kieron Gillen
Published by: Marvels
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2017
Format: Paperback, 144 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Doctor Aphra, thanks to her own ingenuity, was able to escape her servitude to Darth Vader by the handy expedient of faking her own death. But the galaxy is big and so long as she stays off his radar think of all she can do with this newfound lease on life? Think of all the artifacts waiting to be liberated. Think of how the sale of those artifacts using her archeological accreditation can get her out of debt to some rather unscrupulous characters. Think of all the humans waiting to be killed! Hang on... that's what her two murderbot droids pilfered from Vader, Triple Zero and BT-One, hope for on these adventures. But things never go to plan. Here she is with a relic ready for it's new owners and somehow all her bonafides have disappeared like Alderaan. Turns out her father is behind this newest wrinkle. He has an obsession with the Jedi and needs her help. Between family drama, an Imperial agent hot on her tail, and nothing ever being what is expected, Aphra will have a hell of a time surviving this new adventure. And she thought working for Vader was dangerous!

I have an enormous love of Star Wars but have been disappointed in recent years. The prequels? The retconning of the EU? So many missteps. The new trilogy is fine, but this isn't the path I viewed these characters I grew up with taking. Therefore my Star Wars is basically the original trilogy and Solo, because seriously, that movie rocks and I will cape fight anyone who disagrees with me. Also cape fighting is very similar to the walk off in Zoolander if you were wondering. Feeling many of the same feels as me a member of my book club handed me Doctor Aphra Vol. 1 and told me I MUST read it. When I received the book I was down and sick and was worried Star Wars would in some way let me down again. But THIS is what Star Wars should be! A glorious mashup of old school Star Wars and Indiana Jones, because, come on, who hasn't dreamt of that Harrison Ford mashup? Add in bloodthirsty droids, questionable motives, family issues, and more than a dollop of Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy, and this is a near perfect comic. As my friend told me, Aphra is who Han Solo wishes he was and I couldn't agree more. I want to be Doctor Aphra. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: January 21st, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the third book in the Mitford Murders series, lady's maid Louisa Cannon accompanies Diana Mitford into a turbulent late 1920s Europe.

The year is 1928, and after the death of a maid at a glamorous society party, fortune heir Bryan Guinness seizes life and proposes to eighteen-year-old Diana, most beautiful of the six Mitford sisters. The maid's death is ruled an accident, and the newlyweds put it behind them to begin a whirlwind life zipping between London's Mayfair, chic Paris and hedonistic Berlin. Accompanying Diana as her lady's maid is Louisa Cannon, as well as a coterie of friends, family and hangers on, from Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh.

When a second victim is found in Paris in 1931, Louisa begins to see links with the death of the maid two years previously. Now she must convince the Mitford sisters that a murderer could be within their midst...all while shadows darken across Europe, and within the heart of Diana Mitford herself."

This fills the Mitford void in my life since I've read all their books. 

Someday We Will Fly by Rachel DeWoskin
Published by: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 21st, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the author of Blind, a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story set during World War II in Shanghai, one of the only places Jews without visas could find refuge.

Warsaw, Poland. The year is 1940 and Lillia is fifteen when her mother, Alenka, disappears and her father flees with Lillia and her younger sister, Naomi, to Shanghai, one of the few places that will accept Jews without visas. There they struggle to make a life; they have no money, there is little work, no decent place to live, a culture that doesn't understand them. And always the worry about Alenka. How will she find them? Is she still alive?

Meanwhile Lillia is growing up, trying to care for Naomi, whose development is frighteningly slow, in part from malnourishment. Lillia finds an outlet for her artistic talent by making puppets, remembering the happy days in Warsaw when her family was circus performers. She attends school sporadically, makes friends with Wei, a Chinese boy, and finds work as a performer at a "gentlemen's club" without her father's knowledge.

But meanwhile the conflict grows more intense as the Americans declare war and the Japanese force the Americans in Shanghai into camps. More bombing, more death. Can they survive, caught in the crossfire?"

I find stories of WWII not set on the western front a refreshing change of pace. 

The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg
Published by: 47north
Publication Date: January 21st, 2020
Format: Paperback, 268 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A spellbinding story of truce and trickery from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician series.

Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.

Maekallus's help isn't free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna's kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It's a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.

Enna shares Maekallus's suffering, but her small sacrifice won't last long. If she and Maekallus can't break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely - and Enna's soul with him."

I love me a good trickster tale. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Book Review 2019 #5 - 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.

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