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.
Forever.

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 www.darkdaysclub.com). 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?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr
Published by: Atria Books
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the Gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage - including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t - things from beyond the grave.

Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric Gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death."

I was sold with post-mortem photographer, and all the other Gothic goodness steeped on top? Cherry on the sundae!

The House of Secrets by Terry Lynn Thomas
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Kindle, 250 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sarah Bennett has two secrets: she sees ghosts, and she is in love with a spy.

When Sarah takes a job with occult expert Dr Matthew Geisler, he promises to help her understand the sorrowful spirit that seems to have attached itself to her.

As Sarah struggles to cope with the ghostly presence, she runs into Zeke, the man who left her six months earlier and is recovering from injuries suffered in an alleged accident. But Zeke has secrets of his own, and when an attempt is made on Geisler’s life, Sarah finds herself caught in a struggle between the living and the dead.

Unsure who she can trust, Sarah must solve the mystery of the soul determined to haunt her, and save Dr Geisler and herself from an unknown threat."

I've always been fascinated and equally scared about spirits that attach themselves to people.

The Girl in the Painting by Renita D'Silva
Published by: Bookouture
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Kindle, 503 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"India, 1926: English Margaret arrives with her new husband Suraj at his family home, set amidst beautiful rolling hills, the air filled with the soft scent of spices and hibiscus flowers. Margaret is unwelcome, homesick and lonely, but her maid Archana, a young woman from an impoverished family, reminds her of her long-lost sister, a tiny glimpse of home in a faraway place.

As Margaret and Archana spend more time together, an unexpected friendship blooms. But in British India the divide between rich and poor, English and Indian, is wide, and the clash between Margaret’s modern views and the weight of tradition on Archana will lead to devastating results...

England, 2000: When Emma’s grandmother gives her a mysterious painting, and asks her to take a message of forgiveness to an old friend in India, Emma is relieved to have some time and space to make a decision about her future. But as she fulfils her grandmother’s wish, a secret kept for over seventy years is finally revealed - the story of a day spent painting by a stream full of water lilies, where a betrayal tore three lives apart forever..."

If you've been missing Indian Summers and like old family secrets, this is the book for you. 

A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Critically acclaimed author Frances Brody is back with the tenth installment in her Kate Shackleton series, perfect for fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Nicola Upson.

Seven keen amateur photographers gather for the most popular openings of the decade. Only six will return.

Yorkshire, 1928. Indomitable sleuth Kate Shackleton is taking a well-deserved break from her detective work and indulging in her other passion: photography. When her local Photographic Society proposes an outing to the opening of the Bronte Museum, Kate jumps at the chance to visit the setting of Wuthering Heights. But the setting proves to be even more sinister than the dreary classic when a member of their party is found murdered.

The event is one of the most popular of the decade, and each of the seven photographers were there to capture the perfect shot of a lifetime. But Tobias, the deceased, was known for being loud-mouthed and didn’t care to curb his demeanor. Kate deduces that he must have had several enemies. But soon, she begins to suspect that perhaps the murderer is amongst them. And before they shrink to just a group of five, Kate must pick back up her magnifying glass and sleuthing cap to crack the case in A Snapshot of Murder, Frances Brody’s tenth brilliant Kate Shackleton mystery."

I love Frances Brody, but to have her new story be set at the Bronte Museum in Haworth!?! Hold me back!

Murder in a Country Garden by Betty Rowlands
Published by: Bookouture
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Paperback, 268 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A perfect country garden is full of flowers and gently buzzing bees... But the man lying dead beneath the trees can no longer see the beautiful scene.

Melissa Craig is thrilled that summer has arrived. She has decided to give up her career as an amateur sleuth and enjoy a quiet life in her beautiful cottage. The only digging in Melissa’s life now happens in her garden.

However, when a keen beekeeper is found dead, covered in multiple stings, her new resolve is tested. As she gets to know the family of the dead man, she realises he was no saint. Could someone have possibly wanted him dead? Could this be a very clever murder?

As Melissa starts to probe the victim’s friends and acquaintances, another member of the family is also stung to death. Who could have turned the bees against their keeper? And when will they strike again?

With the residents of Upper Benbury now fearful to open their windows to the summer air, and the police treating the deaths as accidental, Melissa must solve this case herself. To find the killer with the sharpest sting, she may have to delve deep into the hive...

If you can’t get enough of mysteries by Agatha Christie, P.D. James or Faith Martin, you will love this unputdownable mystery novel."

I've always thought English gardens and murder go hand in hand... that's what happens when you are an addict of Agatha Christie and Midsomer Murders... 

Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks is the atmospheric, compelling follow-up to the stunning debut A Death of No Importance, featuring series character, Jane Prescott.

In 1912, as New York reels from the news of the Titanic disaster, ladies’ maid Jane Prescott travels to Long Island with the Benchley family. Their daughter Louise is to marry William Tyler, at their uncle and aunt’s mansion; the Tylers are a glamorous, storied couple, their past filled with travel and adventure. Now, Charles Tyler is known for putting down New York’s notorious Italian mafia, the Black Hand, and his wife Alva has settled into domestic life.

As the city visitors adjust to the rhythms of the household, and plan Louise’s upcoming wedding, Jane quickly befriends the Tyler children’s nanny, Sofia - a young Italian-American woman. However, one unusually sultry spring night, Jane is woken by a scream from the nursery - and rushes in to find Sofia murdered, and the carefully locked window flung open.

The Tylers believe that this is an attempted kidnapping of their baby gone wrong; a warning from the criminal underworld to Charles Tyler. But Jane is asked to help with the investigation by her friend, journalist Michael Behan, who knows that she is uniquely placed to see what other tensions may simmer just below the surface in this wealthy, secretive household. Was Sofia’s murder fall-out from the social tensions rife in New York, or could it be a much more personal crime?"

A little hint of a Lindbergh baby?

The Last by Hanna Jameson
Published by: Atria Books
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For fans of high-concept thrillers such as Annihilation and The Girl with All the Gifts, this breathtaking dystopian psychological thriller follows an American academic stranded at a Swiss hotel as the world descends into nuclear war - along with twenty other survivors - who becomes obsessed with identifying a murderer in their midst after the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black - and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world?"

It's post-apocalyptic Poirot! 

The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From #1 New York Times bestseller Cassandra Clare and award-winner Wesley Chu comes the first book in a new series that follows High Warlock Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood as they tour the world after the Mortal War. The Red Scrolls of Magic is a Shadowhunters novel.

All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation - a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who against all odds is finally his boyfriend. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.

Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever - even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping."

If Cassandra Clare's books had had this shitty of a cover from day one you would have known it as crap fanfiction. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Book Review - Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 385 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Zacharias Wythe has succeeded to the post of Sorcerer Royal. A post he doesn't particularly want, which is about the only thing him and his fellow magicians agree on; they want Zacharias out. There was only one person in the world who thought Zacharias was capable of this lofty post, and Sir Stephen, his guardian and surrogate father, is dead but not quite gone. Sir Stephen was everything a Sorcerer Royal should be, in other words, not the wrong skin color, not a freed slave, and not without the aid of a familiar. But just because Zacharias doesn't want the position doesn't mean he won't do it to the best of his abilities, if just for Sir Stephen. Yet London is politically dangerous at the moment with the crown attempting to coerce the Sorcerer Royal into untenable positions and the magicians trying to hide the fact that magic is waning. Zacharias knows full well that his unwillingness to help the government is quite possibly the last straw before his fellow Unnatural Philosophers oust him under the pretext that it is his fault that magic is dying. But he can not in good conscience use magic against the witches of Janda Baik, a small island in Malaysia. By using magic militarily he would break the treaty with the French magicians and if there's one thing England doesn't want it's Napoleon being allowed to use magic. So taking the advice of a dear friend he agrees to get out of town for a few days to give a talk at Mrs. Daubeney's School for Gentlewitches as well as to go to the border of fairy and see why England's magic is waning.

Miss Prunella Gentleman came to Mrs. Daubeney with her father as a young girl. In fact it was Mr. Gentleman's passing and Prunella's inherent magical abilities that led Mrs. Daubeney to form her school with the purpose of helping young gentlewitches to suppress their powers. Though Prunella has never been one of the "gentlewitches." The color of her skin and her debt to Mrs. Daubeney has made her a servant if not in name than in deed as she's taken care of the students and the school. Everything changes the day the Sorcerer Royal visits. It's not just the hurt inflicted by Mrs. Daubeney when she demotes Prunella, it's the secret she finds in the attic in an old valise that belonged to her father. A secret that could change Prunella's fortune and the course of English magic. Zacharias is beside himself at the school. England is languishing for lack of magic and yet here these young girls are brimming with more magic than they can handle; and then there's Prunella. Prunella does magic as easily as she breaths. Perhaps the Royal Society is wrong about banning women to work magic. Perhaps Zacharias's legacy as Sorcerer Royal will be a complete overhaul of magical education. Prunella wastes no time worming her way into Zacharias's life, which she repeatedly saves, and when the two of them arrive in London, it is time for a reckoning. They will shake up the staid Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers and bring about change, whether they mean to or not.

The reason I became in thrall to Regency books with a magical bent is all down to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I can not nor will not be able to ever completely verbalize my love of that book. Yet my love for it isn't a blind love. I know the book is flawed. The characters aren't that likable, there isn't that much of a plot, and it reads more as a history text written in gorgeous prose than a story about flesh and blood people. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell lacks emotion. Not just in the staid way the story is told but in the way you connect to the characters. There is no emotional connection to Strange or Norrell. You feel sympathy for Stephen and Lady Pole, but there's no tugging of heartstrings. That is where Sorcerer to the Crown comes in and fills that void you didn't know you had. It's almost as if this book took the character we could connect to the most in Clarke's writing, Stephen, and gave him a new adventure. Stephen Black, the man who would be king, instead becomes Sorcerer Royal. Though while the first few chapters definitely owe a great debt to Susanna Clarke, as soon as Prunella shows up on the scene the book explodes into a life of it's own. One wonders if it was the lack of a strong female presence in Clarke's book, aside from the narrator, that might have hindered the emotional connection. Because there's something about Prunella that is so alive, so complex, that you can't help but connect to her on a deep emotional level, even if at times you totally disagree with some of her mercenary tactics. This in turn helps you to connect to Zacharias and every other character. You feel the love and hate and frustration of all these characters and you will not admit to yourself that it's going to be a very long wait for the next installment.

For as many authors as have tackled the idea of magic in the 19th century there have been as many different magic systems to govern them. Clarke went with a more male based "masculine" skill set, while Mary Robinette Kowal's "Glamourist Histories" embraced the "home" arts and focused more on magic as an art form mainly practiced by women. Here we get a lovely melding of the two. There are the Unnatural Philosophers who think they are doing great works while there are the more hedge witch like servant women who use magic to light fires and cure ills. So while we still have the societal separation of abilities based on gender we get to see how each gender handles that magic. Plus with Zacharias having his eyes opened by Prunella we see that going forward these two separate spheres of magic could merge. With Prunella we have a force of nature whose magic, while until now has been forced to be subservient to the domestic sphere, is now unfettered and out in the world where she doesn't see anything wrong with using her copious abilities to do what she pleases when she pleases. By being forced to abide by the rules for so long she sees that the rules, the boundaries, are irrelevant. Just throw the rule book out the window and see what you are capable of. Who cares if magic has personal gain? Who cares if a woman is seen doing unsanctioned magic? You shouldn't have to deny who you are and what you are capable of. If you are a woman you shouldn't have to curse yourself to be what men expect you to be.

This is what I love about the book, that it's the outsiders that are the ones that see that magic is being unnecessarily restrained. The stuffy men in even stuffier rooms have been saying for centuries this is how it has always been done and will continue to be so. There can be no advancement of technique, no discoveries with an attitude like this. Therefore it isn't shocking that magic has been dwindling. Even taking out the fairy angle with regard to the bottling, look to the lack of familiars! There hasn't been a new familiar in so long that this fact is able to undermine Zacharias as Sorcerer Royal though it has nothing to do with him. Why would magic want to come to those who use it in the same boring ways since time immemorial? Magic comes to those who understand it and want to use it right. Look to Mak Grenggang from Janda Baik in Malaysia who is at the heart of Zacharias's problems with the British government. She is not only an unaccepted gender, but an unaccepted race as viewed by the Society's members, yet her magic can let her walk through fairy unmolested, give her wings, gain her access anywhere. Her magic is unrivaled. Because she is an outsider, she is "other," and therefore the only way forward. The three agents of change with regard to British magic are of different skin tone and two of them are women, something that is rarely seen in writing concerning the Regency period. Zacharias, Prunella, and Mak Grenggang are there to break the chains of magic and make it great once again.

What is most interesting about this book is that it gives us a different view then the traditional Jane Austen magical pastiche. In almost every single one of these books we are given a very Anglocentric view of the world. We see it through the eyes of Britain, and the political and magical challenges are all to do with the British Government and the war with France. To an extent this is to be expected because the key feature of the Regency period was England's ongoing war with Napoleon. But despite this fact there are other places and other people that aren't all white and from the upper classes. This was one of the angles I loved in Mary Robinette Kowal's series, which was explored even further in her final book in the series, Of Noble Family. In her writing we saw people that were different, we saw people representing different classes, different races, different genders. We saw that despite what the British upper classes would like you to believe, that the world is teaming with this other. I loved how Of Noble Family brought in how other magic systems worked and how learning magic from one culture is so confining. In Sorcerer to the Crown we not only see these different races, but we go further. With Mak Grenggang we have a link to the other side of the world, a link that plays into Prunella's past. We get a glimpse that not only is the magic different, but the myths and realities and monsters are not what those in the Western world would even like to dwell on. We are given a hint as to how big the world really is. A tiny little island might have controlled the world, but this shows that despite how England tried, it couldn't control the magic; and I for one can't wait to learn more about this magic.

Yet magic can not exist without a vessel in which to channel it. Therefore our human characters are so very important and I just love that within a book that struggles to balance the different forms of magic and the powers of male versus female that everything is embodied in the differences exemplified by Zacharias and Prunella. They are complete opposites that over the course of the narrative come to a middle ground where they meet and fall in love. This is the most Austen of all the Regency tropes in Sorcerer to the Crown. Though I wouldn't say it's a situation of pride versus prejudice, it's more Zacharias's sense versus Prubella's sensibility. Zacharias is beyond selfless. He has literally given up any dreams he had for his life to live the life that Sir Stephen had envisioned for him, even though Sir Stephen is dead, technically. Zacharias is in constant pain threading the political needle his life has become and the burden the office has placed on his shoulders. He is quiet, circumspect, willing to bear the weight of the world while trying to not rock the boat. Whereas Prunella is a veritable hurricane. She is nothing like Zacharias who thinks first and contemplates a long time before swinging into action. She will do whatever it takes to survive and deal with the consequences later, be it two ladies of the ton seeing her zoom by on a cloud, or conjuring a monster and almost destroying Lyme Regis. Prunella will survive and thrive and she will leverage Zacharias to do so. Yet her magic over time becomes less wild and more about protecting Zacharias, while Zacharias himself unbuttons a little and starts to be active in his own life. They need each other and that love is perhaps the greatest magic in this book.

Older Posts